Sunday, December 2, 2012

Immeasurably More

***This post was originally written 11/19...we were just slow to get it published.  So please don't be confused by the timing mentioned below.  We'll have some exciting updates posted in the coming week.***

Wow!  I'm not even sure where to start!  We've had a few amazing days around here!  We've been surprised by exciting news and received approvals we never thought we'd see so soon.  And for that, we give God ALL the glory!  I know these events aren't really surprises...they are simply part of his amazing and perfect plan!  Now, prepare yourself for a lengthy post...

The excitement started last Wednesday when we received approval to tell our girls about the adoption!  We NEVER expected to be able to tell them so soon and were overjoyed!  We actually didn't expect to be the ones who would deliver the news either, so you can imagine the excitement we felt.

We called the girls on Saturday in hopes of telling all 3 of them together over the phone.  As it turns out, V wasn't home because she's in the hospital.  That news shook us a bit, but our understanding is that she is okay.  Through the explanations we received, we think she probably has pneumonia.  By all accounts, she is doing well and the medicine is working.  However, it's taking everything in me not to hop on a plane to go see her.  That's what mommies do - they take care of their sick babies.  But I'm comforted, and again reminded, that God is a far superior caretaker than I could ever be, and for that I'm thankful.

So with only 2 girls home, we hoped to tell them over speaker phone, however the speaker doesn't work on the phone they have.  So, alas, we decided to tell Z first.  Since she is the oldest and has the strongest English, we thought she would best understand what we were saying and then could help everyone else understand.  I left most of the initial talking to Matthew because I knew I would just boo-hoo through it all and be incoherent.  He did an amazing job setting it up - reminding the girls how much we love them, how much we've told them we want to have them back in our home, and how much we've told them they feel like our family.  And when he told sweet Z that we had been working for a long time on the paperwork to adopt all 3 of them, she just gasped...the most precious gasp of disbelief and surprise.  (Thankfully, we have it all recorded for me to listen to over and over again!)  She let us continue to talk and when Matthew asked her if that is what she wants, she said over and over again, "Yes! I'm so happy!"  

After explaining some more of the technicalities and timing to Z, we asked to talk to S and again went through the same conversation.  She told us, "I like!  This is nice!"  And in a way that perfectly sums up S, she immediately followed up with, "How goes the dogs?" (i.e. How are the dogs?)  Matthew and I laughed hysterically at her timing and were reminded that she is, indeed, just a child.  A child, who in one moment can agree to one of the biggest things that will forever change her life and in the very next breath ask about her furry friends.  Precious and perfect!  (To clarify, I made sure she understood what we were offering, and she stressed that she understood and it was good!)

We talked a little more with Z and gave her permission to share the big news with V when they went to see her at the hospital.  I hate that we missed her response, even if we could have only heard it over the phone.  I had been daydreaming of her squeal and little girl antics at the news.  I'm sure we'll get a little bit of that the next time we talk to her, though.

Sharing the news with the girls was such a joy.  It was an honor and privilege to get to speak truth into their lives to tell them they are special, loved, and wanted.  We've been about to burst to tell them the full extent of our love for them, and it felt great to just let it all out!  And their response was equally exciting!  We felt confident that they wanted to be a family just as much as we did, but you just never know how these things will go.  It was such a relief and blessing to hear their excitement on the other end.  I told Matthew that it was almost like proposing, or as close to it as I'll ever get.  Whew, glad to have the "yes" part taken care of!   

I can't imagine what the girls must be feeling right now - excitement for the future, hope and love for a family, fear of leaving their friends and all they've ever's so much for their little hearts and minds to process.  I know they've wanted a family for a long time and I have to wonder if they are able to truly wrap their head around it.  I'm sure they will have lots of questions as they process it all.

As if this post wasn't long enough, we have more news to share.  After celebrating the big news on Saturday, I got to attend a fun little trunk show party at my friend Lindsay's house for Noonday Collection.  These products are amazing, and they each have a cool story of helping people in need earn a fair wage.  And to my surprise, Lindsay set the party up as an adoption fundraiser, so we earned 20% of all the sales from the afternoon!  What a blessing!  You should really check these products out...they are fabulous.  I would be more than happy to connect you to the ambassador from our area if you want to buy something or host your own party.  She's an adoptive mommy, too!

And then to top off the series of events, I went to the mailbox today, and guess what was there?!?!  US Immigration approval!!!  Seriously, I just told you in my last post that we hadn't been assigned to a caseworker as of last Wednesday, but the document shows we were approved on Friday!  Amazing!  God's timing is so perfect!  And just like the family we heard of before, our case was approved in 32 days.  Unheard of!  I had been preparing myself that we would get lost in the shuffle over the holidays and not receive approval for several more weeks.  We are still reeling with excitement.  Now, we'll have all of our paperwork certified in Little Rock (seriously, it gets a gold seal sticker...don't tell Lyla!), and then we'll send it off to Latvia! It should take about 3 weeks for it to get translated, and then we should all buckle up because things should move quickly from there.  If things progress as they should, I think we will probably travel to get the girls in January!  So exciting!

I can't end this post without turning the praise back to the One who deserves it all.  This whole process began and has continued because of the grace and love of our Heavenly him be ALL the glory!

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Slow and Steady

Slow and steady wins the race, right?  That's the saying.  If that's true, then we are poised to win this adoption race.  Since my last post, we've made slow but steady progress towards the day we get to bring our girls home.  Slow and steady is the norm when it comes to adoptions, but I have to admit that it is not my style at all.  Just one of the ways the Lord is teaching me throughout this process.

Just before Halloween,  we received our biometrics appointment from US Immigration. Biometrics sounds like something crazy like retinal scans and DNA testing, but it really just means that we had to have digital fingerprints taken at a regional Immigration office.   Our appointment was scheduled for 11/7, but we had been encouraged by our adoption agency that it would be fine to go in early once we had an appointment.  We are all about decreasing the amount of time we're away from our girls, so we headed down to Ft. Smith to have our fingerprints done on 11/1.  

I should pause to say that I am a passionate rule-follower.  I never realized this until recent years, but it's my personality to a T.  It's why I never really got in much trouble as a child, why I enjoyed accounting classes, and why I like to bake so much...I like a list of rules and directions to follow.  So, as excited as I was to shave a week off of our timeline, you should know that I felt like Bonnie and Clyde walking through the door for our appointment a week early.  I was petrified.  The security guards laughed at us for coming early, but said it would ultimately be up to the officials if we could be seen.  We weren't received warmly, and I babbled nervously trying to plead our case, but eventually a supervisor gave us the approval to be fingerprinted early...whew.  Sometimes being a rebel pays off!  (Don't expect me to make it a habit, though.)

Now that our prints are in the system, we are just awaiting a caseworker to approve our adoption.  Typically, this whole process takes around 60 days (although they are allowed to take up to 90), and we are at day 30 today.  We recently heard of a family who got their approval in 32 days, so we were hopeful for speedy timing like that, however when I called to check-up on our status yesterday, I was told that we still haven't been assigned to a caseworker.  Bummer.  With Thanksgiving coming up, I'm afraid this will probably drag on even longer...and our hopes for having the girls home for Christmas are quickly fading.  I still believe the Lord can work any miracle he wants, but I'm also trying to be realistic so that my heart isn't broken.  Still, it's amazing to realize that we are within a couple of months of getting our girls back and those months will fly by with the busyness of the holiday season! 

As for the fundraising front, we've made encouraging progress!  After our first garage sale, we still had so many great items left.  We took all of the kids clothes and toys to a huge consignment here in town and had great success there.  And then we STILL had incredible stuff left, so we had a second garage sale....and had another successful day!  We've truly been blessed with the money we've been able to make off of the donated items we received from our family and friends!  I can't say that enough.  

We still continue to talk to the girls as much as we can.  The computer at their home is broken, so we aren't able to talk as often as before, but we can still talk to them on their foster mom's cell phone occasionally.  We also sent a care package of goodies to them this week that they will hopefully get soon.    

Thanks for checking in on us.  We appreciate your support and prayers so much!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Orphan Hosting Through New Horizons for Children

I'm a regular follower of Kelly's Korner, a popular blog written by a girl here in NWA.  I don't know her, but we have several friends in common, and her blog is always such an encouragement to me as a mom, wife, a follower of Christ.

Today on her blog, Kelly is hosting a link-up to talk about your favorite charity.  I thought it could be a great opportunity to share a little about New Horizons for Children, the organization we hosted our sweet girls through this past summer, with all of her readers.

Until about 2 years ago, Matt and I had never heard of orphan hosting.  We had no idea it was possible.  I hear that so often from people when I tell them about our experience, too.  So hopefully, this will help get the word out there for more people to share their home and their family with an orphan (or two, or three!)

New Horizons for Children is an orphan hosting ministry based out of Atlanta that brings orphans from Eastern Europe to spend 4-5 weeks in American homes during their summer or Christmas breaks from school.  (There is also a pilot program launching for China in 2013!)

NHFC is a non-profit that works with Eastern European orphanages to give hope to the forgotten kids in their countries - mostly children over the age of 8 or sibling groups - the "hard to place" children.  A team of individuals tied to NHFC travels to the orphanages twice a year to interview perspective children for hosting.  They look for children who, despite the hard times and tough things they have had to face in their short lives, possess a quality of resiliency that helps them move beyond their circumstances to still enjoy life.  They look for children who still thrive academically, still have a sense of humor and laugh at themselves, still look out and care for others in light of everything they have experienced...children who would merge into a family well.

Many of the children who participate in the program end up adopted, either by their host family or a family they meet while in America.  To be clear, though, NHFC is not an adoption agency.  Adoption, or the potential for adoption, is never discussed with the children, either.  The children look at the program as a chance to see America, work on their English, and take a break from life at the orphanage.  It's a chance for them to see how a real family operates and loves one another - something most of them have never seen before.  And it's a chance for them to learn about their hope and worth in Christ.  These lessons are essential because as older children, they are on the brink of being on their own.  At age 16, the children "age out" of their orphanage and are forced out on the streets.  As you can imagine, the statics are very bleak from there.  With little life skills and very little hope of technical or educational training, 80% of the kids turn to crime, drugs, and prostitution to survive, and 15% will commit suicide within the first two years.  The idea is that participation in this hosting program will, at least, give them hope for a better life once they leave the orphanage.

My husband, Matt, and I participated as a host family this past summer and were blessed beyond our wildest dreams to share our lives with three amazing sisters.  The rest of the posts on this blog are all about our hosting experience and our current journey to bring our girls home forever.  Please feel free to scroll through all the posts if you are interested to learn more.

My hope is that by sharing this information out, someone else will learn about the program and feel the heart tug that Matt and I have felt.  There are children who are currently available to be hosted for Christmas, and let me just tell you, there are some AMAZING kids available (some of my favorites are the kids featured in this post)!  If this is something you want to learn more about, check out the NHFC website (, or feel free to ask me questions.  You can sign up through the website to actually view the photolisting and bios of eligible children for Christmas hosting.  What better time of the year is there to share God's love and hope with a child than at Christmas?!

I realize that hosting will not be for everyone, but maybe you have the ability to donate a scholarship for someone else who wants to host.  Or maybe neither of those are an option for you, but you can join me in praying for these children.  Whatever the case, that's why I'm sharing what's on my heart.  God is able to do IMMEASURABLY BIG things beyond my imagination, and I trust Him with that!

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  James 1:27

Friday, October 12, 2012

Gratitude, Good News, and Government Approvals

I wanted to start out by extending a big "thank you" to everyone who prayed for, shared about, and participated in our $10 on 10/10 donation drive.  We are so humbled by the donations, including those from people who have never met us.  We still have many financial hurdles to clear throughout this journey, but it's so exciting to see the Lord providing in HIS way every step of the way.

Several people have asked me if it's too late to give.  The answer is, "no." :)  You can still access our fundraising account through the yellow "Donate" button in the top right corner of the page.  

I also wanted to share a great bit of news from S*, the middle sister of the "big girls."  I was able to chat with all the girls on Monday morning via Skype.  S* was busy when the call started, so she joined in a little late, but the first thing she said when she got on the screen was, "Mama, guess what?!  I have a friend!"

Friendship has been a big prayer of ours for S*. Over the past couple of years, her classmates at school haven't been the friendly type.  In fact, by all accounts, they are just plain mean.  I was heart broken this summer when I offered to help S* pick out some treats to take back to her closest friends, and she told me that she didn't have any.  No mommy ever wants her child to feel lonely.  So we have prayed for a nice girl that S* could build a friendship with, and sure enough, a girl transferred to her school just last week, and now my girl has a friend!  Praise the Lord!  I don't think she could have ever known just how heartwarming and encouraging that news was for me!  In fact, I had to fight back my tears because silly S* likes to tease me for crying about "little," happy things.  Oh, if she only knew!

We are pressing on in our journey.  A new round of paperwork was dropped in the mail on Monday seeking US Immigration approval for our adoption.  Will you pray with us for favor in the timing of the approval?  They tell you to allow 90 days for approval but typically run a little faster than that at about 60 days.  We've heard of a few people recently who have gotten their approval in 30 we are praying for that timing, too!  Once we have this approval, we can send all of our paperwork to the girls' country, and even better, we can FINALLY tell them about the adoption at that point.  I'm so anxious for that day!

Thanks again for your partnership on this journey.  Your prayers and support for these precious girls are much appreciated!

Monday, October 8, 2012

$10 on 10/10

As part of our fundraising efforts, we are hosting a donation drive this Wednesday.  We are using the cool date on the calendar, 10/10, to inspire a theme for giving - $10 on 10/10.  

If you would like to participate in our donation drive, just click the "Donate" tab in the top, right corner of the screen.  All donations will be processed through our Paypal fundraising account.

Even if you aren't in the position to give, would you consider praying for those who will and/or sharing this post out with your friends and family through Facebook, Twitter, or email?  While $10 by itself may not seem like a lot of money, it could add up quickly if a lot of people get involved!  

Regardless of how you participate, we appreciate you joining us in the journey to bring the big girls home.  We're excited to see how the Lord provides for his plan!

(If you are new to our blog, scroll down to catch up on our story.  Thanks for visiting!)

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Garage Sale Success!

I just wanted to post a quick update to celebrate a successful garage sale this weekend.  It was cold and windy, and we dodged sleet and rain off and on, but we still managed to sell A LOT of stuff!  We are so grateful to all of you who donated items for us to sale, all of you who helped us get ready for the big day, and all of you who dropped by to see us (including the magic coffee fairies who warmed me up with a yummy cup of pumpkin goodness!)
We couldn't do this without the love and support of all of you around us.  So please know just how thankful we are!

Seeing Things

You may not believe this, but I saw Jesus last Wednesday night.  Before you start looking for the number of your favorite psycho therapist, this Jesus sighting was much more of the metaphorical kind and less of the 'hey there's an Anglo-Saxon looking dude with long, straight sandy blonde hair walking down the street in a white robe' kind.  (As an aside, I know that physical description isn't very accurate, but I blame the drawings and paintings seen early in life for my bad mental image.  Truth be told, you probably were right there with me until that last sentence.)

Anyway, back to the story.  As it turns out, Jesus looks an awful lot like you and me.  He may be wearing khaki shorts and a polo, yoga pants and a t-shirt, or Nike slacks and a crisp button-down.  It's not so much what he's wearing, but much more about what he's doing.  

You see, Natalie and I are part of a community group (small group from our church), and they were the hands and feet of Jesus Wednesday evening.  They loved us without self regard and with little hope of gaining anything in return.  We had a garage sale this weekend and were blessed with a ton of great things to sell, but managing and pricing all the items was a bit overwhelming due the enormity of God's blessing.  Because they are diligently in our lives, they knew this garage sale was to help raise funds for the adoption of three precious sisters.  So, they decided to use the normal community group meeting time to come help, and help they did.  In a few hours time, the group accomplished what would have amounted to several nights worth of hard work for Natalie and I.

Keep in mind that these people are busy with many things of their own, and paid babysitters to watch children so they could help us who little deserve it.  They have plenty of other things that could have filled that time.  In the end, the help is much appreciated and a great burden eased, but the truly striking thing is the love and vision demonstrated.  That these friends would set aside their lives to be a part of loving us and our sweet orphaned girls, is a rare thing.  That they did it all to be a part of showing God's glory in this broken world makes it a holy act.  Here's to the love of Christ seen through the actions of others.  May my life speak a testimony as strong as this!

"And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'" Matthew 25:40