I have inherited Your testimonies forever,
For they are the joy of my heart.
I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes
Forever, even to the end.
Psalm 119: 111, 112

Monday, December 31, 2012

Sharing Pieces of a Huge Story...

Please pray for: the Snow Family (see below), the "B" Family (keep reading), the "G" Family, still waiting for the powers to be in an African country to release their two children in the adoption process; the "V" Family, waiting for a referral and knowing that God has a special little boy planned for them; the "P" Family pushing forward against bureaucratic obstacles in their adoption journey; the "K" Family, holding on to hope that God will soften hearts in Russia and make the way for the little boy to come home soon...
And pray for people who continue to argue that Americans should just adopt American children. Can you imagine if God said that he would only adopt Jews? What if He said that His Son's death wasn't good enough to set Gentiles free? That only the Israelites would be saved. What if God said that He was a God of one nation only? Jesus died as a ransom for all. He came to set ALL sinners free! That's you and me, peeps, regardless of nationality, culture, heritage, ethnicity, language, race... I'm a child of God, adopted into His eternal family. Thank You, Lord that You love me...just because You LOVE. Thank You that all Your children deserve love and families. I don't know why you chose us to adopt African children, but then again, I don't know why you chose my home to be in America. I know that you have chosen families to adopt American children, too. Thank you for the Zoccolis, Clardys, Castellanos, Browns, and many, many more! Only You know what the purpose for each of our lives is - for Your kingdom, and all I can do is listen and follow.
I just read a post on our friend's blog - The Snow Bunch. http://mel-snow.blogspot.com/  Geez, this adoption stuff is really tough. It's a roller coaster ride, and we all need to hang on tight so as not to be thrown out or get sick to our stomachs during the ride. Melissa and Brian have been through all of this and are buckling up for more! Bless them, Lord, as they forge a path ahead of us. Their girls are preparing to celebrate Christmas with our boys. This somewhat selfish mommy is grateful my little boys will have good friends with them for a short while longer. But, God speed the Snow Girls home in your gracious timing and love!
In the same breath, I pray God speed our boys home, too. We received our dossier safe and sound on Christmas Eve! Woohoooo! Now we receive direction from our agency as to which papers are still good, and which ones need renewal, update, etc. We hope to have all international papers in place by the middle of January. Then we wait and pray for a court date, sooner rather than later. In the meantime, we still pray also for God's guidance with fundraising. Each time I have applied for grants, or attempted to apply for grants, there has been some type of roadblock we've had to face. We were declined by one, completely brushed off after several emails by another organization, unable to complete two other online applications due to computer or internet issues, and don't qualify for about half-a-dozen more I've come across through searches and research. Gggrrrrr. My analysis: God does not have a grant in the near future for us. At least not one of these! I trust in Him and His provision completely and wait for Him to speak to us regarding the next method of raising the funds needed to bring our boys home. I LOVE how He has touched the hearts of so many people through our boys and their journey home.
I want to share one story that came out of our Two Week Timeline and Testimony of God's goodness. I had prayed several times to the Lord, basically crying out to Him that I am such a wimp and that I really needed a Gideon moment. I really needed that fleece - that tangible, "This is Me!" moment from God. (Judges 6:36-40)  I asked Him to please speak through Paul; that He would confirm His will and direction through words from my sweet husband. After all, this really had to be led by Paul. This is his family as much as mine, and his heart had to be completely invested in this as much if not more than mine. Well, God delivered, as usual. Twice, He spoke through Paul. Once was very immediate when I asked God to confirm my "Yes" through Paul's direction, and Paul within 24 hours said, "I think these are the children we're supposed to adopt." The next time came through a "this could only be the Holy Spirit" event. My very private and humble better-half wrote a letter. It was written from his heart and his own desire to bring our boys home. He wrote a letter to Todd Wilson, AKA The Family Man. http://familymanweb.com/ Mr. Wilson is well-known in the homeschooling community. He travels to conventions all over the country, speaking to thousands of homeschool families everywhere. He has also written several books, has a great business and website, and publishes an email newsletter received by countless homes throughout the country. And my Paul wrote him a letter regarding our desire to adopt the boys and the needs involved! Say what? Yup. He did it. I didn't even know he had done this until one evening, actually, late night, we were both checking our emails and I was preparing an adoption update on our FB account. I heard Paul say, "He put it in his newsletter." The words were quiet, but the emotion behind the words...well... let's just say I knew it meant something big. There it was, big as life, Paul's letter in Todd Wilson's newsletter! Amazing! That could only be God, and through this God-move, we received support and prayers from the other side of the country. East meets west! Again - Amazing! Not only did God touch Mr. Wilson's heart somehow, to encourage him to send Paul's letter to all of his subscribers, but God touched other families who were waiting for direction from Him in terms of His plans for our little boys. Those families probably had no idea this was destined to happen, just like we didn't know during our Thanksgiving meal this year that we would be introduced to our boys before Christmas. However, I want to share at least one story of a family who was specifically meant to read that letter.
The "B" family in another state far from us sent me an email after reading the letter. Mrs. B asked that I call her so that we could talk, as she had some questions about our adoption. I now have another sister far from Arizona whose heart is burdened for adoption and orphans as mine is! The B family had been in deep prayer mode for a while, not hearing clearly whether they were meant to adopt a little boy ("Little X") from China. He has special needs and more than anything needs a family. He needs a mom and dad, but Mrs. B and even more so, her husband, were not convinced that this was exactly what God had for them in terms of adoption. When they read the letter that Paul wrote, they were immediately tugged. She said that right away she thought that maybe this is how God wanted them to "adopt" - by supporting other families in need of funding. Whoa there, Lord. You continue to rock my world! How is it that two women on opposite ends of a continent, can be brought together for the purpose of giving orphans a home? Only by Your hands, God! Only You. As this new friend of mine and I prepared to close our phone conversation, we committed to praying for each other; that God would make all His plans clear and evident to both families, and that He would provide for all orphans and families. Before we hung up, my new friend shared this with me. She said that she and her husband were in the car driving just the night before our conversation and they were talking about their continued desire to help our boys. They couldn't get our family out of their minds and felt that it really was God prompting them. Right at that moment, they looked up and saw two shooting stars. She said, "Look! There are the boys!" Then, she knew she had seen another confirmation from God that He wanted them to help bring our boys home.
Do you see what I mean? Our boys' story is so not about me, or my heart's desire, or my will, or my strength. It's completely about God's heart and those of us who hear Him stepping out in obedience. Jeepers! God continues to perform miracles every day! Thank you, Lord, for the "B" family. Thank you for writing a story through two, beautiful, Ethiopian children! I have no doubts that You have great plans for them. How honored and privileged we are to simply be part of the story.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Christmas Gifts

Another Christmas come and gone... but not really gone. Christmas for us is a time that remains in our home and hearts as the Holy Spirit reveals Himself to our family each day. We awake every morning with the knowledge that Jesus came to earth as a humble infant, completely dependent on His Father God for all things. Much like us, yes?! What a glorious gift; JESUS! God made man. Stepping down into darkness bringing light into this crazy world!
We absolutely LOVE Christmas and the joy of celebrating our Savior's birth!

Yet - the darkness still eminates from the regions of the earth where Jesus is not allowed to enter the hearts of man...

I can't help but be filled with sorrow as I think of the inexplicable tragedy of the ban on American families adopting from Russia. Hundreds of thousands of children are institutionalized there, in orphanages that lack proper or any sources of heat in the winter, cooling in the summer, water to drink, food to nourish growing bodies, and medicine to bring comfort and health. Worst yet, the lack of loving care is evident in the absence of emotion and even physical strength in these precious children. What happens now to the families who have children in Russia still? What happens to those sweet babies? My heart breaks. Please pray with me for these families and children, and for the hearts of those in Russia who can make a difference and change this awful, political move.

Christmas remains true, no matter what others want to believe, or try to disprove. Jesus came to this world to set us free. He is our Redeemer and He has already been victorious. We reflect on this reality as we think of Christmas in other areas of the world. Russia. Vietnam. Romania. Africa. Our little boys will celebrate Christmas in Ethiopia on January 7th. They may have only one gift this year, besides the gift of Jesus. We are so thrilled that the one other gift is the knowledge that they have a family waiting to take them in and smother them with love and God's truth!!! May the waiting be short-lived, Lord, and may Your will continue to be done here on earth as in heaven. Your Kingdom come!

In His Loving Grip,

Thursday, December 20, 2012

We Give Thanks

We give thanks for Christmas. We celebrate the birth of our Savior who came to set us, wretches and captives, free. We sing our praises to Him and offer all we have and all we are to Jesus, our Redeemer and Friend. Thank you for making a way for us to be adopted into your Father's family and making us sons and daughters of the King.

We give thanks for earthly adoption. As the greater Body, we need God to direct us and guide us, imparting heavenly wisdom to each so that we may know how to come along side Him to support orphans and families called to give orphans forever families. We thank  you, Lord, that in this crazy world of international adoption, You are sovereign, and You are mighty to save.

We give thanks for those who hear and heed the voice of God. It's not always audible. In fact, my guess is we rarely "hear" the voice of God, but our minds and our hearts hear Him clearly when we listen in faith...and when He speaks to our souls. I can tell you I have clearly heard God, and I can tell you that it isn't because I'm anyone special or "holier" than the next. He simply had a job for me to do, so He told me to do it.

There are people saying, "What you are doing is so great." Well, great or not, it isn't what I'm doing. It's what God is doing with me, in me, through me, and for me. It's what He needs to do for our Ethiopian sons. He has a purpose for bringing them to the United States and to our family. This is the way things are supposed to be, and though I can tell you that I love those boys with the true love of a Mama's heart, I can tell you in the same breath that they aren't coming home just because of my love or my desire for more children. Really, I didn't wake up one day in my 40's and say, "Wow! I feel like I can start all over with this parenting stuff, and homeschool as many children as I can, and keep up with the sleepless nights, and the vomiting little ones who get the flu every year, and the additional college funds, and the half-dozen more years of braces and retainers. Yeah! I'm ready to go, God! And, by the way, let's make this process really lengthy, really heart-wrenching, really humbling, and really expensive! Woooooo!!! I'm ready, God! Get to it!!" Really? This is hard stuff! It makes no sense, unless you know that it is God and that He will supply all you need and more. That's just who He is. He's a very faithful and generous Daddy! To be disobedient and not follow His lead in faith is just... well. It's just not an option.

We give thanks for the families and individuals who have shared of their time, energy, resources, prayers, and hearts. There are so many of you! I need to list you all, but I'm afraid I might miss someone! If I do, please forgive me, and please know that we are forever in your debt.

To those of you who gave endlessly to make our spaghetti dinner and silent auction an amazing evening of fun and fellowship, including donating food, auction items, and SO much more, and those of you who held us up and supported us financially, spiritually, and emotionally during the Two-Week-Timeline ...
Mom and Dad Lopez, Michele and Kevin Hull, Bart and Dusti Powell and family, Mike and Alisa Zoccoli, Chris Panepinto, John and Debbie Hervey, Kevin and Kathy Lott, Mark and Jennifer Sequeira, Lindsey Ozmon, Angie Kennedy, Chad and Cary Kent, Carlos and Natalie Valiente, Kari and Ruben Moreno, Kirk Pieper, Liz Mews, John and Eli Milan, Lisa Moore, Burton Howell, Stephanie Howard, Christine Heaps, Jeff Wilson, Daniela Virani, Gloria Mendoza, Eva and Jim Cionci, Morgan and Elizabeth Blitz, James and Bethany Pattie, Adam Chandler, Mark and Donna Grady, Eric and Velvet Jones, Scott and Dona Barclay, Tyler and Jennifer Flake, Skip and Normandee Ballingham, Melanie Clardy, Phil and Angie Klein, Andrea McClees and family, Amanda and Robert Hasty, Chris and Karen McCarthy, Scott and Theresa Myers, Matt and Dee Brown, George Lee, Scott Voyda, Darin and Natalie Soll, Rachael Gephardt, Bill and Vickie Frazer, Scott and Lesa Hinkle, The Van Dusen Family,  Dr. Shane Blacker (our ortho), The Brown Family in Virginia, Todd Wilson, The FamilyMan!, our church family at Evident Life, and so many other families who donated and supported us from the other side of the country :-)  ...
Our Ethiopia Director at the agency - Randi Shetley, for your unending prayer and encouragement - and for knowing that this could be done!
Melissa and Brian Snow - The Snow Bunch, for loving on our boys as they play with your daughters in Ethiopia, and for praying alongside us! Praying that your girls are home SOON! Thank you for inspiring us through your story. :-) God moved your mountain first!
Sara and Jason Gyolai - You know exactly why! :)

Thank you, Jesus! Thank you for our little boys in Africa!

Praising Him!

Monday, December 17, 2012

When His People Pray...

Well, I don't know where to start! First of all, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU, for standing with us through these last two weeks. For lifting our family in prayer. For devoting so much time, energy, resources, and emotion into being part of bringing our little guys home. WE MADE IT! We are fully funded for our Tuesday deadline!!! Alleluia! We serve a big and mighty God, and when He is determined to carry out His plans, He doesn't let anything stand in His way. How humbled we are by your hearts and God's faithfulness. There are so many amazing stories to share - once I can take all my little notes and phrases out of my journal and put them into a narrative that makes sense! I will post on our blog within the next few days, and share pictures of the spaghetti dinner and hopefully some of the amazing events and people that touched us since December 3rd. (And before that, even.)

A dear friend said something very inspired and important to me at the spaghetti dinner. I was sitting in my own pride feeling really uncomfortable "receiving" all the amazing blessings being poured out and over our family. She pointed her finger at me and with tears in her eyes, she said, "Patty! You just need to get out of the way! This is about what God is doing and you can't interfere. This isn't about you." It is entirely about my Daddy God who adopted me into His eternal family and loves me. I love ALL my children passionately, but you know what? God loves them even more than that! I stand in awe and thankfulness to my Savior and Redeemer. Jesus, You have redeemed two more! Thank You, God, that they don't need us. All they need is You. And we are simply privileged and called to teach them and show them this truth...and love on them. :-) Amen!

Michele ready to prepare garlic bread!

So. Now what? Now we wire our funds to our agency. They will then let the boys know they officially have a family. Yay! Then we complete more paperwork and continue some fundraising efforts as we still have two round-trips to Ethiopia and monthly "foster" care to fund. We will keep everyone updated and I'll do my best to keep our blog current. There are silent auction items that were not purchased at the spaghetti dinner, so we will update that page on our blog and run the auction online for the rest of the items.
Chef Kirk's assistants, Rogan and Lindsey.
They volunteered their time and talents for our boys.

Please continue to pray with us, not only for the remaining funds, but for return, multiplied blessings on all who are supporting us, for Paul and I as partners and best friends to not be distracted and to keep our gaze firmly fixed on the Lord, and for our children. All four of them. :-)

Many people were concerned about our spaghetti dinner turnout because of all the rain. How crazy was that?! I mean, when is the last time it rained like that here in the Phoenix area? It's been a long while, but of course the rain came down on just that specific day. I have to share that I felt so much peace. I just knew that the rain was meant to be for a reason. I JUST NOW realized something. God has put me in Psalm 68 several times this week. Here is part of it...

The earth shook; the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God; Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
You, O God, sent a plentiful rain, whereby You confirmed Your inheritance,
When it was weary, Your congregation dwelt in it;
You, O God, provided from Your goodness for the poor.
Psalm 68: 8-10

The rain fell, and cleared, and yesterday our precious pastor and leadership (amazing friends) were able to tell us that the mountain had been moved and the rain confirmed His presence and provision.

With so much joy, love, and peace,
Paul and Patty
Our beautiful Rhyan rolling the bread to the ovens.

Friday, December 7, 2012

FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions

"Why not just adopt from here?" Why Africa?" "Isn't that way expensive?" "Aren't those kids just being used?" "If you don't have the money, why are you doing this?"...
Questions, doubts, fears, misconceptions.

Answers... The best I can give, anyway.

Because God made it clear that our children are in Africa. If you read how our adoption journey began, you'll get a better feel for "why Africa".

YES. It's way expensive. No matter where you adopt from it's expensive, unless you adopt through the state. And that, my friends, is a lofty calling as well. In that case, be prepared to possibly have children leave your home if they aren't severed from their biological parents. And be prepared to endure what can sometimes be a very lengthy and emotionally taxing time while the courts and powers-to-be decide the fate of "your" child or children. You may also need to be prepared for disabilities and struggles that come with children who have been exposed to many ugly things - in and out of the womb. That is a precious calling and one that tender hearts may break from, but one we admire and are inspired by. Of course, our boys are in a country where malnutrition, poverty, and disease run rampant. I can't wait to bring them home!

Trust me when I say that I don't think anyone in their own strength can say yes to this mission without the love of Christ and His redeeming grace in their own lives. Who can really understand adoption if they haven't been adopted into God's family? So, the price may not be seen in a multitude of fees, but there is still a cost. (Read the blog post at this link in regards to cost! http://louxfamilyblog.com/2009/09/a-great-reminder-of-gods-goodness/) FYI - Keep a tissue box nearby. Seriously. Just do it.

All adoption - from here or there - is God's work. Believe me, Paul and I prayed and prayed about that one. Why God, do you have us going to Africa? For real? We don't have the money, so maybe we're not supposed to do this. What did we hear from Him? He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life...and I don't make mistakes. This is what you are called to. Just be obedient. Say "Yes" and see what I do. This work is up to Me!"

Are the orphans just being used? Well, maybe in a way they are being used, if you want to call it that, by God. Used to bring more love and joy to homes and families that can ever be imagined. Used to grow the Kingdom of God through spirit-filled parents who raise these kiddos to know Jesus as their personal Savior and King. Used to show the world the truth of His word; that He loves the poor and oppressed. That He sets the lonely in families. That He wants us to partner with Him in His redemptive work.

I don't ever have all the answers, and I'm sure there are those who won't agree with my answers, but Paul and I are filled with peace and joy and expectation, knowing that these answers are all we need.

Monday, December 3, 2012

We Have a Deadline!!!!!

You really need to know the story that God is writing. It has brought me to my knees - on my face - at the feet of the Almighty, my Daddy God. Really? How is it that I would be so privileged as to become "mommy" to orphans? I'm already blessed with a loving, supportive, compassionate, really funny man (Yeah. It's best not to get into that one yet. Better for a future post!) And I've been given two priceless gifts in Rhyan and Tyler. Yet, He wants to give me more??? Remember those MORES? Here they come, and all because of God's grace and love.

The Lord has done some amazing things in the last few days, and let me just spit it out and say that we have been "matched" with two sweet little boys in Ethiopia and we need help to allow us to be their parents. Here’s the deal. We’ve been given the unofficial referral, but the official referral comes with a fee that is paid to the Ethiopian government, orphanage, and other agencies that officially release (for lack of a better term at the moment) the boys as ours. . We have two weeks before they end up being sent back to the orphanage and possibly separated from each other. This is simply how things work there.

Really, we are all part of this story; the adoption story, I  mean. Haven't we been adopted into God's Forever Family through the blood of His Son? What a price to pay. The funds we have to raise are so trivial in comparison, yet the funds are the price we must pay to adopt our boys. As God has called us (the Gregersens) to become parents to orphans, He has called others to care for orphans in other ways. We believe one of those ways is helping to finance a family adoption. Our total to be able to call them ours officially and stop the ride back to the orphanage and/or separation from each other is $22,000. (I hear crickets chirping. Have you recovered yet?) I know. It’s a huge amount and is in addition to costs we have already covered as well as costs that will come after, such as: travel, passports, and visas. Our deadline is 7:00 a.m., Tuesday December 18th. So, please remember that any amount helps, and your donation is priceless to our family. Just use the donate button here on our blog and trust that whatever is given from your heart is received humbly and gratefully. You are part of the story!!!  **Please use the "ChipIn" button to donate.**
Here is a little bit about our guys. The boys are 6 and 3, and as a new friend and Sister in Christ said, they are “through the roof sweet!” She and her husband were in Ethiopia a couple weeks ago meeting their three daughters for the first time, and they got to meet the boys!  I’m shaking as I type. Again, how can God be so kind and generous as to choose ME to be their mommy, and Paul to be their Daddy... and Rhyan and Ty to be there siblings!?!? Surreal. FYI –  Age alone makes our 6 year-old special needs, as he is not as “adoptable” being considered an “older” child. Really? Yes. Ugh. They are also harder to place because there are two of them – and not girls. This is just how things roll in the adoption world, folks.  
Okay – please continue to pray! I can honestly say I’m nervous. Nervous for what these next two weeks hold, and even for the changes that are coming to our family. We are all super-excited, but the unknown can also be scary. This is a huge step in obedience for us, especially knowing that it’s impossible for us to make this happen. Only God can make this happen. We feel the obedience thing just as much as we feel the emotion. I look at the faces of many orphans and I love them all, so I asked God that if that’s the case, how would I know when I see “my” children? He clearly told me that it’s because He’s given me His heart for orphans, and He loves them all too – more than I do. But we can’t “rescue” all of them. He’s called us only to parent these two...plus the two who are home now! He told me to say yes and see what He does! Oh, I LOVE GOD SO MUCH!!!! We’ve prayed for our adoption to be such a “not-us-all-Him thing”, and for Him to get all the glory. This certainly will show His sovereignty! Faith of a mustard seed, right?