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!

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,