Friday, December 30, 2011

Merry Christmas & T-shirts

I know I'm about five days late but I wanted to share with everyone about our Christmas and the progress of our adoption. This was the year to spend Christmas with Meghan's family so the plan was to drive out to Colorado (a long 15+ hour drive if we didn't stop). The week of, Meghan and my mom were both getting pretty scared because there was a huge storm supposed to hit New Mexico and Colorado the day we were leaving and we were planning to drive our little Honda Civic. Fortunately, we got a call at about 7:30pm the night before we were leaving and some family friends decided that they wanted to fly us out so we wouldn't have to waste two or more days driving and would be a lot safer. We were pretty ecstatic and gladly accepted the free plane tickets. Turns out it was even a bigger blessing than we thought as some friends driving to New Mexico got stuck along the same route we were planning to drive and had to wait a day until the roads reopened.

We had an amazing time with Meg's siblings, just hanging out for a week. Christmas was a blast and Meg and I both agree that it was the best vacation we have probably had since we've been married. Cameron and Ellie got us this really cool little globe bank that would could use to continue saving up for adoption.
One of the other ways we plan to save up is by selling some shirts that we made. Meghan drew out the design by hand of Africa and I think they came out pretty cool. We are selling them for $20, so let me know if you want one. As you probably know or have guessed adoption is pretty expensive so every little bit helps. We have been so blessed to have so many friends and family that are supporting us through this.  If you feel really generous your welcome the adoption agency we are using has a place on their website where you can give directly to them and designate it to us. I put up a link on the main page of this blog that you can click and it will take you directly to it. Just make sure you select the 'Eternal Family Program' from the designation drop down menu and then write "For Brandon and Meghan Southall" in the notes section at the bottom. I believe that this may be a tax deductible donation as America World Adoption is a non-profit 501c3 (you may want to double check with someone before claiming though).

As of right now we have finished all of our paperwork and we are in the process of getting certified by the state of Arizona. We should be certified sometime in January, which then allows our family coordinator to finalize the paperwork to send to Ethiopia. We know that we are still a long ways out (we really have no idea of how long), but our excitement grows with each completed step. Please continue to pray for us and that God would bring us the perfect child in his timing. We appreciate all of you who have and continue to pray for us and those that decide to help out financially. God has blessed us with this opportunity and continues to reveal himself to us in new ways each day as we embark on this process.

Here are the pictures of us and some of our family in the shirts.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Final Home Study!

Yay! On Tuesday, November 15th, 2011, we met up with our social worker for the 3rd and final time! We drove down to Gilbert and met up with Trina again at the library. Brandon and I weren't sure what to expect for this home study. We knew that at some point she would interview us separately. We were trying to think of all the possible tricky questions she would ask. But no matter what she asked, through this whole process we have been at peace with all of our interviews because we never had anything to hide. Anyway, it was SO easy! The 3 of us met up in a study room and we answered a few more questions than we split up. Brandon left and she interviewed me first. She just asked about my childhood and my work background. I don't really understand why we had to be split up for these questions. I probably went into too much detail about my life hahah. But overall, I had a great childhood and am thankful to my parents and siblings for the childhood I had! After my questions, I left and Brandon came in and she asked him the same questions. He was a lot more brief about his childhood. After we was done with his interview, I joined them and we were done. We were probably there for only 45 min. So easy!

So, everything on our part of the home study is complete! Trina just has to finish writing up and putting together our home study. She might have it all done by the end of this month. After that, our completed home study will get reviewed by us and our family coordinator with our adoption agency. Once it's finalized, it will get notarized and submitted to Maricopa County for approval. It has until the middle of January to be approved. That approved home study will than go into our dossier (paper work that will go to Ethiopia). For the dossier, we have pretty much all of our documents compiled for that. We just have to get a few more letters of recommendation and write up a cover letter for the dossier. So we should have ALL of our paper work done and approved by January 2012! Yay!

It's crazy to think that this stage of the adoption process is almost complete and that we're looking onto the next stage! Brandon and I are still trying to understand what this next step looks like. As far as we know, it looks like our paperwork will be translated and be submitted to Ethiopia. Than after that we wait! We wait for a referral of a child or children that meet our criteria. This waiting time could be a few months to over a year. We are praying and hoping that this time will be short! Or that if it is long, that we will be able to take advantage of this waiting time to prepare in whatever ways we can.

Please continue to pray that things in our paper work go smoothly and quickly. And be praying for our children (and the parents and families they come from). I'm ready to met our kids, bring them home and to start our lives with them! But our lives and this process is and has always been in God's timing. I will rejoice in the peace that that brings! Isaiah 55:8-9- "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Brandon and I just love this verse and find rest in it.

3rd & Final Home Study

Well I figured it was about time I (Brandon) jump in and add a little something to the blog. Before I tell you about our last Home Study experience let me share a little of my heart and perspective on this whole deal. We are now a few months in and it is starting to feel a little more real. As Meghan probably already said this is something we have wanted to do and talked about for a while. God is using this process to bring us closer to him and Meghan and I closer to each other. One of the biggest things for me is actually living by faith and not by sight. I have had a fairly easy life. I have amazing parents that have always provided for me in every way and given me more than I needed in any situation. I have had little things come into my life that stretched me (Broken Neck, parents moving away, etc.) but nothing that has really caused me to fully walk by faith and not by sight. The decision to adopt has always been one that sounded exciting but I never really thought through the whole process until a few months ago. I am a very analytical thinker and like to see where I am going well before I start in a direction, or as my former Professor Tim Reed would say "Begin with the end in mind." This is definitely not the proper context that he was referring to, but for the most part this is how I have lived my life. Adoption is a whole different ball game. When you begin there are many things you do not know and the big one is when it will the whole process end. Jumping into the adoption process has definitely been a step of faith for Meghan and I. We began not knowing much of anything, including where all of the money would come from, but we truly felt God calling us to take this step. We still have a lot of unanswered questions, including how long this process will take, but we are excited and praying daily for the child or hopefully children we will receive. We trust that God is in control and will bless us in His timing. One thing I have learned so far is that God isn't always going to make things happen in your life that will cause you to start trusting Him and walk by faith. More often than not God is waiting for us to step out in faith and He will step up and show His power and faithfulness. Far too after we wait around for some sign from God or for Him to push us into something. I truly believe we need to step up and start looking for ways to be a part of God's greater story happening all around us. God wants us to join in and be a part of something bigger than us. Right now for us that is adoption. To be a part of giving new life to a child in need of a family. We are stoked to be a part of what God is doing.

Last, Tuesday night we went back out to Gilbert for our 3rd and final home study visit. We had a little anticipation for this one because we were told that we would be interviewed individually. We weren't sure what questions they would ask but were curious why it would need to be done separately. Turns out it was no big deal at all, and we still aren't sure why they need to do the interviews separately. Trina, our social worker, basically asked us a few questions about our childhood and family life. Meghan went first and took probably around 20-30 minutes. Since we were at the library I scanned the Autobiographies section and ended reading Albert Pujols' book "More than a Game." Turns out he is sold out to his faith and regularly shares his faith with his teammates and even shares the Gospel to runners on first base while he is playing. Gave me some good material for my lesson the next morning at Northwest Christian School's weekly chapel. Anyways, Meg came out and it was my turn for interrogation. The funny thing for me is that Trina looks exactly like one of our youth workers at Church, Alana Heater. The only thing that reminds me I'm not talking to Alana is that Trina has a little bit of an accent I'm guessing from Minnesota. Like I said, Meghan took about 20 minutes or so but I was done in less than five. I'm not much of a talker unless you have very specific questions or I have my Bible open and given an opportunity to teach. When asked how my childhood was my answer was pretty simple. Good. I have great parents that were very involved in my life and took great care of me. Didn't have much else to say. Pretty sure Meghan answered the same way, just took a little longer. It was a pretty quick visit, probably spent twice as much time driving there and back than we did talking with her. The good thing for us was that we were able to turn in the last of the paperwork for the home study process. Now all that needs to be done is for Trina to put it all together and submit it to the state so we can get certified. She said we should have our certification no later than January. This means we are simply one step closer. Still not sure how many more steps there will be but we are moving forward and trusting God for his provision and timing all along the way.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

2nd Home Study

Sorry for the delay on our updating...

On October 25th, 2011, we had our scheduled home study with our social worker. Our social worker, Trina, was to come to our house, check it out and interview us. Brandon and I just had some more paper work that we needed to continue to gather but we really didn't have anything that we needed to do to prepare. We didn't feel anxious or stressed in getting ready for her to come visit our house. I feel like in every t.v. show or movie that deals with adoption, the adopting couple has major anxiety in having their social worker coming to their house. We felt quite the opposite. It's not like we had anything to hide and Brandon & I are on the same page about pretty much everything. Also, our social worker is on our side, trying to help us out. We had also met Trina at our first orientation so we didn't feel so nervous.

Anyway, the evening was fairly simple. Trina came over and we all sat on the couch and chatted. She asked us some questions like, how we deal with grief, describe each other, how we are preparing culturally for adopted children, how we met, and so on. Like I sad earlier, Brandon and I were very much on the same page, so answering these questions were fairly easy. After about an hour of answering questions, we took her on a brief tour of our home. The only things that she really had to check for was if we had guns, a pool, and where the kids' bedroom would be. Simple.

That was about it. The second of our three meetings with her was over. We went ahead and scheduled our last meeting down in Mesa for November 10th. The only paper left to gather for our home study paper work are my employment verification letter from Starbucks, local police clearance letters, and general physical examinations. We should have all of those done in the next week or so. Yay!

It is truly neat to see just how God is already providing for us. Before Trina visited us, we had to make a payment to the agency. And God provided that money for us. I am truly humbled for the way God works and just how much people love us, trust us, and want to come along side of us and partner in bringing our children home. This whole process still seems so surreal. I continually find peace as God guides us step by step through this journey. I feel as though it's the opposite of what everyone imagines the adoption process to be- crazy and stressful.

I am reminded of how the adoption process that Brandon and I are going through is so paralleled to Christ adopting us as His children. Brandon and I are spending so much time and resources preparing for our child. And God did the same for us (but on a much greater scale!). It is so neat just to see God's handy work in it all (even if it is all just paper work). Thank you O Lord for adopting us as Your children and allowing us to have this opportunity to have a glimpse into who You are. To Your Glory alone.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


To get us all up to speed, we had our long awaited orientation meeting with our home study person on Tuesday, October 11th, 2011. When we got into the Ethiopian adoption program with America World, they emailed a ton of paper work to start chipping away at and assigned us to two women who would help us through the process. One lady, Trina, is here in Arizona, and she is helping us put together our home study and paper work for the courts here in Maricopa county. The other lady, Lauren, is at the corporate office in VA. She is helping us to put the dossier together that will be sent to Ethiopia. Anyway,  it's been a few months of just trying to do what we thought we needed to do with no real results or understanding of where we are in this whole process. In like August we had scheduled an orientation with Trina for October 11th. It felt so far away. We had some paper work that we needed to bring and some money we needed to pay.

Well, the Tuesday finally came. And we were just a little bit of slackers. Ha! We had most of the paper work we needed to give to Trina ready to go.. except for an autobiography for each of us and a financial work sheet. So that Tuesday afternoon, I came to the church and Brandon and I wrote up our autobiographies. I sat in the youth center at the sound booth on the computer there and quickly typed through all of the points that I needed to cover in my autobiography. While Brandon wrote his up in his office. We finished just in time but than I remembered that we needed to finish up our financial work sheet. Brandon was a little frustrated at me for saving this to the very end to finish. But he got that all finished up for us. We ran out the door and drove across town and headed to the South East Regional Library in Gilbert. Some how we only managed to get there just a few minutes late.

We meet with Trina and another couple who is at the same point in the adoption process and is also adopting from Ethiopia. Trina just went through pretty much everything that we had read in the paperwork and books. But it gave us a little better understanding of what was going on. We turned in our paper work plus anymore paper work that we had completed. It felt good to just lighten up our stack of papers and felt like we were getting stuff done.

This first orientation actually counted as one of the 3 times that we were meeting with our home study person (Trina). (I am not really sure what she is-- if she's a social worker or what.) That was awesome! We didn't even know that this was counting as one. We only have two more meetings with her! And we went ahead and scheduled our next meeting two weeks from the 11th. Trina will be coming to our house on October 25th. I feel like we're actually moving in this process! We just need to finish up the rest of our paper work for our home study. (Also, right before we met up with Trina, I emailed her to see what we needed to pay but we ended up not having to pay this time. Yay, so we have a few more weeks to come up with some money.) Which is cool, we should be able to complete our home study by around the holiday time. (Our home study is written up about us and will get approved by the county. Than that will be put into our dossier which is sent to Ethiopia.)

The other couple at the meeting had all of their paperwork in an organized notebook. Whereas, I had all of our paperwork in a jumbled stack of manilla folders. I got ultra motivated when we got home and completely organized our paper work. I bought a new notebook, put everything in order, put all of the paperwork in plastic sleeves, tabbed all of the pages, and made a table of contents. After the meeting, Trina emailed us the rest of the paper work we needed to complete so I inserted that list into the front of the binder. Awww, it's so pretty! (I haven't made very many copies of my paperwork so far, which I hope won't matter right now... but i'm going to be better!)

So to sum up all my ramblings, the meeting went well. We already have one of our meetings done out of our 3. We have a few more weeks to save some money. Turned in paperwork and the paperwork we have left won't be too difficult. Our next meeting is in two weeks. We should be done with all of this home study work around the holidays and move on to the next step. Getting closer to bringing our kids home! The whole thing is starting to become more real feeling!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


And I am back working at Starbucks...

After quitting Starbucks last March 2011, I assumed that when I finished my last shift at Starbucks, I would not be back behind that counter again. I was just so exhausted and burnt out. I was a supervisor working more hours than I wanted. I didn't have another job lined up and our financial situation didn't really add up on paper just living off of Brandon's salary. Brandon and I prayed about me quitting and felt peace about leaving. God is greater than money and He continues to provide for us. We knew it was time for me to take a break from Starbucks.  I was excited to get to jump in fully into youth ministry with Brandon and really getting involved in other ministries as well. The summer was great! It was wonderful getting to go on all of the trips that I did and all of the coffee dates with students and friends I got to go on!

The plan when I quit at Starbucks in the spring, was to start looking for another job again in the fall after all the business of summer was over. As much as I have really enjoyed getting plugged into various ministries at church, I don't get paid and we're trying to save for adoption & life after we get our kids. I started seeking possible job opportunities. But nothing really seemed to fit... I am not really qualified for the jobs I want (like graphic design or teaching), I didn't really want a full-time career job so that I could still stay plugged into ministry. I have my college degree but nowhere that seemed to need it or it's not in the right area for jobs. Nothing was lining up for a job, so I was pretty much looking for anything. If I couldn't find a job that was exciting or something I wanted to do, I just wanted somewhere that has a good work atmosphere.

I would meet a lot of people for coffee at my old old Starbucks that I worked at (the store that I worked at before the store that I quit from in the spring). It always seemed like when I got to that store, the sweet store manager there would always ask me if I wanted to come back and work for her. I generally smiled and said no. Than about a month ago, Tracy, the manager, asked me again when I was in there, and I said no again. But after I left that day, the thought kept coming back to my mind about working at that store. With other potential jobs not working out for some reason or another. I felt more and more like this might be the place to go. I prayed about it and sent Tracy a text about talking about coming to work for her. I went in to meet up with Tracy, I shared with her that I wanted to just work part-time as a simple barista. That's exactly what she needed! I started picking up shifts that week. And so far, I have had a great schedule with not too many hours (exactly what I want) and I am only really responsible for myself and my attitude.

Going back to work at Starbucks truly wasn't in my plan. My pride and stubborn personality (at times), often gets in my way, which made me so reluctant to return. I had to remember that in the past, Starbucks has always been pretty accommodating to me and to my schedule. It was such a blessing when I went back, Tracy & the district manager were able to get me an adjusted pay. So I wouldn't have to start back at the bottom of the pay scale. It is cool how they already valued me and my past time at Starbucks.

I have skipped over one of the major reasons I went back to Starbucks. Starbucks has this cool program to assist employees who are adopting! They reimburse up to $4000 of our adoption cost!!! $4000 seems small compared to the $25,000-$35,000 we have to come up with total for the cost of our adoption. But that's $4000 that we don't have! And every penny will help. Any employee (any level) can qualify for the adoption assistance as long as they work an average of 20 hours a week. I mentioned to Tracy that I would like to average 20 hours to benefit from this help and she was excited to make that happen for us. So cool! What other job is going to offer their part-time employee money like that to use with whatever part of adoption we need?! Thank you Lord! I may not always agree with all that Starbucks is, but God is using them in our life.

So, I get to start saving money working part-time. (Some money is better than none!) My schedule has great and fits into my busy life (I am working just the right amount of hours). Starbucks is blessing us by reimbursing us $4000 in our adoption process. I get all the perks again (free coffee & discounts)! As a barista I just show up and work and leave (no running things or worrying about stuff). But most importantly, my goal whenever I work is to be a light for Christ in this dark world. I get that opportunity again. And this time working at Starbucks, I feel like I have a renewed purpose. Before when I worked there, I felt stuck (which is not that right attitude, because I need to be working hard for Christ not myself and not finding glory for myself). I was a college graduate working at a job that a 16 year-old can do. But now, I am working for my children. I am working to get money to bring them home!

Thank you my Lord and my Provider for not allowing me & my pride to get in Your way. You continue to humble me and mold me into the women you want me to be. Thank you, O Lord, for the continual work that you are doing in my life. This life is for Your glory.

Friday, September 23, 2011

National Geographic

I randomly came across a National Geographic show on Netflix that was titled China's Lost Girls. We watched it tonight. It was about American couples going to China to adopt baby girls. It was neat watch. I'm pretty sure that I'd be ok with adopting a baby girl from China too! It's just so crazy to think that someday Brandon and I will have a similar experience of traveling to Ethiopia to meet out child and see where they come from. It just feels so far off. It almost feels like that day might never come. I'm sure that's how parents who are pregnant feel with their due dates so far off. We have a rough time frame of 10-24 months but it's not like we have a due date. But God knows. God knows exactly when He wants to give us our little ones. He knows exactly the day when Brandon and I will be ready to be parents. I rest in that peace. He is the Creator and I am merely the created. He is always in control.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paper Pregnancy

Currently, we're just chipping away at our 4-6 month stage of the adoption process we're in. I think that there are 21 documents and packets. And 6 books we're reading through...
Ha ha some of the books have some interesting, dated covers
All the paper work I printed off. Yep, definitely used up a lot of ink.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

In the beginning

So, where to begin...
I never really thought that we’d ever start a blog. But for the last few weeks I have been thinking that I want to document our process of adoption to be able to look back on & reflect and than to share with our kids. 
For years people have asked us repeatedly, “when are you going to have kids??” Brandon and I have always responded with “in a few years”. No big. We had our plan. But that’s the problem, we were on OUR timing and OUR plan. We asked God to bless our path but His plan is greater. Our plan was not His. 
For a few years, I lived in fear of the responsibility of parenting and protecting them. Through different things and people that God revealed to me, I realized that in parenting  it wouldn’t be me trying and stressing over bringing up my kids right but guiding them in the way of the Lord. Training them not to fear the world but to be a light unto the world. And that through it all, it’s not Brandon and my strength, it’s through Christ alone and it’s all for His glory. I am sure that a lot of people already know this but this was something I struggled with but now I felt as though I could take on parenting. I was ready to do this! 
My timing is not God’s. Brandon and I tried for nearly two years to get pregnant. We watched as literally every one around us was getting pregnant. Super discouraging, yet over these couple years, God has shaped us, stretched us, taught us, revealed Himself to us, and drew Brandon and I even closer together. (Maybe another time I’ll share some more about this time in our lives.) Anyway, it brought us to the point of getting some infertility testing done and guess what, there is absolutely nothing wrong with us at this point! There was nothing that we really needed to fix. I loved this. This just confirmed that fact to us that God has been in control of our fertility this whole time. There is nothing that we could do in our own human ways to fix the fact that we weren’t pregnant. We could have potentially started into fertility treatments but we had both always felt that we wanted to adopt. We had just figured that we would have kids first through us and than adopt. 
Well, God, of course has His plans and His timing. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9. We felt more and more that God wants us to walk down the road of adoption now, not later. So here we are. 
In the spring of 2011, we started praying, searching through adoption agencies, and just trying to figure out where to begin. We both were leaning towards adopting from Africa. In June 2011, we decided on an adoption agency and submitted our application into the Ethiopia adoption program. We got accepted into the program and have started our journey of getting our child(ren). 
When I say child or children, Brandon and I are open to a boy or a girl, a sibling pair, or twins. We don’t know what God has for us. That’s what we are learning. Brandon and I are stepping out in faith not knowing what’s ahead. But that’s what faith is all about. We are trusting in Him. We want His way not our own. 
It is overwhelming to see all the paper work,  steps that we need to go through and the money that we need to come up with. God is greater than all this. God is greater than paper work and money. We have faith that He will provide. 
Through these past few years, we never really shared with anyone this part of our life. It's exciting just to be sharing this! It is making it all more real. Thank you already for being apart of this journey with us!