Friday, August 31, 2012

From the Mouths of My Loves


Justice: How can you tell if a caterpillar is a boy or girl?

***

JJ: Mommy, do hear that noise? That noise that kind of sounds like a snake? Well, if you hear it don’t worry, it’s just me trying to cool off my mouth.

***

Jayla: I wish I was 18.
Me: But why? Once you turn 18 you have to move out of the house and you can’t live with Mommy and Daddy anymore.
Jayla: Why?
Me: Because when you are 18 you are considered an adult. That’s when people go off to college and they don’t really need their Mommy and Daddy to take care of them as much anymore.
Jayla: Ok I don’t want to be 18.
Me: (:

***

Justice: Hey Mom – you know what’s crazy about the world? There is only one way to heaven, but many ways to get to hell.

[When he said this it made me think of Matthew 7:13-14 ~ Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. I love how God is placing these deeper thoughts in Justice’s mind and heart. Much of what he says while thinking out loud is scriptural, even if he doesn’t know it yet!]

***

A little background on this next one. In the evening we often go around town for a walk. JJ and Justice ride their bikes and usually get quite a distance ahead of us. The route we take has a big hill about halfway through. JJ usually hops off his bike and walks it down. On this particular time, he and Justice had approached the hill by themselves. JJ told me the following later on when we got home from the walk...

JJ: Mommy, you know that big hill? I was so scared to go down it and I wasn’t going to do it. Then Justice told me, “JJ, God is always with you and He will help you. You don’t need to be afraid." So I went down the hill on my bike. And I made it!

***

JJ (in a sad voice last weekend): Mommy, there was only one thing that I didn’t like about school on Friday. Some people made fun of my purple socks. [JJ has these all-purple NBA socks that he loves and have always been his favorite.]

Me: Oh, I am sorry sweetie - sometimes that happens at school. That doesn’t feel very good when people make fun of you does it….

I was so surprised that he had said this that it kind of caught me off-guard. I sort of downplayed my initial response because I didn’t want him to worry too much about it all. I then told JJ to tell Jake because I knew he would have some good advice. About 10 minutes later he told him and the convo went like this:

Jake: They made fun of Jesus first. That’s how people treated Jesus too.
Me: That’s true. Remember JJ that the soldiers put a purple robe on Jesus, and a crown of thorns and they mocked him and called him a king? They were doing that to make fun of him and to be mean.
Jayla chimes in: PURPLE IS MY FAVORITE COLOR!
Jake: You know what I would do? I would make sure that you wear your purple socks again this week!
JJ: No! I’m not!
Jake: If you worry all the time about what other people think about you, then you are going to have a miserable life, and a miserable 13 years of school. You know what? People used to make fun of Daddy at school too. You know what they made fun of Daddy about in high school? Because I wore sweats to school every day. But you know what? I didn’t care what they thought. So every day I made sure that I kept wearing sweats to school.
JJ: Well, I tried to tell them that they were NBA socks, but they were all talking and being too loud so they couldn’t hear me.
Me: That’s good that you tried to tell them. Be confident in who you are. God made you unique and not like anybody else…

It took less than 1 week. Every night we lay out the clothes to be worn the next day. JJ gets to pick his outfits out and I give the ‘mom approval’. On Wednesday night of this week he picked out his purple socks to wear the next day. And he wore them – with confidence. :)


***

Conversation with Justice yesterday right after he came in the door off the bus...

Justice: I got to share the Bible today at school!
Me: Oh really?! Awesome! How did it come up?
Justice: Well in art class today some kids were saying that you can get to heaven if you go to church and are a nice person. But I told them that is not the way to heaven. I said that you can only get to heaven if you believe in Jesus. And even if you aren’t a nice person, you can still get to heaven because Jesus can wash your sins away.
Me: That is so cool! What did they say?
Justice: Well, my art teacher told me that we had to stop talking about it. She said that we can only talk about those kinds of subjects at home.
Me: (BIG SMILE) Keep talking about it buddy – even at school! I am so proud of you for sharing your faith and truth with your classmates.

This is one of the coolest things about sending our kids to public school. I LOVE that they get the opportunity to share about Jesus in this setting. Justice is so bold for the gospel. Gives me goosebumps to think about what God might be preparing him for in the future!


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Talk of the Town ~ Dotse Update!!

O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list.
You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds,
I would never come to the end of them.
~Psalm 40:5~

I last updated you on Dotse HERE which was during the first days of Jake’s recent trip to Ghana. Then, some awesome news from our in-country worker ‘K’ after Jake got back to the U.S.…

August 13th:
Praise the LORD our God! Just got a call right now from FOCOS hospital that Dotse must come for admission today at 3:00pm for the surgery to be done tomorrow :D! Let's all keep praying for a successful end :D!

From there, ‘K’ helped Dotse get packed up and to the hospital where he was admitted. ‘K’ was to stay with Dotse throughout the surgery, and would be checking up on him throughout his recovery time in the hospital.

The next day, August 14th, we received the following picture, with the words: Dotse was just taken into the surgery room!


That moment is worth a THOUSAND HALLELUJAH’S in my book.

From there, the surgery took a whopping 4.5 hours. You may have caught from my last update that Dotse had also been complaining of pain in his left leg in addition to the compound fracture of his arm. The surgeons ended up operating on his left tibia (bone in leg) as well, which they had planned to do in the original assessment as detailed in my last post. The official surgical procedure performed on Dotse was termed: Sequestrectomy of Right Ulnar and Left Tibia (Partial Excision). The definition of sequestrectomy is: The surgical removal of a sequestrum- a piece of dead bone that has become separated during the process of necrosis from the sound bone.

Our next update came later that day, in the form of pictures with the subject line: He’s out! Out of surgery that is!




Dotse stayed in the hospital for recovery for one week. And then on Monday of this week we received the awesome news that Dotse had been discharged!!!


[Dotse’s medical care package includes post-surgery check-ups each week, leading up to the casts coming off.]

Dotse got re-settled back in Asikuma and the next day, Tuesday, August 21, ‘K’ was there to check in on him at his home. Here is Dotse pictured with his family.


And a note from ‘K’…

Sent: Tuesday, August 21, 2012 4:06 PM
To: jake@kingdomhoops.com
Subject: DOTSE is BACK home, HEALED :D.

Jake,

Glory, honor and adoration to He that lives forever and ever, amen. On behalf of my own self, Dotse and his entire family, I'm saying a big thank you to team Sullivan and the many other Iowan friends, that out of kindness, sympathy and above all - their love for Christ Jesus, help Dotse in all aspect for his wellbeing. Just like a dream coming true, what the Lord has put in our hearts to do, is now done, with Dotse back home HEALED :D! May the LORD himself bless and reward you all according to his promises:). He is now back home as I said, healed, with everybody wondering how wonderfully things have gone :D.

We bless the name of the LORD. May the LORD be with and bless you all.

~‘K’~

‘K’ continued to tell Jake that Dotse is the talk of the town! :) When I read the above email, and the sentence that said “he is now back home as I said, healed, with everybody wondering how wonderfully things have gone” I was immediately transported to a section in scripture after Jesus heals a paralytic…

Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, “We have seen remarkable things today.” ~Luke 5:26~

I can just picture the buzz around Asikuma as the villagers see Dotse walking around with his casts and realizing that he received care and help. In a dusty, old, forgotten village it must feel like a miracle to witness such things.

Although I get the wonderful joy of writing out these details and telling this story, this all has come because Jake refused to ignore God’s proddings that something could be done for Dotse. Jake spent many restless hours fighting on behalf of this boy so that he could get the care that he needed. And you all took us seriously, donated to cover his medical bills, and God made a way. It is a sharp thought to think about what would have been for Dotse, had he continued to suffer with no one advocating for him. But instead, a happy ending reigns.

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed.
~Psalm 103:1-6~



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Favos

Well, I haven’t done a post like this in a loooong time, but my Mom told me that she misses my ‘favorite things’ posts, so, this one is for you Mom!

First up, we have the Chocolate Hair Vanilla Care blog, also known as the hair care LIFE SAVER in this house!


Seriously, our Ghana girls would be in big trouble if I would have never gotten word on this website. Basically, the author of this blog realized upon adopting her African-American daughter that she needed to figure this hair thing out. And she figured it out GOOD. Like, we are talking EXPERT level, and yet, she shares what she has learned in a way that is accessible and achievable to even a beginner. On the blog she elaborately shares about how to use African hair products (and what works/what doesn’t) and the how to’s/step-by-steps for African hair (maintenance/care/styling). It’s easy to get caught up in all the styling techniques, but in addition, this website has taught me so much about the daily maintenance and care for African hair. It is so different than caring for my hair or Jayla’s hair.

When a friend told me about this website and I started reading through it for the first time, I was quite overwhelmed and totally feeling myself hold back in fear of failure mode. But thankfully I found out about this website over 6 months ago, so I was able to tell myself that I had plenty of time to ‘study’ it, and that I would consider this as part of my adoption training! I started printing off many of the author’s posts so I could easily flip to them and have them right beside me as I style. I organized a 3-ring binder full of her styling instructions and the main things I needed to remember for the hair care steps. And then, I started practicing, going soley off the blog writer’s ‘how-to’ posts. As I blogged about HERE, I am completely new to braiding hair. And because of that, I am kind of blown away with how I can just read her instructions, and then go and do it. At times it feels supernatural. I know that sounds silly – I mean we are talking about HAIR! - but I am telling you that I had no idea my hands could actually do this. I know it’s simply God equipping me, and for that I am thankful. Now, I still need more practice to make it all look crisp and perfect, but I am getting the mechanics down.

On my last hair post I had shown you my first attempt at a flat rope twist. From there I decided that I had plenty of time to learn to cornrow. I studied the CHVC ‘how to’ instructions HERE a handful of times. Eventually what made it stick was when I compared this to a french braid. I’ve done french braids on Barbies before. With a french braid, as you go down you add the hair to each outside strand of the 3 strands of hair that you start with. This allows you to braid a whole head of hair in one braid. But with a cornrow the idea is to braid strips of hair. In the ‘how to’ she tells you to only add the hair to the middle strand as you go down. You also braid the strands under each other instead of over each other. Here was my first attempt at a cornrow…


I like to learn off ‘still objects’ first – a Barbie or a doll with hair - before trying on Jayla because I don’t want her to have to sit through my attempts! The blog author encourages making a practice board using yarn, but I find that Barbies work just fine for me. Once I get the concept down, I like to practice on real hair so Jayla helps me out. One day we were at the gym and Jayla was tired and rested her head in my lap. I practiced a little cornrow on a section of her hair, right across her forehead and it looked right! A few days later I tried it again and I knew I had the technique down…


I even practiced on myself to really get it engrained in my mind!


Yesterday I was getting the itch to practice again. I just wanted to do a few small sections, and I also thought it would be fun to try out the hair beads that Jake brought me home from Ghana as a gift. Jayla was in a great mood, especially when she realized that I was going to put the beads in! She was so excited to pick the colors out, and couldn’t wait until I had the first braid done so she could go check it out in the mirror. We only did two cornrows, but they were SUPER cute, and enough to continue to keep the technique in my memory. Jayla LOVED the feel of the beads in her hair! She kept tossing her head around so she could hear them shake.


I wouldn’t normally have Jayla wear her hair in cornrows. This is just practice for our Ghana girls. But this website has also caused me to step out of my comfort zone and try some fun styles for Jayla’s hair that I probably would have never tried either! Like a simple french braid. Once I figured out the cornrow technique I knew that I should be able to do a french braid too. The morning that JJ first went to school Jayla and I had some special girl time, and I whipped up this french braid for her!


It turned out beautiful! I loved it, and it was fast and easy (I can’t believe I am saying that!).  Our Ghana girls will be coming with very short hair, so it will be awhile before I can try out some of these styles on them.  But I want to learn the techniques now, while I have the extra time!

***

Alright, next up is a new favo that JJ and I have discovered…


If you LOVE the Samoa Girl Scout Cookie like we do, then these are the PERFECT imitation – if not better. And, once you are out you don’t have to hunt down a Girl Scout to get some more – just head to the grocery store. JJ requested to bring these along for a pool snack all summer. They are the perfect little treat – if you like coconut that is (everyone likes chocolate, right?).

 ***

We’ve tried a few different kid’s Bibles in our day, but this one by far is my favorite…


Now, this is not a toddler/pre-schooler Bible. I would say this is best for ages 5 and up. The author re-tells the stories of scripture in perfect ‘kid’ lingo….like she uses the words ‘nasty’ and ‘gobble them up’ and ‘secret rescue plan’….all the while maintaining the integrity of scripture. It’s kind of like ‘The Message’ Bible translation, but for kids. And honestly, even if you are an adult and you have never read the Bible, this would be a good one to start with. At the end of each Bible story the author shows how they all, from the Old Testament to the New Testament, fit together to point toward the big message of the Bible – Jesus and His offer of salvation. In the author’s explanation: There are lots of stories in the Bible, but all the stories are telling one Big Story. The Story of how God loves his children and comes to rescue them. It takes the whole Bible to tell this Story. And at the center of the Story, there is a baby. Every Story in the Bible whispers his name. He is like the missing piece in a puzzle – the piece that makes all the other pieces fit together, and suddenly you see a beautiful picture.

***


If you are on Facebook then you’ve probably seen people upload photos via Instagram, and wondered what on earth it is! Well, it’s a FREE app for your I-phone that can dazzle up the plain ‘ol pictures you take on your phone. Remember how exciting it was to get to change a regular picture into Sepia or Black and White in the photo editer on your laptop? Well, Instagram has a handful of really cool looking washes/filters (or whatever you call them) that make your phone pictures look oh-so-cool (the ‘Earlybird’ wash is my fav). Basically you just take a picture on your phone, click on the Instagram app, go to your phone photo album to select the picture, and then from there you can try out all the different washes and see which one you love best. They totally transform your photos. Here is a sample from my photos:

Original photo:


Changed with Instagram:

You also can select the option to upload the photo simultaneously to Facebook (and Twitter, etc). In fact, Instagram has it’s own sharing/social network that I believe is owned by Facebook now. You can scroll through all the photo posts that your Instagram friends have uploaded to their wall, and even comment on them and ‘like’ them just as you would Facebook posts. So, basically Instagram is like a photography Facebook. Look me up!


Friday, August 17, 2012

Mahlstadt's Adoption Journey Part II ~ Meeting 'S'

Continuation of the Mahlstadt's Ghana adoption journey that I began sharing on Tuesday, HERE. In Typhanie's words...

Our middle (continued)…..

“Should I feel scared, nervous, anxious, worried, or terrified? What if I feel nothing? What if he feels nothing? What if Nick or Jaxson feels nothing? What if he’s not there? What if this is all a really bad joke? What if I mess up; say the wrong thing; move the wrong way…squeeze too long…get too close…smell funny…give the wrong impression? And then what…about…leaving?!”

Alrighty…just typing all that out made my heart start to race and breathing became a struggle. Just so I don’t sound neurotic, I did not have all of those thoughts at one time…lol. But, some were pretty close together. I had never experienced a battle over my mind, thoughts, and emotions like the anticipation of meeting our soon-to-be-adopted-son. I have fought and overcome many things in my life, but my mind is always the trickiest. I knew going into this that I would have to take captive every single thought that did not bring peace and life, and replace it with His truth. I am not saying I didn’t have all the “natural” thoughts. I am simply saying I fought them with love.

On the morning of August 4, 2012, Nick, Jaxson, and I woke up and got ready for the BIG morning we knew was coming.


I did lay my clothes out the night before, along with everything we would need to give to “S” and the rest of the children and people living with him and taking care of him. The caring and loving people with us that morning, our team, would ask me how I was doing. I answered honestly…"I have no expectation." I had spent months giving my desires and expectations to the Lord. I had read, heard, and witnessed those around me go through heartbreak and redemption when it came to adoption. I knew to expect nothing and everything all at the same time. That left me with a little empty place that I had been filling with His Word, worship, and humility. Now, I certainly do not want to come off as self-righteous and pious. For those of you who know me, you know how I have struggled to get to this place of trust and security in my walk with Jesus. So, just to clarify, the state of complete peace that morning, was a gift of grace from God.

We all loaded up, and headed out….the bus stopped at an orphanage…no “S”…wrong orphanage. Oh, how I wish I could tell you where we were, because many of you would be laughing at what a normal occurrence this really was. Moving on…we pull up and park by the “right” foster home. Cameras ready…check…Nick in front…check…me sort of next…check…Jaxson close…check. And as I turn the corner of a lime green home, I see a flash of dark hair and white t-shirt, jump off the porch. And in one leap the blur is clasped tightly to Nick’s waist, with his face turned away from my sight. A few steps closer, and I see the side of his cheek. I felt something from way down inside me rise up…it came out as a whisper… “That’s him.”

I dropped to my knees, to look him in the eyes…those big, beautiful, brown eyes. I had spent hours staring at them in pictures. Now they were looking back at me, full of life! He let go of Nick, wrapped his arms around my neck, and placed his head on my shoulder; just like a child does to his parent; just like my children do to me. And if, there was ever a doubt in my mind or heart that he wouldn’t “feel” like mine, it was gone…done…finished.


I released him long enough to introduce him to his big brother. Jaxson had a smile on his face that only a picture can capture. He leaned over and wrapped his younger brother up in his arms; like only the covering of an older sibling can. And it was sealed…brothers for life.


“S” came back to me and I carried him into the house.

We spent the next 6 hours with him and everybody else, there at the house. We showed “S” his family photo book that we had made him; complete with pictures of each of us holding his picture while ours was being taken. He loved that…he kept saying, “That’s me!”

Jaxson and “S” held hands most of the time as they walked around outside. They played with the toys we brought for everybody. The whole place felt like a huge celebration! We heard laughter and singing. We sat and looked through the other children's family photo books. As they described their new families, I realized that I had never seen smiles like that; smiles of hope, relief, redemption, purpose, and love. We met faces we had seen before and others we will get to see again. And the whole time we celebrated on earth, I know there was a true rejoicing in heaven, because His kids, young and old, were doing His work.


The rest of our team left, and headed for the other village. We headed to our hotel to spend time as a family with “S.” Just in case you didn’t know…blowing bubbles, and running after them is a universal, cross-cultural, border-breaking, pastime that is fun for all ages! We did that until dinner. I was so proud of us ordering and being on our own. The dad from the foster home joined us for dinner and we had a wonderful time and great conversation. They walked home. We were tired enough to sleep.

The next morning, while trying to ignore the obvious outcome of the day, we headed for the foster home. We relaxed with “S”…played funny games on an I-pad…organized his stuff…went for a walk…and held each other a lot. Then the moment came…to say good-bye. It was the hardest on “S” and on Jaxson. I knew it would be. But, I knew it was a good hurt. The kind of hurt that makes you keep longing, hoping, loving, and praying. I saw it as a momentary separation to accomplish a greater goal. My logistical side took over…for that moment anyways. I held Jax in my arms while we were in the cab. I didn’t speak…he was shocked. I prayed...for him…for “S”…for Nick…and for myself.

I know this will be the hardest thing we have said “yes” to, up until now. I also know, it will be the most rewarding for everybody who is trusting in our God. So, we press on one day at a time…trusting, believing, and waiting. I have a boy to fight for. He will be redeemed!



Thursday, August 16, 2012

FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!

Today is the BIG day!!! JJ’s first day of school ever! We didn’t send JJ to preschool, so this truly is the first big step into school for him. I am so thankful that for the past 6 years I have been able to stay at home with him and be there with him for every single moment. What a blessing it has been to never miss a single thing in his life (and here come the tears).

Justice gets up with the alarm at 6:30am for school and hops in the shower. I told JJ that I would wake him at 6:50am because he is pretty used to sleeping through the sound of the alarm. In my excitement I had a pretty light sleep all night – one of those nights where you feel like you were probably awake the entire night! So by about 6:30 I heard Justice get into the shower. I got up and got dressed and went out into the living room to pick up until I needed to wake JJ – but I found this:












Little man had already gotten up, gotten dressed by himself (shoes on and everything), and was snugglin’ on the couch!!!! Seeing him all wrapped up in his blankey reminded my heart that he is still my little boy. :) You know how your mind can flashback to memories in an instant? Well, as I looked at him in his long, lankiness snuggled there on the couch I thought back to our first days home from the hospital. JJ used to love to lay on our chests, all sprawled out and snuggly with his long legs a-dangling!


As they always say, where has the time gone? Jake and I have been talking about that the past couple of days! We still remember JJ’s newborn days so clearly! It is such a weird feeling once your first born is off to school! And off to school they were! We grabbed some breakfast (this was to be the hardest challenge as our kids take after Jake and aren’t hungry until later in the morning). JJ took down some microwave bacon and orange juice and then we went outside to wait for the bus!

Kindergartner and a 4th grader!



We had quite the tailgate going on in the driveway as we waited the arrival of the bus! Lil sister doesn’t want to miss a thing so she rolled straight out of bed and out the front door once she heard the hustle and bustle.


And even mean ‘ol Mr. Mernes showed a soft heart (for a few seconds) and decided to come see the boys off.


Waiting...


The bus is in sight! And the anticipation grows as Justice explains the bus route. :)


And then, finally, it arrives!






This momma held it together until right about this point…


When I caught this ‘Don’t-worry-mom, I’m-a-big-boy-now’ glance. :)

But he still looked so little to me on that big ‘ol bus! I know there will be many more ‘letting-go’s’ but I bet this first one is the hardest!

The great thing about living in a small town is that you get plenty of updates on your kids on a big day like this!  At 7:33am a text from my friend Jenna down the road: 'A' got on the bus with JJ and Justice!  She was a little nervous :)

'A' is one of JJ's familiar friends so I was so happy that he would know someone his size on the bus!

And then at 8:30am a text from our friend Chris who drove his daughter to school today and happened to be there when JJ got off the bus (which made me feel better since JJ has to switch buses halfway in between - I had confirmation that he made it to the right bus that takes him to his elementary!): JJ did well!  I helped out a little bit in the class and he was good to go!

So, the day is off to a good start!  I guess I can put the kleenex box away and come out of my bedroom now. :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

An Adoption Story: The Mahlstadt's

I am so excited to get to share another awesome testimony of a family saying YES to the Lord’s prodding of adoption in their lives. Meet Nick and Typhanie Mahlstadt, who months ago stepped into the Ghana adoption process. And just a few days ago, on our missions trip, it was time for them to meet the little boy who will become their son.  Their story, in their words...


For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. ~Luke 1:37 (Amp.)

Our beginning….

Life is full of journeys. There are so many times in life where you simply sit back and watch it begin. You don’t have a choice. We have all been there. Our flesh rises up, because our illusion of control as been taken away. The decision we do have to make is: will we frustrate the process or allow it to grow and challenge us. But, then there are times when you know God’s plan for your life will require an obedient “yes.” This is where our story of adoption begins.

Nick was raised in a family where adoption was the norm. His aunt and uncle have adopted 5 children, adding to the 3 biological children they had started their family with. Later, Nick’s sister, Nicole, and brother-in-law, Manuel, adopted Manuel’s youngest sister. We are so thankful to have family members that are very supportive of fathering the fatherless.

My story is a little different. I have always been a defender of the weak. My heart has always cried out for those whose voice could not be heard. I can remember having one friend who had a brother and sister that had been adopted from the Dominican Republic. I made a decision, in my heart, at the age of 12 that I wanted to do that when I grew-up. I wanted to offer love and security to someone who felt unwanted, or whose family couldn’t care for them.

So, God brings Nick and me together, at the young age of 19. During our years of marriage, four children- Jaxson, Carter, Faith and Lydia, 5 moves, and a continually growing walk with Jesus, we are ready to add more children. We usually get funny looks when we say we have four children. I guess somewhere in there, we have upset the “American Dream.” We are good with that….moving on ;). Through that decade of getting pregnant, giving birth, and raising children, we always knew that we would adopt. It wasn’t always table talk, nor did we have any idea when. But, we did pray. Our biological children have always known that there would be more, and that mommy wasn’t going to “grow” any more babies. I am beyond grateful for the heart that God has put in each one of our kids. People will ask us, “What do your kids think about it (adopting)?” I can always, confidently respond with, “Excited! They have never known any different. They are witnessing and living out God’s answers to our families’ prayers.” We have been open to what the Lord wants in all of this. Our hearts are leaning toward a boy and a girl, even if it takes more than one process.

Our journey for this adoption started in October of 2010. Jake and Janel, along with enough Africans to fill the front row of our church, came to tell their story. We were excited for them and had great respect for how they were fulfilling the call of God on their lives. We, (probably more me than Nick), thought we were ready to start this season of our life. However, it wasn’t then.

The following October, 2011, they came back. This time we witnessed a little different side of the journey. This time I was willing to let the Lord grow us up some more before I was ready to adopt children, or even go on another missions trip. I had submitted my will and my heart, and chose to be content. And that’s when Nick knows God is saying it is time. He taps my shoulder during church, and points to his notes. It read, “Find out what adoption agency they use? And ask about how we can get on that trip (the December trip to Ghana.)" So, with fear and trembling, I walked up to Janel, after service, and told her. We are ready!

Now, for some logistics and dates:

• Nick and I went to Ghana, on the missions trip, through Kingdom Cares International, in Dec. 2011.
• Jan. 2012 - sent our application to adopt into the agency.
• Feb. 2012 - started home study. Completed home study in March.
• March 2012 - put on waiting family list.
• June 2012 - referred and paired with our son.
• Aug. 2012 - meeting our son…..

Through these last eight months, we have learned to trust on the sovereignty of our God in ways we never thought we would need to. This journey required us saying “yes.” Sometimes, to break up the heaviness of this all, I will tell on myself a little bit. I tell of the numerous times that I have thrown my hands up in desperation before my Lord, and cried out, “I could have said ‘NO!’” And we could have, but we would have been hypocrites and far less than what He has called us to be. Because, when we chose Jesus, we chose to die to ourselves. We said “no” to the world, to our way, and to compromise, we said “yes” to His precious gift. God, our Father, adopted us through the life, death, and resurrection of His son. We live and love because He first gave and died. We are called His children, even though we don’t have a single drop of Jewish blood in our veins. We could do nothing to change our sin condition, so He did it. He gave us His blood. We are His children…His adopted children.

We are honored, humbled, and blessed to have the opportunity to take God’s act of spiritual adoption and put some skin and bones on it. We believe earthly adoption perfectly mirrors our God’s love for humanity, in such an enormous way. We know we are an imperfect family adopting imperfect children, but because of our perfect God, our family can bless Him.

Our middle…..

So, here we go! We are meeting our son tomorrow….YAYAYAYAYAYAYY! (I don’t think that is a word or even a sound, but that is how I feel.) This is one of those things in life that there isn’t a manual for. There isn’t a person with an answer for our exact situation. Every child is different, and every family is different. I am truly relying on the GRACE of our loving and faithful God, to help us walk this out in such a beautiful way. Our oldest son, Jaxson-11years old, is with us, and will meet his new brother. May our acts of faith as their parents always spur them on to run their race with strength, perseverance, and grace.

***

And bright and early, on the morning of August 4th, I received this beautiful picture from Jake's perspective as the scene unfolded at an orphanage in Ghana.  Nick and Typhanie meeting their son (and Jaxson meeting his new brother) for the first time.


Adoption journey TO BE CONTINUED...

Monday, August 13, 2012

More On Our Girls

I’m still soaking up all of Jake’s stories about our girls from his trip and wanted to share a few more pictures and little smidges of details from his time with them…

Continuation from the rest of his day with them August 1:

Bath time for Florence :)


Cannot even tell you how invaluable it will be to have this picture someday – this is a such a showcase of the Ghanaian culture.

Text from Jake later that night: Just got back to hotel. I was with girls until about 6:30pm and just spent two hours with ‘K’ picking up kids from foster homes who have court appointments tomorrow including our ‘baby in the bush’. Jennifer balled her eyes out when I had to leave.

Jake also told me on the phone that night that Jennifer did not leave his side the entire day. He said she was just starving for a father’s affection - she gave lots of hugs, held Jake’s hand, and was very snuggly/content to be right next to him at all times.

August 2nd: Jake was still in Accra this day but did not get to see the girls. This was the day of our appointment to file the I-600 form at the Embassy which was done successfully. The official who handled our case was satisfied with all of Jake’s answers during the interview, and noted that our documents to file were all in order. Now we wait for our approval which could come any time between now and 60 days from the date of our appointment.

August 3rd: Jake spent the morning with Dotse at his appointments and then spent the afternoon with our girls at their foster home. Jake said Jennifer made a mad dash up to the car once she saw Jake arrive.


Florence was still taking her afternoon nap.


Once I saw this picture, I realized it was an answer to prayer. On this side of the ocean, for the past few months my continual prayer has been, “Lord, please prepare Jennifer and Florence to come into our family, our home, and our lives. Ready their hearts and their minds for this big change that they will soon be experiencing.” (I have been praying this for our hearts too, and shared a few weeks ago about how God is preparing me in this post.) So, I’ve been praying that for our girls, but up until this point I didn’t know exactly how God was answering….I just trusted that He would. But this picture gave me one little detail of what He is doing.

Normally in Ghana, a child Florence’s age would take a nap strapped to their mother’s back….and they would pretty much be able to nap anytime they wanted as their mother walked around working and would lull them to sleep. In fact, when we last visited the girls at their orphanage in March, this cultural way of doing things was presenting a huge problem for me. Florence was so used to being strapped to the foster/house mother’s back that she would get very disturbed when she wasn’t. It felt almost traumatic to watch her in such stress when she wasn’t strapped on. I had begun praying even then for the Lord to give me wisdom on how I was to handle this. Should I go out and buy a baby backpack contraption thingy? Would I absolutely need it to get us through the airport during Florence and Jennifer’s long travel home? What about once they got home? How were we going to teach Florence to sleep by herself? Remember our crazy first night with Flo at the hotel? I started envisioning night after night of episodes just like that once we would bring them home! I know that most people wouldn’t even worry about these sorts of things. But this is how my mind works. I am a planner by God’s design. So I work through all of these thoughts in my head until I come up with a plan. But God had a different plan all together. I wasn’t going to have to handle this. In the past months when our girls got switched from the orphanage to a private foster home God began working through these little details. These details may not seem like a big deal to someone else, but they mean a lot to me.

Florence is being laid down for a nap. On a bed. By herself. At the same time. Every afternoon. Just how I will do it once she comes here. [Can you hear the choir of angels singing in my head? :) ] We didn’t request this….this is just how the foster mother runs her home. Not only that, but Jake was there to experience the nap time routine on two different occasions. He said that each time the foster mother would lay Florence down for a nap, she would go right to sleep – no crying or anything. Then, the foster mother would send Jennifer and her two bio kids inside for ‘quiet time’ where they watched a Tom and Jerry movie. Then, once Flo woke up about 2 hours later everyone had snack time – they received biscuits which are like crackers.

I know this all doesn’t seem like a jaw-dropping miracle to anyone, but if you know Ghanaian culture you would understand that having kids on a ‘schedule/routine’ just does not happen! But it’s happening for our girls. In addition, Jake kept telling me how good the foster mother’s son was with Florence - that he was a huge help with her. And his name is Justice. And he is 9 years old – right around the same age of our Justice. Jake said this boy’s personality was also exactly similar to our Justice – very kind, caring, helpful, and compassionate. Goodness! I just love how God is concerned with the details. Although we are oceans away, in these tiny things God is starting to prepare our girls for our family - and in so doing He is answering my prayer. I cannot even imagine the other work He is doing in their hearts that may not be revealed until later.

Flo up from her nap and snuggling with Jake…


Jake was purposeful about feeding the girls and sharing plates of food all together as a way of bonding.


The foster mother noted that Jennifer has been used to scarfing her food down, and so she has been trying to teach her that she doesn’t need to ‘fight’ for food anymore and can eat slower. Jake saw this in action as well. Jake said Florence is always eating and always asking for food, and she REFUSES to allow anyone to help her eat or drink. She wants to hold the spoon/cups herself and if anyone tries to help her she’ll ‘yell’ at them…in a 2 year old sort of way. :) Jake said Flo loved the Cheez-its that he had brought, was carrying around the entire box, and would not share with anyone except for Jake! In his time spent with the girls Jake noted that Florence is very protective of her food and her meals.

Text from Jake a few hours later that day: I had a blast with the girls. I have to stay away now though - it is too hard to leave them. It is totally different adopting girls, especially when Flo is running around calling me “Da”.

:)

From here Jake was off to Asikuma with the rest of the team for the remaining days of his trip. On Friday, August 10th he was back in Accra and got to see Jennifer and Florence one last time before his flight back to the U.S. Our adoption worker brought the foster mother, her two bio kids, and Jennifer and Florence to the Airside Hotel in Accra where the team had dinner and hung out before heading to the airport.

Here’s a video Jake sent me of him playing catch with Florence…SO CUTE!

video

He said Jennifer really, really wanted to swim (the Airside Hotel has a pool) so he promised her that on our homecoming trip we would stay at the Airside and take her swimming for the first time. If you remember, this was one of the first bonding activities we did with Justice.

And this was the last picture Jake sent me on Friday before heading to the airport….


And his text after saying goodbyes: Hardest thing ever to leave the girls. Florence screamed her head off when I had to get on the bus.

Jake said this was the only time he saw Florence cry the whole trip….when she saw him leaving. 

Although this part of the adoption process is so hard - getting to bond with your children and then having to leave them - I am thankful.  To even be afforded these opportunities to get to meet and and spend time with our children in their country and their comfort zone multiple times before bringing them home is one of the biggest gifts in international adoption.  It's one of the reasons why I love Ghana adoption so much.  Our girls know us and are familiar with us, and have already begun to attach to us in little ways.  It's such a blessing. 

Hoping in God's Sovereignty and trusting in His timing and plans as this process nears the end. :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.

Yesterday I set out to, once again, try to help JJ learn to ride his bike without training wheels. We have tried a few times before, but with JJ’s stubborn and yet competitive personality, it is EXTREMELY unpleasant when he is not able to master a skill. He gets so frustrated with himself that he becomes an emotional mess and loses all self-control….once he gets to that point it’s almost impossible to teach him because he can’t calm down. Yesterday started off with the same ‘ol story. A few attempts down the street was all it took for him to start scream-crying and saying “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” He was hyperventilating, crashing right and left, not giving full effort, and even got to the point where he launched his helmet across the street and said, “I FEEL LIKE KNOCKING MYSELF OUT!!!” You almost don’t know whether to laugh or to cry! But I can assure you that the neighbor kids who were outside playing probably thought I was torturing JJ by the sound and sight of it all! I was getting so frustrated with his Drama King mode that I told him we were NOT going to stop trying until he figured out how to do it. And then I bribed him with Subway for lunch – his favorite. :)

We probably were out there on the street trying, crashing, getting back on, arguing with each other, etc, etc, for about 30 minutes. Then we took a water break and Jayla, Justice and I listened to JJ state his case that he was absolutely all done practicing. With a smile Justice said to me, “Can I try to help him?”

YES! I needed a break from the mental madness! So I sat down on the sidewalk and grabbed my camera. Just to give you a glimpse, the unwilling subject looked like this:


He did NOT want to try anymore. But with Justice’s big ‘ol smile and encouraging words, he finally talked JJ into hopping back on.




They made a couple of runs down the street while Justice held onto JJ’s seat. But each time Justice would let go JJ would swerve off into the curb.


But herein entered Justice's PATIENCE!!! And JJ totally responded to it. After each failed attempt Justice was so positive with him and yet firm in telling him that he could do it!!!!!!!! JJ still yelled and argued back with Justice each time he swerved into the curb, but Justice would just laugh it off, instruct him on what he was doing wrong, and then encourage him to start again. Pretty soon I realized that JJ had completely stopped crying and was actually focusing!


And then, after about 5 minutes of Justice helping him, JJ GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!


I sat there on the sidewalk and tears filled my eyes….I was witnessing something SO SPECIAL….the bond of brotherhood.


And later that night on our usual walk/bike ride….no one would have ever known that JJ just learned how to do this hours before.  He looked like a pro. :)


On our walks Justice used to have to stop and wait at each corner for JJ to catch up to him.  But now they can ride right next to each other at the same pace....like brothers do. :)