Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Homestudy.... CHECK!

On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me...

202 pages of paperwork

21 hours of adoption education

16 checks written

10 kinds of lab work

8 reference letters

6 months of working

5 interviews

2 TB tests

1 chest x-ray

... and a partridge in a pear tree! 

*IT IS FINISHED!* Our adoption homestudy is officially done (well, our part at least!) I turned in all the paperwork TODAY! I swear I checked that massive stack of papers at least 5 times, and drove with it on my lap all the way to the adoption agency! It felt amazing to put that envelope in our social worker's hands and to know that a HUGE part of our process is finished! THANK YOU to everyone who wrote reference letters, answered questions, prayed, encouraged us, pushed us to keep going (you know who you are!), and understood when we were anti-social because we were buried in mountains of paperwork. It's been exhausting but we got it done!

My view for the past few weeks...

Our next step is our dossier. I am not looking forward to all the hoops we'll have to jump through for that... it is sure to be challenging. But I keep reminding myself that it's just one more (giant) round of (intense) paperwork and then it all goes to Thailand! 

Wednesday we will start working on our dossier. But tonight... TONIGHT we will celebrate this accomplishment with a little sparkling cider.

We're one step closer to our baby girl!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Stocking for Kate

5 years ago, on our very first Christmas as a married couple, we bought 2 stockings - a red one for Rusty and a silver one for me. They were the perfect stockings... shiny, shimmery, and with little snowflakes embroidered along the top. This year I wanted to hang a matching one for Kate, and was heartbroken to find out that they don't make them anymore. I have searched everywhere! I even went as far as to post online asking for help finding one. I knew it was highly unlikely (especially since we bought our stockings in Michigan and now live in Alabama.) So imagine my surprise when a perfect stranger sent a silver stocking that was a PERFECT MATCH to us in the mail today!! I still can't believe it! What a gift! 

It was so special to hang 3 stockings "by the chimney with care." When I finally saw them all - hanging up there together - I couldn't hold back the tears. You may think that's silly... after all, it's just a stocking! But to me, it's so much more than that.

You see, sometimes it seems like our adoption paperwork will never be done... like our "gotcha day" will never get here...like we will never hold our little girl. Sometimes, Kate seems like a far away dream that may never come true. So when I can do something tangible - like hang a stocking for our daughter - it's an act of faith. This little stocking reminds me that our daughter is a promise from God that WILL be fulfilled. It represents all our future Christmases with our little girl...all the memories yet to be made. It reminds me to pray for her, to trust God with her, and to keep fighting for her everyday.

~* Merry Christmas baby girl! We can't wait to meet you! *~

Monday, September 30, 2013

We bought a house! (sneak peek)

Soo... we bought a house! I know I've mentioned that in a couple of my posts, but considering we closed on it at the end of April (and moved at the end of May) this specific post is long overdue!

Our sweet little home sweet home is in Crestwood and we cannot say enough good things about the neighborhood or our neighbors. Seriously ya'll - I feel like we have stepped back into the 1950s! We already loved the fact that there were so many historic homes in the area (with so much charm!) but it's the neighbors that make this place extra-special. We have neighbors from Florida, Louisiana, South Carolina, Australia, England, France, and the Bahamas (just to name a few)! Oh - and neighbors who are adopting (or have already adopted) children from China, the Bahamas, and Ethiopia. The diversity has been truly, truly refreshing.

Oh top of that, these precious people brought us home baked goodies when we moved in.... cookies and muffins and more cookies... and we even got a Welcome Basket (with glass bottle cokes, more cookies, and lots of interesting B'ham magazines and info) our first week here! (Did I mention we don't have a home owner's association? Nope - these people all do this on a volunteer basis. I told you it was a special place! ;)

First time home ownership can feel overwhelming at times, but we have been so blessed that this house is in this neighborhood. We felt "at home" right away and we are loving how involved and friendly all our neighbors are. (I could go on and on.... seriously... they are the best!)

Anyway..... back to the house! I'm excited to walk you through some of the DIY projects we've been working on, but first I thought I should give you a "sneak peek" of the house as it was when it first became ours. We'll call these the "before" pictures.

Ready? Let's start our little tour in the...

Living Room

 I love, love, love the original french door leading into the sunroom!

I also really like the recessed lighting above the mantle. It's not something I 
would've thought to add, but since it's there I think it's a nice touch! As you can see, 
there is a somewhat open floor plan and the living room leads into the dining room...

Another angle (shot while standing in the dining room.)

Dining Room

There are two built in bookshelves (one one either side of the glass doors). 
I loved them at first... but now I have mixed feelings. I'm a little bummed 
I can't buy cute furniture for those corners/walls but at the same time 
I really love the storage beneath them. I think I'll love them more 
when I figure out how to style them...


Okay... somehow I forgot to take pictures of the kitchen when we moved in! Oops! 
I snapped a few today. As you can see, it's still not decorated 
(although we do have all our stuff on the counters and one picture on the wall.)

This is proving to be a difficult room for me to figure out as far as decorating. 
The dark wood and black appliances are not really my style - but they are brand new 
(as in, the kitchen was just redone 2 or 3 years ago) so I am not about to 
waste time or money changing a perfectly good kitchen! I'm sure I'll figure out 
what I want to do in here (decor-wise) in time...

I do love our little console beneath the window!
That's the first piece of furniture we bought specifically for
this house and it works perfectly in our space. :)
We are hoping to someday replace the linoleum tiles with ceramic tiles,
but who knows when that project will happen!

Master Bedroom

So... the crazy thing about our 1950's house is its huge bedrooms! 
It has tiny closets, tiny bathrooms, but really large bedrooms (for a 1950's house anyway). 
I love the recess lighting in the master!

Another shot of the master (above) and its one teeny tiny closet. 
Luckily, the previous owners gave us this beautiful wardrobe along with the house 
because I was so worried about closet space! They were so great to us!

Kate's Room

I'm sad this is the only "before" shot I took of what will someday be Kate's room - 
but it's the room we were staying in while we were between houses. 
This is how we slept (a cot and a thermarest) for 4 weekends when we were 
working on the house (but still living in Maylene). Not very comfortable! 
It is a cute room though and I am excited for the day I will get to decorate it for Kate. 
It's so special to walk by it and think about the day she will be home, sleeping in her room...


 I love to have guests! I dream of someday having a guest cottage or basement apartment 
where we can host people longer-term (with their own full bath, kitchenette, etc)... 
but for now a little bedroom off the kitchen will have to do. :)

Oh, and just in case you're wondering... that's not a closet door you're looking at. 
There (strangely enough) is no closet in this room! It's a teeny little half-bath...

Half Bath

Teeny tiny half bath, with the shortest potty ever! Haha! 
Yes - that is carpet on the floor. No - it is not staying!

I like the shelves - just dislike that they are open. 
But I can't complain because it is at least *some* extra storage! 
There is a a hole where someone apparently had a rod to hang 
clothes up under the top two shelves - so I guess this "technically" was 
a closet and bathroom in one? (no thank you!)

Full Bath

... and the bathroom adventures continue! Haha! 
Yes - that is a pink 1950's bathroom. 
Yes - it is our only full bathroom. 
No - we are not leaving it pink! 

Pink floor, pink walls, pink tub, pink toilet paper holder, pink soap dishes...
(Luckily, the owners before us had already replaced the pink toilet and pink sink!)

Just in case you didn't get a good enough view of that awesome pink tile! Whew!
We have a really awesome transformation that is already 98% done that I can't wait to share with you! ;)


It's hard to capture this room in pictures - but it is definitely my favorite room in the house!
I know I'm going to spend a lot of time in here - and I have a feeling it will end up being 
a favorite place for Kate to play too. :)

I LOVE the built-in bookshelf here. I couldn't wait to fill it up with pictures and books 
(and craft supplies underneath!)

So much beautiful sunlight - and a great view 
of the pretty flowers we have all around our house too!

Screen Porch

This is Rusty's favorite "room" of the house! (It's right up there with the sunroom for me too!) 
It actually connects to the sunroom which is awesome! 
I know we're going to spend a lot of days and nights out here this Fall!

We also have an office that is a separate structure from the house... BONUS! We were so pumped about this little room, because we knew we could actually create a separate, professional space for The Sound of Hope! Having a real office (not just an extra bedroom) means we can have healthier boundaries between home and work. It also means we may potentially be able to have an intern or two someday! (Not anytime soon... but it's still exciting to think of!)

The new Sound of Hope office!

I know it looks pretty well "finished" here - but we got quite a few surprises when we ripped up the carpet and got all the furniture moved out. Turns out this room had holes completely through the walls (hello creepy crawlies!) and issues with flooding every time it rained. It has required quite a bit of work (and we still aren't done) - but that's a story for another blog! For now, we're just still really grateful for a "real" office for The Sound of Hope (even if we're pretty sure it was just some man's workshop originally.) We're going to make it awesome!

Sorry there are no outside pics - but I want to be extra careful sharing that sort of thing online. It's starting to sink in that this is the house we will bring our daughter home to... and I want it to be as safe as possible for her. So unless we know you in real life - inside pics will have to do! (For our "real life" friends - you are welcome to invite yourselves over for a cup of tea and get the full tour! ;)

So there she is! She is old, she has very small (and very few) closets, she has a creepy, creepy cellar (sorry, no pics of that) and she needs a little bit of work but honestly - we feel so blessed. Even though we only looked for a few weeks, we looked long enough to know that house hunting is very overwhelming! We couldn't believe that we actually bought the first house that we ever walked into (and that we decided to buy it in only 4 days!) But the amazing thing about this home is that it was the cheapest house that needed the least amount of work (out of all the ones we were considering). Isn't that crazy? It was actually under-valued when we got back the appraisal! We really saw God's hand in the whole experience and we are so grateful she's ours!

I can't wait to start sharing all our fun projects with you soon! It has definitely been an adventure since the day we closed... but we are slowly (but surely) fixing up our Home Sweet Home!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Catching up...

I'm still alive! Thought I'd just let you know - in case you were wondering, since today marks 4 months since I blogged last.  Whoops! Sorry friends!

As I mentioned a few posts ago, our lives have been sort of chaotic from February on. From finally getting pre-approved to adopt (after a full year of searching for an agency), to house-hunting and buying our first home, our world sort of got turned upside down (in the best way) this year! And in the craziness, my dear blog has fallen to the wayside. So bear with me, if you will, while I do a little "stream of consciousness" blogging to catch you up!

In the past 4 months we have...

  • Bought our first house
  • Had the flooring replaced in our main living areas
  • Renovated the full bathroom
  • Renovated the half bath
  • Turned a detached "workshop" into an "office" (lots of work required for that!)
  • Moved all of our belongings
  • Moved our non-profit
  • Unpacked 90% of our home and non-profit
  • Had family visit from out of state
  • Had friends visit from Thailand
  • Taken several out of town trips 
  • Started 2 new side jobs (more on those later. Don't worry - we are still doing The Sound of Hope too!)

In the past 4 months I have learned...
  • That the idea we could renovate 2 bathrooms and turn a workshop into an office in 4 weeks was HILARIOUS. We had no clue what we were getting into! Now when people ask "how's the house stuff coming" I tell them, "Well... we're about 2 months past naive and delusional." Haha! House projects always take longer than expected - especially if you are doing most (or all) of the work yourself. Lesson learned!
  • That my Dad is a genius. Seriously - I don't think there is much (if anything) that this man can't do or figure out how to do. He is a physicist, teacher, administrator, lawnmower mechanic, car mechanic, electrician, carpenter, plumber, jack of all trades and we would be IN TROUBLE without him! He has been such a blessing with our new house! He and my Mom have spent at least 6 weekends working with us this summer (and some weeknights that they drove up to help us finish something when we were under the gun). It's not DIY around here - it's DDI (Daddy Does It). We are just his lowly assistants. And we are super, duper grateful for how much money we have saved because of his help! 
  • That a house is never finished. We have worked sooo hard trying to get renovations done and problems fixed and boxes unpacked and rooms set up and now I know that it will probably never be 100% done. We need to take the time to rest and enjoy our home - even with projects undone. There will be another weekend to paint the guest bathroom or to re-caulk the sink. 
  • That I need to blog. It's not just a "cutesy" thing or a waste of time. I am a verbal processor and writing/blogging helps me process and make sense of my life. I need to work through things and share things with others for me to feel fully engaged. And I really enjoy documenting our life in this little corner of the world wide web! ;)
  • That I need to journal. Just as my blogging has fallen to the wayside, so has my journaling. And again - I am a verbal processor. There is something about putting pen to paper that helps everything in my head and heart make more sense. Our lives have been chaotic since around November of 2012 (because that's when we started working hardcore to launch our new Sound of Hope store and website) and I haven't journaled since. I'm realizing how not good that is for me. I've got to make time for it!
  • That our adoption paperwork will not get done if we don't make it a PRIORITY. Because our lives are so crazy, we don't have much "free time" these days. Add new side jobs and trying to settle into a new house to a normally crazy schedule and you'll find almost zero "free time". (And if you do get free time, you just want to rest - not dive into piles of overwhelming paperwork!) We are thrilled that we have a new home, but seriously bummed that the move slowed down our adoption drastically. So after much discussion we have decided to bow out of Community Groups and additional church involvement for a while. (Which is pretty much our only "extra curricular" these days). We know we still need community and fellowship - and we will continue to worship at our church on Sundays, volunteer in the nursery, and I will lead worship. But Community Group is 4+ hours every week that we could be using on our adoption paperwork! As much as we will miss our friends - I miss my daughter more right now. We've got to do everything in our power to get her HOME! So now is the time to refocus our efforts and work to get our homestudy and dossier done ASAP!

Well friends... consider yourselves semi-caught up! I will probably add a couple of back-dated blogs from events I want to remember for Kate (our trip to Auburn for the last Toomer's Rolling and Mother's Day this year) soon - so stay tuned for those. I also have a long list of additional blogs about our life, our new home, our renovation process, and our new side jobs that I want to share - but they will have to wait for another day! In the meantime, if you would just pray for us as we re-focus our efforts on our adoption paperwork we would greatly appreciate it!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Mother's Day (A letter to my daughter)

For many adoptive mommas, Mother's Day is a painful holiday.

I think there are several people who assumed it would be painful for me this year. Last year - it was. I ached for you, my baby girl, and we fought and fought to pursue you and no matter what we tried, every door closed. We wondered if we would ever be able to meet you, to love you, to parent you. I felt hopeless, and Mother's Day magnified the pain. But this year it was different.

This year I had hope. And while our journey still stretches ahead - long and winding with an end date unknown - I could hold on to the promise that you would be. We had been accepted to an agency and our paperwork had been started. And on Mother's Day this year, I was elated that we were making progress!

But I think my friends and family were worried I would be sad today. So they sent me "Happy Mother's Day" messages on facebook (so very thoughtful!) and my Mom - your Grandmother - made me a Mother's Day card.

Your Daddy even took me out to lunch at my favorite Japanese place, and to my surprise, the restaurant handed out Mother's Day gifts! I was shocked when they offered me one (without knowing whether or not I was a mother - how kind of them to include me!) And I smiled when I saw that the gift was a black pearl bracelet. Sure - it was cheap fashion jewelry - but black pearls are from Thailand! And they made me think of you.

The truth is though, I wasn't sad today. Yes, of course, I missed you. I miss you every day! But today I was thinking a lot less about my desire to be your mom, and a lot more about your birth mom. I couldn't help but wonder - is she pregnant with you right now? Does she have anyone helping take care of her? Is she alone? Is she afraid? Has she already given birth to you? Has she already given you up?

I tried hard to put myself in her shoes.... to imagine this special woman who gave you life. I do not know what her situation is now... and I may never know. But today, even before I have ever laid eyes on you, even before I have become your Mommy, I am grateful to her. I am grateful that she was brave enough to give you life. I am grateful that she was selfless enough to bring you into this world. I am grateful for everything she went through while you were growing inside her.

I wish I knew who she was. I wish I could talk to her today. I wish I could protect her and you from whatever situation will separate you. Yes, I am thrilled that I will have the incredible honor to be your Mommy. But I am also heartbroken that you will have to lose her, your first mother. And today, I grieved for her, and for you.

I hope that someday, when you are home and you are older, we can find a way to honor your first mother each mother's day. I hope that we can celebrate her, because she will give me the most precious gift ever... the gift of you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

The Bunny Goes To Toomer's

*I'm writing this as a back-dated blog. I didn't get a chance to write it in April, but it's something I don't want to forget, so I'm sharing it now. :)

Last weekend, we went to Auburn for a very special event. It was the final rolling of Toomer's Trees - the beloved oaks that sit at Toomer's Corner. Our beautiful trees had been poisoned by an ignorant, hateful Alabama fan more than a year before, and now they were dying. The University did everything they could to save them and now they were beyond hope. You can see in the pictures how terrible they looked. It was time to cut them down. But first - we were going to celebrate all our memories there with one final roll.

I knew it was going to be an emotional day. I'm sure there are people reading right now who think this is silly.... and to them, I would say, "you just don't understand". Our Toomer's Oaks were more than just "something we roll" to celebrate football games. They were the beautiful trees arching over the official entrance of the University - the corner where our campus meets the city. They were the trees we celebrated football wins under, yes, but we also celebrated graduations and wedding days and elections beneath their branches. There are men who kissed their wife for the first time under those trees... and others who decided that spot would be the perfect place to get engaged. Their branches hold so many precious memories for the Auburn Family.

Rusty and I each threw one final roll...

Those trees were there when my Dad went to Auburn... and when I went to Auburn... and when my little brothers went to Auburn... and I had hoped that they would be there when my children attended someday.

And that is what made this day even more emotional.

I was already sad about losing our trees and all the memories we'd made beneath them. But then to realize my children, and specifically our little girl Kate, would never get to see them absolutely broke my heart.

So we decided to take her with us - the only way we knew how. We took her little bunny.... the one we bought in Thailand (for our child "someday") and the one that now sits out to remind me of her everyday. We thought that at the very least, we could take a few pictures of her bunny at Toomer's Corner to show her that we were thinking of her and missing her on this special day. And so, we did.

There were a couple of people who asked what the bunny was about (as I'm sure we looked strange!) and they were super supportive and kind when we explained it to them. But after a couple of questions, I could tell my emotions were on edge. I began to feel the sadness set in, and the lump in my throat form. I began to feel even more angry that some hateful Alabama fan had stolen this tradition from me and my little girl. I began to feel angry that adoption takes so long and she wasn't already home. And as I looked around at all the parents with their little girls in their little Auburn cheerleader outfits - sharing this tradition for the first and last time - I felt the tears sting my eyes.

When that happened, we decided it was time to take a break (because really, I wasn't prepared for a full-out cryfest in the middle of the crowd beneath the trees) so the bunny went back into my purse and we walked around campus for a while. When I felt like I had a better hold on my emotions, we decided to walk back to Toomer's Corner. But first, we stopped to snap some pictures at Samford Hall.

While standing there, I looked down and saw two of the most beautiful little Asian girls. "Don't they look Thai??" I asked Rusty, who agreed but shrugged it off. I couldn't help but watch them play while Rusty took more pictures - they were adorable! But I figured I was just assuming they were Thai because I was missing Kate. And besides, I couldn't run up to them or their mom and awkwardly ask, "So... what ethnicity are you?" That's just too weird! So we turned to leave. But then - someone ran up to us and asked if we would take a picture of their group of friends. And that group just happened to have those 2 beautiful little girls and their beautiful momma in it!

After we snapped some photos for them we chatted a bit, and before long we found out - not only were those gorgeous little girls half Thai, but their Thai Mom (Uma) was also an Auburn grad! I was absolutely beside myself with excitement! We have lots of Thai friends in Thailand, but none in America. The next thing I knew it was a blur of us speaking Thai, meeting her little girls, taking pictures, and sharing information. They were excited to hear about our adoption, and even offered to help in any way they could (it turns out that Uma's sister works for the US Embassy in Thailand!) I was blown away!

Right about then some of our friends walked up (Malerie and Kevin Huguley, who adopted a precious little girl from Korea) and within a few minutes we were all chatting and the girls were playing together. Then, as I was explaining everything that had happened to Malerie and telling her how much I'd been missing our Thai baby girl that day, something completely unexpected happened. Suddenly, the two Thai little girls stopped playing, ran over to me, and threw their arms around me! I have no idea how they knew I needed a hug from a Thai little girl that day, but they did. It was all I could do not to break down in tears.

I don't know what the odds are of us running into a Thai family in Auburn that day, but I do know they are slim. Thais make up only around .05% of the US population, so it hasn't been easy for us to meet Thai friends in the US. The fact that we would meet this precious family on a day when I was so heartsick for my little girl was so, so special. I'm grateful they took time out of their day to talk to us (and hug us!) when we really needed it. To me, it was a special blessing. I felt like God was reminding me that He hasn't forgotten about us (or our little girl!)

We spent the rest of the day and night with the Huguleys, which fully distracted me from my earlier emotional state. I mean, how could you not be happy chasing around a little Korean cutie like this?

We love the Huguleys and I was really glad that their adorable little girl was home in time for them to share the Toomer's tradition with. We laughed and joked about what must be going on in her little head. I'm sure seeing all that toilet paper everywhere was really a strange sight to her!

And so, even with all the emotions it brought, we ended up having a great day. And it turned out that the "final roll" brought us just as many precious memories as all the special rolls in the past.

Thanks Toomer's Oaks, for bringing together the Auburn Family like you always have.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

4 years...

Today, I celebrate 4 years of marriage to the man I love. Just 4 short years ago this afternoon we were saying, "I do" in a small church in my hometown of Alabama. And oh, what an adventure it has been ever since!

In the last 4 years, we have spent almost 8 months overseas in Thailand, Burma, India, Swaziland, South Africa, The Grand Cayman Islands, Canada and Mexico. We started a non-profit organization that has helped care for over 200 children around the world. We've snuggled majestic tigers and ridden massive elephants. We've stared at zebras and giraffe on Safari and wondered at the beauty of Niagra Falls. We've spent time in slums, leper colonies, refugee camps, and brothels. We've been blessed to explore together and to serve together.

We've moved across the country - twice. We've lived in snowy Michigan and sweet home Alabama and spent a lot of time in Arkansas too. We've also spent a lot of time traveling between those three states! I wish I knew how many hours we've spent in the car together since we got married. I think it's safe to say, A LOT. We've also spent a lot of time in airplanes together... and a lot of time stuck in our office together working full-time from home. Surprisingly, we haven't killed each other yet. Even more surprisingly, we still like each other! ;)

In the past 4 years, we have grieved together and celebrated together. We have loved through sickness and health. We've experienced great success, and devastating failure. We have had our hearts broken. We have seen extraordinary miracles. Through our non-profit organization, we've had the incredible opportunity to buy a Children's Home in Thailand, to buy land for a Children's Home in India, and to make an incredible impact on the lives of our children in Africa through education initiatives and sustainability projects. We are continually humbled to see how God uses us... two flawed, stubborn individuals - just because we're willing to be obedient. (even if sometimes we don't have the best attitude about it! He is too good to us!)

On our 1st Anniversary, Rusty surprised me with an incredible trip to DisneyWorld! My very first trip to the most Magical place on earth was... well... magical! We were super broke, but had some dear friends who gifted us their timeshare and skymiles, and some other dear friends who gifted us Disney tickets. (Seriously, we were SO blessed!) It was a trip I will always remember, and it was just the sweetest time to celebrate our love.

On our 2nd Anniversary, we were working in Thailand, and we were surprised by the most incredible event on our "special day". Our Karen partners, Hebrew and SerneGay, had decided that they too would get married on April 18th! That day, we got to share "our day" with this extraordinary couple. A couple who has very little. A couple who has given up their rights and their lives to care for children in a refugee camp.

That day I got to make another Bride feel special... just like my friends and family did for me 2 years before. I did her hair... I did her makeup... and I was even recruited to create the flower headpiece she wore to her ceremony. If there is anything that could make our "special day" even more special, it's that we now get to share it with this amazing couple. They even sent us an anniversary message this year!

Our 3rd Anniversary, we had just returned from a month in Africa and we were exhausted! A planned trip to the beach became, "can't we just stay home?" and so, we rested instead. We did manage a nice dinner out though... ;) This Anniversary signified something very special - we had now been married long enough to adopt a child from Thailand!

And now, here we are, at our 4th Anniversary. We are being pretty boring again this year, and just going out to dinner on a PF Chang's gift card I got months ago. But this year, there is so much MORE on the horizon! This year we will buy our very first house (though it is the third home we've lived in together) and we will spend hours upon hours working on adoption paperwork to bring home our Baby Girl! This year at our anniversary dinner, we will not only get to reflect on the wonderful blessings God has given us in the past, we will get to focus on everything He is doing for us NOW, and all He is going to do to over the next year get our little girl home and into our arms.

I can't help but wonder how many more anniversaries we will have before our sweet Kate is home. Will it be just one more? Will it be two? Could we possibly be on our way to get her this time next year? Either way, we are feeling very grateful to have each other today, and excited about God's future plans for us as husband and wife and mom and dad to-be!

Years ago, I got some wonderful advice from an incredible couple who led my college ministry. They told us that you would know who you were supposed to marry, when you knew you could do more together for the Kingdom, than you could apart. As I look back over the last four years I am more convinced than ever that this is true for me and Rusty. Together, we have accomplished more than I ever could have done alone. Together, we are a complete team!

Thank you Rusty Jackson for sticking by my side through all of our crazy adventures! Thank you for being willing to take great risks to be obedient to what God has called us to. I love you, and I'm grateful to have you as my partner in life. I can't wait to see what the next 4 years has in store for us!