Answering God's Call to Orphan Care

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Long Awaited Post...

My adoption community friends will have to forgive me for not posting this earlier, for they have been patiently (with anxious anticipation) awaiting this post. We have been hustling and bustling ourselves from one side of the state to the other, dealing with flu, and cleaning up the wake of destruction here at home that we just simply had to leave in order to get out the door on time last week. I have also been trying to figure out for the last 3 hours how to make all of my images smaller and without fuzziness or distortion, but have had no please forgive me for the quality and length of page. We did, however have a lovely time with family this Christmas season. We always put quite a bit of thought into the gifts we give at Christmas, and this one was no exception. Originally we thought we would have many neat Ethiopian gifts to give out this year at Christmas time. Having been through the loss of our referral of "B", that was not to be the plan. So we revamped it for our families with a series of gifts and clues to another gift that we decided to give instead, and this is what we got. For a week we've been calling this operation "The Great Gift Reveal". We explained to my family that each gift had a clue that tied to the final gift. Each clue was specific to the gift that was given to the family member, as well as the final gift. Some of them will not be as obvious to you, as they were also tied to some back story of my family members which I will try to outline. We'll see if you are as crafty at piecing the clues together as my family was. Most of the images below match the actual gift...for some, I had to improvise. :) Again, sorry for the large image size!

Clue #1 (Tied to the book, Crazy Love by Francis Chan): 
We think you'll be "crazy in love" with this present.

Clue #2: We've "traveled the world" to bring you this gift.

Clue #4: Ramses - A king of Africa

Clue #5: This is thought to have come from Africa. 

Clue #6: We're "spicing up life" with this gift. 
- my sister's boyfriend is quite the chef!

Clue #7 (Tied to some pink kickboxing sweatpants): 
For your new "itty bitty booty" 
- my sister has been kickboxing for a year now, and has just achieved a major milestone goal of hers- you go Mel!

Clue #8 (A massage gift certificate and wrapped in a pink stocking): 
After this, you'll be the "PINK" of perfection! 
- a nod to one of my favorite Disney movies, Summer Magic. 

 Clue #9 (Tied to a kitchen gift basket): Some "sugar and spice" won't that be NICE???? 
- my mother loves Williams Sonoma

And finally,
Clue #10: For the new "itsy bitsy booty"

So, have you pieced it together yet? If not, here is the final piece:

'Tis the season of Christmas and in our household,
Much excitement is brewing which we haven't told.

On top of the blessings of Christmas this year,

We have some great news for the ones we hold dear.

We will soon be expanding our family tree

And would like to announce the referral of 8 week old Baby Girl "E"!!!

So as you can see, our Christmas has been very merry, and we were able to share the Christmas cheer with our family this weekend. My mother was the one who finally pieced it together. Her reaction was great: "You're getting a girl!...You're getting a girl?...YOU'RE GETTING A GIRL!!!" I so wish we'd had the video camera out to catch that, but we didn't know how to do it without making people suspicious.At that point, we passed around our photos of Baby Girl "E". We are super thrilled and completely OVER THE MOON IN LOVE with her! For almost two years now, we have been praying for "Little E" as we have referred to our family addition. And we are anxiously awaiting word of when our court date will be so that we can go and meet her (and smother her in kisses)!  Some of you may be wondering where clue #3 is...sorry, I had to skip that one because it has some personal information that we do not wish to share at this point. But nephew, K, sure did enjoy his Star Wars pillow. :)

For my husband's family, our reveal was quite a bit more subtle, which is very fitting for his family. We gave his mother a digital frame for Christmas, and made sure to include ALL of her grandchildren in the photos. It literally killed me to watch her look through the pictures, but it was worth it. The rest of the family arrived the following day and Eric's sister casually looked at the pictures and walked away, not having seen all of them. Others saw and said nothing. When we (and by we I really mean I) could stand it no longer, we stood them in front of the frame until all the pictures had been revealed...that was fun.

So after shifting mentally from a 7 year old to a 7 (now 8) week old, we are preparing for all things baby. I would be lying though if I did not say I was a little gun shy after having gone through a lost referral already. Please be praying for Baby Girl "E" and that this process would come through completion to bringing her home. Also, at last report she had pneumonia - a very common problem in international adoptions - and was receiving medication for it. Please pray that God would protect her, bring her back to a healthy status, bless the special mothers and staff that are diligently caring for her, for the approaching Ethiopian court and US Embassy paperwork and legal process, and that He would calm our spirits as we go through this next stage of waiting and fundraising.

Happy New Year everyone!

On Becoming Re-Amazed...

For the last several weeks (weekly since my last blog) I have had several posts in draft form while I work out trying to tell you what God has been revealing to me about our journey. He has been EXTREMELY faithful in drawing us to Him through our grieving and next step in the process. Much of that drawing has come through my personal daily study time and through the Sunday messages at church. Each Sunday, in fact has been refreshing, and for those of you who may be on a similar adoption journey (or even if you aren't), I encourage you to check out our church's last series called "Chapter One" here. The November message could not have been a more direct bandage to my heart. In light of the loss of our referral of "B", and what you will hear, you will soon discover why.

God has truly been speaking to me through the wait of our next referral. We did not wait long to go back to the "waitlist", and through this journey of waiting, I have been struck by the number of times the Israelites have been found waiting. Particularly during this Christmas season, as they awaited a Messiah that would not be what they had expected or were looking for. A baby, born in a stable was to become the King of Kings. Our pastor has been encouraging us to become "re-amazed" with this story that we hear every year and know so well. Let me tell you, it has become most encouraging and rejuvenating to my very core.  I so appreciate that God would choose to speak to me in His still, quiet voice. He does not have to do this. He is God. He CHOOSES to, and for that I am truly amazed. So although this is a late post, my prayer for you in this coming new year is that you are re-amazed by the stories in the Bible and the things of God, and that you would also hear His still, quiet voice speak to you daily. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Heavy, yet Thankful Hearts...

Well, I think my prayer journal best sums up what's recently been going on in my life: 

We lost our referral yesterday. Lord, I’m attempting to process information that seems vague, sketchy and elusive.

I’m devastated.
·         What do I do with the stacks of pictures of “B” that I have all over the house?
·         What do I do with his scrapbook album?
·         How do I process that his sweet little face is not to belong to our family?
Oh Lord! My heart aches with a deep, reverberating anguish. The tears are flowing down my face. How can this be? I wish that it was a dream I could wake up from…something that I discover upon waking was not real. But it is real.

I’m angry.
·         How can we be told one minute that everything at the birthmother’s court appearance went well…smoothly even, only to be told days later that answers she gave to questions in court troubled them enough to ask more questions. The answers to which resulted in the decision that his birthmother is now able to care for “B”, which no longer makes him an orphan? (???)
Lord, how did this happen?

I’m confused.
·         How was the decision made (at this stage in the process) that reunification with his birthmom was the best for him? Who made this decision? What details led to this decision?
·         I don’t feel like I understand all of the details of the story…like I don’t have all of the details of the story. I feel like there are pieces of information missing.
o   What really happened at court that day?
o   What answers troubled them? What questions did they ask?
o   What did they discover? Is there validity to it?
o   Did birthmom express a desire to have her child returned to her, or was this a decision of another party? Does it matter?
Lord, I don’t understand.

I’m worried.
·         I worry about “B”. What will his response to this be when they tell him? How will they tell him? How will this affect him and the losses he has already experienced? What will happen to him? Will he think he’s going back because of something he’s done? Will he feel okay about going back?
·         Will the Hannah’s Hope staff be able to know he’s been safely returned to his mom, not waiting weeks, months or years in the gov’t orphanage for his mother to come and get him?
·         When is an appropriate time to go back on the waitlist for a child? How does that work? How will this affect the other families on the list? How will they feel? They’ve all been waiting so long. The thought of going back onto the list gives me mixed emotions.
Lord, I know there is a purpose in this and that you have been fully aware of all of the details from the beginning, but if he was not meant to be ours, then why? What is the purpose behind these events? Why go through this in the first place? What do you want Eric and I to learn and take away from this? Will “B” be safe Lord? Please protect him. Will he understand what is taking place? Will he know that it is nothing that he has done wrong? Will he be happy/relieved to be reunited with his mom again?

I’m thankful.
·         I’m thankful that this was discovered before we left for Ethiopia and not during or after.
·         I’m thankful that no matter what the outcome, “B” is no longer an orphan…he has someone to claim him.
·         I’m thankful that You are overseeing all of us and all of the details for the good of Your plan.
·         I’m thankful that despite the pain, You have guarded our hearts with peace and assurance of Your hand in this plan.
·         I’m thankful for your everlasting faithfulness in providing EVERYTHING we have needed for this journey and EVERYTHING we will need for continuation of it.
·         I’m thankful for “B’s” birthmom and the circumstances that now make it a possibility for him to be reunited with her.
·         I’m thankful for the staff at Hannah’s Hope and for the staff at our agency, AGCI, who work so hard for all of the parties involved in the adoption process
·         I’m thankful for the FABULOUS and FANTASTICALLY WONDERFUL AGCI family community. Their support and encouragement is unfathomable at times.
Thank you Lord for holding us at this time. Please guide our hearts and minds in these next steps of action.

Love, Nicole

Saturday, September 17, 2011

A little lax, but I'll make up for it I PROMISE!

So, I've been a little lax on updating our blog as of what have we been up to since the last July 2nd post?

Summer vacation in Colorado with Eric's entire family:

Half of our vacation crew on the amazing Arkansas River! What a trip!

Teaching summer school (yea for the adoption fund!) :) and starting the regular school year back up! Busy, busy, busy!

So here's what you missed in the way of waitlist numbers: (remember this number loosely stands for the number of people that are waiting ahead of us within our agency for a referral of the same gender/type)

In July:
for a girl,

for a boy,

for siblings!

In August:
for a girl,

for a boy,

for siblings!

So you may be thinking, as I did, "Well, that's great! You've been moving every month!" 
... "but I thought you mentioned that you were going to make it up to us by not telling us sooner???"

Okay! Don't rush me! :) Here are our numbers for the month of

Are you ready for it????

Are you sure?????

Well, okay then...

for a girl, for a boy, for siblings!!!!!!!!

Yep, that's right! Zero! We are off the list! Almost two weeks ago we unexpectedly (somewhat) received a referral for a handsome older boy! I say somewhat, because since we were open to an older child of up to 7 years old, we always knew the likelihood that we would jump to the front of the line sooner than others was pretty high. This is mostly due to the fact that we were one of the only families on our agency's waitlist who were open to a child above the age of 5. 

So it has happened, and we have been in an excited and overwhelming tailspin ever since! We don't know a lot of details yet, and some we can't share just specifically for the safety of our "little E". But our timeline has just dramatically shortened, and so we are definitely needing to step things up a bit so that we can pool together all of the needed funds left to bring our son home! Nothing like going from an 18 month deadline to a 3 month deadline! Be on the lookout here for more to come in terms of fundraisers in the near future! But for now, we have another round of paperwork to complete! Happy Saturday everyone!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Few Important Updates...

Happy early 4th of July everyone! I hope that you are able to enjoy your Independence Day with your family. Just wanted to do a brief post to update you on a few things. If any of you pay attention to our adoption timeline on the sidebar, you know that we've had a few changes recently. First, the FDL letter FINALLY arrived on June 4th (72 days after they received our initial I600-A application and paperwork--so they were 3 days early according to their timeline. :) Second, we sent our dossier (a collection of legal forms and paperwork needed for our adoption) into our agency...we only had to redo 4 documents, so that was good! And third...we received a very nice phone we'd waited over 15 months for...and here is the 411 of that call:

As of Monday, June 27th, WE HAVE MADE IT TO THE WAITLIST!

So, let me run you through the fast explanation of the waitlist. Once your homestudy is complete, and all of your dossier paperwork is submitted to your agency & approved, you go onto a waitlist. This means that you and other families are waiting for the referral of an adoptable child from your agency. I don't know if all agencies are like ours (actually, I tend to think NO other agencies are like ours -- they're great!) but our agency gives us waitlist numbers. This number means that there are x amount of families waiting on the list ahead of us. So, here are our waitlist numbers for the month of June:

We are number
on the girl's waitlist,
(that means there are 111 families within our agency that are ahead of us "in line" for a girl referral)


on the boy's list,

and number
on the siblings list.

So now we play the waiting game. I happen to have a list of SEVERAL projects that I want/need to do while we wait. We still have some fundraising to do, so be looking for that coming soon. For the most part, it's just getting my physical, mental and spiritual places ready for an addition to our family...perhaps like the things you do while going through pregnancy...except we're paper pregnant.

So anyway, that's the July weekend update...have a great 4th!

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Monster Within...issues with attachment

Okay, so I have been trying to write this blog entry since May...and am having difficulty with how I want to write it! Partly because it requires me to be quite transparent, but mostly due to difficulty in expressing, in words, what God has been teaching and revealing to me of late. 

So you may be wondering about the picture associated with this post. This picture is actually from a 1970 Season 2 Episode of Where Are You Scooby Doo?, entitled "Nowhere to Hyde", but it is a really great visual representation describing my heart's journey during April and May, as a monster had taken up residence in my heart. I say "had taken up residence", but what I am learning is that it was there before & I just failed to fully recognize it. 

If you've read my previous post(s), you know that adoption is a waiting game with a huge paper trail and no certainty of any kind. Recently we had been waiting for our FDL letter to arrive (a slip of paper that states that you have been "favorably determined" as an adoptive parent -- in its most basic of terms). Now, in an effort to not appear deceptive, I will tell you that we were told the turn-around time was running about 75 days from the date our paperwork was initially received by USCIS (in our case, the end of February). We waited, and waited and waited. Meanwhile we witnessed countless families working with our same agency, who had gone for the fingerprint appointments after us, communicating with and getting updates from their USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) case worker and receiving their letters in what seemed like record time. Don't get me wrong, we were SO happy for those families, but the communication we weren't receiving made the waiting much harder. The lack of apparent consistency made it the worst!

And what I began to realize was that I was allowing (at times fully embracing) this circumstance in my life to throw me into a pit of despair. My ever-grounded, faithful husband seemingly welcomed this apparent road block with amazing peace in his heart. Not me. I was vehemently opposed to it, trying to do everything within my power to find out what the hold up was, even wrongly scoffing inside at those who reminded me (correctly, mind you) that this was all a part of God's perfect design to lead us the child or children that He has planned for our family. I KNEW that they were right, and that it was part of His perfect plan. I just didn't want that to be the way it was. I was having a major heart issue (my Mr. Hyde persona, if you will). I wanted to understand why things were unfolding the way that they were, and see the plan and path laid before us, and when I couldn't, inside my spirit rebelled. In the book Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, each persona is part of one person. Maybe this is not the appropriate representation of what my feelings were at the time. Maybe the dueling consciences on my left and right shoulders would have been better? 

Anyway, my Dr. Jekyll side fully recognized the Mr. Hyde taking residence in my spirit. "What is wrong with you?!", I would think to myself. Internally I was allowing myself to defiantly reject the plans of the One who had brought me to this point, and what I have come to realize is my own attachment issues with my father God. I was only okay with trusting Him as long as I could see the path of His plan, and the lack of sight caused me to try and get behind the wheel and steer this ship myself in whatever capacity I could. Hadn't I learned yet that this is NOT what is best for me? No, I hadn't. So much so, that I am only beginning to understand how much I still have to learn about trust and truly surrendering to the will of God and His plan.

Ironically, there has been a theme growing around me in my life since that realization. This summer I have been participating in a Women's Bible Study through my church by Lysa Terkeurst (Proverbs 31 ministries) called Made to Crave. In it she talks of the grumbling Israelites in the wilderness.  Chuck Swindoll, on his radio program, recently spoke of the Israelites who never saw the Promise Land because of their willful disobedience to God. And in a book I am reading now by Francine Rivers (Titled: A Lineage of Grace) about five women in the Bible, I have read about Tamar and Rahab: stories that took place during the desert wandering timeline. A coincidence? I think not. 

I have been living the life of a desert wanderer, willfully putting God to the test and demanding the plan that I want from Him. And He, who is faithful, has been drawing my attention to it. Thank you Father for teaching me that I have not fully trusted in and attached myself to you. Thank you for reminding me that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:27-29 
I pray that you continue to teach me that Your plan is better than my own, and that these experiences will continue to grow me and assist me in preparation for the attachment journey we will go through with our little one(s). 


Saturday, April 30, 2011


Okay, so we are still waiting for our FDL (favorable determination letter) to come in the mail. Supposedly the going wait-rate is 4 months (to the day) that your letter takes to arrive from your fingerprint appointment date. That date was this past Wednesday. Yes, I know it's only Saturday, but as I said in my last post, I've never been a patient person. I HATE waiting. So this poem came in my email box was from our agency's Ethiopia update email.

Wait with Faith
Lord you have faithfully shown me
So many times before
And this time is no exception, Lord
And simply can't be ignored
That you know all that concerns my life
Everything your eyes do see
You always come through at just the right time
To meet my every need
For nothing escapes your watchful eye
No problem that we may cross
But so often, Lord, it seems as though
There's a delay in your response
I know it's a testing of our faith
To wait so patiently
You stretch us so our faith may grow
Though we want it instantly
But it's for our good that you respond
In your time, not in ours
For if you didn't - we'd stay as infants
Getting everything right now
For us to grow more Christ-like
We need to learn to wait
For often that's the answer to prayer
And builds us up in faith
So I thank you for the answer to come
As I hand it over in prayer
Thank you that you're still working on me
And my breakthrough's drawing near
© By M.S.Lowndes

I can't say that I liked this poem, in fact, I didn't like it at all. But I still know that it is the truth. I read it with a lot of growling under my breath and a lot of eye-rolling. And yet, I still's TRUE. What is it about us as humans that makes us not okay with things like this? Why do we struggle with knowing and accepting that GOD, the maker, creator, knower (I think I just made that word up) of ALL the appointed days--even mine--has EVERYTHING under control, and knows BETTER than we do? Why do we INSIST, and sometimes demand, that we be part of the inner workings of the, as it were?

So here's a video of a gal who knows my battle with trust, control and waiting, because she's traversed the road ahead of me. I'm thinkin' I may need to go out and buy myself this book!
Well, I guess I'll go on waiting...have a great weekend!

About this blog

Welcome to our blog! Thanks for dropping by and visiting us! This blog was created for those of you who wish to follow along with us in our journey as we answer God's call to adoption. Ultimately it is our opportunity to rise up and do what we can to fulfill and make known to others the mandate of James 1:27 - "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after the orphans and widows in their distress and to keep onself from being polluted by the world."

About Us

My photo
We are a mid-west married couple of 9 years, striving to care for the 147 million orphans around the world!

Our Adoption Timeline

11/28/11 - We are back to waiting for a new referral
11/22/11 - We receive word from our caseworker that we have lost our referral
9/21/11 - Referral paperwork and international ped review completed and sent!
9/4/11 - We receive our referral! A precious 6 yr old boy!
6/27/11 - We have finally arrived to the waitlist!
6/17/11 - re-doing some documents for the dossier
6/8/11 - Sent dossier off to our agency for review
6/4/11 - Our FDL FINALLY ARRIVES! Yahoo!
5/24/11 - We get word from our Case Manager that we may submit our dossier without our FDL! Yea!
3/30/11 - USCIS fingerprint appointments for Dept. of Homeland Security

2/9/11 - Notarized homestudy rec'd and re-mailed to AGCI!
1/7/11 - We close on the sale of our house in NW Iowa
11/30/10 - 3rd and final homestudy visit, dossier paperwork completed
11/24/10 - house back in NW Iowa finally goes on the market for sale
10/26/10 - 2nd homestudy visit
10/15/10 - Eric is finally able to secure his company transfer and relocate himself as well
9/30/10 - After securing living arrangements post-relocation, we have our first homestudy visit
8/17/10 - We receive notification that some paperwork families will be transferring caseworkers...we are transferred to Toni!
8/17/10 - Nic relocates to central Iowa to begin new teaching position the following day...a move is in the works...adoption paperwork, education and homestudy arrangements put on hold
8/13/10 - Nic rec'd call from a friend to interview for a last-minute teacher opening in central Iowa
6/7/10 - First paperwork call with our caseworker, Brandi; we begin the adoption education and dossier paperwork process
5/15/10 - Mailed orientation packet documents and first payment
4/13/10 - AGCI adoption orientation packet rec'd in mail
4/8/10 - AGCI international adoption application as part of the Ethiopia program approved!
3/16/10 - Official adoption application submitted to AGCI with initial fee
11/01/09 - Pre-application submitted to AGCI
10/27/09 - Request for more information on international adoption received by our (now) agency, All God's Children International

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