Wednesday, May 24, 2017

SHINElife for Jenny!

Special thanks to our Adoption Warrior, Crystal Kupper, on setting up our very first fundraiser to raise money to help BRING JENNY HOME!

Adoption is expensive and these fundraisers are a great way for our friends (and strangers!) to help our journey just by shopping for pretty things!

SHINElife for Jenny!

If you haven't heard of SHINElife, you're missing out! It's a mom-and-pop jewelry-and-other-pretty-things company in North Carolina. What sets them apart from other jewelry companies is that they hand stamp amazingness on everything -- so, if you want a your deceased grandmother's signature on a bracelet, you can do that. If you want a sentence from a love letter on a bookmark, you can do that. If you want your baby's toeprint on a necklace, you can do that! 



The customer service is EXCELLENT, the quality is sky-high and the attention to detail is exquisite. We cannot recommend this company enough! 

And guess what? Hillary (the shop owner) has a huge heart for adoption! From May 25 to June 8, 20% of all purchases from www.shopshinelife.com with the code ETTERADOPTION will go toward Justin and Tara Etter's adoption of a young girl with disabilities from Eastern Europe! (Don't forget the ETTERADOPTION code at checkout, as otherwise the proceeds will not go to Jenny). 

Hint:  Tara's birthday is 10/29!!  

Please share this fundraiser with your friends and family, on your facebook and instagram walls and beyond. And don't forget to emphasize the dates and code ETTERADOPTION at www.shopshinelife.com.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Patience

I was never good about waiting.  I admit it:  patience is not a virtue I even pretend to possess.  And I know better than to pray for patience because God doesn't actually give you patience...He gives you opportunities to practice patience.  And I don't really want anything to do with those particular kinds of opportunities.

Viv agrees:  Waiting is the worst!
When the placing agency told us that Jenny's re-classification for international adoption could take as long as 57 days, that sounded like an eternity - a hollow, echo-y chasm of forever-ness from now.

It's hard to put it into perspective.  We've known about and prayed for Jenny for almost 6 months now.  She feels like she's already our daughter.  We can't wait to meet her, but we feel like we already know her.

Don't they know that Jenny needs a family now?  And even once she's re-qualified for international adoption, it could still be 6-12 months before we can actually bring her home?  (Check out the In God's Timing page on our blog for an update on where we stand in the adoption process).

Our Bibles were out and our heads were bowed.

We prayed with specifics:  "God, put the right piece of paper into the right hands today so that Jenny can be re-qualified and so that we can be approved as her family."

We prayed with certainty:  "God, we know you will do this."

During this time, Mercy Me's song "Even If" started to play frequently on KLove.


We were reminded of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego's response to King Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel chapter 3.  "If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty's hand.  But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up." (v 17 & 18, NIV)  I love their certainty.

We KNOW that God will open the doors for Jenny to be our daughter. But even if he does not, we will still praise and honor him for this journey and know that he is working everything for good because we love him. (Romans 8:28)

On March 21, only a mere 62 days after the country's ban, we heard news that Jenny's region had officially endorsed her for international adoption!  We were ecstatic!  The clouds began to part and our optimism grew.  Now the national ministry just had to agree and the Adoption Center had to approve our application!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Kindred Spirits on the Path

Remember the article that I read in Citizen magazine that sparked this journey to Jenny?

Well, I felt I needed to reach out to Crystal Kupper, the author who had adopted an "other angel" from Reece's Rainbow, and let her know.  She deserved to know what an impact her words made and that, because she chose to share her story, there will be one less orphan in the world.  How many times have you read something that impacted you enough to completely and literally change your life?  How many times do you actually get to tell the author about that impact?  God wanted us to tell Crystal.

So, one morning, I wrote her an email.
Hi Crystal,I just wanted to let you know that my husband and I read your article in the November edition of FOTF's Citizen magazine and we were touched and inspired by your story.  For the past 2 years, we have felt a nudge in the direction of adoption, but as you know, it's a scary leap to make.  After we read your article, we couldn't get the kids from Reece's Rainbow out of our heads.  We donated to about 20 different kids, but that didn't seem like enough.  God is calling us to do more.  We have begun to pursue the adoption of a little girl.  I just wanted to thank you for fueling that fire that God had already put in our hearts.  Thank for you raising awareness of Reece's Rainbow and know that your story is being used by God in mighty ways!

Less than 4 hours later, she responded.  She wrote:  "I have the biggest smile on my face!  For the past week, I have been praying for you by name, that if it was God's will, that you and Justin would have the faith to take the leap and adopt." 

Um....


Praying for us by name!?  


How did she know Justin's name!?  


Once my heart started beating again, I continued reading.  It turns out that the director of Reece's Rainbow shared our letter with Crystal and she had been praying for us ever since.  


But God wasn't finished yet...that day, we continued emailing back and forth.  In His timing.  In His plan.  It turns out that the Kupper family lives about 25 minutes from us.   The very next weekend, our families met for dinner and instant friendship blossomed.  



The Kuppers and The Etters, Easter 2017

We got to meet (and instantly fell in love with) little Guyana, the spitfire chatterbox star of the article that started it all.  Vivien instantly bonded with Guyana and their 3 bio children, Jack, Jude, and precious Avinly.



Guyana on an Easter egg hunt at our house!

Now the Kuppers are not only among our best friends, but they are also our mentor family and our Adoption Warriors!  Crystal took and edited the photos for our recent Facebook Adoption Announcement, and I know she's working on some fundraisers for us to help cover some of the astronomical adoption expenses that we're going to face.  We could not be more grateful and thankful for all that they've done and all that they're going to do for us, for little Jenny, and to spread the awareness of orphans in need.




With God, nothing is coincidental.  We believe that He works everything for good to those who love Him.  And HIS timing is everything.  Being a military family, I know the Kuppers are only here temporarily, but they are here at the exact right moment to be our mentor family through, not only the adoption process, but the first few fragile years that Jenny will be home with us.  

I don't know what the next few years hold for our two families, but I can imagine that there will be plenty of baseball games, bar-b-ques, and trips to the beach.  And I know with even greater certainty that there will be many difficult conversations over cups of coffee, tear-drenched hugs, and questioning God's sovereignty as we travel this road of adoption together.  


Friday, May 12, 2017

One Step Back

On Jan 18th we received news that Jenny's country, although part of the Hague Convention, had put a ban on all international adoptions.  Because her country is a Convention country, we knew that the ban would have to be temporary.  We knew the Ministry would eventually allow children to be adopted by families abroad once more, but we didn't know when and under what circumstances.


Apparently, a few years ago, a little girl had been adopted from Jenny's country and some bad things happened.  We aren't sure exactly what happened, but it was bad enough for the country to instill a ban on all adoptions from other countries.

Rumors began flying all over social media about the situation.  We remained optimistic, however, since Jenny is considered "difficult to place" because of her disability.  It was our understanding, from our placing agency, that children considered difficult to place (ie those with a certificate of disability or children in large sibling groups) would eventually be eligible for international adoption once more.  The concern was that all of the children had to be re-classified for this eligibility.  And that could take months!

Justin and I were certain God wanted Jenny to be an Etter.  This was His plan.  We were just doing what He wanted us to do.  So, with no approval from the Adoption Center in Jenny's country, and no guarantee that Jenny would ever be eligible to be adopted by us, we bowed our heads once more, took a leap of faith, and dove headfirst into our Home Study.

The Home Study process, as I've mentioned before, is where you pay a social worker to completely and utterly invade your privacy, dig up old skeletons, and air your dirty laundry.

Our Home Study Checklist

Our Home Study would cost us about 1/7th of our entire estimated adoption expenses.  So, moving forward with it at this point with no approvals was akin to putting a down payment on a boat without an anchor.  But we trusted God.  When you're obeying Him, you're never wrong.

We started the Home Study process on Jan 20.  As of April 21, we've completed all of our requirements in the checklist above.  Ok, God...now we wait.  

Thursday, May 11, 2017

We're Facebook Official!

They say once you post it on Facebook, it's official.  So now the world officially knows God's plan for the Etter family!

photo credit:  Crystal Kupper
Before we posted this on social media, we stopped to pray.  

"Dear God, we ask that Jenny and this journey touch lives.  May this story present the Gospel to many friends and strangers, and may people see and know the unconditional love of Christ.  It is all for Your glory and honor that we do this.  In Jesus' name.  Amen"

And that's what this blog is for.  To share the story of Jenny's adoption into our family, but more than that...we want to share the love of Jesus with you.  Because it's only because of His love that we are able to embark on this privilege of adoption.   Like every child, Jenny's life has a purpose and we imagine great and mighty things for her, just as we do for Vivien.  We pray that their lives and their own journeys would honor God.

Adoption is hard.  It's emotionally taxing.  I've lost track of the times I've cried over the process and the waiting and the uncertainty.  It's expensive, too!  But we know God will provide.  We've entered into His plan on faith, and He is faithful and just and true.  

So, sit back, relax and enjoy our journey.  But if you can, please pray for us.  We could use it!  

If you're able, give.  Not necessarily to our adoption, but to any of waiting children or adoptive families on Reece's Rainbow.  

Spread the word about Reece's Rainbow!  There are so many children waiting for their families to come and claim them!  How will their families find them if we don't spread the word?  

If Jenny's story has touched even just one life, then God's plan has been accomplished and we give all the glory to Him.  



Saturday, May 6, 2017

Two Steps Forward

To say that God's hand has been in this story from the beginning is an understatement. Day after day, and every step of the way, I am continually amazed at how HE is working. This journey is all to HIS glory!

On Dec 28, 2016, one day after we donated toward the cost of adoption for Jenny and 11 “Other Angels” on Reece’s Rainbow, we inquired about adopting her ourselves. When we found out what country she was from, our jaws dropped. My uncle’s wife, my Aunt Stella, is not only from the same country, but speaks the language to about 80% fluency. God, are you trying to tell us something?


After prayerful consideration and being completely confident that God wanted us to move forward, on Jan 3, 2017, we submitted our application to adopt Jenny to the placing agency in America. The very next day we heard from the representative at the placing agency who then shared additional information and videos of Jenny with us. She was confident that our application would be approved and told us that we should start working on our letter to Jenny’s country stating why we were the perfect family for her. Our official approval to move forward came on Jan 6 and on Jan 9 we submitted our Letter of Intent to adopt Jenny.

In the meantime, we began looking for an agency to perform our Home Study. The home study is an integral part of the adoption process where you pay a complete stranger to come into your home, critique your current child safety standards, and ask privacy-violating questions I wouldn't even discuss with my mother. The point of the home study is to let the world know that you'll be a good family (financially, emotionally, physically, psychologically, etc) to the adopted child. (Funny
how no one checked with us before Vivien was born.)


On Jan 11, we finalized our application with our home study agency.  The entire home study would take about 3-4 months, so we wanted to get started right away.

On Jan 18, we heard from the adoption agency in Jenny's country.  They had a question about how we planned to care for her.  See, both I and my husband work full-time.  Jenny's country prefers that one parent be stay-at-home.  We explained, through the placing agency, how both of our jobs allow flexible schedules, ample time off, and work-from-home days, and how our bio daughter is currently cared for at home during the day by her Grams.

Also, on Jan 18, we got some devastating news that would remind us of God's sovereignty and timing:  Jenny's country put a temporary ban on all international adoptions.


Thursday, May 4, 2017

How the Journey Began

We were asked how this journey to Jenny began.  It began on March 1, 2015.  That was the day our biological daughter, Vivien, was born. 


Until that day, orphans and adoption were abstract thoughts for us.  Something that movies and memoirs were about.  Something that people who couldn't have children did.  It wasn’t something that was real for us.  On that icy March afternoon when our daughter was born, all of that changed for us. 

Every night as we rocked Vivien to sleep and laid her in her crib, our hearts would break for children around the world who did not know this love.  Something inside of us – the Holy Spirit – opened our eyes and we began to see the gross injustice done to the innocent and most vulnerable among us.  And what started as a tiny spark grew and grew.  Even without us realizing it.  People would begin to ask, as they often do, “When are you going to have another?” Much to their surprise and ours, our automatic response became, “Well, if we do, we’ll probably adopt.”  What?  Where was this coming from?

Church friends who had adopted or fostered began to come out of the woodwork and share their experiences.  But what could we do?  The possibilities seemed endless and overwhelming.  Foster or adopt?  Domestic or International?  Part of me even wanted to stand on the steps of an abortion clinic and hold a sign that said “Give us the chance to love your baby”.  (Part of me still wants to do this). 


Did you know that November is National Adoption Awareness Month?  Neither did we.  Until 2016.  That’s when our November issue of Focus on the Family’s Citizen Magazine came in the mail and I read this article.  Actually, I cried my way through most of the article and passed the tear-stained pages to my husband.  I left the magazine on our kitchen island as a reminder that we needed to do something.  As Christians, as part of the church, it is our responsibility to care for the innocent and most vulnerable among us.  But what could we do?


That magazine stayed on my kitchen counter for over a month.  But then God prompted and prodded.  We finally visited Reece's Rainbow, and like the author of the article in that issue of Citizen Magazine, we cried and prayed as we scrolled through pages and pages of children who needed to be loved.   We ultimately chose ten children to which we wanted to donate toward the cost of their adoptions.

But, in scrolling through the children, one stood out.   She got stuck in our heads and our hearts.  Little Jenny.  We couldn’t stop thinking about her.  And now we know why.  God.  God placed her there.  God, in his perfect wisdom and timing and ordinance, had chosen us for this journey.  Before we even knew it, God’s plan was working.  Wheels were spinning.  And our roller-coaster ride toward adoption was just beginning.