Monday, December 17, 2012

A Light in the Darkness

I read the news on my phone, sitting at a small cafe, enjoying a rare moment alone with a plan to do some Christmas Shopping.  Over 20 dead, after a shooter walked into an elementary school, most of them children between the ages of 5 and 10.  My soup suddenly didn't taste good, and I lost my desire to shop.  I quickly paid my bill and headed for my car.  I sat there as the tears began to fall, unable to form a prayer with any other words but "Oh, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus." I made my way home, the child in me taking a moment to call my mom and find security in her voice.  All I wanted to do was go pick up my boys and hug them to me tightly, and never let go.  I turned the TV on and listened as other details began to be released.  And then the images started coming.  Images of the parents.  My tears came unchecked now.  "Oh Jesus."  So Senseless.  No answer would ever come to any of them that would answer the question, "Why?" 

That evening as the news continued to broadcast my husband turned it off.  He just looked at me and I knew it was enough.  There was nothing else they could say that would change anything, those babies and teachers were gone, and families left with an unimaginable grief.  We hugged our boys so tightly that night and talked about what they'd seen and heard.  After they were asleep I gave them extra kisses and prayed a simple pray I often say when saying good night.  "God be with them." 

We went through the motions of our weekend.  I let the laundry go, I let the house go, I let the Christmas Shopping go and spent much of the day making a gingerbread train with my boys.  I don't ever want to take any moments for granted.  I want to enjoy every smile and laugh, I want to remember the feel of kisses and hugs. 

On the way to school  Monday morning my oldest asked, "Mom is it okay for us to go to school?"  I took a deep breath and prayed for wisdom.  I talked about how there was a shooting in a movie theater recently and asked, "does that mean we should never go to a movie?."  I also talked about the recent shooting at a shopping mall, "does that mean we shouldn't go shopping?"  If we never go anywhere because we are afraid, how will we tell others about Jesus?  I turned to scripture, because really where else is there to turn.  I told them both, "God has not given us a spirit of fear."  We live in a world where good and evil collide and sometimes horrible unfair things happen.  But one thing we can be sure of is no matter where we are:  school, a movie theater, a mall, or at home,  "God will never leave or forsake us."  Even if that evil touches or takes my life, "I will fear no evil for He is with me".  I was thankful God inspired me with those words, it helped me as much as it helped them. 

I am sure someday my daughter will want to know, "Why?"  Why didn't her birth parents keep her?  A question I am already trying to prepare for, and will answer as honestly as I can with what knowledge I have. All I know is this.  We do not live in perfect world.  Evil exists. War exists.  Famine exists.  Starvation exists.  Cruelty exists.  In a perfect world there would be no shootings of innocent children, in a perfect world there would be no orphans, in a perfect world there would be no evil. 

But this world is NOT my home.  And until that day, that wonderful day, we have to do the best we can to show the world about the good that exists, about a very real JESUS who instructed us to Go and preach the gospel, Go and give shelter to the homeless, Go and be a father to the fatherless, Go and give food to the hungery, Go and be a light in the darkness.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

We are Number........Six

    Last year at this time we were waiting for our Dossier to receive all the necessary seals and stamps needed to make it official and approved to send off to Thailand.  We weren't even on "The List" yet, so even though I was disappointed to learn we only moved up to #6 this quarter, I am thankful we have made it this far on this ever lengthening journey.  We started this journey unsure of where it would take us, or how we would get there and although we haven't completed it yet, we have come this far and I know God will help us the rest of the way.  I knew, as well as one can in thought, that this process would change us as a family, I guess I never expected some of the ways it is changing me already. 
     Patience.  Many of you know I have a bit of a control issue.  I thrive on schedules and lists.  I perform things methodically and always follow the recipe. In adoption, after a couple pieces of paperwork (I laugh at my own joke), well there is nothing one can do.  And I do mean NOTHING.  You just wait...and wait...and wait...and wait.  For our process we have a referral month once a quarter, when Thailand sends referrals to our agency to be matched with families on the waiting list.  We have now been through 4 of these months, of looking at the phone ever so often not really expecting a call but unable to help wishing the phone would ring.  Feeling beyond happy for the children being matched with their families and every day a love growing for a child I don't even know yet.  Reading scripture over and over about waiting, and about patience, about God's plans and God's will.  I am learning what it really means to be patient.  Patience is not this attribute some have and others don't.  Patience is not a noun, it is a verb, an action, a choice. I have learned that patience is sitting still.  Trusting that after all the work I can do is done, to stop and sit still.  I often find myself wondering if He is constantly taking me back to my place and saying sit here and be still for just a minute. Just like I would tell my boys when they were two year old bundles of energy and I needed just a few minutes to complete a task.  I have learned God just needs a few minutes sometimes and I just need to sit still.  Surely I can manage longer than a two year old.
     Generosity.  I have never considered myself a selfish person.  I have always faithfully tithed and given in church offerings.  I give to charities, and of myself and of my time.  I have learned that one can be innocent of being selfish but fall very short of being generous.  God has been dealing with my heart ever so gently lately.  In the last 17 months I have been blown away with the generosity of others.  People who have known us for years, and more often mere acquaintances.  People God has moved on and they have given of their hearts.  Their gifts have shown me true generosity.  It has made me question if I am always generous.  I want my heart to be open at all times to give and to give generously.  To give in a way, that regardless of the amount, people feel loved and feel they are noticed and cared about.    Others generosity towards us has humbled me and made me look at how I give and question, am I being generous?  I want to teach my sons and my daughter to be generous.  It is in being generous that we really receive the blessing of giving.  It's not that I haven't heard this lesson before and taken note, it's just that I am now living it.
Number 6 it is.  As I sit, fidgiting in my spot and praying God is not going to make me wait too many more minutes!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Waiting Pains

I seem to be having a more difficult time lately with this whole waiting thing.  I'm not sure if it's because we are getting closer (#7 btw a family received an early match, Dec. referrals yet to come), and by being closer I mean we still have no idea if it will be Dec (I can only wish), March (seems plausible) or June (by which time I will be officially crazy, OR if it's the holidays, or what.  I just know I'm all crazy on this roller coaster of emotions again.  A friend, and adoptive parent, told me a few days ago to brace myself cuz the waiting gets really hard once you have your match and see your precious child's face.  While I am sure she is right, she also said that nothing really takes that ache away. The waiting pains I have been calling them.  Here's the deal.  I KNOW it will happen in God's timing, I KNOW it will all click into place and be perfect, I KNOW I simply have no control over this.  I KNOW, I KNOW, I KNOW.  But what I know and what my heart FEELS well, two different things entirely.  Thank God for family and friends who love me, and know me enough to let me cry every once in a while, and thank thank God for a facebook group of families across the states who have been in my shoes and provide words of wisdom and support only they can.  The other day one of those friends posted a poem for all of us in waiting.  I printed it out and hung it on my fridge.

KISSES IN THE WIND (The Waiting Child's Lullabye)

I hold you in my heart and touch you in my dreams.
You are here each day with me, at least that's how it seems.

I know you wonder where we are... what's taking us so long.
But remember child, I love you so and God will keep you strong.

Now go outside and feel the breeze and let it touch your skin...
Because tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God hold you in His hand until I can be with you.
I promise you, my darling, I'm doing all that I can do.

Very soon, you'll have a family for real, not just pretend.
But for tonight, just as always, I blow you kisses in the wind.

May God wrap you in His arms and hold you very tight.
And let the angels bring the kisses that I send to you each night.

--- © Pamela Durkota, written for Josh
And so I continue to wait and dream and pray that she is safe and loved, that God is seeing her through the things we can't right now.  How I miss her.  Soon little Belle, soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Our World

I thought I would take a minute to just write about what's going on in our world.  Partly because I want to look back on what we did while we were waiting and partly because there is a sense of self satisfaction in recording the humdrum of our daily lives.  I hope one day my kids will be appreciative, ha! delusional I know (at some point I WILL also get caught up on their scrapbooks...hmmmm).  

We have spent September and October just getting into the flow of things.  You know school, work, church, REPEAT  school, work, church, REPEAT, well you get the picture.  Although it seems like an endless cycle I know you understand how much happens in between the lines.  I was thinking the other night that I wish I had a way to bottle up some of the precious moments of every day life.  For instance, Ian's bed time hugs, when he squeezes me sooo tight I can't breathe and then insists, seconds later, I haven't hugged him yet just so he can do it again.  Or, the quiet moments with Peyton when I realize we are both being so quiet because we have been dragged into the lines of a good book and my heart swells that we share such a thirst for reading and knowledge.  And, the flip my heart still does when my husband grins at me (mush I know!)  Then those other moments, the ones I would like to pretend never happen and sometimes think I might need a padded room just to make it through.  The impossibility of ever having a smooth morning, one where everybody gets up when asked (not after time 252, blankets stripped off, and threats of 530 bedtimes being proclaimed), that I have the right shirt clean (because if the one Ian wants to wear isn't in his closet, well it may go into the dryer for a second with a little bounce cuz sometimes it's just not worth the battle), that I actually checked book bags the night before and home work is done (not hastily scribbled in between bites of Lucky Charms), that the fruit I set out actually gets eaten (and my guilt over cold cereal for breakfast is assuaged), that I actually have enough gas in my car to make it to work after successfully maneuvering through school time morning traffic and drop off (why does it always seem to be on E?).  The secret desire that my sons suddenly have nothing to fight about ever and are suddenly helpful and eat every vegetable I put on their plate, while saying "please" and "thank you". The moment I open my laundry door and then close it again because it might possibly have grown legs and I need back up.  Oh those glorious moments of living, of trudging through every day life together and still managing to love one another, the perfectness of being a family. 

We decided to let the boys play hooky last week and skipped town for a much needed camping trip, interrupting our routine.  We only went about an hour away but so well worth it.  Camping has become our favorite family activity.  At no other time do we have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in one anothers company for 4 days straight.  Or play board game after board game (our current favorites are Blockus and Spotcha but we threw in a round of Sorry and UNO just because they are always fun).  Our legs are a little sore after a 4 mile mountain bike/hike experience (thank goodness they talked me out of the 12 mile one, it is highly probable I would have needed to be carried out on a stretcher!)  We sat around the campfire, roasted smores, and just had a good time.  I'm so appreciative that we have the flexibility to do these things and I hope, just by simply writing it, that I never take these moments for granted. 

And so Our World continues on and we return to what makes us the Strand's.  It's not perfect but there is nothing I would trade it for.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

EEEk Fundraisers!!!

FUNDRAISERS!!!  And now comes that blood curling scream from horror movies!!  Oh the very word makes your skin crawl and makes you want to hide under your bed!

I confess, I copied the above from another families blog (with permission;).  She made some great points I completely agreed with.  As I read it I chuckled, but by the end of the post I felt I should share my heart with my readers as well.

You have seen fundraisers from Christmas Wreaths, to our Adoption Yard Sale, to our Pampered Chef Benefit...and most recently a way to give a tax deductible donation through Village to Village.  This is in NO way meant to be any kind of pressure from us on to you.  We cherish our friends and family and would NEVER want to stress anyone.  We have not sat and counted our friends, ticking off dollar signs in our heads, and won't we promise:)

The point of fundraisers is two-fold.  First, with a fundraiser, you can have a lot of people do a little and accomplish much (many hands make light work!).  Example:  You may think it pointless to give $10 on our Village to Village donation goal, when we need $9,890.  It's just a drop in the bucket.  HOWEVER, if you give $10 knowing you are one of 100 people giving $10 than you have helped raise $1000 for your friends.  EVERY penny counts!

Second, our time for receiving a referral is drawing near (hopefully in the  next 6 months) when we will have only 2 weeks to come up with the $9,890.  We have some of this, but as you can see we are not there yet, and we are chiseling away at that number a little at a time!

As I tell my children, when their "I wants" get too many to number,  Guys, as much as I would like it we are not independently wealthy.  And the very real honest fact of the matter is we do not have thousands sitting in the bank. As ridiculous as it seems, it costs over $20,000 to adopt one little girl. There are thousands of orphans around the world because of the very real financial wall that stands between them and their would be families.  These kids deserve homes and how many more families would be willing if they didn't question how on earth they could ever afford it.

God has shown us from the get go that he would provide opportunities for us to climb that wall.  We have prayed for provision and don't believe He waves a magic wand giving us thousands, but rather gives us chances to work in ways he can move.  So, even though we don't have thousands, we are willing to fight, to save, to raise the money, to sell our stuff, to have faith that the money will continue to be there, and to know it will not be because of us.  It will be because of MANY that we are blessed with the life of one little girl.

Please, as you see the fundraisers, or the reminders, do not feel like you should look away, or run and hide or hope that we don't think badly of you for not giving.  We want everyone to do what their heart tells them to do.  If that means giving, we humbly receive it.  If that means sending us a word of encouragement or a prayer our way, by all means PLEASE do!.  We could have not made it this far without what you have already done, and we know we can't make it the rest of the way without you. 

We are so blessed for each and everyone of you.  Thank you for your support as we continue our journey to bring Isabel home.  God Bless.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Confession: I have known for almost a week that we have moved up to number eight on the Thailand Wait List (SINGLE digits baby)!!!!  However, life and all that entails has kept me from announcing it, well blogging it, as everyone within 10 feet of me all week definitely heard about it.  The Program Director and Assistant emailed the update on the matches from the September referrals (yay for all the families finding out about their kiddos!!), and other details about the program.  As always I emailed the assistant (also a Laura:) and said, "Sooooooo, where does that place us?"  I could almost feel her patient smile through the email as she congratulated us on moving to number 8, and then reminded us that matches are not always made in chronological order.  I just know we are closer than ever before...and have the possibility of being matched in March 2013 ( I mean given that matches aren't chronilogical it could be December 2012 but whose thinking that????)  The right child at the right time, says Program Assistant Laura.  Sigh.  And so we continue to play the waiting game.  (We hate you waiting game!)
The other big eight in our life is our little man Ian.  Our baby turned eight on the 19th!  He is so big. He loves football and so his birthday bash included: a football shaped brownie, new Vikings jersey, a card collectors folder with football cards, a football figurine, and an MP3 player(because he wants an ipod and really I won't even buy myself one and I would have a heart attack when I found it in his jeans in the dryer after being washed...a few more years buddy, a few more years!)  Love him to pieces!
In other news we raised over $300 to deposit in our little account from spending an evening with Pampered Chef and all our friends!  So much fun, good food, and stuff everybody wants anyway.  So thank you Friends/Family, Carol Nunnery, and Pampered Chef.  We were accepted onto a website called Village to Village International.  Our family's profile and adoption story will be listed and people can donate and the monies will be tax deductible, and channeled through Village to Village who directly pays for our expenses (we do not recieve money direct.)  They are an awesome, new program that is trying to get 1000 people to donate $10 a month which they can bless families with to help offset these crazy expenses. We will definitely join that 'village' after we bring Isabel home. More to come on that later.  We have also applied with JSC for another grant, so please pray God's will in that.  Our church has lovinginly blessed up with pledges of $2100 by the end of the year.  All in all we are watching in awe as God continues to move mountains. 

We are staying busy of course.  The boys are finally settling into the school routine, and after the last two months filled with events on our calender I'm hoping to set back for a while and get some things done.  Ha!  Who am I kidding...the holidays are just around the corner.  Ah well, such is life. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Lazy Days of Summer...What?

     Oh I have a blog...right, maybe I should write something to indicate that we are still alive and well!  As I reflect back over the last 2 months, where did they go?  I thought summer time was supposed to be full of days with no schedule, pool parties, mornings sipping coffee while the children slept snugly in their beds...ha!  We have been sooo busy if I have time to pour my coffee in my to go cup as I head out the door, I consider myself lucky.  Just for the record here is a run down of our summer.  ( I will try to insert photos...sometime)
     June:  Our boys took summer school classes, which in Jackson from K-6 are enrichment theme programs rather than the tutorial class type.  Peyton has always loved them, he took two classes in prep for starting Middle School ( I must pause and say, "yes, I'm freaking out about starting middle school, I think my jitters may even be worse than first day of Kindergarten.  I mean please Lord protect him, let him find friends who are character building and not destructive.  Amen")  He took an art class that allowed him to work with different mediums and some sort of computer programming class where he worked with Microsoft Publisher (another comment insert here, "Yes, my kid officially knows how to work the computer...and anything else technological...better than I do).  Ian, well, let's just say we probably won't do summer school again.  I see long nights of studying ahead.  Rocky will have to be involved, because if we can somehow relate everything to sports we won't have any problems.  He has already anounced that the only good things about starting school are his Viking back pack and P.E.  It never ceases to amaze me how different, and how brilliant, they both are.  I for one am slightly ready for our good old routine, and think some space between them might just ease up the constant sibiling rivalry we hourly!
     July:  July began with our annual trek to Minnesota, to the Strand Arabian Horse Farm.  Rocky's grandparents trained and breed Arabians for many years on their farm near Red Wing, MN.  The farm is now ran by his Uncle and family, and some of the family lives close (within walking distance) to the farm.  Every year all the families bombard the farm for a week or so where we eat, laugh, shop, float the river, talk, play, golf, fish, and just basically have a week long reunion.  It is a great time, and my boys already treasure it as much as their daddy does, who I am pretty sure feels Minnesota is the promise land.  We had a great time, but were happy to be home, where we immediately went into preparations for Vacation Bible School and Kids Praise.  The boys and I also squeezed in a quick trip to St. Louis to see my parents.  We went to a muesem downtown, and an aracade, swam in their rooftop pool, and I enjoyed some Korean drama (which my sister officially has us all hooked on, with the exception of my husband who definitely makes fun of me:)  Back to Jackson and VBS...We do not direct either program but along with many other church volunteers we worked hard to decorate, teach, sing...basically whatever was needed to corral over 60 kiddos and teach them that No matter what God is always with You!.  It is a BIG DEAL around The Turning Point, FPC.  We were once again blessed to be a part, and blessed to have survived another year!!

August...til present...:  We started off by attending a Youth Ministers Conference in St. Louis, which was very inspirational and has our minds turning over how to implement exciting things into our 180 Youth Program.  This weekend we traveled to Sam A. Baker State Park, and camped for 3 nights, as a last hurrah before the boys start school this upcoming week.  The weather was gorgeous, we had a break in the heat and enjoyed 80 degree weather.  We went hiking and swimming, my husband, let me emphasize, my husband let the boys jump off THE ROCK out at the shut ins... It is about 6-8 foot high and the water is way over my hubby's 6'2" head.  I was one nervous momma, but they did it 3 times each until I called them back to more shallow waters, to still my nervously beating heart.  We floated the river, which ended up being more of a walk due to this year's drought, back to the camper fried fish and made s'mores.  A very good time.  Now we are home and on the schedule is Sunday School, hair cuts, school supplies and shoes...

     The "Lazy" Days are at an end.  Insert me working part-time, Rocky's crazy summer construction schedule and well it's been a whirlwind.  It has also moved slow at the same time.  We are still in the hurry up and wait phase of the adoption.  We don't anticipate any change until September...ugh...and so I live vicariously through other blogs and look at our Thailand adoption Facebook page daily.  So to all who are like me and are saddended by nothing new to read on the blogs I follow, I hope this will suffice, for now.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A shout out for the Dad's

Happy (belated) Father's Day to all the blog readers.  We have had a whirl of activity around here and just haven't had a chance to sit down and blog.  Father's Day was fabulous as we were blessed to spend both Saturday and Sunday with both our Fathers.  Below I wrote a little something special about the Dad's in my life.

First, my husband.  You are such a good Father.  I am proud of you and love you for so many reasons, but I have to say seeing you with our boys is pretty close to the top of that list.  I love that you play with them, wether it is video games, or baseball, or golf, or UNO and even read to them on occassion (definitely not on his list of favorite things to do:)  I love that you pray with them and for them.  I love that you already love Isabel and that I am with you on this journey.  I found this poem, and although it's a little cheesy, it sums up how I feel.  The day the you were born, I'm sure God already knew That one day we would meet and I would fall in love with you.  For I have seen his blessings and I've felt his guiding hand Leading me to share my life exactly as He'd planned.  With a good husband who has shown me how loving God can be...My husband, friend, and soulmate, who means all the world to me.

To Rocky's Dad.  You are one of my favorite people, ever.  When I was fairly young, 12 or so I would ride out to with him so I could stay at the Strand's with Shawnda (my now sister-in-law) he would talk and make conversation just like I was a grown up the whole way (which was about 45 min!)  These days he loviningly reminds me I am his favorite daughter in law (I'm his only daughter in law!) and tells me it does his heart good to see me working (he therefore has the best heart in the tristate area:)  Words that come to mind:  Loyal, Committed, Hard Working, Faithful, Honest...He is leaving a very rich heritage and example for his sons, and aren't they handsome!!!

To my Dad.  I told him recently that he was one of the reasons I really started thinking of adoption.  When I was 2 he married my mother, as a child he adopted me, he gave me his name.  He sacrificed for me, probably more times than I even know.  He provided for me.  He took on the responsibility of me.  He loved me as much as he loved his biological daughters.  He is my Dad and I am proud to say so.  I know that love is very often a choice, and he chose to love me, chose to call me his daughter.  In the very same way, partly due to his example, we are choosing to love Isabel. 

 Happy Father's Day! 

Friday, June 15, 2012

June Update

(this entire post is from Laura's perspective as Rocky's emotions never yo-yo lol)

We recieved an update on the Thailand program from Holt yesterday letting us know that the June referrals came out early!  Their were 4 children referred to Holt.  Two were matched with families in the program and two placed on the waiting child list.  My emotions were exactly like a roller coaster.  Early referrals:  UP,   4 referrals this quarter:  DOWN,  2 kiddos matched with their permanent families:  UP,  Do we only move up 2 spaces then?: DOWN....Sigh

Yep, up and down all night.  See even though I told myself not to expect anything major to happen,  their is this little what if glimmer that is impossible to put out.  What if Holt receives a record number of referrals and all the families are matched?  What if a child on the referral list matches only our profile and we recieve a match now?  What if...what if...what if...

I couldn't even attempt to wait a second and immediately emailed the program assistant with my questions of how this impacted our I recieved an email from her that we are #14 on the waiting list.  Okay so are you like me and feeling a little puzzled...I mean the math just isn't there.  I was expecting 17 at best, so 14 seemed like a small miracle:)  Again she reminded me that it is impossible to tell when a family is matched as Holt has no idea what type and make up the referral groups will be each quarter, and they can only make estimates.  At any rate emotions back UP.

To put it mildly, I don't really like not being able to have some control over this waiting part.  I want to get in there and just make it happen, which of course I can't.  I feel like God is looking down shaking his head at me, again, with a small smile on his face of course as he knows me even better than I know myself. GOD: "Patience, my child, patience." ME: "BUTTTTT I want it now."

 I can definitely feel the prayers from all of my friends and family, praying #8 on my prayer list...They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not grow weary, they shall walk and not faint.   Teach me Lord to Wait.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

A rose by any other name...

For our family, friends, and blog readers we have a made a very important decision we thought worthy of announcing.  A few weeks ago someone asked us why we decided on the name Cherish, and more importantly if that is a name we would have considered if we were not adopting.  It really made us stop and think and we had to be honest with ourselves, it really wasn't.  We started discussing the pros and the cons, Cherish means to treasure, and while we love that meaning it is not a name you hear, well barely ever.  Realizing she is going to have many challenges ahead of her, we wondered if by giving her a unique name like Cherish it might add to those challenges.  Yet, we were torn, she has been Cherish in our hearts for 8 months.   The phrase, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,"  came to mind (even though in the words of Anne of Green Gables it couldn't possibly smell as sweet if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage:), and so we decided to just try out a few different names to see if one stuck.  We have talked of names off and on for two weeks, getting our boys input along the way:  Peyton "how about Mackenzie then I can call her Macky?"  Ian "what about Velma? you know like in Scooby-Doo? that's a really cool name!!"  We added a couple of others and came up with a list of 4 or 5 names we really liked and had partially decided on one, but still weren't sure.  A few nights ago we were on the topic again and decided to google meanings instead of just names.  First we pulled up treasure, which typical of google prompted us to pull up loved, which prompted us to pull up beautiful.  Reading over the long list quickly, we were stopped in the "I" section, Isabel. We both looked at each other and said the name aloud again, more slowly, Isabel.  Rocky said, "That's it"  I said, "I know".  It was exactly that same way when we named our boys, a look and feeling of mutual connection. 

The boys were both a little skeptical still sticking to their above suggestions, but then Ian said, "Mom, I'm calling her Izzy."  Peyton agreed, and they were happy to have found a nickname for their baby sister.  This is really important because if you know anything about the Strand's, well let's just say no one is hardly ever called by their name.  When we named Ian we wondered what in the world they could possibly shorten that to, but it only took about 5 seconds before they simply dropped the "N" and called him "E". Peyton is Peyter baked potater, or simply Peyt.   And who knows what Grandpa Strand will call her!  If you are called anything remotely similar to your name you are lucky!  For example, growing up he called Rocky whatnebager (I'm not even sure how to spell that) lol.  We shall see.

We were worried no other names would sound as sweet, but we have to say we have been using it for several days now and it feels right.  We just can't wait to put a face with the name:)  On a side note we have moved up to #18 because a family on the waiting list above us accepted a referral from the waiting child program moving us all up a space...we should move up again by the end of June and I will keep everyone updated.

Isabel...our beautiful treasure.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

We Need Your Prayers

How to Pray for our Adoption

1.        In every aspect pray that God’s will is performed.  To him be all glory and honor.  We are simply his servants and no different than anyone else.  He spoke into our lives and placed a burden for children and young people in our hearts.  He said, “Adopt a child”.  We said, “How? There are so many obstacles.”  He said, “I am greater, I will be a lamp unto your feet and a light unto your path, nothing is too great.  He has been opening doors and providing ever since. 

2.       Pray for our daughter’s birth parents, for peace and strength.  Adoption is a wonderful thing, don’t get me wrong.  But the closer we come to it the more we realize it’s not all butterflies and roses.  Someone had to make a decision and a sacrifice, that as parents we know could not have been easy, but because we do not live in a perfect world they had to choose adoption for their child.  We pray God’s peace upon them, and that someday they will know how much their child is loved by us.

3.       Pray for her foster parents as they fill the gap for us.  Let’s just say this…Foster parents are HEROS.  They step in and care and love for these children as if they are their own, and then we come and they give them up to us.  The foster families we have read about in Thailand are selfless.  We pray God is providing and protecting them, their families, and our girl while we wait to step in as her parents.  If they are not Christians, in a country that is 98% Buddhist this seems very unlikely, we pray we can somehow be the light God has called us to be.

4.       Pray for our family.  Early on we realized there would be a lot of bumps along the way, and once she is home it will change the dynamic of our family.  Pray for our sons that they grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and man.  They have embraced this adoption with open arms and accepted without question, and with excitement, that their world is to be invaded by a sister.  Help us to always be what they need us to be.  Pray for our marriage that God would continue to strengthen our bond and help us to continually be open to the purpose God has for us.

5.       Pray for provision.  The largest obstacle has always been the expense.  We knew from the get go we could not do this without God or the support of others.  (Thank you for all the support you have already given as we came before you, almost begging, with requests of financial support.)  God has already blessed us in so many ways, and every time we have needed funds they have been there.  Pray our faith will continue to hold as God helps us move this mountain as he supplies all our needs according to his glory.

6.       Pray for our girl’s heart.  In meeting with others in the adoptive world we have quickly learned that one of the major challenges is the grief that your child goes through upon coming into your life.  Some adjust well.  Some do not.  We are praying now, before we have even seen her face, that God would surround her little heart with the comfort only he can give and help us to know how to comfort her when the time comes.  Please Lord, let the transition be a smooth one.

7.       Pray for our Agency.  We are so blessed that God led us to Holt International.  Adoption is extremely complex and overwhelming, but they have been there every step of the way and are always there for us.  God has been working through them for years and we pray God will bless all the staff who work so hard for these kids all over the world…again real HEROS in our book.  We pray God will give them wisdom to discern the correct placement of the children referred to them.

8.       Finally, for peace right now.  This wait is so hard, there are times when we (especially Momma) feel emotionally exhausted.  Pray that God will give us strength to mount up with wings as eagles, to run and not grow weary, to walk and not faint. 

With Love,

Rocky and Laura

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I-800A Approval

For once we didn't have to wait long!  Less than a week ago we had our fingerprints taken for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for our I-800A application which deems us suitable to adopt a child.  Today we recieved our official approval letter.  It basically just states we are suitable to adopt a child from Thailand, specifically a female child from 0-3 years of age.  The fingerprints and approval will expire in Aug of 2013.  I can't help but hope we could have her home by then, if not we will have to file an extension.  Once we have accepted our referral we will have to file the I-800 which will list the specifics of our daughter.  But, again, I can't help but be excited that we have one more thing to check off the list.

It will be June tomorrow, another referral month.  We are praying for a LARGE group!  I learned in March, the most recent referral month and our first, that this is a difficult month for all in the process.  It is one of high anticipation, excitement...and questions, frustrations, and doubts.  Please pray for us and all the families who are in the process along side us.

Monday, May 28, 2012

One Step Closer

It seems like a lot has happened it the last few weeks, and we have just been so busy I haven't had a chance to write.  We have spent the last couple weeks spending a lot of time with family, which has been fabulous, some time at the lake, and just enjoying a few days of summer before summer programs start. 

On Friday we went to St Louis for our fingerprinting appointment with the Department of Homeland Security, USCIS.  Our appointment was at 8 a.m. and we were so worried we'd get stuck in rush hour that we left our house at 530 a.m.  Fortunately we did not get stuck but we were there at seven!  They had a cafeteria and after we passed the security check, we were able to snatch a bite to eat while we waited for the office to open.  It took all of five minutes and we were done!  Another step to check off, and we get to, guess what... WAIT ...surprise surprise.... to officially hear from the USCIS regarding our application.

Now for the best piece of news...back tracking just a little, the week before our USCIS appointment, we went camping.  On our little hiatus I took a book my mom had given me, The Circle Maker.  It is very difficult to put into words the impact it has had on me, but I can tell you this I am filled with a renewed sense of purpose.  As I was reading the book I was "circling" things in prayer, and spending some quiet moments with the Master. ( You see even when people tell you that everything is going to be okay, or in relation to the adoption that it will all happen in His timing/that He will provide, until you have that peace for yourself doubt lingers in your heart.)  I found a peace those few days, a peace God has continued to strengthen with each day.  On Tuesday, when we arrived home, I began to go through our pile of mail and my heart leapt a little when I found a letter from ShowHope, a foundation that offers assistance to families going through the adoption process.  They receive lots of applications and are very clear that they can assist a limited number of families.  We mailed our application in March and hadn't heard anything except for confirmation that they had recieved it.  Okay, okay I know you are saying, get to the point already.  They are blessing us with a $4000 grant!!!!!!!!!!!  We are thrilled and so thankful.  I am so humbled.  God already knew that letter was in the mail when I was circling his promise for the provision we needed to bring our daughter home.

After conferring with our agency, the monies will be written to Holt,  we were informed that once we have traveled and taken Cherish into custody they will act on our grant.   Due to this timing, we plan on using those funds to cover travel and post placement expenses.  We are able to see the amounts on our funds needed list decrease, but we will still have to have the country fees, two weeks after we accept our referral.  I know without any doubt that,in the words of ShowHope, God is going to continue to prove himself faithful and provide the finances we need from various sources.  Because he is that big and he can!  After all he owns the cattle on a thousand hills and it will be for his glory as he reveals how much he cares and loves the child a thousand miles away from us. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mom's Day

   Mom's Day, as my boy's call it, has been a wonderful day filled with family.  I woke this morning to my husband whispering, "Happy Mother's Day" in my ear.  My heart filled to overflowing at how much I love him, and how blessed I am to have his love and support.  Pitter patters of feet signaled my youngest was awake and came straight into my arms for his morning cuddles, as he sleepily wished me a happy Mom's Day.  My Peyton, hugged me more times than I can count today, and told me over and over, "Love you, Mom".  I wish I could bottle up their hugs to have with me always, truly the best gift of the day was their hugs and kisses. 
   We spent lunch and dinner with our Mom's and sibilings, nephew's/nieces and Dad's, and all the craziness that comes with.  I am reminded again how very much like my own mom I have become, and how much I love her.  She's pretty amazing. 
   My boys are the joy of my world...I don't ever get tired of being their mom, they are mine! and how I love them...

   I have a very full heart tonight, having tucked the boys into bed and settled down for the evening, my thoughts go to my little girl half way around the world.  I read a blog of a friend who met her little girl for the first time today.  She also met the foster mom and family who has loved and cared for her these first few years of her life.  I believe somewhere someone is loving and caring for our Cherish and I am so thankful for that foster mom.  I'm sending our little girl hugs and kisses in my prayers as I pray God's protection over all three of my children and that God will help me to be the Mom they all need.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Coffee Anyone??

Coffee...Just the word makes my mouth water.  One of my first acts every morning, eyes barely open, is to set a pot brewing in hopes that it will somehow help me to jumpstart the day.  My favorites are Starbucks and Gevalia, but we will be trying a new kind around the Strand household.  I registered today for a fundraiser with JustLove Coffee, a coffee company out of Murfreesboro, TN.  Their company developed a fundraising program after the founder and his wife went through the adoption process and felt the frustration, with other families, on the lack of a good fundraising model. For every item, including over twenty different coffees, purchased at our "store" we recieve a good portion of the proceeds.  If you are in need of coffee, or mugs, or scoops, you can visit our store at We shall see if it ranks up there with Starbucks and Gevalia, though with it helping bring our girl home it might just outrank them!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Cherry's Fashion

I did it.  I broke down.  I bought clothes for her today.  I have been staying so strong and telling myself to deposit money into our adoption fund any time I'm tempted to buy something that makes me think, "Oh that would be so cute for Cherish."  Word of Wisdom...Do not walk through the children's section at Target when Easter Clearance is happening.  Outfit #1 Pink, tulle, sundress.  I showed Rocky and he got this silly smile on his face and said, "Who's that for?"  His grin got even bigger when I said, "It's for your daughter!"  Outfit #2 Navy sweater trimmed with white polka dots and wooden buttons with faux denim leggings topped with red polka dot ruffle and a little white sailboat anchor on the side...I mean really soooooo cute.  (Then I bought athletic shirts that seem to make up the boys current wardrobe, and they want to wear every day, these shirts were of course minus any ruffles or polka dots!)   I also bought size 2T hoping they will not be too small and maybe she can grow into them if she is younger than we expect.  So, now back on the staight and narrow, my spending moratorium must resume as we work to bring our girl style at any rate!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Moving on Up...Slightly

Well we hoped to move up at least 4 spots from 21 to 17 but final word from our agency this week puts us at number 19 on the list.  I keep telling myself it is better than 21.  We also were told that it extends our estimated wait time for referral from 0-9 months to 0-12 months.  I admitted to my social worker that I could not help being disappointed about this and she reminded me how the process really works.  Just because we are 19 on the list does not mean we will necassarily be waiting for 19 placements ahead of us.  As the referrals come in they are matched according to gender, age, and medical conditions that each family has specified with their applications.  If other families on the list and our profiles are similar than the smallest number up on the list usually get priority for the referral.  Another variable is that we do not know what size and make up the referral groups will be each quarter.  I told my social worker we were praying for large referral groups:)  She said surprises do sometimes happen!!!  At any rate as everyone is so kind to remind me (lol), it will happen in God's timing and when it is supposed to.  In the meantime I'm biting my nails and trying not to become exasperated as I'm stretched to become a more patient person.  It drives me crazy that my husband is so matter of fact and laid back about it all, I mean I know it's good, it keeps me in perspective, but geez typically he's the one who wants everything done yesterday!!!
On another note, the referral group in March placed alot of children on the Waiting Child List due to ages and medical conditions that families on the waiting list are, for various reasons, unable to accept.  It breaks my heart in so many ways.  I hope and pray these children find forever families soon who are equipped to handle their emotional and medical conditions.  If you are interested in learning more about the Waiting Child Program you can visit our agency at

Monday, March 19, 2012

Out of the Mouth of Babes

I have been trying so hard to understand and get a grip on my emotions of late.  Life is very busy for us.  We are so blessed with our two sons, and at ages 11 and 7 there is never a dull moment.  Currently it is little league wrestling season, our oldest couldn't participate because of his broken arm much to his disappointment, but we have still been very busy with practices and duals with Ian.  I literally have to sit on my hands to keep from biting my fingernails and waving around like crazy every time I watch a match.  They are such boys and love it so much, me I really think we should focus on golf and I have a feeling I have a lot of nervous moments in store.  We are also very involved and busy at our church.  I assist with the Children's Ministry, together we serve as Youth Ministers, my husband is our Praise and Worship leader, and I sing on the Praise and Worship Team.  Combine all that with work and life in general, you get the picture, we are very busy.

 In the middle of all the busyness and fun-filled moments there is still this constant ache around my heart.  It seems I'm crying every time I turn around.  I cried on the way home from our sale on Saturday, from joy at being so blessed, and feeling so overwhelmed at how much we still need.  I cried for my new friends I've met in a Thailand Adoptive Families group, over their joys and frustrations that match mine.  I cried when I made a Thai dish for our supper and realized how hard it will be for her at first with everything being so different, including the most basic things like food.  The crying seemed incessant, so much so that I thought, girl get a grip! 

On Sunday I was reading an adoptive mother's blog about the emotional roller coaster of adoption and how you are constantly two things at once:  Happy/Sad, Frustrated/Patient, Angry/ was me in a nutshell but I still couldn't put a finger on the ache around my heart.  Today, my rambunctious but sensitive 7 year old asked, "Mom, when are we bringing Cherish home?"  I said, for the hundredth time, "Probably not for a while."  "Man," he sighed, " I miss her."  and off he went.  It hit me so hard.  That is the ache.  I miss my daughter.  She has already been born to our hearts and our world and I miss her.  I understand waiting is all part of the process, but understanding does not lessen the ache. I miss getting to experience her first smile and first little laugh.  I miss feeling her little hand reach up to stroke my face as I rock her.  I miss not being able to give her eskimo kisses, or duba do's as my boys have renamed them, whispering the nonsense words under their breath as their noses rub mine. I miss sharing her wonder at new things, and seeing her eyes light up in excitement.  I just miss her. 

I have been reading several blogs of families who have brought their children home, or are currently in the process like us, and I glean a little strength knowing they feel exactly as I have and have survived.  One wrote that when you finally meet your child the wait is washed away.  I'm holding onto that, as I sit once again with tears streaming down my face.  I can't help but smile through them, earlier Ian asked AGAIN "when are we bringing baby sister home?"  Again I said, "It will be a while, we have to wait."  Another sigh, "geez," he said rolling his eyes dramatically, "are we going to have to wait like 45 days or something?"  And I am reminded how time feels to children, and one day it will be like she has always been with us and the missing will be over.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Yard Sale Success!

Whew!  What an amazingly long last couple of days.  We have been working over the last several weeks to organize an adoption benefit yard sale.  We recieved many donations from friends and family, and added a ton of our own stuff, to put in the sale.  Instead of prices we simply asked for a donation towards our adoption.(we did have minimum donation requests on a few larger items)  We opened the doors at seven this morning and, wow, we stayed busy until closing at 2, raising over our $1000 goal to put in our adoption piggy bank!!!  We were so blessed by the generosity of our family, friends, and community we just want to shout a HUGE thank you!  It feels so good to see that figure for our referral fee start to decrease.  We talked with so many today about our adoption and it gave us a chance to really look at how far we have come.  It is actually happening, we are adopting a little girl from Thailand, and will be bringing her home to her forever family.  Thanks again to everyone who helped bring us one step closer to making it possible.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

March Happenings

March is here!! For us this means we should move up on the waiting list as other families will be blessed with finding out their matches this month.  One step closer:) Holt receives referrals of children to match from Thailand once per quarter, so the next matches will take place in June.  We are looking towards the expenses once again and will be having an Adoption Benefit Yard Sale next weekend.  We have decided to make everything (except large items) a donation only instead of pricing everything.  Other families in the adoption process have had success with this.  We also will have our homestudy update next week, since we moved the social worker has to come view our new home, and then we can file with immigration.  Yay, more paper work!! But one step closer.  Currently, I have applied for three grants, please pray with us that the families who need those monies most to achieve their adoptions are granted them. 

On a funny note, last night as the boys were doing their chore of emptying the dishwasher Ian said, "Mom when we get our baby sister will she have to help with the diswasher too?"  Me, "When she's big enough,"  Ian, "Ah man" :)

Monday, February 27, 2012

Adoption Tax Credit

Today I learned that the federal tax credit available to adoptive parents, will sunset at the end of this year. While it will not deter us, it was a disappointment as we hoped to use the tax credit to help offset some of the expenses. The average cost to adopt is any where from $25k-$35k or more, currently for 2011 families are eligible for a maximum of $13,170 as a tax credit, which is still sometimes less than half!!! So, what does all this mean and how can you help? Today I signed a petition to extend the tax credit for 2012 and 2013 which will directly affect our adoption...add your name to mine at  also there is more info about a bill being presented to make the tax credit permanent, and who to contact if you live in one of the states currently supporting the writing of the bill.  I can't tell you what a blessing this can be to us and so many other adoptive parents out there.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Life is so crazy busy for us right now. I keep telling myself all this craziness is making the time go by for us faster, but it doesn't make it any less exhausting! I recently allowed myself to start worrying over the funds we need. We are a week or so away from moving into our new home, and while it is a blessing as many know moving/building is always full of last minute expenses you don't anticipate. It seems like its been hard to put extra back and very soon we will need to file with immigration. This week I found out we are to receive a bonus at work, the amount is based on the hours worked during a certain time period...wouldn't you know that added to what we have put back will cover our immigration fees! It was God saying once again, Don't worry I've got it all taken care of!!! So yesterday when our ten year old Peyton broke his wrist at school, and they had to anesthesize him to set and cast it, I just said okay God I'm not going to worry about this you have it all figured out. Thankfully, the doctor was able to skillfully line it all back up and doesn't anticipate it will cause any problems...except for our sanity over the next few weeks poor guy it was his left hand, yes he is left handed. Our lives are so short here on earth, I hope I'm able to continually keep in perspective that worrying is not going to add a day to my life and as long as I keep doing my part, well God is perfectly capable of handling the rest!!

Friday, January 27, 2012

21 on the Waiting List

Finally. After weeks of waiting our paperwork came back from D.C.. Today we added the necassary copies and mailed it, Express, to the Holt office in Oregon. We called our social worker to let her know the Dossier was complete and in the mail. She told us that we are now 21 on the waiting list and should expect to be matched with our daughter by December of this year. She reminded us that it was an estimate only, and we of course are hoping it is sooner than that. We are just relieved to be (almost) done with this portion of the paperwork. The rest is in God's hands and in his timing. Naturally we have quite a bit to keep us busy, including hopefully moving into our new home in a few weeks. They painted today. Cherish's room is soft yellow! Her brothers' room is burnt Orange:)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Off to Washington DC

After checking, and double checking and triple checking our documents, we Express Mailed our precious Dossier to a courier service in Washington DC today. They will hand deliver it to the US State Dept to authenticate our State Seal and then hand deliver it to The Royal Thai Embassy for their authentication, after which it will be mailed back to us. We were told the whole process should take about 7 days. Then we will mail to Holt and they will place us on the Thailand Waiting List. One step closer. Tonight we prayed for God to continue guiding our process, continue to give us patience to wait on him, and to keep his protecting hand on our daughter. We just can't wait to meet her, and bring her home.