Home, Sweet Home

We’ve been back home now for almost a month. I regret that I was unable to keep the blog updated while we were there, but I was at least able to do some quick updates through Facebook on our Blackberry phone. Instead of doing a big summary, I went ahead and updated the timeline on the right side of the page, in hopes that it will help other families coming after us to have a general expectation of how things happen.

This morning I ran across this verse and was flooded with emotion:

Like cold water to a thirsty soul, so is good news from a far country. Proverbs 25:25

Along our journey in the DR, we received so many notes and emails from friends… many saying how we were such an encouragement to others throughout this process. I am so thankful that we could encourage others from a far country, and I pray that all of your hearts have been touched and burdened for orphans, and that your own faith has been refreshed.

But the reason that verse moved me so much… is because it floods my heart with memories of being a thirsty soul. In the U.S., we were so used to being filled, having fellowship, being a part of the Body. We were thirsty for community. We were experiencing fatigue, persecution, hardship. But God did not intend for us to go through this alone. He sent good news from a far country. This came in many forms through visits from friends and family, through care packages, through encouraging notes and prayers. But one in particular I really want to share because it came at a time when we felt we were at our lowest of lows.

After we received our certificate of no appeal, we really needed the signature of high-ranking officials to be able to start the process of getting home… and day after day, these people we so badly needed to come to work, weren’t coming. We had a deadline with our plane tickets that would be SO expensive to change, and getting 8 tickets on the same plane any other day would be very difficult as there is only one plane in and out per day and the planes fill up quickly. To make matters even more emotionally taxing, we were being financially persecuted b/c of being Americans and were being WAY overcharged in a certain area (I won’t go into details here, but it is a key detail for this story). We had filed a complaint b/c of the overcharge and our complaint was dismissed. I started feeling like a person who had no hope. It was draining. The very day our complaint was dismissed, I got a message from a distant friend, saying he wanted to give us a certain amount of money, which unknowingly to him, just happened to be the exact amount of the bill that was causing us so much grief. I cannot even begin to explain to you how God used this to lift up my head. It was like God wrapping His arms around me and assuring me that He had this. We were in the right place, doing the right thing, and we were going to persevere. This simple act of obedience on one person’s part, God has used to strengthen my faith even now and has become one of those benchmark places in my life that I can point to and say: I know that God knows my name. He has a calling on our lives, and what He has begun in us, he will bring to completion. In this world we will have trouble, but we can take heart, because He has already overcome. In Him, we have hope!

After that experience, we still had many more days to wait for those signatures, but each day that came and went with nothing happening, I was not a person with no hope. I was a person with a purpose. I was able to be available for my kids because I knew that everything was going to happen in the right time, even if that time wasn’t what I wanted or what would be convenient for me. We wanted to leave together as a family on September 5th. That didn’t happen. We decided to go ahead and get our bio kids home with the return tickets we already had, in hopes that we could get on another plane sooner with just needing 4 tickets instead of 8. This turned out to be a better plan anyway as my friend Joy helped me get the bio kids home that day and it was all we could do just to keep up with my youngest in the airport! But even more than that, David was able to share the Gospel with a man at the Embassy that September 5th that, had it worked out our way, David would have been at the airport instead of the Embassy. This man was hostile toward David when he first started talking to him. But as David shared with him, his heart began to soften toward adoption and we pray that God uses that conversation to show that man more of Himself. We also got the opportunity to meet new friends at SCORE that weekend, and spend a little extra time with some missionary friends we had met there at SCORE in Juan Dolio. It was a precious time that we had with just Asher and Lilah and I’m glad that God has better plans than our own.

Now I will leave you with a few pictures!

Kids get their first care package!
Kids get their first care package!

A day visiting the Entrekins
A day visiting the Entrekins

Our first date night thanks to the Thomas'!
Our first date night thanks to the Thomas’

Our first trip to the beach!
Our first trip to the beach!

Why car seats are important!
Why car seats are important

Asher's first haircut
Asher’s first haircut

Visit from Chris
Visit from Chris

First tropical storm
First tropical storm

FYI: Sidewalk chalk does not come off walls. We had to paint over that!
FYI: Sidewalk chalk does not come off walls. We had to paint over that!

What it's really like in the DR...
What it’s really like in the DR…

Where we often went to burn off some energy and eat unhealthy food...
Where we often went to burn off some energy and eat unhealthy food…

Surprise!
Surprise!

Group shot!
Group shot

Taylor and Anna Grace's visit!
Taylor and Anna Grace’s visit

Getting the hang of swimming!
Getting the hang of swimming

Making hairbows!
Making hairbows at Lily House

Our view at the condo!
Our view at the condo

Another care package from our friends at Bethel!
Another care package from our friends at Bethel

Remembering the promise...
Remembering the promise

Rebekah's 7th bday
Rebekah’s 7th bday

Time with the Judes
Time with the Judes

Visit with the Littles
Visit with the Littles

Visit with McAlisters
Visit with McAlisters

Going to get passports...
Going to get passports

Joy came back for us!
Joy came back for us!

Trip back home with Sarah, Rebekah, Micah and Noelle
Trip back home with Sarah, Rebekah, Micah and Noelle

We made it!
We made it!

Warm welcome back to school... this one makes me cry every time I see it!
Warm welcome back to school… this one makes me cry every time I see it!

My trip back to the DR!
My trip back to the DR!

Sweet time with friends :)
Sweet time with friends

Ready to go HOME!
Ready to go HOME!

We're all home!
We’re all home!

Reunited and it feels so good!
Reunited and it feels so good!

Everyone who showed up to welcome us home!
Everyone who showed up to welcome us home!

Thank you to everyone who gave of their time and resources to help us on this adoption journey. You are all truly a blessing to us!

So this is adoption

I make hairbows. I love to make them to match outfits. Big bows, little bows, simple bows, crazy bows. We have a lot of bows. When I packed for our trip, I packed around 50 bows. Four girls require many bows!

Our newest little girl LOVES bows. She always wants one in her hair. I think she thinks of it as her crown. Sweet girl.

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So what do bows have to do with adoption? I have struggled with how to write this post. Its much easier for me to tell stories with all the happy highlights and wrap it up with a nice bow on top. But this story is just beginning and though there are surely good times… I can’t hide the reality of what this is. This adoption is hard. I want so badly to put a pretty bow on it and make you see how pretty it is so you’ll want to do it too. But we didn’t choose to adopt because we saw a cute kid with a bow. We chose to adopt because God broke our hearts for orphans.

While every adoption story is different, this is our story. Our son’s story. Our daughter’s story. We want to be careful not to share too much for their sake… But we want to share more than what the pictures can tell alone. The pictures are like the bows… They make everything pretty and attractive. They serve a good purpose. But there is so much more to the girl than the pretty bow.

We arrived in the DR on May 2nd and after spending the weekend getting settled in our house we met our kids on that Monday, May 6th. We had the kids for 2 hours that day and it was like a whirlwind. We read to them and rolled a soccer ball and fed them. I don’t know how much the kids understood about what was happening… But it was incredibly painful when they had to go.

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After they left, we had a while to process what had just happened and debrief on how our expectations were not anywhere close to what our new reality would be. We were overwhelmed. We felt inadequate.

When we chose to adopt our son… We knew he had hearing loss. But after this first visit we knew that wasn’t the only issue… It was much more than what a pair of hearing aids could fix. We still had not gotten Internet at our house so I couldn’t research anything (probably a blessing!). I just kept seeing his face and thinking about his preciousness… and his brokenness. And then being reminded of God coming into my own brokenness and giving me a new heart and renewing my mind… how He gave me hope where I felt there was none. He adopted me and it cost Him everything. This is adoption.

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24, 25 ESV)

The next few days we had the kids every afternoon for a couple of hours and then on Friday we officially became their legal guardians. They were very tired and overwhelmed but we decided to have cake anyway to celebrate as it was also our newest daughter’s 3rd birthday.

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Then we organized everyone into their new sleeping arrangements and hoped for the best. We haven’t slept much since.

As best as we can tell right now… Our son likely has sensory processing disorder and/or institutional autism as a result of his past circumstances. The good news is… There are resources to help him when we get back home. The bad news is… It’s going to be awhile before we get there.

After speaking with our pediatrician who specializes in adopted children, we were able to get some realistic expectations and we know this will be a long, hard road… But we know that God has ordained this and He will equip us every step of the way. He has big plans for this little guy.

asher

We are so thankful for our social worker, Beth, at Lifeline Children’s Services who has given us several helpful resources and contact info of others who have gone through similar trials. Our missionary friends here in the DR also stopped by to encourage us and love on our kids. Other friends of ours are already planning trips to come see us this summer. We’ve been able to Skype with family and friends. We feel so encouraged and blessed.

Meanwhile, we’ve found some activities we can do here to help our son better cope like jumping on the bed. I’ve always been a bit wary about trampolines because of safety issues but now I’m trying to see how we can get one in our back yard immediately when we get home. This boy loves to jump!

That smile is better than a bow, isn’t it??

Our biggest prayer need right now is for sleep. Our son cannot sleep more than 3 hours at one time. His little body NEEDS more sleep and so do Mommy and Daddy! He is extremely sensory-seeking and high energy, which makes it very difficult for us unrested parents to keep up with him during the day!

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Falling asleep in a chair at 7:30 a.m. due to lack of sleep the night before…

We are also trying to teach him some sign language so he can feel more in control since he doesn’t have words. Please pray that he picks this up and we can communicate better with him… And also that he increases in felt safety in our family. We really have seen so many improvements since the first week… Just imagine what we will see in a couple of years!

Our daughter is doing so well and it has been so fun to see her and our youngest running around and playing make-believe. There is a new little voice around the house calling “Mommy!” Adorable. You can pray for her to continue to have a healthy appetite as she is very small for her age and for her to continue to feel safe here with us as her forever family. She does have some medical special needs as well that will be addressed when we get home.

Please pray for our biological children as their world has also changed and they are adjusting to their new siblings. They still have needs, too… And we want to be sensitive to them as well. They have really been such troopers through all of the craziness and I’ve enjoyed watching them play and interact with their new brother and sister. The big girls have been specializing in piggy back rides and they all like to participate in “jumping therapy”. They also miss their friends and family back home. Big brother still likes to reminisce about the “yarn game” and is counting down the days until he can return to the wii. Little sister is loving her new sister and keeps rubbing her face and telling her how beautiful she is. Then she will steal her bow to get her to play chase. Stinker.

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Notice who does not have a bow!

Here are the big girls helping out because someone was whining and mommy had to call the “Whambulance!”

As far as our timeline is concerned… Our lawyer has filed for our 30-day reduction, and we wait to hear if that is granted. This is SO important for our son so he can start his therapy and so we can figure out his hearing issues. Please pray that we find favor with the judge and get this reduction AND that the next phase will start ASAP.

Meanwhile… Pray that God will prepare for us a support team of friends and professionals that can help us as we return home and try to figure out life and therapies and just how to orchestrate everything together. We are so thankful to all of our friends who have already been reaching out to us and praying for us while we are here. We love you all :)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalms 46:1 ESV)

How many more sleeps?

When Christmas gets near, our kids will start asking, “How many more sleeps until Christmas?” So as I was waking up this morning, I started thinking about “how many more sleeps” until we hop on a plane to meet our new children for the first time. 17 sleeps until we leave behind everything familiar, embarking on an adventure that will change our lives forever. And the countdown begins!

There is a lot for us to do in these last 17 days stateside… but first I want to re-cap everything that’s happened since our last post.

Asher had his 4th birthday March 15th, which we celebrated:

Asher's 4th Birthday

Then the following Monday, we were officially matched with our two precious children! This was so exciting and needed to happen before we could make our first contact with our kids by sending them thier presents: Presents being shipped to the DR

We also decided to buy our “Family of 8″ vehicle, which ended up being a GMC Yukon XL. The kids were excited about their new ride: 6 in car seats/boosters!

We also closed out our Give 5 adoption fundraising campaign by raising over $10K in 60 days!! Thank you all who shared and gave. You all are such a blessing to our family!

And finally… our biggest news was that we got our final immigration approval which approves our specific kids to immigrate to our country once the adoption is complete. Immigration approval!

Which of course we had to celebrate! We decided to surprise the kids after getting them all ready for bed and piled them in the truck, pajamas and all and took them to Yogurt Mountain. Nothing like a high dose of sugar right before bedtime and on a school night to boot (sorry, teachers!) Sarah and Rebekah with 'hampster cheeks'

Yummy!

We also secured housing in the DR and are working on transportation for while we are in-country. Please pray that we can get all of these puzzle pieces worked out before we leave!

Our next biggest fundraising opportunity will be our yard sale that is THIS Saturday, April 20th. We’d really love it if we could have a big turnout for this event, so please pray for that and we hope to see YOU there. We’d love to see as many people as we can before we leave! :)

Which brings me back to sleeps… for our two precious children. We won’t get to meet them until Monday, May 6th. That makes 21 sleeps for them until they meet their forever family, leaving behind everything familiar, embarking on an adventure that will change THEIR lives forever. So soon and they will be a part of our family… and our sleeps will coinside and we will be able to countdown together the number of sleeps until Christmas.

One more…

So to make a long story short… we are now adopting TWO children from the Dominican Republic! We got a call back in January asking if we would be interested in reviewing a file for a little girl, who just so happened to be in the same foster home as our son. We signed our letter of intent this past week and are excited to open up our home and our hearts to both of these precious children.

70C

We are expecting to get our official matching letters within a week or two so we can file for immigration. Once we get those letters… we can also make our first contact with them by sending them a couple of special gifts:

16C

I posted before for our son, he will be getting an Alabama blanket and pillow pet. Our little girl is getting a soft blanket with animals on it and a pillow that says “Home Sweet Home” and it turns inside out into a unicorn. If you put them together, you get Sweet Home Alabama! Hehe…

I will leave you with more cuteness…

20C

30C

Be a part of our story!

Adoption is a step of faith in many ways. One of the biggest obstacles to adoption for many families is the huge financial burden. Most people don’t have an extra $30-40K sitting in their bank account to pay for all of the fees associated with it.  We didn’t. But if God puts the calling of adoption in your heart, you have to have the faith that God will work out those details in His time.

We have been so blessed by the generosity of our friends and family members. You bought t-shirts. We had a yard sale in which many of you donated items for us to sell. You bought 31 products in which one of my college friends donated her commission. You bought hairbows. THANK YOU! We are humbled by your generosity. You have been His hands and feet to our family and we are so grateful!

We have a couple of new fundraisers going on that I’d love for you to be a part of! One is based off of the idea of crowdfunding. Not everyone can donate a large sum of money, but a small amount can add up to a lot if a lot of people participate! We’ve just gotten a give5 page set up that I am very excited about! The goal is to use social media to spread awareness of our need and get 2000 people to donate $5 to raise $10K toward our adoption AND your donation is tax deductible! Would you consider donating $5 and sharing the link on your facebook or twitter account? Here is the link: http://brown.give5.us/

ALSO, another exciting opportunity is that we have been accepted as a Hope Suds family!  They only sponsor 3 families per year and we were just selected as one of them!  Everyone needs to do laundry, right? Well if you buy your laundry soap through our link, Hope Suds will donate 50% of the sale to our adoption. Do Laundry. Save Orphans.

Buy Hope Suds to support our adoption!

If you missed the info about the t-shirt fundraiser… we still have shirts for sale!

Adoption Fundraiser shirts

Hairbows are always a great option if you have little girls in your life! We will likely be in the Dominican Republic when Easter comes around… so plan ahead and order early if you’d like a bow to match her Easter dress! Like my Sweetie Pea Bowtique page for more details.

Thank you again to everyone who has supported our family during this time. I’m eager to share pictures of our little boy so you can get a little more of a glimpse into our hearts and the ‘why’. We love you all!

Paperwork and presents

Well our dossier is finally in the Dominican Republic! What an adventure to get here in this process. It’s been kind of a whirlwind, but we are so grateful that things have gone as smoothly as they have. The kind people at CONANI (the central authority in the DR)will now review our paperwork and officially match us. This should take less than a month. Once we are approved and officially matched, we will file for our final immigration approval and travel. This could take another month or so… so it really looks like we will be leaving in March!

A super-exciting thing we get to do is send our little boy a gift from our family. I took the kids with me to pick out the present and we ended up with a little something like this:

alabama

It seemed appropriate! (Lo siento a mi familia que ama a Auburn!!)

I’m sleeping with his blanket to get our familiar smells on it and we will ship it to him as soon as we are matched.  So exciting that he will know about us VERY soon!  We are also sending a picture of our family holding these items to go along with it so he can make a better connection as to who they are from.

Now… does anyone have any tips on how to pack for a 4 month vacation???

It’s getting closer!

Over the Christmas break we were excited to get our biometric fingerprints taken for immigration and we got our passports in the mail! Things are really falling into place quickly!

Once we get our immigration paperwork, we will have everything ready for our dossier to send to the DR! We are expecting to get it back in the next couple of weeks. Once that is sent off, we should be looking at another couple of weeks to a month for the officials in the DR to approve our family and officially match us with our child. Then we will get final immigration approval for our specific child and TRAVEL!!! So exciting!!

We don’t have much time to fundraise, but we now have a non-profit tax-deductable account set up to help us with in-country expenses and travel. We would be so grateful to anyone who would like to help us in this way! Here is the link: AdoptTogether