The Powers that Be

It’s gray and gloomy outside and we are just under blankets and watching Peppa Pig.  The day has not unfolded as expected.

I have a bad headache and fibro is aching deep in my bones.  This weather does it to me every time.

Today, I saw my doctor for my routine bloodwork and check-ins.  We talked adoption and I told him what his part in the whole thing would be.  He has to say that he thinks I can handle adopting this child, this little girl who is already ours in our heart.

“They’ll want to know if you think health wise if we can handle another child.”

“Well.”  He said.  “Do you think you can handle it?”

“Yes.”  I said.  “I can do anything.”

He laughed and agreed.  He’s been my doctor for 15 years.  He knows.

As I drove home, I thought about the weight of his words with the Powers that Be in Eastern Europe..  How all of this rests in the hands of “Official” types of people.  Our social worker for the adoption, our home study social worker, our social worker in Sylvie’s country…the judges that will read over our files.

There is so much at play here and so many little windows for the Enemy to try and climb through.

So…today, as I snuggle in my chair with Nora and a heating pad…will you pray for us?  Will you pray for favor with the Powers That Be?

We’ve got to pray this Daughter home.

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The Chair of Healing

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When I came home from the hospital after having Nora, there was a new chair in my living room.  My sister and my friends had banded together and bought it for me.  I named it the Chair of Healing because that is where I lived life for months.

It saw me through days and days of recovery after Nora was born.

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I dreamed of holding Nora in the Chair of Healing and the day came that I did.  The days.  We got to know each other in this chair.

Time went by and life fell into a normal pattern.  The Chair of Healing became my safe place.  I learned to doodle in it, I rested in it, I learned to Be Still in it.  It is where I want to be when I am feeling yucky.  When fibro flares up, this is the only comfy place.

How many days have we snuggled in this chair, me and my three littles?

It’s ragged now, Caroline has deposited her slobbery ball on it approximately 3840283048 times and it shows.  Foster pups have chewed on it here and there.  This was all okay with me, just character!  But now.   It is broken.

It does okay when it’s opened up into the reclining position.  But if you try and just sit in it, it kind of leans forward.  It doesn’t want to rock.  I’m having to face facts that its days may be numbered.

I struggle with this, more than seems practical or sensible.  Yes, it’s been my faithful friend but it is also just a chair.

And then I realize.  I had one more dream for me and the Chair of Healing.

I wanted to sit in this chair and hold Sylvie.  I wanted her to experience mama in the Chair of Healing.  I wanted to have those moments with her.

I have been picturing it in my heart since we first saw her picture.

So, perhaps we’ll turn the Chair of Healing over again and try and fix it again.  Maybe it can limp along a while longer and that dream can come true.

Hang in there, Chair of Healing.  You can not retire yet!

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Worth It

We are surrounded by encouragers.

What a gift a positive word is.

Yesterday was a wild day, lots of ups and downs and stressors.  Today looks brighter, but fibro has come to visit today. I’ll be forced to be still and know today.

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I believe in speaking truth about where you are in your journey.  Feel awful?  Say so.  Feel overwhelmed?  Say so.  Feel heartsick?  Say so.  I’ve long believed that things hidden, things in the dark lose their power when drug into the light.  So I tell the truth.  And my village receives me in my truth and speaks life and light into me.

Texts, Facebook messages, calls…all came through as we waded through the muck and mud of yesterday.  All with the same word:

God has GOT this.  He is with you.

And then this picture of this recued one in my Facebook messenger this morning.

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She’s the reason we know we can fight this thing all the way through.  She’s the reason we know that we can handle whatever comes our way. She has given us a face to the needs of the orphan. She has shown us the joy of being in a family, of being rescued.  She illustrates how we are all fearfully and wonderfully made and she is so specifically Aila, created in His image….

And her mama typed these words to me:  “She is here.  You can do it.  It’s going to be worth it.”

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I want Sylvie to have the joy that Aila does. To know that she belongs to us.  We want to teach her that she is created in His image.

God’s got this.
We can do it.
It’s going to be worth it.

Sisters

Last night, I prayed for bonds to be forming even now between my three wild littles and their sister Sylvie.  They understand and get the orphan crisis in a way that many adults do not.  To them, the idea of not having a family just makes no sense.  They’ve been praying for an “orphan to come into our family” for as long as I can remember.  And every single night, Claire in particular asks Jesus to get “all the orphans in a  forever home soon.”

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These three love each other fiercely, fight passionately and have elaborate inside jokes and games and language.  I am praying that God would build that in with Sylvie.

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I know that it won’t be easy.  I know that it won’t be all unicorns and rainbows…but I also know that God can do things that aren’t easy and that He can bring beauty from ashes.

And I guess that’s my prayer.

That Sylvie’s life would go from ashes to beauty.  That she would feel such a sense of belonging with all six of her siblings but especially with the three I call the “Littles”.

You can support our adoption by visiting our Etsy store at Cartesterson INK

Or by purchasing a t-shirt at www.bonfirefunds.com/bringsylviehome

Or by donating directly to http://www.gofundme.com/sylviagrace

5000 Miles

There’s a little girl called Sissy who lives about 5,000 miles away from me.

Right now, while I type these words and sip my coffee…she is halfway through her day in Bulgaria.  Is she taking a nap in daycare?  Is she playing? Is she coloring?

I think about her about a million times a day and I just find the whole thing so amazing.

We love her.

We have ever since we were told this could happen.  Since we were told that we could do this.  We could be a family for this very little girl who has no idea that she even needs us.

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We know her name.

We’ve seen her face.

And we can not wait to hold her.

Being a part of this story has already been so filled with God and wonder that it defies description.

He has been in the details.

And certainly there are stressors and concerns.

For creative, flaky people like us, deadlines and paperwork that must be done at the right time and in the right way…whew.  That part is hard.

Fundraising creatively and in a (hopefully) non annoying way is equal parts fun and difficult!

I keep saying this:  “Adoption is a full time job!”

Several well meaning friends have said this, “But what if her special needs are more severe than you realized when you get her home?”

And I respectfully reply.  “What if they are?”  Please understand that I don’t mean to be a smarty pants, I don’t mean to be rude…but it is my answer.   If her needs are more than I expect…doesn’t she still have them?  Aren’t they part of her story, whether or not we bring her home to us or not?

She is who she is.  Just as she is.  And she can have her medical issues in Bulgaria where there are such limited resources and no real future for her…or she can have those issues here in America, close to us, with unlimited opportunity.

I think back to tiny little Nora, born crazy early and would we have just chosen not to parent her if she had residual issues?  (I don’t think coloring on EVERYTHING and throwing tantrums count.)

I think about a couple of my kids who struggle with anxiety, one with dyslexia…one with wheat intolerance…I think about other kids I love who have special needs and I just have to say…

“So what if her needs are more severe?”

I guess we’ll just have to figure that out.

Because it bottom lines to these two things.

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“My friends, adoption is redemption.  It’s costly, exhausting, expensive and outrageous.  Buying back lives costs so much.  When God set out to redeem us, it killed him.”

We will pay the ransom (with a LOT of help from our village) and we will rescue our daughter.  Because we have been rescued and redeemed.  We didn’t have to meet any criteria to be redeemed.  And it cost our sweet Jesus.

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“I always questioned if I was ready to adopt, and then I realized no child was ready to be an orphan.”

Oh this statement stops my heart.

Surely Sissy’s first mother, the one who gave her life and a name…surely her heart’s desire for this beautiful girl was not that she would be an orphan.  Surely the foster mom, Sissy’s second mother, who is with her every day and has been for most of her life, surely this sweet mother who has sustained her for all this time and who prepares herself to say good bye…surely her heart’s desire is not that Sissy would live her life as an orphan.  And we look at her picture and we watch her videos and we listen to our six live life fully…and we just know that our desire is not that Sissy would live out the rest of her life an orphan.

This child, fearfully and wonderfully made, she deserves a mom and a dad and host of sisters and even one brother.  She deserves all these grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins.  She deserves to be welcomed in.

Weren’t we welcomed in to the courts of a King?

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Be a part of her story here:

To give:  http://www.gofundme.com/sylviagrace

Buy a t-shirt:  http://www.bonfirefunds.com/sylviagrace

Commission art:  cartestersonink@gmail.com

Buy a bracelet:  cartestersonink@gmail.com

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Apparent Project Bracelets $8
$4 goes to the moms and dads in Haiti that make them, $4 goes to our adoption fund.

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We are keeping a record of every single person who has participated in this story. On the wall, by Sissy’s bed, when she comes home, there will be a great big painting.  A painting of a tree.  And on that tree will be leaves and each leaf will have a name.  The name of every single person who believed she was worth rescuing.  The name of every single person who fought and gave and sacrificed to pay her ransom.

Let’s Talk About Surrender

It’s been a wild couple of weeks.

John was excited to be hired to teach in the Newport News Public School system.  He’s been commuting an hour to an hour and a half back and forth to Great Bridge since we got married.  He’s been a great sport about it and he has LOVED Great Bridge High School…but 3 hours of commuting time + 6 kids + grad school + me for a wife + dogs, cats and rodents + yard work + home stuff + church + friends = whoa, man.  Those extra hours are going to be life changing.

NNPS assured John that he would have a high school position but…middle school kept calling.  Middle school is not his forte and frankly, no one’s favorite.

But John said this to the Lord, “I’m all in.  Whatever your plan for me is, I’m all in.  If it’s middle school, Lord, I will go and teach middle school.”  He may have even prayed this prayer with fear and trembling.

And then he put action to his words and accepted an interview at a middle school.

He went to the interview and he liked the principal and he liked the building and he totally surreneded.  “Okay, Lord.  I’m ready to go where you send me.”

On the way home, he, with a grateful and fairly happy heart, prayed again, “Lord, where you send me, I will go.  I surrender to your will.”

The phone LITERALLY rang that moment and he got an interview at Denbigh High School.  It’s 15 minutes from our house and he doesn’t even have to travel down 17.  (Anyone who is local knows the importance of this.)  It’s the place he most wanted to be.  The interview went great and the job is his.

On June 11th, I posted this:  Peace In Disappointment, all about our surrender of our big dream of international adoption.

We had been wrestling with it, literally, for more than a year.

I could not reconcile this great desire for this Biblically recommended thing and the simple facts that the doors were not opening.  It caused so much angst (I hate that word, but it fits) in my soul.  Foster agencies didn’t like that we had a house full of people and would work with us when some of our older kids moved out.  Another agency discouraged us from the beginning because we really wanted to choose a waiting child, and they kept pressuring us to get all the finances done first.  That same agency was inconsistent with their advice and just left us uneasy.  No peace and God’s plans have a supernatural peace all over them.

So, we laid it down.

Then.  BOOM.

I read a blog (or a Facebook article or maybe just a post?) about a disabled mom in a wheelchair.  She and her husband had adopted several times from overseas and every time, only her husband traveled.  Truly, our main issue with the whole thing was both of us being away from the littles for so long and my health.  I simply can’t manage international travel right now.

But wait. Only ONE parent needs to travel?

I confirmed it with an agency and tentatively asked about this little beauty I’d seen on Reeces Rainbow.

The agency cheerfully said, “YES!  One parent is FINE and we would love to tell you more about ‘Shyla’.”

I told them all about us, how busy our house is, how full it is and how I have fibromyalgia.  “Okay!” she said, brightly, “Here’s all the info and the paperwork to get you started!”

We sent it in.  She sent us COMMITMENT PAPERS specific to ‘Shyla’ so that she would be our daughter and we would need to hustle to get all of our i’s dotted and our t’s crossed.

She told us her name- Sylvia…and the fact that she goes exclusively by Sissy.  Oh my heart.  This is OUR daughter.   She showed us a video and I don’t speak Bulgarian but I caught one word- musika…She likes music. And in the photo, behind Sissy’s are big pink poodles, just like Lila had all over her nursery as an infant.  She turns three in August…wouldn’t it be amazing if we could celebrate her fourth birthday with her at home?

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We love her.  The kids love her. They’ve been praying for the past year that God would “help the orphans find families and please God, let one find OUR family.”

We are honored that God is trusting us with this.

There are fees galore and lots of red tape to come.  We will rely fully on fundraising and grants but we trust God to provide.

We have named her Sylvia the name her first parents gave her when they gave her life Grace because the grace of God is covering her and us and this whole thing Virginia after a beloved member of John’s family, his great aunt Carter the name we give her as she comes into her second life.

Help us bring Sissy home here.   There is no amount too small or too large.  If money is left over, it’ll be donated to Reece’s Rainbow to help other families bring their children home.  If our adoption fails and our place in Sissy’s life was just to love her and pray for her from here, the money raised will go towards her adoption still.  We can give specifically to her through our agency.

Every penny of these funds will go to the orphan crisis one way or another.

The cost is high, though not as high as adoption from some countries and not as high as through other agencies.  We see it like this- it’s a ransom for our daughter’s life.

She has no future in Bulgaria.  She has some special needs.  We expect she will flourish with therapies and quality medical treatment here with us.  But in Bulgaria, she will just decline.  There are not the resources to get her what she needs there.  She will stay in foster care until she is “too old” then she will move to a children’s home.  When she ages out of there, it’s off to pass the rest of her life in an institution.

I believe God has better things for her.

Being in this place of surrender feels right and it feels peaceful.  I know that this is God’s plan and God’s course for our life and we are going, full speed ahead until, she is home.

Help us make this miracle happen!

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Sylvia Grace Virginia Carter

Peace In Disappointment

I don’t like feeling disappointed.

I really don’t.

And I know, I know, I know that no one does.  But today, I am bogged down in disappointment and discouragement and I am sad.

I have long held a dream close to my heart.  A dream of adoption.  I have felt a stirring for it ever since I was very young.  I specifically remember a couple of families from high school that had large families full of kids of all kinds- special needs, neurotypical, adopted, bio, foster.  I was always so fascinated by the whole thing.

I met my friends the Tiefenbacks and got to know their beautiful daughters from India and my friend Dianna and her beautiful three.  This dream, it has waxed and waned over the years but it has never, ever gone completely away.

It was set ablaze all over again in knowing and loving our sweet  Aila.  In watching several Facebook friends go through growing their families through adoption and fostering.  In standing with my sister of the heart Kristin and her husband Drew as they began the foster parent journey.  Watching another family I just love adopt their second daughter domestically.

I looked around one day and I realized that I know so many people who have a heart for adoption. I realized that even my current heroes in the faith (Sara Hagerty, Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Melton, Ann Voskamp) all also have Big Hearts for adoption, for protecting and serving children in crisis.  It’s all around me.  And God does not do coincidences.  Everything is purposeful, everything has meaning.

In my first marriage, adoption was not something my husband wanted to do, so that dream had to be surrendered.  And that was okay, because sometimes life is like that.

In my second marriage, it is something my husband very much wants to do.  Our heartbeats on this are very much in sync…and so somehow, now having to surrender it because of my health is just so much more painful.  It’s as though it was in my grasp and then was snatched away.

We fell in love with a three year old in Hong Kong last year, while my fibro was under control.  We tentatively asked if he was an option for us.  The answer?  He was already in process with another family.  Yay! That’s what you want.  For kids to get adopted.  No worries, there are 147 million children in need in this world.  Surely there would be one for us.

We fell in love with several sibling groups in Bulgaria but were warned by the adoption agency not to go that route because of how many young daughters we had still at home.     The situation for orphans in Bulgaria is heart wrenching.  You can learn more here:  

Okay, so we paused to regroup and pray for a while and see where God was leading us.  We had some goals in our personal lives to meet with our finances and John was in grad school and Nora was still so young.  It felt like the door was closing for just a little while longer.

Now, we are prayer warriors for four special little ones on Reece’s Rainbow.  And these four are just so precious and deserve a family so much.  And we would gladly adopt any and all of them.

Shyla

When I saw her face…she just looks like one of us.  Her name would be Lydia if she was ours.

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Brayden

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I just believe he would flourish in a family of his own.

Rubin

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This sweet love.  Is he beautiful or WHAT?!

And finally this guy who is about to age out of the orphanage, with the same name as my own son.

Charles

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These are just four of 147 million and my mothers’ heart longs to go and swoop them up, bring them home and love, love, love them.

But I have this disease that steals my days.  This disease that makes an hour long car ride into an excruciating ordeal.  This disease that makes travel to another country almost impossible.

The costs of adoption are entirely overwhelming but can be overcome.  This I know for a fact. I  saw the body of Christ come together and bring sweet Aila home.

But my health.

This fibro thing has been out of control since about January and nothing I have done seems to be bringing it back in line.

So…time to lay down the international adoption dream again.  It’s disappointing.  It’s heartbreaking.

But what I know is this:
1. God gave me the dream of international adoption.  And He is not going to ignore a dream He placed in me that falls right in line with His word:  “Pure and undefiled religion is this:  to visit orphans and widows in their distress…” Why would he set our hearts on fire for this and then render us inactive? He wouldn’t! That’s not who He is. He will show us our path, in His timing.
2. God loves these four I’ve posted here and all 146,999,996 others more than can even be imagined.  More than I ever could, even if I adopted all four of them.  They are of eternal significance to Him.  Precious, fearfully and wonderfully made.  Treasured and cherished by the God of the Universe.  He is their Abba Father, Emmanuel, God with us.
3. I can help in so many other ways, not just as an adopter.  There is much I can do for these four. I can pray every time they come to mind.  I can teach my children to pray for them, to have their hearts open to the needs of others.  I can raise funds to help them on their journey.  I can advocate for and speak for them.  I can be their voice, stateside.
4.  There is beauty in surrender.  God can turn my mourning into dancing.  He can rescue me in my sorrow and distress.  He meets us in our hurt places.  He walks with us.  He is the Great Healer, of all pain- physical, emotional, spiritual.

I don’t know where the adoption journey will take us.  There are about a million different ways it could go.

What I do know is that the crisis is epic.  Forget my sad little heart for a second and just consider the magnitude of the orphan crisis.  I type and I delete and I type and I delete because there is nothing I can say that can even come close to describing it.  Just research it for yourself.  Read up on foster care needs in your own town, scroll through the kids on Reece’s Rainbow, watch the documentary I linked to above.  Go to Show HopeThese 400Amazima and countless other websites.  Check it out for yourself.

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This is my prayer over these precious ones.

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Please pray about the orphan crisis and please share your experiences with me and with my readers.  We are not all called to adopt, we are not even all called to give financially…but I believe that God does call us all to action one way or another.

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And that is where I am today.  This morning.  I feel peace about it, sad but peaceful.  I am just going to be still and wait on Him to give me the next step.  I’m going to advocate and pray for these four He has laid on my heart and I’m going to keep praying this fibromalgia away.

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If you want to help financially, you can donate to Reece’s Rainbow or to one of the four I’ve linked to specifically by clicking any link above.

OR, if you want to help through shopping, from now on, my retail profits from DoTerra and Norwex will go to these four kiddos’ adoption grants.  (You can read more about the adoption grants and how they work on the Reece’s Rainbow webpage.)

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And, stay tuned, because I’m opening my Etsy store soon.  It’s called CartestersonINK and it’ll be filled with art from our family.  20% of all profits will go towards our little RR friends’ adoption grants or to other organizations that are designed to help end the orphan crisis globally.

Faithful readers, I am thankful for you.