***This is part two about our trip to Michigan, to read part one which explains the two month process that led up to this trip click here: Turner's Adoption Story Journal - Part One - Paperwork, Prayers and Miracles! ***
We arrived in TN on Saturday 2/8 evening to visit with our friends, the D family. They are an amazingly encouraging family with 3 bio and 4 adopted children. We were excited to spend the weekend with them as we waited for Monday to roll around and our ICPC paperwork to arrive in FL for processing. The weekend flew by, we were blessed by the D's loving hospitality and the kids had a blast. Monday 2/10 early morning we got word from FL that they hadn't received our ICPC packet yet but were on the lookout for it and it would take 2-3 days to process once it had arrived. We packed up, said our goodbyes to our wonderful friends and headed north with the hopes the paperwork would arrive that day and we would be released by Wednesday 2/12.
Our dream is one day to have a house in the rolling mountains of TN!
Since we only made it 4 hours north to Cinncinati, OH by dinnertime we decided to park there for the night and enjoy our northern loves, Skyline Chili and the Creation Musuem! Tuesday 2/11 we enjoyed the warm, free inside activities the museum offered and checked in with the ICPC office around lunchtime.
The packet was not sent expedited mail on Friday 2/7 as we had thought, it hadn't even arrived yet to begin processing. We began brainstorming. All we could do is pray and trust. We decided to pray with faith that the paperwork would be recieved and not held up any later than Friday 2/14. God is faithful. Even though our stay in MI was becoming longer than planned we didn't want to miss out on any more time with our new son. We left OH and began the last 4 hour trek to MI arriving after sundown. After a long and noisy night boondocking at a rest station we were ready to be at his house on Wednesday 2/12 at 9am.
More bad news.
Our RV wouldn't start, it wouldn't even try, no lights, sound, nothing. Must be the battery, we probably just needed a jump. As we stood outside in the single digit temperature, looking under the hood, we prayed "Lord, please send us someone to jump us." We looked around and asked the dozen other truck drivers that were parked around us. No one was willing or able. We called our roadside assistance service. They would come out in an hour or so but all normal charges would apply and what if it was more than a jump, a repair wasn't in the travel budget. We prayed again. "Lord, search our hearts, you know we just want to meet our son, please start our vehicle!" Our kids won't forget the miracle that happened next, Brian put the key in the ignition and the RV reved right up. I won't forget the silence on the other end of the phone when I called roadside assistance back only minutes later to say, "never mind, we don't need service, we prayed and God fixed our RV!"
It was a little nerves mixed with excitement that churned inside me as we waited at the door. A stack of boxes and suitcases greeted us in the foyer when the door opened. We stepped inside and a little boy with the same face as the child in the picture on our fridge, that we have been praying for since December, came forward and greeted us. "This is Turner, he is ready to go." And just like that he happily told us what was in each box and suitcase then darted down the front steps and to the RV. "Turner, do you need to know our names before you leave with us?" I stopped him. "Um, sure." We knelt down, introduced ourselves to our new son and walked him to our RV where he was greeted by five smiling children. We had prayed for him so often that even Titus and Maggie pointed from their seats, "Mama, Ter-ner, Ter-ner!"
Our new son joins us for the first time!
We sat down around the table for lunch at a local buffet. "Turner, we pray and thank God for our food before we eat, have you prayed before?"
"Okay, well have you ever heard of Jesus?"
"Well, that is the God we pray to, you will learn a lot about Him, let's pray."
All the campgrounds in Michigan were closed for the winter with 4 feet of snow on the ground. A local KOA campground had mercy on us, they plowed a spot and let us plug into the electrical outlet outside the bathrooms. After 15 minutes of waist-deep playing in the snow the kids were back in the warm RV changing into dry clothes and playing legos and board games. I had a barrage of phone calls and emails to decipher and spent a couple hours in the bathroom hallway in tears mudding through it all. We did find out that MI ICPC emailed all documents directly to FL since the mailed copies still had not been recieved. After explaining our situation and desire to go home with our son to the FL ICPC office I was told to "take a chill pill" and that they could take 10-14 days and even deny the request which would place Turner in foster care. Then email after email piled in my inbox with numerous additional required documents and paperwork, 23 items total, were needed to approve us to leave MI. Next thing we know this email came in:
"ICPC received a phone call from an anonymous person who claimed to be an attorney here in FL. This person stated that your family moved and now lives in a run-down mobile home that this anonymous attorney described as unhealthy to live in. This anonymous person also said the person with ICPC is being bad-mouthed over the internet, being called obstructionist, etc. The anonymous source stated that she has significant concerns regarding the new living conditions of your family. At minimum, an updated Home Assessment needs to be done now."Bizarre. Just bizarre.
I was crying in the bathroom when Brian came in. We will never leave. Not with a new home visit and all the documents required. It could take weeks. We prayed, prayed boldly that God would perform more mightly miracles and let us leave by Friday 2/14. I have to admit it took me until Monday the following week to forgive this "anonymous attorney" for their call that labeled our family a "home with concerns" and threatened to send our son into state foster care. If you are reading this and you are this anonymous attorney, I forgive you.
I gathered my emotions, gave them to God and went to join Brian and the kids for a quiet, and cozy evening cooped up in the 250sqft RV.
Thursday 2/13 brought a blessed distraction from the previous day's emotional roller coaster. We spent lunch and dinner fellowshipping and playing with new friends, the G family! They have 12 adopted children and loads of encouraging experience in all things adoption, including ICPC! This was the family behind the His Hands His Feet Today Facebook page where we first learned of our son's need for adoption! We parted ways only after I joined KG for a special church service that evening and promised to update her as long as we were in MI.
We had been praying boldly for God to let us go home Friday 2/14, on Valentine's Day! Friday morning we headed to Ypsilanti, MI closer to the border to hang out and faithfully wait for the call! For only $22 we spent the morning and afternoon at the Michigan Firehouse Museum having loads of fun!
Adoption is a hurry-up-and-wait game.
Just as we were leaving and looking for a place to eat lunch we recieved two urgent documents that had to be notarized immediately. We found an OfficeMax to print the documents from my email, then found a local bank to wait and have them notarized, and then back to OfficeMax to scan documents in and email them back to our attorney. Even with rushing around this process took almost two hours. Happy Valentine's Day. We were sure that with all that urgency we would be released once ICPC recieved them. We went to lunch/dinner at Costco and waited until 5pm came and went. No call. Nothing. Documents sent in but no word, it seemed we would be stuck in Michigan for the weekend, possibly even all next week! Feeling let down, we stocked up on some more food for our lengthened stay. Since we were much farther south than the previous campground we stayed at we tried to find anywhere else. The navigation system directed us incorrectly for two hours around closed snowed-in roads resulting in us getting stuck twice and manuvering very difficult u-turns for a 32ft RV on dark, icy roads. Finally we found a parking spot in a closed state park. Water was shut off and we were out of water. Sewage dump site was under 4 feet of snow and we were way over due on dumping our sewage tanks....ew. Bathrooms and facilities were closed and locked. Then we noticed that overnight warm water had seeped through our bathroom floor meaning we had a frozen pipe and a leak...ugh.
It was not a fun night.
We were frustrated, angry and sad. We wanted to go home. We were tired of snow, ice and everything frozen. I wanted warm water and a shower. We were worried about the increasing attorney and social worker costs due to all this additional ICPC paperwork. We were worried about running out of funds in our travel budget if this trip was extended into next week. We were worried about Brian missing work and losing income. This is not how it was supposed to go. Where was God? We truly believed He would answer our prayers. We truly believed He would make a miraculous way for us to go home TODAY. We spilled our hearts and disappointments before the Lord and sought Him in His Word. We know God is sovereign and always good. We know God always pursues His perfect will, even when we don't know what that is. Even when we are just plain upset with His plan.
New mercies each morning.
Our fridge completely froze overnight, cereal and frozen milk for breakfast! On Saturday 2/15 our social worker, JB, who completed our homestudy back in December made a visit out with a friend to our new place. She, once again, approved our home to adopt. Around lunchtime she called to fulfill ICPC's additional requirements of interviews with the children. We passed the phone around as each child told JB, again, that they in fact wanted Turner to stay and be their brother.
We expressed a need for prayer as we were struggling with the sad news of a longer stay and increasing attorney (ICPC), social worker (homestudy) and travel costs. Before I could even begin to think about fundraising, between 8am and 12pm on Saturday 2/15 morning God's people flooded our accounts with $3155 toward bringing Turner home! We have never been so excited to write the remaining checks when we get back home! Still has me in awe just thinking about it!
More good news.
A friend in FL who are members of ATI found a couple other members in their directory that lived up near Flint, MI so we could have friends to fellowship with and pass the time quickly. A wonderful man, GC, got in touch with us and told us that his wife and 7 kids were out of town at a funeral but he would love to have us stay with him as long as we needed to stay in MI. We were strangers, had never met before. GC was full of joy and so sweet to open up his entire home of empty beds and toys for us to enjoy! It really felt like the biblical hospitality you only read about in Acts!
The home church we visited on Sunday 2/16 morning, at the V family's house, was so encouraging. We brought boiled peanuts, which allowed much amusement as our northern brothers and sisters had never even heard of them before. The all day fellowship was sweet and the cute northern accents and different phrases kept me smiling! "Oh my stars! Where is my pop?" We even borrowed one of the V family's sons to visit America's Largest Christmas Store in Frankenmuth, MI. We enjoyed his company, presents and jellybeans!
Thank you again, Nicholas, for joining us!
As Monday 2/17 rolled around we were actually sad to leave our new MI friends. GC was too sweet spending our last morning there playing many games with our kids while Brian and I responed to emails, cleaned up and packed all our stuff back in the RV. We were about to have to make a decision about whether Brian would head back home to work, leaving some or all of us in MI to wait, when our attorney said she was sure she could get us approval to leave today! We were on the road headed south by 3pm, a little anxious we would be wasting gas and have to turn around, but trusting in our good God's perfect will and plan this time.
At 4pm that Monday the email finally came! We could go home!!! We weren't done jumping through ICPC hoops just yet though, more awaited us in FL. Our attorney forwarded us the email from ICPC: "Praise The Lord and leave Michigan now before they want something else from me. -CT"
"Florida is providing PROVISIONAL placement approval for this familyWe drove all night! 1000 miles from 4pm to 9am, stopping only for one more to-go dinner at Skyline Chili in OH, coffee and gas. We definitely felt your prayers as we drove through a snowstorm, ice and 25mph wind. Brian was able to make it in to work a little after 9am Tuesday 2/19 and we made it to our Classical Conversations weekly class. It was so nice to be home! No more snow! No more cold, it was 70 degrees and sunny, I packed up my snow boots and dawned a pair of flip-flops!
to return to Florida with Turner.
Florida requires an updated addendum to include face-to-face private
interviews with the children within 30 days."
Home Sweet Home!
State of FL law says that a child must be in your home, monitored by a social worker, for 90 days before you can legalize the adoption in front of a judge.
Stay tuned for "Turner's Adoption Story Journal - Part Three - Forever, Love and Family" as I journal the next 3 months up to the day Turner officially becomes our adopted son!
Posted by Shannon
Soli Deo gloria - Glory to God alone