Thursday, March 29, 2012

Thank you God for this week!

In the last week so much has happened and God has shown up every time and amazed us more and more each time.  Everything has been just falling into place so perfectly and with really cool stories every time. 

Our flight:  We had been looking for flights but wanted to wait until big brother's birth parent interview was complete just in case.  The day before it was scheduled I found the perfect flight and there were 3 tickets left so I got nervous and faithfully booked it, while they were processing everything the guy told me, "you are very lucky because there are now just 2 seats left on this flight".  We had to leave on a Sunday and arrive in Ethiopia by Monday at the latest and be home by the following Sunday and unless we wanted to pay a ton, it wasn't easy to find but what makes the flight even more perfect is that we have a 6 hour layover in Chicago so we will get to see my parents and anyone else who wants to come send us off.  We will be in Ethiopia for 5 full days and 5 nights!

Support:  Words cannot express our gratitude for all of our friends and family right now.  Although this is a very exciting time, at times it is also stressful planning time off from work, fundraising, budgeting, making sure we are doing everything we need to and getting everything in order for our trip away from Jalen.  Thanks to all of your prayers and support for us, every mountain is turning into a molehill.  Jalen gets to have his grandparents here while we are gone.  So many of you have jumped up to ask how you could help us raise money to get our upcoming fees and travel paid for and have came up with so many ideas for us.  The pure joy of hearing how excited you are for us makes each day so much better! We have had donations made recently from 5 friends, 4 of which are adopting as well which means the world to us.  There is just something so special about the adoption community.  You get to know so many people and really become so close to some that you feel like family.  You know so much about them and share a heart for orphans which is a very strong bond to have.  There is also something very special about supporting other families financially when you are also trying to fundraise yourself.  God provides and I pray that the donations we have gotten will be multiplied for the families who gave them.

God's Amazing Plan:  On the topic of getting to know other families, there is a family who is very special to us and has been for about 2 years now!  They live many miles away from us and are not adopting through our agency but they are adopting from Ethiopia and they have 2 precious babies waiting for them.  They have been on this journey almost 1 year longer than we have and I have prayed for them because they have been so patient, waiting on a court date for so long.  They saw their children's faces around the same time that our dossier arrived in Ethiopia...8 months ago!!!!  When we got news of our court date, she was overjoyed for us and it brought tears to my eyes knowing how happy she was but for me it felt bittersweet because in my mind it just wasn't fair.  I have been praying for her and her husband ever since even more than usual because I knew they were ready, it was their time to meet their children.  Well, last night I got a message from her that they were given a court date and it will be around the same time as ours.  I think I might have been just as excited as the day we found out our own court date!  I can't give out too much info because they are keeping it private for now but just know our paths will cross in ETHIOPIA!  We will get to meet in person and spend time together in ETHIOPIA, the country where our children are, the country that has brought us to know each other and we will be there together for the same purpose!  Honestly, does it get any better?  Just 1 month ago to the day I emailed her and said I wished we lived closer and could meet in person and although it would be a LONG shot, what if we met in Ethiopia someday...who knew that we would and so soon!  I can only say God had a little something to do with this, ya think?

Birth parent interview:  This happened last night while we slept and today we got word that it went well and we can officially go to our court date for our little guy.  This is also very bittersweet for me because although I can't lie and say I wasn't excited and didn't have a sigh of relief when I was told the news, I also very much so am saddened.  You start the adoption process because you see children grow up without families, without knowing what love is and it breaks your heart.  We see our own child grow up knowing our love for him and it really breaks our hearts to think another child may not ever know that feeling.  You start this thinking it is a good thing and happy and right in every way but then you learn more about your child and think about a parent getting the news that their child has been chosen and your heart just breaks for them.  I pray wholeheartedly that our little boy's biological parent knows how much this child will be loved and taken care of.  I pray that he knows we will do everything we can to preserve his culture and that we only want to be a blessing to our child and to his family in Ethiopia.  I pray that he knows we will be bringing him back to visit and will pray for and keep his family close to our hearts.

Welcoming a Family Home:  This weekend we will be welcoming home a family in our agency who is bringing their son home!   We are very close to many families in our agency which is beyond amazing because this means our child and theirs will not be far from each other here and will get to have play dates and reunions with children they once lived with in Ethiopia.  This weekend, the Castleberrys come home and we will be greeting them at the Tulsa airport.  We also will get to have dinner and talk with another family before the arrival.  This will be our first welcoming at an airport and I cannot wait to attend many more!

I will close with saying that in 19 days we will meet our son!!!!!   

Friday, March 16, 2012

We have a COURT DATE!!!

We are all in shock, my stomach is just settling down from hearing this news about 5 hrs ago!  We will be heading to Ethiopia in 1 MONTH!!!!!

Here's how it all went down:    I am in Kansas City for a continuing education course and our case worker was trying to call me all day, I didn't recognize the number and kept ignoring it since I was in class so she finally called my husband who is with me but was in the hotel room getting Jalen down for a nap.  My husband text me..."are you sitting down?", then the next one..."bad news, you can't go to Dallas now" (as I was planning on going for our agency's ET family reunion in April).  My heart was pounding, for sure it couldn't be a court date, number 1, our case worker always calls me and I didn't even think she had my husband's number, number 2, ummm we had only been submitted for a court date just a couple weeks ago...surely it would take 2 more months to find out!  Did someone die...was someone in the hospital, but how would he know they would be in the hospital until April, was someone flying in to see us, so many thoughts racing through my mind while I am in a room full of people being further educated on proper billing practices in Medicare!  Then the next text said "we will be in Ethiopia...court date set for April 18th..."   Seriously do you know how bad I wanted to scream and then burst out crying in the middle of this course?  I kept looking straight ahead and taking notes, withholding tears (people would have thought I was crazy) but my stomach was anxious so I took a  bathroom break and called our case worker, later realizing it was her calling since this morning, good thing I didn't take the call then, the whole day in class I would have been a mess, thankfully it was just the last hour :)

So now, we pray for next week for the birth parent interview, we pray for our boy's family and pray for everyone involved.  We will wait until next week to start making actual travel plans and now we have some things to get finished up, home study update, USCIS update, fundraising, planning for who will come stay with Jalen while we are gone, planning taking off from work, and just so much to do but it is all SO EXCITING!!!   All glory goes to God here, truly only HE could have planned all this out!!!  He really does show up when you LEAST expect it, this week has been beautiful and we have had no expectations of hearing news about a court date. Instead, my focus has been on thanking God for the beautiful days, my family, friends, allowing us to be on this journey and just everything in my life right now and then BAM, we get this news!!!
our family soon after hearing our court date! 

Monday, March 12, 2012

Emotionally Driven or Spiritually led?

We go to a network church of and I have said it many times before but our pastor, Craig Groeschel definitely has a gift of being able to deliver a message that is very meaningful, yet entertaining and everyday you leave really being able to take something away from the experience that you can directly apply to your life.  A few weeks ago our lesson was on Samson, for 4 weeks we learned about Samson and it was mentioned over and again that this lesson was aimed for the guys, yet I and many other women took a lot away from it.  This lesson was going on while we were having to make one of the most difficult decisions I have EVER had to make in my life in our adoption process.  You would have thought this would not have been a help at all and I did at first. How can hearing about one of the  strongest men in the bible who disobeyed by being unclean and eating honey out of a lion’s carcass, drinking alcohol, and being with a women who would ultimately be the reason his hair was cut off and his strength was lost, help us in our adoption decisions???  Well in the teachings we were told about how when choices are made we have to determine if they are “emotionally driven OR spiritually led”.   This has almost become my daily reminder in everything I do.

When it comes to adopting a child, you cannot deny that a mother’s (or father’s) emotions are going to be heightened in everything that occurs and in all decisions to be made, I mean it is a child’s life we are dealing with.  In other decisions it may be easier to pray and feel led towards a certain direction but when it comes to making a decision between one child or another it is not that easy.  There is just no way a person’s emotions can be tamed in a decision like this especially when you are watching your own child and internalizing EVERY single aspect and realizing how each child in this world deserves everything your child gets because that is what they are, a child.  They may have developmental delays, attachment disorder, HIV, behavioral problems and many other “issues” but they are still a child, they are dealing with the cards they were dealt and they need help from responsible, loving adults to care for them and show them how to be a child and how to grow up to be a responsible and loving adult themselves.  Okay, I digress.  This is why I don’t keep up with my blog as much as I would like because I can’t seem to contain all my thoughts and emotions to stay focused…back on track now.

“Emotionally driven or spiritually led”…without going into detail this is what was the determining factor recently in our adoption and we went down the path of “spiritually led” and once we did I will say although our emotions didn’t change in the snap of our fingers, we did have a sense of peace, excitement, and overall just a feeling of this is what we were supposed to do.  Let me tell you, I am a VERY emotional person when it comes to children and orphans so as I am typing this I am still somewhat in disbelief that I was able to make that decision BUT I also know I didn’t do it on my own and COULDN”T for that matter and the only one who could was God and I am so thankful I know him and have him to turn to.  I kept thinking back to a few years ago when I knew who God was but didn’t really have a daily relationship with Him and above all didn’t know how to go to Him for help.  I still don’t of course and am learning just like the rest of us but I have been on both sides recently and know there is MUCH more peace in being spiritually led versus emotionally driven.

Now to bring this up to date to this past week’s lesson.  We are also blessed to have Pastor Steven Furtick as a guest every now and again as he is good friends with Pastor Craig.  He is doing our message on “Found Favor” this and next week.  Jason also got to attend a Seeds Conference in Tulsa last week with other people from our church, in which Pastor Furtick spoke at.  Yesterday he spoke about having God’s favor and who wouldn’t want that???  He also then asked if knowing that Mary had God’s favor which meant she would appear to be pregnant out of wedlock, give birth in a barn and later watch her son be crucified, would we still want that favor?  Good point.  I think we all want God’s favor, but are we all willing to go through the motions we have to as hard as they may be, in order to receive it?  Of course everything I hear immediately gets translated in my head to how it applies to adoption.  I can’t help it, it just does and you can ask my friends and especially those in my Life Group that get to hear this every day/week (side-note, thank you to all of you who love me enough to know this is my passion and let me keep on talking).  How many people say “we plan to adopt someday…”, “when the timing is right and when we have enough money to, we are going to look into adopting”, etc, etc.  People, let me just say this, adoption is not easy, it is expensive, emotionally and physically draining, it makes you change your life and rearrange your priorities, it may make you lose “friends” that don’t get it and it may mean you don’t get to go on a nice beach vacation for a couple years BUT above all it is the BEST choice you will EVER make!  The difficult times get accomplished and you look back and realize it wasn’t that bad and you can do anything now.  The expenses are there and they are overwhelming at first and then you realize your budgeting and worrying don’t matter because God has it covered and in the blink of an eye your expenses have been paid and your child is home with you.  Those “friends” you may have lost or been away from either come back into your life because they finally get it or they don’t and you realize they weren’t really your friend’s in the first place.  And finally that beach vacation you were planning on almost makes you sick to think about because instead you now get to daily watch your child grow, play and develop in a loving home versus trying to do all of that in an orphanage.  (another side-note:  please don’t think if I hear about you going on a beach vacation I am going to think less of you, I know vacations are well needed and great family bonding time).  We were reminded yesterday by Pastor Furtick that God’s favor is not favors from God.  We have personally experienced God's favor when we chose to follow His path in our adoption and I highly recommend it! In quoting pastor Furtick, "you do not achieve God’s favor, you receive it"…so who wants it?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Shop and help us get to Ethiopia

Well after a short break, our fundraising continues.  Although every step of our adoption has been so exciting in its own way and every fundraiser we have done has gotten us one step further, this time I feel as if it is just that more special.  This time around we're not only fundraising to get ourselves to the next step but we now have seen our son's precious face, have heard all about him and cannot wait to get to him and that is what this round of fundraising is for!

There are 2 ways you can shop and help us raise money...

1.  Shop online at  our link through 147 Million Orphans and pick up some awesome apparel and more, that spreads the word about how many orphans there are in this world.  They are very generous and 30% of what you buy will get placed into our adoption fund.

2.  Spend $20 at our link through CoupAide to receive a $50 to use at over 18,000 restaurants.  You spend $20, we get $10 of it and you get $50 worth of food! It's a win-win for everyone :)  One family has raised over $1000 just through this fundraiser alone and are still raising!
Thank you to the hundreds of people who have helped us get to where we are so far.  It may not seem like a lot but every dollar counts and as you can see by our fundraising thermometer, each and every one of your dollars has added up to bring us to our half-way point to be fully funded for this adoption!  We are humbled by this and just have to give all the praise and glory to God and for placing each and every one of you into our lives.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

More Than Half Way There

I have finally updated the fundraising thermometer to the left with the money we have been saving and from what we raised running in the Chosen (half) Marathon and GUESS WHAT????  We are more than half way there!!! 

When we started this journey, $24,000 sounded like a whole lot to save and fundraise for.  Then when costs started going up (an extra trip to Ethiopia required, more documents needed and more expenses to be paid in country for birth parent court needs and such) and hearing that $30,000 was more what the end bill would be, it was even more intimidating.  I can honestly say that we never had a doubt that it wouldn't happen.  I have often heard from a good friend also adopting..."if it's God's will, it's God's bill" (or something like that) and I hear that in my head every time I start to get a little anxious and it makes me feel just a little bit more at peace.

I wanted to re-cap our fundraisers, since we started, to help other families wondering "how do people do it?" and also to show just how many people were involved in all of it.  Fundraising is hard work as any adopting mama knows.  Lots of thinking, planning, worrying, praying, and long hours of actually carrying out each fundraiser and posting it on blogger, FB, and emailing everyone you know and although it would be so much easier if we had enough money to just cover it ourselves, I have to say it has really given us a platform to share our story.  It has given us a chance to get the word out about orphans and the worldwide needs that common middle class families like ourselves can actually make a difference in.  So here it is....

Mary Kay 
Massive Garage Sale and Lunch  
Puzzle Piece and Auction
BBQ Benefit Dinner  
147 Million Orphans Gear
Thirty-One Parties
Just Love Coffee
Chosen (half) Marathon for Adoption
...stay tuned for the next one COMING SOON 

Finally I just have to say I am so thankful that we are on this journey and that God is in support of it because He has provided through amazing friends, family and strangers, for every bit that has been needed since the start and we know He will continue to provide until we bring our "big brother" home!