Youth Camp…

Do you remember this TV show?  Deborah (the mom) is frustrated because her in-laws keep coming over constantly and disrupting her family’s goings on.  In the  pilot episode Frank (the father-in-law) is on a mission to get Ray & Deb’s twins & smell their heads; Frank’s words, “to suck the youth out of them”.  He wakes them up & takes them out of bed so he can just have a moment with them to be around their youth & it become a part of him.

Tuesday night I sat in a room filled with 60+ teenagers sharing testimonies of how God has been working in their lives.  Suddenly a wall of emotion hit me in the face.  As my eyes filled with tears I was reminded of 5yrs ago when we started working with this group of students…

5yrs ago my husband and I were called to work with the youth at our church.  We were both working full time.  Tyler was in school working on his PhD (aka: torture), we were not married yet so there was still a LOT of wedding planning going on.  My husband had never taught before & he had never worked with teenagers before.  We had no time, we were ill-equipped, we didn’t have teenagers, and we didn’t want to teach.  But when God calls you to serve you go.

Rejoice in the Lord always.  I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all.  The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  Philippians 4:4-7

When we found out that we couldn’t have children biologically rejoicing was the farthest thing from our minds.  We were angry and hurt.  We felt cheated of our God-given right to have a family.  We felt like failures & wondered how this blow would affect our future & our marriage.  Thankfully we were not alone during this time, because God had already begun to fill that void for our unborn child in our life.  “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you…The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid…” (Hebrews 13:5-6).   God gave us peace about the one child that we could not have and said LOOK at the 15-20 kids that you are blessed with every Sunday morning!

These children/youth/teenagers have become our children:  we celebrate their successes, grieve in their failures, pray for them by name, worry about the world they are entering & are blessed when we see them surrendering their lives to Christ.  They have also been a tremendous blessing on our marriage…

  • Teaching taught us accountability: at a time in our lives where time is short & lists are long, staying in the Word was not a priority but when you know that without a doubt there will be teenagers waiting for you on Sunday morning expecting a lesson, you will be in the Word.  When the gravity hits you that you only have 52 Sundays in a year with a group of young people that are being bombarded everyday with temptations, sin & pain, you will be in the Word.
  • Teaching taught us that our love is not enough to keep our marriage together.  We have to have a fear of the Lord & keep God in our marriage at all times because when you break that covenant the sin affects everyone around you.  Our children are watching every move we make, how we treat each other & we must be the example otherwise they will start to find influences elsewhere.
  • Teaching the students taught my husband that he loves teaching.  Because of the confidence God allowed him in teaching the 10th graders at our church he is now on staff at this school.

We leave next week to pick up our 5 children & people thought it was crazy that I was going to  youth camp the week before we leave. Friends said:  “You still have SO much to do before you go!”, “What a sacrifice you are making for these teens.”,  “Can’t someone else go?”,   “Don’t they have enough sponsors?”,  “They are so blessed to have you!”

Oh friends, you don’t understand, I am Frank Barone.  I want to wake them up, take them out of bed & “suck the youth out of them.”  God has blessed us abundantly through these students, we have been able to “Rejoice in the Lord always” despite our circumstances because He allowed us to serve in this ministry.  Every success, lesson learned, everything good was from Him!

I pray dear friends that when God calls you to serve that you do not make excuses but delight that He has given you an opportunity.  When we started teaching we expected to change lives, we didn’t know that God would use it to change ours.  As our season changes & we step down from teaching in the youth group we leave with a happy heart, beautiful memories & excitement for the next family that has been called to serve.

They are off to change the world!

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Visas…

Just a quick recap of our day for those of you who are following our story…

We left our home at 3am this morning driving down to Houston to try for visas again.  We arrive in Houston no problem with 2 and 1/2hrs to spare.  We have a fabulous breakfast, again at this restaurant because it’s the only one we know how to easily find.  Then we head over to the Colombian consulate to get our visas.  We are second in line & within the next hour the hallway is FULL!  I am getting pretty anxious…Tyler is cool as a cucumber.

I remember that a few weeks ago I send out a prayer request to a few close friends & Donna Craig sent a response of ‘yes I will pray for you & a group of bible verses for encouragement’.  This verse was in my head from the moment that we got in line:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It was a lesson that I didn’t want to learn, I wanted to walk into the consulate paperwork prepared, hand it over, be back on the road in 15min, and head off to youth camp that afternoon.

So we walked into the consulate & Tyler asked me to check our paperwork one more time to make sure that we have everything…nope we are missing our plane ticket printouts. We absolutely had to have this piece or we would not be issued a visa.  Panic!!  We get called to the counter as we realize that the only copy we have of the tickets is sitting in Tyler’s briefcase at home or on his ‘fancy high-security laptop’ that only he can access!!  Luckily his mom was able to run to our house and get the record locator number so we could at least pull them up online.  So we had over the paperwork that we had to the consulate employee & explained our situation about the adoption, the missing paperwork, the drive twice now to Houston in hopes that we will still be able to receive the visas today.

We are told, “the Consulate is the only one who can issue visas and he is not in yet.”  That’s it.  So we wait.   About 45min later we get called back to the desk, the Consulate is in & wants to check our paperwork.  30min later we get called to the desk again and are told this, “The Consulate just returned from vacation & is changing how he does things, he wants to go through all of the paperwork with a fine-toothed-comb before he will issue the visas, you will absolutely not receive them today, he will call you in the next 3 days and let you know what he decides.  In the meantime you need to go and print off your plane tickets and bring them back for him to look at.”

Totally dejected we get in the car to head to the nearest FedEx Office to print off our plane tickets.  In the meantime I’ve been checking facebook & we had received so many encouraging messages & we knew there are so many people lifting us up in prayer. Then I received this message from my friend also going through a Colombian adoption in Raleigh, NC:

We are here with the WRONG paperwork and the Atlanta Consulate closes in 2 hours…oh my! We were also told it would cost $50 each, we brought $200 to be safe and found out it is going to cost $225 each. We need to get more money!!

This Gladney family is at the Consulate in Atlanta going through struggles too & they leave this Wednesday to pick up their kids!  And then I got the sweet reminder:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 2 Corinthians 12:9

It’s not our power, our efforts, our glory or even our kids.  It is God’s power and for His glory and they are His children.  Our prayers changed immediately from, “Give us the easy road to God we give you the glory, no matter what.  None of this would be possible without You, You are the only one who can meet our needs, we are weak and powerless and rely fully on your power!!”

We went back to the Consulate with our plane tickets, when we passed them to the employee she said to wait, & make sure the Consulate didn’t need anything else from us.  In 10min we were called to the window again, “the Consulate says to come back in about 2hrs & he is going to try and have your visas ready today.” TODAY!!!

Miracles from today:

Our friend’s facebook posts:

The Consulate is closed. We are locked inside waiting for them to process the visas. They did receive the proper documents @ 1pm. Hopefully we will leave with them in hand. Waiting and PRAYING!!

Raleigh, NC bound WITH our visas! Thank you for praying.  If you would, please pray for my friend Beth & her husband Tyler who are at the Consulate in Houston having similar problems.

Tyler & I arrived back at the Consulate at 1:30, the Consulate closes at 2:00 & it was still packed with people.  We sat down in the employee’s line of sight hoping that we would be called over to the window…at 1:50 we were motioned over & handed our passports containing our visas to travel & pick up our kids!!!  Unbelievable!

This was the employee who was so patient with us all day. It’s official we are a go for travel!

So I am headed off to youth camp, reminded that we serve a God who still performs miracles, & is active in the world today! Can’t wait to see what He has in store for our teens this week, praying that their hearts will be turned to His all sufficient power & grace!

Also just so you can have a visual of our excitement from receiving our passports, picture me singing & dancing to this song (substitute Colombia for Africa) all of the way down the elevator & to the car…people saw, don’t care :))

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

We have SIZES (we hope)…

So after coming back from Houston earlier than expected I tried to figure out what project to tackle first…

Do you remember in this post when I told you about the Gladney Service team that got to meet our kids?  Well they also gave us a HUGE gift & took tracings of the kids hands & feet & their height.  We love having these for the fun memories for our kids when they are older, but we also appreciate these measurements to figure out their sizes.

So I called up my good friend Brandi & asked her to help me play the game, “What size clothing & shoes do you think my kid’s wear?”  Brandi is a great mom, practical, and I knew she would be able to lead me through this anomaly that is Kid’s sizes.  I was right she showed me the size charts & off we went through Target with the tape measure, looking for kids that were about the same size as my kids are & asking their mom’s what size they are, calling friends who have kids the same age/size as mine are & using Brandi’s son Baby Jake as a model for my youngest daughter.

Figuring out that Baby Jake was a perfect match to baby girl’s size foot 🙂

Thanks Baby Jake, hope this will be a fun memory for our kids to share someday

The trip was a success here are the sizes that we have come up with:

The boys:

Oldest son: Clothing 8/9, Shoes 2

Middle son: Clothing 6/7, Shoes 1

Youngest son: Clothing 4T, Shoes 10T

The girls:

Oldest daughter: Clothing 6, Shoes 1

Youngest daughter: Clothing 2T/3T, Shoes 8W/9

I bought the basics to get us through the Colombia trip: socks, underwear, bathing suits, tennis shoes, one pair of nice shoes.  I have had a lot of clothing donated & I will be going through that tonight to see what sizes I am still in need of.

The haul: I was able to cover the entire purchase with giftcards that we have received from generous friends & family!!

We are still on the hunt for cowboy boots for the boys.  This was their one request, how much do you love that God prepared them a place in Texas!

Thank you to all of our friends who have been so generous to our kids, you will never know how God’s love has been shown to our family through your thoughtful actions!!

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Best laid plans…

So on Thursday night we headed to Houston because Friday morning we had grand plans of being the first people in line to try & obtain our visas to travel to Colombia…

July 20th is Colombia’s Independence Day =’s the consulate is closed.  Whoops!

But on July 20th I fell in love with my husband all over again…We are lined up in front of the consulate’s door at 8:45, there are 3 full grown men in front of us waiting too & about 5min later my husband very calmly says, “So the consulate is closed today, that’s what the sign on the door says in Spanish.”  Immediately the 3 men in front of us become exasperated & react the way that I felt: frustrated, inconvenienced, & mad that everyone is not running on “American” time.  I turn around fully expecting Tyler to respond as ungraciously as I am prepared to.  Tyler just very calmly says, “Oh well, guess we’ll get to come again on Monday” & begins to head back to the car.

“What?!?”  We just spent extra money on gas & we are going to have to do it again on Monday, he had to take off of work when & he is about to have to take off 2 months of work for our Colombia trip, we have so many projects to still work  on at home that we didn’t have time to travel to Houston.  So I very sweetly asked him, “Why so calm?”

His reply, “There is nothing that we can do about this and I got to have a nap yesterday, a date with my wife (House of Pie & this movie on TV) & relax, we get to head home early & have a full weekend to work on the projects and this gets us one step closer to our kids.”  He also jokingly asked, “Do you remember what you prayed for in the car right before we went in? You prayed, ‘God please get us in & out of the consulate fast’ and He answered!  Next time ask God for our visas too.”

I love this guy, he’s going to be such a great dad! 🙂

On the way back we ate at Tyler’s favorite restaurant (at least when we can’t find a Chipotle)

Stopped at a famous TX monument, Sam Houston

HEADed home (it’s joke get it?)

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

It’s really happening…

Last weekend we were celebrating the success of my husband’s company…

The fellas

All of the supportive wives 🙂

It was a great night!  My husband has been blessed to work with some amazing people. They are full of integrity, smart, funny, and have fabulous wives!  We had a fancy dinner, visited about our families, and enjoyed each other’s company.

One week later…we are headed to Houston to pick u our visas at the Colombian consulate.  Why you ask?

Because we are traveling AUGUST 1st for Colombia!!

Things to accomplish in two weeks: learn more Spanish, clothes & shoes to get, 10hrs of online training done by Saturday, kid’s medicine to buy, tooth brush holders, memorize more scripture, 2 more back-packs, dog’s have to go to the vet, go on a date with my husband, meeting with the  school district, spend time with family & friends, call to the pediatrician, fix brakes on the van, youth camp all next week, finish the plumbing in the kid’s bathroom, become a perfect parent, pray, pray, pray…

This afternoon we’ll get to tell the kids that we will be there in 2wks.  2wks and our family will be together.  We still have to take time to pause and let it sink in: 5 kids calling us Papi & Mami, 5 kids to take care of, 5 kids to hug good night, 5 kids to chase after every day!  Oh my goodness, these lives that we are blessed with!

Time flies.  It’s up to you to be the navigator. ~Rob Orben

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Making memories…

We have had the privilege to make some wonderful family memories this past week…

1.  The group of adoptees on the teen service trip for Gladney got to meet our kids!  They did us a huge service of getting the kid’s sizes so we can get the right size clothing for them.  They also took time to play with the kids & just love on them.  Then very late at night we got a Skype call from the entire group to tell us about their experience with the 5!  The group said that we are definitely going to have our hands full & that the kids are great!  Busy, silly, and enjoying their picture books & presents that we sent them.  I look forward to reminding my children about this special group of people who sacrificed their time & finances to make this trip and give hope to the waiting children in Colombia.

Skyping with the whole group! We could only see about 4-5 of the group & didn’t realize that we had the privilege of meeting everybody til these pictures were posted to facebook.

Team showing us the measurements that they took of our kids!

2.  The kids got to meet Tyler’s side of the family this week.  We almost had to cancel the call because the oldest two started school this week and weren’t going to be able to be on the call.  Luckily Daniela (the woman at La Casa who oversees all of our Skype dates) is fabulous & said that she would get the youngest 3 for the call.  This actually worked out perfectly.  Our oldest 2, let’s be honest mostly big sister, do most of the talking on our Skype dates so giving the younger ones a chance to communicate with us was great!  And luckily we have a flexible family who came over Thursday afternoon for the younger kid’s call & again Friday morning to meet the older kids before they left for school!!

The kids are loving all of their new family members!  The younger kids were pretty impressed with their new cousin & his bright red hair, and the older kids really enjoyed meeting their new baby cousin.  All of the kids got big smiles when they realized that big sister shares the same name with her new Tia.

Tyler’s parents meeting the new grandkids

Meeing Tio, Tia, & Prima

3.  This call was also special because Tyler’s mom brought her laptop so we could do a walking tour of the house with the kids.  We went through all of the rooms of the house, the front yard, back yard & the vehicles.  The kids are very curious about their new home.  They loved their rooms, the boys are excited about their new beds & toys.  The girls love their new “kitchen”.  The kids took turns calling out who would live upstairs & who would live downstairs (in the bunk-beds).  When they saw the backyard ‘soccer’ was the only word that was said, over & over again!  Our oldest son was not in a smiling mood on the call but he did crack a grin when he got to see the van.  Love that he digs the cars as much as his daddy does!

Tyler doing the walking tour via the laptop, how amazing is technology!

These things got the biggest smiles out of our kids: their beds, food in the cabinet (especially the apple juice),  Papi y Mami’s bed (big sister stated it is big enough for all of us to fit in), the van, and the loudest shouts of joy were for the bathtub!

Our favorite parts during the phone calls:  Our middle son saying, “Papi did a great job on our house!”, big brother saying 3wks is too long away & he wants us there sooner, the excitement of all the kids learning that one of them shares the same name with their new family, and Daniela informing us that ALL of the kids are looking in their picture books & calling us Papi & Mami.  Lastly during the tour big sister asked us to sing them a song…uh oh our knowledge of Spanish songs was next to zero…but luckily Tyler went on a mission trip last year to Peru & learned one song that he has been trying to teach me.  The first song we did for the kids…

Mi Dios es tan grande, tan fuerte y poderoso, no hay nada se no puede hacer.  (My God is so big, so strong and so mighty, there’s nothing my God cannot do)

It was perfect, it was truth & it made my kids smile!

Sweet baby girl holding her picture book about papi y mami

At the dinnermesa,

Beth

Just for us #1…

One of the main reasons our family started the blog is to remember.  In a year when we are asking ourselves, “what were we thinking and we can read about God’s faithfulness & His provision”.  In two years when we ask ourselves, “we are praying (insert request) for our kids and we can read when God answered our request for children.”  In six years when our oldest becomes a teenager and we can look back at when he first joined our family.  In ten years when our kids are wondering how we were feeling, what we were doing, how we lived before they came home.

One of the best pieces of advice that we have been given during our trek to a family is to not forget about each other.  When the kids come home we will be completely focused on them, and our roles as husband & wife will take a backseat to our roles as dad & mom.  We will take time for each other but it will not be like it is now: where we can go to a midnight showing of Shrek, visit friends on a whim, head away for the weekend with no planning, eat out without the fear of food being thrown or a tantrum ensuing.

The “Just for us…” posts are a fun homework project for me & the husband.  Our daily discussions, actions & prayers are centered around the five kids coming into our lives.  As a husband and wife we still need to take time to talk to each other about each other.  Our answers to these random questions are not going to change anybody’s life or solve the world’s problems, but they are going to be a daily reminder that we need to talk to each other and take the time to focus on a strong marriage to be good parents to our children.  I hope that in a few months or years when things are hard or happy we will be able to look back on these posts & remember…

#1.  What is your dream job, and why?

TYLER:  I want to drive around in a van and hand out over-sized checks to people.  Everybody you meet is happy to see you, I like to travel, and it will be fun to watch people cash a giant check at a bank.  And luckily we have a van, so really all I need is some large poster-board & a rich person…seems doable.

BETH:  I would be a professional whistler, much like this famous character.  I love to whistle and it would be great to get paid for it, that way I could remove all of the mouth wrinkles (compare to smoker’s wrinkles) I am going to get from whistling.

#2.  If you could live anywhere, where would it be and why?

TYLER: I would live in Wisconsin.  I like the Packers.  I like cheese.  I like the cold.  I like Laverne & Shirley.

BETH: I would live in Stars Hollow, CT.  Yes, the fictional world where the show Gilmore Girls was set.  Quirky characters, the Dragon Fly Inn, Luke’s Diner, Kim’s Antiques, and a great town square.  And I would love to be in the “Festival of Living Art”.

It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

At the dinnermesa,

Beth