Our Christmas Miracle

There’s really no other way to explain today.  The way the last 2 months have unfolded are nothing short of divinity in action.

Since February, we (along with MANY friends and family members) have been praying diligently for God to light our path, and for Him to bring our children (whomever they were) home to us for Christmas.  We didn’t even know at that point WHO our children were, but we felt compelled to pray for them to be home by Christmas.  I dove into scripture and asked my Bible study and closest friends to pray with me that our son(s) and/or daughter(s) would be made known to us and home with our family to celebrate the Christmas holiday.  I really didn’t know if it was even possible, since we hadn’t even been matched with our children yet, but God laid it on my heart and I poured my life into it.

It has not been an easy path, but having all four of my children under one roof this Christmas Eve makes every tear, every struggle, every sacrifice worth it!  Liam and Cora are no longer orphans.  God fulfilled His promise to them…by fulfilling the dream he laid in my heart when I was just a child.  There is no logical reason for our son & daughter to be in my livingroom right now.  Families that passed court in Ghana before us and others who filed their immigration paperwork the same time as us are all still awaiting USICS approval.  One family who had been matched with their children before us is still awaiting court!  Things in Ghana adoptions are not smooth.  There have been many personnel changes in important offices impacting this process.  The ONLY reason our children are all home right now is because we are faithful to the God of miracles and he has answered our prayers in a BIG way.

For the rest of our lives, Christmas Eve will have a dual significance in our lives…the remembrance of the birth of our Savior and the day we were united as a FOREVER FAMILY.

WELCOME HOME SWEET GHANAIAN ANGELS…WE LOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Today’s the Day!

With all the chaos that associates itself with the homecoming of 2 children from Africa paired with the chaos of the week before Christmas, I haven’t been able to sit down to update this blog at all and I’m sorry I haven’t.  Not necessarily because I feel bad that those awaiting updates haven’t received them, but because I haven’t chronicled the emotional turmoil this week has held.  I have made it a focus of this blog to wear my heart on my sleeve for all to see.  I feel convicted that my transparency is essential in sharing this experience with our children in the future.  Unfortunately time has not been my friend this week.  Liam’s room isn’t finished.  The house is a mess.  I haven’t been grocery shopping.  I DID get Cora’s car seat assembled & installed in the van, but it took nearly an hour of my day which caused me to not get all the Christmas gifts wrapped.  I haven’t baked a single Christmas cookie or made any fudge.  I didn’t even get a chance to make any of the gifts I wanted to make for my children for Christmas.

This week has been crazy.  I have been all over the emotional map.  Of course I am overjoyed that we will have all 4 of our children together for Christmas, but at the same time I’m utterly heartbroken for all the children closing out yet another year in an orphanage.  I am especially broken for the children who have parents that are fully, legally their family, but who haven’t completed the immigration process yet.  Those children NEED to be HOME!  My heart breaks over and over and each time I cry out to Jesus, begging for His mercy and grace upon these families…that He would unite them forever as He promises in Psalm 68:6.

As I try my best to prepare for what’s to come in this next chapter in our lives, I can’t shake the heartache for those left behind.  There are millions of orphans in the world.  MILLIONS.  The most widely recognized figure is 147 MILLION orphans in the world.  That’s insane!  Now, not all of those children are freed for adoption.  Often times they live with extended family or they’re counted as orphans when 1 parent is deceased but the other parent still cares for the child.  That said, there are still tens of millions of children in this world that ARE cleared for adoption.  Approximately 100,000 of those are right here in the American foster system.  Each and every one of those children [regardless of age, race, medical conditions or family size (sibling groups)] deserves a FOREVER FAMILY!

I am so very thankful that God has brought Liam & Cora into our family.  They are a blessing to us in so many ways and we love them dearly.  I can’t wait to greet them at the airport in just seven hours!!!  I can’t wait to make them a part of our everyday lives and learn what it *really* means to be a mama of 4!

For tonight, as I pray for my husband and 2 youngest children as they travel across the world to come home on this most blessed Christmas Eve.  I pray, too, for the families still waiting for their “Gotcha Day” and the millions of children all over the world longing for a family to love & care for them…and for you, the person reading my little middle-of-the-night blog post, that you will listen for God’s call in your life in regards to how He’s calling you to care for orphans.  It may be adoption, it may be child sponsorship through fabulous organizations like Feeding the Orphans, Compassion International or Compassionate Journeys, it may be becoming a foster parent in your local community or organizing a toy drive for a local children’s group home.  Whatever it is, I pray your heart is open to hearing the still small voice of God and that you choose to follow the path He sets before you.  I can’t promise it’ll be easy, but I can promise it WILL be worth it!!!  Just look at us…after 2 years of ups & downs, we’re living out a true Christmas Miracle!!!

 

Learn to do right; seek justice.  Defend the oppressed.  Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.  ~Isaiah 1:17

Welcome to the Family…

Although our adoption journey continues at a pace rivaling that of an injured slug, we are excited to welcome to the family our newest member…Douglas Alan Smith.  

Doug married my only sister, Holly, last weekend.  It was a lovely ceremony (except the part when I fell flat on my face as my knee gave out on the first of 3 downward steps) followed by a tremendous reception.  The weather was outstanding – there’s no way anyone would have predicted 62 degrees & sunny on November 13th in Buffalo!!  We were even able to have outdoor photos taken…I can’t wait to see them!  And as I type this, my sister & new brother-in-law are (hopefully) living the life of luxury on the beaches of St Maarten on their honeymoon.  They are scheduled to return home mid-week, just in time to celebrate their first Thanksgiving as Mr & Mrs Smith.

Thanksgiving…my favorite holiday by far.  A day that centers our focus on the blessings in our lives instead of the hardships.  A day that brings family & friends together without feeling of obligation to come bearing elaborate gifts or the misnomer that some hocus pocus mythical creature is the reason for the celebration.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas…I love telling my children the story of Jesus’ birth in that stable.  I love seeing their eyes light up from opening the perfect gift.  I don’t, however, like the tremendous amount of hoopla over Santa & presents & greed.  I don’t like what this season does to people…including myself…in regards to stress, finances & anxiety.  Of course, I don’t like the weather that certain to plague us here soon either!  Oh how I would love to live in a climate where decorating a palm tree was a viable Christmas option!  🙂

But instead, I will choose to give thanks for the fact that even in less than desirable weather, we have a house, Sam has a good job, we have food on the table and clothes on our backs.  We may not live high on the hog, but we sure as heck aren’t suffering like the children we so desperately long to add to our family.  Or even like so many here in our own back yards…those who’ve lost their jobs & homes in the recession, those who’ve lost close loved ones recently and are suffering through this first holiday of thanks without that one person they were so thankful to have in their lives, those who are alone…who, even though they may have their needs met financially, may have no one to spend the holidays with.  I am so very thankful to God for my family & friends, the provisions He provides for our family, and for the heart of compassion He has bestowed upon me as it gives me a greater appreciation for what I have and a willingness to give it up for those who don’t.

I pray that each of you taking the time to read this post will choose to see the blessings in your life in stead of just the trials.  I pray that you will see the plight of those around you and offer what you can to help bless the less fortunate as you have been blessed.  I pray that you will know that although Thursday is our official holiday, we should keep this mentality each and every day of our lives.

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”  ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Happy Thanksgiving!

Merry Christmas!!

That’s right…I said it…MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!  Not Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings…Merry CHRISTmas!

Welcome to our first blog and our semi-annual Christmas letter all rolled into one.  In lieu of printing, folding & mailing over 100 copies of this, we thought it more economical & eco-friendly to go with an e-letter this year.  Hopefully it finds you all well.

Since the last Schrecengost family Christmas letter (2007) there have been abundance of changes in our lives.  For starters we sold our house on Hunt Ave in Eden to a childhood friend of Christy’s in the summer of 2008 and purchased her grandmother’s house on West Ave (1 block away).  Her grandmother lives with us, which has been an adjustment for all involved, but is working out to be a tremendous blessing…especially for Ivy & Mya.  The memories they will have of the time spent with their great-grandmother are priceless.  The new house provides significantly more space both indoors & out…which is especially helpful with our newest addition – a Newfoundland puppy named Sheldon.  He was born on October 7, 2009 and came home to us on November 28th.  Sheldon was the runt of his litter and because he had to be bottle fed as a newborn pup, is very snuggly and loves to be with people.  He’s growing like a weed and has gained approximately 7 pounds in the 3 weeks we’ve had him.  The girls adore him & do a fabulous job helping to care for him.  Of course, he is a puppy, so (like a toddler) you have to watch him every second or he’ll have SOMETHING he shouldn’t!  His favorites were ornaments off the tree, but we’ve gated that off from him now so he concentrates on trying to get a hold of people’s shoes.

No one in our home has seen more change in these past 2 years than Ivy.  As many of you know, she has struggled with medical issues since she was 9 months old and in May of this year, just 2 months before her 8th birthday, we FINALLY got a diagnosis: Celiac Disease.  I have never been so relieved in all my life!!!  Celiac is an auto-immune disease stemmed from the body’s inability to process gluten.  Gluten is a protien found in wheat, barley & rye.  Thankfully, a diet change is all that was needed to make our little girl healthy again!  Within one month on a Gluten-Free diet, Ivy’s symptoms were gone & she had more energy and an overall better disposition than ever before!  Thank you God!  We owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Rossi at Strong Pediatric Gastroenterology for his willingness to treat her for Celiac even with the blood work being inconclusive.  Ivy is now off every medication she was ever on and is thriving!  Thank you God!

In April of this year, Ivy also got her first pair of eyeglasses and in September she began 3rd grade, which meant moving up to “the big school”.  She likes her teacher & has a ton of friends in her class.  She continues to excell in school and dance (where she has been moved up to the older tap, jazz & ballet classes with mostly 6th graders).  Ivy is also in her 2nd year of piano lessons and is looking forward to playing an instrument in school next year.

Mya is 4 1/2 now and attends the universal Pre-K program through the school district.  She goes to school every afternoon (M-F) and rides the bus home with her big sister…such a thrill for her!  She too does very well in school & dance and is a born entertainer.  When she isn’t singing or dancing around the house she’s putting on puppet shows or acting out stories with her dolls.  She finds joy in the simple things, and is generally a very happy little girl.  It’s so hard to believe that our sweet little baby will be off to Kindergarten next fall!!  Oh how time flies…

Christy has been enjoying the opportunity to stay home with the girls for several years now.  She returned to the work force part time by taking on a retail sales position at JC Penney for the holidays where she specializes in Fine Jewelry.  Thankfully that position will end soon and she will be able to spend quality time with the family once again.  Over the summer Christy played softball for 2 teams and as soon as this seasonal job is over, she hopes to return to dancing.  She has stepped down from the MOPS ministry leadership, but continues to be active in Children’s Ministry and Bible study.

Sam’s thankful to still be working for Erie 1 BOCES.  We know how difficult the economy is right now and that steady employment with good benefits is hard to come by.  We are very thankful that he not only HAS a job, but that he works with a great group of people and he enjoys what he does.  Not many (if any) other teams within the BOCES structure get along so well that they even choose to spend their lunch breaks together!  Outside of work, Sam continues to play basketball on Saturday mornings and has joined a Bible study with a great group of men.

In other family happenings, we had the opportunity to go on our first big family vacation since having Mya…in April we traveled to Disney World for a week!  It truly was a magical experience and we hope to make it back there again someday.  And recently, Christy’s sister, Holly, said YES to her long-time boyfriend Doug when he proposed!  All 4 of us are honored & excited to be in the wedding party and we couldn’t be happier for the two of them as they begin their life journey together!!

So that about wraps it up…another year has come & gone.  We pray that the true spirit of Christmas will permate your heart this season and that the year ahead will be filled with God’s greatest blessings.  MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!!!

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