Thursday, November 24, 2011

Blessed Beyond Measure

On this Thanksgiving, I just wanted to share some of the things I'm thankful for. (not in any particular order)
1.  I'm thankful for God who is bigger than I could ever imagine.  I'm grateful that He's in control of my life and not me.
2.  My amazing, hilarious husband who makes me laugh every day.  Our marriage and relationship is more than this girl could ever dream of.
3.  My beautiful kiddos.  Alex, my benevolent dictator who will take over a small country one day, is my teacher and my partner in crime.  She surprises me every day with new insights.  TJ, who showed me how significant a life is, no matter how short it is.  And finally, Jesse Getiso, my sunshine; I now understand why all of my boyfriends' mothers hated me growing up.  I will cut a hoochie mama if she comes near my son (not that I was a hoochie mama, but the mother son bond is indescribable).
4.  I'm thankful for our church family at Harvest who has been through some crazy times w/ the Craig family this year.  I love this group of people.
5.  My small group is out of control.  Thank you for accepting me, bumps and bruises included and for laughing at my corkiness.  I would sleep in a cabin in the woods for any of you guys any time.  Yes, I will make the documentary about our group one day.
6.  My in laws.  I feel like I've grown so close to them, especially since moving to Indy.  They would do anything for me at anytime.  I can't believe how supportive they are.  I love them dearly.
7.  A job that supported me in taking some time off to be home with my kids while Jesse adjusted.  Thank you, HSE.
8.  Teaching.  It gives me purpose and an outlet to help kids find who they are in this crazy world.  I'm honored and humbled to work among professionals who love kids so much.
9.  My mini van.  I must admit that I've hated this car, but now that I have two kids I'm grateful.
10.  HGTV, which helps fill in some of the gaps in my day.
11.  Meijer.  They make great diapers, and they're cheap.  Also, they carry a big selection of organic food, and I don't feel like I have to chop off a limb to pay for it.
12.  Being able to go to Ethiopia twice this year.  Absolutely, hands down, some of the greatest memories of my life for a variety of reasons.  I can't wait to go back.  I feel as if there's a part of me there now.
13.  Our friends from all over the country, whom we traveled with to Ethiopia.  Oh my gosh, I love this group of moms dearly.
14.  Technology to communicate with friends, especially those far away, including my O-town ya yas.
15.  Access to good healthcare.  Enough said.
16.  The public library, which is my new favorite place.  I heart story time.
17.  Being able to get baptized with my Alex.  I was much more emotional than I imagined I would be.
18.  All God's Children and Hannah's Hope.  What an incredible group of people who are truly a champion for children.  Our adoption process was bumpy, but they stuck with us through it all.  Also, when we had to leave Jesse on our first trip, I knew how much love they were pouring into our little man at HH.  God bless them.
19.  JabuAfrica.  I love that I get to do whatever I can for this organization.  Thanks, Sarah, for all you do.
20.  The crazy road that has led me to Christ.  No more words needed.

Ok, that's enough.  I'm certain I'm leaving things out.  It's bound to happen.  Happy Thanksgiving.  I send you love and warm wishes on this wonderful day.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Yesterday, after stuffing myself silly at Alex's class Thanksgiving feast, she turned to me in the car and said, "Well, tomorrow is going to be the worst day ever."
Surprised, I asked why.  She responded, "Tomorrow is the day TJ died last year."
She remembered that on the eve of Thanksgiving, her little brother whom she dreamed about and prayed for died.
One year later, I remember that she was with me, just she and I, when I received the news that he suddenly passed away in the middle of the night.  We were in my classroom on my day off preparing for the substitute who was to take the reins for me while Steve and I were in Ethiopia officially making TJ ours, just days away from getting on that plane and holding him in our arms.  She is the one that heard and saw my sobs on the phone as I received the news; my then 8 year old girl.  I understand that this is a day that she will remember for a long time to come.
The Holy Spirit was with me in the car yesterday as I began to tell her this:
Tomorrow we will celebrate a great God who is taking care of our boy.   Even though we will be sad because he isn't here with us, we will give Him our thanks for all that He's doing for TJ until we get there ourselves to see and rejoice with him.  We'll be thankful that our hearts formed a very special place for him.  And we're gonna celebrate that He brought home Jesse, our amazing Jesse.  Our family grew with two boys since a year ago, not just one.
Today, I ask that you lift up in prayer the orphans of the world.  There are an estimated five million orphans in Ethiopia.  We have had the opportunity to love, with all of our hearts, two sweet boys who were once called orphans.  One is dancing with Jesus and the other is trying to snatch his sister's chocolate muffin with a huge grin on his face.  Pray for their safety, health, education, and overall well being, but most of all, pray that they have the opportunity to be a part of a family, to be adopted.
Thanks so much and thank you to our Lord for all that He does.  Much love to you as you head into this delicious holiday and give thanks for all that you have.  We are so blessed.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

On this Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday, as many of you know.  Today was not just a day to reflect on our adoption process, but my sweet daughter, Alex, and I were baptized.  It was a two fold day of joy.  I was a spectrum of emotions as I watched my girl go into the baptism pool and then to go myself in front of our friends and family at our amazing church today.  We declared that our love for Jesus is the most important thing in our lives, publicly.  It was so glorious and humbling.  I'm so thankful to have had this moment today.
This evening, in order to reflect on Orphan Sunday, I went through our referral paperwork and pictures on both TJ and Jesse.  I have to say, this was very moving for me.  TJ was abandoned in a hospital shortly after his birth with his twin sister, who died minutes after her birth.  We never had information on his birth mother.  We received pictures of this tiny boy with a worried look on his face.  I remember thinking that I couldn't wait to hold him and bring our love into his heart, so he wouldn't look so afraid.  I remember praying that God would bring a comfort to his heart that his mamma was coming soon and everything would be ok.
Although, technically, TJ died an orphan, he was never that in my heart.  He was mine the second I heard his story on the phone with Brandi, our case manager at AGCI, and laid eyes on his picture.  I was days, just days from getting on a plane to hold him and go to court to make him officially ours.
The other day I was watching Little Women with Alex.  I uncontrollably found tears streaming down my face when Beth was speaking her last words to Joe.  She was saying that when she died she would feel homesick for her sisters because even though she would be in heaven, she would miss her sisters who had such a big place in her heart.  It was cold and blustery outside, much like the day before Thanksgiving last year when we received the news that our boy didn't make it through the night at Hannah's Hope.  We had just gotten the news only 16 hours earlier that TJ was released from the hospital with pneumonia; we didn't even know he was sick before that call; it happened so fast.  I know we'll see TJ in heaven, but sometimes I feel homesick for him.  He has a special place in my heart and always will.
Our goal last year was to just get through the holidays.  We did more than that.  We held one another a bit tighter, we counted our blessings, we thanked God that our boy was with Him, we cried, we prayed, we talked, we regrouped, we changed.  We knew that God gave us this boy to love, and we knew we always would.  We walked through the pain with the help of our friends, the love of our family, and the grace and the comfort that only our God gives.
In late January, we decided that we couldn't turn our backs on what God called us to do.  We gave the thumbs up to AGCI that we would like to move forward with our process, and they gave us their blessing.  They grieved with us too during that season.  Looking back, I'm so thankful for them in ways that I never gave them credit for.
On February 15th, we received this picture:
and this one:
and this one too:

Pictures of a sweet boy named Getiso at 2 months old.  We saw those sweet eyes and smile and moved forward with cautious optimism.  We didn't know right away that we would name him Jesse.  That came later when we felt it was a great name for a little brother.  He was described as happy and strong-willed, and I can atest to that :)   Today, reading his referral, it is bitter sweet.  I mourn for his birth mother.  I pray for her by name everyday.  I can't imagine what my life would be like without this boy, and yet I know that she does live without him.  It's hard.  Because not only do I love this boy with all my heart, I love his birth mamma too.  How could I not?
For those of you who know my Jesse, you know a boy who smiles ALL THE TIME.  He's a boy who loves to high five, pat his head, clap hands, and flirts with everyone in church.  He's joy defined.  He's my boy, and he is loved beyond measure.  
I never saw my boys as "orphans."  They were mine the second I knew them.  
Sometimes I hear people say, "I don't think I could do that," meaning the international adoption thing.  I don't judge them in any way.  I understand the questions or fears behind a statement like that, and I appreciate someone's honesty.  This is just what Steve and I were called to do, whatever route we've travelled to get there.  He's our son, that simple.  It wasn't meant to be any other way.  And I gotta tell you, I would do it again in a heartbeat.  Yes, I would fill out every last bit of paperwork and take the same risks all over again.  We are blessed and that's all there is to it. 
So, today I celebrate Jesus in my individual walk and in my daughter's life and my family's life.  I thank Him for all of it.  I ask Him to bring families to the children who are waiting all over the world, just waiting and praying like you and me.  Thank You, Lord.  Thank You for my family.  Thank You for this love.