Tuesday, December 23, 2014

My thoughts on being "saints" and an adoption update

I apologize for not writing in so long.

To say we've been busy is vastly understated.

We have been blown away by God's provision, but let me tell you, we have not been sitting on our bums praying for the money to come in the mail.

Yes, we've been praying like crazy, but we get up off our knees and WORK.

Sometimes when I tell people we're fundraising for our adoption, they give me this blank stare and I can tell they're trying to process what the heck an adoption has to do with fundraising.

People fund raise for causes, not when they want to grow their family.

They usually get out an awkward "congratulations" and we part ways.

I understand that this takes some processing and change of perspective to understand.

For starters, adoption isn't just a means by which we've decided to grow our family. Believe me, we know there's much cheaper, safer ways to grow our family. After my miscarriage last Summer we met with multiple doctors and each of them told us there was no reason why we wouldn't be able to have more biological children.

With that said, God didn't lead us down that route...

He has called us once again to risk everything and make the sacrifices necessary to rescue HIS children.

A Father to the fatherless; a defender of widows, is God in His Holy dwelling. Psalm 68:5

Let me just say, there is absolutely nothing wrong with fundrasing to adopt because you want to grow your family. God gives us that desire. The ability to love one who is not biologically your own, is Holy in and of itself, but for a lot of us adoptive families, adoption is something we feel is a calling on our lives, just like people who are called to fight for the cause of children battling cancer, or those who feel called to join the army, peace corps, or those who commit their lives to overseas missions.

Everyone is not called to adopt... but we are.

And with any lofty calling, comes the need to unify and seek the help of others.

I had this nagging thought our last adoption and it's been rearing it's head once again... why doesn't God call those who HAVE the funds needed to rescue these amazing children.

I know they're out there, those people that have 25k sitting in a bank account somewhere.

It would be simply a drop in the bucket for so many...

But, strangly what I have found is that the majority of people God calls to adopt, are just average joes making an average income, some even living pay check to pay check.

We get called "saints" all the time. People see us and our lives don't make sense. They don't understand why we would "choose" this; why we would choose Ivan and why we would choose these two children, but the truth is simple.

We didn't choose them, God did.

and I believe that God chose us to adopt them, not because we are "saints" and have it all together, but because we are the least likely. We fall in the catagory of weak, young, irresponsible, nieve, in way OVER our heads, but that is exactly the kind of people God loves to use.

Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; (check) not many were influential (check); not many were of noble birth (and... check) But God CHOSE the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things (I can't help but picture all the precious children around the world labled worthless to this world because of their special needs, Jesus sees THEM. Jesus chooses THEM.) and the things that are not to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him. It is because of Him that you are in Christ Jesus, who have become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

So you see, we're not saints, we're far from wealthy, and we're definetly no where close to ready for this next journey God is calling us to.

We're just an average young family that truly believe that because we call ourselves Christians, our lives should resemble Jesus' life. Our hearts should break for the things that break the heart of God, and we should risk everything so God can be glorified through our weakness.

With all that said, time to do a little boasting!!

When we first began this adoption journey I had some doubts that we would be able to fundraise enough in such a short amount of time, but after seeing God move this month we are now confidently trusting that God WILL make a way.

Since announcing our adoption, we have had an out pour of support and love from others, some already close friends, some complete strangers, but now forever friends, and some people who have chosen to remain anonymous (You know who you are, THANK YOU!!)

This past month we have had a t-shirt fundraiser, jewelry party, I've sold dozens of burlap wreaths, hot cocoa and Russian tea jars, and just a couple days ago we had an awesome event at Dunn Bros, not to mention, the fundraisers the Gathering Family has had going to help with our adoption!!

It has been a full month! On top of all that, I've been working a lot to help cover our home study fees.

It's been crazy and this mama is TIRED!!

We are ready to go home for Christmas to refresh and relax as a family.

We wont be planning quite as many fundraisers next month since we'll be focusing on completing our dossier (a ton of paperwork that will get sent to our children's country), but I still have some awesome ones up my sleeve so stay tuned :)

Now for some numbers!! I know you've all been waiting for me to update our thermometer!

Our FSP is now at 2,117.65 (it seems to have gone up a little or a lot each time I check it!!)

Baby girl is on Reece's Rainbow's angel tree this year! The purpose of angel tree is to get each child's grant up to $1,000. She is clearly loved because angel tree has raised $430.20 for her adoption. with what she already had, her grant is now at 506.70

Reno had $103.50 in his grant. We will recieve both children's grant money when we are ready to travel.

We raised $274.58 from our awesome t-shirts!!

$305.65 from selling our wreaths and jars!!

We had such a beautiful day for our event at Dunn Bros. Everyone had a great time and we raised $1,160!! Which includes alot of wreath orders :)

So our grand total raised during the month of December is


To God be the glory!!

Thank you to everyone who donated even one penny to our adoption. You are being used by God in such an incredible way to change the lives of His dearest ones... the ones that are so often overlooked, neglected, and abused by this world.

Thank you for standing in the gap for them and declaring through your giving that their lives DO matter.

We love you all and thank God daily for your support. 

Praying each of you have a merry Christmas and Happy New Year in the days to come!!

Monday, December 1, 2014

All I want for Christmas...

This song came on the radio this morning and I've been a mess ever since.

We are in such a good place as a family. Ivan is a completely different child than the terrified, traumatized little boy we brought into our home last year. This Christmas his eyes sparkle with the joy and wonder that every child should have this time of year.

The ability to rest in the love and security of a family is the greatest gift we can give a child.

Ivan is one life that has been changed forever, but there are so many more... and we feel it this year. In every precious moment we share as a family, Ryan and I can sense it, that all to familiar feeling that something... someone is missing.

It's the feeling that keeps me awake at night, praying for the little ones who will one day make our home and heart even fuller.

Adoption is hard...

I hear it all the time,

"We would love to adopt, but it's just so expensive."

Yes, yes it is expensive.

The financial cost is great, but the financial cost is nothing comapared to what adoption cost you.

Adoption will change you.

It will wreak havoc on your heart like nothing you ever imagined.

You will be an emotional basket case during the entire adoption process and it will only get worse once you finally get your child home and you have to battle your selfish desires everyday and even fight off the nagging feeling that you've made a terrible mistake.

I've come to the conclusion that I'm glad it is so expensive to adopt.

Adoption is something that has to cost us absolutely "everything".

If we are not willing to spend greatly for the sake of a child, there is no way we will make it when the dream becomes a reality and our lives and hearts are left in shambles.

I will be honest with you, I hate fundraising.

I hate admitting that we don't have the money we NEED to be able to ransom these children on our own.

But you see, this is just another lesson we need to learn before we bring these precious ones home.

Just as we cannot ransom our babies on our own, we cannot be what they will need us to be by ourselves.

We will need your prayers, your encouragement, your support on the hard days when we wont want to get out of bed.

I am reminded of all of the people that came alongside us to help us bring Ivan home.

I hope that as you read each of his monthly updates you realized that the reviving of his life couldn't have been possible without your support.

And now we're asking again....

Not because we want to mooch off of your generosity, but because we know it takes more than a village to raise a prior orphan.

We want you to experience the joy that comes with investing into the redemption of these precious ones who are extra dear to the Fathers heart.

We want you to play a role in making a little boy and a baby girl's unspoken wish for a family come true.

Please, help us make this, the last Christmas that these precious children spend alone.

I'm working on making some wreaths to sell and should have pictures up in the next couple days, but we still have our t-shirt fundraiser!!

We only have a week left and we need at least 10 shirts sold for them to print!

I realize that there's so many great organizations and causes to support this time of year, but please know that anything you can do to help us bring our precious little lovies home is so appreciated and makes such an eternal difference.

The proof is in the pictures!!

Thanksgiving Day last year. He was shell shocked by his first holiday. Snuggled with his daddy, but stiff as a board, not able to relax.

So much sadness and fear in those eyes. It breaks my heart to remember.
This Thanksgiving there was no trace of fear in his big brown eyes! Only the joy and wonder of a child who is loved beyond measure!!

Can you imagine his face a year after knowing that kind of love??

And I know it's hard to imagine this face any cuter, but just wait till she is HOME!!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Ready, set, go!! (Maxwell adoption t-shirts, the sequel)

Time to let the fundraising commence people!!

We will be getting a thermometer on our blog again soon so we can track our progress, but right now we need roughly 25,000 to bring our babies home!!

That is a LOT of moola, believe me, I know.

But we've seen God provide before and we know He will be faithful again.

We are so blessed to have such an amazing group of friends, family, adopted family, and complete strangers who are also complete family because they have joined us on this mission to rescue and love the least of these.

We cannot do this alone.

Please pray about joining us in the plight of the orphan and help us bring two precious children into their forever family.

Almost right after announcing our adoption, Kelsie, from Gathering families, messaged me. She started her message with "this is going to be a very exciting email!" She didn't disappoint! She went on to share about how she has been waiting to find out who Reno's family was because she felt strongly that she was supposed to help them bring him home. She explained that her ministry chooses two adopting families at a time to help raise funds for. "I pledge to you that I will raise you $5,000 or fund raise for you all the way up until Reno and Darah are home - whichever one comes first."

I lost it people! We had just announced our adoption the day prior and I woke up the next morning to find her message.

It was such an encouragement and confirmation from God.

Kelsie is an amazing woman with an amazing heart for orphans and adoption, and God is using her ministry in incredible ways. We are so honored to be chosen as one of two of the families that she is fundraising for right now.

She has tons of fun things to purchase! There are T-shirt sales, cookie clubs, an ongoing online auction/store with donated items, a commissioned knitting project option, and so much more!

So go check it out!


We also are launching our adoption t-shirt fundraiser on Booster today!! We have two weeks to reach our goal of selling 100 shirts.  These super awesome t's were designed by my very best friend who also just happens to be the most handsome and talented husband in the world! They turned out pretty sweet so please go check them out and don't forget to buy extra with Christmas coming up (wink wink)

I think it goes without saying again, but I have to say it none the less. We appreciate your prayers and support more than I could ever blog and surely more than I could ever fumble to describe in person. 

Words will never be enough to express the depth and weight of what it means to bring a child out of a life of purely "existing" into a home where they truly "belong". 

I pray God fills your hearts with the joy that your support brings to ours! 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Miracles (Just enough, just in time)

We have been keeping an exciting secret for months now, always waiting on one more miracle to happen...

Well I'm thrilled to share that as of Nov. 20th...


The beginning of this process has been much different than Ivan's. With Ivan's adoption, God called us to special needs adoption, we said yes, saw Ivan's picture, and began the process right away.

This time was quite different...

After our miscarriage we were disoriented, confused, angry at God. We felt like God was leading us in a certain direction (growing our family) and then in an instant our future and our dreams were stolen from us.

We grieved....


But we sought God in our grief and found healing in knowing that God's ways are so much higher than ours.

We knew God gave us Dawson for a reason.

Before I found out I was pregnant we had a plan. It involved working and saving for a house so we could move out of our apartment. We were both in agreement that after Ivan had been home for a year and we were in a house, we would start praying about growing our family again in whatever way God saw fit.

When we found out I was pregnant, Ryan began looking for a new job and we began house hunting and dreaming a new plan for our family. It is hard to explain, but in the instant we found out about Dawson, none of our old plans mattered. Growing our family now felt like the best thing in the world. We were filled with a joy and hope unlike anything I've felt before in my life. Those short three weeks we knew of our precious baby were precious and cherished beyond what I can explain.

So after my miscarriage Ryan and I both knew that we wanted to grow our family sooner rather than later. Our old plan was out the window and we began to seek God with open hearts. We truly thought we would have another biological child, but after a couple months of trying to get pregnant again, God began stirring our hearts for adoption.

Then came a season of wrestling with God. We told him every reason why now was not a good time for us to adopt again.

We just didn't feel ready...

But, as usual, God was persistent, in his obvious but tender way, and we eventually threw up our hands in surrender.

Okay Lord, if you want us to adopt again then You need to get us into a house by the end of Oct. (when our lease ended) and extend our USCIS approval before it expires.

Both of those things looked impossible to us. At the time we made God that challenge we only had a couple months until our lease would end.

Right away we began taking steps out in faith. We believed that if God wanted us to adopt then we WOULD be able to buy a house and update our approval. So I emailed our facilitator from our last adoption and asked her what was necessary for us to update our adoption approval.

Because we were approved to adopt two children last time and only brought home Ivan our case file was still open at USCIS (The division of the US government that grants approval for a family to adopt a child from a different country). In order for us to update our approval we would need to update our FBI fingerprints, get a home study update done, and send it to USCIS before our prior approval expired.

We were on a MAJOR time crunch!!

 I was shocked to find out that our needed fingerprint update would expire the coming Monday. It was Thurs. so I hurried up and sent in our request to update our fingerprints and it was received the next day!!


Quick picture before putting it in the mail, still not knowing if this would ever end up in a future adoption journal

 At this point, we were walking blind. Just going about our lives, but still taking whatever steps we could and trusting God with the outcome.

Also around this time, I laid my eyes on an updated picture of a little boy with a heart defect that I have loved since before bringing Ivan home. Reno was a little boy I had advocated for on many occasions. I found out that a family had tried to adopt him, but were unable to because his paperwork wasn't ready. I reached out to the woman who had met him and she told me how sweet and amazing he is and how much he wants a family of his own.

My heart melted.

Here was a little boy almost exactly one year older than Landon, also with a special heart and all he wants is the love of a family.

She also told me that if a family does want to adopt him they should do it soon because he is doing so well there's a chance his medical condition may not be considered severe enough to qualify him for international adoption if they were to update his medical record any time soon.

Could this precious little boy be the reason God is stirring our hearts again?? I wondered

Ryan and I began praying about him and God filled our hearts with a great peace in the midst of the raging storm of unknowns we were facing.

We were scared... we had decided that if we ever adopted again we would pursue a baby girl with down synrdome. We felt strongly about that and assumed that was a desire God had placed on our hearts. So this...

This didn't make sense!

We definetly did not think we would pursue another boy, let along an older child.

But God...

His ways are higher than our ways and His plans are increasingly more wonderful than anything in our wildest dreams.

So we committed to Reno (not his real name), but nothing could be public because we didn't have a new address to write on our commitment forms.

Telling Reece's Rainbow we wanted to pursue adopting him was just another blind step of faith we felt we needed to take.

So now this was beginning to feel real. We had a face, but we were trying to hold back our hearts from falling in love with this little boy because everything still looked so impossible.

The next hurdle would be updating our home study, which is impossible to do until you are in the home that you will be bringing your adopted children into.

But I reached out to our past home study social worker and she told me that she no longer travels to do home studies.

Another huge hurdle....

Long story short, after a lot of time passing, prayer, and God moving and opening doors, our social worker made an exception and agreed to updating our home study!!

Now we just needed a house...

We had looked at a few homes here and there, but every door we tried to open came slamming shut in our faces.

I was getting very discouraged!

I wish I could tell you we never doubted.

I wish I could tell you that we prayed without ceasing and our faith was unwavering, but I can't.

The truth is, I didn't see how it would come together. We didn't have the money for a down payment and we just couldn't seem to afford anything in this crazy housing market.

Aren't you glad that even when we're faithless, God remains faithful!!  2 Timothy 2:13

We had less than a month until our lease would end.

We had basically come to terms with the idea of renewing our lease and "maybe" pursuing adoption later, when we got a call from our realtor saying that there was a new house on the market that she wanted to show us.

We went and looked at it that night.

Made an offer the next day.

Received our down payment almost right AFTER putting in the offer. (Yes, you read that right!!)


The sellers accepted our offer the next day!!

Our closing date was set for Nov. 14th, but miraculously got moved up to Oct. 29th.

We moved into our new home two days before our lease ended!!

God came through!!


In front of our gift from God

So now all we needed was our home study update done and our documents and request for our extension sent to USCIS by Nov. 20th.

If we didn't get our stuff to them on time we would have to start over from scratch due to some changes in adoption laws since our last adoption. But if we got our stuff there on time we would be grandfathered in, meaning our process would be MUCH FASTER!!!

I was consumed with anxiety when we found out we wouldn't be able to have our home study visit until Nov. 11th. that would give us just a little over a week to get our update written, corrected, and sent in to USCIS.

Truthfully it looked pretty impossible.

I sent our beloved package out on Nov. 15th, but I missed the time of pickup so it didn't actually get sent out until Nov. 17th.

I will never forget how I felt driving home from my mad dash to the UPS store. I made it there at 3:42 and they closed at 4, but it ended up not mattering since pickup had already taken place.

You would think a woman who had just been handed a house from God wouldn't struggle with doubts, but again, I found myself angry and scared.

Everything was out of our hands now all we could do is pray for a miracle.... and wait.

Fast forward through the agonizing wait to Thurs (Nov. 20th), I knew that our package had made it to USCIS, but their systems were down so they couldn't transfer me to our case officer (same person we had for Ivan's adoption).

I received an email from Reece's Rainbow telling me they had received all of our commitment forms and asking if we were ready to make our adoption public? Ryan and I discussed it and he gave me the go ahead, but I was still hesitant.

Lord, I really wish I had absolute confirmation that our file made it to our officer.

Just then my phone alerted me that I had a new voicemail.

I stopped writing my reply, clicked listen, and held my breath.

It was our case officer, she informed me that our file had made it to her desk THAT MORNING AND WAS BEING PROCESSED!!!!

I promise you I'm not making this up!! It got to her on the very day it expired!!


Ryan and I screamed our heads off and jumped up and down we were so excited!!

Months and months of praying and fighting doubt had paid off.

God of miracles!!

With tears of joy I pressed send on my email and an hour later our adoption was made public for all to see!!

So I saved one of the best parts of our adoption story for last since it is just too beautiful for words.

Not long after committing to Reno in our hearts, I found myself drawn to a baby girl on Reece's Rainbow. I'd frequented her profile and couldn't believe that such a gorgeous baby hadn't been committed to yet... then I did something crazy.

I contacted a women who is known as one of the best at finding out where children are located. I asked her if she could find out where baby girl was and in my heart I knew it would be a miracle if she was in the same region as Reno

Yep, she was!!

We now know that her and Reno are not only in the same region, but the same orphanage!! Only God could write this story!!

I showed Ryan her picture and it didn't take long for us to agree that if God would make a way, we had to try to adopt her as well.

We didn't even know if we qualified financially to bring two more children into our home, but with Ryan's new job we make...

you guessed it, JUST ENOUGH :)

Looking back I am in awe of how God works.

He used a precious unborn baby, one that we will never hold this side of Heaven, to change our hearts and redirect the entire path of our family. If it wasn't for Dawson Ryan wouldn't have his new job, we wouldn't be in this perfect little house, and we wouldn't be fighting to save two more precious lives.
I hope everyone who reads this can see that we are not above doubt and fear, but our hope is that through sharing our crazy journey, God is highlighted in every aspect of our brokenness.

He will always be just enough for you and His timing, although sometimes annoyingly precise, is always abundantly perfect.

We would be honored and blessed if you would support us through this journey again.

Above everything, we need prayer. Prayer is what moves the mountains and breaks down any barrier standing in our way.

Right now, our biggest mountain is money. This process could go extremely fast this time. It's not unrealistic to think that we could have the children home in 6 months.

Obviously this means we need to come up with a lot of money FAST.

It looks like an impossible mountain, but we know it is nothing for God.

Please be on the look out for upcoming fundraisers and if you feel led you can donate through our family Sponsorship page on Reece's Rainbow

We love you all!!

Here we go again!!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

One year Deeper

So much has changed in a year, but I never want to forget where we've come from.

I never want to forget how scared I was when I finally got Ivan out of the orphanage and had him in my care.

I remember calling Ryan, sobbing on the phone, and telling him that I didn't know how we were going to do this. "I know we expect this to be hard, but this is going to be so much harder than we could of imagined."

I was so scared... so scared of what my life was going to look like now with this little boy, whom we had fought to call son.

I haven't written about it ever on here, but the week we stayed in Kiev before flying home, was by far our hardest time. I was alone and exhausted and Ivan was scared out of his mind and grieving losing everything that he once knew.

I remember counting down the minutes each day, reminding myself that if we could make it home, maybe things would get better, at least I wouldn't be alone anymore.

At that time, if I wasn't holding Ivan, all he wanted to do was slam doors or bang his head on anything he could find. His way of self soothing was banging his head or biting himself incessantly. This was the only stimulation he had while he laid in a crib for years, when one is so starved of sensory input, even harmful behaviors can bring a false sense of comfort. If I stopped him from self harming, he would bite, pinch, scratch me. I remember how my arms were full of bruises when we finally made it onto American soil.

I clung to the words that someone said to me somewhere along our journey, "nothing starts until you get home."

So I just prayed my way through each day. I felt lost and disoriented, but I continued to trust that God had a plan in this.

Eventually I did find something that would keep Ivan busy and didn't require any loud banging. We would go into the tiny bathroom, shut the door, and I would hold him while he played in the sink.... for hours. If I felt extra strong, I would fill the bath and sit in there with him. He would splash, laugh hysterically, and pour water all over his face and head. He was so starved for sensory input, but he was so overwhelmed by life outside of the orphanage.

I remember how I would put spotify on my phone and listen to "oceans" by Hillsong United over and over and over and over again.

I let the words cover me, not unlike my new child was doing with the water in front of him. I was desperate for comfort. Desperate to find any hope I could cling to...

I would belt out the words with tears pouring down my face...

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders
let me walk upon the waters
wherever you would call me.
take me deeper than my feet could ever wander
where my faith will be made stronger
in the presence of my Savior.

I will call upon your name
keep my eyes above the waves
my soul will rest in your embrace
I am yours and You are mine.

I would close my eyes as I sang and when I opened them I would see this child who was requiring such a deep kind of love from me.

Could I love deep enough

Could I keep my eyes above the waves and trust that God could redeem even this kind of hard.

Yes, I never want to forget who I was in those moments. I was so desperate for God... every second.

We are one year deeper now...

One year deeper into this love that requires everything of us.

We have learned so much and come so far, but God's love is deeper than the oceans and we plan to keep on diving.

Somewhere along the way I realized that this journey wasn't just about Ivan finding love and his life being spared and redeemed, but maybe even more so, it has been about Ryan and I discovering a "deeper" love than we ever imagined and our lives being spared and redeemed.

This past Sunday was Orphan Sunday, the day set aside for the world to unite for the cause of the orphan. Thousands of churches around the world joined in prayer and advocacy for these precious children.

I was nervous because at the end of the service, I would be sharing, briefly, our adoption story. I was stressed out from our move just a couple days prior, but I was trying to reflect and worship.

When the worship band began playing... you guessed it... "oceans", I couldn't hold in the tears. I stood there, eyes closed, belting out the words, meaning them just as much today as I did a year prior when I was alone and desperate in a tiny bathroom in Kiev, Ukraine.

I was in awe of God's goodness, His constant faithfulness, and how far we truly have come.

As the song came to an end, I opened up my tear filled eyes to see my son, the one whom I was so scared of only a year ago, with his little hands raised up as high as he can reach, praising the God of healing and true and perfect comfort.

We are one year deeper now... people ask us if it was worth it.... if we will ever do it again... I'll let you decide ;)

Father thank You for Your redemption and grace. Thank you for choosing the most unlikely young couple and calling us out of our boat of comfort into the deep waters of your unfailing, unconditional love. Thank You for using this adoption journey to change Ivan forever and THANK YOU for using this adoption to change Ryan and I FOREVER. We believed before in the deepness of your love, but now we have experienced the beauty of the plunge and we never want to stop diving.

Thank You for filling in every place where we have failed to love like You. Thank you for your continual redemption of this precious life. He is all ready our world changer and I know You will continue to use him to soften hearts and lead others to Your deep love.

To you be every drop of the glory Father!!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

11 months HOME (what what!!)

This post is pretty late.

Actually, it's very late right now (nearing 2am), but I fear if I don't write this soon, it will not get written and my OCD tendencies would be very angry at me if I missed just ONE month of updates.

We are nearing the end folks... that big 1 year home milestone is coming up at break neck speed!!

It seems like just yesterday I was holding a screaming child ALL day long and wondering if our life would ever look some what normal again.



There's a word I don't really know anymore, but we've replaced normal with beautiful and we call it good.

We've accepted that our life will never look like what it did pre adoption and we are SO glad.

Life is so much richer now...

Harder yes, but OH so much richer.

I have been stretched more than I thought humanly possible this past year and as a result I have grown into a better person, a person that I pray, looks a little more like Jesus.

I wouldn't take back the journey for anything, but I am loving this place we have reached.

Far from what the world would consider "normal", but far from where we were a year ago. Redemption is so hard. When you're in the trenches, fighting for every little piece of ground you can get...

Everything seems small and insignificant and.... hard.

So very very hard...

but then you reach milestones like the one we're coming up on and God blesses you with season's of reflection when you can take the time to breath.

The skies clear and you can look back and see that you truly have come so far.

Every struggle,

Every hard day,

Every doubt,

Every forced smile, forced hug, forced kiss,

Every prayer,


Ivan has come so far.

He has changed from a frightened, timid, shell of a little boy into a brave, smart, confident individual who knows who he is and where he belongs.

Love is winning...

God is redeeming a precious little soul and bringing out the world changer that has been smothered down inside of him.

Watch out world!!!

Yeah that's my boy, sitting criss cross unsupported and playing!! We could of never imagined this a year ago!

Playing at the pumpkin patch. He was in sensory heaven swimming around in there.
That smile lights up our world.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

10 months HOME

The following post was written a week ago. Blogging is a luxury this busy mama has a hard time finding time for lately so I write a little here, add a couple pics a couple days later, write a little more the next day, you get the idea... sorry it's late :)

My heart is so full as I type this post.

On this day last year, we met our precious oldest son for the first time.

I will never forget driving through the orphanage gates. It felt so surreal, the moment we had been dreaming of for close to a year had finally come. In just moments we would see our son face to face. It was one of those moments where your body just can't seem to process the weight of your reality. We got out of the car, met with the director of the orphanage, learned almost everything there was to know about Ivan's past (which wasn't very much), and then we followed our facilitator over to a different building.

As we were walking I spotted a nanny carrying a child over to the same building we were going to. I knew instantly it was our boy and my heart began to pound. A knot formed in my throat and I grabbed Ryan's arm because I was so overwhelmed I thought I might faint. I looked up at Ryan, who had the biggest smile on his face.

Everything is a blur after that. I'm so glad we took a video because I was completely lost in the moment. I was soaking in the presence of my longed for child.

He was everything we dreamed he would be.

From the moment we saw his baby picture on Reece's Rainbow we knew he was ours and we knew he had the sweetest and most tender personality. God must of given us that insight because it couldn't of been more true.

He called me mama right away. He offered kisses and LOVED to be held and snuggled close (not things that are common for children who have grown up in institutions).

After spending around 20 minutes with him and hearing the director and doctor share a little more about him, the nanny took him back inside for naptime. We were then asked if we wanted to pursue his adoption.

We both said YES without even talking about it.

There was nothing that could of changed our minds.

He was OURS.

Recalling these memories bring tears to my eyes. When your living them, you're kind of just going through the motions, trying to survive in a foreign country, and praying everything works out, but now I can look back and see clearly how holy and precious each of those first memories with Ivan were.

I know him now.

I know how tender he is and how much he LOVES being in a family and being an American.

I know how much he loves life. How he loves learning new things and mastering new skills.

I know that if we wouldn't of adopted him it is likely he would not be alive today or worse yet, just an empty shell laying (maybe even strapped down) lifeless in a crib locked away in an adult mental institution until his body would eventually give up and take it's last breath.

That may seem like such a grim picture, but it would of been his reality.

I remind myself of that on the really hard days.

Adoption is not easy.

It's easy to post the smiling pictures and brag about how far we've come, but those smiles and the progress are only made possible by hard work in the trenches.

This past year we have battled trauma, grief, loss, and just plain evil all to prove to a child who has been abandoned, neglected, and lost everything he once knew, that he truly can rest safely in our love.

Knowing how hard it is, everything we've had to face with him, everything we've had to give up because of him, we would say yes again in a nano second.

Being comfortable just cannot compare to the redemption of a life.

I am so glad that Jesus didn't choose to take the comfortable road. He paid the ultimate price, giving up his entire life, so that we could have a chance at eternal life and an intimate relationship with Him. He puts up with us pushing Him away and He understands how the darkness has corrupted our hearts and made it so difficult for us to simply accept His love and the salvation He offers. But even with our messed up histories, God longs for us to be His sons and daughters.

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs - heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his suffering in order that we may also share in his glory. Romans 8:14-17

You see this adoption thing was not man's idea. Adoption is rooted in the heart of God and it is only through His powerfully healing love that the chains of Ivan's past are being broken.

I am brought to sobs when I realize the change in my son. I was looking through pictures the other day from when we first brought him home. He looked so little and fragile.

I remember how all he did for the first couple months was cry, scream, and self injure.

I remember telling his therapists that most days he seemed to be developmentally at an infants level.

Although he is still significantly behind for his age he has literally gained not months, but years developmentally since those first couple months home.

I look at him now and I see a sweet little peanut of a seven year old who has endless possibilities in front of him.

These next months will be ones of reflection, celebrations, and thanksgiving.

For God is awesome, His redemption is beautiful, and there is absolutely NOTHING that is impossible for Him.

To God be the glory!!

The following pictures were taken on our second visit. He was so excited to see us again! The nannies told us that he kept asking them when his "guests" were coming back. He had spent years being told that other children had "guests" coming to see them and finally some "guests" had come for HIM :')

We have nearly forgotten how his eye had such terrible strabismus, it has pretty much corrected itself simply from having consistent visual stimulation.

I can hardly believe that little boy in the picture above has turned into this bright eyed KINDERGARTNER!!!

We started school three weeks ago now. After much prayer (and indecision) Ryan and I both felt very strongly that it would be best for Ivan to be homeschooled again this year.

To be perfectly honest, it's not been an easy start. Ivan has never  had the structure of a school day and there have been days where the necessary boundaries and instructions have reminded him of his past isolation which sends him into trauma mode. He feels restrained in his chair and when I introduce things that he's not familiar with or ask him questions he doesn't know (even if he knew them yesterday) he feels like his world is out of his control and therefore not safe. He is so smart and learns easily, but only when it's on his own terms.


We know it's going to be a slow process for him. To assume that he's going to be able to sit and do assignments and projects like other children his age is completely irrational, but after only 3 weeks we are seeing slight improvements. We are learning that homeschooling is much less about Ivan "learning" a list of what society tells us he needs to know and more about us "learning" Ivan.

Learning his fears and teaching him ways to cope.

Learning his unique learning style so we can find the best ways to help him understand and grasp things.

Learning where he is strong, building on that strength and standing alongside him where he is weak, until he's ready to stand on his own in those areas.

Learning what he needs most of all is to feel loved and protected. Sure it's great if he learns his letter sounds and can count to 20, but if he gets there by us forcing him before he's ready, at the end of the day it's all going to be in vain.

On the difficult days, I wonder if we've made the right choice in keeping him home. It would be so much easier to have someone else deal with his meltdowns, but God continually reminds me that there is nothing that Ivan needs more during those moments then the assurance of his mama's presence, the constant reminder of our love for him, and the safety of his home.

We do a preschool curriculum that includes sensory activities each day which are by far his favorite. He is slowly learning that he needs to complete tasks even if he doesn't want to.

In the orphanage he was never pushed to learn new things. Everything he knew was due to him absorbing things on his own, which is why his hearing is impeccable and he can memorize things like nobodies business. When he laid in a crib for days, one of the only ways he was able to stimulate his mind was through his sense of hearing. Learning using his other senses (like sight) is a huge challenge for him. So we work on him using his eyes to find things in his sensory bin and looking at and describing pictures.

This is all so new for him.

When he first came home we praised him every time he voiced his desires and if at all possible we made sure we honored his requests so he could learn that he had a voice and mama and daddy would listen to him. This is how we built trust, which is CRITICAL for a child to have in those who care for him.

Trust is what builds security.

Security is the foundation for healing trauma.

So last year we really didn't push education on him. He was in learning overload with all the new stimulation alone, not to mention learning a new language when he knew very little of his first language to begin with.

We knew he would push back when asked to do things he doesn't understand or enjoy, but we didn't realize just how traumatic it would be for him.

It's clear that he wants to learn and do what we ask of him, but there's a hurdle of fear that he has to overcome with each seemingly simple task.

It is HARD.

Raising a child who has come from a HARD place is just downright HARD.

But with each little victory we see hope, joy, and pride overcome the fear in his eyes.

We see love win and there is nothing more joyous than watching your child heal and accept your love. Seeing him feel safe enough to take on new challenges is breathtaking.

We are so proud of our son!! We know this year of homeschooling isn't going to be easy, but we're so excited to look back on it and be able to see the transformation.

A couple pics from our first couple weeks

All ready for school time

Apple stamping. A year ago he would meltdown at the touch of paint

His finished masterpiece that he did ALL BY HIMSELF. Such a huge accomplishment for him :D

Painting with bubbles,  obviously my little fish LOVED this activity.
 I realize mostly have pictures of him during sensory play, which is not the only thing we do for school. It's just the only time he's calm enough for me to step away and get a picture ;)

 More pics from this past month

 We made a spontaneous trip to the park one night after bath.

after work tickle time with dad
After bath cuddles

Brotherly <3

He asked me to take his picture, the little ham.
First night wearing his knee immobilizers
He wears them all night. They help his legs get into a straighter position, preparing them to be able to support his body for standing someday

Is this seriously the same child? Our little man is growing up!!

Ivan Abraham Maxwell 10 Months home!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

7 years & 9 months

WOW!! Another month has come and gone!! We are quickly approaching that big ONE year home mark and I can hardly believe how time is flying by!!

We have so much to look forward to and yet we're trying to cling to every last bit of Summer that we can!

Some very big things have happened this last month, for starters...

Ivan got his activity chair!!

Sitting in it during speech therapy
Landon thinks it's pretty comfy too!!

This chair has improved our daily lives so much. Ivan sits in it at the table and it gives him the support to eat and drink without having to work so hard to support himself. His self feeding is improving a lot and he can now use an open mouth cup with very minimal spilling and no choking!!

We got a pool!!

Haha just a little cheapo one, but the kids just LOVE it, even our Landon who, until now, has been terrified of water.

This is his "really excited, I LOVE WATER" expression!!

Sometimes all 4 of us cram into it. If our neighbors didn't already think we're crazy, this has definitely confirmed it for them haha

Saturday in the Park

Our church puts on a free event called "Saturday in the Park" We have a BLAST!!

Pointing to the giant slide daddy and Ivan were going to go down.

Pretty excited about getting a balloon animal!!
Ivan ate at least 3 bags of popcorn (with a little help from Landon ;)!!

Did I mention Dunn Bros iced coffee is provided?!?
My joy boy!
My love bug

So I know after seeing all those pics, you all want to come check it out right??? Well for all you local peeps, come on out to Kiwanis park (S Washington & W Bowen) this Saturday (Aug 9th) from 11- 2 for an awesome time of family fun!! All activities, food and beverages are free, but we will be accepting donations of shampoo, body wash, and laundry detergent for "Carries Kids". If you can bring any of those items it would be a huge blessing to a family in need.

Hope to see you there!!

Ryan accepted a new job!!

Ryan has been wanting a change for quite a while now, but when we found out I was pregnant we knew that God was saying, "it's time guys!" Ryan began applying everywhere, even some jobs out of state, we were open to whatever God called us to. I'm thrilled to tell you that after a ton of application filling out, some job interviews, doors seeming to open and doors closing shut, Ryan was offered a job locally and after much prayer and some necessary changes being made, he accepted!! We are so happy that God is keeping us here for now!!

BIG NEWS!! Ivan Turned 7!!!

He always makes a disgusted face when unwrapping presents. I think it's a sensory thing.

<3 <3 <3

Ivan isn't a fan of cake so I made him cookies and cream popcorn instead.

Safe to say it was a hit with the whole fam, especially birthday boy :)

We had a such a great day, just hanging out together as a family and celebrating our oldest son's birthday and the fact that he's in our family now where his life is cherished and celebrated.

To be honest, there were moments on Aug 3rd where my heart was heavy and deep in thought. Most days I am able to just focus on the present and don't give much thought to life before Ivan, but on his birthday my heart couldn't help pondering the fact that we have missed out on many precious years of his life.

Ivan has had 6 birthday's pass without a birthday song, cuddles, presents, and special treats.

My baby has a past that I will never fully know and that is so hard for this mama's heart to handle.

With Landon's birthday's we take out the photo books. We reminisce the treasured memories and celebrate his growth and the change his little life has experienced.... I couldn't do that with Ivan... and that hurt.

I like to think that his life is just beginning and truly it is, when you consider that he wasn't really given the chance to "live" while he laid in a crib for 5 years by himself, but that doesn't change the fact that he did indeed suffer through those years.

My mind tried to imagine what his "birth"day might of been like. Was his birth mother full of excitement or dread when she realized her baby was coming early? Was she filled with joy when he was born? Did she look into his eyes for the first time with adoration or fear? My heart breaks inside when I think of the agonizing guilt, shame, and sadness she must of felt leaving the hospital without her child. Or maybe she delivered him somewhere else and then brought him to the hospital to abandon him.

My heart just aches for her...

A part of me hates that she holds pieces of his story that I never will.

More than anything, I just wish I could send her these pictures.

I wish she could see her child is not dead. He is alive, loved beyond measure, and thriving.

So it was a day mixed with some sorrow, but a whole lot of joy and celebration.

I will forever treasure the memories of seeing Ivan's face light up when he realized today we were celebrating him.

It was so obvious that he felt special and loved.

And we do love him, oh man, we love this boy to pieces!! I can't say enough about how he has blessed our lives and changed our family for the better. Although I hate that my baby has gone through so much without having a daddy and mama to protect him, I praise God that those days are OVER.

Another birthday will never go uncelebrated!!

Ivan got his wheels!!

The day after Ivan's birthday his wheelchair was delivered. He has had it for a couple days now and his pt is amazed by how quickly he's figuring it out. 

He still prefers crawling around which we encourage, but his wheelchair is opening up a new world for him. He's realizing when he's in it he can reach door knobs, book shelves, and see what is going on so much better. Today I had him help me make lunch and he was SO proud of himself. He wheels himself all over our apartment now (with minimal help when turning)!

First day with his new wheels!

Our precious Ivan Abraham, 7 YEARS OLD, home 9 months!!

The future is BRIGHT!!