Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sammy's Special Day

Yesterday many of our friends and some family gathered at our home to celebrate a very special occasion.  Our youngest son, Sammy, was baptized by Eric in our pool.  We are so proud of Sammy and his decision to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  While Sammy may only be 7, he understood his decision.  We have seen evidence of that in his every day life and walk with the Lord.

My sweet baby boy (who is not really a baby anymore!).

A delicious cupcake cake.  Yes, congratulations to Sammy!

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Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Romans 6:3

Eric is an ordained minister and had baptized Jeremiah and Elijah at our old home about 3 years ago.  Ever since that day Sammy knew that when he had accepted Jesus and was ready to be baptized, he wanted his daddy to be the one to baptize him.  While Sammy had actually prayed to accept Jesus over a year ago we wanted to allow some time to pass to see if Sammy truly understood the enormity of the decision he had made.  One cold Sunday morning back in late January while Eric was out on the road, that little boy turned to me at the end of a church service and said that he needed to speak with Pastor Scott (our church's youth pastor).  When I asked why he said, "Because I want everyone to know that I have Jesus in my heart!".  So I took Sammy up front and it was announced in front of our church family that Sammy had Jesus in his heart. 

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world.  Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. 
1 John 4:14

At that time the disciples came to Jesus and said, "Who then is greatest in the kingdom of heaven ?"  And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, "Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  "Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  "And whoever receives one such child in My name receives Me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in Me to stumble, it would be better for him to have a heavy millstone hung around his neck, and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:1-6

Friday, June 28, 2013


Eric and I oversee our church's Love Department, a special needs ministry that has been in place at our church for 25 years.  25 YEARS our church has reached out to adults with various disabilities!  Each week we spend our Sunday mornings with individuals who are so excited to be at church.  They love to worship, color pictures, have Sunday School lessons, and give and get hugs from one another.  It is so touching to see them interact with one another and truly care for each other.  I rarely get through a Sunday without having wet eyes.

You see, Eric is an ordained minister.  Up until April of last year he was an associate minister and worked in a church full-time.  While it was not the worst job in the world, and in fact very rewarding at times, it was a period of time where our eyes were opened up to the underbelly of church life.  We saw it all and some of it was some of the ugliest, most loveless, Christ-less, situations ever.  The politics, the fighting, bickering, arguing, nastiness, etc...  It was draining just walking into that building sometimes.  And while that was true of that church, I want to emphasize that there ARE great, Bible believing churches out there.  You just need to use wisdom and discernment to find them.

But now.

But now I walk into our current church where we are merely volunteers.  There are no elders breathing down our necks.  No church members telling us how to dress our children.  No chains!  We walk into our current church home and are surrounded with some very wonderful adults who love all people without prejudice.  They see the world vastly different than you and I.  They are there to "see Jesus".

Then Jesus called for the children and said to the disciples, "Let the children come to me. Don't stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children."  Luke 18:16

The Kingdom certainly belongs to my special friends.  They see things so innocently...they worship with abandon and love with all that they have.  Eric and I are so grateful to be serving them each week.  There is no bickering, no ugliness, no judgmental attitudes, no unkind words.  I think I hear people say, "I love you" more on Sunday mornings than any other day of the week!

On the last Sunday of every month we have "Doughnut Sunday".  To my special friends it is like having Christmas once a month.  They love it!  We also take the time to recognize the Birthdays that have taken place throughout the month and we sing Happy Birthday to everyone.  Oh what a happy Sunday "Doughnut Sunday" is!

At the same time, however, each week there is a very real and sad realization that lingers in the back of my mind.  There are millions of adults just like my special friends who are locked away...treated like animals.  As I sit among my special friends and worship with them my heart also aches.  They know the Lord.  They know the name of Jesus. Millions just like them do not.  There are probably just as many children like Dima and Channah who are also locked away without the hope of Jesus Christ.  Channah IS currently living without the hope of Christ in her life.  There are many others in even worse conditions just barely hanging on, tied to their cribs and have rats and insects crawl over them.  When I stop and think about that very real scenario my heart is sickened.  How can people allow this to happen?  Though the answer comes easily to me in that we live in a fallen world, I also know that we, the church, are to do something about it.

Don't excuse yourself by saying, "Look, we didn't know."  For God understands all hearts, and He sees you.  He who guards your soul knows you knew.  He will repay all people as their actions deserve.  Proverbs 24:12

But what?  How?

I honestly do not have a quick answer but I know that each person is called to something different.  For our family, we have been called to adopt two children with special needs (Dima and Channah) and serve the Love Department.  Other families are called to leave everything they have here in the States are are to serve such people where they are in their suffering.  Other families financially sponsor a child on a monthly basis.

So let me ask you.....what are YOU called to do?  Adopt?  Foster?  Pray for people?  Serve in your local church body?  Serve in your community?  Go on the mission field?  If your eyes have been opened, you cannot pretend you do not see.  Doesn't that make it so you live in a paradox?  Here in the United States it is the "land of plenty" and dare I even say excess.  Are there times when your heart twinges to help?

I know that I live in a paradox and can no longer just idly sit and allow the world to pass me by.  That all change drastically for our family over two years ago when we found Dima.  And now...Channah.

When did your life reveal the paradox existence?  I would love to hear how the Lord has opened your eyes.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Do You Like Books?

Well, with adoption comes the humbling chore of fundraising.  Another adoptive momma, Mandy Rhodes, is holding an Usborne Book fundraiser for our family.  We are super grateful that she has offered her time to do this!  Every penny earned form this fundraiser is going directly to our Paypal account to help cover the cost of our home study which will be held on July 8th.

There are some really great books available through Usborne that my boys have grown up with through the years:

Picture of Big Book of Big MachinesPicture of Questions and AnswersPicture of 50 Brain GamesPicture of 50 Science Things to Make and Do.Picture of Wind-Up Pirate ShipPicture of Wind-up Tractor BookPicture of Book of Bible Stories (C/V)Picture of Starting Point Science Volume 1 (C/V)Picture of Understanding Your Body IL (C/V)

It is never too early to think about Christmas or birthdays!  These books are high in quality and last for many years!  

To shop in the fundraiser show that Mandy has set up for us, please go to this link:

Thank you for helping us to bring Channah home!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sugar & Spice

For the past 10 years I have been the mother to boys.  I've played Legos, action figures, watched hundreds of hours of Bob the Builder, Thomas the Tank, and Super Hero Squad.  I've endured supper conversations that are to be perfectly honest, GROSS!  I've bought little suits, ties, and underwear with Spiderman.  I've enjoyed watching my boys grow into bigger boys and have always joked that I was the queen of the home.  I mean, really, I am the ONLY female;  even our dog is a boy!  The only feminine room in the house is my 1970's Pepto Bismol pink bathroom which Eric avoids like the plague!

But that is all about to change.

First the first time in my 10 years of being a mother I will be able to say that I have a daughter.

A little girl.

Sugar and spice and everything nice!

So who is this elusive princess?  She is an 11 year old girl that caught my family's attention back in January.  It was in passing and I truly thought that adopting her was a mere pipe dream.  As some of you know we had thought that our youngest, Sammy, had a mild form of Cerebral Palsy.  We went through lots of testing and now know that Sammy does not have any form of CP.  But as we were walking through all of that Eric and I read all that we could, talked with other parents of children with CP, and asked Sammy's neurologist lots of questions.  We had peace and felt as though we could handle whatever it was Sammy was going through.

One afternoon as I was on Facebook one of my friends posted a link to a child's profile on Reece's Rainbow.  Out of shear curiosity I clicked on it and that is when I saw her.  "Channah".  Her smile made me smile and then I saw her fingers.  Her sweet, slender fingers and how she had them in the picture.  They are just like our Sammy's fingers.  When I read her the information posted I saw that she has been diagnosed with a mild form of CP.  My heart was drawn to her.

I knew that at that exact point in time adoption was out of the question.  My husband's job kept him away from home for weeks on end, we were still getting Dima settled at school, and still taking Sammy to lots of therapies and doctor appointments.  At the very least, however, I felt led to pray for her.  I sent her picture to my husband and just asked him to pray for her.  He responded later that night via voicemail and shared that "Channah" was just about the sweetest little girl he had ever laid eyes on. He, too, felt drawn to her but was sorry we could do nothing more than pray.

Over the course of the following weeks my husband and I had made some decisions for our family and our future that allowed him to come home off the road and have a job where he was home every evening.  That also meant that we were able to step it up at church and take over our church's special needs ministry.  As everything fell into place we began to feel as though there was a missing "someone" meant to be part of our family.

Eric attended an informational meeting put on by the Florida Baptist Children's Home to learn more about becoming foster parents.  We figured that might be an option.  That same evening a friend of mine told me about a little boy with CP in need of a forever family.  We seriously prayed about both options but a certain someone kept coming up in conversation.  We prayed some more.  We sought Godly counsel.  Then another little one came up for adoption via California foster care.  A super chunky little baby who was blind and of Korean descent- she was just a doll baby!  Eric suggested that we inquire so we did.  We even contacted our social worker and we began the process to submit our home study for that sweet little one.  Yet a certain little someone continued to come up in conversation and haunt our minds.

Within a week of attempting to submit our paperwork for the little one in CA, we learned that she had been matched.  To be honest we all felt relieved.  It became very apparent that our hearts were captured by this certain someone who had grabbed our attention back in January.  It was time to inquire about "Channah".

The more we learned from a family who had met her, the more she sounded as though we could truly help her reach her full potential and that she would be a perfect fit for us.  I called my social worker and told her that we were ready to do another International adoption, this time China.  She gave us the green light and was delighted that we were finally adding a girl to our family of little boys.

What makes this story even more special is that this time it was Eric who has been so sure about "Channah".  Yes, he was reluctant at first back when he was on the road for weeks on end which made sense.  But in his quiet time with God it was made clear to him.  There was no doubt.

This little girl will have a daddy who will protect her, love her, pray for her, and guide her!  She has a daddy who puts every last spare penny into our Blessings Jar to go towards her adoption every evening when he comes home from work.  He is covered in grease and still has his lunchbox in hand, but putting the change in that jar is a priority.  She will have 4 brothers who desire to protect her and have already dug traps in the yard to keep boys away from her (no kidding!).  She will have a mother who will cherish time spent with a daughter doing girly activities.  There is absolutely do doubt in our minds that we are to work towards welcoming "Channah" into our family!

We have already submitted our Letter of Intent to the Chinese government and received our pre-approval to adopt "Channah" last week.  It is now time to do our home study, compile our dossier, and work on fundraising.  It seems almost surreal to be doing adoption paper work once again but we are excited.  It is our hope that "Channah" will be able to benefit from the same medical care that Sammy has had and that she will thrive in our family on her terms.

So it is with great pleasure that our family officially announces that we are adopting "Channah"!

If you wish to make a tax-deductible donation to our adoption efforts, you may do so through our Family Sponsorship Page with Reece's Rainbow.  If you would prefer to make the donation directly to our family (though not tax-deductible) you may do so on the right hand side of our blog via the Paypal button.

Most importantly, however, would you please pray for our family and Channah as we begin this new journey?

Memorable Weekend

This past weekend was one of the best weekends I have ever had.  No, seriously.  It was a weekend that I had been anticipating since January: a weekend of laughter, encouragement, tears, prayer, and renewed strength.  This past weekend I had the honor of spending time with three other adoptive mommas of children who were also adopted from Ukraine and have special needs.  I think you will find that these are familiar faces, too!

Two years ago I walked into the U.S. Embassy in Kiev, Ukraine and saw a face I had only known via a blog, Bringing Henry Home.  Carla adopted little Henry who had Larson's Syndrome- the cutest little guy with huge eyes and a poof of hair.  Carla, Henry, Dima, Carol, and I spent 2 days together in Kiev as we finished up our adoptions.  It was a wonderful time and I had always felt blessed to have been able to spend time with them.  Sadly little Henry passed away unexpectedly in November of 2012.  Recently Carla and her family have commited to adopt a sibling group and it has been exciting to watch their journey thus far.

A year before Henry passed I received a phone call from a sweet gal who had just committed to adopt two little girls also from Ukraine.  She had so many questions and their adoption story was just amazing to follow.  The bonus is that she lived not more than 2 hours away!  Again, however,  a tragic twist of fate caused a terrible accident of one of the girls and precious Selah is now requring around the clock care.  But Selah's momma, Yvonne, has a very strong and very real relationship with the Lord.  I admire her and ask that you all continue to pray for the Clanton Family.

And finally, a very familiar face was present.  My friend, Lindy, whom I have known for ten years was able to come and join in our fun and share her ups and downs of parenting 3 little boys who are also from Ukraine and have Down Syndrome.  It was Lindy who first introduced me to Reece's Rainbow and if it had not been for her, we would not have our Dima!  There was even a time way back in the day that our families were going to purchase a huge plot a property together and build our houses on said property.  Oh the fun we were going to have raising our kids together and helping each other out.  God had other plans and the Houses moved to TN and we moved to NC for Eric to attend seminary.

Carla arrived at my home Friday afternoon and stayed through most of Sunday.  Eric so graciously took the boys to my in-law's so there would be no disruption from little folks.  It was just such a breath of fresh air and I think it was time that each of us mommas so desperately needed.  There were several other mommas who were supposed to have been in attendance and they were greatly missed.  Hopefully this will be just the first of many such weekends!

L-R:  Yvonne Clanton, Carla Dobrovits, Lindy House & Myself.

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Friday, June 14, 2013

The Learning Curve

This week Dima began summer school or ESY (Extended School Year) at our local special needs school.  My biggest reason for wanting him to attend was to have structure and an opportunity to work on making positive choices in his day in an environment other than home.  This past school year he did very well academically but when it came to socially appropiate behaviors, listening, following directions, etc... he struggled.  In fact it eventually got to where he only attended school 1/2 days and was in need of a one on one aide just to get through a few hours of school.  I do not share this information to make Dima look bad or to indicate that he is a difficult child.  I share this to show two things:

1.  Dima is 9 and had never been in any schooling of any sort until this past year.  He did not read or write.  He did not know how to add or subtract.  He missed out on three plus years of having the opportunity to learn.  Dima missed out on half of his childhood. 


We get up at 5:00 each morning to wait for the bus to come and pick him up at the end of our driveway.
I dress him each morning and pack his backpack and lunch, encouraging him to make good choices and learn all that he can.
Dima (im)patiently waits for his ride to show up and talks about all that he wants to do at school.
 The bus pulls up and Dima gets on without so much as looking back.  Before he would fight me and cry.  He would say, "NO!  Dima not go to school!".  I would have to literally put him on the bus and secure him in his seat.  By 9:00 a.m. the bus driver would be calling me to tell me all that Dima did in the brief ride to school.

2.  But now?

Now Dima sits nicely in his seat.  I have yet to receive a phone call from the bus driver.  Dima is happy. He seems more relaxed in the mornings.  There is no anxiety, no tears, no back talk or sassing.  Just a typical, happy little boy looking forward to a day of learning and play with his peers.

And at school- oh what a difference!  So far each day I have received positive reports.  Dima "plays appropiately with peers", he "is easily redirected", "follows instructions without prompting", and again, Dima seems happy.  I asked him if it is easier for him to make good choices at his new school and he said, "OH YES!  HAPPY FACE!".  I think, finally, we found a place for Dima.

The school that Dima is attending now and will attend in the fall is a special needs school.  There is more one on one attention, the staff as a whole works exclusively with students with special needs, and the campus is a little more secure than Dima's previous school (Dima would attempt to come home on his own from time to time).  While I would say that inclusion of special needs students can be a good thing, I truly see the value in schools such as the one Dima is now at.  I am by no means an expert or even have a degree in education.  I am merely a mom raising a child with a special need.  But I think somtimes typical schools can put undo pressure on a child with needs.  It is almost as if the staff (not the ESE teachers) expect special needs children to behave or be just like all of the other children.  In some cases it just doesn't work!  Eric was an ESE teacher and he agrees- inclusion is not always the answer for every child.

This is where the learning curve comes in. 

Eric and I are learning to walk the line with pushing Dima to reach his full potential and knowing when we need to back off.  Dima is extremely high functioing in so many ways but given his background he is maybe not as high functioning as we would think.  We need to allow Dima to make mistakes and extend the gace to do so.  It seems as though this new environment does exactly that for him and it has put him at ease.  It is so amazing to watch him grow in his new environment!

Yesterday afternoon when Dima bounced off the bus he was so proud of having another good day at school and he was proud of the Father's Day card he made for Eric.  When I looked at the card I couldn't believe the writing (and it is Dima's writing!), the detail, the work he put into it.  It was obvious that Dima took the time to do his work and he felt the pride that comes along with hard work.  

So this morning when Dima woke up at his usual time and said, "Dima go to school?" he was disappointed when I told him that he did not have school today (no ESY on Fridays).  I look forward to next week, to watch him learn and grow even more.

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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Haps

So school has been out for about 2 1/2 weeks.  As I have shared in previous entries Jeremiah, Elijah, and Sammy went camping with their Grammy and Pa while Dima was king of the castle.  He missed his brothers terribly yet upon their return he was no longer king.  His brothers did not take to his bossing very well.  

Then last week Elijah FINALLY had his tonsils removed.  That poor boy has been sick so much in the past twelve months that it was more of a relief than anything when we arrived at the surgery center.  I had Jeremiah and Dima with Elijah and I that day and as you can see, Dima was taking care of his "little" big brother...or something like that...

"Sit on you, Bubba?"
"Mom, Dima is getting heavy now.  Help!"
 All in all the surgery was a success and Elijah is recovering nicely.  Out of all four boys Elijah is my easiest patient (Dima is a close second!).  As we drove home from the surgery, however, Tropical Storm Andrea decided to arrive.  That made things a little more intersting.  No damage here so all is well.

To add to the craziness Eric and I had requeted a little girl's file from China.  It arrived the day before Elijah's surgery and then we realized that it was the incorrect child.  The day of the surgery I was emailing back and forth with the agency attempting to get it all resolved.  Thankfully, by the time we returned home from the surgery we had the correct file and even recent videos of the little girl.  BUT we had less than 24 hours to fill our our initial application and get our letter of intent off.  We are now waiting to hear back to see if we have pre-approval!

In the meantime Dima started ESY (Extended School Year) through our district at the special needs school.  He LOVES it and seems to be doing very well.  So far I have not heard otherwise so I think no news is good news.  Come August Dima will attend the special needs school during the regular school year.  We are thankful that we have that option as Dima really could use the individulized attention.  

On Friday Sammy has more blood work done to furhter investigate what is going on in his little body.  The blood test will specifically looking for a mitochondrial deletion.  Bottom line we are looking for the reasons why our Sammy Wammy has issues.  One thing we know for certain is that he does NOT have CP.  We are thrilled that we have that answer but we also see how God used Sammy to open our hearts to another child who DOES have mild CP.  More to come on that....

So far it has been an eventful summer and we look forward to all that this summer will bring.

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Saturday, June 1, 2013

Big Night On The Little Town

To continue with our special time alone with Dima we decided to take him out to supper at one of his favorite places to eat:  Rexall B & W.  A REAL pharmacy with a small town "diner".  It is "Home of the 88 cent Breakfast".  An icon in our small town.  The food is inexpensive yet tasty.  Eric had all you can eat fish, Dima had a cheeseburger, and I had their prime rib special.  For dessert we all shared a slice of lemon pie.

After supper we decided to walk across the street to Cooter Pond Park to look for gators and turtles.  Success!  The weather has been perfect here over the past fews weeks with lower than normal humidity, little rain, and cooler than normal temperatures with a constant breeze.  Last evening was delightful.

Daddy and Dima wait for their food.
Dima loved the big bear.
Posing with some Cooter Turtles.
Dima is looking for gators with Daddy.
Some major small town law.
Peek-a-boo I see you! 
He had no fear of humans and watched us fully expecting that we would feed him.  Guess he failed to read the sign at the other end of the park.
Gator #2.  He was not as friendly.
As Dima would say, "Best friend, Daddy!"
Love that cheesy face.  We cannot imagine our lives without it.
Worth every piece of paper work, fundraiser, and almost 6 weeks in Ukraine.
I love him!
He loves me, too.
I love this guy a whole lot!  He said, "Yes" to Dima and has said, "Yes" to another!
Just our small, lazy town on a Friday night. 
Old school!
 We love living here and are happy that the Lord brought us back.  Living in a small town makes life a little more simple and a lot more enjoyable for us.

Oh and yes...we will have an exciting announcemnet in the coming week....if you missed it, look back at the pictures and read the captions...
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