Thursday, June 14, 2012

Happy Half Birthday Little Man!

This photo says it all! Jackson no longer wants to smile. He has a new talent of blowing crazy bubbles and spraying you like crazy! Nothing like a shower of spit from your 6 month old! This morning that's all he wanted to do...his facial expressions are priceless! Happy 1/2 Birthday Little Man!

A few other highlights from the past month:
  • Jackson started eating veggies and HATED my home cooking! Once we switched to good ol' Gerber, he ate EVERYTHING....He's now eating fruits and veggies and there isn't a thing he's turned his nose up at.
  • He loves his toy crab and tries to eat it's eyeballs.
  • He can hold his bottle and is now drinking from a sippee cup
  • He took his first trip to the St. Louis and OKC zoo
  • He can reach and grab things really well. Especially his paci, which he just pops right into his mouth, but for the most part he likes to turn it sideways and gnaw on it.
  • He can sit up on his own for several minutes at a time. He's still a little top heavy, but he's getting better each day.
  • He loves to splash in his kiddy pool.
  • He got strep throat! Boo!
Here's a few more photos from our little photo shoot this morning. Once again, no big smiles, but many faces I want to always remember!

 I love how Jackson puts one finger in his mouth and chews on it....
 Watch out for spit....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Book Proposals, Platforms and Word Counts, Oh My!

I never wanted to write a book. Well, I take that back. I've envisioned myself writing children's books, but never a 60,000 word best-seller. I do short. Newspaper articles, blog posts, you get the picture?
I have always been good at expressing myself through writing. When I was about 9-years-old, I wrote a poem that was read at my grandfather's funeral. I later wrote an essay about him that was published in my middle school's writing publication. I have kept journals for years and I swear I will pay someone to burn those things after I die. Nobody needs to read the drama-filled journals from my earlier years.
I also love getting lost in a good story. You know the kind, that when it ends, you just want to cry.  I'd give anything to spend a few days with my nose stuck in one of those books, but I don't have the luxury of kicking back with a good book these days. I currently have 2, I've barely gotten to the good stuff, books started on my iPad and who knows when I'll get around to finishing them. After all, I have a book to write. 60,000 words daunting me, looming over my head, making me a bit crazy.
Yes, I have a book to write. God has given me a story that I can't just write in a journal, pack in a box and bury in the back of my closet.
Our adoption journey is a story that only God could orchestrate and I am still humbled that He chose me to play one of the main characters.
I can't NOT share it. What if one person reads our story and it encourages them at a time when they are in the pits of infertility hell? What if someone who doesn't know the amazing love of Christ, reads our story and is changed forever? What if, because of our story, more people become educated about the need for families to adopt African American and biracial children in the United States?
Writing 60,000 words scares me. I feel inadequate. The devil is already having a party, as he tries to plant seeds of doubt and keep me from doing what God has called me to do.
I might go as far as to say that this journey is scarier for me than answering God's call to adopt.
Bringing home a child. Keeping that child alive. Writing 60,000 words. Can they really even be compared? Maybe not, but I'm just being honest.
When we stepped out in faith to adopt, we had no idea how we would come up with the money we needed - God provided every penny.
He will provide every word for this book proposal and manuscript.
He will provide me with a platform. That's another detail that's getting my anxiety levels elevated. And if my platform isn't as great as I think it should be (or non-existent for that matter) God can still move mountains and get this book published.
The Bible study I am currently doing is on Nehemiah. He prayed for 4 months before asking the king if he could return to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. He also never forgot that his success was not because of his own strength, but because the hand of God was upon him.
I have exactly 36 days to finish my book proposal, before I board a plane to North Carolina to attend a writing conference that I have dreamed of attending for years!
It just happens that the wife of one of my husband's friends (who lives in Florida) will also be attending the conference. Small world. We have committed to being prayer partners as we prepare for the conference and all God is going to do. She shared a verse with me that we are praying over one another and it brings me great comfort.
Psalm 37:23 "If the Lord delights in a man's ways, He makes his steps firm."
Tonight as I was driving home, these words echoed from the Christian radio station. "Trust Him with your desires and see what He does."
That's what I'm doing. Trusting.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Let's Raise Some Money for the O'Neal Family!

Our friends Jason and Joely are probably just WEEKS away from going back to Ethiopia to get their son and bring him home FOREVER! Woo hoo! There's just one little glitch.... they are still $4500 short of being fully funded.
What do you say we help them out by doing a little giveaway....
Here's a photo of the prizes....a handmade African doll, a framed print of Africa that says Ethiopia in Amharic and three GREAT books - Fields of the Fatherless, Crazy Love and Radical.

Each person who donates at least $5 to the O'Neals adoption fund will be entered to win this prize pack. Come on folks...let's bless the socks off this couple and help bring their son HOME!

Here's the rules...

1. Visit Jason and Joely's blog and make a donation! Remember, at least $5 to enter the drawing...but let's bless them! Maybe $10, $20 or $30.

2. After you have made a donation, comment on my blog post  or on my Facebook page and let me know that you have donated.

3. Spread the word through your blogs, Facebook, etc. We will do this until Friday, June 15th.

Friday, June 1, 2012

We've Made A Decision

Two years ago, John and I made the decision to adopt from Ethiopia. There were many reasons why we chose international adoption.The statistics of children dying from preventable diseases were staggering. At one point in our decision making process, I considered domestic adoption (John was certain he wanted to go international). I knew that we could give a child a chance at life if their birth mother had adoption as an option and not just abortion. However, I didn't have all the facts about domestic adoption and the thought of having a relationship with a birth mother scared me. More on this in a bit....
SO....we began the long, long, process of international adoption. It wasn't long after we made the official wait list, that wait times began to drastically increase and huge changes began taking place with Ethiopian adoptions.
Many of our friends left the Ethiopia program to pursue other adoptions, but John and I felt like we were supposed to hang in there. I remember how hard it was when our friends left the program. I had so many mixed feelings. I believed (and still do) that God could move the mountains standing in the way of Ethiopian adoptions. I was sad that so many people seemed to be giving up so easily.It was a very emotional time. John and I continued on the wait list and as each month went by, the wait time increased and we received more depressing news about the time it was going to take to finish our adoption and the increased fees associated with the longer waits.
In July 2011, John and I were pretty content with our waiting game and had come to terms with the fact that it would be years before we brought our kids home. God had a different plan. There was a young girl, living at the homeless shelter where I worked, and she wanted to give her baby up for adoption. She was about 4 months pregnant at the time.
There were a lot of hurdles, but God made every detail fall in place and that baby boy became our son. It was God's plan.
After Jackson was born, we had to place our Ethiopian adoption on hold because of rules that Jackson has to be at least a year old before we can adopt another child. These past few months we have been praying and considering the future of our Ethiopian adoption.
I've known for a while what we needed to do, but I didn't want to face the reality that I would likely never get off a plane in Africa and be united with my child.
We have decided to leave the Ethiopian program.This has been one of the hardest decisions we have ever had to make. Our hearts will forever be tied to Ethiopia and the orphans there, but there are many reasons why we believe it's best for us to leave the program.
It's not as much the long wait times, as it is the rising costs, that have swayed our decision to withdraw from the program. The longer it takes, the more money it costs, and we don't have an unlimited bank account. There is also the concern that adoptions in Ethiopia will stop all together.
Although we won't be adopting from Ethiopia, we will always have a heart for the children. We will continue to support ministries working in Ethiopia and families adopting from there. I have a huge desire to go on a mission trip to Ethiopia and feel like God is opening doors for me to do so in the near future.
So what's our plan for the future?
We have decided to pursue a domestic adoption of an African American or bi-racial child, once Jackson turns a year old, through our local agency. There is a HUGE need for families to adopt African American and bi-racial children here in Oklahoma. We learned that in the past 10 years, not a single African American family has adopted from the agency we are planning to use. Seems like a lot of families want a white baby that blends with their family. This breaks my heart!
One of the reasons I have struggled with leaving the Ethiopian program, is because I didn't understand how God could take us down that road, let us fall in love with those precious children and then redirect our course.
I'm beginning to understand a little better now how He used Ethiopia to prepare us for the path He wants to take us on.
God knew I needed to have a heart for the world. He led me to Ethiopia. God knew at one time I was one of those people who was unsure if I could adopt an African or bi-racial child. What would people think? Now, I can't imagine NOT having an African American child (and to be honest, I really, really, want a sweet baby girl!).
I've written this before, but I will write it again. It's just an amazing testimony of the plan God had for our family and how He uses EVERYTHING to achieve his purpose!

Infertility and Depression led to
the decision to adopt which led to
God leading us to Ethiopia, which led to
God giving me a heart for the poor, the orphan and the world, which led to
Me praying for God to show me how I could serve that population here in the U.S., which led to
My job at City Rescue Mission, the states largest homeless shelter, which led to
Meeting our birth mom, which led to
Our incredible adoption story and amazing son, Jackson Henry.

Whew! Maybe, just maybe, God called us to Ethiopia, if for no other reason than to change me. To prepare me for the journey He had in store. To give me a heart for the poor, the orphan and a heart for African children and biracial children.

And I have a whole different outlook on having a relationship with birth mother's. It doesn't scare me anymore. Having a relationship with a birth mother is a chance to love her, pour into her life, share Christ. It's an honor. I am so grateful that I know Jackson's birth mother. That I was there through the majority of her pregnancy. That I was able to hold her hand the day we found out she was having a boy. That I was with her in the room when Jackson was born. That I can pick up the phone and call her to wish her Happy Mother's Day. That she sent me a Mother's Day card. One day I'll be able to share all of this with my son.

I know there will be people who don't understand our decision, who don't support what we are doing. We've already dealt with that and it sucks. We are doing what we feel is best for our situation and I just ask that you respect our decision. God already answered our prayers in a way we could have never imagined. His name is Jackson Henry! We believe God knows the face of each and every one of our children and we can't wait to see how He grows our family.