Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The Return Home...but only for a little while.

I should have updated a long time ago but it's just been hard to face the reality that has been happening. Justin has fought for the last 3 months in DRC to get our boys. He pursued every ethical and legal way he could think of. After spending 90 days in Kinshasa we made the very, very hard decision for him to return home. Justin met a wonderful couple who are from Belgium that will keep Canaan and Neema until we can return for them. They are missionaries in Kinshasa working with the orphans there. Their passion is the Gospel and we could not ask for a better family to care for our boys. Glenn and Esther treat them as if they were their own children. I know the boys are being well cared for and loved. Esther has been great to send videos and pictures of them almost every day. She keeps all of their drawings for me. She is being the momma that I can't be right now and I'm truly grateful for her.

The DGM is still not issuing exit letters. We have heard several different rumors but are not putting much hope in what we hear because we have been down that road before.  At this point we will just continue to wait. Justin and I are going to be ready to leave if and when we hear that exit letters will be issued. I plan on traveling with him, which I am very excited about. It's going to be hard to leave Carson but hopefully it will only be for just a little while. I am glad I will get to experience the boys' culture and see where they have been.

Meanwhile, here in America, Justin has been enjoying his daughter and trying to catch up on the 3 months that he has missed. I asked him if he regretted being gone for so long and he said that he wouldn't trade 1 minute that he had with the boys. He said that they are different children. They have experienced love to the fullest and they are changed. They now have someone to call father. 

Please continue to pray for us. I don't understand why God is allowing all of this to happen. Maybe I won't ever understand. I know He is not absent from my hurting. He is not absent from this process. I know His hand is continuing to guide us and He will continue to watch over Canaan and Neema. We are trying to trust Him with everything that we have even though things seems out of control.

Thank you for not forgetting us. Thank you for continuing to play a part in our adoption as you faithfully pray for our family and provide for our financial needs. Here are some ways you can specifically pray for our family:
Canaan and Neema:
-Pray they will understand that Mama and Papa are coming back. We have not left them forever. 
-Pray that they would continue to thrive in health and emotional well-being. 
-Pray for Esther and Glenn as they have so much on their plate. They not only care for our two sons but a 2 month old beautiful baby girl and a 9 month old little boy, along with their full-time ministry. 

Justin and I: 
-Pray for Justin and I as we try to live life without our sons.( I have finally went a few days without breaking down and crying on Justin.) 
-Pray that God will continue to mold us into the mom and dad that he wants us to be. -----Pray that He will be glorified in all of this and our lives will give evidence of His grace.

And especially PRAY that exit letters will be issued SOON so our sons can come home to their family!!!!

Canaan and Neema we are coming back for you!






Saturday, December 28, 2013

Stuck

2013 has been the best and worst year I think Justin and I have faced since we've been married. We thought everything was coming to completion…little did we know it would happen at the same time. 

I haven't updated our blog in a while so I will catch everyone up to date in case you have just come across our page. Justin and I had tried to get pregnant for over 2 years. We always knew we wanted to adopt so in September (2012) we went ahead and started the adoption process and decided we would focus on a biological child later. I stopped taking fertility meds and we began filling out adoption paperwork. In November of last year (2012) we finally got our home study completed and signed the contract with our agency to adopt from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Africa. At that time we also decided to go ahead and adopt two children instead of one. Sunday, January 6th, 2013 was a day that I will never forget. Anyone in the adoption world knows you become obsessive about checking email. That morning I woke up and the first thing I did was check my email. In my inbox was a beautiful picture of a one year old boy sitting on the ground in a dirty white onesie that hung off of his small frame. We of course said "yes" to that little boy who is our son, Neema. We went to church and tried to contain the excitement. After we came home from church there was another email with our oldest son's photo. I immediately fell in love with the sad, 2 year old boy in the photo. His eyes were downcast and he seemed unsure. I knew Canaan was meant to be our son. Fast forward to March. We were in the midst of fundraisers and piles of adoption paperwork. One morning before work I randomly took a pregnancy test and for the first time in my life it read positive. An ultrasound later confirmed we were having a little girl who would be due in November. We were ecstatic and terrified to say the least.

So, as we journeyed through pregnancy and adoption God has stretched us and taught us more than we thought possible. He has miraculously provided large amounts of money right when they were due for adoption. He has been our stronghold as our adoption process has faced uncertain roads. We anticipated getting the boys this past summer and the investigation process changed and pushed back our adoption again. Disheartened, we trusted that all of this was in God's plan. Frustration after frustration has occurred, all of it out of our hands. Finally, in November, it was time to travel. I was due November 16th and Justin and his father had plane tickets booked for November 19th. Justin and I both wanted a natural pregnancy and did not want to be induced. November 16th came and went. So did the 17th, 18th, 19th… Justin and his dad, Tim, boarded the plane on November 19th which was the saddest and happiest day of my life. Knowing my husband would miss his daughter's birth and I would have to go through natural labor without him filled my emotions to the brim, but we still rejoiced knowing that our sons were finally coming home. I ended up having to be induced and Carson Diane Carroll was born on November 25th.  Come to find out, I probably would have never went into labor on my own due to the excessive amount of amniotic fluid I had (it kept the contractions from dilating my cervix). Thankfully, Justin was able to watch the birth via FaceTime on our phones. 

We anticipated that he would be there a week and a half, maybe 2 weeks. Things were moving smoothly in Africa at the time, which rarely happens.  As soon as Justin arrived in DRC he was able to be united with our sons. I was able to FaceTime the first time he met our youngest son, Neema. He looked unsure of what was happening but he didn't cry. He went right into Justin's arms. The boys adjusted quickly to Justin and their papaw. Neema's outgoing personality was quickly evident as he ran around the room squealing and calling out for his papa. Canaan took more time. He has been in an orphanage his entire life whereas Neema was in foster care. It was apparent they had received very different care. Canaan was quiet and reserved. He slowly came around later in the week and now he is like a completely different child. The pictures of the little boy without a smile now smiles from ear to ear and laughs all day long. Who knew this little guy had the cutest dimples! Evidence of what love and family can do for a child.

When Justin arrived in Africa the DGM (African Immigrations) refused to take our paperwork. The boys can not leave the country without an exit letter and the DGM processes that piece of paper. This came as a surprise because the DGM told us (indirectly) that they would let adoptive children out of the country who had a certain document by September 25th. Well, we had that document and we were on the DGM's list to get out of the country.  Finally, the Wednesday after Carson's delivery the African government accepted our paperwork!  An answered prayer that we had been waiting 2 weeks for. After that we waited for a particular man to sign the paper and Justin could leave with the boys. Later that same week Justin informed me that the man who signs the paper would be out of the office for at least 9 days. Heartbreaking to say the least. I was pretty weepy for the following days.

So here we are at 6 weeks. 6 weeks and the man is still refusing to sign our papers and many other families' papers.  Our daughter's birth has came and gone, so have the first 5 weeks of her life. Thanksgiving and Christmas have came and gone too and my husband still sits in Africa with our sons with no hope of getting them out. The DGM has basically said they refuse to issue exit letters to adoptive families. The United States Embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo have been little to no help to my husband. There was an alternative plan to get our sons home but that has failed too. Our agency has basically told us to exhaust any other ideas that we have to try to get our sons home (ethically and legally of course). The longer Justin stays, the more expensive it becomes and of course neither one of us are working at the moment. We know all of this is a part of God's plan and we are clinging to the fact that He is sovereign, but it is hard. It is hard being without my husband. It's hard for him to miss my daughter's birth and first month and a half of life. He longs to hold her and watch her grow. It's hard for me to look into my sons' bedroom and know they aren't there. 

I'm not sure how things are going to play out but we are taking matters into our own hands. We are attempting to make our story known. We have sent letters to our senators, state representatives, and congressmen. We need the United States to push the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa (DRC) to pressure the DGM and fight for us. The U.S. Embassy has pretty much done nothing and we need them to take a stand for us and the other families who are stuck in the country with my husband. If you want to help please write, call, or email anyone you know who can help us. Send it to your state representative, the governor, the newspaper, news stations, radio stations, or anyone else you know that might could help. If you have any questions or you want a copy of the letter that I have sent to them please contact me. This is our last chance to get my husband and my sons out of the country. All of our paperwork and fees have been paid. These boys have legally been our sons since March and we can't get them home without the exit letter signed.

We will NOT leave our sons as orphans

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Is There An End In Sight?

There isn't much to update except that there is no update. The government in DRC has basically put all adoptions to a stop. They are not issuing any exit letters to any children unless they received their visas before September 25th. We are still waiting on our children's visas. We hope to hear something next week about our case as I know our agency is fighting for us. We are past the waiting period we were given (not by our agency) and the boys are still waiting. It's really hard to keep waiting now when we know we shouldn't be. I put away the Thanksgiving plates and flatware that I bought for the boys because there is really no chance they will be home this year to use them.

Pregnancy is physically difficult but it is hands-down 1,000 times easier than adoption. Becoming a parent through adoption is one of the hardest things I've ever had to go through. I met my sons through pictures on January 6 of this year and I've watched them grow older through monthly picture updates. They've been my (legal) sons for over 6 months and I can't see them, hold them, or kiss them. 10 months have passed and they are still not in our arms. 

I know God is sustaining us and them as His hand is continuing to carry out this adoption. He has provided the $14,000 that we needed through interest free adoption loans that we just got, which was a HUGE prayer that was answered. He is still working and I have to remind myself that He is faithful and I must continue to be faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:9) It's really hard when it seems that there is no end in sight. We don't have a timeframe anymore because we don't know when all of this is going to clear up with the government. 

As God has taught me more about Himself through adoption (and life in general) I know He is sovereign over everything and in those things there is always something I can learn. So, lately I have tried to not focus on what I perceive as negative things and instead look at the situation/events as "what is God trying to teach me about Himself" or "how can this make me become more like Christ." I would much rather sulk and complain to God about how things aren't going my way but I know those aren't His desires and they shouldn't be mine either. I don't believe that I should pray for things to happen my way. I believe that He desires us to pray so we can become more like Him. I'm still learning what that looks like. Adoption has forced Justin and I to rely on Him because we knew He was the only way we could financially and emotionally make it through certain periods of that time. 

So you can continue to pray that Justin and I will use this "wait" time purposefully. That we will seek how God is wanting to use us during this time. You can pray that we don't mindlessly walk through the waiting period when He is trying to do something in us and with us. And continue to pray for our sons. In one remote orphanage in the Congo over half the children there died this past week due to dysentry...something that would never be an issue for children in the US. Death is very real there for children...for people. They don't have clean water, clean facilities, and many don't have access to good food. Pray that God will keep our sons safe and healthy and that He will work in hearts of the Congolese government so that our sons and many other sons and daughters can come home to their families.

~Alana

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen"
Ephesians 3:20-21

Canaan (3) is in the superman pj shirt that we sent him
Neema (almost 2) is in the orange shirt. 


P.S.
Today is 4 weeks from Carson's due date. Justin will be there for the delivery, which is definitely an answered prayer as well. November 16 is quickly approaching. I so wish Carson's big brothers were here to welcome her into the world!

Friday, September 13, 2013

The Waiting Is Almost Over

I have not posted in a while because we have to be very careful with what we share publicly. In the past few months we have just been waiting...and waiting...and waiting. We have almost hit the "6 month" mark in waiting for the final part of the adoption to be complete. I am literally checking my email 1,000 times a day in anticipation. We will be given a date and Justin will probably travel 1-3 weeks after that date and be in the country 2-4 weeks after he arrives. As the days to my delivery of Carson gets closer it is looking more and more like Justin may be in Africa when she is born. As much anxiety as that makes me have, I know God's timing is perfect, His plans are perfect, and He is sovereign over it all. We are still not sure if Carson will come first or if Canaan and Neema will come first. There are so many "unknowns" still to come. We trust that God will sustain us and give us understanding when the time comes.

Becoming a parent through adoption and through pregnancy have been wonderful to encounter at the same time. God has taught us so much about Himself through both processes. As He is knitting Carson together in the womb, He is also sustaining and carrying out His plan for our boys to be home. Adoption has definitely been much harder than pregnancy. Knowing that Canaan and Neema are now legally our sons and cannot be with us has been heart-wrenching. I've been frustrated at the change in the whole adoption process and all of the waiting that comes with it.  As we come to the end of this journey and will begin a new one (a family of 5!) we would covet your prayers. Please be in prayer for finances to be secured (the remainder is due when Justin travels), for safety of all of our children and for Justin and his dad as they travel, for a healthy delivery of Carson, and for God to be teaching Justin and I how to be Godly parents that will raise children up to love the Lord and His Word. You can also pray that God will grant us peace about what ever happens with the timing of Justin's travel and the birth of Carson. 

Thank you to everyone who has helped bring us this far, both financially and prayerfully. You are making a way for these boys to no longer be called orphans, but sons, and we are truly grateful.


Alana and Justin

Thursday, July 18, 2013

God's Timing is Always Better

I haven't posted any updates in a while because I wanted to be careful about how much we reveal about our adoption. If you're not in the adoption world it's probably hard to understand why we have to be careful about what we say and how much we say, especially over social media. But to bring you up to date on the boys we are still waiting. I've had several people ask, "do you have any updates?" We are in the last stages of this adoption and we really won't know/have any more updates until they tell us (Justin) that it's time to travel to get the boys. It feels like this journey is taking forever but we could not have chosen a better agency. If you are interested in adopting from the DRC or Niger (new program) you definitely need to contact the agency we're using! They are completely ethical and I could not ask for a better group of people to take care of our adoption. 

This extra time is also allowing us to get ready for all of the changes coming and the rest of the money that's due. We're still not sure where the $12,000 or so is going to come from but we trust that God already has it planned and in His timing He will reveal it to us, whether it's a fundraiser or a loan. God obviously doesn't think like I do or I would have a million dollars sitting in the bank to pay for the rest of this adoption as well as thousands of other families' adoptions. He has never failed us and I know these boys will be home. I can't wait to see how He's going to make it happen. His timing has been in place the whole time and no matter how much I've worried or not worried God has been (and will continue to be) sovereign over it all.

Beginning our family has been both frustrating, exciting, and testing. We knew we would adopt and when we had difficulty getting pregnant we knew we wanted to start our family through adoption first. It just seemed like a no brainer since we were going to adopt anyway. I am now soooooo thankful that God did not allow us to get pregnant when I wanted to get pregnant. I know that we would not be adopting these two particular little boys if I had gotten pregnant in my timing. How wonderful are His plans for us. I spent much time crying over having our adoption pushed back because of US Embassy changes and crying over trying to get pregnant for almost 2 years. Thankfully God doesn't work the way I want Him to.  Justin always reminds me of one of John Piper's quotes, "God isn't as interested in our happiness as much as he's interested in our holiness." Justin always speaks truths to me when I need it. Sometimes we don't understand until later why He does what He does. And truthfully there are some things we may never understand and we must be ok with that because we hold to the fact that He is God and we are not. I have come to realize that in all things we face God desires that we give him glory in every moment of it. He allows things in our lives for some reason, whether it is to shape us, reveal more of Himself to us, or do even greater things that we are not even aware of. 

With that said, God is continually teaching me about Himself through this journey and I'm convinced that I know more about Him and His character because of this whole process both in adoption and pregnancy. It's been more than incredibly amazing to experience parenthood through adoption and pregnancy at the same time! The waiting for both have been extremely hard but the waiting and longing for these boys have by far been the most difficult. Knowing that my children with my last name are sitting in a foster home across the world is tough. I know Carson is safe inside my belly. I know she's getting the nutrition she needs. I've had to trust God in a completely different way when it comes to my boys because they are truly in His hands. God is continuing to sustain the boys and us as we wait. So in the waiting we will chose to be actively waiting, praying and watching for what God is doing and what He wants to teach us in the most difficult times. 

For those of you who are praying for us you can specifically pray:
-The investigation (on the boys) will go smoothly and quickly.
-We will be able to pay for the remainder of the adoption.
-God will be preparing Canaan and Neema's heart for the huge change that is about to take place and they will be able to bond with Justin when he travels to DRC.
-We will be at piece with God's timing and He will "ready" us for the changes that will take place in our home (financially, spiritually, and physically).



~Alana



Saturday, April 27, 2013

God is Full of Surprises

The past month has been a little crazy at the Carroll house to say the least. I've been deathly sick for about 3 weeks (at least I felt that way). Our friend from Africa has arrived and is living with us for 2 months. We're trying to finish our house which is a long way from being completely remodeled. Those are just a few of the crazy things going on. 

We've got a few updates on our process this month. Our i600 was approved and should now be in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. For those of you who have no idea what an i600 is, it's paperwork that you fill out to adopt an orphan as an immediate relative. I don't think I've ever mailed so much paperwork as I did when I mailed our i600. So, it should have arrived at the US Embassy in Kinshasa (the capital) by now. At this point we wait for them to put our information in the system. Once they do that, our 3-6 month wait will start. The US Embassy in DRC will complete an investigation on the boys to basically make sure they are both really orphans. Once the investigation is complete they will inform us that we can travel to get them! Our agency has told us that we should expect it to be closer to 6 months for the investigations to be completed...but I still have hope it could be sooner!

We also just got updated pictures of our boys this week! Hooray!  Canaan's photos always make me so sad. In all the pictures we have ever seen of him he has not smiled. Not even a slight grin. He was wearing the same shirt he has worn in the last 3 pictures we have seen of him. Soon Canaan. Soon you will smile. You don't know it now but your life is going to dramatically change in a few months and you will have much to smile about! Neema's picture was quite different. He was wearing a cute little outfit of a striped shirt and white overalls. And he was smiling!!! Hands on his hips and smiling! Justin and I were almost unsure if it was him or not because he has grown so much. He lost some of his baby fat on his cheeks and he looks taller.  




Along with the photos we got a brief update form. It included their height, weight, and foster location. They are now in the SAME foster home!!! Hooray!!!! We've been waiting for this for a while! Also on the update form it said they were both in diapers. After talking with other adoptive moms, some of whom were adopting older children found out that their kids were also wearing diapers. We questioned our adoption consultant and she said that in the orphanages the workers just "let the kids go." She said that during her last visit there she couldn't count how many children she held or was with that were soaked. The thought of these children sitting in their own urine all day long made my stomach turn. Just another reason there are no smiles on their faces. Thankfully, once the children are moved to foster care this changes. Foster mamas are very good about potty training and keeping them dry. I just pray that all the kids who are in the orphanage get adopted so they can move to foster homes as well.

So now for the surprise. I will not be going to DRC to get our boys. I have cried and cried and cried because I realized I would not be able to go. Justin's dad is going to go with them. I am grateful that he volunteered to go because I can't. It's a day that I have played out in my head since the day we got their referral pictures. I imagined the foster mamas bringing them out and trying to fight back tears while glowing from ear to ear. I wondered if they would come to me or if they would cry for their foster mama. I day dreamed about the two weeks would be in DRC with them, trying to establish the very beginnings of our relationship. I have to let those dreams go because God has bigger plans for our family. I will not be going to DRC because.....
Yes, thats right. I'm pregnant. That was our ultrasound at 6 weeks and 5 days. I am now 11 weeks. Surprised? We were too. We had tried for almost 2 years to get pregnant. I even went on fertility meds for about a month. After we decided to pursue adoption first and then try for a biological child later we had stopped "trying." I wasn't even sure if we could get pregnant after Justin and I both went in for some testing. Thankfully, God has a MUCH better timing than do we. If I would have had this baby first, Canaan and Neema probably wouldn't be the children we would be adopting. We are due November 16th. So PLEASE pray that Justin will be able to get the boys before then! 

I want to get something straight before I close out this post. I have had MANY people say to me, "Oh I knew you would get pregnant once you started adopting" or "That always happens." Ok, yes, it did happen to us. We did get pregnant while adopting. But it doesn't happen to everyone. So please don't say that to someone has been infertile and are adopting. Also, I want to clarify this: WE DID NOT ADOPT BECAUSE WE COULD NOT GET PREGNANT. We are adopting because God calls us (all) to take care of the fatherless. My boys NEED a family. We would adopt whether we have 10 biological children or 0. Adoption has NOTHING to do with whether or not we have biological children. Millions and millions and millions of children are sitting in orphanages right now, soaked in the own urine with hungry bellies and no one to call them son or daughter. This is why we adopt. We seek to make them our family in the same way that God has made us His family. 

Soon Canaan and Neema. Soon you will be home.














Saturday, March 23, 2013

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting.

Our adoption puzzle finally arrived today! I'm really excited about this fundraiser because we will be able to write the names of each person who sponsors a puzzle piece on the back of the puzzle. I think it will be a tangible piece that the boys will get to look at as they grow older and see the names of all the people who helped them get to us. If you would like your name on a puzzle piece you can donate to our paypal account. Please include what name you would like on the puzzle piece. 


Our pastor got us the book, "Adopted for Life" by Russell D. Moore. I've only got to read bits and pieces of it because Justin has been immersed in it. It's a great read and I urge you to read this if you are considering adoption. A friend at work got me the book, "Orphan Justice" by Johnny Carr. I'm only past chapter 3 but so far it's been great. It's a real eye opener to adoption and human trafficking. Whether you are or are not considering adoption, this is a great read for anyone. It beckons our call to do something, just as Christ has commanded us to do.



We finally received new pictures of the boys this month!!! I, of course, can't post them, but I'll give you a little sneak peak. 
Canaan is on the left and Neema (the younger one) is on the right. They are looking at the photo books we sent them! I'm sure they have no clue what's going on, but one day they will know.

Neema has grown so much since the referral picture we received. It was great to see he has gained weight! We also got height, weight, and shoe sizes for both of them! 

We mailed our i600 about a week ago. This was a huge step in our journey. This is where the waiting process really begins. As I have told many of you the United States has made changes to the investigation process before they will issue the children their visas. This is a great change toward more ethical adoptions, but it also set our adoption (as well as everyone else's adopting from DRC) 3-6 months longer. After our i600 is processed and the investigation is over we will travel to DR Congo! We are asking you to specifically pray that the investigation process will be a quick one, but even if it's not we trust that God's will is being carried out and His glory is continuing to be made known through this waiting!

Thank you for your prayers for these boys and for us. There are many, many changes coming our way and I will post more about those on another day! God is good and He has been overly gracious to Justin and I.