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!!