Monthly Archives: December 2011

Rethinking Adoption: God Doesn’t Need My Favors

When I first became passionate about Christians caring for the fatherless, I just didn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t want to adopt. I was FURIOUS with Pat Robertson when he said people needed to “count the cost” before adopting. I thought, “Great, he just gave people an out and scared them off from adopting!”

Today I am going to do something I will probably not ever do again and I’m going to agree with Pat Robertson. Oh, my fingers burn just typing that! Let me do some splainin’.

Let’s go back to that first sentence. It was a little arrogant, I’ll admit. I would have conversations where people would say their reasons for not adopting –

“We just don’t have the money”
“I can barely handle the kids I have”
“I just couldn’t love an adopted child as my own”

And so on. Inside I would be thinking, oh, come on, you could do this!

Now as an adoptive parent of exactly three months, let me tell you this:

God doesn’t need you to do Him any favors. If you don’t want to adopt for any reason, DON’T.

If you aren’t ready for the reality of adoption (which is that it’s messy and borne of tragedy), don’t do it. I wanted to adopt. I want to adopt again. I have been blessed beyond measure by my second born son. But with all my passion for adoption and love for my child, this is still hard. It isn’t like, oh, I wanted to bring a child home and I did and he loves me every second of every day and nevermind the traumatic past he has, he’s just so happy to have a home!

Guiding a little heart toward healing is hard. Parenting through grief and trauma is sometimes exhausting. It takes patience that I have to constantly ask God to give me. I cannot fathom having gone into this not 100% devoted to helping our child heal, no matter what the cost.

Because guess what?

I’m selfish. And so are you, unless you’re Jesus. Being a part of helping a child heal takes selflessness that I just don’t naturally have.

So I guess I would say this:

God doesn’t need your favors or mine.

He’s God.

Now, let me backpedal. God calls the church to care for orphans and widows, so I’m not saying not to care. I’m talking specifically about adoption. As my good friend Pat Robertson said, people should consider the cost, out of fairness to their adopted child and entire family, and be sure that is something they are prepared for.

If you want to do something about the orphan crisis, really examine how you can be a part of the solution. Consider giving money to a reputable organization that helps orphaned children or sponsoring a child or becoming a mentor or CASA worker. Adopt if you’re kept up at night with that fire in your heart to bring a child into your home and see them through the hardest of days. Otherwise, don’t. Really, it’s ok. I hereby give you permission to just not want to do it.(I know, you’re breathing a real sigh of relief there.)

If you are one of those people up at night with that burning inside and you just know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what God wants you to do, then DO IT. And don’t worry about money or how many rooms are in your house. That all falls in place. Instead, get on your knees right now and pray for God to give you the grace to be the parent that child needs. Know that He is going to stretch you farther than you ever imagined.

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Lara

Lara is a Jesus-loving, book-reading, coffee-drinking, kid-chasing farmer’s wife of 5 years. She and her beloved farmer, Jon, have three kids: Cade, Ambrose, and Ellie. They brought her most recent additional home from Uganda in October 2011.

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The Beauty

“Mommy, do they have stickers in Africa?” my Grace asked.

“Um…..I didn’t see any. I’m sure they do though.”

After some thought, she continues, “It’s got to hurt those kids…walking on their bare feet like they do….”

I smile weakly and think, I’m sure it does.

I received an email this week from a young man I came to know while in Uganda. We met briefly at the children’s prison. He spoke English. He was 18. His name was Kiyemba Walter Trevor. I spoke with him for just a moment, and after a short introduction, he was already a kindred spirit, warning me of some boys who were talking about stealing my things, telling me about his school and love for art and drawing (kindred spirit indeed!), describing how he came to live for the past two weeks in this one room prison with 30 other boys. And, when I gave him my Bible, he cried that it was the “best day of his life.”

There was so much beauty in that moment. Beauty I’ll never be able to describe. It didn’t come from me, or even him necessarily. It came from being directly, immediately, in the stark center of God’s will. Doing exactly what He purposed me to do, using these inexperienced hands to fulfill a prayer from Walter who had prayed just days earlier for a Bible of his own.

I miss that. In the days of this Christmas season, I find that there is nothing I’d rather think about or talk about or read about, than that very subject. Trying to figure out how to be brave. Bold. The Matthew 16:25 kind of bold…..”for whoever tries to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

The ability to lose your life, but find it. The Beauty of being in His fullness.

Grace asked that question because she knows it has been on my mind. She, in her own way, is trying to bond with me, figure me out, share an experience with me – it’s sweet. I hope this Christmas, she’ll understand why mommy kind of gets quiet every now and then.

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A mom of two, wife of one, and teacher to many. God blessed me with an unbelievable partner in life who encourages me to dive deeper. I didn’t know how deep until July 2011, I had the opportunity to travel with Visiting Orphans to Uganda. For 14 days, we divided our time between weeping for the imprisoned children and orphans in poverty and staring in awe at their undeniable faith, joy, and communion with Christ. I was forever changed. My mission then came to help Sixty Feet, an organization that desires to bring hope to the imprisoned children of Africa in God’s name. I refurbish furniture as a side hobby-job and give part of the profits to Sixty Feet. So far, over $900 has been given to Sixty Feet and Amazima combined. God opened my eyes…now they can never be shut.

{Advocating} Dancing Machine

Gifts are all opened. Toys have been played with and continue to be. Food has been eaten…and will be reheated today for round 2.

As we continue to enjoy family and rest, we cannot forget those who are still waiting. Children who have been waiting for years. This child–made ready for adoption and waiting for nearly 2 years for someone to make him theirs.

Read about him. Share about him. Maybe his family will meet him today for the first time. Now, that would be a Merry Christmas.

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Not just another summer. This past July, my husband and I returned to China to be part of of the Bring Me Hope Camp in Xian for Chinese orphans. This was our 2nd BMH camp in Xian. And, knowing what we were getting into, we were both very excited to spend 5 days with children who would no doubt change us as we served them.

I was blessed to actually go to the orphanage to collect the orphans and bring them to our campsite. And, the first child I saw was a little boy I remembered from the year before, a little boy who had been buddied with my friend. His little face just beamed when he saw me. Twelve months later, he clearly knew me. And, as happy as I was to see him, I was hoping I would not. I was hoping he wouldn’t still be there.

This year, he was my buddy. My little man “Daniel” has a smile that just seemed to go from ear to ear, and a personality to melt hearts.

At the young age of 8, he was able to entertain the entire camp with his incredible dance moves, putting the rest of us to shame (get a first-hand glimpse of the action here or here or here). When he wasn’t singing and dancing, we were playing badminton, blowing bubbles, and chasing each other around the campsite.

With an easygoing nature and an infectious laugh, I couldn’t get enough of how he would grab hold of my hand and try to drag me to where he wanted to play.

I hope I don’t see him again.

Because when I go back to Xi’an, I don’t want him to be there. I want him to be home with a family. He needs to be grabbing hold of the hands of his forever mum and dad and maybe dancing around with brothers and sisters.

Two years of waiting for a family to say yes is too long. His best friend will be joining his family soon. Daniel needs to too.

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Carol Blanch is a school teacher in Anna Bay, NSW, Australia. She and her husband Stephen volunteered with Bring Me Hope in China for the second time this past July. They have two grown, married daughters and are part of a vibrant church community. China and orphans have captured their hearts.

Just Because It’s Hard Doesn’t Make It Wrong

“But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God.” Phil 2:17

This fostering journey has taken it’s toll on me emotionally and physically but it has grown me spiritually. My natural tendency is to think that when it is hard or when I see myself or my kids being affected that we shouldn’t have done this. But, that’s simply not true. We know that we are right where we are supposed to be. We didn’t make a mistake.

Somehow, we have this notion in our heads that if we’re in God’s will, life will be easy and uncomplicated. Things will make sense but that is just not the case. If it were, where would faith come in? Why would we need to be dependent on Him?

I’ve been pondering the story of Jesus’s birth – The Story. Mary was pregnant with the Son of God. The King. The Savior Himself. And yet Mary and Joseph went from Inn to Inn looking for a place to rest. They had to question what in the world was going on. “God, you want this baby to be born healthy don’t you? We need a place to stop. Why are there no rooms? I thought this was Your plan but it doesn’t make sense to us. It hurts.”

In our own waiting seasons, don’t we find ourselves asking the same types of questions? Mary’s situation was not easy or uncomplicated. It was definitely not comfortable. She was affected in many ways and yet through her obedience, she received the greatest gift imaginable. She held Jesus in her very arms. She cared for the King of Kings. I cannot grasp this really.

In our situation, I have come to realize that I need more help. I have always been full of emotion but with the added stress that six kids brings (and oh they do!), my lows have been lower, and I need some help with steadying out my hormone levels. I’ve talked with my Dr. and we have a plan to try out some medication.

This is not really fun for me to share but I do so because I want you to know the realities. I know there are differing opinions on this whole issue but we believe that this is the right next step for me.

Even so, I struggled with this. One of my biggest fears going into fostering was that I would “wither up like an old dead flower” and let me tell you, Satan has been throwing that back in my face. “Look, Jami. You have failed, you can’t handle it. You are losing.” But I am not accepting his lies nor his evil whispers. I will choose to listen to the Voice of Truth. He tells me “You don’t need to handle it. I am in control. I have given doctors the ability to help you. This is My provision right now.

When I am weak, He is strong. His strength is made perfect in my weakness. He doesn’t call us to pull up our bootstraps and work harder for Him, He knows our weaknesses. He just wants us to look to Him and be led by Him. He calls us to obedience, no matter what the cost. Even if that means the decline of health. Even if that means pain. He died for us. Why should we not suffer for Him? In our situation, my “suffering” pales in comparison to what the three little ones in our care have experienced. They are worth it.

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Jami Kaeb

Hi, I’m Jami! I love Jesus, and I just want to know Him more! I have been married to my man Clint for 10 years, and we are both passionate about foster care and adoption. Currently, we have six kids in our home (ages 7 and under!)–two daughters by birth, our son who we adopted from Guatemala, and three more we are fostering. Though I am always behind on laundry and sometimes feel like one more dirty diaper may just do me in, I receive exponentially more hugs and kisses too. How can one argue with that?! I love connecting with other women especially if a cup of coffee with whipped cream is in hand! I also do that through my blog and when I’m speaking to women’s groups or at orphan care events. My heart is to be a voice for the voiceless and mobilize those around me to be the hands and feet of Jesus to the world. Life is abundant and God is faithful!

Ours

Joseph and Mathew have now been home for a solid year.

Except for the obvious contrast in our skin color, I don’t think anyone would be able to tell that they were once orphans.

Their English is pretty up to par.

They know how to sing songs like the ABC’s, Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho, and Happy Birthday To You.

They understand holidays, birthdays, and vacations.

They’ve got some serious gaming skills on Daddy’s iPad.

(yes, that’s Hannah Montana on our tiny tree…Addy went through a Hannah Montana phase a few years ago, even though we never watch the show…ohmuword…I can’t believe Miley Cyrus is hanging on my tree…gross!)

A few days ago we received a DVD in the mail from my friend, Cathy, who recently spent a year in Africa, volunteering as a teacher for a semester at New Hope. The DVD was full of pictures and video from her year abroad, with a lot of it being devoted to her time at New Hope.

Oh man.

There they were again. Several adorable pictures of Mathew and Joseph before we ever knew them.

Pictures like these sting my eyes with tears every time.

Not because of their raggedy clothes or their seeming lack of stuff.

These pictures are a reminder of the fact that there was a time when Lucas and I weren’t their daddy and mommy.

The fact that they, at one point in time, had a biological mother and father who died, or had to give them up for whatever reason. And all the loss that comes with that.

Those chubby cheeks remind me that I’ll never get to see pictures from when they were babies, and that we missed out on some really cute years. (they’ve still got lots of cute years still left in ‘em…but you know what I mean)

I still can’t wrap my brain around the fact that they had this whole other life before I showed up.

Now they just seem like any other extremely-active-can’t-sit-still-for-even-one-second four year old boy that could be from any house on my street.

Most of the time it doesn’t even occur to me that they were never ours.

But maybe that’s a good thing.

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Colleen Jobe

Colleen and Lucas are parents of four children – two girls by birth and two boys who were adopted independently from Uganda. The boys are unrelated (by birth) and are virtual twins. Lucas is in the Air Force and Colleen is a stay-at-home mom who also has the privilege of being a partner at Wild Olive, a Christian t-shirt company for women. Colleen’s adoption ramblings can be read on her blog.

So Much More Than Worth It

“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” James 1.27

This is why we adopted. How can you get more clear than that? God says religion, this whole Christian thing, is about taking care of the helpless.

When my husband and I decided we were ready to have children and wanted to do that through adoption, we researched all of our options. We wanted an infant for our first child and felt that the greatest need was in international or foster care adoption. After researching foster care infant adoption, we decided we wanted to go international this time around. Social workers we talked with told us that we could foster an infant for up to 2 years before he/she is up for adoption or placed back with the birth family. For our first child, we didn’t want to wait 2 more years and then start the process all over again. We wanted a child now though we still hope to foster, Lord willing, for our next child.

We began the process of adopting our son from Ethiopia. The entire process took 18 months and brought us to our then 8-month-old baby boy in February 2010. For me, and I think for my husband, the hardest part of the wait was the Christmas before we met him. As we near the holidays, I am reminded how difficult they were for me then.

Christmas 2009, we had received our referral, we knew who our son was, we became his legal guardians on December 16, but we still had to wait. We had to wait for our travel date in February, for paperwork to be pushed, for legalities that didn’t seem important enough to keep our son in an orphanage halfway around the world for another minute.

Christmas night. My husband and I were driving home from my in-laws after a long day of splitting time between our families. I broke down. And cried. And cried.

The hardest part was at my in-laws house as we sat around watching our nieces and nephews open their gifts. Once kids come into your family, holidays become mostly about them, as you know. Both of my husband’s siblings had kids already and each had a child the same age as our son, the son we had but didn’t have. So, my husband and I sat on the couch and watched these babies open gifts, play, get excited, be loved. We watched their parents delight in their smiles and laughs. And, our hearts broke. All we could think about was that big-eyed boy in the photos and the fact that he didn’t have us yet.

Perhaps there is a reader who is there right now? As we go through this holiday season, my heart goes out to you. Knowing that it probably won’t ease your pain or your longing, I still want to tell you that you’ll get there. You’ll hold that child in your arms, and you’ll belong to each other in every sense. The wait will end, the process will be complete, you’ll arrive home with that bundle of life, and you’ll know that every second, every piece of paperwork, every phone call, every prayer, every tear was so much more than worth it.

Because this moment cannot be explained. This moment is enough to fill a thousand Christmases with joy.

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Laurel Feierbach

Laurel has been married to her husband Chris for 3 years. They adopted their first child almost a year ago from Ethiopia and plan to begin the process of adopting through foster care in the next couple of months. Chris is a pastor, and Laurel is a stay-at-home mom. You can follow their story at God Found Us You.

{Advocating} The Gift of a Home

Working in the field of adoption, I have read countless heartbreaking stories of the injustices children are forced to endure. Sometimes, I have to remind myself that each “referral,” each “document,” each “jpeg,” is a child. An actual child. Waiting. Is it easy to forget this fact after opening 3000+ attachments? Yes. Until God sends one of these “files” my way that forces me to take pause. To remember. This day, God sent [Bo] to me.

On an insignificant Tuesday, while searching the list of over 1,600 waiting children, I came across a birth date. A date that is so engrained in my heart, it immediately forced me to open this “file” to meet this “referral.” August 13, 2010. The day I gave birth to my first child, Murphy. One of the happiest days of my life. One of the most nerve-wracking days of my life. On August 13, 2010, I was happy-excited-nervous-scared-in pain-full of joy-exhausted. And, across the world, on August 13, 2010, I know [Bo’s] mother shared these same feelings. Though, her day ended much differently than mine.

I spent the night waking when Murphy woke. Doing my best to feed my baby, change my baby, and cater to his every need. I called the nurse many times throughout the night. Am I doing this right? Is he eating enough? My husband was right there with me, getting me water, cradling our new angel. It was hot and humid outside, and I was cool and comfortable in the hospital. I had all of the supports I could need. And after very little sleep, I awoke on August 14, 2010 to my beautiful baby boy.

On August 14, 2010, at not even 1 day old, [Bo] was on his own. Alone. During the night, after realizing that she could not provide the medical care her baby would need, [Bo’s] mother made the heartbreaking decision to give him a chance at life. Her only option was to leave him outside of an apartment building and hope that a good Samaritan would find him and take him to safety.

I think back to those first few days following Murphy’s birth. He had jaundice. They heard a heart murmur. I was a wreck. But, Murphy also had doctors, nurses, and state of the art medical equipment to care for him–not to mention a mother, father, and countless other people who already loved him and doted on him. Now, I find that I cannot stop thinking about [Bo] on those few days following his birth. The same exact days that Murphy and I experienced. But, [Bo] did not have doctors. He did not have nurses. He had no one.

God sent [Bo] to me. Murphy’s twin, in a way. [Bo] reminded me that each birth date, each “referral,” each “document,” each “jpeg,” are all Murphys–all children of God who deserve the love and support of a family.

Could you be [Bo’s] family?

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Wanna see his file? He’s available to any agency. Contact your agency or email Sarah and allow her to introduce you to this very special little boy.
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Sarah

Sarah has been married to the love of her life, Andy, for over 3 years.  They are enjoying their roles as first-time parents to 16-month-old Murphy. Sarah has worked in the adoption field as a social worker for 8 years. Adoption is her love and passion, and she trusts in God that her and Andy will find their child some day, whether it be through foster case, domestic, or international adoption.


The Gift

I came across this picture today. I’m so thankful that Wes captured one of the sweetest and hardest moments I have ever experienced.

I am forever grateful to Max’s birthmom for giving us the priceless gift of a 7 lb. 11 oz. baby boy.

There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of her.

We love her dearly.

We pray for her daily.

Will you do me a favor? Please make it a point this week {or as long as you feel led to} to pray for birthmoms and their families. There are moms at this very moment who have chosen adoption as the best option for their baby.

Here are a few ideas to pray for.

* peace about their decision

* healing – physically and emotionally

* a loving support system surrounding them

* a tangible feeling of God’s love for them

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Abby Akers

Abby has been married to her college sweetheart, Wes, for 7 years. After 5 years of infertility, they began the journey of domestic adoption. Blessed with a (more than they had planned) open adoption experience, they were able to witness the birth of their first child, Max, in the summer of 2010. Wes and Abby are trusting God as he leads them in their relationship with Max’s birth family and as they move forward to adopt again. You can follow their story at Akers of Love.

When Wisdom Ends

The Bible has a lot to say about wisdom. A keyword search for “wisdom” produces 219 results. I’m a planner, and also a bit of a perfectionist, so the admonition in Luke 14:28-30 about estimating the cost BEFORE building has always struck a warning chord in me.

But, as Trent and I delve deeper into this adoption journey, I’m also confronted with the question: Where does wisdom end and faith versus fear begin? Because from a pragmatic viewpoint, international adoption doesn’t seem especially wise.

Sam is 13, a great kid, and, to be honest, parenting an only child has a lot of perks. Adding another child through international adoption will create some stress:

  1. Financially — adoption fees plus the cost of raising and schooling another child
  2. emotionally — attachment issues and parenting in general can wreak havok in families
  3. physically — twenty plus hours of travel time just to GET to Lesotho, plus the threat of illness and injury along the way

It’s no wonder well-meaning friends have asked, “Um, are you sure?”

So where’s the line between wisdom and faith versus fear? We confront this same question about our mission trip to Tijuana. This year, we promoted the mission trip to the Christian school where I work. Not a lot of takers, to be honest. What I got instead where a lot of rebukes. “Haven’t you heard that Mexico is NOT SAFE?” “It is irresponsible of you to promote a service trip to MEXICO! Are you foolish?” No matter that we’ve been to Tijuana five years running, are in regular contact with those who live every day in Tijuana, and our critics’ only knowledge of Mexico is what they’ve heard on the news (which happens to be focused on another part of the country completely).

Sometimes, we must step forward with action that seems to defy wisdom. Adoption. Mission trips. Service. Charitable giving. Heck, even venturing out in a thunderstorm to go to church. When wisdom ends, our only decision is whether we will venture forth in faith…or stay home in fear.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.

1 Cor. 1:25

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Kristi Thompson

Kristi Thompson lives, laughs, counsels, and writes (www.collierbooks.com) in Louisville, KY, with her husband, Trent, and their daughter Sam. After three year of working for Child Protective Services, six years of serving on short-term mission trips to Mexico and a job lay-off scare, they felt led to add a little boy from Lesotho to the family. Follow the journey at Praying Him Home.

This Time Last Year

This time last year, I was sad, lacking hope, worn out from the wait, and my heart was breaking (as shown by the picture to the left). Why? Because on the other side of the world, my daughter was turning 2, and I wasn’t with her. She didn’t even know I existed, and there I was wishing desperately to be with her even if only for that day. I knew I couldn’t just sit and cry as her birthday came and went so I gathered my friends and family and threw a party even though she wasn’t home. It was amazing how my “tribe” surrounded me on that day with such hope toward the future and reminders that HE WHO PROMISED IS FAITHFUL!!

A few months later, we moved from that familiar place into the unknowns. It was then when we got “THE call.” The day had come, we were going to meet our daughter finally!

But today we set up the balloons, prepared the food, iced the cupcakes, and set out plates and napkins just like before except the guest of honor was in our midst. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that she was with us this time and though I cried again today, it was from joy and not sadness. I looked around at the “tribe” God had placed around us this year, every single one a new face but just as encouraging and loving of our sweet little girl. We even had family in from Texas, Kentucky and my best friend drove up from Alabama. It was a truly memorable day.

The theme? Balloons. To some that may not mean anything since balloons are a birthday staple. But to me it was a symbol of how far she had come. You see, the day she came home and we were greeted at the airport, she was given a balloon. In reaction to it she screamed, cried and tried to run away from that floating colored thing. But as time has gone on, and she has been exposed to much more, she has learned that not only are balloons safe but they are fun. So the balloons were symbolic of how far she has come in so many areas and a reminder that someday Jaydn will see her forever family as not only safe but fun too.

She was quite the ham today and willing to take the 3,000 pictures I made her pose for. She enjoyed pulling the tissue paper out of all the gift bags but I would have to make her remove the actual gift from the boxes since it was a new concept to her. She loved getting to blow out a real candle (instead of the ones from Jovies wooden play cake set) while everyone sang happy birthday to HER! She devoured her cupcake and was glowing from all the attention and laps she got to sit on all day.

She is quite deserving of such a lavish love that was being poured over her today. She continues to be a joy despite the hang ups of my limitations as a mom. I look at her and I am so in awe that she is indeed my “promised child” since I was 16 years old.

Like 1 Samuel 1:27 says, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him.” I am blessed not despite but within the difficulties of this post adoption road and its days like today that remind me that I am in a better place than I was this time last year.

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Bethany Gaddis

I have been married going on 8 years to a worship pastor, a rock star, and the most involved and intentional dad I have ever seen! Together, we have the privilege of parenting three amazing children (Jaxon- 5 1/2, Jovie, 2 1/2, and Jaydn 2). Jaydn recently came to us through adoption from Uganda, Africa. We just moved to Little Rock, Arkansas, but I am a west-coast girl at heart. I enjoy photography, adventure recreation, and teaching high-school students about the most important decision they could ever make: to follow Jesus. I enjoy writing as a way to learn life lessons out loud because, most of the time, the right (wise) answers are in me somewhere; I just have to dig to find them. I am a firm believer that this life is not my own, so I try my best to respond to every opportunity that crosses my path to give of my life, my love, and my resources.

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