Where We Stand

We got our home study approval today! That means that our HS is court approved and complete. We are officially done with our HS and can now submit it to USCIS for our immigration approval. Once USCIS receives our HS, they will send us an appointment for FBI fingerprinting. After our FBI prints are done, we wait for USCIS to approve us to adopt internationally and send us a Favorable Determination Letter (FDL). That will be the last piece of the puzzle for our dossier, (huge stack of apostilled papers that in no way adequately conveys the faith, stress, love, sweat and tears that went into them!). Once our dossier is complete, we send it to the boys’ country and wait for an appointment to meet with the government officials to review files on available children. Once we have that appointment, we book our flights and head to meet our boys!!!! This is happening crazy fast! It was SO SLOW for SO LONG and now we are at breakneck speed.

Here’s the scary part, we are half-way funded. I know I said that a while back and we’ve had some fundraisers since then. What happened is that our costs went up when we added sweet Murray. He was supposed to have a $2800 grant available, but due to circumstances outside of RR or our control, he does not. We now have the full $5,000 fee to adopt him along with Shawn. It’s ok, because we know that the Lord called us to both boys and we know that he is always faithful. He will provide and has every step of the way. The plan it all out, play it safe, gotta go over everything a million times side of me wants to panic! BUT, I am choosing to BE STILL and TRUST. I know who He is and He is more than capable of providing everything we need to bring Shawn and Murray home. Right now, we need a total of $13,050 to be fully funded. I do have some fundraisers and photo gigs coming up that should help, but you can bet I’ll be filling out every grant application I can qualify for. :)

Here’s all of our current fundraisers to bring our boys home! Here’s the link to our t-shirt fundraiser through bonfirefunds: https://www.bonfirefunds.com/warren-family-adoption-1. I designed the shirts. Hope you like them! All orders must be placed by November 4th. We still have 16 shirts to go before they’ll print our order.

Back finished tee Front Finished tee

We also have a Norwex fundraiser going on. This is being hosted by our sweet friend that adopted her daughter from Shawn and Murray’s orphanage earlier this year. If you’re worried about dousing your house and body in tons of chemicals, Norwex is something you have to check out! I’ve created a FB group for this fundraiser and our friend is posting lots of helpful videos and information on the products. She’s also great at answering any questions you might have. You can check it out here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/836971076354914/. Here is the link you need to use to order for our party: http://www.norwex.biz/PublicStore/event/571282/default.aspx. This fundraiser ends October 28th. All of our friend’s commission will go to our adoption fund!

Shawn and Murray Norwex Fundraiser

I have an Etsy Store that you can order from at any time. Please visit me at Project823. Here’s the link: https://www.etsy.com/shop/Project823. I have jewelry, custom photo jewelry, wall art, baby stats posters and tree stump tables for sale. Items from my shop are pictured below. 100% of all Project823 sales go toward our adoption.

Copper stump Faith Charms Ombre Stump Photo jewelry Skeleton Key Necklace IMG_9562

Aspen leaf Lisa's stumpTurquoise stump

Noah Baby Print

Finally, if you don’t need any of these items and you feel led to help bring our boys home, you can always donate to our Reece’s Rainbow Fund. The link is in the sidebar of my blog and I’ll post it here as well. http://reecesrainbow.org/74704/sponsorwarren-2. All of the funds will be made available to us when we travel. All donations into this fund are tax deductible for you.:)

Let me close by saying how much we appreciate each and every one of you!! You have no idea how many tears we cry when we’ve had a bad week or day, and one of you sends us encouragement or support. We are so very humbled by your generosity and by your desire to help two boys you’ve never met become precious members of our family. It blows me away each and every time someone gives so that Shawn and Murray’s futures will be filled with hope, and more importantly, with love. We could not do this without you. God is using you mightily in our lives. He is teaching us what it means to have FAITH and to ABIDE in Him. He is teaching me that whatever circumstance I find myself in, He is watching my reaction. Will I trust Him or will I trust in my own feeble strength and ability. Will I drown in worry or be still, knowing that He who called me is faithful. He has provided through you, encouraged us through you. Thank you for being willing vessels to pour out His love in our lives. We love you all!

Lisa

Full Disclosure

I have an enemy and he has declared war. I have been in the trenches and the past few days the battle has left me worn and weary. It has been constant and, it seems, from every direction. I know the Lord is good and He has sent encouragement and support when I desperately needed it. The past few weeks, the battle has landed in the heart of my family. It struck right where it hurts. For whatever reason, all of the post-adoption “issues” have reared their ugly heads and come crashing in this week. I can’t help but think this is preparation for what lies ahead…

Life after adoption…much has been written about it and by WAY better moms than me. But for the sake of my sanity, I need a place to dump all of this. Life after adoption is not all sweet pictures, smiles and the world made right. It is not always love at first sight or even love in the first year. It can be so hard. Afterall, adoption is born out of loss. This loss is so deep and wide that I feel like we could all drown in it at times. It permeates every nook and cranny and colors the world for the child caught in it’s wake. For the past 6 years we have loved and wrestled with this child. It has been an all out battle for his heart. Just when I think we have torn down a wall, he quickly slaps up another, bigger one. There is nothing quite like parenting a child with little or no attachment to you. They have no sense of right or wrong, no ability to have empathy, they lie. They seemingly have no ability to learn from past experience, no desire to please their parents, they push us away and manipulate us to get what they want. The worst has been seeing my child cuddle up to every stranger or extended family member, flash them the sweetest smile and beg for these people to take him home. And worse yet, these people fall for it hook, line and sinker. It’s not personal, we are learning this, but it stings all the same. It is a battle for their hearts, for their future, and it is intense. I am learning that this has brought every weakness I have, every flaw into the light of day and it is ugly. I am not the mom I wanted so desperately to be and I am not enough for my child. I am broken, he is broken and together we are a mess.

I look at my daughter, the tiny girl who tried to claw my eyes out those first few days together. The girl who held so much grief in her little baby body that it broke my heart. I didn’t think she would ever heal and I felt like I had ruined her life. She was loved and cared for by a sweet woman that I’ll never get to know. Her foster mom taught her to trust, taught her what love was and how to form a healthy attachment to her caregiver. I wish I could find her and hug the daylights out of her! That precious woman gave my girl such a gift! I couldn’t possibly appreciate it properly at the time. When I look at my girl and how attached she is to us, I know it is because of the love this woman poured into her life those first two years. Our son did not have this. The alarms should’ve sounded when he clung to me, a complete stranger, when we returned to the government office to sign adoption papers. His familiar caregivers were there and he wanted nothing to do with them. He refused to be put down, I even had to hold him for his visa photo. Instead of alarm, I felt needed. I felt giddy with relief at how smoothly this was going. Stupid girl. Over the next few days and subsequent years, experience would tell me how stupid I was to think that was a good thing. I am learning just how deep this wound goes and experiencing firsthand the destruction that follows.

For the sake of full disclosure, I want you to know what real life is like post-adoption. It is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, it is the best thing I’ve ever done. It is allowing God to reveal my brokenness, to force me to my knees in search of Him. It is knowing that I am not enough, that I am not redeeming anyone, HE IS! It is getting a glimpse of what my Heavenly Father is like and knowing how deeply I need Him. I am broken, I push him away, I lie, I manipulate, I refuse to learn, I am calloused and I run away from Him more than I’d like to admit. But God, he pursues me with an unfailing love. He lays down His life for me. He is the Good Shepherd, the Gate who puts himself between me and danger. He pursues me all of the days of my life because He is love and He loves me. He calls me to abide in Him and He will love this sweet boy through me. I fail, but He never fails.

My sweet, broken boy…how I wish I could’ve been there for you those first years. There to hold you, nurse you, rock you and kiss you. There to sing into your ear when you were restless, kiss your hurt knees, tuck you into a warm bed and there to answer when you cried. I wish I could’ve been there to smile back at you, to clap loudly when you took your first steps and to gush over you like you were the best, cutest and smartest baby ever born. Every kid deserves that. It breaks my heart that some never get that, that MY baby didn’t get that. You are worth the fight, worth the wait and worth every hard day it takes to bring your walls down.

Peace

My head is LOUD. At any given moment I can have about 4 conversations going on with myself. I sort through every possible outcome, weigh each and every potential criticism and try with all my might to avoid said criticism and the worst outcomes my overactive imagination can conjure up. The past few weeks have been like this. The noise was loud and obnoxious. I was overwhelmed, stressed out and tired. Even more than that, something just felt “off”. I’ve been in that place before and luckily, I’m learning, albeit slowly. Past experience has taught me that this is the end of myself. The place where I find out just how limited my resources/strength/abilities are. It’s the place that says, “Hang it up sister, you’re done.”. I’ve been here too many times to count. Shamefully, I’m hard-headed and it takes me awhile, but I know that as long as I have Jesus, I have peace. On the ride home from the doctor’s appointment, when my world was crumbling- peace. When I held my dad’s hand as his heart thumped it’s last precious beats – peace. Peace in the bitter, peace in the sorrow, peace in uncertainty, peace in happiness and peace in the sweetness of life. Peace because the One who loves me, the One who is more than able, has my life in the palm of His mighty hand. Nothing can touch me that He hasn’t allowed. He is sovereign over every single moment of my life. When I carefully unpack the weight I’ve been carrying and place it on His strong shoulders, I can breathe. I come to the place where I finally rest my weary head and submit to the One who has all strength, wisdom, power, ability and resources. It’s the fork in the road that I stand at. It’s the moment I choose to believe Him over the noise and take the path that He is calling me to walk. Peace. Absolute peace follows.

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6,7

28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

Matthew 11:28

We have weighed all the possibilities, thought about the criticism we are likely to receive and yet we know that He has placed not just Shawn before us, but another precious boy as well. As crazy as people are likely to think we are :), we know that this is right. We are so thrilled to announce that we will be bringing home 2 amazing boys! Murray is Shawn’s age and is at the same orphanage in Eastern Europe. They will be brothers and beloved sons. I have followed this boy’s journey since before we committed to Shawn. I rejoiced when he was chosen and was so saddened when it didn’t work out, twice. I looked at his sweet face and prayed that his family would come for him. I had no idea it would be us. Little by little his smile and his story worked it’s way into our hearts and we knew he was ours. I know many of you will wonder about added expenses and rightfully so! Adding Murray to our adoption will increase our costs by $5,000. Luckily, he has a RR grant of $2,800 towards that. We have been so incredibly blessed by each one of you. Whether you pray for us, for our boys; whether you’ve given or bought something to help us bring them home. Each and every way that you have supported our journey is so appreciated by Scott and I. We see the way that God is using each one of you to bring our boys home and it never ceases to blow us away. THANK YOU!!!

Now, it is my absolute pleasure to introduce you to Murray! Isn’t he so handsome?!

http://reecesrainbow.org/74704/sponsorwarren-2

Always on my mind

Somewhere on the other side of the world, Shawn celebrated his birthday this month. He moved from being a boy into being a teen and I’m not sure how it was celebrated or even if it was. I am here, he is there, and therein lies the problem. I am aching to get to him. It’s the same feeling I had when I got the first updated pictures of our daughter. She was in China and I was here. She looked stoic, no light in her eyes. I longed to get to her, to see her happy. It was an ache that stayed with me until the sweet day that I felt the weight of her fill my arms. The day I heard her precious voice and felt her heart thumping against my chest. She was with me and whatever lay ahead, we were together and that was a huge comfort. For the past 8 years, I’ve had the joy of hearing my sweet girl’s laugh fill our home. She is an absolute treasure. I’ll never forget seeing her go from a much too serious faced todder to a giggling baby with light in her eyes! She was loved, she had a full tummy and she was happy. Don’t get me wrong, our girl grieved hard in our beginning months. She would go from that happy baby to withdrawn and raging. I don’t want to give you the wrong idea about adoption and the transition that follows, but we saw what she would become, even in those first few days and it was beautiful. I cannot imagine my life without that precious girl in it, just as I cannot imagine my life without Shawn in it.

There is so much I cannot control in his adoption. It honestly keeps me up in the still of the night and then the only thing I can do is pray. Pray for his protection, pray for provision to get to him, pray for the wisdom to love him well…I just pray. I would love it if you would pray for him too. He’s just a little boy, alone in this world with no mama to hold him, no one to tell him how special and loved he is. It breaks my heart. If you feel led, please donate to his adoption grant on Reece’s Rainbow in honor of his birthday. The link to our family’s grant is at the bottom of this blog. Here it is as well:
http://reecesrainbow.org/74704/sponsorwarren-2

We are working tirelessly to raise the money we’ll need to have for his adoption but honestly, we need your help to get there. We are blessed beyond measure because through you, God has provided everything we have needed when we need it. We are so thankful for each of you. We are so thankful for our awesome God and his love and care for us. I know that when He calls us, He equips us for the task. I knew going in that it would be all God who got us to our boy and it has been! We had nothing to start with and little by little we have been covered. I am in complete awe of how He works and of the fact that He chooses to use me in His plans. I am a hot mess who needs His grace minute by minute to get me through and yet, He called me. Blows me away. He is longing to have us with Him just as we are longing to have Shawn with us.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. (‭John‬ ‭14‬:‭1-3‬ ESV)

Happy Birthday my sweet boy. Some day soon I’ll hold you in my arms, hear your sweet voice and delight over the miracle that is you. You will always be celebrated and you will always know that you are wanted and loved. You are always on my mind and always in my heart.

Coming Up For Air

jumping_out_of_water_joy

It has been BUSY!!! Just when I think we are going to get to a place that will allow some much needed down time, something else comes up. Scott and I both feel like we are running at breakneck speed and have no time to actually form a thought, much less have a conversation. When we actually do get 5 minutes to talk, we are too tired to have any meaningful conversation. Along those lines, you’ll just have to forgive me and my scattered brain for the lack of flow with this blog post. The past few weeks have been filled with cars breaking down and getting them repaired, getting our home ready (painting, insulating and cleaning), moving family members, having a HUGE yard sale, sending 6 kids off to school, going to PT, going to the orthodontist, being a taxi in a car with NO AC and Scott being buried at work. He is seriously leaving the house by 6:30 and not getting home til 7 or later. He eats dinner then works til 1am and does it all over again the next day. It has been INSANE!! As if that weren’t enough, my day is now split in half with our youngest going half-day to Kindergarten. I spend 3 hours driving each day between 7:15 and 3:30. Did I mention that it’s 103* outside and I have no AC? :) Although, the red face and back sweat worked for me yesterday. Ha! I had to make the trek into downtown Phoenix to get copies of birth certificates and apparently they stop printing them at 4. I walked in at 4:07. One huge sob story later and those puppies were in my hot little hands! It also helps when you have a legion of sweaty, exhausted kids in tow!

I am SO, SO HAPPY to announce that our first home study visit is scheduled for tomorrow, finally! We can officially get this ball rolling already. It is so nerve wracking to have someone come into your home to assess your parenting, your marriage, your history and your life. I know it’s absolutely necessary, but it’s nerve wracking nonetheless! The next 24 hours will be filled with deep cleaning and then protecting the clean house like a guerilla fighter from a band of kids that still refuse to pick up after themselves no matter how big they get! I’ll scramble to gather the last of the documents and compile a list of questions for our social worker because that’s how I roll. Ask me about the semester long project that I did the night before it was due in college! Got an A btw. :) Pray that the home study goes well!

We also had our yard sale fundraiser. We were SO blessed by all of our friends, family and co-workers. You all donated so many wonderful items for the sale!! We worked three solid days to unload, organize and sell items and it paid off! Through you, the Lord added nearly $1700 to our adoption fund. AMAZING!!! We also have so much leftover that we will have another sale in our hometown in the next few weeks. Whatever is left after that will be donated. I’ll keep you posted on all of that in the coming weeks. I desperately need to revise our fundraising thermometer and stats, I just can’t figure out the widgets on this stinkin blog!!! I have to wait for Scott to get that done. :) Thank goodness he’s a techie. I’ll post the numbers in the next few days, but I do know that I am totally amazed at how the Lord has provided for this adoption. When this was but a yearning in my heart, I couldn’t fathom how in the world we would be able to cover the expense of this adoption. Time and time again, He has provided everything we need, just when we need it. It absolutely leaves me speechless! The way that He has provided through people we know and love, as well as complete strangers, has been an added blessing and has been so very humbling to witness. THANK YOU for caring and for giving so that “Shawn” can have a family. That just blows me away. My Etsy store, Project823, has brought in just under $1000 for our adoption fund. It has gone sort of stagnant so I’ve been brainstorming other ideas to sell there, in addition to the mustard seed necklaces. We made our first tree trunk side table and sold that. I LOVED that project! Here’s a picture of it.
IMG_9562

I’m also working on some wall art to sell. When I get a chance, I’ll finish the frame and post a picture of the one I’m working on. It’s been fun to come up with ideas and to work with my hubby to make them. He’s super talented and can build anything I dream up. He’s pretty awesome like that!

I think that’s about it for now. We’re just plugging away and trying to keep our heads above water at the moment. Please continue to pray for our boy when you think of it. I appreciate each one of you more than you’ll ever know!

A mama’s heart

“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

John 14:18

I love this boy. I cannot explain how that is so, but it is so. I think of all the things I do not yet know about him. How his laugh sounds, what he likes to play, what he is afraid of. I realize I do not know even the basic things like the day he was born on, what he eats for his meals, how he spends his time or what his story is. For now, he is a beautiful mystery that I hope and pray I get a lifetime to unfold.

I spend my days stealing long glances at his sweet face on my phone. I study his features and try to guess what he’s feeling or thinking in the photo. I picture him riding in the car with my other kids, sitting at the breakfast table or sleeping soundly in their shared room. I live in this place for now, praying for the day when I will finally meet the boy that has my whole heart.

As we hit yet another snag in our adoption process this week, I’ve been thinking of him all the more. Longing to be where he is. Longing to know him and to be his mama. Longing to take care of him and to love and cherish him for who he is. Longing to hold him close and give him a safe place. I know that he is worth every single snag and the trials that come along with them. He is so very worth fighting for! I will do anything for him. I’m a mom and that’s what we do!

Moms will fight for their child when necessary, love them with every fiber of ourselves, hit our knees on their behalf and whisper a million thanks to God for giving us this honor and privilege. It is all at once breath taking, awe inspiring, frustrating and a job that I don’t ever feel quite qualified to undertake. Being a mom has made me painfully aware of my sinfulness. It has sent me running straight for my Heavenly Father and made me desperate for His strength and grace and mercy just to get through the day. Being a mom is the best way I could possibly imagine to spend my life and I am so thankful that I get to spend my life with these precious little people! I’m so thankful that in His wisdom, He created me to be a mom. I’m so thankful that He put “Shawn” in front of me and gave me a love for this boy that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet.

We would love it if you could pray for “Shawn” and for this whole crazy process. Pray specifically that “Shawn” would be well taken care of and that the Lord would prepare his heart for a family. Please pray that we would find a good home study agency to continue our adoption. Pray for wisdom and the grace to wait on Him. I am not a good “waiter” you guys. I’m getting better because I have to, but it’s hard! I know that His timing is perfect. I know He’s always working, even when I can’t see it. I am confident of these things and I wonder what He is up to during our wait. :) Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Thank you for your prayers and support! We appreciate each and every one of you!

This is the way; walk in it

I realize that it’s been quite awhile since my last post. I know I have to be better about keeping this up to date, but truthfully, I have been struggling to stay positive. Who wants to read a bunch of depressing ramblings from me, I don’t even want to write them! Unless you’ve waited to bring a child home, you probably won’t relate to this, but I miss him. I just want to get to this boy that already has my heart. Things are at a stand still. We know now that we cannot pursue an “independent” adoption with the help of a facilitator only. We will have to use an adoption agency to oversee our in-country process in order to follow the new law going into effect on July 14th which mandates that we use an accredited adoption agency. This will mean added costs and delays. I’m trying to work out a way to proceed with our HS agency now. They haven’t gotten back to me on whether or not it will work or if it does work, how much extra it will be in fees. I’m frustrated and sad. I look at my son’s sweet face throughout the day and it kills me not to be able to get to him, at least to be making progress on getting to him! It’s been three weeks of nothing and it stinks. I know, God’s timing is perfect and it is! I know that He is working all the time, even when I can’t see it. Maybe I just need to see that in black and white to feel comforted by it, because sitting here and typing that does bring me some comfort.

Last week, He gave me wonderful surprises. They were sweet little bread crumbs that told me to keep on going, that this was the right path. Feeling discouraged and wondering how we would get the money we need to travel, I tuned into a podcast sermon and heard the words,

“Anything God calls you to do, He equips you to do it. Anything God calls you to do, He will enable you to do it. Anything God calls you to do, He assumes responsibility for the resources needed to carry it out. My responsibility is to respond and obey Him. His responsibility is the gifts, talents, abilities and resources.” 

Later that week, I was really down, really thinking that we might have to accept that this wouldn’t happen and my heart would be broken. As I had just typed that text to my husband, I got a FB message from another mom adopting from Shawn’s region. She had a sweet update for me. Beautiful timing! I got to be reminded of who I’m fighting for, of why this and every struggle is so very worth it. As I was typing out my thank you to this sweet woman, I was reminded of the verse, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah 30:21. It was the memory verse for my Sunday School class the previous week. I thought it was especially fitting for me to have that verse fresh in my mind. I knew, He was giving me this encouragement just when I needed it; telling me to keep going. Later that same day, I made a wrong turn and found myself driving by a park I’d wanted to check out for years but haven’t because it’s so far from our house. Why not? I turned into the park and let Asher play while Noah and I watched. A little guy walked up to Noah and started chatting away. He was super cute and he loved Noah! That led to his mom and I having a conversation while Noah entertained our boys. She immigrated to the US 12 years ago and actually speaks the same language that Shawn speaks! I told her about our adoption and she was so excited. She has a huge heart for adoption and appreciates what a difference a family will make in the life of an orphaned child. She told me that if he stays in his country, he has no hope, no future. She said that anytime I needed a translator, she would be more than happy to help me! She gave me a lot of insight into Shawn’s birth country and was so encouraging about the whole adoption. It was awesome! She said she’d never been to that particular park because she lives 35 minutes away and I admitted that I was there for the first time too because we lived so far away. She asked where I lived, turns out, we live down the road from each other- 3 miles apart! What are the chances? As we left the park, I told my son, Noah, it was a day that had God’s fingerprints all over it. :)

Image

All of that to say, it has been challenging. The past month has been crazy busy with the kids’ schedules, I have been sick multiple times and our adoption has met some roadblocks to say the least! I am constantly being reminded that I cannot do this. I don’t have the resources or the energy to pull this off. I have to stay connected to Jesus. It’s the only way. He has everything I need and He will accomplish His will no matter what. I just have to be still and trust him. 

Our HS agency just emailed me while I was writing this. They are working out a contract with our facilitation team. Thankfully, one of the reasons that I chose this particular HS agency was because they knew and have worked with our team in the past. They had wonderful things to say about working with them! That has been a huge blessing! Because of that relationship, they are willing to forge a partnership for the sake of completing our adoption. Please pray that we get an agreement in place so that our HS can continue and that God would provide the money we need to bring Shawn home. Pray above all for Shawn; that he would be well cared for and loved while he waits. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

 

Blown away

Blown away, that’s totally what I am. Last week I received a letter in the mail from my sweet cousin and taped to the letter was a check for our adoption. The check was all of the money in their own adoption account, generously and sacrificially gifted to us. I was crying before I even read her words and I was utterly stunned. I could not believe that there are people like Karen and Josh in this world. That they would give so generously to us! You have to read Karen’s blog in order to fully appreciate the weight and love of this gift. Read her blog here.

Karen and Josh have loved and lost four precious babies. Their kids have loved and lost their siblings. I cannot even speak to the pain they have walked through having never known that kind of pain myself. I can only imagine that it is gut wrenching and deep and all consuming. I was asked by them to take pictures of their beautiful daughter, Lily, when she was born asleep. I watched them love her and marvel at how tiny and perfect she was. I watched them pray over her and love each other in such a way that it was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. They pursued adoption and we were overjoyed when they were matched with a birth mom who was expecting a baby girl. I watched Karen and Josh do fundraisers, work extra hours and do anything and everything  they could to bring their baby home. God was faithful and He provided. They were devastated and we were all stunned when the baby they loved and were preparing for was diagnosed with a fatal condition. Their hearts were broken yet again. I couldn’t wrap my head around how cruel this was. They were such amazing parents. They had lost so much and yet they continued to love and to pour themselves out in any way that they could. Even in their pain, they continued to bless others.

I tell you all of this so that you will understand how beautiful this gift is to us. It represents their love, compassion and sacrifice and it represents their unimaginable losses.  Wrapped up in each of those dollars is their heart and their story. It is a precious gift, a priceless gift.

I am blown away that two years ago when they started their own adoption journey, God was moving. He used their little Ember to draw their heart towards foster care adoption and he blessed their family when Karen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He knew that when they gave themselves one year to decide what to do, that we would be embarking on our adoption. He moved their hearts to give so that our boy Shawn could know the love of a mom and dad; so that he could find himself in the midst of brothers and a sister who adore him. Most importantly, they gave so that one orphaned boy could know that the God of the universe made him and loves him beyond our wildest beliefs. Not only will Shawn have the hope and future that comes with being a treasured part of a family, but he will know the One who is hope and who gives him a future.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Josh and Karen. You have no idea how much you mean to us and how grateful and humbled we are that you would give so generously to us. Thank you to each person who gave toward Josh and Karen’s adoption. Your love for them has now been lavished upon us and we are so grateful to each one of you. Thank you doesn’t even seem adequate, but thank you nonetheless for being part of the amazing story God is writing as He makes a boy across the globe our beloved son.

Faithful

This weekend, my husband and I took our kids and headed to his parents house. We both grew up in a small town and actually lived across the street from each other throughout high school. :) Our little hometown has an annual carnival and parade that we loved and looked forward to each year growing up. I haven’t been to it since my dad died 8 years ago and it was time to introduce most of our kids to this tradition.

While we were staying with my in-laws, I had quite the deja vu moment. It was late Friday night and I couldn’t seem to sleep. As I laid in the guest room I found myself in yet another middle of the night battle. It seems fear just lurks around the edges of my day, waiting for the perfect stillness of the night to rear it’s ugly head and attempt to steal my peace. I was reminded of the last time I had laid in that very bed, in the guest room of my sweet in-laws and it brought fresh tears and a deep peace when I recalled how faithful my Lord is.

13 years ago, we made the ride to Scott’s parents in silence, except for the quiet verses of “Shout to the Lord” playing in the background. It was the only noise in our car. I clung to each word of that song, because I knew that no matter what was wrong with my baby inside of me, He would be the only way that I could get through it. After driving for over an hour on winding mountain roads, we finally arrived at their house. I don’t remember much of it except telling them through a lot of tears that something was wrong with our son and we didn’t know much else. The words hydrocephalus, CMV , Toxoplasmosis, pressure, fluid and brain damage were foreign to me. I choked them out as best I could and it felt like some other person was doing the talking. I remember Scott’s mom hugging me and seeing her cry along with me. I honestly can’t recall anything else except getting into bed that night. We hadn’t wanted to make the drive home where it would become real and where we would deal with it on our own. We opted to crawl into the guest room at his parents with my sweet 2 year-old tucked in beside me. I remember feeling like my body had betrayed me when I looked at my swollen, pregnant belly. I was scared for my baby son’s future and what life would be like for him and for us. He was eerily still in my belly and the flames of worry whipped up and threatened to consume me. I was exhausted and restless all at once. I cried myself to sleep that night.

Now, nearly 13 years later, I was laying in that same bed and once again I was fearful. It wasn’t the same fear, but fear nonetheless. As I laid there, the Holy Spirit brought me comfort, reminding me of Joshua 1:9 and Isaiah 41:10.  Sweet reassurance that my God is with me wherever I go. He reminded me of His faithfulness as I laid in that bed. He reminded me that in overwhelming situations, He is my strength and He holds our futures securely in His mighty hand. I thought about each and every miracle that happened in the life of my son and in my own life during that season.

God had allowed us to find the problem at a routine visit to my OB, a visit that I nearly cancelled. We heard his heart rate slow and skip during the few seconds the nurse held the doppler to my belly. The tests they ordered came back normal but the OB wanted to be cautious and ordered a level II ultrasound for the following week. During that ultrasound, they found the hydrocephalus. Two weeks after that, we happened to be near the high-risk OB and my aunt, a former NICU nurse, insisted that they do an ultrasound and check the pressure on Luke’s brain, (they hadn’t checked him since they had found the problem). Thankfully, they let us have an ultrasound and saw that he was under tremendous pressure and needed to be delivered asap to prevent any further damage to his brain. That was on Friday, Luke was born on Monday. He was born without any sign of a rash that would indicate an infection, a huge relief! He survived a large brain bleed, small brain bleeds, a large blood clot in his brain, hydrocephalus, weeks on the vent and even a week on the jet vent because he was so sick. His lungs improved and he learned to finally take a bottle for his feeds without having bradycardias and turning a dusky blue color. We worked for over three years to learn to crawl, to use his right side, and to walk and talk. Through it all, the Lord showed up in meaningful ways, both big and small ways. He gave us talented doctors and nurses, alerted us to problems and held us together. He surrounded us with people who opened their homes and hearts to us; people who encouraged us, babysitted for us and kept us fed. He showed up in a note from a nurse after a particularly rough night when Luke was not doing well at all. I came into the NICU to find that my son was very sick. It was devastating. Our sweet nurse, Tiffany, had taped Isaiah 40:28-31 to Luke’s incubator.

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

He showed up, He was faithful. When I couldn’t see tomorrow because I was so overwhelmed with today, He carried me. As I recalled His faithfulness, I was filled with peace. I don’t know how this adoption journey will play out. There’s a million questions that I don’t have answers for, but He does. I know He is already in tomorrow, He sees every day of my life spread out and He is walking with me every step of the way.

 

Stepping Out

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I can almost feel the spray of the water, hear the rushing and roaring of the waves in my ears. My trembling hands gripped tightly to the solid feel of the wooden boat. My heart full of icy fear and doubt, whispering, “If it’s really you, Lord…”

“Yes, come”, he says.

Come and follow me. Leave behind the safety of your little world. Deny yourself; your dreams, your plans and your desires. Take up your cross and follow me.

How many times this past year have I repeated those same words that Peter uttered, “If it’s really you, Lord…show me, make it clear, give me the courage, change hearts, open doors, provide what I need.” The list goes on and on. Over and over again He proves himself faithful. He gives me just the scripture I needed to hear, just the bit of encouragement to continue. Provision at exactly the right time. Doors opened, hearts changed. I sit in total amazement of this Jesus who is my Lord and who loves me like no one will ever love me.   He is so good and He has poured out grace upon grace upon grace in my life. I know that. It is like bedrock for my soul. He is the anchor for my life, holding me steadfast in turbulent seas. But the doubts, boy do they come. They come at me fast and angry in the stillness of the evening when all of my babies are tucked tightly into their beds. While I lay under the thick blanket of the night, alone with my thoughts. What if I can’t? I don’t deserve this blessing. I haven’t been faithful. I am not a good enough mother. What if, what if, what if??? My fears, my doubts are because of my weakness. I know full well how broken I am, how faithless and how still steeped in sin I am. It smacks me in the face and drives me straight to my knees. In the darkness I cling like a terrified child to His promise.

” …I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5,9

While I am weak, He is strong. While I am faithless, He is faithful. I know His grace is sufficient for me, that His power is made perfect in weakness.  I know that when He calls, He equips. So while none of this may make sense by the world’s standards, I know that I will follow Him, no matter where He takes me. It most certainly won’t be easy but I can rest in the promise that He will never leave me. He will be with me and that’s enough for me. It compels me to loosen my grip on the familiar, to stick one wobbly leg over the edge, followed by the other. To feel the joy and the exhilaration as I find myself looking into the face of my Savior and standing atop the raging seas.