Thursday, October 16, 2014

Surprise post from Chad

I write this with lots of excitement bc I/we have been a part of God's amazing miracle!

 I sat up all night Tuesday night pondering, praying, crying, pleading (wrestling) with God and of course listening to my favorite worship songs. It was getting really tough because I was having to make a tough decision. If we didn't get word by Wednesday night I was gonna have to make the call if I was staying with Shandra here in Africa until Kwe's visa was ready or going back to the states by myself. I have been out of work for 2 weeks and I'm not getting paid because I've used up all my vacation time. Plus we have exhausted the money we brought here with us.

 So, I finally went to sleep late into the morning feeling exhausted and I placed my trust in Gods hands knowing there wasn't anything I could do. I fell asleep saying, "God, it was you who put us on this journey and brought us to this point. We feel stuck and have run out of money and time, by our standards. I know you're in the business of making miracles and changing lives so I'm pleading for you to help us."

 Wednesday we go about our day as if we aren't going to hear anything, but still hopeful we might. I was emailing my boss about what to do for work and starting to look at flights home.

 Then it happened!!!!! At 3:30pm yesterday (1130am @ home) we got the call that we were approved and could bring in his passport to get the visa printed. She said if we could make it by 5pm we could still turn it in that day. I raced upstairs to our room to tell Shandra! Now looking back, not sure if I actually hit any steps, sort of felt like I was floating! We shared our freak out moment, crying and holding each other in disbelief. Mind you, at that moment Shandra was wrapping up an interview for staffing for HQ and Kwe was napping. Her boss Andy was on video and freaked out and said, "Whoa, what?!? What just happened?" Shandra explained and he finishes by saying, "I feel like I'm in the birthing room!" Love that response!

 So, we raced to get changed and find transportation to the embassy before 5pm. We made it there by 412pm. Got to the door and the security guard started giving us a hard time about getting in. He stated that they were closed and we didn't have an appointment. We said, no we don't have an appt but we have a return slip and we received a phone call that we were approved and could drop off our sons passport to get his visa printed. They continued to give us a hard time and we argued/advocated for our case  and told them we would only be a minute as we were only dropping off the visa.

They finally gave in and let us through!!!

As we got inside the gentlemen behind the counter said our counselor was in a meeting and we would need to wait for her. Of course nothing is quick and easy and besides we were excited to have been told we passed so we were more than willing to wait as long as necessary.

 Our counselor finished her meeting and we saw her working with 2 others holding a file and messing around on the computer. Meanwhile, 45 minutes had gone by and the guards were passing by every minute getting frustrated that we were holding them there after their required time.

 We were beginning to ponder that they were either questioning the validity of his passport or printing his visa right then.

 Well, she called us up at 530pm and said my colleague and I stayed late and went ahead and printed your visa today. BAH, say what!? Can you repeat that because it sounded like you said you just printed our visa? Mind you, we have been told that it takes 2 days to print the visa. So, we had another cry and hug it out session because we had just witnessed a miracle from God!!! Not only had we gotten approval but we got Kwe's visa printed 2 hours after receiving our phone call. Wow! Thank you God!

 So, we returned to our hotel overwhelmed an overjoyed and starting sending out notices and trying to talk to our agent about getting flights home. Sadly, we were a few hours short of being able to leave that night, but we got booked to be on a plane leaving Friday night. This will put us getting back to GR around 1030pm Saturday (pending we can't find a better flight from one of our layovers).

 Thank you all for your continued prayers and support through this whole process! Thanks for sticking with us, loving us, and holding us up when we were feeling down and out! There are so many things we could thank you all for but that would be a book. Blessings to each one of you that have been a part of our journey!

   Love,

   Chad, Shandra, and Kwe


We (as in all 3 of us) are coming home!

KWE'S COMIN' HOME!!!!!!!!

For those of you who dont follow our adoption journey on Facebook, I promise to provide all the details as soon as i am back home and have my head on straight again (or maybe ill just settle for having it at all).Ive already started the post, so I can assure you it will come!

The important thing to know now is that we have experienced a miricle!! Just as we were starting to make plans for Chad to go home and me to stay, just as the my tears were begining to dry from that very thought, we got the call! We know how Kwe'ls visa and all his documents are ready. We leave tomorrow (Friday) night and are currently set to land in GR on Saturday the 18th.

Here is our flight info as of now: DL433 lands at 10:30 pm on the 18th.  We have a very long layover in ATL so if there is anything else that opens up to get us home sooner we will definitely let you know!

Hope to see you soon!

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

A very important invitation

Can you believe it?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

Only 5 more sleeps until we see Kwe!!!! (Only 4 really because you know "sleep" on a plane is really just a tease). 

Here are the final steps:
1. Fly to Ghana (we leave GR this Saturday afternoon, arrive in Accra Sunday afternoon)
2. Hug Kwe till his head almost pops off
3. Attend VISA interview on Tuesday the 7th (pray we pass the interview)
4. Pick up printed VISA a few days later (pray it doesn't have any errors on it)
5. Hang out with Kwe in the capital for a few days and bond as a family of 3 for the first time on our own.
6. Fly home to all you crazy kids!!

Speaking of step 6....We are very excited to invite you ALL to the airport to meet Kwe for the first time! We would love for this to be a time of celebration and fun. We anticipate hanging out there for an hour or so and if Kwe is doing well we will move the party to a local restaurant for an early dinner.  

If you are planning on meeting at the airport or would just like to track our flight, here is the info:

Delta flight: 1283
Atlanta to Grand Rapids
Date: Sunday, October 12
Landing time: 2:10 PM

See you there!!

Ok, I really don't want to write this last part. So Ill start it with a long, drawn out disclaimer and finally get to the point somewhere a few paragraphs down. 

Friends and family. You have been amazing. You have supported us through prayer, through long talks over coffee, through cards and emails and Facebook comments. You have donated items for the organization we have come to love (CORM) and to each of our 18 yard sales. You have given us so many gifts: practical ones like shoes and toys and books and really amazing, thoughtful ones like hand painted art and your own precious childhood belongings. You have celebrated each step along the way with us.

You. Have. Been. Amazing. 

We are truly blessed by how God has shaped our environment and our support group. We have learned an encyclopedia's worth of information through this process but one of the most precious things has been about how much we are loved by you all and by God. We have just never experienced community and support and love like we have through this journey.

So, I should get to the point.... Many of you keep asking us what else we need and how else you can help. We keep trying to change the subject and convince you that we have everything. BUT you are persistent people!!!  You just don't quit! So, besides coming to the airport and celebrating with us and meeting this awesome kid we keep telling you about....we have (somewhat reluctantly) included a few other options below. 

PLEASE DONT FEEL OBLIGATED.  

- Prayers for safe travels, Kwe's heart being ready for all the love he is about to experience, that we pass the VISA interview and that we make it through immigration easily. 

- Wanna help us with meals? A sweet, sweet friend has set up an account for us on TakeThemAMeal (Name: Steininger, Password: Kwe). This will be crazy helpful as I just can't even begin to predict what its going to be like around here  (especially when Chad goes back to work after that first week). 

- Kwe also has an Amazon Wish List of things that he could still use. It's really been more like a list I've kept over the last few years to help me not forget things..The items on here are just ideas and don't necessarily have to be exact or even purchased online. We can update the list if we get things that are from somewhere else.  

So there. I hope you're happy people!! :)

Love,

Chad, Shandra and Kwe

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Just. So. Close.

We could be in Ghana in less than two weeks!!

TWO WEEKS!!!

Let me break this down for ya!

-  Sometime this week: Kwe goes for his medical evaluation and then back 3 days later for the TB test reading.
- Wednesday the 24th: Our Power of Attorney picks up the VISA packet from the Embassy in Ghana.
-  Thursday the 25th: Once we have confirmation that the packet has been picked up, we email the embassy requesting our VISA interview appointment to be scheduled on Monday October 6.
-  Also, Thursday the 25th: We put holds on 2 flights from Grand Rapids to Ghana and 3 flights from Ghana to Grand Rapids! :)
-  The week of the 29th: Try not to go crazy. Finish Kwe's room. Make sure we have all the basic things he will need (someone just reminded me that he will need a toothbrush. Seriously. Thank you.) (don't worry, just bought him underwear (side note: they are SO little and adorable!!!), oh, and socks). Thought to self: that was a lot of parenthesis.  Collect, organize, pack donations for CORM and Glovo. Check and double check that we have ALL the 500 million documents we need to take for the interview. Figure out what to do with the dogs. Figure out what to do with the house (that is currently on the market)......I could do this all day people, but you get the point!

Our hope is to fly out of Grand Rapids on Friday October 3 and to be home on Saturday, October 11. We will publicly post our flight information once its set so that you all can be waiting to great him the minute he becomes a US Citizen!

Note: We sincerely want to extend this invitation to all our family, friends and support systems. We literally wouldn't be who we are right now (and quite possibly wouldn't have made it at all) without each of you. This time at the airport will be such a sweet, sweet celebration. No more paperwork, no more "what if's", no more "we are in the process of..." -  it will be finished. You will be celebrating with us as Kwe walks into his new family, new community, new country, new life.

We will take those next few weeks to "cocoon" with him and slowly introduce him to all the things this new life will entail. New food, weather, dogs as pets, grocery store, everything! It will be critical for us to maintain a structured and simple schedule where only we, as he new parents, are meeting his basic needs for food, bathing and cuddling. We will laugh with him as he excitedly explores it all and support him when he grieves all that he has lost. Again. You see, we have to remind ourselves regularly that while this is all so beautiful and exciting to us, it is for him another loss of everything he has ever known and loved. Adoption is the way that God makes Beauty from Ashes. A way we get to experience hope and grace. But, we must remember that it is still a product of trauma and loss. Loss of biological family, loss of cultural community, loss of friends, real and raw loss. He will grieve and we will love. We can't know when and how this might all come out but by establishing that we are his parents and that that is different than all the caregivers he has had before, that we will never abandon or give up on him, that we will make sure he is provided for and never hungry again...by doing this well, we will provide a safe and stable foundation for him up to connect, bond, attach and then develop strong self esteem, hope, confidence and joy.

So while we will want so desperately to share those first few days and weeks with all of you, we hope you can understand just how important this period of transition is for Kwe and his future.  Please call, text, or email us! We will keep everyone posted on how he is doing and when he is ready to start playing with his new friends!

Again, thank you for all the support and love you have poured out on us! The time for celebrating and dancing and crying happy tears is so close! Go stock up on tissues people!!! :)


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Saying "yes" (again)

If you have read our blog for long, you probably know that we try to have an attitude of "yes" in our lives. We explore options that present themselves to us and rarely discount something until we have checked it out. For us, that is how we try to be faithful to God's direction in our lives...as we rarely experience clear signs, etc.

So when this conversation came up multiple times over a couple weeks it finally stood out as something we should explore. We explored it and have decided to take the steps towards putting our house on the market!

WHAT?!?!?

I know! I am shocked too!

We bought this house 5 years ago thinking it would be our 10-15 year plan. We envisioned paying it off, selling it and using that money to pay off down our student loans. But what we have recently learned is that it is a sellers market right now in GR. There are not many homes for sale, a lot of interested buyers (bouncing back from the recent recession) and our neighborhood is in demand because all the positive change in last few years!

SO, we figured, what does it hurt?!? We will throw a rather high number on it, (what we would need to pay off a big enough chunk of loans to make it 'feel' worth it) and see what happens. Maybe nothing will happen. Maybe no one will be interested. And that is ok too.

But maybe, just maybe, this house was an investment and not our forever home. So we say 'yes'. We take one more step and we watch.

If it does sell we will  hustle to find an apartment again for a while. This is the part I am really excited about. Although I love my house, it is a LOT of work to keep up. Cleaning, yard work, projects, cleaning, painting, re-doing projects that we did 5years ago, cleaning... The American Dream turned out to be a heck of a lot more sacrifice of time than I imagined it would be 5 years ago.

We have been talking a lot lately about the simplicity of a minimalist lifestyle.  Selling most of our possessions and downsizing into a 1000 sq foot apartment downtown is incredibly appealing (and extremely hard to actually make happen- apparently we arent the only ones with this idea). Less to clean, less to manage, less to worry about.

What about Kwe? We have heard that a few times as we have discussed this plan with our closest friends and to be honest that was one of our biggest worries when we first started talking. But what we quickly realized is that Kwe needs us. Not a big house, not a fenced in back yard, not 100 toys. He needs our attention, our full attention, our time, our passion for enjoying life! Our hope is that by greatly reducing our stress at home we will have much more time and energy (physically and emotionally) to give to him. We both have busy and often stressful careers and that wont change when Kwe comes home. But by reducing our financial stresses and our home-owner responsibilities, our time 'home' will be fully focused on our family.

So. We are racing to finish up some projects so that we can get it on the market and hopefully move before Kwe comes home. That way, he never really knows the difference and doesnt have to experience another major transition in his life right away.

If you know of anyone interested in a beautiful 3 bedroom 1.5 bathroom home within walking distance to 2 parks, a library and a bakery, let me know! ;)


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Last, first and free

Today is my last. 
Tomorrow is my first. 
And a few days ago we were set free.


TODAY
I broke a new record!!! My first day at Arbor Circle was April 25, 2011. I worked there full-time for 3 years, 3 months and 11 days. And while I will stay on contractually (very part-time) for a while yet, I am not "there" any more. I learned an incredible amount about myself and my "style", about some of the things that hold families and youth down and about the challenges that keeps support services from doing all they have the capacity to do. It changed me. I now have a lot more experience, a healthy amount of skepticism and a stronger (maybe unbreakable) passion to keep pushing forward.

TOMORROW
Tomorrow I start something new! The next chapter. I will be am the Director of HQ, a drop in center for youth who are experiencing homelessness, who have run away or who are just struggling. The dream of starting something from the ground up, pouring my vision and passion (my everything) into it,  being a part of something big that was going to have a lasting impact, has been just that: a dream. Maybe something that would happen in 10 or 20 years. Maybe in another country. But here I am. People believe in me. A lot of people. I cant even describe how that feels. I am humbled...so honored....so shocked by it all. I have moments where I freak out a little bit and ask myself when everyone around me is going to realize that I cant do it. I had just had one of those moments before I read the Jesus Calling devotion today, which told me: 

"Rest in My sufficiency, as you consider the challenges this day presents. Do not wear yourself out by worrying about whether you can cope with the presures. Keep looking to me and communicating with Me, as we walk thru this together."

I dont have to be perfect. I dont even have to pretend like I am! I can just put my all into every day knowing that every step of my life has been led, at every turn I have been molded and shaped and I wont be alone now (or tomorrow!). Interviewing for this job was one of the biggest tests of my faith. I'd been fully on one side of the pendulum: I wanted it SO bad, it was my dream, what else would I do... and the other side: maybe I shouldnt even apply, I probably won't get it anyway, I don't know if I'm ready. Then, as the interview process came closer I found the middle. I gave up control. No, really. I did!!! Why is that so hard to believe?? :) I felt so at peace. I gave it to God and told Him I would honestly live either way. :) If I got it I would step 100 million percent into it...if I didnt, i would look forward to what He was preparing me for. 

Deep breath. 

Then I got it!!!

And the "crazy train" leaves the station tomorrow! Woohoo!!!

And- Chad's job is going so great too! He absolutely loves it. He is learning a ton, being challenged (personally and professionally) and gaining confidence ever day. I am so proud of him for taking the risk and working hard!!!

Ok, so adoption update: basically it continues to drag on at the pace of a elderly snail. Last Thursday we mailed out the 3rd packet of supporting documents to US immigration, in response to the Notice of Intent to Deny Kwe immigration. Our Officer received it yesterday. Maybe we will hear something in the next week.

The day after we sent it, Chad sent me a text sharing a "God download". I dont know if you have ever experienced that but for me, it's in the stillness (when I can actually figure out how to make my mind pause) and its usually a simple word or a few words that just enter my mind. There's nothing and then  there's something. 

So anyway, this is it. It touched us so deeply that we couldn't not share it with you! Enjoy!

"I have Kwe in my arms, right where I need him to be. Have peace knowing he's in my care. I'm instilling in him character and a passion for my people. I need him here for a time such as this to learn and grow. The future for him will be much more brighter because of this! Rest assured my child for I know the plans I have for him and for you!"

Thursday, July 24, 2014

One word

Today something just hit me.

I've probably written about it before.

It's one of those things that I have to be reminded of over and over again. And then it feels like a new thought each time.

It's simple really.

Or is it.

....
Thankfulness
....

There it is.

Tomorrow (July 25) is 5 months since we passed court.

Last night as Chad and I were falling (literally) into bed, he commented that we should be preparing ourselves mentally for the fact that Kwe may not be home for another 5 months. Ugh. That felt heavy. I wanted to be angry at him for even speaking such nonsense!

Instead, I slept on it.

This morning, Jesus Calling, reminded me that thankfulness is one of the most effective ways to experience God's presence. Which is sort of funny because I was just praying yesterday about how to feel that again.

Some of you may know exactly what I mean. Throughout your faith journey you often have times when your conversation with God seems to flow naturally. He is right there. You feel something different. Other times, its like a uphill struggle. You try to do all the right things (which inherently might be the problem) and you still feel floaty. Disconnected. Alone. It's like a human relationship in some ways I guess. Sometimes you just 'click', other times you crash.

So anyway...I am supposed to be practicing thankfulness. And I have A TON to be thankful for in EVERY. SINGLE. AREA. OF. MY. LIFE.!!

But how much harder it is specifically with Kwe and this ever-twisting adoption process...

So I began brainstorming.

Here are some of the first few things that come to mind. We are thankful:

  • that we even know who Kwe is. He is not a number. He is not an orphan. He is our son, we know him, we talk to him, we talk about him, we pray for him.
  • that he is in a loving and supportive environment. We couldn't imagine a better place for him anywhere in the world (besides with us, of course!). And reflecting on how all that came together is an entirely separate list of reasons to be thankful.
  • that he is healthy. I cannot imagine how much more difficult this would be if he had some illness that threatened his life every day he wasn't here. 
  • that he is resilient.
  • that we have an AMAZING support group. Seriously. We love you guys! :)
  • that we serve a God who is so much bigger than any of the challenges we have faced. There is a plan. There is a purpose. There is a fullness.
Help us add to this list! Comment here on the shared link on FB!