Tuesday, August 27, 2013

His name will be...

Jack Stephen Harmon

Jack means "God is gracious."  This is grace - that we, who deserve nothing from God, have been given everything by him.  It is God calling us his own, calling us dearly loved.  It is Jesus living a perfect life yet suffering all the consequences we deserved in order to pay the price for us.  We pray for Jack that as he learns about who God is, he would see God's gracious hand in his life from the moment he was born. (By the way, if these words about what grace is sound strange to you or you have never heard things like it before, please talk to us about it. We'd love to talk!)

Stephen.  The story of Stephen is in Acts 6 & 7.  Stephen was a man full of faith in God's grace.  Stephen knew God well, knew the acts of God through history, and believed it until death.  There is another Stephen, too, that is part of why we would give our son this name.  Stephen Smallman was our pastor for a short time when our church was having trouble.  He patiently loved on us and our small church in a way that strengthened our faith and our church.  Two Stephens we hope our son will learn about and aim to be like.  Two Stephens we want to be more like ourselves.

So, let us re-introduce you to our son by his name this time.  
Say hello to Jack!

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Girls

This was the day we took the girls to get their passports.  It was back in May.  Since then, their passports have come in the mail and now they are about to be sent back out again to get Chinese Visas in them.  We are taking Leah and Molly with us when we go to China.  Daniel is staying on American soil. He'll stay with grandparents and a couple nights at some friends houses - he'll have a blast.  It will rip my heart out to get on a plane without him.  It will take Jesus giving me strength just to get me to the airplane without him.... but that isn't what this blog post is about.

This post is to address the fact that our girls are coming with us to China!  We are so excited we will have them with us.  This decision is different for every family.  Some decide not to take any of their kids and some take them all (even the littlest ones).  After much thought, discussion, and prayer, this is what we decided for our family.

We want the girls to see where their brother has been.  Maybe one day they will be able to tell him about their memories from that place.  We hope it will help them to bond with him and connect with him to see his history.  We think it may be good for him that they are with us, too.  He will be coming from a place of many kids and it may be helpful to have the girls with us to ease that transition a little bit.

Another reason we are taking them is that we want them to see China - a very beautiful and different place.  We want them to hear the Chinese language, taste the Chinese food, see the Chinese buildings.   We want this place to be more than just a place on the map for them.

But most of all, we want them to know God as bigger than just their "normal" experience of him.  We want them to see him at work.  We want to talk to them about visiting orphans in their affliction (James 1:27) and then actually do that with them.  We want their faith to be deepened by an experience of a God who goes beyond cultures.  We pray that God works in their hearts deeply during this trip!

Will it be a harder trip to have them with us?  Yes!  It will require more patience and more money (we are not raising funds for this as we feel we should pay for this part), but the benefits of it make it worth it.

We can't wait!  

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

What's Next?

Getting our LOA means that China approves of us adopting our son.  It means that they have read over our dossier and everything looks okay to them.  This is hugely exciting because it means we are so much closer to getting him home!  We waited 95 days for our LOA, the longest wait in our whole adoption process so far.  Our agency received our LOA on Monday. They sent it over-night to us so it arrived to our house on Tuesday (also my birthday - that's the sweetness of God, y'all).
We have to check that "we accept the adoptee" or "we cannot accept the adoptee" and sign our names.  We accept!  We accept with glad hearts!  

We have several pieces of paperwork to gather and then we will over-night our signed LOA and other paperwork back to our agency.  They will return it to China for us.

They will also submit our paperwork to USCIS (US Central Immigration Service) and we will wait for approval from them that our son can immigrate.  If we get this approval (we should) then he will become an American citizen as soon as our plane lands from China.

Then we wait for our Article 5, Travel Approval, and Consulate Appointment.  More details on those things when they are closer.  Don't want to make your head spin too much in one blog post.

Meanwhile, we are also applying for Chinese Visas. We can't travel without them.  I'm at the very beginning of this intimidating process.  Lots of forms and procedures to follow.  (All worth it to get my boy home, though.)


When do we expect to travel?

Early/mid December!!

It is possible that things could move faster, so we are considering all of that now as we plan ahead.  But it looks like our son should be home before Christmas!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Letter of Acceptance

We got it!  More details on what comes next, when we expect to travel, and our son's name coming soon!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

90 Days

The phone rang today. I saw that it as an Alabama number.  I've been waiting for a call from an Alabama number for weeks (our agency is based in Alabama). Waiting for news regarding our LOA.  The last I heard, our dossier was still being translated into Chinese.  And that translation started 90 days ago.  90 days.  So this morning I saw the Alabama number on my phone, my heart leaped, and I answered.  

There is good news, she said.  Long story short, our dossier has not only been translated.... it has also been reviewed and matched.  My understanding is that this means we essentially have our approval. We are just waiting on getting the actual LOA hard copy!  And that should come soon.  "I'm not going to cry" I said to her as I was getting all choked up.  I had been praying our dossier would just finish translation this week. God did abundantly more than that.  He did what I thought wasn't possible.

So, August you may end up bringing us our LOA afterall.  And I am praising God for that!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Chinese Class

 The girls have been taking a Chinese class this summer.  There were only four classes (and they missed one of them), but even with such a short time it was neat to see them learn some words.  The class was half language and half culture.  They made a Chinese dragon, did Chinese paper cutting, and on the last day made Chinese dumplings ("jiaozi").  

 They also had some egg rolls and a traditional pork dish ("lu rou fan") over rice for us to taste. 
 Cooked dumplings - so so yummy!

 This is Chinese candy that is kind of like a wafer and it is wrapped in seaweed.  Not a favorite with my girls but they did try it. :)
Leah with Sunny ("laoshi" = teacher in Chinese)

I loved this experience for my girls and hope to do it again soon!

Monday, August 5, 2013

New Pictures!

We were so excited to find this little face waiting for us in our email this morning!  My first thought was "wow, he has grown so much!"  He has gotten so big!  And this is a good thing - it means he is eating and growing and that warms this momma's heart!   After those thoughts, we realized the preciousness of his outfit (by preciousness I mean that it's so an orphanage outfit) - pink shoes, Angry Birds shorts, and yes a girls sailor shirt.  I do realize that they make boy sailor shirts, but based on the low cut top and the frilly on the collar and sleeves, I'm confident it was meant for girls.  I also think the sweet orphanage nannies might have thought they would put on the nicest shirt they had to take pictures for us... or maybe it was just what he was wearing that day, I don't know.  Either way, I will treasure this picture!

Oh, little buddy, we can't wait to get to you!!!

Friday, August 2, 2013

It's August

Hello August!  We've been anxiously waiting for you!  We thought that you would bring with your our LOA (Letter of Approval).  But, it seems like maybe you forgot.  You left it behind.  You passed it on to September?  If it is possible, can you get it back?  We're glad you're here, but we'd be even gladder if you had our LOA in your hand.

Sigh.  It looks like at the rate things are moving in China, our LOA will probably not come in August, like we previously thought.  China changed the way they do their database, which means there are tons of kinks in it and LOAs are coming very slowly because of that.

I know in my heart that God is sovereign over our wait and that he is with our son.... and overall, most days, I'm okay with that. Okay to trust him.  But some days (some moments), I just ache to be with my boy.  It happens a lot when I'm spending sweet time with Daniel. It just hits me that my other son is living life without a family right now (and has been his whole life)... and I want to run to him and it hurts deep in my gut to not be able to do that.

We'll share updates when we get them, but we're in the thick of waiting, friends.  This (not the paperwork, not the fundraising) is the hardest part in the adoption process, in my opinion.  The waiting and waiting and waiting... while your child is without you.

Speaking of fundraising, though, it's time for a little update.  Thanks so much to everyone who donated during our Give1Save1 week!  Every dollar helps and we are so grateful.  In addition to that, in our mailbox the other day was a sweet card from a friend along with a very generous check!  It was an amazing thing to get that in the mail.  Praise God!!  So our total raised comes to just over $25k!  Wow!  We are so close to our goal, friends.  We are humbled and excited by that!   Once we do get our LOA, we want to be ready to roll with the next set of fees.

Pray for our son, as you think of him!  Pray for God to be near to him during this time.  Pray for China's database kinks to get smoothed out (there are lots of families waiting just like we are right now).  Pray for us to be patient and trust God that His timing is perfect all the time.

And, because it's fun to share pictures and give you a glimpse of our family (and because when I look at these, I am beyond grateful for these 3 blessings, but I also picture our other son. He belongs in pictures with his brother and sisters. He belongs there, y'all!), I thought I would share these first day of school pictures. This school year holds some exciting times (and the best field trip ever) for these kiddos.