A Mother’s Day

I was just saying to Trevor a couple of nights ago during our twice a day brief Facebook chat that things have been going so very well here at home.  Normally, by the end of his work week, I find myself stretched very thin and so ready for a break, but while he’s been away, I have felt carried.  I told Trevor that I have felt like Peter this past week, keeping my eyes dependently fixed on Jesus and doing what I would not have thought possible: not just surviving this time apart, but living life with joy and peace.  But I also admitted to him that I’ve had a few moments when I have started to let the waves frighten me a little,  when I’ve counted the long days and nights ahead (including the ones *after* they get home!) and felt panic begin to set in.

Well, today I took my eyes off Jesus and took a good hard look at the waves around me, and I started sinking fast.

Mother’s Day is never my favorite, I have to admit.  I am thankful for my kids every single day, don’t get me wrong, but Mother’s Day is just another day, with all the same messes, all the same parenting, all the same disputes over who is sitting where and who gets to put their feet in Mommy’s lap while we read together.  I’m used to that, and I’d like to think I’m pretty good at making the most of the day anyway, enjoying the seeds the kids have planted for me in Sunday school, and maybe getting to spend some time with my own mom.

Today was Day 11 of 16 days of caring for eight kids without Trevor.  I arrived at church weary but peaceful, happy to get to sit for an hour and nurse the baby without any interruptions.  My best friend Mary and her daughter Maura had had a slumber party at our house the night before, and were with us for church.  It was shaping up to be a pretty good day.

Not five minutes after the kids went to their Sunday school class, Delia’s teacher came to get me.  Delia had had an accident on the floor.  While we were cleaning that up, she threw up.  I took her out of her class and thought the two of us could just sit in the (unused) nursery while I fed the baby.  Then she threw up again all over the nice new glider chair.  While I was taking the cushions off and scouring the chair and all its parts as well as I could with wipies, the custodian came in and said, “Hmm, that’s going to stain.”

At this point, I’m looking at the waves, and they’re huge, and I’m freaking out.  There goes our nice dinner (McDonald’s was the plan, but still!) with my mom and grandmom today.  There goes my whole week, come to think of it.  They’re all going to drop like flies now.  I’ll probably get it, too.  Hey, we’ll probably still have it when Teddy gets home on Saturday.  Awesome.  A stomach bug is exactly what we need right now.  (So much sarcasm in my darkest moments!)

I more or less held it together until I got home and called my mom to tell her we couldn’t come to dinner, and in the warmth and safety of her response, I fell apart.

But God was so gracious and patient with me on this day that was not going how I had hoped.

First my dad called and came over to measure our new table for some custom-made benches (to fit a few more little bottoms than the chairs can comfortably accommodate.)

Then my mom and sister came over in the afternoon before going to dinner and brought me coffee and popsicles for the kids.

While they were there, Pippa got an idea to surprise me and reorganize the dresser in the girls’ room according to the Konmarie folding method.  She mobilized a couple of sisters to help her and an hour later showed me this: (I wish I had a before picture, but believe me when I tell you it was a hot mess!)

In the very bottom of one of the dresser drawers, they found this:

I laughed when Pippa brought it down to me.  This card is probably some fifteen or twenty years old and intended for my mother-in-law (sorry, Elaine!)  I have no idea why we had it much less why it was in the girls’ dresser, but it felt as if Trevor had planned this elaborate scheme from China just to brighten my day.  And it did.

The rest of the afternoon was passed with me and most of the kids making picture-and-word labels for all the new toy storage bins in the boys’ room.  (Delia did stay curled up on the sofa feeling lousy for the rest of the day, but thankfully she didn’t throw up again, nor has anyone else so far!)

It was a lovely day.  A truly lovely day.  I don’t have a photo of me and all my beautiful children in our Sunday best to show for it this year (or one of me with MY mom and sister this year, for that matter), but I am surely the most abundantly blessed mother there is.

The Adventure Begins

On Thursday afternoon, Trevor, Niko and Bea set off for Hong Kong, their pit stop on the way to Teddy, and today I received photographic evidence that they made it – whew!

These photos from Trevor absolutely made my day, but I received another photo this evening that I wasn’t expecting.  A photo of another adventure that began today.

This is our sweet Teddy in the car with his orphanage director starting the journey to meet Trevor, Niko and Bea on Monday!

How did I get this amazing, behind-the-scenes glimpse of our boy?  It occurs to me that I never really told you the story of how we found Teddy.  Well, grab a cup of coffee, and I’ll tell you now while we wait for the exciting part to happen.

A little over three years ago, I began attending a wonderful, intimate support group for adoptive moms that meets five times a year.  It’s over an hour drive to get there, but so worth it for my sanity and the well-being of our whole family.

About two and a half years ago, my dear friend Kelly whom I met through this group came home with two new sons from China.  Even amid the flurry of excitement and chaos of her own two new boys, she shared with our group her burden for two other little boys she met there.  These two boys, it seemed, were given free rein to wander around the facility and surrounding area.  It wasn’t a good situation.

Shortly after that, one of those boys went missing.  He still has not been found.

The other little boy was our Teddy.

Kelly wanted desperately to find a home for this little guy, but we had just begun our process for Lewis, and adopting another little boy with Down syndrome was just not even on my radar.  I prayed for those little boys, but then life moved on.

A little over a year ago, right around the time we traveled to bring Lewis home, I became a little obsessed with the fact that Chinese adoption regulations allow for “reusing your dossier”, or parts of it at least, for a second adoption started shortly after the first.  I will admit that even while we were in China falling in love with our precious new son, I was looking at waiting children on our agency’s website.

My heart was for another child with Down syndrome, which just hadn’t turned out to be the scary special need it had once seemed AT ALL.  In fact, it was quickly apparent that Lewis’s extra chromosome, rather than leaving him deficient in any way, had actually made him a little bit extra awesome.

Our agency had pages of beautiful babies with Ds – oh, how they tugged at my heart strings!  But they were all babies.  Not one over the age of four or five.  Knowing that older children can be much harder to find families for, and having seen first hand what a blessing they are, that was where my heart drew me.

After we were home, I was mentioning to Kelly that we were interested in adopting another little boy with Ds, perhaps an older one, maybe 9 or 10.  She could hardly contain herself!  “That’s Didi!”

She sent us his file, and we knew immediately that if we were going to reuse our dossier, this was the one.

We began asking our agency about reusing our dossier.  They were open to the idea at first, but then Verity made her presence known.

We went back and forth for about two months, but in the end, despite having let us adopt while pregnant twice before, they said we would have to wait until after baby to begin our process, and waiting would make it too late for a “reuse”.

That could have been the end of it.  I thought it probably would be.  But meanwhile, the agency who had a partnership with Teddy’s orphanage had reached out to let us know that they would love to work with us.

When one door closed, another appeared.  Let’s push it, Trevor suggested, and see if it opens.

And open, it did.

So, with a new agency and a new home study social worker, we set out on a completely new adoption, not a “reuse” after all.  Because once we knew this boy was ours, we just couldn’t walk away.

Here we are, one year later, days away from receiving this precious little man into our family.

Thanks to Kelly’s ongoing connections with the orphanage director as well as a missionary couple that work nearby, we have been able to have regular updates and new photos of our boy throughout the process.  We were even able to “send him” a birthday cake last summer!

And so it is that we have a backstage pass to his journey to meet us.  Today he is on his way to the city where he will meet Trevor and the kids, just as they are on their way to meet him.  I can only imagine what he is feeling.  I don’t know how much he understands of what is about to take place, but please pray for his heart, that he would feel safe and loved right from the beginning.

How It All Began (Again): Part 2

(If you missed it, you can read Part 1 here.)

We didn’t make any decisions on the night of my little epiphany.  In fact, I think we left it a little while before we even talked about it much again.

Another longer and farther afield camping trip in September afforded us more time to ponder and discuss the situation, only this time, we both knew the Who of it.  It was just the When and the If that were left open for discussion.

On the long drive home, just as we were nearing a decision to jump back in with both feet, I hesitated.  I think I just wanted to make sure we weren’t running ahead of the Lord.  I wanted some confirmation.

“What if,” I suggested, “we wait until Christmas?  Pray about it.  See what happens?”

“Ooh, very sensible idea.  Yes, we should do that,” Trevor agreed.  And that was that, or so I thought.

The very. next. day, after church, we sat down to eat lunch together as a family, and Trevor announced, “I was thinking in church this morning…”

All eyes were on him.  We watched and waited.  And waited some more.

Until finally Pippa blurted out, “…that we should adopt [that little boy you guys have been talking about all the time]?!  Right now?!?”

“No, Pip,”  I chided.  “Let Daddy talk.  That‘s not what he was going to say.   What were you going to say, Daddy?”

“Actually, yes.  That.”

There was cheering all around.  The kids were all thrilled, but in the back of my mind I remembered Bea’s request.   “Bea,” I asked. “He’s a few months older than you.  Is that okay?”

“I don’t care,” she beamed.  “I love him!”

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(Random Valentine’s Day photo. Because Bea <3 )

I asked Trevor what our pastor could possibly have said that morning to cause him to toss the wait-till-Christmas plan out the window with such reckless abandon.  He couldn’t remember.  (So Peter, if you have your notes from September 28th handy, I’m super curious what you said.  I was in teaching in toddler nursery and came home to a changed man!)

And that, folks, is how decisions are made in the Young household.  I had all the confirmation I needed, and we emailed our wonderful social worker that very night.

It took about two months for the agency that had his file to officially transfer it so that we could continue to work with the agency and social worker we know and love.  The fact that they shared his file with our agency so willingly was another confirmation.  Not all agencies are willing to do that, and we are so very thankful they did.

We began our home study near the end of November, and we are just a piece of paper or two shy of finished it now.  We held our breath waiting for our pre-approval (PA) from his country, as we knew we were below the income requirement for a family our size and would need a waiver for that.  Thankfully, they have pre-approved us, so we are all systems go so far!

Please pray with us for continued green lights and a swift paper chase.  We all miss this little guy already.

How It All Began (Again): Part 1

In April, I apparently told my mother-in-law quite convincingly that we would never adopt again.  (She reminded me of this when I told her that we are, indeed, adopting again.)  At the time I meant it.  Delia was hard work when she first came home.  In April I was just beginning to breathe again after some of the longest, hardest months of my life, and I liked breathing.

But once you have adopted a child with special needs, you never really stop looking at the faces.  We had entered a world where adoption and children who need families were all around us, in blogs, on Facebook, among friends who had also adopted.  It just isn’t possible to unsee it all.

When I saw his face, it wasn’t an all-at-once thunderbolt kind of moment, but he did become a favorite little one to check in on from time to time, hoping to find he had found a family.  Gradually the kids began to know him by name.  His was one of the only little faces that had managed to get a thoughtful little “he is pretty sweet” out of Trevor.  (You must understand he has endured a lot of “Aww, loooook!”) We began praying for him, along with a few other special faces that had captured our attention.

On our camping trip in August, we had a few good hours of car time to reflect on life and take stock of things.  Delia was doing so much better.  Life felt doable again.  Praise the Lord.

Then I asked a simple question (see this post for how history repeats itself).

Me: Do you think we’ll ever adopt again?

Trevor: Probably.

Me: Really?  Like, later when the kids are older, or, like, soon?

Trevor: I don’t know.  Soon, I guess.  It’s been really good for our family.

Me:  Huh.

We’ve been married almost 15 years, and he is still full of surprises.

After that camping trip, looking at waiting children’s faces felt different.  I was excited about getting to pick this time, since Delia had picked us.  My wheels started turning about what special needs we might be open to, which country’s program would be the best fit, how nice it would be to adopt a younger child this time (Bea, who has been twice displaced in birth order by her adopted siblings, especially requested a younger brother).

Then late one night while Trevor was at work, probably later than I ought to have been staying up, I had a little conversation in my mind.  Was it God I was talking to?  I guess I won’t know this side of Heaven, but I don’t usually have conversations in my head, and it surprised me enough that I called Trevor at work afterwards so he could help me make sense of it.

I had been chatting with a friend online who had adopted from China, and looking at waiting children, and suddenly, here was my thunderbolt moment.

You already know which one.

And I did.

But, I reasoned, wouldn’t it be better to wait at least until after the school year was over before taking on all that adoption paperwork again?

Then the other half of my brain (or God?) reminded me that I wouldn’t be giving the dog a flea bath every single night forever (it felt like forever!), and that would free up plenty of time in the evenings to work on paperwork.

And so I called Trevor.  “What does this mean?!”  I asked him.  “I don’t know,” he said in his usual matter-of-fact voice, “probably that we’re going to adopt him.”

To be continued…

 

 

Bragging on the Boy

 

Somehow it feels more socially acceptable to brag about our adopted kiddos than our bio girls (not that I don’t do plenty of that, too.  I just feel guiltier about it.)  I can’t take any of the credit for their nature and only a fraction of the credit for their nurture, so it’s not really bragging, just noting awesomeness when I see it.

Now that I have my disclaimer out of the way, would you just look at how amazing my boy is?!  Clubber of the month for December means he memorized more verses that month that any other boy in their AWANA club!

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Three of our girls have also received this award over the years, and of course, it is always an honor, but the boy…  Oh, how hard he worked for this!

When he first started AWANA, he was six months home, had just had major craniofacial surgery, and was still wearing his halo, which kept him from participating in most of the gym-time games.  To add insult to injury, because English was still so new to him (and Bible verses being Bible verses were full of big new words), he went weeks and weeks without being able to successfully say a single verse.  John 3 :16, the verse every good Christian knows by heart before he is potty-trained, took him months to learn.  After a few weeks of discouragement while Bea, who is in the same grade and was working through the same book, raced ahead of him, I had a chat with one of his leaders.  They agreed to be a little more flexible and give him a bit more help, under the circumstances.

He muddled through like that for a while, making his very best effort but still not quite managing to learn the verses quite the same way the other kids did, and there was plenty of grace for him.  He has loved AWANA all along.

But this year, something clicked.  Maybe he just finally saw his chance to overtake his long-time competitor (Bea), or maybe the words just finally started becoming words to him instead of just collections of letters.  (And maybe it helped, just a teensy bit, that we don’t hang out at my mom’s house all day on Wednesdays before AWANA anymore now that she has switched her day off.)  Whatever it was, our little man has been working his tail off to learn his verses, and it has paid off.  I am so proud of him I don’t know what to do with myself.

One of his leaders came to me the night he received the award, with tears in her eyes, to tell me the story of his “acceptance speech”.  They had asked him if he knew what it meant to get “Clubber of the Month”, and he replied confidently,

“You have to say a LOT of verses.  And believe them!”

Lord, may it be so.

A Day for Thankfulness

What a blessed week I’ve had to top off a month of Thanksgiving!

On Monday my sister took me to get my hair done as a belated birthday gift from her and my mom.  The afternoon with her and a quick stop for lunch and coffee before our appointment would have been more than enough, but Oh, was it ever lovely to be pampered a bit.  And of course, in order for any of this to happen, my wonderful husband had have the eight all to himself for the afternoon, so he gets a whole bunch of awesome points, too.

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Of course we see God’s provision in all sorts of ways every single day of our lives, but on Tuesday, we got to see Him provide for our needs in a particularly cool way.  Last week at the kids’ AWANA club one of the leaders had heard through the grapevine (okay, let’s just call it what it is: Facebook) that we were in need of an oven.  In fact, we had been without one for about a month and managing surprisingly well with various combinations of broiler, microwave, stovetop and crockpot cooking, but it wasn’t a great longterm solution.  “Our youth pastor buys and sells ovens on Craigslist,” she told me.  Maybe he can help you.  About five minutes later, she reappeared with Pastor Sean.

“I hear you need an oven, ” he said.

“I hear you… trade in ovens, ” I replied.  (Is this even a thing that people do?!)

He took my details and less than a week later called to tell me he had an oven for us for $100, installed, and he’d take our old one away, too!  About an hour later, the Oven Fairy himself arrived at our home.  As a bonus, the kids were delighted that Pastor Sean came to our house.  And oh, did we ever make cookies that day!

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On Wednesday we got to have a pre-Thanksgiving feast with some out-of-state relatives at my dad’s house.  I completely flaked out on taking pictures of the kids with their long lost second cousins, but it was such a joy to see them, albeit too briefly.

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Today was Thanksgiving proper, and I am feeling properly thankful for the day we had.  We stopped to visit my best friend Mary’s family just after lunch, as is our Thanksgiving tradition.  The kids had a great time playing with their honorary cousins there (Again, no pictures.  What is wrong with me?!) while I got to catch up a bit with the grown-ups.

Then we finally landed at my mom’s house for this bountiful feast:

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It wasn’t a huge affair, just us and my mom and grandmom, but I love watching the kids make these simple, enduring memories.

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Trevor had to work tonight, but he did get to stop by for an hour and a half just in time for turkey and my sister’s fantabulous apple cupcakes before heading to work. It made everyone’s night to have Daddy there for a little while, even if most of the kids were totally absorbed in the Squanto movie for most of the time he was there.  (We can count that as school, right?  Just kidding.  Mostly.)

I’ve enjoyed a month of paying a bit of extra attention to counting my blessings (beyond the usual blessing-counting that happens frequently whenever we go out in public!) and I’m looking forward, with the kids, to getting out our box of Christmas stuff in the next week or so and shifting our focus to the ultimate object of our thankfulness.

As the kids were chattering away about Christmas in the van yesterday, I heard Coraline’s little voice ask, “But what do we do on Christmas?”  I held my breath for a moment before answering to see if one of the other kids would chime in first.  I guessed they would probably remind her that we go to church on Christmas eve.  That we have a tree and get presents on Christmas day.  That we go to grandmom’s for brunch and get more presents.  That we go to Pop-pop and Debedee’s house for even more presents at some point…  All of that would have been true and fine, and was probably just the sort of answer she would have been looking for.

Instead, without hesitation, Bea answered her, “Coraline, Christmas is when we celebrate Jesus being born!”  And last but not least, I am thankful today for that.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Dedication

 Sunday was a special day for our two newest girls: their dedication day.  Over the course of our seven years at our church, we have added six children to our family, four of those in the last three years!  With each step we’ve taken in that journey, our church family has become even more precious to us in their love and support for our family.  While some have no doubt wondered if we’ve lost our minds as our family has grown, our church has unwaveringly supported us and lavished us with love and prayers and friendship (not to mention food and gifts!)  And so these dedication days become more special each time, knowing that as our church prays for our children and for us as parents, they really mean it.  They pray for us and support our family not just on these special days, but all the time in a million different ways.  And we are so thankful.

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We are also thankful to be surrounded by friends and family who cheer us on and celebrate these red letter days with us.  We don’t take a single one of you for granted!

 

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This happy dedicat-ee shows off her Bulgarian national costume dress.

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Annis in the official baby dedication dress that all of her big sisters (save one!) have worn.

So Much To Be Thankful For

I always love the idea of blogging about thankfulness every day in November.  It never seems to get past that idea stage, though.  It would be an absolute piece of cake to find thirty things I am thankful for; the challenge would be choosing which thirty!  In any case, here a few of the biggies.

 I am so thankful for each one of these precious little ones.016 

And these two as well:

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And for an extended family full of people who love us and all of our crazy!

Why yes, that is my baby sitting on the counter!

Why yes, that is my baby sitting on the counter!

Training with Aunt Paigie for the family business :)

Training with Aunt Paigie for the family business 🙂

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Grandmom and her Tardis-like arm chair 🙂 (And yes, the boy is wearing pink PJs.  It was one of those nights when getting kids in PJs before leaving grandmom’s house trumped the desire for gender appropriate clothing. )

Pippa and Pop-pop (fake glasses compliments of Paige).

Pippa and Pop-pop (fake glasses compliments of Paige).

Trevor had to work tonight, which was kind of a bummer, but the kids were quick to remind me to be thankful that Daddy has his job, “so that he can make money for us!”  And we are!  And so thankful for him in general.  Life is so much sweeter when he’s home with us.

And above all, I am thankful for this:

In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace…

(Ephesians 1:5-7, ESV)

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

VBS and an All-Around Pretty Great Week

While this picture sort of says it all…

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it also sort of doesn’t.  VBS has definitely been the main attraction this week.  The kids can’t wait to go each day, and would just live in their blue T-shirts for the whole week if I’d let them.  But it doesn’t start until after dinner each night.  That has left us with our days free, and we have enjoyed filling them up!

We’ve enjoyed the company of two of the girls’ little friends this week while their mom worked some extra hours (plus Tuesday with sweet Maura, of course!).  Yesterday we got to spend time with a family member from out of state who hadn’t met Niko before.  And today, Pippa got to go to camp with her dearest little friend Rosie for the day.    She had a blast!

While Pippa was off on her adventure today, the rest of us piled in the van to run some very happy errands.

First, we stopped at our local school’s admin building to sign an agreement for them to provide Niko’s speech therapy starting in the Fall.  I cannot tell you what a huge answer to prayer this is!  We began the process of having Niko evaluated for services through our local school district back in January. He qualified for several different therapies and services, but once we got to that point in the process, things got a bit sticky.  At one point we were told flat-out “No”, that he would not receive any services unless we placed him in public school full-time.  But when we inquired about speech therapy only, God slowly began to open doors.  We really feel now that we have been given the absolute best possible outcome to what has been a long and at times very stressful process.  Niko will be receiving the speech therapy that he needs, but he does not have an IEP, which means, in layman’s terms, no-strings-attached as far as our homeschooling reporting goes.  We are praising God for nothing short of a complete 180 from the school district’s initial response to our request for services, and we look forward to working with them in September.

After that we stopped to pick up most of our 4th grade curriculum for next year.  Free of charge!  The kids and I had gone to a 4th of July picnic at the home of a family from my old church at while Trevor was visiting Delia.  Just before we left that day I noticed a very familiar-looking shelf-full of books.  It was exactly the collection of literature we had just read in school this year, right down to the color-coded stickers on the bindings.  “Oh,” I exclaimed.  You used Sonlight when your girls were little?”

“Yes, do you??” she replied excitedly.  When I told her we did, she immediately offered to lend us the books we needed for the coming year, explaining that her husband had been wanting her to donate them, but she had been praying for a family to bless with them. She loved them too much to part with them forever (and I sympathize with this sentiment completely!).  Another great provision from the Lord.  We will need to buy science curriculum and consumables, but this gift will cut our curriculum bill in half at least!

The other completely fabulous thing about this week is that Trevor has been off since Wednesday morning, and he doesn’t work again until Sunday night.  This, in theory, should happen every other week.  But between his trip and the overtime he’s had to work to make that trip possible, we’ve barely been able to catch our breath.  Now, after two days of having him home (and awake!) life is finally starting to feel normal again, and normal feels good.

Provision

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When I mentioned life taking a turn for the crazy last week, I didn’t mean to be cryptic.  I had every intention of sharing what’s been going on, it’s just taken me a little while to get to it.

When we moved to America six and a half years ago, we moved into my father’s basement.  We had no jobs, no insurance and two very small children.  We were utterly dependent on God’s provision, and provide He did.

About a month after we got here, Trevor got offered the very first job he interviewed for.  It was a tiny little biotech company that probably wasn’t going to make it, but it was a paycheck and insurance, and he took it with very little hesitation.

That job that we didn’t expect to go anywhere lasted for over six years, helped us buy our home and funded much of our first adoption.  Trevor spent most of the six years carpooling to work, which allowed us to be a one-vehicle family for the last several years.

It was, he told me recently, the best job he ever had.

This dear little company closed its doors for the last time on Easter Monday, leaving us wondering (albeit briefly) what God had next for us.

That night, Trevor spotted a job online that caught his eye.  It was in a field similar to what he was doing before, but it was night shifts.  Not something we had ever considered before, but an intriguing possibility.  He applied online that night, got called the next day for an interview on Thursday, and was offered the job on Friday.  Amazing!

One night during the lovely two-week staycation we had between Trevor’s two jobs, I came to bed right after reading this post which challenged me about praying specifically, and Trevor had a smirky little twinkle in his eye.  “What’s so funny?”  I asked him.

“I’m just thinking about how God answers prayer,” he said.

“Why?  What did you pray for?”

Trevor reminded me that he has been praying for years for a job that would allow him to be home with us more.  He had also been praying, since losing his job, that God would provide a way for us to be able to continue to get by with only one vehicle.  He just didn’t realize God would answer both those prayers by giving him a job working 12-hour night shifts three or four nights a week.  I was humbled almost to the point of tears to realize how intimately our God concerns Himself with the details of our lives.  (But knowing how much Trevor loves his sleep, I also know God must have a sense of humor!)

I’ll be writing more soon about specifically how God is providing for the needs of our adoption.  Stay tuned!