Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Extravagant Love

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another."

John 13:34

I got into the taxi cab to head back to our hotel. We had just completed our first visit with Josie. Keith and I went into this journey knowing the significant developmental delays Josie has. All the medical reports provided by the orphanage say that she is at about the developmental level of a 4 month old. We honestly worked hard to keep our expectations very low going into the first visit. It is hard to describe the adrenaline that flows through you as you wait for them to open the door and introduce you to the child whose pictures you have been staring at for months. The door opened and there she was! She looked so much more vibrant than either of us expected! She was sitting in a stroller and I was struck by how very beautiful she is! We spent the next hour holding her and playing with her. 

There is no doubt that many of the things in her medical report are not accurate. She is doing much better in many areas than we were expecting. Yet the truth is that in many ways she is like a baby. She speaks in coos, tongue clucks, and sighs, and it is likely that she will never speak words (that is a typical symptom of her medical condition). She rolls back and forth, gets on her hands and knees, but is nowhere near walking, and the reality is that she may never walk. She absolutely engages with us in ways that we were delighted to see. She laughs when tickled. She smiles when she is enjoying a game. She has very clear ideas about what she would like to be doing! She loves to be held and will allow you to calm her by rubbing her hair. All things considered, our expectations were blown away.....and that was a very good thing!! 

Yet, as we walked to the taxi there was also unspoken fear. What will the future hold for Josie, and for us as her family? We were sort of holding our hearts in check and although we hadn't talked about it, we were each asking ourselves the same questions. While it is true that adoption saves a child from a life with no future, it also can profoundly change the lives of those adopting, if we will let it. God, in His economy, never wastes an opportunity to keep chipping away at the stone around our hearts, if we will let Him. 

 I had some ugly stone around my heart. As I got into the cab I could hear Him saying to me, "What lives have value? Who determines that value? If Josie never develops beyond the developmental level of a 6 month old, won't her life still have been worth saving?"

At times I catch my breath when I realize how the philosophy of the world creeps in to my worldview. The lie that life is assigned value based on contribution, and that the contributions that counts are strength, power, excellence in sports, intelligence/getting into the best schools, popularity, physical beauty....all based on a standard that changes with the wind. 

As I continued through my day it became so clear that God was showing me the very definition of extravagant love. He is redeeming Josie's life. A life that by the standards of this world has very little value. Yet, she is priceless to Him. She is SO worth the time, the resources, the effort, the lifetime commitment. This question is answered for me. For once and for all. God loves us extravagantly. Spiritually we have nothing to offer Him. We have nothing to contribute. Yet, He loves us and He longs to claim us as His own.....to welcome us into His forever family. It is all grace! 

Let us love as He loves us!

Here Again.....

Daddy and Josie

For our 2011 international adoption I had planned to blog on our first trip. The first half of our trip was very difficult. We agreed that if we couldn't be truthful we wouldn't blog. So, for the most part, we didn't blog. Adoption is redemptive and beautiful. For most of us who bring home children, there are also challenges to be faced. It is difficult to walk into an orphanage, having a pretty good idea of what is going on inside on a daily basis, and not be changed. Not be sobered by what you are experiencing. When you bring home a child from that hard place you are met daily with the lasting impact that starting life in that environment has had on your child. You celebrate the miracles.....and there are MANY...... and you watch with gratitude as they learn to trust and relax. You battle beside your child to get to that place, knowing and appreciating how hard it has been, for ME, to get to that place in my own life....the place where I can trust God and relax into His love for me....how much harder it must be for a child who has been brutally neglected (at best) since birth. 

I have been amazed by how adoption has mirrored pregnancy and childbirth. The waiting. The worrying.  The wondering. My most anxious delivery wasn't my first but my fourth.....because I KNEW what to expect!! Sometimes the anticipation of holding my baby took center stage, but sometimes it was all I could do to control my fears about the pain I knew I would have to go through to get to the part where I was holding my baby!!! For Keith and I, adoption has been very much the same. Lilly and Noah are absolute MIRACLES! We have been privvy to watching utterly amazing things! We get to experience the wonder of feeling as though we could tell their birth stories because it seems as if they have always been a part of our family! But there have also been many hard days. Sacrifices. Scary moments. Time and again we have had to lay down selfishness, impatience, and fatigue. It is all SO worth it, but like pregnancy number four, as we enter this new adoption journey we have a much better idea of what lies ahead......both the awesome and the difficult.

I believe that the enemy uses fear to keep many away from adoption. How will I be able to do it? What will I have to "give up"? Will we ever go camping again? Will we all fit in our car? Will we ever be empty nesters? Will we be able to travel? How will we afford it? And on it goes. It can be paralyzing. The sacrifices are real. The difficulties are real. But so are the rewards....both temporal and eternal. We have had to work diligently this go around to keep our thoughts in check....some days we win that battle and some days we don't. By God's grace we are here!! The enemy is a liar and I can already see the blessings that God has in store for our family. May we encourage each other to fight the fight and stay in the battle! So many lives depend on it. 

So, here we are again!! And this time I am blogging!

We Have Arrived!

We arrived safely, on time, and with ALL of our luggage! 

Our hotel. 
The beds are amazingly comfortable (very important when you are exhausted and jet lagged!!) 
and everyone here has been so helpful and kind!

The view from one of our hotel windows

A beautiful old building

A nearby neighborhood 

Our amazing first night dinner!!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

It's All Because of Her........

As we sat on the plane Friday, finally on our way to meet Will and Josie, my thoughts kept going to Susanna. Words can't describe how deeply I wish we were coming to meet her. How utterly sad we still are that we won't be bringing her home.

Yet, because of her amazing story of love we are on our way to meet these two sweet children:

We can never underestimate the power of loving. The courage to love, regardless of our circumstances, can really change lives. Even when things don't turn out in our favor, or that way we want them to.

Susanna taught me that. I am forever in her debt. 

We love you sweet girl!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We are happy to announce.......

......that we WILL be bringing home two!

How I love those big eyes!! 

After losing Susanna we just weren't sure if God would add another little one to our family. But, God has weaved another story and we are so blessed to be a part of it! We spotted her picture a couple of months ago on the website of an agency that advocates for children waiting for a family. It was simply a picture and her diagnosis, which is something called Rubinstein-Taybi. She really captured Keith's heart and that got MY attention because he has never responded to just a picture like that before. So, I asked our agency about finding her and we learned that it really is like looking for a needle in a haystack. Where was her file? Was she still available? Could our foundation in her country find her file, then request it AND actually receive it?? It could be months, if at all. BUT God!! I have an amazing friend who is an adoptive Mama and a warrior for the most fragile and vulnerable. There was a minuscule chance (and while I am not trying to be overly dramatic here it REALLY was minuscule)  that she could help me to find more info on Kristina.......and find it she did!! There had been an inquiry about Kristina two years ago and she was still able to find the information and provide me with the vital pieces that I needed to give our agency a fighting chance to find her.

We found out that she was still available, but getting her file was another matter. So, we waited while our agencies here and in her country worked to get her file. Time passed and we just weren't sure it was going to happen. We considered other children. Prayed. It didn't make sense, but we just didn't feel peace about several children who we previously would have said "yes" to immediately! Maybe it was just supposed to be Will.....we weren't sure. Keith kept asking, "What about HER"? Again, not like him. We waited. I would occasionally look at the one picture we had of her and do a bit of research about her syndrome. We were camping in August and I googled it again. I went to the official Rubinstein -Taybi website and was surprised to see a link at the bottom of the page to Cincinnati Children's......the hospital that was a big part of our decision to move to this area.....and they actually have a center to treat her specific condition! Another confirmation?? 

 Then about three weeks ago the word came, "We have her file!" My heart was racing as I opened the email to see lots of brand new pictures! Videos! Medical info! Beautiful big eyes. Amazingly curly hair. We have had her file reviewed by our local international adoption clinic. Her needs are great but so is God! While she has made small amounts of progress over the past couple of years, it looks like she has damage to her brain that may keep her from ever developing to age level. She is not walking or talking. She has some vision limitations but we don't know what those are yet. She may not even have the syndrome that she was diagnosed as having.....all of that we will figure out when we get her home. What we know is that she is of great value to God......He is redeeming her life and placing her in a family. She has GREAT value! He will see that she becomes all He created her to be! 

Monday, July 8, 2013

It is hard to believe that it has been more than a month since I have written here!  The past month has seemed to speed by and crawl along all at the same time! We continue to grieve over the loss of Susanna, yet we are finding more and more peace and daily are choosing to put our focus on getting Will home!

Today we had our biometric fingerprinting done and that means that all we are waiting on now is approval from US immigration and then our dossier goes to Will's government to await our official referral. Right now his country's government is experiencing some major unrest and upheaval and it has seriously stalled many families in their adoption process. We pray that peace and stability will come and that these sweet children will start getting home!

We have received requests to provide a tax deductible donation option for our fundraising. Tax deductible donations can be made by clicking on the yellow button on the right side of our blog. We are currently unable to get updates from Project Hopeful when donations are made. We are so sorry that we are unable to directly thank people as they donate.....but please know that we are so utterly grateful for every dollar that comes in. We have been humbled by those desiring to help get Will home, both through donations and prayer support! You are the very hands and feet of Jesus and are a very real part of providing for him a real future and giving him hope!

Adoption is such an opportunity for God to refine our hearts. Some days it can be very painful and overwhelming. How the enemy would love for us to believe that it is just too much to enter in to the stories of these hurting children that have been hidden away from the rest of the world. Right now I know that the tactic is to get me to feel hopeless because of the wait that lies ahead. Thinking of our Will as he lays there, missing Susanna, confused, alone. Not knowing how long the governmental delays will be. I fight the desire to question how God can allow it to take SO long. Each day I must choose to rest in truth and to recognize the battle vs. getting swept away in the facade that it doesn't exist. That is such a dangerous place to be.....forgetting that there is an enemy who is actively opposing the redemption of these children. If we forget then the temptation is to give up......to let someone else take care of it.....to deceive ourselves that the doors that we have to fight to open are God's way of telling us to move on. I read this quote a couple of weeks ago on one of my discouraged days. It shook me right out of my focus on self and got it back where it belonged.....how we need to encourage each other to remember this!!!

“When you say YES to adoption, you are saying YES to enter the suffering of the orphan, and that suffering includes WAITING FOR YOU TO GET TO THEM. I promise you, their suffering is worse than yours. We say YES to the tears, YES to the longing, YES to the maddening process, YES to the money, YES to hope, YES to the screaming frustration of it all, YES to going the distance through every unforeseen discouragement and delay. Do not imagine that something outside of “your perfect plan” means you heard God wrong. There is NO perfect adoption. EVERY adoption has snags. We Americans invented the “show me a sign” or “this is a sign” or “this must mean God is closing a door” or “God must not be in this because it is hard,” but all that is garbage. You know what’s hard? Being an orphan. They need us to be champions and heroes for them, fighting like hell to get them home. So we will. We may cry and rage and scream and wail in the process, but get them home we will.”
–Jen Hatmaker

Friday, June 7, 2013

Our Will

As much as we are grieving Susanna we can't imagine what it is like for our Will. He must be so sad and confused. Deep in sadness over our girl we are also fueled by a desire to get him home as quickly as possible. 

 We are thoroughly looking forward to  meeting our son and getting to know his personality! My heart is heavy at the thought of having to walk into that orphanage knowing that Susanna won't be there, but I am finding an excitement growing in my heart as I think about meeting this handsome boy! God will undoubtedly give us His grace to face what now seems overwhelming.

I sent off our I800a to our home study agency yesterday. That means that it should arrive in Texas in about a week and then we hope to have approval in the next 4-6 weeks. This approval means that we have our government's go ahead to pursue our adoption of Will. Once we have that in our hands our dossier goes to Will's government for their approval. Once we receive THAT we will be scheduled for our first visit. I am hoping that this will happen by September or October. Emphasis on "hoping". 

I have had several people ask us how they can give to our adoption fund. It is an unavoidable truth that international adoption is very expensive. Since we weren't making plans to adopt when Susanna found us we are starting from scratch. We have complete confidence that God will provide all we need and we are working hard on our end to raise the necessary funds. We are using Go Fund Me and there is a button on our blog. It is an easy site to use but it is not tax deductible. We are in the process of signing on with Project Hopeful and will add that button to our blog soon. Donations made to them on our behalf are tax deductible. 

Keith and I have been working for several days....trying to create a video that would express our heart around Susanna's story. I would love to share it with you. During the first couple of days, when in our sadness I wasn't sure how we could move forward, I had several people remind me that Susanna had loved Will and that they were sure it would be her desire for him to come home to us. We agree. We consider our adoption of Will as Susanna's last act of love. What an amazing girl. What an amazing story!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Our Lilly

 Susanna's blond hair and beautiful blue eyes are very atypical of her birth country. 

When I first spoke to the wonderful Nina at our adoption agency she thought that I would be surprised because most of the children born in this country have dark hair and dark brown eyes. But I wasn't surprised.......and the reason it didn't surprise me is  because we've already brought home a blond haired blue eyed beauty from the same country that Susanna was born in! 

Our sweet Lilly Caroline!

Now....hair and eye color don't mean a thing to us! I have given birth to dark haired dark eyed beauties and we have our sweet Noah! 

I just love that God has made our family full of individual and unique personalities and beauty! 

I love how similar Lilly and Susanna look. True sisters. I know that Lilly would have loved Susanna! I know that because Lilly has a heart as big as Texas! She is smiling almost every minute of the day and when we brought Noah home she embraced him with open arms. 

Our Lilly also has spina bifida and she is a marvel! She takes life head on...there is nothing she can't do! She swam like a fish from the moment she took her first swim in a pool. She rides her bike. She loves to help and is always asking what she can do. 

Yesterday we went for our first wheelchair appointment and it was as though she had used one all of her life. She was in and out of doors and turning circles in no time!  I was so proud of her! She has every "reason" in the world to be angry, sad, and miserable. 

But she chooses joy. She is brave, resilient, and one of my heroes. She is teaching me every day that I can choose how I want to face life. She is teaching me to choose joy.

 This is why we will keep going. Why we won't stop sharing Susanna's story. Why we will keep risking our hearts to love the Lilly's and Susanna's. It is SO worth it! 

They are SO worth it!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Death Has Lost.....and Love Has Won!

As we grieve our sweet Susanna I am held up by the truth
 that when my Jesus rose from the dead He defeated the power of death

While in our sadness we still feel its sting, 
death no longer has the final word!

Susanna is safe with Jesus.

This song has ministered to me in a mighty way over the past few days.
I pray that it does the same for you!

Friday, May 31, 2013


It is with very heavy hearts that we share with you the news that our sweet Susanna is now with Jesus.

We are heartbroken over the loss of our sweet girl. Words cannot describe how I longed to rock her in my arms, to cover her with a blanket and whisper to her that she was loved, she was home, and she was finally safe. How we longed to show her the world outside the walls of the crib that she had lived in 24 hours a day for 6 years.

My sweet husband's deepest fear is that she was alone and he desperately hopes that she was not afraid. 

My friends, this is not how things should be! Children should not die needless deaths because they don't receive the right medical care. Sweet little girls should not live their lives without ever feeling the sun on their skin. Boys and girls should not be locked away because of needs that are considered "special". We are ALL fearfully and wonderfully made! 

In Jesus' name and for the sake of sweet Susanna there is something that we ALL can do to change this! 

Give to someone who is adopting.
Support someone who is in the process of adopting and continue to support them once they bring their children home.
Advocate for children in desperate need.

Adopt. Give. Support. Advocate.

The numbers are overwhelming. BUT if we all were to take the responsibility of caring for just ONE, then they would all be fed, clothed, given necessary medical care, and know they are valued and loved. Most importantly, they would have the opportunity to learn of the One True Hope. That they have a forever home with their Father in heaven who deeply loves them and longs for us to act on their behalf!

Sweet Susanna girl, we love you. We are so grateful that while we grieve the loss of our life with you, we can do so with hope, knowing that we WILL see you again! For now you are truly home, you are utterly safe, and you are so very completely loved!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Where Have I Been???

When I look at the date of my last blog entry I can't believe it has been weeks!! What has been going on with our efforts to get Susanna and Will home as soon as humanly possible???

We are happy to announce that our home study is pretty much completed. We are in final checking and double checking phases. In one of those double checks it was discovered that we were in need of two more background clearances. We got that news this morning and initially I panicked....these clearances can take weeks and we are so anxious to get Susanna out of that crib and to the care that she so desperately needs! The good news is that if this hadn't been caught before we sent our file on to immigration services then they would surely have noticed it and kicked it back out to us. That could have cost us weeks vs what I hope will instead be days.

God has been so faithful along the way. I had the sense when we started down this road that there would be spiritual battles to be fought.....and in ways that we hadn't experienced in our previous adoptions. We have seen very stressful things happen in our daily lives, and there has been many invitations to fear about the future......but God has continued to pave the way in the adoption process. There are days when I spend hours on paperwork and appointments, but He has been faithful to lead us to helpful people and to apply grace to areas in our process that could easily have become road blocks to moving forward. For that we are so grateful!! May He impress it on the hearts of the people doing our background checks to complete them quickly!! We are ready to be one big step closer to these sweet children!!

We would be so grateful for continued prayers for doors to open to bring Susanna and Will home quickly. We will need to do some fundraising for this adoption, so prayers also for wisdom to choose the right things that will be fruitful as we trust in God's provision!  I love them more each day and I pray that the story God is telling in all of our lives will bring great glory to Him! 

Monday, May 6, 2013

Getting Closer........

We are getting closer! Our home study is nearly completed! After a big push last week, which included having our home visit, we have provided all of the necessary information to our social worker. Now we wait for our FBI background clearance to arrive and our file can go on to immigration for approval. We are in the ballpark for that to happen soon........we are hearing that the background clearances are taking about 4 weeks, and we will hit the four week mark this Thursday. Once our file gets to immigration we will likely be looking at a 6 week wait for approval.

We were at the spina bifida clinic for Lilly's annual appointment today. We got to meet with her neurosurgeon and I told her about Susanna. She struggled a bit to believe that Susanna has gone 6 years without having closure surgery, but we assured her that indeed she has waited that long! She said that she would be able to do the surgery once Susanna gets home..... that was great news, because I think a part of me was afraid that it would be too late. She is also willing to look over her information and help us create a plan to get her home safely. After reviewing her medical file again there is much going on with our sweet girl. It is hard to think of having to wait another 8-10 months to get her home and start helping her heal. We are hoping that our doctor will provide us with a letter to include with our immigration paperwork that may help speed up our process. It would be wonderful if the agent assigned to our case could see how critical it is that we get her home soon in order to address her hydrocephalus and complete her closure surgery........and that they would be willing to speed up our approval process.

I love the giggle!

Would you pray with us that we get our background clearance soon and that we are able to expedite our immigration paperwork? That God would move mountains to get Susanna and Will home and that all will be accomplished in His perfect timing......

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Let's Be the Light!

"You are the light of the world. 
A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket,
 but on a stand,
 and it gives light to all in the house. 
In the same way, let your light shine before others, 
so that they may see your good works 
and give glory to your Father who is in heaven."
Matthew 5:14-16

Last week my husband and I took our daughter Delaney to a Kari Jobe/Chris Tomlin concert. As we worshipped, one song Kari sang really hit me deep. "We are the light of the world. We are the city on a hill. We are the light of the world so we've got to let our light shine." I felt the presence of God so strongly and a powerful awareness that we MUST encourage each other to be the light to the world around us! The truth is that Jesus is the light in us, without Him there is no life changing light. We have to be humble and be willing to be emptied of ourselves so that His light can shine!

We adopted our son Noah when he was 10 months old. He came to us from Florida on a ventilator and with a medical file that literally scared the mess out of our pediatrician. On paper every one told us there wasn't much promise. Yes, we were scared. This was all new to us. We were already in the process of bringing our daughter Lilly home from eastern europe and the timing seemed ridiculous. But God. He knew we needed Noah as much as he needed us!

{With Lilly and Noah at the hospital soon after his arrival }

When he arrived at the local children's hospital via medical flight we waited in the ER as they prepared the room he would stay in for the next seven weeks while we trained on his equipment. The nurse who was checking us in started the conversation with these words, "You are crazy." Now, this wasn't a light-hearted "Oh, you crazy people.....what are you getting yourselves into?" She was serious and her words went right to my heart. (I am a big believer that words give life or they bring death, but that is for another posting!) We often had to fight the fear that came from words spoken by others. BUT, Noah's story fascinated people. We had doctors and nurses come to our room to hear it...and honestly to stare at the crazy people with 7 kids! Now, I wish that I could say that in all of our telling of his story (which we love to do) that I put God center stage, that I emptied myself of myself and shared the love of Jesus with boldness. But the truth is that I didn't do that faithfully. It grieves me to admit that I worried about offending people. How gracious that He continues to give us second, third, and fourth chances! I don't want to waste any more opportunities to shine His light. To share His story! May we encourage each other to share with boldness of the Great Love that drives us to love those who society pushes to the margins!

In his small booklet, "Risk is Right",  John Piper writes about the first three centuries of the Christian church who faced persecution under the Roman Empire. Every Christian who believed faced the very real threat and possibility of death. Yet the church grew. That always amazes me!

Piper writes, "In fact, it was the Christ-exalting love that the Christians showed in spite of the risk that stunned the pagan world. The Roman emperor Julian (AD 332-363) wanted to breathe new life into the ancient pagan religion but saw more and more people drawn to Christianity. He wrote with frustration against these "atheists" (who did not believe in the Roman gods, but in Christ):
'Atheism [i.e., Christian faith] has been specially advanced through the loving service rendered to strangers, and through their care for the burial of the dead. It is a scandal there is not a single Jew who is a beggar, and that the godless Galileans care not only for their own poor but for our as well; while those who belong to us look in vain for the help that we should render them.'
It is costly to follow Christ. There is risk everywhere. But this very risk is the means by which the value of Christ shines more brightly."

May God allow us to be part of such a scandal! Let us show the world the love of Jesus by the way we love......and when people ask us why we would do such things may we share our stories with boldness.......leading with the God parts and NEVER listening to the counsel of fear to leave them out, otherwise our stories become merely interesting......and cease to be life changing!

Our Noah today! We LOVE to share his miracle story!!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Where I Discover I'm NOT A Cool Cucumber!

So, this go around I was going to be the "experienced" adopting mom and be cool as a cucumber through the whole process. There are SO many time variables in international adoption and many of them are completely out of our control. We can get our paperwork done ASAP, but there are government processes, both here and overseas, that just take time. There are a lot of places where the process can hit time snags. So, since I KNOW that, this time I was just going to go with the flow. Uh huh. That lasted about two weeks!! The good news is that this is evidence to me that God is growing a real love for Susanna and Will in my heart. (On a side note, we think we have a name for our boy, but we want to wait until we visit him to make sure it is really his......so for simplicity sake we will just use Will until it is official!)

I think my plan really went off the rails late last week when I watched the short videos I have of her. What is amazing is that we could also catch glimpses of Will in the crib next to her. She would try and share the toys she was given with him by handing them over the top of the crib! I love being able to see her, but it is clear when you watch them that the attention she gets when she is being videotaped is not her normal. I remember this with Lilly. She looked confused, a little scared, but in there was a desire to please. They look so very vulnerable and the thought that it could be a year before I can get to them just weighs so heavy on my heart. I struggled to sleep that night, and the chance that I would be a cool cucumber this go around went right out the window!!

Right now the prayer is that our fingerprints, which were received by the FBI last week, will be back to us as quickly as possible (right now we have heard that they are running about 3-4 weeks). Once we have them, and our home study is complete, our file can move on to homeland security (which seems to be running about 4-6 weeks) for approval. Please pray that these two processes will move swiftly! 

We know that all of this is in God's hands, but we also know that He includes us in His plans through action and prayer....one of the greatest mysteries! So, we will get everything done as quickly as we can and we will pray that:

"He will cover [Susanna and Will] with his feathers,
and under his wings [they]will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be [their] shield and rampart."
Psalm 91:4

He has held them and we can trust that he will continue to do so until we can get to them. God, not governments, will set the timetable! 

I am a very visual person.....if I see it, it makes a much bigger impact on me. I want to share Susanna and Will with you. I would love it if those following their story and praying them home would print them and use them as a reminder to pray for their protection and process. It is a miracle that Susanna has survived this long without having surgery to close her back! Praying that she stays healthy and that God continues to breathe life into their spirits and prepare their hearts to come home!

Aren't they beautiful???

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Officially Matched!

We got great news on Thursday! Our family has officially been matched with Susanna and Will! That puts us one step closer! We are continuing to get paperwork done so that our home study can get updated as soon as possible.

God has been so faithful to continue to give us little reminders here and there that this is indeed His plan for our family. When we name our children we always use a family name for their middle names......so they all have special significance to us. We had already decided to use Joseph for Will's middle name.....it was my grandfather's name. He came to know Christ later in life and always wished that he had walked with Him from the beginning. He died in a car accident a couple of weeks before my first birthday. Over the years I have wondered how things may have been different if he had lived a longer life......how my life would have been different to have known him here on earth. I am so excited to meet him when I get to heaven! As I was looking over paperwork on Thursday I noticed Will's birth name. His middle name is Yusuf. I hadn't heard of that before, so googled it and found out that it is the Arabic version of the English name......Joseph! Amazing! So sweet of God to allow for these little confirmations! They are a breath of fresh air and give me such a lift on days when I am tempted to live too much in the future and to wonder how everything will fall into place. They are a powerful answer to all the fearful questions that the enemy of my soul enjoys tossing my way!

 Tomorrow we send off agency paperwork, fingerprint forms, background checks.....and pray God continues to surround our children with His love and protection and ministers to their sweet spirits in ways we can't even understand!!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Where We Are in Our Process

I am hoping to keep current with where we are in our process as we work to get Susanna and "Will" home (we are working hard on our little boy's name.....we just haven't found it yet!).

Right now our primary goal is to get our home study updated. We will be working with the same agency we used when we adopted Noah, so they know us and we won't be starting from scratch. We are hoping that this will save us some time. The process for Lilly took us almost exactly one year from the day we first saw her picture. We are praying that we can move more quickly this time (hoping for 8-9 months) because we don't want Susanna to stay in that crib any longer than she absolutely has to!!

We will need to have physicals, complete lots of paperwork, get background checks done, and all of us, including the kids, will need to be interviewed by our social worker.  Once our home study is completed we will then apply to US immigration to get approval to adopt the kids and be preparing our dossier to be sent to their government. After all of these things are done, translated, and approved we will get the invitation for our first visit, and the return trip to bring them home is usually 3-5 months after the first. I am sure that I am leaving out some finer details, and I am certainly leaving out a lot of the paperwork, but these are the highlights!

We would appreciate prayers for as smooth and swift a process as possible, for their sakes, and that during this waiting time He will be preparing their hearts to join our family. Courage and peace for Susanna as she will be SO stretched to leave the security of her crib, and that God would be building an unexplainable anticipation and joy in Will's heart that something very good is coming!  He is so faithful and I know that He holds them both in His strong hands!

We have so much to do here to get ready for them that I hope it will make the time fly by!! Our house is going to need some modifications made to become wheelchair accessible and so that S & W will be able to navigate and move around as easily as possible. We are praying for wisdom and clarity to make wise choices and that He would lead us to affordable and trustworthy contractor(s)..... that we would be good stewards of His provisions as we move forward in faith!!!

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Desperate for Him

It is a challenge to truly understand my need for Jesus when I can go through most of my days seemingly not needing Jesus. My husband has a good job, we have a nice house in a safe place, food whenever we want it, insurance that allows me to take my kids to the doctor whenever I need to, the freedom to worship God when and where I want to, and the ability to buy myself all of what I need and much of what I want. I recognize that these things are given to me by God....that all good things come from Him, but that truth lives mostly in my head and too often not in my heart. It is possible for me to go for months on end and easily not find myself in a single moment where I feel a desperate need for God. 

But, the truth is that I DESPERATELY need Him.  This life is a vapor. An instant and it is gone.  I let it sink in that the wages I have earned during these nearly 45 years of life are eternal death and that I CANNOT help myself. I cannot cover, cleanse, or fix the stains of sin that cling to me.  Instead I add to them daily. I cannot do enough good to outweigh the bad. I am utterly helpless and I am utterly doomed.  I am desperate for a savior. It is my ONLY hope. 

Against this awareness of my true state Easter is a life raft in the middle of the ocean. A drowning man doesn't casually swim to the raft and thank it for showing up (even though he would have been fine either way). No. A man who is truly drowning CLINGS frantically because he knows that it is his only means of salvation. And he is grateful. Utterly grateful. He will tell the story over and over about how without that raft he would have drowned. 

How much more should I cling to Christ? That He would endure the brutality of the cross for MY sin. How much more should I tell the tale of how He took what I so surely earned upon Himself so that I could could escape the punishment that I so richly deserved? Oh the love and gratitude that wells up within me....that is filling me daily with courage to lay down my life for Him in return. All of it. My house. My stuff. My lifestyle. My future. To love Him with the utter abandon with which He loves me. What more could He have given? What more do I need to give? 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Want to Hear A Good Story??

Here I am, a year after my last post, dusting off our blog to share some very exciting news! Our family is in the process of growing.....again! There are two precious children who will be waiting for us, thousands of miles away, while we work to get them home as quickly as we can. But before we get busy with background checks and paperwork there is a story here that must be celebrated and shared so that we never forget to make much of the mountains God has moved to bring us together! It is a bit long but it's good!!

Last Sunday I finally decided to organize the mountain of paperwork that remained from our adoption of Lilly and Noah in 2011. As I worked through it the thought rolled through my mind, "It's time to do this again", and that was that. I didn't even say it out loud.

On Monday Keith was out of town for work (which is rare since he primarily works from home) and I got busy making doctor appointments and taking care of family business. As I was working on my computer I took a minute to check on a blog that I have read regularly for years..... Linny's blog at A Place Called Simplicity. I noticed that she was advocating for a specific child, a little girl named Susanna.  I regularly see children advocated for on blogs but I have not ever once felt the tugging that I needed to find out more. I have shed tears, prayed, and followed their stories....but never have I felt led to become personally involved beyond that. As I scrolled through the pictures I read that Susanna has spina bifida,  like our Lilly. But, unlike our Lilly,  I read that this sweet six year old girl has never had the surgery to close up her back. Heartbreaking! She also has untreated hydrocephalus, and after years of rarely ever being lifted out of her crib is now left there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, because to be lifted up past the bars creates tremendous anxiety in her. My mind struggled to comprehend what I was reading.....to imagine what Susanna's life must look like.

I noticed that she was in an Eastern European orphanage. When we began the process of our first international adoption, we ended up going with Lilly's country because it was the only Eastern European country where we qualified for adoption. What were the odds that Susanna was in this same country? In my mind not good, but I felt compelled to just reach out to the contact Linny had listed at the bottom of the post. So, I emailed and explained that it was unlikely that we would be qualified, but I had seen Susanna's information and having adopted a child already with spina bifida I wanted to do what I could to help....expecting it would be to advocate for her and help her find her family. After all, Keith and I weren't even talking about adopting again! Ha...ha...ha!!

The response came back quickly and I was truly stunned to see that Susanna was indeed in the country where we had adopted Lilly! Hmmm. This was interesting. I began emailing back and forth with Nina and finally I just picked up the phone and called to ask her questions!!

The wheels in my mind were turning! One of the major reasons that we moved to northern Kentucky in the first place was so that we could be near the spina bifida clinic at the nearby children's hospital for Lilly. It was a hard move for me because what had been my heart's desire was for us to move back west closer to my family. I literally went through a grieving process that took over two years (my husband will tell you that I do that sort of stuff pretty s  l  o  w  l  y!). When we moved here we had no way to know that God was going to surprise us with the adoption of a baby boy who started life at 1.6 pounds and who was going to desperately need the staff at this children's hospital to get him off a ventilator and in doing so give him the hope of a full life........AND that as a critical part of that process he would require major throat surgery that was actually pioneered by one of the doctors at that very hospital! Only God can orchestrate stories like this!! So, here we were a couple of years later with the very doctors on speed dial (NOT kidding) that Susanna would need to be restored to health! And here I sat, fresh from God doing a major work on my heart that had finally brought me to a place of true and complete submission to HIS plan for where I would live and how I would spend my life (His vision....not mine). Peace was bearing its fruit in my heart and now......how could we not help???

So, after I explained to Nina that I hadn't gotten out of bed that morning intending to pursue adoption, and that I still needed to attend to the "minor" detail of talking to my husband (he is one amazing man and I knew that he would come home with an open heart ready to talk and to hear from God), I assured her that I would get back to her soon. SO, next step was to call one of my dear friends who I actually met when she was the social worker for our first adoption. She is a woman of God and an adoptive mom who had brought home a daughter from this same country in the past year. I was unfamiliar with this agency that had Susanna's file and I thought maybe she would have heard of them....plus I wanted to share the news and get her counsel. Admittedly another fleece of sorts! So, this is about how it went......First, as I stumbled around to remember the name of the agency she filled in the blanks (yeah, she had heard of them) AND she proceeded to mention the name of a "fantastic" woman she knew who was with said agency AND that if she could refer me to anyone in the states to facilitate a Bulgarian adoption it would be, you guessed it, the very woman I had been communicating with....NINA! Her final words to me (and yes, she was laughing), "Well sister, I think you have your answer!"

Keith and I talked a bit that night and we went to bed. All night I thought about something else I had read about Susanna. There was a boy in the crib next to her that she had become very attached to. They would communicate back and forth. She would reach through into his crib and mother him by straightening his clothing or blankets. When he was taken from the room she would anxiously wait for him to return. It was going to be so hard for this sweet girl to even be lifted out of her crib. How could she be separated from him as well?? So, the next morning I emailed Nina again and asked about him. Was he available for adoption? Amazingly enough not only was he available, but his file was with the same agency! Only God! Nina said that they called him "Will", and she had known about him already, but not that he was the boy Susanna loved!

Now it was time for us to really seek God and pray for His direction. It is hard, once you start to connect to a child, to have to lay them before God and trust that if it is His plan, they will be yours. I let Nina know that we would need to take a bit to pray, but that we knew time was of the essence and we would let her know as quickly as we could, knowing that it was possible another family would get in line in front of us while we processed. The next 4 days were hard. Something else can happen when you are considering doing something big with God, like bringing home two children with big needs (Will also has spina bifida and, unless God chooses to intervene and perform a miracle, they will both spend their lives in wheelchairs).....fear can start to creep in. Doubt. The thoughts of sacrifices too big and opportunities lost. Honestly, it can get ugly. What was so clear to me though was that when my thoughts were centered on Christ the peace was so deep, but when I moved over to "my" side and thought about all that I may be giving up (it is worth noting that to fail to recognize that being the hands and feet of Jesus, however that looks in our life, is costly is to not understand what is required of us) I was flailing in misery. We shared it with our kids on Saturday night. They were excited at the possibility and that always humbles me......their sweet hearts. On Sunday I told Keith, "I have reasons not to move forward, but not one of them can be supported by scripture and they all have to do with me." He said, "Same here. We move forward." Ah, peace. I emailed Nina.

The next morning I had an email from her when I woke up that told me time was short and she needed  paperwork completed that day and it required both of our signatures (little detail here is that Keith was again out of town.....thanking God for a smart husband and electronic signatures!). If we didn't get the paperwork to her that night we risked losing the referral. Isn't God's timing amazing???

I am in awe of how many people have been praying for Susanna and "Will" (I use the quotation marks because Will Williams will not be his permanent moniker....but I love how it was as if he was being marked for our family!) and we ask you to please continue!! We covet your prayers. This transition will be so hard for Susanna.....but what freedom and joy will be waiting for her as God delivers her from both her literal and spiritual prisons!! Wisdom for the doctors when we get them home. Protection while they wait. Protection and provision for our family as we work through the process. We would love to continue to share this story with you.....so many of you are already a part of it and we honestly don't have the words to thank you!