For those who missed my Facebook post this weekend, David and I received a referral from China on Friday for our 2nd daughter and 4th child. Appropriately named, Naomi Grace is already showing us the glory of God even from the beginnings of her story. Hopefully I can do justice in telling it.
Friday, a friend and I had a date to watch a documentary about Chinese adoptees as teenagers. “Somewhere Between” follows the journey of four beautiful adopted girls as they feel their way through adolescence. One of these girls actually pursues and finds her birth family in China and another advocates for a little orphan girl she noticed on one of her many return trips there. Needless to say, emotions came seeping out everywhere and I was a mess. This country and its problems that cause it to abandon its children are buried in my soul and I daily feel the pull to DO SOMETHING.
My friend left and I was still drying tears when I checked my email and realized that I had an email from my case worker. We had a REFERRAL!! Let me just say that I sat in shock for a moment. Kate’s paperwork pregnancy had been so much different. So much waiting…and waiting…and waiting. To already have the file and pictures of our child was more than I could have ever asked for at this point. It was FAST! I will digress for a moment to tell you why…just because hopefully some of you are interested in how all this fun stuff works.
We had to start from scratch with Kate. We had nothing… no home study, no dossier, no forms to copy information from. So we had to gather all the paperwork for the home study (which included a little bit of our whole life), then we had to have our home study social worker appointments (5 to be exact), then we had to file our immigration forms to get approval from the US government to adopt, then we had to compile more paperwork for our dossier and get it notarized and authenticated (it is so easy to type all of this, but believe me it includes plenty of hoops), then we had to send our dossier for translation and logging in China, get our referral, be preapproved for our referral, then approved for our referral, then file more forms with the US government to bring home that specific child, and then get our visas, and then finally our travel approval. This time we are able to reuse our dossier that is already logged in China as long as we get an update to it sent in before Kate’s gotcha date (which is May 7th). This means that we are on a fast track…so we actually got this referral before we even have our home study updated. We now have to finish updating the home study, apply to immigration again, and then send our dossier update to China. In the meantime, we are free to accept a referral and be preapproved for a child because none of this requires China to look at our actual dossier…they only look at that for the final approval.
Even though I had a clue that we could get a referral any day, it still blew my mind that I was staring at one on our computer. While I attempted to open the file for viewing, Emily and our other case worker bridged me in on a call. As I opened the first picture, I was sure that they had accidentally given us a boy. I know that they don’t have many options, but I can’t tell you how much I hate it that they shave the hair of the little girls in the summer. I KNOW that it is not feasible for them to take care of the hair of all of these orphans, but for some reason, it feels to me like heaping shame upon shame. After they assured me that this was indeed a girl, the next thing I noticed is that this little girl had only one ear. It was not hard to know what her special need was before I even opened her written file. When I opened the file, I thought it was interesting that she shares a birthday with my mom. Those of you who know my mom’s story know that GRACE is the theme running through it. She is also located in Guangdong, the same province as Kate, so we would have easy access for a visit to Kate’s orphanage AND we would be at the same hotel for the whole two weeks (a major blessing). As I chatted with Emily and Suzanna, my heart prayed and asked God if this was her, if this was Naomi Grace. I wish I could tell you that I got a definite answer or that God wrote on the wall, I only know what came out of my mouth. “How can I say ‘no’ to this child because of a missing ear???” How could I leave this child in an institution one day longer? I could only do it if God specifically said that this was not her…and I didn’t feel that He said that. As I talked to David a little bit later, I heard the same question resound in his feelings about the referral. This was her unless God said differently.
We kept our hearts open on Saturday asking each other at different times all day what the other was thinking, feeling, etc. It wasn’t at all that we were not satisfied with the referral, it is just that we were prepared to say “yes” to God, even if it meant walking into severe defects and conditions. We are as fully surrendered as we have ever been and I think that we both felt that God would take full advantage of that. This just didn’t feel like that big of a deal. It really is even a lesser need than Kate has and we had to verify a couple of times that this child is on the “Special Focus” list which is supposed to be children on the list more than 60 days because of “less adoptable” special needs conditions.
In order to accept the referral of a child, it is more than just responding to an email and saying “We’ll take her”. There is a whole packet of info that must be completed, passport photos that needs to be sent, and a family pic that has to be sent. I thought that we had until Sunday evening to get this packet in, so we took our time on Saturday and I did some much needed cleaning. Sunday morning, however, I received a text that Small World needed the packet in ASAP…meaning as early Sunday morning as I could get it in. I read this text right when I got up and immediately called Emily. I had planned on getting our passport photos taken right after church because I couldn’t find my extra set that I knew I had somewhere. I had looked for it everywhere on Saturday to no avail. Emily suggested that we skip church and go get the photos taken and the paperwork turned in. While I was talking on the phone to her, I pulled out a notebook that I totally forgot I had and lo, and behold, passport photos. I had looked EVERYWHERE the day before, so I really felt that this was God’s first “yes, this is her.” I pulled the passport photos out and compiled my other paperwork and went over to my scanner. It was then I realized that we had not hooked up this scanner yet, so I couldn’t scan the documents to email them over. I called Emily back immediately and asked if I could come over and use their scanner. She wasn’t leaving for church for another few minutes, so she said to come on over.
At this point, I was still in my pjs, I had not brushed my teeth, and my hair looked like I had spent the night in jail, but despite all of that, I did not even stop to put on jeans. I jumped in the car and drove the 5 miles to her house only to remember that she had hosted the youth event for the weekend and half the church was at her house…okay, maybe just 20 students and 3 chaperones, but it sure did feel like half the church when I jumped out of my car and ran across her lawn in my pjs. Long story short, Emily and I worked for 20 minutes and couldn’t get her internet hot enough to allow the scans. So I called David and told him that we needed to rush to his office and try to scan from there on some new scanners that he had hooked up the week before. We went to the office and realized that the scanners were not ideal for photos and would not work for the packet. By this time, church had started. I was still in my pjs, but David had gotten him and the kids ready for church, so I told him to just go on to church and I would catch up after I figured out how to get this paperwork over.
I ran home and changed my clothes (because I draw the line at visiting Office Depot in my pjs) and got ready for church. I also had to make a change to one of the documents and print it out. When I got in my car to leave, I realized that I had left the most important document in the scanner at Emily’s house….a document that needed to be signed by David…who was at church. I won’t even tell you how I fixed this problem, but I did. I was finally headed to Office Depot…all the while knowing that time was running out. It was now 10:30pm in China and we needed somebody awake to take my paperwork and lock this file. So all the way to town, I argued with myself in my head about trusting Office Depot to be able to do this quickly on a Sunday or stop by the office again and try to make it work. I finally decided to trust myself to figure out the office scanner…wrong choice, of course… within 10 minutes, I realized that I had no idea and time was running out… I drove quickly to Office Depot where they had my files scanned to a jump drive in 5 minutes. I ran back out to the car (yes, I was really smart and had decided to wear heels to church) and plugged the drive into my computer only to realize that the files were in the wrong format…back into Office Depot I went…running across the parking lot in heels (at least it wasn’t in pjs). The guy fixed the files and I called David to ask him where I could find free wifi in town so I could email everything. He has a wifi hotspot on his phone so I headed to the church to meet him.
We sat in the car and uploaded all of the files and finally sent them…only to realize the email got caught in my outbox…by this time I was almost hysterical because NO ONE has a morning like this… David made the necessary adjustments and finally the email was sent. We both breathed a sigh of relief, sent up a prayer that it was in time, and headed in to Sunday School.
After church, we received an email from Small World that they were doubtful that we would get this paperwork in on time to lock the file, AND one of the documents was in the wrong format and needed to be resent before they could try. I resent the document, but by then it was 3am in China and we had little hope we had made the deadline. Our amazing people said that they would do their best, but not much was on our side. Once a file goes back to the shared list and your time is up, you can never be assigned that same file again. David and I, suprisingly, took this in stride. We decided that if we lost this file, it was God saying that this was not our daughter. We told Small World this and we waited and prayed that God’s will would be done.
Well, this morning, while we were in the middle of physical updates at our doctor’s office in Atlanta, we received an email that we got the file. WE GOT THE FILE…against all odds and all my paperwork weaknesses, God’s grace had once again been faithful…and just because He can, He added a video. Today I have watched a 3 minute video of our sweet daughter at least 5 times.
Grateful and amazed that despite my failures and shortcomings, Jesus is FAITHFUL and His grace is overwhelming. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.
Please pray for us as there are still many huge hurdles to jump…and pray for our Naomi Grace as God prepares her (and us) for our family. As soon as we get our preapproval, we will be posting pictures and the video :). She is presh and you will love her.
PS. This stuff can only happen to me, I promise! If you want another example, look up my blog “The Country Blonde Goes to Atlanta” Only me…