Outta Here…

visas

 

At approximately 9:40am Monday morning Guangzhou-time, we received word with all the families in our group that our visas were done and could be picked up shortly!

By 11:30am we had visas in hand and flights rebooked!

We’ll stay here in Guangzhou one more night, leave for Hong Kong in the morning and approximately 26 hours later, at 7:15pm Tuesday we touchdown at Dulles.

Sweeter words I have never uttered.

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Won’t let it steal my joy

The whole family is peacefully sleeping at the moment (Joseph just giggled in his sleep – probably dreaming about eating) and a comment from Annie today is running through my head – “I will not let this steal my joy”.

It’s very easy to let all of this nonsense with the visas make us bitter and angry but we are working hard not to be those people.

On Saturday morning I prayed the liturgy of the hours in the breakfast room while I waited to do an interview and the scripture reading was striking:

We avoid giving anyone offense, so that our ministry may not be blamed. On the contrary, in all that we do we strive to present ourselves as ministers of God, acting with patient endurance amid trials, difficulties, distresses, beatings, imprisonments, and riots; as men familiar with hard work, sleepless nights, and fastings; conducting ourselves with innocence, knowledge, and patience, in the Holy Spirit, in sincere love as men with the message of truth and the power of God; wielding the weapons of righteousness with right hand and left, whether honored or dishonored, spoken of well or ill. We are called imposters, yet we are truthful; nobodies who in fact are well known; dead, yet here we are alive; punished but not put to death; sorrowful, though we are always rejoicing; poor, yet we enrich many. We seem to have nothing, yet everything is ours!
2 Corinthians 6:3-10

All of this is part of God’s plan and will work itself out for His glory. It seems a contradiction but it brings so much peace to bask in that knowledge and to just let it go.

So in that spirit I thought I’d share some fun pics from my phone of things we’ve experienced here in China.

Almost but not quite bacon20140728-040744-14864947.jpg

Heat index of 115 degrees20140728-040743-14863216.jpg

Leaving a note for housekeeping with the Chinese word for vomit20140728-040743-14863589.jpg

Joseph rocking the shades20140728-040743-14863077.jpg

I want to fashion!20140728-040743-14863968.jpg

Apple and Samsung living in harmony20140728-040744-14864361.jpg

Hot dog ramen noodles20140728-040744-14864657.jpg

Top of the world!20140728-040745-14865428.jpg

Warm remindings…20140728-040742-14862496.jpg

Should I go for cucumber or meat sauce chips?20140728-040741-14861585.jpg

Sammy the VIP20140728-040742-14862030.jpg

And so it continues…

Please keep praying…

Sunday, July 27 Update to Adoptive Families interviewed on July 22-24

Adoptive Families and Adoption Service Providers,

We had hoped to have better news to share this morning, but we regret to inform you that the worldwide technical issues continue to prevent us from being able to issue your visas.

Officers came into U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou yesterday (Saturday, July 26) and today (Sunday, July 27) in case there was any possibility that your visas could be printed, but unfortunately, the situation remains unresolved.

The Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs has posted the following status update at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english.html:
As of July 26, the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs is still experiencing technical problems with our visa system. We are operating at a significantly reduced capacity and will be until we clear the document backlog. This issue is worldwide and is not specific to any particular country or visa category. We are working urgently to correct the problem and expect our system to be fully operational again soon. We will continue to post updates to travel.state.gov as more information becomes available.

We will provide another update tomorrow morning, Monday, July 28, at 8:15 am.

Adoptions Team
Immigrant Visa Unit
U.S. Consulate General Guangzhou

Still Stuck

Mike here – Annie’s doing laundry in the bathtub and asked me to post an update while she makes sure we have clean socks, underwear and what not.

We met with our agency reps again this morning and there is still no good news. The consulate is still waiting on the State Department in DC to fix whatever system is down so they can start issuing visas again. We’ve been told to brace ourselves for staying here through the weekend as it’s already Friday late-morning here now and nobody has any idea when things will be resolved. My guess is that unless they decide to have mercy on us they won’t be working through the weekend.

Just a clarification for everyone about what exactly is the holdup at this point. As far as the Chinese government is concerned, we have legally been the parents of Joseph and Marianna since last Tuesday. We have all of our Chinese paperwork complete and ready to go. We have already submitted everything we need to submit to the U.S. Consulate here, been interviewed, sworn an oath, etc. We are literally waiting for nothing more than for them to print a piece of paper, insert it into the kids’ passports and get the passports back to us. That’s it.

We can use a couple things right now.

First of all, prayer. Pray that the State Department gets their systems back up and that they prioritize adoptive families first so we can go home. Pray that we can stay sane as we continue to wait hour by hour by hour for some sort of news. Finally, pray that the airlines have mercy on us and don’t charge us change fees and/or higher prices on our now canceled flights home.

Secondly, if you are so inclined, please contact your U.S. Senators and/or Congressman and let them know about the fact that there are adoptive families caught in foreign countries due to this issue. There aren’t many reports in the news other than a standard “State Dept database glitch delays Visas/Passports for thousands” but I get the feeling that most people picture foreign nationals unable to get clearance to enter the U.S., not Americans stuck in other countries with children. Feel free to share our blog as background.

I’ve already contacted one of my senators and several local news channels – we’ll see if anyone is interested in an international human interest story with local implications. I just got word from WBAL that they want to interview me at 10am Eastern time tomorrow.

Finally, we sent our dear travel companion Linda-Anne home this morning on her original flight – I didn’t see any reason to keep her away from her husband any longer and this has allowed us to drop one of our hotel rooms and just hunker down as a nuclear family. Having to continue paying for hotel nights is bad enough but getting it down to one room certainly makes it easier to swallow.

 

Some details and a little background

It’s been 3 weeks since we announced that we are in fact adopting from China–and indeed that we’ve been at this for quite some time. We’ve not been intentionally quiet or neglectful about the details many have asked about since then. We genuinely have a gag order from China and our agency not to disclose identifying information or pictures until we cross a certain milestone in the adoption process – which God-willing will be very soon. There is much we want to share about the ‘who’ we are adopting but for now, we wanted to take a moment to explain the ‘why?’ and ‘how-come-you-didn’t-say-anything-about-it-before-now?’.

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-01 at 7.41.13 PM

Adopting from China has long been on our hearts. Indeed we’ve been praying about since around the time we brought the boys home from Guatemala. Something about all those babies stuck in orphanages in a country with a one-child policy…knowing that many of them were “imperfect” by society’s standards but who nonetheless deserved a chance at a life. A chance to know what ‘love’ means. A chance to know intimately the meaning of simple, everyday words like ‘mom’, ‘dad’ and ‘family’. In our hearts, we knew someday we would go there. But the daunting process, the considerable length of stay in country – especially since we have little ones still – the long flights, the steep costs, the scariness of adopting from a Communist country, the nebulous idea of special needs adoption…it all just seemed too far out of reach.

 

And yet God has a way of stepping in and simplifying the impossible.

 

Can I get an Amen?

 

Long before our third child arrived through a (surprise) domestic adoption, we had already begun collecting info packets from various Chinese adoption agencies. Sarah’s arrival in 2010 seemed to only have delayed the decision a bit because before she was even 18 months old we decided to revisit the option once again. But the ‘impossibilities’ just kept plaguing us. Emotionally, it would be a nightmare to leave our kids behind while we traveled to the other side of the globe. Logistically, it would be a nightmare to bring them. And how could we possibly manage bringing home a child from institutionalized care, likely with significant (behavioral, emotional, developmental, medical) needs? Surely we were (are?) ill-equipped and unqualified. But like so much in life, we were reminded:

 

God does not call the qualified – He qualifies the called.

 

The desire could not be erased from our hearts. Our children longed for another sibling. Our table was still missing someone. Much of 2011-12 was spent in serious prayer and discernment, discussing whether this was something we really could/should do. Then one day in prayer, I happened upon this verse which would replay itself in our minds and hearts:

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart
and rely not on your own understanding;
In all ways submit to Him
and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 

It was clear that we could ignore the call no longer. It was now or never. Either we were going to pull the trigger or not. Time was ticking and we weren’t getting any younger.

 

Shortly after New Years in January 2013, we made that leap and signed the application with Chinese Children Adoption International. We told close friends and family but we remained largely guarded about our plans even as we gathered documents for our home study and dossier. There was much uncertainty about the road ahead and many questions that we simply could not answer. This was a leap of faith like none other so we opted not to make a public announcement until we had a face to ‘make it real’.

 

July 2013: the completed dossier = "the ultrasound"

July 2013: the completed dossier = “the ultrasound”

 

Now this was not our first rodeo. We have twice before assembled a dossier for an international adoption but this time the paperwork through us for a loop. It just took f.o.r.e.v.e.r. to the get the necessary documents, seals, approvals, doctor’s appointments, authentications, etc. We are fortunate to live close to DC and the Chinese Consulate here so we could expedite the documents from the US State Dept and Chinese Embassy but it still took many months longer than we were expecting. We were at peace with it all though. There was no rat-race this time. Things just got done when they got done. Progress just seemed to happen at its own pace and we truly didn’t stress about the length of time it was taking.

 

We knew we would be paper-ready when the right child was ready for us.

 

US Immigration notice - that blessed final step in US paperwork

US Immigration notice – that blessed final step in US paperwork

 

We were pretty open to lots of different special needs but had some frequent discussions with our 11 and 8 year old boys about the wide variety of special needs and the kind we were likely to see. We wanted to gauge their comfort levels. I won’t go into details but suffice it to say that our boys are remarkable. They have such a beautiful, simple and broad capacity to love. There were some conditions that they clearly found…overwhelming – and we took note of this – but they were largely open to the idea of a sibling with a disfigurement and/or disability. My heart swelled as I would hear them talk about how they would help protect him/her.

 

Finally, on Thanksgiving weekend, we received word that our dossier was in the hands of the CCCWA (Chinese Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption). We were now on the waiting list to receive a referral. We were given an estimated wait time of ~6-8 months before we’d be contacted about a referral of a child. So we settled in for a good long wait.
But without any paperwork to complete, the process became all that much more remote for us. The concept of going to China to find our next child was still that distant dream. For good or for bad, life with three kids, homeschooling and managing the hum of home life was keeping our minds occupied elsewhere. Not gonna lie…this was an unexpected but welcome change from the anxious tire-spinning we experienced with the last three adoptions. I even recall remarking to Mike just about a month ago about how I had to keep reminding myself that we have an adoption waiting in the wings. That life really is about to change. That we really were doing this thing.Then then suddenly, 14 months after beginning the process, it got real.

The phone rang on the evening of 2/26 (three months into our 6-8 month wait). We had dinner guests that night but Mike had just left to take Isaac to a Boy Scout meeting. Sam and I were playing a rousing game of Sorry! with our dinner guests when I got up to check the caller ID: incoming call from CCAI.

What the…?

At 8pm at night? 

It can’t be…

It was.

I played it cool and told our dinner guests to keep playing without me and I took the call upstairs.

The voice on the line told me, ”We were not expecting to be able to give you a referral so soon but we have a file for a little girl that we think would be a great match for your family.”

I listened as he gave me what little information he had. It was brief and heart-wrenching. A 15mos old baby girl. She had been found abandoned as a newborn and was very, very ill when she was brought to the orphanage. She spent a full month in the hospital receiving treatment which has left her with a large scar. She recovered from the illness but the scar that remains is what classifies her as ‘special need’.

 

I hung up the phone. My husband was out and I still had dinner guests downstairs. I wasn’t about to tell anyone but Mike first. I took a moment to collect myself and walked downstairs to finish the game. I kept it casual, not letting on that there was anything going on – but I was stifling the desire to scream and dance. Our guests left a little while later and shortly after that Mike and Isaac got home. He gave me a look. He had seen an email come in on his phone. And email with an attachment. We put the kids to bed, got a glass of wine and together sat down on the couch, opened the laptop and clicked on the email from our agency containing the medical files and pictures.

20140316-DSC_5076

 

We just stared. Disbelieving. Here she was–our first glimpse at our daughter from across the globe. She was more beautiful than I ever imagined. Fourteen months of ‘adoption TTC’ all came down to this moment when she was born into our hearts. We gave ourselves a few moments to read the files, allowing it soak in for a few minutes. But we couldn’t wait any longer to tell the kids. After all, they were still thumping around upstairs at 9:30pm so we called them downstairs. We told them the news and showed them the pictures. They were ecstatic but it was our oldest, Isaac (who is 11) who took that extra moment to quietly process it all and then said, “Wait…so she’s perfect?!”

 

Perfect indeed.

 

Perfect for our family.

 

Perfect and cherished child of God whose life, like all life, was created for meaning and a purpose.

 

More to come when we can share it…