Sunday, September 22, 2013

I Moved!

Guess that headline is a bit misleading. What I meant to say, is that this blog has moved. As I went to prepare for the mission trip, I found out that Bloggger is blocked in Ethiopia (who knew?). Sooo... it was time to make the move over to Wordpress.

Join me over here! If you subscribed via email, apologies but you'll have to re-subscribe on Wordpress. So delete my blogger address; this one will go away eventually.

Don't cry - change can be a good thing!


Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Two Weeks...And Change

It's Wednesday night. The house is quiet, the children are in bed, and I am left alone with my thoughts. To say this trip to Ethiopia has been a pretty constant thought in my head in the weeks leading up to the trip is an understatement. Ethiopia came alive in my home last week as our family hosted a group of boys from His Little Feet - orphans traveling across the country speaking life into communities about these very real issues worldwide.

They taught me some Amharic, how to bang a mango on the counter to get juice to come out, and how to show true gratitude in every life situation. Their laughter and smiles, their beautiful accents and sweet patience with my girls...the emotions I experienced last week made me even more anxious to visit this beautiful country.

Our team is in final preparations; we leave in just a little over two weeks from now. As you know, we're collecting donations to distribute to area orphanages and all I can say is WOW. Your love and generosity is overflowing, and we're all working to squeeze every ounce of space in our checked items to get everything over. I believe I speak for the team when I simply say 'thank you.' God gets the glory in every bit of this. And He will continue to when we arrive in country.

As you go throughout the next two weeks, would you consider lifting us up in prayer, by name? I've listed our team below. We've got two token guys traveling with this group of gals, so pray for them especially! I kid, I kid. But in all seriousness, I know we all covet your prayers. Pray for our health. For our families we leave behind. For our mental state as we spiritually prepare. Pray that we are able to recognize the need and respond accordingly.

I'm finishing up a book recommended to me by many friends (and by our adoption agency), titled "When Helping Hurts: how to alleviate poverty without hurting the poor...and yourself." It is a fascinating read and one I highly recommend to anyone considering a mission trip. It's made a world of difference to me as I prepare for this trip.

Above all else, lift up the children and the caregivers we are preparing to work with during this trip. At the heart of this are young, innocent lives and if we can simply be His hands and feet and humble ourselves before them, it will have been well worth it.

Ethiopia Team:


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Let's go to Africa

So our wait times for the adoption are a bit longer than expected....well, a lot longer than expected! Before we even heard news about the most recent changes, we've been praying about God's plan for our family during this wait. I can't say I have all the answers (Let's be honest, I don't have hardly any answers on any given day of the week!), but earlier this spring I felt the nudge to look into traveling to Ethiopia.

Our adoption agency just began a mission trip program (ACT Mission Trips), offering multiple trip options all over the world throughout this year. When I received the first email about it, I'll be truthful. It wasn't something where I felt that immediate calling of YES, this is what you're supposed to be doing. But the idea gradually grew and grew in my mind, and I finally brought it up to my husband. His response was simple: "If you want to go, then go. We'll figure out the rest."

My planner-brain, the let's-figure-everything-out-or-we-won't-go-through-with-it-and-there-must-be-plans-and-logic-to-making-decisions brain, quickly churned with concern, asking, "Why God? Why go? I've never been away from my husband and girls that long. Can I do this? I don't know if I can do this. It's totally out of my comfort zone."

Fortunately, God quickly turned my Why into "Why not?" And then everything literally fell into place. Taking off from work became a non-issue, I had the exact number of days needed for the trip. Plans for my girls lined up perfectly: fall break for school hits the same week and my parents wanted to take them anyway...

Okay God. Got the message.

Long story short, I've taken all my vaccinations and I'm packing my bags.

I've had several questions about the trip, so let's see if I can answer some of them here:

When are you going?
We fly out Oct. 4 and come back Oct. 13. Want to hear something neat? Our DTE date (Dossier to Ethiopia - when our paperwork was shipped over) is Sept. 28, 2012. It arrived October 8, 2012. And exactly one year later, to the day, where will I be? Yep, same place. Love how God does that!

What will you be doing?
Our team will serve in the orphanages in the capital city, Addis Ababa, providing support for the nanny's who work tirelessly day in and day out. We'll work with all ages of kids, from infants to teens. I don't know exactly how the itinerary will go, but I'm trusting in being fully present and allowing God to show the way on what we can do to help out.

What about Micah? Is there any chance you could meet him without knowing?
Ah  yes, the big question. Our sweet son. My response to this question is unfortunately, no. With the wait times being multiple years at this point, I just don't believe that is possible, given the current age range we're approved for (0-2). Yes, that would be neat, but that's not why I'm going.

What can I do?
This is one of my favorite questions. First of all, and most importantly, pray. Pray for our team, pray for the children and nannies and those whom we'll come into contact with during the trip. I believe we will have many opportunities to be His hands and feet on this trip, and my prayer is that we'll be aware and at the ready to do just that.

Secondly, I'm taking donations, lots and lots of donations, over with me. We can each check two, 50 lb bags, and my goal is to fit all my clothes, etc. into my carry-on bag leaving the checked bags open for donations (for those who know me to be the classic over-packer that I am, stop laughing. I'm going to do this. Seriously! I have a plan and everything and y'all know how I am about my plans.). I've been assigned to collect cloth diapers for the infants. If you would like to donate, please comment on this post. I've already got one bag/bin completely full, so I'm excited to see this second bag quickly fill up! If you prefer, I can also take money over there and purchase formula and other needed items for the orphanages. Did you know $6 can buy a can of formula?

Can we keep up with the trip?
Yes! Well, as long as power/Internet is up and going in Addis Ababa, which can sometimes be spotty. I've been designated the team blogger, responsible for documenting this trip. So I'll be using this blog to do just that. We have another girl who's the team photographer, so I'm going to post all her lovely pictures here too.

I wish I had more eloquent words for this post but for now, this will have to do. More info about the trip to come later!


Thursday, June 13, 2013

The raw, uncut version.


Three months have gone by since I've last posted. And there are no excuses for not posting more frequently. It's late, and I'm tired. But I also need to get thoughts down on paper, and I can't keep hiding behind being busy. Knowing that, here's a raw, uncut blog post. In other words, you're about to read a blog post I'm writing as I go, and I'm not going to go back and edit/proof it before hitting publish (update - I lied. I'm doing one quick overview to make sure I didn't misspell a word. It stresses me out when I see misspelled words). So give me some grace with run-on sentences and fragmented thoughts. My brain functions in much the same way so in a sense, here's a peek into my brain (promise I won't be too scary!).

It's been a rough week and if we're friends on Facebook, you saw my post last Friday about the latest news on the adoption front.

A new process, called PAIR (Pre-Adoptive Immigration Review), is going into effect for Ethiopia Sept. 1. I'm not going to get into all the specifics, for I'm sure I'd speak incorrectly on some level as to all the details, but from what I understand, the U.S. Embassy is now adding an additional level of clearances for children going through adoptions. These children will be pre-screened for orphan status BEFORE families go to court in Ethiopia (a process that used to take place in between court and Embassy). On the surface it sounds simple, and I absolutely agree in ethical adoptions taking place, which means confirming that these kids are indeed orphans. But changing this review is going to add a significant amount of time between accepting a referral and traveling home with your child. And not only that, but referrals have slowed down to a trickle these past few months.

When we announced we were adopting last Father's Day (for a flashback from a year ago, check out that post HERE), the wait time was 18-24 months. The times have steadily increased, and we're being told to add a half a month on for every month we wait. If I were to throw a random wait time out at this point, I would say five years. Yes, five. And it could increase (at this point, if I were to bet, I would say that the odds are very likely that it will increase). Every time I think about the timing I get slightly sick to my stomach, and I wonder how in the world we're going to get through the wait. This is hard. Much harder than I ever anticipated. The idea of bringing home our son feels like it's growing fainter and fainter, and it's hard to imagine what that will even be like and when it will take place.

I'm not going to lie, many tears have been shed over this past week. My emotions are hanging on by a thread. At home, in the car, at a restaurant, at Bible Study tonight (sorry ladies), over the phone...just when I think I have my emotions under control, I lose it all over again. It's difficult trying to describe my feelings. My jumbled prayers to God range from begging for peace in my heart, to showing me the way, to giving me an answer as to what we should do... it's like I don't even know what to pray for anymore.

I don't know where to go from here
It all used to seem so clear, I'm finding I can't do this on my own
I don't know where to go from here
As long as I know that You are near
I'm done fighting, I'm finally letting go

And yet....and yet.... He is giving me what I need, just when I need it. Almost every single song I've heard on the radio this week is the exact message I need to hear to make it to the next moment. When I feel despair, He gives me hope. And He is giving me a TON of grace and mercy.

I will trust in You, You've never failed before
I will trust in You
If there's a road I should walk help me find it, 
If I need to be still, give me peace for the moment
Whatever Your will, whatever Your will, can You help me find it?

I read a few different daily devotionals over the course of each day and every day this week at least one of them (sometimes more than one within the day) give me exactly what I need. I've asked God to just take care of the details, and point me in the direction He wants us to go. When I feel like I need to hold it together in my prayers, I'm reminded that He wants us to spill our guts, confess our fears and cry out to Him. So I am continuing to attempt giving up control over the situation.

I'm giving You fear and You give faith
I'm giving You doubt, You give me grace
For every step I've never been alone
Even when it hurts You'll have your way
Even in the valley I will say
With every breath, You've never let me go

At the center of this story being woven together, there is a child who I believe will one day be a part of our family. I don't know how, where or when, but I'm trying to embrace these circumstances and give my tears to God. I am not self-reliant anymore. I'm not that person who can hold it all together all the time. I am asking God to put to good use whatever it is His will is for our family. And I pray for courage that when He says the time has come for us to step up and claim our child, that we can boldly do so, no matter the circumstances. 

I will wait for you
You've never failed before
I will wait for you

My five-year-old's prayer before dinner tonight was unbelievable. I can't remember the exact wording, but it was something to the effect of, "God, please watch over Micah. We are ready to come and get him, but we know we have to wait until You tell us to do so."

May I have her faith.


Sidewalk Prophets

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

One year ago, I fell in love.

Life is running at a break-neck speed right now. How about you? In the midst of crazy schedules, the hubby and I have both been faced with potential job changes, which has twisted me inside and out, along with daughters' birthdays and what I like to call just plain old "busyness." I don't know about you, but busyness can really take hold in my life and threaten to consume me. I thrive on being busy, which isn't always a good thing.

But I'm taking a moment to breathe in deep and reflect on this past year. This time last Spring, God really pushed this adoption thought into high gear, forcing me to dig deep and ask the tough questions. Can Drew and I handle it? Do I really have enough trust in Him, knowing for a fact that right now I don't have all the skill sets necessary to do something like this?

It was a beautiful - and terrifying - time in my life. Next week, on March 28, we'll be "officially" half a year into the wait process. But for me, I'm at the one year mark of waiting. I was cleaning out old emails the other night (yes, I like to organize emails into folders and yes, I know I'm a nerd) when I ran across a few that caught my eye. Like a flash, it came back to me, vivid and plain as day. And again, I love how God works. On March 28 one year ago, we made our first true inquiry into a waiting child. It was a little boy from Eastern Europe - we'll call him Mark. I fell in love with Mark the instant I saw his precious face. I didn't care that he was deaf; I immediately started conducting research about what facilities and programs were available in our area, and I reached out to support groups to talk with other families about what life was like with hearing impairments.

A few days later, I was told that another family had committed to Mark. To say I felt devastated was an understatement. I sat on our couch in the family room, sobbing. I asked my husband how in the world could I have been so connected to a child I knew hardly anything about? I swore off visiting that website for an extended period of time - I didn't think my heart could go through that anymore. I was happy another family had committed to him, but the pain was still there. Fresh. Real.

I think, through last year's experience, God was showing me that I could love a child I didn't give birth to, something I confessed to being afraid of during my quiet times with Him. I know how much I love my daughters; I don't doubt that love at all. By falling in love with a picture and a description of a child half a world away, God calmed that fear of mine. 

A few days after finding out Mark wasn't available anymore, my daily devotional focused on waiting. In the Bible, King David had to wait 15 years before his time came. David needed that time to learn how to be a king. In that way, God doesn't waste our season of waiting - He redeems it. He uses this time to pull us closer to Him and to give us intimate knowledge of a Savior we would not otherwise have.

I believe that's what God is doing now. I pray I don't waste this season of waiting. I pray I use this time wisely to prepare our family for this change. We pray as a family for Micah, knowing he may not be born yet. And we look for ways to honor him in this wait.

There's another adoptive family headed over to Ethiopia next month to meet their son. So we're collecting tooth brushes and tooth paste for them to give to the orphanages (Want to donate too? Leave me a comment or send me a message!). We went to the His Little Feet concert last week and met the most precious children from all over the world. And we're signed up to attend the Orphan Summit, which will be in Nashville this May.
His Little Feet performance
Murfreesboro, TN
Thanks for taking this trip down memory lane with me. Last spring was extraordinarily special, albeit painful, but God continues to stretch me in ways I never thought possible. And so I remember, with God, all things are possible.


Monday, February 11, 2013

God listens. No really, He does.

Hello there.

Oh yes, I have a blog, right? And I have neglected it. I am so sorry, I truly have no good excuses. I do have several ideas swirling around in my small brain that I promise will get written, but this one must be told. Right now. Actually, I should have written it last Thursday. But our house seems to have been hit with the plague and it took every ounce of energy for me to get through the weekend.

But alas, I am not going to go down the road of telling you all of our illnesses. I'm sure we've all got those stories going on in our homes right now.

I had a true God moment last Thursday. One of those where, I was in simple awe of how He reaches us, no matter where we are. And I have said to myself, many times, that I will shout those moments from the rooftops when they happen. Because when those happen, they are simply amazing.

I've been nervous recently about this adoption. Everywhere I look, I hear worries from the adoption community.

"They shut down Russia, they could shut down Ethiopia."

"The wait for Ethiopia is so long, what do you think this means?"

"How many years will this really take?"

And then my own thoughts are added to these. "God, have we heard incorrectly? Are we supposed to be going down this exact road? I mean, I really feel like adoption is in the books for us, but are we doing this the right way? International adoption is so tumultuous...."

Never mind the fact that He's confirmed this, multiple times. Apparently, I need to continue hearing this. So I prayed Wednesday night and again Thursday morning, asking Him to just show me if we're headed down the right path. I remember praying, "God, if these fears need to be calmed, please calm them. Please show me what road we need to be on and I'll jump on it. Even if it means a big turn."

Thursday afternoon, I get a Facebook private message from an old friend. It was, in fact, the first time I've really heard from her (other than following updates on Facebook) since graduating college. In other words, she's a Facebook friend I don't really keep in touch with, other than seeing her status updates. I won't print the message in its entirety, but here's the critical part, word for word:

"...Something just told me to message you and let you know you guys will get to the end. The day will come when it's your turn to hold whichever child God chooses for your family in your arms. It's a long process but a very rewarding one. Being patient is one of the hardest tests with God sometimes, but He is right there with you, blessing your family through every step..."

Thanks God. Got the message. Loud and clear. I don't know exactly how everything's going to work out, and that's okay. I'm going to leave the details to Him.

What God wills, He accomplishes.

source: Pinterest

Thursday, December 27, 2012

The post in which I tell you his name

Wow, what a month this has been. From Thanksgiving (in which I sobbed over the fact of knowing I had a son, but I didn't *have* him with me) to Newtown, Conn. (no words, I simply have no words over this tragedy) to now, where we've made it through our first Christmas as a family of 5, in theory. It was interesting, to say the least. My oldest asked, "Mommy, will my brother be home next Christmas?"

To which I had to reply, "Honey, the way things are looking, it's going to be a few Christmases before he can come home."

A sobering reality, combined with bad news now that Russia is instituting its ban on U.S. adoptions for its children, can make for one sad parent here in Tennessee.

But I'm not writing about that tonight. At least not now, anyway. We embraced our new direction this Christmas season. Ornaments of Africa were added to our tree, our children received coloring books about the country in which their brother resides, "Santa" left sweet dolls with chocolate skin, which they have lovingly embraced as their own. I received a wonderful necklace with the words "Mother" written in Amharic, the main language in Ethiopia. Everywhere I look in our house, our son is there. He even received his very own ornaments this year.

No longer is our son just a figment of my imagination. No, he is real. Very real. I had a dream last week. My very first dream about him. The memories are so fuzzy now, but what a delightful feeling to wake up and for a moment, to imagine what he looks like. Do I sound weird, because I've dreamed about him? I dreamed about each of our girls while I was pregnant, so maybe what's happening to me is the same thing?

Drew and I have decided on a name for our son. I've kept it somewhat close to my heart, telling a few friends and family, but not announcing it to the world. I'm not quite sure why I've felt this way, but the more I share his name, the more I desire to shout it from the mountaintops, because it means he is real. He is out there. I am calling him by name. I am praying for him. I am praying for his birth mother. This isn't a figment of my imagination, or just a dream. His name is written on my heart, and is breathed into my daily life.


Precious, sweet Micah. His name actually has an interesting story. Early on in the process, I hadn't thought too much about his name. I was afraid that by naming him, it would make it incredibly personal, incredibly too quick for me. It would add way too many emotions to what I was already experiencing. It was easy to pray for "our son," but it completely changed it by adding a physical name to it.

And then, one day this fall, my mom felt it pressed upon her heart to tell me of this name. That she had been praying about it for weeks, nervous to even bring it up, but that she simply had to tell me. Is that not a gift straight from God or what?

As Drew and I spoke it, I simply fell at peace. That is his name, how can I even deny it? A prophet, who fights for those who are poor. Or in the notes of my Bible, "The prophecy attests to Micah's deep sensitivity to the social ills of his day, especially as they affected the small towns and villages of his homeland."

I can't explain why, but this name fits him. How can I know this, when I don't even know who he is?

Because I just do.

Just like I know we are called to follow God down this path. This difficult, unknowing path, in which we're told our wait time is increasing one day, and then the next we're told maybe, just maybe, our trips *might* be condensed into one by the time we receive our referral. But the constant change is increasing my faith in God, and reminding me that this is His plan, and that I am to follow Him down this path, no matter how many turns it might take.

In the Bible, Micah 6:8 reminds us what God requires of us: "Act Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with your God."

It is a big name, with big shoes to fill. But something tells me, he will fill those shoes. And then some.

If you have a moment in the coming days, I humbly ask you to pray for Micah, our son. Pray for him, and pray for orphans everywhere, who need a home. Pray for leadership in every country, that they will seek first to do what's best for the child at hand. It's not about us. It's not about what we need. May we all be reminded that God is at work. I love what Embracing Hope Ethiopia's Christmas devotional had to say, and it's something I hope I can always remember.

Let us remember that Jesus is with us in the ordinary. He is setting the stage. He is preparing us and watching to see if we will partner with Him. And then, in His timing and as He sees fit, He invites us to participate with Him in seeing His name known throughout the earth. May we bring Him glory and point the way to Jesus.

Amen. He is setting the stage. I want to be ready. How about you?

Much love,

[from pinterest]