Monday, December 30, 2013


It has been a long process for one approval.

10/8 - Mailed off our I-600A application.
10/11 - USCIS receives our application.
10/16 - We are logged into the system.
11/1 - We receive an RFE (request for further evidence).
11/5 - FBI fingerprinting!
11/14 - Mail off RFE paperwork.
12/17 - Discover Jeff's birth year is incorrect on the home study.
12/18 - Home study is corrected.
12/19 - APPROVAL!! (We don't know it yet)
12/27 - We receive verbal confirmation of approval.
12/30 - We receive approval in the mail.


Today is a monumental day. First, we received the approval we need to progress with the dossier. And today marks exactly six months since we decided to adopt our girl. We can't wait to officially become her mama and baba!

*Post edited - Because Z has refused adoption, I have removed her pictures to protect her privacy.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Still no immigration approval

I was feeling very frustrated this afternoon that we still have not received the decision on our I600-A application. I know the officer told us that it would be 7-10 days before we received notice but I was really, really hoping to know before Christmas. Maybe it will arrive Thursday, as that would be one week after Jeff talked to the officer.

I'm having a hard time with the unknown. I keep reminding myself that God knows best. That His timing is working out perfectly so far so that we can pay all of the adoption fees as they come due. But it's still hard to wait. I am such an impatient person.

Today I came across this quote:

Sometimes we see what God sees as "better" and it makes sense. Sometimes we don't. The joy of God is that we don't have to see it - we can just know that His is better. All the time. No matter what. For His is the eternal view with everlasting impact based in love. His love for me. -Casa de Alegria

I am grateful for the reminder and I pray for patience to wait on God. His way is better. His timing is better. I just have to trust Him.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Medical Clearance - Completed!

We received a voicemail from the doctor's office on Saturday afternoon that our medical clearances were ready to be picked up. Hallelujah! As soon as they opened this morning, I was in their office picking up our precious forms. My favorite line:

Is the adoption applicant’s state of health suitable for raising a child? Yes!

And that assurance is signed and notarized. Woohoo!

The last big piece of paperwork needed before dossier submission is the I171-H approval, which gives us authorization to bring a child into the United States. When Jeff talked to USCIS last Thursday, they said we should have the decision in the mail sometime this week. We hoped it would arrive today. I stalked the mailbox. But no approval today. Maybe tomorrow?

We've been waiting for this immigration approval since the beginning of October and it has been nerve-wracking. We feel that it's the last approval that judges us as potential parents. Everything after this point is just paperwork, just formalities. We have been scrutinized under a microscope and the immigration approval gives that final vote of approval that we need.

A friend has reminded us that it WILL come because God has had His hand all over our adoption process thus far. I'm still asking God to help grow my faith!

Friday, December 20, 2013


It has been a roller coaster week. I'm so glad that the Sabbath is almost here!

1 - We flew down to Phoenix for my husband's annual company holiday party. It was great to see some of the coworkers and to see the boss face to face. Hubby is very blessed to have his boss. He's a great boss but he has also provided a personal reference letter for our adoption and has been fully supportive of the adoption, giving time off as needed for extra doctor appointments, seeing the notary, etc.

2 - While in Phoenix, I was able to spend two days with my mom. We had fun playing games and hanging out. My mom and I keep in contact frequently via text and phone but it was nice to see her in person! This trip is probably our last before we travel to Taiwan sometime in 2014.

3 - I visited an eye specialist this week, as my optometrist found a concerning growth on my eye. She referred me to the specialist, who diagnosed it as a Salzman's nodule. He said that surgery might be an option in the future but for now we have nothing to worry about and can just monitor it. I need to make sure to visit my optometrist regularly so that she can keep an eye on it, no pun intended.

4 - We had a flurry of emails and phone calls between our social worker, our agency, and USCIS. Apparently, even though we read it twice, we missed a typo on the first page of our home study. According to our home study, my husband is actually two years older than his real age! Oops. We're grateful the mistake was caught now instead of by a Taiwan judge, but it held up our USCIS application. According to the last update call, we should be receiving the final decision in the mail sometime next week.

5 - In addition to the eye specialist, we also visited a regular M.D. this week to fill out our medical clearances. After a long doctor's visit and two blood draws, we were deemed healthy enough to adopt. The doctor asked that I type up the form for him so that it wouldn't be rejected due to illegible handwriting. I dropped off the forms this afternoon and he's going to sign and notarize them this weekend.

6 - Phew. No wonder my husband ended up sick. It was a stressful week! Not all bad stress, but stressful. Now he's out with a cold and fever and I'm praying that I don't get sick as well. I hope he feels better soon!

Next week is Christmas and I pray we receive our completed medical clearances and USCIS approval before Tuesday afternoon. That would be a great Christmas present!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Happy birthday, dear one!

Even though we can't celebrate with her, we wanted to celebrate our future daughter's birthday.

*Post edited - Because Z has refused adoption, I have removed her pictures to protect her privacy.

Happy birthday, dear one! We hope to celebrate with you next year!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

How to Talk to a Skeptic - a book review

Every month, Bethany House sends out an email to book addicts like me. This email contains a list of titles that are available to read and review. I love books and I love free books even more.

I chose How to Talk to a Skeptic because of its subtitle: An Easy-to-Follow Guide for Natural Conversations and Effective Apologetics.

Last year, a gentleman emailed me after coming across my blog and seeing that I'm a Christian. His intent was to convince Christians one by one that God doesn't exist. We chatted via email for about a year, discussing topics like the reliability of the Bible, the character of God, the age of the earth, whether miracles really occur, etc. It didn't take me long to realize that even though I knew way more about the Bible than my correspondent, he was better able to form coherent thoughts and arguments. I felt like a failure because I couldn't explain why I believe God exists, why I trust the Bible, and why I believe God is love.

How to Talk to a Skeptic is supposed to aid in those types of discussions. I hoped, when accepting it for review, that I would be able to learn a lot about how to talk to unbelievers and how to express my beliefs.

Well, it's definitely not a book to be read lightly if the reader is not already familiar with apologetics (and this reader is not). Johnson starts off with some remarkable advice: listen! Instead of jumping in to defend your faith or your beliefs, start asking questions. Find out what the other person believes and why. "Specifically, you want to find out first what is his own worldview, and second, what he understands to be the Christian worldview" (46). By doing so, you will not waste time trying to convince someone of something he or she already believes. Also, and more importantly, it lets the other person know that you actually care about him or her as a person and are interested in what he or she believes.

Unfortunately, I cannot compare this book to others on apologetics. It's not a topic I am familiar with; this is my first introduction to apologetics. I do believe that How to Talk to a Skeptic is great fodder for prayer, thought, and discussion. It definitely left me with issues to ponder. This would be a great book to study alongside Adler's How to Read a Book.

Many thanks to Bethany House for providing this book in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Outrageous Courage - a book review

When I received an email offering me a chance to read and review Outrageous Courage, I jumped at the opportunity. I love missionary stories, especially the modern day tales that show how God is working today.

The subtitle of this book is: What God Can Do with Raw Obedience & Radical Faith.

Wow, does it deliver! The story of Tracy Evans, a woman who decides to follow God wherever He leads, is beyond inspiring. Tracy follows God to a garbage dump in the Philippines. Out of all the stories, this one touched me the most. Vivid descriptions of what it's like to barely eke out an existence on top of a pile of rotting garbage. Afraid to get close to children in the camp because you have no idea which of them will die that day from disease or malnutrition. One of our sponsored kids is in the Philippines and I cried, thinking she could have been one of those children. The Philippine stories hit close to home even though I've never seen that life myself.

What can God do if you follow Him without reservation? Miracles! People were healed who were hours away from death. A dead woman was raised to life. Essential supplies were provided even though the funds were not available. Tracy's story was amazing to read. I finished the book in under 24 hours and found myself wishing there were more of her stories included.

There is a paragraph toward the end of the book that really has me thinking.

I would rather die boldly than live as a coward. I would rather take a step, even in presumption, than stay frozen in uncertainty and insecurity. Too many times I have stalled out in mediocrity, thinking I was waiting for God, when actually I was just hiding in fear. As someone once said, you cannot steer a car unless it is moving. I have come to trust that God will guide me, but unless I am in motion, He will not do what He does best! (Outrageous Courage, 145).

My husband and I had a really long discussion on stepping out in faith versus waiting for God to give you a green signal. Which is correct? Or are both attitudes toward life correct? However you look at it, it's hard to deny that God is working in Tracy Evan's life. What will He do in my life if I start trusting Him even more?

Thank you to Chosen for giving me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions in this post are my own!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Snow hat!

I'm so excited! Another Compassion sponsor has offered to hand deliver a small package to our sponsored girl in Thailand. I'm knitting her a hat and scarf!

My project so far has gone from this:

To this:

The hat is almost complete, other than seaming up the back side. I wish it had been written to knit in the round, but the pattern said knit flat and seam. All that's left is the seaming! I've also started on the scarf but there isn't really enough to show yet. I've been praying while knitting for her. I know our girl's favorite color is green; I hope she likes the hat and scarf!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

No news... still...

We have heard nothing from USCIS since we mailed in the extra paperwork they requested on November 15. We are stalking the mailbox, hoping for an approval or a request for a home study revision. Either of those would be fantastic!

Jeff calculated the average wait time for USCIS approvals and determined that we can reasonably call and request an update on December 18. Only two more weeks to wait until we can phone our case manager.

We did receive a piece of non-news. Our medical clearance requires the signature of an MD. Our primary care physician is an ND (naturopath). She suggested we ask our agency if Taiwan will recognize her signature as valid. The Taiwan facilitator responded that she has heard of paperwork getting sent back because the signature was not MD. To be on the safe side, we have to find another doctor who can complete this medical clearance form. I'm not very happy about it... I love my doctor and don't like having to find a new one for just a visit or two. Oh, well. We will do whatever we need to do to get an approval from Taiwan!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Simply Jesus, a book review

I had such a hard time writing this book review. It wasn’t because I couldn’t figure out what to say. In fact, I had a hard time figuring out how to stop talking about it!

Simply Jesus was written by Joseph M. Stowell, the president of Moody Bible College. I will admit that I know very little about Moody Bible College and did not recognize Stowell's name. I read this book with no preconceptions about the author’s belief system and enjoyed the book simply for what it is – a concise look at how to strip away our misconceptions and religious traditions about Jesus Christ.

We preach and teach about His will and His ways; tell His stories by heart; celebrate Him in worship; and serve Him with enthusiasm. Yet underneath it all (if we are truly candid), there is a gnawing sense that there should be something… well, more to this relationship (6).

Bingo. I feel that way. I was raised as a Christian, have read the Bible cover to cover several times, attend church most weeks, spend time in Bible study or devotional reading almost every morning, and still feel like I’m missing something. What am I missing? And why?

Jesus intends for you to experience the pleasure and reassuring peace of His presence at the core of your life. He wants to be more than just another volume in your encyclopedia of biblical facts. He didn't die for you to simply strike a deal guaranteeing heaven. He died for you to make His own and to grant you the unspeakable privilege of experiencing Him personally (6).

Look! Here I stand at the door and knock.
If you hear me calling and open the door, I will come in,
and we will share a meal as friends
(Revelation 3:20, NLT).

First, so there is no confusion, keeping clear ledgers in our lives is basic to experiencing Christ. As long as there is residual sin in our hearts, there will always be distance. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God" (Matthew 5:8). And the tenses in that pronouncement are not futuristic but present. In other words, if you are not pure in heart today, don’t count on experiencing Christ in a compelling way (12).

Ouch. The author gives examples of bitterness, unresolved anger, sensual thoughts and actions, pride, untruthfulness, or slander and gossip. I struggle with selfishness, a quick temper, and a harsh tongue. Does that mean that I cannot experience Jesus on a personal level until I conquer those things? Or can I experience Christ more and more as He continues to mold me into His character?

The author showcases this text as a way to cleanse our hearts:

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there by any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way.
Psalm 139:23-24

Stowell next talks about what two attitude shifts are necessary to help the believer experience Jesus. The first attitude shift is to always rejoice in the Lord.

This is what the Lord says:
"let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken!"
Jeremiah 9:23-24, NLT

Boasting is a healthy activity when it centers on Jesus. You can introduce Him to others with as long a string of superlatives as you want. You can list His accomplishments, cite His wonderful qualities, talk constantly about His kindness and mercy and love, and sing His praises for the rest of your life … if you and I are ever going to experience Jesus in the way we love to experience Him, we need to learn how to get beyond ourselves and our achievements to get all the way to Him. We need to cultivate a reflex response that immediately triggers gratefulness and praise to Him for enabling us to accomplish what we do… when something good happens in life… when we've performed well and received a few strokes… when we've been acknowledged and affirmed… when our fondest dreams have come true. When we are blessed, we need to master the response that takes that spark of joy we feel about ourselves and lets it explode into the joy of celebrating His preeminent provision and grace in our lives. The moment you do this, you connect with Him and lose yourself in His abundant goodness.

The psalmist tells us that He inhabits the praises of His people (Psalm 22:3, KJV). Strangely enough, it doesn't say that He inhabits our complaints or our self-serving compliments. If you heart is full of complaining or self-pity – or of self-congratulating applause – you won’t experience His nearness. Positioning our lives to experience Jesus requires seeing beyond the blessings and burdens of life … to fill our hearts with Him alone. In the process, we learn the sweet skill of boasting on Him, regardless. He inhabits the praises of His people. Meet Him there (28).

This is definitely something I need to cultivate in my life. I remember to praise God for the good things that happen but it is not always immediate. My first response is to celebrate and embrace the joy. My second response is to bow in gratitude. I do think this order needs to be reversed; first I need to thank God for how He just blessed us and then enjoy the blessing. I know I'm getting better at this, but it's still a delayed response to thank God. When we received news of orphanage approval, I danced with joy and then later prayed to thank God for granting us the approval. I hope that eventually my first thought on receiving good news is, "thank you Lord for blessing us so greatly!"

The second necessary attitude shift is to value Jesus above everything. Stowell gives several reasons why this is important, but this is my favorite reason.

And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith
Philippians 3:9

At the Cross we are placed ‘in Him’… apart from ‘being found in Him,’ we could not approach the throne of God in prayer. We could not draw near to the majestic presence of our God without being instantly vaporized. But covered in our Lord’s own righteousness, we can approach a holy God with confidence and worship Him without fear. We can share our deepest thoughts and longings, knowing that He hears and cares. And we can find grace and mercy to help us in our time of need (35).

There were a lot of other quotes that I highlighted as I was reading through the book. It really made me think about why I sometimes still feel so distant from God even though I try to do all the right things. I wish I had received a physical copy of this book instead of an e-copy (as I much prefer turning pages!), but am grateful for the opportunity to have read it. It will definitely be a reread at some point in the future.

Many thanks to Random House for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinions. I received no compensation other than a free e-copy of this book.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


November was a hard month. It seems like most of the month was spent waiting. Waiting for paperwork. Waiting for approvals, some of which arrived and some of which we are still waiting for. I was stressed a lot. Having my future in someone else's hands is really, really hard, especially when it's coupled with a complete lack of privacy. I feel like our personal, medical, and financial lives have been turned inside out and placed on display for the American government, our social worker, our adoption agency, and a Taiwan orphanage. I knew it was going to happen but wasn't prepared for the roller coaster of emotions.

For a few weeks, I forgot to live the life I have now. We don't know what the future holds. There are no guarantees that we will receive approval to adopt, no guarantees that we will have a daughter in 2014. But right now, I have a life to live. I need to continue developing my relationship with Christ, embrace my role as a wife, and encourage our sponsorship kids to the best of my ability.

December is going to be better! I am so thankful that December is here. We're not buying a Christmas tree or presents this year but I still plan to make the most of the holiday spirit. I love the holidays, from the cheesy holiday films to the Christmas music to the peppermint mochas to the light displays. Here's to a wonderful December and a memorable Christmas!