Friday, March 14, 2014

God is in the business of being Awesome

So, we've got some news to share.  News that I've been dreaming of sharing for 18 months when we started this long journey.  News that I know many people have been waiting and waiting to hear.  (and waiting and waiting--I know.)   Now, it's time to spill a lot of stuff. The good, the bad and the awesome.  Did you know that God is in the business of being Awesome?  Of writing stories that only He could pen?  Of working out details that only He could know about?  Of giving answers that only He would even know of the question asked to get that answer?  Yeah, He's good like that.

First, you have to start with this post if you haven't already read it.  (g i v i n g   y o u   s o m e   t i m e   t o   r e a d   i t)   Now, let's go back to November.  The week after Pickin' & Pies, we found out some pretty discouraging stuff that led us to believe that the Madagascar program may not be the best program for us to continue with.  Without sharing too many details, it started looking as if adopting from Mada may not happen anytime soon, if ever.  We were pretty distraught and very unsure of what to do next.  We prayed a lot in that week (and ever since then) asking God to give us guidance, wisdom, discernment, and more trust.  One particular morning I had texted a friend to tell her what was going on and asked her to please pray specifically for guidance.  I sat down to eat breakfast and started to pray, asking God to just speak to me and let us know what He wanted us to do.  As I prayed, the word Uganda kept playing over and over in my head.  I can't really recall that this had ever happened to me before, so I wasn't really sure what to make of it except that I knew I couldn't get it out of my head the rest of the day.  Later I saw the same friend I had texted that morning and told her that I couldn't stop thinking about Uganda.  She asked me when that had started.  I told her it had been all day, but specifically had started at 8:15 when I was praying at breakfast.  She looked at me straight in the eye and said, "Shawna, I was on my knees praying for God to speak to you at that exact same time.  He's telling you Uganda."  When you aren't used to things like this happening, you aren't really sure how to take that.  But this friend in particular, through a crazy Africa story of her own, has taught me a lot about listening to God and those words that keep playing over and over in your head or have been put on your heart.  I shared about my breakfast experience with two other friends that day.  One (who has adopted from Uganda) said, "Looks like you're going to Uganda, sister!" and the other texted back, "He is speaking to you.  Keep listening."  I began to feel that this was a very clear answer He had given me.  So, over the next couple of weeks I started calling several agencies and inquiring about their Uganda programs.  All but one (who seemed very shady) told me that they were not recommending any families join that program.  It was just too unstable, wait times were getting really long and they didn't even know if it would be open in six months.  They were happy to tell me about some of their other programs in Africa, but discouraged any ideas I had of switching over to Uganda.  I started to think that maybe He hadn't been speaking Uganda to me or that it maybe didn't mean what I thought it had meant.  I know He is the God of making the impossible things possible, but I just kind of put those thoughts in a back corner of my mind.

The holidays came and I put off calling agencies for a while.  We were still holding on with Madagascar, but began working on writing a grievance letter to our agency with four other families in our program.  We felt like they had been negligent in a lot of areas and had not been forthright with some information that would have probably made us choose another program from the start.  We finally sent the letter at the end of January.  We waited three weeks for a reply from them and the reply we got was pretty much a whole lot of nothing. No answers to our questions and concerns.  No reason to gain back the trust that we had lost in them.  Three of the five families pulled out of the program at that time and the only reason we decided to still hold on was because the director of our program was actually traveling to Madagascar at the end of February.  We felt like we had invested too much time and money to pull out before we learned of what would come out of that trip.  I didn't want to wait any more, but it did seem to make sense to wait two more weeks after coming that far.  I wasn't expecting much, but we were hopeful that he might come back and say that they were about to start referring kids left and right.  We just didn't know.

That brings us up to last week.  There is a website called Rainbow Kids that has a composite list of waiting children all over the world.  "Waiting children" are kids who are considered harder to place with an adoptive family because they are older or because of some special need they have.  Several agencies have waiting children that are available at the orphanages they work with and they put up a picture with some general information about the child on this site.  They give you their approximate age, if they are considered healthy or not and what continent they are on.  I have looked at this sight just about every day for the last four months.  I have shown some of the children to Jonathan that I thought were cute and he has just smiled and said, "Yeah, they are cute." But ultimately (just like with the name) he couldn't "go there" until we knew for sure what was going to happen in Madagascar.  I understood, but I still looked anyway.  So last week we were in Oregon for my nephew's wedding.  Jonathan and the boys had left on Monday while I stayed with a dear friend for the rest of the week.  I realized it had been a few days since I had last looked on Rainbow Kids, so that night I decided to open up the site and see if any new children had been put up. There had been. One of them was a little girl.  And her name was...

Lullah.

Are.  you.  kidding.  me.   {just got chills all over again}  I kept staring at the name, at HER, making sure I was seeing this right.  Her name was Lullah!!!  Yes, yes, I could see that it wasn't the exact spelling that we have used, but COME ON PEOPLE!!!!!!!!  That is not exactly a common name, here or in Africa.  I don't care how it's spelled.  Her name was Lullah.  That was enough for me.  *And just a note about her name (if you didn't take the time to go back and read this post!)- I truly believe that God gave me that name.  It wasn't like we each had a long list of names that we liked and we narrowed it down to something that we both could live with.  That was the only name we could come up with and I had no idea where it had even come from.  It was just the name that had been put on my heart.*  I texted Jonathan in the middle of the night Nashville time and told him to look at Rainbow Kids when he had a chance.  I wasn't able to talk to him until late Tuesday and he hadn't had time to look.  He said, (kind of sarcastically) "What- is there a child on there that you want to bring home?"  I said, "Yeah.  There is one girl.  Her name is Lullah."  His response was almost a whisper- "What?"  I was thinking I was going to have to do a little convincing, but I didn't.  The name was enough for both of us to inquire about her and just see what happened.  I had already sent an email to inquire about her of course, but it wasn't until Thursday that I actually talked to someone at the agency that was representing her.  The girl told me that yes, she indeed was available, what the process would be like and what the next steps were should we chose to move forward.  We had been talking for a while when I finally asked, "Can you tell me where she is?" to which she quickly replied, "Oh yeah! She's in Uganda!  Did I not already say that?"  No, no you didn't.  I would have remembered that.  I was shaking uncontrollably at that point and my heart was beating something crazy.  Those three days that I had been waiting to talk to the agency about her, I kept feeling like Gideon.  Part of me was like, "Her name is Lullah.  The end." and another part of me was freaked out and like, "Well, I don't know...It does seem like it might be something..." I kept telling God (and my friend Kimmee that I was staying with) that it wasn't like I needed more confirmation, but if she happened to be in Uganda then  OH MY WORD.  And she was.  She is.  She's five years old and she is beautiful.  She has been put on hold for us and we are working to get her home.  She will hopefully be ours-- soon.

Yesterday we officially withdrew from the Madagascar program and from our agency.  We did get the report of the director's trip to Madagascar last week.  It was just more confirmation that we need to be doing something else.  So, we are.  And we are okay with that.  From the beginning of this journey we have always known that switching countries was a possibility.  We've just heard of it way too often.  So we tried to never get attached to Madagascar itself, just to the fact that we were adopting.  Of course the longer we were in the program, the more we began to love the country and get excited about bringing a child home from there, but I think after this many months of there being a strong possibility that we were going to switch that we had already grieved the change.  Now, once it has happened, we are fully at peace with it and ready to move on.  We are working on getting our home study updated and a new dossier put together.  Once we do that, we should be traveling *somewhat* quickly for our first trip to meet our girl.  Please pray that this new paperwork phase (ugh) will go super fast.

I still can't believe what I've just written.  My, how things can change in a week.  God has shown us where our daughter is and we couldn't be more grateful to Him for the way that He has revealed His steadfast love for our family.


(from December 2nd post)
We're not sure exactly what road we will be taking in the next few weeks, but we know that He will lead us down the right one because He already knows where we are headed, and I have a feeling that He's got something very special planned. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Love for Lulah: the movie


We have a lot of talented friends.  Two of them are Gabe and Mandy McCauley.  Mandy, aka Mix Master Mandy, is a rocking guitar artist.  Gabe, aka lilDragon, is a rocking video artist.  Together they are a power couple of creativity and inspiration, aka Gandy.  We love Gandy.  Gandy brought the house down at Pickin' and Pies closing out the show with songs and video magic.  This blog post is about the video magic.  

About a year ago Shawna found this blog, Give1Save1, that features an adopting family's story every week.  Here is how they explain it, "Every Monday we are going to ask you for a dollar. We’re going to tell you who it’s going to and what it’s being used for. We’re mostly funding adoption for the people, by the people. The premise is for lots of people to give a little and let it all add up!....And your dollar will be saving and restoring lives in all kinds of ways. Removing a child from an orphanage gives that child a family and a future, something everyone needs. It also frees up a bed in an orphanage for another child."  Give one dollar, save one child.  A little bit of money, a big difference.  

This has been our approach to fundraising.  Share our story and hope that a lot of people would give a little. God had something else in mind.  A lot of people are giving a lot.  Over and over again they (you) give. Whatever we thought people might give God said, "Just wait.  I am going to take your small little dream and explode it."  They bought tickets to a basketball game, tickets to a concert, stuff at a garage sale, handmade crosses, t-shirts.  They just wrote a check or handed us cash.  Strangers sent us money in the mail with a note like, "I heard about your story and was touched by it."  And the gifts haven't been limited to money.  Several people have generously given their time and God-given talents, which brings us to lilDragon, Give1Save1 and the video magic.  

After finding the blog, we decided we wanted to share our adoption story through a video.  Maybe people far beyond our circles would be touched by what God is doing.  The problem is that we stink at making videos.  lilDragon doesn't (check out their 2013 Hype Reel ). Shawna made a phone call and a few minutes later we had a video in the works.  I don't think they really knew what they were getting into.  It took seven months and several takes to get something they could work with, because we are bad on camera.  Really bad.  We both freeze when we see the red light.  Somehow they took our mess and made it into a masterpiece.  I don't know how they did it, but they captured our story and turned it into something beautiful.  We can't say thank you enough to Nick Nichols, Gabe McCauley and Dave Boyd for logging countless hours filming and editing. 

We don't have any fundraising events planned for 2014, but we do have this video.  Here is some good news- the people at Give1Save1 liked our video and we have been chosen to be featured on their blog. The bad news is that this may not happen for six months (or even longer).  When you have been given something like this it is hard not to go ahead and share, so we're going ahead and sharing.  We think the New Year is the perfect time to do that.  Here is what you can do: 1. Watch the video  2. Share the video with lots of people  3. Pray that God will bring a little girl across the world home soon.  More than anything we want to bring God all glory and praise for how His hand is working in our lives and in the life of one orphan.  Praise to the One who gave One to save everyone.  


So here it is.  Be sure to watch in full screen mode.






You can share it with either of these links:  http://vimeo.com/83075957
or: http://youtu.be/FHU7Ru_JKFs

"Called Me Higher" song by All Sons and Daughters.

jonathan & shawna

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013.


A little late to post, but here is our Chistmas card this year.  Two sweet friends helped us pull it together, both with very little notice.  Dolly did a last minute photo session, and Lydia did the beautiful handwritten words.  I love how it all came together.  



This past year has truly been a year filled with the glories of the Lord's righteousness and wonders of His love for our family.  I am amazed every single day by the way He is working out the details and making straight the paths that He has laid before us.  Our faith has grown by leaps and bounds and our trust in His promises has never been stronger.  I couldn't be more thankful that He has laid adoption on our hearts and will be forever grateful for this journey we are walking, hand in hand with Him.  I am full of confident hope that 2014 will bring great and wonderful things that God will do, things that we haven't even begun to imagine. 

"Call to me and I will answer you. I’ll tell you great and wonderful things that you could never figure out on your own."  {Jeremiah 33:3}

To see the rest of our family photo session at Radnor Lake with Dolly, visit twelve16photography's website.




Check back tomorrow for something pretty great that I can't wait to share. 

Peace and blessings on your New Year!  

xoxo

Monday, December 2, 2013

The things I will remember

November was definitely a month to remember.  There have been some awesome highs and some discouraging lows, but what I want to remember out of November are all the mighty works of the Lord.

First of all, I turned 40 on the 5th and my sweet husband threw me a surprise party!   Although I had been a little suspicious that he was up to some kind of planning, he got me good when it actually came party time.  With the help of some family and friends, it was a lovely night and I'm so thankful that I got to spend it with so many people that mean so much to me.  The Lord has blessed me far greater than I deserve in my 40 years on this earth, and I am so thankful to Him for every good gift that He has given me.  My prayer for my birthday was that this will be the last birthday I spend without Tallulah home with our family!  


{me, Jonathan and my sweet parents who drove up for my birthday and then drove back the 
next weekend for Pickin' & Pies!}

 {some dear friends wrote a song for me (and about me) and sang it at the party.  most of it was nice. :) }

A week after my birthday party was our benefit concert, Pickin' & Pies, and what a high that was!  It really was an incredible, God-glorifying day.  I can't even put into words how much it meant to us that so many people were there and shared in such a special day with us.  We had a crew of friends that were there helping set up starting at 8:30 am and didn't leave until 6 pm.  Several hours were put into it before the day even arrived- not just by us, but by several of our friends.  Anyone that was involved with the event went above and beyond what we asked of them, and we can not thank them enough for what they did for us.  For what they did for our daughter that they've never even met.  So much love was poured into that event and into our family- not just by our friends who were there helping, but also by the people who came to support us.  People drove from near and far, some as far as 4 hours away.  They came and they gave generously.  They brought pies.  They bought t-shirts and our handmade crosses. They pooled their money for auction items.   They ate, they visited, they played, they listened and they watched (we watched) as God made a small fleeting thought about a concert to help bring Lulah home into something bigger than we ever thought it could be.  But no surprise there.  He's really good at doing that.   Through so many generous, loving people, we raised around $5,000 that day. Praise the Lord for He is good!!!!!  

There are so many ways that we saw Him at work in the details over the last several months.  I don't have room or time to tell them all, but I will remember them all.  I'll remember Farmer Paul telling me about why he said yes to us having the event on his beautiful farm when he didn't know us at all and had never let anyone do that before: "Well, I don't know.  It just seemed like the right thing to do." I'll remember how DJ at Just Love Coffee Roasters responded to my email asking him if they would be willing to donate coffee for the event: "We don't normally do this, but I read your story and I'd like to see what I can do for you."  I'll remember the man who owned the Cane Ery Antiques on 8th Avenue, when I went to his shop to buy a few pieces of vintage hardware and decorative wood pieces for the 50+ crosses we were working on.  I told him that my husband and I make and sell the crosses to raise money for our adoption and he told me to pick whatever I wanted from two huge boxes full of stuff that hadn't been put out yet.  Then he gave it all to me.  Over $300 worth.  I'll remember Lindell, the lady that I met at Chick-Fil-A a few days before the concert- a day when I was pretty anxious about some details that were not really coming together out at the farm- that spoke scripture over me and spoke exactly what I had asked God for in prayer just an hour before I met her.   I'll remember Ray, the precious 90 year old man at church who couldn't make it to the concert, but spent his Thursday making six delicious pies to send with us.  I'll remember Chris and Steph, who I don't think had any idea who I was when I emailed them about playing at the concert, but without hesitation said, "Adoption is near and dear to our hearts...we would love to be a part of it...we're here to serve."  I'll remember how I had prayed for the Lord to provide us with a photographer that would be willing to just be there that day and document the event for us (at no charge), and instead of providing one, He provided two- sweet Dolly and Lindsay- who again, even though they had never met us, were so happy and excited to be there and serve in whatever way we wanted them to.   I'll remember what someone wrote me after the concert when I had thanked him for his gracious help: 
"...it was one of those things that was just a huge blessing to me to be a part of. There were so many people there that I love. It was just awesome to be able to be with those people, all joined around your family and your sweet girl. Also, since the event, I've found myself so much more mindful of the Lord around me. Through your journey, there are no telling how many people who are understanding more fully the beauty of adoption and it's parallel to us as orphans. We're praying daily for God's blessings on your family and on your daughter." 

I could go on, but you get the picture.  These are the things I constantly pray that others who are following our story will remember, so that He will be glorified. These things are not about us, but they are about Him.  In no way should they lift us up, but they should in every way lift Him up, because this is who He is.   These are the things I will remember.

But then I will remember all you have done, O Lord;
    I remember Your wonderful deeds of long ago.
12 They are constantly in my thoughts.
    I cannot stop thinking about Your mighty works. 

{Psalm 77:11-12}




{For more gorgeous photos from the day, click on this link.}

Two days after the concert, we were hit with a low.  The enemy started messing with us and made it clear how much he doesn't want this adoption to happen.  We were reminded that this is a battle that we are fighting against one who doesn't want the lonely to be set in families- against a whole army of darkness.

For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places.
{Ephesians 6:12}

But we will not lose hope.  We know God has already won the victory.  After that low came, a wise friend gave me much needed encouragement that I believe came straight from God, reminding me to TRUST.  She said, "The concert was a mountain-top moment for you all as you draw closer to the reality of welcoming another child into your home with loving arms.  With that, I want you to understand that moments like that set up conditions for the perfect storm.  TRUST that when you asked Jesus into your boat, storms would come and come quickly.  Our peace in that storm comes from our faith that we TRUST that He desires what is best for you even more than you do."  I know He does, but it was nice to have the reminder.  Although I can't go into all the details of this particular low we are facing right now, we ask for your prayers during this time of uncertainty.  We're not sure exactly what road we will be taking in the next few weeks, but we know that He will lead us down the right one because He already knows where we are headed, and I have a feeling that He's got something very special planned.  Please pray for our peace in His leading. Pray for greater trust. Pray for our willingness to be led into even greater depths with Him, even when we cannot see.  

Once again, He encouraged me with scripture just when I needed it most- this time coming through a friend of a friend.  That scripture also comes from Psalm 77:

Your road led through the sea,
   Your pathway through the mighty waters-
  a pathway no one knew was there! 
 {Psalm 77:19}

He will make a way when it seems there is no way.  He will make a pathway through the waters to our sweet Tallulah.   

Even through the hard days, November reminded us of how much we have to be thankful for.  Thank you so much to those who have continually lifted our names up before the Father.  You are a blessing to our family.  We ask that you boldly continue to do so, and if you aren't already, we would especially love for you to join us Sunday nights at 9pm CST.  

xoxo