Monday, April 29, 2013

Shout Out: Meet the Grubers!

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My husband and I will be married for 4 years this May! We both have known since we were young that one of the ways we wanted to grow our family was through adoption. It was never a question for if we would, always just when? I have taken several trips to different African countries and spent time in orphanages there, I knew this is where God was calling us to adopt. Last year a month before I turned 25 we decided to start the adoption process to bring home our first child from Ethiopia! We began the process, completed our home study and requested to be matched with one child under 12 months old. We started out on 5 wait lists and as time we on we kept opening our ages up, and opened ourselves up to more than one child. 14 months into the process and 6 and a half months on the wait list and we got our much anticipated phone call...MUCH sooner than we anticipated. We thought it would easily be another 8-9 months. But since we had opened ourselves up to "older children" our wait time was dramatically decreased! We accepted the referral of two precious and adorable brothers! They are 5 and 2 years old! Boy how our plan changed!! And we are so glad it did! I wish I could share their photos here with you!

We are so thrilled and can't wait to fly to Ethiopia to meet them! Our biggest hurdle however is finances! We had applied for grants that we thought would cover the majority of our referral fee of $17,670! Well we won't find out if we get any of those until June! We thought this would be great timing but it turns out we need that money MUCH sooner to be able to be submitted to court and go meet our boys!
So we are fundraising like crazy!!! We are doing some local fundraisers, but we have a few online fundraisers as well!
1. Giveaway Fundraiser!
      We have monthly giveaways...this month is a giveaway for a Keruig, k cups, and a cute ceramic Mr. Coffee travel mug! Entering is super simple! $5= 1 entry, $10= 2 entries etc... on April 30th we will draw the winner and start  
      a new giveaway! Check out the details here!
2. We are fundraising through Ordinary Hero...we get 40% of the sales that goes straight to our agency! They have really awesome items for purchase along with items you can buy as donations to children in need, Bibles, chickens, donkeys etc! It's an awesome organization and you can check out their store here   If you decide to make a purchase make sure you Select "Gruber, Sara" at checkout!
****TODAY ONLY there is a giant contest at Ordinary Hero! You could be a part of helping us win a grant! Every sale that is made with our name chosen we will get 40% of the proceeds and if we sell the most Ordinary Hero will match our proceeds! So for example if we sell $1000 in products, we would get $400 and if we were the top family OH would match that so we would receive $800! This could be awesome in helping us raise our funds!!

3. We have a donate button on the top right of our blog for people who feel led to make a donation via paypal! We have been blown away by the generosity of others since announcing our referral! We have had donations from family, friends, friends of friends and complete strangers! Since Wednesday (April 16th) night we have raised $5,262!!! That is unreal! Today is the 22nd! Such a small amount of time! We currently still need $12,408 to be submitted to court! We know that is a huge hurdle but we are praying and we have faith that God WILL provide this remainder! We want our boys home soon!! The sooner we get the money in the sooner we will be submitted to court!
We wish we could share a full picture of them but until court this is all we can show!
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Thank you so much for taking the time to read about our story! We ask you to join us in prayer for our boys, and for us to get to them soon! You can follow our story at our blog!

Please consider shopping at Ordinary Hero today to help with our chances of winning the grant!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


A week ago, my husband was playing softball with some of our college students (he's a college pastor) and took a fall in a hole in the outfield, spraining his ankle. It wasn't the first time I've received a call saying "Don't freak out, but I'm headed to the ER" since being married to him. :)

Israel and I loaded up and headed to the ER and saw my husband with a baseball-sized ankle and we spent the rest of the day (5.5 hours!) at the ER. After an x-ray, we were relieved that it isn't broken, but we have to wait to see an orthopedic doctor to find out what type of sprain Will has.

And this is where I say that I am SO grateful to several people who made that afternoon in the ER, and the rest of the week, so much easier for us! One friend picked up my son from the ER, fed him, and put him to bed for us! Other friends brought us a meal the next day! A friend mowed our lawn for us!

It is not easy to receive help, but sometimes you just have to be humbled and thankful for God's provision and for the generosity and community of others. I will say, this week has been HARD. I am so thankful that I have been given the opportunity to serve my husband as he has been unable to walk or drive; but the lack of help with Israel and the constant pouring out has been really exhausting. This week has shown me the importance of humbling myself and seeing that we NEED community, and that we really do have a community that supports us here in Jacksonville.

Will goes to the doctor on May 7 (next week!) and in the meantime, we are headed to the beach this week for a long-planned trip for respite. Your prayers are appreciated for Will's recovery, and for our trip to be more relaxing than stressful :).

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Two Guest Posts regarding Special Needs

I am so excited that two of my favorite friends/bloggers are doing really awesome series on their blogs right now. Leigh has coordinated a great series on "When our Words Wound" and it has been SO informative and good. A few days ago, Jenn posted about how to talk/support families who have special need. If you are in any way connected to us or feel like you would consider yourself a part of our "circle" or "support system" then PLEASE read it! I loved her words. Check it out here.

My friend Courtney is doing a blog series called "stories of His faithfulness" and I'm REALLY excited to see what she has lined up! I posted there about how God has been faithful to us with our "surprise" special needs. If you want to read it, check it out here. I'll post the full content here in a few days.

You should follow both of their blogs and see what all is in store through their blog series (and they are both great bloggers in general, with some of the cutest little boys EVER!).

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Israel's First Day of School

Last week, Israel started school/daycare two days a week. We have been looking forward to this for a while, because he is at school with some amazing people (his therapists and case workers who love him!) and he will be around other kids with special needs. We decided to put Israel in daycare 2 days a week a few months ago, and knew we would start when it was near time for me to start grad school. It was an unexpected blessing when our local Early Intervention program offered us two free days per week because Israel met the qualifications! We think it will be a great opportunity for Israel to be around other kids and for me to be intentional with my grad school time without being too distracted with my family time.

Israel's first day of school went really well. Of course, he was adjusting, but he did as well as he could for being away from his routine for a long period of time!

We were really thankful that two of his case workers sent us several updates throughout the day! We received a few pictures and emails/texts letting us know how he was doing. It meant so much to me to have just a little bit of reassurance that Israel was going to be okay.

I'm really excited for Israel and hope that he will thrive in his new school environment. Once again, I'm so thankful for our EI program!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Identifying Support Systems

The other day I was having a real pity party. It was one of those awful mornings, where there was a lot going on and Israel was in a bad mood.

It started when I took Israel (by myself) to his pediatrician appointment for his 18 month check up. At the start of every check-up, the nurse asks a bunch of questions about his development and I always have to face the disappointment and realization that Israel is still behind. For a mom with a special needs child, that is the worst part of a check-up.

Then the doctor came in. Sidenote: I love our pediatrician! He is Ethiopian and he has always been very proactive about getting services for Israel. I told our doctor about our pregnancy news, and he was very worried that I didn't have help at home. He didn't even know about my grad school plans- he just thought with all the running around we do with Israel's therapy appointments + a newborn, it would be too much.

So then I thought, wow, it will be too much! I need help! Who will help me? Am I supposed to have helpers? And my thoughts trailed to all the gaps in our support system, and how I didn't have *anyone* to help me (which isn't true, but in those pity party moments there is no truth, right?).

After the doctor appointment I had to run a few errands with my very pitiful child (who was screaming because of his shots) and then came home to rush lunch before we had an evaluation for more services for Israel. Will came home for lunch and I basically unloaded on him about how I needed help, there was no one, and why didn't anyone care about how we have a special needs son.

Then, the lady with CRS came over, and she began the enrollment process for Israel in some more local services. They will fill a gap in our service plan and I am VERY thankful that God is providing for us with this program!

Later, I was thinking about how Israel was starting daycare and how the service team at the UCP Early Intervention has completely loved us and has gone out of their way to serve us and meet our needs. Free daycare, who does that? Three types of therapy, in our home every month?! Women who pray for us and who truly, truly care that Israel is progressing and will celebrate milestones with us?! Such a blessing to me. Also, I can honestly say that some of Israel's therapists have become dear friends to me. I am so thankful for the motherly wisdom that they have passed on and how they never judge me but always encourage.

It can be really hard sometimes, having a special needs child that doesn't "look" special needs and most people don't get it. My husband and I were recently chatting about how it is really frustrating when people say things about Israel's development and they don't know what all we are doing. Or when we have to explain over and over what he CAN'T do. It is hard when people don't realize that his special needs are a BIG deal to us. We don't want you to write it off, saying "he'll get there" or "in his own time" and dismiss all the work we are doing. We WANT prayers, we want support and we want others to walk beside us in this.

So, I am thankful for the support systems we DO have- certain family members/friends/service team members who have truly loved us and walked beside us. And I'm hopeful that through our story, others will see how to love other special needs families.

We really do trust God's sovereignty and know that God is working in Israel. We are claiming miracles for our boy. We know God is going to do amazing works in Israel's story and that we will see how God was working in this season. But during the hard days, we have to remind ourselves of what God has given us and those people who have blessed us by walking beside us in this.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Special Needs

Special needs. When thinking about adopting our first child (and starting our family as a very young, tight-budget couple), we didn't even entertain the thought of special needs at first. During your homestudy, you have to be so very specific about what types of needs you will be open to during your referral. Vision problems? Speech delay? Minor correctable issues? HIV? Skin or bone Deformities? It was humbling to go through that list and think about what we thought we could handle as parents.

The first time we did our homestudy, we decided to just be safe and basically put "as healthy as possible" as our guideline. The unknowns of our child's medical and family history were one thing, but to know about issues, well that seemed to be too much for us.

Thankfully, our adoption journey was over two years long, and we ended up moving, had some financial changes, and needed to update our homestudy. At the time of our second homestudy, God had really moved our hearts to expand beyond our original parameters. Although the expansion was not as much as we would probably agree to today, it was enough for God to work sovereignly to match us with our son.

Our son Israel came home at 7 months old, having lived 6 1/2 months of his short life in institutionalized care. It was clear when we met him during our first trip to Ethiopia that he had some developmental delays, and that the institutionalized care was already shaping his behavior and interaction with us. That awareness did not deter us from moving forward, of course, and we were immediately knit together with this precious boy who needed a family so much.

Israel has been home 11 months now, and we have had a long, emotional process of evaluating and caring for Israel's special needs. I am careful not to put a checklist of his issues anywhere on the internet, because I feel that his situation is sensitive and I am in charge of protecting his story. But what the Lord has done in me over the last year, I feel that I have been given the authority to share.

Having a son with special needs has taught me:
1. God is sovereign. He gives to each of us exactly as He sees fit. Sometimes I question myself and my ability to parent Israel and his specific needs. But I am reminded that God didn't make a mistake - he chose me because HE will be glorified in my weakness and in our story.

2. I have more reasons to celebrate. Sometimes it is really discouraging, and I find myself caught up comparing Israel's milestones to other children. But then, when Israel does something small that is actually really big, like banging toys together for the first time, or holding his bottle or sippy cup- we rejoice so much! I am sure other parents are proud of their kids for those things, but for us, they are REALLY big deals. And I am so thankful that amidst the hard days and slow seasons, we have so many reasons to celebrate, and those things we may have overlooked if we had different expectations.

3. I need the help of others to be a good parent. Without our excellent team of case managers, therapists, family members, and even equipment, I would be lost. I am so thankful that God saw fit to provide us with a support system for our family, and that I wasn't given the opportunity to think I could do this thing alone. My personality can be introverted and do-it-myself at times, and Israel's needs have humbled me and allowed for some amazing people to be in our family's lives. I also have an excellent online community of mamas who are my prayer warriors and friends who I have cried and laughed with.

4. God is the Healer. We are trusting God to meet our needs and we are hopeful for Israel's future. We know that Israel won't be healed by therapy or by exercises alone. We trust in God's sovereignty and that God is doing a mightier work in us through this season than if he was 100% healthy.

5. I wouldn't want it differently. Having a son with special needs makes us long for more special needs children. Not that we have the ability to parent special needs kids better, but it has opened our hearts to see the joys and blessings. We know that if we do another homestudy, the checklist will be much different than our first one!

To God be the glory, for He has been faithful!

Friday, April 12, 2013

18 Months Old

Dear Israel,

Today you are eighteen months old! It kind of breaks my heart that you are getting so big! You are growing a lot right now! Your tiny foot is finally starting to grow - you're still in a size 3 shoe but you are outgrowing a few pairs. You are starting to wear 24 month pjs because you are so long! But you're still SO skinny, so you wear 12 month shorts! :)

You are so incredibly silly these days. You are the most expressive kid ever and have so many facial expressions that crack us up. You love to lean back as far as possible, raise your eyebrows and make a double chin. It is so funny! You also will play "Where's Israel?" with anything that is in front of you. If we mention the game and you don't have a bib, blanket, or toy in front of you to pick up, you look around trying to find something. You still think your dad is the funniest when he pretends to get hurt, and you will laugh so hard when he pretends to run into things.

You eat like a big kid and this month was a HUGE month with progress for you! You finally started to pick up larger things like waffles, cheese sticks, crackers and granola bars and you will self-feed. The end of the item gets a little tricky because you have squished it all up in your fist and don't really know how to open your fist to let it go. We're so proud of you though, and we are thankful for progress!

This month you stayed at both of your grandparent's houses for a few days, and you officially love your grandmothers. You couldn't be more loved, kid. Everyone around you is smitten with you and I totally see why. :)

We are so glad to be your parents, Israel. We love you so much!

love, mama

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Pregnancy: Over Halfway There!

I'm 21 weeks now, which is very exciting because I'm over halfway to meeting baby Edith! I had Will snap a few pictures the other day before we went on a date. I'm not sure how you people who take weekly pictures do it, it is hard enough for me to remember to do one every few weeks.

The second trimester has gone very well for me. I really don't have anything to complain about because this is such a short-lived season and I am so thankful to have the opportunity to carry my daughter.

Here are a few random tidbits about my second trimester so far:
  • I finally started to feel more energized around week 16-17.
  • Full-time wearing maternity clothes at 14 weeks.
  • Felt the first baby movements at 17.5 weeks.
  • Will felt the baby move at 19 weeks.
  • Was asked if I was pregnant by a stranger at 20 weeks.
A few weeks ago I sent out a facebook plea for a free crib to borrow, and I was so grateful when FOUR friends replied within hours that they had cribs for me to use. I know that Israel won't need a crib forever, but he will be 22 months at Edith's arrival and I'm sure he will still need a crib and not a toddler bed (especially since he's not walking and he does some crazy ninja moves in his sleep).

Our neighbors and church friends, the Reaves, offered to loan us theirs that they bought for their grandkids to use. Guess what... it is beautiful.  I had no idea what it would look like or if it would be in a great condition, and I didn't care. I just needed a crib! And the Lord was so good to us. I was telling my friend Courtney the other day that I just feel like God has been so generous to us in this season.

My sister-in-law also loaned us some beautiful Pottery Barn crib bedding that she used for her first daughter. It is perfect and actually matches the wall color in Edith's room (formerly my sewing area) perfectly. Again, God is so gracious to us.

There's really not that much that we have to do to prepare for Edith's arrival at this point. I still need a few basic things for her (and for me as I plan to breastfeed), but most of what we would need for an infant I had already for Israel - including an infant carrier, baby bath, baby wraps, etc. We also scored a great deal on a Bob double jogging stroller a few months ago!

I have definitely come to enjoy being pregnant. Having a son who was adopted and not knowing how his prenatal care was, it makes me think of his birth mom a lot. I wonder how she felt during her pregnancy, when she felt his first kicks, if she got up to pee as much as I do in the middle of the night, etc. Part of me aches to have carried Israel myself. Part of me is thankful that when I feel my Edith kicking, I am connected to a woman in Ethiopia who carried my son.

Monday, April 8, 2013


Last Monday, I turned 26.

You know when you're younger and you dream up the "perfect age" of where you think you'll peak? Well, I always thought it was 26. I figured you're still young enough to be cool, but you have experienced some life to where you're not an idiot. So here I am, at my peak.

 The past 26 years can be summed up in two words: UNDESERVED GRACE. I can list off so many things that are gifts that I just cannot explain why they are mine. In 26 years, I have traveled to Peru, Mexico, Ethiopia, Israel, Egypt, St. Lucia, and several parts of the US. I graduated from an amazing university (War Eagle!) in under four years, worked several years, using my degree, married young, adopted the most amazing little boy, became pregnant with my second child- a daughter, applied and was accepted into graduate school, had an amazing and supportive family, learned a new skill (sewing) and made money doing it. I lived in six cities, had a car for my own personal use for ten years, worked in various jobs such as ice cream scooping, receptionist, social worker, tutor, retail assistant, babysitter and mom.

Whew. You see, lots of amazing, undeserved gifts. I think it is healthy to reflect and see just how faithful and generous God has been to us. I can't believe that I am just 26 and have so many happy memories.

But in true transparency, I have not always been grateful for those things. I've resented jobs, hated faulty cars, took for granted my education, wasted money, longed for more, longed for the past, had my heart broken and chosen to be bitter, made good things into idols. It is so easy and tempting to turn blessings into something else.

So the biggest thing I'm thankful for for in my 26 years is Jesus. I'm so thankful that I was taught at a young age that my righteousness is not dependent on who I am or what I have done, but on who Jesus is. I look back on the mistakes I made and the sin I have fallen into and I can see that Christ's blood covered it for me on the cross. I'm thankful that at 26 years, I am more aware of the gospel than I've ever been, yet I know that I'm only scratching the surface of knowledge of who God is and what He has done for me.

So... looking ahead? I hope that I see the opportunities that come and those that pass, the good days and hard days, and the consequences of living in a fallen world.. and see grace. I hope that I see God's faithfulness as a running theme of my life and that I will be able to look back at 36, 56, 86, and say... God was good. I was not, but he was always good.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Mercy Found Ministries

I'm a little embarrassed that I haven't shared this site with you all before. Have you heard of Mercy Found Ministries?

It is a neat little community, started by three passionate adoptive mamas, designed to connect families together and support adoptive families. There's also a neat blog, which I was invited to participate in monthly!

To read my past posts, check out February's "We are called to different paths", March's "What Parenting a Child with Special Needs has Taught Me", and April's "In Your Own Strength".

Check out the site and get to know the women involved! :)

Monday, April 1, 2013

Easter 2013

This Easter was very special because it was the first Easter that our son was with us. There were several years where we ached (especially last year) for our family to be complete.

Israel had a bit of a cold so he stayed in the service with me... which meant it was a bit distracting. Will preached a great sermon and I was thankful to celebrate Easter with our church. Afterwards, our friends from small group came over and we had a fun lunch together. I felt like I was channeling my mother, using cloth napkins and decorating my table for the holiday.

That afternoon we didn't do much- took a family walk, spent some time on the porch playing, and just enjoyed a Sabbath together.

For those of you who wonder if Israel is always good with his glasses.

It can be really easy to overlook the true Easter for all of the things that the holiday can become. It is so healthy to remember that the reason for any of us to have hope is because Jesus died on the cross for our sins and then rose again, conquering death. We are so thankful that we don't have to fear anything in life and we don't have to fear death, because Christ has overcome it all.

Christ is Risen Indeed!
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