The day I got married, one of my closest friends looked me in the eye and said "God has many wild and wonderful things ahead for you and Jeremy."

Being called mom by 7 kids is definitely wild. Each day I look for the wonder in it all...and give thanks.

Partnering with my husband in life, parenting, work and serving is definitely wonderful. He is my favorite.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Headed to Rwanda

About a year ago my husband and I started talking about getting involved with orphans--not just sitting back and sending money somewhere, but going and serving some place.  We also wanted to go somewhere where we could take our kids, teaching them that it doesn't matter how young you are, God can use you to love His children. 

What got the conversation started? 

We had several speakers come through our church in the Fall sharing God's heart for the orphan.  One Sunday morning, a guest speaker was showing pictures of different orphans around the world and he asked what came to our minds. 

People in the congregation started speaking up.....


All I could think is

"That's my child."

I did not speak up in church but that night Jeremy and I talked.  We both wanted to go somewhere and work with orphans.

We had originally thought that all five of us would go somewhere this past summer for 3-6 weeks.  We knew we wanted to work with an organization or a country that we would at least have the opportunity to pursue adoption.  I knew that my heart was already wide open to welcome more children into our home.

In fact, Jeremy and I had already let our first adoption agency know that we were feeling led to open our home to a sibling group.  New Life would keep us in mind in case they had a special situation come up.  We did not know if it meant foster care or adoption, but we just  knew we needed to first say "yes" to the nudging in our hearts to be open.

We looked at SO MANY possibilities for serving on a mission trip....

Kenya, Haiti, Mexico, Brazil, Liberia. 

And then a friend from church asked if I had contacted their adoption agency who also did mission trips.  They had brought home a son from Ethiopia with the help of All God's Children International. 

So by February we were in contact with the missions coordinator, Erica, and sharing what we wanted to do.  Erica asked me, "What about Rwanda?" 

Everything within me said YES and TELL ME MORE.  

like you ever had one of those moments where you can hear the music?
A little over two years ago, I read Immaculee Ilibigaza's story Left To Tell ---about her surviving the genocide in 1994.  When she first described where she lived near Lake Kivu, I thought, "I want to go there and see this place!"  My heart was softened for the people of Rwanda as I read her story.  So when Erica brought it up, I knew it was the place for us.

We couldn't get a trip together by the summer so we started making plans to go in November when the kids were out of school for a week.  We hadn't planned on leading a team this first time, but there was no other group already in progress.

So here's our team....

We are making our final plans and have had so much support from our friends and family as we get ready to go. 

Like I can't even believe some of the generous gifts we have been given--SERIOUSLY! 

It's so cool to be a part of not only what God is doing in Rwanda, but here at home too!
Makes me think of fireworks again. 

We hope to jampack 14 suitcases full of donations for the people we meet.  Don't think that's gonna be a problem.

We hope and pray that this is the first of many trips.  Praying that a future trip includes bringing home another child (children) =).  Emily and Wesley are ready for a brother and I only recently realized that they thought we could even bring one home this November.

They were a little disappointed to find out it's not that simple.

You can see some of the ministries we will help at Ten Talents International

This trip has got me thinking about a lot of things....but I'll save those for another post....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Journey of our First Adoption--- Part 4 (final)


Savannah's First Spa on the last day she was in the NICU

First time she was outdoors

Headed Home July 26, 2007

Exactly 6 months from placement, we finalized our adoption
December 28, 2007

family and friends got up very early to drive to the courthouse located 1 1/2 hours away to celebrate with us
Our family as of December 2007

Meeting the Birthmother's side of the family just a few days later
(Savannah's birthgrandparents, 21 year old sister, 9 year old sister, and 5 year old brother)
Samantha and Savannah
Tiffany and Savannah
Patrick and Savannah

Meeting them again in Sept 2009 (also met an uncle in the back)

Visiting the Birthfather's family in Sept 2009
(first time we saw David, her birthfather, since he introduced us to her in the NICU)
We plan to visit David and his family again in December

Sept 2010 visiting Samantha and Patrick and grandparents
 Love this one of her and Patrick!

Savannah today!
Can you believe we went from this.....
To this???
We are so thankful for this gift.  We are reminded that all our kids are truly gifts.  We had no idea that saying YES to adoption back in November 2006 would open the door to so much blessing, fullness, abundance, joy, and hope.  I sometimes think about what we would miss and how our lives would be so different if God had given me what I wanted.  I am so glad He didn't!!  His plan is better. 

I can't wait to tell you what's next!!  Have you ever thought, "God, please don't make me...." and one day you find yourself saying, "Lord, I want to but how....."  Like a total change of heart and you didn't even see it coming!  You gotta stay tuned to hear more about that soon.

But next, I MUST get you up to date about what's going on right now---like some seriously exciting, faith-building stuff!  Cannot wait!!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Journey of Our First Adoption--- Part 3

So I ended Part 2 with a note about Savannah's Birthmother.  I want to write more about her in another post another time.

We are now at the point of meeting our tiny baby girl for the first time.  After meeting with the birthparents and birth grandparents at Applebee's in San Antonio, we headed to the hospital.  What an emotional ride! 

We had just met Kelly and David (the birthparents) and Don and Shirley (David's parents) for a short time.  David and Kelly were in their 40's, no previous children together, (children yes, but none together prior to Savannah), and

life looked like it had been very hard on them.

Don and Shirley were so loving and supportive of all of us.  They seemed thrilled to meet us and that we were going to be Savannah's parents.  David and Kelly were happy for us, yet grieving at the same time.  It was very hard to be excited and gushing with joy as I saw Kelly's pain.

Yet I was terrilby excited to meet Savannah

When we got to the hospital, up to the NICU, we had a brief wait before they were going to sign the relinquishments in another room and we would meet Savannah.  If I had known that was the last time I would see Kelly, I would have hugged her one more time.  We didn't really say goodbye. 

The birthfather, David, took us through the process of sanitizing before entering the NICU and then he introduced us to Savannah for the first time.

At two weeks
She was so small, but so strong. 

David said goodbye to us and the nurse started giving us her status.  I changed her diaper for the first time and that's when she lost her umbilical cord thingy.  I was there for that. =)

My first question was, "When can I hold her?"

They explained that I could hold her for short periods of time but that they have to be sure she maintains her body temp, blah, blah, blah....I just said I wanted to hold her as often and as long as I could.

I also informed them that I would try to breastfeed so I was going to start "pumping."  That was new to most of the nurses.  An adoptive mom breastfeeding?  Yeah.

I held her skin to skin as long as they would let me.  Letting her get to know my heartbeat, my scent, my warmth. 

God gave me a sweet bonus--We met her around 6:30 pm on Thursday, June 28th.  We stayed with her about 3 hours and then returned early the next morning.  I did not leave her side and held her as much as I was allowed that day. 

Emily and Wesley came that day and they absolutely loved her.  The first thing Emily asked when we told her she was about to meet her new baby sister was, “What color is she?!” 

But here's the sweet thing, when I came back to her after dinner that Friday night, the nurses were attending to her in the open bed and I said something as I walked in.  Savannah turned her head to my voice and moved her eyes to find me.  She knew my voice from just the sweet hours that we had.  The nurses were like, "Did you see that???"  It was amazing. 


Get this: There was some confusion about her actual due date.  When Sara first called to tell me about her, she said Savannah was about 7 weeks early.  Sometime between being chosen and getting to the hospital, we found out she was 11 weeks early. 

Quite a difference for a preemie.  

But the cool part about it was that as we thought back, we realized that Savannah was conceived at the same time we said YES to adoption the November before. 

(things that make you go "hmmm")

We spent 2 weeks in San Antonio and then transferred Savannah to Houston.  God worked out so many details in advance for us—Savannah’s hospital was just two miles from where Jeremy’s grandmother lived.  We came and went as needed.  His grandmother’s neighbor even made Preemie clothes and gave us a special dress for Savannah to wear home from the hospital.  Savannah spent another 2 weeks in the NICU in Houston.

The doctors and nurses from San Antonio and from Houston were all very amazed at Savannah—just how well she was doing.  She could suck, breathe, swallow like a full term baby.  Even some full term babies struggle with that!  She never had to be on a ventilator. 
She came home when she was 6 weeks old, at just 35 weeks gestational age, weighing over 4 pounds and required no monitors!

Shirley, her birthgrandmother on her birthfather’s side told us and then wrote to us “From the first day we knew she was expected we started praying for this precious baby.  I personally prayed for protection and that He will make her a mighty woman of God and a bold witness and servant so don’t be surprised when she starts showing spiritual maturity at an early age!!”

Thank you, God, for this grandmother who prayed for Savannah

My prayer for Savannah in the hospital taken from Ps 139—
Lord, enclose Savannah behind and before.
You formed her inward parts;
You wove her in her mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for she is fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are your works!

Earlier in Ps 139 in verse 16 God’s word says “in your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.”  God knew Savannah was to be in our family even before she was conceived.  All He asked of us was obedience and openness to His will.  We said yes to Him along the way through our adoption process.  Just like it says in I Cor 2:9 “Things which our eyes had not seen and our ears had not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.”  We had no idea that Savannah would enter our lives that summer.  She successfully canceled 4 trips we had planned.  Again, God reminded us that it is not about us.  But about Him and He receives the glory.  We see His glory, sit in awe, and say “Wow.”

Stay tuned for Part 4 (final part) -- pictures of our Adoption Finalization, meeting the birthfamilies after finalization, and pictures of Savannah today....

Friday, October 22, 2010

Journey of Our First Adoption--- Part 2

A few years ago, one of our pastors gave a picture of what it should be like when we see God work.  When we see God’s glory, our response should be like gathering for a fireworks show.  The crowd comes early to get the best seats.  As the sun sets, the anticipation grows.  Finally the fireworks begin and the response from the people is “Wow.”  We just sit back in awe.

Get ready for fireworks....

It was early November, a few weeks after I had told Jeremy I was done trying.  Out of the blue, much to my surprise, Jeremy told me that God was speaking to him about adoption.  REALLY??  He even wanted to start checking into it and gather information about agencies.  WHAT??  For a couple weeks after Jeremy brought up adoption I really went through a crisis of belief.  God, is this really what you want for us?  Like really??  I am not sure I am up for this. 

A lady in my Bible Study reminded me that I asked God to speak to Jeremy.  She said “He has...and now you need to listen to him.”  So we researched some agencies, thought and prayed about it through November and early December.  By mid-December we decided we were going to take the first step and get the application to apply from New Life Pregnancy Center.

We decided to go with New Life for a few reasons:
--I became a Christian in the church that started New Life.
--My cousin was adopted through New Life.
--We had friends that had adopted through New Life and recommended it.
--We were comfortable with their process.
At Christmas we told our families our plans to adopt. 

Early on, in looking at the paperwork from various agencies, particularly from New Life, we were convicted that we could not say “No” to having a child of color.  Our families were supportive and ready to love any child that was added to our family.

So January 4, 2007 we mailed in our application to apply and our first fee.  February 8th we met with the agency for a couple of hours and they discussed everything with us—from what brought us to this point, to why they do things the way they do it.  And that’s when they sent us home with the full packet.  I set a goal to have everything completed by the end of April.  We had to fill out lots of paperwork, answer tough questions, read some books, and complete our Home Study. 

May 14th was our final home study appointment and by Monday, May 21st, we were officially


We were told it would be 9-18 months, but since we were open to a child of color, it could be by the end of the year.  Wow--the thought of having a new baby by Christmas just thrilled us!  We made all our summer plans and paid for trips and were just glad to have all the paperwork done. 

Do you have your seat yet?  The sun is almost down and soon it will be dark.  Are you ready for fireworks?

Four weeks passed and it was Monday, June 25th when I got the call.  JUST.FOUR.WEEKS.  Not 18 months.  Not 9 months.  It's six months before Christmas still, and we got the call.

We had just gotten back from camping and Emily had learned to ride her bike without training wheels. 
We were in Walmart picking out a prize and my cell phone rang—I heard, “Vanessa, this is Sara Black.”  I knew that when I got a call from Sara Black that it meant we could be having a baby.  I froze as she shared with me about a baby girl, born premature, weighing 2 lbs 12 oz.  Her parents were in their 40’s and she was doing beautifully.   New Life did not have a profile that matched with this situation so she was calling us and two other families who wanted a Caucasian child to pray about letting her show our profile. 

Yes, all this in the Walmart toy aisle!

I called Jeremy and told him everything that I had just scribbled on the back of my grocery list and that night we talked and prayed and talked and cried and prayed. 

Caucasian?  She’s already born?  She’s premature—11 weeks premature and could potentially have many problems? This is not what we expected.  What happened to the process of meeting a birthmother 8 months pregnant and getting the call when she goes into labor and waiting an excruciating 48 hours after the baby is born before she can sign the relinquishment?

We finally got to a point that we had been before in this process. 

It is not in our hands

if this is our little girl, then God will make it so. 

I called Sara back Tuesday morning and told her to count us in.  I told her that I was supposed to go to a convention on Wednesday and not be back until Sunday.  I asked if I should still go.  She said “Sure!”  She would leave the profiles with the family and tell them that New Life would get in touch with them the following week.   So the next 24 hours we went on as usual—we did not start making phone calls to announce the news because this family may very well not choose us.  We did tell my parents, our small group (only because they happened to ask), and another close friend. 

Wednesday, Jeremy took me to the airport.  After I got through security, I told my traveling friend that our profile was being shown and she said "that’s great" but then we didn’t give it much more conversation. 

Our plane was delayed.  

We finally got on board and were arranging to sit next to each other when I got the call from Sara saying the birthparents loved us and wanted to meet us right away.

The stewardess was asking me to take my seat, buckle up, and turn off my phone at the same time that Sara was telling me we had been chosen!!

I told the stewardess that I HAD to get OFF the plane.  She said, "Ma'am, we are ready to take off and I need you to sit down." 

I burst into tears as I told her (and about 5 rows of people around me) that we were adopting, my social worker just called, we have a baby girl, and I NEED TO GET OFF THIS PLANE.

She did not hesitate but said, "Come with me."  I think she knew that I would bolt to the front to escape if she even tried to argue with me.

As soon as I got off the plane, I called Jeremy to pick me up.  As I was walking through the airport, I called Sara back to get more information.

One thing about New Life you should know.  If you sign up with this agency, the birthmother gets to choose one name that we keep in the child's name.  Some people gasp at the idea.  "They can't make you do that!"  You're right, legally they can't.  But they feel it is so important for the child, birthmother, and us that the child has been given a name from her birthmother.  One of the first things I asked Sara was "What is her name?" 

"Her name is Savannah."

I stopped in the middle of the airport where I was trying to find my way to customer service to see if I could get my luggage off the plane.  (I couldn't so my luggage headed to Indianapolis without me.)

Excitement welled up inside me. 

I had always wanted a Savannah. 

It was one of those names that I loved, but Jeremy liked other names more.  We knew we would give her the name Rachel, but for me, she was Savannah from that moment on.  I didn't care if we named her Rachel Savannah or Savannah Rachel---I would call her Savannah. 

We spent the next 24 hours deciding on her name and getting ready to leave--we even joked about naming her Savannah Georgia since Jeremy's grandmother was named Georgia.  We had a lot to do to get ready to meet the birthparents and our new little girl.  That week was like squeezing 9 months into 3 days!

We started driving to San Antonio Thursday, June 28th, where we would meet the birthfamily--meet this couple who chose us, who entrusted us to be the parents of Savannah. 

This would be the first and last time I would see Savannah's birthmother.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Journey of Our First Adoption--- Part 1

How many of us planned how many kids we wanted before we got married?  Some of us probably already had our kids named long before we met our husbands.  When Jeremy and I got married we talked about how many children we would have and he wanted 2, I wanted 4, so we settled on 3.  For so many years I had this dream, this picture of what our family would look like. 

Emily would be 5 years old, Wesley would be 3 years old, and then we would have baby #3.  And I would be done by age 30!  That was my expectation. (oh, little did I know...)

Done at 30--did not happen.  During our process of trying to conceive, I would bring up adoption to Jeremy.  It was often on our anniversary when we would be out to a nice dinner.  It’s not that we had not ever considered adoption.  My sister was adopted and we had discussed early in our marriage that if we ever had fertility problems, we would go the adoption route to build our family.  However, we never imagined having fertility problems after having two biological children.  And Jeremy just wasn't ready.  He had questions and fears about money, bonding, money, would he love this child the same as Emily and Wes, and money.

After two long years of trying to conceive, we finally got pregnant.  But then we miscarried very early in the pregnancy.  It.was.such.a.difficult.loss—it did not matter that I had never met or held that baby.  It was not only the death of a child, but the death of a dream.  After a little time, I brought up adoption again, but Jeremy thought “now we know you can get pregnant and surely it will happen again soon.”  (Yeah right.  By the way, it's been 5 years and I've not had another pregnancy.  My doctor's first question was, "Same husband?")  

Another year went by and I began to fast and pray.  Fasting was kind of new to me.  But I knew that when we search for an answer, long for God to move in a BIG way, and desire clear direction from Him, fasting is key.  I asked God to show me if we would conceive or adopt.  At times I thought I heard Him saying so clearly to me that there was a child for us through adoption, a child needed us, but Jeremy’s heart was not there.  At those times I would tell God, “you don’t need to talk to me about this, you need to talk to him.”  :-/  Sometimes I can't believe how I talk to Almighty God.  How merciful and patient HE is!

During my grief over the miscarriage, God spoke to me about my dreams.  Even though they may have been good or Godly, they were MINE.  And I was grieving over the loss of a dream—not having another child in our family.  God was teaching me and telling me to stop grieving over what I had not gotten because I may very well lose out on what He was going to do—which may not include another child.  (gulp) He told me to stop giving him choices, “God will you do plan A or plan B in my life?”  And to start just seeking Him.  So I shared with Jeremy what God was teaching me and how He changed my heart.  I.was.done.trying.

I think Jeremy was in shock for a few weeks.


Wednesday, October 20, 2010

It's Official--I'm a blogger...

I am trying this bloggy thing out.  I don't know quite where to start, so I'll start with my title.  When I got married almost 15 years ago, one of my dear friends told me that she knew that God had many "wild and wonderful things" ahead of us.  I've been thinking about that lately as I have seen His wild and wonderful works in and around me.

I only recently started reading a few blogs and I have been inspired and encouraged by the lives shared.  A couple favorites are and  You'll quickly notice what I am drawn to by these two families--a big family brought about through adoption.  Not perfect families.  Not families lacking troubles.  But families who love God and who seek to follow Him in obedience.  We are smack dab in the middle of desiring to follow God and His dreams for our family.  We don't know what those dreams are yet, but we are watching, listening, and walking by faith.

Before I can tell you about what God is doing right now (of which I can't wait!), I have to back up and tell you what He has done.  Since I am new (and awkward) to this whole bloggy world, it will definitely take a few posts to get our story out.  But what a wild and wonderful story it is!