Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Update (up-dAt): To Supply With Recent Information

Over the past few months, my life has been a barrage of  music. Sometimes it was joyous praise and I was full of excitement and laughter. Sometimes it was heart-achin' blues. 
Looking forward, I can objectively say that I am aware of how minuscule all of these things will be in another year. 

Looking back at the month of August though?  I am both relieved and frustrated.

Relieved: That it would seem like we are coming close to the end of the paperchasing portion of our adoption.

Frustrated: That we aren't where we had hoped we would be. Frustrated that the places we got held up were not the places we expected to get held up and certainly not for the reasons we expected we would get held up. But nevertheless....we got held up anyways!

I keep a spreadsheet of the financial information that goes along with our adoption. It keeps me on track (oops...I need to mail that check today- darn it!) and it helps me KEEP track of how much everything has really cost.  When I created it, after our application part II was accepted and we were moving on to the homestudy section, I also created a timeline (based on the information the agency gave me) as to when we should expect to be making each payment.

Ouch. According to THAT timeline, we should be celebrating our "1 month waiting" anniversary soon.

We are not. 

In fact, we are finding our cycle of "two steps forward, 1 step back" has the longevity of a sea turtle (they live a long time....or so I've been told). We are certainly "practicing our patience" in this season of life, and it does get a little easier knowing that we are only waiting on ONE more document to arrive so that we can turn in our Dossier. As soon as we get that in, it goes through the following steps before reaching Ethiopia:
  • Processed internally at adoption agency to ensure all the documents were completed correctly.
  • Sent to the corresponding Secretary of States to be State certified
  • Sent to the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C. to be authenticated
  • Sent to the Ethiopian Consulate in Washington D.C. to be authenticated. again.
  • Dossier gets sent BACK to adoption agency
  • Agency Sends Dossier to Ethiopia.
  • We go on official waiting list as soon as our Dossier is received in Ethiopia!
Our hope, after FINALLY getting our homestudy completed in early August and being able to complete our USCIS fingerprinting appointment by the 17th, was that we would be on the official waiting list by mid-September! Unfortunately, due to the incredibly common BACKLOG at the USCIS Adoption Processing Center (Known as the NBC) we are two weeks in and have yet to be assigned a caseworker.

In the words of Liz Lemon, "Blurg!!" 
(Sorry ya'll, we are in the middle of 30 Rock: Season 3 at home right now)

We are still hopeful. We know that God can do all things and we confidently put this in His capable hands. It doesn't completely wipe away the frustrations we have with the human race sometimes, but it certainly makes it more bearable!

Once we are standing there, staring into the beautiful eyes of our child. Knowing that the path that led us there was beautiful. and stressful. and frustrating. and filled with joy, and sometimes anger?

I know without the shadow of a doubt that every hardship of this journey will dissipate in our child's eyes. And all we will be left with is an awesome gratitude to God for giving us His most  precious creation to protect and love and guard and shepherd.

Sometimes I wonder if I could go through all of this again (of course, much wiser the second time around)...and...I don't know yet. Ask me again in a year.

'Til I am half way around the world,
*Ashley Lou*

Sunday, August 29, 2010

5 Things On My Mind...

1.  I will find ANYTHING to keep from doing homework. Like blogging...and Facebook...and cheese curls.

2.  I got trapped in the shower this morning...There was a spider.

3. JBF 12 hour volunteering was ultimately a success...Except when I got in trouble for eating a brownie from the "24-hour volunteer room"..I didn't know. I swear, I didn't.

4.  You can't wish away 5 lbs....no matter how hard you try. Even when you think really hard and suck in....

5.  So many problems could be solved with ice cream. I truly believe this.

Letters To My Child: You Get Two...

Dearest one,

Lately, I have been thinking about your culture. Your heritage. I think about how--so badly--we want to integrate Ethiopian culture so commonly into our lives that it doesn't feel forced, or unnatural. I think about how you might someday have brothers and sisters who aren't brown-skinned and how I want them to feel connected to Ethiopia, too. You know, your daddy and I already do. We feel such a heart-connection to learn as much as we can about your birth-country. The language. The food. The culture and holidays. Because of you. Because of how much we already love you. It's not a forced thing. We don't do it out of obligation. We do it because we want to know that, when God gives you to us to raise and protect and shepherd, that we are able to do it. That we are sensitive to so many things that might easily just be ignored. We don't ever want you to feel like you missed out on something. That something that was part of you...was neglected.

You see, you get two. You ALWAYS get two. You get two cultures. You get two mommies (Enat). You get two countries....That means twice as many holidays (I think even mommy and daddy are really excited about that!). And, that is really special. That makes my heart sing a little. It makes mommy? really excited about the future.

But you know what else? I know there will be seasons where you don't care. I know there will be seasons where you don't want to be different. And I know there will be seasons where you wish you were JUST Ethiopian. But? You always get two. Someday, we hope, that will be a beautiful part of your heritage--and ours too...But in those seasons where you are still figuring all that out...know that we will always love you. We won't always have the answers. We won't always know how you feel. But? We will ALWAYS love you. We will always walk that path WITH you. You won't ever be alone. Because, we know that...someday, you will see how special and unique your identity is and how, while every part of your life makes it up...it was never determined by being American, or Ethiopian, or adopted....It was always determined by God. You were so special to God, that He kept His hand on you. He knew that your life was no mistake. Your destiny was never forsaken. You were important enough to protect and hold....

Tonight, half a world away, that is my prayer. That God protect and hold you. That you are always comforted ard never alone. That the time between now and when we can hold you is as quick as the blink of an eye. We love you, dear child. More than you will ever know.

All my love,

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

When This World Leaves You Stunned

There have been times in my life where I have been. just completely. stunned.

Aghast. Blown away. Frozen. Numb. Helpless.

Yep, all of those words apply.

And it's in those seasons where you think...

"Wait a second...I did NOT sign up for this, God!?! What about the promises of abundance? Health? Being the head and not the tail? Having influence and power? Those are the promises I prefer to cash in on today, Lord, Thankyouverymuch."

But, sometimes we forget that--ahem--we've been fairly warned about this world we make residence in. John 16:33 begins with Jesus' warning that "In this world, you will have trouble".

And He wasn't kidding either. Trouble comes and it tries to take your breath away. It comes and it attempts to steal your confidence. Your shelter. Your hope. Your future. The enemy throws big punches sometimes. 

I know it. And you know it too....

The disciples didn't know it yet...but it wouldn't be long before it would "seem" like everything they had worked for...given up their lives for....separated from their families for....BELIEVED in. was gone.

And as Jesus was being brutalized. Humiliated. Murdered? 

They watched. Stunned.

Sometimes I feel like that, too. As if I am just watching this parade of attack happen around me...and I? Just stand there, utterly stunned.

If I am being completely honest....I've felt like that lately.

And I've prayed....Oh boy, have I prayed! And I've cried. And I've complained. And I've pretended I was trying to listen to God--but that can be hard to do with all that carrying on... And then I remembered!

You see, Jesus fairly warned us about this life in John chapter 16....but He didn't leave it at that.

The full verse, gives us reassurance. hope. confidence. that in the end? God has it under control...

"I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have [perfect] peace and confidence. In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration; but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted]! For I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]" (Amplified version)

I like the amplified version the best...because of the last sentence "I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you". Wow.

I often use the analogy of a mural to symbolize our lives. We generally, can only see what is being painted right now. We only focus on the colors and shapes that make up our lives, TODAY. But God? God knows what the final product looks like, because He. Is the ultimate artist. And he doesn't make anything that isn't beautiful...

Sometimes? it feels like the tribulations, trials, distresses, and frustrations overtake us. They overpower us. They leave us battered, bruised, and torn-down...

But in the end, they haven't. And they can't. Because Jesus promised us that HE had overcome the world. He had conquered the enemy on our behalf. 

When we have lost all confidence in the people we love, when we have lost all hope in this world we live in. Our courage can only come from HIM. He may have *fairly* warned us that this life wouldn't always be fun or easy...but he didn't leave us alone, either. He is--Today--and always has been the Overcomer of this world. The one who wars on our behalf. The one who conquered the enemy and crushed him under our feet (Gen. 3:15)

So. Have heart. Stand undaunted. Be courageous in perseverance. Because, in the end? 
God's mural (of your life) will STILL be beautiful.

*Ashley Lou*

Sunday, August 22, 2010

I Rant, Therefore I Am.

In the words of Henry Kissinger, "There cannot be a crisis next week, my schedule is already full".

It is 5pm on a Saturday night. I am sitting at the office working on homework, preparing to meet with my team in T-minus 55 minutes. Today I:

Woke up to my alarm at 6am.

Grunted "Get thee behind me, Satan" and rolled back over.

Jolted up at 6:34am, remembering that I had to go stand in line with 300 crazed moms at the Just Between Friends sale at 8:30am and would definitely require a caffeine stop on the way in order to survive.

Splashed water on my face, looked at myself in the mirror (still only one eye opened--so my judgment may have been skewed), pinched my cheeks (like Anne would do), and thought to myself "That'll do, girl. That'll do".

Made said caffeine stop "Triple shot. Por Favor".

And began what might have been the most stressful event of the year (and yes, I recall that I am in the middle of an international adoption while also attending graduate school and working full-time...no need to remind me).

Today? Was the culmination of the longest. most tiring. ridiculously unusual. ulcer-upsetting. week.


I'm not even sure I've been home. My husband (thankfully) misses me. My dog has gone on a hunger strike until I return to a schedule that is to his satisfaction and the cats have disowned me.

But, this week hasn't been ALL work and no play! We--quite unexpectedly--got to complete our USCIS fingerprints on Tuesday. Which prompted a mad-dash to the Dossier finish line, crippled by a realization that The Husbands passport would expire before the required time--causing my hands to sweat as I tried to fill out the renewal form, write the check for the expedited service and overnight it to the government.

I don't know about you guys? But I am really uncomfortable with so many of my plates spinning in the Govt.'s hands.....

Thankfully, we were able to get that on it's way and (since, in this case, money can buy happiness) expect it's return shortly.

In related news, at JBF today, Baby Smith got some great loot. I was overwhelmed in the stroller section and decided to leave that for another day, since my nerves were only increasing my sweatiness....but was still able to get *almost* everything I wanted.

*Loudly*: To the lady who got to the 6 foot giraffe statue before I could...."Enjoy it. I hope your Safari nursery is complete now...You know, the way MINE would have been.............."

Below, are a few pics of all the stuff I got. Added were some awesome presents for one of my BFF's (Baby Ruth) daughter, Princess Rockstar. I was super-excited about all my girly-finds and can't wait til she is rockin' out in the tutu! Overall, it was a good week---though not one I hope to repeat soon-- and I will *try* to re-approach the strollers at the 1/2 price sale. I think I will be more prepared this time around! This is definitely unchartered territory for The Husband and I, but I am trying to remain graceful through it all....
(i.e. NOT curling up into the fetal position in the middle of hundreds of strollers)

'Til life returns to normal and my dog eats again,
*Ashley Lou*

P.S. My total cost at JBF (1st sale anyways): $200...Not bad, if I do say so myself =)
Stuff for B. Smith: two pieces of art for the nursery, pack-n-play, cowboy horse swing, high-chair, shopping cart cover, activity mat
Stuff for Princess Rockstar: 1 sequined cheerleader outfit, several tutus, pink cowboy boots!
Gumball Machine: Not for the baby. I just couldn't resist. Funny fact, I actually HAD the gumballs to put in it already!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

5 Things On My Mind...And Pie.

1. Stress-Levels:  Sometimes I can't imagine how pregnancy could be more stressful than adoption. In pregnancy, you don't have to depend on the United States Citizen and Immigration Services....or Bank of America...or social workers....AND it's only 9 months...I am not an expert on this matter by any means, so I will let you know for sure in a couple of years...but my gut is leaning towards adoption as the winner.

2.  Bathrooms: I always close the bathroom door in a hotel room...Even if I am traveling alone. The interesting thing, is The Husband would say I need to practice that more at home!

3.  Paperwork: Lately, paperwork terrifies me. I realized today that even the most menial documents almost cause me to break out in hives....."Should this be in blue ink?"...."What will be delayed if I miss something?"...."What if the ink smudges?"....

Don't judge me. 

You don't know.....

4: Food: I always eat really good when I travel.  I don't always eat "well" but I always eat good....
(She said as she took another bite of key lime pie)

5:   "Look At Me":  I am always excited when there are a lot of notifications waiting for me, on facebook....

Then I remember that I commented on another person's status on something congratulatory.

No one was really interested in me.

Then I am sad.

Then I repent for being selfish.

Then I eat more pie.
 On my way home from completing our USCIS fingerprints!

The Husband showing those pearly whites!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Trucking Right Along!

Got to update my "Adoption Timeline" page today! Praise the Lord, our USCIS appt came into the mail today! Scheduled for 08-31 but (thanks to my friend Erica) going to try for an earlier appt date! Pray it goes well...we are hoping to get in Monday! Can't go any earlier because I am traveling this week for work =(

Praise the Lord, for He is ALWAYS good!!!!

*Ashley Lou*

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Letters to my Child: Thinking of You

To My Darling,
    I was thinking about you today. Wondering if you have been born yet. Knowing that, even if you haven't yet, your first-mother knows about you. I wonder what she's thinking, carrying your precious life. I wonder if she has nourishment. I think about how she feels. What she's thinking. But, I am certain of one thing. She loves you. I know this because she chose to give you life. She didn't take the easy way out. She didn't give up. Maybe she knows that you deserve a chance at life. Maybe she's confident that, no matter what happens, no matter where you end up, that you'll be loved. She's right, you know? I already think about you every day. Thinking about how my every action and decision affects you. Thinking about what it will be like to meet you, hold you, rock you to sleep. Wondering how quickly you will start picking up on our quirks...Things we won't even realize we do until we start seeing it in you. Thinking about how many people will want to meet you as soon as you get home. There are a lot of people who already love you, you know? So many people are helping us bring you home, excited about meeting you and spending time with you...That's a lot of love. I can't wait for you to meet everyone. I can't wait to bring you home. We're working on it, baby...We're making progress...slowly. It's strange, time is moving so slow right now but I know that once you're home it will move far too quickly. So, for now, I will cherish every step that brings me closer to you and I will think of you more than you could ever know.

With all my love,


I Am A Tree

I am a tree.

My roots go deep. They keep me from swaying to and fro with the touch of the wind. They give me stability and nourishment. They keep me strong.

There are season when I deteriorate. I watch as my leaves fall the the ground. They gray of the sky matches the gray of my branches. But, even in this condition, I am still alive. I am hopeful, I have faith, and I hold strong to the notion that this season? is temporary.

Even in the depth of winter. Even at my lowest. I believe. My roots are deep, my faith is strong, my branches are sturdy.

And then, the same way the Sun begins to peak through the clouds, signs of life begin to appear around me. The green of the grass below me. The life buzzing around me, flowing through my branches. I am certain, at this point, that God has not left me destitute. God has not forgotten me in my misery.

A blossom of a flower. The green of my leaves. There are seasons where I deteriorate, yes. But! There are also seasons where I thrive. There are seasons where I am everything God has called me to be. The flowers show the beauty that they have been given. The Sun warms my branches. The birds commune with me. Excitement runs through my veins. LIFE has returned.

But, without my seasons of waiting, might I have not even noticed that first blossom? Would my eyes have been blinded to that first sign of life? Would  I have ignored the first glimpse of beauty that God was showing me?

My roots run deep. They keep me sturdy. They strengthen my faith. They cause me to endure the darkness, and watch for the light.

There are seasons of death. There are seasons of life.

I prefer the seasons of life.

I am a tree.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another one of those...

Yesterday..as I was rushing across T-Town to find two of the netbooks I had a rain-check (soon to expire) for...I found myself thinking some amazingly random thoughts about all that has gone on in my life, recently...

I thought to myself,  "Man, I should totally blog this stuff. This is great!! My blog family needs to hear this!"

Today, all I can remember from all of those 'amazing' thoughts is that there are a lot of hippies at the Target at Hwy 75 & 71st St. And that I am excited a new $1 Jewelry store has opened up in the shopping center....

I think some of my other thoughts were probably better than that one....

Has anyone ever noticed how many posts I make about all the great ideas I had *and lost* to blog about?


And, that's why I love you so much!

Seriously, I plan to tell you all about my life...
as soon as I get a break from it!

From: The Greatest Blogger That Never Was,
*Ashley Lou*

P.S. It was 9 weeks Tuesday (Aug. 3) since our home visit. And 13 weeks since we approved to move forward with the homestudy. No word. I'm starting to take it personal.