Thursday, March 23, 2017

Big Push!

There is definitely a sense of urgency to get Stephen here...this year.  He is 15, and things get WAY MORE difficult once he turns 16.

So here is our plan.  We have hired Steffas Law to help us get Stephen here.  Well...let me rephrase that...we are in the process of hiring them because we have to put out the initial $2500 to get things moving.  We are looking at upwards of $25000 of NEW costs in this process that we started almost 3 years ago.  As I have said before... we are looking at starting completely over.

Friends, we need help.  We are going to make a BIG push to get Stephen here...this year...before he turns 16.  I am hoping to do some fundraisers...but honestly, we don't have a lot of time to do that.  I have started our t-shirt campaign..which!!! We have had great success so far with and I'm greatly encouraged by everyone who has pre-purchased a shirt!!  I hope to have a booth at Band Day here in Williston to make some money....We're thinking of having a cupcake bar!!!  The kids would like to donate their Lemonade Day booth proceeds towards the adoption..I'm so proud of them and their thoughts and efforts to do what they can... AND we would like to maybe also have flock of flamingos so people can "flock" their friends in efforts to raise money for legal fees, travel costs, etc.

So.......Here is our current plan.  We are going to get a loan so that we can have all the necessary money up front so that we can get things moving AND keep them moving.  A BIG push is going to require that funds are readily available as soon as they are needed.  We have gone about this whole adoption thing backwards and it seems that we are going to continue on that path. It is likely that our fundraising efforts will happen after the fact.  What that will mean is that a lot of our time, effort, and money this year will be used to build some crazy momentum to get Stephen here.  Do we like the idea of getting a loan? Not really, but we don't have time on our side to adopt debt free. Again, that urgency to get him here THIS YEAR is VERY great!

Do we have any friends that could loan us the money interest free?  OR... Maybe you know someone/a business that could do this?  We would be VERY interested in talking with you/them.  An interest free loan is appealing for obvious reasons.

Would you like to give money towards our efforts?  SUPER!  You can get a hold of Steve or Jenn (she's more likely to get back with you quicker ;-) ) I have a specific account set up for this... You can either PayPal money to my email address or you can give money through Square Cash (please personally message me to get the details for either one) ....AND.... I will likely will be setting something up online to do crowdfunding (something new to me).

Do you have ideas about how we can raise money?  TERRIFIC!!  Please let Jenn know and she'll see if it's a good fit and something she can do.  She's always open to ideas and help.

Let's Bring Stephen Home!!! This year!!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Awake in the wee smas

Not real sure where i got that title...I'm thinking it was an Anne of Green Gables book or the like...but having had a couple of cups of coffee AFTER 7pm makes for an awake Jenn at 12AM!!

So what to do at such a time when the rest of the family is asleep?!!! Well....write in my blog of course! Hahahaha!

So what to write....a reflection of 2016?  Nah...I'm such a forward ever kind of person that it just about kills me to even have backtrack when i this past week i have been acutely aware of ALL the backtracking I've had to do by keeping on the main roads just so that i wouldn't get stuck in the snow!  And which by the way...we are getting serious amount of snow here...with more to if any of you saw that giraffes in the snow picture i posted ....that may not be far off! about a look forward?!  Here are some of my recent thoughts that I will hopefully be able to tie together.  I've actually been rather pensive these last few is one of the recurrent themes that keeps popping up... Change... and what it means to BE a Christian.... having been out in the workforce these past two years has "opened" my eyes to what other people may think /perceive Christianity is about...and lonely, how empty, how incomplete, how hurting, how angry, how hopeless people really are without Christ and His Bride (the Church).

But first...back to change.  It has been interesting to me over the years to see how resistant people are to change. An object at rest tends to stay at rest comes to mind.... Let me give you a couple of examples that may or may not have anything to do with Christianity... money and diet.  Both are touchy subjects. We could start talking about budgets and where and how we should spend our money and people can start to get uncomfortable, what with getting out of debt, paying bills, savings, charitable giving....and then percentages to go along for such things...and people could start putting up defenses and getting defensive....I've seen it....experienced it.  I remember a brother in Christ talking about how oftentimes when people go to get immersed into Christ that they either physically (well that might be a good idea on one hand) but rather mentally keep their wallet (money matters) out of their conversion(immersion in water IS where conversion happens) because after all that's their money...they earned it ..they worked for it, and who is anyone to tell them how to spend it?!  Now diet...this is one that totally caught me off guard...truly...and to this day i still wonder at how deeply food is a part of us....when you start talking about what is good/bad to eat many people have MANY different ideas... and especially if you start talking about... oh... say...being gluten free....or that grains are bad....Now WAIT! hold up...I'm not here to discuss whether i think grains or gluten are good or bad...but what i do want to point out is that people have some VERY strong opinions either way...and it is surprising to me that people do not want to change the way they eat for any reason... and not just that... but it is HARD to change what we eat...we may have all the good intentions in the world to eat well and healthy...but... we get busy...are tired... AND hungry and very likely will throw out good eating for the sake of just eating.

Change is a Huge part of Christianity.  HUGE. God has not called us to be the same old people, living the same old lives, living in the same old sins.  He called us FROM those things.  He called us to be holy JUST AS He is holy.  He has called us to be righteous JUST AS He is righteous.  He tells us that IF we sin, we have an advocate(i like to think of that as a lawyer) Jesus Christ.  He doesn't tell us that WHEN we sin but IF.  God's expectation is that we get to a point where we do not sin.  Let that sink in.  God wants us to get to the point where what we practice is holy and righteous.  Of course, we're not going to be perfect in practice right out of the waters of our immersion/conversion, but God wants us to have the picture that we CAN be righteous and holy just like He is.  God goes to great lengths in the New Testament to give us this many of them, my favorite is Galatians 2:20, another 2 Corinthians 5:17, Colossians 3:5-13, Romans 8:12-14....just to name a few...and truly there are so many more....He wants us to have that picture right now. He wants us to see ourselves as already having obtained it(righteousness and holiness) so that our brain will process that and our sub conscience will accept that so that we will in turn live that out.  Because who we think we are IS who we are.

Which brings me back to the sad state of people who are outside Christ.  Always looking for something to fill the void that lies within them...a void that God put there that can only be filled by can not be filled with material possessions, money, another person, oneself, alcohol, drugs, addictions, drama, or whatever else you can think of...God put that void there on purpose because He wants to be with those who truly want/desire to be with Him. He wants to have fellowship (enjoy the company of) with those who love Him not because they have to but because the WANT to.  God gives hope. He heals. He completes. He offers companionship.  He loves. He fills. order for that happen...there must be change.  One must be willing to lay down his own will and desires and tendencies to do God's. What that means ... is submitting to God. And yet we have another area that is not easy for people to do... and that basically comes down to this...are we going to do what we want to do... or what God wants us to do? Are we going to wholly obey Him...or just the parts we want/like? Obeying God, doing His will, submitting to God is going to REQUIRE change on our part...let's not kid ourselves...are we willing to change?  I am.... YES!!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Something newsy

Man...i don't even know where to start.  It has been  a tough few months.  Working.  Dealing with grief over the denial letter.  A huge sense of loss. Coming to grips with where things are and finding our way again.  Working out homeschool bugs.  A trip out east to Ohio/Indiana.  Birthdays.  Family camp.  Quitting my Fedex job. Fall sports season starting and the accompanying travels. Sometimes I wonder how i can keep my head from spinning all around trying to make sense of it all and still move forward.

We had a great summer with visitors...First it was the Hostetters from Cameroon that came to see us.  That was SUCH an awesome time of fellowship. Then Steve's mom came to visit while Steve was doing training in Georgia for his new TSA job. Then Jonny and Jenni Reijgers came over the 4th of July and we loved having little ones in the house, and the time we got with Jon and Jen. Then my mom came and spent some time with us just before the girls and I went out to Indiana.   I really think that having everyone visit us like they did...helped us/or at least helped me.  Take my mind off what would have seemed like failure with our denial letter, and focus on what it is truly important, the Kingdom of God and people.  

Today, well, by the time I publish this....a week ago... we had a meeting with our Lawyer.  And during that discussion...there were many ups!! but also downs.   We are definitely going to be handing the dealing of our case over to hopes that we can truly get Stephen here....i don't know how long that will be or how long it will take or what it will end up costing....but i think there is a really good possibility that something good can come from all of it.  We are looking at refiling our paperwork with her or filing a different form altogether....we will know more and hopefully come to a solid decision by next week.  But it kinda looks like we are starting over.  Which may sound discouraging, but i'm actually taking MUCH hope in it.  The lawyer said something today that just made sense...she said that the USCIS has a LOT of really great resources on line and they make it seem so fill out this paperwork...file these documents....follow the protocol and BOOM! everything will come through....but it isn't that easy...she then likened it to doing a root canal on yourself...sure you could probably get it done...but the pain, and likely infection that would ensue after such a venture will not be pleasant in the least.  This time around...i really got that she understood our predicament, and really thinks she can help...and that she agreed that the sooner we got him the better.  

So... here we go! Ding! Ding!! round 2....or whatever round this is. LOL!  Please keep praying that God would make a way.  Please pray for strength for us...ok, really just for me.  I can't even begin to explain how emotionally taxing this has been/ is for me. Even just the 1 hour appointment on the phone today...WORE ME OUT!  Pretty much all i've wanted to do for the rest of the day is sleep.  

Thank you for everyone who has been and will continue to pray for this situation.  It has been a HUGE blessing and help.  Just knowing that you guys care for us and love us and want Stephen to be with us as soon as possible is SO encouraging.  We love you all!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

My letter to the President of the United States

This is the letter that i sent via email to the President as it says that was the fastest way for him to receive it.  I was only allowed 2500 characters....which on my Mac computer really only ended up being slightly more than 2000 characters.  I had to really pare down what i wanted to say, but i hope! and think that i was able to communicate the jist of the situation.  I know that some of you were probably curious as to what I wrote...i am still looking into what other things can be done.  There isn't much right now...but i do have one other lead/contact to follow up on.  

My mental has been hard.  Part of me just really feels defeated, and discouraged hardly touches the emotional turmoil i've been through.  We are still fighting.  Steve has called the USCIS every day for the past 5 days only to get voicemails...but he isn't giving up.  There is still hope...and who knows...maybe I'll get to meet the President out of this. :-) He needs that more than he knows! And just so you all know...I have sent copies to the Senators of North Dakota as well. :-)

I so appreciate ALL of the prayers you all have offered up on our behalf and I humbly ask that you keep doing so.  We love you all!

What follows is my letter.....

Dear Mr. President,

Never in a million years did I think that I would need to write the President of the United States to help me, and yet here I am.  I will do my very best to keep the letter as brief as possible, but please understand that there is a full story behind all of this and real people with real struggles and emotions.

Mr. President, while we were living overseas and were residents of Ghana, we adopted a 12 year old boy, Stephen (all above board we have every document to show that it was legal according to Ghana law).  Due to circumstances (residents permits expiring, moving back to the U.S., and also needing to complete the necessary paperwork for our own government) we had to leave Ghana without our new son, this was heartbreaking to us.

The government of Ghana deemed the adoption to be in the best interest of the child according to their 1998 Children’s Act. We adopted Stephen because his bio mother could not take care of him with the situation with the step father. The bio father has never wanted anything to do with him, has never been in his life, is jobless and never contributed anything for Stephen's care. We have known Stephen since the day he was born. He has lived with us 4.5 years.  

I know that we have gone about things rather backwards…adopting a child abroad before getting permission from the U.S. government. But honestly, we didn’t know. This was not something that was long planned out. Stephen had been living with us and we were looking at having to leave Ghana and we didn’t want to leave without him. We didn’t want him moved around from relative to relative that didn’t want him. And really the sticking point with the USCIS is that when his bio parents relinquished their rights of Stephen, they relinquished their rights to us, Steve and Jennifer Icenogle.  They did this because he was living with us. This was done under the auspices of the Social Welfare of Ghana. the problem really is that we have a son that is legally ours in one country, Ghana, but we are not be able to bring him into our country, the U.S.

Mr. President, according to Ghana law he is my son. I desperately want to bring him home to us.  But our case SIM .......... has been denied. Mr. President, is there anything you can do to help us? Please…I am begging you to help us. Is there something more we can do?  Is there something different we can try? We’ve followed the rules and regulations, but to no avail. Please, sir, do what you can to help us. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016


I've been thinking some... i think this adoption will have more effort, more solid labor, more emotional distress than any of my other labors for my naturally born children.  That is crazy to me.

On May 2, we submitted our second round of paperwork to the U.S. government.  More background checks. More legal documentation (that we already had and even one paper that we had already submitted, but apparently had either not been seen or misplaced).  More legal opinions from lawyers. More financial statements and assessments.  I wonder if i could ever precisely explain what it is like to have your entire life laid out as an open book with the government going over it as with a fine tooth comb to see where we fall short.

Have you heard any of Lauren Daigle's songs?  There is one... I wonder if i could link it on this page. I'll try here. Hey! i think i just did it!! HAHAHAHA!! YAY ME!!  Here is what it comes down to...From the very beginning ....  we have put Stephen's needs and wants first.  In the Children's Act of 1998 (Ghana law) it states very imperatively that the best interest of the child is paramount.  And that is entirely what we have been going on.  I just thought that because this was going to be a huge undertaking...that God would bless our efforts...I thought this was a good thing, God would see us through and open the doors.  And yet....when He doesn't move the mountains I needed Him to move,  when He doesn't part the waters that I wish I could walk through, when He doesn't give the answers when I cry out to Him...I WILL TRUST IN HIM.  Why? Because He knows what tomorrow is...there isn't any place that He hasn't already been.  He knows.  He knows my heartache. He knows the tears that I have shed and has counted them all.  He knows.

I think sometimes people think of God has some huge blessing giver in the sky.  He gives what we ask when we have met the qualifications of "good". But really this is a misconception.  Who defines what good is, and who/what defines who God is? Why is it that when bad things happen, or things happen in ways that we don't understand that we find fault with God rather trusting in Him?  God is the same yesterday, today, yes, and forever.  He doesn't change.  You see God wants a people who will love Him with their whole heart, not because they have to, but because they want to....even when they (ok, me) don't understand His workings.  I'm not going to pretend I understand why we are going through all that we are just to get Stephen here....but I do trust God. I trust that He knows ultimately what is best for everyone, and i trust that His timing, His answers are what is best.

And so....we wait.  We wait to hear what our government has to say.  Which, just as aside, where is the freedom in that? We make a choice to do something good, and we wait for the government's permission....sigh....hopefully soon we'll hear something back.  Please pray that it is either a letter of acceptance, or a letter of request for more evidence....but not a letter of denial.  Thank you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

84 days...

Oh my... where do i heart is heavy and I cannot sleep. I feel like I MUST write or I will not sleep. So... here goes....

I had a great day with my kids today...a much needed day of distraction, because it is hard for me to think that i can go on living each day as i would normally.  I'll explain, but let me continue for a moment...I have four kids here with me now, and one that lives in Ghana. One that I have labored, very literally for over the last year, to bring here.  We have been in proactive mode.  Basically, over the last year, we have been in "what do we need to do to get Stephen here" mode.  And we have worked. hard.  Steve has pulled 12 hour and a few times 15 hour shifts. Back in September when i hurt my shoulder so badly, he picked up my work at Fedex and hasn't quit. So, Steve is working a full time job, continuing the part time job with Fedex, and considering finding a part time job on the weekends.  I work several part time jobs. One at Fedex, one at Cooks on Main, a weekly paper delivery with my boys, and a cleaning job with Montana.  The reason I'm sharing that with you is to let you know that we have "labored" for the cause and sole purpose of bringing Stephen home to us....Most days I feel very much like either sleeping or crying.  I'm tired.  Literally. Figuratively. Emotionally. Mentally. Physically. Tired.

We got a letter from the USCIS. It wasn't pretty.  Let me just say that I don't like getting mail that is on pink paper.  Let alone 5 pages of it.  Basically, they listed all the shortcomings of our submission of our I-600 ( you remember from my last post that the I-600 is the document we file with the US government to obtain permission to get Stephen), and which we kinda expected...since we haven't gone about things in the usual way or through an adoption agency, but what we got was not what we expected....

 One of the things has to do with our home study done here in the U.S. which I will be calling about on this Tuesday (since Monday is a holiday).  That one, I'm pretty sure can be rectified pretty quickly.  The next thing though...was tough to take.  It was titled, Evaluation of Adequate Finances Missing.  Here let me share one sentence with you...."Your current income does not appear to meet the Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) minimum poverty guidelines for the requested number of children." I'm not sure I can adequately put into words what that did to the inside of me.  Part of that is due to the fact that we had been in the U.S. just over a year and were not able to submit any tax returns for the work that had been done here in Williston, and part of that has to do with our debt... and part of well...true.  I felt like my soul got either sucker-punched or the breath knocked out of me, or just taken and me trying to grasp anything that was left.  The reality of us living below the minimum poverty line was stark and harsh. I'm not sure even where to go with that....What if we can't get Stephen because we don't make enough? And WHY IN THE WORLD DOES THAT EVEN MATTER?!!! If we can provide food in some one's belly, clothing on their back, and shelter over their head...isn't that enough??!!  I felt like we were not enough...that's what I felt....The reason we came back to the States is because we couldn't keep making it. Steve was unable to find work in Ghana and things needed to change for us.  We came back so that we could support ourselves independently and get in a better position financially, so that we could live responsibly and take care of matters that we had gotten ourselves into.  And we have, but apparently one year of that...or rather less than a year of that..doesn't look so hot on paper.  I'll get to the solution at the end...but for now...I'm going to continue with problems/challenges we now face.  The next has to do the definition of an orphan...because our paperwork says that Stephen's mother Linda was willing to relinquish all rights towards Stephen so that Steve and I could adopt him does not qualify him as an orphan.  There is so much in this is hard for me to go into...what it comes down to is that USCIS does not know our story. They're just looking at the facts.  Those are what the facts say.  We need to submit more facts for them to get the whole picture.  Hiring an attorney to help us navigate through all the legalities should be a big help as well.

I got that letter Friday night after coming home from work.  I began to read it and i just wanted to cry or throw up or both.  I think it was the closest I've ever felt despair.  How could i keep living each day as i normally would when it seems like my world is crashing in?  How would i keep going on when it seems like everything we have worked for has been for nothing?  

And then I texted was close to time for him to get off work anyways...this was just something that I couldn't bear alone.  Do you know what he said when I was all a mess??...and couldn't even speak coherently??...He told me we would fight this.  That we would get an adoption lawyer...and that we would do everything we could.  He is my rock in this raging sea.  He has a steady course and can see the way that we will go...when I can't see past the tears.   HE. HAS. ALWAYS. BEEN. LIKE. THIS.  It is who he is.  Sometimes I get frustrated with him about his seemingly having "one speed" as i call it....but the man stays the course, he is faithful, and he is determined.  Now, let me make this clear...he is not THE rock, but he is a rock to me. and... if Jesus is THE rock, and we're supposed to be like Him...then Steve is doing a pretty good job in that department.

So....our solution.  Fight.  We are no longer in plan mode. We are no longer in "just do what we got to do" mode.  We are in full battle array.  People, we are going to pray...we are going to work, and be ready for battle...we are going to stand and stand up for ourselves....

We are going to fight in prayer and we are going to work to get what we need done.  We have 84 days to make that happen. That's the time line we were given.  Please, I beg you, pray for us.  Pray for health and stamina for Steve and I.  Pray for us to get just the right adoption lawyer.  Pray for Stephen that he can understand and be patient yet a while longer.  Pray for my kids here, that they would understand and forgive their mother for her shortcomings and emotionalness (is that even a word?!) during this trying time as I'm afraid they often get the short end of the deal.  Pray that we WILL see a happy end to all of this.  And pray that the Lord would return, for THAT would be very much better!

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Yesterday, was as many of you may already know, Stephen's birthday.  He turned 14. This was very bittersweet for me, in fact more bitter than sweet because last year I had told him that he would be with us for this year's :-( I truly thought he would be. But buying and setting up house and running through all the prerequirements (the home study mainly, but that would include background checks, personality studies, doctors examinations, getting of birth certificates for Steve and I, and of course the means to take care of all those things) well took WAY LONGER than I had any idea of...I have regressed...well.... We'll have a SMASHING big party when he does get here!!   Which I am really hoping will be sooner than later.

So here is where things are at...we were finally able to submit EVERYTHING to the USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services). AND we got a letter just two days ago that said they had received it. YAY!!!!  Now we are waiting to hear from them about our FBI background check appointment which we believe will require a trip to Rapid City, South Dakota.  After we do that...I'm not quite sure what....more waiting....I think ....until we get the go ahead. All of this has been HUGE.  I can't even begin to tell you  how this has affected me.  I've broken down more than a few times.  It just seems to be taking so long...and I know that what we're doing is nothing compared to what others have gone through.  So...I have started to buy some things for Stephen...I have his airplane outfit :-). When I've needed to get things for the kids for school....we get it for Stephen. I've been scouring eBay for some shoes for him...something comfortable, easy to take on and off for the plane...etc...It has helped.  I think I've put most of my emotions in some box in my brain so that I don't have to think about it, and on occasion something happens and they all come pouring out.  Like my brother being happy to see Stephen wear the Olsen racing shirt yesterday on his birthday...a flood of tears.  And right now...just remembering that...

Moving what will happen when we go to Ghana?  I'm not completely sure...BUT I know a visit to the U.S. Consulate/Embassy will be in order.  There will be an interview for us to get an immigrant visa for Stephen. There may need to be a doctors examination done at a hospital in Accra to see if Stephen is healthy.  There will be excitement as we go to get a plane ticket for him at the airport. And there will likely be more we seem to be doing a lot of that....there will be happiness for me to see everyone again in Ghana, there will be some shopping for me to get some things that I can only get in Ghana, there will be some eating of some VERY delicious foods that I can only have in Ghana, and there will be tears, lots of tears, as we leave. Definitely from me and likely from Stephen too...and that will be ok.  We will get to share that together.  I really can HARDLY wait to go on his first plane ride with him.  Or watch his amazement as we go through one of the international airports either in London or more likely Amsterdam.   I can HARDLY wait till I get to bring him through immigration in Minneapolis and when they stamp his passport knowing that will be the end of this huge long process.  I can HARDLY wait to board that last plane from Minneapolis to Minot knowing that our crew is already on their way there. I can HARDLY wait to get off the plane with him and see the looks on Steve's and the kids' faces as they spy us coming towards them.

But....there is waiting...and in the meantime what will be doing?  Praying and pressing on to make this all possible.  I just had a thought...shouldn't we be waiting for the King of Glory like this?  I think I will save those thoughts for another blog post... :-). Please keep praying for us, for Stephen, for the Boatengs who have been caring for him in our absence, and for the waiting to not take so long.