Saturday, October 08, 2011

One year ago today

A year ago one of our cell phones rang at 6am. Getting a call that early was odd on two counts: 1. we typically don't get calls till late morning since most people know Jon works 2nd shift and 2. it was Jon's dad, which was really strange because he rarely calls (those who know the Hockenbergers will smile at this). Immediately we knew something was wrong. Walt (one of Jon's b-i-l's) had suffered an aortic dissection and was being life-flighted to UofM hospital in Ann Arbor. We remember shock running through our bodies. Our families had never experienced trauma before, so we didn't really know what we should do. Should we gather our things together and drive up to MI or stay at home? We were already planning to go up to MI later that day because it was the weekend of the brother-in-law bike trip. What we ended up doing was lay our heads down together on the pillows and pray.

Through good times, hard times, and traumatic times "Lord, bless us and keep us. Make your face to shine upon us and give us peace!" We've got a Father that holds the world in His hands and nothing can happen unless he wills.


Walt has been recovering for the past year. There are new restrictions that he is getting used to, but his faith has been strengthened and God is using this experience in his life to help others walk with Him.

Sunday, October 02, 2011

(A little less) scary basement

I've been in several scary basements before. Most notorious is my Grandma Butcher's. To access the only shower in her house, you have to navigate down rickety stairs next to a damp Ohio sandstone wall. If you  safely make it that far, you have to search in the dark with your head down (because it is just over 5ft high) to find the single light bulb string located in the rear of the basement. As a child, even seeing the lincoln logs at the bottom of the stairs didn't entice me to walk down her stairs on my own.


Our house is pretty old and the rotting, tilting basement stairs show it. So this weekend we got out the sawzall and started to remedy the problem. After removing the stairs and pouring a concrete pad, we added a special touch with the stones we collected along Lake Superior. Hopefully it will make it a little less scary to walk down there...once the stairs get built back up. The missing stairs did cause a little excitement though. About ten minutes after we were all done with the concrete Winston slipped through the kitty door and committed to running down the stairs before he realized they were missing. I flipped the light on just in time to see him sprawled with his front paws on the wall, back paws on the top ledge, and tummy drooping between them. It would have been a great picture to capture and then add quarter size goggle eyes to emphasize his surprise. He was past the point of recovering so he jumped down and permanently added his prints to the wet concrete...oh well, it added character to the design.



Sunday, September 25, 2011

No cell phones, internet, or TV allowed!

We have a yearly backpacking tradition with Jon's sister and b-i-l (Jim & Lydia). We've been to several destinations in Michigan and Pennsylvania over the past few years. This year we hiked along Pictured Rocks in Michigan's upper peninsula.  Here's a glimpse of several days in awe of God's creation!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Embracing families picnic

Our church's adoption support group had a late summer picnic last Sunday afternoon. It's was great getting together with these friends again. We started attending last November when we heard the group was getting together for lunch after church. It was really intimidating to walk through the doors and start introducing ourselves that day. We thought, "ya know, we can just take these brownies home and just eat them there". Jon was secretly hoping someone would lend him a kid for the time so it would be less awkward ("...yea, we just looking to add to the crew"). But like many things in life, after the initial doubts we were glad we did it once we walked into the room. Simply knowing there are other families who have adopted, are in the process, or maybe are just interested in the idea is really encouraging.

We're thankful that our church takes a proactive approach in promoting adoption, from establishing family support groups to just including "adoption" alongside "birth" in the everyday language. And why shouldn't they? It's an awesome picture of our placement into God's family.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Entering the waiting period

It's been over a month since we shipped our dossier to Ethiopia (sorry for the long delay in posting). It was exciting getting it sent off. We celebrated pretty mildly that day by going to our favorite Mexican restaurant before work. They didn't have a mariachi band, but we didn't need one. A whole lot of work was wrapped up in that paperwork and by God's grace we didn't have to redo anything. So now we enter the hardest part -  the waiting period.

This wait is going to be longer than we initially thought. We are number 53, which represents our number for just America World. Keeping in mind that there are many other agencies with their own waiting lists, we don't know our ultimate number of all people waiting for adoptions. What we do know is that there have been no referrals in the America World infant boy/girl lines since May, so number 53 sounds very high. When we started the adoption process at the  beginning of the year the typical wait was 7 months. Now it may take 18months. This shows how process modifications in the Ethiopia government affect the families waiting for their adoptions at the ground level. This is also partly the cause of the delay in posting as many times the things I do think of writing about only sound like an Eeyore monologue ("53?! That's more than the number of states in the union and I can't even name them all off the top of my head!").

Looking at a long wait will inevitably raise questions for us so we have to remain focused on the fact that God led us here and will lead us through. He wants our focus through the great times, good times, mundane times, and difficult times. He certainly uses all those at His disposal to align our hearts to Him.


Friday, August 05, 2011

Paper chase: Complete!


Remember the feeling you got from your college exams? No, I'm not talking about the dread you experienced as you waited for the bell to ring to start an "Evil Dr. Roach" exam, or (worse) the terror you felt when you walked into class and found out you had an exam. I'm talking about the feeling you got when it was finished and you could walk outside to breath a sigh of relief, chat with your friends about how you think you did, and know you were heading home for the summer.

Today we have that feeling. All our dossier docs are collected, signed, notorized, authenticated, and have been shipped overnight to our agency!

We can sit back and think about all the docs we had to collect during the process or had written by/for us. Our dossier is basically our lives on paper. The homestudy part paints details of both current days and growing up, what we like, and what we plan to do. Our medical records don't leave anything out. We've been fingerprinted, run through police reports, had fire inspections, employement verifications, insurance verifications, recommendation letters, and a whole lot more. Looking at the 1inch stack of paperwork, I'm thankful. ("God, You allowed us to get all that done!")

It's been a quick 6 months since we officially started our adoption process. And while we know we may still have up to a year until we can bring home our little one(s), it's still a good feeling knowing that our dossier is complete.

Let the waiting period begin.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Ethiopia referral process

World Magazine's August cover story features Ethiopia adoptions. Specifically, it gives a very good explaination to what's behind Ethiopia's currently slowed referral process. 75 million people in Ethiopia with 5 million orphans. At the current referral rate, only 1,800 will be adopted within a calendar year. Pray that those involved will come up with wise solutions to the hinderances causing the slowed referral rate. Click below to read the complete article.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Dossier update

We received a nondescript form in the mail Monday from USCIS saying that we had a "favorable determination" concerning our I-171H (the last document we need to complete our dossier). There's wording on how our info has been submitted for "advanced processing", etc. In addition, our fingerprint appointments were only last week, so we figured that the gov't was just keeping us updated on the progress of the I-171H form. We anticipated that we would be receiving it in a few weeks...until a day later we looked very close and found the title, "I-171H" printed in tiny font at the bottom.

I wonder how many adoptive families have disregarded their I-171H forms thinking that they are generic processing updates! Check it out for yourself.


So now all our dossier docs and instructions are back out on our dining room table. Believe it or not they are organized!


Next steps:
1. Get the dossier certified by the county (@ downtown Cle)
2. Get the dossier certified by the state (@ Columbus)
3. Mail the dossier to AWAA

Monday, July 04, 2011

I love my job and I love vacation more

Every vacation break starts with a mandatory "Woohoooo" scream as I leave the parking lot at work. I know it probably looks a little weird, but I never bother to check to see if anyone is watching. This past week's "woohoo" felt especially good as I didn't have anymore classes to study for in addition to being off work for a week. We decided to stick around home to get some projects done, but still have some fun days along the way. The deck got stained, AC disconnect changed out, lots of yard work done, and several rooms painted. We also squeezed in a trip to Cedar Point and took a long bike ride from our house down to Akron. 

The link below is my second attempt at making a video (the first being "Boy Zombi Inspector"), and I got some great ideas and help from Amanda's cousin who had taken a cinematography class in high school. It's not perfect (I realized after the bike ride that my phone's camera was not set on the optimal settings), but it was fun to put together. 




This is the stuff we do as we wait for our little one. 

Saturday, July 02, 2011

I-171H Update#2

Got another official letter from the US government stating that our biometrics appointments have been scheduled for July 20th. In the meantime we wait. Good signs of progress, but looks like it's going to take the full 11weeks to get this document in our hands.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

I-171H Update

We received an email confirming that our I-171H application was received and has been routed for processing. Praying for a quick turn around as we are told it can take anywhere between 4-11 weeks.

Niece Visit

Three of our nieces visited from Grand Rapids this past week. We did a whole lot of things: zoo, crafting, playground, park, playing with Harvey, crafting, library, chocolate factory tour, crafting, big playground in Green, crafting, Viaduct park in Bedford, chalk drawings, and more crafting. Oh, and we watched two and a half hours of Shawn the sheep near the end of the week. If you haven't seen it, check it out on Netflix. You won't be able to get the song out of your head for weeks!



Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Spri... Summer is here!

The weather has been awesome this past week! It was so refreshing to see the sun for multiple days in a row. We've sat on the  porch enjoying the breeze, birds, and relaxing scenery of the woods across the street. It's been a while since we've posted anything so I'll catch you up on our last month.

We've been hunkered down working on wrapping up some non-adoption things in the past month:

Jon's been working on his last class for his master's degree. Only one more week of lectures to go and he'll be walking during commencement this weekend at Kettering University. It's been a 3 1/2 year road to get to this point so it is pretty exciting!

Amanda's completed all her requirements and received her state teaching certification. She's all set to sub for a couple schools in the area this coming fall. She also taught a 3day speech class (they talked fast) for an homeschool organization in the area, so it is cool to see how God's providing for the adoption through these little opportunities.

We also had to get a few shingles on our roof repaired - or so we thought. The winter storms had pulled a few out and Jon noticed some leaking around the chimney while he was hanging out in the attic this winter (to re-wire the 2nd floor circuits). When the roofer came and hopped up on it he discovered that the majority of the shingles were pulling out. This led to replacing the roof, which then led to re-decking the whole thing in the process too. I say the roof should last 50 years now.

As for our adoption process, we received our final homestudy revision mid-May and have been working on getting all our picture pages together for the dossier. We completed the pic pages and actually were about head to get the dossier certified by the county and state this week, but realized that we had missed sending out our I600A form out to the US Immigration Service (gulp). So that form is filled out and has been sent in along with a copy of our homestudy. We're praying they can turn it around quickly and send us our I-171H/797C document, which is required for the dossier and will allow us to bring our child into the United States.

We're marching forward!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Homestudy decisions

The rain finally stopped and the sun came out today for the first time in about week. Tonight's the first night we've been able to relax on the porch in the warmer weather. The breeze is refreshing and Harvey enjoys hanging out and barking at his friends as they stroll by on their leashes.

We completed the remaining homestudy visits on Wednesday. Our social worker interviewed us separately for about an hour each, going over our family history, childhood memories (both good and bad), and parenting methods we've seen and plan to use. She's a Christ follower and an expert in international adoption issues so these meetings have been invaluable. She's helped us sort through some of our own questions and concerns about some of the initial decisions we have to make before submitting our dossier. Simply knowing what age to request is a tough decision. Do you keep it wide open or do you specify a narrow range of age, gender, and disabilities? It's easy to get caught up in thinking that specifying is a selfish thing to do. We want to make the right decision, but not limit what God may have for us. At the same time we need to have a sense of what He wants for us in the big picture of our lives. Our social worker helped us formulate and organize our thoughts while providing counsel to us on this issue. Knowing that God put our social worker in our lives to give us guidance really helped us solidify our age request for the dossier. We are requesting a boy or girl up to 12months and will also consider a sibling group with the oldest being 3.

This week we also received word that our Ohio background clearances have been processed and are now at the adoption agency. This process usually takes 3 months, but ours were processed in only 2. Since the OH clearances are part of the critical path, I'm praying that this will cut a month off the total length of our adoption process.

Please remember to pray with us in this process. Specifically, we don't know if our child(ren) are born or where they are in the world, but God does. Our prayer is that He will orchestrate the events in His perfect plan to bring our family together.Stepping out on faith and doing what we believe God has designed for us is exciting and sometimes a little scary, but God keeps bringing us back to James 1 - asking Him for wisdom, believing Him when He gives it, and run with it full speed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Plan A

We had an in-home visit with our social worker today. To be honest, it is a little intimidating having someone come in and converse with you when you think she is there to look in the cracks and crannies of your home (...and life background). However, It quickly became apparent that her role is to be part of our team to help coach us through the various stages of the adoption. She'll be with us from home study preparation, through the referral and placement, all the way to post placement visits where she will come and help us adjust to our new life. She put us at ease with her kindness and expertise and it turned out to be an enjoyable time. During the visit, we recounted to her our journey towards adoption. 


I don't know about you, but many times we have wondered what's the best route to take. For those facing difficult situations there are usually a myriad of possible "solutions" to the problem. In our case our difficult situation was inability to have biological children, and the possible solutions consisted of many treatments that ran the spectrums of inexpensive to very expensive then simple to complex. It was difficult just sorting through the possibilities. We tried various treatments over the course of a couple years. None seemed to work and gave no solid explanations. With every unsuccessful treatment there was always a question of "should we take the next step?" and we would prayerfully consider what God wanted us to do - asking for wisdom along the way. One snowy Saturday night last winter we were talking over a plate of mushy chicken (the restaurant was pretty bad) and we both realized that we had come to the same conclusion that week concerning adoption. You see, up until that point we had been pursuing adoption as if it were "Plan B". And that backup plan couldn't be pursued with heart and soul until "Plan A" was thoroughly exhausted. While this was our thinking on the matter (maybe never in cognition, but in practice), the reality was that no matter how hard we tried to work Plan A, God wasn't going to let us attain it because His Plan A for us was adoption all along. We're confident of this now. It reminds me of Abraham and Sarah's situation, but on a much much smaller scale. They knew God had a plan for them to provide a son who would be the start of a great nation from which Christ would come. They just were impatient (maybe had a lapse of faith), and decided to do things their own way instead. God opened our eyes and taught us that we don't want to be like them when it comes to knowing and following God's specific plan for our family. For our family, adoption is Plan A, so we're embracing and running with it. Full throttle!

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Signs of progress

The following chart shows that we have compiled most of our paperwork for the Ethiopia dossier. What this means is that we will work on completing our home study visits and remaining documents in the next couple of weeks while we wait for the Ohio I-171H form to come back from the state. Once the I-171H doc comes back (probably 2 months out yet), we will be able to assemble our dossier, get it certified by the county & state, and then send it off to Ethiopia!

While this chart doesn't show the number of documents required for the homestudy, most of the ones that are our responsibility are completed, but we still need to complete our fire inspection (scheduled for tomorrow morning) and get current pics of our house and us. Our niece and nephew are visiting for the week so maybe the chief will give us a tour of the department after the inspection!


Friday, April 01, 2011

In case of emergency & other misc items

I spent a couple hours tonight drawing up our home emergency plan. We have to have it posted for the upcoming fire inspection and home study visits. This is something we've never given much thought before with just the two of us around, but several months ago a metal forming press at work was spewing out smoke and I couldn't even think of the emergency number for our in-plant fire department (simply 5555). Most likely, my memory will go blank in a home emergency so its a good thing to post this info on the fridge. Good ol' Powerpoint.



I completed my current Kettering class. Thanks for the prayers. Thankfully I only have one more to go before I graduate in June! It's been a long haul. It's not that it is extremely difficult (undergrad was much more technically demanding), but it requires a lot of time. I typically have to spend 8-10 hours a week on it so Amanda has been earning this degree along side me by taking care of a lot of the home stuff. I'm so thankful for her.

Speaking of Amanda: she received her OH teaching certification in the mail today (after two grueling tests and sending the state some cash). We're praying for God's direction in looking for a job. Teaching positions are pretty hard to come by here in Cleveland. 

I've been reading in James lately. Sometimes I'll take a few verses, other times I'll read the whole book in a setting. There is a lot of good stuff in James that started jumping out at me after reading it multiple times. In fact, this book is crammed full portraits of a follower of Christ. Sometime I'd like to formulate those things I've learned on paper.

-Jon

Friday, March 25, 2011

Love in Uganda


A Facebook friend posted a link to Katie's blog a few weeks back,  Since then I have been following, and continue to be blown away at how Katie and her team shower these kids with the love of Jesus.  Take some time to view the links below and praise God for what He is doing in Uganda and ask Him to continue to pour out His blessing on these people.
                                  Amanda
                                  
         Kisses from Katie     Amazima Ministries


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Chosen, Loved, Adopted

Don't the words on this necklace just make your heart smile? Our gracious eternal God has chosen, loved, and adopted us into His family.

Paul teaches this very concept to the Galatian people in chapter 4 of  his letter to them.  In God's perfect timing, He sent His Son into the world as a human to redeem everyone under the law so that they (and all generations to come) could receive the gift of being adopted into God's family.  Becoming children of God enables us to inherit the things He has promised.

Amanda

 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Not sure you could love a child by adoption as you would a child by birth? Neither was I. Looking into the church nursery at everyone else's kids with runny noses and dirty diapers (...or dirty noses and runny diapers) seemed to stress the matter all the more. The thought of "What if I had to take one of these kids home today?" would almost put me in panic mode and cause me to put the matter in the back files of my brain to be possibly pulled out on another day. Thankfully these thoughts are not uncommon. In fact, Russell Moore addresses the issue in his book "Adopted for Life" where he says that if God directs you to adoption "it won't feel like any sort of consolation prize. Your affection for your child...will be as you birthed him or her yourself."

Thankfully God changed my mind on the matter. I can't put a finger on when the change occurred but it was over time and through a lot of prayer, thinking, reading, meeting with other forever families, and even some videos. I'm sure there will be concerns as we go through the process that cause me to worry - but it is really cool realizing that several years ago the thought of adopting was out of the picture for me yet now I look forward to it with so much excitement.

The following is the type of video that should probably have a disclaimer to warn those who have their minds made up that they will never adopt. If that is your case you probably better skip it.

-Jon

Saturday, March 12, 2011

It's been a busy blur of a week. We traveled over to Upper Sandusky Ohio on Wed morning to meet with our social worker. She's in charge of AWAA's Ethiopia program for all of Ohio and we had to make the 2 hour drive for just the first meeting. We thought it was a little odd that our social worker wanted to meet at Bob Evans- but when we got to Upper Sandusky we quickly realized that the Bob Evans seemed to be the hub of business meetings due to a lack of Panera or Starbucks in the area. The rest of the home study meetings will be conducted through another social worker that lives near us.

I took my Kettering exam Thursday morning and then we got our medical exams today. We go back Monday morning to get the lab results and have our papers signed and notarized.

Several cool things/realizations from the week we want to share with you all:
1. Working 2nd shift is good for getting our dossier together. It makes is much easier to take care of things at a time when businesses are open.
2. I met a believer at work who has adopted 3 kids. He just got home in January with his son from China and is very enthusiastic about adoption. I'm looking forward to getting to know him and his wife in the upcoming months.
3. The Cleveland Clinic is an awesome hospital system: painless and efficient. We feel very fortunate to be able to utilize it.

The adoption process is not simple and gets quickly overwelming when you look at the list of 50+ documents that have to be obtained or written. Amanda's been doing a great job compiling the majority of the paperwork, and I'm really thankful for the work she's put into it while I'm working or studying.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

This phase of the adoption process is referred to as the "paper chase" for good reason.  It's involved, but AWAA is doing a notable job of helping us stay organized and informed.  In the past few days we were able to submit our fingerprints for several background checks as well as receive newly certified birth and marriage certificates. This new week promises to be productive as we have medical examinations to attend, a meeting with our social worker, and Jon puts the finishing (and beginning) touches on his term project as well as takes a midterm test.  To kick it all off, we're playing a couple rounds of Jon's new Wii game: Black Ops.

Amanda

Monday, February 28, 2011

With all the snow we got last Friday morning, it was hard to hold in the groans. I guess that I had been fooled into thinking that spring was on its way due to a couple trips to (65 degree) SC in the past month and a warm weekend here in OH recently. The only consolation while we were shoveling Fri morning was that even a snow blower wouldn't have been able to cut through the heavy stuff (we're waiting for the perfect one to go on sale - it's at least 30" wide, powerful enough to throw small animals, and folds down into the size of a milk jug to fit in the garage).

My sister and brother-in-law came down for the weekend so we decided to go out and hike to Brandywine falls. I've posted some pictures below. The beautiful scenery and the dogs bounding back and forth was a good reminder to enjoy every season of the year - and in life. We can easily get caught up with wanting the next step - whether it's wanting to be a teen, be out of college and have a job, desiring children, or desiring those children to be out of diapers.

Instead of enjoying where God has put me right now I can easily get trapped into thinking "if I only were/had  _________". Amanda and I have been privileged to do things, go places, and be a part of ministries that we wouldn't have been able to do had we had kids earlier. We're thankful for those times and wouldn't want to trade them for anything. Spring will come eventually, but once it does we don't want to have wished we enjoyed winter more.





Below the falls

Above the falls


Brandywine Falls




By the way, thanks for the book recommendations - several of them are all ready to be picked up at our library. We expect that this week will be busy with meeting our social worker and fam coordinator to start the dossier process.

-Jon

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Did any of you catch the Super Nanny episode this past weekend that involved a family with children from Ghana?   This particular episode grabbed my attention as it was a chance to witness some of the adjustments encountered by adopted children. The thoughts rolling through my mind quickly went from “we can handle this” to “wow- that chaotic confused family could easily be ours -what can we do to ensure that we don’t have to resort to calling in “The Nanny?”" As I was praying about that very thing, words that had just been uttered in Bible study a few days prior came racing back to my brain: “God doesn't ask us to be perfect parents, He asks us to be faith-filled, Christ-seeking parents.”  With those thoughts in mind, I am praying that our faith will grow and that our hearts' desire will be to seek Christ. 


In closing, we’re interested in your thoughts.  Have you discovered any great books or websites that have been helpful on the topic of raising kids?  Feel free to comment below.


-Amanda

Saturday, February 19, 2011

My mother-in-law is "booking it" to a wifi spot right now. I told her there was a website about no-bake cookies called soughtafter.blogspot.com. She didn't fall for it, and knows something is up. Amanda and I are using this blog as a forum to let fam and friends know about our adoption progress. We're also thinking it will be a good place to let others know about general adoption opportunities and things we've learned (plus the things we're learning again). We would be ecstatic if God uses it as a catalyst for good discussions and personal meditation.

For starters: you'll notice a couple links to the right of this post. The first one is for our adoption agency: America World Adoption. This agency was referred to us by a friend from college who currently works there. We have been impressed with their professionalism. The second one is Food for the Hungry. FH does great work providing food, clothing, and the Gospel to families in need around the world. Check out their website.

Feel free to keep up with us and share this site with your own friends and fam!

-Jon
Received an unexpected call today: we've been accepted into America World Adoption Agency's Ethiopia program! I didn't think that we would get a confirmation so soon, but thankful that our agency is on the ball and very responsive.

Our contact at the agency said she would be sending an email with all the next documents we need to fill out and return as well as info on getting setup with a social worker for our homestudy. Sure enough, the email arrived and was very clear on what needs to be accomplished next.

Sidenote: emails with bullet points and phrases such as "next steps" are always a good thing.

-Jon

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It was a difficult day on earth today as we attended the funeral of our close friend Jessica Council. We look forward to heaven. Consider how the disciples didn't have a clue what Jesus was talking about when he said that he had to die and be risen again. They had a mental picture that didn't even start to attain the reality they were to discover. I'm sure they retraced their mental paradigms afterwards and realized what Christ was really talking about.  I translate this same misconception to how God tells us what heaven is going to be like. No matter how thrilling our mental picture of streets of gold, millions singing "worthy is the Lamb", and worship, I'm convinced that it is going to blow our minds when we get there. Our preconceived pictures will be static radio compared to the high definition reality we see when we arrive! Jessica is enjoying that reality at this moment. And that is comforting.


-Jon