Thursday, November 7, 2013

Good News!

Tuesday, we learned some awesome news! Our dossier (big stack of adoption paperwork) was approved by the Bulgarian Minister of Justice! Our dossier was submitted July 31. We were told we should know in 31 days if it was accepted or not. We waited almost 3 times that long to hear! It was approved on October 21 and we found out November 5!

What's next? More waiting. We are waiting now to be matched with 2 children, of either gender, up to age 6, healthy or with minor/correctable special needs.

While we wait, we are fundraising! When we get a referral (match with kids), we will have about $6,000 due in agency fees + travel expenses for 2 trips to Bulgaria!

More Good News! As of right now, we are $5 from being half way to our $3,000 matching grant! I just had an update from LifeSong for Orphans, and our total is $1,495! Want to donate $5 or more to push us over the 1/2 way mark? You can donate online at or mail check payable to:
Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40

Gridley, IL 61744
Write in the memo line: preference Rickenbach #3783.

Just in case you missed it, here is the video from our workday at Mrs. Tucker's house. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Both Hands Workday: Look What We Did!

We had an awesome work day at Mrs. Tucker's  home! Look what we accomplished in 1 day!

Andrew and I want to express our gratitude to everyone who made this day a success! Whether you donated money, sent out sponsorship letters, picked up and delivered lunch to us, created the video, or worked hard at the widow's house, we want you to know we appreciate it! Somewhere in Bulgaria are two children who are closer to having a mommy and daddy because of you!

Not only have you been a blessing to Andrew and I as we raise funds for our adoption, but you have also been a huge blessing to Mrs. Tucker. She said, "I wasn't expecting you to do all this, just mow the yard! No one has ever done anything like this for me before!" I know our team of volunteers had a great day too! I heard someone say, "We should do this once a month!"

There is still time to help! We would love if you shared the video on Facebook or email. We want to make it go viral!

Also, it is not to late to donate! The majority of funds are typically raised after the work day! You can donate online at or mail check payable to:

Lifesong for Orphans
PO Box 40

Gridley, IL 61744
write in the memo line: preference Rickenbach #3783

Thanks again to everyone who contributed to make this day a huge success!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Woot! Woot! The Thermometer Keeps Going Up!

Today, we got an update from LifeSong for Orphans! We passed the 1/3 mark and are almost 1/2 to meeting our $3,000 matching grant! The thermometer on the side of the blog now reads $1,341!

As I looked over the list of donations that LifeSong sent me, one thing I noticed is that every donation matters! No amount is too small! Most of the donations were $50 and under. We have had 31 donations, so the average donation amount would be $40. No donation has been over $100. So far we have had:

  $100 –  5 donations
     $50  –  10 donations
 $30  –  1 donation
   $25  –  7 donations
   $20  –  6 donations
   $10  –  2 donations
   $5  –  1 donation

Right now, I feel blown away! Maybe I have too little faith in God? It is amazing to see him moving the financial mountains that stand between us and bring home our children! Sometimes I have wondered if anyone would donate to our matching fund. If the whole $3,000 would be raised. But now I feel confident that it can happen! We are almost 1/2 way to the goal! I feel blessed that 31 different families have chosen to donate so we can bring our kids home! Some of these families I have never even met! Some are old college friends, or church friends, or family, and even my childhood dentist gave! I am excited to see who God uses to bring in the remaining $1,659 to meet our matching grant!

Please accept our heartfelt gratitude for your sacrifice to help us bring our children home!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rained Out!

We got rained out on our workday to help Mrs. Tucker! We have rescheduled for November 2!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Letter-Writing Party!

We are gearing up for our Both Hands Foundation work day where we will be helping Mrs. Gobel Tucker with much needed yard work around her home! We have an awesome team of volunteers! They all met at our house last Thursday or Friday evening to prepare sponsorship letters! Thank you Dave and Jenny, Alanna, Tim and Arlette, Shane, Travis and Jody, Matt and Tara, Kirsten, and Ryan and Danielle!

A special thanks goes to Matt for helping keep all the children entertained!

We sent out over 200 letters! Stay tuned for more information from our workday on October 19th!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Meet Our Widow!

Meet Ms. Gobel Tucker! She is 86 years old and was widowed 10 years ago. She is a sweet heart!

Ms. Gobel Tucker has a lot of yard work that needs done. And she can't do it herself. 

 We are gathering a team of volunteers to bless her by cleaning up her yard and making it look beautiful! Saturday, October 19 is our workday. At the same time as helping Ms. Gobel Tucker, we hope to raise money for our adoption. How? Both Hands Foundation serves the widow by helping her with home improvement projects and raises money for orphans to come home.  The following video explains it all!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Year Ago Today....

One year ago today, we began our journey to parenthood. We sat in front of a computer screen and filled out an online application to our adoption agency, paid the application fee and hit send at 6:09 pm. We were nervous and excited. Since we had done a lot of research we did have some idea of the journey ahead! The next day, we received an email back approving us to adopt! What a year it has been! Even with the small bumps along the way, I call it a huge success! In a year, we completed all our paperwork, had it translated, and are waiting for a referral of 1 or 2 precious children! (Although, looking back there are a few things I could have done differently to speed up the process. But we live and learn!)

Monday, August 5, 2013

Step of Progress!

Life has been busy for us and I haven’t been blogging a lot here! However, I wanted to give a quick update.

Progress! Our dossier (adoption paperwork) is done being translated and legalized! It was submitted to the Bulgarian Minister of Justice for approval sometime last week! We should hear in about 30 days whether we have been approved as prospective adoptive parents by Bulgaria or if we need to submit additional information. Our adoption agency says our paperwork looks good and expects it to be approved!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Answers to Prayer

One of our biggest challenges to adopting has been how to pay for the it. International adoption is costly. We have fees to our adoption agency, immigration fees, legal fees, document fees, and travel expenses for two trips to Bulgaria! The decision to adopt was a huge step of faith for us. We know the God who has called us to adopt would be faithful to provide for our adoption! And He has! We pray He will provide and He does! Recently we have had two big answers to prayer about our adoption finances!

First, we have been praying for a better job for me and God has answered our prayers! I had to part-time jobs, one working in a preschool and one babysitting. I just got a new job, closer to my house, with a small pay raise, were I can work full time! This is a huge answer to prayer!

Our second answer to prayer is that yesterday we got approved by LifeSong for Orphans to do a Both Hands fundraiser and for a $3,000 matching grant! We love Both Hands! We are super excited to be able to help a widow and raise funds for our adoption. If you haven't heard of Both Hands, I will try to explain. Think of a 5K for the Cure. People get sponsored to run a marathon and the money raised helps find a cure for a disease. But what if they got sponsored to fix up a widow's house instead? And all the money they raised went to fund an adoption? The video below explains it better than I can. So watch it!

Eeeeek! I can't beleive it! We are going to do a project like this! (Yes I squeal when I get super excited!) The next steps for us include, gathering a team to work on a widows house, finding a widow (we have one in mind), and setting a date for the project! Stay tuned for more news!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

"Growing in Our Hearts" Adoption Photo Shoot

Andrew and I just had our family photos taken. (And what a happy little family we are!) We wanted these pictures to express the unique stage we are in right now as a family. We are growing, adding more members. But how could add the adoption element to our pictures? How could we include the children we want to adopt? I found tons of cute ideas for including adoption in family photos. I am sure we will try out all the ideas someday, but for this photo shoot we wanted to express how we feel that our kids are "growing in our hearts." A beautiful, old adoption poem reads:

Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
but still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute;
You didn't grow under my heart
but in it.

I want to give a shout out and big thank you to my sister Jamie for helping us document this stage in our life! Check out her work on her Facebook page, Jamie Loray Photography.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

God's Will for Your Wait

Adoption Update:

On Friday, our dossier got sent to Bulgaria! It will be translated into Bulgarian during the next few weeks. After translation, it will be submitted to the Minister of Justice for approval and we will be put on the register of prospective parents (aka waiting list for a referral). The Bulgarian government shuts down every August (for vacation/timeoff?). So we expect to get approval and on get put on the waiting list in September if all goes well! After we get put on the waiting list, we were told to expect a 6 - 18 month wait to receive a referral. This estimate is based of our approval for 1 or 2 children, either gender, up to age 6. 

Waiting is no fun! I want to adopt yesterday! On the practical side, Andrew has 1 year left to complete his Masters degree, so this timeline works well for us. But my heart cares nothing for being practical. It dreams of sweet brown eyed son(s) or daughter(s). Since wait I must, I might as well wait well! I think waiting is a part of life. What are you waiting for? Hey! That reminds me of Dr. Seuss poem about waiting!

The Waiting Place… by Dr. Seuss
…for people just waiting.
Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a
Yes or a No or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.
Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for
Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a sting of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
NO! That’s not for you!
Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying.
You’ll find the bright places
where Boom Bands are playing.
So Dr. Suess thinks waiting isn't for me? Hmm! I think waiting is just part of life! I came across this great article about waiting. Chances are, you my blog reader, are waiting for something too. Maybe you too are adopting and are waiting. Or maybe you are waiting for something completely different. Whatever you are waiting for, maybe this article will help you too!

God's Will For Your Wait by Paul Tripp
(Originally published on the Gospel Coalition on 9-26-2011)

Waiting can be discouraging and hard. So what does it look like to wait in a way that makes you a participant in what God is doing rather than someone who struggles against the wait? Let me suggest several things.

Remind Yourself You Are Not Alone

As you wait, tell yourself again and again that you have not been singled out. Remind yourself that you are part of a vast company of people who are being called to wait. Reflect on the biblical story. Abraham waited many years for his promised son. Israel waited 420 years for deliverance from Egypt, then another 40 years before they could enter the land God had promised them. God's people waited generation after generation for the Messiah, and the church now waits for his return. The whole world groans as it waits for the final renewal of all things that God has promised. In ministry, it is vital to understand that waiting is not an interruption of God's plan. It is his plan. And you can know this as well: the Lord who has called you to wait is with you in your wait. He hasn't gone off to do something else, like the doctor you're waiting to see. No, God is near, and he provides for you all that you need to be able to wait.

Realize That Waiting Is Active

Usually our view of waiting is the doctor's office. We see it as a meaningless waste of time, like a man stuck in the reception area until he has nothing left to do but scan recipes in a two-year-old copy of Ladies' Home Journal.
Our waiting on God must not be understood this way. The sort of waiting to which we are called is not inactivity. It is very positive, purposeful, and spiritual. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of remembering: remembering who I am and who God is. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of worship: worshiping God for his presence, wisdom, power, love, and grace. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of serving: looking for ways to lovingly assist and encourage others who are also being called to wait. To be called to wait is to be called to the activity of praying: confessing the struggles of my heart and seeking the grace of the God who has called me to wait. We must rethink waiting and remind ourselves that waiting is itself a call to action.

Celebrate How Little Control You Have

Because the constant striving in ministry to be a little god over some corner of creation is draining and futile, waiting should actually be a relief. It's a reminder that I don't have as much power and control as I thought I had. When I am required to wait I realize again that I do not have to load my church onto my shoulders. I may have God-given responsibilities in a number of areas, but that is vastly different from pretending I have sovereignty in any area.
The church is being carried on the capable shoulders of the Savior Shepherd, King of kings. All I am responsible for is the job description of character and behavior that this King has called me to in his Word. The remainder I am free to entrust to him, and for that I am very, very thankful! He really does have the whole world in his hands.

Celebrate God's Commitment to His Work of Grace

As you are waiting, reflect on how deeply broken the world that you live in actually is. Reflect on how pervasive your own struggle with sin really is. Then celebrate the fact that God is committed to the countless ways, large and small, in which his grace is at work to accomplish his purposes in you and in those to whom you minister.
When it comes to the ongoing work of grace, he is a dissatisfied Redeemer. He will not forsake the work of his hands until all has been fully restored. He will exercise his power in whatever way is necessary so that we can finally be fully redeemed from this broken world and delivered from the sin that has held us fast. Celebrate the fact that God will not forsake that process of grace in your life and ministry in order to deliver to you the momentary comfort, pleasure, and ease that you would rather have in your time of exhaustion, discouragement, and weakness. He simply loves you too much to exchange temporary gratification for eternal glory!

Let Your Waiting Strengthen Your Faith

As I think about waiting, I often remember what is said of Abraham in Romans 4:18-21. The passage tells us that as he waited, Abraham was strengthened in his faith. That's not what we would expect, is it? We tend to think that, having been given a promise from God, a person might well begin to wait with vibrant faith. But as the wait drags on it seems like that faith would gradually weaken. So why did Abraham's faith on the whole grow stronger and stronger? Because of what he did as he waited. During his wait, Abraham became a student of the character and power of God, and the more he saw God for who he is, the stronger his faith became. He meditated on the glory of God, not on the difficulty of his situation.
There are three ways in which, like Abraham, you can let your waiting strengthen your faith. You can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know God better through spending time in his Word, thus developing a deeper sense of his character, wisdom, power, and plan. Second, you can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know yourself better. As you wait, and as your heart is revealed, you have the precious opportunity to become a student of your own heart. What sins, weaknesses, and struggles has God revealed during the wait? Where has waiting exposed the lies and false gods that make waiting difficult? And third, you can recognize that waiting is an opportunity to know others better, as their hearts are similarly revealed. This can offer you precious opportunities for even more effective ministry to those in your care.
Determine to grow stronger, more effective, and more full of faith as you wait. It is, after all, a key part of God's intention.

Count Your Blessings

Vital to productive waiting is a commitment to resist the grumbling and complaining that often kidnap us all. To fight this tendency, learn to number your blessings as you wait.
I once heard a missionary leader tell a story of how he was dreading an extremely long road trip. Then the thought came to him that this time of being imprisoned behind the wheel of his car was in fact an opportunity. He decided that as he drove he would thank God for every little detail of blessing and grace he could recall, beginning with his earliest memory. As he drove hour after hour, he recounted to God year after year and decade after decade of blessing upon blessing. By the end of his journey, he still had not come up to the present day. As a result, rather than ending his trip exhausted and bored, he ended it excited and changed. He saw his life through new eyes, with the presence and provision of God in his life taking on a clarity and comprehensiveness he had never before glimpsed.
By contrast, waiting often becomes for us an exercise in reminding ourselves of what we don't have. How much better, how much more fruitful, how much more joyful, to take waiting as an opportunity to recount the many, many good things in our lives that we have been given---things we could have never earned, achieved, or deserved.

Long for Eternity

There is one other thing waiting is meant to do: God intends that waiting would make me long for home. When I consider this, I am often reminded of camping. I suspect the whole purpose of camping is to make you thankful for home. When you camp, everything is more difficult than it would be at home. In the beginning, that can be fun. But three or four days in, you begin to get tired of having to make a fire, having to hunt for drinkable water, and having to fish for supper. You quietly (or not so quietly) begin to long for home.
Waiting is meant to remind you that you live "between the already and the not yet." Yes, there are many, many things for which to be thankful in this life, but this place is not your final home. You are in a temporary dwelling in a temporary location. In the life and ministry you experience here, there is one aspect or another that can remind you this is not home. The hardships of your present life and ministry speak clearly: this is not the final destination. Waiting is meant to produce in you a God-honoring dissatisfaction with the status quo. Waiting is meant to make you hungry, to produce in you a longing. For what? To be home---home with your Lord forever, home where sin is no more, home in a world that has been made completely new. As you wait, keep telling yourself, This is not my final destination.
Right now, right here, in your personal life or ministry, there is some way, perhaps many ways, in which God is calling you to wait. How well are you waiting? Has your waiting produced in you a faith that is stronger? Or weaker? Has the manner of your waiting drawn you closer to God? Or further away? Has your approach to waiting helped remind you of all the blessings you have been showered with? Or has it tempted you to continually rehearse your list of unmet wants? Has your waiting served to teach you truths about yourself? Or has it only made you more blind about yourself and angry about your circumstances? Has the way you wait enabled you to reach out and minister to others better, or has it simply drawn you deeper into the claustrophobic drama of your own waiting?
In each case, it's your choice. Take hold of the grace that God makes available. All of these outcomes are contingent on whether you choose God or self, fruitfulness or futility, his powerful grace or your own feeble will. Always remember that God is never separate from your wait. He is the Lord of waiting. He is the liberal giver of grace for the wait. Because your wait is not outside of his plan, but a vital and necessary part of it, he is with you in your wait. And remember God is not so much after the success of your ministry, he's after you. So as you wait, tell yourself again and again: Waiting is not just about what I get at the end of the wait, but about who I become as I wait.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Fabulous, Cloud Nine Weekend

This past weekend Andrew and I had the great privilege of attending a Bulgaria Adoptive Families Reunion. It was wonderful! The only way I could have enjoyed it more was if I had a referral picture to show off or perhaps if I had some beautiful olive-skinned children with us whom I called my son(s) or daughter(s)! I am not sure the total number of families at the reunion but I think I counted over twenty families from at least ten different states! There were families with adopted children only, with biological children and adopted children, families who in process to adopt for the first time or the second or third time, large families and small families. But we were all united by the adoption of children from Bulgaria! It was wonderful to sit around a camp fire or a table and converse with people who understood. These parents understood the paperwork, the waiting, the emotional roller coaster. It was great also to be joining a support network of people who will understand us after the adoption is complete and we are facing the challenges of parenting children who lived the first years of their life in an orphanage and who don't speak English yet.

Other highlights of the weekend included eating Shopska salad and other Bulgarian food, seeing referral pictures of famies' kids they would soon be bringing home, hearing traditional Bulgarian music and learning some of the culture.

I would love to share lots of pictures from the weekend, but for the privacy of the families at the reunion, I will not be sharing them on a public blog like this. Instead, I will print the pictures and stick them in my scrapbook!

One of the best parts of the weekend was seeing all the children! There were children everywhere. Beautiful children with dark eyes, olive skin, and dark hair. Beautiful children with lighter skin and hair. All so beautiful. There were little toddlers and preschool age children, and lots of elementary school age children and teenagers. The children were all playing together: groups of teenagers skate boarding or hanging out, little children riding bikes or scooters, medium sized children tossing water balloons back and forth. Some children home as little as 6 months ago, and some children home for 8+ years. Some of the children this weekend knew each other in their orphanage before being adopted! How amazing that they get to see each other again! Seeing these kids made our adoption seem real! On the other side of all our paperwork and waiting and saving funds are real children who will join are family!

I want to bring our kids to the reunion every summer because I know how meaningful and important and fun it will be for them. Sometimes children who have been adopted can feel different than the other children they may be surrounded by in their school, church, or community. They need to be able to be with other children who have a similar background and who look like them. Other moms shared these stories. (Names omitted for privacy.)

We had an amazing weekend meeting other families who have shared the same Bulgaria adoption journey. (Our son) met other amazing, inspiring kids who looked like him and have been through similar experiences. (My husband) and I met other wonderful parents who have shared the roller coaster of international adoption. We wondered if (our son) got anything out of it because it was stressful for him at times and them he told us he liked it because "he made new friends and saw that he's not the only kid with a disability who gets adopted." That made this mom's heart smile!

-from a mom at the reunion

The reunion has finally become therapeutic for (my son). He enjoyed himself, and found some degree of healing to his heart. For those (parents) who having been making the event part of their children's life from the beginning off their American life know how wonderful this is for them.

-from another mom at the reunion

Monday, June 10, 2013

Celebrating the Small Steps

In a big thing like international adoption, you have to celebrate every small step of progress. Today, we received our approval to adopt from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. (For those of you who speak adoptionese our I800A was approved by USCIS on Friday and we received our I797 in the mail today!) For those of you who aren't familiar with all this adoption jargon, it just means that the US government has given us the initial approval to adopt children from another country.

Seriously, USCIS, I800A, dossier, apostilled....I think I will write an adoption dictionary/encyclopedia when we are finished with our adoption to explain all these terms for families who decide to adopt. For us, each step of the adoption brings new terms to learn. Thankful for a good agency to guide us through this adoption maze! Of course by the time I finished writing and publishing such a book, it would be out of date because adoption laws and regulations are constantly changing...

What is next: 
I was so happy to receive our approval notice because it was the last document needed to complete our dossier (adoption paper work). I mailed a notarized copy of it to our agency today and they should have it by Wednesday! Our agency will finish preparing our dossier (adoption paperwork) and have it sent to Bulgaria. We hope it will be ready to send to Bulgaria for translation this summer!

Monday, May 20, 2013

Small Bump in the Road, But Lots of Progress!

First, the Bump in the Road!

On Thursday, we got a letter in the mail from USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services).  I was excited, but nervous to open it. Was this our approval letter/form? Nope! It was a letter requesting more information before we could be approved.  USCIS requested an updated homestudy because 1 required sentence was missing from our home study (a very important sentence that is standard to all home studies, but somehow was missed in ours.) I called our home study agency on Friday, and by today (Monday) the problem was fixed! Our homestudy agency was super cooperative in correcting it with out charging us and Andrew was able to pick up the updated homestudy today! Tomorrow, it will go out in the mail to USCIS. We should get a letter of approval in the mail from USCIS shortly!

Second, Lots of Progress!

Our placing agency, Children of All Nations, has finished getting all our documents apostiled (authenticated at state and/or federal levels). As soon as we get our approval from USCIS, our dossier will be sent to Bulgaria to be translated!


Right now, all we can do is wait while our paperwork is completed, then translated in Bulgarian for approval by the Bulgarian government. While we wait, we are busy! Andrew successfully completed another semester and is officially halfway done with his masters course! This week he will be starting a summer class. Andrew will also be working a lot more hours as a trim carpenter in the summer and be working on finishing our basement in the evenings. I have 1 week left of teaching preschool before we are out for the summer. Next week, I will be taking a short 3 day missions trip to Haiti for a to help train teachers at a Sunday school training seminar. For the summer, I will be babysitting a lot more hours!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Birth Mother's Day

Thus far in my life, Mother's Day has always been a day to celebrate the wonderful mom I had. (And for the past three years, it has also included thanking my wonderful mother-in-law for raising such a great son!) This year on Mother's Day, I can't help but think about our kids' birth mother. I found out that the Saturday before Mother's Day is Birth Mother's Day. I wonder...What our kids' birth mother is/was like? Did my kids get to know their birth mother at all before going to their orphanage? What were the circumstances that our kids could no longer live with their birth mother? Did she die? Did she have to leave them at an orphanage for some other reason? I wonder what their birth mother looks like. I hope someday to have a picture of her, for our kids' sake. I hope that if she is still living, and if our children want too, that someday we can meet her. And if I am ever privileged enough to meet my children's birth mother I want to tell her some things. I want to tell her "Thank you. Thank you for giving your children life. Thank you for giving them all the love you could." And I want her to know that her children will be okay. That we will love them and care for them.

PS. I write about our kids in this article as if they are already ours. No, we don't have a referral yet. But as future adoptive parents, we think of our future kids as "our kids", even though we don't know their names or ages. They may not legally be our kids yet, but in our hearts, they are and always will be our children!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Update: Biometric Finger Prints Done

Hi! Just a quick update to let you know we went to our local USCIS office today and had our biometric fingerprints done! We should be getting our approval letter from Citizenship and Immigration Services in about 3 weeks! Also, our paper work (Dossier) is still in the process of being apostilled! From here on out, we are just waiting. We have done everything that we can do!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Weekend: Empowered to Connect Adoption/Foster Parenting Conference

This past weekend, Andrew and I attended Empowered to Connect Adoption/Foster Parenting Conference sponsored by Show Hope. We had a long drive to Chicago Illinois to get there! Chicago was much colder than where we live! In fact, on Friday it was snowing! We had a wonderful time! For one thing it had been a while since we had weekend that we could spend together with no responsibilities (and no homework for Andrew.) It was nice just to get away together and enjoy each other's company!

I highly recommend Empowered to Connect to adoptive and foster parents or to prospective parents! We learned so much this weekend about parenting kids who come from hard places, such as prenatal stress, difficult birth, early hospitalization, trauma, neglect, and abuse. Mostly, Andrew and I learned how much we don't know! But we also came away with powerful resources and information about where to go for help if we need it!

Dr. Karyn Purvis, Amy and Micheal Monroe in a Q& A Session
We figured a trip to Chicago wouldn't be complete without trying some Chicago style, deep dish pizza!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Celebrating a Big Accomplishment!

This week, we got home study approval! The whole home study process took much longer than expected and had a few bumps in the road!

So excited to have our home study report!

The home study was the last document we needed to mail our dossier (big stack of adoption paperwork) to our agency. Completing our dossier is a big accomplishment! We have spent months accumulating all the documents required to adopt from Bulgaria.

Our Dossier - Otherwise Known As "Big Stack of Adoption Paperwork"

Our home study was also the last piece of paperwork we needed to mail our I800A application to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services) for approval to adopt 2 children from Bulgaria. The same day we received our home study, we Fed Exed our I800A application to USCIS and our dossier to our international adoption agency.

Months of Work All In 2 Fed Ex Envelopes!

All that accomplishment was cause to celebrate! After we dropped of our precious cargo at Fed Ex, we went out for some beef brisket! Mmmm....Was it delicious!

So what is next?

We are done with our part of the paperwork. All we can do now is wait.

USCIS Approval/Dossier Authenticated and Translated
We are waiting to be notified by USCIS for a special appointment at our local Department of Homeland Security to be finger printed again. After finger printing again, we will wait a little longer to get approval from USCIS.

While we wait for USCIS approval, our adoption agency will be working on having all the documents in our dossier notary certified by the county clerk of courts and apostilled at the state capitol. (I am not sure what all that means completely, but basically the papers get stamped as true documents at the county and state level - because just have them notarized is not good enough apparently!) Then all our paperwork gets translated into Bulgarian.

Paperwork Registered in Bulgaria and More Waiting
Once we get USCIS approval and our documents are apostilled and translated, our paperwork will get sent to Bulgaria. In Bulgaria, the Minister of Justice will look over it and approve us as prospective adoptive parents. Once we get MOJ approval, we will be listed on the register of prospective adoptive parents and wait for a referral (match with our children)! We our told, that the wait for a referral of two children of either gender up to age six with minor or correctable special needs could be anywhere from 6 to 18 months once we are registered as prospective parents.

Referral and Travel
Once we receive our referral for children, we will travel to Bulgaria to meet our children and officially accept their referral. We will need to return home for 4-6 months while our adoption case is processed in the Bulgarian court. Then we can make a second trip to Bulgaria to bring our children home!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Perfect Love Drives Away Fears


Recently, I have been posting about how God has been changing our minds about what adoption should look like in our family. (See Big Kid Adoption and Big Prayers.) We originally thought we would adopt one healthy child under the age of three. Fast forward about a year and we in the home study process being approved to adopt up to two children, unrelated or siblings, ages six and under, either healthy or with some correctable and/or minor medical/special needs. In my post  "Big Kid Adoption" and "Big Prayers," I wrote about how researching and finding answers to our questions has helped put to rest our fears about adoption. While this is true, perhaps even more true is that God's love has put to rest our fears.

1 John 4: 18 says that perfect love (God's love) drives out fear. While I am all for preparation, I know all the preparation in the world without the love of God in our hearts, wouldn't be enough. God's love enables the preparation and education to lay our fears to rest.

Sometimes I still have fears. This week I opened my inbox and found an email from K. our social worker with a draft of our home study for us to look over. (We happened to receive the draft on our 3rd wedding anniversary! What a nice gift!). I was so excited to read our home study! Reading it made our adoption seem more real. Yes, I felt very excited, but I felt a little nervous and fearful too! The reality hit me that Andrew and I will be completely responsible for these children that we are bringing into our family!  I am sure every new parent feels a little nervous about the responsibility of parenting children. For me, God's love is what calms and soothes those fears! God fills my heart with love for these children who will someday be mine to mother. When our children are finally home with us, and the days are long and hard, it will be God's love that will help us through those hard times.

I don't want to sound like I am tooting my own horn here - I am praising God for His power and love in me. I am not capable of being loving in and of myself. By nature, I am a very selfish person. I want what I want and I want it now! Know what I mean? But God, through His great love, has saved me from my sin and selfishness. He has changed my selfish nature and is helping me to continue to change and to become more loving like He is loving. Every inch of our adoption journey, from the idea being born in our hearts, to God opening our hearts to the very neediest children (older and special needs), has been because of God's love in our hearts. 

1 John 4: 7-14 NASB

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love. By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. We have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son to be the Savior of the world.

Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this, love is perfected with us, so that we may have confidence in the day of judgment; because as He is, so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love. We love, because He first loved us. If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also.

Monday, March 11, 2013

This Week We Are Celebrating 3 Years!

Three Years ago, I was a blushing bride...

in love with a handsome groom.

We committed their lives to loving each other...

and began living our happily ever after!

We enjoyed a relaxing honeymoon in the mountains.
Life has been an exciting adventure together. Since then we have...

Graduated with BAs together!

Goofed off!

Celebrated our first anniversary!

Bought a "fixer upper" and fixed it up!

Celebrated our 2nd wedding anniversary!

Began the journey to parenthood!

Can't wait to see what God has planned for us next!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Big Prayers

God isn't Offending by your biggest dreams or boldest prayers. He is offended by anything less. If your prayers aren't impossible to you, they are insulting to God. Why? Because they don't require divine intervention.  

- Mark Batterson
The Circle Maker, pg 13

From Healthy Children Only...

Andrew and I initially were thinking we would adopt only healthy children for several reasons. Our reasoning was that healthy children seemed best because of our limited financial resources. Medical special needs may require expensive treatments! We also know that parenting a child with special needs can strain a marriage, in addition to the strain of parenting children through adoption, and parenting in general! We felt our marriage must come first, not just for our own well being, but for the well being of our children.

To What If?

But God has a way of leading us and changing our hearts and minds!  First, the topic of adopting a child with special medical needs was opened up between Andrew and I again by an email from someone we have never met in person, but have a slight connection with through the adoption. Next, I ran into a friend who is also adopting from Bulgaria and we discussed different special needs that their family was open too. A few nights later in women's Bible study, we were challenged to pray big prayers. What will the result of these big prayers be as God works in our lives? After that, Andrew and I prayed that God would help us to know what special needs, if any would be a good fit for our family. 

Facing our Fears...

Our agency provided a list of common special needs to us. Could we parent a child with needs on this list? It seemed scary and overwhelming at first! Every parent wants their children to be as healthy as possible. Parenting a child with special needs seems scary!

There is nothing like information to drive away fears. About that time we started meeting with our social worker and she connected us with a doctor who has experience with children adopted internationally.  The pediatrician and I had a great chat. She went over each of the special needs on the list and explained a little about the challenges associated with each, as wells as local resources available to help with some special needs.  This helped us narrow down the list to what we thought we would be able to provide good care for with good health insurance and the resources in area. Andrew and I talked some more about each of the special needs on the list. As we looked over the list, some of the needs listed didn't seem like a big deal to us! Vision problems are considered a special medical need? I know lots of people who need to wear glasses or contacts and I even have a sister who is blind in one eye. That isn't so scary! Club feet? That can be corrected with free or low cost surgery/treatment at Shriners Hospital for Children. I think we could handle that!

God's Perfect Timing

For us, the timing God used to open our hearts to the possibility of special needs, was perfect. You see, we have to be specifically approved by our social worker in our home study for each special need we are willing to considered adopting. If the email or the Bible study had happened a month or two later, we would have already completed our home study and would have only been approved to adopt healthy children.

Stepping in Faith and Obedience

This week, I email to our social worker the list of 19 special needs we feel we could parent. While we are still going to be approved to adopt healthy children, we are also going to be approved to parent children with certain special needs. What made our list? Probably different things than someone else who is adopting.

We still have uncertainties, but we know that the God who called us into adoption is with us every step of this amazing journey, leading us, guiding us, and providing the strength and wisdom we need. And believe me, we need God's strength and wisdom!


Don't think you could adopt a child with a medical or special need? Pray and ask God what His desire is for your life! The following resources may also help you with your decision. 


Monday, March 4, 2013

Snapshot from our Weekend!

This weekend, Andrew and I enjoyed a trip to our local international grocery store, which has a small Bulgarian section. What we purchased:

Seasoning Packets for soups, stews and even stuffed peppers! We tried the stuffed peppers for Sunday dinner yesterday and they were delicious! Can't wait to try the soups!

Pickled Vegetables, which I wasn't sure that I would like, but am quickly acquiring a taste for! The jar we got is pictured below - called a cocktail salad. It includes pickled cucumbers, carrots, and red peppers.
Pickled vegetable "salad" which is popular in Bulgaria!

Rose Hip Marmalade, which we decided we liked but not as well as Rose Hip Jelly, which we had bought last time.
What we bought last time and loved!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

On My Must Read List: Orphan Justice

I love to read! How about you?

While I advocate for adoption all the time on this blog, I also know adoption isn't for everyone. But I believe that some form of orphan care is for every follower of Christ. A book I want to read that is coming out in 2 days is Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting by Johnny Carr. You can pre-order it on Amazon! I can't wait to find out more ways that all of us can care for orphans!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Opening Our Hearts to Big Kid Adoption

As a part of our homestudy, Andrew and I had to spell out specifically the characteristics of the children we would be willing to adopt and be approved specifically to parent each of these characteristics. One of those characteristics was age. When Andrew and I first thought about adopting, we wanted to adopt a baby or toddler! We thought we would request age 3 and under. Then we upped the age to age 5, then to age 6. Our homestudy will approve us to adopt 2 children, related or unrelated, ages 5 and under.

So why did we up the age?

The Needs of Waiting Children...

We upped the age because we found out that UNICEF says 95% percent of orphans in the world are over the age of five. Most orphans are "big kids." Older children are waiting to be adopted in many, many countries.
According to the US Department of State, 55% of children adopted internationally are age 2 and under. Most adoption agencies consider older child adoption to start at age 3. A huge need exist for parents to adopt older children! (Young orphans also need a family! Every child should grow up in a loving family!)

Waiting Parents...

We upped the age because there are many prospective parents are waiting for young children. Like us, most people want to adopt a baby, the younger the better. In all countries that allow international adoption, the younger the age you request, the longer your will be waiting to adopt. We don't want to join the ranks of parents waiting to be matched with an infant. Andrew and I don't feel it is right for us to be waiting years and years just because we want a baby, when older children are waiting. While we set our parameters so that we could still adopt a young baby or toddler if there is a young baby or toddler who needs a family, we also wanted to make our parameters such that we wouldn't exclude the possibility of adopting a kindergarten/preschool age child who needs a family. We want to set our parameters as broad as possible so that children won't have to wait for a family any longer than necessary.

The Fears...

Sometimes, Andrew and I have some fears about about "big kid adoption." Adopting a baby seems safer and easier. A baby has experienced less trauma, neglect, and abuse. Andrew and I could start from the beginning with a clean slate if we adopted a baby. If we adopt an older child, we may have years of heartache to help heal. (Some families also have the concerns about other children already in their home. This is one reason Andrew and I decided to adopt before having biological children.)

But Andrew and I did not set out to adopt because we wanted safe and easy parenthood. (If that was our goal, hello pregnancy!) We set out to adopt because we wanted to give family to children who were waiting for a family. For us, this means children up to age 6.  Why 6? Well, we aren't prepared to parent a teenager! Seriously, we did not feel that the age gap would be appropriate if we went to old. We had to set the age limit somewhere. We wanted to put the best interest of the child as a priority. What age range could we best support as parents? Our other main priority is our marriage. Our marriage is the foundation of our family. It is important to the well being of our future children that Andrew and I have a strong marriage. Parenthood in general brings new stresses into a marriage. Adoption can add additional stresses to a marriage. We had to look realistically at what we could handle emotionally, physically, financially, etc.

Not Being Dictated by Our Fears...

We knew God was calling us to adopt. We couldn't let our fears keep us from following God's plan for our lives. Instead, of being dictated by our fears, we tried to find answers to our fears. A favorite quote I once heard was:
Hope for the best, prepare for the worst!

This quote is perfect for the optimist in me and the pessimist in Andrew! Researching the difficulties involved in older child adoption, as well as resources to help work through these difficulties, is an important part of our adoption journey.  Finding help and answers is putting to rest some of our fears! No it won't be easy, but many people have found it doable and rewarding!

Could you be the family for an older child? If so, don't be scared, get prepared!

Resources to Prepare:
Blog Posts on Older Child Adoption:

Thursday, February 21, 2013


Did you know that international adoptions are on the decline? It is not for lack of children that need homes or for lack of parent swilling to adopt them! Stuck is a new documentary that follows the story of three families trying to adopt children who are stuck in an orphanage due to governmental red tape! It is on my must watch list! Go to to find out more and sign there petition!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homestudy Visits Complete!

This morning Andrew & I met at Panera Bread with our social worker K. for the fourth and last interview for our homestudy. Today, we talked about how Andrew and I plan to parent our child, including building a healthy self esteem of our children (especially related to their adoption) and disciplining.

I felt much more confident about this last meeting, though maybe I was still slightly nervous.  Our social worker really is here to help us with our adoption. She has offered lots of helpful insight into the transition period when our children come home and has a wealth of information about resources in our area. After the meeting, I feel so excited about our children and a little more confident in our ability to be parents. It is also exciting to be one step closer to bringing our children home.

So What Is Next?

Our social worker will work on writing up our homestudy, which is like a report for the governments involved showing that we will be good parents who are capable of caring for children adopted from Bulgaria. Our international agency, Children of All Nations, as well as Andrew and I, will get to see a draft of the homestudy report when K. is finished writing it and let her know if their are any changes that need to be made. Once we receive our approved homestudy, we will be applying for immigration approval.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Give1Save1: Europe

Have you heard of Give1Save1? If not, you need to check it out!

Give1Save1 is a blog with heart! All of our bloggers are volunteers who want to help adopting families bring their children home. It all began with an adoptive momma-to-be, Beth, who knew personally how expensive adoption can be. She had the brainy idea to start a blog asking people to give $1 (or more) to a family who was adopting. With everyone giving a little, it adds up to a lot! Beth wanted to feature a family a week, and help that family quickly raise money to bring their child home. Give1Save1 originally featured families adopting from Africa. Beth's idea worked so well, that new pages were created to feature families adopting from Asia, the Caribbean and domestically. I am excited to be joining the team of Give1Save1 bloggers!  I will be helping with the new, Give1Save1 Europe page! Why don't you head on over to Give1Save1 and check them out?! Give1Save1 Europe is also on Facebook!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

First Homestudy Interview

Saturday, we had our first homestudy interview with K., our social worker. I think it went really well? But how can I tell?

I was not too nervous until Saturday morning. I did some more house cleaning while waiting for K. to arrive. Andrew thought it funny how I was nervous. He hadn't really seen me like this because I am usually more relaxed about things. Although our house looked nice and clean (we finally got the kitchen curtain up and the dust ruffle on our bed!), I followed the advice of Shelly on her blog and didn't move any heavy furniture, scrub the bath tub, or clean out the refrigerator in preparation for K. to come to our house. I finally sat down,  tried to relax, and did a little crocheting.

Then at a few minutes after ten, our social worker arrived! K. was very nice and smiled. We welcomed her into our home and all sat down in the living room. She asked us if we had and questions for her. The she asked us questions. We talked about Andrew and I as a couple, how we met, each other's strengths, what attracted us to each other initially, what we like about each other after almost three years of marriage, strengths and weaknesses of marriage, why we want to adopt, our expectations about adoption. K. also asked us about the type of child/children we were looking to adopt (age, gender, number of children, any special needs, etc.) K. recommended some local adoption professionals as resources for us.

Then K. walked through our house for a safety audit. She calmed my fears that the room we had picked out for our children's bedroom was not too small. I shouldn't have been worried about her seeing our house at all because she didn't look in our refrigerator, or check for dust bunnies in our closets or under our beds. Basically, K. just wanted to make sure our house wasn't unsafe for small children. Some of the questions on the safety audit were actually a little humorous. For example, did we have running water/indoor plumbing?

I still have a small fear that we won't get homestudy approval.   I think I am worried she will think we make too low of an income, or our house is too small, or we are too religious, or something! There is something a little scary about having someone come into your house, meet you a few times, and judge you based on that short amount of time. Our social worker has the power to say yes or no to our adoption. I need to really trust God, that if we are to adopt, our social worker, K., will approve us.

Before K. left, we scheduled our next three meetings. Andrew will meet with K. at a local coffee shop on Tuesday. I will meet with K. also at the coffee shop on Thursday. For our last meeting, we will both meet with K. on the following Tuesday.

After the first interview, we both felt a little emotionally drained and took a nap.


Andrew's meeting on Tuesday with K. went well! I am not so nervous about not getting homestudy approval anymore! I will let you know how my Thursday meeting goes...