Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

This is my (Michael) first blogpost! Amanda's the writer in our family.... But I wanted to write today's Thanksgiving post...

As we all know, Thanksgiving comes around the same time frame every year. We do the same thing every year as well; cook lots of food, drinks lots of fluid, and take lots of naps. We take turns at the table thanking God for what we have and what we have been able to do in the past year. But this year for me I am not only thankful for those things, but as well as for the things to come.

Of course I am thankful for the many blessings our family has had in the past year, like spending much needed time with Amanda’s father before Alzheimer’s started to take away his memories. I am thankful for being employed and having a steady income, whereas the majority of America is struggling just to make ends meet. I am thankful for a house to live in and spend time with my family in. I am thankful for the health my family has had and even the health they have not had at times. I am also thankful for the times our family has had together just spending quality time. That time is worth more than anything to me. I am thankful for a wife that is on fire for God and has not let any road block stand in her way in accomplishing what God sets in her heart. I am thankful for Ilana and Aydan and how they teach me and others more about God than we have learned in 20 years! I am thankful for the faith my family has and how it truly has carried us and will continue to carry us through anything.

But still this year I am most thankful for the journey that our family is on with the Ethiopian adoption, and I am thankful for the things God has in store for us in the future.  Amanda and I have both had hearts for the broken hearted and as we have traversed down the path of adoption, we have been exposed to more and more of the broken hearts that await joy and hope in this world.  My heart breaks for them and all orphans in the world, especially since I know that I cannot help every one of them. But I am thankful for the moment my family is going to have when we see that child for the first time. A closure to one path, the waiting path, in this God created journey will come to an end. The next path will begin and that will be the process of finally bringing our child home. This path I am thankful for because it will be at that moment that we will be fulfilling God’s desire for our family. I am thankful for the lessons we are going to learn along this journey of true love, care, and family. I am thankful for the experiences we are going to go through that will push us, break us, and make us stronger. As this next year progresses I pray that God continues to show us His wonder and wisdom, and for Him to continue to reveal his vision for our family. Thank you for all the prayers and I ask that you continue to pray for our family and our journey. Your prayers and encouragement are appreciated and I don’t know how we will ever be able to thank everyone for the support they have provided. Lastly, I ask that as you think about our family, please pray for our child that we will hopefully soon see. Pray that he/she is being loved and that they are protected. Thank you to everyone and most of thank you God for your divine plan for our life.

Friday, November 18, 2011

We're Number...

on the waitlist now! So happy to see movement every week! :) Just wanted to share!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Challenge, Giveaway, and Sale!

Have you heard of Operation Christmas Child? I'm sure most of you have, but if not, you can find out more information HERE. Basically, you get a shoebox (or the plastic shoebox sized tubs that you can get at Walmart or the Dollar Tree for $1) and you can choose the gender and age range (of 2-4, 5-9, 10-14). Then you go and shop for items to fill up the box. Items like small toys, candy, socks, toothbrushes and toothpaste and other toiletry items, and school supplies. If you go to the website it has a list of the types of items you can and cannot include. It's an absolutely amazing thing to do with your kids! It helps them to think of others during this time of year. We do it every year as a family and the kids pack boxes for their own age range and gender. They have a great time and love to pray over their boxes! This year, Michael and I are also doing one each for the age range of 10-14. I have a great friend who actually works for Operation Christmas Child and she was saying that this is the age range that they normally don't get enough boxes for. So if you can, try to do an extra box for that age range! Their goal is to get 5.8 MILLION boxes total here in the United States! Lets help them meet this goal!! They're collecting this week. You can find out where you can drop of the boxes by going HERE.

My challenge to you is to pack at least 1 shoebox! It's so easy to do and you can make a difference in a child's life just by doing this. Here's a quote from the Operation Christmas Child Facebook Page:

"When local volunteers asked Betty why she was crying after the shoe box distribution, she said she just couldn't believe that all the items in the box belonged to her, and shared a story of how she missed school for a week because she didn't have a pencil to use. Thanks to the shoe box gift, she received a pencil for school!"

We take things for granted SO much in America! This little girl couldn't go to school because she didn't have a pencil!!! See how simple it is to help and what a difference you can make?!

To encourage you to do this, I am giving away a HOPE tshirt (child's S-L or Adult M-XL) or a cookbook to one person who pledges to do a shoebox this week (go to the "current fundraisers" tab up at the top for more info on what the shirt/cookbook is)! If you want to be entered in this "giveaway", please comment below with your name and your pledge (or if you've already done one, say that!). I will draw a name from all who enter this Sunday! I'm trusting that those who enter will really do a shoebox! Please spread the word and get all your family and friends to do one, too!

*Also, speaking of tshirts and cookbooks! They are now on sale! We had a lot more cookbooks than expected so we still have about 60 left! We still have several HOPE shirts left as well and so we thought with Christmas sales coming up, we'd have one too! :) Please go to "Current Fundraisers" up above to get more details! :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Big Update Part 2

So, if you read our blog post from the other day, this is a continuance. If you haven't read it, you can read it HERE .

Here's a great video that I highly recommend any of our family or friends to watch:

And if you have any further questions about HIV/AIDS and adoption, there are lots of great resources out there. Please do not hesitate to ask us ANY questions! We're completely willing to answer anything. Also, I highly recommend checking out Project Hopeful! This website was one of the biggest things that helped us with our decision to adopt a child with HIV. They have lots of really great programs, one of them being HOPE+Sisterhood.

"This program seeks to offer HOPE to HIV+ mothers and to prevent unnecessary loss for their families.Everything begins with keeping HIV+ mothers alive and healthy so they can parent their children. With their health intact, HIV+ mothers can begin to acquire the means for self sufficiency through job skills training, micro-loans for small businesses, and a host of other resources. HIV+ mothers can also benefit from "sisters" in the US who will pray for them, write to encourage them, and stand with them as they raise their families."

Basically a "sister" in the US sponsors an HIV+ mom from Ethiopia for just 6 months at a small fee of $32 per month and helps these women get back on their feet and learn a new skill and learn how to provide for their family. It's a way to keep mommas and their babies together. I read about it and immediately fell in love because it is something that Michael and I had dreamed about doing eventually. Of having a home in Ethiopia for single moms to live and learn a skill and get the medical help they need at no cost until they "graduate" with a life skill to provide for themselves. So to find something that was doing that exact same thing, except specifically for moms with HIV meant SO much to me and there was no way I could not participate! I immediately signed up and am so excited to pray for and get to know my "sister" Sintayehu! I can write her letters, emails, and stay in contact with her and maybe one day meet her. It's absolutely incredible, and I encourage anyone who is interested in contacting Project Hopeful for more information!

That said, to follow up with my previous post on why we are choosing to disclose the HIV status of our future child... Some argue that the child should decide who they want to tell and when they want to tell people. While that may work for some, we knew that would not work for our family. We want this entire adoption to be a testimony. A testimony of God's love, God's faithfulness and God's ultimate perfect plan. We want this to be a story for all to know. To help advocate for the orphans with HIV. To teach the truth and facts about HIV. To teach about the millions of orphans worldwide in desperate need of adoption who have HIV, and that adopting them is definitely do-able and safe for families to do it. We could certainly advocate for adoption of HIV+ children without disclosing the status of our child, but we felt it would not have as much of an impact. We want our story to be told and we want the truth about HIV to be spread!!! We also didn't want our child to grow up feeling ashamed or like their HIV was something that needed to be hidden from the world. We want our child to feel loved and accepted JUST the way they are without having doubts...

is our new number on the waitlist! Another referral was given today! We're makin' progress! :)

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It's been awhile! Big update! Part 1

It's been almost 2 months since our last update. I apologize for the lack of posting! I promise to try to do it more. It's been hard because there wasn't much new going on with our adoption process. We've been on the waitlist for 4 1/2 months now, and we were stuck at the same number since we started, but since last week, we have moved up to #43! We still have a ways to go, but we are SO excited to finally see some movement! We're also very excited to see several other families in our agency group preparing to travel to go get their babies after a long, enduring wait!

Also, if you notice up at the top, our blog address has changed. It is no longer and we finally have our own domain name of  :) I'll be doing a "facelift" to the blog in the next several days as well...

As for our big update... Michael and I have been struggling, praying, and talking about whether to do this or not... We've been struggling whether we should make it known. We decided that we needed to. That it was important for us, for our family, and for our friends and family...

As you obviously know, we were adopting a "healthy" little girl or boy, age 0-2. I began to really feel lead to do more. I felt God calling us to love a child lots of families may overlook. A child with HIV. Many people don't know or understand the facts about HIV and immediately panic about the thought. Did you know that HIV canNOT be spread by sharing food or drinks, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing or coughing,  bathing, changing diapers, swimming or any other casual way. HIV and AIDS can only be spread through sexual contact, birth, breastfeeding and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles).- HIV is now considered a chronic but manageable disease. With treatment, people who are HIV+ can live indefinitely without developing AIDS and can live long and full lives. Did you know that in this "day and age", with medication, the HIV can be virtually undetectable in the child's bloodstream? Treatment is usually medication taken twice a day and doctors visits quarterly.

As I look back on our life, I really see how God has prepared us for this. While my kids do not have HIV, they do have medical problems (Ilana being born with a cleft palate and kidney issues and Aydan being born 9 weeks early) and we've been to more doctors appointments than the average parents, been through surgeries (and preparing for another in January), and have had to give them lots of various medications. We're used to going to Children's Hospitals, we're used to doctors, we're used to the worry, we're used to having to give it all to God. While we won't know for sure what it'll be like to have a child with HIV, we do feel like God has prepared us by allowing us to go through trials with our children (and yes, I said allowing us to. While it's been difficult, I've known all along that God would use it for His glory. That He would use it for good. And now I'm seeing the good!)

When we first decided to adopt, we knew we wanted to partner with a ministry to bring supplies with us to take to Ethiopia with us. I began googling different ministries and one of the very first ones I found was AHOPE.  As I looked around their website, I began to feel like this was the one we needed to bring supplies to. I showed Michael and he decided that's who we would choose. This was months ago... I told our homeschool co-op about it, as our co-op is doing a few missions projects and this was going to be one of them. The kids were going to bring supplies for us to take with us to give to AHOPE. (You all will be able to help as well! More details later!) Some of the pictures and information from AHOPE's site would continually come to mind as the weeks went on. The more and more I thought about it, the more I began to question things... As I began to research HIV/AIDS, the more my heart broke. These children are dying alone, with no medical care and no family! When with the love of a family and simple medication, they could very easily live a normal life! But many are afraid when they hear the term HIV. I'll admit - I was, too! Until I researched in depth and the more confident I felt. I shared my heart with Michael and he was nervous and scared, too. We prayed, talked, prayed more, and listened for God to guide us.

On a Sunday evening, after listening to a sermon online together a couple weeks ago, we came up with two things that were kinda the deal breaker and told God that if this WAS His will for us, that He would open the right doors, and if it was not His will, that He would shut those doors and we'd continue with what we had originally planned. The "deal breakers"? What would it take for us to be able to adopt? Did we need to redo our homestudy? If that was the case, we'd have to also redo our I-171H form and both would have to be re-notarized, state authenticated and then authenticated in DC. We estimated that it would cost about $2000. We told God if that was the case, we weren't sure if we could afford it. Our other concern was insurance-wise. Would it be covered? Either way, Michael and I were on fire for God and His plan!

We went to bed and had a not so good night with Ilana waking up with terrible nightmares. She's always had an issue with nightmares ever since she was tiny, but they've gotten worse here and there. We've found that it occurs when big things are going to happen. It's as if Satan is trying hard to attack us, and that's the best way he can. (And these are not your average child nightmares. I won't even get into the details, but it's not just a cute silly monster in the closet.) The following day I felt horribly sick to my stomach and had an awful headache. I could barely function, but was determined to find out the information to know what God's plan was for us. As I began emailing our agency to ask about what we needed to do paperwork/home study wise, I began to feel even more sick. I quickly finished the email and clicked "Send" and had to lay down. I figured I could try calling the insurance while laying down and as I was on hold waiting for a REAL person to talk to, my head felt like it would explode so I had to hang up. Michael, was also sick at work, feeling the same way as I was. When Michael got home, we began to realize that us adopting an HIV+ child must be part of God's plan because we were most definitely being spiritually attacked (it is SO real, for those who aren't so sure about it! I know it sounds like we're nuts! :) ). As we prayed together as a couple and then as a family, Michael and I both began to feel better and Ilana slept peacefully that night...

The following day, I woke up feeling perfectly fine and at total peace on whatever God would make happen that day. I got a response back from our agency, saying that in our homestudy, it would need to say we were approved for special needs and then the I-171H would have to say that we qualify for special needs as well. She had looked at our documents and amazingly, our home study case worker had written that we were approved for special needs, which then made the US Government put on our I-171H that we were approved for special needs. God knew months ago that He would change our hearts to adopt a child with HIV and made it possible from the start. Without us even knowing!!

While on a high, I called the insurance agency. Not only would it be covered by the insurance our kids are already on, but there's an actual program through the insurance that is specifically for HIV+ children. With not only medical care, but counseling, peer groups, etc. How was that NOT an answer to prayer? How was that NOT God saying "Here you go. I've opened the doors wide! Step on through with your eyes wide open to what I have in store for you."

I called Michael and told him what all was said and he said "There's our answers. Tell Angie (our caseworker with our adoption agency) to put us on the list for HIV+."

So... We are officially on the list to adopt an HIV+ child. We could still get a child without HIV, if one become available before one with HIV does, but either way, we know God's plan and we will trust it 100%. We are prepared for people to not be okay with it (we've had that from the beginning, just because we're adopting) and we're prepared for people to have questions (please feel free to ask! We're open to ANY questions!) and we're prepared for people to feel uncomfortable about the idea. God's Word has prepared us for persecution, and we're okay with it.  We know that ultimately -- we're living for an audience of One. That God's opinion is truly the only one that matters.

I will explain in another post soon about the reason why we've decided to make it known. Some people may disagree with this decision and feel like we should let our child decide when and who to tell. Disclosing it is not for every family adopting an HIV+ child, but for us, it was. More on that later as this is getting long. Just continue praying for us and praying for our child!

A very special thank you to everyone who has supported us all along the way! We appreciate your love, support, prayers, and kind words SO much!