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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Green is Better Than Pink

My family just returned home from another Christmas celebration. We spent time with my parents, my brother and his family and saw my precious 90-year-old grandmother. It was wonderful. I returned home with a sigh when I remembered I hadn't cleaned the house before we left - back to reality!  I grabbed an enormous stack of mail from the mailbox and decided to sort it before cleaning and putting away the items from our trip.  Immediately an envelope from "US Immigration" caught my eye and made my heart pound! I grabbed the envelope and noticed the paper inside was GREEN and not PINK. A pink slip from USCIS is usually not good news. It's generally a request for more information or a reminder that you have somehow forgotten a needed document. This slip of paper was definitely green - good stuff! I quickly opened the envelope and discovered it was a notice of the upcoming appointment that my husband and I must keep to have our fingerprints renewed!! This is a nice big step in the adoption process and I immediately went from "mom who is grouchy about housework" to "adoptive mom who is getting closer to her new son."    It's curious how one little envelope can so greatly effect the mood!  I skipped over to write the date and time on our calendar and began to work on the chores with a renewed sense of purpose.
I've always said that orange is my favorite color but for now, I think I'm changing it to green!!!!!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas Musings

Christmas was fantastic and, I must say, much more low key than in years past. My husbands mom, step dad, brother, aunt and a few friends came to Christmas Eve dinner, went to church with us and stayed to watch our children open gifts. It was relaxing and wonderful! My mother in law cooked lumpia and a traditional Filipino dish called "dinuguan" which has the nickname "chocolate meat" in English. It is so named because the base of the stew is blood which is boiled until it turns dark brown, almost black. Now, before my American friends get all skeeved out and decide you'll never eat Filipino food, let me just tell you. This dish is DELICIOUS!
It has none of the properties of blood: no metallic flavor, it doesn't coagulate, it doesn't look, smell or taste like blood at all. It has pork, beef and green chilies in it and all of my children eat it readily (except my daughter who would be vegetarian if it weren't for bacon).
 For those less adventurous among you, let me recommend my mother in law's lumpia instead:
 This plate of lumpia was gone long before we sat down to the meal. As my MIL was pulling these from the pot, family members were waiting in line to snatch one!  They are filled with meat and veggies and I make a sauce to go in the middle that contains vinegar, soy sauce and minced garlic.  Oh, I could polish off this plate all by myself if it weren't for that awesome smell drawing the children to come and ask for some!
      I pray you are all as blessed as I am to be surrounded by loved ones and celebrating the greatest gift even given to humankind - Jesus Christ! 
Now, it's off to "other Grandma's" house to do it all over again!!!!!!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Birthday Boy

Yesterday my amazing little wonder, Ezekiel, turned three years old! We had a get together with his uncle and grandparents (on Daddy's side) and our own immediate family so as not to overwhelm him. Ezekiel is still a very shy child and too much excitement causes him to want to be held by mom or dad and bury his face in our necks!
We wanted to be sure he enjoyed his day so we kept the celebration small and low key.
It was so much fun! His favorite gift, by far, was a little plastic vacuum that makes noise! Ezekiel loves it when I vacuum. He is always one step behind me and reaching out to touch the handle each time I pull it back. He claps and jumps up and down when I turn it on. He is smitten! I was worried that a quiet little duplicate vacuum just wouldn't measure up but he was thrilled! He immediately set off to "vacuum" the entire downstairs while the family and guests laughed at him. He proceeded to move furniture in order to vacuum underneath and to pick up toys to make sure he didn't miss any hidden crumbs. That child is just delightful to watch! I had no idea how much he took in and observed on the nuances of such a mundane task as vacuuming.
If I could do one thing differently regarding his birthday, I would have searched high and low to find a vacuum his size that ACTUALLY works! I can tell he is going to be a great helper in the very near future!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The File Has Left The Building

I am pleased to announce that the big, yellow DHL truck arrived at our agency over a week ago to pick up our COMPLETED dossier and deliver it to the adoption board in The Philippines!!!! For some of you adoptive parents, that may sound like we are very early on in the process but our situation is a little different than many. Because we are adopting a waiting child, things work backward. We identified the child, asked for him to be placed on hold for us and then worked overtime to get that dossier completed.
As soon as that dossier arrives in The Philippines and is approved by the ICAB, our referral will be issued, accepted and then the wait for a visa/medical appointment begins. We are actually on the shorter end of the wait now. I have already requested an extension on one of our immigration documents and having that happen simultaneous with the referral being issued and accepted may save some time.
We have received additional donations from precious Christian friends and now have over $4400 of our adoption paid for!!!! We wait
prayerfully to hear feedback on our grant applications.
An early April travel date is still in sight if all goes as projected. We are SO eager to meet Francis and introduce him to his new life. The silliest things come to mind and get me all giddy like the idea of helping him set up his facebook account to keep in touch with friends from The Philippines, or taking him shoe shopping and seeing if I'll have to pretend to like what he chooses, or Anthony teaching him how to use the riding mower and soon, to drive a car (gulp)... small things that happen here with the other children and signify that we're family.
All my prayers for this adoption center around him having a smooth transition and knowing right away that he is loved and wanted. Because he is already 15, I know we'll have to be very purposeful in our bonding and willing to accept him for who he is - a teenager with his own set of ideas, likes and dislikes, preferences and preconceived notions. I pray that he'll be able to accept us as we are and find his place with us quickly. Above all, I pray that he'll get to know Jesus in a way
he never expected and grow in his faith. I can't wait to see it all unfold . . .

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Yes and No

On the adoption front, all is quiet. Our file is in The Philippines and we are hoping for the official referral in the next week. If nothing arrives at our agency by December 16th, it will not happen until the new year. Believe it or not, I am perfectly fine with waiting. I have complete confidence in this process and I know that a slow down in one area can often be offset by surprisingly fast progress in another. On the fund raising front, all is quiet as well. We heard from the granting organization that was to review our application in December. They will now present us to their board in January. Again, OK by me. We have paid all we are required to pay up to this point (well over $4000) and we trust the Lord to provide for our needs in His own time.
A funny development is taking place in our home presently. Ezekiel, thanks to his dynamic speech and developmental therapists, has mastered the difference between and the uses for "yes" and "no". He nods his head "yes" and makes an adorable sound when presented with something he wants such as ice cream, a cartoon or a new toy. On the other hand, he shakes his head vigorously and makes a not-so-adorable sound to indicate "no". We are finding he is much fonder of "no" than he is of "yes". When he sees me coming toward him with a tissue to wipe his nose, the "nos" start to fly. When I say "it's time for night night", that head starts to shake for all he's worth! I have to confess that while toddlers saying "no" to their parents is not cute in any other situation, it is darn cute when Ezekiel does it!
I am so thrilled that he is using these words/gestures in the right context and he absolutely understands what he is saying. I am relieved that he can share his opinion and makes his needs known more easily. This is one of the many aspects of parenting I took for granted with my typically developing children. I have read the blogs of other parents of children with Down Syndrome and sometimes thought their celebrations of such small victories were a little over blown, a little sappy. I get it now! Boy, do I ever get it!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Final

"I never knew how much I wanted a baby with Down Syndrome until I adopted one."

Yesterday we received our finalization papers for Ezekiel's adoption in the mail!
A weight has been lifted that I didn't even realize I was carrying. The finalization paper is an official court document embossed with a couple of seals and containing lots of "legalese". I am no lawyer - not even a paralegal - but I can read and understand the words "adopted FOR LIFE" easily!!!! In the eyes of the court system, Ezekiel is what I already knew he was - mine forever. My mind goes back to just nine months ago when I sat in front of my computer screen pining away for the beautiful little boy in the picture. I wanted to feel his warmth, hear his voice and tuck him in... I wondered if it would ever happen. I believed God was showing me that it WOULD but I worried that I was projecting what I wanted and not clearly hearing God's voice (not audibly, of course). I sinned with my worry. I worried the money would not come in on time. I worried the plane would crash. I worried Ezekiel would reject us. I worried his heart disease would take him before we got to hold him. Even in my faithlessness, God was faithful. He always is. He always will be. I belong to Him and He is my precious Daddy. I am "adopted for LIFE."

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Power of Words

I have been so deeply challenged by a passage of scripture I read this week that I simply have to share it!

"I tell you, on the day of judgment, people will be held accountable for every idle word spoken. For by your words you will be justified and by your words you will be condemned." Matthew 12:36

EVERY idle word? I did a word study on "idle" and found the English word that most closely resembles the Greek here is the same as our word "careless" . . . ouch!
I LOVE words. I love to read them. I love to write them and I have certainly tossed them around carelessly. When I think about the idle words that I have uttered in just the past couple of days, I cringe. The notion that I will be held accountable for those words is just painful. I KNOW there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. We won't be eternally condemned for our idle words.The Bible is clear that if we belong to Christ, no one can take us from his hand (John 10:28-29) so the condemnation that our words can heap on us is not the same condemnation the lost will face at judgment but I have no doubt it will be painful, unpleasant and shame-making for us.
There's a hard-rock Christian band my older children listen to called "Flyleaf". They have a song based on this verse that gives me chills. It's called "In the Dark"
and you can listen to it at:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4b80-ce_cVc&feature=fvst (cut and paste into your browser window)
Lord, help me to utter words that justify and not words that condemn!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Insert Clilche Title Here And Read On

Much like writing a paragraph called "My Summer Vacation" upon returning to elementary school each fall is the post I am preparing to type. Any blogger worth her salt will have an entry on what she is thankful for today. Is is, after all, Thanksgiving! All facebook statuses that I have seen thus far today echo the same sentiment - mine included. I am SO very thankful for my walk with Christ, my family and the provisions we have. I am bursting with thankfulness at the prospect of being allowed to adopt Francis and I am eternally grateful for the living and active word of God that strengthens and challenges me each day. Those are things I would hope we are all thankful for daily. This year, Thanksgiving is a little different for our family and, although I blog unabashedly about all things adoption, I do seek to protect those inner most parts of my family from too much scrutiny. I am going to share the one thing I am most thankful for and please know that I have wrestled with sharing this for many reasons. Here it goes: our 12 year old adopted son has been spending time in a residential treatment center since early October. He came to us at 8 years old already significantly challenged by his early life experiences. We KNEW we were getting in deep with this guy just by reading his file but we also knew that when God calls, He equips so we pressed forward. I could fill novels with the approaches we've tried, the tears we've cried and the prayers we've prayed over him.
I could talk for hours about the ways we've mishandled this young man in his struggles and erred on the side of imparting justice when it should have been mercy.
This is my private little shame. For many years I have considered mothering my profession and have strived to do it with excellence. I also like to think that I know a thing or two about adoption and that our family could work wonders with even the most challenging case. THIS child has been used by God to humble me in ways I can not explain. Now that I've confessed the hard part, let me get to the THANKFULNESS . . . he is home for 5 days for Thanksgiving and I can see the amazing work that God is doing in him and in us. The bonds that have always felt tenuous are
strengthened! The child who once lacked the ability to articulate anything positive is laughing, smiling and the eye contact . . . it is 100% improved . . . there is a genuineness there that I have never seen in him before!!!!! All of these changes have been prayed for for years. For the first time since he came into our family, I have genuine belief that he is going to be "just fine." He has always belonged here, he has always been "mine" but there are parts of him that are so hard to reach. I was learning to settle for a mediocre, lackluster relationship with this child and, praise the name of Jesus, I now know that he is going to thrive in this family. I am eager for him to come home full time (in just a couple of months) and
take his rightful place as 3rd oldest, big brother, friend and most of all, son.
Of the many lessons this relationship teaches me, I am most thankful to be reminded that "God is not slow in keeping his promises as some would count slowness but he is PATIENT". The prayers for this child felt unanswered for years and yet, God was waiting for just the right time to show HIS power in our son's life. He made sure to do it in a place that we could not even begin to take credit for it . . . yes, there is much to be thankful for!!!!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Bottom Line

Our Chick Fil A fund raiser continues to have a ripple effect and, as the "ripples" slow down, the final count is in. We were able to raise $730 from that one evening alone!!!!!!! I am so excited about this!!! Normally, I wouldn't be blabbering all over the internet about money-related issues. It would be pretty tacky under most circumstances but I'm choosing to be completely transparent on this blog for two reasons. First, I know there are families in the process of adoption fund raising reading this blog. I have been contacted by some. I want them to be encouraged by what works and warned off by reading what doesn't. Second (and maybe this should have been first), God has moved the hearts of folks to help our family and I want to make sure He gets the glory for every cent that has come in so far! I am unashamed to share with the readers that we don't have an extra $22,000 lying around because I want it to be known that God "pays for what He orders". Be encouraged! Our total donations to date are as follows:
Chip in $1270
First fund raiser $730
Private donations $1750
Total = $3750
We are also being considered for a grant by a large, reputable granting organization in December. We covet your prayers for that!
I have often fantasized that some generous benefactor would hear about our family and drop the whole sum into our hands anonymously! I have since come to understand that every donation, grant or fund raising event is an opportunity for Believers to do "good works that God has prepared for them to do" Ephesians 2:10. I also believe that our family having to work, fill out grant applications, fund raise and pray HARD are important parts of the bonding process for us. I can't remember the exact context or chapter but there is a Bible story where King David declares "I will not offer to the Lord my God that which costs me nothing." That certainly applies here.
How much more precious do we treat even the material items we had to work for as opposed to those just tossed at us for free? I realize Francis is a precious human life and not a "material item" so the analogy falls short but I think the point remains true. We value what is hard-won. Thank you, Jesus, that your ways are not my ways (if they were, we'd be on that plane with a fully funded adoption right now).
We wait. We trust. We lean wholly on Him.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Success!!

Give freely and spontaneously. Don't have a stingy heart. The way you handle matters like this triggers God's blessing in everything you do, in all your work and ventures." Deuteronomy 15:10 (MSG)
The scripture above came to my computer this morning from an online devotion I receive and it could not have been more timely . . .

Our Chick fil A fund raiser last night was an amazing success in so many ways!! We raised about $350 from the raffle portion of the event and have not yet heard the total from food purchases! We could not be more grateful to Steve Rumley,Jr. for opening his restaurant to us!
To all the friends from church, co-op, the Triangle Down Syndrome Network and the local homeschool online group who came out to support us . . . THANK YOU!!!!
I was blessed to meet several adoptive families who heard about us from various friends and came out just to support fellow adoptive parents.

I never fail to be humbled and awed all the way through an adoption. God's people really DO care about life and truly ARE willing to support one another - even a stranger - as I saw last night.

I have said this before and it seems so inadequate but, THANK YOU for your prayers, support and for helping us bring a new son into our home!!!! May God bless you immeasurably!!!!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Getting There . . . UPDATE

Our homestudy update visit is over and went well. I received emails from two of the organizations I applied to for grants letting us know we'll be considered for grants in December and most of our required paperwork has been sent to the agency . . . aaaaah . . . add that to the chip in donations and the $750 in private donations and I would say that things are moving along well. Every adoptive parent knows that this part of the process is the uphill climb. . . getting your dossier on the desk of the foreign country for matching. Once that happens, it becomes a "downhill slide". The process is officially "out of your hands" (as if it were ever IN our hands) and we wait on the US immigration service and the foreign entity to do their "thing". I am ready for the "downhill slide" because the "uphill" part is a lot of work but one thing I know about myself is that I lose my mind a little during the "downhill" part.
I have nothing to do related to the adoption except to pray and wait. I spend much of each day checking the clock and imaging what time it is in The Philippines and what Francis might be doing on a given day. I check the whether over there, the flight conditions and keep my eyes open for political unrest in the Pacific Islands. As pointless and "goofy" as those things sound (and they are!), they keep me tied to my new son. They remind me of the adventure we're about to take and they keep me prayerful.
That's the update today. I am looking forward to posting that we have the official match in just a few weeks!!!!!!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In The Thick of It

I am sitting here with such a heart of gratitude that I don't even know where to begin being thankful! God is doing amazing works and I have to stand back and watch in amazement the same way you might at a spectacular fireworks display. There are the obvious blessings like the generous donations we've received towards Francis' adoption.
I reached out with some reservation as we are not adopting a cute, cuddly baby this time around but an almost-full-grown teenager. I wondered if people would feel led to help us this time around since we were helped last time. I prayed that our vision and calling would not look like something else, something self-serving in the eyes of our friends and family. What a relief that those who know us best really DO understand.
My thankfulness goes beyond the financial realm and into the logistics of the adoption process. I found out we only need a homestudy update and not an entire new study. I discovered that our immigration paperwork will be much easier this time as we only need to file an extension of our immigration approvals and not new documents.
I am not naive enough to believe this whole process will go off without a hitch, though. This is our fourth adoption and if I've learned anything, it is to expect the unexpected. Paperwork gets lost, government offices close just when you need them most, clouds of ash or typhoons effect air travel, etc. etc. If I didn't have
full confidence that God is sovereign, there is NO way I could sign up for this process again without losing my mind. If I didn't have the pictures and paperwork of that precious young man to look at each day and to remind myself WHY we're doing this, I would not be able to fill out one more form or write one more check. But I DO have those things. I have so much more. I have the prayer and support of friends and family. I have a husband who is just as convicted as I that God has called us to this. I have a savior who "knows my name" - as we sang in church a couple of Sundays ago. He also knows our new son intimately and has decided we are the right family for him.
WOW! So much to be thankful for . . .

Monday, October 18, 2010

We're Rolling . . .

I am thrilled to report that we are getting to the end of the paperwork mountain and getting closer to having our file in The Philippines for official matching with Francis!!
We have been blessed with more financial contributions than the "chip in" button indicates as some friends have given us checks. We debated adding them to the chip in account but since it's paypal and has small fees associated with it, we felt it would be the best stewardship to keep them separate. I will keep a running tab on the blog page somewhere to indicate our progress but, for now, let me say "THANK YOU" to:
P = $100
P = $50
R/K = $300
M = $300

As the adoption process goes full steam ahead, your prayers are more important to us now than ever! It is not without fear that we open our home to this older child.
We've read the "horror stories" of older child adoptions gone wrong. We've struggled with one of our own adopted children and his issues. We know it's going to be a faith walk and we are just human. Praise God, who gives wisdom to all who ask for it. That's our prayer right now - that God would give us supernatural wisdom to
walk in His will and be His hands and feet.
Please pray for the two grant applications we have sent off this week and for two fund raisers in the works that will be orchestrated by precious sisters in Christ.
We never fail to feel so very "loved on" during the adoption process! From the wonderful notes and emails to the folks who offer to help in practical ways, we see
the body of Christ doing what it does best - serving one another. It's the type of service we know is not done for any return. Where else on Earth can you find that kind of love? Only in the family of God!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

YES!!!!!

On Friday, October 1st around 9am, we received the long-awaited verdict on our request to adopt 15-year-old Francis from The Philippines. The Inter Country Adoption Board ruled in FAVOR of our family adopting him!!!!!!!! As a mother who has given birth twice and adopted three times previously, I can assure you that the thrill of that phone call is no less wonderful than watching the "little stick" reveal a "plus mark" indicating that you are, in fact, pregnant. Even though this young man is a teenager, we are as excited about the chance to add him to our family as if we were being presented with a newborn! I have known in my heart for many months that he was headed for our family but I what I did not understand was HOW. So many mountains had to move for this young man to become ours. There are still mountains to move but I can see the ground starting to shake!
This adoption is going to have to fall into place QUICKLY for us to make the age-related cut off established by US Homeland Security. The speed of this adoption is causing us to have to do one thing our pride rejects: ask for help raising funds. We know the Body of Christ stands ready and waiting to help us accomplish this task.
"With God, all things are possible." Matthew 19:26

Thank you in advance for your help, your prayers and your willingness to be a part of something "Radical".

For His Fame,
Nikki and the fam

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Precious Post

I just received the most uplifting message on Facebook from a sister in Christ whom I've never met "in real life". Aside from the personal encouragement she offered me, she sent the list below. I hope it reaches your heart like it did mine.
Thank you, Jessica!!!!!


You know you’re an adoptive parent (or should be) if:

1. The fact that there are 143 million children without a parent to kiss them goodnight has made you lose sleep.
2. You realize DNA has nothing to do with love and family.
3. You can’t watch Adoption Stories on TLC without sobbing.
4. The fact that, if 7% of Christians adopted 1 child there would be no orphans in the world, is convicting to you.
5. You spend free time surfing blogs about families who have experienced the blessing of adoption.
6. It drives you crazy when people ask you about adopted child’s “real” parents.
7. You have ever been “pregnant” with your adoptive child longer than it takes an elephant to give birth.(2 years!)
8. You had no idea how you would afford to adopt but stepped out in faith anyway, knowing where God calls you He will provide.
9. You have ever taken an airplane ride half-way around the world with a child you just met.
10. You believe God’s heart is for adoption.
11. You realize that welcoming a child into your heart and family is one of the most important legacies you could ever leave on this earth.
12. You know what the word “Dossier” means, and you can actually pronounce it!
13. You have welcomed a social worker into the most private parts of your life.
14. You shudder when people say your child is so lucky that you adopted them, knowing full well you are the blessed one to have him or her in your life.

Author Unknown

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

No News is . . . Well . . . NO NEWS

We are in a bit of a familiar holding pattern right now with the hopeful adoption of Francis from The Philippines. We continue to wait for the governing board of adoptions (the ICAB or Inter Country Adoption Board) to give us the green light on our request to start the process. If there is anything to be grateful for in this waiting period, it is that I am no longer dreading the mountainous paperwork, I welcome it. I am no longer exhausted at the thought of fund raising, I am fired up! I am praying daily that we get a chance to bring this young man into our family and each day that passes without news is another day for me to lean wholly on Jesus and to remind myself that He is in charge. The ICAB board meets once a week on Thursdays (while those of us in the US are sound asleep Wednesday night, it is Thursday in PI). I pray that by week's end, we will have our answer. If not, we continue to wait and pray.
Confession Time: Because I am so bad at waiting, I did go out and buy a few items on the off chance the ICAB says "yes". I have purchased new bedding and some paint.
Hey . . .I've got to do SOMETHING (ha ha). The room could use some TLC anyway so why not now? I hope to be posting something wonderful come week's end. Stay tuned!!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Silence with a Purpose

My blog has been so quiet lately for one good reason. We are awaiting the decision of the Inter Country Adoption Board in The Philippines regarding our request for permission to adopt Francis!!!!!!! This one has been such a roller coaster ride that I hesitate to post much at all until we know something. From having full funding to having no funding - from wanting to adopt to simply advocating for him and back to adopting him again - if this young man finally comes home to us, I will have some crazy stories to tell him.
We should hear within a week whether or not we're allowed to pursue his adoption. The Philippines has a rule that families must wait one year between adoptions. This is a great rule and I completely understand the reason for it. In our case, though, Ezekiel has been home for only 6 months and by the time our year is up, it will be too late for Francis. He will have aged out. If the ICAB says "yes", I am posting my brand new picture of Francis on this blog in hopes that it will remind everyone to pray us through this process. We have a long way to go and a short time to get there so I lean on the promises in God's word that I know to be true. He will never leave me nor forsake me. . . All things work together for the good of those who love God and are calling according to His purposes. . . He does exceedingly abundantly more than we can ask or imagine . . .

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

No Excuses!

I am currently recovering from the most unpleasant illness I have EVER experienced in my life! I have strep throat. I don't just have the "regular" version, which is nasty enough. I have the kind of strep throat you get when you should have been on antibiotics for days and were too stubborn and busy to go to the doctor. For three solid days, my fever was rarely below 103! I took bath after bath and sat in the broiling sun to get warm on those days and even that wasn't sufficient to stop the chattering teeth and muscle aches. I can shine a flashlight down my throat while looking in the mirror and see scabs on my tonsils . . . okay, I'm venturing into "TMI" land (Too Much Information) aren't I?
Today is the first day I've left the house in 5 days and it was glorious! I almost broke into song in the isles of Wal Mart while deciding which style Hot Pocket my teens would like for their co-op lunches this week! I have a much greater understanding of human suffering. I know that sounds melodramatic but it's true! By day 3 of the fever, chills and stabbing pains with each swallow, I began to feel despondent. I prayed, begged and maybe even tried to bargain with God for some relief. He answered by slowly healing me through the wonders of Penicillin. I was praying for a "put your hand on the TV and repeat after me and you will be healed" type thing - no dice!
While lying in bed this week, I finished the book "Radical" by Dr. David Platt. It rocked my world! It convicted me about the pursuits of my heart and my lack of true brokenness for the lost. I felt very ashamed that, in light of our friend's financial issue, I was ready to throw in the towel on pursuing the adoption of Francis from The Philippines! I am weak and easily discouraged, I guess, but I want to be that young man's mother and I believe he was created to be in this family. If the funding for his adoption is not coming to us in one giant check with no effort on our part, does this mean we are free to walk away? Absolutely not! In light of all that God has done in bringing us 5 amazing children and the testimonies that come with each one, we can not assume that God has said "no" because one door has closed. With renewed health and renewed purpose, we are asking, once again, for more than we deserve - another miracle from the Lord. The Bible is clear that "you have not because you ask not". I am asking . . .no begging . . . for God to do another "radical" work in our lives and make a way for us to adopt this young man before he ages out of the system - time is short and so are funds but praise be to God, he controls them both!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

Has He Spoken?

I am sad and yet resigned as I type this entry . . . the friends who so generously agreed to pay for our adoption of the older child in The Philippines are no longer able to do so. It is through NO fault of their own, honestly! I wish I could share all the details and it would be plain to see that our friends truly intended to take care of this adoption. We are not sure what this means for us or for the young man who waits, in his final year of availability, for a family to call him their own.
Should I begin to advocate for him in the online adoption community? Certainly anyone reading his file would love to have such a teen as a son. Should we wait on the Lord to provide another way or has God spoken and this adoption is not to be? I just can't fathom it!
Please pray. More than anything, I want this young man to have a chance to live and grow up in a family.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

On The Road Again

We just returned from a road trip that took us from North Carolina to the heartland of America, Nebraska. I was born in Omaha and both of my parents have family there.
I have a precious 90 year old grandmother who is battling cancer (and winning!) and plenty of aunts, uncles and cousins in Nebraska that I would love to know better. We had a wonderful time swimming, eating, playing cards and just sitting and chatting. We put about 2400 miles on our mini van and visited at least 20 rest areas on this little jaunt. I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about traveling with Ezekiel. He is two and he does not love the car seat. He actually did surprisingly well and didn't actually "melt down" until about 9pm last night (we arrived home around 10:30 so imagine what the 9:00-10:30pm segment of the trip consisted of . . . wwwaaahhhhh!!).
Between the snacks, DVD, frequent restroom stops, books and toys we carted along, everyone survived the drive and dare I say, some may have actually ENJOYED it? I know I did. It provided lots of time to just sit, pray, think and talk to my husband - all things I generally neglect on a "normal" busy day around the house.

One of the most delightful parts of the trip was meeting a cousin who, until just a few years ago, I didn't know existed. She was given up for adoption by my uncle and his then girlfriend just about two years before I was born. She found her birthparents (my uncle and his ex-wife) through the placing agency and they reconnected. I had so many questions that I wanted to ask an adult adoptee. I tried to prioritize them so as not to overwhelm or monopolize her but the biggest question I wanted answered is "do you think it was for the best that you were placed for adoption?". She graciously answered that it was absolutely for the best. She knows her birthparents were young and unprepared and she was adopted by a loving family who longed for her. I know every person is different and some may resent being adopted while others may feel "incomplete" until they meet their birth family.
I don't know what impressions my boys will have about their "life before me" but I can only pray that as they grow and mature, they have the wise perspective of my cousin and the understanding that adoption represents the ultimate act of love, first by a birthparent and then by adoptive parents.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Knowing You

"But whatever gain I had, I count it all as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord." Philippians 3:7-8

Once again, God has done it and I'm not even surprised! He has raised up the finances for another adoption!!!!!! He has laid it on the heart of a dear friend and fellow Believer to help us bring our almost 15-year-old son to the United States! I am thrilled and humbled. We will formally begin the process the last week of August!
I know Philippians 3:7-8 seems an odd scripture choice to pair with such wonderful news and yet, I see the relevance as clearly as if I were reading a commentary on the passage.
Adopting again is marvelous! Being blessed with a huge sum of money by someone we already love and respect is miraculous! Bringing a young man to the states just as his hope and time are waning is beyond glorious but knowing Christ is the reward.
For our family, adopting children is the vehicle He uses to show Himself to us and
I am so glad it is!
Thank you, Jesus for the far-reaching effects of your goodness! Your faithfulness and greatness are endless and your mercy is new every morning. Thank you for letting us know you.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

"We're Not Worthy"

Yes, the title of today's blog entry has been swiped from "Wayne's World", one of the silliest movies the late 80's has to offer! On the serious side, it's a feeling most of us can truthfully admit to having often. Today, as I read from 2 Thessalonians, I came to the verse in chapter one that says ". . .we always pray for you that our God may make you worthy of His calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by His power. . ." (v.11) and I was confused. I know myself on the inside, not just the image portrayed at church or social gatherings. I know the inner, awful, selfish, sinful, lazy, twisted thoughts and impulses that spring up daily. I know what it is to feel unworthy. I don't struggle with feelings of unworthiness because of a bad childhood (I had a pretty great childhood and have wonderful, Christian parents). I wasn't bullied much. I haven't been dumped by boyfriends. I rarely felt like an "outsider" among my peers. I just know that I'm unworthy because when I read God's word, I see that I am not like Him. I don't love the "unlovely" like He does. I don't turn the other cheek like Jesus. I don't forgive seventy times seven. It's one of the great mysteries of my faith that God has given me the beautiful calling of caring for orphans! I am unworthy but, praise Him, He knows what He is doing! I am drawn to the part of the verse that says "BY HIS POWER". What a blessed relief to know that fulfilling the calling God has placed on my life has nothing to do with ME and everything to do with HIM! If you struggle with feeling of unworthiness, too, rest assured, you ARE unworthy! Yes, that's meant to be encouraging! God tells us that "when we are weak, He is strong" and that "greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world" (1Jn.4:4). It's really NOT about me!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Precious in His Sight

Rammy is a 3-year old little miracle (his 3rd birthday is TODAY - July 19th)! He was abandoned in the hospital at birth and left, barely attended to, in a basket for the first six months of his life.
He has mild cerebral palsy and cognitive delays but oh, he is a BEAUTIFUL little boy!
He can walk unassisted, feed himself, play happily around the nursery and give and receive affection appropriately. Rammy is going to make someone an absolutely wonderful little son! Are you a family willing to open your home to a child created by God to be the recipient of someone's unconditional love? Are you willing to receive the blessings that come along with special needs adoption? Please consider Rammy. Special needs adoption from The Philippines can happen in as little as 8 months (from application to travel) and is an amazing adventure!
Although the Philippines has specific requirements for adoptive families, those requirements can be waived on a "case by case basis" for a special needs adoption.
If you would like to learn about how you can bring Rammy into your family, log on to the Christian Adoption Services web site at www.christianadopt.org, click on "looking to adopt", "international adoption" and "Philippines". Please call the agency and speak to Jim Woodward about the flexibility of the requirements for special needs adoption.
Our family has been to Rammy's orphanage. We have video of him dancing with our own son, Ezekiel. He is in a clean, loving, low staff to child environment where the children are thriving.
Please pray about this! If you don't feel led to adopt right now, please pray for Rammy's family to show themselves soon. With early intervention, a loving home and prayers from God's people, Rammy's potential is amazing!

Friday, July 16, 2010

All Things Are Possible

I can scarcely believe I get to type the words I am preparing to type but, here they are: my husband has prayerfully decided we should go forward with attempting to adopt the 14 (almost 15)year old young man from The Philippines who I wrote about in an earlier post!!!!!!! I would absolutely LOVE to share his name, a photo (I have many), his current orphanage, etc.etc. but right now, I can't. If this adoption were to not happen for any reason, I can't take a chance at disappointing this child in such a huge way. I also have to obtain permission from the central authority in The Philippines to pursue another adoption before finalization of Ezekiel's adoption.
There are other hurdles to climb and little time to climb them but my God is more
than able. He has shown this to me in too many ways to list.
The young man we are hoping to adopt has waited for a family for many years. He has had a crushing disappointment in the form of a promise unkept by a family that hosted him on an exchange program. He has watched countless babies and toddlers meet their "forever families" only to return to his cottage as an orphan. He is smart, with no noted special needs other than his age (and certainly the needs that come along with institutional living for almost 15 years). We must act fast as our US immigration system will not allow us to apply for a visa for a child over 16 years of age. We have one year to complete all the needed paperwork. The biggest obstacle is, of course, the financial one. We just completed Ezekiel's adoption and do not have the money to start the process. We are trusting God to move mountains and provide the $20,000 we need to bring this young man home. We know He can do it.
If any of you reading know of agencies giving grants to families pursuing older children, please private mail me. If you are willing to pray for our family on this one, please pray specifically for the following:
1. Permission from the Inter Country Adoption Board to pursue this young man
2. The finances needed to bring him home
3. That all of our current children would be on board
4. That God would be preparing him for life in a family and would give him peace
and excitement about becoming an Esquivel
Thank you in advance for your faithful prayers. I know that with man, this is completely impossible but with God, all things are possible!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Week To Remember

"Father to the fatherless, defender of widows — this is God, whose
dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families." -Psalms 68:5-6


This past week was a much-needed time of learning and growth for me. I was honored to have two missionaries from The Philippines in my home for seven full days!!! Some of you reading this might cringe at the thought of a week of house guests but this was no ordinary "visit". The two women who came to my home are Americans who have lived and served in The Philippines for over 20 years. They began as directors of a birthing home which expanded to include an orphanage. They still deliver babies for the poor in their community, hold classes on infant care, reproductive health and so much more. They mobilize their community in times of crisis and help them put a plan into action to solve their own problems. In 1998, a sick and dying woman surrendered her three sons to the director of the baby home. This birth mother died of tuberculosis one month after selflessly placing her beloved sons in the care of strangers, the youngest child being just a month old at surrender. That one-month old baby has grown into my now 12 year old adopted son. Having the eyewitness to his first eight years in our home was beyond wonderful. Thank you, Jeri and Sara Gunderson for a chance to ask limitless questions about life as servants of Christ in The Philippines. I hope anyone who has taken the time to read this post will take a moment to pray for The Little Childrens' Home and Shiphrah Birthing home in Taytay, Rizal Philippines. WONDERFUL things are going on there!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Run, Moses, Run . . .

Our pastor preached an especially poignant message today about the call of Moses. He read from Exodus 3 and 4 and I must admit, I thought I knew something about this passage but I had missed so much. When God called Moses to deliver the Israelites, did you realize that Moses offered myriad excuses about why he couldn't possibly do it?
Most people know that Moses used the old "but I'm not a good speaker" excuse but the story goes on. Moses went from "which God should I say sent me" (implying that there are so many deities in Egypt that nobody would respect Yahweh) to "what if they don't believe me". Moses worked very hard to wiggle out of the calling God placed on his life.
The sermon caused me to ponder just how many Christians God is calling to adopt who have more excuses than Moses. Do I believe every Christian is commanded to adopt children? Absolutely not. We are all members of one body with different functions but I DO believe many Christians are running as far and fast as they can from the notion of adoption and they are, in fact, being called.
Below is a list of reasons that we refuse our calling based on today's sermon:
1. Indifference (I just don't care enough)
2. Inability (I can't afford it, I'm too old, I'm too out of shape to travel)
3. Insecurity (What if the child doesn't like me or vise versa)
4. Inconvenience (My little world is just right and adopting could stir things up)

Our pastor closed the message with the parable of the Great Banquet found in Luke 14:12-14. It says "When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or your rich neighbors lest they also invite you over in return and you will be repaid. When you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind and you will be blessed because they can not repay you. You will be repaid at the resurrection of the just."
This passage is about so much more than a dinner party. It's about doing the radical thing - extending love to the unlovely, giving to those who can not lift a finger to do anything in return. It's about being the hands and feet of Christ in a world that tells you loving YOURSELF is "the greatest love of all." It's about being broken, poured out, overworked, under appreciated and maybe even stepped on by the world around you but being cherished, treasured, lifted up, encouraged, cared for and rewarded by your Heavenly Father.
We only get one Earthly life . . . let's do this!!!!!

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Go Away!

Life at the "Esquivel Compound" has finally settled into a wonderful summer "routine".
We are finished homeschooling until early August (except my sweet 8 year old who needs to do a little something each day to keep his phonics and math skills in check). The sprinkler is attached to the hose in the backyard and ready for the kids' daily "run through" and I have taken to making a gallon of sweet tea every two days as my teens drink it instead of water all day long (terrible, I know). We watch a movie together most evenings (the latest fine piece of cinematography being "Monsters vs Aliens") and
there are no lesson plans to write, papers to grade or co-ops to rush off to.
I am absolutely loving this time of year. It's hot and humid and practically every day is capped off by an evening thunderstorm or rain shower.
In spite of all the joy, I have little peace. I committed the cardinal sin of reading through Christian Adoption Service's latest list of waiting children. Those of you who know me at all know exactly where this post is headed . . . yes, I am hopelessly in love with a child on the list. I have his file. I know it by heart. He is older (almost 15) and had a very rough start in life. He is in a Christian orphanage, loves Jesus, plays music, sings and even has an "emo" haircut like my oldest son. He ages out in one year and will be unadoptable.
The Philippines has strict rules about adoptions. A family must wait one year between adoptions and Ezekiel has only been home three months. We can not even apply to adopt for about nine more months. Additionally, we can not afford another adoption right now and my husband is not on board at this point. In light of the disappointment regarding Ariel, maybe this is just backlash and simply a shadow in my mind but, I don't think so. I know this feeling well. It is the fourth time I have felt this way about a child. The first three times resulted in Kyle, Lemuel and Ezekiel - my hard won treasures from across the ocean. Once again, God will have to make a miracle but if He wants it to happen, He'll do it. If not, I pray this ache will go away. It hurts.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"Coincidence #2"

As promised in my previous post, I'll share "coincidence" #2 in this post. First, let me mention as background, my husband and I have been vigorously following Dave Ramsey's "baby steps" as laid out in the book "The Total Money Makeover" for about 4 months now. We are on "baby step three" and trying to stay very disciplined with our spending so we can reach our goals. (My goal? Another Philippine adoption - shhhh).
Yesterday I told my husband I needed to run some errands and exactly how much money these errands might cost. He gave a set amount to spend based on our budget and off I went. I am not much of a numbers gal (he's the "nerd", I'm the "free spirit") so I went to several stores, getting the items I needed while mentally rounding and estimating what I was spending. When I arrived home, I added up the receipts and they totaled EXACTLY TO THE PENNY the amount my husband had set aside for these errands!!!!!!! I re added to make sure it wasn't an error on my part and, sure enough, the amount was EXACT to the cent! I don't know if this "coincidence" was more of a blessing to me or to Anthony but we just looked at each other with a "God is in control" nod, understanding that when we try to be good stewards of what we've been given, we get a LOT of help from the Lord. We already know that when we're careless and wasteful, the opposite is true. I know this is really a small "event" and I pondered whether or not I was making too much of it. Is it even worth blogging?
I could not get past the thought that if God deemed it worth doing, I should find it worth sharing. Maybe someone will stumble on this blog who needs some encouragement about just how much God cares about the "little stuff" . . .

Coincidence? I think NOT!

In the past two days I have had two events take place in my life that, although seemingly small, have shone a spotlight on just how much God cares for me. First, I went to pick up my twelve year old son from tennis practice. On the way, our little car started to feel "funny". I pulled into the nearest gas station in order to get a diet coke and give the car a rest. There was nowhere to park when I pulled in. I had to pull directly in front of the pump. When I came out of the gas station. My little car simply would not start. I laid my head on the steering wheel and thought "not today, Lord". Just then a tap on my window startled me. It was a kind older gentleman carrying a gas can he was preparing to fill. He said "it sounds to me like you're out of gas young lady." I looked down at my gas gauge and, sure enough - the big "E"!!!
Red faced, I thanked the gentleman, filled the car and drove away. And then it hit me:
had I parked in an actual parking space, I could not have gassed up without someone helping me push the car to the pump. I would have been late in picking up my son and certainly would have incurred the "wrath" of a husband who has asked me repeatedly not to let the needle fall below a quarter of a tank! But no, my Heavenly Father saw fit to let me run out of gas while literally parked at the pump! The overwhelming sense of humility that followed that "coincidence" is indescribable. I have NOT been consistent with my quiet times lately. I have not even been as faithful in the "little things" as I usually am and yet, God still chose to "bail me out" of what could have been a sticky situation that was clearly of my own making. Yes, I've done the same for my own kids: removed the consequences due them just because I love them. No, not always but, as a parent, you know when mercy is due and when justice must be swift.
I'll save the second "coincidence" for another post as this one has gotten quite lengthy.
"Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you." 1 Peter 5:7

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dazed and Confused

After much prayer regarding "The Ariel Situation" all I can say is, it appears there is no legal way for him to immigrate to the US. On one hand, this is sad for him, the only one of three brothers unable to make the journey, but on the other hand, I trust my Heavenly Father implicitly. He knows what each of us needs, where we should live and who should come to our table. It appears that, without a miracle, Ariel is not to be ours. I can not thank my AMAZING Sentor's office enough! Richard Burr (R-NC), you are an unbelievably helpful man with an equally wonderful staff! I sent out pleas for help to many elected officials and the first to reply and act was Richard Burr. I don't want to get too political here but, he was the only Republican I contacted so, surmise for yourself what that might imply (ha ha).
On a happier note, my family was blessed to attend our adoption agency's family picnic at a gorgeous park. We spent time with many other families who had adopted children from The Philippines. Once again, I found my heart feeling that tug to go back for "just one more". I don't know if Anthony felt any "tug" except the "tug" on the wallet in his back pocket (ha ha). The new blog photos were taken at the picnic.
Well, I'm off to head to a neighboring town to bring home a treadmill we found on craigslist yesterday! If we are ever to adopt from The Philippines again, I must keep in mind their "body mass index" requirement and get my body to have a little less "mass" - ha ha!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Digging Deeper

Just when I thought I was living as "big" as I could for my Savior, God asks more of me. Just when I was starting to get a little prideful about how "pro life" and "over the top" I've gone in my life, He raises the bar and I fall pitifully short of complete surrender. Notice that photo to the right of this post. It's our adopted son, Lemuel, and his biological brother, Ariel? God has clearly, although not audibly, let me know that THIS young man needs us to serve him in a radical way. He is in a shelter for street kids in The Philippines. He is cognitively delayed. He can neither read nor write. He is nineteen years old and his future is uncertain at best. I don't know to what God is calling me but I have been given little rest from the thoughts plaguing me regarding Ariel. For several years, we have prayed for him, sent packages and occasional donations to the agency caring for him and we even helped him apply for a tourist visa to visit us here in the US. The visa was denied based on the fact that he has no ties to The Philippines and is not likely to return after the visit. Now, God has lain on my heart that all-too-familiar feeling that He is calling us to dig deeper for Ariel's sake. For Jesus' sake, for His fame. I am scared. I have a beautiful daughter, young children. Our house is small and our budget is tight. What does my Savior want from me in this situation? Are we to bring Ariel HERE? Is it even possible? Are we to pay his way through life in the Philippines so we know he always has a roof over his head? As I pray through these weighty questions, Proverbs 3:27 stays at the forefront of my thoughts . . ."do not withhold any good thing from those who deserve it when it is in your power to help them."

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I'm Ba aaaack!!!

After a couple of emails from dear friends and a blog reader or two asking me where in the world I have run away to, I decided to get back on track and post! Surprisingly, my absence from the "blog world" has little to do with Ezekiel (he is a fantastic, adaptable little guy who goes with the flow) and more to do with my life as a homeschooling mother. This is the point in every school year that I look upon with fear and trepidation. THIS is the it's-not-yet-summer-break-but-I-wish-it-were time of year.I haven't even ordered my end-of-year tests for the kids yet. My older children have some large projects due in their co-op classes, two of these projects are "power point" in nature so I am of no measurable help to my children and, to top it off, my precious oldest son is in Christian Youth Theaters' production of Les Mis right now. His piano recital is just two short weeks away and none of his "nice pants" fit anymore . . sigh . . . Add in my 12 year old public school kiddo tracking out on Monday, an active two year old and a first grader who gets up each morning asking "can we do a LOT of schoolwork today, please?" and you have a recipe for the "Calgon, take me away" commercial. Remember that?
THIS is the time in each school year where I pledge to myself that I'll be more prepared next year. THIS is the time of year that I like to imagine my whole family
in a fully-packed car, dogs in the kennel and us headed off on a beach trip paid for courtesy a loving relative who sensed my stress and sent us a vacation!
Seriously, though. THIS is the time of year that I need to cling to the scripture "be still and know that I am God" with all my heart. Just as He does every year, God will lead us through this busy time. THIS is the year I am praying not just to survive but to prosper so I can look back and say "great is Thy faithfulness" as we pull out of the driveway and head for the beach!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Honeymoon

Well, Zkel has been home about three weeks now and we are either on an extended "honeymoon" or he is really the best little 2 year old I've ever met! What a sweet spirit! He is happy almost all the time. He only whines when he is excessively tired and laying him down in his crib actually makes him HAPPY when he's very tired! He has been sleeping all night for about 5 nights now (I do hear an occasional bit of chatter from his crib but it only lasts literally 60 seconds before he's asleep again) and what a crowd pleaser! Everywhere we go, he is complimented by total strangers for simply being cute - a feat he accomplishes with no effort whatsoever! I have heard others talk about children with Down Syndrome as "angels". While that doesn't exactly line up with my theology, I can clearly see why this title is applied to these particular children. My husband purchased a t-shirt online months ago that says "every family deserves the blessing of a child with Down Syndrome". When he wore it for the first time, Zkel wasn't home with us yet and I honestly felt it was a bit of an overstatement. I stand corrected. Any family raising one of these precious babies should consider themselves very blessed! I know I do!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good News

Ezekiel will NOT need repair surgery for his PDA (heart hole) anytime in the near future! He was also taken off the medication he had been on since before coming home to us. I am so thankful for prayers being answered!! Thank you to all who prayed!!
I can not say enough wonderful things about Dr. Kanter at Duke Pediatric Cardiology!
He is a caring doctor who took so much extra time explaining to us exactly what a PDA is, how it works and why Ezekiel's is no big deal! Thank you, Jesus!

Never The Same

Ezekiel (or Z-kel and we call him) has been home for just under two weeks. I still can not believe he's here sometimes. All the prayers, tears, joys and hope have come to fruition in this one little man! We all love him immensely! We sit around as a family and just laugh at his dancing. We cringe when he pulls two great handfuls of fur from the dogs' back and sigh with relief when she just lets him do it! (the dogs have learned to exit the room when he comes in - ha ha). We all crowd into our small hall bathroom to watch him splash in his bath and put his face under and blow bubbles in the water. He has brought joy to us that I wasn't even aware we needed!
Today we head to the Duke University Pediatric Cardiology unit for his first heart consultation. I have begged the Lord to close that tiny hole in his heart and heal him fully but I know God does as He pleases. His ways are NOT my ways and if He has chosen not to heal, we will treat medically. I have always said that I am not one bit afraid of the Down Syndrome in my son but I am petrified of the heart condition that came with it. If you happen to be reading this today, a prayer for my baby's heart would be a gift.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Completion

Ezekiel arrived at 8:36pm, Monday March 8th at Raleigh-Durham international airport.
He came straight from his daddy's arms to mine and it was a phenomenal day! The prayers
I offered up for him NOT fear me did not go unanswered! He allowed me to take him from Anthony, give him a big hug and kiss and carry him a way off from the family. I admit I did each of these things expecting to hear a shriek from my new son and having to hand him back to Daddy. Never happened. He came to me and he has been right next to me for over 24 hours straight. I adore him. I am mystified that such a gorgeous, cheerful, precious little angel went unadopted for over two years! The only explanation I have for this fact is that my Heavenly Father was preserving him for my family. Thank you, Jesus!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

The Countdown

Monday night my precious family returns to me with our new little one! As I thank the Lord for the technology to skype, call, facebook and email, I can attest wholeheartedly to the fact that none of these modes of communication can trump the good old fashioned hug.
Yesterday in The Philippines, my husband decided to take the three children to see the new movie "Alice in Wonderland". . .hey, where else can you see a first run new release for about $3? I was quite skeptical that a two year old child could sit through such a long movie but sit he did! Anthony was astounded at how calm and enamored he was of the entire experience.
A heart rending experience that also happened on this trip was our 11 year old son, Lemuel was able to visit his 19 year old biological brother, Ariel.
Ariel is living at a shelter for street kids in Antipolo City. He was never adopted.
The Philippines customarily does not separate siblings but this was truly an emergency situation. Ariel's health as a young child prevented him from immigrating. As his brothers grew older, their chances of being adopted diminished. As a result, the painful decision to separate was made. We have made a point of writing to and sending small gifts to Ariel since we adopted Lemuel three years ago. I have to tell you in all honesty, that is not enough! I feel that God wants us to do more for this young man! I don't know what our options are or what God is asking of us but I am praying daily that He will show us. When I look at his handsome face, I see my son just a few years down the road. I believe he should be somebody's treasured son. He should have the chance to call out "Mom, Dad, I'm home" and see relief in the eyes of people who love him. I shared my sadness with my husband on the phone and his response to me was "sweetie . . . we can't save them all". He's right, we can't but maybe we can help just one more . . . Please pray for Ariel. There has to be more for him than life in a shelter, unclaimed.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Perfect

Ezequiel continues to thrive and bond with his dad and two siblings. They have taken him here, there and everywhere and are completely smitten with him, as he is with them.
I am living vicariously through pictures and skype until they bring him home to me.
We are preparing to embark upon a brand new chapter in our lives. We are now parents of a toddler with Down Syndrome. We are now a family of seven. We are now officially "out of our minds" according to some well meaning friends - ha ha! What we really are, most of all, is blessed. Who am I that God should see fit to reward me with this most precious little being? I pray that I will parent this little angel in a way that points others to Jesus. That's really all this crazy life of adoption, homeschooling, parenting and being is all about - making a mark for Him. My soul desire is that He is honored by something that we do while on this Earth. Jesus, be glorified in the life of a sinner like me? It seems impossible but He is in the business of doing the impossible. Thank you, Father!

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Beginning of the Beginning

My family met Ezequiel for the first time just a few hours ago! He is, in the words of my 13 year old daughter "so adorable". I called the orphanage just about the time my family arrived and I could hear Ezequiel crying in the background. He is, as all his paperwork indicates, a shy child. He is keenly aware of everyone around him and he is steadfastly devoted to one particular caregiver, Thelma. There were tears all around yesterday and I imagine not all of them happy. Thelma has cared for Ezequiel his whole life. The orphanage has a low staff to child ratio and certainly the bonds of motherhood were already firmly in place between Ezequiel and Thelma. I can not thank God enough for her. I am sure that, because of Thelma, our risk of attachment problems are minimal. I am certain that Ezequiel's physical and emotional health are far beyond what they would be due to her loving care. I am praying that God fills her heart with peace in the midst of her sadness. I have always said that in adoption, someone has to lose before anyone can win. Birthmom lost her son, Thelma lost her baby, and Ezequiel lost all that is familiar. I am ready for all of us to move on to the "winning" phase in which new family bonds are forged forever and those who loved him first can heal completely. God does not promise that obedience is easy or painless but it is always best. I realize that's easy for me to say. I get Ezequiel for life. My highest respect is reserved for those who know they are bound for sadness and heartache but do what they are called to do anyway.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

D-E-L-A-Y

I have learned that spelling a word often lessens it's impact. I'm hoping that treating that word with a little respect will make it go away!!!!
My family flew to Detroit en route to Ezequiel yesterday. The crummy weather in Detroit caused them arrive late and miss their connection to Japan. The only available flight was today at 4pm so, they will arrive in Manila a day later than projected.
I am very, VERY proud of my husband in this situation. He is normally not the most patient person with travel delays but as he called me to report the status, he actually sounded chipper, happy even. He let me know that the new route is 4 hours less air travel AND they get to fly on KLM with nicer planes and individual TVs in the seat backs in front of them. I'm sure the kids will be thrilled with 19 hours of cartoon watching! We will have to step up the homeschooling after this trip to help them recover from the brain drain of endless TV but, in all truth, I am happy for them.
Anything to help the trip go by with less tedium is a blessing.
I hope my next blog post features a picture of my husband and two children finally holding our newest family member! Keep those prayers coming! Even in the midst of
"the D word", God is still in control.

Monday, February 22, 2010

This Is It!

In just half an hour, I drop some of my family members off at the airport to fly to The Philippines. I have so many mixed feelings about today that there's no way for me to articulate them. I won't even try. I'll just sum up this morning by saying that I am leaning on God's sovereignty in all things. I trust Him to do His perfect will in the lives of each of my family members. I will wait and pray and anticipate the abundance that comes from trusting God wherever He leads.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

It's All Over But The Flyin'

Well, it's done! Airline tickets are purchased, the hotel is booked and a couple of suitcases are even packed. It's so exhilarating!
After much prayer, we have decided that the "travelers" will be my husband, our only daughter and our 11 year old son (adopted from The Philippines when he was 8). I will not be going. Believe it or not, I have a deep peace about this arrangement that I know only the Lord can give. We have specific reasons why each person traveling was chosen and I won't belabor this entry by spelling them out but suffice it to say, we are at peace with our decision. Would I like to be the first Esquivel to meet our new son? Certainly! But there are others who need this trip more than I. I will be at home making his doctor appointments, preparing meals in advance to freeze so I can focus on Ezequiel rather than the cooking and I will be praying and waiting - two things I have developed proficiency in during this adoption process!
I have to pinch myself when I realize that in a few short weeks, Ezequiel will be walking around in this very kitchen where I sit and type this entry!
I have to say as one who has become a mother through natural birth and through adoption, one is no less a miracle than the other. The hand of God is evident equally in both and my feeling of being favored by God remains consistent.
Thank you, Jesus, for lavishing your love on us by giving us another child!
God is so good.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I love ya Tomorrow . . .

Tomorrow I buy the tickets for the trip to bring our spectacular little wonder home!!!
We will leave on February 22nd and return home March 8th. All six of us will not be able to travel for financial and practical reasons. I am perfectly fine with this arrangement but tonight we sit down, have prayer and make the final call regarding who will travel. Anthony is an obvious choice as he speaks Tagalog and has family right in Manila, I am the mom so I should go, our 13 year old daughter has talked of going on this trip since we committed to Zeke and would be pretty sad to stay home. Lemuel has a 19 year old brother still living in The Philippines and being cared for by a ministry for street kids. The boys have stayed in touch and Lemuel would love to see him. Our two other sons are fine with going or staying (so, they're staying home - ha ha). Honestly, I am trying not to be like the bride who puts so much pressure on herself regarding the "wedding" that she forgets to prepare for the "marriage".
The traveling is important, sure, but the raising and bonding and lifelong commitment trump "gotcha day" hands down.
The photo with the green background here at the top is brand new. I am dazzled by the cuteness of this little one. I remember long ago thinking that all people with Down Syndrome "look the same". I see now the error of my ways. Ezequiel is different, special and a little cuter than the rest (ha ha). It reminds of how I thought my newborn children were simply beautiful. I clearly recall telling visitors
"they don't look like newborns at all. Newborns are usually red and wrinkly and lizard like. MY babies are already gorgeous." I'm sure those visitors didn't see them through my mother's eyes and that's okay. I am thankful that God has given me "a mother's eyes" for Ezequiel. It's just one more way I know that His hand is knitting us together.

Monday, February 1, 2010

WE HAVE A DATE!!!!!

It appears we have a tentative date for Ezequiel's visa and passport interview! The visa interview should be February 16th and the passport appointment February 23rd. These dates are not official but are probably reliable. Until our agency gets a confirmation email or letter, the appointments could change. Yes, I would LOVE to be leaving tomorrow but just having a target date helps us to hold on a little longer.
Since today is February 1st, it is a huge blessing to know that Ezequiel will be in our home, right here in North Carolina THIS MONTH! Even with the delays, slow downs, uncertainties and pitfalls, I would do this again in a heartbeat! Adoption is an amazing picture of God's love for us. Experiencing it first hand, even for the third time, renews my faith and draws me closer to Him.

Friday, January 22, 2010

With a Little Help From My Sen . . .

Okay, cheesy title but, hey . . . getting up for several nights in a row from 1am -3am trying to call the US Embassy in Manila for updates on our case WILL make you a little loopy. You should all try it!
Here's the status: Ezequiel's visa and passport appointment are ready to be scheduled by the US Embassy in Manila!!! As of today, they have not been but it should be any day now. After several nights of fruitless calls to Manila (I can hardly wait for the phone bill) and only getting through to the Embassy about every 6th or 8th attempt, I decided there had to be another way to find out about our case. I googled something clever like "how can i contact the us embassy in manila" and up popped the contact information for my very own, real live Senator, Richard Burr. I called his office and got through on the FIRST TRY (so THERE, US Embassy) and was immediately put in touch with a wonderful woman who emailed me forms to sign within about 45 seconds of hanging up with her. The forms were permission for her to contact the embassy on our behalf. YOU BETCHA!!!!! I hope to be posting very very soon that we have an update and an actual travel date!!! I can not stop dreaming about that beautiful boy! This is truly "the 9th month of pregnancy" at it's finest!
Keep praying, my dear friends, we are almost there~!!!!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Orphanage Donations

Many of you precious friends who have prayed us through this adoption have been asking if you can send donations with us for Ezequiel's orphanage, Gentle Hands.
The answer is . . .YES (but not monetary donations). If you feel led to give money to this Christ-centered institution, log on to www.gentlehands.org and donate via the instructions on the web site. If you want to give items (new or gently used), we can take them with us. The items we'll gladly take are:
1. gently used or new children's summer clothing (newborn to 6x)
2. art and school supplies
3. children's vitamins or medications (such as Motrin,Tylenol,etc)
4. thin blankets and crib sheets (new or gently used)
5. children's shoes (size 0-13)
6. powdered baby formula or dry goods (baby cookies, dry noodles, etc)

I'll be glad to pick up items from you if you live within 30 minutes or so of my home.
If you need an address to mail something, contact me via the comments section here or my private email addy (nikesquivel@nc.rr.com).

For His Fame,
Nikki

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Ticket Time!!!!!

I can hardly believe we have finally come to "ticket time"! We are comparing air fares and looking for our travel date to be issued any day now! You would think I would be able to sit back and relax a bit since the longest part of the journey is behind us but I am so keyed up that I am like a teenager in love! I drop things all the time, my memory is worse than ever, I find myself daydreaming about that moment when I first see my new son . . . you don't even want to know the many ways in which I have shirked my responsibilities in my home in exchange for a few more minutes to sit and think about Ezequiel! I am savoring this part of the wait. I know that in a few short weeks, I will be getting to know our boy in REAL LIFE! I will have to figure out what he likes to eat, how he wants to be held, his sleeping pattern and I'm sure I'll have to put the dog food bowl someplace where the dog can reach but Ezequiel can't! THIS, my friends, is why we call adoption a roller coaster. It brings out the best and the worst in us. It reminds us that life is something worth getting excited about!
It takes us back to the fundamentals of our faith. God is the author of life. He gives us children to shepherd and uses those children to bring us closer to Him. It's a win-win situation, no doubt. I get a beautiful new son and a closer walk with Jesus. Why doesn't everyone adopt?