*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!

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.

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

Praise God! We held two yard sales already this summer!! Whew! Good thing we have the rest of the summer to relax! 😉

Come one! Come all!

We are, again, beyond grateful for the way God brought everything together. He provided the space, some great weather, the awesome stuff, the shoppers and more funds toward our adoption. Thank you to all who helped us in countless ways. We couldn’t do this without you guys! That’s the awesome part about being invested in community and part of the family of God. We’re made to work together! It’s such a beautiful thing to be a part of.

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Good company. 🙂

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Fixin’ up some flashy signs!

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More good company. 🙂

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EARLY morning set up. Ben’s dad went over and above for both of our sales this year!

Our sales this year worked much like last year. We had a huge amount of items donated and were busting at the seams. We spent hours sorting, pricing, organizing and setting up. This year, we were sadly missing Neena’s amazing baked goods, but the kids happily tried to compensate.

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Handsome salesmen.

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Who could resist buying a bottle of water from these two cuties?!?!

We still have a few things leftover that we are listing on Craigslist but the majority of our items are sold or donated. Such a great feeling!! Thinking this year would be NOTHING like last year, we had pretty low expectations but high hopes. As usual, we’ve been blown away!! So far, sales total $2491.35!! Woohoo!!

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We make a pretty good team. ❤

And, in even HUGER news…I’m happy to update that God has made it possible for us to have raised over $14,000 toward this adoption so far!! UNBELIEVABLE!! Whenever we’re faced with a huge undertaking my hubby and and I often banter about a quote we heard once along the lines of, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” This reminds me of that. When we felt God calling us to adopt for sure, and our faith felt so small, we began the huge task of fundraising. That was a little less than a year ago. Wow. God is so good. We’re eating this elephant one bite at a time. Thanks for helping, because, for us, this elephant is a big one. 🙂

Our Story – Chapter 3

CHAPTER 3 (Ben’s words in BOLD.)

I was deeply saddened and heartbroken, and my arms ached to hold my precious baby. By God’s grace, Ben and I clung to each other and our loss only brought us closer, rather than dividing us further.

We still continued to argue about smoking and finances and lifestyle choices as together we grieved the loss of our son and navigated the waters of healing. We found out we were pregnant again in late 2005 and much of our pregnancy was governed by fear and worry. However, we welcomed a healthy, screaming baby in June of 2006. What a joy and relief to hold and care for our lively baby boy! The nursery was finally full and our hearts were happy.

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Proud Daddy

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Happy Mommy

What a joy it was to have a healthy boy to bring home from the hospital. This was yet another measure of grace that God was giving me, but I was just not grasping it fully.

We welcomed another son in July of 2008. With a baby and a toddler and both of us working and going to school, things were very busy! We loved each other deeply but were still on different pages on so many life issues. I wasn’t leading our family spiritually or otherwise and Stephanie’s relationship with the Lord wasn’t growing and, while we did attend church, we weren’t in close community with other believers. We did agree that we loved our hometown, we loved spending time with nearby family and we hoped to never move. We had both received an Associates Degree. I had landed a job in the engineering department at a boat company and Stephanie was happy to work part time and stay at home and take care of our boys.

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Sweet Brothers

One day, in November of 2008, the boys and I were at home and Ben showed up mid-morning, unannounced. He held a box of things he had cleaned out of his desk and rushed to my arms, crying. He had been permanently laid off. The economy had gone south and, without warning, nearly everyone was let go from the company. He was left with only a very part time job stocking shelves at a local grocery store. Though we can now clearly see it as a necessary step in the journey God had us on, we were reeling at the time. We ended up moving in with Ben’s dad to cut costs and both of us worked part time, opposite shifts so one of us could be home to take care of the boys. It was a rough year. However, God provided, and Ben found out about a new warehouse that was opening up for the grocery company he had been working part time for. He had always thought he’d like to get into truck driving for the company, but didn’t have the training and there weren’t any positions available. However, with the new warehouse, there would be full time driving positions and they would be willing to train. The downside: we’d have to move out of state, hundreds of miles from home.

So, God provided the opportunity for me to work full time, doing something I thought I’d love, for this amazing, Christian-family-owned company. What an awesome provision it was. Stephanie was 8 months pregnant when we loaded up our things, said goodbye to our home with my dad and our loved ones and traversed the country to settle in for a one year commitment in a new state where we didn’t know a soul. As a gift from God, the job was a mere 3 hours from Stephanie’s sister, who is her dearest friend, and her family. That brought our families many good times and memories made.

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Just Us, Embarking on a New Adventure

We welcomed a baby girl in November of 2009, shortly after settling in to our tiny, new apartment. For the first time, I was able to stay home full time with our children. Ben loved his work but it was taxing on our family as he was on the road for overnights and when he was home he was exhausted. I had my hands full and had only one friend nearby. We found it difficult to find a church we wanted to call home and struggled to meet people and form friendships. A year into his new job, it didn’t look like we would be going home anytime soon, so we moved closer to the warehouse but farther from my sister. Ben’s commute was so much shorter, our home was much nicer with room for the kids to roam and I was blessed to meet a handful of wonderful, Christian friends. The second year was better than the first but we still longed to return home and for Ben to have a job with better hours. A job transfer was possible, but we had to patiently wait for the right opening.

We welcomed another sweet baby to our family on our son’s birthday in July of 2011. Baby number five was welcomed with delight. It was especially sweet for me, because this baby pushed Ben to finally quit smoking. After years and years of smoking and then quitting and smoking and then quitting again, this time it was for real. He quit smoking when I was pregnant and hasn’t gone back since. What a gift! Praise God, that point of tension was finally resolved!

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Sea World ~ October 2011

With our first son in heaven and three boys and a girl here on earth, we decided that we were done having children. Our arms were full and I was a tired momma. With no family nearby and a husband who was consumed with his job, I felt I had reached my max. We had been married for 8 years and it had been such a challenging road. We had been through so much together and had grown closer because of it. Ben was a loyal, loving husband, always a gentleman and a great dad but sin had its hold on him something fierce and he refused to submit to God in many areas of his life. That was very difficult for me as I longed to be equally yoked with my husband and share the most important thing in my life. I longed for him to love God and lead our family well. I longed to be involved together in a church and I desperately wished our sons had a godly man to model their own lives after. I knew my relationship with the Lord was being compromised by my marriage. Spiritually, we were a mess.

Still at this point in my life, spiritually speaking, I was just riding on Stephanie’s faith and not my own.

I was very successful in my job and well liked and respected. My company took great care of me and our family. I made good money and we had begun to establish our life away from our home and loved ones. Our family was growing and we were making great memories. Suddenly, the opportunity we had been waiting for arrived. I was able to transfer to a new job that took us within a hundred miles of the city we had called home, the city we grew up in, the area most of our family still lived. We were so excited! Though a pay cut was involved, the job was still driving truck and delivering groceries but was a day job with local routes for the same awesome company. I would be home every night! We were so thankful!

Again, we loaded up our family of 6 and all of our things and headed back to our homeland in November of 2011. The kids and I moved back in with Ben’s dad while Ben started his new job, lived in his aunt’s basement and searched for a house for us. House hunting proved to be a long, laborious process. The days turned into months and we spent hours upon hours driving from house to house and touring home possibilities. We lugged all four children through the snow and cold. We searched high and low to find the perfect house for our rather large family but on a rather small budget. There were tons of houses but most of them needed way more work than we were willing to bargain for. We ended up walking through 74 houses before we settled on a cute home that was already redone and it was only 2 miles from Ben’s new job. It was perfect. We truly felt like the waiting had paid off. We closed on the house on March 1st, 2012 and were anxious to be a family again, all in once place. Ben had been driving to his dad’s on his days off to spend time with us and we had been driving down to hang out with him and look at houses but we hadn’t lived together for over four months.

CHAPTER 1

CHAPTER 2

CHAPTER 4

CHAPTER 5

We’re praising God!! It’s official!!

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Hubby and I, taking a moment to celebrate, just as he was leaving for the Post Office to mail our dossier.

Woohoo! We are so excited to have reached a milestone in this long adoption process! We submitted our dossier on Thursday and received an email last night confirming that we are officially on the waiting list!! Eek!!

After months and months of documentation, interviews, doctor’s appointments, documentation, fingerprints, fundraising, documentation, notaries, criminal records, home study appointments and more documentation, it feels wonderful to have finally submitted everything required to be on the waiting list. There is one waiting list across all four countries of Dominica (where our nephew Kerie is from), St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada. We are currently in the 18th position on the list but several factors affect what that means. Even though we have a certain position on the list, each case is very carefully reviewed so that the best possible match can be made for each family on the list. They will do their best to keep birth order for our family, so the child will be younger than Lillyanna when he or she is placed in our home. Our agency is anticipating that we will wait 12-18 months before a match is made. Then, it will probably be an additional 4-6 months before we can bring the child home. Our social worker told us to try to go about our lives as usual, reminding us that a watched pot never boils. That is easier said than done!

So, now, we wait. We will be busy praying, raising money for expenses, preparing for international travel and remodeling a bedroom as we prepare for whatever the Lord has in store for our family. Our home study approves us to adopt two children, and we have said we would prayerfully consider a set of twins or a young sibling set, but we anticipate we will only be adopting one child at this time. Only the Lord knows!

We ask that you continue to keep our family in your prayers as the details come together. We are still asking for wisdom about the things I mentioned here. And, as I said before, we have a long road ahead of us, guaranteed to be laden with obstacles. We will not fear, because we know Who goes before us. He is our Peace. So exciting to be walking this road! Thanks for walking it with us.

Pie, Peanut Butter Balls and Plans

I am feeling giddy tonight with news from our placing agency! Looking back at our timeline, it seems like we have been wading in these beginning stages for so long! We trust that God’s timing is perfect and we are trying to rest in that, but some news tonight has us over-the-moon thankful to be pressing onward! Slow and steady wins the race, right?

DSC_0353Since returning from Haiti with adoption on our hearts we found an adoption from Haiti to be a closed door for our family. While this saddened us greatly, we trusted God and his direction as he was clearly guiding us on another path. This whole time, we have simply done the next thing that God has put in front of us, not knowing where it will lead. We trust that God has not given us this passion for no reason and look forward to seeing how it all plays out. We have discovered that as an already large family, some countries aren’t willing to work with us. In addition, there are things in our family history that have left us unqualified to adopt from certain countries. So, it’s been a waiting game to be led to a country that is open to working with our family. We have been working with a wonderful placing agent who has been gracious to forge these uncertain waters with us and champion for our case. We are so thankful! We know God has his mighty hand at work in this and He can make a way when it seems there is no way. There is a child out there who is hand-picked for our family and we will find our way to each other, praise God!

So, that brings us to tonight. Via email we have scheduled a phone conference with our placing agency for this Friday at 3:00 pm to discuss moving forward with an adoption from Grenada! We don’t have all the details at this point but have read about the program and are excited about the possibilities.

Grenada-physical-mapA few initial thoughts are weighing on our minds and we would love for you to pray with us about these things. Maybe at some point we will feel otherwise, but of the entire process this seems like the biggest to navigate. As we understand it, there will be at least two trips to Grenada that will need to take place once a referral is made. The first will be about a week. The second, which could be 4 to 6 months later, will be about 3 weeks. So, all total, at least 4 weeks of travel. As you can imagine, we are overwhelmed by the thoughts of coordinating all of this as a family of 6. Do Ben and I travel as a couple and leave our children behind for one or both trips? Does one of us go and one of us stay? Do we travel as a family? This is obviously an expensive option and maybe it would be harder for that initial bonding with our new child? Who would we leave them with if we don’t travel as a family and how do we handle coordinating all of that? We would miss them tremendously and want to experience all of this as a family. If we do travel as a family, would we take another adult with us to help manage everything? On the final return trip we will be a family of 7! All of these arrangements seem overwhelming so we are immediately taking it to God to help us sort out the details.  Please pray with us!

DSC_0393In other news, I have been busy baking to raise funds. This past weekend I cranked out dozens of peanut butter balls and sugar cookies, a couple pies, some caramel corn and a cheesecake! I do love baking and am glad for the ability to earn some money doing it but whew! My oven and I are tired! So thankful for the orders and the ability to use my talents in this way.

DSC_0012DutchApplePie10inchFrenchSilkPie2IMG_9319We will be hitting the fundraising even harder in the New Year and I hope you will be excited to partner with us in this. We can’t do this alone and we trust that our family and friends will help carry us and be the hands and feet of Jesus to a sweet child in need of a family and the gospel of Christ. What a blessing!

Passing Time and Raising Funds

While the waiting is arduous at times, we are trusting that God’s timing is perfect in this adoption process. Meanwhile, we are busy raising funds! I wanted to update you who have so generously supported and encouraged us along the way.

In November, a wonderful lady from our church offered to do a Premier Designs Jewelry party in our home to help raise funds. She generously offered to donate 30% of the retail sales towards our adoption. When it was all said and done, we had $1000 in jewelry sales! I couldn’t believe it! I’m so thankful for that $300 toward our adoption. Thank you, Beth, and all that participated!

That's alotta jewelry!

That’s alotta jewelry bought for our baby!

I’ve also been donating plasma as often as I am able to sneak away for a couple hours!

Feeling accomplished after donating plasma.

Feeling accomplished after donating plasma.

With those two things, our bracelet sales, our yard sale and bake sale (which we still have a few things listed on Craigslist!) and a few generous gifts, we have $5,225 toward adoption! Praise God! He is so good to provide and I love that he’s using many of you, so you can be part of this process with us! It’s such an indescribable joy to be a part of the body of Christ. We’re blessed to experience it in this way.

Please continue to be praying for our family as we travel this journey. Thank you for traveling with us!