Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Boys

Just hanging out!




Colton has a habit of throwing all of his things outside of his crib. I went in one night to make sure he was covered up and found him a curled up "sleeping bag" style in his pillow. I just cracked up laughing. He's always doing or saying something that makes us smile. Of all of our kids, I have the hardest disciplining because he usually makes me laugh. Just today, I asked him to do something and I had him look into my eyes and I said, "say yes mommy". He lifted his little eyes up and with a smirk said, "no mommy". I know that doesn't sound funny and I should probably be concerned about his little will, but the expression on his face and the little smile he was cracking just got me-I couldn't help but laugh. I tried to look away and hold it in, but he got me. He did obey and go get what I had asked him to.


My sword fighters (actually, I thing those are supposed to be light sabers). They are good buddies and Colton really loves hanging out with Caleb.

Happy Birthday Caroline!

Our beautiful 4 year old girl!!



Big sister helping Caroline ride.

Yesterday was Caroline's birthday. She was born 4 years ago on Memorial Day. We had stayed at the beach for the weekend and on the morning we were leaving, I started having contractions. My little girl wasn't due until June 17th, but she wanted out (and when Caroline wants something, well-she's pretty persistent). So, we drove from the beach to the hospital and she was born that night at 9:45pm (I got to the hospital at lunch time, but because it was a holiday, the on call doctor decided to finish his day of boating before coming in to do my C-section:).

Since her birth, we've been at the beach for each of her birthdays. She told me she wants to go to the beach for all of her birthdays. So far, it has worked out that way. We've also had sand cake on all but her first birthday. We continued that tradition this year. She also got a big girl bike and an outfit like Hermela's. I've found that for now, it is just easier to get the girls the same or similar things-that way everyone feels "equal". I really enjoy dressing the girls alike and I know that one day they won't want to match, so I'm doing while I can.

We love you so much Caroline and we're so glad that God has put you in our family. We pray that you will grow up to love the Lord with all your heart and to love and serve others.

Happy birthday to our big 4 year old!!!
I wrote this post months ago when we were waiting for our girls to come home, but I couldn't figure out at the time how to embede this video, so I put it at the bottom of my blog as a gadget. I'm reposting it so that I can keep it on the blog as a post instead of leaving it at the bottom of the page. I think it is interesting that I wrote that I thought that our girls' adoption was about more than just us. Now I KNOW it was more than just our story to two little girls and I'm excited to see what God does next in our family.



This video and song speak so much to the way Nick and I feel about adoption. I have recently been telling him that I really feel like this whole adoption thing is way bigger than us and our personal journey to our children. This is not just for us. I have a strong sense that God is going to use our story to reach other people's hearts for adoption. This is not to say that everyone is called to bring children into their home, but we all are called to "look after the orphans and widows in their distress" James 1:27.


To look after the orphans in their distress-what does that mean? We live in a crazy busy world where it is so easy to "overlook" anything outside of our safe little bubble of existence. It is easy to overlook the fact that there are 143 million children orphaned in this world. We fill our days with tasks and schedules full of stuff-what does all this stuff mean? We live in a country where even the poorest of poor have more than a large part of the world. Most of us have never gone hungry or lacked for our basic needs. If we're honest, most of us don't even lack for our "wants". We lead lives full of discontentment-always wanting the next new thing, planning the next renovation, next event, always trying to top the last thing, thinking that "when I have this job or this car or this house or this amount of money-then I'll be happy". We are guilty of living in that mindset and the fact is, it just isn't true. Things will never fill you up. When we fill our lives with schedules and stuff, we just end up empty and exhausted.


What does this have to do with adoption you might ask? All I know is that since we've been on this journey, our eyes have been opened to the reality that IT'S NOT ABOUT US. To make it more personal, IT'S NOT ABOUT ME. We live in a "me" society. What's good for "me". How does this affect "me". How does this benefit "me". Once we shift the focus off of ourselves, our hearts have room to begin to see what it is all about-loving God and loving others.


So what is holding us back? What keeps us from taking the steps? What keeps us from taking the focus off of ourselves. The answer is simple. FEAR. Fear of what others think of us. Fear of how our family may look, of being different. Fear of not living up to everyone's expectations and on and on we go until we get so wrapped up in all the stuff that we MISS IT. I'm doing an awesome study on the book of Esther. The author, Beth Moore, notes that the most frequent command in the bible is "FEAR NOT". Of all the commands, this is the one repeated the most. She goes on to say that,"we can protect ourselves right out of our calling, our DESTINY"


For us, we know the calling on our family is to bring our two little girls home, but it can't end there. The problem is to big. It's too BIG. 143 Million wait. We are just one family. What can I do, you might ask? What difference does one or two adoptions make? It is said that you can be a lot of things to a lot of people, or you can be EVERYTHING to one. It starts with one. There is a statistic that if 7% of Christian families in the world adopted ONE child, there would be NO MORE ORPHANS. That's just Christian families. Another statistic states that about 40% of Christian families have thought about adoption, but only 1% ever do it. There are tons of reasons why they never do-finances are at the top of the list. I assure you that if we were waiting for our finances to be ideal, we would have missed the awesome opportunity to be mom and dad to two little girls that wait tonight in a care center across the world. We'd never think it was a perfect time, but God's timing is perfect. Maybe He's calling you for "such a time as this" Esther 4:14.


I look at the other children's pictures that are still waiting at our girls' care center. I think of them going to sleep, not knowing if anyone will ever come for them. I especially think of the older children. The ones that wait "because of their age" as their descriptions read. Like our girls, who were waiting soley because they were 3 and 5 years old and not 3 and 5 months old. I just know that this is not just about us. This is not just our story. God can break through any barrier, financial or otherwise to fulfill his purpose. In the book of Esther, Esther is called to fullfill her destiny. She is reminded that God will fulfill his purpose with or without her. She had a choice, just like you and I have a choice. I'd hate to think of the joy that we would have missed if we had decided not to follow God on this adoption journey.


The bible says,"Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins" James 4:17. "Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls knows that we know, and holds us responsible to ACT...Proverbs 24:12.


As I said, brining a child into your home isn't everyone's calling, but what if it IS YOURS?


Don't let fear allow you to miss your calling. "You may be one brave decision away from fulfilling your DESTINY".-Beth Moore.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

God Speaks

I've been praying for God to show me what direction our family is to go in now that we are home with our girls. Our lives were changed forever by their adoption into our family and our trip to Ethiopia, so I knew that our adoption was not the end of our story, but instead it was the beginning. I am so thankful for that journey as I feel that had we not answered the call to adopt, we may have missed the big picture. We may have gotten too busy or too distracted with "our" lives that we could have easily carried on without a thought about what is going on around the world and even in or own neighborhoods.

We were moving along just fine before the adoption. We went to church, we tithed, we taught our children bible stories and did our best to do the "right" things. But our standard was the world's and not the Lord's. By the world's standard or even by the church's standard, we were doing a pretty good job. Over the past few months, I've come to realize that I don't want to be a pretty good Christian. I want to be a great follower of Jesus.

So, as I've prayed for clarity, God led me to some good passages of scripture, to the blogs of Godly women full of wisdom, and to several books that have changed my perspective and are changing my priorities. One such blog is www.aplacecalledsimplicity.blogspot.com. Scroll down on the left side of her blog to read some amazing posts about "hearing God speak". She talks about the many ways that He speaks-through scripture, through interactions with others, through events that can only be orchestrated by him (read about how God answered our prayers and spoke in so many ways when were contemplating adopting the girls here).

I believe that he led me to the "Red Letters" book that I posted about. I'm now reading "Fields of the Fatherless" by the same author, Tom Davis. Reading these books, which are scripture based, has truly opened my eyes (further) to the struggles of the "least of these" and I am convinced that it is my job as a Christian to care for them "in their distress."

Nick and I had a conversation last night about priorities and the goals we have for our family. We want to make sure that we are pouring scripture and God's love into our children. To do this of course, we have to be taking in His word, meditating on it, applying it and living it out. We have also been discussing sponsoring an orphan or contributing to some type of orphan ministry as a means of continuing to care for them. Just last week we were reviewing our budget, looking ahead and realizing that we could have all of our debt payed off by early next year. We had both agreed that we'd love to sponsor an orphan, but by the end of the conversation, decided to "get everything in order" with our budget first. Well wouldn't you know that God wasn't willing to accept that.

I had decided to stay home with Colton this morning instead of going to church because he had been sick earlier in the week and I didn't want to put him in nursery and expose him to anything else. I got ready for church anyway this morning and decided to go ahead and go. Well of course the message was talking straight to us. Our pastor taught out of the book of Haggai. The message was about priorities and how everything we have is God's, yet we live our lives using up all that we want and then giving God what is left over. Then we say that following God is our priority, when our actions prove otherwise. He said that one way that we disobey God is to say, "I'll do that later", "I'll give when everything is in order", "I'll do that when I'm 40, 50, 60"...... We don't actually say "no", but we do "no" through our actions and over time, we miss it.

There will never be a time when generosity will be convenient or easy. So when God asks you to do something, it is your actions that show where your priorities lie.

So, Nick and I knew that although the budget didn't necessarily allow for us to sponsor a child "right now" (which probably means there is a problem with the budget, not the the funding), God had asked us to do that and we were to be obedient-RIGHT NOW. We chose to do this through Children's Hope Chest as they have an Ethiopia program and we feel that they are a reputable organization. I've also inquired with Wiphan-an organization that supports orphans and widows in Zambia, Africa. I requested to be a "cheer giver" to a widow. Basically, you sign up to write to and pray for a widow in Zambia-no cost involved, just a little time, prayers and words of encouragement. These two small steps are, I pray, the first of many for our family as we strive to live our lives with God as the priority. Remembering that, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" James 1:27.

I love the words in this song. If our God is with us, what can stand in our way????

Family Fun

Since most of my posts have been about Africa lately and the huge need there, I've gotten a little behind on my family posts. So here's an update. These beach pictures are from Caleb's baptism on April 25th. Our church holds an outdoor service at the beach which is always a lot of fun and really cool to see. Caleb accepted the Lord last year and has been asking to be baptized. So we decided this would be a good time for him to do that. We are so proud of him and his commitment to the Lord and pray that he will grow up to love and serve the Lord and others with all of his heart.
Going down.
Coming up a new boy!



My aunt gave the girls these cute outfits-they love them! I always wanted a sister, so it's so fun to see them all together.



Aunt Debbie also gave them these coordinating bathing suits for the summer.
Our kids play "coffee ceremony" on a regular basis.



Fun times playing outside.





Crazy driver-out of the way!



Holding on for dear life.



Caroline the back seat driver.
The girls had a tea party to celebrate all of their birthdays this past weekend.

Our neighbor brought over a container of lady bugs for us to release in our garden last week. Here's Colton looking quite mischievous holding the bugs before we went outside.


Our garden has grown many tomatoes and some strawberries. Other than that, we have a cucumber plant that is thriving, but no cucumbers yet, a pepper plant that is still holding on (but looks a little weak) and everything else that we planted has died. The tomatoes are pretty yummy!
So that's what we've been up to lately. We have a couple more weeks of school and then we'll be done for the summer. I'm really looking forward to the down time and having more free time to play and enjoy the kids.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Advocating Updates

I've continued to search for different ways to pour into the lives of orphans in Africa. The more I research, the more I just keep saying, "poor Africa". The statistics are just devastating. You may have noticed some of these statistics on the left side of my blog (redesigned by a friend who is traveling to Africa for two months this summer http://aheart4africa.blogspot.com/ -thanks Allee. Follow her blog and pray for her as she travels to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania).

The statistic that sticks out the most is the fact that if just 7% of all Christians in the world adopted one orphan, every orphan would have a home and a family. Just 7%.

So I'm dedicating this post to the three children that I wrote about here that still remain on our agency's waiting list and praising God that the little baby I mentioned was found by his family.


The sweet, sweet girl pictured above still waits. She is listed as being 7 years old by her birthday, but the staff feels that she is closer to 9 years. She is a full orphan having lost both of her parents. Her precious smile and great big eyes captured our hearts when we met her in January. The agency has waived all of her foreign fees.

This sister (top) and brother (bottom) pair are still waiting for a home to call there own. As I mentioned, we had a chance to meet them. We have great pictures of the older brother playing baseball and several that capture the sister's great smile. They are listed as being 10 and 7 years old, but I would guess that they are each a little older than that. They have grants that cover all of their foreign fees and the agency has just reduced their fee by half in hopes of finding a family for these siblings.

I've done the math, and that means that a family could bring these kids home for about $15,000 (that includes the home study, immigration clearance, agency fee, application fee, dossier fee, flights, travel (for one parent to travel twice) and in country expenses). As I write that number, it feels a little strange to put a price tag on kids. I'm not doing that at all, I'm talking numbers, because I think for some families, this is the biggest obstacle or fear that holds them back from following there hearts. So many times I hear, "I'd love to adopt, but it's so expensive." Yes. There are fees involved with adoption and they can seem insurmountable at times, but God loves adoption and I believe that He will provide if you take the first step and trust HIM.

I want to show you how the financial costs can be met, so that these two lives can be redeemed and brought into a loving family. As I mentioned, the agency fee is reduced to $2,250 plus a $250 application fee. That is all that you would need to start the process to bring these kids home-$2500. Once this part is started, the home study (if not already done) and immigration process would need to be completed (about $2,100). Then the daunting, but very doable, process of completing the dossier would ensue. This can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months at which time another $1000 would be due (meaning if you started that process today, it would take until sometime in July to get the dossier done).

After all of that, sit back and wait (patiently-ha) for the dossier to be submitted and a court date to be assigned (this could take as little as 2 months, but because the rainy season shuts down court in Aug/Sept., court would be unlikely until after September-giving you lots of time to fund raise for the travel portion of the trip-approximately $2500 for one parent for the first trip). Final travel usually follows a successful court date by 6 to 8 weeks. So you see, all costs are spread out. Plane flights comprise the biggest portion of travel expenses which can be offset by sky miles, possibly making the trip even less expensive.

Now some people may still look at these numbers and say, "well I don't even have the first portion." God will provide. Or, "what if we start the process and can't raise the funds in time?" I know it is really scary to step out and have faith, especially when money is involved, but I've read and know of many, many cases (ours included) where the family had no idea where the funds would come from, but knew that God would provide because adoption is part of his heart.

And, as an added bonus, there is now a $12,150 tax credit (per child) for any/all expenses incurred by the adoption! That means that for the siblings EVERY single penny would be refunded by the government the next time the adoptive family files taxes! That's a $0 adoption!


These are foundations that give grants to families adopting older kids and sibling groups:


So if you're thinking about adopting, think about these children on this post that still wait-because of their age. Actual children, not just a number in a staggering statistic, that still long to have a family "pick" them. That go to bed every night without the hope of a future.

And if your thinking that you don't have the money, pray for God to help you to , "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding" Proverbs 3:5. He will make your path straight.

Defending the Fatherless,
Jessica

Friday, May 14, 2010

Happy 1st Birthday!!

Our beautiful six year old girl!

Today we celebrate Hermela's 6th birthday. She has been counting down the days until her birthday since she came home. We went to a friend's birthday party a few weeks after we were home with them, so she had an idea about birthdays. She also talks about one of the babies that had a birthday with cake in the care center. She told us that on Meron's birthday they had dabo (bread) and her mom's friends came over to celebrate, but on her birthday, "no dabo, no bunny (money)". So we wanted this birthday to be a special day for her. I asked her if she wanted dabo and she said, "No. Cake". Silly mom. Of course she wants cake-who picks bread over cake?
This is a shot of her with her eyeing her gifts (for the second time). She woke up at midnight last night and took a peak at them. I had told her to stay in her bed if it was still dark-knowing how excited she was, I didn't want her to crawl in our bed at 5 am. Well she beat me by 5 hours:). We sent her back to bed and she stayed there until about 6:30. I heard her telling Caroline last night, "I can't wait for tomorrow" which I thought was so cute.
She got a $5 bill from Nick's parents which she promptly put on her head and began chanting "bunny(money), la, la, la, la, la, la..." in true high pitched Ethiopian style. Our friend Heidi asked her what she was going to buy with it and she said, "I give it to mommy and daddy". That's what she saw her older brother in Ethiopia do and I suppose this is the way things work-everyone pitches in whatever money they have for the family. She didn't think once about what she would buy for herself. She is very selfless and almost always shares generously with others.

I love these pajamas because of the saying, "little girl, big dreams". It just fits her character so well.

The big hit was her new bike helmet. She has learned how to ride Caleb's bike and has been using the other kids' helmets since she's been home. She was totally excited to receive a helmet. She never expected that a bike came with it.

When she saw the bike, her eyes got big and she squealed, "for me?". Yes, for you sweet girl. She then dressed up in her new Ethiopian dress that Heidi brought her and went out to breakfast all by herself with my mom. She's been begging to wear this dress for 3 weeks and I keep saying it is for as special day. Last night she asked to wear it for her birthday and said, "my happy birthday special day". Couldn't argue with that. She ordered eggs and bread at the restaurant (even after seeing chocolate chip sprinkle pancakes on the menu). She told my mom, "me eat this with mommy in Ethiopia" (we ate it every morning at the guest house where we stayed).
You are such a kind, thoughtful, intuitive girl. We are amazed by they way you embrace life and how brave and determined you are. We pray you will grow up knowing how much God loves you and how much we love you and how blessed we feel to have you in our family.
Happy Birthday!!!





Advocating Update

I found out today that the teeny tiny cleft lip baby on our agency's waiting child list was formally referred to a family yesterday. Praise God!

Let's keep praying the older children that I mentioned home.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Call to Prayer

I follow a blog called Babe of My Heart and the family of this blog had court today for their baby boy and did not pass. When I read the title of the post "Give Thanks to the Lord" I first assumed that they had passed. Unfortunately, they had not. The reason??? The birth mother of their son was too ill from malaria to travel for the court date. She has six other children and was widowed in July after her husband died of MALARIA. So now the lives of six other children hang in the balance-waiting to see if they too will become orphans. If you recall from one of my recent posts, the medication that cures malaria costs about $4. This is not right. We can't keep loosing mothers and fathers to diseases that are curable. Please pray for this mother who is fighting for her life and for her children who are in danger of loosing their remaining parent. Also pray for the adoptive family as they await a second court date on May 24th.

Something must be done. Give thanks to the Lord for He is able!

Defending the Fatherless,

Jessica

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Red Letters


This is an absolute must read. I ordered this book after finding it while searching for orphan missions and have been recommending it to everyone I talk to. Like I mentioned previously, since returning home from Ethiopia in January, I have a constant longing for the country and it's people, especially the orphans that we left behind. So as I was trying to find an outlet for all of this energy built up inside, I found this book. This is a follow up book to "Fields of the Fatherless" by Tom Davis. I ordered that one also, but "Red Letters" came first. It is a very easy read and even with 5 kids running around, I managed to read it in 3 or 4 days. The premise of the book is this-what if we lived our lives according to the "red letters" (God's very own words) in the bible? How would that look? The book talks about orphans in Russia and those affected by extreme poverty, but mostly focuses on the incomprehensible orphan crisis in Africa and how the AIDS pandemic has created a state of emergency and is literally wiping out whole villages and leaving millions of children without parents. Below is an excerpt from the book description.

I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me."
Matthew 25:42-43 ESV

In many Bibles, Christ's words are set apart with a red font. It should be obvious, but this distinction helps remind us that when God becomes Man and that Man speaks--it's probably something we cannot afford to miss.

So why doesn't the church take these " red letters" to heart? Why aren't we doing more to be Christ's hands and feet to the poor, the disenfranchised, the weary, the ill, the fatherless, the prisoners? It's all there--in red letters. Why has the Church shirked its responsibilities, leaving the work to be done by governments, rock stars, and celebrities?

The Gospel wasn't only meant to be read--it was meant to be lived. From the HIV crisis in Africa to a single abused and lonely child in Russia, the Church must seize the opportunity to serve with a radical, reckless abandon. Author Tom Davis offers both challenge and encouragement to get involved in an increasingly interconnected, desperate modern world.

He goes on to talk about how we as Christians have allowed this problem to be that of government agencies and charitable organizations instead of taking it on as our problem (which it actually is). We are called to care for the least of these (who I think you'll find are really the "most of these"). The fact is, that we have the resources and the power to make a real difference in the live of others. For as little as $4, you can pay for the life saving medication that cures a sufferer of malaria. Who doesn't have $4???? That is measurable change. One life-saved-for the cost of a designer cup of coffee.

This past weekend, I took the kids downtown to the park. As we were walking to the playground, we past a luxury pet boutique. They had a sign in the window that said, "All pet beds $40-$60 off. I looked at my mom and said, if they're on sale for that much off, I wonder how much they were full price?" I mean seriously, our nation has been so skewed by materialism that consumers spend countless dollars on pet clothing and diamond dog collars. No offense really to dog fans (we use to take our dog to the VIP Pet Resort when we went on vacation, so we're guilty too-of course since we've had kids she's been down graded to the vet kennel), but we're spending our money (which is actually God's) to decorate and pamper our pets when people are LITERALLY DYING OF STARVATION and diseases that are easily treated with medication that we have readily available. Kids are being orphaned and nations are being left in ruins because we choose to place Africa in a distant part of our minds that doesn't really want to recognize that we are all members of the same family-we are all God's children and He loves us all the same.

For most of us, it would be unacceptable to allow members of our family to suffer without relief, to go to bed hungry (actually starving), to be left without a mother or father, to be left without hope. Yet, that is what we as churches, as Christians, as people are doing when we busy ourselves with "stuff" instead of living out the gospel and "visiting the orphans and the widows in their distress".

The statistics in this book are staggering. They are unfair. They are an outrage. THEY ARE TRUE. We must move quickly and we must all do our part. I'm constantly reminding our children to "treat others the way you want to be treated". I imagine if you were an orphan, a widow, an AIDS patient, or homeless that you would want to be treated with compassion and love and that you would want someone to come to you in your distress.

We need to stop thinking that someone else will take care of the problem-they won't. That other organizations have it covered-they don't. It is up to God's people to follow his commands.

If you feel called to care for the orphan or minister to the poor-DO IT. Don't let anything stand in your way. God provides for His people when they follow after His heart, so whatever you think is standing in your way, whether it's about money, or time, or age, or what others will think...don't let your fears stand in your way. He is faithful!! Even if you don't "feel" like you have been "called", you have. If you count yourself as a Christian, you have been called. Pray for that "feeling" and that God will give you a heart for what matters to HIM.

This is the link for Children's Hope Chest-the organization that Tom Davis has started to respond to the pandemic of AIDS and the orphan crisis. I pray that my heart will continue to break for the things that break the Lords and that our family, as our pastor Isaac Hunter says, "will not just be hearers of the word, but DOERS also."

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. James 1:27

Defending the Fatherless,

Jessica

Monday, May 10, 2010

Ethiopian Homecoming

Waiting for Jonas!!
First family meeting.


Hermela LOVES Heidi (as does Colton-and really our whole family does). Her family was waiting at the airport when we got home with the girls, so they were some of the first of our friends/family that they met. The concept of friend vs. family was too hard to explain, so when Hermela said, "Ms Heidi family?" I just said yes-really that's the way friendship in Christ is intended. So now we have extended our family by 5 with the addition of Jonas.


Two weeks ago our friends arrive home with their sweet baby Jonas. We had the joy of being at the airport to welcome him home. Nick and I had traveled to Mekele, where Jonas was from, to visit him when we went to pick up the girls. He was truly the happiest baby in the room and had the best little personality. I kept telling Heidi (his mom) this and she agreed once she finally got him in her arms-he is just a delight.

It was awesome to be surrounded by their friends and family as we eagerly awaited his arrival. Lives were changed forever when that little one came home. I just know that his charming little dimples are going to be contagious and more kids will be united with their forever families as a result of Heidi and Scott following God's call.

We love you little buddy!!!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Advocating

My last post was an outpouring of my heart for the orphan. It stemmed from a recent email from our agency that was advocating for a group of children that continue to wait in their care centers. Since we have been to Ethiopia, and we have seen what we have seen and know what we now know, we are now required to do something about the orphan crisis there-"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows that we know, and holds us responsible to act" Proverbs 24:12. Because it is impossible for me to adopt them all, I have decided to pray and advocate for these children to be found. To be given a chance at life and love.

I have a particular affection for those on the waiting list as our girls were on this same list just last year. It seems unfathomable that my sweet little girls once sat waiting, hoping (and they were hoping) for a family to "pick" them. What an awful thing for a child to have to hope for-that they are good enough, cute enough, young enough or healthy enough to be desirable and worthy of a family. My husband and I met 3 of the children that are on the waiting list-two of which have been waiting since at least September when we first saw our girls. I've seen the children who still wait standing eagerly beside the visiting adoptive families, hoping to hear their name called to come and get a package from home. I've witnessed first hand their disappointment when their name is passed by. How does that feel??? To know you have not been placed. After a while, it would be hard to keep hoping. Do they conclude that they are undesirable? Do they start to believe that they are unlovable?

The children waiting with our agency range in age from 1 month to 10 years. The first one that captured my heart has the most beautiful smile and gorgeous big brown eyes. She is six years old and was just so sweet when we met her. She was friendly and excited to have visitors. She is a full orphan and desperately needs a family of her own. **ADOPTED**

The other kids that we met were a brother and sister age 11 and 9. I remember my husband playing baseball with them at the care center and how they all cheered each other on. The older brother seemed protective over his sister, a relationship that I observed over and over again amongst the sibling groups. They tend to stick by each other's side-the last remnant of a family. Older child adoption can be a scary thought for some. I know that it comes with its own set of challenges, but I can say that the benefits far outweigh the trials. To see a child with true joy as they experience little things like soap, hot water, socks and shoes is priceless. To see them realize that they are safe, secure and loved is an amazing gift. **These are the kids that STILL wait.**

We have never met the last little one, but he has also captured my heart. He is a teeny tiny newborn boy with cleft lip and palate. I worked for four years in the neonatal intensive care unit and have taken care of many babies with this anomaly. They've always been special to me. A baby with a cleft lip is a little scary for some to look at. If you've never seen the deformity, it can even be a little shocking. The good news about this type of defect is that it can be repaired with remarkable results and the children usually do amazingly well. This little boy is only about 3 pounds. He needs to get home to his family as soon as possible. Ideally, before he is six months old-the age at which the surgeons prefer to do the corrective surgery. The faster this little one is home, the better his outcome will be. I do have additional information and permission from our agency to share it for those that feel like they might be the family (or know of a family) that this sweet baby needs. **ADOPTED**

I'm praying specifically for these four children and ask that you all do the same. God knows exactly where these kids are destined to be. He knows exactly who their families are and He knows exactly which parents these children need to help them grow into the people they were born to become.

Maybe that place is your home? Maybe that family is your family?? Maybe those parents are you???

Defending the fatherless,

Jessica