Friday, December 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, Titus!

 Titus turned 3 years-old this week, and we have big news to celebrate!

On Saturday, we received in the mail one of our very important approvals, moving us on to the next phase of our adoption process!  Our initial immigration paperwork was received by our agency today and will be going out in the mail next week.  In the meantime, we are working hard on gathering all of the support papers necessary for our dossier, which is all of our approvals and supporting paperwork that will be sent to China, translated, and used to review our match with Titus for our final approvals.

Happy Birthday, Titus!  
We have much to celebrate together and can't wait until we celebrate having you in our arms!
Note: Remember the coat and winter clothes I tailored for him in THIS POST?  Look at how nicely the coat fits!!!  I've literally woken up in the middle of the night wondering if I made the arm too short or too long.  It looks perfect, and makes this mama's heart happy!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Three Sacred Days

I think most moms have a bit of a sense of nostalgia on their child's birthday.  Remembering exactly when the labor started, how the birth progressed, that first cry, first cuddles, the smell of a newborn's skin.  We remember, too, the sleepless nights, the innate fears, waking every half hour just to make sure he's still breathing.  There is nothing like the newborn days, full of trials and treasures.

I have one son whose newborn days are not my treasure; they belong to his other mother, his "Birth Mom", his "China Mom", his "Tummy Mummy".  (We're still not sure how we'll refer to Her, but I do know she'll forever have a place in our hearts and conversations.)

I know nothing of Titus' newborn days.  I look at his baby pictures (the earliest I have is 6 months old) and mourn that I'll never hold that sweet, tiny infant, never smell that newborn's skin, or recall in striking detail just how he entered the world.  Each one of my children entered the world in their own ways, giving surprising foreshadows to their personalities and preferences.  My oldest was precise, a textbook delivery (as far as the Doc is concerned), entered the world with a strong voice, determination, and a 9/10 APGAR.  She's always known just what she wants and exactly how to communicate it.  She feels a burden to do things "just right", and likes rules (especially the ones she makes!)  My second was born posterior, facing the opposite direction than "usual".  If you know her, you understand that completely!  She hummed with every breath for her first 24 hours and my midwife kept checking her lungs to make sure everything was OK.  "All is well, she is just singing".  She sings still.  My third came out so chill and relaxed I thought he wasn't alive.  Honestly.  He gave his obligatory cry after plenty of pokes and prods just to get us to stop.  He's hardly cried since.  He exudes contentment and peace in a way I never knew a toddler could.  All throughout my pregnancy with him I felt there was something different about him, both physically and spiritually, and I felt peace.  Something in his spirit still leaves me expectant. And his extremely mild "special needs" led us to Titus.

But only She remembers clearly how Titus entered the world and any hints that may have for his personality.  Only She could answer my questions about his first days.  When Titus was found, he was estimated to be about three days old.  I imagine that was accurate.  That means he may have had about three days, three sacred days, with his birth mother.  I can only imagine what those days must have been like, but She must remember in detail.  First, there's the story of his labor and birth, his first cry, the feeling of relief... then discovering his differences.  Her joy so immediately turned to sorrow.  Then came the discussions, the decisions.  Were there moments of peace and normalcy?  Moments she almost forgot his differences and frail health?  Did she sing him songs and whisper to him the story of how she met his father?  There are many social, cultural, and practical pressures in his birth country that may have played a role in his abandonment.  I will probably never know what led them to their decision, but after a lot of reading books and biographies surrounding the subject, one of my guesses is that his birth parents recognized medical needs that they were unable to handle.  Perhaps their decision was rooted in a love so big that they would give him up for the hope that he might live.

How does she handle these days?  His birthday and the days following to his abandonment?  Does she clear her schedule and find a quiet place to mourn?  Does she fill her calendar so she can't stop to reflect?  Does she ever speak about him?  Does she imagine him growing up?  Does she believe he is alive?

I feel strangely connected to her today, as if I could look in the mirror and see her in my reflection. She mourns his future she'll never know; I mourn his past that Jesus can redeem, but I can never reclaim.  My joy is born of her tragedy; my future of her past.   I wish I could know that which she may wish to forget.  We are both separated from our son today, wondering what he is doing, how he feels, if anyone is holding him and making him smile.

I do not know how she copes, but I do know that I will focus these three days, for the rest of my life, on praying for her, because Jesus' redemption is the only way I can cope with the brokenness of this life.  I pray that she will find peace in Christ's forgiveness and hope in his promises.  I pray that some day in Eternity I'll see her.  I'll know her immediately from her brave dark chocolate eyes, dimpled round cheeks and perfectly arched eyebrows that she passed on to our son.  And we'll celebrate together all our lives ransomed in Christ.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Seeing the Rainbow

Rainbow (noun)
1. a bow or arc of prismatic colors appearing in the heavens opposite the sun and caused by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays in drops of rain.

Sometimes, on the hard days, it is difficult to see that there is light at the end of this long and dark paperwork tunnel.  One of the things that keeps me going is staying in touch with other adoptive families who are further along in the process or who have already traveled across oceans and back with their children.  It is a reminder that the end goal of all of this filing paperwork and waiting and filing paperwork and waiting again, is a child's life redeemed and an entire family changed forever.  

Sometimes all I see is the storm.  The whole reason we're doing what we're doing is because Titus, and millions of orphans around the world, have experienced unfathomable tragedy in their short lives.  The very first rainbow appeared to Noah as a beautiful sign of God's promise never to flood the earth again... AFTER nearly everything and everyone on the face of the earth were wiped out by the flood.  And so the beautiful things we are learning through adoption, about God's love for us, are all coming out of tragedy.  Rainbows don't show up when the whole sky is sunny.

 And that brings me to our latest update on Titus!  This week God gave me the blessing of spending a short time with our friends who are newly home from China.  It was such joy to me to see their daughter in their home, already a changing little girl with the knowledge of her parents' love.  They gave me the gift of a new video of Titus.  They were apologetic that it isn't a better video, that he wasn't cooperating, that there isn't much to see in it.  BUT, through the tears (or because of the tears!), I see an rainbow!  The video is a large file and difficult to upload, so I took some still shots of it to share with you!  Just look at all the beauty:
When they came into the room, Titus had been standing at the gate.  He saw them and began running away, then settled down with a toy.  They say he is generally afraid of strangers.   

Here the nanny gently rolls up the sleeve on his short arm.  I sure hope the new shirts and coat that I tailored fit him!  I was happy to see her caring about him being able to use that hand.

Our friends ask if they can see him to get a photo.

Here's my favorite part!!!!  Paul tells the nanny, through a translator, that they have friends (us!) in the process to adopt him.

I LOVE the look on her face and her gestures in holding and patting his back as she receives the news!  

I believe that Titus is well loved!
Now he's had enough of the strangers and runs away.

See how the nanny in the back holds her arms out to him...

...then embraces him?! 
So, although he is crying throughout the video, this video is a treasure for me!  Here is the rainbow I can see here that I haven't seen in any of the other videos we have:

1) He is loved.  When we began his adoption process we did not know what kind of orphanage he was in.  We have found out that he is in a special sponsored area of the orphanage where there is a better ratio of nannies, they have more resources, and the nannies are trained in attachment, bonding, and other necessary elements of a healthy childhood.  I believe I see genuine care in these nannies and that they are giving him love and affection.  I think they're doing the best they can in a difficult situation.

2) He knows he is loved.  He knows who to turn to when he is upset and that his needs matter.  He knows he is worthy of affection and comfort.

3) He knows how to love.  Showing preference for his caregivers over strangers (even at the offer of food or candy) is a really good sign.  I am already hurting for how he will grieve the loss of the nannies he loves.  BUT he knows how to form a healthy bond with adults and he will eventually learn to transfer that bond to us, his parents!  Children who have never had a healthy connection with an adult are more prone to serious emotional and social problems and a much more difficult time bonding with a new family.

Also, not included in the video are some comments the nannies made to our friends.  They said that he is strong and tough.  He can hold on to toys in his little arm so tightly that even bigger kids can't tug them away!  He's gonna need that skill when he meets his new little brother!

We are encouraged by all these things and thank God that he is being well taken care of until we can get him home.  Please continue to join us in prayer for:
1. His health and development
2. Our current paperwork to continue moving along in a timely way
3. His nannies and orphanage directors to have the wisdom and resources they need to provide excellent care

Thank you for sharing our journey!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Christmas Shopping

Please see my heart first as I share these opportunities with you.  I am not asking you to buy these things in order to help our adoption*.  I was hesitant at first to provide any fundraisers that require people to buy something because I don't want anyone to feel obligated to buy something they don't really want.  BUT, as people began approaching me with these opportunities, I began to see that the heart of it is that these are friends wanting to help give to our adoption and the best way for them to give is through their business.  Please do not purchase things here solely as a means of supporting our adoption*.  My intent in sharing these opportunities with you is that IF these are things you would be interested in purchasing ANYWAY, this is an opportunity for your purchase to ALSO benefit our adoption.  Does that make sense?  Please please please don't feel obligated to buy!  Now, with that said...

 These are some wonderful opportunities to do your Christmas shopping and at the same time help Titus come home! 

We will keep these opportunities listed on the sidebar of the blog (just below Titus' photo) until the promotions have ended.  Please feel free to share the links with anyone you think may be interested in these products.  -------------->   -------------->   -------------->

Click on each picture below (or the links on the sidebar) to view the page about their products and instructions on how to buy!

Specialty Settlers of Catan Game Pieces by Build3D
Advent and Armor of God Devotional Puzzles

Jamberry Nail Wraps

Pashmina Scarves/Shawls

Thumbprint Trees

*There will soon be an opportunity to simply give to our adoption without purchasing anything.  We are working on providing a tax-deductible method of giving and are praying it can be accomplished before the end of the year.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Glorious Unfolding

Today was another memorable day in our journey for Titus.  My mom's neighborhood hosted a craft and vendor fair and I decided to give it a try with my Etsy trees.  Mom has just arrived home from Egypt and had some handicrafts to add to our table as well.  Even aside from making sales in an event like this, I was excited to simply spread the word about adoption.  I worked hard all week to increase my inventory of trees to sell on the spot.  I woke up today unsure of what to expect, whether all our work would be worth the effort or not.

I got the car loaded to take over to the clubhouse and started the engine and immediately my favorite "Titus song" began playing on the radio.  It makes me cry every single time.  If you're looking for a good cry today, think of my boy, far away in China, abandoned at three days old, a host of health issues, constant change in caregivers, malnourished, without unconditional love, and about to pass his third birthday without his parents.  Now listen to this song... (get your tissues)

Starting my day at the craft fair with that song made me feel like God was going to do something big.  And he did!

I had barely set up my booth and we were still an hour from opening to the public before I had my first sale!
When it was all said and done, I made a little over $200 toward Titus' adoption expenses!  But the blessings didn't end there.  I made many contacts and had several people interested in ordering trees online once they thought through what they want it to say and which options they want.  I enjoyed great conversations with shoppers and other vendors, and was given a generous donation by the vendor whose space was next to mine.

The greatest blessing in all of it was the opportunity to raise awareness about adoption.  I was able to speak with a few couples who have been considering adoption for some time and had questions about how to go about it.  I dispelled some myths and misconceptions about adoption, and most importantly, I got to share WHY we were compelled to adopt Titus, and how God has already worked miracles to bring him into our family.

Please be praying with me that the seeds sewn today will bear good fruit.

There are many blessings unfolding during this season of our waiting.  Some days are just plain hard and my heart aches and I have tears in my eyes all day because my boy's homecoming feels so far away.  Some days there isn't anything I can do but wait.  Days like today are springs of water in the desert to carry me through.  Each day that passes is another day my son spends in an orphanage, but it is also one day closer to the day he comes home!

And now the icing on the cake....

Remember the family I told you about that live just a few miles from me, whose daughter was in Titus' orphanage?  I'm going to the airport TONIGHT to welcome them home from China!  Another wonderful reminder that we do not labor in vain.  Our son will come home and one day many of you will be welcoming us home with a new little US citizen!  Thank you for journeying along side us.  Please be in prayer for our friends as they adjust to their new family life and explore their daughter's medical, emotional, and developmental needs.  And stayed tuned to our blog in the coming weeks for more of this GLORIOUS UNFOLDING!  We have some big things coming...

Monday, October 13, 2014

To China, With Love

I spent some time this past weekend sewing, and I have to say, it was probably my favorite sewing project ever.  I altered some winter clothing for Titus so that his shorter arm will be free to use.  It is quite understandable that the orphanage does not alter his clothes, as they must be used for other children later, but it does break my heart to see these winter pictures of his arm trapped deep inside the sleeves of a snowsuit or sweater.  He likely goes all winter with very limited use of that hand.

But look at him grab on to these blocks through the sweater anyway!

This winter, for the first time in his life, this sweet boy has clothes made just for him!  It dawned on me that these are also his very first possessions that are just his own.  I cried as I sewed his name into each piece of clothing - a warm coat, a snowsuit, 2 thermal tops, a fleece jacket, and a cuddly fleece one-piece suit!

I chose this shirt because the layered look makes it super easy to alter, and because the snowboarder feels really fuzzy.  I figured he'd enjoy feeling that.
I also bought Zane one of the snowboard shirt and the striped shirt.  Later, when we send family photos to Titus, we'll include some of Zane wearing those shirts, hoping to help him feel a connection to his brother and sense belonging.

   We have a huge gift in our new friends who are traveling soon to pick up their daughter.  Without them traveling at this time, we would not be able to send these clothes for Titus.  I got to spend Saturday afternoon at her welcome shower for their little girl who is currently in the same orphanage as Titus.  They leave for China in 9 days to bring her home!  I vacuum packed the clothes to save some space and handed them off to Angela.  Let's just say it was one of the most emotional days I've had so far on this journey.  I hugged a woman whose arms will (hopefully) hold my son, and I passed on these items, stitched with so much love, praying that somehow he feels that love when he wears them.  If we're being totally honest, I may have slept with a few of them the night before, hoping that even just a little bit of our scent might make it to him too!

I'm praying that at least a few of these items fit him well, that the sleeves aren't too long or too short.  Mostly, I just want him to know he is loved.  I wanted with all my heart to send along a photo album now, to introduce ourselves and let him know MOMMY AND DADDY LOVE YOU AND WE WILL COME FOR YOU!!!   Eric and I have decided to wait a few more months on that though, since what feels like a long time for us feels like an eternity to a small child.  But we are SO THANKFUL to be able to send these clothes.  Please pray with us that Angela will be able to see him and hold him, and be in prayer for their family in their travel and transition as a family.

"Betcha he reads.  Betcha she sews.  Maybe she's made me a closet of clothes..." -Annie "Maybe"

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Garage Sale Recap

First of all, THANK YOU, friends, for your outpouring of support for our garage sale fundraiser.  Thank you for clearing out your closets and garages to find items to donate.  Thank you for staying up late to bake delicious goodies for our sale. (They were a huge hit!)  Thank you for praying for our family's sanity during the past few weeks.  Thank you for putting up with us while our world was very small and focused and we didn't return phone calls or emails quickly.  and THANK YOU to the friends who stopped by to shop and say hello.  It helped break up the long days and our children especially loved having their friends to play with!

Our garage sale was successful beyond our hopes, despite closing early on Saturday due to exhaustion and sick children.

Our total so far is $1,103.75!

AND we still have enough items to keep it open for another Saturday, probably October 18.  Because of this, we will continue taking donations through Friday, October 17th! Thankfully, the most difficult work of sorting, tagging, and organizing items is finished, so it should be easier to hold it for one more day before calling for a Goodwill truck to take the leftovers.e  We also have several higher quality items listed on Craigslist that will add to our total, and there are friends across the country who have listed items on their local Craigslist and plan to donate their proceeds.  Thank you!

One of the most fun parts about our garage sale was getting to share Titus' story and connecting with others who have similar hearts.  One family came through with 11 children, many adopted from various backgrounds!  A woman from the neighborhood came through who brought a son home from Ethiopia only 3 months ago.  I am always encouraged to talk with adoptive parents who have "made it" to the other side of this process!  They understand exactly what we're going through and confirm that it is worth all the costs, financial, physical, and emotional!  Another woman came through who just returned from several months working in orphan care in Africa.  Her family business is buying gold and silver.  She identified a silver piece of jewelry that had been donated for our sale and paid me five times what I had asked for it!  Many shoppers rounded up their purchases and gave additional donations.  Some shoppers even came back later in the day with donated items for us to sell.

This is all so encouraging to us.  The garage sale proceeds are 1/2 of our next payment of $2,213 which will be due in early December in order to release our home study and move us along to the next phase, which will also allow us the opportunity to set up a qualified tax-deductible giving account.  Combined with my September earnings from thumbprint trees on our Etsy shop and generous cash donations that have been left anonymously for our family in various places, we are only short $600 to be able to make the next payment!

We know many of you are curious about the total costs and our funding plan.  Because it would make this post too long for anyone in their right mind to get through, we'll post again soon with an overview of our funding plan and our immediate next steps.

Thank you for your partnership in bringing Titus home.  This is certainly not our own effort and will only be accomplished through the Church, community, and hearts of compassion.

"Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory!"  Ephesians 3:20-21a

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Update Part 2

As promised, I'm sharing the rest of our recent update!  There isn't a lot here, but what is here is so precious to us.  Honestly, sometimes it is difficult for me to share all the details we have about Titus.  Not because we aren't excited to share, but because they're the ONLY details we have!  It's like... well, I put it out there for you all to read and all of a sudden our blog audience knows almost as much about our son as we do.  The information we received here is the only information we know about him that isn't in his official file that was accessible to thousands of people, and yet there was still a middle man (fantastic woman!) who got to know these things and see these videos before we did.  I can't wait until he is home and WE can be telling OTHERS about this amazing boy instead of the other way around.  In the meantime, I'm thankful for the care he is receiving and pray constantly for his nannies as well as for him and the other children.

Just a side note here: Zane is just as in love with Titus as the rest of us are.  He gets really excited to see his pictures, and LOVES watching his videos.  He was so animated about seeing Titus that it was hard to get a good still shot.  Here is a glimpse of his enthusiasm while watching the videos for the first time!

Here is how his orphanage answered our questions:

First of all, there was the great news that his nannies believe his hearing is normal!  See this post for more details.  We still believe he may have mild to moderate hearing loss and will be sure to get testing done quickly when he is home.

Has Titus had any surgeries or needed hospital care?
In 2012 he got sick often, hes weak, so we sent him to hospital to get needed care. 
     Thank you, Lord, for nannies who were attentive to his needs and for the orphanage's approval for his hospital care.  Thank you for the funding, likely through various charities and generous donors who took care of the hospital bills so that he could receive this care!  

What things are difficult for Titus to do with his right hand and arm that other children his age can do?  Does he seem frustrated about it?
His right hand and arm are very strong and flexible, just cant nip tiny objects. He has no problem holding a ball, or pick up something. He doesnt get frustrated. Hes always very happy. 
        Already a little overcomer!  I can't wait for this little one to blow us away with his abilities!  Lord, help us not to impose limitations but to help him find ways to do every task you set before him.

 What makes him happy or what does he like to do?
Just give him something to eat or play, he will be very happy. He also loves outdoor activities. Hes very affectionate, likes to play with the nannies hes familiar with. 
          Let me just note here that before this update, we had never seen a picture of him smiling.  It filled our hearts to know what makes him happy.  Also, many people would take this for granted, but their response tell me that HE GETS TO PLAY OUTSIDE... a totally normal childhood activity, but I wasn't sure if they did take the kids outside.  I love to hear that he is affectionate.  He'll fit right in with his siblings here!  Also, my heart aches a little bit thinking about how he will feel to leave behind the nannies he is familiar with.

How do his nannies describe his personality?
Active, brave and eager to do well in everything. 
        I can not wait to get to know this little guy!

Please describe how Titus interacts with other children.
He shares his toys with other children when hes happy. He likes to chase and play with other children in the playroom. Sometimes they play hand in hand also. 
        They have a play room!!!!  I wasn't aware of this, but we did get to see it in the video below.  So glad to know this, as I've never seen many toys in the photos of his room.  And, I love to hear that the other kids play "hand in hand" with him.  They're all growing up together, have a variety of special needs, and probably don't see him as any different.  I pray the Lord will surround him with friends throughout his life that will see him as the absolutely extraordinary fun little guy that he is without discriminating.

We received his most recent sizes and are thrilled that he has grown so much since the last measurements we had for him.  He is small for his age. Actually, he is almost exactly the same size as our son Zane.  

And without further adieu, here are 77 seconds of pure cuteness!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Say WHAT?!?!?!!

I'm sorry, could you repeat that?  I'm not sure I heard you right....

"His hearing is good.  We think he has normal hearing just like other children.  He hears everything."

This was the orphanage's response to our question about Titus' hearing.  It may not seem like a big deal, because we didn't share with many people about the doubts we had.  To catch you up... First of all, we've been aware from the beginning that in facial differences like Titus has, with a smaller ear, it is possible that there would be some hearing loss on that side.  Initially those concerns were put aside when his basic information sheet listed his hearing as "normal".  However, as we sifted through his file, we found results from a hearing test that indicated profound hearing loss in both ears.  Given the connections to other health conditions, we believed this test was likely to be accurate, except that there was an inconsistency with some information I recalled seeing on his profile with the agency who had his file when we "found" him.  I had a vague recollection if it saying "He hears and is beginning to say words such as..."   I tried to track down the source of that information, but could not.

So, believing that it is best to prepare for the worst, our family began learning ASL.  I got in touch with a friend who works for a Deaf preschool in Tulsa and sent her some of Titus' information to see if she could help us make sense of it and how to prepare to bring home a deaf toddler.  Our kids started watching "Signing Time" daily and are having fun using their signs throughout the day.

While it would have made no difference to us in regards to his adoption, if Titus were completely deaf it would change how we spend this waiting period in preparation and education.  We knew we needed clarification, so we asked some questions to the orphanage trying to determine whether the test results or the vague update were more accurate.  We had completely prepared our hearts to receive confirmation of deafness.  Instead, whoever answered the questions seemed to be confused as to why we even asked!  They also sent two new videos that seem to confirm him following verbal instructions and at one point responding to a noise heard behind him.

I have learned that many factors, such as severe illness, ear infection, and improper conditions regarding sedation, background noise, etc can influence the test results to reflect a much higher degree of hearing loss than is actually present.

So, imagine with me that you've spent the past several months suspecting that your son is completely deaf.  By completely deaf, I mean no speech communication possible, unable to hear the jet take off behind him, deaf.  Now, let me say it again so it sinks in:

"His hearing is good.  We think he has normal hearing just like other children.  He hears everything."

It is hard to know what to do with 2nd or even 3rd hand information from 7,000 miles away, but for now we are trusting that we do not need to prepare for Titus to be completely deaf.  I am just so glad for Titus that it will not be one MORE difference for him to navigate.  We will not know for sure whether he has some milder degree of hearing loss until he comes home and we are able to have all areas of his health properly assessed.  For now we are processing this unexpected news and continuing to look forward to having him home in our arms!

Coming soon... the rest of our update!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

What Do They Need?

We received an update today!!!!  We needed Titus' sizes to make sure we didn't put any clothes in our upcoming garage sale that Titus might use, so we ordered an orphanage phone call.  We got to ask 10 questions in addition to his sizes.  We were encouraged in so many ways by the information we received.  I can't wait to post more about our update, but I'm saving that for another time.  One answer from the orphanage staff gripped my heart so much that it deserves its own post:

10. What items are most needed for the children in Titus' room?

"The children in his room are all abandoned by their parents. Their most need is accompany, love and care. Material things they need is supplies like clothes, formula, rice cereal and diaper."

Just look at these adorable children in the background of our update video!  I just LOVE this little guy with the wig!

 And this sweet little face in the background here!

This photo was taken by another family who traveled to his orphanage a few months ago.  Look at those precious boys!

"Their most need is accompany, love, and care."

The state of Arizona and US Department of Immigration will only certify our family to bring home one.  Do you have accompany, love, and care to give to one, too?

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Fear, Doubt, and the Names of God

This is a post that has been sitting on the back burner simmering for a while.  I get goosebumps and tears every time I think about it but haven't quite had the courage to try putting it to words yet.  Now as I prepare to post, it has been months since the week I am about to describe to you.  I decided it is time to finish it off and post it, as we are currently facing an unexpected delay in our process.  I need to finish and share it today because it is full of hope and good news.

After our months and hours of searching, we found Titus!  And after we found him, we were able to orchestrate his file transfer!  Two huge steps to begin our journey.  Miracles, in fact.  I told my husband early on as we discussed pursuing this adoption that "if God will find this little boy, he will provide the funds to bring him home."  In my mind, funds were the only obstacle once we "found" him.  I hadn't yet considered myself as the enemy.

No matter how many times we hear a truth, or how well we know it and could even teach it to others, there must be a crucial point of decision to allow that truth to change us.  When it comes to spiritual truths, we must invite that change over and over in each new situation.  Because, let's face it.  We're a bit like Ogres and onions.  We've got LAYERS.  There's the layer that says "I trust God".  Underneath that is the layer that says, "I trusted God really well with [fill in blank] in the past."  Then there's "I trust God... with some things."  And then it starts to get rotten at the core when we hit something we've never faced before; In my case, the unknowns of adoption.

So, God led us to find our little boy and get approvals for the file transfer.  I was over the moon!  And then the darkness settled in.  I'm not talking about the application fees and the first agency payment, or even paying for our homestudy, fingerprinting, medicals, and background checks.  We took those steps of faith in joy, because "If God will find this little boy, he will provide the funds..."  But as we began writing those first checks and waiting on the news that the file had indeed transferred and our family had been officially "matched" to Titus, I developed new fears.

It started innocently enough, reviewing what I had seen so far of his file.  Limb deformity.  Ear deformity.  other minor conditions.  HOURS of research, and love growing like crazy for this little guy who needs a family to help him navigate this world and discover his abilities.  Research is a great thing, and we have SO MANY resources available to us.  But as other research junkie moms can confirm, too much research can be a really bad thing.  It can turn a common cold into a rare deadly disesase.

Thus began the greatest week of fear and doubt that I have ever experienced.  What if his conditions are worst-case-scenario?  Can we meet his needs?  What do his conditions mean for his future?  How will it affect our family?
And I questioned..
What about the calling we so strongly felt to bring him into our family?  Did we hear wrong?


The Bible study I am working through with the girls had a quick section on Old Testament names of God.  They were enjoying it so much that we decided to take it more slowly, focusing on one or two names per day, researching its origins and uses and discussing how God fulfilled those names both in the Bible and in our lives, praying through them.  So as I struggled with all of this fear and doubt, I was teaching my children that

Are we doing the right thing?
  Jehovah Raah                                                                          El Elyon
          The Lord is my shepherd                                          What if he has [x] condition?
                                                                                           God is Sovereign
What if his medical records aren't accurate?
                                    Elohim   God is our Creator

Jehovah Shammah                                                 
God, this is scary!                                              Jehovah Rapha
The Lord is There                           How do we treat his conditions? Can they be healed?
                                                                      God is our Healer/Physician
                                                        Jehovah Shalom
                                       The Lord is our Peace
And my sweet artsy older daughter began adorning our house with reminders.
How can I expect my children to believe and trust, unless they see me exercising complete faith and trust?

I think that certainly all the questions we had we valid and obviously we need to prepare with lots of good research.  And there is no problem with revisiting and asking God for confirmation of his calling, so long as it is balanced with trust and faith, not controlled by fear.  I am so thankful to have a patient, loving Heavenly Father who reassures me when I am scared.

Our choices matter and they change the course of lives.  Had I let fear cripple me, we would still be a family of 5.  Beautiful, but incomplete.  Had I let my doubts consume me, our lives would be relatively easy right now.  Risk-free, but less fulfilling.  Had we listened to the world instead of the Word, Titus would still be an orphan instead of becoming a son.  We have a long and difficult road ahead, but I am choosing to focus not on who I am, but on who GOD is.

Today, as we face a potential delay in our process, I'm reminded that my reaction matters.  Do I react from fear, or from faith?  I am powerless, but he is All-Powerful.  God is showing me that it is only through Him that Titus will come home.  And I have a feeling I'll need that reassurance one day when I've been awake all night with a disoriented little boy who doesn't understand where he is and fears being abandoned or displaced again.  I'll need it when I overhear the first snide comment about his appearance or hit a snag with his healthcare or educational plans.
Only God.  Only God.  Only God.

Only God, our Shepherd, our Creator, our Healer, our Peace.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Come Quickly, Lord!... But Wait!

Over the past few weeks we have prayed fervently for our brothers and sisters around the world who are being persecuted.  For several months our Young Adults Bible Study has been studying Revelation and the coming of Christ.  For the past two weeks my husband has been preaching about persecution.  As a couple we discuss how to prepare our children for what may come to America during our lifetimes.  

And my heart begins to cry out, "Come Quickly, Lord Jesus!"

But I can't say it with all my heart.  Because a piece of my heart is far away; far away from me and far away from the knowledge of Jesus.

 I have come to a much deeper heart-understanding of these verses in 2 Peter 3:

9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief
in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up...13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earthin which righteousness dwells14 Thereforebeloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peacespotless and blameless15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation

It has never before felt so personal to me that while many are eager for the fulfillment of Jesus' promised return and the subsequent destruction of evil, God is waiting not out of leisure, but out of love.  There are more children who are HIS who he desperately loves, and he must wait for them.  

I know that God hears the voice of those spoken of in Revelation 6:

 I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God, and because of the testimony which they had maintained; 10 and they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O[k]Lord, holy and true, [l]will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 

And God understands.  He knows their cry. Jesus, too, was murdered because HE IS the Word of God.  But he waits for vengeance because there are many sons and daughters yet to save. 

I cannot know at what point God will complete his plan for the earth, but I do know that there will always be more.  There will always be someone who is deeply loved who doesn't yet know Christ, and at some point those people will perish.  And so while there is still time, let us pray for them, that they, too, may know God and be restored in their relationship with Him.  Let us love deeply enough that we would desire their salvation over our own comforts.  Let us reach out to neighbors who struggle to find meaning in life. Let us comfort friends by sharing the hope that we have. Let us bring orphans into our homes and raise them to know the Lord. 

 And let us "be holy in conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God" and "grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and savior, Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity." (2 Peter 3:11-12,18)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Open in time for Grandparents' Day (Sept. 7)

 Our Etsy shop is open!

Etsy is an online marketplace for custom art and handmade gifts.  Megan has designed and painted thumbprint trees as a way to celebrate family and support our adoption.

Please help us promote our Etsy shop by sharing our shop page or our blog page with your friends and family.  You have easy access to our shop by the new tab at the top of our blog.

You complete the trees with your family's (or friends, class, party attendees) fingerprints as the leaves, creating a one-of-a-kind keepsake art to cherish.  They also make a great guest book alternative for baby showers and weddings.

They are available as canvas boards, personalized with your family name or other writing, or as a 12x12 scrapbook page!

Grandparents' Day is coming up on September 7th!  What a wonderful way to celebrate your grandparents' legacy and at the same time help Titus become a grandson!
Other gift opportunities: You child's teacher with the students' prints!  A family reunion keepsake, going away gift, anniversary present!

We had a great opportunity to participate in a Farmer's Market on Washington Island this summer.  Each week we set up with our trees and lemonade.  The trees were well received and we enjoyed meeting so many people through this experience. And the girls sold LOTS of lemonade!  We earned enough to cover the cost of our online education with a little to spare toward our next agency payment!

Three Ways You Can Help Now!

We have been overwhelmed by the loving response we have had as we share our adoption process with you.  Thank you so much for your encouragement and desire to be part of our journey!

 Many have asked us about the fundraising process.  This will be a huge part of our lives over the next many months.  There is one big hurdle remaining between us and fundraising, and that is our Home Study.  We have our paperwork turned in and our final interview will be complete by the end of this month.  After our social worker submits our study, we wait for the court to approve it.  This may take a couple of months.

Our home study must be court certified before we can offer a tax-deductible method for fundraising gifts.

We could turn to a number of crowd funding sites and begin at any time, but we view any gifts we receive as a treasure to be cherished and respected.  By waiting to offer a tax-deductible method we are respecting the giver, and may even be able to set up an account with a charity that will eliminate any processing fees, allowing EVERY PENNY to go toward bringing Titus home.

Here are 3 ways you can help us NOW while we wait:
1)  PRAY
     That our social worker will be timely in drafting and submitting our home study and the court processing time will be minimal.
     Megan is painting and selling thumbprint trees as a means of helping with our expenses.  These make great gifts for families, grandparents, anniversaries, family reunion keepsakes, teacher gifts, and guest book alternatives for baby showers and weddings!  Please check out our shop and SHARE it through Facebook and with friends and family.  (New post about our shop)
3) Garage Sale Goods & Baked Items
     We will be holding a (hopefully huge) garage sale on October 4th at Megan's parents' home (also the weekend of their neighborhood garage sale, so traffic should be great!)  If you are local, please consider donating items you no longer need to be sold in our garage sale.  We will pick them up from you!  We would also like to do a bake sale for all those hungry garage sale shoppers we expect. Talk to Megan if you would be interested in donating some home-baked goods to our cause.  Bonus idea: If you are not local but are holding a garage sale or selling items on Craigslist this fall, consider donating a portion of your proceeds to bringing Titus home!  

Thursday, August 14, 2014

God Knits with a Red Thread

An ancient Chinese proverb says "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstances.  The thread may stretch or tangle, but never break."

We had a "Red Thread" experience tonight that I'm thrilled will become a part of Titus' story and, I pray, his childhood experience.

A few weeks ago, I saw a post from another member of a facebook group for families adopting or who have adopted from Titus' orphanage.  This is an amazing group of moms (and some dads) who share photos, prayers, encouragement, and knowledge as we are all in different steps of the process and many have their children home.  My new friend, Angela, posted a link to her blog and I saw that her family lives in Arizona.  I sent her a message and... can you believe it?!?!.....  We live in the SAME CITY!

I can't really bother to get my head around the numbers that would make up a statistic for the likelihood of this happening.  What I do know is that God is in the process of knitting together the support systems that will carry both our families through the difficulties and joys of our adoptions and adjustments. (Perhaps he knits with a red thread?)  I am thrilled that we have connected with each other, and as our 5 children played together after dinner tonight I daydreamed to the day when all 7 of our children are here together - 5 who have grown up in Arizona, 2 who began their stories in the same city, SAME ORPHANAGE, half the world away.  Many families travel across states to hold "reunions" with families who share some sort of pre-adoption connection to their children.  We will need only to travel a few miles, and just might even bump into each other on accident!  T and C are not in the same room of the orphanage and we have no idea whether their paths ever cross now (I doubt it) but even so, it is more of a connection than many adoptees have in their childhood.

I was so blessed by how well our families got along and even as they were walking out the door tonight Angela and I found another point of commonality, another way to lend support and encouragement!

Please join me in praying for the final stages of their adoption as they travel in approximately 8-10 weeks!  I cannot wait to see their daughter HOME and in their arms.

Can you tell the kids got along?