Archive for March, 2014

  • The Choices We Make

    Date: 2014.03.29 | Category: Adoption

    On March 29, 2014, I will be giving a talk at a women’s conference.  They have asked me to share my story.  This is the outline of my talk.  I am including it on my blog for ease in others referring back to the video’s, quotes, book, pictures, and links.

     

    Family Picture

    Hope made this video for Orphan Sunday this year.

    The Blessings of Family

     

    THE CHOICES WE MAKE

    “I think a lot of us need to forget about God’s will for my life. God cares more about our response to His Spirit’s leading today, in this moment, than about what we intend to do next year. In fact, the decisions we make next year will be profoundly affected by the degree to which we submit to the Spirit right now, in today’s decisions.   – Francis Chan

    Main points that I want for them to take away from this talk:

    • You always have a choice.  The choice to follow God’s lead or just exist.
    • Every day that you wake up awards you a new choice and a new chance to do something crazy for God.
    • The Holy Spirit leads each and every day.  It’s not something you do someday or sometime in the future.
    • Adoption shows what being adopted into God’s family means in a very tangible way.

    Best choice I ever made? – To believe in God.

    The simplest choice – For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….  Ephesians 2:8

    We are not saved by works but God saves us to do His work.

    What does following God mean to you?

    • Showing up on Sunday
    • Participating in small groups/Bible Study
    • Tithing

    I want you to consider that God wants you to do more:

    • God wants us to get uncomfortable.
    • God wants you to give more than you even dreamed.
    • God wants you to step out in faith.

    2nd most important choice – marrying Dan

    Recently my son got married and it got Dan and I to thinking what if God stood before us on our wedding day and had a list of everything that we would go through in our marriage?  Would we have said “I do”?  Would we have signed up for the crazy?

    I would like to say that I had always intended to do crazy things for God.  That it is was always first and foremost in my mind to follow His lead.  That is not the truth though.

    How many people in the room have adopted?  How many have thought about adopting?  How many are here just here because they heard our story and want to see what crazy really looks like?  🙂

    National survey by Department of Health & Human Services 2002 (Figures)

    • 18.5 million women thought about adopting
    • 2.6 million took concrete step towards adopting
    • 614,000 actually adopted
    • There are approximately 400,000 children in foster care
    • Of those 400,000 – 100,000 are waiting to be adopted
    • There are approximately 60 million children in orphanages in China
    • There are approximately 143 million orphans worldwide

    Three thoughts and videos that really changed the way I thought about my life:

    1. If you are called to adopt and you don’t go get your child, it is no different than leaving your biological child being half-way around the world.

    Depraved Indifference – Eric Ludy

    2. God just wants you to do something.

    Matthew West – Do Something

    Nobody made a bigger mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.

    You don’t have to be Katie Davis  or  Andrea Kazindra

    3. You can’t live your life holding on to the balance beam and slide off at the end of your life and think God is going to say “Well done good and faithful servant.”.

    Balance Beam – Francis Chan

     

    Our story – choices made

    Birth of boys – Choice to choose bitterness and anger or trusting God’s plan

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    Presented with Hope’s life – Choice to choose the easy, the comfortable

    • Or choose the “crazy” and the uncomfortable
    • Choosing to take a chance that your heart might break
    • To have loved is better than to not have loved at all
    • Every child deserves the love of a family
    • And if a child is going to die, to die in the arms of someone they love

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    Choosing the safe and comfortable or to follow the spirit when we decided to have another child

    • Tubal reversal
    • Pregnant first month
    • Ruptured vessel
    • One tube scarred over – one not even connected
    • “Don’t know how we got pregnant.”

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    A few years later Dan read Max Lucado’s book  “Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference”.

    Max says, “A few years back, three questions rocked my world. They came from different people in the span of a month.

    • Question 1: Had you been a German Christian during World War II, would you have taken a stand against Hitler?
    • Question 2: Had you lived in the South during the civil rights conflict, would you have taken a stand against racism?
    • Question 3: When your grandchildren discover you lived during a day in which 1.75 billion people were poor and 1 billion were hungry, how will they judge your response?

    “I didn’t mind the first two questions. They were hypothetical. I’d like to think I would have taken a stand against Hitler and fought against racism. But those days are gone, and those choices were not mine. But the third question has kept me awake at night. I do live today; so do you. We are given a choice . . . an opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life? What if we followed the example of the Jerusalem church? This tiny sect expanded into a world-changing force. We still drink from their wells and eat from their trees of faith. How did they do it? What can we learn from their priorities and passion?”

    Dan decides we need to do something.

    He says “let’s adopt”

    I say, “I’m too old.”

    Then I read: Choosing to See by Mary Beth Chapman in which her daughter asks her, “Is it better for an orphan to have an older mother or no mother at all?”

     

    Choose to proceed with adoption:

    •                        We choose to adopt Maisey (She weighed six pounds at 6 months)

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    •                        Agency gives us the option to adopt two.
    •                        Older – never adopting again we should do this
    •                        Hope asks us to adopt a little boy with a heart defect
    •                        Dan nicknames our newest child, Tigger
    •                        Saw Ben – Tigger picture

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    •                         Cardiologists say we would be crazy to adopt him
    •                         Knew he was our son
    •                         Followed the Holy Spirits lead

    Ben Before & After

    In the middle of it all Gracie was diagnosed with lupus.  She starts chemo right before we have to leave for China.  Do we proceed?  Do we trust?  What choice do we have?  Our children are on the other side of the world.

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    Landed back home – I knew right away we were being called to go back again.

    • More of the crazy
    • Signed up for two – Lainey & Eli
    • Presented Evie by Agency – made no sense at all
    • Waiting on Eli’s paperwork so we proceeded with Lainey & Evie
    • Saw Jasmine’s picture
    • Trusted that if God placed that burden on our hearts – He would make a way.
    • Petitioned China to adopt three and they said yes!
    • Waited for Eli’s papers from June to March
    • Trusted beyond a doubt that Eli was our son
    • Petitioned China to adopt four

    babies x 4

    Orphans are easier to ignore before your know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.  – David Platt

    When in China we were presented children who were sicker than we had been led to believe.

    • Lainey’s rages and autistic behavior

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    • Evie weighed 13 pounds at 26 months and couldn’t sit unassisted

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    • Jasmine was not a paraplegic but instead had muscular dystrophy

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    • The child who was expedited for being so ill, Eli, was actually the healthiest.

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    Choice to leave them in China or take them home.

    The hardest yet most blessed year in my life so far.

    • Came home to my mother having a perforated ulcer, a heart attack, quadruple bypass, weeks in the ICU, and ultimately she passed away on Christmas Eve.
    • Lainey doesn’t sleep more than 2 hours at a time
    • 2 heart surgeries, 4 heart caths, a code and a hospital stay

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    We had the choice:

    • To choose what most consider the American dream to retire early and vacation
    • Or to follow God’s lead and do something with the remaining years of our life

    What are you doing to help the widow and the fatherless?

    There are many ways to help:

    • Adopt
    • Sponsor
    • Foster
    • Support others
    • Pray

    We have chosen to adopt again.  Jasmine tested my choices and we decided we can do more.  What will your choice be?

    Dan texted me this morning to wish me luck and he asked that I share this verse with you.

    “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”  – John 13:17

    BIBLE VERSES:

    “He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.”  – Ephesians 1:5

    …acknowledge the God of your father, and serve Him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. 1 Chronicles 28:9a

    Jesus says, “Do not merely listen to the word….Do what it says!” – James 1:22

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

    I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you. – John 14:18

    Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause- Isaiah 1:17

    You shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child.- Exodus 22:22

    QUOTES:

    We bend.  I bend to sweep crumbs and I bend to wipe vomit and I bend to pick up little ones and wipe away tears… And at the end of these days I bend next to the bed and I ask only that I could bend more, bend lower.   Because I serve a Savior who came to be a servant.  He lived bent low.  And bent down here is where I see His face.  He lived, only to die.  Could I?  Die to self and just break open for love.  This Savior, His one purpose to spend Himeself on behalf of messy us.  Will I spend myself on behalf of those in front of me?  And people say, “Don’t you get tired? and yes, I do.  But I’m face to face with Jesus in the dirt, and the more I bend the harder and better and fuller this life gets.  And sure, we are tired, but oh we are happy.  Because bent down low is where we find fullness of joy.” – Katie J. Davis

    “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something” ― Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

     “May you live in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life.”― Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

     “Here’s a salute to a long good life: goodness that outlives the grave. Love that outlasts the final breath. May you live your life in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life.”― Max Lucado, Outlive Your Life: You Were Made to Make A Difference

    “It may take place in a foreign land or it may take place in your backyard, but I believe that we were each created to change the world for someone. To serve someone. To love someone the way Christ first loved us, to spread His light. This is the dream, and it is possible.” – Katie J. Davis

    “The truth is that the 143 million orphaned children and the 11 million who starve to death or die from preventable diseases and the 8.5 million who work as child slaves, prostitutes, or under other horrific conditions and the 2.3 million who live with HIV add up to 164.8 million needy children. And though at first glance that looks like a big number, 2.1 billion people on this earth proclaim to be Christians. The truth is that if only 8 percent of the Christians would care for one more child, there would not be any statistics left.” – Katie J. Davis

    “…because “Mommy” is forever. It’s such a powerful name. Mommy means “I trust you.” Mommy means “you will protect me.” Mommy is for shouting when you need someone dependable and for laughing with when you are excited. Mommy is for crying on and cuddling with when you are sad, or giggling and hiding behind when you are embarrassed. Mommy is the fixer of boo-boos and the mender of broken hearts. Mommy is a comfort place – a safe place. Mommy means “you are mine and I am yours and we are family.” – Katie J. Davis

    “If every Christian family in the United States would simply commit to pray and ask God if HE wants to use them to bless a child without a family, well, we’d change the world. If we can get the church to think about adoption not in terms of the desires of adults but in terms of the needs of children, I think we’d see on a much grander scale how God sets the lonely in families.”  – Kelly Rosati, Wait No More: One Family’s Amazing Adoption Journey

     

    Radical obedience to Christ is not easy… It’s not comfort, not health, not wealth, and not prosperity in this world. Radical obedience to Christ risks losing all these things. But in the end, such risk finds its reward in Christ. And he is more than enough for us.”  – David Platt

     

    “I could not help but think that somewhere along the way we had missed what was radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable.”  – David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream

     

    “We will not wish we had made more money, acquired more stuff, lived more comfortably, taken more vacations, watched more television, pursued greater retirement, or been more successful in the eyes of this world. Instead, we will wish we had given more of ourselves to living for the day when every nation, tribe, people, and language will bow around the throne and sing the praises of the Savior who delights in radical obedience and the God who deserves eternal worship.”  – David Platt

     

    “You and I can choose to continue with business as usual in the Christian life and in the church as a whole, enjoying success based on the standards defined by the culture around us. Or we can take an honest look at the Jesus of the Bible and dare to ask what the consequences might be if we really believed him and really obeyed him.” – David Platt

    Orphans are easier to ignore before your know their names.  They are easier to ignore before you see their faces.  It is easier to pretend they’re not real before you hold them in your arms.  But once you do, everything changes.  – David Platt

    Our greatest fear should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that really don’t matter.  – Francis Chan, Crazy Love

     

    But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable.  He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through.  – Francis Chan

    BOOKS:

    Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches – Russell D. Moore

    Orphan Justice: How to Care for Orphans Beyond Adopting – Johnny Carr

    Crazy Love – Francis Chan

    Radical – David Platt

    Radical Together – David Platt

    The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family – Karyn B. Purvis

    Adopting the Hurt Child – Keck and Kupeky

    The Mommy Manual – Barbara Curtis

    Adoption Parenting: Creating a Toolbox – Jean Macleod

    Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child – Holly Van Gulden

    Gotcha Day: A Celebration of Adoption – Sheila Temple

    The House of Hope – Elizabeth Gifford

    Wish You Happy Forever – Jenny Bowen

    VIDEOS:

    Does God Answer Prayers

    Francis Chan – Fearless

    Francis Chan – Balance Beam

    Matthew West – Do Something

    Hope is Fading

    Depraved Indifference – Eric Ludy

    LINKS:

    Show Hope

    CCAI

    New Hope Foster Home

    Love Without Boundaries

    Agape Family Life House

    Half The Sky

    Little Flower Project

    New Day

    Amazima

    International Voice of the Orphan

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

  • Step 3 Complete

    Date: 2014.03.28 | Category: Adoption

    There have been some interesting turn of events with the two girls I have written about earlier.

    We have received pre-approval for adopting Kelly so step three is completed.  There has been a small bump in the road, in that Kelly is deciding whether she wants to be adopted or not.  She is fearful about leaving China.  She doesn’t want to leave the only family she has ever known at Agape.  She has asked for some time to pray about it.   We want to honor her wishes even though I do so with a heavy heart.

    I have already pictured her here.  I know that we could give her a good life, full of love, but she has to want that too.  It was easier with Jasmine.  Jasmine came from a really bad situation, went to an orphanage where she was cared for but not necessarily loved like family, and was going to age out into a horrible situation.  She had been told by the orphanage that the place she would be going to would hit her and not feed her and she would just be left to sit in a corner without a chair. She has shared some information with us this past month that has been beyond heartbreaking.  We knew from the scars that cover her body that someone had done her harm, but to hear her confirm what we thought to be true has been horrible.  The fact that she is still such a sweet soul is beyond belief.  Needless to say, Jasmine was beyond ready to take a chance on our family and all that America had to offer.

    Which brings me back to Kelly, it goes to show that there are better ways to care for children who have lost their homes.  Institutionalized care, which can be cold and unloving, does nothing to help a child feel secure, cared for, and loved.  Foster homes and homes such as Agape Family Life House do their best to make the child feel loved and to provide the very best care that they can.  Agape has been Kelly’s home for a very long time and she is fearful about leaving.  We want her to want to come to America and be part of our family but we will not force her to come just because we can.

    The other part of this situation is when we get to China Kelly has to sign the form agreeing to the adoption.  We could pay the fees, travel all the way to China, and she could refuse to sign the papers.  We want to be absolutely sure that this is what she wants before we proceed.  We are continuing with all the paperwork so that we are ready to proceed if she says yes.

    We have decided that no matter what we will adopt again.  I would actually like to adopt two again.  I think fourteen children has a nice ring to it.  🙂 Partially because when my father-in-law was alive we always talked about the number seven and it’s biblical meaning.  Seven is a holy number.  It’s one of the reasons we do Operation Christmas Child boxes in groups of seven.  It’s a way of honoring my father-in-law and to remember to keep God’s principles in everything we do.  I’m sure that will seem funny to lots of people, but it’s always had special meaning to me.

    When we talked with our social worker about how many children to list, I asked her if we could list two just in case.  Many people have commented on us adopting again and having a baker’s dozen.  I like the number 14 much better than 13 though for so many reasons.  Our social worker sent me this from a devotional and I think 2014 could be a wonderful year for 14 children.  🙂

    2014 is a powerful year of “Double Portion.”

    The number “7” means “Perfection.”

    The number “14” means “Double Perfection”…a Double Portion!

    Isaiah 61:7 “Instead of your shame you will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace you will rejoice in your inheritance. And so you will inherit a double portion in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.”

    I must admit I really like that.

    The second thing that we learned was that Amanda, the other young woman that I wrote about, has a family looking at her file.  They are very interested in adopting her and giving her a chance at family.  I pray that Amanda gets her wish of going to college and finally having a family.  Here is her video again.  They have been showing it on Twentyless.com   You can watch the video here  Amanda   Please join me in praying for this family as they decide and for Amanda as she waits.

    There are just so many children who are waiting for families.  I would ask you again to pray about where God is leading you in this matter.  Do you have an extra room in your house?  Do you have extra love?  Do you enjoy children?  Don’t let the what if’s stop you.  What if I can’t raise the money?  What if it’s more than we thought it would be?  What if …..  God will provide.  Please consider what your part in caring for the orphans should be.

  • Hip Hip Hooray Evie is 3!

    Date: 2014.03.25 | Category: Evangeline Faith

    It is somehow appropriate that it is 3 a.m. while I write this post.  I was awake every day at  3 a.m. in China and that is when I would blog.  When we returned home, I still had trouble sleeping during the 3 a.m. hour.  It seems to happen to a lot of people when they travel to China. I’m sure there is a perfectly good, logical reason why this happens and if I googled it I could probably tell you why but since it’s 3 a.m., I’ll leave the googling up to you.

    All three little girls are awake right now.  Maisey because she has finally succumbed to the bug that has wiped us all out during the past week.  Evie because she has been having a much harder time sleeping at night.  I couldn’t tell you why exactly.  I sometimes wonder if God is giving me extra time with her because we spend a good hour together most nights lately.  And then little Lainey…she is awake because she fell asleep earlier than usual for her and she has decided it’s play time.  Right now Lainey Rae is spinning a toy on the kitchen floor, singing her own little song, serenading me as I write her sister’s birthday blog.

    Because I treat all my blogs as my journal to my children, I usually leave their birthday blogs as simple as I possibly can, mainly just pictures and sweet stories and descriptions of themselves.  Evie’s blog post is going to contain a bit more.

    As I was driving around to my many appointments today, Jasmine for her initial orthodontist appointment, where she ended up having a tooth pulled, and on to Evie’s appointment to check her thumb that she smashed over the weekend.  She had a nasty hematoma that just wasn’t healing very well so we decided to have them culture it and make sure there was nothing else going on.  In between those we mailed fingerprints, filled out more forms to go out in the morning, and copied more papers than I care to do again for a little while.  As I was driving around, I spent my time thinking about what I could write about little Evie.

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 265

    I talked with many people today.  I was asked on numerous occasions about Evie and Eli’s upcoming surgeries.  I told people that their surgeries have been scheduled a day apart on opposite coasts, Evie in Boston and Eli at Stanford.  Everyone said, “What are you going to do?”  It’s a dilemma because Eli’s has already been rescheduled and he is definitely more blue and Evie really needs her surgery too.  We have already waited for months for both places.  During all these conversations someone said, “That is just too hard on you guys.  It’s just too complicated having that many heart kids at one time.” The words themselves aren’t anything big.  It’s the truth.  It is complicated.  It’s just the way they say it.  It always seems to come across like Dan and I shouldn’t have done it.

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    Yes, it is complicated.  Yes, this is frustrating.  But my response is, “Would it have been better to just left Evie there so Dan and I didn’t have this concern?”  Yes, our lives would have been much less complicated had we not adopted these children.  Yes, we would have avoided headaches, heartaches, and the very busy days and crazy times.  But it’s not about us.  It’s about them.

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 158

    The fact that we got Evie’s file at all was a miracle.  We had already decided on two children, Eli and Lainey, but because the orphanage was taking forever to get the paperwork done for Eli, our agency presented us with Evie’s file.  I refused to even look at the file because I knew that Eli was my son and we had already sent our intent in for Lainey.  Dan looked the file over and went to sleep praying about it.  He woke up and told me that he thought God was saying Evie was to be our daughter.  Dan told me that he knew it didn’t make sense but he believed that God had a plan and it would all work out.  Watching the details unfold over the year with our four children’s adoptions was an amazing miracle in itself.  Being presented with Evie’s file was a gift.  It was definitely not something I would have gone looking for.

    I will never understand God’s timing.  I will never understand the waiting and the seemingly unanswered prayers, but I have lived long enough to see that God is in the details.  God has a plan and His plan is so far above and beyond my understanding that I don’t question it anymore.  I believe His plan to be perfect and I believe God to be trustworthy so in turn I am obedient when I feel that calling.  I used to question it and argue with God and tell Him that the plan just didn’t make sense but when you see how things fall into place and in a way that is so beyond anything you could have ever dreamed of or hoped for, well then you realize it’s better to just close your mouth, trust, and wait for His glorious plan to unfold.

    When we showed up in China, Evie was a 26 months old, weighed 13 pounds, and could not sit by herself.  Evie was a very sick little girl.  Evie was also a bundle of personality even though she was so ill.  We spent our time in China, having everyone comment on the sweet, little baby and then she would smile that mouthful of teeth and everyone would exclaim, “She’s not a baby!”

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    Evie is truly a blessing.  I can’t accurately describe her little personality.  She is a charmer.  She is the greeter in the family.  She only has to be in the room for a few minutes for people to see her sweet little heart in action.

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    She has helped heal another soul in our house and their bond is very, very sweet.

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    She loves her sisters so much!

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    She is the easiest to correct because just a word breaks her little heart.

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    This picture was taken right after she ran Jasmine’s wheelchair into the door.  She showed her brother the hole in the door and he said, “Evie that was naughty!”  Yes, she truly is that heartbroken over just a few words spoken by someone she loves.

    Don’t get me wrong she can be feisty as all get out too.  I don’t think you can survive in an orphanage for as long as she did, as sick as she was, without some feistiness in you.

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    But all that being said, she truly is the sweetest little soul.  She is the one full of laughter and smiles.  She is the one dancing and singing her days away.

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    She is the girl to lead the way in playing pretend.

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    She is the girl who hugs everyone good-bye.  She is the first to say “hi” when she sees you.  She says please and thank you in the sweetest way possible.  She is determined and beautiful and a walking little miracle.

    In eight months time she went through three heart catherizations, one code, open heart surgery, and still managed to learn to walk.  She runs and marches and dances all over the house now.

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    I can’t imagine my life without Evie.  I often think how crazy it was that we got her file but how very, very blessed I am that we did.  There are many things in Dan’s and my life that don’t make any sense.  I realize that to most outsiders it would look beyond crazy, but I am telling you that you would only need ten minutes with little Evie to see that all of that crazy is worth it.

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    She so deserved a family.  She deserved more than to die alone, on a dirty mat, in a cold orphanage.  Don’t kid yourself into thinking that wouldn’t have happened or that it doesn’t happen EVERY.SINGLE.DAY!  My heart breaks for all the little ones that I can’t bring home and it makes me celebrate every moment I have with the ones that I could bring home.

    Here is Faith Evangaline.  We just had to have a Faith to go along with our Hope and Grace.

    This has been am amazing journey.  Her health has improved so much this year.

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    She has grown and blossomed right before our eyes.

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    There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t thank God that I was allowed the blessing to be called Evie’s mama.   It’s an honor and a privilege to be the one who gets to care for her, comfort her, love her and be loved by her.  I don’t take a moment of it lightly.

     

     

  • Happy 9th Birthday Gracie!

    Date: 2014.03.23 | Category: Grace

    My sweet little butterfly.

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    Turns 9 today.

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    Where has the time gone?

    Gracie is the big sister who plans picnics on the kitchen floor.

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    Turns big boxes into boats.

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    She is the first to play pretend.

    The first to lend a helping hand.

    She is the first to cry when a story is sad.

    She is the sister who will bundle everyone up to play in the snow.

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    She is an old soul.  I never quite knew what that meant until I had my Gracie.

    She has a faith that is amazing.

    She believes in God with all her heart.

    She prays and talks to God like He is an old friend.

    When she overheard the doctor say she may lose her hair with chemo,

    she got the idea to donate it instead.

    When she heard them talk about the heavy duty chemo they used maybe causing sterility,

    she said she’d just adopt then.

    She believes in trying to help others.

    She is the child who will give away her toys to others.

    She believes in saving the world one child at a time.

    Jasmine and Gracie came to us with their idea to adopt more.  They share the biggest room in the house.

    We had to give Jasmine the master bedroom so she had enough room for the lift and after taking out the bathtub there is enough room for her to maneuver in the bathroom.

    They measured and figured out what bunkbeds would work best.  They said they’d give up their allowance.  They would do whatever it takes to bring more sisters home.  They would clean, they would give up what they could, they would share everything they had.

    Just please can we adopt again?  (You try saying no to these two faces.)

    image

    She is light years ahead of where I was at her age.

    She loves the lessons learned at Women of Faith.  She loves to sing out her praises to God as loud as she can.  I’m so glad she got to go this year with my mom.  Nana was always very special to Gracie and it has been a hard year having to say good-bye.

    WofF

    She shops all year long for Operation Christmas Child.

    OCC

    I had a tubal reversal at the age of 40 to have Gracie.  Both Dan and I felt God talking loud and clear that we were to have another child.  We believed in adoption, having already adopted Hope, so having a reversal didn’t make much sense but we felt that was what we were being asked to do. If there is anything we have learned through our lives, it’s too be obedient to the call of God.

      The doctor told me my odds were slim.  I got pregnant the very first month.  Because I was over 40, they did routine weekly ultrasounds.  At our 35 week appointment, they found that I had a vessel rupture.  I wasn’t having any symptoms – no contractions, or pain, nothing!  Gracie was surrounded by blood.   They had to get her out right away.  After she was born, her doctor said, “Now that I know she is okay I can say that is the most blood I have ever seen and have the baby come out alive.”

    She entered the world and we heard “by the grace of God” over and over again.  That is how she received her name.

    We had wanted to have another child after Gracie.  Dr. Neil asked if I wanted a tubal again and I said, “Yes.”  He said, “That’s good because one side doesn’t even look connected and the other is so scarred I don’t know how you got pregnant.”

    Dan and I just smiled at each other because we knew.

    Every time I look at her sweet face I know that I was given a gift.  Having lost a son, I know that isn’t always how it works.

    I do believe God has a wonderful plan for Gracie.  I know that with all my heart.  She is a special, special little girl.

    When she became sick and just couldn’t get better, we had tests run.  They thought it was leukemia, but it ended up being lupus.  Who knew six year olds could get lupus?  Gracie never asked, “Why me?”  She understands that sometimes life isn’t fair.  She said, “She didn’t understand God’s plan, but she would trust God’s plan.”  This coming from a six year old.  See what I mean?  She’s an old soul.

    I don’t know what God’s plans are for my girl or where He will lead her, but I do know that I am blessed each and every day to be able to say that I am Gracie’s mommy.   It’s an honor I don’t take lightly.

    Happy birthday sweet Gracie girl!  Your daddy and mommy love you very, very much!!!

     

     

     

  • I have a favor to ask…

    Date: 2014.03.21 | Category: Grace

    This Sunday my little Gracie turns 9.

    It’s been two and a half years since we had the scare of our lives

    from first going for a bone marrow biopsy to check for leukemia,

    to not knowing what was going on,

    to more labs and waiting and even more labs,

    to seeing the butterfly rash and her father knowing exactly what she had.

    IMG_0512

    LUPUS!

    We then had a kidney biopsy because the lupus had affected her kidneys.

    She ended up with class 4/5 glomerulonephritis.

    Gracie has been on many meds for these past couple years.

    meds

    She’s endured chemotherapy

    and they weren’t sure if she would lose her hair or not.

    She didn’t want her hair to just go to waste so she donated it.

    That’s the kind of heart my Gracie has.

    haircut

    and from that my friend started a “Hats for Gracie” page on Facebook

    to lift my little girl’s spirits.

    It was the best thing for her during those hard times.

    She would run to the computer and check how many people were praying for her.

    We don’t update much any more

    but it used to bring Gracie such joy.

    Because of the joy it brought her, my favor is this….

    if you have a Facebook account and haven’t already done so

    won’t you please go to her page and like it.

    Hats for Gracie

    You have to click on the box that says “LIKE”

    It looks like this.

    photo

    Gracie’s heart is a beautiful thing.

    She has been through a lot in her short little life.

    In the past couple of years, she has lost a great grandma, her gramp gramps, a great aunt and her beloved Papa. And just two months ago she lost my mom, her step grandpa, and her great grandfather.

    That is a lot of loss for one little girl.

    The past couple months have been so hard on her.

    She misses her nana and she so wanted nana to be at Zach’s wedding.

    Gracie is an old soul and has a faith in God that is amazing!

    She wanted to adopt and is thrilled that she is no longer the baby and there are five more little ones below her.  How many children would do that?

    She is the one who willingly gives up her time during the day for Jasmine.

    Gracie is at Jasmine’s beck and call because Jasmine can do very little for herself

    and yet Gracie rarely complains.

    20130821-185935.jpg

    It’s Grace and Jasmine that are asking us to adopt more – six more if they have their way.

    They want to share their room with six more girls.

    They want to share their toys, their clothes, anything they own.

    They have offered their allowance to help with the cost of adopting.

    Please won’t you help me make her birthday extra special?

    I would love to get her over 700 and that is only 20 more “likes”

    She has always loved her Facebook page.

    Thank you so much for considering this

    and if you have already liked the Hats for Gracie page.

    THANK YOU for brightening my little girl’s life on a daily basis!

  • Step Two – COMPLETE!

    Date: 2014.03.20 | Category: Adoption, Faith, Kelly

    There are many steps in the adoption process. There are many abbreviations and letters for each step in the process.   All of it can be quite confusing and overwhelming.  I will try to describe it in a little more detail below.

    Today I was feeling anxious and nervous about the whole process.  I am excited to share her story but know so many things can still go wrong.  Every time I talk about her, it becomes just a little more real.  It’s sort of like when you are first pregnant.  You are anxious to talk about it but you know so many things can go wrong so you hold onto those feelings, trying to protect your heart from the pain if it doesn’t go as if you hoped.  The reality is that you already love this child that you have yet to meet.  It won’t really matter if you try to hold back.  Your heart is already gone.

    I don’t want to be that way.  I want to expectantly wait upon the Lord.  I recently read a blog about just that fact. (Blog)  On this blog she had a George Mueller quote. If you don’t know his story, I highly recommend reading more about him.  His faith was astounding.

    GeorgeMueller

    Step 1 (Finding an Agency)  – was covered long ago when we found CCAI as an agency.  We have nothing but good things to say about this agency.  They have worked with us through our many unusual issues.  They have been encouraging and honest and helpful through all six of our adoptions.

    Step 1 has been accomplished.  I included the file being transferred in this step because the first miracle that had to happen was for the other agency to transfer her file to CCAI.  You may not call the transferring of a file a miracle, but I do. Some agencies absolutely will not transfer a file for any reason.  We were pleased that they not only transferred it but did it in a very timely manner.

    Step 2 (LOI) -Locking in the file of the child you wish to adopt.  The agency takes your Letter of Intent (LOI) and other papers and presents them to the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) and within two weeks the CCCWA will either say yes or no.  If they say yes, you receive your pre-approval.

    Step 2 was completed today!  Praising the Lord for everyone moving very quickly on this matter!  You are not supposed to show pictures of the child or talk about them specifically until you receive PA.  It is a little different with us because so many people are advocating for her.  Her name and pictures are out there.  I don’t want to cause any trouble though so I am going to go back through my past blog posts and remove the links and her name specifically.  The last thing I want to do is cause a problem with her adoption.

    Step 3 (PA) – Pre-approval allows you the privilege of letting the child know you are adopting them.  The agency then allows you to send the child pictures of your family, letters, and small gifts.  Not all agencies allow it at the point of PA some make you wait until you have Letter of Acceptance (LOA).

    Step 4 (1-800A) – This is the initial United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approval to bring a child into the country.  This is the preliminary immigration paperwork.  You have to have a final paper 1-800 that will allow a specific child into the country but you have to start with the approval to bring a child to the U.S.

    Step 5 (DTC) – Dossier paperwork.  There are many different forms in the dossier.  You have to notarize these forms and then have them authenticated with the Secretary of State and the Chinese Consulate (all of this depends on which state you live in).  You have financial statements, physician’s forms, certified copies of birth certificates, certified copies of marriage certificates, 1-800, a home study, etc.   You prepare your dossier, your agency translates and it is sent to China. (Dossier to China – DTC.)

    I have actually started these forms and our home study is almost complete.  Just waiting on Child Abuse Reports x 9 (anyone over 14 needs one), fingerprinting x 7 (anyone over 18 needs one), Criminal Background Check x 9 (anyone over 14 in the house or who helps watch the children needs one – welcome to the fun Stephanie.  Physical Exams x 7 (anyone over 18 needs one).

    There’s no time to waste when you only have 150 days left before she ages out. (Breathe Lisa breath!)

    Step 6 (LID) – Dossier logged in with the CCCWA.  This is also known as LID (Log In Date).

    Step 7 (Article 5) – Then your Article 5 is issued which tells the CCCWA that you have permission to bring the child into the United States.

    Step 8 (TA) – Travel Approval (TA) the formal invitation from China letting you know that you have permission to travel.  You will usually travel within a couple weeks of receiving your Article 5.

    Step 9 (Travel) – You will travel to China and within a day or two you will meet your child at the designated area.  If you are traveling with a big group, you sometimes meet in Registration Offices or other formal settings.  If it is only your family, they sometimes bring the child directly to your hotel room.  There are many variables.  You then have 24 hours before signing the official adoption papers.  You stay in your child’s province until you receive the passport and then travel to Guangzhou.

    Step 10 (CA) – Consulate appointment (CA) is where you take the oath to care for your child and get your Visa to enter the U.S.  This is at the U.S. embassy in Guangzhou.  The final step needed before heading home.

    There’s many other little steps when you first apply to your agency.  And throughout the adoption process including getting your passport, getting your visa, etc. but these are the big ones.

    This journey will be completed one step at a time.  We are getting there.  As Jasmine keeps reminding me every time she hears me sigh, “God’s got this mama!”  The faith of a child is a beautiful thing.

    This whole adoption process has been a wonderful thing for Jasmine.  It has reinforced what we had to go through to adopt her – all of the paperwork and the fees involved  She told me that she couldn’t believe someone would do all of that for her.  It’s been good for her to see how hard we fought for her and how much we loved her from the very start.

    We can feel all the prayers that are covering us in this process.  Just today when we had Codey fingerprinted the police officer went out of his way to type up a letter stating these were the best prints he could officially get.  He did two fingerprint cards to try to not have a delay.  We heard from another set of parents that there is another agency you can go through and get your prints back in three days.  Considering the last time we printed Codey it took over 12 weeks, this is an amazing thing to learn.  Even the smallest details are falling into place.  We feel watched over and protected.  It’s also hard to not feel positive about this all working when so many things just keep falling into place.

    150 days folks.  Please continue to cover her with prayer.  Pray for peace for her heart as she waits.  She doesn’t know she has a family and her heart must hurt thinking she is running out of time.  Please pray for all of the other children who wait with her.  Every child deserves the love of family.

    Until the next step…

  • Subscribe to the “S’s”

    Date: 2014.03.18 | Category: Photos

    My son, Zachary, added a “Follow blog by E-mail” to my blog.  If you would like to get an e-mail telling you that I have blogged, just add your e-mail there.  It is on the right hand side under the categories section.

    Because you don’t want to miss a minute of the “S‘s”…..

    Sweet…

    photo(8)

    Maisey is so sweet with Lainey. Maisey encourages her to play with them. Maisey always hugs Lainey and lets Lainey know that she is loved.

    Sisterly love…

    photo(4)

    Evie likes to climb up on Jasmine’s wheelchair foot rests and give her big sister a hug. Jasmine is so good with all the littles. She is a great big sister.

    Silly…

    photo(7)

    An “I’m a God girl” band on one arm and a cookie cutter on the other. Add a pair of shades and you are ready to go.

    Stylish….

    photo(3)

    Why yes that is an Easter hat, paired with a Superman cape, a Hawaiian lei, and Jake the Pirate rain boots. 🙂

    Sassy…

    photo(9)

    Spicy…

    Jasmine likes her food HOT!

    Jasmine likes her food HOT!

    Special…

    photo

    Special times with Mema!

    Smooshed…

    photo(2)

    Be prepared if you come to visit.
    You just might get smooshed!

    Serious…

    If you have

    Scary..

    IMG_0316

    Cassie and Hope got to be extras in a movie.
    Cutest Zombies….ever!

    Spectacular…

    photo(6)

    A spectacular use of their imagination.
    A box becomes a boat in which to eat ice cream.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Special…

    photo(5)

    and last but not least (thanks Jan!)…

    Seriously blessed…

    photo (1)

    I hope you have a Splendid day!

  • A Leap of Faith

    Date: 2014.03.15 | Category: Adoption, Faith

    If you’ve been following along, you know that it started with me being convicted.

    The story has continued with me being shown sign after sign.  With us praying and contemplating what Jasmine had asked us to do.  It then lead to Dan and I truly asking what it was that was keeping us from adopting again.

    I made my list of what was keeping me personally from adopting and each thing was quickly taken care of by God.  Each thing big or little was just – G.O.N.E.!!!!!  Needless to say, God got my attention.

    We’ve prayed and prayed and prayed some more.

    Made a list and another list and another list – pros and cons – over and over again.

    Prayed some more and then a little bit more for good measure.

    We realized that for this to happen God was going to have to be in the details.  This would be His story because there is no other way for it to happen.  I wasn’t going to write about it and then I thought “You of so little faith.  What are you afraid of?”.

    I trust God’s plan.  I believe fully that this will work.  If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.  Matthew 21:22  Now many people believe this is like having a genie, I don’t believe this will work because I magically asked for it.  I believe this will work because I asked and I believe that this is God’s will so I shall receive it.

    The first step, getting her file transferred.  My husband’s only wish was wanting to stay with our same agency because we have built such a wonderful relationship with them.   The other agency is good.  It had nothing to do with that.  It was all about familiarity.  I have tried to get files transferred before and it didn’t happen.  Those agencies wouldn’t release them.  I even had one agency that told me “Good luck in finding her after her file is released.”  We are hoping and praying that they will okay this switch.

    As I fretted about whether they would release her file, on Facebook I saw another mom ask which agencies will okay transferring a file of a child.  And low and behold, her agency is on the list.  They talk about this agency truly wanting what is best for the child.

    More waiting and thinking and praying.

    Asked myself these questions “Are we setting ourselves up for heartbreak?  Can we really get this done in five months? What about our children’s hearts? What about her heart if she finds out she has a family and we can’t get there in time?”

    And through the magic of Facebook I read a post from another parent asking others “how fast you can go from no paperwork to travel”.  The answer?  3.5 months, 4 months, just under 5 months.  Over and over again people told how they did it in under 5 months.  We have almost exactly five months.  Hallelujah there is hope!

    I questioned fingerprinting.  Why do we have to do our fingerprints again?  Last time it took two months to get Codey’s fingerprints to clear.  We don’t have that kind of time.

    And by the grace of God, another family tells our social worker how they got their fingerprints expedited and done in days.

    I wondered about her.  More questions filled my mind.  “Would she be a good fit for our family?  Did she truly want a family?  Does she want to move to the U.S.?  Does she like little children?  Would she be okay with a big family?”

    And more Facebook magic.  Someone read my blog and got me added to a group where they were advocating for her.  (Thanks Megan!)  Where I read about another mom who really wanted to adopt her but couldn’t.  I messaged that mom and she put me in touch with people who truly knew this sweet girl and her heart.  Which in turn let me talk on the phone with a mama who loves sweet her too and has spent two years with her in China.  Which in turn lead to us seeing videos and pictures of her.  I truly know more about her than any of the children we have set out to adopt.

    God is so good.  Ask and He will answer.

    I was questioning if this was truly what He wanted us to do.   Did He really want us to step up for another round of trust and faith?

    It seems that way.  Every question has been answered.

    This has been mind blowingly amazing.

    Sign me up!    That is what our family has said.  Sign us up for another round of faith and trust.  God is good.  I trust His plan.  His ways are amazing.  We are going to try our best and leave the rest in His hands.

    This is going to be quite the ride.  The paperwork has been started.  Please join us on our journey.  Please keep us and sweet Kelly in your prayers.   It’s gonna take a miracle.  To God be the glory.   I can see His hand all over this story.

    Oh and by the way yesterday, HER.FILE.HAS.BEEN.TRANSFERRED!!!!   Step one done.  Praising!!!!

    We have filed our Letter of Intent (LOI) for this sweet little girl.  We would appreciate your prayers as we head out on this journey.  I recently posted on Facebook about why we decided to proceed with another aging out older child adoption.  Here is why….

    First, Jasmine thanks us and tells us how happy she is and she wants to do that for another child. She wants to make another little girl just as happy as she is.  (Actually she wants to make six more girls happy but we will start with this one.)

    Second, Jasmine shared that in China they had told her that if a family doesn’t come for her before she turns 14 then she will go to a horrible place with very mean people. Those mean people will just leave her in a corner without a (wheel)chair and she would get hit and be hurt and no one would feed her.  (Oh to have been able to protect my girl from this pain.)

    Third, she shared that she cried the day she got the letter from her daddy. Dan started the letter by saying “To my beautiful daughter”.  (Jasmine told me it said pretty daughter, but it actually said beautiful.)  Jasmine told me she had always been told how ugly she was and that she read her daddy’s words over and over again and believed them. (I remember Dan worrying over whether the words in that letter were the right words. He so wanted her to know how much he loved her. I love his heart.)

    Jasmine informed us that people treated her poorly in China but she thought that was just the way it was supposed to be.  She felt like she deserved to be belittled, left alone, and yelled at.  She believed that she deserved to sit in her chair and not be allowed to eat with the rest of children, to not be allowed to go to school because she was in a wheelchair and the school was on another floor.  She believed that she was not worth any of the things the other children got to do, BUT then she came here.  She now sees that she is beautiful inside and out.  She sees that family loves her even though her body doesn’t work that way she wishes it would.  This is why she is so happy.  She has a family that loves her unconditionally.

    The pain and the fear and the lack of encouragement and comfort are hard on these children.  There are so many children growing up without family. Please consider fostering and adopting or supporting someone who is. The world is full of these hurting souls. I can’t even put into words what Jasmine has brought to our life and this is why we have decided to proceed again for a little girl who may not YET see her worth.  We are signing up to comfort her and care for her and love her unconditionally.  To tuck her in and hold her hands and help her be the best her that she can be.  To pick her up if she falls, to build a strong foundation under her feet, to erase her fears, and to give her what she wants most……A FAMILY!

     

     

  • Where Has The Time Gone?

    Date: 2014.03.14 | Category: Adoption, Benjamin, Maisey, Photos

    A few months later....

    One of the first pictures we got of Maisey

    Benjamin

    An update we received of Benjamin.

    Yesterday, was Ben and Maisey’s Gotcha Day.  It’s been two years since we first saw their little faces that day in the Registration Office.

    First family picture of the 4 of us.

    First family picture of the 4 of us.

    Two years.  So much has happened since that day.  They have both grown and lost the sadness that surrounded them those first few weeks.

    China trip 2012 086

    Every time I see these pictures it takes me back to how truly sad they were.  They were sad, not because we were new to them, although that may have been a part of it, just sad in general.  It was like part of their spirit was just beaten down.

    In the hotel room they started to come to life, but every time we left they shut down again – afraid that we might be taking them back.  It’s part of the reason I share our story of adoption.  I want people to understand how beautiful it is but also just how hard institutional life is on children.  Children were meant to be raised in families not institutions.

    China trip 2012 101

    Ben took to Dan that very first day.  He climbed into his daddy’s arms and he never looked back.  I wonder about what has happened in a child’s life that they would willingly go to a person that looks so unlike anyone they have ever seen before and just hold on for dear life.   He never cried for anyone else.  He trusted us from day one and has continued to thrive and grow.

    China trip 2012 142

    Maisey was the same way.  She hung her head and wouldn’t look up.  She had a huge bald spot on the back of her head from throwing herself to the floor.  It only took a day or so to realize she wasn’t completely deaf.  A day of getting at her level and talking to her and she was no longer so frustrated that she needed to throw herself to the floor.  Do you know what that does to a mama’s heart?  To know that her child wasn’t worth the time for someone to get on their knees and truly to talk to her?  Maybe they were just too busy to take the time or maybe they just didn’t care or maybe she wasn’t worth their time.  I’ll never know, but what I do know is it wasn’t right and it broke my little girl’s spirit – just a bit.

    Holding Maisey for the first time.

    Holding Maisey for the first time.

    I have been blessed from day one with these two.  They have added so much to our lives.

    They run…

    image

    And laugh…

    Jan. 28th 2013 067

    And play pretend…

    March 3, 2014 I-phone 040

    And rock out….

    photo(1)

    And love…

    Especially Maisey – she loves being the big sister.  She’s quite the little mama.

    photo

    And were the perfect addition to our family.

    Look how much they’ve grown.

    Ben Before & After

    mei mei

  • Please let me clarify…

    Date: 2014.03.09 | Category: Adoption, Faith

    Clarifying…it’s one of the things I do well.  🙂  I use the word clarify almost as much as I use the word seriously. That is part of the back story to why my blog is called Seriously Blessed.  If you know me very well, you might have even  heard a couple Holy Toledo’s too.  Don’t ask.

    I sometimes think I am explaining things very clearly and then I start to get texts and Facebooks messages. When more than a couple people asked questions, I realized I may not have been as clear as I thought I was.  So I will clarify a bit further here and then we will see if there are still questions.

    I do believe God is showing us clear signs that we are to adopt an almost aging out child.  I do believe there may be more than one more Ellsbury child out there.  There have been many more little signs that I didn’t include like yesterdays fortune cookie which was pretty funny.

    photo(3)

    I do believe God showed me their pictures to show me how many lovely girls there are out there that are running out of time.   The odds of us being able to get our paperwork done in time to adopt them is pretty unlikely.

    I forget that not everyone who reads my blog has adopted or knows someone who has adopted.   You have to start from the very beginning each time you adopt.  This is a big sore spot for me.  The homestudy has to be done again and it takes a good month.  You have to do fingerprinting all over again for the homestudy and then again for the immigration office.  It took us 2 months to get Codey’s fingerprints cleared last time.  It takes most families a good year to get everything in order from start to finish. I don’t really understand it.  It’s not like we haven’t had follow-up home studies all year or that my fingerprints have changed sinced last year.  It’s one of the things about adoption and all the bureaucratic red tape that I will never understand.  I understand wanting to protect the child but we have been under the microscope for two years now.  We aren’t new to the system.

    One of the girls has five months.  We can try to expedite, but as I said before, it would take a miracle.  Not that I don’t believe that God could do it.  Obviously, He is in the miracle business.  I just believe it may not happen because that may not be His ultimate plan.  I want her to have a family.  She deserves a family.  I want her picture to get out there so others who may be paper ready see her.  She was recently added to Reece’s Rainbow so that should help.

    The reason we are really praying about this and have talked about it being overly complicated is that we have three children having heart surgeries in the next couple of months.  Jasmine needs surgery before the summer is out.   Life is definitely complicated.

    I have been in this situation before having my heart really touched by a child and having to turn it over to God and just pray.  Each and every time a family has found them.  My heart has been burdened.  I have cried many tears and prayed many prayers.   I’ve shared their pictured and hoped a family would choose them.  A family did and now I watch them blossom and grow with that new family.   I don’t always understand why He burdens our hearts so, but God works in mysterious ways sometimes.

    Yes, these girls have touched my heart but I am unsure as to what will ultimately happen.  It doesn’t mean we won’t start the paperwork.  It doesn’t mean I am saying no.  It just means I have no idea what God has planned but I am open to His lead.

    Many people have questioned why we are not waiting.  I just assumed everyone understood that it takes time.  We won’t be adopting in the next month or two.  If everything went unbelievably perfect, we would have a good five months before anything happened.  We are taking everything into consideration.  We are prayerfully considering everything.  I shared my story hoping to encourage others about looking for the signs that God sends us.  I believe He is saying there is more in store for our family.

    That being said if you feel God nudging you in the direction of adoption, don’t let fear stop you.  Let Him lead.  If God brings you to it, He will get you through it.  You have to believe that nothing is impossible.  Yes, adoption costs a lot, but I have seen Him provide in amazing ways.  Yes, there are unknowns, but the blessings are unbelievable.   If God is leading you to a little boy, have I got the sweetest little guy for you to meet.   If I believed God was leading us to a toddler, I would have the paperwork started already.  This little boy has stolen my heart so much so I didn’t even want to share his picture.  Although, he has been seen by thousands of people on the Love Without Boundaries site so I suppose I’m out of luck keeping him a secret.  🙂

    Be prepared to have your heart stolen.  This little guy is a cutie.  Herakles

    There are so many children needing families.  Pray, contemplate, let God lead, watch for those signs.  It’s a pretty amazing journey.  I’ll be letting you know what the next signs on this amazing trip are for us.  Keep praying!

     

     

     

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