The Five of Us, Spring 2014

The Five of Us, Spring 2014

Christmas letter

I also thought I'd throw the text of our Christmas letter up here for those of you who didn't receive one. It gives a pretty good overview of our journey of adoption and a couple other things. Here you go:

Dear Family and Friends,

What a year we’ve been having! And, life is about to radically change for us in the next year. It all began with two encounters with God early last spring…

Aaron and I had signed up for a Growth Group through our church, but the very first night we were to meet together, Aaron had a business dinner he couldn’t miss. We decided that I would go by myself and he would meet me there as soon as he could slip away. As the time approached when he thought he’d be there, I became more and more attuned to every noise outside the house. Each time a car door slammed, my heart paused in anticipation. Even a cat’s meow was enough to raise my excitement that it might be Aaron coming. When he eventually did come in, I was thoroughly delighted to see him—as was clearly written in my smile. He hugged and kissed me and sat down next me, but he looked a little giddy and nervous. I whispered, “What’s the matter?!” He whispered back, “You’re just so happy to see me!” At that moment, God dropped a question into my heart: “Why don’t you wait on me like that?” I was a bit startled and prayed, “What do you mean?” I felt him say, “Every time Aaron didn’t show up, you got more excited for his arrival. But, when you wait on me, you get more disappointed each time I don’t show up the way you think I should.” Oh, he was so right. It pained me to realize how unfair I had been toward him for years. “Please, Lord, teach me to wait on you expecting to be delighted rather than disappointed!” He has taught me that throughout this year, but more on that in a moment…

I said there were two encounters last spring. Aaron and I were talking in the car on the way home from the same Growth Group another night. I mentioned to him that our life was a little too…average…mediocre…boring. So, we prayed together, sensing that God had something more for us, but we didn’t yet know what. The anticipation began to build….

Meanwhile, we had been trying to conceive “baby #2” for many months. Although Punk’s conception was very easy, it just wasn’t happening this time. Before we got married we had discussed what we’d do if we ever ran into fertility problems. For several reasons, we thought adoption would be the right road for us. So, while we tried for 9 months to get pregnant, we were also thinking about, and doing a little research into, adoption. One day during that time Aaron said to me that he felt that if we adopted, it would be a black baby. I pretty much brushed him off thinking, “We’re the whitest people in the whitest city—I doubt it!” But, at the same time, our attention was being drawn to the immense crisis of AIDS in Africa (and around the world). We are deeply touched by the plight of a continent where a generation is being wiped out by a preventable, treatable disease, and the next generation is thus being orphaned. The statistics are staggering and a sense of urgency grew within us. Then, in March, my OB/Gyn told us that secondary infertility isn’t uncommon and that we should try for 3 more months and then talk about treatment. We started researching adoption more earnestly at that point, feeling that infertility treatment was not the right path for us.

So, late in March, we attended an “Information Seminar” at a local adoption agency. On the way there, I prayed that it wouldn’t be a “talking head in front of an audience” sort of seminar and that God would weed out a few families so we could have a more intimate conversation with the adoption professionals. Well, it turned out that we were the only ones there that night, so we spent an hour with the agency’s director, Stephanie, asking our questions and learning a lot. At this point, we hadn’t even decided whether we were going to adopt, much less made any decisions pertaining to the specific child we’d be looking to add to our family. The only thing we knew is that we probably wanted a boy and definitely a baby under age 1. Stephanie was excited that we were basically “wide open” and began to tell us about all the different programs they work with, domestically and internationally. We were in information-gathering mode and soaking up all this data. After awhile, however, Stephanie said, “Oh, and we just started working with a new organization in Liberia, West Africa.” At that point, Aaron and I both welled up with tears in our eyes, for no apparent reason. Though we would have been hard pressed to find this country on a map (look for it on the bottom of the western “bump” of Africa, near the Ivory Coast and Ghana), we asked some more questions, and continued to cry as each hope of our hearts was being met in this program. There were many other orphanages around the world with equally needy children, but our reaction to the Liberia program was a surprise to both of us and a response to God’s calling. On the way home, we asked God to confirm this direction by increasing our desire over the next two weeks, or to take the desire away instead.

Two weeks later, we sent in our application to the Liberian agency, Acres of Hope (, if you’re interested). When we received the call that we were admitted into the program, we were told of a little boy in a unique situation and in need of a home, whom the staff thought might be a fit for our family. The only thing was, he was 2 ½ and Punk wasn’t 2 yet. Conventional adoption wisdom says not to adopt a child older than the oldest you have at home (and so did my mother!). Besides, we wanted a baby. Aaron and I talked about it, and decided we would wait for a match with an infant. For a few days after we’d made this decision, Aaron kept bringing up this little boy. I eventually told him, “You’re going to guilt me into accepting this referral! Please don’t talk about Pence again.” And, I put him out of my mind.

A month and a half later, in June, it seemed all I could think about was Pence for three days straight. On that third day, we went out for dinner. I’m sure that the waitress thought that we were breaking up or something, because I was just crying my eyes out. I told Aaron that I’d been thinking about Pence again, and asked if he’d had similar thoughts. He said, “I never stopped thinking about him.” Face salty-wet, I asked, “So, what do we do now?” We decided that the first step would be to call the agency and find out if Pence was still available. I found out that he was and received his pictures through email. When the first picture opened, I knew this was my boy and I was his mama. Here was this precious face with huge, sad eyes looking as if to say, “Come for me. Come, be my family.”

While all this was happening, we were moving along with learning all about adoption, specifically trans-racial, international adoption. We had been and have been filling out form after form, reading book after book, and basically grabbing onto anything we can related to Liberia and adoption. It has not been a “typical” adoption journey, and certainly not smooth. In fact, life gets less average, mediocre, and boring by the month. And, God has kept me in his perfect peace which completely astounds my understanding through every setback. Instead of being disappointed, I truly have been growing in expectation, looking forward to being thoroughly delighted!

We expect to have Pence home with us within the next 7 to 12 months. And, in the interim, the desire for a wee baby hasn’t left me, so we have asked to also be matched with a baby girl from Liberia (Pence has no known biological siblings and is a true orphan). The timing of bringing her home depends on the timing of the match—it could be before we can get Pence home, or at the same time. So, our waiting-delight is doubled! I know that those of you who have more than one child are thinking, “Yep, no more mediocrity for them!” :)

Punk loves to look at Pence’s pictures on the computer and has even tried to pry open the screen whining, “Come out! Come out!” He is excited to have his new brother come home. One day in line at Wal*Mart, he was talking with a stranger who asked, “What’s your name?” He quietly replied, “Punky!” The man said, “Punky? Did you say Punky?” Our little tiger cub got that twinkle in his eye and said, “No! Pence!” I had to laugh! I said, “No! You are Punk; Pence is your brother!” Punk laughed too, but continued to insist that he was indeed, “Pence!”

This summer Aaron was able to travel to Arizona to visit Grandma and Grandpa Whitmer. He brought back enough of Grandpa’s machinery to create a nice woodshop for himself. “My boys” spend hours in the garage building projects (mostly from the list I gave Aaron!). We already have a set of toy shelves for all Punk’s things, an organizer for the office area, and a chair/stool for Punk. Next on the list are a shoe organizer for the entryway and bunk-beds for the boys. Aaron fully enjoys creating these pieces and his skill improves with every project. And, Punk loves helping Daddy.

Punk is a typical 2 ½ year old boy. He thrills to see any truck or digger in action, and these are his favorite toys, too. Tools of every sort come in a close second. Outside is always the best place to be, whether it’s 100°+ or only 20°. He’s clearing all the normal developmental hurdles for his age, including lengthening into more adult proportions and chattering in complete sentences and conversations. I love his budding imagination and sense of humor. He’s truly a joy to be with.

Aaron and I continue to assist another couple in working with the young adults at church. It is exciting to see them growing in leadership and outreach. In addition, I joined the women’s ministry leadership team and enjoy challenging the women of our church to fulfill their potential. And, Aaron continues to garner the respect of his colleagues at Micron. They recently re-created the promotion ladder and had to invent a new designation just for Aaron! (Well, maybe not just for him, but pretty close!)

Whether we see you often or just update you by Christmas letter once a year, we value your friendship. We hope and pray that your Christmas is (was?!) filled with worship and joy and all the people you most cherish.

With faith, hope, and joy,
Rachel, Aaron, Punk, Pence, and "baby girl"


My Man and Me

My Man and Me
married 7/7/2001


ours through biology, born 7/25/2004, home 8/1/2004


ours through adoption from Liberia, West Africa, born 7/15/2005, home 10/25/2007


ours through domestic adoption, born 1/15/2011, home 2/10/2011, final 8/3/2011

Talk To Me

I blog for myself and my kids and I would do it even if no one else cared, but I do like to hear from you (and think it's a wee bit creepy of you to voyeurize us without my knowing it). So, please leave a comment from time to time, or email me anytime at Much obliged, I'm sure.

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Round Two Timeline

  • 9/24/08 Home study update home visit for Ghana adoption
  • 10/15/08 Dossier sent to AOHG
  • 10/15/08 I600A application sent to USCIS
  • 10/30/08 First heard about possible domestic private adoption
  • 11/18/08 Last spoke with contact about possible domestic adoption; expected to hear back about meeting with birthmother
  • 12/3/08 Withdrew application from AOHG
  • 1/6/09 Found out another family had been chosen for possible domestic adoption
  • 1/21/09 USCIS fingerprinting appointment
  • 1/8/09 Received USCIS fingerprinting appointment notice
  • 4/11/09 Sent Pre-Application to Covenant Care Adoptions for Domestic Infant Adoption program
  • 6/8/09 Social worker visit to update home study from International to Domestic
  • 7/24/09 Received completed home study update
  • 8/25/09 Went "on the list" for birthfamilies to choose from
  • 4/28/10 Found out a birth mom had chosen us
  • 5/8/10 Met the birth mom
  • 5/11/10 Got the call that birth mom changed her mind
  • 5/19/10 Birth mom's scheduled c-section
  • 11/30/10 Visit from DSS sw about foster parenting
  • 11/30/10 Got the call that another birth mom had chosen us
  • 12/21/10 Met with the birth mom
  • 1/15/11 @1:42 PM BB was born!
  • 1/19/11 ICPC (interstate) paperwork sent to GA for approval
  • 1/31/11 ICPC Clearance Approved
  • 2/10/11 Placement Ceremony and Pup comes home!!!!
  • 8/3/11 It's Official! Pup's Adoption Decree was issued