Why Our Adoption Story Proves God Has a Sense of Humor

This is a story I never in a million years thought that I would write. It's a story that - if you know me online - you will probably be surprised to see. This is a story that GOD is writing, and it's finally time to share it with you. 

Childless by choice. No "trying for years," no tear-filled months of disappointment, no hours spent with fertility specialists, no sensitivity when people asked when the kids were coming. As hard as it might be to understand, we did indeed make a choice to not have children. This is not something that most adoption agencies are prepared to hear on the initial call with prospective parents, yet that's exactly what our agency heard when we called in August of 2013. But I'm getting ahead of myself... let's go back to June 17, 2000.

On our wedding day, both Peter and I knew that neither of us felt a desire to have children. I've never been the maternal type, Peter's never longed for an heir to carry his name. It was for purely selfish reasons that we spent the first 12 years of marriage completing school, traveling the world, focusing on home improvement projects, and building our careers. It was a good life, and we enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I had often joked that if God wanted us to be parents, He was going to have to put a giant neon light in the sky. Be careful what you joke about...

After 3.5 years in missionary aviation, we began to feel that God was causing our discontent with the status quo to grow. Our time overseas taught us that the only thing that matters in this life is where people spend eternity. It demonstrated the power of personal relationships, and the deep seeded need of people to be seen and loved in the name of Jesus. We prayed, we talked, we pondered - how could we best impact the world for Christ? We came back to the States in December of 2008, got jobs, and then we got comfortable again, until November 4, 2012.

On that day, God pulled out His largest hammer and chisel and started cracking our selfish hearts. It was Orphan Sunday, and a couple in our small church who had adopted 3 siblings from Ethiopia shared their story with the church. It was short, it was simple, it wasn't even rehearsed (they'd forgotten they'd been asked to do it until they were announced as next on the program!), but it was exactly what we needed to hear. At the end, they offered to speak to anyone who might be interested in adoption.

As I sat in my seat, my heart started pounding. "No! Lord, this can NOT be what You're asking of me!" I tried to pay attention to the remainder of the service, but my mind could only focus on the small voice saying, "Yes. This is your calling." On the way to lunch, Peter and I talked about the service - everything but the mention of adoption. I still remember sitting at a traffic light in our town when this conversation happened:

C: "I do not want to say this... but do you think God might want us to adopt?"
P: "WHY would you say that?"
C: I shared what had happened during the service, and as I talked he looked more and more stunned. When I had finished...
P: "I don't know what to say."
C:"Tell me I'm crazy and we'll go on with our nice life!"
P: "I can't, [MASSIVE PAUSE] because I felt God telling me the same thing, but I didn't want to mention it because it's NUTS. It IS nuts, right?"

We decided there would be no harm in TALKING to the couple... it wasn't like we were signing up to bring kids home that day, so we let them know we would like to talk and they came over for tea during the Christmas season. They, of course, were ready to sign us up, but we assured them, "This probably will go no where... we're just going to pray about it."

And that's exactly what we did - for the next 8 months. Or as Peter likes to tell people, "We tried to lay down and hope the feeling passed." It didn't. Instead, it grew.

God began hammering harder and harder on both of us. Videos (like this one) and adoption stories started popping up in my news feed on Facebook. People I hadn't spoken with in years were suddenly calling me to talk about orphanage work. Kisses from Katie came out, and I found myself sobbing about half-way through the book, wondering if Katie could trust God enough to do this "alone," why couldn't I trust Him to do it with Peter? We talked and prayed, we both shared that IF this happened, we felt called to request all girls (because of our experiences overseas) and that God was placing the number "4" on our hearts. In all honesty, we were still waiting for God to say, "Okay, just kidding... I just wanted to make you panic a little!" But He didn't. And the neon lights grew.

In August of 2013, we knew it was time to take another step in GUT OBEDIENCE to God. At the time, we thought we might want to adopt from Peru (where Peter, a "missionary kid," had grown up), and when we did some research about U.S. agencies that worked there, there were only 3 that came up in our Google search. After reviewing the 3 options, Lifeline Children's Services in Alabama became our top choice. We filled out a form requesting more information, and waited for God to say, "Thanks! That's all I wanted. You're done now. The test is over." But He didn't.

The phone call came, and we found ourselves stumped on the very first question: "Why do you want to adopt?" Being exceedingly honest (and blunt) people, we figured it was best to get the truth out right away, so it's no surprise when there was silence from the Alabama end when we said, "We don't... but God's telling us to, so we're following Him."

Question #2 didn't get any better: "Okay... since you have no children I assume you're looking for an infant?" Now there was silence from the Tennessee end as we looked at each other and then said, "No. Actually, we don't have any desire for an infant. We think God wants us to take an older sibling group of 4 or more, and females.

Amazingly, they didn't say to us, "Thanks for your interest... don't call us, we'll call you." Instead, she listened to the rest of our story, and asked if we'd like to get more information on taking the next step. We responded with, "Not really... but send it!" Sometimes, walking in faith looks a little bit like being scared out of your mind.

They sent the paperwork, and we let it sit on the dining room table until November. That whole, "Lay down until the feeling passes" thing still wasn't working, and one November night we looked at each other and confessed that we were more afraid of continuing to say "No" to God, than we were of taking on a tribe of kids. One year from the time we first felt God leading us to adoption, we filled out the first 8 pages of what would end up being mountains and mountains of paperwork, wrote a check for $250, and mailed it to Alabama with a prayer.

Along with joking about needing a neon light to have children, I also used to kid around that 9 months wasn't nearly long enough for me to adjust to the idea of being a mom. I would laughingly say, "I really need the gestation period of an elephant to get used to THAT idea!" If you're not sure how long that is, it's 18-22 months.

Our Home Study began on January 1, 2014. It took 19 months to complete (the typical home study for an adoption takes 3-4 months), and was filled with frustration, learning, laughter, and growth. Many times during the process, I thought about how I always said I would need time to adjust - and I am grateful that God seems to have a sense of humor! It was during our home study that we felt God leading us to adopt from Costa Rica rather than our original choice of Peru. That change (mid-home study) caused a delay, but our decision to switch has been confirmed over and over again.

Also in the midst of the home study, we took on a large home renovation project (another reason the home study took so long), gutting the front half of our 2,000 sq. ft. home to remove the plaster walls, add insulation, and renovate the bedroom and bath of our future kids, adding a play loft over their bedroom in the process. In January of 2015 our home renovations were completed, and in July of 2015 our home study was finally finalized. It was time for the next step.

Ready and waiting!

Throughout this process, God had been molding us more into His image. He had broken our selfish hearts and allowed us to realize that this was the story that He was writing for us. Although we didn't start out wanting to adopt, after 2 full years of working through the process, God has softened our hearts and given us a desire to minister for Him to a set of siblings. The change is a direct work of God... and we praise Him for that.

For the last 6 months, we worked through more paperwork, more fingerprints, even MORE fingerprints, immigration applications, notarizing EVERYTHING in triplicate, and assembling our Dossier for Costa Rica.

WHERE ARE WE NOW? I'm so glad you asked! We were informed that a few days before Christmas, our Dossier had been reviewed by the agency team in Alabama and had been approved and sent to Costa Rica to be translated, notarized (again), and then submitted to the National Children's Trust to be reviewed and (hopefully) approved for adoption. On January 27, 2016, our Dossier was officially placed in the hands of the Trust, and now we're waiting to see if they have more questions or if it's approved.

AND JUST WHEN WE GOT COMFORTABLE AGAIN: On January 28, 2016 we were approached by the agency with a possible match, for a sibling set of 5 - 4 sisters and 1 brother. It came out of left field for us, but we agreed to pray for a few days before we gave them our answer. Just like our experience in 2012, both Peter and I knew almost immediately that this is the path God wanted us to take, but we still spent time praying and talking about the changes this would require. We need to revise our small guest bedroom, we need to think about how we fit 7 in our vehicles, we need to think about how having a boy changes the dynamics. On January 30, 2016, we emailed our agency to let them know that God had made it clear that we were to take the next step. We are not officially matched with this sibling set yet, but we're trusting that if this is who God has for us, He will continue to open doors. If it's not, He will close the doors and we'll wait for Him to bring along the kids He has for us. HE is writing this story... we are along for the ride.

If you've made it this far - THANK YOU! If you want to know if there's a way you can help - KEEP READING.

Up until now, we have paid for all of the expenses for this adoption out of our own funds (approx. $35,000 so far - including fees, renovation, bunk beds, etc.). God has provided for us, above and beyond, and we believe He will continue to do so. HOWEVER, should this sibling group work out, we're looking at a lot of expenses in a very short amount of time:

  • Final renovation expenses 
  • Travel to Costa Rica 
  • Time off of work (we have to be in country for 6 weeks) 
  • Housing and meals in Costa Rica (for 7 people for 6 weeks) 
  • Paperwork changes (we were approved for 4 kids, now we need to make changes to our home study and immigration forms if we want to take 5 - that's an additional cost) 
  • Passports and paperwork for the kids in country 
  • Travel home for 7 (we're hoping to utilize Delta's adoption rates) 
  • Remaining agency fees 

ON A PERSONAL NOTE: Throughout this process, both Peter and I have really fought the idea of asking for funds. We both felt strongly that God had provided good jobs for us, that this was something He called us to do, and that we needed to be responsible for the cost. Last month we took a hard look at the numbers, and we realized it was time to humble ourselves. It's not easy. I hate telling people what we need. I hated it when we raised support as missionaries, and I hate it more now. But in looking at the possibility of bringing these (potentially) 5 children home within the next 6 months, we are faced with the reality of the expense, and God has been nudging us that it's time to be vulnerable, lose the pride, and allow other people in on this adventure, if they want to be involved.

So... we know God is writing this story, and if you'd like to be a part of it in a financial way, we'd be grateful. (You can donate at https://www.youcaring.com/KoensAdoption) If not - no worries. This is the story, these are the needs, and no matter what you choose, we covet your prayers for wisdom.

After almost 16 years of marriage we're going from "Koens, party of 2" to "Koens, party of 7!" and life will never been the same, and #iamthankful.

  • Pray for us. 
  • Pray for our kids. 
  • And ask God what He might be calling YOUR family to do... if you think it might be adoption, we'd love to talk to you. :) 

Koens. Table for 7. It's time to gather.


The #INTJ View of National Hug Day

Apparently there was some kind of "Off the Hallmark Radar" event yesterday where people celebrate hugs. So sorry I missed it [insert sarcasm here].

Over the years, I have developed a reputation among my acquaintances for not being a touchy-feely, hugging sort of person. Unintentionally acquired... but accurate.

Not one, but two of the people I work with (virtually) on a regular basis tagged me on Facebook this morning, linking to this article from the Huffington Post on how horrible a holiday National Hug Day actually was.

For all you huggy types out there, here's something to keep in mind: not everyone likes hugs from people they barely know. Or even hugs from people that they DO know. 

So here's the perspective of a non-hugger, INTJ: If you like to hug, but you don't know how the other person feels about it, let them make the first move. 
  • If they come with an outstretched hand - respect that. 
  • If they come in for a side hug, don't grab them in a bear hug. 
  • And just because we aren't ready to "hug it out" with you, doesn't mean that we're cold or stand-offish. It doesn't mean we don't love you or even like you... we are just more reserved in our outward affection. I like to think there's room for both.

I've been called out by clients, friends, and "I only know you on Facebook" people for lying about not hugging when they see a photo of the Hubs and I in an embrace. I shouldn't really have to point this out, but I'll go ahead and state the obvious: we're married. I hug my parents. If I haven't seen a sibling in a long time, I'll give them a hug. If I just saw them last week... we usually keep it to a "hey, how YOU doin'" pat on the knee or shoulder. 

Finally, even in my own little "hug-free" world, I still believe there is a time and a place for hugs.
  • When someone is celebrating a major life event
  • When someone is mourning a loss
  • When the relationship has developed into something deeper than, "I saw your breakfast photo on Facebook and I feel like I know you." 
Otherwise, in the words of George Stanley Banks... EXCUSE ME! DO I KNOW YOU??

A friendly handshake to all on this snowy Friday.


Dear Online Friends...

Yes, I'm still alive. Over the holidays a family friend asked me if I was still blogging. To be honest, I almost forgot I had a blog.

I posted a few times in 2015, but then - as always happens - life got busy. Work, projects, God's process of working on me: these are the things that took the place of my blogging.

And I'm okay with that.

And now it's a new year. 2016. If you follow my Busy Nothings Facebook page, you'll know that it has essentially taken the place of my blog. It has given me an outlet (correction: a QUICK outlet) for sharing my "in the moment" thoughts and photos. It's faster and easier than formatting a blog post and making sure everything looks just so. Maybe that means I'm lazy, or maybe it just means that I got tired of feeling the need to maintain a perfect blog - either way: please come join me on Facebook. I'd love to connect with you there.

If you haven't been following my Facebook page and you're wondering what happened in 2015 and what's planned for 2016, here's a brief overview...

  • My pesky gallbladder acted up one too many times and was removed
  • I continued my work as a contractor with Weaving Influence as their Book Launch Director
  • I freelanced as a copy-editor on the new Chicago Architecture Foundation website
  • Speaking of Chicago - we spent 3 days there on a mini-vacation in September
  • I got to meet a new doctor this fall as I had some issues with my heart checked out (all clear!)
  • We celebrated Thanksgiving with friends and family - including new members from Ecuador
  • I freelanced as a writer/editor on a really cool Advent Calendar project with a friend
  • We closed out the year with a trip to the Biltmore... and Star Wars, of course!

  • Getting healthy - while the heart tests this fall showed no damage to my heart (yay!), they also brought home my total lack of self-control when it comes to exercise, eating well, and handling stress (mildly high blood pressure). This year, both the Hubs and I plan to change that, and since Christmas week we have both been faithfully using our treadmill and stationary bike to build our energy, increase our health, and decrease our waistlines! It's 2010 all over again (minus the South Beach portion)...
  • Practicing #JoyfulStewardship - after we paid off our house in 2012, we let our financial discipline slip a bit (okay, okay - a lot). You don't have to be in debt up to your eyeballs to be a bad steward with what the Lord has entrusted to you, so along with our physical health, we've set some new financial health goals for 2016: saving for future needs, being mindful of where the money goes, stocking the freezer for those nights neither of us feel like cooking (rather than running out to grab a hamburger and fries - not good for EITHER health goal!)... and doing it all with JOY and the understanding that nothing belongs to us, but it's all been entrusted to us.
  • Being content - along with being joyful and mindful in our stewardship, it's important that we learn what it means to be content in any and every situation this year. It's easy for us to give in to the desire for new things or an Amazon "deal"... but having those financial goals in front of us should help us say "no" to the now. But saying "no" isn't the same thing as being content - whether that's being content with what you have or being content with where you are or the job you do. This is a big one for us. But bigger still is...
  • Maintaining an Eternal perspective - we're both INTJs, and most days we still struggle with our low tolerance for people. But God calls us to be lights for Him, and that means getting involved with people, diving into the messiness, being willing to get our hands and lives dirty and opening ourselves up to the jobs, situations, and people that God calls us to. We could have great health, flush saving accounts, and even complete contentment... but unless we have a love for people and a desire to die to self and live for Christ... we'll have missed the mark. 
  • Following God's Story for our lives - in November 2012, God started writing a new chapter in our lives. We fought Him for a year, until we became more afraid of telling God "no" than of taking on the project He was clearly laying on both of our hearts. In November 2013 we took the first step out of gut obedience... and we've been baby-stepping in obedience for the last two years. During that time, God has broken us, mended us, shaped us, and opened us up to the idea that His plan for our lives - although it looks NOTHING like our plan - is far better. After two years of following in obedience, it's looking like 2016 could be the year that the next chapter of His story for us opens. We've been quiet and vague about it to all but a select few, but as soon as He opens the door, we'll let you in on it. This is most definitely the story GOD is writing, and it's been terrifying and exciting to be called by Him to do something we never would have thought to do on our own. In the mean time - pray for us. The future will change our little world as we have known it... but I wouldn't have it any other way.

What's new in your life?


Online Weekend Reading (OWR): Travel, Stand Up, Design

I had all these links ready to go last week, and then last week happened, so they went on hold and now here we are - Happy Friday! 

This is an odd one coming from me, I know, but the Hubs and I find ourselves asking the same question whenever we hit the roads: why can't anyone drive any more?? People making bad judgement calls with a 2-ton vehicle, people posting on Facebook WHILE DRIVING, people who slow to a crawl because it's RAINING - and that's just for a start. Though this study focused specifically on newly licensed drivers, it's indicative of what we've experienced on our own roads - from drivers of all ages. Do not read this article while you are driving (but do read it)! http://fleetowner.com/blog/diagnosis-drivers-bedeviled-inexperience-lack-skills

  • Favorite Takeaway: "... researchers also noted that previous studies of newly licensed teenage drivers indicate that they exit their 'learner period' with significant skill deficits, leading to a much higher risk of crashing compared with more experienced drivers. Their most common types of crashes? Left turns, rear-end events, and running off the road."

It's summer, which means it's time for many people to hit the road on a family vacation. Not us this year, sadly, but that doesn't mean we don't dream about returning to our once-home, always favorite city of Boston. If you don't vacation because you don't think you can afford it, Vanessa's post might change your mind. Bottom line: 2 days, Boston, meals out - including lobster, for just $200. While I won't be booking a hostel bunk in the foreseeable future, there are still a lot of helpful tips for saving money in Beantown: http://www.turnipseedtravel.com/blog/200-challenge-boston

  • Favorite Quote: "I think it's fair to say I've never eaten so well on a $200 Challenge and I never thought that lobster and value travel could go hand in hand!"

It's no secret - I love Paris. In theory - Paris was the place where people go to find love. In reality - I didn't expect to fall in love with the city itself (nor did the Hubs), but that's exactly what happened. Now, I'm not dumb enough to think that living there would be the same as spending a week in a perfectly placed apartment on vacation, but the fact of the matter is, I certainly wouldn't mind giving it a try. If you ever get the chance to go, I highly recommend it - and bookmark this "Must Do" list from Girls Guide to Paris: http://girlsguidetoparis.com/girls-guide-faves/must-dos-paris/

  • Personal Recommendations: I can vouch for #1 and #9. We stumbled upon #1 by accident (and I left with two books and a cloth shopping bag), and #9 was sought out and worth the walk.

By now you've probably picked up that I work from home (freelance editor, social media specialist, and book launch pro), and that means I spend a lot of my day sitting at a desk. In fact, I can go for hours at a time and forget to stand up, and this has caused a number of back and neck issues for me. Last week, I pulled out a lap tray with legs and an old keyboard and hacked myself a standing desk that still works when I need to sit. This article from Mashable backs up my own experience - it's time to stand up! http://mashable.com/2015/06/02/sitting-study-office-workers/

  • Key Takeaway: "... the hazards of sitting too much have been compared to those of smoking, with research suggesting people who spend most of their days seated are more likely to be fat, have heart problems, cancer and even die earlier."

Within 24 hours of buying our house (built: 1940), Peter put a hole through the kitchen/dining room wall and our life as perpetual renovators started. In the 14 years that we've owned our home we have torn apart, demolished, or completely gutted, replaced, or added on to every room in our house, including a total revamp of our "updated in the 60's" kitchen. We love all the changes, but it's our kitchen that everyone walks in and comments on, and I blame that on the wall of widows - let there be light, indeed! This light kitchen (highlighted by The Inspired Room) is worth looking at for inspiration: http://theinspiredroom.net/2015/06/08/small-space-remodeling-tip-kitchen/

  • Favorite Quote: "...the interior window allows the kitchen to still feel like a separate (and quieter) space if you want it to, while removing the visual barrier of a full wall. Light is so important in a kitchen, and in a small house more light will mean feeling less closed off or claustrophobic."

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What are YOU reading (online or off)?


Weekend Reading and Prayer

In view of the recent events, I'm skipping the Online Weekend Reading post and recommending that we dwell, instead, on this promise from Jesus, found in John 16:33...

This weekend, I'm spending time in prayer for those affected by the tragic events in Charleston, and for the response of the Church. In this world, we will have trouble. But if we know Jesus as our Savior, we also know the One who has overcome - and we have Hope and Light and Life to share with a world who is searching for answers. This is not a gift you want to keep hidden - be bold!

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Speaking of prayer and those seeking, this week Muslims all over the world entered into the season of Ramadan. My prayer from now through July 17th  is for the Lord to reveal Himself through visions and dreams to those who are seeking Allah. 

If you haven't read, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Dr. Nabeel Qureshi, I would encourage you to pick up a copy and read it during the next month. As you read it, remember to pray for those who are searching and fasting - not as your political or religious enemies, but as souls for whom Christ died, asking God to grant us eternal perspective and a heart for the lost. 

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This week, a "hero of the faith" went home to be with Jesus. Elisabeth Elliot departed her earthly body, entering eternity with her Savior. I'm not sure how Heaven will work - we like to throw around the idea that we'll be reunited with our loved ones, though I have to wonder if, when we find ourselves in the presence of the Creator of the Universe, we will care who else is there! However, if we are given that opportunity, I can only imagine what her reunion with Jim must have been like this week!

As a young teenager, God brought me to a crossroads and Mrs. Elliot's books made a deep impact on me during that time. If you have any young women (or young men) in your life, I'd recommend providing them with copies of Passion and Purity and Quest for Love. A year or so after the crossroads decision had been made (and I was engaged to Peter), I had the privilege of hearing Mrs. Elliot speak at my college just outside of Boston, and I left with a picture for the scrapbook. May we all live in such a way that when God calls us home, people remember His work in our lives, and not our achievements!    


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