Saturday, April 5, 2014

April Fools ! - NOT :)

So guess what I got in the email on Tuesday, April 1st?  yup, an email from my USCIS officer telling me that she approved my I-800!!!!!!!!

I was at lunch with my co-workers when I checked my email on my phone and at the exact time that the subject line came up, a little ladybug landed on my arm :)  I started crying because I had prepared myself for AT LEAST a month of waiting.  I still can't believe it!  I received the hard copy in the mail on Friday.  Next, I will fill out the DS-260, which is the visa application for Baby R!! And NEXT will be Article 5!!!

I also received another email from the DOS that I don't have to have Munni's COC (certificate of citizenship) completed before I request her file to be returned.  They gave me all the addresses and instructions on how exactly to fill out the forms.  Around 6 pm that night, I received another email from the DOS.  The officer explained that she had taken the liberty to request my daughter's file and unfortunately, there were no original items in the file.  That made me sad but the good part is that the officer took the time to do that and then told me to file the G-639 FOIA and I will get copies of her entire file!  While it's not her original, I'm hoping there is a copy of her Indian birth certificate in there.  I  had explained in the email about my luggage getting stolen upon arrival in the US.  The officer was so nice and said some really nice things in the email.  It renewed my hope in government employees because she went out of her way to make it easier for me.  There are people who still have compassion!!!

In some other good news, another family who is adopting from the same state as me, just found out last week that the SARA committee (for state level clearance) requested some more information about her child.  Why is this good you ask?  Because they haven't met in over 7 months so the fact that they are requesting info means that someone is looking at the files- and we are praying it's because they are getting ready to meet!  I know that all of my stuff is in the right place in Ind*a, so please pray that this meeting will happen.  It will affect all the families who are adopting from this state.

Please keep praying!!!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Walking On Water

To say that Munni has completely rocked my world doesn't even come close to how much she has changed me.  
I see things differently.  I can't go back and I don't want to go back to the filters I saw through before I found her.
My relationship with Christ has grown in ways I never would have imagined.  He has taken me to the highest highs and has wept with me during the lowest of lows.  And he has shown me time and time again that he never changes.  He is same yesterday, today, and tomorrow.  He will never leave me.  He may ask me to do hard things, but he will be with me right by my side and probably more often than not, carrying me :)
I am learning more and more that as uncomfortable as it is at the time, the best place to be is out of the boat.  Trusting in him, trusting in his plan.  
Sure I get soaked when I take my eyes off of him or letting fear and doubt drift into my thoughts.  But he never fails to grab my hand, lift me up, and gently ask, "My child, why did you doubt me?"

Why do I doubt him? He is supernatural and I am not.  My humanness battles within me as I repeatedly assign limitations to him based on my own myopic, incomplete views of the natural laws.  
That's my big, fat problem.  
I limit him with my own limitations when he is absolutely limitless.

Since January, I've really been praying about my trust in him.  At times I've done great!  Other times, like last week, I've failed miserably.  I'm determined though, to get up, dust off the dirt, and keep my eyes on him.  When my vision is locked on him, there are no limitations.

He is calling me to do some hard things and the only reason they are hard is because it requires 110% trust in him.  
I can't think about the what ifs, if onlys, and the buts.
I can't think about the opinions of others.  
I can't dwell on my imperfections and limitations.
I can't define my future and his calling on my life by the natural state of things.
I need to step out of the boat.
I need to believe in his supernatural essence.
I need to keep my eyes on his beautiful face.
I need to keep my heart full of trust in his goodness, his grace, his mercy, and his providence.
I have no idea how it will all pan out, but that's exactly how he has designed it.  He gives me just enough light for the next step.  
I am nervous and anxious but also giddy with excitement to see where this path will lead me.

What about you?  Is there a boat that you have been hesitant to step out of and into the water of the unknown?  I pray that you would take that step.  It's exhilarating beyond anything you can possibly imagine!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

So About That Lesson…..

Just two days later on Monday, I had a meltdown.  One of those ugly cry kinda meltdowns.  On the phone.  With my caseworker.

It hit me hard.  All day I was consumed with planning, strategizing, and trying to figure out a way to not have to wait 5 days to get the letter from my former agency.  And in the midst of that scheming, I called USCIS.  I did keep it together with the very nice officer who answered the phone while I explained my plight to her.  She gave me the news I was hoping for- they would accept a scanned copy of the letter!  I then went into full on email/call/text stalking mode of my caseworker.  When she called me back, my emotions erupted like a volcano.  Thankfully, she is so kind and understanding and was completely willing to go into psycho mode with me :)  She was able to get the agency to send her the letter and in turn, sent it to me.  I printed it off and high tailed it to the post office to overnight it to USCIS.

Tuesday morning my stalking practices resumed and I was able to verify that the documents were delivered and signed for at 9:25 am.


A little while later, I received an email from my caseworker.  THE BEST KIND OF EMAIL.  It contained 3 new pictures of sweet baby R- and she is SMILING in the pics!!!!  I SO wish that I could show you her adorable face, but she's not legally mine yet so I can't.  Here's a sneak peak of her adorableness:

Please note- I LOVE that her orphanage is so quick about requests.  I LOVE that you can tell she is cared for and loved.  And I LOVE that they put the kissing angels photoshop sticker on this photo :)
The first thing my Munni Bird said when she saw this was, "Mommy!  R has yellow sunglasses same like me!"  Ever the fashionista…noticing the accessories first!

While I was thrilled to receive these pictures, it also made me sad because she is changing so much :(  It's painful to know that she's experiencing so many of her firsts without her mama and big sister.  I am going to call USCIS tomorrow in hopes that I will find out that my officer approved my I-800.  PLEASE pray that the approval happened!!!  I'm praying that it happened so the next steps will be:

1) DS-260 Visa application
2) Article 5 (last piece from the US side)
3)  State level clearance (Ind*a)
4)  Federal level clearance (Ind*a)
5) Court
6) Written orders
7) Her passport issued
8) TRAVEL!!!!

In some cases, steps 3 and 4 happened simultaneously.  I'm praying this will be the case for her!!!
Thank you for all of your support and encouragement and please keep praying… God is answering!!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

There's a Lesson to be Learned….

and if I'm honest, I'm really, really not down with it.
My selfish, impatient being is fighting it.
I know God is bringing me to a deeper level of trust and rest- that I MUST trust in him AND (the biggest part) REST in him and his omnipotent power.

Today I received the document I needed for the RFE.
Aaaand….there's a mistake in it.
Womp womp womp :(
So, I have to wait until Monday for a new letter to be drafted.
Another 3 days or so for it to get to me in the mail.
I'm hoping and praying I can get everything to USCIS by the end of next week and then REALLY praying that my officer will be quick in issuing the approval.

Every adoptive mama is crazy with wanting to get everything done yesterday ASAP, but there's a back story here.

I know that the state level clearance meeting hasn't met in R's region in about 7 months.  I've been praying that I would be the last woman on the train if you get my gist.  I don't want to even think about the other option :(

So, I must wait and trust.  Trust that God is moving on her behalf.  I don't believe in the "God's perfect timing" thing as I wrote about here.  I don't believe for one second that it's his will for children to languish in orphanages months and years waiting for their forever families.  So instead of praying for "God's perfect timing," Please pray for God's swift and powerful hand to work on R's behalf.  Please pray that God would nudge the right people's hearts to move her paperwork forward.

This is a spiritual battle and the enemy is fighting it every step of the way.

I also need to take comfort daily that THE BEST WARRIOR OUT THERE is on my side and fighting for sweet, baby R.

Again, the other night I was reading the OT and God cracks me up when he asks his people questions. He really does have a way to deliver zingers- but in a way that doesn't tear you down :)  I love (ok, not really love but am grateful) when he puts my fear in check.

"This is what the Lord of Heaven's Armies says:  All this may seem impossible to you now….But is it impossible for me? says the Lord of Heaven's Armies." - Zechariah 8:6

I love this for so many reasons.  I love it that he reminds me how small my mind is.  How limited my vision is.  I love that he refers to himself TWICE as the Lord of Heaven's Armies.  As in, are you getting this Kristen?  I am LARGE AND IN CHARGE.  And personally, I love his frankness.  It always makes me laugh.  When he answers with questions, I know it's good :)

So here's my proverbial raising the glass to the Lord of Heaven's Armies.  Thank you for taking names and kicking butt for Baby R!!!!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Help Me Win!!!!

Hello!!!!  So I have a HUGE favor to ask of you :)

The picture of Munni Bird and me was entered into a contest for a 16X20 wall canvas.  I would REALLY love to walk into my house every day and have that canvas greet me :)

The contest is over tomorrow…. All you need to do is "Like" Anne Gregoire Photography's page on Facebook and then "Like" the image of Munni and me.  Here is the link that will take you to the page.  The name of the album is "Anne Gregoire Photography- Canvas/Fan Gift Card Giveaway"

This is the picture:

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Let's Get This Party Started!

So yesterday was the kickoff to my birthday weekend and what better way to start that party than to come home and find this waiting for me??!!!!
The cutest passport picture!
This humbles me on so many levels.  Having my luggage stolen with all of Munni's adoption paperwork inside has proved to be a canvas for God to create masterpieces of his goodness, his faithfulness, his provision, and his never-ending love.  Despite not having that paperwork and with Ind*a not complying to requests for copies of the documents, He made it happen.  I was able to get medical care for her that saved her life.  I was able to finalize her adoption in the United States, which allowed me to get her a state birth certificate.  I was able to get her a SSN.  And now, she has a USA passport!  I am in awe!

During the month of January I did a media fast.  It was so, so good.  I was able to really reflect on some things and spent a ton of time in prayer.  One of the things I have been struggling with is Baby R's adoption- or more accurately- my prayers for her adoption.  With Munni, I think because I was in limbo for so long and deep in my heart, I just knew I had to get her out of there (turns out my mother instincts were right), so my prayers were prayers of desperation, pleading, begging, beseeching.  It consumed me.

With Baby R's adoption, everything happened so quickly.  I got the call about her on a Monday evening.  Tuesday morning came and found out that she was truly available.  Wednesday came and I was officially matched with her on the C*R*NGS website.  Saturday morning came and I woke up to two precious pictures of my daughter.  Those pictures spoke VOLUMES about the type of care she is receiving.  Her hair is long.  They took time to make sure she was dressed in a beautiful dress.  She had on clean, white socks :)  Her hair was fixed beautifully and she was wearing bangles.  I never received a photo of Munni like that.  In fact, in October 2012, just two months before I would meet her, I received 2 photos of her that made me break down and sob.  She looked so thin.  Her hair was shaved. She looked like an inmate :(

This past fall, I was consumed with Munni's health issues.  I was a wreck.  And on top of that I was getting all the paperwork compiled for my home study update, Munni's finalization, and my dossier.  I was also fundraising.  I was cuh -RAY- zeeeeee.  A straight jacket would have been my fall wardrobe go-to item.  All of that to say that between that stress and the comfort of knowing that R is in a place where she is being well cared for, my prayers weren't prayers of desperation, or pleading, or begging, or beseeching.  I felt extremely guilty.  I felt like a slacker.  Did I not love Baby R as much as Munni because my prayers were so different?  Was I really allowing my heart to be fully open to her? Or, had my prayer life evolved?  Was I trusting God more this time around?  I would like to think that it was the latter but in all reality, it was more of me being at a point where I told God he had to handle this because I didn't have anything to give.  I was completely spent.  I was empty.  And you know what?  That's exactly where he wanted me.  He whispered his sweet words of wisdom to me that it's not about anything that I do.  It never is.  It's about him and what he's capable to do.  Here's the rub- since I prayed so much for Munni and her process, He showed me that I was attaching my "works" to her adoption being completed.  In my heart, I was stealing glory from God.  Not a fun realization.  I was reading the book of Zechariah when this really sunk in and hit home.  I was reading about Zerubbabel and how he was given the responsibility to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem:

"This is what the Lord says to Zerubbabel:  It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of Heaven's Armies.  Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel's way; it will become a level plain before him!  And when Zerubbabel sets the final stone of the Temple in place, the people will shout:  'May God bless it!  May God bless it!'" - Zechariah 4:6-7

And then I read the commentary:

"Many people believe that to survive in this world a person must be tough, strong, unbending, and harsh.  But God says, "Not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit."  The keys words are "by my Spirit." It is only through God's Spirit that anything of lasting value is accomplished.  The returned exiles were indeed weak- harassed by their enemies, tired, discouraged, and poor.  But actually they had God on their side!  As you live for God, determine not to trust in your own strength or abilities.  Instead, depend on God and work in the power of his Spirit!"

Whoa!  I was a blubbering mess!  He spoke straight to me heart and it was beautiful.  Instead of "returned exiles" he could have put my name.  Kristen was weak.  Kristen was tired.  Kristen was discouraged.  Kristen was poor.  But I have God on my side and I know that God intends for Baby R to be in our little family.  HE has paved the way.  HE is making it happen.  I have taken my hands off the wheel and confessed any "works" that I have attached to it.  It's such a beautiful place to rest in his mighty, glorious power.

It's interesting to see the different lessons that God continues to teach me through these two amazing lives.  I feel like through Munni's adoption,  He showed me time and time again, through miracle after miracle, that NOTHING is too hard for him.  Her case was a difficult one indeed that left many people shaking their heads.  And yet, here she is, home with her mama!  I got a tattoo of the Genesis verse 18:14 to remind me of that.  I don't ever want to forget or grow calloused to his greatness.

I had been pondering what kind of ink I want to get for Baby R.  I kept praying, but nothing felt right.  Now I know :)

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Out of My Hands!

This is going to sound like Greek to anyone not going through an international adoption but here it is!
Saturday was a big day- I was able to get all the referral documents notarized and overnighted to Columbus for the apostilles.  I included an overnight return envelope in hopes it would motivate them to act quickly :)  I also overnighted my I-800 immigration paperwork.

Monday came and I was in full on stalking mode.  I'm really good at that :)  Much to my delight, I was able to ascertain the exact time that both items were delivered.  This was water to my OCD parched soul.

Today the FedEx truck left me a very special package:)  Columbus had my back in a HUGE way!  They received my documents on Monday at noon, did all the apostilles, and put everything in that overnight envelope the same day.  I'm thinking my envelope strategy worked :)   I promptly went to the Post Office and overnighted all the documents back to my agency.  They will now send these to Ind*a!!!!!

The last piece of the puzzle involves the immigration.  The first immigration approval I received was for a child from Ind*a.  The documents I just sent were for Baby R specifically.  I know they were received at the lockbox on Monday at 11:48 p.m.  It now needs to get forwarded to the National Visa Processing Center, which is in New Hampshire.  I'm praying that since there was a glitch with my first approval and my case is *fresh* on my officer's mind, that he will approve it in lightening speed :)  When that happens, I will be notified via email and have ONE LAST FORM TO FILL OUT, which is her visa application!!  The heavens are opening and the light at the end of the paper tunnel is getting brighter and brighter!!  Once I fill out the visa application for Baby R, they will wire everything to the US Embassy in New Delh*   At that time, I will be waiting for my Article 5.  That is the last piece of info from the US side that is needed to move forward with her case.  So once the Article 5 is issued, this is what we are looking at:

1) State level clearance
2) NOC - the coveted federal clearance :)
3) Court
4) passport
5) TRAVEL!!!!!!!!!!

I walked out of the post office and started bawling.  I was so happy and it's really sinking in that IT'S HAPPENING!!!!!!!!  Every day Munni asks me when are we going to go get her baby sister and bring her home.  I'm praying for summer….

God continues to humble and amaze me.  He humbles me in reminding me that it is he who is orchestrating this beautiful story and he amazes me with how he comes through time and time and time again.

Thank you for all your prayers and support :)