Thursday, December 22, 2011

Last Minute Christmas Gifts



With only a few days till Christmas, have you found yourself beginning to go crazy while in search of the "perfect" gift for the people in your life who seem to have it all? Interested in some suggestions??

How about a goat?
A chicken?
Mosquito nets?
A drought survival kit?

Huh?? Well, while Aunt Mary may smile politely as she opens yet another set of carving knives, how do you think she would respond to a gift that gives life to a family in a developing country? Several organizations have been creating "gifts" just like these for several years and we've fallen in love with this idea. While we (JT and I) have all that we need, our eyes are being opened to the actual real needs of others around the world, and we're becoming more aware of Jesus' call to care for those needs.

"From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

We've already been given so much in this life, and we'd like you to join us this year in giving to families struggling daily to survive. Many of the gifts are very inexpensive, but can literally change a family's life.  Gifts like goats, chickens, pigs, cows, rabbits, fish, etc. can help to provide food and serve as a source of  income for a family as they learn to breed their animals and/or sell their products (eggs, milk, etc.)  Mosquito nets help keep families in Malaria "hot spots" safe as they sleep at night, reducing their risk of the life-threatening disease. One of my favorite items available through Compassion International is their "Water of Life"  water treatment system.  For only $55.00, this water container/dispenser will provide safe, clean drinking water for a family's lifetime. Each unit uses the same filtration technoogy used in kidney dialysis equipment and can supply up to 1 MILLION gallons of water! Every single day approximately 4,000 children die due to water and sanitation-related diseases.

4,000 children -- Every.Single.Day.
Sit on that number for a minute.

Water is essential to the human body, but for many around the world clean water is not an option. However, it can be achieved with the gift of a Water of Life system.  (I know, I'm starting to sound like a salesperson, but I can't help it...I've been amazed at all I've read and seen about this simple device that could change a family's health AND life.)

I'll quit babbling about it and let you check it out for yourself:


 


I urge you to browse the links below to find some life-changing/life-giving Christmas gifts this year. Perhaps your shopping has been finished for weeks?  I'm sure your kids wouldn't mind opening one more gift tucked under the tree...how cool would it be to explain to them the additional gift of chickens or goats or clean water? Or even better yet, what about all three?? ;)



Have a wonderful Christmas Season! Enjoy every moment spent with friends and family, and cherish the blessings you've been given.

"Due" any day

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Pouring out the mess

"While it may be true to some degree that we can't help the way we feel,
the truth is that we don't have to let our feelings run our lives."
~Nancy Leigh DeMoss

A little over a month ago, I had been denying my feelings of disappointment, anger, and just pure sadness pertaining to the unknown end to our waiting process. Denying these feelings was an emotionally dangerous place to be, and yet I kept going there.

"Our agency has lengthen our proposed wait time, but we're doing okay."
"We're fine, really."

If I said either of these statements (or something similar) to you, I was lying. Yep, it's true, I flat out lied to you, and for my dishonesty, I'm sorry. The truth is, I was not okay, nor was I doing "fine." While going through my day to day routine outwardly unchanged, inwardly I was creeping toward my emotional-worst...except I was trying SO hard to ignore the feelings inside. Ignorance is not bliss however and I became an ugly mess the week of Thanksgiving, as my heart (& eyes) began spilling out all the hurt I had been trying to hide.  That week, I went to Heart to Heart (a bible study for moms, or moms-to-be in my case), and the ever-so-fitting topic was "Managing your Emotions and Not The Other Way Around." Wow, was that discussion pointing directly at me! I am so thankful for the timeliness of God's provisions in my life. At a time when I was feeling so discouraged, He used the wise and honest words of our group leader to breathe truth back into my soul. I realized that I had not only been dishonest about my feelings with family and friends, but I was withholding my true emotion from The One who created me. The One who knit me together, The One who knows the number of hairs on my head, The One who knows the number of my days was being denied an intimate look at my heart, which in turn was denying me of the healing that needed to take place.

"Ultimately, The Enemy wants to keep us all riled up,
unable to deepen relationships and build upon what God has called us to do."
 ~ Sherilyn Jameson (my amazing H2H teacher)

How true and how sad. I was allowing myself to believe lies from Satan instead of searching for The Truth. Instead of believing that God wants to walk with me, even through these days of disappointment, I began to withdraw (ever so slightly) from my conversations with him. He NEVER wants this from his children. He wants us to stop pretending we can do everything on our own and get real with him.

Even when it's UGLY.
Especially when it's UGLY.

He longs for us to pour out our hearts about ALL things. That night, I poured out my heart...thank you, Sherilyn for listening (even when I was blubbering unrecognizable words!), and God has started some heart healing in my life. In the weeks that followed, I believe he prompted many of you to check in on us as we received SO many phone calls, emails, and fb messages, encouraging us in our wait. Thank you for your continued prayers; God is using you to help us more than you may ever know.

Psalm 62:5-8 (Amplified)
"My soul, wait only upon God and silently submit to Him; for my hope and expectation are from Him. He only is my Rock and my Salvation; He is my Defense and my Fortress, I shall not be moved. With God rests my salvation and my glory; He is my Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness, and my refuge is in God! Trust in, lean on, rely on, and have confidence in Him at all times, you people; pour out your heats before Him. God is a refuge for us (a fortress and a high tower.)"

Over the past month, I have experienced incredible (daily) restoration because of my new willingness to pour out my heart and allow God to use my brokenness to draw me closer to him. He wants to use whatever we're going through to shine his glory...even when we ourselves can't see beyond the messiness of life. Pour out your heart to him. He already knows, understands, and longs for us to pour it ALL out: the good, the bad, the ugly (and the really ugly!). Whatever you're facing now, whether your life is going exactly as you planned or if you're caught in a whirlwind of uncertainty, I want to encourage you to pour it out and allow him to use your life for his glory this coming year.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

8 Months DTE

We're still here.

I know it's been a quite while since I've posted. To tell the truth, I've thought about posting multiple times but kept getting hung up on what to write considering where we are in our journey. How many creative ways can I say "we're still waiting"?

But that's where we are. Still waiting {im}patiently.

It's hard to believe that this weekend, one year ago, we were having our home study done. We were so nervous, but ended up having a wonderful time with our social worker and we were so excited to get everything completed to start our dossier.  Some days, it doesn't feel like it's been over a year since we started the process, but other days it feels much longer. Those are the days I dread, but we're still trusting God's timing in this journey. His timing and plans are SO much better than ours ever could be, and we feel that he's using this time to renew our strength and faith in Him.

Our social worker, Tami, is actually in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia's capitol) and will be returning to the US this week. She's been there a little over a week meeting with Dove's staff over there to review the current process and timeline for intercountry adoptions. She also had scheduled a meeting with the US Embassy, so we're anxious to find out any updated information she's learned concerning the processing of MOWYCA letters, timelines for court appointments, etc. About a month ago, we did receive news that our agency was increasing the current wait time for referrals from 6-8 months to 6-10 months. Our paperwork has been in Ethiopia for 8 months so the call could come any day...and we're really hoping for a call before Christmas. Last year, we were certain we would have them home by this Christmas, but with the realization that so much is completely out of our control, this year we're hoping to simply know their names and faces by Christmas...would you pray for this for us? I honestly couldn't think of a better gift this year.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Created for Care

A few months ago, an amazing adoptive-momma friend of mine, Ashley (she's the one you helped to send  goodies to her daughter's transition home) mentioned that she went to an incredible retreat last winter, designed for adoptive moms. She RAVED about this retreat and strongly encouraged me to consider going with her this year.

While in the "waiting stage" of her own adoption, she told me that connecting with other adoptive moms (in all stages of the journey: waiting on THE CALL moms, new adoptive moms, seasoned adoptive moms, moms of adoptive moms...you get the picture!) helped encourage her in ways that she would have never imagined.  The main sessions, along with the breakout sessions over the course of weekend helped to refresh her soul while giving her resources to help prepare her to live out this calling for her family.  After hearing her enthusiastically high recommendation, I decided to register to go with her this year....thankfully I got a spot!

Last year was the 1st  Created for Care retreat, and it was dreamed up by another amazing adoptive momma, Andrea, who I only know of through the blogosphere. Crazily enough, I had been following this woman's blog (www.babeofmyheart.com) off and on for about a year prior to ever even hearing about Created for Care! Her family had adopted a sweet little boy from Ethiopia, and after arriving home and trying to balance mommying 3 biological kiddos, while mommying their newest family member, she (like most other moms) had moments where she felt overwhelmed, tired, yet still full of overwhelming love for her "new" family. While contemplating her own emotions, struggles, and  daily changes (both good and difficult), she began to realize that other adoptive moms must surely feel the same way.

 The idea for Created for Care was born. 

Because of this one momma's heart for the heart of others travelling her same journey, she partnered with 2 other families to feed the soul of adoptive moms across the country.  They anticipated a small gathering of possibly 50, which turned into 250 moms last year! By this year, news of its refreshment, rejuvenation, and encouragement, spread like wildfire and the 400 spots sold out within 9 hours, with 200 moms on the waiting list! Obviously there is a huge need for such a retreat as this! Because of the overwhelming demand, not wanting to leave a single soul unserved by this amazing retreat, a 2nd Retreat has been scheduled for March 23-25! What a blessing these women are to pour themselves into such a cause!

Here's a peek from their website as to what this retreat is all about:

"Christian families all over the world are being called to grow their families through adoption and foster care. Throughout the journey, different needs arise–some times, we just don’t know where to start–and other times we are just tired from all that is required in these callings filled with new approaches, lots of healing and much required extra love. While your hearts have been called to care, YOU were also created to be cared FOR. We want to not only support these families by equipping them with adoption resources, but most importantly provide resources to encourage them in their walks with their Heavenly Father who led them to this amazing calling."

I know there are some adoptive mommas reading this blog...I've talked with you, emailed you, etc.  You should go! I went from "Created for what?" to uber-excited for this weekend once I found out what it was all about.  If you are interested, I'd take a little trip to their website to check it out...and SOON! Registration actually begins tonight at 12:01 am EST, and may fill up quickly again, depending on how the word gets around. I'm actually sorry I didn't post this earlier.

If you're not an adoptive mom (at any stage), but you know someone who would benefit from this retreat, PLEASE send them this information. I know I actually can't relay any firsthand experiences from past attendance, but I can quote Ashley as saying, "I need this retreat now!" to me just this evening! ;)

So anyway, here's the skinny...PASS IT ON...

Created for Care
Location: Lake Lanier Legacy Lodge and Conference Center
Date: March 23-25th, 2012
Registration: September 28, 2011 (***Get your hiney on over to the registration page!!***)Cost: $165
Rooms: $109/night

Obviously, I'm super pumped to go to this...can you tell? Before I go, here's a video of some of the mommas and their families that attended last year:


Good-night!

Monday, September 12, 2011

mmmmm, the smell of new baby

This past Friday our family grew a little larger.  6 lbs, 2 oz. larger to be exact!

My sister and her hubby welcomed their handsome little guy, Taden Oliver into the world...and let me tell you, our world couldn't be more excited to have him here!  His birth-day was such a special day for all of us as we marveled at the sight of new innocence, our hearts bursting with love for this babe we just met.



Babies just have this way of captivating us. Have you ever noticed that?

How is it that we can sit and stare at a sleeping baby for hours on end, needing nothing more than a curl of a lip or a furrow of an eyebrow to completely enthrall us? Day in and day out, we're continually seeking the biggest, brightest, fastest, most talked about X, Y, or Z to (supposedly) fulfill us, sustain us, or entertain us. But place a baby in our arms, and the world slows down a bit. We forget about the newest reality show gossip, we no longer have the need to check our phone for a text...we simply get lost in the wonder and awe of the tiny warm body cradled against us.

How can something so small hold so much of our attention? Is it their newness? Their soft, sweet scent that draws us in? The miracle of their development and birth into this big world? I think what ultimately captivates us is the hope that they represent. The hope of a new beginning. The hope of a new life. Regardless of any mistakes (large or small) we make in this life, each one seems to be momentarily forgotten while gazing into the eyes of a newborn...and amazingly each and every mistake can be forgiven and forever forgotten after turning our eyes to the creator of life. Once a baby, born to give us a life full of hope, Jesus desperately seeks to captivate us in the same way his creation captivates us.

Daily, I'm finding myself becoming more and more enthralled with the love he has for me. The way he provides for me and blesses me is unfathomable. Despite any highs and lows I face (in the daily grind or in this adoption process), I know he's there longing for me to seek his newness and his soft, sweet scent of life.

In the next few months when I get quiet moments to snuggle my sweet nephew, as I lose the world in his eyes, I'll breathe in the hope of new beginnings and thank my creator for this special gift of life.


Friday, August 12, 2011

beautiful jewelry with a BEAUTIFUL purpose

I've been scouring the internet and magazines for an "adoption" necklace, one that would truly be reflective of my heart and this process that we're going through. I found scads of sites with adoption charms, many of which were cute, many were EXPEN$IVE, and others were just plain tacky.

After much searching, I found the perfect necklace...



Absolutely perfect, don't you think?? I loved it, bought it, and am currently wearing it. It's such a beautiful little token of my feelings as I wait. 

I found this special piece of art in a cute little etsy shop called "The Adopt Shoppe." This shop and all it's creations are made with love by a woman named Kate, who is using her creative skill to help fund her family's adoption.  They are currently in the process of bringing home a 2nd child (a little girl) from Taiwan. ALL proceeds from her jewelry sales go directly toward their adoption fund!  Please check out her site; honestly, I can't think of a better place to start some early shopping for Christmas gifts!

She has numerous "Scrabble" tile necklaces (yes, they're actually Scrabble tiles...mine is Q10!), with adoption themed quotes, inspirational quotes, verses, and/or customized sayings or names.

Here's a pic of another one that I purchased:


Seriously cute stuff! :) She said she designs each piece as a "billboard for your heart" -- what a cool thought!

I also got my handsome hubby a gift from her shop. He loves to start conversations about our adoption with anyone he meets...a painter on the job site, a business man he meets on the golf course, his waiter at a restaurant, you get the idea! He loves to talk anyway, so I think it's so sweet that he always makes it a point to sneak in some adoption talk!
I found him this stamped leather cuff to wear as a conversation starter: 



Please make a point to browse her shop, I think you'll fall in love with so many of her creations...and make sure you buy your favorites! Don't forget, every purchase brings them a little closer to their financial goal in order to bring their little girl home. Such an easy way to help change the life of an orphan!

Check it out!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Orphanage Closures

Unsettled emotions have been swirling around in my head and my heart over the past 5 days.  Over the weekend, we had heard rumor that several orphanages in Southern Ethiopia had been shut down without any given reason and without any warning.  We hadn't heard anything about this from our agency, so I reasoned in my head that the closures must not have affected any of the orphanages within the organization associated with our adoption agency.  I genuinely felt bad for the adoptive families it was affecting, and my heart felt broken for the children/families that it would affect in Ethiopia, but the statement didn't exactly hit home...then I received an email with the list of the orphanages that had been shut down.

The US Dept of State verified that within the past few weeks, eight orphanage systems (14 branches) had in fact been shut down by the Ethiopian Government, with one of them being the orphanage system that Dove (our agency) works with. Out of the 14 total branches that were closed, 3 were intake centers for our orphanage. (An intake center is the branch of the orphanage where a child is first relinquished, either by their family or by government authorities. The children receive medical testing, and physical care at the intake centers until they are matched with an adoptive family, then they are transferred to a "transition home" where they stay until the adoption is final and they are signed out by their forever family.) According to our agency, no clear explanation has been given as to why the numerous intake centers have been closed, other than the decision was made by the regional government and each orphanage is currently "under investigation."

Today we received word from our agency stating our orphanage (SOS EE) is still operating its remaining 20 intake centers as normal. After speaking with our attorney in Ethiopia, they found out that the investigation was initiated because of funding issues, as well as some internal conflict with SOS EE's board of directors, leading to the termination of the orphanage's manager.  Our attorney encouraged our agency's Executive Director by relaying that a new manager has already been appointed and will begin working on Monday (Aug 15), a new budget has been set, funds have been dispersed to each of the care centers and most importantly the children are still being well cared for.  He also stated that things are "progressing in a positive manner" and that the issues are being resolved.

To be honest, I'm not really sure what to do with all of this news.  I have so many questions, yet our agency doesn't know how to answer them as they don't have all the answers themselves.  How did the orphanage get into the predicament of an "investigation" in the first place? Was the manager really terminated over misappropriation of funds? I feel myself questioning the situation from an ethical standpoint, yet I know our agency and the SOS EE orphanage are both reputable organizations...believe me, we did our research before deciding on an agency to use...so then why is all of this unfolding before our eyes? What part of God's plan has been purposed for this situation?  I know that all things work together for his good. I believe that with my heart, if I can be blatantly honest, my mind is doing a stutter-step into the belief. Southern Ethiopia is an extremely poor and destitute area.  Many families find themselves with the heart breaking decision of taking their children (some or all) to an orphanage for care or actually watching them die from starvation and/or from simple, curable ailments like dehydration or diarrhea from their unclean water sources.  These are true, hard facts for life in this area. With the closure of 14 orphanage intake centers, many families will undoubtedly lose family members prematurely with little hope of finding care for them. What a terrible situation, I can't even imagine living it.  We have no idea how blessed we are...simply because we were born in a different country.  These horrible conditions could easily be my living conditions if I had been born half a world away, yet I can't really fathom it as I sit comfortably, in a chair, at a table, in front of a computer, wearing a new shirt, in my air conditioned house. Hear me on this, I'm not saying we should feel badly about what we do have or what we've been blessed with, but I do think we should feel pained about what simple life necessities others don't have...and we should try to do something about it.

"Do good. Seek Justice. Defend the cause of the orphan." Isaiah 1:17

It's such simple language, such simple instructions, yet such a challenge to live out daily. As I continue to sift through the events and news of this week pertaining to our adoption, I pray that my heart will continually be broken for the things that break God's heart...and that each day, I would be challenged in new ways to carry out these commands with my life.

Monday, August 1, 2011

The new Mr. and Mrs!

Just wanted to post a few pictures from JT's brother's wedding to wish them a "Happy 1 month Anniversary!!"

Such a sweet couple! The ceremony was gorgeous, full of beauty, promise, and commitment. Being music lovers, they incorporated so many meaningful pieces of music throughout the entire ceremony.




My handsome hubby was honored to be a part of the wedding party and was also privileged to sing during the ceremony.  He was asked to sing "How He loves," accompanied by Brennan's band, during the candle lighting.  It was the perfect song during that part of the ceremony, and he did an absolutely fantastic job (and I'm not being biased in the slightest!). It was an incredibly moving, emotionally drawing moment that grew even more worshipful as the wedding party and several guests softly joined him in song.

Despite all the talent of friends and family, this musical bride and groom didn't want their special day to go by without being able to serenade each other.  Oftentimes you'll hear of a groom singing to a bride, or vice versa, but I'd never been to a wedding where they sang together, to each other.  If you were a guest and the tears weren't already trickling down your cheek by this point, you were in desperate need of a tissue when they began their song! Because of the obvious emotions packed into a wedding day, we (family and friends) weren't sure if they would be able to make it through their musical vows, and not surprisingly, they weren't absolutely certain they would make it through the song either! But this special couple wow'd us. With tears in their eyes, beaming smiles on their faces, fingers interlaced, they sang of their commitment to each other from that day forward. It was a beautiful, visible connection between them,and a beautiful picture of Christ's design for marriage.

*I found a short video clip of them singing on YouTube, I'm not sure who recorded it, but thank you!

 Enjoy!




Brennan and Mandi-
As you celebrate one month together, JT and I pray that your love will continue to grow...as you grow together as a couple, and as you grow spiritually with your Heavenly Father.  He is the ultimate provider, sustainer, and life-giver of your relationship. Nothing that you encounter will EVER be too hard, or too big for him to help you through. He wants to continue to mold you into his image, to become a living example of the love, commitment, and hope-filled relationship he promises to the world. Continue to live this out daily through actions, words, and of course, song.  We love you!
 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tick Tock

I cannot believe how fast time has been flying this summer! This past month has been full of fun family stuff as we celebrated the marriage of JT's brother to his beautiful bride, Mandi, and as we spent some vacation time with my family relaxing in Cape May, NJ.  To be truthful, I've appreciated the preoccupations of parties, work, picnics, and vacation. The busyness has definitely helped to keep us from going crazy wondering about our actual place in the waiting process.

Since I last blogged, MOWCYA has increased its daily number of cases from 5 to 10, and  although 10 is still significantly lower than the 40-50 cases they were reviewing a day, I have to remind myself that it is also DOUBLE the number of cases that they had been hearing.  Looking at it from a glass half full point of view makes this news much more exciting to share! Our agency has also told us that MOWCYA is planning to increase the number to 15 cases/day within the next month!

In other Ethiopian news, each year the ET government closes completely for six weeks during their raining season.  This six-week closure varies between July-September every year, depending on the weather. Our agency informed us that the ET government has decided to hear cases through August 5, then will be closing until the fall.  During this time, everything else will still be running as usual...meaning, families will still be matched during the six-week court closure, referrals will still be made, and Embassy hearings will still proceed.  This annual government closure most likely will not affect us in anyway, but please pray for the families that will receive their referral call within this next week, knowing they will not be contacted about a court date until mid September. Please pray for endurance for these families as they wait, and continue to keep us in your prayer as we wait to be in their shoes!

Monday, June 13, 2011

3 down, how many more to go?


Today marks 3 months that our dossier has been in Ethiopia. Unfortunately we don't have any updates to the current process within the country, but we're still hopeful and prayerful that an overall solution will soon be put into place by MOWYA, so the many waiting children will be united with their families in an the most ethical and efficient manner possible.

We have a conference call with our agency later this week regarding referral and travel preparation.  We have absolutely no idea when we'll be able to use the information from this upcoming meeting, but each meeting helps keep our anticipation high and our whining/sulking at a lower level! ;)

Actually, we really enjoy the conference calls with our agency, especially at this stage in the game. With our agency, once your dossier has arrived in country, they only communicate through email (with the exception of scheduled meetings).  They do this purposefully so that couples don't see their name on the caller ID and think it's "The Call."  I completely appreciate their protocol regarding this, but it will definitely be nice to hear our case worker's voice, rather than reading an email. 

That's about it for now, I'll be sure to post after our meeting if we're informed of any changes or updates.  Enjoy this beautiful summer weather and don't forget to say a prayer for our beautiful boys!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Up in the Air

As I'm typing, our friends, Jon and Ashley, are in the air to Ethiopia! They left this morning on the 13+ hour flight from Dulles, VA to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, so they're probably pretty close!! I'm sure as exhausted as they are, excitement is probably beginning to take over in the emotions department. I can only imagine what they're feeling, knowing they will meet their daughter very soon. The sweet little face they have only been able to look at in pictures will soon be just a kiss away. I have goosebumps as I think of it!

The amount of donations you collected for their trip was incredible! I couldn't believe the generosity that poured out during the week between my blog request and collection date! Thank you so much for your support toward this family (who are strangers to most of you) and your love shown to the many lives who will be touched because of your kindness. The day I dropped the donations off, Ashley was shocked to see the amount of goodies loaded in my car, from notebooks, to baby wipes, to shampoos, conditioners, soaps, toys, bottles, valuable medicines, baby lotion, clothing, scrubs for the nannies, formula, diapers, diapers, and more diapers! Oh, did I mentions diapers??  They were SO grateful for everything that was donated to their baby's first home. Thank-You!

Here's a snapshot of my COVERED dining room table (and this was taken before all the donations were in - WOW!)

Gifts for Hannah's Hope
I can't wait to hear all the details of their trip! I'm hoping that listening to all of their stories and seeing their pictures will help to hold me over until we reach this place in our journey - probably only wishful thinking, but here's to hoping! :)  As for right now, we 're still waiting, but that's okay. We believe that each day we wait, God is strengthening our reliance on him. He is continually building us as couple and as future parents, and we know that his strength is new every morning ~ what an amazing thing to believe.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Have a great trip, Jon and Ashley! We're praying for you, your sons at home, your sweet baby girl, a favorable court session, and the delivery of the all important MOWYA letter! Can't wait to talk when you get back!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Glitter Station Conversations

JT and I teach a 1st grade class for our church's "kidZ conneXion" every week.  We love the time we spend with our class, each child's personality and disposition is so unique that it makes every weekend different from the last. Yesterday, being Mother's Day, we decided to do a craft as a gift for the many mothers and/or grandmothers that we see weekly.  We brought in clay pots, along flowers to plant and let the kids' imaginations run wild as they decorated their pots.

In one corner of the room, I set up a "Glitter Station" - mainly because I wanted to confine the millions of shimmering glitter pieces to a smaller area to help with clean-up, but also because I like any one-on-one time I can spend talking to the kids.  Oftentimes, they seem intimidated to open up and "be themselves" with their peers standing right next to them.  Having one child at a time participate in my "Glitter Station" allowed for more personal conversations.

I was privileged to many secretive plans for Mother's Day gifts that would be given after church. I learned where different families were going to celebrate the day. I giggled right along with some of them as they joyously told me of ways they planned to help their moms around the house. But my favorite glitter station conversation came from a sweet, thoughtful little guy named Luke.

While we were working diligently on his flower pot, Luke looked at me and said,

"Mrs. Bell, I just wanted to tell you Happy Mother's Day."

He paused. Then went on to say,

"You know, since you don't have any kids to say it to you yet."

Oh Luke, your sweet, thoughtful words meant more to me than you will every realize. The thoughtfulness of those sweet, honest words will be a conversation I will carry in my heart for years to come. (Smile) And despite the somewhat messy clean-up, you can bet "Mrs. Bell" will be setting up glitter stations for years to come. :)



Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day

Mother's Day can be a hard day to face if you're a woman yearning to be a mom but aren't yet; it can bring forth sadness, feelings of inadequacy, loneliness and forced smiles. As I wait to become a mother myself, I'm choosing to turn away from those negative thoughts and feelings and celebrate this day as a genuine day of gratitude and thankfulness for the blessing my mom was and still is to me.  Her life is a living example of the unconditional love of a mother for her children. She has shown me what it truly means to be a mom, and I'm celebrating that I am not too far from following in her footsteps.

Thank you mom, for your love, guidance, and friendship.
I love you.

To all the women waiting to become a mom yourself...waiting can be hard, but take heart in knowing that you are being carefully groomed to become the best mom you can be when you finally reach that day. Happy Mother's Day (whether days or years early) to all "waiting moms."

A talented writer friend of ours jotted some sweet words of encouragement and heart/soul refreshment to women wanting to be moms, but who aren't yet.  Below is the excerpt from his blog: (http://www.csheinz.com/)

To the Women Who Want to Be Moms But Aren't Yet
Words for women who want to be moms but aren’t yet on Mother’s Day.

To the women who want to be moms but aren’t yet, stay fervent in your maternal desire.
To the women who want to be moms, but see other women becoming them instead of you, guard your heart from bitterness.
To the women who want to be moms, but keep getting that negative on the plastic rod, that rod does not define you.
To the women who want to be moms, but aren’t yet, labor for the next generation in whatever godly way you can.
To the women who want to be moms, but don’t know if God feels your pain, remember His Son was absent from Him as well.
To the women who want to be moms, but aren’t yet, you’re not less of a woman because of it.
To the women who want to be moms, keep a position of prayer.
To the women who want to be moms, but feel their lives are on hold, your life is happening right now.
To the women who want to be moms, but aren’t yet, God has unbelievable plans for you.
To the women who want to be moms, and are dreading Mother’s Day, I say when that child comes, whether through birth, adoption, mentoring, or another way, you will be ready. Praise the Lord.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Sending Love to Ethiopia

In just about 2 weeks, our friends, Jon and Ashley, will be headed to Ethiopia to meet their precious little girl. I can't imagine how they're feeling as they prepare for their trip, but as they are packing, they are asking for your help.  The agency they are working with asks each adoptive family to consider taking donations for the orphange along with them on their trip.  Jon and Ashley both feel this is an extremely important thing to do, especially considering this orphange is helping to take care of their daughter until they're able to bring her home.  Many of the supplies needed to help care for the many, many babies, children, and teens that enter through "Hannah's Hope" orphange are items that cannot be easily found in Ethiopia and are incredibly expensive to ship over. Because of this, they are seeking help of family, friends, and friends of friends to help them fill their donation tubs.  They are hoping to travel over with 400 lbs of donations!!

They can't fill their tubs alone - so I'm asking you, on their behalf, to consider helping them.  Many of the items are inexpensive, everyday items that could be picked up the next time you go to the grocery store.  Below you will find the list of needed supplies. If you are interested in helping them by sending some love to Ethiopia by way of childcare supplies, please email me (headingtoethiopia@gmail.com) so I can coordinate a drop-off/pick-up time with you. I would like to have all donations by next friday (May 13th), as they are planning to have everything available to begin packing as soon as possible.

Only 1 week...I think we can do it...I'm pretty sure we can help them reach their goal.  It's such an easy way to share some love to those desperately in need of it. You're headed to the store anyway, right? Just pick up a couple things and send them my way!

Hannah’s Hope Donation List – Spring 2011

Baby Items
Bottles (Avent brand is the most commonly used)
Toys ages 6mo-14mo (engaging toys, no noise makers)
Diapers (especially size 2)
Plastic diaper covers with fabric lining
Rice cereals
Organic flaxseed oil
Soy Formula
Vitamin D infant drops
Desitin
Sensitive baby wipes
Moisturizing baby wash, lotions, oils
Boppies
Infant bouncy seats or Bumbos
Pull-ups (for the toddlers who are almost toilet trained)


Older Children Items
Moisturizing body soaps for older kids
Shampoos and conditioners designed for curly hair
Maximum strength Extra Virgin Olive Oil, shea butter
Moisturizing body lotion for dry skin
Sneakers or Crocs for older children
Clothing for boys and girls, ages 4-13 (no sleeveless shirts or shorts – they're very modest)

General Needs
Cotton balls
Towels
Notebooks
Men’s shirts, long or short sleeved
Scrubs (size medium)
Adult-sized slippers (no shoes in the house!)
Crocs (size 7-9, women)
Sunglasses, with UV (children, men, and women)
Braun thermometer covers
Oral anti-fungal medications

Don't forget to email me (headingtoethiopia@gmail.com) if you want to help out, and plan to have your supplies ready by next friday! Thanks so much! Can you imagine the faces of the nannies at the orphange when our friends arrive with their donations in hand? What a help and what a blessing to them!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Still inching forward

Our dossier has now been in Ethiopia a little over a month. I know we still have months to wait before we will get our referral, but it's so nice to check "one month" off the anticipated waiting time! According to our adoption agency and other ET adoptive parents we know, processes are still moving along in Ethiopia.  Each week seems to be different than the next (some slowly moving cases through, while others are faster), but referrals are still being made, court dates are still being assigned, and adoptions are being finalized on a regular basis. What fantastic news! In fact, friends of ours just recently received their court assignment of May 27th! We're SO ecstatic to see their process moving forward and can't wait to hear about their trip and experience.  They will be heading to Ethiopia in just about 3 weeks to meet their precious little girl for the first time.  It's so hard for me not to tear-up each time I picture them cuddling their daughter for the first time, seeing her smile, hearing her laugh, sootheing her cry. What an incredible time that will be for them.  Please keep them in your prayers over the next few weeks as they prepare for their trip, and then continue to pray for them as they return home without her.  The return trip home will definitely be the most difficult part of the entire Ethiopian adoption process.  Leaving their child at the orphanage to return home while paperwork is being completed will undeniably be painful, emotional, and stressful. Please pray for a quick resolution to the impending process so that they, along with all other adoptive families will be able to return for their child(ren) within a short amount of time.

Our other friends (the couple adopting the F-O-U-R children!) moved their kids in almost 2 weeks ago!! I can't believe how fast the time has gone since they received their call - and how naturally they seem to have slid right into the role of parents. I was able to spend a few hours with them earlier this week and the kids are so sweet! I loved hearing them call our friends "mommy" and "daddy" already.  It's like music to the ears, and definitely pulls at your heartstrings. The kids (and the parents) are adjusting well to this new change and like I said before, the new parents seem to filling their new roles very well. :) It was such an overnight change (literally), but they've been 100% committed to this change since they began their process, and it's evident as you watch them interact with their little loves.   Watching their story unfold has given me such a huge respect and admiration for them as friends, as a couple and now as parents.

Random excitement for us:
Recently, my Aunt Kim made me aware of was that our fundraising T-Shirt is now kind of famous! She and her family had been selling some of our shirts in their hometown of Bath, NY.  One of their friends who is in a Christian Hip Hop group "Press Play" in Los Angeles bought a shirt and recently wore it for one of their photo shoots (see below)!

Pretty cool to get some West Coast love!




Sunday, April 3, 2011

A special thanks goes to....

????? We don't know who!  This past week we received an email from our adoption agency that an anonymous gift of $300 had been deposited to our account.  We have no idea who it was and they would not give us any further info. We'd really like to thank whomever sent this gift, unfortunately we don't know who you are!

If you're reading this and you sent the gift, THANK YOU SO MUCH, we appreciate your thoughtfulness so very much. You are helping to change the lives of 2 sweet children, and you are now a part of their story. We'd love to know who sent the gift, so if you would want to reveal yourself, please send me an email. If you wish to remain annonymous, please know that your gift did not go unnoticed and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Celebration Week!

...no not for us, but for our friends! A few months back, I had asked you to pray for friends of ours who were pursuing a domestic adoption.  This week, they were matched!!! Just yesterday they got to meet their 4 children. Yes, that's right, they're adopting 4 precious little sweeties! Talk about empty house to full house literally overnight!

We are overjoyed for them! We've been praying for this match for months, so to see it unfold this week was amazing! In the state of Pennsylvania, adoptive parents must have 3 visits with the children before they are placed permanently in the new home, this helps the children's case worker "prep" them for their adoption. Yesterday, Sarah and Jordan met their little munchkins for the first time at a bowling alley to spend several hours getting to know them beyond the single picture and profile page they've been pining over. Sarah told me that after the initial nervousness, there was a lot of smiling, laughter, high-fives, and hugs to go around. The visit went extremely well!  The children's caseworker is hoping to have them moved completely into their new home directly after or possibly even during their 3rd visit, which could be as early as April 16th! Wow, talk about a fast transition!

Please continue to pray for Sarah and Jordan as they quickly get their home ready for 4 children with furniture, clothing, toys, etc. Pray that the children's hearts would be in a place of acceptance of a forever family, pray that they would come to know and understand that they will be loved unconditionally. Pray for healing in any broken area of their young lives, and that attachment and bonding will happen quickly for this family.

I am so thankful I was able to walk this road with them. It has been a true blessing to watch their faith grow from the start of this process until now.  I believe God has HUGE things in store for this family...I mean, He sent them 4 kids at once, that says something, right? (smile) We love Sarah and Jordan so much and cannot wait to meet the newest members of the family!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Speedy Delivery!

Our dossier arrived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia today! Addis is the capital city that we will be travelling to, to first meet our babies and then go to court to gain custody of them. We have no idea HOW LONG it will be before we will get a referral, or HOW LONG it will be after that to have a court date assigned, but we have faith that God is moving EVERYDAY in this situation.  Our total trust is in him, yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

Every so often he sends a reminder that he hasn't forgotten us (or you); my Aunt Kim and Uncle Darren call these tangible, audible, or visual reminders "God Smiles." When we're facing a tough time, God shows us how much he cares by sending something that may seem "coincidental" to most, directly to us to make us smile with renewed hope. In fact, today right after I found out that our dossier reached Addis, my friend Becky (another adoptive mom) posted a status update to her facebook page.  She was reminiscing that TODAY was the 3rd anniversary of the day she boarded a plane to go to Ethiopia to meet her daughter for the first time.  My eyes teared-up after reading her fb status, and after connecting it with our journey, my smile stretched for miles.  How cool! Coincidence? Nah, I don't believe it was. I believe it was my Father sending a smile my way to remind me of his faithfulness, a "Chin-up, girl, I've got this in MY control. Trust ME." kind of reminder.   My hope was once again renewed.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for this single reminder of your faithfulness to all your children...and thank you for the speedy delivery service of DHL!

Friday, March 18, 2011

2 weeks later

Well it's been 2 weeks since we received the optimism-wrecking news of MOWA's change to Ethiopia's adoption protocol.  Since that time, we've experienced a multitude of emotions, changing not only daily but sometimes hourly.  During this unexpected, unexplained turn in events, we'd found ourselves sinking into very low, dangerous places.  However, with almost continual prayer along with supportive, encouraging words, texts, emails, and cards from so many family, friends, acquaintances, and even strangers, we've begun to feel not only a peace about the uncertainty of our situation, but have truly begun to feel HOPE about our journey.

This hope can only be explained as a sense of God swiftly moving to make sure his children are taken care of. The decrease in cases is not a plan following after God's heart for the fatherless, and we don't believe he will stand for this decision as a permanent thing. Not surprisingly, within a very short time of MOWA's disturbing decision, many of the organization's leaders were terminated from their positions! As new personnel are shifted to fill the positions, the US State Department and US adoption providers are optimistic and hopeful that a positive resolution is going to be made! (What encouragement!) Although high powered, influential humans are making great strides to push for these positive changes, I believe God is stirring the hearts to fully produce these changes.  He is the Hope to the Hopeless and Father to the Fatherless, and is still in control of this situation.  This has been a statement I've had to repeat to myself several times to fully embrace the truth in it.  I needed to be reminded that God doesn't just know what's going on...He KNEW this was going to happen before we were ever made aware of the situation.  He KNEW of this decision before MOWA ever started contemplating it.  Even more amazing, he KNEW all about it even before the world was formed.  While these statements can begin to bring up questions such as why he allowed it to happen, the hope I have in him and his plans, tells me that his power will outshine the darkness of the past two weeks.  In fact during these past 2 weeks, we have still seen him moving - our agency has still been getting referrals, court dates are still being assigned, families are still travelling to pick up their children.

Our case is moving forward as well! Our dossier was shipped this week! After a relatively short discussion with our case worker about whether or not to send it off, we decided to move forward despite the current uncertainties.  Although we know our process now could change from months to years (a thought that is painfully hard to swallow), we are 100% committed to this journey, no matter how rough the road turns.  Honestly, I've been surprised at the number of people who have asked me "Are you going to switch your adoption to a different country now?" after hearing our news.  Sadly, according to our case worker, a number of couples have decided to withdraw from the Ethiopia program based on the uncertainties of the process timeline. I can certainly relate to their uneasiness, weariness, nervousness and true distaste for the situation, but my question remains: "Where is your HOPE for the children you've (most likely) already envisioned as a part of your family?"  How thankful I am that God, as our father, doesn't give up on us when the decisions we make don't reflect his heart.

We will keep (prayerfully) pressing on, no matter how long or difficult the wait.  We have seen God's careful hand mapping out our journey, and as surprised as we may become at any unexpected twists and turns in the road, we are committed to following him as he leads us to our family.

Please continue to keep us and our children in your prayers as we push through this set back and as we face the unknown.  Also, please continue to pray for all the decision makers worldwide, as they sort through past protocol, new regulations, and future recommendations to begin setting up the most ethical and efficient process for everyone involved.

As I finish my thoughts and updates, I want to leave you with some words of truth that I've been clinging to these past few weeks (emphasis mine):

"We are enlarged in the waiting. We, of course, don't see what is enlarging us. But the longer we wait, the larger we become, and the more joyful our expectancy.  Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good. " Romans 8:24-28 (MSG)

"What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Romans 8:31 (NIV)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Discouraged

It's been awhile since I've updated, and I hate the fact that I'm updating with a discouraging post. Unfortunately, my heart is deeply saddened this weekend and I need the support and prayers of friends and family. 

Friday night we received an email update from our adoption agency regarding a potential change to Ethiopian adoptions. Currently, within the country, prospective parents must be approved by the Ethiopian courts as well as the Ministry of Women's Affairs (MOWA) prior to being granted full custody. This past week MOWA made the decision to decrease their daily case hearings to only 5 per day...they are currently hearing 40 cases a day, so you can see this is a HUGE decrease. This change will significantly delay any and every process throughout the country. If this decision is permanent, it could potentially take 8 times as long for families to be united. What sad, sad news.

Our agency is urging families to "not panic" because of this news, but added that the Chief of the Adoptions Division for the Children's Issues of the Department of State is "extremely distressed" by the news as it was not expected.

This coming week (March 7-11) there will be discussions among adoption attorneys in Ethiopia (including our agency's lawyer), the Minister of MOWA, and the President of the Courts regarding this potential change and possible solutions. The Department of State has said that they are willing to assist MOWA  with the training of more judges and social workers to help with adoption cases, unfortunately they have not gotten any responses as of yet.

Please pray for next week's discussions...that hearts would be softened and resolutions could be made that would be most beneficial to everyone this would affect, particularly the sweet little children.  JT and I are both very concerned about this 1.) because we already love our little boys and want them to join us as soon as possible and 2.) because this decision could be very detrimental to literally millions of children awaiting homes.  The drastic reduction of daily cases could become a deterrent for many families seeking adoption from Ethiopia, a country generally known for it's smooth adoption process.  According to UNICEF, there are currently an estimated 5 million orphans in Ethiopia, these sweet, beautiful souls longing for the love of family. 

My heart has been broken and I've shed several rounds of tears since learning of this news.  I can't help but question why this is happening. As difficult as it is to believe, I know that God has a plan in all of this, but it's hard to see what it could be right now.  I'm urging you to pray with me this weekend and throughout next week; to pray for the attorneys to be influential with their proposed solutions, to pray that MOWA would not feel overwhelmed by the number of cases being brought before them but rather feel an urgency to place these children into loving homes. I would ask that you would pray that this case reduction does not remain permanently, but that willing workers would move into jobs that will once again increase their daily adoption approvals. Please pray for the children as they wait, specifically that each individual wait time between referral and court date would be shortened, that as these children hear of "family" they will not lose hope in the prospect of a mommy and daddy to call their own. Also, please pray for all the families who are currently in any stage of an Ethiopian adoption, that we ourselves would not lose hope in the process, that our faith would be strengthened and we will persevere through this difficult news.

Please pray with us and pass this information along to any friends and family who would be willing to pray about this situation. This week will be a important week of discussion and decision.  Please feel free to post this blog to your fb page or email a link to our site. I'll update next week's decisions as soon as we get official word from our agency.  Thanks for all your prayers in advance.

" Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:16

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Sealed with a Kiss

Our dossier went in the mail today!! We received our (corrected) authorization form from the Dept. of State yesterday, so I was finally able to mail everything to our agency today. What a relief! The process is now completely out of our hands...of course I guess it was never really in "our" hands anyway, it's always been in God's hands and will continue to be as our documents travel across our country, then across the globe to SOS EE orphanage. He is in complete control of this process and has everything working in his perfect timing. As humans, his timing can be so hard to see and understand, but I guess that's where trust falls into place.

This morning before I left for work with dossier in hand, JT and I prayed together. It felt like such a monumental moment in our life, offering thanks to our Creator for blessing us with the opportunity to grow our family through adoption; asking him to bless the many hands that will sift through our paperwork; praying for safe and quick delivery routes from one country to the next; asking for guidance for the folks who will be matching us with our sons; and finally praying for love and blessing to spill over our little guys while we're apart. What a sweet memory we will hold of this morning, February 17, 2011.

After we finished praying together, I jokingly said "kiss this document good-bye" to JT. The sweet guy that he is, he took the package and literally kissed it...twice and said "one kiss for each of our boys!" :) My husband is so in love with our sons already, I cannot wait for the day I get to see all my boys together. That silly sentiment meant the world to me. In our current life, him kissing that bulky folder would be the equivalent of any father-to-be kissing his wife's pregnant belly. Although we're not physically pregnant, I feel we're experiencing a pregnancy of some sort - the roller coaster of emotions, the waiting, the involvement in every step - and just think, I don't need to buy any jeans with a stretchy stomach panel! All joking aside, I love that this is the plan that God has designed for us. As a couple, we could've never devised such a perfect plan because of our imperfect lives. But trusting and obeying has led us down a path that we are fully committed to follow. It's an adventure we may have never planned, but now would want it no other way. With each phase of this process, I daily see His hand directing the steps of our lives, and I find myself loving these boys with everything in me. 



*Here's a quick shot from the "dossier send-off" earlier today. The UPS guy was less than thrilled that he got to be in the picture, but thankfully he humored me!
Bell Dossier...sealed with a kiss!


Friday, February 11, 2011

Oh SO close

We received our final form from US Immigration services yesterday! I was totally shocked when I saw it in the mailbox. We had been told it would take 6-9 weeks from the time they received it and yesterday marked 5 weeks exactly, so it was at least one week early! Thankfully I already had today off, so I was able to drive the form to our Department of State for final authentication. My good friend Sarah joined me for the trip; being a native "Harrisburgian" she directed me right to the building that I would've been circling blocks to find had I have journeyed alone.  Don't you just love caring friends? We had some great conversations during our drive and it was so nice to have company on this exciting day.  As you might remember, this was the last step to complete our dossier!! It's done!!

Well, almost...

I had planned to review everything with my husband tonight and then head to the UPS store tomorrow to mail the documents. However, when I got home from our trip today, I went to put the authenticated paperwork in our folders and noticed a slight mistake (which I had failed to notice earlier). They had mistyped the name of our notary, instead of "Cramer" it read "Gramer" :(  I thought to myself, is anyone even going to notice?? But then started to think, if they do, who knows what will happen to our dossier and our timeline.  Our little boys don't deserve to have their home and family dreams delayed because of an easily correctable mistake.  So I called our social worker to ask her opinion of the best way to handle the situation.  She recommended I call the Dept. of State immediately to let them know of their mistake and let them handle it from there. When I called, the woman who answered the phone was the same woman who had checked me in this morning. She remembered me and was VERY apologetic when I explained the error. After speaking with her supervisor, she asked that I mail the form back for correction, then she assured me that they would overnight it to me (at no charge).

Looks like it will be a few more days until the Dossier gets sent, but we're closer than I thought we'd be at this point, so I'm still smiling! God is so good, and continues to amaze me through this process, despite the tiny bumps along the way.  I'm still praying that He's taking care of our sons until we can, which hopefully won't be much longer now! Keep us in your prayers that the rest of our journey will go as smoothly as it has so far, in the hopes that the hole in our family will soon be filled! 
"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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow Day

We received our CIS fingerprinting appointments last week, so we both took off from work to travel to our nearest ACS office (2 hours away) to have our "official" immigration fingerprints completed this morning. Unfortunately, FBI fingerprints required for the home study aren't "official" enough for international immigration paperwork so a second set needs to be done. Originally this seemed silly to me considering your fingerprints don't change, but I mentioned this to our pastor's wife (they've adopted internationally as well) and she laughed as she reminded me that fingerprints can indeed change...her husband accidentally cut off part of one of his fingers in a snow blower mishap a few years ago! As we were getting ready to leave, I checked the office's website to double-check address, directions, etc. Everything appeared to be in order, nothing special noted on their website, just the standard US government information, office hours, services performed. 

We arrived to find this taped to the door:


Seriously??? We did get some snow last night, but not enough to shut things down! We were totally bummed, but the situation was out of our hands. We sulked for about 20 minutes as we got back in the car to drive home, then began to realize this is just a little bump in our process, and if this is the worst that happens we shouldn't be complaining. I mean, we only have to postpone our fingerprinting, we weren't involved in anything serious like a snow blower mishap! (Sorry Kim and Stac, had to throw that in there!)

Earlier, a good friend of mine texted me "Chin up" and she's right, this is not a huge deal. Thankfully the sign says they'll honor walk-ins due to the closure, so we won't have to wait for another appointment to be scheduled for us. We'll just get some rest, cue up the ipod playlist, fill up the gas tank, and try again tomorrow.

(If you think of it, please pray for no more snow tonight!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

Could this be you??

About a month and a half ago, JT and I had the priviledge to be a part of an adoption video project at our church.Through the experience we got to meet and work with another adoptive couple, who were literally just days away from reuniting with their son in the Ukraine to go to court to legalize their adoption. They were such a sweet couple, with great faith in God's plan for the change in their family.

Upon their return home, they brought with them great heartache for the children left behind at the orphanage, children dreaming of family, unsure their cries are being heard, uncertain their prayers will be answered. The following is a brief insight into what this couple experienced, and how it has affected them since:

"The first time we met him, we knew that Dan was special. He walked right up to us, held out his hand and said, 'hi.' Not really anything prolific about that simple gesture...unless you are an 11 year old orphan in Ukraine.  We met Dan while adopting D, our 9 year old son, in December.  The fact that we were adopting a child halfway across the world is evidence that God is wildly humorous and that He still asks His children to do things that seem totally out of the norm, perhaps even hilarious.

After that handshake on the first day, it was all hugs from then on...big, robust hugs. No matter where we would be visiting D, Dan would seem to appear out of nowhere - but he didn't stay too long because he wasn't allowed to be with us.  A few minutes is all it took to see that Dan had a sweet, sweet spirit about him.  Then we met Dan's sister, Nastay, who was just as sweet. Numerous times during our three week stay, both Dan and Nastya would look us in the eye and ask, "America, please." Our hearts have been stirred, and broken by the many children that have subjected to calling an orphanage their home.  In a country where there seems to be little regard for God, could He possibly hear the plea of these little voices calling out for the love of a family?
James 1:29 says, 'Pure and true religion in the eyes of God the Father is caring for the widows and orphans in their distress.'  This Scripture has taken hold of our lives this past six months as God directed us to adopt D.  Adoption was never in our plan but God made it very clear that this is what He was asking us to do.  Through our fears and fighting, struggling and questioning, we have experienced God providing for us in miraculous ways.  But now we have returned carrying a burden for Dan and Nastya...and Dasha...and Vulva.  Dasha is the youngest, Vulva the oldest of this foursome! While the task of finding a home for these four seems insurmountable, we are trusting that God will provide for them in a miraculous way too.  As we clearly see that longing look in Dan and Nastya's eyes, we also see the eyes of the Father."
~ as written by "D's" adoptive parents

While it seems almost ridulous to post this...could you be their family? Over the past 6 months, we have seen/felt God's hand in every step of our adoption and we have have been surprised time and time again by His provision. Although adoption was placed on our hearts years ago, we needed a little nudging to get the ball rolling.  Well, I'm nudging you today.  Perhaps you've felt the tug to open your heart and home to someone longing for a family...follow that tugging. Perhaps it isn't for this particular family of four, but maybe it is; consider it, pray about it.  With so many children lost and alone, you could be the one to show them hope.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The new "normal"

Today was the start of a new sermon series by our pastor entitled "Greater Than: seeking a new normal." Each year, our church has a "theme" verse, this year's is John 14:12

"Very truly I tell you, all who have faith in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father."

Today we were challenged to examine our lives, to define our normal, then let God redefine "normal" for us.  As a Christian my normal should be a constant reflection of Jesus: The WAY, The TRUTH, and The LIFE. Is my life reflecting that? Most days, no, (quite frankly and sadly) it's not. 

So what does a "Greater Than" life really look like? This adoption process is only beginning to change my concept of normal...I know, the end result of this process will be a big change at our house, but I think within the overall picture of our lives' purpose, we'll look back and see this as a small change toward this new definition of normal. I believe that my normal up to this point has been living a "less than" life for Jesus. He said the words in the verse above just shortly before he was going to die, and knowing what was ahead of him, He introduced his disciples to the thought of a life "greater than" what they were currently living. A "greater than" life we all can have if we choose to follow Him with our WHOLE life, not just a portion of our lives one day a week.

His disciples didn't get it; I don't blame them, I don't get it all the time and I know the end of the story.  But the exciting (and scary) thing is, we're not designed to "get it" all the time, we're just designed to trust. I don't "get" why we have to do all the things we're required to do to provide a home for these boys, but I trust that God has this process in place for a reason. I'm trusting his timing (even when it's extremely tough), knowing that he's using this time to prepare us to become godly parents and to prepare our children's hearts and minds to the transition of a family. I don't always "get" why my sons are living halfway around the world, but I do trust that God has specifically chosen these little cuties as my children and am so grateful that He's chosen to entrust us with these precious babes. I pray as trust in my Saviour deepens while I'm on this journey, that I'll be able to let go of my "less than" life and begin living the "new" normal. A normal where God desires to use my life to shine His love, to point those around me to a life "greater than" what they are living. He's purposed us for more than we can imagine, join me on this journey.

*To listen to our pastor's sermon (I highly recommend it) simply go to calvarysc.org/media