Kindergarten Graduation

Whew! Last week of school and it is a crazy week. Tuesday Cole's Africa project was due, Wednesday was Caroline's kindergarten graduation and tomorrow is field day which I am a volunteer for and have to be there to set up at 6:00 AM!! It will be so nice to be home next week.

Caroline's graduation was absolutely adorable. The two classes put on a mini play called "Journey of Praise" and Caroline was the "A" in praise. She knew her lines perfectly and sang the songs at the top of her voice. When they marched out in their white cap and gowns it was the sweetest and sadest of moments. They already look older. Their was a reception afterwards and then a graduation/birthday party afterwards at the Jordan's.

Update on adoption: Totally overwhelmed with the paper chase. Often referred to as the paper pregnancy.....this is definitely a project keeping up with forms to fill out, some notarize, some certify, some send to social worker, some to the family coordinator. I have had to ask so many people to sign things, write letters, etc. It is truly a job running down all the paperwork. After saying all that I will say that it is still better than throwing up for 12 weeks which I did with all three of my pregnancies. We have our last home visit scheduled for next Wednesday afternoon. Russ and I both had our individual interviews last week and as anyone who knows us can imagine Russ' took 45 min and mine 1 1/2 hours..............the typical time is one hour:) Bethany asked us everything from birth, education, family members, hobbies, work history, views on marriage, family support, attributes of each family member and that is just what pops in my mind right now.

I sent my paperwork off to USCIS last week and was very disappointed to see it returned to me this week. I had not sent enough money (missed one of the fees) and so I sent it back off tonight. This is the agency that will send us the paperwork that says we can bring a child from outside the US into the US as a citizen. Apparently this is the part that takes the longest and that is why I was so anxious to at least get in the system.......oh well. I have been working very hard to get as much of the paperwork done before the kids get out of school and summer fun begins. I will need some time next week but then should be in pretty good shape.

Will post pics of Caroline's big day as soon as I figure out how .........need to go start getting the house organized for our home visit next week................


Out of Order-but almost caught up!

Now would actually be where the post called The Gift should go (scroll down about 4 posts or so). I have tried to write about our process of coming to the decision to adopt - a love story of sorts. On May 10th (actually the night before) Russ gave me a Mother's Day card that said "Let's start the process to bring our son home".

As anyone who has adopted knows -- the papers began flying! What a tremendous process. On Friday, May 15th we had our first meeting with our social worker - Bethany Graff. She was so helpful and very kind. She did however, have even more paperwork for us! She asked us our motivation to adopt and specifically to adopt from Ethiopia..................and then she had to listen to basically everything that is listed below this post. Our next meeting is Tuesday the 19th for our personal interviews. We meet with her four times so she can determine if we are fit to be parents..................for Brooke, Cole and Caroline's sake I hope we pass the test:)

We are also planning to talk with Russ' family this week - my prayer is that God will talk through us to explain our decision.

The Resources

I am not a reader.........my whole life I have read out of sheer necessity or requirement. However, not only was I now reading adoption books I was also reading three other books that definitely helped me to better understand God's love for me and his plan for my life. I began The Shack about six months earlier and ended up setting it down........timing is important in dealing with your relationship with Christ and I must have gotten ahead of myself. Anyhow, I picked it back up and could not seem to put it down at all. This book has absolutely nothing to do with adoption. What it deals with is a man that although always a Christian did not truly understand the meaning of having a relationship with God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. As it turns out I did not either and reading this book was an instrumental tool in my spiritual growth over the past year.

There is one specific part of The Shack that did speak to me about adoption when reading. At this point remember I still did not know if Russ was willing to move forward. It went like this
"Mack, if anything matters then everything matters. Because you are important, everything you do is important. Every time you forgive, the universe changes; every time you reach out and touch a heart or a life the world changes; with every kindness and service, seen or unseen, my purposes are accomplished and nothing will ever be the same again."

In summary of this resource the book is about this horrible thing called independence that we think we have a right to and the real meaning of life which is relationships and love......at least in my opinion.

The next book I was reading in between starting The Shack and then getting back to it was called Crazy Love. This book is not about adoption either. It is however, about the love that God calls us to......a crazy, restless, all consuming love.

Throughout the past six months I was praying.....hard. I wanted God to tell me if this was his calling or if I was simply hormonal and wanting a baby or to be needed or something insane like that. I would honestly look into the sky and hope that a cloud would spell out "yes" or "no" or "go". I wondered if my scare with possible breast cancer was him trying to re-direct me or spur me on. I would pray that if it were not his will that he would take it off my heart and/or definitely not put it on Russ'................I just didn't think I could move forward without Russ honestly believing and wanting this for our family.

The Shack did so much to educate me about the Trinity and Crazy Love helped me so much to understand what Faith truly is. Here is an excerpt from the book that I have read dozens of times now.

But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through. Question answered.

Another section from the book that spoke to me:
I wrote this book because much of our talk doesn't match our lives. We say things like, " I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and "Trust in the Lord with all your heart." Then we live and plan like we don't believe God even exists. We try to set our lives up so everythig will be fine even if God doesn't come through. But true faith means holding nothing back. It means putting every hope in God's fidelity to His promises.

The last book I will mention in this post but another that had such an amazing impact on my spiritual walk and my discerning if I was being called to adopt was the book of Esther. I was reading the book of Esther in the Bible and doing the bible study with a group of wonderful ladies from church.

I will point out several times when I truly felt God was speaking to me.

In the bible study workbook in the Intro............Scripture cannot come without effect to the receptive soul. God is up to something profound in your life or you wouldn' be holding this Bible study in your hands. He not only desires to teach you but to transform you.

At one point when I was feeling impatient with Russ and the days and weeks passing by. And guess what the study was on that week...........yes timing. Beth Moore reminds us to Reflect on the importance of knowing
1. When it's time
2. When it's time to wait************yes, this was written for me on the day I read it without Mrs. Moore even knowing it.
3. When it's time to wait for someone else's time ************I am surprised my name wasn't written beside this one
4. When the meantime is God-time

It is about God's time and not my time which is very hard for some one who likes to plan things out!

Last comes more specifically from the Book of Esther. You really need to know the story for this to make any sense but for my history I want to be sure it is here ...Mordecai told them to reply to Esther, "Do not think that in the king's palace you will escape anymore than all the other Jews. For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father's family will perish.

God will save the orphans whether I adopt one child or not but what would that mean for me and my family?

I strongly recommend all the above reading ............really for anyone trying to grow and figure out their purpose. As I mentioned earlier none of the books have a thing to do with adoption and yet they were the ingredients that lead me through my process of figuring out how I could bless.


March Madness

January and February went quickly with positive signs, conversations and meetings on adoption. Amazon was delivering books weekly and I may never get all of them read. However, this high speed chase was fixing to come to a hault. I think I overwhelmed and scared Russ a bit with how taken I was over us adopting. He needed to slow down, pray and process. We had a lot happening in March and so I decided not to talk about adoption to Russ and to hopefully not stay obsessed with research for ONE month.

A 7 day trip to DisneyWorld certainly helped the time pass by and it seemed as though we hardly blinked and April was here. Time to move ahead....right? Not exactly. The next few weeks would prove to be some of my most difficult and trying times in this process at least so far...

Russ was avoiding talking about the adoption but assured me he was continuing to pray. We knew we were serious enough that we both wanted to let our families in on what might be going on with us. Russ met with his parents and sister-in-law for lunch and was very tight lipped about the conversation except that they were concerned about us adopting. My conversation with my family although initially semi-supportive (although my dad was great and never missed a beat) I could tell there would be questions to answer and concerns to be addressed. I had several conversations with my sister and sister-in-law .....we are very close and I respect their opinions so much...they quizzed me pretty hard and tried to bring up anything that might possibly have crossed my mind....they are always taking care of me:)

My mom who is honestly the best mother in the world was consumed with worry from the moment I mentioned this to her. She was worried about me handling any more on my plate than I had, worried about the strain it would be on my marriage, worried about financial matters, emotional matters, physical matters, pretty much everything you could worry about. We had great conversations about how blessed I felt and about how my crazy home life was not stressful to me but beautiful, wonderful fun.

Then came Easter weekend. Good Friday brought tornadoes through Murfreesboro and literally down our street. It was very horrible and although we escaped without injury or much incident there were so many families that lost their homes and two people their lives. We did actually lose power and being the non-camping family that we are we decided to pack up and go to our folks houses. We went to Shelbyville Friday night and to Brentwood Saturday night....I know we are total wimps.

Now if you remember I had agreed to not talk about the adoption for the month of March but we are now well into April. Saturday night I was about to explode.....and had to force a conversation with my hubby. It did not go well........he just wasn't ready and although he felt my calling was from God he just couldn't pull the trigger. I was devastated, tired and frustrated. We made it through the night and back to my parents house on Sunday for Easter lunch. Needing to talk about my feelings more than ever the conversation came up with my mom, sisters and me. They were all questioning me pretty hard and my mom was firmer that she thought I might be "crazy". They did not seem to understand that this was not about me but about serving God and showing his love in the way I know best which is loving children........all His children. Seeing as how everything had been negative and no progress had been made I was on a downward spiral that led me to nearly giving up. I cried for two days.......on Monday so bad that Russ offered to come home. My family's support means the world to me and I think it was the first time I ever felt as though I did not have it on any significant matter. My heart was broken, I felt like if God meant for us to adopt that it would not be this hard and let me tell you I was being tested. By the end of the week the turmoil inside of me was nearly more than I could take. There was a meeting of the Ethiopian group the following Sunday and Russ and the kids were fighting me about having to go..............................I did not push and simply went to my room, fell to my knees and asked God to please guide me or more specifically to re-direct me.

Seeing as how I NEVER take naps Russ came into the room to see if I was o.k. He could tell quickly that I was not and we had an incredible talk. He told me that God's work is not suppose to be easy and that there are several places in the bible where it says it may be very lonely and that although he was not ready to send in the paperwork that he did not think we should give up........persevere he told me. I prayed and prayed and then decided to get up and go work out.

The phone rang as I was headed upstairs and it was my mom. She called to tell me that her concerns were fears of hers for her and that she should not place those on me or my decisions. She let me know that she loved me, admired me for my desire to bless a child and try to make a difference and that from that point on that she would support my decision. I cried and cried. I did not have to have my mothers approval but I did want her to understand my motivations and she finally did..........it was great! I count on my mom to be able to talk things through and not having her for this had been very difficult. I love her so much and do not want it to sound as though she was mean or mad for one instant but with a relationship like we are blessed to have you can feel when things are not well.

So as you can see the tide was about to turn.....Thank you God so much. I am anxious to get caught up but it will have to be tomorrow............it's late and I need my beauty sleep.

God will not give us more than we can handle but sometimes he thinks we can handle more than we think we can!


A little more history....February

I was so taken back when Russ agreed to pray about us adopting that I didn't know what to think. He had not really taken me seriously in the past but I think we both knew there was something different this time. Anyhow, with him not saying no I was full speed ahead on research. I spent hours looking at different agencies, researching countries, buying books, reading blogs, searching websites, etc.

Somehow in all that research I got on a mailing list and received a bulk email about an adoption conference in Nashville on February 21st. It was a Saturday and an all day event........I hated to even mention it to Russ but of course I did and he said he would go!! We went and it was very informative and really good timing. We spoke with a person from America World about how to decide where to adopt from and she told us that God would lead us by opening some doors and closing others. Well, this was very true and after just a few days (but many hours of research) Ethiopia was on our short list. I was pretty sure that I wanted to adopt from Africa but had initially looked at Rwanda. One of my biggest concerns was how a child would adapt being taken out of his country, culture and placed into our little world where he will not look like the rest of his family in regards to his skin color. But guess what, at the adoption conference we were told about a group that meets in Brentwood once a month and all of the families have either adopted or are in the process of adopting from Ethiopia. Is this not amazing.........lots of families that will look just like us with boys and girls, white skin and dark skin, with biological kids and adopted kids and lots with both just like us. Talk about an instant support group!

Their next meeting was February 26th and once again I did not suspect that Russ would have any desire to go to a complete strangers house with no one we knew to discuss adoption from Ethiopia when we had not even committed to taking this step. But I mentioned it anyway and he wanted to go!!! His love for God and for me is just amazing, what a blessing I have been given to be married to him.

So as you can see February was a very exciting month. I was getting very consumed with all the information, meetings and positive signs.

I have not mentioned but I also did have a bit of a scare with a lump that was found in my breast. It was really weird but I did not go crazy with worry probably because I was so focused on the adoption. It did not all get resolved as quickly as I would like but after a biopsy, and surgery it did all get resolved and although I am high risk the doctor is going to watch me close which will be some extra insurance that nothing becomes cancer.
I was also going through Beth Moore's bible study "Esther" and it was wonderful.......I highly recommend it to every woman alive. She is so incredible. Although, I am fully aware that she did not do this bible study specifically for me ........it felt as though she did. Things seemed to relate so directly to this decision we had before us. I even brought one weeks session home and asked Russ to watch it. I don't think everyone who goes through the study will want to adopt but whatever your call is that God has laid out for you will take on new meaning as you progress through the nine weeks.

That is all for now.........I hope I am not leaving too much out and will move on to March in my next post.


Mothers Day and the present

What an incredible mothers day! My husband and children are so sweet and made my day very special. I am pretty sure Caroline told me she loved me 20+ times......she is always filled with lots of emotion. Well, Russ has always been very good with personal presents (outside the one mishap with some perfume) and he is even better with his cards........not only the card itself but the note he writes inside of them. However, this card may win the award for all time greatest. Inside his very kind note about me and our family he wrote that he was ready to start the process to bring our son home!!! I am so excited, thrilled, surprised, anxious and overwhelmed all at the same time. What an incredible husband I have and with everything he is dealing with and has dealt with over the past two years and yet he is willing to trust me and God that this is what is meant for our family. Together we will follow the plans God has for us and be blessed with a child of His to love forever.

We spent the day at my parents and everyone was so happy for us and supportive of our decision. It is such a blessing and joy to have my family be excited about this journey we will all be taking. My brother and sister-in-law also just announced this week that they will be adding to their family- she is pregnant with her second child and I truly could not be happier for them. It will be so great having cousins so similar in age.

This post is a pretty big jump from my last one and there is so much to tell of God's work between "the talk" and "the present". I do plan to update and give all the details but am headed off to bed for tonight.

I can't imagine anything greater than being a mom........Happy Mothers Day to all!


The Talk

O.K. so this is the last post I am going to do today .......I am anxious to get caught up but if I am not careful it is going to be time to pick up kids and I will not have done the breakfast dishes.

It was Friday morning, January 23rd and Russ and I were headed to Atlanta for the Craters and Freighters Southeast regional meeting. Yes, in other words, Russ was trapped and with no kids in the car there was no chance of me getting distracted. I remember so much of our conversation especially the incredibly sweet, supportive and loving comments Russ made but for some reason I struggle remembering how in the world I brought this up. Now, my expectations were for Russ to say "You are crazy, no way no how and you can find someone else if this is your plan". But God was there for me and for him and he listened intently to my feeling that God was calling me to do this and that it was not about me. Russ agreed to pray about if this is what God wanted for our family and that is truly all any wife could ever ask for..........told you before that I am so blessed.

The next several posts will be about our research part of this process and as I sit here typing I do not know if we are going to adopt or not but I do know that God will guide us and that we must trust Him. A very large part of me hopes that this is God's calling on my heart and that I am not confused about what He is asking me to do. However, I know the important part is that I continue to seek Him and his will for me whatever that may look like down the road.

For God so loved the world......................aren't we lucky!

Blessed Beyond Measure

What an incredibly blessed life I have been given. I am not deserving but very thankful. I grew up in a family of 5.........an awesome mother and father, an older sister and younger brother. I was loved, taken very good care of, never wanted for anything that I needed and was raised in the Catholic church. Did I mention how loved I was? I was able to attend the college of my choice (UT of course) and although my parents were always teaching us important life lessons, the value of a dollar, how to be a responsible person etc. I really was very spoiled in that I did not have to work to go to school or travel to Europe or any of my other fun ventures.

My family is my world and they have molded me into the person I am (for better or worse:)). In college, I met the most amazing man..........he was SO good looking, smart, fun, and I met him just before he graduated.........just in the nick of time. We married a few years later, moved from Memphis, to Knoxville and finally back to Murfreesboro. We began our family in 1996 with our precious daughter Brooke, then Cole and finally Caroline. Russ and I both felt for several years after Caroline was born that we were done having children and that our family was a family of 5.

An event in my life that I have not forgotten was in 2000 just after I had Cole and was still home on maternity leave. I was watching an Oprah show on adoption and it did more than just grab my heart. I remember a very specific moment when I said out loud to myself....a child has been born in my heart and I knew that it would be a child brought to our family by adoption. However, I pushed this thought out of my mind and into the very back of my heart.

In 2006 I was feeling a tug to adopt and felt like it was coming up a lot in my life. At that point I wasn't sure if it was just that it had been three years since Caroline was born and every three years I had a child since 1996. So once again after a very brief conversation with Russ I pushed away the thought and tucked it back into the back of my heart.

In 2006 the Lord began changing my life to where even I was amazed. I moved my children from the Shelbyville school system to a private school on the north side of Murfreesboro called Providence Christian Academy. You really have to have known me to realize what a monumental step this was for me and the beginning of a lot of changes for my family. In 2008 I decided to become a stay at home mom....I had worked since Brooke was 8 months old and had a very fulfilling career life. The change brought a lot of new people into my world and some very, very dear friends. Change is always bitter sweet and this change in my life certainly was also.

One of my "new" friends was Tracy Jones and yes she had adopted a very sweet little girl from China....Mary Margaret. Tracy and I would discuss adoption, orphans, etc. often and she certainly watered my adoption seed that was planted so long ago.

Most importantly in everything that I will ever post is that the past few years have been a tremendous time of spiritual growth for me. Although always a Christian I began developing a very personal relationship with Jesus which enabled me to see the path he was laying out before me. The people God brought into my life have blessed me so much and I will forever be grateful to them (Missy Price Leonard, and Chris and Cathy Ownby.......thank you and I love you all).

In the fall of 2008 I began struggling with why God had blessed me so abundantly. I knew I was not deserving and could not figure out why I had been so "lucky". Of course, I now understand that no one is deserving of all God has done and continues to do for us but really I am just SO blessed. And then finally it hit me..............God blesses us so that we may bless! Wow, why had it taken me almost 40 years to figure that out. So I began my pursuit of figuring out my spiritual gift and how I could be a blessing in order to honor God. Anyone who knows me knows my love of children..........and it is pretty obvious that I gravitated to that immediately. But what did that mean for me..........what was I to do?

Through praying, talking and soul searching it became evident to me that we (bless Russ' heart for getting stuck with me) were to adopt. I didn't know where, how, when etc and boy was I anxious about filling Russ in on this little idea of mine...............trust me that is a post within itself.

Be a blessing!

History - Part I

It is Thursday morning and I am once again at the computer checking emails, facebook, and the 5-6 blogs on adoption that I follow daily. Yes that is right on adoption. I have not posted on my blog because there is so much I want to go back and "tell" that I can't seem to find the time but I am going to start today and hopefully get caught up or at least get to 2009.

Russ and I are praying daily about my feeling called to adopt. We have three terrific children and a very busy schedule with school, sports, guitar, social events, friends, etc. One would think that our cup would be overflowing but there seems to be something missing and I believe that something is a little boy in Africa. In an effort to provide some history I am going to digress back to when I was a child.

I don't remember why or exactly when but I remember wondering if I was adopted?? That is a bit crazy seeing as how there are plenty of pictures of my mom being pregnant, having me in the hospital and the fact that I look very much like my entire family. I don't believe it was a worry but an interest in what adoption was ........it was very interesting to me. I have always loved children and spent most weekends babysitting. I loved Ginny and Cameron Hunt so much (and as a side note Cameron was adopted).

Although growing up I never thought about adopting myself I do believe the seed had already been planted for a time much later............