And Here We Go....

Well, we have our mounds of paperwork to print and start filling out.  And with each application and each step, there's a fee...and the fees seem to get more expensive with each step.  So it's time to get serious!  Because we can fill out paperwork all day long, but we can't get it processed without some funds!

So, according to the blog fundraiser poll results, the top 2 choices are: (drumroll) 1. Record a worship CD and 2. Adoption fundraiser garage sale.  And we need your help with both of these!

First, the CD...We need suggestions for songs.  It would be great if they're public domain so we don't have to pay to record them, but it's ok if they're not.  Usually the fees to record copyrighted  Christian songs aren't too bad.  So, suggest away...

Second, the adoption garage sale fundraiser!  And this is the part where I feel a little awkward because I don't really like asking for help.  I'd much rather do things myself.  But I know we can't do this part on our own.  We need stuff.  With the stuff we've accumulated from our own crawl space and garage, we'd be lucky to make $35.  So, we need more stuff--your stuff!  We're looking at mid to late May for our fundraiser garage sale.  So, if between now and then, you find stuff that you don't want or need anymore, instead of dropping it off at Goodwill or giving it to Amvets, would you consider sending it our way?  We would appreciate it more than you'll ever know, and it will help bring a child home to a forever family!

Also, if you have friends, neighbors, family members, random acquaintances who have stuff, and if you feel comfortable asking them to donate it, would you consider doing that for us?  We will literally be eternally grateful!

And here's one more idea that I'd love feedback on:  LOVE t-shirts with Colombia as the "O."  Do you think these would sell??  Here's a really poorly-done mock-up (by me and my very limited computer skills)...  Michael can do a much nicer design with a cool font.

And here I have to thank the members of our CFCF church family who have offered to be a part of this journey with us by helping us with fundraising and by praying and encouraging us!  You know who you are!  We love you and we feel so blessed by your generosity and by your love for our family!

Fundraiser Numero Uno

Well, I'm feeling overwhelmed a good way!  My beautiful, talented cousin, Dawn, has offered to help us start our first fundraiser!  She is very crafty, and she has a blog and an Etsy shop where she sells cute clothing and accessories for kids.  And she has offered to donate 100% of her proceeds for the next 2 months to our adoption fund!

Her blog is called Designed by Dawn Nicole, and here is the link to her Etsy page.  Please check it out if you get a chance!

Also noteworthy: We have set up a PayPal donation link on here!  Feel free to share the blog with family and friends who might be interested in helping out!  

Our family and our future Colombian baby (or babies) thanks you!
Reality hit me this morning as I looked over the many pages and requirements contained in Application Part One.  I discovered that our next agency fee is $500.  And although the contents of Application Part One don't seem too daunting, that fee does.  It's not like I didn't know how expensive this process would be...I just don't feel prepared to shell out that kind of cash yet!  It's time to start some major fundraising.

Most of the fundraising ideas I've come across seem somewhat fun!  But when I think about asking family and friends to buy things or donate, I start to feel really guilty.  The economy is pretty crappy, and lots of people are struggling.  So, who are we to start asking for money?  But I don't know of any other way to do this!  

So, as I was wrestling with all of this earlier today, Asher was climbing on me.  Sometimes I like to ask him random questions that I don't expect him to know the answers to just because his responses are pretty entertaining.  So, here's how the conversation went down:

Me: Asher, how are we going to bring our babies home from Colombia?
Asher: We will go get them.
Me: I know, Buddy, but where are we going to get enough money?
Asher: (Looks at me like that was a dumb question...)  God will give it to us.
Me:  (slightly emotional pause)  You're such a smart boy!

Asher's right!  Why am I worried about this???  And this is the smallest of all of the fees we will pay!  But, God's got this.  And He's got the big fees that will come later, too!  

Step One

After much deliberation and a lot of prayer, we have taken the first big step in our adoption journey!  We chose an agency!  Michael faxed our preliminary paperwork (which is featured in the photo above....exciting, I know!) yesterday afternoon, and this morning while I was sitting in a staff meeting, I just felt this urge to check my email.  I knew it wasn't good manners to pick up my iPhone during a meeting, but I just couldn't resist.  And sure enough!  We got an email this morning saying they reviewed our application, and we have the go-ahead to start "Formal Application Parts One and Two."  (My hand is already cramping at the thought of the number of documents included in Formal Application Parts One and Two.)

So, the big question you might be asking is: Where???  And you probably already know the answer...(drumroll*******************)  Colombia!  It was always Colombia.  From the very first day I started researching back in April, it was Colombia.  And even during my wishy-washy period, it was still Colombia.  So, I can stop saying, "We're planning to adopt from somewhere in Latin America, I think probably Colombia."  And for me, that's just a beautiful thing.  

I honestly worried that it would take us a lot longer to get to this point--to make this first big decision.  But thankfully, our path has been fairly clear-cut so far.  So now we begin the paperwork pile!  And the heavy-duty fundraising begins!  (That home study isn't going to pay for itself.)  I can hardly believe that we're actually doing this!

Last Christmas, my goal was to move into a bigger house--live the American dream.  I wanted more stuff...just because it's what we do in this society.  But I don't even know that person anymore.  This Christmas, I just wanted to be one step closer to bringing our baby (or babies) home!  And I already got that, so I don't need more stuff!  I don't really even want stuff.  I just want to use the stuff God has given me to help those who are hopeless.  I don't want to sound trite or sappy, but I'm just feeling really, really blessed right now!

So, please keep praying for our journey--that doors will open (and close, if need be) and that things will go ridiculously smoothly and that God will be preparing all 4 of us (as well as our extended family and friends) for whomever He has chosen for us!  And pray for patience for me! This is going to be a long 2-3 years!

And this is us being creepy--lovin' on our paperwork.
(Photos taken by one of my favorite people in the universe, Hannah Podnar, who loves Latin American babies and the color purple almost as much as I do!  ;)  )


Wishy-washy: lacking in commitment or certainty; unable to take a clear position; indecisive; vacillating

I've been feeling really wishy-washy lately.  Which is weird...because I generally have no trouble making decisions--big or small.  I've mentioned in previous posts that we went into this with no preference or bias about where we will adopt from.  We believe that God has a child (or children) specifically chosen for us, and we just want to be true to His plan for our family.  And for the most part, His plan seems to consistently lead us to Latin America--to Colombia.  But this week, I've really been kind of hoping that God would change that...

I've been Facebook chatting with a mom of a boy who was adopted from Africa, and I love to read her anecdotes about her little guy!  She's been a wealth of information and insight, and she recently told me about several African countries that allow infants to be adopted.  So, as with everything I want to know more about, I Googled "African infant adoption" and found photos of some of the most beautiful children on the planet!  As I looked at these precious babies with huge brown eyes and the darkest skin I've ever seen, I thought, "God, why not Africa?"  And really, I have no answer for that--no reason for it not to be Africa.  

Last night, I got to meet a mom and her precious little Taiwanese girl!  And after hearing their family's adoption story, I thought, "God, why not Taiwan?  Or somewhere in Asia?"  And again, I have no good reason for it not to be.

But I feel like so many things have pointed us to Latin America.  First, Michael and I both feel drawn to that area, and having gone into this impartially, I feel that that's a huge factor.  Also, that ridiculously vivid dream that I had in Spanish...I just can't shake the feeling that it was more than just a random dream.  Then, there are the Colombia-specific incidents--where I almost feel like I can't get away from things about Colombia.  And prior to April of this year, I can say that I never thought about, saw or heard anything about Colombia more than twice in my entire life.  I can make a pretty good case for Colombia based on my experiences during these past 6 or 7 months...but the doubts still creep in now and then.  And then I get wishy-washy...  Am I grasping at straws here?  Do I want it to be Colombia, and I'm making all of this fit?  Now that I've blogged about all this Latin American/Colombian business, am I afraid to be totally open to somewhere else because I don't want to be wrong?  Africa would be faster...  Asia has lots of babies...  But if I feel like I have to justify a certain area of the world, that just doesn't work.  I almost feel like I would have to come up with good excuses to adopt from somewhere other than Latin America.  And why do I feel the opposite way about Colombia?  Like I would need to justify why it shouldn't be there and not why it should?  And now I'm even confusing myself!  Bottom line:  None of this is going to make sense from the world's view point.  However, I would like for it to make a little bit of sense to me!

And then in the midst of my overthinking, I remember that I didn't pick Colombia.  I kind of feel like it picked me, and I'm trying to shake it hard enough to see if it sticks...just to be sure.  And by blogging about these doubts, I'm ensuring some accountability here.  I'm saying I don't have all the answers, and I could be wrong.  I'm saying, call me out if it seems like I'm trying to make this fit!  I'm asking, if you pray for us, to pray that God would reveal His plan to us, but also to others...maybe even to confirm our next steps.  He does that!  I've experienced it!

So after hashing all of my tired thoughts and doubts out in this post, I'm actually feeling a lot less wishy-washy right now than I did an hour ago.  And I hope you didn't get a headache from reading this!  :)


Ugh.  That's how I feel right now about this whole process...

It's not that I went into this thinking that it would be easy, but lately, things in general have just been downright discouraging.  Even though this wasn't my original dream for our family, I've discovered so much hope and joy in this new journey.  But this week, I just feel weighed down every time I think about this whole adoption process.

Michael and I participated in a webinar yesterday through one of the agencies that we're considering.  And to the agency's credit, it was a well-done, organized, informative webinar.  But I found myself looking at charts with numbers with loads of dollar signs and lengthy time tables...and about 2/3 of the way through the presentation, I just thought, "This is impossible.  Why did I ever think we could do this?"  And toward the end of the webinar, we had to opportunity to type in questions that we had for the agency reps.  I sat there hoping to get something positive and exciting in response to my  questions--something that would give me hope that maybe this isn't so impossible.  Nope.

Honestly, were it not for the absolute clarity of God's call on our family, I would have walked away from this whole thing yesterday.  See, He knew what He was doing when He made it so obvious.  He knew I would be tempted to bail.

But seriously, I feel like there's a disconnect between what's in my heart and what everyone is telling me to expect or hope for.  And I've spent so much time asking God to show us what He wants us to do. And as emotionally draining as it is for me, I've worked really hard to keep my hands open so that God can take out anything that I put in there that's not part of His plan.  Yet, I'm still on my own wavelength over here wondering why I can't force my heart to want what's simpler and more logical.  I don't know how to make myself desire something that gives me no peace, and really, I don't know if I should even try...

So, yeah...ugh.

Somewhere In Between

I just realized that October is more than halfway gone, and I have yet to post anything new!  But I really don't have anything new and fresh to write about, which in some ways, has been kind of discouraging.  As I've said before, patience is not one of my strengths.  And this whole waiting thing sometimes seems overrated.  But I also know, both from my own experiences and from the wisdom of others, that God is intentional about the waiting time.  There's a purpose for this in-between time...even if I don't always see it.

The way that God revealed this whole adoption plan to us was so monumental and exciting!  It was like He dropped a bomb and completely rearranged my heart--in a good way!  And during this in-between time, I've been begging Him to do it again--to make things so obvious and clear.  To blow our minds with some new revelation!  To give us another piece of this puzzle.  To give me something solid to hold onto during this waiting time. And it's not that He's been silent.  But I feel like He just keeps telling me to wait.

And sometimes I want to scream, "But I've been waiting!"  But when I think about it, I haven't been waiting by choice.  I've been waiting because I have to.  I haven't embraced this in-between time.  I haven't bothered to ask God what He wants me to get out of it. 

Maybe this in-between time is a chance for us to grow closer as a family before our lives are all changed forever by whatever and whomever this adoption will bring to us.  Maybe it's a time for me to savor my one-on-one time with Asher right now.   I remember doing that with Landyn when I was pregnant with Asher...  It won't be just the 4 of us forever.  And I won't ever get this time with Asher back.  I need to cherish it instead of spending my time "waiting" impatiently for what's to come.  And I think, too, that this waiting time is a chance for us to teach our kids to pray.  There are so many aspects of this adoption that need to be covered in prayer, and our kids can be a part of that!  It's an opportunity for them to experience God's faithfulness to us!  And maybe it's a time when I can be brushing up on my Spanish...and maybe Michael can find time in the next 2 years to learn any Spanish at all!  I think our kids know more Spanish words than he does (Sorry,'s true)!  

It's funny to me how the same song can speak to my heart in different ways during different stages of life.  This song was a picture of my heart 10 years ago when I was going through a really hard waiting time.  And here I am again, a decade later, singing that song like the words were mine.  "'Cause I'm waiting for tonight...then waiting for tomorrow...and I'm somewhere in between what is real and just a dream."  But this time, instead of waiting for the waiting to be over, I'm going to try to find purpose in it.

So, in my last post, I mentioned that Landyn has requested a baby sister, and Asher has already decided that he's getting a "wittle bwover."  Michael and I discussed the idea of a sibling group the very first night that we talked about adopting.  It's an idea that has intrigued me from the start.  When I asked Michael how he felt about the possibility of adopting siblings, his response was, "At this point, I'm open to anything...I'm afraid not to be!"  And that's how I felt at the time, too.  But now that I've had time to research and think and pray, I feel more set on certain ideas and less open to others.  I'm afraid of not being open to what God has and making my own plans and getting hurt in the process.  I'm afraid of getting my heart set on something that won't ever come to be...and I'm afraid that my kids will do the same thing.  

As a kid, I hated phrases like, "Life's not fair" and "You can't always get what you want" and "Because I said so."  I swore I would never use these phrases when speaking to my own children.  Yeah, I may have changed the wording around in an attempt to soften the blows, but I've basically used these least in spirit.  And it's true, you really can't always get what you want.  The world would be a terrible place if people could have whatever they wanted.  But it can't hurt to ask, right?

The more I think and pray about what our adoption application should say about the age of the child we want, the more the word, "child" seems not to fit into our puzzle.  Not in the singular sense.  I have caught myself saying things like, "when we have to travel to get our kids" or "when we adopt our Latin American babies."  Kids.  Babies.  Plural.  It feels wrong coming out of my mouth when it isn't plural.  Is that me making my own plans?  Or is this God giving us another piece to our puzzle?  It would seem that our kids are already of the mindset that there will be 2.  They don't seem to have any doubts about it!  Asher is already making plans for his little brother, and although Landyn hasn't verbalized it, I'll bet she has plans for a baby sister, too!  And there's a part of me that wants to tell them, "We can't always get what we want"....because I don't want their little hearts to be broken if things work out differently.  But, there's a bigger part of me that wants exactly the same thing!  Two of each....siblings.

I want that--our kids definitely want that--Michael's open to it.  It should be an easy choice, but it's not.  Because we really want a baby.  And as I've researched different programs...and point blank asked consultants from different agencies if this is likely, I've learned that it's extremely rare to find a sibling group of 2 that includes an infant.  As far as Colombia's programs go, some agencies give you the option to adopt a sibling group from the 0-4 age range, and others let you request from the 0-6 years range.  And even though those age ranges start with "0," the chances of actually getting a child under 2 or 3 are pretty slim.

But God can do the impossible, right??  So, is it ok to ask Him for something so specific?  I feel really selfish telling Him exactly what I want--almost like I'm placing an order at the drive-through. "Yeah, I'd like a sibling group, preferably 2, one girl, one boy.  And can one of those be a few months old and the other be around 2, no older than 3?"  And if I'm being this specific about what I want, are my hands still open to what God has?  Or am I getting ahead of Him and making my own plans again?  

Right now, I feel a little like I'm split in two.  Half of me really just wants that sibling group that I'm imagining in my head and in my heart.  End of story.  Sign the paperwork and let's start the crazy-long waiting period.  But the other half of me is fighting to stay open to whatever and whomever God has set aside for us.  And maybe that sibling group, as unlikely as the agencies say it would be, is somehow who God has for us.  Maybe He's going to do the nearly-impossible for us, and we just have to continue to trust Him and have faith in His goodness.  But maybe He has something totally different in mind...

So, I guess for now, I'll do what I keep telling my own kids to do: Pray and ask God for that baby sister and that "wittle bwover," but keep in mind that He may not give us what we ask for....His ways are not our ways...but He's still good.

Trying to take things "one day at a time" while also "looking at the big picture" makes my brain and my heart tired.  It's a lot like what 3-D glasses do to my eyes.  It takes my eyes about 30 minutes to adjust to 3-D, and until my eyes have adjusted, everything in the middle is kind of blurry.  That's how I feel about this process right now.  I can see the next immediate step (choosing an agency), and I can see the end result on the other side (bringing home our kid(s)), but the stuff in the middle is pretty hazy.  And to keep from being completely overwhelmed by all of this, I have to take the process in small chunks.  I can focus on step #1: pick agency, and then tackle #2: agency app and fee, step #3: 47 mounds of paperwork, #4: raise $25,000...and so on.

 But at the same time, it's a good idea to be thinking and planning long-term, too.  We can't go into this blind.  We are trusting God that He has good plans for us, but it would be unwise to not consider the distant future and what we're getting into.  They won't always be babies.  They'll grow up, and we need to be aware and prepared for what's to come.  For example, kids who are adopted (especially internationally) tend to struggle with identity.  And sometimes they have reactive attachment disorder.  And we could love them for 18 years, and they could grow up and say, "Thanks for everything, but I feel like there's a hole inside me because I don't know where I came from..."  And I'm trying not to let worry rule my life, but I'm trying to be realistic.  I know this won't be easy.  But I'm praying it will be good--that it will be a blessing to everyone involved.  Graciela.

So instead of focusing on being overwhelmed, I'm holding onto blessing.  I already feel blessed just by being called to do this!  I feel blessed to be a part of this story, and it's barely even begun!  And I also feel blessed by the way God is working in my kids' hearts.  

Just a few short weeks after God revealed His plan for our family to Michael, Landyn did something remarkable.  This was back in June, and we didn't tell our kids about adoption until August.  So, this was long before Landyn knew what was going to be happening...

Landyn doesn't play with baby dolls all that often.  She has quite a few--along with several accessories that usually just sit and gather dust in her room.  She prefers to play with her My Little Ponies and Littlest Pet Shop animals...and dinosaurs and lions.  But baby dolls--not so much.

One afternoon, I noticed that she had the baby dolls out.  All 8 or 9 of them.  I heard her in her room talking to them and making them "talk" to each other.  After a few minutes, I went in Landyn's room to peek at her, and she said, "Mommy, come here," so I came into her room and sat on the floor.  She proceeded to bring me 5 babies and put them in my lap.  I asked her, "Who are these babies?"  And she told me, "They don't have mommies or daddies, so you need to be their Mommy now."  I couldn't even speak for a minute or two.  We'd never talked about the concept of adoption with her before, yet somehow, her little 5-year-old heart already knew that babies without mommies and daddies need someone to love them.  And she was already starting to be open to those somebodies being us.  Now, I realize there's a big jump between "adopting" a baby doll and adopting a real baby from another country and bringing him/her home, but just the fact that she already understood the idea is a blessing.

Now, as for Asher, I'm not entirely sure that he "gets" the whole concept of adoption...  When I first explained what we will be doing to both of the kids, Landyn's response was pretty much what I had expected.  She asked if we could make sure to get a sister for her and if the kids in Colombia would have brown skin like our friends from church. She asked when we would get her sister, and how old she would be.  All good questions--questions that prove that she gets it.  Unfortunately, I didn't have any answers for her other than, "We don't know yet."

Asher's response was just plain funny.  After explaining the idea of kids without mommies and daddies and homes coming to live with us forever, and after showing both kids photos of families with biological and transracially adopted kiddos, I asked Asher, "So, what do you think, Buddy?"  His response: "I want milk."  Then he walked away.

What did I expect from a 2 (almost-3-year-old) anyway?  Something profound??  Not really.  But he did tell me later that afternoon: "I don't want a sister, Mommy."  Poor guy.  I can't say I blame him based on his current circumstances.  (Right now, Landyn's in a stage where everything Asher does is annoying to her, and she doesn't try to hide her feelings.  I keep telling myself that someday they'll be BFF's....)  This too shall pass...I hope.  At least Asher was processing some of what I had said.

Anyway, fast forward to this past week.  Asher and I were sitting on the couch, and out-of-the-blue, he told me, "When I get my wittle bwover (little brother, for those of you who don't speak 3-year-old boy), I will share my twains (trains) with him."  (So, apparently, we have to get a "wittle bwover" and a baby sister.)  And then, this past week, Asher and I were at Target, and he yelled, "Mommy, STOP!  Go back!  I saw somfing (something)!"  I, figuring that it was a toy that we would end up stopping to play with for 45 minutes, said, "No, Buddy.  We aren't going to play with toys today."  And Asher said, "But Mommy, I saw a Lightning McQueen car seat for my wittle bwover!"  This coming from the kid who had a hissy fit at ToysRus when I tried to buy Landyn's birthday gifts because none of it was for him!  And I'm pretty sure that in his egocentric little 3-year-old mind, he thinks anything with Lightning McQueen on it was made specially for him!  So, for him to think of his "wittle bwover" first was uncharacteristically sweet....even for my snuggly little AsherBoo.

I see their little hearts changing bit by bit.  And it's a blessing.  One of my greatest fears is that they will somehow feel slighted by this adoption--that they won't understand.  That they'll think they weren't enough for us, so we adopted someone else's babies to complete our family.  But it's because God has given us so much...not because we feel like we're lacking something.  It's because He has given us them: these 2 beautiful, amazing kids of our own.  It's because having our own children awakened a love inside of us that we didn't think was even possible (all you parents know exactly what I'm talking about). And it's because God has blessed our family with so much love that we feel like we can do this--we can share this love with someone who otherwise would have no one.  And these little glimpses of their hearts are a huge blessing.  God is just confirming again and again the "rightness" of this plan--that this is exactly what He has for us.

Matthew 11:25  
At that time, Jesus said, "I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children."  

Please pray for my children--the ones that are of my flesh and blood as well as the ones who are of my heart--that God will be preparing them, protecting them, and revealing Himself to them.


About two months ago, I had a Spanish.  As in, everyone in the dream, including me, was speaking Spanish.  I took Spanish all through high school, so I know a decent amount of the language, but I don't practice it on a regular basis and I don't dream in it.  I can only think of one other time that I've dreamed in Spanish, and that was after I got back from a missions trip to the Dominican Republic in 2003.  And the dream was pretty much nonsense...just Spanish nonsense.

This dream was far from nonsense.  It was one of the most vivid dreams I've ever had...and I had a lot of weird dreams when I was pregnant!  In this dream, I was walking around with 3 Hispanic children in what appeared to be a Latin American city.  One older boy (around 11 or 12), one little guy (who appeared to be 3 or 4), and a beautiful girl who looked like she was around 8-9.  

In my dream, I was being introduced to the kids, and the 2 boys told me their names.  And for the life of me, I can't remember what they were.  The younger boy's name started with a B or D and was 2 syllables long, but that's all I remember!  So, apparently, that wasn't the important part!  But the little girl--she was definitely at the center of the dream.  She wouldn't speak to me.  She just kept staring at the ground with this devastatingly sad look on her face.

I kept asking her questions.  I vividly remember asking her, "Como te llamas?" and "Cual es tu nombre?"  (My high school textbook Spanish skills definitely showing themselves...)  And she just kept shaking her head and refusing to look up at me.

So, I started guessing names.  In my dream, I remember asking her at least 4 names, but for some reason, I can only remember the last 2.  With each name I asked, she would just shake her head sadly and kick the dirt on the ground.  I asked her if her name was "Sofie," and she shook her head, "no."  And then, I asked her if her name was "Graciela."  She never spoke, but her head snapped up and she finally looked me in the eyes and she nodded her head vigorously.  And then she almost smiled...

I think the dream went on for awhile.  I only remember going places with the 3 children...just me and these 3 beautiful, clearly Hispanic children.  When I woke up, that name, "Graciela," just kept nagging at me.

So, I did what always do when I want to know something...I Googled it.  And here's the gist of what I found:
Graciela: an Hispanic variant of Grace; meaning: "blessing"
It's beautiful.  So, grace and blessing. 

But the story doesn't end there...

About a month ago, I shared our plans to adopt with the other staff members at church.  After sharing the shortened version of our story and discussing whens and wheres, our head pastor prayed for Michael and I.  He prayed for God's hand to be in everything and for wisdom for us as we make these life-altering decisions.  He prayed for the child that God has hand-picked for us, and 3 different times, he prayed for "grace and blessing."  Each time he said it, I almost gasped out loud!  The fact that he paired those 2 words together so many times in one prayer....I just don't believe in coincidence.  I believe that God is intentional.  That He's in all things and holds all things together.  

I don't often hold much stock in my own dreams.  Usually because they're about dinosaurs trying to get in my house or something weird like that.  But God did use dreams in the Bible.  He spoke to both Josephs (Old and New Testament), and to Mary and he spoke to the kings of Babylon through Daniel's interpretations of their dreams.  I believe God can still use dreams today.  And for some reason, I believe that He sent me this one.  I won't pretend to know the specific implications of this dream.  But I do Graciela the name of our future child?  Is this God's way of confirming Latin America to me?  Or is God just reassuring me that despite all of the reasons to doubt and worry, that this child will be a blessing to our family?

I'm so not a patient person.  Once I know what needs to be done, I want it done, and I usually prefer to do it myself so that I know it will get done quickly.  Oh, international adoption process, why must you take so long???  (Yes, I'm saying this already, and we haven't even officially started the process!  Like I said, not patient.)
This week, I've been looking at agencies and trying to narrow the list down to one so we can get this show on the road!  Not the most exciting part of this journey...I hope.  Basically, I participated in a "webinar" for one agency, emailed with a rep from another, and stalked them all on websites where people rate and review their experiences with a particular agency.  So let me break it down into Good News and Bad News...

Good News: There are quite a few agencies that have programs in Colombia.  (Lots of options.)  Most of their programs have been around awhile...they're not trial programs. (Stability)  Unlike most of the countries we've looked at and prayed about, Colombia does adopt out very young children.  (Babies!  :)  )  The kids in Colombia are beautiful!  (Beautiful babies!)

Bad News: Every agency review/rating I looked at was pretty much terrible (although somewhat out-of-date....2009 and earlier)....literally, if the things people are posting about these agencies are true, then lawsuits should be taking place.  (Scary.)  We need to raise $20,000-25,000 pretty much as soon as we can.  (Yikes.)  And most agencies are saying that the wait for infants/ toddlers in Colombia is 24-48 months...most of them saying closer to 3-4 years...from the time our dossier is approved in country.  (WHAT?!?)

Four years.  Can I really wait four years?  Michael and I will be 34!  Our kids will be 7 and 10!  This is not what I had pictured.  Then again, we never planned on any of this.  And on top of that, every agency has told me that when you apply to be matched with a child/children, the youngest that anyone can apply for is a child in the 0-35 month age range...and that's as specific as it gets.  So, even if we desperately want a baby, we could be matched with a child who is almost 3.  We'll have missed out on so many important milestones and firsts.  And 3 years is already too many years to be bounced around in foster care and children's homes.  Emotional damage will have already been done. So many factors that we just can't control.  Too many steps that we can't rush.  And I find myself getting restless...and then the "what-if" scenarios start...
What if Colombia isn't it?  (And even as I type that and re-read it, it just looks wrong...)
What if we adopt a baby domestically first....and then do the Colombia thing later?
What if we somehow have a biological child first...and then adopt?
What if the wait gets even longer as countries with babies, like S. Korea, close their programs?
But I'm pretty sure I already know the answers to all of these questions...and I only ask myself all of these questions to avoid the hard one that I don't want to admit could be the one God is asking me to accept as a possibility...
What if the child/children God has for us aren't babies at all?  What if, once again, the plans He has are different from the plans and dreams that I'm creating in my heart?
I've tried so hard to stay open...and not get ahead of God as He works out these details.  But what if I've done it already?  And the process hasn't even officially begun!  (Again-my lack of patience...)
So, unless the Lord changes our hearts about Colombia and opens another door elsewhere, there are 2 main scenarios that could play out:
1. God has a baby in Colombia for us...and He really just wants me to learn to be patient and to trust that He's got everything under control.
2. God has a child for us that isn't a baby, but needs us just as much...and He really just wants me to learn to be patient and to trust that He's got everything under control.
See a pattern?  I'd love to ignore it, but I can't.  Because for the next 2-4 years, I can trust Him and be patient, or I can spend the next 2-4 years having anxiety attacks and stomach aches.  

Proverbs 3:5,6 (The Message)
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
   don't try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
   he's the one who will keep you on track.
Don't assume that you know it all. 

So, this is my 3rd or 4th attempt (I've now lost count of how many times I've deleted and started over...) at writing about why we feel drawn to Latin America, and specifically Colombia.  There are so many different reasons and there have been so many confirmations. It's so complicated, yet so simple at the same time, and I'm just not sure how to express it all at once! So instead of trying to cram it all into one post, I'm going to try to backtrack and write about it the way it went down!  (This is what I get for not writing all of this stuff down as it happened.)  So here it goes...

The very same day that God spoke to me about adoption, I went home, busted out my laptop, and googled adoption.  I was immediately bombarded by an insane amount of information--much of it outdated or just too vague to be helpful.  I wanted to know everything there was to know about every kind of adoption possible.  And being the impatient, driven planner (interpret: control freak) that I am, I wanted to know exactly where we would be adopting from and when.
Unfortunately, that's not at all how adoption works!  There are so many different options, yet once you make a decision and move forward with it, everything is pretty much out of your hands.  So, basically, you better figure out what you're doing and settle in for a long wait...

During those first few weeks, I had to do my research in secret since Michael still wasn't "in the loop."  So, while I waited on God to reveal this adoption plan to him, I found every worthwhile resource Google has to offer!  And in the chaos of all of the information (both accurate/helpful and ridiculously out-dated), 4 things stood out to me:
1. There are 163,000,000 children in the world who need families.
2. One of our very first steps would be to make a choice between domestic and international adoption.
3. Adoption is not cheap.  Really not cheap.
4. Every single country in the world has completely unique guidelines, restrictions and adoption laws.

Number 1 is overwhelming.  That's a lot of kids who don't have parents to love them, a place to call home, a sense of security and belonging.  It's tragic.  Some people might say, "With 163 million kids in need of homes, what difference is it going to make to adopt 1 (or 2 or 3)?"  That makes me think of the starfish story:

A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved. - adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley

If everybody looked at those 163 million kids like that, there wouldn't be any orphans.  Enough said. 

But I didn't need to be convinced that there's a need for people to adopt.  So, moving on to number 2 on my list: the choice between domestic and international.  When I first analyzed this choice, I kept wondering what Michael would say...but I couldn't ask him yet!  I knew I couldn't really make any ground-breaking, life-altering decisions without him, but that didn't mean that I couldn't ask God to give me a little glimpse into what He has planned for us.  
At that point, I didn't really have a preference one way or another.  I had never planned on adopting in the first place!  But the plan had changed, and I wanted some direction.  So, I prayed and I asked God to make our path really clear.  As I worked my way through my Google search results, I found that from a logistical standpoint, one route is clearly much simpler.  Here's the bottom line:

Domestic adoption: closer to home, little or no travel, less expensive
International adoption: major traveling involved, way more expensive, huge dossier of paperwork to compile...

Of the two options, clearly domestic is the simpler route.  So I thought, "well that doesn't sound too bad."  But I immediately felt God nudging my heart, saying, "But that's not what I have for you...."  I didn't have a sense of peace and joy and rightness about domestic adoption.  I had no reason not to be for it other than that it just didn't feel like it fit.

So, the other option was international.  And as I turned the idea over in my mind, it just felt right.  It's almost like this journey is a jigsaw puzzle, and God knows what all of the pieces are and where they go.  And if the pieces don't fit, then they're not part of our puzzle... The international piece fit.  I had peace about that piece.  ;)  That's not to say that I didn't have a moment of frustration over the fact that God chose the harder route for us, but few things that are worth doing are easy.  Following Jesus isn't easy.  He never said it would be.  But following Him gives me a sense of peace, joy and purpose that I've never found anywhere else.  This piece of the puzzle felt like Jesus was woven through it and all around it.  It just fit.

#3: International adoption costs=frightening!  I still don't fully understand where all of that money will end up going!  I know some of it goes to your agency, some to the child's country, and I think some of it goes to a lawyer to help you with that mountain of paperwork they call a dossier.  A good portion of it is for traveling, too.  And I think I'll have to spend some extra to get my married name on my passport (oops!).  Where are we going to get the money for this?  I have no idea!  But God does...there is a whole handful of puzzle pieces out there somewhere with fundraisers and tax refunds and 2nd and 3rd jobs (haha-I truly hope not) on them!  I'm trying not to worry about that part too much.  Actually, some of the fundraising ideas sound kind of fun!  (If I post something a year from now about how much I hate fundraisers, please don't remind me that I said that!)  So, once again, we're trusting God with this part...

And finally, number 4.  I spent the most time researching number 4.  Looking back, I truly think I went into this pretty unbiased about where we would adopt from.  The only two things I knew were that 1. I wanted a baby (and I knew Michael would, too) and 2. I wanted a non-white baby.  I felt willing to budge on the non-white part, but not the baby part.  And so, as I started researching  the adoption programs in different countries, I sorted them in my mind by countries that allow infants to be adopted and countries that do not.  
For me, getting a child as an infant is super important.  I love love love the newborn stage!  Having another baby in our home is one of the strongest desires in my heart, and Psalm 37:4 says that God gives us the desires of our hearts when we seek Him.  He puts those desires there, and if they need to change, our hands needs to be open so that He can change them.  So far, God has not changed that desire for us, so babies are a deciding factor.
The list of countries that allow infants to be adopted was rather shorter than I expected.  Many countries only allow older children or children with special needs to be adopted out of the country.  Some of the countries that fit our criteria include Ethiopia, China, Haiti, maybe Ecuador (although much of the info I've found is contradictory) and of course, Colombia.  I spent a few weeks mulling over these countries--trying to figure out which one fits our puzzle.  It has not been an easy task!  
Maybe someday, I'll write about all of the little signs and messages that have led us to believe that we will be going to Latin America, and most likely Colombia...Right now, I'm too overwhelmed to know where to start.  Suffice it to say that for me, kids from Latin America stir something in my heart in a way that kids from other parts of the world do not.  Pictures of them bring me to tears for no good reason, and I'm generally not a crier.  I've even had dreams in Spanish about Latin American children....but I'll save that for another post on another day.
So going back to the idea of this journey being a puzzle, none of the other parts of the world seem to fit in our puzzle.  (And even though he's had less time to think and pray about this, Michael feels the same way.)  It's like when you have one of those ridiculous puzzles with 1000 pieces that all look like blue water--the pieces all look really similar, like they could fit, but when you try them out, they're not quite right.  Latin America is the only piece that seems to fit in our "where" corner of the puzzle.  And Colombia is like that piece that could fit if all of the connecting pieces match up.  We just don't have enough pieces in place to be 100% certain.

Most days, I feel absolutely sure about Colombia.  And I've asked God to change that more than once!  And other days, I think, "What if it's Haiti or Ecuador?  Or what if Guatemala opens their program again?"  So, for now, I've set that Colombia piece aside in a special place as we continue to pray that God will open and close doors for us. 
The hardest thing about this process for me hasn't been accepting this new path, but accepting the fact that I have very little control of how things play out.  But because God has been so clear about what He wants us to do, and because there's so little I can control, I have no other sane option, but to trust Him and trust that He will work out every last detail.  He knows the where, the when, the whys and hows and even the who!  He will give us the right pieces of our puzzle at the right times.  And I'm trying to rest in that knowledge as we wait for the next step to be revealed.

 In my first post, I mentioned that our adoption journey started back in April.  But the truth is that God had been working on my heart long before that.  As I look back now at a lot of little things that happened in the past year, I can see God's hand leading us and changing our hearts little by little.  My perspective on what matters in life has changed so much over the past year...and that started months before God spoke to me about adoption.  And one of the coolest parts for me is that God used 2 girls from our youth group, who I taught in junior church when they were just little kidlets 10 years ago, to change my world.
So first, there was my friend, Bethy.  She's amazing!  God has given her a heart for the least of these in this world, and while still a senior in high school, Bethy started a non-profit organization called, Jubilee, to help end poverty and injustice.  (You can check out the Jubilee FB page!)  She spent a few weeks at youth group (where I help/hang out every Sunday night) speaking about what God had laid on her heart.  She talked about feeding the hungry and freeing those enslaved...and these were all things that I'd heard about before, but for some reason, it stirred something in my heart this time.
On the last night that Bethy shared, she gave us a chance to just kind of reflect, process and respond, and she had a playlist of cool songs going in the background.  I remember listening to the words to all of these great songs that I'd been hearing on the radio for months...and realizing that suddenly, these songs meant something totally different to me.  I stood in the back of the room and cried, and just like it says in Matthew West's song, "My Own Little World," I thought, "What have I been doing?  I spend so much time worrying about me and my own comfort and about insignificant stuff...."
Several years ago, I heard a missionary say, "God's not as interested in our comfort as He is in our character."  And I remember cringing when I heard it, and thinking, "Ew.  I don't really like that...why wouldn't God want us to be comfortable?"  But that quote popped into my head as I stood and reflected on all Bethy had shared about, and I accepted the truth of that statement (without cringing this time) and realized that I didn't really want to be comfortable anymore. But I didn't really know what that meant for our family yet...At the time, I knew that I wanted to help children.  I've loved children of all shapes, sizes, colors....pretty much since I was a child myself!  I figured I'd get a Compassion kid or 2 to sponsor!  But God's plan is so much bigger than that. So, anyway, all this to say that what Bethy shared started preparing my heart for this adoption journey.  And one of the songs that she played that night was "My Own Little World" by Matthew West.  My favorite part of the song is this: 

"Father, break my heart for what breaks Yours--Give me open hands and open doors--Put Your light in my eyes and let me see that my own little world is not about me."

We're trying to live with open hands as we ask God to open the doors that He wants us to walk through...And yes, I stole our blog name from this song!  :)

Ok, so on to song #2 that makes me cry on a regular basis...So, there's another girl in our youth group who God used to speak to me about adoption, and I bet she doesn't even know it!  Her name is Hannah S., and I must refer to her as such so as not be confused with Hannah P. or Hannah M. because we have 47 Hannahs in our youth group!  ;)
One day, probably about 2 months before God revealed His adoption plans to me, Hannah posted a video on my Facebook page with the suggestion that I should have the kids at church learn it and sing it as a special music sometime.  It's a great idea, and I fully intend to teach them this song in the near future!
The song is "Children of God" by Third Day.  Now, we own the Third Day CD that this song is on, so I'd heard it before, but I'd never seen the video.  If you haven't seen it, you must watch it immediately!  It's beautiful, and it's all about adoption!                                                                       So, I originally watched this video just to see if it was something I could use with the kids.  And I ended up crying my face off!  And when it was done, I did a little research on Third Day's lead singer, Mac Powell, and his family.  They just adopted two little African American babies, and that was a huge part of the inspiration for the video.  And I remember jokingly saying to Michael, "I want one!  Let's adopt a little black baby!"  And I also remember that he laughed at me.  :/
I kept thinking about this video for weeks after first watching it, and I didn't know why.  But God knew, and He was using it to soften my heart for what He has planned for us.  And I'm so thankful that Hannah S. posted it on my FB!

And the last song that makes me cry on a regular basis: "The Redeemer" by Sanctus Real.  This song broke my heart well before the adoption journey began, but now it's kind of my anthem.  I feel like God took my own carefully-laid plans away, but He redeemed them for something even better!  He can make anything new...and I love that!

"I don't have every answer in life, but I'm trusting You one day at a time..."

Our adoption journey started rather abruptly on April 12, 2011.  At the time, it felt sudden and random, but I now see that this journey wasn’t a surprise to God.  He’s been preparing us for this all along…we just weren’t ready for it until now.
There really wasn’t anything special about Tuesday, April 12.  At least not that I was aware of…I was at our church, where I am the Children’s Ministry Director, for a weekly staff meeting.  In our meeting, we were discussing the possibility of starting a preschool ministry.  And because I was the most vocal about the need for us to make it our own church ministry (as opposed to letting an outside group rent our building for a preschool program), I was asked to pray about starting a program in the fall of 2012.  Sounds easy enough, right?  But I had exactly one day to pray and make a decision which could potentially make my job very much full-time.
Our kids were 2 and 5 at the time (they’re now almost-3 and 6), and I’ve been so blessed to be able to stay home with them.  My job at our church is part-time and super-flexible (not to mention super-fun!), so I can often get things done at home, and of course, our kids come with me to our kids’ programs on Wednesdays and Sundays!  It’s the perfect job for me!  But this preschool thing…as much as I love teaching preschool….would mean that I would pretty much be working from sun-up until sundown.  I really wasn’t sure if I was ready for that.  Our kids are still little, and I love our current routine, but I wanted to know if God was leading me to take this big step…so I prayed.
After our meeting, I walked down to the preschool room to try to gain some perspective and seek God’s plan for our family and for my job.  So, I began by just asking God, “What do You want me to do?”  And all the while, I kept thinking about how my husband and I had been talking about and hoping for a third baby.  Those thoughts about adding to our family kept clouding my ability to pray clearly.  My thoughts kept bouncing from, “This would be a great opportunity,” to “But our kids are still little, and Asher won’t be in preschool yet, ” to “I’ve always wanted to open a preschool,” to “But I want to be at home if we have another baby….”  My head was literally ready to explode.  And as I sat on the little table in that preschool room, I felt God gently say to me, “What if you having a third baby isn’t My plan for you?”  And I think for a split second, I felt physical pain somewhere deep inside me.  How could that be possible?  How could another child not be part of God’s plan for our family?  And then, I immediately thought, “Surely that can’t be right!”  And I felt God gently ask, “What if I have a different plan for you?  What if you’re basing your life around a plan that is not Mine?”  Sure enough…that was physical pain.  Like when you rip a band-aid off.   Because as much as I wanted to deny the fact that God was changing things up on me, I knew deep down that it was true.  (Side note:  We have no medical reason to believe at this time that we cannot have more biological children.  And although we don’t feel that God has absolutely closed the door on that possibility, we do believe that He has a different plan for us right now.)
For a brief few moments, I felt what I can only describe as grief.  Grief over the loss of my plans and dreams.  Grief for our kids who have been praying for a baby sibling for almost a year now.  I can’t say that I went through all 5 stages of grief over this, but there was definitely denial, a teeny bit of anger, a split second of bargaining, a few tears (ok, maybe more than a few), and then total acceptance…all within fewer than 5 minutes.  It was like an emotional hurricane swept through and rearranged everything, yet left things somehow intact…just really different.  So, at that point, I’m thought, “Ok, so if there might not be anymore babies for us, then maybe I’m supposed to do this preschool thing ….”  So, I asked again, out loud this time, “What do You want me to do?”  And God’s immediate answer was not at all what I expected.  One word.  Right in front of my mind’s eye like a text message to my brain.
     Me: “Umm…God, I was praying about starting a preschool….did You catch that part?”
     Me: “So, You do or do not want me to take on this job??”
    Me: “That’s not what I was praying about!”
   God:  ”You did ask Me what I wanted you to do….”
   Long pause………
   Me:  ”Yeah….I guess I did.”

       I’m kind of a control-freak when it comes to certain things…ok, maybe most things.  I’m a planner.  I love to have all of the details worked out and planned out, and it’s ok if they change a little here and there, but I like to stick fairly close to the plan.  Adoption=not part of any plan I had been previously made aware of.  So, for me, this drastic change in my plans wouldn’t normally be something that I could readily accept.  But because of His mercy, God changed my heart so fast that by the time I left that preschool room (after less than half an hour of praying), adoption was the plan.  And not one of the details was clear, and I was surprisingly very much ok with that.  He took my dreams and my plans from my semi-open hands (I say “semi-open” because there were a few moments of resistance), and immediately redeemed them for new dreams and plans.  I feel like adoption is a part of who I am…like it has always been there lying dormant.  I mean, sure, I was the girl on every missions trip who said, “I want to take these kids home with me!”  But I don’t think I ever truly meant it.  It was definitely not something we had planned for our family.  But we’re trusting God through all of the craziness.  Jeremiah 29:11 tell us He has good plans for us, plans to give us hope and a future.  So, we are clinging to that hope that He knows what He’s doing even if we don’t!

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