Saturday, November 22, 2014

1,000 days

Today is National Adoption Day. November is Orphan Awareness Month.

It all seems fitting, since this is the month that we hit the 1,000 day mark. November 6th marked 1,000 days since we announced we were adopting. 1,000 days of pursuing our daughter. 1,000 days of working, fighting, and waiting. 1,000 days of wishing she was home. And sadly - we still aren't even matched with a child.

I never wanted to 'celebrate' a day like this. I never dreamed when we began our adoption that we would have to wait this long! I have so many thoughts and feelings in my head and heart right now. Spending time in Thailand this month - and knowing our daughter is likely alive (and was probably very nearby) only made this benchmark even more poignant.

It's hard to find the words to say all I'm thinking or feeling. Luckily, Jen Hatmaker said them perfectly. (And Jandie Waggoner, a fellow Thailand adoptive momma put those words into this beautiful print!)




We WILL get you home baby girl. I don't care if it takes 1,000 more days or 10,000 more days - we will never stop working and fighting and waiting to bring you home. On National Adoption Day and Christmas Day and just a normal Tuesday - we will still be working and fighting and waiting for you.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sent

We've been in Thailand for almost a week, and I can't wait to share some of our pictures and stories with you all! But first - I wanted to share a couple of pictures from the weekend before we left.

We've been doing this type of work for 7 years, and done a lot of traveling, but I'm not sure that we've ever had a send off like this. First, some of our closest friends got together for a dessert, coffee, and prayer night. We got a chance to share some of our videos, talk about the specific work we'd be doing on this trip, and share some of our prayer requests. Then they all took turns praying for us (while I cried - because I'm emotional like that) and we ended by singing the Doxology. It was such a special time!


Thank you to Scotty and Stef (above) who hosted our prayer night!


Then, a couple of days later, our church shared one of our videos and took the time to pray over us at the end of both Sunday morning services. The elders led this time, and it was awesome to have our church family reach out their hands and pray a special covering over us. We also had the opportunity to set up a table and share more about our work with a lot of our church friends. We feel truly blessed to be a part of a "sending" church!


Of course, there are also the 2 churches in Arkansas (First United Methodist of Monticello) and Mississippi (Emmanuel Baptist Church) who sent us through prayer and by donating our travel funds, as well as dozens of other individuals who gave sacrificially so that we could go. We were so humbled to see the money we needed to travel come in so quickly. THANK YOU to all of our generous donors. You are "senders" too!

We have never felt so supported on a trip before. When we landed in Thailand, our travel day picture had more than 300 "likes" and 48 comments where people were encouraging us and praying for us. You may not think things like Facebook "likes" are important (and in the grand scheme of life - they aren't!) but to us it was a testament to the love and support we had covering us. We were blown away!

This work may seem exciting and fulfilling (and it is!) but at times it can also be really lonely and heavy. With this important trip ahead of us (and knowing we'd be traveling to some dangerous places) it really means the world to us to have this kind of covering. I believe there is a difference between going and being "sent". We have been praying for God to move in and through us in powerful ways this trip - and we believe that with this kind of prayer covering, we're going to see BIG things happen!

Thank you to all of you who helped "send" us, and to each of you who are covering us daily in prayer. You bless us more than you know!


"And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? 
As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”
 - Romans 10:15

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! 
As the Father sent me, so I am sending you.”
- John 20:2

"Declare his glory among the nations, 
his marvelous deeds among all peoples."
- Psalm 96:3



Saturday, September 27, 2014

We're headed to Asia!

I just realized today that those of you who aren't on social media probably haven't heard our great news! We're headed overseas!

Now before you get too excited - no, this is not for our adoption. This is a work trip, for our non-profit The Sound of Hope. My husband and I co-founded this non-profit in 2010, and we work full time to care for almost 200 orphans and vulnerable children in Thailand, Burma, India, and Swaziland.

We normally travel more frequently, but the past 2+ years we've been "stuck" in the US - partially due to a lack of travel funds, and partially because we really needed to finish all of our adoption paperwork before we left the country. But now it's done, and thanks to some very, very generous people we were able to buy our tickets!

We leave in 3 days (Sep 30th), so we are pretty much running around like crazy people right now - trying to finish up all of our packing and preparations before we go. We'll be gone for 47 days and we'll be working in 3 countries, 9 cities, and 5 Children's Homes! We are SO excited to be back with our precious kids overseas. We love these little ones so much, and it's been too long since we've been able to hug them and spend quality time with them. These children know that we help provide for their needs, but nothing says "I love you" to a child like spending time with them!


(Above) Ericka with the Asha House girls
(Below) Rusty with the Asha Mission boys


We have a lot of work to do while we're there. For those who may want to invest in this trip, we do have a few needs still. So many people have given so generously - and for that we are grateful! You can see from the list below that most of our needs have been met. We just have $600 to go to have our list completely checked off and our trip fully funded! If you'd like to donate, you can give online through this link.


I will do my best to post some blogs here while I'm overseas, but my main focus during any internet time will be keeping our Sound of Hope blog and social media up to date. We post a lot of "real time" updates (videos, pictures, and stories) - and we would LOVE to have you follow our journey! There are actually 5 ways you can follow us on this trip.


We hope you'll follow along and be a part of what we're doing around the world! 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Love Is Waiting

We just got confirmation this month that our dossier has been translated into Thai and received by the orphanage we'll be adopting from in Thailand. Our agency assured us it would get there, but it was still so good for this momma's heart to have it confirmed. And now, we really do know that there is nothing for us to do but wait. So it seemed like the perfect time to share these photos!


We are adopting from Pattaya, which is a coastal town, so a beach shoot seemed appropriate for our little beach baby! You would think (after my last post) that we took these on our recent beach trip - but this "Adoption Photo Shoot" was actually done on our Florida family vacation last October by my sweet baby brother (thanks Jaron!) At that time, we thought we'd be done with our paperwork by Christmas. We thought we'd share these within a few months. Little did we know it would be almost a year! But finally - after working for so long - the day has come that we can say, "We are waiting."


The song, "Love is Waiting" by Brooke Fraser is one that is really special to us. For those that don't know, Rusty and I dated long distance for 11 months before getting engaged. (And by "long distance", I mean that he was in a different country every month, on a trip called "The World Race".)


It was really difficult. We actually had very little time together, in person, to fall in love. We learned to love each other while we were apart - waiting to be together.


And so, the phrase "Love is Waiting" seemed appropriate for this shoot. We are here waiting, and our daughter is half a world away...

We don't even know her yet, but as we wait, we fall more and more in love with her.

Some families have a little empty chair in their home to remind them to pray for their child. 
We have a bunny.


We bought this little handmade bunny when we lived in Thailand in 2011 - long before we decided to adopt from there. I have a big thing for bunnies (Rusty's nickname for me is actually, Bunny!) and the idea was that it would sit on our child's bookshelf someday. Little did we know, that child would be a little girl from Thailand!


Baby girl, we cannot promise you that a perfect family will be waiting when you come home. We cannot promise you that a perfect house will be waiting when you come home. But my darling, we can promise you that so much LOVE will be waiting here for you.





Tuesday, September 9, 2014

"Family" Beach Trip 2014

As usual, I'm playing catch up on my blog! This post is about a month late, but I didn't want to miss it. We went to the beach in early August with some of our dearest friends, the Tuckers and the Flemings, and the pictures and videos are worth sharing!

Kristy, Josh, Carly, & Archer Fleming

[We took our good camera and "gifted" our friends with family beach pictures while we were there!]

Carrie, Chris, Ruby, Mae, & Jane Tucker

Sometimes in life, you get blessed with "family" that you get to pick. These people aren't blood related, but they are just as much family to us as our own siblings. Rusty and Josh have been friends for 23 years. Rusty and Chris have been friends for 33 years. They're practically brothers. Rusty has been friends with their wives since they started dating his friends 14 years ago, so Carrie and Kristy might as well be his sisters!

The Jacksons, The Tuckers, and The Flemings - 2014































These people were some of the first that Rusty every introduced me to, and I knew meeting them was as important as meeting his parents! When I married him, I "married in" to this group, but I didn't realize just how lucky I was until recently. These people really are like brothers and sisters-in-law to me, and I can't imagine loving a real niece or nephew more than we love their little ones!

Goody baskets from Uncle Wusty & Aunt Ewicka! (Jane-8, Mae-5, Ruby-3 months, Carly-5, Archer -2)

The only sad part, is that we see them so rarely. The Tuckers live 10 hours away, and the Flemings live 7 hours away. We're lucky if we see them once a year. We've talked several times about how we should spend more time together, and how we should vacation together, but we never made it happen until now. Losing our dear friend Ben earlier this year turned our lives upside down. His death made us all realize that life really is short, and time together is sweeter than we ever knew. So when our schedules lined up, and we found an incredible deal on a condo, we jumped at the chance to be together. (Oh but Ben... we so wish you, Amanda, and Ella could've been there!)




There were 6 adults and 5 kids all under the same roof for one week, and it was beautiful chaos! Rusty and I slept on the sleeper sofa, so we got a front row seat to the "Frozen - LIVE" show several mornings (it's a good thing we like to "Let It Go" and we always want to build a snowman! ha!), and the occasional snuggle bug sneaking into our bed!

My morning wake-up call!

Archer man loves his Uncle Wusty

Carly and Archer holding their "cousin" - Baby Ruby

It wasn't relaxing, and yet, it was wonderful. I barely made it through one of the four books I took, we never slept in, and I ended up covered in sand (I hate being sandy!) and carrying toys and snacks every time I went to the beach - but I wouldn't trade that week for the world. We finally got to be with the friends we love for more than a day "here and there", and spend real quality time with our "nieces" and "nephew" before they grow out of the snuggly phase and their adorable speech impediments. (Oh how I'll miss hearing "Uncle Wusty and Aunt Ewicka" when they learn to pronounce their R's!) I'll take being sandy and sticky and sleepy any day if it means we get to make memories like this!


It was a special time that I don't want to forget. Someday, I hope we're able to make it happen again when our sweet Kate can meet her "cousins" and be a part of that beautiful chaos! To the Tucker and Fleming crews - thanks for a wonderful week! We love you!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

ETC Conference

I just got an email from ShowHope reminding me about the upcoming ETC conference, which reminded me to tell you all about it!

Friends... if you are anywhere near the Washington, DC area (or if you can get there) GO. Seriously - you do not want to miss this conference! It's September 12 - 13 and you can register now!


Since we entered the adoption world, I've heard about a lot of adoption conferences (most of them just for adoptive mommas, and most of them pretty expensive.) I was surprised when a friend from our Thailand Adoption Facebook group recommended this one, because I wasn't familiar with it at all. I was even more surprised to find out that it was so affordable (our tickets were around $35 each!) So when she gave it glowing reviews, we signed up for the February Birmingham dates.

I am SO glad we didn't miss this conference! Many of you are familiar with the name "Karyn Purvis" because you've read the book "The Connected Child." Hearing Dr. Purvis speak in person was beyond incredible. I'm telling you - the woman is so gifted, and she has so much wisdom to share with adoptive and foster families. For 2 days I scribbled notes furiously (even though I had an incredible workbook provided at the conference, and even though I knew I was buying the CD's) because I didn't want to miss a word she was saying. I left feeling encouraged and better equipped to parent our internationally adopted child.


But more than that, I also felt like my eyes had been opened to some situations in our Children's Homes around the world. (For those that don't know, my husband and I co-founded an international non-profit 4 years ago and we do orphan care in 4 countries). As Dr. Purvis was sharing explanations behind different behaviors, I was connecting the dots to several children we know and love in our homes. I was introduced to some tools that could help our kids - and I hope I can do some more training with Dr. Purvis' teachings in the future!

So friends who are adopting, friends who are fostering, friends who work with vulnerable children - even friends who want to better understand adoptive families - GO to this conference. Friends who work in education, counseling, social work, or ministry - those of you who come in contact with "kids from hard places" - I really believe you could benefit from this conference too! If I had it to do over again, I would go again AND I would bring my parents as well. (I think this would be a great way to help your parents understand why their adopted grandchild will need to be parented differently than a biological child!) The conference was extremely helpful, organized, and enjoyable. We were given great tools (detailed workbooks and notebooks) that followed the speakers' powerpoint presentations, and there were some excellent resources available for purchase. And again - I can't get over how affordable it was. Thank you ShowHope for giving us such a great experience for such a low price! I know that's a blessing to so many adoptive families who are saving for adoption expenses!

Here are a couple of links with more information:

Empowered To Connect Websitehttp://empoweredtoconnect.org/

If you aren't in or near Washington, DC though, don't despair! From what I understand, this is an on-going annual conference and they are held in different locations each year. Just email info@showhope.org and ask them to put you on an email list so you'll know about upcoming conferences!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Dossier To Thailand!!!


I got the phone call this morning from New York...

We are officially DTT - (Dossier To Thailand)!!! 


Our agency finished all of our authentications, and all our important paperwork is now on its way across the ocean to beautiful Thailand. The thought of that stack of documents flying to Thailand makes me so EXCITED, but if I'm being honest, also a little anxious! I'm trying not to think about all people who will handle it and places it will be before it's in the hands of the woman who will match us with our child. I'm just trusting that God will get it where it needs to go!

"So... what's next?"

That was my question for our agency this morning. And the short answer is, we wait! At this point, we are just waiting on a referral. It could come at any time really, though it will likely be at least 6 months (and possibly longer) before we are matched with a child, and probably another 6 months until we travel to get her. I know that sounds miserable, but we are just SO thrilled to be done with paperwork, that entering this season is a bit of a relief! We know that we've done all we can, and so now we are trusting God to handle the rest in His timing. We don't know who our daughter is, where she is, how old she is, or when we will meet her - but God does. And so, for the next few months we will wait and pray and prepare our hearts to be parents!

We are determined to embrace this season. We know that when our baby girl gets home EVERYTHING will change! And as excited as we are for that day, right now, we are trying to live fully where we are. We don't want to take this season for granted. This is the last time it will just be the two of us, so we're going to try to enjoy it, live it fully, and bless the people around us as we wait.

I'm also excited about filling this time with things we've been too busy to do (because we were working on adoption paperwork.) I want to enjoy time with friends, catch up my blog, and learn to use my new sewing machine. We're finally renovating our office, and will hopefully be finished with it by the end of the summer. (I know how important it's going to be to have a separate office once Kate is home!) Also, our Thai is getting rusty the longer we're away, so we're looking forward to brushing up and learning more Thai in the coming months. And we're planning to travel this Fall to several of our partnerships overseas for The Sound of Hope, so I am really looking forward to that!


For today though, we will just enjoy the fact that we are now OFFICIALLY "paper pregnant"! We've finished our paperwork and (though we don't know when we will bring her home) as of today we have a baby girl on the way! It's been 2 years, 4 months, and 15 days* since we announced we were adopting from Thailand, so this is a major milestone that we've been working and waiting a long, long time for. We are now officially "expecting", and we are SO grateful that this day has come! Our hearts are full!


-----------

*If you're considering adoption from Thailand or just adoption in general, please don't let this timeline scare you away! Our journey thus far has been very long and arduous, but our timeline is not the norm. Many families have shorter timelines and very different experiences. Ultimately though, we believe our child is worth the wait, and that every child in need of a family deserves to be fought for (no matter how long it takes!)