Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year

I love January. I always look forward to it with almost as much excitement as I feel when Christmas is coming. I love a fresh start with endless possibilities. I love getting back to homeschooling after a break for the holidays. I love the idea of resolutions and the hopefulness of asking God to grow me more like Himself in the coming year.

This year as usual I'm looking forward to January, but honestly I'm also feeling a bit anxious. I already know that God is bringing huge changes to our family in the next year as we travel to Ethiopia and bring Yoseph and Mihret home. And as much as I am extremely eager to get them home, sometime the "unknowns" of the situation feel quite scary to me. So I'm stepping into the new year with the following words at heart (from an 1809 poem by Minnie Haskins titled "The Gate of the Year"):

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year
"Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown."
And he replied, "Go into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way!"

So as we head into the new year tomorrow, I'm purposefully stepping out into the darkness of the unknown. And as I believe that we are going the way God is leading us, I know that it truly is better than a known way. (Scarier, but better!) I wonder what next year's "Happy New Year" post might contain?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Snow Day!!!

It's now 4:30 pm on Saturday, and it's been snowing pretty steadily for 24 hours. I am almost speechless. It's been at least 15 years since I've seen this much snow. The kids have been in a cycle all day; play outside, come in and drink hot chocolate while we dry their coats and mittens, then back outside again. What fun! I couldn't help taking lots of pictures, knowing that it could be a long time before we see this kind of snow again. Here's an overview of our day:
This was the view from our deck when we woke up this morning. (See Sunshine above, gazing out the window in her pajamas.)

Jim playing in the snow.

Sunshine's first steps into our "winter wonderland."

Sweet Pea dives in.

Tiger and Samson "snow wrestling."

Boo and Sunshine headed out again (they've switched snowsuits now!)

Look closely at the driveway; a tree has fallen into it! Several trees are broken or down in the backyard as well.

We capped off the day with a night-time walk in the snow (looking for Christmas lights in our neighborhood).

Boo makes a snow angel (yes, right in the middle of the street!)

Home again...and Jim tackles Tiger over the top of a snowdrift.

Good night!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Let it snow!!

The forecast here is for 12 to 24 inches of snow!! I don't think any of our children have EVER seen that much snow! It seemed like fun to make it snow on my blog as well, but maybe tomorrow I'll have some fun pictures of real snow. LOTS of real snow! I've told the kids stories about how much snow we had "up north" when I was growing up, and now they're all in their beds dreaming about all the fun they'll have tomorrow. And maybe all week: it's supposed to stay cold enough that this snow will likely stay around. I can't wait for tomorrow. Sledding, snowmen, snowball fights, hot chocolate...and I would love to go for a walk tomorrow evening after dark and look at all of the neighborhood Christmas lights in the snow. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Just a little Christmas fun

Sweet Pea and I found two websites that our children have enjoyed this week. If you're looking for deep, meaningful Advent activities, you'll probably want to look elsewhere! But these are cute and fun (and a good quiet activity for a small or medium sized person who needs to wind down a little in the midst of holiday busyness, if you know what I mean!)

This first one lets you decorate (and e-mail if you want) a virtual gingerbread man:

On this one you can create a snowman family, decorate a Christmas tree, or set up a Nativity scene:


Monday, December 7, 2009

What will they see?

Sometime tomorrow, Mihret and Yoseph will see our faces for the first time. A precious family from our agency is in Addis right now to bring their little girl home, and they're delivering packages to Mihret and Yoseph for us. We were allowed to send each child whatever we could fit into a gallon sized ziplock bag. How inadequate this felt, for all of the love we wanted to communicate in that little bag! We packed a cute little shirt for each child (having one's own clothing is prized at the care center, though eventually it will become community property), along with some little toys, crayons, etc. But most importantly, we were able to make them each a small photo album filled with pictures of our home and family. I can't stop thinking about this, and wondering what they'll think of it. What will the nannies tell them? How will they even begin to understand what all of this means? They are still fresh from the arms of their mother; only having been in the orphanage for a few weeks. I can't think, without tears, of having the nannies point at my picture and tell them that I am their "Amaye/Mother" while they still must be greiving the only mother they've ever known. I don't know how long it's been since their father died, but what will they think when the nannies point at Jim's picture and tell them that he is their "Abaye/Daddy"? I wonder how confusing this must be to a little girl of three, and a little boy not even two. My heart is breaking for them. But I keep reminding myself that God knows all of this, and that He is Jehovah Rapha, the God who heals. He can heal all of the wounds that these little ones have suffered (just as He's healed many of mine). It's because of Him that Jim and I really will be Mama and Daddy to these two. It's because of Him that we have the capacity to love them, and that they will (over time) have the capacity to receive our love and to know us as their parents. It's a miracle, really.

And I can only believe that it's possible because of this: that somehow we are able to know the love of God as our Father. Although we are wounded and lost, He teaches us to love Him and trust Him. Sometimes, for some of us (me!), it's a long journey to reach that point. To really understand what it means to know God as a loving Father. To know that He desires us, loves us, and will never leave us. And honestly, Mihret and Yoseph are already teaching me all that I long for them to know about being loved by an adoptive parent. My understanding of God's love for me deepens every time I look at their pictures and love them.

Here again, this Advent season is made so much richer for me as I wait for our children. I read this today (from Martin Luther):

"Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given" (Isa. 9:6). This is for us the hardest point, not so much to believe that He is the son of the virgin and God himself, as to believe that this Son of God is ours. That is where we wilt, but He who does feel it has become another man. Truly it is marvelous in our eyes that God should place a little child in the lap of a virgin and that all our blessedness would lie in Him. And this Child belongs to all mankind. God feeds the whole world through a Babe nursing at Mary's breast. This must be our daily exercise: to be transformed into Christ, being nourished by this food. Then will the heart be suffused with all joy and will be strong and confident against every assualt."

So today my prayer is that someday Mihret and Yoseph will embrace these truths. That even next Christmas, they will find some new meaning in the birth of a Savior. That He is theirs. And that somehow He might even use our imperfect love for them as an illustration of His perfect love for them. And now I sigh. And long for Him and for them.

Having said all of that, may I just make a confession? I am longing for them to love the little shirts and socks and toys in those ziplock bags. Boo has been wrapping up little presents for Mihret and putting them under our Christmas tree. As I said, our love is imperfect. But we are longing to shower them with it!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

It's Advent!!!

I've been so looking forward to this season. And I'm so glad that it is finally the first day of Advent, 2009. The focus on drawing nearer to Christ (and to one another as a family in the process) is filling my heart. There are two new books on the sidebar now which are also on my coffee table. A nice new festive background graces my blog (don't be surprised if it changes again between now and Christmas!). The first candle in our advent wreath was lit tonight. But here's a thought to start off your advent season that will top anything I could say:

This video is particularly poignant to me this Advent season as we are waiting not only for Christmas, but also for Mihret and Yoseph to come home. I was so aware, as we read and sang together this evening by the Advent wreath, that Mihret and Yoseph don't need any of the piles of material "stuff" they will encounter when they get here. They need a Savior. That, I believe, is why He is bringing them here. It all makes the Advent experience for us even richer this year. I hope yours will be too.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

God sets the lonely in families...(yes, this is it!)

Sorry; if you've seen me in the last two weeks this will be pretty anticlimactic. But for those far away, now you'll get the scoop. I had been waiting for a chance to tell some family members the news before I went public. I have been ready to write this since Thursday,though, but for some reason have kept holding back. I think that part of me just really doesn't believe that this is real. Two weeks ago, through a series of events that were completely unexpected, highly unlikely, and quite possibly miraculous, we "found" our children. We had been facing some pretty significant problems and disappointments with our adoption process, and had been praying and asking others to pray that we would have clarity as to how we should proceed. Our family had been praying in faith that God knew and saw the faces of the fatherless. He knew the need, He knew our hearts, and we prayed that He would make the connection if His plan was to allow us to bring adopted children into our family. On a Monday morning, while Jim was in Washington D.C. for a meeting, we received pictures and information about siblings in Ethiopia. I was frantically calling and e-mailing Jim. He was calmly praying. In a very short period of time (probably less than an hour) he was clear that God wanted us to move ahead with this. And we did. Mihret, whose name means "mercy", is three years old. Her brother Yoseph is 19 months old. Even as I type their names I am overwhelmed again with God's goodness, and yes, His "mercy". This truly is more than we could have asked or imagined. Jim and I have been talking about adoption for over 15 years, and our family has been actively pursuing it since last January. And now, these beautiful children are waiting for us.

There is so much more I could say; so many stories of God's faithfulness over the last two weeks in affirming this decision and helping us to move forward. We have been buried in paperwork, standing in line at the Post Office every other day, and praying, praying, praying. And always looking at the sweet faces of these children which we have placed in almost every room of our house.

Please pray for us and for Mihret and Yoseph. As far as we know, they have lived with their father and mother until very recently. Their father died, and their mother left them in an orphanage because she was unable to care for them. We cannot even imagine the pain that she must have experienced. In Ethiopia, 81% of the population lives on less than $2 a day, and 27% live on less than $1 a day. Many families are literally unable to feed their children, and it's a common practice for parents to relinquish their children to an orphanage, or even abandon them on the street. Last year there were more than 4.3 million orphans in Ethiopia, and only around 8,000 were adopted. Mihret and Yoseph's mother did not know when she left them that they would be adopted, but took them to a place where she believed they had a better chance to survive. Before we travel to bring the children home, their mother will know that they have a family. It's very unlikely that we will ever be able to meet her, but we will never stop praying for her.

We still have a long wait before we can bring them home. We've done everything we can here. Next week our paperwork will go from Virginia to South Carolina, then to Washington D.C., and finally to Ethiopia. At that point the Ethiopian government will set a court date for the children. If everything is in order, a date will then be set for us to travel to Ethiopia, have an appointment at the embassy in Addis Ababa, and then finally bring them home. We are trusting the timing of all of this into God's hands. We have a general idea of how long this process usually takes, but will place no limits on what God might do.

Thanks to all who have prayed for us so far on this journey. Keep it coming! We will continue to keep you updated. Oh, and we are not allowed to post the children's pictures until our case passes court and they are officially ours. If you see me on the street, though...well that's another matter. I will most likely have those pictures close by.

"God sets the lonely in families..." Psalm 68:10

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Pie for Breakfast

No, this isn't the "big news," (you'll still have to wait a couple of days for that), but I couldn't resist sharing. Sweet Pea and I are lovers of all things pumpkin. At the first hint of fall, we start planning all of the pumpkin recipes we can't wait to try out. (Of course, the rest of the clan are perfectly happy to help out as taste testers). This year we found a new one called Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal, which surpisingly Sweet Pea doesn't like, but is a big hit with everyone else. No matter how many pumpkin recipes we try, though, there is just no match for plain old pumpkin pie...for breakfast, of course. Last night I got the urge, so we whipped up the pie before bed, and we all went to sleep anticipating our favorite breakfast.

Okay, okay, for all of you health nuts out there, let's review the ingredients in pumpkin pie. Pumpkin. A veggie for breakfast; what could be better? Or is it a fruit? Those seed always throw me. Milk (need I say more?). Eggs (obviously right for breakfast). Cinnamon (a super food; great for everything from blood sugar to balding). And, okay, there's some sugar (no more than you would eat in a bowl of boxed cereal, I'll bet).

Go ahead and try it; there are only a few weeks left of pumpkin season, and then there will be no more pie for breakfast 'til next year. Oh, well I guess there's always apple. And blueberry. Oh, and there's peach...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Big news coming soon...

Sorry, that's all I can say. You'll just have to check back in a few days...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

She's Eleven!

This post is late in coming, since Sweet Pea's birthday was actually two weeks ago, but I'm finally getting around to documenting it. This precious girl, the girl who made me a mom after years of praying and hoping, is ELEVEN!! Honestly, my sharpest memory is not even of the moment of her birth, but of the morning we found out that I was pregnant with her. The joy that she brought us that morning has continued and grown over the past eleven years, and I think God for her.

Sweet Pea is a pretty serious girl. Some of her siblings (who shall be un-named for this moment) are downright silly, but Sweet Pea tries to help us maintain a certain level of dignity in this crazy family. She is steady and kind. Her affection and encouragement have helped me through many a difficult moment. She is bold in her convictions, and more than once has called me to account (quietly and respectfully) when my attitude was less than godly. She is a priceless treasure, and I am so thankful for her. I thought I would be sad to see her growing up, but the truth is that I am enjoying her so much that I only look forward to knowing her as a young woman, and as a sister in Christ.

She loves books, crafts, and cooking. She has a servant's heart, and is often coming up with creative ways to love and serve her siblings, especially her little sisters. They are often the recipients of piles of home-made paper dolls or clothes for their dolls or stuffed animals. And she is Tiger's best friend and confidante. She is a treasure.

This is a picture of Sweet Pea and Boo at the State Fair. Sweet Pea used her spending money at the fair to buy Boo a pony ride (and convinced me to use mine to pay for Sunshine's ride!)

Sweet Pea also loves horses. She reads about them, draws them, makes horse paper dolls, and dreams of owning one someday (her life's ambition is to be a mom with seven children who lives on a farm and has a horse!) Sooooo, for her birthday she and I went for a trail rider in the mountains together. I hadn't been on a horse for...well, I won't say how long. And she had never ridden on her own. We suprised her with this gift, and I have to say that it was absolutely lovely. I don't know which of us enjoyed it more. Most of the pictures I got were of her horse's backside (I was riding behind her), but here are a couple of pics of her birthday present. (By the way, for any other moms who undertake riding a horse after many years, I strongly advise stocking up on Advil. Go ahead and take some before the ride.)

Happy birthday Sweet Pea; we couldn't love you more.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Friday Favorites

On a much lighter note (than my recent posts), I'm so glad it's Friday, and here a just a few highlights (favorites!) from this week:

Three painted lady butterflies emerged from the chrysalides today, and so far we haven't killed any of them (even though I traumatized everyone by dropping one while its wings were still wet). The last time we had more than one (a few years ago), they quickly laid more eggs and we were able to observe the complete metamorphosis. Anyone know how you tell the gender of a butterfly?

Hilarious Friday lunch. Okay, it's not exactly gourmet, but the kids thought it hilarious when I put these on their plates. It actually took them a little while to figure out how I got the spaghetti through the turkey kielbasa. And they all gobbled it up!

This isn't really just a Friday favorite, but something that has delighted me since we started this school year. I'm so glad that these two are best friends. They couldn't be more different, but enjoy each other so much.

They have less schoolwork to do than Sweet Pea and Tiger, so they have plenty of time for fun.

Can you tell which one can be a bit ornery?

Happy Friday!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Hungry for more Part 1

Somehow over the last several months I have been getting hungrier and hungrier. Maybier "thirstier" would be a better analogy, but honestly hunger just seems to fit the way I feel. I think it is what finally prompted us to start the adoption process (after years of talking about it), and I think the process of moving toward adoption has just whet my appetite. I feel God's pleasure in it. And I feel that I know Him more because of it. And it's just leading me to be hungrier and hungrier.

This is not just about adoption. It's about becoming dissatisfied by things that just aren't satisfying. It's about developing an appetite for things that are unspeakably satisfying. I remember a description in The Last Battle (from the Chronicles of Narnia).The children in the story had entered into Aslan's land (though they didn't know it yet) and hesitantly tasted the fruit of a tree there. And "if you had eaten that fruit, all the nicest things in this world would taste like medicines after it." I am experiencing a little taste of that fruit. And I want more. And I don't want to go back to being satisfied with any less.

What I'm understanding more and more (by God's grace alone)is what it really means to say that we can't hold on to God and the world at the same time. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? (Matt. 16:26) I would always have said that I believed those words, but without really deeply understanding them. Without knowing what it really meant to let go of the world, or to truly taste life.

I can't say that I'm doing it well. I daily find myself holding on to worthless things and failing to run after the real treasure. But my appetites are changing. There are a lot of things that I used to think were important, and perhaps even necessary for my happiness. And I didn't see any conflict between desiring those things and saying that I desired God. Many of those things are just part of living in the culture that I live in, and I mostly felt okay about wanting them. But the funny thing is...a lot of those things just don't taste good anymore.

Really it's a lot like my diet. We eat a pretty healthy diet at our house, but occassionally I just crave fast food. I know it's bad for me, but every now and then I convince myself that a little "fix" won't hurt. Once I get ahold of it though...every single just isn't what I thought it would be. Maybe the first few bites taste good, but I really don't want to finish it. And I always regret it. It just makes me appreciate it even more when I get back to our normal (healthy) fare, and I recognize how much better it tastes and makes me feel. So I still find myself craving things of this world sometimes, and even giving in to them. But the more I turn away from them, the more God whets my appetite for what He has for me. Just a taste for now, really. But when I get those little tastes, I can hardly even imagine what's to come.

O Taste and see that the Lord is good.
How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him?
O fear the Lord, you His saints;
For to those who fear Him there is no want.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

His Burden is Light

Before I start, take a look at the new button in the top right sidebar (it matches the above image). Now, I'll tell you a story.

When we first started this adoption process, we had a rather simple picture of what would happen, which included an orphan who needed a family(in our minds a child whose parents had died) and a family (ours) who had plenty of room for another place at the table. Throughout the process our minds and hearts have been stretched as we've gotten a more realistic image. First, most of the children available for adoption in Africa are not "true" orphans. They have living family members, even parents, who have either relinquished or abandoned them due to extreme poverty, disease, or other cultural issues. This was wrenching for me to realize, and actually caused me to step back from the process for awhile as I considered the implications of it. Furthermore, if the child we adopt has living family, there is no clear way for us to help them. We've questioned our agency and they've been clear that absolutely no money or assistance can be provided by us because of child trafficking issues. We have also become aware of the staggering numbers of orphans in Africa and around the world. In Ethiopia alone there are 4.3 million orphans, and I believe that last year only around 8000 were adopted. Clearly adoption is not the answer to the world's orphan problem (though a beautiful solution for those who are adopted).

As we processed some of this information, I really questioned whether we should adopt. Adoption is expensive, and the amount of money we were spending on this adoption could feed and educate dozens of orphans in Africa. Maybe we were being selfish. Maybe we should just send our money to Africa for orphan care and give up the idea of adopting. As I agonized over this, I e-mailed a friend and posed the dilemma to her. My wise friend's answer was simple: do both. Adopt, because through adoption God is giving us the opportunity to provide a family for a child, and to pour our hearts into him in the way that only a family can. And...continue to care for and provide for orphans somehow.

I should mention that my wise friend is the mother of three children. All three are adopted, and all three have special needs. And, she and her husband (also a wise friend of ours!) are currently preparing to sell their house and move to Zambia, South Africa to pioneer a ministry to orphans with special needs. I could go on and on about what they're doing and how excited I am about it, but instead, why don't you just click on the "Special Hope Network" button and see for yourselves. Read what's there, and let God break your heart and give you a burden. I will admit that sometimes I lose sleep over it; I lay in bed some nights and see the pictures and hear the stories we've seen and heard over the past months, and ponder what God has asked of me, and what more He will ask. And I am excited. It's a burden I am eager to carry. Now click on the button on the sidebar, or click here, and see what I mean.

“He pled the cause of the afflicted and needy; then it was well. Is not that what it means to know me?” Jeremiah 22:16

Oh, and if you're interested, following this post is one with an update of our adoption process. :)

An Update

This may be the last adoption update you'll get for awhile. Two weeks ago today we got our I-171H in the mail. It was a Thursday, and the mail came a bit early that day (around 2:30), so we took off on a race to the capital to the Secretary of the Commonwealth's office, which closes at 4:30, to get the paper officially "sealed". Friday we mailed it off to "The Assistant Stork". This brilliant adoptive mom started a business in which she hand delivers dossiers to the Dept. of State and the various embassies and takes care of all of the paperwork that needs to be done before the dossier can be sent to the agency. From there our papers were sent back to our agency. Yesterday I got an e-mail telling us that on Tuesday the papers were officially sent off to Ethiopia. I can't quite describe how that makes me feel. I am somewhat in awe at what those papers are going to do. I am also extremely thankful that there is nothing at all that I can do about the process at this point; it's entirely and obviously in God's hands, which feels wonderful. I know in my heart that it's been in His hands all along, but during the 6 months that we were working on all of that paperwork it was hard not to feel pressure that we were in control and had to make this happen.

So now we wait. According to the e-mail we got yesterday, there are 12 families ahead of us on the waiting list who are waiting for children in a similar age range to us, and who are either requesting boys or open to either gender (the majority of families adopting request girls, so that's a longer list!) I have no idea of how that will translate in terms of time. Our agency says that it will likely be between 2 and 12 months. I'm glad pregnancy isn't like that; can you imagine being told you'd likely deliver sometime in the next 2 to 12 months?! We are at peace about it, however, and are resting in knowing that God already has the picture of our complete family, and will work it out in His time.

Meanwhile, this blog will continue now with (possibly annoying) posts about our family happenings. But as soon as anything happens on adoption front we'll let you know.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Freed to Visit Orphans

From Together for Adoption:

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Thirteen weeks ago we mailed (overnight, of course!) our application for immigration approval from the US Department of Homeland Security. The form we need (I-171H) is required for an international adoption, and we have to have it before we can send our paperwork to Ethiopia. We were met with some unusual challenges in getting our approval, and it took longer than we expected (really only about a month longer, but it felt like a year!), but today we received this one line e-mail:

"Form I-171H (approval notice) will be issued shortly with an approval
date of 7/15/09."

When I saw the source of the e-mail I was afraid to open it. We've had so much frustration with this part of our adoption process, and I confess I have struggled to keep it in perspective. I know that my anger/frustration/anxiety is just a symptom of my failure to trust that God will do what is best. Every time.
I am longing for God to refine me through all of this, and hopeful that because of it I will be more prepared to face all that God has to come for us with faith and with joy. But for this day I am just so happy for this one victory!!

So this is what happens next. First, we wait (hopefully only a few days) until we actually receive the form in the mail. (Which means that I will continue my recent daily races to the mailbox for just a few more days). Then, we'll take the form to the state capital to have it "sealed" so that it will look like all of these other beautiful documents (they actually authenticate the notaries on all of the documents and place the state seal on them):

Jim jokes that I ought to have a safe for these documents, because I don't like anyone to get too close to them, let alone touch them!

Next, we bundle the new document with all of the others and send it off on a long and somewhat confusing journey from here to Washington D.C. to Michigan, and finally to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There's a good chance that our documents will be in Ethiopia within the next 1-2 weeks. And then the real wait begins. And so we learn to trust God more and more with details large and small. And we pray over each step along the way. We have prayed in the van on the way to the post office, in the post office, and on the way home from the post office. We want the kids to know that God's hand is over every single detail of this process, and there is none of it that we can accomplish (or would want to) without Him.

I'm also realizing how important it is for the kids that we celebrate God's goodness at every stage of this journey. Shhhh; don't tell them, but we'll be having a little party at our house tomorrow evening, and there will be cake and ice cream!

And thank you so much for your prayers; we'll eat some extra cake for you!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Just a Little Fun

Today is Chick-Fil-A Cow Appreciation Day, and it's not too late! Anyone who goes to Chick-Fil-A dressed like this:

will get a free meal at Chick-Fil-A. (If you try to cheat a bit and just wear a cow hat, or paste a spot or two on your shirt, you might only get a chicken sandwich, not the whole meal.)

And while we're at it, if you're in the mood for a laugh (and you didn't get it looking at those pictures), watch this:

Byt the way, Tiger missed out on the fun while having some fun of his own; he was having lunch with Grandma. And you might guess from the pictures that Sweet Pea participated somewhat reluctantly, as she wasn't sure someone of her mature age should be dressing like a cow. This provoked one of the stranger statements I've made as a mom: "That's fine if you don't want to do it, but I'm not buying your lunch just because you're too proud to be a cow!"

Now, go out and have some FUN!!!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wait Quietly

From Elisabeth Elliot:

"Few of us enjoy having to wait for something we want. It is human nature
to desire instant gratification, and it is divine nature to do many things
very, very slowly. Growth is always imperceptible. But the farmer
exercises long patience in waiting for his crop. He has done his work and
is assured of the result, hence he waits quietly. He is at rest because
the outcome (barring disastrous "acts of God") is certain. If we could
simply remember that this is true of everything--that God's purposes are
slowly being worked out for his glory and our good--we would, like the
farmer, keep faith and wait quietly.

Lord, take from us all fretting and hurrying and teach us to rest our
hearts in the "ultimate certainty" (Jas 5:7 JBP)."

Sunday, July 5, 2009

For Nate and Sara

Currently there are an estimated 143 million orphans in the world. I read a statistic recently that if 7% of professing Christians in America alone would adopt, there would be no orphans. Realistically, adoption is not the solution to the world's "orphan problem". But for a tiny percentage of those children, adoption is God's solution. Sometimes I am overwhelmed that God is allowing our family to be part of that. Today, though, I am overwhelmed by my emotions as I consider that our friends Nate and Sara will be leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow, and that their children are no longer orphans. In a sense, I guess they never really have been true orphans, since God knit this family together before those babies were ever born. To hear their story, and to see the way that God has paved this road for Nate, Sara, Eden, and Caleb over many years, is to get a bigger view of a giant God. I feel privileged to watch and pray.

For anyone reading this, please pray for God's clear direction in every detail for this family over the next two weeks (and beyond). And specifically pray for Eden's TB test to be negative so that she can come home(they will find out the results on the way to the airport!)

Nate and Sara (whenever you see this), we love you, and I wish you could have seen the size of Tiger's grin when I got home tonight and reminded him that you will be leaving for Ethiopia tomorrow. You know that he (and all of us) will be praying every day.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Walking by Faith (sometimes)

Well, I did it again. I got hit with a challenge (with our adoption), and I responded out of fear instead of faith. Will I ever get it right? I am so, so thankful that God is patient with me and brings me around, but I so long for a time when my initial response to a trial is one of faith and peace. I would so like to replace these responses by listening to my Father's voice.

I can't do it!!
(You can do ALL things through Me; I give you strength.)

But I'm so tired of all of this; I can't keep going.
(Wait on Me. I will renew your strength. You will mount up with wings as an eagle. You will run and not get tired. You will walk and not become weary.)

I'm just afraid.
(I love you. Perfect love casts out fear.)

What if we heard wrong? What if this isn't what You've asked of us?
(Pure and undefiled religion in my sight is this; to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. And anything you do for the least of my brothers, you do it for Me.)

But it's so hard sometimes. And it will probably get harder.
(I am your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, "Do not fear, I will help you.")

Can't I just get a break? Can't I just rest?
(Run with endurance the race that is set before you, fixing your eyes on My Son, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.)

He has a word for my every fear, every longing, every anxiety, every whine. I am so thankful that soon after the whining begins, the Word seeps in. And some days, every now and then, my little brain seeks the Word before the whine. Lord, let it happen more often. Let me seek You first every time.
Let me walk in faith and live in joy.

This is my favorite song at the moment. Listen and you'll see why.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Yep. Those are blueberries. And a few raspberries thrown in for good measure. But I'm calling it cheap therapy. It's been a tough week here on the adoption front. Each of the last three days I've received an e-mail or letter informing us of another "glitch" in our paperwork. When I say "glitch", read time-consuming, stressful, confusing, and exasperating. I had no idea that paperwork could make me so upset. Now I completely understand why people call this a "paper pregnancy." I can remember feeling this way when I was pregnant, except then I had hormones to blame!

Today's "glitch" was a letter from the Department of Homeland Security. Of course, when I saw those words on the envelope, I assumed it was our immigration approval. Nope. Instead, it was a letter informing us that our application couldn't be processed due to a (time-consuming, stressful, confusing, and exasperating) problem. I am very thankful to both of the agencies we're working with, as they are both hard at work trying to solve the problem. Meanwhile, our family decided it was high time to go pick some berries. (Because that will solve everything, of course!) It actually did make me feel like a different person. Here's why I think everyone in the adoption process should try this form of therapy:

1. If your berry patch, like ours, is a fair distance from home, you can close your eyes and take deep, cleansing breaths for half an hour on the way there.

2. You can see the fruit of your labors right there in front of you! It never leaves your sight, and the gratification is immediate! (Unlike the adoption process, in which it's so easy to lose sight of the treasure at the end.)

3. All of those antioxidants in the berries will fight against the stress that has built up like a toxin in your body.

Are you convinced? If not, come on over for some blueberry pie. (Baking is therapeutic too!)

On a serious note, a friend reminded me today that Satan hates adoption. Of course we should not expect the road to be smooth. And God tells us again and again that we should expect troubles, and this is yet another chance for us to:

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance." (James 1:2-3)

I could sure use some of that perseverance. And the joy? Well, let's just say it makes those blueberries look like garbage.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

If you would please pray...

I have to confess that I'm just feeling weary this week. We've hit a glitch with some of our paperwork. I'm waiting to find out if it's easily corrected, but there's a possibility that we will have to redo about 15 documents, all of which would have to be notarized again. The thought of it just makes me tired. Like Moses in battle, I'm feeling as though I need help keeping my hands held up right now.

Furthermore, we're not getting much information about the investigation of abandonment cases in Ethiopia. The orphanage from which our agency gets most of its referrals was one of the original three named in the investigation. If this is not resolved soon (or if the outcome isn't favorable for Enat Alem), I'm not sure what this would mean for us. It's a rather critical time, as we will be in a position to submit our dossier within a couple of weeks, and it's a little unsettling to submit it to our agency not knowing the outcome of this. We are praying that there will be a clear answer before we need to submit the dossier. And, of course, we're praying for all of the children involved who are not able to be placed because of this situation.

God is good! I am not doubting that He will work all of this together for good. I just don't quite know what that might look like, and humanly I would like to see a few steps further than what He's showing me right now. He is giving us a footlight, not a floodlight, and asking us to take one step at a time in faith. So please pray that we will walk in faith and not fear and anxiety. Thanks.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Hooray is not a big enough word!

I just have not been able to find time to write this week, but I couldn't resist taking a minute to celebrate for our friends Nate and Sarah. They got word on Wednesday that they are now the legal, official parents of Caleb and Eden, who are waiting for them in Ethiopia (though they have already been Caleb's and Eden's Mom and Dad for weeks in God's eyes and in their hearts). Their story is amazing, right down to the fact that they received word that they had passed court in Ethiopia three days before their court date! We are just so happy for this family and thankful that we've been able to watch as God knit them together. This is the family, by the way, who sent us the original video which grabbed our hearts and started our journey to Ethiopia.

By this time next month, Nate and Sara should be in Ethiopia holding their babies. And all I can add to that is "Amen."

Bless our God, O peoples,
And sound His praise abroad,
Who keeps us in life
And does not allow our feet to slip.
For You have tried us, O God;
You have refined us as silver is refined.
You brought us into the net;
You laid an oppressive burden upon our backs.
You made men ride over our heads;
We went through fire and through water,
Yet You brought us out into a place of abundance.
Psalm 66:8-12

Friday, June 5, 2009

Friday Favorites

This isn't really the "favorite thing" that I meant to write about today, but I've been short on time and this is the best I could do (tune in again next Friday!) And, to be perfectly honest, this really did bring me quite a bit of pleasure this morning. I love scones; why didn't anyone ever tell me how easy they are to make? Of course, they have no nutritional value whatsoever (white flour, white sugar, etc.) Sooooo, I guess we'll eat lots of fruit tomorrow.

Believe it or not, I shared them with the kids. But I had to ask Sweet Pea to hide the last two from me or there wouldn't have been any left for Daddy. Yum!

Fathers and sons

We recently had the privilege of celebrating the 13th birthday of a special friend. It was a beautiful celebration, recognizing her transition from a child to a godly young woman (which she is!) On the way home, though, there were some interesting conversations. One of my daughters was somewhat anxious at the thought of impending womanhood, and needed reassurance that for the moment she is still very much a little girl. (There are many moments when she's more than ready to take on the role of a young lady, but somehow there was fear in her heart last night!)

Tiger's reaction, however, was quite different. He wanted to know how we would celebrate the birthday of a 13 year old boy! Jim wasn't with us at the time, so we didn't really talk much about it. Later, though, I caught some of the conversation between father and son. I heard some discussion of surviving in the wilderness with only a sleeping bag and a knife (at which point Tiger retorted that he didn't need a sleeping bag!). I don't know (or want to know) where the conversation went from there; I went to tuck the girls into bed.

I know that my husband feels deeply the privilege and responsibility of raising up our son(s) and daughters to know and love God. I am so thankful for a godly father for all of my kids. I am also thankful that someday (soon?) Tiger will have a brother with whom to share his boyhood adventures (the girls have little interest in wilderness survival!). And I am tremendously thankful (and honestly awed) that God would allow us to be used to provide an earthly father to a fatherless child. He is "Father to the fatherless" (Psalm 68:5) and His provision is perfect. I hope and pray that His purpose in our adoption is to call our son (along with all of our children) to Himself. It is one of the biggest dreams I can dream; that God would see fit to allow us to parent HIS children for His glory.

Meanwhile, I'm also quite thankful that I'm the mom. No sleeping in the wilderness without a tent for me. But just wait; later I'm going to post a picture of some lovely scones I made this morning. (And I'll be teaching the recipe to Sweet Pea. And there won't be a pocket knife involved!)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Countdown again (and an update)

It's Thursday! Today it's been 5 weeks since we applied for our I-171H (immigration approval). Which means we should have four more weeks at the most until we get our approval. Who knows; maybe we'll get lucky and get it early. (Tiger prays before every meal that our adoption will move quickly, and his prayers have been known to be looked upon with favor!)

Meanwhile, there's been a lot happening in Ethiopia. When we started this process, we ignorantly assumed that most of the children being adopted were "true orphans" (meaning that they had no living parent). In reality, the grim truth is that many of the children available for adoption have either been relinquished or abandoned by a living parent due to extreme poverty. I don't think we can even begin to imagine the desperation that leads a mother to give up her children because she is unable to feed them and unwilling to see them starve. I have often come to tears as we pray for the child who will be part of our family, because as a mother I find it so painful to consider that it's very likely that our little boy has a mother in Africa who will not see her little boy grow up.

For the last few weeks there's been a freeze on the adoption of abandoned children in Ethiopia. This is really a good thing. To put it simply, the judges who process adoptions had noticed a spike in the number of abandonment cases and ordered a police investigation to insure that these abandonment situations were legitimate. I'm thankful for this, because there can be so much corruption in the adoption process and I'm glad for anything that works against that. Yet it's been very painful for families who had already been assigned a court date for an abandoned child and had to be postponed indefinitely. And painful for those children who have had to remain in orphanages instead of uniting with families. But in the big picture the desire is to protect children and families. Yesterday I heard from a new friend (who's waiting for the referral of a little boy from Ethipia) that the investigation may wrap up by the end of June, allowing adoptions of abandoned children to open up again. For us this means that this situation should not really have an impact on our family since we should be sending our dossier to Ethiopia in early July. In fact, it's possible that our wait will be shorter since there may be a group of children ready for referral at one time after the last few weeks of no referrals. And thankfully, it means that more of these little ones who've been abandoned will be placed in families. Once again, we just don't know but are praying for God's perfect provision for the child He's chosen for our family.

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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Friday Favorites

Remember the song "My Favorite Things" from The Sound of Music? Well here are a few of my favorite things. Or actually just two of my favorite things, and just for today. (I'll have another favorite or two by next week!)

The first is an old favorite that I've re-visited this week: History and Literature Pockets by Evan-Moor. These are the two we're using this week:

And here are the happy faces:

My other favorite thing this Friday is this book:

It's already on the sidebar, but I've almost finished reading/devouring it, and it's just too good. If you're adopting; read this book. If you've ever considered adoption; read this book. If you know and love someone who's adopting (and maybe just don't get it!); read this book. And most importantly, if you want to have a deeper, richer grasp of just what it means to be adopted as full sons and heirs of God through Jesus Christ; you might just try reading this book. Can you tell I sorta like it? I have kept looking ahead the whole time I've been reading it because every chapter has been so rich that I can't wait to see what's coming. And I haven't been disappointed yet. (Only one more chapter to go).

And I just remembered one more favorite thing. A sweet friend will be here in a few minutes for a visit, and I'm so glad. (Thanks Sarah!)

I love Friday.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Anonymous Comments and a Countdown

For those who have asked about commenting, I changed the settings of this blog so that you can now comment as "Anonymous." (You don't need a Google account to leave a comment). Thanks for letting me know about that problem.

And while I'm here I'll just mention that today it's been exactly four weeks since we applied for our I-171H (immigration approval). We need that golden document in order to submit our Dossier to Ethiopia. In Virginia it's typical to get it back in nine weeks, so that means five more weeks at most. (But who's counting?)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Sometimes I'm scared

I'm sure everyone who's in the process of adopting, or considering adoption, or probably even after they've adopted, has experienced fear. There are a lot of scary things about adoption. One of the things I fear is that one day our son, in a state of rebellion, will cry out to me, "You're not my REAL MOM!"

Now I realize that the heart of the child who might cry out these words is really no different than that of any child (adopted or not) trying to find an expression for anger or frustration. And if he says it he probably won't mean it. But I have still tried to prepare myself for how I might react when there's a moment one day when our son questions our role as his parents. The reason this all came into my heart this morning, though, is because I read the lyrics to a hymn (written in 1664 by Samuel Crossman). It pointed me to this truth: I am just like that adopted child who, out of anger, or frustration, or fear, or just plain sin, at some point (or many) rejects my adoptive Father. Read this:

My Song is Love Unknown

My song is love unknown,
My Saviour’s love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed-for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then “Crucify!” is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

Why, what hath my Lord done?
What makes this rage and spite?
He made the lame to run,
He gave the blind their sight,
Sweet injuries! Yet they at these
Themselves displease, and ’gainst Him rise.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they save,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

In life, no house, no home
My Lord on earth might have;
In death no friendly tomb
But what a stranger gave.
What may I say? Heav’n was His home;
But mine the tomb wherein He lay.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

(You can listen to part of this hymn here.)

So what do I have to fear? Over and over we reject our Father because of doubt, fear, pride, etc. Or because we're turning to any number of "idols that we don't think are idols." But He is grace upon grace. I know that I will fail sometimes as our son's Mom (I do with the four I have now). But I want to be like my adoptive Father, and love unconditionally. (I know, I know...I can't do it right). But I'm going to try to pursue it without fear. To cling to the JOY that is in it instead. Knowing that my Father loves me, and he loves my son. Through this adoption process God is revealing the depth of His love for me as I have never grasped it before.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear. I John 4:18.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Catching you up

Today I sent the link to this blog to a few far away friends, then realized that some of them didn't even know we were adopting until I sent them the e-mail with this link. I thought I'd better give just a bit of background, as well as explaining where we are in the process.

Jim and I have dreamed of adopting for about fifteen years, but for various reasons (including four children coming along!) the time was never right. About two years ago we started talking more seriously. We were convinced of God's heart for orphans, and knew that we wanted to adopt, but we weren't sure exactly what to do about it. As we were sort of just thinking and praying, some friends of ours (who you can read about here)began the process of adopting two children from Ethiopia. At some point they sent us the link to their blog, which included a video of a family uniting with their adopted son in Ethiopia. Tiger (six years old at the time)came and watched the video over my shoulder, and when it was done he had tears streaming down his face. From that day on, he began to storm the gates of heaven for an Ethiopian brother. That boy prayed almost daily for months that God would let us adopt from Ethiopia, and as the weeks went by we all caught the bug. When people ask us now why we chose Ethiopia, I still have to say that God just chose it for us, through Tiger. (By the way, we have "renamed" our kids on the blog in order to protect their anonymity out in cyberspace. I'll try to get pictures of them on the sidebar soon, with their pseudonyms!)

Due to various situations in our family, we delayed starting the process until this year. On Christmas day we told that kids that it was really going to happen. We started the paperwork in January. If you're at all familiar with the adoption process, we've finished our homestudy, applied to USCIS, and are waiting for immigration approval. We hope it will come in late June, and then our dossier will go to Ethiopia, at which point we will be waiting for a referral. If you're not familiar with the process, we've been filling out lots of papers, waiting, filling out more papers, waiting some more, and we really have very little idea how long it will take. We do know that at the end there is a little boy who will be a son and a brother in our family, and we do know that we are incredibly blessed to have this privilege. We don't know yet who this little guy is, but God knows and is preparing us for him every day.

We'll definitely keep you posted!

"Nine is an odd number"

That's what I heard from behind my back a little while ago. "Mommy, nine is an odd number," said a very matter of fact voice. I froze for a minute, then spun around just to make sure I wasn't hearing things. Because it couldn't have been that my six year old had just spoken those words. My six year old who has struggled so much with math this year. The child who spent two long months last winter trying to recognize the number 13. But there she was, looking up at me expectantly.

"Um, how did you know that?"

"Look." She points to the word "Babies-R-Us" in the newspaper on the table. "I counted off two-by-two-by-two-by-two, and there was one left over. And ten is an even number. And six plus six is twelve."

There just might be ice cream for dessert tonight.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

This is worth a few minutes of your time.

What on earth am I thinking?

I have already written two rather lengthy (okay…wordy) posts about why I’m starting a blog. (Something I never thought I would do). But finally I have narrowed it down to this (hate to admit it, but this came to me in church this morning. I really did listen to the sermon, but this worked into my head during the service):
Oh give thanks to the Lord, call upon His name;
Make known His deeds among the peoples.
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
Speak of all His wonder.
Glory in His holy name;
Let the heart of those who seek the Lord be glad.
Seek the Lord and His strength;
Seek His face continually.
Remember His wonders which He has done. (Psalm 105:1-5)

I want to “make known His deeds” among all the peoples who might read this blog (both of you!), particularly in these areas:

1. His deeds in my own heart. I am trying to walk in thankfulness and amazement at any good at all that I am able to do, knowing that anything good in me comes directly from Him.

2. His deeds in my family, knowing that every loving, or creative, or generous, or joyful thing that occurs in or through our family is directly from Him.

3. His deeds in and through our adoption. The gospel is fleshed out so clearly and beautifully through adoption, and it is only through God’s direction and help that we are able to do it, and that we have been given the incredible blessing of it. I so want to share this!

It used to bug me that blogs generally seem to present a pretty rosy view of people (you don't usually blog about your marital problems, the times when you lose your temper with your kids, etc.)But, really, those aren't the things we're supposed to focus on. So I'm going to try to fix my eyes on Him, and "blog" away about whatever He does.

So there it is. I’ve finally got the first blog post over with.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my ROCK and my REDEEMER.