Feb 11, 2012 - Our Story    2 Comments

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

Instructions to reading this blog post:

  1. Open a separate tab on your browser and paste in this link –> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-diB65scQU&feature=relat
  2. Come back to our Blog and read the post with this playing in the background
  3. Smile & Praise God for the blessings in your life.

On a day that I should be feeling quite somber as we have officially been on the wait list for 15 months, I am reminded by my God to not worry, be happy. Philippians 4:6 Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

This past week I was blessed to have this message placed on my heart through various sources. In my daily car-sermon from David Jeremiah he is currently leading a series entitled Slaying the Giants in Your Life. I have listened through this series previously, but am restrengthened by its encouraging message once more. David discusses the scriptures feeling on worry, and why God says not to let worry control your life. He states that worry is simply something based on the future, of which you have no control. He says A worry does not rob tomorrow of it sorrow but robs today of its strength. Jesus does not tell us this to have us live our lives as a free-spirit casting our cares to the wind. He speaks of being concerned, not worrying. During his message, David refers to being concerned as being based in the present, things of which you do have control. God does call us to be concerned over things in our life, and for those things to make a plan. If it is an item that we have no control over, in our particular case the timing of when God finds our perfect child is ready, then it can be considered worry. Like most things, easier said than done. Something I pray earnestly about each and every week, for God to grant us patience and understanding for the things of which we do not know.

I was also led to scripture this week for a great example of not worrying. I am currently (7% complete) in my quest to read the entire bible, and I am still working my way through Genesis. I have been reading about the story of Joseph, Jacobs son who was sold into slavery by his older brothers. What a frightening thing to have happen in your life. Through the next several chapters he goes from finding favor with his master to being double-crossed and thrown in jail. Through all of these episodes he continues to find favor with God and is made the most prominent prisoner and eventually gets out of jail to become the second most powerful man in Egypt. What an encouragement to keep your faith that you can go from knocking on death’s door to being victorious.

Is it simple to take something that you may have been worrying about for years and turn it over to Christ? Well—Yes. David makes a powerful statement…”A man of God in the will of God is immortal until his work on earth is done.” in other words If I am in the will of God, going where God wants me to go, I can be sure that God knows what He is doing with me. What a sense of power and freedom this statement has. God cares about you and wants to see you prosper. During his message he reminds us that God created us and cares about even the minor details in our lives, so why wouldn’t he care for the major details. He tells of a parable that Jesus discusses one day with the crowds. In olden days people would by sparrows, and they could get 2 sparrows for 1/16 of a days wage. They could by 4 sparrows and get the 5th one FREE—that’s right there were even bargains in the bible…haha. He tells the crowd that God cares for all the sparrows—even the FREE one. If God cares about free sparrows if they fall from the sky or not, why would he not care about the worries of the ones who were made in his own image?

So instead of worrying today, I look to Psalms 55:22 Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you. I pray that God will continue to grant us patience and understanding in his timing. Lift up our heavy hearts and know that He is perfect, He has a plan, and we just have to hang in there. That he will help us learn not to worry as each day passes, but to look hopeful towards the future that He has planned for us. Looking to the journey he have traveled and the road ahead, I know that we will continue to be encouraged by all of the wonderful people in our lives and be blessed. I thank everyone for all of their encouragement.

We are going to Philadelphia tonight to introduce our best friends to Ethiopian cuisine. We are so excited and I look forward to sharing in this wonderful part of our lives. I’m sure tonight will be filled with wonderful visions of our beautiful blessing(s) and it warms my heart just thinking about the amazing things He has in store.

Jan 27, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

Tested

This past Sunday I watched a broadcast of Joel Olsteen that was entitled “God Is In Control of the Storm” and it spoke to my heart and to our journey. During the message he spoke to the times in your life when things are going in your favor, and how you can say with great assurance that God is in control. The waters of life are calm and you are in good spirits. It’s during these times that it is important to give thanks and praise God for the blessings you have received, but what happens when things are not going your way? When the winds pick-up and the waters of life become choppy and unruly.

The radio message from David Jeremiah yesterday was centered around the message of Faith? Both David and Joel would agree that having strong faith does not exempt us from experiencing “storms” in our lives. Through my weekly Bible reading, I have already discovered multiple times that people who were in God’s favor had their faith tested. Take Job for example, who ranked highly on God’s list, yet lost his family, his health, and all of his material possessions. It is these times that it takes faith, to believe that God is still in control. There is an interesting song on the top of Christian charts right now by New Song, entitled “The Same God” that correlates beautifully with Joel’s message. Part of it’s lyrics read “There was a day when your faith couldn’t be held down; God was near enough to every word; But somehow you wish he heard you right now; Don’t you know [Chorus] The same God who was with you then, is with you now“.

It is easy to think during life’s struggles, God—How could you let this happen to me? but what Joel’s message speaks to is that God will not allow a storm in your life unless he has a divine purpose for it. If the struggle that your facing would prevent you from reaching your destiny in life, God would not have permitted it to happen, but He is instead using it to take you from point A to point B in your life’s plan. He makes a very powerful statement about tough times in our life. He says “instead of using our faith to pray away the problem, we should use our faith to believe that when the problem is gone we will be exactly where God wants us to be“.

I find it interesting when God places things in front of us as examples that he will use later on to teach us something. I was blessed enough during our latest trip to Tioga, PA to check off an item from my bucket list. In the center of what is known as Dead Man’s Hollow was a majestic Bald Eagle flying through the wind and the snow. I had always wanted to see one of these in nature and not cramped up in some stuffy zoo. Following him through my binoculars I was amazed at how graceful and powerful he appeared given his present surroundings. During the message Joel referred to the bald eagle as an example of faith. He said that when eagle flies into a storm, he doesn’t try to fight his way into the winds and the rain, but instead stretches out his wings and rises above the storm using the wind to his advantage. When the winds are against you, its easy to get frustrated and struggle trying to make things work your way, but instead be an eagle, say “God I’m done struggling, I trust you“. You will find that with the realization that God is in control, the winds that were meant to push you down will lift you up and you’ll rise above.

I can tell you from personal experience that this is true. Two years ago when the waters became choppy and the winds began to blow and we discovered that we couldn’t have children naturally I often wondered “Why was this happening?” at first I became bitter and discouraged, feeling lost. We leaned heavily on God through the process of IVF, but it wasn’t until our second round that things began to click inside. I began to relinquish control of what we wanted so badly and my prayers shifted to having faith in what God wanted for our lives. It was the very moment that we let go of the reins and allowed God to take control, that the winds began to shift. We went from having the winds in our face, to the winds at our back.

It was several years ago in Margate, NJ that Heidi and  I ran a 10-miler in the middle of 60+ winds and rain…another literal example that God provided in my life. Running from Margate toward Atlantic City was a struggle, sometimes pushing us backwards and requiring all of our focus and strength to power through; however the amazing part of the race came on our return back to the finish line. With the wind to our backs we ran 2 minutes faster per mile and with much less effort. How powerful it felt to have the winds on our back pushing us forward towards our goal.

Near the end of Olsteen’s message he provided a quote that I really enjoyed. He said “Let your test, become your testimony“. He spoke to this saying that God is truly in control. He can move mountains, repair relationships, heal disease, he even brought people back from the dead among many other things. If this is truly your faith that God has this power, don’t you then have to trust that he can lead through the storm? He says that if you are going from point A to point B along what is your destiny, and you hit a bump in your road. God has  the ultimate power to shift the winds and you would have an excellent testimony to share with others, but imagine the testimony you would have if he leads you through the winds to the other side.

I have for a very long time felt that Heidi and I will have an amazing testimony to share with others when we reach point B, and I look forward everyday to sharing the story with our child and with so many others of how God walked beside us through our journey and at times carried us when we grew weary. Sirius XM The Message always provides interesting quotes throughout its broadcast and I will end with one of Heidi and I’s favorites “God won’t protect you from things that perfect you“. I pray that whatever storms may be in your life, that you will allow God to take control and shift the winds in your life. You will find when this happens you will be propelled forward and find yourself amazed at how you race towards your destiny.

Jan 18, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

Darkness

We recently took a trip to Tioga County, PA to visit Alex’s family hunting camp. It is a cozy cabin surrounded by woods in an area with a very sparse population. Looking out the window at night you will immediately notice that there are no street lights, and if there is no moon, there is NO light. As I took the time to unplug this past weekend, I worked towards my goal of reading through the entire Bible this year. Because I am reading it chronologically I am working my way through Job. It follows the story of a man who had great favor with God. He had a very bright light shining for God that was one day extinguished as he lost everything he had (possessions & family). I have often heard that if you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in Hell after you have perished, it is a total absence of God, and I imagine this must be a very dark lonely place. I don’t envision lakes of fire, a land of demons, surrounded by a Black Sabbath soundtrack, but instead much like the “When Dreams May Come” where you are alone, surrounded by darkness and in silence.

Have you ever been at home the first few seconds after a power outage? It is a very nerve-racking feeling until you are able to find a flash light or light a candle. You stumble around in darkness, maybe hit your knee, trip over the cat, but eventually you find it. What a glorious feeling when your vision is restored and you see your path ahead of you. What an even more comforting feeling if people are there with you and you have multiple candles. It always amazes me during Christmas Eve Service when a single candle is passed around to each member of the congregation to light their candle. As they light there candle, a glow begins to form around the sanctuary until eventually all of the darkness is replaced by the brightness of light.

I must admit that there were several times during our journey that we have felt surrounded by darkness. Through IVF and adoption there are times where you feel like your light is dimmed and close to extinguishment, and other times when you are blinded by the brightness of God’s glory. There are many examples of light that God uses throughout the Bible as an illustration. Psalms 119:105 reads “You word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path“. I am finding this verse to have increasing meaning as I make my way through His word and it begins to help me reflect upon various areas of life. 2 Corinthians 4:6 reads “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ“, I have leaned on this verse during the tougher days.

If you read the headlines todays or set through the first few minutes of any newscast, you will see that our world is a very dim and dark place. We are called to go out and spread the light of Christ to the world and also keep our own light shining bright. “Hide it under a bushel NO! I’m gonna let it shine” Heidi and I feel increasingly blessed and our lights have began to grow brighter.  Our path continues to become illuminated as more people join us along our journey to receive the blessing(s) that God has in store for us in Ethiopia. Instead of the cold lonely dark basement, I feel more like the warm inviting sanctuary filled with so many and it is an awesome thing to experience. I thank God everyday for the light He and others help provide in our lives and hope that just like a member in the congregation that I can continue to pass my light onto the next place until the entire world shares in the warm inviting glow of Christ love.

Jan 12, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

Investing

We recently enrolled in a seminar at our church which helps couples take an in-depth look at  ways to learn how to become better stewards of their finances. Included in the program are a number of helpful ways to overcome financial pitfalls as well as make wise investments in your future.

While reviewing the materials this week for our classes, I have at the same time had the pleasure of listening to my morning commute sermons which have also focused on stewardship recently and offered some interesting insight into God’s advice on how we should invest. Matthew 6:21 says “ For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (parenthesis added for emphasis). This particular verse has resinated with me and made me reflect on how it is important to not focus on monetary investments in today’s world, but instead how I invest my time and energy in life. In Ecclesiastes, Solomon speaks to the fact that he found little reward in his earthly treasures of vineyards, homes, servants, herds, etc., but instead found his greatest joys to come from the simple acts of life like eating, drinking, working hard, and serving the Lord.

We have worked hard over the past year and continue to focus daily on making “well-rounded investments” in our lives in preparation for raising our children. As the main example in their lives we look forward to showing our child(ren) what it means to work-hard in all aspects of your life, show respect to others around you, take good care of your physical and spiritual health, be good stewards with the blessings that God provides, and help those who are not as fortunate as you. I find it takes a fair amount of focus to be “well-rounded” in your investments, and just like monetary investments its not something that is resolved overnight. It takes careful planning and constant monitoring to ensure that you are focused on finding a good balance.

We were honored this week during our seminars small-group discussion to talk briefly about our adoption and how through our journey it has been amazing to see God’s ability to provide for us along the way. If not, for the generosity of so many amazing family and friends we would not have been able to be so close to bringing our blessing(s) home from Ethiopia. Words can not express the gratitude that we have felt over the past 18 months of people providing support for our family financially and emotionally and “investing” in our child(ren) through the kindness of their hearts.

How do you invest your time and energy? I have asked God to help me find better ways to become a better steward and to show me ways to be well-rounded in all aspects of my life during 2012. When thinking about how I divvy up my time and energy, I always look back at an example I learned in youth group many years back, where you try to fit 5 golf-balls and a bag of rice into a mason jar. If you put all of your desires (represented by the rice) into the jar first, there is no room for the golf-balls (represents God); however if you put the golf-balls in first, and then the rice they both fit in the jar. As we continue to focus our hearts and minds on our little treasures in Ethiopia, we always ensure to put God first in all decisions and it has been amazing to see how all of our desires have fallen in line.

Jan 6, 2012 - Our Story    1 Comment

Believe

During my morning commute, I often tune into 89.3 to listen to David Jeremiah preach a daily sermon and look for ways to apply it to my day or weeks ahead. He provided an interesting story yesterday of a man that was preparing for the Super Bowl. He had just purchased a brand new large screen television and satellite dish and was proceeding to install it in time for the big game. He climbed up on the roof and was fishing through the wiring when he lost his balance and stumbled backwards. Clawing and grabbing at anything he could, in a last ditch effort he grabbed the gutter and held on for dear life. He screamed down below “Hey! Can anyone down there help me?”, but received no response. Everyone was inside preparing the Super Bowl feast. He looked up to the sky and said “Hey! Can anyone up there help me?”, and was startled when a voice answered back from the heavens “Let Go and Believe“. The man took a moment and looked towards the sky once more saying “Hey! Can anyone else up there help me?”

Isn’t it such human nature to seek the answers that we want, and not the answers we need? During our journey I have often asked God to provide direction in our life, give meaning to the things which are unfolding, and let us know what we should be learning from this experience in our lives. I work everyday on humbling myself and being silent to let God answer, and to find acceptance in his answers. It was during another morning commute sermon that I heard around mid-April of 2010 when the Ethiopian program was beginning to shift that God spoke to me and provided me the wisdom of “be still, and know that I am God” – Psalms 46:10. The sermon instructed that through times of despair, loneliness, and tragedy in your life it is very easy to say “Why Me?” “Why Now?” and turn away from God. Instead, we should say “What should I be learning from this?” and turn towards God. We should open our eyes, close our mouths, and let God take the reins. Nearing the end of the sermon, David spoke of the fact that God is the Lord of Lords. There is no other, and if you truly believe this in your heart than how can you provide God a rebuttal to his answer? We have asked God to provide us a baby, and in our hearts he has said “Yes”. I do struggle with asking God, “When?”, but I think thats what makes me human. In the past several months, we have humbled ourselves to know that the timing does not need to be provided. It is His timing, and it will be perfect.

I look forward to when God’s timing provides us a healthy blessing or blessings and we can look back on the journey to know the answers our hearts so earnestly seek. I pray that you will take something from this story and learn to ask God your question(s), and find peace in his answer(s).

Jan 3, 2012 - Our Story    No Comments

All Things Are Possible

We all have New Year’s resolutions and hopefully we have all still kept them so far. Some are harder than others, and many seem to be based around peoples vices (quit smoking, watch less tv, etc.). The other day we sat down as a family and made “inspiration boards” to display in our house of the things we wanted to do in 2012. Heidi’s idea—and at first I mocked her—but once I began making it, I really enjoyed it. I think its a great idea to display the goals and ambitions you have for yourself. It also is great to allow others to see them so that they can help keep you accountable. In big bold letters near the center of my board reads “Look to God Everyday”. One of my main goals for 2012 is to grow deeper in my faith and work towards reading the Bible all the way through—something I have always wanted to do, but never truly taken the time. As a Christian, I think this is near the top of the list of most important things to do. Through our adoption, we have definitely rekindled our relationship with Christ, especially through the last year of waiting, and I look forward to building on this foundation. Helping me with this task, is an App / Website called YouVersion.com. If you have not ever seen this, I highly recommend it for you to check out. You can access the Bible in over 200+ languages. You can download an offline version to your iPod, and it even comes with an “audio version” for several languages. Built into the website are a series of rewards and badges, reading plans, and connection to a live community of events that you can participate in remotely. When I logged in this morning to read my verses, it scrolled across the bottom a daily verse— “And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” – Luke 18:27. A verse that we are quite familiar with, and one of the key verses that Heidi and I have clung to through some of the toughest parts of our journey. It makes me smile every time I read it and reassures me that God’s timing is perfect and he will do anything our heart earnestly desires. He has already read my inspiration board before I even cut the first clipping out and pasted it up, and I know that he is ultimately holding me accountable. I look forward to checking off the list of inspirations I have as I complete them, but none of them would be possible if I didn’t put a giant check next to the one in the middle.

Dec 30, 2011 - Our Story    No Comments

Hit “Refresh”

If you are visiting our site for the first time, or its been sometime since your last visit, Welcome! I have redesigned the site a little bit to allow more interactivity and hopefully make it less cumbersome to keep updated.

Just as you sometimes need to wipe the slate clean, or hit “refresh” on a computer, we are taking this approach in the coming year as a family and with our blog. This past year has been absolutely a blessing with so many wonderful people touching our lives in so many ways. The outpouring of support that has been shown to Heidi and I can sometimes be overwhelming with how generous people have been to help us bring our little blessing(s) home from Ethiopia.

This aside—2011 was a very slow year for us as a number of legislation changes and international policies caused the expected wait list time to increase dramatically and slowed our fast dropping numbers to a crawl. While initially it was very hard, we both look back in perspective that it made us stronger as a couple and opened our eyes to a lot of areas in our lives. It has been said that “God has perfect timing” and we fully believe and support that statement. For whatever reason, our Bella is not ready to be placed in our lives yet, and I believe over this past year we have spent hundreds of heart-aching moments coming to terms with this. Through the waiting we have discovered a rekindled relationship with Christ and grew deeper in our faith. Recently joining Bethany United Methodist Church we have had the blessed opportunity to work with several volunteer organizations and it has helped us focus on the beautiful areas of our everyday lives. Focusing not on negativity, but centering our lives in Christ has given us a blessed assurance that he will guide us in perfect timing.

We look forward to hitting “refresh” on our hearts and minds this year as we await the blessing(s) that God has in store for us and turn our focus on preparing our lives for new opportunities. We are currently #32 (girls) & #6 (siblings) and pray that this year is when God has prepared to bless us as parents. I look forward to finding new volunteer opportunities and restarting my health and fitness goals, as we plan to begin training for the Lehigh Valley Half-Marathon any day now.

Dec 26, 2011 - Our Story    No Comments

Christmas Surprise

We were recently surprised on Christmas morning with a Puzzle Fundraiser from Heidi’s mom, who sent out a letter to all of the contacts she had available. With the blessing of so many, she helped to raise enough money to pay for one of our flights to Ethiopia!! Thank you so much, mom, for surprising us with such an AMAZING gift. We continued to be stunned by the love and support of so many in our lives. Thank you, everyone, for showing us the true spirit of Christmas!

We would like to open the fundraiser to anyone else who would like to participate. We have selected a 1000 piece puzzle for Bella’s room and are selling each piece for $10.00. Once a piece is purchased, your name will be written on the back of the piece. We will mount the finished puzzle in a double-sided frame that will allow us to always look back on all of those who helped bring our little blessing(s) home. We can’t express enough gratitude to all of those who have already purchased a piece and appreciate all of the hard work from all of those, especially Bella’s mom-mom, who helped organize this fundraiser. If you are interested in purchasing a puzzle piece, please email Heidi to let her know.

Jul 15, 2011 - Our Story    No Comments

Waiting imPatiently

It has been sometime since our last update and many wonderful things have happened over the past several months. We have patiently moved down the list and are currently (unofficially #46 girls / #14 siblings). With each sunset we move one day closer to a referral. We have expanded our parameters for siblings to include a sibling pair of one boy and one girl 0—24 months.

When we first received the news in March that the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MOWA) was proposing to reduce its case load dramatically (from 50 cases per day to 5 cases per day), we were very distraught with concerns that our wait time would go from being months to possibly years, as in other programs such as China. It was a confusing and frustrating time, but through this period we leaned very heavily on our “Rock” and prayed that God would show us what He would have us learn through this struggle. We opened our hearts and our ears to find out what the meaning of all this may be. In theory, this slow down will help an already low-staffed and overwhelmed MOWA have a greater ability to study each child’s case more closely, ensuring that any instances of fraud or trafficking can be removed from the international adoption process. Stronger efforts can be made to build up intercountry adoption and help Ethiopian children remain with their families, which is always optimal. While this is a very important focus, we do get discouraged when we think of all the beautiful children who may see increased time spent in orphanages and all of the heartbroken families, like ourselves, who will experience longer wait times away from their children.

While there was an initial slow down for several months, it is hard to estimate what increased wait times may look like until more time passes to develop a trend. We remain optimistic, as we have seen many families blessed over the past several months with referrals from our agency. We are continuing to move down the list (unofficially #46 girls, #14 siblings) and there are reports that the number of cases reviewed, which were initially 5 daily, have increased to 15 daily.

We continue to see so much encouragement from our families and friends and know that down the road, our Lord will make his plans crystal clear. In the meantime, we are trying to stay busy to keep our minds off the waiting. We are currently working on finishing our basement to convert our office upstairs into a future nursery. We are planning a local car wash later this summer to fundraise and raise awareness in our community, and we both hope to possibly run another half-marathon in the fall for Team Bella, which mean training starts very soon. We continue to be amazed everyday by everyone who loves our child(ren) so much already and can’t wait to share our blessing(s) with everyone. Many thanks goes out to all of those who have been a comfort over the past several months, you give us strength to press forward!

The waiting is the hardest part, Every day you get one more yard, You take it on faith, you take it to the heart, The waiting is the hardest part.

- Tom Petty

Mar 5, 2011 - Our Story    No Comments

Staying Positive

Since our last update, the Lord has continued to bless us. We have completed all of our dossier paperwork, USCIS paperwork, and received our Favorable Determination Letter (FDL). We are currently in the waiting period, where we receive regular updates from our agency on the reports from Hannah’s Hope, and our updated position on our list. At present time, we are unofficially #68 on the girls list (started at #91) and unofficially #31 on the siblings list (began at #44), we are still awaiting official numbers.

Some new opportunities have been placed in our path over the past several weeks that have helped keep us encouraged through this long journey. We recently spoke with a good friend about her travels to Western Africa. She provided us an interesting perspective on the beautiful culture and shared with us her many photographs and stories of her amazing life changing trip. We recently began receiving our subscription to Adoptive Families as well, which has been a vast resource of information and provides great advice for when we receive our little Bella. In addition, we were recently approved to join our agencies listserv, which has already overwhelmed us with an amazing opportunity to speak directly with those previously and currently involved with our agency. I am positive that the members will help reveal a world of knowledge and provide a key resource for any questions that may come up along the way. More importantly, several members who are within a radius of our home and will hopefully become lifelong opportunities for our family to connect with others like ourselves have already contacted us.

We have been also working with Heidi’s students on planning a new fundraising opportunity that is quickly approaching, Breakfast for Bella, which is an all-you-can-eat pancake fundraiser on March 26th. It will certainly be a fun filled event! We plan to provide raffle baskets and face painting for the kiddos. Due to a limited number of seating available, we created tickets for the event and have been seeing a steady number of people requesting tickets. We continued to be blessed by all of those who have reached out to use over the past year to provide a word of encouragement or helped donate to our events.

We have also been busy recently with many things to help keep our journey moving forward, including seeking a new place of worship. In the past few weeks we have been through the spectrum of congregations and witnessed many pluses and minuses to each. In the sermon last week, it was said that God did not intend our ship to go left, then right, then left again, but instead straight ahead staying on course and weathering the storms of life. We continue to stay on course in our faith in the Lord that he will make all things in life happen according to his plan, and timing. The waiting period is one that can be challenging and discouraging on the best of days, but we must trust in the Lord in all we do. We continue to pray for all of Africa and our agencies members, our little blessing(s), and all of those involved.

The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him.

- Lamentations 3:25

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