Saturday, December 29, 2007

Christmas Happenings

Our Christmas season started with a matchup between the Rams and the Steelers. Our friends pulled out all the stops when they came over to watch the game with us. They are from St. Louis so they brought quite a collection of their "stuff" to display in our house. They even made Dean a "crying towel" to replace his terrible towel. Too bad for them it was not needed as the Steelers crushed the Rams!



We enjoyed a staff Christmas dinner at Bucca de Beppo's where Dean sat in the throne in the Pope's room. He enjoyed the power a little too much I'd say...



Christmas Sunday, we enjoyed some time with my parents. It was a little cold that day so we were able to wear those clothes we wear once a year, like the corny Christmas sweaters. I swore I would never have one but that seems to be the thing to do here.


Allie was shocked and excited to get a Wii for Christmas. We had her convinced we couldn't find one. Here are her and Carly enjoying a round of boxing. We had several friends and family over for Christmas lunch and had a great time together.



On Christmas evening some friends from PA came down to spend a night before heading down to Disney so we had to take them to the ocean. It was a bit chilly.
Overall, it was a good Christmas. Hopefully, we will have a little one with us next year. It seemed kind of strange knowing there is a little baby girl a half a world away waiting for us to bring her home. Christmas will never be complete without our whole family together. Since our Emma is gone, there is an empty spot in our hearts that will never be filled. I took some time out on Christmas day to write to her in our special journal and I know she was with us, just one breath away. I could hear her laughter and see her sweet smile and I took her with me as I celebrated Christ and enjoyed our family and friends. I hope your Christmas was as full of laughter, love, and magic as ours!!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Christmas Musical

Our church Christmas musical was this past weekend and it was really neat. Allie did a great job! We were really proud of her. Her Grandma and Grandpa Partington came up from Lake Wales to see it and we had our Christmas with them. It was a good weekend except for the fact that the Jaguars beat the Steelers and now we have to hear about it all week. Oh well. Maybe next time...









Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12!!



Today is 12/12 and there are 12 days until Christmas and I just found out we are number 12 on The List!! I'm not superstitous or anything but if I were, I would definitely think that was more than a coincidence. Either way, I'm very excited to know that we have moved up so soon!

This is Dean and his cousin, Ben, playing Guitar Hero III at the youth Christmas party last weekend. Dean now has a new item on his Christmas list!

This is a Florida snowman some of the youth had to make at the party. Not quite the same, but still...

Friday, December 7, 2007

Tis the Season

Deck the Halls!!






Well, the Christmas season is here and life is getting a little busier than normal. We have many things going on at the church of course. Allie is in a musical and has been practicing for that since September. She is doing great with her school work. Her days are full of learning, reading, socializing, and creating. She continues to play piano and is taking guitar lessons also. She loves that. Music is a passion for her right now.



She has been collecting teddy bears for the children's hospital here. We are calling them Tear Bears and they are given to the brothers and sisters of the children who have passed away at the hospital. It is a way for her to honor her sister's memory. We are very proud of her compassionate heart.

I'm sorry if this sounds like a Christmas letter but since I don't write them, I guess it is. I guess I am feeling reflective. Last night we attended a remembrance service at the hospital where Emma died. It is a sad service but a necessary one. It makes me think of how much we are missing with Emma not here for Christmas but it reminds me of what she has gained. Experiencing life with our Savior in Heaven is beyond my comprehension. It is Christmas everyday and much more. Being at the service also made me so thankful for Allie and the comfort she brings us. I am amazed by her. Some people comment on how much she has been through and I know they feel pity for her. I admit, her life has been different. There has been a lot of pain but there has been so much joy. She is who she is because of all of that pain and all of that joy and I am so very, very proud of her. I can't wait to see the amazing things she does with all of these life experiences. I think the world will be changed by a girl like Allie Olson!




Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Number 16!!!

Well, we got the news today that our agency received our dossier and we are officially on the waiting list for a referral!! That is a huge relief to know we are finally here. There was one snag with some paperwork we have to send back to Tallahassee and on to the consulate to be authenticated but they are still putting us on the waiting list while we take care of that. I received an email from our contact at the agency tonight that says we are number 16 on the waiting list!! That doesn't sound so bad but it all depends on how quickly they receive referrals at this point. I am anxious yet at peace because I know that God is working all of this out according to His plan. He has a daughter waiting for us and He will be with her and us as we wait. And wait. And wait.

Dean found this great song by Third Day on their Christmas album and it has become very meaningful to us this year. Here is the first verse:

Merry Christmas

There's a little girl trembling on a cold December morn.
Crying for momma's arms
At an orphanage just outside a little China town
Where the forgotten are.
But half a world away
I hang your stocking by the fire
And dream about the day when I can finally call you mine.
It's Christmas time and you're not home.
Your family is here and yet you're somewhere else alone.
So tonight I pray that God will come and hold you in His arms
And tell you from my heart "Merry Christmas".

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Thanksgiving

Today was a busy day for us. We spent the day making our picture pages to be sent with our dossier. Then we had to make a zillion copies of everything and seperate it all out into piles and staple everything together and check it to make sure it was all in the right order and finally, we made the trip to Fed Ex to send it off to the agency!! It is a huge relief to have it sent. They should receive it by Wednesday so I will call and make sure everything was done right and find out what number we are on the waiting list. This makes everything seem very real. Our next big step will be to receive a picture of our daughter!!

This is the season of Thanksgiving and we certainly are grateful for so much. We are so thankful for each other. Our family is the most important part of our life and to have a marriage that is not only surviving but that is growing in strength and joy is truly a blessing. We have this wonderful daughter, Allie, who amazes us with her strength, humor, grace, and intelligence. Most importantly, she is such an amazing young woman of God. Her hunger to grow spiritually humbles us everday and brings much gratitude. For our memories of our Emma, there could never be thanks enough. And for this daughter we do not know yet, we thank God for providing us with this wonderful opportunity to bring her home. Our friends are beyond words in their support and encouragement as we go through this. Since Emma passed away, we have found who our true friends and family are and there were some surprises, but God has truly blessed us with each one. You guys know who you are and we thank you for everything you have done to make our lives so much richer! Most importantly, we thank God for the amazing gift of salvation and grace. Without that, there is nothing else.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

More good news!!

Yesterday was another great day in our adoption journey!! We received our dossier back from the Vietnamese Consulate in California and everything was verified and good to go. It looks very official and as it is written in Vietnamese, we are not really sure what it says. The agency closes tomorrow for a long weekend so we will FedEx everything to them on Friday so we will be on the official waiting list to get a referral. This is exciting and feels very real. I have been doing a lot of reading on the internet lately about other people's experiences just to find out what to expect in Vietnam. Most of what I read are happy stories with little problems but there are some that make you worried. Please keep us and our baby in your prayers.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Being Verified

We are still here and still waiting! Our dossier is now in California at the Vietnamese consulate being verified. It has been there for two weeks and should be here anytime now. We will then send it to our agency to be translated and sent to Vietnam. We will officially be on the waiting list then so the wait for the referral will begin. We are hoping to have a referral by Feb. or March. Please continue to keep us in your prayers. Pray, also, for our baby who is probably close to being born.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

We are certified!!

Yesterday was a crazy day for us. This week I worked on getting everything in order and getting some documents notarized so that our dossier is complete. I faxed it to our program coordinater in the morning and waited to hear from her. She emailed to say everything was good, so Dean and I headed to Tallahassee to have our dossier certified by the secretary of state. It took us 2 1/2 hours to get there and ten minutes to have it done but it was worth the drive to make sure everything was done correctly. Hopefully, next week we will send it to the Vietnamese Embassy in D.C. to be verified. No driving it this time. It feels like everything is coming together so easily at this point. We are definitely getting more and more excited every day. Please continue to pray for us!!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Happy Day!!

This is one of those days we are told to celebrate in a big way!! First of all, while we were in Pennsylvania last week we received a call from our friend, Debbie, that our passports had arrived. It only took two weeks to get them! Today, I went to lunch with Debbie and she dropped me off only to come right back. She had gotten the mail and there was a big envelope from Homeland Security and in it was our I-600 approval! This is a huge deal in the adoption world!! Basically, it means we have been given permission from our country to adopt a child from Vietnam. The most amazing part of this is we just applied 3 weeks ago!! It usually takes 3 months. This puts us way ahead of schedule! I talked to our facilitater from the agency and she said she was speechless. Debbie and Danny are taking us out to dinner tonight to celebrate. It feels like hearing your baby's heartbeat for the first time.

We have always known that God was in this but it is so reassuring to see Him working in such a tangible way. If there are any of you reading this that doubt that God is real or that He is still at work in the world today, please believe me when I tell you that He is so faithful and so real when we place our trust in Him. There is no way we will ever be able to do this on our own, especially financially, but He is providing for us in surprising ways. We are so grateful and so excited to see what happens next!

It is so amazing that our hearts can hold such differing emotions all at once. In the past two weeks we have remembered our Emma as we marked two years without her on the earth and her eleventh birthday. It is such a bittersweet time as we feel so sad and lost without her yet so excited about the future. I have struggled at times with a feeling of guilt, as if I am betraying Emma in some way, but I know that that is the last thing Emma would want for me. I believe she is smiling today at our happy news. There are some who think our adoption will fill the void that Emma left but nothing could ever take her place. We have learned that God has given us the capacity to love without limits. There is room in our hearts for grief and joy, laughter and tears, and all of our girls.

What a great day!!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Paperwork progressing

Today was an exciting day in the ongoing paperwork pile. We sent our application in to Imigration Services last week and were told we would hear from them within 60 days to schedule fingerprinting. Much to our surprise, we got a letter today in the mail saying we could come down anytime, without an appointment. Needless to say, we were at the Department of Homeland Security here in Jax this afternoon to do our laser fingerprinting. Now we wait for our clearance from them that will give us approval to bring a child from Vietnam into the county and be granted citizenship.

Prior to going to getting fingerprinted, we went over to the Passport Processing Center to get passports for the three of us. They told us that passports are coming back within 3 weeks right now. So hopefully, we'll have our passports soon. These will be needed not only for our travel but also for our dossier submission to the Vietnamese embassy.

With each step this seems more and more real. It's a bit hard to imagine that in seven months or so, we'll be traveling to Vietnam to get our daughter. It's also hart to imagine that she is possibly already born and is either in the orphange already or is at home with her family as they struggle to figure out if they can afford to keep her or will give her up for adoption.

What an exciting time as we get ever closer to bringing our daughter home from Vietnam.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Last Papers Sent!

Wow!! It has been a long time since I've written an update! I guess that is because there hasn't been a whole lot to update. We ran into some trouble with some of our paperwork but it all worked out and we sent in our very last papers for the homestudy today!! Now it is in their hands to approve or disapprove it. If it is approved we will move on to the dossier, which is even more paperwork. We have done some of the work already. We can also apply for some grants once we are approved. We are still hoping to travel next spring. I don't get worked up with the timing because I know it will happen in God's timing. If there is one thing I know, it is that His timing is best. I've messed things up too many times by trying to make something happen the way I wanted it. Joshua 1:9 is our life verse and we believe God is working to bring about good in our lives. We have experienced hurt and grief, not because those were His plans for us, but because we live in a broken world. In the end, His plans will prevail and they will be beyond our imagination.

We have spent a busy summer together. Allie just returned from Pennsylvania, where she had an awesome time with family and friends at Whitehall Camp. She turned 13 yesterday. That is amazing. It sure doesn't feel that long ago. She is such a great girl and we are so proud of who she is becoming. She makes being a parent the greatest joy of our lives!! Anyway, that is what is going on here. As soon as we get word that we are approved, I will post it!! Thanks for your prayers and support!!

Monday, May 7, 2007

Thank You

It has been a while since our last post and people have been wondering what's new so here goes. There has been progress in completing our home study. We are down to just a few more documents to come in. We have received all of our clearances, our references, and completed our education classes.

The amount of support we have received from our family, friends, and our church family has been overwhelming. Thank you to all who have sent emails, made comments on our blog, and especially to all of you who are praying for us. Thank you to those who wrote our reference letters. I know they were time consuming but we appreciate the efforts so much.

The last year and a half has been the most difficult time in our lives. There were times when I didn't think we would ever make it through, individually or as a couple. It felt as if our world was spinning out of control. I have learned that we will never be the same. We have been changed and grief is a part of who we are. However, by God's grace, it does not define us. We have walked through the fire and found that God is faithful and He is able. We believe He still has a plan for us. One that will give us a hope and a future. He will not fail us or harm us. We are walking in victory over death and grief. He holds all of our children in His hands. They belong to Him. I believe with all my heart that He is making us more like Him every day and if that is the goal, I will endure whatever suffering and heartache it takes to mold me into His image. Death has made me eternally focused and my eye is on the prize. God is good and I am so grateful to learn these lessons from such a loving teacher. We believe He has called us to adopt and He will provide all we need to see it completed!! How comforting to know He is in control.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Baby Steps

We are still working on completing our home study. We have been collecting references, birth certificates, marriage certificates, financial statements, etc. It is a lot harder than making a baby! We received word from our social worker that some of our clearances have come back which is exciting! We are making progress.

I remind myself daily that even though this child is coming to our family in a different way than our first two, she is real. I can't hear her heart beating or feel her feet kicking me but she is a part of me already. Dean and I went to Target tonight and looked at the baby stuff just for fun. We also went to Barnes and Noble and bought a book about Vietnam. I looked through it and saw the beautiful children with their big eyes and huge smiles and tried to imagine how our child will look. It is very exciting! We are pregnant with hope and anticipation!

Friday, March 30, 2007

What I Know for Sure (Stacey)

There are some things in life that you just know from the very beginning. For me, there are just two things I've ever known for sure. The first is that I am a child of God; held in His hand and covered by His grace. That is something I have known for as long as I can remember.

I also knew from the start that I was born to be a mother. I played with dolls until I was "too old" and had to put them away. To this day, I love the smell of a brand new baby doll! When I was in high school I hated the question, "What are you going to do when you graduate?". I had no desire to do anything except have a family, but I had gotten the message loud and clear that being a mother is not enough in our society. I spent four years of college trying to find something to "be". I only knew that I loved home. Home and family brought me happiness. My mom was the person I admired. She had the life I wanted.

And so I chose. I wanted to "be" a wife and mother. In a world that devalues motherhood, I chose to honor and cherish it as sacred. I chose to raise my children because I believe no one loves them like I do. No one knows them like I do. I would rather be a mother than own a home, have a new car, have a big savings account, or have a career. I knew what I was supposed to "be" from the beginning.

God has been so good to me. He gave me the desires of my heart in ways I could never imagine. He gave me a husband who supports my choices in every way. He not only supports them, he honors them. He will do anything to make my dream of being a "stay at home" mother continue to be a reality. I guess he is the third thing I know for sure!

God has also given me the gift of motherhood in exactly the ways I always dreamed it would be. He knows me so well and He gave me exactly the daughters of my heart. I wouldn't change a thing about my children. Through their lives, He has taught me be a servant, to have more faith, to love with my whole heart, and to grow more Christlike.

He gave me a beautiful, healthy, smart, and vibrant daughter. Allie is my shining star. She fills our lives with joy and laughter. She is compassionate and loving and strong. She is growing into a young lady who follows God with all her heart. Allison is my treasure here on earth.





God blessed me with another daughter. Emma is my butterfly. I was blessed to take care of her for nine wonderful years. She taught me so much about love and life and death and hope. I gave her the best gift I could as her mother; I let her go. I let her go so she could be a butterfly. Emma is my treasure in Heaven.

And now I am waiting for my third daughter. I am excited to experience motherhood in a whole new way. I am praying for the woman who is carrying her and those who will care for her until we can bring her home. I trust God to give us exactly the child He planned to be in our family.

I hope I am teaching my daughters the right things. I hope they know that they don't have to ''be" anything except who God made them. I hope they know there is no one I would rather "be" than their mother!

paperwork sent (Dean)

It's not exciting or flashy, but it is one of the next steps. This week we sent in almost 1/3 of the paperwork needed for our homestudy. We're working on getting birth certficates, references, etc. for the remainder.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Our Adoption Story Begins (Dean & Stacey)

From our dating days, Stacey and I have discussed adopting one day. Our plan was to have 2 children biologically, then adopt 1 or 2 more children. With the birth of Allison and then Emma, those plans to adopt got put on the back burner. We've been on a holding pattern, discussing adoption on and off for the past 9 years. The time to discuss is over and we are finally moving forward.

We are going to be adopting a girl from Vietnam. We've chosen an agency and have started the process. We had our home study on March 20, and are now working to get all the papers necessary to complete it. There are so many hoops to jump through, but the agency has them all lined up for us.

We want to use this blog to keep you up to date on how things are progressing. Please pray that God will work out the many details yet to be taken care of and that we will be able to bring home our little girl within the next year.