Friday, December 31, 2010

FULLY FUNDED!!!

Yes, you read that right. We. Are. Fully. Funded. AMAZING!!!! Who would have thought a year and a half ago we would be able to raise around $30,000?! Well, God assured us that He was not a poor God, and that this was important to His heart. We listened, and He was faithful. Here is a list of some of the different ways money has come in:

*My parents started us off with our initial fees when we started the process back in September of '09 (I think I need about 10 blog posts just to talk about how amazing my parents have been throughout this process. They have supported us way beyond finances. Sometimes I think they might be more excited about the twins than we are! They have simply been amazing, and will be spending two weeks with us in Ethiopia).

*We had a Simply Love t-shirt fundraiser.

*I stood in line at the racetrack in order to get Coach Calipari (one of the most talked about college coaches in the world!) to sign a special Maker's Mark bottle so we could sell it for our adoption.

*We managed to get 7 signed basketballs from the entire 2009-2010 University of Kentucky Basketball team, including John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins, Eric Bledsoe and Coach Calipari. We sold them all for a grand total of $2800.

*We had some VERY generous donations made, large and small. It blew our minds every time we received one of these in the mail or in our Paypal account.

*We used all of our print sales from our photography business to fund our adoption.

*We sold bunches of hats knit by my wonderful Norwegian mother. Speaking of which, they are still for sale under "The Hat Store" tab at the top of the page. :)

*And finally, we had one final and fantastic T-shirt & Hoodie fundraiser. I don't want to brag, but I've been told several times that the Hoodies are people's "favorite hoodie ever!" We raised enough to fully fund our adoption, and then were able to give $200 to Project Hopeful's, Hope+ Sisterhood.

It has been a humbling and beautiful experience to watch God provide for every need in this adoption process. And what an honor to have so many people be a part of this journey by supporting us through prayer and finances. You ALL have played a part in this! So for those of you who are afraid to start the adoption process because you don't want to fund raise or ask people for help, I'd suggest you really ask God about it. I think it is wonderful if you are able to fully fund your adoption. That would be amazing! But if you aren't moving forward with your adoption simply because you don't want to ask others for help....well, you seriously need to get over it. I say that in the nicest way possible too. Don't let others miss out on the incredible opportunity to be a part of your adoption journey in this way. Not everyone is going to adopt a child, but there are many who want to help others adopt. Let others do that for you! Let God use others to bless you, and show you how amazing the body of Christ is!

As of today, we leave in 13 days for Ethiopia. In 15, we will be meeting our miracles for the first time. Can you imagine what that will be like?!!! I can't wait to share every minute of it with you all!

Our agency has told us that delays are very likely, and while we are mentally preparing ourselves for delays, we are hoping for smooth sailing. :) We are hoping and praying for a smooth court process, and for a speedy embassy date after that. Would you hope and pray with us? On the 18th of January, we will stand before an Ethiopian judge and say "yes" to our children. I can't wait.


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Musings from the Car & Two Weeks to Ethiopia...

Eight years ago (almost exactly), Wes and I started dating.  On our first big date, we took a day trip to Cincinnati (about hour and a half away).  We went to a bookstore downtown, sat down on the floor, and read books.  I felt totally comfortable doing this.  Wes felt weird because people had to squeeze by us.  I thought it was sweet and intimate.  After that, we went to a little Build-A-Bear store, and got a little moose who we named, Wendell Eugene.  It was a fantastic first date.

Today, eight years later, we had our alarms set for 5:30am.  Reason?  We had to drive an hour and a half to Cincinnati to see if they would let us walk-in for a fingerprint appointment.  You see, our prints expire in March, and while we hope we'll be back in the States by then, we can't be sure, so we had to get them updated. I spent an hour on the phone with USCIS yesterday trying to get them scheduled before we leave on January 13th (they gave us an appointment for January 20th....yeah, a little late).  Well, we didn't get much help, so we decided to take a chance, and hope that the staff at the Application Support Center would squeeze us in without an appointment.  To make a long story short, we walked in at 8am this morning, and the staff in Cincinnati were AWEsome!  They were so kind and helpful, and very understanding.  They took our prints, and at about 8:40am we were done.  We breathed several huge sighs of relief, got in our car, and decided to take the day and kind of recreate our first date, and then add on a couple of new things.

First we walked along the riverbank out in the cold winter morning.  This was our view.



Then we went and saw the new Chronicles of Narnia movie (which was awesome!  wes and i were both crying in the end), after which we wandered into this weird store with all kinds of medieval swords and garb, including Harry Potter attire.  So of course I had to sport the Gryffindor cloak.  (Thank goodness the sorting hat didn't put me in Slytherin!)

After the sword store, we went and had lunch at fairly crappy Irish Pub.  We are always tempted by any kind of cool pub, but this one was part of a chain.  We should have known better.  From the crappy pub, we headed over to Rainbow Hugs.  Isn't that the most ridiculous store name?!  We think so.  It made us laugh each time we said it, but basically it is just like a Build A Bear workshop.  Wes got the horse and name him Chester the Chestnut Horse.  I got the fox and named him Mr. Fox.  We are so original.  These two little guys will go to Alex and Eliana.

From Rainbow Hugs we went to Barnes & Noble and had a delicious peppermint mocha while reading relationship questions from a really weird relationship book.  Wes decided to journal the events of the day.


And after Barnes & Noble, we stopped by the GAP outlet, bought a few things, and then headed home, where we sat and chatted in the babies' room for about an hour.  From there we headed over to Olive Garden where they had a massive wait, so we decided to utilize our free time by hopping over to the mall to get some hair product for our twins.  The people at Sephora are seriously great!  Of course, as you saw in the video (if you actually made it that far into the video), we bought something.  From there we headed back over to Olive Garden, had a delicious meal of Calimari, Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, and Salad.

It was truly a lovely day.  I can't express to you how much I love this man, but I seriously do.  He has been an amazing husband and I can't wait to see him as a father.  He will be amazing at that to.  I love you, Wesley!

And finally, I leave you with a couple of pics of our little ones that were taken on Christmas Eve.  Of course, I can't show their complete pictures yet because we haven't passed court, but hopefully in about 2 1/2 weeks, we will debut their pictures here on the blog.  I can't wait!

Alexander in his newest overalls!

Eliana's beautiful eyes, and cute curly hair.
Oh, and here is the latest "Musings from the Car"!  Come on now....you know you've missed our musings.  :)  It is six minutes long, so if you watch it all the way through, I will be impressed.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm Scared....

 
When it all comes down to it, I’m scared.  I’m scared that God’s timing is not going to look how I want it to look.  I’m worried, stressed, and the anxiety hanging out in my muscles is enough to tell me a nice massage would be great right now.

15 months ago, Wes and I both got this insane amount of peace regarding international adoption.  In the same week, and individually, we got this sense that we were supposed to start the process to adopt a child from Nepal.  It was crazy.  We had no money, and we had no idea how it was all going to pan out. 

A lot of things have happened in 15 months.  6 months into the process with Nepal, with our dossier already in country, things started to get really sticky with Nepal adoptions.  The U.S. government was handing out warning after warning about adopting from Nepal.  Other countries were closing down their Nepal adoption programs.  It didn’t look good.  After a tortuous few days of praying and discussing, we finally decided to start the process to adopt from Ethiopia.  That was in March of 2010.  On May 20th, our dossier flew away to Ethiopia.  On September 9th we got “the phone call”.  We had been matched with 3 month old twins.  AND, it was a boy and a girl.  God had blown our minds.  Then, we waited 5 tortuous weeks from the time court reopened, to the time we got our court date (I know it doesn’t sound like a lot, but when everyone else at your agency has gotten theirs 2 weeks after court reopens, you start thinking that maybe your paperwork got used as a doorstop at the courthouse, and nobody is every going to find it.)  This was the absolute WORST part of the wait for me.  I think it was especially hard because our agency didn’t know it was going to take that long either, so they kept saying, “Surely it will be tomorrow.”  There were a lot of “tomorrows” in the wait, which make it WAY worse.  This was due to NO fault of their own.  They had no control over the wait once it was submitted to court.  As a matter of fact, our agency has been supremely thorough about EVERYTHING which makes me feel a whole heck of a lot better about the whole process.

And here I sit today, in front of this computer screen, realizing we are a mere 3 weeks away from our departure for Ethiopia.  And yes….I am scared.  At least that’s the best way I know how to describe how I am feeling right now.  This past week I have been a bundle of nerves, which is not the norm for me.  I am usually pretty level-headed, and a fairly positive person.  I always try to see the good in every situation, which at times really annoys people.  I’ll admit it.   But….that’s not me right now. 

I’m convinced that blogging, and reading other adoption blogs is both a blessing and a curse.  I have been reading the blogs in my blog list daily for the last 9 months or so.  I have gotten to know different mothers and fathers.  Some of them I have even become good friends with.  The support of this community has been a rock for me in times of uncertainty.  It has been a constant.  Everyone has cheered for us with every milestone we have passed.  Our friends here in Lexington have gone to Queen of Sheba & Outback Steakhouse for more milestone celebrations than I care to admit.  It has been amazing.

But now that we are close to the end of our wait, I read these blogs and hang on to them like a lifeline.  This is where the “curse” part comes in.  There have been several families who have encountered delays in their process.  Court dates have been changed, important papers have gone missing, and some have even had referrals withdrawn.  It is daunting to say the least.  And that’s when I get scared.  I think, “What if this happens to us?  What makes us so special?  We aren’t any better than the rest of these families?  We haven’t prayed more, or earned more spiritual points.  We are just like everyone else.”  Worry and stress abound, and I am lost in a see of fear.  I start thinking, “What if the birth mother comes back for them?  What if our case is delayed?  What if we have to wait months or even years to bring them home?  What if we don’t have enough money?”  Yeah, I’ve been thinking ALL of these things all week now.  It has not been very edifying. 

Which brings me to this very moment, to the here and now.  And right now, I’m going to take a step beyond every one of these feelings and declare what I know to be true….

Our God is faithful.  He has provided every single penny for every single part of this process.  We have never lacked at all.  When roadblocks in this journey came up (there are still things I have not shared on this blog about our adoption process, but don’t worry, the time will come when I will), He told us, “It will be okay.  Just trust me.  I will take care of everything.”  And He did.  I can’t count the tears of joy I have cried over this past year, but every one of those tears is due to the miraculous and amazing God I call Father.  So now, in the midst of my fear and worry, I can still say that He is Lord, and He is above all things.  What if there is a delay?  He is still good, and He is still in control.  What if the birth mother comes back for them?  God is still good, and He is still in control. 

I am not in control of any of this.  Wes is not in control of any of this.  The only thing we have control over is the way we choose to respond to the roadblocks and bumps that come our way.  That doesn’t mean we can’t be sad at times, or that we can’t hurt.  We have done that plenty, and no matter what happens, we will still have times where hurt and sadness overwhelm us.  In the end, though, I choose to place my hope and trust in the One who has provided for every last thing in my life….the One who has never failed, and the One who has always been faithful to pour out His love and joy in the most difficult moments. I hope that I’m not coming across as some goody two-shoes, or a super spiritual nut.   I’m not.  I hurt just as much as the next person when difficult things come my way, and sometimes I forget that God really is in control and has my best interests at heart.  But I don’t ever want to lose hope.  I don’t want my life to be all about me.  I want it to count for something, no matter what happens.

So in the midst of my pain, I will still cry out to the One who saved me from an eternity without Him.  I will still trust in His goodness, no matter how dreadful the circumstances seem around me.   I will remember that this adoption was His idea in the first place.  I will remember that He has provided all the money to cover this adoption.  I will remember that He has kept our babies safe and healthy in their orphanage while we wait to meet them.

I love my God so much, and I know that He loves me without limits.  That is the only thing in life that I could never bear to lose.

T-Shirts and Hoodies for Christmas?

Hey guys, just a small little update.  Our buddy who did the final printing of our shirts and hoodies finished them up on Saturday while we were shooting a wedding in Morehead.  Wes and I started packing up the shirts at around 9:30pm on Sunday night, when we realized that we would never be able to get the big cozy hoodies into those small tyvek envelopes that fit the t-shirts so well.  So at about midnight, I headed over to trusty ol' Walmart and bought tons of boxes for the hoodies.  Wes went to bed at that point, and then I was up to 3:45am on Sunday night/Monday morning rolling, labeling, taping and packing up all the hoodies and t-shirts!  It took four trips into the post office from my car, with boxes piled high, a long line, and a really fast postal service worker, but we got them all in the mail.  The woman helping me seemed to think all the packages would get out to everyone by Christmas.  We shall see!  It was a good 10-15 minutes of talking about our adoption too.  Pretty great!

So hopefully, we'll see a Christmas miracle and all the shirts and hoodies will be delivered on time!  :)

By the way, we did our random drawing for our gift card giveaway!  Rachel from the Love With Abandon blog was the first winner as #54 in the list.  And Danielle, one of my former brides, was the second winner.  Yay!  I'm still waiting to hear back from Rachel, so if you know her, give her a shout out and let her know she's getting a $50 Visa gift card, and I need her address!

Rachel's winning ticket!
Danielle's winning ticket!













So there you have it!  And today or tomorrow, I'll send an update with the final numbers for our fundraiser!  It's gonna be good!!!

Thank you to everyone who helped make this fundraiser a HUGE success!!!  Woohoo!!!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Help waiting families in Nepal....

Guys, I know that many of us have gone through our own set of struggles in this adoption process.  Some of you have waited months, even years, to bring your children home.  You have hit unexpected road blocks.  Some of you have even had referrals withdrawn from you, because a birth mother has decided to keep her child instead of give them a home with another family.  The list could go on and on. 

Right now, my heart is in Nepal with all the families who are there waiting with their children.  On August 6th, the U.S. basically suspended all adoptions, which basically put all the families with referrals in limbo.  Some families were already in Nepal at the time of the announcement.  Some were just about to leave.  Many have been there since August, just waiting, hoping, praying that the U.S. would grant them a visa for their little ones so they can come home.  It has been hard.  It has been challenging.  But I'm sure they all would say it has been worth it.  These children are legally theirs, but the U.S. won't grant their children visas, so they wait....

Please visit this site, http://theywaitnepal.blogspot.com/, and sign a petition to be a voice to bring these miracles home to their forever families.  It is free, and it is REALLY easy to fill out.  You can make a difference. 

And for all of us who are bloggers, I know how easy it can be to completely break down on this kind of public forum.  It is easy to lose hope in the midst of great trials.  Recently, I started reading another adoptive family's blog and it is so encouraging.  This mama has been waiting and facing delay after delay, and yet she continually comes back to the One who is above all else, and who is bigger than every delay and every hurt.  If you want to be encouraged with your own waiting woes and hurts, read her blog.  You won't regret it.

You can also see another adoptive mama's beautiful pictures (her and her husband are also very well known photographers in the United States) that she has taken of several of the waiting children who already have been joined with their families, but are just waiting to come home.  Check out her blog here.

Most of all, just keep praying for these families.  And yeah...sign that petition.  Get it done.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

T-Shirt & Hoodie Fundraiser Update...

Hey everyone!  We just wanted to give you a status update on our fundraiser.  As we stated in our original post about the t-shirts and hoodies, we didn't know if we would be able to get them out by Christmas.  Well, I spoke with the company that is going to make them for us, and because of the overload of the Christmas holiday, they are not going to be able to get them done on time.  It's possible we may not get them out until the New Year.

I feel awful, and in fact have lost sleep over this, especially since I know there were some of you who didn’t see the disclaimer about holiday delays.  I know there were many of you who bought these as Christmas gifts, so I hope the recipients of your gifts will be forgiving of the delay.

Please know that no matter what, you have played a huge role in helping us bring our babies home.  You have blessed us so much with your giving hearts.  I hope you will forgive us for the delay.  We will get your purchases to you as soon as we can!

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Depraved Indifference....

*I think Wes's post may have gotten lost in the midst of all our fundraiser posts, so I'm reposting because I am so proud of his heart, and want everyone else to benefit from it as well.  Enjoy and be challenged!

Good afternoon to all our faithful bloggy-buddies (Don't know it that is a thing, but if not I just coined the word and you read it here first),

Today I, Wes, will be blogging and Nina has the day off; so you best get seat belts for eyes cause it is going to get crazy.  (A joke that may be a bit inside for some of you, it is from the IT Crowd, for those umpiring today that may be ball one.  I hope I don't end up walking anyone day.)

It is 38 days until we make our way to Africa, Ethiopia to be exact, to go finalize our adoption of Alex and Eliana.  And as the day grows near I grow a little more tense, and anxiety builds in my chest.  Questions arise, like,  "Are we really doing this?" ( You mean this is not just some great idea that we had that makes us feel important and good that we are going to help someone in need, but we actually are going to put ourselves in the front line of compassion and sacrifice).  "What if something happens and it goes belly-up?" (The family comes and takes them away or worse the court systems takes longer and we are stuck in Ethiopia for over two months only to be denied).  These are all legitimate feelings to have, I am sure, but they are my feelings and I am the one having to deal with them.  It is funny how when they are your feelings, they always seem to grab your attention more than if they were your friends on the other side of the country or even next door; I can still go to sleep at night if they are some one else's but when they are mine, not as easily.

But to set the record straight, I have been sleeping fine at night, and during the day ( I have been sick for 2 weeks...blasted wintry weather).  You see I have a gift, I have learned how to push any emotional attachment to a situation or person that could be detrimental to my heart, just out of reach.  I put it in a safety deposit box, and bury it in the back yard.  So when people ask me how I feel I only have to remember how I felt, so the feeling is a memory that can be elaborated or championed with out having to actually feel it in real time.  Now I know where it is, and I can show you where it is, but for God's sake don't make me actually have to dig it up and face the feelings of the feeling!  That's just unthinkable.  So it is not so much a gift but more of a defense mechanism that I learned at a younger age in dealing with despair and depression; it is more like a curse!  It is kinda like Davy Jones's chest, the place where he put his heart so no one could hurt him and he couldn't die (see Pirates of the Caribbean: at world's end)...what is life if you can't feel the passion of love and the pain of disappointment?  It is a life unfulfilled.

I don't really like that I do that and it is something that I have begun to change in my life, through the example of my saviour Jesus Christ.  He came as a man; He hungered, he was thirsty, he was weary, he wept, he was angry, he was disappointed, he anguished, he prayed, he worked, and he sighed!  He experienced life to the fullest, as a man.  Experience for most of us leads us to cynicism, isolation, hard heartedness, fear, and many other defense mechanisms that we feel will keep us from getting hurt. And even as Christians we lead lives that are not free, but bond with fetters from our past.  Christ came to set the captives free, and I declare that Freedom over my life and my family.  Are bad times going to come?  Yes.  They have come already, and will continue.  Will I be disappointed in my family and friends? Yes, and they with me.  But I am not going to let fear keep me from the Joys and Pains of life; life is incomplete without both.  "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but WHEN desire comes it is a tree of life" [Proverbs 13;12, emphasis mine].  A friend pointed this out to me a few months back that it is not a question of your desires coming to frution, it is merely an issue of time...WHEN desire comes...it will come and when it comes, it will far out way the sickness of your heart; fulfilled desire is the elixir of those with deferred hope.

So as a Christian man...that is, a Christian and a man...how can I disillusion myself into thinking that I can make it all the way to the court hearing and back to the States without putting my heart out there?  You see, I am a father now, whether or not I have actually held or done any "fathering" to Alex and Eliana, they are my children.  That thought hadn't really sunk in until the last few weeks.  I had been trying to float through this adoption without becoming completely (emotionally) invested, but that is rubbish.  They need a father, and they need a man to be their father!!!  They don't need a father who will care for them only when I can hold them and protect them, they need a father who will do that even though they are thousands of miles between us.  Those miles have caused disconnect, disassociation, and decontextualization for me and I am sure there are other fathers that have felt similar (even some mothers).  We feel helpless to do anything, so instead of feelings despair and taking appropriate actions (praying, fasting, and talking about them) we simply shut it up and wait until we can unleash our pent up love and compassion on them on gotcha day, or when they are safely in our homes.

Below is a video that echoes my heart.  Not just about Alex and Eliana but also for those less fortunate.  The one thing that I have let myself feel in this adoption process is the issue of orphans as an epidemic and my family and I (and friends) want to help the root causes in these countries so that there are no more orphans.  Is it unattainable? Yes, but that should always be the goal, anything less it not Christ-like!!  He came to seek and save the lost, and his desire is that everyone is saved and comes to the knowledge of Truth. [I Tim 2:4]  Will everyone be saved? No, but that is still the goal of the God.  If he sets his goals that high, then so should we.  Until there are no more orphans.  We are the salt and light of the world, if not us then who?  Unicef?   The U.N.?  Bono?  Some secular organization that will share food and compassion but not Christ?  If not us then who???






I want to be a man, a Christian, and a father!  Not only to my children but to all of God's "Children".  I desire to be his hands and feet.  I want to be less so He can be more.  I want to feel the Joys and Pains, the Ecstasy and the utter Disappointment.  I want this because I know that my God has gone through the same things as me, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our  weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as  we are--yet was without sin." [Hebrews 4:15]  I want to rise up as Shammah did in the Old Testament and face an entire garrison of Philistines, by himself, for a field of lentils; a defenseless and vulnerable thing that if plundered may have never yielded good fruit for harvest, but if protected then the harvest would feed many and for many years to come; it was an investment in the future.  Shammah defeated the Philistines and protected the lentils.

Shammah is my name, and protection is my Christian, fatherly, and joyful duty.  Amen.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Tomorrow is the last day and we have about 35 to go!

Hey everyone. We just want to say thank you to everyone who has helped us on this fundraiser so far! You have been awesome!

Tomorrow at 11:59pm, our fundraiser will end, and we still have about 35 shirts or hoodies to sell in order to be fully funded for our adoption. But we were also hoping to raise money for Project HOPEFUL.  In order to do that, we need to go over our 35 shirt goal.  It seems a almost impossible at this point, but I know God can do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine!  So keep those orders coming!  And please post this on your blog, facebook, or twitter (or all 3!), if you are able.  We love you guys!  And remember, we are giving away two $50 gift cards to two lucky winners.  Each purchased shirt gets an entry!

Go HERE for the original post about the fundraiser for all the purchasing details, and remember, ALL THE PURCHASE TABS ARE ON THE RIGHT SIDE OF THIS BLOG!

*Remember slim fits should be ordered about 2 sizes larger than what you normally wear!

Cardinal-Africa-Unisex & Slim Fit

Charcoal-Africa-Unisex & Slim Fit

Hoodie-Africa

Cardinal-Grunge-Unises & Slim Fit

Charcoal-Grunge-Unisex & Slim Fit

Hoodie-Grunge

                                                              Youth Shirts-Cardinal & Gray

 *youth shirts only come in the Africa design.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Depraved Indifference....

Good afternoon to all our faithful bloggy-buddies (Don't know it that is a thing, but if not I just coined the word and you read it here first),

Today I, Wes, will be blogging and Nina has the day off; so you best get seat belts for eyes cause it is going to get crazy.  (A joke that may be a bit inside for some of you, it is from the IT Crowd, for those umpiring today that may be ball one.  I hope I don't end up walking anyone day.)

It is 38 days until we make our way to Africa, Ethiopia to be exact, to go finalize our adoption of Alex and Eliana.  And as the day grows near I grow a little more tense, and anxiety builds in my chest.  Questions arise, like,  "Are we really doing this?" ( You mean this is not just some great idea that we had that makes us feel important and good that we are going to help someone in need, but we actually are going to put ourselves in the front line of compassion and sacrifice).  "What if something happens and it goes belly-up?" (The family comes and takes them away or worse the court systems takes longer and we are stuck in Ethiopia for over two months only to be denied).  These are all legitimate feelings to have, I am sure, but they are my feelings and I am the one having to deal with them.  It is funny how when they are your feelings, they always seem to grab your attention more than if they were your friends on the other side of the country or even next door; I can still go to sleep at night if they are some one else's but when they are mine, not as easily.

But to set the record straight, I have been sleeping fine at night, and during the day ( I have been sick for 2 weeks...blasted wintry weather).  You see I have a gift, I have learned how to push any emotional attachment to a situation or person that could be detrimental to my heart, just out of reach.  I put it in a safety deposit box, and bury it in the back yard.  So when people ask me how I feel I only have to remember how I felt, so the feeling is a memory that can be elaborated or championed with out having to actually feel it in real time.  Now I know where it is, and I can show you where it is, but for God's sake don't make me actually have to dig it up and face the feelings of the feeling!  That's just unthinkable.  So it is not so much a gift but more of a defense mechanism that I learned at a younger age in dealing with despair and depression; it is more like a curse!  It is kinda like Davy Jones's chest, the place where he put his heart so no one could hurt him and he couldn't die (see Pirates of the Caribbean: at world's end)...what is life if you can't feel the passion of love and the pain of disappointment?  It is a life unfulfilled.

I don't really like that I do that and it is something that I have begun to change in my life, through the example of my saviour Jesus Christ.  He came as a man; He hungered, he was thirsty, he was weary, he wept, he was angry, he was disappointed, he anguished, he prayed, he worked, and he sighed!  He experienced life to the fullest, as a man.  Experience for most of us leads us to cynicism, isolation, hard heartedness, fear, and many other defense mechanisms that we feel will keep us from getting hurt. And even as Christians we lead lives that are not free, but bond with fetters from our past.  Christ came to set the captives free, and I declare that Freedom over my life and my family.  Are bad times going to come?  Yes.  They have come already, and will continue.  Will I be disappointed in my family and friends? Yes, and they with me.  But I am not going to let fear keep me from the Joys and Pains of life; life is incomplete without both.  "Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but WHEN desire comes it is a tree of life" [Proverbs 13;12, emphasis mine].  A friend pointed this out to me a few months back that it is not a question of your desires coming to frution, it is merely an issue of time...WHEN desire comes...it will come and when it comes, it will far out way the sickness of your heart; fulfilled desire is the elixir of those with deferred hope.

So as a Christian man...that is, a Christian and a man...how can I disillusion myself into thinking that I can make it all the way to the court hearing and back to the States without putting my heart out there?  You see, I am a father now, whether or not I have actually held or done any "fathering" to Alex and Eliana, they are my children.  That thought hadn't really sunk in until the last few weeks.  I had been trying to float through this adoption without becoming completely (emotionally) invested, but that is rubbish.  They need a father, and they need a man to be their father!!!  They don't need a father who will care for them only when I can hold them and protect them, they need a father who will do that even though they are thousands of miles between us.  Those miles have caused disconnect, disassociation, and decontextualization for me and I am sure there are other fathers that have felt similar (even some mothers).  We feel helpless to do anything, so instead of feelings despair and taking appropriate actions (praying, fasting, and talking about them) we simply shut it up and wait until we can unleash our pent up love and compassion on them on gotcha day, or when they are safely in our homes.

Below is a video that echoes my heart.  Not just about Alex and Eliana but also for those less fortunate.  The one thing that I have let myself feel in this adoption process is the issue of orphans as an epidemic and my family and I (and friends) want to help the root causes in these countries so that there are no more orphans.  Is it unattainable? Yes, but that should always be the goal, anything less it not Christ-like!!  He came to seek and save the lost, and his desire is that everyone is saved and comes to the knowledge of Truth. [I Tim 2:4]  Will everyone be saved? No, but that is still the goal of the God.  If he sets his goals that high, then so should we.  Until there are no more orphans.  We are the salt and light of the world, if not us then who?  Unicef?   The U.N.?  Bono?  Some secular organization that will share food and compassion but not Christ?  If not us then who???






I want to be a man, a Christian, and a father!  Not only to my children but to all of God's "Children".  I desire to be his hands and feet.  I want to be less so He can be more.  I want to feel the Joys and Pains, the Ecstasy and the utter Disappointment.  I want this because I know that my God has gone through the same things as me, "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin." [Hebrews 4:15]  I want to rise up as Shammah did in the Old Testament and face an entire garrison of Philistines, by himself, for a field of lentils; a defenseless and vulnerable thing that if plundered may have never yielded good fruit for harvest, but if protected then the harvest would feed many and for many years to come; it was an investment in the future.  Shammah defeated the Philistines and protected the lentils.

Shammah is my name, and protection is my Christian, fatherly, and joyful duty.  Amen.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Now offering Youth Shirts! One Week Left!

We have YOUTH SHIRTS now!  A few people have asked about youth sizes, so we are pleased to announce that we are going to be offering these in Cardinal Red and Sport Gray, in sizes Small through XL. (small = 6-8yrs, medium = 10-12yrs, large = 14-16yrs, xlarge = 18-20yrs)

YOU CAN ORDER ALL SHIRTS FROM THE "ADD TO CART" TABS ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THIS BLOG.

ONE WEEK LEFT!!!

 A couple of reminders:
*Once we go over our needed amount (we have faith we will!), we are going to donate the rest to Project HOPEFUL's ministry, Hope+ Sisterhood.
*We can't guarantee Christmas delivery, but we are going to try our best!
*If for some reason a shirt is not available in the original color at the time of order, we will do our best to get a close match. 
*Youth shirt colors will vary a little from the adult shirts, since they are made by a different company.
*remember that you will want to order the slim fit shirts 2 sizes bigger than what you usually wear!



*We don't have examples of the youth shirts with the designs on them, but we are only offering the Africa design on the youth shirts.

Worth It - Africa- Unisex & Slim Fit (Cardinal)


Worth It - Africa- Unisex & Slim Fit (Charcoal)

Closeup of the back of the Africa shirt.
Worth It - Grunge- Unisex & Slim Fit (Charcoal)

Worth It - Grunge- Unisex & Slim Fit (Cardinal)


Worth It - Africa - Hoodie


Worth It - Grunge- Hoodie

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Support Adoption and Project HOPEFUL, AND win some goodies!

Okay, this is another post about our adoption fundraiser.  We are only about 70 shirts away from being fully funded!  Woohoo!  AND, we are giving away two $50 gift cards!  You will get an entry for each shirt you purchase.  So we will have two winners!  Yay!  We sold 30 the first week, so we really need to get crackin' this second and final week of the fundraiser.  (All the T-shirt payment tabs are on the right side of the blog!) But, we are believing for above and beyond that amount.  Do you know why?  Remember how I said we would be donating to a ministry in Ethiopia with anything we made over our needed amount to fully fund our adoption?  Well, we are excited to announce that we are going to be giving everything over the needed amount, to Project HOPEFUL's Hope+ Sisterhood program!!!  If you haven't been over to their website, you need to.  It is an amazing organization whose "mission is to educate, encourage, and enable families and individuals to advocate for and adopt children with HIV/AIDS."  Their Hope+ Sisterhood program "seeks to offer HOPE to HIV+ mothers and to prevent unnecessary loss for their families."  Their website says:

"The HOPE+ program will provide a residential facility for up to 14 women infected with HIV and their children (HIV positive and not positive). Our goal is to rehabilitate them with medical and emotional care, provide job skills training, employment within in our facilities, and even micro-loans to begin their own small businesses so that they can secure a safe and stable future for their families. The children will also receive medical care, clothing, and an education."

How AWESOME is that?!!!  And if you haven't noticed these past couple of weeks, Project HOPEFUL's Twietmeyer family is making quite an impression in the media this week.  They are in a 5-page spread in this week's issue of People Magazine (with Kate Middleton on the cover).  Look, here's proof:
The usual cheesy face I'm so good at, and I'm also wearing my Project Hopeful shirt.
 So come on and let's raise some serious money for an AMAZING cause!  3 months ago, I was still scared of HIV and AIDS.  I knew nothing except for what I had learned way back when when Ryan White was in the news.  I thought it was a death sentence.  Now, because of Carolyn Twietmeyer and Project Hopeful, I know the TRUTH.  You can learn the TRUTH about HIV/AIDS too, right here:


And here's another glimpse at our t-shirts, just for review!
*remember that you will want to order the slim fit shirts 2 sizes bigger than what you usually wear!


Worth It - Africa- Unisex & Slim Fit (Cardinal)


Worth It - Africa- Unisex & Slim Fit (Charcoal)

Closeup of the back of the Africa shirt.
Worth It - Grunge- Unisex & Slim Fit (Charcoal)

Worth It - Grunge- Unisex & Slim Fit (Cardinal)


Worth It - Africa - Hoodie


Worth It - Grunge- Hoodie


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

2 Week Fund Raiser Blitz! Help bring our Twins home from Ethiopia!

Okay, it's finally here....our very own t-shirt design!  There were many stressful conversations trying to come up with something that truly expressed our hearts.  Who knew a t-shirt design could be so frustrating?!   On road trips and long walks we would talk about what we have gone through and learned this past year.  This adoption process has changed our lives, transformed our hearts, and given us a whole new vision for our future.  It has been hard.  It has been emotional.  It has been trying.  It has hurt.  It has felt amazing.  It has made us cry for joy.  It has taught us about God's faithfulness and provision.  It has blown.  our.  minds.  It has been a journey full of joy and pain all at once.  And as I was sitting at a conference one day, the same phrase kept hitting me over and over again....Worth it.  This process was worth it.  All that joy and pain and everything in between was worth it.  And then came the day when we saw the faces of our little ones for the first time.  Ho-ly cow.  Amazing.  And once again, we knew without a shadow of a doubt, that all these years of waiting to grow our family, it. was. worth it.  Every child is worth it.  Every life is worth it.  About a month ago I asked my adoption buddies to share some words they would use to describe the adoption process, and that is what you will find on the back of the first shirt design...not only our own description of the adoption process, but also that of many other adoptive families.

So without further ado, we want to present you with our adoption t-shirts!  We are going to be selling them for the next 2 weeks in order to raise the last portion of funds for our adoption.  We only have $3,000 left to raise, and then we will be fully funded!  Woohoo!!!  Can you believe it?!  We only need to sell about 130 shirts in order to bring that in!  Amazing!  I know we can do it together!   So please feel free to post about this on your Twitter accounts and Facebook walls.  We can use all the help we can get!  100% of ALL profits will go toward our adoption, and if we end up going over the needed amount, we will donate that to ministries in Ethiopia.  Wouldn't that be amazing to go over?! 

They are super soft Tultex shirts, and we are selling the t-shirts in both unisex and slim fit.  There are two different designs to choose from.  One has the continent of Africa on the front and back.  The other has just the front design, which is a cool grungy design with just the words, Worth It.  The wonderful Karen Billings of Karen Billings Design, designed both shirts.  She took our concepts and brought them to life!  We highly recommend her!
Keep in mind that you will probably want to purchase the slim fit about 2 sizes larger than what you regularly wear. (I wear a  medium in the unisex and an XL in the slim fit).  

Oh, and did I mention we are also selling sweatshirts?!  Yeah...they are crazy awesome!  I am so excited about them!  They are also really cozy soft, and a great buy for the winter season.

All Payment tabs are in the right hand column of this blog.

Happy shopping everyone.  Spread the word!!!

*All prices include shipping.  
Worth It - Africa- Unisex & Slim Fit (Cardinal)

Worth It - Africa- Unisex & Slim Fit (Charcoal)

Closeup of the back of the Africa shirt.
Worth It - Grunge- Unisex & Slim Fit (Charcoal)

Worth It - Grunge- Unisex & Slim Fit (Cardinal)


Worth It - Africa - Hoodie


Worth It - Grunge- Hoodie



*A very kind person has offered to help us with these shirts to reduce our initial costs, so we can't guarantee an exact arrival date, but we are going to do our best to get these done and sent out by Christmas.  We hope you will be patient with us!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The things that tide us over....


So everyone who has a referral (or has already gone through this before), knows what a HUGE blessing it is when people can go see your babies and take gifts to them for you.  It is simply amazing.  Whenever you feel like they aren't real...like this is all a wonderful dream...this makes them real again.  A wonderful woman who has been working in Ethiopia for the last month or two, agreed to take a couple of items over to the twins for us when she got a chance.  Well this past week, she got a chance.  This is what she wrote me the other day:
 
"I have seen and hugged on your beautiful babies.  Finally got to the orphanage... its the one with the orange door.. the owner/director (2 men) happened to be there when we finally were allowed in...after some talking with Berhano, and then to me, they both said go right on in and we got to go inot the room where your angels are.... so cute laying there in their little cribs. the nanny brought me your little boy first, he greeted me with a big ole smile.... so much hair... talked with him and cuddled him for a bit before handing him to berhano who also hugged and talked to him in amharic.. then got a hold of your little girl.. what a sweetie.. smiles too and very intrested in my nose... at first I couldn't see that they were twins, until I layed them together in their crib.. then I saw the remsemblence.... so sweet.. our visit was short and sweet and I gave the nannies the clothes you sent.. a perfect fit... Your babies are perfect and beautiful and wonderful... such a blessing to be able to hold them and hug and love on them..
thanks for letting me be a tiny part of yur journey...they are simpy beautiful."
 
Ah, be still my heart!  I loved the details about their smiles, and all of Alex's hair, and Eliana grabbing hold of her nose....  So so real.  So wonderful.   I love imagining that Ethiopian man speaking to them in Amharic.  That just strikes me as the most beautiful picture, for some reason.  I love hearing how they are starting to look different.  When we first got the referral, and were given seven pictures of each of them, I couldn't tell the difference.  I finally had to write their names on the back of the pictures so I would know!  Now they are starting to look unique and different.  I love it!  

Oh, how I long for the day when we get to hold them in our arms.  It's coming soon.  Can't wait.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Worth It...

We are about to kick off one of our last big fund raisers before we leave for Ethiopia in January.  We are going to be selling t-shirts, and the theme of our t-shirts is, "Worth it."  But before we do that (We should be kicking it off tomorrow!), I wanted to share a little bit of my heart when it comes to adoption and the story of every Christian's salvation.

I have heard so many people talk about adoption like it is some kind of cause.  Well, it's not.  It is not a trend.  It is not what's hot right now.  Simply put, it is the heart of God.  Many of us think about how adoption will affect ourselves and our families.  We wonder if we will be able to handle any difficulties that will come our way.  We don't know if we are willing to take on the baggage and difficulties that might come with an older child.  We don't know if we want to take the risk of adopting a baby with so many unknowns.  It is scary, and there are no guarantees that everything will be okay. 

Every time I think about these things.  Every time I am scared of the road ahead, God gently reminds me of my own adoption story.  He reminds me that once upon a time, I was lost.  I was carrying tons of baggage.  I was sick with sin.  There was no guarantee I would ever get better.  There was no guarantee that I would ever love Him with everything within me.  There was no guarantee that I would be a "good" child, that obeyed Him and sought hard after Him.  There was no guarantee that I wouldn't run away and leave Him.  And yet, without one single guarantee, and with all my junk, He adopted me anyways.  He took me in.  When I left my old life to be with Him, He made me a part of His family.  He didn't love me any less than His other children.  He gave me an inheritance.  He gave me every bit of His love that I could handle.  And that love He gave me was unconditional.  It was amazing.  It was life-changing.


And here I am today, a child of God.  I have a permanent home, and a Father who will never fail me.  I have failed so many times.  I have walked away from Him more than I would like to admit.  I have messed up, yelled at Him, rejected Him, and run from Him.  But in the end, I have always run back to Him, and He has always been standing there waiting with open arms.  On the nights when I felt so much sorrow that I could hardly breathe, He has embraced me and held me tight.  He has wept with me.  He has rejoiced over me.  He has loved me. 


What an amazing thing it is to be able to see this paralleled in the physical act of adoption here on earth.  We adopt children who have come from all kinds of backgrounds and who have no guarantees, not because it is going to make us feel good or fulfill our need for a family (although this very often happens!), but because it is the heart of God.  It is a beautiful reflection of our own adoption story. 

It is not about us.  It is about Him.  We were not put on this earth to feel good and have comfortable lives.  We were put on this earth to live life for God, to glorify His name, to share the truth of the death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ.  And even though I so desperately want to be comfortable and live an easy life, I want to live for Jesus more.  And living for Jesus costs something.  Most of the time it costs us our comfort.  Sometimes it costs us our lives.  Isn't it funny that some of the things that are most important to God's heart, are some of the things that are most difficult for Christians walk out?  i.e.  Sharing our faith with others, Adoption, Giving time or money to those in need.


James 1:27 tells us that pure religion is caring for widows and orphans.  It doesn't get much plainer than that.  And yet, somehow that simple truth has alluded me for nearly 31 years.  It has alluded so many of us.  That doesn't mean that all of us have to adopt.  It does mean that all of us should be caring for the widows and orphans in some manner.  Are you doing this?  How are you doing this?  And if you aren't, what is keeping you from it?  Money?  Time?  Have you talked to God about it?  Have you asked Him what part you play in this "pure religion"?  If you haven't, you should.  This is serious stuff, people.  And it is serious to the heart of God.  I'm not here to judge your actions/heart or lack thereof.  Only God can truly do that.  But today I am here to challenge you.  I am here to challenge myself.  God has given me so much grace and has been so patient with me.  I can't believe I went so many years and never truly cared.  How could I not care?  Perhaps no one got in my face and told me the truth, because they didn't want to offend me or make me feel uncomfortable.  Perhaps I just wasn't paying attention, and was too wrapped up in my own problems to be able to see that this life is not about me.  Whatever it was, a shift happened this year.  God has made some drastic changes in my life and in my heart, and for the first time I feel like I can truly see.  I am truly beginning to understand the significance of my own salvation.  

I'm going to leave you with one final thought.  For all the discomfort that comes with a life lived for God...For all the discomfort that comes with sharing my faith with someone who may possibly reject the Truth...For all the discomfort that comes from deciding to sacrifice money or time or lives for the the poor, the needy, the widow, the orphan... IT.  IS.  WORTH.  IT.

It is worth it because God gave everything for my life.  He gave everything that I might be saved.  He gave everything that I might have the chance to spend an eternity with Him.  He looked at me....He looked at all of us....and He gave His only son, because He knew that WE WERE WORTH IT.  In the same way, as Wes and I walk this road of adoption, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt, that every tear, every heartache, every bump, every phone call, every penny, every roadblock, every rejection....it is all worth it.  Thank you God, thank you God, thank you God!  You looked at us and you said, "Worth it."  In the same way, we can look at our little miracles in Ethiopia and we can say, "Worth it."

Friday, November 19, 2010

Conan in India and things that make you smile....

 Okay, so sometimes it's just fun to post about fun things.  You know?  This has nothing to do with adoption.  This has nothing to do with anything of value really.  Well, unless you consider Conan and American Express to be vital parts of your daily lives.  Well, okay....maybe you do.  I mean, who doesn't love Conan?  On the other hand, I'm not going to be an advocate for American Express, because that would mean I was an advocate for debt and well....I hate debt.  (I know credit card doesn't equal debt, but come on....let's be real....most people are in over their heads with credit card debt.)

Anyways, I saw this commercial a couple of weeks ago, and it cracks me up.  I love it when Conan licks the silk to test it's perfection, and also when he does the classic "call me" signal to an old lady in the street.  And well....I love India, so that helps too. 

Enjoy.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Toyota and "Lame" Parents...

Okay, so most of you have probably seen these commercials by now.  They feature this seriously cute kid who is the latest spokeschildperson for the Toyota Highlander.  But this kid being cute is about the only positive thing I can say about the commercials.  As a matter of fact, I'm pretty much appalled by Toyota's latest attempt to sell a very expensive vehicle ($28,000-$43,000).  I'm not reviewing the Highlander here.  I could honestly care less about it.  It seems like a nice ride, but that's about all I have to say about it.

What really gets me here is the fact that this child is walking around talking about how lame his parents are because they own an old minivan (yes, he actually uses the word "lame").  He talks about how embarrassing it is to be seen with them in that van.

Wow.

What kind of message is Toyota sending to kids in this country?  I know I shouldn't be surprised, considering the materialistic nature of our culture as a whole, but still....a commercial series that basically tells kids they should be embarrassed if their parents don't have a brand new shiny SUV like the Highlander?  Ugh.

Wes gets so mad each time the commercial comes on, and says he "can't stand that kid!"  I gently remind him that this kid is just an actor, and unfortunately it's a bunch of grownups that are spreading the word that having anything less than new is lame.

I think of all the amazing parents out there, who pour out love and grace over their children.  I think of all the parents who sell their newer cars, move into cheaper houses, work extra jobs, just so they can adopt a child, and give them a home and family, and a loving and fulfilling life they may not have had otherwise.  They may drive old vans, and have less cool technology, but they are anything but lame.

I'm sure I could go on and on, but I won't.  I wish I could do a commercial series about the importance of family and eternal things.  I would have the kid talk about how amazing his parents are, and how he'd much rather have a loving family, than an expensive car or gadget.  Do you think it would do well?  ;)

Toyota.  Today, you get a "Fail."




Sunday, November 14, 2010

Showered with Love...

I've written many times about the years we have spent trying to start a family.  Throughout these past few years, I have been to many baby showers.  I have watched friend after friend have babies.  I have been happy every time.  But I have to admit, I always wondered what it would be like to be the one playing all the crazy baby games and opening all the presents, with all her dearest friends cheering on.  Yesterday, I didn't have to wonder anymore.  Yesterday, my sweet friends threw the most wonderful shower I could ever have asked for.  They put thought into every detail, from the invitations, to the food and desert, to the little chinese candy boxes, with pictures of Alex & Eliana on each one.  It was simply wonderful.  They have kept everything but the date and location a secret for the past month or so, and it was well worth it.  Thank you to Aimee, Lisa, Angela, Mamma and everyone else who helped make our shower the most beautiful and meaningful shower ever.  I love you all so much! (and also a special little thank you to my friend, Susannah Galan, who took pictures throughout the shower for me....she is another wonderful photographer with Alumbra Photography)

Traditional Norwegian Cake.  Delicious!  Like all the flags?

Africa sugar cookies.  Thank you, Erica, for selling these great cookie cutters!

This game will always beat me.  I didn't even attempt this one.  

My mom and dad, and friend, Clarice.
Photo by Susannah Galan

Cara & Lindsay win prizes simply for being born in November.
Photo by Susannah Galan

We had a little competition to see who could change the baby's diaper, feed them, and pack up a diaper bag the quickest...
Photo by Susannah Galan

Yeah, there was some kind of nasty brown goo on their little tushies...
Photo by Susannah Galan

Wes is a big cheater, and plays dirty....that's baby powder he tossed on my dress...But alas, he was the clear winner.  He calmly changed the diaper, got the formula ready, swaddled the baby, and packed the diaper bag well.  Me???  Well, the baby got stuffed into the diaper bag with the rest of the few items I managed to get in the bag.  Is it not okay to put a baby in a diaper bag???
Photo by Susannah Galan

Many of you have seen our "Musings from the Car" videos...They made us do one as Alex & Eliana in the back seat of the car.  We are complete dorks.
Photo by Susannah Galan

This is one of the many gifts we received.  Sweet M's is an awesome business that helps support families that are adopting!  Check out their beautiful children's items.  They have great prices, and everything is GORGEOUS!  I LOVE our bibs!
Photo by Susannah Galan

I'm so happy.
Photo by Susannah Galan

He is so darn cute.
Photo by Susannah Galan

That's my, "Look how cute!" face.
Photo by Susannah Galan



Many of the awesome gifts our amazing friends gave to us.

One of the several BEAUTIFUL sweaters my mom made.  This one is for Eliana.  Isn't it AWESOME?!!!

The happy parents-to-be!
Photos of Wes and I, by my Mamma, Ia Williams, with a little help from her daughter

I love this man and all of his funny faces.


7 years married, and marriage is so much sweeter now.


Thank you again to everyone who made this such a special event for us.  We will never forget it!