Our Story is Not our Own {Mercy Found}

Today I’m over at Mercy Found Ministries. Mercy Found is a ministry founded by 3 adoptive mamas who saw a need to encourage adoptive families on their journey. They understand the financial burden and need for community that the adoption journey requires. God opened their eyes to the plight of the orphan and used their individual adoption journeys to ignite in their hearts a desire to financially and emotionally support adoptive families before, during, and after their adoption. 

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In February of this past year, I anxiously opened my email to see a picture of two beautiful faces looking back at me and we were told that these girls would be ours. We lovingly named them A & M and began dreaming about the day they would come home. Six short weeks later, I received a phone call that knocked me to my knees. Those precious girls weren’t going to be coming home to us. A situation had occurred that would not result in an adoption.

At that point, I couldn’t see past my own pain and loss. I doubted God’s goodness for my family and doubted whether I could keep going. I was tired of putting my faith in building our family, only to see my dreams time and time again fall through. What I didn’t see was that God was working on behalf of those little girls for their good and He was molding my heart so that He would receive the ultimate Glory.

When my husband and I began the journey of adoption, we didn’t anticipate roadblocks of the magnitude we experienced and we also didn’t expect that God would use adoption to open our eyes to orphan care around the world.  When we were told that A & M were not adoptable any more due to a family member stepping forward, I didn’t understand.

In my American prideful mindset, I thought that what my husband and I could provide them would be best. I didn’t understand that adoption isn’t always the ideal choice. I had thought adoption was the only way to help the orphan crisis. That was until we received that phone call about A & M and my eyes were opened to the true need in hard places, like Africa.

One rough morning I was crying with my friend on the phone and in her wisdom and through the Holy Spirit she told me something that has changed my heart for birth families forever. As she was praying she asked that God would open my heart to love and pray for the family of A & M. She called out to God and thanked Him that He knew that keeping A & M in Africa was the best for them and prayed that because they were staying in their biological family, the girls would grow to be women who love their people and help facilitate change. After that prayer, I was in hot tears. I was humbled by the truth that I was not the best for these girls. I will never know the outcome of A & M’s story, but in their short six weeks of being with me they have forever changed my story.

Adoption can’t and shouldn’t be the only answer to the millions of orphans living in the streets and in orphanages around the world. There are countless vulnerable children in the world who aren’t in need of being adopted, but are in need of their mom and/or dad having the resources to care for them.

As my heart has grown for adoption, I have also been challenged to start thinking about ways we can preserve the birth families of these children so that children can grow up emotionally, physically, and spiritually healthy in their given culture. There will and are children who most definitely need the gift of adoption. And there are children like A & M who had family who wanted to care for them, but needed the resources to make that happen.

Where do I go from here?

Where do you go from here?

Begin with prayer. It will only be through the work of the Holy Spirit that change will happen and people’s lives will be restored. Pray for healing. Pray for restoration. Pray for goers. And pray about whether you are to send or go.

Start with being a learner and getting others involved in what you’re learning. Open your mind and heart to the possibility that some of our preconceptions about third world countries have been wrong. Learn about other organizations making a difference in the lives of vulnerable children and women, such as Amazima and Compassion International. Read books like Orphan Justice by Johnny Carr.  Find your tribe of people who “get this” because we can’t live this out in isolation.

Finally, some of you will go to the hard places. It’s my dream to be able to go to the hard places of the world and help those in need. Not for my glory, but to be the hands and feet of Jesus to those in need and to experience a deeper intimacy with my Savior that rescued me from the pits of brokenness.

We as followers of Jesus are all called to care for the orphans and widows in their distress…how will you engage in that calling on your life?

And if you were wondering…two months ago we received another email filled with pictures of two other little girls who, Lord willing, will come home soon to us!

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From the Cornfields of Iowa to the Desert of Arizona

Today the ladies involved with the Influence Network are sharing a bit about where we grew up, and where we currently live! Since the Network is “home” to women from all across the globe, this is a fun way to make the world a little smaller. So here’s a bit about where I’m from…

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The beautiful cornfields of Iowa…just seeing this makes my heart sigh a little

I grew up in the eastern rural cornfields (and hog land) of Iowa. I was actually born in Dyersville, Iowa. If there are any fans of baseball movies, that is where “Field of Dreams” was filmed. To this day you can still go to the baseball field and play a pick up game of baseball. My parents were teachers in a small town near Dyersville that didn’t have a hospital…teeny tiny town. I think Cascade was a booming 1200 at that time! I loved growing up in Cascade. We lived in a neighborhood FILLED with children my age & my sisters’ age, so summer nights were spent playing kick the can, going to the river, riding bikes, and any other outdoor game you can think of. It was the quintessential childhood in many ways.

The Field of Dreams field still stands and operates today!

The Field of Dreams field still stands and operates today!

When I was 12, my parents decided that we needed to make a change. So they packed up their four kids (12, 9, 5, & 2) and moved us to Southern Iowa…a totally different world to us. A land that actually had Iowa State Cyclone Fans!!! Booo….Hiss… But it was there that I learned that Cyclone fans are not evil, like many of my Iowa Hawkeye friends had believed! This little farming community was actually not too different from Cascade, except that it was about three times the size (so that would still make it teeny tiny to most people :)) The people were kind and took us under their wings as we adjusted to life in a new community. It was there that I met many of my best friends and where I finally came out of my super shy shell.

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Albia goes all out for Christmas decorations each year!

One of my very best friends Katy...she was in my wedding...and we did EVERYTHING together

One of my very best friends Katy…she was in my wedding…and we did EVERYTHING together

After graduating from high school, I ventured back to North Eastern Iowa. I attended the University of Northern Iowa (UNI) in Cedar Falls. CF is still one of my favorite places in the world. I lived there for a total of 8 years. I thought after college I would be headed out into the world, but God had different plans and kept me there a little longer than I would have planned. I lived and worked in Cedar Falls until I met my husband, 4 years after graduation. 8 months after meeting my husband, I was whisked away to a land unlike anything I’d ever experienced.

UNI's campus on the edge of town...it's changed a lot since then but it's still one of the prettiest campuses I've been to

UNI’s campus on the edge of town…it’s changed a lot since then but it’s still one of the prettiest campuses I’ve been to

The River Walk in downtown Cedar Falls. Another favorite spot of mine that I was able to share with Jason

The River Walk in downtown Cedar Falls. Another favorite spot of mine that I was able to share with Jason

The Hot, Dry Desert of Arizona.

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Tucson has been my home now for two and a half years. Those first 8-10 months living here were brutal. I thought it was so ugly because there was no grass, no water, and hardly ever any clouds or weather changes. The weather changes in Tucson are kinda warm, warm, hot and hotter…with a monsoon season thrown in there to give you a little reprieve. I felt like I had moved to a different country! I loved being able to see fields of green and watch the corn grow.

I love the fall football season in the Midwest and I was just confused by it here…it was still pushing 100 near the end of football season! What?! I was also not use to the size of the city! The biggest city I had ever lived in prior to Tucson was 30,000 and Tucson is approximately ONE MILLION! I was accustomed to going to the grocery store and running into countless people I knew or heading to Panera for some alone time and end up staying hours later because an old friend walked in. Nothing was familiar. I knew NO ONE in the entire state of Arizona.. Needless to say, I struggled to transition.

We love hiking the trails in Tucson!

We love hiking the trails in Tucson!

But then God started to do a work in my heart and opened my eyes to the stunning sunsets and sunrises. I began to see the beauty of the desert and now I can freely say that I love living in Tucson…even when the high today will be 110. We love hiking the trails and seeing the mountains every day. I’m not sure if I would be able to say that I love Tucson as much as I do if we hadn’t found our church community. The people that we have met have become an extension of our family and I am truly grateful. Tucson has taught me much more about myself and the world around me.

Driving up to the top of Mt. Lemmon takes less than an hour & it's typically cooler and has gorgeous views of the city

Driving up to the top of Mt. Lemmon takes less than an hour & it’s typically cooler and has gorgeous views of the city

A small town girl moved to a town of one million…and she was forever changed.

 

And I’m actually getting on a plane to fly back to Iowa in two hours! Better go pack!

This One’s Going to be Random…

I really should be washing the piles of dishes accumulating in my sink, but instead I chose to sit down, type out a few words, and drink some iced coffee from a mason jar.

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I’m on day 3  of 6 of baby-sitting for a friend and I. AM. TIRED. My little friends are wonderful and great kids, but whoosh am I not used to that pace of life yet! Caring for a 2.5 & 14 month old is busy! Today as I was reading to one of the kiddos, I realized that the ages of G & M are almost identical to the ages of my friends’ kids (if their documentation is correct). Life will change dramatically when they come home and I can’t wait for it!

In two and a half weeks, the husband and I are hitting the road for two weeks to drive up to Northern California to visit wineries, friends, and enjoy time away. Any tips for long car rides? We like reading books to one another. On our last big road trip, we read almost three of the Harry Potter books. We may try to finish the series on the road, but we are open to other ideas.

Last week, I signed up for a blogging class for the month of July with Blogelina. Included in the class is a year of free web-hosting, so this site may be changing a lot in the near future. I’m really excited to see what God will do with this little blog. I’ve been brainstorming ideas for a new name. If you have any ideas, I’d love to throw them in the pot! My husband has been trying to have me sit down to do a day of brainstorming for the blog…maybe that will finally happen this week!

This past Saturday I had a small Thirty-One party to raise some funds for our adoption. Thank you to all who came and purchased some products! It was fun sharing with people our heart for adoption and even in the midst of the trials how God is changing our hearts and revealing to us more of His heart for orphans and families. Orphan care and sustainable living in third world countries has definitely been ruminating in our hearts lately. We’re looking forward to how God will continue to grow that passion and vision in our lives. This week I am finally picking up Orphan Justice: how to care for orphans beyond adoption by Johnny Carr. It should be a good read and I’m ready to learn more about how to love and care for the 98% of orphans who are never adopted or have families to call their own.

We still have A LOT of funds to raise for our adoption, but I’m pretty worn out from fundraising and I’m pretty sure my social media friends are tired of me saying stuff about it online. After the Thirty-One fundraiser, we’re taking a break from fundraising until we get back from vacation. If you’re interested in helping out during that time, there is a link on the upper right-hand corner (says donate now) that you can click and it will send you to our tax-deductible donation account. Other than that, we’d just appreciate your prayers for our girls, the process, and our funding.

This summer I’m re-reading a book called Bread & Wine with some friends and once a month we are going to get together for dinner and make some of the dishes in the book. I’m looking forward to cultivating community with women over the table and in homes. There is something special about sharing a meal and sharing your heart with women who have walked different journeys.

It’s really hot in Tucson now…like REALLY hot. I’m glad that I’ll be getting a break from it for 3 days while I’m on a quick trip to watch my brother play baseball in Iowa.

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One last random thought…this weekend I bought a new mop. And it’s awesome. That’s all.

Have a great week friends!

Live with Eyes Wide Open

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I returned from my weekend getaway with my husband yesterday. It was a great weekend of resting, but it was also a time where I started to recognize that the reason I was needing to feel refreshed wasn’t because I felt too busy or anxious about our adoption process. It was a heart issue.

I’ve always been the type of girl who looks to the next thing in life. When I was in high school, all I could think about was college. When I was in college, my thoughts were on where I was headed after. When I was single, all I could think about was when I would meet Mr. Right. I never felt like I had enough in the season that I was living in. I wanted more. I wanted something better. I wanted to be in a different season because the current season was either too hard, too boring, or too fill in the blank. I have a strong propensity to live in discontentment.

The past six months have snowballed into a heavy season of discontentment. It was initially the desire to be pregnant, then the desire to start the adoption process, and then it was to bring home our girls. The feelings of discontentment didn’t  stay within the desire to be a mom. I started to look at our house and feel like it wasn’t enough. Even though I knew we signed up for a fixer-upper house, I was frustrated it didn’t look like it could come from a Martha Stewart magazine. My daily thought process sounded like this: “when we have the money we will finally be able to get the kitchen done and then we’ll be happy”, “if only our backyard was landscaped, I could spend more time outside” “if we just had a little more space, I wouldn’t feel so cluttered” or “when our girls come home, then I’ll finally feel like a true woman” and “if I could only have the right entry-way organizer and set up, I would feel better” (ridiculous I know)…

This weekend all of that came to a boiling point over ice cream on Saturday night. What I didn’t realize was my attitude was deeply affecting my husband and as a result negatively affecting our marriage. I had become focused on what we didn’t have and how next year was going to be so much better because we’d finally have our girls home, our debt paid off, our kitchen done (maybe) that I wasn’t seeing the gift of now. I wasn’t living with my eyes open to what God was giving me in this season of life.

Jerry Bridges, author of Respectable Sins, says that discontentment most often arises from ongoing and unchanging circumstances that we can do nothing about. He also bluntly calls it sin. “Whatever situation tempts us to be discontent, and however severe it may be, we need to recognize that discontentment is sin….We are so used to responding to difficult circumstances with anxiety, frustration, or discontentment that we consider them normal reactions to the varying vicissitudes of life…When we fail to recognize these responses to our circumstances as sin, we are responding no differently from unbelievers who never factor God into their situations.” Ouch…this truth stung…

I had stopped factoring God into the midst of my situations. And this thought process leads to bitterness and resentment towards God and the people in our lives. I don’t want to live like that…so where do we go from here?

Thankfulness.

When we choose to live our lives filled with gratitude, the things that we thought were so important for us fade away.

Living with my eyes open to the blessings of today.

Look for the blessings instead of seeing what’s lacking will change your heart’s attitude.

Over a year ago I read One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp and was challenged to begin writing down at least three things a day that I was thankful for. That lasted about a week…I’m not so good at follow through.

My wake up call this weekend challenged me to once again pick up my journal and write down each days gifts of grace from God.

So today I began my list and snapped pictures to have a visual reminder…

A quiet morning of reading on my new adirondack chair while the birds chirped away.

A quiet morning of reading on my new Adirondack chair while the birds chirped away.

Our dossier is complete and headed to our agency to be submitted!

Our dossier is complete and headed to our agency to be submitted!

Mornings by the pool this weekend.

Mornings by the pool this weekend.

My prayer is that through repenting of discontentment and seeking to live a life of gratitude, the Holy Spirit will work greatly in my life so that I will be a joy and an anchor for my husband, friends, and future children. Do you struggle with discontentment?  How could you make small changes this week to live with your eyes wide open to the gifts that God has given you in the here and now?

Fundraising is Hard: AdoptTogether

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Fundraising is hard.

I’ve been fundraising in some sort of capacity since I was 18 years old. I fundraised to spend two summers in Colorado with a college ministry called the Navigators. I also fundraised for a missions trip to Namibia (South-west Africa) in college. Three years after graduation I went back into the fundraising world to raise support to go on full-time staff with the Navigators at the University of Northern Iowa.

Each time is was hard. Each time God provided more than enough.

As Jason and I start another season of fundraising, I am feeling a little anxious about asking others again. My heart continually reminds me of how much He has provided for us already in this adoption, but my head has a hard time wrapping my mind around the numbers. I have days when I completely believe that God will use His people to give two beautiful girls a home and then I have days of doubt and I fear the unknown.

On days that I doubt and fear, I remember this passage from Romans 8:32 “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” God has already given me all that I need in Christ and He will not leave me alone in this struggle, even though it feels so lonely at times.

Another passage that I remember as I am asking people to once again support Jason and I in our adoption is that everything under the heavens already belongs to God and when we give, we are just giving Him back what was His. King David says in 1 Chronicles 29: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you…. O Lord our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a house for your holy name comes from your hand and is all your own. I know, my God, that you test the heart and have pleasure in uprightness. In the uprightness of my heart I have freely offered all these things, and now I have seen your people, who are present here, offering freely and joyously to you.”

So here I am, asking you to prayerfully consider helping Jason & I complete the fundraising process. In the next three months, we will need to cover the cost of $20,000 for foreign fees and interim care for our sweet girls. After that all that we will have left is travel fees and our final payment to our agency. Would you prayerfully consider partnering with us? We will need small donations and big donations, so anything will help. Please don’t think that your $10 or $20 donation is a drop in the hat, it speaks volumes to me as a mommy-to-be that people are behind us. (We won’t say no to big donations either, though :))

The benefit of this season of fundraising is that we finally have a tax-deductible option for you to give!! We have partnered with a great organization called AdoptTogether and they are willing to host us on their website. You can go to our website page HERE to read our story and donate*. You can donate using your debit or credit card instantly on the website (there is an option to give an extra percentage to the organization, but that is not required) or you can send a check to them with Jason and Sarah Wood in the memo and on the envelope at

AdoptTogether
251 W. Central Ave #278
Springboro, OH 45066

Thank you for your investment of prayer, finances and support in our family and God’s Kingdom purposes. We are so grateful for the friends, family and community God has given us. We could not be on this journey without you!

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(*Note: In following IRS guidelines, your donation is to the named non-profit organization. This organization retains full discretion over its use, but intends to honor the donor’s suggested use.)

AND WE ARE HAVING….

Girls!!

Those sweet hands will be holding ours soon!

Those sweet hands will be holding ours soon!

We have been holding this in for almost 6 weeks now! After we received our 171H letter in the mail last week-a huge wave of relief swept over me! We can now let the world know that we will be a mommy and daddy to two beautiful girls!

It was a hard road to get to this point. And it’s still a long road ahead of us. Right now, though, we are celebrating the gift God has given us in the hope that our daughters will be home with us soon. I was able to share the news with my family this weekend and finally show off their darling faces. I won’t be able to share pictures on social media until they come home for security reasons. 

The girls are roughly 2 & 1 years old. Here on the blog we will call them baby G & baby M. Our hope is that they will be home by this time next year. I know that for many of you that seems like a long time, but the reasons behind it are necessary and important.

Right now here are our most important prayer requests:

  • Pray for Baby G & M’s health and safety during the time they are in foster care
  • Pray for a quick court process this summer so that we can become their legal guardians in Africa
  • Pray that God will provide the remaining $20,000 for acceptance of this referral (we have a tax deductible way for you to give now…stay tuned for more info on Friday)
  • Pray that Jason and I would continue to rest in the peace of God as we wait to unite our family

Monday Morning Thoughts

I’m back from a whirlwind of a week in Iowa!

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Beautiful Iowa Countryside

Whew! Last week was wonderful, emotional, and BUSY! Props to my mom and dad for living this crazy life of soccer, baseball, show choir, jazz band, and every other imaginable activity with each of their 4 kids! And Congrats in being done with it! I’m sure that this will be quite the transition for them as they say good-bye to their youngest son come this Fall as he heads to college.

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It’s the start of my graduation week…What?!?

And props to my baby brother for graduating with such honors! He is an amazing guy…if you ever meet him you will love him instantly. He’s the most caring 18 year old young man I have ever met. And he’s pretty dang smart! I mean he got a full ride (tuition) to AIB (American Institute of Business)! I think he only slightly understands the importance of not having that debt after college…but soon he will understand and I am THRILLED for him!

This past week, I spent more time on a bench than I have in a long time and my back and hamstrings still throb from it! My mom and I went to three soccer games last week to watch my brother goal keep and my dad coach the Albia Blue Demons (I know..the name is a little much). I was able to go to Parent’s Night and attend the awards night for the soccer team. Watching my dad give his son the Most Valued Defender award was emotional! Seeing my dad choke up as he talked about coaching his son for his whole life was almost too much for my heart. When he shared with the audience “I always tell people that if Gabe wasn’t my son, I would wish that he was”, I could see every other parent head nod their in agreement and my heart about fell apart. Maybe it’s because we are about to become parents that I was so emotional but I think it was because I love my family so much too…

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This is the hard part of living so far away from home. I left home when Gabe was just 8. I didn’t get to see a lot of his development into the man that he is now. I have lots of memories of him being the joyful, carefree little boy that would dance down the aisles of grocery stores and break out in song any chance he had. The funny thing is…he still does that. And I love him so much for it!

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Look at that sweet, smiley boy!

I was also able to hang out with my sisters this weekend and we all worked hard on getting the house ready for Gabe’s graduation party. It was fun to look through pictures with them and remember all of the fun times we spent as a family throughout the years. The cleaning part was okay too… 🙂

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My favorite memory of the weekend would be sitting under the stars with Katie, Mom, Dad, & Jason talking and listening to the frogs croak after the graduation ceremony on Saturday night. We finally were able to relax after a full week of preparation.

My parents are about to embark on a new journey of being kidless & having some other major changes in their lives. I’m excited for what the future holds for them!

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Jason had quite the introduction to small town life this weekend! I didn’t prepare him well for the Senior Awards Night on Friday night…maybe on purpose! The night is to honor and award Seniors with scholarships and accolades for finishing this season of their life. It lasted over 2.5 hours and there are only 75 graduates this year! Everyone in town seems to have a scholarship to award to the graduates. It’s a good thing, but it was a LONG night for a guy who flew all day!

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He’s a high school graduate! Yay!

Gabe spoke at graduation. He was the first and only Gravert to speak at his graduation and he did an amazing job! I had to pinch myself a few times because I still can’t believe this baby brother of mine has grown up!

On Sunday, the church held a special service for the graduates. This was potentially the most emotional service for our family. Gabe was highly involved in the youth program and as we watched him perform his last song with his friends, tears flowed freely. I’m so excited for his future and I know that the best is ahead for him, but all I could see while he sang was the little boy who was a ham in every single church program. And when he started crying as he sang…there was no hope!

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It was a good weekend. It was a hard weekend. And I’m so thankful to have been home during Gabe’s last week as a senior. As I said before, Gabe’s best years are ahead of him.