Wednesday, April 27, 2011

the mad poster

I know I've been posting like crazy! What has gotten into me!? I tell you what...I've been witnessing the movement of God's kingdom on Earth! And it is awesome. I just have to share the most recent update from our friends who are in Ethiopia. Oh my. How I box in God. You may remember (not that I doubt or question our current path to China and to our little man) that we reconsidered adopting from Ethiopia because things there seemed to be unraveling. Well, clearly, God doesn't let anything unravel that He wishes to wrap tightly -- especially the arms of parents around their children and those children clinging to a new forever. Oh how I love my sweet friend's words. Revel in the wisdom and clarity the Lord's given her in this moment.

Greetings from Ethiopia!

As if God had not opened the floodgates of blessings enough, today topped them all! After a time of WAITing in the court holding room, we were invited before the judge. She asked us several questions and w/o our knowing what was next, the words that will forever be etched on my heart came: THEY ARE YOURS!

Totally, irrevocably, forever...YOURS! In that moment (though It was quick!) I realized that the Lord was simultaneously reminding me that I AM HIS! I got the parallels before but right then and there, the God of the universe was calling my name out as settled...adopted forever.

That would have been sufficient, but it didn't stop there. Our orphanage rep said, we were going to be the first to show up at the US Embassy and try something new to speed this along. We had a quick visit with OUR SONS and then paperwork before heading to this unplanned Embassy appt. Well, there we learn others were trying to do the same and were denied. So, it was worth a try I figured. But no...there we were taking oath and getting a jump-start on the Embassy process. We think it's going to be sooner than later but all TBD.

I share these details so you see your prayers have been specifically heard...for us, but more importantly that we all would see His glory. We have to say our good byes tomorrow, but they really seem like a 'see you soon'. Same for us...Jesus says see you soon...and we have no clue. He knows what's coming is better...and we know what's coming (although hard) is better for our sons.

Rejoice in these blessings with us!
Pictures to follow as soon as we get home!

To God be the glory.

I don't know about you, but that makes my heart swoon! And this story makes me all the more excited for The Day when we too will hear those words, 'He's yours.' And we'll hop on a plane and bring home the little guy whose stolen our hearts. Counting the days...

so loved

There's a family I've come to 'know' (on-line) who moved up north from, I believe, Richmond. They're quite a neat family who have answered the Lord's call to adopt (many times). They're in the process of fundraising to bring home two reeally adorable daughters, Esther and Poppy, from China. If you perhaps feel the Lord's nudge to contribute a small bit toward their fundraising efforts, click on this button.

So Loved

I never realized the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of families around this country who depend solely on fundraising to pay for their adoptions. It's amazing to hear story after story of how God provides to give the fatherless families. I am moved daily by these stories. I am moved that we, as just distant outsiders, can be part of such an amazing effort.

Enjoy learning more about this family. They're one of so very many.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

always a little test in patience...

Man, Easter was sweet. Our church was ridiculously packed (standing room only -- it overflowed out into the concourse!). And God hit it out of the park through our pastor who gave an amazing sermon on why Jesus' resurrection gave us a resounding 'Yes!' answer to so many questions in life. If you'd like to listen to it, click here. But sweeter than that, in an email from our pastor to thank all the volunteers who helped pull it off, he gave the crazy amount of people in attendance on Sunday, but concluded with "When you consider that each life is a person who God loves and cares about and wants to know and invite to life in Him - it's just such a privilege. It's not 'a numbers thing' it's a privilege. That's the one word I can think of."

So here's another little test in patience for me...

As you may remember, we had to have our doctor fill out medicals specific to China as part of the stuff we have to get to Wide Horizons to lock 'little man's' file. We accomplished so much on Friday and I was ready to pick up the completed medical forms yesterday and get all this stuff in the mail to Wide Horizons today. But alas, our doctor's nurse called and said the forms are complete however there are spaces for the test results of two additional tests (Hep B screening and another that I can't remember) on this form that weren't required on the original form that was completed when we had our physicals done, therefore these tests weren't requested. She asked if we wanted to just pick up the forms without those test results or have our doctor order the tests. Ugh. Clearly, it seems that we better have these tests done. Since these forms are part of our dossier and very 'official' in terms of what China requires from us, we certainly can't have any blanks!

"So how long will it take those test results to come back?" I ask.

"5 to 7 business days," she says.

Well, there goes my best laid plan of getting these things in the mail to Wide Horizons this week. Or even next...

Next week we'll be on vacation, so we won't be able to pick up the completed forms until the second week of May. This is the kind of stuff that God's using to develop in me the character that He wants for me. I am so not naturally patient. You guys have no idea. But I really am doing okay with all this! God is clearly doing a work in me. And it's nice. Now...when we've officially accepted the referral for 'little man' and we're expecting any day to get the call to travel to go get him, I cannot promise a lick of patience! I will probably be the crabbiest, most antsy, think ready-to-pop-huge-pregnant-woman-please-Lord-let-me-have-this-baby-today impatience. Only time will tell.

Monday, April 25, 2011

preach it, brother.

Sorry, if you received a post notification with no post. I tried to post a video and when I did, it ate up the entire page on the blog. It was too big, so I took it off. Still figuring this stuff out.

But I did want to share something that some friends of ours posted recently -- specifically the husband/father 'guest posted' on this wife's blog. Powerful stuff. Sometimes I just think we need to hear the tough stuff. Stuff I don't want to hear, frankly. That's what the video was about too. One day, I'll figure out this blogging stuff!

Some other 'new' friends of ours are in Ethiopia this minute and have met their sons! Holy Cow! To hear of their first encounter with each other just made my heart swell. Thought you might revel in this story of God's sweet hand being on this growing family. Here are her words.

Thought a quick update was in order after all the faithful prayers from y'all! Indeed our Lord lives!

I was sure of our plan for meeting the boys. We would go in first to meet J video taping. We would follow the boys' lead on letting us get close, etc. After we had a few moments and first pix, then we'd go get the girls and have J join for their own time (and pix). God was in control (lest I forget) He had something else in mind. So, we were waiting for the go ahead when these 2 more than precious faces that we had only seen in pictures came RUNNING out to
us! As if saying 'Tadda'! We were all stunned. They were coming to US. I've learned God likes to teach me so much more in this adoption process about Himself. This was no different! With every bit of our wanting to offer ourselves to them, they gave of themselves to us for the morning...a multiplied minutes morning. There was not a hint of awkwardness from them! We played outside alone as a family...with a couple of balls, bubbles and trucks (which later they would not share of course). We went to their room and saw their cribs head to head, we saw them proud before their friends, we saw them play (and not) with the others and with us and snacked a final few minutes together. Our kids were overjoyed. They too witnessed their little
personalities unfolding before them without a word understood. I think I felt like I came up short with what I could offer, until I realized the offering was for me. I sometimes just stared at what was a couple birthing hours our family was being knitted. Not by what we were doing but by what God had already done....and will continue to do. He redeems...He can't help it. Friends, if you ever get the chance to 'risk' because God nudges in some way....JUST DO IT! He is the treasured gift...whatever the process. Ours today just happens to be 2 boys across the world that we get to call our sons. Jesus does the outpouring, we get to taste and see that He is soooo good!

Just wanted to share how God's kingdom is on the move! Awesome.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

file transferred!

It's with much joy (and high-fiving all around!) that we were notified yesterday that our little guy's file was officially transferred to our agency! On Wednesday, when I contacted our social worker for an update, she told us that the transfer was taking a bit longer because she found out that he was actually not with just one agency, but a couple. Huh? Didn't know that was possible. I thought, "Ooh. That can't be good. That means each agency has to be willing to relinquish him to us." Our social worker assured us that although this isn't totally common it's not totally uncommon either.

She's a very sweet woman and often gently reminds us that we're doing this a bit backward, if you will. She's said many times that this isn't the normal way things are done, but they're happy to make an exception for the sake of this little guy being matched with his family. Amen to that!

So his file was received on Friday by Wide Horizons. However, it is not locked with us yet. We have to send her a copy of our still unofficial home study (still waiting for those durn background checks!), a photo of our family, passport photos of JD and me, and the medical forms required by China filled out by our physician and notarized.

We have a copy of our home study. Check.

We got our passport photos taken on Friday. Check.

We dropped off our medicals at the doctor's office on Friday. They should be complete by Monday afternoon. Half a check?

And our Christmas card family photo will do. Check.

Needless to say, we should have all this to Wide Horizons by the end of next week. Big check!

I have to wonderful as the true meaning of Easter is, I have to admit that I've been rather distracted lately. Having Spring Break the week before Easter causes me to 'sleep in' more. (Oh how I wish sleeping in were what it used to be!). Having a break from routine causes me not to set aside the same time each day for quiet conversation and prayer. As much as I relish in these opportunities (breaks) to recharge and truly rest, and I know my Father in Heaven isn't wagging a finger at me, I still feel distant and distracted. I say all this to be transparent and to say to any of you who may be having the same experience...God loves you (us) no matter what. If we've been 'off' with our time with Him of late, He's not wagging His finger at us. He's just waiting with open arms for when we cozy back up at His side. My prayer is that tomorrow will be that for me (and maybe for you).

Father, may tomorrow be so much more than just a day with family and friends with lots of great food and where candy abounds! Lay heavy upon my heart the true gift of what Easter is. May my spirit be stirred over and over again with the gift of Jesus and all He's done for me (us).

Thank you, Jesus.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

is this a book club?


I know this isn't a book club, but I've read some amazing books lately. I just can't help but share. One I finished a couple of months ago is called 'The Hole in Our Gospel' by Richard Stearns.


Clearly, God has JD and I in a new place in our lives. Our hearts are primed. Raw. Open. He is using people, books, movies, stories to continuously remind us of what He wants for us and of us.

God used 'The Hole in Our Gospel' to affirm, encourage, and remind me of why we're making the decisions we're making. Why we're stepping into unchartered lands. Why we're agreeing to 'go' when we don't know how we're going to get there. Or even at times where in the world we're going (literally).

Have you ever felt like you're not living with purpose. Omigosh, I've struggled with that. For years and years, I stirred with the question, 'Seriously, Lord, why? Why am I here? What kind of impact am I really making?' I've thought, 'Sure, I'm a Christian, but does the rubber meet the road for me?'

Do I really walk the walk or just talk the talk?

I know the answer -- no, I don't walk the walk well. Yes, I do just talk the talk sometimes. I hate to admit that. But it's true. Why? Because I'm a mess. I'll never know this side of Heaven what in the world God thinks of how I lived this life for Him.

There's a new (to me) song that I'm enjoying these days. It's called 'The One for Me' by Mandi Mapes. It says,

For the record, I'm a full-time failure,
You know me better than I know myself.
I'm a high-class screwed up mess,
but You love me just because.
I'm the creation,
You're the Creator.
I am imperfect,
You're the Redeemer.
I'm filled with questions,
but You are the Answer.
I am a sinner,
You are my Savior.

God's grace is mighty and He can use even a full-time failure like me to be His hands and feet.

That's what this book is about. Richard Stearns shares with great honesty how he begged God take this cup from him. He didn't want to give up his corporate job and very comfortable lifestyle. He truly begged God claiming that there are other much more qualified people to do what God was asking of him. I love it. He felt ill-equipped -- just like me!

Here are a few bits that really jumped out at me. Perhaps it will resonate with you, too.

Ya know how in Matthew 25 it talks about separating the sheep from the goats. The sheep on His right and the goats on His left (we are the sheep and goats). Stearns makes the point that they weren't separated based on their beliefs, but on their actions. The sheep acted in love. The goats did not. The passage goes on to talk about love done to 'the least of these' (orphans, widows, the imprisoned, the poor, the disabled, etc). Then Stearns does something that really caught my attention. He adjusts the verse and makes it his own version, if you will, so it's more easily digested for us today. This is his version:

For I was hungry, while you had all you needed. I was thirsty, but you drank bottled water. I was a stranger, and you wanted me deported. I needed clothes, but you needed more clothes. I was sick, and you pointed out behaviors that led to my sickness. I was in prison, and you said I was getting what I deserved. (RESV -- Richard E. Stearns Version).

One paragraph down, Stearns says:

But I want to be clear that this does not mean we are saved by piling up enough good works to satisfy God. No, it means that any authentic and genuine commitment to Christ will be accompanied by demonstrable evidence of a transformed life.

You guys, this hits me square between the eyes. I want to be the sheep. I fail miserably. I so, so battle with the things of this world. It's ridiculous really. But I don't want to! I say it out loud for all to hear. I don't want to!

If you wonder sometimes why God has you here, I recommend this book. There are many, many purposes -- just like there are many, many of us. We're all different, but there are some things I think He calls all of us to. And that's loving each other -- including those who are different from us. Better yet, especially those who are different from us.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

stolen our hearts...

Disclaimer: this could be a looong post. :)

2nd disclaimer: I can't believe how God has moved our hearts from one place to another. He is so crazy-good to bring us where we are to be open to just the right child for us. But I say this because you may have noticed (as we have too) that we've been all over the map at times! We just thought we knew better what we needed when God's known best all along. I actually wonder if there have been times when He's just giggled at all our attempts to create this, when He knows He's the Creator. Including the Creator of families. Even this little family right here.

So here's the story of how this all unfolded...

As you probably remember, many weeks ago we learned that Ethiopia was putting the breaks on their adoption proceedings. We immediately started to re-evaluate the direction we were headed. All along, we were open to adopting a child whose deaf, however that wasn't our first priority (a sibling pair was) -- although deafness was in our home study. In our minds, we thought a great match for us would be a sibling pair, both children within the age range of infancy to 6 years old, preferably both girls (but a sister-brother pair would've been fine) and one or both of the children being deaf. This was starting to feel like a tall order, so we were fine with accepting a sibling pair without deafness involved. Then, when Ethiopia pulled back and we had to change course, we both felt led to pursue a child with special needs. A deaf child. It just felt like the natural progression. In a full-circle kind of way, it answered the question for us as to why I worked with the deaf for so many years; why I grew to love and appreciate this wonderful community of people; and why JD traveled alongside me during those years causing him to also be very comfortable deafness. So, off we went! China Special Needs, here we come!

So the last several weeks have been spent adjusting our home study from Ethiopia to China. In fact, at this very moment, our home study's not officially approved for China because we're waiting for background checks to come back from North Carolina and Tennessee. But once those come back -- hopefully they won't notice JD's extensive criminal record! :) -- we're ready to pounce!

Well, there is one other little thing we've been doing over these past couple of weeks...

...we've been gazing at the face of an adorable little boy on a webpage.

I stumbled upon his photo on an adoption advocacy website called Rainbow Kids. I registered with Rainbow Kids many months ago before we were even a client of Wide Horizons and probably around the time of us starting our home study. The great thing about Rainbow Kids is that in addition to providing support in the way of resources, articles and general advocacy, it brings adoption agencies together. Children assigned to many, many agencies are placed on Rainbow Kids' photolisting so these children have a greater chance of being 'found.'

I get regular (maybe once or twice a week) automated emails when a child is added to the Rainbow Kids' photolisting. One day, a month or more ago, I got an email about a little boy. His sweet little smile and sparkly eyes drew me in. This little guy isn't deaf and I had become pretty one-track-minded that we were to adopt a deaf child, so I didn't give it much thought. As has been the case at other times in this crazy, rollercoaster-of-a-process we've been pretty sure God was leading us one way (Ethiopia, siblings, girls, deafness) and then it turned out to be another...such a test of faith and trust!

I was asked not to mention his name on this blog, so again I bite my tongue, but one day I'll tell you his name and you'll chuckle. At least we did. It's kinda crazy...

Payton became enamored with him. She started asking for me to pull up the Rainbow Kids website each day to look at his picture. When she had her best bud spend the night a couple of Saturdays ago, she asked me if she could show his photo to her. She made comments here and there. Then one day, maybe ten days ago, I told JD that Payton's been talking about 'little guy' quite a bit and asked if we can adopt him. JD quietly confessed that he too has been thinking about this boy.

Oh, reeeally?

You have been drawn in?

Until this moment, he hasn't wanted to 'go there.' He hasn't wanted to look at children on-line. He hasn't wanted to discuss anything in regard to specific children until we're further along in the process. He just treads lightly. I love him for that. Ya wanna know why? Because when he steps or bites or buys in, I know it's big.

There was a situation a month or more ago when I found out that a little deaf boy who was on the Rainbow Kids' website was still on there by mistake and that he had actually been adopted (praise God for that!), but it taught me that perhaps there are occasions when kids could be posted by mistake. And around that same time, our social worker made the comment that Wide Horizons doesn't lock children's files as some other agencies do. Wide Horizon's position on this is that they want all the children registered with them to be available to as many families as possible to increase their chances of being adopted. None of this meant much to me at the time, but was about to...

I asked JD if he thought we should at least send an email and see if this little guy is actually available. He says with a small grin, 'Yeh, I think we should ask.'

I send the email to the social worker he's assigned to.

She replies back that he's available, but assigned to their agency and includes her agency's application, fee schedule, etc.


Does that mean she wants us to apply to that agency which means we'd have to start all over in order to adopt him? Not a wise option. That would be a deal breaker.

I felt heavy-hearted.

I forwarded her email to our social workers at Wide Horizons and asked them if they could locate him on the China Special Children registry meaning that he's available to all agencies.

And I replied to his social worker and explained that we're already on board with Wide Horizons and asked if that meant that we could not pursue him.

This was on Monday night the 11th.

I decided that night that regardless of whether this little boy was meant for us, we needed to be praying for him: praying for his family to find him, praying for peace in his little heart until then, praying that if we're the family God has for him that all barriers to him will be removed. I printed four photos of him -- one for JD, one for Payton, one for Avery, and one for me. (In hindsight, I probably should've included Brooks and Jackson too? hmm. I find myself still thinking they're too young for this and that, but they're not! Wow...our big boys!). I gave the photos out and explained to the girls to put hers somewhere where she'd see it regularly and each time she sees his little face to say a prayer for him.

Tuesday came. It was a busy day -- all the kids to school, errands to run. All morning as I ran around town, I wondered if the much-anticipated email from his social worker was waiting in my inbox. It would be a tipping point. Yes or No. You can pursue him or no, you can't. I just wanted to get home to know.

I got home around 2:00 that afternoon and...nothing from his social worker. But there was an email from ours in response to my question about whether he's on the shared registry:

Hi Heather,

Thanks for message. This little boy is adorable. I have just checked on the CCCWA website and he is not available there. It seems that another agency has locked his file as is possible with Special Focus children. It looks like there is a contact below to request additional info which I would recommend if you are interested in following-up.

I sink.

'Lord, bring him the family you have for him -- even if it's not us. But, Lord, I wish it were us.'

I talk to JD and he asks if I've heard anything. I fill him in and we talk about how we wish we could have access to him. We just felt like there was something about him. He said, "Honey, be patient. His social worker didn't reply to your email until late the other night so she must be on a different schedule than us." God building patience in me. Again. The story of this adoption journey's life.

Payton and Avery were asking if we're adopting him. I told them we have no idea, we've simply asked if he can be made available for us to try.

Waiting. Checking email. Waiting. Checking email. Waiting.

I fix dinner and feed the kids because I'm supposed to head out right when JD gets home to meet girlfriends from my former MOPS days for dinner. He walks in and the kids maul him. Love that. :) But before I leave I have to check my email just one more time.

And there it is.

This is what it reads:

Hi Heather,

He has been assigned to our agency, however I am so anxious to place this little guy and if you feel you are the family for him, we would consider releasing his file to your agency. Please have your agency contact me with regard to this if you are serious and in the meantime, I will go ahead and send you his file. Since he is specific to our agency you may take longer than 72 hours if necessary but I cannot place him on "hold" if another one of our families comes forward. Please keep this file confidential except to share with a doctor.

A surge goes through my body! I am relieved. I am elated.

'JD! We can have him! She says we can have him if we want him!'

'Huh?! What?!' he yells from the other room.

Right then, he turns the corner and we lock eyes. The look on his face matches mine. His eyes are smiling. He's smiling. We're in disbelief. We know this is it. The moment we've been waiting for.

And then there are five emails from his social worker. Bam. Bam. Bam. One after the other.

You guys, they're full of photos, a video and information on our little guy. And I cannot wait to share them with you!

The kids are feeding off our excitement and feel the joy! They start asking with anticipation, 'We can adopt him!? We're adopting him!?' I call everyone over to pile onto the couch so we can lay our eyes on him together -- all eyes, all hearts at the same time. I start opening the emails one by one.

He's awesome. He's precious. He's perfect. Just the way God made him.

He was abandoned. Found on the street. At four days old. Left.

John 14:18

I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. (NIV)

Good gracious.

I fired off an email to our social worker asking that she contact his social worker as soon as she can to request that his file be transferred to our agency and locked with us. Locked.

That's where we are now. His social worker has spoken to their contacts in China and explained that his file is being transferred to another agency and our agency will take it from there. Because it's not officially locked with us 'yet' we can't share his photos and name, etc. But he's been removed from Rainbow Kids' website and his file should be locked any day.

Guess what, guys? In our conversation with our social worker yesterday, she told us this rarely happens. Rarely are files unlocked and transferred to another agency, but his social worker clearly felt like a family had come for him. We have come for him. God is moving mountains for this little boy.

We will not leave you an orphan; we are coming for you, little guy.

Back to the couch...

We all look at the photos and video. I wipe a few tears. JD squeezes my shoulder. He's moved too. We all ooh and ahh. And I go down the line and ask the children, 'So do you guys think we should try to adopt this little guy?'

I point to each child.











Then, Avery asks in the most sincere voice, 'Mommy, what about when he goes to school one day? What if the kids tease him?'

I say, 'That, honey, is why he needs a family. That's why he needs us to tell him we love him just the way he is. Someone to remind him that God made him just the way he is. And that's why he'll need us in life to stand up for him, to encourage him, to be there for him.'

She has an ah-ha moment. She gets it.

Then, Brooks cocks his head to JD and says, 'Daddy? Will we need to get him a crate?'


'A crate, Daddy? Won't he need a crate?'

JD and I look at each other above the children's heads. Uhhh? And then it hits me!

'A crib, buddy? Do you mean a crib?'

He looks at me and says, 'Yeh, Momma, a crib! He'll need a crib!'

'You're right! He will need a crib! We'll get him a crib.'

'Can he sleep in our room?' Brooks and Jackson are already working out sleeping arrangements.

'Maybe. Maybe he can be on the bottom bunk with bed rails?' I suggest.

'Yeehhh. He can have the bottom bunk!'

This little guy will be two in August. It could be a year before we bring him home. But we're going to persevere like crazy through the paperwork we have to get done. We have a new motivation! We're doing all this for someone. Our someone. A little boy on the other side of the world!

(Thanks for hanging in there with this ridiculously long post).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

I can't believe I'm writing this!

We believe we've found the one.

The child that was meant for our family.

Our little guy.

Our son.

Holy cow.

I can barely figure out what to say! And I'm so very sorry that my last post was about us just deciding to go the route of China Special Needs and this one is about, well, not a program or a country or a gender, but a child. A breathing, eating, sleeping, living, true person out there on the other side of the Earth. Omigosh. I can barely believe I'm writing these words!

I want to write so, so much more about him and tell you every knitty-gritty detail of how we were led to him, but I can only share so much right now because frankly there's so much red tape with this adoption stuff that it's downright ridiculous (the powers that be won't allow us to share much -- yet!). We're not 'officially matched' with him yet. That will likely happen in the very near future, but right now his file's being transferred from his agency to ours (by our request) so we can pursue him. This in and of itself is a huge triumph! (I'll explain, I'll explain!). Once we officially receive his file, we'll have a few days to have it reviewed by medical professionals. We're not overly concerned about having this done because he doesn't have a condition that depending on the report from the medical community would sway our decision to adopt him.

I know I'm rambling. I'm sorry. I'm having a hard time organizing my thoughts, but just wanted to let you know that we've found him and love him already. Every single one of us. The last two days have been awesome. I'll lay it out for you blow-by-blow as soon as I can -- maybe Friday.

We have a conference call with our social worker with Wide Horizons at 10 AM on Friday, so we'll know more after that. In fact, I'll ask her if I can post photos and the most adorable video of him! Omigosh! I just know you all are going to love him too! He's a honey. Pure and simple. And you will not believe his 'name.' C.r.a.z.y.

Gotta scoot! More soon, I promise!

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