The 4 Month Mark

This blog entry was written on April 30, 2012.  I had trouble getting it to post that day and then forgot about it until logging in today.  Oops!  Anyway, here’s my post from a month ago…

Here we are, four months after Liam and Cora became American citizens by stepping off that plane.  In some ways it seems impossible that they’ve been home for a third of a year already!  In most ways, however, it’s like they’ve always been here.  They are 2 pieces of our family puzzle that God hand-picked & set in their place.

The ability to see their perfect place in this family does not come without choice…and prayer.  I love our Ghana-born children just as much as the ones I birthed, but love alone does not make for a peaceful home.   Liam is very well attached to Sam, but he & I are still a work-in-progress with regards to attachment.  That was never more evident than this past week.  For four days, Sam was out of town on a deep-sea fishing trip with his dad and it was just me and the kids.  Overall the girls did well.  The big girls have learned that they can handle daddy traveling as long as they can skype with him.  Cora followed their lead, and though she asked everyday when Daddy would be home, she trusted that he would be here when I said he would and she was fine.  Then there’s our boy.  In Liam’s four months home, Sam hasn’t traveled more than 1 night, and there wasn’t an entire calendar day where the two men of this household were separated…so this four day fishing trip was a BIG first for Liam.  It went far beyond just missing Daddy.  His appetite diminished.  He slept very little.  He wet the bed.  He acted out.  His entire equilibrium was off-kilter.  Daddy is who Liam looks to for security…and I can’t blame him.  Daddy brought him home from Ghana.  Daddy stayed with him while I was by Cora’s bedside in the hospital.  Daddy is the only other boy in this house full of girls!    It’s no wonder WHY Liam admires his Daddy so…and it warms my heart beyond measure to see my two boys doing “guy stuff” together…but it makes Daddy’s absence that much more difficult.  I am happy to say that, thanks to the prayers of some wonderful friends, Liam did sleep Saturday night, all night…and he didn’t even wet the bed!  Huge progress over the first few nights.   He still hasn’t regained his full appetite, but I suppose that could take time.  He wasn’t happy that Daddy just got home last night & he had to go to work this morning, but I think he understands why Daddy has to go to work.  Hopefully tonight they’ll get a little one-on-one time.

I hope I don’t come across as complaining.  I’m not.  I’m just being honest.  I like to keep track of these experiences in order to look back upon them in the future.  They’re benchmarks for our progress as a family, I believe.  Adoption, especially older child adoption, is a miraculous blessing born of great sorrow & tragedy.  No child having gone through this process is unscathed.  I’m sure no two children behave in the same way, or have the same issues to overcome…but no matter what the circumstances, there is a loss that has been experienced…and in our case the losses are great: birth family, friends, language, culture, … , the list could go on & on.  Our youngest children have only been in this country for four months…the culture shock and over stimulation is EVERYWHERE.

In the Beginning

Hardly seems like the beginning anymore.  Liam and Cora have been home three and a half months now.  Time sure flies when you’re having fun…and we have been!  Of course, that fun is a choice we make.  The days are not always easy.  In fact, many of them are more difficult than I imagined they’d be.  You see, a big part of the reason that I haven’t blogged since our family was united on Christmas Eve is because of the struggles.  I remember while I was waiting for them to come home I would cling to blogs of others whose children arrived home so I could learn what to expect.  I guess when it was my turn to share, I became anxious.  Not because of the families still waiting, but because of those of you who’ve not walked this path.  Some of you have already made comments to the effect of “well you chose this” or “what did you expect bringing in kids from Africa?”.  Those comments are far more loaded than you may comprehend.  I don’t blame you for that, but the reality is, it’s true.  Our daughter landed in America a VERY sick little girl.  Within 3 days of coming home, she was admitted to the PICU at our local children’s hospital, where she & I rang in 2012 together while Sam was home with the other 3 children.  I wasn’t prepared for that.  None of us were.

Cora had life-threatening pneumonia (among other things) and because of the geographic region she had previously lived, was treated for tuberculosis as well (though it has now been confirmed that she did NOT have TB).  Cora handled the transition amazingly…especially considering she didn’t speak a lick of English!  The only struggle she had was the NG tube being placed to collect sputum cultures to test for TB.  Otherwise, she was just happy to have her new Mommy by her side.   Liam, on the other hand, struggled greatly with all of the commotion.  He had just flown across the ocean, leaving the only life & people he’s ever known to come into our family…and just days later his sister (whom he’d NEVER been apart from) was gone for nearly a week!  He was in a new country, with this new family, trying to speak a new language, and eating new foods.  A journey he was excited about, but his only sense of comfort & familiarity was ripped away when Cora was hospitalized.

Sweet Liam.  Sam had traveled alone to pick up the little ones in Ghana…then he stayed home with Liam & the big girls while I stayed by Cora’s bedside that first week home.  By the time our littlest princess was released from the hospital, Sam had to return to work and Liam was now left in my care.  Cora was still sick, but no longer needed hospitalization and I was managing her treatment at home, while also caring for the 3 bigger kids…which included a plethora of doctor appointments, homeschooling and the overall integration of 2 new family members.  I’m not complaining…just exhibiting how difficult those earliest days were…especially for Liam.  He had been with Daddy for weeks, and now he was left with Mommy, who couldn’t (as much as I wanted to) ignore the other 3 children in the home in order to give him the exclusive one-on-one attention he so craved.  We made it through…but Liam & I still have to work, and work HARD, on our relationship.  He is very strongly attached to Daddy, and that’s FABULOUS, but our daily routine requires him to obey me far more often than Daddy, and he’s still struggling to show me the same respect he shows his father.  That’s ok.  We’re a work in progress.

Beyond those first weeks, the rest of our first three months as a family of six is pretty much a blur.   We’ve struggled to find routine…but we’ve found it (sort of).  We’ve grown in our attachments.  Our children all treat each other as though there was never a time without being together.

There are still daily struggles…over food and hair care and appropriate behaviors/attitudes and respect…but all-in-all, life is great.  Really, REALLY great!  As I sit here trying to finish up this post, all four kids are running around the house, using pretend names & playing silly games.  The raucous laughter is filling our home and my soul.

The journey was long.  It was hard.  It was financially burdensome.  It was the most emotionally challenging time of my life.  It brought us them…and it was worth every tear, every penny, every prayer, every effort it took to get them here…because now they’re HOME.  Liam and Cora are ORPHANS NO MORE!  THANK YOU JESUS!!!
Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments.  ~Deuteronomy 7:9

Our Christmas Miracle

There’s really no other way to explain today.  The way the last 2 months have unfolded are nothing short of divinity in action.

Since February, we (along with MANY friends and family members) have been praying diligently for God to light our path, and for Him to bring our children (whomever they were) home to us for Christmas.  We didn’t even know at that point WHO our children were, but we felt compelled to pray for them to be home by Christmas.  I dove into scripture and asked my Bible study and closest friends to pray with me that our son(s) and/or daughter(s) would be made known to us and home with our family to celebrate the Christmas holiday.  I really didn’t know if it was even possible, since we hadn’t even been matched with our children yet, but God laid it on my heart and I poured my life into it.

It has not been an easy path, but having all four of my children under one roof this Christmas Eve makes every tear, every struggle, every sacrifice worth it!  Liam and Cora are no longer orphans.  God fulfilled His promise to them…by fulfilling the dream he laid in my heart when I was just a child.  There is no logical reason for our son & daughter to be in my livingroom right now.  Families that passed court in Ghana before us and others who filed their immigration paperwork the same time as us are all still awaiting USICS approval.  One family who had been matched with their children before us is still awaiting court!  Things in Ghana adoptions are not smooth.  There have been many personnel changes in important offices impacting this process.  The ONLY reason our children are all home right now is because we are faithful to the God of miracles and he has answered our prayers in a BIG way.

For the rest of our lives, Christmas Eve will have a dual significance in our lives…the remembrance of the birth of our Savior and the day we were united as a FOREVER FAMILY.

WELCOME HOME SWEET GHANAIAN ANGELS…WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

Today’s the Day!

With all the chaos that associates itself with the homecoming of 2 children from Africa paired with the chaos of the week before Christmas, I haven’t been able to sit down to update this blog at all and I’m sorry I haven’t.  Not necessarily because I feel bad that those awaiting updates haven’t received them, but because I haven’t chronicled the emotional turmoil this week has held.  I have made it a focus of this blog to wear my heart on my sleeve for all to see.  I feel convicted that my transparency is essential in sharing this experience with our children in the future.  Unfortunately time has not been my friend this week.  Liam’s room isn’t finished.  The house is a mess.  I haven’t been grocery shopping.  I DID get Cora’s car seat assembled & installed in the van, but it took nearly an hour of my day which caused me to not get all the Christmas gifts wrapped.  I haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie or made any fudge.  I didn’t even get a chance to make any of the gifts I wanted to make for my children for Christmas.

This week has been crazy.  I have been all over the emotional map.  Of course I am overjoyed that we will have all 4 of our children together for Christmas, but at the same time I’m utterly heartbroken for all the children closing out yet another year in an orphanage.  I am especially broken for the children who have parents that are fully, legally their family, but who haven’t completed the immigration process yet.  Those children NEED to be HOME!  My heart breaks over and over and each time I cry out to Jesus, begging for His mercy and grace upon these families…that He would unite them forever as He promises in Psalm 68:6.

As I try my best to prepare for what’s to come in this next chapter in our lives, I can’t shake the heartache for those left behind.  There are millions of orphans in the world.  MILLIONS.  The most widely recognized figure is 147 MILLION orphans in the world.  That’s insane!  Now, not all of those children are freed for adoption.  Often times they live with extended family or they’re counted as orphans when 1 parent is deceased but the other parent still cares for the child.  That said, there are still tens of millions of children in this world that ARE cleared for adoption.  Approximately 100,000 of those are right here in the American foster system.  Each and every one of those children [regardless of age, race, medical conditions or family size (sibling groups)] deserves a FOREVER FAMILY!

I am so very thankful that God has brought Liam & Cora into our family.  They are a blessing to us in so many ways and we love them dearly.  I can’t wait to greet them at the airport in just seven hours!!!  I can’t wait to make them a part of our everyday lives and learn what it *really* means to be a mama of 4!

For tonight, as I pray for my husband and 2 youngest children as they travel across the world to come home on this most blessed Christmas Eve.  I pray, too, for the families still waiting for their “Gotcha Day” and the millions of children all over the world longing for a family to love & care for them…and for you, the person reading my little middle-of-the-night blog post, that you will listen for God’s call in your life in regards to how He’s calling you to care for orphans.  It may be adoption, it may be child sponsorship through fabulous organizations like Feeding the Orphans, Compassion International or Compassionate Journeys, it may be becoming a foster parent in your local community or organizing a toy drive for a local children’s group home.  Whatever it is, I pray your heart is open to hearing the still small voice of God and that you choose to follow the path He sets before you.  I can’t promise it’ll be easy, but I can promise it WILL be worth it!!!  Just look at us…after 2 years of ups & downs, we’re living out a true Christmas Miracle!!!

 

Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  ~Isaiah 1:17

Almost Home

We’ve done it…we’ve cleared the final hurdle!  We don’t have visas in hand, but they’ve been approved and a date for their printing has been set!

Unfortunately, the aforementioned set date is less than ideal.  You see, the US Embassy in Ghana has assigned a visa print date of December 23, 2011.  We’ve requested an earlier date (they only print visas on Fridays), but they have not responded to our requests.  We’ve contacted our travel agent and made arrangements for Sam to travel alone to Ghana to bring Liam & Cora home.  As much as it breaks my heart, we’ve prayed about this decision and really feel this is in the best interest of our entire family.

God willing, all will go as planned and Sam and our 2 youngest children will arrive safely in Buffalo on Christmas Eve night.  If there is any delay (visa errors, inclement weather, whatever the case may be) ALL of our children will be spending Christmas with a parent.  Ideally, we will all be under one roof when we awake on Christmas morn, but worst case scenario, Ivy & Mya will have me and Liam & Cora will have Sam as we celebrate the birth of our Savior.

Sam will be making a very short trip to Ghana…only spending 1 full day in country.  That day will be packed with visits to the birth family & orphanage, shopping for mementos/souvenirs that we weren’t able to acquire on our previous trip and preparing for 2 days of traveling across the globe with 2 young children.

As the end of this chapter in our adoption story draws near, we ask for your prayers for:
* visas to be printed on time and ACCURATELY so Sam & the children aren’t required to extend their stay in Ghana
* Sam’s patience and his ability to accomplish all that needs to be accomplished while in Ghana for such a short time
* blessings upon Sam, Liam & Cora as they share this special time together
* safe travels with minimal delays
* Ivy, Mya & myself as we eagerly await the completion of our family.  Please pray that, if there are delays we must endure, that we will have peace and be blessed in our special time together.
* our extended family and friends…that they would understand that our family is going through a MAJOR transition and that they will be sensitive to our need for seclusion for a while until a routine and sound attachment have begun taking shape.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!  It is almost surreal that what we’ve worked so hard for over the last two years is FINALLY coming to fruition!  To God be the glory!!!

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling.  God sets the lonely in families…”  ~Psalm 68:5-6

Jerry Garcia said it best…

What a long, strange trip it’s been!!

Ok, I know, most over-quoted song lyric in history…but that’s only because of the genius of those few words!  We’ve been traveling down the road of adoption for 2 years now.  Two whole years.  I’d say that qualifies as LONG.  During that time, we’ve had a country program we were pursuing close on us, we’ve switched agencies, and we’ve seen all sorts of unprecedented events unfold within the Ghana adoption community.   We’ve traveled to Africa and held our children…and painfully returned home without them.  We’ve seen one delay after another turn into one amazing miracle after another!  We’ve experienced emotional highs (hearing an unprompted “I love you mommy” for the first time from our son) and devastating lows (learning the orphanage suffered major flooding, leaving our children displaced for an entire week).   It’s been a blessed journey…but STRANGE would certainly describe it too at times!

We’re nearing the end of this chapter in our story.  Our son & daughter WILL be coming home soon.  When?  I don’t know exactly yet, but it will be soon.  Possibly within the next few weeks!  Oh what a glorious experience it will be if we are able to celebrate the birth of our Savior as a family of 6, TOGETHER!  God sure seems to be paving the way for that to happen…but if it doesn’t, we’re okay with that too.  He has a perfect plan that we can’t see…so we continue to trust Him fully and just ask Him to bless us with the opportunity to be united as a family sooner rather than later.  No matter when they come home, their presence in our lives is already and will always be a beacon of God’s glory!  That doesn’t mean our daily life will always be peachy keen…but it does mean that we will choose to give Him the glory even in the tough times…for it is only by His faithfulness that we are able to be a family at all.

In less than 27 hours, our in-country coordinator, P, will be representing us at the US Embassy for our children’s visa interview.  Because of the time difference, most of you reading this will be sound asleep at that hour…but I ask that before then, if you would, please pray for favor to be shown to our children and a prompt visa issuance date to be assigned.  The visas are the final piece of the puzzle…once they are issued, we can bring our children home…FOREVER!

Those who know your name trust in you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.  ~Psalm 9:10

Day 42

Exactly 6 weeks ago today, Sam & I filed a form called an I-600 at the US Embassy in Ghana.  This filing initiates what’s called an “orphan investigation” where USCIS goes over all the documents filed & researches your adoption to insure that there was no child-trafficking or other illegal activities leading to the adoption.  I-600 approval must be obtained before the visa process can begin to bring the children into the States.

I have’t been able to muster up the strength to update this blog much during these last 6 weeks.  I have been an emotional mess most days.  Many adoptive-mommy friends of mine have been in the trenches alongside me, waiting for their approvals as well.  USCIS claims there’s a “maximum of 60 days” to receive approval, yet at least 2 families I know went well beyond that mark before receiving approval.  It’s been discouraging to say the least.  But this morning, as I prepare a day of lessons on giving thanks for our homeschool time today, my phone starts blinking that I have an email.  I grab it thinking I can just stop the notifications of all the black Friday emails I keep getting (because the flashing red light annoys me), yet when I open my email…there it is!  USCIS APPROVAL!!!!!!!  We have to wait 2 business day (which takes us to next week because of the holiday) before contacting the US Consulate in Accra to begin the visa process (which can still take over a month), but we’ve cleared this hurdle!  PRAISE GOD!!!!!

There are several more steps to take, but they lead to bringing our son & daughter home FOREVER and I am just so filled with thanks and praise that we’ve made it this far!  Our children WILL be coming home sometime soon…THANK YOU JESUS!!!

Wishing you all a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!!!  I know ours will be!

 

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples.  ~Psalm 77:14

 

The Sweetest Sound

It has been 19 days since we said good bye to Liam & Cora.  Since then their world has been anything but predictable.  Their orphanage flooded, they lost EVERYTHING, they were displaced and staying with their birth family.  They are now back at the orphanage and I’m sure wondering what tomorrow will bring.

I’ve tried every avenue I can find to seek expediting of our immigration paperwork so we can bring our children out of the crisis situation they are in and give them their first sense of stability…however USCIS is NOT a well-oiled machine and we have been bounced around like a pinball so many times I’m not even certain where to go next!  The good news, if I choose to find it, is that there is supposedly a 60 day maximum for approval of our case and we are already on day 28.  Hopefully they won’t take the full 60 days and we’ll get our approval VERY soon!  After that we just need to get their visas and we can bring them home!

The days at home without them are getting increasingly difficult, knowing the living conditions they are being subjected to in Ghana.  I am overwhelmed with thanks for a sweet, sweet friend I have made through this process named Amanda.  Amanda traveled to Ghana last week and will be in country until the beginning of January.  She is such a blessing to me, I can not put it to words.  She took photo albums for our kids, and nail polish for Cora’s fingers & toes.  But the greatest gift, by far, was the phone calls (yes multiple) I received from her during her stay at Christ Outreach Orphanage.  Saturday and again yesterday I received calls from Ghana with updates on our kids’ … and I got to TALK TO THEM!!!!  Oh what glorious, fall to my knees & praise God, kind of moments those have been!  Cora really doesn’t speak on the phone, but I would say something & she would repeat it or giggle in her adorable little way.  Liam doesn’t lead conversation, but he will respond to questions and such.  Yesterday I heard the sweetest sound…an unprompted “I love you Mommy” from my precious little boy.  My heart melted!!  I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.  Oh how my heart breaks for my babies stuck on the other side of the world!  I want to hold them and tell them over & over & over again how much Mommy loves them!!

Please God, move mountains to bring them home SOON!

I will proclaim the name of the LORD.  Oh, praise the greatness of our God!  He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just.  A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.  ~Deuteronomy 32:3-4

Post-Flood Adoption Update

Although we were originally told that our children were among the 15 sleeping on the hard concrete floors of the orphanage post-flood, when our friend Eric visited the orphanage we learned that was not the case.  Liam & Cora were staying with a family in the village.  We had no information about the family, only that they were nearby and after a quick phone call, they children were in Eric’s presence at Christ Outreach.  From the photos I’ve seen, the first thing that jumped out at me is Cora’s outfit.  It’s the same one she had been wearing when we first met her.  We had seen photos of her in that same attire before we traveled too.  The next thing I noticed was Liam’s shirt.  It was obviously brand new, probably purchased so he didn’t greet Eric without clothes on.  It was a simple undershirt-type white tee, but the crisp white color made it clear that it had never been worn by a 6 year old boy in Ghana before!

The children were reportedly excited to learn that this man they were meeting for the first time knows their Mommy & Daddy and that he came with the message that we love them and will be back for them as soon as possible.  I can not tell you how much it means to me to know that our children were given those words of encouragement in that tragic time for them!  THANK YOU ERIC!!!!

Yesterday brought news that our children are, in fact, staying with not just some random family in the village surrounding their orphanage, but they are staying with their birth mom!!!  I’m not sure how I feel about this.  On one hand, they are with a woman whom we know loves & cares for them very dearly.  On the other hand, we aren’t sure how this will effect Liam & Cora.  They have been living at the orphanage for over a year.  To go back to their first mother now, in the midst of our adoption, could have potentially traumatizing ramifications on these delicate little souls.  We also don’t know if their mother has any means by which to support them while they’re in her care (as that was a primary reason for her relinquishing them in the first place).

Today we contacted the USCIS to file a request to expedite our processing due to our children’s displacement from the flood.  It is at the discretion of the officials in Accra to determine whether or not our case gets expedited, but we’re hopeful that they will see the urgency in getting these children into a home with food, clothing & shelter.

Thank you for following our journey.  Please continue to pray that Liam & Cora will be home, safe, VERY soon!!