Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Adoption Update, Getting Close!

We're getting so close to bringing our boys home!  We had a summer full of movement in our adoption.  PRAISE GOD!!!!  Since we moved to a new state, we had to update our home study here before we could move to the next step, which was applying for approval from the U.S.  By God's perfect timing, we were delayed once again in Ghana waiting for the boys' birth certificates to be printed at the exact same time we had to do this update.  It took us about nine weeks to get our home study updated due to having to do background checks...again.  We received our updated home study in the mail on May 22nd and on May 25th we received word that the boys' birth certificates were ready to pick up!  Three days later.  I share all that because this was a tangible example to me that there is purpose in God's divine delays.  In those nine weeks, we were able to get more settled in Minnesota and start adjusting to life here.

From there, things took off!  The Lord showed us His favor in a huge way and I hope to have time to write about that soon.  He demonstrated that all things really do work together for good and His purposes and timing, even when it doesn't feel like they do.

On July 7th, we got our approval from the U.S. that we could now proceed to the FINAL step, which is getting their visas!  We could literally see the finish line.  The boys had to go through some medical appointments, which were done quickly and then we scheduled our visa exit interview with the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.  We had our interview on Monday, August 7th.  We were under the impression that the embassy would either approve our case that day or ask for more documents.  They did ask for one financial document but other than that, everything seemed to be okay.  They told our power of attorney they'd call him when they were ready for him to bring the document in.  That was almost a month ago.  Since then, I've reached the embassy through email and they have assured me they are 'actively processing' our case.  I have had a range of emotions over the last month but I can honestly say I have mostly been marked with peace and a steadiness.  I attribute a lot of that to the people praying for us.  The hardest part was preparing our hearts to enter back into the mode of waiting, again.  It reminded me of track practice back in the day when your coach said you only have 100 meters left and then when you got there he said, 'One more lap!'  and you wanted to punch him in the face.  Really?!?  Once it became clear we weren't going to get an approval that week, my heart has had to go back to seeking Him, remaining still and trusting.  Our boys are currently still in the capital city of Accra and they're staying with our friends who have graciously offered to keep them until we come.  This couple has become like family to us over the last few years and it's a huge gift that we're praising God for.

At this point, our prayer request is pretty simple.  That the embassy will approve our case and their visas will be printed.  We will be on a plane to get them as soon as this happens.

God encourages me almost every day in some way to keep fighting and to keep trusting.  I wanted to share just a couple of them.  One is by His presence.  In a recent sermon I listened to from Cottage Grove Church on Mark 6:30-44, the pastor, Andy Norris, said "True rest is found in the presence of Jesus."  And "When we're satisfied, we can be at rest.  You feel safe, secure, at peace.  Run into His presence.  He's here to protect me."  How can I be at peace when life is anything but peaceful?  It's by being in the presence of Jesus.  And oh how I cannot get enough of Him right now!  Bringing these boys home will not make my life easier, nor will it bring me sudden peace.  If God says it's not time yet, then I lay my expectations down, I seek His presence and I find my peace.  No circumstance can take that from me.  It can try and for days it can seem like it actually is, but I've had to fight for this perspective.  Waiting has taught me how to do this.  I am fully complete right now.

There's another sermon that I'm just going to put the link for because every single word of this is so spot on.  It's from Grace Church in Eden Prairie.  All summer he's been going through the Psalms and teaching about the hard questions we have for God.  This particular week is on Psalm 89.  He poses the question, "What do you do in your darkest moment?  The Psalmist anchored himself in God's ability to be God."  That pretty much sums it up!  I have to keep reminding myself that God is God and He's really, really good at it.  I can trust Him and all His characteristics.  It is worth your time to listen to this!  http://www.grace.church/message-series/299 (It's "How Long, O Lord" from April 6, 2017)

The last one is a song called "Psalm 46" by Shane & Shane.  It is a powerful song that speaks for itself!  I posted it here:
 
 
Thank you all SO much for your continued prayers to bring our boys home!  We will be celebrating their homecoming very soon!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

A New School


Ever since we told our kids we were moving to Minneapolis, their biggest worry has been over switching schools and making new friends in the middle of the school year.  Nate and I have only ever lived in small town Iowa and we went to the same school our whole lives. I didn’t know exactly how to walk them through this because I hadn’t personally experienced it, but I’ve walked through other fears and I knew that this was going to be an opportunity for God to show up for them individually in an extremely personal way. So in that sense, I could fully enter in to my kids’ fears and worries and anxiousness about having to start a new school.  And as their mom, their fears and worries were also mine.  So since December, every morning before school when we would talk through our move and talk about their excitement and their worries, we would pray for God to go before our family in this move and specifically when it was the kids turn to pray, they would pray some form of “God, please give me a nice teacher and a nice friend at my new school.”

Fast forward to this week.  We’re now living in Minneapolis and honestly, there are a ton of things I could write about and showcase how God has come through for us and has gone before us, but I felt led to write about how He came through for us with their new school.  On Monday, I had to go to the school and start the registration process.  I walk in and was just taking it all in and trying to convince myself this was all a good idea.  The lady helping me was honestly not super kind that day and apparently I was supposed to bring in a bunch of papers that I had no idea about.   She clearly was annoyed that I was there and that I brought nothing with me.  She eventually hands me a packet of paperwork for each kid, and I sit down feeling overwhelmed at the stack of papers in front of me, but I fill it out and give it back to her.  I told her I’d be back the next day with the rest of what she needed.  I walked out to my car and thankfully my friend was at our house and kept the kids with her so I could be alone while I was processing all of this.  I started to get all emotional and freaking out inside and basically just telling myself that this was going to be so hard.  For the first time, I was starting to feel the sacrifice of this move.  We are definitely not in Huxley, Iowa, anymore.  There wasn’t anything bad about the school or anything scary, it was just all so different and I felt like a fish out of water.  I started praying as I was driving back to our house and I felt the Spirit saying “Calm down and trust Me.”  So I convinced myself to not burst into tears, enjoy the day with our friends and I’d deal with all this school stuff later.

On Wednesday morning the lady from the school called and said, “Well, how about your kids start tomorrow?”  Umm, yeah, sure I guess.  I felt sick to my stomach and I knew they were going to freak out when I told them.  Especially Max.  What is it with boys and school anyway?!?  Our friends left before lunchtime and the kids sat down to eat their lunch, and I gently broke them the news that they were going to have to start school the next day.  The girls both said, “Noooo!” and Max buried himself in the couch and just starts pleading with me that he does not want to start a new school.  All while he has tears in his eyes.  Every part of me wanted to say, yep, no more school for you guys!  Except someone had to be the adult in this situation and by default, it was me.  We got in the car and they were all so sad and pathetic looking and in somber moods.  And honestly, I was, too.  It was almost like God just let me in on exactly how they were feeling. 

As a parent, it’s so tempting to try and shield your kids from all their pain and all their fears and want to jump in and either prevent it from happening or immediately take it away when it comes.  But God has been saying to me for months that what if this move is exactly what my kids need to know Him?  What if all these fears and worries they have are the exact thing He’s going to use to make Himself known to each one of them individually? 

We walk in to their new school and go to the office and my intentions were to hand the lady the paperwork and head back home.  I walk in and the same lady that had been unfriendly the day before was like a different person.  She smiled at me and talked with each of the kids and told them she was excited for them to start.  She wrote down who their teachers would be and which classroom they’d be in.  Then she asked another secretary if she had time to give us a tour of the school and show them their classrooms.  This is when God started to meet all four of us and show us that He really did go before us and He was already preparing them for this school.

The kids are still down and not excited to be there at this point.  We start walking down the hallway and right as we do, Avery’s new teacher and her whole class are coming from the other direction.  I was not expecting this at all but her teacher saw her and said, “Oh, you must be Avery!  We’re SO excited to meet you!  Can I give you a hug?!?”  She came over and hugged her and then her whole class started whispering very excitedly to each other that this was Avery.  I was in complete shock.  I was not expecting for her class to already know who she was or that she’d be starting school the next day.  I just stood there trying to process what was happening.  We talked with her teacher for a little bit and then we kept walking.

Sure enough, the next class we meet walking towards us in the hallway was Max’s.  Almost the exact same scene played out with his teacher.  His teacher said, “Oh, we’re so excited to have you and in fact, all the kids are fighting over who can have their locker next to yours.”  And then a swarm of five boys all come over to him and start patting his shoulders saying “Hi, Max! Hi, Max!”  I about burst into tears on the spot.  I kept praying in my head, ‘Lord, let me keep it together!’ This one boy had a giant smile and super red cheeks and said out loud to no one in particular, “Yes!  My locker is by him!”  It was like he was a movie star.  And in true Max fashion, he just stood there not saying a word and I could tell he was also shocked by it all, but then pretty soon I see his little grin and dimples appear.  For whatever reason, this was such a huge gift to me, specifically for him.  Immediately his heart started softening.

Then we went to Mya’s class and she might have the sweetest teacher I’ve ever met.  She also knew Mya’s name right away and had already put a sticker with her name on it on a locker for her.  Mya’s smile was huge the whole time we were in there.

After that, all three of their demeanors and countenance changed.  They started laughing and smiling and it was such a huge relief for all of us.  I could almost feel the weight lifting off of them.  The secretary was kind enough to let us tour the gym, the pool area, the art room and one of the recess areas.  They were so excited to learn they’d get to go swimming once a week. 

On our drive back home Max said, “That school is awesome!” 

I was so filled with gratitude and peace after we left the school.  It was in complete contrast to our drive to the school.  God proved to me that He had gone before us and He had, in fact, prepared this school for our kids.  He took all our worries and He completely came through for us.  I am relieved and in awe at His provision.  My prayer is that our kids will never forget how God came through for each of them and this will just be one of many experiences they have in learning that God is trustworthy and they are deeply loved by Him.  New adventures are new opportunities to trust God for more. 

This morning they were each so excited to get to school.  In our devotions this morning, we once again read the verse that we’ve been praying for almost three months.  Deuteronomy 31:8 “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”  This time, we were able to recount all the ways that God answered this prayer for each one of them.

 

 

 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Adoption Update and Pictures!

I just wanted to post a quick update on where we're at in the adoption process now and share a few more pictures of the boys. 

On January 27th, we passed court with our boys!!  This was HUGE.  We had been told we would go to court in August of 2015.  It started out that each week had a delay and weeks turned to months and then months turned into a year.  Then on December 9, 2016, God literally just opened up a way to make this possible.  We had so many people praying that we would pass court before Christmas.  We were asking for a Christmas miracle.  Even though we didn't actually pass court before Christmas, there are SO many miracles that God did to make it possible for us to even go to court in January.  The fact that it took us so long to just get past court makes this step that much sweeter.  

In international adoption, every country has different laws and every process looks different.  Passing court in Ghana makes the boys our children.  They are officially and legally Wykles:)

Many people have asked, "What now?".  What happens now is we wait for their birth certificates and all the documents from court in Ghana.  Once we have those things, we file what's called the I-600.  Basically what this form does is looks at all the information we've already provided and the court documents in Ghana and approves our boys to be our children in the U.S.  While we wait for this to be approved, they'll get their passports in Ghana.  We don't really know how long it'll take for this step to happen.  The fastest we have heard of an I-600 getting approved is three weeks, but since Ghana hasn't processed adoptions for so long, we really just don't know.  We're obviously praying for 'as quickly as possible' and yet, we have learned sweet life long lessons through the waiting and trusting. 

After this approval, we'll receive a visa packet from the U.S. Embassy in Ghana.  The boys will go through medical appointments in Ghana and then we will have an exit interview with the Embassy.  If everything is good to go, then they'll receive their visas and we will be on our way to bring them home!  Our agency recommends that we don't travel until the visa is actually printed in case something doesn't go as planned.

With all that being said, we are so grateful for where we're at but there is still a journey ahead and we would love for you to keep lifting our family up in prayer.

Max and I went to Ghana right after Christmas and spent three days with the boys.  Here are some pictures from our time.


It's kind of hard to see what's going on here, but right when we got to the mission center, Max ran up to Joshua and they gave each other a big hug.


Seth, Joshua and my cousin, Lily


Joshua has the BEST smile!  It seriously melts me.

This dude is FULL of life!  There are many adventures to come with Seth and probably some broken bones as well because he's constantly jumping off of something or doing flips or climbing up things. 

Samuel and Max hanging out in the hotel.  He got a whole day to hang out with us, which was such a gift.

Samuel already taking on the big brother role.

 
This was our last night together before leaving Asikuma.  The boys came to the hotel with us and ate dinner and then we sat around a table and played UNO.  This is one of those times that will be forever cemented in my mind.  God used laughter and lightheartedness to help me see their personalities come through and gave me glimpses of what life will be like raising these four boys.  I think back on this night so much and it just makes me smile.  It was a tremendous gift for all of us.  It was like God was starting to knit us together through a game of UNO.  Samuel and Seth are competitive, like me, and Joshua really could care less.  Most of the time he was scheming on ways to give me all the cards and then would just laugh and laugh when it worked.  

Seth
Samuel
Joshua and I from my trip in May 2016
 
 
 
Another question I get a lot is, "Was it hard to leave them?"  Yes is the answer.  I've been there twice since we decided to adopt them and both times were really hard to say good-bye.  The first time I bawled like a baby as I kissed their foreheads and got in the car to drive back to Accra.  At that time, I had no idea when we would go to court and I couldn't see any kind of end in sight.  But I will say this time was so different.  The entire time with them was a gift.  At one point I had to even talk with one of them and tell him that he needed to stop pouting and just see our time as a gift.  He was already sad we were leaving and it was the first day!  Even in Africa when mom mode kicks in, it kicks in.  However, having to tell him that out loud made me realize I needed to practice what I was preaching to him.  From then on all of us really did just see our time as a gift God gave us that He didn't have to give us.
 
So when we left this time, I was at the hotel waiting for our ride and I was starting to get emotional.  I was fighting back the tears and trying to talk myself out of losing it in front of everyone.  I took the boys out to this gazebo area and we sat down and prayed together.  After that, it's like God just took all my emotion out of it.  We drove them back to the mission center and I hugged them and kissed their foreheads again and they ran up to get ready for bed.  Instead of being so overwhelmed with sadness this time, I was so filled.  And they were, too.  I just felt this overwhelming sense from the Spirit that we're on our last stretch.  I am still holding on to that as we keep moving forward and we keep praying for them to be home.  It was also so good to be able to tell them that we had a court date coming up and God was, in fact, moving. 
 
It was such a great trip and hopefully I'll share more on that later!
 
 
 
"The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." ~ Exodus 14:14
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 


 
 
 

 

 
 
 



Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Journey From Faith to Sight

 There are several things going on in our life where 'Faith before Sight' has become our anthem but I want to write about our adoption and our journey from faith to sight in this.  We are in the middle.  This adoption journey and actually most of what God has asked our family to do, if not all, is fueled by the foundation of our faith in Jesus as our Savior, faith that one day we will live eternally with God and our faith that our lives are far better off lived for Him and eternity in mind than ourselves and only the things we can see and experience now on earth.  We believe our adoptions will have an eternal impact.  We also tell God yes in faith when He asks us to do something.  We step out into uncharted territory and we have faith God will show up. We do know we serve a God that is completely faithful, though, and we rest in that.

  ~ "Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1

If you've been in church at all in your life you've probably heard this verse preached or at least mentioned.  "For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7.  We all agree yes, let's live by faith and not sight!  And it's all fun and games until you actually start living by faith and not sight.  When God starts asking you to do things that He has to show up or you're screwed.  When you start looking pretty foolish to the world and you yourself start wondering, 'Is this actually what I'm supposed to be doing?'  That's when faith before sight starts to get uncomfortable.

If you are a Christian, faith is the foundation for everything you believe.  You put your hope and trust in a God you can not physically see.  I've spent a lot of my life with this as the only kind of faith I knew anything about.  I had a relationship with Jesus, my life was comfortable and I was great with all of it.  God loved me too much to leave me in that place, though.  God started busting into that about ten years ago and each year since He keeps showing me what it means to LIVE by faith. 

"A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy.  I have come so that they may have life and have it in abundance."
John 10:10

Recently the Lord led me to Hebrews 11 one day through something else I was reading and I ended up spending about an hour reading through it and meditating on the truths in there.  You tend to see scripture in a different light when you're walking through something similar as the characters of the Bible were.

"BY FAITH we..."
"BY FAITH Abel...
"BY FAITH Enoch...
"BY FAITH Noah..."
"BY FAITH Abraham..."
"BY FAITH Sarah..."
"BY FAITH Isaac..."
"BY FAITH Jacob..."
"BY FAITH Joseph..."
"BY FAITH Moses..."
"BY FAITH he left Egypt..."
BY FAITH he instituted the Passover..."
"BY FAITH they crossed the Red Sea..."
"BY FAITH the walls of Jericho fell down..."
"BY FAITH Rahab..."
 
 
At some point, all of the people mentioned in Hebrews 11 had to make a choice.  They had to make a decision if they were going to say 'yes' to God.  They had to decide if they were going to make the first step forward in obeying whatever it is God was asking them to do.  All of these people mentioned in this chapter had an action step of faith before they ever saw God tangibly do anything. 

For some, that meant God was actually asking them to do nothing....wait.  For others, it meant moving to a far off land where they didn't even know where they were going.  And for others, they were asked to lead an entire group of God's people out of captivity.
 
Somewhere in their story, before entering into the Hebrews hall of fame for outstanding faith, they had a middle.  We don't know all the details about the middle of their stories, except we know they had them.  And that's where we're at in our adoption.  The middle.  We've laid our yes on the table.  We have trusted in faith that this is what God is calling us to do.  As the Bethel song says, "I'm standing knee deep but I'm out where I've never been."  We have stepped off the shores, by faith, and now we're standing in deep waters, persevering through the waves and waiting to get to the side of sight.
 
The middle is tough ground.  The middle will make you question God in ways you have never questioned before.  The middle is where your faith becomes firm.  I know when our adoption journey ends and a new beginning starts, I will have countless lessons that I pray I can pass on to those who come after us.  But I also wanted to just shed a little light into the middle.  Don't fight it!  Allow God to do a work in you while you wait so that when you're delivered from the middle you are not the same person as when your journey began.
 
I am actually learning to love this place.  Don't get me wrong, I am not interested in staying here forever and thankfully God isn't either.  But there is no other way, no other spot that I can grow in my intimacy with Jesus than in the middle.  I know how we got here, and by faith we trust that our story ends with our boys coming home, but we have no clue what happens in the middle.  And for that, I need Jesus desperately.  If I only lived out my faith by what I could see with my eyes and what I knew to be certain then I would be missing out greatly.  And in God's economy, faith is as good as sight.  (Rom 8:24) 
 
"Very often we celebrate what we come out of.  I think the question we should ask is what did I leave with?  Did you leave with wisdom?  Did you leave with strength that you didn't have before?  Did you leave with perspective that you didn't have before?  Because It's only when you leave with something you can look back on it and say like David said, it was good that I was afflicted that I might learn your statutes.  Some of our greatest lessons come in some of our most challenging seasons." 
 Dharius Daniels

In faith we said yes to this adoption.  In faith we have shared our story with people close to us and people we don't even know.  In faith we have given thousands of dollars to an adoption agency to make these children part of our family.  In faith we have shared with our kids that they'll have three brothers.  In faith we have opened our hearts to these boys.  In faith we have allowed them into our home with pictures and constant conversation about what we think they might be doing or how we think they'll like a certain food when they're home.  In faith we write letters to them and sign them "Mom and Dad".  In faith they draw us pictures with Wykle on the top of their papers.  In faith we plan for their futures.  In faith we try to grasp even spitting out the words that we'll be a family of NINE.  In faith we WAIT.  In faith we know in God's perfect timing this story has a beautiful ending. 

It is a joy and a delight to walk by faith.  It is also hard and inconvenient. 
 
"Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience." Romans 8:24-25

The crazy part about all of this is we could have said no.  God doesn't force us to obey but He delights in our obedience and participation in the work of the Kingdom.  What if all those people listed in Hebrews 11 would have said 'Thanks, God, but I'm good!"  What if Moses would have said, "You know, God, I am just going to choose not to participate in You parting the sea today."?  It sounds crazy because we know how those stories end and how God uses those people in the Bible to do some amazing things.  He is asking us to participate in the same ways!  The truth that God even wants that is humbling.  I do not believe God calls everyone to adopt.  But I know if you are a Christ follower, He is asking you to live your life by faith and trust Him.  Adoption is an amazing thing but it does not define who our family is.  Adoption is the byproduct of us learning to lay down our lives and do things God's way and not our own.  It's just a taste of the 'abundance of life' God has for us when we do things His way.

I was listening to a sermon this week and part of it was talking about Moses and the Israelites in Exodus.  He says that what God tells Moses will happen in Chapter 3 of Exodus does not happen until Chapter 12 of Exodus.  God tells Moses he will deliver them from Egypt.  Eight chapters go by before God delivers His people.  This is what the pastor said:  "Could they endure chapters 4 through 11?  The test of faith is in the enormity of the obstacle and the length of the wait.  It's not just how big can I believe but can I keep on believing when it feels like believing isn't working?"  Chapters 4 through 11 in Exodus was their middle in the story of God delivering them out of Egypt.  They endured and God delivered them, just as He promised.
 


"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls."
1 Peter 1:6-9



 





Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Spending Time With Our Boys

Last week I had the privilege of traveling to Ghana.  The purpose of the trip was to help our friends, Nick and Typh, bring their girls home.  Within that overarching purpose was a million smaller stories God wrote this week.  The whole week was incredibly purposeful.  Long story short, Typh and the girls did not get to come home when I did on the 20th but will be traveling home TODAY with Nick!  An even better ending than we could have written.  Even in all that there is so much I could write about and how when God's plans are not the same as yours, He can bring you to a place where you submit to His way, His authority and call it good. 

The phrase the Lord gave me going into this trip was "I see. I know."  Everywhere I turned this was happening.  The Lord sees every single orphan and He knows every single need of every single person.  That is mind blowing.

The part I do want to write about is spending a couple days with our boys.  I got to spend two days with them, which going into it didn't feel like a lot.  I was praying that the Lord would use those days and it would be multiplied and feel more like two months.  Being with them my heart was so full. The Lord answered that prayer.  When I arrived, each of the boys ran up to me and gave me big hugs.  They were so excited to see me.  I, of course, started crying as I hugged them.  I had waited a long time for that moment! 

He is almost as tall as me:)
 




Since the boys are older, I was praying about how to interact with them.  The Lord kept making it clear that they felt loved by me just sitting with them or just watching them play.  Before I had arrived they constructed this high jump bar out of bamboo and sticks.  They would run and jump off a cement block and jump over the stick.  It was pretty awesome.  The younger two boys are extremely athletic and I text Nate that gymnastics will be in their future!  They would just run around doing flips, climbing on things and jumping off anything they saw.  The boys did this for hours.  I'll post a video of them doing this once we pass court.

I had planned to take the boys shopping while I was there to get clothes for church, so we did that next.  I love that no matter what country you're in or what culture it is, boys are boys and kids are kids.  They were less than thrilled to be shopping!  But I could tell they loved leaving the mission center for a little bit and getting to spend time with me.  On our way home I got them Sprite and gave them a bag of Goldfish crackers to eat.  I found out this trip that Ghanaians of all ages love Goldfish crackers:).  I loved being able to do this because this is something I do with our kids here when we go on dates.  Their eyes were as big as saucers throughout the whole trip.  It was great to love on them in this way.

Our oldest son is a leader and he loves God.  The headmaster at their school told me that sometimes he won't have his homework done because he's been at church and he will tell his teacher, "God comes first." LOL!  He is a deep thinker.  He takes on all the hurt, all the emotion and he tries to process all of it.  I learned this trip that all of that processing can look like he's angry or sad but he just doesn't have all the words to go with what he's feeling.  There were a few times he was just sitting and staring with a very serious look on his face.  I sat down next to him and I asked him if he was sad or happy.  His response was, "I am sad that Emily is leaving.  I am happy that you are here."  Emily was one of the volunteers that had been at the center for a few weeks and was leaving that day.  As he said this, the weight of his pain hit me like a ton of bricks.  This boy has endured so much.  So much loss.  So many good-byes.  And this day he would say good-bye to Emily, Typh's two girls and then me.  I told him I would be right back and I went into the other room and I just cried.  I didn't want him to see me crying.  My heart was hurting so much for him.  The pain in his eyes and the weight of what our boys have endured because of our sinful world was too much for me to handle.  The Mission Center is an amazing place for our kids to be and they are very well taken care of, but I felt the weight of sin that day and all the sadness and really hard things these children have endured and why these children even need to be adopted in the first place is because of our sinful fallen world.  God never intended it to be this way.  I am a crier for sure, but I begged the Lord to please just let me get through these two days with them without crying.  I was fine with crying all the way back to Accra, but I did not want to cry while I was there.  In Ghana, when they see someone crying they do not know what to do.  It's not encouraged and it makes everyone feel uncomfortable.  So I sat in this room fighting with myself to stop crying, yet feeling the weight of what he felt and not wanting to self-protect.  The Lord just kept saying 'it's purposeful'. 

I reluctantly told God that I was okay with whatever emotion He gave me for the rest of the day.  It's so easy to self-protect and not want to enter into the pain.  It's so easy to hold it all at a distance and just keep it all at arm's length because you don't want to get hurt.  I learned this trip, though, that entering into the emotion of our adoption is actually a huge gift.  For me, as I invest more into their story, their personalities, their pain, who God has made them and anticipate how all of that fits into our family, it drives me to God.  It drives me to my knees to be in constant prayer for them and our family.  I don't have the ability to do any of this on my own. 

Soon it was time for us to go back to Accra.  Typh went to get all our stuff from the hotel and I sat down with all three of the boys.  I started to cry again.  I told them that this is how God made their mom and it's okay that I'm crying and they don't need to be afraid.  The oldest's face immediately went back to hard and serious and our middle son began to also cry.  That was an unexpected gift to me.  I was sitting next to our youngest son and I couldn't see his face.  It was all an incredibly amazing God moment.  I looked into their faces and told them how much God loves them and He sees and He knows.  God sees each one of them.  God knows each one of them better than I ever can.  Earlier that day in church, the pastor said "Every victory has a battle and without a battle, there's nothing to win."  Because they are old enough to understand, I told them how God hears them and that they can engage in this battle, too, by praying.  I spoke life into them and reassured them that we are fighting for them but more importantly God Himself is fighting for them.  I told them no matter what happens that their hope is found in Jesus.  I hugged them, took their faces in my hands and told them how deeply loved they are.  I kissed their foreheads and repeated a phrase that our oldest son had spoke over Typh's girls earlier in the day.  "This isn't good-bye but I'll see you later." 

Later, I realized that no one has ever cried over them before and that was what they needed to see.  That was the purpose. 

As we were driving back, I kept asking the Lord if all this is superficial.  He said, "It's not superficial, it's supernatural." 
 
John 14:18 "I will not leave you as orphans.  I will come to you."
 
 
**We are still waiting for a court date.  Please continue to pray the Lord will keep opening doors and that we will pass court soon.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Waiting



"Be silent before the Lord and wait expectantly for Him;
do not be agitated by one who prospers in his way,
by the man who carries out evil plans." ~ Psalm 37:7


I haven't posted an adoption update for a while, so I thought I would update you that there's nothing to update you on:):)  At least it feels that way sometimes.  We are in the waiting period right now and sometimes it is tempting to believe that nothing is actually happening.  And although that can actually be true, there's so much to learn while you wait.  I was prompted to write this post as an encouragement that it is possible to wait well.  Whether that's an adoption process or some other kind of waiting, it is possible.


The crazy thing about being in an adoption process and entering a season of waiting is you can actually forget you're adopting.  Well, at least I can.  And even typing that out sounds really horrible, but I guess the fact that we have four kids home was my excuse.  God has been pretty amazing and merciful, though, to gently remind me that this approach of apathetically standing by is probably not the best one to take.  A couple weeks ago I was just struck with the reminder that adoption is war.  It is one of the biggest spiritual battles that takes place, if you can even rank spiritual battles.  The enemy does not want to give hope to the hopeless, a family to the orphan, chains to be broken, or eternal destinies to be changed through adoption.  He would like nothing more than to keep our kids fatherless.  He does not want our boys or any other orphan waiting for their forever family to actually be home.  And he certainly doesn't want them in a believing home where their eternal destiny can be changed.  He wages war on adoption but in Ephesians 6 God already told us this was happening and gave us the full armor that we should be putting on every day.


The other reason that I personally can become apathetic in this wait is because of fear.  If I keep all this at a distance and just go through the motions of this adoption without entering into who our boys are, their faces, their personalities, their ideas, their gifts, their talents, then I can't get hurt if something horrible were to happen and this adoption fell through.  That's just not even truth.  Which is ridiculous because God already taught me this lesson when we said yes to foster care.  Entering into the hard places is exactly where God wants us.  And this fear is also dismissing the confirmations God has given us along the way.


The other awesome thing in our adoption journey that I know is not the typical scenario is our boys are in an amazing place.  They have people taking care of them that love them, nurture them, feed them, clothe them and send them to school.  So I don't worry or fear that their physical lives are in danger.  There was a time in their life this was not the case but before God even revealed to us we were their family, He rescued them from hopelessness and placed them in the Mission Center where they are being well cared for until they get to come home.  But the Mission Center was never intended to be a permanent place for these kids to grow up in.  So all that to say, this is how God has met us in a place of waiting and called us into an active and offensive wait, rather than an apathetic stand by and do nothing kind of wait, which I had been doing for a short period of time.



The last couple months we have received weekly updates from our boys on what their week has been like and pictures of what they've been up to.  All this is possible because in August, Acts 2 Collective sent over two recent graduates from Drake University to teach and serve the Kingdom Cares Community School, which is literally right outside the front door of the Mission Center.  You can read all about it at www.kccschool.blogspot.com.    Mary and Anna are doing amazing things there and we are beyond grateful for them helping to bridge the gap for our family with our boys.  You can also read little bios of each kid at the Mission Center and for now you'll just have to guess which kiddos are ours;).  We are also able to send updates to the boys on what we did each week and pictures of our kids.  I cannot tell you how, even in a few weeks, this has helped our family.  I understand this is SO RARE in an international adoption and I am very grateful for it.


I'm also happy to say that there is no longer a single day that goes by that I forget we're in an adoption process.  Their lives and this battle we are in for them is worth me not being apathetic to the process.   


At the beginning of our adoption, when I wrote out the initial blog post explaining how we got to this point, I said the two words that would lead us through were "peace" and "joy".  That sounded real nice but it turns out those two words take practice.  Daily practice.  Daily renewing your mind.  Daily reminding yourself of the promises God has proclaimed.  Daily surrendering your plan to His.  DAILY.  You aren't automatically filled with either one.  However, those two words are exactly what have kept us steady in this process so far.  Joy comes from a heart of thanksgiving (thank you Ann Voskamp) and it's a daily practice of recognizing and naming the things in our life we are thankful for.  Peace comes from the source, God Himself.  He gives "peace that surpasses understanding".  That also comes from daily being in the Word and reminding myself every day that the source of peace lives in me and no good will come from worrying and figuring out the practicals of when/where/how the boys will come home.


The last thing that has helped me so much is those that have gone before us.  God's faithfulness has played out in adoption time after time after time.  I cannot tell you how many lessons I have learned from the families that have gone on this journey of international and domestic adoption before us.  The Sullivan, Van Loo, Mahlstadt, Paullus, Wulfekuhle, Crawford, Haan, Lee, Christiansen, Carlisle, Stevenson, and Witt families (along with others I don't personally know) have taught me endless lessons on the very subject of waiting and the intense warfare that goes on in adoption.  I pray that this post doesn't come across like waiting isn't hard.  It really is hard to have your kids half way across the world and every single step of the process is completely, 100% out of your control.  Oh and don't forget you pay people thousands of dollars just trusting that they're actually doing what they say they're going to do with the money.  It's not easy BUT I do want to encourage anyone reading this either in the process or about to begin that when you hit seasons of waiting, it IS possible to wait well.  It takes hard work and a continual, daily renewal of your mind to fix yourself on truth.  There are definitely days where I text my people crying out for prayer because I'm having a bad day of waiting and I need prayer.  But because of all the reasons I've written about, those days are few and far between.  As a Christian, I am not a slave to sin.  I am a slave to righteousness.  I am free.  Those truths mean that I can walk this out in obedience relying heavily on the promises God has given in His Word.  I am boasting in what He has already done, not in what I'm doing.  I am not a slave to fear or worry any longer.  He loves those boys far more than I could ever love them.  He works all things together for good for those who love Him.  He does far more than I could ever ask of, dream of or imagine.  He already knows when they'll be home and every single detail from here until then.  He has already proven to be trustworthy.  And on those truths is where I will fix my mind.  Our waiting is far from over and I'm sure God has a lot more in store to teach me on what it means to wait well, but I am so thankful for His promises.


"Be strong and courageous; don’t be terrified or afraid of them. For it is the Lord your God who goes with you; He will not leave you or forsake you.” ~Deuteronomy 31:6


"I say: The Lord is my portion, therefore I will put my hope in Him.  The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him.  It is good to wait quietly for deliverance from the LORD." ~ Lamentations 3:24-26





Thursday, September 3, 2015

Acts 2 Collective and Adoption Update

**Here's a quick adoption update for those who have been asking.  There's been a little curveball thrown into the mix as far as what we were hoping would happen next.  We had hoped to pass court this month and be able to share with you their pictures.  Because Ghana adoptions are not in a stable position right now, that court date is being put on hold while we wait for something called a Care Order.  If you could please be praying that this Care Order would be obtained next week, that would be great.  From there we have to wait three months for our court date, which was not part of the original planning.  So praying by December we can share our boy's faces with you!  One scripture God has given me to encourage me on the timing is in Ecclesiastes.  "I know that all God does will last forever; there is no adding to it or taking form it.  God works so people will be in awe of Him.  Whatever is, has already been, and whatever will be, already is.  God repeats what has passed."  This brings us PEACE.  God has us.  He has our boys.  He has the timing.  All this is for us to stand in awe of Him.**


So now to the purpose of this post:)  After Nate and I returned home from our trip from Ghana in January, we asked a pretty common question that most people ask when seeing and experiencing a country like Africa.  What now?  There is so much need, so much heartache, so much everything that it felt overwhelming.  One fear I had written in my journal on one of the first days there was this fear that this trip would just be an event for us.  More like, 'Hey remember when we went to Africa in 2015?' type of thing rather than literally changing our lives and our actions because of what we had seen.  So we spent a lot of time praying and asking God to show us what was next for our family and what he was asking us to do.  A huge thing was obviously adopting 3 children.  But in my heart I knew there was even more than that.


So shortly after our trip home, we were invited by our friends who were on the trip with us to be a part of a new vision that God had laid on their hearts.  It's based out of the book of Acts chapter 2 where believers were coming together, seeing thousands of people giving their lives to Jesus, breaking bread with one another, fellowshipping, praying, devoting themselves to the gospel and holding all things in common.  Like minded people spurring each other on for the sake of saving souls.  So since March of 2015 we have been meeting once a month and it's been incredible what God is already doing.  What God laid on Jake's heart was to start with these 4 nonprofits, which consist of AgriHope, Kingdom Cares, Jonathan's House and The Move Project, and work and operate like Acts 2.  Actually live this out.  All four organizations do work in different parts of Africa and all four do different things and are equipped in different ways, but they shared one common goal:  Sharing the gospel and saving lives.  The new nonprofit now operates as Acts 2 Collective.


Here is the overview of where the organization was before as Kingdom Cares International and where it's going in the future from the President, Jake Sullivan: 


"Families & Supporters:
 
Today I am filled with great excitement as we begin to take our calling for international missions to the next level.  We are excited to announce the formation of Acts 2 Collective and would like to direct you to our new website www.acts2collective.org where you can learn more about what we do and who we are.  We are still working on building out a few pages and cleaning up some details but we felt the time was right to make this announcement prior to heading into a busy fall of fundraising for the projects God has laid on our heart. 
 
For those of you not familiar with the current structure of our organization I will try to lay it out in as few of words as possible.  In 2009 we developed the non-profit organization called Kingdom Cares International to help support our work in Ghana, Africa.  In 2012 we also merged Kingdom Hoops/Iowa Gym Rats into the non-profit entity of Kingdom Cares International.  At the time this was the right decision as it gave us the ability to get into our local Kingdom Courts facility.  Over the past 3 years Kingdom Hoops/Iowa Gym Rats and International Missions operated out of two separate bank accounts with two separate budgets.  However, as both organizations grew over these last three years and the importance of raising funds for both entities has developed we have come to the conclusion that it is in the best long term interest of both operations local and international to become two separate non-profit organizations.  Organizationally nothing will change with Kingdom Hoops & Iowa Gym Rats, however moving forward all International work will operate under Acts 2 Collective.  We understand that this transition of our international work may cause some initial confusion as we rebrand the name, but we believe in the long run the benefit of operating independently from Kingdom Hoops and Iowa Gym Rats far out weighs any immediate problems with rebranding. 
 
The other reason I felt the need for change was that I felt God had laid it on my heart to begin to unite mission minded individuals and organizations who want to see the Word of the Gospel spread amongst the nations.  About nine months ago a group of us began to meet month;y to encourage each other and to help meet each others needs whenever possible.  The organizations involved in this group was myself and my wife who have led the charge into Ghana, Africa and Chad, Africa, as well as The Move Project (www.themoveproject.org), Agrihope (www.agrihope.org), and The Jonathan House (www.jonhouse.org).  Outside of the organizations represented we were also accompanied with a group of other believers who have a calling to world mission.  These meetings spurred us on to some amazing partnerships and to the ultimate formation of Acts 2 Collective.   
 
As we began to meet we began to see the power that Christ has created in us when we work together.  For example in early August 2015 Agrihope moved one of their locally trained Zambians from Zambia to Ghana to our KCI Mission Campus to develop Agriculture and to help us move towards our goal of being 100% self-sufficient by 2024.  On another occasion one the group members invited a young girl named Azlyn to the group as they felt as though she had a calling to long term missions.  She thought she was coming to the group to learn more about Ghana and instead got connected with the Jonathan House and as I write this email she has traveled to Central Africa Republic to begin a long term mission experience with this organization.  I could write countless other stories about how God is working in bringing like minded individuals together.  We believe that the Gospel was never intended for individuals to all be running alone doing their own things.  Instead we believe the Gospel should unite us as it did in the early church that is written about in the book of Acts.  We believe that together we have can have a greater impact for the spread of the Gospel and this will always remain the primary purpose of Acts 2 Collective.  
 
We are very excited about about the future holds and what God is doing on the international mission field.  I hope each of you  can take some time to visit our new website at www.acts2collective.org.  If any of you have an interest in getting more involved with missions or with Acts 2 Collective please feel free to reach out to me or to our international missions director Ashley Caycedo – ashley@acts2collective.org.  For those of you that have been generously giving to our international programs in the past through Kingdom Cares International and the 1200 club we will be contacting each of you next week to transfer your monthly gifts to this new entity.  You will be receiving an email from Ashley Caycedo early next week with all the necessary steps.  If you would like to meet with us in a one on one setting to discuss this transition we will be more than happy to set up a time to meet.  We will also be hosting an Acts 2 Collective night later this fall where everyone will have an opportunity to come and learn more about Acts 2 Collective and to also learn about all the organizations that are working together for the spread of the Gospel.   Thank you for taking the time to read through this email and wrestling with what role God may have you play on the international mission field. "
In Christ,
Jake Sullivan
President of Acts 2 Collective
515-291-1542

So there you have it!  God is pretty awesome.  I also love that even though Nate and I didn't have our own nonprofit before this started, he laid our names on Jake's heart to be a part of this and be on the board for Acts 2 Collective.  It was an answer to our prayers on what was next for us.  He is inviting us to be a small part of His great big redemptive story because we have a willingness to obey. To be honest, I felt very unqualified to be a part of this when it first started.  However, since it's started, I have such a deeper appreciation for the body of believers than I had before and how He equips some people so incredibly different but every role is so vital.  Our equipping is different, our talents and resources are different, but we have one goal and one purpose.  What it's also done for both of us is continue to deepen our relationship with Jesus and keeps our perspective of why we're on this earth in check.  Everything is futile apart from Jesus.  Our lives, our resources, our time, our energy, our conversations will only find satisfaction when they are being poured out for the sake of the gospel.  We are incredibly humbled by this opportunity to spread the word about what God is doing.  You, too, can be a part of this!!  Please go check out our website and contribute to what God is doing.  www.acts2collective.org.  You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using @Acts2Collective. 
"Acts 2 Collective is a network of nonprofits, child advocates, and Christ followers united in purpose to care for the most vulnerable for the spread of the Gospel." 

Adoption Update, Getting Close!

We're getting so close to bringing our boys home!  We had a summer full of movement in our adoption.  PRAISE GOD!!!!  Since we moved to ...