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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Victory for the Pocketbooks

A victory has been won (at least for one year anyway) on the front of the financing adoptions war.

Everyone knows that, unfortunately, adoption costs a lot of money. Adoptive Parents often battle with their budgets to make way for their beloved children.

Our government offers an Adoption Tax Credit as an incentive for families to adopt. That tax credit was in danger of disappearing.

Now, President Obama has extended the Adoption Tax Credit for another year. To which we cheer Hooray!

You can read about how the adoption tax credits have been extended for one year HERE

Monday, March 29, 2010

On the Dotted Line

A long time ago, Dustin and I told the Lord that if there was no one to be found in Ethiopia to parent A* then a couple, half a world away, would be more than willing; they'd be HONORED!

Dustin and I began this process over eight months ago and WE WILL NEVER STOP. God has made our foreheads like stone in this matter.

After MANY delays in obtaining the necessary paperwork, it is our pleasure to announce that Dustin and I officially cast our lots with A*. While our hearts had already been surrendered to him, we were finally able to sign on the dotted line. YES, YES, YES! We WILL be his parents.

Referral officially accepted!

Because I know you're probably wondering, the time line looks as follows:

  • 1-2 weeks for dossier to be sent to Ethiopia.

  • 4-8 weeks until court

  • After a successful court date (it could take a few attempts) a US immigration investigation will begin which could take anywhere from 2-3 months to complete.

  • All this does not take into consideration any delays we might encounter for A*'s visa waiver.

Beside The Tracks. Not On Them.

When I was little our family lived near train tracks for a while. I have fond memories of those trains and have written about them before.

Recently, while I was drifting off to sleep I began to imagine standing in the middle of train tracks, just as I had done as a little girl.

After a time a large train rounded a corner and was visibly charging down the railway towards me. The name of the engine was Desire No. 6 and it was pulling boxcars loaded with my Sin.

The train was enormous and the force of it barreling down the tracks made the ground quiver. Each of its clanks against the track sent shocks running up my legs.

It seemed impossible to me that something so massive and heavy laden could travel at such speeds, for each boxcar was engorged by its dreadful contents.

I watched mesmerized as the train swiftly drew closer; my certain death approaching. Destruction made haste by leaps and bounds.

If there had been a moment when I could have escaped the oncoming danger it was past. Suddenly terror was upon me. I was frozen in place with no hope of escape.

Just like in cartoons, the train was personified; howling and sputtering insults and curses. It appeared vicious and furious; lurching forward like a wave ready to wash over me and leave no traces of life behind.

The very next image in my mind was that of a platform at a train station. I didn't see Him do it, but I knew deep in my heart that Jesus had picked me up and instantly removed me from harm's way. I suddenly found myself beside the train and no longer in front of it.

The engine's course would not/could not, be altered. But mine could.

With toes very near the edge of the platform I watched as the enemy engine sped right by, mere inches from the tip of my nose. Following closely behind were innumerable cantankerous clanking boxcars.

Yes, I stood close by that massive enemy, yet at a very safe distance -- a world away, really.

I relished the company of my Savior by my side while, together, we watched the cars roll by, one after another. We stood close enough that the breeze from their passing rustled my hair and my dress.

Some dread of the train still remained for me, for it was very much as odious as always. But what could it do to me now? Jesus reminded me with only a glance and a smile that trains can only follow their tracks. It mattered not how close by I stood, my enemy could no longer touch me.

I watched there a long time.

Even when I had tired of watching the cars continued without number. This was a very long train indeed. It would be some time before the caboose would make it's way through.

I was tired of the racket and longed for the peace of the train's passing. I wondered how much longer we'd have to endure.

Jesus showed me the railway schedule. The time hadn't come yet.

But it would be very soon.

This train has only one destination. It won't be coming back through again.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Redo.

Our dossier (starring in the above photo) arrived at AWAA's corporate office Friday morning. Our Family Coordinator (FC) called that same day and said our Power of Attorney paper had a few different dates on it, and there was a possibility the State Department would reject it.

So, on Friday, Dustin and I ran around town getting another POA notarized, certified at the Secretary of State, and then we overighted it back to AWAA again. It should arrive Monday first thing morning. In time for them to have it couriered over to the State Department.
I know our FC is as anxious as we are to get out dossier to Addis Ababa. It's nice to feel like we're always on her radar screen. She's been with us every step of the way as we've encountered all these delays.

Friday, March 26, 2010

FUNdraiser Friday: Adopt Africa Couture on Etsy

Our family had the pleasure of traveling with this lovely lady and her wonderful husband to pick up our children together Christmas of 2008. Now the Burks are back in the saddle for adoption round two. I'd love nothing more than to help them raise some funds.

You've got to check out the adorable items in their etsy shop:

favorites are the Africa elephant and the Africa cupcake onesies.

*Every week I highlight a fundraising effort of a family who is adopting. There's always a parade of wonderful items. It's a fun way to shop from the comfort of your home AND help unite children with their forever families.

If you'd like to have your fundraiser featured email me with the details.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Out The Door

Apparently all I needed to do was write a creepy letter to our mail carrier..... because guess what she brought me today?

Our police clearance letter arrived.

We immediately walked right out the door and shipped off our dossier.

It should be to AWAA's corporate office Friday morning.


Thank you, Jesus!

Hey, Yooooooou!!!!

Hi there, Mail Carrier Lady!!!

Sorry, did I scare you?...

Listen, I gotta cut to the chase, here. I want you to understand that I will be stalking you for a couple days.

It's nothing personal, don't worry!

You might feel awkward, and there may be times you'll feel like crying. TRUST me I understand. Totally.

There's just this paperwork thingy. I need it REAL BAD. It has to do with a boy in Ethiopia. Yea, he's my son and I'm trying to get him home.

The last stupid piece of paper I need should be coming ANY day now. You're the one bringing it (lucky YOU!) so that means all my anxious energy is going to be directed toward you for a little bit. Okay?

Good news is, the letter is coming from Tucson so it really shouldn't take that long.

Once it gets here I promise I'll start acting normal again. And I'll even begin to smile at you once more.


The Crazy Lady who waits by the mailbox for you every day

PS- see you tomorrow =)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Approaching the Finish Line

Last Saturday I received an email from AWAA telling me that only one of our police clearance letters had made it to their office. (Well, hasn't that been the trend for our family!? Like it was going to happen any other way, right?) Our Family Coordinator had my letter, but Dustin's was missing in action.

I was dreading this mistake taking another 2+ weeks to be sorted out. Thankfully, our Family Coordinator went to bat for us yesterday and convinced the County Attorney's Office to allow us drive to Mesa and pick up Dustin's police clearance letter.

Strange thing was the County Attorney's Office didn't have a copy of my letter in their file.

(Who knows who else in the court system has mine!? They are a mess over there right now since the commissioner who used to handle these cases retired and his replacements are splitting the case load between what seems to be two or three offices. Oh, so efficient!)

So, as things stand now, AWAA is mailing my original police clearance letter, which they received at their office in Tucson, to us here. And, Dustin's letter is in our possession now.

People, our dossier is locked and loaded! I just need the mailman to bring me my clearance letter and I can kiss that sucker goodbye.

I cannot wait to get that pile of paper outta my hands.

We *should* have a court date on the books before April is up.

Do I dare get my hopes up that this was the last of our hurdles to surmount in bringing A* home?

Yea, I don't think I'll go that far...... but just being here feels pretty wonderful. That's enough for today.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Giveaway WINNER

We have a winner for our Cheap Family Fun Giveaway...

Amy Smith, You were chosen at random to receive 2 Ethiopia decals. Just email me at with your mailing address and I'll get those out to you in a snap.

Thanks to everyone who played along. I LOVED your ideas!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

FUNdraiser: Cute Handmade Greeting Cards

I was browsing blogs and came across some really cute handmade cards. The Mowen's are raising funds for their adoption.

Go check out Tara's beautiful handmade greeting cards!

PS- Once a week I'd like to highlight some FUNdraisers here at my blog. If you're trying to raise funds for an adoption send me an email with your information and I'll post it here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Cheap Family Fun Giveaway

In preparation for school letting out in a few months I was hoping to get some ideas from people about what their favorite summer family activities are.

There's a catch though.

These activities need to cost $20 or less. Free is even better for our budget now that we're likely going to need to travel to Addis Ababa twice before A* comes home for good. The activities can be anything from kid friendly food recipes, to a game, or a craft idea.

So, I'm having a little contest to help spur on creativity. Whoever leaves a comment with their best fun, CHEAP! activity will be entered into a drawing for my first ever bloggy giveaway. A randomly selected winner will get two free Ethiopia decals.

Entrants need to leave their comment by Sunday March 21st at 9:00 PM. I'll draw the winner Monday the 22nd at 9AM.

Hopefully we'll have a summer's worth of fun things for our families to do that won't break the bank.

I know my children thank you very much for your entries!

What's the Point?

I read this article by Albert Mohler and was really intrigued. It wasn't so much Glenn Beck or his inflammatory statements I found interesting. Instead, I saw Mohler expressing a concern which I have been wrestling with lately myself.

It was this statement of his which caught my eye:

"The last century has seen many churches and denominations embrace the social gospel in some form, trading the Gospel of Christ for a liberal vision of social change, revolution, economic liberation, and, yes, social justice. Liberal Protestantism has largely embraced this agenda as its central message."

"The urgency for any faithful Christian is this -- flee any church that for any reason or in any form has abandoned the Gospel of Christ for any other gospel."

There are many people being turned on to the idea of adoption, and I couldn't be happier; but my heart wants to know that the messages they are hearing about what adoption is all about is built on a solid foundation. I want people to understand clearly Who our deeds are pointing to and why we should be doing them.

I have lately been concerned at the recruiting tactics taken by some adoptive families and those who would seek to be "orphan advocates." Sometimes when I listen closely to what people are saying, I walk away with more questions than answers. Usually I find myself asking one thing: "What's the point?" Or, more specifically, "WHO is your point?"

Oh there is no shortage of causes. All of them good. Disasters in other countries, food for the hungry, books for underprivileged students, homes for orphans. There's hardly a Christian I know who isn't involved in some sort of campaign for social change. (I don't say that to be mocking at all. I count myself among them)

But could something be twisting and warping within us? Are we leaving something behind?

We were commanded to make disciples of Jesus NOT disciples of this cause or that cause.

A wise friend once counseled me that when we seek to bring comfort to those in need, whether they be starving from hunger, sleeping in the dirt, or widows and orphans without someone to comfort them, everything we do MUST point back to Jesus. The Lord Jesus should be the purpose behind our motives and our actions. It should be His glory that motivates us.

I am afraid that Christians in the adoption/orphan care community are in danger of falling into a snare.

There is so much to labor over. There is no shortage of work for hands willing to feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and hold orphaned children. Many people who have sold out to the cause struggle and fight against the apathy others. Many weep bitter tears of loneliness wondering where the workers are.

I understand that.

But sometimes all this work leads to a tendency to kick things into overdrive. Once we're operating in autopilot it's easy to become resentful. With resentment the door to our heart is easily opened at the knock of our inner Martha and her prideful spirit. Once we give way to that prideful striving spirit, all of a sudden it's easier to fall into other traps laid by pride- that artful and crafty foe of ours.

What was that about our left and right hand? How would that apply to someone who has attached their name to this or that cause? (no matter how small or how large it may be) Especially when there is so much public awareness to raise, so many people to see what is being done so they can join in. (That IS the motive behind what we're doing.... right?) How difficult does it become to separate what is truly fruitful from what if fluff; what is honoring from what is idolatrous?

If we aren't tripped up by the above, there is never a shortage of food for our pride's hunger.

What about those people who are in the position of need?

Oh they will be ever so grateful. They will love us and bless us. They might think we're really something. And if everyone else believes we're really something maybe we can begin to believe it too? How very minute is the line between acts done in humility and those with ulterior motives. While the two may be worlds apart, I have found that it's far too easy to cross over from the side on humity to the side of vainglory.

God forbid we, the Church, forget to point people to our purpose for being here.

It is so very easy to become self righteous and proud, or to fall into traps of legalism and the sinful curse of "doing". It has been my personal experience that motives are too easily warped.

I don't know about you, but I don't trust myself to get it right. I really need the Lord to guide me. ALWAYS.

The only way we can ever hope to be made holy in this regard is to be in continual prayer.

The Church must avoid, at all costs, striving for something that is altogether apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is vital we all pray long and hard over what message it is that we are preaching as we seek to advocate for adoptions, orphan care, or anything else for that matter; no matter how noble the cause might be.

It's ever so easy to veer to the left or right just a smidge. But, as the saying goes, "Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades."

1 Corinthians 2:2 (NIV)
For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Progress! ...And then we wait, again.

You won't believe what we got in the mail last Saturday.

Miracle of miracles, in under two weeks we received our I-171h approval!

That's the favorable determination for advance processing of orphan petition.

I know it's an annoyingly long name that provides very little information. In plain speak, our I-171h is the prep paperwork for A*'s visa, and it's THE paper we needed to get all our ducks in a row so we could ship off our dossier and file for a court date in Ethiopia.

In a normal situation we'd be able to send off our dossier, but we're STILL waiting on the AZ court to send back our police clearance letters. Once those are in hand it should be a matter of weeks until our court date is scheduled.

Now, notice I said scheduled. It should take about 4-12 weeks for our case to actually be heard in Ethiopia.

For now we are planning that the rule changes will apply to us and that we will now need to be present in court for the hearing. Because of the added expense of a second trip I have decided that I cannot go to the orphan summit in Minneapolis. I'm very disappointed, to say the least, but it's just not the right timing for me to go.

I am still very unsure what the waiver process will look like with the new rule changes or how long we will need to stay in Addis Ababa when it's time to bring A* home. I'll have to wait and see how things play out.

All in all we're beginning to feel excited. We're holding back the last sigh of relief until we can hold those clearance letters in our hands. Then, we're going to have a major party!

I told our Family Coordinator that I was praying to have our dossier in her hands before the end of this month.

We'll see.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Window Decals

With the rule change in Ethiopia requiring two trips to the country comes the need for us to raise a bit more funds for adoption travel.

To help supplement our income a gracious friend of mine made these awesome decals for us. Please, head on over and pick one up!

Thanks for your support!

Messy Kitchen

Being raised a Midwestern girl I love my carbs. My husband, too, is a steak and potatoes kind of guy. He likes meat, potatos.... and his deep fryer.

If he were stranded on an island and could only have one item I'm pretty sure my husband would ask for his deep fryer. Okay, and a generator too. But, I'm telling you he'd be a happy camper with his fry daddy.

Ranch dressing is a food group in our kids' universe. It's a side of salad to go with their ranch and don't you mistake!

Yup. We're a bunch of health nuts over here. And, it gets worse.

Both sides of my family are filled with thin people but don't be deceived. Both my aunt and my sister have a hard time staying above 100 pounds and they eat like lumberjacks! If the world were a fair place I, and all my relatives, would be 300 lbs. We're constantly hungry and eat large portions. Anyone who's been to my home longer than 15 minutes will certainly have heard my children complain that they are hungry. Our only saving grace is that we have metabolisms like a hummingbird in flight.

Then, if the issue of cooking arises, most of my relatives head for the phone to dial delivery. Both my mom and dad were minimalists in the kitchen. My cooking skills were nil when I got married.

Once we had kids I did the basics (You know: steaks, lasagna, roast beef, spaghetti, pork chops, manicotti.... are you noticing a pattern here?) but never got much into baking, etc.

Brace yourself, now. I have an annoucement to make.

We've gone organic and are removing all traces of preservatives and chemicals from our food. AND, I'll be cooking EVERYTHING from scratch.

We're even talking organic vanilla extract people. (Which BTW is a total racket! To look at the prices you'd think we were dealing with precious gems or something.)

This is a drastic step, I know. I never thought I'd get to this place, but I have severe food allergies that have recently cropped up. Beyond my allergies I have felt the Lord tugging at my heart to improve out family's eating habits for A*'s sake. His diminished immune system needs the best nutrients it can get and chemicals/preservatives won't help.

So, it's organic boot camp over here!

At the beginning of last week I was not confident I could actually pull off this lifestyle change. But, after a week of cooking EVERYTHING from scratch I am now confident that I CAN do this. It takes planning and a lot of effort, but is doable.

Now that I've got a week of positive experiences under my belt I'm ready to branch out.

So many store bought breads have preservatives, and my kids won't touch whole wheat breads with a ten foot pole. ( I know, shame on me!) I needed to find a way to bake white bread at home. I easily found a plethora of white bread recipes on but quickly realized I knew NOTHING about how to make bread.

Punch dough?

Isn't that unnecessary roughing?


Why yes, I knead a stand mixer ASAP!

I found some lovely videos for beginners on (Don't laugh at me!) Since there may be others out there in the world who are completely ignorant of such subjects- as I was a mere 5 minutes ago- I figured I post them here. (It doesn't hurt that I can find them easily here if I need to refer back to them in the future )

Begin with the first video and follow through first rise and second rise.

Next, we'll switch to a lovely lady named Nancy ( I just LOVE her!)

She's gonna teach us how to separate loaves and form them.

Happy Baking :-)

PS- I do have a bread machince but I hate how that bread turns out! I've tried many recipes and haven't ever found one I like.

If anyone has a TRULY AMAZING recipe that couldn't double as a major paperweight let me know.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Design Making A Difference

My friend did a poll to asking us which color bracelet she should purchase, so I popped over and discovered Raven & Lily.

What can I say? I love their stuff! And I thought I'd share here, in case you would too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Just When...

...I thought I was getting better about posting at least three times a week I blew my streak. I have many excuses though. I'll be explaining more in depth. Be forewarned I have lots to catch you up on.

The big bomb dropped on us today. Ethiopia has changed their requirements for international adoptions. They now require families to be present for court. This means we will be traveling anywhere from 4-12 weeks after our dossier arrives in Ethiopia (this is because we will already have our referral for A*. A referral is the official way of saying we've been matched with him)

After court we will have to leave our little guy (unless Dustin and I decide we want to stay in country longer) and wait until the government conducts another investigation which could take anywhere from 2 1/2- 3 months.

So we could be traveling back to Ethiopia fairly soon here. Stay tuned for updates :-)

We are still waiting for our Police Clearance letters to arrive. We can't move forward until those get here, so please keep praying friends!

In other news guess who signed up to co-lead a Girl Scout troop? Yup. I'm a little nervous but very thankful I have a great co-leader to team up with. I'm curious as to how much time this will eat up during my week? I am praying that once we find our groove it won't be more than a few hours a month for prep work.

Also, aside from being on the Board of Directors for the AZ branch of America World Adoption Association Dustin and I will be helping out as Associates holding Adoption Seminars. We are really looking forward to that!

Did I mention I am also helping my mom plan an adoption conference at her church in November?

Oh, and I'm planning to attend the orphan summit in Minneapolis the end of April. I'm super excited about that because Project Hopeful is going to be there. And, I love Project Hopeful!

Gee is there anything else?!

Nope I think that pretty much covers things.

As you can tell I've been pretty busy here lately. I've got lots on my plate but all very worthwhile things.

This week is spring break for the girlsies so we're enjoying sleeping in, staying up late and goofing off all day. Doesn't get much better than that!

Friday, March 5, 2010


We got the call. Our social service coordinator has our approved home study in her hands. She's mailing it to us today.

She was frustrated to tell me that the commissioner signed it on JANUARY 27th!!


We don't know what caused the delay, but we're happy to know it's on its way to us TODAY. Our family coordinator in VA was so excited to get my email about our approved HS she called me ;-) and told me she'd been waiting on it. HA!

A few glitches were still encountered. (Of course!)

The court forgot to include our police clearance letters with the approval and since all our local Police and Sheriff's offices no longer issue letters for private citizens anymore. (trust me we tried them all. I begged and pleaded and finally got so angry I told one rude receptionist "thanks for NOTHING." Don't even get me started about rude government employees. It's enough to make my head spin.)

We're at the mercy of the court once again to get these letters completed in a timely manner for our family. PLEASE pray for us!

Also, the courts stated in our approval that our re-certification had been approved BUT we completely redid our HS and it's not a re-cert. It's a brand new certification. So our social services coordinator is requesting a new letter. But, that portion won't affect our ability to forward our approved HS to USCIS for A*'s visa nor will it affect our ability to send off our dossier. Though, our dossier can't take flight until we get those pesky police clearance letters so, again, please pray with us that those come back quickly.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Childbirth for HIV+ Mothers

The latest research related to HIV+ women birthing children and the good news about the decreasing risk to mother and child. Read about it here.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Just The Good This Time

I've got straight up good news for ya. No bad news chaser.

I figured you'd be as happy as I was to hear that we can get A* home sooner than six months of treatment in country.

I spoke with Carolyn from Project Hopeful today. She gave me all the necessary info. The deal is that once A* has been under treatment for two weeks he would be eligible to file a waiver. Since we're still waiting on our HS he'll be long past that two week mark by the time we pass court, etc., and are ready to come get him.

We'll have to file the 601 waiver (you know that one. It's the one all families adopting HIV+ kiddos used to have to file BEFORE the awesome new law was passed to remove discriminatory bans on HIV+ immigrants. Seeing as HIV isn't communicable if you ARE NOT participating in AT RISK BEHAVIOURS.) This means more cost to us and a few extra bureaucratic hoops to jump through. But that ain't no thang if it means we can get our boy home sooner!

I can't express how grateful I am to have a resource like Project Hopeful at our disposal. If you are adopting an HIV+ child don't hesitate to utilize Project Hopeful's knowledge and expertise.

So, all this is an answer to prayer. And a huge relief.

We're still heartbroken that A* has to suffer with such a serious illness. It breaks our hearts that we cannot be there with him during this time. But we are relieved to know we can still bring him home sooner than six months! If we could just get that dern HS back!

By the way, Project Hopeful is working on some new initiatives for holistic HIV+ orphan care. 157 Million Orphans and Project Hopeful have teamed up to create these unique CHOSEN 1 tee shirts which will fund their work. Head over and pick one up. You'll look great in it!