Monday, June 17, 2013

Glory due

In my last post I announced that we are now fully funded!!

To understand the miraculous that is wrapped up in that statement I have got to take you back...

There is much to our adoption story that I have not shared in our blog. There's many funny stories, tremendous hardships, and mountain leveling miracles that for whatever reason, God has not prompted me to share. I have the feeling that someday God will allow me to share most of them, when the time is right, but for now, much of our crazy story is kept between Ryan and I and a very select few friends that know about everything only because they've stuck so close to us we just couldn't keep anything from them if we tried :)

Anyways... Ever since I announced our big news, I've been reflecting on our journey. There is one story especially that I keep coming back to. I am sensing God telling me that now is the time to share it so here goes...

The story starts way back, back to before we ever laid eyes on Ivan or Levi.

We knew that God was calling us to adopt children with special needs, but we figured it would be YEARS down the road.

At the time, our Pastor was doing a sermon on transformation and one night God woke me up at 5am and had placed an urgency on my heart, that I needed to share our story in church and talk about how God used Landon and all of the pain and suffering to transform our lives. Of course I didn't want to do it, but I have learned that when God puts a crazy idea on your heart and mind it's best not to ignore it, so I got out of bed and emailed our pastor.

Long story short, our pastor loved the idea of us being interviewed and sharing our transformation story.

The Saturday before I was supposed to share (Ryan had to stay home with Landon), a thought crossed my mind that I should also share the direction God is taking our family. I didn't know if this was a good decision because we hadn't even told our parents yet about our plans to adopt, but we prayed about it and sensed that God was saying yes.

So at the closing of my interview, our pastor asked "So what are the next steps, where is God leading your family?" I then told the congregation that God was calling us to adopt other children with special needs because every child deserves a mommy and a daddy to fight for them and be their advocate and that through our journey with Landon God taught us how relentlessly short this life is and that all we can take with us into eternity are the lives that we touch.

That was that...

I drove home feeling so relieved that it was over, practically skipped up to our apartment, hugged Ryan and told him how everything went. It wasn't long after I got home that I realized I had a missed call...

It was our pastor...

I called him back...

This is when the story gets crazy.

This is when God takes a seemingly ordinary day and makes it into something miraculous...

"Hey Natalie, I just called you because I just spoke with a couple from our church and they want to give you $5,000."


We were fundraising to buy pillow pets for children in the hospital at the time so I initially thought that the money was meant for that.

"I'm sure they wouldn't mind if you used the money for that, but it was my understanding that they want the money to be used for when you adopt someday."

Me - tears

Our pastor told me that they would keep the money in the account they opened for the pillow pet fund until we were ready to adopt.

I hung up the phone and burst the news out to Ryan.

Ryan looked down at Landon and said, "Looks like you're getting a big brother."

We were both in disbelief.

A month or so passed and God continued to break our hearts for orphans and give us a passion for advocacy and adoption.

Then came the day that Ivan was birthed in my heart. I saw his picture and knew my life would never be the same.

He was mine.

I didn't know how I would get to him, but I knew he was mine.

Ryan and I both knew that God was up to something crazy... why else would he have a complete stranger drop $5,000 into our laps?

When we asked for more information on adoptions from Ivan's country one of the first requrements we saw was


Because adoptions in our boys' country are known to go very quickly, Reeces Rainbow required that adopted families have $5,000 to cover the initial costs of the adoption process.

The crazy puzzle pieces were beginning to come together.

Then we found Levi (Simeon at the time). We knew that to adopt another child from the same orphanage would be $5,000 more and Levi's adoption grant through Reeces Rainbow already had $4,000 in it. Ryan and I discussed it and we knew that $1,000 was no reason to leave a child to spend the rest of their lives laying in a crib when we were going to the same orphanage... we could adopt him too!

So we prayed about it... OH we prayed!!

We thought God was crazy, but we couldn't deny that He had close to completely provided Levi's ransom.

The next day was Sunday, funny thing is we were speaking again and sharing about how our pillow pet giveaway went. Before the second service, our churches secretary comes up to me and gives me an envelope. She told me that someone in our congregation gave us a check for $1,000.



I asked her if they told her what it was for...

"I think they wanted it to be used to help pay for your future adoption."


NO ONE knew about Ivan or Levi yet... God knew :)

I told Ryan and we were both completely blown away.

We went home, emailed Reeces Rainbow and told them that we definitely want to commit to BOTH boys.

Yes, the mountain standing between us and Ivan and Levi still seemed astronomical but we could see God pointing out our footsteps and clearing the way for us to take the next step.

We waited to ask for the $5,000 because we wanted to make sure we found an agency that would even be willing to do our homestudy, which turned out to be no easy task.

Around a month later, after endlessly begging and pleading our case, an agency agreed to take a risk on us.

One our home study bills started coming in, we decided it was time to ask for the $5,000 that was sitting in an account at church.

We contacted the church secretary and she told us that she didn't know of any money.

I told her to talk to our pastor, he would know where it was.

A couple days later, I got a call.

It was the secretary, she told me that there had been a misunderstanding.

A man did tell our pastor that he wanted to give us $5,000, but then he went home, talked with his wife, and decided to only give us $1,000. They had no idea that our pastor had called me and our pastor had no idea that they had changed the amount.

Needless to say, we were devastated.

That's an understatement.

I was physically sick. So sick I could hardly move.

God WHAT are you doing!!!

Ryan and I cried together and poured our hearts out to God. We told Him we were so confused. We told Him we trusted Him. We told Him we never would of committed if we knew we didn't have enough money. We asked Him if we heard Him wrong? We asked Him if this was His way of closing the door for our adoption?

And we cried ALOT!!

The day after getting the heart stopping news that we really didn't have ANY money to proceed with our adoption, I had my best friend over. We cried together and I told her that I didn't know what to do. I told her that I need to tell our agency and Reeces Rainbow that we don't have enough money to continue the adoption. I will never forget what she said

"You will do NO such thing Natalie!"

I was shocked, I told her that I felt like continuing would be dishonest.

She looked straight into my tear filled eyes and told me "God knows what He is doing. He is not surprised that the $5,000 doesn't exist. Natalie, look at how he used that money to lead you to your boys. Look at how he used the $1,000 to confirm that you are to adopt Levi as well. No, you do not tell anyone about this... you trust God."

I took her words to heart, but deep down I felt horrible that I was keeping something so huge a secret. Especially because I used the $5,000 story to explain to EVERYONE our reason to adopt. No one could argue the craziness of it, God had to be behind our adoption, why else would He provide like that? I couldn't rely on that story to explain our craziness anymore though.

We had NO money.

We were literally walking on water and taking every step in faith that God wouldn't allow us to sink.

During this time God led us to the story of Gideon in Judges 6 and 7.

To paraphrase the story, God went to a cowardly man named Gideon and told him that he was to lead an army to save Israel out of the hands of the Midianites.

Gideon questioned God and told Him that he was not capable of such a thing, but God assured him that He would be with him and he would have the victory.

Gideon just needed to trust and follow Gods leading.

When Gideon had acquired a large army and was about to fight the Midianites, the Lord said to Him, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’ Now announce to the army, ‘Anyone who trembles with fear may turn back and leave Mount Gilead.’” So twenty-two thousand men left, while ten thousand remained.

But the Lord said to Gideon, “There are still too many men. Take them down to the water, and I will thin them out for you there. If I say, ‘This one shall go with you,’ he shall go; but if I say, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ he shall not go.” So Gideon took the men down to the water. There the Lord told him, “Separate those who lap the water with their tongues as a dog laps from those who kneel down to drink.” Three hundred of them drank from cupped hands, lapping like dogs. All the rest got down on their knees to drink.
The Lord said to Gideon, “With the three hundred men that lapped I will save you and give the Midianites into your hands. Let all the others go home.”  So Gideon sent the rest of the Israelites home but kept the three hundred, who took over the provisions and trumpets of the others.

You should really go and read the rest of the story, but I'll let you know that the Israelites demolished the Midianites!

This is a crazy story. It makes God sound crazy! Too many men? dog lapping? What!?! 

But if you look closely at it you will find a truth, that if you cling to, will get you through every hardship and trial that you will face... 

God is after glory.

God was not being silly or mean when he took Gideon's men away, He was being deliberate and intentional.

He did not want Gideon to rely on his large army for the victory just like He did not want us to rely on the large financial gift for our victory.

He wanted Gideon and everyone to know that HE ALONE GIVES THE VICTORY.

Gideon walked in faith into a situation that most would call stupid or even suicidal and yet he walked away with the victory. 

There was no possible explanation for the victory except... God.

After studying and meditating on this passage Ryan and I told God that He could have all our money. 

We trust HIM and HIM ALONE for our victory.

Well you guys know the outcome... 

God has held us above water every step.

He has provided for every expense as it has come in. 

We did our home study not knowing how we would pay over $3,000 for it...

But we did... Correction, GOD did it!!

I have a friend who when asked how much they have to pay for their adoption, answers "Zero, God pays it all." That is exactly the attitude and mindset God wants us to have.

I believe that is why he calls the least unlikely people to adoption and to do other crazy, impossible things, because He knows that HE will receive ALL the glory. It does not matter if we are weak and broken, all He wants is our willingness, He steps in and does the rest.

I'm finally sharing this story with all of you because I want you to know that we cannot accept one little smigin of the glory or credit for this adoption being fully funded. Did we fund raise like crazy? Yes, but we used the idea's, the wisdom, and the energy the Lord gave us to do all of that.

We are standing on this side of the victory, completely blown away that it is actually our reality. I'm sure Gideon felt the same way... it just isn't possible... is it?

I really want to sit down and figure out exactly where all of the money has come from, but I feel like even if I used my best math skills... okay, even if I get Ryan to figure it out ;) it still just wouldn't add up. 

Just like an army of 300 taking out an army of 135,000 just doesn't add up... it just doesn't!!!

The truth is we serve an amazingly AWESOME, POWERFUL, ALMIGHTY God!

He doesn't change. He CANNOT change.

That means the same God that delighted in receiving the victory over the Midianites is delighting today over receiving the victory over our adoption.

Sure, He could of chosen a couple that could of afforded to adopt Ivan and Levi, but then they wouldn't be able to share this crazy story with them someday about how God truly leveled mountains on their behalf.

Our hope and prayer is that everyone who reads or hears of our journey will know that it is a work of God and God alone. And that in hearing it, they will give Him the glory He so rightfully deserves.

Ascribe the LORD the glory due his name! Psalm 96:8

Tuesday, June 11, 2013


Okay, so let's get to the results...

Our "Tell Your Story Giveaway" impacted our journey in a very big way.

I said once that if you help us tell our story by playing a role in us bringing our boys home, we wanted to encourage and help YOU tell YOUR story!!

Wow, did you guys answer that call!!!

AFTER paying off the camera and gift cards, you guys helped us raise


With that and the...

$762 from our garage sale this weekend...

Plus the continual generosity of others and the selling of more t-shirts...

This is when the hallelujah chorus resounds and happy dances break out EVERYWHERE!!!

Announcement! (Tell Your Story Giveaway)

So sorry for the delay.

We were having... technical difficulties.

If you are one of the winners, I will be in contact with you shortly so that we can get your prizes sent to you asap.

Again, Thank you everyone SO VERY MUCH for being a part of this fundraiser and our journey to our boys!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Two Days Left to enter the giveaway!!

Can you believe that our giveaway is soon coming to an end?

That month went very fast!!

There is only TWO DAYS left for you to enter for your chance to win...

Please don't miss out!

We CANNOT wait to find out who the lucky winners will be!!

The giveaway will officially end at midnight on Friday night.

We were originally going to have choose the winners on Friday night, but because we are having a huge garage sale (pray for sun) on Saturday we figure, for our sanity sake, it would be wise to postpone the drawing until the following Monday evening.

Again, only two more days to enter!!

For the details of our giveaway click  HERE

Thank you to everyone who has already entered and made this fundraiser so amazing.

We can't wait to share the final results :)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Two Years To Forever

Two years ago today I made the best choice of my life and married my very best friend, highschool sweet heart, and forever crush. 

I was 21 and Ryan was only 19 when we committed to spending forever by each others side. 

People told us that we were rushing into marriage. 

People told us we should wait, go to college, maybe date other people before we make such a life long commitment,

but we had no doubts. 

Looking back, it kind of reminds me of our adoption. 

People tell us we're rushing into adoption. 

People tell us we should wait, enjoy life, have some more "kids of our own" before making such a life long commitment

but we still have no doubts.

We have been through so much in two short years. Sometimes I look back at our wedding pictures and I hardly recognize this couple. They were indeed so young, they hadn't yet faced the true storms this life can send raging, but I can't say that they weren't prepared.

That day when we committed to loving and cherishing each other through the good, the bad, and whatever challenging roads this life may lead us down, we truly meant it.

We knew that God was going to give us a crazy life, the normal life wouldn't have meshed well with the crazy love He gave us for each other.

I can honestly say that I will not only grow old with my husband, but I am also growing up with him. 

Have we had to grow up fast?

 Ohhhh yes. 

Do we sometimes see other people our age and think wow, it would be nice to have such a care free life

Ummm.... we're not particularly proud of it, but yeah those thoughts cross our minds sometimes and when they do, we share them with each other. We hold each other tight, reflect on our crazy journey, count our countless blessings, and in the end, we always come to the conclusion that we would choose this crazy life of ours again in a heartbeat.

This life of ours has been far from easy, but it has been more beautiful than anything we could of ever dreamed or planned for ourselves.  

We celebrated our anniversary yesterday since today Ryan will be working most of the day today.

We stuck to our tradition of dressing up in our wedding attire and taking pictures. We wanted to go to the park and take them, but we chickened out. We figured if our neighbors saw us they might be pretty confused haha

More in love now than ever

Dancing with my little prince

Love his face!

Dang, those boys of mine are handsome!!

When I was checking these pictures after we had taken them, the first thoughts that crossed my mind were man, I wish I could photo shop out the ugly air conditioner, hair frizzies, toys, and unfolded laundry. But then I had one of those God moments where He tenderly changes my perspective. He told me that all of those things just make these pictures more beautiful.

Isn't that marriage afterall?

It's the miraculous wrapped up in the mundane.

It's Holiness hidden in laundry, dirty dishes, and unshowered ponytails.

It's completely sacred, but at times it seems so very simple.

It's two imperfect people completely surrendered to each other and more importantly to the God that brought them together.

It's loving each other after the perfection of the wedding day has well worn off.

It's embracing this beautiful, painful life with arms and heart wide open... together.

After we changed back into clothes we could breathe in, ate dinner out on the balcony, and put Landon to bed, we settled on the couch with our UNOPENED shutterfly box that has been sitting under our couch for two months (now that is self control people :)

After two years of waiting for the best discount offer, we were finally able to purchase our wedding album. We even splurged and got the 12x12 :) So awesome!!
 After looking through all our albums and reminiscing on our journey, I showed Ryan the video slideshow I made for him.

He said he loved it :)

This slideshow is a tribute to the greatest love of my life, Jesus Christ. For without Him, Ryan and I would be lost. It is also a tribute to the truest love I could ever know this side of Heaven. Ryan Maxwell you complete me and I can't wait to spend the rest of our earthly lives and all of eternity with you.

2 years down, forever to go.

To God be all of the glory, now and forevermore!!

Let's journey on my love :)