Friday, June 29, 2012

The Archibald Project: an amazing non-profit and new friends who will be traveling with us!

Sometimes a lot of the time I try to tell God my plans instead of waiting on His.

When will I learn that God's plans are not only better but more wonderful and wild than my imagination could fathom?

Fifteen months ago, I heard about a family who was trying to adopt a young fellow with Down syndrome from Russia. I blogged about them. I prayed for them. I encouraged you to join me. And in the process, not only did I get to rejoice when Kirill came home, but I also become friends with Tesney, Kirill's momma.

As we prayed for Kirill and the Davis family, God began pulling our hearts toward the international adoption of a child with special needs. Before that, we thought we would adopt a sibling group domestically. (We still haven't ruled that out.) Before Kirill, we thought the list of special needs we would consider was short; as we prayed and as we serve in special needs ministry, that list grew.

As we posted on the blog and Facebook about these plans, a friend of mine read those posts. Georgeanna had been in Bible study with me a couple years ago, and because she had read about our desire to adopt internationally, she knew we might be open to being Zoe's family. She is the one who messaged me back in January about the three-month-old baby girl who is now our daughter and who we will meet next week.

After we started the process to be Zoe's family, Tesney - remember, she's Kirill's momma - posted on Facebook and her blog about this amazing, young non-profit called The Archibald Project. Their mission is "to save lives through adoption, primarily through the use of photographing & filming families as they meet and finalize their adoptions, domestically & internationally. The Archibald Project uses their media to promote & educate the general public on the needs of adoption and accurately portray the adoption process." 

I began emailing with Whitney to see if they could travel with us and document our adoption, but we didn't think it would work. They couldn't travel with any families until July, and we thought we would be in Taiwan by the end of June.

As you know, weather delays and other obstacles changed our schedule to July. Which means... well, how about you just read the words below that they posted this week on their Facebook page:

Yep, we're that family.

I'm in awe of this story God has weaved together in a way that I never would have imagined. 

Thankful that none of my original plans have worked out, because this is waaaaaaaay better.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

our trip in Taiwan {for you detail-loving folks}

Now that you know about our travel days (see this post and this post), here are the details I can share about what happens in between.

I'll tell you a lot about the in-between in future posts - after and even during the trip - so I won't give you every tidbit here. Plus much of our schedule will be made up day by day, so I don't even know what it is yet!

We'll have three days in Taitung (pronounced tie-dong), which will include: meeting Zoe, keeping her with us at our hotel, going to the Department of Household Registry to formally change her address from the children's home to our home, possibly meeting her birth mother (most families have this opportunity, but it's iffy at this point for us; we're praying it will work out, though), attending the church pastored by the husband of the missionary family we know and love there (including a baby dedication prayer time for us and two families from Nashville who will also be there to bring home their babies), and checking out Zoe's birth city.

We'll then have three days in Taipei, which will include: picking up translated documents, being interviewed by US officials at Zoe's visa appointment, picking up Zoe's visa, and doing touristy stuff (planning to eat at neat places, visit a temple, maybe go to the zoo, go to Taipei 101 which was the tallest building in the world from 2004-2010, try not to get lost on the metro system, maybe go to a museum... we'll see!). 

And that's the trip!

our return trip to bring Zoe home {for you detail-loving folks}

Earlier today I posted about the trip we'll be taking to get to Zoe. This post gives the details for bringing her home. Then this evening I'll post the details of what I can share about what will happen between getting her in our arms and bring her home.

The THREE of us will go to Zoe's visa appointment at AIT (the US's embassy-like entity in Taiwan) at 1:00pm on July 10 (1:00am for you East Coast folks).

The THREE of us will - God willing - pick up Zoe's visa on the morning of July 11 (the evening of July 10 for the US East Coast). Pray that nothing delays the availability of those documents, because they are required for travel.

The THREE of us will enjoy the rest of the day of the 11th in Taipei.

The THREE of us will arrive at the airport in Taipei around 8:30 or 9pm. (Okay, Eastern folk. I think you have the hang of it by now. Just dial back 12 hours, and you have your time.)

The THREE of us will fly out of Taipei at 11:30pm on July 11.

The THREE of us will land about 12 hours later in San Francisco, at 8:30pm on July 11.

(Why, yes, we will feel like we traveled back in time by arriving three hours earlier than we left. It's called time zone magic.)

The THREE of us will do our best not to be the annoying family on the red-eye flight, leaving from San Francisco at 10:48pm (still earlier than we left Taipei) and arriving in Chicago at 5:00am on July 12.

The THREE of us will then take the last leg of our trip, leaving Chicago at 6:30am and arriving in Raleigh at 9:30am on July 12.

(Several friends and family members are meeting us at the airport at Terminal 2 baggage claim. I have too much to do between now and then to personally invite each family I would, so if you're reading this, consider yourself invited. :))

The FIVE of us will be together as a family for the first time.

It will be worth it, but we will have been traveling for 22 hours. (Maybe it'll seem like nothing after the 36 hours of travel to get to Zoe?) 

We will be tired.

But we will be a family. 

And we will return to our home here in Raleigh as a family.

Praise be to God.

our trip to Zoe {for you detail-loving folks}

We'll sleep until morning on July 3. Knowing our kids, that'll be around 6am.

We'll take the kids to our friends' house mid-morning.

We'll come back and try to sleep as much as we can during the day. 

(Please, please, please pray we will get sleep then. Please. Especially for Lee, who doesn't sleep as easily during daytime as I do. As you read on, you'll see why we need it.)

We'll set an alarm, but even if we sleep through it, a friend is taking us to airport, and she'll wake us up.
We'll head to the airport, arriving around 3:00 to be safe.

We'll fly out at 5:10 to JFK.

We'll have six hours-ish in JFK for... um... whatever JFK has to offer. 

We might meet up with some travel buddies at JFK, but that's a story that will have to wait until it happens.

We'll get on a plane at 1:45am Eastern time on July 4. 

We'll fly for 15 hours and 50 minutes.

We hope to sleep for enough of that to be rested. (Please pray that God will allow that.)

We'll arrive in Taipei at 5:30am, Taiwan time (which is 12 hours ahead of NC, so it's 5:30pm on July 4 Eastern time).

We'll head from the international airport in Taipei to the domestic airport and catch a plane from Taipei to Taitung, leaving at 11:30am and lasting about 50 minutes.

Our friends in Taitung will pick us up from the airport.

They will take us to the church in Taitung.

Zoe will be waiting for us at the church.

It will be completely worth it, but this means that we will arrive at RDU at 3:00pm Eastern on July 3 (which is 3:00am on July 4 in Taipei) and we will arrive in Taitung and immediately meet Zoe on the early morning hours Eastern time (or the afternoon Taiwan time) on July 5. That's about 36 hours of travel, if you're keeping track.

We will be tired.

But we will have our daughter.

Praise be to God. 

In the next few days, I'll be posting details about the trip home and some details about what we'll do while in Taiwan. Thanks for praying through the details with us!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Adoption is beautiful.
But it's ugly too.

We like to gush about the beauty of adoption.

I wear a necklace with a cut-out of Taiwan and Christ's words in John 14:18 - "I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" - promising the Holy Spirit and His second coming.

I believe that earthly adoption serves at a metastory and a shadow of the true Story of God's redemptive power in adopting me and Lee and Jocelyn and, hopefully one day when they come to know Him, Robbie and Zoe and future children and grandchildren into His forever family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.
John 1:12

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.
Romans 8:4-6

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son,born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
Galatians 4:4-6 

However, consider the Garden of Eden.
Before sin.

Did death or sin turn children into orphans then?
No. Death didn't happen before sin... and, um, obviously sin didn't happen before, uh, sin. 

So, yes, let's bask in the beauty of God's redemption in adoption and God's act of placing the lonely into families, blessing us and blessing her. And let's rejoice when Zoe comes home.

But let's also remember that every earthly adoption is a response to the ugly realities of a fallen world. Let's also remember that our adoption with gain a child for our family and a family for our Zoe, it also involves loss. Orphans only exist because - whatever the circumstances may be - they lost their birth family.

Don't get me wrong. I do still believe that adoption is beautiful. I will keep sharing the beauty in adoption. 

But I will also write about the ugliness too.

In Isaiah 61:3, the prophet writes about the glorious exchange of "a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." Would the beauty seem as sweet in the absence of the ashes? Would the joy be as rich without the mourning first? Would the praise be as consuming if it didn't follow despair?

Let's keep celebrating the beauty, and let's remember and be brokenhearted over the brokenness from which the beauty emerges.  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

well, 2012 has been a bit different than expected...

(First, a reminder: I have a giveaway going on here! It will close on Monday at 8pm.)

This past Christmas, we didn't write or send a Christmas letter out. I didn't have a nice or recent family photo to share, I didn't have the wherewithal to coordinate the logistics of having a picture taken as I was still in physical therapy for my stubborn knee, and I didn't feel like we had anything noteworthy to share about the coming year.


That changed.

On January 28, a friend contacted us about a baby girl who needed a family.

On February 7, we accepted the referral to be her family and named her Zoe Amanda.

On February 8, we started our home study.

On February 29, we overnighted our dossier to Taiwanese officials in Atlanta for authentication.

On March 1 or 2, the folks from that Taiwanese office mailed our authenticated dossier to Taiwan.

On March 13, we were issued a court date in Taiwan.

On March 30, we put our house on the market.

On March 31, it was under contract.

On April 7, we made an offer and entered a contract for the purchase of our new-to-us home.

On April 10, our adoption coordinators represented us at our court date in Taiwan.

On April 18, we were issued our first ruling, indicating the judge's intent to grant the adoption. (YAY!)

On May 4 and 7, we closed on the old and new houses, respectively, and began the move, with a few weeks of overlap between the two houses as we rented our old house back from the new owners.

On May 25, we were issued our final ruling, which legally made us Zoe's parents. (YIPPEE!)

On May 26, we turned over the keys to the old house, having fully transitioned to life in the new house. (The jury is still out, though, on when we'll be settled and fully unpacked!)

On June 12, our court documents were available in English, and we requested our visa appointment from the US officials in Taiwan.

On June 21, we received an email with our visa appointment (July 10).

On July 3, we'll board a plane to Taipei. (Well, to New York. And then to Taipei.)

On July 5, we'll fly into Taitung and our friends will bring us straight to Zoe.

She'll be placed into our arms.

And I'll finally get to kiss those chubby cheeks!

(Wow. The friends who only keep up with us through our Christmas letter are surely going to be surprised, aren't they?)

July 5: Zoe Day

July 5.

That's the day we'll get to hold our baby girl. 

That's the day Zoe will meet her mommy and daddy.

That's the day we'll get to hug and thank the precious folks who have cared for her and learn from them all about what her life has been like in Taitung.

That's the day we'll finally feel like parents of three, even though we've legally been that since May 25.

That's Zoe day.


 My heart is full.

Today's prayer request: Please pray for my airfare search and, after that, our hotel search. We'll be leaving July 3 and returning July 11. So far, the flights we'd like are full, or the prices are too high, or the itinerary has a ridiculous layover - either crazy long or crazy short - at some point. Thanks!
Flights booked! 

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

in vain you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil

Right now we're waiting for a visa appointment for Zoe. Since that appointment will be on our last day in Taiwan, this is about much more than a date and time to arrive at the American Institute in Taiwan. Once we know when we need to appear for our visa interview, we'll know what our travel dates are.

To put it another way, once we know her visa date, we'll know when Zoe Amanda will be in our arms.

Every night lately I've been staying up late, in hopes that my inbox will contain dates.

Every morning I wake up and check my email to see if anything came while I slept.

Every day I'm exhausted. And, if I'm honest, I'm spending too much time reading about the current weather in Taiwan: monsoons and overlapping tropical storms/typhoons and deaths and evacuations and drones being sent out to monitor floods and landslides (and earthquakes too, though I don't have a link handy for those).

And today God brought these words to my mind:

It is in vain that you rise up early
 and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
 for he gives to his beloved sleep.

{Psalm 127:2}

I've been that woman, going late to rest and rising early and eating the bread of anxious toil and drinking coffee to make it through the waiting hours. 

Hmm. I meant to typing "waking hours." Not "waiting hours." But I'm leaving that typo because of how well it demonstrates my attitudes right now.

I am thankful that God loves me enough to gently convict me with His Spirit through His Word. Tonight, I will go to bed at a decent hour instead of fighting God's sweet gift of sleep. (And if I fall short of that aim and you notice that I've ended up on Facebook late tonight, I give you full permission to tell me to go to bed!)

God is revealing to us sweet reasons for the wait: He needed to work through some heart issues of mine before we traveled. Our home is getting more and more settled as we wait. Our friends are bringing by the crib today. And we know He has other purposes that we can't even see yet. 

I've loved the encouraging comments from y'all on yesterday's post about trusting God (which includes a sweet giveaway, so read it and comment if you haven't yet!). Please keep them coming, and join me in praying that I would cherish this time with my two children who are home instead of rushing the minutes until all three are here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

on waiting and trusting God
{some thoughts, a review, and a GIVEAWAY!}

Dinglefest has been quiet lately.

We've reached the point in our paper pregnancy (aka adoption) in which people keep asking if I'm having any contractions yet. Well, not really, but "when do you travel?" is similar to "any signs of labor yet?"... and it can be just as discouraging to say, "we don't know."

A few weeks ago, our adoption coordinator was in an accident in Taitung, the city where Zoe also lives. Then weather craziness ensued there - earthquakes, heavy rains (as much as 27 inches in some areas), flooding, mudslides, a typhoon that thankfully changed course before reaching Taiwan, and a tropical storm currently headed their way. The combination of all those things has meant that while we received our final ruling from the Taiwanese courts, we still don't know when we'll be traveling, though we hope to get that news in the next few days.

All that to say this: we've learned a lot about trusting God in the past month.

And He is still teaching us, for which we are thankful.

A month ago, I had the opportunity to request a bag to review from one of my favorite online retailers, Dayspring. As I picked the bag, I didn't know how appropriate it would be to review it this month.

You see, it says "Just Trust God." And it includes the quote, "Guide me in your truth, and teach me, my God... I trust you all day long. Psalm 25:5"

(That's New Century Version, and I'm just as encouraged by it in my favorite translation, the English Standard Version: "Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.")

It's sunny. And fun. And spacious. (I first used it to hold my Bible and book for my summer Bible study, but they swam in it because it's 18" long, 14" tall and 6" wide... and then I realized it was better suited to be a pool bag for towels and sunscreen. The outer, which is 100% jute, and the red cotton lining dry easily if they get a bit damp, and the 12" drop from the handles allow the towels to spill over while I still carry the bag easily. Perfect!)

Not only do I get to keep this cheerful tote, but Dayspring has given me one to giveaway! If you'd like your very own, leave me a comment on this blog post with encouragement as we trust God during the wait to bring Zoe Amanda home. I'll write your names on slips of paper and let one of my kiddos pick a name from the bag to decide who gets the free bag! (It's a coupon code for the bag and free shipping, so feel free to enter even if you aren't in the Raleigh area.) The giveaway will end on June 25, one week from today.

While I look forward to your sweet comments/entries, I'll leave you with these silly pictures my husband took as I carried the bag to Bible study last week.

Not sure what I was laughing at... probably my husband saying "work it. work it for the camera."
This was after Lee said, "Give me your surprised face!"
He took his job seriously, following me to the car...
...and then I gave him this oh-so-attractive look as my way of saying, "thanks, honey, but that's enough pictures."

Hopefully that last picture won't haunt you.

Now, leave me a comment so you can have your own!

(And you can read other reviews of totes this month at {in}courage's monthly link-up or by clicking the banner below.)

(And the required FCC disclaimer: Dayspring offered me this bag for review purposes - as well as a second tote to give to a friend who has blessed us with a lot of free childcare lately - but my opinions are my own.)