*Leaping* for Joy

Tonight I am blown away and humbled.

We are going into our March adoption fundraiser with 30–YES THIRTY!–registered participants. Thirty precious people, reading their hearts out, to help us on this adoption journey. Each of those 30 people will have numerous sponsors behind them to encourage their reading and to support our adoption. This is crazy exciting and super encouraging!

God is so good.

When we worry about the details, when we’re scared about the future, when we’re unsure how He’s going to provide, but are willing to submit anyway, He shows up and gives far more abundantly than all we can ask or think. He surrounds us with encouragement and blesses our desire to obey. He uses dear friends to hold us up and carry us. He gently comforts and reassures us. He follows through on his promises. He provides.

Ephesians 3:20

This evening, He laid these words of Ephesians 3:20 on my heart and as I opened up my Bible to read it, my eyes fell to verses 14 and 15 first: “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named.” He is sovereign over all and he knows and names every family and each member of them. He knows precisely who makes up the Hodgson family on earth and in heaven.  The children we have not yet had the privilege to meet have been named by God as “Hodgsons” before the creation of this world! He’s got this! Chapter 3 goes on to talk about the “love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”. He loves us so much! God’s word was such a gift to me this evening and I hope that somehow, if you’re reading this, it encourages you as well.

Tonight I have tears of joy and thankfulness and my heart is overflowing. To God be the glory!

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On Family Pictures & Waves of Grief

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Hodgson Family ~ Fall 2015

Family pictures are a tricky thing for me. I treasure photos greatly. I enjoy the art of taking pictures, looking and re-looking at pictures and capturing precious moments. However, whenever it comes to family photos, though there is a smile on my face, my heart is divided. I can’t help but think of our precious sons who should be beside us in our family pictures. It almost seems wrong to capture a “family” photo without them! However, this is our family, at present, and I desperately want it captured nonetheless. I even go so far as to think, “What if this is our last family photo together?!?!” Because sometimes it is, and we just never know. On the flip side, I thank God for the family I have here and that gives me reason to smile and capture this moment. I suspect I will always feel the void, the struggle and the pangs of sadness.

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Christmas 2011 ~ Our Last “Family” Picture with Andrew

I didn’t anticipate grief flooding in this Christmas season. The waves definitely come fewer and farther between, and this one came unexpectedly, seemingly out of nowhere. Dear friends were sharing their burdens of loss and pain during Sunday School one morning. Their hearts echoed what was all too familiar to me. I bit my lip and wrestled through class, thinking I could hold it together because I’m typically not much of a crier. I ducked my head and made a beeline for my spot on the pew for service,  I just couldn’t shake this deep sorrow that filled my heart. Images of the day we lost Andrew flashed through my mind. The throbbing ache in my arms, desperate to hold my children close, was there. I wondered and worried about how my surviving children would deal with the deaths of their brothers into their adult years. The memories, thoughts and tears wouldn’t stop. This Christmas a dear friend gifted our kids with Christmas outfits, and I kept thinking, Andrew and Isaiah should have matching outfits too! It just didn’t seem fair. I simply could not hold back the tears that came in torrents down my face. I had to walk out of that service and go home. I felt unable to stand up under the weight of the grief. It felt so bizarre to be feeling these gut wrenching emotions, seemingly out of the blue. I suspect these moments will always come. It’s all part of the journey. I’m still not used to it and am surprised by grief.

Sleigh Family

December 2015

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Four Beautiful Children in Christmas Outfits

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Christmas 2015

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Here’s to 2016! Happy New Year!

In 2015, family pictures, Christmastime and ringing in the New Year held another new set of emotions for me. Throughout the festivities, I kept wondering if, perhaps, this was our last Christmas as a family as we now know it. Would we be sharing our celebrations with a new son or daughter next Christmas season? If God would allow us to add to our family in 2016, we would be so grateful. I treasured this season with my family a little bit differently, not knowing what 2016 would hold.

By the grace of God, and with hope, I do know Who holds 2016. I’m thankful for His faithfulness. I’m trusting in His provision and timing, glad that He can see the big picture that I can’t. He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Our Story – Chapter 1

CHAPTER 1 (Ben’s words in BOLD.)

When I was a little girl, I met a cute, blonde-haired boy on the playground who would someday become the father of my children, my best friend, my hand to hold, my shoulder to cry on, my embrace to find comfort in and my better half. Here is our story of an elementary romance, jail time, unspeakable losses, God’s provision, redemption and the body of Christ. A story that is so laced with Grace only an Amazing God could have so beautifully orchestrated it. All the glory belongs to Him.

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Little Benji

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Little Stephanie

I first met Ben when we were in elementary school. We attended a small, Christian school in Cadillac, Michigan where he was two grades ahead of me. I was the new girl at school, having just moved to town. He says that the first time he saw me he thought I was really pretty. He became my first little boyfriend. (You know how it is in elementary school, you are “going out” but you rarely ever even talk to each other and there is a whole lot of giggling involved.)

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First Love Letter

Being at a small, Christian school our families knew each other well and God was knitting us together even then. However, this elementary romance ended when Ben’s family left for public school when he was starting 7th grade.

Our lives took entirely different paths at this point. I attended the Christian School through 10th grade, was home schooled in 11th grade while I attended a vocational school half days, and graduated from public school before heading to a university to pursue a degree in Graphic Design.

I grew up in a loving Christian home with lots of “religious influence”. I went to a Christian school and attended church functions all the time. I thought I had a “relationship with God”, you know with memorizing so much scripture and being such a frequent churchgoer. My family left the Christian school and church behind after I had completed my sixth grade year and we joined the ranks of public education. I really started to hang with the wrong crowd in high school and we did a lot of partying and drinking. It was all about me at this phase in my life. I saw no need for God in my life.

My relationship with the Lord has always been a big part of my life and I have been on a faith journey since accepting Christ as my savior when I was seven years old. In my school-age years, he taught me and grew me through experiences such as a back surgery when I was 15, a boyfriend who broke my heart, a volunteer position at a local pregnancy resource center, friends who faithfully encouraged my walk with the Lord and a family who loves God. I am so thankful for this foundation, because when the storms arise, it’s imperative to have that foundation secure. I didn’t have the slightest clue how stormy it was going to get.

After high school I joined the Marines and continued to party. I was involved in such risky behavior, I should have been dead. But, God showed extravagant grace to spare my life time and time again. After boot camp, I had what most people would think was a wake-up call. I partied so much and, while intoxicated, ran someone over with my truck. God was watching out for me by not allowing the guy to be injured or worse killed, but I didn’t appreciate this grace until much later in life. Not only did I not harm the guy, I was allowed to continue a somewhat normal life without any jail time.

We lived in the same, small town, so Ben and I would run into each other from time to time or our families would see each other around town. However, we had pretty much no real contact until one weekend in the fall of 2001 when I was home from college. My dad handed me an envelope that had arrived for me, hand addressed with a stamp in bold, red ink, “Mail originating from Manistee County Jail. Not responsible for content.” That seemed strange. I definitely didn’t know anyone who would be sending me mail from jail! Lo and behold, it was a letter from my long-lost, elementary friend, Ben. I hadn’t heard from him in years! I didn’t even know what he’d been up to. No good apparently! His letter was short and sweet. It was just an effort to reconnect, a yearning for friendship, a stab in the dark for a listening ear. Ben had been sitting in jail for quite some time and, quite frankly, had exhausted his list of family and friends to write letters to as he grasped for ways to pass the time.

Once again, I had taken my life into my own hands and got into drugs in the Marines. I failed a random drug test and this caused me to get kicked out and put in jail for 165 days. While in jail, I wrote letters to everyone I knew, with no responses, until I decided to write a girl I knew in elementary school named Stephanie. Much to my surprise she wrote back very frequently. This was just another undeserved grace that God was giving me, but I still wasn’t seeing it.

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We still have every single letter!

This was the beginning of an interesting relationship via handwritten letters and good, old-fashioned snail mail. Letters were exchanged daily as we opened our lives back up to each other. We caught up on the years we missed, shared dreams and confessed sins and struggles. Ben had been raised in a Christian family but had walked away from the Lord entirely. He was not associated with any Christian friends and he wasn’t a part of a church. A sweet pastor from our hometown reached out to him and faithfully visited him while he was in jail. Ben’s heart was softening toward the Lord and he clearly indicated his feelings for me were getting serious. I went with his parents a couple times to visit him in jail and we maintained a friendship across the miles. I was taking classes and working at my studies, but my heart became more and more focused on the mailbox and anxiously anticipating the letters from him, which arrived almost daily. Eventually, Ben was transferred to another jail, then to a transition house, then to his parents’ house on phone tether. All the while, we maintained letters and eventually phone calls and visits. He had won my heart.

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Our Wedding ~ July 2003

After my jail time, and about a year of dating Stephanie, we got married. Stephanie is a very godly woman that I have learned to appreciate more and more through the trials we have been through together.

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 3

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

50 More Bracelets SOLD! Wow!

You guys are knocking my socks off! We are so delighted to see you spreading the word about these beautiful bracelets!  Since I posted on Monday, we have sold 50 more bracelets! I love seeing your pictures and posts of you wearing your new bracelets proudly and encouraging others to get their own. I am touched by your support and generosity. Thank you.

If you haven’t gotten your bracelets yet, we still have a little over a week until our fundraiser is over. Help us sell them all!

Bracelet Sales Progress Thermometer

84 bought, 66 to go!

Thank you so much for all who have supported us and these hard-working Haitian artisans. Your contribution is making a difference!