Saturday, December 31, 2011

Called, Chosen, Special?

I had the most interesting conversation with a friend in the grocery store, yesterday. I hadn't seen her since before we went to meet our boys and so naturally, she asked about our trip and the boys. I love this friend. She is beautiful inside and out, because she loves Jesus. Imagine my surprise when she asked me, "Don't you think it takes special people to do what you and Marty are doing?" Followed by, "Don't you feel like you were called to do this and your boys were chosen for you?"

Would you like to hear my answer? I think it might surprise you, because it surprised my dear friend. No! Marty and I are not special or "called" to adopt. I've touched on it here before, but let me be clear. If you love and serve JESUS you are commanded to care for the orphans! None of us gets a free pass. It doesn't make Marty and I special, because we're on this journey to our sons. We just answered when God commanded. Our sole purpose here on earth is to serve and glorify God. It's what we were created to do. So, when His word says that the religion He accepts as pure and faultless is to care for the orphan and the widow, who are we to do anything but follow His command?

How about were our boys chosen for us? I think, this will surprise you, too. I believe that God is writing the story of our lives. He led us to our boys. That being said, I also believe God had a better plan for our boys. A plan that didn't involve a sin fallen world. A plan where children are born into the families that God created them to be in and those families are able to love and care for them. Ultimately, the best place for both of our sons would have been in the families they were born in, but because of SIN that is not an option. Our world is no longer perfect and so, we look for a better home. We walk by faith where He has called commanded us to walk, so that we might be the hands and feet of Jesus. If we love Him, we will love them. We will be a part of making the sad things come untrue, so that men might see Jesus in us and glorify HIM! Not us, Jesus!

Now, let me ask you a question. Do you love Jesus? I hope that your response is a resounding, "YES!" If so, let me leave you with John 14:21.

Words of Jesus: "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him."

Do you love Jesus? Then, do what He commands!

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...

Hidden in Christ,

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Q and A time with Marty

Q. When did you first realize what it means to be an orphan with special needs?

A. I remember that I didn't want to think about it at first. Mandy wanted me to watch a news special about orphans with special needs and I kept putting it off, because it wasn't something I wanted to face.
It's one thing to hear about the reality of orphans with special needs, it's another thing to see it.

Q. What did you think would happen if you really looked and saw the need?

A. That I'd have to realize the truth, which is that there are children out there that need families, homes and love. I knew I would feel responsible to do something, if I was capable of helping, but I didn't want to have to, so I tried to ignore it.

How did you make the leap from "maybe one day" to "the time is now?"

Well, I don't know that I went from "maybe one day." I went from, "No, I'm not doing that."

Once I realized what was happening and that I could do something. I still didn't want to make the life long commitment, but I asked myself what if this were Eli or Julie, would I have turned them away?

I've always loved children, but I wasn't sure about down syndrome. At first, I wanted it to be a different special need, something I was more familiar with, because I wasn't comfortable with down syndrome. I got Godly advice from our Pastor and talked with other people who knew someone with down syndrome. I did some research online, too. The more I learned about down syndrome, the more comfortable I became. I went from, "No" to "Why not two?"

I still wasn't sure how comfortable I'd be until we went there. After meeting our boys, I realized they really are no different than any other child.

Q. Why 2 boys?

A. I honestly don't know, now, because I wish we were bringing home a girl, too. I think we chose boys, because boys are easier.

Q. How did you choose?

A. We picked em out online. The short and sweet version is we picked Samuel, quickly. He fell into the country, age, sex, category we were looking for. We looked at so many other little ones and then Joseph. I just knew he was ours. I don't know how to explain it. He was just ours.

Q. Did you have any questions or concerns from family, friends, or co-workers about your adoption?

A. Yes, lots. Most people didn't question the adoption part. People were concerned that we were adopting boys with down syndrome. Family mostly, I think, because of how they were raised and what they were taught about children with down syndrome. They were worried about the amount of time and effort it would take to raise a child with down syndrome. Overall, we haven't had a lot of negativity and we were worried that we would.

Q. Do you have concerns about bonding with the boys once they're home?

A. No. Personally, I feel like our boys are going to want love and attention and we have that. They're going to love us! (Marty's words, not mine)

Q. Do you worry about the future for your boys?

A. I don't worry about their futures, but I do think about it. I think about whether they will go to college, get a job. I don't really think about what they will do as much as I think about what we will be able to do for them. Like, can we provide them with the life skills they need to leave home. If they never leave home, that's okay, too.

Q. How did your faith play into your decision to adopt?

A. God's always provided for us and I knew this wouldn't be any different.

Q. Does the lack of involvement in orphan care from the church in general concern you?

A. I think the church as a whole should be doing a whole lot more than they're currently doing, but I'm glad for the few people that are answering God's call for the orphans.

Q. Why is it (normally) harder for men to agree to adopt?

A. We typically have our lives planned how we want them to go. For me, I have goals of things I want to accomplish and adoption feels like a wrench thrown into the plan, making it harder to reach those goals.

Q. What's the one thing you would tell a Dad who's hesitating to begin an adoption of a child with down syndrome?

A. Maybe we men need to stop thinking about ourselves and think about what God has planned for our lives.

Q. Will you adopt again?

A. Yes, I will consider adopting, again. Next time, I'm hoping for a girl.

I'm so thankful Marty took the time to do this. If you have any other questions, ask in the comments and I'll try to get him to answer them, too.

Mandy and Marty

She's waited long enough...

I have looked at this little girl's picture again and again. I've read her story. How in a country where children with extra chromosomes are shut away and deemed less worthy, Kate has found a place. She is so amazing that even people taught to believe she is less worthy have seen value in her life.

What does Kate still need, though? A Mom and a Dad. It's quite simple. She's an orphan. No matter how you look at Kate's circumstances they are less than ideal, because no child should have to grow up without parents. I happen to think this one is pretty spectacular. She is funny, loving, smart and waiting to be loved. She is beautiful.

 Today is Kate's 8th birthday. 8 years this precious Christmas baby has waited to be chosen. I'm praying that this will be Kate's last birthday without a family. Her last birthday as an orphan. Will you please share her story? Here's her profile on Reece's Rainbow, where you can learn more about her: Kate

I am resolving to do more for the orphans this year. Will you join me? Let's give more, pray more, advocate more and maybe even adopt a couple of our own in 2012. What do you think? You have a place in orphan care. Will you do what you can to find out what that place is and then walk in obedience?

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something.

Hidden in Christ,

Monday, December 26, 2011

Reece's Rainbow on ABC News!

Link to video! I'm excited to share this video with you. Marty and I enjoyed following along on the Cox Family's Blog as they journeyed into the Ukraine to pick up Mia and bring her home. We were so blessed to watch as Mia became part of a family, knowing that we were at the beginning of our own adoption adventure.

We can't wait to have our boys home, too! Look what fun Mia is having on the other side of the (Reece's) Rainbow!

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Save a Life!

Hidden in Christ,

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Away in a Manger

Away in a Manger, no crib for a bed
The little Lord Jesus lay down His sweet head
The Stars in the Sky looked down where He lay
The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay

Be near them, Lord Jesus, I ask thee to stay
Close by them forever and love them, I pray
Bless all the dear children in thy tender care
and fit us for Heaven to live with thee there

2,000 years ago, He came. 
He stepped out of Heaven and into the flesh of humanity.
He came to make the sad things come untrue.
He came to bring light into a darkened world.
He came to be Emmanuel-God with Us!

Happy Birthday, Jesus!
We're so glad you came.

Wishing you each a Merry Christmas and the JOY of knowing the truth (Jesus)!


Thursday, December 22, 2011

One Year

Marty's working and the kids are in bed. I'm sitting by the Christmas tree, enjoying the peace and quiet. Thinking ahead to what next Christmas will be like. I will be the mother of four children. Next year, I will have a 10 year old (where has the time gone), two 7 year olds, and a 5 year old. Life will be so full that I wonder if I will have a quiet moment to collect my thoughts, to reflect on the year gone by.

Look at what this year has brought into our lives. Last Christmas, adoption wasn't even on our radar. God was changing some things in our lives, shaking things up, stirring up old gifts. We had that unsettled feeling like God was calling us somewhere, but where? We were pressing in, like never before, trying to hear His voice in the busyness of life. Then I saw a picture of a little girl, named Olga.
I stumbled upon my friend, Patti's blog, a few weeks before Christmas I read this post. I read these words, "Olga turns five next month. In Eastern Europe, babies with Down Syndrome are deemed unacceptable at birth. Olga has spent her life in an orphanage...until now. Soon she will be transferred to a mental institution. Forever." I thought, "What is she talking about?" My journey into the world of what it means to be born with down syndrome or any other special need in Eastern Europe began here. Thank God, for Patti and for the obedience of Andrea who started Reece's Rainbow to help these precious children. Over the next couple of months, God would break my heart, Marty's heart, Eli and Julianna's hearts until it moved our hands and feet. The staggering reality that we have so much and they are dying hit home like never before.

Did we want to turn away? Did we long to pretend that we had not seen and did not know the truth? With every part of our humanity. We were comfortable. Our lives were full and blessed and we didn't need any more children. But, were there children who needed us? I am weeping as I type this post. God used Patti to open our eyes to the truth. God used Olga to shake us out of our complacency. God began to speak clearly to our hearts. He had at least one son waiting for us on the other side of the ocean. Were we brave enough to trust Him? Could we step out of the boat and keep our eyes focused on our Savior? Could we answer the call to help the orphans?

We didn't think we'd qualify. Who were we to think we could adopt extra special children? Who did we think we were that anyone would trust us with such an awesome responsibility. Yet, we knew God wanted us to do this.

We're not special. We're not "called" to adopt, anymore than anyone else. We don't feel like we're doing anything admirable or praise worthy. In fact, it feels strange when people tell us how blessed our boys will be to have us. How lucky they are that we chose them. Very strange, because we know that we are the ones who are blessed. James 1:27 says, "Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this; to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." We're not doing anything extraordinary or radical. We are simply living out our faith.

It's amazing to know that one blog post, written by one of the most faithful women I have come to know on this journey, helped us find our sons. God simply needs yielded vessels, willing to do whatever He asks. If you love Him, you do have a place in orphan care. Your life will change forever, if you'll allow Him to break your heart until it moves your hands and feet.

Check out the reward...

Next year, these boys will be under our Christmas tree! We'll be on a new adventure and we can't wait to see what God has in store.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something, you won't regret it!

Hidden in Christ,

Praising God this Morning!

I just can't explain the JOY I felt when I read this post! God is so much bigger than we will ever begin to understand. The way that He weaves our lives into a beautiful tapestry that gives Him the glory. What seemed hopeless a week ago, now has HOPE! Shane and Oleg have a family coming!

Not just any family, but one who is ready to bring them home, now! They will be heading over to pick the boys up in January. God knows, He sees. There is nothing too big for Him. When we pray, He moves.

Only God could tell this story, so well. I am reminded, once again, of just how small I am. How I don't see the bigger picture. I keep hearing the verse from Romans echoing in my heart, "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

Praising God that He is working things out for the good of two little orphaned boys. What a wonderful Christmas gift.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, matters!

Hidden in Christ,

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Questions and Answers from Marty?

Wondering if you'd like to hear from Marty? It's not often we get to hear the Dad's perspective. We're thinking of doing a Q and A post, where Marty answers commonly asked questions about our adoption and our boys. Do you have a question you'd like Marty to answer? If so, ask it now, this may be your only opportunity to hear from my man. Ask whatever you'd like to and don't worry about offending us. We're not easily offended. We'll do our best to give you real, honest information.

Mandy and my reluctant husband, Marty.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Blog Design?

Okay, I need honest opinions. Do you like the new design? I'm still working out some kinks and technology is not really my friend. I think, it's easier to read. I enlarged the font size, went to black and white, because I had some complaints about the color scheme. I updated the boys pictures at the top. Just let me know if there's anything I should change. I hope you like it. I tried to make it comfortable and welcoming, so you'll stop by more often.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

White Elephant Gift #3 Winner

The winner of our third gift is Brooke K. Brooke is great about sharing our story and even does giveaways for us sometimes, so it was nice to see choose #3 and realize it was Brooke! What did Brooke win?

A $10 Target Giftcard and a copy of the book,

Becoming a Woman of Extraordinary Faith: What If You Gave It All to God? 

I'd love to post a picture, but my computer is being crazy. For instance, it's capitalizing everything i type. How strange?

Anyways, congratulations, brooke! I'll be in touch.


It's Christmas Time...

It's Christmas time...we love Christmas at our house. We love the celebration of Jesus' birth. We love the family time, the giving of gifts to friends and family. It's not feeling like Christmas time this year, though. We are struggling to find the Christmas Spirit. There are two little boys who are missing from our home. There are gifts ready for them under the tree. There are empty beds and empty rooms. There are closets quickly filling with little clothes. There are books waiting to be read. There are arms waiting to hold and secrets waiting to be told. Two little boys missing, it's making Christmas time a little sad in our house this year.

Then, at church this morning came the gentle reminder from Galatians 4:4-5 "But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons." Our sons were born under the law, just as we were. They were born under a law that said they were useless and worthless and not worth keeping. Sound familiar? Thank God that when the time had fully come He sent his Son. At the beginning of this journey, we knew that we were being called to help make the sad things of this world come untrue for our boys, just as Christ has done and is doing for each of us. The law and the demands of the law have been met in Christ Jesus. We are free! Our freedom is what allows us to love our sons so much and so completely. Not to see flaws or imperfections, but to see the beauty that God sees.

This year God is giving our family the gifts of faith and trust. He is encouraging our hearts and renewing the belief that everything works together for the good of those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose. If this pain is a necessary step in the journey to our sons, we will take it, knowing that He who began a good work in us will carry it on to completion...

They are coming home, just not as soon as we'd like them to. But God has a plan for our lives and in the fullness of time, at exactly the moment of His choosing, our sons will come home. Not by accident or by chance or by coincidence, but by divine appointment and intervention and direction. Because He willed it to be so...they are coming HOME.

I think, I wrote this post more for my own heart than for anyone else, but I will publish it and pray that it encourages you. That no matter what the circumstances are in your life, God has a plan, an appointment with your circumstances. We don't get to set the time or move God's hand for Him, we just get to trust that Daddy's got this! The battle is already won and victory is ours, because Jesus finished it all on the cross.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Forever Family Friday

The news is not good for these two little boys. I shared them last week and I'm going to share them, again, today. They need families or a family, now! The orphanage can not hold them any longer. They are being transferred to an adult mental institution. My heart is breaking. Little Oleg is 6 years old and the size of a 2 year old (sound familiar) and I don't know how long he'll survive in an institution. Here is a new picture of him from this week...

Please, understand that age is just a number. Oleg needs a Mommy and a Daddy. He has over $7,000 in grant money. That means he can come home for around $18,000 more. If you add Shane in along with his grant of $2500, you're looking at a little over $15,000 to save both boys from life in a mental institution.

Here's Shane's new picture from this week.
Please do not allow these boys to become "Lost Boys." You can read their Reece's Rainbow profiles. Shane and Oleg, they need to come home. Share their stories. Pray and cry out to God to move mountains on their behalf. What can you do to change the lives of these little boys? What will you do to change the lives of these little boys?

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something!

Hidden in Christ,

White Elephant Gift #3

Sorry for the break. Busy getting some Christmas stuff together. Anyways, back to our White Elephant giveaway. Today's gift is something to read and encourage your heart, along with a little something to spend. Hopefully, it will be enough to make you smile.

Same as entry for sharing and two entries for every $5 you donate. A winner will be drawn tomorrow around noon. I hope you're enjoying our little giveaways as much as I'm enjoying blessing my friends.

Every dollar is a dollar closer to our boys coming home. Keep sharing!

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

White Elephant Gift #2 Winner!

The winner of today's White Elephant Gift is Cherona F.
It's this great thermal tote from 31 in Paparazzi Dots.
I hope you enjoy it Cherona!
Thanks to everyone who donated and shared.
There is another White Elephant Gift coming soon!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

White Elephant Gift #2

How much fun is this? First a photo of yesterday's White Elephant Gift and the winner is Jaime K.
A mid-size Enchanted warmer from Scentsy along with a Black Raspberry Vanilla Bar and a Sweet Pea and Vanilla Bar. I told you it was going to be good! I hope you didn't miss your chance. If you did, no worries. I have more prizes!

We'll keep using the same chip-in on the right hand side of the blog. Your donations are dated, so it's easy to know who's entering the current giveaway. Today's gift is less about a number and more about keeping your food/drinks cool in style. I hope you like the Paparazzi as much as I do. To earn your chance to win is simple.  Share this post for one entry and make a $5 donation for 2 entries. Every $5 earns you 2 entries, so if you give $20 you earned 8 entries. Easy enough?

This giveaway will close tomorrow night at 8pm EST. Don't miss your chance to enter and as always, thanks for helping bring our boys home!


Monday, December 12, 2011

White Elephant Gift!

I'm going to do some super fast giveaways over the next few days. The catch is you have to trust me, because we're doing this White Elephant style. Our first gift will be a delight to your "scents"es. Your guests this Holiday season will love the smells coming from your home and there's no need to worry about burning down the house. This giveaway will end in 24 hours and I will ship the item to the winner on the next day.

How do you enter? As always you can earn an entry by simply sharing on facebook. A $5 donation will get you 2 entries and let's just keep this simple and say each additional $5 will earn you 2 additional entries. There's no minimum that we need to reach. I have the item here and I want to bless one of you with it! I promise, you will love it!

I will post a picture of the prize when I announce the winner, so don't be disappointed if you don't get an entry in and miss out on this awesome prize.

Spread the word!


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Winners of the Christmas Cash!

All winners have been notified! I will list them here with first name, last initials only. I'm so excited for those of you who won and I hope it makes each of your Christmas' a little brighter! It's so fun to be a blessing. I wish I had gift cards to give to each of you who have prayed, shared and donated as we take this journey. All entries were assigned numbers and chose the winners.

Amazon $250 gift card goes to Kristin W. Kristin shared our giveaway nearly 20 times and her persistence paid off! Don't ever think your sharing doesn't make a difference. There are lots of people who come to this blog regularly, now, because of Kristin's faithfulness. It is a pleasure to be blessing her family with this gift for Christmas.

$100 Wal-Mart gift card goes to a youth pastor with a huge heart for orphans, Jonathan B. I've never met Jonathan, but he's been a big supporter ever since he learned of our adoption. Thanks, Jonathan!

$50 Sears gift card to Sabrina G. I don't know Sabrina and she didn't leave any message with her chip-in donation, so I'm hoping she'll give me details when she responds to my email saying she's a winner. I'd love to know how she found us. In fact, if you follow here, I'd love to know how you found our blog. Please, feel free to share in the comments.

$50 Lowe's gift card to Kathleen B. Kathleen left us a lovely note of encouragement. She is the Mom of a 22 year old young man with down syndrome. Thank you Kathleen for giving and encouraging us. I can't wait to one day be where you are in this journey. To look back and know that we've been loving our boys for longer than they were orphaned, to see the young men that God wants them to become.

$50 Toys R Us gift card to Christine S. Christine is a fellow adoptive Mom. She's in the process of adopting a little boy with down syndrome from the same country as our boys. I'm always amazed by the generosity of our Reece's Rainbow family. They give and give and give some more, even when their own needs are great.

Our family is incredibly blessed by each of you and your generosity. There will be more giveaways in the future and some fun things happening between now and Christmas, so don't feel like you missed out, just keep on coming back. We love you and pray for you daily that God would bless you and encourage you in the same way you have blessed us.

Hidden in Christ,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Change for Change?

Wondering how many of my friends will stop whatever they're doing, RIGHT NOW, and clean out the change from the bottom of your purse, the couch cushions and the car. Then, donate it through the chip-in on the right hand side of the blog. It's tax deductible and will earn you at least 1 entry into our Christmas Cash Giveaway. Who knows? Maybe you're spare change will become a $250 Amazon gift card in time for Christmas shopping.

Go NOW or send your children on a hunt. It will make a difference. I know, you're thinking my change couldn't possibly be enough to matter, but it is! If you go on a change hunt and make a donation, leave me a message here or on the giveaway that you did so. There will be a little something "extra" in it for you. Take the time to be the change you want to see in the world. It matters to these two...

Today, is the last day of our Christmas Cash Giveaway. Help us finish strong, so we can bring these boys home!


Friday, December 9, 2011

Forever Family Friday

Well, it's been quite a long break. I hope everyone enjoyed the pictures and stories of our visits with Joseph and Samuel. As much as I'd like to just stay in this happy place, it's really not about me.

It's about the fatherless children who are waiting to be chosen. There are so many of them. I want to share some boys with you that many won't even consider. I'm not judging, we were there at the beginning of our adoption journey. We were sure we'd be bringing home a little boy, under the age of 4 years old. Everything you read tells you that who a child will be is determined by the time they're 5 years old and that you can't ever catch up on those first 5 years, if the early childhood education is missed. After spending a week with our Joseph, I can honestly say, "They're wrong." Those experts have obviously never been where we've been or held the precious child who is 6, 7, 8, 9 years old and still waiting to be loved, chosen, accepted.

Children are children. Age is really just a number. They want to belong to someone. So, here are the boys who wait, because they are boys, because they are "older" children. Under each boys photo you can click on their name to learn more about them on Reece's Rainbow. Please, join me in praying and advocating for these precious littles who just simply need families...

Oleg lost his family this week and is facing transfer to the institution. He has a grant over $7,000 and can be adopted with Shane (pictured below). They look like they belong together to me.

Shane also has a decent grant ($2500) and needs a family, now!

Samuel is 11 years old and only has $11 in his grant. Is he your son? If not, maybe you want to help Samuel by sharing his story and donating to his grant.

Andrue, who was taken home by his birth family until he was nine months old. At nine months old, he was abandoned at the hospital, when it was determined that he had down syndrome. My heart is breaking, is yours? Andrue has been waiting, in an orphanage, for over six years for a family to choose him.

Mitko is doing so well according to his report. He's only missing one thing...a family!

Please, take a few minutes and pray. Ask God to show you if one of these boys or another from the Older Boys page on Reece's Rainbow is your son. They're just children who need families. It's really not as hard as we make it. They need a home and we have homes. Let's be Jesus to these children. 

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...

Hidden in Christ,

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Just pictures of the boys we miss...

Joseph hanging out with his Daddy. Such a tiny love...

Beautiful, blue-eyed boy...don't be fooled, he's about to get into something.

Missing our boys, today. Praying they're safe and warm. 

Thank you to each of our friends who have joined us on this most incredible journey.
We're in the homestretch and we have a feeling it's going to be the hardest part of the journey.
We need you all to be our intercessors and encouragers as we finish this race.

We love each of you and thank God that he sent you this way.

Marty, Mandy, Eli, Julie, Joseph and Samuel

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

What's Comes Next?

We're home from our first visit with the boys and guess what happens now? More paperwork! It's not nearly as much as the first time around, but it has to be done. I'm finally feeling awake enough to conquer it, so our goals for today are Christmas decorations and 2nd stage dossier preparations. We will have to submit with the USCIS (United Stated Citizenship and Immigration Services) and wait for their final official approval of our adoption. Then, a judge will be appointed, a court date set. At that court date the boys will become our legal children and we'll be able to pick them up within a month of court. This whole process should take 4 months, if we don't hit any snags. Please, pray we don't hit any snags. We want our boys home!

What else will we be doing in the next 4 months? Finishing up our fundraising. How much do we still need?$9,500. I'm going to find a new ticker and get it set up so everyone can watch as we knock this last $9500 out. Ways you can help?

By entering to win some Christmas Cash! We have $450 in gift cards, we're giving away, here. Enter for your chance to win and help bring home Joseph and Samuel.

By making a purchase through Ordinary Hero and using Rhodes, Amanda as the affiliate at checkout. There's a link on the right hand side of the blog. We have an additional giveaway going on with that. You can read about it here. Special thanks to Susan, again, for taking the time to write that post for me.

By praying and praying some more. Maybe you have no money to give, but prayer changes things. It moves hearts. You can also share our story with your friends and family. Maybe they're looking for someway to be a blessing to an orphan this Christmas season.

In 4 days, we're going to start a couple of really fun, fast giveaways. 24 hours each and you should have your gift by Christmas. Entries will only  be $5 this time around, so maybe some friends who haven't been able to participate in the past, we'll be able to win a nice gift in time for Christmas.

We'll also be giving away a small gift to random friends, family and strangers who have given, prayed, shared throughout this past year. You don't have to give anything else, we just have a list of friends who have participated in our journey and we'll be choosing some to give a little something extra to. We know that's not why you gave, prayed, shared, encouraged, but we want you to know that we realize we could not be here without you.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

They're more than numbers-Part 2

You can read Part 1 here. Now, where were we? Right, the unlikely candidate.

In a group of 20 children, a little girl, who we will call Lily-Anne (changing names for privacy) is around 8 years old. She is clearly the leader of this group. She is like the oldest child in a family, because really that's what this little group is to each other. They fight like brothers and sisters and they love like brothers and sisters. Lily-Anne is the caretaker. She settles their fights and has a true sense of fairness. She hugs the little ones and comforts them when they fall. Lily-Anne has a beautiful smile, tan skin, dark eyes and hair. She is Roma in her heritage (Gypsy) and in her country that fact alone is why she remains an orphan. No one will adopt a Gypsy child. Lily-Anne looks and acts just like any other child in her situation would. She seems so strong. She watches as parents come and choose her friends to be their children and she still loves.

I lost count of how many times we watched as Lily-Anne shared her snack with a younger child, broke up a fight, ran an errand for a teacher. She has such a helper's heart. Marty and I watched as this precious child smacked herself in the face with a toy one afternoon. She was taking it from one little guy to give to another and he let go faster than she thought he would. The plastic toy struck her hard in the face and caused her lip to swell and bleed, just a little. We've all been there and it hurts. I put my hand on Lily-Anne's shoulder. I wanted to be sure she was okay. Lily-Anne lifted her tear filled eyes and smiled at me. She would not allow herself to cry or to be comforted and she walked away for a few minutes by herself. Marty and I looked at each other over the tops of little heads and our hearts broke even more.

We only had just a second to think about Lily-Anne, because there were at least 6 others demanding our attention. We talked, later, about how sad it was and God just kept bringing Lily-Anne back to my mind. Lily-Anne's only special need is that she needs a family. She is the hands and feet of Jesus to the other children in that orphanage. She is mothering them. Yet, who holds Lily-Anne when she's hurt? Who is her safe place? When does she get to just be a child? Where is her Mama? God was asking, "Do you see? Do you feel what I feel? Is your heart breaking?"

God's heart is breaking for Lily-Anne. She was born into a broken world. She doesn't feel valuable or lovable or worthy of being held and comforted. You can point fingers at a society who doesn't except her because of her skin color (we aren't to far from that place in our own history, so I'd be careful) or you can point a finger at the church. While God's heart is breaking for Lily-Anne it is also broken I'm sure by the lack of compassion coming from within His own body to care for Lily-Anne and all the others like her.

God used Lily-Anne to show me that each child has a story. They are all more than numbers. They are little souls waiting on us to be the hands and feet of Jesus. They will wait and hope until the day they turn 18 and even then they will wish for a family.

Special needs, boys, girls, healthy, Gypsy, Black, White...they all need families. We all need families. They all have a story. They are all more than numbers. They laugh, cry, love and hurt the same ways that our children do. Please, do something. God is watching how we will respond to these children and their great need. We have the answer. We are the answer. The church has everything it needs to end the orphan crisis. We have enough beds and hopefully, enough love to go around.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something!

Please, pray for Lily-Anne, too.

Hidden in Christ,

Monday, December 5, 2011

They're more than numbers-Part 1

The mission was clear. We were there to meet our sons. We knew the numbers, the statistics, the sad reality the orphans were facing and we were there to do our part. Then, we walked into an orphanage and the numbers stopped mattering. The mission changed, again. God said, "Do you see? Do you feel what I feel? Is your heart breaking?"

We were prayed up, prepared, ready to go and then, their little faces were in front of us. Not just "our" boys, but all of "God's" children, too. They were smiling and hoping for a kind word or a gentle touch. Some were shy and hung back, inching their way closer to see this American Mama and Papa who had come for their friend. Others came full steam ahead and planted themselves in our laps and in our faces. They loved with abandon, soaking up all that they could until the next Mama and Papa on a rescue mission came through the doors and offered a warm lap to climb in and it was heartbreaking and soul-crushing to see them there. They climbed into our hearts and now they won't let go. 

All of the children we met during our first week had special needs. They were the "least of these." There was no physical beauty that would make you desire them. There needs were great and our hearts broke a little more each day. Then, we moved on leaving one son behind and heading to another place to meet our next son. What we found here was different. Our child and one other were the babies and 2 of only 3 with special needs. I wouldn't even say they have special needs, really. And, we thought we could breath, again. The weight felt a little lighter, easier to bear. As we witnessed these 20 children, in an orphanage hidden away at what felt like the end of the world, play and laugh and love each other and their teachers/caretakers. 

It was different here, but God wasn't finished teaching. He said, "Do you see? Do you feel what I feel? Is your heart breaking?" These aren't just numbers either. God always uses the most unlikely people to change our hearts the most, but that's the rest of the story and you'll have to come back tomorrow to hear it...

In the meantime, Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...they're more than numbers.

Hidden in Christ,

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Day 4 with Samuel and a Guest Post

I told Marty when we walked in the door that I was exhausted and didn't feel much like blogging so he said, "Just post a few pictures." While I waited for my camera to load them to the computer I checked my email. My friend, Susan had written a post for me. How great is God? Every little detail covered. So, you read Susan's post and then you will find pictures at the bottom from today's visit. Susan is my friend who told me about Ordinary Hero's to begin with, so this is fitting.

Change the World for One Family

Ordinary Hero's slogan is "Change the World for One," but we have an opportunity to do more than that!  We can come together and help change the world for one family.  I've never met Mandy and Marty, but I've followed their story since this past May.  Remember when we were all waiting for Mandy to reveal the boys' names?  So much has happened since then and so much more needs to happen to bring their sons home.

Ordinary Hero has kicked off a grant contest with the top three sellers receiving a $500 grant.  There are 70 followers of this blog.  If we all use the button on the side bar to go to the OH store, we can make a difference.  If we all buy a Christmas ornament for $10, that would be $700 in sales.  Mandy and Marty would get $280 of that and most likely be a top seller (based on totals of past grant winners) and win one of the $500 grants.  That means you invest $10 and they get $780!  The ornaments are a perfect reminder that you helped Change the World for One FAMILY!

Don't need another ornament?  Go to the "Product Donations for Children in Africa" and you can change the world for a child in Africa as you help the Rhodes family.  Bibles and raincoats are just two of the needs.  If we all bought a bible, that would be $1746.50 in sales; $698.6 of that for the family plus the $500 grant would mean $1198.60 to bring those boys home!  There are shirts and jewelry and other items as well.

To be sure the Rhodes get credit for your purchase, you must choose Rhodes, Amanda from the long drop-down menu at check out.  It is located under your billing address, and labeled "Affiliate Name."

I'm going to kick things off with an ornament and a bible.  But, I'm going to do something else, too.  For anyone who makes a purchase before the grant ends on Sunday December 11th at 11:59pm CST, your name will be put in a drawing for a silver OH travel tumbler.  Check them out in the "On the GO" section.  Mandy will have to say weather she can see who makes a purchase or if you need to leave a comment below to be entered.

Are you wondering by now why someone who's never met this family would be so interested in seeing Joseph and Samuel come home?  Because that is a side-effect of adoption.  I have adopted two boys that were considered "special needs" and found that their biggest need was the love of a forever family.  That is what Mandy, Marty, Eli and Julie can do for Joseph and Samuel.  And they will get so much in return.

So, while Mandy and Marty love on their boys and travel home, we can do something here and now.  We can Change the World for One Family.

The link is on the right hand side of the blog. Thanks, Susan for doing the hard work for me, today! You were right on time.

Here's your pictures...
Happy to see Samuel this morning.

It was Mommy's day for squish your face off loving.

Which quickly turned to wipe your nasty green snot all over Mommy's face, so she has something to remember you by. It was hysterical!

What's not to love? I'll take whatever he's giving...


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Day 3 with Samuel

There just are not words to tell you how sweet this little man is. Unfortunately, he's every bit as rotten as he is sweet. He and his little friend are the babies at the orphanage and to say they get there way is an understatement. Who knew you could spoil an orphan? He's very good at getting what he wants. Like when he wants his Daddy to tickle him, he bribes him...

I said, "Oh, Marty, he's got your number." Marty said, "They all do." Which is so true. The easiest way to get this Daddy to co-operate is to give him some love and they all know it!

We had so much fun, today. Samuel pretended his blocks were a car and drove the car on the table for awhile. Then, we played ball and with his sing-a-ma-jig. He is just so much fun. This afternoon we played outside, again. It was cold and he has a nasty cough, so we only stayed for about an hour this afternoon. Samuel's favorite thing to do is clean! He loves to dust and sweep. We need this child at our house. The sooner, the better. Okay. I'm rambling. Here's what you're waiting for...
Mommy and Samuel

Daddy and Samuel

Favorite of the day...

Thanks for checking in on us! I hope you enjoyed the pictures and video. We get to go back tomorrow!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Have you ever had a moment where you're sure, positive, beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are seeing God revealed in the life of another? I had one, yesterday afternoon. I came home and was simply exhausted. Our days are long and full and tiring. I pulled up facebook and in just a few minutes had a message from a dear friend. My friend, Connie and her family are adopting a little boy named Ethan from the same country as us. In fact they will travel this same path in just 3 weeks time. Connie has 5 beautiful daughters. They are fearfully and wonderfully made and while they are stunning on the outside, the Jesus on the inside of them is breathtaking.

I tell my children often that we are the salt and the light of the world, that God is calling us to lay up our treasures in Heaven. I have posted about the enormous amounts of money that we will spend as a nation on Christmas, while children wait to be rescued, while children starve to death. We will buy those much needed video games, electronics, toys, things, junk. Idols the enemy uses to distract us, to ensure that when we arrive in Heaven our treasures will be light and easy to carry.

Back to my Jesus encounter. Connie's 13 year old daughter, Victoria decided to give her Christmas money toward our family's adoption. All of it. Do you know how humbling that is? How encouraging it is to our hearts? To see that the next generation gets it. Her parents have lived life in such a way that Jesus has spilled over into her. She has been led by example, discipled and encouraged to walk in Kingdom truths. She is running hard after the heart of God, longing to be used, to be the hands and feet of Jesus and so she gives. She gives ALL that she has to give, with no thought of herself.

I think of all the times I've asked my friends to simply give up a Starbucks and the response is sad. Then I see Victoria's gift and I know a little child shall lead them. Will you be encouraged by Victoria's generous gift? Will you meet her here with an offering? It doesn't have to be to our family. There are so many who need money to finish their adoptions. In fact you can read Victoria's family's journey to Ethan here. Will you let your light shine?

Victoria, shining brightly...

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Victoria does!

Hidden in Christ,

Any encouraging words you leave here for Victoria, I'll be sure to pass along.

2nd Day with Samuel

He has the sweetest laugh, ever. He has so much personality and knows his own mind. He can turn that pout on quick. Obviously, we're going to have work on that when he gets home. For now, it is too cute.

We met lots of people at the orphanage, today. We met Samuel's doctor, his favorite teacher and his speech therapist. They all love him and he loves them. His teacher is his FAVORITE!

They will be sad to let him leave. He is well loved. There are only about 20 children in his orphanage. He and his best friend (a sweet little girl who is a month younger and also has an extra chromosome) are the youngest here and the only with special needs. The other children are very kind to them and they are all willing to share their food and toys (which is huge for children in an orphanage). He's being well taken care of and it will make leaving him behind a little easier. We're so grateful that God has him in such a good place.

We didn't get a lot of pictures, today. Our camera batteries died pretty early into our morning visit. We have lots of videos, but they take FOREVER to load, so this will have to do for now. We're going to watch a movie before bed. Then, we'll do better with pictures, tomorrow. For now, here's a favorite from yesterday.

Thank you to everyone who continues to give and encourage us! Thank you for loving us and our kids.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Our first meeting with Samuel

What a long and wonderful day. To say that we are blessed, just doesn't even begin to cover it. Let's start at the beginning...we left our hotel and drove for nearly 2 hours before we found the orphanage. They don't want people to know they have forgotten children here, so the orphanages are often in remote villages. This boy was worth the drive. We met the director and chatted for a few minutes and then in comes our boy. He has a haircut and has grown some, so he looks different, but I only need to see his little bent right ear to know it's really him. He is so full of life and personality. We knew he was going to be different than Joseph and we gave him his space and let him come to us. It took about 10-15 minutes and then, he was in my lap, cuddled up, like we'd been friends forever...

He's very healthy and seems to be happy and well loved at his orphanage. I was a little concerned that they had moved him, not long after we committed to him, but he has handled the move just fine. It probably helped that his little friend went with him. I'm going to see about getting a photo of the two of them, so he'll be able to remember her. He liked to play ball and be tossed in the air by his Daddy and by Marty (Toni's brother, I know, it's confusing).

In the afternoon, we played outside with some of the other children. We really enjoyed seeing them all and were encouraged to see how well Samuel interacted. He shares well and only pushed a couple of times. He likes to ride the little car and is very co-ordinated. We're already thinking about baby gates and ways to wear this boy out. He's busy! Alright, here's what you're waiting for...
When he wanted to be thrown up in the air, he would point up and bounce a little. He knows how to get his point across.
He also pouts, if Marty doesn't move fast enough to suit him. It may be difficult to tell this one no.
He is beautiful with his big blue eyes...
Checking out his family. Love his expressions.
He loves to ride this car and the older kids are very nice and share with him. He's one of the youngest here and the older children seem to be very kind to him.
To all of my adopting friends, do not leave home without one of these little magnetic boards. You can get them at Wal-Mart for $1 and so far, both of our boys have loved them. All the other children like them, too. Marty and I think we will bring some back for them when we return.

Friends, I want to say this, too. We have no idea how we ended up so blessed. God gave us Eli and Julianna and then led us down this path to Joseph and Samuel. We are humbled by the process and in awe of God's mighty hand working in our lives. If you are considering adoption, please, don't hesitate. There are many beautiful children, who just need Moms and Dads to love them. They long to be a part of a family. Be the hands and feet of Jesus, you'll end up so blessed, that you'll forget you were trying to serve.

More tomorrow, in the meantime...Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support!

Hidden in Christ,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Work of God Displayed in a Life

As I'm reading my Bible, today, these words from John 9:1-3 leaped off the page at me.

As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him,"Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
"Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life."

Many will look at our boys and see their differences and may ask, "Who sinned to cause this child to be different?" I assure you that Marty and I have seen God's purpose in Joseph's life clearly on display this week. It was not because anyone sinned that our boy was born with an extra chromosome, but simply to allow the work of God to be displayed in his life.

We so often question whether a Holy, Righteous God loves us. The miracle that is happening for our boys should prove without any doubt that God loves each of us. That he would take the time to move heaven and earth for an extra-special orphan boy means he is compassionate in his care toward each of us. Whether or not Joseph ever learns to talk or walk (and we believe that he will do these things) his life will forever display the work and glory of God. We will share his testimony, the one about a boy frozen in time, waiting 6 and 1/2 years to be chosen. Waiting for someone to be obedient to God's call and to snatch him back from death. You see not too much longer and Joseph would have been transferred to a different kind of place, a sadder place, where he most likely would not have survived. God called and we obeyed and Joseph's life has the fingerprints of God all over it.

He was not born with Down Syndrome, because someone sinned, but so that God could receive the glory for the work he would do for Joseph. He sets the lonely in families and our family is overwhelmed by his greatness in allowing us to love this lonely child. He will come home and grow and learn about Jesus and be a favored son of the house. The work of redemption and restoration started this week and will continue for many years to come for Joseph.

If you're considering adoption, consider the next words of Jesus in John 9:4-5.

"As long as it is day, we must do the work of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world."

The voice of Jesus calls. He longs for us to be a light in this dark world, to do the work the Father has laid out for us. There are many more lonely children waiting for families. Won't you join us and watch as God performs miracles in your own life and the life of a child?

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...Do Something, the night is coming.

Hidden in Christ,

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Black Friday

It's Thanksgiving at home. We're missing the day with Eli and Julie and the rest of our friends and family. We're thankful for the time here with Joseph and next week with Samuel, but it's still hard to miss a special day with our other kids.

Tomorrow will be an even more difficult day...Black Friday. Normally, I love to shop on Black Friday. This year it seems to have a whole new meaning. Black Friday. The day we will leave Joseph behind and pray that God will continue to watch over him and speed our journey back here to him. Our 20 pound, 6 year old, who lives mostly in his own world, we'll leave him behind. Covered in prayers, we'll stand firmly believing that God has him in his hands. It will still break our hearts.

While our friends and family spend hundreds of dollars this holiday season, starting tomorrow with Black Friday sales, we are faced with the challenge of $10,000 that still stands between us and bringing our boys home. It's a daunting task.

Do you love us? Have you fallen in love with Joseph this week? Will you help or will you turn away? Your silence speaks volumes. We need you. We even have prizes...Christmas Cash Giveaway. We're praying that God will move on your hearts. If you're going to shop tomorrow, will you skip Starbucks and help bring our boys home instead?

It's humbling to ask for help again and again, but when I look at this beautiful boy, I know it's worth it.

Pray, Adopt, Advocate, Support...

Hidden in Christ,

Day 4 with Joseph

We had a wonderful visit with Joseph, today. We missed the afternoon visit, yesterday. Joseph had an allergic reaction and had to go to the infirmary. He had a shot and is all better, today. We were able to take him out into the city to have his Visa photo made. What a chore. They need a head shot that shows both ears and our boy is not an easy one to photograph. After many tears, we finally got an acceptable shot. It's not great, but it will do.

He was quite out of sorts by the time we got back to our little room to finish our visit. It took about 30 minutes for him to settle in and relax. Then, imagine my surprise when after another 15 minutes or so, Joseph turned around on my lap to face me. This is huge for him. He doesn't like to make eye contact or have you in his space, so he mostly faces away from us when we hold him. Marty didn't get to hold him except for on the car ride, because he was so distressed when we made it back to the orphanage and once he settled, we thought it best not to move him.

We have one more visit this afternoon and one visit tomorrow morning and then it is time to leave our boy and head back to the capital city. We will be so sad to say, Goodbye. He is a love and we can't wait to have him home with us. I've been calling him Cookie Monster, because he loves food and he makes a sound that sounds just like Cookie Monster...nom, nom, nom.

Here's your pictures :)
Riding in Mitko's van. He loved the vibrations, the bumpier, the better.

He loves to have his hand and arm rubbed.

He flipped himself over and got comfy.

He decided maybe he'd like to see what this Mommy business is all about.

Favorite of the visit! Don't you want to squish those cheeks?

Thanks for taking the time to check in on us! I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving!


Wednesday, November 23, 2011


It will be Thanksgiving soon for our friends and family at home in the USA. I know you are all probably sure of what I am thankful for today. I think this post will surprise you some though.

Our journey into Eastern Europe and the time spent with the people here have impacted us a great deal. One man, in particular, our driver and translator, Mitko (Meet Koe) has opened our eyes to this country and all that we have to be thankful for in ours. Mitko is a soft spoken, gentle, kind-hearted man. When Mitko talks you want to listen. As we travel and dine with Mitko, he shares about his country and his life. He talks of a childhood, where his favorite memories were time spent on his grandparents farm. He paints a beautiful picture of a loving God-fearing couple. He tells how his grandfather used to pray before meals, much the way that Marty and I take time to bless our food and give thanks to God for providing it. Then, he says that communism robbed most of this country of their faith. "Most of us are athiests, now."

You see, there are many in the USA, today, who would like the government to provide them with things free of charge. Mitko would tell you with great certainty that nothing comes free of charge. It has been an honor to see this country through Mitko's eyes. Mitko's grandparents and their neighbors were forced to leave their homes, so that the government could tear them down and build apartments. People were allowed only to own one one-bedroom flat/apartment and no more, regardless of the size of their family.

It is amazing to hear Mitko talk of his nineteen year old daughter and how she is going to University in Italy. On one hand the Dad wishes for a more traditional life for his daughter and on the other you can hear the pride in his voice. You can also hear the awe. At one time not too long ago, Mitko would have needed a special pass or permit from his government to travel within 10 miles of the border. Only the most trusted citizens were ever allowed outside of the country.

Mitko never mentions the end of communism without telling you exactly how long it's been since it ended. 22 years ago the communist reign ended here in Eastern Europe. Mitko doesn't estimate. He never says around 20 years ago, it's always 22 years, like he's counting the days since he was set free. That's exactly how he describes it, too. This new life without communist rule has been a struggle for this nation, but they are finding their way. They are enjoying their freedoms. They do not take these freedoms lightly. They value the ability and privilege to be able to work hard and carve out a place for themselves and for their children. Mitko often says that when under the communist reign people never had to think for themselves and so, even your thoughts are a new freedom here. Deciding where to go and when to go and what job you will work, all freedoms that we take for granted.

I want to remember to be thankful that I was born free. I know nothing different. My prayer is that we will not allow that to change for our country. That the few who would like to push us into socialism would realize that nothing in life is free. You will give up liberties that our forefathers fought and died to provide for us. We never want to be a recovering communist nation. So, today, I am thankful to be an American Citizen and I love the land of the Free and the home of the Brave.

We're praying for Mitko, that he would fall in love with Jesus. He is already such a blessing and a wealth of knowledge. He has seen so much and lived through so much. There is wisdom oozing out of him. Believe with us for Mitko's salvation and the restoration of his family and his country to the Kingdom of God.


Day 3 and a little from Day 2 with Joseph

I did not blog after our afternoon visit, yesterday. We were tired and Joseph is a little cranky in the afternoons. However, in keeping with the rest of the Rhodes' kids, he decided to make a liar of his Mommy. I said, he wouldn't walk in yesterday's post. Well, apparently, he will walk for the "right" motivation.
Having Daddy hold you is motivation to walk. His caregivers say they can normally only get him to take a few steps by offering him food. He loves his Daddy. Oh, the beds in the background are where he takes nap during the day. He goes to a special Day Care on the bottom floor of his orphanage and the Day Care kids sleep here.

Today, we had a quiet morning visit. We were given a private room with a couple of chairs and a couch. We started the visit off by having Joseph walk from one side of the table to the other, by offering him Gerber Puffs. He is very grumpy about being made to walk, but it's long past time for him to learn. Then he dug through his bag and dumped everything on the floor. He likes the etch and sketch best. He was very proud of himself when he made a few marks on it and it's the most focus we've seen him give to a task. It lasted about 3 minutes, before it was tossed into the floor along with all the other really fun toys.

When he was ready for a little break in all the fun, he came back to Mommy's lap and totally relaxed. This is the most we've seen him relax, too. He normally holds himself away a little, but not today. He melted right in and we rocked. He likes to rock or vibrate. He's going to need a bouncy chair fit for a king.

That's all for now. We took a short walk through the city and are going to rest for about an hour before our afternoon visit. I'll leave you with my favorite of the day.
We love this boy!