Monday, August 30, 2010

Rock City - Lookout Mountain Georgia

I need to get blogging about the rest of our vacation. My mom is getting antsy to see pictures from the grand finale. At this rate, she might see them by Christmas. :-)

Tammy and her husband graciously gave us tickets to Rock City. We would not have done this otherwise, so it was a special treat. turned out to be the highlight of Cupcake's trip. All she could talk about after that was going back to the mountains. Even when we were in the mountains, she was not satisfied because she wanted an awesome view like the one at Rock City.

I'll begin with Rock City from Cupcake's view. These pictures were all taken by Cupcake with her camera.

She took a picture of the most amazing natural formation...

and a creepy gnome...

And now for the pictures from the rest of our cameras.

On a clear day, you can see 7 states from this lookout.
A family picture!!! WOO HOO!
(I just realized I'm under the 50th percentile for height in my family.)

What we're standing on here...

looks like this from up above...

Overall, it was absolutely beautiful. Two thumbs up to Rock City! Thank you to Tammy and family.

Blessings to you,

Friday, August 27, 2010

Miracle Kids

As we were visiting with Tammy's family, I was struck by how awesome our God is. Here in this tiny restaurant sat 2 miracles. Well, more, actually. But that's a story for another day.

As I mentioned in my last post, we were both members of a group of ladies who were caught in very long, difficult adoptions from Guatemala. It was know as the Long-Road-Home.

This Long-Road-Home group consisted of the moms of children with a variety of complicated circumstances. Some of these ladies had no reason whatsoever for a long adoption, but some had lazy lawyers or inept agencies. Some had birthmother complications or special situations which caused investigations and higher scrutiny. Many of the gals had downright corrupt adoption agencies.

Tammy had a corrupt agency. (For you cynics out there, who think you are too smart to get suckered by crooks: You would not believe the incredible lengths some of these "agencies" went to to cover their tracks and appear legitimate.) I don't recall the details, but federal charges were pressed. You can imagine the chances of getting your child home when felons are involved in the case. But God does not operate by chance and there is nothing too hard for Him. After 2 years, countless prayers, skin-of-their-teeth encounters, and extraordinary measures, they brought their beautiful son home! What a testimony to God's faithfulness! We were eyewitnesses to a miracle.

Cupcake's story is complicated. She was relinquished for adoption, which means that her birthmom knowingly placed her for adoption and agreed to follow the procedures. Early in the process, she abandoned Cupcake. In Guatemala, that is a red flag for fraud and the child is usually removed from all ties and placed in state care. Cupcake was allowed to continue with our lawyer. She had to go to court to be declared abandoned. Abandonment is risky. The judges often declare the whole thing a mess, cut ties, and send the kids to state care. (By the way, state care is a life sentence. Children in state care are never, ever adopted.) She sailed through abandonment in 7 months. After she was declared an orphan, she had to go through the regular adoption process, which was extra-scrutinized due to the unusual circumstances. All this to say that Cupcake's adoption was very high risk. Most kids who face this situation do not come home (like 95%). If they do, it takes years and years. Cupcake came home in just over 2 years. It was a miracle.

By all earthly measures, these two should not be here. Logic, probability, and common sense all tell us that. Only God could have pulled this off. I believe that He specifically brought them out for a reason. He has big plans for them. I am excited to see how He works in their lives. It will turn out to be quite an adventure, I'm sure.

Blessings to you,

PS. The gratitude and awe I feel as I consider these miracles does not diminish the pain and heartache I feel for all my friends and their children who were left behind or are still stuck waiting to come home. If you would, please pray for those kids. It's been three years since adoptions closed in Guatemala and so many are still waiting.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Meeting Tammy

Subtitled: Or How Not to Make a Good First Impression

A few years ago, I met Tammy in cyberspace. I think I first "knew" her from an forum, but I really got to know her once our adoptions went south. There was a group for us whose kids were taking the long-road-home from Guatemala. This group of long-road-homers became my lifeline in the darkest days of Cupcake's adoption.

Within this group of elite women, a few became close friends. These were my sisters-in-Christ, prayer warriors, and encouragers. We connected at a deep level. We were on the same page. We laughed together, prayed together, cried on each others' shoulders, and did the happy dance - all through the magic of the internet. Tammy was one of them.

So, two years ago, when we learned our family reunion would be in Tennessee, I shot Tammy an email to ask if they lived anywhere near Fall Creek Falls. Sure enough, it was a short drive to their town. It looked like we would have the opportunity to meet face to face. :-D

Fast forward to this summer. It just so happened that Sunshine wanted to go with our church Youth Group to a white water rafting trip in Tennessee just days before our reunion. It just so happened that the youth would still be in TN when we got there. And it just so happened that one of the leaders would need to leave on Saturday morning for a family commitment. And, it just so happened that he would be driving right through Tammy's neck of the woods. And, it just so happened that Sunshine would need to be picked up near there right around noontime.

It sounds to me like God was orchestrating things just a little bit.

So, we made plans for everyone to meet up at a local pizza place at noon.

A funny thing happened on the way to meet Tammy.

Or a series of unfortunate events, depending on how you look at it.

First off, MapQuest could not find the park on its system, so we chose the nearest town to drive from when we planned our vacation. It told us it would take 1 hour, 10 minutes. So we planned on leaving the park around 10:30. That would give us 20 minutes of extra time in case we got lost.

Sugar wanted to paddle-boat with the cousins early in the morning, so she had orders to be back by 10:00.

We took the other kids and drove up to the falls around 9:30. As we pulled into the parking lot at the falls, we heard rumbling way off in the distance. Someone commented, "Sounds like we might get some rain today." As we walked up the trail to the scenic overlook, it began to cloud up. We spent approximately 20 seconds looking at the falls.




We were caught in a deluge, completely soaked to the bone.

By 10:00, we were all back at the Inn. Everyone had to change.

In the scramble, Steve gasped something about the time zones.


The park was on Central Time and Chattanooga was on Eastern Time.

That meant we were an hour late!

We scrambled out the door, looking like drowned rats.

When we got to the car, the GPS took us a different way than MapQuest, and it told us it was a 2 hour trip! It turns out, the "nearest" town to the park is about an hour away and the "next nearest" is only about 45 minutes away - Mountain roads.

Of course, we got behind an RV. On mountain roads. Then it rained. Then it poured. Then there was construction. We called both Tammy and Sunshine's youth leader to let them know what had happened. They were all VERY GRACIOUS. They waited for us.

And waited for us.

We finally arrived an hour and a half late, looking like something the cat dragged in.

And it was AWESOME!

It was like we were old friends who had never missed a day. We sat right down and talked about everything under the sun. It was warm and welcoming and comfortable. They were gracious, and kind and generous. Oh, the hospitality they showed! They bought us lunch, and desert, and then they gave us tickets to Rock City. We felt like VIP's. We were blown away by their kindness.

And their kids...all 6, from the full-grown to the toddler were well-behaved, friendly, gentle...and obviously patient, after all that waiting. Here are the little ones.

What a blessing to finally get to meet them! The fellowship of believers is one of the greatest "perks" of Christianity. It's not just having something in common. It is a deep knowing that these people have also knelt at the foot of the cross. They've given their lives to the Savior. In return, He gave them new and abundant life. They walk through this life forgiven and hopeful. We worship and serve the same God. We have both experienced the love of Jesus Christ. I can see it in their eyes. And that is the sweetest kind of friendship I know.

Blessings to you,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Urgent: Home Needed

This is one of those hard posts to write. There is no easy way to begin...

Some close personal friends of ours are seeking a new home for their daughter. I'll call her J. J is 9 years old. She has been home from Haiti for approximately 4 years. J has a history of multiple early traumas that she clearly remembers. These past four years, she has lived in a wonderful, Christian, therapeutic home, with regular therapy sessions for trauma and attachment.

This family has done everything they can to help J heal from her deep wounds. They have come to the point where they know she needs more help than they can give. Their family situation makes it impossible for her to stay in the home. They need to do what is best for the whole family. They are trying one more, intensive intervention, praying for a miracle. If that is unsuccessful, they will need to find a new family by early September.

This is what her mom says about J: J is a hard-worker and extremely bright. Once she is able to begin working from her heart there is nothing she won't be able to do. She has the potential to be an amazing professional, mother, friend, lover of Christ. She is stuck in her pain and is not able to work with her heart right now.

J will need a therapeutic home where she will be the only child, or the youngest by several years. Her healing will be a long road, and will require a long-term, intense commitment. If you or anyone you know is interested in finding out more information, please email me at mamitaj (at) gmail (dot) com.

Let's get the word out. Feel free to re-post this or link to my blog.

Please join me in praying for J.

Blessings to you,

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Moving Day

We moved Tim to his new home today. Moving him in and setting him up was easy. Saying good-bye was hard...similar to saying good-bye to Cupcake at the end of a visit trip.

We know that everything has changed. Everything.

It's impossible to verbalize my thoughts tonight, so I'll let the pictures do the talking for now.

Arranging the cubes....
Setting up the laptop...

New home.... engineer built a ziggurat out of onion rings...
Wal-Mart was giving out free purple cupcakes. Cupcake had one. Can you tell?
Ready to go...
Hugs....and tears....

I am so excited for all that the next four years hold for our son. I pray Tim makes good, godly, lifelong friends this year. And that God would protect him and hold him when we can't be there.

God bless you, my son.

Blessings to you,

Friday, August 13, 2010

College Bound

Well, the supplies are bought, the van is loaded, and the box of Kleenex is in the front seat. We are ready to take our firstborn away to college for the first time tomorrow. Gulp.

We'll be taking Sunshine and Cupcake with us. Sunshine because he is best friends with his big brother and Cupcake because she needs to see that Tim has a place to live and he hasn't just gone off to oblivion. Sugar has a Six Flags day tomorrow, so she said her "good-byes" tonight.

It's been sinking in, but it was like a smack in the face with reality to see his bare room tonight.

I'm not going to lie to you. I'm going to miss that kid. He is a calm presence in the midst of our chaotic household. He is the expert at all things technical. He is the watcher of "The Office" and "Psych". He is the player of Coldplay. He is my extra driver.

But, more than these things, I'm going to miss him because he's my first and he's always been here. I've always been involved to a great extent in his life. I'm sure he will succeed and have a great time. This is necessary and good. I'm very exited for him, but it still feels painful. Sigh.

So, I'll take a deep breath and move forward. What else can I do?

Blessings to you,

7 Years Old!

How can it be? My baby is 7 today! Seven?

Happy birthday, Cupcake!!!

Let me brag on her for a moment, if you will. Cupcake is tender-hearted. She zooms in on other's pain and does what she can to help. She is full of life and energy (and a little bit sassy.) She is a go-getter. Her belly-laugh is contagious. She is a helper and a cleaner. (Yeah! One of my kids is a cleaner!!! YEAH!) She is the strongest kid I know and the bravest person I have ever met. She is creative and artistic. She loves sugar. Gifts are her language of love.

Most of all, she is mine.

My precious daughter.

Happy birthday, Beautiful! I love you!


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Family Reunion

Our vacation began with a family reunion for Daddy's side of the family. It was a 7.5 hour drive that took us 10 hours. PHEW! We made it!

We arrived at Fall Creek Falls State Park near Chattanooga, TN late Friday afternoon, July 30. It felt like we blasted in to the inn, hit the ground running, scurried around, chatted with cousins and in-laws, chased Cupcake who was super-hyped, went swimming, fixed dinner, set up sleeping arrangements, walked down to inspect the lake, worked a puzzle, chatted a while longer, then crashed.

Vacation had begun. Rest and relaxation? Pffftttt! Who has time for that?

It was very good to see many of our favorite cousins, as well as Steve's brothers and their families. Sugar had a great time with all the teenage girls. Cupcake got to meet her aunt for the first time. She also thoroughly enjoyed getting to know some of the cousins that are closest to her age.

On Saturday, we had outside plans (more on that next time), so we were gone for most of the day. We got back to the park in time for our family dinner. Each reunion, the whole family gets together for a meal, followed by a presentation by Steve's dad, who is the resident genealogist. It was a very interesting time. He showed us how to use and Family Tree Maker. He is pretty sure he can trace the family line all the way back to the 1400's.

This reunion was the first, and quite possibly the last time, all of Steve's brothers, their wives and kids were in the same place at the same time with his parents.

Early Sunday morning, we set out for the next, and longest leg of our journey. Before we began our nearly 600 mile journey to Washington, DC, we stopped at the falls (that is, Fall Creek Falls).

Cupcake took this one. She is so good at centering people. Maybe she could give me lessons.

Blessings to you,