November 30, 2011

onward

We are finally back online!  A blessing.

I have so much to share--so much to catch up on.  The last few weeks have been such a whirlwind.  Oh my goodness! 

But here we are...back in our new old home.  It's surreal, to say the least.

One thing I am sure of is that God is truly amazing.  His grace, His mercy, and His astonishing love poured out upon my family leave me tearful.  Where would we ever be without a loving Savior?  I just have no idea.

As Anthony and I walk forward into this new season of our lives, we have such hope in our hearts--such a deep sense of knowing that we know that God really does work out all things for the good of those who love Him.  I will share more of what the Lord has been doing in my own heart in the days to come.

Onward!  With the man I love with all my heart. 

And our Father in heaven who has always seen us to the other side. No matter what!



Test me, LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love
and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.
Psalm 26:2-4

November 29, 2011

still here

Wow, you guys! Yes, we are still here. Please forgive my horrible lack of posting. We have had such a crazy and tiring week. Our baby girls have been so very sick and both ended up in the ER the day after we arrived here. Needless to say, they have needed my full attention and everything else got put on hold.

We still do not have internet at home but they tell us tomorrow is the day...we'll see. Just wanted to stop by quickly and update from my phone to let you know that I have not forgotten about my little blog. I so appreciate the many e-mails I have received checking in on us. If all goes well I will be back tomorrow with lots of news.

I would so appreciate it if you kept Hailee and Harper in your prayers. Their tiny little bodies need healing and their immune systems need to be able to fight all the nasty viruses going around.
Right now they have zero ability to fight disease. Poor lovies.

So thankful for His amazing grace tonight.

November 21, 2011

He writes the story of my life

I can honestly say that the last week has been one of the most emotional of my life.

We finished renovating our home to rent it out again.  Gave away all the furniture we knew would not fit into the rented truck.  Packed up the remainder of our things in boxes.  Said many goodbyes.  Cried more tears than I knew I even had.

Five days ago, with aching hearts, we left the city we love so much and headed west.  Oh my goodness.  For me, it was hard!  Almost as hard as when I left my home country ten years ago.

Last Thursday morning Anthony and I stood in front of our little home in the inner city.  The truck was finally packed.  The suitcases were loaded, and our home stood empty before us--waiting for someone else to come and fill its walls with memories. So many people came to say goodbye that morning.  We felt so tender and emotional.  We looked at one another and through my tear-stained eyes we asked each other if this was right. Were we doing the right thing?  At that moment it would have been so easy to call the whole thing off and stay put.  Every fiber of my being wanted to tell my husband, "Let's just stay!  Please!"

Yet, we both knew that we knew that the time had come to move forward.  We had waited patiently for the Lord to move on our behalf.  We had prayed and cried out to Him with all of our hearts for eighteen months for a way to stay.  Any way to enable us to stay. 

But there was none.  Sometimes the answer from heaven is simply, "No."

God had closed every door we tried to walk through and remaining there was no longer an option.  We were left with no other possible option but to move forward.  Our mission there had obviously been accomplished.  Hailee has doubled in weight, blossomed and grown into a totally different child to the one we brought home last year.  Our sweet little girl is finally healthy enough to return to our home in the mountains.

And so we gathered the kids, said our final goodbyes, and drove down our beautiful cobble-stoned street for the last time. I honestly felt like I left a piece of my heart right there on the sidewalk.

We have been on the road for the last five days now.  It sure has given me so much time to ponder and pray.  Sometimes our journeys in the Lord make absolutely no sense at all. I'll be honest...it is hard for me to move back to the mountains.  Just a few months ago when people asked me where we used to live, my standard response was something like this..."In the mountains--where winter feels like it will never end.  You can keep it, thank you very much! This is my home now."

Ha!  Never say never, huh?  I have imagined the Lord having a good old chuckle at me as I have proclaimed with absolute certainty that I will NEVER go back there.  Kind of like that "Oh, God, I'll go anywhere for you, do anything you tell me to do...but please, Lord, don't ever send me to Africa."  Next thing you know, boom...you're on a plane winging your way to Uganda to serve with a mission team.

Yeah, never say never!

So here we are. As the days have passed as quickly as the miles in the the last five days, I have realized something again. Not some kind of new revelation, but definitely one I needed reminding of as I have found myself focusing on all the negatives, almost falling into a pit of despair. God's plans and purposes for my life are for my good! No matter how painful or crazy they may seem at the time, they are always for my good--even when I simply cannot fathom how things are going to work out.

When my Father in heaven closes one door, He opens another.  Giving Him full control to write the story for my life is the greatest challenge.  Am I going to hold onto the things near and dear to my heart? Am I going to cling to my dreams and my desires?  Or am I willing to lay them all down at His feet?  Am I willing to lose control of my life so that God can gain full control of my life?

That, dear friends, is my greatest test of faith in this season.

Faith isn't tested when God calls us to do the things that are easy.  Nope.  Faith is tested and stretched when God calls us to step out of the comfortable boat we're in and walk toward Him on the stormy sea.  Faith is challenged when that still small voice says, "Forget about yourself...and follow me!"

I long, with all my heart, for God to write the story of my life.  I long for there to be less of me in me--and so much more of Him. But I'm afraid to say that I still have such a long way to go. I fail more times than I care to count. I hold onto the things I should let go of and I have a habit of looking back, when really, God wants me to look forward.  Too many times I fail to remember that He commands me in His word to "Forget the former things.  Do not dwell on the past. Behold, I am doing a NEW thing."  (Isaiah 43)

He alone closes the chapters of my life...and opens the new ones.

I have absolutely no idea what His "new thing" is as we journey back to where we moved from just eighteen months ago.  I don't have a clue what the Lord has in store for us or what adventures are around the next corner.  I don't know what His plans and purposes for us being there are.  But there is one thing I know with absolute surety.

He is dependable.

He is trustworthy.

He is faithful!

And so, as we journey on and get closer and closer to home, I am resting in the knowledge that my Father in heaven has never, ever let us down. As He provided manna to the Israelites, He provides everything we need on a daily basis.  As He showed Moses the way out of Egypt, He shows us the path to walk too.  As He gave wisdom and guidance to David, so He gently leads and guides us too.

I have a Father in whom I can trust.

When everything is stripped away. When dreams and desires are left on the altar. When our hearts are tender and aching.  When the future feels so uncertain. When we have absolutely no idea what God is up to.  When we're tired and feeling completely worn out.  When life is making absolutely no sense whatsoever...

JESUS IS OUR MORE THAN ENOUGH!

And when everything is said and done, when the final chapter of my life is written, I hope that I will able to say with all my heart that I allowed God to write my story.

November 19, 2011

the Healy family: God never waited for us to be ready

It is such a blessing for me to introduce you all to the Healy family.  I love their story of how the LORD has knit their family together.  We just never know the roads He will call each one of us to walk--but we can rest assured that they will be for our GOOD. 

~~~~~~~

Mark and I have been married for 17 years. We met and married in the Seattle area and moved to Idaho 6 years ago. We adopted our oldest son, Matthew, in 1998. He is 14 now and a freshman in High School. A year after returning from Taiwan with Matthew, I gave birth to our daughter Nicole, she is 12 and in 7th grade. Two years later I gave birth again, Noah is 10 and in 4th grade. In 2009 we brought Margarita and Julia home from Ukraine. Margarita, 14 too, is in 8t grade and participating in an Online school this year. Julia is 13 and is repeating 6th grade at the same school as Nicole and Noah. I work full time as a student advisor at a for profit college and Mark is a Stay at Home Dad.


~~~~~~~

Mark and I married in 1994 and a year later decided to start a family. No such luck and off for fertility testing I went. Fertility tests are not that great and in my case provided no answers. At the end of the summer in 1997 my folks called one day and invited us to go to Taiwan with them for Christmas. My sister and family were living there in a sort of Missionary capacity at a Christian international school and the idea was to spend the holidays with them. I will never forget the day, shortly after accepting their invitation, when standing in the living room I said to Mark, "Do you want to adopt a baby while we're there?". He said yes.

I emailed my sister that Friday asking her what she knew about adoption in Taiwan and when I didn't hear back from her right away, I called her the following Monday. Tuesday morning I received an email from her saying that she knew a Missionary man in Taiwan who had his own orphanage and while he didn't have any babies available at the time, he would call around the island and see if anyone else did. Thursday night our phone rang and when I answered I heard my sister say, "It's a boy!". The Missionary had contacted an orphanage down in the southern part of the country, they had a baby available so he told them we wanted him. The next week my sister and family brought him home from the orphanage to care for him until I could get there. It took 6 weeks to get the homestudy, fingerprints and whatnot done, and I left for Taiwan the end of October, 1997.

Being that my sister was living at a school (more like a compound, in a good way...) I was able to rent a "cottage" from the Southern Baptist Mission and Matthew and I were able to live together for the next weeks and months that followed. We did our adoption completely backwards. Most of the time all the paperwork is completed, submitted to the country of adoption, approvals are granted AND THEN you travel. It was Thanksgiving before our homestudy arrived from the States, it still had to be translated and submitted to the court.

Thanksgiving came and went, Christmas with our family came and went, and still our adoption was not done. Each afternoon after lunch I loaded Matthew up in the stroller and we walked around the village where we lived. I *learned* enough Chinese to order a yummy "chocolate milk tea" or "passionfruit and green tea", order shrimp "well done" from the Tepanyaki restaurant or get back to "the American school" when I got lost. I figured out I could buy Skippy peanutbutter at the 7-11 and quickly discovered that it was eggs soaking in black tea in crockpots that provided that *certain smell* in a lot of food stores. I could get whatever I needed by walking. I totally loved how the villages were sort of complete within themselves. I was even able to walk down the street one day and come home with a spaceheater under my arm. :)

On March 23, 1998 we finally arrived back in the States with Matthew. He turned one on May 4th.

So, fast forward several years. Matthew was 11, Nicole was just about 9 and Noah was 6.5. Nicole really wanted an older sister. I told her I was sorry but it just didn't work that way. And then one day I was sitting in the living room with Mark and said, "Do you ever think about adopting again? It's been on my mind". He replied that he would be interested if the opportunity ever came up.

A week or two later I received an email from a friend who was forwarding an email from her friend. The email was about 3 orphan girls coming to our town from Ukraine for the summer. The email was asking for clothes and toy donations. And PS, the girls were all available for adoption. Pictures were included and I clicked on the one of the 2 biological sisters. I instantly knew this was it. I was traveling with my job at the time and so forwarded the email back home to Mark.

Once I was home and we talked about it, we decided to pursue adopting those 2 girls. On June 28, 2008, which was Nicole's 9th birthday, we met the two girls for the first time who were to become her older sisters. Julia turned 10 that summer and Margarita turned 11. We were so fortunate to get to spend a lot to time with the girls over the summer. We started our homestudy in July. The girls went back to Ukraine at the end of August. We received our Adoption Department date in Ukraine for the end of November and traveled on Mark's birthday, which that year was the day before Thanksgiving.

We stayed in Ukraine for a month and were not able to complete the adoption during that first trip (and that is another story in and of it's self...) and so packed up and returned to the states on December 23, 2008. We received a court date for the end of January and took off again. All went well during the second trip and the girls landed on US soil on February 15, 2009 and instantly became US Citizens.

Those first few weeks and months were interesting. They didn't speak much, if any English, and we didn't speak any Russian. Thank the good Lord for translation books! Between those books and the ability to pantomime, it wasn't too bad. :) I had given myself a year for a new *normal* to settle in, and one day I realized we were there, and it had only been 7 months. The day I heard Julia and Margarita fighting in English, I knew we had arrived.

It's been just over two and a half years now since the girls joined our family. Has it been easy? Not always. Has it been harder than I thought? Sometimes. Was I prepared to take over the job of parenting two preteens who had spent almost their entire lives living in an orphange in a poor Eastern European country? No. Was I equipped to handle raising 5 kids with the 4 oldest being just 2 years apart? No. But "God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us". (Ephesians 3:20 - The Message)

In both of our adoptions He didn't wait until we were "ready". He didn't wait until we had "enough money". He said "Go" and we went. Even during the tough times I have never ever not even for one second wondered if we had done the right thing. I am 150% certain that these 3 kids were meant to be a part of our family just as much as our 2 bio children were meant to be a part of our family.

November 18, 2011

amazing news

We are two days into our long, long journey west.  The last few days have been so ridiculously emotional and crazy.  Packing up our home, loading a truck, and saying goodbye to people we love with all our hearts was so hard.  Goodbyes are so awful.  I will share more as soon as I am able to put a few coherent thoughts down here.  Tonight I am just too exhausted to even think straight.

But I could not let the day go by without sharing some amazing news with you. So many of you prayed for this little boy.

This morning I got an e-mail telling me that sweet David has a family!


Thank you so much to all of you who shared his story wherever you could. Someone saw his sweet little face and knew that he was their beloved son.  They have already started the process to bring him home.  In just a few short months this darling little boy will be taken out of that nursing home forever!  So amazing.

Totally rejoicing.

I will keep you posted, and if his family has a blog which we can follow I will share it with you.

God is so good to raise up families for children in need.  Father to the fatherless--He puts the lonely in families. Thank you for praying and for trusting with me that this precious little lovie WILL come home.

I'll be back soon.  Right now though, it's time to catch up on some much needed sleep before we hit the road again tomorrow.

Blessing the name of the Lord.

November 15, 2011

one business making a difference

"Can you bring Harper to the studio today?  We need her for a photo shoot," the message read.



Of course!



Next thing I knew, sweet Harper was adorned in the silkiest little robe.

And boy, did she ham it up for the camera!



She had the best time--just being her precious, endearing little self.



When I saw Harper in the PoshTots catalogue, I couldn't help but smile.  Every person who has ever parented a child with any kind of "special needs" completely understands what I mean when I say that all we long for is for our children to be accepted.  Not as "typical" or "normal"--but for who they are--fearfully, wonderfully, and exquisitely handcrafted by a Father in heaven who does all things with excellence.  We long for the ever-dividing line which separates "ability" from "disability" to disappear completely.  We dream of a world where children are accepted as children--no matter what is "wrong" with them.

I am so thankful to PoshTots.  My friend Andrea and her team get it!  They get that our children are precious and beautiful...just the way they are. 



It absolutely warms my heart that they were so excited to share Harper and her story with the world.  They celebrated the fact that Harper is who she is--and that she too could be a little posh model to grace their pages with her adorableness.



I am moved to tears when companies reach out to those who, in the eyes of the world, are more often than not just not perfect enough for their corporate image.  I am so deeply touched when successful businesses lead the way in showing the world what a beautiful blessing disability truly is. 

It really is such an amazing thing.



And so is she.

Perfect in every way imaginable.



No longer an orphan--abandoned simply because she is "different."  Gone are those days!  Glorious redemption has come and Harper's life is shouting from the rooftops that...

"Down syndrome is a blessing!"

"Children with disabilities deserve amazing opportunities too."

"Just give them a chance.  Please!" 

Thank you, PoshTots for leading the way.  Thank you for your amazing hearts and your willingness to go where few have gone.  It means more to us than you can ever know. 



Thank you for pioneering a movement to include, not exclude.

You guys totally rock!

November 14, 2011

the Knight family: always according to His will

It has been such a joy for me to share some pretty amazing families with you all this month--Orphan Awareness Month. I hope that their stories are encouraging you and inspiring you to step out in faith and care for the fatherless--no matter how that may look.  It is such an incredible responsibility and an enormous privilege to give of ourselves, our time, our finances, and our prayers to those who are abandoned, alone, and even dying in orphanages around the world. How desperately they need us!

What an absolute blessing it is for me to introduce you all to the Knight family today.  They are proof that sometimes God works things out just a wee bit differently to what we had originally planned--but ALWAYS to the good of those who love Him and have been called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

~~~~~~~

This adoption was an adoption of faith-almost from day one! We signed on with our agency in February and were excited to again add to our family through the miracle of adoption. Greg lost his job in October, along with the $5000 adoption credit his company would give. Yikes! There were so many questions at that time—where would he find a job? Would we have to move? What about the adoption? Did we hear God wrong? We chose to have faith and believe God had something in store for us and He did! Greg took a job with our local food bank which lines up with his heart for helping the vulnerable! We were blessed as he only had to go two weeks without a job.

We continued to wait for our referral.

In March we received the referral of a beautiful baby boy whose name means “Praise.” We were excited and quickly fell in love. We received a court date for the first week of June. The Monday of the week were leaving, I received that DREADED phone call. Our little one’s mother came to court and changed her mind and took him home. My first emotional reaction? I am done. Adoption is too hard. I can’t stand the emotional roller coaster anymore. I AM DONE!

Even in the midst of this God was working and moving. My caseworker called my husband first and told him to come home. A friend was walking up the walk for a play date minutes after I hung up. (little did she know it was going to be a cry fest!) We cried, prayed, asked many why’s and just sat in silence.

As we continued to pray God asked me, “what is adoption about? You or the child that needs a home?” I began to realize, (I knew it down deep but it finally rose to the surface of my heart) that this was a good thing. If this little baby’s mom changed her mind and could raise him—than that is who he should be with! A friend emailed me words that comforted my heart “a baby is back in the arms of his mother tonight.” How could I be upset with that? Was I grieving? Yes—for the loss of the child who we thought would be our son. However, I was so happy that this child could be raised by the mother that carried him, named him, and loved him.

We were also blessed to have friends there when she picked up him from the orphanage that took pictures of them together and told us that she loved him and he would be okay. Our hearts will forever be linked to theirs. There was a purpose and reason for all of it. Little “Praise” will be thought of and in our prayers for the rest of our lives. He was not to be our son, but he will not be forgotten.

Fast forward a couple of days and we received another referral of a tiny little boy, Teshale, whose name means “Better One.” I can’t even begin to tell you how that confirmed everything for us. God has blessed us immensely and looking back we can see how everything worked according to His plan. Teshale needed to be home quickly. Because we were already in the court system, the gracious judge just postponed our court date for us. As my caseworker said, “you are ready and he needs to be home quickly--a perfect situation.”

July 15 we were in Ethiopia for court and met our son. He was our son! The bond was immediate and we knew this was the child God had for our family.We came home September 10th ( after an amazingly quick for clearing Embassy) and are doing well.



Adoption is hard. It is emotional. It is full of bumps, curves, and road blocks.

It is worth it.

I now have so much more of a picture of what Christ endured for me. I have a glimpse of His heartache and passion. As I sat and cried over that first little boy I imagined how God weeps over those that He longs to have as His children.


God, continue to break my heart for the things that break Yours.

Charisa blogs about her beautiful family and their journey in the Lord right here.

November 13, 2011

I'm a big girl now

Yesterday we celebrated my birthday.


With friends who I love so much.


And my family too, of course.



I got presents.

And yummy cake.



And so many loves, kisses and cuddles.



Yayyeeeeee....I am so, so clever.



'Cause I'm a big girl now!



Happy, happy birthday, sweet Harper.

Oh, how we LOVE you!

November 12, 2011

the Schaap family: miraculous provision

Today, as I continue sharing some amazing families with you during Orphan Awareness Month, I get to introduce you to someone who has been such a huge blessing to me.  With every fundraiser I have done here on my blog for children in desperate situations, she has always been one of the first to e-mail me saying, "I would love to help by donating a couple of items." Elizabeth has such an enormous heart. The Lord has done amazing things in and through her, as you'll see.

~~~~~~~

The first of two main things I would like to encourage people with is that God provides financially for adoption, because it is at the very center of His heart. And the second one is that He changes hearts toward adoption.  Hearts that were previously cold toward it light on fire when He works in them.

The proof of this is in my husband who just a few months ago wanted NOTHING to do with adoption.  After much prayer (on my part, without him being aware) he changed his heart and mind and opened up to the idea, and now we are in the process of adopting from China. Only Jesus can do this.  Only Him. I asked Him many times to remove the desire to adopt from me, if it was not His will for our family, but it never went away.  It only got stronger. The devil had me believe for a time that it was a selfish desire of mine that had nothing to do with the Lord.  In time God showed me that this was indeed from Him, and it made my faith stronger in the process.

So now that my hubby was on board, where were we going to come up with the money for this? We are a family with three children on one salary who lives paycheck to paycheck, so we found no place to take the adoption fees from.

One day I was searching adoption blogs on the internet and found this wonderful blog written by a mom who was making bracelets by hand and selling them to raise the adoption fees for her beautiful daughter waiting in China. This so touched my heart! I had a little bit of money in my PayPal account which I was saving to donate somewhere.  I just didn't know where yet,  But each day the Lord kept bringing me back to this bracelet blog and one day I followed His lead and emptied my account into hers. I emailed her with some questions and she helped me so much and encouraged me to keep praying for my husband's heart to change. A few short weeks later, her bracelet campaign ended.  She had all the money she needed to bring her daughter home, and she emailed me to say that she felt the Lord leading her to pass the bracelet campaign onto me!


Only God! At this point we were not even discussing adoption or how we would pay for it, so when I saw the e-mail I began to shake and cry because I just knew this was from Him, a gift from the Lord to provide for our future adoption.

So in one swoop the Lord matched up my heart and my hubby's heart with His and provided the means to adopt our little one! The enemy does not want orphans to have families.  He wants to keep them alone and afraid and without Jesus. It is a spiritual battle that, once we are committed to fighting it, Jesus leads us to the front and always wins!

We have "met" so many strangers through this process; people who have never met us before but have opened their hearts and ordered bracelets or offered to pray for us, or both.

We are hoping that we will be matched soon to our baby girl.  We haven't seen her yet but love her so much.

Our blog address is http://www.jesuslovesorphans.blogspot.com/

hanging out with friends

As our time here is coming to a quick close, I have been trying to spend as much time as I can with friends who I love and cherish.  Oh, how I am going to miss them! 

Yesterday we drove about an hour away to meet up with my precious friend, Kristin.  She and I met in person nearly two years ago after connecting here on my blog.  Kristin adopted sweet Nadia just a few months after we got home with our lovies.  She has become such a treasured friend in my life--I am so thankful to the Lord for allowing our paths to cross.

We had a lovely time together.  I was blessed to meet another mommy named Jen who has also adopted an angel from Ukraine. 

Our four amazing beauties--all BLESSED with the magnificent extra chromosome.


Trying to get the perfect photo?


Next to impossible!


These pictures totally make me smile.  I love them.



How exceedingly blessed we are.

Thank you, Kristin and Jen, for such a special day!

Off to spend time with our beautiful birthday girl, who is no longer my baby but my big girl now.

November 11, 2011

adoption: A GIFT!

After sharing my heart recently on being unashamedly pro-life, I got a ton of reactions and questions.  I know it's one of those subjects that stirs up a lot of feelings, and I don't ever expect everyone to agree with me on where I stand on this issue, or any other for that matter. But for me personally, I will never change my mind or back down from my convictions. I believe explicitly that Father God alone gives...and takes away.

Some asked:

What about rape?

What about when the mother is a just a child herself?

What about when the mother is simply unable to care for the child?

I understand that these are all very delicate and sensitive issues.  I cannot even imagine facing an unplanned pregnancy in any of the above circumstances. 

BUT.

I believe with all my heart that God Almighty is the giver of life.  He alone gives life, and takes life away.  Every child conceived has a purpose and a destiny in this life. Every single child.  Every child is meant to be. My God never makes mistakes.

Focus on the Family posted this YouTube video just a couple of days ago.  I cried watching it.  If only more young women knew what a blessing, a beautiful and treasured gift, their baby would be to a family whose arms are just aching to bring a little one into their home.

This is such a powerful testimony! Since we're focusing on adoption this month, it is the perfect time for me to share it with you.

If only they knew.



Adoption truly is a beautiful gift!

November 10, 2011

the Annessa family: my brother's impact

I am so thrilled to be able to introduce you all to a very special friend. Brooke's story about her sweet brother is just beautiful. What a joy and a blessing siblings who have special needs are to their brothers and sisters. I read Brooke's testimony and prayed that my own children would have the same kind of lasting impact that comes from treasuring one who has special needs.

~~~~~~~

I was seven years old when I met Brad, who was about to celebrate his 18th birthday. Our relationship started off rocky as I was completely unsure about this new person who seemed so different from me. He was big, like an adult, but he acted like a child and he looked "different". I remember being told that those differences were because he had Down syndrome – which didn’t do much to keep me from being afraid of this new person.


Slowly, I remember being surprised by what we had in common. We liked the same shows on TV and knew the same songs. My dad says he knew that Brad and I were “officially friends” when I patted his bottom as he climbed the stairs in front of me one night. And for my dad, it was critical that Brad and I find some common ground; what I didn’t know at the time is that Brad would soon become my brother.

Between the bottom pat on the stairs and the day my dad adopted Brad were years of memories I could never forget. Watching Brad run around at the petting zoo trying to get away from a less than friendly pig, hours spent teaching him to write his ABC’s, weekly fire drills, trips to Chuck E Cheese, and Friday night pizza. As Brad and I grew up our relationship changed and grew into something I don’t think my family could have ever even hoped for. Though they knew I would love him, I don’t think they ever thought he would be the catalyst behind so many of the major life choices I would later make.




For me, Brad was a source of pride. I was so incredibly proud that he was my brother. This pride that was demonstrated in grade school by bringing him to school for show and tell (Yep! I totally did that!), matured into my desire to not only advocate for my brother, but for all individuals with special needs. As I grew up I learned that those differences I first noticed when I was seven years old were keeping my brother from having access to the same opportunities I had. I chose a career in social work so I could really use my life to work towards obtaining more and better services for individuals with disabilities and their families. I have had the opportunity to speak to crowds of hundreds, to work with legislators, and to educate the general public about the need for better supports.

My family was thrilled that my love for my brother had shaped my career path and gave me the opportunity to advocate on a local, national and even international level. However, they had not yet seen how far this love would reach; from here to the other side of the world!



You see, growing up with my brother not only taught me a lot about the disability community, it also taught me about the impact of adoption.

Today, my husband Michael and I are pursuing an international adopting from a small Christian orphanage in Taiwan. When we look at how we came to choose adoption in growing our family we are reminded of how God is always working in our lives. No one could have known back when I was seven the series of events that would lead me to this place; to choosing to cross the ocean to grow our family through adoption. But God has always known, and we are in awe of all the little ways He has worked our lives together to bring us to this place.

My brother’s impact on my life has shaped and molded nearly every aspect of it. Through my life, I am able to impact the lives of countless others, including our future child.


I suppose the summation of my story is that you can never know how God will use you, and you certainly can’t underestimate how God will use someone else.

Brooke blogs about her family and their adoption right here.  I know they would absolutely love it if you followed along as they journey toward their sweet little Adelyn.  They are currently hosting an awesome fundraiser with some amazing things up for grabs.  Please consider sowing seed into their adoption.  It would mean the world to this special young couple who have chosen to grow their family through the blessing of adoption.  Adelyn will be their first child.

November 9, 2011

the Patterson family: don't waste the pain

As you probably know by now, the month of November is Orphan Awareness Month. I have dedicated this month to blogging mainly about orphans and adoption. Why? Because the need is desperate! Because we are living in a day when there has never been a more urgent need for the church to rise up and fulfill our mandate (command!) to care for the orphan. The hour is now! God is calling us to lose control of our lives, so that He may gain full control.  Reckless abandon is what we call it--for the sake of the millions who wait...and wait...and wait for someone to come and rescue them! 

It has been such a joy to be able to share some amazing adoption stories with you this month.  There are lots more to come.

Today it is such an honor to introduce you all to my dear friend, Lorraine Patterson, and her beautiful family. What a journey the Father has had them on!  Their testimony is one of pain and sorrow--but also such a beautiful picture of how God truly takes our ashes and turns them into something glorious--something far beyond what we ever imagined...all for His glory. I know you will just love getting to know the Pattersons.  


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I’m honored to share a story with you today of how God grew our family from this:

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The Patterson Family, November 2007

Matt (Dad), Lorraine (Mom), Parker (11), Mattie (9), Sawyer (7)

To this:

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The Patterson Family, May 2011

Matt (Dad, pictured front and center), Lorraine (Mom, pictured with the baby on her lap), Naomi (18), Parker (15), Meribeth (14), Mattie (14), Sawyer (11), Asher (8), Ella (6), Kiefer (3), Selah (7 months), Chrissie (in heaven, age Forever 4), plus our treasured extended family and partners in ministry:  Stephanie, Samantha, and Emily Hall (the 3 gorgeous blondes in the photo)

(Our 2 Ukrainian sons are not pictured above, but hopefully SOON we’ll have a new family photo to share!)

I remember when it all started. When God began to open our eyes. We were sitting at my parent's house enjoying our Thanksgiving gathering (Nov. 2007) when I received an email (on my phone) from a friend. This email stood out like no other. The email talked about an older orphan in Colombia who needed a forever family. As I stared at the photo of the girl in the email, my heart raced, like the 9-year-old girl in the photo was a part of me.

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Luz Mery's Referral Photo (pic taken 2007 when she was 9)

"Special Needs Orphan" in Colombia (age and history made her special needs)

Became Mery Elizabeth Patterson ("Meribeth") November 10, 2008 (when Meribeth was 11)

But how could this be? I had never really thought about adoption. Why should I? Our family was perfectly complete with 3 bio kids, two sons and a daughter. And if I were going to adopt, wouldn't I want to choose a healthy baby, not a 9-year-old girl who would be 11 by the time she came home?!?

Then God showed us this verse:

"A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in his holy dwelling. God sets the lonely in families..." Psalm 68:5-6

And we just knew God was calling us to our first adopted daughter.

And He wasn't calling us to a newborn or even a toddler.

He was clearly calling us to adopt this exact child, whom He hand-picked for our family. A girl who would be 11 years-old by the time she would join our family. A girl who didn’t know a word of English. A girl who had lived a very hard life. Yes, this meant we’d be adopting out of birth order, and our first adoption would be challenging due to the age and history, but we knew without a doubt that God wanted us to adopt this specific child.

You can read more about our adoption journey to Meribeth (formerly Princesa Luz Mery) by clicking HERE.

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Here’s a photo of our family in Colombia, adopting Meribeth in November, 2008.

Matt (Dad), Lorraine (Mom), Parker (12), Meribeth (11), Mattie (10), Sawyer (8)

Countries represented: USA, Colombia

So now our family was really perfectly complete.

Two boys, two girls.

Who could ask for more?

And then God gave me a terrifying nightmare about horribly mistreated orphans, and this is how He began to really open my eyes (and consequently our entire family's eyes) to the plight of the orphan.

"Once our eyes are opened, we cannot pretend we do not know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows we know and holds us responsible to act." Proverbs 24:12

After my dream/nightmare, God gave me an urgency about an orphan who needed us immediately. I didn't know who, why, when, or where, but I knew it was urgent.

Within a few days of my dream, God sent me an email to show me exactly the child who desperately needed us. The email read, "URGENT need in Serbia." Without even seeing the photo of the child or reading the diagnoses, I KNEW immediately this was the child God was calling us to. And then I saw her photo, and God vividly spoke to me regarding this precious angel, confirming that she was a Patterson, and her name was not "Barbara" as she was known as in Serbia, she was "Chrissie". Somehow we suddenly felt like we needed her even more than she needed us!

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"Barbara", Referral Photo (pic taken 2008 at the age of 3)

"Special Needs Orphan" in Serbia (multiple severe congenital heart defects)

Became Christyn Joy Patterson ("Chrissie") October 14, 2009 (at the age of 4)

God spoke directly to Matt when we prayed about adopting Chrissie, the very same night we found out about her in June 2009. It was a huge risk, knowing she may not live long due to her severe heart defects.

But it was a risk we knew we had to take.

These are the Words God showed Matt that night as we sought His counsel:

"Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is within the power of your hand to do so." Proverbs 3:27

And we ALL knew we had to obey.

Chrissie earrings

Click HERE to read the beginning of our journey to Chrissie.

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Click HERE to continue that journey.

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The Patterson Family, November 2009

Matt, Lorraine, Parker (13), Meribeth (12), Mattie (11), Sawyer (10), Chrissie (4), Plus our treasured extended family and partners in ministry:  Stephanie, Samantha, and Emily Hall

Countries Represented: USA, Colombia, Serbia

Surely our family was now complete! We didn't feel worthy (or even capable!) of receiving any more precious blessings from God, but in December 2009, God laid it upon our hearts that He was going to deliver us a special gift from Haiti. God's special delivery arrived April 4, 2010, in His perfect timing, and oh my word, he was the cutest little delivery ever.  Kiefer’s story is told in 3 parts on our blog (click each part to read):  Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

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Kenwetchly, Referral Photo (pic taken Dec. 2009, at the age of 18 months)

Economic orphan in Haiti

Became Kiefer Thomas Patterson April 4, 2010 (at the age of 22 months)

"...for in you the fatherless find compassion." Hosea 14:3



Chrissie family

The Patterson Family

April 18, 2010, the night before Chrissie’s open-heart surgery

Countries represented:  USA, Colombia, Serbia, Haiti

Just two weeks after Kiefer came home, Chrissie (our Serbian daughter, who had been home 6 months) had her much-needed complex open-heart surgery. After a 31-day battle in the hospital, on May 19, 2010, God called Chrissie home, to live with Him for all eternity. We were in shock at the outcome He chose, but, at the same time, we were so grateful He chose us and entrusted us to be Chrissie's forever family. She was pure joy, a precious blessing straight from our Father, and He fulfilled His promise to Chrissie through our obedience while He grew us in ways we never thought possible.

"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." John 14:18

As we walked the path of grief after Chrissie went to live with Jesus, we felt like we might never ever adopt again. Our hearts were shattered, we were all quite a mess, but God gently (well, He might have knocked us over the head!) reminded us of why He placed us on this earth: to care for orphans in their distress. Exactly one month to the day of Chrissie going to Heaven, God once again displayed His power and glory by delivering another special gift to our family, even when we felt so incapable. He knew His plan; He knew He would equip us; He knew how to turn our hearts toward Him in obedience. When we wanted to bury ourselves in the midst of our pain, He entrusted us with another treasure.

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Nahomie, from Haiti

Welcomed into our family on June 19, 2010 at the age of 17

Became Naomi Faith Patterson August 4, 2010

Click HERE to read Naomi’s adoption announcement.

"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

And just when we thought our hands and hearts were at maximum capacity, God reminded us that our love is supplied through Him, who gives us all of our strength and ability. He reminded us that we are nothing without Him, and He reminded us that He equips us to do the tasks He calls us to. All He asks is that we obey, regardless of how impossible the task may seem. He is faithful. He always provides. His grace is sufficient. And as soon as we renewed our vows to Him and affirmed our trust and faith in Him, the Author and Creator of life sent us another special arrow for our quiver.

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Asher came to our home at the age of 8 on July 23, 2010 via a disrupted adoption in the USA.

Asher is currently in the legal process of becoming a forever Patterson.

Click HERE to read Asher’s adoption announcement.

"And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me." Matthew 18:5

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The Patterson Family

August 2010

Even though we thought our family was surely complete this time, God completely shocked surprised us when He suddenly blessed us with two new daughters (biological half-sisters) from Texas.

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Ella (age 5 at placement), November 2010

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And Selah (age 7 weeks at the time of placement), November 2010

This placement was not only a complete surprise, it was also very high risk for our hearts. The baby, Selah, was born with only a sliver of a brain, with 3 pounds of fluid in her enormous skull, with a grim prognosis for her future (that she would either not survive infancy or would be a “vegetable”).

The girls were temporarily placed with our family, on an emergency placement via a private adoption agency, while we prayed about adopting them. It didn’t take long for our hearts to fall head over heels in love with both girls, and while we really preferred to protect our hearts, God reminded us that it was His job to protect us and provide for us. Ella and Selah became forever Pattersons on December 29, 2010. Click HERE to read about the miracle of Ella and Selah.

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The Patterson Kiddos, December 2010

We originally thought that adopting Ella and Selah was more about them than it was about us, but we now realize that God planned to do some major healing of our hearts through the placement of these girls, healing we never thought possible. Turns out, God intended for these girls to bless our hearts much more than we could ever bless theirs. We are oh so very grateful we took this risk, as it’s been such a tremendous blessing to have these two treasures in our family.

Baby Selah is now a year old, and she is THRIVING. Her brain grew to fill her skull cavity, her skull has been reconstructed (medically necessary), and she is now developing as a typical child, much to the surprise of her many specialists. Selah is an absolute miracle who has defied all of the doctors’ diagnoses, a living testimony of God’s many miracles. God has used this precious baby to not only show doctors that they’re not the Author of life, nor the Giver of life, but to also show us that no matter how risky the situation looks and feels, we are to wholeheartedly trust Him, the One and Only Author of life, the incredible Healer of all, including broken hearts, broken brains, and broken bodies.

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

In July 2011, God surprised us once again by asking us to host (very last minute) two orphan boys from Ukraine. They had lost their original host family, and they were in desperate need of a new host family. We prayed and agreed that we could do anything for 5 weeks, plus we committed to give the boys a great Texas summer while exposing them to other potential adoptive families. Sounded like a good plan. :-)

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Click HERE to read about how God brought Vlad and Dima to our family via a summer host trip.

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Well, it turns out that God never intended for Vlad and Dima to be with a different family, He intended the boys to be forever Pattersons! In early August 2011, we officially started the adoption process of Vlad and Dima, and we hope to have them home before Christmas!  Click HERE to read their adoption announcement.

In closing, I stand in awe at all that God has done with our family and our hearts. We did not plan out this journey; we truly had NO idea what God planned to do. God grew our family from 3 kids to 10 (soon to be 12 kiddos) in less than 3 years. This goes against all adoption advice and training, but it doesn’t go against God’s. We’ve adopted out of birth order, we’ve adopted special needs kids, we’ve adopted internationally and domestically. We’ve endured the loss of a child on earth. Through it all, no matter the situation, God has provided. He is so faithful, and I’m so grateful to have Him sailing this ship. God will never leave us or forsake us, and He equips those He calls. We are living proof.

More than anything, I want to share that our family is nothing special. Just two (almost 3) years ago, we were living the "American Dream" with a nice house, two nice vehicles, a few nice hobbies, and the average 2.5 nice kiddos (well, OK, we had the full 3 kiddos, but they were still nice!). We didn't do anything deliberate or extraordinary to change our lives, God just opened our eyes to living our lives focused on Him and His desires, with obedience, regardless of risk.

God has worked in our lives, in our hearts, in our homes, from the inside out, to show us what His focus is. He broke our hearts for the things that break His. He showed us how deeply He loves the orphan, He opened our eyes, and He has enabled us to walk a path we would have never been able to walk without Him. It is solely by God’s mighty hand, His amazing grace, His unconditional love, His faithfulness, His provision, and His goodness that we have been so richly blessed by adoption, just as He adopted us.

I encourage you to seek the heart of our Father, to pray about how He will use you to live out James 1:27, to remain open to His plan as opposed to your own, to trust Him with your heart in all circumstances, to rely upon our Father to provide, and to prayerfully consider these 3 things:

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves..."  Proverbs 31:8

"Take up the cause of the fatherless..."  Isaiah 1:17

"To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world." ~Brandi Snyder

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The Pattersons have an amazing fundraiser happening for this week only.  They are selling some of the best adoption gear I have ever seen.  All profits will be put toward bringing their sweet sons home from Ukraine.  Please hop on over to their blog and support this wonderful family as they journey to expanding their family once more.  Thank you!
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