The Garrisons


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

Friday, December 31, 2010

Hoping for Orphans in 2011

Ethiopian Orphans from Simon Scionka on Vimeo.



I have a confession to make. When we first started the adoption process the first time, I felt like my eyes had been opened and I realized something that surely everyone would see. I started this blog, feeling purposeful about wanting to educate others on what I was learning. I shared blog links, videos, stories, scripture, etc. and was just sure that God was going to move in mighty ways in the people around me. I just knew that when others saw these same things, they would be moved to adopt or care for orphans, too.

Things have not exactly happened the way that my mind imagined them. It has been hard to feel like we've made a difference at all. Over time, I've felt pointless in posting things I've found about the orphan, because, well.... it just feels redundant and like maybe no one is listening.

I don't make New Year's resolutions... they generally don't last and are made in an emotional moment of wishing for change. However, I am going to refresh my sense of purpose for the orphan. I don't know if anyone is listening, or will appreciate the things that I post. But....after much soul searching on this topic, I've come to realize (again), that that part isn't my job. I can't control how others respond or how God will work in their hearts. I can, however, be a voice for the orphan. I can continue to tell their stories and help us all not to forget.

I am praying that God will do amazing things in 2011 for the orphan. I am praying that some of you who are reading this right now will be moved to adopt at least one orphan and give them a home. I am praying that God, who tells us he is the defender of the orphan, will move on their behalf....but I also know that it is through you and I that God will move. His scripture is clear about caring for the orphan. He commands us to do it. No, that doesn't mean all should adopt...for some he has other plans. However, for some of you it does. You'll have to sort that out yourself.

So, here is hoping for the orphan in 2011. May we all ask God (I mean, really ask him) what it is he has for us to do. And may we listen when we hear him.

"The helpless put their trust in You. You are the defender of orphans Lord; You know the hopes of the helpless. Surely You will listen to their cries and comfort them. You will bring justice to the orphans and the oppressed, so people can no longer terrify them.”
Psalm 10:17-18

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home, Court Date #2, and Wrestling

We're home! We arrived home on Tuesday evening after an exhausting, but uneventful trip home. While we were all a bit sad to leave Ethiopia, we were glad to be home. I missed iced tea, salads, hot baths, and my bed. :) It felt good to come home and enjoy them all!

Now, though, I am missing something much more important....my kids. It was hard to leave them on the last day, and now that we are home it's hard to have them on a different continent. Our next court date is this Tuesday (January 4), and we would appreciate your prayers that our MOWA letter will be there so we can pass court!! The next step after that is for all of our paperwork to be submitted to the US Embassy and be assigned an embassy appointment...that is when we go get our kids!

I am currently sitting in that hard place of having just come home and seen some hard things with my own eyes. I felt the same way when we came home from Ethiopia the first time....and I know many others have experienced this after mission trips. It's hard to know exactly what to do with how I feel....I have seen children who need families - I have hugged them, spent time with them, and watched my kids interact with them. I have this overwhelming desire to make people aware - to make people want to take action and be part of the solution for them....to impart urgency on others so they will act. I want others to realize that these kids are real. However, I know that the risk in attempting this is to sound preachy, righteous, or judgmental, and that is not my heart - it does not bring glory to God, or move others to action (that is His job anyway). In the end, it does not help these kids. So, I wrestle. I will pray that God will use our story in His own way to move others and I will keep my eyes on my own journey.

Once we pass court, I will be able to publicly share pictures of our new kids - hopefully next week! We'll be sure to keep you posted as soon as we know anything!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Update from Addis!

Greetings from Addis Ababa! Yes, we've been here a week and I've failed to update my blog...we just haven't had time and I've had a difficult time getting into my email to post! So sorry!

We've had a great time this week. I was sick the first couple of days, but that subsided by Tuesday morning and we've all been great ever since. We met the kids on Sunday afternoon and have spent time with them every day, with the exception of one when we spent the day out in the country. The kids are awesome and we can't wait until we can bring them home! It's funny, we had preconceived ideas of what they might each be like (based upon agency updates, etc.) , and for the most part it's not what we've found. That's not good or bad, just interesting. :)

Grace loves to run, jump, play ball, and do anything active. She wants us to chase her, and sometimes I think is checking just to see if we will. She is excited to see us each day, but is also the first to withdraw. Being the oldest, she must remember the most and sometimes seems guarded. (She could also sometimes be bored with us, though, since we don't speak her language and we've 'used' all of our toys and tricks since we've been here!). Overall, she seems accepting of us and was excited when we showed her pictures of our house and her room.

Aleigha is an affectionate little thing. Super sweet, and the first to seek out attention from us. She is all smiles most of the time and is more content to sit and color or cuddle. She giggles as we play, and loves for us to hug, kiss, or tickle her. She responds well to her new name already and both girls love to play with our older kids.

S*l*m*n is a cutie! Huge eyes and a contagious giggle. I love seeing how attached he is to his nannies and the other kids - he lights up when he sees them. This is all a good sign for future attachment with him when we get home. Elijah loves him, but he is unsure of Elijah. The first day Elijah basically tackled all of the new kids with hugs, and I think it freaked S****** out a little bit. He 's warming up to him, but is still cautious when it comes to getting so close. :) We think they'll be fast friends, though, and they really are darling together.

As you may have heard, we did not pass court on Thursday. We were so disappointed, but not completely surprised. MOWA (Ministry of Women and Children's Affairs of Ethiopia) must submit a letter to court saying that everything is in order for your adoption. They have had a difficult time getting the letters to court on time, as was the case with us on Thursday...it is not a reflection of our particular case and we will get our letter eventually...it's just not ready yet. It's very frustrating, but we pray that we will get a new court date and our letter will be submitted soon. We don't want it to delay our next trip or when we can bring our children home. We'll keep you posted and appreciate the prayers!

Our other four kids are great!! The three biggest kids have been amazing with both the travel and the time spent with our kids and others at the orphanages and transitional home (where our kids are). Elijah has traveled better than we anticipated (even though the other fellow travelers have been introduced to his high pitched screaming)...please continue to pray that our flights home will go well, too!

The kids at the orphanages and especially older kids at the transitional home break your heart....such sweet kids that need homes. I was looking around at all of the kids and thinking about all of the families I knew who could take at least one into their home...we could wipe out the entire population of an orphanage....how cool would that be??!? I know everyone hasn't seen with their eyes what we've seen, but I wish everyone could. There would surely be more children with homes.

More updates and pictures later. We are flying out of Addis on late Monday night (late afternoon your time) and hope to be home by Tuesday night if all goes well. Thanks for following along and praying for our family!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Wow - It's Here!!


Wow. Wow. Wow. It's here!! I guess we're really going to Ethiopia!!! The donations have been packed into 4 tubs and one bag, we each have a suitcase and one extra for 'miscellaneous'. It has struck me as we (well, I) have been packing how high maintenance we really are. It takes a lot of 'stuff' (aka crap) to keep this American family happy.....computers, cameras, portable DVD players, iPods, snacks, comfort items (different for each kid), medications, etc. It's a bit ridiculous. However, all 6 of us, and all of our stuff will be making our way to Chicago tomorrow to catch our flight out of here!! We fly out of O'Hare a little after 3 pm for our flight to Frankfurt. After a 4 hour layover, we board our final flight to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. We will arrive Saturday evening ET time (they are 9 hours ahead of us).

We've had a few people ask how they can pray for us and we are more than happy to pass on our requests so that you call all be praying with us. These are more in the order of when they occur, not importance....

  • Please pray for safety and health while we travel.
  • ELIJAH - I joke that we'd like everyone to pray a 'period of silence' over him as we travel, but seriously....please pray that he will rest well on the plane and travel well. This is going to be a lot for him!
  • For the time we will spend with our 3 new kids. We are so anxious to meet them and spend a little time with them each day. We are praying that God will use this time to weave our hearts together as a family. We also know that it will be very difficult to leave them since they don't come home this trip (BOOOO!!). Please pray that God will comfort their hearts and give them understanding that we are coming back (and that the time until we can go back will be short).
  • COURT DATE - This is the reason for our trip.....Please, please pray that we will pass court the first time and that everything will be in place. (some of you may remember we did not pass the first time with Elijah). This is not a judgment on whether or not Nathan and I will be good parents (that was done in our homestudy), but a court date to be sure all of the paperwork, etc. has been done on the child's behalf.
  • Please pray for a meeting we will have with their birth father. That is sure to be an emotional meeting, and we just want it to go well and to be able to get information from him that we can later share with our children. We would love it if you would just pray for him in general.
  • For our 3 'big kids'. We are so proud of them and feel like God really wants to use this trip in their lives....to open their eyes, to soften their hearts, and see things thru His eyes. Please pray that this will be a meaningful trip for them.
  • We are also praying that God will give us opportunities to be a blessing while we are in Ethiopia....in whatever way He puts in front of us. Pray that we will see those opportunities and know how to respond.
  • Lastly, just that this would be a good time together for us as a family. Travel can sometimes be stressful, and we want to be able to enjoy our time together.
Thank you so much! I will do my best to update periodically from Ethiopia.....For those of you on Facebook, I remember that being a much easier way to post quick updates, so check there!
We appreciate all of you and thank you for your prayers in advance!!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Planning, Preparing, and Updates

Hellooo.....is anyone still out there??? Probably not, since it's been an entire month since I've updated (or even visited!) this blog. Much has been happening, and it's all good, just keeping me busy!

We leave for Ethiopia next Friday, December 17!! I can't believe it's coming up so quickly, but we have been slowly preparing and will be ready when the time comes. We've been collecting donations for the orphanages, and organizing all that is entailed with taking an international trip with six people! We are very much anticipating meeting Grace, Aleigha, and S*l*m*n (this is his given Ethiopian name, and I can't share it online until after we pass court....Grace and Aleigha are new American first names for the girls (that we have give them), so we can share those). Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the busyness of the trip itself, but it's fun to think about the day we'll see them face to face.

We recently received updates on our kids, so I'll share what those have to say:


GRACE T********

Weight: 45.5 pounds
Height: 108 cm
Eating/health: She eats well. She is healthy.
Development/physical: She has excellent physical development appropriate to her age. She can perform different activities by herself.
Personality/Other Comments: She is content and happy. She has very good behavior. She is harmonious with all the children, and if others hit her or push her she will tell the caretakers. She never hits the children in response to being hit. She obey orders well.
How does she behave in school?
She is focused with a good attention span. She is moderately active and calm.
How does she act when new adults come around?
She is stable and if they approach her she becomes more comfortable.
Does she ever talk about getting a new family?
She has been told that she is getting a new family, and she asked about S*l*m*n too. And along with (Aleigha) B******* she almost always looks at her families’ photograph and has learned to say Mommy and Daddy.
Does she have good relationships with her caretakers? She has good relationships with all caretakers. She gives hugs and is attached depending on how close they are to her.


ALEIGHA B*******

Weight: 39.6 pounds
Height: 99 cm
Eating/Health: She eats well with a good appetite. She is healthy.
Development/Physical: She has progress in her physical development that is appropriate to her age. She can perform different physical activities well.
Personality/Other Comments: She is usually cheerful. Sometimes, she easily break into tears (if other children take her playing materials or hit her during play) and easily gets back to laughing if someone holds her close or if she gets verbal support.
How does she behave in school?
She is a moderate learner and she is becoming more focused.
How does she act when new adults come around?
She is stable, and she can understand the gesture to approach or not.
Does she ever talk about getting a new family?
When care package was sent, she was told that everything was sent from her new Mommy and Daddy. She is very happy and she looks at the family’s pictures often and says Mommy and Daddy.
Does she have good relationships with her caretakers?
She has a very good relationship with her caretakers and those whom she trusts she get along well with and gives hugs, etc.


S*L*M*N T*****

Weight: 24.2 pounds
Height: 75.5 cm
Head Circumference: 49 cm
Eating/health: He is good at taking food. He has been healthy this month.
Development/physical: He has shown progress in his physical development. He can repeat words. He can play well with tools, dolls, etc.
Personality/Other Comments: He is a very happy boy. He is comfortable with all caretakers and any strangers too.
Does he have a special nanny he is very attached to?
He doesn’t have a special nanny. He is attached well to all of them.
What kinds of toys does he like to play with?
He likes to play with most of the car toys. He plays also with all playing materials.
Does he sleep all night without eating in the night?
He will have a bottle fed to him at 4pm at night, and he sleeps all the night without eating, but sometimes if there is a need he may eat.
How does he act around new people?
He is very affectionate, active and likes be held close (hugged). He elicits activities to get attention.
Does he understand when the nannies talk to him? (does he follow directions, try to communicate, etc)? He understands when he called, and tries to call some of the nannies’ names. He can follow directions well.


We love hearing more about our kids, but there is no substitute for getting to know them ourselves. Hold on kids....we're coming SOON!



Friday, November 5, 2010

Why is it OK with us?


In the past week, we were made aware of some very difficult circumstances in an orphanage in Ethiopia. Families traveling with our adoption agency visited this orphanage while they were in Addis Ababa, and got the word to those of us traveling soon that there were needs and what we could bring to help them. This was the Facebook status of one of the moms traveling with the group:

"A hard start to our day. Visited an orphanage with deplorable conditions, and left in tears. Our group was able to buy 10 crib mattresses (yes, babies are sleeping on the wooden bottoms of the cribs). But they also need massive quantities of diapers...ripped pieces of sheets wrapped around their bottoms and held in place w/ their onesie t-shirts isn't cutting it."

Babies sleeping on the wooden bottoms of cribs, their clothing soiled, and who knows what else. Their caretakers are doing the best with what they have, but they just don't have the supplies or resources to take care of these children properly. This is poverty. It breaks my heart. I don't think you or I can imagine our own children living in these conditions, or how we would feel if they did.

So, why is this OK with us? I'm sure most of us would say it's not, but what are we doing about it?? You see, if we do nothing, it is OK with us. It is far enough removed from our real world that I think we don't allow ourselves to believe it's real. We tell ourselves that 'these kids don't know any different' or convince ourselves that they are somehow different than our own kids. Well....they're not. They are just like your kids, and they deserve better. They deserve to be well cared for, loved, and to have a family.

I know that we would never say that we think these kids deserve less, but we ignore the pleas for help and tell ourselves that we give to other things and have financial responsibilities that won't allow us to give. You don't have to give a lot - but give something. You don't have to do everything - but do something. Don't wait for someone else to do what God is asking you to do.



"When you are harvesting in your field and you overlook a sheaf, do not go back to get it. Leave it for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow, so that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. When you beat the olives from your trees, do not go over the branches a second time. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow. When you harvest the grapes in your vineyard, do not go over the vines again. Leave what remains for the foreigner, the fatherless and the widow."
Deuteronomy 24:19-21

Thursday, October 28, 2010

COURT DATE!!

We are thrilled to tell you that WE HAVE A COURT DATE!! Our agency called on Monday to tell us the good news. The big day is December 23!! Christmas in Ethiopia!!

When they first called, I was a bit surprised at the late date, as we were hoping for earlier. While it is hard to wait to meet and hold our kids, this date actually works well for our family....Our kids are all going, and now they won't miss any school. Our oldest will be done with finals, and we will spend a Christmas they will never forget in Africa! We've booked flights and will be leaving on Friday, December 17! We're so excited!

We are fortunate to have had a very sweet family deliver care packages to our kids this week - we are so grateful for the opportunity to send them something...we sent many pictures of our family and home hoping that God will somehow use these things to help make us familiar to them in some small way. We know they can't possibly understand all that is happening or will happen. That's hard. We also sent an outfit for each of them, dolls and candy for the girls, and a toy for the little guy.

It's funny the mixture of emotions it brought to hear another family had spent time with my kids. The first emotion was excitement, and overwhelming gratitude. It felt so good to know that another family had seen them and spent time with them. But, if I'm honest, it also brought some hard emotions. They described S*l*m*n as being unsure and nervous, and while that is a typical reaction of a small child who does not know you, it broke a piece of my heart. You see, he's feeling unsure and I'm not there to comfort him....and in the time until I can bring him home, he will have many moments where he just needs his mama - and I. won't. be there. And the kicker is, he will be unsure of me, too. He's not waiting for me to come get him, and we're going to rock his world. The girls', too. Yes, yes, I know that this is good in the long run....but can you imagine? Can you imagine what they must think? or what they will think when their entire world changes.....again. As I thought about Grace, Aleigha, and S*l*m*n that afternoon, the tears came....and came. I don't want to hear about them in reports from someone else....I want to hold them. I want to be the one who is there. So, I had a mini tantrum....and then I gave it back to God....again.

I know all of the things that you could tell me....God will bring them home in His perfect time...God is with them when I can't be.....this is God's plan, etc. And I believe all of it - I do. But sometimes, I just have to have a tantrum. I must look a little like Elijah does when he throws himself to the ground and screams and cries because he doesn't get his way. Good thing God is patient and understands my heart.

I know that God is using this emotion - the concern, the longing, and the grief to weave these precious children into my heart. And so, I am grateful for even the hard days. He is good and is moving to bring them home. So, we are thanking him for news of a court date, and anxiously awaiting the day when we will hold our kids!


"Stand up and praise the LORD your God, who is from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, and may it be exalted above all blessing and praise."
Nehamiah 9:5

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Waiting, Grieving, and Promises


Well, I wish this was an exciting post announcing we had new news or a court date, but that is not that case. We wait, along with many other families, to hear news from the Ethiopian courts that we have a date. We had originally thought we might travel around Thanksgiving, and while that is not impossible, the longer the wait continues the more I wonder if that will be the case. We'll see....God knows and we're trusting that He's got it under control. (and when I begin to freak out, Nathan calmly reminds me of that fact....good thing we aren't both prone to freak-outs!)

I would be lying if I said this hasn't gotten difficult in the last week or so. I'm not exactly surprised that we don't have a court date, but I was hoping to be farther up the list by now. There are families still waiting for dates that have had their referrals since July. I've been praying for them, because that's a long time to know who your children are and not be able to go kiss their little faces.

During the wait, I've spent some time trying to process what this has been like for our children in Ethiopia. I won't go into the specifics of their story, because it's theirs to tell, but they've lost much. Think about it - they've lost parents, everyone else who loved them, their home, routine, language, and everything familiar. How does one recover from loss like that? It's caused me to grieve for their loss and try to anticipate what they'll need as they endure all of the change that's coming their way. It's not small. I am praying that God will give me a compassionate heart towards them and wisdom in my parenting....and I'm praying that He will be the Healer of their hearts and prepare them to accept the love we have to offer. I'm trusting He will.

These are the promises I cling to as I wait for them to come home....He loves my children even more perfectly than I do and wants good things for their lives....He knows the exact day and time that we will meet...and when they will come home. He has placed them in our family, and will give us the strength and grace for even the most difficult of days. Adoption is redemption and it is God's idea.....the same God who created heavens and earth is orchestrating our lives and making us family...

"I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?"
Jeremiah 32:27


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sweet Spot

I guess you could say I've been a bit distracted lately....and neglected the blog. (helloooo....is anyone still out there?) We've had a lot of stuff going on since our referral - good stuff - but it's kept me from being very attentive to blogland.

I can hardly believe it's been a month since we received our referral and found out who our precious children are!! We are more and more certain everyday that these are our kids and can't wait to bring them home! Since I last posted, the courts in Ethiopia have opened back up and slowly begun issuing court dates to those families (like us) who are waiting on them. We are still pretty far down on our agency's list to receive a date, so we know it will be a little while before we know when we will travel to Ethiopia for the first time for our court date. We've had lots of people ask us when that will be, and believe me, we'd love to know! All we can do at this point is make a guess - and I'm guessing around Thanksgiving....always hoping for sooner, but trying to prepare ourselves in case it's later. God knows.

Until then, we are busy around here. We've made lots of progress on Emma's new room in the basement and will post pictures as soon as it's done - it's going to be so cute! Once she moves out, we can start to organize the little girls in the room she is currently in. (I can't wait, I've got piles of stuff to be organized in there, and I can't wait to get it all situated....I hate the mess!). S*l*m*n will be sharing with Elijah - and we've done nothing to organize for that yet...we'll get there.
We've begun to research vehicles, which is probably my least favorite part (it would help if the sales guy would ever call us back). I always hate to trade in vehicles, but it's not really optional this time, unless we are planning on strapping a couple of them to the luggage rack. :)

We are finding blessings in the place we are right now. Making the decision to bring our three new kids into our home has put us in a place of total dependence on God. We are depending on Him to provide all that we need....financially, emotionally, and logistically. This is so beyond us that there is no way to even pretend we've got it covered ourselves. Sometimes when we talk about all we need to do or about one more thing we need to pay for (usually costing in the thousands), I almost just have to laugh.

There is something very sweet about being in this place. The only choice we have is to sit back and watch God provide...and He is. We have not had an expense or payment yet that we've not been able to pay, and we've seen His hand in many ways. While it might be my natural inclination to worry about some of this, I can feel God's hand in it and it brings me such peace. (I do have my moments, but overall, He's been so good to me in this area). I love sitting in the sweet spot of watching my God work out all of the details in this crazy journey He's led us on. Imagine the blessings we would have missed had we not listened.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

How are we going to do it?

I have written a couple of blog posts in my mind since we got our referral, but it's been a little crazy here and I've yet to sit down and write them out. Some of them have been reflective, and others more mundane, but I've found that the things people ask us the most are....how are you going to do it?? How are we going to 'do life' with 7 kids? My best response to that right now is to tell you to ask me next year when I've actually done it!! But here are some logistics we are working on....

We are blessed to live in a home that already has 5 bedrooms....so far no one is sharing a room. We are also blessed to have a little unfinished space in the basement that will fairly easily be finished into another bedroom. So - here are the bedroom plans (as we know them now!): The two little boys will share, the two little girls will take Emma's current room and share, Emma will move to the new bedroom in the basement, and Haley and Hayden will stay put. The crazy thing is, I'm not sure we are even going to feel crowded.

Our vehicle situation is a little up in the air. We had planned on waiting for a larger vehicle, but this is no longer an option. Our 7 passenger van will not allow me to take all of the kids for school drop off, activities, etc. We need to get a new vehicle by the time the new kiddos come home. Will you pray with us about this? We are trusting that this will work out, but it wasn't in our original plan (or budget). We are on the lookout for a good deal on a 12 passenger van that is in great shape!

And the rest, well....only by God's grace. He put this in our laps and we are trusting that he has it all worked out. We know he will be faithful to give us grace for each day and wisdom to parent all 7 of our children....we don't want even one to feel left behind.

It's a wonderful thing to sit in a place where you know you can only succeed with God's help. This is not about me, or we'd surely be in trouble. I have no doubt that I am not capable of any of this. But I know who is, and good thing he's in charge.

I am humbled beyond what I could describe in words that God sees fit to use little ole me as part of his plan to redeem these sweet children's lives. (and if he can use me, trust me, he can use anyone!)

To those of you who have been supportive or offered encouraging words, we are so thankful. To those of you who have prayed for us and for our kids, we are even more grateful. We need your support and prayers during this big time of change for our family. For those of you who would like to pray, here are some specific requests:
  • For our children in Ethiopia. They have lost everything that is familiar (except each other). We pray that they will have a peace and understanding of the situation. We do not want them to feel confused or afraid. We pray that God will begin to prepare their hearts to receive the love we have for them and weave us together as a family.
  • For our family here. Please pray that God will prepare us in every way for the changes that lie ahead...for our kids at home, and for Nathan and I as parents. Pray that God will continue to give us peace and also wisdom in our parenting.
  • For provision. We have many expenses ahead of us...changes to the house, a new vehicle, not to mention two trips to Ethiopia and preparing to have three extra children in our home. We are done fundraising, simply because enough is enough...not really because the funds are all there. Please pray that God provides for every need we have....we know he will.
  • For our travel. We will be traveling with 4 children the first trip, and bringing 3 home the second trip. We are praying that God will silence these children during the trip....oops...did I say that??:) Seriously, we are praying for good travelers and for those who will be sitting near us!!
THANKS FOR PRAYING!

Friday, September 10, 2010

IT'S A.....

BOY....and a GIRL.....and a GIRL!!!!!

Yes, WE RECEIVED OUR REFERRAL!!!! And yes, you counted correctly, our referral is for THREE precious children. Some of you probably remember that our original request was for two children, but God had other plans....and we are so glad.

On Wednesday of this week we received a phone call from our agency's program director asking us if we would consider a referral 'a little outside of our request'. We had previously communicated to her that it was difficult for us to ask for certain ages and genders, because we really just wanted what God had for our family and to be a family for children who needed one. We had communicated that we were somewhat open - although we never mentioned three children!! Anyway, she went on to tell us about three siblings they wanted to keep together and were looking for a placement for. She told us that as she prayed for these kids, our family's name came to mind and she wanted to give us the opportunity to review their files for our consideration. To say I was shocked would be an understatement!!! We got off the phone agreeing that Nathan and I would talk and pray about it, and I would call her the next day.

After much conversation, prayer, consulting our kids (who were ALL for it), and talking to our social worker, we agreed that we wanted to move forward and review the kids' files. So, we took the next step asking God for either road blocks or open doors according to what He knew was best for these kids and for our family. (So far, only open doors!) Our social worker agreed to approve us for three children (instead of two) and do the necessary paperwork. This is what we anticipated could potentially be the first road block, but far from it. She agreed, and then even phoned back later to tell me what sense she thought this placement made for our family. To say this was a surprise....well, another understatement!!

So, on Thursday, I phoned our agency and told them we were ready to see the file! I was excited, overwhelmed, nervous, humbled, grieving (for their loss), feeling both inadequate and blessed all at the same time. Their pictures came through email.....they are precious. We can't wait to be their parents!! The children are a 1 year old boy, and two girls, 4 and 5. Perfect for our family....a buddy for Elijah and the two girls will have each other. Only God.

I have to share with you one other little detail that was like a little gift to me in the midst of all of this. The night before we got the first phone call, I shared with my girls that I really liked the name S******.... Love the name for a little boy, has a Biblical reference...just like it. Well, when we received our referral, I opened up the file and this little boy has that very. same. name. (can't share names until after we pass court). I couldn't believe it....what are the chances?? It was like God whispering in my ear that He was in the details....and I know He is.

Please pray for our kids....they have lost much and endured more than I can imagine in the last few months. We would appreciate your prayers for their little hearts. We are humbled and amazed that God is using us to be their family. We know the road will be sometimes difficult, but also feel a great peace that these are our kids. Thanks be to God....for this indescribable gift!

Monday, September 6, 2010

AND THE WINNER IS.....


Jeanene Stephens!
Jeanene will receive a 16 GB iPad!!

THANK YOU TO ALL WHO HELPED IN ANY WAY:
selling or purchasing tickets, donating, or helping to get the word out!



Here are all of the tickets.......



And the moolah those tickets generated to help bring our kids home.....
$5750!!!!




Emma helping to mix the tickets before the drawing....



and Elijah eating the winner's ticket.....
(duh...don't they do this in ALL the raffles??)


CONGRATULATIONS, JEANENE!

THANKS EVERYONE FOR ALL OF YOUR SUPPORT!!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

I Could Have Missed This

One year ago today, we met and fell in love with this sweet boy. I remember it as if it were yesterday, and yet I can't believe we've only had him a year. Time is crazy that way!

As we celebrate a year together, I have been reflecting on the past year and the events that led up to our adoption of Elijah. As I thought of the many things that had to fall into place before he became ours, I panicked as I had this realization: I could have missed it all.

I mean it - I really could have missed it. Nathan and I had talked about international adoption five years before starting the process with Elijah, and came to this conclusion: It was too expensive. It didn't seem to make sense for our family. And, after a little time, it seemed that Emma (our youngest) was getting too old for this to be a very good fit for us anyway. (I crack up at this now, because she was probably all of five!!)

So, we moved on...our kids all went to school....I went back to teaching...and we kind of forgot the whole thing. I mean, I was still stirred when I heard other people's adoption stories, and I always thought it was a great thing to do, but we had already decided it wasn't for us, right?

Well, fast forward to Spring 2008. I can't pinpoint one experience or idea that is alone responsible for the stirring in my heart, but suffice it to say that God would not leave me alone about the idea of adopting. It was everywhere I turned. I found myself teary at videos and stories, and ran into people everywhere who were in the midst of or who had adopted. And here's the biggie: As I turned to scripture to see what it had to say about orphans, the message was unmistakable:


"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy dwelling.
God sets the lonely in families." Psalm 68:5,6

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. "
James 1:27

"He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so it went well. Is that not what it means to know me?" declares the Lord. Jeremiah 22:16

"Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the orphan. Fight for the rights of widows." Isaiah 1:17

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says."
James 1:22



As I continued to research the plight of the orphan, these statistics would not leave my mind:

  • There are 147 MILLION orphans in the world.
  • If you gathered all of these children together in one location, they would make up the world's eighth largest nation. Think of it, an entire nation of fatherless children.
  • If you lined these children up shoulder to shoulder (1700 per mile), in one long line, that line of precious children would be long enough to circle the globe more than three times. (CAN YOU IMAGINE??)
  • Here's the kicker: If only 7% of the 2 Billion Christians would adopt/care for a single orphan, there would essentially be no such thing as an orphan crisis.
Are you kidding me - 7% ??? To eliminate the orphan crisis? Doesn't it seem so simple, if the church would be the answer to caring for the orphan??


I recently also found a list of all of the reasons that adopting did not make sense for our family.....we didn't have the money, I had gone back to work, we wondered how this would affect our children, our kids were getting older, we wondered if we could afford another child, etc. The list of reasons that this just wasn't practical was long.

So, you see....I could have missed it. I could have missed out on being this sweet boy's mom and all of the blessings that come with it. It brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.

And then I think of those of you who may be wrestling with some of the same thoughts and fears that we did before we decided to 'take the plunge'. And I pray that if God is calling you to it, you won't miss it. You cannot fathom the blessing on the other side...the blessing of faith grown because you've depended on God for the strength to get thru the process, the money to pay for it, and His grace to weave your family together. The blessing of a life redeemed thru adoption, and the blessing of being the one He uses to play a part in that. The blessing of another child (or children) to call you mommy or daddy and find their security in your arms.

I'm grateful beyond what I could express that I didn't miss it, for the lessons He's taught me thru adoption, and for this sweet child of mine.

Friday, July 30, 2010

WARNING: Ramblings from an emotional mom...

So, things are changing around here....meaning, my kids are growing up. I guess things are always changing, but at times it seems more noticeable or visible than others. To start, our oldest (Haley, 14) was gone this week to CIY (Christ in Youth) conference. I was so glad that she had the opportunity to go, and am so grateful for the many volunteers that spent their week with 140 teenagers from our church who made the trip. As I dropped her off, I really couldn't believe I was there. Have you had those moments?...those moments where it hits you that your children really are THAT old and are growing up THAT quickly?? I looked around at the other kids going on the trip...yep, they were teenagers. They seemed so grown up. I glanced back at Haley ...yep, she was looking pretty grown up, too.

I remember when my children were little, older women would stop to talk to them and remind me of how quickly the time would pass, and how I should enjoy every moment. I believed them as much as I could, and I tried to soak in the moments. But, they were right. Time passes too quickly. I mean, I feel like I just dropped Haley off at her first day of pre-school, and now she is in high school. It's crazy to me. Four more years until 18...? Doesn't seem possible.

My other two 'big kids', Hayden and Emma, are going to middle school this year. We homeschooled last year, but all three big kids are returning to school. I am having mixed feelings about this, too. I really did enjoy having my kids home. I enjoy them as people and loved the conversations about all of the 'good stuff' we had...faith, life decisions, relationships, etc. I will treasure the year we spent together getting to know each other on a deeper level, and adjusting to our new family dynamics once Elijah was home. It was a special time and there is a part of me that wishes it hadn't been so short. This is the right decision for our family, but I'm just going to miss having them around.

I am beyond grateful for the four children God has blessed us with. I could not be prouder of who they are becoming...their faith, maturity, and responsibility. Being home with them this past year gave me a very real sense of who they are, and what they believe in. It also showed me that they know who they are, too. So, you see, my sadness has nothing to do with regret or worry...it has everything to do with how I love these kids and cherish my time with them. It's just going a little quickly for me.

And then there is Ethiopia....my heart skips a beat even at the thought. Somewhere in Ethiopia I have two more children...children I long to bring home. Children I think of every day and pray that they are safe and have all that they need. Children I know are most likely experiencing a difficult season in their life - one of loss, grief, and hardship. I pray that God will hold them close and comfort them through whatever difficulty is happening that will bring them into our family. Adoption always begins with a loss...that is a very difficult, but very real reality. I want them to know we are waiting for them, and that while we can't take away the hardship they've faced, we want to love them and give them a forever family.

Parenting is hard, isn't it? It's the greatest joy of my life, the thing that has taught me the most, and the hardest thing I've ever done. So far, I am finding the most difficult thing for me is letting go. Of course not ever completely, but releasing just enough at just the right times so that they have that balance of achieving independence all while knowing you are still there. I sometimes have to fight to let go just the right amount and not hold on too tightly.

I am grateful for a God who loves these children more perfectly than I ever could. I am trusting Him as they navigate new schools, make new friends, and take the next step in growing up. I am grateful that I can trust Him with my kids half way around the world, and know He is working on their behalf to bring them home...just as He did with Elijah. I am grateful that He is there even when I cannot be. I am thankful that they are His children first...and filled with gratitude that He saw fit to make me their mom.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Will you say YES....?

I found this video on a friend's blog, and had to repost....will YOU say YES...?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

We like progress!!

Well, this was a week of adoption progress, and that certainly felt good!
We were able to send our dossier to our family coordinator at AWAA to be approved last week! She reviews dossiers on Monday, so we overnighted it on Thursday to be sure it would be there on Friday, in time to be reviewed on Monday. We are hoping that everything will look fine, and it will be authenticated and then sent on to Ethiopia! It feels great to have those papers outta here, and exciting to know that after approval, it will be in Ethiopian hands!

I spoke with our agency this past week regarding our request as well. I had some questions about placement of children, and all that goes into that consideration. We are requesting two children between the ages of 0-5 (or 6?)....either siblings or unrelated children. They will most likely both be older than Elijah. We have discussed whether or not it matters to us if the children are related, and decided to leave that decision up to God (He already knows who our children are anyway!). If we adopted them at different times they would be unrelated, and have different stories, and we would be dealing with those things anyway. The only difference here is that they are coming home at the same time. So, we remain open and are excited to see what our referral will bring! We are also leaving genders open as well (although it would be very neat and tidy if we got one girl and one boy...we would have the bedroom thing all figured out....so I'm pretty sure that's not what we're getting! LOL).

We do not know how long to expect for a referral. We were told that there have been other families who have come along and said they would like two children, and are also open to unrelated children, so we should expect to wait longer than maybe we originally thought for a referral of this kind. So....six months....longer...? We just don't know. Our family coordinator gave us the standby advice of "expect the wait to be longer, and then be surprised if it's sooner". I think it would be awesome to have a referral by Christmas, but we'll see. I don't want to get my hopes set on any kind of time line. (BTW - this wait time is not because there are not many children that need families, but because our agency only works with a certain number of orphanages and there is MUCH to do to get a child paper ready before referral....there are also many times complications with paperwork or details to be filled in before they are ready to be adopted).

It feels good to move on in the process...and to not be getting things signed, notarized, certified, and copied. Now, we just wait, but I'm not sure which is harder - the working or the waiting!

Thank you for your prayers for our family, and for our precious children still in Africa. Please pray for them - that their needs will be met, their bellies full, their health good, and that God will send someone to comfort their hearts in what is most likely a very difficult time for them, whatever their story is. We'd appreciate it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

I Wanna Get Back There....

I found myself this evening reading thru a couple of new blogs. It just so happens that these bloggers are relatively new to the adoption world and SO excited and ON FIRE about what they are doing....you can hear the passion in their voice and the purpose in their calling. It has caused me to reflect a little bit about where I am, and how I long to remember the purpose and passion with which I began this journey.

Just for clarification sake, let me just tell you that I have not lost my passion for adoption, or the cause of the orphan. I also still know this is part of my purpose, and am not questioning that.....but maybe the purpose and passion have been a bit taken for granted lately....or maybe muddled in with some of the other emotions I've been feeling.

As we enter the final stage of finishing our dossier (waiting on ONE. MORE. PAPER.), I find myself wondering about what our referral will look like and how these children will fit into our family. I have probably read more than I should about RAD, adjustments of older children, and difficult adoption stories. This has all been in the interest of trying to become 'prepared'. However, I have found that in my efforts to be prepared, I've lost my focus. I've taken my eyes from where they should be - on God and His calling for our lives - and put them on myself.

It's not wrong to be prepared - it's good. It's not wrong to think through what is best for your family, and how it will affect everyone involved. However, I have found, at least for myself, there is a bit of a danger there. It's tempting for me to listen to other's opinions and forget that God's is the only one that matters. It's easy for me to get wrapped up in my own fears and worry about things that aren't happening, and may or may not ever happen. It's easy for me to think about my own desires and make this all about me.

I wanna get back there....back to that place I was when I first discovered God's heart for the orphan....back to the place where my focus was on Him and what He was asking of our family....back to the place where my faith assured me that even if hard things came, He would see me through. I don't think I've really left that place, but I do think that I've kept my eyes on my own fears long enough that it temporarily diminished the passion. So, I'm workin' my way back. I'm going to take my eyes off of myself, and focus on who God is and His promises....because I know when I do, things always seem clearer.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."
Joshua 1:9

Saturday, July 10, 2010

My Emma


In June we celebrated Emma's 11th birthday!! I can hardly believe she is 11 already (don't we always say that??), but we are so proud of the young lady she is becoming!

Emma is the youngest of our three 'big kids' and is the life of our home. She is outgoing and fun, and has a heart of gold. This is the girl that has a heart for anybody or any animal she thinks needs help or feels sad. We have saved many an animal from our basement windows, and helped an injured bird in our backyard by taking it to the local vet med school. She loves animals and thinks she wants to be a veterinarian someday. Emma has a kind heart for kids, too. When we sat the kids down to talk to them about our second adoption and the possibility of adopting two children this time, she was ALL for it. When I asked her how many children we should adopt, she said, "MOM! There are 147 MILLION orphans!" (as if, silly question - she thinks we should adopt many). This is also the same girl who came to us during the week Nathan and I were making a final decision about our first adoption (she did NOT know we were having this conversation at all) and told us that she really wanted to help take care of kids in Africa and thought she might be a missionary in an orphanage someday. She has a huge heart and we love that about her.

Emma is in a local chidren's choir and loves to sing. She also plays piano and is interested in drama. Between rehearsals and practicing, and trying to take care of the world, she keeps busy. :) We love her zest for life and the energy she brings to our home. We are so proud of her, and count her among our greatest blessings!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Referralversary, DCFS and Passports...

It's been one year since we saw this face....



One year ago we received our referral call for Elijah and saw his precious face for this first time....I know I'm a little biased, but is this not the cutest referral picture you've ever seen...?!
I remember that I had picked Hayden up from basketball camp, fed my kids' lunch, and we were on our way to do some volunteer work when my phone rang. I had prepared myself that our 'call' would not come until August, so I was surprised when I saw the 703 area code on my caller ID. It was Terra, our family coordinator, calling with our referral!! I could hardly think I was so surprised as I fumbled my way to the computer, and we tried to conference call Nathan into the call. We couldn't get ahold of him, so she emailed the pictures and gave us his information. Nathan looked from work and we looked from home.....I couldn't believe that the day had come or how beautiful he was! What a blessing! Happy Referralversary, Elijah!!
In other news, our homestudy was approved by DCFS this week!! This is GREAT news! We've sent our homestudy on to the next step at USCIS (immigration). There was some confusion in the midst of changes at USCIS as to where to send it to, so I'm crossing my fingers that we got it right. Now we use this time to finish our dossier documents and wait for our I171-H. When all those things are in place, our paperwork can go to Ethiopia and we can be placed on the waiting list!! No telling how long all that will take, but we are hoping for the inside of 6 weeks. (!!)
Our kids' passports also came in the mail this week....the big 3 anyway. They requested one more document in order to process Elijah's passport, but it didn't sound like a big deal. We are planning on taking all of our kids on our first trip to Ethiopia, and that won't be for a while, so we have some time to spare on that.
All of this = progress. And progress is a good thing!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What a difference a day makes!

So, yesterday I posted and shared that things were kind of at a standstill with our homestudy approval and we had not received an adoption grant we had applied for. I was more bummed than I probably really should have been, but it was discouraging. (both for DCFS to delay our homestudy approval and to not receive the grant). Last night I felt myself feeling disappointed and telling God that I really just needed to see Him in all of this. If this is where He was leading, I would follow, but I needed to somehow see Him in the midst of the process, and help me to know this adoption was in fact His idea. I was not praying for Him to reverse anything that had happened, (nor did I expect that) I just needed a little glimmer of hope and some reassurance that we were where He wanted us.

Well, today He all but undid all that happened yesterday!! First, I received an email from our social worker this morning that they had received word that DCFS would be approving homestudies from our agency and that our homestudy should be processed soon!! Yay! Hopefully we will get our approval in the next week or so and can move on to ....well, more waiting, but this time for USCIS to approve our homestudy and send us our I171-H.

Then, this afternoon, Lifesong for Orphans called and said that they do have grant money for us after all!! Totally unexpected! At first I thought they had made a mistake because of the call we had received the day before. Apparently, they had an unexpected donor and were able to offer us a grant! We are SO grateful!!

It's amazing the difference a day makes...and even more amazing that I have a God who shows up when I need Him to. Who cares about the desires of my heart, but more importantly cares about the fatherless and will rise up on their behalf. I am in awe and humbled to watch Him work.

Thank you for those of you who have offered encouragement when the road gets tough, and pray on behalf of our family and our children in Ethiopia. We will never be able to thank you enough.

I will thank you, Lord, with all my heart;
I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done.
I will be filled with joy because of you.
I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.
Psalm 9:1,2

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Homestudy Approval and Grants....or lack there of

Well, not a whole lot new on the adoption front.....we are STILL waiting on Illinois DCFS to approve our homestudy....they've had it since April 13. We live in one of the only states (if not THE only state) which requires DCFS to look over an international adoptive family's homestudy and approve it before it can go on to USCIS (immigration). DCFS informed our agency this week that they will not be approving our homestudy until their (the agency's) license is successfully renewed in July. AHHHH!! Frustrating to say the least.....we had really anticipated having this approval by mid May. There is no anticipated problem with our agency's license, which adds to the frustration. So, we are just hoping that this agency license will be granted quickly and our homestudy will be approved shortly after that.

In other news, we were disappointed to find out we will not be receiving a grant from Lifesong for Orphans. We had kind of hoped that because we are adopting 2 children and they were children number 5 and 6 for us, that we might be chosen for a matching grant. Bummer for us.
So, we trudge onward with our fundraising.....and hope that our family and friends don't get sick of us. :)

We do have an exciting raffle coming soon.....check back for details!!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

No Judgement Attached....

This is another hard, but honest, post. I was told this week by someone I love that Nathan and I and our choices may be making others feel inferior. While this was presented graciously, it cut to the quick. You see, the very last thing I want others to see or feel in our journey is that we think we are superior or are judgemental of anyone else and their journeys.

The idea came from my last post and my reflecting on my own selfishness and struggle to embrace a life that would require me to give up some things in order to adopt two children. It was gently pointed out to me that if I am reflecting on these things, others may relate to my thoughts on myself and apply them to themselves. For example, if we are choosing to adopt children and forgo some of our dining out or vacations, then what about others who make the choice to do these things (eat out, vacation, etc.) and don't adopt children?

I want to be clear about something and I hope you will hear my heart on this: We are not concerned with what others are or are not doing. We hope that you (or anyone else) will never look at our lives and think we think 'we are so good' or that others are inferior. Boy, that was hard to even write. We have been blessed (and challenged) to be put on this path of adoption, but we are not better than anyone because we are on it. This is God's doing and not our own. My flaws are many - too many to list - and I am just grateful that God will still use me despite of them.

We know that we are on the path that God has for our family - we are in agreement and we have peace about it. I will be honest though - this is hard. It's hard to think that other's might feel negatively about what we are doing. It's hard to choose something for your family that is 'out of the norm'. It's hard to feel like others might judge you about the decisions you are making. It's hard to think about making sacrifices.


Here's the truth - I am responsible for doing what I know God is asking me to do, and I hope that I will do it with grace so that others never feel in some way condemned or judged by me in the process. You are responsible for your own journey.
I was reminded of this passage of scripture earlier this week by a good friend (unrelated to the conversation I mentioned above, but very appropriate):

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me more than these?"
"Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my lambs."
Again Jesus said, "Simon, son of John, do you truly love me?"
He answered, "Yes, Lord, you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Take care of my sheep."
The third time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, "Do you love me?"
He said, "Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."
Jesus said, "Feed my sheep. I tell you the truth, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old someone will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go."
Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God.
Then he said to him, "Follow me!"
Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them......
When Peter saw him, he asked,
"Lord, what about him?"
Jesus answered, "If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?
You must follow me."
John 21:15-22
You see, Jesus wanted Peter to worry about his own journey....not John's or anyone else's. The same is true for me - He wants me to worry about my journey. Yours is between you and Him.
Nathan and I will make decisions for our family, and yes, advocate for orphans....it is our heart.
But we do so with no judgement attached. Each one can read, pray, and decide for themselves what God has for them. They certainly don't need me in my own imperfection to do it for them.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Wrestling

Lately I've been wrestling a bit with God....not because we disagree (how can you disagree with God??:), but because I am trying to make sense of things. Over the past week or so, Nathan and I have been in prayer and discussion about our 'request' for a child in our second adoption. (BTW - I completely and totally hate to refer to it as a request...we are not shopping for a child, but we are trying to discern what direction God wants us to go). Let me explain.....

When we started our homestudy this time around, we agreed to ask for an approval that was wide open. So, we got approved for 1-2 children instead of just 1. At the time we completely felt like it was a wise thing to do because you just never know in international adoption, and if our referral showed up with a sibling or something, we wanted to be prepared. We (I) really didn't have any intention of bringing two children home.

Fast forward to the past week or so and I can tell you we are in a completely different place with this. Apparently, after having some discussion, Nathan was under the impression that we were open to two children once we submitted our homestudy that way. I just thought we were being open just in case. When I found out this is what Nathan was open to, I was a bit taken a back. My initial reaction was to feel overwhelmed.....six kids?? Am I on candid camera? You must be kidding me.

So, for the next several days, I prayed - a lot. And I proceeded to tell God all of the reasons that this doesn't make sense and that I wasn't sure I wanted to be the "crazy adoption lady" with six kids. I mean, those people are weird, right??

So, in the interest of transparency, I will share with you some of my really super-duper great reasons for not adopting two more for a total of six: (don't judge me....I'm just being honest!)
  • Like I said, I don't want to be the weird adoption lady. I mean, I think I'm pretty normal. :))
  • How will we afford the additional adoption expenses (since we don't really know how we are affording them for one!)
  • Grocery bills for a family of eight.
  • I want to be able to go on vacation once in a while.
  • I like to eat out.
  • Do these kids expect to go to college??
  • No one will ever invite us over for dinner again.
  • WHAT WILL WE DRIVE?
  • Will I have to give up my own involvement in ministries I love in order to parent these children well?
  • Will I have time to be myself when so many others need me?
  • And again....How will we afford all of this and what will we drive?? :)
Super-duper great reasons, right?
None of these reasons seems good enough to allow a child to stay in an orphanage and wait for a family.....so I can go on vacation? so I can eat out? because I may have to give a few things up? I'm pretty sure God does not want me to leave a child behind because they don't fit in my van.
Let me tell you, I have wrestled with these things. Not because I don't want two more and not because I don't want six kids....I actually do. I am actually humbled that our God would entrust me with six precious lives. I am in awe of that.
But, I am selfish. I like to be in control. I never imagined this is what my life would look like. I never thought we would be a family of eight. I don't want to give things up - new clothes, meals out, taking trips, entertainment, and other pleasurable activies. And, I'll be honest - I may have to give some of it up to do adopt one, let alone two. Why do I say that I know this life is not about me, and then live it as if it is?
So, I have prayed. I have talked to other adoptive moms. And I have examined God's heart. I cannot claim to know exactly what God has for us, but I will tell you that God has placed a genuine excitement in me at the thought of adopting two. No, not an emotional response, but a feeling that my heart is in line with His. So, we will move forward with our adoption and wait with anticipation to see His plan unfold. Because here is what I know for sure....our first adoption didn't make any sense (from the world's perspective). Our kids were bigger, I was still teaching, and we really couldn't afford it (so we thought). But through it God was faithful, He provided what we needed and He brought us our sweet Elijah. What if I had missed it.....? What if I had missed it because of my fears and selfishness??
I hear Him whispering....."Do you trust me? do you really trust me? This is not too big for me."
Of course it isn't - I do trust Him and I am excited about this journey He has us on.....one thing I've learned so far - His ways and His plans are always better..... so bring it on!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Haley Morgan



On Monday (April 26) we celebrated Haley's 14th birthday! My mind cannot comprehend that 14 years have gone so quickly and we feel so blessed to have such a wonderful daughter!

Haley is our oldest child and much like her dad in many ways....she looks like him, and sometimes even acts like him. :) (when she is ornery or has a dry sense of humor!) She is probably the most reserved of our children, but what she has to say is worth listening to. She is mature and wise for her years and I would venture to say more responsible than any other 14 year old you could find. We try to make an effort not to take advantage of her because you can entrust her with much, but I have to admit it's sometimes tempting!

Her talents are many....she is a bright girl and school comes easily. She is creative and loves to bake (actually wants to sell cupcakes as a fundraiser for our adoption!), cook, make cards, and do crafts. She is a pianist and also takes tennis, both of which she enjoys.

What I have always admired most about Haley is that she is who she is. She is fine to be with a group of people, and fine to be by herself. She is not easily swayed by others and is true to herself. She makes good decisions and doesn't change for those around her. (I am thinking this is going to be a great teenage skill!) Haley knows who she is and what she believes, and while she may not be overly vocal about it, her actions speak louder than words.

Happy Birthday, Haley! We love you!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

IT'S NOT ABOUT ME

Has it really been 2 1/2 weeks since I last posted?? Where does the time go? (well, I could give you a list, but it wouldn't be all that exciting or probably even a lot different from your list....so, I'll skip it and assume you can relate!)

I have formulated a post in my mind several times...or at least thought about writing it, but I never get around to it. Yes, part of it is time, but part of the reason why is because I'm not quite sure how transparent I want to be...

There is no better way to learn many of life's lessons than to experience the journey of adoption. I have wrestled with not having control over the situations and timing and all of the unknowns. I love a plan, love to know how things are going to play out, and am not the greatest 'waiter' you've ever met. I like to get things done, and do not love sitting around waiting for things to happen. Well, guess what? Adoption requires much of all of that!

But there is another area of struggle....another area not quite so easy to admit. It's ugly and the very nature of this struggle urges me to keep it quiet and pretend it doesn't exist. Wonder what I'm reffering to? PRIDE. Why is that so difficult to admit? Because my pride wants me to smooth it over and act as if I have it all together....

I have always been an independent person....and when I'm not, well, I usually pretend to be anyway. I'm not pretending on purpose, as if to 'lie' to people. I just have always felt like I needed to be self sufficient and do for myself. I'm the 'helper', not the 'helpee'. The role I am comfortable in is taking care of myself and my family, helping others when I can, and being the doer. I am uncomfortable having others do for me or give to me. From as far back as I can remember, I wanted to be independent. I fought against my parents for independence from a young age, and now that I'm older I have no idea why. I certainly didn't have a family situation where that was necessary - it was just the way I was wired, I guess.

Well, here's the hard part. We can't do this adoption thing alone. We are going to have to have help. We are holding fundraisers, applying for grants, and will most likely send a letter to family and friends asking them to partner with us in this adoption. We did all this the first time, and I swallowed my pride and did it because it was necessary and it wasn't for me - it was to bring our child home.

So, here we are, in the same situation, with the desire to adopt, and unable to finance the entire thing ourselves. We've already asked for help once.....really, God, do we need to do it again? I mean, didn't I learn my lesson by doing this once? Isn't that enough?? Surely, there's another answer this time. The independent (aka proud) part of me wants to run from this....I don't want to ask people to come to one more event, buy one more thing, or give one more donation. I just want it to be done.

But, here's the thing: IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. Apparently, I didn't learn this as completely as I thought I did. I want to have learned it well, but still I struggle. My husband seems to have such a good grasp on this. He does not wrestle with 'what other people will think'. (Really, it's true....remarkable, really.) He gets that this isn't about us and does not hesitate to ask people to partner with us. In fact, here's what he has to say about this issue:
(taken directly from his Facebook - commenting on adoption and the expense)
The way I see it is, I was bought at a price, we were all bought at a price, even though we were/are undeserving. It may/will cost us all something in terms of time, money, having to humble ourselves to ask for money, but it will all be worth it.
Store up your treasures in heaven and when/if you have to ask others for help consider it a chance to allow them to do what they should do/be doing anyway. When we ask and give others the opportunity to do something to help us bring our children home we are giving them a chance to care for the least of these and to take care of orphans. When we answer his call sometimes we pay a price. We will all be dead in 40-50 years but the inconviences that we go through now will have Godly repurcussions for many generations.
I look forward to all of our children coming home to our families and I also look forward to other people doing what we have done when we have led and shown them a good example. Despite the hardships we face, we will be blessed and our children will be blessed. God will not turn his face from us.

(Don't you love him??)

So, I continue this journey, remembering that God has called us to it and it's about what He wants to do through us and the child He wants to bring into our family. I get emotional thinking that He might bless me with yet another child and am beyond grateful for that. Teach me, Lord, what you want me to learn. Even when it's hard.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

How Goes It?

Our adoption process is coming along (I guess?) as we expected. Since our hard news in February about not being able to proceed with the adoption of a certain little girl, it has slowed a bit....or at least it feels like it. Our agency has told us that we should expect to wait until August (once we've been home with Elijah for a year) to submit our dossier. We may ask for an exception, but we aren't expecting it to be granted. I guess we're not really in a hurry for anything, anyway.

We are patiently(?) waiting to receive our appointment from immigration to go to Indy and have our fingerprints taken. We have had all of our homestudy appointments and are waiting for the homestudy to be completed. In the meantime, we are slowly working on compiling the many documents that will be included in our dossier. I would say we are about half done with that. I have to say, I am much more relaxed this second time around and I guess it alleviates some stress knowing that we can't really do much until August anyway.

When August comes, our paperwork will be sent to Ethiopia and we will be officially put on the wait list. We are prayerfully considering what our specific request in terms of age range will be. By the time we receive a referral, Elijah will be 2. Our agency has a rule about wanting the referred child to have at least a 12 month age difference from the children already in your home. That leaves us with the choices of 0-12 months and any child above 3 years old. We do not have a gender preference, so we will probably leave it open and ask for a referral of a child 0-12 months or 3-5 years. We know this probably means receiving a referral for an older child, but we are kind of excited about that. We want to leave it in God's hands and be open to whatever He has for us.

We do not know what our wait time for a referral will be once our dossier is sent in August....infant boy referrals are currently at a wait time of 4-6 months and toddler referrals are somewhat unpredictable. Our family coordinator told us to expect about the same time frame as an infant referral and know that there is a possibility it could be sooner. So, who knows?

I guess there really isn't much information in all of this, but that's where we are....waiting to wait. We are plenty busy around here, so I'm sure it will go quickly!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Happy Birthday to my Biggest Boy!



My biggest boy is having a birthday! Hayden turns 13 on Friday - hard to believe! He is such a blessing to us and we are so proud of him.

Many people who know us now don't realize that he had a bit of a rocky start 13 years ago. Hayden was born at a whopping 2 lbs. 10 oz. and was 10 weeks early. He was a twin, and his identical twin, Nathanael, passed away before birth. It was a crazy time of having an 11 month old at home (yes, you read that right - Haley was not quite 11 months old when they were born), celebrating that Hayden had been born, being worried for his health and future, and grieving for Nathanael. I had no idea what to feel at any given moment. Hayden stayed in the NICU for 37 days and had what would be considered a pretty uneventful hospital stay. (I would NOT have said that at the time, but the Drs. who deal with it every day did!) He came home at 4 lbs. 4 oz. on April 26, Haley's first birthday.

Since a young age, Hayden has always been a tender-hearted, caring boy. He loved to pray even as a little guy, and I have always felt like God spared His life because He has a plan for him. When he was about five, he would evangelize the kids in the neighborhood, and tell them the story of Jesus. One day I looked over as he was shaking a little playmate by the shoulders and saying, "Do you believe, Max, do you believe?" Sweet boy just wanted everyone to know Jesus.

This boy loves all things basketball - loves to play, loves to watch, loves to talk about it, and knows more statistics than I can wrap my brain around. If he could remember to put away his clean clothes like he could remember b-ball stats, we'd be in business! He is in heaven during March Madness, although disappointed that his Illini didn't make it in the NCAA this year. :( Basketball is definitely his favorite, but he will watch any team, any sport, anytime.

We are proud of the young man Hayden is becoming. He's responsible, funny, hard working, and smart. He maintains that sweet spirit he had as a young boy.....this year his #1 request for a birthday present was to donate money towards an organization that will help someone learn how to teach the Bible. He told me it was because he knew that the most important thing someone could do in their life was accept Jesus as their Savior.

I love this kid - Happy Birthday, Hayden!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Agency Update

We had a conference call with our agency, America World, today. We were able to get a bit more information about what is going on. It doesn't necessarily answer all of our questions about how this will all work out, but it was good to hear.

First, let me start by saying I love our agency. They do such a good job in giving good information, but only what they know is true. There is no speculating or emotional response with them.....which is so important since most of us are plenty emotional without their help! :) They are encouraging and tell us often that they are praying for each one of us - I couldn't recommend them more.

In a nutshell, here is what we learned:
Both parents are now required to travel for their children's court date. The biggest reason for this change is that sometimes parents were traveling to Ethiopia (after they'd passed court) and finding their child to be different than what they expected....more medical issues, developmental delays, etc. Apparently, some families chose to leave that child behind and come home without them. Here is the big problem: Ethiopian adoption is a fully irrevocable process. That means, in their country, there is no undoing it, which is really bad for these kids left behind. They are now stuck without hope of ever being matched with a new family. So, now we will travel to Ethiopia a few days before our court date and spend time with our child. Then, we will go to court to testify of our desire to adopt our child(ren). Honestly, it makes sense. I remember when our agency went to court for Elijah (on our behalf), it did feel a little weird that this child we had never seen or held was now legally ours by his country. I wasn't having doubts, but the process of that felt a little strange.

So, we will travel anywhere from 2-8 weeks after our referral to meet our child, go to court and then return home. (BOO for this part!!) We then wait for the Embassy to do the paperwork and investigating they need to do and will return to ET 8-12 weeks after our court date to bring our child home.....could be a little sooner. No one knows how this process will change over the coming months (it probably will!), but this is the current plan.....not that there is ever a consistent plan with international adoption....the only consistent thing about the whole thing is change!