Milestones and Anniversaries

As with most families, it’s been a big week for us. Besides the usual Easter activities and traveling to visit family, we have had a few other milestones. Since we have been so busy, I am cramming it all into this blog entry. ☺

Last Monday, Mar. 29, was our 14th wedding anniversary. We celebrated by going out for dinner at Jack & Jo’s in Mason City. We cannot recommend it enough! It is well worth the short 20-minute drive from Lincoln. John Means, the owner and Donald Trump of Mason City, showed us around his newest project—a building space across from the restaurant in which a chiropractor’s office and art studio will be located.

We also celebrated the long anticipated day of mailing off our “dossier” (9 months worth of paperwork, background checks, notarizations, autobiographies, medical forms, and a chunk of money!) to America World Adoption Association. They will double check it all, bring it to the US Embassy in DC to be certified, and then mail it off to Ethiopia! After it gets there, we will be put on a waiting list for a sibling group (boy 3-6 years and girl 0-18 months) and will wait on God’s timing to bring us together with them. We are officially in the 2nd trimester our paper pregnancy! We will be doing some fund raising and a lot of reading during this stage, but it will be a little more relaxing than the other 2 trimesters.

The Sunday before we mailed the dossier, we brought those important papers to church. Our elders prayed for us and for our paperwork, for the mother of these children, and for God to bring them to us to raise in His perfect timing. We are so thankful to be able to share this with our congregation so that they can be on this journey with us. They will have a big part in helping us to raise them in the Lord, and we can’t wait to share with our children how may people have been praying for THEM!  In fact, when we got home yesterday, we had a card in the mail from a home care group that has been praying for us, many of whom we don’t even know personally!  I love the community of God!

That Sunday was also memorable to me because it was Palm Sunday. It reminded me of the Easter Sunday just before our firstborn Erin was born. We had a very scary previous week in the hospital during my 29th week of pregnancy, being told Erin was going to be born and all the dangers that come with premature births. The doctors then ended up sending me home, very surprised that I had gotten better, thinking they may have even misdiagnosed my condition. They told me I could go home on bed rest and that I could attend church on the following Easter Sunday. I will never forget the overwhelming emotions I had as that service began with a rousing, organ-led “Christ the Lord Has Risen Today!” I knew I had come home from the hospital because of the prayers of the saints and I knew, to my very core, that Christ was indeed ALIVE! Incidentally, the doctors had not misdiagnosed me, and Erin was born by emergency c-section (along with a surprise emergency liver surgery for me) the following Sunday at 32 weeks. I know that because of the prayers of my brothers and sisters in several states, Erin was given a couple extra weeks for her lungs to develop, and He sustained and saved both of us from other possible devastating complications.

The song gift that God gave me this monumental Palm Sunday 2010 was “Hosanna” by Brook Frasier. I have always loved her spirit for the poor and lonely. The line in the song that has always grabbed hold of me is “Break my heart for what breaks yours.” I know it breaks God’s heart for there to be hurting and lonely people in this world, especially the vulnerable orphans and the oppressed, and I know it is our job as Christians to do whatever part God has called us to care for them in His Name. Lord, “give me your eyes” and “break my heart for what breaks yours.”

So 14 years ago I married my best friend, 10 years ago we had our first child, and this week we sent off the paperwork for our little Ethiopian blessings. This is a good month for anniversaries.

So I went to this women’s conference…

I–Michael–attended my first women’s conference this past weekend, the Hearts at Home annual conference in Normal, IL.  As detailed on their web site, Hearts at Home

…believes that motherhood is a valid profession. From beginning to end, our events professionalize the career of motherhood. We want to make it worth your time, because for most moms, spending a full day away from home isn’t always easy.  Our speakers, workshops, and exhibitors are all selected for their high quality and pertinent information.

I didn’t attend as a participant but rather as a photographer.  Suzanne has been attending for the last several years and, by coincidence or providence, we happened to cross paths with Mark and Jill Savage at a marriage retreat last fall.  Jill is the CEO of Hearts at Home.  Over the past several weeks, we’ve been conversing with Jill and some other staff members at Hearts about assisting in various ways with the event.  One thing led to another and Suzanne found herself on stage speaking to 4,500 women on Friday (I’ll let Suz tell her side of the story) and I was photographing the event on Saturday.  You’ll find a brief post and some photos over at my photography site.

What was remarkable to me about the event was a) how well organized it was and b) how moving it proved to be.  I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised at the organization of the day; after all, they’ve been doing this for well over a decade.  But it’s an event that’s run almost entirely with volunteers and what they do is truly impressive.  I’ve attended some other conferences (that, by the way, cost significantly more than the registration fee for this event) that did not run nearly as smoothly as the Hearts at Home conference.  Kudos to Jill and her staff and volunteers.

I was also unprepared for the emotional impact the event would have on me.  I alluded to this on my photography site.  As I was making photographs during the worship segments led by Christy Nockels, I wanted to join in with the singing.  As I listened to the speakers made photographs during the workshops, I wanted to take notes.  Later in the day, I told Jeanie Fields, the marketing director for Hearts, that I couldn’t imagine a husband not wanting his wife to attend this event.  It’s that good.

We’re grateful for the good work God is doing through Hearts at Home and would encourage all wives and moms to attend this terrific event.  To get a look at what took place on Saturday, here’s a brief slideshow for you (if it doesn’t show up, just refresh the page).

Save the Date!

We are officially hosting our Mother/Son fundraiser event on Mar. 20 at Lincoln Christian Church, 6:00. It will include dinner and various games, including playing Wii with your son!! More details to come…..

BTW, we finally got our USCIS appointment to get our fingerprints scanned in St. Louis in March! Immigration needs these so they can send us an I-171 document–the last thing we need for our dossier (international papers) to send to Ethiopia! Baby steps…. 🙂

Sent papers to USCIS, bittersweet

Don’t get me wrong, I’m SO excited that we have taken the next step! I wanted to shout it to the lady at the post office desk and wondered why she didn’t ask me about the huge smile I had on my face when I mailed our papers to immigration!

But today is a sad day–the day after the huge earthquake in Haiti, the country that could least afford the devastation and loss that occurred last night. Michael and I have both been to Haiti twice, once before we met and once soon after we were married, and it is near to our hearts. Haiti makes Ethiopia’s economy look middle class. They barely have hospitals and medical personnel, barely even roads and reliable transportation, and now there is no way for the help to even get to the hurting. Please pray. I’m sure you are. Please give. Find an agency you trust and give so that they can help in whatever way possible. We are all in this together and we need to help each other out.

Father/Daughter Dance Success!

Maura Michael Erin

A great time was had by all at the Father/Daughter Dance last weekend!  The decorations were lovely, the food was yummy, the music was fun, the girls were gorgeous, and the fathers were reminded how special that father/daughter bond is.

It was a dreamy night for the girls, and I was so proud of all the dads on the dance floor.  They were even out there attempting the Macarena and the Hoedown Throwdown!  You won’t see that every day!  I think it was an evening that will not soon be forgotten.  In fact, we have been asked to make it a yearly occasion, so watch for it, along with a Mother/Son event in February.

The event raised money for three families’ adoptions, but it also helped to raise awareness of everyone’s role in caring for the “fatherless.”  We are so thankful to all who attended and those who are praying and supporting us in other ways.  We LOVE that you are on this journey with us!

Father/Daughter Dance flyers out today

Our fundraiser flyers are going out to all K-8 girls in Lincoln this week!  We are excited that all the schools said yes!  And we are excited to offer the Father/Daughter Dance in Mt. Pulaski on Nov. 14!  We will have dancing, professional photos, a “Cinderella Song” performance, short swing dance lessons, refreshments, and a lot of fun!  Hope you can join us!  (See the flyer below.)

Father Daughter Dance 2009