Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Changes

There are a lot of changes coming our way these days. I love the changing in seasons when you have such anticipation for what is ahead. Right now we're counting down the days until our community pool opens and we can truly enjoy the summertime heat!

There are other changes approaching that may be more monumental than the pool opening, ha, like my grad school beginning next week! I went to orientation last week and I'm looking forward to starting my MSW journey next Tuesday! I know this next year will be tough and it will be one of many sacrifices as we work towards this goal, but we will make it through!

This summer Will has a very busy schedule. He laughs that people assume life for a college pastor slows down in the summer, when he actually has a lot going on. He's taking a group of our students to Baltimore, and he's also got a few other trips/conferences scheduled, as well as getting our fall ministry plans outlined. He's still in school as well, pursuing his phd, and he will have another round of classes at the end of the summer that he is currently working on classwork for! He is a very busy man and I'm so proud of how hard working he is.

Israel has adjusted beautifully to being in school two days a week. The first few weeks were a little harder, but he got two happy reports last week and I'm thankful that he is enjoying his new routine. It has been a huge help to have two free days to get stuff done, and I know those two "free" days will be invaluable as I do grad school.

We're also in that funky one-nap-or-two stage with Israel, which we have been battling for a few months. I think it is time to just really commit to one nap, but goodness gracious it can be a LONG morning sometimes as he starts to melt down around 10 am wanting a nap.

In other news, my blog got another awesome makeover. My friend Leigh has taken on a new ministry/business to do blog designs as a way to support adoptive families. She is so easy to work with and gave me three design options to choose from based on my outline of preferences! Check out her work and consider supporting another adoptive family with your blog design! If you're reading this post in a reader of some sort and not directly through my blog url, then click over to check out the design! I love it.

The last few weeks have been very restful and calm and I'm so thankful for that. I know that we have a long year ahead and even more transitions to come. God has been gracious to give us a little bit of respite beforehand!

What changes are you seeing these days?

Monday, May 20, 2013

Shout Out: The Parris Family

I am very pleased to introduce a precious family from our church here in Alabama, the Parris family! This family has an awesome story about how God has been preparing them for children with Down Syndrome (read below to find out!) and they just found their precious MinLan on a waiting child site. Please consider helping bring MinLan home so she can be with her family soon!




We knew God had it in His plan for us to adopt a child with Down syndrome. We had not gotten started on the process of adoption but our hearts were ready, when we found out we were expecting! 


We decided to wait until after our new baby, due in June 2012, was born and all settled in and THEN we would start the paperwork part of the adoption process.


Would you believe that when our sweet Neely was born, she was diagnosed with DOWN SYNDROME! God is so good AND we believe He has a great sense of humor! We love how HE laughs at OUR plans! His plans are so much better!

Then the question was:


Did God EVER intend for us to adopt or did He just lay that on our hearts so that we would be prepared to welcome our new biological daughter?


Then, He sent us MinLan…and we knew…he always intended for us to adopt a child with Down syndrome…..Neely DID prepare our hearts and we are ready!



You can support the Parris family in the following ways: 
1.  Check out their blog or their FB blog page to stay connected. 
2. Participate in their puzzle piece fundraiser.
3. Purchase items from their Just Love Coffee site
4. Use Jenifer's amazing design talent for your next invitation or announcement! (She does a great job- even designed our baby shower invites and Israel's birthday invitation!). Check out her shop here  

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Beach Trip!

During the first few weeks in May, we took a quick trip to Orange Beach, AL for a little family getaway. I have been aching to go to the beach and we needed some quality family time before the chaos of the summer begins!

We got to the beach on Wednesday and it was a yucky day. We were greeted by lots of rain! After Israel's nap, we decided to do a little gotcha day celebration with a cake, but Israel was really fussy until he had a taste of the cake! It wasn't a picture perfect moment but we were still thankful to celebrate one year with our boy in our arms!

After our little mini celebration, we headed to the indoor pool, which was so great! Israel loved his float, which we got last year but didn't get much opportunity to use. He loves splashing in the water!

We spent the rest of the evening reading and listening to the ocean through the balcony, because it was raining!

Thursday the rain had let up a bit, so we decided to take Israel down to the beach and see what he thought about it. He loved the sand and loved watching the ocean, but once the water started coming over him he didn't like it anymore. The rest of the trip he was NOT a fan of the ocean water!

 We went back out to the beach later that afternoon and Israel loved the sand!

We continued the trend of resting, reading, and spending quality family time until our friends, the Pierces, joined us late Thursday night! Caleb and Elizabeth went to Auburn with us, and Caleb and Will were friends growing up. They are about to move to Dallas so it was great to spend a few days catching up with them before their next adventure!

Friday turned out to be a beautiful day, so we went to the beach again!

We went out to dinner Friday night (we ate in all the other meals - the perk of condo rental!) and Saturday morning we went to the pool one last time before we got on the road. It was a quick trip but one of complete relaxation. Israel did fantastic outside of his routine. He loved the condo because it was covered with mirrored walls- so he had plenty of opportunities to sing and wave to himself!


It was a great trip, and I'm so thankful for the opportunity to get away. Love my family!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Happy Birth Mother's Day

Today is what is recognized as "Birth Mother's Day." This day will forever be celebrated in our home, as we think of a courageous woman in Ethiopia that we will forever be praying for daily. I hope that we will honor her in the way that she deserves.



I never thought I would think about our birth mom as much as I do. I will keep her story private out of respect for her and Israel, but I am so humbled that she is a part of our family forever. This last year, it has been so bittersweet to watch Israel grow up and to want to share each moment with her. I wish she could hear him laugh or see his facial expressions in action. I know with confidence that she loves Israel, and it is such a beautiful thing that he has two women who would do anything in the world for him, and in her case, make a tremendous sacrifice.

For all of the birth mothers out there, those who remain secret and those who have been open about their process, I want to say- I honor you. I honor you for the time that you carried a child that is no longer in your arms. I honor you for the sacrifice, the loss, the hard choices, and for the hope that you have for your children. I cannot imagine being in the position as a birth mother that does not parent her child (for so many reasons), and I pray that God gives you extended grace as I'm sure there is a part of your heart that is missing. I'm thankful that God redeems all things and I hope that for our birth mom in Ethiopia, and for those who are reading this, that God's restoring peace will bind all wounds.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Two Trips to Opelika

In April, Israel and I went down to Opelika, AL to visit my family and spent a few days there without Will. We went to celebrate my birthday with my siblings (my brother and I share a birthday two years apart) and parents. My grandparents even drove through for the night, which was a rare treat. Israel had a blast playing with his cousins!


For my birthday, my sister and I went and got pedicures, which was probably the most entertaining pedicure experience I have ever had. We laughed so much and it was just the afternoon out to make a birthday memorable.
 My sister, who is a great photographer in the Marion/ Asheville, NC area, took these snapshots of Israel and me:



Later in April, Will and I took Israel to Auburn to celebrate the A-Day game and to roll the Toomer's Trees one last time. It was a bittersweet day for Auburn fans (we're both Auburn graduates) and I'm thankful that we got to experience the day with our son, who had NO idea what was going on.

Will and I also had a date-night out to his fraternity alumni banquet, and enjoyed dinner with his younger brother who is a current brother in the fraternity! 


It is really nice being so close to family right now and being able to squeeze in two trips to my parent's house in one month! I'm so thankful for my family.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Guest Post: Let's Talk Ethics

My friend Catherine is one awesome mama. I have seen God do some incredible things in her family over the last few years. Her family started the Rwandan adoption process about the time that we started our Ethiopian adoption, but things didn't play out so easily for them. Rwanda closed its adoption program, and they ended up adopting a beautiful little girl, Elizabeth, from the DRC last year. She wrote a great post on ethics that I think you should read. Check it out:

Today, let’s talk about the light and upbeat topic of adoption ethics, shall we? Huh? It’s not your favorite topic of conversation? Well, you’re in good company. You should have seen the look on Matt’s face when I casually mentioned, “hey, so I think I’m going to write a blog post about adoption ethics this week.” Classic.

There’s just been a whole lot of chatter in and out of the adoption community recently about the ethics surrounding international adoption (and rightfully so). I get that it’s hard to consider these issues and engage in these discussions. It’s not pleasant. It’s not clear-cut. Adoption is messy and complex beyond my understanding. But as I have read and learned and grown, I have realized that it is absolutely imperative to engage in the dialogue. So that’s what I’m doing… trying to continue the discussion to the best of my non-professional, rookie-adoptive-parent, heart-on-my-sleeve ability.
Many of us in the adoption community have heard about this article related to this book that was recently published. A primary question raised here is whether the current “orphan care movement” within evangelical churches is doing more harm than good. Ethical issues are addressed, and many proponents of adoption are completely up in arms about it all. I have not read the book, but I do believe, at the very least, that it opens the doors for us to dialogue about these issues. Truthfully, I wish we (those within the evangelical “orphan care movement”) were initiating the discussion rather than responding on the defensive, because as Christians, I firmly believe that we should be on the front lines of addressing adoption ethics.

Y’all, I love adoption. Talking about adoption makes my heart beat faster and gets me all riled up. But I also believe that adoption is just one component to “orphan care”. I believe that we, as Christians, should get just as riled up about community development, helping to ensure that poverty isn’t the sole reason children are being adopted. I believe that we should support options for in-country care just as fervently as we support those adopting internationally. Ouch. That one stings on a deeply personal level. Because, you guys, when Rwanda closed their doors to international adoption program after our two year wait, I cried and cried over their commitment to in-country care. I wanted to be the one adopting a Rwandan baby. At the end of the day, it was about me. Because if Rwanda was indeed deinstitutionalizing all of these children and if they were in fact all placed in loving families, then isn’t that accomplishing the greater goal of caring for the orphaned child? What if I had shifted my gaze away from myself and my personal desire to adopt from this country and, rather, enthusiastically supported efforts to mobilize individuals and families within Rwanda to care for these children?
You see, this isn’t easy stuff, and I’ve often failed and faltered and lost focus. My intentions and motives were good, but I wasn’t ready to think outside of the box in terms of orphan care. But I think the tide is turning within the “orphan care movement”, and I think as a whole we’re ready to consider the possibility that this movement- that the Biblical mandate for orphan care- won’t simply be about adopting. Are we willing to expand our definition of “orphan care” within the Church? Are we willing to engage in discussions on ethics in adoptions? I think it’s time.

It’s time because I’m sick and tired of hearing about horrific cases of innocent children being trafficked, often unbeknownst to adoptive parents. Children are being taken from families who never knew they were being adopted. Documents are falsified. Birth parents are coerced. It’s an unpleasant to consider, but it’s crucial to the discussion. I often have potential adoptive parents come to me for adoption advice, and over time my advice has evolved from “go for it! adopt right now!” to “do your research. know your agency. ask hard questions. and investigate the heck out of everything.” I’m telling adoptive parents not to not always take their agencies’ claims at face value. To be wary if they’re promised a super fast adoption. To be extra wary if they’re not giving straight answers and are pushing back on your hard questions. I’m not trying to be a kill-joy here, people. I’m just trying to be real. Adoption is a beautiful, redemptive thing if it happens correctly. But I don’t believe that our mandate in scripture to care for the orphans is a mandate to potentially traffic children who already have loving families. I think that the most just thing we, as Christians, can do is to ensure that we can look into our adopted children’s eyes one day to tell them their story with assurance that we have done everything in our power to know every detail about their story that we could possibly know. That the hard questions had already been asked before we went to court. Certainly before we bring them home.

Obviously, I know what some of you are thinking, and it’s the reason why it’s been so difficult for me to formulate my thoughts and type these words. “Dude, who is this girl to ramble on and on about ethics and indigenous care? She already has her beautiful daughter home! Hypocrite.” I totally get this. I’m not trying to feign having arrived at a complete understanding how to navigate this process of international adoption. And I’m certainly not saying we have done all of this flawlessly. But you have to understand that, while I’m a complete work in progress, I have learned quite a bit through the process and while in Congo. I’ve learned through our failed Rwandan adoption. I’ve learned and have been stretched through brave, passionate people who have no qualms about speaking the truth. And I’m still in the process of grappling and wrestling with these issues. But the more you learn, the more you know. (How’s that for profundity? I clearly should pursue a career in writing, ya think?) On this note, let me be crystal clear about one thing: this is not about Elizabeth. We had the privilege and blessing of working with an amazing non-profit undeniably committed to holistic care of vulnerable children in DRC and ethical adoptions. While her story is hers to tell (i.e. not mine to broadcast via this outlet), I believe with every fiber in my being that through God’s redemptive ways, she is ours. And that when we share her story with her one day, we can do so without hesitation or guilt.
I know that some might be unnerved by this post. It’s not the rosy picture of adoption that we typically like to paint. But let me reiterate, God clearly led us to adopt… and I so hope that He might lead some of you to do so as well. Because, goodness knows, there are many, many children across the globe who need homes. It’s been an amazing journey, and one that I would do again and again. It’s just that we owe it to these children to ensure that we are truly living out Micah 6:8, doing all we can “to act justly to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Being pro-adoption and pro-ethics do not have to be mutually exclusive. So let’s keep the dialogue going.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

In Your Own Strength?

I recently came to the realization that I was trying to do a lot of things in my own strength. Parenting, coping with some of the changes in our lives, having the energy during pregnancy and raising a toddler, etc. I was continually worn out and felt like I needed "a night off" or time to myself. Even when I DID get that, it never seemed long enough and I always felt at the end of my rope.

That is not a healthy place to be, especially because I was putting myself there. I cannot change some of the tiring circumstances that are in my life season (pregnancy, a child with special needs, being a stay at home mom) but what I CAN change is HOW I persevere in this season.

It may seem overly simple, but the truth was: I wasn't walking in grace. I was relying on my own strength instead of the Holy Spirit to provide the love, patience, kindness, etc that I needed to be gracious to others (mainly my family) and to give me the energy and strength for the moment.

"And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:9-13)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22-23)

I wish I could say that I have conquered this, and that now that I realize it I'm in a different place completely. The truth is, I must constantly remind myself that I don't have to "do it all" myself. God has done it for me and given me the best gift- His Spirit to walk with.

So whether it is the exhaustion of a long wait for your adoption, the trials of post-adoption, the cabin fever of cocooning, or just the every day life events, I encourage you to remember the gospel. Remember that Christ overcame sin, overcame any petty trials here by death on the cross and His resurrection. All things here on earth are simply meant to mature us and shape us like Christ. Be encouraged, ladies, that we don't have to walk in our own strength! God has given us everything we need, and when we don't feel it, we can rest in the hope of Christ and what He has done.

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him." (James 1:2-5)

"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us." (Romans 5:1-5)

Monday, May 6, 2013

Shout Out: The Clairmont Family!

I'd like you to meet the Clairmonts! It's a shame that we don't live in Wake Forest, NC anymore because that's where this sweet family is! So, fellow Southeastern-ers, check this out!

Meet the Clairmont Family! Randy and Vanessa Clairmont are in the process of adopting a 3 year-old boy from Congo and have been on this journey for 2 years. In the process, they were also blessed with a biological little girl, Abby, who is now 8 months old. What is a little unique about their story is that through the adoption process, God opened the door for their family to serve overseas as missionaries with Mission Aviation Fellowship. They have a little video that shares their story at www.theclairmontfamily.com/story

Everyone in the Raleigh/Wake Forest area is invited to hear their story and have fun and fellowship this Saturday, May 11th. Enjoy pizza, games for the kids and free mini-photo sessions. Randy and Vanessa will share their story of what God is doing in Congo and how you can be a part of it.



Where: Joyner Park, 701 Harris Rd, Wake Forest, NC 27587
When: Saturday, May 11th, 12:30-2:30pm
Who: Everyone! Bring your whole family
RSVP: Email rclairmont@maf.org for your photo session time. Singles, couples, kids & families all welcome.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Stories of God's Faithfulness: Special Needs

 One year ago, my husband and I brought home our first child, Israel, from Ethiopia. Israel had spent almost all of his first 7 months in institutionalized care, and he had some pretty obvious developmental delays. We were expecting to be one of those stories where kids with delays immediately bounced back and became "normal" just weeks after being within a family. Afterall, several of our friends' adopted kids had those stories, and we were expecting it to be just a matter of weeks before Israel was all caught up developmentally.

Well, weeks...then months went by with little progress. We were doing everything we could do show our son love and attention, how was he not caught up? I felt the pressure to be a better mom and the shame of having not done enough. Soon we were referred to specialists, neurologists, geneticists, therapists, etc... and we were given a big question mark as to WHY our son was not really progressing the way we wanted him to. We started Israel on a pretty heavy therapy schedule after being home around 3 months, and we committed to doing (and paying) anything to make our son "normal".

I'll go ahead and give you a quick catch up... we're still in therapies (more, in fact) and we are still seeing specialists and therapists on a regular basis. It has been almost a year since our son has come home, and the expected "catch up" has been slow and painful at times. We have had to trust God and to relinquish control over and over again.

But let me tell you, friends. God has been so faithful to us.

It is easy for me to be bitter at our son's timeline in Ethiopia and question God on why our son wasn't home faster or why he had to live in an orphanage for so long. I can try to blame his previous caregivers, or myself, or my husband, for not doing enough. But truly, God was faithful then and He is faithful now.

I am reminded of a passage in John 9 where a man was born blind, and Jesus was confronted about whose fault/sin caused the blindness. Jesus responds, "“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him." (vs 3).

When I think about our situation in light of this passage, my perspective completely changes. If God is giving us the opportunity for HIS GLORY through my son's delays and our crazy therapy schedule, then I must trust Him and be thankful for this season!

When I sit and try to pinpoint exactly HOW God has been faithful in this crazy season, I can think of several things of the top of my head. For starters, we live in rural Alabama yet have the most amazing support network of therapists and social workers. Our son has access to medical care. Our family can afford to seek therapies for Israel, and we were recently given the opportunity for a fund to help cover some of those co-pays too! I have been able to stay home with Israel to work with him. We are able to celebrate some MAJOR milestones with Israel (like sitting up or holding a cup) that may seem minor to others, but to us they are miracles! God has allowed our son's story to remind us of His sovereignty and control over and over again.

So yes, God has been faithful to us! I'm sure if I would have had the chance to write our story, it would have been one of the miraculously speedy recoveries after our son came home, but in the way that God has chosen to write our story, we are able to see the works of God displayed in our son, and for that I'm truly grateful.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Gotcha Day: 1 Year Home!

One year ago today our empty arms were finally filled and we were never-to-be-parted with our sweet son, Israel Biruk!



It has been such an eventful, hard, joyful, laughter-filled, silly year and we are so thankful for our precious boy! God has been SO gracious to us! We had no idea that we could love a little person so much and that our lives would be completely turned upside down! I am so thankful that Israel Biruk made me a mommy, and that we have such a spunky kid that is ours!


We really thought that we would have our Gotcha Day video to share by his 1-year anniversary, but unfortunately it's just not ready yet! Hope to have it soon :)

To celebrate our 1 year anniversary with our boy, we're headed to the beach! Can't wait to celebrate God's faithfulness together. And for those of you in the wait, I will say, time finally speeds up again once you are home with your kids. I can't believe one whole year has passed so quickly- and I remember how the days and months used to drag by for us. God is faithful, friends. He really is.
There was an error in this gadget