Friday, August 23, 2013

Praising Him

Congo River

We found out a couple of hours ago that the Embassy has issued visas for both Josiah and Gideon!
 This is huge as it essentially means we are in the when, not if, stage of when the boys will be here.
That said, we still have some considerable unknowns. It is now very likely that Ry and I will be traveling to DRC in the next 10 days. Initial reports are that we both have to be physically present to submit our paperwork to DGM (the final Congolese approval authority for the boys' exit letters). We are hoping/praying that our in-country representative can submit that paperwork before our arrival to get the clock started. Importantly, we still do not know for sure if DGM will issue the exit letters with our current paperwork. It is possible (50/50?) that we will arrive there, submit the paperwork and then be told our paperwork is from the wrong courts. If that is the case, it could be several months before we could resubmit.
We are doing everything we can to confirm or deny that we have the right documents from the right courts BEFORE we leave. At the end of the day, God is big enough to make any paperwork "right" if He so desires. Please pray that is the case!
We will be discussing all of this in detail with our facilitator, Jilma, late this evening. We should have more clarity on travel dates after that. In the meantime, we are praising God for this huge step forward!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Passed the Interviews!

We received an email from the US Embassy in Kinshasa today stating that the fathers' interviews went well enough to proceed to the final step for the boys' visas. Although we don't have any real details, this would indicate that the US embassy has completed their investigation and, barring some unforeseen event, will approve the visas. 
The next step is called the "Visa Interview" in less than 4 weeks. Our in-country representative will bring the boys and final visa paperwork to the embassy for this interview. Since the boys are not old enough to speak for themselves, we believe it is just for the embassy to see them in person and ask our proxy if we understand the finality of this adoption. That is what we did in person at the embassy in Ethiopia.
Assuming that all goes as planned, we should have the visa shortly after that (a week?). Once we have the visa, we can submit for the Congolese exit permit through a local office known as DGM. We need to do that in person and then wait for it to be processed. Typically that takes 7-10 days but it varies. More importantly, DGM is being very restrictive on the types of cases they will approve for exit permits. We are not sure if ours qualify. If not, the path forward is unknown (or at least it is to us!).
So, best case scenario is that we could be traveling early September. We still don't know how we will work things with Michelle being pregnant, four kids at home, etc... but hopefully we will know more soon so that we can make better plans.
Anyway, long email to say we have made one more (giant) step toward bringing the boys home. Praise God!
Happy day for sure!


Friday, May 17, 2013

Heart Change: Intro of Our Story on Ethical Adoptions

Today is an important day in the lives of our two sons, Josiah and Gideon. As you read this, a private investigator is interviewing their biological fathers in Eastern Congo. We set up this investigation for several reasons- to hear their father’s hearts, to get details of the boys’ history, & to confirm that the boys are, indeed, true orphans. We feel it is critical (& our responsibility) to know that the best effort has been made to keep the boys in their own country & international adoption is the last hope for these boys (without them remaining in an orphanage until adulthood).
But this has not always been my approach to orphans and adoption. The story of our adoption of Solomon from Ethiopia almost two years ago might help explain this transformation…
When we met the 21 year old, she showed us where she found him. “It was early in the morning & I was on my way to a funeral. I heard crying & I found him here.” H confirmed the details in our paperwork & as she recounted the day she found Solomon she was able to give us extra insights that were not in our paperwork. It was a sweet, sobering day but we now had the truth confirmed & could rest assured that we had enough of his story to share with him someday.
It’s been almost 2 years since we brought Solomon home from Ethiopia. You can watch his story here
18 months ago when I tried to write Solomon’s story- what we knew of his life in Ethiopia prior to adoption through his Adoption story- I found myself grieving over the fact that his wasn’t a joyful story. I think most adoptive parents hope for the fairytale adoption. They rescue a child in need & in return are changed in positive & unimaginable ways. I’m now convinced there’s no such thing as a fairytale adoption…but the truth trumps any fairytale.
A year ago when I tried writing Solomon’s story I remember thinking, “I wish we had met his birth mom & that she had given us her blessing to take her son away. I wish she had expressed to us how much she loved her son but simply didn’t have the means to care for him. If all that were true then writing his story would be easy- he’d always know that his first mom loved him.” I hated the fact that one day we’d tell Solomon he was found abandoned.
This year as I try writing Solomon’s story I now think, “I’m so very grateful I didn’t have to look into the eyes of an impoverished mother who loved her child but was making the hardest decision of her life by handing him over to us. I don’t have to tell my son that I took him away from a mother who loved him.”
The truth is, I will never know if Solomon’s birthmother loved him well or not. I don’t know why she (or his father) relinquished him.

Why am I writing all of this & where am I going with this? With all my heart, I’ve come to believe the world doesn’t need more orphanages. We need more families! Ironically, if we try to solve the problem through adoption, we can make things worse. If we apply our energy and resources toward preventing children from becoming orphans and international adoption as a last resort, we might move in the right direction.  
More to Come…


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Memories of Mom

I only spent 10 years with my mom & then she went with Jesus. As I reflect on  Mother's Day this year I think about how foundational those 10 years were in making me who I am today.

While I wouldn't have described mom as the "fun" parent (hmmm, is that where I get it from?), I smile at a lot of sweet memories. Mom liked getting dressed up on dates with Dad & would have me critique her dresses & jewelry. She taught me the word "sexy" (in relation to the  80's style side-pony- yikes!) & I thought, "Why is mom teaching me dirty words?"  Like most people, I loved the smell of fresh laundry, & I remember bringing her to tears as my brother Steve & I emptied the entire linen closet of clean blankets & sheets in order to make our beloved forts. I loved listening to her play the piano- Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata was my favorite. I remember her thin hands & beautiful fingernails, natural, never painted. I remember her talking "for hours" to friends on our old dial-up wall phone. Mom tucked me in the night I told her I wanted to follow Jesus & she helped me pray & figure out if I knew what that meant. Of all the life lessons learned from my mother, however, the one that sticks out the most to me is her heart for others & how important it was for her to teach that to me.

Back when Cabbage Patch dolls were all the rage my parents took me looking for one for an upcoming Birthday or Christmas present. I quickly fell in love with a blonde-haired, blue-eyed girl that I knew I would call Leslie. Instead, mom asked what I thought about the "pretty brunette doll with brown eyes?" "Ugly," I told her. "I don't want that one. I want this one." Wouldn't you know that when the holiday came around & I opened my present it was the ugly brunette doll! Why would my parents spend all that money on a Cabbage Patch doll that I hated? I couldn't believe her. I didn't like the doll & made that known. After taking scissors to her hair, lipstick to her clothes & eventually nail polish to her face I thought, "That will show my mother!" She'll feel bad & buy me the one I wanted. I don't remember mom ever saying a word to me. But she was now my doll & I had to live with her. Was I able to look beyond the exterior & still love her?

A second strong memory of my mom is her setting up play dates with the "unwanted" kids. D was an un-popular girls with freckles, red hair, crooked teeth & often smelled like pee. She lived in a rough apartment in a bad part of town & didn't have many if any friends.  I remember my mom inviting D to come over & play with me (against my will). I didn't want to be associated with her! And you know what? D & I had a fun time after all! After that I did my best to ignore what other kids said was or wasn't popular. I be-friended who I wanted. D & I never became great friends but thru her & a few other children mom taught me it was okay to stand out & love the lonely, no matter their looks or status.

Those two memories show the heart of my mother & I believe she helped train my heart to see people in need of extra care & to pursue them. Thank you mom for helping me look beyond the exterior of people & things. I didn't grow up rich or poor. We lived simply, out in the country, & made the most of what we had. I'm thankful my mom taught me to love all.


Thursday, May 2, 2013


Tonight we were shocked to have received this devastating announcement put out by the US State Department.

Basically, DRC has temporarily blocked adopted children from leaving their country. Please pray. 

Here's a recap of this part of the process...Once the US Embassy completes their investigation (the stage we're in) they issue visas for the children to enter the USA. In addition to the visa, DRC issues this exit letter allowing the children to leave their country. Most parents travel to DRC during this time & wait a couple weeks for the visa to be issued & then another week or so for this letter to be issued. As of now, no more letters are being issued until this specific case is cleared. Ugh!

We're hoping the US Embassy will still continue investigations (the stage we're at) while this pause is taking place. Pray for all the children "stuck."

That Time of Year

It's that time of year again & no, I'm not referring to beautiful Spring in the Hudson Valley. It's that time of bittersweet goodbyes in the military community. Today it finally hit me that starting in just 2 weeks my family & I will be saying goodbye to many dear friends moving away from West Point. Some moving on to schools, some deploying, some heading "home" for family support, & some headed back into the "real" Army again. We will be forever grateful for the fantastic friendships West Point has brought our way.

I recently read a sweet article floating around called 5 Friends Every Military Spouse Should Have & I am beyond blessed to have experienced each of these important relationships.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Riley's Visit with Boys Today

For those of you who don't know, Riley's back in Congo for a quick trip. Today he was with our boys at orphanage & tomorrow morning is his embassy appointment. I received an email from him this afternoon sharing about his time spent with the boys today:

"Just got back from the orphanage and thought I would send you a quick update.
J was really doing great. He gave me a little smile when we first saw each other and was really happy the whole time. He laughed a lot and wanted me to hold him constantly. We played ball and he was actually throwing it a little bit (mostly with his left hand!). I asked about his testicles and PL said the doctor was not that concerned. He claimed there was "water" in there and that it would go away on its own without medicine. I checked for myself and I would say his right testicle was about twice the size of his left. The mamas said that it was smaller than it had been and it was getting better. I noticed he was a little uncomfortable when I held him on my left hip, probably because it pushed on his right testicle. Other than that, he didn't ever seem affected by it. Lots of smiles and hugs... you would have loved it!
G was a little more apprehensive when I saw him. He was being changed when I came in and he cried when I held him. He wanted to go back to the mamas. After a while (and a lollypop) he warmed up to me and he was his normal self. The mamas said he had "malaria" and that he was on a prescription for it. I asked to see the prescription but they said PL had it (he didn't stay at the orphanage with us). They said he had had a fever and chest cough. He still seemed to have a little cough but no fever. That might explain why he was a little fussier than last time. He took a few steps for me while I was there and the mamas said he started walking a couple of weeks ago. He can put 3-4 together at one time now. I also got him to say "ball" while I was there. The mamas said he doesn't really talk but I heard him gibber a little. J says "mama" and a "mai" (water). Probably a few other words too but I couldn't understand.
The boys both love playing ball and I actually got them to play with each other a little. J really likes to throw and he tries to catch like a big boy. G is happy to just hand the ball back and forth. I got a little video of it, but it doesn't do it justice.
I have all of the documents I need from PL and I don't foresee any problems. Hopefully everything goes smoothly tomorrow."