Bear Sighting – A Father’s Journey to Latvia

I play Ice Hockey almost every day of the week, I wished for a son who shared my love of the sport and Latvia ended up delivering more than I could ever imagine.

I remember waking up at 4am to meet the in-country social worker in the lobby of my hotel.  It was her that was going to take me on the long 5 hour drive from Riga to meet Maksims in an orphanage directly east, only 10 miles off the Russian boarder.  I remember the icy road narrowing as we left the city toward the countryside into a small two-lane highway lined with trees so covered in snow they were about to snap.    It was the middle of January in the coldest place I had ever been on a journey of a lifetime.   I was speechless but filled with excitement of finding my son.


Photos:  On the way to the orphanage, the views, the road!

I had read about Boy #23 on the ministry of children’s waiting list and inquired about him, asked for a photo which ultimately lead to me asking to be matched to him.  A match that allowed me to be invited to the country to meet Boy #23, Maksims.  This orphanage was so remote that I later learned that they do very few adoptions per year, sometimes only one.  In fact the day we showed up at our scheduled time to meet Maksims they didn’t actually think we’d show up so they didn’t prepare Maksims or keep him out of school that day.  We waited while the director of the orphanage checked my paperwork, my passport and called for Maksims to return from school to meet a visitor.  Latvian’s are very formal, very proud and very direct.

The time had come for me to actually meet Maksims, a Russian speaking 7 year old boy that had no idea why I was there.  I quickly learned that the orphanage children know, are taught or find out that America is the “golden ticket”.  This close to the border it’s common for children and adults to speak Russian and Latvian however they speak very little English.  I was always with my attorney or social worker assigned to me by CAN while in Latvia and both speak English as act as translator.  We sat in the orphanage director’s office looking out at the snow covered fields that led to snow covered forests waiting for Maksims to arrive.   The orphanage was only a few years old and the facility was welcoming, painted a happy color of yellow on the outside and arcitectually a great design where modern meets traditional.  I remember thinking, “This looks like an ivy league dorm”.  For some reason it gave me great comfort to know that the children were in a place of warmth, love and security.


Photos:  The orpahage

The door opened slowly and he came in, head down but smiling, timid and shy,  he just found out that someone from America was here to meet him.  It was his day!  I have to stop to tell you that whenever a car pulls up at the orphanage and strangers get out their is a frenzied excitment that follows.  Children from all over the inside of the orphanage press their faces in the windows to see who it is, and wonder, “are they here for me?”  To experience this sight is one of the most sad, humbeling and moving moments of my journey as they are “the waiting children”.  It made me proud that I had gotten to this point, confirming my choice to adopt a waiting child with special needs. I wanted to change the life course of a child, forever.  I had found out on the ride that they wanted me to be very careful if I should decide to select Maksims.  My attorney who did not make the long 5 hour ride had seen Maksims in a hospital once near Latvia and said he may have more issues than I would want to deal with.  It sounds harsh but it’s their job to make sure it’s a good fit for both sides.  Since she had witnessed Maksims first hand I was even more causious  than normal.  During our visit he seemed fine.  Since my attorney was not there I had no idea what she was speaking about, this kid was fantastic.

Bear 7

Photos:  On the left was taken the day I met my son in the orpahnage on January 23rd 2012. The photo on the right is what he looked like in July of 2012 just six months later, as an American.

I was asked to bring a present for the boy as an “ice breaker” and I had decided based on his age that a small $7 Lego car would fit into my suitcase, I even brough a gift bag all the way from the USA to wrap it in.  He loved it and we sat there building it and playing with it together for over an hour.  He was so determined to put that car together thorough the visual directions to show me he could do it.  The pride he had when he finished was a smile ear to ear.  We made a game of rolling it back and forth, came up with rules like if you hit an extra piece (not used in the car) while rolling it to one another then the other person got the piece.  Remember we could only communicate with smiles, made up sign language which we really laugh about today.   It’s hard to describe but we connected in such a way, making rules for a game, totally understanding each other, we had nothing to worry about.  I knew without a doubt,  this was my son, he called me Papa from that day on.  Even the orphan director was impressed with our skills to communicate.   My in-country social worker the attorney had sent me with became nervous since the attorney was certain I would not select Maksims based off what she knew.   I was sure.  I did not see anything even close to what she saw and had heard about of this boy.

An few hours later we arrived at the Orphan Judge chambers with Maksims, my social worker and the orphan director to plead our case that I wanted to take the boy into my custody for the next 3 weeks while the courts checked in on us in Riga.  We made great progress with the judge, she agreed to “think about it” overnight and asked us to come back in 2 days.  I was the first single male to adopt from the country and they needed time to process the thought, ask their team opinions and deliberate on the case.  Lucky for me I had taken a small photo album to Latvia to show extra photos of me, grand-papa, my sister, the house, the children’s bedroom, the dog, my friends, basically my life in 30 or so photos.  I highly suggest doing this to anyone on this journey, Maksims could not stop looking at the photos the entire 3 weeks we were there.  In fact we added photos of him and I to the book so he became part of the photo story and part of the family.

It was a long 2 day break, several hundred miles back and forth from Riga to the orphange but our day in Orphan court was here.  We arrived at the orphanage, sat in the same office as before, delivered cookies and sweets to the director (a custom of courtesy) and chatted before going to see the orphan judge over the region.  This time my attorney came with me since she had not “officially” met the boy I wanted to adopt, the boy that was a troubled soul and perhaps more than I could deal with.  She was stunned, regretful and saddened that she had given me so much information.  It was not the same boy  she had seen and since Maksims is not a common name in Latvia, she was mistaken.  We each learned 2 different lessons that day, for me it was follow your heart.  I know she was just trying to protect me but I can’t tell you how many times on that long ride to the orphanage I that I thought, “should we stop”, or “what do I know, she’s a smart attorney.”  I felt bad for the attorney, she felt even worse but I did feel protected and that I had someone watching out for me.  His real profile from the Latvian website on waiting children was not very good so it was very possible that he could have been a poor choice.  Below is the profile that lead me to want to meet what eventually became my son, a professional would also have the same opinion as my attorney.  It’s a profile of what many consider much more extreme than “mild delays”.  Ironically the high F scores would have scared most off just reading the profile however at the time I had no idea what they meant.   After the inquiry I received a photo and asked to be matched and the country agreed to match us.

#23. Boy born on February 7, 2004:

  • boy has brown eyes and light brown hair. Child is friendly, open, hardworking, helpful, responsible, responsive, is not aggressive, but sometimes has a lack of self control, is emotionally labile, can be rude, but in general he doesn’t engage in arguments, conflicts, but sometimes can be stubborn. In September 2010 he started to study in the 1st grade of the local elementary school, school results are good, he can read, write, count, but still he has learning problems and it is possible that he will need to be educated following the special program. Boy has difficulties to concentrate for very long time, he is hardworking and loves taking part in different activities, but because of his unstable attention and low capacity to concentrate quickly looses the interest and starts to disturb others. Boy loves singing, watching TV (cartoons) and enjoys playing with others. Boy often is ailing (cold, rhinitis, etc.). His development, as well as his weight and height, doesn’t correspond to the normal of the age, at the moment it corresponds to the 4 years old child;
  • there is no information about pregnancy and prenatal development of the child;
  • medical diagnosis – delay of physical development, behavior troubles in the early childhood;
  • diagnosis of psychiatrist – light cognitive troubles without somatic troubles (F 06.70), mixed specific learning troubles (F 81.3), troubles of activity and attention (F 90.0), hyperkinetic troubles (F 90.1);
  • further treatment – anemia treatment;
  • by a court judgment, the mother has been deprived from custody rights in January 2009, mother is alcohol abused, she did not provide the appropriate living conditions for their children. Mother has never visited child, she has never shown interest in his current well being and in his future, the oldest sister has visited him once;
  • child has one adult sister, the decision of the orphan’s court on separation of the children in case of adoption has been made.

The orphan judge agreed and even commented that we look alike, we had won them over.  The man that physically removed Maksims from his home was on the panel.  I’ll never forget him, Maksims was the first child he had to remove from a home and he held a special place in his heart since he saw what the journey the child had been through.  Maksims was 3 at that time  of removal, left alone in a home to fend for himself for several days repeatedly.  His mother, an alcoholic and unable to care for her children, had become a common story you may hear over and over.  This man saved my son’s life, he saw our connection over the course of my stay and advocated for the pairing and several months later showed up in court to make sure the final verdict was granted in the major court.   I’m still in contact with the office of the orphan judge that first gave me custody, sending them photos and updates.  Now and then I’ll receive a message back in broken typed English that they love the photos, they love that he’s happy and can see it in his eyes.

We went back to Riga for our 2 weeks of living as a family with the Latvian courts checking in on us, making reports and meeting with the attorney.  It all sounds complicated but the attorney and in-country social worker arranged everything.  I just had to be ready to have company that was scheduled or be picked up in the lobby of our hotel when asked. He began calling me Papa immediately and felt totally comfortable with me as his dad.  The time passed quickly and Riga is a wonderful city to be “lost” in.  We stayed in Old Town Riga and you can walk easily everywhere and enjoy sight seeing through the 750 year old city with cobble stone streets.   It did take me some time to get used to the cold, seemingly unfriendly nature of the Latvian people however I was happier than ever before and in one of the most visually beautiful cities in the world.   During this bonding time we went to the grocery store, clothing store, museum, circus, parks and doctors getting check ups.   Looking back at the time its a wonderful memory and a perfect process for the bonding period.  Ultimately I was granted the approval to take Maksims back to the USA.


Photos:  My father took me to the circus every year so I wanted to do the same for Bear, our first outing in Riga. We did lots of shopping at the local stores and sometimes we just had “kid” fun blowing bubbles.

During the stay in Riga I had changed his name to Bear and moved the Maksims to the middle name. I wanted him to have a name I picked to celebrate his American life and honor his Latvian/Russian name as the middle.  It was easier since he didn’t speak English and worked out just fine, he embraced his new name and for the first week or so I called him Bear Maksims, later dropping the Maksims.  I picked Bear after hearing the story of what he went through, his lineage is Russian, his birth parents are suspected to be Russian and the Bear is a sign of Russia’s pride,  strength, power and endurance.   The Russian national hockey team often uses the skating bear as a symbol for their team, it was a perfect fit and he was starting to blossom as a kid.


Photos:  The name Bear, A new dog “Finn” and learning to swim.

Once in America we spent the next several weeks visiting doctors, trying to find out what the profile said were the issues.  Doctor after doctor we visited, nothing seemed to be out of the normal.  Bear’s  pediatrician has 2 boys near the same age, both on the small side and similar behaviors.  It was comforting to know that he was checking out to not have anything severely wrong or what had been implied.  Even non verbal IQ test was given to provide a baseline of where he was in the learning process and his capabilities.  I finally stopped going to the doctors offices when my pediatrician said, there is nothing wrong with this boy, he’s on the small side of normal, no learning disabilities and everything seems fine, stop coming!  I had hired a private tutor for him to study and catch up on the basics, we arrived in America on Valentines day so the school year would be out shortly in June and this time would allow us to play “catch up” on his education and socialization.  He was tutored a few times a week for school.  His love of sports was soon uncovered as he watched Papa play Ice Hockey and shortly after several games asked if he could play hockey too. Of course I said yes and hired him a private hockey coach to start.  Today he has 4 private hockey coaches, loves the game as much as I do and we share the love of the sport, it’s in his blood.


Photos:  The Latvian took to the ice like his Papa, hockey is in his blood.

With summer coming to an end, school looming in the near future and a boy who could now carry a conversation in English, we were all set.  Since Bear turned 8 in February he was supposed to go into third grade a battle was beginning with the public school system.  He needed to be in 2nd grade from all accounts from the experts but the system said due to his age he should be in 3rd, a battle I eventually won.  I had desperately wanted him to attend my private church school however the more I researched the situation the more I had to accept that the public school system was more equipped to handle “English as a second language” and I decided to put him into the local public school.  I was devastated but realized that it was the best decision I could have made.  This was about what would be best for him vs. what I thought about the public schools, which ended up to be wrong.  Even today I’m thankful I made that decision, he thrived, got attention and experts with adopted children and his growth excelled.   Don’t get me wrong, there were challenges at first.  He didn’t know how to behave in a classroom situation but shortly learned.   I was strict and didn’t tolerate bad reports, bad behavior but wanted him to know what the expectations were in school.  I think you could say that we both learned a lot early on in our school days of the 2nd grade.  He entered the 2nd grade in August of 2012 and he started to blossom as a young boy, the speed at which he was learning was amazing, even to the teacher.  I always believed that to be a teacher you have to love the art of teaching, love children and boy-o-boy did we get lucky!  Ms. H was the perfect choice for Bear’s first teacher, a young 2nd grade teacher who loved exactly what she wanted to do,  which was teach.  There were rough patches, several daily reports of “yellow faces” which meant, not so good but early on in the process the “green smily faces” were praised with great joy.  A few months later we were getting green smiley faces every day. His test scores were on par with his grade, for the most part he was a normal 2nd grader, and happy. This is a boy who just a few months ago could not speak the language, not write and had not been taught how to act in a classroom.  In December we celebrated him being awarded student of the month for his grade.  And yes, I’m one of those parents who proudly put the bumper sticker on their car that says, My Kid Is Student Of The Month!


Photos:  Halloween at school as Huckleberry Finn then at night a Power Ranger with Papa.  Later Bear told me I had my mask upside down!  We can’t forget about soccer in the summertime.

There are highs and lows of the process, you will need to be strong.  I honestly could write a book, I never get tired of telling the story. There are so many facets of the story I have not gone into but I think the basics are covered. If you’ve read this far you must be ready to start your journey. You will have so much to talk about. When I arrived in Latvia for the first time I created “Bear Sightings:” for the start of my Facebook entries that always were attached to a photo for my family and closest of friends to follow and support us.  Everyone close to me knew what we were doing all along the way. Even today I still start all my Facebook posts as “Bear Sightings:” so everyone knows what to expect, a story about an amazing kid that changed my life.  There are times you will remember forever, like at Christmas when he received a letter from Santa confirming that Santa knew where his house was located and he received his request for toys and game plus something for Papa.  Bear said, “he finally found me for the first time”, we celebrated what Bear considers his first Christmas.  Seeing an under weight, neglected boy become a confident, athletic, well mannered playful boy who can’t sit still in church  … well there are no words that can give you the emotions you will have during the journey.   We live today as a happy family and I recently entered back into the Latvian “waiting children” program to find 2 more “special needs” brothers for Bear to be the eldest sibling in our family. We play more ice hockey than I’d like to admit to and cherish the moments each day brings us. If you are lucky, you will get assigned to an amazing domestic social worker like I did.  They are the unsung heroes that fight for these children everyday. She made the difference in my decision to get back into the Latvian program with CAN and find more sons.  For us, the journey continues.



Photos Top Row:  First floor of the house lit up at Christmas time so Santa could find us, it’s referred to as

THE HOUSE OF HUCKLEBERRY.  A King in the Church pageant.

Photos Bottom Row: A letter from Santa and Christmas morning with Papa.

Adopting families always ask me for any advice or words of wisdom.  I would have to say the following:   1) Don’t wait until you have all the money  completely saved   2) Follow your heart but make sure you are listening to what it is really saying   3) It’s okay to say “no” to a match, even if you’ve met the child and it just doesn’t feel right        4) Take tons of photos, especially together   5) Share and write about your story




Photos Top Row:  On the porch after church & a long day at practice

Photos Bottom Row:  Father and son on a “set”, 3 generations of hockey players (myself, Bear and Grand-Papa)

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Zoya’s Journey – A Bulgarian Adoption Story


 Zoya’s Journey” tells the story of one family’s adoption from Bulgaria. A little over a year after they began their adoption process, two loving parents found their daughter, Zoya, on Bulgaria’s Waiting Child listing. And so their adventure began!…

If you’re interested in learning more about Children of All Nations’ Bulgaria Waiting Child adoption program, visit our Bulgaria webpage or contact our adoption specialists today!


– Learn More About Bulgaria Adoption
– Contact a Bulgaria Adoption Specialist

– Visit the Waiting Child Photo Listing

November 6, 2013 – The Journey Continues!!

First off, I would like to THANK everyone for all their thoughts and prayers through this wonderful journey!! Amy and I started this process over 14 months ago and God has blessed us all the way through the journey!!

Here is a little history of our journey:  For many years Amy and I have wanted to adopt once our two boys, Stephen and Coen, were a little older.  We have heard the call that we are to provide a home for orphaned children.  We contemplated domestic and international adoption, and then after I went on two trips to India, I saw the need.  After prayer, God led us to adopt from Bulgaria.  Amy and I decided that we would like to adopt a child(ren) between the age of three years old and younger than Coen.  We would also consider adopting a sibling group.  In February, we received the “Waiting Child” list from our adoption agency (Children of All Nations – CAN).  The Waiting Child is a list of children that are either a sibling group, getting close to ageing out of adoption, and/or have special needs.  We reviewed the list and it only contained two Bulgarian profiles.  The first was for three great looking brothers, but two of them were older than our boys and we wanted Stephen and Coen to be the older siblings.  The second profile was for an almost 9 year old girl.  We read through her profile and as we read we started to feel that indescribable feeling like she is the one.  She had been in the orphanages since she was very young and is socially behind.  We continued to review all we could and that is when Amy said the words I will never forget….”Sounds like she needs a teacher for a Mommy!”  That is when it felt right! 

Thursday, November 7, 2013 – Packed…(I hope)

Amy and I stayed up past 1 am getting things packed.  Not only did we need to make sure we are all set to go and have all we need, we needed to ensure the boys are packed to stay with grandparents.  To add to the headache, Coen has a science project due before our return so we needed to help him finish his science board.

Today, I have been finishing up the packing and running errands.  I finally found some small gifts to give to the care givers at the orphanage.  That took the bulk of my morning as I drove from store to store to gift shop to gift shop and no luck.  Then right when I was about to give up, I thought “what about the Living Desert Zoo gift shop?!”  So I gave it a shot and found what I was looking for!

We already bought the other 14 children in the orphanage something small, like glow in the dark bracelets, coloring books and colors.  We also bought friendship bracelets for them to make.

As soon as Amy gets done teaching today, we will get the boys delivered to Mamaw and Papaw’s house and we will start our long drive to Dallas.

Amy needs extra prayer as she is sick (sore throat, achy, headache…..).  She did make it to the doctor yesterday and was able to get antibiotics.  We have also loaded up with Emergen-C and Airbourne.

Not sure if I will get a chance to update until getting to Bulgaria Saturday afternoon.  The time difference is nine hours so timing will be off as well.

God Bless!!

Sunday, November 10, 2013 – Sofia Site Seeing

SSISToday was a great day! First off, our travels were as smooth as could be!  Thanks for all the prayers for safe and uneventful travels.  Every flight left on time and our luggage was some of the first on the carousel.  Then Bulgarian customs was non-existent as we only had to state why we were here, got our stamp, and on out the door we went.  Right outside the door was our interpreters Ivan and driver Martin were there to greet us.

Since we arrived in Sofia on Saturday and we cannot go meet “Z’ until Monday, Ivan and Martin asked if they could take us to the Rila Monestary near Sofia.  We said yes and I am so glad we did!!  Both Ivan and Martin are super nice and are somewhat Bulgarian historians.  It was gorgeous!!  It is in the mountains so we got to see the fall colors and beautiful scenery.  The monestary was unbelievable!!  Bulgaria is so rich in history!  It was so hard to fathom some of the articles in the museum with dates in the first century (of course the history of Bulgaria, or the territory has BC history).  The monastery temple itself was just amazing.  Every square inch is painted, inside and out!  The details are beautiful!!

Monday, November 11, 2013 – Our Meeting with ‘Z’

Today, November 11 (Veterans Day), was a glorious day and will be remembered by Amy and I forever!!  Once again, thank you everyone that has prayed for our journey and for “Z.”  Amy and I had nervous anxiety going into today.  Before leaving for Gavril Genova, the AMOR agents Moya and Ivan let us know that Z was excited about the meeting, but we still had some nervous feelings, but we also knew God was blessing this adoption (but we are human and let our own emotions get in the way).  We got to the orphanage and met the head master and “Z’s” social worker.  After answering some questions, “Z” was brought to the room.

There are no words that can describe how awesome it was.  For me, it ranked up there with marrying Amy, and the birth of our two sons!  It was glorious!!

The day was awesome!  After a very pleasant tour of the monastery and gaining more knowledge of the rich history, we headed into the village and met the director of social services as she wanted to meet us.  We also got to meet the owners of “The Guest House,” a hotel, restaurant and place where they make and trade carpets (rugs).  After touring a museum nearby, we went and were hosted in their restaurant.  To say the least, Amy and I have been treated with royalty the entire time here.  We had the most pleasant lunch.  The food was great and the company was awesome!  The director of social services said that “Z” is very fortunate!  Illia Dimitrov, the owner of the Guest House was an awesome host and fed us good.  But that is not all; it just kept getting better and better! Illia, then asked if Amy would like to see how the carpet’s are made.  So we went into the next room and Amy received a quick lesson and was then asked to sit down and give it a try.  Amy learned that it is a tough job!!  But, wait there is more…….Illia then pulled out a very small rug (see photo) and started to explain the meaning of the design.  He said that it represents a Wing.  The wing is to provide protection (like a bird protects its young.  It also depicts a cross when looked at a different angle – I have pictures on my phone that depict it better).  He then proceeded to hand it to Amy and said he would be honored for us to have this rug!  He too was blessing our adoption of “Z!”  Not sure if it is custom here in Bulgaria, but I gave him a big hug!!  We will cherish this rug forever!!

Our trip to Bulgaria has been such a blessing!!  “Z” is a true gift from God and we are so proud to be able to be her Mommo and Daddy!!  I cannot wait for the rest of our family and friends to see our little spark plug of a daughter!! She is amazing!  And by the way….She rules the moment and is very strong willed!  I have also figured out why I hear “daughters have their fathers wrapped around their fingers.”  That is for sure! “Z” has me whipped already!!  Funny story about our drive back to the orphanage:  Her social worker, Sonia, was teasing her with the bear we bought her saying it was hers and not “Z’s” and they were having fun with the gag.  “Z” then said, “that is ok, Daddy will get me another one.”  Yep, I am pretty sure I would as she has already won my heart.  On that note, watch out boys, she is a Daddy’s girl and I will protect her how ever I can!!!!  Don’t get me wrong though, she is a Mommo’s girl too!  I love to watch Amy and “Z” together!  It is so cool to watch Amy and her walk, holding hands.  Amy is so good with her! There is already a special bond between them!!

Tomorrow will bring another day with “Z” but until then, Obicham te, “Z”!!!!!![/su_expand]

Wednesday, November 13, 2013 – Day 3 with ‘Z’

D3Today was our third day to spend with “Z.”  Again, “Z” was very excited to see us when we arrived at the orphanage.  We looked into all our options on how to spend the day and decided not to do so much of the tourist stuff (though we have enjoyed doing that with “Z”).  We started the day by just staying at the orphanage and played a game similar to the board game, Sorry.  During the game we are trying to work with her on her counting and we can see she does pretty good as long as she/we stay focused.  It is also helping Amy and I learn basic Bulgarian such as counting (though Amy is always correcting me).  After playing the game we broke out the friendship bracelet supplies to teach her how to make one.  Thank you Mamaw for buying these as they were a hit with “Z” and look like they will be for the rest of the children as well.  “Z” made multiple braclets and gave one to her caregiver, Sonia.  “Z” also wore about three or four of them throughout the day.  But I sure do love the one she made for me (see photo below).  Pretty sure I willl be wearing mine for a long time!

Thursday, November 14, 2013 – Day 4 with ‘Z’

D4Today was our fourth with “Z” and as with our previous days, we are gaining more insight with her.  We went to another monastery today, the Klisurski Monastery of St. Cyril and St. Methodius.  On the way to the monastery we had to pass through Berkovitsa, the birthplace for “Z.”  When asked if “Z” was ok with going through her birthplace, she was somewhat reluctant as she pretty much stated she does not care about Berkovitsa because that is where her biological mother lives.  But she agreed to go since Mommo and Daddy were with her.  “Z” asked if I could pick her up and hold her and I did so the entire time before leaving for the monastery.  I may have pinched a nerve in my neck sleeping last night, but there is no way I am going to deny my precious daughter!  I held her tight!.  We all jumped in the vehicle and headed towards Berkovitsa and the monastery.  The entire way, she held our hands.

At the monastery, we toured the courtyard and made our way to the temple.  As with all the monasteries we visited, they sell items to raise funds.  We asked Ivan what we should get “Z” as we felt like we should get her something from the monastery near her birthplace.  So Ivan asked the nun what she felt would be a nice gift.  She asked her name and we told her and she stated that her name means “To Live,” in which she said….”like the resurrection.”  That sent chills down my spine.  “Z” was not inclined to be near the place she was born as she was abandoned (death) but now God has brought her with Amy and I to give her a new life.  How cool is that!!  God Is Good!!

Friday, November 15, 2013 – Day 5 with ‘Z’


I decided to post about our last visit with “Z.”

We arrived at the orphanage around 10 am and we did our usual go through the photo album.  I love how she opens to the first page and gives the picture of Amy and I a kiss.  She says Mommo, and gives Amy’s picture a kiss, then says Daddy, and then kisses my picture.  It is so cute!  We are also glad that each page is protected with a plastic sleeve as some of the pictures would have kiss marks all over them.  She also likes to pull out the origami heart Stephen made for her that says he loves her.  She holds it to her cheek and says “Aaahhh!”

We then played our usual games, Sorry and Memory.

There were two different counselors at the orphanage today and they were very nice.  They gave us their blessings and one said they will pray that our process will be swift and that we will be re-united with Z fast.

Then 11:20am arrived and it was time to start saying goodbye.  You could tell “Z” was more somber, but as I mentioned yesterday, she has been in the orphanage all her life (9 years) and she knows the routine.  She grabbed our hands as we walked to the door.  I then picked her up and held her.  She gave Amy and I our kisses, we told each other we loved each other, and we gave her our promise we will return as soon as we could to take her home!  I held Z as long as I could…..until they said it was time to go!  We walked towards the car, turned back and gave our final waves goodbye………and drove off towards Sofia.  Amy and I stayed strong, but I can tell you we were missing her before we got a block away!  Sure wish we could hold her for a little longer!!

Sunday, November 17, 2013 – Time to come home.

We have had a wonderful trip! God truly blessed us with a beautiful daughter!  It is now time to head home. We miss Stephen and Coen so much and can’t wait to see them!

On our trip we met and gained a daughter.  We also gained friends. Ivan (pronounced Eevon) was such a great guide and Bulgarian host! He was and is instrumental in our adoption process. Ivan has become family. Below is a picture of Ivan and his girl friend at dinner last night.

Please pray for smooth and safe travels. We have a very fast connection in London and we just found out one ticket is standby (girl at counter acted like it should be no big deal). We should be home Monday afternoon.

God Bless you all!


Friday, November 22, 2013 – The Little Things……


Amy and I were so glad to get home and see Stephen and Coen as we missed them so much and they are our pride and joys and we LOVE them with our whole heart!  It was nice to walk in and get giant hugs from both of them!  Again, we thank our parents for watching them while we were gone.It has now been a week since we last saw “Z” and it has been tough without her.    Since being home, we have shared additional stories with our family about our time in Bulgaria.  I can tell you…Amy and I keep remembering our time with “Z” and it is the little things that we miss.We miss………………..

when she would reach out to hold our hands
when she would roll her eyes, tilt her head and then shake her head with a sassy attitude
when she would kiss our cheek
soup……her favorite food was soup.  Now every time we see a bowl of soup or a can of soup, I can hear her say “soupa”
Orange juice……she would drink a bottle of Cappy orange juice with every meal (Cappy, is Minute Maid).
Her infectious smile!
Her contagious laugh!
Her hugs!
Her never ending jabber box…….And remember, we were told she did not speak much at all, but when we showed up, she could not stop.  God Is Good!!

Saturday, February 8, 2014 – Adoption Update

Well it has been quite some time since I last posted to the blog.  For the most part, it is because Amy and I have been in wait mode.  However, the process has been in motion since we returned from Bulgaria back in November.As soon as we returned from Bulgaria, Amy and I completed the I-800 application.  This process was estimated to take 30 days, and almost to the date, we received the I-800 approval in the mail around Christmas time.  Then the National Visa Center (NVC) letter came in the mail about 10 days later.  We now had all the information necessary to complete the visa application (DS-260).  The DS-260 was then submitted and within a week we received notification from Children of All Nations, our adoption agency, that the US Embassy in Bulgaria received all our documents.  The next step was for our Bulgarian representative, AMOR, to make an appointment with the embassy for an interview on our behalf.  AMOR was successful at scheduling an interview quickly and afterwards, heard the interview went well.  The very next day, the embassy provided to AMOR our article 5 letter.  The AMOR then took our file, including the article 5 letter and had it translated and legalized.  On January 30th or 31st, the AMOR submitted our documentation to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice.That brings us to today….As of now, we are waiting for the judge to make a final ruling on our adoption!  This process generally takes one month, but it is dependent on the judge and his/her schedule.  So it could be sooner, or it could be longer.  The most important thing is that it is in God’s hands and we are nearing the end of our wait!We sure miss “Z”!!  We cannot wait to hold her again and bring her home to her forever family!!  I look at her picture(s) daily and am so excited to squeeze her in my arms and hold her tight!!  Obicham Te “Z”!!!

Saturday, March 8, 2014 – Loving and Missing our Z


It has been 16 weeks since we last saw “Z” and we sure miss her!  The adoption can seem like an endless process, but we know the adoption is in God’s hands and He has His perfect plan.  In our last blog post, I shared that our file was given to the Bulgarian Ministry of Justice on January 31st to review our adoption.  This process takes approximately 30 days.  What we did not realize at the time is that after the Judge reviews the file and turns it to the court, it may take a couple of weeks to set a court date and that date may be 4 to 6 weeks later than that.  Again though, the adoption is in God’s hand and He knew Amy is completing her Masters in Education and completing her dossier.  Therefore, God is allowing her to focus on her studies before our next trip.  Amy should have her dossier submitted and Masters completed by the end of March.  She will be so relieved to have this behind her!!  Based on time lines, there is the possibility our court date will be set around Easter.  While, we do not have a court date, nor know if Easter will be the approximate date, but I received chills when I looked at the calendar and saw Easter.  If you remember, or have read past blogs, our fourth day with Z, we toured the Klisurski Monastery of St. Cyril and St. Methodius.  While there, we wanted to get a small present for Z as this monastery was near her birth place of Berkovitsa.  When we asked what would be a nice gift from the monastery, the nun stated that Z’s name represented “To Live,” like the resurrection.  How cool is that!

Our precious Z turned 10 on March 6.  We hope she had a blessed birthday!!  On her birthday, the Judge turned our file (Agreement to adopt Z) over to the courts.  Now we just wait the week or two to get a court date.  Once we have the date, we can plan our travel!!  YAYYYYYYYYY!!

Sunday, April 13, 2014 – It Is Time!LOVE

First, I am sorry for the delay in updating our blog.  We have been waiting for final approvals and confirmations.  Now, Amy, myself and the boys can say…”It is time!”

On March 28th, Amy and I received the Bulgarian court’s approval to adopt Z (Soon, we will be able to use her name).  After approval, we only had to wait a week for the approval to be officially filed into the system.  The next steps have been to prepare our trip to Sofia to finalize the adoption.  With Easter and other Bulgarian holidays, we had to wait until May to travel.

I am so happy to say we have bought our airline tickets to leave the States on May 6th, and get to Sofia on May 7th.  We then will go get Z from the orphanage and she will be with us the rest of our lives!!!!!!  That is just so amazing to say!!

We must be in Sofia for ten days to complete all the necessary steps to finalize the adoption and the steps to allow her into the US.  While I am not sure of all we have to do, we are confident our agency in Bulgaria will guide us all the way.  We have also rented a two bedroom apartment in Sofia for our time there.  We cannot wait to start bonding and being the loving and caring parents Z has always deserved!

Thursday, May 8, 2014 – The Start of A New Chapter

Start of a newMay 6, 2014 seemed like it would never get here, and then the next thing we knew, it was upon us and we had to get prepared for the next step in our journey.  We got the boys over to my parents late on the 5th and then we went home to finalize our preparations.  I do thank God for the wake up call the next morning as we needed to leave town early and I apparently turned the alarm off instead of getting up when we originally planned.  However, we did get on the road on time… 3:45am.  Our drive to Dallas was smooth (Amy got some rest and I managed to stay awake the whole way).  25 hours after jumping in the car, we were at the Sofia airport picking up our luggage.  Besides the happiness to see all our luggage arrive with us, it was so awesome to have to bring additional luggage; A suitcase with Zoya’s clothes and toys.  We then met up with our translator, Ivan, and our driver, Dimo, and headed to our rented apartment.  After settling in, Amy and I took advantage of some quiet time and caught up on some necessary rest!!

…..That leads us to the next chapter of our lives!!

Thursday, May 8:  Ivan and Dimo picked us up from our apartment at 7:30am and we headed to the village of Gavril Genovo.  After our 2 1/2 hour drive, we made the familiar turn down the road to Zoya’s orphanage.  The butterflies really started to hit Amy and I as we headed through the gate and towards the door.  That is when we see Zoya in the front window and we could see her familiar smile!!  The door opened and out came Zoya…….A big hug erased all the butterflies!  We finally have Zoya in our arms again!!

Sunday, May 11, 2014 – The Learning Curve!


Amy and I are now finishing our 4th day being Zoya’s parents and while it has been a very blessed time, both Zoya and us have had a some adjusting to do.  First, there is the language barrier.  Amy has been doing a fairly good job retaining some words and phrases to help in communicating.  I have been limited to a few words here and there, and Zoya just laughs at my attempts.  Something else…Just as I had to learn in India, head nodding is opposite of what us Americans understand.  Up and Down means “No,” and side to side means “Yes.”  Again, Zoya laughs at my attempts to understand this difference.
Each day Zoya is learning more and more of what she can get away with, but the testing is continuous.  When we must get onto her, she just laughs at us until she realizes the seriousness of our tone and face.  All in all, I think we are being effective in teaching her that we are in charge as parents.

Friday, May 16, 2014 – It Is Final!

finalOn May 15, Amy and I went to the US Embassy in Sofia for our Interview to get Zoya’s Visa to enter the U.S. approved.  As soon as the interview was complete, we were told her visa would be ready the next day.  As of abo

ut 4pm Sofia time, May 16, Zoya’s passport included her Visa and was picked up at the US Embassy.  About an hour later we met up with Maya, our Bulgarian adoption representative, who had Zoya’s passport and we had a celebretory dinner.  At the dinner, we received all the final documents regarding Zoya!  Our adoption is complete!  PRAISE GOD!!!!!

Monday, May 26, 2014 – Homecoming

HomecomingAmy, Zoya and I left our apartment in Sofia on May 17, at 5am (Friday, May 16, 8pm MST). Twenty-eight hours later, midnight in Carlsbad, we arrived at our house, Zoya’s forever home!

Now let me summarize our 28 hours of travel:  All three of us did not get a full night of sleep before our early morning rise.  Zoya was over excited and Amy and I were making sure all our bags were packed and ready to go.  Our 4am wakeup came quick.  Though Zoya should have been tired, she was up and ready to go.  She repeated over and over that we were headed to America and she would see Stephen and Coen.  When I say repeated, I mean repeated hundreds of times!!  It was so cool.  Maya and Ivan picked us up right at 5am and we headed to the Sofia airport.  The airport was packed and of course the kiosks were having issue, but after several hiccups of getting in the system, we were checked in.  Now it was time to say goodbye to Maya and Ivan.  Again, we were so ready to come home, but it is always hard to say goodbye to friends.  We then proceeded through security and passport check.  The passport check was our first time to show proof that Zoya was our adopted child.  All went well and we were so glad Maya showed us step by step process of what all the passport checks will need to see and what immigration in the states would need to process Zoya.  

Monday, September 22, 2014 – A Blessed 4 Months!!

blessedHello!! I apologize for the delay in updating the blog.  Our entire family has had a busy summer….you know; regular life and adopting a beautiful daughter and all! HAHAAll and all we have had a very busy summer.  As soon as we returned from Bulgaria, we were in full swing of baseball and did not finish the season until mid-July.  Then it was time to take some time off for a family vacation.  Then next thing we knew Amy and all three kids were back in school (Amy teaching and the kids learning).Enough with the excuse of a busy summer!  You all want to hear how Zoya is adjusting to being a Hollis.Where to start……oh yeah, from the end of the last blog.Our friends and family threw a shower for Zoya and it was a beautiful day!  It was such a pleasure to see all the love and support for Zoya’s new beginning.  She loved all the attention!  She received many gifts of toys and decorations for her room.  She would open a new gift and ask, “Ha Зоя?” (pronounced nă Zoya, and translated “for Zoya?”).  You could see the excitement in her face when we would tell her yes, it is for Zoya.  A child that pretty much had nothing of her own and had to share everything now has her own things.  She even had to share her clothes at the orphanage.  Not any more!  All this was just for her!  She is now a princess in her mind!  She was very appreciative as well, telling everyone thank you.  And I am pretty sure all those that attended received multiple hugs!  Thanks to all that came see Zoya!

Sunday, January 18, 2015 – Zoya’s Journey

ZoyaThroughout our adoption journey, I have written our blog based on our experience and time with Zoya.  Our journey has been a glorious and blessed time.  Over the past several months, we have seen so many milestones in Zoya’s life;  The many “firsts” that Zoya has been able to experience.  All the things we have taken for granted, Zoya has embraced them as if she was given the greatest treasures.  Amy and I have taken some time lately and started looking back into our files and all the paperwork that went into adoption.  Within the paperwork are Zoya’s reports from the courts and social workers.  In addition to reading, Zoya has started to open up more about her life as an orphan.  Some of her stories and depictions of growing up can just tear your heart open.  Therefore, based on some research within the court papers that include a timeline of Zoya’s different placements in social care or orphanages and Zoya’s stories, I thought it would be nice to share Zoya’s journey.  Disclaimer: I can write only what I have read and heard, I cannot depict what Zoya’s life was really like, nor have the emotional capacity to fathom what an orphan’s life is like.  On that note, here is Zoya’s journey.March 6, 2004: Zoya Meglenova Angelova is born in Berkovitsa, District of Montana, and Country of Bulgaria.  Zoya’s birth mother is known and father is unknown.June 9, 2004: Due to extreme poverty, a Social Assistance directorate is issued and Zoya is removed from her mother’s care and put into a home for medical and social care in the city of Berkovitsa.  Courts rule that Zoya’s mother is unable to care for her because of extreme poverty.December 14, 2004: After 6 months, the Social Assistance directorate ceases and Zoya is placed back with her mother due to reintegration with her biological family and filing an application and statement with social services.Zoya lives with her mother for nearly two years, however on November 14, 2006 (nearly four month shy of her 3rd birthday), Zoya is placed back into the home for medical and social care in Berkovitsa due to her mother’s inability to raise her.

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Philippines Host Family Becomes Forever Family

Beam Family Story

The Beam family hosted Christine through the Philippines Winter 2013-2014 program. Although they entered the program with the intention of acting as advocates, Christine captured their hearts and they later began the adoption process to bring her into their family forever. This blog serves not only as a great resource for families considering the Philippines hosting and adoption programs, but families looking into International Adoption as a whole, as they include sections on their fundraising, travel, and bonding.

November 2013: Christine


Before I share with you a cool story of how God met us when we stepped out to host, let me fill you in a little about hosting.

First of all, this is something anyone can do!  Hosting an orphan increases his/her chances of being adopted.  In fact, our hosting agency, has a 70% ‘success rate.’  Meaning 70% of the children who are hosted get adopted!  Isn’t that incredible!?  That’s the greatest purpose behind hosting.  The hope is that families who are open to adopting will meet these children and God will prick their hearts to step forward and adopt them!

A second purpose is to simply show these children what a family is.  Most of them have never experienced a family.  I think about how much my family takes for granted just being a family.  We all take each other so for granted!  Ugh.  It pains me every day.  But to be part of a loving family is one of God’s greatest blessings.  To feel belonging and love and acceptance no matter what.  Priceless.

One of the greatest benefits of hosting a child is that she/he will learn about and experience Jesus’ love in a more tangible way.  We hope that Christine will learn about Jesus while she’s here with us (despite our shortcomings).  May she feel His love and be drawn to Him.  What a gift!  Especially at Christmas time.

What a lot of people don’t know is that being a host family has a cost associated with it.  It can definitely be an obstacle.  It certainly was for us.  We’ve been interested in hosting for a couple of years, but simply didn’t know how in the world we could swing the costs.  But for whatever reason we felt very compelled this year to just step out and trust that God would meet us there.  Wow, has He ever!

The cost to bring Christine over is $3150.  That’s all the travel expenses (multiple flights, visas, passports, travel chaperones, and agency fees to coordinate it all).  The day that we were filling out the pre-app (and feeling lots of trepidation!), we learned that Christine had just been assigned a $1000 scholarship!  We took that as affirmation that we were doing the right thing and that God was trying to indicate that He was behind this and we could trust Him.

Our balance was now $2150.  We submitted the pre-app and began working on the, application!… references, a home visit by a social worker, the rules of hosting a child, 12 hours of training, etc.  Yikes!

A few days later, we get a call from our coordinator who said I wouldn’t believe it but a gentleman and his wife who’d hoped to host this year, but can’t wanted to contribute money to the ‘most needy child’ to increase his/her chances of being adopted.  Our Christine was it!  She’s 14 and will be 15 in December!  She’ll age out of the orphanage at 16 and be literally put out on the streets with the clothes on her back…very likely headed into a life of prostitution and desperation.  $1000 this generous couple gave!  A perfect stranger!

Balance: $1150.

Thena local friend who hosted a child last Christmas and had been cheering us on the whole time said immediately that she and her husband wanted to help with our expenses.  They chipped in $400!

Balance: $750.

Then we paid our required payment of $600.

Balance: $150.

Then, a few weeks later I went to my hairdresser who is a friend from church.  We were catching up.  She asked how James is doing and had some questions about adoption, etc.  I shared with her about our plans to host Christine and how this step of faith was being affirmed through provision, provision and more provision.  I said, ‘Fran, can you believe that all we have left to pay now is $150?!  Isn’t God so cool when He shows Himself as trustworthy and faithful?’  She loved hearing the story about Christine and told me that she grew up with always having lots of ‘visitors’ in their home — ‘strangers’ at Thanksgiving dinner…just people her parents opened their home to.  I loved hearing that because she’s such an open and loving person.  As a parent, I can only hope that our kids will grow to be adults with open, loving hearts towards others.

As I got up to leave and began digging in my purse to get out my payment, she said, ‘I want you to keep that and put it towards your balance for bringing Christine.’  Gulp.  I had $130 in my purse.


December 2013: 5 Days

Five days and counting until Christine arrives.

We are so excited for her to come, yet I feel like a chicken with my head cut off.  The kids keep asking me, ‘When, mama, when will Christine come?’  They are super excited.  In fact, a couple of them keep asking why we can’t adopt her.  It’s a tough one, right?  I mean, God opened their hearts to adoption.  They get it and know how wonderful it can be thanks to our wonderful Jimmy Jam.  So I find myself saying I don’t feel in my heart that we’re meant to adopt Christine, we’re just meant to bring her here, love on her and help her find her family.

A pair of pajamas and a toothbrush & toothpaste wait on her bed for her.

I just ordered her a stocking that matches ours with her name embroidered on it.  I couldn’t imagine picking up some random stocking and having her feel, perhaps again, like the odd man out.  And I hope it might mean a lot to her to have her very own stocking with her name on it.

Our dear friends, yet again, have risen to the occasion.  They’re always so quick to show us that they’re with us on these little ‘adventures’ God sends us on.  They gave us a $100 Target gift card to take Christine shopping.  Mm-mm-mm.

And it doesn’t end there…

Two fellow Hopers (i.e. folks who attend our church, HOPE Church) have offered to treat Christine at no cost.  A dentist and an eye doctor.

This is huge, y’all.  The dentist is even coming in on his day off to treat her so he can devote all the time necessary to her possible need for restorations.

A family with a 15 year old has offered hand-me-downs from their daughter.  Yes!

It’s amazing to watch God move in His people and to see a community rally around a girl from a faraway land.  A girl no one’s even met, but who we all know deserves to experience Jesus and to feel loved.

We’re rocking and rolling and looking forward to 8:45 PM when her flight arrives on Monday!

Please pray that she feels safe and comfortable with us.  Can you imagine the bravery of this young woman to come here literally all by herself?

That alone is humbling.

December 2013: The Christmas of Christine

This is like that show ‘The First 48 Hours.’ 

Day One (Tuesday): we had to introduce her to Sweet Frog, of course.  Largely due to the fact that a sweet friend gave us a gift card to use when Christine was here.  We have the best friends

Day 1Welcome Poster

This Christmas is proving to be a very special one with Christine here.  Somehow having her here has added a little sparkle to our days.  Amazing what opening your heart and home does for your spirit.  The kids are floating (er, at least they were for the first 36 hours)…now they’re slowly returning to their normal fussing, tattling, whining, arguing ways.
Welcome, Christine.

This is Family
is family.

I’m amazed at how well things are going.  I expected nothing less, but all the ‘manuals’ and ‘trainings’ for hosting warn you that it won’t be a cake walk and that most kids aren’t going to be without attitude problems, gratitude issues, sulking, etc.  I’ve seen nothing of the sort so far.

Yes, I know it’s early, but so far so good.

December 2013: Little Update

Things continue to go well. Our kids are amazing kids. Really all kids are amazing in their ability to accept people for who they are.  I’ve learned that it’s not until later in life that we put so many parameters around people. But Christine is also easy. She’s just a sweet, sweet girl.  She has this smirky, half-smile she does when something tickles her. She’s quick on her feet with humor. She’s open and willing to try new things, like Chick-fil-A, Sweet Frog, Panera, and going to the Nutcracker. The poor girl got multiple fillings on Friday, yet she’d never had Novocain before.  She was such a trooper.

She loves to fold laundry!  Yes, you read that right.  When I walk in the room with an overflowing laundry basket (which is daily), she jumps right up and comes over to help.  In fact, the other day I left it and came back and it was folded.  And what do our kids do when she jumps up to help?  Declare how much I love to fold laundry and it’s just what moms do, so it’s okay if I do it every day without their help.  I kid you not!  They said that.  Phew. They have a lot to learn!  Ha!

Payton and Christine have hit it off.  I find them up in Payton’s room just hanging out, shooting the breeze and doing what teen/pre-teen girls do.  Christine loves to write, read and sing.  Payton said when she learned that about Christine, she couldn’t believe how much they have in common.

James has really taken to her, along with Jackson.  Avery’s definitely a fan and Brookster is his own, independent, kind of aloof self.  Man, I love that kid.  Sometimes I look out the window and see him walking around in our yard with a dinosaur or lizard toy just lost in make believe.  So sweet.  He doesn’t need high levels of entertainment.  I love that about him.  And he’s the one who I greeted first in the family room the morning after Christine had arrived (she was still sleeping) and he said with the hugest Christmas-morning-grin on his face that he couldn’t believe Christine was finally here.

She is amazingly Americanized.  She’s read the Harry Potter series, Percy Jackson series, Hunger Games series…you name it.  She loves American Idol, pizza, bbq ribs, and iced tea.  Her English is superb.  Man, that’s made all the difference.  Being able to talk with her has been so nice.

It’s been great getting to know her and hearing about her life and growing to appreciate more and more what a strong young lady she is.  I appreciate everything she shares with us.  And she and Payton have some really great conversations.

December 2013: Merry Christmas!


Couldn’t get the cards in the mail this year.  A first, but I’m oddly okay with it — which is interesting because I used to love to do them.  A new season, I suppose. I did still make unending amounts of Chex Mix — that mostly went into our mouths and into very few hands as compared to past years.  I got a late start, but rallied at the end! The fudge for Santa is made. The Oreo balls are in the freezer. A nice Christmas meal is planned for tomorrow to share with our dear family and friends who have come to spend it with us.  We are thankful for times of feasting when so many are without. We couldn’t be more grateful for good health as we are acutely aware of and praying for our dear ones who are unwell and fighting the good fight. We are thankful for family as we are acutely aware of those millions of lonely hearts across this globe.  Including the one who is currently resting her head in our home each night. We are thankful for fellowship as we are acutely aware of how it fills our hearts with joy, laughter and cheer. So, here’s to you and yours this Christmas!  May 2014 be blessed!

January 2014: Christmas, family, friends, and eggs?

This Christmas was one of our best yet. Only God.

We had so much more ‘on our plate’ than ever before with Christine being here and having a house full, but it was wonderful. It was full, rich, abundant. One I won’t soon forget.

On Christmas Eve, Tommy and Wilma (JD’s parents) arrived, Beverly and Bootsie came by for a visit and, later that evening, JD’s childhood buddy, Theron, and his wife, Jeanette arrived.  We were so tickled that they would want to come spend Christmas with us.  

StringThen it was on to our Christmas Eve tradition of the kids following their strings to their ends to discover their Christmas jammies (did you see this hilarious video?). It was fun having Christine there to participate in all our family’s traditions.

And before we turned in for the night, Theron got Lucy all wound up to the point of her boot-scooting all over the family room, including on and off the couch.  Such a goofball.

On to Christmas morning!…

Fart Machine

The kids drew names and Brooks had to have Christine open her gift from him first.  It was, a-hem, a fart machine…she’s quite the prankster and was so excited to get it.   had to run into Spencers to get it and I couldn’t even say the ‘f’ word.  I’m such a wimp.  I said, ‘flatulence machine’ and the guy didn’t know what I was talking about!


Christine was excited to get the first book of a series she wanted to read (Teardrops).  The girl is a reader.  Like, three days ago, I got her the next three books in the series at the library and she’s already read them!

What a great Christmas!  Thankful to end 2013 feeling so blessed. We’re ready to tackle 2014 with gusto! Happy New Year!

January 2014: Hitting the Ground Running

January’s been a busy month.

The 16th was the day we were all dreading…saying goodbye to Christine.  She handled it with such poise and grace.  None of us cried.  I was close, but really wanted to hold it together for her.  It began to snow on the way to the airport at 4:30 AM.  Poor girl missed the snow by an hour or two.  One of her greatest requests was one we had no control over.  It came the day she left.  Boo.

Our time with Christine was truly special.  She is a remarkable young lady.  She has a lot of bumps
and bruises from a childhood she did not create nor choose and yet she’s full of zest, adventure, joy and the capacity to love.

It baffles us why she was never hosted before.  She doesn’t know why either.  She was just never picked.  God definitely picked her for us because we were open to hosting anyone, just not a teenage boy. Well, guess what?  When we were ready to be matched the only children left were teenage boys and Christine.  Bingo.  We knew she was the one for us!

Our only real ‘concern’ was how she would get along with the children, especially Payton.

Oh my. Why do I doubt God’s ability — and desire! — to give us what we wish for?!

She and Payton hit it off.  The first night (Christine had been with us for two hours), Christine invited Payton to share the guest room with her.  We encouraged it knowing Christine normally shares a room with three or four other girls, so being put in a room by herself in a strange house, in a foreign land with complete strangers might be a little daunting for her.  She took me up on my offer!

Payton and Christine sat up talking in bed and learned that they have a lot in common — the both love music, reading, movies, singing, etc.  The next day, Christine slept until noon and Payton told me, through her grin, that she wasn’t expecting to have so much in common with Christine.  That was the beginning of a great friendship between those two.

Christine also bonded with our other kids too — she was a huge fan of James (who isn’t?!), but also had sweet moments with Jackson and Avery and Brooks.  She really likes them as people.  She was very complimentary about Avery and Jackson’s character and personalities.  She and Brooks got along great too, but Brooks is our solo guy…he’s very happy to be outside by himself exploring the yard and woods.  He often goes off and does his own thing, so although he was the one who asked me about ten times when she was going to wake up that first morning, and he sheepishly whispered things to me like, ‘I’m so glad Christine’s here’ or ‘Does she have to leave so soon?’, he isn’t an overtly outward person who is overly expressive around his fondness for others — except certain friends who are always his ‘best friend.’ 🙂  Sweet boy.

Every time James went to school or Christine was separated from him for a time, when they would reunite, she would hug him and tell him she missed him.  Oh my goodness, so sweet!  And James definitely took a liking to Christine.  So much so that one day, as we were driving down the road lamenting out loud about how Christine only had a couple more days with us, James blurted out, “Mama, why can’t we adopt Christine?  I want to!”  He’s definitely coming to understand the concept of adoption and thinks this is a very simple request, like ‘Can we eat lunch at Chick-Fil-A today?’  So sweet and innocent, a child’s heart!

Nonetheless, we definitely miss Christine and felt a void when we returned home from the airport.  We would love nothing more than to bring her back again this summer.  We shall see.


April 2014: Good News!

Omigoodness, I’ve been waiting almost three months to write this post!  Perhaps compared to this announcement, nothing else seemed worthy of reporting?

We are adopting Christine!

And she now knows!

We weren’t able to say anything publicly until she was notified and we found out last week that she was notified by her orphanage director because the Philippines gave them the official word.

You are being adopted.

The Beams are adopting you.

You’ve been chosen.

You’re not alone.

You’re loved.  

Her reaction?




Can you believe that?

Sweet girl.

We had to say good-bye to her without being allowed to have a single conversation with her about whether she would even like us to adopt her.  We certainly didn’t enter into hosting her with the plans of adopting her, but she quickly gelled with everyone in our family and we started having secret conversations about whether or not we should consider adopting her.  We suddenly went from closed hearts to open hearts and we were asking God why.

Immediately upon her departure (like that night!), we sat the kids down to talk to them about the hosting experience.  We wanted to see if we all felt a void now that Christine was gone or if it was back to ‘business as usual.’  It was not.  We were sad.

That was a powerful sign.

Why did God have us all on the same page?  How did Payton’s hesitancies of having an older sibling suddenly disappear?  How did my dread of adopting again dissolve at the idea of adopting a sweet teenage girl versus a toddler (uh, very easily!  ha!).  It felt like a crazy turn of events, but it also felt very right.  

So, in January, we began a new home study.  And I’m happy to say that it should be done any day.  Just waiting for a few last pieces and — boom! — approved!

We’ve already started working on our dossier so that’s good.  We’re hoping to travel sooner rather than later.

Thank you so, so much for your prayers and support.

Sometimes I can’t believe we’re adopting again!

May 2014: Lay it down

I haven’t posted on here because, well, I’m in a bit of a funk about Christine’s adoption — really just how slow it’s progressing.  You’d think I would’ve learned well with James’ adoption that I have no control over this thing.  It’s such an act of surrender — of laying down my timelines, deadlines, and plans and trusting God’s.  It’s so hard sometimes.

I honestly thought we’d be half way through our dossier by now, but we only just got our hands on our completed home study yesterday.  I’ve been saying for months that our home study is done — and it essentially was.  Almost.  And then there was this delay or that delay.  The good news is that it. is. in. our. hands.  Now, we can truly pursue the dossier with gusto and start applying for matching grants to help fund this beast.  We’re also going to do some fundraisers this summer that I’ll post more about later.  We have so, so much to do.  I think part of my funk is that I don’t want to do all this — it’s summer!  It’s the time I usually recharge a bit for the next school year.  Isn’t that so selfish of me?  Talk about ridiculous.  You’d think I’d be grateful to have such a purposeful goal to be working toward — a reason to rise each day!  Each day, I have the privilege of hanging with our kids, having some fun with them, while also working toward the adoption of a sweet young woman who is waiting for us.  But, no.  I’m feeling worn out and discouraged.  It’s ike I’m at the foot of a mountain staring up at it.

This is when my faith in God comes in.  I trust Him.  I really, really do.  I know that in no time He’ll have us over that mountain, one simple, small step at a time.  One foot in front of the other.  One form, one signature, one notarization, one dollar at a time.  I’m so grateful.  I do not know what I’d do without the clear knowledge that He’s in control and He will make this happen.

Hang in there, Christine.  We’ll be there soon.

How cool would it be for her to be with us by Christmas?

July 2014: Update – Christine

Really overdue with an update on our adoption of Christine…

We were so excited to send off some important paperwork a week or two ago.  What a relief!

We sent off our I-800A which requests approval from our government to adopt Christine.  We’ll get a date to be federally fingerprinted and will go to Norfolk to do that in the next month or so.  Once our fingerprints are done, we’ll receive approval to adopt her and will file our I-800 to immigrate her.

While in this stage, we’re plugging away at what our dossier needs to entail: certified/authenticated birth certificates for JD and me, certified marriage license, state police background check, guardianship letter, letters from Payton and Avery, etc.  The dossier will then be certified/apostilled by our Secretary of State, then onto the Secretary of State at the federal level and then to the Philippine Embassy for approval.  Finally, it will be sent to the Philippines.  Our hope is to have that happen by the end of August.

This is a lot of explanation to say that our hopes of bringing Christine home by Christmas may be a long shot.  Boo.  We were told by Children of All Nations (our adoption agency) that it could take three months to hear back from the Philippines.  Sigh.  We were hoping to hear very quickly and get travel approval very quickly thereafter.  We’d love to travel to get her this fall and have her here with her new family (!) for her birthday and to celebrate Christmas.  With God, all things are possible so that’s our prayer.  And, frankly, I must mention that there are many friends/families we know who are stuck in the political and bureaucratic web that is international adoption and are being told they may never bring their children home, so if we have to wait beyond our deadline by a few months, so be it. We will eventually have Christine home.  Prayers for our friends who are swimming in a sea of unknowns.

The other thing we sent off a week or two ago was our application to the Fathered Fund, our church’s adoption fund.  We’re hoping to be awarded a matching grant which means everything we fundraise up to $2500-5,000 could be matched!  That would be incredible!  We hope to hear from Lifesong for Orphans (the administrator of the fund) in the next several weeks.

Speaking of fundraising!  Here’s what we have going:

Shoes, shoes, and more shoes!  If you’re on Facebook, you know that we’ve been collecting shoes for about two months and just had our first pick up today.  We donated 66 bags of shoes!  That’s 1650 pairs!  Everyone has been so incredible helping us collect them!  We get paid $10 per bag of 25 shoes, so we should get a check soon for several hundred dollars!  After taxes, of course.  Grrr.  If only we were a non-profit, our donation would be tax free!

Here are some photos of our lives being taken over by shoes:


My sweet friend, Tracy, must’ve single-handedly collected 150 pairs!  Amongst many others who have taken this shoe drive on as their own.  We are so, so grateful.  JD and I were just saying that we need to make a list of all the people who’ve been so integral in making this happen.  We want Christine to see how many people stepped up to the challenge to help get her home.

Shoes 1

The other thing we’re doing is selling t-shirts.  I love the message.

Love Found Me.  

Love Found Me Ts

Several years ago, HOPE (our church) hosted a great band called Revive.  I believe they were an Australian group.  They sold a shirt that said ‘Love Found Me.’  I bought one and wore it often.

One day a couple of summers ago, I was wearing it in Michigan and walked into a gas station and this young lad behind the counter read my shirt and said, ‘Are you a Christian?  I like your shirt.’  I found it so neat that he got the message, ‘Love found me.  God found me.’

A year or so later, my shirt was getting tattered and I decided I wanted another one so I went on-line to find Revive’s apparel to order another.  I was surprised to find that they had disbanded due to the travel schedule, having families and feeling called to other missions.  I was bummed that I wouldn’t be able to replace my shirt.

Until now.

The cool thing is that when I bought that shirt years ago, adoption wasn’t even on my radar.  So now the message means even more to me.  And coupling it with one of my favorite adoption verses (John 14:18, see previous post) makes it that much more of a great adoption shirt.

If you’re interested in purchasing one (or ten!) to support our adoption, please go to:

Finally, we’re selling original pieces of art.  By collaborating with my dear friend, Beverly, who gave me free reign of her beautiful archive of thousands of amazing photos.  I’m making mosaics of the Richmond cityscape and of florals and still-life.


November 2014: We’re Alive

What a drought!

I don’t know if my not posting can be explained by busyness or lack of interest in posting or both, but I apologize to those of you who actually still check this blog.  Thanks for reaching out to see if we’re well!

Plus, I’m thankful to have a few minutes to record the happenings of the last few months.  There have been ‘developments’ on several fronts.  Here’s a long overdue update!

I know many are anxious to hear the latest with Christine’s adoption.  Our dossier arrived in the Philippines in early October.  Our agency told us we would hear back from ICAB (the Intercountry Adoption Board in the Philippines) within 2-3 months with an approval.  Then, we’d have 4-6 months from there until we travel.  Needless to say, I was dumbfounded when I heard that.  That’s excessive considering we were told last January that this entire process, from beginning to end, would be much faster because we’re a host-to-adopt family — the timeframe they gave us then was 4-6 months (for the whole adoption!).  Clearly, we’re not even close (it’ll be a year in February).  We’re hoping to have Christine home sometime this spring.  Sweet girl is waiting so patiently.  She turns 15 on December 18th.  Sniff.

As we’ve begun preparing for Christmas this year, there have been lots of comments starting with, ‘Remember last year…’ as we’ve remembered fondly our time with Christine.  We’re all missing her and wishing she were here.  But we trust God’s timing and know He goes before us.

So much so that I should update on our fundraising efforts.  Due to the very generous and loving response of so many family and friends, we have made all our payments to our agency!  Y’all, that’s like $15,000!  We were awarded a $3000 matching grant from the Fathered Fund (Lifesong for Orphans) and quickly met it.  We have travel expenses to come, but God is already providing!  We received news this week that my dear uncle ‘nominated’ us to be considered for a $5000 gift that his company gives each year to a deserving entity or individual and we were chosen!  Talk about humbled.  And tearful!  Wow.  We feel so ridiculously undeserving.

Our shoe drive that was supposed to be three months long, ended up being six months long and is finally coming to an end.  It has been so, so fun to see a community of people rally to support our adoption through donating old shoes, but our house was taken over by shoes over these last many months and I’m super ready for the shoes to be out of our house!  I’m ready to enter into the beauty and peace of Christmas — without dirty, smelly shoes around!

For our last pick up, we had 72 bags all over our front room.  There was a rabbit trail through the room.  Ahhh….
shoes 2

July 2015: We’re here!

It’s Monday, July 27th and we’re here in the Baguio Children’s Home where Christine has lived for the last five years.  I wish I could chronicle every thought, sight and feeling so far.  I can tell that my time on-line is going to be very limited.  Not just by the spotty internet signal, but the opportunities to sit and write are going to be few.  And posting photos is hard.  No time to download the photos.  When we were in China, we spent many days just hanging out in our hotel room — we didn’t yearn to get out and about, we were trying to be sensitive to the fact that James had hardly ever ridden in a car and we were strangers to him.  Plus, he napped.  🙂

This time, we’re adopting a teenager who is very much aware of the fact that she’s about to lose every stinkin’ thing that’s familiar to her.  It’s altogether different.

Our flights/travels here were great.  Smooth and issue-free (after God overcame our seat assignment debacle).  Even our drive to Baguio from Manilla was peaceful — I felt your prayers!  Thank you!  We were on the windiest road, in rain, where cars do not stay in their lanes.  God was carrying us along the roadways to accomplish the goal He set before us.  Every bit of this trip, each day that passes, is a step closer to bringing Christine home.  A joy for us!  But at great loss for her.

The reality is that Christine is saying her last goodbyes to the people she loves.  She will leave every familiar sight, sound, smell she experiences everyday.  We were awoken to roosters crowing this morning.  We slept with our windows open all night.  She wanted to ride along while a caregiver took the older children to school, so she went downstairs before us and we could hear the immediate squeals of delight when the children came running to greet her (she’s like a mama to them).  Our hearts ache at what’s in store for her.

The adults in her life are amazing.  It seems she’s as prepared as she can be.  I humbly ask for your prayers for her and our family as we set out to care for her broken and grieving heart the best we can.

We will hang here for the next two days.  A farewell party is planned for her tomorrow night.  There will be many tears.

We had the absolute joy of going to church last night and it was incredible!  I have the best video to post.  I will do a post soon with photos and videos — perhaps when we return to Manilla and have a faster signal and more down time.

We love you all!  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for carrying us with your prayers.

July 2015: Last day in Baguio

Yesterday, we laid low quite a bit.  The women who run this home have lavished us with some of the most delicious Filipino food.  In the Filipino culture, you show someone you care for them by cooking for them.  We have felt so cared for.  Especially me — what a treat it has been to come downstairs and find a table set with a hot meal prepared.  And this is after they’ve fed 25 children!  Twenty-five.  I have a hard time feeding five sometimes.  🙂

The children here are absolutely stealing our hearts.  They are beyond precious.  Their eyes are as round as saucers and the deepest brown.  Their hair is smooth as silk and so very fine.  I so, so wish I could post photos of them, but I’m prohibited from doing so.  One little one named Christian whose about two-years-old, comes straight for me when I come downstairs and puts his hands up for me to pick him up.  I just sway and sway while he lays his head on my shoulder.  I prayed over him that the Lord would bring him a family.  I found out yesterday that he’s soon to be matched with a family.  Oh, the grace.  During our second cuddle session yesterday, he promptly fell asleep.  I found myself a comfortable chair and just let him sleep on me for a time.  These are precious moments with these children that we’ll never forget.
Avery has a little fan too.  His name’s EJ.  He beelines for her when she enters the room.  The first several times she scooped up a little one or two, she immediately said, ‘Oh!  They’re way lighter than James and I carry James all the time.’  They’re the sweetest little loves.  The good news is that several are on their way to being adopted.  Avery’s heart was already warm and sweet, but coming here has caused her to make the declaration that she will definitely adopt one day.  She says she would love to adopt from this children’s home.  This seed that’s been planted in her heart is a beautiful thing to JD and me because we clearly cannot adopt all the children who steal our hearts.  But a heart for adoption can be passed on for many generations.  Mm-mm-mm.

Christine had a good day yesterday.  She seemed more at ease — probably because we are in her home and she’s surrounded by everyone she loves.  She is processing, but doing well.  Thank you for your prayers.  She (and we, as her parents) will need them over the next many months as she adjusts to life in the States with us.  It breaks our hearts that she will have to leave all the familiarity of home, the very thing we are looking forward to returning to, but we know (and so does she) that this is best for her.  Now and for her future.  Perhaps one day, as an adult, she will choose to return to the Philippines, permanently or on missions.  Whatever she chooses, we will support her.

We also strolled up the street yesterday to the Children’s Recovery Unit, a home for children who have been in the hospital.  Several are fighting leukemia.  Others have had major surgeries/illnesses.  Some of parents, some do not.  Again, the women who run it are dear, dear women.  In fact, there’s a husband-wife team who live there as the ‘house parents.’  They are raising their two children while doing this amazing work.  These are the times when I see Jesus in the lives of ordinary people who are doing extraordinary things through God’s strength in them.  The CRU is also run by H4 (Helping Hands Healing Hearts).  This ministry is beyond amazing.  I cannot say enough about it.  The hands and feet of Jesus, for sure.

Here’s a video of the work being done through H4.  If you feel so inclined to support their efforts, you can give monthly — even as simply as purchasing two bags of rice each month to feed the children.  We will definitely be jumping on board in support as soon as we get home.  Sometimes it’s hard to know what ministries/non-profits are reputable and really doing a good work.  Perhaps it helps to hear it from us who are seeing and experiencing it with our own eyes.

Tonight is Christine’s farewell party.  Her friends from school, her volleyball teammates, her teachers, community members who support H4, and church family will be coming to wish her well.  I have been warned many times that it will be a tearful night.  I am excited to celebrate the sweetheart that she is and to have her friends send her off with a proper farewell, but I dread it for her.  I know it will be very bittersweet.

Shortly, we will head for breakfast at the home of a family here in Baguio that has loved Christine well.  The wife is Filipino (she works for H4) and the husband is American.  Christine has stayed with them for short stints to get out of the home a little during breaks from school.  She is close to them, so we look forward to a little time in their home.  Later this afternoon, we’ll head to the store to purchase the last of the school supplies that the children need for the upcoming school year (crayons, water colors, pencils, scissors, etc).  What a joy it is to be able to provide for this need.  After that, JD may do a round of golf with Claire’s (H4’s director’s) husband, Mark.  They are from Ireland and are such neat people.

We will be up at 3 AM tomorrow to leave for Manila by 4:00.  We have two appointments with ICAB (Intercountry Adoption Board), one at 10 and one at 12.  We will need to give ourselves a 6-hour window to make the trek back to Manila.  It’s not that the distance is so far as it is the traffic.  I am amazed at the volume of cars on any one road at any given time — very much like China and other parts of the world.

Prayer request: Payton and Avery hit a wall last night.  The jet lag had set in hard.  They barely made it through dinner.  It’s hard to sleep here because the home is full of energetic children and very happy roosters and dogs wake us starting at around 4 AM.  Prayer that the jet lag is coming to an end would be awesome!  Love to all!

July 2015: It’s official!

It’s official!  Christine is ours!  God is good all. the. time.  We are so very thankful and humbled at how He’s carried us over the last year and a half — so, so many of you helped to bring Christine into our family.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

And, thank you for your prayers.  Christine’s doing well and Payton and Avery seem to have turned the corner with their jet lag.  Now, if JD and I could just sleep tonight.  I was awake at 3 AM today and JD about an hour later.  And I am a girl who likes my sleep.  Ugh.

It’s been a long, but wonderful day.  We’re sitting in our room back in Manilla after driving in hours and hours of traffic.  It’s unrelenting.  Now, we’re chilling and watching TV in our pajamas after ordering room service.   Just what families do when traveling.  🙂

With faster internet, I was finally able to upload photos.  I realized I didn’t include the video in my last post.  Hoping to soon.  Videos are harder to upload.  Very time consuming and I don’t seem to have a lot of that these days.

Here are some shots from our trip so far…


We met a darling family (with twin boys!) at the Guangzhou (China) airport.  The children were enthralled with Payton and Avery.

Family Photo

Our first photo with Christine!  This is our first day here in the Philippines.  We were getting ready to leave Manila for Baguio.

When we first arrived at the Helping Hands Healing Hearts Children’s Home, the little children came running to greet us.  Hugging our legs and immediately wrapping their little arms around our necks!  (I’m have permission to post some group shots!).

Hotel Room

Fresh fruit, coffee, water, Pringles!, snacks, hot chocolate in our room.  What is this, the Ritz!?

We changed clothes and headed straight to Christine’s church and loved it!  I have the best video to post.  Such an amazing experience.  They even called us up front and prayed a blessing over our family.  A moment we’ll never forget.


Sisters chatting overlooking the backyard.



In Baguio, they color the white horses and sell rides.  This pink one was especially beautiful in front of the blue sky!


The ‘Western’ aisle.  Many familiar items from home.  It’s funny because we have ‘international foods’ aisle in the U.S.


We made it!  It’s ICAB!


Cute little sign on the door.  Made us smile.


Waiting for the social worker.

30 minutes later and we were outta there!  So much to be grateful for!

Tomorrow morning, our first order of business is to Skype with those boys of ours!  I cannot wait!  Then, we’ll check out of our hotel in Manilla and catch our plane to Palawan (Puerto Princessa) to meet our Compassion child, Lyka, on Friday.  I really can’t believe this is happening.  I’ll tell more about this part of our trip in my next post, but for now suffice it to say that I am so looking forward to it!

Love to all!  We covet your prayers!  You’re the best!

We moved on from there to our day’s plans: to the Butterfly Garden & Palawan Tribal Village, lunch at Baker’s Hill, to the Crocodile Farm & Conservatory, and finally to the grocery store to get their family some groceries (this is protocol for a visit through Compassion).  We were happy to do it!



August 2015

This sweet girl, our sweet girl, is so, so lovely.

This sweet girl

Everyday, we’re getting to know her more and more.  And loving her more and more in the process.  Her sweet giggle, her honesty, her humor, her easy-going nature, her likes and dislikes.


She ordered some kind of dish that came out in an enormous bowl with a hugehunk of a bone plopped down in the middle of broth.  She wasn’t amused from the start…

She’s just awesome.

I can’t wait for you all to meet her!

And, best of all, she too is excited to arrive home and meet our huge and amazingly supportive and loving community of family and friends!  She’s doing so very well.

We flew from the province/island of Palawan (the city of Puerto Princesa) to Manila today and are headed out tomorrow night (Wednesday) to fly home overnight.  We arrive in on Thursday morning.  We’re super excited!

August 2015: The Final Weekends in the Philippines

We spent our last weekend in the Philippines with JD’s cousin, Holly, and her fiancé, Eric.  Holly’s lived in the Philippines for a year and a half.  She came here after the typhoon in Tacloban.  She and Eric work for Catholic Relief Services.

When she heard we were adopting Christine she had just requested a transfer from Bangladesh to Tacloban.  We were excited even then to see each other ‘one day’ when we came to get Christine.  It was so cool that our plans from a year a half prior were actually happening.

Here’s the cool room we got at the B&B we stayed at.  Summer camp, anyone?!


Yes, there are five doubles and two twins!  We all had our own bed!

Family Photo

We walked down a dirt/muddy road about a mile to the nearest beach.  Locals live on the water and had fishing nets out everywhere.  Eric said he had to show us some of the more beautiful beaches in Palawan.


We rode in ‘tricycles’ or ‘trikes’.  JD was all about it!  He loved riding on a trike!  It’s basically a motorcycle with a cart attached.  Part car-part bike.


The views from our table…

Views 1

The next day, we decided to do the Honda Bay Island Hopping Tour.  It was so helpful to have Eric with us.  He was one step ahead of us throughout the weekend talking with locals and finding the best deals to sightsee.  There are thousands (!) of islands in the Philippines — I think it’s around 7,000! — so exploring them could be a full time job!  Eric and Holly have traveled a lot around the country, but some of what they were doing with us in Palawan was their first time.  Eric secured a boat and we headed out to visit the little islands.  Renting this boat for the day (with two captains/guides) cost us just 30 bucks!  I know!  Crazy.




The weather was sublime!


Even big girls get tuckered out and need to lean on their aunts for a quick rest.  🙂


The water was clear and such a beautiful green.


Our last island and we were headed back to port so Holly & Eric could catch their flight home.


And of course a selfie was required to end our visit!

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Stephenson’s Leap – A Guyana Adoption Story

I am an Adoption Consultant and I don’t know if you are in the regular habit of taking leaps of faith, but for most people there are rarely moments in our lives when we are forced to take a true “leap of faith.” For some naturally adventurous people, the roller coaster metaphor is all too fitting.  For others it’s more like trying to ride a mechanical bull.  While often it can feel like that scene in Indiana Jones where he must leap the chasm from the lion’s head to make it to the Holy Grail, supposedly if you have “chosen wisely” a great adoption program will actually give you the life you seek instead of “take it from you”.  Okay, sorry for all the Indiana Jones references.  This is where I’m going with this.  International Adoption is a true leap of faith for sure; laden with the vast unknowns.  But yet, it is still one leap in which most families land right on their feet and completely in love. 

My reason for being here is to help families interested in taking this leap of faith find the strength, the support and trust to move forward.  It’s not easy for me and I know it can’t be easy for my families.  Especially for those coming to us at a deficit of hope.  Maybe they have been through failed fertility treatments, maybe they’ve lost a child, maybe they have been through a failed adoption already, maybe they have eligibility issues, maybe they don’t have much money, maybe they are going at this alone, maybe it’s all of those things combined.  Whatever the case, it can literally be a paralyzing fear to take even the smallest first step. When they finally have the courage to call me, they are nervous to prove worthy of adoption.  Which I think is so endearing, knowing so many orphans that feel the same way.  And signing a contract…well, I can only imagine that it involves the words “who does this” spinning around in your head over and over again like a bead caught in the vacuum cleaner.  “Who does do this?  Who is crazy enough, tough enough and brave enough to go through all of this?”  Well, let me just say that as helpful as that would be to know, that question is moot.  If this gives you any idea, “We were the most unlikely to adopt” is the most common phrase I hear from adoptive families who describe themselves.

One of these families was the Stephenson’s.  I began working with this family soon after we opened our Guyana, South America program and immediately knew they were ready to get down to business.  They didn’t know where they wanted to go or who they had in mind to adopt, but they knew they wanted a sibling group of a boy and a girl and were ready for suggestions.  I had just been handed the parameters for this new program that no one seemed to have heard of before except for Canadians, but one that sounded absolutely AMAZING!  Most “pilot” country programs involve new untried processes and unproven timelines so we always say we will “err on the side of caution” and “take everything with a grain of salt”.  You know what that means to an adoptive family getting into this process?  Precisely nothing.  I had a picture of two sparkling children with the biggest smiles you’ve ever seen.  People who see the child they are meant to adopt, well, let’s just say they tend to lose all reason and grip of reality.  They won’t admit it, but I’m pretty sure when the Stephenson’s saw the pictures of their little boy and girl, they lost it completely.  You’d never know it, as they were as cool as cucumbers, but I believe it was almost a few hours before they felt comfortable telling me these two were theirs.Stephenson

Here they were about to adopt two children from a country they have practically never fathomed and already knew there were no guarantees. There was no information on the two children except an age and a picture. They immediately accepted Guyana’s very soft match with the children and paid all of the fees due before ever setting foot in Guyana.  This is tough because while they do not require much as far as paperwork, as soon as you are approved to travel, all your fees are pretty much due in full.  They soon said goodbye to their beautiful biological children and hopped on a plane with everything to lose.

Meeting the children was an unfamiliar but welcomed experience.  They were able to spend a good bit of time with the little boy and girl; discovering first-hand the condition of these children and learning that their parental love was more than needed.  It was now imperative.  There isn’t anything they would not do for these children at this point.  They gladly and happily put in the official application in Guyana and the siblings were officially matched with them.  Then it was time to go back home.  Home had a whole new meaning suddenly.  Again, the bead in the vacuum cleaner returns, with its incessant spinning and rattling.   “What can we say to them? How can we make these children understand we are coming back for them?  What if a Canadian comes and adopts them out from under us?  Is that even possible?  Where’s a wormhole when you need it?  Why didn’t we listen to Lacee about that whole grain of salt thing?”  Enter sweet gigantic smiles and now add big warm hugs. ‘Oh, yah.  That’s why!’ We love you so much!”  That’s all they could say and all they could do was love them and wait.  And wait.  And wait.  The risk evaluation is not quite complete, so we must wait.  But then it happened.  Six months after their first trip, their referral counselor calls.  “It’s time to go.”  Now the real adventure begins.

Stephenson (1)During this final six week leg of the trip there were all kinds of exciting happenings.  The representative played everything safe, maybe a little too safe in that it took an extra week longer than expected to come home.  They also learned more about their children than they ever thought possible including the fact that their children had another younger sibling who was being adopted by another family.  Again the bead in the vacuum…“Is that what we consider a grain of salt?”  There was nothing to be done about it.  They had what they had come for literally in their arms and finally it was time to go home.  Quitting while you’re ahead suddenly didn’t mean the same thing anymore, either.  After a relatively “short” jaunt (6.5 hours) directly north, they were back in Texas and could finally get a foot hold on things.  Now that they had reached their destination, complete with the welcoming hugs of their community, they could really start being these kids’ parents and each child could start being a daughter and a son.  They were home!  They had taken the leap and landed on solid ground.

What I want to make sure everyone takes away from this story is that even the most perfect of arrangements are fraught with disarray and unknowns.  A masterpiece is not seen in its entirety by even the most clairvoyant of geniuses until the masterpiece is completed.  Each piece carefully shaped in its own right and only coming together when the pieces are perfect and fit in just the most precise way. Do not rush your jump, nor your faith.  Whatever path you choose, do your best to meet faith half way by doing your homework and asking a thousand questions. But when there is nothing left to say or ask or think about, enjoy your courage, revel in your lack of control, and know that even if you don’t land exactly where you thought you would, there is nothing you will not do for love.  And if you can do that, there is nothing you can’t do.

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Bulgaria Family United Forever

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