Friday, December 28, 2012

Introducing Our Daughter Meilí


For the Lord God is a sun and shield;  The Lord gives grace and glory;
No good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly.
O Lord of Hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!
Ps. 84:11-12

Monday, December 17 started out like an ordinary, insanely busy, crazy day.  We survived breakfast, school drop off, frantic Christmas candy making, school pickup, snack, homework, a panicked search for everyone's karate gee, and the scurrying rush of boys racing to the car to head to karate with Daddy.

Ah, quiet at last.  Just me, Granny Lou, and a mountain of laundry.

Then my cell phone rang, but I didn't make a rush to answer, afraid it might be another Christmas Candy Creations order!  After a few minutes, I found my phone, saw I had a voice mail, and called to check it.  

What I heard made my heart stop and my palms sweat.
It was the call we thought would never come.

It was our adoption family coordinator calling to say she had a potential referral for us and requesting that I call as soon as possible. With trembling hands, I returned her call. She began telling me a little more about a little girl that they thought would be a good match for our family.  I could hardly breathe.  When she had given me more details, she asked if I would like to review the file.  "Yes, yes, yes!" I said.  "Okay," she said, "I am sending the file right now."   I hit the refresh button a thousand times before the e-mail came through.

And then...there she was.  This beautiful, tiny precious baby.

My heart was captured.   I knew there was still so many steps we had to take, combing through her file, requesting medical updates from China, reviewing her file with a doctor, but I was in love with her.  I could hardly wait for Tollie to get home!

We immediately requested updates from China on Tuesday morning but were skeptical that we would hear anything before Christmas.  But God is merciful, and, Thursday morning, December 20th, I woke up to updated pictures of the most beautiful baby I could imagine. I could not hold back the tears.  There was still no medical update yet, and I knew we couldn't make anything official until we received that, but she was ours.  I couldn't quit staring at her picture.  Thank the Lord it was Pajama Day at school because I doubt I would have had sense enough to find clothes for the boys!   

We finally received her updated medical report yesterday, and so, today, we officially accepted the referral for our daughter Meilí   Her name means beautiful, and it fits her perfectly.  She is 13 months old, and her orphanage is located in central China.  We hope to travel in April or May to get her. 

Now that we have accepted her referral, our adoption agency has about three weeks to find a second referral for us.  Please pray that the Lord works out every detail, and that if it is His will, we are matched quickly and will be able to add two babies to our family.

Thank you for celebrating with our family at this wonderful thing that God has done. He does truly accomplish more than we can ask or imagine.  Praise His wonderful name!

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.  
Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it.  
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him."
Ps. 37:4-5,7

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Day of Miracles

"Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!"
1 Chronicles 16:8 

On Saturday, October 27, 2012, we saw God shine.  We saw His hand so clearly as He orchestrated every detail of our Both Hands Project.  From ALL the supplies donated to ALL the food donated to ALL the volunteers to PERFECT weather, God took care of it ALL.

The work that was accomplished was FAR MORE than we could have imagined.  And the JOY we all felt at seeing the results of our hard work made all the blisters and sore muscles completely worth it.

Working on our widow's house was a blessing for us and for her.  She is thrilled with her "new" house and just keeps saying what a miracle it was that we were willing to help her!

And we are so excited to have an AMAZING video that captures this miracle...a miracle for a widow and and a miracle for orphans because it is helping us raise funds to bring our babies home from China.  To see our video, click the link Both Hands Project Video and use the password Gosnell (if you need it).  

The goal for our Both Hands Fundraiser was to raise $20,000 for our adoption through this project, which seemed impossible at first.  BUT, just ONE week after the project, we have already raised over $9,000!!!  We are almost halfway there!

If you would like to help us bring our babies home, you can give a tax-deductible donation on our Adoption Fundraising Page.  Every gift, no matter the size, helps us get closer to our babies!  Thank you for being a blessing to us, to a widow and to orphans!

Serving with Both Hands.  One for the Widow, One for the Orphan.

"But I have trusted in Your loving-kindness;   
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord, 
Because He has dealt bountifully with me."  
Psalm 13: 5-6

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Both Hands Project

Now all glory to God, who is able,
through his mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 
Ephesians 3:20

Just as runners wait, with muscles straining, anticipating the crack of gun shot to begin their sprint, we have also been waiting anxiously, desperate to move forward in our adoption.  And, finally, FINALLY, it seems we have heard that gun shot, and we are moving!

Thelma Lou Carter
As many of you know, we feel God calling us to consider adopting two babies from China!  And while we are absolutely thrilled at the prospect of adding two more children to our family, adopting two babies from China costs between $50,000-$60,000! Therefore, this weekend we are gearing up for our Both Hands Project to bless a widow, Thelma Lou Carter, and to raise money for our adoption at the same time!  Our goal is to raise $20,000. 
Here is how it works:
Each project starts with an adoptive family. The family recruits a team of friends to work on a widow’s house. In advance of doing light repairs, painting, de-cluttering, cleaning, and landscaping, team members ask family members and friends to sponsor them for the day while they work on the house. Volunteers will be sponsored for a day of labor much in the same way that a 5k marathon runner or golfer earns funds for a local charity. All sponsorship funds raised goes to help offset the high cost of adoption. To date, Both Hands has raised over $2,100,000, helped 218 widows, affected 236 orphans, enabled over 6500 people to serve a widow in need in their community, and completed over 202 projects just like this one.
God has opened the windows of Heaven and poured out blessings on our project.  We have an incredible team of 45 volunteers signed up to help us this Saturday, Oct. 27, with painting, planting, mulching and pressure washing!  So many businesses have offered to help in some way:  mulch from Home Depot, paint supplies from Johnson's Ace Hardware, bottled water and granola bars from Costco, paint from Sherwin-Williams with the help of Rita Allison and Steve Parker, and lunch for our entire team catered by Little Pigs Barbeque!!
We are also thrilled to be invited to share about our adoption and our Both Hands project on News Channel 7's "Your Carolina" show on January 15th, 2013!  God is opening up so many doors for us to share His love for orphans and widows and to encourage others to obey Him by caring for them!
And the good news continues...just last week we were told that we would be one of the next families to be matched with our babies, which means that hopefully soon, we will finally see those faces that we have been dreaming of for so long!  And because of the fact that we are actually getting close to bringing our babies home, there is such an urgency in our hearts to have all of our adoption funds in place so that when our agency says "GO," we can GO!  
There is a way that you can be a part of us bringing our babies home.  The Both Hands Foundation has set up a donation page for our family.  The link below will give you all the information on how you can make a tax-deductible donation that will go straight to our adoption.  Here is the link:
Our adoption fund has been set up through an organization called Lifesong for Orphans who partners with the Both Hands Foundation and allows others to give to make adoption possible for families like us.
We know that money is tight for so many families right now, but we also know that God blesses those who care for orphans!  Every donation, big or small, helps get us closer to our babies!  If you can help, it would be a blessing to us!
We are overwhelmed at God's goodness and grace as we follow Him.  Please pray for our babies, that God would bring them soon, and that He would continue to watch over them in our absence.  We are asking for His wisdom and guidance as we go through the next steps of our adoption process, knowing that He has a perfect plan for our family.  We feel His presence and are so thankful that He has chosen to bless our family with two more precious treasures.  His plans are abundantly more than we can think or imagine. Praise His Name!
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means
caring for orphans and widows in their distress and
refusing to let the world corrupt you. 
James 1:27

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Hope Blanket Pictures from China: Priceless...

And if anyone gives even a cup of cold water
to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you,
that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
Matthew 10:41-42

 150 million orphans is a number that overwhelms us.

 But then we see the face of one orphan...

...and although we might not be able to change the lives of 150 million,

we realize we can make a difference in the life of one... 

by giving them HOPE with something as small as a blanket.

Thank you, Hope Blanket Sponsors. 

These are the  faces of the precious babies that were blessed by your Hope Blankets. 

 You have given a blanket in Jesus' name,

and you will certainly not lose your reward. 

Be blessed!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Walking on Water

"The heart of man plans his way,
but the Lord establishes his steps."
Proverbs 16:9

This verse could not sum up any better our adoption journey so far.  Where we thought we were going, and where we are now in this process are two very different places!  Praise God that His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than ours!

On January 20, 2012, God began to show us that His plan for our adoption was much bigger than we had imagined.  It was on this day that we received an e-mail about the China Special Focus program.  This program allows families to adopt two children from China in one trip.  As we discussed this, God began to prick our hearts that maybe this program was for us.  Even as my head screamed "no," my heart was whispering "yes."  So we began to pray.  For almost two weeks we prayed, scared to death at the thoughts of  adopting two special needs babies at the same time.

Nevertheless, eleven days after receiving this e-mail, I contacted our family coordinator about the program.  She told us the first thing we would need to do is get our home study updated to reflect approval for two children and to re-file our immigration paperwork requesting approval to adopt two children as well. 
I began going through our home study and immigration approval and couldn't believe what I was seeing.  I realized GOD had already paved the way.  Both our home study and our immigration paperwork stated approval for two children.  Let me try to explain how this happened.

When completing our home study, our social worker wrote the description of our adoption in much broader terms than we had requested.  I remember being alarmed when I saw that she had approved us for one or two children, boy or girl, up to 48 months with various special needs.  When I asked her about it, she explained that she always writes a broad approval of ages and special needs because, with adoption, anything can happen.  (Spoken like a true prophet!)  She said not to be concerned because our agency would match us with a child according to the age or special needs that we specified.  At that time, I had no clue what God was doing, but looking back, it is clear that He was writing our home study according to His plan, not ours.

Next we needed to check on our immigration approval (IA).  When I filled out our IA paperwork, we had the choice of seeking approval to adopt one child, two children, or three or more children.  It didn't cost any more for approval for two, so I bubbled in two children, having NO CLUE China even allowed two children to be adopted at the same time!  So, not only was our home study already written for two, our immigration paperwork also reflected approval for two special needs children.

Whoa!  It was starting to feel like maybe God really was going to give us two children, and we were SCARED TO DEATH!!  We waffled back and forth for two months, some days feeling sure God was going to give us two more children, some days not even sure we could handle the four we already had!  By Friday morning, March 30, after two particular phone conversations, one with our social worker and another with a friend who works with special needs children, I was pretty sure that we could not adopt two special needs babies at once, that it was just going to be too difficult.

With a heavy heart, I went on to Piedmont Women's Center to volunteer.  I asked the other volunteers to pray for God to give us guidance.  Their prayer was that God would give me a  very clear answer, and He did...that very afternoon.

When I got home from PWC, I picked up a book I had been reading by Anne Graham Lotz and here is what God shouted to me:
"What priceless treasure are you in danger of throwing out, simply because of the way it is packaged?  Could it be the treasure of seeing Him?   Sometimes God wraps His glory in hard circumstances or ugly obstacles or painful difficulties, and it just never occurs to us that within those life-shaking events is a fresh revelation of Him...Are you so focused on the outer wrappings that you are in danger of missing or even throwing away the fresh, personal revelation of Himself that He wants to give you?...Change your mind about things - about yourself - about others - about Him. Relax in total trust. He knows what He is doing. Unwrap the package! Let go and look up! Let Him open the eyes of your heart. OPEN YOUR EYES. Open your eyes to the vision of His glory. Prayerfully, expectantly, sincerely, open your eyes to Him."

I was shaken to the core, knowing that God had just spoken to me. He was saying, "Stop looking at the outward appearance of these precious children. You are in danger of missing Me! Change your mind about what you can handle, change your mind about who these precious children are, and change your mind about WHO I AM. I know what I am doing. I am giving you the gift of Myself wrapped up in these children. Unwrap the package. Open your eyes and see what I am doing!"

I am not sure I have ever heard His voice so clearly before. It was such a powerful and humbling experience, and I knew He was confirming His plans for us to adopt two.  And, yet, I was still so afraid.  "Lord, it is going to cost so much more money.   Lord, unless we tie someone to the roof, we don't even have a car big enough to hold us all.  Lord, how can I manage SIX children???"

But, with fear and trembling, we took another step.  We filled out our Special Focus application and  emailed it to our social worker for her approval before sending it on to our adoption agency.  She responded back, "I will have to get special approval for you to adopt two unrelated children, and normally this approval is not given."  I was confused because our home study already reflected approval for two children.  She informed me that the approval was for two related children, such as twins or sibling groups.  She was shocked that she hadn't actually specified that the children must be related.  "I never write a home study that way," she said.  But she agreed to advocate for us and said she would let us know their decision.  So we waited to hear from her.

Two days later, even before we had heard back from our social worker, God gave Tollie major confirmation of His plans as well.  On Wednesday afternoon, God miraculous provided a larger vehicle for us.  Tollie called from work to tell me that there was a Suburban (NINE passengers) in the parking lot that a friend was trying to sell and that he would sell it to us for $1800.  We hadn't even begun to look for a vehicle, and God had already provided.  He drove our vehicle up in the that parking lot, and said, "Here you go.  No need to tie anyone to the roof."

The very next morning, we received word from our social worker that we had received special approval to adopt two unrelated children.  She said she knew this had to be God because she could not explain the way she had written our home study any other way.  God is good! we are.  Waiting.  Knowing that it is still going to take a million miracles for this to all work out.  It is far from being a done deal, but God has open EVERY SINGLE DOOR so far.  We just continue to take small steps of obedience as God continues to open the doors.

Through all of this, God is teaching me to trust Him in so many ways.  To trust Him for who He is-
as Elohim, the Creator, who knit together every one of these babies according to His plan,
as El Elyon, the God Most High, who is sovereign over EVERYTHING,
as El Roi, the God Who Sees, who sees our babies even while we can't,
as El Shaddai, the All-Sufficient One, who is and will provide everything we need, and
as Adonia, Lord and Master, who has wonderful plans for us as we follow Him.

Just as Peter had to get out of the boat to walk on water, we know that we cannot experience all God has for us if we remain in the safety of our "boat."  We can choose to be safe or we can choose to follow Him.  If we choose to risk the crashing waves, we will experience His power in miraculous ways.  So we choose to jump, knowing full well we are going to get wet, knowing we are going to sink at times when we focus on circumstances rather than Him, but also knowing this:"If we allow ourselves to live recklessly for Him, then we will see His glory.  We will see Him do the impossible,"(Francis Chan). 

So, we are getting out of the boat because we, too, want to

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Waiting Game

But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;  they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Isaiah 40:31

I am not sure if it was pride or naivety or just plain old denial, but, although we had been told how difficult the waiting was in adoption, I really didn't think it would be for me.  Anxious, maybe, like a kid is for Christmas, but, we were so busy, I told myself, that we would blink, and the time to go get our daughter would be here.  But I was dead wrong. 

This waiting game has been heart-wrenching.  I get so weary of playing it some days, the longing in my heart almost too much to bear.  But, play I must, because the prize is too great to miss. On the day I hold my daughter in my arms, I know it will all be worth it.  But some days, that day seems like it may never get here. 

Although I knew in my head that we would be waiting a long time, my heart apparently never got the message.   Each month, on the day that more children become available for adoption, my heart can't help but hope--hope that the phone will ring, hope that they will say they have found our daughter.  I hope for the impossible, even though I know our time has not yet come.

But even though this waiting is so much more difficult than I had ever imagined, I know God is faithful.  I know His timing is perfect.  I know that our daughter will be here at exactly the right time, and I wouldn't want it any other way.  He sees the big picture, and I cannot.  So I trust Him.  Even when my heart is breaking, even on the days that I just want out of the game, I trust Him.  Because He promises the very best for His children and His promises are ALWAYS true, I trust Him. 

There is a reason for this waiting, and He is revealing it to us a little at a time.  He is accomplishing His purpose in us and through us.  He is opening doors for us to share our adoption story and to encourage others to answer His call to care for orphans.

One opportunity is coming up on March 11, at the Casting Crowns concert.  We have been asked to represent America World (our adoption agency) and Show Hope (a ministry that cares for orphans) at the concert.  We will be giving out information and answering questions for those who are interested in adoption.  And the coolest thing about it is how God orchestrated it all. 

Several months ago I heard that Casting Crowns was coming to the Bi-lo Center, so for Valentine's, I asked for tickets.  I told Tollie I would order them.  But every time I went to purchase them, I felt such a hesitancy.  So much so, that I never bought the tickets, but had no idea why.  Then, last Monday (less than a week before the concert), I get an e-mail from Show Hope saying that they needed volunteers for the concert, and of course, they would provide the tickets.  WHAT!!  FREE TICKETS and a chance to talk about adoption.  Who could do this besides God??  And as icing on the cake, we will be volunteering with another couple from the area who is adopting from AWAA, who we will finally be able to meet face-to-face. 

And it doesn't stop there.  The very next day we were invited to share our adoption story at the  America World Adoption Seminar coming up on March 24 in Spartanburg.  We are so honored and excited about this special opportunity because it was at this amazing seminar last year that God changed the course of our adoption.  We are thrilled to be part of it again this year and thrilled that He is using us to share His love and passion for adoption and for orphans.

It is in these moments, when we see His hand so clearly, that our strength is renewed.  We can walk this road a little longer.  Because we hope in Him, we can continue to play the Waiting Game.  We can continue to follow Him, step-by-step, in this call to adoption, knowing that He will continue to show Himself to us, knowing that He is in control. 

He knows how difficult this waiting is on a mommy's and daddy's heart, and we know He will continue to encourage us in incredible ways.  He is good and faithful.  His plans for us are good, plans to give us HOPE and a future.  So we will continue to endure this waiting game, but endure with hope, knowing that He's got it all worked out.  What a gift!  What a Savior!  Oh, how I love and trust Him.