Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Everyone plays as part!

So we are knee deep in the paper chase and I will say, this time I am much further along one month in than I was with Maliah. Perhaps that's promising ... I have a personal goal of beating my 7 month finish line DTC (Date to China) mark. I'm in a race against myself.

As we chase all these papers, doctors visits, family reference letters, background checks, home studies, inspections and more, I am reminded that everyone gets to play a part in our adoption - whether they like it or not. Proof ... Even the dog got to go have her vaccinations updated and her "Doctors Letter" done. At 12 years old (which that makes her like 90 in dog years), Ally was in for a real surprise when we loaded her in the back of the Tahoe for a day "out".

Another example of everyone playing a part is much more heart tugging than the previous. As some of you may know, international adoption is not a cheap process. Imagine going to a new car dealership and picking out a beautiful, fully loaded new vehicle. That price would equate our adoption only no one is giving us a 5 year 0% financing note ... nor would we apply for it. Which leads me to the question ... would they re-possess my child? Side note, sorry!

The biggest hurdle to many families adoptions is the finances. Where in the world does any family come up with 30-35K in such a short time? Our family are already penny pinchers. We live by Dave Ramsey philosophies, only use cash, don't live in a luxurious home, we live comfortable and simply, have no car payments and no debt ... and STILL coming up with that extra is only something the Lord could do.
In the past 3 years, as an Associate for America World, I have answered this question at many a seminar ... "how do you afford this"? and I have said over and over "The Lord funds what he favors". I believe it ... I've seen him do it over and over. BUT, I won't lie though, it is scary and daunting going into this. I won't lie that on many nights I have laid there wondering the "how's".
THEN ... the Lord shows up in even little ways and reminds me he has this in his hands. One day, he showed up in the face of my children. It went like this ...

Canyon came into my bedroom holding his "give" jar. He looked up at me and said "Momma, I want to give all my "give" money to you so we can bring home Levi. A few minutes later, in walked Dakota holding her jar. "Momma, I want all my money to go to Levi ... to help bring him home". My eyes filled with tears. Now, on principle, yes, I know our "Give" jars are our kids tithe off the money they receive from allowance and gifts and should go to our church. Just like we tithe 10% or more every month, we ask them to do the same. Because we're adopting it most definitely does not mean we get to keep our tithe for the adoption. In fact, on the contrary, we are more challenged as we write that check each month knowing how much we have to "Save" and yet ... there may be nothing left to "Save" if we do. That's o.k. It's simple obedience and the Lord only asks us to obey. Besides, we do know the Lord provided all of it, and we get to keep 90% which really ... that's a pretty good return!

I was touched though that my kids wanted to be a part of the process. They've taken this adoption to heart. This isn't just Doug and I's adoption but most definitely and even more so ... there's! Dakota has said numerous times that she wants to set up a "bake sale" stand on our corner and sell cookies. Of course, when she asked how much we had to save, I honestly told her about how much and her eyes about popped out of her head when she exclaimed "Those cookies better be good". HAHA.

The end of the story is, my kids have taken a jar of mine and have created a "Save for Levi" jar. They have decided that they would help by putting in loose change they find, a part of allowances and whatever they can to play a part. I love this! Levi, you are SO LOVED already!

And yes, if your in the area, Dakota will soon be holding her very own "Lead us to Levi" baking fundraisers. Get ready for some GOOOOOD cookies!

To add, be on the lookout for two family fundraisers we will be doing for sure. First will be with the coffee company that my husbands helps operate, Ground to Cup. We will be selling coffee online and a portion of each of your purchase will go back to our adoption. YAY ... you get coffee and I get a child. HA The second will be a T-shirt fundraiser. Once again, a portion will go back to help us bring home Levi.
See, I told you everyone would get to play a part. Even YOU can help in some way!

So, we press on and I run the paper chase race. We continue to pinch our pennies, pray the Lord provides, listen to his leading and then watch him show us the "HOW'S".

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You'll have the best teachers!

Dear Levi,

Tonight as we sat around in the living room, you came up again in our conversation. Your brother and sisters are so excited about you. They asked tonight when we'd get to see your picture. I told them only the Lord knew that timing, but that you were somewhere in Ethiopia I was sure. We're busily working on our paperwork and it is fun to imagine what it will be like the first time we see your picture and sweet face. Dakota said she imagines what you'll look like sometimes too. She said "he'll have curly hair". Canyon said he thought you'd have really short hair and big brown eyes. He said your skin was medium dark.

The conversation then turned to how scared you would be when you first came home. Daddy asked the kids if they'd be scared if someone they didn't know came and took them from the only place they knew, got on a big airplane for a long time and arrived in a whole new country - Africa. He explained, imagine when they got there, they'd look different than most everyone else ... their skin would be white while their new families was black. He told them that they'd speak a different language, play different games, eat different kinds of food, they would smell different, their city would look different and more. That hit home with your brother. He said he'd be really scared and he wanted to pray for you. He was sure at first you'd be quiet. Daddy said you would definitely probably be scared when you got home. He told them that while we were preparing our home and hearts for you, that you may be very unaware that someday you'd be in our home. Levi, my prayer is that while we are preparing here ... that the Lord is preparing you there. The Lord who created you knows just what day you'll be placed in our arms. I'm asking him even now to begin to prepare your little heart for that day!

Canyon said he wanted to teach you all about sports. He said he'd show you what a bat was, how to hit a baseball. Dakota said she would teach you how to speak english. Little Maliah piped in and said "Oh Mommy, you know Levi, I'm gonna teach him how to color. I'll show him on my page, and then I'll give him a crayon and say now it's your turn to try". She also said she'd teach you the letters and the sounds they make since now she has that mastered.

Levi, your going to have the best big brother and sisters. They can be a little crazy at times. As they were giggling away tonight and being so silly, I imagined what you might think when you first came home. I hope that you will jump in with them and be just as silly. Or, Levi, if you want, your Mommy would be happy to have you sit next to her on the couch, giggle while you watch them and just let me hold you while you "Get to know us".

Thinking of you tonight! In the middle of our family fun ... you were not far from our hearts!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Yes, we've named him Levi

Levi - meaning joined, to be fastened to, devote to, knotted.
I know, I know, we're barely paper pregnant and we have already named our son. Your probably wondering how that even happened and why the rush. I have had a few ask so I thought I'd take one opportunity to answer for all those wondering minds who want to know.

First, let me start by saying that I LOVE the name Levi and always have! I have a Canyon, and a Dakota ... how cute will be a "Levi" with those names?

Not reason enough though, I know. I do have more thought provoking reasons rest assured.

So here's the story. For years I have loved the name Levi. Once we began the adoption, names began to wonder around in my head. I'm the Mom that has to plan. I knew that we wouldn't make it long without a name for our son if I had my planners way. We decided on Canyon's name at about 4 months gestation. From the moment I heard it fall off the lips of one of our sweetest friends, we were in love with the name. I mean, listen to the way it sounds "Canyon NIcholas Martine". (By the way, if you don't know me then you might not know that Martine is pronounced "Martini ... like the drink) Dakota, well, that's another story. She was Avery until a month or two prior to delivery when the name Dakota was conceived. I remember during delivery my precious doctor saying "Come on Avery, we're ready to meet you". Quickly, through a contraction and a push, I had to correct her ... "Oh wait, I forgot to tell you, we changed her name ... she's not answering because her name is DAKOTA". Yes, I digress. But in the end, she is such a Dakota!

With Maliah, I was reading "The Lost Daughters of China" when the author was discussing their play group. As she talks about her most recent get together, she throws out a few names and then says the name "Maliah, the perfect mix of an eastern/western name". I loved it but didn't yet know what it meant which through my spiritual growth has become very important to me. I then began to do some research on the name Maliah. It means "Peaceful and Calm". Oh indeed, Lord, we were praying for peaceful and calm. Ironically, Maliah's Chinese Characters for her name "Xiao" meant dignified and gentle. So, I suppose that one day our little ones destiny will be peaceful, calm, dignified and gentle. She hasn't yet arrived at that (to which we are often reminded of by her big brother) ... but, well, we're all a work in progress. It's her destiny. Our peaceful, calm, dignified, and gentle Maliah. Those of you who know her ... STOP LAUGHING! :-)

So that leads us to "Levi".

The days following our "Family meeting" and deciding that we'd be pursuing a brother, I found that my children were calling him things like "Brother" (obviously), but also on a few occasions "it". WHAT? IT? Well, I should point out that "it" came from the four year old who is still solidifying her pronoun usage. In any event, my children's conversations were and are frequently about the newest Martine addition in the home. It seemed only fitting that the person we were discussing and praying for eac night was spoken with a name.
With that, we began to throw around names. We were driving at the time and Daddy wasn't even present actually. As we drove down the road names like "Hunter", "Elijah", "Isaiah" and "Smokey Mo" were tossed out ...

SCREEEEEECH ... did you say "Smokey Mo"?? Yep, I sure did. I told you, we were all involved ... even that crazy 4 year old who had just passed a local restaurant, "Smokey Mo's". O.K. so we weren't really considering EVERYONE'S input.

Then from the mouth of Canyon came "Levi" ... what about "Levi"?

My head about did a 180 degree turn. Man, I knew I loved that boy! YES ... LEVI! I love that name, Levi. His brilliant mind must have been reading my brilliant mind!

Of course, as I always do though, I came home and began to research the name Levi before we solidified our decision. Oh and well, I guess we did need to consult the Daddy too.

You may be asking why we'd consider changing Levi's name in the first place since he will no doubt have a name. First, we have full expectancy of keeping a portion of Levi's Ethiopian name. We definitely do not want to take away the rich history of his culture and people. HOWEVER, saying that, their are so many times in the bible that the Lord changed the name of his people. Why would he do that? Because he had changed their destiny! Indeed, the Lord also has a plan and a destiny for our Levi and so we feel a change of name with his change of destiny is appropriate.

I began to do some research and when I did, I loved what I thought I knew about the name "Levi" and the "Levites" from the bible. Here's a little that I took away;

After the children of Israel had left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, God called Moses up to Mount Sinai to receive the ten commandments and the pattern of the Tabernacle from God. While Moses was away, a critical problem of idolatry came among the children of Israel, who remained down on the Plain. The tribe of Levi showed itself to be definitely on the Lord's side at that time (Exodus 32:25-28). (Levi was the tribe to which both Moses and Aaron belonged.) As a result of their taking sides with the Lord, the tribe of Levi (the Levites) were selected to take care of the Tabernacle of the Testimony (Exodus 38:21).
As a whole, the Levites became responsible for "the service of the work of the Tent of Meeting", the Tabernacle (Numbers 4:3). The Hebrew word translated "service" also means warfare. Therefore their service in the Tabernacle was a figure of spiritual warfare; as with the golden calf incident (Exodus 32). The Levites were on the Lord's side! AMEN!

The Levitical tribe did not receive the same allotment of land as the other tribes did. Rather, as a tribe set apart wholly to serve the Lord, they depended wholly on the Lord as their inheritance, as their source. However, since all the land was Yahweh’s, and there was no limit to His possession, there was also no limit to the inheritance of the Levites. With Yahweh alone as their inheritance, all they had was His, and all of His was theirs. The Lord alone was their inheritance!

And lastly,
Similarly today, those called as Levitical worshippers are so fully given over to Him, totally devoting their lives as a living sacrifice of worship, so completely focussed on his glory and passionately pursuing his presence, that they also say, "The Lord is my inheritance. He alone is my all-in-all. ALL I need, all I am, and all I desire to be is found in Him! He alone is my source, my sufficiency, my everything!" They are consumed with one desire: to see Him lifted up, to give him glory, and to love him above anything or anyone else. Their passionate desire is for him, for His presence

So, indeed, as we pray for Levi, we pray that he is always on the Lord's side! We pray that as he grows and matures in his understanding of our Lord, that he would put no idols and nothing above his unending love for him! Our prayer is that Levi would always be on the Lord's side!
As well, just as the Levites inheritance was in the Lord, so is our Levi's. Though in an earthly sense he will be "knotted" to us and receive our earthly inheritance, we pray that his eternal perspective is that from the beginning of time, just like the Levites, the Lord set him apart to serve the Lord ... and that his inheritance is in HIM ALONE!
Our desire is that our Levi would passionately pursue the presence of our Lord and that ultimately, above anything else or anyone else, he would love and serve him!

So, Levi is the name of our given son! I know with great confidence that he will live into his name ... he is already Chosen and Set apart! Our Lord has a mighty destiny in store!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

He answered ...

I wanted to take a moment to address something that has been running around in my mind over the past few days. It began with a young, precious boy asking my son "do you guys just want more kids", when he told him he was going to have a brother ... that we were adopting again. I happened to be within ears shot of the conversation, and immediately, the response of this little guy began to stir my heart. I answered for Canyon in that moment with "No, it's not about wanting more kids", however, I wasn't sure why his innocent remark left me pondering and a little taken back.

I have meditated on that for a bit and really felt like the Lord had an answer for me. This sweet guy was just a child so his response was totally age appropriate, but I felt like I wanted to share with any others who have that same thought process, what he has shared with me.

No, the journey to Levi isn't about wanting more kids. In fact, my heart is full as is my home. The day Canyon was born, my desire to be called Mommy was fulfilled. I was a Mom ... I can't even explain the overwhelming fullness that rested in my heart. If the Lord never blessed me with another child, he had filled that desire.

The day Dakota was born, my desire to parent a beautiful little girl was fulfilled ... we officially could buy dresses, buy barbies, and think all things PINK! That longing to hold a daughter was fulfilled.

Then the Lord called us to Maliah. We prayed for two years about adopting Maliah. Battling in our heart back and forth if he was truly calling us on such a journey. Adoption was unknown, new, the road less traveled. It didn't make sense, frankly ... I could conceive. We wanted a third child. We didn't feel like our family was complete. Yes, I began to feel as though there was something missing in my heart .. was it not yet full? I guess in this young man's simple child language "We wanted more kids". We are certain that the Lord knows and knew from the beginning of time that Maliah would be a part of our family. He tells us in Psalm 139 that our days are numbered and that he knows every one of them before they have come to be. If this were the case, then he knew about Maliah long before we did and so the seed in my heart was placed there by HIM and that seed was HER. In any event, much of our adoption to Maliah was learning to walk in faith with him on a journey that well "didn't make sense".
When Maliah came home, our home felt FULL! As with every child, she filled a place in my heart that I didn't know needed filling. The Lord knew though ... I believe he knows my quiver and when it is full.

Very soon after Maliah came home our adoption agency that we were working with (and still do), began sending out information on the pending Ethiopia program. Immediately, my heart fluttered and I felt drawn to read everything I could on the program and the process.
I remember doing an adoption fair in January of that next year. Ethiopia was a brand new program. I was so excited to tell everyone about it ... wouldn't their hearts be drawn there as much as mine? Perhaps some were. Indeed, I watched families I adored (my Bestie's the Foote's) and others begin the journey. I watched as their children came home. Each time, I looked into the faces of their children and felt a tug.
Doug and I talked often of Ethiopia. I wanted to GO! Every time Visiting Orphans posted a mission trip ... I begged for him to send me. I never felt like the timing was right though and so I patiently waited on the Lord.
During those 3 years, we had a few ask us if we'd adopt again. Several times I stood next to my husband as he would say "We're always open if the Lord calls us to". But we never pursued it ... our home felt FULL ... and no, I didn't feel the need to have "more kids".
A few months back, Amanda with Visiting Orphans e-mailed to say that once again they were posting trips for the 2011 year. My heart was so excited. I waited several days and when she posted the trips, I saw one in February. Asking Doug if I could go ... he agreed "GO"! FINALLY I would see and experience Ethiopia. FINALLY I would hold precious children and serve the least of these. FINALLY! A few days went by and to my surprise, Doug came to me and felt like he wanted to go too. I bubbled in excitement. There would be NOTHING better than experiencing all I would with my best friend! But is that really what the Lord meant when he said "GO? Hmmm, we would soon learn that there was something more!

During the same time our conversations of adoption began to increase. Our children have even asked about it. Canyon has outright told us he wanted a brother. Opportunities have come our way. We searched the faces of beautiful children in Haiti on a list of children that needed homes. Looking into each of their eyes, my heart was burdened. I knew they needed homes ... but none of them were my child. You see, it wasn't simply about "having more kids" or an emotional response to a need I know exists ... for every orphan to have a home.
I don't think adoption is simply about "wanting more kids". I don't think the goal of caring for the orphan is simply adding them to my family out of an emotional response. If that were the case, then I wonder if my heart would fully be engaged. I think it would feel like simple obedience, which I know is a part of the process ... but often, it's the answer ... not the question.

I believe that the Lord knows who my child, who my SON is!
His calling us to Levi isn't of my own desire to have another child. On the contrary, every aspect of adding another child to our home frightens me. Can I really be the Mom of FOUR? Do I have what it takes? Can we afford it? Will I be able to provide for four the way I would like to? I have had to really pray through the fact that I know that to add another child means further laying down my own life. We are comfortable. We live comfortably in a nice home. We drive two paid for cars, live a life of no debt, stay within our means ... balance all eggs I guess. But the Lord has called us out of comfort and has asked us step into this journey with him.
I don't think it's because he simply wanted to fill my home with more kids ... I know this is what the Lord is calling us to ... because he has birthed and conceived in my heart a son. Yes, I have to choose to obey but the result of me not doing so isn't simply just not "adding another child" to my home. The result would be me missing out on a SON!

Do you understand what I am saying? I'm not certain that I truly have the ability to relay his heart and his word for me last night but as I lay in bed, his voice was so clear. It was such a comfort. I HEARD HIM!!!!!

I heard the Lord say clearly that this adoption or any adoption isn't an emotional response to when someone sees a need.
I believe in the scriptures as truth. I believe that the Lord has known Levi and every day set before him before one of them came to be. In believing that, I also was struck last night as I lay in bed that for THREE years now I have felt a tug and a tie to a country I have never seen or experienced. I have had a soft place in my heart for it's people.
Did you know that we put in for a son who is anywhere between 3 and 5? Do you think it's a coincidence that the Lord began to plant a seed in my heart THREE years ago? Do you think it's a coincidence that separately and independently, Doug and I both knew our child wasn't a baby but that our child was in the 3-5 age range. I don't. I believe that the Lord was conceiving and knitting together Levi, while at the same time ... birthing him in our hearts.

No, to the sweet child that asked such a simple question "Do you think you just need more kids"? We don't think we just need more kids. We need our SON! We are in pursuit of the child the Lord has birthed and conceived in our hearts ... not out of an emotional response to the need for an orphan to have a home, but out of the same response that would take place as if conception had literally taken place in my womb. We are pregnant ... right now, you can't even see my belly, but he's there!
The cells are growing and dividing and soon we'll hear the heart beat. We can't wait to feel him kick. I know the nights of endless sleep and discomfort will come. I can't wait for Labor and Delivery. I can't wait to study his little fingers and toes. I can't wait to learn his cries. I know it won't be easy. I know that delivery means sleepless nights. I also know it means learning a new normal around our home. BUT, we're ready, conception has taken place and there is no turning back now!

Levi, what I know, is that you are out there! My heart is engaged to it's fullest because I KNOW that you are somewhere in a place called Ethiopia. I entrust that the Lord is caring for your every need. I hope he whispers to you that we're coming!
Indeed, Levi ... your days have been numbered!!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Secret is OUT!


It's official ... we have signed our agreements and mailed them off to our amazing agency, America World, to bring home what our other 3 children have decided is ... a BROTHER!

We are beyond excited! SO much so, that our little munchkins spilled the beans before we even had a chance to tell my parents.
This past Sunday, we sat down with the kids to have a "Family Meeting". Our kids have expressed a great interest for some time to adopt again but we felt like they are old enough to be a part of the process, in every way. Coming out of a week of TbarM, they had just spent the week really looking into and understanding what Jesus meant when he said "Go and make Disciples of all nations". Daddy started off by telling them that we had been praying and that we felt like the the Lord was telling us to adopt again. Jesus said "GO and make disciples of all nations" and that we felt like Jesus was bringing some of those nations to us - first China, and now, Ethiopia.
Before we could even ask for a response or Doug could finish, their was an uproar from the peanut gallery. Cheers! Screams!
Saying they were thrilled is an understatement.
So, the next part of the conversation led to us saying that we hadn't heard with confirmation if we were going to have a brother or a sister but that we did know that we were being called to an older child ... somewhere between 3 and 5.
BROTHER, BROTHER, they began to shout! Um, Lord, was that my confirmation?

We swore our 3 little munchkins to secret and told them we wanted to put in our application and hear back from our agency before we shared with the grandparents and the rest of the world. HAHA ... are you laughing?
So, that was Sunday. I am proud to say they held it in for 4 (well maybe 3.5) days. Luckily, AWAA was SUPER quick to respond to our application. We submitted it online on Monday and on WEDNESDAY, the phone rang. Area code 703 ... the infamous and much anticipated number that all adopting families with AWAA love to see on that caller ID. Knowing that it is usually and always a full 10 days to hear back, I was sure I had neglected to complete something on the app. That would be embarassing, seeing as how we've done this before ... AND we are their Texas Associates. But, to my surprise, on the other end was the adorable and very loved, Amy Pearson. Amy was our family coordinator to bring home Maliah. I can still remember the referral call and her sweet voice on the other end "Cristie, are you ready to go to China", as she prepared to tell me all about the most beautiful, outgoing, and precious then 8 month old baby girl. Amy was incredible during our 23 month journey!
This time, however, Amy is the intake coordinator and so again her voice was greeted with excitement when she said they were super excited to see our app. come through and ... CONGRATULATIONS, you have been accepted into the Ethiopia program. YAY!! Let the paper chase begin!!

That same day Granny and PiPa had taken Dakota and Canyon for the afternoon. Dropping Dakota off at Chef's Camp, they headed to the Astrodome to watch the Cowboys practice with Canyon. Somewhere between the Subway that we all ate at, and Chef's Camp, 3 minutes down the road, the secret was spilled. If only I could have been a fly on the wall! To hear it told through their eyes and Granny and PiPa's is quite comical. Needless to say, once home that evening, Dakota admitted they spilled the beans. Granny and PiPa had still not said a thing ... sworn to secrecy by their yes, Grandchildren, after they spilled the secret themselves. We had a big laugh followed by lots of hugs and well, room planning for what will be our FOURTH blessing!

We are super excited, super nervous and SO READY! Throughout this journey, we hope to fill you in on the process, timeframe and the journey as we walk it out with the Lord on this blog.
We'll be doing some fundraising, some praying, rejoicing and yes ... traveling! We'd love for you to "Join us" in those things!
Your prayers and support are priceless!

With much anticipation ...
© Lead us to Levi

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