Monday, December 27, 2010

Letters to Levi (#1)

Dear Levi,

It's two days after Christmas and I wanted to journal to you as I know someday, when you are home, we will talk of the time in our lives when we were preparing for your arrival ... and the Lord was preparing you for a family.  I wanted you to know that indeed, He was preparing us for you ... even before we knew your face, he was growing you in our hearts.
Christmas Eve was an emotional one for me.  I can't exactly put my hands and words around what I felt but I remember very clearly feeling the same sense of emotion on the Thanksgiving we now know as the one where your sister, Maliah, was just born.  That Thanksgiving, I can remember vividly your PiPa praying for Maliah's safety and swiftness into our lives.  Little did we know, she had been born and left to be found just a few short weeks prior to that day and that prayer.  We had prayed that prayer on many occasions, but that Thanksgiving afternoon, emotions within me welled up and I had a sense of urgency to know who she was and bring her home.  That day, a pile of paperwork became in my heart, a daughter, with all the emotions that a mother would feel for her.  Truly, I look back and that day marked her birth in my life in a very vivid and real way.  I guess you could say, on that day, I felt my baby kick!

Christmas Eve felt the same.  Our Pastor spoke of Jesus presence ... and of God's promises.  All I could think about was you and for whatever reason, my eyes kept welling in tears.  Levi, on Christmas Eve, a pile of paperwork became so much more .... and we haven't even seen your face.
As we drove away from our church service, your brother Canyon asked what time it was in Addis Ababa.  We've loaded an app. on our new phones that gives us San Antonio time and Addis time.   Something about being able to know what time it is wherever you are makes us feel connected.  I often look at the time and wonder who is caring for you, where you are, and if you are safe.  Looking at our clock, it was 7:00 pm, and the Addis clock said 3:00am.  Canyon then said "Merry Christmas, Levi, I pray while you are sleeping that you know that you have a family who can't wait for next Christmas ... when you have a family and we have a brother".   I thought I might loose it.  Looking out the window into the dark of the night, driving through the hill country, Addis Ababa seemed a world away and yet ... you were so present in my heart!  I think I felt you kick!
I can only equate it to the days when your big brother and sister were growing in my womb.  Though I hadn't seen their face, in every way they were present.  Of course, they were, we all got to watch them grow.  When they got big enough, we could see them kick and move.  Everyone around me would marvel at my swelling belly with each passing day.  The difference this time, Levi, is that no one else can see ... what is also growing and kicking in my heart.  I guess that's the hardest part.  For the rest of the world, their is nothing visual to marvel over and yet, just as Canyon and Dakota were very alive and present, so are you!
We made Christmas cookies for you.  Sugar cookies in the shape of Africa adorned the dessert table at Nana's.  Others didn't notice or seem to comment on them ... but for your Mommy, they were my reminder to everyone else that you were present and well, my belly is getting bigger and bigger.  Do you like my maternity clothes?
An ornament rests at the top of the tree.  An Africa continent with the initial "L" in the middle.  We hung it their as a reminder of God's promises ... one day, we won't just visit the people of Africa, but we'll bring a little piece of it home with us!  Your birth into our lives will be just as celebrated!

Christmas was a blessed time.  We enjoyed a quiet morning with your brother and sisters who had a blast tearing into each present and marveling over each special new toy and gift.  I sat and watched and wondered what your first Christmas would be like ... or your first ice cream, your first birthday celebrated, your first night home.  It made me think that we will get to share so many firsts with you and each of them will be like Christmas morning to me ... a present and a gift to marvel!  Every parent gets to celebrate a child's "First", but ours will be so different.  You will be old enough to also "celebrate" them with us and I think their will be something sweet and maybe even something bitter about that.
Granny and PiPa came later to share in their gifts as well.  As they handed out each Grandkid gift, Canyon yelled ..."where is Levi's pile?".  Yes, Levi ... it wasn't just my heart that longed for you, but your Granny and PiPa also didn't forget that while you were a world away, you were very present.
They bought a book for you that we can record our voices reading it to you.  Even before we bring you home, we'll get to send you packages with other traveling families and we can't wait to send you this one.  Fitting, the book is called "Guess How Much I Love You".  I wish I could be there the first time you read it, but I will rest in God's promises that one day, we'll read it together at HOME!

This week we prepare to celebrate the closing of one year and the anticipation of what 2011 will bring.
I am praying, Levi, that just as God called us to you, that 2011 will be the fulfillment of that promise.  We wait in excited anticipation to "know" who you are even though, in some strange and odd way ... this Christmas, you were already very present.
I'm hoping labor and delivery will come quickly.  Each pregnancy is marked by stretch marks and pains and well, this one is no different.
Awaiting now your sonogram (a referral picture) ... and to announce "it's a boy"!  Come on referral, come on referral!

Monday, December 20, 2010

411 on what's to come ...



So now that our paperwork is in Ethiopia, many have asked what's next.  Great question and honestly ... we don't have the full story ... only the Lord knows what's really next.
We have an idea of the sequence of events but have NOOOO CLUE when they will be.  But this is what we know so maybe this will give you some idea of "what's next".

First, we wait now for a "referral".  This is the information of WHO Levi is ... who our agency and ultimately, who the Lord has prepared as our son.  The referral will come with "The call".  That's the moment we see the area code 703 on our caller ID and scream with joy in the anticipation that it just could be our family coordinator on the other end with all that great information.
Once that call arrives, we will receive all of Levi's medical information and background information that our agency has.  We will also receive PHOTOS to drool over.  The hardest part is that we won't be able to share those photos here just yet ... that will come later, but not at first.
Once we have received and accepted a referral, the timing and steps look something like this:
1.)  8-16 weeks after that referral, we will go to "Court" where we will be in front of a judge petitioning to adopt Levi.  YES, this will mean we will travel and we will get to MEET our son.  We pray (and you can begin now praying) that we pass Court the first time.  Many many families do not.  Often the Ministry of Woman's Affairs (MOWA) is missing important documents etc. and so a family will "Fail" court.  This doesn't mean they don't get to adopt that child ... but it does mean that more work, more steps must be completed to make that child legally adoptable.  Once we pass court we get to show the world who Levi is ... not until the moment we pass court and he becomes legally ours can we share here his picture, real name and birth date - UGH .... that's a big bummer!  Oh and if we failed court, they would have to get us a new court date.  Doug and I would not have to be there for subsequent court dates, just the first.  Also, when we leave the country, whether we pass or fail, we don't get to bring Levi home.  OH MY ... can you pray over that goodbye!
2.)  Once we pass court, our agency will work to secure an embassy date.  It takes about 2-4 weeks for them to secure that and so typically, a family will travel back for the embassy date 4-6 weeks after court to bring home their child.  Praying FOUR!!  Yes, this is trip #2.
On this trip, Canyon and Dakota will go with us.  This is the trip that Doug and I, Canyon and Dakota will get to bring Levi HOME forever!  (I think I hear angels singing!!)

We have also been told that on some occasions, after court, some families have had their file go under "investigation".  This would greatly delay the time between court and embassy ... and the day we get to be a forever family.  If that happened, it would be 10-12 weeks after that court until we traveled back.  That could be a LOOONG and emotionally hard couple of months so pray with me against that!  I hope you saw that really big ... pray for passing court and no delays or "investigations" needed.

We also recently clarified with our family coordinator our age range.  We are "approved" for a child 3-5 years old according to our I-171 (the letter we need to bring Levi home per Homeland Security), however, we are requesting a child 36-48 months.  Basically, a child that is 3 and just barely 4.  We made that clarification after realizing that saying 3-4 could very easily bring us a referral of a child that was at the end of the 4 year spectrum ... say, 4 years 11 months, closer to five.  If this happened, that could make Maliah and Levi VERY close in age and we felt pretty certain that we wanted to keep our "birth order" and let Maliah be a big sister.  We feel like this will be important for her and honestly, our social worker really advised that ... and we totally respect her experience and advice!  SO, we made that clarification just recently.

SO ... now we just wait.  We have NOOO clue how long we will wait for that call.  In a recent conference call with Ethiopia families, they said that an infant girl was a 7-11 month wait, an infant boy was 4-6 month wait and then said "a family seeking an older child or sibling group has no trend history, but we do know it is typically less than infant boy".  That's us ... the no trend family.
They also said that families seeking infants would receive an "On deck" e-mail about 1-3 months before they could expect the call.  They followed up by saying "families seeking older children may never receive that e-mail and will just receive a call".

HAHA .. so a girl who loves to have control has NOOOONE!  Yep, in adoption, you just have to totally let go!  I am certain that's why the Lord has called me here TWICE ... I must still need practice.  He also knows I loooove surprises and well, I am certain that one day when the phone rings unexpectedly and it is news of a son, with NO warning ... that's about the best surprise you can get!

That's the 411 on what we know now.
We do know we are still saving and selling those T-shirts and coffee.  We also were blessed beyond measure by an awesome gift that paid our expenses at the time we had to send off our Dossier ($7,200) which is WILD!  With that .. we DO KNOW that the Lord totally has this whole adoption covered.  He has already blown us away and every day on this journey is like Christmas ... just not sure what gift we'll unwrap next ... or well ... maybe ... the best one ... the face of our son!!

Speaking of Christmas,  Have an awesome one!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

You've come a long way, baby!

What a trip!  Our Dossier has finally arrived and has been "Delivered".   We now just wait, wait, wait and pray pray pray for what the Lord has in store next!


Dec 15, 2010 15:40
Delivered
KIRKOS SUB-CITY, ADDIS ABABA ET
Dec 15, 2010 10:19
At local FedEx facility
ADDIS ABABA ET
Dec 15, 2010 10:10
In transit
ADDIS ABABA ET
Package available for clearance
Dec 15, 2010 10:10
Int'l shipment release
ADDIS ABABA ET
Dec 14, 2010 16:50
At local FedEx facility
DUBAI AE
Dec 14, 2010 03:55
In transit
PARIS FR
Dec 14, 2010 03:55
In transit
PARIS FR
Dec 14, 2010 02:53
Departed FedEx location
PARIS FR
Dec 13, 2010 22:35
Departed FedEx location
PARIS FR
Dec 13, 2010 21:49
Arrived at FedEx location
PARIS FR
Dec 12, 2010 04:35
At local FedEx facility
PARIS FR
Dec 11, 2010 17:20
Arrived at FedEx location
PARIS FR
Dec 11, 2010 04:28
Departed FedEx location
NEWARK, NJ
Dec 10, 2010 13:38
In transit
NEWARK, NJ
Dec 10, 2010 09:23
Departed FedEx location
NEWARK, NJ
Dec 10, 2010 07:00
Arrived at FedEx location
NEWARK, NJ
Dec 9, 2010 21:55
Left FedEx origin facility
HERNDON, VA
Dec 9, 2010 16:09
Picked up
HERNDON, VA
Dec 9, 2010 15:57
Shipment information sent to FedEx

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In the words of Dori ...

"just keep tracking, tracking tracking ... just keep tracking, tracking, tracking.

Our Dossier left last Friday.  It's now Tuesday and it has officially made it to Dubai.  Indeed ... Africa is a loooooonnnnng journey!  I wonder how much we'll enjoy that plane ride ... 6 times!!  (2 of those just me for my mission trip).

Right now it is here

BUT .... on a positive note, I can now see Africa in the horizon.                







Saturday, December 11, 2010

DTE!!!

I've been out of town since Thursday so I haven't been able to update my blog.  We were in the airport when Doug received an e-mail on his cell from our family coordinator and part of it said this:


"Your dossier will be sent to Ethiopia via FedEx later today. If you would like to track your dossier’s trip to Ethiopia, the package’s tracking number is  -------------.  Congratulations and thank you for all of your hard work!"

Of course, it had an actual tracking number and as of right now (Saturday night), it's made it to Paris and is "In transit".  I have now become the FedEx stalker.  

SUPER EXCITED that we officially have joined the ranks of my friends on the yahoo group that get to write a "DTE" date behind their name.  WHOO HOOO!  We are another BIG step closer to our son!

Signing off,
Cristie 
DTE 12/9/10 ...aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh, that felt GOOOOD!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Accusation reveals Revelation

My passion, my heart is this; adoption and orphan care!  As simple as that may be to read, the reality is, it is anything but simple.
Most recently, it became even more clear to me that saying "yes" is hard ... really hard!

Recently, I shared a video here on my blog.  It was one that hit me right between the eyes.  I couldn't stop thinking about what Lundy had said ... the passion in which he said it, the reality in which he spoke it.   Each day I found myself coming back to it ... hearing him say  ... God responded, "Hunter is mine"! It all rang so loud.  I wanted everyone I knew to watch it!  I wondered ... would it effect them the same way?  Was I crazy?  Surely, they would be affected the way I would.

I shared the video with a group of people I love.  I shared with them my passion, my heart towards seeing the American Church take hold of the Lord's commandment to care for the orphan and widow.  I shared that the reality is, that many believers still don't see these things through the lens of our Father.  It breaks my heart but even greater than mine ... it breaks his.  I shared it all as a prayer that as we move into 2011, that the Lord would continue to awaken our community, inside and outside the walls of our church, or any church for that matter to what the Lord says is "pure and undefiled religion" (James 1:27).  I shared it with a group of people who knew me well ... a group of people who have sat with me across the living room, next to me on the couch and listened as we have shared small pieces of our story and our hearts.

To say the response I received back surprised me is an understatement ...

I received back a rather hateful reply to my thoughts and to my request to watch the video below by one of my friends.  My words were taken out of context and the person receiving them accused me of belittling and preaching down to him.  His e-mail continued with a statement that took me so off guard.  He said that I spoke as if "only I had received great revelations from God".  As I read those words, my world seemed to stop.  I can't explain the hurt that I felt in those moments and couldn't understand why someone who knew me so well would believe that my e-mail asking them to watch the video and pray with me for believers to join together for the cause of the fatherless could be taken with such intent.  I sobbed .... a sloppy, ugly-cry, sob!

I have sat in those words for some time now.  Honestly, I couldn't even understand why the hurt seemed so deep.  But as I have just listened to the voice of my father ... and rejected the voice of the accuser ... I have received a few revelations.

First, I can only assume that the person whom replied to me in such a way is looking through lenses of his own wounds and not through the lens of truth.  I say that because I have been reassured over and over by others who were on the same e-mail that they didn't at all receive my e-mail with that intent and clearly saw my prayer and e-mail for what it was.  If this is the correct assumption, then the reality is, the enemy who has set out to put a wedge in group I love was successful!  He used brokenness and accusations to assault and offend!  I reject that ... in the name of Jesus, I reject his plans!  I also pray that each of us would see how quickly the enemy can use our insecurities and our wounds as a weapon to divide the Kingdom.

Second, there was also somewhat of a realization that perhaps even after spending a great deal of time with someone, they can come away with still not knowing you.  The realization that this friend would think I would have such malice intent in my e-mail makes me wonder if he truly knows my heart.  If he did, then I don't believe the enemy could have so quickly arrested his thoughts towards me.  Maybe he could ... but I still wonder if sometimes when we believe we know someone or they "know us", we don't.   This burdens me ... after such a lengthy, consistent time ... we can still hide behind our veils.

The greatest revelation came with the deepest wound, however,  The greatest revelation came with the words "you believe that only you have had a great revelation from God".   You see, I first took that remark with great offense.  I would in no way tell someone that I had great revelations .. and they didn't.  I saw his words as a dagger, but then as I began to sift those words through my heart, I realized that the greater wound came to the Father himself .. the Father who indeed speaks to me.   Indeed, the Lord has given me great revelations.  He has entrusted me into a place that honestly ... is nothing glorious ... at least not of my Glory!!  Let me explain.

In 2002, the Lord began to plant the seed of adoption in our hearts.  We began to see a vision of a child with almond eyes and black hair.  The vision didn't make sense but we followed and walked through it.  It wasn't an easy journey ... but one filled with some of the most sobering and heart wrenching revelations about myself.  During the journey the Lord had so much to teach me about my heart and honestly, some moments were ugly!  We set out intending to adopt the child the Lord placed in those visions, however, little did we know that the bigger blessing .. or perhaps burden, would be coming away with new eyes and his heart for the fatherless!  Before we adopted, I was much like those that I pray for .. those whose eyes and hearts haven't been arrested for the orphan.  I didn't know the reality of the world ... the reality of so many orphans.  I didn't know or understand the life that 147 million lived.  I didn't even know that their could be so many fatherless.  Most of all ... I didn't know my father's heart for them and I didn't understand that my hands, and my feet were a part of his plan for their hope and future.  I pray for  ... who I once was!   Not in a judging and condemning way, but instead from a place of having once stood with them.    I understand just not knowing.

But in 2006, the day the Lord placed a child in my arms he gave me a revelation.  I looked into a child's eyes and realized that had he not asked and had I not said yes, she could still be an orphan.  In the moments that I first held Maliah, the Spirit of Adoption was birthed in me.  God gave me great revelation ... he allowed me to feel just an inkling what he must have felt the day he adopted me.  I left with his heart.  I went to China to bring home a daughter and came home with so much more than that!  Now, each day I get to watch a child grow and I get to love her for no other reason than the Lord picked me ... a wretched sinner ... to be his hands to hold her, his voice to speak to her, and more importantly, his heart to help carry the burden of her brokenness.

For 4 years since, the Lord has continued to bring me more and more revelations.  I receive e-mails and lengthy lists of children on waiting lists ... children's whose files will go back to the Center of Affairs they came from if someone doesn't step forward to adopt them.  I read through their names ... recently ... 12 of them and wonder if maybe, just maybe, their mine ... or someone's I know.  I lay in bed at night and wonder what more I can do.  I work with ministry's I love as an outlet of doing something more.  You see, the Lord arrested my heart and there is nothing Glorious about it.  In fact, the reality of it is that it's overwhelming and ugly.   I can't get the faces of children out of my head.  I can't set aside what I have seen and what I know.  It often keeps me awake at night.  It often leaves me in tears.  It often makes me question every thing I buy or do.  Could I be doing more ... am I doing enough?  I feel like someone set the house on fire and I'm running around trying to get my neighbors to help put it out.  Some of them are grabbing water and helping ... but some aren't home.  I so need their help and can't wait for them to get home!  The more throwing water at the fire, the more we can get it under control ... or so it feels.

The Lord also gave me (us) another great revelation recently.  He showed me a vision of a child with black skin.  He then used my 10 year old son to confirm that that child was in Ethiopia.  In the words of my son, "he has a brother".  We wait now to know who he is.  We wait now to travel and see the place of his birth.  We wait now and wonder who is caring for him.  We pray he is without disease.  We pray he is being fed.  We pray that the days that he spent or spends without a family doesn't leave him so broken that our love won't mend his heart.  We trust that the Lord will do the mending and know the reality of how hard the road ahead might be.
This revelation doesn't come as one of glory to myself either.  In reality, I'm scared to death.  I have no clue how the Lord will equip me to care for four children.  I'm scared to death about bringing home an older child and what the attachment and issues might mean.  I am burdened every day I think of him and know he's out there ... without me.  But just as I look into the eyes of my Maliah I know ... what if I said "No", I'd miss out on HIM and all he has to reveal to me and through me on this journey!  The Lord gave me a revelation that he had a son for me ... we are following ... and not for our glory but for HIS!

This friend accused me of receiving some great revelation of God.  He accused me of thinking more highly of myself for that.  I suppose if he asked again, I'd have to answer him this.  Yes, I do believe I have received a great revelation God.  No, I don't believe that others haven't received the same.  In fact, I have so many amazing friends I've met along the way that share in the burdens, in the joys and in the journey of this walk.  I know so many ... ones even reading this right now who carry the same weight I feel.  No, I don't think nor would never assume that one must adopt in order to receive his heart ... but I do know that for me, it's the place and the journey that gave me his eyes and his heart.  And yes, I know many many who fight and defend the cause of the Fatherless and have never adopted.  I know many many who have grabbed the fire house and are yelling as loud as I am ... The house is on fire!

I would also say to my friend that I forgive his remarks ... but I hope he isn't offended when I say  "I have received a Great Revelation from God ... one you can never take away .... one that has made me and molded me into who I am, one in which I will never apologize for".

Special Delivery!

Whoo hoo!  We sent off our mountain of paperwork late yesterday to AWAA.  We're closing in on a DTE date (Date To Ethiopia).  AWAA will translate and authenticate our documents per the Ethiopian Embassy before they ship it all off to Ethiopia.  That will surely be a happy day!  I am always so nervous when I put something of such value in the mail so I tracked the package and it is confirmed ... it has arrived!  Praying it through review and all the steps in between the office and Ethiopia now.


Status:DELIVERED
Last Scan:12/7/2010 10:03:00 AM DELIVERED MC LEAN, VA US
Delivered To:MC LEAN, VA US
Delivery Date:Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Delivery Time:10:03 AM

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Must watch!

This video just about says it all.  I don't think I could possibly say it better.   It left me speechless ... and if you know me, that doesn't happen very often

"GO GET HIM" he says!  God Responds "That's my Hudson (Levi)"!

We have a son a 1/2 a world away.  The reality is, he's just one of 6 million in that country.  I'm doing all I can to get to him ... and resting in God's response "That's my Levi".  But what about the others?  What about the rest of the 147 million orphans?  Is someone chasing after them like HE chases after you?

GO GET THEM!
(pause the music by scrolling to the bottom and hitting the "Pause")

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Simply perfect!

O.K. so a while ago I mentioned the photo pages we had to complete for our Dossier.  Finding the "perfect" pictures seemed to be a more arduous task than one might have expected.  I posted on a previous post, "picture perfect" , that I was sure that the pictures they were asking for were definitely not the pictures I had captured through my lens.
BUT ... to my surprise, I was able to round up a few pictures and get the job done.  The pages and the pictures are far from perfect.  As I look at them,  I realize these are the ones that will be staring back at whomever is tasked with matching our family with our precious Levi.  It's a little overwhelming to think that someone will read through our Home Study and peruse through these small four pages of photos and come up with what they believe is a son who will be the "perfect" fit for our family.
I am reminded with a great sense of peace, however, that none of that will matter.  The Lord knows already who our Levi is.  He doesn't need my imperfect photo pages, a picture of the inside of our imperfect home, pictures of us doing "Family activities" or formal pictures to make that perfect match.  And indeed, though our Levi will be as far from perfect as these pages are  ... he will certainly be perfectly placed in our home by HIM!

Perfection!

So, check!  Photo pages are DONE!







Monday, November 29, 2010

The T's are super cute!

The Africa T's we are selling are super cute!  Here's a few pictures of some of my favorite people adorning theirs.  Don't miss out on getting yours.  They are limited to what we have in stock.  

Canyon ... proud of his "Levi" T

Granny and PiPa wearing their's to our local "Faithfest" Saturday.  

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

New Fundraiser T-shirts!

Hey friends!

Just in time for Black Friday ... our new Africa Fundraiser T-shirts.   We have ordered these shirts in various sizes but once that size is out then it's gone .. so don't wait!
They are really cute.  The ladies fit seems to run small to me.  I fit perfectly in the small but if I wanted it a little looser, I'd size up by one.  The mens is a regular fit.  The ladies small would work great on a little bit older girl too.
To order, click the "add to cart" to your left.  They are 20$ each with 2$ shipping total ... no matter how many you buy.

Remember, when you purchase one ... your name will go on our puzzle for Levi.

I need to get some better pictures of them ... but didn't want to wait to get them loaded.  I'll come back to it again.

Here's for now,




Monday, November 22, 2010

Sometimes ... we don't know the whole story!!

Seriously good stuff!

O.K. so back in July, Doug and I signed up for the mission trip to Ethiopia for this next February through Visiting Orphans.  Little did we know when we paid our deposit, the Lord wasn't just wanting us to visit the orphans, but he had a child in mind for our home.  Just shortly after, Doug confessed knowing that we were being called there to adopt.  Quickly the paper chase began.

As we have worked on the paper work, the reality of the needed expense to complete the adoption began to loom like a cloud over our head.  I began to put together fundraisers and watch as the Lord began to bless us with funds through our bake sale, garage sale, T-shirts and coffee.  Still ... simply getting Levi home would take all we had and the reality of an extra $6,100 for us (combined) to go on the mission trip in February became grim.

This past week I sent our good friend and the Executive Director of VO a personal e-mail letting her know that with certainty, there was no way we could send Doug on the trip.  If all goes well, we hope that in late spring and early summer we will be making two trips there to bring home Levi.  As my precious hubby works to run two companies, an extra 10 days away and that expense was no longer a viable option.  In the e-mail I asked when the latest time was I could remove myself from the team.  Although in my heart, I have just known that the Lord had something for me on this trip ...  it would take a miracle to provide the funds needed.
She replied and encouraged me that there would be many trips to come.  Doug and I are on the Board of Directors and our passion for Visiting Orphans goes far beyond one 10 day trip but that very soon they'd begin booking flights.

Two days later, an e-mail arrived from our team leader extraordinaire letting us know that Amanda was settling in on our flights.  Soon, she'd be confirming those.  With that confirmation would come expense and so I knew that the Lord was telling me we had to decide.  Through my tears I sent her an e-mail removing myself from the team.  This is just a small portion of what I wrote:

After your e-mail and much prayer, I think I should pull myself off the February team.  At this point, getting Levi home will take all the fundraising we can muster.  I know he has a plan for me to be there on a team one day soon.  I am indeed looking forward to many trips with VO.  I have such a huge praise in this process though.  If it weren't for this trip and me asking Doug to go ... which spurred him to find himself feeling led ... who knows if we'd be on this journey yet.  I think it gave Doug a long hard look at what it means to step out.  While he wanted to serve, his heart was saying all along he had a son ... after he said "yes" to going ... the Lord took his YES and ran with it!  I don't get to go to Ethiopia for 10 days .... but I get to bring Ethiopia home with me for a lifetime.


I closed my computer and went back in the living room.  Doug was sitting at the kitchen table working on his laptop.  As I went back to folding laundry, I looked up at him and through my tears confessed "I just pulled myself from the team ... I wanted to go so badly".  


BUT ... sometimes, we don't know all of God's story for us.  


Little did I know ... the Lord had made a way for me.  Little did I know, my name was secure on that team.  
Little did I know ... Doug turned right around and sent Amanda an e-mail telling her I was indeed going to be on that trip.  Little did I know ... I was about to receive THE MOST AWESOME CHRISTMAS GIFT!    "Cristie just let me know she emailed you to take her name of the list for the mission trip (she was quite upset).  I am emailing you because it is her Christmas present that she is getting to go...SO PLEASE DON'T TAKE HER NAME OF THE LIST.  Her parents and I were letting her know this weekend because she wasn't going to take her name off the list until next week."
The next day my parents arrived.  I wasn't expecting their visit, however, it's not uncommon for them to drop in and see the kids.  Mom was bringing over a pot I'd need to cook green beans for 35.  We visited and then my Mom handed me a red envelope.  She said they had found it for me and wanted me to have it.  No idea what was inside, I casually opened the card to find these words:
"Merry Christmas!!  This coupon is good for one Mission trip to Ethiopia in February, baby sitting included".  On the card they wrote "We hope you enjoy this gift, we will!  You better bring lots of pictures!  God's Blessings, Mom and Dad".


You'd think I would have lost it in tears.  I didn't.  Surprise!  I think I was more in shock that I was really going.  I think the reality is, that in my head I had thought for some time that the possibility was impossible and so I had mentally checked myself out of the trip.  In that moment ... my head filled with "to do's" and my heart filled with so much gratitude that I had no clue how to process it all.  


So there you go!  I seriously just received the most amazing gift.  I am going to Ethiopia on one of the most amazing teams in February!  I will get to hold and love sweet children.  I get to be the hands of Jesus to them.  I will get to see the land of our son's birth ... I will get to see where he is!  I will get to be a part of what I have longed to be a part of for 3 years.  I am headed to Ethiopia and all the praise goes to the Lord for making the way ... and my parents who are the most amazing vessel for it to happen!


Now .. you can start praying.  I have much to prepare and my head is swimming in what it will mean for my children for me to be gone for 10 days.  Pray for Doug.  He'll be a single Dad for 10 days.. though he will be blessed to have the most amazing grandparents to see him through it.  



Monday, November 15, 2010

Several thousand reasons ...





"Someday they will ask, why do you do what you do"?  Those are the words that came from our pastor's mouth yesterday during his message.  "You can't really know me, unless you know HIM", he said.  He went on to explain that unless you know Jesus, you won't really understand or know our pastor.  Why?  Simple.  To understand the way he thinks, reasons and does the things he does then you must know first the one who is in him ... moving him to do those things.  Without knowing Jesus, you won't fully understand what motivates our pastors actions and any other believers for that matter.  He also said that when asked about his faith, he always first shared the two greatest commandments 1.) Love God 2.) Love Others.   If you can share that, then many will ask the how and then you can share about Jesus who is in us, and doing it through us.
He shared that his greatest desire one day was not that his children would say "Wow, my Dad's whole world was us" but rather "My Dad's whole world was HIM ... Jesus and loving him".
When they are little, children will simply follow and do what their parents do.  They don't ask, they simply receive and believe.  It is when they begin to grow older and into those teen years that they begin to ask for themselves "why do my parents do what they do"?

Leaning over to Doug I said "Why do my parents always talk about orphans and adoption"?   Giggling, Doug replied, "Why does my family look like the nations"?

So what does this all have to do with our journey to Levi?  Well, several thousand reasons!
You see, we have pondered and thrown out over and over the thought of taking Canyon, our oldest son on one of the trips to Ethiopia with us.  He's 10, wise beyond his years, and a pretty easy going kid.  It seemed something that we could "handle", taking him on a 16 plus hour flight and into a place with unspeakable poverty but, Dakota, our 8 year old, to be honest ... not so much.  She's super wise and super bright but "adaptable" and "easy going" would not be words I'd use to describe her.  The thought of taking her half way around the world with us was, well, out of the question ... until yesterday.

As Scott shared I realized that one day my children will ask "Why do you spend so much time bringing awareness to the orphans ... why do you do what you do"?  I realized that to truly understand why we do it ... the best place to begin (besides knowing Jesus!!), is to see it and live it!  James 1:27 says that "pure religion is to visit the orphan in their distress".  He tells us to "visit them" or in Hebrew as it means, "to literally care for their needs".


There is nothing more that I want than my children to grow up serving the Lord, wherever that may lead or go.  My perspective for my "Successful" parenting badge has changed so much since they were born. I used this think if my kids went to college, got married, gave me grandchildren and were "successful" in their jobs and life then I could say I had done a good job.  Well, that perspective has taken a major shift.  I care less about college (though we still give it much value and encourage our kids there), and less about anything this life has to offer.  No, now there would be no greater joy and accomplishment as a Mommy then to raise up children who love Jesus so much that they simply ooze Jesus wherever they go ... in whatever they are doing. 
So well, frankly, I pray that taking my two oldest kids to Ethiopia will open their eyes to the fatherless and give them HIS heart for the orphan.  
And yes, I pray that one day when they are older and they ask "why do they do what they do ... why do we care for the orphans" that they will be able to remember seeing Jesus on the streets of Ethiopia and in the eyes of the fatherless they met.  He says to visit them because I believe when we do, we receive his heart for them!  Next to loving Jesus, that is my greatest prayer for my kids!


SO .. if I want my kids to grow up living it, I have to give them opportunity to do it, see it and believe it!  What better way than giving them the opportunity to be a part of it?

Indeed, we have several thousand reasons (ie .. dollars) to consider.  As we save our penny's and fundraise, we're asking the Lord to confirm this journey for them too.  Would you help us pray that over?
And if you are reading this and have brought your own children on such trips, I'd love to hear from you any insight you can share.  They both want to go on the second trip ... the one where Levi would come home.  3 kids on flights home sounds horrifying, but then again, won't Levi be adored and excited to meet his older brother and sister and share his journey home with them!  Yes,  I'm typing through my tears ... I could rest in that thought all day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Oh Happy Day!


Oh what a glorious day!  I hadn't gotten to check the mail yesterday because I was so busy preparing for an adoption seminar last night so this afternoon, I wondered down to the mailbox not expecting anything but bills!
To my glorious surprise was our long awaited appointment from Homeland Security for our "biometrics" appointment (fingerprints).  This appointment is the last thing that USCIS will (hopefully) need from us before they provide the I-171 saying we can indeed bring an orphan into this country.  In layman's terms ... this is our country's o.k. for Levi to pass through Immigration upon our arrival into the states.

So, to answer the "how long" question:  We hope by Christmas that our paperwork will be sent to Ethiopia.  From there, it is all God ... our leg of the journey ... our sweat equity in paper chasing is done. We then just wait for his splendor when they officially match us to Levi.  When they do, we'll get a call from our agency who will then send us his medical information and his pictures.  From there, we wait on things such as a court appointment in Ethiopia (travel trip #1 - provided we "pass court", he then becomes legally OURS).    We then have to come home without our little man (yes, you can start praying now) and await an "Embassy Appointment" (travel trip #2).  On this trip, we will be forever united with our son.  On this trip ... he is COMING HOME!   How long will all this take? HMMM ... that's a million dollar question.  We hope that by late spring/early summer our home has two additional little feet running around but in the end, only the Lord knows the timing and who Levi is so we wait patiently and expectantly for that day!

Today, we celebrate ... we're one step closer!
 
© Lead us to Levi

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