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.}

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Wanna Win Some Really Super Cool Stuff?!?

DRAWING CLOSED :: WINNERS ANNOUNCED HERE

The shock of finally finding out who we have the enormous privilege of bringing into our family hasn't quite worn off!!  As you can imagine, this has sent us into quite an excited frenzy around our house.  School started back last week, and I can assure you that is the l.a.s.t. place my mind wants to be right now, but life must go on.  Damn the torpedoes and sugar cube igloo ahead, right?!?  {Sarah and Levi are studying the Inuit, if you're wondering where that bit of randomness came from.}

As some of you may know, we decided to change placing agencies in order to pursue these precious girls.  They only recently were listed as waiting children with Children's House International.  Just how we came to know about them is quite an unbelievable story, and I can't wait to tell you all about it soon!!  God is continually showering us with His grace.

Unfortunately, walking away from our original agency also means that we are walking away from a large amount of money that we had already paid to them.  This is quite a normal arrangement in the adoption world.  You pay for services as they are rendered, and there is no expectation for refund if the contract is terminated before a placement has been made.  

Changing agencies and re-doing all of our expired paperwork has left us in need of about $12,000 that we will {most likely} have to pay by late spring or early summer.  Gulp!!  That seems so impossible to my very finite mind.  But we know that God is infinite.  He is not surprised, nor is He dismayed.  We are trusting in Him to provide every. single. cent. of our need. 

So here we are.  Fundraising:  Part Deux.  To top-off our adoption fund,  
we're giving away some really super cool stuff!! 

Donate to our adoption fund to have a chance to
win some really super cool stuff!!

For every donation of $10 you'll receive 1 really cute entry ticket, but a donation of $25 will getcha 3 really cute entry tickets.  All of the really cute entry tickets look just alike, but trust me!  You're gonna want more than just ONE.

The winner of our random drawing will have FIRST CHOICE from the fabulous prizes listed below.  The second name drawn will have second choice.  The third name drawn ... well, I think you see the trend here.  

Should you be one of the very lucky winners of our drawing, you may choose from the following:

A week in a very well-appointed beach condo!!  Sink your toes into the pearly white sands of Perdido Key, FL.  Your two-bedroom condo, located in the Mariner Condominiums complex, sleeps 6 comfortably.  Bedroom #1 has a comfy queen bed, while bedroom #2 has a queen bed and one set of bunk beds.  Your condo is located directly on the beach and has its own private balcony.  The complex also offers a beachside pool, tennis courts, boatdock, and fishing pier.  Stay a few days, or stay the whole week.  Should you be the lucky winner of this prize, we'll put you in touch with the owners of the condo so you can arrange your stay.  This is a privately owned condo and is available from October - April, excluding Spring/Fall Break.  ($1,000 value!!)



An Apple iPad 3, 16 GB, Wi-Fi + Verizon 4G in white!!  This is such a fun story!!  I actually WON this iPad in October from a raffle that the Benkerts held to benefit BringLove.In -- an amazing organization in Ethiopia that works to create new families from widows and orphans.  The Benkerts were here in the States last summer working to raise awareness and support for their ministry.  They purchased this iPad to use in processing donations and then raffled it off before they returned to Ethiopia.  And I WON!!  It was such a fun surprise!!  You can see the video here.  With my 40th Birthday coming up, I decided to stash it away and surprise Randy and the kids with it on my B-Day.  Then we found out about the girls, and I knew right away that we would not be keeping this incredibly COOL toy.  So just to be clear, this is a like-new iPad and has been restored to factory settings.  Also, you don't have to subscribe to the Verizon service if you don't want to.  Your iPad will work just fine on wi-fi.  Here's a link to the exact same model that we are giving away.  Maybe the tech specs will mean more to you than they do to me.  ($625 value!!)



Custom artwork by Brian Crenshaw!!  This talented artist lives right here in Memphis and is the Student Ministry Director at our church.  This time last year, Brian and his wife Erin were preparing to bring their newest daughter Naomi home from Ethiopia.  You can read part of their story here.  Brian and Erin were also part of the biggest garage sale I've ever known!!  If you ever wanted to find out how supportive a random group of people can be, adopt.  Other adoptive families have been some of our biggest cheerleaders and supporters.  We are honored to count ourselves among this group.  Brian painted many, many beautiful works to raise money for their own adoption, and now he has generously and graciously donated one to help us.  "Red Door #6" measures 34" x 44" and is painted on cedar planks with cedar trim as the frame.  How cool is that?!?  Please check out his website to see more of his work..  Ah-mazing!!   ($450 value!!)

Red Door #6

A handmade quilt by Moi!!  I have loved, loved, lurved Denyse Schmidt's Flea Market Fancy fabrics forevah.  They were out of print for a while, but last year they came back!!  I splurged on a fat-quarter bundle and have not regretted it one bit.  I started this quilt as a little gift for myself, but now it can be ALL YOURS.  It measures approximately 42" x 56" and is backed in a very yummy Kona gray. ($350 value)



We hope to add a few more items before the drawing on March 1st.  If you have something you'd like to donate, please contact me!!  wendyloudesigns@gmail.com

How do you enter for your very own chance to win some of this 
really super cool stuff??  
It's simple!!  If you donate in person, you'll get some really cute entry tickets to hold onto.  If you donate online via the Paypal button at the top of our website, we'll email you a picture of your really cute entry tickets.  {Or if you just really, really want to have your really cute entry tickets, we'd be happy to drop them in the mail to you.  But you'll have to tell us that.  We can't read your mind, silly!}  The stubby part of these really cute entry tickets will have all of your contact info written down.  We'll put them all into a big bucket and draw winners at noon on March 1st.  So get your really cute entry tickets before noon on March 1st!!

In case you're not sure how many really cute entry tickets your donation will getcha, I've included a very nerdy chart right here:
$10 - 1          $35 - 4          $60 - 7          $85 - 10
$20 - 2          $45 - 5          $70 - 8          $95 - 11
  $25 - 3          $50 - 6          $75 - 9          $100 - 12

Just so you know ... we're rooting for YOU!!  We hope you WIN!!

DRAWING CLOSED :: WINNERS ANNOUNCED HERE

Friday, December 28, 2012

SISTERS!!


Sisters mean ...
bedrooms to rearrange
an extra seat squeezed into the family suburban
two more chairs around the breakfast table
bows and dresses and tights galore
extra years of shopping in 'the pink aisle' at Christmas
hopscotch and hula hoops 
ballet slippers and {gulp!} high heels

But most of all, sisters mean
abundant blessings!!

We are thrilled beyond belief to announce today that we have said, "YES!" to two precious sisters who are waiting in Ethiopia for their next family.  We have seen their beautiful faces, and we are in love!  We can't divulge many details online for a while, but we can tell you that they are 4 and 5 years old.  

As with all things in international adoption, nothing is certain until we are all on a plane together and headed home.  Please pray that happens as smoothly and as quickly as possible!