Monday, November 30, 2015

My Heart Just Grew Three Sizes....

My Heart Just Grew Three Sizes...

In honor of this Christmas season I lovingly named this post ¨My heart just grew three sizes.¨   We just received a short and sweet update on our little girl from the Orphanage that she is living in.  I did not realize that an update on this sweet little girl would affect me in such a profound way.

I saw the email with the subject line detailing that it was an update from her orphanage and I quickly opened it and read it before I went upstairs to get in the shower.  As I stood in the warm shower the words of that email kept swirling around in my mind, my heart ached for this sweet little girl and what she had been through, the profound loss and grief she must have suffered at the tender age of 3 years old. 

I prayed as I stood there in that warm shower, trying to collect my thoughts.  I prayed for this precious little girl, I also prayed for forgiveness in my heart for her parents.  In my tender heart I simply cannot understand how anyone can be so callous and uncaring.  

God is aware of each and every one of us

I must confess that there have been times I questioned in my mind....¨Does God love me?¨   ¨Is God aware of me?

Life can be hard, there are days we feel isolated, alone, and maybe even unlovable, and we wonder, would the God of Heaven love one such as I?  I can testify to you that through this amazing journey to adopting our little angel from China, I have found the answer to this very question.

Yes, unquestionably God loves each and every one of us!

He did not answer my prayer by simply putting the words in my mind, ¨Yes, I love you my child.¨  There were times I prayed to know that He loved me and as I waited patiently for an answer, nothing came.  In those moments of ´crickets´  as I call it, my heart ached, my heart longed to know if He truly knew me, if He truly loved me.  Why would He not answer me?   Maybe He isn´t there... maybe He doesn´t love me at all....

My answer came through a little orphaned girl in China

The absolutely miraculous way in which we found this one little orphan girl living in an orphanage half a world away testified to me that God is aware of every child!  Here in America a Mother, a Father, a Sister and a Brother had been prepared for this little girl.  She was born in a country that is not very accepting of disabilities or birth defects.  

Heavenly Father knew of her, he knew the suffering she would endure in her young tender life and yet, he prepared a family and blessings for her.

The Answer to the longing of my Heart was answered through a little orphaned girl in China

I longed for another child, no matter how hard I tried to put this desire from my mind, it would not leave.  I KNEW there was another child to come into our family.  This was not merely a desire, it was a spiritual knowledge deep inside me, I knew that our family was not complete, I knew that there was another little girl that was supposed to be in our family.   

As I began trying to have another child, I had complete faith that I would become pregnant and this little girl would be born into our family.  I had no doubt it would be so.  As the years passed, my grief and heartache increased and tears started to flow.  I knew there was another child, I tried to be patient believing that all things happen according to God´s timing and I must simply be patient.   When the five year mark hit and I had not so much as ovulated, let alone become pregnant my heart ached, I fell to my knees in utter despair.

  My body had betrayed me, I felt as though I were less than a woman, as in relation to the womanly power of creating life, my body did not work at all.   

I will never be able to explain to a woman who has never suffered through infertility how heart wrenching it is to pass through such a trial.  You will never understand how many tears I have shed, the prayers that have been uttered through sobbing slurred speech, the feelings of worthlessness and grief.  I continued to try and put these feelings of emptiness out of my mind, there was nothing more I could do. 

There was a child waiting to come into our family, that I knew.  What I did not know is HOW!

Women´s Conference 2013

After a particularly difficult month of tears and prayers my mom called and invited me to attend women´s conference with her.  The prayer that was in my heart this day was to gain understanding about this child I knew was missing from my family.  

As we rushed to attend the last class of the day, we barely made it in on the back row.  I was crocheting a scarf for the humanitarian project as I listened to the speaker begin.  She stated that after writing and completing her talk she felt it was too personal and that maybe she should change the topic she would speak on.  As she prayed to know what she should speak about, she felt that there was one who needed to hear the message she had to share.  She felt prompted to share the original message as she had prepared it.

She began detailing the years of infertility she suffered, she spoke of the heartache, the anguish, the feeling that her body had betrayed her..... and all the pent up emotions inside me overflowed and tears began to stream down my cheeks, despite my best effort to stop them.

 I could relate with every word she uttered, every pain, every heartache, every soul crushing emotion.  She spoke of 9 years of infertility.  She prayed to God for understanding and was told that some women are called to be the answer to another´s prayer.

My heart swelled within me and God confirmed to me that His will for me was different than what I had envisioned for myself.  I came home with my heart opened.  There was a time I was not open to the idea of adoption for a variety of reasons, but on this day, in this place, my heart was opened.

At times our hearts must break, before they are softened enough to do the work God has in store for us.

Despite knowing that God was calling me to be a Mother to the Motherless there was one BIG hurdle....

Money stood in my way

We had recently suffered great financial loss....I did not have the financial means to be able to adopt.  We looked into foster care and even began taking the classes but immediately we knew....This is not where our child was.    As much as I longed for children, as much as my heart ached, I knew inside my heart that this was simply not where my child was, this was not the road God wanted us to take.

It was hard as I felt I had such a powerful answer and yet I had no way to follow through.  I did not have the financial means to adopt and so plans were put on the back burner.  The wound in my heart was ripped open wide as this all started to unfold, a path lay before me.....with a locked gate I did not have the key to open.  Not only had I suffered the complete and total loss of my fertility and I had grieved sorely over this, I did not have the means to move forward with adoption either.

I tried to fill my life with many things, I ran a business teaching nutrition classes, I tried to go back to college, I eventually ended up taking on a job to fill my life and my time but everything I tried fell apart.  I literally felt as if everything I touched came unraveled at the seams.  This only left me more heart broken and empty inside. 

NO matter what I did I couldn´t fix the Money problem!

Two and a half years went by after that Women´s conference and still I was waiting, it had been over 8 years of struggling to have another child, crying, praying, pleading.  I tried to force a smile and a congratulations when those around me announced pregnancies, I tried in my heart to be happy for them, but I would go home, close the door to my bedroom, fall to my knees.... and cry.   Cry is probably an understatement of monumental proportions, but cry I did.

We were finally in a financially stable situation, my husband had a salaried job and he also received commissions.  We lived off his salary and even though with his student loans we didn´t have a lot extra, we had plenty for our needs.  We owned a home and had stability, and yet, the finances still were not where we could afford $30,000.  

Step out in Faith and God will Provide A Way!

As events unfolded, sacred, private, and amazing things were happening in our lives.  My husbands heart was finally opened and we began looking into adoption together, doors were literally flung open before us.  I cannot describe the rejoicing in our hearts as our path was illuminated with each step forward we took. 

Just before we filled out the application the question of finances was answered, in part, but just enough.  No, we did not have enough to complete the adoption, but we had all that we would need until it was time to travel.  We had to step out in faith with the means that we had with the faith that God would provide in the end.  It is not easy as we look at the money we have and know that it will run out just before we are to travel, we are already seeing blessings falling into place and we have faith that God will provide all along the way just as he has before.

Why did I begin this Post with the statement

My Heart Just Grew Three Sizes....

As I opened my email this morning to find an email from our adoption agency with an update on Little ¨M¨ s history my heart ached for her.

If you have not heard our story yet, I will briefly say that we all knew when we saw little ¨M¨s face that she was the little girl meant to be in our family.  It was not a knowledge in your mind, but a knowledge in your heart, deep within your soul.   

We knew that little ¨M¨ was born blind.  We knew she came to the orphanage at the age of three with her little head completely shaved like you see in the picture above.  We did not know where she was before the age of three.... until today when I opened my email.

She was with her parents until the age of three.  When her mother had a healthy child little ¨M¨ was abandoned.

I felt a painful shock through my heart as I read this statement.  I could not believe that anyone could abandon a helpless, blind little girl at the tender age of three years old because they had a healthy, more desirable child.  Thoughts were swirling around in my mind, and I can say that this morning my heart swelled with love for this little angel girl.

They said that she could talk when she arrived at the orphanage but simply stopped talking soon thereafter, she cried and cried and cried when she arrived.  This little girl was grieving for whatever semblance of a mother and family she had before being abandoned due to the fact that she was blind.  Alone, unable to see and frightened she stopped talking and simply cried in grief.   I don´t think any one of us could ever possibly understand the grief and loss this little three year old girl suffered.

What I do know is that as she was born into a home in which she was not truly wanted.  God was preparing a family for her, half a world away who would see her sweet little face and know that she was meant for their family.  God was preparing a mother for her who would love her unconditionally, who would see past her blindness and who would be willing to sacrifice of her own life to give this little blind orphan all the love, nurturing and care that she needs.

God was preparing a teenage sister with the most tender heart ever to be found among teenagers.  A sister who would stand by her side, love her, care for her and be there for her always.

He was preparing an older brother for her, half a world away. A brother who, when he first saw the video of her singing said, ¨That is my sister.¨  A brother who expressed love for her from the very moment he saw her as he stated that if anyone ever hurt her in anyway they would have to answer to him. God prepared a brother for her who is lovingly described by me as a Big Teddy Bear.  He is a very large 13 year old football player who could level anyone who ever messed with his little sister but who is tender enough to love her with his whole heart.

He was preparing a Father for her, a father who is gentle, humble and meek and who has the most giving heart of any man I have ever met.  

Amongst the suffering and grief that I am sure little ¨M¨ has faced in her very young little life.  I know in my heart that God was aware of her, He was aware of her needs and He was preparing us to be the answer to her prayers!  It was through this little abandoned girl in China that I came to know just how aware of us God is.  He loves each and every one of us.  He was even aware of this lonely, abandoned, blind little girl in China and now I know, He is also aware of me.

Even when the answer to prayer is No...

If had been able to have all the children my heart desired, my heart would not have been open to adoption
If the answer to my prayer had been yes, this sweet little blind orphan would not have received the answer and blessing to the prayers in her heart.
If God had not said no to my prayer, I would never have seen His infinite love even for the ¨least of these¨

God was calling me to be the answer to a blind little girls prayer, and I would take a thousand No´s to my own prayers to be able to be her mother!

As I read her story, knowing that she was abandoned because she was blind......

My Heart Grew Three Sizes Today!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Adoption Pre-Approval Letter Received....

Small Triumphs along the way
We received our Pre-Approval Letter today

I opened my email and saw an email entitled, ¨Congratulations, your PA received!¨  We were told that it would take up to two weeks to receive our Pre-Approval from the Chinese government, what an amazing blessing that we received our letter three business days after submitting our Letter of Intent to adopt ¨Little M.¨

This is a photo of the actual letter with our names on it.  We blacked out Little ¨M´s¨ name and birthdate for privacy reasons.  It is so surreal to see your own name in a document written in Chinese.  I cannot describe the emotion that surrounded receiving this Pre-approval to adopt our daughter from China.

As we are jumping up and down with excitement that we have received our Pre-Approval to adopt Little M, there is one small thing that is hanging over our head.  The CCCWA or the China´s Center for Children´s Welfare and Adoption gives you a deadline once you have received your Pre-Approval letter.

May 22, 2016

We must work quickly to get our documents submitted before this deadline.  At first when you see a deadline given to you by a foreign government there is this sense of urgency, you don´t want to miss that kind of a deadline.   This isn´t like a deadline to turn in your report on Huckleberry Finn in high school, this is a deadline given to you by a foreign government to have paperwork submitted.  Yikes!  

After the moment of excitement and then anxiety over this looming deadline I realized, we are getting really close to being ready to submit our Dossier.  

  • We have finished 13 1/2 hours of Hague Training Classes
  • Birth certificates
  • Marriage License
  • Mission Release papers
  • Passports
  • Homestudy
  • Letter of employment
  • 4 reference letters
  • Letter of health benefits for adopted child
  • Medical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Fingerprints
  • Background checks
  • and so on...............
We are getting closer and closer to being able to pick up our sweet girl!  It is so hard to wait......

Sweet Little ¨M¨

I look at her pictures and the videos of her everyday.....I pray for her every night and every morning.  She has stolen our hearts and all of the stress, worry and frustration of all this paperwork, running to the bank to get things notarized, getting the run around by  insurance companies and my husbands employer about letters of employment will all be worth it.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

We have been Matched......

We Are Excited to Announce.....
We Have Been Matched!

We are very excited to announce that we have been matched with this sweet little 5 year old girl from China!
*For Privacy reasons we are just going to call her ¨Little M¨ on the blog.

Here is her story.....

This little angel is a very resilient little girl and has come a long way since she arrived at the orphanage specializing in blind children.  We don´t know much about her history at this point as we were just matched with her on Friday and are still waiting for final approvals etc....

We know from the orphanage website that when she arrived her head was completely shaved, she was very frightened and she cried a lot.  They say that she did not know how to play and she really didn´t have any desire to play with others when she first came to the orphanage.  This little resilient girl started to open up quickly and within a short time was smiling at her nannies.  

She is at a wonderful orphanage that specializes in bind children, she is learning to use a cane, she has had speech therapy, and she is learning to sing.   She has come a long way in the last couple years!

I cannot begin to describe how excited we are!  It has been a long journey to adoption but both Dave & I have had an overwhelming confirmation that this little girl was meant to be in our family and we couldn´t be more excited. 

The Long Process.....

When I heard people speak of all the paperwork involved in International adoption I had no idea what they were talking about!  We have had our first home study visit, we have nearly all of our paperwork ready to be submitted, we have our passports.....we are just waiting to finalize a few things before we are ready to submit everything.

The hardest thing for me is when I have to wait on others.  I don´t like to have to rely on others to do things, I would rather do it myself.  In the case of adoption you really can´t do it yourself because the paperwork has to go through government offices, authentication and approval and so you wait, and wait, and wait some more!  

We are hoping that things go smoothly as we are anxious to bring sweet little M home!

We have set up an adoption Fundraiser 
This is to help with travel costs 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Adoption, Paper Chase and Being Matched........

International Adoption Paper Chase & Being Matched

When I heard about the MOUNDS of paperwork that must be done for an adoption....I thought, we´ve purchased almost a dozen houses, I am familiar with paperwork and signing documents.... LOL.

I had NO idea what I was talking about :-D

We have been running around like crazy getting background checks, fingerprinted, passports, birth certificates, letters of recommendation, marriage licenses, every single document notarized.....Yes the nice man at my local bank knows us by name now.  He greets us and says, Hello Hartles what do you need notarized today!  Iḿ not joking.

The adoption paper chase is unlike anything you've ever seen.  We were blind sided when our social worker asked my husband for his letter of release from his mission.  He came home in 1996!  We have NO idea where that would be.   We must have background checks in every state and country we have lived in since we were 18 years old, that includes Japan where my husband served his mission.  Despite the mounds of paper work we are now ready to send in our first set of documents for authentication to the U.S. government and the Chinese government....whew!

I have a Big Adoption Secret...

I will confess the majority of our family has NO idea that we are adopting.  The only ones that know are my mother in law, my parents, my sister and my husbands twin brother.  

But that isn't the secret.......

We have been matched with a child!  We have been filling out the paperwork and have paid the fee to be matched with our child.  Our family has NO idea!   The way in which we realized that this child was ´The One¨ is absolutely nothing short of a miracle.  We are trying to figure out how to tell our family and how to surprise them with the identity of the child we have been matched with.

We want it to be a fun experience, but we also want them to understand the story behind how we realized this was our child.   It has been really hard to keep it a secret!  I have wanted to tell my mom and my sister SO many times, but I haven´t.  When we do the surprise I will post a video :-)

First Homestudy Visit Tomorrow

This is one thing that prevented me from wanting to adopt for years....the dreaded homestudy.  I probably worried more about it than I should.  We have a wonderful, loving family but being an introvert means that I really don´t like people all up in my business if you know what I mean.  I am feeling peace about it today, lots and lots of prayer helps so much.   I will post about how the homestudy went in the next few days.  I am really hoping this won´t end up feeling like a police interrogation where you are deemed guilty until proven innocent.  

Doctor Evaluation Appointment

We paid for a specialist in International Adoption to review our child´s medical file and all of her videos to have an expert opinion on her.  This is just one more way to try and minimize medical surprises.  We are prepared for the prospect of the unexpected and know that nothing can prevent it but I believe it is good to be prepared and to do what you can to know as much as you can about the child you are adopting.

We have an appointment at 7am in the morning with the specialist who will review the file with us and give us her assessment of the child.  Notice how I am avoiding giving away whether it is a boy or a girl :-)  Yep,  I am sneaky like that.   Things are moving right along and hopefully by tomorrow we will be officially matched and then we will be off on vacation for my sons football tournament.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

First experience with less than supportive friends and family.......

Dealing with unsupportive family & friends 

I may not be familiar with the judgments, comments, and general lack of support from family and friends in relation to adoption, but oh boy am I familiar with it in regards to about a million other off the beaten path life choices.   I would have to say I am more familiar with judgment and criticism than I am with kindness and acceptance so I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised that this would just be another aspect of my life that some would judge and criticize.......

Announce Pregnancy = Congratulations
Announce Adoption = Are you crazy?

Maybe I am not speaking for every woman who has suffered infertility, but in my experience it is hard when you have been trying for EIGHT LONG YEARS to get pregnant and you watch friends, family, acquaintances and even strangers announce pregnancies whether in person or on facebook and everyone goes wild withFir...

Congratulations, I'm so excited for you, How exciting.......

There is this longing to feel the same excitement that at the end of the day the heartache and emptiness of infertility will someday morph into the beautiful excitement of pregnancy....but it never does.
When you decide to adopt a child, at least in my experience, you feel just as much excitement, anticipation and joy waiting to meet your child and bring them home.  Unfortunately the response of some family members & friends is almost the exact opposite of what they would do if you had announced a pregnancy. 

Some people ask you "Why?"   Let's put this in context.  A family member excitedly announces a pregnancy and you say "Why are you doing that?"  Can you see how ridiculous this response is and yet it is a common one.  Responding to a pregnancy announcement is exciting but your response to an adoption announcement all the sudden all common decency goes out the window and you can be callous and ask 'none of your business' questions?  Ugh.....

Why would you adopt? = Why would you get pregnant?

First, if you would not say this to someone announcing a pregnancy, you should NOT say it to someone announcing an adoption either.  The couple announcing an adoption are excited, happy and honestly probably FAR more excited than most people announcing a pregnancy!

This has not been an easy journey, this couple has likely gone through heart wrenching, painful infertility and the process of accepting that this woman will not be able to carry a child and bring life into this world.   Some women may have had one or two children and still felt an emptiness knowing that her family was not complete and yet she could not have the children she desired to have.  After years of heartache and struggle she finally comes to terms with it and is able to find joy and excitement in adopting a child.

The decision to adopt is a personal one and is absolutely no less exciting than a pregnancy.   In our case, this decision is one that has been discussed for many years, it was a decision that was made EXTREMELY prayerfully and if I am to be completely blunt....It is NONE of your business!

If you wouldn't ask a woman "why did you get pregnant?"  don't ask a couple "why would you adopt?"

Discussing Finances

Have you ever asked a couple who just announced that they are pregnant about their finances?  No that would be ridiculous right?  It is none of your business.  

A couple announcing adoption..... Isn't that expensive?  Ummm yes, but how is it that just because I announced an adoption it is all the sudden acceptable to ask about my personal finances.   Do you ask a pregnant woman how much money she has, how she will financially support her baby, why she feels like she should have another child when she already has X number already?   All I can say is, it is none of your business to ask these questions of anyone, including adoptive parents.

Kids are obnoxious why would you want one or more?

First, the size of a family is none of your business.  A husband and wife choose the size of their family based on prayerful, thoughtful consideration and it is not for you to judge what God has planned for their family.    

The arrogance of I can have as many as I want but you who have infertility cannot!

If I had a penny for every time someone told me I was LUCKY that I couldn't have more children I would be a very wealthy woman.  I am NOT lucky!  You have not walked the path I have walked, you have not suffered what I have suffered, do not tell me I am lucky!  I am sorry you can't stand your children and wish you didn't have them but that is NOT how I see it.

In the culture I live in if you can have 10 children then that is perfectly fine, however, if you struggle with infertility and adopt 10 children you are just plain crazy.  Hmmmm....double standard?   Friends and family who have 4, 5 or more children judge me for wanting to have a larger is okay that THEY have a larger family but for me to desire it is wrong.  

Children are an heritage of the Lord, we as mothers have the great responsibility of bringing Heavenly Fathers children into this world, so that they can progress in their journey back into the presence of their Heavenly Father.   This is a responsibility that I take very seriously.   It is a wonderful blessing and power that only we as women have and we should delight in it rather than have such a bad attitude.

Are children hard?  Yes.   When we have children does it limit things we can do?  Yes.   Is life all about ME?  NO!  This is the greatest fallacy, that we are to live our lives for ourselves, for our own selfish desires and Heaven forbid we have to sacrifice anything for someone else, especially to have children.   When all is said and done, that fancy car, that government approved degree on wall, the fancy trip to Italy......none of it will matter and you can't take any of it with you!

What really matters is FAMILY!  Children whose lives were molded and changed by you, the people you spent your life with, loved and cared for.   The only things you will take with you when you go are your knowledge of truth and your family.   I know about sacrificing for children, I have homeschooled my children for over 7 years.  It saddens me to hear how many mothers cannot stand their children and eagerly ship them off to be taught and 'nurtured' by someone else.

If you can't get along with your child....whose fault is it?

Mom's blame their children for their inability to get along....they would rather send them to school because their child doesn't listen to them and they can't get along.  Really?  If that is really the case you may want to take a good hard look at yourself in the mirror and stop blaming your child.

Do my kids drive me perfectly crazy sometimes...YES absolutely!  But that does not mean I don't love them, nor does it mean I don't want more children.  They bring joy and happiness and I learn just as much from them as they learn from me.

Children are a blessing, and if you don't see might want to take a good hard look at your own selfishness!

The truth hurts!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Another milestone in our adoption story.....

Another Adoption Milestone and a bump in the road

I realize that anyone who has completed an international adoption will probably laugh at our first little bump in the road, because I'm sure there are many more to come.   But, before I mention that I want to say that our next milestone was.....The acceptance of our application...YAY!

We are not official yet....the homestudy is the big kahuna, that is what we really need to get finished to be official in the adoption world but we are scheduling it, we are one our way....

Okay, so what was the bump in the road.  We decided to get our passports now, so we put together all of our documents and headed to the County office building.  We filled out the applications and when she asked for my I.D. I looked in my purse and noticed that my wallet was missing!  What?   My husband was able to apply for his passport but I would have to come back the next day.  :-P

I took my daughter with me today, we parked and walked into a building and I kept saying I didn't recognize it, we asked a woman and she said we needed to go to the building across the street.  We walked over to the building across the street and I said, this doesn't look familiar either...but we kept walking up the stairs only to realize that once again we were in the wrong building!  Well the third building was the charm!  I was able to get my passport today.  One more small step........

This little story may not be funny to those who don't know me well but my daughter and my husband really got a kick out of it.   I am sure this will probably be the smallest inconvenience of our whole journey and we really found it amusing more than anything.

We filled out our homestudy application as well as our agency contract today.   My husband has a business client in the area where our homestudy agency is and so he is going to make the hour and a half drive directly to the home study agency and hand deliver the application with the check.   I can't wait until the home study is DONE!

The Homestudy

Okay, so I realize I am a total newbie at this whole adoption/home study deal but essentially this is exactly how I feel about the home study!!  I know they say they aren't here to judge you but for some reason I feel really scared, which is probably silly since I am the most harmless person on the planet.  I just want to get that part over with so I can breathe a sigh of relief.

We will be scheduling our home study tomorrow......fingers crossed it isn't anything like I fear it will be.....