Saturday, August 31, 2013

This and That

We received our LOA almost 2 weeks ago.  After LOA comes the I-800 process.  This is what gives Sarah, as Sui Fenglan, prelimenary approval to be issued a visa to enter the US.  It is also our request to identify her as "an immediate relative".  Once we recieved our LOA we signed it and overnighted it along with a bunch of other documents to our agency who sent the I-800 application to USCIS and the LOA back to China, I think.

We got our receipt letter from USCIS today!  That's good.  I sent in the form to get a text when it arrives at the lockbox but never received it.  I was so glad to see they have all our "stuff".  Now we wait for approval.  This step has lots of calling and emailing and getting of things and I'm still not sure I completely understand it but I'm glad to be at this point. We are looking at the first part of November for travel.

We've been painting away over here!  Here is the before picture of her room:

And as of right now it looks like this:

That black magnetic board in the first picture was great, but it was bear to cover up!  Hopefully we will have her bed put together this weekend and I'm looking for a dresser to paint.  Getting there!

We also had the shelves in the closet torn out this week and have patched and painted in there.  I mean as well as an accountant and a teacher can patch and paint a closet with shelves ripped out.  Which is not very well, but I'm trying really hard to not let it bug me!  

Wish it really did look as good as the picture makes it look.  I am glad to have her sweet clothes hanging in it!  I have to go get more baby hangers so I can hang up the rest!

I also have a care package put together for Sarah.  I am not asking for an update although I REALLY want one.  My social worker said that we only get to ask for one and the pictures we got with her cake party in the sping count even though we didn't get any information. Major Bummer!!!  We will get another one before we travel though so I am looking forward to that.  For now I am just going to send this package through a sevice so I can be sure it gets to her.  Once the China contact has the pacakge she will add some treats for the nannies and some clothes for the other kids and get it to the orphange.  

I kept it really simple. 

*A bag of lollipops to share with friends.
*Some sparkly barrettes
*A sparkly bracelet
*Some silly Bandz (which, just as aside, I once stood in line for and paid $8.  I bought these for .25- gotta love a fad!)
*A soft stuffed rattle toy
*2 t-shirts
*A photo book of pictures of us
*A blanket I made.  I made another one just like it to take with us to China.

I will mail it on Tuesday.  Shane asked how much it costs to mail something to China.  I have no idea!! One blog I read the other day spent a ton of time and money on a care package and it was a big backpack stuffed full and it cost $85 to mail!!!  Very hopeful we will come in under that!

We hope to get our I-800 approval in the next week - 10 days.  After that comes some Visa work for her.  We are working on our visa applications now.  

Moving along!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Making room!

We have been slowly working to get the house ready for Sarah's arrival this fall.  Our house doesn't have a bonus room so we have always used the extra bedroom as the bonus room.  When the kids were younger it was a playroom and as they have gotten older we used it has "media room."  We only have one TV in the house that is hooked up to cable (yes, we know we are wierd, but we did it on purpose, No TV's in bedrooms at the Huff's!) so we had a TV in the back that they kids could use to watch movies or play video games.  Here is what it used to look like:

This is what it looks like now:

Painting starts tomorrow! Actually I repainted the baseboards yesterday but I am painting the room tomorrow.  If I can pick a color.  Gracious!

Opposite the couch was a large set of book shelves.

Which have now been moved here:

To the dining room.  Which now looks like this:

The dining room is now going to be the "game playing/movie watching room" which should be interesting since it's next to the den.  We are hoping it will work out.  We'll see!

We 've installed a new fan in Sarah's room!

We bought cheap fans for the bedrooms when we built the house and they just never worked great.  This one also had marker on it left over from a game played by junior high boys in the middle of the night during Disciple Now one year.  I have no idea.  I just decided not to ask.

Empty rooms are fun for some reason!  Here is Will and I having a pallet party while we watched the last few episodes of Once Upon a Time on Hulu this summer.  It can be hard sometimes for a mom and a teenage son to enjoy something together. We bonded over fairy tales this summer!  We really enjoyed the series and are looking forward to new ones this fall!

We bought a chair for Sarah's room.  Its a rocker/glider and I love it!!  I wanted one of these when Jenny was born and never found one.  I looked and looked and saved my birthday money and finally found one on Amazon!  It is great!!

We have lots left to do but the arrival of this piece of paper has kicked me into gear!  

We have an incredibley busy few months aside from the adoption.  Will is in show choir and the school play (Shrek the Musical).  I'm working part time until October at the preschool and some at church.  I'm also going to run a small race with "the girls" to keep me excercising.  I am wanting to relish the last few months as a family of 4 and get ready for our family of 5.  

I'm also working on a care package to send to Sarah so she can be getting ready for us too!

We love you sweet girl!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Beyond excited

Unbelievably after 42 days we received our LOA today. Only 42 days. Crazy!! 
We now apply to immigration and await their approval to bring Sarah to the US. We hope to travel in 2 1/2 months. 
Oh my!!  I have a lot to do!!

We have been so very blessed with quick wait times. So many have been caught in the new database and are still waiting. They have been waiting three times longer than we have. If I felt as desperate as I did last week after 42 days can you imagine what 140 days looks like. These babies need to come home. Please pray for them. 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

New Mercies Each Day

I've started this post in my head 100 times  Had I written it on Tuesday night it would have been full of doom and gloom.  By Thursday it would have been  looking up a little and as I sit tonight with a quiet house it is maybe a mix of both but full of praise for our heavenly father whose mercies (and patience) are new each day.

Sometime in the last couple of months I decided to change my prayer.  I felt convicted that my prayers for this season of life were very selfish in nature.  I began to pray that all of this would be for His glory. No matter how long it takes, no matter the ups and downs I want God to be glorified.  I want others hearts to be moved for the orphans.  I want it to be for His glory.

Like most things those are easy prayers when things are going well.  And things have gone remarkably well and smooth for us.  We have fallen within all normal time frames despite the whole computer issue in China.  A home study takes 2-4 months.  Ours took 3 1/2.  USCIS approval takes 30-60 days.  Ours took right at 45.  Authenticating documents takes about 3 weeks. Ours took 3 weeks to the day.  LID should take 2-4 weeks from DTC.  Ours took 18 days.  We've had no reason to complain.  No reason to be anxious.


Except I keep looking at the picture of a precious girl whose clothes don't fit.  Whose picture has been taken over the course of year in the same room every time.  Does she ever get to go outside?!  Who needs physical therapy, who needs someone to tuck her in.  Who needs to know that Jesus loves her.

All for His glory.  All in His time.  I prayed those prayers through tears this week.  And I felt selfish about that.  So many have waited so very much longer than we have.  But I felt every second of the 42 days we have waited so far.  I wept when no word came that we had moved to the next step.  I wept again when it didn't come on Tuesday and I knew it would be another week.

We are very much still within all expected time frames, even if it weren't for weird new computers we would still be within normal limits.  It doesn't feel normal though.  It doesn't feel normal to have 3 children and only be able to hold 2.  It doesn't feel normal to check the clock several times each day to see what time it is China so I know what she is doing.  Do you know what the weather is in Suixi, China?  I do. It's 91 degrees and partly cloudy.

Several of the people who have been on our exact time frame moved on this week.  They went to the next step.  We fell behind a week.  And I was very sad about that.  That's the only word.  Sad.  And anxious.  And to be honest, alone.

Adoption is a language all it's own.  It's hard to explain the steps, the waiting.  It's just hard to explain.  And at times it feel lonely.

And that's when God spoke.  Again.  To remind me- again-that He knows all about what's happening.

There have been several times when I have cried out to God for my Sarah.  One day early in the summer I was desperately praying for someone to hold her, to touch her, to pay her some attention. And that very night I received unexpected pictures from someone in our agency who was visiting the orphanage.  And it wasn't just pictures of Sarah.  It was pictures of someone holding Sarah.  Smiling at her.  Playing with her.  It was a clear answer from the Lord.  He has shown me over and over that He is with her, protecting her, making a way for her.

This week though, He spoke for me.  He reminded me that while He certainly knows where Sarah is, He knows where I am too.  He knows that this week was the hardest so far.  He knows I felt lonely and He knew exactly what I needed.

Someone I only know through a Facebook page unexpectedly sent me a message that I was on her heart and she was praying for me.  She has waited so much longer than me and yet she was unselfishly praying for me.   A college roommate sent me a message that she was praying for me.   On Wednesday night when I felt very alone in my worry the Lord put a friend in front of me that knows exactly what it feels like.  The way only someone who has been there knows.  This weekend I met two ladies I had only heard about that live not far from me who have children from China.  I got to meet one lady's beautiful Chinese daughters.

I got to have a conversation with the grandmother of a friend who recently brought home a daughter from China.  I heard all about how she was doing.  I loved hearing about it all.  And then she said this to me:

"I am praying everyday for Sarah.  And I know that no matter how long it takes, that your influence over life began the moment everyone started praying for her.  She is so prayed over and God is already working in her life because of these prayers."

Balm to my weary soul.

God knows Sarah.  And I was so reminded this week that God knows me too.  I am his child.  When one of my children has a heartache, no matter how big they are, I pull them on my lap and let them weep.  They are safe there.  That's what the Lord did for me this week.  I sat at His feet and wept.  And he let me sit there and soothed me with the promises of word and the prayers of words and hugs of sweet friends.

I am not going to lie to you.  I want that LOA and I want it bad.  I am holding my breath to see if we have moved to the next step.  I am also praying All for His Glory.  I am resting in his promises and sitting at His feet.  He is growing me and stretching me like so many before me.

And I am so thankful for new mercies each day.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

One Month In

We are one month into our wait for LOA.  This will be our final stamp of approval from China to adopt Sarah.  After we receive this we move into the final stages and will hopefully travel in 2-3 months. 

How long does it take to get LOA?

That's the million dollar question.  

Officially it says 1-3 months.  

Unofficially.  It takes forever.

I've mentioned before that China has implemented a new computer database that has things all fouled up.  It is slowly working itself out, but LOAs seem to be the last piece of the puzzle.  But they have started coming.  Many people with our agency have been waiting well over 100 days.  Some as much as 150.  That's a really long time!  

Our dossier is making progress through the system though.  We are out of translation and in review which is good.  Many that have waited weeks longer than us have not reached that point.  We were logged in after the switch over and seems to have helped things.

We have had a busy few weeks and the month has passed quickly.  The next couple of weeks are crazy busy with school starting back up.  I am hoping they will pass quickly as well.  But I can feel the anxiousness rising.  I knew not to expect it before now.  Now I know it could come but probably won't for awhile. I am praying that anxious feeling away every day.  But it does take some effort.

Many have asked when we will get her.  The answer is we just don't know.  We will know for sure about 2 weeks before we travel.  We will have a rough idea when we get our LOA.  China has different holidays than we do.  So they won't close for Thanksgiving but they do close in October for a holiday.  Consulate's have a bad habit of closing.  Anything can happen.

So we wait and be patient.  And repeat that 100 times a day.

I have to sing my patience song to myself from time to time.

Have patience.
Have patience.
Don't be in such a hurry.
When you get impatient you only start to worry.
Remember. Remember.
That God has patience too
Think of all the times when others had to wait on you!!

He's listening

I went to Children's camp this year.  I wish I could tell you how very excited I was.  How I was all prayed up and ready to minister to the kids.  That would make me a better person than I am.  The truth is I wasn't all that excited.  Dreading would be too strong a word, but so is excited.  Resigned is probably the best word.

But as with most things once I got there I was so glad I was there.  We had a great group of 4-6 graders.  I've had most of these kids at church since they were 1st graders.  Seeing how they have matured and grown was so fun.  And seeing God work in their lives was truly great.  Seeing them gel into a future youth group gave me joy.

I was able to see a fellow adoptive mom and see her precious baby and that gave me hope.

During worship on the last day I was pouring my heart out to God about our sweet Sarah.  Watching the kids worship just kept reminding me of our girl.  Maybe alone, maybe hungry, not yet knowing the love of Jesus.  I was praying for her heart.  I was praying for her protection.  Protection for her mind, her heart and her body.  Be with her Jesus.  Please.

And He heard me.

I know he hears  me when I pray for her but this time I got an answer.

As we sat down for the sermon the pastor asked us to turn to Psamls 119.  I flipped to Psalms and glanced down.  I was at Psalms 139.  A very favorite of mine. And right there already underlined and sent straight from Jesus to my heart at that moment were these words.

You hem me in- behind and before;
you have laid your hand on me.
Psalms 139:5

Soothing words from the word of God straight to my heart when it was crying out.  I know He is listening to our prayers for Sarah.  Would you please pray for her too! 

I'm so glad I went to Children's camp.  I did not go expecting for God to speak to me and He did.  Several decisions were made to follow Christ and God is working in the hearts of our children.

And we won a talent contest and a stinky feet competetion. We pretty much Rocked it!