Thursday, September 30, 2010

And Now We Wait...

The very good news is that all the paper work is done.  Well, I have one last little thing to do - have to get the super star seal from the state -- but it's very, very close to being done and sent off to D.C. and then on to Ethiopia.  Whew!!

And now, we wait.  I will admit that this waiting is hard for me -- and that may seem strange to some of you because you might think, "you haven't had them this whole time, why is waiting a few months so hard?".   It's because I hate every minute that they are stuck in an orphanage.  I hate that for them.  I want them to be here with a FAMILY.  I want them to get tucked in at night by their Mommy and Daddy, and I want the girls to play dress up with Gatlin.  I can't wait to see Cooper and his little brother kicking around a soccer ball in our backyard.  I want to hold them and brush their hair and sing to them and tickle them.  I want them to get to be kids and not have to worry about taking care of themselves.  I am so appreciative of the caretakers at the orphanage, please hear me say that.  I know they are wonderful people who are doing their very best to love on the children.  But there are a lot of children there.  It's just not the same as having your own Mommy, your own Daddy.  Not the same at all.  Our kiddos are older...they're aware of what's missing.  I'm very thankful that they have each other, but this time can't go by fast enough for me.

Last night I wrote them a letter.  Honestly, it was a little odd to write.  I had to check with the agency director a couple times to ask what was appropriate and what wasn't....wanted to make sure there was nothing "off limits".  Could I say I was their Mommy?  Could I tell them their new names?   She replied that the only thing we couldn't do was give them some kind of a time line.

So, I wrote and told them how much we loved getting new pictures of them.  I told Bemnet how beautiful she is and how much we looked forward to her being here with us.  I told her that we would like to call her Bennet.  I explained that it was very close to her name and would be a wonderful choice for her American name.  I also told her that it means, "blessed".  We are blessed to have Bennet as our new daughter.

I told Kalab that we have seen videos of him and that he is obviously a very good athlete.  I told him that his big brother, Cooper, can't wait until he gets here so he can play baseball, or basketball, or soccer -- whatever he wants to play.  I explained to him that his name would change just a little bit...that it would be spelled with an "e" instead of an "a" and be pronounced a little differently (right now it is Ka-lob).  I told him that Kaleb is a name that means, "brave", and that we are very proud of our brave new son!

And then there was little Kalkidan.  I told her that she is completely adorable and that she has the cutest dimples ever!  I told her that we can't wait until she is dancing around our house with her sister, Gatlin (and Bennet, too).  I said that we'd find all kinds of pretty outfits for her to dress in because I have heard she enjoys clothes and picks out all the pink things when given choices.  I asked her if it would be ok if we call her Kali.  I told her that that was a pretty name for a pretty girl.  (We may keep her official name Kalkidan, but just call her Kali - not positive about this yet).  I also told her that her middle name will be Hope (and that she has a precious new cousin named, Hope, who is very happy to share that name with her).   The name Kalkidan means, "promise", and so her name will mean, "promise of hope".  I told her that we want her name to always remind her (and her brother and sister) that our hope is found is Jesus and that He has promised them He will always be with them, whether they are in Africa or America.

I ended the letter by telling them that we can't wait until we get to see them and that we are praying that the time will go by quickly.   I told them we loved them.   And as we wait, we are praying daily for our hearts to be joined together supernaturally so that when they do get here it feels as if they have been with us forever.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Her Amazing Hair

I posted early on that I didn't think there was any way my sweet husband would agree to adopt three children.  I knew that it would be crazy to even bring it up to him, but when I saw Bennet (her African name is Bemnet, but we will call her Bennet) in the picture with the twins, I KNEW she was supposed to be with us.  There was such joy on her face.  My heart was so drawn to her.  But let me tell ya, what I absolutely LOVED was her hair.  It was crazy wild.  Sticking out in this weird afro style - and so very cool.  Yes!  Loved it!

Yesterday we received a picture of the kiddos that was taken right after they were given gifts from us (including pictures of our family and home).  As they were given the gifts and pictures, they were told that we were their new family.  The picture is of the three of them, holding the gifts in their laps - and you see our pictures in each lap.  And Bennet has no hair.  They shaved it off.  I'm assuming this is because she either had lice or they didn't want her to get lice.

I have never seen anyone more beautiful.  You should see her face.  She is RADIANT.  She is BEAMING.  There is HOPE in her eyes.   Then the tears started flowing.  I mean, come on!   Can you imagine what this child has been through?  Her mother died when she was five.  Her father died when she was ten.  Her aunt and uncle tried to raise the kids, but ended up putting the little ones in an orphanage.  She was separated from them.  But then they couldn't keep her either and they took her to the orphanage as well.   We have a video of her at the orphanage and she is so happy to be with her little brother and sister.  They stood arm in arm and she kissed her brother's head.  Sweetness.  But then her head had to be shaved.   Maybe that's nothing to her, but I kept thinking about it being my daughter, Gatlin.  I just don't think it would be nothing.  She's a girl.  Hair matters, whether you live in America or Africa.  Hard stuff.

And then she gets a new family.  On the video, she heard the agency worker say, "It will just be the Lord if they get a family" -- and now she knows that the Lord Himself has stepped in on her/their behalf.

Honestly, I cannot begin to imagine what this child has been through.  All I know is that the next few months can't go by fast enough.  I want to grab that precious girl and hold her til she won't let me hold her anymore.   And I want to brush that hair as it grows back in - it will be AMAZING hair.

Friday, September 17, 2010

And then there was paperwork....LOTS!!!

When we started the process to adopt from Vietnam I had no idea the amount of paperwork there would be.  Oh my word!!   Then that fell through.  When we started the process to adopt from Russia they said it would be much more than Vietnam - and it was.   Holy cow!!   When we started this process to adopt from Ethiopia someone said it would be an easier process with less paperwork.    Um, I don't think that person has adopted from Ethiopia!!  This is out of control.  This paperwork has paperwork.  If you've never adopted then you may not be in the know on this - so I'll give you a quick run-down.   Now remember, this is only as I understand it at this moment - it may or may not be accurate!!  ha!!

There are three different sets of paperwork going on at the same time.  There is the set of paperwork for your agency.  The application, the references, the name a FEW.   Then there is the paperwork for your home study - and this is a ridiculous amount of paperwork.  I mean, this is everything you could tell someone about yourself and then a little bit reference letters from four people who know you well.  This home study also consists of three meetings - two at their office and one in your home.   Ok, lastly there is the Dossier (pretty French word).  This is the serious stuff.    Pretty much everything has to be  a certified original, meaning that you have to send off to get your birth certificate, marriage license, etc...and  you pay for these.  Now get this...when you get them back in the mail from the state you had to order them from, you have to SEND THEM BACK to the Secretary of State for that state (and of course pay him/her) so that they can put their stamp of approval on it.   In the meantime, you must have doctor's letters, financial letters, reference letters, pictures, police clearance reports, proof of insurance, and more!   Now, to top all this off, everything has to be notarized - and the dates on each individual paper have to match up - like, you can't date a letter Sept. 10th and notarize on the 13th.  Have to be the same, and there can be no white-out.  (Honestly, I don't think you have to do all this to be president!!)   Once you do all of that then you have to do a County notarization something-or-other and then the State Seal thingy-ma-jig.  It is CRAZY!!

Seriously, can raising three more kids be harder than this?  I think not!!   LOL

So, not trying to complain, just trying to share the details.  My head is spinning at times - wondering if I'm totally messing it up.  I keep calling my friend, Tori, who is a couple steps ahead of me in the process.   She is also quite a few years younger than me (and she hasn't birthed children yet) so her brain is still working correctly.  She is kind and helpful and for that I am much appreciative.

At this point I am waiting on birth certificates to come in so I can send them out again.  Hopefully they will return quickly as our home study will be completed next week and we need to get these papers out the door and on to Ethiopia!!

P.S.  It is worth it!!  (:    And if you decide to adopt you can call me any time to ask me questions about the paperwork...and I will give you Tori's number!!!  

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Something About Sunday

My whole family serves in music ministry in various areas of our church.  Brian is the band director, I am a substitute worship leader at both our Franklin and Spring Hill campuses, Cooper rotates in High School, Middle School and the main service, and Gatlin is on the worship team for the kid's service -- so any given Sunday we are all spread out over the church.  But this past Sunday was Family Worship and Brian, Cooper and Gatlin were all asked to be a part of the main service.  I wasn't asked to serve for this service and I was actually quite fine with the idea of sleeping in while the rest of them left the house at 6:45 to be there for the 7:00 a.m. rehearsal.

When I got to the 11:00 service many people asked me why I wasn't up there on the worship team.  I said to everyone who asked that I loved the chance to sleep in so I was perfectly ok with it.  But as I sat there I realized that it was an ordained event - and it wasn't about sleeping in.  The Lord used that service to calm my soul.  I stood for worship and was just so aware of the fact that my two kids were on that stage using their gifts and talents to serve the Lord.  They love God.  They want to serve Him.  They are strong in their relationships with their Savior.  Peace.  I started to believe that I could do it - that I could parent three more precious children and have the opportunity to lead them to a personal relationship with Jesus, too.  And, I was convinced that Cooper and Gatlin would help lead and guide them in their Spiritual journey.  I realized that it was going to be a good thing for them - a responsibility that I was confident they would rise to.  Excel at.  Enjoy.  Grow from.  Whatever it would look like, I was sure that it was going to be ok.   We are a team.  Calm.   From that moment on I've been ok.  In fact, I've been more than ok.  I'm sure there will be waves of anxiety, but I'm gonna keep thinking back to that Sunday and all that the Lord reminded me.  There was something special about it, for sure!

The Panic Attack

Saturday morning I woke up with my stomach in knots!!   I guess it was the equivalent of buyer's remorse for adoption decisions.  I just knew that I couldn't breathe and was thinking, "WHAT HAVE I DONE?"  I way lying on my bed bawling like a baby, hyperventilating.  Seriously, it wasn't pretty.  Me and all my "faith talk" were having a serious moment of utter panic.  As I was bawling and looking around for a paper bag to breathe in, my sweet son, Cooper, came into my room and laid on the bed beside me.  In a nutshell, he said, "Mom, this is fear and it's not from God.  We know this is the right thing to do and it's gonna be ok."  He stayed in the room with me for almost an hour and just talked it through with me.

Later that day Gatlin got home and was asking me what was wrong - since my eyes were all puffy and it was obvious that I'd been crying.  She and I talked it through and she was such a huge encouragement to me.  Two things I remember specifically that she said:  "Mom, if God wants us to do this then He will provide" and "Mom, I will become a better person because of this."  I thought that was precious.  

I spent the rest of the day listening to a sermon about adoption that is one of the most powerful sermons I have ever heard.  I just played it over and over and over - all day.  (If you want to hear it, comment with your email address and I'll email it to you - it's amazing!)

When I went to bed my stomach was still in knots but I wasn't quite as panicked.

It Started With a Coupon Book

God is just really cool - He works things out in amazing ways and it makes for wonderful stories when you begin to connect all the dots.  Well, our current adoption journey dots started when my sister's family decided to come to Franklin for their six-month furlough from Thailand.  Her two sons play football for Franklin High and her son, Jon Mark, needed to sell coupon books as a fundraiser.  Being the very kind, sweet and helpful Aunt that I am, I told him I would help him.  I posted on Facebook that I needed to sell a few books and within minutes many friends had responded and offered to buy them.  One of those wonderful friends was Beth Krehbiel.  She and I decided we'd meet for coffee to make the money/coupon book exchange.  We met at Starbucks and she brought her beautiful children with her - four of whom they adopted from Ethiopia two years ago.  We were chatting and she reminded me that they had decided to adopt two more Ethiopian beauties - three year old identical twins.  She pulled up the web site to show me their pictures (and they are precious) and on that web site were the most adorable seven year old twins.  A girl and a boy.  Um, let me see them!!  (:     So, I went home and requested access to the waiting child area on that site.  I'm staring at the twins and feeling so drawn to them BUT THEN I saw the fine print that said, "Oh, by the way, there's an 11 year old sister who is being brought to the orphanage and needs to be adopted with them".  There was no picture of the older sibling.

Well, I know Brian Green - Brian Green can do one kid, and he can be talked into two...but THREE was not gonna be an option.  LOL    So, I closed my computer and put it out of my mind.  However, an hour later there was a strong nudge urging me to look at the web site again.  So I did.   And in that hour they had posted a picture of the three of them together!!   Wow - she was amazing.   Has the coolest hair ever!!  They were so joyful - obviously very happy to be together.   I decided to ask Brian to pray about it.

Well, that night we had a big fight.  Just being honest.  Not just me and Brian - but all four of us.  Gatlin and I were crying wondering why we couldn't just jump in.  Brian was being all practical and Cooper just wanted us to stop being mean to Brian.  If we could watch a video of it now, it would be quite funny.  We all went to bed frustrated, but Brian promised to pray about it.   Tuesday

Ironically, Brian was in rehearsals all week with Steven Curtis Chapman, who he is Music Director/Keyboard player for.  They began an extended tour last week -- so it's been a crazy busy time for him.  We affectionately call Steven, Captain Adoption -- so it was pretty wild that Brian was there with him all week.  They prayed together over our decision.   This was Wednesday.

On Thursday morning a friend called me to talk to me about a decision her family was making and she wanted me to pray about it with her.  At the end of our thirty minute conversation I told her I was going to send her a picture and that I needed her to pray about our decision to adopt.  She knew it had been on my heart for years and it didn't surprise her.  But what she said next surprised me.  My precious friend told me that she wanted to help us cover the cost of the adoption.  She didn't know exactly how much they could do, but it would be significant.  I was blown away.  I texted Brian at his rehearsal to let him know what had happened.  He and Steven prayed harder and were quite aware of the big door that the Lord had just opened.

When Brian came home that night he said that the Lord reminded him that on our two previous adoption attempts we walked in faith and the doors were closed.  Brian said that he thought we should walk in faith on this attempt too and trust that if it wasn't meant to be then the Lord would close these doors as well.  We agreed that we would trust the Lord for the finances (whatever we still need after the friends' amazing donation...and the day-to-day living expenses) and that these children deserved to have a family to call their own.   Thursday night.

Friday morning I called the agency to tell them we were interested in pursuing the adoption of Bemnet, Kalab and Kalkidan.

Just In Case You Were Wondering

For as long as I can remember I've had a heart for adoption.   I told Brian early on in our marriage that he needed to be open to adoption - if the Lord happened to drop some orphans in our lap.  Well, cut to 2007 when Gatlin began increasing the begging to add children to our family so that she could have a younger sibling.  That begging started the process of Brian and I seriously talking about it and we decided to pursue adoption through Vietnam.  My sister's family lived there as missionaries and we thought that would be a wonderful country to adopt from because of that connection.  We filled out all the paper work and completed the home study and waited for our referral.  We were next on the agency's list when the government shut down the adoptions from Vietnam.  We were bummed.

Shortly thereafter somebody forwarded me a "Waiting Child" email and I was strongly drawn to a 9-year-old boy from Russia on the list.   Our family decided he was meant to be with us and we started the process again.  We had to start over because Russia requires more than Vietnam.  After doing all the paper work and another home study we waited for the phone call telling us we could go meet him.  However, when the call came it was to tell us that a Russian family had decided to take him into foster care.  Two doors closed.

At that point we decided that we needed a break from paper work and home studies so we just did our thing and didn't pursue any other adoptions -- until NOW.