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Thursday, March 19, 2015

6 Months Home ~ We're Still All In!

Wow...6 7 months Home.
(I know, I'm a slacker of a blogger!)

Two years ago we were waiting to hear that we were officially matched in Bulgaria.

One year ago today we were spending our last full (See I started this on 2/15) day with our son, wondering how we'd ever say goodbye the next day and head back across the ocean without him.

6 7 months ago we walked off that airplane and, finally, finally, our whole family was together in one place. I could touch both of my sons at the same time. Tears are running down my face remembering how happy we were, how overwhelmed with gratitude we were, and still are.











Those first few days at least a hundred times a day I would look at him and silently thank God for his faithfulness. That empty space in our family was gone, the shadow of a child that I carried in my heart for 18 months was here in the flesh and my heart was overjoyed.



Those first few weeks he was rarely far from my reach. I constantly wanted to touch him, tousle his hair, hug him, talk to him.



Those first few weeks were beautiful and happy, they were also hard and at times heartbreaking. Ian was 8 and a half when he came home. 8 years of living in institutionalized settings. 8 years of caregivers who changed with the hands of the clock. 8 years of survival of the fittest living. 

We've learned a lot about those first years of his life since he's been home. I'm sure there's a lot still left to learn. It comes out here in there in bits and pieces, in words that rip this mama's heart to shreds. Words that have made me so angry I wanted to cross the ocean and hit someone. I know that's not very Christ like to say, but, it's true. I pray for those people, for the children still there in those places, for change, for peace, for families to step forward.

Our boy has a smile and laugh that are contagious.



Our boy gets a haunted look in his eyes sometimes that will pierce your soul.


I promise I didn't mean to neglect this blog for so long. I couldn't wait to blog all about our pick up trip and those first few weeks home. But, well, life happened. I was exhausted. We were cocooning, we were busy with numerous doctors appointments and testing. We were adjusting to our new normal.

6 months.

On one hand it seems like that time has flown by. On the other it feels like Ian has always been a part of our family, and I guess in a way he has. The One who writes all of our stories knew he would be our son before he was even born.

Well I'm rambling so I'll wrap it up.

Ian has made beautiful, amazing, crazy progress since coming home!

His English is beautiful, though part of me hopes he always keeps that Bulgarian accent that I love.

He has gotten to experience so many firsts, and we're thankful that he's doing it as a part of our family! He and Nick are getting along just like brothers! Ian is helping Nick to be more responsible, Nick's helping Ian to learn to just be a kid.

Willing to brave the ocean waves, as long as Daddy didn't let go.

First time riding a bike, look at that look of determination, now he has it mastered!


9th birthday party

Decorating for our first Christmas as a family of 4



Brothers (hard to believe they're only 6 weeks apart isn't it?!)

We're blessed.

Our boys are both thriving, healthy, and happy.

We can't wait to see what the next chapters hold!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Comparison: The Enemy of Contentment, Friend of Complacency

It's been said the comparison is the enemy of contentment, the comparing our lives to others causes us to be envious, to forget to be thankful for all that we have. But, I think there may be a greater danger to comparison ~ complacency.

As believers, it's really easy to look around us in the world we live in today and become complacent. It's easy to say that we're doing good enough for Jesus because it's easy to find people doing less. But, our goal is not to be like other believers, it's to be Christ-like, to be His hands and feet, to share the gospel with our actions not just our mouths. Because, trust me, trying to witness to someone who doesn't know where their kids' next meal will come from won't do much. Meeting people's physical needs in the name of Jesus is the first step of sharing the gospel.

I used to feel like I was getting this 'Jesus thing' pretty well. I was in church every time the doors opened, I was doing life with other believers, listening to Christian music. It felt good, I felt good about myself. And, while that wasn't a bad thing I didn't know that I was missing out on a more a much more intimate relationship with Jesus.

My complacency started to shake several years ago when I first became friends with people who were crossing oceans to bring home special needs children, with friends who were putting their hearts on the line to stand in the gap for children in foster care, friends who were giving up their comfortable American lives to go and serve in places where most of us wouldn't want to spend the night.

My friends Mandy and Marty, along with their two oldest children are heading to Guatemala soon. It's how they chose to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary...not by going on a tropical vacation, but by going to serve the least of these.

The Rhodes family on the day they brought their daughter Klemi home from Bulgaria.


 They'll be staying with our friends Susie and Jack and their family, working with the ministry that they are serving with in Guatemala.

You can read more about Susie and Jack, their family and their mission in Guatemala  over on their blog here. You can learn more about the ministry they are involved with here. Susie and Jack  live a life that totally steps on my toes. See they gave up every thing: a nice home, a good job, a comfortable American life with their 6 children (3 of whom were adopted, one of whom has significant special needs) to go and serve for two years as missionaries to the people of Guatemala.



The ministry they're serving with has a lot of goals, most revolving around being Jesus to the least of these by meeting their most basic physical needs. There are so many families there living in abject poverty, in homes made from mud and cardboard, with no electricity, no running water. The ministry team does a lot of things in the community they serve in but one of the most drastic is providing homes for as many of these families as possible. And, how much does it cost to provide a safe, clean home, with electricity and clean water? $3,000

No, I didn't forget a zero up there. $3,000 is all it takes to completely turn a family's life around. While the Rhodes family is in Guatemala they'll have the privilege of helping to build homes for at least two family's. The first family that Mandy shared, the cost of their entire home was covered by one donor whose heart was moved by their story. It would have been easy for Mandy to say, "Thank you God, you rock!" and consider her job done. After all, they were only asked to raise the money for one home. But, there's another family who needs a home. So, Mandy and Marty are still working to raise the money for this family.



Clicking that link will take you to the GoFundMe page Mandy set up. You can read more about the family whose lives will be forever changed by having a safe home. While you're there you can make a donation and I pray that you will feel led to do so. They need just over $2300 to be fully funded for this 2nd family's home. Please pray for this family and consider making a gift towards providing a home for them. Every $ adds up, can you spare $5 today to change a family's life?

Click here to make your donation!

~Brooke~





Monday, September 29, 2014

The Best Is Yet To Come

This Wednesday Ian will have been home with us for seven weeks. If you count the two weeks he was with me in Bulgaria, we've been getting to know each other for about 9 weeks now.

9 weeks.

It seems like such a short amount of time, and I guess it is since I'm still measuring in weeks.

But, as hard as it has been at times, it seems like he's always been here.

He's the piece we didn't know our family was missing until that day I saw his face almost 20 months ago.

And, I have to say, that even with the hard moments, this part is easier for me than that 19 months of waiting were. He is here with us, I can look at him and check on him any time I want. I don't have to wonder how his heart and eyes are doing because I have the ability to take him to the best specialists that we can find. I don't wonder if he's hungry, or cold, or if he is being treated well. He's here and for that we are so grateful. 

Our God is faithful.

And, we are so thankful to every single one of you who played a part in helping us bring our son home.

I know it may not seem like I'm all that grateful though.

I don't update my blog, emails and texts are going unanswered, phone conversations are cut short, and I've cancelled more plans than I've kept, often at the last minute. 

This isolation that helps forge attachment for our family, it's something that we were prepared for, but I'm worried that I dropped the ball on preparing most of our family and friends.

People want to support us and don't know how because I don't reach out, I don't ask. But, please know that I know you're there and it means the world to me.

But, a lot of the stuff we're dealing with is hard, and some of it is ugly. And, we know that none of you would shun us or turn away if we shared with you. But, the reality is, Ian is going to be in our family forever. We pray that one day he will be past the struggles he faces right now, that our family will be past them.

 His story, even what little we know right now (which I'm sure barely scratches the surface), it's his to tell, if he chooses to one day. 

We believe that we serve a God who can make beauty from ashes ~Jehova Rapha (The Lord Who Heals) can heal us all from our pasts. We pray that he will give us the grace, wisdom, and ability to love this boy of ours well while his heart heals.

It won't happen overnight, most likely it will take years.

That's ok. We're in this for the long haul!

Ian has eyes that will haunt your soul. He's a survivor, but somehow he's survived with his smile, and humor, and sweetness still intact. They're sometimes overshadowed by the hurt that expresses itself in some hard ways, but they're there. They're who he is. He is not his past, his hurt, or his anger. 

He's an 8 year old boy.

He's walked a hard road and most of his life he walked it alone.

Now we are blessed to have him in our family and to get to walk the rest of his life beside him.

Every day I am grateful for that fact.

Well, I started this post intending for it to be an update on Ian, but this has gotten long so that will be my next post which I promise I won't wait another 3 months to write.

But, I wanted to leave you with this.

Yesterday we went to church and my 'Secret Sister' had left a bag there for me. Along with a bag of my all time favorite suckers (Caramel Apple) was this candle. I don't know who my sweet sister is, I'll find out in December, but I'm grateful that she knew I needed this reminder.

And, in case you need it today too...








Thursday, July 24, 2014

T-Shirts For Sale

Some of you may remember that we did a 2nd -tshirt campaign a while back. We ended up ordering extras above those that were pre-ordered in order to keep the price point we needed (long story). So, here are the ones we have left to sale.

All shirts say "Do Something, James 2:17" inside the circle and "Faith Without Action is Dead" around the bottom of the circle.

I did not intentionally design another shirt after a Matthew West song, though I do love that song now that I've heard it :) Whether it's helping orphans around the world or in foster care in your hometown, helping the poor, the widows, or just being a friend to someone in need, we can all DO SOMETHING!

*Please note, prices include shipping to the continental US, if you live outside of this area please see note at the bottom of the blog. Thank you!*

Regular Tshirts
$15 each shipped

Dark Heather Gray with White Print

These are super soft and probably the most comfortable t-shirts ever! They are 50% Polyester, 25% Cotton and 25% Rayon made by Canvas. They run pretty true to size though if you are in between sizes you may want to order up.

Available in Adult Sizes:
Medium - 2 available
Large- 2 available
(See further down the page for Youth sizes and Women's Cut)

 Ash Gray with Red Design

Gildan Heavy Cotton tshirt, 90% Cotton 10% Polyester, lightweight and soft to the touch, super comfortable. These run true to size.

Available in Adult Sizes:
Small: 1
Medium: 4
Large: 2
XLarge: 2
(See further down for Youth sizes and Women's Cut)


Vintage Red with White Design
Soft and comfy, Gildan Cotton Vintage t-shirt. 50/50 Cotton/Polyester blend, these are slightly lighter in person than it appears in the photograph.

Available in Adult Sizes:

Small: 1
Medium: 3
Large: 1
XLarge: 2
(This is only available in adult sizes, see further down the page for a cherry red w/ white design in Youth sizes and Women's cut).

Women's Cut Designs
$16 shipped
These designs are more fitted than the regular tshirts an have a scooped neck

Cherry Red with White Design
Gildan 100% Cotton, PreShrunk, these are very soft and comfy and run pretty true to size.

Sizes Available in Women's:
Medium: 1
Large: 2

 Light Ash Gray with Red Design
90/10 Cotton/Polyester blend, Gildan Ultra t-shirt Preshrunk, very soft and comfortable, run pretty true to size.
Available in Women's Sizes:
Medium: 1
Large: 2
XL: 1

Dark Heather Gray with White Design
The softest tshirt ever! 52/48 Cotton/Polyester blend by Cavanas t-shirts
This brand and cut run very small. The XLarge is more like a medium and the Large is probably closer to a small!
Women's Sizes Available:
Large: 1
XLarge: 1

Youth Sizes
$12 shipped

Light Ash Gray with Red Design
Gildan Heavy Cotton t-shirt 90/10 Cotton/Polyester blend preshrunk, super soft and comfortable tee that runs true to size.
Available Youth Sizes:
Small: 1
Medium: 3
Large: 1

Dark Heather Gray with White Design
These are super soft and very comfortable! Canvas brand t-shirt 50/25/25 Polyester/Cotton/Rayon blend
These tshirts run about a size small!
Available Youth Sizes:
Medium: 1
Large: 1

This picture shows the Medium in the dark gray underneath a S in the light gray, you can see that dark gray medium is almost the same size as the light gray in small.


Cherry Red with White Design
Gildan Heavy Cotton t-shirt 100% Cotton, PreShrunk. Soft, comfortable, and true to size!

Available in Youth Sizes:
Medium: 1
Large: 2

*I will try to do update the availability as the shirts sell, but please email me at kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com before you pay to verify availability!*

How to Pay:
1. Email me to check availability for your order
2. Send the money as a gift via Paypal to the above email
or
You may donate to our FSP HERE
3. Email your Paypal/RR receipt to the above email and include your mailing address.

** If you live outside of the US please email me at the above address to get a price for shipping. Shipping is only included in the price to the continental US. Thank you!

Finally!

After 18 months of prayer, paperwork, fundraising and waiting, we leave in 4 days and a few hours to bring our boy home!

My friend Mandy and I will leave early Tuesday morning on 7/29, get to Bulgaria on 7/30, head to our boy's region on 7/31 and hopefully get to attend his going away party (how awesome is that?!), and then leave with him to head back to Sofia on 8/1. We will spend the next 13 days getting to know one another, sight seeing, applying for his passport, having his TB test and embassy medical and our embassy interview done.

Speaking of the embassy interview, please pray that the State Department gets their systems back up and running. They have been down since this weekend which means families all over the world are stuck in country with their children as Visas and passports are not able to be printed! Our son will have a Bulgarian passport but we will need his Visa to be able to leave the country! The latest news reports say that their systems are back up but it's currently slow going getting through the backlog as they estimate they receive about 35,000 requests each day from all of the US Embassies around the world.

Our NGO thinks that we should be ok, we had some extra time built into our trip and now I am thankful for that time! I'm keeping the possibility in the back of my mind that we could get extended in country, but am refusing to worry or be anxious over it. I know God has this!

We are really close to being fully funded! Our last facebook auction just ended with a total of $507 in high bids! This brings our total needed to be fully funded to just $1,145! I know that still seems like a lot of money and not a lot of time to raise it, but I refuse to worry! In one way or the other God has let nearly $29,000 come in during this process and the money was always there when we needed it to be!

I do have some of our 'Do Something' tshirts left to sell and a sweet friend who just days ago returned home from picking up her new son in China has donated some awesome 'Sailing to our Starfish' tshirts for us to sale!

I am working on the list now with pictures and sizes available!

Our family was also chosen as one of the first families for the awesome 5/5/5 For Families campaign!

I have a blogpost about this great project coming soon too! We would love to see our family  and friends support this effort which helps 5 adopting families a month for as little as $5 per month per sponsor! Click the link above to read more about them, or go here and check them out on facebook!

Thank you again to everyone for all of your love, prayers, and support during our journey to bring Ian home! We are so excited to be so close to the end of this part of the journey and look forward to starting the next chapter in our family's story!


Monday, June 16, 2014

Getting Close!

It's been a busy past few weeks! Nick and I were in DC twice. Once for the Teach Them Dilligently homeschool convention where I got to meet the awesome Julian Nalle, adoptive Mama, orphan advocate and author of Biblioplan which we will be using for History starting next year!

Our 2nd trip towards the end of May was to spend the weekend with my nieces while my sister and brother in law had an early anniversary weekend. Little girls are so much fun! I got to spend the weekend doing nails, hair and playing dressup!


And the baby is pretty much the happiest baby ever!


While we were there we found out that we finally got the signature that we had been waiting on for 7 weeks and then to my complete surprise we received our court date the following Monday! I hadn't even been stalking my email like I usually do when we're anticipating news, thankfully our social worker messaged me on fb to suggest maybe I'd want to check it!

We have court June 24th!! 1 week from tomorrow if all goes well the son of our hearts will legally and officially be our son!!

He is doing pretty well too. He's had some ups and downs while processing every thing, but that's to be expected. He's 8 and his whole life is getting ready to change. We know its for the better but he can't know that for sure. I can't imagine picking up the only life I've ever known and moving with people I've spent 5 days with to a country where I don't speak the language. So all things considered we think he's doing pretty well. We were able to hire an English tutor for him in country and I think it's helping ease his anxiety.

And, his English is really coming along, he may not have a lot of words yet but his pronunciation has come a long way and it's more flowing, not the rapid, staccato speech he's had in the past.

Short and Sweet
video

Check out that smile!


We had a great time celebrating Father's Day! My husband doesn't do any social networking so here he is in case anyone was thinking I made him up :) So thankful for him, he's an awesome dad, amazing husband, provider for our family and there's no one I'd rather be doing this parenting thing with!

So, after we pass court on the 24th it will take around 3-4 weeks to get back the court decree and for our agency to receive his new birth certificate. We are hoping for travel around the end of July. My friend Mandy is making the pickup trip with me and she is such a sweet friend that she is going to do so soon after getting back from going with another friend to China for her pickup trip!

We estimate that we need around $3300 more to be fully funded. Can you believe it?! We started out looking at a $30,000 mountain so to be so close to having it moved just leaves us humbled and full of gratitude. If I haven't said it lately, thank you to each of you who has come alongside us in this journey. I know over the last 17 months I've probably worn you out with our constant fundraisers and I haven't been the best of friend at times so thank you for sticking by us!

There were times when I wondered if we would really ever get to the end of this part of the journey and there have been a lot of ups and downs. So now its crazy to think that we could actually have him home in 6 weeks or so!

We don't have any big fundraisers going on right now. We have some of our 'Do Something' tshirts left and I will try to get a separate post up in a bit with the colors and sizes we have left to sale. 

My Dad and the Riders Club of our local Amvets are putting together a Poker Run for us that will be held on July 20th. (Also, the Riders Club and the Ladies Auxillary are donating $800 towards our adoption!!) I'm excited because for the most part this will be a whole new crowd of people who we will have the chance to share our story and the plight of orphans worldwide with! So, if you're nearby and want to come join us please stop on by!


And, our FSP on Reece's Rainbow is still open if you want to make a tax deductible donation to help us get closer to be fully funded! You can donate here
The amount shown in our grant does not go down when we take money out. We took out $5246.60 before first trip to pay our 2nd set of agency fees and part of our plane tickets. So the actual amount in out grant (as of writing this on 6/16) is $2515.87 We expect to need around $6500 for two roundtrip tickets (currently around $1700 EACH for the week I think we'll most likely travel) 1 one way ticket, hotel, food, TB test and embassy medical.

Thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Love ~ Steve, Brooke, Nicholas & Ian



Saturday, April 5, 2014

Last Chance!!

We have a lot of irons in the fire right now in regards to fundraising! If you are fb friends with me I apologize for the fact that I have probably blown up your newsfeed these past few days, thank you for bearing with me!

Two of our current fundraisers, our multi-family fb auction and our 'Do Something' Tshirts end TONIGHT!


To see all of the tshirt options, sizes, colors, SALES, and info on ordering and payment click HERE



If you're employing eBay tactics and waiting until close to the end to bid in the auction, it ends at 11:59 PM EST so don't forget!


You can check out all of our family's items starting HERE

Links to a few items that still don't have bids (as of this posting):

Adorable Patchwork Teddy w/ Cheerleader Outfit and Coordinating Child's Hat!
Both New With Tags!
Would make a great Easter present for any little girl!
Click here to start the bid


Color Your Own Princess Tshirt & Skirt Set for 18" animals & Dolls
Will fit Build A Bear and other 18" stuffed animals!
Click here to start the bid!
(There are several tshirts like this available for bid!)


NWT 18" Hippo in Glam Rocker Outfit
Would make a great Easter Gift!
Click here to bid!


Gorgeous handbeaded starfish necklace donated by Differently the Same
Would make a great Mother's Day gift!
Click here to bid

$20 Gift Certificate to Differently the Same
This is the awesome Etsy Store that made all of our 'Do Something Bracelets'
Use to get a one of a kind Mother's Day gift or Easter gift for your little one! They have awesome 'Frozen' inspired bracelets available for order!
Click here to order

There are lot of fun items still left without bids, or with low bids including Mary Kay, DVDs, and more!

Please take a look and help us bring our boy home!

We got to Skype with him yesterday and he is doing well! I finally got a picture of him smiling (Usually I snap it and he looks down or away at the last second)


Thank you from the bottom of our hearts to everyone who has bid, donated items, shared our auction, bought and shared our tshirts and for all of your love and support!

<3