Friday, October 16, 2015

A Proud Family

About 3 years ago a tall, lanky kid walked into our lives....or maybe I should say we walked into his.  I'm not really sure how it happened, but we sure are glad it did.  We haven't updated much on the adoption of our 2 boys from DR Congo, and that's mainly because not much has happened....maybe I should say nothing has happened, but we have no doubt the Lord is working in His time, so we'll stick with 'not a lot' has happened b/c we know He's at work!

So right now it's just us, Joelle, a lot of pictures of our boys, and what is now a rather large Senior in high school named Luke.  The tall/skinny kid has become a not so skinny and even taller kid-guy-man thing!  He's got a great family, and a mom that has done an incredible job raising 3 teenagers as a single mom.  He's not a Lemons, but in our hearts he might as well be.  Though the nickname 'Skip' is much better than 'Lem' I suppose.

I wanted to take a minute and brag on Luke.  He lost his dad when he was only about 8 years old to a big fight with cancer.  We never met his dad, but have heard some pretty amazing stories about the man of God he was, and about the fighter he was as well.  3 years ago I was Luke's Student Pastor, and after a pretty amazing Summer Camp experience we started meeting nearly every week for Bible study and a family dinner with my girls.  I didn't really realize what that would turn in to.  Any time you consider 'mentoring' a student it's scary.  Is it going to work?  Is he/she going to stay committed to this?  Am I going to have time to stick with this?  What if we fail him?  What if he fails us?

It's been a bit of an up-and-down road.  I'm not the easiest guy to stick with on bad days.  But we've done it.  I've watched him walk with the Lord and I've watched him struggle.  We've spent time on trips, eaten hundreds of pounds of food, ski'd, swam, wrestled, hollered, given each other the silent treatment, prayed, been excited together, and been angry together, and I've beaten him on PS4 more times than I can count (you know it's true).  But what I've seen over the last 3 years is a boy begin the process of becoming a man.

This past weekend me, the girls, and Luke had the opportunity to travel up to a Division I college to visit the campus and football program.  I'm grateful his mom allowed us to take him!  Luke's worked so hard for years, and the hard work has really started to pay off.  I watched the kid I have known for years now become faced with the biggest decision of his life so far, outside of his decision to follow Christ.  I watched him handle things with grace, humility, and much as a 17 year old can when he's faced with grown men courting him for a scholarship.  I listened to him ask questions that mattered, and I saw him look a head football coach of a Division I football program in the eye and tell him, 'I need men that will build into me as a man.'  Then I fought back some tears in the coaches office because I realized there comes a time in every man's life where he really begins to 'get it.'  And that moment was happening right in front of me....and why the heck do I cry so much these days?!

Our family is so proud of you Luke!  You've stuck with us, worked hard, and done what you can to do it with integrity and faithfulness to Jesus.  I don't believe God 'rewards' us because of our faithfulness, but I do believe He entrusts us with more when we prove we'll be faithful.  And maybe that's exactly what we're seeing.

Joelle loves this guy like it's going out of style, and I think Amy and I do as well.....maybe.  He's stolen the heart of our family, and maybe even helped ease the anxiety of waiting on our 2 boys to come home.  That's not easy to do!

I wanted to take a moment to brag on him.  This is our family blog....and Luke finally made his way into it! haha

These last 3 years have, in a weird way, been like watching a butterfly emerging from it's cocoon.....and (most of the time :) ) we like what we're seeing.  A Division I college quarterback more interested in becoming a man that can please the Lord than a great player.  A guy that my daughter looks up to constantly taking time to bend down and love on her as a big brother.  A guy that lost his dad so early in life, no doubt living up to every expectation he must have had when he held his son in his arms for the first time.  We are proud of you....and so glad this is just the beginning!

Here are a few pics from the last few days.  Congrats on your commitment and scholarship buddy!  We are so proud of you!  #ReignCane #Tulsa #ButFirstWinTonight

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Happy Birthday Joelle!

Things have been pretty quiet here on the personal blog.  We've had literally zero news to share about our two adoptions.  Things just aren't moving at all.  BUT, we have so much to celebrate still with Joelle.  She is just such a blessing in every way possible.  She's kind-hearted, sweet as pie, well-mannered, and truly a delight to be around.  Today we celebrated the birthday of this precious thing!!!
We started the morning with donuts and presents from us.  Joelle LOVES tic-tac-toe so this game was a hit!
Later on Joelle had a soccer game (that she scored 10 goals in I should add... she's a stud on the field!!).  Then we celebrated a little more with a movie at home and Chick-fil-a for dinner.

Then it was time for cake and more presents!  These two are the best of buddies!
 So thankful for this sweet girl's life!
 I mean, it doesn't get much sweeter than this!
 We kept things super simple because she chose to celebrate with friends at the circus rather than have a large birthday party.  It was difficult for me to tone it down, but I forced myself to stick to the plan, ha!
 Making wishes....
 Joelle is the kind of person who unwraps things very slowly.  She looks at it from every angle and talks about it in detail before moving on.  She always says, "I'm going to treasure this in my heart."
 Such funny expressions she has!
 Sister even got a matching bathing suit because, well, it's all in the details, folks!
And because I've been so horrible about blogging, here are some fun pictures from the circus :)
Too bad we have to wait a whole year before celebrating again!  She sure does make life fun :)))

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Joelle's Bedroom

When I first posted pictures of Joelle's room in July of 2012, I thought she was coming home just a few months after rushing to put her room together!  Little did we know that God had a different plan, and it would be 8 months until little Miss made her debut!  Since coming home she has grown up quite a bit and we have moved houses!  While her room still has the same feel and most of the same decorations in place, I thought I'd give a little update!

Her room is quite a bit larger in our new house.  If she actually played with toys while she was upstairs, she would have plenty of room, ha!
 Her bedding and decor here is all the same.  We just added a quilt that we had made with fabrics that we bought in the Congo while picking her up.  I also added a fabric banner that I made for her 4th birthday :)  Oh, and she needed a little table so that we could house her alarm... sister wakes up every school morning with her alarm!  I don't even have to go upstairs to make sure she is up!!  My plan is to paint this little table, but that hasn't happened yet!
 I added a little hanging display that I found on a while back.  All of those prints were free finds from several different blogs!  You can find those HERE and HERE
 We found that turquoise dresser at First Monday in Canton.  It matched her other little wardrobe perfectly and didn't even need to be painted!  She has a bathroom and closet attached to her bedroom... it's quite the space up there.
 This little wardrobe is still one of my favorite pieces, although now it has a more practical use than before.  Jared originally made it with the intent of housing dress-up items, but Joelle grew out of that phase pretty quickly.  Now we use it for skirts, headbands, hats, etc!  The Sunshine decor is from Linen and Lace!
 I bought quite a few things from Hobby Lobby and Home Goods for her new room.  And, of course, every little girl needs a place for her picture with Cinderella :)
 Joelle really does love her space even though she doesn't spend just a ton of time in her room.  She sleeps and reads in there, but would prefer to be downstairs for most of the day.  It's definitely nice to have all of the kid stuff upstairs when she has her friends over to play!  The majority of her toys stay in her playroom.  So that helps keep things nice and clean in her bedroom :)
While I did pick up the space so that I could take pictures of it, Joelle does a really good job of keeping it clean.  I don't expect it to be perfect all of the time, but I do want to raise her so that when she has her own place she will take pride in it.  I don't take the fact that I'm raising a future-mommy and wife lightly.  Sometimes it would be so much faster for me to clean things up and put them away, but if I don't teach her how to do those things, then who will??!!  Now, her closet... that's another story, ha!!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Life Lately.

It has been a slow couple of months over in our adoption world.  Progress is being made but it is S-L-O-W and *kind of* steady.  If I'm just going to be honest, I try not to dwell on it too much. Dwelling leads to worrying... worrying leads to sadness... sadness leads to tears... and ain't nobody got time to cry in the summer!  People often say, "I don't know how you do it!  How can you be so patient??"  Well, folks, the one and only reason we are able to make it day-to-day without any major meltdowns (coming from me, of course) is by the grace of God.  He provides us with comfort and peace that we could definitely not get from anyone or anywhere else.  He led us to our adoption journey, so who are we to NOT trust Him??!!  I'm not saying it is easy, but when the days get hard, and the wait gets long, it brings so much peace to know that my Heavenly Father can see my two boys, He can meet their needs, and He cares about them.

He also provides unexpected blessings... today we found out that "I" (our littlest) is 33 inches tall and weighs 28 pounds.  We got brand-spankin' new pictures of him.  He's being well taken care of, loved on, and nurtured by one of the sweetest foster families.  Bless their hearts... they probably get to listen to this annoying car we gave him no less than 100 times a day!!!  
We may not have gotten the BIG adoption news that we had hoped for today, but God continues to give us His peace.
And, don't you worry, as soon as I can blow up social media, the blogosphere, and the world with pictures of my little ones... I will be all over it!  

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Beginning of the End.....We Hope

"Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think....." (Ephesians 3: 20)

I'm working on a message for this Sunday morning at church over this text, and I've been searching for that perfect illustration to really drive this verse if I need to illustrate God's Word to make it better.  We have so many things to be thankful for, as a family and as a church, but when's the last time God really did some far beyond anything you ever dreamed of?  It probably happens every day and God's goodness has numbed us in a way, but today it happened....and when we say it happened....IT HAPPENED.

For the past two years we've been wading through red tape to try to bring home our sons from Africa.  Most of you know we had the chance to travel and meet one of our boys just a few weeks ago, and it was an incredible experience.  We have been getting incredibly close to bringing one of them home, but no children have been allowed to legally leave the country for over 600 days.  By legally I mean that people with integrity have submitted to government authorities and chosen not to find 'alternate' ways of bringing home their adopted children.....let's not get into that.

The past few months have been full of promises that felt empty, and not a lot of movement.  Just a few days ago we received a phone call that said it looked like children would be coming home soon.  Joelle still has friends she lived with that are stuck and have not come home to be with their families.  I'm not sure we can ever understand how blessed we were to bring her home two years ago just before this suspension began!  But even after the phone call, promises felt a little empty and it seemed like the same old story.  We've been told to hang in there more times than I'd like to count.  We smile and tell our story over and over every Sunday to friends and family in the community and at church.  We know people care about us, pray for us, and love us.....but telling the story gets old and living it out weighs a lot.

Back track a few years....we actually started the adoption of our first son after the suspension began.  We stepped out in faith, not knowing how long it would last.  We were the crazy people that began an adoption when adoptions were not being completed.  We felt like the Lord was leading us to push through and trust in that's what we did.  Almost two years....over 600 days.....and this morning, the news finally hit the press!

The suspension is over....adoptions are being completed.....and kids may come home as soon as next week!  You learn to take everything with a grain of salt.  We could still be in this process for a while longer depending on how long it takes to clear over 1,000 cases.  But I've also learned that God is more than able to do abundantly more than anything I could ever ask for or think of.  There's not much more to say than God is good.  When He leads you to the door of an opportunity, He's always faithful to walk through the door with you....and sometimes drag you through it.  It's been a long wait for so many families.  There have been many times we wondered at what point we will have to move our family to join our sons.  I've wondered what today would be you strip down like David and dance in the streets?  Do you sit and cry and hope it's true?  Would the day ever actually happen?  And I can honestly tell you, when I finally woke up and realized what was going on, the only thought that came to my mind was God is so good!

Even through the waiting.  Even through the hurt.  Even in leaving our son in one of the most impoverished countries on earth just a few weeks ago....hoping we'd see him again.  God has been so good to us.

I'm not really sure what you're asking God for today.  Hopefully it's something with some eternal value.  I can tell you we lived through Ephesians 3:20, and are clinging to hope that He has done just that.  I can promise that whatever you're praying for today is so small compared to what God is able to do.  The journey isn't over....but we're praying it won't be long.

Join us in praying for over 1,000 kids that may soon get to travel home for the first time.  There's so much anxiety with all of the momma's out there today....pray that God would work swiftly, and break through all of the barriers that adoption can build.  Pray that God would do much more than just bring our kids home....He's capable of far more than that!

Hopefully we'll have a family picture to publicly post in the next few'd have a hard time understanding just how beautiful my family is without seeing it for yourself!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where do we go from here?

It feels like it was weeks ago that we left our son to come back home.  The 28 hour journey home really makes you lose track of time.  As we were unpacking, starting our laundry, and trying to get our house in order for the upcoming week I kept going back to one single thought, "How do I go about acting/feeling/appearing normal when I just experienced something so beautiful just a few days ago?  How do I go about my daily business after being able to hug, kiss, bathe, care for, read to, play with, feed, and love on my little boy when I'm now not able to do those things any longer."  

And I think that's where I'm stuck right now.  I'm so thankful and feel tremendously blessed for our week in the DRC.  My heart bursts when I see how well Joelle is doing.  The fact that she is home is such a HUGE blessing because she could still be there today.  I'm also comforted in knowing that our littlest guy is in a great foster home where he is being loved, cared for, taken to church, and fed.  I hold to the fact that God called us to adopt and cares for my children way greater than I ever could.  I cling to His faithfulness and how He has always been so good to my family.  

So, even though it's tough...real tough...leaving our brother bear thousands of miles away, I want to reflect on the good things.  I wish I could show him off and flaunt pictures of his flashy smile and chubby cheeks.  I can't wait for the day to be able to do that.  For now, I'm going to recap some of the blessings...

Joelle did AWESOME on this trip.  She slept on the planes, ate like a champ, and had the best attitude for traveling so much in such a little amount of time.  She was a trooper when we had to show little brother more attention than her.  Did she get jealous?  Absolutely.  We kept reaffirming her that she is loved, she is beautiful, and she's the best thing that has ever happened to our family.  Let me tell you... little brother will never have to do a thing on his own.  She was there to pick him up, hold a hand, wait on him hand and foot, and play with cars even though she'd rather not.  She cleaned up after him, fetched his toys when they would roll under the bed, and helped with his clothes/shoes whenever she had the chance.  That little girl is going to be one heck of a mama one day.  She's just a natural. 

Jared took Joelle on a little date to the fabric market.  They stopped by the hotel room we stayed in when we brought her home.  I love that Jared thought of that... how special to remind her of those precious days!
We had the best seats on all six of our flights.  On a row of four, we always had an extra seat, giving us plenty  of room to stretch out.  There were hardly no delays, no need to rush from plane to plane, and no set backs in around 60 hours of traveling.  Besides just being tired and achey, we are all good to go!  

Brother Bear:
Goodness, he's a sweet little mess, y'all.  He cried/moped for about an hour after we first met him.  He was scared, in shock, and just unsure of what was going on.  You have to remember there is a HUGE language barrier.  He knows NO English, so we couldn't explain what was happening or defend ourselves in any way.  After about an hour, some food, a nap and a bath he really warmed up to us.  When he woke up from that first nap it was like he was a new little man!  He and Joelle played with cars, kicked/threw the ball back and forth, watched some movies, and played a lot of tickle monster.  I think Jared said it best when he said something along the lines of... everyone wants interaction and relationships.  It's so true!  We just had to get from wanting to watch, hold, and observe his every little move so that we could interact, get down on his level, and do silly things to make him comfortable.  
Here are some things we learned about him:

He is an incredible eater... messy, but incredible.  He will try anything.  In our time together he ate pizza, hamburgers, fries, spaghetti, powdered donuts (his favorite!!), chocolate pudding, applesauce, muffins, crackers, cookies, fruit snacks, and lots more junk food... ha!  We will work on being healthy later on ;)

He wears his snot, food, and spit on his shirt at all times.  

He covers his eyes when he is upset or sleepy.

He doesn't like dogs... and swats at them to go away (Sorry, Marley!!)

He learned to love brushing his teeth and would stick out his tongue for me after a few tries.

During his last shower he was all smiles and tried to use a loofah on his own.  He got the hang of things really fast!

He has great fine motor skills.  I think he will be right-handed, but he still uses both to color, throw, complete tasks.

He wears diapers, which is nice because he can't communicate potty procedures just yet!

He prefers to be clothed with his shoes on, but doesn't get upset if you undress him either.

He would reach his arms up to us to be held.  He took well to all three of us... didn't prefer on over the other.

We brought several cars for him and he was always willing to share with Joelle even if she didn't ask.  He would just hand her an extra when they were playing.

He will definitely follow every move Joelle makes.  He observed her every little action.  And, let's face it, she loved every minute of it!!

The only time he would whine was when his car would go under the bed or if we told him no (he wanted to throw his cars on people's head and for some reason we wouldn't let him, ha!).  He responded well to us correcting him even if it took him a few minutes.

He's quite the sleeper!  He slept between 10-12 hours each night and took 1-2 hour naps during the day.  If you wake him up early he will cry for a minute, but give him a snack and your his  best friend again ;)

He doesn't have to be entertained at all times.  He sat patiently at the Embassy for over 2 hours while we waited to file paperwork.

He will sit on the floor and play with a ball or his cars for long periods of time.  This is HUGE!  It took Joelle over a year to be able to do this, and still prefers to be with people rather than play by herself.  

He didn't cry when we left but he definitely shut down when he saw his foster mom.  He loves that lady to pieces so for him to have adjusted to us in such a short amount of time was a great thing!  We left him with pictures, clothes, toys, snacks, etc so that he could be reminded of us.  We are praying that when we are reunited he remembers that he can trust us and knows we will take care of him.  Of course... he is two... so that could all be forgotten by then!!!

I could go on and on and on and on, but I won't bore you with every little detail.  I've been asked a lot about his age/size.  He is 2 1/2 (birthday is October 13), and wears a 2T although that's still a little big for him.  I brought a pair of 3T shorts and they literally fell right off his body!

Oh, and we have no idea when he is coming home.  Best case scenario would be this summer, but there are no certainties  when it comes to adoption.  Thank you to everyone who prayed for our trip and our little guy.  I'll post about our other little guy later and why we didn't get to see him also.  That's a whole different story for a different blog post :)

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Courts, Planes, a Boy Room, and More Luggage than a Family Should Carry

At this point I almost feel like a broken record....we have another IMPORTANT court date tomorrow morning (Monday) that could possibly put an end to a lot of the drama going on with one of our adoptions.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out our last blog post for a little more info.  And the Lemons' family is just 7 days away from leavin' on a jet plane to meet our boys!
{{Starting to get packed and ready to go!  We have boy things, lots of meds, tons of snack foods, dispersed clothes, and care packages/vitamins for over 50 kids!!}}
We've been waiting a few weeks for our court date in the appeals court, and we feel really good about where we stand.  We aren't sure how long it will take, but we're praying hard that tomorrow morning brings an end to a lot of unnecessary drama and court dates.  If everything works out, next Tuesday we'll be holding both of our boys in our arms.  And if court continues to linger, we'll be grateful for the time we get to spend with one of our boys next week, but it'll be pretty tough being half way across the world, just a few minutes from our son, and unable to even make contact with him.

So calling all folks with faith:  join us in prayer that God would move mountains in our court case tomorrow so our son can clearly see that he has a family that loves him, cares for him, and is coming to get him soon.  That's probably our biggest desire right now.  We're praying for the judge, our lawyer, the people that are doing wrong, and most of all,  our son!

We're also really excited that we may have some big news later this week to share.  We're not really at a point where we can share this yet, but I can tell you God hears our words, and He is good!  As we continue to pray for the hundreds of children who are just one piece of paper away from joining their families in the United States, we're believing that God will move in a big way to make that happen....and we know it's possible right now!

Did you know that Joelle has a few friends she lived with 3 years ago, that are still waiting to come home to their forever families?  Can you imagine the pain, frustration, and anticipation of waiting, every day, for a phone call that you can join your child and give him/her a forever family?  We are asking God to finish it all this week!

For those of you that have been on the journey with us, and have asked us and listened, even when we rambled on and on...thank you so much for your support.  We are so close, and still feel so far away.  The prayer, support, and encouragement have been such a huge blessing to our family.  And it's been such an incredible illustration of how big and good our God is to our daughter.

We will leave you with some pictures of the bedroom for our littlest boy.  I {Amy now} was very reluctant at first to get started because I'm so used to pink, frills, and all things girly!  Once I started it was hard to press the pause button, but we have been doing a little at a time over the last few months.  We finally pulled the plug and finished up today.  I must say that my favorite spots in our home are all of our kid areas.  I find great joy in picking things out for each of them, piecing it together, and making a special place for each little individual.  I've also found great solitude many evenings as I pray by their bedside asking the Lord for miracle after miracle.  He has been so faithful to care for, protect, and move mountains for all three of my children.  I can't wait for the day when we are able to all five join hands before bedtime and pray as a family.

{I made these prints using clipart from Etsy.  The chain was from a while back}

{Table from First Monday in Canton, animal bins from Amazon, A-Z art and white dog from Home Goods, I and Looney Tunes art from Hobby Lobby}
{Yellow Beanbag, Robot/Rocket Art, and Shelf from Target, Robot Pillow from HomeGoods}
{Bedding from Target, Accent Pillows from Land of Nod, Dresser from First Monday in Canton}

{Giraffe Hanging from Hobby Lobby, Plush Deer Mount from Bass Pro}
{Nightstand is a trashcan from Lowe's :), Lamp from Amazon}

Now all we need is a chubby-cheeked little boy running around messing everything up!!!