Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Joanna's Story 4 years later.....

 Today as Joanna had her 4th Birthday (on the 23rd as I am always running behind) I was thinking of the crazy journey God has had us on in the last 4 years. 
 So first I want to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY BABY GIRL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We love your crazy, nutty, fun, intense ways!!!  Your laughter, your sweet love for your siblings, your snuggles with mommy and daddy, and all of Ariel loving!!! 
 So Joanna's story started quite a while ago......

Once upon a time.......when we still lived in Louisiana.  We had adopted 6 babes through foster care and then decided to do international adoption.  We were matched quickly with Hannah Grace our daughter who had spina bifida and scoliosis in Ethiopia.  We were crushed when she passed away a week before her Ethiopian Adoption.  It was a process to heal after such a loss.....but she was whole and with our Lord and Savior.....
 Just as before though the Lord granted us strength to carry on, and heal.  NOT forget or dismiss, but a yearning for we knew there were other children in need of families too.  So we continued our adoption journey through All God's Children International and said the next child- we will receive as ours....... and that is when we saw our Jonathan's cheeky face.  Well, that was it.  We were in love!  We knew he was ours.  6 months later after some setbacks with setting up the Central Agency in Ethiopia we went to bring our baby boy home (this was back when there was one trip). 
 Of course our plans at that time were to go back for #8 through All God's Children International in Ethiopia.  We couldn't wait!  The AGCI staff even called us exactly 9 months later saying we know you are going to apply again- go ahead and send in your stuff and update your homestudy!  So we did!!!  This time just as we were getting on the "wait list" we saw our Naomi (not her given name) and we were in LOVE!!!  We were matched fairly quickly and on our way!  We knew we had time and before we were going to bring her home we wanted to fly to England to see Jason's family before bringing #8 home. 

We had already had a court date, but didn't pass because the birth mother couldn't be there.  We heard this news while in England with our family.  Then it happened.  We came home to a letter from USCIS (immigration) saying we couldn't adopt our Naomi.  Crushed, Devastated, Depressed..........all 1. Single. Blow!!!!  The wind was more than knocked from us as a family. 
 We didn't know what to do now?  I mean we can't do more foster care we had "too many" kids.  We couldn't now do international adoption- we didn't earn enough money (a joke since we had all our utilities, health insurance, housing paid for so our income didn't seem big, but was).  Oh we argued!!!  We FOUGHT HARD!!!!!!  We pleaded, provided documents, prayed, but the  answer was no!!!!!!!  :( 

*****Please don't let this scare you because we have NEVER heard of ANYONE else ever having USCIS deny them on this account EVER!!!!!!  And we know plenty of large families!  Lots of those in ministry adopting internationally.  It just was our worker who chose to deny us. 
 The depth of sorrow was sooo deeeepppppp!  There were many times I didn't think we would get out of that pit :(.  We had people tell us- maybe God only wants you to have 7 children.  Yes we wanted to punch them, but didn't. 

It was at that time I was reading a blog of a family who had 10 children with the 10th being adopted domestically.  WHAT?  WAIT A MINUTE?????  DID I JUST READ THAT RIGHT????  YES!!!!!

And that is what brought us to Christian Adoption Consultants!!!!!!!!!!!!  PRAISE GOD!!!!!!!!!!!!
 Because within 24 hours of signing on with Christian Adoption Consultants we had a few situations that we were of those was our JOANNA FAITH!!!!!!!  Now this is not typical ;) although it has happened to others as well.  But within a few days I was flying to Philadelphia to hold our newborn daughter in my arms!!!!!!!!!!!  Jason followed within 24 hours (had to do a lot of paperwork and arrangement making)!  Within a few days consents were signed and our daughter was officially OURS!!!!!!!!!  It was a whirlwind!!!!!  It was CRAZY!!!  It was HEAVEN SENT!!!!!!!  IT WAS HEALING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

We lost our daughter........and she did come home with another family.  We have even gotten a couple of emails from this family with a couple of pictures of her.  We value them and are thrilled that she is not an orphan!!!  That she is loved!!!  But our hearts still break thinking about our loss......BUT GOD!!!!! 
 God hurts, and I am so sorry....I will comfort you, and bring you JOY IN THE MORNING!!!!!!!!  WE THANK GOD DAILY FOR JOANNA FAITH!!!!!!!! 
 The story doesn't end there though.  Because we used an agency called Mother Goose Adoptions to bring home our baby girl!  Now both Jason and I get to work for them!!!!!  I get to do home studies and work with birth mothers, and Jason uploads profiles, does media, and helps do the blog for them!  It is a dream job!!!  
 WAIT there is MORE to this story as well!!!!  We moved to Florida with no jobs.... after trying to do an office job it just wasn't a good fit, and we became employed with Christian Adoption Consultants!!!!!!!  OK NOW We got to help families adopt as well!!!  It just doesn't get any better than this people!!!!  I love contacting families, helping them through the process of adoption, praying with our clients, emails, phone calls, and then "the call" that they get to squeal over the phone to me!!!!  Jason does all the paperwork and profiles for our clients- which is amazing because I totally lack the talent for that part!!!! 

So it is crazy to me how stepping out in faith, feeling such agony, having to let go, and then saying yes to a whole new adventure........brought us HERE!!!!! 
 Thank you Lord for JOANNA FAITH!  For never leaving us or letting us down.  For scooping us back up and leading us down this path!  For giving us our dream jobs of working from home helping families all over the U.S. realize the dreams of adoption!!! 
Joanna Faith I bet you never knew how much we grieved and lost, or how much we longed to do another adoption.  Now we are BLESSED with you and your "twin" Michael and jobs that we love as well! 

Sometimes we feel broken......BUT GOD!!!!  God is ever faithful!!!

**To see more on Joanna's crazy God story....go We have a daughter, Pics of Joanna, Journey to Joanna pt 1, Journey to Joanna pt 2, Journey to Joanna pt 3.   

Monday, March 24, 2014

Happy 6th Adoption Day Joshua, Sarah, and Elizabeth!!! (from the 19th)

 6 years ago........a judge said that Joshua, Sarah, and Elizabeth were to be placed in our home forever as our son and daughters.  I can't explain what that means in words because there are none that give you the emotional depth that it brings to mind. 
 I mean Joshua has some great looks in these pictures and is thrilled with his fireman legos, but that is NOTHING even close to as thrilled as we were that day.  The complete JOY that filled our hearts!!! 
 Their story was hard!  The situation was hard! 
 We had taken the foster care class again after moving to Louisiana (after taking it in Iowa and fostering and eventually adopting Abigail, Andrew, & Matthew).  Our intentions were just to help some children that were in process of going back home. 
 Along the way we grew to love these 3 beautiful children, but we also loved and cared for their birth family.  That is when it gets hard.  You want to see the birth family succeed!  You want what is best for them! 
 Oh then it gets complicated emotionally and again there are no words in the English language that can describe it. 
 Oh, but our Heavenly Father knew.....and HE LOVED us all.  In the middle of everything HE created the love in our hearts and Blessed us through brokeness......  He gave us more compassion than I thought I could have. 
 Somehow God works it out in a way that helps heal.......that creates love.......even in the depths of despair for the birth family, and the broken hearts of the children. 
 To create a family.  A family that includes 2 separate families that are joined forever in the act of adoption. 
 Oh and that BEAUTIFUL! 
 I LOVE YOU SO VERY MUCH!!!!!!!!  I couldn't imagine my life without these 3 beautiful babes!!!!! 
 This handsome man who is strong and courageous! 
 This beautiful joyful and compassionate young lady. 
 This crazy nut who has songs bursting out all day long and loves well.
 As you can imagine when there are 3 children with an adoption day all at the same time.....
 That creates a lot of batters ;)
 Fortunately I have plenty of children who are willing to oblige in helping lick it all up ;). 
 Lego movie legos and Crazy Loom
 Tangled & Friends legos...... 
 Line up:  Joshua- cheesecake, Sarah- blueberry cobbler, and Elizabeth strawberry cake with strawberry jam in the layers :)  YUMMY!!!!!  For our family it doesn't take long to polish this all off so no worries there. 
 I love that these 3 precious miracles are in our family.  That we were chosen to be their family.   
That we get to experience the crazy, the good, the hard, the smiles, the tears....and everything in between.  
 I have a love that God formed in my heart in the shape of my children.  That is the best way I can explain it.  Along with that comes a compassion and love for the extended family we have because of them.  It is an amazing journey that God has for our life.  So Blessed that we said YES! 
YES to GOD!  YES to foster care!  YES to adoption!  YES GOD YES!!!!

May we never grow tired of saying YES to whatever God has for us :).

Thursday, March 20, 2014

We are a walking billboard......

 I guess I never thought about it much before we started fostering/adoption.  It never really worried me and yet it was something that happened.
 Now I joke around about it, but today I thought I would share my thoughts with you on being a walking billboard. 
 It is something that became apparent to us since our first official visit with Abigail.  We took her to Burger King so we could eat and play on the playset.  Come on people this was our first chance at being parents and we couldn't wait!  Couldn't wait to show her off to the world.  Couldn't wait for people to notice we were parents. 
 Couldn't wait to play with her on the indoor playset (since it was early March in Iowa and still pretty cold outside- that was before we got used to southern weather). 
 See.....this is a "hidden mickey".  They have them all over the theme parks.  Some a lot more obvious, and some more hidden.  This is your average family. 
 Blending in......sometimes really well.  There are even families that choose to keep it that way with adoption, and I can't say that I blame them.  After all it takes a lot to step out of the norm.  To take on your families (some of you do this daily - we never had that issue) and some of your families would even disown you completely for it :( and that is horrible.  Some people want a child that looks like them because that is the way it usually happens having children biologically :) and there is NOTHING wrong with that!!! 
 Well, needless to say on that first visit with Abigail....we found out quickly that we would not blend in anymore.  We heard right off the bat as we were in line with her to order our food, "look that white couple has a black child".  BAM!!! 
 We took it in our stride.  Didn't even jump across the restaurant and smack that person- which believe me we wanted to do that!!!!!  NOT JOKING!!!!!!!!!!! 
 Instead we talked about the incident.  It didn't slow us down or make us change our minds, but something in the back of our heads told us that we would never be the same.  That our family would never be the same.  That we would always stick out. 
 People that is well before we continued to add more children to our family!  That was when we had one child....who just happened to not have my skin color or my hair.  She didn't share eye color with my husband.
 As soon as we added even a couple more children it was even more obvious to people that we are a Target as we go out in public.  We are the family that people just can't stop looking at.  Oh and it is really funny when some of our summer staff members took our kiddos out to eat, or better yet when your mother in love and your staff member look after your kiddos while you fly out to do interviews - umm yeah. THAT was funny!  To hear them both go on about the stares....a younger man, older woman, and 3 children that looked nothing like either of them ;) he he he he he......HILARIOUS! 
 However, when it gets really personal.........that is when it gets tough!  Like with social workers who believe that dark skinned children shouldn't be in your home.  Or a CASA worker who says your children shouldn't be adopted by you because you just don't have enough pigment in your skin.  Or when your neighbor talks to your other neighbor and says...."better watch out they have a lot of black kids over there".  Or when you child hears the N word for the first time.  Or when boys come and say racist nasty remarks through the fence.  Or when your neighbor cusses at your children, and yells at them because you have "too many" children and they are not the right skin color! 

That will tear you apart!!!!!  That will eat you up for dinner!!!!!  BUT GOD!!!!!!! 
 You have to make a choice.  A very conscience choice right then and there to not take junk, but to do it in a way that is Christlike as well.  That is really hard.
 You see from the beginning we have taught our kiddos to know that when people stare at us there are several reasons: 

1) We obviously have drop dead gorgeous children!  It's true!  I mean who wouldn't stare at children who are so beautiful?

2) They are normally (ha normal isn't a word we use often, and doesn't mean it always happens) pretty awesomely behaved in public!!  People are amazed that they are polite and respectful. 
***Note to others:  If you see children acting wonderful in public - please compliment them.  You should see my children's eyes beam.  In the same breath when my children or other people's children are having a rough time- DO NOT CONDEMN and DO NOT STARE!  Children NEED a safe place, they need space, they have sooo many needs a lot of people do not understand....and that could be a whole separate post altogether. 
 3) Obviously now we drive a 15 passenger and have 9 children with one in a wheelchair.  One of our children is the same skin color and the others are obviously different shades.  We just don't fit any norm of any kind anymore.  So it's ok.  It just is.....
 BUT it still means we are a walking billboard! 
 It's like these flowers if you looked at all the flowers individually they would be beautiful, but together they look amazing with the patterns you can see across the lake.  I love it.  Sometimes people get this idea that they have the right to nose up in your business.  THAT STINKS!  Sometimes you get people who are going to hate.  THAT HURTS! 
One thing a walking billboard we always get the "floor" to speak to others in love about how GOD CREATED OUR FAMILY!  About our passion for families and children who need help!  About children across the street, single moms down the road, and families across the world that need THE CHURCH TO ARISE!  We "GET TO" share about our family and answer awkward questions over and over because it educates and helps others to change and shift their views. 

WE are a walking billboard.......that gets to share CHRIST with others who may have never asked about our faith or God, but we gladly get to tell them anyway! 

WE are a walking billboard that speaks volumes about the fact that skin color, physical and mental ability, and DNA doesn't determine family!!! 

THAT we can handle!  With God's amazing sense of grace and love to others who need to hear the Gospel of Love lived out through this very imperfect family. 

***NOTE:  I do not in any way condone those who ask awkward questions and are not respectful!  We have a generic way of telling our story that is not revealing, but still allows us to talk about adoption in a healthy way.  We do talk with our children often about sharing our story with others, and want their input.  We also don't put up with nasty comments that hurt our children's feelings!  It is so very important to allow your children to tell you when they are uncomfortable, or when their feelings have been hurt.  It is also important to talk together how and when to share things as a family!  :)