smoke

This has been a year of hard reminders that our lives are as brief and uncertain as smoke.

“You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring–what your life will be! For you are like smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes.”  James 4:14

None of the grief has been in our inner circle, but we’ve been on the fringes of so many deaths and devastating diagnoses this year.  This week, some extended family members of ours lost their 2-month-old unexpectedly.  The grief is so huge that it’s impossible to understand.  My husband attended the funeral and told me it was the most gut-wrenching, but also the most hopeful, experience of his life.  The young couple is heart-broken and devastated, of course, but also so filled with hope and so eager to present the gospel to the 200+ people who came to support them and celebrate their precious little one’s life. 

I often wonder how I will handle this type of grief when I experience it.  I have not yet lost a parent, spouse, child, or very close friend.  Obviously, though, it’s only a matter of time until I do.  I don’t know how strong I’ll be.  I don’t know if presenting the gospel will be the most important thing to me.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand at the front of a church and calmly talk about how God gave his only son for me, which puts my own loss into perspective.  I’m convicted by the thought that what I would want to do is sleep and cry in my bed for a month.  And convicted about my reactions to even minor crises that I face, when others I know are handling real crises with so much grace.

Hold the ones you love tightly, and don’t take your time with them for granted.  Why is it so easy to forget this?

Say a prayer for Jack & Anna and their families, please.

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Dossier to China!

Our dossier is headed to China today!  It’s an exciting step.  The next milestone is our Log In Date, which is when China accepts our dossier and logs us into their official system.  Once we are logged in with China, we are able to look at a child’s file or receive a referral.  We do not anticipate receiving a referral soon, but it’s still an exciting step to be officially on the list!

For those of you unfamiliar with the process, here are the remaining steps, some insight into all of the crazy Chinese adoption acronyms, and a loosely estimated timeline:

-Log In Date (LID, about 1-2 weeks from now)

-Referral: which is when we are presented with the file of a child that our agency feels is a good match for us.  We take the referral to our pediatrician and an international adoption specialist MD to get their professional opinions about the child’s health and development.  (estimated 6-18 months from now)

-We accept our referral and send our Letter of Intent (LOI) and referral payment.  (For those that are curious, if we feel that a referral is not a good match for us, we are able to choose not to accept that referral, and that child’s file will go to another family.  That would be a heartbreaking decision to make, but there is comfort in knowing it’s an option and we would not be penalized.  The only reason we can foresee turning down a referral is if we decide, prayerfully and together with our social worker, that the child’s medical needs are more severe than we believe we are equipped to care for.)

-We wait for China to send our Letter of Approval (LOA, also called Referral Approval or RA), meaning they’ve approved us to adopt that child.  (This step is taking most families 2-3 months right now, but can be more than 100 days.)

-About 2 months after LOA/RA, we will receive a Travel Approval (TA), which means China has given us approval to come get her.  This is when our agency makes our appointment at the US embassy in Guangzhou and we start to book our travel, etc.  Families usually travel within a few weeks after getting their TA.

-We go to China!  We spend about a week in our daughter’s province: meeting her, getting her birth certificate and passport, etc.  Then we spend another week or so in Guangzhou, doing all kinds of paperwork, having her medical appointment, obtaining her visa to enter the US, etc.

-We come home!

what’s in a dossier, part 2

Last year, I posted what was in our dossier for Ethiopia.  Since our China dossier is en route to our agency now (yay!), I thought I’d post what’s in this one, too.  Just in case anyone is curious.  I know I was before we started dossier building.

Here are my codes:
N – Notarized
SC – State Certified
EA – Chinese Embassy Authenticated

Application Letter (N, SC, & EA)
Birth Certificates (SC & EA)
Marriage License (SC & EA)
Employment Letter (N, SC, & EA)
Letter of Non-Employment (N, SC, & EA)
Financial Statement (N, SC, & EA)
Physical Exam Forms (N, SC, & EA)
Doctor Letter (N, SC, & EA)
Police Background Checks (N, SC, & EA)
Home Study (N, SC, & EA)
3 Letters of Reference (N, SC, & EA)
Notarized Copy of our I-797 Approval (N, SC, & EA)
Copies of our Passports
3 Family Photo Pages
2 passport sized photos for each of us

So, a few less documents than Ethiopia, but way more hoops to jump through for each document.  If you want more info about the Family Photo Pages, you can click here.  Like I said in the other post, if you’re about to start the adoption process, don’t start gathering documents yet.  Strange as it may sound, they do expire very quickly.

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this kid

His favorite part of feeding the ducks is eating the bread.
He’s so quirky and silly and fun.
He’s so affectionate and sensitive and loving.
He has been working so hard at being brave and trying new things.
He makes me laugh every day.
He makes every day interesting and exciting and new.
He’s about to turn 5, and it’s breaking his mama’s heart a little bit.
He promised me he’ll still be little when he’s 5.
Being his mom is amazing.

so much better than hawaii.

We recently had our 10th anniversary. Over the years, when we thought we’d have “more money” by our 10th anniversary (whatever that even means), we imagined we might go to Hawaii for our 10th, or drive up the California coastline, which I really want to do someday.

But, here we are, with a toddler who has hardly ever been away from her mama, and in the middle of an international adoption. We’re living on a very strict budget day-to-day, and have just enough in our adoption account for our next payment and the postage to get it there.

I asked my husband to just be in charge of it. I was overwhelmed and didn’t even know what I wanted to do.

He found a guest house at an amazing ranch, driving distance (and close to grandparents!), for really cheap. We hiked, swam, read, explored, tubed the Guadalupe, window shopped, ate great food, lounged in the hot tub, and just enjoyed three solid days and nights of each other.  It was wonderful. It was totally not what I would have planned, and probably about 200x better because of it.

I looked up at him at some point during the trip and said,
“This is so much better than Hawaii.”

Living life with him is the greatest gift I could ever want.
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“Love’s flames are fiery flames – the fiercest of all. Mighty waters cannot extinguish love; rivers cannot sweep it away.” Song of Solomon 8:6-7

“good job, mom.”

It was definitely one of those days. I tried to cram in too much fun, and we all paid for it. Someday, maybe I’ll learn.

As I tried to round up my kids to go from one play date to another, my middle little one didn’t come when I called him. I called him again, and he didn’t come. I called him more sternly, and he finally sauntered over.

I said, “C, let’s practice. Go back over there.” He did. I called him. He yelled, “Yes, ma’am!” and came over. We practiced again. And again.

It was just a normal, everyday mom-of-a-preschooler moment. I wasn’t extra patient or loving or kind or creative or sweet.

But a mom, standing near by watched us. She had several little ones of her own. She said, “Good job, C!” and then…

“Good job, mom.”

I almost burst into tears.

As moms, we don’t get a lot of recognition. Infants don’t coo, “Thank you ever so much for changing my diaper!” Toddlers don’t exclaim, “I was so impressed with the consistency of that mac & cheese!” Generally, the things we do are only noticed if we don’t manage to get them done. That was really one of the hardest things about the transition to being a stay-at-home-mom for me. No more good evaluations, no more positive and encouraging emails from the boss, and no more bonuses or accolades for great work. If the kids are clean and fed, you actually did your hair and wore makeup, you did some sort of craft or learning activity, healthy dinner is on the table, and the house is clean when your husband gets home – your reward is that you get to do it again tomorrow.

And it is a reward. I know that. I am so thankful that I get to stay home, and I love serving my family.

But today reminded me that I need to choose to be more deliberate about encouraging and building up the moms I see every day. How much better would motherhood be if we were all telling someone, “Good job, mom!” every day?

“Therefore, encourage one another and build each other up…”
1 Thessalonians 5:11

good job, mom

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we got it! we got it!! we got it!!!

Who ever knew that a little envelope could cause a grown woman to jump up and down and scream and cry in the middle of the driveway?! Okay, maybe there are lots of reasons that could happen. But still.

I think we are going to be able to get it notarized tomorrow and state certified on Monday. Woo hoo!

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this kid

Is finally feeling better after the “24-hour VBS stomach bug” stuck with her for more than 5 days. We went to a West African Drum & Dance performance, and she wanted to sit quietly on my lap and just take it all in. The only times she got up were to find a snack (apple) and to dig in my purse to find this paper and pen to draw. She’s such a sweet mix of being totally independent and totally a Mommy’s girl. I love it. I wish I could just bottle her the age she is now. I think this is my favorite, favorite age.

#1 & #2

The two most beautiful things I’ve seen in quite a while:

1.  My beautiful sister-in-law as a bride.  I’ve watched her grow up since she was 11, and I’m so amazed by the woman that she is now.  Congrats, M & S!  We are so excited to watch you enter this new chapter of your lives as a family, and we’re so thankful to have you as our brother and sister.

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2.  These gorgeous Chinese stamps on the back of all of our documents* – nothing rejected!  Hallelujah!

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*We’re still waiting on our I800A.  My project for tonight is to get everything else totally ready, so when we get it, there’s no more delay. Trusting God’s timing feels a little easier today than it did last Wednesday.  Today, someone I am friends with on Facebook said in a prayer, “So when I can’t see Your hand I’m going to ask for the faith to trust Your heart.”  Isn’t that wise?  That’s my prayer right now.