Monday, March 31, 2008

Part III: The Paperwork Chase

I thought I was prepared for all the forms. Nope. It was overwhelming! From finger-printing requirements at certain locations, during certain hours to evening/Saturday/online classes to endless autobiographies, detailed family trees and multiple interviews. Whew! I really was not prepared.

Blake was a trooper in compiling page upon page of financial details & worked on any requirements involving a government agency. I tackled the rest.

I sent emails to Blake throughout the day asking questions like: Where were you born again; DesPlaines or Park Ridge? Height/Weight? SSN? College graduation date? Address of your first apartment? What color socks are you wearing right now?!?

I bought a package of neon page markers and, for a week straight, when Blake arrived home I would direct him to Sign Here and Here and Here and Here. Like a drill sergeant I’d say, “Fill this form out before Saturday’s class. I don’t know either; just write what comes to mind (NO. Not that; write something else.)”

I spent hours at the post office sending/receiving packages & in front of a Xerox machine making duplicates of paperwork for one government/social agency or another.

It was a harried time and yet on some days, when I closed by eyes, I could almost see my child peeking over my shoulder urging me to fill out just one more form, answer one more question. With each completed task, he/she was getting one step closer to being a forever part of our family. And so, we pressed on.

Here are the nitty-gritty dates; probably only interesting to those who have/will be going thru the process.

  • April 13th – initial meeting with HomeStudy agency (TheCradle)
  • April 24th – application accepted by Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS)
  • June 15th – all paperwork, interviews, preliminary education requirements completed
  • June 22nd – actual home visit completed, final meeting with TheCradle counselor
  • July 24th – HomeStudy draft received later than expected, required some edits
  • July 25th – HomeStudy sent to CHSFS for review; hoping for approval prior to August 1st
  • August 1st – no approval; new State Law effective 08/01 added 3 weeks to process
  • August 22nd – HomeStudy accepted by CHSFS and Illinois DCFS
  • August 24th – sent final paperwork to State of Illinois for authentication stamp/signature
  • September 1st – received document back, sent to CHSFS with rest of dossier documents
  • September 5th – officially waiting for a boy, 0-12 months at time of referral

I think every adoptive family has a paperwork-chase story. Here’s ours. On Friday (08/24) we mailed our documentation to the State of IL and the package arrived at 9AM the following Monday (08/27). We hoped for quick turnaround (same-day); but admit our expectations were a bit high. I tracked the package on Thursday (08/30), FedEx communicated a delivery the following day by 3PM. Friday came & went. Tracked the package again; customer-service confirmed the package would arrive by 3PM on Saturday. It’s 3PM. Then 4PM. I call again. Looks like there’s been some kind of plane malfunction at the Indianapolis airport; package should still arrive by 4PM (keep in mind, it is NOW past 4PM). Aaargh! 4:50 FedEx man pulls up to the curb & I practically tackle him to the ground. We have a dozen friends coming over for a backyard barbeque at any minute. Who cares! I shove the authenticated document into the waiting envelope with the rest of the dossier paperwork, drive to the local FedEx drop-off location. You guessed it; I missed the last truck of the day by 5 minutes. It’s a holiday on Monday (Labor Day) but I was assured the package would leave the following Tuesday. Oh, well. What’s a few days, right?

Stay tuned for Part IV: The Waiting Game.

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Prayer That Never Fails...

Although they were published years ago, I recently discovered Jan Karon's Mitford Series books. An easy read, fun story line & fabulous characters.

Yesterday I was reading book #4 (Out to Canaan) and throughout several chapters, the character Father Tim makes reference to "The Prayer That Never Fails...' Hmmm. I'm not sure I know what he's referring to. What's wrong with me? A follower of Christ for 10+ years and this sounds like something new. Surely if I had heard of a Bible Study about this prayer I would have bought the book, signed up for the class. Hmmm.

I became more and more frantic as I continued read. This prayer, it simply sounded to good to be true! The prayer that never fails? I need to know what this is and I need to know NOW! Come on; out with it already! I started speed-reading and then all came together. So simple. The prayer that never fails...Thy Will Be Done.

Regardless of the challenges you face today or the decisions you must make tomorrow, may you always pray with confidence the prayer that never fails.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Adoption Journey. Part II: Why Ethiopia?

When telling others of our plans to adopt, one of the first questions asked is, “Why Ethiopia?” There’s not a direct answer; but here’s a round-about attempt.

Upon deciding to pursue adoption, we contacted Loving Shepherd Ministries (LSM)
whose mission is to care for abandoned, orphaned and at-risk children around the world and help others do the same. We submitted our demographics (age, employment, health information, length of marriage, state of residence, etc) online. They responded by providing information about domestic adoption & compiled a listing of countries which we were eligible to adopt from internationally, too.

Our hearts almost instantly decided on international adoption. Mostly because of the ‘stability’ of the process versus the possible volatility of domestic adoption; specifically the heartbreak of a birthparent changing his/her mind at the last-minute. Additionally, due to the interview/selection process involved in a domestic adoption, this could have resulted in becoming parents quickly (unlikely) or within a 3-5 year time period. We communicated our preferred course of action to LSM who then provided information on each of our eligible countries listing details such as: average age of children available for adoption, estimated cost for each program, number of required trips to the country, medical ratings, length of the process from application to referral, number of US adoptions finalized the previous year, etc.

I attempted to be analytical by compiling a spreadsheet :) but, after weeks of praying, we found Ethiopia was within the top choices on each of our ‘mind-lists’. In the days & weeks following, it was simply a ‘turning of our hearts’ as we were not able to concretely identify WHY we chose to pursue a child from Africa; it simply seemed that our child was there.

Again, with assistance from LSM and some insight from FamilyLife regarding a few specific questions, we began the process of finding a local agency able to compile a HomeStudy & an adoption agency qualified to place Ethiopian children with US families. We selected an Evanston-based agency, The Cradle, for our HomeStudy and had our initial meeting on April 13, 2007. We interviewed a couple of agencies before deciding to apply to Children’s Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) in Minnesota; our application was accepted on April 24, 2007.

Re-reading this post it appears to contain lots of fact/figure type of details & that is realistically a large part of the adoption process. There are numerous government regulations, social agencies and policies involved. But behind-the-scenes of adoption are the heartstrings. Adoption is a calling to not only give a child a home; but a family. It’s an opportunity to not only share your love with a child; but the love of Christ. It’s not simply about expanding a family; it’s also a chance for expanding God’s kingdom. 143 million children are orphans (world-wide). God has a plan for each of them and work for each of us, “O Lord, You have heard the desire of the humble; You will strengthen their heart, You will incline Your ear, to vindicate the orphan and the oppressed…” Psalm 10:17-18.

I am unable to add a video clip right now but click on the following link
for a videa created by LSM putting into perspective 143 million.

Coming Next. Part III: The Paperwork Chase

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Part I: Decision To Adopt...

Many have recently requested we share the details of our adoption journey. I plan to do that here in multiple posts…let’s start with the actual decision to pursue adoption.

A family. The Marriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines this term as a group of individuals living under one roof and usually under one head. So technically, due to our marriage & the fact that we both live at the same residence :) Blake and I are a family. Nonetheless, seemed to us that our family was a mite too small & we prayed for an increase.

I am not 100% certain when we actually began discussing adoption; it was quite a few years ago. It was always a desire of Blake’s to adopt a child & while I thought it was an okay idea, it was not something I had anticipated as being part of my life. The early conversations on the topic, due to us having very different decision-making personalities, usually ended in tears (me) and frustration. We broached the topic on-and-off for months & slowly God began to create a new vision in my mind & heart as to what our family would look like but I couldn’t bring myself to the point of action.

Then, applying a technique we learned in premarital counseling, we agreed upon a future date for 'The Discussion. The Decision'. Saturday, March 10, 2007. I am a poor verbal communicator so I spent weeks prior writing down my thoughts & feelings. Actually, let me clarify that, I spent weeks writing down by FEARS. What if I don’t like being a mom and want to send our child back? Crazy, I know! What if I’m not good at this parenting-thing? That would be my perfectionist personality coming out. What about bonding & attachment; what if our child does not like me? I imagined our child screaming the moment Blake backed out of the driveway & continuing all day long. What if he/she gets sick? Other moms tell me this is a WHEN statement, not an IF. Can we manage the expense; was it foolish to quit a full-time, high-stress job just months prior? Will our families accept/celebrate our decision? Is this God’s plan for our lives? How can we be certain? Et cetera. Et cetera. Et cetera.

Well. March 10th happened. We spent hours talking, praying, crying. And we made a decision. We’d begin the adoption process. I was committed to our decision but it was hard. Really hard. Then God sent a friend my way. She said to me, “Your fear is paralyzing you from doing what you want to do, what you should do. Your decision is not a bad one, you are simply afraid of the process. God wants to give you this gift; let Him!” Her words gave me courage, Blake’s patience gave me confidence, God’s nearness gave me peace…and so we continued taking steps forward.

Stay tuned for Part II: Why Ethiopia?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Weekend With a Busy, Busy Boy...

We spent this past weekend at my parents in Metamora & were able to 'assist' in babysitting my little nephew, Ty. What a busy, busy boy!

We arrived after midnight on Friday evening and in what seemed liked the wee-hours of the morning, I was awakened by the sounds of a little person. Now, granted I had been warned that Ty has recently developed the habit of waking up early and so I was expecting to hear some whispering, some quiet singing, the light pitter-patter of his 3-year old feet. NOPE. What awoke me were sounds of laughing, shouting and a mini-stampede which lead from his bed to the door of our room. Fortunately the handles in dad & mom's old farmhouse are a bit tricky to execute. He tried to open the door and I said in my best and-I-mean-business-voice, "Ty. Go back to bed." More jiggling of the door handle. "Ty. Go back to bed right now." And, thank goodness, it worked. At least for a little while.

It was fun having the little guy around for the weekend. I took the opportunity for a photo-shoot and here's the events captured.
Hugging the vaccum. We could not figure out a reasoning behind this one except that the vaccum is identical to hte one at his house and perhaps he was missing his mom?
Kicking back & catching up on a little reading.
Here he's hiding. The transparent box is not so effective :)
Helping out his Uncle Blake with a little technology assistance.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Another Hint...

My mom mentioned yesterday that it's surely time for another hint in regards to our little guy's name (see Give Me An "A" if you're unsure what I am referring to). So, here is the next letter. Remember, could be the first letter, the last or anywhere in between.
AND, since you've all waited so patiently, I'm throwing in a bonus clue. Our name is MORE than 3 letters (or this little guessing game would be over much too quickly) but LESS than 12 letters (or the poor little guy would give up at writing his name before the second day of kindergarten!)

Consistent Inconsistencies...

From Max Lucado's book, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior. Thoughts as we reflect on the sacrifice of Good Friday's events.

"I suspect the most consistent thing about life has to be it inconsistency. Choosing not to be neatly catergorized, life has opted to be a tossed salad of tragedies and triumphs, profanity and purity, despair and hope. The bad is perplexingly close to the good. The just is frighteningly near to the unfair. And life? Life is always a clocks' tick away from death. And evil? Evil is paradozically close to goodness. It is as if only a sheer curtain separates the two.

It's this eerie inconsistency that keeps all of us living our lives on the edge of our chairs. Yet, it was in this inconsistency that God had his finest hour. Never did the obscene come so close to the holy as it did on Calvary. Never did the good in the world so tightly intertwine with the bad as it did on the cross. Never did what is right involve itself so intimately with what is wrong, as it did when Jesus was suspended between heaven and earth. God on a cross. Humanity at its worst. Divinity at its best.

Something is said at the cross about inconsistencies. Something hopeful. Something healing. Simply stated, that which is consistent did battle with that which is inconsistent, and the consistent won.

Something is also said about God himself. God is not stumped by an evil world. He doesn't gasp in amazement at hhe dearth of our faith or the depth of our failures. We cannot surprise God with our cruelties. He knows the condition of the world...and loves it just the same. For just when we find a place where God would never be (like on a cross), we look again and there he is, in the flesh."

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A Half a World Away...

With the prospect of a referral in the very near future (between now & May), our little guy has been on my mind almost without end the past several days. Upon exiting my bed this morning, I found my feet leading me to the nursery closet where I touched the sweet clothes waiting to be worn. As I ran up the stairs from the kitchen to the bedrooms, I found my eyes glancing at the crib just waiting to be filled with blankets & toys and a very special little boy.

Its overwhelming (at times) to realize that as we embark upon our daily routines, halfway around the world our son is experiencing a world we cannot imagine. Africa & America are so different, so far away. Countless unknowns flood my mind; does he cry in the darkness with hunger? does he shiver in the night at the sound of dogs barking outside the thin walls of his home? does he have brothers & sisters sleeping on the floor nearby? is his mother sick or slowly dying? does his father even know that he's been born? does he know that he has a daddy & mommy whose arms ache to hold him for the very first time? does he know, deep within his heart, that he is loved by the One who created him so wonderfully?

I filed these words in my 'adoption file' months ago & cannot recall where they originated from but this afternoon the words seemed to match my thoughts...

A half a world away – sometimes it seems we’re so far apart
But half a world away is not too far for a journey of the heart.
My little one, my bundle of joy – I’m waiting for you
My precious son, my baby boy – I know you’re waiting too.
A half a world away – a child waits for a family of his own.
While a half a world away – a family waits to bring him home.
My little one, my bundle of joy – I’m whispering a prayer
My previous son, my baby boy – I hope to soon be there.
I hope that we will no long be...A half a world away.

Check out Jami's blog at for links to other adoption thoughts/stories.

PHOTO: National Geographic.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

An Attitude of Contentment...

I have been reading a few books lately on organization & time-saving solutions. Many of the tips are about de-cluttering our lives (and minds) & creating realistic/do-able solutions with tools available. I came across a phrase that has been tumbling inside my head the past couple of days. The words are quite simple but the attitude described within profound.

"If we aren't content with what we have, we will never be content with what we want."

Monday, March 10, 2008

And the Winner Is...

Rebekah (& Matt)! Congratulations & prayers that your Weekend to Remember will be just that. I will mail the certificate to your address (using the 2006 Ministers Book). If this is NOT the correct address, post a comment and I will track down your current one. Blessings to you!

NEW Designs By Blake Blogspot...

I wanted to let you know that I have created an exclusively Designs by Blake blogspot (see link in sidebar of this page). This blog will be posts of a more personal nature; that blog will be more business-orientated. I will be posting both design projects which we've completed for our clients & random, practicial home design tips, too.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Weekend To Remember GiveAway

Almost 100,000 people attend a FamilyLife Marriage Conference annually; this life-changing conference has been deemed a Weekend to Remember. One participant summarized the experience as follows: "This was the single most enriching event or activity I've ever done, period. I am so fired up about my marriage and family."
We had the opportunity to attend this event last year and it was an incredible opportunity to celebrate the ways in which our marriage is strong & healthy (only by the grace of God) and to discuss areas for improvement. We recently received a gift certificate for a FamilyLife Weekend to Remember conference. The gift certificate waives the $129 (per person) registration fee and expires 12/31/2008. Check out the following link for details regarding locations & dates for the 2008 events:

In order to be eligible to win this gift certificate you must be (a) married and (b) make a committment to redeem this certificate prior to its expiration date. NOTE: Please understand that we sincerely we want to make sure this gift will be utilized by the winner.

I will plan on drawing a winner next Monday so please post a comment by 5PM on March 10th. Let's see; how about each comment include one trait or characteristic that you admire most in your spouse (praise) & one 'problem' area within your relationship that could handle a bit of a 'tune up'...(prayer)

Monday, March 3, 2008

Give Me an "A"...

I haven't posted much news about our adoption because there is little to report but I thought I would share an upcoming benchmark. This coming Wednesday (March 5th) marks the 6-month mark from the date our dossier was accepted by our adoption agency. CHSFS has communicated a timeframe for receiving a referral of 6-9 months so TECHNICALLY, we could get 'the call' at any time (although realistically it'll probably be April-May until that occurs). A little bit scary! A whole lot exciting!

Since we plan to announce our son's name upon receipt/acceptance of a referral, we thought it might be a good time to begin dropping hints & see if anyone can guess our little guy's name prior to the official announcement. I will be posting hints randomly. Feel free to guess but I cannot promise that I'll confirm whether your guesses are right or wrong (sorry to be such a spoilsport!)

I have decoupaged our son's entire name to hang in the nursey, so each letter revealed will be one of the letters that'll one day hang above his crib. DRUMROLL...there is an "A" in our son's name. Could be the first letter, maybe the last, or perhaps somewhere in between. Hopefully we'll receive a referral soon and you'll not have to wait long to find out.