A Mom’s Report Card

Let’s face it, most of us graduated long ago, but the truth is, we continue with the practice of grading ourselves and our efforts. Moreover, we grade ourselves on a scale of comparison based on the best we see posted by other moms or based on what we see of moms as poised in public settings. Much of our grading is based on our idealizations about other moms; what we assume to be true about them, and consequently what we know is not true about ourselves. Why can’t we cook like this mom? Have we given our children ample opportunities like this family? Are we doing enough to equip them to succeed in the future?

Our grading scale tends to be based on appearances.

Take for example, the mom profile picture I can post of me at my best verses the crazy-train selfies I send to my husband after a full day of mothering and homeschooling our four little people. Exhibit A, B, and C below.

Mom profile picture.

Text to husband a few months ago: I spend three hours of every day feeding our baby.

Text to my husband last week: Just unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher with baby in pouch.

There are of course more unflattering pictures and texts than this, but like I am going to post those!

When I talk with other moms, many of them sigh a breath of relief after I have confessed to my absolute need to repent of yelling at my children, loosing my temper, needing a mommy time out, or …you name it. We have all been there! Or at least I have been there more frequently than I desire.

There are no perfect mamas. There is only a perfect Savior. Yet, we will take the best we see posted or acted out with other moms and beat ourselves up that we are not meeting those standards.

Of course there are biblical mandates for parents. There are a multitude of resources for parents to seek out for better communication with and disciplining of our kids. However, the point I want to make to we mama’s constantly assessing our rank or status as a parent, is that God looks at our heart not our outward appearances. Lest we forget, in anointing the next king of Israel Samuel fell into a similar trap. He was looking for stature, strength, and a handsome appearance in the man that would be chosen to lead. But God had other qualities in mind:

The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.
~1 Samuel 16:7, NIV

I think we need to look at our heart this Mother’s Day and lay our report cards at the foot of the cross and our gracious Savior. Yes, some days we will accomplish, excel, and be on our game. Some days our children will behave as we have trained them to and hoped they would. But most days are muddled in the middle of planting, sowing, training, and teaching…repenting and trying again. Most harvest awaits a later day or an eternal time. Patience is a process and parenthood is a sanctification like few others I have ever known.  In the meantime mamas, between now and eternity, we need to look not at our outward appearance, our filtered Instagram or Facebook posts, or the mom next door, but look instead where the gaze of God falls–our hearts.

Who may ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who may stand in his holy place? The one who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not trust in an idol or swear by a false god. ~Psalm 24:3-4, NIV

The idol of comparison and appearances will get us nowhere. Likewise, shaming ourselves into thinking we are the only ones struggling to be the mom we want to be, and yet, can’t measure up to, will only make us feel worse. We must look at our heart, examine it, repent where we are in sin and ask the Holy Spirit to help guide us into the women He wants us to be. We must accept the grace God extends and the refining He provides. All our efforts apart from Christ are in vain.

This Mother’s Day, why don’t you and I rip that imaginary report card to shreds and spend some time thanking God for bringing us this far? We aren’t the same person we were last year, we aren’t the best images of ourselves we see on our social media accounts, nor are we what we see at our worst moments. We are image bearers of the Creator God, washed and forgiven in the blood of Jesus, and He looks not at our outward appearances, but at our heart. Our heart has a report card only God can assess and only eternity will reward.

Happy Mother’s Day,


 

 

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Thirty Balloons: An Adoption Tale

Once upon a time, there was a little blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby boy in need of a place to call home. He needed a mom, a dad, and a few siblings to grow alongside.

A few miles away was a family looking for a child to love forever. The family had a mom and a dad and two children searching for a child to coddle, wrestle, chase, kiss, and teach about the love of the King.

One day, after several months of seeking out such a child, the blonde-headed, blue-eyed baby bounced into their place of worship. He was safely held, that is,  in the arms of a family caring for him until such a time as he was matched with his forever family. For the daddy of the family in search of a baby, it was apprehensive love at first sight. For the mommy, it was a bit of confusion because she thought they were called to love a brown-haired, brown-eyed baby girl. More about her later as she wouldn’t come along for another year…but that would be getting ahead in the story.  After one visit with the baby boy in her home, the mommy, also, was forever in love with the blonde-haired, blue-eyed baby boy.

In fairy tales, evil always ensues before the damsel is rescued, the family reunited, or the kingdom saved. Real life mimics fairy tales because fairy tales mimic real life. This little boy’s story had many a dark and looming cloud.

For nine months the boy and the family grew to know and love one another. They shared firsts and celebrated milestones. The mommy and daddy, and the boy’s temporary family, sent e-mails, made phone calls, attended meetings, and petitioned judges before the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy bounced into the family’s home to stay. (Only modern day stories include phone calls and emails, but they are no less valiant, mind you, than decrees and messengers riding through the night to save the kingdom, rescue the damsel, or reunite the family.)

All throughout these months, and the ones which would ensue, a host of people within the Kingdom began to pray and petition the King for the boy to be placed with this family. Countless men, women, and children throughout the land would ask the King to place the boy with the family forever, and, quickly! The petitions of the people were being heard and would be answered in time.

Shortly after the boy came to live with his soon-to-be family, the court discovered an error that had to be addressed for this story to turn a final page into the second portion of its tale. This error would take ten more months to come to light and, thereafter, be rectified.

All this time, the months were accumulating  while the boy was waiting for the royal proclamation to give him a family. It would be thirty months until the proclamation would be granted. Thirty months before the blonde-haired, blue-eyed boy would be given his royal name–that name which his family prays is already written in the scrolls of the Kingdom as in this kingdom. Thirty months until…forever.

Thirty months came and went before this big day arrived…

As the boy and his family experienced the declaring of the proclamation that would unite them for all of their life in this kingdom, they thought of how quickly the thirty months passed in retrospect. Like thirty balloons being lifted to the sky and released in a moment’s time with the wave of a hand, the loosing of a grip, the relinquishing of power.

The weight of the wait was intense and a load, at times, seemingly unbearable. But upon the royal decree, the weight instantly became as light as air. All the cares of the past were lifted away to be replaced by a focus on the future and on raising a knight for the Kingdom.

Lest you forget, fairy tales are full of woe before wonder, and this fairy tale will be like the others and, similarly, unlike. Good days and gloomy days lurk ahead, but this day was a day two kingdoms celebrated with thirty balloons and triumphant shouts filling the chasm between. Maybe, just maybe, one of those balloons reached the other side and greeted others who have waited in like fashion.

*This story is a prologue to another story still unfolding. If it weren’t for this one, the later would never be possible. Woe lurks, but wonder is on the other side. The Kingdom prays and the King whispers, Courage dear heart.


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Dear Paw Paw: A Life Remembered

Dear Paw Paw,

Last night you stepped out of time and space and stepped into eternity with King Jesus, the Maker of heaven and earth. The hope of Heaven is realized and every ailment and tear removed. You’ve been given a new body and issued new work. Oh to hear the stories you could tell about all your eyes have seen, ears have heard, and soul felt as now you know fully, even as you have been fully known for the 85 years you lived in this life. Welcome to eternity Paw Paw!

Ask different people in our community and family as to how they will remember you as they look back on your life well-lived, and they may say a number of things: athlete, serviceman, coach, teacher,  principal, disciple maker, father, friend, fisherman, sportsman, and for my Grammie, faithful husband of 62 years. For me, however, I like to remember you as gardener, hard worker, loyal member of your community, and teller of stories and a few yarns. Perhaps someone should add a real character to this list. I think that would be fitting.

The picture I will hold in my mind’s eye, is one of you sitting in your work clothes, sweaty from the garden you faithfully kept until a few years ago–just as your mother and father before you–drinking a Coke Cola, and eating a Nutty Bar. After your snack you would head out fishing and enjoy time in nature. It wasn’t until recently that I connected your and Dad’s love of fishing with my own love of hiking and exploring nature. I didn’t inherit the Cost/Davis fishing gene, so I never went on too many fishing trips. I simply couldn’t, and can’t, sit still and wait that long for a fish.  I do enjoy a boat ride just the same.

There are two pieces of wisdom you directly related to me which I will hold onto and follow. The first one being how we can repay our parents for the sacrifices they made to raise us. You passed on this information to me shortly after the death of your mother. Ron and I were newlyweds and we couldn’t make the 500 mile trip for her funeral. The next time we came home, you were out walking and I drove by and rolled my window down to talk. You told me that your mama said the only way we can really repay our parents for all they did for us, was by raising our own children well. I have thought of that often, Paw Paw. I just thought you should know.

The second piece of advice was concerning sports. Having been an athlete yourself, and then coaching dozens or hundreds of young men, you told me that you wouldn’t put your son in sports until they were in middle or high school. You said injury and burn out were too likely and to let our son(s) play for fun before getting serious about a sport. I agreed, and still do.

A few particular memories that I have of you are snippets from my childhood. I have a tendency to forget large chunks of time, but there are some vivid memories that remain. Like each Christmas morning when you and Aunt Ginger would come and see what presents we had received. Or the time you came and picked Mom, Julie, and I up to take to your and Grammie’s house during the Blizzard of ’93 while Dad was out restoring people’s electricity. As well as the time you and Ginger also came to pick us up after we got our pickup truck stuck in the deer woods and had to walk to civilization. I also vaguely remember a story about Brett and Chase riding their bicycles through the Jemison Elementary School  hallways after the original wood floors were newly stained. I don’t think you were to happy with them then. I’ll be sure and ask them about that later.

By far, of all your accomplishments and accolades in this life from friends and colleagues, the greatest gift you gave this world was being a faithful husband and father to your wife and three beautiful girls. That is a legacy that will live on for generations. God promises us that this is so (see Exodus 20:6). I also agree with G.K. Chesterton, The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children. I am forever grateful for being a part of an ordinary family; in today’s world that is an extraordinary thing.

We are joyful you are Home and tearful that you are gone. I love you Paw Paw…see you when I get Home.

P.S. Everyone knows behind a great man is an excellent woman. No one who knows you doubts this. We will take good care of Grammie for you. She is a rare jewel.


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Letting Go of Easter Expectations

“There is no way that I can recreate my childhood’s Easter experiences for my children.”

I nodded in empathetic agreement as my friend uttered the words. The same sentiment had slipped past my lips just a day before. Frilly new Easter attire (in my case handmade), egg hunts with dozens of cousins, and our annual family Resurrection Day feast cannot be recreated hundreds of miles away from family; nor additionally in light of my friend’s and my husband being a pastor and Easter being a major work day.

Your husband may not be a pastor. In fact, you may be a single mom. Either way, if your family lives in a location away from extended family, maintaining Easter traditions in keeping with your nostalgic childhood experiences is most likely an unrealistic expectation.

That’s okay.

The key to celebrating Easter lies in celebrating the Risen Savior.

Both my friend, and my husband, verbalized the truth that, as Christians, we celebrate the resurrection every day. Whether or not my children have new Sunday morning outfits, boys and girls outside of siblings to dye and hunt eggs with, or Easter memories of running amongst their great grandmother’s blue hydrangea bushes, or pink and white dogwood trees, akin to my Easter memories, isn’t the eternal point. Celebrating Jesus and proclaiming the gospel message is the central truth of this annual rememberance.

Our children will have their own Easter memories and traditions; different though they may be from our own.

Sally and Sarah Clarkson’s book, The Lifegiving Home , has wonderful suggestions for cultivating family traditions in every month of the year. Our Easter traditions center around the taking of the Lord’s Supper with our church on the evening of Palm Sunday, the reading of familiar collections of the Easter account (see Five Easter Books for Your Preschooler and Read Aloud Revival’s April Booklist) peppered each year with a few new favorites, dying eggs, and simple seasonal decorations. As I was writing this post, my mother’s annual Easter package arrived. The joy on the children’s faces was evident as our oldest said, Nana sends the best packages. I hope when I am a grandmother I will send such wonderful packages too.

Easter provides an opportunity to outwardly and evangelistically celebrate the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ.

Easter is a time to seek opportunities to share the truth of who Jesus Christ is with non-believers, in addition to solidifying the gospel message in our children’s hearts (prayerfully) and minds. More people attend church on Christmas and Easter than any other time of the year. Letting go of the expectations to recreate our childhood celebrations and choosing to embrace the opportunity to share teachings of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection is the eternal point of Easter. It is a Mary moment for this Martha-like woman to acknowledge these things.

Christ is risen; He is risen indeed!


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Surprised by Five Years

For those of you who are frequent readers of this blog, you’ve probably noticed it has been a few months since I posted. In fact, it was Christmas since I’ve last written. No, I didn’t make it a New Year’s Resolution to stop blogging, although it may certainly seem like that. With the addition of our fourth child I have been back to newborn mode, and, quite honestly, we have been searching for our footing as a family of six.

It isn’t that I haven’t thought about blogging and even started some posts in my head. It’s just that the free time I managed to find was spent soaking in, rather than pouring out content. We parents spend all day every day pouring out don’t we? Especially parents of very small, dependent, wonderful children.

In  confession…

I have contemplated hanging up my writing hat for a while, venturing off on a new mode of communication (does anyone else love podcasts?), or, simply sticking with what works for the present. This afternoon, I was attempting to update a few things on the blog. In so doing, I came to the realization that This Temporary Home turned five in January! I knew I had faithfully typed away in this corner of the internet for some time, but I had no idea it was a celebratory anniversary year! For this homeschooling mama it is the equivalent of approaching either kindergarten or fifth grade graduation. Of course it’s homeschool, so no graduation ceremony, but at least I should take us all out to dinner and bake our favorite desserts, right? Or, maybe I’ll lower expectations and simply write a thank you note as we enter our sixth year.

With that said…

Thank you for subscribing, sharing, pinning, posting, liking, and reading five years of posts. I pray we have grown together. I pray something here has lifted your gaze to Jesus and to heaven–our eternal home. Additionally, I pray we have some roads left to travel together.

Following five months of being a family of six, I am beginning to come back around as an individual. There are a few days when the creative, contemplative juices are flowing enough to once again put fingers to keys and articulate what I am learning and viewing in the world around me. Will you come back and visit This Temporary Home soon? I hope you do!

Until then, home is a place called heaven,


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Bringing Christmas Home: 15 of Our Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Memories shared around favored Christmas books is one of our most beloved ways to celebrate the season. There are many things to see and do at Christmastime that involve activities outside the home, but books can take you back in time or to another location entirely. Or, perhaps, even allow you to walk in another man…or child’s… shoes. Be it the orphaned child, the homeless family, the shepherd boy, or an elderly woman seeking to catch a glimpse of Christmas magic, you and your family can enter their world and learn empathy and lessons to guide your own steps. Check a few of these out at your local library, favorite thrifted bookstore, or purchase them online and give them a try.

Her spirits, which had been high, fell a little as a sense of time touched her. How slowly it crawled and yet how fast it flew. She had been young and now she was old and the years between had vanished as though they had never been. ~Elizabeth Goudge, I Saw Three Ships

Merry Reading,

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Bringing Christmas Home

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It is all too easy for us to address Christmas as merely a bustle of ribbons and bows, wrapping paper and hot cocoa. However, each of us know that the memories that flood our minds of Christmas’ past encompass much more than that. Holiday movies, family traditions, familiar books, and everyday conversations around twinkling lights are the Christmas gifts we carry with us our lives long.

Our family has developed many traditions starting with our annual visit to Neely Christmas Tree Farm, followed by stringing lights with Dad outside as later mom decorates the tree into the wee hours of the night. Then there is the evenings shared in advent stories and lighting of candles. This year we have an actual advent wreath with candles; last year we merely pretended! A trip to Experience Bethlehem at a local church and a stroll amidst the lights at the botanical gardens are a few traditions that round out our list. These are just a few markings of the season for our family.

We bring Christmas home in the traditions we share and in the sharing of our material and spiritual blessings with others. Providing a shoebox to a child around the world, giving to support a missionary or a local child in need. Praying over the immense needs of people we know and those we read about…our own.

Perhaps my favorite way to bring Christmas home is in the sharing of story. Sitting around the Christmas tree, sipping on cider or cuddled in a cozy blanket, while we share in several familiar and a few new seasonal stories brings me tidings of true comfort and joy.

In all the ways that we celebrate Christmas, there are some central truths to our celebrations. The why behind the what that encompasses our season…

We bring Christmas home, because Christ left His home to dwell with mankind.

We each bring Christmas home, because the King of Kings humbled Himself, born as a babe in the lowliest of places, thereby identifying with the poorest among us both in spirit, body, and in means.

We bring Christmas home, because the Gift birthed for all mankind took on flesh and dwelt among us and we have seen His glory the glory of the Father’s one and only Son. (John 1:14)

We bring Christmas home, because we need to ponder all His ways and workings much like Mary pondered the events of His birth.

We bring Christmas home, because we are not home yet, and we await His coming again. The glorious arrival of heaven on earth for all of eternity.

We bring Christmas home, because we have all like sheep gone astray and God laid on Him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)

We bring Christmas home, because any given Christmas we are either the shepherds or the wise men: we must follow the evidence of promises yet unseen.

In all the ways we bring Christmas home, they serve a purpose to remind us that the bustle of the season isn’t the business of the season. The Christ-child is the business of the season, and the blessing as well. We celebrate Christmas because Jesus brought Christmas home to us. He is the gift.

Even if your Christmas isn’t swaddled in tradition or swaths of red and green this year, may you bring Christmas home to your heart this season and always.

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12 Picture Books to Celebrate Your Adopted Child

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As we near the close of National Adoption Awareness Month, I would like to share one more book list. (Be sure and see this one I shared earlier in the month.) These books focus on your adopted child. To preface this list, no one book is going to tell your child’s story. For your child’s story is unique to them. The Bible will tell them the story God wants to write for them, and it will help your child deal with any troubling family histories–have you checked out Jesus’ genealogy lately? However, these picture books are tools and stepping stones to continuing the conversations that you have ongoing in your home. They can be, in the words of Linda Sue Park, mirrors and doors. Your child may see himself or herself reflected in these stories, or they may come to realize that there are children all over the world who are longing for a home. My three favorite are listed first.











As always, please share any other recommendations. I would love to gather picture books with adoption stories from Africa.

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The False Summits of Adoption

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In hiking, a false summit is the portion of the mountain that appears to be the highest point; however, upon reaching it, a mountaineer sees that the summit is higher. Unless prepared for such false summits, the effect on a hiker’s psychological state can be damaging.  So much so, that the she may give up and begin a disappointing descent.

In the summer of 2015, our then family of four hiked the majestic Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs Colorado. It was the most difficult hike to date that we have hiked as a family, and it has proven to provide so many parallels to obstacles we have faced in our adoption journey. The two-thousand feet gain in elevation over a mile at the front end of the hike was almost paralyzing to my psyche. I wasn’t sure we could complete this hike with success, but we ventured forth anyway. The people along the journey were so encouraging. They couldn’t believe that our five and seven year old children were attempting such a hike.

The real kicker came as we were approaching what seemed the top of the incline. Another hiker told us, its a false summit. The top is still a ways up. What? There was more? We had already had to make accommodations for one child to poop while on the trail (that was a first and only so far!) and our other child started off battling a bit of an asthmatic episode and had to be carried for part of the initial portion of the hike. A false summit! Okay, time for a snack and to regroup and prepare ourselves for the remainder of the journey to the summit.

In order to complete this hike we were on all fours, lifting children, encouraging children, and taking multiple breaks. The good news is… we made it! The victory welcome at the top from the other hikers is something our children will never forget; and I am almost positive, some of our fellow hikers will not forget either. In particular one man named Don.

Our adoption journey which we had temporarily laid down for nearly two years was reinitiated after we returned from that family vacation. That summer multiple videos were released which exposed Planned Parenthood for selling the body parts of aborted babies and killing them in such a way as to gain the most profit from their organs. These videos were the tipping point for us to take another step towards adoption. We had fostered for 13 months in the hopes that we would foster to adopt. However, our hearts were so wounded  and raw after the reunification of our foster son, that we knew a time of refreshing and regrouping as a family was necessary. As we all know, the Lord will not let us rest forever. That summer He was calling us back to the work of adoption and orphan care.

In July of 2015 we decided not to recertify as foster parents but to ask that we go straight into the adoption process. In short, much misinformation was communicated to us which has further complicated our adoption journey there on out. However, in September of 2015, through the fostering of a baby by friends of ours, we met a beautiful blonde-headed, blue-eyed boy that we are now in the final stages of adopting. For ten months we daily made multiple phone calls, sent numerous emails, and advocated on behalf of the best interest of this child before he was placed in our home as a pre-adoptive placement in July of 2016.

You may rush by that last sentence; but for us, the living out of those ten months was long and arduous.

With high hopes that the adoption would be finalized in October of this year (2016), we awaited the go ahead from the attorney to schedule the court date. We inched closer to the anticipated court date only to discover that our son was not yet free and clear for adoption, but that a paperwork error had occurred and we were essentially back to a holding period.

Was this a false summit, or merely a strenuous portion of our hike?

With that knowledge in mind, I boarded a plane in late September and went hiking for two days in breathtaking Washington State with a dear friend. No false summits in sight on our hikes, and so far, none our adoption journey.

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Until…

Two days after my return home, we were told that our adoptive son’s mother was pregnant and would give birth to his sibling within a month.

False summit identified.

Stunned, is probably a good word for our reaction to this news. Overjoyed, is the word for our children’s response! Little had we known that Emily, our oldest daughter had been fervently praying for a baby sister. Now, she saw that her dream was within reach.

So today, we find our family expanding–at least at present, and Lord willing forever- to a family of six. Emily was right, the baby is a girl. So as we ascend this (what we perceive to be) the final portion of the adoption summit, let our story be one that encourages and informs you. Few adoptions are expedient, and none are without loss and pain. False summits happen all the time in hiking and perhaps with more frequency in life.

We are looking forward to that mountain-top view. The summit shall surely be worth it. We anticipate sharing in the joy and telling the God moments. To God be the glory!

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Using Books to Cultivate a Heart for Orphans and Adoption

My passion for adoption started growing long before my adult years. It came as a result of the planting of the Holy Spirit, and it also came in the form of story. Books cultivate life experiences in a safe environment and develop compassion and sympathy, passion and purpose, in children prior to their ability to act on those feelings.

As we enter into the cooler, cozier days of November, it is a perfect time to introduce, or perhaps continue the narration of, stories to our children which cultivate a heart for orphans and adoption. There is a lengthy list at Good Reads and here are a few of my favorites to get you started. I tend to recommend these as read aloud books to be shared with the whole family in order to encourage dialogue. Not all of these books are serious, but they all prompt us to think about orphans and begin cultivating a heart for orphan care and adoption in our homes. As with all books we share with our children, please be sure and preview the content to make sure it is age appropriate and sensitive to the specific environment of your child’s history and emotional maturity.

Don’t have children of your own? That’s okay too! As C.S. Lewis stated, A children’s story that can only be enjoyed by children is not a good children’s story in the slightest.

Read Alouds for K4-3rd grade or older:


Read Aloud Books for 3rd and Up:

 

 

Older students (young adult):

 

One more that is on my to-be-read pile and was recently highlighted in this week’s episode of the Read Aloud Revival Podcast is:

Which books have you used to bring awareness of orphan care and adoption into your life and home? What books would you add to this list? I have always gravitated to books about orphans and in the coming weeks will unfold as much as I am presently allowed about our current adoption journey. Stay tuned!

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