September 2014: For the Record

These were posts that I shared through my facebook page, and wanted to keep them here for sentimentality, as part of our adoption journey.  We were so, so encouraged by the prayers and kind words of support that were poured over us throughout the month.  Thank you!

September 1:

Today is a big day. For many months, there have been no new matches between orphaned children and waiting families in Haiti. Today, IBESR (the Haitian authority that oversees adoptions) is closing its doors to new applications for the month of September to catch up with the dossiers they already have. We are one of the dossiers they already have. We are thankful to be part of a wonderful group of families who are in the process of adopting from Haiti (or have already brought their child home from Haiti). Each family is taking one day in the month of September to pray and fast for IBESR to make progress, for God to whisper the names of our children into the precious ears of the people who hold our dossiers, for God to set the orphans into families and bring those children home! Today is our family’s day to pray and fast, and we are asking our friends and family to join us. Will you please pray with us today?

There are many families who have been waiting longer than we have, and we are not expecting to be matched this month. However, it would be such a joy to see any movement in Haitian adoptions, to see any children find families! We are putting our hopes and trust in God, knowing that He is working all this to good, whether we can see and understand it or not.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families…” Psalm 68:5-6

September 9:

Please continue praying for adoptions in Haiti! We are hearing good news from several families who have already been matched for a while that they are finally seeing progress and are close to bringing their little ones home! This is great news. We have not heard of any new referrals (matches) yet. Above all we want Gods perfect timing and will to be done for these waiting kids & families. Please pray for peace for us. I have to admit that I am a bit anxious to hear news of matches being made . Thank you all so much for joining us in this month of prayer over Haiti & their adoptions!

September 10 (the very next day):

REFERRALS ARE HAPPENING!!!!! Praise God! Thank you for your prayers! Some families in our adoption group are seeing photos of their kids & babies for the very first time!!! Hearing their names!!! I am in tears! Thank you thank you, Lord!

September 30:

Thanks so much to everyone who has joined us in this month of praying and fasting for progress in Haitian adoptions! Your encouragement and prayers have meant so much to us, and have really given me strength. Throughout this month, 5 children (that we know of) have been matched with their adoptive parents, and one family has already traveled to Haiti to meet their daughter for the 2 week bonding trip. We have also heard several reports from families who “made it out of IBESR” into the court process (the red tape can last months and even years after you are matched and meet your child until they are able to come home). For children to be able to get closer to home is beautiful. As a personal update, we found out that our paperwork (dossier) was submitted one day earlier to IBESR than we thought it was! So we are counting it as “movement” in our own journey! I am thankful for all the friends who check in on us and about our adoption. Right now, we are doing well, working on our “training”- learning and preparing our hearts and minds to be the best family we can be for a child who will have experienced a lot of loss. We don’t know if we’ll receive a referral/match 2 days from now or 2 years from now (and praying it won’t be longer). This feeling of uncertainty is hard for me to ignore, and some days I feel like we need to literally pack our bags so we will be ready, while other days I feel like it will be a miracle if this dream ever really comes true. We are putting our trust in God, and asking for His protection over our little one in Haiti, His peace over us at home, and His guidance for all the people who facilitate the process. We send our love to you all- thank you so much for your love and hugs and prayers!

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Her Little Sister

This morning Thatcher dumped his bowl of cereal on the kitchen floor.  This wasn’t exactly a rare occasion.  The typical protocol is for Thatcher to pick up the food he dumps/throws and then wipe the floor (and then a grown up actually wipes the floor).  But the scope of the spill today called for a mop to get involved.

So, Thatcher picked up the cheerios, and I got out the mop.  Aubrey was really excited to help mop too, so there she was pushing the mop back in forth (excessively spraying one particular spot on the floor with water), when she said:

“Mommy I am a big helper now!  I know how to mop, so I can teach my little sister when she comes home!”

It would astound you how many times a day Aubrey thinks of and talks about “her little sister.”  We are not matched yet, so we do not know specifically who Aubrey’s “little sister” will be, but that doesn’t stop Aubrey from talking about her!  Here are the topics we discussed just yesterday (with no prompting from Mommy or Daddy):

“Can Daddy check to see if there are movies in Amanda’s car?” Mom: “What?”

“Can Daddy check on the movies in Amanda’s car so she can take care of us when you go to meet my little sister.” Mom: “Oh… Well, we’ll talk about that when it’s time to meet her.”

“I hope it’s soon!” Mom: “Me too!”

—–

“Mom, what kind of bed does my little sister sleep in?  A toddler bed?” Mom: “Maybe, or maybe a crib.”

“Who is taking care of her?” Mom: “Her teacher at her school.” [We have explained to Aubrey that orphanages are kind of like schools where kids live all the time and have teachers to take care of them.]

“Why does she only have one teacher?” Mom: “Well, maybe she has two.  There are kids in each class, and a few teachers to take care of all the kids in a class.”

“Are there big kids in her class?” Mom: “Hmmm… I don’t think so. But there are big kids at her school.”

“Does she eat lunch at her school?” Mom: “Yes, she eats all her meals at her school.  Would you like to live at school?”

“No…” Mom: “It would be kind of like going to MOPS or church school, but then you would stay there instead of going home.” [I got choked up at this point but didn’t want to overdo it with a 4 year old!  Also, I hope and suspect that the nannies at the orphanage would build truly significant bonds with the children since they are together so much.]

“Mommy, why is your face red?” Mom: “I’m sad about the kids who don’t go home to families.”

“That makes me sad too, Mommy.”

“Mommy, did you adopt me?” Mom: “No, you came from my belly.”

“Will my little sister come from an egg?” Mom: “No, she will come from a Mommy’s belly!”

“Will that be her Mommy?” Mom: “That will be her First Mommy.  I will be her Forever Mommy.” [We have explained that some families can’t take care of their children, so other families adopt those children.  Our conversations on this topic have varied in detail/depth over time.  At first, Aubrey was afraid that she would be changing families.  We explained that we are not the kind of family that children can leave, but we are the kind of family that children can come to when they need a family.]

“Mommy, my little sister will be so happy that you will be her Mommy!”

—–

“When I first meet my little sister I will run to her and give her a big hug!”

—–

“Dear God, please help my little sister not be lonely, and have enough water.” [Each night we ask Aubrey who she would like to pray for, and then she prays.  Last night she chose her little sister.]

I am so thankful that Aubrey is excited about her sister, and comfortable asking us questions.  I don’t want to pretend our child doesn’t exist until they come home, but I want Aubrey and Thatcher to know we are happy with them, and with our family.  It feels perfect the way Aubrey’s curiosity brings her little sister into our daily lives, and her child-faith gives us confidence to believe that someday she really will come home and join the fun.

Even Miracles Take a Little Time

Hi Friends!  It has been a while, hasn’t it?  I think after crossing the finish line on paperwork, and entering “the wait,” we needed to catch our breath.  And remember what life is like apart from appointments and copy machines.  I think I have realized that this is just a busy season in life.  And I have also realized that we will always find something to fill our time (is that true for you too?).  Thankfully, some of these busy days have been spent with extended family, exploring creative skills, and playing at the beach.

The “big news” this month is that we had to update our background checks.  In other words- no news.  We have also been slowly working toward meeting the requirements for our training.  I am part of a local group of adoptive moms and we are meeting monthly for a book club/Bible study and to pray together.  Isn’t that so cool?!  I love Gainesville.

Some friends have recently asked about our timeline, and the only answer I can give is: We have no idea.  Haiti has been improving its adoption process in order to raise the standard of ethics.  This is good news in the long term for children and families.  But in the short term, it means change.  And change takes time.  Especially in Haiti.

We are putting our trust in God’s timing.  We are praying that God will care for our child, protect her, and bring her home.  We are praying for our child’s birth family.  We are praying that families in Haiti can grow in health and love and means in order for more children to remain with their “first families.”  We are praying for God to prepare us for that first trip to meet our child when the time comes, for abundant love and strong bonds to grow between us right away, and then impossible strength to say “See you soon” when we must leave.

I can tell you this: my heart is aching.  

Progress!!!

We are officially a waiting family!!!  Our paperwork has been legalized in Haiti, and has been submitted to IBESR.  That means that all of our paperwork, and even pictures of our house, and our family, and our kiddos– those things that we have touched and held and prayed over– they are in the hands of the people who will make our match.  Well, they are actually probably in a box or a pile of other folders with many other waiting families stacked above ours.  So excited to join those faithful stacks!

Jeremiah 29:11 For I Know The Plans I Have For You (Instant Download) Printable Subway Art Watercolor Digital

(poster made by an adoptive mama: https://www.etsy.com/shop/echoesofmercy)

This means that technically, our family could be matched any day.  It is possible that the creche (orphanage) we are working with sent in our paperwork with a suggestion of a match.  We won’t know about any suggestions, and it wouldn’t decrease our wait time- IBESR will still make the final match.  But it still gives me goosebumps to think about it!  The most recent update from our agency estimated that we might wait about 14-15 months from now until we are matched.  Are you doing the math right now?  Don’t.  Did you?  I couldn’t help it either.  If there is one thing we have heard from other adoptive families about adoption, it’s that we can’t expect any timing in particular.  The other thing we hear is no matter how long you wait, it’s worth the wait.

And truthfully, I think the wait after we meet our child (estimated 12+ months from match to homecoming) will be unbearable compared to the wait now.  And imagine the waiting the children are doing.  What is it like to wait for a family?

We recently found out that IBESR has not made any matches for several months.  Our agency believes this is due to the fact that Haiti is making changes and adding safeguards to ensure ethical practices in adoptions.  It is very, very good for countries to take time to make sure children are truly orphaned, and to make sure that adoptive families are truly safe & loving.  However, while IBESR adjusts to these new procedures, I worry about the children who are waiting, and growing, and possibly aging out before they have the chance of being matched.

Will you pray for those children?  Will you please pray with us:

– That our child is loved and safe

– That God will shape our family into the perfect match for our child

– That God blesses the lives of the people who work for IBESR and gives them hearts to send orphans home

with lots of joy,

Natalie

I’ll love you to the ends of the earth

This is the week our dossier might be submitted to IBESR!  (Haitian Social Services, who will someday make our match.)  Our agency just sent out an update estimating (don’t pencil it in your calendar) a 14-15 month wait from submission to match (and then another year or so after that till our little one comes home).

All I can say is, come home soon.

I came across this print

love you to the ends of the earth

 

beautiful…..

love, Natalie

Crossing the Finish Line of the Paper Chase

Hi friends!  We are so happy to say that we have mailed in our dossier!  All the approvals, home visits, appointments, and efforts we have made in the last year to show we are ready to become an adoptive family are bundled together in paper form (along with several copies), and headed to our adoption agency’s global office.

Compiling and sending our dossier was quite the experience.  My inner nerd was loving the organizational aspect (at one point, I was asked by another customer if I was an employee of the copy center- which I will take as a compliment), and the kids enjoyed pushing buttons on the copy machines.  After a celebratory outdoor dinner (it was such beautiful weather!), we of course picked up a cookie cake.  On the way home, I imagined what our cookie cake will say when we are matched with our little one!

So… What next?  We are hoping and praying that the folks at our agency will find no problems with our paperwork, and send the dossier on to be legalized at the Haitian Consulate.  Then, our dossier will be legalized again in Haiti, and will finally be submitted to IBESR (Haitian Social Services)- and we wait to be matched with our child!

Please join us in prayer: that we become the best family for our child, that God will direct our path and provide what is necessary, and that our precious child is being lovingly cared for.  We are so grateful!

love, Natalie

The Forest, the Trees, and a Dirty Barn

This Christmas a startling thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if Mary ever felt like a failure as a mother?”  I mean, just think about it.  An angel comes to tell her that she has found favor with the Lord, and that she is going to carry and birth and raise the Son of God, who is destined to save all mankind.  No pressure, right?

Mary must have believed that God is sovereign.  That He is bigger than us, bigger than our mistakes, bigger than our choices.  But when Mary first felt those pains of labor, did she feel panic?  Was she afraid that she was “ruining” her King’s birth by welcoming Him into the world in a dirty barn?  Did she worry about having enough milk, enough patience, enough time for little Jesus after his siblings were born?  Did she worry that when she left Him behind at that Passover Festival that she had failed God?  Did she ever lose her temper?  Did she ever lose sight of God’s promise through Jesus?

I wonder how Mary felt when she saw her son crucified.

This Lent and Easter season, I have felt a little bit like a failure.  I don’t know if you guys remember how crafty and thoughtful I was about Advent last year, but let’s just say I pinned a few things I made.  I have always loved Christmas, but oh, Easter!  Easter is even more magical to me in so many ways.  I love the season of Lent: it usually narrows and clarifies my focus.  Maundy Thursday is always incredibly moving.  And the new life that bursts through on Easter morning!  To me, Easter is the reason we even celebrate Christmas.

Warren W Willis Camp Cross

 

Well… we have been busy.  It sounds like the most lame thing I could possibly say.  Even though we have been busy with important things—like our adoption paperwork, and fund-raising, and family dates…  I kept pushing off planning for what was really important.  I lost the forest in the trees.  I think of how a certain little child stood before the lion Aslan and couldn’t even articulate his excuses.  What seems so important and immediate in our daily lives just pales when we come into the strength and eternal presence of our Heavenly Father.

And that is who He is.

Today I was feeling regretful about not doing more Easter devotionals myself, and with our kids.  It really hit home when Dan suggested we take our kids to an Easter egg hunt so they would “start getting excited about Easter.”  That should have been my job these last few weeks, right?  Making activities, doing crafts and devotions, probably a countdown (on the kids calendar that still says “March”)?  I want my kids to anticipate Easter with the same tingles that come with Christmas!  To know and love our traditions, to understand the meaning of the day, to take time to stand in awe at the foot of the cross.  This year I feel like I am racing to catch up to the cross before Jesus moves on.

But that thought makes me stop in my tracks.  Jesus didn’t “move on” from the cross to chat with the folks who weren’t “too busy.”  On Easter morning, Jesus sought out His friends.  The ones who fell asleep when He asked them to pray for Him, the ones who denied Him, the ones who were too afraid to be known as his followers, the ones who failed Him.  He pursued them and surprised them.  He ate with them.  He stuck with them.  He reassured them and prepared them, and even left His spirit with them to guide the way.

Warren W Willis Camp Dock

Today I felt God interrupt my thoughts and nudge me, saying “It is about Easter Day, but it is also about Easter every day.”  I will truly never be enough.  I will never be a perfect Christ-follower, or wife, or friend or Mom.  I may have failed with Easter crafts this year.  And it’s a guarantee that I will fail in some way again.  Soon.  One of my best friends and I keep saying the same thing lately- how every decision we make now feels like it will affect our kids eternally.  How do we choose the right orphanage to work with?  Or which kind of school our children should attend?  How can we make sure that they make the right friends?  Will they know they are really loved?  Will they understand God’s love?  Sometimes it’s terrifying to be a parent.  But that’s okay.  God doesn’t need me to be enough.  He is enough.  He has a plan for my children that I cannot even imagine.  And it’s not up to me to fulfill it.

It’s up to me to live every day in the light of Easter.  To be ready for Jesus to surprise me wherever I am, to make time and gather up my children and my courage to come to Him—and tonight, that’s at the foot of the cross.  If I see Mary there, I’ll give her a hug.

love, Natalie

(photos were taken by Graham Foster at Warren W Willis Camp– where I first fell in love with Jesus)

paper cuts and meanwhile

By the way, I love when people ask how our adoption process is going!  It reminds me that we are not alone in this.  That our friends are waiting with us.  That even though I don’t have a growing belly, you haven’t forgotten that we’re “expecting.”  That I’m not going through morning sickness, but I may have a few paper cuts.  I can hardly believe it has been almost a year since we started the process!  We are THIS close to sending in our paperwork and officially becoming a “waiting” family.  Just saying that makes my palms start sweating.  I wish I could describe all the feelings I have about sending in our dossier, so I will try:

Excited about being matched any day!

Deflated that we may not be matched for a year or two or more……

Curious about a new person joining our family!  I cannot wait to know her!  What is her favorite food?  Will she love to cuddle?  Or play with Aubrey & Thatcher?  Or read books on my lap?

Joyous about a little one coming home.  Forever home.  Not lonely anymore.  Loved and safe.  Amen.

Heartbroken over her loss: her first family, her familiar caregivers, food, bed, friends.  Heartbroken for the family who loses their child.

Prayerful about how our child is doing.

Hopeful.

I am daydreaming about how we will announce that we are “matched” (I won’t tell you my ideas because I want it to be a surprise!)  I am thinking about the time we will spend with our child on our “bonding trip.” (After we are matched, we will visit our child in Haiti to spend some time bonding, and make our legal commitments as adoptive parents.  Then, we must return to the US and wait for the adoption process to be completed.  After all the paperwork is in order—we have been told it may take 9-12 months after the bonding trip—we will return to bring him/her home!)  I am also thinking about the time our family will spend at home, getting to know each other while our new little one is settling in.  I hope it is sunny then like it was today.

In the meanwhile, we are doing some fund-raising and working to put the finishing touches on the front end of the adoption paperwork.  If you’d like to see a timeline of our process so far, click here.  While I wouldn’t say it has been all fun and games, there have been some wonderful experiences that I am so grateful for.  For example, when else would your friends have the opportunity to write heartfelt essays on the topic of your family?  Reading our recommendation letters for our dossier brought me to tears.  What an encouragement it was to read what our friends admire and value about our family!  I also have to say that I am grateful that the process/paperwork is what it is: it helps protect children.  If we were choosing adoptive parents for our children, the “red tape” we have trudged through so far would only scratch the surface.  The paperwork is 100% worth it because our child deserves every effort we make to show we are a safe and loving family.  And what a wonderful and supportive community we have too!  I have read on blogs and forums about adoptive parents whose friends and extended family criticized their decision to adopt.  We have not heard one negative comment from friends or loved ones.  On the contrary, my friends often ask how the process is going, pray on our behalf, and join us in anticipation!

But to be honest, not every day is easy.  Sometimes this process feels frustrating and discouraging.  There are some days (even this week) when I confide in Dan my fears that “this will never really happen.”  It just feels like there is always one more step to do, or re-do.  That we will never cross the finish line on our paperwork, let alone cross the threshold of our home holding a little one from Haiti in our arms.  But we are putting our trust in God.  Remembering that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  That His will is good and perfect.  That all things work for the good of those who love Him.  That He is the Father of the fatherless, and that He has a future and hope for all His people.

Dan and I went on a date to the local copy center this weekend, and got ice cream on our way home to celebrate the progress. (Yep, those are dinosaurs on my shirt.)

While we work and eagerly wait for that day we are together with our little one, we pray that God continues to guide us, and we treasure each day that is gifted to us.  Every Day Your Birthday has been such a joy to me!  I have found that Dan and I pray much more intentionally for all of our children because we chose a specific and different topic to pray about each night.  It is easy to get into the rut of only praying for safety, health, etc.  Every Day Your Birthday has helped us become disciplined about praying for so much more: from the first adjustment when our child comes home to the teenage years, from healthy eating and sleeping to our children’s future spouses, from sibling relationships to sports, from financial peace to mental health, from special occasions to every-day life.  We ask God to pour His blessings over it all, over us, and especially over our waiting little one.

Here is a glimpse of our every-day, our meanwhile, these treasured sunny days…

Family Pictures

My amazingly talented and sweet friend Amanda met us at the park in early February to take a few family pictures.  I am so happy we got to capture this special stage of family life.  Aubrey and Thatcher are so full of personality and excitement, and we have so much fun together.  I am also treasuring the pictures of just me and Dan.  In most photos these days, one of us is usually behind the camera, so it was really special to have a few shots of us– not as parents, but as husband and wife.  One of the main reasons we wanted to take family photos was to commemorate our journey (of adoption) toward our little one.  We have cherished ultrasound images, pictures of my belly expanding with love and life, and the hopeful smiles of waiting parents from my pregnancies with Aubrey and Thatcher.  We wanted to celebrate the growing love that is happening in our lives now, and have some special images to tuck into our little one’s baby book too.  I am tearing up just thinking of the moment we can show our child how we were waiting, and anticipating, and already loving him/her.  I know that moment won’t be just once, but time and time again: “See?  This is us before you came home.  We couldn’t wait to meet you!  We were so excited.  See that sign?  See that extra chair?  See those boots?  Those are for you!  Little one, you were wanted, you were cherished, you were loved.  And you always will be.  Forever and ever.”

(click any photo to see it bigger, comment, or view as a slideshow)

You can find out more about our adoption here.

Game-Changer

In my high-school/college years, whenever I got into a funk, I would get in the car, roll down the windows, and drive…  usually to the beach.  Just getting away gave me a mental break.  Being at the beach gave me space and peace.  And I think there is something about nature that reminds us about the big picture (“the forest through the trees”), and leads me to prayer.  These days, it is not so easy to just hop in the car and head to the beach.  With a toddler and a preschooler, the preparations and aftermath of a day-trip to the coast are enough to tip the scales from “relaxing” to (let’s call it) “adventure.”

Today has been one of those days when I wished for a game-changer.  The weather has been cloudy and gloomy, and a certain toddler’s attitude was like a puddle of mud, reflecting those clouds.  It’s hard for me not to get dragged down into the bad attitude puddle as well.  Usually, that is the point at which I put on some music and declare Dance Party Time.  But I just wasn’t feeling it today.

I thought of the time I took the kids out for ice cream at bedtime.  Dan was working out of town, and I met some friends for dinner at a restaurant.  You guys know what “out for dinner” is like with a 1-to-2 ratio, right?  None of us ate much, and I’m pretty sure I spent more calories trying to keep the kids quiet/happy/eating/not-climbing-on-the-table than I actually consumed.  So, instead of going home for bath and bedtime, we stopped at the ice cream shop first.  It seems counter-intuitive to put another rung on the ladder between “now” and bedtime, and add sugar to the equation.  But it was perfect.  The kids ran around in the glow of the sunset, and I got an ice cream cone (with sprinkles) all to myself.

When the weather is nice, a playground (or even just the backyard) can be a game-changer.  And obviously, ice cream cannot always be the go-to game-changer.  Some days we pull the shades down in one of the bedrooms and play with flashlights.  Or bring out a special toy we haven’t played with in a long time (like a tent).  And of course, there is the Dance Party.

I love being a Mom.  Even on the bad-attitude, nothing-went-according-to-plan, two-steps-back kind of days, there is nothing else I would rather do, no place I would rather be.  But some days, it’s good to have a game-changer up your sleeve.

What’s your Game-Changer?