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Friday, April 29, 2011

Why Uganda?

Many of you are curious about why Chad and I choose to adopt from Uganda.  When people first began the adoption process one the first of many decisions they must make is domestic or international.  There are advantages and difficulties associated with each choice.  Our family has a heart for international orphans and feel like God has called us to that mission field.  Domestic adoption is often for families seeking babies and who are not willing to travel.  We were not interested in seeking an infant, sleeping through the night is kinda nice.  We felt like the need is much greater for international adoption and few are willing to go.  (This is not meant at all undermine domestic adoption).
After deciding to do an international adoption we had to decide on a country.  We automatically wanted to return to Astrakhan, Russia.  It quickly became apparent to us that Astrakhan is no longer participating in adoptions.  In fact, Russia as a whole has become a very difficult country to adopt from.  It has become more expensive, has a longer wait, the paperwork has become much more intense, and the travel is longer.  Even though, I thought it would be neat if our children could share the same heritage, Russia no longer met our needs.
If not Russia what country?
When picking a country to adopt from you might think you have your pick of the whole world. The answer is actually the opposite.  There are a handful of countries that work in international adoption.  These countries are also known to open and close to international adoption.  The countries that were possibilities for us during our first adoption were no longer available and a whole new set of countries were now our choices.  You first must determine which country in which you qualify.  Some of the qualifications include age, number of children in the home and number of divorces in the family.  A big factor for us was age.  Chad and I are under 30 years old.  There are several countries that require you to be at least 30.  Once you have your list of countries that you qualify for you must then pick a country that meets your needs.  Some of the factors that you look at are ages and gender of children available, care of children, length of travel, program expenses, and stability of the program.
Chad and I had narrowed our list down to two countries, Ethiopia and Uganda.  Neither one of these met our requirements so decided not to decided.  The next day after making that decision God made it for us.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What I Want To Teach My Children

I was recently writing something for an adoption organization.  They asked me to write a brief essay about the most important thing I want my children to learn.  Initially that seems like a difficult question.  Right now I want them to learn their ABC's in the correct order, to shut the door when they enter the house, I want them to say yes ma'am and no ma'am, how to drink out of a cup without spilling it, and I would love it if they could learn how to buckle themselves into their car seats.  Sounds silly, I know, but mothers of toddlers understand that these simple things have the potential to make my life a bit more pleasant.  But are any of these the one thing I want my children to learn? No.  When contemplating this question I remembered a piece of wall art hanging up in my grandmother's bathroom.  It is one of those that someone has cross stitched a Bible verse on.  The verse is in 3 John 1:4
I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth.
The one thing I want for my children to learn is to love the Lord.  I want them to know Him and experience how amazing His love is for us.  This makes the little things like not spilling your drink seem a bit insignificant.  I have been feeling this a lot lately.  The aspects of normal life have been seeming non-important or even more like distractions.  Have I been letting these little distractions from allowing me to show my children to love the Lord?
I was also drawn to the great commission when writing this essay.  Matthew 28:19  "Go and make disciples of all nations. . ."  I am supposed to be teaching my children to be disciples.  The one thing I want my children to become are disciples.  God has been teaching me that the most important thing I can do for my children is to show them how to be disciples of Him.

We Love Show Hope!!

What is Show Hope?  Show Hope is an organization founded by Steven Curtis Chapman and his family.  They offer adoption aid and orphan care.  They offer aid in the form of grants to Christian families who are in the adoption process.  They also support orphans all over the world.  They have a home in China called Mariah's Big House of Hope where they provide life-giving care for at-risk orphans living with medical conditions.  Show Hope is an amazing resource for families who are adopting.  We were very fortunate to qualify for a grant to bring our Nolen home two years ago.  This is a great way for those who are wanting to help orphans but just don't know how to find out what they can do.  Show Hope also has a store of items that they sell to help support their organization.
Nolen was recently featured in their newsletter.  Check it out below.
The Caption below the photos states "To the donors of Show Hope we would like to say thank you.  Our Nolen is a precious gift from God, and you  helped us bring him home.  Thank  You."  Chad and Holly Stewart welcomed home Nolen

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Two Novels and A BIBLE

Approximately a year and a half ago Chad and I spent 6 very long weeks in Astrakhan, Russia.  What do you do for six weeks in Russia.  It is easier to describe what you can't do.  You can't watch television, read the newspaper, listen to the radio, go see a movie, or buy a new book to read.  We did find a few things to do to pass the time.  A ridiculous amount of time was spent playing this little game called Farmville, we worked a puzzle, completed two entire sudoku books, walked a lot when it was warm, and played for hours with their beautiful children.  One of the things we were able to do was read.  The problem with reading was that we couldn't purchase books in English there to read so we had to read what we took with us.  Packing for six weeks did not leave much luggage space for books so I brought two novels and my Bible.  Due to lack of things to do I read my two novels within the first three or four days.  I even read one of them twice, something I do not usually do.  After that Chad and I set the goal of reading the entire New Testament during our trip.  It was pretty amazing to actually have the time (hours even days) to sit down and read uninterrupted.  The only time I find to read uninterrupted now is late at night while I am taking a bath.
The thing that I just don't like about this story is that I did not start reading the New Testament until I was out of other options.  It should of been the first thing I picked up to read.  Why do we turn to God last?  Why can't I just look to Him first?
I am not sure what my goals are going to be for this trip.  But I know I am going to attempt to read some portion of the Old Testament.  When I figure this out I will let you know and maybe some of you will read along with me.
For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Romans 15:4

Playing in Russian Hotel Room.
ADOPTION UPDATE: We received word yesterday that all of our paperwork and the girls paperwork is completed.  There are a few more random things to be done before they can be submitted to court.  We are asking for prayer for the court date.  We are anxious to get to love on our daughters and are wanting the judge to assign us a court date in a timely manner.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Thrown Away Food= Thrown Away Money

Did you know that the average American throws away approximately 25% of their food?  Some experts even quote this number as high as 40%.  Therefore, based on our monthly food cost of $350 we would waste $87.50 a month.  That is $1,050 a year on food thrown out in the trash.  Almost stopping food waste has been one of the things our family has used to tighten up the budget.  Here are a few things our family uses to help reduce food waste.
-Save and reuse leftovers-
- Use your freezer- You can freeze unused fresh fruits and vegetables
- Don't buy more than you can eat- Many of you know I am not a fan of the discount club stores that let you buy in bulk enough food to feed your city.  This goes along with knowing how much food your family eats in a meal and not cooking too much.
- Plan your meals and shop only for the things you need, avoid impulse buys
What food we do not consume is either fed to our chickens or placed in the compost bin.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

YEAH TAXES!!

I know many of you are saying NO our taxes are due.  But many families are excited about tax refunds this year.  One of the benefits of adopting is the tax benefits.  It is hard to believe but Uncle Sam supports adoption.  To help with the cost of adoption the IRS has a tax refund.  If you adopted in the year 2010 you should receive a refund of $13,170 per child up to the cost of your adoption.  This is the first year that the tax benefit has been a refund, in the past it has been a tax credit.  This drastically helps reduce the burden of adoption to many families.  It means you must provide this money up front to pay for your fees, but some of it will be reimbursed when you file your taxes the following year.  There are also some states that offer a state tax credit, unfortunately Tennessee does not.
I have had numerous people tell me in the past that they would love to adopt but just can't afford too.  The truth is you can't afford it, you are right.  But, God can.  I believe the adoption tax refund is one of God's many ways of providing for us that are called to be adoptive parents.
So to those of you writing a big check right now, just think you could be helping bring a baby home.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Answered Prayers

Chad and I recently received an answer to prayer.  In a previous post I wrote about Chad not having enough paid time off work for him to continue to get paid the whole time we are in Africa.  Our prayer has been for some guidance and support in this area.  Chad recently was asked to work on a job that would require him to work some overtime.  Since their employees do not usually get paid for overtime the company came up with an incentive to encourage the employees to work the extra hours.  For every hour of overtime he works he will earn one hour of pto.  This is a wonderful blessing for our family since we are planning on being gone anywhere from 4-6 weeks.  Chad currently has about 3 weeks of pto, hopefully this new plan will help increase that number.
It has been difficult having my husband work late this week.  It has meant feeding Sadie and Nolen dinner by myself.  Chad has been getting to work early and staying late.  He is also planning on working all weekend.  I am so grateful for the man God gave me.  I am so thankful to him to be willing to put forth all this extra effort.
Psalms 55:22
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heart Breaking Statistics

- There are any where from 143 million to 210 million orphans worldwide
- Half of them are in sub-saharan Africa
- 60% of sub-saharan African orphans are aids orphans
          - An aids orphan doesn't necessarily have aids but is orphaned because of aids
- Only 250,000 are adopted worldwide annually
           -Interesting comparison: approximately 2 million pets are adopted annually in the U.S.A.
- 34% of Christians have shown interest in adoption
- Only 1% of Christians adopt, the main reason quoted for not adopting is finances
- If 6% of all Christians adopted there would be no orphans in the world
-98.5% of all orphans do not get adopted
- The average cost of domestic adoption is $25,000 to $35,000
- International adoption cost between $30,000 to $60,000

There are many things Christians are called to do in the Bible.  The most important thing Jesus tells us to do is love Him.  We are then told to love each other and make disciples for him.  It is also made very clear to us that we are to care for the orphans.  James, Jesus's brother by Mary and Joseph, states, (James 1:27)
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.

Last Week for T-Shirts

I want to say thank you to those who have already purchased a Simply Love T-Shirt from us.  This week will be the last week that we are taking orders for the shirts.  If you would like one please let me know and you can buy the shirts using the paypal buttons on this site or you can order from me in person.   Thank you.
I recently stopped reading the book of James and have begun to read Isaiah.  While doing some research into the topic of fear this week I came across a book of scripture that caught my attention.  I can't help but notice how it relates.  In the book of Isaiah the prophet Isaiah is describing what he saw in a vision about Jacob.  Jacob is referred to by Israel in this passage. I will only quote a few verses but please look up and read the whole chapter because context is key.
Isaiah 43:5-6   
Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west.  I will say to the north, "Give them up!" and to the south, "Do not hold them back."  Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.
 
 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Things I Have Learned To Live Without


While saving for our adoptions Chad and I have tried to find things to cut out of the budget.  I know many people are looking for things to cut from their monthly bills.  It always amazing how little people are willing to cut.  Are you willing to cut your cable, internet, or cell phone?  Through this journey I have learned that I really do not need all that I think I do.  It is so easy in our culture to view things that are privileges as rights.  We feel we have the right to many luxuries.  There is not more of an eye opening experience to this than to spend some time in another country.  It is amazing to look back on our time in Russia and think how did we do it.  How did we spend 6 weeks without television, cell phones, clothes washing machine, dish washer, or a car?
One of the first lessons God began to teach me when we entered the adoption process with Nolen was sacrificial giving.  Sacrificial  giving is giving to God's ministry to the point that you are sacrificing something.  I mean really something.  I studied this in Luke chapter 7.  In this chapter a woman anointed Jesus' feet with an alabaster jar of perfume.  What we don't realize is that this jar of perfume would have cost her approximately one years worth of wages.  She sacrificed one years worth of wages to worship her King.  She also sacrificed to Jesus by serving him.  She washed his feet and dried them with her hair.  I know most of us including me think we know what sacrifice is but haven't really experienced it.  Most of us have not come close to sacrificing one years worth of wages to serve the Lord.
Adoption is expensive.  Adoption is time consuming.  Most of know that.  But I have found the sacrifices that we have had to make in order to obey our God well worth it (Have you seen Nolen).  Here are a few things that Chad and I have learned that we really don't need.  They having been great at helping us save money and have blessed us in other ways.

Smart Phones-  I know all the cool kids have one these days.  But lets face it, they are expensive.  Chad and I have yet to have one of these.  Yes there are times when I think one would be nice but not a necessity.  The phone I have could use a little repair.  But I do not see any point in getting a new phone for Sadie and Nolen to fight over.  I can just imagine what a new phone would look like floating in my toilet.
Cable TV- Yes we live in the dark ages without cable television.  We first cut cable in order to save money but we have been blessed by no cable TV.  Blessed?  You spend less time watching TV when you have nothing to watch.  We find that with less television options we spend more time as a family.
Video Games- Chad and I have chosen not to get a game system.  Video games are expensive and very time consuming.
Name Brand Clothing-  I grew up going to a school where everyday was like a fashion show.  Clothing was very important.  I still love fashion but have chosen not to look at it as a financial investment.  If you think about it many people spend enough money on their clothing as a financial investment.  When our family splurges on new clothing it is always on sale and I usually stack multiple discounts.  We are also big shoppers at children's consignment sales and the Goodwill store. (Unmentionables and shoes are bought new of course)
Dining Out- With the budget strapped tight getting ready to go to Uganda restaurants are not something we get to visit.  Also, with two toddlers in tow they aren't that enjoyable.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Last Day to Crown a Princess

Friday is the last day to order flowers for Jinja.  I will post the winner of the $25 Bath and Body Works gift card on Monday.  Unfortunately I will not be able to accept orders for flowers past this weekend due to the need to make them and getting ready for travel.


Every girl is a princess, at least that is what I believe.  Unfortunately not every girl feels like a princess.  It is common practice in orphanages to shave the hair from all children.  This helps keep lice away and is easier to maintain.  While in the baby house in Russia Chad and I had a difficult time determining if a child was male or female.  Occasionally we would see a child with a bow in their hair which would let us know they were a little princess.  Sadie loves to play dress up.  In fact she is usually dressed up like a princess; dress, jewelry, crown, and high heels of course.  It is sad to think that many little girls in the world don't think they are a princess.  So we are going to let them be princesses.  After all we are all sons and daughters adopted by the King.  Our family has set the goal of crowning 100 princesses in Jinja. 
What does this mean?  We want  to take 100 soft headbands with flowers on them to Uganda to distribute to the little girls.
How can you help?  When you order a flower for yourself one will also be sent with us to Uganda.  The flowers you will receive come on hair clips and safety pins.  They can be used as hair bows or you can pin one just about anything including clothing, hats, and bags.
The flowers are made by Holly with a little help from Chad.  100% of the proceeds will help bring our girls home.  One flower for you and one flower for a princess cost $8.00.

...bestow on them a crown of beauty.  Isaiah 61:3

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

God gave us a precious Gift

As you have read Monday was a tough day for me.  It was at the least a little scary.  Yesterday morning I was proof reading a document sent to us by the adoption agency.  I believe this document was created by our attorney in Uganda.  The document contained some information that Chad and I did not know.  In it it had the names of parents, places of residences, and the parents employment.  My nosey self could not just except this information  and move on.  I did what most people do now days I googled the names of the places.  And boy did I find a gift to me.  The place where the girls are staying has a website and a blog.  It even has pictures, pictures of my girls.  Those of you who are in the waiting part of an adoption know just how precious pictures are.  It is such a blessing to get to see them happy and being loved on.
Where the girls are living looks to be in a loving caring place.  It is like a small home with only a few children.  The children are seen playing and look very happy.  It was joy to get to see the friends of our daughters.  I now have specific names and faces to pray for.  What a blessing.  Please pray for these children today, not just our girls but the others at the baby house.  Lets send them all hugs today.
James 1:17
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Bring It On, We Can Take It

I have had many people ask me How do we know that this is what God's plan is for us?  My answer is typically quite vague, We just do.  This leaves most unsatisfied but it is the truth.  While following God I sometimes take joy in the fact that Satan is tempting me.  You see for if Satan is tempting me then I must be doing something right.  Yesterday I was tested, I hope I passed.
Many of you know and experienced some pretty nasty storms that came through Tennessee yesterday afternoon.  While the kids were asleep and I was in the kitchen we had a funnel cloud go over our house.  Thankfully it did not touch down and become a tornado.  However, it did produce some nasty winds.  I was standing in our kitchen, which is right next to our garage, when one of the garage windows was blown in.  The garage door also buckled and bowed out at this time.  I did not know what was happening and assumed we were about to be hit by a tornado.  The "fight or flight" reaction kicked in.  I ran and grabbed both kids like they were baby dolls and put them in the bathroom with me.  After we were in the bathroom for about 30 seconds I heard another very loud noise.  We remained in our hall bathroom for a few minutes until all scary sounds stopped.  I then put the kids on my bed to watch cartoons and calm down.  While surveying the damage I noticed a huge tree in our backyard was now on my fence and in my neighbors yard.  We are very fortunate that the funnel cloud did not form into a tornado.  Everyone is okay but I was a bit shaken up.
After yesterdays events I felt like I was in spiritual warfare.  I feel like Satan is attacking us in order to discourage us from continuing on this adoption journey.  But my God is awesome and overpowered him.  Satan knows that we are currently trying to save every penny we have  for our adoption.  He is trying take from that with this experience.  But I know that my God is in control.  I am still spending most of my devotional time in the book of James.  Here are some verses that have been "sticking out" to me.  James 1:2-3
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.


Saturday, April 2, 2011

All We Need Is Prayer/ Adoption Update

Thank you so much to all of you for your support during our adoption process.  Our family has been wonderfully blessed by our family and friends as we prepare to embark on this crazy journey.  A friend recently sent me the message below.  It is such a blessing to know that we are being prayed for.  Thank you Sue and to all of you who have spent time praying for our family.
Today while Jenna was at track practice at IHS, I walked the parking lots to get my exercise in. I came across 2 pennies and thought of your blog post. I picked up the pennies, held them in my hand and prayed for your girls as I walked. I came upon another penny, picked it up and prayed for Sadie and her adjustments to 2 more siblings. I found another penny, picked it up and prayed for Nolen and his adjustments. I came across 2 more pennies picked them up and prayed for you and Chad. I may not be able to support you in great ways financially for your adoption, but I can pray. I love following your blog. And spending an hour walking and praying for your family and your girls is certainly a privilege.
ADOPTION UPDATE:
This week we were able to get fingerprinted by United States Customs and Immigration Services.  This is the last big document needed by us for the adoption.  We also heard that all is going well with the paperwork for the girls.  They are a little over half way done with it.   The orphanage director is working diligently on our behalf to finish this paperwork.  Once these documents are collected and completed they will be submitted to the court system.  After a few steps in the court system we will be assigned a court date.