Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Finish Line

I hope I don't get any details wrong in this post...because in this case, the truth is stranger than fiction.  Not strange...but remarkable, amazing, divine, out-of-this-world crazy.  And this is kind of lengthy and detailed, but I believe your heart will be blessed by what you read here!

We, admittedly, were beginning to stress about the last bit of our finances that we needed to go to our embassy appointment and bring Karis Lemlem home.  We KNEW God had provided everything we needed up to this point, just like He always has through everything.  But, when it comes down to the rubber meeting the road, it gets a bit hot!  A week out from presumably needing almost $6000, and we had not an inkling where it would come from.

The run down:
Flights for both of us:  $4000 (estimated)
Flight for Karis Lemlem: $300 (estimated)
Visa for Karis: $400
In-country costs: $1200-$1400.

As we started looking at flights, it was getting nasty...and with little flexibility due to Mark's work schedule, available flights were soon over $3000 PER PERSON.  Ugh.

That is when we made the decision for me (Wendy) to travel alone.  Save on flights. Save on in-country.  It'll be tough, but I can rally-at least that's what I told myself then!

And then God's handiwork became evident once again. 
$1000 given by a friend.
$500 given by another friend
$75 given by another friend from college.
$370 remaining in our adoption fund

Total:  $1945
My ticket AND Karis Lemlem's combined final ticket cost: $1922!!!

So, this left Karis' visa and our in-country costs.
I really felt strongly that we should do the t-shirt fundraiser...if for no other reason than I wanted them!  My sister Rebecca went to work designing, Daniel and Sarah at http://www.bluebirdscreenprinting.com/ were ready to roll on short notice, Eric digitized the design for us, and away we went!

Many friends, family members, and fellow adoption peeps rallied on the t-shirt fundraiser.  Donations and help spreading the word from friends from high school.  (I'm getting old, folks...that was 15 years ago, and I'm once again blown away by the generosity and goodness surrounding us from past to present).

In the meantime, I rec'd the new estimate on in-country costs for just me traveling:  $800-$1200.
T-shirt fundraiser results (includes many generous gifts):  $1100!!!

So, we're down to just Karis' visa ($400), and then we also got the bill for our homestudy update that we had to do last month ($324).  And it was disappointing that we now could not take any donations to the orphanages/street kids, because I could only take 2 bags...which is one for me and one for my baby girl.  Extra baggage is $200/bag.  *disappointed sigh*  We had a whole suitcase of medical supplies given by a nurse here in Anchorage, and we also had hooded sweatshirts donated by friends from church for the street kids Bisrat works with, as well as a whole tote of cloth diapers I have had in storage and tons of new plastic pants and ear thermometers bought by another friend from church for the orphanages. 

Well, last week our church treasurer called me to see if I was home b/c she was going to drop off a cash donation that had just come in.  We just missed each other from her coming by and me getting home...and there was $400 sitting in an envelope on my table.  Karis Lemlem's visa taken care of.  Just. like. that.

A week later, a family member of a friend was here and wanted to buy a t-shirt.  She left a check on the counter for it.  $300. Homestudy update bill taken care of.  Just. like. that.

At church on Sunday, I was reminded that from another friend sending a check, there was $200 in the adoption fund.  And someone else gave me $100 specifically for the orphanage donations.  And someone else gave the treasurer $100 for the same thing.  Extra baggage fees taken care of.  Just. like. that.

Of course there is the issue of having traveling money for , meals, tips for bag attendants at the airport in Addis, and emergencies....and someone else at church handed me $400 to have for travel.  Taken care of.  Just. like. that.

The only thing left in this whole process is our post-placement visits (follow up with the social worker who did our homestudy) and readoption fees.  Could run anywhere from $600-$1500, depending on what our homestudy agency charges.

Between today and yesterday, we received another $650 total from friends and family. 
I don't know about you, but I'm pretty sure our post placement costs will run us about $650. 

I hope you have read in amazement what God has done for us.  We are in awe of how mighty our God is.  We are completely humbled by how he has chosen to bless us.  I can hardly wait to see what the Lord is going to do in the life of our baby girl, who is really HIS baby girl...it's surely going to be something great with all that he has done in her life in six short months!  "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart..." Jeremiah 1:5

"Many, O Lord my God, are the wonders you have done.  The things you planned for us no one can recount to you; were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare. Ps. 40:5

"Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me." Ps. 54:4

"I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.  I will meditate on all your words and consider all your mighty deeds."  Ps. 77:11-12

"Declare His glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all peoples." Ps. 96:3

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Embassy Date!!!

We are so grateful to finally have a concrete embassy date...December 8th!!!
While we are disappointed that we won't be able to bring Karis Lemlem home for Thanksgiving, we're so thankful that we'll be home in plenty of time for Christmas-in 25 days, we will all be under one roof!  Plus her health has improved tremendously, so we're relieved of that!

Logistically and financially, the December 8th date is working so much better than if we left this week!  Although our plan isn't entirely what we had hoped for, it will still work reasonably well (though don't ask me how well it's working 10 hours into our flight...you might not get the same answer)! 

There were several issues to work around.  One is Mark's work schedule.  While he's allowed to take the time off, he still needs to service all of his stores, and would have to make it up...meaning a double load after our trip.  Also, our flights were going to be over $3000 each.  So, we were trying to use our airline miles to at least get to the east coast, which would make the international leg that much cheaper.  But, in trying for Thanksgiving week, it was no surprise that there were no flights available.  Now, we can use our miles!

At this point, I  (Wendy) will leave very early a.m. on Dec. 5th, which will get me into Addis at 2:20 a.m. on the 7th.  After a (hopefully) good hard sleep, I'll be off to the Transition House to bring Karis out of the orphanage for good and forever!!!  That would be 20 days from now, in case you weren't counting! :)

Mark will fly out on the morning of the 10th, getting into Pittsburgh late that night.  Karis Lemlem and I will fly out late Friday night and get into Pittsburgh the night of the 11th.  We'll have a few precious hours with Mark's parents, brothers and sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews, and anyone else who blesses up by showing up!  Then we leave Pittsburgh at 6:30 the next morning, and arrive in Anchorage at 2:30 p.m!  While we're disappointed to not have more time in Pittsburgh, it still absolutely boggles my mind that it worked out at all, and that Mark's whole trip and my trip from Pitts to Anchorage is all free with miles!

There are still a few financial variables, like the in-country cost (which should be much less now for just one person), & Karis Lemlem's ticket (international flights still charge even for a lap infant), but we know it's going to be much more manageable and we won't need to sell nearly as many shirts!  But please keep spreading the word about our t-shirt fundraiser, and thank you to every one who has ordered so far!  At this point, we're just about giddy with excitement that we are THIS CLOSE and GETTING CLOSER to bringing that baby girl HOME!  We're as happy as she looks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Still no embassy date

So, it turns out that Monday was NOT the day to find out our embassy date. 

The embassy office did not accept our paperwork on Monday.  The fact that our paperwork was even in had to submit is a huge praise!  It's still ahead of the typical time frame!

Apparently, there is something that needs to observed or celebrated on Tuesday, Nov. 16th, because the offices will be closed.  They will try again on Wednesday to submit our file.  If the embassy office accepts it and chooses to give us an appointment within the very next week, it will truly be the hand of God at work, as this Wednesday would be the typical date to submit for appointments two weeks out...our next date option being Dec. 8th.

So, we'll wait and see.  I haven't heard any other news regarding Karis Lemlem's health, and usually they send updates on Mondays.  So, I'll have some checking in to do tomorrow!  Please keep praying for God's perfect timing!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Hard Stuff, Part I

I know it may seem that once Karis is finally home, the hard part will be over.  That couldn't be further from the truth!  There will be many more hard things that come with the territory of parenting an adopted child.  Worth it?  Oh, yes.  Challenging?  Yes.  Bad?  No.  Just hard.

One challenge for us is how to handle comments others may make once Karis Lemlem becomes part of our family.  I know it's inevitable, and I want to help people understand the realities.
But it will be a challenge if someone says:
  • "She's so lucky to be part of your family."  No, actually.  If luck had anything to do with it, she wouldn't have been an orphan in the first place.  We're blessed to have her in our family.
  • "What happened to her?  Why was she up for adoption?"  Thank you for your interest, but that's her story to tell to whomever she chooses when she's older.  Please don't be offended...and put yourself in her eighteen-year-old shoes.  You wouldn't want everyone knowing all the hard places of your life, either.  We're holding those hard parts of her life carefully.  We're new at this (obviously!), and as we figure out what we're doing, we want to err on the side of caution. Information can always be shared later...you can't take it back once it's out!
  • "She was meant to be part of your family!"  Um, I beg to differ.  I don't think God sets upon a plan to destroy families.  Her adoption into our family is making the best of a really tough situation...He does work all things out for good, but she was meant to be part of her first family.  We're the "Plan B."  Yes, I know God knew about it from the beginning.  But it doesn't mean the injustice of the tragedy that brought her to us in the process is pleasing to Him. If we could, we would give her back her first family, and give her the opportunity to be nurtured by her own parents.  It's not possible, and we're grateful that we're allowed to parent her, but I am so sad for what she has had to endure in her short life.

While we're on this topic of "hard stuff," a few things to share about her name...

We plan on calling her Lemlem for a while, until we are at least familiar to her.  Then we'll call her Karis Lemlem...until she becomes used to hearing both names. And then?  We'll just see what happens.  If she were older, I'd ask her which name she prefers.  For now, I want both to be familiar to her.

This isn't what we originally planned.  But when I think about this transition for her, it makes me cry...by the time she gets carried off the plane in D.C., there will be not one shred of anything familiar to her remaining.  A sea of white faces. Unfamiliar voices, sounds; language rhythms.  New smells, new formula (never mind the fact that it will hopefully help the spit up trouble!).  Love, yes...but love expressed in different form and language than she's used to. 

The very least we can do is call her by the only name she knows.  It means nothing to her, nor should it, that we've had the name "Karis" chosen for a daughter for forever.  The significance of its meaning is lost on a tiny baby who is feeling set adrift.  It's the opposite connotation of what we hold for adoption.  We perceive love and safety and a family to cherish her.  And it is all that and more...but not from her perspective-not yet, anyway.  Will she come to feel loved and safe and that she belongs?  That's the goal.  But for now, I imagine she'll feel pretty lost.

And the name Lemlem?  It was chosen for her specifically because of its meaning, which given the circumstances of her life, is profound.  It was a name chosen with love. It means "to flourish and grow."  We love all the more the family member who gave it to her for choosing life for her, both literally and symbolically.  And yes, it's undeniably beautiful with "Karis," which is the Greek word used for "grace."  Think about that...for grace to flourish and grow in her life, to grow and flourish in the grace bestowed upon her.  Amazing.

Speaking of helping her to not feel adrift...
For a while, Mark and I (and the kids, too) will do most of the holding of her.  We know you love her.  We know you've waited just as long as we have to love on her-and we appreciate that so much!  And maybe we can just sit down on the couch, you-me-and Karis Lemlem, and you can sorta hold her. :)  (The jury is still out on initial airport greetings)! :)  See, for the whole of her short life, she has been cared for by a rotating staff.  We want her to realize that this isn't just another orphanage with a different staff.  It's her family.  She needs something?  Moms and dads take care of needs.  If we don't do everything for her, it will make it that much harder for her to realize that "home" is something different.  Hard to do?  Yes.  But that's our job.

More posts to come on hard stuff that may be helpful for you to understand...


I hate strongly dislike suspense.

But we have lots of it right now, because MONDAY IS THE DAY...the day that our process coordinator in Ethiopia will take our paperwork to the embassy, and ask them to handle our case in just one week.

Typically, the embassy won't make appointment for less than two weeks out from when the receive files.  BUT, we didn't have court until the 29th, and there was no way that all the pieces would have been received in time to submit them.  While it looks like that our paperwork was "submitted too late" to have the embassy date right before Thanksgiving, it actually means that our paperwork has been submitted on a much earlier time frame than otherwise thought possible, and it's a wing and a prayer that they'll take it "later" than two weeks out.  Make sense? 

That said...PLEASE PRAY WITH US that we are graced with an embassy appointment NEXT WEEK.  Embassy handles cases from our agency on Wednesdays, but since it takes about two days to get the printed visa after the appointment, they would likely push us up to Monday of next week.  One. week.

If we don't receive an embassy appt. for the week of Thanksgiving, then our date will be Dec. 8th.  That's not entirely bad, either...it gives more time to prepare to leave, and to raise money, as we're about $4500 shy of being able to pay our travel expenses.  Logistically, we'd prefer Dec. 8th.  Emotionally, I want Nov. 22.  *sigh* :)  Either way, it's SOON, and our baby is home for Christmas!

Grace. (aka "Court")

I just realized that I never shared the story of our court appointment to become Karis' parents.

In order to "pass court," a family must go before the judge.  She asks a few questions (thankfully they were all "yes" or "no" questions!) to help ascertain that we are prepared to parent one of her country's beautiful children.  Most of the approval comes from the Ministry of Women and Child Affairs (MOWA).  It is MOWA who takes the time to look over all of the dossiers that enter the country, after which they process a letter indicating to the judge their approval.

Typically, when a family does not pass court, it is generally because the letter that MOWA has written has become lost, or because despite their intention to write the letter, it hasn't gotten done yet.

We were told by our coordinator that some of us did not have letters in our files yet, and that hopefully they would be delivered by our 1:30 court appointments.

We waited for about an hour in the waiting room with many other couples from other agencies in addition to the four other family "traveling buddies" we had.  The first couple went in, and came out all grins with "thumbs up!"  They had passed!  Now I honestly cannot anymore remember the exact order we went in after that.  But when our friends Scott and Rachel came out, they were unsure as to whether they passed or not...and we also emerged from our 5-question appointment unclear as to whether we had passed or not. By this point, I was so nervous I was ready.to.throw.up. 

The final family went in, and came out all smiles as proud new parents of a 5 yr. old and 2 yr old sibling pair.  And then our coordinator spoke to all of us, and told us that there was another issue besides missing letters from MOWA.  Several of us had children that come from Shalom orphanage...and Shalom's license had lapsed.  It was nothing uncommon...just a delay in their part on getting their license renewed.  However, the judge was not going to pass any cases with children from Shalom until they had demonstrated their compliance through re-licensing.  After sharing that our letter was there, but that we hadn't passed because of the orphanage licensing issue, she went back in to to speak to the judge.

Our letter from MOWA was there.  Do you know long and how often we prayed for all of our paperwork to be in the fileSpecifically to be in the file?  A long time and annoyingly often.  It was there.

However, Karis came through the Shalom orphanage.  The judge had NOT passed our case.  But the family with two children?  Their children were also from Shalom.  And they passed.  No explanation as to why.  And so our coordinator went back in to speak with her, and urged the judge to "be consistent."  She had passed them, so she should pass us. 

And she did.

By the grace of God, she did.

We were so close, so ridiculously close, to not passing.  There was nothing about us that she should have singled us out for favor.  I don't know that we had any more people praying for us than had been praying for others.  But we were graced with passing...the most tangible expression of grace I've seen this side of Judgment Day. 

I cried.  I still do.  Every.single.time I tell this story, and as I type it out...I cry out of gratefulness for His grace and favor.

Did I ever tell you the story of how we named Karis?  It's the Greek word used in the New Testament...for "grace."  It's already proving true in her life.

Looking Up

I'm sorry I neglected to post this on here after I posted on facebook...
On Wednesday, after receiving a plethora of tough news, I emailed our coordinator at our agency. This is what I sent:

I am wondering how regularly the embassy allows paperwork to be submitted late.  Is this something that you feel is likely to happen, or is that completely out on a limb?  Will we know for certain by Friday, or will our appointment day still be in question after that point?
Our daughter Lemlem has pneumonia…she was sick while we were there two weeks ago and has just gotten progressively worse.  I am considering traveling early to be with her, but will need to know a concrete embassy date before making plans, as I have three other children at home.  Any advice you can give regarding this would be appreciated.  Also, does the health status of the children involved ever influence the embassy in their scheduling?  

Within ten minutes of me sending this email, she called me back...and she had already been in communication with both our process coordinator and the Transition Home staff.  She let me know that they were certainly going to be advocating for our case to go before the embassy next week, and that they would also keep in close contact regarding Lemlem's health.  She also let me know that the TH doctor did not view her pneumonia as serious, and that she was responding well to treatment.

I have been impressed by our agency before (to be realistic, there have been a few UNimpressive moments, too), but this was truly remarkable to me.  

AND, a friend called us, completely out of the blue, and let us know that they were sending us a check fro $1000.  Yes, you read that correctly.  And then another friend from college contacted me the next day to ask for my address, because the annual Christmas check she and her husband give each year to a ministry or missionary they wanted to send to us.  Humbling.  We're so grateful.

God indeed hears the cries of His people...

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rough Day for News

Before 9 a.m. this morning, I received three hard pieces of news:

1.  Karis now has pneumonia.  I'm not really surprised, as she was so sick while we were there, worsening to the point of running a fever the day we left.  A friend who was there the next week let me know that she was still coughing and congested.  That baby just needs to come home, and I ask that you pray for her strength and healing!

2.  Our paperwork needed for an embassy appointment did not get submitted in time...though the AWAA staff sounds hopeful that the embassy will accept it late so that we can still have an appointment the week of Thanksgiving.  So, it's not a complete loss yet, but would have been encouraging to know it was all wrapped up.

3.  One source to which we had applied for a grant is out of funds, and we were extremely hopeful that this would come through for our travel expenses for the second trip.  We need about $6000 for our tickets, Karis' ticket, her visa, and our in-country expenses.  And while we're incredibly excited that we might be able to bring Karis Lemlem home the week of Thanksgiving-that's not very long from now given the funds that are needed!  I just keep reminding myself that the timeline and amount do not serve as an obstacle to God whatsoever-we're just in a very hard place right now.  

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Donations to Go!

Here's our pile-o-goodies that we took to Ethiopia with us to donate to the orphanages! One full suitcase!
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