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When Finley lived in Russia

Even though we are two full years in, each day still feels like an undeserved victory.  It could be how soon after we brought them home that Russia closed, or having to travel there three times to know well the extent of their living situations, but still, even now, seeing their progress never gets old, a fresh gift each day, exciting, new.  It’s hard to describe, to be living it, in your own home–a gift God planned, must have been from the beginning.  There are hard parts, or tired parts and all that you’d assume, but so much more that you wouldn’t expect, all the good stuff.  Like, we were really built to experience life in a more selfless way than we allow ourselves normally.  I don’t think of myself as a particularly selfless person, sometimes I feel like my faith has me in constant rehab from selfishness and the lack of passion, and zeal and satisfaction it brings.  Andrew and I sometimes think, “Thank goodness we just ended up listening to God in those moments, when it made no sense at the time.”

So close to not following through, it’s almost embarrassing.  Finances, unknown, travel, fear, all of which we could just laugh about now, all fears the are erased with how it played out.  I mean, if you’ve followed our journey, it must just be easy to see how good it is now, but oh my gosh, it was scary.  I hope that’s an encouragement for you.  It’s ok to be scared.  So ok.  Whatever the ‘thing’ is, it’s ok to be scared when you know it’s the right ‘thing.’

Andrew and I just found this message we wrote to each other on messenger while he was at work back from June ’11.  Maria’s Reece’s Rainbow name was Maya, this is when we were messaging each other about the thought of adoption, we only had two bedrooms at the time and a baby Finley.

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We had just about counted it out, and moved on.



I heard Elijah tell me brightly.

“Yes baby?”

“Finley say I can lay on him.”  I went to investigate, and the two were snuggling on the couch.

“Mama?” Finley asked me.

“Yes, honey?”

“When I was in Russia, I saw a big, big duck.”

“You did?  When were you in Russia?” I asked as he looked at me amused and quizzically, taking care to answer such an obvious question tenderly as to not hurt my feelings, “Mama,” he smiled, “back before when I was in your tummy.”

“Ohhh, I see…. how did you like it there?”

“Not that good, and cool!”



The boys did such an awesome job at gymnastics, that I decided to forgo any early home payments to get them these special, seasonal cookies.  We did it up right because the teacher sought me out to tell me how stellar they did.  (I told him I used Vetiver oil on them)

I asked the boys who wanted to share with me, Finley grinned and shook his head no, while Elijah immediately broke me a big, generous piece, “Me mama!  I share with you!  One for you, one fo’ Finley and one fo’ Maria!” breaking little pieces for people who weren’t there, and for someone who had his own cookies, a little for everyone.

The most eager sharer this side of the Mississippi, joyful giver.



Sometimes, when I am telling Elijah encouraging words, and how much I love him, it’s still too much for him.  He covers his eyes, buries his head or makes loud sounds so he can’t hear me.

“EYES the whole time!” I tell him to get eye contact, “This is so important, more important than Ballerinas and Lightning McQueen (his two strange obsessions) which wakes him up, and he’ll catch my eyes for a moment, you can tell it takes him some courage as he forces his eyes to meet mine.

“You sir….are special.”

He struggles to keep his gaze, starting to waver.

“I like you so much, I like spending time with you.  I like your heart and your cute face….I love you Elijah….”

He flings his tongue out and shakes his head, too much, trying to drown it all out, so I tickle him as he doubles over in my arms.  It was a little longer this time than last time, success 🙂

We celebrate every small success, even the ones other people wouldn’t see.  So we celebrate often.  It makes for a fun life.

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Have you read the book Chalk?  Three children draw in chalk and their drawings pop-out and come to life in delightful and terrifying ways.  We often imagine our pictures are popping out, too.IMG_8130 IMG_8138



We made so many little cookies.  Sugar cookies are so forgiving, they can be no more than a toddler smash, and they round out just right under the forgiving heat of the oven.  Sprinkles, nasty white frosting galore.  I love having kids, loving these stages so much.  I love allowing them to see themselves do everything with their own hands, when they thought they couldn’t before, embracing the mistakes, cause who cares, our chickens ate many of them anyways.



We believe in giving our kids responsibility.  Not the pretend kind, but real things, that adults would do, too, but on their level.  We want them to be proud of themselves, and appreciate  their playtime after putting good effort into their work.  They love it, they live for it.  Recently in the mornings, I have been asking Finley to help Elijah get ready by taking off his jammies, and helping him get dressed.  I notice a better bond between the two of them during playtime on the mornings when it’s Finley’s job to take care of Elijah’s clothes.






Shhh, don’t tell–she’s going to FLIP!  It’s the new one 🙂 🙂


My boys, equal parts mud and squishy love hugs.




Two days ago we got into a minor ‘collision’ with a man, there was no dent or damage, but he screamed at us, at me with the kids in the car.  I felt sorry for anyone in his family, and told him he was rude and didn’t need to talk to me that way.  Finley is so sensitive and took it all in from the back seat, he was so upset.  He didn’t want to hug Andrew when he came to meet us, or talk to Santa that night, but clung to me in fear.  I feel upset just thinking about it now.

I was upset too, but I held his two little arms in my hands and told him, “Honey, let’s just pray for him, God says to do that.”


“God says to pray for people who are mean to us and persecute us, I think it will make you feel better.”  I didn’t want to either.

“God…please help that man be good….amen.”  He lifted his head, and he was smiling.  He joined Elijah who was playing in the shrubs in the parking lot, he looked happy again, his precious carefree self again.  I was telling my friend Savannah about it, “I’m so thankful for the Bible to tell me to do things I would never think of or want to do to restore everything…”  Thank you, Lord.  For everything.






All the Latvian kids are here for hosting, I’ve been seeing the sweetest pictures, hearing awesome stories.  S is here, too 🙂 🙂

SO, my question to you reading right now is this, and I will respond to each person who shares, WHAT do you think your big thing is, or if you had one, what was it and the current outcome.  Is there something you know, deep down in that quiet place in your soul that you only hear when you aren’t busy and hurrying, when you feel fearless and have a flicker for justice and right-ing wrongs.  What is on your heart, whether you think you can be a part of it or not, what stirs a warm flame in your soul?  I would be SO amazed to hear, so stoked to hear about that little flicker of your heart.



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{ 21 comments… add one }
  • Cami Bello December 19, 2014, 2:55 pm

    I am 45 years old, and have gone back to school, graduate school to be precise, in order to pursue a dream I had completely given up on. I am learning how to teach English as a second language, and currently have the privilege of teaching a group of immigrants as I go through school(it is what we call an assistantship – pays all the school bills:)) Knowing that these people have worked hard all day – in the fields picking potatoes, cleaning someone’s house, caring for someone’s children, the list goes on – and then come to my class at night to learn English for the betterment of their families, touches my heart profoundly. I love being a wife and a mother, but for me, I knew there was more and I am so grateful for the chance to see it come to life. I could have passed on it, and just rode out the rest of my life as it was, but God graciously gave me another chance.

    • tinyteam December 20, 2014, 2:37 pm

      Wow, that brought tears to my eyes. Good for you, you are an inspiration. So many of us count ourselves out for so many reasons, but you are proving us wrong.

      God bless you in your work, that is something very important to Andrew and I, and all the lives you touch.

      • Cami Bello December 23, 2014, 8:07 pm

        Thank you Amy. Your blog is one of the sweetest things I have read in a while. Your photography is beautiful! I am sitting here in cold, wet Washington, wondering why we don’t live in Southern California!

  • Trish December 19, 2014, 3:29 pm

    My passion is for orphans. I started following your blog because I want to be a foster/adoptive mom someday, and I’m still reading it because of the great deal of encouragement and inspiration I receive from you and your family. 🙂 Right now God’s using that passion to give me a reason to reach out to the social, albeit not literal, orphans that I’m working with here in Mexico. There is so little awareness and help for deaf kids down here that we who work at the ranch really do become their family. Especially for the kids whose parents don’t learn sign (which is most of them).
    By the way, I just gave a bottle of Balance to the coworkers I told you about who are adopting a son with RAD! Hoping and praying it makes a difference for them! 🙂

    • tinyteam December 20, 2014, 2:39 pm

      Your work with them is so important, I bet it will have ramifications for years to come. Not only for the children you work with, but also as an example of what could be. Hope.

      I am glad you share the Balance with them, we love that one so much!

      Always love hearing from you


  • Tonya December 19, 2014, 3:32 pm

    Following the nudge to adopt- so much to be missed had we not! To go back and finish my certification and start teaching–oh, I love it so much!-and following His direction for our future, details to be determined:)

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 1:54 pm

      Such awesome things, your little girl is so precious….hmmm, I wonder what is around the corner for you guys 🙂

  • Cassie Rivera December 19, 2014, 3:39 pm

    I am a School Psychologist, and I get to hang out with children with special needs every single day. THAT warms my heart. When I’m in the severely handicapped special day class, the kids just AMAZE me! As soon as I open that classroom door, I get warm hugs, soft touches, an occasional loving hair pull, and lots of “Hi Miss Cassie!!!” It’s the best, and definitely a major thing that keeps my heart flickering! 🙂

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 2:03 pm

      That’s so cool! What an awesome job! I remember subbing in a high special needs class one day, and I was just blown away by how sweet their were, that opportunity meant so much to me.

      Your job is so cool, thanks for sharing!


  • A mama December 19, 2014, 4:41 pm

    I am 5 mo postpartum. I nearly died after that birth. For reals. My heart love spent the summer acting out looking for boundaries that did not exist. I did not get to see her. I thought it was HARD.
    Now? I think about her all the time. I am working up the courage to speak to dh again about pursuing her. Her country is troubled and she may not be able to return for the summer. I will die if I don’t see her soon. She misses us so much. We miss her. She fits our family perfectly. We need each other. I need her.
    My body is barely normal and all I can think of is how to pursue IA to an invaded country…

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 2:07 pm

      oh wow….my goodness. I will be praying. Thank you for sharing that with me…

  • Melissa December 19, 2014, 6:56 pm

    After a year working in software engineering, I pursued my God-whispered dream and got my teaching credential. I taught for a few years in different settings but found my groove here in Houston, teaching classrooms full of recently immigrated 8th graders living in some tough circumstances. Long, hard days, pouring out more than I ever thought i had. And that is where i see justice and hope. And now, just as quick of a transition, He has me as a full-time at home mama to a nine-day-old treasure. From 100 sweaty teenage babies to one tiny one of my own. And now I don’t know where He will use me in the coming years, but i’m guessing he’s not done calling me to use that teaching education or to engage with those whose voice isn’t heard!

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Yes, you’re teaching skills will always be used. So many people are afraid of 8th graders, but they are such big babies, right? Such an important thing to be doing, immigrants need so much help, you pouring out help their futures so much.

      Congrats on your new baby, that’s so exciting!


  • Jolene @ Homespun Heritage December 19, 2014, 6:56 pm

    Equal parts running and raising. I want to run. A long way. Often. And I want to start an adoption ministry, thus the raising part…both money and awareness and mostly to be good and sure adoptive parents are well educated in the mind of an orphan and all things trauma, attachment, etc.

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 2:10 pm

      Hmmm, I like all these things so much. I feel my heart in many of these places you described as well.

  • nicole December 19, 2014, 8:20 pm

    I thank god regularly..about 3 years ago he gave me a health scare..I think he wanted me to be grateful for the life he had given me..I was depressed and had stopped talking to him..I ended up ok and now i talk to him all the time and thank him everyday for the extra time with my kids…we need to be grateful for whatever time we have here on earth..I still fail as a christian but I feel iam a work in progress..love you god!!!

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 2:11 pm

      Wow, that is powerful.

      I think we’re all works in progress and sometimes that’s the best part of all.


  • Miriam December 20, 2014, 3:33 am

    I think the flicker for justice down deep in my soul is for orphans. I don’t know yet how God is going to use that. I would love to adopt my own children some day, its a deep desire I’ve had since I was a teenager, but I find it difficult to say it out loud even to a stranger on the internet because it looks so impossible right now! My current illness means that I need people to care for me instead of vice versa. But I am praying that God is going to use this difficult time in my life for His purposes & redeem all the pain and struggle. It would take a miracle but I know God can do it. So maybe a few years from now I will be back here with a great story of how God has worked everything for good!

    • tinyteam December 22, 2014, 2:17 pm

      I will pray for you, too. Hope is a powerful force. Thank you for sharing this with me, it means to much to hear what God has stirred in your heart.

      • Miriam December 31, 2014, 4:31 pm

        Amy, thank you so much for your prayers & your encouragement. It really means a lot to me!

  • Summer mama December 20, 2014, 12:30 pm

    We wanted to adopt, but doors slammed in our faces and now my husband is too old. My heart still breaks for the orphans, especially those from one or two certain countries in Eastern Europe, but I don’t know what to do. We host, but it feels so insufficient.

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