Home Sweet Condo

The last month has been hectic - some of it outside of our control, some of it totally our fault - but the last week has been crazier still. Last minute errands and projects, packing, repacking, weighing bags, rearranging, trying to make sure that we didn't forget anything, and all while Peter continued to work his normal schedule so that he would have as much vacation time to use as possible for the next two months.

The plan was to have everything ready to go on Wednesday by the time he came home from work (he was hoping to leave work around noon), so that we could hit the road no later than 3 pm, putting us in Atlanta around 7:30, with room to spare for dinner and downtime. The reality was that he was home by 10:30, but we spent the next 7.5 hours running around like headless chickens, getting the house ready to leave for the next 6-8 weeks... AND have it presentable for the kids when we return! Beds had to be made (Peter discovered it was easier to take the mattresses off of the bunks to make the beds and then shove them back in!), bathrooms cleaned and winterized, fridge cleaned out, and on and on.

As we were finally pulling out of the driveway around 6 PM, poor Peter looked over from the drivers seat as a sob escaped and the tears start to flow from yours truly. As we drove away from our house, the one thing going through my head was, "I don't want to do this." Even as I thought it, I knew that was just Satan's final dig, his last attempt to use the weakest link (me), to play to all of my fears and appeal to my selfishness. And so yes, I cried, but I also - once again (and not for the last time, I'm quite sure) - said "Yes" to God's plan. Yes to obedience. Yes to discomfort. Yes to hard work and sleepless nights. Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.

On our way to Atlanta that night, we avoided an idiot in a van who almost clipped our front and the rear of a semi as he squeezed through between us. Peter - who is not prone to exaggeration - even said, "Huh, I'm not sure I've even seen one quite that close. That was within inches." Meanwhile, I was having a heart attack in the right seat, and thanking God for His protection. A little while later, we passed a semi that was STOPPED in the right hand lane (not off on the shoulder, but out in the road), and I thanked God again for His care.

By the time we made it to our airport motel, it was 10:30, and dinner consisted of a bagel for Peter and a couple of cups of hot tea in the room before we set our alarm. Not exactly the relaxing and restful evening we were hoping for, but we were grateful to be there and one step closer to our kids. After tossing and turning all night, we scarfed down the Greek yogurt we'd brought with us from home (see: fridge clean out), and then hit the road again to park our car and catch a ride to the airport. By the time we were at the gate (Pumpkin Spice Mocha in hand for me, Costa Rican coffee for Peter), we were just ready to be in Costa Rica, settling into the condo and finding our way around.

After boarding the plane, we were all settled and ready to push back from the gate when the voice of the captain announced that due to the eruption of more ash from the Turrialba volcano (about 30 miles from the San Jose airport), the airport had been closed and the Delta flight from California that was headed that way had been rerouted, so we were staying on the ground in Atlanta for at least 1 hour while we waited to see if it would reopen. Let the prayers commence. Those who wanted to disembark could do so, those who wished to remain (like us) could stay. After waiting out the hour, around 11:00 the decision was made to take off as the airport had been cleared of the ash, and the winds had switched direction... and with that, we were on our way.

The flight was a little bumpy, but basically uneventful. I shocked our seatmate (an elderly man who moved to Costa Rica with his wife a year ago, and was going back down to close things up and move back to the U.S.) when he asked why we were going to Costa Rica. Apparently adopting five children at once just isn't normal. Welcome to our out-of-the-box life history. Upon landing in Costa Rica, we made it through immigration (90-day visas obtained), and customs, were claimed by our car rental agency and then whisked out of the airport to pick up our vehicle for the next 47 days.

By the time we reached the car rental HQ's, I was sure of two things: Peter was going to win everyone over with his ability to speak Spanish (with a good accent) as he kept being complemented on it by the Ticos, and he would also be the sole driver of the vehicle in this crazy traffic. Our condo is technically around a 10 minute drive from the airport... but it took us over an hour to get here. On second thought, perhaps the van-driving idiot on our way to Atlanta was just a test run for me to get used to the insanity that is San Jose traffic. Peter and I came to a quick agreement... he watches the road and our fellow drivers (it's a good thing this kind of driving is right up his alley!), and I watch the GPS and tell him when and where to turn. He says if I do well at navigating, I can be his navigator when we do Baja off-road racing after the kids are grown. {wink, wink}

By the time we made it to the condo complex (where there is conveniently a small shopping center with a grocery, a couple of restaurants, a pharmacy, a phone repair store, and an ATM), we were both feeling the effects of our go-go-go from the last week, and were ready to crash. After checking in and picking up groceries and a pizza (excellent, by the way), we brought everything into the condo and literally crashed on a large sofa/bed in the bonus room (later to be used as a third bedroom). Home Sweet Condo.

P.S. Today and tomorrow we'll venture out again, finish unpacking, and see what our little area has to offer. I'm grateful for all of our years overseas, as (so far) nothing has been a shock to the system (other than the fact that they claim you can drink the water from the tap - that's a new one for us!). On Sunday we will meet with our lawyer and her assistant, and on Monday we are scheduled to meet the kids for the first time. It hasn't really sunk in yet, but I'm sure it will soon.



I know it's Monday, and I don't usually post on Monday, but I have such an amazing God story to share with you, I couldn't wait. You may recall that in Friday's post, I shared some of the background about how God has continually reminded us that He's in control, and He is writing this story - we can let go of the details. Easier said than done! In fact, even though I was sharing about all the times God had shown us how He could (and would) provide, I knew we were - even as late as last Thursday night - making "back up" contingency plans as our financial safety net. We're INTJs... it's what we do. Silly people.

Each week after I write the blog post for And Then There Were 7, I usually take part of the post and put it on our YouCaring site for anyone who might still be looking for updates there, and then I add a few little extras to the YouCaring update (like how many gifts are left on the Amazon registry, and how much money we're lacking to reach our goal). My YouCaring updates automatically post to our personal Facebook account as well, and it gives our connections a quick update on what's going on (for those who do not to follow the blog page on Facebook).

Less than 30 minutes after the YouCaring post went live on Friday, I received a notification of a donation from YouCaring in my inbox. I looked, and then I looked again. And then I almost cried. And then I forwarded the notification to Peter. One amazing family had jumped on and donated the remaining amount to reach our $20k goal. If you're wondering what an INTJ looks like when they are shocked, I believe I kind of looked like this...

And so yes, I'm sorry God. I get it. YOU are writing this story. YOU are arranging the details. YOU know what we need, when we need it. And even though I am sure that there will be a time in the future - possibly even in the not so distant future - when I will forget and will try to take care of those pesky details for You, I am beyond grateful for the reminder on Friday of Who is in charge

And here's one final thing to note, and we want to make sure this is perfectly clear: this family gave a large gift, and we are grateful. But I can honestly say that we are equally grateful for the $20 donations, because we know that this isn't about us - this is about God and His story, and people wanting to be a part of it. We are grateful for each person who has pressed a $20 bill into our hands, passed on gently used quality toys, purchased a pack of kids underwear, or handed over book credit to use at our local used book store. 

Years ago, when we raised support as missionaries, it truly felt like it was about us, and each donation was some sort of validation of "our" ministry. I cannot tell you how different it feels this time around - maybe because people are giving despite there being no tax deduction, maybe because this time the entire story was never our plan. Either way - we are thanking God for each person who has joined with us, for the Glory of God


God's Gifts to Cynical People

This isn't going to sound uber spiritual, but facts are facts. When we first heard about our kids, one of the hold ups for both of us was the added cost (blame our ancestry - I'm Scotch and Peter's Dutch). In the short term it meant paying to reopen the home study, paying to redo our fingerprints, background checks, and dossier. In the long term it meant food, clothing, and education for a 5th child. Although we knew God was telling us that this was the group of kids He was writing into our story, our inner control freaks were crunching numbers and panicking. Two things happened to remind us that we needed to let go: the realization that I (Carrie) was also a surprise 5th kid (so how in the world could we say no?!), and the generosity of a stranger.

The day after we told the adoption agency that we would like to send a letter of intent for these siblings, our phone rang. Peter had just walked in the door from work, and I found myself on the line with a women from the agency who was saying, "I'm so excited... I have to tell you!" As it turns out, an unmarried friend of hers who has a heart for adoption had recently asked if there was anyone in particular who needed some help. The woman told her about us, and our (very recent) decision to take these five siblings, and her friend was moved to help... to the tune of $1,260. If we had any remaining doubts that God was writing this story, and would provide for our needs, they were pretty much squished in that moment.

Since then, He has continued to use people as a source of encouragement for us - co-workers, former clients, online-only connections, Facebook "friends" who we barely knew in real life, and yes, even total strangers. 

Last week my cousin's wife shared our 11B blog post through her Facebook account, and one of her friends read it, shared it, and then purchased 6 items from our Amazon registry. I've never met her (though we're now connected on Facebook), and we've exchanged all of two Facebook comments since her gift arrived. 

A few months ago, we received two separate donations from an individual whose name I did not recognize. Last week, an Amazon box arrived on our doorstep - from the same individual in Alabama - with a $22 bottle of Rosemary Repel lice prevention conditioner from our registry. I have no idea who the person is, or how they found us, but I know that God has used them to encourage us. And if you are that person and you are reading this, I'd love to know how we're connected and thank you a little more personally.

And then there's the faithful sharing of our blog posts, adoption updates, and virtual shower gift photos by one of Peter's aunts. I see her social shares, and in my doubt I think, "That's so sweet of her, but no one is going to care about what we are doing." See? Not uber spiritual at all, but pure cynic. A cynic who was proven wrong, once again, when a card arrived in our mailbox yesterday, containing a sizable gift card from her small church body (Solid Rock Baptist) in Michigan, and a note which explained how they had been following this story through those social shares and had seen God through our journey. To God be the Glory for using a cynic like me.  

One week from today - Lord willing - we'll be waking up in San Jose, Costa Rica, discovering our new home-away-from-home, and taking some time to savor and reflect on our final days as a party of 2. On Monday, October 3rd, we are scheduled to meet the kids, and depending on how well the meetings go, they could be living with us by the end of the week. The magnitude of that isn't lost on us, and as we're rushing through to do lists and last minute errands, from time to time we find ourselves pausing. Slightly overwhelmed by the idea of everything being a "last time before," and even mourning the change to some extent.  

You see, our life together has been really amazing. Sure, we have our moments when we argue, and I'm notorious for a lifetime of side-seat driving, but overall, God has given us an incredibly unique and blessed relationship. We've had 16 years of marriage to discover what we can do better together than we can apart, 16 years to eat popcorn for dinner if we feel like it, or jump in the car for an impromptu road trip. We know what morning traffic in Boston is like and how stinky it is to sit on a park bench and smell the tide going out, yet not wanting to leave. We've snorkeled with jellyfish in Indonesia, discovered how delicious snails can be in Paris, learned how badly a Land Rover Defender can leak while driving in a Mozambique deluge, and attempted almost every home improvement project known to man. I will miss those moments of companionable silence in the car. I will miss our time alone together. I will miss my time alone - period. 

But as Peter pointed out last night, dying to self naturally brings some pain with it... but it also brings tremendous opportunity for growth, and a deeper joy than we have previously known. Yes, our life has been good - it's been great, in fact - but we know that there will come a day when we gaze around our table, and then look at one another and say, "This is awesome." #RightSideUp


11 B

That's my seat number on a flight that will ferry us into the next chapter of our lives. In less than two weeks, I will board a plane, find a spot in the overhead bin for my carry-on, put the armrest up between 11 B and 11 C, and listen as Peter prays for our trip. We've done it many times before, for treks all over the world, but this time it's different. SO. VERY. DIFFERENT.

We've found that we go through phases of panic about this adventure - usually at different times. Last night, while digging through paperwork and receipts for a tax document I was putting together for our CPA, I found myself in a side conversation with Peter about how we were both feeling re: the upcoming changes. Was I prepared to become a parent to five kids? Was he ready? I thought about the comment he made to me a few weeks back, about it not turning our world upside down, but right side up. I'll be honest: some days it's easier to believe that than others. 

As I plugged expenses into to the spreadsheet, I came across our very first payment to the adoption agency in September 2013, and I had to laugh. We were both hoping beyond hope that if we sent it in, it would turn into a donation rather than an application fee. That somehow, by "sacrificing" $250 and filling out a few pages of information, we would prove to God that we were faithful and He would look down and boom, "Oh wow, my children, you are amazingly obedient. Good job! What an example you are! Well done. You are now free to go back to your regularly scheduled lives and I will no longer ask you to do this crazy thing." But, of course, He didn't. This wasn't a test of the "change your life" broadcasting system, this was the real deal, and the real question was, "Will you continue to be faithful?" One step doesn't make you faithful, one action doesn't mean you've grasped what it means to obey His calling - it takes a lifetime of "one step at a time" moments.  

Someone recently asked me if I was excited, and I responded, "I have days when I'm excited, and days when I'm terrified." The woman (a mom of grown kids), wisely replied, "Welcome to the rest of your life." And it makes sense. There will always be a situation that we are not prepared for, a moment when we wonder "why us?!", a fleeting desire to turn and run, but the God who has faithfully led us to this point, will still be there in those moments as well. He will still be writing the story, still giving us wisdom when we seek it, and still be the rock, refuge, and fortress that He is today.

How can we be so sure? Because almost four years ago - literally in an instant - God made it crystal clear that this was His purpose for our lives. Even though we fought it, ignored it, avoided it, and danced around it, the one thing that we never did was doubt it. From that first moment, we both knew this was our calling. All of the other - the doubt and avoidance - was just us trying to wiggle out of it. Our human nature, our selfishness - if you will, went into fight or flight mode, trying to defend us from this crazy, CRAZY, world-rocking idea. And even though it took us 11 months to make that first call to the adoption agency, in the end, we chose obedience over comfort.

So... are we ready? Will we get down there and then freak out? Run away? Turn back to the airport and ask for two, one-way tickets to Paris? Truthfully, yes, we might very well freak out when we are alone together, questioning our sanity and wishing we could move to the land of introverts and escargot, but NO, we will not run away. Why? Because the decision to do this was made years ago, and the Author of this story knows what He is doing - even when He chooses to use the most reluctant of His kids to reflect the light of His glory.

#iamthankful #rightsideup

P.S. Remember how I was putting adoption expenses in that spreadsheet? After I finished, I tried not to panic. Let's just say that I'm a little "safety first" when it comes to finances... though God is definitely using this whole experience to stretch me! If you're inclined to donate, we still have a lot of expenses coming up (some already paid for, some not) during our time in Costa Rica. DONATE HERE

P.P.S. You guys have been unbelievably generous to us and our kids in your purchases from our Amazon registry! We are BLOWN AWAY!!! There are just 25 items remaining (5 of those being gift card options) on our list that it would be nice to have (like the LICE SHAMPOO - go ahead and pray that we don't have to deal with that!!), just in case you're interested. :) SEE THE LIST


Full to Overflowing

I'm not a people person. Most of the time I find myself quite irritated by people, in fact, and fully identify with Christ in those moments when he got away by Himself to connect with His Father (as documented in the Gospels). However, unlike Christ, I'm not always wise enough to walk away so I can talk to my Father about it, unless it's to pray, "Lord, help me not to blast them. And can You please make them use the brains You gave them?" Let's just say that to "love your neighbor as yourself" does not come naturally for me.

And then people surprise me. Stun me, actually. And those experiences remind me that I am not, in fact, a happy little island (à la Bob Ross), but a part of a wider community of people who ignore me when I'm snippy, irritated, and generally unpleasant to be around, and genuinely care about impacting 5 little strangers from Costa Rica. I find myself "full to overflowing" with gratitude for people who choose to bless us through their generosity towards our kids.

You see, if left to my natural INTJ tendencies, I'd pack up my books (and Peter), move to a Paris apartment, and leave no forwarding address. I'd hide in the middle of a city full of people whose language I cannot speak (makes not talking to people so much easier), walking to the local boulangerie each morning for my daily croissant or baguette, and revel in the introversion of it all. But God didn't put me on this earth to hide, no matter how much I might like to at times. 

There are days - even currently - when I am "full to overflowing" with people who need things from me, and I get worn out. My stress level goes up and my emotions hover right under the surface, just waiting for a reason to be let loose. But a very wise friend reminded me yesterday, "It's all good preparation for when you have 5 little people who need you ALL.THE.TIME." I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about that, and I thanked God for the opportunity to practice now, and for a friend who is willing to say what I need to hear, not just what I want to hear.

Whether I feel up to it or not, as Christians, our purpose on this earth is to be a reflection of the light of Christ, not to hide in our house and hope people go away. Three weeks from today we will be in Costa Rica, settling into our home for the next 6-8 weeks, knowing that in a few days it will never again be just the two of us. For some unfathomable (to us) reason, God has chosen us to be the parents of 5 unique opportunities, entrusting us with their lives to raise with love and for His glory. I don't understand why He picked us - the least likely candidates for the job - but #iamthankful I serve a God who is so much bigger than my self-sufficient, Paris-loving, INTJ, hide-away self. 

I'd be lying if I said it wasn't still overwhelming at times, but we also cannot wait to see how He will continue to write, not only the story of our lives, but of theirs. To GOD be the Glory. 


PRAISE: We booked a car for our stay in Costa Rica - Thanks for Praying!

FINANCES: My YouCaring math was a little off last week (hello - English major!), and we still need around $3400 (extra helps cover the credit card fees from YouCaring) to meet our goal. The account will remain active while we are in country, so gifts during that time would help as well since our income will be decreased. CLICK TO DONATE.

$$$ TRANSPARENCY: We have been paying (and continue to pay) for items for the kids (school, clothing, etc.) and our trip (luggage, toiletries, etc.) out of our personal income, and so far have only pulled from this fund to cover the costs of our 2 airline tickets and the condo payment.  $20k was our estimate of what we would need, and it's probably going to be pretty close when all is said and done (perhaps a little under our final costs). Your monetary gifts have helped SO MUCH - THANK YOU!

CO$T$ COMING UP: We still have to pay for the car (just under $2700), the final agency funds (just over $5300), and 5 one-way tickets home (last estimate was just over $2000, but that could change) + food, gas, immigration, and physicals for the kids in Costa Rica, and travel expenses in the U.S. (car storage, motel). Additionally, everything is currently booked for 6 weeks, but if we find we need to stay longer, there will be additional cost to both the condo and the car.

GRATITUDE: There are only 26 items remaining on our Amazon Registry (CHECK THEM OUT)... WOW!! YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING!!


Just One Slice, Thanks...

Oh, this week. A 3-day weekend (our last holiday where we can do whatever we jolly well want to without tiny people wanting to eat morning, noon, and night) could not have come at a better time. From stomach bugs to turning into a mama bear twice in a 7 day period, the week was capped off by the largest Humble Pie I have had to face in a very long time. God continues to remind me that I am far (FAR, people, FAR) from perfection, and that grace is not something to be doled out when it is earned, but when it is needed.

We've been in this whole adoption process for a long time (officially since December 2013 when we sent our first payment into the adoption agency, unofficially since God first called us in November 2012). For the last 2 years I've loudly and, at times, publicly shared my frustration that a previously involved party had lost our original marriage license and my birth certificate. Incompetence, idiocy, and the real clincher, disorganized. How could they?

With less than 30 days to go before we board an airplane bound for Costa Rica, we have created lists of things that we need to take care of before we go. One of the items on my personal "to do" list included taking old, no longer referenced folders from our upstairs filing cabinet and moving them to the storage filing cabinet in the basement. While I was working through the upstairs files this week, I came across a folder marked "Bank Safe Deposit Box." I flipped it open, recalling that we had closed our box almost 2 years ago when our bank closed, and wondered if it could be regulated to the basement.

Do I even need to say it? Inside the folder - which didn't contain paperwork indicating that we had a box, but the actual paperwork from the box itself - I found our "missing" documents. Our marriage certificate and my (somewhat original) birth certificate. There they were, in the filing cabinet that I had torn apart looking for these items over a year ago. All the time that I was blaming the individual for losing our paperwork, I was sitting less than 2 feet away from the items, tucked neatly into a poorly labeled folder. I'm the idiot. "Yes, I believe I will have some cream with my pie."

Here's my question for you: how often do you (and I) foist the blame for a mistake, a situation, an argument, a misunderstanding on someone else before we look at our ownership? How many tiffs with your spouse could be stopped mid-argument if you were to consider your role in it rather than pointing out the faults of your husband or wife? How many times in your frustration with your children have you failed to see the situation from their point of view? Are you a loving parent - teaching, instructing, guiding, correcting and yes, even giving grace on occasion - or are you the task master, benevolent dictator, and tyrant?

I know when it comes to marriage I have been culpable of seeing Peter's guilt before acknowledging my own role in the fight. I have stood in judgement of his decisions, I have been self-righteous, declaring my perfection over his missteps. Thankfully, after 16 years of marriage, almost 20 years of friendship, and 32 and 37 years of following Jesus, God has helped us see our own faults, and recognize when we are wrong. Our marriage has gotten sweeter as we have learned the importance of dying to self, willing to admit when we are wrong, mistaken, or just plain unsure.

I also know that I will - guaranteed - screw up with our kids. I will be quick to throw blame, make assumptions, and fail to give a measure of grace when I should. And while I am all about boundaries (yes, in this house it will be a dictatorship not a democracy - Dad and Mom do get the final say), I also know what it feels like to have judgement handed down without feeling like my side has been heard, and I want to remember that as we learn how to parent these 5, unique individuals.

Perhaps it's because God knows that my patience will be tested in days to come, or because He knows my heart and my own high view of myself, that He allowed me to find a whole humble pie in my filing cabinet, not just a slice. Whatever the case... another lesson in the books this week, and another moment to sigh and say, "Thank you, Lord. Please don't let me forget."

P.S. In other news - we received $2,675 in donations this week!! That leaves us with $3,325 to hit our goal. God has more than one way in which to humble us. #iamthankful 

P.P.S. We could still use some items off of our Amazon registry, if you are so inclined, particularly the turtleneck shirts for the kids. GO TO THE LIST.

P.P.P.S. If anyone knows someone with a 7 passenger vehicle (SUV or van) in the San Jose area that they'd be willing to let us use for, oh, say, 6-8 weeks this fall, please let us know!