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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Of Mountain Grandeur Achieved with the Feet and in Faith

Mountain Grandeur

I grew up in a small Baptist church where hymn books were opened every Sunday morning and evening. When we were first dating, my husband often joked with me saying I knew every hymn by heart. Well, I may know the first and fourth stanzas, but the second and third ones are a little more of a reach.

Last year we went home to Alabama and attended my sister’s church. During the singing of one particular hymn, the second verse caught me by most pleasant surprise. The second verse to How Great Thou Art is probably one of the most skipped verses in all my hymn-singing upbringing.

When through the woods and forest glades I wander

And hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees,

When I look down from lofty mountain grandeur,

And hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to thee:

How great thou art! How great thou art!

~How Great Thou Art, by Carl C. Boberg adapted by Stuart K. Hine

My soul feels most at peace when I am in awe of God’s creation.

I have sat at the base of a waterfall and heard the mighty rushing waters never ceasing. I’ve hiked in some of the most beautiful rock formations in America. I have paddled a kayak in the waters of the gulf and sat in observation of countless sunsets. In each of these settings the thoughts that are provoked are ones of worship of the Lord.

Ron Havasu Falls

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Family Hike

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Ukraine Pictures (64)

The last pictured mountain is part of the Carpathian Mountain Range in Ukraine; the same mountains that the writer Carl C. Boberg crossed while penning this famous hymn. Ron and I traveled there in 2006.

Today, as I think on this song and contemplate its meaning, I am reminded that not every day is a beautiful hike through the woods, a moment at the base of a waterfall, or a well worn, familiar path. Additionally, not ever journey is one we take with our feet; often our most perilous and life changing journeys are of the heart. 

In all surroundings, and all life’s seasons of wonder, wandering, and waiting, we have choices to make. On what will we focus? Will we choose contentment? Will we choose to approach the Father with gratitude, or grumbling? Will we look at things as they are and see the good, or will we look at situations as we want them to be and see only what is missing?

When considering my hiking memories, by far the fondest memories for me are those in which my inner worship matched the outer grandeur. I revel in the ones in which my thoughts were pure, prayer was on my spirit’s lips, my worship was vibrant, I was enjoying my companions or my solitude, and my thoughts were set on things above.

Certainly, my more favorable memories were when I was acting in the will of God. Faithfully trusting in His timing and abiding in His will. This is true on scaling the mountaintops, in the day in and day out of life’s demands, and  days spent in anticipation of dreams yet unrealized.

The difference in our singing lies with the heart and mind with which we approach the song. And so too how we live our lives: the difference lies with the heart and mind with which we approach all situations.

For myself, in the words of Robert Frost, I have “miles to go before I sleep.” A right attitude concerning patience in the face of uncertainty and long journeys of the heart presents a constant battle for me.

Today, if the battle for you seems like an insurmountable mountain vista, remember, every moutain has a peak and “that which is above knows that which is below, but that which is below does not know that which is above.” Keep climbing and worship with every step. And upon the descent remember this:

You cannot stay on the summit forever; you have to come down again. So why bother in the first place? Just this: What is above knows what is below, but what is below does not know what is above. One climbs, one sees. One descends, one sees no longer, but one has seen. There is an art of conducting oneself in the lower regions by the memory of what one saw higher up. When one can no longer see, one can at least still know.~ Rene Daumal

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Making People a Part of Your Journey

Life Lessons on Manitou

A month ago, our family attempted our toughest hike to date. The famous Manitou Incline in Manitou Springs, Colorado.The Manitou Incline is a converted rail-car track. It is an intense one mile ascent with a 2,000 foot elevation gain. Not for the faint of heart or those lacking determination!

Our family was excited and as ready as Floridians could be for this hike. One portion of the experience that I had not factored in were the people we would meet along the journey. We thought we would arrive early enough that very few people would even be on the trail. That was an inaccurate assumption! The trail was full even at 6:00 AM on a Saturday.

There were military service men and women hiking for conditioning, a local set of twin brothers and their younger brother who hike the trail everyday and twice on Saturday, and a woman with a prosthetic leg, along with a host of out-of-towners and tourists just like us.

One man in particular made our acquaintance and a lasting impression as well. His name was Don. Don is a father of three grown boys and a first timer at hiking Manitou. He stopped periodically to ask us questions about our kids and comment on what a great job we were doing as parents for having our kids attempt something so difficult at such an early age. (We may have been crazy, but we accepted commendable too.) He encouraged us and visited with us when he could have carried on and continued with little thought of the family of four attempting the same journey he was on.

But he didn’t.

Don made people a part of his journey, and we benefited from his encouragement and company.

As we neared the summit of Manitou, there was Don waiting on our family and cheering us on to the finish. He waited to take our picture and celebrate with us. He took the time to text the pictures to my husband and give him some pointers for navigating the four mile descent down Barr Trail. Don wasn’t obligated to go the second mile, but the second mile is why he is more memorable than many other people we hiked the Incline with that day.

As we bustle about our everyday jobs and activities, let’s strive to make the second, memorable mile for someone who is walking the same direction we are. Who knows, maybe in taking time to encourage and celebrate another person’s journey will forever change our own.

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*Photo courtesy of our friend, Don.

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Five Things to Do on Your Denver Vacation…With Children!

Colorado…truly a land of beauty. The 38th state in the Union, it is rich in culture and heritage, and is a wonderful vacation destination year round. From the beautiful, well-branded state flag, to the friendly people and inspiring scenery, Colorado is a gem to visit or to call home. Below is a list of five must see vacation stops in Denver. Our children are 5 and 7 and enjoyed each of these venues right by our side. We do recommend drinking lots of water throughout your stay as the higher elevation can lead to elevation sickness. Additionally, you may want to take a day to get acclimated to the elevation. Being from Florida, elevation sickness was certainly on the forefront of our minds.

1.  Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater is a beautiful destination to simply drive and get out at lookout points, or to hike through. Our family hiked the Trading Post Loop. The loop  is a 1.4-1.7 mile hike. However, the path is not clearly marked and we additionally hiked up the amphitheater so by the end of the hike it was closer to 3 miles. As with all hikes, take plenty of water and snacks. With small children snacks are a huge motivator. While we serve them snacks throughout the hike, we usually save a special cookie, like Oreo’s, for the end of the hike as a prize to work toward. Be sure and arrive early! We arrived around 7:30 AM and basically had the park to ourselves. By the end of our hike and a visit to the Trading Post, we had people waiting in line for our parking spot and a very busy park.

After your early morning hike, you will be very hungry. We suggest driving a little further into Morrison and grabbing a delicious Mexican dish at El Tapatio restaurant. We recommend the fish and steak tacos.

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2.  Dinosaur Ridge Bus Tour

Dinosaur Ridge is a free walking trail or a paid bus tour for $6 per person ages four and up. This great geological point of interest is presented from an evolutionary worldview. However, the incredible fossils and footprints are worth the tour. Additionally, as a Christian and a person holding to a biblical worldview, I wanted my kids and myself to hear this presentation so that we can ask better questions. Further, that we would be reminded the evidence is the same, but the interpretation is different. Our tour-guide, Dan was very friendly, funny, and informative. I talked with him afterwards about my belief in the world-wide flood of Noah’s time and the evidence for it. He was open to the discussion even while holding to his own beliefs.

Don’t forget to visit Triceratops Trail in Golden Colorado as well. We missed this and missed out on Triceratops footprints alongside plant and bug fossils. (An excuse for my family to make this trip to Denver again!)

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Our son touching a crocodile footprint found alongside dinosaur footprints at Dinosaur Ridge.

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A Brontosaur “bulge” at Dinosaur Ridge. This footprint is is missing the toe impressions, but follows in a sequence of other similar impressions of smaller dinosaurs. This is the first I have learned of such fossilized “bulges” and I can’t wait to research this some more.

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Our tour-guide, Dan, sitting next to Iguanodon (see here and here) footprints which your children can see and touch at Dinosaur Ridge!

3.  Buffalo Bill Trail and Museum  and the Lookout Mountain Nature Center

The most beautiful,family friendly hike we took in Denver was the Lookout Mountain and Buffalo Bill Trail. This trail runs one mile from Buffalo Bill’s Museum and burial place to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center providing a friendly two mile round-trip hike. We started our hike around 7:30 long before either the museum or center was opened. However, there are many beautiful photo, rock climbing, and nature observing venues along this trail that will keep you occupied between visits to the sites and before they open.  Be sure and check out the great nature materials and postcards for purchase at the Nature Center as well as live teaching and exploration classes. While we were there, Bob the Bull Snake was on display for kids to touch and learn about as they visited the center.

After our hike, we enjoyed a bison burger and brat at the Pahaska Tepee before visiting the Buffalo Bill Museum. The cost is $5 per adult and $1 per child ages 6-15.

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4.  Tattered Cover Book Store

In the center of downtown Denver, lies this beautiful niche for book lovers. Enjoy a cup of coffee and a pastry as you and your family peruse the great selection of books. The kids had a great time in the large children’s section. This is a chain bookstore, however, this particular store is larger than the others that we saw at Union Station and the Denver International Airport. A nice stop on a rainy day or an evening in downtown.

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5. Union Station and The Kitchen Next Door

After our visit to the Tattered Cover Book Store, we walked down the block to the newly renovated Union Station. This is a beautiful station in the heart of Denver that will transport you by train wherever you want to go. We didn’t board a train, but the inside sights and the outdoor fountains were beautiful to behold.

After viewing the station, we dined at one of the many restaurants located within. The Kitchen Next Door was a delicious dining experience and the outdoor seating provided a great view of the city and sunset. The kids recommend the Greek salad.

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We were in Denver enjoying these activities for three days (two days for travel). The other three days of our vacation we were in Manitou Springs just outside of Colorado Springs. Join me next Friday as we explore Five Things To Do on Your Manitou Springs Vacation…With Children!

Thanks for reading!

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