Wow. It's finally happening. I was seriously beginning to think I was stuck...like I would never get the call. But it came - sort of. Ha!
Just before the holidays I got a call from my agency about a 3-year-old little boy who is in need of a family. A boy, you guys. It wasn't an "official referral" call - that will come soon. This was just a notification that they are planning to match us. They wanted me to know so that I could change some things before the official call: He is a little outside of my "approved" age range and has some specific needs that I will have to add to my Home Study and immigration paperwork. He. A three-year-old little guy. Can you believe it? I still cannot!! I don't know his name, or much of his story, but I know he's waiting.
This Christmas was magic. For the last 3 years Mercy has gotten tons of wonderful gender neutral toys and generous gift cards, but this year was different. This year, the gift tags on his presents said "Our Little Man" and "Benefield Boy". He got trucks and trains and boy clothes and it was so much fun! This kid is so, so loved.
Now, it's the in-between time. This little one has had all the paperwork filed in South Africa for him to become adoptable internationally. It's sitting on a judge's desk until the federal holidays there end - around January 10. Even then, I don't know how many cases are before his - there is likely a slight backlog from the vacation. Because the case is still pending, I almost kept this news to myself until everything was for sure - but I just couldn't. So many of you have been on this wild ride with me for so long, and I wanted to share what I know with you, so that we can continue to journey together. Your support has sustained me.
WHAT'S NEXT: My agency told me to expect to get the official referral call sometime at the end of this month or in early February. More waiting that I was not anticipating, but I'm trying to count it as a blessing - more time to prepare! If you pray, please pray that there would be no delay in his case and that all would go smoothly over the next few months of government filings and bureaucratic hoops both here and in South Africa.
After the official call, I will have some time to look over his full case file and learn all that they know about him and his life until this point. I have SO many questions...all the ones that can be answered will be answered at that time.
After I officially accept his referral, there will be about 8-12 weeks before my mom and I travel to South Africa, then 6-7 weeks in country to complete the adoption and get his passport. I'm very much looking forward to my time getting to know my son in South Africa. I am so glad we will have an extended time together before traveling back to the US. I should travel to South Africa in April or May, but seriously, if I've learned one thing in the last 3+ years, it's that I cannot hold tightly to a timeframe. Geez.
In this in-between time, I need your help.
First of all, even though I truly believe that bringing this little guy into my family is the best long-term solution for him (as he cannot stay where he is), I feel an enormous amount of guilt for the act of taking him from all he's ever known and bringing him half-way around the world. The trauma that act will inflict kills me. I know it's for a greater good, but I lay awake dreading the pain in his little heart and the fear he will feel. Please join me in praying for him to have a peace that passes understanding, quick attachment and moments of joy in the midst of grieving. For me, I need wisdom to meet his needs while we are getting to know one another and endless buckets of love and empathy.
Financially, I only HAD about $7500 left to raise for the adoption expenses before I moved to Texas. Having to re-do my Home Study and immigration paperwork set me back an additional $5000. Not the best timing, but I'm really not complaining! So, I need to raise/make/save an additional $12,500. Whew. That's a big number. But I started out needing nearly $40,000!
FLIP THE FLAG:
I came up with an idea to raise some funds that I'm calling Flip the Flag. Here's the idea: I've hung 100 flags in Little Man's room. The flags are each numbered 1-100. To give to the fundraiser, choose a flag number and you'll donate that amount (for example if you choose flag number 65, you'll give $65). After I receive your donation, I will flip your flag over and write your name (or a note from you) on the other side. Access the Flip the Flag Fundraiser here: chasingmercy.com NOTE: If you wish to add a short message for him during checkout - you'll see the word "MESSAGE" and a text box on the Cart page - you can type a note there.
After the fund raiser is complete, not only will I be well on my way to getting him home, but when he comes home, he will have 100 reminders in his room of those who already love him, want him, and lift him up. Let's do this!
*If you would like to give more than the amount on your flag, you can simply add the "Give More" product to your cart and choose an additional amount you'd like to donate. Thank you all so much!
"Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness" - Desmond Tutu
When I started this process more than 2 years ago, other adoptive parents told me that "the waiting" was the hardest part. Honestly, I thought the year-of-paperwork was the hardest part...until I got to the waiting. There is a distinct and deafening silence in the waiting. It's there when I wake up and when I go to sleep. It's there when people ask me how the process is going. It's there when I pray for Mercy. It's ever-present and it's hard to live in "the waiting" for so long.
Thankfully there is one other ever-present thing in my life, as well "God is our refuge and strength. An ever-present help in trouble." Psalm 46:1.
After all this time and preparation, I finally have some news to share: I'm third. There are two families, who turned in their dossier (paperwork) before me, who are waiting to be matched with a child. Two. And I'm third.
So what does this mean in terms of timing? I'm not sure. No one is. Sometimes South Africa will have 4-5 kids approved for international adoption in one day, and sometimes they will go 2 months without any approvals. It's still all up in the air. But it IS getting closer!
A lot of people have been asking about what happens when I finally get THE call. Here is a quick synopsis:
1. My agency will match me with a child and I will have 24-48 hours to officially accept the referral of that child. During this short time period, I will talk with my family and communicate with a pediatrician who specializes in international adoption. If all goes well, I will accept! Because the child will meet all of the criteria that I laid out in my dossier, there should be no problem accepting the referral.
2. After I officially accept the match, I have to file some additional paperwork with the US Department of Immigration to bring my specific child into the USA. Simultaneously, the case workers in South Africa will request a court date to finalize the adoption there. This could take anywhere from 8-12 weeks.
3. Once my immigration paperwork is approved and the court date is set, I will travel to South Africa and finally meet Mercy! I will travel there about 2 weeks before the court date so that I can get to know him/her before I take custody.
4. After the court date, we will officially be a family. But I will have to remain in South Africa for another 4-5 weeks until Mercy's new passport is issued. After we obtain the passport, we can come back to the US. The total time in South Africa is normally 6-7 weeks. My Mom will be accompanying me. Yay!
If you're interested in praying, here are some things that are currently heavy on my heart:
- Courts in South Africa are closed during the holidays (mid-December through January). The time from when I'm matched until the end of the process, when I get Mercy's passport, is quite long (14-19 weeks). So, if I'm not matched pretty soon, I will not be able to travel to South Africa until February of next year. Please pray that I am matched soon, that the immigration filing is completed efficiently and that a court date is set quickly. It would be wonderful to have Mercy home for Christmas.
- I am saving as much money as I can and I am planning a local fundraiser in the near future. But, if God lays it on your heart to give, you can make a donation at Pure Charity or you can contact me directly at email@example.com.
- I have been learning a lot about how to help Mercy recover (emotionally, physically and socially) from everything that will have happened in his/her short life. I have also been learning about the best way to raise a black child (as a white mom) in order to instill in Mercy a positive sense self worth. Lastly, I have been researching how I can help Mercy connect deeply with me (and others) after living in an institutional setting. Please pray that I will be able to recall and implement all that I have learned.
- More importantly, please pray that I would have endless love, empathy and compassion for Mercy from the moment we meet.
Thank you all so much!
*Some of you have asked why I am no longer selling coffee. Earlier this year I ran out of coffee, shipping boxes and bags. Because of the quantity I would have to buy of all of these products, it would cost me close to $1,000 to replenish all that I need. Since the final stage of the adoption is imminent (hopefully), I am not going to risk purchasing all the supplies I need, then not being able to recoup the cost of the supplies or make a profit.
This week I received a letter from Show Hope. I had applied for an Adoption Assistance Grant through them a few months ago. I could tell when I picked up the envelope that there was only one piece of paper inside. My heart immediately sank. If I had received a grant, wouldn't the envelope be thicker? While gathering the rest of my mail and walking back inside I thought "It's ok. I will be able to raise the funds. This was a long shot, anyway". But, as I sat down and opened the letter, I spotted the word rejoice...
"On behalf of Show Hope and the donors who make our grants possible, we rejoice with your family as you step out in faith to experience the miracle of adoption. Thank you for allowing us to be a small part of your adoption process. We are pleased to inform you that you have been awarded an adoption assistance grant in the amount of $4,000..."
Wow. I was floored! I laughed and cried. I was surprised by the depth of emotion I felt. This adoption process has been hard. The approval process is arduous. The paperwork is unreasonably extensive. And the fundraising...the fundraising is a bit uncomfortable and tiresome. But, by far, the hardest part for me has been the wondering and the waiting--the emotional toll. Not knowing how to plan because his/her gender is unknown and the age range is so wide. Not knowing how my little one is being fed and clothed, or if they are experiencing love. Not knowing when I will be matched with Mercy and get to bring him/her home. I am devouring books on adoption, inter-racial adoption, single parenting, parenting an adopted child, attachment parenting and more. Still, sometimes I feel utterly unequipped for this task.
Then, out of the blue, I am awarded $4,000. And my faith is galvanized. Once again I have confirmation and renewed validation. This journey is right. Once again, He is faithful. This process has been the most faith-building experience of my life. And I know that this part of the story is just a fleeting moment, when compared with what's to come.
So far, I have raised/saved $26,884.10. I cannot believe this number. It is a true miracle. Thank you to all of you who have bought coffee or donated your finances in order to get me this far. I am beyond blessed by your generosity.
I have about $10,300 left to raise. Hallelujah! (This number is still huge, but when you start out needing over $37,000, all of the sudden $10k seems attainable.)
I was just informed this week that there will be no more referrals (matches) made in 2015. So it will be sometime after February 2016 that I will be match with Mercy. Please say a prayer for all the children who will be awaiting families during the next few months. Pray that they are safe and healthy and well loved by foster parents and other caregivers.
HOW YOU CAN HELP BRING MERCY HOME:
Buy a LIMITED EDITION T-SHIRT.*
Make a tax deductible DONATION.
Buy some CHASING MERCY COFFEE.
Pray for Mercy: 31 Days of Prayer for Mercy.
*T-shirts are only available through December 2, so buy them NOW! They should arrive just in time for Christmas! (https://www.booster.com/chasing-mercy)
Holiday coffee sales will go though December 14. So order now for all your holiday parties and Christmas gifts.
We're so close, you guys!
It’s my birthday this week, so I can’t help but be a bit reflective about life. Over the past decade I have experienced a wide range of emotions on this day. Some years I have felt really content and satisfied while others have been more pensive and apprehensive about the future. I’m sure you all can relate. But this year I feel like I am busting at the seams in anticipation of the year to come! I’m going to be a mom. As many times as I repeat this phrase to myself, it scarcely seeps in.
There are so many hurdles to overcome, before the reality of motherhood is realized, that I sometimes feel completely bogged down in a paperwork purgatory of sorts. My adoption agency document that explains “How to File a Dossier” is 42 pages long. It’s hard not to feel like I’m on a bureaucratic hamster wheel going no where. Occasionally, I get so overwhelmed by the enormity of it all that I want to do nothing—just forget the paperwork, watch a Hallmark Christmas movie and call it a night.
On those days, I pray. I ask The Lord for motivation. I look for stories and statistics to remind me why I’m pursuing international adoption and I push toward Mercy once again. I look through the list of friends and loved ones who have bought CHASING MERCY coffee, or who have donated to the cause, and I feel empowered to begin anew.
Though I’m mostly working on the dossier by myself, I am not alone by a long shot. Not one day goes by where someone doesn’t ask me how things are going with the adoption. My coworkers at Boot Coffee, friends, family and community at Red Hill Church can hardly wait to meet this precious child of mine—a child that is already so well loved.
Between working full-time, running a weekend coffee roasting business and all this adoption paperwork, I feel like my life isn't my own anymore. And the truth is, it isn't. So much of it already belongs to Mercy. I looked up the word "purgatory" and one definition states "having the quality of cleansing or purifying". Although this is a somewhat tedious time in the adoption process, this stage is teaching me about selflessness, hard work and faith—faith that God can accomplish what I cannot. I'm sure these lessons will be applied in motherhood over and over again.
Though not a ton has technically changed in my status since my last update, here is an update on my paperwork and fundraising goals…
IMMIGRATION DOCUMENTS: Filed, awaiting a response (this often takes 6-8 weeks)
DOSSIER: I’m chipping away at it. I was hoping to finish by the end of the year, but it might be mid-to-late January before it’s complete, notarized, apostilled (state sealed), copied, bound and mailed to South Africa.
FUND RAISING: I have secured about $6905 of the roughly $10,000 due in mid-to-late January at the submission of my Dossier. (All of this notarized paperwork has an expiration date, so it needs to be submitted ASAP)
HOW YOU CAN HELP: Want to make a donation in honor of my birthday? Click here! Every gift, big or small, makes such a big impact. For those of you who want/need to make a tax deductible donation (personal or business) before the end of the year, click here to visit my Pure Charity page.
If you’d like to buy some CHASING MERCY coffee you can click here. It makes a great Christmas gift! My last day to roast before Christmas will be Dec 19, so if you want to place an order, get it in soon. And don’t forget about the pay-as-you-go subscription options. You can get a great bag of coffee (or two or three) delivered right to your door each month for as little as $17.
HOW YOU CAN PRAY: Please pray for continued motivation in the dossier process. That I would fill out everything correctly and it would be filed in a timely manner.
Join me in thanking God for all the generous gifts I have already received! Please pray for donations and coffee purchases to increase as the times draws near to make the next payment.
Most of all, as often as you think of me or CHASING MERCY, please lift up my child who is waiting for a forever home. Please pray that he/she is warm, fed, healthy and loved well. Please ask for The Lord’s protection from abuse, neglect, serious illness and even boredom or lack of stimulation in such an important time of brain development.
Please also ask that God would prepare me for the specific child he has for me, even though there are so many details about their life that I don’t know—He knows.
A HUGE THANK YOU to all of you! Your support is invaluable and cherished!
I am overjoyed to share with you that my Home Study was APPROVED and I am moving on to the next phase in the adoption process! My next steps include applying with US Immigration for "Suitability to Adopt a Child" and completing the infamous "dossier". A dossier is basically a large amount of legal paperwork including financial statements, health records, completed Home Study, fingerprints, background check, birth certificate, etc, etc, etc all notarized and certified and bound and sealed with my blood (not really, but it feels like it). I hope to plow through the rest of the paperwork by the end of the year...though I'm not sure how realistic that goal is.
As I mentioned in my last post, a big part of my final Home Study meeting was deciding on the age range and gender of my little one. We also discussed what physical, emotional, social and developmental "needs" I would accept. Let me tell you, it was so TOUGH. Trying to balance my desires, fears, realistic limitations (as a single parent) and my faith in God felt a lot like walking on a tightrope. From the very beginning of this process I have stated that I wanted to adopt a child that had no other option. So, here's where the rubber met the road. What does that look like on paper? I struggled. I prayed for guidance.
I needed to be realistic (obviously I don't want to get in over my head with lots of medical or emotional issues as the sole bread winner) but The Lord was ever present, reminding me to put faith before fear. In the end, I had the overwhelming feeling that I needed to be as open as I possibly could, while being confident that I could provide what my child needs to thrive. So for gender, I marked "Either". Y'all, I wanted to choose a gender so badly! It's so hard not to be able to plan (even mentally) in that way, but how could I rule out 50% of the children who need a home just because of their gender? I'm open, Lord. Whatever you have in store for me, I'm ready.
For age range, I am approved for up to 36 months. This was a bit higher than I was originally anticipating, but South Africa has a domestic foster care and adoption system in place. It is important to me to adopt a child that wouldn't be adopted domestically (it's more likely that infants would be). So I chose to go up to the 36 month range. My child could fall anywhere between 6 months and 36 months.
There are a couple of things that are on my heart a lot these days. The first is financial. PRAISE GOD that I have the funds that are due at the completion of the Home Study ($5500+)! Thanks to your donations, your purchases through Chasing Mercy Coffee Co and by saving every extra cent over the last several months, I'm in the clear! But I'm pretty much zeroing out my accounts and the next big chunk of fees will be due when I submit the dossier at the end of the year (around $10,000). That is a pretty tight turn around! Again, I am striving to put faith before fear.
The second burden that seems to be ever-present with me these days is the knowledge that my child is likely (assuming they are already born) out there in the world, experiencing life, and I cannot protect them. I can't come running when they cry, feed them when they are hungry, soothe them when they are afraid, wrap them up when they are cold... I go to sleep at night and wake in the morning feeling a bit helpless. Will you join me in praying something over my little one? Will you pray that there is someone in their life who LOVES them. That there is someone who cares about their needs, who is aware that they are vulnerable and is striving to be there when they call? It may be their biological family, a neighbor, an orphanage caregiver...I just pray (almost constantly these days) that they know what love is. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. Amen?
Thank you so much for continuing on this journey with me! As always, if you drink coffee, or know someone who does, please consider buying a bag or two from www.chasingmercy.com.
Over the last several days, I've gotten A LOT of questions about my adoption process! I thought I'd take the time to publicly answer a few of them here...
WHAT LEAD YOU TO ADOPT (NOW)?
If you haven't read my first blog post, you can click here to read it now. It answers this question in broader terms. But for those who want more detail about how I decided to take the plunge, here you go...
As I began feeling a deep calling in my heart to adopt, I decided to start researching to see if international adoption was even a possibility for me (as a single person). After discovering that it was indeed a viable option, I began to read "Adopting on Your Own"...a book written by a single adoptive mom. It's purpose is to make readers think hard (and pray even harder) about this life-changing decision. It really forced me to come to terms with the joys and challenges of becoming a mom.
When I finished that book, and the desire was still strong, I boarded a plane to visit my mom and dad. I wanted to talk to them about this decision face-to-face. I have amazing parents and, for me, their approval was the last personal hurdle towards pursuing adoption. The conversation with my parents was long and deep. We covered everything...insurance coverage, finances, childcare options, personal goals and desires, etc. In the end, they both supported my decision wholeheartedly. I felt affirmed and overjoyed! As soon as I got home I began to contact adoption agencies and...the rest is history.
DO YOU REALLY WANT TO BE A SINGLE MOM?
Although, I do believe that it's best for every child to have a mom and a dad, isn't it better for an orphan to at least have a one parent who loves them beyond measure? I know that I can provide a safe, happy, healthy home for a child who would otherwise be raised in institutional care. So, even though I do still pray that a godly man will come into my life one day, I also know that this is the right path for me.
HAVE YOU BEEN MATCHED WITH A CHILD YET?
No, not yet. I just completed my final Home Study meeting. Once the Home Study is officially "approved", I will complete a LOT MORE governmental paperwork (in order to file something called a dossier). Once ALL the paperwork is filed and sent to South Africa, I will wait 6-18 months for a referral (to be matched with my child).
DO YOU KNOW THE GENDER? WHAT AGE WILL HE/SHE BE?
During the final Home Study meeting, I communicated my age and gender preferences to my social worker. Those preferences will be officially approved, or it will be determined that they need to be altered, in the next week or so. International Adoption requires a lot of flexibility! I should know something definitive in the next couple of weeks.
WILL HER NAME BE MERCY?
Maybe. If I have a daughter, I might name her Mercy. I haven't decided yet :) For now, I'm just using MERCY as a placeholder until I know more.
WHAT'S YOUR TIMELINE?
I'm hoping to file all the paperwork (dossier) by the end of this year. Then, it's anyone's guess! Could be June, could be December. Could be the following June. Sigh.
WHAT AGENCY ARE YOU USING?
Bethany Christian Services
WHERE'S ALL THE 'CHASING MERCY' MONEY GOING?
As most of you have probably heard, international adoption is quite expensive. Including travel, agency fees, USA government fees and South African government fees, the cost can reach upwards of $35,000. I better keep roasting coffee, right?! I will also apply for grants and do some additional fund raisers in the coming year. This process is definitely faith-building!
WHAT WILL YOU DO IF YOU DON'T MAKE ENOUGH MONEY?
Other than saving every penny I can, there are also some low APR loans available especially for the purpose of adoption. However, that would be my last resort. I would love to have some money in my savings account (and no loan to pay off) when he/she arrives, if possible.
WHAT WILL YOU DO IF YOU MAKE "TOO MUCH" MONEY?
This would be an awesome problem to have! If I make more than I need, there are a few additional expenses I would put the money toward. One of those expenses is an extremely thorough medical assessment by a very specialized International Adoption Clinic at Children's Hospital in Oakland, CA.
This assessment would include a pre-adoption & post-adoption evaluation of his/her general health, social & physical development, and nutritional needs. The clinic also offers a recommended treatment plan for future care. This whole "package" costs about $2000 and would be an invaluable resource!
WHY SOUTH AFRICA?
There are a lot of reasons. Since traveling to Malawi, Africa nearly two decades ago, I knew I wanted to adopt from that beautiful continent. There is a great need in sub-saharan Africa, so that factored in to my decision. But mostly, I fell in love with the rich culture! South Africa has such a tragic, yet brilliantly resilient history. Some of the biggest heroes of our earthly existence have come out of South Africa: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. I hope that my child will feel extremely proud and honored to be South African! I look forward to learning more about their culture, food, music, art...
WILL YOU HAVE TO TRAVEL TO SOUTH AFRICA?
Yes! A month or two after I receive a referral (i.e. I'm matched with my child), I will travel to South Africa in order to complete the necessary legal steps to bring him/her home! I will be there for a few weeks. I cannot wait for that time to come!!
I hope this gives you all a little more insight into my journey and what my next steps are. I feel so blessed to have so many supportive friends and family during this time! As always, if you'd like to purchase coffee from CHASING MERCY, click here. I just launched a Pay-As-You-Go Subscription option for those who would like to subscribe, but without upfront costs. Every order counts!
If you'd like to make a Tax Deductible Donation, I set up a Pure Charity fund here.
"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, LOVE MERCY & walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8
It's true! I'm adopting a child from South Africa and I am overjoyed!! I realize that this could come as a shock to some, but it shouldn't. Here's why...
Did you know that there are 60 million orphans in the world today? And 15 million children have been orphaned in sub-saharan Africa by AIDS alone.
WHY INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION?
Although I firmly believe that our global "first priority" should be to keep every family intact-- and when that fails, the second goal should be to keep a child in his or her own country/culture -- some cases call for more extreme action. Literally millions of orphans are living with (and dying from) treatable diseases, malnutrition, abuse and neglect. There simply aren't enough local organizations or families who can provide adequate care for all of these children. I have opened myself to adopting an older child and one with some special needs. My goal is to be a mom for a child who wouldn't otherwise be adopted in South Africa.
For a long time, I have been giving financially to organizations that are working with orphans and family preservation, and I will continue to do so. But, in the last several months my heart has been overtaken by the desire to do more.
AND HERE'S THE HONEST TRUTH...
Although I do believe I have a responsibility to help, I am not motivated by pity or duty. It's love and hope that lead the way. I cannot wait to be a mom. I am at the beginning of this process and I am already more emotionally ready than I have ever been ...more compassionate, more sensitive, more aware of God's work in my life. I know he is preparing me for this extremely challenging yet endlessly rewarding phase of adoption and motherhood.
I have no doubt that international adoption is the right decision for me.
In order to offset the (rather daunting) costs of international adoption, I have started a coffee company called CHASING MERCY. If you are interested in GREAT coffee, hand-roasteded by yours truly, check it out through the links above. Or just click here. If you'd like to make a tax deductible donation, click here instead.
I will be posting more in the coming weeks about my decision, what the future holds and my progress. (For those of you who are familiar with the adoption process, I'm nearing the end of the Home Study phase).
If you have any questions, please send them my way! For now, I'll leave you with this...
"And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly, love mercy & walk humbly with your God." Micah 6:8