Right Side Up

DETAILS. There are still a number of details that have to be figured out, taken care of, and nailed down in the next 33 days, but the good news is that we're both detail people, so this isn't as stressful to us as it might be to some. However, at times we have a tendency to be a little overly sure that we have it all figured out, so our prayer request would be that God would remind us to look to Him for our plans, rather than relying on our own wisdom. Yes, we have to physically book the car rental, but God can lead us to the right one (just as he did on the airline tickets and the condo). Pray that we are smart enough to listen, and obedient enough to lay aside our own plans for His better ones.

Earlier this week, we heard from the in-country adoption team (consisting of our lawyer, her assistant, and the kid's social worker) that the kids were "ready for our meeting" in 38 days. Glad to hear they aren't dreading it! We are so grateful for the work that the team has been doing with the kids to get them ready, especially the social worker who has been so faithful to meet with them and send us ideas for the letters we have been writing to the kids. Please continue to pray for the children and the workers, that they would have God-given wisdom, and that the kids would continue to grow in their enthusiasm for this life changing plan.

Speaking of life changing plans, how's your perspective? Have you ever realized that you might need a perspective adjustment? One morning this week, Peter and I had just finished praying before he left for work, and I made a comment about getting something done "before our lives are turned upside down." It's a statement I've made countless times, because if you bring 5 children into your life after 16 years of easy living and last-minute meals, it does rather seem like your life is spinning a bit. But this time when it rolled off my tongue, my wise husband looked at me and said, "Have you ever thought that maybe they aren't turning our lives upside down, but are actually turning our lives right side up? Maybe we've been upside down all this time and didn't even know it." Bless him for saying it, because NO, I haven't.

I've always looked at this whole process as something God led us to, something He wanted us to do, something He was using to break us out of our comfort zone and use to help us grow, something we were (initially) reluctantly obeying, but even when my excitement about the process grew, I still never looked at bringing so much change into our home as making something right that was previously broken. I don't know what made him say it, but I'm grateful that he did.

Begging your indulgence this week, but building on the above story, I have a little soapbox to stand on, so if you don't like those kinds of things, I suggest you look away now.

You've probably all seen the summer Facebook posts with statements like, "School can't start soon enough! Where's the wine?" and "Just 12 more days before we can send the kids off to school!" Every time I see something along those lines in my feed, I cringe. I fully realize that there are those of you who will say that since I am not yet a parent, I cannot identify with how they are feeling as a parent. And yes, that is true to a certain extent, however, I do know what it was like to be the child they are talking about.

This desire to see the kids go back to school isn't new, and I remember hearing the parents of my friends say similar things when they didn't think the kids were listening (trust me, we were always listening!). I also remember my mother piping up to say, "Not me! I LOVE having them home for the summer and am always sorry when school starts, and so glad when they come home in the afternoon." People usually stopped talking then and moved on to another topic, but her public response always made me feel loved, rather than in the way.

You know that I'm an introvert - this isn't something I try to hide. And you know that as married INTJs, we value our privacy, our alone time, and our tidy, logic-driven life. However, as a parent, I don't ever want our children to feel like they made our life worse. That they turned our world upside down - in a negative way. That our life before them was so much better, or that we're sorry we told God "yes" to this adventure. I want them to know, as my parents demonstrated to their children, that God used them to turn our lives right side up. And #iamthankful. 

P.S. If you're reading this and you are one of those parents counting the days and popping open the wine bottle, why not begin praying about it instead? Ask God to show you how you can bless your children and encourage them in those days before they start a new school year. As someone who grew up with two parents who always made time for their kids, I can tell you that feeling wanted and loved is one of the best investments you can ever make in your child's life.


Hello Facebook Friends!

Thanks to everyone who has made it here by finding us on Facebook. Just a note that the blog is very much a work in progress (much like we are, as individuals!), so make sure you pop back in from time to time to see what's new as we iron out the kinks and clean up the past posts.

ALSO: All posts were originally shared at YouCaring, so if the way something is worded doesn't make sense, or it all seems familiar to you, that's probably why. :)

BUT since you're here... 

Here's a short adoption update: we had to make videos to send to the kids this weekend. And I do mean "had to" because I thought we were either going to end in tears, or end up with something that would cause the kids to cry. It's safe to say that both Peter and I should stay away from the front of a camera, because we either turn into hams, or we freeze, or we just end up mad because we're tripping all over ourselves as we try to figure out what to say. It wasn't pretty... but in the end, we managed to make two short videos all around my love of books. Gotta start somewhere, right?


The LONG Update

"Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God.Philippians 1:3 (NLT)

HumbledBlessedRemindedGrateful. Whether it's friends ordering books through an online party (which, in turn, gives us free credit for school books), or people buying gifts for our kids (from our Usborne Wish List or Amazon registry), or a check showing up in our mailbox on the very week we book our housing for an exact amount (more on that below), with each event, I find myself feel more and more at a loss for words. If you know me, you know that's not usually a problem (I'm an introvert, but I'm also a Graham, and we're known for our ability to TALK. [or WRITE] A LOT.). But good golly... since February 1st (when we finally told our story to the wider world), Peter and I have been rendered speechless by the generosity of our friends, family, and even online-only acquaintances. 

We are HUMBLED... that you would choose to walk with us in a tangible way.
We are BLESSED... that God has provided needs & wants in ways we could not have imagined.
We are REMINDED... to hold loosely to what He gives us, ready to pass it on when He nudges.
We are GRATEFUL... for the opportunity to see God's hand writing this story, and using those around us.

WE'VE BOOKED A PLACE TO STAY IN COSTA RICA! After some searching, more outreach, and a whole lot of prayer, we've got a place to live while we're in Costa Rica. I'll get to the good stuff, but you need some background first. 

God has been reminding us (again!) that this is HIS story, not ours. Peter and I are both planners by nature. We had a PLAN for our life (and it was a good one)... but God walked in and totally disrupted OUR plan, substituting one that we never would have considered, but which has broken and taught us more than OUR plan ever would have. We had a PLAN for how we were going to pay for the adoption (that was working)... but God came in again and reminded us that the cattle on a thousand hills belongs to HIM, and HE is the one providing for this story (through our jobs - from Him, but also through the generosity of friends, family, and strangers). We had a PLAN for how many children (and what sex) we were going to take... I'm pretty sure God had to either chuckle or shake His head at our stubbornness to let go, and now we have "Little Brother" in the fold. And this week, God took OUR plan for housing and turned it upside down, providing something far better than what we could have imagined. To GOD be the glory, great things HE hath done!

When we found out about our kids in late January, Peter started looking for housing in San Jose. He found a house on the outskirts of town, big yard, nice kitchen, 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms - and best of all, within the budget. He contacted the owner and explained the situation to him (coming to adopt, no certain dates yet, etc.), and we marked that one as "done" on our list. No prayer needed - we had it handled! ;) Fast forward to about 3 weeks ago... the lawyer in country decided she wanted to go look at the house in person, and her report on the property told us a few things that we didn't know (like the owner would be in the guest cottage next door - located approximately 4-5 feet from the house where we'd be living). Meh. It would work, but it probably wasn't ideal.

As we prepared to search again, we realized that we needed to seek GOD'S plan for housing, rather than ours. {Yes, we ARE slow to learn!} This time we prayed and asked God to make HIS will clear, to direct us to the right house for our kids and our needs, and to clearly open and close doors as we made decisions. Within 24 hours, Peter found a second house on the northern side of San Jose that claimed to sleep 7, and I found a 3 bedroom condo on the south western side of the city. [Insert theme from "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly" HERE

Peter started emailing with the owner of the house he found, while I was connecting with the firm that managed the 7th floor condo. The condo was more than double the price of the original house, but it was situated on a compound that offered a nice playground, 4 swimming pools, a walking/running track/path, and a park with a duck pond, plus 24-hour security and parking. I decided it wouldn't hurt to write and explain the situation and see if they could do any discounts. 

Meanwhile, Peter's emails had netted him a house that was managed by an American who had lived in Costa Rica for over 20 years - a fountain of genuinely helpful information - at $1000 less than the original house we were looking at, and $4700 less than the 7th floor condo. Our initial reaction was that the decision was a no-brainer. My condo was a budget buster, his house was easy on the budget. However, we kept praying and decided we'd wait to hear back from the condo owners to see what they might be able to offer.

The initial response from the condo folks was encouraging. They loved what we were doing and would really like to try to make it work. And so we waited. The next day we received a long email from them again, and this time the contact said she'd found my Twitter account (something I hadn't linked to in our correspondence), and she loved that I was so open about my faith in my Twitter bio. Despite having found a job because of Twitter, and the various connections I've made online in the last few years, I'm still amazed at how God can use something as "silly" as social media, for His glory. 

After a number of emails our hold ups on the condo were what we could afford to pay that was also fair for them (this is how they make a living after all), and the fact that it was on the 7th floor with a balcony. I decided to tackle the 7th floor issue first, and (no surprise - it's God's story), they immediately wrote back to inform us that the also owned a second condo (a 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom) on the ground floor with a private outdoor patio and grill. The bad news was that it was booked for some of the time we would need it, but the good news was that the other renters were willing to be moved up to the 7th floor so we could have the ground-level apartment. Well, that was one item off the list!

We continued to pray about both locations, and despite our initial reaction to the house over the condo, the more we learned about the second house (like the fact that it really only slept 6, and one kid would have to sleep in a recliner for 6-8 weeks), the more we felt like God was directing us towards the condo (which, despite being just 2 bedrooms, really did have room to sleep 7 on something that resembled a bed). But budget wise, it just didn't fit. No matter how many pools or playgrounds it offered, we couldn't justify the cost. 

After talking it over, I told Peter what I thought we could afford, and he responded with a number that was $500 higher than mine, and $2700 less than the advertised price. After a nudge from God, we also decided that I should offer my services as a writer/editor to them as a way to barter some of the difference. We sent our offer to the condo folks and then waited. In less than 24 hours, we had an enthusiastic "APPROVED" response, and they took me up on my offer to help with updating their website copy. Win-Win! :) They're excited to be a part of this story God is writing, and we're excited to have a space with so many free options for the kids to run and play and expend energy. 

As an aside: less that 2 hours after receiving confirmation that our condo offer was approved, the owner of the second house wrote to say that he had an American family of 4 who wanted to reserve the house for almost the same amount of time during the same period of time - so even though we had to turn him down, he wasn't out anything. I love that. :) 

And so on Tuesday morning of this week, that was that... or so we thought. All week I've been little bit bothered about that $500 amount that Peter felt like we should add to my original offer amount, but since God had made it so clear that this was the right place for us, and the owners confirmed it with their response that they believed God led us to them, I had to let go and trust that God would take care of the little details... like paying for it. ;) When the mail came yesterday I heard it drop in our box, but forgot to go check it. Last night about 10:30, Peter opened the mailbox and pulled out a personal card from some old family friends. When I opened it, a check fell out. Yep, you guessed it. For $500


Tickets to Fly!

In all of our travels, we've always flown Delta whenever it was a possibility, and after doing some research through adoption airfare companies and online, we decided to reach out to them again. Last Friday night I spent over an hour on the phone with three wonderful Delta representatives -shout out to Delta, who need it this week after their technical issues! Working together, they were able to get us a great deal on flexible, round-trip tickets to Costa Rica, waving the change fees if we need to move the return date. Online, these changeable tickets were running a little over $2000/each. After explaining the adoption situation to Delta, we ended up getting both tickets for $1300! We are officially leaving on Thursday, September 29th. 48 days and counting...

NEXT UP: HOUSING. This week we've been focused on figuring out where we want to stay for our 6-8 weeks in San Jose. Back in the spring, Peter found a house that looked really promising in a certain section of the city. It had a nice yard for the kids to play, and would give us some breathing room. This week our in-country representatives went to look at the house and sent us their report, which made us decide to look some more. ;) It wasn't a bad house, but we thought there might be something better out there.

I reached out everywhere - Facebook (so many shared that post or asked their friends - thank you!), church websites, and owners on the HomeAway website. As it turns out, if you go to the owners and explain that you're not coming for vacation but to stay for up to 2 months because you're adopting 5 kids, that changes things. ;) As of this morning we have 2 really good possibilities in different parts of the city, both with pros and cons. 
BOTTOM LINEPray for God given wisdom for us as we make our final decision. Pray that we would have clear direction as to which house to take, that the finances would fit the budget, and that the house would be perfect for the needs of our kids and our time in country. We'll make a final choice in the next few days.

This morning, after we'd prayed for the day and about our current conundrum, Peter left for work and I suddenly recognized the hymn that was playing on the Abiding Radio online channel: What a Friend We Have in Jesus. Immediately the words of the hymn started running through my head:

What a privilege to carry
EVERYTHING to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
EVERYTHING to God in prayer!

God knows what house/condo we need. He knows what we need financially. He knows how He will provide, and the connections He will make. He knows what the kids need. He knows what we need - even when we don't yet know. What a privilege we have to carry all of our unknowns - and knowns - to our Father in prayer. Take heart... He is in control#iamthankful



One morning last week, I realized that for the first time, I felt total peace about the future. From trusting that whatever finances we had would cover our needs, to knowing that whatever came off the registry would be perfect for the kids, I finally acknowledged that not only is God writing our story, but He's covering EVERY aspect of this story - and I could let go. Shortly after I came to this conclusion (hey, I'm slow, but I get there eventually!), God - in His mercy - provided two tangible reminders that He knows our needs, and when I trust Him, He will provide. And even though He didn't have to provide additional confirmation of this, when He did, I chuckled and thanked Him for knowing His control-freak kid. $685 came in within a 24-hour period this week to go toward the adoption (thanks to those who donated, you know who you are!), and three new gifts (books - hooray!) arrived from the registry. #iamthankful

When we were in the early stages of our relationship, Peter and I wrote a lot of letters to each other. In many ways it feels like we're dating all over again - but this time as a couple - as we try to describe our life, our plans, our family, and our home to the kids in written letters that the in-country social worker delivers on her weekly meetings. The kids have asked questions that have made us chuckle ("Will we still be able to eat fruits and vegetables?" ANSWER: YES!), and questions that have made us plan ("What chores will we do?"), and questions that leave us stumped on how to explain ("Where will we go to school and what does the school bus look like?"). Bottom LineThese kids are already challenging us to think outside the box

TRAVEL UPDATE: We're in the process of getting airline ticket quotes and working out the details of housing and transportation in country. Looks like the car is going to cost us double what we originally thought, but we've got a couple more options to review and see if we can get that price down a bit before we book anything. 

On a personal note: We are so excited about the prospect of traveling outside of the U.S. again. Its been 2.5 years since we last used our passports (that's 2.5 years too long!), and 8 years since we last lived outside of the U.S. for any length of time, and we have missed it. Of every detail of this process, living in Costa Rica for up to 2 months has been on the bottom of our list of concerns, and actually the bright spot in the planning. Once we get all the details into place (like housing/car, and when we get the kids), we'll focus on what we can learn about Costa Rica during our time there. 

FINALLY, there have been some questions from friends and family about the Zika virus in Costa Rica. Our answer might sound cavalier, but Zika is what it is, and it's not going to deter us from going to get the kids. We'll take what precautions we can to avoid getting it, but having previously lived in malaria-ridden countries (where Peter did contract the disease at one point), we're no strangers to living life where these kinds of illnesses are just a part of the package. If you're so inclined to pray for our protection (and protection for our kids) from getting it (or illnesses of any kind while we're there - dengue, malaria, Zika, amoebas, etc.), we wouldn't say no.