Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Long overdue update...

It has been a year, actually it has been a year and four days since Ava and Zoey left their life as orphans and entered their life as members of a family... our family.  And that sums up what this years work has been... Them becoming ours, us becoming theirs.  Breaking down the walls of them and us has been hard for all of us.  We have shared joys, we have cried many tears, we have celebrated victory and suffered defeat.  We have helped each other get back up and keep going.  And slowly and through much pain a family has been birthed.  No longer are Ava and Zoey orphans, no longer are we a family of five but of seven.

Blogging is not my strength... And though I feel that the many who shared in our journey to bring them home are deserving of updates more regularly, I simply fall in to bed most nights exhausted from the emotional, mental and physical demands of raising these five children that God has blessed me with.

There have been some very sweet moments through the past 12 months, but there have been many days that have left me wondering if we would ever feel 'normal'.  You know, I have come to the conclusion that there is nothing normal, rather there was the familiar... And slowly, and I cannot place enough emphasis on that word SLOWLY, we have entered a rhythm of familiar.  Even familiar is relative.  Some days the familiar is the glare of a little girl still suffering from loss and abandonment wondering if you really mean that you will love her no matter what.  Some days familiar means your son looking at you with the frustration that comes from having to share mom and dad, when they really need your attention, and there just aren't enough ears or arms.  Some days familiar is the sound of laughter, and your heart leaps with joy as you peak around the corner to see your five playing together and you breath a sigh of release and try to hold back the tears.  Though the results of adoption are beautiful, the process of adopting and the journey to becoming a family are exhausting, challenging and often an arduous trek, "up hill in the snow both ways".

Would I do it again... For Ava and Zoey yes... Again after this, hmmmm... No.  Please don't take that the wrong way... I believe even still that Ryan and I are called to care for orphans and widows.  As believers in Christ that is a command to all of us.  There are many many ways to do just that and we are committed to that call.  Even now, we are standing in the gap in prayer and support for many children who are stuck in the DRC, waiting for the Congolese government to issue their children exit letters so that they can home to their families desperately waiting for them.  The fact that Ava and Zoey are home amazes me, but the fact that their friends are still stuck breaks our hearts, because it could have been them.

Please pray with us for their friends to be able to come home to their forever families.

Much love!  All of us!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

SO after our last post, our life kinda got turned upside down.  One day we will be able to share all of the details but for now I can share that it has been a FIGHT for our daughters.

In December we began to sense that not all was as it seemed with our adoption.  Though our agency advised against it, Ryan and I felt that the time had come for me to go over to the DRC to figure out what was going on with our daughters and to try to figure out what needed to be done to bring them home.

From the moment I arrived at the guest house in January, I knew that the remainder of our journey was not going to be easy.  I battled for my daughters, and was broken hearted when I left one month later... with empty arms, and more questions than I had received answers.  Broken and bruised, grief stricken... unsure of when or even IF I would ever see my sweet girls again.

Ryan was in Afghanistan, I was in Africa, and our boys were in America.  Stretched across the planet, we ached to be together again, and God, ever so sweet, answered our prayers and Ryan returned home less than a week after me and the boys (and 3 1/2 months EARLY).  

We continued to try to unravel the web of confusion, and deceit... waiting patiently (sometimes impatiently) for the Embassy to do their investigation into the orphan status of our daughters.  Seems crazy to do such a thing at the very end of the process, and even crazier to process for Ryan and I that the girls might not be true orphans after all the documents had been processed.  BUT I promise it isn't that crazy knowing now what we didn't know then.

In April, some events unfolded that left us no choice but to travel again.  SO, this time Ryan stayed home with the boys, and I flew across the ocean to take care of the things that in reality I should not have had to take care of... but none the less... these are our daughters... and we had NO CHOICE.  The trip was very successful, but again I left empty armed.  The tears streaming down my daughters faces as I had to say good-bye to them at the airport left me more than broken hearted.  I felt peace, but also intense pain.

Then, last week, we finally heard the words that we have been LONGING to hear.  "We are going to issue visas."  OH.MY.WORD!!!  Our girls are coming HOME!!!  FINALLY!!!

Our plan is to fly out at the end of this month (June) and we hope that we will be home mid-July.  Please pray for our family!

*Pray for our boys, as they will be apart from us for ANOTHER month this year.
*Pray for our hearts and for our daughters hearts as we prepare to travel to bring them home, and for the adjustment following.
*Please pray for all of the details that need to fall into place between the now and then.
*Please pray that we are issued Exit Letters without delay or difficulty.

We danced a very happy dance when we discovered that our fundraising was complete... so we thought... but since we had the two additional trips and several unexpected expenses we are short.  We are all out of steam for fundraising, but we are in need of an additional $2500-$3000 to cover our expenses in country.  Many of you have asked what you can do to help us get ready to go on this final trip, there isn't much that can't be done by Ryan and I, when it comes to getting ready to go... but we invite you to pray fervently and to give if you so feel led.  Our motto from the beginning has been "One Drop at a Time".  Every single dollar helps and will be used for travel expenses.  Our plane tickets alone are going to be about $6800.00.  We know that we serve a mighty God!

Thank you for continuing to follow our journey.  For all of the prayers, support, and encouragement that we have been given.  We could not have walked this journey alone.  We praise God for each one of you!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Where we are...

Ok, first things first... I have not forgotten about the rest of the story.  Sorry I have left you hanging on "But God..." I have attempted several times to write the blog sharing the rest of the story, but it has been a little hard to sum it up.  I talked to Ryan tonight and we both agree that it is important to finish the story, but more importantly that we write it together.  SO we are going to do just that... Promise, it is coming soon.

In the meantime, I just wanted to take a moment to update you on where we are with our sweet Ava and Zoey's process.  Alot has happened in the past few weeks.  W received our Adoption Deed at the beginning of November, followed by their birth certificates and our I600 was submitted to the USCIS for approval.  We don't have a set date to bring the girls home, but we have made a plan for the remaining time prior to the girls coming home.

This past weekend the boys and I took a trip to Gatlinburg, TN to soak up some mother/son time.  It was a real treat and we all had so much fun!  We are excited to bring Ava and Zoey home, but it was necessary to spend some time building into Taylor, Kole and Riley before the big transition.  We also celebrated Riley's ninth birthday riding roller coasters at Dollywood.  SO.MUCH.FUN!

On December 15th we will drive to Florida to spend some time with family for the holidays.  Then we will trek to NH, where we will stay until I fly out to the DRC to pick up the girls.  My in-laws will be driving the boys home while the girls and I are making our way home.  Ryan will also be flying home for the grand reunion.  I am so excited that we will be able to bring our girls into our house hand in hand, though it will break my heart into a million pieces to have to let him go again for a few more months!

Between now and then I have more paperwork to get done, and a TON of packing to do.  Please pray for our family over the next months as you have been over the past several months.  We covet your prayers!!!

Tomorrow we will return to homeschooling and begin the crazy packing for FL weather, NH weather... And the DRC!

I am certain that posts will become more regular now that we have so much going on... As if the holidays don't bring enough excitement on their own... Haha!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Thank You Video

We made this video as a way to say Thank You to everyone who has supported us as we have journeyed to bring our daughters home from the DRC.  Thank you so much for being a part of their beautiful story.  We cannot wait to tell them how it all unfolded.  The list at the end of the video is humbling and moved us to tears.  A true testament of God's faithfulness.

As Thanksgiving approaches, we are so thankful for you!  

We cannot wait to bring our girls home!!!  SOON, VERY SOON!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dear Ava and Zoey...

Dearest Ava Joy and Zoey Grace,

I have so many hopes and dreams for you my precious little girls.  But even more I pray that you will come to know that Jesus has so many more.  I have such a deep longing for you to be here with me, but I pray that you will know that Jesus longs even more for you to abide in Him.  I have so many fears, but I pray that together we will learn that Jesus' perfect love casts out fear.  My heart breaks for the pain that you have experience, but I pray that you will come to know Jesus as the one who heals all of your hurts.  I long for you to be able to be little girls, but I pray that one day you will learn that even a child is known by the things that she does.  I pray that you will be smart, and love learning, but more I pray that you will learn that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of all wisdom.  I pray that you will become women of vision, but that in that you will learn to desire God's vision for your life, and that you will learn to submit your desires to Him, and discover the blessing and beauty in a life abandoned to Him.  I pray that you will be strong, but that you will know that your strength comes from Him, and Him alone.  I pray that you will sing, and sing loudly because He inhabits the praises of His people.  I pray that you will be free, but that you will choose to become a servant, just as Christ humbled Himself and became a servant.  I pray that when you look in the mirror, that you will see beauty within, that you will see the woman that God created you to be and that you will embrace every detail of who He made you to be.  

You are coming home to America.  You will be given so much.  You don't know it yet, but you have SO many clothes, and shoes, and toys.  These things will never satisfy.  I pray that you will one day understand that it was not to give you all of these things that we came for you, but it was because God chose us and in doing that He chose you!  He chose you for us!  He chose you and us for a specific purpose... we will journey down this road together to discover that purpose.

Sweet girls, I promise you that I will fail you.  I promise you that I will make mistakes.  Not because I want to fail you or hurt you but because I am still learning each and every day how to love like Jesus, and how to walk in His ways.  I pray that you will learn that Jesus will never fail you... and that He never makes mistakes.  I pray that together we will discover more and more each day how deep His love is for us, and that because of that we will love each other deeply, and grow together, all seven of us, in His grace.

There will be hard times, there will be storms, and there will be trials... I know this because God tells us these things are true... but He promises that He will carry us through them if we will only trust Him.  He tells us that even in hard times that we can have JOY... not a fake-it-til-you-make-it kind of joy, but a deep and satisfying joy because we are assured that He makes all things beautiful in His time.

It will take time for you to come to know all of these things, but even tonight I pray that He is embracing you tightly, holding you in His strong arms, singing over you, and speaking to your hearts.  I pray that tonight you sense His presence all around you... I pray that He is making Himself known to you, to those very secret places of your hearts!!!

Girls, I LOVE YOU!!!  I am overwhelmed that God has chosen me to be your mommy.  There truly is no greater gift that He has ever given me than to be a momma, to be YOUR momma!!!

There are so many more things that I want to tell you... and I will...


Thursday, October 25, 2012

When marriage feels like sinking sand...


I mentioned in our last post that I really should blog about the event that changed the course of our marriage.  SO that is what I am going to do!

Tonight, Ryan is thousands of miles away, deployed in Afghanistan.  Though deployments are nothing new for our family, (this is our 4th), this one is SO very different.  I miss Ryan in a whole new way because our marriage is in a very different place than it was during the last deployments!  There was so much insecurity surrounding the last deployments.  Sure, it was hard for him to be away, and the typical fear that comes from knowing that your loved one is at war, that there are people who are plotting consistently to take their lives.  But the fear that gripped me the most was... are we strong enough to survive this deployment.  Will our marriage make it, even if he comes home.

We were deeply entrenched in the deployment dance.  For those of you who have experienced back to back to back deployments, you understand.  For those of you who don't, this is what it looks like...  You find out that your spouse is going to be deployed, so you spend several weeks preparing to say goodbye for a really long time.  You live in an alter reality, experiencing all of your "lasts" for the next year.  You know, our last movie, our last dinner out as a family, our last outing to the park, our last..... During this time you focus on the necessary details of wills and Power of Attorney's and such.  You do whatever it takes not to argue, so you avoid all sensitive topics at all cost.  THEN finally they leave, and you find a new rhythm to your days.  For me, it was caring for our children and home on my own.  Whenever Ryan would call, we would try to avoid any "real" conversation because well... the phone calls are short and it might be your last.  You don't want to hang up angry.  This dance goes on through the length of the deployment.  THEN FINALLY the day comes when you find out your man is on his way home.  You go get your hair done, buy a new dress, get the kiddos a special outfit, make posters and join all of the other families in this great and glorious welcome home ceremony.  You kiss, and embrace and all is right in the world... NOT, atleast not for us.  For about 6 weeks we were in the honeymoon phase... then reality drops in like a bomb from a B52.  Out of no where chaos moves in, and makes himself at home.  The fact that we had not had any "real" conversation for about 14 months meant that we had grown apart, rather than together.

We struggled to find a way to communicate, and to connect.  I had learned to be pretty independent in just about everything and well, Ryan and I became glorified roommates.  This is the ugly truth.  We really didn't like each other.  We had been through such different experiences during those times and we just didn't know how to get back to where ever it is that we had come from.   We tried counseling, the traditional way, meeting weekly with a professional marriage counselor, but it seemed that we left more angry and with more questions.  It seemed that it was like we were there just to get through another week, but never really dealt with the underlying issues of why we were where we were.

In November 2009, I watched Ryan pack up all of his belongings into duffle bags, and tough boxes in preparation for another deployment.  Those things were packed up and sent off to Afghanistan.  We were expecting that he would leave sometime shortly after the new year.  However, he had blown out his knee and was in need of surgery, and something had happened to his ears, and he was unable to fly.  I think that I mentioned that in the other post.  This was a pivotal moment for us.  We had been dancing and dancing and suddenly the music changed, and we didn't know how to dance to it.  He was home.  The unit was deployed.  We were stuck with each other.  I truly believe to the very core of my being that all of these things happened to save our marriage.

In July 2010, Ryan (the boys and I tagging along) went to Pensacola, FL to try to overcome whatever it was going on in his ears that kept him from being able to fly without getting so sick.  This was the last-ditch effort before being taken off of flight status.  Ryan had wanted to fly since he was a young boy, and now all that he had worked for to make his dream reality was quickly fading.  Along with that, we were unsure of what the Army was going to do with him, and feared that we might soon find ourselves making a major life change out of the Army.  There was real and intense stress!  One day we blew!  We started fighting and could not stop.  Our anger had turned to bitter hatred and we were DONE!  Ryan told me that he wanted me to leave and go home, and that he was going to have the divorce papers drawn up.  I knew that without a miracle we would never recover from this argument.  Having grown up with divorced parents, this was the very last thing that I wanted for our boys.  Divorce might make things better for the adults, but it is never better for the kids... NEVER!  It still effects life today... and my parents have been divorced for 20 years!

BUT GOD... to be continued...

It's been a month... and much has happened...

Wow, I can hardly believe that a month has gone by since I last posted to the blog.  I have started posts, and left them undone, unable to really gather my thoughts and put them into sentences that would make any sense.  So let me try to summarize where we are with life, adoption and deployment.

Ryan has been gone almost 2 months.  I cannot believe that we are almost a quarter of the way through this deployment.  A wonderful friend of mine helped me to put into words why this deployment has been the hardest yet.  As I shared in the last post, our marriage has really been transformed.  The tragedy of a wonderful marriage is the intense pain that comes when you are separated.  Amen!!!  This deployment is unlike the last deployments when I was stricken by fear - fear of death, not only the possibility of Ryan not coming home but also the death of our marriage.  I don't fear those things, but I miss Ryan deeply.  Reality is that you never get used to it, it never gets easier, and it never hurts less!  BUT God!!!  He gives me the grace to walk through this, and he lightens my load, and comforts my broken heart.  He is near!

This month, I have muddled through homeschooling.  Haha!!!  All of the greatest of intentions have not led to the destination that I envisioned, but my children are learning, and we are putting one foot in front of the other.  Some of the greatest growth in my sons has not been academically.  They are truly becoming young men.  There are moments when I see the little shoots of life sprouting forth from the seeds planted long ago... how badly I want to just move the "dirt" out of the way, but I know that doing this would only weaken them.  Strength, character and fortitude are being solidified in these moments!  I am so proud of them!  The boys are so much help and I am so blessed to have them home with me, even if school doesn't always look the way I had envisioned.

As for Ava and Zoey, my sweet girls, they seem to be doing well.  They are in a new orphanage in Kinshasa.  The orphanage is much cleaner and the caretakers are very nice!  (Fellow families from CCI shared these facts with me.  They just "GOT" their kiddos from the same orphanage that our girls are currently living.)  On September 25th, we received our adoption judgement that means we had passed court!  It was amazing to see their names Ava Joy Owen and Zoey Grace Owen written on the official document.  YESTERDAY, we passed the required 30 day period of non-appeal.  Today we received our Certificate of Non-Appeal.  It is official, we are a family of SEVEN!!!  There are still many steps in the process, but we are praying that they will be home soon!

This past week, my sister-in-law, came to help me clean and organize my house!  I cannot even express in words the huge blessing that it was to have her help, but also her company.  We worked hard, and my house has become an uncluttered sanctuary.  The most exciting part of it all is that the girls' room is completely put together!!!  Due to some super generous donations, there are more clothes in their closet than I could ever have imagined.  Breanna organized them all by size and season, and neatly arranged them accordingly.  I could have never done all of that on my own.  Thank you Breezy!!!

God continues to show and extend His grace daily, though sometimes I return it with a smug-upturned nose.  Life doesn't always look how I think it should, and it is in those moments that God has gracefully reminded me that I am not in control, and that in fact, I am HIS, to be a vessel to glorify Him in whatever it is that He choses.  The unbelievable beauty is that He still choses to use me.  He promises me that He has a plan for me each and every day... I am moved to humble tears when I think of all of the ways that He has demonstrated His love for me.  Reality is that I am nothing... I have nothing good to offer anyone... BUT GOD!!!  In my brokenness may I always remember this... Apart from Him I can do NOTHING, but through Him I can do all things!  Even the really hard things.