Since October, I have been spending many, many minutes...probably hours, actually...staring at a photograph.  It's a photo that looks like it's been copied, scanned, faxed, copied again, scotch taped and most likely copied again. The quality of this photograph is absolutely terrible, but it holds the blurry outlines of 3 precious children who will soon join our family.

When I first found the photo on a waiting children list, the children's faces were pixelated to hide their identities. But it didn't matter. I think my heart literally stopped beating for a second. Somehow, in that moment, I knew that this waiting sibling group wasn't just another waiting sibling group. They were our waiting sibling group. 

And in November, when I stumbled upon an non-blurry copy of that same photograph online, my heart stopped again!  Their eyes!  They were so sad. So hopeless and full of pain. I couldn't stop looking at them...these 3 kids that I was now absolutely sure that I had dreamed about months before. And we waited for 9 more long months and jumped through what feels like thousands of hoops to get to hear the words, "They're yours."

We got our first official "Get to Know Your Kids" email about a week and a half ago!  And the first thing in it: 3 brand new color photos!!!  I thought I was in love before!  They seem so much more real in color!  I literally stared at them for half an hour and smiled and laughed and cried and smiled some more! They are so different from in that first picture. And it's more than the original photo being black and white and faded. They're older. They're in color!  Their eyes and hair are literally black, and I love it!  The boys' hair styles are different from the first picture, and they're adorable!  The little guy is squishy!  He looked so small and lost in the first picture!  He's a chubby, smiling toddler in the new photo!!  Our daughter is smiling!  The little girl from my dream who looked so sad.  The little girl from the black and white photo who looked so angry and hurt.  But it's their eyes that I'm drawn to the most.  Their eyes are so different!  There's light and hope and even a little joy in them!  They look happy and healthy!  There's serious evidence of transformation on their faces.  Evidence of God's hand on their precious little lives!

Also included in that email were 29 pages of Spanish documents about our children's lives, both past and present.  The documents tell the story of how our children came to be in need of a family.  To say that their journey has been difficult would be a terrible understatement.  As I translated it phrase by phrase into English, my heart literally ached as I typed some of the words.  Words that described hurts that I had no power to protect them from and have no power to undo.  Words that detailed the awful things that they have somehow survived.  Words that mean there are some serious scars on my babies' hearts.  Honestly, it should have been totally overwhelming.  And it was a bit of an emotional roller coaster.  There were things that made me incredibly sad and more than a little angry, but throughout the 2 days that I spent pouring over those documents, I felt uncommon peace and grace that can only be from God.  I sensed His presence as I processed each child's needs and hurts.  I felt Him whispering, "My grace is enough."  "I make broken things whole."  "I came to bring life...abundant life."  "I make beautiful things out of ugly messes."  And that's where our hope lies.  We have to believe that there is wholeness in Jesus. I've seen it in once-broken lives...lives not so different from those my children have lived.  And so I am claiming wholeness for my children in Jesus' name, and I believe, especially after seeing those pictures, that Jesus is already working to heal the brokenness within.  Keep praying for our babies!  The road ahead is long, but it's good.

So, what's next?  Well, our immigration app should go out sometime this week, I think.  Then we wait for approval, which usually takes a month.  Then we get ready to go!  In the meantime, we are waiting to get the kids' official clothing and shoe sizes.  We have medical reports with weight and height, and it sounds like G (our daughter) and Landyn will probably wear the same size, which Landyn is excited about!  And W is a little guy for being the oldest!  We think he's smaller than both girls even though he's 10!  And the youngest, JD, is a little butterbean!  He will be wearing the clothes Asher just grew out of, so that's a blessing!  We have sent them 2 care packages now!  And we are waiting on official permission to start talking to our kids, either via phone or skype.  Our lawyer is waiting on one more document, and then we actually get to communicate with them live!  How crazy is that?!  

Keep praying for us!  Our to-do list for the month of September is completely overwhelming.  I don't even know where to start with it, honestly.  And pray for God to provide finances in crazy, amazing ways! We are trying to figure out how to finance the other half (about $18,000) of our adoption expenses (YIKES!) in about a month.  These grant applications are seriously terrible.  And pray for us as we spend this last month as a family of 4.  Things will never be like this again, and that's something that we both celebrate and grieve at the same time!  And pray for more transformation in the kids' lives!  For God to continue to do what He does best!

They're Ours!!!!

Yesterday, August 9, at 12:31 pm EST, it finally came!  The call.  THE call!  The call that our first agency told us would never come.  The call that seemed so unlikely last October when I first found their picture.  The call that means that they are ours!  The 3 precious kids that we have been hoping for and praying for every day for the past 10 months are ours!  My friend, Sarah, was in the car with me when the call came and brilliantly thought to document the moment with her smart phone!  

I remember the way my stomach fluttered and my fingers tingled that first time I saw their picture--the first time I realized that the kids that I'd dreamed about in the summer of 2011 might actually be real and alive and waiting for us somewhere.  I remember telling my friend, Hannah, who already knew about the dream I'd had, about the kids I'd found.  She looked at me and said, "It's them."  No hesitations.  No doubts.  And I believed it, too!  And I remember the way my heart was crushed the day that our old agency called and said, "You can't adopt these children.  We don't allow out-of-birth-order adoptions, and Costa Rica won't approve it either."  I spent weeks searching for these 3 kids through any other agency--with no luck.  And I remember the pain of having to let go and give these precious children back to the Lord.  I spent a lot of time crying on my bedroom floor those days.

Then, God led us to Lifeline Children's Services (Shameless plug: seriously, the greatest agency ever!).  We had totally given up on finding these kids.  We just didn't know where else to look.  And then, in the first waiting children list that our program coordinator sent us, there they were.  God always knew where they were...and He knew where we needed to be in order to be matched with them. But even then, when we signed on for the Costa Rica program in November of 2012, we were told, "This is exciting, but they won't hold them for you.  And it's very possible that they will be adopted before your paperwork is done and approved."

Yet I knew in my soul that God had laid these kids on our hearts for a reason.  Yes, there were days that I seriously doubted it.  The past 10 months have been a constant battle.  A battle between truth and lies, hope and doubt, love and fear. And honestly, there were days when I literally felt like I would not survive this.  Days when the "what-ifs" were too painful to even consider.  Days when it hurt just to breathe.  Like the day in December that we learned that they were trying to split the kids up to make them more "adoptable."  But there were also days when God spoke so clearly about what He is doing that the doubts and darkness had to leave.  Days of hope and expectancy.  Like the day in February when we learned that the right people had read our letter pleading with them to keep the kids together and allow us to adopt them--and the government responded by basically saying they wanted our paperwork ASAP because they were unofficially holding them for us.  But even that news left room for doubt.  "Unofficial" is a scary word when we're talking about my babies!

But now, I can call them that--mine.  Because God is a God of power.  He broke every chain that the enemy had wrapped around these kids' lives.  He set them free to be a part of our family forever, and no matter what struggles the road ahead holds for us, we can never, ever doubt that God did this.  That God handpicked these kids for us, and us for them.  He has gone before us, and He will continue to help us navigate the bumpy road that we know is ahead.  We trust Him with everything we have!  We wouldn't be here if we didn't!

...we can never, ever doubt that God did this.

So, it is with the greatest possible joy that I can officially say that I will soon be the mother of 5 children: 3 boys and 2 girls, ages 3, 4, 7, 8 and 10!  That is definitely not something I ever thought would come out of my mouth (or from my fingertips)!  I so wish I could post their picture and names for all to see, but I cannot.  At least not until they are legally ours.  But it won't be long now!  Because on Monday, we start getting the paperwork ready to bring them home!!!!

For those of you who are curious about the next step, here it is:  We wait a few days for the kids' official paperwork, like files and birth certificates, to arrive from Costa Rica. We translate those, apply for immigration for the kids, and send it off ASAP.  As soon as US immigration approves them to become US citizens, we can get our travel approval!

Our program coordinator said to expect to be leaving in about 2 months (3 at the most if the kids' paperwork has issues, or is slow in coming--so please pray against that happening) we will most likely be heading down to meet our kids and finalize the adoption in October!!!!!!! They will be home before Christmas!

In the meantime, we need to build loft beds, paint bedroom walls, finish upgrades on our downstairs bathroom, start buying clothes (especially winter stuff...Ohio winter is going to be a shock to these little Ticos who are used to 65-85 degrees year-round!), build/buy a bigger kitchen table, finish repairs in our family room/school room, oh, and raise another $18,000!   No big deal!  And we get to start talking to our kids soon!!  If they have skype or video chat capabilities at the orphanage, we will actually get to see them!  If not, we will send them letters and talk on the phone, which terrifies me a little!  With all that to keep us busy, these next 2 months are going to FLY by!

Keep praying for us!  Pray that immigration approval comes back quickly and that all of the kids' documents are in order.  Pray for our funds!  Pray that we get some grants, and that we actually get everything that we need to done before we have to leave!  Your prayers have been so powerful--probably more powerful than you know.  Iris, our program coordinator, told me yesterday, "I'm actually baffled by how fast your approvals and matching came!"  And I told her, "If you knew how many people have been praying for us and these specific kids, you wouldn't be surprised at all!"  I literally believe that your prayers have moved mountains and broken chains, so KEEP THEM COMING--even after we bring our Ticos home!!!

Shortest Blog Post Ever

We're approved!!!!!!!!!  The matching committee meets on Thursdays, so we should hopefully be officially matched with our kids next week!!  Keep praying!  This week just might feel like the longest wait yet!