As for me, I know of nothing else but miracles. - Walt Whitman

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Could You Do A Favor For Me Today?

To those of you who remember V, whom we hosted over Christmas last year........could you please say a little prayer for him today? The summer hosting period starts right now. Lots of kiddos from Ukraine and Latvia are either at their host homes for the summer or are almost there. If you remember correctly, V assured us over and over last winter that he would come back to us this summer. Unbeknownst to him, however, he already has a family in the process of adopting him.....we are hoping that they get to leave soon to meet him. Also, it would have been impossible for us to host him again since we are leaving for Africa during the hosting period.

However, at least one other child from V's orphanage is being hosted this summer. So by this time, V knows that he has not been chosen to come to America even though he had his heart set on joining us again. I wonder what thoughts are running through his head......"Why didn't they ask me to come back? Didn't they love me enough? Did I do something wrong? Did they forget about me? Why wasn't I chosen this summer?"

I was mulling this over this morning during my morning devotions. And then I opened the Bible, and my eyes fell directly on Proverbs 18:24 - "There is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother." Which just happens to be the cardboard promise that we picked out for V last January, before he left for his orphanage in Ukraine.

And I knew that God was telling me not to worry. Even though I can't be with V right now and explain to him what is going on, Jesus will be there beside him. To comfort him. To be there when no one else is. To be that close friend that V needs right now, and to help him through the tough times. And He has something much better in store for V than a summer hosting program. I really wish I could see V's face when he finds out that he has a family....... It was a good reminder for me this morning just to trust. God has our best interests in mind, and even when we're walking through a dark and difficult time, the sun will shine brighter on the other side.

And to all of you families out there who are opening your homes to orphan children this summer through the New Horizons For Children Hosting Program, have a wonderful time! I am so excited for you to be making life-long and life-changing memories with these precious kiddos. Blessings!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Little Reassurance.....

I've been getting a little more anxious about our trip to Africa lately. We leave in just over 2 weeks!! We have been so busy, and it seems like there's still a ton to do before we go. And then I start to wonder.....will we really be helping anyone? Will we really be making a difference in someone's life? What exactly lies ahead of us? Will we be able to tolerate the extreme heat, biting flies, and malaria-carrying mosquitoes in Gambella? But then God reminds me that He is in control. He's got this. And He called us there. I'm sure His purpose is even greater than we can imagine. And we are excited to see what's in store for us. We have come to love Ethiopia and the people there, and I am thrilled to be able to learn more about my boys' culture. 

So, in the middle of my thoughts and worries, I took an evening walk with some of the kids the other night. We had walked about 1/2 mile, when Malia pointed out, "Look Mom! There's an Africa!" And sure enough, there on the road was a spot in the shape of Africa. It wasn't a water puddle; it hadn't rained here in awhile. An oil spot maybe? I don't know, but I took it as a little assurance from God that He's got the whole world in His hands. And He's big enough to place a little bit of Africa on a lonely stretch of road in Northwestern Ohio just because He knows that a mommy will walk that way and need a reminder of His love for her. My God is awesome like that.

And here is Jordan, placing his hand over his birth country:

I have also been so touched by Ann Voskamp's ( words this week, as she is visiting Uganda:

"I am sitting in Uganda and all I can hear pounding in my head is Mordecai’s message to Esther:
“Don’t think for a moment that because you’re in the palace you will escape when all your people suffer. If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief will arise from some other place, but you and yours will die.” There are a thousand ways for your soul to die, to be the living dead.
You can look into eyes and hear the whisper from those outside the gate:
“You’ve got to use the life you’ve been given to give others life. If your life isn’t about giving relief — you don’t get real life. What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his own soul?
You have got to use your position inside the gate for those outside the gate – or you’re in the position of losing everything. There are a thousand ways to be the living dead.
If you have any food in your fridge, any clothes in your closet, any small roof, rented or owned, over your head, you are richer than 75% of the rest of the world. We are the Esthers living inside the palace.
If you have anything saved in the bank, any bills in your wallet, any spare change in a jar, you are one of the top 8% wealthiest people in the world. We are the Esther’s living inside the gate.
If you can read these words right now, you have a gift 3 billion people right now don’t, if your stomach isn’t twisted in hunger pangs, you have a gift that 1 billion people right now don’t, if you know Christ, you have a gift that untold millions right now don’t. We are the ones living inside the gate.
It’s like you can hear the cry of the red soil of Africa’s pulsing right here with the heart of God: “You have got to use your position inside the gate for those outside the gate – or you’re in the position of losing everything — of losing your soul.“
You are where you are for such a time as this – not to gain anything — but to risk everything.
You are where you are for such a time as this — not to make an impression — but to make a difference.
You could have been the one outside of the gate. You could have been the one with the Lord’s Resistance Army slitting your child’s throat in the middle of the night, you could been the one born into a slum, raped without a hope, you could be the one born into AIDS, into starvation, into lives of wild Christ-less desperationThe reason you are inside the gate for such a time as this – is to risk your life for those outside the gate. If I perish, I perish."

And Ann's Letter to the North American Church? Wow. So convicting. My deepest desire is that I'll be able to lay myself aside and love like that on our trip to Africa. Please pray that we can be a true picture of Jesus' hands and feet. Thank you!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

2 Years Ago...

...our family grew by 2. On June 22, 2011, we received a call that changed our lives forever - a referral call for 2 1/2 year old twin boys from Ethiopia. And we can't imagine our lives without them!! Here are two sets of photos...some of the very first pictures we ever saw of our boys next to some recent ones:

God sets the lonely in families!! And we are so thankful. Happy 2nd Referralversary, Jalen and Jordan! We love you so much! XOXOXOXO

And here is a copy of the blog post that I wrote about that eventful day 2 years ago:

FRIDAY, JUNE 24, 2011

Our Referral...........

I had a feeling on Wednesday morning that it was the day our lives would change. But let me back up a little. Several months ago, I prayed and asked God to give me a feeling - to just let me know - when we were about to receive our referral. I hoped and prayed that I would open up to Isaiah 43 on the morning of our call and that I would just know that it was the day. The beginning of that chapter has been very special to me all throughout our adoption journey: "...I gave...Ethiopia...for thee....Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west....bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth." Anyway, now fast forward to Tuesday afternoon of this week, when I received a call from the library. A book that I had ordered was ready for pick-up, so that evening, I drove to the library to get it. I wasn't planning to read it yet since I had another book already at home that was due back at the library in a few days. However, something told me to read this one first. Wednesday morning I picked it up to read a bit before the kids got up; and guess what I read? My special verses from Isaiah 43 were there in print, right before my eyes, right at the beginning of the book. I got that warm, tingly feeling.........

Later in the day, I ran across the verse a second time. Again, I got that feeling that something was about to happen. But as the day wore on and it got later and later, I began to lose hope. After all, most people receive their calls earlier in the day, and I knew that our agency would soon be closing. About this time, the kids went outside to play. As I watched them through the patio doors, I noticed that although the sun was shining brightly, a few drops of rain fell onto the otherwise dry cement. I'm not sure that the kids even noticed; it was literally just a few sprinkles. I thought to myself, "Maybe if I look out and see a rainbow, it'll be a sign that today is still the day. After all, like we talked about at VBS last week, rainbows mean that God does keep his promises." I crossed the room and peered out the window, and there, hanging low in the sky, was a large, DOUBLE rainbow!! I just stood there and stared......

I walked outside to join the kids and watch them play for a bit. Chris was flying home on a Cessna from a business trip to New York, and had told me earlier that he would be flying directly over our house, as he had done when he left. He gave me a website to track the flight status, and said that the pilot had agreed to circle over our house a few times so the kids could see the plane and watch their daddy fly over. We watched the sky for him, and then I ran back into the house to check the flight map again. As I stepped in the door, I heard my cell phone ringing. It had stopped by the time I got to it, so I picked it up to see who I had missed. "AGCI," read the screen, in about three-foot-tall letters (at least it seemed that way at the time)! I honestly think my heart stopped for a second. I dashed back outside, yelling, "Shana!!!!!!!!!!!! It's our call!!!!!!!!!!! Keep all the kids outside - I have to call Kiersten (our case worker) back!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

I punched the button to call her back, my heart pounding a mile a minute. When she told me she had two little boys to talk to me about, I gave out a little shriek. We just KNEW we were supposed to get siblings after God had spoken these words to me about a year ago: "Adoption is no longer one, but two."

At that point, I frantically texted Chris, "Referral!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 2 boys!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"  Kiersten went on to tell me that they were 2 1/2 year old twins. Twins!!! I couldn't believe it! She then told me that they were born on October 10, 2008. "How perfect!" I thought. In our family, we have birthdays in February, May, June, August, and December. At one point several years ago, I remember telling Chris that if we ever had another child, it would need to have an October birthday. We didn't have any birthdays in the Fall, and October just seemed like a good month for one since it was right between Adrian's birthday in August and my birthday in December. Just one of those little things...... Anyway, Kiersten went through all of their background and medical information with me, and then we connected Chris in via conference call as he had now landed and was driving home. Kiersten emailed all of the paperwork to us so we could start filling it out, along with about 10 photos of the boys. When Chris got home, we opened up the photos and stared, for the first time, into the faces of the children we had waited so long for. Had prayed so hard for. Chris's first comment was, "Those are my boys!" They were absolutely adorable, and in my mind I asked God the question, "Are these boys really ours?" I then picked up the Bible and opened to several verses in Deuteronomy that I had just read and highlighted that morning at breakfast. "The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever." Deut. 29:29  "In that I command thee this day to love the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments and his statutes and his judgments, that thou mayest live and multiply: and the Lord thy God shall bless thee in the land whither thou goest to possess it......I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live." Deut. 30:16&19.

We are choosing life for these two precious boys. After consulting with our International Pediatrician about their medical reports, we realize that there are possible health and developmental risks involved. There are always many unknowns in an international adoption; however, we are committed to caring for and loving these beautiful children that God has given us. Yesterday, I opened up to and highlighted these verses in Deuteronomy, "And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.....Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children...into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee." Deut. 8&23. My God is so great. I stand amazed in His presence.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Important Letters From 2 Little Boys.....

I have been working on a photo book of the twins that we will be taking to Gambella, Ethiopia with us. My hope is that their birth family will receive it, one way or another. Jalen and Jordan decided to write letters to their family, which I included in the book. They gave me permission to share them, so without further ado, here are the hearts of my 2 little boys:

Dear (Birth Family),

Happy Birthday to C...! Hi, A...! I am doing good. I love you! I like to play with toys and cars and tractors. I like to look at books and ride my bike. I like to play with our dog. I like to go swimming. I like to go to water parks, hotels, and church. I'm happy here. I like to eat food. I like to play with my brother, Opiyew. I like babies. I love you. Goodbye.

Jordan Uchan

Dear (Birth Family),

I love you. I like to play with my doggie. I like to play with toys. I like to play outside with my bike. I like to jump on the trampoline and play in my play house. I like to play on the swings by myself. I love you, (birth family). I like to go to Sunday School and sing and learn about the Bible. What's happening at your house? I drink water and lemalade (lemonade) and milk and pop. I love you. I like it here. I weigh almost 40 pounds. I eat lots of food and I will get big. I will get strong. I'm done.

I love you so so so much,
Jalen Opiyew

Monday, June 17, 2013

Our Weekend.....

We had a full but fun weekend! We spent several days at the lake with Chris's whole family, Malia turned 7, we had our Sunday School picnic, we celebrated Father's Day, and the girls had some friends stay overnight (they are currently having a ball in the pool). Here is our weekend in photos:

Malia getting in some quality Baby Zoey time:

We celebrated Malia's birthday at the lake:

Ashton got to open some late birthday gifts, too:

Singing songs around the piano with Grandma:

 Yesterday, Malia opened her gift from us, which happened to be a series of papers telling her that her present was a trip to the American Girl Store in Chicago where she will get to pick out her very own doll.
She was quite pleased:

Happy 7th birthday, Malia! We love you so much! XOXOXO

 For Father's Day, I had the kids each fill out a paper asking different questions about their daddy. Jalen seems to think that Chris is as handsome as a clown, can lift 8 pounds, and is 1 foot tall. (Ha - I guess I'm married to a creepy, wimpy midget.) Adrian thinks that Chris is as handsome as a beauty model, Ashton thinks he's as handsome as a penguin, and Jordan compares his daddy to a cheetah. Jordan also seems to think that his daddy's favorite activity is playing in the toilet (??) and Malia wouldn't trade her daddy for "a nuther daddy." So, there you have it. It was a happy father's day all around. :-)

Hope you all had a great weekend, too! See you again soon!