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Our God is Bigger

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It’s been three months since our last adoption update. We have heard a bit of news about our dossier. It arrived in Nicaragua on 11/11. We were told that translation and registration would take 4-6 months and not to expect much of anything to happen in December, due to the holiday. On 12/15, I received an email that our dossier was translated!! However, one document did not make it into our dossier from our agency. Initially, we were told that we would have to return to Ohio to redo some paperwork. By God’s grace, our agency still had a copy of the needed document and was able to track down the woman who had signed it in the summer. After it is notarized and apostilled, it will travel to Nicaragua and be translated. Then, we’ll be up for approval. I’m praying we hear of our approval (with NO needed updates or revisions) in February.

The Lord continues to provide! We are thrilled to announce that OUR ADOPTION IS 100% FUNDED! I can hardly believe this, even as I type. We have been completely blown away by all the ways that He has shown us that He is intimately involved in every detail. We are humbled and give all the glory to Him!

On March 23rd, we submitted our initial application to begin our Nicaraguan adoption process. I remember feeling panicked paying the $295 application fee…and then terrified after we paid all of our homestudy fees and first agency fee, and FORTY-THREE DOLLARS remained in our savings account. We had completely exhausted our personal funds; yet, we still needed more than $31,000 to pay for this adoption.

Early on, the Lord used the following hymn to comfort and encourage me:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials He multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

He has proven His faithfulness over and over the past 9 months. We have received $12,800 through gifts from friends and family, as well as almost $19,000 in adoption grants. How does something like that even happen?!?!? He just kept showing up and providing exactly what we needed for that next payment. I had heard stories about God’s financial provision during adoptions. I just never dreamt it would happen to us and to the extent that it did.

On March 23rd, the day we submitted our initial application, I read an article that was hugely confirming in our decision to move forward. Here’s an excerpt:

When we utter even the weakest yes, we find God to be big. Bigger than we once thought. Bigger than our lack. Bigger than our doubt. Bigger than the needs before us. Bigger than we can comprehend. Bigger. And He proves Himself good, steady, intentional, on time, able, strong, and sovereign.

So we take our small, mustard-sized faith, combine it with what we know to be true about God, and say YES.

So. Praise God. There is absolutely no way we could be adopting from Nicaragua by our own strength and resources. So very, utterly thankful. And we most certainly have found our God to be BIGGER.

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Adoption Update

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I realize it’s been almost three months since we announced our plan to adopt from Nicaragua. I’m reading through my journal and reminding myself of all the ways the Lord has worked and provided for us. On 8/12, I wrote…We continue to face resistance in the adoption process. Seems that everything that can go wrong does. I don’t want to give up at the first sign of trouble, but I also want to make sure we’re not forging ahead if You are closing doors. Do You want us to keep going? I asked for clear confirmation. I opened my devotional, and the key verse was from John 14:18: I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. My second devotional that morning was titled “When You Want to Quit”–Among the weights to be thrown off is the fear that shrinks back in the face of suffering. The Christian must be in constant motion toward the goal despite opposition.

Time and again throughout this process, He has reminded us that He is WITH us and He is FOR us.

Since June, we’ve been busy with a LOT of paperwork. An international adoption process is time-consuming and difficult. Add to that our living in Mexico but adopting from Nicaragua, and it makes things that much more crazy. When people ask how things are going, the best way I can describe it is, “1/2 step forward, 10 steps back.” Every single action that we have attempted in our adoption process has met resistance. It has truly been an opposed process. But, God. He has been ever faithful, ever trustworthy, ever present.

In June and July, I spent close to 50 hours completing applications for different adoption grants. Soon after, I found out that many grant organizations would NOT allow our agency to receive grants for our family, due to a pending tax designation. It was a devastating blow, and I scarcely knew how we could continue with the process. Since then, God has provided more than $10,000 in generous gifts from friends and family to pay two agency fees. Also, the tax designation issue was resolved, and we received an adoption aid grant that will fully cover (!!!) our final agency fee, once we receive our potential match(es).

Grant and I had to obtain fingerprints as part of a pre-approval process from the US government to adopt a child from Nicaragua. We were having a terrible time finding a place in Mexico where we could complete the fingerprints. Over the course of about six weeks, I spoke with several US consulates in Mexico, the US embassy, several officials in the US, but no one could really give us much help. We were given two options: fly to Juarez and file our paperwork, go home, wait for approval, return to Juarez for our fingerprint appointments (separately) OR the exact same process in Mexico City. The flights, hotel costs, taxis, and time away from our kids/work were completely overwhelming. I resigned myself to one of these two terrible options but decided to make one last phone call, and He provided, yet again. I spoke with someone who, not only was kind and understanding of our situation, but gave us wonderful advice and agreed to schedule a fingerprint appointment for us at whatever office we chose. We were already planning a States trip and were able to complete our fingerprints AND all of our US paperwork for our dossier. (Our dossier is a huge pile of paperwork, each document notarized and apostilled, that Nicaragua requires us to complete, in order to adopt a child.)

Upon returning from our States trip, we still had the burden of obtaining notarizations and apostilles for all of our Mexican documents. This would prove infinitely harder and more costly. For example, having a document notarized here in Mexico costs about $50 per document, whereas in the States you can usually get something notarized for free. We did receive good news in that we could complete the apostille process in the capital city of our state of Sinaloa, rather than having to travel to Mexico City. We called the apostille office two times prior to going, in order to confirm exactly what was needed and how long it would take. But, once we arrived, we were given a list of additional items to be fulfilled (and paid for), prior to receiving the apostilles. Unfortunately, there was not enough time to complete the extra things now being asked of us, so we had to return a few days later. (10 hours total driving time, plus time sitting in various government offices)

Amidst all of this, every single paper that we needed was either delayed or seemingly vanished. We had to redo applications and return to offices multiple times (7 times for my visa). We would arrive to appointments to later find out we actually DID need documents that we were assured we would NOT need. We needed to print documents. Our printer suddenly stopped working. We went to Office Depot to print, but the text of our documents would be missing.

But, God. He orchestrated events, brought good out of what I deemed bad, and continually worked on our behalf, on behalf of our child(ren) in Nicaragua. And, as of yesterday, WE HAVE COMPLETED OUR DOSSIER!!! We sent our Mexican paperwork to our agency today. From there, it will travel to Nicaragua and be translated. According to the timeline given to us by our agency, translation and registration takes 4-6 months. At that point, our family will be considered for possible matches each month. The real waiting has begun.

From the beginning, this entire process has seemed far beyond our abilities or resources. We don’t know from where the remaining $12,000 we need to complete this process will come. We don’t know how we will manage the 10-20 week stay in Nicaragua. Grant will be there for the first few weeks but will then return to Mazatlan to work. I will remain in Nica for the duration of the child adaptation period with the new member(s) of our family, along with our other 3 children. Where we will live? What will we do about transportation? How will I not have a nervous breakdown trying to bond and attach with our new child(ren), as well as taking care of Ez, Eve, and Elias, BY MYSELF??? There is much unknown. But, God. His timing is perfect. He loves the orphan child far more than we. No matter what evil comes against us, He is in control.

Would you please pray…

  1. for protection of our paperwork as it goes from Mexico to the States to Nicaragua
  2. that Nicaragua would find our dossier complete with NO necessary modifications or additions

Once we receive a potential match, and review the limited medical information given, we will travel to Nicaragua within a few weeks at most. As we will not know WHEN we will receive a match, we’ll be booking our flights and lodging at the last minute. Through God’s provision, we received a $3,500 matching grant. Our estimated travel costs, including flights and the 10-20 week stay in Nicaragua, are $7,000. We would love to fully cover our travel and time in country through our matching grant!!! If you are interested in giving towards our adoption but haven’t had the chance, this is a perfect opportunity…your gift essentially doubles!

Go here Lifesong for Orphans. Click “Give to an Adoptive Family.” Complete the donation form and use 5489 for “Family Account Number.”

The next update will hopefully include our acceptance as an adoptive family by the Nicaraguan government. Stay tuned!!!

What a year!

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A year ago last night, I was awaiting the arrival of my precious Evangeline Jane. What a complete joy she has been. The first three months of her life were pretty horrible, though, as she would scream for 30 minutes straight after each feeding. Do you know how often babies eat in that first three months?!? I really wanted to stick with breastfeeding, so I was prepared to do whatever it took. The pediatrician recommended that I cut out all dairy, but that didn’t seem to help. I researched for hours online trying to figure out what else I could do. I ended up trying the Elimination Diet, which only allowed me to eat the least allergenic food from each food group. Still, no change.

I felt like a failure as a mother, as the ONE thing I was confident in for my second baby was knowing how to nurse. I didn’t want to leave my house, because she would cry and writhe in pain, and I had no idea how to console her. Then, on the morning of July 9th, Jesus brought me an article. Basically, Evie’s stomach pain issues were not related to what I was eating at all. Rather, my breastmilk oversupply was causing the same symptoms as colic or an allergy. I followed the suggestions in the article, and her pain was gone IMMEDIATELY. This also happened to be on the same day we were going to Kentucky to see Mamaw and Papaw, so I got to indulge in her cooking!!

Why am I sharing this? Well, I did not enjoy my daughter for 25% of this year. It was hard, and I cried a lot. The Lord has graciously filled in the rest of the year with blessing upon blessing with this precious baby. There are 4 years between Ezra and Evie. I lost two babies in the year before I got pregnant with Evie. During that time, I could not understand what the heck the Lord was doing. He obviously did not care about what was happening to me or our family. Well, as so often happens, it’s clear to see what the Lord was doing, after the fact. He allowed us to get pregnant with Evie on a very special day. That morning, we paid off our last debt, and that afternoon we were on the Dave Ramsey show screaming, “WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!!” (Click the link to hear our call) How purposeful He is.

I am feeling a similar anticipation now, as we wait for our first foster placement. I would have never dreamt that this would be where the Lord would have us, just a short year from Evie’s birth. I’m so very thankful that He continues to direct our steps.

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Jesus smacked me upside the head

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I really wanted to prepare my mind and heart well for Easter this year. We started the Daniel Fast…you all know how that turned out. I had full intention to savor each day of Lent and ready myself for Holy week. It’s now days before Easter, and…I certainly have a lot of excuses. None that matter.

So, I’ve accepted that I let endless issues get in the way of my Easter reflection for this year. The Lord has graciously reminded me of a few things this week, though.

When did Easter become so ridiculously commercialized? Christmas seems to have been like that forever, but Easter? Frilly dresses, tons of different candy options, Easter baskets, toys to fill those baskets. Jesus died on the cross, then rose again. Let’s celebrate that with an egg hunt! What? That makes no sense.

Both Christmas and Easter have become difficult for me, as I feel the Lord has been directing our family away from “normal” traditions. Even though I’m confident in what the Lord would have us do pertaining to this, I still hate to have to explain it or even share it, as I know many think we’re weirdos. A few years ago, the Lord burdened me heavily for how we celebrated Christmas in our family. Over and over again, I felt Him saying to stop giving gifts, as part of our Christmas activities. No matter how hard I tried to ignore it or dismiss it, He wouldn’t leave me alone. This is definitely not a popular idea, and I know a lot of people think we’re nuts. I feel Him pressing me again about Easter, in the same way.

Disclaimer: I am in no way saying that people who participate in egg hunts or exchange gifts during Christmas are heathens. I’m simply sharing what the Lord has purposed for our family. Jesus convicts my heart in a much different way than He does yours. Would I be lying if I said I did not judge anyone who lives differently than I? For sure. But, I daily remind myself to keep my eyes fixed on HIM, not myself, not anyone else. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. This is a (forced) constant refrain in my head. In almost any situation involving me getting irritated or pissed off, this simple phrase puts me in my place.

We haven’t been to a weekend church service in quite a long time. I really wanted to go last week, but we woke up late, the girls were whiny, blah blah blah. I was praying that afternoon, complaining to the Lord that I just wanted to be in church for some good worship and application from the message…to be fed and served. The Lord very quickly pierced my heart and shot back, “Who was the last person you served?” Ouch. IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. So, begrudgingly, I prayed that the Lord would provide someone that I could serve. Later that evening, I got an email about a house church member needing babysitting for a cutie born one day after Evie. I almost deleted the email, thinking that would be way too much trouble. We have a lot going on, you know? Then, I remembered..hello?!?!? I had just prayed for this. And, hello again?!?! We’re soon-to-be foster parents. We could have 4 kids next month! I’m a real moron sometimes.

I’m so very thankful that the Lord loves me, despite me. He loves me the same, even though I couldn’t stick it out for Lent and basically forgot about Easter until today. So, right this minute, I’m going to soak in everything that the next few days represent. His agonizing death for my past, present, and future sin. His triumphant resurrection that gives me victory over death.

Jesus paid it all. All to Him I owe. Sin had left a crimson stain. He washed it white as snow.

Watch this and think about what awesome HOPE you have in the One who paid your debt and gives you a free gift of grace and LIFE! It’s Friday…but Sunday’s coming!

Grant’s first post!

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Wow- it’s almost April and this is the first time I (Grant) have written a blog post. Kellee and I have been doing David Platt’s Radical Experiment since Jan 1st. The first thing I can say is I don’t think it is very “radical” to 1) pray for the people of the world 2) read the entire Bible 3) go on a mission trip 4) give tithes and offerings and 5) be a part of a house church. Woopty! Look at us! We’re cool!

We’re busy. We both have full time jobs (albeit from home) with 2 (and counting) crumb snatchers running around. I do know what is NOT important: an Amazing Race, someone trying to Survive, a Bachelor trying to get married, New Yorkers partying in Jersey, or Idols trying to use their Voice to make it big like Studdard, Barrino, Allen, McCreery, and Colon.

We just finished our foster/adoption training- which was pretty intense. Let’s just say there are a lot of not-so-great moms and dads out there whose actions and non-actions are having VERY negative effects on their children. You don’t have to warn us about what we are getting into…we know. It’s awful. Alcoholic and drug addict moms let boyfriends hit and inappropriately touch little ones. It is DEFINITELY NOT the children’s fault! So who is going to help them? We will. We’re not saints- trust me. We spent our newlywed Friday nights getting hammered and passing out at 8 pm. Both of us are so thankful for how much God has nurtured and matured us since then.

So how did we get where we are today?  Step 1: make a plan. Step 2: follow it. Step 3: adapt but don’t quit.

I’ll end with 2 questions. Is what we are doing that radical? If not, why aren’t you doing it?

Dangit, Kel, I hope I just didn’t lose all your followers!

DONE with training!

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Tonight marked the conclusion of 36 hours of preservice training, with an additional 6 hours of CPR and First Aid. We completed 12 of the 14 sessions in the last two weeks. They didn’t cover the lighest of topics, either! Thankful we made it through. But, I also realized that what I know now is IT. There won’t be any more classes or instructors to question. Yikes.

Grant asked me how I was feeling upon completion. It depends on the minute! It’s like my feelings swing on this giant pendulum. At one moment, I feel grossly inadequate, incompetent, scared out of my mind, and full of anxiety. Another time, I feel very confident and prepared. I do recognize that our expectations for this experience have become much more realistic, because of the training. Also, and this is pretty huge, I’ve had a significant heart change in my goal for this process. In the beginning, I was focused on the adoption portion and really just assumed the fostering was a means to an end. Now, we actually WANT to foster. If we are eventually able to adopt, that’s great…but, that’s not the goal. Whereas before, a relationship with a birth mom scared me to death, now I’m going to do my very best to form a quality relationship with these women, in order to provide their children the best care possible. Now, I realize that all this is much easier said than done. But, I know the Lord has changed my heart, and I’m very thankful for that. It’s pretty interesting that many people in our training sessions were NOT interested in fostering. That seems odd, as we are attending these classes to become foster/adopt certified! Even though there were a ton of families in training, it seemed that the ones intending to foster were the minority. There were a few who were planning to only accept those children who were ready to be adopted. Others already had children in the system that they were being licensed to adopt. Others were only taking newborns, which does not seem to be the norm in the foster system. Something I know for sure is how Jesus has confirmed and confirmed that this is what He wants us to do.

I was also thinking about how much the track of our life has changed, in just a matter of months. Fostering was not even a topic of conversation until January or February…I’m not even sure when?!? I realized that making that decision to foster was NOT the big decision that set this all in motion. Committing to obey the Lord, whatever that meant, whatever that looked like…now, THAT was the big decision! And, oh, where it has already taken us. Crazy.

So, we are finished with our training. As of tomorrow, after the fire inspection, we will be totally done with our paperwork. Our last two homestudy visits will be complete by the end of April. This.is.happening.

p.s. This really needs a post all of it’s own, and that will come soon. But, I’m so freaking excited about this, I’ll share a little now. A speaker came to my Bible study on Monday and shared about human trafficking. She works with the organization, Love146. She runs a local taskforce, and they are doing awesome things to bring about awareness and prevention of human trafficking. This girl is legit. She’s super cute, super smart, and super passionate about this cause. I highly encourage you to check out this info and get involved!

http://love146.org/   http://love146dayton.org/    http://www.facebook.com/groups/love146dayton/

Keep on keeping on

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While I have had many mental breakdowns because of doubt, since deciding to foster, this evening proved to be the most jarring. We had another training session and went to a county agency that we had not yet visited. There were several families visiting in the courtyard, and I assumed they were visitations between the children and their birth parents. Now, I know this is all part of what we will be doing. We’ll take our foster kid(s) for scheduled visits with their birth parents. However, to actually see it, witness the interaction between the parents and child, was terribly difficult. I very quickly went to my bad place…What the heck have we gotten ourselves into?!?!?

A good exercise for me tonight was to put myself in the birth parents’ spot. What if that were me and Grant with Ezra and Evie, sitting on a bench or playing in the grass? What if I could only see my girls for one hour a week? It is heartbreaking to think about.

We discussed tonight some of the cultural issues we’ll encounter as foster parents. Culture is so ingrained in all of us, and when we are taken out of our culture, it’s like we lose a part of ourselves. These precious kids will be taken out of everything they’ve always known, where everything is familiar-parents, siblings, bed, toys, food, language, clothes. Again, I think about how Ezra would react to be taken from our home and placed in an environment that is completely different. How would she cope? How would I, the birth parent, survive without her?

We also completed our CPR course this morning. All I can say about that is, the bottom of my palm is bruised from my chest compressions. If I have to perform CPR on anyone, I’ll probably break his/her breastbone!

We’re nearing the end of this process, and it’s becoming a reality with each finished session. I wonder what age of child we will have. Will we have one or a sibling group? Boy, girl, or both? Will the child be quiet and withdrawan or act out? Will Grant and I know how to parent a child who has been abused or neglected?

With all the questions, doubt, and fear, the Lord graciously gives the same amount of peace, understanding, and confidence.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10