Christmas Greetings

by Kristi Van Dyk


We'll be honest. We are on a budget this year. While we sent out some Christmas cards, we didn't send them nearly as widely sweeping as we should have. So, if we missed you, we are truly sorry. We also realize that we have a following that extends beyond those whose addresses we have in our contacts. For those of you who follow us on social media, we thought we'd include a digital Christmas card as well ... 

Dearest friends and family,

We aren’t usually the Christmas letter-type. Typically, we rely on our frequent Facebook and blog posts to keep everyone informed. But, this year is different. This year we’ve relied heavily on our family and friends to help walk us through a massive faith journey. Having done so, we felt compelled to share what God has taught us through this experience, and doing so, through a paper copy as well as digital, seemed most appropriate.

Our year began with a deep calling (1) from God to expand our family. He even gave us the privilege of seeing a photo of our sweet son before we knew he was ours. Yang Jin Hua appeared on my Facebook newsfeed (I know, right?) through a friend’s post. And since then, Hua has captured our hearts. God has blessed our path by providing, miraculously, at every turn (2).While we don’t exactly know how the final chapters in this story will unfold, we do know that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

Right now, we are awaiting our LOA (letter of approval) from China. The compilation of dossier documents have been in translation for almost 2 weeks. We are told it could be 45-60 days before we hear from China. We are also in the final stages of resource gathering for our travel. We know God will provide, and we can’t wait to see the miraculous ways He does so … as it seems impossible right now.

Our three children living stateside are very excited about the coming home of their new little brother; they are also a little apprehensive about the changes and challenges it will bring. But, we are using this time of waiting and longing to pray, to seek God’s face, and to learn to trust Him for provision in wisdom, patience and grace as well.

In addition to our adoption journey, this year has provided some other really incredible milestones. Here are the Van Dyk Top 10 from ‘16-17 (accompanying photos found on our blog here (3):

  1. Rang in the New Year with our “tribe” for the 14th year in a row

  2. Took a Spring Break, just the 5 of us to Chicago for the weekend and walked several miles through a blizzard

  3. Watched our firstborn stand up and declare her faith in Jesus and be baptized

  4. Enjoyed a gymnastics showcase and a ballet recital on Ben’s birthday weekend (always coincides, every.single.year)

  5. Mom and Dad took a short vacation alone for the first time since the kids were born (it was Dad’s work trip and Mom tagged along)

  6. Spent an amazing summer at Maranatha Bible and Missionary Conference (the kids lived there at least 5 days a week)

  7. Began 2nd grade, 1st grade and “double” preschool at Zeeland Christian School in Mandarin Chinese Immersion

  8. Kayleigh was admitted to Turning Pointe School of Dance’s Training Division, level IA.

  9. Benjamin joined the swim team with Zeeland Age Group Swimming in the 8 and under division

  10. Madeleine is loving her gymnastics class through Champion Gymnastics in the Busy Bees class.

We hope that next year we can update you on life with 4 kids, 2 crazy parents, and (probably) a still way too aggressive kitty.

For regular updates on our adoption journey - including travel photos, videos and Joshua’s homecoming - feel free to sign up to receive our updates in the form below.

Much love and many prayers to you and yours,

Steve, Kristi, Kayleigh, Benjamin, Madeleine and Joshua Van Dyk

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We Do Hard Things

by Kristi Van Dyk


Our Maddie is quite expressive - very feisty - and has "personality in spades." But, like her daddy, she is very choosy about who gets to see this side of her. Her church teachers, her treasured pastor and a few close friends are among the lucky few who get to see what kind of pizazz this creature possesses. It was this insight, I'm sure, that prompted the team to ask Maddie to take a "solo" in the pre-K section of the church lip dub. Maddie was VERY excited about this opportunity. She learned her song in less than a week, she had great style and charisma when we practiced it at home. When it came to the evening of the filming, she practiced with exuberance and lots of energy. She didn't mind repeating and reviewing it, rehearsing it and practicing. Despite her natural tendency to be guarded, she was not deterred by the big camera, or bright lights. She wasn't embarrassed by the 30-40 people watching her. She stepped in and sang her little heart out. She did the acting and all ... 

But, in the end, she wasn't spot on with her entrance. She hesitated a few seconds too long.  

Her sister replaced her and took over the part. 

Maddie was disappointed. She had worked hard, she had tried, and she had missed the mark. 

Since the filming still had to happen, she watched her big sister seal the deal. She participated along the sidelines. She didn't complain, (except about the noisy jingle bells) she continued to persist in what she was asked to do. 

Her sweet teachers encouraged her. They built her up. They loved on her. (AND they still gave her the special gift card for coffee ... because they know her, and they understand her coffee obsession). 

As her Momma, my heart broke a little ... I felt for my baby who had tried so many hard things. She had conquered many of her fears, but she was left without the satisfaction of a job well done. I beat myself up thinking that we were wrong to have even let her try. I wondered if this missed opportunity would keep her from doing something courageous next time ... 

The next morning, when I was ready to process, I asked her if she was disappointed. "Yes, I thought I was doing it all the right way. I was sure I was going to nail it."

I told her it was just really difficult and a very hard thing to do and that she needn't feel bad. I told her how proud I was that she wasn't scared, that she showed her true self, that she was confident and courageous to do a very big thing. 

At this moment, against all odds, her eyes lit up! The joy filled them and her energy returned, "Momma, do you mean it?" 
"Do I mean what, Mads?"
"Do you mean I did a hard thing?" 
"Of course you did a hard thing, Maddie. This was a very hard thing for four years old."
"Well, its just that Kayleigh does hard things at church and gets to talk in front of all of the whole big chapel at school. Benj gets to do hard swim tests and swim in front of people at the pool. You and Dad are doing hard things for Joshua. Everyone in our house always does hard things. But tonight, you mean it? You mean I did a hard thing? Just like them?" 

After wiping away MY tears, I came downstairs and realized what a gem of an insight this was from my precious (getting far too smart for her own good) daughter. Despite her inability to realize "success," Maddie was satisfied that she had a chance to do something meaningful. She cared less about the end result and more about the opportunity to tackle something huge.  This is incredibly wise.  

If only I were more focused on the chances at hand, if I could relish the opportunity to be used by God to do big things ... and if I could train myself to worry less about the final result. If I worked more at defining success as boldly answering a challenge, at seeing each response as a chance to be used for His greater purpose. If I knew that I only need to strive for my best in seemingly impossible situations ... then I can experience a sense of joy and fulfillment amidst what appears to be a failure. 

I'm sure there will be moments where the outcome of this adoption journey (not just the adoption process but the hard things that will happen as we re-shape our family) feel ugly, cruel, and painful. We might not meet with anything resembling "success" for a long long long long time. But, if we focus on our family's ability to simply DO hard things, regardless of the outcome, we will find success. By living out God's call - His hard things for us - we can't fail.

I told Steve, I think Maddie found our family motto ... We do hard things
 

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With hearts of gratitude

by Kristi Van Dyk


For the past 6 months we have been using this blog as a vehicle to share our process, to remind our friends, family, and followers of what we stand in need of. God has used so many of you to encourage us - through gifts, through comments, through prayers. We wanted to take this time of Thanksgiving to pause and reflect on all of the beautiful ways we have been blessed along this journey. 

Each step we've taken forward has been supported wholeheartedly. Each dollar we contributed, that we didn't think we had, was provided in a way that astounds us. When we had other challenges that occupied our minds, and we were swallowed in grief, our burdens were spirited along by faithful friends in prayer, by loyal friends in meal provision, by words of affirmation from those closest to us. 

It's truly difficult to explain the transformation that has happened in our lives these last 6 months (and I'll probably say the same thing about the next year too!!!). We had a picture of what this journey would look like, this step of faith ... we had an inkling about how God MIGHT provide ... Not a single one of our ideas came to fruition ... I mean it, NOT EVEN ONE! But God's leading, God's prompting, God's movement ... those plans, those methods of provision, those came in with perfect timing. Every.single.time. 

As we reflected this Thanksgiving, we gave thanks for each and every one of our friends and followers.

  • We gave thanks for those friends, who, despite their own financial circumstances, donated to our cause. You have challenged us to new heights in our giving! 
  • We gave thanks for those people who we haven't seen in years who still felt called to mention that they are praying for us.
  • Steve and I are humbled each time we accept the pennies and nickels and dimes that children worked hard to earn. We melt, with thankful hearts, as their precious efforts clang into the change jar on the counter labeled for Hua. 
  • As we examine our own budget, look where we can sacrifice, cut out excess, downgrade a few brand name choices, we are reminded anew that each time we make this choice we should be thankful ... thankful to have a choice at all ... 

In this season of Thanksgiving, and in preparation for Advent, we overflow with gratitude for all of you. And we faithfully uphold all of you in prayer

  • Our list of financial partners has 35 names on it. 35 names!!! We pray for you, for your families, for your homes. We ask God to bless you immeasurably more than you could ever ask or imagine. And we thank you for helping us live out His call to the orphan.  
  • For those of you who follow and pray, and ask how we are doing, we don't know all of your names, but we pray for you and for your families as well. We thank God for your faithfulness in praying for our little family and especially for our son who waits, with us, across the world. 

As we anticipate the travel planning - that is coming soon - we encourage any interested friends to follow along on our blog. You can receive our updates directly to your inbox by signing up here. 

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Also, if anyone would appreciate the opportunity to purchase more of Ginny's artwork, our shop will remain open until November 30th (Happy Birthday, Steve!!!). Our adoption receives 50% of each purchase made through the store, so, we thank you so incredibly much for considering us during your gifting season. 

For custom creations and prints: http://store.kristivandyk.com
For the chance to design your own artwork contact Ginny directly at: http://desertsagescripts.com/shop/custom-order/

 


In case you missed it ...

by Kristi Van Dyk


Precious friends and followers, 

There is so much to say and so much to process after the beautiful auction we had Saturday evening. We had precious moments with dear friends. We felt a clear outpouring of love and support. We went home with full (albeit very tired) hearts. We thank each and every person, those who came from near and those who came from far, for supporting our endeavor. 

Several friends from afar have requested the chance to see and peruse or purchase art. We have several options for you as the days unfold. 

Right now, we have PRINTS - copies of original art - available for purchase. We've set up a quick little store here. If you missed a chance to purchase some of the beautiful art created by Melby Designs and would like to purchase prints, we have those available and ready to order. Quantities of each print are limited, so act fast! Originals will be posted soon - as well as information on custom orders. All purchases made between now and Thanksgiving.  Will offer a credit towards our adoption fund. 

We deeply appreciate Ginny and all of the work and time and love she's poured in to helping us in our venture. She is a precious and dear friend who takes delight in seeing God's plan unfolded in every life. 

 


Courage, dear heart

by Kristi Van Dyk


discouraged - to deprive of courage, hope, or confidence; dishearten; dispirit

This week we had a few events that have slowed down our process, they've made me feel discouraged. On top of that, grief still shrouds our home. We have moments of life and fun, but we still are surrounded by deep sadness. My personal quiet times are often vent sessions filled with questions or slews of accusations. Church isn't the well of Hope and Life that it typically is for me. Instead it's a place where I directly confront the questions I have and the hurt I feel. I don't sing like I used to.

So I find it incredibly ironic that my youngest has taken to singing, boldly, loudly and CONSTANTLY. If she's awake, there is a song on her beautiful little lips. It's as if she's saying, in the absence of your voice, Mom, I'll fill this void. This morning, as I sat in the pitch dark, by the fireplace, a coffee in my hands, I heard this song drift down the stairway, 

"All things bright and beautiful You are
All things wise and wonderful You are
In my darkest night You brighten up the skies
A song will rise

I will sing a song of hope, sing along
God of heaven come down, heaven come down
Just to know that You are near is enough
God of heaven come down, heaven come down ..."

Over ... and over ... and over ... Just the first verse and chorus. That's all she chose to sing. 

Through the beautiful voice of my tiny daughter. It was as though the Spirit whispered, to me ... Courage, dear heart. Courage ... 

So, its no additional coincidence that this beautiful image came today, a preview from our precious auction artist ... around dinner (just as my discouragement was taking root for the evening).

A little reminder of that quiet voice in the dark ... 

A song will rise


A Brother for Benjamin: Part 2

by Kristi Van Dyk


First and foremost this post is written by Steve which will explain the sudden change in voice, sentence structure, and content. tl;dr donate here.

Secondly, everything at this point seems to be going well. In April we trusted that God would provide for us and thus far He has. That isn't to say it hasn't been without a struggle or two, but each time we throw our hands up and scream "WHY!!!!!" we're usually met with a quiet and subtle response. That is to say our yelling is not a cause and affect. It is more of God saying to us "... and you thought I forgot". At which point we shake our heads and are reaffirmed in our decision to pursue this adoption.

Now the reason I'm really writing this post. We did some early research and did not find any great ways to accept donations that were also tax deductible. As much as we wanted to the few we found required too high a percentage of the donation, or required that we completed our home study. Now that the home study is done we did some more homework and came across a new site called Pure Charity. Pure Charity will accept your tax deductible donation and ear mark it for our fundraiser in such a way that the alphabet soup of government agencies won't come knocking on your door. (Aside: The IRS will MAIL a letter in the mailbox. They do not call, they do not email. Do not respond to the IRS unless they send you paper. If you respond to email or phone you will be a victim of scam/fraud/etc. and that will be sad. Don't be sad)

At this point the YouCaring site is still active, but we will work to remove that from service as to not thoroughly confuse people. I do want to stress a sincere thanks to those of you who have shown your belief in us through words, kindness, and donations. I do apologize that this option was not available sooner in the process. The new site is available here and we would love your help in spreading the word.

Thanks again for all your support, prayers, and conviction that through God's work we can bless this little boy we call Joshua.

Steve & Kristi

p.s. My wife just said if we are able to complete this task by March 1st, it will be "faster than a pregnancy" I'm not sure why I'm sharing that, I just find that amusing. I warned you about content at the beginning... 


an upsurge of fear

by Kristi Van Dyk


... thats how Pastor Gray explained the general feelings when people of faith embark upon a journey embedded with risk. When they accept the bold leap that is the transition from something known to something unknown. I will admit ... I've been dwelling in the upsurge of fear lately. These past three months have not been easy at the Van Dyk home. Our paradigm shifted at school in a drastic way, we said goodbye to a dear dear friend and "uncle," and we are forging ahead towards the final stages of fund gathering for a journey across the world. I think its only natural that through all of this we would feel the desire to "turn back." 

As I struggled with doubts and fears, with deep longings to return to a life less risky, my wise spouse challenged me to sink back in ... listen in on the words, messages and challenges that inspired us to begin this journey. 

I could not have imagined how these familiar words would fall so fresh ... How my perspective of my desert contrasting the lush oasis would be modified or changed as the result of time and experiences. But nevertheless, I found the message incredibly helpful in this season of growing. If you have 45 minutes, play it in the background while you work, or sit with it before binging on Netflix tonight. For many of you, walking next to us, in your own seasons of unknown, I hope you'll find in it a word of hope from the Lord. 

It's well worth the full 45 minutes. 

"God is always more interested in the journey than the destination, because it's in the journey where we're formed."


All I have needed ...

by Kristi Van Dyk


"Exciting things happening on this messy desk of mine! I'm honored that @kjv2012 has asked me to the be featured artist at their silent auction to bring in funds for the adoption of little Joshua. The Lord has woven our stories together (commonalities: broken people who God chooses to use) and I'm humbled that God wants to use my artwork in big ways for His glory." ~ Ginny Melby (@desert.sage)

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Even in our failures ...

by Kristi Van Dyk


I have been dragging my feet to write this post. Mostly because its so incredibly humbling. My selfish, prideful, SINFUL nature simply doesn't want "my world" to know that I made a major blunder (like major). However, the longer I drag my feet the more I realize that I have to share this - I owe it to our Joshua story to own God's power amidst my shortcomings. 

The fateful morning began as I sat down to the book of Acts.  That very morning I read a story I had never heard in Sunday school. Paul was teaching in a house church and the text says (Acts 20), "Seated in a window was a young man name Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. (So it happened then too, eh?) When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead."  The story goes on to describe that through the power of the Holy Spirit, working in Paul, Eutychus was raised to life and the people praised God for a miracle. 

I chuckled to myself as I read that passage. It takes NOTHING away from the power of God, but the dude was sitting in a 3rd story window and fell asleep! Serious lapse in judgement there!!!  ...  I guess it was Eutychus's "lucky day" that Paul was nearby and able to raise him from the dead ...  I left my quiet time feeling pity for the guy who became a Bible story by falling asleep ... 

Little did I know this was foreshadowing as to how my day would unfold. 

Late last week I had put together all of our precious, precious gold sealed documents (10 of them in all). Followed every letter of the instructions online and paid the fees in a cashier's check (something I'd never gotten before). Then I mailed the documents off to the consulate. (I know, my adoptive mom readers have already realized my fall from the window, but I am still dozing peacefully). I felt great because we were keeping on top of things, our house was devoid of anything left "to do" other than read more books and write our book reports ...

oh and plan this incredible event that is coming up!!! EEEK

I was elated. 

Cue up Tuesday, it's around 1:30, and I receive an unknown call on my personal cell at work. I ignore it and continue working on a video I was editing. Unlike most unknown callers, they left a voicemail. I immediately listened, "Good afternoon. My name is Denise Hope of 'There's always hope.' The Chinese consulate in Chicago notified me because they have your paperwork. You can't submit without a courier. If you want me to have them mail your paperwork back to you, without the signatures, I can gladly do that, OR I can take your papers and help you out. Let me know!" 

Again, I'm still falling out of the window about to hit ground and don't quite realize the miracle that has just happened. I call my agency (just to verify this isn't some scam). They verified that sure enough I needed a courier. One doesn't simply mail papers to the consulate ... (SLAM I hit the ground. MASSIVE failure ...). Our agency also notified me that THIS particular courier, who had called me, was indeed the best there was. She had the power to resurrect this costly mistake. In short, this was my "lucky day."

I instantly called the courier back - apologized for my ignorance, listened patiently as she told me how to correct things (And not just correct them improve them!!!). In end, we were able to save money from the way I had been planning to certify (even with the courier fees) and more importantly, we saved time too. At the conclusion of our conversation Denise said, "Hey, no worries. Everyone can use a lucky day. Today was yours." 

A lucky day ... more like a miracle to correct a thoughtless mistake ... 

Work graciously allowed me to leave (LOVE MY WORK FAMILY) to correct the situation and sort it all out ... and I, now that its Friday, have finally stopped shaking from the emotion and stress of it all. I can process what happened concretely. 

Well meaning people who don't follow protocol during this adoption process typically experience extra delays, more costs. If you miss a detail you experience a set back. As God protected us through this process we experienced a speed up in the paperwork, a decrease in costs and yet another chance to feel that God is directing this all.

I blew it. 
God redeemed it. 
And in so doing He put HIS seal on that envelope, and on our process, again. 


Goliath wasn't so big after all

by Kristi Van Dyk


It's September. We've started the migration towards fall routines. The evenings are deliciously cool - and we've begun to sleep with windows wide open to enjoy the night air. 

September also brings this incredible nostalgia for my kids. Each time we get in the car its a contest to see who will ask to turn on 'the Maranatha songs' first. Lately, its been our Maddie Mae. She's lightning fast. Her seatbelt is barely fastened before we hear, "Can I be DJ? How about we start with the Doxology?" 

I love this season of our year because it means car rides are free from arguments and instead are punctuated by beautiful voices (however off key) in sincere worship. We belt out songs with all of our heart, and as we do, we remember the relationships we formed and the truths we learned. It gives this reflective Momma SO MUCH FOOD for conversation ... little nuggets of teachable GOLD while my tinies are captive and can't run away. :). I LIVE for these car rides. 

Recently, though, my mind was elsewhere, and my littles took up the family mantle ...
They brought me back to my knees with some truths that are far from child-like.

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"Mom, play Bible Story, please!!!!!" 

(inward groan as I begin to talk to Siri and pull up the song). This summer, the kids gravitated to this funky little techno tune. If you stick through the synthesized introduction long enough, you can catch some incredible truths. But since this song plays about 6-10 times a week in our car, I have had plenty of moments to reflect. Or so I thought ... 

I started the song and tuned out, but I couldn't resist a quick look back at Madeleine during a stoplight. She's absolutely DARLING on this song. I wasn't disappointed ... she was in full form at the chorus ... striking each little muscle pose and pinky promise followed by a jazzy little finger point ...

(now, back to driving focus ... with any luck I'll hit the next stoplight around Moses parting the sea)

Stand up, Stand up you don't have to be afraid
He will give you courage, He's given you the strength
Put your faith in God and I promise if you do, 
He will make a Bible Story out of YOU. 

I was broken from my contemplation by Tiny's voice, shouting over the music

"Momma! This is just like Joshua!" 
me: "yes (absentmindedly), Joshua is a Bible story"
"No, Mom, our Joshua. We're gonna be a Bible Story!!" 
(Kayleigh caught her drift before I did): "Maddie, you're right. Just like it says, 'All it takes is a little faith and a willing heart.' That's just like us. We aren't perfect, but we are jumping out in faith, and we believe God will take care of the rest. We really might be a Bible story!"

Cue the waterworks. 

Amazing truth in a children's song ... truth that I need to hear at this stage of the journey. 

Our red sea might be $20,000. 
Or Maybe our lion's den is an 1-800 returned in half of the expected time
Goliath, struck down by a slingshot, might actually be one less waiting child, one less orphaned son, one more toddler who learns to love in a family and live in a community.

Maybe ... just maybe we are a Bible story

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PS The girls recorded the song for you on video but it's such an assault to the ears that I just couldn't share it :) 

Maybe the youtube version will get your house jamming like it does mine :) 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zQaIGCZFDis


Paralyzing fear ... and the journey back again

by Kristi Van Dyk


This post has been sitting on my chest for a while now. I don't know that I could really put my finger on it - and thus came a long dry gap in our blog posting. We're working on paperwork and education - on doctor's visits and birth certificates, passports and financials. And it is SLOW ... But this passage of time hasn't been without deep emotion. 

Kayl, Benj and Mae have had the summer OF THEIR LIVES (I think every summer couldn't possibly get better and yet the next one always does), but it has been a journey. I didn't take stock to realize just how much our adoption process was changing the way we all approached life, until I heard the following phrases thrown around the trailer: 

  • What do you think Joshua will do at the Tab next summer? 
  • Mom, will Joshua like swimming? 
  • Mom, where will Joshua sleep? Can he sleep with me? He HAS to talk less than Mae. His file SAYS he's a good sleeper .. 
  • Mom, Josh will be in preschool when he comes. He can STILL HAVE Miss Julie and Miss Ally!!
  • "Jesus, please be with Joshua. He doesn't know that this place is the coolest place ever. Help him not to be scared when he first sees Maranatha (can be substituted by any number of nouns: the pool, the lake, the climbing wall, the Zipline, the classes, his teachers, the tab, etc)
  • And my personal tearjerker, "Jesus, watch over Joshua in his orphanage. I hope someone kisses him tonight; I pray someone hugged him today. Let him know we love him, Jesus. Amen."

And on and on and on it goes. Every day. 

Their voices stick with me ... resonate in my ears and in my heart ... Their commitment, their passion. Their love ... We love this little boy. We've pictured him in our lives and THAT .. THAT right there makes this process absolutely terrifying. We have something to lose ... As soon as I realized that, admitted that, this process became frightening ... Paralyzing in its weight ... 

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One day, after a hot walk in the nearby dunes, I sat at the base of the steps and listened to the group song being rehearsed in the tab by at least 100 children. 

"Oh the depths of the riches of the wisdom and the knowledge of God
how unsearchable his judgments; how untraceable his paths.
Who knows the mind of our God and who can bring counsel to him? 
Who has given to God that God should repay
For from Him and through Him and to Him is everything!
To God be the glory for ever and ever
To God be the glory for ever Amen." 

As the tears filled my eyes, I saw each baby in my minds eye ... Their years in Maranatha preschool ... Each of them sang that song ...  

I watched Kayleigh meticulously mouthing each word; each motion in perfect precision.
I saw Benjamin with his giant smile and wide eyes, singing with so much gusto that he was dripping with sweat, enjoying each note.
I saw Madeleine mouth wide open, doing maybe half of the motions (its really not her thing) but forcefully and powerfully committing to the ones she did ... 
And then I pictured Joshua ... His tiny little face and body (imagining how he'd grow in a year) learning that same song, having that same experience (side by side with his new big sister.. she'd proudly haul him up the tab steps by hand, knowing her, and coach him through each step) performing in whatever way might be his ... something we can yet discover ...  

In that instant, those words carried so much weight.
They spoke to the place of fear in my heart ... the place of doubt.  

From Him --- absolutely. This journey, this plan, all of it is FROM HIM
Through Him -- by His grace, each dime He has collected for us, each provision made, each "perfectly timed phone call" is through Him alone
To Him is everything .... For His glory ... For HIS fame ... So that we can continue to tell HIS story ... 

To God be the glory for ever and ever ... To GOD be the glory for ever and ever ...

... that doubt and fear, I'll be honest ... it didn't leave. It still plagues my human heart ... (what am I missing? not doing? skipping? going to mess up?)

But in that moment I drew new strength ... rekindled afresh ... God has this. Its HIS plan, not ours. It's HIS child, not mine. His steps ...

my trust, my reliance, my utter dependence ...

so that all of the glory, and all of the credit can rest squarely with the one to whom it belongs. 

For from Him, and through Him, and to Him is everything!
To God be the Glory for Ever and Ever
To God be the Glory for Ever Amen.

 


The in between times ...

by Kristi Van Dyk


As soon as I told my mom about our adoption journey - the challenge we were accepting from God - the leap of faith we were taking - as soon as those words came out of my mouth, she told to keep a journal. To write down each and every small blessing, small word of encouragement, small setback, or large pitfall. Mom encouraged me to date it all and to simply watch and wait and see ... 

I have taken that challenge seriously and kept a journal of this process. But, I admit, my journal has been pretty "dull" these last few weeks. 

  • I filled out more paperwork
  • I chased down more documents
  • I responded to this inconsistency ...
  • I waited some more ... 

Please don't hear this as a complaint. It's truly not. We are chasing down our Joshua with all of the energy we have (and neglecting some other important things in the process ... my floors, the girls bathroom, Kayleigh's bedroom ...) But nevertheless those journal entries don't flood a person with emotion, don't force the tears to well up in your eyes (well, unless you're sleep deprived and can't read properly, which may also be a factor). Day after day of apparent lack of progress can take its toll on the frail human spirit. 

I often find myself questioning God, doubting if we really made the right decisions (I KNOW, I'm incredible ... doubting EVEN AFTER the work and people He has brought into our journey thus  far. ...) In these moments I allow my feelings about the situation, my human interpretation of things, to mask the truth. 

The truth is that we are NOT abandoned. That in between mountains and valleys are long long stretches of dry flat plain. We still must walk the plains to come to the foot of a mountain or even to reach the cavern of a valley. A journey is made up of many different kinds of terrain, and we aren't called to talk about the journey only in seasons of intensity. We are called to chronicle the journey amidst the flat, uneventful periods too. 

As we travel this season where progress isn't as visible, I've been searching for an anchor point - a promise to cling to that motivates me to keep pushing forward. God gave us Oceans as a launching point and theme song to beginning (and to weathering the waves of adventure that characterized our launch into the process), but I think God gave our preschooler the anchor point for this phase of the journey. It's probably not a coincidence that it was a core song this week at church during the worship set. (UGH will I EVER come out of church again without mascara running down my face?? Waterproof or not, its not holding up!!!)

On Thursday of last week I had a particularly trying day at work, we had a small set back in dossier paperwork for Joshua, our eldest daughter was working on some emotional challenges, and Benjamin was distraught about the conclusion of Kindergarten. Our plate was full of moments to turn over to God and my heart must have been visible on my face. As I tucked in Madeleine she said, "Oh Mommy, I just know you need an extra hug today. I can see it." She encircled my neck with chubby little (although thinning in that way they do as baby fat melts away) arms, and I awaited the customary three prong kiss (one on each cheek and the top of the nose). Instead she nestled into the crook of my neck and softly sang (mid song at that), "Morning by morning new mercies. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness Lord unto me." 

I'm not claiming that my not quite 4 year old knew I needed that word from the Lord, but I am saying that God used my 4 year old's passion for singing hymns to remind me of deep truths. God's faithfulness doesn't promise to be there when we recognize it, when we "feel" it, when we are in an exciting adventure. God's faithfulness promises us new mercies every morningevery. single. morning. That's today. That's this morning. That's tomorrow morning. That's the morning when I realized I have to repeat a physical I had just 2 months ago due to timing. That's the morning I realized we never ordered ANY birth certificates for Benjamin (!!!) so we need to delay obtaining a passport until we have that ... It's this morning ... when I probably won't "go green" at work, when I definitely won't get to read my adoption book or watch our training film, when I will probably miss half a work out simply due to lack of energy, when I'll be late to something important for about the 1 billionth time this spring ... I still receive the new mercies from God, a fresh start ... as well as all I have needed. And that ...  THAT is enough to keep me plodding on, attempting in my human frailty to mimic HIS faithfulness. every. single. morning

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Name

Dear Joshua ...

by Kristi Van Dyk


I think about you all of the time.
I pray for you.
I pray that you are loved, cherished, well-cared for.
I pray that someone gives you hugs and kisses.
I pray that your friends treat you well.
I pray that someday, probably not right away, you'll come to know and love our family.
I pray that God gives you courage. 

I can't imagine the challenge we're asking you to consider. We're asking you to meet us, get to know us, and then leave - leave everything you've ever known, to spend hours on a plane to arrive in foreign country filled with so many unfamiliar things. I can't imagine the thoughts that will run through your head. I can't imagine what you'll think about us, about the hotels we will stay in, about the airplane you'll travel on.  (You will be the YOUNGEST Van Dyk (in our home) to have ever flown on a plane!!)

Today, especially, I'm thinking about some new friends you will meet. You see, Joshua, here, in the United States, your adoptive family is part of a tribe. It's a really big tribe. It's full of people who love each other; who sacrifice for each other, who work to demonstrate care and concern by serving each other in times of need. We do this because we desperately want to be like Jesus. (I hope I get to introduce you to Jesus sometime too! But for now, just know, He has taught us everything we need to know about what real love is!). 

I'm thinking about your tribe Joshua, the junior members of it ... There is a precious posse of them, sweet boy. They will probably be greeting us at the airport the moment you arrive here! The tribe won't sleep at our house, but they will visit, often. They are learning to love you, now, and making that known in the actions the take! 

These little tribe-lets are Conner and Elise (Eden probably didn't want a picture taken). They have collected quarters, talked about selling lemonade and baked you cookies today. (I wonder what you'll think about cookies, chock full of sugar and candy ... maybe you'll despise them and help Mommy refine her diet by refusing to eat them ...). These friends can't wait to ask you questions about your country, and they want to know so much about your part of the world. 

We are going to use the cookies out at our garage sale. So all day long when people ask us about the treats we can tell them about you. I simply can't wait. I love talking about you, Joshua. I love telling people about the journey that you are courageously making. I love telling people how I am inspired to be as brave as you will have to be ... 

So, tonight as you're heading to bed, I pray that God tells you, somewhere deep in your heart, that a tribe of people across a big ocean is thinking about you. We are praying for you. 

I'll eat a cookie for you (just one) ... and promise to have your tribe-lets bake a few more when you're home so you can try them. 

Hugs and kisses,
Mommy, Daddy, and your tribe (well, probably just hugs from the tribe ... we don't usually kiss)

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Name

What will you name your son?

by Kristi Van Dyk


Steve: 9:08pm - Kristi is ready to post and mistakingly allows me, Steve, to "editorialize" the post. For those of you playing the home game that means I'm going to take the serious and make it silly. 

Kristi: This afternoon, around 4:30 p.m., the boy (Benjamin, not the adoptee)  and I were calmly preparing smoothies for breakfast while the girls jumped on the trampoline. My phone buzzed, and I glanced quickly, barely caring what the message was, until I saw that it was from our caseworker at Madison. The subject line, in all capital letters read PRE-APPROVAL! I screamed.

Wasn't it just Monday evening that she told us this could take a few weeks? 

It's now Wednesday, scarcely two days later ...

Maybe this was bad news... 

I trembled as I unlocked the phone, with Benj staring at me, wide eyed. I scanned the email quickly and our caseworker's parting words swam into my vision ...

"What will you name your son?"  

Steve: I've occasionally thought to myself, "What if we auctioned naming rights to he boy?" but that sort of (ok totally) cheapens the whole endeavor. Chances are the winning bid would go to makeamericadrumpfagain.com or something equally ridiculous. 

Kristi I looked at my yogurt covered 6 year old in the face and said, "Benj, he's ours." Ben's big eyes grew to saucers. He JUMPED down from the barstools, raced outside and screamed, "Girls, Girls, WE GOT HIM!!" I heard their screams from the kitchen, amidst my happy tears. 

"What will you name your son?"

We already had. We had named him in faith. We have been actively calling him Joshua.

Joshua Timothy Van Dyk. 

Steve: Hopefully he doesn't mind not being called Judd...

Kristi: Joshua. Our son's given Chinese name incorporates "Hua" and that is what he has been called since birth. We wanted, if at all possible, to honor that. Kayleigh suggested the English name Joshua. And since each of our precious treasures has a name of significance (thanks for burning that into me, Mr. Cochrane of 10A), I consulted the meaning of the name Joshua.

"Jehovah is generous. Jehovah saves."

This journey has been about God's generosity; His willingness to give to us over and above what we require. We are aware that it is God's love that saved all of us, and we trust our son will believe that too someday.

Joshua. A biblical figure who was challenged by God to do something utterly preposterous. He was told to march around a well fortified city and trust that somehow, when horns were blown, the city walls would fall. Joshua took what looked like an incredible risk. He lead a nation into the unknown ... And Joshua did it all to bring glory to his heavenly father. The more we thought about this name the more we were certain our son was a Joshua.

(We also did a quickly mental check - residual of my days as a teacher - and found at least one incredible Joshua, who is presently a part of our lives, and this confirmed the suitability of the name).

Steve: Though his love of Cleveland sports is a bit unnerving. At least he married up. 

Kristi: Timothy. Timothy is my father's name and representative of great biblical heritage and significance. I pray that some day, with the Lord's guidance, our Joshua Timothy will incorporate many of the traits I value in my father. I pray he has a growing heart of compassion for missions (passed down from my grandma); I pray he learns to love others and speak the truth. I pray his faith is unwavering inspite of many who may challenge him or doubt his capability as a leader. 

In addition to naming our son, with the PA status achieved, we are free to share a couple of photos of Joshua with our followers and friends. We trust these images will capture your heart - as they did ours. We hope you'll continue to keep our family in your prayers. The receipt of a pre-approval gives us a firm deadline. We must have our dossier logged in to China by November 21, 2016.  

Please pray that we experience God's continued favor and that our process is continually surrendered to him. Please join us in thanking God - and marveling at His indescribable provision. Truly this journey has been the type that forces us to our knees, with fear and trembling, speechless before the one who is in all and through all. 

Humbly His - and for His continued fame, 
Steve, Kristi, Kayleigh, Benjamin, Madeleine and Joshua (I'm the kind of guy who's comfortable in pink) Van Dyk


And there I find you, in the mystery

by Kristi Van Dyk


This week was an incredible one for so many reasons: 

  • On Saturday we thought our adoption journey was halted and God provided a generous loan through dear friends
  • On Tuesday, our Benjamin turned 6 and was able to slip a big envelope in the mail that allowed him to keep his dream for a brother afloat 
  • By Thursday morning God had provided $6,105 towards our adoption process

God is good and oh so faithful.

In the early phases of this journey my wise, experienced, adoptive mom-friend-guide/sage (Maybe theres an acronym brewing there ... my WAMS ... hmmm, I'll work on that) mentioned that there would be trials and that Satan would attack. She also mentioned my faith would grow and deepen and strengthen as a result of this journey. She's always right, but oh how right she was ... 

This morning as I work to process the power of God, demonstrated by His provision, I am reminded of a moment, a moment when I knew this path was coming our way. 

It was July, 2015, our family was living at Maranatha, but we were still coming in to worship at Central on Sundays. It had been a crazy morning, the kind of Sunday where you can't believe you ever thought starting a family was a good idea: tantrums and fighting, obstinance and disobedience. The morning where you're mostly thankful that you can attend church to have 70 minutes of no one screaming at you. Steve and I were settled in, took a deep breath, and the first chords from the worship band began. It was Oceans. I hated when they played Oceans. Oceans was a song that always spoke to me, it always moved me and today, I didn't want to move. I wanted to remain unchanged. Regardless of my feelings on the matter, the still small voice began to chant ... 

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders, let me walk upon the water where ever you would call me. 

No, God, not today. I don't have the energy for international travel, a fundraising process, an emotionally laden experience, that in the end results in another precious darling who has complex needs and pain and trauma. No ... 

Take me deeper than my feet would ever wander and my faith would be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. 

  • Stronger faith, deeper in love with the Savior, THAT sounds amazing, it really does ... But must it require the walk on water? Can't I just have the deeper faith without the scary water part? Peter walked on water and he sank. He fell. He began to drown. What if I sink? What if I lose sight of you, Jesus, and it becomes about me. Oh how (humiliating) humbling that would be ...  

Your grace abounds in deepest waters. Your Sovereign hand will be guide. Where feet may fail and fear surrounds me, you've never failed and you won't start now. 

Sigh .... truth, real truth, and the voice of God is so convicting. I guess it is time ...  time to begin searching for our son. 

It seems utterly surreal to me that we are "this far" in this call. I rejoice in the way God is moving in our family, in all of our hearts in various ways. The Lord is most definitely showing us that His grace abounds in these deep waters.

Yet

Yet

I know we have so far to go, and there is still opportunity for us lose sight of our Savior, His purpose, and to sink beneath the waves. As prayer partners for us, would you pray that we keep our eyes fixed on Him. That we don't let our fear of the coming waves deter us. Pray that our hearts align with His will, and that we continuously seek His plan in this journey. 

We thank you so much for coming alongside and around us in this venture. 

Our love and thanks,
Steve, Kristi, Kayleigh, Benjamin, Madeleine, and Joshua


...It's "only" 400 people ...

by Kristi Van Dyk


We went public with our adoption dream on Thursday evening, May 12th. It was far more difficult than I had anticipated. It is incredibly humbling to post to hundreds of people that you're asking for money, that you can't do it alone.

There are days that I sit and stare at that giant number, that $40,000 and say, "You must have heard God wrong. This was all a mistake. No one cares that much about you, your silly dream or your 'call from God.'" On those days I usually end my quiet time in tears, pleading for God's voice to be louder than the Enemy (and pray that I'll be met with an encouraging word from someone). 

Other days I reflect in quiet moments and God whispers, "Kristi, it's 400 people who are willing to commit $100 to my work. 400 people, do you know 400 people??? I can call them to you. Kristi, it's only 200 people who are willing to give me $200. Trust me to bring you 200." And I walk away feeling like God can do this by tomorrow. Those days I end my quiet time energized to fill out more mountains of paperwork, to encourage my children that their brother IS coming ... to allow myself to start dreaming of English names for our precious son ... To figure out what we won't buy this week so that we can afford the next $179 education fee, or the $500 deposit for a home study. Or the passport renewals ... Or the USCICS processing fees ... 

Saturday was a day of the former. A day of doubt where the Devil was whispering, you're on the clock (because we are). We've had our boy on hold so long, waiting for God's clear stamp in the funding department, that we were set to have him "released." 

We had done our due diligence. We had met with our doctors; we had composed a thoughtful letter full of promises we meant. But we didn't have $3,000 ... we didn't even have $500. So, on Saturday evening, it felt like our journey would be over before it really had wings. I wept in the van as our Benjamin (on his birthday date with us) sang one of his favorite songs ... "Joy unspeakable that won't go away. Just enough strength to live for today, you'll never have to worry what tomorrow will bring, my faith is on solid rock, I'm counting on God ..." I was counting on God. WE were counting on God. But I was so  worried about what tomorrow would bring ... we had scarcely 24 hours before this journey would be halted in its tracks. 

When we came home from spending that evening with Benj, our precious friends called. These friends have known this dream, and upheld this dream in prayer. Over the phone they offered, "we want you to take the cash we have on hand. Consider it a personal loan, interest free, LET US invest in God's work in your life. We don't want the process delayed due to money."

I barely managed to get off the phone before dissolving into tears ... There it was ... provision. Not in the way we expected. ... but God made a way. I stayed up way too late Saturday night, scanning every shred of paperwork so that exactly 2 weeks after we received his file, we could accept his referral. As a matter of technicalities, our agency had the paperwork (in digital form) by their prescribed deadline,  (with 30 minutes to spare). 

Today is a day of hope for us. A day where 400 people with $100 doesn't seem insurmountable. A day where even 200 people with $200 seems like it could happen. But, beyond what we feel, we continue to press in, despite the fear - despite the uncertainty - despite the mountains that wait ahead. 

Because we are ... Counting on God. 


Psalm 37

by Kristi Van Dyk


This journey produces in me so much anxiety (and no, not the 2.5 hours across the state I am from my family...) the adoption journey. And yet, each morning, God reinforces the path we are on... He emphasizes with His words, that if this is His will (and I'm confident it is), He will provide. As each day passes, we are closer to the need for a miracle. And that means I'm closer to seeing how God moves. It's exhilarating; its frightening and ... I ... can't ... Wait. 

 

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More fantastic artwork

by Kristi Van Dyk


I love challenging myself to synthesize my reflection into an image. It's easier to explain and remember an image. I wish, though I had more skills in the art department.  

God provided another strong message of hope today through the book of Isaiah. He promises to hold our hand!!!! He helps us by fighting for us and working mightily but in it all He stops to comfort and lead in a gentle way! He does this for His glory, His fame.. But He does it out of love ...  

Let me stand back God, and let you battle this for us. And I'll remind myself in the scary pieces, the risky times, the huge moments that in those moments you hold my hand. 

 

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I complicate things

by Kristi Van Dyk


This following God thing is difficult, there's no denying that. He calls us to big things, to hard things, to mysteries that are oceans deep ... But, at its core, God says, listen to me... then follow the next step I put in front of you. Don't think ahead to the next 15 staircases, follow the next step. Today's words from Pastor Craig was the challenge I needed to hear:

The road to the future rarely happens in a straight line, but it never happens unless we take time to hear Him speak... And then follow God's lead to the next step. 

forgive my artwork... I wanted to note the very large listening ears, the smaller mouth and simple charge of one next step.... 

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