Saturday, August 18, 2012



When we were signing up for the summer hosting program, we needed to have 10 people who would agree to be our prayer partners.  Those people/families prayed for us during the summer and got updates from the program as a whole.  The hosting agency continued to send out emails regarding the program in order to keep people informed and to recruit families for future hosting sessions.

   One of our prayer partners was a sweet friend who has always been my main mentor in home schooling ventures!!  I have been rejuvenated countless times by the home school moms' prayer group that meets at her home monthly.  Their family prayed us through last summer and the entire adoption process for Jonathan. 

   Late this past spring, I got a note from her, saying that God was moving in their hearts in a surprising way.  They were planning to host a 15 year old girl, and would continue on toward adoption if God continued to open the doors before them. 

   Their summer was busy and blessed.  They are moving forward with adoption paperwork.  It's SO incredible to see God at work!!!

    When we were planning for our summer of 2011, we "threw our rock in the pond," so to speak.  I prayed that God would allow us to advocate for Ally Kate, and that He would provide a family for her.  That's honestly as far as my vision went.  However, He did that and more....  He let it be a family close by that allows us to continue to have a big part of her life!!!  It was a double blessing for us!!!

   Then, He went even further -- the ripples caused by the rock started to spread across the pond to places I didn't dream of.  He is most certainly ABLE to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or imagine.  He used an email that was sent to our friends highlighting children in the ophanages that were longing for a family.  He chose to use those connections to bring about ONE MORE child who will be loved, treasured, and taught about Him!!

     Never for a second do we take credit for any of it.  It's all God's amazing plan that HE is simply unfolding before our eyes....  His love for the fatherless.  We just get to watch it in action..... and be blessed when we see the ripples spreading out and more coming behind them.

  I know that some of you that read this blog do not plan to adopt.  But, please realize that when we hosted Ally Kate, we did not intend to adopt her, either..... and we didn't!  But, the Lord used it in ways that continue to affect more lives.  Please don't say, "I could never do that!!"  He might not be asking you to adopt.... He might just be wanting you to step toward the pond and toss in a rock.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer Vacation

     Before summer rolled around, Jonathan had been learning about seasons.  He knew that summer meant "hot!" -- Especially in AL!  He was thrilled to learn that it meant we'd take a break from our school schedule.  At first, though, I had been leaving that fact out of the definition of "summer" when he and I had talked about it.  Because both of our "ESL" students were behind in academics, I'd considered continuing on in "summer school" with them.  In fact, I did  keep on going with Ally Kate to give her an extra push with learning English as well as math.  But, when the rest of us finished our year and I was so worn out with the anemia issues, I just didn't have it in me to keep up with lesson plans for Jonathan.  I also had hopes that taking a break might help with the struggles he was having with me as a mom.  For the summer, I could stop being the teacher (which he really did not like), and hope for a better attitude toward me when I could just be MOM.

    So, we took our summer break, and even started planning for a real vacation as well.  Jonathan had never gone farther than an hour away from our house...  mainly due to his getting car sick so badly.  Last year, Dan had used all his vacation time on our 2 trips to Bulgaria, so we had not had any type of family vacation in 2 years.  We ended up going to Missouri where Dan had spent 14 of his growing up years.

    Before we left, we started telling Jonathan about "vacations."  When it was all said and done, he decided that vacations were a GREAT invention!!  The biggest miracle was that he didn't even get car sick on the entire twelve hour trip of our first day.  Amazing!  And, great memories!!

    The place we stayed was a wonderful, family environment.  We joined Dan's brother and family who had gone up a couple of days in advance, and Dan's parents came the same day we arrived.  In addition to being right on the lake, there was a place by a creek that had been made into an incredibly fun play area.  The rope swing was the greatest!!

First, you climbed up into this tree:

Then, you grabbed the rope, hung on, ......

...and jumped, swinging across the little creek!!

Even I got into it!!

Or, if you weren't feeling quite daring enough for the tree,
 you could just get someone to help you on a different rope from the ground level.
Here, Rachel is helping her cousin:

And, she, in turn, helps Leslie!

The kids had LOTS of fun with their cousins!!

In the same play area, there were these huge swings....

..... and this really cool rope "web" to climb on, or --
as Dan is doing here -- relax in!!

One day, we went to a nearby state park, which had ruins from a castle.  The castle wasn't ancient, or anything -- maybe just 100 years old or so, but the area was beautiful and the hiking was fun.

Here's a picture of our family at the top -- BEFORE we got really hot and sweaty hiking to the bottom of the ravine and back!!

Justin and Jonathan with their cousins:

This next shot is from half-way down the ravine looking back across at the castle ruins.

Here we are at the bottom before starting the hike back up.

Another day, we went to a small, local water park.
  Jonathan had a blast on the water slide.

We never got a good shot of his face coming off the slide, but he was full of smiles!!

Another highlight of the trip was fishing in the lake. 
This is one of Dan's favorite memories of growing up, as well. 
Here he is with Justin and our nephew heading out into deeper water:

Dan's brother, Grandma, and the 2 youngest girls:

Justin, Dan, Sarah and Jonathan:

That day, while the others were fishing on the lake,
 Rachel, Anna and I took a canoe across the cove to another area that had a trail to explore:

Of course, lots of swimming was going on at the lake, too.
There was a rope swing, there, as well, so the best part for the kids
was getting to swing over the lake and jump in.

By the end of the time, we all agreed
that vacations are a wonderful invention!! :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So, Now you know....

the REST of the story!!

Now you know why my blogging dropped into never-never land!! :) Compounding the busy life that we were living was that I was also struggling with iron deficiency that had me feeling exhausted even if I hadn't been trying to manage the schooling of kids at 7 different levels, including 2 ESL students!! We survived though, and it was good for everyone.... good for me to see God's reminder that, yes, His timing is always perfect, good for me to learn to depend on Him in ways I hadn't before, good for Anna, Sarah, and Rachel who all 3 took up the slack with lots of meal preparation, and also took on a little bit of school supervision of some of the younger ones!! We survived... and I do have a few pictures to show it!

Can you tell from these photos that the kids take great pleasure in doing home school work
 anywhere and everywhere?!?


Hindsight is always 20/20

   Have you ever heard the song (referring to God) that says, "When you can't trace His hand, trust His heart"?

   When we were in the midst of adoption paperwork and were planning for Jonathan to join our family, I could think of innumerable reasons why God should speed the process.  After all, the little guy had already been in an institution for over 8 years.... I wanted him home for his 9th birthday.  His birthday would be May 27th, and we were still months away from that date.  I looked at the calendar, and thought it might just work out!!  That seemed like absolute perfect  timing to me.....  we'd be finished with a school year, and could spend the summer letting Jonathan settle in, getting to know us, learning to adapt as a family of 8, etc.

   All of these thoughts were going through my mind at the end of 2010.... and 2011 rolled on, and things just weren't working out like I'd thought God would orchestrate it all.  Where was His hand in all of the delays?  I knew His timing was perfect in my head, but I was having a hard time having that knowledge get to my heart....  where was HIS heart in this?  I often thought about "all the desires of my heart"  as mentioned on the title of this blog!!  I was trying to trust in Him, to delight myself in Him.... but it was months later that He would let me see how those very delays were going to bring about the very desires of my heart!  At that point in time, I didn't even even know a very special girl in another Eastern European country who needed to come home, too....  who had lived in an institution even longer than our little boy had....  an incredibly sweet teenager that God -- in His perfect orchestration that I didn't understand -- was weaving into my life.

   You actually know the beginning of the story -- if you were a blog reader here back in the summer of 2011 --- We had cleared the summer schedule hoping to go to Bulgaria to pick up Jonathan, only to realize that it wasn't going to happen at that point in time.  So, God in His amazing ways brought our attention to a summer orphan hosting program and -- next thing we knew, we had 5 incredible weeks with that special girl from Ukraine!!  They were full weeks, busy weeks, challenging weeks, times of "practicing" for life with a child who didn't know English....  and by the end of the summer, we loved our special girl!!  Not long ago, I pulled up pictures from July of last year, and all the fun memories came flooding back.  It was by far, our most favorite (as well as 'stretching') summer ever.  But, the incredible miracle of the summer was that, before those weeks were over, the Lord had unfolded more of His plan in the whole process....  that sweet girl had not just our hearts, but another couple's as well.... and they were moving quickly to adopt her!!  All of us spent lots of time together, and while we couldn't use the "A" word (adoption!) while we were around our guest, we were all making plans for her coming to Alabama. 

   So, are you wondering yet what all of this has to do with the here and now?  Wasn't I just catching everyone up on Spring Break?  Aren't we talking about 2012 here?  Yes, actually.

   The REST of the story started the day after our Spring Break ended.  Another orphan had been set free!!  Ally Kate's adoption was final, and she had arrived back in Alabama with her new parents.  Spring Break had given me much needed time to re-vamp our school schedule, because, you see --- Ally Kate joined our home school.  At the beginning of the school year, I had gone from teaching 5 kids to 6 when we added Jonathan.  Here we were, starting our last nine weeks, and we added yet another!!  Not just another, but another that didn't speak or understand English.  It made for some VERY crazy days.... very long days, and tiring ones, too.  In fact, when this past May rolled around, I was much more excited about summer break than the kids--- and, you know how excited kids can be!!  :)  I was exhausted.  BUT, it never failed that each time Ally Kate walked through our back door and gave me a bear hug, I realized..... 

 He knew it all along.  THIS WAS the desire of my heart.  He had given abundantly. 

Spring Break Photos

It was warming up and we were excited about putting the garden in. 

The cow in the background is a new family member.  We have 2 cows (one of which now has a baby, and the other will soon).  Millie and Charlotte will supply us with some freezer beef!!  However, if we're too attached to the calves, we might have to do some trading....  the kids might stage a rebellion if I tried to put their pet on the supper table!!  :)

One day the older kids had a camp out in the back pasture with some friends.  This is an annual tradition, and they had so much fun!!

The kids used a huge rope to make a rope swing.  The old oak tree was perfect for it.

The younger kids wanted a picnic, but I'd made a regular main meal, so they just took it to the back porch!!

True relaxation!!  Anna was taking it easy in the hammock outside my parents' house.

Another garden picture --- Dan and Jonathan are getting tomato cages ready.

Another of the highlights for the older girls was when old friends from back in Mongolia days came to visit.  All these girls had not seen each other for years, but they picked back up like it was just yesterday....  so fun to watch them have so much fun!!

Before they left, they took this picture of the kids and me.  This is the perfect picture for showing current heights (for those of you who haven't seen us in awhile).  Rachel has passed us all up, but Justin is going to have us all beat before we can blink!!

Since this was taken in March, the ages of the kids were:  Rachel -13, Anna - 16, Justin - 10, Sarah -14, Leslie - 6 and Jonathan - 9.  April started our birthday season, and now they've all added a number to their years!!!

Catching up

   It had been so long since I posted here that I really thought that anyone who had actually been following my blog would have long since given up on me!!  However, a sweet friend that I don't get to see much anymore emailed to say that she was waiting for an update!!  (Thanks, M!!)
   So, that gave me encouragement to try to catch up just a little bit --- OR,  a lot, if time allows!!

   When I last posted, we were only a week before our home school Spring Break.  Now, we are only a week before our summer break is OVER.  Oh Dear -- lots and lots of water under those bridges.

   So, maybe I'll break it down into smaller posts and I won't lose anyone with one extremely long post!  We were very ready for Spring Break, and I wanted nothing more than to stay at home and have some "down" time.  We got just that -- nothing fancy, no vacations, the time flew.... and yet I needed every second of it, because we were about to get the second biggest family change of the most challenging school year ever.