Monday, May 25, 2015

our growing cecil family!!

“In their hearts humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps”
Proverbs 16:9
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking in anything.”
James 1:2
Since our last post much has happened. We have experienced every spectrum of emotion and our trust in God has not only been tested, but tried, and found more durable than ever.  When I last blogged, I had said we were seeing God do some crazy things…and the irony is that I had no idea what was really happening at all.
To do a brief catch up…back in July we found out that there were twin boys up for adoption through our orphanage. We may not have shared it openly on a public forum, but for over three years Jacob and I have felt strongly about twin boys…so much so that we actually wrote that on our initial adoption paperwork that we would take whatever gender, but that we had had several dreams about us having two boys, so if brothers or twins were an option, we were all on board.  So to find a year into the process that twins were even a possibility, we were so pumped.
We had always prayed for our children and future family, but with this new knowledge we went as far as to pray over the two boys specifically. So since July, we have been dreaming big, hoping large, and having faith in what still seemed the impossible.  I had tried to guard my heart, but I would be lying to say I wasn’t 100% invested in bringing these two boys home.  I had prepped my mind for whatever the orphanage called with for a referral, but I knew praying for the impossible was something I hadn’t asked my heart to do in a long time.  I had told close friends that “I would rather have faith for the big and be wrong and allow God to fix my heart, then to never have faith in it at all”.
The first week of September came, and the huge announcement from Taiwan’s government came that our orphanage WOULD, in fact, be allowed to move forward with referrals and matching children with parents.  We learned those boys were on their way to our orphanage and after the necessary amount of time that procedure dictated, they would be referred out to the parents…it would be a matter of a month or so. Hope was rising and we were getting a bit anxious for any and all news regarding our orphanage and referral.
All this time something else was going on that we had no idea about. Another miracle...another impossibility. I was pregnant! The same week we found out about the twins was the same week I became pregnant and had no idea.  None. I was nearly ten weeks before it even crossed my mind to take a test…after a week of what I thought was a stomach bug. To say we were shocked is an understatement.  To say we bawled would be another. I’ll post the video here soon of me telling Jacob the morning of celebrating his birthday…it’s pretty priceless. Although we believed all along that medical doctors would be wrong and that I would be able to conceive at some point, I never dreamed that kind of miracle would happen at such a pivotal point in our adoption process. We were, and continue to be, so excited!! This child is testament not only to life, but faith and impossibility. He/She was an immediate blessing and he/she’s arrival the first of April is greatly anticipated!! I had been seeing a holistic doctor since spring and made major diet changes to help with some other health issues, so I'm wondering if God also used this to aid in little one’s life! But that is for another day and another post.
For that first week or so as we told family and friends we remained shocked and SO hopeful for more…imagining we might have THREE, or at the very least, TWO!  We sat up in bed at night discussing if we needed a mini van…our hunt for a new house that began a year ago seemed a little more urgent too. We speculated and talked a lot.  Jacob had also had a dream about a year or so ago that we had two boys and a little girl about the same age.  So it all felt right.
So in one week’s time: we found out I was pregnant, Taiwan got the news to continue referrals, and Jacob was pretty much handed a new job that would provide far better for our growing family as well as allow him the flexibility to work with me for engagement and wedding photography. So much change and we were in a whirlwind of so many answered prayers.
Within a week or so of us finding out I was pregnant we felt really strongly that we needed to notify our orphanage. It seemed like the most honest, respectable thing to do. We had heard that even though our orphanage worked with mainly couples that were childless, there had been instances in the past where some had gotten pregnant and were allowed to move forward.  So we put our whole heart in a letter…again…almost one year to the date of first telling the orphanage our entire heart to ask them to allow us to adopt initially. We told them everything, the dreams, that we knew about the two boys, that we prayed for them specifically, and YET we submitted to whatever decision they felt necessary as they prayerfully considered our case.  We told them we didn’t expect those two boys and that we respected their experience and the fact that they seek direction and wisdom from God as well in their decision making process. We knew that things would also have to move quickly for me to get on a plane and bring them home while I was still able to prior to delivery.  But we continued to believe for miracles, as this little one was already proof that if one obstacle can be moved then nothing can stand in the way of God’s will taking place and moving court systems quickly.
Weeks passed after we sent the letter and as far as we knew all was good. We knew they had received it and we did not hear anything otherwise. The days were getting closer to referral and we were planning for three and elated for the little one growing in me healthy and strong!
Then last week we received an email that dropped us to the floor. Our orphanage in Taiwan is not allowing us to adopt since I am pregnant and we did not already have a referral.  There were several more emails back and forth, but the short story is we are no longer adopting from Taiwan but going in a different direction. Our hearts broke that afternoon in a way neither of us had experienced before. While we had braced for the worst, we did not anticipate it. The only way we knew to explain it was an emotional miscarriage.  There had been no guarantees, but we had connected, prayed for and hoped for these children we had not seen yet and we lost them. 
We rejoiced over the one and grieved for the two.
I have learned so much this last week…God has met me in the hurt and brought forth a new, better, tested faith. Faith does NOT mean holding back some of your hope so your heart doesn’t get hurt.  Faith is trusting what you don’t see and believing God to handle the aftermath of your heart should it not line up how our human minds imagined. It’s a tricky balance between guarding your heart and allowing God to have it. That verse at the beginning could not be more true…our plans had been made, we were adopting and yet in that, God is sovereign and he is directing our steps. Life hurts sometimes. And Christians are not immune to that…in fact I’d venture to say we often experience it most as we battle between what we think is best and what we allow God to show us is best.
I considered not sharing ALL of that back story and just summing up the last four months in a sentence stating “I’m pregnant and our orphanage is not allowing us to continue, so our adoption is taking a different direction!”…but vulnerability has been something I have worked on this last year and this is our story. Our story is messy. It has twists and turns and the plot thickens and grows and where it leads, only God knows.  But each of us has a story to share and it rarely goes according to plan. I’m learning more and more to be thankful for those hurts, because they have purpose, and I'm learning to be appreciative for the opportunity to grow because I’m not the same person I was last year, and I’m not even the same person I was last week. I pray He is constantly at work in me. That is (and must be) my strongest desire…above children and above family, He has to be my priority, and sacrificing our own wants and plans for that is rarely easy.
We are healing in supernatural ways and the support of friends and family with this has been the kindest outpouring we could have imagined.  With the help of our amazing agency we are continuing our adoption process, but do not have specifics to share on that at this assured that Baby Cecil will have siblings.
Even in this, God’s timing has been so sweet and so kind. We got the news on a Wednesday and had a doctor appointment on Friday.  Hearing the heartbeat and having a strong, healthy baby was the best news and the biggest encouragement. We also find out the gender this weekend (tomorrow!) and have had that to look forward to as well. He always knows best and if I can look past the hurt and realize everything is done with my best in mind, then I can far better see that.  This scripture in Lamentations 3:19-33 in the message version has been such an encouragement this past week and maybe it will be for one of you as well…hope can rise again…and if you feel life has taken too much of it…try the advice in this scripture to “go off by yourself, enter the silence, bow in prayer, don’t ask questions and wait for hope to appear…” God is always willing to provide more of Himself...I just often forget to ask for it.

I’ll never forget the trouble, the utter lostness,
    the taste of ashes, the poison I’ve swallowed.
I remember it all—oh, how well I remember—
    the feeling of hitting the bottom.
But there’s one other thing I remember,
    and remembering, I keep a grip on hope:
22-24 God’s loyal love couldn’t have run out,
    his merciful love couldn’t have dried up.
They’re created new every morning.
    How great your faithfulness!
I’m sticking with God (I say it over and over).
    He’s all I’ve got left.
25-27 God proves to be good to the man who passionately waits,
    to the woman who diligently seeks.
It’s a good thing to quietly hope,
    quietly hope for help from God.
It’s a good thing when you’re young
    to stick it out through the hard times.
28-30 When life is heavy and hard to take,
    go off by yourself. Enter the silence.
Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions:
    Wait for hope to appear.
Don’t run from trouble. Take it full-face.
    The “worst” is never the worst.
31-33 Why? Because the Master won’t ever
    walk out and fail to return.
If he works severely, he also works tenderly.
    His stockpiles of loyal love are immense.
He takes no pleasure in making life hard,
    in throwing roadblocks in the way:

As God continues to teach us about His perfect timing, I plan to continue posting.  From the beginning I said this blog was not just about the adoption, and it will continue to fall in line with that.  It will discuss our adoption, but also our biological little one, and other randomness God leads. 
I continue to look for clouds of hope and even when the sky is clear and blue, God is up to something. We find out the gender TOMORROW and are eager to share with everyone later tomorrow evening so stay tuned. God’s plans are perfect as well as his timing…we are eager to see how God uses every part of the last year and a half for his purpose and our growing faith. Thanks for your continued prayers and support!!

cloud books.

as many of you know, clouds have been my constant reminder in many things this past year.  my reminder of hope. and to hope. my reminder that God answers prayers always...even if it takes time. reminders that he's on the move. in my life, in our adoption, in our jobs, finances and hearts. so i recently made a book of all my cloud pictures up to now taken on my holga film camera and put them in an artifact uprising book.  they're 5.5x5.5 in size with a soft cover and great quality bound book.  love that company...aside from their high shipping prices (which are legitimate since they are packaged well). every few pages scriptures are typed in that have meant a lot to us in the past year and the various seasons we have been in and walked through...

i ordered this first copy for my dad for father's day and he loved it. so i figured why not sell them? i'm getting one for myself now as a coffee table book and figured i'd offer it to others also.  so if you happen to be interested go to the top right corner of the site where it says "donate" and you can pay through there. because of the high shipping prices i have to ask $40 for them and that's not really making much of anything off of them.  but a few people had been interested in them when i posted it on instagram.  make sure you give your shipping/address info when you pay so I can have the books sent directly to you!

shirts are also for sale still as well. we are almost done and have saved enough for the funding needed, but anything above and beyond will go towards blessing the other children at the orphanage with supplies and items they are in need of.  we plan to take extra suitcases/trunks to leave there when we go.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

goodness in the land...

i woke up in the middle of the night last night and while i'm normally incredibly groggy, this time immediately the phrase "i will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living" came into my mind. i easily went back to sleep and looked up the scripture reference when i woke up this morning.

"I will remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord."
(psalm 27:13-14)

how sweet of God to give me that after a hard week of waiting. really. he's the kindest one i know.

it's now been over a month since the original governmentt meeting and two weeks ago they had a second/additional meeting where more paperwork was provided.  we were told that monday that a decision would be made by the following day.  and now here we are two more weeks out and another weekend comes with no decision. 

i have tried to reassure family in the last week or so and i'll do the same with those that read this. i do not know a single friend who has internationally adopted that has not experienced this in some form: government changing laws, the government making big decisions, saying they'll tell you a certain day and rarely following through.  i was initially naive to think the same issues would not come up with us, but unfortunately it has been the case.

in the middle of this all, though, we have received all kinds of encouragement and God has been doing some crazy things in our lives and in our faith, especially jacob's.  i hope we will be able to share several amazing posts about these last two weeks once we receive our referral.  but we are far from hopeless and incredibly confident that things will continue to move forward with our orphanage.  that it will receive it's licensing and that it will continue forward.

that being said. i am tired.  it's been somewhat difficult to explain but i've really felt emotionally drained.  we have been doing a lot of praying and battling and i would be lying to say that my mind hasn't been in taiwan much of the last two weeks especially.  as a friend and i were discussing it's not even the waiting that i'm struggling with but the government....a referral i am prepared to wait for. child(ren) i am planning for and know that God will's this truly obnoxious in between state where we are waiting for the government to give the final okay that things are in fact going to move forward.  and it's their inability to follow through with even a remotely timely response that has been so annoying. so when i woke up friday morning, knowing it was already evening in taiwan, i was pretty bummed...knowing that it was now the weekend, businesses were closed, and no decisions could come until at least monday.

but it's when these restless times hit that God is his most encouraging and kind to wake us up in the night and whisper his promises that we will continue to see His goodness as we have in so many other ways already. and it's when he nudges us to say "be strong, take heart, and wait".

Friday, July 11, 2014

taiwan update

this is what we sent out to some friends and family earlier today...

Taiwan update:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (‭Ephesians‬ ‭6‬:‭12‬ NIV)

For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. (‭2 Corinthians‬ ‭10‬:‭3-4‬ NIV)

In the last month these concepts of fighting an invisible war have been hammered into jacob and I through sermons, random prayers from friends and personal study. and as we got an update and had some conversations with people this morning we feel that is what we are looking at here. Taiwan has the highest abortion rate per capita in the world and that alone should explain the spiritual atmosphere of their country. but as of this morning the meeting is over but no decision has been made in the matter of the orphanage closing or remaining open. but apparently the orphanage's Christian practices of going about their adoptions as they feel God has led them has given the govt a lot of extra trouble and hassle and that's why no answer has been made. we don't mean to send out such a lengthy update but if you are continuing praying with us we want you to be aware of what we feel like we are up against....something God can easily handle. thanks for your continued prayers!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

prayers please...

tonight at 10pm our (eastern) time it'll be 10am taiwan time and our orphanage has a meeting with government officials to decide if our orphanage is able to move forward with adoptions or if their license will be suspended for two years.

i got this information late last night and was obviously very shocked. i didn't know that decision was still on the table for debate and i definitely didn't expect to hear any news or updates until august when they were re-evaluated.

this is how it goes with adoption, though.  but we have had a somewhat supernatural, interesting week already and have had several experiences that have prepared us for just a day like today.  so we are praying today and have texted several other friends and family to do the same.

we have been led to believe that this is normally a quickly resolved item and they will hopefully know immediately...but that doesn't mean we will know immediately (as always). so as soon as i know news i'll post, but appreciate prayers in the meantime.

on the upside i feel oddly excited about this...because as the approval goes through this evening that could mean an even higher likelihood of us knowing more in August pertaining to our child. So we are praying confidently and with faith today. Thanks for the same! :)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

squash epiphanies.

currently on my kitchen counter there are nine squash, six zuchinni and eight (and a half i got snacky) cucumbers.  this is after making six veggie lasagnas and eight jars of pickles this last week. we have veggies coming out our ears right now and that's not even counting tomatoes that will be in full force this next week from our 15ish tomato plants. yikes.

so. i'm pretty pumped about this to say the least. food prep is not only a personal challenge and creative outlet for me, but in recent months a necessity. so yesterday while i was trying to decide another way to freeze squash it hit me...

we are 90% certain we will be bring our child(ren) home in winter time at this point.
and they'll likely be of the age to be testing foods.
meaning...that the squash on my counter right now will be my child's winter meals!!!

i don't know why certain things hit me more than others. but the idea that i was no longer freezing all these veggies just for us was a huge reality check.

**quick update on the "home in winter time" statement. in the past several weeks we have received word that our orphange will be up for re-evaluation in august. that is assumed to go easily and smoothly, more a formality. once that is complete, they can start new adoptions and take in more it is, they are currently only able to work on those cases that had been started previously and cannot take in more children. there is also a pregnant women's safe house that provides a majority of the babies in our orphanage. apparently that safe house is busting with new pregnant moms that are deciding to put their children up for adoption. they are very eager for our orphanage to open up its doors again. for this reason...we have been led to believe that come august there could be a huge boom of referrals. EEKS. we are obviously very pumped about this news...while trying to maintain a very reserved excitement level. looking at current average timelines, IF we received our referral in august/september-ish it would probably mean travel around november/december-ish. which would mean the best birthday presents in the fall for both me and well as all we could ever want for thanksgiving and christmas. all of this could easily be speculative and could change also. we definitely know things can go differently, but we continue to push forward in hope and pray judges continue to move cases through quickly.**

back to squash.

i caught myself sending a text out this morning to a friend that after the fact stopped me in my tracks.  it was a simple text about some things i had been researching about food (including squash freezing) and i said "i feel like this is something i can totally do!" (in reference to feeding my future child)...and while initially that shouldn't cause any concern, the wise friend's response was to rely on God in the situation and believe in his goodness to cover those circumstances as they come more than relying on any actions i can take or things i can do. it was then i realized what i had texted "i can do this..." wasn't it this blog post just weeks ago that i said i never want to be in a state of not being dependent on God again.  it's so easy to slip into that mindset. i was pumped because something that had seemed very daunting to me now seemed totally my own doing. did i think all this new knowledge came magically to me? God has had me on this path of learning for months and he is, even now, helping to educate me on how to be the best mom to our future child.

God, continue to help me rely on you.  i never want to parent without His help. i don't want to (be wise in my own eyes...see last post) ever come to place where i think i can do this parenting thing, or know how to feed my child, or know how to discipline without Him.  i want to be desperate for Him in all areas...and while that's a scary desire because it's a hard one to walk out, isn't that what we signed up for when we became a christian? i need his guidance in all parts of life, from how i am a mom and share Christ with my child to best way to carry out my job.

so as i become excited about veggies in my garden feeding my child, i am simultaneously eager to see how God leads me to parent this particular child that he is giving specifically to us. he is placing a child with us that only we can parent and that is uniquely designed for this cecil family. and neither is possible without his complete guidance. may we never view squash the same. :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

wisdom and grace.

"In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. 7Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and turn away from evil" (proverbs 3:6-7)

this scripture hit me in the gut about a month ago.  and it's been the basis for many of my thoughts in the weeks since. this is a very growing time in mine and jacob's lives. we have been learning so much not only in our relationship with God, but in many other aspects like health, food, relationships and callings. it's easy when you are in a heavy gleaning time of life to feel wise.

so let me be the first to make a public apology. i don't understand it all.  or even an inkling. 

around that same time a month or so ago i was in a discussion with someone about how when adam and eve fell/sinned in the garden...everything fell.  ever since the introduction of sin, earth has been in an imperfect state...that includes a fallen state not only in our hearts, but in the earth and in animals, in the weather, everything.  and while we have received forgiveness through Christ's death on the cross, we are still living in a fallen world where the natural processes of life continue in a imperfect state all around us. and as i thought on this for a few days, i became overwhelmed by the idea of God being all-knowing and His understanding of everything going on in my life.  what i see going on around me is with a skewed view, but he sees ever so clearly. i don't see half of what He is doing in my life. the more i learn about Him, the more i'm in awe of all that i do not know about him. and for that reason alone, i am not wise. 

i will continue to learn and grow, but i will never know everything and what i do know will never give me the right to think i am more wise in an area than someone else or that my decisions made are better than someone else's. i make the best decisions for my life based on what i have learned and what God has shown me.  and i'll do the same for my child.  what i learn about what is healthy or best for my child or the best way to parent is what God has shown me, but it does not mean He has shown the same to you for your life or for your child. in His scripture he says he not only knew me before i was born, but that he knows the exact number of hairs on my head and the names of all the stars. His infinite knowledge far outweighs what i think i know. and because of this, i have found myself serving out more grace.  

i'm nearing thirty and as i look at those younger than me recently, i see them handling things in a way i would not. and while i saw myself recognizing this, i now am now trying to view it in light of the verse i have been not be wise in your own eyes. the very things those who are younger than me are doing, are easily the exact same things i did at that age...without the knowledge i have now.  how many times have i pulled out in front of someone in a parking lot? it's helped me bite my tongue while driving recently. and how many times have i said this or that thinking i was right when really i just hadn't learned more about it yet? it made me think of what i'll look back on at forty and wish i had handled differently at thirty.  while i'm often quick to judge, i'm now trying to be quick to show grace...knowing that i'm just as desperately in need of it as the next person.

friends have told me that it's good to learn things like this as i prepare to be a mom because your skin has to toughen up as everyone has an opinion on how to raise your child...and i'm liable to receive an extra portion of advice seeing how my first child's ethnicity will not match my own. so while i am researching and discussing methods of parenting and feeding recently, i'm recognizing already my own need for grace and am hoping as i try to give it to others who are learning that the same service will be shown to this new mom.