Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Super Quilt for an Amazing Hero

There's a special little guy that I know who's fighting a deadly disease called Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. I met his mom thru mutual friends, and I've watched their family fight against this debilitating disease for the last few years. It's taken a toll on Dalton's little body. But his faith and their hope is contagious!! The Al-Chokhachi family inspires people every where they go. Their family motto is, "Blessed! Live on Purpose!" And they do. Every day. Working. Loving. Encouraging. Check out their Facebook page, if you'd like to know more of Dalton's story.

Dalton has had a love of Super Heroes since he was itty bitty. In fact, it was his love of Super Heroes that endeared him to me before I ever met him. Dalton and my Levi are just about the same age, and Levi has always loved Super Heroes, too. Levi went e.v.e.r.y. where in his costumes. He even secretly wore his Spidey suit to church one day UNDER his church clothes. As soon as the last 'Amen' was said, he whipped the mask out of his pocket, stripped off his jeans and shirt, and Levi "Spiderman" Provence left the building.

I was with Dalton's mom, Stacie, at a crafting retreat last winter. The more she shared about her little guy, the more I wanted to do something special for him. I played around with the idea of this quilt for several months, designing it in my head and researching logos. After the girls came home and we were cocooning, I needed a project to keep my mind and my hands occupied. So I grabbed a stack of Kona cottons and a bolt of fusible interfacing, printed off a few logos, and got to work. I'm pretty pleased with the outcome :)


Click on any of the pictures below to see a close-up of each block. The quilting on each block is unique, and there's a heart hidden in one of them -- that's my signature :) The main block in the middle is Dalton's personal Super Hero logo -- 3D -- which stands for Dalton Defeating Duchenne.


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The back of the quilt is a hip, modern design called "Groove". I fell in love with that pattern when I first saw it, and I knew it needed to be part of Dalton's quilt. He's a real groovy kind of kid. 




Like any good Super Hero, Dalton's true identity lies just below the surface. He is a Child of God. A living, breathing testimony to the goodness of our Creator, who calls us all to rely on HIM alone for our next breath. 

It was my sincere honor to create this quilt for Dalton and his family. In the grand scheme of things, it's not much. But that little guy was prayed for over and over and over again during the hours that I worked on it.


Linking up with the Spring 2014 Blogger's Quilt Festival at AmysCreativeSide.com. If you love quilts, you'll love this Festival!!


Six Months HOME

Six months and counting. I've written update after update for the blog ... in my head. Now that the girls are home, LIFE. IS. CRAZY. BUSY!!! And now that we're beginning to come out of our cocoon, I'm guessing it'll get even busier.

All is well.

The girls are GOOD. They are so, so good. 

We had a few bumps and snags during the first few weeks, but we expected that. In fact, we expected much, much worse. I read lots and lots and lots of adoption books before the girls came home -- all in preparation for the hard, hard things that adoptive families often deal with during the Big Change. The thing is, we're not seeing much of that. And the little we are seeing isn't as big and scary as the books said it would be. But we're not naive. We know that trauma and grief manifest in myriad ways over a lifetime. So please keep praying for us!! Pray especially for me :) 

I'm the one who read all the books, so I'm the one who keeps looking for the Adoption Boogeyman behind every behavior, every look, every everything. It's exhausting. I'm exhausted. Please pray that I will see their behaviors for what they truly are, and that I will parent well. If it's adoption-related, pray that I will notice. If it's just normal little kid stuff, pray that I will have confidence to just let it be. I suspect the truth lies somewhere in there -- both-and, not either-or.

But all is well!!

I am so thrilled to be able to say that!! All is well!! 



Wednesday, October 30, 2013

We Cleared!! We Can Go!! It's Over!!

That's all I could manage to choke out between sobs Friday morning when I ran downstairs to tell Randy that we had received our "Request for Visa Interview" from the US Embassy in Ethiopia.

Relief.

After spending a weekend thinking we might have to wait a few more weeks for one final paper, we found out on Monday that we will be in Ethiopia NEXT WEEK taking our daughters from the care center and beginning the sacred work of becoming a family.

Whether by birth or by decree, it is a beautiful thing when a child is welcomed into a family.

Please continue to pray for our family during our travel.  We have decided to take all of the kids with us on this trip.  We will become a family in Ethiopia together.  Let that sink in a moment ... international travel with six kids.  Yes.  Please pray!!  Long.  And hard.  Pray!!

We would absolutely love to see you when we get back!!

We'll be arriving back in Memphis on Friday, November 8th at 6:30 pm on US Airways.  If you're looking for something fun to do next weekend, come and celebrate with us God's amazing faithfulness!!

This picture was taken last week!!  Our agency case worker was in Ethiopia and sent this to us.  They'd just washed up for dinner, so there's still water on their faces.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Cleaning Out

Update:  The Embassy has opened our case!!  We are waiting anxiously to find out when we can travel to bring our daughters HOME.  


Lord willing, our fundraising efforts for adopting Helina and Bereket are coming to a close.  Our petition to bring the girls HOME has been submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia.  They haven't yet begun their investigation, so please continue to pray that the Embassy officials will accept our papers and grant the girls their Visas to immigrate.

My crafty fingers have been busy, busy making all kinds of stuff to bring our babies home.  While I've sold most everything already, I do have a few goodies left.  I'd love to clear it all out!!  

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I was already working on a big batch of necklaces when we had our CRAZY Day last week, so I have LOTS of these!! These make fantastic teacher gifts, stocking stuffers, and little happies for your friends.  Several of each design are available (about 100 total!), so if you'd need more than a few, let me know ... I'll make you a good deal :)

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Ready to Order??  Email me!!
WendyLouDesigns@gmail.com

If you're local, we'll set up a time to meet.  If you're not fortunate enough to live in The 901, I sure don't mind shipping your loot to ya!!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

What a CRAZY Day!!!

I woke up early yesterday.  Like 4:00 {in the A.M.} early.  Gotta be honest ... I don't often see that time on a clock twice in one day, amiright??  "Embassy Submission: Take 2" was going down in Ethiopia between 11:00 - 11:30 ET-time, which is 3:00 in the morning our-time.  So really, I guess I was a little late.  I supressed my urge to check my email -- the Embassy is very good about emailing updates at every step.  If I wake up now, I'll be no good for the rest of the day

I drifted in and out for the next couple of hours.  I finally got up when I heard Randy's truck drive away at 6:00.  I reached for my phone to see if our Golden Ticket had arrived from the Embassy.  Nothing.  Dead phone.  Stupid phone.  Fine.  I'm up.   I had just enough time to take a shower and make a grocery list before leaving to take Madison to her Tuesday classes.  But before running out the door, one last 'refresh' on the ole gmail.  And there it was!!!

Dear Provence family:

Congratulations!  Your adoption case has been submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

About TEN weeks later than it should have been, but we are SO incredibly thankful for the forward progress!!!

And as if that's not enough excitement for one day ...

There's MORE!!

My friend Tona sent me a link to this article.  I lost it.  We have been in the thick of a financial battle for almost four years.  I'll spare you the gory details.  You've heard most of it before :)  Mary so plainly wrote all that is in my heart -- being willing to do anything to bring our babies home but feeling a little beaten up by the process.  It was so refreshing to have our experience validated by others who have been there, done that -- a huge shot of courage to keep pushing to the end.

Then she sent me a series of texts:
What is the total amount you have left?
How long have you been fundraising and saving?
How much have you saved/raised so far?
And do you have a picture that can be shared on Facebook?
And are you good with me doing a $$ push for you?

I answered her questions, and before I even realized what she was doing, I started getting email notifications from AdoptTogether.org that we were receiving donations.  Tona wrote a post on her blog here, and started blasting our story out to Facebook. 

By the time I went to bed last night, $3700 had been given to help us pay the ransom to bring our girls HOME.  Crazy!!!

{{UPDATE -- Apparently donations to AdoptTogether.org that are given via Paypal are processed on the following business day. By this evening, our total was $6798. Amazing!!!!}}

{{UPDATE -- Oops!!  It looks like an intended $30.00 donation was mistakenly processed as a $3000 donation.  As a lifelong math teacher, I feel the need to say ... decimals matter, people.  Hahaha!!  No worries!!  We cherish a $30 donation just as much as 100x that.  Every gift is precious to us and woefully undeserved.  The grand total after our Crazy Day is $3932.  Thank you!  Thank you!!  Thank you!!!}}

THANK YOU to all who have given and encouraged.
THANK YOU to all who have shared our story with your friends.

We feel so loved and supported, and we will forever be grateful for you. 

To God be the glory, great things He has done!!!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Forty Days


For 40 days, I held my breath.

For 40 days, I sat very still.

For 40 days, preparations ceased.

Waiting.

I didn't realize how completely consumed with worry and anxiety I had become until we finally received word from our agency that 'The Inconsistency' had been cleared up.  The obstacles we thought we would be facing -- the complications that would have left two precious little people in limbo and alone indefinitely -- disappeared with with a word.

And I exhaled.

And then I went shoe shopping.  Shoe shopping is hard enough {right ladies?!?}, but it's even harder when you need *the perfect* shoes.  No fewer than eight trips to four different Targets around Memphis yielded six little pairs of shoes.  Six pairs of the most perfectly pinkalicious shoes a girl could ever want.  Two of these will come home on the feet of our daughters.  The others will be left behind for daughters who wait.
{See.  I told you they were pinkalicious!!}

It took another 40 days for our agency to gather the supporting documents needed to sufficiently explain 'The Inconsistency' to the US Embassy in Ethiopia.  {The Embassy personnel handle immigration.}  We hoped this would go more quickly than it did.  When our papers were finally ready to be submitted to the Embassy, our fingerprints were one week expired -- scheduled to be updated on Friday, but on Tuesday were expired.  And expired is expired.  So our papers were rejected.  Maddening!!!  

And what gives with fingerprints "expiring" anyway?!?!?  I'm no biologist, but I've always been under the impression that the prints you were born with are the prints you die with.  Why in the world do we have to keep having those re-taken???  And they are stored electronically!!!  Seems like the gub'ment would keep those on file and just use them to re-run the criminal background checks.  But who am I to stand in the way of progress.

Anyhoo ... our biometrics appointment {that's fancy-talk for fingerprinting} went well on Friday.  I called Monday to beg USCIS to pretty please hurry it along.  I was shocked pleasantly surprised to find out that they had already processed our fingerprints and updated our file.  Did you catch that??  We made a request of the gub'ment on Friday, and it was fulfilled on Friday.  I don't mean to sound glib, but that, my friends, is no less than a miracle sent straight from heaven. 

Everything should be ready for our agency to re-submit our papers to the US Embassy in Ethiopia next Tuesday.  The Embassy will spend a few weeks reviewing every scrap of paper in our file.  They'll request interviews with the girls' closest living relatives and anyone else who might have information pertaining to our case.  They'll make our agency and/or the Ethiopian government correct even the most minute errors in our papers.  Then one day, they will send us a very simple email saying that we have been cleared to bring our daughters home.  And that will be a very happy day. 

But because of all the delays, our immigration pre-approval will almost certainly expire before we are cleared to bring the girls home.  Which means we will need to re-file our immigration pre-approval request.  Which means we will need to have our homestudy updated.  Which means more background checks, more physicals, more financial statements, more interviews, and mo' money.  But my house is clean now.  So there's that.

I took the kids to have their physicals yesterday.  Mark was thrilled to be officially declared taller than Madison.  He's grown 5+ inches in the last year.  Levi was thrilled that Sarah had to get a shot.  {because shots = a trip to Jerry's for sno cones}  Way to take one for the team, Sarah!! 

May 2010 -- Ages 12, 10, 6, 4
  Look at these babies!!  This was our first round of physicals for our original homestudy.


August 2013 -- Ages 15, 13, 9, 7
Yesterday during our 3rd round of physicals for our 2nd update.  
I probably should have taken the picture before Sarah had her shot.


Sno cones from Jerry's as promised.

So we wait.  And we do whatever we're asked to do next.  We pay whatever fee comes up.  We adjust our expectations.  Waiting is hard stuff, I won't lie.  But God is faithful.  But God is sovereign -- even over 'Inconsistencies', even over timing, even over expiring papers.  And in that, we have peace.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

What's Next? More Than We Thought ...


We're back from Ethiopia {for several weeks now} and almost back to normal.  I do plan to post about our trip and share some of the fantastic pictures that we took.  But until I can get to that, I thought I'd share what happens next.  

While in Ethiopia, we went to court, sat with a judge, and pledged to love Helina and Bereket as our own.  All of *our* papers were there.  All of *their* papers were there.  Everything went perfectly, and we passed court!!  Woohoo!!  

This picture totally cracks me up!!

 Now we enter the "Embassy Phase."  Even though we've legally adopted the girls, we still have to go thru the steps required for them to immigrate to the United States.  

The process usually takes about 6 - 8 weeks.  Here's what has to happen:
  • Lots of government forms for us to fill out  {done}
  • Ethiopian court issues adoption approval decree  {done -- but there was a mistake with the date, so it has to be re-done}
  • Birth certificates are issued for the girls with our last name  {done}
  • Girls' passports are issued  {done -- but Bereket's had a couple of mistakes, so it will have to be re-done}
  • Girls will have a medical check-up and go to multiple different clinics for tests, immunizations, etc  {in process}
  • Case submitted to the US Embassy so they can start their review  {I'm not sure what exactly they have to do, but I know it involves verifying lots and lots and lots of papers and doing their own investigation into the girls' background.}
Once the US Embassy is satisfied, our interview appointment will be issued, and we will travel back to Ethiopia to bring them HOME!!


Like I said earlier, this process usually takes 6 - 8 weeks, which would have meant we'd be home by August!!  But Provences are hardly a usual people.  We are, indeed, quite extraordinary.  Our process is going to take much, much longer, which means we'll be home by ???  ::sigh:: 

About a week after we got home, our agency called to tell us that the independent investigator that we hired to double-check the girls' paperwork found "an inconsistency."  {That's all I have to say about that.}  

To resolve "The Inconsistency," we will hire the independent investigator to do a second, much more detailed investigation.  Our agency will then re-submit the girls' paperwork to the judge for approval.

Aside from sending me to the brink of insanity, "The Inconsistency" will cause a delay of undetermined length and an increase in fees of undetermined amount.  Time is money, after all.

Ultimately, this is a good thing.  Truth is good!!  We have so very little of the girls' history to tell them as they grow up.  It's imperative that the very little we do have is as accurate as possible.

So we wait.  The girls wait.  Waiting is hard.  
But we will trust.  
God is good!!  He sees!!  He knows!!  
And that is what keeps us going. 

Please continue to pray for our family:
- that the girls will know they are loved and be at peace while they wait
- that papers and investigations will go quickly and be accurate
- that extra expenses will be provided for
- that we will wait well :)
- that our case will be heard before the courts close for the rainy season
- that we will be able to travel before our papers expire and have to be renewed.

Thanks for riding this crazy roller coaster with us!!  The waiting is hard, but we think they're worth it :)




Monday, May 27, 2013

Meet the Newest Provences!!




Our hearing in Ethiopian Court today went perfectly!!  

We are thrilled to introduce you to Helina and Bereket!!

Praise God from Whom ALL blessings flow!!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Showers of Blessing {So Much to Share!!}

Oh. My. Goodness!!  So much has happened in the last few weeks.  I can't even believe it!!  

We've spent the last 6 - 8 weeks gearing up for our THIRD mega yard sale.  It was rained out the first weekend, but last weekend the skies {mostly} cleared, and it was ON.  To make a long story short ... HE took FIVE huge storage units FULL of YOUR junk and cast-offs, BLESSED it, MULTIPLIED it, and brought in $16,000 {YES, that comma IS in the right place!!} to bring FOUR of HIS children HOME to their new families.  This deserves its own post, but that will have to wait a few weeks because ...

!!WE GOT THE CALL!!  

We leave for ETHIOPIA in FOUR DAYS!!  Eeeeek!!  I'm so ready!!  I'm so NOT ready.  Ha!!  This time next week, we will have MET our daughters.  TOUCHED their hands.  HEARD their voices.  Our agency's travel adviser has cautioned me to not be overly emotional in front of the girls.  It seems in the Ethiopian culture tears can easily be misinterpreted as DISAPPOINTMENT rather than relief and JOY.  Please PRAY that my emotional reaction will be controlled and appropriate.  :)

While we are gone, my precious friend, Jonana has arranged an amazing fundraiser for our benefit.  It seems that short-notice plane tickets around Memorial Day are crazy expensive.  Go figure. 

It's not too early to get that ADORABLE family Christmas picture!!
Father's Day is just around the corner ...
How long has it been since you had pics taken of just YOU and your SWEETIE??
Bless a FRIEND with a special SURPRISE!!

Whatever your reason, BOOK YOUR SESSION TODAY!!




Friday, March 1, 2013

You're All Winners to Me




I know y'all are dying to know who WON all of that Really Super Cool Stuff, right?!?

Here's how it went down ...

82 Donors

521 Tickets

$4,170 Collected 

All to bring our daughters HOME!!

We are stunned.  Amazed.  Thankful.  Humbled.

We cannot say THANK YOU often enough or loudly enough to convey our deep, deep gratitude to all of you who are walking beside us on this journey. 

1st Choice -- Jason & Emily Smith
2nd Choice -- Arron & Annette Wright
3rd Choice -- Art & Charlotte Hullender
4th Choice -- Michael & Paula Sloan

!! CONGRATULATIONS !!

{Just an interesting thing to note ... THREE of our four winners are adoptive families.}