Friday, December 30, 2011

Adoption Update ... Long Overdue

Well, as evidenced by the lack of blogging over the past couple of months ... it's been a busy fall! I spent 12 weeks subbing for one of my 4th grade co-workers who was on maternity leave. The best part of the job was that my daughter was one of my students! I always wanted to be a fly on the wall in her classroom, but I got to be much more than that. The 12 weeks were fun and CHALLENGING and my own little contribution to our China fund (which I reminded myself of every time I felt overwhelmed!)

In addition to working full time, taking care of my family and home, and celebrating the holidays, there was also LOTS to do for the adoption. After our home visits were completed for the home study, I was informed that there had been changes in the number of training hours required by China. So we spent most of October working on our online classes. We got our completed home study in November and sent our immigration application the very next day.

As we waited for immigration approval we began preparing our dossier for China. Each of the documents included in the dossier (marriage and birth certificates, financial and employment statements, background checks, home study, etc.) have to be notarized and then county and state sealed. After each document is state sealed it has to be sent to a courier who will hand-deliver it to the Chinese Consulate in Houston for authentication. All documents must be less than six months old, so in order to meet that deadline we sent the majority of our documents the week before Christmas. Once we receive immigration approval, we'll send the last of our documents to Houston ... and then they'll be ready for CHINA!

So ... now you can see why I had so little time for blogging! It was a whirlwind! Here are a few pictures of our fall/holiday activities.

Lots of paperwork!

Two skeptical. One delighted to touch anything yucky!

Happy Halloween from our dragon, football player, and Lucy from Narnia!

Jackson gets a bike for his 5th birthday! Nothing better than Krispy Kreme on a new bike!

Happy birthday!

Jackson chooses Rylee to help him catch tickets in the ticket blaster at Chuck E. Cheese!

Bowling for cousin Skyler's birthday

Annual leaf jumping

Some minor surgery for Little Bit
Is this legal? Kids enjoying some farm fun with Paw Paw.

Tickling the ivories with Papa

Catching a Thanksgiving nap?

Playing with cousins at the Wills Thanksgiving get-together

Decorating the Christmas tree

Big smiles with cousin Claire

Rylee loves Uncle Taylor and Brittany

Nana and Papa make great playmates!

Visiting with Santa and Mrs. Claus on Christmas Eve

Hope everyone had a blessed holiday season! Thanks for checking in, and I hope to do a much better job keeping you posted in 2012!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

November 3rd

Five years ago we celebrated Scott's 33rd birthday as we waited for the birth of our first son.

How appropriate that God would bring him into this world on his daddy's birthday!

From the moment I looked into his sweet face, I knew he belonged in our family.

He has brought so much joy ...

energy ...


laughter ...


to our home.

So, today I praise God for blessing my life with these two incredible people - my best friend and my 

precious little boy! 

Happy Birthday, Scott and Jackson!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

It Seemed Good to Me

Don't you just love it when something brand new is revealed to you from scripture? Maybe even from a verse you've just glazed right over for years, and then suddenly ... new revelation! This morning I was at Bible study (and had my socks blessed off, by the way), and we were studying the concept of divinely inspired scripture. Something Beth Moore pointed out from the book of Luke really stood out to me. Luke 1:3 says, "Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you ..." It seemed good to me? Do you ever feel like God accomplishes His purposes in spite of humans? I mean Luke was most definitely a capable, meticulous doctor who wrote an incredibly thorough, historically accurate, God-inspired account of Jesus' life. But why? And maybe he knew by the time it was complete. Starting out, though, it just seemed good to him.

I wonder how many times God works in our lives through us without us even being aware of the significance of the circumstances? On the way home from Bible study, I was reminded of an example in my life. It has to do with my son's name. Jackson.

The year Jackson was born was one of those that can go down on the books as one of the best and worst years of my adult life. About 8 months before Jackson was born, I had gotten pregnant. This was no small thing, mind you. We had been dealing with infertility for a year and a half. Had been seeing a fertility specialist for testing. Had been praying for a miracle. And there it was. I just knew this was going to be my big "God testimony!" A video clip of this testimony – about how God provides in His time, in exactly the right way – was shown at a women's conference at my church. What a blessing to be able to give God the glory ... and then go on about my regularly scheduled life.

The very next week, my doctor told me the baby had no heartbeat.

What now, God? I decided I would no longer contribute to working out the problems in my life (as if I ever had any control in the first place!). I decided to wait for God. I did not go back to the fertility specialist. I did not call an adoption agency (I already had an appointment to meet with someone before the pregnancy. I'm telling you ... I wanted to help God fix things!).

I just waited. And during the next six months, it appeared things got worse. There was a cloud of uncertainty surrounding us about our house and Scott's job.  I cannot tell you why I did this, other than that God was in control, but I called a principal friend of mine to ask if there were any teaching jobs available. Not only was there a job, but within a matter of days it was mine. I started that school year feeling so forsaken. It seemed I was trading my dream – a new baby and being a stay-at-home-mom – for a full-time job and public pre-k for my daughter. And everywhere I went I met pregnant women whose due dates were THE SAME as mine. I can literally recall 4 right off the top of my head right now.

Well, over the course of about 3 months, God set in motion a chain of events that led to the adoption of our son. I tried to follow God's leading without taking over, and even the people who came into the picture to help us with the process came through Scott. Not me. God is good! And He DOES provide in HIS time, in exactly the right way – right down to that job I thought I didn't want or need to give us the financial means to complete an adoption so quickly.  And this time ONLY HE could get any glory whatsoever, because He truly worked out every detail.

But, that's not all. God ministered to me so deeply through even the smallest detail. His name. We picked the name Jackson when we found out we were getting a baby boy. No reason, really. It just sounded good to me. It was over two years later that I really started wondering what his name meant. When I looked it up, it meant "son of Jack." Hmm. Okay? So I looked up Jack. It said "derived from John or Jacob." Now this is good. John means God's gracious gift – and oh, was he ever. That alone was enough to bring me to tears. But Jacob means supplanter ... or SUBSTITUTE. Now, don't get me wrong here. My son is not a consolation prize or second best. But that HOLY GOD would look upon me in my deepest sorrow ... and give me His most gracious gift ... HIS substitute for the precious baby I lost within the same month that he or she was due ... and give me that name without me even having knowledge of it's meaning ... well, that's miraculous. What God has in store to substitute for what we think is best, is ALWAYS better. "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55: 8-9

Now that's what I call a GRACIOUS GIFT.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Conspicuous Family

Part of our homestudy included 10 hours of adoption training. We took online classes about China's history, language, and culture. We're taking one about making a lifebook for our child. There are classes about special needs, attachment & bonding, and pretty much any adoption topic you can think of. One of the classes we took was called "Conspicuous Families: Race, Culture, and Adoption." I had to laugh when I read the definition of "Conspicuous Family".  "It means (and I'm quoting) that your family stands out. It means that your family is different." It goes on to say that for conspicuous families, their child's adoption is obvious, public, and visible. They can't deal with issues of race and adoption when they choose to, but when comments, questions, or odd looks are sent in their direction.

I think the reason I find this definition so ironic for me is that for the majority of my life I wanted nothing more than to blend in. I don't know if that was because I was just naturally shy and didn't want to draw attention to myself or because I was blessed with a face full of freckles and curly red hair hanging down to my waist which made it impossible to go anywhere unnoticed! Either way, choosing something that made me stand out – that made me different – was not on my agenda. I guess you could say that insecurity was a major weakness for me.

Well, good thing for me I serve a God whose power is made perfect in MY weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9)! The Bible is FULL of examples of ordinary, weak people being used to fulfill God's purpose. Look at Moses, David, Jonah, Paul ... and the list goes on. What I take from reading these accounts is that my fear and insecurities are NO EXCUSE not to obey God's calling in my life. The first time we ever looked at an adoption application and contemplated the checklist of racial preferences, we were faced with a decision. Check the ONE that would allow us to blend in forever OR listen to the still small voice that said, "Check them all."

From that point forward, I knew it was in God's hands. I was aware that we might get funny looks or questions from strangers, but honestly, I believe that was all by design. The attention our family has gotten over the years has given us so many chances to tell others about how God has blessed our lives through the miracle of adoption. I love the way my family looks ... would not change a thing (even the red hair)! And I can't wait to see the looks when our sweet little Asian princess joins the mix! ;)

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will." Romans 12:2

Thursday, September 8, 2011


Update: We have the last of our 4 home visits this weekend for the home study. Then we'll be waiting for that to be written and approved. My blog silence in no way represents silence in my life or my heart! My life has been busy with a new school year and a new routine. It's hectic ... but good.

But my heart is undergoing a transformation. Only someone who has been lodged in a period of waiting can understand what I mean. (And who hasn't been there?) I am trying to savor this time, which is strange for me because I usually HATE to wait! I cannot even verbalize what God has been revealing to me. I am in a place of complete dependence on Him. I don't know if I've ever listened so intently for His voice. And I'm not really looking for answers ... like, "Who is she?" or "Where is she?" or "When will we see her?" I'm just looking for HIM. For His purpose to be fulfilled in this incredible thing He's asked me to do. And I really have no idea what these "revelations" will look like in my life ... well ... because I'm right smack dab in the middle of it all. It feels kind of like staring at a tapestry from 3 centimeters away. It just looks like a blur of colors. But I know that when I step back – when He completes the picture – it's gonna be breathtaking. And I can't wait.

I watched this video about a week ago, and have watched it about 5 more times since then. It so closely aligns with what God has been speaking to my heart in these past few weeks. It's deep. And it's personal. It challenges my whole way of life. I hope you'll watch. (Pause the music at the bottom of the screen before starting the video.)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Nine Years Ago

Nine years ago ...

I was a few hours away from meeting HER.

Nine years ago ...

I was about to be shaken to the core by a love so deep and profound that it's difficult to even put into words.

I was about to find purpose.

I was about to see the man I married in a whole new light – as a Daddy.

Nine years ago ...

I gained a deeper understanding of my Heavenly Father's love for me – His daughter.

I finally understood what my mother meant when she said, "I love you more."

I got the chance to witness a miracle.

Nine years ago ...

At 1:19 in the morning on August 23rd, my baby girl was born.

But something else was born, too. 

It was the inspiration to be who God created me to be.

Happy birthday to my precious, talented, smart, funny, amazing NINE year old girl!

I love everything about you!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Who needs a new car anyway?

I have been thinking about all the fun questions I could answer about adoption ... and then I remember that I have to write a "book" about myself to complete the home study packet. So I've been spending my computer time – what little there is of it between chasing 3 kids and trying to dig myself out of what feels like a year's worth of laundry – answering lots of questions about my childhood ... and my adolescence ... and my marriage ... and you get the point. :) I've also done a lot of the nagging little tasks like lab work, downloading and mailing requests for central registry clearances from all three states we've lived in (to prove we've never been reported for child abuse), and sending money order and fingerprint cards for a federal background check. These are not hard things to do, but tricky to schedule around naps and lunch and  – of course – trips to the pool, library, park, etc. It has been exciting to check off lots of the mundane things in anticipation of the not-so-mundane – meeting a little girl who is most likely already waiting for us!!

Ok ... so back to the questions. This one might be a tie for the number one most asked – "Isn't adoption expensive?" And unlike the previous, more touchy-feely question ... this one is not my favorite to discuss! But it is an important aspect of adoption to consider ... so I'll do my best.

Yes. Adoption can be very expensive. But it doesn't have to be. Without writing a book about all the adoption possibilities out there, let's just say it is important to research and understand the options ... and the risks, benefits, expenses associated with each one. This is our third adoption ... and we've done it differently each time. The first time we used a consultant and an agency in another state. It wasn't cheap. But we knew lots of people who spent more on a new car ... so ... we prayed about what route to take. God knew our desires for a newborn. A son. He opened our hearts to interracial adoption ... and I truly believe He even honored my lack of patience! We didn't even wait 6 weeks after beginning the process. I had planned to be a stay-at-home mom until all our children were in school, but I felt that my only option was to go back to work temporarily to pay for the adoption.

When I felt it was time to bring a third child into our home, I was afraid. How were we going to pay for a second agency adoption? I prayed that God would just put the baby on our door step (a fantasy I've had since childhood!). I knew that adoptions through the state foster care system were free, so we took the classes and became approved foster/adoptive parents. I also put the word out ... I made a profile book and let some people know that we wanted to adopt. The week before we got the call that we were approved for foster children, I got a call about a young lady who had seen our profile book and had chosen us to adopt her baby boy ... due in less than a month! A miracle. Not quite on our door step ... but  close! All we paid were legal fees. God knew. He gave us the right situation at the right time. All He asked was that we be open.

But sometimes I think God asks us to do things that we haven't "gotten all figured out." Sometimes He wants us to rely not on our own ability to provide, but on His. God has accommodated our fears, wishes, and parameters every time. He has proven that we can trust Him. Now He's getting ready to stretch our faith.

It scares me to even type this, but I felt very strongly that I needed to give up my full-time teaching position this year in preparation for traveling and bringing home our new daughter. WHAT? In the past, I confidently went into the adoption process trusting that we could cover the cost. I never did a fund-raiser. Some wonderful friends from our church collected money to help with (short-notice) travel expenses, but otherwise I knew we had it covered.

But here's a question I've had in my head recently: If I have to see how everything is going to work out before I sign up, does that really require faith? We started saving for this adoption months ago, and I rationalized that if I just keep working I can earn all the money myself. But I knew that I couldn't give 100% to my fourth graders AND to an international adoption requiring travel and helping an orphaned child bond with her new family.

I find it much easier to trust God with matters of the heart than with tangible things like money, but I believe the Lord will provide what we need. I think our faith grows BIGGER when we have to trust God with BIG things. Things that only He can do. And I can't tell you the humility – and brokenness –that I have felt as He has already begun using people to bless us financially.

I know we've got our work cut out for us. In Exodus, when God provided manna for the Israelites, He always sent just enough for what the people needed right then. And – if you'll remember – He didn't rain it into their tents or spoon feed it to them. They had to go out and gather it. I'm learning about all kinds of fund-raising opportunities. I'm getting all geared up to apply for grants through organizations like Show Hope and Promise 686. And I'm sure God has a few surprises in store as well!

So here's my point. Adoptions cost money. But don't most investments? What I've learned through my experiences (and that's really all I have to speak from) is if it's something God is calling you to do, He'll provide what you need.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Home study update: One word - slow! Actually, we are crossing things off the list at a fairly steady pace, but it still feels slow to me! We had to expedite our home study when we adopted Jackson because we only had a few weeks notice before he was born. And when we did Bryce's home study he was already home! So I'm just having to keep my "eyes on the prize" and keep moving forward, knowing that each step is getting us closer to our daughter.

Since the process isn't changing super quickly right now, I thought it would be fun to answer some of our most frequently asked questions about adoption. Honestly, when we started this adoption journey we really just had one goal ... to have children.We knew God was leading us to grow our family through adoption, but didn't realize that He would ask us to do more. This is not just about us, but an opportunity to advocate for orphans. We are only beginning to see what God has in store!  Just for starters, I am training to teach adoption discovery classes through our women's resource center and have already had the chance to talk with lots of couples who feel God leading them to adopt.

So what makes people unsure about adoption? What nagging fears cause them to put the idea out of their heads? I would say the number one question (and my favorite to answer) would have to be ... "Can I love an adopted child as much as a biological child?" I wish I could say I never wondered this. Really, this thought didn't enter my mind when adoption was just an "idea." But when we were actually getting ready to bring a baby into our home ... I began to wonder.

Here's the thing. I love kids ... especially babies. But I don't love all babies the way I do Rylee. I can appreciate everyone else's beautiful kids, but I don't have any maternal feelings toward them. The moment I looked at Rylee, I was in awe. I felt like she was an extension of my own self. I adored her, and would have died to protect her. That love was totally and completely life-changing.

Now here comes the good part! Four years after the birth of my daughter, I sat in a hospital room and watched a nurse wheel in a little bassinet. I looked at that dark haired baby boy ... picked him up ... stared into his little face ... and felt the SAME love that I had felt for my own flesh and blood.

I CANNOT make myself love any other baby like that! The only one who can fill a heart with the love of a mother for a child she has no biological ties to is GOD! The deep love and devotion I felt for Rylee was natural ... but the feelings I have for my boys is supernatural! It is miraculous! Opening my heart to allow God to love someone that way through ME is one of the most profound spiritual experiences I have ever had ... and I'll never be the same.

Friday, July 1, 2011

A Valid Question

"You're adopting more?"

This was the question asked by the doctor yesterday when he walked into the exam room. You have to get the full picture to fully appreciate this, though. When I called to schedule adoption physicals for me and Scott, I was thinking our appointments would be back to back so that one of us could watch the kids while the other was seeing the doctor. When we got there, though, they brought us both back at the same time ... with 3 kiddos! So there were five of us in a tiny exam room ... and the boys were wearing super hero capes ... and had just come home from two days of spoiling at Grammy and Paw Paw's house. Let's just say there was lots of jumping and climbing and jabbering going on. :)

So you can see where the doctor's question was coming from. But let's face it. Lots of people are wondering the same thing. In fact, I've had more than a few "So, is this going to be it?" looks since announcing a third adoption. The truth is, by worldly standards it doesn't make much sense. Kids are WORK ... and expensive. More kids will take time, attention, and money from the ones we already have. Wouldn't it just be easier to stop now?

Well, the answer to this question goes back a long way. I guess about 15 years, actually ... maybe longer. It goes all the way back to a church sanctuary ... where a teenage girl stood singing the words, "All to Jesus I surrender. All to Him I freely give. I will ever love and trust Him. In His presence daily live. I surrender all. I surrender all." I remember feeling a little pain - almost a sense of loss - while singing those words. And wondering if anyone else felt the weight of that promise. ALL. That's a lot to surrender. When you're just a kid you don't have that much to lose, but I had a lot of dreams. Plans. Hopes for the kind of future I thought would make me happy and successful. I surrendered that too. And I knew it wouldn't always be easy. That there might be a time when I'd want those things back.

And when I had my daughter ... the difficulty in surrendering ALL went to a whole new level. I never felt love like that ... I wanted ten more just like her! :) ALL I wanted in life was to be a mommy. It was my calling. But when I got ready for a second child, my promise got put to the test. Will you surrender your plans for the "perfect" family? Will you let Me give you the children I have created for you? I didn't see it at first. At first it just hurt that God would give me such a strong desire for children that I couldn't have. I already had a wonderful daughter. I asked God to just make me content with that if He didn't want me to get pregnant again. But God sets the lonely in families (Ps. 68:6), He GAVE me the desire, and He MEANT to use my promise to surrender to fulfill His purpose for my life. And for the lives of my little boys ... and Charlotte.

So YES, we're adopting again. And I'm not sure when we'll be "done." :) You see, I surrendered those decisions. God is in the process of doing "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine according to His power that is at work within us" (Eph. 3:20). He's in control, and I. Trust. Him.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

You'd think we'd have it all figured out by now ...

We know adoption. Done it ... twice. We've had 3 home studies - one for each boy, and one when we became certified foster parents a few years ago. But this is a whole new ball game. I'm figuring out all the international adoption jargon slowly but surely. We sent off our application to An Open Door Adoption Agency on May 16th. A few weeks later, we sent in our service agreement and commitment fee.

Now begins the fun ... the home study! For those who have never adopted, this is the part where you give them every detail of your life from birth to present so they can decide if you'll make a good parent! :) Just teasing! Honestly, it is a very involved process ... but SO worth it for the end result (and much less painful than childbirth!)

Just to give you some idea:
Last week - Order certified copies of birth certificates for me and Scott
                     Physicals/medical reports for 3 kiddos
This week -GBI and FBI fingerprinting for me and Scott
                     Physicals/medical reports for me and Scott
                     Write our autobiographies (not kidding)
                     Complete marriage and adoptive applicant questionnaires

Also this week ... we made our first attempt at fundraising. With only two weeks' notice, we jumped in on the neighborhood yard sale. It wasn't the raving success that I would have liked, but we got rid of some junk unused items and added a little to our adoption fund!

Friday, June 24, 2011

Her name...

This is a first. I have never picked out a name so long before actually seeing the child I'm naming. But this name is ... inspired. It's been on my heart for awhile. So what does it mean to us?

Charlotte - It is the feminine version of the name Charles, which just happens to be part of both mine and Scott's dads' names. Charlotte is also a tribute to a Baptist missionary named "Lottie" Moon (short for Charlotte) who was a member of our church when she was appointed to CHINA!

Abigail - Gail is my mom's middle name. One of the meanings for 'Abigail' is father's joy. God has called us across the world to bring an orphan home. To give her a name. To give her a family. I want my daughter to KNOW that she is wanted. Loved. Cherished. Her Father's joy!

5 A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows,
is God in his holy dwelling. 
(Psalm 68)

“How many there are … who imagine that because Jesus paid it all, they need pay nothing, forgetting that the prime object of their salvation was that they should follow in the footsteps of Jesus Christ in bringing back a lost world to God.” Tungchow, China,Sept. 15, 1887 (Lottie Moon)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Hanging on for the ride!

The past few years have been quite the journey for our family! After our daughter was born, we just knew God was calling us to have more children, but despite our best efforts ... things just weren't working out the way we planned. I remember often being asked, "How many kids are you going to have?" - which, based on my circumstances, seemed as silly a question as "Who's going to win the lottery tomorrow?" In my heart, my answer was always, "Four." But my head told me that wasn't possible. 

Fast forward a few years ... We have been changed - both physically (from 3 to 5) and spiritually. God miraculously added to our family through the adoption of our two sons. We are so blessed, and I can't wait to share my heart for adoption as I blog about these experiences. 

Where God's leading now ... 

Well, God is not finished yet! Over a year ago, I began to feel led to explore options for bringing our fourth child home. (Amazingly, each time a child was soon to come into our family, I felt "expectant" as if something BIG was about to happen!) I called an agency in Georgia with questions about Guatemala. After informing me that the Guatemala program was closed and finding out some details about our family, the lady on the phone suggested I look into the China program. At first I dismissed the idea, but after talking to the program directer, I just decided to pray about it. Scott and I prayed for over a year. With a "yes" in our spirit, we just waited on God to give us the green light. It wasn't until this spring that we felt the "go ahead." So on May 16th we sent off our application and began the journey to our daughter from China! We're thrilled, humbled, and a little scared! It's what keeps this faith journey exciting!!

I'm anxious to share the ways God has transformed our lives and for you to experience this next season of change with us!