Friday, November 12, 2010

Fun Fall Days

We've had lots going on over the past few weeks.  Here are a few of my favorite memories from early fall...
Elvis and Priscilla only seemed fitting for our first Halloween in the birthplace of the king of rock and roll!  They had so much fun at their first FBC Trunk or Treat.  And no, those aren't wigs, just lots of teasing, hair gel, and black hairspray!  My sweet husband got to wash and comb all of that out while I was at choir and ensemble practice :) Sorry baby!
My two favorite guys at Deuce's FBC Day School Fall Festival.  My man is shrinking!  He's lost 45 pounds in 2 months!  So proud of him for getting healthy!
This is my sweet baby girl at the Panda Pride Celebration at her school.  She was the Panda Pride Award recipient for being positive, prepared, and polite.  I love how excited she was...can't you see it in her little squinty eyes?
And this is the fun they got into as we were moving out of the house we rented when we first moved to Tupelo.  No televisions to watch so they had to ride the stick horse around the yard and found some interesting accessories in Mommy's closet!
This is their first night in the new rental house.  I am proud to report that they have spent every other night in their own beds!  A miracle indeed!  God has so blessed us with them being such troopers with all of the change this year.  Yes, another rental house, another temporary home.  I'm so thankful that this world is only a temporary home for us if we are in Christ Jesus.  I try to remember this every time I get down about still having a house for sale.  That none of this "stuff" down here really matters.  As I was eating off of my paper plate at lunch today using my giant bottle of Morton's salt as my impromptu salt shaker, I was thinking a lot about this.  Just how silly "things" in this world are.  I'm often reminded of this old gospel song that goes like this..."This world is not my home I'm just a passing through.  My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue."  Although we have lived almost a year with all of our stuff one state away, we have had everything we need.  Just shows me how much of what we have is a want, not a need.  So for now, we have settled in to another temporary home!  Hope to be here until our house sells!
As a birthday present to her Daddy, Annlee performed at halftime on the field at MS State.  She had a blast at the mini cheerleader clinic and her Daddy loved watching his girl cheer for the Dawgs!

Posing for the finale of the dance they did to Ghostbusters!
These boys love their Dawgs!  GO STATE!
I think we may be singing "All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth" :) 
Annlee just had to make a pallet the night before Deuce's birthday party.  Chad, Mama, and I had gone up to the church late that night to decorate for the party.  Don't worry, Papa was at the house with the kids!  We came home to find that she had gone to get her favorite picture to help her sleep better and laid it on the floor beside her.  It's a picture of her and Chad at the beach.  Of course that made me cry.  I'm such a softy!
During his second year of life, our sweet boy has become OBSESSED with Disney Pixar Cars.  He has more than I dare to count, and can call each one by name.  He loves to line them up in a particular order (I'm afraid he may have a touch of my OCD :).  He can sit for hours playing with them, creating dialogue between them as they fight each other or help one another hilarious to watch.  This boy cracks me up!  What a blessing he has been to our lives.  He is such a lover, always ready to give a smile and hug to anyone he meets.  I also especially love his cute little deep voice!  It's so funny.  Happy Birthday Deuce!  I can't believe my baby is 3!
Deuce loved his birthday cake with the piston cup on top!
This is what Annlee drew in church on Orphan Sunday.  Notice the I heart orphans she wrote.  So precious!  I heart that baby girl and her precious heart :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Orphan Sunday

Sunday, November 7, was Orphan Sunday throughout the world.  We celebrated at FBC Tupelo through worship, preaching, and videos that increased awareness of the orphan crisis our world is facing.  Chad preached two very powerful messages on our call to care for the orphans and living in total obedience to God's call on our lives.  You can listen to them here.  You will be blessed, but beware, you may be convicted at what God may call you to do ;)  You can also watch any of his other messages on our church website or by searching iTunes podcasts for FBC Tupelo.  I'm so blessed to have been chosen to live my life with a man who loves God so passionately and inspires me each day to love and live for Him even more. 
We were sporting our adoption t-shirts for Orphan Sunday!  My shirt was designed by my precious friend Amy and was sold to support their Ugandan adoption.  Amy's awesome husband Matt is our Student Minister.  You can follow their journey at  Chad is wearing a shirt from 147 Million Orphans that I talked about in my very first post. 

What an amazing day this Sunday was in the life of our church!  I cannot even begin to tell you of how many have contacted us to let us know how the Holy Spirit is convicting them to be a part of helping decrease the orphan population.  I hope to do a post soon with excerpts from some of their e-mails.  We will be hosting a Mercy Conference at FBC Tupelo this weekend along with New Beginnings to educate the public about adoption, foster and orphan care.  This conference is free to the public.  Registration begins at 8:30 and  the conference concludes at 12:00 p.m.  So excited about this day!  Please come learn how you can be used to make a kingdom impact!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let the waiting games begin!!!

YAY!!!  Guess what this is?!?! 
 It's our completed and notarized copies of our home study and our I-600A that was mailed off TODAY :)  Can you tell I'm excited?
And this is our A-MA-ZING social worker, Marcus.  He did a phenomenal job with our home study, and painted such a precious picture of our family.  He has been such a joy to work with!  We received a call from our case worker last night at European Adoption Consultants and she told us that this was the first time she had ever reviewed a home study that didn't need any corrections.  And again, Marcus ROCKS!  We are so very thankful for the way God has directed our steps thus far.  So what is the I-600A?  This is the Application for Advance Processing of Orphan Petition that goes to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Sounds fancy, huh?  To be honest, I'm not exactly sure what it is, I just know it's the next big step towards our sweet baby!  (I'm not much of a researcher HA!) And I've heard all of the adoptive Mamas talk about how this is one of the things you really have to wait on.  Once this is processed, we will get a FBI fingerprint appointment in Memphis.  In the mean time we have tons of papers to gather for our dossier completion.  I'm so excited to wait!  Sounds silly, I know, but this song I love keeps popping into my head.  It's called While I'm Waiting by John Waller.

While I'm Waiting :
I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am hopeful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it is painful
But patiently, I will wait

I will move ahead, bold and confident
Taking every step in obedience
While I'm waiting
I will serve You
While I'm waiting
I will worship
While I'm waiting
I will not faint
I'll be running the race
Even while I wait

I'm waiting
I'm waiting on You, Lord
And I am peaceful
I'm waiting on You, Lord
Though it's not easy
But faithfully, I will wait
Yes, I will wait
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve You while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting
I will serve you while I'm waiting
I will worship while I'm waiting on You, Lord

Oh how I long to worship and grow in the Lord while I'm waiting!  It's definitely gonna be worth the wait!

"I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry."
Psalm 40:1

Saturday, October 23, 2010

We've been BUSY!

As we have been told and are learning firsthand, adoption is a long and tedious process!  We have been very busy over the past few months.  It's been hard to keep such a big secret, especially when there's so much stuff to do throughout the process.

This is the first of the paperwork we had to complete for our home study.  Each paper you see has about a million stapled behind it.  Well, maybe I'm pastorally exaggerating :) Those pastors like to do that HA!
Here's my man getting fingerprinted by the Lee County Sheriff.  He was so gracious to us!  He gave us a warm welcome at the front door, and walked us back to fingerprint us himself.  Everyone told us that was really rare.  No, we're not super special, he's a member of our church :)  He is such an encourager to Chad, and that makes me smile!
 My turn...all clear, whew ;)
And the blood work begins.  If you know Chad, you know that he is a BIG OLE BABY when it comes to needles.  Yes, this is the man who will not go to the doctor because he is afraid that he will have to get a shot.  And if it does get so bad that he needs a shot, he declines it and takes a two week prescription med instead.  I love him!
And here is my crazy husband's best passing out pose!  The nurse was cracking up at us.  I'm sure she thinks we are nuts, but we have to document every step and throw a bit of humor in there!
We traveled to Austin, TX, for the Together for Adoption conference.  We were able to learn tons about starting an orphan ministry in the church, and met lots of new friends!  The speakers were amazing as was the worship.  I love Christian conferences!  What a refreshment to my soul this weekend was.
 Excited to be learning so much!
Love the girls from 147 Million Orphans, Gwen and Suzanne.  They sell the most awesome shirts and beautiful handmade beads created by Ugandan women.  The proceeds help feed the orphans. 
 This slide speaks for itself!
 Writing the first of many checks...this REALLY makes it seem real!
My precious Annlee painting our announcement poster that we used to put on our blog and to show the church for our announcement.  She has been such a trooper keeping the secret for so many months.  We had lunch one Sunday with a sweet family in our church who adopted from China years ago.  I had told the mother about our plans to adopt.  As we were eating lunch we started to talk about it, and Annlee gasps at me with really big scary eyes and runs over to say, "Mommy, you let out our secret!"  It was priceless.  She was taking this secret seriously!  She watches Beth Moore with me on Life Today sometimes.  After Beth speaks, they highlight orphans and children who have been sold into slavery for you to support.  I think watching this and sponsoring Sandra from Uganda through World Vision have really put a love in her heart for orphans.  She has ended every prayer for months with the same line, "God please let us adoct (her version of adopt) a baby!"  I love her sweet little heart. 

We are so excited to be on this journey and cannot wait to see how much more real our God will become to us through every step we take.  The journey will be long and hard at times, but we are trusting in a mighty Lord.  We covet your prayers daily! 

"Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:1-3 (New King James Version)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

And the big news is...

And the big news is.............................................


WHAT IN THE WORLD?!?!  I'm sure that's what many of you are thinking right now.  I have said this to myself about a jillion times over the last six months!  BUT GOD has said very clearly to me...GO INTO ALL THE WORLD.  (Matthew 28:18-20)  It all started about a year and a half ago when Chad jokingly said to me, "You know, we're gonna adopt one day."  My reply?  "I will never adopt.  We are fertile turtles, and if I wanted another baby we would just get pregnant.  But I don't.  I am at a peaceful place in my life with two.  I'd rather be comfortable with two than stressed out all the time with three."  And he never mentioned it to me again.  Don't you love it when God lets you eat the words that you somehow expect you'll be feasting on one day as soon as they slip off of the tip of your tongue?  I can remember several of those "never" moments in my life.  We will never move to Bossier City.  We will never move to Tupelo.  And yet in the midst of those "never"moments, God has always turned them into the most amazing blessings in our lives. 
You see, I have learned a lot about myself over the last year.  I am so thankful that we are not saved and that's it.  God is constantly refining us.  Sanctification is a process and He has been working overtime on me over this past year.  There is a song that has particularly spoken to my heart.  It is entitled "Hosanna" and my favorite version is by Christy Nockles.  I recently learned in a Bible study that the root meaning of the word Hosanna is "save now".  I have prayed these lyrics time and time again and shed many tears begging God to change me as these words portray.  I would like to share this portion of the lyrics with you:

Heal my heart and make it clean.
Open up my eyes to the things unseen.
Show me how to love like you have loved me.

Break my heart from what breaks yours.
Everything I am for your kingdoms cause,
as I go from nothing to eternity.

So if I may be very transparent with you, I will share some of what God has taught me about myself that has led to our decision to adopt.

Number one, I am selfish.  I have for so long thought more about my wants than the need of a child who is oppressed, unloved, abandoned, starving, and will likely spend his or her entire life without the light of the gospel.  And I'm worried about that extra few minutes of "me" time that I would have to give up and the energy it would take to care for an additional child.  BUT GOD didn't think he had too many children to take care of when He adopted me some twelve years ago.  I have read the Bible from cover to cover several times, seeing the words, but not really putting them into real life action.  As Chad and I have fasted and prayed through this decision together over the past six months, we have had to decide:  are we going to believe that we are to actually do what His word says?  Are we going to live it out, ALL of it?  A recent Bible study that I have been doing was so overwhelmingly convicting to me.  Beth Moore began talking about a trip she had taken to Africa.  The natives there were literally starving to death, and when given seed they would often eat it instead of planting it to bring forth a harvest.  She compared this with the harsh reality of how so many of us eat the seed of the gospel but never sow it for a harvest.  I want to share an excerpt from this particular day:  "We'll think we accepted the teaching (of the Bible) because we were so moved by it.  But you see, the seed of God's word can fill our stomachs and give us immediate satisfaction and still not produce a harvest-that's when we eat it but don't sow it.  Many times we apply biblical truth to our theologies without applying it to the actual practicalities of life."  OUCH!

Saying that, does that mean that adoption is for everyone?  Absolutely not.  We really had to pray through what the Holy Spirit was leading our family to do.  Is He leading us to adopt ourselves?  Is He simply leading us to start an orphan ministry in our church?  Is He leading us to help a family who is desiring to adopt financially? 

Number two, I am comfortable.  Comfort has become an idol in my life.  Have you ever thought about that?  I have somehow become more concerned with my own family's wants and needs in the midst of the bible teaching me the exact opposite.  1 John 2:16 tells us, "For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world."  Chad and I have realized that with the resources we used to build our "dream home" for our family to be lavishly comfortable, we could have made a huge impact on God's kingdom as compared to the earthly kingdom we as Americans attempt to build for ourselves.  Maybe we won't have tons of extra space, maybe we won't drive a brand new fancy car, maybe we won't have marble floors and extravagant chandeliers, but we will have a precious soul to impact for an eternity.  I choose that.  Why?  Well...

If you keep your food in a refrigerator, your clothes in a closet, if you have a bed to sleep in, and a roof over your head, you are richer than 75 percent of the entire world population.

Almost half of the world struggles to live on less than two dollars a day.

One billion people are trying to survive on less than one dollar a day. 

Every day 5,760 more children become orphans.

Every year 2,102,400 more children become orphans (in Africa alone).

163 million orphans in the world today spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster home.

Approximately 250,000 children are adopted annually, but…

Every year 14,050,000 children still grow up as orphans and age out of the system.

Every day 38,493 children age out.

Every 2.2 seconds, another orphan child ages out with no family to belong to and no place to call home.

5 million children die of hunger or hunger related illnesses every year. 

In Ukraine and Russia 10% -15% of children who age out of an orphanage commit suicide before age 18.60% of the girls are lured into prostitution. 70% of the boys become hardened criminals.

Many of these children accept job offers that ultimately result in their being sold as slaves.

Millions of girls are sex slaves today, simply because they were unfortunate enough to grow up as orphans.

If orphans were a country, it would be the seventh largest country in the world.

Is this going to be an easy journey?  Absolutely not!  We have already encountered negativity and opposition.  We've asked ourselves or have been asked many of the following questions by people we love.  How will our children react to us bringing another child into our home?  How will our friends and family respond to a child of a different race?  What if the child we adopt has a serious health condition that we discover after the fact?  How in the world will we afford this?  Although some of these may be valid questions and may seem a bit scary at times, we have to believe that if the Holy Spirit has led us undeniably to this point, we will receive the child God has for us and even if we face some of these questions as realities, He will equip us through His perfect will.  We want to see that only God alone could have done this thing in our lives.  We aren't adopting because we want to, we are adopting because it is Christ in us wanting to help the helpless. 

What finally broke me?  One day at the church, a precious lady told me about her daughter who was adopting a baby from Ethiopia.  She gave me her blog address so that I could follow her process.  After a week or so, I remembered to look her up.  I laid in bed by Chad that Saturday night, who had been sawing logs for quite some time since he goes to bed really early to prepare for Sunday morning.  I watched the Lucy Lane's Gottcha Day video that was linked to her blog, and God began to break my heart.  As I watched, I sobbed, and sobbed, and sobbed.  For the first time, those hungry children I have seen on television with large foreheads and distended tummies weren't just someone else's concern.  The gospel suddenly came to life in a more literal sense to me as the scripture and statistics on the video opened my eyes to the crisis of the orphans and the Bible's command for me as a Christian to do something about it.

Then we went to the Southern Baptist Convention where we attended the Pastor's Conference.  And guess what the theme of the entire conference was......ADOPTION!  I cried through every sermon, every song, and every presentation.  I was an emotional wreck as I knew in my heart what God was calling our family to do.  But it will be hard Lord, and I don't want another child, and we still have a large home for sale in Louisiana.  I could have kept right on offering my excuses up to Him, but the confirmations that kept coming outweighed my excuses.

I had e-mailed a Christian t-shirt company, Wild Olive Tees, that I love to see if they were going to be at the MOPS convention this summer.  I received a reply from the owner telling me that they wouldn't get to be there because she was going to be picking up her two boys that she is adopting from Uganda.  Hmmm...

Then I went to Student Life camp with our students.  David Platt was the camp pastor, and I knew he and his wife had adopted before and were in the process of adopting again.  I had begun thinking about agencies, and was wondering what agency they were using.  I knew that they had surely sought God about what agency to use, so I felt that I might find comfort in knowing which one they had chosen.  I had our Missions Pastor's wife from our church who had served with David Platt in New Orleans inquire about this with his wife.  You'll never guess who she told her they were using...New Beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi!  Cold chills rushed through my body!  I had no idea there was even an adoption agency in Tupelo.  I felt as if God was just speaking louder and louder.

The final straw came on a day when I was at home with Deuce while Annlee was at school.  He was napping, so I was having one of those rare couple of hours of peaceful quietness before the Lord.  After I finished my Bible study time, I laid face down on the couch praying and weeping before God that he would confirm or deny that He was in fact calling us to adopt.  Don't you ever just seek confirmation through circumstances when making a huge life decision?  I do. And God has so often spoken to me in this way.  So thirty minutes after this prayer Chad walks in the door with the mail.  In his hand he holds a letter from the child that we have sponsored through World Vision for the past two years.  We had not received any letters from her in over a year, and here she was, all the way from Uganda, thirty minutes later.  Are you kidding me?  Do you really work like that God?!?!  Absolutely He does and I love it!

The week that Chad and I began to pray together about the adoption, we saw our lot sell in Louisiana that had been on the market for five years!  This would ease the financial burden of the adoption.  How cool is that?!?!  And I could go on and on with stories like these of how God has confirmed this path for us.  Don't you love it when God confirms your obedience?

So where are we in the process?  Our home study is completed.  We knew God had led us through circumstances to use New Beginnings adoption agency in  Tupelo.  As we sat in the office with our social worker who is the director of the international adoption program, his assistant came in talking about these gypsy orphans in a European country who were outcast due to their social status and darker skin color, big brown eyes, and black hair, which were not accepted in a land of blond haired, blue eyed Caucasians.  We later found out that these children are street beggars as toddlers, live in slums and sewers, and are not allowed in the school system.  They age out of the foster system at 14 and most become homeless with most girls becoming prostitutes.  God has drawn us to these children.  We are going to let Him decide if we will get a boy or a girl.  Annlee and Chad want a girl, I want a boy, and Deuce is indifferent :)  We are hoping for the child to be between twelve and eighteen months old.  The program is a pilot as the country we are adopting from has never adopted any children out to other countries.  New Beginnings is partnered with a European adoption agency who is piloting this program, and it is thought to be very stable.  They have taken our picture to the country this month with the first set of dossiers and will be hand delivering our dossier in January!  Travel to pick up your child can be anywhere from six weeks to six months later.  WOW!  We're excited! 

What can you do?  First and foremost, please PRAY diligently for our family and the precious child that is waiting to come to it's forever family, The Graysons.  Also, you can help by donating airline miles.  Travel is one of the most expensive parts of this program.  It doubles the cost of the China program that we have also considered for a special needs baby because of the travel being so expensive.  The expense of this program is disheartening at times, but we believe that God will continue to be Jehovah Jireh, our provider, to our family.  If you feel led to help financially in bringing our child home, you can make a donation to our account at New Beginnings that will be tax deductible if it exceeds $1,000.  We are also in the process of opening a local bank account that will be used strictly for adoption expenses.  We hope you will walk alongside of us in prayer over the next crucial months in our family's life.  We cannot wait to see God's glory revealed through this process, and our ultimate goal would be for many more families to be led down the same path so that there will be ONE LESS OPPRESSED!

"Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."  James 1:27