Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Whirlwind Summer

A picture-full post.

Iain left this note for me on my chai tea. And at the after-dinner meeting? He gave me a craft he had made for a late birthday present. The note, to me, was the biggest gift. :)

This is what Laina does while I sit there thinking, "It's gotten WAY too quiet in here."

We love drawing at this house!

Cory made a very detailed scene that included all of his family as pirates.

I know the color on this one is bad, but look how cute she is in her birthday apron!

Helping Mommy make brownies. Whenever I ask her if she wants to help me cook, she lights up and says, "Laina apron? Mommy apron?"

Yesterday, we babysat Isaiah and Titus. Isaiah "read" Laina a book.

A few weeks ago, Cory and I went on a date. We ate ice cream oreos at Hardees and threw rocks in the lake. His date of choice.

Jeremy has been teaching the boys to play chess. Cory made a rook out of legos.

And more drawing!

My friend Angela came to visit for breakfast one morning. I hadn't seen her since I was pregnant with Iain. So fun!

And the day after that visit, I flew (by myself!) to Pennsylvania for a few wonderful, restful, talk-full, read-full, write-full days with Alison. We started the trip right by spending five hours at the beach talking. 

And the day after I got home, we drove to Pensacola to visit the Bowers! They travelled with us when we went to get Laina and they went to get their son Jeb. We love the Bowers and were SO glad to spend a few days with them. 

 Jeb and Laina then...

 And now!

Cory at the airplane museum.

Laina and Maddie

Iain and Nate

 Then we left Pensacola and went to visit Sidonie and Ryan, home from Germany for a visit. They had never met Laina. SO good to see them!

I LOVE this picture!

Then we drove to Orlando for a few days, and then home, just in time for
Iain to start Timothy! Phew. Told you it was a whirlwind summer!

Monday, August 20, 2012

And the Results

Alison, Lauren and Sharon used time, creativity, and thinking outside the box to do what they could to help a child find a family. In doing so, they blessed us--the child's future family--as well. If you're adopting, be encouraged! God knows the your needs and will call others to help you meet them. He is in the business of putting the lonely in families, after all. He did it with us, when He brought us into His family, and He did that by using others, too. While adoption can seem like a lonely road, I don't believe God calls us to walk it alone.

(four sweet kiddos, set in families by God)

And in playing up the giving of time, talents, and creativity, I certainly don't want to overlook the often sacrificial monetary gifts that will help bring our baby home. There have been times when we've either received a gift that we knew was sacrificial, or a gift that was just larger than we ever would have expected, and boy, both those things "fire us up" as Jeremy says. They remind us that a) God is working on our behalf, and b) we have people who are "with us!" While I hate to be talking so much about money in the past few days, the fact is that adoption is expensive and is very often the first (and sometimes only) reason people hesitate to begin an adoption. And it just shouldn't stop you. God provides. He does.

Sometimes that might look like a bank loan that you repay over time (this may be the case with this second adoption)--and I know some people will disagree with me on this, but what better thing to go into debt for than being a family for a child in need? Sometimes this may look like applying for grants and loans until your eyeballs fall out of your head. Thank God those means are available! Sometimes this may look like sitting outside in July in the sun for a garage sale, or writing letters that make you feel uncomfortable (Hello! Asking for financial help is always uncomfortable and awkward!), or doing bake sales or working long hours for a time. Often it will look like accepting the help of others and learning to graciously receive generosity. Always, it will look like hard work--yours, and other people's.

 (Our three kids getting ready to go to church--Laina's first time!)

But when the Body of Christ comes together to do something as amazing as bringing a child who had no one into a family, something miraculous happens. Because now that child not only has a family. Now she has a whole group of people who used their money, time, energy, prayers, and work for her. Now she is loved by many. Now she is wanted by many. Now her family feels supported as they take on the task of grafting a new family member in. Now all those people have had the privilege of being part of God's story of redemption, played out before their eyes. God is glorified, everyone is blessed. And she comes home.

Sunday, August 19, 2012


If you know me in real life or have read this blog very long, you've heard me talk about Alison. Friendship with her was one of the greatest gifts that came out of our Rwanda adoption. From the first email, we've found kindred spirits in each other. (How blessed I am to have yet another friend who loves Jesus, writing, reading, orphan care, and baked goods? Seriously!)
(We meet in real life after months of emails-October, 2010) 

During the long wait for our daughters (Alison brought home Avivah the same time we brought Laina home), God's mercy was so evident in giving us each other. We talked and speculated about all the details surrounding our adoptions: wait times, personnel in Rwanda, who'd received approvals and who was likely to next. We hauled each other out of the depths when the days were hard...or sat in the ashes together. We found we were alike in more ways than just our Rwanda adoptions. In each other, we found this: "Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one." (C.S. Lewis)

The night we got our referral, Alison was ON THE PHONE when I tried to call her (how dare she?!). When I finally got through and told her our news, she rejoiced--though her referral hadn't yet come.

And then day we finally stood, together, behind the blue gates, holding our was the amazing answer to so many prayers.
(how we dreamed of this!)

Although she's not on the adoption journey along with us this time, Alison gets it. She's quick to empathize, sympathize, and pray for us. She's walking with me again. What a gift.
(in our "Rwanda Mama" t-shirts, at the first Created for Care adoption retreat)

So, although she's busy raising three kids, homeschooling, and helping her husband with his business, Alison used her time and talents to help us bring our baby home. She started an ice cream sandwich business! During the months of June and July, Alison sold (really tasty, delicious) ice cream cookies to her community in Pennsylvania, and proceeds went to our adoption and the funding of our Rwandan friend Peter's schooling. (When I was in Pennsylvania two weeks ago, I tasted one of the leftover ice cream sandwiches. Oh my goodness, it was good!) She made so stinkin' many cookies! And she started a blog to spread the word about it. (Though the cookie sale is over, go check out the blog anyway. It's so cute!)

She raised a significant amount of money for us, and for Peter. And did it all with sugar. 


Thank you, Alison, for being ready to do this with me again, and for giving your time to help us. It shows us that you're with us. That you believe in what we're doing. That you are waiting for, praying for, and loving our child with us. Thank you for your tangible expression of love. 
(In Ethiopia. I think there's room for one more baby on that couch, don't you?)

These are three of the people who have helped us thus far as we've raised money to bring home Baby Brannon #4--and by highlighting these three, I don't want to overlook the others. Kristen, who helped me make necklaces, Jason and Kelly who helped us with our garage sale, many people who shared our fundraiser on their FB pages, and this isn't even counting the many people (including the above!) who have given money. We have been blessed. Stay tuned for one more post tomorrow.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Lauren and I met when Iain was two weeks old, and her oldest, Noah, was eight weeks old.
(Lauren with Iain, left, and Noah, right)
We lived in the same neighborhood and our friendship formed through long walks with firstborns and strollers, and was strengthened by visits to each other's houses, sharing our love for reading and writing, asking each other the kinds of questions new moms ask (as if the other one, also a new mom, knew the answers!), walking through the ins and outs of homemaking, marriage, ministry, church. And by Lauren's famous chocolate chip cookies.

We did life together, for three years. We went to the same church (discovered on our first walk!) Our kids are friends (she has two boys now, and Jude, her youngest, is my birthday buddy). We are so thankful for Lauren and her family!
(Iain, left, and Noah watching the Superbowl together)

(at Iain's baby dedication)

Though we sadly don't live in the same state anymore, a Florida trip rarely goes by that we don't get together. Steak and Shake sees our business every time I go to Orlando.

We speak the same language.
(This is the most recent picture I have of us together. That's Jude, in the baby carrier. He's three now. Need more pictures.)

Lauren was one of the first people I told that we were adopting Laina. And when I told her about this next adoption (was it at Steak and Shake? Might have been!), and shared with her some of the funding woes we were experiencing, she started brainstorming. We talked until, what, midnight? about an idea that morphed into Piece by Piece. 

The next day, she recorded the kids playing at the park, and Jeremy and I talking (it was hilarious!), and then over the next few weeks, she used her incredible talents to:
--come up with a fundraising strategy
--make our terrific video (go here to watch it if you haven't seen it-- she did SUCH a good job!)
--design and implement our adoption blog.
--set up Chip-In and get it going.

She did all this while raising two kids, working, and running her home. 


Lauren, thank you so much for all this. It's crazy. And wonderful. Thank you for loving our baby, and us, and for using your time and talents to help us bring her home. And for the milkshakes!

Friday, August 17, 2012

The Alexanders

(The first of three posts about friends who gave their time, talents, and creativity to help us bring our baby home...)

Sharon and I were roommates for the second semester of our freshman year of college at FSU. We met at The Wesley Foundation, the campus ministry we both attended (and loved). When my roommate took an internship for her second semester and Sharon needed a place, we worked it out for her to move in with me into Gilchrist dorm, room 226, together (is it weird that I still remember the room number?).

We walked to and from worship together often (how nice that Welsey was right across the street!), and shared our friends, our time, and our home. We stayed friends for the rest of college, and then, as often happens, went our separate ways after graduation. Enter Facebook! :) Having re-made contact, I got to "meet" Sharon's family.
(Oh my word, look at that face!)

Sharon and her husband Jesse had a sweet baby girl last year. Michaela turns one in a few days, and weeks ago, Sharon shared her plan for helping our baby come home. She and Jesse decided that in leu of gifts for Michaela, they would ask people to donate to our puzzle piece fundraiser, Piece By Piece, in Michaela's honor. Jeremy and I were so touched by their idea and their kindness. Sharon said that she couldn't think of a better way to celebrate the birth of their precious daughter than by helping another child to know the same love Michaela does.


Thank you, Alexander family. You've been the hands and feet of Jesus to us, reminding us of His care and provision for us and our baby. You've encouraged us and blessed us. You've helped bring our baby home, and that, to us, is a very big deal! :)
And happy birthday, Michaela!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Moved and Blessed

Laina's adoption was expensive (don't worry, this isn't a fund-raising post! Read on!), and God totally, completely provided. We have not a speck of debt from her $31,000+ adoption, by the grace of God. Here is how He provided:

--we got a $4000 no-interest loan from LifeSong for Orphans, which we paid back this year with our adoption tax refund.
--We held four (count 'em) massive garage sales, for a total of about $3300.

--My sister Jenna and brother-in-law Curtis hosted a mini-golf fundraiser.
--My sister Kelsey and the ministry she worked for, ACCESS214, held a worship-night fundraiser, and people from my home church and their ministry donated generously.

--Our agency (America World Adoptions) has a ministry that allows people to make tax-deductible donations. We wrote support letters (lots of them!) and people gave, generously, again.
--We sold Rwanda:Hope bracelets. And made very little money. Oh well, we tried. :)

--I made dresses, and my friend Phyllis made baby hats, to sell.
--We did a Valentine's Day babysitting day for couples in our church, and people let us watch their kids and then donated. Generously. (Do you see a trend?)
--Some dear friends in Florida, Joe and Jana, held a poker night, with proceeds benefitting our adoption.
--We got a $3000 grant from Show Hope.
--We sold stuff (that was mostly donated to us) on Craigslist.
--We scrimped and saved, cut our budget and our spending, and were very frugal with our money.
--Jeremy worked extra hours, and I took on some work, too.

There is a point to all this (besides just wanting to write it all down so I can remember God's provision): adoption is expensive, people are generous, fundraising is hard work, and God is good.

With this adoption, Jeremy and I have been blown away by the generosity of friends, not just with their money, but specifically with their talents and time. I've been planning to share three of them with you. As I reflected on these sweet people, I was hit by the fact that even though none of them are currently adopting (one has before, as you'll see), they are all involved in adoption and in orphan care, in caring for the least of these, by giving of themselves to help one already-loved baby come home. They are joining God in His work of placing the lonely in families. I love to see how He moves in people's heart to share His heart for children who need families.

Over the next three days, I want to share these stories with you. Come back tomorrow for the first. These friends have moved us and blessed us by loving our baby before they know her. We're honored to have them in our lives.

Okay, I'll stop rambling now. Check in tomorrow!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The M&M Birthday

Laina is a total M&M fan. She especially loves the purple ones (um, there aren't any unless they are special-ordered; thank you Liz and Penny!) and the green ones. So when it came time to think of a fun birthday theme, M&Ms was an easy choice and made for a very happy girl. Get ready for lots of pictures. She's too darn cute to cut any!

The night before the party, we gave her her present from us in time for movie night. She was thrilled! The boys already had bean bags, so now she's big like them.

Getting ready for the party. In the presence of so many M&Ms, Laina about lost her mind.

Posing by her birthday banner. What a ham! I made her Green M&M t-shirt dress from a huge t-shirt from Walmart. It turned out cute!

Two sweet M&Ms coming to party down. (Addie and Penny, Laina's cousins.)

Party Time!
 The guests enjoying pizza. Everyone had on M&M shirts.

Family shots:

 Love this one. Look at Cory's face!

Nan and the Greats. From left: Titus (age 5 months), Iain (5), Isaiah (almost 3), Laina (2), Nan, Cory (4.5), Addie (3), Penny (2.5)

The Greats, with Laina as the Statue of Liberty. :) 

Brownie M&M Cake and Ice Cream
 I love this picture. Beautiful girl!

She knew just what to do with those candles.

 Oh my word. The cuteness.

 Think she liked it?


 Nan made Laina and I matching aprons for our birthdays. Did I mention how much fun it is to have a daughter?

Though it was a family-only party, we still had a full house and a great time (and lots of sugar!). It was so much fun to celebrate our sweet girl with the big smile. We love you, Laina-Bug!

Click here to see last year's party. How she's grown!
Also, thanks to Lindy and my mom for many of the pictures.