The Garrisons

Follow our journey on adoption #3 for child #8!

Monday, September 2, 2013


My 14 year old daughter Emma would like to share a story with you about how God touched her heart for children in Africa, and how she wants YOU to be a part of helping these kids so close to her heart!

From Emma:
When I was in 4th grade, I read a book about Kenya and saw the living environments they were put under. Poverty was obviously something they faced on a daily basis. So, ever since I read that book and learned more about their lives, I've had a heart for African people. At one point I told my mom I wanted to work in an orphanage in Africa when I was older.

My family went on to adopt five of my siblings from Ethiopia.  I was lucky enough come along on one of the trips to Ethiopia during our second adoption.  God opened my eyes to a world of difficult conditions and poverty that some live with every day. I noticed how naive I was before, and now I wanted to help even more after seeing it with my own eyes.

This year, I attended a CIY (Christ in Youth) conference with my church.  At the end of the week, we were each given challenge cards.  I chose to accept my challenge, and my card challenged me to raise $3000 for a missions organization.  I wasn't sure at that point what organization to work with, or how to raise the funds.

Weeks later, our church held an event packing food with Feed My Starving Children.  They send food to 70 countries around the world to help feed the poor.  It was awesome to know I was helping the less fortunate, much like the people I had seen in Africa just two years before.  During the training for this event, a video was shown about an orphanage in Kenya called City of Dreams that receives food from Feed My Starving Children.  The kids had been hungry, but just someone providing food for them was enough to change their lives. Now they wouldn't have to worry about their everyday needs being provided for; they could be regular kids and just focus on following their dreams.

After seeing the video, it seemed that all of the pieces were falling into place - My heart for Kenya, my challenge card to fund raise for missions, and this video that just happened to play at an event at my church and touched my heart.  My mom helped me get in contact with the lady who runs the City of Dreams orphanage, and she was so excited that I was willing to help them.  She also shared with me that they are really needing money for a container of food soon.  These huge containers are very expensive to ship, which brings the cost of purchasing and shipping a container to over $10,000.

   Sooo....I am raising funds through t-shirt sales to ALL be given directly to Feed My Starving Children towards purchasing a container of food for them.

I hope you will choose to partner with me and help to bring food, and more importantly HOPE to these Kenyan orphans!!  Every dollar of profit from my t-shirt and sweatshirt sales will go towards this goal!  

Please help if you can, and SHARE this link with your family, friends, Twitter or Facebook.  Let's do something GREAT together!


Here are the various design available - One ladies 3/4 sleeve shirt (this is t-shirt weight), and a unisex fit t-shirt!  The 3/4 sleeve shirts are $30, and the t-shirts are $20.  

Ladies Grey 3/4 sleeve shirt - $30
Two tone design
Ladies Black 3/4 sleeve shirt - $30
Two tone design

Ladies Black 3/4 sleeve shirt - $30
All White Design
w/ Scroll L

Ladies Jade 3/4 sleeve shirt - $30
All White Design
w/ Scroll L

ladies SHIRTS:
See product 

Sapphire Shirt - $20
All White block Letters
Black t-shirt - $20
All White, block letters
Black also available with two tone

Black T-shirt
All white - block letters
Black can also have
two tone design

Charcoal T-shirt
Two- tone

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Happy Father's Day!

I am so proud of the father Nathan is.  I'm proud of how he has loved our children.  I am proud of how he stepped up to be a father to once fatherless children.  How he's teaching them about Christ.  And how he is demonstrating faithfulness, hard work, integrity, and selflessness every day.

This crazy crew is so blessed to have our daddy!

The little girls love their daddy.  He has a routine of spending time with them before bed every night.  They read Bible stories, give him back scratches, and talk about their days.  I have no doubt this will be a special memory for them.

Solomon (4) and Nathan
Off to a Daddy-daughter dance.
Nathan and Elijah. 
I can only hope Elijah (and all of our children) will follow in his daddy's footsteps of faith!

With Emma.
There is no doubt in my mind that his influence is impacting the choices our girls will make some day.

Grace and her daddy.

An old one, but a picture of Nathan baptizing Hayden. (He's baptized all 3 big kids).
I love that they have the memory of their dad being the one to baptize them!

So, this picture is a few years old too, but I love it. (And Haley doesn't always cooperate for the ya go!)
These two are two peas in a pod.

This precious moment was captured just moments after we met Samuel for the first time.
Such a sweet day!

Our family is so blessed to have the daddy we do.  He loves us, provides for us, and serves us well.  He's an example to our children of what it is to be a godly man, and I am so grateful for the influence he is having on their lives.  (I'm hoping some of his stability will counteract some of the things I'm doing to screw this up - ha!).

Happy Father's Day, Nathan!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Prayer that Changed My Life

Have you ever prayed a prayer and not known exactly what you were praying for?

I have.

And looking back, I can see that it was that prayer that changed the trajectory of our lives.

About nine years ago, I was a stay-at-home mommy to our three blonde babies, and loved it.  I really did. I was leading Bible study, had a home-based business, and I led a busy life caring for our family.  Life was good. But still, I felt restless.

Not restless in a "discontent with my circumstances" way, but restless in a "there is more for me to do" way.  I couldn't put my finger on it, but I couldn't shake it either.  It was at that point that I began to pray for God to do something with my life.

"Lord, do something so big in my life that others will know that it is you."
I longed to be purposeful.  I longed to live a life that mattered for Him.  I just didn't know what that looked like.
It was during this time, that adoption began to stir in my heart.  I ordered a DVD from an adoption agency and cried all the way through it.  I couldn't wait for Nathan to get home from work, just knowing  he would feel the same.  
I sat him down to watch it.  I wept.  He asked what was for dinner.  I was crushed. 
But had some good points...we didn't  have $25-30Gs laying around for an adoption, and it just wasn't practical.  So, we moved on...that clearly wasn't the answer to my prayer.
Later that year, I got a job teaching at a Christian school.  It was perfect - my kids would be able to attend there, we would go to school together, and it was purposeful.  This must be the answer to my prayer. 
I spent the next 5 years teaching at this school.  I worked with some great teachers, met some incredible families and had a good experience.  But still, I couldn't shake that nagging feeling that there was something more...or simply just something else.  I continued to pray my prayer and scolded myself wondering why I still felt this way - Maybe I was just finicky or hard to please.  There was nothing wrong with the blessed life I had been given.
During those teaching years, one of my closest relationships developed.  My friend Misty and I's lives overlapped in almost every way.  We taught together, ate lunch everyday together, went to church together, were in small group together, had children who were friends, and spent our free time together. She is precious to me.  She has a big heart, and made me laugh every day.
This itself is a long story, but the short version is that through her own mental illness and a series of unfortunate events, her four children came to live with us for a time.  We loved them like our own kids, and struggled through to try to help them through this incredibly trying time. 

It was one of the hardest things I've ever done (not loving her kids - just dealing with the brokenness of it all).  But it was in this place that I found my heartbeat.   It was in this place of holding these sweet kids and providing what their family couldn't at the time that I felt purposeful.

"Lord, do something so big in my life that others will know that it is you."
The kids eventually returned to family, and our family took some time to heal and regroup.  But I couldn't shake the same feeling and returned to the same prayer again. During this time, God once again placed the longing to adopt on my heart. Through some crazy circumstances - a friend sending me a blog about adoption, my daughter telling me she felt like we were supposed to help African kids, a random audio book I picked up was about the orphan crisis in Africa - God continued to confirm that this is where he was leading.  This time it was an impression so deep on my heart I knew we couldn't ignore it. 
As to not drag the story out, you can probably guess what happened next!  We took what felt like an enormous leap of faith and decided to adopt from Ethiopia.  The faithfulness of God seen through that journey (and our others) is for another day, but I want to encourage you in this: 
God will honor your faithfulness when you step out for him.  He will not leave you hanging or leave you behind.  If it seems crazy, it's probably God.
You see, when I began to pray, I had no idea what I was praying for.  I had no idea how God would transform our family, grow our faith, lead me to start a ministry in our church, and work in our lives.  I no longer have that nagging feeling.  I have the assurance that crazy or not, I'm right where I'm supposed to be. 
The Lord did something so big in our lives, we KNOW it was HIM.




Thursday, April 25, 2013

Orphaned Vulnerable Child

Orphan Care??
What's THAT?
Are they orphans if they have a living  birth parent?
Foster children aren't orphans - their parents are alive.
What does the term "orphan care" mean, anyway??

You've probably heard the term, and maybe you've wondered yourself just what "orphan care" means or what it includes.  The most common assumption is that orphan care means adopting children internationally.  We associate the word orphan with poor children in a third world country whose parents are deceased and it seems the only option we can think of.

I'm going to suggest that we've confused people by using the term orphan care and even limited what it is that we even mean.   Possibly a better term might be caring for the vulnerable child.  Isn't that what we usually mean anyway? 

First off, most of the children who need advocating and caring for are not what most of us would consider orphans.  Most have at least one living birth parent, and maybe two. 

Merriam Webster defines orphan as : a child deprived by death of one or usually both parents

So, you can see where the confusion begins.  This leaves out the boy next door who is home often by himself and needs help with homework after school, the child in public school who has a parent in prison who would benefit from a mentoring relationship, the child overseas who may not receive an education without sponsorship, or the foster child in our own community.  These are the vulnerable children who need our care, in addition to the millions of true (by definition) orphans who are in need of a permanent family through adoption.

The term can be a stumbling block for many who (I think) might get involved in caring for the vulnerable child.  There have been times that I know others have looked at our family (size and number of adoptions) and assumed that THAT is what I meant by orphan care.  And, let's be honest, not everyone is ready to sign up for 8 kids.

Orphan ministry and caring for the vulnerable child isn't an option for those who call themselves Christians.  The Bible is clear and the scriptures that address caring for the orphan are many.  So, the debate is not should we care for these children, but how.

  • Get involved in projects that provide for needs and show tangible love to hurting children.  Our church ministry has filled backpacks of essentials and comforting items for foster children, collected shoes to be sent overseas, donated toiletries and other necessary items to local organizations working with the vulnerable, and made pillowcase dresses that were sent to many different countries. We are partnering with our church to host a food-packing event with Feed My Starving Children.  The ideas to get involved in this way are many - and all of them show the love of Christ.  Raise money to dig a well, collect donations for an orphanage, or financially support a ministry reaching out to the overlooked.

  • Sponsor a child, a mom, or even a family.  This is a great way to provide for a child who does have a family, but whose family is struggling with poverty.  Sponsorship lets the family know they are loved, they are not forgotten, and provides for the child in a way that the family cannot do alone.  In some cases, it is also orphan prevention (SO important) which helps keep the child with the family where they may have otherwise been  relinquished because of poverty.  Compassion International, Children's Hopechest, World Vision, and Because Every Mother Matters are just a handful of organizations that do this kind of work.

  • Mentor a local child.  So many, many children right in our own communities need a positive adult influence in their lives.  Someone to show up consistently, invest in them, and show them that they matter.  This can take as little as an hour a week.  Contact your local school district to see what organizations they work with.  Big Brothers Big Sisters, CU One-to-One, and TALKS Mentoring are all organizations that are in our local area.

  • Become a foster parent.  This is such an important ministry to hurting and vulnerable children right here in our own community.  Yes, it's a messy system.  It's not perfect, it's bound to be difficult, and you are going to hurt along with these children you minister to.  Jesus never told us that loving the least would be an easy painless process, just that he would be in the midst of it.   I have such admiration for foster parents who open their homes up to these messy situations and say yes - over and over again - to loving these children.  There is also an excellent organization that provides loving homes to children whose families are in crisis (think church-based foster care) called Safe Families.  Also an excellent way to provide temporarily for families and children in need.

  • Adopt. So many children in need of a permanent, loving home both domestically and internationally.  The statistics are staggering, and the number of children in need of adoption overwhelming.  It is true that most of the world's orphans and vulnerable children are not available for adoption...that takes a unique set of circumstances and a complete set of paperwork.  Not all are that lucky, but for those who are, the gift of a family is the ultimate gift.  Scary?  Yes. Costly?  You better believe it.  Worth it?  ABSOLUTELY.
I also want to say a bit about adoption ethics in international adoption here - the importance of this cannot be overstated.  There is much conversation (as there should be) recently about ethical adoption - being sure each child is truly in need of adoption, absent of corruption, and working with a reputable adoption agency.  Should you pursue an international adoption, you need to do your homework here.  Research your agency, ask for references, search the internet for dirt on your agency (doesn't sound very nice I know, but if there is negative you will find it).  You can find negative about just about any agency, but it will become clear to you as you research which agencies are brought up over and over again and whose reputations are about more than one or two disgruntled families.    Ask other families who have adopted from the same country you are considering.  Join chat groups that discuss ethical adoption agencies. Ask lots of questions of your potential agency, and be aware that a friendly receptionist does not an ethical agency make.

Having said all of that, I must also say that adoption is an amazing thing.  While we cannot turn our heads and pretend that there is zero corruption in adoption, I do not think that Christians should not adopt because of it.  Like it said - do your homework  and prayerfully consider what you should do.

The last thing these children need is for us to all run away from adoption because we only want to be a part of a perfect system. 

I'm not oversimplifying it, but we have 5 children in our home who were brought to us through international adoption. Without adoption, they would be stuck in orphanages waiting to age out with a less than ideal future ahead of them.  If this is the way you feel God calling you to care for the orphan, then you should. 

  • The last suggestion I have is to support adoptive and foster families.  This can be an exhausting gig, and while totally worth it, support is invaluable.  Bring them a meal, give gift certificates, send an encouraging note, offer to help with the kids or transportation to activities.  Let them know they are not forgotten and you are praying for them.  I'm telling you - invaluable.  
The next time you hear the term 'orphan care', I hope you'll think in broader terms.  The next time you are invited to an orphan care event, I hope you won't be afraid to go in fear that it's only about adoption.   There are many ways to make a difference, and the church is the answer to for the vulnerable child.

Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For it is the one who is least among you all who is the greatest.”
Luke 9:48

Saturday, March 16, 2013


We are home and doing well!  
We've actually been home for a month, but time has gone quickly as we try to keep up with everyone...especially this little guy:

We've learned so much about Samuel in this past month, and it's been fun to learn more about him and spend time with him.   A few things we know for sure...he's BUSY and on the go! 
Here he is all dressed up for Embassy in Ethiopia...He is such a cutie if I don't say so myself!

All three boys in their Ethiopian shirts!  We visited Grace and Aleigha's school for their International Day and the boys proudly wore their shirts.  
Solomon and Elijah have both done so well with Samuel.   We are impressed with how patient they've been with his antics, and his constant grabbing, hugging, squeezing and kissing.   They've gotten "accidentally" hurt many times and have yet to really retaliate.  Elijah has really taken to the role of big brother.  He matured seemingly overnight.  It's been amazing to watch. (He also turned 4, which I think is SO. MUCH. EASIER. than 3.  I've never thought 3 was better than 2!)   Solomon is our tender-hearted guy who takes to change a little more slowly, but is finding his place and loves his new brother.  We are proud of both boys!'s the hug!  This kid is crazy with the hugs and kisses.   I've parented eight children, and I've really never seen anything like the affection he lavishes on us.  He loves to hug, squeeze, grab, kiss...oh, and wrestle! You can see it coming as he bites his lower lip, comes running at you, grabs your face, wraps his arms around your neck, and goes in for the kill!  He will smother your face with kisses.  He may also squeeze your cheeks somewhat aggressively and growl, but the kisses are sweet. :)

All of my babies together!   How blessed am I??
Aleigha (7), Haley (16), Solomon (3), Hayden (15), Samuel , Emma (13), Elijah (4), and Grace (8)

I LOVE these kids.

We are doing well & continuing to adjust!  I'd be lying if I didn't tell you that some days it all feels like a lot, but we're making it, and so grateful for this brood that is ours!   We're thankful to have made it home after the delays, and to all be together!  
I can't promise lots of updates as most days are pretty full, but we'll see what I can do!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It's not an easy lesson to learn, and apparently I'm a slow learner.   But I think I'm getting it...bit by bit. 

We are waiting for more paperwork in order to bring Samuel home.   When they told us it would be 3 months after court before we would probably return to bring him home, I didn't believe them.  My heart couldn't imagine waiting 3 months after holding him in my arms before we would be reunited.   It was a self preservation technique, I think.  Either that or a sanity preservation technique (and the jury may be out on that one anyway!)   

Three months is a long time to wait after meeting your child.  I know some of you have waited longer and others are wondering what the big deal is.   Just take my word for it - it's HARD.

So, as we've waited for this paperwork to be processed, I have put these timelines - MY timelines - on when I think things need to be done.   I've figured out in my head a hundred times what needs to happen when, when someone will do their part of the process, what that means for the next step, and ultimately when we will be able to travel.   I'm trying to CONTROL something that's out of my control.   I am creating my own stress because I am imposing my own plans and trying to control what is out of my control.  

When will I learn?  When will I stop thinking that my timeline is better?

So, today as I was processing all of this, I realized that a lot of my panic and stress is caused by my own fear that this isn't happening in time to fit my time line.  My own expectations are not to be.   I don't know about you, but that's never my favorite revelation.  

Here's the reality:  Samuel is still ours.  He's still coming home.   He will still be there if we get there a few weeks later.   AND he's not waiting for us...he's not sitting in anticipation watching the transition home gates for us to come driving through.   Somehow, all of that has brought me peace.

I know God is in control.  I know it's all in his timing...although please don't say that to me right now. :)   I am re-learning to surrender it all.  And I'll probably have to surrender it all again tomorrow.  

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

WARNING: Whining

This is the blog post I wasn't going to write.  You know the one...the whiny adoptive-mom-in-waiting who writes an entire blog post about how she just wants her child home.  I mean, didn't she KNOW she was going to wait?  Didn't she KNOW this was part of the deal?   If you sign up for it, you have no right to whine about it....right??

But here it goes - in my whiniest voice ever:  I'm TIRED of waiting and I want Samuel to come home!!

This is hard, friends.   Yes, I've been through it before.  Yes, I knew we were going to have to wait to bring him home.   And no, my prior adoption experience does not make the waiting any easier.    You see, this is personal now.   It's not about a schedule or some sort of prescribed waiting time. This is about my boy.  My boy 8000 miles away who is real, who I've held, who I had to say good-bye to almost 2 months ago.   I'm tired of walking by his bedroom (door closed for my sanity) and wishing he were there.   I'm tired of trying to keep myself distracted with holidays and kids' activities so I don't have to think about how he's missing.  I'm just weary of it all.

For those of you who have asked about an update...well, there is not much of an update right now.    We are waiting on all of Samuel's documents and medical forms to be prepared so that his case can be submitted to Embassy. guessed it...more waiting.   We will wait for the Embassy to clear his case, at which point we can be scheduled for an Embassy appointment and go to Ethiopia to BRING HIM HOME!

So, there it is - I just had to get it off my chest.   Don't worry - if you run into me in public I can probably keep it together - but we would very much appreciate your prayers for things to speed along.   We love him, and ready for some good news and progress!   We know that God's got it all under control and knows exactly the day Samuel will come home.   We are trusting in that, but the waiting still stinks.

We'll keep you updated when we hear of the next step!

"If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently,

    for it will surely take place.
    It will not be delayed."
Habakkuk 2:3

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

For THIS child I have prayed....

So, we've been home for 11 days, and I'm just NOW getting to updating this poor, neglected blog.   Mostly because by the time I put it all on FB and send pics to our families, I feel like I'm done, but I think there are 1 or 2 of you who still check this for it is!
Our time in Ethiopia meeting  Samuel was wonderful....we passed court which was the primary reason for the trip, and so we are thrilled to introduce our son to you!
Here is our first look at him...We had arrived in Ethiopia on Monday morning....we'd been up a long time, but this little guy was totally worth it!

 Getting my hands on him...he's so, so tiny!
(Check out his on-backwards pants...they are 3-6 month pants that fit like capris - ha!)
So happy to be together!
 He's going to fit right in around here...he's fun, energetic, and just a little bit ornery!

 I have no idea what this face is about, but hey - we're all together!
 He's B.U.S.Y.
 Playing hide and seek...he loves to engage in throwing balls (or anything else), or any kind of game.

 Samuel and  Daddy.

 Whatchoo talkin' bout?
 Gettin' some love from one of the nannies...
He LOVES ball.   Loves it.
We are missing our boy, but trying to keep busy while we wait for him to come home....that's not too hard with 7 other kids at home.    We are anticipating about a 3 month wait to bring him home.  It seems so long, but Nathan reminded me that in the big picture of his life, it's just a snippet of time.