Posts filed under Adoption

rescued to love.

I walked into church hesitantly yesterday. We're in the middle of the Adopted series and in so many ways it's wrecking me - rearranging things in my heart and placing them where they belong while quieting so many lies I've been hearing over the past month. And yesterday was no different.

The sermon started with this video and Matt saying, "do you see the man's look on his face when he first sees his son? This is nothing compared to how God feels about you - His child." 

And my heart shattered there in a million pieces even though I've seen this video before because that realization of God watching me and looking at me in that tender of a way - it just brought everything home.

Over the past few years, Russ and I have received a lot of questions about the why of our adoption. And I fight a lot with resentment, because it's as if suddenly your personal life is on display for others and nothing is off limits - even the question of why don't you just have your own kids? 

And let me just answer that question here once and for all :: We are having our own child and it's through adoption. For us, adoption is plan A.

The deeper we look at scripture, the more we realize the parallels between the Gospel and adoption. For so many reasons, this is why we chose to adopt. It's because God loved us first. It's because even in our deepest pain, He brought us out and rescued us.

This doesn't mean we're rescuing a child. Far from it. By our imperfect hands we'd make things worse. However, because of the love He's shown us and how He'd adopted us into His family, we're able to turn around and do the same.

It's not that I'm surprised - because I've experienced God enough to know everything is for my good - but I'm beginning to understand His heart more and more even through these past few weeks of heartache. Yesterday, watching the Chens' reaction and thinking about the day we get the phone call that there really is a baby waiting for us - it just made my heart twist in on herself with longing.

It was then I heard Him - softly - this is how I feel about you, Elora! THIS. What you've been through? How you hurt? It makes me hurt. You are my daughter. Do you know how much I love you? Just trust Me. Let me Father you. I want to Father you.

I'd be lying if I said in that moment everything changed - because it didn't. I still struggle understanding. But, I'm learning to trust and learning once again what it means to abide in His love.

And in the arms of my Father I will rest.

Posted on October 29, 2012 and filed under Adoption.

some news.

IMG_4136.1

i've thought about writing this post for awhile. i guess it's fitting that now when it's time, i find no words.

the short of it :: a little over a week ago, we found out that if everything goes as planned, in ten weeks we'll be parents to a beautiful baby girl. 

there's so much to this story. so much my heart wishes to share - so much God has taught me in such a few days. but know this :: He's at work and it's breathtaking to see.

i'll share everything soon - i promise. there's just some things i need to work out in my heart before laying it bare for the world to see, you know? and this - this right here - is sacred.

Posted on August 26, 2012 and filed under Adoption, Faith, The Process.

an unconventional adoption

Two years ago, God broke my heart for the orphan. There were already cracks. My trips to Haiti and Africa provided more than enough fissures to last a lifetime. But when a high school senior cleared his throat and asked me to be his mom, I’m absolutely certain you could hear the crash of the remnants of my heart falling all around me. What came of that question was a sudden shift in priorities. Our four-bedroom house on the east side of Austin we rented for the purpose of high school ministry suddenly made even more sense with the nineteen year old looking around his room and declaring, “Man. All I wanted was abed. I haven’t had my own bed in forever. But my own room? Yeah.This’ll work.” And then he hugged me, a tight hug that smelled of Axe body spray. These hugs would be my undoing over the next few months. Slowly, the mom-heart I kept frozen and at bay began to soften and pulse again.

...

i'm over at Reject Apathy today talking about a piece of our story. join me?

Posted on August 17, 2012 and filed under Adoption, Mom-Heart.

welcoming the burn.

it's something i've been struggling with for awhile. nothing seems more difficult for me than to accept a blessing as it is - a blessing. somehow, i feel i owe something. as if nothing good can happen without something bad happening in return. there's always a payment. always a consequence of my something good. 

lately, my something good is staying home with our child. it's buying into my talent, writing, and holding our baby close.

but somehow, i feel like this is selfish. somehow, i can't help but wonder if because i think this our wait will be longer.

thankfully, my therapist is a gospel-reliant woman who speaks truth into the lies wreaking havoc on my heart. yesterday, in her office, she began to unravel the root of this fear. by the time i left her office, i was clinging to the belief that God created me to be a mother and this desire - this hope of quick placement - is not selfish but a blessing from the One who knows me best. 

i don't know when our child will be in our arms. there are moments when i feel this could be very, very soon. others, like this morning, the ache in my heart to see his/her face is so palpable i feel i could reach in and grasp the pain with my empty hands.

but i know now these feelings are natural - and even meant to be celebrated. i see how He's building this mother's heart within me and even though some of the fear from the past still lingers, i welcome the turn - the small bend of my heart toward these emotions so foreign.

Posted on March 6, 2012 and filed under Adoption, Jubilee, Mom-Heart.

changes.

there's been a few changes in the ramirez family lately, and it's why i haven't updated in awhile. but...these changes are good changes and God changes - things we never would have considered had He not taken us through these past few months. all this to say, hang tight. there's some redesign coming up in the next few weeks and we'll be repurposing this site to better fit our story.

you know, it was a just about a year ago that God began working in my heart toward adoption. seeing how He's moved and poked and prodded these past few months is humbling and reveals to me His goodness. one of my best friends said it best the other day: He absolutely is fighting for the adoption of our hearts in Him. and over the next week, i hope to share with you exactly how russ & i got to this place...

slowly & surely we're understanding the power of His love and the pull of His heart toward His children.

---

you can still be a part of our adoption journey! we are five hundred dollars short of our goal right now. you can join us in our pursuit of baby ramirez by donating here - any amount helps. 

Posted on July 31, 2011 and filed under Adoption.

story of jubilee.

the morning after russ & i submitted our request for information about the Ethiopian adoption program, i found myself driving down to my parent's house for my cousin's wedding shower. it was beautiful outside - the sun radiated from this deep blue sky and the fall air was a refreshing turn about from the sweltering heat of the early months of the school year. i look back at this moment and remember a deep sense of hope and excitement. for the first time in months, i knew we were on the road God wanted for us. i was listening to gungor's beautiful things album and praying for our future child[ren] - for their protection and for the process to be smooth and quick. my mind immediately went to names, and i started asking God to give me a name for this period of wait. a name i could connect with our child[ren].

i felt the whisper in the hidden spaces: jubilee

i knew the minute i heard the name that it was for us. i called russ and told him and he agreed. it was perfect. my sister christina mentioned with tears in her eyes, oh elora, it's the year of jubilee! and we giggled and did a little dance in my parents' driveway. driving home, i spent a lot of time in prayer. the feeling of celebration and rescue settled in my bones and i didn't waste anytime that evening buying this domain and setting up the blog.

the next week, rumors of oneword2011 began filtering through my twitter stream. last year, i watched others claim a word and was amazed at how God used it to shape them. when the announcement came that it was time to start thinking of a word for 2011, i didn't even have to give it a second thought.

my word was jubilee.

and before 2011 even became official, i realized my word weighed heavier than i ever anticipated. this was our word - this was our promise to cling to - not just because of our precious baby/babies waiting. this was our word because of the jubilee needing to happen in our own story.

Posted on March 24, 2011 and filed under Adoption, Jubilee.

a letter from us.

There have been a handful of moments in our marriage where we knew, without a shadow of a doubt, God was behind the events unfolding around us. One was our trip to Kenya this past summer. While there, we fell in love with the people of Kibera – a slum that makes up a little over a square mile. In this tiny area of Nairobi, 1.5 million people call home. Leaving those who showed us true joy was heartbreaking -  before the plane even landed in Houston, we knew the land of Africa grew deep in our bones – we’d be going back. Skip forward a few months, and you’ll see Russ and me in Starbucks, heads bent low and talking feverishly. It’s November 5, 2010. We’ve just decided to start the adoption process. “I don’t care where we adopt from  – as long as we’re doing it,” Russ says. And for some reason, my hearts leans towards Ethiopia. We jump head first and immediately begin to see God provide – and the enemy come against us. Within weeks of our decision, we meet some friends at a restaurant. Before we even order our meal, our friend looks at us and asks, “would you guys be interested in taking a trip to the Horn of Africa in March?”

I felt the tears form as I looked at Russ. For those of you who don’t know, the Horn of Africa makes up the countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Uganda, Kenya and Djibuti – for the second time within a year, we were going back to Africa – and to the very area of our future child. Dumbfounded, we let our friends know about our decision to adopt and their own eyes filled with tears. It wasn’t until recently our friend told us he didn’t even know to ask until he pulled in the parking lot with his wife. Once again, God revealed to us His goodness. The moment we felt surrounded and overwhelmed with obstacles concerning adoption, He came in and reminded us of His purpose.

While in the Horn, we’ll be assisting a partner of the Austin Stone who currently serves through medical assistance, fitness, and women’s development. We will also be visiting an orphanage that recently opened. Although we may not know specifics, we’re anxious to see what God has and the connections we will build with the people. Our desire is to build relationships that will provide a firm foundation for future trips through Austin Stone and return home with a better idea of how we can fit the Horn of Africa into the current mission of ministering to unreached people groups.

There are a few ways you can join us on this trip. First and foremost, we request prayer. We will be gone a week: March 11-20. We need prayers for health, safety, wisdom, and provision and for the Lord to use us. We are building a team of at least 20 people to pray for our team every day we are there. If you would like to join our prayer team, we’d be incredibly grateful.

Also, this trip will cost approximately 5000 dollars. We need this money by March 1. We believe, from personal experience, God will provide. We never anticipated returning to Africa so quickly, but we feel led and can’t wait to see what God has for us while there. If you want to join with us by supporting us financially, please contact me and I’ll send you donation cards via e-mail.

In Ephesians, it says “God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Sprit deeply and gently within us.” [3:20]. There have been countless moments within the past few months where Russ and I distinctly feel His Spirit gently and deeply within us – moving us to a place far beyond anything we ever anticipated. Please continue to pray for our hearts, that we’d be pliable and open to His leading. More than anything, this is what we aim for – and we can’t wait to see Him bend our hearts closer to Him through this trip.

Penda,

Russ & Elora

Posted on January 23, 2011 and filed under Adoption, Letters.

community's promise

when i hit "publish" on the post inviting people into our journey of adoption, i honestly had no idea how people would respond. it's not that i feel important. i was almost dreading everyone knowing - erin said it best in her post announcing their adoption: the what ifs tend to cloud your view sometimes.

i've learned a few things over the past week, though. the most important: the same God who performed miracles and intervened on His people's behalf in the Bible is the same God who we serve today. the same God who saw words and hurts cut into our heart when we were younger is the same God who's waiting on us to call on Him for healing today. He never changes. He is for us.

another thing is that community is vital. i cannot fathom what this process would be like without the buoyancy of others lifting russ & i up at some of our weakest moments. there have been so many moments this week where i've been moved to tears by others' willingness to share our story - to let others know who we are and what we're doing. like i said before - i'm nothing special. the part of me who wants nothing do to with the spotlight cringes whenever someone else looks at me. but when russ & i signed up for this journey - when we took that deep breath and stepped off the cliff - one thing was certain: we needed others.

it wasn't an option anymore. we can't do this alone - it's absolutely impossible. so when friends look at me and say, "welcome to the Ethiopian family", this does something inexplicable to my heart craving for authenticity and encouragement. when i receive a text or an e-mail from someone who wants to remind me of this jubilee i'm living - it boosts me in ways i never thought possible.

in ephesians there's a prayer. it asks that God would strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being - so Christ can dwell in your heart through faith. it continues with the desire that you would be rooted and established in love - and with the power of His Spirit and together with all the Lord's holy people, you would begin to understand how wide and how long and how high and how deep is the love of Christ - and that this love surpasses any knowledge we could ever attain.

this is true community.

for those of you who have shared our story, prayed for us, laughed with us, cried with us and joined with us either financially or physically - thank you. together, we are slowly starting to grasp just how much Christ's love extends beyond our expectations.

russ & i couldn't do it without you.

Posted on January 6, 2011 and filed under Adoption.

made beautiful.

there have been a couple instances this past week where i'm suddenly hit with this realization of holy cow...we're adopting. one was yesterday when we received the application from Gladney. i printed off both manuals for our dossier & application. looking at the stack of 150+ sheets of paper, it's very easy to get overwhelmed. because of this, i was incredibly thankful for the groupings in which the africa team instructed us to organize our paperwork. makes it manageable looking at a checklist of sixteen steps as opposed to a checklist of well...a lot. i texted a friend the picture of me nearly buried under the paper and she responded, "shout hallelujah with each page turned - your hope rests in the jubilation coming." i could only smile at her text - and fight back the tears because of the reminder - our jubilation is indeed on its way.

and then this morning, on my way to work, i listened to the gungor album. as beautiful things played, i cried. suddenly, the realization that our baby will experience redemption at a level we could never even dream hit me square in the chest. i envisioned what him or her may face in these months/years to come and my heart broke - with everything inside of me i wanted to be on a plane headed towards ethiopia. i wanted to hold my baby in my arms, kissing his/her small head.

i'm here. i won't leave. it's okay.

and then i realized, i can envision this redemption. i've lived it. my own life was dust - my own clothes ragged. Christ, in His goodness & faithfulness, held me, adopted me as His own and promised me He'd never leave.

He made me new.

i've thought a lot about our baby today. for all we know, there's a woman in ethiopia right now, praying for a way out of her situation. have faith, my sister. Rescue is coming...your ashes will turn into beauty.

and because of your courage,  Rescue is showing us more of Himself and His heart everyday.

Gungor's beautiful things. if you haven't heard the song, i highly suggest you take a moment and listen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oyPBtExE4W0

Posted on December 8, 2010 and filed under Adoption, Paperwork.

left breathless.

I'm still at a loss for words. I'm trying to find them, though - because I want to remember this week. I want to remember this time of provision in those moments where it seems we've been forgotten.

On Tuesday, Russ & I had our phone orientation with Gladney. There wasn't anything that surprised me about the Ethiopian adoption program except two things:

the wait for our child could be up to two years

and...

effective midnight the program fee would increase...unless we put in the 300 dollars for the application fee. We would then officially be on track for approval with Gladney - and unofficially part of the program.

I knew before there would most likely be some parts of the conversation that overwhelmed me. But two years? Waiting five months...after we've been matched with a child...to even hold him/her in our arms? My heart struggled with this - but - essentially, I know God's timing is perfect. I know the wait is part of the process - both in refinement and in Him leading us to the child He set aside for us before we were even a whisper of creation.

And the money...well. It just wasn't going to happen. I remember hearing the about the increase and stopping to process what this could mean in the future, but I knew God would provide. He led us this far. He could provide for that increase.

I think I thought for .2 seconds that He could possibly provide the money that night.

I mean, there were playful conversations between Russ & I where he mentioned me campaigning on twitter or writing a blog post about our need. But that would equate to officially announcing our adoption before we even mentioned it to family. Not gonna happen.

Then there were those brief thoughts of bargaining - where I haphazardly threw up the last minute prayers of "if we get this money tonight & sell our table...I'll give that money to something big. Something necessary."

And then Russ actually posted on twitter. Saying something vague about needing 300 bucks before midnight in order to save money later. No mention of our adoption. We both giggled. Who would answer that question?!

So we got ready and left for missional community. And this is where I stop and give you a side-story.

Russ & I don't do well with small groups. We've had hurtful experiences in them and have attempted to start our own about three times. All failed. Even though we absolutely love the church we're at now, and the friends we've made create this incredible community we've never had, my heart still tucks itself in a little corner and hides every time we approach small groups. Even talking about them makes me get nervous.

So. Going to this missional community in the midst of an emotional time for us as a couple was, to me, a nightmare waiting to happen. I just knew I'd start crying in front of these people [who we knew, by the way] and then I'd be looked at as weak and well...not enough.

Hello, approval idol. How ya' doin.

We got to their house and ate dinner. Everything was going fine. We split into men/women groups and started talking accountability. Knowing we probably should be as authentic as possible [even though I was totally a coward in doing so] I texted Russ & asked if he wanted to share about our adoption.

We decided to go ahead and share.

And so in a completely skeletal version - minus as much emotion as I could quench, I highlighted our past month. The provisions, the spiritual attacks, the faith required, the disappointments...

the call we had with Gladney just minutes before coming over.

I told them about the 300 dollars needed before midnight. About how Russ & I both knew it wasn't going to happen and we didn't see it as defeat, because we knew somehow God would provide the extra funds later. I even admitted  I bargained with God less than an hour before and mentioned how I knew this was totally unhealthy and how convicted I felt after praying that prayer... And then I closed out my story [without tears!] by saying:

"But, really...we know God will provide. It's happened before, it'll happen again. We know this. We know His timing is perfect."

As those words came out of my mouth, Russ texted me saying that someone on twitter said she'd give us 150 dollars if we could find the other half.

I stared at my screen. I paused. I told the girls.

And then everything happened at breakneck speed.

One of the girls got up off the couch and walked outside. I was too busy texting Russ and getting details to pay attention to what was going on in the room. Coming back inside, she asked the other girl if she had cash.

"No. Not on me."

I looked up then, because I could feel their eyes on me.

"Elora, David & I want to give you guys the remaining 150 dollars."

I couldn't speak. For a brief second I felt tears inching their way to the front of my eyes, but I blinked them away. I think I managed an "are you serious?!" because I remember her laughing and saying, "yes. Absolutely."

And then I gave her a hug.

And then I ran next door to get Russ.

And then we came home to pay the fee.

And then I received a call from the missional community where they gave me their credit card number so Russ & I wouldn't have to worry about more debt.

"Just pay us the 150 dollars when you get the check from the other girl," they said.

We were able to pay the fee three hours before the deadline - officially making it known to Gladney we're serious about joining the program and taking the next [big] step towards our child.

I went to bed that night completely humbled.

Russ & I experienced the generosity of others before. Last spring we were completely overwhelmed by the generosity of some friends we knew from twitter when they joined together and raised funds that directly matched what we needed to finish paying bills that month.

But this...this was just God showing off His thunder. I've heard stories before of how God's heart for the orphan is unmatched. How He will move heaven & earth [quite literally] to bring these kids home. I experienced our first taste of what this means Tuesday night.

And I am left breathless.

Posted on December 2, 2010 and filed under Adoption.

who are we fooling

i take a look at the red numbers and sigh. without any warning, tears threaten to fall past the safety of my eyelashes and a thought screams through my mind: who are we fooling?

these past few weeks, i've felt more like brooke fraser, walking & stumbling on some form of shadow feet instead of planting my feet firmly in front of me. but i have to remember: i'm not found in anything else but Him. and this rubble i'm finding myself in, it will soon be made new.

in short: i do not exaggerate when i say these past few weeks have been some of the most difficult we've experienced.

from closing my eyes at the gas pump in prayer that a card will go through so i can fill up and get home to a freak tweak of my knee landing me in the ER and out of the classroom for the day, i feel so drained.

i texted a friend the other night after hearing the verdict on our car repair. it would completely delete russ' paycheck. a paycheck i celebrated because it was 250 more dollars than his last - 250 dollars that could go to our application. i couldn't take it anymore. i couldn't even get through the text without the interruption of another school loan company calling for payment. i texted her because i just had to laugh.

never before had the truth of Resistance been so clear. it's simple: Satan does not want us to live in pursuit of Love. he doesn't want us to live in pursuit of Jubilee.

but we serve a God who specializes in rescue.

not very many people know about our step of faith yet. we haven't even told our family - we're waiting for Christmas. but the community we've whispered our heart to has been essential in our shadow feet stumbling through this new beginning. even this morning, as i sat with tears streaming down my face because for a brief moment forgot about His provision, my phone vibrated. looking down, i read a text from a friend telling me she's praying.

and the only thing i could do was smile - because sometimes His rescue looks a little different than we intended.

who are we fooling? i hope no one. there is absolutely nothing about our story that points to us doing this on our own. our bank account is smaller than it needs to be for added expenses like diapers and formula and doctor visits. my house is a wreck. although the dishes are done, there's crap on the floor and our bedroom is filthy.

and let's not even mention the grout.

i can't help but notice the parallel. even in our filth, our Father wants us. even in our neediness and distress, He never tires of our cries.

He adopts us as we are - alone, hopeful, looking for home.

my mind wanders to our little one across the world. is this baby but a breath on a woman's tongue? has the mama felt the kick against her stomach? has she looked into the eyes of our child for the last time?

i pray my Father continues to refine me - preparing my heart for the overflow of emotion this precious child will bring.

because here's the truth: the last person i want to fool is myself. my heart's already in this. even though i don't house this child in my womb, the connection is already there. resistance means nothing.

the pursuit of Jubilee has already begun.

Posted on November 21, 2010 and filed under Adoption.

my entitled laughter.

we're sitting in a coffee shop right now on the eastside. brooke's voice serenades me, something about coachella and jack keruoac. i'm okay with this. russ & i share secret glances across the table, and my mind wanders....

i wish i could tell you i jumped feet first into this whole adoption thing. i wish i could tell you as soon as i recognized the whispers of my heart i nodded my head, pushed back my shoulders, and jumped.

but i didn't.

instead of esther, i acted more like sarah - laughing at the promises of God. it wasn't finances i feared. russ & i know from past experiences His provision comes with no delay. i laughed with entitlement.

"i like our life the way it is, thankyouverymuch"

but, God has a funny way of getting his point across. over those next few weeks, i could not get away from this vision - this calling. our series at church focused on following through in faith & trust - not hesitating like Lot or prostituting yourself like Gomer. every sunday, my heart would swell - recognizing the fissure and bracing for impact. every sunday, i'd walk away - teary eyed and introspective.

this lasted for almost a month.

i knew i needed to talk with russ about what God was doing in my heart. i knew because that familiar burn pulsated deep in my bones every time we'd sit down together. i pushed it deep inside - trying to make myself believe i'd tell him later.

although it doesn't explain away my disobedience, there were reasons for my hesitancy besides my own selfishness. earlier in the fall we briefly discussed adoption. there was a girl who, after contemplating abortion, decided to give up her baby. strangely enough, i was the pushy one in this conversation. "what if the baby is ours & we do nothing? what happens then?"

note: this question would come to haunt me later....

those conversations always ended the same way: we just weren't ready. and, given the immediacy of the situation, it just wasn't practical. with me still commuting & russ [at that time] working in a kitchen bound to close at any moment, i knew despite my desire to house a child with no home, it wasn't right. so i acquiesced and kept quiet. and God's timing is perfect. you know this, right?

two weeks after those initial conversations, devonte asked us to be his parents.

we went from a family of two to parenting an 18 yr. old within minutes. and we love every second of it.

but i still knew there was more He was asking of us.

so i fought. hard. i reasoned and prayed and cried...a lot.

and then the fissure tore deeper than i ever anticipated. on my way home one day, i realized my selfishness and hypocrisy. i know not everyone is called to adoption. i also know orphan care is not a mere suggestion but a command - an expectancy of our life in Christ. i've watched videos, bought books, listened to stories and attended conferences.

yet the moment my name was called i hid, laughing at the promise.

God's grace is relentless, though. in my moment of weakness, He lifted my head to help me see my own selfishness. this is a tough thing to go through - our hearts are never pristine, but when you're struggling with disobedience, the grime can be suffocating. and at that moment, i didn't know when i would finally catch my breath. in my attempt to push away His voice, the still whispers turned into a deluge of His presence. i couldn't get away.

there was nothing i could do except for ask for forgiveness and trust that He'd give me the strength to approach russ.

it was November 5, 2010. our friend wrote a post for me that day about the adoption of his daughter, Sosi.

it was also the first week of national adoption month.

my entitled laughter soon gave way to wide-eyed realization: God knew my struggle before He even asked.

Posted on November 14, 2010 and filed under Adoption.