Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Immigration Approval is Here!

Yesterday afternoon we got our I800A approval in the mail. We were already approved through our Mexico process, so all we needed was a "change of country" update. Thankfully, we didn't need new biometrics (fancy name for fingerprints!) done again.

In the evening, I got a surprise phone call from Raul, Gladney's Program Manager from Tampa. He has our dossier with our updated immigration approval. Now the only thing we're waiting on are our FBI apostilles which we had to mail separately. He did say that if we hadn't received our apostilles by Thursday, he'd go ahead and mail our dossier off to Colombia to start translations on what we do have. I'm praying that these apostilles come right away and don't slow our timeline down too much.

I did enjoy chatting with him (with his thick Colombian accent!) for about 45 minutes. He definitely suggested that we stay in an apartment as opposed to the Intercontinental hotel. We had been leaning that direction because the cost is significantly lower and we'd have more space, BUT it means I need to grocery shop and cook in Colombia. That has been striking fear into me! I have a hard enough time shopping and cooking in the US! I am really nervous about doing it in a foreign country with different foods and in Spanish! He set my mind at ease, and reassured me that it will not be difficult. The stores in Medellin are very Americanized and have plenty of choices!  So I'm feeling a ton better about the food and lodging issues.

He even said he'd try to find us a 3 bedroom apartment that has a pool and gym in the complex! I would LOVE that, since keeping 7 kids entertained for a month or more may become difficult without easy diversions. I don't really see us doing a ton of sightseeing (bummer) mainly due to there being NINE of us that we'd have to figure out transportation for to go anywhere. And after seeing pictures of their Taxis- it ain't gonna happen! They are pretty small!

We'll be doing a lot of walking, I'm sure. Thankfully, Raul said he'd find us a place in a very touristy area- and mentioned El Poblado. It is near shopping malls, restaurants, parks, etc. and is a wealthy area of town.

Now that we have a better idea on what kind of accomodations we will be in, it is easier to figure out how much money we'll still need for our in country costs. This has been so frustrating since the costs vary widely between an apartment and staying in a Presidential Suite in the Intercontinental Hotel! We're talking hundreds of dollars a day difference!

He's still saying that we could be traveling in late January, although it is possible it might be as late as mid February since only half of the ICBF staff comes in during the month of December and things could take longer.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Shopping Anyone?

I just wanted to give a reminder to all you Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or just plain Christmas shoppers!

I have been signed up as an Amazon Affiliate for the past year.

This means that if you click on our Amazon Search link on the right hand side of my blog and purchase your items through that link, we will get a (very) small commission to use towards our adoption!

Hey! It's not a lot, but every little bit helps!

So please consider whether you would support us in this painless way! Thanks so much!

Happy Thanksgiving

This year, our day is going to be quieter than usual. We usually celebrate at my mother in law's but scheduling demanded that we move our giant family gathering to Saturday. So today we are having a quiet day as a family. Actually, it won't be totally quiet, since my sister and brother in law and their 4 children will be joining us for dinner. (It's comical to me that I consider 6 more people a quiet family gathering. Compared to the number of people at my mother in law's house on thanksgiving, today is NOTHING!LOL I love every minute of the chaos, though!)

Anyway, the relative quietness is allowing some thoughts to swirl around in my mind, so I'll share them with you...

As I lugged bags of groceries in the house last night....I thought about how many children have never even been to a grocery store.

As I hulled the 19 pound turkey from the fridge and began the roaster... I thought about the children who will rejoice because they found some rotten food scraps in a dumpster.

As I peeled potatos and listened to the radio playing worship music... I thought about the little ones who have never heard the words of grace and truth for which they may give thanks to their Creator.

As I smelled the pumpkin pie baking and turkey roasting....I thought about the smells that the least of these must inhale as they play in the ghetto streets.

As I set the table with my best linens and dishes, ready for loved ones to enjoy.... I thought about the loneliness of the orphan and widow and whispered prayers of comfort for our "almost" children in Mexico and the ones yet to join us in Colombia.

As I swept the floor, again, sliding a few hidden toys from beneath the sofa... I thought about grace, and how God continually cleanses me from the dirt I keep piling up in my heart.

As my daughter fooled around playing songs of thanksgiving on the piano... I thought of how I live a life of ease and blessing and even in my gratitude, I wrestle with whether this is right.

As I listen to a preacher on the radio speak of the gospel... I think about Christians in far away places that are being beaten right now because of their unwavering faith in Christ.

As I take a minute to glance at a few sale ads for tomorrow....I think about how we keep trying to find happiness in all the wrong places. Christ is the only one who will satisfy.

As I tidy the bookshelf that is a disorderly mess of Sunday School papers, scattered Bibles, and church bulletins.... I think about the Christians who are reading God's words on scraps of smuggled paper in order not to be caught.

I am so thankful for this quiet morning where God invaded my thoughts amidst the holiday preparations. How can I not praise Him?

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.  Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth.
 Worship the LORD with gladness;
   come before him with joyful songs.
  Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his;
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.
  Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name.
 For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Signatures, Weddings, and Tears

This past Tuesday was one of the craziest days we have had through this whole adoption process. It's a hysterical story (at least for us), but it's a LONG story. So bear with me....(I apologize in advance for the inconsistent verb tenses. I wrote this over many days so they changed and it's too much to fix right now!)

Our social worker at our agency is leaving for her belated honeymoon on Monday. She'll be gone for two weeks, which means we really wanted to get our whole dossier to her before then so she can get them sent to Colombia to start the translation process. In order to do that we needed to get all the final touches on our documents no later than Tuesday.

8:30am- We were expecting to receive our homestudy in the mail by 8:30am. Our goal was to grab the package and immediately get on the road to go get all our authentications and apostilles.

Now, for those of you who aren't familiar with the adoption process, let me explain. Each document we have has to be notorized. In order to prove that the notary is a true notary, we need to go to the circuit court  in the  county where that notary was commissioned to receive another stamp. This is called an authentication. (Note: Not all states require this step! Maryland does, though.)  Our documents were notarized by people in Harford County, Baltimore County, and Anne Arundel County, so we knew we'd have to get to 3 counties that day!  Then, after we get all the authentications, we go to the Secretary of State building in Annapolis to get the shiny gold stickers called apostilles. These prove that the authentications are legitimate. (Can we say "RED TAPE"!)

11:50am- Ok, back to the story. We were very IMPATIENTLY waiting for the package that was supposed to be there in the early morning. BUT, the package didn't end up coming until 11:50am. Not much time to drive to 3 counties and 4 office buildings by 4pm. (Actually, you have to submit all the documents by 3:30 in order for them to be finished by 4pm.) So, we raced out the door, dropped the kids off at my mother in laws and headed to the county court house.

12:45-Brent dropped me off while he found parking. I needed one last notary so I ran into the bank on the same street. I asked if they had a notary, but, of course, she said no. I asked if she knew of anyplace nearby that did and she recommended the old pharmacy on Main Street.

Out I ran, through the rain, to find the pharmacy. I found a pharmacy that looked like it hadn't seen anything modern since 1950. The elderly lady clerk was finishing with a customer and there was another customer behind her. Since I was in a huge time crunch, I discreetly asked if she had a notary at the pharmacy. She very rudely responded, "Well, I am, but I can't be bothered with that right now! You'll have to find someone else." My heart sunk, but, I was not going to go down without a fight! LOL!

I pulled out the desperate, pleading voice and begged her to do it anyway. The customer in front of me  (an angel) said, "Oh, honey, you go ahead of me. All these working moms, trying to get all their things done on their lunch break..." I could've kissed her! I told her, "Actually, I'm not a working mom, but we are adopting 3 children and I have to drive to three counties by 3:30 and I can't do any of it without getting a notary."

Well, let me just tell you- that worked! The rude lady behind the counter softened and snapped to it!
Out I raced, over one street and into the court building to get the notaries. Thankfully, having done this all before, I knew exactly where to go and didn't have to waste time looking at the signs. I got 5 authentications, and then we were off- racing over to Baltimore County.

1:45pm- Last time, Baltimore Co. was the place that gave me a hard time on the phone about how picky they are about their requirements. So I was a little nervous that things may not go so smoothly. Brent pulled up, I jumped out while he circled the block to look for a metered parking space out front. I literally ran through the building, handed the lady my papers, she looked at them for less than two seconds, slapped some stickers on, and I raced back out! I think I was in the building less than 4 minutes! Brent hadn't even had time to get out of the car to put quarters in the meter!
So, since everything was moving so smoothly, we felt confident that all would be fine. We both hadn't had any lunch and the gas tank was dangerously low, but we both felt like we should press on to the last stop and just get it done.

2:30- We arrived at the circle of office buildings in Annapolis. Brent dropped me off at the circuit court building while he found a parking place. I raced in, and handed the last two papers to the lady there.

That's when the day really got crazy.  She couldn't find either of the notary people in the system! What? How could that be?

Finally, she found the one. She had been spelling the name wrong. But, the one from our Psychological Report was not in the database anywhere. And, to top it off, the embossed seal was not pressed through the paper enough so it didn't show all the information very well. (Our psych. report was the one that we had problems with last time. AND, it was a different notary! Sheesh! The doc needs a new notary!)

After what seemed like hours, she finally determined that even though the notary had written Anne Arundel County, he was actually licensed in Queen Anne's County. Oh, my goodness. I cannot even tell you how crushed I was. I couldn't even think straight! What in the world could we do? Even if we did drive to QA County, the paperwork was written wrong! She said the only option was to get our paperwork rewritten, signed and notarized again. I left, very close to tears, only to meet Brent at the door and tell him the disappointing news.

Yet, still we were not going down without a fight! LOL!

When we got to the car, I called the Psychologists office and spoke to his secretary. She was super sweet and apologetic. Thankfully, he was only a 10 minute drive away and the doc hadn't gone home yet! He was ready to walk out the door, but he said this was more important. We really liked this grandfatherly old man, he just picks lousy notaries! His secretary was printing up 4 unsigned copies and we would run down the end of the strip mall to a real estate agent office and get someone to notarize them. Great!

2:50pm. We, of course, hit every stinkin' red light along the way, hit rain, traffic, and, yes, even a funeral procession! At this point, what else could we do but laugh? Once we arrived, we raced down to the real estate office for the notary. But, of course, the guy had left for lunch!
Then the secretary suggested going through the intersection to the other strip mall across the street to a mortgage company. I asked the doctor if he wouldn't mind just hopping into our car. So we "tossed" the 70 yr old doc in the backseat. Just as we pulled into the parking space, he got a call from his secretary saying the notary was in the middle of a house closing and wasn't available! Arg!

Then, we drove a little further and I ran into a Nationwide office and asked for a notary. Nope!

This was getting crazy and we were getting a little slap happy. We're trying to act calm in front of the doctor. After all, he knew Brent's history and we didn't want him to change his mind about us! LOL!

Back to his same strip mall at the suggestion of another real estate office. The doc and I both hopped out, knowing for sure they'd have to have one! Nope! Are there no notaries in this town???

One more suggestion- the Bank of America a few blocks down. Ok. we navigate through rain and traffic and too many red lights again, watching the clock and listening to the doctor ask, "Now, what time do you need to be back to Annapolis?" As if the 10th time he asks it might actually be different!

FINALLY, there is a notary at the bank! The doctor signs, then she does her seal on each page. Then I watch in horror as I notice she has signed two of the documents with only her initials! AAAAHHHH! I don't want to be rude, but I have to stop her. "Oh, excuse me, I'm sure this is how you always sign it, but do you mind signing your full name just as it's written on the seal?" She assures me she has notarized hundreds of documents with just her initials, and it's always been fine. Sigh. But, thankfully, after I insist, she humors me and signs the last two documents with her full name.

It's 3:15. We race back out, drop the doctor off and head back to Annapolis. In the car we laugh at how crazy the last hour has been and relive driving our psychologist around in the back seat of the car. (I know, it probably isn't funny to you all, but at that point, I'm glad we were laughing and not crying, so it was hysterical!)
We rehearse our plan... Brent will slow the car down to a safe enough speed for me to jump out in front of the court house. I will get the authentication on the psych report. He will park and race into the Sec. of State office so he is at least signed in by 3:30 with all the rest of the documents. He will then beg the lady in there to be patient until I arrive! I will RUN two blocks to the Sec. of State office with the last document. We feel hopeful and giddy that this might actually work!

3:25pm- Brent slows, I jump, Brent continues on and almost crashes a police cruiser! I literally run into the building, throw my stuff through the metal detector and run into the office. I go to the same lady that I had an hour ago and tell her we got a new notary. She takes a look at the document and sighs. Then she gets up and goes and talks to her boss at the other end of the room. As I stand there, I notice that the boss is in the process of officiating a wedding ceremony. There's all kinds of joy and hoopla happening 10 feet away!

The lady walks back to me with a downcast look on her face. "What's wrong?" I ask her. She says that she can't accept this document either. The signature doesn't match the signature they have on file! I say, "No! It's ok! I have another signature! LOL!" And I hand her the one with the initials. She says no to the initials. They are very wrong. Initials aren't allowed. I ask to see the original signature. For cryin' out loud! You can definitely tell it's her signature- but she has an extra loop!

And this, my friends, is where I lost it. Out came the TEARS. After a completely stressful day (month, year) I couldn't hold back any more. The tears flowed all while the couple at the end of the room got married! They probably thought I was just sentimental! The poor lady. I knew she felt bad and was regretting making a big deal out of a loop!

I told her that I didn't know what to do. How could I go back to the same notary and tell her that her signature wasn't her signature? When it was! It just didn't match a little index card she had signed 5 years before. After all we had been through, how could I ask the doctor to do it all over again? And now I wouldn't be able to get our paperwork in on time.

The lady just stared at the documents for probably 5 minutes while I cried quietly. Then she put her finger to her mouth and whispered, "I"m just gonna do it. If I ask my boss again, she'll just say no, but this signature is perfectly fine and she's just difficult."

Bless this dear, sweet woman! She quietly pulled out her paperwork and  typed up the authentication. I didn't speak, but mouthed "Thank you" over and over again!

It costs $1 and as I went to pay, I told her all I had was a $20.  Her face fell. It was then that I realized that the cash register was at her boss' desk if she needed to get change. "Can I write a check?" She smiled with relief! So I wrote that check for $1 and sped out of the office without making eye contact with the boss! I am so thankful for that lady who got it done! I hope she doesn't get in trouble!

3:40- Just for the record, I am completely out of shape. I learned this all too easily as I ran, as fast as my legs could go, in the rain, under the construction scaffolding, two blocks over and down one block to the Sec. of State building. I just KNEW I was going to slip since it was so slick, but I didn't! I made it to the office just as the worker there was finishing our documents. I, breathlessly, handed her the last one, and thirty seconds later we walked out.

3:50- I am in awe. It is ONLY by the grace of God that we accomplished what we did. We left in shock that we actually did it. We are exhausted mentally, physically (me from running!), and emotionally. And a little lightheaded since neither of us had eaten all day!

If you have made it through this epic-sized post, I am impressed. It has taken me FOREVER to write it. I'm afraid it is a bit boring to everyone else, but I wanted to remember the details for our chicos when we tell them how God moved mountains (or in this case, signatures) in order to bring them home. Unfortunately, in all the chaos, I didn't take a picture of our stack of documents like I'd wanted to. Oh, well.

So, our dossier is on it's way for translations and will be submitted to the ICBF as soon as our immigration approval comes back. Progress....!!!!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Go Grant!

Our family spent this past weekend with some of our dearest friends. Our husbands worked together before we got married and one day Brent mentioned that I'd really like Brian's wife, Kathy. He described her to me and I immediately thought "We couldn't be more polar opposites if we tried!". Yet, as God would have it, we became super close friends and shared the first few years of our marriages and parenting years doing everything together. They are from Western Maryland but had to move to Harford County for a few years for his job. And, it just so happened they moved onto the same exact street as us after we got married!

It was great. We had impromptu dinner together several times a week, hung out late into the evening, yard saled together, walked each other around the neighborhood while each of us were in labor so we didn't have to call our husbands home from work yet, nursed our babies together (often through tears), caught children's vomit in their bare hands (yes, he's an awesome uncle!), picnicked together, and had many more special moments.

A few years back, (ok, like 11!) they were blessed to go back home to Western MD to their family farm. We have missed them terribly through the years, but each year either they come east for a visit or we head west for some lovin' on them and their kiddos. It is so awesome to have a friendship where you just pick up and go from where you've left off.
The past few years, they have graciously invited Brent and the older boys to come hunt on the farm for deer season. Two years ago, Grant and Jake didn't get anything. But this year was much better!

Jake headed out in the early morning hours and got a shot at an 8 point buck, but just barely missed him. Poor kiddo. He was disappointed, but excited to have actually taken a shot. Meanwhile, Tasha (11)was hunting with her daddy and landed herself a beautiful 6 point buck! Her first buck! Boy was she excited!

Later in the morning, Grant headed out. Kathy and I were chatting away when Grant burst into the room screaming that he got a deer! It was good sized doe and boy was he excited. He said he practically leaped out of his skin! I know he'll hate me for saying it, but he was soooo cute to listen to him explain every detail of the shoot.

Unfortunately, Jake woke up with a fever so we cut our visit a few hours short and didn't go to church with them like we normally do, but headed home. Even though it was a short trip, we still had a fantastic time catching up and having fun. (In fact, we had so much fun, I didn't take any pictures except of Grant's deer!) Sorry!

A Teeny, Kinda boring update....

Just a teeny, kinda boring update...
Before we left to go out of town this weekend, I got an email from our social worker saying that our I800A supplement 2 and 3 (to change our immigration approval from Mexico to Colombia) was received at the National Benefits Center! Yay! I think it can still take a few weeks to get immigration approval, but we're praying it comes back quickly (of course!).

Also, our 5 approved homestudies are on their way back to me to get apostilled. Basically it's a notary, of a notary, of a notary! Or, a bunch of pretty gold stickers to put on the top of each of our dossier documents! LOL! If we get the homestudies in the mail tomorrow, I'll be driving to the Harford County courthouse, to the Baltimore County Courthouse, to the Anne Arundel County Courthouse, to the Secretary of State office in Annapolis! When we did this last time, we were, shockingly, done by noon! Hopefully, this time will go as smooth!

Then, it's one more Fed Ex shipment to send all the final documents to Texas where our agency is located, where they will mail them to their staff in Colombia to be translated! Then we wait for our I800A approval to come and our dossier can be submitted to the Colombian ICBF (the government agency in charge of child welfare) for approval.

After that point, I am a little fuzzy on what happens and when. I'm sure it'll all be a flurry of more paperwork once we get the chicos' official referrals.

It is starting to really hit me that this could REALLY be happening. I feel like we've been at the paperwork stage for so long, it's hard to remember that it ends with the CHILDREN not just more paperwork! I'm really getting excited! Could we truly be in Colombia by the end of January????

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Busy Day

Today has been full of phone calls, emails, picking up documents, mailing documents, writing large checks, scanning, uploading, downloading- I think I may have even side-loaded something! LOL!

So here's the boring paperwork update for those adoptive families that thrive on this kind of  boring information!:)

Our homestudy is finally FINISHED! I picked up 5 notorized copies today and after scanning it in (btw, I have the world's slowest scanner!) I headed back out to overnight them to Gladney so they can put their cover approval letter on top. They're going to overnight it back to me so I can go get the rest of our documents authenticated and apostilled (those are the pretty gold stickers!). Then I'm DONE!

In addition, our homestudy is also already on its way electronically (I heart email!) to be translated in Colombia and shortly they'll have the rest of the documents too!

Tomorrow, our social worker will attach our homestudy to our I800A supplement 3 and mail it to USCIS. Hopefully, we will get a quick turn-around for our approval! As soon as we get that, we can send our documents to Colombia's ICBF (government agency in charge of children's welfare).

I also spent the morning on the phone with some adoption doctors to find out how to have them review our prospective children's medical records. Thankfully we found someone who is a specialist in the medical issues we were needing information on, AND they don't charge extra for additional siblings! YAY!

Needless to say, minimal schoolwork is getting supervised today....ah well, there's always tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Publishing His Glorious Deeds!!!!

Last Thursday, exactly one month into the process of switching to Colombia, God totally blew our minds! 

In the middle of the day I got a phone call from Beth, our social worker. I expected her to be calling about the corrections that needed to be made on our homestudy before it is finalized. But it took a very unexpected turn!

Beth: Do you have a minute?

Me: Sure!

Beth: Are you near your computer?

Me: Sure! (Thinking she's going to email me the corrections and go over them together.)

Beth: Is Brent home?

Me: Ummmm... no. He won't be home until 1pm. Why? (Still not catching on to this line of questioning even though I am a dedicated adoption blog reader that has read this EXACT dialogue scenario with other families! LOL)

Beth: Well, we think we might have a sibling group to match you with!

Me: WHAT! I thought you were calling about the homestudy!

HA!!!! Next, I stumbled over my words, tripped over my laptop power cord, shushed the kids as they tried to ask what was wrong, tried to find a private, quiet place in my room, and mumbled incoherant words of confusion and elation to Beth. I think it was something profound like, "Wow. Oh. Wow! Oh. Really? Wow!"  LOL!

She asked me if I wanted her to wait to send their pictures (WHAT? We get pictures too?) and referral papers until Brent came home.

Uh, no! No way I could wait!
Sorry, Brent, but after a year of crazy adoption stuff, I couldn't even wait one more hour until he came home to hear the news! (Thankfully, he totally understood and wouldn't have had it any other way.)

She then explained that this is not a formal referral yet. Just an informal "match". The incountry staff already had the kids' information and when she sent our Psychological to them to check, they immediately told her that these children match our specifications exactly.

The ICBF could decide that we aren't the best match for them, which we understand. We don't even have our homestudy finished or immigration update complete! Our dossier isn't finished or in Colombia yet!  So all of this is very tentative. We are obviously excited, but we're trying to temper our excitement with reality, knowing all too well how easily we could lose the match. Been there, done that twice this past year. Not fun.  So we're proceeding gently. Preparing and planning as if it will succeed, but not going crazy with emotion and excitement, yet.

Unfortunately, I am not allowed to post their photos on my blog until a formal referral has been accepted. I know! Bummer!
But, we are happy to say that it is a 7 year old girl, 5 year old boy and 3 year old little girl! We sent in our Letter of Intent yesterday and are waiting to finish our paperwork hopefully this week!

At this point in time, we are looking at traveling to Colombia in January or February. The Colombian courts close down from Mid-December to Mid January, so even though we could get a formal referral before then, we most likely won't travel until the courts re-open. That's ok. We have SO MUCH TO DO! (You should see my To Do list. It's more like a TO DO BOOK!)

Back when everything fell apart with the Mexico adoption, and we had to make a decision about what to do, we really felt so unsure about everything. We still felt the call to adopt a sibling group but even then, we doubted our hearts. As we made the decision to switch to Colombia, Brent and I both commented that we felt we were "tiptoeing" into Colombia, full of questions, not sure if this is where we belong. We were at total peace if God closed the door because then we would KNOW for sure he was closing the door to adopting and wanted us to go in another direction. 

BUT, so far He has made it more and more clear that He is pushing this speeding train full steam ahead. I mean, how in the world do you get a match when you aren't even homestudy ready? How do you get FBI fingerprints in 6 days? REALLY? Come on! Only God can do these kinds of miracles.

So, today I want to live out Psalm 96:3. I want to...
Publish his glorious deeds among the nations. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does!

Taste and see for yourself how good He is!

Jake is 10!

My little Jakey-boy is growing up! On Oct 20, he turned TEN! I am in total denial that now three of my children are in their double digits. 

We love Jake so much! He brings us so much laughter and joy. Out of all our children, Jake has the most tender heart. He is always the first to  notice if someone is upset. He's the first to give up his toy for someone else. He's the first to offer a hug or snuggle if someone is sad or sick. He has an uncanny sense of feeling what other people are feeling and knowing just the right thing to do to make them happy. So often he is the peacemaker of our home.

Also, this kid has a contagious laugh. He loves a good joke and once he gets started giggling, you just can't help but go along with him. He is the one that gets me laughing while I'm trying to discipline him!

Jake also loves little things. No, really little things. I rarely find him without some little toy or trinket in his hand, mouth or pockets! I learned very early on that he is my tactile/kinesthetic learner. He always needs to be touching, moving or bouncing! So often I'll go to put clean sheets on his bed and out roll a dozen little "treasures" he has collected over the past week! I love it though. One day I know I'll miss all of the little things!

For a while, Jake has loved using my camera to take nature pictures. (He also loves taking random photos of disgusting odd things, but I digress.)  So it was a no-brainer when we were deciding what to get him for his birthday. A Camera! He had NO IDEA! Total surprise! He's already had a great time taking some really fun nature shots. Now, we just need to follow up with some photography pointers!

This past year, we have really noticed some changes in Jake's understanding of the gospel. He is beginning to be directed by the Holy Spirit on his own and not just through mommy and daddy's direction. That is so exciting to see! It is our prayer for him that he grow into a strong man of faith that would impact God's kingdom greatly- no matter the cost to his earthly pleasures. We pray that he will store up treasures in heaven and that he will persevere in following Christ all his days!