Welcome Home

Today, I spent several hours of my day reflexing and reminiscing about the day we finalize the adoption of our precious first-born.  The day his last name was forever changed; the day he legally became an Ivey.  Even now, it seems surreal, but it is real with documentation and pictures to prove it.

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June 21, 2012; the day it became official.

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Nick, me, Zeke, Judge Duffey, and Jim Outman
My thoughts kept going back to the day he was born and how we were rushing to get to him.  [I don’t think I have ever seen Nick go so fast in a car].  I thought about all the questions running through my mind on the car ride to the hospital… was he scared?  How soon could I hold him in my arms?  I wondered if he would recognize our voices when he heard us?  Would he connect with us easily?  Would we even be able to contain our excitement and joy despite the circumstances?  Would he know how much we loved him?  Would he know he was home?  {there were WAY more than this, but they do not pertain to the post}.

I had imagined that day a million times.  I had been anticipating what it would be like; what he would be like and look like.  Nothing could have prepared me for the moment we walked through the doors, seeing him laying under a warming light, tanning, waiting for his parents.  Us.  We were his parents.  We were his home.  We were there to get him.  We had been waiting for his arrival.  We knew we were in love with him already, but laying eyes on him changed our lives forever.

I remember getting to be the first one to hold him; it was overwhelming. I remember leaning down, with tear-filled eyes, kissing him on his head, and whispering, “Welcome Home.”

…and just like that our lives were forever changed…

I have had moments where I felt proud of myself as a parents, but I have also had many failures.  I often lay down at night and pray for the Lord to undo any damage I have done to my son, asking forgiveness for my failures as a mom, and asking for grace and second chances for the next day.  I am glad I serve a God of second and third and fourth and fifth chances.  I am also amazed at the (now) two little fellas I have that call me momma and their completely grace-filled love for their imperfect momma.

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As I thought about our adoption story, our son’s life and future, I thought about the adoption process offered to all of humanity.  I thought about how God must feel when we arrive at the feet of Jesus; when we end up at the hospital in need of belonging.  In need of a home.  A real home.  God whispering our name, sending out a beckoning call to our hearts, hoping we would recognize His voice.  Anticipating our recognition of our need for His presence in our life.  Our sovereign God viewing the exact moment in His head over and over again of when you will become His child.  When He will get to hold you in His arms, leaning down, whispering in your ear, “Welcome home!”  The thought is overwhelmingly beautiful.

Ephesians 1:4-5 says, “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

It gave our Heavenly Father great pleasure to adopt us into His family.  He wanted to make a way for Him to get to us regardless of darkness and sin in the world.  He loved us so much He made a way for us to be adopted through the death, burial, and resurrection of His perfect and sinless son, Jesus.  Through Jesus, God is saying, “Welcome Home.” He knew even after the first “Welcome home,” we would fail and possibly lose our way, but He would be willing to be the first to say “Welcome home” again and again.  He is wanting us to see our worth on a daily basis.  Maybe even an every minute basis.

He wants us to know… we are His.  We are chosen.  We are loved.  We are worthy.  We are wanted.  We belong.  We are not alone.  We don’t have to feel cold and alone.  We don’t have to be weary.  He is our rest.  He is our refuge.  He is our chain-breaker.  He is our strength. He is our Creator.  We are adopted.  We have a Father.  Welcome Home.

It doesn’t matter how far we wander he is waiting.  He is looking for us.  He has not walked away.  He has arms open wide for those of us who get off course.  He is waiting to say, “Welcome home.”

My prayer is for myself as a parent is that I always resemble Jesus to them.  I want to always be standing with arms wide open waiting for the embrace of my sweet boys ready to lean down and whispering to them, “Welcome home.”  I pray they always know that they are loved, wanted, and that they are never alone… no matter whether mommy is there or not…they are never alone.  I pray they both know they understand the precious gift of adoption and what an unexplainable blessing it truly is.  I pray they know they have a Heavenly Father who loves and adores them.  A Father that will never leave them.  I pray they know they have a grace-filled God who is always willing to say, “Welcome home.”

I hope my boys see that about me, but not just them; the world around me as well. 

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Hiking for Jesus

I have started and restarted this post about fifty times since we returned from Haiti. I know that no matter what I say in this post, my words will not begin to convey all that God did or how He showed up on this trip. However, I have promised many I would share about our trip.

First, I want to say, this trip was much harder than I thought it would be for me. I was so ready to get my feet back on Haitian soil. I had prayed fervently over this trip and our team, but I don’t think I had prepared my heart for the difference of no longer partnering with HCM. After eight trips with one organization, where I knew the ins and outs, where the property had become home, and the staff had become family, I was ill-prepared for the numbness I felt at times and the longing I felt for the familiarity. That being said, working with H.O.M.E. seriously was a different, yet refreshing experience. Alíx, Billy, Jusme, Pèpè, and Robenson made us feel right at home and loved us relentlessly the entire duration of our trip.

The first few days we hosted a young adult conference where people from Jusme’s community came for worship, sermons, food, and small groups. It was an unbelievable time of fellowship and growth with the young people within their community. I promise to share about that another day.

On Monday, though, we set out for Mirebalis, which is up in the northern mountains of Haiti. It is very lush and beautiful in that area. The roads twist and turn through the mountains revealing tiny communities and villages resting in the valleys and mountain sides.

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As we set out for our new home for the next few nights, I could not help wondering what the day held for us. We had been told we would be hiking into the mountains to visit a community of unreached people. [I don’t know why I thought this hike would be easy for our team if we were hiking to an unreached people group]. I prepared my heart and mind for the ‘hour’ hike we would be taking through the mountains as I sat next to Emily in the back of our pickup. I remember praying for God to keep us focused on the task at hand and that it would far out weigh any hardships we faced along the way… (I imagine He snickered to Himself hearing my request). 🙂

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I remembered pulling over to the edge of the road and loading out of the car. We waited for the donkeys that had been rented for our journey, so they could carry out |5 gallon| cooler of water and the four or five packets of bagged water and crackers we had purchased for the people in the village we were hiking to. I watched my anxious and eager team strap on their Day-Packs filled with socks and underwear for the children and wait in anticipation for the que to start our next adventure in mission.

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Pastor Jacob is the one H.O.M.E. is partnering with to minister to the village we were hiking to. He is an amazing man. (Above: in the button-down and glasses).

As the donkeys were being loaded, Wendy kept asking if anyone wanted to load up their packs. I watched all of us look around at one another and in unison decide we would carry our own packs. Ha. Whether we did not want to burden down the donkey, whether we thought the hike would be like hiking in America, or whether we all just wanted to feel/look tough… we all carried our packs. [I was proud].

As we started the first leg of the hike, the trees hanging over the downhill path slightly hide what was to come, but the view was gorgeous.

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As we stepped into the clearing I could see what we were about to be hiking. I felt a mixture of emotions immediately. [Holy crap! We are literally about to go straight up this mountain… what is at the top of this mountain…did she say we would be hiking an hour… I am thankful we will have the donkeys… I can’t wait to see the view from up there…if i don’t die first… I need to hitch a ride on the donkey].

Regardless of my thoughts, I laughed and cut up with our team as we started our first few pivots up the mountain. We were all eager to get to the village and take on the hike. As we reached the last leg of the first side of the first mountain, I could feel my calves burning as I pushed through physically; mentally I was looking over the side of the edge into the ravine. It was beautiful. I side of Haiti I had never seen holding people I had never met. I did not mind pushing through any calf pain to get there.

During this time, I was very unaware of all the things going on around me. I could really only focus on the ground as I walked to make sure my footing was on something stable and looking forward as I followed BreAnna and Grace. I realized as we reached the top of the mountain that I was mainly charging forward trying to keep up with the trail leader rather than having an awareness of my team members and their needs. [That was very humbling]. As I walked along the ridge line rounding the curve to the the next mountain, I watched the rest of my teams’ heads pop into view as they reached the top. I turned to the front of me and counted to make sure each one of my team members was within view. Taylor, Pèpè, and Emily were bringing up the rear. While Pastor Jacob and Wendy lead the way. I felt the Lord tell me to slow down, to take care of my team, and to be aware of their needs. So… I listened.

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I am glad I did.  I realized I was rushing to get to a place I had never been, to hike a trail unknown to me, to meet people I had never met without taking in all God had created and enjoying the people God had sent me to experience this journey with.  [Sounded about like my life back in the states…rushing through to get from point A to B without regards for what God desired for me and the people around me along the way].

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The mountains were beautiful and the villages secluded.  The people were curious and friendly.  We were hot, tired, and out of shape…we were also low on calories intake for what we were burning and our water was lacking.  More than anything, we were united.  We were a team.  We were excited about what was to come when we reached the end of our mark.  We had no clue what to expect, but we knew God would be there and we were ready to serve.


{She walks 4 miles to the main road and market to sell her crops, then walks back…through the mountains we hiked. She could teach me a things or two}.


The further into our hike we traveled, Emily, one of our team members was really pushing herself hiking.  This was not a leisurely little hike through the forrest… we were hiking steep high ridges to deep low valleys and none of it was in the shade (since Haiti is pretty bare in the tree department).  Emily pushed through with the rest of us and took breaks when needed and trust me… none of our team complained.  We needed those breaks right along with her. It gave us time to be think, take a breather, and some times take silly pictures together.

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{Above: We were about half way there when this photo was taken.  We had just finished the steepest descend on the hike and we were about to start the steepest ascend out}.

I loved hiking with this amazing group. 🙂

We were so close to the village.  People started to come greet us once we crossed this stream.

 They were excited; if you could not tell by Nick’s demeanor.  Ha! 😀

When we arrived the children, and some of their parents, from the village were already sitting under the tattered tarps stretching out beyond the strips of board that made up the building to provide shade.  They were cramped in, sitting on top of one another, waiting to see what we had come to share.  (I could not help thinking how we complain if the air conditioning is broken in our church and would rather skip church for a Sunday until it is “comfortable” for us to sit through a service.  Oh, maybe that is just me).

The sweet faces of the children were filled with intrigue and wonder.  They were eager to see what we had in store, so we did not waste any time.  We started by handing out crackers and water to the children to provide some physical nourishment before we started any other activities.  This gave us time to spend with them while they ate and drank their water.  Sam and I passed out cookies together. (Sam was a newbie to our Haiti travels, so I was amazed watching him interact with the kids.  He is a natural).

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Alix, one of our interpreters took my camera and captured most of these pictures from my Canon D5.  He did an amazing job!  He is very gifted and super precious along with his wife.

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Adults from the village who had also come. It was amazing to experience.  Overwhelming, really.  My favorite part was watching Sam with some of the children that were nervous about the Americans being there.  Sam knew they were hungry and worked hard to make sure they were taken care of as well.

 

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VBS turned out to be a huge success with BreAnna’s direction and planning. She prepared the Resurrection Story from Palm Sunday to The Resurrection. it was broken into three sections with the telling of the story through skits and games. We also had crafts to go along with each section. It all worked together very well to help children understand. They loved it!

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Afterwards, we made our lunches and ate while we listened to Pastor Jacob share about his and Jusme’s first visit to the village.  He shared how there were 70 professions of faith at that time, but how the villages still needed to be discipled and partnered with to cultivate the community in Christ.  It was very inspiring.  I think it revived our spirits and reminded us of why we were doing this.  [I could not help thinking about Jesus and how He would walk to the ends of the earth to make sure everyone knew about Him and His abounding love for them].  As we rested and prepared for our hike out, we meditated on his words and allowed it to sink into our exhausted minds.

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Before we started our hike, we unloaded all of our sock and underwear donations that were collected by many of our local churches to be passed out to the children within the community.

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Alíx and Pépé  were enjoying the hammock and being silly. 🙂

As we prepared for out hike out, Nick disbursed water out to all of the students.  We did not have any water left in our cooler, but we did have a few plastic water bags left, so we torn them and poured them into our water bottles.  Some folks put on their sunscreen and took a few minutes to prepare mentally for the hike back.  Sweet Grace was pouring electrolytes into everyone’s water bottles. Some just prayed for the ‘cup to pass from them.’ 🙂

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I don’t know that any of us could truly comprehend what we were about to experience together… we did know however that God was with us, but again, not to the extent that He truly was.

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As we reached the top of this trail, we stumbled upon a group of children fighting.  A little boy was crying and his sister was screaming for us to help him.  Another child had taken small bites out of the little boys face.  The team members quickly jumped into action.  We yelled ahead to have Wendy bring back the first-aid kit.  Some of the team stayed back and cleaned up the little boys face and bandaged him up, then left to catch up with the team.

The pictures below is the team looking on to see what was going on.

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The others were some Alíx took of the landscape.

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During our first long leg of the hike, Emily was hurting.  She was already having to push herself to have energy since all of her calories had already been used up.  I asked her as we were hiking if she wanted to listen to some worship songs to help take her mind off of the pain to which she eagerly replied, “YES! Please.”  So I pulled out my phone and we listened to “The Rock Won’t Move” by Vertical Church Band.  Zach walked in front and I walked behind her as we sang praises between our labored breaths.  I was so proud of our CCF team and interpreters being completely unified in their consider and love for one another.

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{When my eyes are fixed on the Lord I can lead these teams without anxiety or fear, because I know it all depends on Him, but we work like it all depends on us}.

This hike was pretty grueling especially without the calories and fluids we needed, but we pressed on through the encouragement of team members, the sharing of supplies, and trusting the Lord to sustain us through to the end.   The next stretch of the hike was straight down to a tiny brook that ran through a gore at the bottom.  We set small goals for Emily, because we knew it would keep her motivated and encouraged.  The whole team was rooting for her and dedicated to getting out of there healthy and together. However, there are times when we can be so focus on one specific situation we forget to look at our surrounding and see what is going on.

Thankful for Alíx taking these shots for me while I was caring for my team.  He is quite talented and super funny; don’t let his shyness fool you. 🙂

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They were a good deal ahead of us.  As you can see in these pictures.  As we started our dissent, we realized we were about a mile behind Wendy, Enick, JJ, and Conor.  They went on ahead to the vehicles.

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As we were walking down, God brought us, Pauline, (pictured above in the blue skirt and green blouse), she was tiny in stature, but she had the biggest heart.  She watched members of our team struggling.  She started taking their bags on her back while holding the hands of those she was carrying their burdens.  She insisted she help in every way, from where we placed our feet on the ground to make sure it was sturdy and we would not slip and fall.  She also would wipe out heads when she saw the sweat rolling down into our eyes.  She was beautiful, inside and out.

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Once we got down to the water, Emily and a few others walked over to the water and sat in the shade.  While they were resting for a few minutes, I stood looking at our next goal to conquer. I remember looking at the incline praying for strength for my team (mental and physical), thinking about Jesus’ and all the mountains and valleys He had climbed and walked to share the Good News of the coming Messiah, and I thought about how I couldn’t wait to do this again, regardless of the hardship.  {Following Jesus isn’t easy and Jesus never said it would be}. While I processing the situation, Jusme told me that Pastor Jacob wanted to talk to me and asked if it was okay.  “Of course!  I would love that” I exclaimed.

Pastor Jacob began to express his heart concerning our certain circumstances and began to apologize for the issues our team was having.  He apologized over and over again explaining how he understood if we never wanted to come back to his village again.  It broke my heart; it was the furthest thing from my mind or the mind of my team…I knew that.  I told him not to worry that we would come back.  I told him how we did not know what to expect, but now that we did, we would be better prepared next time.  I reassured him of our love for his village and him, but most importantly Jesus.  I loved watching Jusme’s face as he took in what I was saying and translated it to Jacob and then watching Jacob’s face as he received what I was saying.  Pastor Jacob was relieved and thrilled.  Not only that, but Blake and BreAnna were able to reaffirm our love for the village as well as our return.

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After our uplifting conversation with Pastor Jacob, we decided to press on since we were losing daylight.  Emily’s face was as red as could be.  She was exhausted and dehydrated.  Half of the team went ahead and started the next piece of the hike and stood on the ridge where we would meet them for Emily’s next goal.  As they ascended, the rest of us began.  Courtney first, then me, then Emily, with Zach and Taylor with the translators.  As Courtney reached the top, I could see it.  She was getting much weaker as well.  She was red-faced and her hands were trembling.  She needed water.  Calories.  We all did.

In the same instance, I was watching Emily push herself to the breaking point.  She was having trouble keeping her eyes open and putting one foot in front of the other. I kept trying to remind her to rely on God for strength and endurance only He could give.  It was annoying I’m sure, but none-the-less truth.  Everything in her body was telling her to stop…sit down… to quit, but she wouldn’t.  She just kept pushing through with the encouragement of the others. As she reached the pivot in the mountain path where we stood… she was crying, but with no tears.  She wanted to sit down, but Zach explained that it was bad for her to keep sitting down, because her body was thinking she was done.  So we tried getting her to push on.

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The church on this hill was a little before our next goal and we needed Emily yo make it there.  We needed all of us to make it there.  We were all running on fumes and I think most of us weren’t sure that Emily would make it much further, but we kept encouraging her onward.  The church was a place of refuge and we needed to make it there.  This is when our journey took a turn none of us were expecting.

We were walking (you can see some of us with Emily in the picture below) Emily started to struggle to breathe.  She told us she needed to sit down and described her exhaustion.  She kept apologizing and trying to make jokes to keep us from worrying, because that is Emily.  Always concerned about others before herself.  Once she sat down and asked for water, we all started trying to compile the rest of the water from each other’s water bottles.  The water supply was scares, but we did not care.  Immediately Zach, Blake, and Taylor started removing our Eno hammocks from our bags to provide shade while Sam pulled his hat off to fan Emily.  She was burning up and we needed to get her temperature down.

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Alíx was capturing these shots until things started getting more and more serious.  Jeremy and Nick came down to where we were to see what was taking place. In the meantime, Katrina was dealing with her own dehydration and exhaustion.  She had sat down to rest while we were caring for Emily and blacked out.  She was about 50 yards from us with members of our team staggered between her and Emily.  While we gave Emily time to rest Taylor ran up towards Katrina, because he saw four Haitian women bend down over her.

Taylor started yelling for Nick and explained she was in bad shape as well.  I don’t think I have ever seen Nick angry while we were in Haiti.  He came down to where we were caring for Emily and explained he was hiking back out to find water for our team.  When I reached Katrina and realized the shape she was in, as well as her telling me the only reason she had come to was the women who were hovering over her were trying to steal her bracelet off her arm, I felt my own anger start to swell inside me.  I looked around at their red tired little faces and felt my “momma” side start to come out.  These were my kids.  My babies.  My team.  They were lacking food.  They were lacking water.  They needed rest.  There parents entrusted them to my care.  The more those thoughts crossed my mind, the more frustrated I became.  In that moment, Taylor saw I was about to lose it, even though I had kept it all together thus far.  Satan was coming after us and coming after us hard.  Taylor and I stepped away and prayed.  We prayed for the health of our team and that we would be able to fully carry out our task.

In the meantime, I called Wendy, who was back at the truck with Enick, explained the situation and told her we needed a donkey to help get these girls off of the mountain, otherwise we would be spending the night out there.  While Nick and Jeremy hiked back out to get water, we started overing Katrina with the son with hammocks as well.

Luckily, Blake being a former volunteer EMT helped.  He knew they needed calories and he remembered we had the peanut butter with us in our backpacks.  We had already been shoving a Clif Bar down Emily’s throat.  She was choking it down.  Now I had to make Katrina eat peanut butter.  I loved watching Grace during this time.  She would want to get the girls to eat, but she did not want them upset with her, so she would hide behind whomever was the tallest.  I can’t recall how long we set up on that one section of the mountain, but it felt like hours.  We watched the sunset through the hammocks as Pauline, Pépé, Alíx, Robenson, BreAnna, Courtney, and Grace held them up.  Sam stayed steady fanning Emily with her hat.  Zach and Taylor kept Emily awake and eating while I yelled at Katrina to keep her eyes open and made her eat peanut butter.  I know she wanted to cuss me out.  Luckily, she loves me a lot.  Also, did you catch that Pauline never left our side?! An Angel.

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Eventually, the guys got Emily to her feet.  She said she was ready to try moving up the mountain so more, so she pushed herself to make it to Katrina.  Once she made it to us, Katrina wanted to try and at least make it to the church, so Taylor and I helped her up and she walked with her arm around his neck until we made it to the top.

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I remembered thinking about how on our walk to the village, beams of light had broken through the clouds to shine light right where we had come to rest that evening.  It might not mean much to you, but it meant the world to me.  He had been there the whole time.  When we reached the top, the girls needed to sit again, because they were so weak.

We all took in the view from there… most of us watching the movie reel inside our minds of all we had experienced that day.  God had been our Rock and He had not moved.  The wind picked up as we prayed for a heavier breeze and cloud began to cover the sun to provide us with shade.  He was right there.  In the midst of everything.

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As everyone prepared for our final mile out of the mountain, we stood in a circle and prayed.  We prayed for strength, safety, and a little more light.  We prayed for the village we had left and for the seeds to take root.  We prayed for those struggling from our team and then we prayed for water and a donkey.  As soon as we said, “Amen,” we opened our eyes to see a man standing next to us with a donkey to provide help.  Then we turned towards to exiting path to see Conor, Nick, and Jeremy running towards us with book bags full of water for the team.  God was in everything.  Everything.  Prayer had never ceased among our team the entire time.  Not one had argued with one another.  No cross words were spoken.  LOVE ABOUNDED and God was PRESENT.  

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As terrifying as it was for Katrina, she rode the donkey back out of the mountains and we were grateful that God provided.

We watched the sunset as we hiked out and thought of God’s reminders throughout the day of God’s greatness and love for us.  We thought of His desire for us to bring the good news of Jesus to those who might not otherwise have heard if we had not hiked four and a half miles in share it.  It was never for easy for Paul sharing the Gospel, yet he did it.  He was imprisoned for it and still continued to share of all Christ had done.  Suffering might not be easy, but God never left us.

Thank you to everyone who made this trip possible.  You changed our lives.  You let this experience be possible.  You opened our eyes to a desperate need.  We will be back in December.  We will be better prepared and we will be eager to do more as the hands and feet of Jesus’.  Thank you for everything you do.  Pray for this precious village and Pastor Jacob and Jusme as they continue to minister to this village.

…the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few… 

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5 Questions to Keep to Yourself When It Comes to Adoption

I have had a lot on my mind lately when it comes to our sons. I wanted to share my thoughts in hopes of it raising awareness in at least our situation. I may be the only (adoptive and/biological) parent dealing with this, but honestly, I doubt it.

We adopted our son, Zeke, almost four years ago now. [our miracle]. He is the most beautiful, brainy, observant, quick-witted, strong-willing, vivacious snuggle monster. He makes every moment an intriguing experience. You can’t help but to be engaged in every moment you spend with him, because you never know what he is about to do or say.

After we adopted Zeke, we were found ourselves completely content with not having any other children. He was what God wanted for us and he was better than anything we could have ever dreamed up on our own. Two and a half years later, we found ourselves pregnant. [another miracle]. Jasper was a complete surprise and he has been a beautiful addition to our family. He is our joy-filled ball of energy. He has turned out to be quite the momma’s boy [and we thought Zeke was bad]. To say God has blessed us, despite our lack of faith in Him at times, would be an understatement. Our journey was not an easy one, but God has truly taught us more than our tiny brains can comprehend at times.

That being said, since our biological son, Jasper, has been born we have had some interesting things said to us. Those things I believe have not come from a place of malicious or spite, but of excitement for our family. It has come from a place of knowing how long we prayed to be able to conceive. The scary part to me is how I NEVER want our sweet sons to overhear those comments especially Zeke.

Here are some of the general statements which have been said to us, as well as how we want to address it:

1.) “Are you guys are glad to finally have a child that is REALLY ya’lls?”

Who’s child is Zeke if not ours?!?! Zeke is ours! He could not be any more ours had I given birth to him myself. We prayed for God to give us a child and He did. Zeke is our eldest. Our first-born. The first grandson. The first grandchild on one side. The first answer to our prayers. We are glad God FINALLY gave us a child three years ago who is really ours. We went through 9 months of labor; doctor’s appointments, fees, interviews, home studies, lawyers, preparations, praying, waiting, and wondering. He is really ours. He was in our hearts from the moment his birth mom said she knew we were the ones she wanted to raise Zeke.

My fear is our intelligent and tender-hearted boy will overhear comments like that and feel he is not as much a part of our family as his baby brother or that he will develop a sense of insecurity, outside of our home, thinking others do not see him as an Ivey. Let me reassure you… He is an Ivey! He is ours!

We also don’t want Jasper thinking he is better, more privileged, or more loved than his older brother.

2.) “Does he knows how lucky he is that you guys adopted him?”

We are the lucky ones. Before we were given the opportunity to adopt him we were in a dark place. We were wrestling with God’s faithfulness, His promises, and His Sovereignty. We harbored so much bitterness and resentment in our hearts that we struggled to rejoice with our closest friends’ pregnancy announcements and the births of their children. We cut ourselves off from those people, because seeing their baby bumps or their children were painful reminders of what we did not have. Every month brought more disappointment and deeper longings to be parents… to give love to a little one and to raise a Kingdom changer. We were sinking into a deep sea of depression… we were drowning in desperation with no life-raft in sight. God threw us a life-raft when He brought the possibility of adoption into our weary hearts. We were the lucky ones. The lucky ones God chose to direct into his birthmother’s life through precious friends who knew our story and hurt for us. We were the lucky ones. Somehow, even through our lack of faith, our selfishness (thinking we deserved anything from God), our billowing sin (anger, bitterness, envy, and resentment) due to our desires the Holy Spirit spoke to me through His word.

“They are like a dream after one wakes up. O Lord, when you awake you will despise them. Yes, my spirit was bitter, and my insides felt sharp pain. I was ignorant and lacked insight;I was as senseless as an animal before you. But I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me by your wise advice, and then you will lead me to a position of honor. Whom do I have in heaven but you? I desire no one but you on earth. My flesh and my heart may grow weak, but God always protects my heart and gives me stability. Yes, look! Those far from you die; you destroy everyone who is unfaithful to you. But as for me, God’s presence is all I need. I have made the sovereign Lord my shelter,as I declare all the things you have done.” – Psalm 73:20-28

The whole chapter of Psalm 73 spoke so deeply to me. I found myself relating to Asaph. I did not understand why God seemed to be blessing others around me. I became judgement of those I felt did not deserve to have children for whatever reason… and I was envious of those I felt deserved to have children and I knew would be incredibly selfless Godly parents. I had on green-shaded lenses no matter what direction I looked in. I did not understand why God was not blessing us when we were honoring Him and serving Him. I saw us as righteous and living how He wanted us to live, so why would He not give us a child?! I had become someone I never wanted to me, so believe me, when I say I was the lucky one. Nick and I were lucky that God worked out our adoption story so effortlessly and so seamlessly. We were lucky God entrusted us to raise someone else’s child as OURS. To love him. To let him love us. God enriched our lives through being able to adopt our wild man. Adopting him brought us back to life and pulled us out of an scary and ugly place. God knew we needed Zeke. He wanted to use our story to encourage and inspire other couples not to give up. To remind other’s we aren’t promised anything in this life. He are lucky that God choice us to adopt Zeke to glorify Himself and all He can do despite our short-comings. I hope that when Zeke gets older he feels lucky to have Nick and I as parents just like I hope his little brother feels lucky. Not because he is adopted or not, but because hopefully we will be good honorable parents. Hopefully he feels lucky, because he is proud to have us as HIS mom and dad.

3.) “Is it easier to love your biological son  since he is your own flesh and blood?”

Refer to number 1. He is our own. If anything, I was afraid I would not love Jasper as much as I love Zeke (which I hear lots of mom’s deal with adopting/having their second child). My heart still has room for loving more adopted or biological children. I love lots of people who aren’t my flesh and blood and some folks who are my flesh and blood make it difficult to love. Amen? HA.

4.) “Does your adopted son realize you guys aren’t his “real” parents? But you are his brother’s?”

Excuse me. If we aren’t his “real” parents, then who are? We have been there through the entire process. Does he know someone else as mom and dad? I think I am confused. We are his “real” mom and dad. We were the first to hold him. The ones who have cared for him since birth with grateful and loving hearts. We are not pretend parents. We are the real thing. We discipline, love, nurture, pray, and provide for both of our boys just the same. If anything, at times, I have felt sorry for Jasper. He does not get the undivided attention that Zeke received, but it is the nature of the beast for a second child. We are real and tangible to them equally.

5.) “Hard to understand why someone would give up their own flesh and blood?”

Please understand something. You are not just insulting the birthmother of our beautiful son, but you are also insulting me who made that same decision. She did not give him up due to lack of caring for him. She made a decision to give him a life she could not provide for him. She made a decision to give him a family that would provide for him in a way she could not at that time. It does not means she did not love him. In fact, she loved him in a way, hopefully, most mothers will never have to understand. Sacrificially. She gave up one of the greatest loves of her life so they could hopefully have a better life. When you ask or make comments like that you are attacking the woman who’s blood and DNA making up my precious son. Trust me. It was not a careless or callused decision; it came from a place of love.

I hope anyone reading this understands this does not come out of anger or frustration. I simply want to help folks understand that both of our children are just that… OURS! Neither loved less or more. God created both of them. He knows them well and loves them deeply.

We want our sons to know we all have an opportunity to be adopted and how great that is. We want “adopt,” “adopted,” or “adoption” to be a word worthy of praise, because of what God did for us.

“But when the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as sons with full rights. And because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, who calls “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if you are a son, then you are also an heir through God.” – Galatians 4:4-7

Hopefully, we will do a good job raising them and by the grace of God, may they turn out as men of character, integrity, and virtue. May they be real men contributing to this crazy world they have been born into and may we take our responsibility as their parents very seriously. Please pray for our family as we continue to raise these precious miracles God has entrusted into our care. It takes a village. 😉

{Bloom} Where You’re Planted

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One of my sweet friends, Tracy Hales, posted this meme on her Facebook wall today. Needless to say, it could not have come at a move perfect time.

As a part-time Campus Pastor, full-time mom of two, and a full time wife, at times I feel like my ministry opportunities are not as well versed as they used to me. This past weekend a few of my very good friends hoped on different planes to Haiti to go minister and serve. [Envious does not shine enough light on the emotions I was feeling]. I wanted to go, but having a four month old at home and a job that keeps me extremely busy this time of year, would not allow for me to travel. Not to mention all the typical household chores and projects that need to be done. I have spent my time praying for Luke 101 and the team traveling with them expecting God to do great things through their ministry efforts, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t struggling with not being on Haitian soil with them.

Yesterday, as I was driving to my in-laws, my conversation with God was interrupted by my three year old son, Z. At the first initial question, I was slightly annoyed, because I sharing my heart with the Lord about my disappointment and discouragement of not being in Haiti and feeling like I was failing in areas of ministry. As my son began to speak, God revealed some important truths to me.

Z asked me, “Momma, why did Adam and Eve disobey God?” [To be honest, my mind was disheveled by his, rather, large question]. I grabbed the rearview mirror, pulling it down, so I could look at him as I spoke… “Son, satan tricked her into thinking God did not care about her. He made her think God was keeping her from doing something that would make her better and smarter.” (Can I just say that trying to talk serious topic with my son concerning the Bible is extremely intimidating). As I watched his little three year old mind work by the inquisitive look on his face I knew he was really trying to process what I was saying. A few minutes later, he said, “Momma?” “Yes, son.” I replied. “Was Eve just being selfish?” he asked. “Yeah, I suppose she was. She wasn’t thinking about the affect of her actions on herself or other people,” I said. Then Z said, “God told her not to eat that fruit; that apple. She did it any way though. That was not very smart!”

I took that moment to explain to my sweet curious boy that we ALL have sinned and fall short of God’s love, but that is why we need Jesus. I explained it ore simple terms how we are “not very smart” on even our best days. I asked him if Daddy and I ever ask him to do something and he disobeys us? He quickly responded with, “When you told me not to jump on the couch and I did it any way? Then I hit my head.” “Yes, exactly like that! I wasn’t telling you that to keep you from having fun, but because I knew the dangers that come from jumping on the couch. You could have gotten hurt, and you did. It is the same way with God and Eve. God knew what was on that tree could hurt her, and she disobeyed him anyway,” I said. He quickly interrupted exclaimed, “Then she got hurt forever.” Ha! Yeap!

As I continued driving, I watched him mull over those words and his little big thoughts. God reminded me right then that even though I am not in Haiti doing ministry… MY MINISTRY IS HERE! My boys are my ministry and through them I will leave my legacy. I have an opportunity to leave a lasting impression on this world through the men of character and integrity they become. Through our discussions about the Bible and our Creator, I may possibly assist my sons in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ to their classmates, friends, teammates, and their precious children.

I felt color filling my pale fall face and tears swelling in my eyes as the Lord brought me back to reality and gave me a lesson in humility. I am doing ministry… every single day! I do ministry from the time my children wake up until they go to bed. From tiny life lessons about seasons changing, those tender prayers he prays every night for the same couple for almost a year and God answers in a HUGE way, from moments where I want to pull my hair out when my [three]nager thinks he knows more than me and tap dances on my last nerve, those precious thirty minutes he climbs in bed to cuddle with me before we start our day, the interrupted bath or potty breaks, the sweet glimpses of his gentleness and love for his brother, or even those billions of “why” questions that sometimes get exhausting… those are teachable moments… ministry moments! From how I reaction, from the words I speak [LIFE or death], from how I communicate my emotions, or even the looks I give… they are all moments for me to minister to my children.

I pray multiple times a day, asking God not to let me screw my children up. Asking for opportunities to share Jesus with my boys and teach them how to be honest, kind, and respectable young men. I am teaching them what to look for in a future wife (by how I treat their dad) and a future mother to their children (by how I treat them). I have my work cut out for me and my focus is needed right where it is. My ministry is here! For now, every minute of every day, this is my ministry and I am working hard on leaving a legacy. I will {BLOOM} where God has planted me. I will take it seriously and realize it’s importance.

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Parenthood Continues

Parenthood is the most rewarding and life-altering experience. There are many twist and turns along the way.

As a mom, I think you always want your family to be put together, rather than falling a part at the seams. You try to make your children look presentable, even though you know by the time you get to where you are going, juice will be all over their “trendy” clothes, they will look like they have bed-head, (even though you spent 10 minutes wrestling them to get their hair into a cute style), the snack, Motts gummies, (with no red dye, because other moms tell you to be cautious) will most likely be stuck to the crotch of their shorts. When go to pull your toddler out of the car, you find yourself wondering why you even bothered. Oh, I forgot to mention the song your child begged to listen to ten times before you reached your destination? (“Ring Of Fire,” “I’m Gonna Be Me,” “Anywhere With You,” and “Buy Me A Boat” to name a few). We see you, momma. You are not alone!

I am learning every moment, of every day, that to be a parent, and not lose your sanity, you must have a sense of humor.  If not, you are like an accountant without knowledge or understanding of math.  You will have a miserable existence and fail epically trying to reach your goal. Granted, with accounting, you could quit and find a new job…that is not how it should work with parenthood. 

Lately, I have been trying to make the most of our beautiful chaos at home. My three year old has had quite a change with his new baby brother entering the world. Uninterrupted time does not come as frequently as it once did, not with Baby J’s needs having to be met and nap times becoming shorter and less frequent. Big Z has been a champ with wanting to help out with his little brother, but I know the transition has not been the easiest.  My husband and I work hard to make sure both of our boys get plenty of our time and attention, but with Z still being a toddler, he tends to want momma a little more. {I am enjoying it while I can}. 

As a momma, struggling with wanting to be the perfect wife and mom, I tend to be spend time picking up after the kiddos, finding time to clean, doing laundry (separate load of course, because the boys clothes are washed in Dreft), figuring out ways to increase my BM supply, pumping, and washing endless amounts of bottles. That doesn’t include time with the hubs, the boys, “self” time (what is that, again?), working, or trying to make dinner.  However, all that said, time with my fellas comes first! 

For some time now, we have been teaching Z how to pick up his toys, sort laundry, and sometimes he tries to help us sweep the kitchen. For the past three weeks, he has been asking to help wash dishes. As most moms know, your time throughout the day is very valuable; lots to do with not enough hours in the day.  My thoughts exactly!

My sweet boy always wants to help… and I am, at times, reluctantly appreciative. Last night, I found myself getting frustrated, as my son sat on the edge of the counter, with his little feet dangling into the stainless steel sink in our kitchen. I was washing the dishes and he was rinsing the soap off each dish I handed him. As the dishes I had washed piled up on his side of the sink, he would pick up a bottle and ask, “Do you see any soap?” In my mind, I would think, Yes, I see soap! It is covered in soap. You haven’t even started rinsing it yet. Then I would calmly answer, “Yes, buddy! I see some soap.”  He would begin to fill the bottle with water, then dump it into the sink, which would splash up, and cover his little burgandy umbro shorts. I would remind him to be careful and not get water all over the place to which he would respond, “It’s okay? Sometimes, it just happens?” “Yes, son, sometimes it just happens.” I would reply to him as he was still rinsing.  Then he would hold up the bottle again and say, “Do you see any soap?” “No, buddy, I don’t! You did a great job!”


  
{All pictures were taken this morning}.


  
One thing about our son is he is independent and strong-willed. I was already done washing all the dishes and he was still taking his time rinsing the cumulating pile on his side. I found myself wanting to rush him, to say, “Hurry, Z! You have to go to bed soon,” or “Let me help you, buddy, so we can hurry up and get done.” Instead, of crushing my big helper’s spirit, I watched him rinse each bottle, nipple, top, and extras, soaking his new soccer shorts, and sometimes accidentally spilling water onto the floor, with encouraging words like “Man, that looks awesome,” “How did you get so good at rinsing?” “You are momma’s big helper,” and so on.


  

~ He was pleased with his work this morning and thanked me for letting him help. ~ Jasper watched us this morning. ~

  

  
My sons need me. My sons need me to be their biggest cheerleader, coach, encourager, teacher, and trainer. They need to know I am so proud of them. They need to know I value them, if and when no one else seems to. They need to know they are both loved unconditionally. They need to know that every thing else can wait when it comes to quality time with them.

As momma, I need to remember to always have a sense of humor. I need to remember how my momma waited on me for all kinds of nuances I brought to the table. I need to remember to encourage and support them. I need to remember to not take life too seriously. I really need to remember to slow down and enjoy every moment with my boys. I need to remember I am their inner voice. I need to remember they will gauge the type woman they marry based on me (what am I showing them). I need to show them Jesus’ unconditional love and how it is patient and perfect! I need to love the mess out of them, every day, in new ways!

I don’t get this right all the time… I am sure I never will, but hopefully, through God’s sufficient grace and love, my boys won’t be too screwed up. 🙂  I am praying for myself as well as other moms out there doing their best and striving for even better. Don’t give up, momma! You aren’t alone… (and I don’t mean because your kid is in the bathroom with you saying, “Momma! Momma!” as you read this). 😀

—thoughts from a new mom of two—

Curve Balls Mean Adjusting

“Life is not about how many curve balls you encounter, but rather adjusting your perspective, to effectively handle each curve ball. – Laura D. Fields

Infertility is becoming a very common word in our society, especially in the last few years. More and more we are hearing of family and friends having unexplained miscarriages or just issues conceiving. My husband and I were all too familiar with infertility during our marriage. We tried for a few years to get pregnant; I was even talked into taking Clomid and Progesterone in hopes of increase my chances of fertility. The multiple doctors at multiple practices sat me down and explained why I would not be able to conceive… “You have P.C.O.S., which will make it nearly impossible for you to get pregnant, if you are ever able to get pregnant.” [So encouraging, right?!?] I left every time in tears and desperately seeking God for answers. Not to mention every Tom, Dick, and Harry around you seem to be announcing their pregnancies and sure you are happy for them, yet every announcement feels like someone cut open your oozing wound and pour salt all in it. I went through many of those moments; some of those moments with my best of friends. I later had to sit down and apologize to my best friend in the world. I wanted to celebrate with her… it was just so painful and I felt so selfish. ***Sorry for the side note.***

After three years of experimenting with fertility drugs and coming up short handed every time, as well, as only ovulating once in an entire year, we threw in the towel. We finally turned it all over to the Lord. [I do realize that not everyone reading this blog, believes in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, but that is where my husband and I firmly stand…on the Rock]. Three months later, we were reading a random email from a friend asking us about adopting a child; a child that is now our son.

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holding my son for the first time
holding our son for the first time

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More about our adoption process here.

After we adopted our son, we were content with giving him all of our love. We took on a serious responsibility when we adopted someone’s child and took him to raise as our own. Our focus turned towards raising a man of character, integrity, and love. It is strange how quickly we forgot he was even adopted. There are days when I have to remind our friends and even remind my husband and myself. Due to our immense love for our son and our attention being solely on him, we quit worrying about fertility drugs, infertility, and pregnancy. Then it happened… and out of no where.

October 12 was a busy day with a giant surprise at the end. My husband’s band, Homegrown Band, had a video shoot that evening. Video for “I’m Gonna Be Me.” here. You can read more about that crazy day here. Constant queasiness, lots of fatigue, and hormone issues should have pointed me into the right direction, but after multiple negative pregnancy tests and “it will never happens” there was no way. But, there was a way… I was pregnant! The first positive test I had seen during our journey together. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing… I was in shock. I slowly crept down the hallway, with a flushed face and sweaty hands. As I approached my son’s room, where my husband was changing his diaper and getting him ready for bed, I felt like I would pass out. An out of body experience to say the least. Sticking my head around the corner, my husband could easily look at my face and tell something was off. Doubt, excitement, fear, and wonderment were probably written all over my face. I smiled and reluctantly asked if he would come to our room (we had guest over for the Walking Dead). Showing him the faded pink line on an old store bought pregnancy test seemed ridiculous and scary, but there it was. Two pregnancy test later, because we were skeptical, it was our new reality.

We were pregnant.

I would love to tell you that it was the most blissful, joy-filled time in our lives, but it was one of the hardest times in our marriage. We were experiencing so much change and a lot of it unexpected. The pregnancy came at an amazing time for us financially, but in all other aspects change was happening all around us. However, God’s timing is never our timing. His timing is always best and He had proven it to us constantly. Even during the pregnancy.

Pregnancies can be very difficult on your body, emotions, health, and weight. At various times, God would remind me of His hand throughout my pregnancy. At my weigh-ins, I was losing and not gaining. I felt incredible the entire pregnancy and carried our son full-term (even a few days past my due date). Blah! 🙂

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~Jasper’s birth~

May 23rd, I went to the mall to shop with my dear friend and little sister, Megan, and my oldest son. [I was trying all sorts of things to get Jasper to come]. We arrived at the mall and unloaded the stroller to head inside. As we started walking through the mall I thought I felt contractions, but they weren’t consistent. I went about my shopping like I never felt a twinge of pain. As I was standing talking to some friends in the maternity store, I felt my water break. [Luckily, there was no gush of fluids]. Ha. I waited until they left to tell Megan that I thought my water had broken. Zeke was begging to ride the escalator, so I sent Megan with him to ride while I made a detour to the ladies’ room. Sure enough; my water had broken. Megan did her best not to freak out, but she did tear up from excitement.

As we left the mall, we tried calling Nick, as he was helping Austin (my intern and our children’s minister) install a new starter in her Jeep. [He was suppose to be going to the mall with us, but Austin needed help, so we sent Nick to save the day. Which he did]. He is a good hubby! (; When he called me back, I explained what was going on and he made a plan. We would meet at the house and then finish getting our stuff together and head to the hospital. We did just that. We weren’t in a big hurry to get there, since all of our classes suggested it would take a while.

After the loading up the car and giving Zeke lots of kisses, we headed towards the hospital. I cannot begin to tell you all the thoughts running through my head. I couldn’t believe after nine months this was really happening… he was coming! We would no longer just be parents to one handsome blue-eyed boy. We would no longer just be reading the bedtime stories and the Bible to one curious fella. We would no longer be giving our constantly attention and love to just one little miracle. We would be doing all of this for two precious miracle boys.

No matter the rushing whirlwind, I can recall every detail of that night, but I won’t bore you with the every intimate detail. When we arrived at the hospital, we were quickly admitted. The nurse could not find a prominent vein in my forearm, so she called in reinforcements. A nurse came in, she never introduced herself, but she walked in tied a rubber band around my arm, then jammed the IV needle in my arm. [I thought I was going to die; it was the worst part of my labor and delivery]. ***I know I am very fortunate.*** After they fully broke my water, they asked when I wanted my epidural. I explained I wanted to enjoy the labor and delivery, so I told them just to send them when they were ready. At this point it was about 10:30p. By 11:30p, the Anesthesiologist had come and gone, and I couldn’t feel my legs. From that point on, Nick and I slept off and on as my nurse would have random checks on Jasper’s progress. At 6am, I woke and called the nurses’ station and explained how I felt pressure and needed to push. As the nurse entered the room to give me one last check, she concurred it was time.

Nick walked over to the bed, as the nurse left the room to get prepared, grabbed my hand and prayed over Jasper, me, and the delivery. We already had so many miracles to be thankful for, but we were thanking Him yet again for this new little miracle, who was on his way to meet us. My labor and delivery was a miracle in and of itself. I could not believe how great I felt afterwards. My heart was overwhelmed with such an intense love as I watched my son be born into this world… a love for this tiny, precious life God had chosen to give my husband and me. An intense new love that was fierce, selfless, and tender all at the same time. I was overcome with a new love for my husband as well. He had been my best friend, comforter, and rock, but this was time it was more intense… unfathomable really. I was feeling three different types of love for him all at once; there was so much emotion flowing from my heart and I could hardly breathe. I could tell by my husband’s eyes that he felt it too. The exhaustion didn’t matter to either of us… we had a whole new surge of energy we’d never experienced before. My active labor lasted about 30 minutes. We started at 6:05am and by 6:25am, our son was here!

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He had more hair than we thought he would. We were not expecting that. We were both so incredibly smitten with him and could not wait to introduce him to his big brother.

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After he was born, they left him with me for skin to skin for about an hour, then took him back to get a bath and be checked out. After the epidural was removed, we got ready to move to our postpartum room. Nick and I were both so exhausted, but we were driven to stay awake due to all the excitement.

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Around noon everyone started making their way to the hospital. We wanted to experience our son’s birth without everyone there. It was such a surreal time for us. Once people started arriving we could not wait to show him off, but mostly to his big brother.

Here are some of the pictures from the day. A huge thank you to Mrs. Evanda Estes, one of our best friends, who happens to be a great photographer. She captured these precious memories for us and our family.

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Big brother, Zeke was extremely curious and excited to meet his new baby brother. He was so sweet with him; he even brought me flowers and Jasper a stuffed animal. He wanted to look at his hands and feet, because they were so tiny. He just kept saying, “He’s so cute!” It tugged on my heart-strings a little more each time he said it.

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Welcome to the world sweet Jasper Wyatt Ivey! You are an answer to so many prayers by many God-fearing people. We are so glad you are a part of our family. You are deeply cherished and loved. God has a great purpose for your life…never forget it! We will remind you daily. Daddy and I love you and Ezekiel more than we will ever be able to put into words. You are a beacon of hope, my sweet son!

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Both of you are answers to many gut-wrenching and heartbroken prayers. Each a reminder of God’s Sovereignty even when we wrestle with our own faithfulness to God’s plan and purpose.

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My prayer for you both is for you to come to walk in relationship with Jesus Christ and as his followers, you will be like the moon, but only so you can reflect the light of the Son. I love you, sweet boys! xoxo

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Photography by Aislinn Rain Photography.

What Is To Come…

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The past ten weeks have been a whirlwind. I promise I will give an update on our life and our newest little fella, Jasper. The Lord has provided Nick and I with two incredible miracles in the last three years and we could not be any more proud if we tried. I don’t think we could have ever imagined, during our fight of infertility, how God would allow our children to come into this crazy world. Our story is not norm, nor is it going to happen to everyone struggling with infertility, but I hope through our story, some will find hope.

I will continue to pray for those around me struggling with adoptions, infertility, loss, and miscarriages long after God has answered our prayers. Knowing the struggle puts into prospective how so many men and especially women in prayer and to be reminded there IS healing, hope, and options. May God bless and keep you cradled in His arms during your fights and struggles. God’s timing doesn’t always make sense, but it is perfect (for you).