It's here!!! The Waiting Children DVD!!
We've got what we've been waiting for!!! We received our "Waiting Children" DVD in the mail last night. I guess it came on Saturday but we'd been gone all weekend. When JJ handed it to me, I couldn't mentally process the reality of what this means to watch this DVD. We were on our way to a friend's house so we set it aside and decided to wait until tonight to watch it. I think we both knew we were not emotionally or physically ready to watch it.

This DVD has interviews of children who are in the orphanage waiting for families or who are being processed to come to the orphanage. My heart is about to break as I read over the list of names that came with it, that tell their ages, if they are HIV+ or if they have any other health needs. One is deaf with a lazy eye, another has Hydrocephalis, another uses a walker. Then the list includes many who are HIV+.

On just this one list there are over 100 sets of children waiting. Yes, I said "sets" there are 1-4 children in each set. Friends, the Swopes are not going to need a new house, we are going to need a ranch with a mansion on it so we can bring home more kids. How will we watch this video and choose one or two?

Oh my, we REALLY need your prayers as we pray together tonight asking God to lead our hearts to our daughter, or daughters, or daughter and son. Yes, we may adopt more than one. Please pray for us as we watch. Should we watch it for the first time with our kids? Oh, my we need prayers. I guess I said that already.

I feel like we are going searching for a treasure and we're going to end up with more than we can take home in our treasure box.

Lord, you know the plans you have for us. We seek you with all of our hearts!! You have assigned us our portion and our cup...Surely we have a delightful inheritance in the children you will add to our family. Lord, lead us to the heart of our daughter who from the beginning of time you have already chosen for us. In Jesus' Name, amen.

I got back from Illinois late last night after speaking at the Robinson Church of Christ Women's retreat. What a beautiful group of women - inside and out. We had a great time worshiping and searching God's word for the treasures of truth He has stored up for those who seek Him - and seek we did!

Today I mostly rested. Read a good book for a couple of hours. JJ was in TN running a half marathon (so proud of him!), and the boys were spending the weekend at my mom's house. It was so quiet, peaceful and relaxing here. Just what my tired mind and body needed.

We were scheduled for a house showing that never showed up, but then they came later tonight as we were headed out to some friends. My friend Jen and her husband, Bill, invited us to come over for dinner and watch the NCAA basketball game. Both JJ and I were so tired but I really wanted to have some "hanging out" time with our friends. We had gotten together with their family and other friends for Easter and it was so much fun. I wanted a repeat. I have a deep craving for time with friends these days.

I think with all the traveling I've been doing the past three years and working a lot, my soul has gotten a little depleted in the face-to-face friendship department. I am with people all the time and I love them. Really, God gives me the sweetest love for the women I meet. But then I come home and rarely see them again. I have to be very intentional about seeing my friends who are here because I will feel tired. I will feel like my people tank has been filled, but my relational tank is still low because my new friendships that I make at events can only go so deep since we just met.

I hope that makes sense. Do you have this same dilemma, or is it just me? Are there times when you're with people but it's so full of activity that you leave feeling like you really want to "be with" someone? Maybe it's just the touchy-feely side of me that longs to make memories with friends I'll know for years to come. I had a devo at P31 about friendships today and posted more thoughts on my journey blog, too. It's really something God has on my heart. Wonder why...

Trusting God To Accomplish His Plans
JJ and I distributed fliers about our Open House on Friday night after the Good Friday service our church hosted. We put some in the racks at the grocery stores nearby. We also put some in mailboxes in the neighborhood we used to live in 10 years ago. It was fun to reminisce about where we are, where we've been and where God seems to be taking us. It was like watching a movie of our life as we drove through our old neighborhood and stopped to see our first home.

When we woke up Saturday morning, we decided to pause before we jumped into preparations. We sat down in the kitchen to have coffee and pray - asking God to show us how much to do to prepare before the Open House started at 2pm. We didn't want to be crazy maniacs trying to straighten every inch of our home and yard. We didn't want to fall into the trap of depending on our efforts to accomplish God's plans.

We knew we needed to clean the bathrooms, vacuum, dust and clean the kitchen. We also had a list of outside things that need to be done sometime: paint our shed, put more pine straw down in the back, pull weeds,fertilize trees, etc. But did we need to do ALL of that Saturday morning before the open house?

A peace settled over us as we talked and prayed. We agreed that we'd only do what really needed to be done - even if we weren't selling our home. So we focused on cleaning house. If we had time we'd work on the yard. We ran out of time. Our home was clean. Our yard still wasn't perfect but we were okay with that.

My friend/agent came with her business partner to host the Open House. JJ and I left to run errands since they didn't need us here. We had a great time buying things for the boys for their Easter baskets. Josh and Andrew were at a friends house so it was just us. A great Saturday date.

When we got home we found out that only one showing had occured. I felt bad for my agent/friend who gave up 3 hours of her day to meet the one person who stopped by. She said they got lots of work done on their computers and told me not to feel bad. Oh well.

In the end, we just want to look back and know that we gave it our all. We ran after the giant. We followed God's leading. We walked in faith. We were willing to have big hopes for this home, but tried our best not to put our hope in a bigger home. We actively put our hope in God and trust Him to accomplish the plans He had for us.

Life on Castlebay Drive
We had another showing yesterday. This time I took the dogs and myself across the street to my neighbor's house. Daisy played in the back yard with their dog, Abby, while I spied to see who was viewing our home. It's really weird to watch a stranger walk up to your house and kind of eye-up your yard, then go in your front door when you are not there. This time it was a young woman driving a white sports car. Didn't look like someone who'd be interested in our very family-oriented home. But it was great to get a showing mid-week!

We have an open house Saturday afternoon. My Realtor, Aimy, who is also our radio ministry assistant, is doing the open house. She said I can be here but I have to remain quiet so people give honest feedback. I will probably hide upstairs in our bonus room and work on finishing taxes to keep myself occupied. I don't do "quiet" very well :->.

Speaking of taxes, I think we owe! I hope I've made some big mistake in Turbo Tax entries and that we're actually getting something back. JJ suggested we talk with an accountant to make sure we're aware of the best way to file, deduct and itemize, etc. So we're meeting with a CPA next week to review what I've already entered. I know if we owe, God will provide. It's just bad timing since we just paid a large amount for our earnest money on the new home contract and we paid our adoption application fee this week, which was a little over $2000. It's God's money so I'm hoping He's got some extra to pass our way if we need to write a big check.

Today was a beautiful day. The Bradford pear trees are in full bloom looking like huge dandelions blowing in the wind. All their white blossoms are sprinkled in my yard. It reminds me of wedding confetti. Our plum trees have a pale pink blossoms and they are so pretty. Just a beautiful setting for a home buyer. God's perfect timing again.

I was a little concerned about the Spring blossoms blowing in the wind because I had radio recording this morning and I have a lot of allergies. All that beautiful blooming can make me sneezy and wheezy which makes it really hard for me to record. Last year around this time I had to re-schedule my recordings two times due to bad allergies but today I was fine. I took extra anti-histamines last night and this morning. It also rained so I think that calmed everything down. Plus I emailed a few friends asking for prayer and it worked. My recording producer kept saying, "Wow, your voice is strong today (which means not scratchy). He never says that. I was SO thankful!!!

Tomorrow I have a radio interview for a station in Illinois to talk about an event I have next weekend. I always feel awkward doing phone interviews because I can't see anyone but it needs to sound very conversational. Yet, it's just me in my kitchen talking in the phone. Maybe I'll imagine all of you sitting there asking me about the retreat. Please pray for me. I really want to do a good job in sharing what God has on my heart for the women coming to this conference. Hope you have a great Good Friday! I am so looking forward to Easter weekend.

Four Showings & a Lost Dog!
We had four showings on our house this past weekend. One on Saturday afternoon. Three on Sunday. One of Sunday's appointments was a second showing for the same people. All of the feedback has been very positive, but no offers yet.

On Sunday we packed up our two dogs, our two boys and the two of us and hopped in JJ's truck for a Sunday outing to visit friends and my mom. We needed to vacate for a few hours so we took the whole gang with us. We stopped by a friend's house to visit, but left the dogs in the truck. JJ slid the window between the cab and the truck bed open a little so the dogs could get air, along with the side windows.

When we came out to go to my mom's house our beagle, Daisy, was gone. She had pushed open the back window all the way. That girl has a history of running for miles to follow a scent. I love this crazy dog to pieces but she can give me a serious heart attack. I didn't see her anywhere and we had no idea how long she'd be out roaming the neighborhood - which is very large.

I started panicking. I assigned each adult to a different cars and we all went separate directions. We drove all throughout the neighborhood. I prayed that God would help us. My friend kept saying we could put up signs. I did not want to put up signs. I wanted to find my dog!! But Daisy was no where in sight. No one had seen her either, which was odd because the first thing she'll do is go to a stranger. She loves to meet new people.

Finally we circled back to my friends' house to see if anyone had found her. A neighbor stopped as they drove by to see what we were looking for. When we told them, they explained that they'd found Daisy and brought her back to our neighborhood (over a mile away) and to our home since our address was on her dog tag. They said no one was home but the door was open so they just put her inside.

I knew the door being open meant a showing was in progress. Oh no! What if she jumps on them and licks them to say hello (which she does to every new friend)? What if they hate dogs? What if she pees on the carpet right in front of them? (She is not house trained)

We quickly drove home to discover that a car was still in our driveway. I ran in and apologized for the surprise doggy-delivery. They smiled and said, "She's a sweet dog. We have a lab so it's no problem."

It ended up being a blessing. We got to meet them and give a face to the family who lives in the house they were looking at. I told them our story and said we're praying for God to lead us each step of the way, and to bring the family He has planned to make our house their home.

They were really receptive to meeting us, asked a few questions about the yard and were very complimentary on our house. They also told us they didn't have kids but were looking for something to grow into. On Monday we found out that our house is on their "short list" so despite our crazy dog-entry and interruption, we made their first-round cuts.

No calls or showings on Monday or today, but we are believing that God is going to give us the house and bring a new family to our home. I went up to the new house today to pray and walk through it again. Here is the verse God gave me to pray while I was there:

Lord, you have assigned (us) our portion and our cup; you have made (our) lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for (us) in pleasant places; surely (we) have a delightful inheritance. Psalm 16:5-6

A shot of Faith espresso, please!
You may want to scroll down to "Swope family update" to read from the beginning of the story....

It has been a very surreal day. No calls. No showings. My faith feels weak. Things happened today that drew my eyes off the Lord and onto circumstances that could bring discouragement.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

Our agent emailed to say our listing had somehow not gone into the system. Then JJ discovered online that they are having a big open house this weekend in the home we have a contract on. Then I drove by it later today and they had taken off the "Under Contract" sleeve they'd put over the sign. When it's contingent they don't usually list it "Under Contract" but they had put that sleeve on this week and we saw that blessing as God protecting it from being bought out from under us.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

For the past few weeks I have gone back and forth on whether I wanted to move. Once the newness of the home wore off, reality set in. I have wavered between wanting to stay, wanting to sell, wanting to add on to our home, wanting to move to a newer neighborhood, wanting to wait we see how many children we'll adopt...wanting to hide and not want for a little while. Wanting to believe but afraid to be disappointed.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

At times I want to move. Then something reminds me of the memories we have here and I want to stay. Packing 10 years of life and memories into boxes makes me sad. Then I cleaned out closets and reorganized every room and wondered why we were moving. We have plenty of least for the four of us. Then I remember our adoption and try to figure out where everyone will sleep and where we'll put the furniture we have if we convert our bonus/teen room to a bedroom. An hour later I drive by the home we found and pray for God to save it for us.

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

Last week I hesitantly prayed that this wouldn't work out but then quickly whispered that I wanted it to be if it was God's best. I don't know if I am protecting my hopes from being dashed or just finding contentment in being here in this wonderful home God gave to us. Is it selfish to want more when so many others have so much less? If so, why would God have lead us this far?

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

Finally I prayed that God would clearly lead through JJ. He's been frustrated and confused by my wavering at times. The next morning he came back from running and knelt by my bedside. He spoke with with confidence I hadn't heard in a while. "Renee, I went running and stopped by the house and prayed. I sat on the porch and looked at the stones and then out on the land in front of it. It's the most beautiful view that goes on for miles since it sits on a hill. It's the closest we'll get to having a mountain house in Charlotte (another dream of ours). Renee, I know that God wants us to go for it. I don't know what will happen but I do know that David didn't hesitantly walk towards Goliath - he ran. He confidently went after what God had called him to conquer. God wants us to go for it with all of our hearts!"

Lord, I believe. Help me in my unbelief.

I knew that day that God was leading through my husband, and there is no safer place for me to be than under my husband's spiritual leadership as He pursues God's heart. So today, I am remembering. I am reflecting on the hand prints of God around the "mug" of my heart where HeBrews my faith. I want to walk in confidence believing He will complete what He has started. I want to run after this Goliath and trust God to give us what He already has determined in the plans He has for us, no matter what they are!

Lord, I believe!

Only God can sell our home...
We kicked into high gear and got our home ready to go on the market. It was hard to think that my neighbors might see me walking to the curb with a sign in my hands. But I finally gave in and put the For Sale placard in our yard before I left for work Thursday. I think about how I want to move and how I want to stay. I look down the street and see two other similar signs. And I remember what we've known all along....only God

Only God can sell our home in 30 days
Only God can orchestrate a closing in another 30 days
Only God can bring a buyer with 5 houses on our street for sale
Only God can keep the new house from being bought by someone else
Only God knows the house He has for us
Only God....

Psalm 127

1 Unless the LORD builds the house,
its builders labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
the watchmen stand guard in vain.

2 In vain you rise early
and stay up late,
toiling for food to eat—
for he grants sleep to those he loves.

3 Sons are a heritage from the LORD,
children a reward from him.

4 Like arrows in the hands of a warrior
are sons born in one's youth.

5 Blessed is the man
whose quiver is full of them.
They will not be put to shame
when they contend with their enemies in the gate.

Only God Can Make a Way
"Only God can get us this house. No doubt about it, there is nothing we can do to make this work."

I thought this again and again. I told JJ and He agreed. I told my friends and they nodded with confident assurance. As we walked forward, we asked God to open or close each door so we'd know that it was Him. We both had lost a little bit of the lustre of a new home just knowing the expenses, the work, the challenge of selling ours, the risk of being the first one to buy in what looked like an abandoned neighborhood. And the biggest obstacle was that it was zoned for a different elementary school. We had promised Andrew we would not move if he had to change schools for fifth grade - the year he'd be the upper class man he'd been waiting since kindergarten to be.

Some friends said he'd be grand-fathered in as a fifth grader. Others argued the opposite. The Sunday after we'd first seen the house, I shared with my friend at church that we were in a holding pattern until we could get the school figured out. She encouraged me to talk to the assistant principal who goes to our church. After the service we shared our story and he told us if it was zoned for another school Andrew couldn't stay in his current school. I told him we'd just walk away and wait for God's timing since Andrew only had a year before middle school. He then offered to research it and call me back on Monday.

Monday morning as I drove past the new house and prayed for God's protection or provision - as we had done each day- my cell phone rang. It was the principal calling to confirm the new address. "Mrs. Swope there's been mistake. That neighborhood is zoned for our school. The realtor's listing is wrong." What? It's zoned for the same school!!!?? WOW. I couldn't believe it.

Over the next few days we crunched numbers and prayed really hard. I would go by each day and many, many times the door would be open either by mistake or b/c workers were in there. I got to spend hours in there alone praying over each room. Asking God to fill it with His presence and prepare it for our family or lock the doors and lead us in a different direction. Two times when I went by I was able to show it to two of my friends so they could pray and hope with me.

We made our offer last week and over a period of days we watched God once again do only what He could do. They took our contingency based on our home selling and closing in 60 days, before we would be locked in. They came down significantly on how much earnest money was required.They dropped the price over 30K and had already marked it down 50K from the original price. It's lower priced than any house we could find in the area. It's right were we needed to be financially and the offer they accepted in the end is exactly the number God gave JJ during His quiet time one day, based on our family's life verse reference number.

Only God...

The perfect house!
I can't even believe I am writing this. Three weeks ago I was content staying here in our house. And today I think I am still content - well I was until I found out our dream home has an open house tomorrow and it may be discovered by someone who can buy it before we can.

Three weeks ago while I was driving home from radio recording I felt lead to look at the a tiny neighborhood just next to ours that had been started a year ago but never finished. I knew there were four model homes in there but that the builder had pulled out. Not an attractive option. Plus it's zoned for another school district so another reason it was not an least not in our options. There had never been any for sale signs up so I wasn't sure why I was driving back there.

I pulled up in front of this beautiful home with stone on the front archway. We've always wanted stone on our house, I just sat there with my mouth opened. The significance of the stone is based on one of my husband's key life verses... "Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness and who seek the LORD: Look to the rock from which you were cut and to the quarry from which you were hewn;" It has great meaning to us and was given to JJ during a time when he was really struggling with his purpose in life. This adoption is a great part of his purpose as you'll get to hear about in the "Why are we adopting post?" soon to come.

I sat in my car wondering why I was there . Then I noticed the front door was open. So I got out of my car and walked in. There were cleaning people in there who welcomed me to look around.

To the left was a study painted in the same green we have in our living room. To the right was a dining room painted in a warm wheat color with burgundy drapes...all completely matching my current dining room. Then I walked into the great room and boy was it GREAT!! It too was painted a light wheat color with beautiful custom drapes that have deep red, mossy green and gold in them...matching my living room couches perfectly. I looked to the left and there was the master bedroom. Again my wall colors with matching drapes that would coordinate with my new bedspread that I never bought drapes for. (I'm all about colors and not having to do much when you move in a house...hence this was a big deal to me.) Also, we've always wanted a downstairs master.

I could barely breath at this point. I started running from room to room. The kitchen was beautiful with all new appliances that stay since it's a model. It has maple cabinets just like I've always wanted, a laundry room with more cabinets and a doggie bath - I'd never seen anything like it but we have 2 dogs and I have allergies so we have to wash them often. Very nice extra touch. Now I'm thinking this is too nice and to expensive. Why am I here?

I went upstairs to find two boy bedrooms - one is painted an army green that matches Joshua's new camouflage bedspread and the other is tan with electronics painted on the wall. Andrew has a passion for inventions and gadgets. I walk across the hall to discover a princess room with pearls and diamond rings beautifully painted on the walls by an artist. Another large bedroom in the back could be a master suite if my mom ever needed to move in with us (which is likely one day), or it could be a extra children's room or bonus room. Clearly more space than we need but definitely room to grow into. As I walk out of it I see a computer technology center off the hallway area with cabinets and file drawers that would be perfect for a family with lots of kids.

I grab my cell phone and call JJ. Hyperventilating, (Ok, I am exaggerating a little) to tell him that I've found the home we would build if we could, and that I think we need to schedule a showing - THAT NIGHT!!!

We called our friend who is a Realtor who lives close by and she met us at 5:30 at the house.! Now with great caution our Realtor begins to tell us the risks we face buying from a builder who has pulled out. I asked if we could just look at it, and then we could talk about the risks. For just a little while I want to live in dreamworld.

She and JJ couldn't believe how perfect this home would be for the family expansion plan we feel God calling us to. The yard even backs up to a wooded area that is a "tree save" so it can't be built on. Again, just what we've always wanted since we feel like our current backyard is a fish bowl with 5 yards that back up to it

Again, everything was perfect but as I mentioned - it was WAY out of our price range- so we knew we'd have to low ball an offer and see what God would do. If it was meant to be it will be and if not it'd be God's protection.

The next day our Realtor did lots of research and found out the the builder has had financing problems but that they are a great builder with very few complaints on their homes. They have purchased extended warranties on all the new homes and we'd have the assurance we needed going forward. She also found out that a large developer in our city owns most of the land in there and has a vested interest in who builds out the rest of the neighborhood.

All good news, but I needed to figure out what to do about the schools before we could go forward. That afternoon I kept hearing God whisper to my heart - wait and trust.

Swope Family Update
I'm back and boy do I have a bunch to catch up on in our family blog! As many of you know we are going to adopt a daughter from Ethiopia. I'll share more in another post (hopefully soon) about how God lead us to adopt, but today I want to catch up on where we are in the process.

In January we completed our home study. That was quite the adventure. It was funny at times as we described how we met, what drew us to one another, what our family is like, what are dreams are for the future, why we want to adopt, etc. They also did lots of digging into our pasts which was interesting to see the high contrast between our upbringings.

The last visit was our case worker came to our home to see where we live and meet our boys. It was so cute to watch Andrew give her the tour and tell her about our family. When asked about his concerns he talked about being afraid she'd get bullied and that he'd want to protect her. Joshua talked about his concerns being if she didn't like us or connect with our family. All normal and precious thoughts to me to see into their hearts. Both of them are very excited about our adoption and just don't understand why it takes so long. They hope she knows we are coming to get her. (Although we don't know yet who "she" is but we're asking God to assure her heart that she is going to be found and brought home.)

While our homestudy was being completed, we recieved our approval for fingerprinting and the I600-A form is being processed. The next step is to send our homestudy to our adoption agency. It was ready to go, but I'd been feeling like we needed to pray more and look into more agencies. I think it was all the risk factors of attachment disorders that scared me into "lets make sure we do all that we can to find just the right agency mode."

So we did more research during February only to come back to the original adoption agency we had been leaning towards from the beginning. JJ laughs at me because he can move forward with a commitment much more quickly than I can. I need options . I want to know as much as I can about each one and then choose the one that "fits" best in my heart. I think that is just the way my heart works and I love him so much for letting me be me.

During January and February we were also pondering the idea of moving to a little bigger house with more bedrooms in case God leads us to adopt two childre. We looked at a few houses and then decided we couldn't afford what we want in this area, and we don't want to change schools. So we settled on staying here for a while and re-evaluating after our daughter(s) come home. We could probably make space for one although it would mean giving up our bonus room where all the kids hang out when we have guests, and church gatherings at our house, etc. Somehow we'd make it work and if God wanted us to move then He'd lead us to a different house.

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