Pay It Forward - Family Revealed

In my previous post from last month, I shared that our family honored the commitment we made in June 2013. We paid forward the $5,000 that was donated through the puzzle fundraiser to bring Tucker home to another adoptive family. Over the past several months, we have prayed that God would open the hearts of our friends and that they would take the leap of faith to bring one of his children home.

In our search, we spoke to one family who is very much considering adoption to grow their family but are not ready due to the finances involved. We talked to a couple other families, and they have decided to get involved in orphan care in a different way than through adoption. Another family is seriously considering adoption, but they felt that the timing was not right.

The Haun Family celebrating the 4th of July with their newest American
Then, God laid a particular family on our hearts. This family has been in our lives since March 20, 2013 - the day we got our Log In Date (LID) from China, as it was the same day they got theirs. I watched the Haun family long to bring their precious daughter, Lucy, home from China. I prayed for Lauren and her husband as they were told at the last minute to consider not bringing Lucy home due to her significant needs. I rejoiced whenI learned that she and her husband made the decision to go to China anyway and bring their daughter home no matter what her needs might be. And since that time, over the past year, I have watched sweet Lucy transform from a child without a family to child who is LOVED AND SPOKEN FOR!!

I mean, look at that precious smile!!!
In a recent blog post, Lauren wrote: Lucy's story in a nutshell is the just how Jesus sees us:
Lucy was sick, neglected, malnourished, abandoned.... Before we have Jesus into our life, we are the exact same way.
Lucy's heart needed to be fixed through open heart surgery... isn't that the same thing Jesus does with our hearts... he fixes it first?
Lucy needed tubes in her ears so she could hear... after Jesus fixes our hearts, he opens our ears so we can hear His voice!
Lucy needed eye surgery & glasses so she could physically see... our spiritual eyes have to be "fixed" and adjusted so that we can see Him and change any area of our life that needs to be changed.
Lucy couldn't walk because she had a bad hip that wouldn't allow her to and needed physical surgery to fix it... Jesus helps us on our journey and fixes our bad hips, so that we can "walk" straight paths with Him!! He wants on on the straight and narrow path... not on the wide road that this world is on!
In a nutshell, Lucy's story is just like our story with God! He took us in just as we were and loved us even when we were ugly and full of sin! Isn't that just the greatest story ever? He is our Father and it's the greatest love story ever! I am so thankful for Lucy and her life and to even get to be a part of her life feels like such a HUGE privilege!! 
Has it been easy?    NO 
Is it worth it?     100% YES 
God says we are worth it... the cross was worth it for our salvation...
Lucy is SO SO SO worth it and so much more!!
Just knowing Lauren and watching their family's journey to Lucy and with Lucy has grown my faith in immeasurable ways. I am a stronger adoptive momma, a deeper believer, and a witness to miracles through my friendship with Lauren.
When Lauren shared with us that she had fallen in love with a little girl from China and that she and her husband decided to once again take this leap of faith, my heart fluttered. Could they be the family? Ryan and I talked about it, prayed about it, and decided that we were ECSTATIC to pay it forward to them. I asked Lauren if we could FaceTime her and Chad that evening. We told them about our puzzle fundraiser from the year before and our commitment to pay forward $5,000 that was donated through Ryan's adoption reimbursement benefit at work. Then we shared that we wanted them to have the money to bring Charlie Mae home. It was awesome, you guys!
Once again, thank you to the 121 families that supported us through the puzzle fundraiser. It is in your honor and with great thanks that we donated $5,000 to Lauren's family through their Adopt Together website. Click to see the donation, as well as to prayerfully consider helping their family like you did ours. I wouldn't typically put the amount donated on a website like that, but we did in order to have full transparency to our donors. We love the Haun family, and we cannot wait to see Charlie Mae in their arms. God has chosen the most beautiful family for her. What a gift they will be to each other! To see Lauren and Chad's video slideshow announcing their adoption to loved ones, please click THIS LINK.
Their story as shown through the slideshow is like many couples. They met...fell in love...got married...had biological children...and loved the Lord. Then, they made a decision that would change their lives forever. They CHOSE to SEE the children who need families. They CHOSE the life of a little girl over worldly gain. They CHOSE to be brave and leap. And even knowing the paperwork, the heartache, the challenges, and the financial stress, they CHOSE to go back to China. All for sweet Charlie Mae.
Follow their journey: http://lovedandspokenfor.blogspot.com/


Goodbye Summer!

Well, I blinked my eyes, and summer break has come to an end. In many ways, I feel like our family is beginning a whole new chapter. This time last year, we were eleven days away from LOA, longing to bring our son home from China, Noah was beginning kindergarten, Liam was off to my friend Dalia's, and I was heading back to work as a school psychologist.

My how life changes in a year.

We traveled to China last October and met Tucker for the first time. After spending the next two weeks together in his birth country, we made the long flight home and reunited with Noah, Liam, and the rest of our friends and family. The following months were spent focusing on becoming a family of five and growing deep roots, secure attachment, and a forever bond with Tucker. Each month our love grew stronger and deeper, and by the six month period, we realized that we had finally reached our new normal. What a relief!

In the midst of those days gaining love for one another, we experienced loss, as well. In a sense, we lost our old family make-up. It was the same feeling I had after Noah was born looking back to when it was just Ryan and me, and then it happened again when Liam was born and looked back to when it had been just the three of us - Ryan, Noah, and me. I was happy to be moving forward with our new family dynamic, just bittersweet that the previous chapter was over.

Then, after being home from China for a few months, we left the church that had been our home for seven years. This was heartbreaking for Ryan and me, as we had invested in so many relationships and really grew as Christians in this very special place. This community of people had loved on us and wrapped around us both during and after the adoption process. This was my first church, making it even more special to me. It's where my small faith grew to a deeper, more mature faith. The foundation of our family was built in that church. It's where Ryan and I grew closer in our marriage, and our love for God grew stronger. I watched my husband dedicate countless Monday nights and weekend services over the years to the church band playing guitar. I could go on and on about what I loved and miss about our last church. I wish the circumstances could've been different, but we have trusted that God is using the situation for good and that He desires to use us and grow us somewhere new (Romans 8:28).

The last, unexpected loss was my decision to not return to work for the 2014-2015 school year. I really love my work as a school psychologist. I love working with children with various special needs. I love collaborating with my colleagues and making recommendations for placement, eligibility, and services. Not many people find a job that they are passionate about while working with such incredible people. I was one of the lucky ones to experience both, so leaving my work was a loss. For so many reasons, I know in my heart it was the best decision for our family, but there is a real part of me that is sad I can't see my coworkers and the kids tomorrow morning.

With losses behind us, we have moved forward with so much to celebrate. While Noah's love for Tuck was immediate and unconditional, Liam's acceptance and love took more time. Now, I don't think he can remember life without this special friendship with his brother!

We celebrated all three boys' birthdays with friends and family in May. A Ninja Turtle themed party was held with our family that afternoon.

After enjoying lunch, cupcakes, and presents with our families, we put the little boys down for naps and started setting up for the second part of the celebration. My brother, his wife, my mom's husband, and I ran balloons with glow sticks inside from our house to the back tree line. Ryan set up our tent and the movie screen that a friend so graciously let us borrow. Noah had a baseball game that afternoon, so we raced to the game and then raced back home to finish setting up. Our friends and their kids were coming over for an outdoor movie and campout, and Duck Tales: Treasure of the Lost Lamp was the featured film. SO FUN!


The movie went great, and everyone seemed to have a great time! Several families camped out but were woken by a pretty decent storm early the next morning. It rained the next day, too, so Ryan and the boys enjoyed a huge water gun fight in the back yard.

The memories didn't stop there. We really had the best summer!
Noah graduated from kindergarten
Ryan celebrated his 34th birthday
Noah played a lot of baseball!
We traveled to our adoption agency to hug our sweet social worker, Karla!

We met up with the sweet family with whom we spent two weeks in China!

We slept in hotels on the way to Florida

Tucker walked on the beach for the first time.

It made me cry.

I felt so much joy and gratitude to the Lord for calling us to bring Tuck home.

We wore matching t-shirts and spent an amazing week in Florida with Ryan's family.

Tucker radiated happiness swimming all week.

Noah built sandcastles and played with his cousin.

Liam and I held hands while we walked on the beach.

We watched 4th of July Fireworks downtown.

We visited with great friends from out of state.

Noah and Liam took swim lessons.

We had swim play dates with friends.

We celebrated all things China with a treasured adoptive family from Atlanta.

The boys met their match with my friend Jess' sweet triplets.

We had a fun play date at a new park!
Which leads us to this final picture. This picture that I think I will treasure all the days of my life. The moment when the stars aligned and all three boys looked at the camera at the exact same time. The moment when our summer came to an end and all three boys were getting ready to go to school. Noah is starting his first grade year, and the littles are beginning their first school experience - half day preschool two days a week. Are they not the most handsome little boys you've ever seen?

I am so thankful for the memories we made this summer. I am so grateful for the family we've become together. I thank God for taking us across the world to bring my third son home. Despite the losses, we have gained SO much more, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for our family during this next chapter of our lives.


Puzzle Fundraiser: Pay It Forward Update

Compliments of Lemongrass Photography
In June 2013, one hundred twenty-one families made contributions to our puzzle fundraiser to help bring Tucker home. In just nine days, those 121 families donated $5,425! We are still so humbled by your generosity, and our spirits were lifted during that very long wait for our Letter of Acceptance (LOA). We purchased a frame and hung the finished puzzle in Tucker's room before he got home. Now, every morning when he wakes up, every afternoon when he takes a nap, and every evening when he goes to bed, we are reminded of the 121 people who helped bring our son home through that fundraiser.

When we announced our puzzle fundraiser, we made a special commitment to the donors. Ryan's employer provides a $5,000 reimbursement for adoption costs, and we stated that if people donated $5,000 to our family, we would pay forward that $5,000 from Ryan's company to another adoptive family. So, not only would donors be helping our family bring Tucker home, but you would also be helping another family bring home their sweet one.

Well, I am SO EXCITED to announce that after many conversations with friends, we learned that one family has decided to grow their family through adoption. Although I cannot announce who this family is just yet, I wanted to let you know that our family has followed through with our commitment to the donors of our fundraiser, and we paid forward your generosity to this family, giving them $5,000 toward their adoption thanks to YOU and YOUR GENEROSITY to our family last June and to God who loves us all so much, HE adopted us into his family. Keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming post about this very special family!

We talk to Tucker every day about China. He has asked us why we came to China to bring him home. We tell him that God loves him so much that he asked us to be his family and fly all the way across the world to bring him home. We tell him that God wanted him to have a family, and God wanted us to have a son...all because He loves us.

And you know what Tuck says?

He says, "Mommy, I happy home."

Me, too, buddy. Me, too.

Compliments of Lemongrass Photography


Andy's Second Journey to Leadville

Many of you have followed our family's adoption story for quite some time, and you might recall my posts last year about Andy and Lisa Bauermeister's #runningtuckerhome campaign. Andy ran 100 miles in the Leadville Trail race last August to push his body to its limits and to help raise funds to bring orphans home. He successfully completed this race in 28 hours and 44 minutes! Andy and Lisa's friends and family donated $11,120 to the fundraiser last year! You can read my follow up post HERE. After giving our family over $6,000, they gifted $1,000 to five additional families who were going through the adoption process. You can read this post and this post to see the chosen families. We are still so thankful for the money given to our family through this fundraiser! We were able to pay for all of our airfare (nearly $5,000), and the rest was applied to final travel expenses.

Because Andy is absolutely crazy incredibly inspiring, he is running another 100 miles on the Leadville Trail this August, and once again, he is raising money for orphans. Instead of choosing specific families, Andy has decided to partner with The Boaz Project, Inc. Not only does this organization provide adoption assistance to families, but they also work directly with people helping orphans in both India and Russia. Coincidentally, Noah's Bible Club at school raised money for The Boaz Project, Inc. this past year. He was happy to do extra chores around the house to raise money for this special organization.

Over Memorial Day weekend, Andy ran across the entire state of Indiana to accomplish a great feat while also training for Leadville and raising money for The Boaz Project, Inc. Andy finished the entire 150 mile trek across Indiana in 39 hours and 57 minutes! You can read all about his adventure HERE. Check it out! Ryan even made a debut by providing an aid station for Andy early in his weekend adventure. :)

To date, Andy has raised nearly $1,000 for The Boaz Project, Inc. I know so much of Andy's success with this race will attributed to both his physical condition and his mental stamina. Last year, he said that his ability to continue pushing his body to extremes was knowing that he was helping families bring home their children. Will you consider helping Andy's efforts in supporting The Boaz Project, Inc. this year? All donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE and can be completed online through the following website: https://fundly.com/runin-for-orphans. We received our receipt from The Boaz Project, Inc. just a couple weeks after making our donation.

God asks that all people care for the fatherless in some way, and Andy has decided that through his passion for running, he can help orphans. I hope you will consider donating to his fundraiser to support The Boaz Project, Inc.!

Lisa and Andy just after he crossed the Leadville finish line in 2013


Noah's 6th Birthday Letter

How did this little guy...


 ...grow up and turn into this big guy?

Last Day of School
Last Day of School
Kindergarten Graduation
Kindergarten Graduation
I remember when I opened all of my baby shower gifts, all the moms would write something like, "Don't blink your eyes. They grow up so fast!" or "Treasure every single moment." They weren't kidding. The past six years have gone by so quickly, and although I loved his baby years, Noah is more and more fun with each passing year. I hope I always feel like that! I treasure the relationship we have, and I really adore this kid. So, without further ado, here is my letter to my first born son.

Dear Noah,
Six years old. Six. How did this happen? I don't know where the time has gone or how you grew up so fast, but I'll tell you this. The past six years have been the best years of my life. Before you were born, I was living a life focused on myself and what I wanted, needed, and desired. Your dad and I had a lot of fun together after we got married, but it was you who brought us even closer to one another. We became a family when you were born. We stopped choosing ourselves and started choosing you. For three years, it was just the three of us, and we had SO much fun.

Since that time, you have become a big brother not only to Liam but to Tucker, as well. We tell you all of the time, but I want to write it in this letter, too. God chose you specifically to be the oldest brother in our family. He knew how well you would rise as a leader. He knew how you would model kindness, compassion, honesty, obedience, and discipline. God knew that you would show your brothers how much you love Him. You model true unconditional love for all of us, and we all benefit from knowing you. Your daddy and I are so thankful that God chose you to be our first son. You've helped us learn how to be better parents. You've taught us how important it is to apologize when we make mistakes. You've given us courage to talk about our faith. You've helped our hearts become more like our Father's.

The past year has been one I'll never forget! A year ago, you, Liam, and I were taking trips to the Children's Museum, having play dates, and swimming with friends while your dad was at work. We were waiting for Tucker's LOA, and you saw me crying in desperation to your dad one afternoon when I thought it would never come. True to form, you colored me a beautiful picture and wrapped your arms around me, assuring me that everything would be ok. Then you started kindergarten and just amazed me! Noah, before I knew it, you were reading and writing sentences and really growing in your knowledge and skills. In October, you were so strong and courageous as we said our goodbyes before we left for China. I remember having lunch with you at school the a couple days before we left, and I was just holding back the tears. I didn't know how I would be away from you for so long. I know I cried the entire way home that day. I think this pictures really captures how relieved I was to have my arms around you again when we got home!

October 25, 2014
When Tucker first came home, it was a hard transition for all of us, but it was you, Noah, who showed us that we were a family before I felt like we were. You had patience, compassion, tenderness, and real love for Tucker from day one. We made fun memories throughout the year, and one of my favorites was staying overnight in different hotels over spring break.

Pizza in South Bend
Soon after you started swimming lessons, and the progress you made was incredible! You went from not being able to doggy paddle to jumping off the diving board and swimming to the side of the pool on your first day. I was blown away! You made the decision that you were ready to learn, and you worked hard those two weeks. Your became more confident and had so much fun with Coach Chase. You have two more weeks of lessons in July, and I can't wait to see how much more you progress.

As soon as you finished swim lessons in April, you began playing coach pitch baseball. When you spent a lot of the first game daydreaming and playing in the field, I wasn't sure if you were ready to really focus and play baseball. However, you quickly showed me how wrong I was. You got super focused, started making plays in the field, and grew strong and stronger at bat. Your dad and I had so much fun watching you play this year! I already can't wait until next summer.

Noah, I am so proud of you. I am proud of your heart. I am proud of your mind. I am proud of the way you use God's gifts for good. I love how much you love Jesus. I love how serious and sensitive you are. I love how focused and driven you can be. I love that we can sit down and have a real heart-to-heart conversation together, and then ten minutes later, we can go play classic Nintendo games together and conquer Zelda. I love that you invite me into your world and your interests, and you share your feelings with me. I hope that never changes...that it never stops. I hope that I always create a space where you can be yourself and share your heart with me. I hope that in 12 years, you will be a man who still displays all of these wonderful attributes that you have today. I am so thankful that I get to be your mom. It's a privilege knowing you, playing with you, and living life with you. I love you, Noah! Happy 6th Birthday.