Sunday, December 29, 2013

PRAY for Ethiopia!!!!

Dec 26th started the process of my heart breaking for the children of Ethiopia and each day since it is becoming more real that what I thought was a rumor story, may be a reality.  If you haven't heard, this heart breaking news is that there are a lot of important people in Ethiopia wanting to close doors on international adoption.  The final step, from what I have heard, is the prime minister will have to agree in order for this to occur.  Yes, this is a punch in the gut for our family who is in the process of adopting and although I haven't seen her face, I know our daughter is in Ethiopia, I just do and so do our boys!  We haven't seen our daughter's face and if we had this would be a whole new level of heart breaking but there ARE families who have seen their child's face and have even met them but because of where they are in the paperwork process, their children could become stuck without a family and grow up in an orphanage in Ethiopia...Please PLEASE pray for this country, for the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, for these families, and most importantly for the children!!!! 

I am writing letters, sending FB messages, posting pictures and doing anything I can to help show the government how children can thrive, be happy and have success stories when being adopted internationally and I am asking you to do the same if you can.  You can email your success story, as well as can contact local and state representatives.

Here's the letter I emailed to the Ethiopian embassy tonight:

To Whom It May Concern in Regards to International Adoptions in Ethiopia:

My name is Joely O'Neal and I am married with 2 children, our 5 year old biological son and our 8 year old adopted Ethiopian son.  Our family has a heart for children who are growing up without mothers and fathers and feel that God has called us to take action and be a family to children who are without.  We do not adopt because we can't have kids on our own, we do not adopt to fulfill something we need but we adopt because we have been blessed by growing up in a family and want the same for all the children in this world.  My heart aches for children who don't know the true love of a mother or father, the children who are starving, in pain, sad and are growing up with a life no one would ever want for their own child.  I would hope that if something happened to myself, my husband or our family and we couldn't care for our child, that someone else would step up and take care of them the way we would, so why wouldn't I do the same for someone else?  I didn't know my older son's biological family before I met him but I knew he was given up out of love to be cared for as he was sick and malnourished.  I knew God called us to be the family to him that his biological father wanted.  We were blessed to be able to meet our son's father while in-country for court and were able to (via translator) speak to him, show him pictures and ask him questions so he would know where his son would be and know more about who his son's new family was. 
We have been beyond blessed that God brought a (then) 7 year old boy into our life. A child who had been waiting in the orphanages in southern Ethiopia and then in Addis for 2 years. This boy was shy, malnourished, embarrassed and in pain due to his teeth, had difficulty communicating since he had to learn a new language when moving to Addis, was not doing well in school and didn't show affection towards anyone. Today, almost 18 months later, our now 8 year old son is out-going, has a lot of friends, loves playing on his soccer team, is healthy and has gained 20 pounds and grown 5 inches, has a mouth full of healthy, pain-free teeth, talks non-stop, says please and thank you and knows right from wrong, is a rule-abider, giggles when he gets hugged and now hugs back. He also is very intelligent and has a heart for other orphaned children and is excited to have a sister from Ethiopia someday as well as is excited to go back to Ethiopia with us to visit his biological family and bring gifts to children who are there living without moms and dads.  We attend church regularly and he has grown to know who Jesus is and has accepted him as his savior earlier this year.  We celebrate our son's biological father on father's day, his late mother on mother's day and we talk about his siblings often. We look at pictures from Ethiopia, watch videos we took while there and he shares memories he has from his childhood.  We celebrate Genna and cook Ethiopian foods for him. We meet up with many of his friends from Ethiopia quite often and he knows we love Ethiopia and want him to always know where he came from. Our younger, biological son, loves his big brother and anticipates a younger sister from Ethiopia and cannot wait to travel there to meet her and see where his big brother came from. We are a blessed family and we have more room in our home and more love in our hearts to give and are praying that Ethiopia will allow us to once again give a child or children a forever family, hope, love and a life that embraces their country and it's culture.
We understand that not every adoption story turns out the way ours has and our family is not perfect, like any new situation there was adjustments, ups and downs and mixed emotions but was it worth it all?  Absolutely!  We also know that it is everyone's responsibility to make sure practices are done ethically and in the best interest of the children and we are thankful for any laws to occur to protect these children as much as possible.  With that said we are praying that it is known that completely shutting down the ability to allow international adoptions to occur, decreases the number of chances some of these children will ever have to survive an illness they have, to have a mom and dad and to grow up knowing the love of a family and thrive in this world.  It is my goal to raise my children to grow up  loving Jesus and become loving individuals who live to bless others and be world changers. 
In closing, please know we are praying for these decisions, praying for the children who are waiting and have been waiting, praying for the children who need medicine that may not be available there, medical treatment that may not be available there right now, praying for the people who have had to relinquish their children out of love who are praying for a family to come in and care for their child when they couldn't and of course we always are praying for these situations to not even exist, for food and clean water to be abundant, for shelter and clothing to be available and for all children to feel loved.  We (as Americans) know and appreciate that we are plan C...we are here to help and to be a family to children in need but we are thankful for processes to be in place to make sure these children can't be cared for by other family members or other Ethiopians before allowing us to be there. 
With Love and Concern,
Joely O'Neal
Ada, Oklahoma, USA

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Ready to Submit our Dossier!!!!!

We are moving right along in this next adoption (3-4 mths ahead of our last adoption timeline) and are praying daily that God will guide every step and open all the doors needed. With the holidays it seems like the paperwork and fund-raising has been put on the back burner although it is on my mind daily and honesty, hourly. We don't know who she is yet or if there are 1 or 2 girls that God has in mind for our family but we are just doing the steps we can do to be available for the child or children that need a home and a family and the rest is in His timing. We have our dossier basically finished with 2 small things left to do and it can be sent off but I guess I have been putting it off because until we have the next fee to submit, there really is no rush on getting it turned in. 
As it stands right now we need $3,308 more to go before we can submit our dossier and we have 2 great fundraisers going on right now but I have been slacking on getting the word out about them so I guess better late than never :) 
Through an amazing organization called Ordinary Hero (OH), people are able to make donations to them on behalf of our family and they are TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!!  This will last beyond the end of this year but with Jan 1st being 6 DAYS AWAY, I wanted to make sure I got it out there in case someone is praying about the perfect place to make their "end of the year" donation.  There is a small percentage taken out of the overall donation to go to OH but they do such wonderful things all over the world and need all the help they can get to keep doing what they do. 
To make a tax deductible donation on behalf of our adoption you can go here:
Also through OH, we are an affiliate adopting family which means we can sell their t-shirts, hats, ornaments, travel mugs, etc and get 40% of the proceeds. This also is AMAZING because most organizations and opportunities to sell items only allow for 20% or less so 40% is HUGE! The money gets sent right to our agency every month in our name. Many have asked if we were selling t-shirts soon and have even requested shirts but right now we really have a lot on our plates and instead of making our own shirts again, we are just going to be selling Ordinary Hero's.  They really are great quality, cute prints and are good for anyone, adopting or you know anyone you would consider to be a hero to you or someone else?  Or anyone making a difference in this world for any reason?  If so they make the perfect gifts, teachers, pastors, babysitters, family, friends, or of course other adopting families.  
To check out the OH store go here:  when you check out click on "o'neal, joely" as the affiliate name to make sure it goes to our adoption.
Our time-frame at this time is looking like this:
May 2013:  announced our adoption
Sept 2013:   home-study visits completed
Oct  2013:   officially approved to adopt through Adoption Advocates International (AAI)
Nov 2013:   USCIS fingerprints done
Nov 2013:   USCIS approval to adopt a child 0-5 yrs old
The Next Steps:  Save/raise $3,308 to send our dossier to our agency, then we wait for "the call" saying they have a daughter or daughters for us.
I'm not gonna lie, I am already anxious for that day, the day we see the face of our daughter!  Even just saying those words "our daughter", makes me so anxious in such a wonderful way.  Although only God knows how long this wait will be, because our we are able to adopt older and because our agency doesn't have an extreme number of families waiting, likely the wait will not be as long as some experience, 5 families accepted referrals last month alone and 7 families cleared embassy to bring their children home!
In closing Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

We are a WAITING family again!

So it has been 5 months since we announced we are adopting again and so much has happened since May! 

We are so excited to say that we are OFFICIALLY a waiting family with Adoption Advocates International and we are the 11th family in line working on the "paper chase" aka: dossier, to be available to accept a little girl (or girls) into our family.

Every agency is different in how the timeline works out so for some of you reading this, being 11th in line may seem crazy quick to just be starting out and think that must mean we'll be getting our referral very soon and some of you may think 11th in line equates to a LONG wait and truthfully, both may be right.  We are thankful that the agency we are working with believes in matching the child based on best family match but also considering the "order" of families waiting.  So we may truly be the 11th family to get a referral or there may be a child who matches our criteria and no one else and we may be next in line.  You just never know but we are confident that God knows what our family picture is supposed to look like and in His time we will know as well. 

So since May, we completed applications, had our home study and follow up visit completed and started filling a new large PINK binder with all of the forms and information needed for this adoption.  This summer we also were able to complete Fetinet's adoption by finalizing his adoption and getting his US birth certificate so that large binder has been filled to the max and now we can focus on this next one {deep breath....sigh}. 

Our boys are so excited to become big brothers and Jalen has already given his sister a name "Ellapy", knows what she looks like (brown skin, but with yellow hair and green eyes like me apparently) and has bought her a Barbie and made her a pile of things he wants to give her in "her room" which is our spare room/office right now.  He prays for her and likes to draw pictures for her and my heart already melts just thinking about the day he and the rest of us get to meet her. 

So now back on the fundraising train (oh man it felt so good to be off of it for the last 15 months) and our first fundraiser is such an AMAZING opportunity! 

We are running the half marathon in the Chosen Marathon for Adoption in New Braunfels, TX on Oct 26th and have the chance to raise money for our adoption that is tax deductible to those who donate!  Our next financial hurdle is $5,290 and we are praying in the next 3 weeks we will reach this goal.  We know it is a large amount and we are doing everything we can to make some cut-backs and save but we know even still, we can't do it on our own. 

We are asking for help in partnering with us on this journey, making sure there are 1 or 2 less children in this world who will grow up not knowing what the love of a family is.  You can read more about our family and this race here:  O'Neal Family Adoption (part 2).  Also if you would like to come to the race or run on our team please leave me a message or contact me, we'd love to se you!

We are so thankful for the support we have from so many friends, family and even strangers and consider ourselves blessed to be able to be an adopting family!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

You Can Call Us Crazy

Oh where to begin…well, this last year has been a whirlwind.  We traveled to Africa 2 times and brought home our son Fetinet, we went from a family of 3 to 4 and all of our lives were turned upside down and we have all been blessed beyond belief.  From our first announcement of our adoption on Mother’s Day 2010 (, 3 years has past and we have met some pretty amazing people along the way.  Most of which are connected to our adoption story in one way or another.  People we had never known who donated to our adoption or be-friended us are now some of our closest friends and some of them we call family.  

We also have a host of new friends that we will forever know because our children all lived together in Ethiopia and have a very special bond.  As parents to these children we have bonded and have been a huge support system for each other.  You can literally almost link each and every one of us by who called who crying when they first brought their child home and realized the reality of what our new life was, and it wasn’t the happiest of tears either  J  And now we can all look back and smile and laugh about what those first days, weeks, months were like and give wisdom to the newer moms entering the crazy world of adoption (specifically older child Ethiopian adoption). 
Our outlook on life and what our priorities are has been forever changed and through that we have surrendered some things we used to have as priority.  We have seen the need that exists and the devastation that lies in a country far from us and have realized how blessed we are here in America.  Even in the times of being paycheck to paycheck and thinking our lives are stressed beyond belief, we will forever have images imprinted in our head of what it is to be truly hungry, lonely, without shoes or proper clothes and how much just a little bit can change a life.  What we spend on a drive thru meal is what someone else makes in a day or even 1 week’s, worth of work!
Something else we have realized is that, 1.) there are just too many boys in our family right now and 2.) that we have an extra bedroom in our house that only gets used when we have guests in from out of town.  A bedroom that could be filled with another set of little feet or maybe a couple little sets of feet.  And although in our culture to have 3-4 kids in 2 rooms may be seen as not ideal, it is pretty darn ideal in most others.  Sooo, what we are saying is we have another announcement, exactly 3 years later with the same news….WE ARE ADOPTING (again)!!!!  Before you hear it from our boys we figured we needed to get the news out.  They are very excited and ask us quite often about their “sister” (and have requested that she be a “little” sister so they can both be big brothers), when will she be here, how old will she be, when will we go back to Ethiopia, etc.  Unfortunately we can’t answer any of these questions just yet and anticipate that it will be another 2 years before we can.   We can tell you that we did have to check some boxes on our application and they were:   girl, ages 0-5 yrs old, single child, twins or siblings.
You may think we’re crazy and yes we probably are.  Didn’t we just finish the long waits, the emotions, the saving/fundraising/applying for grants, etc?  Wasn’t that stressful enough?  Aren’t we still adjusting to a life with a child only home for 10 mths?  Didn’t we complete our act of doing something good and adopting one child?  Yes that latter sounds pretty unreal to think but I’ve heard it before and I know many do think that way, seriously they do!  But yes, adoption is not for the weak at heart or mind, it is a crazy rollercoaster and full of unknowns and so I guess you can only call us crazy for the fact that we are ready to do it again. 
So with this I have a big favor to ask of anyone reading this.  Will you pray for us?  Pray that we are listening and following what God is leading us to do.  Pray that we have peace in the details of it all and can remember that His plan is not our plan and that His plan is always better. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

One Year Ago Today

I cannot even express how much our lives have changed in exactly 1 year.  Exactly 1 year ago I sat here in bed typing up our announcement with a heavy and emotional heart.  Our announcement that there was a boy in Ethiopia who we had chosen as our son!  You can read this announcement here:

the first picture of our Fetinet
Although I say we "chose" him, we know God had him handpicked for us.  There were 3 children on the list, 1 girl who was already matched with a family and 2 boys around the same age and through a chain of events and a story behind it all it was to be that our child was the 2nd one on the list, the 6-8 yr old boy who we could only see half of his face because he had most of it covered by his hand.  The first pictures we really got to see of our son melted our hearts and I carried them around everywhere, praying for him, us, the adoption process, everything!

We knew there were so many steps from there on out, so much more money to be raised, paperwork to be done, planning to do, a room to be re-done, craziness all around but we were ready and had no idea what was to come...only weeks later we had a court date and on April 18th he was legally our son.  July 1st he came home for good and we endured a lot of ups and downs in those first few months.  All of a sudden we woke up one day and our shy, non-English speaking, non-affectionate, little boy was talking our ears off, singing, dancing, reading, hugging and kissing us and we finally felt established as a family of 4.  I can't even begin to describe how much this boy's life has changed as well as ours, I could write a book about each day he has been home with us, each trial and tribulation and each accomplishment and celebration.  Going from parenting your biological son of 3.5 years to parenting your new son who has been on this Earth for 7 .5 years and in your home for a matter of days is VERY different!  Not only did we go from parenting a toddler to a school aged child, but parenting a child who had been through and seen more than most adults have, a child who had grieved over many losses that most people, let alone children, never have to and parenting a child from a totally different culture.  BUT we did it, we got through it and so did he and I will give God all the glory on that one because I will just say as strong as I am, I have never felt weaker and more scared in my life and I know our boy was probably feeling the exact same way.  

Now not only is today a special day for us, but it just so happened that when we were reading through our documents on Feb 27, 2012, we saw his birth date....February 28th!  I remember being sad that my son would be turning another year older tomorrow and I couldn't give him a party, a gift, a hug, or even tell someone to tell him that he had a mommy and daddy who would be coming to get him soon!  Now 1 year later, this boy knows he has a mommy, daddy and brother who love him so much and as I tucked this boy into his bed and hugged and kissed him, I got to see his excitement when I told him that when he wakes up tomorrow he would no longer be 7 and would now be 8 years old!  He got to have a birthday party last weekend and tomorrow he will get to open a few more gifts and cards and will be taking cake balls to school to share his birthday with his friends.  It is just so amazing to think back to just 1 year ago!

Fetinet celebrating turning 8 at Great Wolf Lodge!!!  Happy Birthday big boy!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

And The Winners Are.....

Thank you to everyone who helped us in raising the funds for the Deason family.  Whether you have been praying for them, bought tickets, or helped spread the word, they have been truly blessed by you all!  We needed to raise $2,500 for them to get them to Ghana next month to meet their little boy and have their court date and did we do it?????????

No, we didn't...we raised $2,720!!!!!  God knew the amount this family really needed and that is what was provided because they just had to spend $200 on their visas so they now still have that $2,500 to go towards getting to Ghana!

You can read all about this sweet family and where they are in their journey at the Deason Family Blog.

And now for the winners..........
all entries were entered into Excel and numbers assigned...there were 346 entries and 13 prizes to be won.  Then all numbers were entered into and going down the list in order we got the winners.....see below each picture to find out who won.

5th Generation iPod Touch 32 GB in lime green!!!! Given to the fundraiser by a very sweet anonymous donor. ($299 value)  Ilena Varner

Kindle Fire HD 16 GB ($199 value)  Charity Teal

2 OKC Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks tickets for Feb. 4th (over $180 Value) The Denson Family

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence™ 2 Qt. Frozen Yogurt-Sorbet & Ice Cream Maker ($90 value). Kami Weems

Thirty-One Making Memories Thermal (14.25"H x 13.75"W x 15"D) Collapsible telescoping handle, wheels for easy transportation in Minty Chip and Jersey Blankey in Oatmeal (60"L x 55"W). ($189 value)  Courtney Folsom

Handmade Rag Rug by Leanne to place in front of your kitchen sink and keep your feet very comfy. Kirsten Priest

2 kids size large adoption t-shirts ($30 value) Tiffany Anderson

Uganda package (1 necklace, 1 scarf and 1 bracelet) ($40 value)  Julia Leinen

2, ITWorks Body Wraps ($60 value)  Corie Perry

Jack Black, 6 grooming essentials/travel dopp kit ($65 value)  Shannon Rowe

Baby Gift Set, book, burp cloth, bath and body skin care ($78 Value)  Mandy Waters

2 handmade scarves ($30 value)  Ashley Barrett

3 handmade necklaces ($60 value)  Megan Hackbarth

Monday, January 7, 2013

Fundraising for a Friend...let's bring home their boy!

Well, it has been a LONG time since I have update this blog and I live in guilt daily about it so I promise to get an update over the past 6 mths on here VERY soon, but....for now I have an even better post because it is one that is to help close friends of ours, get to Ghana to meet their son and get closer to bringing him home.   I know when we were adopting, although I was excited about each fundraiser, it was also stressful and humbling because really who wants to constantly do fundraisers for your own benefit?  Deep down I knew it wasn't for us but for a child waiting to be in our family but still it didn't make it easier or less stressful.   Looking back on how our story unfolded I am thankful for each fundraiser and big or small, God used so many people to eventually add up to over $30,000 and allow our Fetinet to come home.  SO, I want to put this one on for our friends who are very close to needing to book their flights to Ghana and need about $2,500 more to go to get there

Read all about this sweet family and where they are in their journey at the Deason Family Blog.

We are doing an online raffle and have a few items so far and are looking for some more.  If you would like to donate something for this, please leave me a message on this post, every little bit helps and will be much appreciated!

So here's how it all works....

*You can buy raffle tickets for $10 each or discounted for multiple tickets:
3 tickets = $25
6 tickets = $50
9 tickets = $75
 12 tickets = $100
   ....and so on.....
*We will give each buyer a number for their ticket and at the end we will place all numbers into to pick the winners.  Yes their will be multiple winners because each prize will have its own recipient. 
*Tickets can be purchased through Januray 25th at midnight and the winner will be announced on January 26th

* If you have purchased at least ONE ticket, you can also get additional tickets by helping us get the word out.  You can do this by Facebook, Twitter or post about it on your own blog and then post a message here to let us know that you did and we'll get you your numbers.

*Tickets can be purchased via PayPal and you may use the donate button on their family's blog 

and now for the prizes.......

5th Generation iPod Touch 32 GB in lime green!!!!   Given to the fundraiser by a very sweet anonymous donor.  ($299 value)

Kindle Fire HD 16 GB ($199 value)

2 OKC Thunder vs Dallas Mavericks tickets for Feb. 4th (over $180 Value)

Cuisinart Pure Indulgence™ 2 Qt. Frozen Yogurt-Sorbet & Ice Cream Maker ($90 value).

Thirty-One Making Memories Thermal (14.25"H x 13.75"W x 15"D) Collapsible telescoping handle, wheels for easy transportation in Minty Chip and Jersey Blankey in Oatmeal (60"L x 55"W). ($189 value)

Handmade Rag Rug by Leanne to place in front of your kitchen sink and keep your feet very comfy.

2 kids size large adoption t-shirts ($30 value)

Uganda package (1 necklace, 1 scarf and 1 bracelet) ($40 value)

2, ITWorks Body Wraps ($60 value)

Jack Black, 6 grooming essentials/travel dopp kit ($65 value)

Baby Gift Set, book, burp cloth, bath and body skin care ($78 Value)

2 handmade scarves ($30 value)

3 handmade necklaces ($60 value)