Saturday, April 21, 2018

From the Beginning

This is my fourth attempt over the past week to write out our family's story - and how we "met" our newest member.  As over-the-moon happy as we are - writing it all out would mean reliving some of the harder moments of our journey.  It's so easy to see the building of a family through adoption just as a beautiful "rescue" of a child - but its so not that.  But - at the beginning of our journey - Nate and I made a commitment to be transparent and honest about our process - and to be sure to give God all the glory for the story He would write -even in the hard moments - in hopes that it would encourage others to seek out adoption - support adoption - or love on adoptive families - because THIS matters. So - here it goes:

To understand some of our story I need to give a very brief - no-details description of Chinese adoption.  There are two ways to go about adopting from China - being "matched" based on a list of medical conditions your family feels equipped to parent or identifying a "waiting child" who has been approved by the Chinese government to be adopted - but for whatever reason has been unable to be matched with a family by an agency.  These "waiting children" some are with specific agencies - meaning that agency is looking for a family for them - and there is also a "shared list" where a "listing" of children needing homes exist.  If you choose to be "matched" by your agency (the route Nate and I chose) you are still able to "search" for your child on waiting children websites, advocacy websites, etc. but your ability to pursue them fully will depend on your agency's ability to secure their file or your willingness to transfer agencies and start the process all over.  So... now that that is out of the way --


At the end of January - to say Nate and I were "burnt out" would have been an understatement.  We were totally over the waiting part of this process. Over. It.  Every month that went by I would question - did we even hear God right?  Are we really, I mean really supposed to do this?  I mean, how do I know it was God telling me to adopt and not just myself wanting to adopt? Literally - I questioned everything.  In those moments I would always try to figure out - "What is God teaching me? Telling me?  If I hurry and learn it - will he hurry and give me a baby?"  (Funny, in case you weren't sure, God doesn't work that way.)  But still we waited - and prayed - and waited - and prayed prayed prayed - God SHOW us what you want us to do. Help us trust your plan and your guidance - and give us boldness to walk whatever road you put in front of us -- whenever that happens.

On February 16th  - in an advocacy group that I was a member of - this was posted:



I saw the post, clicked the post - and thought - my goodness she is precious.  Super precious.  But I also thought, this never works (we had seen other children on various advocacy sites - and even inquired about several - and each time they either already had families - or the agency was unwilling to transfer their file to our agency - meaning we would have to start all over - all over - paperwork and finances) - so we took this as a closed door.  Plus, Nate and I had just talked with our global worker the weekend before - and were told how our family was almost to the very top of the match list - because we had been waiting so long - and how certain they were that we would be matched soon - and so - really, we decided to wait it out.

But I couldn't stop thinking about her face.  She was the first thing I thought of every morning - I wonder if her momma found her - I wonder if she's got a family -  but I never checked.

Weeks later, y'all - I was STILL thinking about her.  Three weeks later (which I kick myself for now) I decided to go back and check the post.  It was still there.  I asked the advocate for more information - secretly praying she was a shared list baby -and not with another agency - because in our past experience that was a closed door for us.  She was with an agency. 

The sweet advocate gave me the information for the agency that she was with - and told me she would be more than happy to answer any questions we had about one of the medical conditions listed in her file - because her son had the same diagnosis.  I politely thanked her and thought - "that's sweet, but we won't be talking again because I told Nate I was going to wait patiently -   and he's going to take one look at the diagnosis list and freak out - or he is going to say 'she's with another agency - this won't work - we will pray for her and continue to wait'"....

Instead of saying anything - I just screenshot the post - and text it to Nate saying "I just want you to know I've been thinking about this face since it was posted -- she is with XXX agency...and I know this never works - but I just want you to know...."

The response I got:  "See if you can get her full file"...

What?? You mean, like ask for more information?? 

"Just ask.  See if you can..."

Before I could finish reading I had drafted and sent an email.  Only to get an out of office message from the agency contact.  HA! [And God laughed. Again.]

We discussed the possibility of the agency actually agreeing to transfer her file - and we knew it was more than likely a "no" but we also agreed that until we had more information we wouldn't make any decisions. If the doors opened we would walk through until they shut...

When we heard back from the agency contact she agreed to share her full medical information with us - and said that they would be willing to transfer the file to our agency if we decided to move forward - as long as they didn't have any families with their own agency that were interested. Okay, no one has ever said this before.....

That night we opened her file - and saw the L.I.S.T. of medical "diagnosis"..and y'all - google is not the place to go.  I mean, don't get me wrong - I webMD with the best of them - for my own self - my own symptoms - but put your kid on the other end of that search - or in this case - a baby that you feel like should be in your home and you are trying to trust God about - and you gotta just shut it down.  

Yet, some how - instead of being overwhelmed, or worried, or scared - all the things that those words should have made me feel - I felt peace.  Literally, peace.  I asked Nate cautiously how he was feeling and his response: I think we can and should do this - this could be her - let's get some more information.

Over the next few days we asked a few more questions to the agency holding her file - if they could get some more up-to-date information for us - which they agreed (hindsight, they probably had already asked for these updates for their own files) and shared it with us as soon as they received it.  We also posted in a special needs adoption group to see if there were any other families with experience with her particular needs - and what resources we should be looking into - all the while trying to remain as un-attached as we could - just waiting on the bottom to fall out and the agency to change their mind about transferring the file.

We received so much support from other families with similar diagnosis - some with hard things to hear - but every single one with "it's totally worth it! Go get her!"

I think we knew immediately she was meant to be in our family - but were also in the same breath overwhelmed by the things we know we will face coming home - and were giving God a chance to close the door - you know, in case we were once again hearing Him wrong.

Two days before our home study renewal - we received an update from the agency holding her file - some questions and answers, a couple of pictures, and three videos.  We were running errands with the kids when the update came through - and sitting in the pediatrician's parking lot (because who plans ahead to do all their medical appointments and pick up shot records moments before the social worker comes to visit - not us) when I opened a file and through headphones heard the word "Mama" come from that precious face pushing her little self around in a walker that was way to small for her long legs.  "Mama."  It was all over.  I looked at Nate (who was listening on his own phone - both of us doing everything we could to keep our composure behind sunglasses because - we knew.  We knew at that very moment we had to move heaven and earth to get her home.  Only we knew that if it was going to work out - God was going to have to work it out.

I followed up immediately with the other agency - please transfer her file! We are ready! Our home study will be renewed by the end of the week - we want to go get her.   And like a sucker punch - the reply email of "I'm sorry - we decided to show her file to a family with our agency - you will have to wait and see what they decide to do."  I was stunned.  How in the world in less than a couple hours - could this have happened?  Why didn't they ask us first after sending the updates to us we had requested?  ALL THE QUESTIONS.  But we waited.  And both agreed - if she was ours - God would show us - and we would do everything we could on our end to bring her home.

So we waited a couple of days - and I prayed for the other family.  I prayed that they would make a decision quickly - and that if it was yes, their papers would go through fast and she would come home.

Several days later, I decided to call instead of email - just to be sure this agency understood that we had all the paperwork necessary and were ready to go.  Instead of hearing - the other family is still deciding, they are having her file reviewed by doctors (required before moving forward, and something we had already done)  I heard - we have shared her filed with a second family - also with our agency and they are both home study ready - it could be weeks before you know something.  

Something about the conversation on the phone didn't sit right with me.  I was encouraged by several friends (more knowledgeable about the new laws than me) to investigate the laws on this type of thing.  According to the new laws (as I was reading them) any family with an approved home study who was wanting to move forward has priority because the GOAL is to get these babies home and with families as soon as possible.  Not wait and wait and wait- and allow a specific agency who happens to hold their file to place them - and only pass the file along if they can't find a family.

Again, I decided to post in a second adoption group - explaining the situation - and ask for advice/opinions/knowledge from other mommas who are more experienced than me.  [Side note:  How people adopted before social media and the community that it has created for adoptive parents I will never know.]  Within minutes replies were coming in from all over - "go directly to [China] and ask for the file -- don't wait for them to agree to transfer -- the new law is they have to transfer -- if they won't you can ask the CCCWA [who has the final say in China] directly...." etc.  Then, y'all, another mom replied: "We are the second family...."

Blink.Blink.Blink.

Really long[er] story made [slightly] shorter - this momma had seen my post about her needs in the special needs group, and put two and two together - even though I had never shared her name or identifying information in either post.  She shared with me how they wanted to review her file because her needs seemed similar to their other daughter, but that the agency holding the file had also rubbed her the wrong way (meaning that no - they were not already committed to using said agency like the agency had told us -- and their paperwork wasn't even ready) and then she said "go get your girl. GO GET HER! I love her! Go get her, Momma!"    This is the kind of support that I have seen in the adoption community like I never have  anywhere else.  A whole bunch of mommas and daddies that just want these babies to have homes and to know love.  

At that very moment the Momma-Bear was fully activated and ready to rumble.  How in the world could an agency prefer to hold a file instead of getting this baby home to a family - not even just ours - but ANY family? What were their reasons other than, agencies don't get paid if they don't place the child.  THIS is that hardest part of our story for me to accept.  The waiting - kind of expected.  The frustration - the back and forth - nothing hit me in the stomach like this did.  It made me feel like for just a second - this was a transaction - and that stinks.  That this was a business only. It TOTALLY stinks.  It stinks - first of all - that these babies are in the situation that they are in to begin with . It STINKS that its so hard and requires to much paperwork, financial commitment, time commitment, and that you have to jump through and over red tape to get to these kids.  It just STINKS. Hear me when I say - these rules about file transfers are new - and I have no idea what the intentions of this other agency were - if they were aware, knowledgeable or intentionally holding the file - or if they were just doing "business as usual." The old rules allowed agencies to hold files for x-number of months and attempt to find a family before returning the children to the shared list - and these new rules put in place are to hopefully avoid any situation where a child would wait longer than necessary.  I do not know their heart.  But I realized at that moment that all of these babies need a voice - and I had to be hers.  I knew at that point that we had to do whatever we could on our end. 

I emailed our agency and said in not so many words- I NEED you to go directly to the CCCWA and ask them for her file.  If THEY say no, then I know that we have done absolutely everything we possibly can to give this baby a family.  If China says no - than this was not meant to be - and I will have peace about that - and I will pray for her desperately to get a family.  But I cannot sit back and knowingly leave her in an orphanage for absolutely one second longer than necessary.

I sent the email on a Wednesday night, and our global office agreed to ask for the file Wednesday night.  Since China is 12 hours ahead - I knew we probably wouldn't hear until the end of the following week (some transfers can take up to two weeks) and since this was the week before Easter our agency would be closed on Good Friday.  As soon as I sent the email - that same peace that we had about her needs was there again.  It literally is all in His hands. If this is our daughter He will give her to us.

Friday morning I was laying in bed with both kids - who had gotten up super early - because why would you sleep in on a day you don't have school - when my phone let out an email ding.  Too early for work emails - so I was sure it was junk.  But as I glanced over - I noticed it was from our agency and all I saw was "FeiFei's file".

At that exact moment Skylar and Wyatt jumped up immediately starving to death and said "we're going to get dressed so we can go downstairs for breakfast!"  YES!! GO!!! GET OUT SO I CAN CHECK MY EMAIL!! 

I opened the email - and read "We are closed today, as you know, but I just wanted to let you know that the CCCWA transferred her file to us last night, so we have her.  I will be in touch with you on Monday to let you know what you need to do next to proceed...."

Shaking, crying, jumping up and down, praying, (all quietly of course because the kids know nothing) I called Nate.  All I could say was "We got her.  We got her!  Oh my goodness - we have her file.  Wait - does this mean she is ours? Does the file make it real??  Holy Cow! This was going to take a couple weeks! It wasn't even 48 hours!!??" We laughed, cried, asked a bunch of questions - and then agreed to keep our mouths shut until we found out for 100 percent sure that she was coming home.

THAT was the hard part. It took another week or so of paperwork to confirm.  We sent our letter of intent to adopt - China then sent their approval -- and we could FINALLY share.  

We have a daughter.  

*****


Now, this went NOTHING like we planned. NOTHING like we imagined.  I don't know that we will ever know why our story has been written this way.  We expected a quick match, an easy yes, and a little bit more paperwork....but nope...

All I know is that Adoption has taught me more about my Heavenly Father than any other situation up until now - in my life.  Adoption is messy but its beautiful.  Its exactly what God does for us.  He pursues us - relentlessly.  When we are far from Him - not even looking for Him - He doesn't stop loving us, wanting us, coming after us.  I don't know if it happened this way just to show me a true picture of His love for me - but it has.  What sacrifice He made on my behalf.  Jesus loves me, this I know.  And He loves this precious little one He placed on our hearts and told us to fight for, this I know.  

We know the rest of this walk will not be easy. There will be grief, and heartache, and moments of doubt, lots of sacrifice, adjustment, rejection, tears and sadness.  But through all of that our prayer is that this precious little nugget will know how much more her Heavenly Father loves her.  That she will hear the name of Jesus and know Him and let her story be one that brings glory to His name.  I pray that as we continue this journey we will be able to share with transparency what is happening in our home.  That someone who is considering adoption will follow through - and that because of our story - there will be one less orphan.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Then I Saw Her Face

I will share the long version of our story soon - but for now - I wanted to share a picture of our sweet baby girl that we (and so many others) have been praying for for almost two years!

We have been up to our eyeballs in paperwork for the last week - and more will be coming. I have every plan to blog her story this week, but for now I am just going to answer the questions we have gotten the most.



How old is she?  She is 2 years old - and her birthday is December 30.

Does she have a name:  Yes - of course she does - but no, we aren't sure yet what it will be! HA!



When will you get her home?  This summer!!!! We are desperately praying that our paperwork pushes through quickly and that we can travel early summer - will you please pray with us?


We knew she would have needs (and for those that didn't know - the majority of children adopted from China do have special needs/differences of some sort) - do we know what they are?  Yes and No.  We know there are lots of scary words in her file.  But when I tell you that we have the biggest peace about them - it is literally un-explainable.  When we get home we will have her conditions explored from top to bottom with doctors that we trust and go from there.  The Lord has made it so abundantly clear to us that this is our daughter - and none of that other stuff matters. 

That being said - you can specifically pray for her health - and that would be wonderful! 


What do we need?  Truthfully - prayer.  Lots and Lots of prayer.  

Our specific requests are: (1) quick turnaround on the paperwork we submitted on Friday (to arrive Monday).  This will pretty much determine if we go early summer or not.  (2) For her health - both before we get her -and once we are home and settled.  (3) For her caregivers - that she is safe and loved on and that they do what they can to prepare her to meet us (we will send a care package with our pictures).  (4)  For Skylar and Wyatt - lots of change is coming their way and we are doing the very best we can to prepare them - but I am 100% certain all of our world's are about to be rocked - in the best possible way of course!  (5) Did I mention we need our paperwork to hurry??   :) (6) That the Lord will continue to provide for the remainder of the process - and that the details (which he has already worked out) and logistics will continue to fall into place. 

We are so very thankful for the support and love that we have been shown.  I am slightly overwhelmed (in the BEST way!) by the amount of texts/calls/emails/messages we have gotten asking about her and what else others can do to help us bring her home.  


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We have been asked a bunch about fundraisers -and YES - here they are. T-shirts and Envelopes.

T-shirts - we will be selling these for $20. All sizes -kids and adults. (Thank you, Aunt LaLa for the awesome design!)  We are going to do a pre-order for the next two weeks - and then have them to you in the two weeks after. If you want to purchase one - please let us know what size you want by text/PM/ or email:  cassfamilygoestochina@gmail.com  
(We will be able to ship the shirts for a flat rate of $5 per package.)

If you purchase shirts -please send us a picture of yourself in them and send them to us!  We will be making a picture book for her with all of your faces! :)  We want her to go from having no family to knowing her village is larger than she ever imagined!




Envelopes:  We have 100 envelopes.  Each envelope has a dollar amount $1-$100.  How does it work?  You select an envelope that has a number of the dollar amount you would like to send - and we will either mail or deliver the envelope - and you mail or deliver it back to us with the amount on the envelope and a note or prayer for our baby.  The notes will go in her box so she will know how many people loved and supported her (and her family) and wanted her to come home.  I know it doesn't seem like a lot -but all of these envelopes - if we can get them filled - will cover almost all of our flights to and from and within China!  



Ways to give: Cash/Check
 PayPal:  ncass1023@gmail.com
Venmo:  @natecass


Our youcaring page is still active - and you can access it here -- but we ask that if you are purchasing t-shirts you use one of the other ways to pay as - like all fundraising websites - a portion of the money given this way is kept for the website.

We are so very very grateful from the bottom of our hears for all the love and support and we can't wait to share more of her story with you all!!  Countdown to China can really begin NOW!!!







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Many have asked about the investment made to adopt internationally (with our agency - everyone is different): here it is.  We are estimated at slightly about the middle range of this scenario right now.  So, yes, every little bit helps and is very very appreciated.  Please, if you are considering adoption - DO NOT let this stop you.  Instead -jump in with both feet like we did -and watch the Lord provide and write a beautiful story for you! You won't regret it!