Thursday, December 11, 2008

Bring on the comments!

Hi everyone! Many of you have mentioned to me that you would like to comment, but cannot because you do not have a Blogger account. I do believe I now have (hopefully)opened it up so that anyone (yes, even you!) can comment. Simply select 'anonymous' but be sure to sign your name in the comment so we know it is you!

Thanks...I promise to blog more soon! Christmas craziness is upon us all!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Journey

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." Jeremiah 33:3

Hi, friends. I have promised many of you that I would share on this blog how this unbelievable journey began. And I want to, but I am resistant. Does the thought of running naked through the streets thrill you? (Okay, if you said, "yes"quickly...I don't want to know about it! LOL!) Anyway, this journey has turned our hearts inside a very profound and very good way...but sharing that with "the world" can be a little intimidating. Yet, I truly sense this is a story that needs to be told because as one dear friend said to me after my sharing with her..."Your story makes God so BIG!" And He IS SO BIG! So, I am compelled to share...

I am also hesitant to share because a major turning point in our story came about because of the tragedy in another family...a family that I did not know personally at the time but was linked to by mutual friends. A family whose pain, honest grieving and true worship in the midst of tragedy placed me on my face before our God where I was seemingly called to grieve for them, interceed for them and have the privilege of seeing them reflect the glory of God during their darkest days. It was truly a sacred place. I want to respect that. I deeply desire to honor their pain. Still, God is teaching me in a profound way that in this fallen world...there is no love without fact suffering IS heart of the gospel itself. The Joy comes from realizing that He has NOT left us alone in our suffering and that God, in His great mercy, does not waste our suffering but uses every ounce of it for the good of His people and for His glory!

So, that long-winded introduction brings us to the beginning of what I am calling my "summer of tears" (which, in fact, has lasted 6 months now...and continues...) I'm not sure why, but I think we all are afraid of tears...I know my children hate it when I cry...but I keep telling them...tears are not bad...they can be tears of joy or sadness or fear or worship...but they all soften our hearts and take us to the place of being real. (Okay, I'm digressing again...get on with it, Beth!)

May 21, 2008. A seemingly normal day at the Hamilton house. School year winding down, getting ready to travel as a family to Destin for SEC meetings. All the 'normal' craziness. Some 200 miles away, another family was experiencing the most devastating day of their lives. In the driveway of their home, the 5 year old daughter of Steven Curtis and Mary Beth Chapman was accidently struck and killed by a car driven by their 17-year old son. We first heard the news from a text from a mutual friend and then a forwarded email from a pastor at their church in Franklin. We immediately began to pray for this family asking God to meet them and comfort them in their terrible loss.

Normally, I would pray that day...maybe for a few days later and then move on. God had another plan as he drew my heart into a on-going season of praying, grieving and watching. In watching the Chapman’s grief and their worship in the midst of it, I was changed. Drawn into a deeper, sweeter fellowship with my Lord Jesus. Called to pray and weep for this family I didn’t even know time and time again...even in the middle of the night. Drawn to worship my God with greater fervor and passion. Drawn to my own deeper repentance…into a sweet, but intense, refining fire. God had begun a work in me to pray for my marriage and family earlier that year, but this time of grief for another family accelerated my own personal growth and prayer life.

Being drawn into the Chapman’s story took me to their website and ultimately to the gifted writings of Kerry Hasenbalg where God began to prick my heart to care ‘for the least of these’ even as He was pricking my heart to repent for ways I was not loving my family well. Mike and I had talked many times about adopting internationally, but never seriously pursued it and life got busy...and as it often happens, life got in the way. We were ‘comfortable’. Our children were 9 and 12...independent. We were 42 and 45...old! LOL!

As Kerry’s writings pierced my heart and I continued to pray and weep for the Chapmans, a dear friend invited me to the Beth Moore conference in Atlanta, June 27-29. I didn’t really want to go because of an already busy summer travel schedule, but God continued to open doors and made it clear that He intended that I go. How thankful I am that I didn’t miss out on the incredible blessings of that weekend! Intense repentance, incredible worship (like I’ve never known!), and a ‘loud and clear’ message from my God: “You and Mike need to be pursuing Me above all else. I am getting ready to ‘rock your world’. You need to ‘fortify’ your city.”

So I came home with this message and as Mike and I began to pray about how we should be pursuing Jesus, I also asked the question of Mike, “If we were independently wealthy (read: free!) and could minister to any group of people, who would you take care of?” I had not yet mentioned to him my growing heart for was still so new to my heart as I had never been open to adopting older children. Yet, his answer was emphatic, “No question. I would give kids who had no home a home.” BIG tears from me...right there in one of the nicest restaurants in Knoxville. "OK, God, You are up to something...and why didn’t I know my husband’s true heart? How blind can I be?"

The next day after ‘the date’, was July 4th. Our friends who come over every July 4th walked into our home and Marisa (who is never late for anything) handed me my birthday present...6 weeks late! A book about orphan care. (She had NO idea of our talk or where God had been leading our hearts...only that we had 2 adopted children and might enjoy the book.) Of course, my tears came again. “God, what are you doing in my heart?”

The next day I emailed a friend who is on my ministry board to ask if she was going to make our next summer book club meeting. She responded that she was planning to, but had not been able to read the book because she had gotten into another book called, “There Is No Me Without You.”. Again, although she knew nothing of our recent thoughts or prayers about orphan care, I immediately knew in my heart that that book, too, was about orphan care. And, provided my was a 400+ page book about orphan care in Ethiopia. “God, we asked you to make it obvious...but really?” I emailed my friend and asked her to PRAY! She ‘ran’ the book right over to me the next morning and before reading it, Mike asked me, “Do you think God wants us to adopt African children?...because both these books are about African children.” I responded, “I don’t think so, I think it is just about orphan care. I’m not sure, but I don’t think so.” (ha,ha,ha,ha...God must have been laughing at my answer.)

I took this 400+ page book on a trip at the end of that week and being the one who NEVER finishes a book unless it’s a novel, thought I would never be able to read it all. In reality, I devoured it and cried most of the way through it (as I had the first book my other friend gave me.). By the middle of the book, I looked at Mike with tears and said, “I only want to adopt children from Ethiopia. My heart is broken for this country and their children.” WOW! I mean it when I tell people that God ‘arrested’ my heart with that book. Mike didn’t need any convincing, as he reminded me that he had brought home a letter from Bethany Christian Services some 6 months before about a sibling group of 3 from Ethiopia that needed a home. Not that he seriously sat me down to discuss it, but after he said it, I remember him commenting on it, and I said, “no way! That’s crazy. I can’t handle the two we have now! “ (Again, God is laughing! He is so AMAZING!)

So, our journey was officially beginning. We continued to pray about it and talk about it and told one another how crazy this was...that God could not really believe that we with our crazy schedule, over-stressed lifestyle, Mike’s demanding career, could handle more children...and older children...and yes, we were thinking TWO additional children. It just did not make any sense...but since when does God’s way make human sense? He did send His Son into the world to a poor family to grow up and die on a cross, didn’t He?

God has continued to cross our paths with people who have adopted from Ethiopia without us pursuing them. One such couple are good friends of my sister and we ended up on the exact same 20 person shuttle bus with them at the Biltmore House amidst thousands of other fans attending Steven Curtis Chapman concert the night of August 1. What are the chances of that? We had a wonderful, encouraging conversation with them right there on the steps of the Biltmore! Simliarly, Mike had an old friend call "out of the blue" and ask to come and spend some time with us on a football weekend, so Mike invited him to sit in our box. He came in the box and proceeded to tell Mike that the reason he had wanted to visit us was to talk about adoption...he knew our children were adopted. He continued to tell Mike of he and his wife's plans to adopt from Ethiopia...through the same agency we were using! He had NO idea of our new plans to adopt! God crossing our paths...for more encouragement. My parents have also bumped into the Ethiopia "ark" (We now know a little of what Noah felt when others thought he was crazy for building the ark.) Anyway, they were at a board of trustees dinner for Mars Hill College and one couple started sharing how they had just welcomed home twin 4-yr old grandchildren from Ethiopia! (hmmm, might really be up to something!)

Not only have we seen God cross our paths with others to encourage us, but in pursing Him through His Word...He has affirmed our hearts over and over again with the Scriptures. We truly feel 'picked up and carried along' by His purposes. And we are more than ever, daily dependant on HIM! A strange, but truly amazing, place to walk. It hasn't always been easy and we have encountered many trials (our children's initial resistance, feeling inadequate, stress of Mike's job, intensified parenting issues, among others...)...yet God continues to 'show up' and give us peace and resolve for the journey. And, we see God growing us and changing us in wonderful ways (individually and as a family) along the way.

In addition to our feeling called to bring home our children from Ethiopia, we believe deeply that God is leading us to be more involved in helping orphans in other ways. We would love to be able to help other families adopt who cannot financially afford to do so (it is VERY expensive!) and to be involved with other efforts to 'care for orphans'. Just as God has 'bumped us into' others adopting from Ethiopia, He has continued to 'bump us into' the Chapmans and their ministry, Shaohannah's Hope. Through our mutual friends, we have remained connected to Steven and Mary Beth and as you know, attended their fundraising weekend in Franklin a week ago.

My prayer to God a few weeks before the Shaohannah's Hope event was, "Lord, if this is NOT of you...if you do not want us to attend for Your purposes, then close the door. Interrupt our plans to go." I certainly knew with Mike's job that interruptions happen...especially with the difficulty surrounding the football program this year. God was so gracious to answer quickly. THAT same day I received our 'random' government-assigned fingerprint appointments: they were in Nashville on the same exact Saturday we would be there (10 miles away) for the SH the only time we could make it and not miss key parts of the events. "Ok, God...I guess You want us to be there." God truly protected our time with Shaohannah's Hope because with the demands on Mike's schedule in starting a football coaching search, our plans could have been easily interrupted! (Not that our enemy didn't try...more on that another time.)

After attending the weekend...Mike and I both said, "This is DEFINTELY where God wanted us to be this weekend." I will blog about that in another post...It was amazing, but a lot to process even now. But I had to get the 'background' out there for the rest of the SH story to make sense. Thus, this mammoth blog. (I'm tired...are you?)

Thank you all for your prayers and encouragement along this path. We certainly couldn't do any of this without the prayers of the saints. Please continue to pray for us to have wisdom, discernment and courage to obey God at each step.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

God is IN the details, people!

What do these two things have in common? One is our invitation to the Shaohannah's Hope Fundraiser and the other is our government-appointed time to have our fingerprints done for US Immigration purposes (a.k.a. our adoptions). Read on to find out how they are linked...and how God reminded us again today that HE IS the GOD of EVERY DETAIL!!

For our home study, we have to get our fingerprints done locally (for state) and by the USCIS (Dept. of Immigration). We were told we would get "random" appointments from the USCIS...could be in NC, Nashville or Atlanta. They even might give Mike and I different states/days. Anyway, we got our appointments today in the mail and you won't believe this: They are BOTH in Nashville on Saturday, November 15...the exact day we are already going to be there for the Shaohannah's Hope dinner! God is so good! Just when I start asking (once again...), "Are you SURE, Lord, that we are on the right path with this adoption thing?" He sends ANOTHER billboard for this little dumb sheep to say, "YES, YES, YES!" Isn't that so cool? He is so faithful...even in the smallest of details. I love that!
BTW, we would covet your prayers for the November 14/15 weekend which we will spend learning about the ministry of Shaohannah's Hope (and, as you now know, getting our fingerprints done!). SH is the ministry of Mary Beth and Steven Curtis Chapman that raises funds to assist families with the financial burden of adoption. Of course, that is a passion we share, but we believe God is leading us to take a more active role in promoting and assisting others to be able to adopt. We are essentially attending this weekend to soak up all that is going on and to hear God's leading about what role He would have us play in helping others be able to adopt. So pray for open minds, teachable hearts and listening ears. Thank you!

Thoughts from the Facetious

These are just some random pictures from Madison. Some are cool, some are crazy, some are funny, ans some are just, well,.... You'll just have to see. In the first picture you can tell I am in DEEP thought. In the second, I hate clowns, so I am probably about to smack this guy. Third picture, I am in attack mode. You DO NOT want to see me in that mode. And third and fourth pictures, we go to a drive-trough zoo and this is what we get! Two insane llamaa and a bitten thumb. Yes, it was mine. It might be a little voilent, so it is not shown.Plus it is a little embarrasing. It's like "What happened to your thumb?" "oh, I got bit by a deer" "oh. Ha! ha! ha!" So any ways I hope you like the pictures.b

Thoughts from the Facecious

Friday, October 31, 2008

Ghosts and Pokeballs and...COWS? Oh, My!

Okay, this has nothing to do with our Ethiopia adoptions...but everything to do with the Hamilton family! It's one of our favorite times to be 'crazy' around here...carving pumpkins, making costumes and just having fun. MGH got especially crazy with her pumpkin this'll see her beautiful 'acting' job below where her creation 'attacked' her with a stick! So funny! MSH and I went trick-or-treating with a buddy of his while MGH hit a few neighborhoods with some girlfriends from school. Then we all met back here for hot cocoa. Lots of laughter! Enjoy the pictures...(sorry i can't seem to figure out the best way to do lay outs on this program.) MSH is a pokemon trainer and MGH is, obviously, the Chick-Fil-A cow. Didn't she do a fantastic job on her message board?!! I love seeing their creativity in action! Thank you, Jesus, for a fun and safe halloween!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

TB Tests and Fingerprints...

We have officially begun our home study and that includes all kinds of doctor's tests and background checks and fingerprints for me, Mike and Steph (0ur cousin from Oregon who's living with us while in MBA school). Quite the adventure! (I think I'm gonna be okay on the TB test, what do you think?)
Although the progress seems slow and there is much to do, we are thankful to be moving toward Ethiopia! We met with our home study coordinator and really enjoyed her! She is friendly, very thorough and easy to talk to...such a blessing in a process like this. If all goes as planned, we should be able to complete our paperwork and compile our dossier documents by early 2009. From there it could be three to six months until we receive a referral and once we accept the referral...we would go to Ethiopia within 8 weeks! We are trusting God for His perfect timing.
For those of you who have been praying for Madison and Matthew...thank you! God has given both of them a peace about this 'craziness' and we see their hearts opening up and beginning to get excited about welcoming their new brother and sister. Madison will be going with us to Ethiopia and she is very excited about that! Matthew is content to stay behind, but we'll wait and see how the plans unfold. Continue to pray that God will prepare ALL of our hearts for this adventure.
Well, I better get back to the MOUNDS of paperwork awaiting me...thank you all for your prayers and encouragement. We know we couldn't do this without you!
(Praise: We just heard from some new friends that we met just 2 months ago (to talk about adoption) that they have ALREADY welcomed home their first-born adopted son, Jacob! Woo! Hoo! Thank you Jesus!)

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Welcome to our 'new crazy'!

"Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws, we wait for you. Your name and renown are the desire of our hearts!" Isaiah 26:8

Welcome to our blog! We have started this blog to communicate with family and friends about the journey God has us on to bring home a brother and sister for Madison and Matthew from Ethiopia. Those of you who know us well understand perfectly the title of our blog, "Something Crazy" know how busy our lives are, how demanding Mike's job is and how we already seem to have our plates over-filled. You realize how 'crazy' this idea of adding such a HUGE responsibility of two more children to our family is...and so do we! Yet if you know us at all, you also know that we put our faith NOT in ourselves, but in our AWESOME God who can do anything He decides to do...and it certainly appears to us that He has decided to grow our family by TWO!

I will attempt at some point to put into writing the path that has led us to this point...if only for the purpose of allowing others to see just how BIG our God is! For now, suffice it to say that God has moved in our hearts in profound ways to cause us to LOVE without question the country of Ethiopia and to enter in to the work of the Kingdom there. For us, the first and most natural way for our family to love this country is to provide a home for two of its orphans...two out of 6 million! But two who are precious in God's sight and two who already have a piece of our hearts. We don't know their names or their faces yet...but we KNOW they are there. And in God's perfect timing they will come home to Knoxville and the Hamilton family will officially be SIX! I weep as I write this because I, too, know how CRAZY this feels, yet the LOVE we have in our hearts is UNDENIABLE!

We know that this journey will not always be has already had some bumps and bruises, yet it is our desire to persevere for His the verse above says, "(His) name and renown are the desire of our hearts!" We do covet your prayers as we take each step because we KNOW we cannot do any of this in our own strength. Some have actually said to us, "you are such heroes." We certainly know that is NOT true! GOD is the ONLY Hero in this story. We are broken, imperfect, struggling people who happen to be loved and carried along by a Loving, Perfect and All-Sufficient God and Savior, Jesus Christ! It really is that simple.

So, welcome to our will be crazy...but expect to see God work! Woo!Hoo! I'm including some of my favorite pics of our 'crazy' family below to commemorate the start (or maybe it is the continuation) of 'Something Crazy'! ENJOY!

M3...James Bond-style!

She really DOES love him! :)

She's too cool! Never a dull moment...