Thursday, April 24, 2008

April 22, 2008

Dearest Family & Friends,

Today (April 22, 2008) is a day of celebration for the Reece family! We are celebrating God’s amazing faithfulness, His perfect timing and His unfailing provision for our needs and the fulfillment of the dreams He has put in our hearts. Today we are celebrating an amazing turn in the road of the journey of adoption that He has led us to!

We have not updated our adoption blog since our paperwork was officially logged-in in China and many of you have lovingly inquired as to when Emma Mei is coming home. Thank you! We love that she has already become a living part of your hearts and will one day be loved by your loving embraces!

As we began the new year of 2008, adoptive parents waiting for their Chinese babies were informed that the “wait time” would be lengthening. In fact, parents whose dossiers were sent to China in the spring of 2006 have been notified that their expected wait time is another 2+ years. As you know, our dossier went to China in the fall of 2007, another 1 ½ years behind that group. Accordingly, we may be waiting another 3-4+ years for Emma Mei to come home. This news has indeed been shocking and a bit heart-breaking. I once agonized over the thought of waiting 2 years to hold our daughter in our arms. Now, we wait in complete uncertainty as to when we may go to China.

But, God’s timing is perfect and while we sometimes think we have His plan all figured out, we are finding that sometimes (actually… most times) He has a surprise up His sleeve for us! So, in the first three months of this year, we began a new prayer journey to seek what God would have us do during this time. Would He have us wait for Emma Mei or did He desire for Micah to have a sibling before he reached elementary school age? Did God want us to have two children or would He bless us with a third child? If so, would He call us to have another biological child or gift us with another adoptive child?

In February, we met with representatives from Holt to discuss all the options available to us. We knew without any doubt that God had called us to pursue adoption from China. We could not give up waiting for Emma Mei. But, our hearts were not at peace just waiting. What about the other options? It is said that when God closes a door, He does so in order to open another. The more we prayed, the more our eyes, minds, and hearts became focused on one, single option. All the others simply drifted away.

We shared our hearts with only a few people, enlisting them in prayer for God’s will and direction to be CLEARLY known to us. Sometimes He makes His will known to us through clanging cymbals, other times through soft whispers. He encouraged us with several “soft whispers” of confirmation, but this was a huge leap of faith that David and I were facing. As we’ve said before, with Micah, I (Shana) had to take a leap of faith and trust God to help me through a healthy pregnancy. With Emma Mei, God took David on a journey of faith to bring him to peace at His calling for us to adopt. Now, He was asking us to link arms and hearts together as a couple and with Him to bring us a third blessing without ever experiencing being parents to two! He was calling us to adopt a third child…. this time from Ethiopia!

Shocked? Confused? Slightly bewildered? Delighted? If you are feeling any or all of those emotions, that’s ok! I think David and I both did at first as well. In fact, even after receiving many confirmations, it took a clanging cymbal to bring me to have the beautiful peace He wanted to grant me in this decision.

You see, we first strongly felt this calling on February 21st, 2008. That night, after spending time in prayer about His direction for our family, we thought it would be fun to look at African baby girl names. We looked through the list in the baby name book and “Shani” (pronounced “Shah-nee”) came to our attention. When we looked at the meaning of the name, we looked at each other and smiled, knowing that God had just provided another confirmation. In Swahili the name Shani means “Marvelous, Wonderful & Adventure”. In Hebrew it means “Lily”. And, in Irish it means “God is gracious. Gift from God.” What was the confirmation? When we were pregnant with Micah we had two girl names picked out. One was Emma, which even then was always reserved in my heart for a Chinese daughter. The other was Lily Kristine! The meaning of my name, Shana, is “God is gracious. Gift from God.” just like Shani. At that moment, our hearts began to fall in love with a little African girl named Shani Kristine.

David’s faith in God’ plan for us never faltered after that very moment. It took another month of seeking and letting God move in my heart until I fully realized the beautiful plan He had for our family. I was sitting in church on Easter Sunday listening to our pastor talk about Christ’s compelling characteristic… that He is Victorious! He overcame the world to save us. He endured the cross, but He rose again. He conquered death to give us new life! I felt convicted as He spoke softly into my heart… “You, Shana, aren’t letting me be victorious. I’m trying to bless you with my plan for you, but you are too worried about the world. You are too concerned about “what ifs”. You have fear. In me there is no fear. I have overcome the world. I really am in control! I want only the best for my children. I know you do too.” I knew He was right! I knew He wanted us to adopt from Ethiopia, to bless and be blessed by a little one who needed us as much as we needed her, to be blessed with three children… but, still, a part of me kept wrestling with Him. No use doing that, He always wins in the end… Praise the Lord!

The following morning, on David’s drive to work, he knew I’d been struggling and he prayed that God would give me a VERY direct confirmation of His will. Here comes the clanging cymbal… I was exhausted from “wrestling” all night and loaded Micah into the car to go through the Starbucks drive-through. I hear a cheerful voice say “Good morning! Welcome to Starbucks. My name is Shani. How can I help you?” I laughed out loud! Shani? I thought I was losing it… I really needed caffeine and quick! I composed myself enough to make my order and then drove up to the window. After apologizing for my laughter, I asked what the name of the girl taking the drink orders was, and the teller said, “Her name is Shani… isn’t that unusual?” I replied, “Yes. It is absolutely beautiful!” I drove away thanking the Lord for His direction, humor and the clanging cymbal. So, later that day, March 24th, 2008, we made the call to Holt and joined other families who are now in dual country processes. While we wait for our precious Emma Mei to come home from China, we will be bringing home another daughter, Shani Kristine, from Ethiopia!

So, let us tell you a little about Ethiopia and Holt’s work in Ethiopia (much of the information is direct from Holt’s website). Despite its rich history and agricultural potential, Ethiopia (with a land mass just less than twice the size of Texas) has an estimated 4.3 million homeless children. While poverty is a widespread problem in Ethiopia, Holt never considers poverty alone to justify international adoption. Children needing adoptive families may have lost one or both parents. Some have been abandoned, and others become homeless due to social/cultural conditions that present extreme hardship.

Most of Holt’s adoptable children come from an area south of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Holt’s staff there receives children into care, performs initial evaluations and provides immediate medical treatment and nurturing. At the same time Holt assesses the child’s birth family and counsels them about the decision to relinquish their child for international adoption. Where appropriate, Holt offers assistance to enable the birth family to remain together. Holt also provides shelter, counseling, pre- and post-natal medical treatment for some birth mothers.

When Holt determines that international adoption is in the best interest of a child, they transfer that child to their new child care center in Addis Ababa. This center provides an attentive environment where children are lovingly encouraged to thrive and develop. Holt tests each child for HIV and other illnesses prior to referring them to a prospective family. The children receive excellent care from a caring staff, which includes a pediatrician, a professionally trained childcare supervisor and around-the-clock caregivers.

Where are we in the process? Well as I said earlier, today is a day of celebration! Today we are celebrating that we shipped our completed dossier to Holt’s International office in Eugene, Oregon. That’s right, in just 28 days since notifying Holt of our decision, we have started and completed all the paperwork necessary to adopt from Ethiopia! As you know, it took 6 months for us to complete the paperwork for China, so we are ecstatic to have completed another “paperwork journey”.

Now, we wait. How long? Well, the Ethiopia program is one of Holt’s newest programs, so timeframes are still fluctuating. The website states “Families typically receive a referral 3 – 6 months after Holt receives a family’s dossier.” We are not expecting the “match” to happen that quickly as there has been an influx of families interested in Ethiopia, but we have been given hopes of traveling to Ethiopia by next spring (perfect timing to use David’s much deserved sabbatical) and then in God’s perfect timing, hopefully to China 2 years after that.

Another interesting thing is that unlike China, where the government will be matching us up with a child in care from one of many orphanages, in this case, Holt will be matching us up with a child in their own care. They will make the referral themselves and then The Ministry of Women’s Affairs and the Ethiopian Court reviews the translated dossier, child information, and referral acceptance information and legally approves the adoption. Once the adoption is approved by Ethiopia, Holt’s in-country staff will obtain our child’s birth certificate, passport, and set an appointment for a final medical checkup and embassy appointment. At that point, we will be invited to travel to Ethiopia to meet and receive our child, Shani Kristine!

Let us close by saying, “Jesus loves the little children”. He truly does. He created them to love them. When others tried to push them aside, Jesus reached out and held them, listened to them, and loved them unconditionally. “Red, brown, yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight.” Our prayer is that each of our children are loved for the hearts and precious lives that God has given them, the unique characteristics and heritages they’ve been blessed with and that they in turn see themselves and those who love them as precious. “Jesus loves the little children of the world.”

What a “marvelous, wonderful adventure” this will be as we continue the journey to adopting our next “Gift from God”, Shani Kristine.

Blessings One & All,
Shana & the boys (David & Micah)


Celebrations throughout the journey!!!

One piece of advice that our social worker reiterated to us several times when we began the adoption process was to celebrate each step in the journey. This 2nd journey has been relatively quick, but we have had to fun celebrations so far and look forward to many more!

April 21st, 2008: Paperwork Journey Complete!

We celebrated completing all the steps of our dossier (with the exception of state certification which happened the following day) by going out to dinner as a family and finding the perfect first baby doll for Shani!

David also surprised me that night with a sweet "Thank You" card for my part in completing the paperwork... and he'd also purchased an adorable outfit for our little girl! Our first girlie outfit!!! So CUTE, so lavendar, bows & all!!! tee... hee... (This coming of course from a mommy of a TRUE BOY!!!... have we told you lately how much Micah LOVES bugs, dinosaurs, and puddles??)

April 26th, 2008: Girls Weekend Away - Who is the Stowaway?
Girls weekend away in Sisters, Oregon... I (Shana), my mom (Michelle), aunt (Debbie) and best friend (Jeannie) headed out for a fun weekend with just the girls! Little did they know that by the end of the trip a secret would be revealed to them!
We headed out snowshoeing on Saturday morning and after reaching a good spot for lunch, I presented each of the girls with a set of flags representing the country in which each of their children were born. Each flag was labeled with their children's names.
My mom was the first to take her flags and "plant" them claiming a successful journey! :)

My aunt got a kick out of putting hers in a tree, as that would be the most likely place her kids (uh... her two dogs... Tanner and Thunder) would enjoy!

Jeannie place her three flags for her two boys Austin and Carson and for Baby #3 on the way...

Then I handed my camera to mom and asked her to take a picture as I "planted" my flags. Everything was quite "normal" as I planted the American flag for Micah and then the China flag for Emma Mei. Things got quiet as I planted a third flag, the flag of Ethiopia. Mom sweetly and quietly said, "What's that?" Debbie was off quiet aways and nearly yelled, "What's going on?" They began guessing what country the flag represented (Greece? no... It starts with an "E"... Egypt? no... )and it was then that they realized I was telling them we were adopting another child!

You hear of people having "Mountaintop Experiences"... this one will always remain such an experience for me as my "sisters" celebrated with me a very carefully kept secret that had been hidden in David and my hearts. (Jeannie was privy to the plans however as she was one of two references we had to have to complete the paperwork!... lucky girl! And, what a blessing to me!)

As we sat down for lunch, I then read them the letter that is posted above. And, then began the "name game". Each of our children's names was attached to the flags with little alphabet beads. I laid out all the letters of Shani Kristine all scrambled up, and they began guessing which letter came first, second, etc. until they had the name.

Then, I brought out Shani's doll. Everyone had open arms to hold her, but none so loving as Grammie's! :)

The hike out was a blast! All of a sudden I felt like a dam had burst wide open and I could tell them everything about the process, the wait, our anticipated travel in Ethiopia... EVERYTHING! And, the Shani doll?... she had a good view too!