Thursday, December 29, 2011

And "she's" off.......

We received word this morning that our dossier is on its way to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Expected delivery: January 3, 2012

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Timeline of events thus far...dossier tracker

Okay, I know I posted for the first time yesterday and now here I am posting again when I should be working, but I promised to keep you updated on things. Here is a timeline of where we are on our dossier, and to make this seem a bit more personal, I am renaming the dossier and giving it a good, female Ethiopian name which is Abeba (pronounced ah Beh bah), which means flower:
  • Saturday, Nov. 26 - sent Abeba to Lifeline Adoptions in Louisville via Fedex
  • Monday, Nov. 28 - Abeba was received in Louisville by Lifeline
  • Wednesday, Nov. 30 - Abeba left Louisville bound for St. George, Utah (U.S. home of West Sands which the in-country adoption rep in Ethiopia)
  • Thursday, Dec. 1 - Abeba arrived in Utah. While there, she went from the office of West Sands to the State of Utah offices for authentication (meaning they check all of our information and confirm we exist).
  • Tuesday, Dec. 20 - Abeba left Utah bound for Washington DC. While there she traveled with a courier called "Caring Hands" that personally babysat her on her trip to the U.S. State Department for authentication and to the Ethiopian Embassy for authentication.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 27 - Abeba left Washington DC bound for St. George, Utah to the offices of West Sands. As of right now, she is sitting on Angela's desk at West Sands awaiting her long trip via Fedex to Ethiopia to the West Sands offices there.

That is all we have at this moment. Make sure and pray for Abeba, for safe travel and for a quick, trouble-free trip into the hands of the Ethiopian government...thanks so much and God bless.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

An Update from Jeff this time...

This update is being provided by Jeff (instead of Kelley, who normally writes these and is much more accomplished at this than I am) so here goes.

The past few months have seemed like an absolute whirlwind journey. I recall back in September when Kelley began pelting me at work with things to print off, fill out, look into, scan and email to people, or proof-read and get back to her about. I also remember her asking me to fill out my testimony as to why I believed we should adopt. That part took some time and soul searching but Kelley and I both arrived at the same place in that we believe this is something quite simply that God would have us do. We don’t expect it to be easy; we don’t expect it to be popular with everyone; we expect that our lives will change dramatically the first months when she is home and it will likely take a number of months of basically dropping out of society while we try desperately to connect and repair the damage caused by life in an orphanage. We believe that we are ready for all of this but I am sure that we will realize we likely aren’t fully prepared for what will happen. We will have to place our faith and trust in Christ to carry us through as He has done thus far in our lives.

When we first began this journey, I wanted some sort of visual reminder that I could look at every day to remind me of the things that are important. I wasn’t sure what it should be and I didn’t want it to necessarily be a discussion starter; just something between me, God and a little girl that He has chosen to be mine. With my job being what it is, I often face moments during the day that stretch my grip on the important things; I find myself speaking in ways that I am not proud of; thinking things that I shouldn’t; and contemplating/worrying about things that I shouldn’t. Having this little reminder has been a great thing. It is pictured here to the left. It is of a little orphan Ethiopian girl whom I guessed to be close to the age we will be adopting, she has her hair up in little bows, she is holding two little dolls and she has to darkest eyes I have ever seen. When I first saw it, her eyes seems to say to me "I am holding on, but don't waste time." I keep it in my Daytimer so I see it daily and it is a constant reminder of what is really important in life.

Kelley and I have an ongoing debate over how long this process will take. I (being the constant optimist that I am) have the following timeline in mind:

  • Dossier to leave Washington DC in early January and be translated into Amharic for use by the Ethiopian-based group named West Sands.
  • We would then have a referral in hand sometime in the February/March time-frame
  • After referral, we would get a court date in the May/June time-frame;
  • After our initial court date, and considering the rainy season in Ethiopia from mid-June to mid-September, we would hopefully have her home in late September.

Kelley on the other hand (not as optimistic as me) has our referral occurring sometime between April and June, court date in September to October and have her home 4 to 8 weeks later...see, I told you that is really pessimistic. I guess she would prefer to be pleasantly surprised and have our daughter home earlier than expected versus my approach which is to pray for her to be home really soon, even at the risk of being disappointed. That is what makes our home stay balanced.

Lastly, and I have shared this with others, I was not prepared for the realization that God already has us a daughter picked out. She is alive and is likely in an orphanage in Ethiopia. That is extremely exciting and amazing to me. But then the paternal part of me kicks in and I begin wondering to myself "is she cold?" "is someone mistreating her?" "Is she hungry? dry? warm? does she have on clean clothes?" "does she have shoes on her little feet?" It is then that I am overcome with grief and guilt because we have been given so much and want for so little and yet there is a little girl in Ethiopia who doesn't have those things and she doesn't even realize it. Also, I feel extremely guilty and selfish for all these years that God has been wanting us to adopt and was filling my wife's heart with that burden and I selfishly said no, for no good reason. I would encourage you (since you have made it this far in this post) to ask yourself a couple of questions that have been haunting me since September:

  • Why is God blessing you the way He is? Is it because there is something special about you? Is it because you are such a good steward of His blessings and you share them with others? Is it because He wants to grant you the American dream so you can retire early to a condo in Florida so you can golf and enjoy the beach whenever you want? Is it so you can have the big house and nice cars so others can watch you pass by and say something like "there goes that guy or girl that must be doing something right because God is really blessing him/her?" Let me let you in on a little secret: there is nothing special about you...The only thing that is possibly special about you is whether you have a relationship with all that is special in this world which is Jesus Christ. That relationship won't cause blessings to flow your way per se. It won't hinder them either per se. The only reason why God blesses people is because He chooses to and He can choose. It is because He is special; not because of you or anything you do, have done or will do.
  • Why were you born in America and not Ethiopia or Uganda or some other country? Is it because you are special (see first bullet above this one)? Is it because God didn't think you could handle it? What if it was because of God's plan to give a certain amount of blessings to some and a smaller or larger amount to others so that BOTH would appreciate HIM? For the one who has little, rather than feeling sorry for themselves and worrying about what they don't have, they praise God for His blessings and also praise Him when someone (maybe you) give them something in His name. Or on the other hand, for the one who has been given much, rather than building idols to yourself and standing with your head high and your chest stuck out, you instead are seen with your head bowed and your knee bent as you praise God from whom all blessings flow and you make it your life's work to give away all that He has blessed you with to the ones that need it most. What if you made it your calling to be a conduit of blessings (a constant flow) rather than a faucet of blessings (which is an intermittent flow for the times the urge hits you).
Does that sound like a crazy bunch of stuff or what? Do you think that is a plan that includes you? Do you see yourself in either of those two bullet points? Does your life fit in there anywhere? If it does, let me encourage you not to waste your life figuring out how to get your share of the American dream and instead focus on where you are, who you are there with and who needs to be blessed today just because God blessed you, not because you are a nice person or because you want the world to know. Don't waste 10 years on a selfish trip that leaves you feeling guilty and wondering about what could have been. Luke 12:15 says "And he said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

We will continue to keep you posted on how things go and who is closer to right in terms of the timeline for our adoption. You are free to comment here as to who you think is MOST right...take care and God bless...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Our 2011 Christmas Letter

Following is the letter that we sent out, with our Christmas cards, to friends and family. I thought it would be a good idea to post it here for the sake of journaling; so that we can remember and so that our little girl someday will be able to look back at our journey to her.

As an update....our dossier (last we knew) was in Washington, DC. Hopefully, if it hasn't already, it will be Ethiopia-bound in the next day or so.

Greetings Friends and Family,

It’s been a while since I’ve been one of those people…you know, the ones who send a cheesy Christmas letter.

Graduations & travel were high on the list in 2011. Collectively, we earned two diplomas and covered a lot of territory in 2011.

Braeden is currently an 8th grader at Sunset Middle; he continues to play his guitar & play it well. He’s adjusting to being the only child at home (it does have its perks, you know). He spent a week at Student Life Camp at Orange Beach & a week this fall on a Disney cruise with family friends.

Jordan graduated from High School in May &, before long, we found ourselves packing him up & moving him to Jackson, TN where he attends Union University. He is majoring in Biblical Studies/Theology (with a minor in Philosophy) & has transitioned well to college life. He also attended Student Life Camp at Orange Beach. In May, he was part of a 20-member team from our church who partnered with Casas Por Cristo in Juarez, Mexico to build a house for a needy family. Before school started in August, he and Jeff took a little father/son graduation trip to Washington, DC as well.

Kelley (that’s me) continues to enjoy her dream job of staying at home where I’m available to drive the taxi, participate in weekly Bible studies, spend time with friends and family, take advantage of volunteer opportunities, shop a little and, lately, work on an enormous amount of paperwork (details later). In July, I traveled with Ordinary Hero to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was 10 days that forever changed my heart.

Jeff continues to work for O’Charleys, Inc. where he has been for 10 years. He graduated from Vanderbilt University’s MBA program in July and we are so glad to have him back in our fold after 2 years of hard, hard, hard work and dedication. Jeff traveled with his MBA team in April to Hungary and Turkey and then, with Jordan, to DC. We’ve all also enjoyed a couple of weekend trips to Jackson for UU events.

2012 will bring changes to our family as well as we have begun the process to adopt internationally (thus the paperwork discussed above). In case you’re thinking we’re crazy, we are. And if you’re thinking we’re too old for this, we are. But, with God all things are possible. And it was He who laid this on our hearts. We have seen the need; we have been made aware of the crisis that is the orphan and we have chosen to step out in faith and obedience to be His hands and feet. He has blessed us too much not to.

Next year, our picture will be different; our letter (if we have the energy to write it) will include tales of how we’ve been changed by the love of a little girl who will make her way from Ethiopia right into our hearts in Tennessee. We thank you, in advance, for your prayers for this journey to her. We invite you to follow along on our blog (

Much love from the Williams Family……….Jeff, Kelley, Jordan and Braeden

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Baby Steps

Edited to add: As it turns out, our dossier was NOT delivered on Monday; however, it was signed for TODAY (Wednesday, 12/21/11) in DC. I misunderstood some earlier communication. Things took longer in Utah than I was expecting but, hopefully, it's smooth (and quick) sailing to its final destination. Fingers crossed.

- Our dossier was delivered to a courier in Washington, DC yesterday. This courier will hand-deliver it to the US Embassy and the Ethiopia Embassy for authentication before forwarding it on to Addis Ababa.

- Jeff and I received our biometrics (fingerprint) appointments from the Department of Homeland Security. Our appointments are for January 11, 2012 at 10:00 am. We hear that you don't actually have to wait for your appointment day/time (this varies, I think, depending on where you are but, locally, I've been told that you can just show up once you have your paperwork) so once Jordan's paperwork arrives (since he's 18, he has to participate in this as well), we may go ahead and make our way over and check this off of our list.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Little Things....Big Impact

You know, already in this process, there have been comments made/things said that reveal the negative in the hearts of some people. Racism. Skepticism. Basic misunderstanding. Little things....big impact.

But, mostly, what has been revealed to us is the scope of love that dwells in each of us. This happens sometimes in ways unexpected. Little things.....big impact.

Without going into a lot of detail, several years ago, the church we were married in and spent many years serving in, underwent what I can only classify as an ugly split. And, since that time, meetings between those of us who left and those that stayed have been, well, weird. And, let's face it, no one likes weird? Little things....big impact.

Several weeks ago, an individual whose family we love but who we have had little contact with since the split, contacted me and offered to host a Thirty-One party as a fundraiser for our adoption. Little things.....big impact.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not implying that her offer is a "little" thing; it's definitely not. I'm just saying that a little goes a long way when it comes to showing someone God's love.

Melody, again, your offer to support our adoption made a HUGE impact on our hearts.

And, now, for a shameless plug.....if you'd like to order something great from Thirty-One, hop on over to Melody's page and place an order. She is donating her commission to our adoption fund (melt my heart). Act fast because we will be closing the party on Sunday (12/11) in order for all items to be received in time for Christmas.

And, lastly, this season (and always) don't forget to do a little thing for someone you love. I promise you, it will make a big impact.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

I600A - More Adoption Talk

One of the last paperwork steps (aside from the dossier) was to send our I600A off to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services. Our sweet Social Worker, on her way out of town to celebrate Thanksgiving, dropped our completed home study packets in the mail to us so that we could get things moving. I might have bugged her a bit. She mailed these to us on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving (11/23); we FedEx'ed (sorry Chris) our dossier on Saturday (11/26th...only because no one would have been available to sign for it before Monday, the 28th...see "dah-see-ay" post below). On Monday, (11/28), I completed all of the copies, etc. that had to accompany the I600A (copies of birth certificates; marriage license; original, notarized copy of home study; check for $975.00) and sent it on its way.

What IS the I600A anyway? Technically, it is the "Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition". And according to the USCIS site, it's purpose is:

For adjudicating the qualifications of the applicant(s) as prospective adoptive parents. Filing this form will generally speed up the part of the process relating to the qualifications of the prospective adoptive parent petitioners.

Basically, what's happening with this form is that the US is approving us to bring an orphan into the United States.

Soon (hopefully), as a result of this I600A filing, we will receive fingerprinting appointments.

Will keep you posted.......

As One Journey Ends......

It seemed only appropriate as we mailed our dossier last week that, as our journey officially began, that of our friends Chris and Valerie came to a sweet end (or in some ways, the true beginning but, for the purposes of this post, an end). As we were letting go of our paperwork, they were in Ethiopia to travel home with their girls, Hana and Abekeya.

The Hulshof family is near and dear to our hearts (we are friends and we are neighbors; we are church family) and we have watched them travel this adoption road over the past year.

What a Thanksgiving blessing they received when they left the day after to travel as a family to Ethiopia to bring those sweet girls home.

And we were/are overwhelmingly humbled to have been able to meet them at the airport when they arrived home. We look forward to loving these girls along with the rest of the family (which we're already more than just a little fond of..;) and are so thankful that our Ethiopian little one will have friends from her native country in her life in this way.

Welcome Home Hulshof 8....we love you!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Shop With Purpose

If you've visited here much, you know that "Ordinary Hero" is a ministry near and dear to my heart.

Which makes it only natural that we would partner with them to fundraise for our adoption. Kelly Putty has a great thing going over at OH....helping on so many different levels. OH ministers both locally and globally, encouraging each of us to "change the world for one".

Ordinary Hero offers adopting families and individuals going on mission trips to fundraise through their online store. Many of you made purchases last year to help me fund my trip and now you have the opportunity to shop many new OH items to benefit our adoption. 40% of everything that you purchase will be returned to us in the form of a commission check made payable to our agency.

There are a wide variety of items available; many added new today. I'm thinking if you went over to and you had your Christmas list handy, you could check a few things off of that list. In fact, if you happen to draw my name, my wish list includes a cute key fob, a camera strap and an acrylic tumbler (with straw). ;). AND....40% would go toward our adoption.

One of the neatest things over at the OH store is the opportunity to purchase items which will be donated to children/people in Ethiopia....a donkey for the women on Entoto Mountain, to help carry their loads; a sheep which will feed 40 children (like these that we picked up in Addis Ababa and fed to the children of Korah). Your money is put to work well when you make these purchases.....donations for the people of Ethiopia and 40% of the purchase price toward the $30,000.00 costs of bringing our little girl home.

Last but not least, from today through midnight on the 11th there is a grant contest going on. Ordinary Hero will give $500.00 each to the top three sellers during this period of time.

Head on over to the ORDINARY HERO STORE and see what you can find. Don't order for us to receive credit for you purchase, you must choose "kelley williams" from the drop-down affiliate menu.