Saturday, February 13, 2016

4 Year Journey to JOY

Today I had a conversation that made me realize that while we have a HUGE support system, very few of you know how we got to our Joy baby in the first place. It’s such a long story and honestly one I avoid. There are still some very raw and tough emotions we deal with every single day. If you’ve ever been near me at 11:50am, you’ve probably heard my alarm go off. You probably don’t know that I pause (and I apologize for probably ignoring whatever you are saying for a moment) and pray for my sweet angels on the other side of the world-that they will be safe, that they will sleep soundly, that they will not be afraid, that someone will share God’s love with them and that by some miracle they will feel my love. I pull in those tears and gulp down all of that heartache and move on…until I go to bed and their faces are forever on the back of my eyelids. It’s not really something I can explain. I just plain love them and I always will.

From the beginning
I have known since childhood that I would adopt. I remember the very moment that I heard the call of God on my life. I was watching TV in my parent’s room and an infomercial for the Abandoned Baby Center in Kenya was on. It was a defining moment for me and I couldn’t have been older than 14, but I knew.

It was a conversation that we had before we even got engaged and Jacob, who is a father to the fatherless by nature, was on the same page. We both assumed that we would have some kids of our own and then foster to adopt once they were older. That was the reasonable plan we came up with.

Well about 4 years ago, shortly after our 4th baby was born, I stumbled upon a blog posted on a friend’s wall. It belonged to a family, in Ukraine at the time, adopting a toddler with down syndrome. All of a sudden I was back in my parent’s room with that same overwhelming heaviness and absolute certainty that we were called to something so much bigger than our plans. I started researching and learning about the absolutely horrific treatment of children around the world with special needs. It’s just one of those things you cannot ignore. Once you know, you can’t not do something about it.

So we started the search for “our” child. DS was where our heart was and so that was our focus in the search. Now there is no shortage of orphans with DS, but nothing seemed to fit. Then we saw them, 2 precious children that looked so much like our own. They were HIV positive and a little older than what we were looking for and all of that terrified us. So we kept looking. But the overwhelming feeling towards them just wouldn’t go away. After some time and a whole lot of prayer, we moved forward. They were family! They had names and nicknames and are to this day a part of every family prayer.

 Well things did not go smoothly at all.

We hit and overcame roadblock after roadblock. There were legal issues and then a war and then they were literally “lost” in the system and not even their own country could tell us where they were.
And somewhere in the middle of the chaos we got the most unexpected blessing. What a light she was in a time of dark sadness! 

We had a lot of paperwork and a home study on the verge of expiring (again) and prayerfully decided to try another country at that point and try to use what we had before it expired. We hired and agency and they sent us a few files.

Joy was the 4th I believe and there was never a question. This tiny little girl with that precious extra chromosome that made her even better!  She was left at a bus station at 5 months. I love that! It sounds horrible, but I know that the fact that she was kept that first 5 months and then left in a very public place where her mother could have been caught (abandoning is illegal) means she was loved. I imagine they did not have the resources to care for a child with special needs and did what they felt was best for her. I wish I could have helped her family keep her! I hope they know how loved she is! It is with deep sadness and great honor that we take on the blessing of raising Joy as our own.

We spent the next several months compiling our dossier and a couple of weeks ago, just as we were ready to send off that last piece, our first little ones resurfaced on the orphan database for their country. We were faced with a very tough choice and decided to continue with our adoption of Joy. While we still loved and wanted C&S, Joy’s condition is urgent. In our last update she was barely 11 lbs at 2 years old. So for now, she is our priority. C&S are listed for adoption and our hope is that they are found by just the perfect family. Maybe that will be us once Joy is home…I don’t know. I just want them safe and loved somewhere!

So sharing our story is tough because nothing played out the way I dreamed it would. I believed things and I spoke thing forth with all of the faith I could muster and they just did not happen. I have questioned everything I know and believe and had many angry conversations with God. And in all my faithlessness, He continues to build me up. His power continues to be made perfect in my weakness. He remains faithful…and for now, that is enough, because He promised me that He is coming and all things will be made new. He promised me that every tear will be wiped away and I choose to believe that He is faithful and He will do it.

“if we are faithless, He remains faithful
2 Tim. 2:13

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. 9But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
2 Cor. 12:8-10

“He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
1 Thess. 5:24

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” 

 Rev. 21:4-5

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Java for Joy

I am going to turn back into that obnoxious person begging you to get involved in our adoption again...sorry...sort of. This thing is expensive and we spent so much already the first time around. I want my Joy home but I also want to stay financially able to provide for her medical needs and therapies (which there will be many!) when she gets here. So while taking out a loan is an option and we will if it comes down to it, our preference is to cut back everywhere, take on extra work and fundraise fundraise fundraise!

So for the month of July I am asking all my coffee loving friends to trade their java for a little bit of JOY! Instead of stopping at Starbucks (or wherever you get your caffeine fix), would you be willing to make that sacrifice and set that amount aside for our Joy baby!

Of course I'm not just gonna take your money, so we've got a little raffle going too. Every time you give up your coffee and give to her fund instead I will add an entry to our giveaway for a great coffee-lovers prize!

There are 2 ways to give.

Paypal is the easiest. Just use the email

or use our FSP with this link for a tax deductible donation.

Don't forget to let me know when you do so I can get you in the drawing!

And don't forget to use this link when making purchases on Amazon. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Part 2...and it only took me 5 months

Time for my opening about how I mean to blog but get busy or lazy or something...

Truthfully while I am super busy and maybe a bit lazy too, I haven't blogged because I have only had ugly things to say. This past year has been such a season of doubt. I have never for a minute doubted His existence but man have I wrestled through every aspect of His character. I also really came to despise the western church and all it's materialism and performance. I'm still working through that one...maybe I'll have some wisdom to share one day. Here are some things I learned

1. Hopelessness is a dark and lonely feeling.
2. I am not the first first person to work through this and won't be the last. So when you find yourself there...know you are not alone.
3.The world is full of darkness and evil. Praise God this is not my home.
There is also some good to be found. THINK ON THESE THINGS! Your survival depends on it.
4. People make terrible choices. We are selfish. Even a lot of the good done by Christians and the church is done for selfish reasons. It makes us "feel good." Thank You Jesus for using us anyway. Some how He found a way to love us. I have to choose to love others (and myself too)
5. I have been called to something greater than myself. I cannot do it. I am in the deep end and I cannot swim. He loves me. Just as I would never stand by as one of my littles drowned. Neither will He. He will accomplish His purpose and I have the honor of being used. Again, praise God this is not my home.
6. I have to obey-act out my faith to experience the joy of seeing His plan unfold.
7. I know that I know that I know that He is good and He is faithful even when I am faithless

That is a little update on the Holt family adoption. As you probably know, our region has been closed due to the war. It has seemed rather hopeless.

So in the wait, God told us very clearly (in some crazy undeniable ways) to start the process of fostering to adopt. We said no. Then we said it again and again. I don't know if it was fear of the unknown, fear of getting hurt, fear of judgement form others... but we were afraid and we said no.

Then we said yes (this is probably shocking our friends and family right now. We were so reluctant that we really didn't bother to share the news). Well...we sort of said yes. We verbally said we would and then did nothing about it. Finally after sitting on it a while longer we took those first steps and found an agency and started the process. Would you believe that immediately after I got a message from our facilitator with news that our region was OPEN! I'm talking minutes apart y'all-minutes! I can't help but think that God was just waiting for me to obey

So now we are basically starting over, We just had another home study and are getting to work on all that paperwork. We also have to hire an agency now due to a change in the law-basically paying someone a lot of money to get someone to sign off on work they didn't do??? Oh well, at this point we are just thankful things are moving!!!!!

Hold on kids! We are coming! You are not forgotten!!!!

And now as promised, the next 2 little Holt bios....

Have you met the Gatorbug? Seriously, this kid!!! He is our snuggler. He would cuddle all day. He is about as sweet as they come...until he isn't. He says he is learning to control his anger-and he is! This little guy really understands what drives him to yell or stomp and is really working and making progress. No kid is perfect. A 5 year who sees his faults and works on them...THAT is something special!
Joshie is also quite clever. He's always planning his next big business. We joke (sorta...kind of serious) that he'll either run a successful company or be a conman.
He is very protective of his family and pets. He really cares about people. If you take the time to understand him and really know him, you will fall in love!

My girl Melody is 110% whatever she is feeling at the moment and there's really no way to predict her reactions. She is so much fun and so much drama. This girl loves to sing and write songs. She also loves to put on plays. If you've ever been to our house you've probably experienced one and understand why the word is "experienced." She is an amazing artist and has recently started writing stories too. She takes after her dad in so many ways. I think my favorite thing about Melo is what a little mommy she is. She loves taking care of babies and toddlers. I'm pretty sure she would gladly raise Caleb and Abigail all on her own if I let her. She is also very smart and funny. Sometimes she will just be silly but others times her jokes are so clever and intelligent. Her giggles are contagious. Melody cannot be ignored. She will always make sure she gets all the attention she deserves. Of all my kids, she is the one I most look forward to seeing all grown up. She could do/be just about anything and I can't wait to find out how He uses her.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Each One So Perfect Part 1

I have been avoiding this post for a few months now. I HATE answering adoption questions lately. I used to love it and now I just feel like all I do is say "I don't know..." because honestly, I don't.
A whole lot is going on in the world right now and that effects international adoptions especially where our kids are now. If things settle and open up I am pretty sure my husband (who loves me and protects me) will NOT agree to me traveling there until he is certain it is safe. That's a tough place to be. I understand his reasoning but my mama heart also wants to run to my children NOW even if that means putting myself in harm's way. What mama wouldn't for her babies?
We do have options. Because we have not sent our dossier in we could just move on and use what we have to begin an adoption from somewhere else. That would be much easier but I'm just not willing to give up. I have had these kids in my heart for 2 years now. They are a part of us. So we wait...
For now we are starting to update our home study and anything else that has or is expiring.
Please join us in praying for a miracle!
The past few months may not have played out as we had hoped but they have been full. I have really tried to focus on 2 things-
1. removing the clutter from our home and schedule
2. really seeing and treating my children as individuals. It is very easy to start treating them as a unit when there are several so close in age. I am trying to spend more one on one time and am really loving it! They are each so remarkable. I'd like to share a little about each of them. Starting with the youngest...


Abigail is my miracle in every way! I had not planned her but it is so clear that she was everything I needed. She came into our lives at a time that was very sad and has brought us so much JOY! She is full of personality and so determined! She became "mobile" (army crawl and scooting backwards) at 4 months and now at barely 5 months is crawling and pulling up to her knees. She will not even try sitting because she always has somewhere to go. She loves to jump. She loves chewing everything, especially her thumb. She loves her daddy and her big brothers and sister and they love her so much too! What a delightful distraction! Our little joy-baby Abi-girl!


Caleb is a tricky little toddler! He just turned 3 but is clever way beyond is years! He definitely understands sneaking and manipulating but I know he can learn to resist doing it. He is also an unbelievable communicator. It's so fun knowing what goes on in the mind of such a little guy. He never stops talking! He loves to do what ever the big kids are doing and insists that he is big too. He LOVES sports especially baseball and is insanely talented. I honestly saved his first glove with the intention of auctioning it off for charity one day. He's gonna make it if anyone can. He loves to sing and make up songs, play outside and get dirty. He loves animals and they love him. He'll choose meat and produce over sweets most days. He loves his siblings. Melo is his favorite and he sleeps snuggled up with her every night. This kid is all boy! We love him so much!!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Miss Abby-girl

If you follow the news at all you know that we're getting a ton of questions about our adoption right now. 

This is all I know

Adoptions are still happening in most of the country.

We have no idea what will happen in the next few months.

We still long to bring Captain and Sister home to our family and will continue our process regardless of what we hear/see on the news.

God is faithful and if all I can do is rest in that fact, that is enough.

I have seen so much of His hand in the last week. We are heartbroken over the events taking place in Ukraine and amazed at how God was preparing our hearts long ago to walk through this adoption with so many unknowns. About 7 months ago we found out we were expecting. I am embarrassed to admit that I cried...a lot. I was afraid and the timing was wrong. Well, WE thought the timing was wrong. This week when I most needed a distraction and a little bit of joy He sent me my baby girl a little bit early and right on time. 

So I won't write about what is happening in Ukraine. I probably know about as much as you. I do ask that you pray without ceasing though. We are believing for a peaceful resolution and a trip in a few months to grow our family a little bit more.

"You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness" Psalm 30:11

Abby's Birth Story

I've never been one to take belly pics but my Melo loves the camera and you never know what you'll find. Not sure if this was supposed to just be a belly shot or if she cut the head off. Here's me looking round at about 38 weeks.

I woke up last Wednesday with a "feeling" that it was the day. My Fully Alive sisters were coming that evening and Mom's birthday was the next day so I was really hoping to make it until midnight. We had decided to have Abby at home so I spent the day cleaning like crazy. We went to Isaiah's baseball game at 6 and while I wasn't having contractions, I knew labor was starting. Dropped the kids off with grandma, rushed home for Fully Alive and contractions started just as my guests arrived. I have a history of thinking I am in labor when I'm not and I wanted to tell Jacob first so I never said a word. I probably looked rude constantly glancing at my phone-timing contractions. After the girls left, we brought the kids home and tucked them in bed. I decided to let Jacob sleep a few hours before telling him. I figured one of us should get some rest.

The first awesome thing about my home birth was not feeling pressure to be ready to leave. I climbed in bed with each kid for a bit of snuggle time, set up my diffusers, prepped the bed, took a long bath, read my Bible, turned on some music and had a snack. It was lovely and peaceful and perfect! Finally around 3:30am I woke Jacob to tell him the news and sent a text to my awesome midwife, Kim Watkins.

I was totally prepared for my easy delivery. All of my kids came out quick. I don't think I ever pushed more than 10 minutes. Abby is obviously competitive. She decided to come earlier than any of the others had. She also had to come on her grandma and great grandma's birthday to beat Melody who only shared a birthday with one grandma. And of course she thought she'd beat them all my making Mama work a little harder and longer too. I just have to say I have so much respect for the women who have had to push for hours without pain meds. I think I was just over 30 minutes and that was enough for me!

I don't know how to describe her birth. Words like magical and miraculous come to mind but nothing quite captures it. It was peaceful and warm and beautiful, nothing like my hospital births. Something about being in our home with our family made all the difference. Abby was born at 6:35 am March 12 into her Daddy's arms. I was so in the moment that I forgot to have anyone take pictures but I will never forget.

Perfect in every way!

8 pounds 2 ounces

21 3/4 inches long

The kids came in shortly after and Miss Melo got to cut the cord. Everyone was in love the moment they saw her. We got to spend the morning snuggling in my bed just loving on baby sister. 

Isaiah is such a proud big brother
Melo keeps saying over and over, "I can't believe I have a baby sister! "

She also informed her grandma that SHE was the one who needed rest "I was up almost the whole night and Mom was just in her bed with a bunch of pillows"

Joshua has really surprised us. He showed no interest in the pregnancy and could care less about all other babies. He LOVES this girl! He calls her Cutie Patootie and wants to hold and love on her often.

I don't have any pictures of Caleb with her, He loves her a little too much. He wants to pick up, hug tight and lay right on top of her. I need to get someone else to take some picture while I "help" him love on her without hurting her.

She's also found a perfect spot for snuggling and sleeping.

I really want to photograph everything. Being our 5th/7th child I know it would be easy to fall through the cracks. I want her to always know she is not just another Holt kid. She is our perfect unexpected blessing.
I tried to capture her first bath tonight. Using a 6 year old with a camera phone probably wasn't the smartest. 

They may be fuzzy but we have them.
She loved it! Holt babies love their baths.

and the after-bath cuddling,
nice warm coconut oil massage,
All cozy and ready for bed

We love you Miss Abigail Ahava Holt! Happy one week! Can't imagine life without you!

Friday, February 28, 2014

60 meals in the Freezer-Week 6

Be sure and check out -Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
                                   -Week 2-Baked Sandwiches
                                   -Week 3-Tex Mex Chicken
                                   -Week 4/5  Beer Bread and Lasagna

I have so many recipes I want to get into the freezer before Abby's arrival but life has been BUSY these last couple of weeks so I've had to cheat a little.

My mom has been a huge blessing and cooked up a bunch of ground meat for me. She seasoned and vacuum sealed in 1 lb packages so I can pull it out for fast cooking. It may not be a whole meal in the freezer, but it takes up very little freezer space and makes dinner prep so much faster. She made a variety of beef, chicken, turkey and sausage seasoned different ways. Here are a some ideas for quick meals if you already have the meat cooked.

Ground meat seasoned with Italian

*Throw in a pot with a jar of spaghetti sauce and let heat/thaw while your noodles cook and you've got spaghetti with meat sauce in about 10 minutes.

*Cook a box of pasta (rotini, ziti, shells...) a couple minutes short of suggested time and place In a 9x13 pan. Stir in a pound of meat and a jar of spaghetti sauce. Top with mozzarella and parmesan and bake until heated through and cheese is golden. Delicious and easy baked pasta.

Ground meat seasoned with taco seasoning

*Obviously you can make...Tacos

*We also have what we call taco dip. I just mix the meat with a can of refried black beans and some cheese, heat and the kids love to eat it with chips.

*I like to stuff the meat into a bell pepper with some cheese, sour cream...whatever is in the fridge and bake until the meat is hot and the pepper is soft.

Ground breakfast sausage

*I love having this already cooked on hand for breakfast casseroles. I usually just pull up All Reciepes and find one that I have the ingredients for already. Having the sausage cooked already means I can just mix everything together and throw in the oven.

*It's also nice to be able to make quick omelets or burritos.

I am sure you all can come up with dozens of other quick ideas. These are just my go-tos

I also managed to cooked up several dozen breakfast sausage links this week. I cannot stand the mess, smell and dishes from  making sausage! So glad it reheats well. I just divide into bags with enough to feed our family one meal and freeze. You can thaw over night or microwave in the morning while the eggs are cooking.

The last easy thing I froze up this week is a new favorite of ours...mostly because it's so easy.

Just slice up a half of an onion and a bell pepper. Throw in a bag with about 5 chicken breasts and a tablespoon of taco seasoning and freeze. It can go straight into the crock pot when you are ready for 6-8 hrs and is delicious on a tortilla/wrap or served over rice. I made several bags of these this week and have already eaten a couple.

This probably wasn't my best week getting the freezer stocked but it at least beat my attempted beer bread week. Hoping I can skip making freezer meals next week and have a baby instead!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

60+ Meals in the Freezer- Week 4/5

Be sure and check out -Week 1-Bacon Ranch Chicken
                                   -Week 2-Baked Sandwiches
                                   -Week 3-Tex Mex Chicken Casserole

Last weeks freezer cooking attempt failed...bad. I was planning to cook up beer bread for the freezer. It makes a great side for any meal (ok we just make a whole meal of it) and the best toast! Unfortunately I only have 3 loaf pans and we kept eating 2.5 of the 3 loaves before they made it to the freezer...oops.
So here's the recipe. Maybe you'll have more self control!

This really is the easiest recipe ever!

Beer Bread

3 cups self rising four
3 tbs sugar
12 oz dark beer (room temperature)

Grease loaf pan
Mix sugar and flour
Slowly add beer while stirring
Pour into pan and bake at 350 for about 45-50 minutes
Around 35-40 minutes I like to brush the top with honey or honey butter
Serve with honey butter

Remove from pan and cool completely. Then wrap in wax paper (to keep from sticking) and then plastic wrap. If its gonna be in the freezer more than a couple of weeks go ahead and put it in a ziplock bag with as little air as possible.

Tomato Sausage Lasagna

This is easily the best lasagna ever. If you like traditional lasagna with ricotta or cream cheese, this might not be for you. If you love pizza...this is your dish! It is packed full of sausage, mozzarella and parmesan cheese. It is a little time consuming but completely worth it, especially if you make up several for the freezer. The recipe came from Martha Stewart. You can find the original here. Below are the ingredients and directions for 10 half pans with some minor modifications. A half pan is plenty for our family of 6. We usually serve with salad and even have a little left over.

If you are using foil pans, spend the extra money (it's a very small difference) and buy HEAVY DUTY...or learn the hard way like I did when a pan split down the bottom spilling hot lasagna on the floor

About 60 lasagna noodles
10 tbs olive oil
5 large onions, chopped 
20 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbs Italian seasoning
1 1/2 tbs red pepper flakes
5-6 lbs mild Italian sausage (casings removed)
10 (28 oz) cans tomatoes in puree (I like to run them through the blender a bit so there are no large chunks)
30 cups shredded mozzarella
5 cups shredded parmesan

Fill a couple (2-3) 9-by-13-inch baking dishes two-thirds of the way with hot tap water. Add noodles, and arrange them in alternating directions to prevent sticking. Let soak while preparing sauce.

Make sauce: Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium. Add onion,garlic, Italian seasoning, and red-pepper flakes; cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Add sausage, and cook, stirring and breaking it up, until just cooked through, about 10 minutes. Drain grease and return to pan.  Add tomatoes and their puree, breaking up tomatoes with a spoon (unless you put in blender first); bring to a boil. Reduce to a rapid simmer, and cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 30 minutes. (You should have about 40 cups of sauce....yes, I make it in 2 huge pots) 

Drain noodles, transfer to a baking sheet. I usually just lay them flat on a clean beach towel. Spoon 1/2 cup sauce in bottom of each pan. Fit 2(3 if using 8x8 pan) noodles in pan, overlapping slightly. Cover with 1 cup sauce, 1 cup mozzarella, and 1/6 cup Parmesan. Repeat with another layer, then top with another layer of noodles, 1 1/2 cups sauce, and the rest of mozzarella and Parmesan. (If using the 8x8 pans you will just have 2 layers and need to divide the ingredients accordingly) 

Cover pans tightly with aluminum foil, and place in an air tight ziplock freezer bag. This is another good one to double bag. I can usually fit 2 in a bag if I get the big 2 gallon freezer bags.

When you remove from freezer bake for 1 1/2 hrs with foil on. Then remove foil and bake until cheese is golden and center is hot (about 20-30 more minutes).

Go check out this awesome puzzle fundraiser our friends 

have put together to help us bring our kids home.