Our journey to “the referral”

We really had no idea when we woke up this morning the incredible blessings that the day would hold.  As most of you know, Mark and I began the journey to adopt a baby girl in China a little over a year ago.   For those of you who haven’t been alongside us during this time, here’s a little rundown:
mid-April 2005: The decision
We’d been talking about adoption for some time, but didn’t really know how to start, or what timing was right.  Then one evening we had an incredibly encouraging time with our friends, the Workmans, who have adopted adorable and spunky Laura.  Their story confirmed what God had placed on our hearts — we contacted a social worker to get the adoption process started the very next day!  
June 2005: The homestudy
The homestudy took parts of three days, and included hours and hours of both answering and asking questions!  We covered a multitude of topics.  Everything from: "Can you comment on your spouse’s weaknesses?" to "You’ll definitely need to install some smoke detectors."   It proved to be a quite thorough and extremely helpful start.  Our social worker helped walk us through all the steps of dossier preparation, and this was our main adoption task for the months to come.   
June-November 2005: Preparing the dossier
Fingerprinting in Beijing.  Criminal background checks for both China and the States.  Reference letters.  Financial forms.  Medical tests.  Verification of employment.  Birth certificates (Indiana was easy, Guam is another story)  Marriage certificate.  Letter of intent.  Filing the I-600A.  Waiting for the I-171H.  And all of the above signed, notarized, authenticated, chopped . . . and then finally, on November 13th, SENT to the CCAA in Beijing.  We were then told to expect a referral in March.   
Preparing the dossier takes quite a bit of effort and patience.  My desire to push things through quickly made it all kind of stressful at times.  And yet, looking back, it’s easy to see the many blessings he gave us.  I have special memories of watching Tomiko do embroidery on the hood of Grace’s winter coat.  We were so encouraged by the love and generosity shown at the awesome baby shower that my sister Mindy and the Nash ladies threw for Grace (boy — did we get some GREAT STUFF!)  Mark and I loved the cute and creative "money tree" from a ladies small group, and were humbled and blessed by the generous gift from our church.  When I look back now I can see just countless people who rallied around us, giving us love and support in countless ways.  We know that so many have been praying for us and for our daughter long before we knew who or where she was.  That’s pretty great. 
December 2005-March 2006: The wait, Part I  
During this time we read a lot of books about parenting and adoption, and learned from watching Godly examples of parenting all around us.  Mark painted a bookshelf, Megan had curtains and pillow covers made, and we inherited just about any kid item you could possibly imagine from an amazingly generous community here in Tianjin.  An awesome crib, countless toys and books, a baby sling, and clothes and shoes for all sizes and seasons.  
March-May 2006:  The wait, Part II 
At about this time, I started signing up for my Chinese classes week by week, knowing that we could get our referral any day!  We started checking the mailbox with more anticipation and wondering, "Will today be the day?"  I started to get involved in some on-line discussion groups related to China adoption.  It was through one of these groups that I first heard that the wait times for adoptions in China were increasing. 
And then in mid-March we were told that we’d need to wait till May or June.
That was kind of a bummer.  We had to make adjustments in our plans, and in our minds and hearts too. 
May 23-24 2006: The wait, Part III
But the REAL kicker came on May 23rd when we heard that wait times had actually doubled, and that we would need to wait until September or October.
That news was really discouraging, and yet, God really used it in me.  I felt His spirit’s conviction regarding the state of my heart.  In my discouragement and irritation it was pretty easy to see that my eyes were on myself and my plans.  I felt him saying, "Let go, and just be obedient today."
And then, the very next evening, May 24th, we got this email from our social worker:
"Hold onto your seat because you are in for the roller coaster ride of your life. …   I just talked with CCAA again and they told me that some of the November/December dossiers for expats were now in the matching unit.  They suggested that families with a log-in date in one of those 2 months contact the CCAA Matching Unit to see if your dossier is in the pile. If so, you will get a baby sooner rather than later."
May 25, 2006: The referral!
And that brings us to today, May 25th, which as I said at the start, has been filled with blessing beyond what we could ask or imagine.  I woke up knowing that there was a chance we’d get a referral before September or October, but that would mean hearing that our dossier was in the "pile" in the mysterious "CCAA Matching Unit."
Upon our social worker’s recommendation, we asked Liane at TIS for some help in contacting the CCAA Matching Unit on our behalf.  She tried in the morning, to no avail.  We decided to try again in the afternoon. 
In the afternoon, the call went through!  We were standing by Liane’s side during the call, and could see that she got transferred multiple times.  It was feeling like the chances of the call being informative were getting slimmer by the minute.  But then came some of the sweetest words I’ve ever understood in Chinese.  I heard Liane say, "Oh?  You already sent it?" 
I nudged Mark, "I think they’re saying that they’ve ALREADY sent the referral!" 
And so they had.   
In a combination of excitement and disbelief, and fear that maybe they meant the OTHER Wickersham family, I somehow made it back home to wait for the EMS guy. (I’m quite thankful for a very encouraging and excited Kim Swingle who accompanied me on the bike ride home!)  
Back at home.  According to An Ayi, there hadn’t been any rings from EMS guy.  So, we just waited.
The buzzer, a shout of "You ju!" and I tear down the stairs to sign for the envelope. 
I asked An Ayi to verify that the return address REALLY was the "Beijing Shouyang Zhongxin" or in other words, the CCAA (China Center for Adoption Affairs)  After studying the envelope in the bathroom where the light was better, An Ayi declared that the envelope most certainly was from CCAA.   Before long I was in a taxi on my way back to TIS to join Mark for our first introduction to our baby girl. 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
It’s an interesting feeling to look at a picture of a cute little stranger and to know that she’s your daughter.  Even now, I’m looking at her, and I wonder who she is and who she’ll become, what she’ll look like in a few years and what her dreams will be one day.  We’ve been praying for baby Grace for over a year now, and I can’t tell you what a joy it is to know some things about her.  Little Miss Chong Siyuan, born on September 1st, 2005 in Hubei Province, with big eyes and a thoughtful little face, who lives with her foster family and likes to sit on the sofa, watch TV and eat cookies.   
"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy"  Psalm 126:3

3 thoughts on “Our journey to “the referral”

  1. Awesome!  We are SO excited and praising the Lord!  He is good – his timing is right.  Grace is a beautiful little girl who is so blessed to have you both as her parents!
    May the next few weeks go well.

  2. Congratulations!!! How exciting! His grace in bringing your Grace at just the right time is a beautiful thing to behold.

  3. Ugh!  Crying AGAIN!  What is it about motherhood that makes me so emotional?  Maybe because I know, in a way, what it\’s like to want something so badly and have to wait so long for it!  I cannot tell you HOW happy I am for you THREE.  God is Good!!!

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