Monday, November 23, 2015

He Gave Us a New Name

A lot can change in a year.

A brokenhearted, angry little boy can begin to heal. He can finally understand what family is. And that he has one.

A little girl who'd already blown the lid off of my expectations can reach milestones I wasn't sure she'd ever see.

A perfectly sweet 17 year old girl can reach her one year milestone living in our home, loving and being loved, and selflessly serving our family as if it were her own.

A mama who'd seen enough sadness to last a lifetime (or so I'd like to think), feeling overwhelmed and in over her head can reach the light at the end of the tunnel. She can begin to smile again. And breathe. And occasionally shower.

And after 33 years of waiting and dreaming and cautiously hoping, God can ever so swiftly and unexpectedly answer every prayer, spoken and whispered. He can answer the prayers I wouldn't have even known to pray. He can bring our family the gift of a godly, selfless, humble, strong, compassionate husband and father. He can show me a love I've never known on earth. So far beyond my expectations it's almost too much to take in.

He's here. The one we've waited for.

He's given us a new name.

And with that new name we've also been afforded yet another new start. A reimagined idea of what family can be. A safe haven from the storms of life. A warm, soft place to land at the end of a long day. Smiles and laughs, hard work and new expectations. A brighter future for each of us.

Yes, God gave us Chris. Very possibly the only man who could have taken us on, this crazy little family of ours. This man who God has quite obviously been preparing for this role, for this family for years.

He's given us a new name. And for every last thing it stands for, the sound of it is so sweet

Monday, February 16, 2015

Celebrating Sam

We are celebrating a BIG double-digit birthday in our family today.

Samantha Love is 10 years old!

I've been feeling extra sentimental this past week, often catching myself imagining what baby Sammers may have looked like. She was tiny; that much I know. Less than 5 pounds.

Its hard to imagine my little squish quite so small. The cuteness is almost unbearable.

I tell her, "I bet you were the sweetest baby there ever was."

I can say that because, let's be honest. She was the sweetest baby there ever was.

I've also been taking every opportunity to tell Sam how special she is. To be sure, she really doesn't understand a whole lot of what I'm saying to her. But I know she feels extra loved.

We smile at one another, her face only inches from mine. She cocks her head to one side and then to the other, then lifts her sweet, chubby little hands up to hold my face while I tell her,

"Do you know that Mommy is so proud of you?

You are such a good girl.

And you are SO beautiful. Do you know you are SO beautiful?

I love your laugh. And your smile. And I love the way you dance.

You are so funny. And smart!

And you are kind. You are such a good friend to have. Everyone should be so blessed to have a friend like you."

She giggles and giggles.

"How in the world did I ever get to be your mommy? I love being your mommy, precious girl."

I don't think there's many days that go by where I don't say aloud, "I wish I was more like Sam."


Sam was celebrated today with a special surprise.

She had never had a playdate with a school friend before, so I asked her best buddy, Charlotte, and Charotte's mom to join us for lunch and a trip to the children's museum- another first for Sam.

The girls had a great time.

Sam was happy as a clam all day long.

She loved every minute of her special day with with her friend. Thank you Jesus for the gift of a friend.

Sam had even more fun at the children's museum than I expected. It was as if they knew she was coming today. There was a music exhibit filled with instruments that Sam was able to try. Obviously, she was great at all of them. She could have stayed in that room all day. She had the best time.


Sammers has such a natural talent and love for all things music. I love that we can share that passion with one another. We may not ever be able to communicate with words, but we'll always have music.


And joy of all joys, there was a water exhibit, too. This little chick was in heaven. 


And let's be perfectly honest here. I was just beside myself with pride watching her play and love and get into things, and just thoroughly enjoy herself. God has done a great work in this little baby girl's heart. She is happy and healthy, a joy to all who know her.

Speaking of which, Sam also enjoyed a few phone calls and visits from people who love her dearly.

It was a lovely day, for an absolutely, delightfully, perfectly lovely girl. 

(Well, Tony might have a slightly different opinion, haha. Sisters can sometimes cramp your style. Dog pile anyone?)

Please, keep praying for Pleven. 

For those who are willing, let's change our profile or cover photos on facebook to remind people to pray for Pleven. Its just one small way for us to show our solidarity. We will not stop hoping and praying for victory.

Our beloved older children, who have already suffered so much, will be transferred tomorrow. I can't even bear the thought.

I know you can't bear it either. I've heard from so many of you whose hearts are broken. 

We will not give up.

This story is far from over; God is working. This I know for sure. 

Thank you to everyone who has written letters and prayed. Please, keep praying! And if you haven't, write a letter

I hope to be able to share good news soon. Or at least more ways you all can help. 

Until then, lots of love to all of you.

Friday, February 13, 2015

For Those Who Will Pray

I don't want to be one of those people.

I'm sure you know the ones. (Points finger at self.)

Those well intentioned people who say, "I'll pray for you," but then, well, don't.

But I was convicted this week in Bible study as we wrestled with Jesus' words from the Sermon on the Mount.

"Just say a simple, ‘Yes, I will,’ or ‘No, I won’t.’ Anything beyond this is from the evil one."

Or maybe you've heard it said, "Let your yes be yes, and your no be no."

How much weight do my words hold, if I, in my busyness or doubt, make a promise here and offer to pray there, with a heart that is whispering maybe?

I never mean to leave people hanging. But do I?

I'm evaluating my own heart as I am struggling to give myself over completely to prayer for the children I so love on the other side of the world.

I want to pray with absolute desperation to God, knowing that He holds the very answers we are crying out for. He and He alone.

Only God can take what was meant for evil and turn it into good.

Only He can thwart a disastrous plan, that must have been in the making for months, that is only just now coming to light.

Only He can protect those 12 fragile, and most precious, valuable little people.

He alone can win this battle. He alone will have the last word.

So what can we do? We can pray.

We don't have to bear the burden of this catastrophe on our own human shoulders. We really don't. (And I repeat again, to myself. Seriously, self, we don't.)

But we can pray with all boldness.

We can change our posture. We don't have to live in the fear of "But, what if He doesn't come through..."

We just pray. We can literally hand it all over to Him. And then repeat. Trusting Him to do it, because He's faithful. And He will do it.

We can offer God our yes because He's the one doing the work. And He knows best.

He's got this.

We're just agreeing with one another and agreeing with Him.

(Y'all can remind me of this the next time my voice starts to waiver.)

Yes, God. I am joining my prayers with people all around the world for the older children of Pleven. I am lifting my voice on their behalf. Praying that today You will save.

Yes, God. I believe that You can turn this thing around.

Yes, God. I believe that my prayers, and the prayers and those who turn to You matter.

Yes, God. I want to see this thing through to the end.

For those of you joining in this battle, lifting your voices to heaven on behalf of 12 tiny children with a desperate need. For those of you who've given your yes. 

Thank you.

Please keep praying.

And as you pray today, will you please hold up our friend and the children's greatest advocate, Toni. 

Toni is fighting on the frontline.

Please pray that God would give her strength, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Pray that God would stretch her time and give her great wisdom.

And, don't forget to share Brandon and Mikah today. Today just might be the day they find their families.

Sending lots of love to all of you.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Urgent: Help and Prayers for Pleven Requested


I know I have been absent

Like real bad.


And I am so sorry.

I think about y'all all the time, and everything I want and need to tell you...but life keeps happening...and, well...

Here I am.

And let me tell you this was not how I wanted my first post back to go. But this is, as the title says, urgent. And you, my faithful, loving, supportive, big hearted friends. I need you.

Pleven needs you.


10 minutes before my alarm went off, I woke up to a high pitched message alert on my phone.

"Do you have any time to talk today? I just go some really bad news about Pleven and the older kids."

Oh Jesus, no. 

My heart immediately dropped to my stomach. I've felt sick ever since.

"Of course. What can you tell me right now?"


I had been waiting to tell all of you.

I'd been sooooo excited to tell you.

My church and I have been working with the Pleven Project to raise money for the older children of Pleven.

You know, the kids who've been there forever long, who've been abused and neglected beyond comprehension.

We've been working to raise money to build a group home for them. A place where they would have their own space. Their own staff. Their own equipment for therapies. Their own specialized programs and diets. 

It wouldn't be a home home, with parents. But, for those children who have aged out and won't be adopted, it was our opportunity to allow them to live out the rest of their lives with dignity.

Without this home, their only other option was that they would be adult mental institutions and group homes, where, because they are not verbal or mobile, or at all self sufficient, they would die. Literally.

An architect was drawing up plans. Nearly $10,000 had already come in. And I hadn't even talked to you yet! I was elated watching God move mountains for these beloved children. Finally, finally. Redemptions for these, the most vulnerable.


Today I had to send the following email to all of the parents of precious children who've been adopted from Pleven. This is just an excerpt, but you get the drift.

Hi there fellow Pleven mama. I hope and pray you and your family are doing well. 
I received word this morning of a situation happening right now in Pleven, and I am writing to you on behalf of Shelley, Toni, and the Pleven Project to ask for your help. 
Today we received word that a group of former orphanage employees, who we know to be unsafe for the children, have banded together to start their own group home for the older children of the Pleven orphanage. They have funding from a EU non-profit organization who provides no accountability or oversight. They are scheduled to move our beloved children to their new facility on Tuesday of next week. We know this to be an unsafe, inappropriate environment for the children. We also know that the staff have ulterior motives. 
I know this is a lot to take in, so I am contacting each Pleven parent privately, not only to inform you, but also to tell you, that if God would move you to do so, there is something you can do...

You caught that, right?

The former director's right hand man, and her former cronies. The people who abused my children and hundreds more. The people who intentionally, criminally stole the life out of these, the most sweet and vulnerable of souls. The people who put a huge cement building filled with tiny humans through a true holocaust.....have swooped in and undermined the work many people have been doing to ensure their better future.

We won't stand for this. I hope you won't either. These children deserve so much better. 


I said it to my precious Pleven parent friends, and I'll say it to you. There's something you can do. 

Actually there are 2 somethings.
  1. You can PRAY with all your might that we can take back control of this project. Tomorrow through Tuesday, anyone who is willing is invited to fast and pray that the Lord would intervene, as he has for these precious little ones time and time again. That He would rescue and provide more than we can even think to ask or imagine.
  2. You can WRITE A LETTER that will be sent to the US Embassy in Bulgaria, The County of Pleven, and the Minister of Labor and Social Policy. The goal in writing these letters is to express our interest as a community to fund a private group home for the older children of Pleven who cannot be adopted. We also want to specify that we want to make sure the children will be appropriately cared for and that money will not be given to people we know to have abused funds and children. 
Here's a form letter to follow.

February 12, 2015 

To whom it may concern: 

[Please start by briefly explaining what you know of the abuse and neglect of children you know from the Pleven orphanage, as well as changes you have seen in them since their arrival home.] 

[Then, feel free to edit the following or copy and paste it as it is.] 

I understand that 12 older children from the Pleven orphanage are scheduled to be moved to a group home that will be run by the very people that abused___________________ and many other children. The same people that abused them year after year before the new director came to care for them. They are being handed over to their abusers. This should not and cannot be.  

I, with many hundreds of people behind me, am willing and eager to fund a private group home for the older children from the Pleven orphanage who have lived through a true holocaust. We want the opportunity to make right the wrongs that have been done to these children for so many years. Please, help us to help these children live out the rest of their lives with the dignity all humans deserve.  

We, under the supervision of the Pleven Project, are specifically requesting that we be allowed to fund and manage a private group home where the children can be properly cared for. This will ensure that all authority and financial responsibility be removed from the individuals who have criminally abused children and misappropriated government funds, and put into the hands of a board with oversight and accountability for the future. 


John Doe
1111 Street Ave.               
Lincoln, Nebraska 68951        
United States of America

All letters should be signed and scanned to Shelley Bedford at

Shelley will send letters to Toni, our attorney, to be translated and delivered. 


Of the 12 sweet children who will be transferred on Tuesday, there are two who are still available for adoption. And for them, this would be their absolute best chance. Redemption in the truest sense of the word. Will you share their beautiful little faces today. Or everyday until they find their families? If we find these babies' families soon, we can save them from a whole world of additional heartache.

This is Brandon,

and Mikah.

I'm sure you already know, but it has to be said. Each of these boys is beyond precious. Diamonds in the rough. They would do so, so, so well in families.

Thank you for standing with us in believing that God will make all things right. Thank you for seeing these children's worth. Thank you for your hearts that say "yes" to God, even when the things coming from his hands, at times like this, bring difficulty and heartache. Thank you.

Now, if you feel so led, will you share this post all over social media. Send it to anyone and everyone who might be able to help. Especially to people who will pray. Like, really pray. We need whole armies of angels in the coming days. These kids need God to fight for their lives. And the power that raised Jesus from the dead is inside of each of us believers, so we must pray. Will you comment here and let me know that you're joining the fight in prayer? Or that you're sending a letter? 

Don't you just love watching God win? Here we go again...

Lots of love to all of you.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Little Piece of Our Reality

Sometimes true reality doesn't fit nicely into words.

I think about y'all everyday. All you lovely folks who've supported us so fiercely these last few years. Hanging on every word and every picture, loving us, giving of yourselves for us, even some of you we've never met.

I don't mean to leave you hanging. Wouldn't it be great if we could sit down for a cup of coffee together? Maybe at our place, in case there are tears, and so we can enjoy the quiet that comes only after two active little people have fallen asleep for the night.

Since we're gathering here from far and wide, and since I've not yet found my new normal (for real though, it's got to be coming soon), and because honestly, time for a coffee date might not be in my near future, I'm gonna give this whole *writing my thoughts down* thing a try.

Side note: I'm drinking a big old cup of chai tea. Maybe you want to break and grab a warm cup of [fill in the blank] and when you come back we'll chat. I promise this will be the most jumbled conversation you've ever had with me here. I 'm afraid that's all I got today. Forgive me.


How's Tony? Is he loving life in his new family?

You know, Tony rocked that first week in Bulgaria. Michaela and I paused several times to say to one another, "This is almost too easy..." And it was. He was calm, content, affectionate, and loving every minute of his new life. Exploring the city? No problem. Living in a hotel? Super awesome. Adult to child ratio 2:1, yes, please! Three plane rides, long layovers, waiting in line over and over again? He didn't really mind.

Home has brought a new set challenges. I weaned Tony off a med he was taking for ADHD because, well, he's not ADHD. But, that med may have been taking the edge off of his anxiety. This last month and a half, he's been experiencing a full range of emotions as I assume he is grieving his old life and growing accustomed to a new one. He's testing every boundary and he's testing me. The question I think is often on his mind is..."Will you still love me if I...(this is different by the day)" There's anger and uncertainty and anxiety, all of which I trust God can heal. But it took nearly 15 years for such pain to build up in his little heart. I can't, and don't expect that he will be healed overnight.

There are a few things I'm discovering he loves, though. He has a stuffed puppy that lights up and sings. It is a great comfort to him. He LOVES to play the piano. He could sing "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" and "If You're Happy and You Know It" all day. I mean allllllllll day. And the boy can dance.

Let's see, what else about Mr. Tony? Ooh, yes! He is brilliant. Like beyond brilliant. And actually I think that explains so much of his pain. He has an acute awareness of his surroundings. He watches and listens and notices everything. He's already learning how to sign. And he can feed himself. And, he has on several occasions gone potty in the toilet. These are all things he's learned just since coming home! However, as I'm learning how to love him, and trying to win his heart (Oh, I have so much more to learn) I'm sure now that I need to back off of trying to teach him and just focus my efforts on trying to love him well. That'll be the springboard for all he'll be able to accomplish in the future.

I think all that teaching is the reason he and I got off to a bit of a rough start in those first weeks home. I was noticing all he was capable of. "He can feed himself! Well, let's work on that." "He woke up dry! Quick, run to the potty!" "He can sign! Say 'please', Tony. Can you say 'more'?" In my mind I just kept thinking about all the years of his life that were completely wasted. Thrown away. And I had this driving desire to win back all he'd lost. And in doing so, I kind of lost myself and all I know about attachment parenting. He has so much healing to do. I need to meet those most basic needs before I can teach him anything. Our relationship needs to come first. So, I'm back to feeding him and I'm backing off of potty training and signing, for the most part. We're also experimenting with essential oils and they really seem to be working. They're not the solution to healing his hurt. Only God can do that. But God seems to be using them as a small piece of the puzzle and I'm thankful to have found them.

We've had several doctor appointments so far and I am happy and grateful to report that Tony is surprisingly and miraculously quite healthy. His echo was perfect, his x-rays looked great, his bone age is 9 (incredible, seriously, considering his history), his blood work: better than expected. He did test positive for H. Pylori and just finished his first round of medication for that. He's continues to struggle with vomiting and diarrhea, but that could be from the antibiotics. He's been to the dentist, too, and just followed up with a dental surgery yesterday, which leads me to the most crazy news yet...he had no cavities! What?! All of the big black "holes" the green/gray/rotten looking color of his teeth, his bleeding gums, the terrible, awful was all calculus. That nasty, smelly stuff built up over the last 15 years and probably protected his teeth. The dentist said calculus is very uncomfortable and his mouth probably felt like it was filled with splinters. So, though his mouth was probably sore when he woke up (he had 7 baby teeth pulled), it still probably feels better than it has in a very long time.

How about a Sam update? What does she think of her new brother?

Can I just say that Sam is a rockstar? I don't mean to brag (except that I do), but she is just the most incredible little joy baby you'll every meet. She exudes happiness as she bounces around our house, taking her balloon for a walk, opening every drawer to search for treasures, drumming on every surface, each move she makes is music.

I couldn't stop laughing a few days ago when she emerged from her room where she'd been playing. She walked through the living room, pulled stuff off of every surface she could reach and casually threw it behind her, coughed twice, pulled a long red ribbon out of her mouth and then walked back out of the room. Haha, what? She cracks me up.

Parent teacher conferences were last week, and Sam's teacher and I both teared up talking about how far she's come, how special she is. My favorite quote from Mrs. Smith, her sweet new first grade teacher- "I hope you never worried about how the other students would treat Samantha at school, because they all love her. And they're not babying her, either. They are really friends." She went on to describe how she's had to ask the other first graders not to rush the door when Sam comes in the room, everyone eager to greet her. "That might overwhelm, Samantha," she tells them. And so the solution is that students take turns. And whoever is the class helper for the day gets to walk right over to Sam's desk and and say hello. They also get to ride along with her in the elevator when they go to specials. Several students enjoy taking turns reading to Sam, and two little girls, who I adore, claim Samantha as their best of friends.

Sam has just taken off, and it is completely a God thing. Actually, even before I left to pick up Tony, she was developing an independent streak. She just knows what she wants and doesn't often need help doing it. Now, I still take care of all of her feeding/hygiene needs and such, but as far as keeping busy, Sam is just full of fun ideas all day, moving from this toy to that instrument, from this trouble to that mischief. It's beyond amazing. I had to put a baby gate up in the bathroom doorframe because she learned how to turn the doorknob and was, several times a day, helping herself into the bathtub and treating herself to a bath with clothes on. (Well, short baths. Just long enough for mom to hear the water and ruin her fun.)

Sam likes her new brother. I thought she'd be the jealous one, for sure, but she is gracious to share her toys and her mom with Tony. More than once she's taken my hand and placed it on her brother. So generous, that girl! Tony is still not so sure about Sam. He had to compete for adult attention at the orphanage and still seems to view Sam as a threat. I've been forcing the together time issue and hope that one day very soon Tony will realize the friend he has in Sam.

How are you adjusting to being a mother of two? Is everything what you expected?

You know, I went into this adoption knowing it was going to be hard. I've been preparing people around me for a long time that things were going to be rough for a few months, maybe a year. Maybe forever. Taking Tony's age into account, and what I know of his history, it just made sense that this transition would not be easy. I was right. The thing is though, you can know that things are going to be hard. You can read the books, gather advice, set up your home...all of those things helpful. But you'll never be prepared for hard. Not really. I wasn't prepared for this, but I can't say that's a bad thing. I can already feel a tension brewing in me. Or maybe its a leaning in. I need the Lord right now. His nearness is my biggest desire. What more can a person need than a constant reminder of their need for Him. Life is hard, regardless, right? We all feel it, the world getting uglier by the day? I needed Tony to remind me to lift my head. Stop distracting myself. To bow my knee. I need him. We need HIM.

Well, y'all, it's getting late. I'm out of tea, and I bet you are, too. Maybe we ought to call it a night. Let's do this again soon, though, huh?

More to come.

Lots of love to all of you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


When I asked people to pray for Tony, that God would prepare his heart, that he would be ready...

I confess I wasn't sure it would happen.

I just knew, after almost 15 years in that place, without a family, without love or home, family, security, or anything that was his, without any of the comforts we're accustomed to that give us strength to go out and face the world each day...

That he may be afraid. That he might be hesitant leaving his familiar and entering the unknown.

But praise be to God, I was wrong. He was ready.

This boy of mine jumped into my arms and held on for dear life. He was uninterested in saying too many goodbyes, quite literally pulling me by the hand to the front door. Let's get out of here, mom!

It's been six long months since I've seen this kid, and I promise you he remembered. He absolutely knew his mama was coming back for him.

Isn't this photo awesome? I should caption it, "Thank you God! You never forgot about me!"

He loved loved loved his new clothes. He tugged at his shirt throughout the day, kind of waving it around as if to say, "Look at my new shirt!" He was so proud. And guess what?! His new shoes fit just right.

We walked down the stairs...

Said one last goodbye to the new director of the orphanage...

And quite literally did not look back.

He was such a big boy, sitting in his booster car seat.

He was nervous when we started driving. His body went a little stiff and he was shaking, but he got the hang of it pretty quickly.

Especially once the snacks came out. He ate some squeezy fruits off of mommy's finger.

And then relaxed all the way to the hotel. For most of the ride he was holding my hand on one side and Michaela's on the other.

When we finally arrived at the hotel, he had another snack and then we settled in for some quiet time.

Oh does this boy love to cuddle!

He showed mommy and Michaela how he can stack rings! Well a few anyway, and then he decided he'd rather throw the rings and cuddle some more.

I also asked y'all to pray that Tony would be able to get out of the hotel and enjoy the city without fear. Well we got out a bit on that first day and he enjoyed taking it all in. Here's his first trip to the grocery store!

He's had many other firsts since then that I can't wait to share. But here's one more I can't resist.

He met his sister for the first time!

They both loved visiting with one another! Sam kept giggling, and Tony wanted closer and closer to the screen, even laying his head on the table to be closer yet.

Here we are all together for the first time!

Thank you all so very much for your love and prayers. God is answering every one of them and then some. All is most certainly well here in Bulgaria.

And for any of you back home, if you see my Sammer girl today, wish her a Happy Gotcha Day! Its been two incredible, life-changing years with her. My best years yet. She made me a mommy for the first time, and I couldn't love that title any more. Can't wait to squish her in just a few more days. Love you so much, Samantha Love!

Here's my princess yesterday on her first day of first grade!!
Lots of love to all of you.