While We Wait…Celebrate!

First of all…THANK YOU! Holy smokes, we sold more than ONE HUNDRED t-shirts! Awesome, awesome. We are grateful to each of you for your joining us in brining our Sammy home. It was so fun to see the orders roll in…friends and family near and far, even friends of friends we don’t know personally. SO grateful!

Next up, some good news. Those weeks of filling out grant applications paid off! We were notified two weeks ago that we received a grant from the JSC Foundation! We are so very grateful for this wonderful organization and all that they do to support adoption and unite orphans with their forever families. ALSO: the sweet lady that I communicated with at the foundation throughout our application process just returned from Shanghai in November. Her daughter was in the same orphanage as Samuel! I was so excited to make this connection.

It looks like we could be getting on a plane in as soon as one month! We applied for Samuel’s visa in mid-February and our Article 5 letter was issued on February 25. Our letter was immediately sent to the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption). Now we wait for the CCCWA to issue our travel clearance, which could happen anytime between tomorrow and March 18! Once we have clearance, we will set our travel dates. We are almost there!

In the meantime, we’ve been doing a LOT of celebrating around here. First, we celebrated six years of this little doll. So grateful for her sweetness and spunk.

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Next up…Samuel’s second birthday. It was a sweet day. Some of my dear friends took me to lunch (Chinese, of course!) and showered me with sweet gifts. A hat for Sammy (see Curious George below) and a necklace for mom. Oh, these girls. Image

An adoptive mom friend shared a suggestion to have a stuffed animal “stand in” for Sammy as we celebrated his birthday so he could see pictures later us celebrating him before he was home. Jason picked out this Curious George when I was pregnant with our oldest and he has received lots of love over the years. He seemed the obvious candidate.

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Another family selfie while we wait for our four to become five.

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Then, the Chinese New Year on January 31! We were invited to join several other families to celebrate. What a fun group…and what a gift to have this awesome little network.

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Next up, NINE! So hard to believe. Such a lovely young lady, inside and out.

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THREE birthdays and a new year in four weeks beginning three weeks after Christmas! Whew!

 

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It’s a Big Day!

Well, I had to hurry up and write that post and tell you we’ve named our boy is Sammy so that today I could tell you,

IT’S SAMMY’S SECOND BIRTHDAY!

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In honor of two years of this precious little one, today we’re kicking off a little “Bring Sammy Home” fundraiser.

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Here are the details:

ADULT (regular fit): $20  Jerzees 50/50 Heavyweight blend t-shirt, color: vintage heather red. See color sample (S-5XL)

LADIES’ FIT: $20 Crew neck, “retail fit”, 52/48 cotton/poly blend, color: heather red. See color sample (S-2XL)

YOUTH: $10  Jerzees 50/50 Heavyweight blend, color: vintage heather red. See color sample (XS-XL)

TODDLER: $10 Gildan 100% cotton, color: red. See color sample (2T-4T)

If you aren’t local or we won’t likely bump into you anytime soon, please include $3 in your donation for shipping.

TO ORDER

Email: sammyshirt2014@gmail.com.

Please include:

  • name
  • address
  • number and sizes of shirts
  • how you will pay (PayPal or check/cash)

Please, oh please, email your order. Don’t comment here or on Facebook. My super-organized friend Michelle is going to be on the other end of that email address making glorious order out of all the names, sizes and payment information. 

The deadline to order is February 15. Shirts will be available by early March.

I’ve dropped a PayPal  button at the bottom of this post. If you prefer to pay by cash or check, that’s cool too. Just ask for a mailing address when you submit your order. (I know. I could have set up an etsy shop or something and made this a million times easier. But I’m not very high-tech and I thought of doing this, like, Monday.)

If you’re like my husband and buy your t-shirts from Walmart for $3.88, don’t consider this a t-shirt, consider it an investment in getting the cutest-ever two-year-old boy home to his family. Oh, and the design…we got 18 pages of information with Sammy’s referral. His favorite toy? Blocks.

If you feel so inclined, share this post. With your friends. Your family. Your mailman. I’m dreaming of a sea of red. A mighty posse surrounding this awesome little dude.

Whaddaya say we get these feet on Kansas soil?

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Pink shoes. I know. There are some rocking blue Converse waiting for him upstairs.

Drumroll, please…

We finally have a name!

He is Samuel Yi Pei Huebner. Sammy for short.

We were just starting to talk about “Samuel” and up popped a text from my mother-in-law: “What about Samuel?” How does she KNOW these things?? Then, a morning last week I whispered a little prayer that God would help us all agree on a name that was right for our son. I sat down at my desk a couple of hours later and glanced at a print a dear friend gave me at the beginning of our adoption journey,

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” 1 Samuel 1:27.

Yes. Yes He has. Samuel it is.

In other news…

Christmas.

Mercy sakes. I have said before that if you are looking to have your life turned inside out and upside down and scrutinized from every angle…try international adoption. Let me add: If you want to feel overwhelming support and blessing and absolutely ridiculous generosity from your people near and far…try international adoption. I hesitate to even share because I’m sure I’ll miss something, but let me try:

  • Precious heartfelt cards from former Challenge students and old family friends with gifts for our adoption tucked inside.
  • A little blanket “just the right size to snuggle with on the plane”
  • Gift cards for “Yi Pei’s new wardrobe”
  • A necklace lovingly fashioned to represent my new role as a mother of three
  • Teddy bears and toys and diapers and our very first Tonka truck
  • A Shanghai travel guide
  • A framed picture of our boy with Proverbs 13:12 printed on it: “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”
  • Another handmade quilt by my super-spy friends who peeked at the little things I have been collecting for his room and came up with the perfect colors and patterns.

 By the end of our Yuletide celebrations, I was speechless. One evening Annalie and I carried Samuel’s loot to his room, she said,

 “He sure has a lot of love coming his way.”

 That is the truth. So. Much. Love. We are surrounded by the very best people.

——————–

 A quick update on our process:

We’re working away on visa applications, grant applications and I’m still dodging the health center where I should be getting my Hepatitis vaccines. We’re cramming the last of our online education hours. We’re reading travel guidelines and packing guidelines and generally have brains filled to overflowing. If pregnancy brain was like a fog, adoption brain is like a black cloak. If you are counting on me for anything in the next couple of months, just…don’t. It’s risky business. I will forget to call you to tell you lunch is at my house, not the house 5 miles in the opposite direction. I’ll forget to feed your dogs. I might even forget to feed my children. If I do remember to start dinner, I’ll toss a pound of frozen ground beef in the in the microwave wrapped in tin foil. Hypothetically.

Canvas Bags, Notebooks and Explosions

I had visions that one day our son would have a detailed, chronological record of the years/months/weeks leading up to his homecoming via my blog. Those dreams are dead. I am detailed and organized in my own way, which is not the way of logging onto a blog and journaling my thoughts daily. And my thoughts…those definitely are not organized. I’ll start with today and who knows! Maybe I’ll work backwards and fill in the (ahem) five-month gap since my last post.

Speaking of my semi-disorganization, a funny adoption tidbit…the other day our social worker called and as we discussed the next step of paperwork, she referred to such and such a form that we filed last April. I told Jason when we got off the phone, “I think she is imagining a scenario in which I have filed all of these very important documents in a three-ring binder like they told us to.” The reality? I have been shoving said documents in an enormous canvas bag thrown next to my desk. However, the flow of paperwork and the canvas-bag-disaster finally wore me down last Friday and I spent two and a half hours last Friday creating this:

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The cover is a picture the biggest sister drew of herself and her little brother flying kites over the Great Wall. Right? That kid. She knows how to provoke mama tears! While we’re talking about that sweet girl, here’s a quote from November 21, 2012. We were getting so close at that point to mailing our “practice” dossier to our agency and as she considered the child we would one day adopt she said,

 “Just imagining him makes me explode with excitement.”

Well, my friends, I have a little secret. We aren’t imagining anymore. We have a name and a face and we are absolutely exploding with excitement!

On Monday morning, November 25 our social worker called to let me know that the CCCWA (China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption) would be updating the “Shared Agency List” that evening. This meant another chance at being matched with a child. We were cautiously hopeful. I expected to hear from our agency the next morning to let us know that either they had a referral for us or didn’t.

At 7:30 p.m., I was getting the girls ready for bed when the phone rang. It was our social worker.

“I have locked a file for you.” As she began telling me about this precious one, I could barely keep a lid on the crazy welling up in me. Jason wasn’t home so I sent him a text that said,

“Two of your children are waiting for you to tuck them into bed. The third is waiting for us in China.”

The next 48 hours were an absolute flurry of activity. Doctor consultations. Praying. Absolute brain numbness as I spent hours spent studying every angle of the sweetest little face. Our letter of intent to adopt our son was officially submitted Thanksgiving morning. Oh, how we were (quietly) rejoicing around our table that day. (We didn’t let the girls or anyone else in on this news until we had approval from China, which came the next week).

Here we our with our signed Letter Seeking Confirmation that oh, yes, we will adopt this precious boy!

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Here are some of the questions I’ve been asked as we’ve shared our news and my answers:

Does he have a name? We will keep his Chinese name (we’ll share later) as his middle name and he will have an English first name. We are currently in deliberations. 🙂 Have you ever tried to name a Chinese male child whose last name will be Huebner with a husband and two daughters? It may be awhile.

How old is he? He will be two years old in January.

Where is he? He is currently living in an orphanage in Shanghai.

Is he healthy? He was born with bilateral cleft lip and palate. He has had two corrective surgeries and is doing very well. He will need to have additional surgeries eventually.

When will you get him? Typically, the wait to travel after receiving a referral is 4-6 months. The process usually goes like this: a family receives the referral of a child, family submits a letter of intent to adopt that child, family waits for a “Pre-Approval” from China to adopt that child. This essentially means they have taken a quick look at the dossier and issued a conditional approval. Then they translate and thoroughly review the dossier over a period of months and issue an official approval. Did the language like “typically” and “usually” tip you off? This is not our timeline. When our social worker logged on anticipating that our pre-approval would be posted, our actual “real deal” official approval had already been posted! Because our dossier arrived in July, the work of translating and reviewing had already been done. We received our official “Letter Seeking Confirmation” (a letter from China that we sign and return stating we commit to adopting this child) from China week before last. The time between receiving this letter and traveling to China is usually between two and a half and four months! We have moved into the fast lane and could be packing our bags by March!

How many times will you have to travel to China? Just once. China’s policy only requires one trip.

How long will you be gone? Approximately two weeks.

Are the girls excited? Unbelievably. Their joy when we told them was almost too much for my heart to hold. We have had so much fun celebrating together. We are doing our best to continue to help them anticipate their brother’s homecoming realistically. They know it will be a big transition for all of us and that he will very likely have a hard time adjusting to life in a family in a place where everything is so unfamiliar. We’d love for you to join us in praying about that.

How are you doing money-wise? We are doing okay but we have a long way to go. We are over halfway there. The good news is that we can begin applying for grants now that we have a referral. We will be working diligently at this over the next several weeks. We’d love prayer for this as well.

How can we pray?

• Financial provision

• Productivity in the many preparations that need to be made (completing 12 hours of adoption education, reading books, completing visa applications and various other paperwork, etc.)

• Jason and I will be taking a couple of days in January for a mini-marriage/family retreat. Pray that God will give us vision and wisdom for this transition in our family.

• As I mentioned above, please pray that as we prepare ourselves, we will also be actively preparing our girls for the challenges they may face emotionally after their brother’s homecoming.

Well over a year ago I stumbled across this quote,

“Our willingness to wait reveals the value we place on the object we’re waiting for.” (Charles Stanley)

While I wouldn’t label our boy an “object”, I have kept this in mind during those hard seasons of waiting. I have been fully convinced all along that this process would speed up or slow down according to the will of our sovereign and wise Father. We have had our share of slowing and are rejoicing now that it seems He has accelerated us. We have tried to wait well, but boy am I glad it’s almost over.

In lieu of a Christmas card from the Huebners (#notimeforthat), look for us in your mailboxes in the Spring when there will be five faces on our photo greeting. Thanks for journeying with us!

**I won’t be sharing his picture here. We’d love to share in person if our paths cross though!**

The Best Excuse Ever to Buy Rusty Buckets

I have several adoption updates! And today I am going to give you…none of those. I have another pressing commitment that requires me to have my hands in spray paint and hot glue and piles and piles of your grandma’s cast-off fabrics. Until Saturday. Then I’ll load you up on adoption news.

In the meantime…those of you who know me well (and have been in my house) know I love all things junky/vintage/repurposed. Something decorative in my home is infinitely more likely to have been pulled from behind a 30 year old Tupperware at Goodwill than purchased new at…well, anywhere. A couple of summers ago, my family and I walked into the condo we were staying in for the week. My brother-in-law commented about a gas station sign that was hanging over the doorway. My mom remarked, “Lisa will love it. It’s OLD.” Jason teases me that I will drive for hours, dig through dust and trash and then PAY for “rusty buckets”. Six days a week I drag my sleepy bones out of bed with the effort of Big Brutus (Hey, SEK!). Saturdays? I spring out of bed, purse/garage sale list/banana in hand and thrill in my heart like a 6:30 a.m. rockstar.

Needless to say, when I heard about an event to be held this summer called Vintage Treasure Market, I was a thousand times in. A day devoted to bringing people to Emporia to buy junk? A deadline for wrapping up my ever-growing “pile it in the basement and get to it someday projects”? A chance to raise funds for this journey of love we are on to our precious little one? YES!

Somewhere along the way, I convinced three women more talented than me (And taller! For real!) to join. These three paved the way for me in preparing my husband to live in a state of eternal craftiness. My mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law have spent collective weeks this summer creating more beauty than I could shake a stick at and they are donating it all to the HBF! (that’s Huebner Baby Fund). We have been texting each other photos for weeks as we cross projects off our lists and I am pumped to see it all in one location when they roll into town Friday. So, so grateful to these ladies for their hard work and giant hearts.

Here’s a sneak peek…

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If you are in the area on Saturday, come by Flinthills Mall between 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. I’ve seen a little snapshot of some of the other vendors and it’s going to be GREAT! I guarantee lots of rusty buckets.

A Minister and Stay-At-Home-Mom Take on An (Insanely Expensive) International Adoption

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Are you out of your minds? A little bit.

One of my purposes in blogging about our adoption is to debunk some of the myths and misunderstandings that surround adoption, one of them being:

“We can’t afford it.”

Here’s how it has worked for us. God started stirring our hearts toward adoption. We pursued adoption through the foster system. We didn’t even consider international adoption initially because, well, see the title of this post. When we had wrapped up our training classes with the foster agency, we felt unsettled about our next steps. We believe that we will be involved in foster care at some point in the future but—for a variety of reasons—that was not the answer for this season. So…what then?

One September evening in 2011 I was folding laundry and listening to a John Piper podcast (maybe I’ll post the link in another five weeks when I find it). I can’t even explain what happened in me that night other than to say God enabled faith in me that He could provide the funds for an international adoption.

This sounds so pleasant and light and easy. But, hello? I am not one who bleeds faith when it comes to our finances. I operate more along these (bizarre, twisted) lines:

• I have a categorical mental list of the employers/contacts I will call to secure employment in the (horrendously unfortunate) event that my husband is hit by a bus.

• I have been known to launch full-on marital warfare when my dear husband (horror of horrors) USES THE DEBIT CARD to buy a six-pack of Dr. Pepper to accompany his lunch instead of using my neat and tidy categorical cash envelope labeled “FOOD”. I mean, we can all agree that this sort of oversight will surely be the beginning of our absolute financial ruin.

• During the last year of Jason’s seminary education, we agreed he should quit his part-time job in order to focus on his coursework and complete his internship. Then I got pregnant. THEN, I nagged/harped/freaked all the way out until he found a job—ANY JOB—despite the fact that I was earning a good (and sufficient) salary. The resulting part-time employment, by the way, resulted in a 45 minute drive north of our home and back again through rush-hour traffic—for a three hour stint of work each day. Perhaps not cost effective in the end. Go figure.

All of this to say, I am more a girl who likes to cover her bases. When I say that God “enabled faith in me,” this is no small thing. He has a funny way of doing things to make sure the lesson is crystal clear.

Like the summer we bought our first home. I had been working 20 hours a week, had an infant, and we were up to our necks in new ministry. I was spread…a little thin. I started to realize that most conversations I had with my husband were over my shoulder as I finished up a work project at my desk when he dragged in the door after being out with students until who knows when. Around that time, I felt God’s gentle nudge to give up my job for a time. So I did. And here’s how it worked out:

My last day of employment: June 30, 2006.

We closed on our first home: July 1, 2006.

It didn’t make sense to me, but it all worked out. We were fine. More than fine. And our marriage and family benefited from me not wearing twelve hats during that season.

Fast-forward five years to this John Piper “God can do it” sermon (September 2011). I finished listening, Jason got home and I said, “I think we can adopt internationally. I believe God will provide.” (Though I won’t deny listing exactly how many years of income I was earning as an independent marketing contractor and which specific cutbacks this would require. Old habits die hard, man.). So there you have it. We’d start praying about international adoption.

Eighteen hours later, I refreshed my email on the way out the door to our Collegiate Fall Conference. I had a message from the company I contract with that went something like this:

“The company has restructured. Basically everything we have outsourced to you will now be done in house. But you’re great! And we’ll continue to use you whenever we can.”

Seriously. The. Next. Day.

The paint wasn’t even dry on the “Okay, God. We’re all in!” banner and God was rearranging my plans! It seemed He had a different means for funding this adoption.

And what was/is that, exactly? It hasn’t (so far!) been a windfall of cash. I absolutely wouldn’t be opposed to that (Are we clear on that, Lord?) but I see how this bit-by-bit, financial piecing together is doing big things for my faith. I’m depending on Him and eyes wide open to see which avenue He’ll use next. A few examples so far…

• The first quarter after that email from my employer was my biggest-earning quarter in my four years as a freelancer. “We have no work for you,” turned into “We have so much work for you, you’ll beg for mercy.” And while my workload isn’t consistently what it used to be, we have been able to tuck away some money nearly every month from that source.

• He has inspired generosity in other people. We have been given a few financial gifts from those near and dear to us. This has been wind in our sails when the process has been overwhelming and the dollar signs daunting. It has been a financial blessing, but more importantly, it has blessed our souls in ways we can’t describe to think that others would want to be part of this call of God on our family.

• Some people we know who own a local business. One of these (precious, beautiful) people and I have recently become friends and she knew about our adoption journey. We enlisted these folks to do a project for us in the spring.A few weeks after the work was finished we received the invoice. I opened it and scanned down the page for the labor charge. In the far right column was a big “0.00” and the words “We know you are saving for your child. Hope this helps a little.”

• Per China’s regulations, we each had to have a psychological evaluation. Not only was that as much fun as it sounds, it’s expensive. Even though I shopped around and found a place that was less than half the price we were first quoted, it was still going to be a lot of cash. We were warned by our social worker and the mental health center that our insurance company would almost certainly NOT cover the evaluations. I called our insurance representative at one point to ask but this is such a unique situation she wasn’t able to give me a clear answer…her guess was no. This morning, I logged onto our insurance website to check something unrelated and was blown away to discover our insurance had covered 80 percent of our evaluations.

We’re so not “there” yet. Fundraisers. Grant applications. Saving. Sacrifice. We have miles to go. I guess I could wait until it’s all wrapped up, our child is home and our bills are all paid to tell you all the ways God provided, but what fun is that? I think I know where this is headed…and I’d like to share it all with you along the way.

So here I am (Me! The cash envelope freakazoid), believing that the God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills, the One who called us to this crazy journey to begin with will keep writing the checks—and probably in a way that keeps me on my knees and the edge of my seat looking for His goodness day by day.

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QUICK UPDATE – We have our appointment to be fingerprinted with USCIS! We’ll go to Wichita next Wednesday, which is—conveniently—the first day of summer vacation so we’re planning to squeeze in a zoo trip and friend time while we’re there. Whee!

Dossier…BOOM!

My April self is ever-so-grateful to my November self! All that work we did for the second part of the application for our agency in the Fall made the dossier process a piece of cake! We received instructions for our dossier on Monday, March 25 and had all the documents in place and ready to mail one week later. The documents should arrive at our agency today. Even though our part is done, our dossier can’t be mailed to China for awhile. We are still waiting for final approval of our home study. Once we have the completed home study, we can mail off our I-800A application (Determination of Suitability to Adopt a Child from a Hague Convention Country). Then comes fingerprinting with Citizenship and Immigration Services. Once our fingerprints clear and our I-800A application is approved,  then our agency can mail our dossier. It will likely be a couple more months. This is the part where we get really good at used to waiting. In the meantime, we’ll see how many cheesy photos we can amass of our eager anticipation :).

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Of Police Departments and Good Friday

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This morning the hubs and I went to our local police department to obtain letters stating that neither of us has a criminal record. I was sort of dreading this task, anticipating a little bit of headache given that perhaps they don’t many requests like these (and because I was going to have to ask them to print it on department letterhead, type our full legal names, sign and notarize the letters, ensure that the notary’s commission wouldn’t expire in the next 9 months, etc., etc.). It turned out to be no big deal at all. They had it finished in about 10 minutes and we were on our way. Another baby step.

When I got home I put a cartoon on for the munchkin and pulled out my bible to read the account of Jesus’ last days on earth. It gets me every time. His humility, his humanity, his obedience. A perfect life offered willingly for hearts (mine included) that would turn away from Him again and again. I will never get over it.

Unspeakably grateful today for His death…and His victory over it…that I could have “No Record” forever stamped on my soul.

Ready, set…dossier!

Today we begin collecting and updating documents for our dossier. (Lisa’s definition: Every document imaginable to be sent to China to prove we are financially, medically and psychologically fit to adopt). Our agency requires a trial run of sorts as the second phase of the application process so we spent 5-6 weeks in the fall compiling documents.  Hopefully this will help the dossier process to go smoothly.

When I told our oldest that I was starting a blog about our adoption and asked what I should tell people, she said,

“Adoption is not just work. It’s happiness!”

A good reminder!

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We have kind of big news.

I reserved this blog address in OCTOBER. It’s March. I guess I have been looking for some super captivating, eloquent way of letting you know that…

We are adopting.

From China.

And, oh, are we excited!

We hope you’ll follow us on this journey. Check in on us. Pray for us. We’d love to have you along for the ride!