We truly are a family redefined. We are husband, wife, son, daughter, step children, biological and adopted children and most importantly, Children of God.

A friend pointed out that I needed to update my blog header. After our adoption from Ethiopia, I had updated it stating how the adoption of Sara Joy completed our family. Well... the journey continues. After much prayer, we have decided to follow what we feel is God's calling for us...we went to Ghana with the intention of adopting a four year old girl, Isabella Hope. Little did we know that she would be the catalyst to bringing home not only her, but her half brother and sister. We will now be adding not only Isabella Hope to our family, but also Mary Grace (9) and Gilbert (6) who we will transition to the name Nathaniel Timothy. The shock is wearing off and the JOY and EXCITEMENT are overwhelming. Now truly, our family is complete. The great part of journeying with God, is that it's always an adventure. He knows where we are going, and for us it is all a marvelous surprise. Looking forward to sharing our family adventures as we walk daily through life and as we venture off to Ghana to bring home Mary, Nate and Isabella! It's always an adventure redefining our family!

Thursday, October 31, 2013

For A Time Such As This - Part 1

Wow!  It has been quite some time since I updated this blog.  Not because there hasn't been much going on - but because there has been a LOT going on.  We've been busy.  There have been things going on on the adoption front, but not much movement - until this week.  I'm going to share all about that later, but for right now I have to share a story.  

I've been told many times that I should write a book.  I was told that long before we started our adoptions.  It's more than adoption, it's about God.  It's about His walk with me through becoming a Christian, dealing with blindness, adopting, marriage.... all of these things.  God has shown Himself in so many ways through all of these things.  The biggest "theme" in my life has been the people He has placed around me *For a time such as this*.  No matter what that "time" was, God has used people and used them profoundly around me.  There are times when I didn't even realize why or how He would use them.... and then BAM!!!  They show up back in my life "for a time such as this".  I'm going to tell you one of those stories.

I'm sure you all remember my last trip to Ghana.  It was in August.  I don't remember if I shared it on here, but I know I shared it on Facebook how my luggage got lost... for FOUR days.  Anyway, God used that luggage experience in two profound ways.  One way I will not share here, at least not now, but let's just say it removed people from harms way.  Literally.  How he used that luggage experience became clear to me right after I left Ghana.  There was no mistaking it.  AND, it had to be lost for four days.  Any time shorter and the protection it provided would not have been there.  Only God.

Well, the second God-thing happened Saturday night in the airport in Ghana.  We had arrived on  Thursday night, went back to the airport on Friday - no luggage.  Went back to the airport on Saturday - no luggage.  At this point, I broke down.  I had to have my luggage in order to take the trip to Kwahu where my children were.  It is HOURS away from Accra which is where the airport is and where we were staying.  I begged and pleaded with God to make the luggage arrive that day, but it was not happening.  At this point we had to make a decision, either head to Kwahu without our luggage (not a good choice as everything we had for our kids was in our luggage, and we only had minimal stuff for ourselves), or call Kwahu and ask that the children be brought to Accra - which is what ended up happening.

Anyway, we waited in the airport for the flight to come in from London.  As we sat, I noticed a family that looked to be an adoptive family.  They were caucasian and they had two Ghanaian children with them.  They were sitting in a waiting area.  Cameron and I had some time to kill while waiting for the flight to arrive that "might" have our luggage, so we found a seat in the waiting area as well.  We ended up striking up a conversation with this family.  The lady's name was Stacey.  She was there at the airport waiting for one of her older children to arrive in Ghana from the US.  She was spending an extended time in  Ghana as she and her husband were working to build a home for children in Ghana and also were staying throughout the process to adopt their two little girls.  

We talked for awhile while we waited for the plane.  We got to know a little bit about one another.  In the meantime, our driver, who apparently had to leave to take another family to the hotel, left.  When the flight arrived we waited some more.  NOTHING and I do mean NOTHING happens in a timely fashion in Ghana.  The "lost" luggage was to be brought to a little room downstairs in the airport.  This was where were sitting.  We waited awhile and went over to the counter.  We were sadly informed that no, our luggage had not arrived (again) and not only that, but they didn't know when it would arrive.  It was truthfully lost.

I broke down.  I was so tired of wearing clothes to bed.  I was so tired of not shaving my legs (I know.. .too much information).  I was tired of having NOTHING to give my kids.  I was tired of driving back and forth to the airport at a late hour.  I couldn't help it.  I broke down in tears.

Stacey came over and asked me if I was ok.  I told her the situation with our luggage and she offered me so much help.  She gave me her number.  She gave me directions to places I could find necessities while we waited for our luggage to arrive.  She gave me information for a cheaper place to stay, as we were only supposed to stay at our hotel for one night before leaving for Kwahu.  She offered me anything she could.  

After finding our driver, we parted ways with Stacey and her family.  I found her on Facebook and sent her a friend request.  That was pretty much the end of that. 

Fast forward 2 1/2 months.  I found myself in the middle of a mini-crisis last week.  Ok, it was a HUGE crisis.... there were some serious implications to what was going on.  Without going into detail with regard to the issue, I needed people to pray.  A meeting was being held on Monday (this past Monday) that could change the course of our adoption.  I begged for prayer.  People answered.

After the meeting on Monday, it then became critical that I get my three kids' passports.  Our visa exit interview was scheduled for less than a week away (it's happening in just three days) and it could not happen without those passports.

Enter Stacey into the picture.  I got a message on FB from a "Stacey". Now remember, Stacey and I had only met in an airport and only talked for a couple of hours and then we had no further contact.  I didn't remember her last name.   I'm also going to tell you, that in the adoption community, it's not uncommon for a strange to help another "adoptive" stranger. You don't have to be "friends" you just do what you can do for one another, when you can do it.

So, I got a message from a Stacey asking if she could go to the passport office for me on Wednesday.  She would be there trying to obtain one of her daughters' passports and she would like to do what she could to assist with ours.  I gladly accepted.  I didn't know who this "Stacey" was, but I was  so thankful for her help.  She asked for our kids names and dates of birth - heck, I probably would have given her our social security and bank account numbers if she said she needed those... I just felt I could trust her.

I was telling my son and husband about this "Stacey" that had volunteered to sit at the passport office all day if necessary to obtain our passports.  One of them asked who Stacey was.  I simply said - I don't know. She's adopting.  I don't care.  She is willing to help.  Cameron said "Mom, isn't that the lady from the airport".  No... I don't think so.  

So, Stacey had sent me a facebook message asking for a bit more information.  I responded to her and said - by the way, do you happen to be the lady that we met at the airport?  Are you THAT person?  She responded with yes, she was THAT Stacey.  I was floored.  Really I was.  I don't know how Cameron remembered that, but I'm so glad he did.  I would have continued on like this woman was a stranger, and while I don't know her all that well, she is far from a stranger!

She found out so much information for us on Wednesday.  I'm so thankful she was there for us.  She was not able to obtain the passports for us, but she was able to provide me with some much needed information.  Today (Thursday) we still do not have the passports, but I'm hopeful that they will print tomorrow.  Stacey actually has plans to be back at the passport office tomorrow because her daughter's passport is scheduled to print.  Imagine that timing... only God.  So, she is going to the passport office at 8 AM tomorrow morning and will then call me with an update on our passports!  

Standing in the airport in Accra, I NEVER thought in a million years that I would hear from Stacey again.  I felt like her brief time in my life was meant just for that day and time at the airport, to keep me calm and level-headed during a very stressful time.  I love God's plans though.  He connected our lives I think more for THIS time in our lives than  THAT one.  Amazing!  

Stacey, if you read this - thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are doing for us to help us get our kids home!  You have been truly God-sent!  You are my first "For A Time Such as This" story.  To anyone who thinks this is a "coincidence" or just luck, or a stranger just helping out... I'm not even going to try to convince you about how truly wrong you are.  God placed her in my life for just this very time.  For A Time Such As This!  I'm sure of it.  

Praying for a positive update tomorrow with news on how our adoption is moving forward!

In Christ,

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

ABC's of My Heart: H = Honesty

I kind of feel strange even writing this, but for those who are adopting, maybe you will get something out of it.  Maybe you won't feel so alone if you are feeling some of the same things that I'm feeling right now.  I'm going to just be honest!

I've got three kids in my home.  A 14 year old, a 9 (almost 10) year old and a 4 year old.  Life is about to change..... BIG TIME!  Soon I will have a 14 year old, a 10 year old, a 9 year old, a 6 year old, a 4 year old and a 4 year old.  That's a HUGE change.  

I've been looking forward to this time for so long.  It seems like forever.  We are getting close.  The immigration paperwork is complete.  The kids' files have been reviewed and their orphan status conforms to US Law.  We are waiting on passports and I'm praying we will hear something this week on those.  Then, we just have the medicals and the visa exit interview - and a L.O.N.G. flight home with three new children.

I've anticipated this time for so long and yet at the same time, I fear it.  I'm working diligently to get the kids' rooms set up so everything will be ready when they arrive, yet I'm savoring  the time we have while things remain the same.  Truthfully, I'm scared.  I think it's normal.  I think I'd be niave to think that everything will just transition smoothly.  It's hard to get a smooth transition when you bring a new child into your home through childbirth.  It's hard to get a smooth transition when you adopt one child.  I think it would be kind of crazy for me to assume that I'll get a smooth transition with bringing THREE home.  Not only will I be bringing three home, but I have three already IN the home.  I will be doubling the number of children in my home.  I think it's actually SMART of me to be afraid.... because it means I'm thinking logically and not idealistically.  Trust me when I say, there is NOTHING ideal about adoption.  It doesn't start ideal and it doesn't end ideal.  It just starts and ends and I'm thankful to be part of it.... but being thankful doesn't make it easy.

So, what am I afraid of?  Well, I have three children in my home now with three different personalities.  Sometimes they mesh, sometimes they clash.  I have three more coming into the picture with three of their own little personalities.  Six adolescent personalities in one household - meshing and clashing at all different times.  Three of the personalities I really don't even know all that well yet.  I think I know things about Mary, Nate and Isabella, but I have a TON to learn.  I've got a lot of catching up to do with them.

I'm afraid I won't be as successful as I want to be with homeschooling them and getting them caught up to their appropriate grade level.  I've never done homeschooling before and what if I'm no good at it?

I'm afraid of what the kids have been through and what it will bring to our home.  I mean, they are not babies... our oldest newcomer is 9 and the youngest is four.  They've lived pretty substantial lives already and have a lot of experiences and memories that I'm sure they will eventually share - both good and bad.  I'm all about the good, but I'm afraid of how I will handle the bad.  I mean, I'm an emotional basket case.  I read a sad book and I cry.  I watch a sappy TV show and I cry.  Hearing stories of loss from my kids... I'm not real sure how I will handle that.  Being strong in the face of an emotional situation is not one of my strong points.  Maybe it doesn't need to be though... maybe saying nothing - just loving these kids to death will be enough.  I pray that's the case... I pray God gives me wisdom along the way to help me deal with everything that this adoption will bring our way, in the best way possible to benefit these kids.

Stupid stuff comes to mind... like I have NO idea how to do their hair!  I know... it's stupid, but think about it... it's something you have to do every day.  What if you didn't know how to take a shower and yet you were expected to do it every day?  Not only that, but I bet the kids have some sort of expectation for me to at least know how to do SOMETHING with their hair....maybe they can teach me ;)  I know, I know...  you will say that the kids won't care.  I will though.  I want to give these kids the best... just like I give the three that are in my home now.  Doing hair should be standard practice.  Unfortunately for me, it's not.  I'll learn.  I'm praying they will be patient with me during my learning curve.

Food.  That's another big thing.  What in the world will I fix them that they will enjoy and that the rest of my family will as well?  Who knows.  I guess rice will be a staple for them for awhile, and after some time I'll just have to work on transitioning them over to "American" food.  We all think it is wonderful and that they will absolutely love it, but it's the same as taking our kids somewhere and having them eat foreign food.  The textures are different.  The smells are different.  The ingredients are different.  It will take them some time to get used to it all.  With my other two adopted little ones - they came home when they were small.  They were barely on solid foods.  There wasn't really a "transition" for them, because they hadn't gotten used to anything solid.  These kids are different.  They have.

One of the biggest things I'm afraid of is that they are too old to really consider me mom.  I know it sounds silly, but again, I'm being honest.  Mary is 9.  I wonder if she will ever really look at me and think "That's my mom".  I want "mom" to be something more than the person who financially supports us, loves us and cares for us on a daily basis.  I want "mom" to mean to her - the person who is emotionally invested in me, the person I turn to when things are bad, the person who will protect me fiercely and love me even more fiercely.  I want mom to mean security and home to her.  I want it for all of my kids.  I don't want it to mean guardian.  I want it to mean so much more.  Part of me wonders if that will come.  Will I ever be to them what I am to my other kids?

I think getting so close to the end of the process has brought this all to the forefront of my mind.  I really think I'd be stupid NOT to be thinking about these things.  They are important things.  They are more important than "Do I have enough clothes for them?" or "Will they like their room?"

I'm trusting in God to handle all of these details.  I kind of freaked out when I found out that we had THREE waiting for us in Ghana instead of the one we had originally anticipated.  God gave me peace with it and showed me that these were my kids.  He has shown me a love for them that I never thought I would have.  It is fierce.  It's protective.  It's stronger than I ever thought it could be at this point.  It's all God.  But that doesn't mean it's not scary.  I want to do it right and I have never navigated exactly these waters before.  Now that I think about it, I think being scared is good.  It puts me at heightened alert.  Really, it means I'm thinking, and more than that, it shows that I know that I don't have all the answers.  Oh Lord knows I don't have all the answers... but I do have Him.  I will trust in the Lord with these children.  I will trust that the Lord will give me guidance on how to navigate these new waters.  I will step out in faith.  I can be scared and not take my eyes off of Christ at the same time.  As long as my eyes are on Christ, it will fall into place.

It's hard to explain the feelings of excitement and fear that are mingled together.  I think though that it's normal... at least for me it's normal.  I remember when I adopted Anna and I finally received her referral, I was so excited.  I shared her little picture with everyone.  Then I got home from work and I thought "Oh. My. Goodness... WHAT HAVE I DONE".  It's the whole idea of the change that is to come.  No matter how positive it is, change is always difficult.  The same thing happened when we adopted Sara.  Tim and I were married, we had the routine established with the kids.  I was working at the time so there was that added stress in my life.  We were so looking forward to Sara's referral and then it came.  One day on the way home from work, after we got her referral, it was a particularly stressful day at work.  I just started crying.  Tim asked me what was wrong and all I could say was "did we just make a big mistake"?  It was the fear of change.  Not knowing how we would handle each and every situation that would arise.  Obviously I overcame these fears or I would have never adopted after Anna.  Or after Sara.  Yet, here we are again.  Adoption is the biggest blessing in our lives.  It's amazing.  It's beautiful.  It's heartbreaking.  It's heartwarming... and yes, it's even scary.  I think it's a healthy scary though.

Please pray with us as we navigate the end of this process.  Please pray with us that our kids' passports are issued EVEN THIS WEEK!!!!  God can move the mountain that will make that happen!  My kids need to come home!  Even with my lingering questions, I'm ready!  I think we are all ready.

In Christ,

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

ABC's of My Heart: G = God in Ghana

I have a story to tell, but for some reason..... I'm just not ready to tell it.  The right words aren't coming.  So... instead, I'll do it through pictures.  God is in each of these pictures.  The fact that I have these pictures means God is working.  

There is so much of a story that needs to be told, but I guess you just have to wait for the right time to tell it, and now is not that time.  I tried to get it all out in words, but it's not happening right now.  So, for now, this is My God in Ghana!  Please continue to pray that my children come home soon!

In Christ,

Friday, August 2, 2013

ABC's of My Heart: F=Finances

Malachi 3:10 - Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house.  Test me in this, says the Lord Almighty, and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.

Finances are often a very touchy topic.  I'm going to share our financial situation with you.  I'll say from the beginning, it hasn't always been easy.

I have always been a VERY frugal person.  I would spend money on things, but I always made pretty wise choices and lived within my means.  I got that from my parents.  When I was in college and had my first "real" job, I always found ways to save.  I contributed to my 401K almost immediately and I never ran up credit card bills that I couldn't pay.

When I married for the first time, managing finances became difficult.  No need to go into the story there, but needless to say, money moved freely from our home and the financial situation was difficult.  When we separated, things got worse for awhile before they got better.  I was a single mom, on my own, raising an infant and taking care of all of the expenses that go along with that.  It was very difficult and money was tight.  I literally lived from paycheck to paycheck.  That was something that I was not used to.  If something came out of left field in terms of a financial obligation that I was not prepared for, I would often have to turn to my family for assistance.  It was very difficult.  That time of difficulty just further instilled in me the need to be frugal.  Not stingy.  Not cheap, but frugal.

I was VERY blessed when I moved to South Carolina and had a new job that gave me a great financial promotion and the cost of living was less here than it was in the north.  I had room to breathe again.  Room enough in fact that when I moved forward with adopting my daughter, I did not have to borrow any money to pay for the adoption.  I was blessed!

At that same time, I became a Christian.  I learned the principal of tithing and God and I wrestled with that for some time.  I had been through such a rough time that holding onto "my" money meant a lot to me.  After some great soul-searching though, I came to the conclusion that I was not trusting God with my finances.  First of all - everything I had, from my clothing, to my house, to my money, to my children were HIS.  EVERYTHING!  I was holding on tightly to something that was not even mine.  God blessed me with it and expected me to be a good steward of it, given one condition - that I hand 10% back to Him, to use to further HIS kingdom.  Imagine someone blessing you with $100 and saying, I will entrust you to spend the rest of the money in an honorable way, but $10 I'm asking you to give back to me.  Really?  What are you going to say?  NO?

I said no for awhile.  I gave money to the church but it was not a tithe.  It was just a portion of what should have been my tithe.  I figured God understood though.  I mean He saw how I suffered for many years trying to get my finances in order and how I needed now to build up my savings.... No... while God DID see all that, He didn't put a place in the bible that said "give your tithe to the church unless you are Charity and have had a really difficult time, then I understand... obey me when you get back on your feet".  I have yet to find that statement in the bible.  

My time of not tithing was a time of disobedience.  

Enter Tim into the picture.  Again, a blending of finances.  Ugghhh... that part is difficult.  Especially since each of us had been married previously, had established households in the past and each had children from our previous marriage.  We came to the table with different views on finances.  Thankfully Tim and I were both pretty frugal with money.  There were issues in his previous marriage regarding finances, again, not worth going into, but finances were a point of contention.  Tim and I thankfully came from pretty much the same arena in terms of living within our means and saving...then there was the tithe.

We had agreed from the beginning that we needed to tithe.  It was very difficult though.  We had to purchase a new home, we had private school to pay for, child care, child support -  all those good things.  We decided to be faithful though.  We were of the same mind that God can do more with 90% 0f our income than we can do alone with 100%.  

We have never been to the "Financial University" where they introduce the envelope method, but it's one that we adopted from day one.  I had this process long ago.  When I went from getting paid weekly to getting paid once a month I thought I would D.I.E.  So, I would take my income and put it into four envelopes so it would appear as though I was getting paid weekly again.  It worked well.  To this day, Tim and I still use the envelope method.  We have two mini-accordian files that serve as our "envelopes".  Each part of the accordian file is labeled with a category - house, vehicles, haircuts, groceries, medical, eating out, entertainment... you name it, it's in there.  For our monthly bills that are paid on-line, of-course there is no envelope, but those expenses are accounted for on our budget spreadsheet.  We now get paid twice a month and at each pay period, Tim goes to the bank and withdraws the amount of money that is specified for each category.  When the money is gone, so is our use of that specific category until the next pay period.  We are not "sticklers" about it.  If something comes up, we will use our debit card or do what we need to do, but for most things, especially non-necessities- like entertainment for example.  When the money is gone, we are done being entertained :)

We also don't use credit cards.  There are times that we set up credit cards, for example when we bought our patio furniture we used a line of credit, but it was no interest for six months.  We paid it off prior to the due date.  We did the same when we needed new tires for our truck.  Our only criteria when doing that, is the agreement that we pay it off prior to the due date.  Even our Expedition we financed at 0% interest.  We were not able to do that with the car we just purchased so we pay HUGE payments and plan on paying the car off in about a year.  I don't like borrowing money.  Besides our mortgage, we have one credit card.  We use it for things that are a necessity to have a credit card for.  Purchasing our airline tickets to Ghana, reserving hotels... things like that.  Always though, we pay these off with very little time accruing finance charges.

Tithing is sometimes difficult for us.  I find myself slipping back into the mindset of - we need this money more than God does right now.  Especially with the expenses related to the adoption piling up.  It's a battle.  I feel it always will be.  The one thing I've promised myself though is that when we tithe, it will NOT be out of obligation or out of "guilt".  God doesn't NEED our money, He wants us to give it to Him willingly and with a joyful heart... not a begrudging one.  

We've slipped up every once in awhile, but for the most part, we get back on track, and what I've always found, is that God really can do more with 90% than I can do with 100%!  God is faithful.  We don't always have everything we WANT, but God has surely given us provision for all that we NEED!

In Charist,

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

ABC's of My Heart: E = Envy

1 Peter 2:1 - Therefore, rid yourselves of all malace and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind.

A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else's possessions, qualities, or luck.
Desire to have a quality, possession, or other attribute belonging to (someone else): "he envied tall people"; "I envy Jane her happiness".

Have you ever lived with envy in your heart?  I have.  I lived it for a long time.  It's difficult.  It's all-consuming.

There have been many times in my life when I felt envy.  It creeps up all the time.  In most every aspect of your life you can find ways to envy.  It's not something conscious; no one wakes up and says "I think I will envy someone or something today".  It just happens.  It comes out of discontentment in your heart.  Discontentment for what God has so richly blessed you with.

I'm going to be honest here and tell a story of myself.  I'm going to preface it with, I KNOW my feelings are envious and I battle them daily.  I fight envy with God's Word... but just because I fight the battle, does not mean I have won the war.  The war will only be won, when I'm taken to my eternal home.  But, know that I do fight it.  Know that I know it's wrong.  And also know that I don't let it get the better of me.  I recognize my sinful thoughts and I force myself to change.

It's so easy to envy.  There are so many things, so many possibilities for envy to creep in.  Circumstances, money, home, children, grades, job, promotion, car, lifestyle, hair color, eye color, health, body build, relationship status... the list goes on and on.  The list is different for everyone.

Tim and I are in the middle of a very stressful adoption right now.  It's getting better, but for awhile there, I found myself in tears quite a bit.  Things were just not going our way.  We were matched with our kiddos in February and went to court for them in March of this year.  Court happened without a hitch (many don't have that same blessing).  Then our troubles started.  We waited on our court decree.  You have to have the official, signed court decree before pretty much anything else can happen.  It was the bottle-neck in our adoption at this point in time.

As we waited, I saw people who went to court the same time we did, get their documents and move on.  I saw people who had met their children AFTER we did, get their court decrees and move on.  I saw people who went to court AFTER we did, get their documents and move on.  It felt as though everyone was moving on but us.

There were times when I felt very bitter.  Very resentful.  It took a look into God's Word to really set my mind straight.  God commands us to rid ourselves of envy.  Here I was sitting right in the middle of it.  I was surrounded by it.  My heart was full of it.

I forced myself to stop and think about what I was envious of.  I was envious of the situation that other families were in.  Now mind you, many families were in much worse situations than we were in, and I didn't find myself envious of them.  I was envious of what I desired God to work out for my family, but wasn't.  I wanted God to intercede and He was not.  I was angry with families who were moving forward while my children, and our case was left sitting behind - going nowhere.  Completely unfair.

Here's the thing though, I don't get to determine what is fair. God does.  Not only that, begrudging someone because of the blessing bestowed upon their case, in no way, shape or form changes my case.  Not only that, it doesn't change their case.  The only thing ENVY does, is eat away at the heart of the person who is carrying it around.  It also, in my mind, demonstrates the level of trust you have for God in your life, being sovereign and working things out for your good.

I forced myself repeatedly to put my envy aside.  I struggled with it, but God battled with me, and we won.  What I really needed to look at - instead of the situation I WANTED for my life (that others had), was the situation that God gave me, and how I could use it for His glory.  It was a weekly, if not daily, if not hourly at times, struggle for me.  But God always stepped in and fought the battle with me.  I learned that I could be happy for others while in the middle of a difficult situation.  In the end, all that mattered was that children were moving forward in their adoption process.  Families were being united.  Kids were coming HOME!  It's the passion of my heart to see these things happen.  I was able to let go and let GOD!

God left us in that waiting place for three months.  It was a LONG three months, but it could have been longer.  It could have been worse.  As time passes, I see circumstances that are happening that could not have happened if our case would have moved through the system quickly.  God-orchestrated things that I might not have experienced had I been given the opportunity to move things through the system quicker.  While it was difficult, I am beginning to see that God was working a timeline that I was not aware of.  That's the difficult part I guess - and it's where faith comes in.  Trusting in something you can not see.  If only God could have e-mailed me His timeline, His reasoning... but that's not God.  God is about faith.  And in the end, the true blessing is having faith come to fruition.  It's where I am now.

My timeline had our kids home in June.  It's now almost August so obviously my timeline didn't happen.  But God's timeline is unfolding and I'm in awe of what is happening.

The point is, envy is a slap in the face of God.  It's saying "I don't like what you've given me and I want more or I want different".  To overcome envy I truly believe you have to fight the battle with God's Word and then learn to appreciate all of the blessings God has given you and learn to celebrate with others the blessing God has given them.

In Christ,

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ABC's of My Heart: D = Doubt

Psalm 94:19 - When anxiety (doubt) was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Well, I'm back at it this week.  Again, this is not the original post I was intending for my "D" post, but it is what I felt laid on my heart, so I decided to skip my original "D" post, and write this one.  The best laid plans are meant to be broken when the Lord lays something on your heart to write!

Tim and I opted to have a day of fun with Cameron yesterday.  Tim took the day off of work and we packed up early in the morning and headed to Carowinds with Cameron and his friend (our "adopted" son) Christopher.  I love these two boys!  Christopher is Cameron's best friend and they spend so much time at one another's houses, that we often joke that we share custody of the children.  It's a great relationship that they have.  

Anyway, we had plenty of time to talk as we drove the 2 1/2 hours back and forth.  Five hours in the car with two fourteen year olds is some good, quality talk time!

After a GREAT day at the park, we headed back home late.  I was thinking about the day as we were driving.  I kept telling Tim to watch for deer as we drove because the road we were traveling on was wooded and is known for deer crossings at inopportune times.  For some reason I got to thinking about a deer jumping from the side of the road, slamming into the side of the car, coming through the window and killing me.  Morbid, I know.  I sometimes can't help the things that I think about though.

Satan must have been hard at work in that car, because all of a sudden doubt started creeping into my head.  I began to wonder, well.... what IF that happened?  Now, I'm just being brutally honest here.  I'm not going to sugar coat my feelings or thoughts.  I'm pretty much a person who's known for "telling it like it is".  What if.... what if I think I'm saved, but I'm not?  For all of you hard-core Christians out there, I'm sure you sucked in a huge gulp of air and thought "no she didn't".  "How could a true Christian say such a thing".  Well, sorry... I am a true Christian, and I it's what I was feeling at the moment.  If we are all honest with ourselves, I'm sure at one time or another doubt has crept into your head / heart as well... It doesn't make me any "less saved", it probably just makes me HUMAN!  It got me thinking though....

So, I posed the question to everyone in the car.  Cameron - are you ready to die?  Yes.  Christopher - are you ready to die?  Yes.  Tim - are you ready to die?  Yes.  Of-course we had the lengthy discussion about wanting to die vs. ready to die.  I was talking about READY to die.  If they died, in the next second, would they have confidence in knowing that the next face they saw would be that of their Savior?  Yep, they were all confident.  So, what was wrong with ME????  We discussed it for awhile and eventually, the question came back to me.  Well mom, what about you?  I knew the question would come back to me, but I was avoiding it!  Here's the thought process I went through:

If I'm totally honest, I don't know.  I mean, I know the strength of my salvation and I know my faith is in none other than Christ Jesus, but I can't say that I never have a moment of doubt.  I'd be lying if I said I didn't.  Not doubt about Christ, but doubt about ME.  God is big enough.  He could pluck me up right now if He wanted to, with or without my making a decision for Christ (not that He WOULD, but he COULD).  He could do it against my will if He wanted to.  But He doesn't.  He wants it to be my choice.  I believe in the strength of the blood of Jesus Christ.  I believe that my sin sat upon his shoulders.  He bore the burden of my sin - both past, present and future.  He died before I lived and He died for me, knowing the full extent of the sins I would commit.  He bore them before I committed them.  He saved me in spite of them.  He saved me BECAUSE of them.  He died for me.  He was buried for me.  He rose for me.  I believe all of that.  I believe in HIM.

My problem lies in my humanity.  I can't help it.  I look in the mirror and I think - if it were true, if I were saved, wouldn't I be better?  Wouldn't I look more "different"?  Wouldn't I look less like the person I do right now, and more like Jesus?  I can truly say that upon my salvation, I changed.  My friends will attest to it.  I truly am a different creature.  I look though at  how much of the "old man" still lives in me.  I look at how much I feed the "old man" and I begin to wonder...  Was  it really Christ who changed me, or was it me trying to change me?  

In the end, I believe Christ changed me.  I believe that because I professed my faith in Him.  I asked Him to save me.  I asked Him to be Lord of my  life.  And the change in my life was more than I could have ever done on my own.  Ask Megan, ask Monica, ask Jaime (ok, maybe you don't know them, but they ARE real people :).  And in the end, I believe that Satan spurs and continues my doubt.  Satan feeds the doubt in your mind.  Satan LOVES nothing more than for you to wonder, because you can't live for the glory of God if you are wondering if you are even His.  You can't live for the glory of God if you are focusing on all that you still do wrong.  You can't live for the glory of God if you are a doubter.  You can be HIS, but you can't live for HIS GLORY.

I am His.  I know I am His.  I guess, after sifting through the truth and the lies, I am left with knowing that I am HIS.  My name is in the book.  The date of my birth into His family has been written and it can not and WILL NOT be erased.  I never thought of it that way before.  I often thought of my name in the book of Life as written.  Maybe it is actually written, I don't know, but I viewed it as written.  When I doubt, I see it in pencil...If it's written, it can be erased.  If not erased, my page could be torn out.  But after I just wrote that "the date of my birth into his family has been written"....it struck home with me.....

A mother has a child and the hospital documents the birth.  When I had Cameron, a birth certificate was given to me.  It documented the date and time of his birth.  More important than that though, was the date and time that was imprinted on my brain.  If our house caught on fire and the birth certificate was destroyed, that does not mean that Cameron's birth did not happen.  Sure, I could get another official birth certificate, but even if I couldn't, his birth would still exist.  The same is true of my birth in Christ.  I don't know if there is a real physical book.  I don't know, if when I get to Heaven, I'll see the penmanship of my personal Lord and Savior - what I do know is this.... 

No matter how many children I have (either through birth or adoption), I will always remember the date and time they became part of my family.  I will always know the date and time Cameron was born.  I will know where I was sitting when the judge in Ethiopia said "She is your daughter".  I know the way the room looks that I sat in, in China, when they said "You have passed!  There were no questions!  She is your daughter!".  I know the day my three Ghanian babies became mine forever.  I KNOW this.  You can't take it from me.  I don't need a birth certificate or a book to remind me of it.  Jesus is so much more of a parent than I am.  Jesus never forgets.  He knows all and remembers all.  Whether or not there is a book, I am written in the MIND and HEART of my Savior.  He will stand before His Father and say - She is with me.  Book or no book.  Literal or figurative...He will say,  "she is out family".  He knew me when He died at the cross.  He knew me when He was buried in the tomb.  He knew me when He rose from the dead.  And if He knew me before I ever was, He will know me when we meet again.

Doubt is a strong feeling / emotion - whichever it is.  But know this to be true.  My God is stronger.  Doubt may have its day, but God has me for eternity.  The only thing doubt can do, is prevent me from living my life for the full glory of God.  

I will continue to struggle with doubt, I'm sure.  But, when I lay my head down at night, I know that there is a Spirit living in me that will refresh my mind, that will renew my spirit and soothe my heart.  I know He is ALIVE in me.  

So, to make a long story short, if the deer smashed through my window as we drove home from Carowinds, would I be ready to die?  The answer is an unmistakable YES!  When I close my eyes for the very last time and when I take my last breath on earth - I will open my eyes in another place, fully sighted and looking into the eyes of the one who saved me.

Don't let doubt spoil your walk with God.  Don't let doubt stop you from living fully for the glory of God.  Fight doubt with truth.  The truth of God's word, because nothing will beat the power of Satan like the strength and truth of God's Word!

In Christ,

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Hand-Off

Psalm 94:19 - When anxiety (doubt) was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.

Yesterday was a pretty exciting day at our house.  We had been waiting EXACTLY 81 days for our court decree to be printed and signed.  Well, I take that back... during that 81 day time frame, we got some "teasers".  First the document was printed and signed and it was so wrong that the agency did not even send it to me for review.  Back to court it went.  The second time it was printed and signed it was sent to me by our agency and it had Isabella's birthdate incorrect.  She was given the exact same birth date as Mary - same year and everything.  Apparently they were twins... maybe Mary is just super tall and Isabella is tiny.  I could have been ok with that :)  But, it had to go back to court to be fixed.  This time, the courts decided to take FOREVER!  And I do mean F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!  Tears were shed along the way.  I threatened to go over to Ghana myself and sit outside the court house until I could get the documentation that was required.  I begged.  I pleaded.  Finally, yesterday, the court decree came!

A whirlwind of paperwork began.  I thought I was fully prepared with my I600's (all three of them), and I was, I just needed to go over each of them with a fine tooth comb and then again with a finer toothed comb and finally with something similar to a microscope :)  I had all of the documentation I needed, but each I600, when we got done with it, had 15 pages of supporting documents.  I had Cameron sit down with me, once I assembled Mary's I600 and I would do Nate's.  Cameron would tell me each document that followed, in order, and I would find the corresponding document that represented Nate's case.  Then we moved onto Isabella's.  Each step of the process I would tell Cameron how he could NOT remove the paperclip.  He needed to keep EVERYTHING in order.  Don't drop a SINGLE piece of paper because if it's not right our case will be delayed or denied.

After getting all of the documents assembled, I sent Tim to make copies of everything (with explicit instructions on how exactly to make copies...).  I know, you are probably thinking "he's an engineer... I think he would know how to make copies".  Well, being the paper manager that I am in this household, it was VERY difficult for me to hand over the documents and let him make copies at all.  The originals couldn't touch the copies - at any point in time for fear of getting mixed up and me sending the wrong thing or something that I didn't need to and eliminating something that I needed.  There were folders... purple for originals, red for the copies.  When he got home, I went through the packets AGAIN, drafted a cover letter to USCIS, filled out the e-notification form, binder clipped everything together and then went to the butcher block in the kitchen, called Cameron downstairs and asked him to count pages of the I600 packets.  

He counted his, I counted mine and then I asked him how many pages he got. 19.... GREAT, so did I.  Our packages, if not complete, were consistent!  But I think that they are actually complete AND consistent.

Today I confirmed a few last minute things and at lunch Tim came and took them from my sweaty hands (gasp) and delivered them to FedEx.  It was like he was taking away a fragile child... text me when you drop them off.... fax me a copy of the receipt and tracking number.  Yes, I know.  Control freak is written ALL OVER ME!  I'm ok with that.  This is THE LAST TIME I'm going through this process and I'm going to do it right!  (yes, the last time unless God says differently)

I sent our cover letter to our case manager just to make sure we had included everything that we needed to in each package and told her if it needed anything additional to let me know.  She said she could not think of anything other than to pray over it before I sent it off.

I prayed OVER it. I prayed ON it.  I prayed NEXT to it.  Prayed with my hands UNDER it.  I prayed with it NEAR and I prayed with it FAR.  I prayed while it was in TRANSPORT.  Believe me, I prayed.  I moved it from my controlling self, to God's infinitely more capable hands.  Believe me when I say I would have liked to make that hand-off long ago, but God had it slated for today.  

Isn't that interesting?  It is to me... that all along, for the past 81 days God probably thought (not that I claim to know God's thoughts, figuratively speaking of-course) "what are you so anxious about?  The time is not even near."  He knew all would come together today.  He knew I would make the hand-off today and He knew the sense of relief that would come over me today.  It's now out of my hands.  I can't do anything else.  I can worry, which I'm sure I will, but it will do no good.  God knows the day our I600 will be approved (because it WILL be approved) and He even knows the day my babies will come home.  I find that fascinating.

I pray today that the FedEx people handle our package as if they are holding three precious lives in their hands, because technically, they are.  Deliver our package in a timely fashion and please DO NOT LOSE IT!!!  

I think I will rest easier tonight.....

In Christ,

ABC's of My Heart: C = Cannus

Luke 12: 27-28 - Consider how the wild flowers grow.  They do not labor or spin.  Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire,  how much more will he clothe you - you of little faith!

So, you don't have a green thumb, but you want a plant that will look like you do, that will bloom all summer and is super hardy?  Well, have I got the plant for you!  Cannus.

This was not the post that I planned for my letter "C", but my original post just wouldn't come onto the page right, and it's too important of a topic to not give it my all.  So, when I woke up this morning I decided to switch gears.  

About five or so years ago we removed four huge trees from our front yard.  They blocked all of the sunlight from our windows, they were so large that sun didn't hit the ground and the grass rarely grew.  It made for a pretty ugly looking front yard.  While I'm not a fan of cutting down all the trees on a piece of property, these just needed to go.  In the place of the trees we built a large flower garden with landscape blocks.  It has two levels and even has a water feature.  I have always loved planting flowers so it was a perfect use of some of the space for me.

When we got the flower garden complete, it was time to fill it up.  I had left a few small bushes from around the trees in it, but it was a large flower garden and the majority of it was bare.  A blank canvas.

I like kind of unique plants.  I went to a local green house and found things like pineapple lilly.  I went to the day lilly farm and got some unique plants.  My mom and Denis brought me some for my birthday.  I still had a lot of space to fill though.  At the time, a friend of mine was thinning out some of his flowers (I should have taken that as a clue!!!).  He said I could come and get as many Cannus as I wanted.  I took about 29 pieces of what looked like dead leaves and thought that would get me nowhere.  I came home and planted them and sure enough, even though it looked like I just stuck a single leaf into the ground, it didn't take long and they were growing.  

The first summer, nothing much happened.  The second summer they looked great!  They filled in nicely, they were so nice and green, and I had managed to get both red and yellow flowers.  They were really pretty.  Enter the third summer.....They grew.  Not only did they grow, but they multiplied.... like rabbits!  I soon realized why my friend had been thinning out his plants and why he said we could take as many as we wanted!

This spring I decided that the Cannus were just getting out of hand.  We had spent several summers removing HUNDREDS if not THOUSANDS of Cannus from our flower garden.  They are like gray hair I guess... you pull one and two more show up in its place.  This year, I tried to KILL them.  Tim, Cameron and I went out with shovels and tried to take them all out.  We got the flower beds looking really nice, only to turn around about a week later and see little green leafs popping throught he mulch.  The Cannus had returned.  This past week when we got 10 straight days of rain... oh my how the Cannus loved it.  They came back with a vengeance.  Tim went out again and pulled more.  An entire lawn and leaf bag full of them.  Already I see some popping back up.  We have tried spraying them with round up, digging down to the roots and yanking them out... nothing works.

So, if you don't have a green thumb, but really want to look like you do, plant Cannus.  Put them in the ground, ignore them, water them occasionally, but only if you remember and watch them thrive like you've spent every day of every summer caring for them.  Full sun, partial sun, shade, swamp land... they'll even grow through cracks in landscape blocks....they obviously aren't picky!  They will make you look like a master gardener!  Make sure you like them though, because you will NEVER get rid of them!  And if you need some, I have HUNDREDS you are welcome to!

My original post was on child trafficking.  A much heavier topic I must say.  I just couldn't get it out on paper right.  Maybe I can modify the title and make it a different letter post :)  I just couldn't put it out there without really feeling like it was what I truly wanted to say.  I didn't have the time to spend on it that I thought I would as adoption documents started moving this week and I've got three I600's to file!!!  So, a bit lighter topic this week.  Next week though... back to the heavy stuff :)

In Christ,

Monday, July 1, 2013

ABC's of My Heart: B = Blind

2 Corinthians 5:7 - For we walk by faith, not by sight

We're all born blind.  You don't believe me?  Well, it's true.  I'll tell you how.  But first, a story.

I was born with a condition that leads to blindness.  I spent a good portion of my youth without any symptoms.  I read like a champion.  I passed all my eye tests.  I loved schoolwork.  I was a great student.  I enjoyed drawing.  Nothing would have made you believe, that lurking in the background was blindness.  I turned 16 and got my driver's license.  No problem.  I was never really good at sports, but figured that was just me.  Not everyone is good at sports.  
Ok, our skiing didn't look EXACTLY like this, but close :)
I loved to water ski.  One day, I was water skiing with a friend behind our boat.  We were double skiing. I came into the wake at the same time she did.  We collided.  I didn't see it coming.  Accidents happen.  

I worked at a festival with my mom one summer.  It was the summer I turned 16.  My mom's work had a booth and they needed volunteers.  I was "volunteered" to volunteer.  I drove downtown and on the way, I got in an accident.  I didn't see a car that was in my blind spot as I switched lanes.  I was sure that I had looked.  Accidents happen.

I went off to college and got my degree in Chemistry.  Six month later, after a prolonged period of time running into people and feeling like a klutz, I called my eye doctor out of desperation.  I told him there was either something wrong with my eyes, or I was crazy.  Well, contrary to popular belief, I'm not crazy.  There was something wrong with my eyes.  I was diagnosed with a condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa.  It is a degenerative eye condition that robs you of your peripheral vision, color vision, night vision and depth perception.  I'm now legally blind with less than 10 degrees of vision.  My color vision is very poor.  I can only see certain colors with accuracy.  I  have limited depth perception and no night vision.  I'm blind.
Apparently there is the number "45" in here.  I had to ask my son, because I can't see it.

It was a series of "symptoms" that lead me to discovering my condition.  Interestingly enough, the discovery of this blindness led me to the realization that I suffered from two types of blindness.  One thankfully had a cure.  Retinitis Pigmentosa has no cure... but it lead me to discover my second blindness that indeed has a cure.  Look at my symptoms closely, you may see them in yourself and find you too have this secondary blindness and have not yet found the cure.

We are all born blind.  I said that in the beginning and left you to ponder over it.  You can ponder a little more as I describe  how I came to discover my primary (yet found secondarily) blindness.  As you can tell from my story above, you are able to go through life without realizing you have a lurking condition - a blindness.  I lived for 23 years before anyone diagnosed my eye condition.  I lived for an additional 8 years before the second condition came to light.  It was through symptoms that it too was diagnosed.

After being diagnosed with RP, I began to feel bitter.  I was angry, frustrated and suffered from the "why me" syndrome. I was determined not to let this condition get the best of me though, so I put on a happy face and moved forward through life.  What happened though, is when people got close to me, and I was comfortable enough with them, they saw the true me that was lurking underneath.  The one that was not as confident as I demonstrated on the outside.  The one that was scared in spite of my seeming courage.  They saw the anger that lurked beneath the smile.  They witnessed the frustration that was just beneath the surface of my seeming contentment.  Fear, anger, frustration, tears, discontentment.... all symptoms.  Do you recognize them?  If you do, it may be because you too, are blind.  You were born blind remember.  Some of you found the cure early.  I found it when I was 31.  The cure for my spiritual blindness.  

As I said, we are all born blind.  Spiritually blind.  We are not born with Christ in us.  We are not born with an eternal home with God.  We are born into sin and hardship.  We are born into selfishness.  Even the cutest baby is born into sin.  We have a sin nature.  This sin nature is the cause of our blindness.  We need to seek out the cure.  The cure is Christ.  

I accepted Christ into my life when I was 31 years old.  Accepting Christ into my life cured my spiritual blindness.  Since I was on a roll with God, I decided... if He can cure something as significant and eternal as my spiritual blindness, then surely He can and will cure my physical blindness.  I asked and I waited.  I've been waiting 10 years now.  In that time I have found victory over:






It's been replaced with purpose, security, contentment and joy.  It didn't happen overnight, but it has happened.  They say when you accept Christ in your life you become a new creature, and anyone who knew me in the years and even months prior to becoming a Christian and then who have witnessed the transformation after my acceptance of Christ into my heart will attest to the fact that I am indeed a new creature in Christ.  I trust in Him.  I trust in His provisions.  I am no longer afraid.  I am no longer angry when I ask God to cure my physical blindness and he says no, because I know He has a purpose for me and for this condition in my life.  

I was born twice blind.  God cured my spiritual blindness.  I'm so thankful.  I can live with the physical blindness, because I know I will spend eternity fully sighted in the presence of my Savior.  What good would physical sight do for me, for this short time on earth, without spiritual vision?  I'd be left, separated from my Savior in a literal hell.  I'm thankful that God chooses how and what to cure.  If given a choice, I probably would have chosen to have my physical blindness cured, because I was not even aware of my spiritual blindness for quite some time.  That would have been an awful mistake on my part.  God left me there in my blindness- digging myself deep into a pit of dispair and ugliness and then, when I called out, He met me there and brought me into the light.  

Most people aren't born both spiritually and physically blind... but do you know the symptoms of spiritual blindness?  They are different for everyone.  They may come in the form of addiction, greed, anger, vanity, discontentment, fear... the list goes on and on... but for all these things, there is one cure.  Jesus Christ.  Have you found the cure?  It's never too late - until you die.  I was 31.  How old were you when you found the cure?

Also, have you shared the cure with others?  I know if I found the cure to RP, I'd put it on the internet.  I'd shout it from the rooftops.  I'd go around the world giving it to others.  But what about the cure for spiritual blindness?  We are all a little more quiet about that.  Why not share it?  It's so much more important than any physical ailment.  Eternity depends on it!

Don't be blind any more.  Know the symptoms, seek the cure and share it with others!

Oh, and the answer  (cure) I have been waiting on God for, for 10 years now... the question I asked Him 10 years ago... to no longer be physically blind.  He's answered me.  He's told me "no".  I don't believe a cure will come for me.  I'm ok with that.  God gently gave me the answer, and with that came peace.  Peace and His provisions.  He must have something pretty special planned for me with this condition to leave me in it... because after all, I'm His child.  For Him to leave me like this, must mean there's a bigger and better reason for it that I'm just not yet aware of.  He wouldn't leave me this way otherwise.  I trust Him!  There is a reason and I'm content in His answer.

In Christ,