joy emerges from the ashes

I am not going to even pretend that the past month has been easy.  It has been hard, difficult, and I have been really raw with my emotions.  But, I also feel like this has been a sweet time.  If that even makes sense.  We have had sort of a “cocooning” time together, me and the amazing engineer.  We were planning to be parents, and then we did not become parents, so it is like we have been given this time to cherish each other and enjoy life as a family of 2….until we become a party of 3, 4 or 5…or 10!  We still do not know what happened with the birth mother…we never heard a word.

We have had a hard month…but we will not let it define us.  We will not let it keep us from what God desires for our lives.  We will press on…even if it brings more hurt and more hard times.  We will do it, because God is better.  His plans for us are better than our own plans.  And we want His plans over our own plans.  We will continue to seek adoption, and see where God takes it.  
Joy emerges from the ashes of adversity as we learn to trust and cultivate thankfulness in our lives.  We are thankful for the past month, as crazy as that is to say.  We are thankful for what it has done in our marriage.  How it has increased our communication and love for each other.  
We press on.  We know there is more.  We know there are children that are meant for us, and we are trusting in the Lord to build our family.  He knows our hearts and our desires.  We must wait.  Even when it is hard.  We will wait.
Recently I read about “Moses Moments”: when we are asked to believe what we cannot see, to walk in a way that seems beyond impossible…and then God opens the Red Sea to walk through.  Right there, in our fear and helplessness, in the brokenness and weariness.  He is there.  He is the God of Redemption.  We know He will redeem that which has been hard in our lives.  We will wait with expectant hearts.  With joy!  Knowing He is good!
I have the cutest niece in the world!  How could you not be happy when you see her sweet face!  
I feel like this new season of Fall came at the perfect time.  It is like new life has emerged and I can breathe deep again, taking in the scents of the season.  Joy has emerged in my heart through this change in season.  I am beyond thankful for all of your prayers and how you have loved us so well during this season.  We are blessed, for sure.
He makes beautiful things…out of dust!
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Why we said YES to Adoption!

We had a plan.  We were taking the steps to adopt a child or children from Ethiopia.  We knew it was what we were supposed to do.  We just knew.  And then, we got a phone call on August 17th…

The phone call was from our good friends, who have adopted one of my favorite children ever, and they knew of an expecting mom through a series of friends who wanted to have her baby adopted.  We talked with the expecting mom that week and immediately loved her.  She had thought through all of this and decided that she wanted us to be the parents of her baby girl.  We began the process of our domestic home study and figuring out all of the legal steps we needed to take (thankfully I have a good friend who is an adoption attorney!).  We called our parents, people we trust and look to for guidance and support, and we began to pray for this incredible opportunity to be parents.  Our families were thrilled and many of our friends responded with great support, encouragement and prayer for us.  Somehow, someway, the Lord had opened this door for us.

We continued to talk with the expecting mom every day, either by phone, text, or email.  She told us she would like to come to Georgia to have the baby (she lives in Boston), just to have more closure with the situation.  We found a way for that to happen and a doctor who would see her here.  She would take a train and come 2 weeks before the baby’s due date: September 22nd.  Yes, this was a very fast process!  We started making a nursery and borrowing anything we could from friends.  We made plans and bought her train ticket.  We were amazed this could be a possibility.  Completely amazed at the way the Lord would open a door and let us walk in.  Even to be a part of this woman’s life, we knew we were supposed to be in her life…and to hopefully see her come to know Jesus in the process.  We would have an open adoption, with the ability to communicate back and forth, share pictures, and share life with each other.  This baby girl would always grow up knowing she was loved, by us, and her birth mom for being so brave and courageous.  

So, up until Sept 6th, we communicated daily with the expecting mom.  We formed a friendship with her, even though it was all over the phone and through pictures.  It felt like we knew her…even if it had only been a short time.  September 7th, we didn’t get a call from her but didn’t worry….then September 8th no word….September 9th she was scheduled to be on the train to come to Georgia and she did not get on the train….but we didn’t get a call…fast forward to today….September 19th…and still no word.  No call.  No text.  No email.  Nothing.  

We do not know what happened…we do not know why it happened the way that it did.  But something I do know is that we were to trust.  Just to trust in the Lord’s guiding.  We know we could not have consciously said NO to the expecting mom, after hearing her situation.  We know we were supposed to walk through that door…even when it led to uncertainty and disappointment.  

Yet, in the midst of all of this, the ups and the downs, we have felt the presence and peace of the Lord like no other time in either of our lives.  We have been amazed and overwhelmed by the love of our family and friends who we know have prayed for us and prayed us through this situation.  My job could not have come at a better time, and my sweet coworkers have been so encouraging, and those 16 smiling (sometimes crying or whining) 4 year olds are such a great blessing every day.  

So, really at this point, we do not know anything.  We don’t know if she’s changed her mind, or what her thoughts are.  We wish we did, but we just don’t.  We knew going into this that there would be a great risk involved–but really there is anytime with children and babies–you put your heart into it, hoping upon hope, and things just happen.  We know we took a great risk, and we know we stepped out in faith, asking the Lord all along the way for Him to lead us.  We are continuing to trust in His leading, and His heart for us we know is good.  We know He has a plan in all of this…and hopefully one day we will know what happened.

I think we have always known adoption could go this way…we have heard so many stories from people….but we did not think this was going to turn out like this.  We really believed this was going to happen.  And now that it is pretty clear that it is not going to happen, even in the disappointment, we just know we have to keep trusting and keep walking through the doors the Lord opens for us.  We did not seek this out…but when we said YES to the Lord and to adoption, we said YES to however He wants to build our family.  We know that through this, our marriage has become stronger…and we know we can make it through hard times beside each other, leaning on the Lord.  We are so thankful for the prayers, calls, emails, texts, and love from so many of our friends and our family.  I know we have been carried by the Lord through the past few weeks…carried by prayers…loved so dearly.  

We aren’t ready to make any decisions about what to do now…but one thing we do know is that God is good, no matter what.  And we will continue to seek Him, seek His plans for us, and continue to say YES to Him.  No. Matter. What.


And then I read this and I am so thankful for this…posted by a missionary friend:

We’re often looking for God’s will—especially when we’re in a difficult situation. We wonder, What will happen to me here? Should I stay or does God want me somewhere else? The only way to know for sure is to do what He asks you to do right now—the duty of the present moment—and wait for God to reveal the next step. As you obey what you know, you will be strengthened to take the next step and the next. Step by step, one step at a time. That’s how we learn to walk with God. But you say, “Suppose I take the first step. What will happen next?” That’s God’s business. Your task and mine is to obey this day and leave the future to Him. The psalmist says our steps are “ordered by the Lord” (37:23). This day’s direction is all we need. Tomorrow’s instruction is of no use to us at all. George MacDonald said, “We do not understand the next page of God’s lesson book; we see only the one before us. Nor shall we be allowed to turn the leaf until we have learned its lesson.”If we concern ourselves with God’s will and obey each day the directions and warnings He gives, if we walk by faith and step out in the path of obedience, we will find that God will lead us through this day. As Jesus put it, “Tomorrow will worry about its own things” (Matt. 6:34)  

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The Engineer writes about adoption

Dear friends and family,

A few weeks ago, April and I sent out a letter and postcard that talked about our heart for children, adoption, Ethiopia, and serving the Lord through adoption. We briefly mentioned the costs, and it may have been as much a shock to you as it was to us. After all, $33,000 is a lot more than most of us have to spend even on important things. I found that it helped me to put this number in perspective to our everyday lives.

 

According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average four-person household in America (I’ll use this household size throughout for simplicity) spends $65,597 per year. Of course, most of that is on good and essential things. But two numbers stood out to me: entertainment ($3,416) and cash contributions ($1,468). And the cash contributions category, according to the BLS, includes “alimony and child support payments; care of students away from home; and contributions to religious, educational, charitable, or political organizations.”
What do those numbers have to do with adoption? Consider this: if 100 of those typical families gave the equivalent of just one month’s worth of entertainment spending, an entire adoption could be funded, start to finish. If twenty of those typical families committed to cut their entertainment budgets in half, an adoption could be funded every year, or a small church could hire a new full-time pastor, or an aspiring missionary could go to seminary, or several local missionaries in third world countries could give their full attention to reaching and serving the lost. All from small sacrifices to our daily lives. Can we even imagine what thousands of kingdom-seeking disciples could do with what we’ve been given, if those two dollar amounts I mentioned – entertainment and contributions – were reversed?
Part of this adoption process for me has been opening my eyes to just how much God has given me and the people I know. And I for one use so little of it for His kingdom. I want that to change, and if you’re in that boat with me, I hope you want to change as well. God doesn’t need you in order for us to adopt. He doesn’t need April and I in order to show His love to orphans. But He’s invited us, and He uses us, in ways we don’t even know, to accomplish His good purpose.
All of that to say, we are inviting you to be a part of this process with us.  We need you to pray.  We need you to give and share with others our heart for orphans.  There are a few ways to give, including the DONATE button on the right-hand side of the blog.  We are opening an Etsy shop in a few days with amazing, handmade items made by friends of ours, and everything you purchase will go towards our adoption.  We will do many other fundraisers, and also apply for grants and scholarships (all of these have to happen AFTER our home study is complete).  

Thank you for partnering with us, praying with us, and believing in God’s plan for orphans to receive forever families.  We pray that our home will always be open to children who need a family to love and take care of them.

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Road trips and a new recipe!

The past few weeks have been sort of a blur.  We have done so much, started our new church gathering group, been in Kevin’s sister’s wedding, had his family at our house for a week, I had a root canal and went through some of the worst pain of my life and we road tripped to Michigan and back to visit with “the engineer’s” family and friends.  I am thankful for all of it…well, except for the extreme pain from my tooth!

We have also begun our fundraising for the adoption!  We are in full swing and we are realizing how much this is going to take and how much we really want this and how much we already really really love this child!  (Shameless plug, but you can look to your right and click donate through Paypal to help us out and get our home study started!)

All of the engineer’s family live in Michigan…well, most of them do…so we wanted to spend some time with them this summer, especially while his parents were here from Germany.  So, we road tripped it up there, 14 hours straight through!!

Here’s a few pictures from the past few weeks!

14 hour road trip!!  But we took the scenic route home…which made me happy happy happy!!  I love the mountains!!

Some really sweet people sent us money after our yard sale…I cried…and we are just really thankful.

Ohh I made homemade vanilla ice cream….and y’all….why do I buy store brand??  I mean, for real??  This stuff is too good….I am literally eating some right now, as I type!!  Also eating it with the new recipe I’ll share at the bottom of the post!

Lake Michigan!!!  Y’all, it is beautiful!  You cannot see the other side of it!  It’s like the ocean!  I was completely in awe!  We walked up and down the sand dunes, too!

This high chair came from Kevin’s grandparents house…but it was originally at his great grandparents house and has held countless amounts of children!  And one day, I will probably weep and cry when our own child sits in this chair.  So much love, so much history.  I love antiques, y’all!

Did I mention we got some really cool pieces from the engineer’s grandma?  This cradle was at her house, too!  Kevin actually slept in it as a baby!  And she made the blanket that is draped over the back!  Our child is already so loved, and we still have so far to go!

Gluten-free and Dairy-free Cherry and Peach Crisp!  YUM!  Recipe below!

Y’all like that tour of the past few weeks?  I realize none of the pictures are of people…but there’s not much I can do about that!  One day there will be cute little photos of our child, and you’ll love every minute of it!  Until then, food and places are going to have to do!

Finally, for all those that are wanting this recipe!!  I just finished reading Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist and LOVED every minute of it!  I have made several of the recipes, and decided to try her Blueberry Crisp, but with cherries and peaches!  Kevin’s aunt has a Rainier Cherry tree in her backyard and picked those cherries for us!  I am in heaven, I just know it! (ps. I am eating this crisp as I write this…y’all it is so good…get over here!)
While on the subject of the book, I absolutely love the idea of having a cooking club.  Not sure who else out there would be up for it…but I would love to have gatherings with friends where we cook together, eat together, and share life together.  It just sounds so wonderful and real and yummy!  I want our home to be a place where people walk in, and they know where to go to find a cup or a plate or a bowl.  When they don’t have to ask to find a snack, they just go for it.  Real community.  Life to the full.

Ok, enough about that, on to the recipe!!

Gluten and Dairy free Fruit Crisp

This recipe is completely adaptable.  I have made it twice and did it completely different both times.  So, do what makes you happy!  I think you could eat it as a breakfast (it has oats and fruit!) or for dessert (with a little vanilla ice cream…or a lotta vanilla ice cream!!).  You could use brown sugar instead of maple syrup, or walnuts instead of pecans.  I used butter and whole wheat flour the first time I made it, and it was great…used olive oil and the almond meal the 2nd time and it’s wonderful, too!  Whatever makes you happy!

Ingredients
4 cups fruit (blueberries, cherries, peaches, apples, blackberries–really any kind you want!)

Crisp topping:
1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/2 cup raw, unsalted pecans, halved or chopped
1/2 cup almond meal (you can find it at Trader Joe’s, but really it is almonds ground in a food processor until fine, but not yet turned into almond butter)
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

Mix together crisp ingredients.
Pour the berries or fruit into an 8 by 8 pan, and then layer the crisp topping over it.
Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes, or up to 10 minutes longer is fruit is frozen.  Fruit should be bubbling and topping is crisp and golden.

Enjoy, y’all!!!  

And really, I did not miss any of the flour or the butter in this the second time around!  I did eat it with a scoop of my vanilla ice cream, which sort of defeats the purpose, but that’s ok with me!

Are any of you gluten-free?  Share with me some recipes or some of your favorite treats!  I love to bake and try new things!  Some of our friends are gluten free, hence the recipe, but I like to see how things work and how well they come out!  Feel free to share!

Blessings!!
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Why we decided to adopt

We didn’t give up on the “traditional” way of starting a family.  We just haven’t been successful in the “traditional” way, yet…so we began to pray and the Lord had already given us a heart for adoption…it was just time for us to start pursuing it, even if it wasn’t within the “time” we thought it would be.  (In other words, we thought we would have biological children first…but God knows the best plans for us–more than we can ask or imagine!)

There have been some things said about evangelical adoption that are heard to process and understand. Because our heart is so far from the criticism that has surfaced lately.  Here is an article about a book called Child Catchers by Kathryn Joyce.  I have not read the book, but the article summarizes what it is about.  We, in no way at all, want to deprive a birth mother from her children.  We do not think we could raise her child better than she can.  We realize the Western culture and all of its comforts can be a harmful place for a child–no matter where they are born.  We are doing this to fulfill a call on our lives from the Lord.  To care for an orphan, a true orphan, who would grow up in an orphanage without a home, without a family, without medical care, without love, without hugs and kisses, etc.  We are not “catching a child” but, we are offering our home and our lives to a child in need.  One who is desperate.  One who does not have anyone else.

We will not be a part of any of the corruption that has surfaced in the last few years through international adoption.  This is why we have chosen Lifeline Children’s Services.  Because they are dedicated to these things, too.  I just wanted to share this with all of you.  It has been heavy on my heart that we aren’t just jumping on the “trendy train” of adoption…we know it is something that is important to the Lord, and important for a child to have a forever family, stability, love, care, and Jesus.  I usually don’t share such controversial topics, but this one was too much for me not to share.

Here is Lifeline’s stand on the corruption within the adoption industry:

Countries’ political systems and culture vary greatly from America so 
standards are different abroad. We acknowledge these varied standards can 
lead to the possibility of corruption in the international adoption process and 
our commitment to ethical adoptions may often complicate or delay 
adoption. Lifeline uses Hague standards and a Biblical framework as our 
guidelines for proceeding throughout the international adoption process to 
increase your faith that your adoption is ethical and build a hedge of protection 
against corruption while advocating for the children of a sovereign nation. In 
fact, countries may be suspicious or in total disagreement with standards, 
thought patterns, and basic behaviors that are acceptable in the US.

Our timeline is listed under the tab above: “Our Adoption Story“.  PS. We got a call this morning that they received our application and we are good to go!  Soo exciting!!!  We have applied for Ethiopia, though if in the next 3-4 months we feel called to another country, we are able to switch programs.  Here is the timeline for Ethiopia:

  • Provide initial application, with references, to Lifeline for review
  • Receive preliminary approval into the program
  • Begin your home study with a licensed home study provider
  • Receive official acceptance into the program (Requires home study review)
  • Make application for USCIS approval
  • Dossier compilation and submitted to Lifeline for approval
  • Send Complete Dossier for authentication and translation
  • Start your immunizations
  • Receive Referral. (Typically about 15-18 months after Dossier submission)
  • Receive Court Assignment (1-6 months post referral)
  • Travel for 1st visitation and court appearance
  • Prepare final documents and discuss travel
  • Pick up your Child (Normally, 3-4 months post court approval)
  • Usual length of stay is 5-7 days in-country for each visit
We are thrilled, scared, exciting, terrified, all at the same time.  And we are asking for a lot of prayers, for creativity in fundraising, and for prayers as we seek to become parents to a child that we already love, though we have not yet met.

“Lifeline Children’s Services exists to provide a hope and a future through the 

Gospel for children around the world by discipling, engaging and equipping 
people towards adoption, foster care, and orphan care.”

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