Invited to walk on water

Invited to walk on water
sisters and brothers waiting on one more

Monday, December 22, 2014

Adopted! Introducing Joseph!

December 19, 2014


Last January, as we waited for a referral from Africa for two special needs children, we got a surprise.  The phone rang.  The voice on the other end was from San Diego County Child Social Services..."Mrs. Stinson, we have the newborn biological brother of your daughter's S and A in our custody.  Would you foster him?"  
It is difficult to describe the emotions that rushed over me as those words spilled from the phone.  I was in the Costco parking lot with our five children. 
We picked him up at the Baby's R Us parking lot when he was 14 days old (6 days later, we learned of Mohale!)  His foster mom met us there.  Oh how tiny and vulnerable he looked- lovingly packaged in soft blankets, enveloped within the car seat in the foster mother's white minivan- just over 5 lbs and in horrible discomfort from his struggling body.  Foster care is hard.  Very hard.  It means a mother's heart is broken and grieving. For us it meant possibly a road to adopting a child we immediately loved because he was our daughter's bio brother,  OR, losing a beloved child that our daughter's would love and connect to- and then later ask "why?"  RISK. I was horribly scared.  Yet, Love somehow draws us to walk forward in spite of even our worst fears. Walking on water.  Ive not blogged much about the treasure we've called "baby J" in the last 11 months due to confidentiality- much of his story is not mine to tell.  But I can say that the road has been very, very difficult. We've had to CLING hard to our Shepherd - The One who walks into pain out of love for us.   
Here is a picture of "Baby J" with our daughter's who are also biologically related to him...
I cannot underscore enough the value that siblings be kept together when possible.  The connection is beyond imagination.   For the last 11 months they have hoped and prayed that their baby would stay.... 

Here's the first time they held him...

Something that is beautiful to me is watching Sierra cherish her baby brother.. because she looks so much like her precious, beautiful birth mother.  I often pray that somehow their birth mom will know and find some comfort in this. 
"Dearest first mom, know that your daughter's and your baby boy completely adore each other.  They are an eternal gift to each other from God through you and they are being raised with love for you."     

Here's a typical morning when littles are awake way before anyone else....

The first time we saw and held him- sitting on the foster mom's van at the Baby's R Us parking lot...

Here's David loving him the morning after we brought him home... Sleep has been rare this year:)

We have loved and cherished Joseph for nearly one year while struggling to trust God with his life.

Then, days after our hearts were breaking over news that we must dissolve and completely re-start Mohale's adoption, (he's our little one in Africa),

we were called to finalize Joseph's adoption. 

on December 19, 2014, a Judge gave our foster baby a new identity:  Our Son.  


Absolutely treasured....

Each of our children ADORE him beyond words.  His little love tank is full.  Each of them hold him, play with him, and beg to care for him.  Each of them have prayed for him long before we knew he even existed...  Each of them have gratefully cherished him for the last 11 months.  God truly does place desires into our hearts that HE has a purpose for...

Christmas has been forever changed for our family.  Eleven years ago as I held our newborn son, Liam, I prayed through tears for children who need a home "Lord, Please let us adopt two by Christmas....Two desperately need a home.
In His timing, 8 years later on December 14, 2011 we had the gift of adopting Sierra and Alyssa:

(Pic from December 2010- when they were still our beloved foster babies)

This December 19 2014, we adopted Joseph!  What a miracle and gift he is!
(Pic taken when he was three weeks old by our daughter Ianna)

Christmas is about many things, but it especially is about the cross and adoption-  The Bible teaches that Jesus was born to pay for our adoption....He came to die so that He could adopt us.  Our adoptions have forever underscored how very loved we are. Adoption is SLOW.  It is HARD.  It HURTS.  Yet, compared to the model our LORD gave us, it is INCREDIBLE and worth every tear, every heartbreak, every sleepless night.   YOU ARE LOVED by THE ONE who was BORN and placed in a manger... The ONE who purposed to be born and live a difficult life and then DIE and raise again- all to ADOPT me.  And you.  YOU ARE LOVED.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Good news and bad. Required to dissolve one adoption, the other is here.

December 12, 2014  HOPE.
Bad news first:  
We learned last week that the US Embassy has not approved Mohale for a visa to enter the USA because our adoption paper trail was done in the wrong order.  They are requiring the country of Lesotho to 
dissolve Mohale's adoption
in order for us to re-do the last one year of paperwork in the correct order.  

(When we signed up to adopt from Lesotho, we were told we would be the first Americans to adopt from Lesotho since Lesotho became a HAGUE accredited country. We agreed to expect glitches, delays and setbacks as both countries learned on our family.  HAGUE is set up to help countries work together to provide safe, ethical adoptions for children. )

 Both countries want what is best for children- and we LOVE that.  

However, this is still crazy, horribly HARD.  

We have already had a little miracle regarding this setback of bringing Mohale home.  Because his adoption must be delayed, we must redo mountains of paperwork- at a cost.  Last week, the day we paid for our homestudy update and fingerprinting (totaling near $1000), we received an unexpected check in the mail from San Diego County for $990.  Then another family who is on their own risky journey, heard of our delay and donated $70 with a subject line that said "For Mohale <3)"  The setback expense was covered- and no one even knew we had this expense.  But greater than that, loved ones have faith that Mohale is coming home-even as we face setbacks.  I cannot find words to describe how uplifting that was.  God is lovingly, tangibly showing us that HE IS HERE.  OH HOW MY HEART aches to hold precious Mohale.  Yet, peace in God's perfect timing is clearly here.  

Here's a link to the devotions I stumbled across last week AND bible scriptures and devotions that friends sent to us when we were low....Encouragement

Good news too!!!!
As we are realing from this unexpected blast, we also received good news regarding our other baby.  

Baby J's adoption finalization has been expedited to next week!!  

This is a surprise.  In early August, during my prayer time, I sensed in my heart that Mohale would not be coming home until next year.  Our international adoption agency had expected him to be home last June or July.  We had hoped.  Wondering if this was God or my imagination, I just tucked it away in my heart and waited.  Mohale is now turning into our fourth adoption.  ALL of our adoptions have had delays and frightening obstacles.  Yet, ALL of them, after losses, delays, obstacles etc- have resulted in our AMAZEMENT in the end at God's perfect timing.   Perhaps in the midst of anxiety and impatience,  I really am learning a tiny bit to stop panicking and to "be still and know that (He is) God..."  Last weeks news regarding Mohale would have thrown me down had I experienced this in another season.  Yet, HOPE remains...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

blind faith. Pondering this year.

October 29, 2014
Blind faith.  The entire first chapter of this adoption journey felt blind…and this is normal for paper pregnancies. It's normal for any risk God places into your heart.   Passionately, we spent months chasing after two children we did not know existed (we thought they were both in Africa.)  We spent endless hours and every penny we could gather on the ransom for children whose names or faces we were unaware of.  Countess nights I laid awake wondering if we were insane for stepping out and making our hearts vulnerable and spending all of our savings and beyond…because what if this is all a cruel scam…
Countless mornings I'd awake to see empty beds and I'd ache for vulnerable children in desperate need of parents….and I'd cry tears over children praying God will give them parents and for birth mothers who fear for their children's future. (I still do.)  My heart breaks for mom's who know they will soon die and who fear what will become of their children...especially in places where food and medication are scarce and child exploitation is common. 
Then a phone call changed everything.  Again.  
Baby "J-----" came.  He was born right here in San Diego County and is the biological brother to our littlest daughters.  God's treasures are not always where we imagine.
I grieved the pain that brought him to us from another mom's broken heart. We adored him and I panicked- wondering if we'd loose him and our hearts and especially our children's hearts would be broken.  In the dark of the night as I pondered the last miracles that brought Sierra and Alyssa into our arms, words fell onto my heart..."Let Me write your story."
In the morning a song came onto the radio "when I wake up in the land of glory, with the saints I will tell my story, and there's just One Name that I'll proclaim." (The Only Name by Big Daddy Weave.)  That song is on repeat on my iPhone.

Only days later, another phone call changed our lives again.  An orphaned little boy in Lesotho needed parents. Mohale's precious face showed up on our email.  

I believe that God is writing another chapter of His story.  He is fulfilling the desires that He placed into our hearts.  Did you know that desires you have are likely from God? What passion or dream do you have?  I have no doubt that the desire to adopt two little boys was put into our children's hearts and our hearts because God knew TWO little boys would be in need of adoption... one from San Diego County and one in Lesotho, Africa.  Why do I still fear?  Trying with all my might to "be still and know that He is God." Yet, as weak and fearful as I tend to be, my heart is filled with amazement.  It's worth every fearful hour and every single tear.   If you are on a journey of risk from a desire He has burned into your heart, know, He is FAITHFUL even when we are afraid.  He is faithful.  Even in loss, grief, tragedy, disappointment and delay.  Remembering Him today.  It is not safe nor comfortable to Follow Him. But we are always safe in His hands through the storms He asks us to follow Him into...and more often than not, those storms surround hurting people in need of Jesus' comfort through broken people.
Are you pondering a risk for Him? Ohhhh I challenge you to risk for Him. You may loose much. You may get hurt. Your heart could break. Yet, all will pale in comparison to what is gained in brokenness- a closeness to the One who keeps you close...this One Who is close to the broken-hearted. What a gift!  Don't miss out if He's asking you to jump.  


Friday, July 25, 2014

DS-260 (visa application) submitted

July 23, 2014
It's been a crazy week. Last Thursday I got a call from my sister at 4am. My dad had flipped his ATV 10 days earlier and had been bleeding internally ever since. I ended up flying to Carson Nevada on the next available flight to hopefully see him alive one last moment. David stayed behind with all 6 kids. It's been 6 days. Dad made it. He's still in ICU but they expect a full recovery. So grateful. So emotional. 
As I sat with my sleeping dad in the ICU for hours each day I was able to fill out the DS-260 online using my iPhone. Daily I had questions for our agency. We learned that the form needed to be filled out with Mohale's pre- adopted name. Usually this form is filled out before adoption happens. Finally today I submitted it!
Look at our precious boy's passport pic!! Oh it's so hard to wait!!  Our agency guesses at least one month until the USA issues a visa for Mohale. 
Thanks for prayers for dad and baby boy:)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Form DS-260

We received a letter in the mail from the US dept of State National Visa Center about two weeks after Mohale's I-800 approval.  Just now we learned that this is all we needed to begin the next step which is filling out the DS-260 form online (Link.)  We and our agency are really learning as we go.  For anyone following us, you can fill out the DS-260 form as soon as this letter comes from the Visa Center. This letter has a case number assigned to it. Once this form is filled out and submitted, we will simply be waiting on Visa Approval. Once that happens, David can travel to bring him home!

Thursday, June 19, 2014


(Update:  This post was awesome news!  However, in December of 2014, we had to dissolve Mohale's adoption and start over.  That post is here:  Bad and good news.)

June 19, 2014

No longer fatherless! Although we've never met, Mohale is our SON. We just now got a phone call that Mohale's adoption has been processed in Lesotho. A new birth certificate was issued.  He is legally our son, Mohale Stinson! Next we face just hoops of getting visa and passport for him.  Then David will travel with Ianna, Leora and Liam to bring our little miracle boy home! 

Several weeks ago my heart was breaking under the "wait". My heart wondered.....
Then another waiting adoptive mom emailed me in tears- because she stumbed upon my blog after returning from a mission trip to the very orphanage where Mohale is being loved. She is a special needs teacher and had spent five days loving on our son.  She told us he's so loved and cared for as he waits. Then she emailed these two pics that are now in my phone so I can look at him daily..

Saturday, March 8, 2014


This post is a series of entries to document the 1-800 process.  
However, since we were required to redo our adoption process in December 2014, it would be most helpful to check out this page:  Steps and forms required after the referral.

May 9, 2014
Approved!!!  We were at the dealership finalizing details for the purchase of a van large enough to fit our growing family. My iphone rang with the caller ID saying our adoption agency name. (Ohhh the knots that always causes inside of my stomach!!!) Our agency director told me he had just called USCIS to confirm that the RFE was received in time. The woman at the USCIS told him Mohale is APPROVED!!!

What's next?? We await the official certificate of approval from the USCIS. Then we send a copy (via smart phone scan) to our agency. They will send that to Lesotho. Lesotho will begin the adoption process. Our agency guesses we will have travel approval for June or early July. 

May 2, 2014. Friday. 
Kristina prayed Monday for expediency. Emmie prayed this week that docs would be here by Friday. Not only did docs come in from Lesotho this morning, but our agency also express mailed them to USCIS this morning!!! Done!! Now we wait and pray that USCIS decides it is sufficient and approves Mohale to be adopted!! 

April 24, 2014
I emailed our agency for a weekly update. I KNOW the agency is working hard and I know all those involved in the Central Authority of Lesotho are also to get the evidence requested by the USCIS fulfilled.  Yet, The anxiety is still there as the six week deadline given to us by the USCIS is approaching next week.  The agency reassured us that Lesotho realizes the deadline and will email all the docs to the agency as soon as they have them.  The agency will then email them to the USCIS.  The deadline on the paperwork is May 9.  That's two weeks from tomorrow.

April 4, 2014
I called our agency for an update.  He said the long list that intimidated me can be simply fulfilled in Lesotho through the provision of a birth certificate and a letter from the Central Authority of Lesotho stating why Mohale is adoptable.  Praying this is done SOON!!  For all future referrals of children in Lesotho to American adopting families, these two requirements will be provided before they submit their i800 form- saving weeks of extra time and anxiety.  Precious Mohale will be one year old this month.  Aching to get him home.  Yet, we are filled with His peace and trust His timing.  (Most of the time.)

March 31, 2014
I called our agency first thing this morning.  They were already working on the "proof of eligibility" list from the email I sent them earlier before they opened.  All we can do now is pray, trust, wait and praise God for all He has done.

March 28, 2014
USCIS issued a Request for Evidence (RFE.)  This is a request for PROOF that a child is legally adoptable- ESSENTIAL in the world we live in.  The list is three pages long of bullet points in tiny font.  INTIMIDATING. There is a 45 day deadline to get this done.  Ugh. I'll be calling our agency on Monday. Our agency suspected this would happen since we are the first Americans to adopt since Lesotho became Hague. Good news is that this process protects children and families from unethical adoptions. Also, families adopting from Lesotho after us will likely not have to deal with this as the agency and Lesotho will have provided this before I-800 is submitted. Mohale is so far away.  Aching for and praying for u tonight precious and beloved Mohale.  You are so loved. Just as God loved us and planned our adoption- long before we knew Him. We are so loved. 

March 22, 2014
USCIS notice of action received. Our application is being forwarded to The Hague Adoptions unit. The letter states it takes two weeks to get there. Then we await i800 approval. 

March 20, 2014
We have not yet received notice from the USCIS that our i800 is being processed. I found this number for Uscis adoption related inquiries. They answered the phone and were helpful. Here's the number for others who may need it: USCIS Adoption contact number:  877-424-8374

March 18, 2014
Invoice and surprise!!
We received an invoice today for the Lesotho country fee. The amount is for $12,000 due after we have I800 acceptance. Yet, the total was $9,900! Someone anonymously gave $2100 towards our adoption!!  Beyond grateful!! And again, the amount was exactly miraculous.  Words cannot express... 

March 10, 2014. Forms. 
Mailed I-800 today!!!! We've been told maybe 6-8 weeks until approval. Travel about 3-4 weeks after that. 
Here's an update on the ( i-800 link) forms.  At the end of the form it requests that you fill out the i-864 or i-864w. FYI, the form the accompany the i800 for international adoption is the (i-864W link).  It's only one page and very easy. Simply fill it out on behalf of the child you are adopting. 

March 7, 2014
The latest on bringing home Mohale..
Our adoption agency director called this week and said Lesotho has done all necessary on their end to make precious Mohale adoptable!!!  The i800 (USCIS clearance) is all that is standing between us and adoption.  Our agency director said that since we are the first family since Hague that it is likely the Uscis will require additional evidence. If so, we will simply provide what they ask for. Then, as others follow, they will know to have families supply such up front. We r praying that no further evidence is requested and that this is crazy fast. We started the i800 this weekend. Ugh. it requests an additional form called the i-864.  Not user friendly. I'll keep notes for this and the other form that accompanies it to make it easier hopefully for others who are not comfortable with government forms. Calling the director Monday to walk me through these forms. 

March 7, 2014 prayer request.
Yesterday, God answered the below prayer request before I even sent it out.  Our licensing worker contacted me within the minute of writing the prayer request below.  Below that is the amazing answer to prayer.  
I just had to share. 

March 6, 2014
10:30 am
We learned this morning from our Lesotho adoption director, that Mohale is ready to be adopted and come home. We only need to file i800 form and get USCIS approval.  Since we are the first american family to adopt from Lesotho since Lesotho became a Hague country, he is not sure of timelines or even exactly what the USCIS will require. He suspects this will take 2-4 months. Yet if we bring baby Mohale home without a waiver from the county we loose baby J------. The max number of kids the county permits a foster family to have is six.  J----- is number 6. Mohale will be number 7.  I expressed my fear to the director and asked him "if we don't get the waiver, what is the worse case scenario?"  He responded "The worse case scenario would be that you will have to choose which child you are going to pursue."  Tears began to fill my eyes. "We cannot choose.  How could we choose?!  We believe God is bringing each of these boys to us!"  He responded. "If God brought them, He will make it happen."   I asked the director to have his entire staff pray today for a waiver for J----- to stay.  He agreed.  I prayed and called our County Foster Care licensing worker, C.  Now I am writing this email to ask all of you to pray. Our licensing worker is requesting a waiver from the supervisors. In the past, our requests have been denied. Please pray. God has removed every other obstacle up to this point. We've been told it's a fight to get a waiver. We've been told the county may remove J---- after learning of Mohale. Praying for a miracle.  Please please pray for waiver ASAP and for J-----'s protection. Praying God gets glory from this.  Praying both boys become adopted by our family and raised loving Him. 

Thanks for praying. 

Fast update!!!  March 6, 2014
12:30 pm
Not by might not by power but by my Spirit says The Lord. Zech 4:6
This is the way. Walk ye in it.  Is 30:21

Again, He moved a mountain. Fast. 
This morning after learning it was time to ask for a waiver, I felt Him speak to my heart "walk forward with your head high". Peace came. But, I was still so frightened. 

I emailed our licensing worker, C. She's the one God used last month to get our license open to bring Joseph home.  Our assigned worker had been unavailable so Cindy had "happened" to answer the phone. Within one hour, she assigned herself as our new permanent licensing worker and pushed thru three weeks of hoops. She was the vessel God used for that miracle. 
So, today when I called about a waiver, hope grew when they referred me to C! I asked C if she remembered our kids had given their two years of pony fund savings to adopt from Africa "a child that wouldn't otherwise be adopted." She remembered. I told her we got a referral for a precious 10 mo old boy and yet I'm frightened because we need a waiver.   C responded calmly "hmmm. Let me work on this. I'll go talk with my supervisors."  I got off the phone wondering when and what we'd hear back from her. I felt nauseous. 
Two hours later (felt like 10 hours) C called. "You can go get your baby!" She'd talked with the highest managers and asked them if they remembered seeing our family on the adopt 8 CBS news story in 2012. They did! She told me our story had melted all of their hearts back then. She explained our situation and my concerns to them. They told her to tell me to go get our African baby and bring him home (and to send pictures of the children together.). They will give us the waiver!!!!!

Baby Mohale, here we come!!!
Mohale and J----- are 9 months apart- precious brothers soon:)  The kid's hearts are full.

Praising Him today!!! Again!!!!
Thank you for praying!

Latest picture of baby Mohale!

Now we are praying for expedient i800 approval from our USCIS.  And for a larger vehicle:)  Wondering what He is going to do next!
Court for J----- is on March 25. Praying he's moved from foster into foster-adopt. Two more court dates after that (at least) before he can be adopted.  That could be sometime next year. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Africa Referral!! It is another boy!!!!!!

Feeling like this is a dream!  Praising God and filled with humble amazement and adoration!!!!   Today we got our referral from Lesotho!!! We've been matched with a precious little boy! He was matched to our family in December. The agency received docs today and just called us with the news!! His name is Mohale! (Mo-ha-lay). 
We do not know the time frame until we can travel to bring him home. Lesotho is a new Hague country and we are the first American family to adopt under Hague accreditation. Our agency director expects 3 to 4 months! Oh we can hardly wait... Here's his referral pic!!!! 

Pondering...We had it in our hearts to adopt TWO.  We thought they would both be from Africa. Two weeks ago we were entrusted with a baby boy through San Diego Foster Care.  Baby Boy is being loved deeply beyond words by our family.  This week baby Mohale's referral came from Lesotho, Africa. Oh what a humbling honor it is to give His love.     

Thank you for praying behind us for these two boys- His treasures.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Unseen path.

January 22, 2014
Life can change in an instant.  A phone call has changed everything. Again.

A baby boy...yet, the phone call was not from our adoption agency for Lesotho, South Africa.  It came instead from San Diego County Child Welfare Services here in California.  The social worker's voice sounded surreal as the words spilled from my iphone: "We have a newborn baby boy who was born on January 16.  He is the half sibling of your daughters....would you foster him?"

This little one whom we'd suspected could eventually arrive through our daughter's precious birth mom is here.  My heart feels sickened.  Joy and love are mingled with fear, grief and awareness of the pain surrounding this child's birth.  We love their birthmother and her pain grieves our hearts.  There is great trepidation in our hearts- knowing full well what this journey could look like....Loving fully while being willing to have a beloved child taken away-   And this time, our daughter's hearts would be especially deeply hurt and that scares me.  Here we go again.  Love hurts.
However, perfect love casts out fear- because Perfect Love lays His life down. Didn't He?  And to Him we will cling when we are weak. And I'm learning that when I'm too weak and trembling to cling to Him, He holds onto me anyway.

We will love this treasured child of God fully for every minute we are honored to care for him.

Psalm 77
Your road led through the sea,
    your pathway through the mighty waters—
    a pathway no one knew was there.

January 31, 2014
Tears of amazement and joy. In my weakness He is strong and faithful. Our merciful Lord has melted my heart again. We have been chosen by the county of San Diego to be Baby "J----'s" foster family.  After several days (and long nights) of prayer and impermeable obstacles moved, the county chose to place him in our home with his biological sisters.  Praising God we have the honor of loving baby J one day at a time.  The county expects him to eventually be available for us to adopt.  Months of court dates and waiting are ahead...
I wish I could post closer pics but that's not allowed as long as he's still a foster baby.  There is much I cannot post because of confidentiality.  But please be praying that baby J can remain in our home with his biological sisters.  They have asked me "will someone come and take our baby brother away?"   Here we go again.  Trusting- or rather learning to trust- one minute at a time.  

The bond is clear- our daughter's completely realize he's their brother. Beyond beautiful. Beyond grateful they have each other. Today. 
Our entire family is in deep love watching them.  
Our Father is faithful. How come I am so afraid?