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I Come to the Garden….

There is a beautiful hymn that says, “I come to the garden alone, while the dew is still on the roses. …….And He walks with me and He talks with me and He tells me I am His own.  And the joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

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I understand the context of this song, but you see, I don’t come to the garden alone very often.  And that is why it is so precious to me.  Our garden is a pretty special place to our family…..and not necessarily because of the food it provides (although that is an added benefit.)

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Andy and I have had a garden every year since we got married.  And, thank goodness, we’ve gotten a little better at it every summer.  As we added kids, we just added little hands to play in the dirt, then learn to dig a hole and plant a seed, and then to harvest and help cook the bounty, and store it for the coming fall and winter.  It is one of our favorite summer traditions.

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It may seem silly, but our kids have gained so much from this experience.  Aside from the obvious work ethic they are learning, they will gladly eat anything they grow in the garden–tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, radishes, anything that comes from their garden.

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I have also seen them learn generosity from having a garden.  There isn’t a person who visits our house in the summer that doesn’t go home with a sack full of garden goodies that Abe runs out to gather.  He LOVES picking things for people to take home.

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They also take such pride and enjoyment in helping me cook and can things from our garden.  While it doesn’t ever make the job easier having them alongside me, it is a beautiful way to spend time together.

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The hymn rings true when it says, “The joy we share as we tarry there, none other has ever known.”

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“Raising children is like growing a garden.  

The more love you place into it, the more it grows.”

Sarmi…It’s What’s for Supper

Bulgaria has been in my every thought this week.  I’ve been reflecting on all the blessings this sweet country has already brought to my life.  It was the background for the shaping of my faith as an impressionable 18 year old.  It was the setting  where God revealed great things to me about Himself.  It was where I met many life-long friends–Bulgarian, British, and American.  Without these friendships, I would be lost.  It has also brought friends through adoption–I’ve met dozens of other mamas waiting for their children from Bulgaria, and they are my support and encouragement–true family–as I travel this journey.

And, of course, I await an even greater blessing.  A son or daughter.  Bulgaria is synonymous in my life with love.

This time of year is when I crave Bulgarian food.  I have eggplant, cabbage, cucumbers, zuchinni and tomatoes pouring out of my garden–staples for any Bulgarian dish.  And, I always keep a good amount of feta cheese close by too!  Yesterday, I decided (without proper planning) that I would throw together something with what I had on hand.  A self-declared Bulgarian feast.

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Now, this blog post isn’t going to be to show you my cooking skills (or lack thereof).  It is simply for all my fellow Bulgarian-adopting mamas who are looking for some yummy recipes to try out before bringing our sweet children home….or to try after they are home!

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Shopska Salad:  Cucumbers/ Tomatoes/ Feta

This recipe is what I think of first when I think of Bulgarian cuisine.  It was served to me for every single meal, every single day that I was in Bulgaria until I was sick of it and thought I never wanted to see cucumbers again.  But, what was the first thing I craved when stepping off the plane in the states?  You guessed it.  Although mine can NEVER be as good as the traditional because there is no comparison to Bulgarian feta, we love it and eat it throughout the summer.

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Sarmi:  Stuffed Cabbage Leaves

I think there may be a million variations of this dish, but we used what we had on hand, and it was really good.  I need to work on my cabbage rolling skills (and add more water) to perfect it though!

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Tickvichki Mousaka: Zuchinni and Egg Dish

This one surprised my family the most.  I wasn’t sure how keen we would be on an egg side dish for supper.  But, man, we woofed it down.  Everyone loved it.  This was our favorite by far, and Andy asked me to put it on “the rotation” of zuchinni dishes!

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Garash Torte:  Walnut Torte

Again, probably a lot of variations of this dish.  It turned out beautifully, but I think there is room for improvement on taste.  Without having the real thing to compare it to, I think I underbaked it quite a bit.  It was more of a cheesecake consistency than cake, and was very greasy.  I think 10 more minutes in the oven and it would have tasted as good as it looked.  My family still swore they loved the flavors, but I’m convinced I didn’t do it justice!

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THE END RESULT:

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A house without children is like a dish without spices.

-Bulgarian proverb

Summer and Adoption

I keep thinking I’ll sit down and write about all the random things spinning around in my head these last few weeks, but it is after all, summer.  My kids rightfully remind me that it is a time for swimming and running barefoot through the yard, for picking flowers and working in the garden.  It is a time for hammocks and rope-swings, bicycles and boats.  But , of course, the path God has brought us to also means it is always the time for adoption and advocacy.  So, I’ve found a few quiet moments this morning to share some moments of our summer as a waiting family.

Lemonade for the Least of These

Our agency has had a beautiful vision for what lemonade stands can represent in the lives of orphans.  The last two summers they have encouraged kids to get involved in orphan care through lemonade stands.  I love this idea, because often as adults we forget that we aren’t the only ones “waiting.”  These children of ours are also waiting for a brother or a sister, and this is such an awesome way to let them be a part of adoption and advocacy.

Last year Addy wanted to do a lemonade stand, so with little planning and a lot of passion, she set up shop in my dad’s front yard on the highway.  She squeezed lemons all morning, and by the end of the day, she had raised over $100.

This summer, my dear friend Courtney (who always comes up with the best of ideas) asked if we would go together with them and do a lemonade stand at a car dealership her husband owns.  We were all in, and began our preparations.  We saw God’s hand over every aspect of it.  She went to place an ad in the paper, and they asked if they could run it as a cover story instead.  As we set up it began to rain, and we stopped, held our children’s hands and prayed that God would be glorified–rain or shine–and the sun came blazing out over our little lemonade stand.  We later heard that the radio station had encouraged people to come out.  And so many people walked up with a $100 bill and a hug of encouragement.

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The kids had a blast working for something so exciting.  They had made signs, and they each had “a job” at the lemonade stand.  They won’t ever grasp how much $1,600 is, but their efforts will provide many needs in the lives of orphans this year, and for that we are so grateful!

Holidays

You show me an adopting family, and I will show you a family who wonders during every-single-holiday if it will be their last one without their child.

(“I hope this is the last Christmas as a family of 5…..I wonder if our child will be home by next Thanksgiving……Maybe next Mother’s Day, I will have one more in my arms….ect”)

Fourth of July is no different.  As I enjoyed the day with my family, and as we snuggled and squished into NewNaw’s pontoon to watch fireworks over the lake, I wondered, “Will we have our little one home in time to watch these fireworks with us next summer?  Will they cling to me in awe and wonder, mixed with a little bit of fear?”  I hope.

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We don’t wish away this time, or want to fast forward through Addy and Abe and Cora’s lives, but there is always a longing for the one(s) that aren’t with us yet.

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Paperwork

We received bittersweet mail last week.  As we headed off to the lake for a few days, I had Andy grab the mail on the way down the driveway.  There was an unexpected “surprise” awaiting us:  A packet of homestudy update papers.  Can it already be that time AGAIN?!

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This will be our 2nd update (3 times including the original).  There are 2 ways of looking at this:

1) Another year has passed, and still no referral.

2) Another year closer to a referral…..maybe THIS will be the last update.

I feel a bit of both.  It seems that as soon as you finish a round of paperwork, get it sent off to the state, apostilled, approved, sent  to Immigration, approved, and mailed to Bulgaria—it’s time to update again.

The positive side to all of this is that we are starting to see movement again in Bulgaria.  It has been a good month of referrals so far for our agency, and there are even people who were registered around and after us that are starting to get referrals, so maybe….MAYBE…..it could be sooner than we expect.

But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Romans 8:25

No News Is….

No news is good news?  In adoption…..not exactly.  No news is, well, just no news.  In case you have wondered why I haven’t flooded the blog with adoption updates lately, it is because there is nothing to update.

Bulgaria has had some major hiccups lately from the Ministry of Justice being ill and out of the office for a few weeks in March (meaning NO adoption papers were signed and passed on), to the entire country nearly halting adoptions for a re-accredidation they were required to do for during April and May.   That sprinkled with a few holidays AND the upcoming (and dreaded) August SHUT-DOWN  (the one month governement vacation where everything stops and slowly starts again in the fall) has made for little progress.  That said, all of these events are out of our control, so there is no point in getting worked up about them, but it would certainly bring more peace if our agency (and all the others) had referrals flooding in!

Sometimes it feels like the longer we are in the process, the less real it is.  Almost like when people ask us how it is going, we are lying  about ever bringing another child home.  It is a very bizarre situation to be in.  On one hand, I have felt like we were missing a child for 2 years now….in public when I do the child head-count, I am subconsciously always frantic when I can’t find number 4.  Holidays and vacations and the announcements of friends’ pregnancies and births seems to trigger a deep sadness, that we are missing a beautiful and special person in our family.  And yet, because we have no name, no face, no story, no timeline, it is nearly impossible to imagine that it will happen.  And, I find it so difficult to pray for that child specifically because so much is still unknown.

As I said, we started the process 2 years and 2 months ago, and have been officially “waiting” a year and a half. The new trend in Bulgaria (while it was once expected to be an 18-36 month wait for a referral) seems to be more along the lines of 2 and half  to 5 years now for a referral.  This  becomes overwhelming at times, but I trust that God will teach me patience, and the time when we are matched will be so very sweet, that just like with labor and delivery of my other children, the pain will be a distant memory when I hold them in my arms.

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And, it’s not ALL bad news.  TODAY is the day that some of my dear adoption friends officially become the parents to their darling 2-year-old Bulgarian boy.  They will pass court and plan to travel and bring him HOME in just a few weeks.  I am also prayerfully waiting with other adoption friends as we hope they will be matched with their sweet Bulgarian baby this month.  I am rejoicing with them, as I know they will rejoice with me one sweet day.

So, for now, no news is no news…..but when it is good news (and someday it will be!) , you’ll be sure to know!

May Days

School’s out for the summer!

(I’ll let you in on a little secret:  We’ve actually been done a few weeks, just don’t tell any of my dear teacher friends!)

We had a really fun school year.   Addy learned so much, so quickly this past school year that it still takes me by surprise when I find her reading chapter books in her room or catch a glimpse of her reading to Abe or Cora.  She is sure to tell me the time ALL the time now, and in the grocery store she adds things up in her head to see if she can convince me to buy it because “she has enough money.”  It is a blessing and an honor to watch them meet these leaning milestones and to stand beside them as things suddenly click.  We still love homeschooling, and the kids still seem to love it too!

Here were some of the things we loved about our 2014-2015 School Year:

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Our School Room….It is still a place where we love learning!

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Fall Field Trips with our Homeschool Group: Apple Orchard!!!

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Everyday Learning and Reading

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Arts and Crafts

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Science Experiments

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Rock Wall Day

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St. Patrick’s Day Party: Learning how to dance a jig.

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Valentine’s Day Boxes for our Party

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Nope, I’m afraid we didn’t take Martin Luther King Jr. Day off…..but we did learn about him!

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Post Office Trip: We learned how our mail gets from one place to the next.

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On our last day of school, we planned an End-of-the-Year Celebration. Each of the kids went through cookbooks and cooking magazines to choose one item to make themselves (mostly). Cora choose butter biscuits, and Abe decided on a honeydew/cucumber/feta salad which, surprisingly, we all loved! Addy choose mini meatloaves (because nothing says “party” like a loaf of meat). I made them their favorite dessert–angel food cake, and then Addy finished the details by decorating our table. It was a delicious celebration…and may have to become a new tradition!

 

It was a beautiful year.  I’m already looking forward to having Abe start Kindergarten next year….he is going to love it!  And, as for Addy, well she took one week off and then wanted to start learning to write in cursive!

Happy Summer!!!

Stories No Longer Told

About a month ago, we were on a family walk, and the kids insisted that they had enough energy and motivation to walk the four country miles to their Granny’s house.  We placed one foot in front of the the other for two miles (except for the smallest child who took turns riding on shoulders).  At the two mile mark, there is a little country church…every bit of the church you’d imagine in an old movie.  Nothing else visibly surrounds it but trees, open fields, the sound of pumping oil rigs, and an old cemetery.   We stopped and rested on a log  before cutting across the cemetery to resume our journey.  We walked slowly and read the markers.  So many of them were covered in moss, their names and memories rubbed smooth.  So much history beneath our feet.

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We walked past a few more gravestones , reading the words and the names and the years….so many years and so many stories that are no longer told.  I couldn’t help but feel overwhelmed at the stories these men could tell, the things they saw, the battles they fought, the lives that they lived…..here, 2 miles from my house.

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This one in particular has floated around my thought the past few weeks…..fought under General Jackson…..lover of the Constitution of the United States……1799-1874. Breathless……history books can’t draw intrigue like this.

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My Grandpa was recently moved to an Alzheimer’s unit.  He served in the Korean War.  His roommate worked on fighter planes during World War II before becoming a pilot.  They no longer tell their stories.  I wonder how many more of the 60+ Alzheimers residents have unspoken stories of battlefields and grief and victory and hope and despair as they fought for our country.

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I pray you have a wonderful Memorial Day today, and that you remember for every story shared, a thousand more have grown silent……but they still join together to write the story of our freedom.

On Love and 11 Years

About this time 14 years ago, I told Andy I didn’t want to date him because he was like a brother to me.  (Ouch!)  2 weeks later I was driving with my mom to church and informed her that I knew I would marry him.  God works in mysterious ways, and even as I told him I didn’t want to date,  I already knew I could never live a day apart from him.  He was my best friend, the one who made me laugh, and wiped my tears, and treated me more sweetly than I knew possible.

We quickly got engaged and waited 2 (long) years to marry…May 15, 2004.  Today we celebrate 11 years married together, and God has continued to grow our love and faith through one another.  Our journey has taken us near and far, and the memories are too numerous to recount.  But, here are some of my favorites:

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Our first summer as youth leaders–we took about 6 middle-schoolers to Agape music festival. We had only been dating a few months. 2001

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Engagement Pictures– October 2002

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Our beautiful wedding day– May 15, 2004

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Honeymoon at St. John USVI–lovely to be married!

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Graduation Day for both of us….and our one year anniversary! May 2005

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Our first fur-baby (or whatever crazy animal people call them). 2005

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One of many beautiful hikes we have taken together– Multnomah Falls, Oregon 2006

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Ah, Paris….great memories lounging at the Eiffel Tower, especially when a torrential downpour left us like drowned rats and lost in the middle of the city!

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We heart England! –2007

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+ Baby #1 2008

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+Baby #2 2009

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+ Baby #3 2012

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Pursuing Baby #4…Starting the adoption process 2013

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10 Year Anniversary at Grand Canyon 2014

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<3 I love living life with this guy. He’s my favorite. <3

 

A Healing Hand

I was so overwhelmingly blessed by the kind words and prayers that were spoken after my last blog post.  I felt fairly certain that “moving on” and “healing” weren’t going to something that came easily or quickly.  There have still been tears that sneak up on me at moments I least expect them, but the healing that has poured over my family the last 2 weeks has been so sweet.

God has continued to use my family, my children, my marriage, my friends, other adopting families, and the new life of spring to begin mending the wounds and replacing them with hope of the child He does have in store for us in the future.

The afternoon that we realized we couldn’t say move forward was so hard.  Andy came home from work as soon as I had heard from our agency.  We grieved together, and then we started cooking.   We stood in the kitchen together stirring and mixing and seasoning.  Our ears were filled with the sound of our laughing children outside.  After supper, we walked around the pond watching our children chase the dog and ducks, and we sat on the hill  while the kids fed the fish.

Each day since, has been bursting forth with the beauty and hope of spring….for me, a gentle reminder of a loving Father.  A father who doesn’t allow us to go through hardship without a purpose.  I look forward to understanding the purpose and living the story He has written for us.  If it is anything like the rest of His creation, it’s bound to be beautiful!

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A Resurrected Heart

This isn’t the post I wanted to write this week.  I thought this would be the post where I introduced you to our daughter.  It’s not.

A lot has happened in the last 7 weeks, and yet everything now remains the same.  We began pursuing more information about a bright-eyed little girl with some special needs in late February.  God seemed to open one door after another and we were seeking Him.  Oh, how I was seeking Him!  I spent every day of 6 weeks in fasting, pouring myself into His Word every spare second of the day, laying awake hours each night in prayer.  I laid my hopes and dreams and fears in an adoption journal each night hoping they would become the story of us finding our next child.  We wanted to jump in, say “yes” and see how God would work.  We wanted to see her overcome her struggles little by little, and help her along the way.  We wanted our kids to learn to love in new ways.  I dreamed of drawing her into my arms and burying my face into her little neck.  I prayed that God would stretch us in our faith by taking on things we weren’t open to before.

So we waited.  42 long days and nights.  Waited for more information. Waited for phone calls.  Waited for emails.  Waited for updates.  Waited for doctor appointments.  Waited for God to show up and tell us “yes.”  Waited to know if these pictures we held were of our daughter.

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We waited for this phone call.  I believed it was going to give us confirmation .  I took this picture  believing it was  going to be in her photo album as the moment we knew.  But we hung up after 2 hours on the phone with Vanderbilt with a new unknown, a “hypothetical.”  A fear that wasn’t supposed to be.  In place of confirmation, we felt confusion.  A day later we felt God shut the door.  It felt like more of a slam in the face, to be honest.  I was left beating down the door.  Fists clinched tight.

So began the battle between my Maker and me.  I said things to Him I never imagined I could utter.  It seems that with each accusation, His reply was, “I’ll give you perfect peace.”

“I don’t want perfect peace, Lord!  I want to say yes, we want to be her family.  Why did you place such undeniable desires in my  heart and then not show up?!  Why does THIS have to be part of the story?!”

I found bitterness in my heart that Easter was approaching–the time we celebrate the perfect gift—the only one thing we really need.    In anger, I muttered to Andy, “I don’t want to worship Him right now.  I don’t want to put on a happy face.  I’m angry with Him.”

And yet, minutes and hours and days have passed and I cannot deny the perfect peace, peace that surpasses all understanding.  It has settled over my grieving heart.  It has brought with it hope that the family she is meant to find will hold her soon, and that I will understand it more as time passes.  As I have sobbed for what seems like days on end, I realized during a phone call with my dad that I had cried my last tears (for now) for this loss.  I see how it has moved Andy and I into a place we didn’t expect, and drawn us closer.  I have encouragement that for over a month this little girl had a small group of women meeting every Tuesday in my living room interceding in prayer for her…..and they haven’t stopped.  I know now I’m not meant to be her momma, but I have loved her like one, and I hope that in some beautiful way she felt that.

Slowly.  Slowly, I am beginning to unclinch my fists.

I know now, that I can worship Him with my whole heart…..even if it’s bruised and beaten up right now.   It may not be a season of thanking Him  for all that is good (although I know that will return), but perhaps a season of being grateful that He is the same as yesterday.  He still holds strong when we are falling apart.  I can feel the power of Easter in my soul —a soul that is so in need of a Savior.  I can trust that the same power that raised Jesus from the grave, is the same power that can resurrect this disfigured heart……and with resurrection comes the hope of things greater than we can imagine.

 

Happy Easter.

 I pray that wherever you are right now, you will also feel the power of His Resurrection.

 

Bread and Wine

I brought my first daughter into the world on the same day of the year that my mother brought her first daughter into the world (me!).  I have loved every single aspect of sharing a birthday with my daughter…..I love the way it binds us together, I love the birthday outings together, the party planning together, the fun, and …..the gifts.  I’ll be honest, no 32-year-old woman should receive as many birthday cards and gifts as I do.  I give Addy Rose the credit for it.  People naturally enjoying celebrating a child’s birthday with extra love, attention, cards and gifts, so when they think about her, it is a natural progression to remember my birthday too.  We just celebrated another birthday, and we were both showered with love and thoughts and gifts.

That said, my husband is becoming a really great gift-giver, and truly outdid himself this year with thoughtful presents to bestow upon me.  Ugandan-made Sseko T-strap sandals….be still my heart.  He also got me 2 books by Shauna Niequist for my birthday.  I hadn’t heard of her previously, and didn’t know anything about the books, but he knew I would love them.  He knows me well.  I have only read the introduction and first chapter of Bread and Wine, and I am already in love.lindsay-letters-breadwine_1024x1024

You know a book is going to be great when it has you at, “Introduction.”

I just can’t get past this paragraph:

“My friend Nancy is a nature person. To know her is to know that the created world–mountains, wildflowers, sunshine–is the tie that binds her to God, that demonstrates his presence to her in the deepest ways. For my dad, it’s the water. The sounds and smells and rituals of life on the water bind him to God in ways that nothing else does. For my husband, Aaron, it’s music. And for me it’s the table—it makes me feel alive and connected to God’s voice and spirit…creating opportunities for the people I love to rest and connect and be fed at my table.”

It’s so interesting to think that God reveals Himself to people through different ways of beauty. It made me think…..how does God communicate with me deeply?

I have to say the times I have felt “in communion” with the Maker, have been in the deep, untouched stillness of His creation AND in creating food in love for others.  Two very different things, but definitely the things that resonate with me the most.  To be sure, God speaks and moves in the day to day of our lives, but there are absolutely moments where your soul is stirred more than usual.  I’ve been thinking of those moments today–the times where distractions are stripped away, and beauty and mountains and yeast and berries are what speak love loudly.

These moments have been when I understand Him the most, see Him the most clearly.  I am so thankful we get to experience such beauty and grace in this life.

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The rugged Oregon coast

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The base of Multnomah Falls

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The grandeur of the Redwoods

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Hiking around Cathedral Rock

 

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Sunset over the Grand Canyon

 

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Hiking the Grand Canyon

 

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Red Rocks of Sedona

 

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Hiking out of the Grand Canyon

 

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Sharing a special family recipe with those I love

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Preserving fruit

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Harvesting our garden and sharing the abundance with others

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Turning yeast and flour and water into daily bread

Now, I’m so curious, how does God speak to you? <3