Sunday, September 2, 2012

Unnecessary Decadence

This Christmas it will be two years since I first set foot on Ukrainian soil. I'll never forget the feeling- it was a cold, windy, snowy night in the wee hours of the morning. For all I knew, I could have been in Siberia.

Hardly a day goes by where my Ukrainian adventure doesn't come up in conversation or thought. It was such a changing experience on so many levels. I would not be the person I am today were it not for that 10 days.

Despite all of the amazing things that happened in and around me in those 10 days however, I wish I personally had done more. When I went over to Ukraine, I was afraid of orphan care. Of missionary work.  I was afraid to care, to witness hurt, or, even worse, to try and help only to fail. It took 5 little orphans in a tiny room in an orphanage hidden in a backwoods forest town to show me otherwise. To show me that that love, that passion, did take care. It did hurt. I would fail to accomplish everything I hoped for sometimes. But it was worth it. So worth it.

The unfortunate circumstance of that meeting was that it occurred on my last day at the orphanage. I met them, snapped my infamous picture of Sonya and that was it. Paka Paka orphanage. Back to America with my new little sister and my Dad I went.

Ever since then I've hungered for more of the joy I felt in those few short moments in Julia's groupa room. I have been waiting and continue to wait patiently for God's call, His timing, His offering of an opportunity to go somewhere new to see new places, meet new people, and show the love of Christ to a people and place that might never have experienced it before. In the meantime, I have gotten to love on plenty of orphans-no-more here in the US. I have three adopted siblings who need just as much love and attention. I talk to people regularly about orphan and missionary work. For a long time, though, there was a difference I couldn't identify between all of the efforts I've made here in the states and my trip across the ocean.

As I thought about it, I realized it was that different environment. Ukraine is a very different place to live in than the US is, that's for sure. A different culture, a different kind of people, a different set of foods, languages, and customs.

My time in Ukraine taught me to take everything as a blessing. You had an apartment that had a working stove, shower, laundry machine, DVD player and two bedrooms? You were lucky! A run to McDonald's or finding a food similar to something back in America at the grocery store? Culinary miracles!

Part of what formed that perception was the way I saw life in the orphanage and the surrounding towns. Within a 30-45 minute drive from where we were staying to the orphanage, you'd see things deteriorate from well-off city dwellings to slums. Amongst those slums, a select group of wealthy people had built sprawling compounds in tiny little backwoods towns. You saw that even if some things about your dwellings weren't perfect or up to your expectations, you still didn't have anything to complain about. When I thought about my American standards of living, I felt flat-out sick. I had lived in such privileged surroundings all of my life without even realizing it.

I'll never forget reading the chapters in The Hunger Games when Katniss, a girl from a poor mountain town, first experiences the lush metropolis known as The Capitol, the center of the post-apocalyptic country where she lives. She sees people eating foods her neighbors couldn't dream of affording. She sees people dressing in extravagant clothes and living in dwellings only the highest government officials in her home town could think of. All she can think of is how ridiculously extravagant life in the Capitol is. How over-the-top perfect people have tried to make life there appear.

It all appears to be nothing more than unnecessary decadence.

Despite having never left the US since my trip to Ukraine, those same feelings Katniss experienced have never left me as I think about Ukraine (or any third-world country) compared to America. Every time I go to the store and shop for clothes, every time I go to a McDonald's and get myself a big chicken sandwich and a caramel mocha shake, every time I look at photography gear that costs hundreds upon thousands of dollars, a little voice in the back of my head is nagging at me: Is this all necessary or right when there are people in Africa using flattened water bottles with strings for sandals and orphans lying for days in cribs wasting away? To be sure, when God has put us in a time and place to enjoy a level of earthly happiness or stability there is nothing wrong with thankfully enjoying it so long as we are seeking Him and His will through everything. But are there not times when we flounder in unnecessary decadence? Are there not times when we forget that God through Jesus and the authors of Sacred Scripture told us to care for the poor?  Do we not sometimes forget that all too easily? In stead of getting a Starbucks coffee in the morning, a Coca-Cola for lunch and another flavored beverage for dinner, I could drink water for a week and give that money I would have spent to an organization that's providing clean water wells in Africa. Trust me, I know from personal experience, the tiny amount of money you think you spend on your favorite food/drink/magazine or tv subscription/etc. will turn into a pretty substantial amount that can make a difference in someone's life fast.

Brothers and sisters, I challenge us all to live a life as devoid of unnecessary decadence as possible. While we are undoubtedly entitled to enjoy the life and the gifts God has showered down on us all, I challenge us to enjoy those gifts in consideration of those less fortunate than us and in awareness of Jesus' call to defend orphans and widows. If we all, as the Body of Christ and the Human Race as a whole, banded together and lifted each other up, rising past the allure of leading the most comfortable lives we can, I daresay the world would be a better place, a more love-filled place.

"Jesus answered, 'If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.'" Matthew 19:21.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

There's A Place For Us

A year ago this time, I had just returned from the first ever Reece's Rainbow Reunion. The event was held up in Edmunston/Cooperstown NY, with events rotating between Jellystone Camp Grounds and Pathfinder Community for People with Down Syndrome. Coming off of that experience, I felt like I had seen a brief glimpse of Heaven. Having just stepped into the world of advocating, it was an experience that bolstered my passion for the cause and a sense of camaraderie in the world of Adoption I had never experienced before.

As that time rolled around again this year, I was off to the Reece's Rainbow Reunion again, but not in Upstate NY. Andrea had decided to combine it with the National Down Syndrome Conference held in Washington DC this year, which provided a great opportunity to attend multiple great events at the same time and tour the capitol. As I reflected on how much my advocating had changed, it was crazy to think how much change a year had brought. While my blogging hasn't been as proficient as I wish it had been, I've gotten to do a lot of real-life advocating, from traveling to Texas to constantly telling people in my everyday life what I've been up to, as well as connecting with Advocates through other social networking forums. In the last year, I realized, advocating has taken on a whole new level of personal involvement in a lot of ways for me.

With all of that in mind, I was anxious to get down to Washington DC, to meet new people, reunite with old friends, and experience new things and places. I quickly fell in love with the City of Washington DC itself. While I've gone down every year for the March for Life since I was in 7th grade, you can only appreciate so much of a place on a cold January day for a less-then 12-hour period. The architecture, memorials, and quieter nature of DC as opposed to my times in NYC felt so new and exciting.

What I fell in love with even faster, though, were the fellow adoptive families and advocates I got to spend the next few days with. The experience you have when you're amongst other people that understand what it is like to raise an adopted child/children, especially with special needs, is an experience I have come to love and appreciate more and more every time I get the chance to be a part of it. They know and have experienced all of the same joys, ups, and downs of Adopting that you have. That forms a bond you can't replicate anywhere else. With all of that in mind, the following days were filled with plenty of laughs, happy and/or deep conversations, and so many chances to share in the joy of Down Syndrome, Adoption, or both with a fantastic group of people. I got to meet people I've gotten to know over the internet like Sarah B. or Laurie Maddex, whose son Zeke was in the same orphanage as Julia, Sonya, Dusty, Hannah, and Naomi (Shawna and Lindsay). I got to meet new families like the Whitmire's, the Boroughs, Nalles, the Basiles and the Zoromski's, while reuniting with dearly beloved friends like  Reece and Andrea, the Hinzes, and the Spitzes. I got to meet personal role models like Brady Murray for the first time, and meet so many beautiful families who had a child/children with Down Syndrome also attending the NDSC who were so warm and welcoming. I could go on for pages about all of the fantastic times that all of us at the NDSC shared. Like.....

Cramming over 20 people into one hotel room......

Cramming WAAAY more than 20 people into a tiny pub-style restaurant for a big ol' party time......

 Getting to see all of the amazing milestones Belle has crossed since the last RR Reunion

And getting to meet the newest Spitz! 

Seeing how much precious Sonya and Dusty have grown

Or my new buddy Ruby (and sister Lil)!

Or, as I mentioned before, getting to meet my brother in arms in advocacy, Mr. Brady Murray! 

And then, of course, there's always me and Reece :) 

Or my partner in photographing and advocating since last year's reunion, miss Molly Conley ;) 

Events like the Adoption Reunions and the NDSC give me hope. Hope for a future where adoption and Down Syndrome live in all their glory. Hope that there will come a day when adoption is even more widely practiced and accepted than it is now, and where people with Down Syndrome aren't just seen for their flaws, but for their strengths and the kindness and love they're capable of. Hope that the ideals and the sentiments those of us within those communities strive for will reach even greater fruition. Hope that we aren't alone, that there is a place where we belong. 

That there's a place for us. 

There's a place for us

Somewhere a place for us

 Peace, and quiet, and open air
Wait for Us

There's a Time for us

 Some Day, a time for us

 Time together

 With Time to Spare

Time to Love

Time to care

There's a place for us 

A time and place for us 

Hold my hand and we're halfway there

Hold my hand and I'll take you there 




Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Truth of Orphan Care (Little Silver Necklace)

I originally planned on posting tonight about even more adoptive families that we are lovin' on and praying for here at S4TS (pretty amazing to think there are even more families to pray and advocate for after my last mammoth post!). But then I had a spontaneous bout of inspiration to talk about another big topic in the world of Orphan Advocacy, and thus, those families will be coming to you later in the week :)  In the meantime though, if you want updates on the families previously mentioned, all of them are pretty proficient bloggers too, so you can check their personal blogs for any updates you might fancy.

As I've been sprucing up the pages on our little website here, I filed things into a mental list of "most improvement needed" to "fine as they are." That list went something like (in order from most in need of sprucing to least) The Charities We Love page (a year overdue), Our Orphan Loves (most of the kids on there now have families! YAY!), Donate! (same deal as Our Orphan Loves- most of the families on there were home and most of the Orphans now have a Family Sponsorship Page we need to link!), Children we are Praying Home (like the last two, most kids are HOME at this point!), and Our Graduates (Gotta have a page FOR those families and their new additions who are home!). Somewhere at the bottom of that list was the Team page, which didn't need anything done to it, and the Our Story page- same deal.

So I thought.

As I read the summary I had given of this blog's humble roots on the Our Story page, trying to read it as if I had just come across this site, I didn't feel very convinced that I'd want to discern a missionary lifestyle or advocate for Orphans by the time I was done reading. It all felt a little...cliche. Not personal enough. Not enough passion.

Not enough truth.

Part of that is the fact that I will always be my own harshest critic. I can always see little caveats in my writing, my pictures, everything. On one hand that's proven to be a good thing as I always try to put 100% into anything I do. On the other hand, I admit I can drive myself nuts sometimes with it.

But I decided to change the way I described S4TS' "story" anyway.

One thing I often see in both my writing  and sometimes in the writings of fellow Orphan advocates is the struggle to find a balance between giving appeal to the journey we've embarked on as Orphan advocates and/or adoptive families and giving the reality of how hard it can be. Because how often do the majority of us (myself included) want to be completely honest about the tough stuff in Orphan Care? The fact that sometimes, Orphan Care and Adoption can be like working in a field? One day you're breaking your back planting seeds and turning soil, wondering if what you're doing will amount to anything, and then there are days where you get to reap  and feast upon the delicious fruits of your labor? In the same ways with Orphan Care, there are some days where you feel totally alone and like you're accomplishing NOTHING,  and then there are the days where everyone supports you in what you're doing and you see change happening to the point you tremble with excitement.

Convincing other people who have never adopted before, been on a mission trip, or experienced Orphan care in the plethora of ways it can be seen is hard. Living a lifestyle of self-sacrifice is both counter to what most cultural influences would have us believe and counters what we ourselves want sometimes. Living in a way that requires endless amounts of emotional and physical energy, that never guarantees the nicest house, the nicest car, and a daily Starbucks run sounds pretty hard to most people.

But I am yet to see a sacrifice that does not render beauty at some point in the future.

As I have thought and dwelt on how best to summarize Orphan Care, I see it most simply understood by looking at a beautiful little silver necklace I got about a week ago:

 This is one of the Carrington Necklaces supporting the Burman Family's adoption of their two new sons, Kelten and Teagan. When I first heard the Burman's were doing a necklace fundraiser I was ecstatic! I instantly decided to spend a portion of the spending money I had to help this family bring their two boys home, and hey, getting a gorgeous, hand-made necklace wasn't a bad thing either! :) I chose a style that had the inscription "Pray~Advocate~Adopt" around the outline with a brownish-lavender pearl in the middle.

After I had sent in my order, though, it took a few days for the necklace to make it over halfway across the U.S of A. Waiting was tough- I wanted my Carrington Necklace (Which I now where proudly just about anywhere I go)! But on the day it arrived, I pulled out the beautiful little  piece of jewelery from its plastic pouch and it all seemed worth it. The money spent, the time waited, had all been for a better cause: so that two boys in Eastern Europe can come home to a loving family, and I can tell their story to all of the people around me who see the charm around my neck and ask about it.

That is the Truth of Orphan Care. It requires sacrifice after sacrifice you might not think is easy or fun at the time. It will take your time, your energy, and the reactions you get when you tell people about it will range from "WOW, that's AMAZING!" to "Good for you" to "Why on earth would you want to dedicate all your time and energy to that?" But in the end, the fruits of your labors, just like that silver necklace, is not only worth the time and energy you put in, but will teach you life lessons that will change you forever, and will tell a far more beautiful story than you could have ever imagined.

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Little Update

Hey Everybody!

Hope our weeks all started off smoothly ;) Anyway, just wanted to update you all that while my usual posts about Orphan Care, Adoptive Families, Special Needs, etc., are down the pipe a little later this week, I have updated the Our Orphans Love Page, the Our Graduates Page, and the Charities Page (something I've been meaning to do for over a year......) Along with posting posts, we will continue to update these pages over the next few weeks as well! Until then, Enjoy, and SPEAK FOR THE SILENT!

 (And as always, this wouldn't be a proper post without putting Russel and Ilya in it ;) )

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

An Army of Families (Prayers for Many)

If there was one thing taking months off of blogging did, it was give me a boatload of new families in the adoption process to advocate for when I finally made the time for it again. At this point, most of the families  I meet I either met through other adoptive families who are or have gone through the process, or it's families who have adopted before adopting again! :D So without further ado, let's start down the loooooooong list of families who have stepped out in faith to answer the Call of God found in James 1:27, Proverbs 31:8, and so many other verses in Scripture.

First up is the Ochs Family, who you'll recognize if you read my account of my trip to Texas. Marj and Ryan (Mr. and Mrs. Ochs) are a fantastic couple with two great little kiddos, Colvin and Georgia, and are in the process for Elvira from Reece's Rainbow. They are standing before a judge to petition for Ella to be theirs RIGHT NOW, so PRAY PRAY PRAY if you read this before Thursday Morning! Continue to keep them in your prayers over the next month too, as they wait out their 30-day waiting period and head back to Eastern Europe one last time to finally bring Ella home. The link to their blog is here. 

Next is the Burman Family, also a family from the RR community I got to meet whilst in Texas and who I now love to pieces! Few of you who have been in the Reece's Rainbow community over the last year will forget two HUGE stories that went viral amongst us- Carrington, a 10-pound 4 year old literally on death's door when the Burman's brought her home, and the other story being that of Pleven, one of Bulgaria's Orphanage facilities and the horrid conditions that were found there- 10-pound, 2-year-old sized 12-year-olds, etc. Having gotten to meet Shelly, Carrington, and the entire Burman Bunch, I can tell you they really are an amazing family and that Carrington is a living miracle, having gone from death's door to a happy, smiley, raspberry-blowing little lovey. It's no secret that the Burman's have brought home and saved 5 kids in all from Eastern Europe, along with having their two biological kids Madelaine and Ethan. Earlier this year, Shelly and Brian (Mr. Burman) felt called to bring home two boys from Pleven- Teagan (4 years old) and Kelten (12 years old). Shelly and Maddie have already embarked on their first trip (with the awesome Sousa-Brown Family), and are now anxiously awaiting a court date. In the mean time, they are holding an Etsy fundraiser with their friend Joy selling "Carrignton Necklaces" (necklaces originally sold to raise funds for Carrington) for the boys! You can get them in 4 different styles, and hey, a gorgeous necklace that reminds you of an amazing family with an amazing call, helping them ACHIEVE that call, is pretty awesome in my eyes ;) their blog link for Kelten and Teagan is HERE and the fundraiser link is HERE. Make sure in the message space to say what style you want and which family you want the proceeds to go to!

The next Family I want to re-introduce to you is the Rogers Family, who you may remember I mentioned in a few posts like this where I advocated for multiple families who have supported us and we support in return! At the time that  I was advocating for them, they were bringing home two sweet peas, Oscar and Christine, now Clare and Malachi. Needless to say, these two have blossomed.

Now, the Rogers are going back for two older children! Bernadette (a 16 year old with Down Syndrome who will be re-named Jessica) and Mason (9 yrs old, DS)!

Their blog is HERE, and, as luck would have it, they're doing a Carrington Necklace fundraiser too! So following the link above in the Burman's section, if you say you'd like the money to go to the Rogers family, it'll go to their Family Sponsorship Page! Or maybe buy one for you and one for a friend and give each family some love ;)

The next family is the Lindquist family adopting Ethan, who we've mentioned multiple times as they are huge supporters of ours and are reaching the end of their process! Please keep them in prayer as they do one last garage sale and get ready to travel to BRING ETHAN HOME!!!!! Their blog is HERE. You can find their FSP in our "Children we are Praying Home" page, as on top of their estimated garage sale profits they need 2400 extra $$$.

Next up is the Whiteaker Family, another long-time supporter and friends of ours! They are waiting for travel dates to finally pick up Mr. Danny/Colton, but are also awaiting the arrival of their first BABY!!!!! Looks like Colton's gonna be a big brother a little while after he gets home! :) Their blog is HERE.Please continue to pray for them as they prepare now for not one, but TWO little boys!!!!

Next is another family we've mentioned before- the Anderson family, adopting two little girls (outside Reece's Rainbow) from South America! Right now our compatriots over at Rainbow of Hope/4Girls4Christ are running a fundraiser to help this family with the funds they will need to hopefully  travel in the next few months!!! The link to the Anderson's blog is HERE and the 4G4C fundraiser is HERE. Just for clarity, the Faith Trust and Pixie Dust chip-in is the one for the Anderson's ;)

Next is the Schwenzer Family, who adopted Julia and Aaron from my sister Julia's orphanage shortly after we brought our Julia home! They are going back for Marina, also from the Orphanage that my Julia, their Julia, and Aaron are from! Please, as with all of these families, keep them in your prayers. I had the chance to meet them this January (along with reuniting with the Hinzes), and I so hope I can see them again once Marina's home! Their blog is HERE.

The next family that I'd like to introduce for the first time is the Breen Family, who I met up at Pathfinders/Cooperstown this summer at the RR Reunion! Missy and Bill adopted Vlado about a year ago, and are now traveling back to get another little boy! Feel free to follow their blog and keep them in your prayers!!!!!

From Left to Right- Andrea Roberts (!!!), Missy (Mrs. Breen) and Vlado, Bill (Mr. Breen)

We now have three families to round out this post: two new, one of whom has made multiple appearances on the blog .

First of the new three are the Jenks Family, adopting Sydney and Lucien from the same region as the Schwenzers! The Jenks family currently have 4 children and are so beyond excited to bring home these two adorable children! Right now, though, less than a month from possibly travelling, they are TEN GRAND short. Thus, time is short to help them raise a titanic sum of money. But God has done great things for those families in adoption processes before, He can do it again! If you go HERE and purchase one of these pendants (meant to be Mother's Day gifts) and mention the Jenks family in your order, 50% of the proceeds will go towards their adoption!

The other new family I'd like to introduce is the Shpak family, adopting Shannon from Reece's Rainbow! I can't even begin to articulate the strength this family has and the amount of callings they are following selflessly at once, so I'm merely going to state the fact that they're AMAZING, and then link the blog for their adoption of Shannon HERE (Mr. Shpak has just met her, TOTAL cutie)  and their domestic adoption process of a little boy named Ethan, a process which has asked for so much time, energy and faith, all of which the Shpak's have kept and are keeping. Keep this family safe, Father as they continue to walk with you, in their own words, "knee-deep in adoption!"

Finally, we are continuing to plug our beloved Spitz family in their fundraising for Lyla. The stakes have been upped, however, members of the family and friends have started taking challenges to raise money faster. The Basile family kicked it off with Mrs. Basile taking a pie to the face when they raised 10 grand, then the Spitzes took it into their own field when Dave (Mr. Spitz) got a stylish mohawk and makeup treatment ala the littles (quite the artistic piece if you ask me) and now- well, Conor and Nick (the big bros of the bunch) have agreed to dress in teenage girl apparel once the fund hits 12K. Good grief- talk about LOVE! Needless to say, all 3 Spitz men will be getting medals of honor from yours truly when I hopefully see them this summer. If not, well, there's always the postal service ;) Their fundraising continues to rise to titanic proportions at the blog linked HERE. They are also frantically raising the money needed to finish their dossier so they can send it out to USCIS and become one step closer to going to GET LYLA! You can see that over HERE.

Well, that just about wraps it for this group of families! We are, as always, praying for them hard and anxiously awaiting all of them to be home with their beautiful children! In the mean time, please continue to pray for our precious Russ and Ilya, and that THEY can be in one of these posts soon!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Strongest Love

I once said to a friend that no task worth achieving is within easy reach. I find that so many times God calls us to do things beyond our own strength, or what we perceive to be "out of our comfort zone" or "more than we can do" so we A) learn to rely on Him more and B) see nothing is out of reach so long as we rely on God. Orphan Advocacy/Adoption/Missionary Work is definitely in that category. You can't do it alone. You need help from not only God but also from those around you that share the call and the conviction. But on an even further level, I have come to admire some in the world of advocating for Orphans who love deeper, work harder, and never let their personal comfort zone set the boundaries for where that love goes.

And this post is a salute to some of the greatest examples of that that I've seen in my life.

I've had this post forming in my mind for quite some time, and wasn't sure quite when or where would be the best time to share such deep emotions and personal emotions. But through the timing and working of the Lord, many things have happened in the past few months that bring you the post you are reading now.

I admit one of the first things that repelled me from Orphan Advocacy when I first stumbled across it was the emotional roller coaster you must willingly ride day after day. How could you possibly love and work tirelessly for someone a thousand miles away, whose life was totally out of your hands? I could only find the answer through Faith, Hope, and Prayer. But even then, there was fear. What if something went wrong in that child's life? What if there really was nothing I can do for that person? What if the path's not always clear as to how I can help them? What then do I do?

While I still don't think I could answer that question completely, God has used so many people around me to show that we can and are meant to love till it hurts, just like He did. One of the earliest examples of that was Tori's love of her dear Carmencita in Peru. Only being able to see her a couple times a year, unable to find a family for her because she is not available for adoption, Tori did everything in her power and then some to give Carmencita the love and life she deserved. Despite all of the barriers put in front of her, all the things that easily could have discouraged someone else, she pushed aside her personal comfort zone and any obstacles in her path, all in the name of love. Love for one beautiful girl with Cerebral Palsey in Peru.

I saw it again in the way the Hinz family grieved but continued to love Nikita, the little boy they originally committed to along with Mr. Dusty (they committed to Sonya later). Despite never meeting him in person, never getting the opportunity to hold his little hand or snuggle him, he is their son. They celebrate his birthday, call him their own, even though he never "officially" got to be part of their family, He is in their hearts. A perfect example of embracing the toughest circumstances adoption can throw at you and make it something beautiful beyond what my words or anyone else's can do justice.

All through this time, however, there was another example of this, one whose story is nothing short of its own little fairy tale.

The Spitz Family, adoptive family of Michael (now Gavin) and Mariya (now Isabelle/Bellie) from Reece's Rainbow, originally began on a path to a different little girl: Lyla/Lilianna, blessed with Down Syndrome. Remember her?

   It was their adoption of Lyla that originally brought my family and theirs into contact. We cheered for Lyla as they cheered for our Jenny/Julia. But I'll never forget the day I found out things had gone wrong. So, SO wrong. Lyla was on death's door in the hospital, unadoptable until further notice, if she stayed alive. It was then that they adopted their sweet Belle, who I got to meet this summer, pictured below with awesome big sister Taylor:

Shortly before our little gathering in Cooperstown NY, though, they had decided God was calling them to adopt again. At that time, there was NO word on Lyla. No idea where she was. Regardless, this amazing family continued to love her as their own, forever grateful to the little girl across the sea that had indirectly brought them to their soon-to-be two little Ukrainian cutie-pies.

But then, there was another day I'll never forget: the day Lyla came back. On Reece's Rainbow. Out of nowhere. At that point, though, they were committed to mr. Gavin, and could not bear either the thought of leaving Gavin or Lyla. Thus they continued to love her and pray for a family to step forward.

Fast-forward a few months. Summer and Dave go to meet Gavin (who, by the way, is in the same Orphanage as Lyla). Needless to say, Gavin's a cute, adventurous little guy they love with all of their hearts. But then Summer did something on the second trip that would have left me in a puddle, no, a LAKE, on the floor: she asked to MEET Lyla. Meet Lyla. At that point all she'd be able to do is snuggle her and say there was a family on the way for her (YAY!), nothing else. Regardless of her own emotions, Summer met Lyla. and snapped a beautiful, timeless portrait of a beautiful little girl:

Fast forward another couple months: I was in Texas one morning checking messages on my phone to see if there was anything urgent, as I wasn't on Facebook, my e-mail or blogger all that much. There was an e-mail alert regarding a message from my mom. Reading down a few lines, all I could read was "Caleb, I have some sad news: Lyla lost-." What came after the "lost" didn't fit into the text message, but it didn't need to. I knew the next two words were "her family." That day riding around in the car I thought about the situation at hand. Writing long, passionate blog posts was out of the question until I left Texas as I barely had any time for Internet at all, so that left prayer. I prayed for the Spitzes as they grieved the loss of this family and for the little girl in Eastern Europe who had no idea of all the prayers and tears being poured out for her. I prayed that somehow this would all work out. By the time I was in the airport leaving for Texas, my mom had called us to say that through some God-given miracles, Lyla was going to become a Spitz.

The Spitzes announced their happy news publicly about a week later, to a TON of supportive people willing to help any way they could. As things stand now, people are fundraising and advocating this family like all get-out. To see all of this happening really is a reminder that, when a beautiful cause comes along, good people doing good deeds do still exist that can and will help. That good still abides in this world.

More than that, it is a reminder for me of that Strongest Love. A love that endured heartbreak and joy time and time again, that prayed endlessly, that crossed oceans and personal boundaries and any obstacle in between because of one little girl. One little girl who is WORTH IT.

Right now, one of those fundraising groups I mentioned before is doing a 3rd Genreation iPad giveaway to help the Spitzes raise funds for sweetest Lyla. So get on over there and donate, share, support any way you can! The link is right HERE. Help these last two days of fundraisng (today also happens to be Summer's Birthday!) be the BEST day of them all!

So, to one of the little babes we prayed for for months, and to one of the families that's prayed for US and our ministry since it's genesis, here's to you and your amazingly willing hearts. May God Bless you on this amazing journey!