Thursday, January 10, 2013


     I went grocery shopping yesterday. It was one of those times when literally everything had been eaten in the entire house and we were going to starve unless I bought some groceries. I'm an awesome mom and wife, I know. Well, I made the mistake of going in without a list, which basically means I went up and down every aisle and just picked up whatever looked good, unintentionally spending twice as much money as I should have. I'm also a sentimental shopper, so as I roamed the many delights of Walmart I began looking for something special to surprise my husband. And wouldn't ya know, I found it- Grapico. For those who may not know about Grapico, its actually just a grape flavored soda that I personally think is terrible. But I got a whole pack of it because I remember T.J. telling me a very sweet story of his childhood memories guessed it... Grapico. When I finally found it my heart welled up inside my chest and a smile stretched across my face, because, buying grape soda for my husband is more than just grocery shopping. Its a way of saying "I am thinking about you," and "You are important to me."
     I started school again yesterday. Two days ago though, I was still nursing my pathetic double pink-eyed daughter so she couldn't go to daycare, lest she infect all her sweet baby friends with her weeping eye infection. So I went to the church office that day to visit my husband and father-in-law. Now, Madelyn's Pops loves her so much, with a big huge love that just leaks out of his whole body. He LOVE LOVES LOVES her. She has no chance to grow up a normal child because she will be absolutely spoiled rotten her entire life. Madi's Pops LOVES her. He does all these cute things just for her. They go out and look at the moon together almost any time its dark outside. They talk to each other and laugh. On this particular afternoon two days ago, they listened to Norah Jones in his office and "danced." All of those things are little bitty parts of the way he says he loves her, but all of them say the same thing again- "I think about you," "You are important to me," "I want to make you feel special," "I want you."
     I went to the Passion 2013 Conference at the beginning of the year with my college Sunday school class. It was really an impactful and fun experience for me. I walked away from it feeling a renewed desire to love the scriptures and prayer, and to value exactly what Christ did for me. The more I thought about exactly what that meant, the more adoption came to life for me. Save the cross, we were orphaned abandoned children without hope ourselves. I was dead and dying and completely helpless, but God as a father in his love for his children, came down and rescued me. Regardless of the price or sacrifice, he wanted me. And it was of course the big thing, the saving thing, of him dying on the cross in my place and being raised to life that is so powerful and transforming in our lives. The ultimate sacrifice of his life in exchange for mine. But I also think about the little things he did in everyday life that were neither supernatural or extravagant. When he took pity on people and gently loved those who were offensive. When he scooped up the least of these and had patience with us in our foolishness. His humility and genuine concern for other people in their lives always said, "I love you, you are important to me, you have so much value in my eyes."
     As we sit in this weird limbo between our hearts' longing and embracing our son, I've stopped to think of all the pain that will come from this adoption. Of course it is going to be healing and fulfilling and worthwhile, but I think most restoration comes with pain as well. Jack will wonder why his birth parents left and his culture was ripped from him. Our family may struggle with side-glances and prejudices. I already cringe at the comments from unintentionally abrasive  people about being too young, or possibly adopting an older "defective" child who is black. Adoption is a Christ-mimicing desire, but even Christ endured pain in completing our adoption. It somehow seems unnatural to people that someone could love another person as if they were their own child. But God looks at us through the blood of Christ and does just that- and people don't have a hard time accepting that in their lives. Its kindof a double standard don't you think? And as my eyes are opened to the countless children growing up in this country and around the world without parents to love them, I'm shocked at how often we (myself included) choose to look away and ignore the suffering and loneliness and hopelessness of God's children. I want Jack and my many future children, adopted or home-grown, to know that I will sacrifice for them, that they are important to me, and that I care about them. I want my parents to cradle them to sleep and look at the moon with them and dance with them. I want to be brave enough to open my heart to the need in this world and embrace my children, smiles and scars and hardships included, in the same way Christ embraces me. Because they are worth sacrifice and pain, and patience.

    It thrills my heart to know that one day I will see face to face the son that has already been born into my heart and the fabric of my soul, and that I can love him in an extravagant, passionate way for his entire life. And we will build memories and a life that brings him comfort, and value, and worth. And I wish that he could only know right now the incredible love I have in store for him. God willing, he will be able to look back someday and know that all along, throughout it all, I have loved him. And I am thinking about him. And he is important to me.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Enterprise Yard Sale

     Our first yard sale was a success! My grandmother, great aunt and uncle, daddy, sister, aunt and cousin all helped out and really made it an awesome fundraiser! We tried to make it all donation based, but a few things were priced. My sweet cousin made a lemonade stand and sold cups of lemonade for $0.25. My family took care of making signs for the yard sale, putting up tents, setting out tables, and ran the yard sale all Friday until 3! It was honestly a huge blessing, because I know they all did so much work to make sure our yards sale was great. My sweet daddy took everything out of the loft above our garage (which is a ton of stuff, btw) and sifted through all the stuff. He delivered tables that had been bought and helped organize everything.  He even stayed all day to help. My whole family stayed out all day! If there’s one thing I’ve learned, its that… yard saling is hard. So for everyone to work so hard to help us really meant a lot.

I have a few of my favorite stories from today that I want to share.

     First of all, my cousin is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful people I have ever met. She donated her old bicycle to our yard sale, and came out early this morning to set up a lemonade stand. And it was so serious. She and my aunt had one of those fancy lemonade containers that is tall and clear, and has cute little spout. They made a fancy sign. She brought her own fancy cash register that made a “cha chinggg” sound when she opened it. It was all really fancy. And she sat there faithfully most of the morning asking people if they would like a cup of lemonade. This morning I sat down at her lemonade table and grabbed her shoulder. I told her that I really appreciated all of the things she was doing and it was so thoughtful and sweet. I almost teared up, because, she just said “your welcome!” and went on about her lemonade business. I felt a similar way several weeks ago when a friend’s daughter had a lemonade stand also to raise money for jack jack. Children seem to have this innate desire to be helpful and do right. Of course, not every second of the day, but overall they do. It didn’t even seem like a big deal to her. She’s just helping out her cousin because she loves her. It’s such sweet and pure perspective. She didn’t want anything. She wasn’t getting anything out of it. She was just doing it. And that $15.75 is some of the best money we’ve earned so far. I wish I took that attitude more often.

     There was another little girl that came up to T.J., and he later told me her story. She said her and her mother came by and looked earlier (I’m assuming she heard our shpeal about raising money for the adoption). She looked at T.J. and in her shy little voice said, “We looked around and there were a lot of things we liked, but we just wanted to give a donation…” and then she dropped a handful of coins into his palm. He came inside to tell me the sweet story, and I kept the money separate because I wanted to count it by itself. It was exactly two dollars in change. But it so blessed my heart because I knew she put herself in the frame of mind to sacrifice. Offering up her money without taking or expecting anything was amazing. It completely energized and encouraged me.

     Seeing other people’s generous hearts has taught me something about my own. I saw God’s heart in those actions and their selflessness, and it makes me realize there are many times in my life that I don’t show those same things. Kids will teach you a lot.

     We also had a couple of family friends that came up and just made a donation.  One friend literally drove to our house way early on a Saturday morning just to give us a wad of 20-dollar bills. She got out of her car, walked up to T.J. and chatted for a bit, gave him her donation and drove off. How awesome is that??!

     So, today was, EXHAUSTING. It is seriously hard, taxing work to put on one of these things. But at the end of the day, when we finished the yard sale and packed everything back up, we all sat around the kitchen table and counted. Altogether, from things we sold at the yard sale, our lemonade stand, and donations, we raised $782.00!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012


     Ok, so I admit I have been slacking on the blog updates lately. Life had been a bit on the crazy side! But I am determined to become more devoted to keeping this blog up, if only to be able to look back on this experience one day and see God's faithfulness.
     So, we had our first phone interview last week with a social worker from Lifeline. If I understand correctly, its kindof like the first step in our homestudy, which is a series of interviews, education, and paperwork. At the end of our homestudy, we will be able to apply for adoption grants and get matched with a child. Don't quote me on all of that, because I am by no means an expert at all of this yet, but I think thats right or pretty close to right. I was really nervous about our interview for some reason, but it was no big deal at all. Our social worker was so nice and it was completely non-intimidating. I keep trying to take the advice of my other adoptive parent friends, that it is really no big deal, but it all still seems weighty. Something about having my entire future family dependent upon the content of some paperwork and interviews feels... like a big deal. lol
     We started clearing out Jack Jack's room, aka the office, last sunday. Is it weird I'm already nesting??? We decided to sell most of the things in there at our


Althoug of course wading through all of our junk and deciding what to get rid of is not necessarily the funnest of life's activities, there is something so energizing about this fundraising. It feels like we're transferring all of our junk, and all the junk other people are donating, into this awesome gift toward our son. My friend Jess took me to meet her friend this weekend at a yardsale she was having to help raise money for her family's adoption from Haiti. She had so many fantastic ideas, and really a lot of wisdom and insight into the heart of adoption and the financial issues that sometimes follow. I'm going to wait to blog about all of her advice until after I have our own yardsale and can speak from experience. 
     This weekend, with the help of my family in Enterprise, I'm having our first official Joy Family Adoption yardsale in my sweet momma and daddy's front yard. I'm so excited to start off our yardsale fundraising excursion in the same city that grew me up. I think its going to be exciting and fun, and humbling- because the farther we get into this adoption, the more we realize we can't do it on our own. And being insufficient, and really NEEDING help from other people seems to go against the grain of the society we live in. Being unable to do something on your own is broadcasted as some type of shortcoming or failure, and subsequently makes me feel uncomfortable sometimes. But I think thats a flaw in this society and not a flaw in God's design and plan, or in our calling to adopt. Also, I really LOVE yardsales :). My mother and my husband have different thoughts entirely, but I, LOVE them. So wish us luck and pray to the Lord for his blessing as we start in this new fundraiser!
     Just to give an overview of the fundraising we have already started, let me recap everything we're doing to raise money.

 We started by having cards printed with a short description of our heart for adoption and how people could help support us. Its pretty cute if I do say so myself. It has a link to our website, which is a website anyone can go to in order to donate money to our adoption. It accepts paypal and all major credit cards.

 We went to Regions and set up a separate adoption account that all of our adoption donations go into. So far, the money has helped cover our application fee, two SBCN application fees, the $9 it cost to mail our SBCN fees off, and our first major payment toward the adoption.

We are selling t-shirts that have "ethiopia: 5 million minus 1" on the front of a grey comfort color shirt. T.J. designed the cover art :). They cost 20 dollars, and we will hand them out personally to everyone who lives in Tuscaloosa, and mail the others to people who live outside the city. The t-shirt company has been very gracious to make the shirts at cost for us and said hand delivering or mailing ourselves will be less expensive than having the company do it for us. The  link to our t-shirt site is

And finally, we are having yardsales. One will be in Enterprise this Friday and Saturday, and the other will be in Tuscaloosa on the first weekend of November. If it snowballs, and we keep getting more and more donations and momentum, I might just keep having them every weekend!

I'm also throwing around the idea of having a "mom's day out" or "date night" at our church, but I don't know if there are problems with the church bylaws regarding public use of the facilities or something. I might also put a carwash together, but I haven't decided yet.

So far, from all the donations on our website and in response to our cards, the money our friend's daughter raised for us by having a lemonade stand, plus any extra money we have at the end of the month and birthday money, we have raised $3,231.43. Thats awesome so far! In the grand scheme of things its only 12%, lol, but the help and support from our friends has been overwhelming and encouraging. We need to raise 3,000 more dollars before the end of our home study in order to make our next payment.

We are so excited to really put action to our calling to adopt. It makes it feel even more real for some reason. And working for it all is hard, but it makes the goal of having our son home all the sweeter!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


     My life has felt like a whirlwind for several years now. College. Marriage. Babies. More college. Adopting. Still...more college. Its been a huge change from the stable, comfortable life I lived in the same town with the same people doing the same thing. Its been great! But also extremely crazy and fast. I never would have thought at 22 I'd have done all these things. I say all this to say, sometimes change is hard. I feel like all these changes led me through a season of loneliness. Lets face it, the college-aged minister's wife mother of one and one on the way demographic is extremely small. I've had alot of trouble finding out where I fit and understanding this new person I've become. Making friends has been hard for me. Relating to people in a genuine and meaningful way has become much more of a struggle than I ever thought it would be. I am so glad to say I feel that season passing.
     A couple of weeks ago T.J. and I went to a Lifeline meet and greet in Birmingham. It was exactly that- just a bunch of families adopting from Ethiopia crammed into a room with refreshments and a common interest. We met two families and they were both wonderful, and we had fantastic conversation and then went home. I got a facebook message from one of them later and we all decided to meet up and talk about our adoptions. We met today in this random Starbucks in a Bessemer Target and talked for 3 hours. I cannot explain how refreshing it feels to relate to someone who's heart is so deeply bound in the same thing as mine. I SOAKED in all of their wisdom and insight. Both girls are ahead of us in the adoption process so they know whats coming for me, and they shared their own experiences. We just sat around and talked about our worries, and our hopes, and our purposes and reasonings. And then we complained to each other a little bit and laughed a little bit and ate cake. It was absolutely marvelous. It feels like a really long time since I had such good community. It feels so encouraging to have other mothers to lean on during this crazy process, and even after its all over and done with.
     On Monday we are going to send off our first payment and some paperwork. Then, we get our first orientation call! I'm a little bit hazy still on how the whole process goes, but what I do understand is that there are a lot more payments and interviews and paperwork standing between me and my son. Step by step we are getting closer though! We were really kindof worried about paying the first payment, which is about $3,000, because...we had no idea where we were going to find that. lol. But somehow we managed to get just enough! I've heard so many people say how God has been faithful to them in their adoption. I think like, "Ya, thats pretty easy for you to say now thats its already happened for you." But I'm seeing little by little how true that is.  My heart knows that God is faithful, and his heart is for adoption, but my mind sometimes struggles with the logistics of it all. I'm really looking forward to experiencing God's faithfulness myself.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I cannot believe this little baby is now a big baby. And she goes to daycare.

(her first day yesterday)

(Her adorable outfit today)

     Something interesting I've learned about the first day of daycare is that most all mothers become absolute emotional wrecks. My heart started beating really fast and my throat got really tight. And no exaggeration, from the time we got out of our car until we left the building we probably saw 2 or 3 HYSTERICAL mothers. I don't really blame them, because I had already had my fair share of tears over this traumatic event. Its not really the fact she's going. Or the handing off. Its the leaving that tears me apart. The idea of some other woman, however nice and capable she may be, taking care of my daughter. Seeing her do things for the first time, and getting all her smiles throughout the day. It burns me up.
     My thoughtful and sensitive husband took me to breakfast yesterday to try and comfort my freshly broken heart. It helped, but nothing changes the sharpness of being separated from your child.

What a perfect segway to adoption talk.... :)

     I've never been bungee jumping, but I imagine the feeling I've been experiencing is similar. Just jumping off the edge and hoping everything goes ok. lol. T.J. and I have been working hard on our application for Lifeline (which is very extensive by the way) and putting it in the mail today or tomorrow. It feels like all our hopes and plans and future are sitting in a tiny little envelope- the sum of our son all written out and neatly mailed off. Its weird. Its like we're walking right up to the edge and looking over, just about to make the leap. And honestly I have no idea how its all going to work out! I know this is part of the relying on God part, but man, easier said that done. The fleshly side of myself wishes I could already see how it is going to work out.
     I talked to my friend Jessica Bridges the other day about Jack Jack. She's been a wife longer than me and already has 4 children, so needless to say she is full of wisdom and knows alot of things I could not even begin to understand. Its refreshing to have conversation with people who are so grounded in their relationship with the Lord, and who are obviously smarter than you, so I MEGA unloaded on her. Ever since the Uganda adoption didn't work out, I felt like I had failed somehow. Like I didn't really know what God wanted and that I was just doing what I wanted and making it up as I went along. Surely God doesn't set you up to have the rug pulled out from under you, does he? Maybe I was misunderstanding His will or worse... maybe I wasn't being "called" to adopt at all. Maybe I just wanted to aside from Him. Maybe it wasn't the right timing. So, as I started mentioning all this words I probably don't even really understand like "timing" and "calling" and "God's will," Jess just sat there and listened. And then she said something so simple and profound it kind of knocked me back for a moment. She said she thinks people use words like "timing," and "calling" as excuses not to do things sometimes. Ultimately, we have to look at what the Bible says. It says "care for widow and orphans in their affliction" (James 1:27). SO, if your willing to do it, God has already called us to care for them. Would God really choose not to bless us if we seek after a child he has already burdened our hearts for, and spoken from His word to protect and care for?
Um. Duh. I think he would bless us.
     If theres one thing I have learned from parenting its that daddies love their children. No wonder his heart is for the broken and abandoned. No wonder he forgives us and loves us. Surely he will bless efforts toward bringing a child into a family. His heart is for adoption. He adopted me. And save the grace of God, we are all orphans, longing for relationship and love.

     I'm not discrediting these churchy words, or even claiming to understand God's timing or will or call. The older I get the more I realize how little I know. The one thing I do know is I believe the Bible, and I believe in Jesus. And I know that my life has been changed because of what Jesus has done for me, and I know this longing of my heart for someone I have never met must be from Him. I don't see from here how its going to work out in the end, but I believe it to be true and I believe that God will bless our efforts and bring our family together. One day soon  the "sharpness of being separated from your child" will shrink from across the world to across town.

If you want to help with our fundraising efforts, check out our fundraising website!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Jack Jack

     Yesterday was a flurry. We had our Sunday fourth of July service, followed by spaghetti and an excellent nap, then followed by intense efforts at writing and editing and website creation. We wrote out our fundraising letter (which I will not be discussing because it is ADORABLE and I want it to be a surprise :) ), and starting off was really challenging for some reason. Me and T.J. sat on our bed with jus the words "dear friends and family" before us for a good 20 minutes. I was genuinely surprised at how hard it was to write out this letter. I guess its challenging to verbalize all the huge and complex feelings and reasonings we have in a very small concise letter. Its not like a blog where I can just ramble on and on about whatever I feel like. lol. But after a little (well, a lot) of discussion and effort, we finally got rolling and made our little masterpiece. Its totally cute and trendy and technologically current. T.J. found this cool website that allows free fundraising, so basically the website doesn't receive any profit from the fundraising-it all goes to the "recipient." I think thats pretty nice of them. We just made it yesterday and posted it to facebook on our wall and in my "about" section. My momma was the first to donate, and she signed it "Nana."My heart swelled just at that thought-he's got a sweet Nana. I know the goal of a fundraising website is to ...well raise funds... but for some reason I was unexpectedly shocked! I checked my email and squealed so loudly T.J. said I scared him. It feels like more than a friend or family member just giving us money. It feels like one of the most deeply touching gifts I've ever been given. Its like they are giving us parenthood again. I know of course, it is God and God alone who is actually giving our son and us to one another, but the blessing I receive from these people's generosity is humbling. One person left us an "anonymous" donation, which is so sweet and I know they did that because they don't want any recognition. But I wish I could just go up and hug their neck and tell them how deeply thankful I am. I feel my thankyou card itch coming back again, but it hardly seems appropriate to write a card to someone who is changing our lives. I don't know. I don't know if I'm even making any sense as I write this, but I wish I could take my heart out of my chest and give it to them so they could understand the way I'm feeling. How blessed I feel. How thankful. How honored and humbled and blessed. I said blessed twice because thats how much I feel it.
     So anyways, my mushy gushy feelings aside, we are a few tiny baby steps closer to the day we meet my Jack Jack. We have a few forms to fill out and a couple of payments to get in line and a LOT of waiting to do, but we've actually begun it. I can feel my soul sigh as I think of all the time we are spending apart. When I put Madelyn down for her nap (praise God) this afternoon, I stopped and admired her for a moment. As it often does, my mind wandered to Jack and what he is doing this moment. Obviously, theres no way to know. No way to even know if he exists yet. But he might- he could be anywhere from a newborn to 3 years old. As a momma, I started to think about his care and worry for him. Is he getting changed often enough or getting proper nutrition or enough vitamin D? Is he being kept clean and fed? Are there people who are loving and taking care of him while we are apart? Then my mind wanders to more personal thoughts. Does he know that his MOTHER loves him? Does he know that I love him more than I can stand and that I would do anything and go anywhere to bring him home? Does he know that I literally ache for him, and worry for him, and imagine room decorations for him because I want to take care of him for the rest of my life. I want to be the one to kiss his boo boos and his forehead goodnight. I want to hold him close when he is scared and tell him about Jesus and play with him as long as he wants. I know I'm not perfect and I'll mess up but the God-given love I have for him is absolutely perfect. Does he know all these things? And of course the answer is no. How could he. This is the thought that brings me to tears nearly every time. No. He doesn't know I love him. Yet.
     My last blog was about how awkward fundraising seems to me and how unqualified I feel to attempt it at all. I asked My dad-in-law how to raise money, and he said "just ask." Haha, to be honest I felt a little dumb after he said that, as if it were so simple. I also felt majorly encouraged after he made my mountain back into a molehill, because when Daddys' aren't worried about something it makes you feel like you shouldn't be worried either. There is a link at the bottom of this blog to our fundraising website if you would like to donate toward our adoption expenses. Also there is a link to Lifeline Adoption Services if you want to check out the agency we are going through, and a link to T.J.'s blog if you want to read about his experiences through this adoption.

....and also a picture of Madelyn today, just because she is looking especially beautiful. :)

looking like a baby model

Friday, June 29, 2012

First Steps

     Wow. I don't know what it is about first steps, but they make things seem really real, don't they? Earlier this week we began emailing and speaking on the phone with social workers from Lifeline Adoption Agency. Somehow getting into the details of how this adoption is going to go makes my heart start beating really fast. Like...its really happening. We're really doing it. Turning this dream into the beginnings of a reality feels amazing. And it feels hard too, if I'm being honest. Theres so much to do and so many mountains to climb that it seems a little bit overwhelming at times.
     We started looking into the financial logistics, and this is probably the area that feels the hardest for me. The adoption will end up costing roughly $27,000 ( I think- things are always subject to change I suppose). Of course there are grants and tax returns, but the tax returns we won't see for a while, and we can't even apply for grants until after we have a home study, which is almost $8,000 into the process. And then there is fundraising. We are going to definitely do some fundraising somehow, but its  awkward isn't it? Asking people for money outright or trying to sell them things they don't really want and feel pressured to buy...Totally awkward. For me at least! And most of the ideas I've heard about and read about sound unappetizing to me. I'm not really into selling cookie dough or magnets- because I wouldn't really want to buy any of those myself. lol. I don't have any "skills" to do anything or make anything as some sites and people suggest. So here I am, skill-less, awkward salesman Malyssa. Hopelessly uncomfortable and ill-equipped. T.J. and I are more than happy to hear any suggestions for fundraising if you have any experience or good ideas! Lord knows I will need them.