Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our Crazy Life

       Remember when I mentioned once or twice that we were starting to feel a little too comfortable?  We thought beginning the adoption process again was enough to change that, but apparently that wasn't all God had in mind!

       So over the past several months, maybe even a year, we've been verryyyy casually looking at houses online.  Finding our house was such a process and we had no idea if or when we would be moving on from here, but we figured if we looked over a long period of time, something would eventually come along....preferably without having to go on such a long, exhausting hunt.  We've also always talked about potentially renting our house out, but were never sure we would be approved for another mortgage if we hold onto our current home.  Last month I decided to go to the bank in an attempt to find out the answer to this question...just incase.  We ended up with a pre-approval letter and were informed that both interest rates and house prices were climbing steadily, so the sooner the better.  That felt like too much pressure and we weren't in any hurry to rush into anything, so we just continued looking casually online.  I finally decided to ask our realtor to send us automatic updates of homes through his program since they are typically more accurate.  I've been getting the emails, browsing quickly through and deleting them for a little while now.  A couple of weeks ago, just before we left for camp, one caught my eye.  It's in a location we love, is something we could grow in, and seemed like the first we'd actually consider going to see.  However, we were leaving in a couple of days so we all agreed to see it when we returned.  The Monday after camp we were told that it was off the market....the bank had already accepted an offer.  We felt that was God's clear answer....not the right house, not the right timing.  So we moved on.....for a whole 24 hours.  Tuesday morning a new listings email came in....with the same said, Back on the market!  Since I'm making this extremely long and drawn out, I'll get right to it.  It came back on the market Tuesday, we went to see it that afternoon and put an offer on it that evening.

      Then came all the craziness......panic that we would get the house and not have the money, worry that maybe this was not what God wants since we have already felt called and said yes to adopting again.  I started to wonder how we would pay for the adoption, since while living here we are able to put aside a decent amount each month and had used that this past year for Levi's adoption.  This time.....we would have to fully rely on raising the money.....or God making a way!  See how slow I am?  It is rather painful to admit.  If I remember correctly, we did not figure everything out last time either!  At the same time, with everything happening so fast, we wanted to be 100% sure that this was what God wanted.  We prayed, sought advice from others, and finally felt at peace....if they accepted out offer, we would move forward and believe it was meant to be.  Friday afternoon our offer was accepted!

     Yet again, the timing of things is not what we would have expected.  And yet it shows how much God is truly in control if you allow Him to be.  I'm humbled to say that this house is more than we could have imagined.  We had in our minds the type of house we wanted to stay in long term with our family, but had long since realized that was not necessary.  And yet, God, in his goodness, has blessed us with more than we could have imagined....yet again.  Infinitely more.....infinitely more!  Of course we still have to have an inspection and anything can happen from now to the closing (which they want in four weeks...ahh!!)....but we trust that God will go before us, however it turns out.  

     After putting our offer in, but before hearing back, I received an email this week.  It was from the facilitator we would likely use for our next adoption.  Our conversation had ended with him letting us know he would wait to hear from us when we were ready to move forward.  But this week there was news of three children that needed a family......and were we interested?  In the midst of planning for our yard sale today, putting in an offer for a house unexpectedly, and just daily life with two toddlers, the email seemed like icing on the cake to a crazy, unexpected, uncomfortable week!  I felt reminded again of the call we had already said yes to....I started to wonder if the house was a distraction.  Or, maybe, God was preparing us with a bigger home for a bigger family.  One of my first comments when we actually went inside the house was okay God how many kids are we supposed to adopt?!

     If all goes as planned we will likely be closing on our new home in one month....which seems virtually impossible.  I feel a bit like I'm living in a dream world.....might I reiterate, an uncomfortable, but exciting dream world.  I feel like this isn't real life's certainly not what my life looked like before, at all!  I wonder what we've missed out on, but know there's no point in really dwelling on it.  Yes I'm tired, yes some days I feel like I can hardly handle two children, sometimes I feel like I have so much to learn and so far to go that I don't even know where to begin......yes life is not perfect, I am not perfect......BUT I truly have never felt more content, more joy, more purpose, more excitement, and closer to God than ever in my life.  I think I often thought I understood what it mean to be a Christ follower and truly submit to what God  wants.....but I know otherwise now.

     I've never been a proponent of change by the way......when I was younger (not as young as you'd think however) we decided to change the arrangement of the furniture in my bedroom.  It had been the same way my entire life.  I couldn't sleep that night, and the following day we put everything back the way it had been.  It stayed that way the entire 22 years I lived in that bedroom.  It's crazy sometimes when I think about all the of the changes that continue to happen in our lives and how much I welcome them.  It's truly God coming in and changing my heart time and time again to be aligned to what He wants for us.  When we finally let go, it's no longer a battle of fighting against change, or feeling like we are being forced to do something against our will......instead it's a welcome, exciting journey.....

      I know these posts are becoming unbearably long and laugh when some of you say you read part of my post...or started to read the blog.... : )   But I can't forget to was our first Adoption Benefit Yard Sale for the second adoption.  Once again we had a wonderful group of people sacrifice sleep and their beautiful saturday to help us.  We are so thankful!  This was a smaller sale compared to last year, as we only collected a few things, but mostly just sold items leftover from our youth yard sale.  Altogether we raised $514 so far (we have a few items we'll put on craigslist)!!!

      Thank you so much to all who donated, and to Brooke Souza and her amazing family who all donated items at the last minute when they heard we were doing this sale.....and also so willingly helped to load the items onto our truck (or should I say borrowed truck - yes the truck broke down int he midst of the chaos - thank you Rick!!!!).  Thank you to Auntie Sharon, Julie and Rachel, Brooke, Ian, and my parents who were such a HUGE help today....we really couldn't do it without you!  Each time and way you help us, you are answering the call to care for the orphans.....we are SO thankful for each of you!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Camp, Yard Sales and Celebrations!

          So Levi officially attended his first Crosswalk (camp) this past week.  I think it's safe to say he loved all of the extra attention, doesn't mind the chaos, and enjoyed kissing everyone and everything he saw!  I'm not sure being out of our routine had the best impact on the kids (or my) sleep...and as a result the whining and occasional tantrums....but overall it was fun.  It was crazy to realize that last year at camp we were scrambling to re-do a few documents and still hadn't even received our referral.  I'm so thankful he was there with us this year!  

                                   Our sweet youth investing in our boys! So thankful for them!

Theme night....our little cowboy/farmer : )

           In other news, our first yard sale this year will be happening on Saturday!  It's rather comical to me that we are doing this again so soon when I think back to our conversations on how done we were with yard sales : )  Come on by this Saturday from 7am-1pm......all clothes will be fill a bag for $1!!!!  After this yard sale, we will be happy to collect more items for those that are looking to get rid of things.....we've told several of you that we are not currently taking donations (It's amazing how many people ask us this on a regular basis...people are so eager to get rid of things and have a place to bring them!)....but after this we should have more space!

            While we're on the fundraiser topic, I updated our How To Help tab for round two.  Any suggestions are always SO welcome!  Our next focus will be our online auction, which many of you have already so graciously offered to help with!  We are looking for products or services to auction's some of what we already have so you can get excited and maybe get some ideas!..........
                                                       Photo Shoot w/ cd of images
                                                Month of Karate Classes w/ uniform
                                                        Ava Anderson products
                                                        Pampered Chef Paring Knife
                                                           Vera Bradley Wristlet
                                                           Vera Bradley Wallet
                       Car detail, wash, wax  (by Luke) and use of our car while it's being done
                                                 Handpainted wooden ornament from Russia
                                                      Gift Certificate for a Family Tree
                                                              Purse from Paris

         There's a few more items, but I'll save some for suspense : )  The plan is to do this in early November so everything can be shipped out or delivered well before Christmas!
           I'm still sort of cringing as I type all of this because I really still don't feel 100% comfortable asking for your help.....but I know it's necessary and I've learned enough from this past year to know that I need to get over it!

Lastly.....I mentioned Levi's 2nd Birthday Party / Thank You Celebration briefly in our last post, but I wanted to let you all know that it is officially planned, date, location and time set.  I've created a facebook event, but I know some of you don't have accounts, so please email me for information.  Anyone is welcome, we just would like to know if you're coming so we have enough food! : )  And just a reminder, NO gifts please.....your help in bringing this boy home, your friendship, your prayers etc. are your gift.....please just come so we can thank you and celebrate this sweet boy together!


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Infinitely More.....Preparing for Round Two


        It’s not often that the oldest child in a family gets to share the news that he’ll soon be a little brother!  (So really this is Levi’s shirt, but he’s still growing into it!)  This little-big brother is thrilled, I mean really thrilled, and you are all likely thinking we are crazy!  The past month has been a bit of a whirlwind.  God laying the same thing on my heart over and over….and over….and over.  Sure I realized that this was only the beginning of adoption for us, but once again I put a long term time plan on when it would happen again.  Six months after bringing our son home was not a consideration.  I’m not sure exactly when I’ll learn that God’s plans are not our plans, His time is not our time and His ways are not our ways, but I can say I am glad that it's true. 

       In 2011 when God started laying adoption on our hearts it was a slow process of Him really getting my attention and my very slowly crawling on board – it took months.  This time, in much the same fashion, God has made himself overwhelmingly clear by speaking to us about this in every way possible, multiple times a day, with a vast variety of “coincidences” which I know are all confirmations of God calling us to adopt again.  I started keeping a log after the first few, because it was all too familiar and again I didn't want to forget.  I remember someone asking me early on in our last process how we knew we really heard God.  There were a million ways we had heard from Him, much the same as what follows…..(warning, this is extremely long and may make a lot more sense in my head than in writing)….just time and time again having adoption, or something related, brought to the forefront of our lives over the past few weeks…..

·       Throughout May I decided to read one of my favorite blogs from the beginning because I felt like there was so much background that I had missed out on. Let me just say I've never been one to have any interest in blogs, until this adoption process started and have since been amazed at how much I enjoy reading some of them.  Some, like this one, are like a good book I don’t want to put down!  And at the same time, they are encouraging and I have learned so much.  I truly feel that God used this family’s experience to change my heart.  They recently adopted a baby and an older child from Russia.  I have always been so resistant to adopting an older child, but in reading their journey, seeing the overwhelming need and gaining some insight into these precious children’s lives, my heart has completely changed.  If you want just a glimpse into who some of these “older” institutionalized children are that I've been so fearful of adopting, please read here (it’s a little ways down in the post, but all of it is worth reading).  This was the beginning…..

·       In the meantime, I've been sharing some of what we've learned and experienced throughout our journey with a new friend interested in adoption.  We've talked several times about adopting older children, and shared some thoughts on a child who needed a family that the above blog had advocated for.  This child weighed on my heart and as I started to explore where she is from and the great need for older children and sibling groups to be adopted, I felt myself being drawn in.   
·       She was from U*raine, a country that neighbors where we so recently were.  A country where many of the people speak the same language I've been struggling to learn.  Which also hadn't made a whole lot of sense to me in the first place….Why, when our adoption was complete and we have no plans to return for years, did I feel so compelled to continue learning this language?  Perhaps we will be needing it sooner than I thought….

·       For months, Caleb has been asking for a sister.  I really don’t know why or where this came from.  Back when we were adopting Levi and still had not received our referral, I would ask if Caleb thought it was a boy or a girl.  He always said girl or sister…always.  I know he didn't quite understand then, but I found this consistency interesting.  Even more interesting, is his frequent request for a sister.  There’s a song on his CD that says brothers and sisters and every time he hears it he pleads with me for a sister!  I’d love a little girl, and we had even started making our own plans to expand our family so we joked that he may actually get his wish!  One day with the sweet girl mentioned above on my heart (who I believe is 11), I decided to ask Caleb if he wanted a baby sister or a big sister.  His reply was immediate and as if it should have been so obvious.  “A big sister!” (He has since elaborated to tell me he doesn't like little sisters!)  

·       Through a series of contacts, shortly after I was able to talk to a missionary in this country and to ask some questions about how the process works.  It was great to get some information from someone who knows firsthand what goes on there.  We learned that while there are adoption agencies with programs for this country, there is not really a need to use an agency, but rather a facilitator within the country that would handle the adoption.  That further complicated things in my mind as I wondered how on earth I would ever be able to just find a good, trustworthy, facilitator in a country I knew very little about! 

·       Just a few days later, I was scrolling through a page of waiting children from U*kraine on facebook.  It had “randomly” come up on my wall as a friend had posted on it, and of course it had to do with adoption and U*kraine which was all too coincidental so I had to check it out.  I was looking at the children’s faces and my heart was breaking, especially as I thought about many of the older children aging out and what is in store for them.  I decided to ask a general question about adopting from this country under one of the pictures.  Shortly after, I received a message from a woman I didn't know.  She was asking if we were planning on adopting from U*kraine, as she had recently returned with her two daughters and had a lot of information to share with me if I was interested.  I wanted to tell God to slow down at this point, but knew it was all happening for a reason.  Almost simultaneously we realized we had a mutual friend in common.  She asked if I lived in Rhode Island….seriously, out of all the places in the world, the woman who messaged me in response to my question (who does not work for the agency, but just liked the page the same as me) just adopted two 9 year old girls form the U*raine and is from Rhode Island too?  At that point I had chills.  She shared a great deal with me, gave me the link to her blog (which I've already read start to finish), and also shared contact information for her amazing facilitator.  Well that was fast…..I could hear God reminding me that I didn't have to figure it all out….

·       The next day, Luke and I finally sat down to watch a movie on international adoption that I’d been dying to see.  A friend had so kindly offered it to us and we finally had a free night to watch it.  Talk about timing… the end of the movie Luke and I looked at each other and we just knew….it was clear.  Our plans needed to be put on hold, or put off altogether, and we needed to take this seriously.  A short time after the movie ended, this quote came to mind.  “Don’t put off until tomorrow what can be done today.”  Which reminded me of the fact that we are not promised tomorrow….and then, our plan to adopt again someday just seemed so foolish when we could do it now…..when we have plenty to share and love to give…why not? 

·       The day after that was Sunday and the sermon was on greed.  Of course when this started coming up again, our thoughts naturally turned towards the financial hurdle as well.  It seems as if this would be slightly less expensive than the last adoption, but either way it’s out of our hands.  Fundraising and needing help again wasn't the most appealing part of this, but we know we just need to focus on trusting God and being obedient, not on being prideful or fearful.  The whole sermon was just a great reminder for me about where our treasure should be, and the fact that our security needs to rest in Christ….not the savings we’re trying to accumulate in the bank. 

·       I came home on Sunday to a flat tire, which was frustrating when we were just starting to get back into adoption mode in terms of finances.  I had excitedly come in under budget after grocery shopping the week prior, even including some really good deals on random kids clothing I figure we can take as donations to the orphanage when we go.  So the flat tire was a bit of an annoyance, but I know that Satan is going to be back to working overtime in his (failed) attempts to destroy this plan.  I had so much more peace about it after reflecting on this than I ever had in the past and twice within the past week Luke has been ordered back (not exactly exciting for him, but good financially) which more than compensated for the new tire.

·       I know this is an exhaustive list, but there’s more…..feel free to stop anytime… Apparently I need an over abundance of confirmations because God has been speaking to us left and right!

·       So another blog I love is Ann Voskamp’s A HolyExperience.  She wrote an amazing book that I am currently re-reading and has seriously changed my life, so I try to keep up on her blog as well.  On June 18th her blog included the following excerpt which hit home again…sometimes I think we just need a bigger house first, or to save up a little more…but really, we have plenty…..more than enough….so thankful for and humbled by this reminder…

If you have any food in your fridge, any clothes in your closet, any small roof, rented or owned, over your head, you are richer than 75% of the rest of the world. 
If you have anything saved in the bank, any bills in your wallet, any spare change in a jar, you are one of the top 8% wealthiest people in the world. .
If you can read these words right now, you have a gift 3 billion people right now don’t, if your stomach isn't twisted in hunger pangs, you have a gift that 1 billion people right now don’t, if you know Christ, you have a gift that untold millions right now don’t. 
It’s like you can hear the cry of the red soil of Africa’s pulsing right here with the heart of God: “You have got to use your position inside the gate for those outside the gate – or you’re in the position of losing everything — of losing your soul.“
You are where you are for such a time as this – not to gain anything — but to risk everything.
You are where you are for such a time as this — not to make an impression — but to make a difference.
·        Everything I read, everything I hear, everywhere I turn God is reiterating this point to me….

·        Isaiah 58:10-11  Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.  Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.  The Lord will guide you continually, giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.  You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.

·        Excerpt from “One Thousand Gifts” I just so happened to re-read during this time…. “It’s the fundamental, lavish, radical nature of the upside down economy of God.  Emtpy to fill.  Give your life away in exchange for many lives, give away your blessings to multiply blessings, give away so that many might increase, and do it all for the love of God.  I can bless, pour out, be broken and given in our home and the larger world and never fear that there won’t be enough to give.  Eucharisteo has taught me to trust that there is always enough God.  He has no end.  He calls u to serve, and it is Him whom we serve, But He, very God, kneels down to serve us as we serve.  The servant-hearted never serve alone.  Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone.  God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world, but the one we year for: joy in Him.” 

·        I forgot to mention that as the month of June began, prior to realizing God was calling us to adopt again, I had started to feel comfortable.  Too comfortable.  I had become used to the excitement of being a part of something bigger than me.  I had learned to be excited about having to trust fully on God and being essentially helpless.  Our family has had some adjusting to do, but things have settled into a rather comfortable routine and I started to feel like things were just too comfortable.  I would soon find out why as God started to reveal all of this to us, and just a couple of weeks later I read this…..

·        June 23rd, the pastor’s sermon series continued and spoke to me once again.  One of the thoughts to ponder was this….. “In Jesus’ parables, those that discovered valuable treasures went so far as to radically change how they were using their money in order to get what was most valuable.  Do your financial priorities line up with what God says is the right spiritual priorities in life? How much of yourself and of what you have are you willing to invest in pursuing the things of God?”

·        Lastly, (okay not really lastly, but for the sake of this entry not being a novel in itself) if you have never read the book Kisses From Katie, I highly recommend it.  This young girl left the comfort and security of her life in the US at the age of 18, moved to Uganda and has since adopted 13 girls of all ages and started Amazima Ministries.  I also follow her blog and it often reminds me that if one young girl can move to another country and adopt thirteen children, why on earth do I make such a big deal out of adopting one, two, maybe three children while living in my own country, in my comfortable home, with my husband and surrounded by friends and family.  Sometimes….I just need a little perspective refreshing. 

      So…..that’s just a glimpse into how we know.  How we've heard God very clearly telling us it’s time.  Because really why not?  We’re taking it slow…we’re researching, learning, praying (and yes fundraising)….but so much has come together so quickly that we believe it will be in the near future.   Please join us in praying for the journey God has in store, and for the child(ren), whoever they may be, that will join our family.  We are remaining fairly open to age, gender and sibling groups so we aren't sure what to expect. (All of the things I've read on maintaining birth order have clearly gone out the window!) Thankfully, God has known since the beginning of time, and He has it all worked out.  What peace!

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think"  Ephesians 3:20

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Psalm 82:3

      Psalm 82:3 Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed.
                    Copied from a facebook post: Dear Friends- As we celebrate freedom and independence, my Russian baby is locked away from the world, with NO FREEDOM of any kind. SHE SHOULD HAVE BEEN HOME. Sarah McCarthy has done more for the Russian orphans in the last month than anyone in the US government has in the 7 months since the Russian adoption ban. If she reaches her kickstarter goal in the next 24 hours, she can hire a professional lobbyist, press strategist, and foreign relations expert plus show the film with subtitles to many different countries that our interested in our cause. We will be pushing for a special needs amendment to the ban. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE. We need £18,000 in less than 24 hours (an anonymous donor has pledged the final £10,000). The Russian orphans with special needs need you now like never before. I am begging you to be the hands and feet of Jesus today on this Independence Day! Please help me. I cannot do it alone. Even a backing pledge of $5 will help and no money is taken out if they do not reach the goal. So please share and help.

           After watching the above video, and reading the many posts from mother's pleading for help to bring their little ones home, I was brought back to just six months ago.....on my knees, helpless and pleading before God for our son to be able to come home.  I remember realizing that I couldn't remember the last time I found myself in a place such as that....but that I would never forget, I would continue to pray with that sense of urgency....  And here I am, only six months later, starting to forget....getting caught up in my own world and forgetting two things......the mothers and fathers still grieving for their children, still fighting, praying, hoping....and the children.....the children who finally had a glimmer of hope, who were told they had mamas and papas, were loved, wanted, and part of a family, who are now experiencing abandonment once again.  This could have been us.....Levi could have been one of these children stuck.....and in the beginning I tried to help, to write letters and to reach out to whoever I could, but I feel like I've lost the sense of urgency.  This video reminded me, and I hope it touches you.  With so many precious lives at stake, regardless of whether there is .01% chance that this may help, is there really any question?  If it were me, if it were my child, I would hope that other moms would spread the word, would advocate for my child.....

Update 7/5/13 - With less than an hour left, the goal was met.....and exceeded!! Praise God!!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Family, Friends and a Celebration!

          Levi is one loved little boy.  He's been home about five and a half months now and is still meeting friends and family for the first time.  While we are blessed to have most of my family nearby, the majority of Luke's family is spread around the country.  These past months he's been able to meet his aunt and uncle in CT, then his Grandma Lisa a short while later.  Last Saturday he met another part of our family here in RI and this week we have had a full house of Luke's relatives....great grandparents, grandpas, aunts, uncles and even a sweet exchange student from South Korea!  Levi has been reveling in the attention and excitement.     

Levi with Great Grandma and Grandpa Cruse

Getting a ride from Pa G!

Caleb walking with Great Grandma

 Family photo....just after Levi tried some clam cakes....and loved them of course!

So thankful for such great family!
   Levi developed a special attachment to Ramona....probably because she was so sweet with him!

But she really had to get her work done so we set him up right next to her....he thought this was the greatest idea ever!

It was difficult to tell who was working harder........

                                     I mean really.......

Always an adventure with Pa G!

Great Grandpa trying to teach Levi to walk on his boots

Guys to the tool store!

Newport with my sweet family

This precious boy is blessed with some amazing friends and family, (and so are we!) another month and a half he will be turning two!  We are planning a party for Saturday August 17th from 4 to 6pm for anyone who would like to come.  It's a birthday party, but it's also really a celebration of Levi coming home as well as a thank you to all of you for being a part of his journey to us.  This is an absolutely positively no gift party, but we want everyone to feel welcome to stop by (especially if you still haven't met him!!) and celebrate with us! More details to come!