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3 Months


Today marks 3 months of being on the “official” waitlist. We don’t know our “official” number on the list, but“unofficially” we’re 17th in line for a boy.

Some months our agency processes many referrals (in October, there were 8 infant boys referred to families) and other months are much more quiet (the past two months, barely any).

We would really appreciate your prayers, and here are some specific ways that you can join us in prayer:

For Ethiopia:

  • Pray for the many, many orphans in Ethiopia; pray that they will be united to loving families
  • Pray that God would raise up more people to adopt from this beautiful country
  • Pray for the protection of the children; pray that they would have someone to love and care for them while they wait for their "forever families"
For Our Agency:

  • There are many children stuck in the system right now; pray that our agency would be able to obtain the necessary paperwork so that these children can be referred to the waiting families
  • Pray that the court process would go smoothly for families; pray that the adoptions would be finalized and the children would be able to go home to their families
  • Pray for referrals- more children going to more families!
  • Pray that America World would continue to find favor with the Ethiopian government and that God would bless their efforts in Ethiopia
For Us:

  • Pray that the Lord would bless and multiply our ministry to orphans
  • Pray that Christ’s love for the fatherless would be dwelling within us
  • Pray that we would honor God by trusting and resting in him during this time of waiting
  • Pray that God himself would be our highest joy and satisfaction
  • Pray that we would receive our referral soon!


The Incarnation

I found this book on our shelf tonight and decided to start reading it. It's called Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, published by Crossway. There are several short sections by various authors that can be read each day to prepare for Christmas. I haven't read very much of it, but based on what I have read, I'd definitely recommend it.  

The following quote is from today's reading by J.I. Packer; it's a little long, but really good. 
How are we to think of the incarnation: The New Testament does not encourage us to puzzle our heads over the physical and psychological problems that it raises, but to worship God for the love that was shown in it. For it was a great act of condescension and self-humbling. "He, Who had always been God by nature," writes Paul, "did not cling to His prerogatives as God's equal, but stripped Himself of all privilege by consenting to be a slave by nature and being born as mortal man. And, having become man, He humbled Himself by living a life of utter obedience, even to the extent of dying, and the death he died was the death of a common criminal" (Phil. 2:6, PHILLIPS). And all this was for our salvation. 
The key text in the New Testament for interpreting the incarnation is not, therefore, the bare statement in John 1:14, "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us," but rather the more comprehensive statement of 2 Corinthians 8:9, "you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich." Here is stated, not the fact of the incarnation only, but also its meaning; the taking of manhood by the Son is set before us in a way that shows us how we should set it before ourselves and ever view it- not simply as a marvel of nature, but rather as a wonder of grace. 
For the Son of God to empty himself and become poor meant a laying aside of glory; a voluntary restraint of power; an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill-treatment, malice, and misunderstanding; finally, a death that involved such agony- spiritual, even more than physical- that his mind nearly broke under the prospect of it. It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely men, who "through his poverty, might become rich." This Christmas message is that there is hope for a ruined humanity- hope for pardon, hope of peace with God, hope of glory- because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a stable so that thirty years later he might hang on a cross. It is the most wonderful message that the world has ever heard, or will hear. 
We talk glibly of the "Christmas spirit," rarely meaning more by this than sentimental jollity on a family basis. But what we have said makes it clear that the phrase should in fact carry a tremendous weight of meaning. It ought to mean the reproducing in human lives of the temper of him who for our sakes became poor at the first Christmas. And the Christmas spirit itself ought to be the mark of every Christian all the year round. 


Christmas Tree

Last Saturday was the perfect day to get our tree. We've been doing the same thing for the past several years, and now it's become a tradition that we both look forward to each year. Here's a sneak peek:

First, we head over to Cosley Zoo, which is kind of like a rescue center for local wildlife.

Normally, we go and get a cup of hot chocolate when we first get there, but in the past years they've raised their prices (first it was free, then $.50, then $.75). Now, I know $.75 isn't a lot, but come on, it used to be free! We weren't willing to go along with this, so we went without the hot chocolate this year.

After we get our hot chocolate (we'll have to think of something to replace this tradition in the coming years), we go and look at the animals (mainly the owls and hawks).

Then, we walk around and try to find the perfect tree in our price range... not an easy thing to do! After that, we strap it to the truck and bring it home.

Once we get home, we set up the tree, have a nice dinner, then spend time decorating the tree together while listening to Christmas music in the background. After the tree is decorated, we make cookies and homemade frosting.

I don't know what it is about traditions, but I love having them! And, I look forward to starting even more once we have our little ones home with us!


Last Chance T-Shirts

We'd like to close out our t-shirt fundraiser, so if you'd like to order an adoption t-shirt, please order in the next week. Click on the "T-Shirt Fundraiser" link above to place your order.   


Someone Made My Day...

There was no name on the package, so I can't even thank the sweet person who blessed my day and my entire Christmas season by leaving this special basket at my front door yesterday. I really can't describe how thankful I am or how meaningful this was to me. And since I can't thank the person or people involved in this, I'll just have to thank the Lord and pray that he gives this person an added blessing in their giving.

It's an advent basket with gifts to open each day from now until Christmas. I can't even imagine what's inside, and I can't wait to find out... and I think Don's just as excited about it as I am!

The first gift from today was an advent calendar. Isn't it beautiful? I can't wait to hang it in the house and use it to count down the days! It's going to be special to us this year, but I'm sure it's going to be even more fun to use with our children some day!

Each day has a verse tucked inside of it to help us rejoice in the birth of Christ this season. I'm so thankful for this gift and pray that God truly does use it to help us rejoice in Him this Christmas! 


Christmas Decor

I love decorating for Christmas... it's so fun every year to get out the Christmas boxes and pull out all of the decorations that I forget I even have! Last year, I put together this little project to display our Christmas cards. This picture is from last year since we haven't started receiving Christmas cards yet this year. You may recognize your family's picture if you look closely! Basically, I took some plywood and corkboard (wrapped in burlap) and attached it to the back of an old window frame from my dad's barn in Michigan.

Here I screwed some little knobs into the wall and then hung some twine to display more Christmas cards. In the spring and summer, I hang vintage postcards of birds to make it more seasonal. I'm hoping one day to hang kids' art projects here!

 And, here's our mantel this year. Cute, huh?

We're looking forward to getting our Christmas tree soon, but we have to wait until we get a little snow, since that's the tradition!


Perseverance in Prayer

And I needed this too...

From Sam Storms:

I want to briefly address the reasons why a good God who can help often seems not to, or at least not to in accordance with our schedules. There are surely reasons other than these, but here are a few suggestions that I hope will encourage you to “continue steadfastly in prayer” (Col. 4:2a).
First, we are a presumptuous people! We just assume that God ought always to do what we ask, when we ask, precisely in the way we ask. By delaying his response, God awakens us to the gracious character of all answered prayer. In other words, that God says or does anything at all in response to our petitions is sheer, undiluted grace. Resolute continuation in prayer, watchful perseverance, is often the best way for us to learn this invaluable lesson.
Second, steadfast endurance in coming again and again to the throne of grace is God’s way of cultivating in us a sense of absolute and utter dependence upon him. We are by nature self-reliant, self-sufficient folk. If God were instantly and at all times to answer our every prayer we would gradually lose our sense of urgency. Truth be told, most of us would soon lose sight of the fact that it is God alone who is the source of all good. By suspending his response, God is saying to each of us: “Just how desperate are you? How conscious are you that I am your only source, your sole and all-sufficient supply?”
Third, persistent praying puts us in that frame of mind and spirit in which we may properly receive what it is that God desires to give. In other words, it isn’t so much that God is reluctant to give, but that we lack preparation to receive. Try to envision what a mess your life would have been had your parents granted you everything you asked for as a child! God often delays his answers because, quite simply, we are in no shape to receive them. Few of us are willing to admit that, but deep down we know it’s true.
Fourth, steadfast, watchful continuation in prayer helps us differentiate between impetuous, ill-conceived, selfish desires, and sincere, deep-seated, Christ-exalting ones. Persistence in prayer thus enables us to weed out improper petitions.
Fifth, endurance at the throne of grace purifies the content of our petitions. By repeating our prayers we are forced to think and re-think what we are saying. We are compelled to evaluate our motivation and aim for asking God for something in particular. It’s a bit like how I read, re-read, and read yet again each of these meditations before I send them out. It helps me identify mistakes, locate typographical errors, and re-phrase something that otherwise might be false or misleading. I can almost envision God saying, in response to my first articulation of a prayer: “Sam, are you sure you want me to answer that one? Think about it. Contemplate the long-term consequences of a Yes. Then come back and ask me again in different terms, with a purified purpose.”
Sixth, perseverance cultivates patience. By withholding an immediate response, we learn how to “wait” on God. Waiting on the Lord is far from a passive posture. It’s an active, expectant, persistent pressing in to the heart and purposes of a loving God. How might we ever learn to do this were it not for steadfastness in prayer?
Seventh, oftentimes God wants to give, but not now. The answer will come in better circumstances, at a more opportune moment. By delaying his response a greater and better and more God-glorifying end is secured than by an immediate answer.
Finally, even if none of the reasons given above makes sense to you, persevere anyway! God isn’t asking you to understand: he’s asking you to be faithful


I needed this today...

Some days are harder than others. Most days, I'm okay with the waiting... most days I'm content, and I trust God's timing and provision.

Today, the waiting felt really hard.

I sent an email to Don saying something along the lines of, "I'm really discouraged today"- there was more to it than that, but I'll spare you the drama!

He sent me this email back:

Don't be discouraged. We're on the twins wait list too, so we might get a referral sooner than we think.
This is a good reminder to have our hope and delight in God, and not in having children. God is the fountain of living waters, and we need to learn to be satisfied in him, and all that he is. And we need to be satisfied in his Son. If we do this, rivers of living waters will flow out of us. This potential delay is a reminder not to put our hope for satisfaction in children.
And God is in complete control. He will do what is good for us. If we have to wait a bit longer than expected, it is from God out of love, for our good. We can rest in him. Plus we get a few more months to enjoy just the two of us!
Don't be discouraged. We have no idea how long or short the wait will be, we just need to rest in God.
I'm thankful for him and thankful for the encouragement because today I really needed it.


Adoption, adoption, and caring for orphans

A great post from Dan Cruver (Together for Adoption):

It has been my experience that many people do not really begin thinking about Adoption theologically until they themselves are involved in adopting (or at least considering adopting) a child. Very often, the consideration to adopt a child precedes the consideration of the truth that God has graciously adopted us to be His children. We usually think adoption before we think Adoption.
So is this a problem? Of course not. It’s natural and right to long for a child, and many people choose adoption for the same reason that couples bear children: in order to be parents. But for all those who are adopting – and have adopted – Together for Adoption desires to enrich your understanding of this act of love by showing how it relates to the theological concept of adoption.
Why, you ask? First, because we are convinced that the more we think about God’s gracious work of adopting us into His family, the more we will see and appreciate His glory, grace, beauty, love, etc. Adoption is first about the glorious God of the universe coming to profoundly needy people in the person of His Son to give us adoption as sons (Galatians 4:5; Ephesians 1:5). When we grow in our understanding of who this God of grace is and what He has done to adopt us through Jesus Christ, we will find our love for and pursuit of Him steadily increasing. So, ultimately, we want to see people grow in their enjoyment of God Himself.

Second, if Christians better understand God’s work of adoption, they will find themselves joyfully compelled to extend this same kind of compassion to orphans, both here and abroad. Christians who love the wonderful doctrine of adoption will become increasingly passionate about “visiting orphans in their affliction” (James 1:27), whether through caring for orphans directly or indirectly, adopting a child, or assisting others in the adoption process. A proper theological grounding of horizontal adoption within vertical adoption has profound implications for our understanding of horizontal adoption and for our practice of orphan care (more on this in another post).


Two Months Down...

Picture of Number Two - Free Pictures - FreeFoto.com

Today marks two months of being on the "official" waitlist... though, truthfully it feels like we've been waiting since the day we sent in our first application, the weekend of Thanksgiving last year.

And truthfully, it feels like we've been waiting much longer since it has been many years that we have been praying and waiting on the Lord for children. But, even in the midst of the waiting, we continue to trust in God's sovereign plan and perfect timing. We believe that He is orchestrating every detail needed to bring us and our child or children together, and we won't be a minute late (or a minute early, though that sounds a little more tempting!).

I mentioned to Don that I wanted to do something special to celebrate our "two-month date", and this is the email he sent me while at work today.

"Special date tonight. Be at my office at 4:30. I already called the Ethiopian restaurant, and they said we don't need reservations."

Wow- I can't think of a better way to celebrate!


No News

The busyness of life really has a way of cutting into my blogging time... so here's a quick summary of what's going on now.
  • There hasn't been any news on the adoption front, but we didn't expect any this soon, so we're still feeling okay (not that we aren't still praying earnestly for an early/quick referral!). Each day we get a little closer, and that's exciting!
  • I'm finishing up the last grad class that I need to get my ELL endorsement... only two weeks left!
  • Don and I are both busy with our jobs, but thankful to have them! And thankful that we both have careers that we really enjoy!
  • I finally finished a project I had wanted to work on for the past year- a picture wall gallery in our living room. I did it while Don was in China.
Here are some before and after pictures... please excuse the fact that there aren't real pictures in most of the frames... it took a year to get the frames up and it will probably take another six months to get the pictures in!

Plain and boring

Plain and boring from this angle, too

Now, a cool focal point

And a place to share special memories...


Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday. Hopefully by this time next year, there will be one less orphan in the world...

Orphan Sunday 2009 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.


Greetings from China

Don spent the last week and a half in China for work... here are some shots from his trip.

This is on a ferry in Hong Kong.

A park in Hong Kong

Eating chicken feet... yes, he really ate them.

Duck skin

Fish... apparently, the cheeks are considered the best part.


A seven story mall in mainland China. Don was chased down the hall by a woman selling purses. She dropped her price from 1200 to 150 (Chinese money).

A man selling puppies for seven dollars. Don thought they were pets but later found out that this guy may have been selling them for dinner.

The Chinese countryside


The highest point in Hong Kong


A temple in Hong Kong

A harbor in Hong Kong


He had a good time but was glad to be home, and I was thankful to have him home!


First Outfits

Remember this really sweet little outfit/pajama set that I couldn't help but buy for our little guy?

Well, here is the first thing that Don bought for our future child. 

Interesting, huh? 


Coffee for a Cause

Check out America World's online partnership with Ground to Cup Coffee.

Ground to Cup Coffee gives people the ability to purchase high quality coffee with 40% of the total cost going toward America World's Orphan's Ticket Home campaign - you get to buy (and drink) great coffee and support a great cause all at once! Most of you buy coffee, right? Why not buy your coffee here and help care for the needy and “fatherless” around the world?  Want to check out their online coffee store?


It's that time of year again...

Hello, Fall. Mostly, I love you... but you do bring some unwelcome guests.

And wait until this guys starts to drop his leaves; he hasn't even started to change colors yet.

But he has been dropping a lot of acorns this year... is this on a cycle or something? The acorns are out of control! And they are attracting even more unwelcome guests.

You, Sir, are the reason I'm afraid to walk out of our house. I do everything to scare you away (slam doors, stomp feet, sound car alarms, etc.) but you still won't move. 

And then you look at me with those beady, hungry eyes...

And I run completely out of the way, weaving through the front landscaping and around to the other side of the car so that you can't get me... because I know that's what you want to do.  


Current Reading List

Here's what's on my night stand now... I'm not reading them all at once, but I do hope to work through each of them in the next couple of months.

Have you read any good parenting books? Marriage books? What books have impacted or helped you the most? I love recommendations!


Matching Grant

We recently found out that we were awarded a matching grant through our church's adoption ministry (in partnership with Abba Fund). We are so thankful for this provision as it will greatly help us pay the remaining $15,000 or so that we still owe on our adoption. I was talking with someone recently who said, "We often see in adoption that God funds what he favors"- we have seen this first hand! We are overwhelmed and thankful.

Many of you have supported us with your t-shirt purchases. It's been so fun to see people wearing them and to know that there are so many of you that are supporting us, praying for us, and are genuinely excited for us. I can't even express how much this means... seriously, when I think about it, I can't help but cry. I can envision telling our children about this someday and sharing the outpouring of love and support that we received to help bring them home! We are humbled by your love and kindness to us.

Right now we are in the process of sending out support letters for the matching grant. If we raise $5,000, we will receive $5,000 in the form of a grant. The donations are tax-deductible and are sent to Abba Fund on our behalf. Abba Fund then sends the money to our adoption agency to be used as we have expenses. 

I hesitate sharing this information on our blog because I don't want to coerce anyone and I wouldn't want anyone to feel like they had to give, but I also know that many of you have a heart for orphans and for helping us build our family, and you may genuinely want to give. If you fall into this last category, you can send me an email (jones.saraj@gmail.com) with your address and I will send you a support letter. The letter includes instructions on how to give to us via Abba Fund. 

Whether you give or pray or wear a t-shirt, we are thankful. Adoption can be a lonely journey, but I can't imagine having a better support system than we've had!


One Month Down

Officially on the wait list for one month... praying for an early referral!


Salmon 2010

Don describes fishing as "exhilarating"- that's not exactly the word I would use. In fact, that's probably the last word that would come to my mind. 

There's obviously something that I don't understand or appreciate, but I love seeing his excitement about it, and I'm glad he has a brother that enjoys it with him.  

This past weekend, they went salmon fishing in Michigan and had a great time. They hooked into 30+ fish and landed a bunch of them. 

Here are some shots of their trip:

These fish look a little prehistoric, don't they? I don't think I'd even dare put my big toe in this water knowing these guys were swimming around.  

Joe reeling in a salmon...

Nice one! (I mean that strictly in the sense that it's a big fish... I'd never want to catch or touch something that looks like this- if I had this fish on my line, I'd drop the pole and run in the opposite direction.) 

I'm glad they had fun, and I'm glad that they came home safe. (And, I'm glad that fishing season is almost over!)


An Ideal Woman

John Piper, on Ruth:

"Here we have a picture of God's ideal woman...Faith in God that sees beyond present bitter setbacks. Freedom from the securities and comforts of the world. Courage to venture into the unknown and the strange. Radical commitment in the relationships appointed by God....This is the woman of Proverbs 31:25 who looks into the future with confidence in God and laughs at the coming troubles: "Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come." Ruth is one of "the holy women who hoped in God...[and did] not fear anything that is frightening" (1 Peter 3:5-6). It is a beautiful thing to watch a woman like this serve Christ with courage….Whatever else the great women of faith doubted, they never doubted that God governed every part of their lives and that nothing could stay his hand...Nothing--from toothpicks to tyrants--is ultimately self-determining. Everything serves (willingly or not) the "purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will" (Eph. 1:11). God is the all-encompassing, all-pervading, all-governing reality." --John Piper, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, p. 35, 44 



We've been in the midst of a "Birth-week Celebration"... In honor of Don's 30th birthday, I tried to think of something special for him each day of the past week (a small gift, a favorite dinner, chocolate milk (since he loves it so much), you get the idea...). Every day was a surprise, so he always had something to look forward to- it wasn't expensive and it didn't take that much time or effort, but (hopefully) it communicated my love and appreciation for him. In fact, it was so much fun that I plan on implementing this type of celebration when we have our children... we'll see. 

In the midst of this though I was reminded that the greatest gift I can give to Don as his wife is to nurture my own relationship with God. This "gift" will have much longer lasting effects and will bless him infinitely more than warm cinnamon rolls on a Sunday morning (though I know he appreciated those, too!). 

When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now. Insofar as I learn to love my earthly dearest at the expense of God and instead of God, I shall be moving towards the state in which I shall not love my earthly dearest at all. When first things are put first, second things are not suppressed but increased. 
~ C. S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis (8 November, 1952)


Easy Apple Recipes

I just have to say up front that recipes that exceed six ingredients make me nervous. Knowing this about myself, I should probably cancel one of my many food magazine subscriptions... I love to look at the pictures and dream of someday making wonderful food. Then, I go in the freezer and pull out a pizza.

Anyway, after picking all of those apples a couple of weeks ago, I was determined to try at least a couple of new recipes. These recipes are so easy, I'm almost embarrassed to post anything about them... plus, I'm also wondering if these are the completely obvious recipes that everyone already knows and already makes. I hope that you do know them... and I hope that you do make them...

Caramel apples... poked with forks. Can you believe the grocery store didn't have any of those sticks that you are supposed to use? We had to improvise.

Apple sauce... who knew that homemade was so easy and delicious?

Fruit dip (especially good with apples). Thank you, Christina, for introducing me to this great recipe! I know this technically isn't an "apple" recipe, but it tastes great with apples, and it makes me want to eat apples. 

For the fruit dip, you simply beat together a package of cream cheese, 1 cup of brown sugar, and a tablespoon of vanilla until it's very smooth. It's delicious... you'll want a good supply of apples on hand just so you can keep eating this dip. 


30 Years Ago

30 years ago today, this little guy was born. 

 Isn't he sweet?

On his way to go catch some frogs... some things never change. He still loves to be outside on little (and big) adventures!

Do these look familiar?

I'm thankful that 30 years ago today, this little guy was born because now he's my husband and my very best friend. I can't imagine life without him.