Telling our Family!

DSC_0073Excitement would be the best way to describe our girls as they unwrapped pictures of Leah for the first time!  Grant and I had known for about 5 days before we told our girls and family.  We were waiting on official PA (pre-approval) from China to move forward with our adoption of Leah.  After they opened their picture and realized they were looking at the face of their sister, there was a lot of screaming and jumping up and down!!  Finally, a face to go along with the sister they had been praying for this past year!

I knew immediately that this baby was the daughter I had been praying for!  God gave Grant and I immediate peace and joy when we were sent her file for review!  Looking back now, I can see that God started us on this journey to international adoption, then to China, then to our adoption agency, and finally to our Leah right when her birthmother would have been learning of her pregnancy herself.  Throughout this time, we have prayed for our daughter, but also for her biological family.  There are a lot of reasons why so many children are abandoned in China, but the bottom line is that her birth mother chose life for her daughter!  For that we will always be thankful!  I do not believe that God’s perfect plan for our world included children being raised by anyone other than their biological family.  However, that world is not the one we currently live in.  Adoption is always born from loss for the orphaned child.  It is only by the love shown to us and given to us by God that redemption and healing is able to take place in the heart of these children.  The verse from 1 John 4:19 has spoken to me throughout this process, “We love because He first loved us.”  I am so humbled to know that God chose our family to be the ones to get to witness this firsthand in Leah’s life.  I will never take for granted the fact that I am being given the opportunity to love on this beautiful child of His!  I am so unworthy to be able to call someone else’s child my daughter!  The magnitude of that is not lost on me!  People have told us many times that what we are doing is such a wonderful thing.  I do understand what they mean in that we are giving a family to an orphaned child.  However, we know without a doubt that WE are the ones getting a wonderful thing in the gift of our sweet Leah as a daughter and sister!

Our extended family is just as excited as we are also!  We surprised my family with wrapped pictures of her just like we did with our girls.

DSC_0084

Right now we are working on immigration paperwork with the US government and visa paperwork with the Chinese government.  The back and forth of these documents, as well as a few other required ones, is about 3 months.  We are looking at traveling around the end of August to bring Leah home! We can’t wait to get our hands on her!

Meet Leah Grace Barry

Ephesians 3:20-21  “Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine , according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Leah 4

This is our beautiful baby girl, Leah Grace, that we have prayed and longed for the past year!  We are beyond excited, proud and humbled to be able to call her our daughter!  We saw her face last week for the first time, and I was filled with nothing but joy and peace from the moment my social worker began speaking about her.  And then, we saw her face and read her story, and we knew she was our daughter!  She is around 6 months old in these first two pictures.  What a cutie!

Leah 5

We submitted our Letter of Intent to China last week, and we were approved this past Monday to move forward with our adoption of Leah!  We are so very thankful to have already received updated photos of her!  She will be turning one year old this summer.  We are so incredibly thankful to know that we will get so much more of her little life that we ever thought possible!  This is our girl now!

Leah

We should be traveling to get her sometime around the end of August/beginning of September!  I will update more later, but for now I just wanted to introduce our daughter!

Leah 2

Waiting….

 

I haven’t posted anything in so long, because I really thought my next post would be introducing our little girl to our friends!  Sadly, we are not there yet though.  It has been over 8.5 months of waiting since we were logged into China’s system available to be matched and 13.5 months since we started the adoption process.  I know that in the grand scheme of life a year is not that long, but knowing I have a daughter living as an orphan when our home and hearts are so ready for her is hard…really hard!  We were originally told it would take about 3-6 months to be matched.  So, I naively told myself over and over last fall that no matter what, by March 1st, we would see her face!  Obviously, that came and went and now we are almost past the updated timeframe we were given of 6-9 months.  Our adoption agency (that we adore!) gives timelines based on the amount of files they are receiving and how long people have currently been waiting.  They can’t control how fast the Chinese orphanages prepare and send files, and they do everything they can to encourage more and more of those orphaned children to get files prepared.  Sadly, the many of the children in the orphanages never even have an adoption file prepared for them, therefore they never even have a chance for a family!  The orphan crisis our world faces is truly horrible.  As Christians, we must look out for the “least of these” and truly follow God’s call to take care of them (Matthew 25:40)!  I am thankful that this long wait has allowed me to research and learn just how desperate the world is for more families to take these children in!  God has truly broken my heart for the parentless children here and abroad. 

 

 

 

A few days ago I went in search of a few Bible verses that I could “cling to” in this hard time of waiting to be matched to our daughter.  I needed some promises from God to claim for myself, so when doubt started creeping in (as it does VERY often), I could instead focus on Truth from God’s word.  I was led to Phillipians 1:6 “Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”   This verse immediately gave me hope that God was in control and had not forgotten about our little girl and our family!  We have definitely not forgotten about her at our house.  In January, we celebrated our first Chinese New Year with my family.  We researched some of the customs and traditions related to this huge holiday in China.  We had so much fun, and it is definitely a tradition we plan to continue!

DSC_0070

DSC_0080DSC_0083DSC_0102

 

We still talk and pray for her daily.  My girls are starting to get just as antsy as Grant and I anticipating the day we will finally see her face!  I truly believe in the power of prayer, so please join my family in praying that our wait (and more importantly her wait) will soon be over!!

DSC_0184

9 Month Update

It has been way to long since I have made an update to our blog.  I am so thankful for my sweet friends who continuously ask what is going on, how we are doing, and if we have any updates.  For months now I have had to answer with “no changes, still waiting”.  I have done that a few times in the last week, but the other day it hit me that it was not really the truth.  Yes, we are still waiting to be matched to our daughter.  And yes, this wait has been very, very hard for me.  The holidays were especially tough on me.  While I was here with Grant and these 3 girls celebrating the Thanksgiving and Christmas season, my littlest girl is living thousands of miles away as an orphan.  Our hearts are SO ready for her!  Our home is getting ready for her to, and she definitely was NOT forgotten this Christmas season at our house!

dsc_0274

And yes, we have named our sweet girl already.  We are very ready for our Leah Grace to come home!

 

When people ask me about updates, I immediately say there are none, because as far as knowing her and seeing her sweet face, we haven’t had any progress.  However, behind the scenes, God has been moving mountains for her these past 3 months!  I felt guilty when I realized that I was not sharing all the ways God has come through for us during this wait. In the beginning of this process, the financial obligations connected with international adoption were our greatest fear.  We were VERY willing to pay the estimated $35,000 to $40,000, but we just didn’t have it!  (We also now know our costs after we travel to China will exceed $40,000).  We very quickly emptied our savings account to just get the process started.  After that, we applied to about 10 adoption grant organizations, opened a 2 year interest free “adoption” credit card, and we spoke with a few bankers about the possibility of personal loans.  Obviously, we did not want to end this process thousands of dollars in debt, but we also knew we would do whatever we needed in order to bring our daughter home!

I know I mentioned in an earlier post that we received a matching grant from a wonderful organization that was willing to match up to $4,000 of money we received from our friends and family.  We were required to write a letter telling our story and mail it, along with a letter from the organization, asking friends and family to pray about making a financial donation towards our adoption.  I will be very honest in saying that while Grant and I were so grateful for this opportunity, we were VERY nervous about mailing letters asking for money for our family.  We had already come up with a few fundraisers that we felt were in our comfort zone, and this was definitely NOT something we had discussed doing.  The night I stuffed envelopes, I cried and prayed that God would allow people getting these letters to receive them without judgement and without thinking anything negative about our adoption.  The last thing I have ever wanted was for anything negative to come from our sweet Leah’s story!  I have always prayed that when people think of our family and our little China girl that God will be glorified, and I didn’t want us asking for money to change that.

Well, little did I know that the Holy Spirit was moving in a BIG way through our friends and family!  We barely let ourselves hope for the $4,000 to be matched.  We never dreamed we would raise more than that!  We debated on sharing the exact amount that our friends and family so graciously raised for us.  But when it comes down to it, God moved in these people on our behalf.  He deserves the glory for this fundraiser, and in order to glorify Him and to show that He truly does equip those He calls, we decided to be open with the amount of money we received.  We are so truly humbled and in awe to be able to share that we received a total of $28, 275 from our amazing friends and family!!  We were SHOCKED to say the least.  What a blessing for our little girl to one day learn all the ways God moved in our little corner of this world to bring her home!  There are no words to describe how very humbling it is to be shown this type of support, love, and generosity.  I am crying again as I type these words!  God showed up exactly as He promised He would when the Holy Spirit pushed us out into this beautiful journey!

As I said, the waiting has been very hard for me.  It has currently been 4 months and 1 week of waiting (125 days to be exact).  However, I am so very thankful for all of the ways God is reminding us that He is orchestrating this story in His timing!  He is in control, and He will not leave us or our precious Leah!  Genesis 28:15 “I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.  I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”  Please continue to keep our family and Leah in your prayers as we wait to see her face!

 

God Winks

I love when God works this way, when He sends little reminders to us that He is a part of even the smallest details!  Last night I was telling Grant that there are times when I can physically feel my heart aching for our little girl.  I am sure that’s not possible, and I told him I knew it was silly to say, but it honestly feels this way sometimes.  I even held my hand over my chest and showed Grant exactly where I could feet it.  It is a feeling I have never had before during pregnancies or even during times I was hoping to become pregnant.  I don’t know if it’s because I know our daughter is alive, and everyday I am missing parts of her life that I will never get back or if it aches with the love I am so very ready to shower her with!  I never dreamed I would tell anyone else about this feeling, but I had to share because God sent this little gift to me today….

Last month I took a picture of some adoption books that were laying on a table at the seminar we went to in Birmingham.  Some were adult books and some were for children.  I have ordered at least a dozen adoption related books in the last six months, so I was glad to have found a few new recommendations. I honestly paid little attention to the specifics of the books when I placed an Amazon order for a few of them last week.  Two of the books came in this past weekend.  I knew  I was missing one, but I really didn’t even remember the title of the one I was missing.  It came in today, and I cried as I read it.  It’s a children’s storybook called Born From The Heart.  The book was written by an author who has an adopted son.  She wanted a way to explain to him just how much she wanted and longed for him.  In the story, a Mama named Rose is telling her child how he “grew” in her heart.  The illustrations show her heart getting bigger and bigger as the time goes by when she is waiting to meet him.  When she finally does meet him she describes it as though her heart has grown so big that it bursts with love.  “It was Rose’s heart again!  She felt an extraordinary burst of happiness- a rainbow of colors, laughter and the most wonderful sounds.”

I am not exactly sure how I will feel when I meet our little girl for the first time, but I can only imagine, based on how I feel now, that it may very likely feel as though my heart will be bursting!  This time spent waiting, knowing that I have a little girl living in an orphanage on the other side of the world, is hard.  Much harder than I expected.  However, I am so thankful to a God who is continuously showing Himself to me throughout this process.  Today it was in the form of a children’s book.  Other times it has been through sweet friends lending an ear at just the right time, encouraging words from people I run into around town, blogs I stumble upon, financial donations made from such generous friends, my social worker knowing just what to say, my family who already loves her like we do, and in so many other ways!

Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid;  do not be discouraged.”

Adoption Updates- 6 Months In

A few weeks ago Grant and I attended a mandatory adoption workshop with our agency at their home office in Birmingham.  This was a weekend we had been looking forward to for months and not just because it was a weekend child free….although that didn’t hurt!  This adoption process has proven to be very lonely, and we never anticipated feeling this way.  With all other important life events there have always been people close to us that could relate to what we were going through (going off to college, new jobs, marriage, babies, etc.)  However, this international adoption process is not like that.  We do not have any personal friends that have walked this road ahead of us.  I am so incredibly thankful to have been connected to some amazing Christian adoptive Mama’s online (a few that I reach out to on a regular basis), but unfortunately none of them live close enough that I can call them to meet up just to sit and talk.  We knew this seminar in Birmingham would give us exactly what we had been dying to have…..face to face interaction with people who are walking this path and who have walked this path already.  We were also excited to see the home office to our adoption agency and to get time to ask questions and have conversations in person instead of mostly through email!

Don’t get me wrong though, our family and friends have given us so much encouragement and fully support us in this adoption.  We are blessed with a group of people who already love and are praying for our daughter!  However, they just can’t relate to what we are going through.  Parenting a child from a traumatic background (which includes institutionalized children) is not initially the same as parenting biological children.  There is no reason for our friends and family to know this stuff, because they have never needed to learn.  I didn’t know what words like cocooning, attachment, empowering, connecting, correcting, and time-in meant before this process either.  We learned so much at the adoption seminar about the best practices for parenting our little “China girl”.  The honesty shared to us by social workers, adoptive parents, and other experts gave Grant and I so much to talk about.  We tried not to let fear take over when learning so many realities of situations that we could potentially face when bringing her home.  Instead, we are clinging to the hope that God’s grace leaves us with.  “…My grace is sufficient for thee; for my strength is made perfect in weakness…” 2 Corinthians 12:9.

img_1417

While in Birmingham we were also able to drive by and see where the International Adoption Clinic (IAC) is located.  This is where we will take our daughter for her first check up when we return home from China.  Two pediatricians have dedicated their careers to helping care and advocate for internationally adopted children.  We will get an exam from them and their team of therapists.  The information they gather and assessments they make will then be sent home with us to our local pediatrician.  They will also make referrals to specialists based on our daughter’s specific special need.

img_1421

God has continually revealed himself to us throughout this process.  That weekend, we saw Him in the faces of the social workers leading us, the other parents stepping out in faith, and in the adoptive families that openly shared their stories with us.  When we came home, God again reminded us (in a BIG way) that He was with us and would provide for us in this journey.  In the last few weeks we found out that we will be receiving 3 different financial grants that we applied for!!  Two of the grants were set amounts (totaling $4,000)that are already being sent to our agency to go towards upcoming expenses.  The third grant is a matching grant that promises to match money we raise from friends and family up to $4,000!  We are so thankful to have this financial support, and we know that God is fulfilling promises He made to us when we followed and obeyed His plan!  We also found out that we were denied two grants, but that just means another family got that financial blessing, so it made us happy anyway!  Combining what we have already spent, along with these grants (assuming we can raise our portion of the matching grant), we should be about 2/3 of the way to our final goal!!  Praise God for His provisions!

 

LID!

We are logged in to China’s system and available to be matched to our daughter!  Our LID (logged in date) was September 1st.  We are ecstatic!  When we started this process in April we were preparing for this milestone to come in November.  Praise God that it happened so much earlier!  We are thankful to be one step closer to our precious girl!

dsc_0043

(And yes, the girls are in their pajamas!)

We are still prepared for a wait though.  It is estimated that we will wait between 3-6 months for a match.  However, it could come anytime from now on.  I do so hope to see her face (in a picture) by Christmas, but I am preparing myself for waiting until Easter 2017.  Even after we are matched to our daughter, there is still more paperwork that will take around 3 months to accomplish before we can travel to get her.  The name of this game is WAITING!  However, it is our prayer that God will use this time to prepare us and our girls to be ready for this new daughter and sister.

Grant and I know that parenting her will be different than parenting our biological children.  She will have come from a background very different than the stable beginnings Anna Beth, Maggie and Claire had.  It is hard to think that we will never truly know the days, weeks and months of her life leading up until we get her.  However, we believe it is important to still acknowledge that time in her life.  Her life does not begin the day we get her, and we will never pretend like it did.  Her birth mother chose life for her, and we  will always celebrate that and celebrate the woman who carried and delivered her!  When we are in China, we will do everything we can to find out as many details about her life in the orphanage.  We will document with pictures, videos and blogs so that we can share with her this place that was her home before we found each other.  Her beginning has shaped her into the little girl she will be the day she becomes a part of our family.  She will have faced more loss in her short months and years than I ever have.  She will need time to grieve the loss of her biological family, orphanage family, homeland and culture.  This is new territory for Grant and I, but we are trying to equip ourselves with as much knowledge as we can to face these issues that will arise.  Please pray for us to follow God’s call and not be concerned about how others view our decisions and actions regarding her new life with us.  My personal focus lately has been on learning to distinguish the voice of the Holy Spirit above my own thoughts/desires/opinions and those of this world.  I am not worthy to parent this precious daughter, and I am so humbled that God has chosen our family to become her forever family.   What a gift we have been given with her life!

John 14:18 “I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you”.  Praise God that He chose not to leave any of us as orphans, but He has adopted us into His kingdom to be heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:17″Now if we are children, then we are heirs- heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in His sufferings in order that we may also share in His glory.”