Saturday, December 01, 2012

First Letter to My Darling in Ethiopia

To my child halfway around the world: Mommy loves you. You have been on our minds and hearts for a few years now, but in the coming weeks we will be closer to you than ever before. Still far away...but closer still.

And so you are now part of this blog. Just like Hunter, Millie, and Will, we will tell of the highs and lows of waiting for you, becoming your parents, and living our lives together. There will be lots of pictures and lots of funny stories. There will be treasured milestones and recounting of the little things day by day. We wait for the day that we see and know you face to face and in our lives as a family of six. For now, we wait and pray and anticipate God's goodness in adding you to our family.

Lord, would you help this Mommy wait well? Would you help me trust over and over that your perfect timing for our family will reign supreme?

Dear one, these verses in Mommy's Bible have been coming back to me often in these past few weeks. I pray I will cling to them knowing that God loves you and is watching over you even now:

Psalm 121
lift up my eyes to the hills.
    From where does my help come?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
    he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
    the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
    nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    he will keep your life.
The Lord will keep
    your going out and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.

The Lord is our help. When we lift our eyes for help, he is there. He is not distant. He will not sleep. He will keep us even as we are apart. He keeps your going out and your coming in. He does not rest or slumber even in the dark of scary night. As you lay to rest, I pray you will know the keeping and sustaining and loving presence of our God. As I lay to rest in these long days to come, I pray I would know that too. He will keep us, watch over us, and love us day by day...and will do that forever. Even once we are together, he alone will continue to keep us.

Your Aunt Jenn and I loved a movie when we were young, "An American Tail," about a little mouse separated from his family. He sings a song looking up at the stars, "Somewhere Out There":

Somewhere out there,
Beneath the pale moonlight,
Someone's thinking of me,
And loving me tonight.

Somewhere out there,
Someone's saying a prayer,
That we'll find one another,
In that big somewhere out there.

And even though I know how very far apart we are,
It helps to think we might be wishing on the same bright star,
And when the night wind starts to sing a lonesome lullaby,
It helps to think we're sleeping underneath the same big sky!

Cheesy as it may be, those sentiments bring me peace tonight knowing that even as we sleep under the same big sky, we have an even bigger God who watches tenderly over both of us. 

Sleep well, my darling. Mommy longs for you and prays we will both find rest today and everyday in the sure arms of our God and Savior.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Our Adoption Process Thus Far

Once Donny and I decided it was time for our family to pursue an international adoption, we spent the next month making two decisions: 

1. What country?
2. What agency?

After much prayer, seeking advice, and just trusting our gut with a few things, we decided to adopt from Ethiopia with Lifeline Children's Services. On July 11, 2012, we sent in our application to Lifeline. 

As a fun aside - On July 12, 2012 (the day after we sent in our application), Asher Noll came home from Ethiopia to his family, our good friends, the Nolls. Although we were in New Jersey and Asher was coming home to Florida, I rejoiced in a new way with them as we celebrated but also longed for the day when a homecoming from Ethiopia would be part of our family's story too.

When we applied, Lifeline was saying that the current wait time for applicants was 15-18 months to complete an adoption. After being in the process just a few months, we quickly learned that we will be waiting much longer. Our agency had a boom of applicants in 2012, and with that will come a longer wait than initially anticipated. We still clearly feel the Lord led us to Lifeline, but we anticipate the wait to be much, much longer. As I was freaking out about the length of the wait, Donny shared perspective that will forever change how I view adoption: I cannot approach this as a consumer. I am not purchasing a product or weighing the pros and cons of a car purchase. God has called us to adoption. We are following that call, and we need to trust the Lord to lead us to our child in his perfect timing and in his perfect way. Where he leads me, I will follow. I'll go with him, with him all the way.

Since Lifeline does not have an agency office in New Jersey, we began the process of finding a home study agent licensed in our state. You know, where a social worker has to examine your history, your family, your biology, your money, your home, and much more to determine if you can be a parent. I still think that's funny. I am all for thorough processes to protect children. Truly, I am...but I think it's funny that we had to go through a three month, $1700+ process for New Jersey to determine if we were suitable parents. 

On October 5, we told Hunter, Millie and Will that we were adopting from Ethiopia. While I can't remember all of the details, there was much excitement. Millie wants a girl and her first question was where the new child will sleep. Since we moved to New Jersey, she and Hunter are no longer sharing a room. She misses sharing a room, so she is dreaming of a sister with whom she can share a room. Since we have had a few friends adopt recently, our kids were excited and felt (as we do) that this is a natural thing. We celebrated the news with frozen yogurt.

Fun at Strawberry Fields celebrating the news of the newest Friederichsen on the way!

One thing I did not anticipate was their questions about how old the child would be. We are approved for a child from birth to six years old. It's a wide age range, and we kept it wide to keep our options open. We don't feel led to a certain age, so who knows what God has in store? We have made the choice of birth - 6 years to account for the fact that by the time we bring a child home, Millie would already be 6. There are a few opinions in adoption land about whether to disrupt our children's birth order with the age of an adopted child. Some agencies won't let you adopt out of birth order. Our agency leaves the decision up to the families, and we decided that we would like to leave Hunter and Millie as number 1 and 2 in birth order, but we do not mind having a disruption between Millie and Will. We also don't mind having a child close in age to Millie. So we are approved for a boy or girl ages birth to 6. That wide of a range left for some interesting conversations with Hunter and Millie, because it's hard enough to wonder if you are having a boy or girl. Now we wonder if we will have a baby, toddler, or big kid. Only the Lord knows, but it has been fun dreaming through each scenario with the kids.

We had to wait for a looooong time to begin our home study meetings. We applied with the home study agency on July 23 and didn't have our first meeting until September 20. Thankfully once the home study meetings began, our home study was completed in just over a month. We were certainly glad to get a big part of the adoption paperwork finished.

On October 24, we sent in our home study to the United States Child and Immigration Services (USCIS) to apply for, as we have told the kids, "the US government to say that we can adopt a kid." We have to get a letter with that approval before we can send our paperwork to Ethiopia and officially be a "waiting family" with our agency. USCIS is currently running a 45 day wait for that approval. We sent in our application on October 24 and have already been fingerprinted for it (ahead of schedule...thank you, Lord!!!). Our dossier of oodles and oodles of signed and notarized documents is in the hands of our agency in Louisville. We are missing three things at this point: a letter from our bank (which is in the mail to Louisville), Donny's birth certificate (which is in the mail to Louisville) and our USCIS approval letter (Who knows??? Hopefully will come soon). Once all of those documents land in Louisville, they will send our dossier of paperwork on a 4 week trek to Ethiopia. Once it arrives, we begin the wait to be matched with our child. We are hoping to receive our USCIS approval very, very soon. Considering we sent it in on October 24 and today is Nov. 19, I hope we will crush the 45 day estimated wait for the approval letter. I'm sure I'll let you know. :)

That's where we are. That's the long and short of it. Long to you but just a drop in the bucket to me. The Lord has been so good to sustain us in this process so far, and we trust him to do so throughout as we wait for our child. 

The contents of our dossier - a.k.a. the first thing I thought of protecting when Hurricane Sandy was coming. 

Up until the hurricane, I had most of our papers lying freely on a table waiting for me to put them in a safer place. Once the storm was on its way, all my papers went into individual plastic page protectors and then in a notebook placed in a plastic bin. Nothing was going to destroy our dossier. :)

November 14, 2012 - The day I let all the papers go.

We sent our dossier of paperwork to our agency in Louisville before leaving for Thanksgiving vacation. Sending off all of those papers was one of the hardest and most exhilarating things I have done. Soooo glad to almost be done with this part of the paper trail.

Now we wait (big shocker). Next step, USCIS approval and then waiting for our dossier to arrive in Ethiopia.

Everyday a little closer to our little one...

Monday, November 19, 2012

All I Want for Christmas...

One thing on my Christmas list this year. Only one thing:

For our dosser to land in Ethiopia

Yep, you read it. Dossier. Ethiopia. 

We. Are. Adopting.

And we couldn't be more excited. 

The Lord put adoption in Donny's heart early in our marriage. He mentioned it periodically. Enough to keep it in my mind but not too often to overwhelm me. And along I came. During our transition from seminary to our church in New Jersey, I had this feeling that our family was not fully complete, but I didn't feel the strong need/desire to have any more biological children. Thus the Lord kindly aligned my desire with my husband's and in June of this year, we sat down and decided to adopt internationally. Over chinese food. In our dining room. 

Nothing too magical happened. No smoke and lights or shooting stars from the sky. I will say that the Lord greatly used this article from a woman name Jen Hatmaker (who I seldom read but hear is great) as the tipping point for me. On June 5, 2012, after reading that blog post, I sent Donny a message on Facebook while he was at work that read:

I'm a little hormonal this morning, but I think we need to adopt.

We decided to go out on June 8 for a date to discuss things further. Our babysitters cancelled last minute, so we ordered Chinese in. As we started talking, Donny told me that if he had responded to my facebook post right away, he would have written: "OK," but he thought that might be a little too abrupt. I love that the Lord gave us such oneness at the right time. There was nothing to discuss in terms of the actual decision. The Lord was clearly leading us on a path to adopt, and we were ready to follow.

This pretty well sums up how I feel right now...

More to come...

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

A Note to My 16 Month Old

Word of caution: This blog post is about nursing/breastfeeding. Consider yourself warned.

Dearest Will,

You are 16 months old today. I just nursed you for what I believe is the last time. Something strangely emotional about letting this part of your babyhood go. Both you and I had to work really hard to be able to nurse at all…but we did it. By God’s sweet grace, we did it. So tonight feels like a real milestone to me. Not only was I able to nurse you against the odds, I nursed you to 16 months. I know there are a lot of reasons why we have such a strong bond, but I know my fight to breastfeed you is one of them. I treasure our bond.  I will surely pay for it in some ways (like you not EVER wanting to go into the nursery at church or the YMCA), but it is so worth it. 

You’re not walking yet, but you will soon. I finally got your hair cut. You are moving on from the baby days. It makes me sad but also excited to see what toddlerhood has for you and for us and for our family.

Will, you are a delight to your Mommy, and I treasure my soon-to-be but not-ready-to-admit-it-yet big boy. I will miss the baby days. They were so sweet. BUT…I will not remain there or be overly sad that they are over. I will be greatly thankful and overflowing with joy that they happened (my adaptation of a Seuss quote), and I look forward to whatever is next.

Lord, thank you that I could breastfeed this baby. I never thought I would want something like that so much (or hold onto it for so long after his first year), but it was truly such a gift. Thank you, oh, thank you.

 The early days with Will

With his new haircut. Such a big boy!

Mommy loves you, sweet one.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Day for the Girls

 Millie asked me last week if we could have a girl date with me, her, and my mom. Today we dressed up, got all fancy, and met my sister for a girl date at the English Rose Tea Room in downtown Chattanooga. It was such a sweet lunch. Millie went right for making her own cup of tea. Lots of cream and sugar. She drank 4 cups (which also means lots of caffeine) during the course of the meal. She ate finger sandwiches of ham and cheese, cucumber and cream cheese, and cucumber and salmon. While she didn't care for the cucumber and salmon, I was impressed that she tried everything and liked the other cucumber sandwiches. She enjoyed being in charge of stirring the homemade vinaigrette. We topped off the lunch with a piece of chocolate cake with whipped cream and strawberries.

It was one of those days when Millie had the freedom to make lots of choices and try new things, and it was such a treasure to see her in a new way. I saw glimpses of the future woman my daughter will be as she sipped her tea and held her tea cup every so daintily. I told my mom that I think she sensed that she was with the adults and did not want to miss a beat, so she stepped up and entered this big-girl world for a little while. And I loved entering her world where sipping out of a pretty cup was such a delight and eating rich, fancy foods with dear sisters and family was savored. Thank you, Lord, for such a fun, special day with my daughter.

 With Mimi waiting on Aunt Jenn to arrive

 Sipping from her little girl sized "Princess"cup

Aunt Jenn was by far Millie's favorite guest on our date

 Three generations - Of 7 grandchildren on the Burger side, 
Millie is the only girl in the lot

Ah, the privilege of being this girl's Mommy.

Monday, January 02, 2012

William Oliver - Happy 1st Birthday

 William Oliver - One Year Old

We celebrated Will's first birthday today. Honestly, I spent most of the day soaking up his sweet smiles and wonderful cuddles. One year ago tonight, he came unexpectedly, we nuzzled cheek to cheek, and then he was swooped away to the NICU. I have spent the last year soaking up all I could with this sweet boy. I took nothing with him for granted this year. We struggled through much, and the joy of my relationship with him is immeasurable. His sweet lovin' today warmed this mama's heart.

I have spent so much of this last year on this blog writing about my year with him. Here is my post recounting the events of January 2, 2011.

Will, 2011 has been crazy, but I think the Lord gave you to me as he did to show me a new love and how to love you and others during the chaos. You have been such an encouragement to me. Everyone loves your smiles and your sweet disposition. I love holding you in your favorite spot - perched on my left hip (much like your big sister), left thumb in your mouth, nuzzling your head into my shoulder (and most likely smiling coyly at whoever is around). The relationships I have with you and your siblings are so special. Our relationship is marked by a strong commitment and a true tenderness. We had to fight for a lot this year, but we are as close as can be. I love you, my sweet baby Will.

 I ordered a cake for Will that was very similar to Millie's first cake. 
I love that Wal-Mart gives a little cake for him to dig into.

 All the cousins came to eat pizza and cake to celebrate Will's birthday.

 Snuggling with Ddad and Mimi

 Aunt Jenn and Will

 Love, love, love how the Lord has blessed us with such fun children.

Time for CAKE!!!

 I thought this was so funny. I guess he was making his birthday wish.

 Hmmmm....wonder what this tastes like.

I like it!!!

 Looking like he might go into sugar shock

 Very sad when Mommy and Daddy took the cake away.

 After cake, Will had plenty of help opening his presents

Millie drew two pictures for Will and then "helped" him open them.

Happy 1st Birthday, Will.
Mommy and Daddy love you so much.