Monday, February 12, 2018

Usborne Books & More for Jenny!

So, Jenny's country might be dragging their feet (nope, still no word!) but we aren't!  Our dear friend Crystal has struck again with an amazing fundraiser to help us reach our goal of being able to fund Jenny's adoption debt-free!

Have you heard of Usborne Books?  If you have little ones around, you probably have!!

Join our Facebook party and get ready for the sale to start on Friday, Feb 16 at 8PM EST!   25% of your purchase goes directly to our adoption fund for Jenny!  Shop Here!

We can't wait to get plenty of reading material for Vivien and Jenny for that long plane ride back to the States!

Looking forward to sharing one of the greatest series ever written with our girls...AND it's about adoption!
Much thanks and love to Katrina Thomas for hosting this party for us and generously donating her time and talents to bring Jenny home!  And thanks to you for supporting us by liking, sharing, posting and participating in all of our fundraising efforts!

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Groundhog Day

Stop me if you've heard this before...waiting is hard.

Right now, I feel like our lives are like the iconic comedy starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell, Groundhog Day, in which Murray's character is forced to relive Feb 2nd over and over again.

This mostly has to do with the season of life which we're currently in - our almost-three year old thrives on routine.  Wake up, eat, play, eat, nap, play, eat, play, sleep.  Rinse and repeat.

We also see it in the quiet moments we share with God.  Each morning I wake up early to spend time praying and reading the Bible.  My prayer for the past year has been practically the same: "Dear Father, please watch over Jenny.  Prepare us to become a family for her and bless those who watch over her in the meantime.  Please put our paperwork on the right desk and into the right hands today, dear Lord, that we would hear an approval even this very day.  In Jesus' name, Amen."

One of my favorite hymns is "Great is Thy Faithfulness" and I've found myself humming this song throughout each day and coming back to the lyrics:  "Morning by morning new mercies I see."  How awesome!  Every day His mercies are new!  Each day is a new beginning and a new opportunity for God's mercy, grace and peace to flood our hearts and sustain our hope.

Waiting is a right of passage in adoption.  Everyone who adopts goes through it, whether you're adopting from foster care, pursuing a domestic newborn adoption, or waiting to hear from an international government.

We're currently reading through a book called "Praying Through Your Adoption"  written by a local adoptive mother who's been there.  Chapter 4 is titled simply "Waiting."  The author opens the chapter with a quote from a handmade button she wore to church one day during her adoption journey:

No news yet.  Thanks for praying!

She took the words right out of our mouths.

Another great lyric from the hymn is "Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."  His mercies are new each morning and He grants us the strength we need just for today.  Our hope lies in tomorrow - tomorrow we'll hear news of our approval!

Tomorrow we'll have a court date for the adoption.
Tomorrow we'll board a plane headed toward Jenny's country.
Tomorrow she will be our daughter.

But for today, we have just enough peace, mercy and strength from God to continue to hope.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Ghost of Jenny

Let us preface this post by affirming that we don't believe in ghosts.  At all.  (And any debate to the contrary would be met with scriptural references to man being appointed to die only once and spiritual warfare being waged all around our three-dimensional bodies and minds.)

Saving a seat for Jenny
But we have seen the ghost of Jenny in our house.  She's not a ghost in the sense that she was once here and is now gone.  Her ghost is the manifestation of our hope for her.  In much the same way that a pregnant mother can picture her life with her new baby, we can picture this tumbling happy almost-five-year old joining our family and living with us. 

Sometimes her ghost will enter a room and quietly take her place on the couch between us as we snuggle watching a movie.  Sometimes she and Vivien play tea party in the basement, or race their Little People cars down the toddler slide, or put together a puzzle. WeI've seen her sitting next to Vivien at our kitchen island, sharing a string cheese or a cup of yogurt.

Vivien could use some help from her big sister!

We can see her and she is as real to us as Vivien is.  She fits in this house.  In this family.  There's a place for her at our table and there's a bedroom for her upstairs.  We've started to get in the habit of buying two of everything, one for Vivien and one for Jenny.   

We're still waiting.  This time, we're waiting for approval from Jenny's country.  (Hopefully the government in her country is more efficient than our own.)   This stretch of waiting is by far the hardest.  There's not a single thing left for us to do to move this process along.  All of our paperwork has been turned in and now we simply wait.

This adoption journey is over a year long at this point.  Along the way, we've seen friends become pregnant, give birth, and post dozens of newborn snuggle pictures all over social media.  And we still wait.  It doesn't seem fair, and yet we know that God's timing is impeccable.  The waiting has become a daily burden, slowly stretching into weeks, months and now years.  It's hard.  It stinks.  We're awful at it. 

Waiting stinks!

But each day is a new day to trust God, to be reminded of His grace.  Each day is a day to have our hearts strengthened by His love and mercy.  Each day, we pray that we'll hear approvals from Jenny's country, that we'll be able to petition for a court date for the adoption and that we'll be given travel dates to finally meet our daughter.  And each day, God's mercies are new and this journey gets handed over to Him. 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

One Year Later

It was exactly one year ago today, on a cold January 3rd morning, when we knew our family would be expanding to include the adorable, dark-haired, spunky child featured all over these pages.

As the dust settles on another hectic holiday season, we've been quietly reflecting on all that 2017 has meant to us and all that it has taught us.  And even though Jenny is still so far away, she somehow seems closer than ever.  It's only a matter of God's time.  Soon we will board a plane to Eastern Europe.  Until that invitation comes, however, we want to reflect on this journey and thank all who have personally been touched by it.

January 2017 - It began when we read an article by our new bestie, Crystal Kupper.  Crystal and her family have become dear friends, sharing holidays, birthdays, and rejoicing in every milestone in our adoption journey.  We can't wait for Jenny to meet her "Auntie Crystal" - the woman, the mentor, the legend.  We submit a "Letter of Intent" to adopt Jenny and begin the long, arduous process of completing a homestudy.

April 2017 -  With an almost-completed homestudy in our pockets, we get the news that Jenny is able to be adopted by an American family and we are on our way to being approved for her!  This was huge news that came after a halt was placed on all international adoptions from Jenny's country. An exception was made for her since she's considered "difficult to place" due to her respiratory condition.

May 2017 - We go public with our news and confuse quite a few people by stating that Vivien is going to become a "little sister!"  We are more than overwhelmed by the love and support of our friends and family, many of whom have also been touched by adoption and fostering in some way.  We become sponges, soaking up advice and well-wishes.  Our fundraising efforts will top well over $5,000 by the end of the calendar year - a testament to God's provision along this expensive and uncertain path forged by faith. 

Summer 2017 - Paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork.  We are busy obtaining fingerprints, birth certificates, and blood samples (literally) to submit our dossier to Jenny's country.  By the middle of September, every necessary document, certified twice over, is en route to the adoption agency in Jenny's country.  We are also blessed by numerous fundraising efforts, from LuLaRoe to yardsales.


October 2017 - Jenny's country submits her medical information, birth certificate and other court documents to us in an official referral.  Of course, we say YES to this referral and quickly apply to USCIS to begin the process to obtain a VISA for her.  We also learn quite a bit more about her medical condition, current living arrangements, and custodial history.  We connect with the international adoption department at CHOP as well as their pulmonology department in order to prepare for her arrival in our family.  We also complete a 9 week adoption course called Empowered to Connect which equips us with strategies to parent a child from a hard place.

December 2017 - The US has approved Jenny's VISA and the file is forwarded to the central authority in Jenny's country for final approval.  All of our i's are dotted and our t's are crossed.  Now we wait, and we pray, and we prepare for the journey to bring Jenny home.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Merry Christmas

Christmas is in full swing at the Etter house.  The tree is up, the lights are on, the carols are playing, the cookies are baked, and the presents are wrapped.

There's just one thing noticeably missing.


It was about this time, one year ago, when we began to seriously consider adopting a special needs child.  Entering into the fully researched process, we knew it would take about a year before we would have a new child in our home.

I remember thinking back then:  "Next Christmas, we could be in a foreign country with our new child."  Our hearts were full of hope at the prospect.

"Next year" has come and our little girl is still thousands of miles away, but our hope is nearly full.  While we're still a few months from actually meeting Jenny and bringing her into our family, we have come to know her better and better over these past 12 months.  She is already so much a part of the Etters.  There will be an empty place at our Christmas table this year, yes, but that space is filled with such hope and love for a child we've never met but hold so dear in our hearts and prayers.

Let this season of joy fill your lives and the lives of those you love.  Merry Christmas from the Etters!

Sunday, November 19, 2017

4,265 Miles

Yesterday, Vivien was eating lunch and pointed to the picture of "Jenny" on our fridge and said quite matter-of-factly "I want to go see Jenny."  

A lump formed in my throat as I whispered my reply, "So do I, baby girl.  So do I."

I want to go see Jenny.
A few days prior, in the calm, quiet hour of 5am, I was reading Psalm 8.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them? (verses 3 & 4, NIV)
In our house, we have a fascination with the vastness of the universe and the astronomical time and space mysteries that mankind is just too small to figure out.  Galaxies go on literally for ever and the starlight we see in the sky this very evening was emitted from a celestial being that burned out and died a lifetime ago!

So where does God fit in all this?  Over the past half-century, mankind has traveled quite literally to the ends of our galaxy and beyond.  Voyager 1 was launched over 40 years ago and is currently over 13 billion miles away from the earth.  And it's still going!    And it's still sending data back to us!

What feels like a world away is actually just in the palm of His hands.
Jenny is currently ~4,265 miles away from her forever family.  Compared to 13 billion, this doesn't seem like much.  But to us it feels like a chasm. 

We pray for Jenny everyday.  And I'll admit:  some days I feel like David in Psalm 8.  Who are we, and who is Jenny, that God is mindful of us?  There's a lot of crappy things going on in the world.  Big, crappy things.  Things that should take God's attention away from the Etter family, their immigration paperwork, and their medical insurance logistics.   I wouldn't blame God for not having us or Jenny at the top of his priority list.

But our God is bigger.  Bigger than all the big, crappy things that are happening in the world.  Bigger than the natural disasters and the depravity of mankind.  And so we still pray.  We pray because Jesus said in John 16:24b, "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete."  We pray because he hasn't forgotten us.  And most importantly, he hasn't forgotten Jenny. 

And someday soon, when we tuck Vivien into bed and she says "We go in the airplane to get Jenny!" (as she does almost every night) we'll be able to answer her with "Yes!" 

And we will.

Monday, November 13, 2017


As we sit here waiting for US Immigration to approve an immigrant VISA for Jenny, we feel the deafening and almost overwhelming calm before the storm.

I remember the baby shower that my mother and sister-in-law Rebekah threw for us before Vivien was born.  A party to celebrate this new and exciting addition to our family.  It was a joyous occasion.

Doesn't she look so well-rested and kid-carefree?
No one dared to bring up the scary realities of having a newborn:  crying for hours, not gaining enough weight between pediatrician visits, post-partum depression, saying goodbye to your life as you knew it.  Sure, everyone made jokes about the sleepless nights we would experience, but nothing, I mean nothing, prepares you for that kind of sleep deprivation.   I wish someone would have had the courage to sit me down and tell me the harsh truth of parenting a newborn. 

Because that's exactly what's happening to us as we now prepare to parent an adopted child with serious medical needs. 

Each Tuesday evening for the past two months, we have been attending a parenting class called "Empowered to Connect."  This class is preparing us to build a meaningful relationship with Jenny who likely has never had a meaningful relationship in her short little life.  Add to that the terrifying reality of caring for a fragile life dependent on a machine to breathe for her and we have certainly embraced the old adage "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

Watching as Daddy paints her new room!
We aren't the only ones prepping these days.  This weekend, Vivien moved into her "big girl bedroom" with her "big girl bed."  The Etter's guest room took on a purple hue and a toddler bed as Viv moved from the nursery down the hall into her new bedroom.  She handled the transition like a trooper and was excited that she could climb in and out of bed on her own! 

Viv's big girl bedroom!
Her old room has turned into a blank slate waiting for Jenny's arrival and Viv is already proudly boasting "that's my big sister's room!"   

We're preparing for the best.  Because we have a hope that isn't in our own abilities, or in the advice of the experts who compiled the ETC course materials, or even in the doctors and nurses who will be caring for Jenny and teaching us to adjust our lifestyles to meet the physical and emotional needs of our newest family member.  No, our hope is in Him - the Author and Finisher of our Faith. He is the one who holds us in the palm of His hand and He has had a firm grasp on us since January 3rd when we first began this adoption journey.