Sunday, January 26, 2014

No really, how are you?

It's been 2 weeks since we got back from Eastern Europe and meeting Nate.  Every day, for 2 weeks, I have carved out a part of my day to sit and reflect on our sweet Nate.  I watch the videos over and over.  Look at his sweet face.  Listen to his laugh.  And find joy in a child that is ours, but yet, that I barely know.  Since our return, we have had so much encouragement.  And the question I have heard several times over the past few days is, "how are you?  No.  Really.  How are you handling being away from him?"   I am not going to say it has been easy.  But, I will answer in complete honesty.  I told you all when we left him at the orphanage, I was filled with peace.  That was soon replaced by anger.  I questioned why we had to leave him.  What was the purpose.  Why in the world does it take so long.  But, no matter how much I wanted to be upset or mad, or angry, I just couldn't for long. For the first time in my life, I am completely at peace.  In everything.  I have absolutely no doubt that GOD is in control here.  I have no doubt that HE is protecting and watching over our sweet Nate.  I have no doubt that HIS timing is perfect.  I have no doubt that Nate is being cared for as best possible now.  I just have no doubt.  I have peace.  Peace that "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."  Ecclesiastes 3:11.  I want you to know that we appreciate your prayers more than anything.  For it is your prayers that have gotten us where we are.  I do not think for a moment that the old Jenny would not have been a basketcase at this point.  But, I am filled up with the Spirit, which gives me hope, joy, and peace during our situation.  So, while we are beyond ready, we will REST knowing that God's timing is perfect.  I was telling a friend today that my fear is gone.  I have no fear in bringing Nate home.  I have struggled with this on and off during this whole process.  Yet, again, peace of trusting in God through the unknown has taken over and pushed aside all fears.  Yes, we know there will be struggles in raising a child like Nate.  A child that has spent almost 3 years in an orphanage.  A child with Down Syndrome.  A child that has not had a mommy and daddy to love him and snuggle him.  But, we have peace in knowing that God will give us the strength to parent a child like Nate. 

As far as the process, all of our documents should head to his country at the end of this week.  At that point, we just have to wait on our FBI background check to come back and send over.  Then, the waiting game begins.  Please join us in praying for speediness during that process.  Our home study will expire on May 21st.  We really need to have him home before then to avoid more payments for an update, not to mention the headache involved in having to do that again. 

We would love for you to continue praying for us.  And of course for Nate.  I pray daily for his caregivers.  That they would continue to find favor in him.  That he would feel loved and know that he is loved and valuable.  For Jack and Chandler as they prepare to have another sibling.  For Clay and I as we prepare our home and our hearts for another child.  And, for continued peace. 
 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Meeting HIM!

Sorry for the long delay between posts.  Alot has been going on, namely, our trip in early January to meet Nate!  We had hoped to chronicle our adventure of going to meet Nate on the blog in sort of a daily rundown of events and experiences, but strangely enough, our blog was a blocked website where we were staying during our visit, so we weren't able to make any posts.

Nevertheless, meeting Nate was amazing.  We couldn't have imagined a better first visit and a better response from our boy.  Jenny and I had prepared ourselves for the worst imagining that he might reject us and push away crying to go back to his caretakers, but it was better than we had dared to hope.  He instantly reached out to us and let us hold him and was in a great mood!  We were kind of shocked, I think, at how natural it all seemed.  It was through this first meeting that we really saw the Lord's hand through EVERYTHING on this journey.  It was like Nate was ours all along and we just had to follow God's path to go find him.  His hair is like mine, his personality is like our other kids, and his appetite...well, he's definitely a Richey!

We were able to spend a good portion of the next four days with Nate, getting to know him, play with him, feed him, and even rock him to sleep (my favorite gift of the entire visit!).  Through it all, we found the Lord giving us reassurance and peace that will fuel us through this next step in the process.  Nate's development, although delayed showed several good signs of progress.  He's eating mashed foods from a spoon now and has gained 3 pounds since his last health report.  He's a very well-behaved eater, sitting in a plain chair without a booster or restraint and placing his hands flat on the table to wait for us to spoon him his bites.  The perfect little gentleman, although he will definitely let you know if you are a little slow in times between bites.  We were also able to see the progress he's making in crawling and pulling to a stand.  He's doing alot of verbalizing and we loved hearing all the sounds he made, but no actual communication yet.

Perhaps most comforting though, was the provision we saw in where God has placed Nate and the caregivers that are watching over him while we are away.  The facility he is in is in good condition and, in fact, our translator told us it is the best orphanage in the entire country!  She would be a good judge, because her work takes her to most of the orphanages in the region.  Beyond this though, the women caring for Nate were amazing.  There was a real affection between them and Nate and we felt such peace knowing that he would be in good hands while he awaits our final visit to bring him home.  They were always walking through the area that we had for our visits with Nate and as they would pass by, they would blow him kisses and talk to him gently in their language.  He always lit up a bit when certain favorites would come by and he'd hear their voices.  All these things, left us amazed and grateful for God's kindness and mercy.


So what's next?  Well, there's definitely light at the end of the tunnel for us and Nate.  We're meeting with our agency here tomorrow to get started on some final paperwork.  There's really not that much left.  Updating our medical records and FBI background checks.  Then submitting some additional immigration forms and that's pretty much it.  Why does that take 4-6 months?  We're not sure either, but I think most of the lag time occurs in Nate's country's courts at this point.  We're waiting on the Lord and based on our recent experience are more confident than ever before that He has appointed just the right time for us to bring Nate home!

We can't thank everyone who's been involved in supporting, encouraging, and praying for us enough.  We certainly felt the power of your prayers as we were traveling and continue to appreciate everyone who has supported us on our journey.  We'll keep updating the blog here regarding any news or progress that we make.

Thank You!

Clay and Jenny.      

Monday, December 9, 2013

TRAVEL DATES!!

So I am sure most of you have heard, but if not, we will be flying to Eastern Europe on January 4th-11th to meet Nate!!  Months of paperwork, FBI background checks, fundraising......and we made it this far!  Now, if you will remember, this it only trip #1.  We will return in 4-6 months to bring him home for reals.  This trip, we will meet him and spend roughly 4 hours a day with him.  We recently got an updated report on him.  Sadly, not much has changed since his last report 1 year ago.  He still weighs only 17lbs.  Yes, 2 1/2 years old and weighs 17lbs.  So, basically he is the size of a 12 month old.  He functions at a 12 month old level as well (still crawling, still drinking out of a bottle).  But, we all know that will change drastically once we get him home!  Praise God!  You know, it dawned on me the other day when we got this report, that God knows me pretty well.  I know.  Not really a shocker.  But really.  I am not one of those moms that is really a "natural".  Being a mom doesn't come easy for me.  I do not just love all children.  (I know...terrible).  But, I do love *almost* all 12 month olds.  That age is my absolute favorite.  Well 12-18months.  So, it really is no surprise to me, that Nate is exactly at the size and stage he is supposed to be.  I have an idea that I will most likely fall in love with him pretty quick....as I do with most infants that age.  Yep.  God has HIS hand in this.  And, I am loving seeing HIS plan all unfold.  This has been the wildest, craziest ride of our lives, and it's only beginning.  But to be able to see how GOD perfectly maps this whole process out...WOW!  Just wow.  I could complain that it's taking too long, or that he is not where I want him to be developmentally.  But why?  God has this all planned out perfectly.  So, we will just sit back and enjoy this ride. 

In the next few weeks, you can be praying for us.  Pray for us as we prepare to travel.  Pray for Jack and Chandler as we leave them.  Pray for Nate.  Pray for the Lord to prepare our hearts for him as well as his for us.   Pray for safety in travel. And for peace while we are in a country with government problems (lots of protests going on which can be scary!).  Pray for patience.  And of course pray for Clay and I in our marriage....I am sure things like this can be stressful on the marriage.  Thank you for your support, prayers, and encouragement. 

We hope to be able to update often while we are gone and show you pictures of Nate.  Some orphanages do not allow photographs to be taken.  So you can pray for that as well.  ;) 

Friday, November 1, 2013

One Year

One Year.  Yep.  One year ago this weekend, Clay and I decided to answer God's call to adopt.  Obviously, the topic of adoption was something that God started stirring in each one of our hearts at a young age.  And, for me, I have had a draw to Down Syndrome individuals for as long as I can remember.  But, the sequence of events that occurred the first weekend of November 2012, brought all those pieces together.  It was Saturday night, and I was reading my friend's (who at that time I had never met in person) blog.  Misty was advocating for a sweet little DS boy who lived in Russia.  He was on the Reece's Rainbow website and she was his "Angel Tree Warrior" - something RR does every Nov/Dec to advocate for their orphans.  I read her blog.  I cried.  I worked up the courage to show it to Clay.  He liked it, but didn't really say much.  We went to bed.  The next morning, unbeknownst to us, was Orphan Sunday at church.  We sat down, they showed us a video, and I lost it.  I knew, Clay knew....as I have told you before, it was then that we knew it was time to answer God's call for our lives.  To push aside our fears and step out in faith.  Something that we had never done before.  So, here we are, one year later.  If you have followed this blog, you have followed us on this journey so far.  We first saw Nate's 5 month old baby picture on February 14th and officially committed to him (aka paid our first huge amount of money - so scary at the time!) 1 month later in March.  Fast forward to this week, one year after we answered God's call: we got the best news we have heard since this process started.  Our dossier was approved!!  We received our verbal referral!  We are waiting on the legal issues now of a written referral (should be about 3 weeks) and with that will come our travel dates.  Yes.  You read that right!! TRAVEL DATES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!   We should be meeting him late November/early December.  That is this month, y'all!!!  

My mind is spinning when I think about meeting him for the first time.  I guess it's like when I was pregnant with Jack and Chandler.  I would day dream about what they would look like, how we would bond, their little personalities.  And, then, fear would set in.  So.  Pretty much the same here.  I daydream often about Nate.  What does he look like now?  Will he look like the pictures we have?  Will he come to us immediately?  Will he look us in the eye?  Will he be able to walk?  Or eat regular food?  SO many questions.  And, I will be able to answer them before the end of this year!  But, then fear sets in.  This is for real!  We will have 3 children soon.  One of them with special needs!  Can we handle this?  And, I am quickly reminded of some advice that a man gave me at the very first information meeting I went to about adoption last November....."Fear is NOT from the LORD."  And then all these other sayings come to mind: "God does not call the equipped, HE equips the called."  HE EQUIPS THE CALLED.  Yes.  HE will be the only way we get through this.  He will supply us the patience, energy, love, grace, joy, understanding, forgiveness....that we need to be parents to Nate.  We can do this.  And we will.  Because, if we do not, our sweet little Nathaniel Luke will become another statistic.  Another child that dies in a mental institution.  Sorry for my bluntness, but that is a fact guys.  He will die if we do not go get him.  So, when I am being selfish and all about ME, I am reminded that God asks us to die to ourselves so that we can LIVE FOR HIM.  There are like 50 verses in the Bible talking about this.  For real.  Google it.  "Dying to Self in the Bible"......just do it...google that little phrase and see what pops up.  And then my eyes are opened.  Fear disappears.  And, I know that we can do this.  :) 


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Run the Good Race!

Well, as much as I procrastinated, the Chosen race still arrived and last Saturday we joined over 1100 other participants in running for the cause of orphans around the world.  While it was a pretty grueling event in alot of ways, (5am wake-up call, aching calves and feet, etc...) we were so encouraged by the support of everyone on our team and others that we didn't even know.  We had over 30 runners join Team DomiNATE!  That far exceeded our expectations, which is one of the lessons God is showing us through this experience...He will provide beyond your expectations if you trust in Him and place no bounds or limits in your faith of what He can do!  Here's a video recap of the event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tDP8ejTdTws&feature=youtu.be

Jenny finished the half-marathon in 2hrs and 35min (Jenny's time redacted at her request.) even though she was going slow to avoid injury.  I on the other hand was quite a bit slower and still felt like I was injured!  I finished in 2hrs and 59min.  It was really awesome to see families with adopted kids standing along the race route cheering us on and thinking we could be doing that with Nate in a year.  (I was excited just thinking of cheering next year instead of running!)
Jenny and I had both hoped we would hear about our travel to see Nate earlier in the week and then be able to go into the race last weekend with that news and excitement, but God had other plans.  We're still waiting to hear from his government regarding our application and travel dates, but I think God is showing us something in this.  He's preparing Nate and us for the time when He knows we will be ready to join our hearts as a family in the way He intends.  Keep praying for us through this preparation process and for Nate as God prepares him as well.  Pray for Jack and Chandler too.  They have been amazing all along, but we know they have questions and concerns too.

Lately, a thought has been constant during my prayer time and I think it applies in alot of situations in life, but in particular, it is something I need reminding of as we wait in this process.  It's this simple thought:  "It's not always God's will that I understand...just that I trust and obey."  I've been searching and praying for understanding when I need to be praying for trust instead.

Thanks to everyone for the supporting us in the race last week and we're looking forward to sharing any news about our progress with you as it comes.

Love,

Clay and Jenny

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Abundant Life

"And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work."  2 Corinthians 9:8

This is Clay.  I haven't written a post in a while, (Jenny's been doing a great job on that front keeping everyone informed of how things are going and what we're learning on the journey.) but I felt like I needed to share some things that I've realized recently.  I've been overwhelmed lately at God's goodness in our lives and the transformation He has made and continues to make in us as we draw near to Him and seek His will.  In my prayer time this last week, I was thinking about His amazing goodness when the words Abundant Life came to mind.
These aren't terms you hear everyday so I've really been focusing on them and thinking about what they mean to me.

I remember when Jenny and I moved to San Antonio a little over 6 years ago.  We were excited to be back in Texas and even more excited to have family nearby.  As we settled into this new phase of our lives we began to acquire all the usual things that go along with it.  I was doing well at work and so was Jenny, so we bought a house, some cars, and pretty quickly we assimilated into suburbia.  If you had asked me if we were living in abundance at the time, I would have said Yes.  But I would have been answering with the wrong definition. Even though we had so much and had a loving family around us, something was missing.  One night driving home from church, I remember Jenny and I talking about how we'd been in San Antonio for a few years and didn't feel like we had any friends.  It was one of those moments where you don't realize how lonely you are until you actually say it.  We had no one other than family that was in fellowship with us and similarly, there was nothing in our lives beyond our work and family that we were connected to.  It's not like we intended this to happen, it just did.  We kept to ourselves, didn't engage people on a personal level and pretty soon, we were living in a way that was isolated and self-absorbed because we had nothing else to be absorbed in.  Thankfully, God has begun to show us what true abundance means.     

In the last two years, we've gone from a sense of isolation and loneliness to being a part of a community of people that care deeply for one another and we've begun to build rich relationships that go beyond surface level talk of weather and sports.  As this has happened, I've also seen the impact it has had on my children and wife.  They've grown through their relationships with others and it's made my relationship with each of them more fulfilling and meaningful as a result.  ALL of this...is part of God's plan in preparing us for the "Good Works" that he has prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).  God can change us on His own if He chooses, but throughout the Bible, we see how God's preference is to use others and our interactions with them to develop new qualities and strengths in us that He will put to use.  I know that Nate will benefit greatly from these relationships and our community as we bring him home and introduce him to everyone and I'm excited to see how God uses him to teach each of us as well.

As I sat back in a lawn chair this weekend and watched my kids play with church friends and neighbors and listened to the laughter of people standing and sitting all around my driveway, I felt a profound sense of peace and gratitude to my Heavenly Father for showing me how truly rich He will make us as we follow His way.  I may not always have a house, a job, a car, or my health, but I have so much abundance in the friendship and love of my fellow brothers and sisters that everything else doesn't seem to matter that much.  That's the kind of priority shift that I needed and it is one that's truly transformational.

Praise God!


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Finally!

Whew.  We did it.  We finally submitted our dossier.  So, it was only about 2 months later than we expected.  I am quite sure we could have hit more bumps in the road and it taken longer, but possibly not.  ;) I feel like we hit quite a few.  The latest is one that just proves that when you make a decision like this, you immediately enter into spiritual warfare.  It has been obvious from the beginning.   And, Satan didn't stop this past month!  Amazing story to show just how good our God is.  So, we had been waiting for a very important document to come in the mail - when we began this process they told us it can take 30-90 days to complete this part of the adoption.  And, of course, when we passed the 90 day mark, I wasn't really surprised since everything has taken SO long for us.  But, I was a little worried because we knew we had been approved and were counting on this document to come in the mail.  8 days after approval, it still had not come.  So, I just assumed it was lost in the mail.  Great.  Well, 2 Sundays ago, we got to speak in church about our adoption.  That was pretty cool.  Afterward, we went to lunch with Clay's parents and when we pulled into the driveway, we saw this man standing at our front door.  He came up to the car, holding THE DOCUMENT, and said, "This came in the mail to my house this week.  I live 3 neighborhoods over and, well, it looked kind of important, so I just thought I would bring it to you."  I am guessing the U.S. immigration logo at the top tipped him off.  :)  I immediately started freaking out.  And crying.  He probably thought I was crazy.  But oh. MY. GOODNESS!!!!  He could have thrown it away.  Or sent it back.  But, he didn't.  He took the time and effort to hand deliver it to us!  What a blessing!  God is good ya'll.  He is watching over this.  Even when the enemy is pulling out all the stops.  So, that document completed our dossier and now it is on it's way to our agency social worker, who will mail it to Eastern Europe next week!!!  So, what does this mean???  TRAVEL DATES ARE NEXT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  WE GET TO MEET HIM!  Again, I am not going to try to guess when.  Okay, yes I will....maybe late October/early November????  Who knows.  Who cares.  We are traveling to see OUR SON in the next couple of months.  Awesome!

Every day this becomes more real.  And, every day, I love him a little more. I know I have said that before.  But, it's true.  Last night was a pretty amazing night.  We met with a couple of other families from our church who have adopted.  It was so encouraging for me.  To listen to their struggles.  To hear how real and raw all of this can be.  And when I expressed concern and honestly feel like I am not "cut out" for all of this, I was encouraged to hear that yes, I was.  God has called us to do this.  Therefore, HE has equipped us.  We are ready ....we just have to be willing to ASK GOD for HIS help in getting through it.  I cannot even begin to express what an incredibly HUGE blessing our church family has been to us since this process started.  Last night, one of the Dad's prayed for Nate.  (Yep...that's his name.  For real.  Nathaniel Luke Richey.  Nate.  Done deal. At church someone called him "Nate-dawg" and that was all I needed to hear!  He is gonna be one cool cat.....or dawg I guess I should say.  Spiked hair.  Handing out high-5s.  Yep.  Nate-dawg.) And today I got a text from a friend from Life group who is running in the Chosen race telling me how bad it was training this morning, but that she had prayed for Nate during her run.  Life Groupers, Crossbridgers.....you all have blessed us beyond measure.  Clay and I will never be able to fully express how much you all mean to us.  We truly love you as family.  And are so thankful for all of you.  Thank you for praying over us and with us.  Thank you for praying for Nate.  And thank you for already loving him. 

So....a couple of housekeeping items.....fundraisers coming up -----
(1) September 7th 4pm-8pm  BBQ/Silent auction 
(2) October - garage sale!!  Give us your junk....but maybe wait a few weeks if you can! We like to park our car IN the garage! 
(3) October 26th - Chosen Marathon

Email me if you have any questions about how to participate in these!  jen_flahive@hotmail.com

And that will complete our fundraising.  I really feel like God has been telling me to stop after that.  I know HE will take care of the rest.  I have faith in that.  We are $15k short right now.  Wait, $14k short...we had an amazing church family give us a check for $1000 a few weeks ago.  It's all good.  If you know me, you know I am a money worrier.  But, I have absolute and complete faith that we will get the rest of the money to bring Nate home.  It's all good.  :)