Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Introducing Juliana Elisabeth McFarland

Thank you so much for your prayers. Everything went as planned today and Ava was officially adopted as Juliana Elisabeth McFarland today to proud parents Lisa and Pat and big sister Emily (also adopted through ECFA). It was a joy filled day and it was great to celebrate her adoption. Though as I write, it's 10:30 and usually around this time each night was my feeding duty, so it seems awfully quite. But Kim and I will enjoy some much deserved and much needed rest. We feel blessed to have been able to play a small part in her life, and are thankful for the new friends we have made in the McFarlands. Elizabeth and Emily became close friends in the short time we knew them, so we look forward to continuing our relationship and seeing Juliana's progress as she grows. And as I mentioned early on, it was a welcome break from our own adoption, so we are just that much closer to experiencing our own finalization and homecoming.

Not flesh of my flesh

Nor bone of my bone,

But still miraculously

My own.

Never forget

For a single minute:

You didn't grow under my heart,

But in it.

--Fleur Conkling Heyliger

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Health Update On Our Kids

We received the following update on Josiah and Gabriella...

Gabriella is very healthy but unusually small for her age. She looks like a healthy nine month old. So far there is no reason to think she is not 18 months, except for how small she is, but we will try to ask the birth mom sometime when we see her again. Gabriella takes 6 ounces of formula 3 times a day, in between meals and before bed. She'll drink out of a cup if you give her a cup, a bottle if you give her a bottle. She's not picky about how she gets it, but she loves snack time! Gabriella is in the room with other babies of her age group (15 to 30 months). She is now walking, though very hesitantly, so as not to fall. Gabriella is 28.5 inches tall and 18.5 lbs. She wears size 9 month clothes and size 2 shoes. Josiah is very healthy and right on target for his age. He is talking very well and is potty-trained. He is in the room for his age group (24 to 48 months) and fits right in with all the kids. Josiah wears size 3 clothes and size 7 wide shoes. He is 33 inches tall and 28 pounds. He is one of the healthiest kids we have.

Regarding our foster child Ava, her court date is this Tuesday at 9:30. So hopefully by around 10, she'll legally be the daughter of Pat and Lisa McFarland. So Tuesday night I'll be able to legally post a picture of this cutie (with Pat & Lisa's permission) so you'll be able to see her. Tuesday is her one month birthday, so please pray that everything goes as planned.

Until next time...

Friday, September 14, 2007

When Does 8 weeks Equal a Day?

We received a call that Josiah received his passport today. So we went from one small step to a giant leap in two days. Josiah has been scheduled for his pre-VISA interview in mid November. It is our hope and the expectation of AoH that Gabriella's adoption will be finalized and passport issued by that same time so that we are back to looking like we will travel in Late November or early December. We will pray to that end. Thanks for praying too...

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Josiah is Legally Ours

We received a call yesterday that the paperwork for Josiah's adoption was finalized so according to the Liberian judicial system, he is legally ours. So we are excited to be one step closer. With him being legally ours, AoH can apply for a passport for him, which is necessary for him to be able to leave the country. This is taking around 8 weeks currently. So once AoH has a passport, they can schedule an appointment at the US Embassy for him to get a VISA, and once they have that appointment, we will get our call to make travel arrangements. As we stated earlier this summer that the adoption process in Liberia is changing. It is our understanding that AoH will need to locate Josiah's mother and get her to the Embassy. The Embassy will then try to verify that she is indeed his mother and that her intent is to give him up. If after this interview, they are not satisfied that the woman is indeed Josiah's mother, they may seek a DNA confirmation which prolongs the process. For future adoptions, this all takes place at the time the children are dropped off at the orphanage. But we are transition adoptions and unfortunately are not grandfathered in. So although we thank God for His faithfulness to this point, we remain cautious knowing that until we get on the plane to return to America, that anything can happen.

The reason we remain so cautious is another couple began this process the same time we did. And through the wonder of the internet and blogging and e-mail, we have gotten to know them as we've shared this journey together. The same day we were receiving our news, they received the unfortunate news that their son's mother came back to the orphanage and took him home. So we ask you to pray for them (the Avella's) as they grieve this loss and try to figure out God's pupose in all this.

Lastly, I chose this song "Awesome God" because Olivia our daughter loves it, and ever since VBS (the first week of August) has been singing it around the house doing all the actions. I'll have to take a video of her and post it soon.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Still Do...

Kim and I celebrate our 15th Anniversary today - September 12, 2007! WOW....it's an amazing thing - to know and to be known. To say our vows only took 30 seconds, but keeping them is the work of our lifetime. We could not be where we are today - in the process of an adoption - were it not for those vows spoken before witnesses 15 years ago. Some things have changed - which are evident by these pictures... but we vowed to continue loving in spite of all changes and adversity. The most amazing gift of marriage is how God has taken two different people like Kim and I with different gifts, likes and habits and has grafted us together as one. Early on in our relationship, there were struggles, arguments, and frustrations. But over time God has allowed us to become like minded on all the important issues.

Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. Ecl 4:9-12

Over the past year divorce has entered our world to where our kids are trying to figure out answers to grown up questions. It is becoming clearer and clearer to me that not just any love can justify and bless a marriage, but only the love of Christ. He is the Lord of marriage and He holds the key to it. This is the lesson the world is struggling to learn.

So as I reflect on 15 years, I am deeply humbled. So many times I do not deserve the love of my wife... I hurt her through broken promises, by chosing other things and other people over her, through words I speak or don't speak.... yet in spite of all she knows about me and my flawed character, she chooses to love me. And the beauty of who she is shines through in so many ways, that all I can do is give thanks, and commit myself each day to loving, serving and honoring her.

And so I celebrate! Our kids our a testimony to our love. But I think even more so, our adoption is testimony to where God is leading us. So I encourage you to celebrate your own marriage today. It truly is a gift.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A couple more pictures

We have just a couple more pictures to share with you. This is one of Josiah hanging out with Eric (I believe) one of the AoH workers.

Here he is again hanging out with the rest of his AoH family. He's wearing the same pink shirt as above in the middle of the group.

Here is Gabriella sleeping with her crib mate, and below hanging out with Ezekiah.
Well the adoptions in Liberia are running behind and though we know this is all part of the process known as "adoption" we were a little discouraged to find out that Josiah's adoption won't be finalized most likely until October. Each month there, is just one more month not with us. AoH does an excellent job caring for and meeting their needs, and there's no place I'd rather them be, given the choice, other than with us. So I'm thankful every day they are in such good care, but it's just one more month of time we'll be trying to overcome in helping them attach to us. So we'd appreciate your prayers. Not only for continued patience and trust for Kim and I, but that God could work out all the details to still get them home to Wisconsin this year yet. Thanks!

Friday, September 7, 2007

First Pictures of Gabriella Smiling

We're exited to pass along these updated pictures of Gabriella (thanks Donna). Hoping to get pictures of Josiah soon too. In all our previous pictures of Gabriella, she seemed to be pretty "stone faced" so seeing her smile and showing off her pearly whites was exciting to see.

Gabriella is taking steps now (standing here on her own) but is not walking yet - but close.
We've been told that Gabriella and Josiah make a very compatible sibling group. Though not biologically related, they seem to compliment each other. Josiah is a little firecracker and Gabriella is very even tempered. They are both very sweet kids, and this papa couldn't agree more. :)

Quick update on Ava our foster child. She's doing well and is already 2 weeks old today. Her adoptive parents joined us for dinner again on Friday and will be returning again for a visit on Sunday. Things are going smoothly so far in their adoption and we hopefully will be able to hand her over by the end of the month. We are very much enjoying getting to know her parents and will post a picture of her as soon as she's legally theirs.

Lastly we've been working with our church on getting an adoption ministry going. Some of you had asked about contributing towards our adoption, and within the next 4 weeks we'll have everything finalized so that if you would like to contribute to that, you can. I'll have more information forthcoming.

Thanks again for praying for us, and for honoring us by reading our exited blatherings. We truly are humbled by that.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Pictures of Mukani

As I mentioned earlier, friends of ours were visiting Tanzania and Rwanda to visit some of their compassion children and were able to work out arrangements to be our ambassadors of love to one of our own Compassion kids - Mukaniyonsaba Ntigahira (Moo-kahn-EE for short) from Rwanda. Compassion was kind enough to arrange for her and a woman from her base as well as an interpreter to travel 4 hours by car to where our friends, the Weismans, were at a YWAM base. We were able to give her a soccer ball, a pump, and photo album of our family(The video is of her singing to us, but the audio did not pick up well). But we were so blessed by her smile and by the ministry of Compassion, so we just wanted to share.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Grocery Shopping with the Kids

Most of us in the adoption community, as a result of our love for children, have more than the national average. So shopping with that many kids can be a challenge. Kim hates it. She'd rather go at night when the kids are all asleep than to have to battle with them in Walmart. Well a woman from Chicago seems to capture the heart of it in this humorous post on EBay (scroll down past the Pokemon cards where she explains why she is selling them). I encourage you to take the time and read it and recall the incidents you've experienced at the dreaded grocery store. As a result of this post, this woman has received a lot of publicity, book deals, TV appearances - and when you read it you'll see why. As a fan of Ken Davis I have to remind myself with all the ups and downs of parenting to "Lighten Up and Live".

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Happy Labor Day Weekend

Just wanted to give you quick update on Ava. The adoptive family had dinner with us Thursday night. They are a wonderful God-Fearing family with a 7 yr old daughter Emily. Her and Elizabeth hit it off right away, and can't wait til they can see each other again. But we really enjoyed our time with them, and now the 3am feedings seem just a little bit easier knowing we are doing it for them and ultimately Ava. Kim also met the biological mom for the first time on Friday. She requested to see Ava and so the common meeting place for that is our Foster Care agency office. She could not look at Kim and was very distraught. Kim and I feared for the adoptive couple that she might be changing her mind. But the visit was also for her to sign papers to relinquish her parental rights over Ava and so that court proceeding can be scheduled. And as far as we know that all took place and we weren't informed of any future requests by her to see Ava. So things look good so far for Ava. But please pray for her mother. Obviously it's a very difficult decision, and from what Kim could tell, she seems to be doing it because she really does love Ava and feels this is what best for her. Obviously she didn't abort her, so that in itself took courage. But still it's very difficult on her.

Kim and I have always had a love for children and for Africa. And so we have 5 children we sponsor through Compassion International. Friends of ours have college age children who recently went on a mission trip with YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and as a result of that, can stay at any of the YWAM bases throughout the world. These friends and their 4 children just returned from a 3 week mission trip to Africa. We heard they were going to be near one of our compassion kids in Rwanda, so we were able to send pictures and a soccer ball and pump, and some other gifts. Compassion was kind enough to drive her 3 hours to where our friends were visiting one of their own compassion children at another base, and so we were excited to hear of their visit. Our 14 yr old girl Mukaniyonsaba Ntigahira (Moo-kahn-EE for short) has lost both of her parents. We had thought that she was living with an aunt and uncle, but unfortunately we found out she lives in an orphanage and is just so very shy and quiet. Her general disposition just seems so very sad. Our friends were able to buy her some food and gave us the great idea of buying her a bike because you have to travel so far for everything where she lives. The have some video of her that we can't wait to see, and actually managed to get her to sing a song for us - which is pretty amazing for how shy she is. Anyways we were very excited to be able to share with her in that small way.

Lastly we have no new news on our children. Several people from AoH are over in Liberia right now. So through them we at least have offered a hug to our kids. We hope to have some pictures when they return.