One Less Orphan T-Shirts

Support our adoption and raise awareness for the advocacy of orphans by purchasing our original T-shirts

Monday, March 28, 2011

Like manna from heaven...

Our blog web address - galbreathjourney - we chose it as we were just beginning our journey and all the "good" names are taken, so I went through a rather long series of trying all the clever phrases I could come up with and finally I "settled" on galbreathjourney. Little did I realize at the time what a journy it would be. I guess we all knew that it was indeed the journey of a lifetime, we were after all committing to a year or so of application and waiting with the expectation that we would find siblings and change their lives forever...

Well, what I have come to realize is that God is a bit of a multi-tasker, and he has quite the knack for teaching us lessons in the middle of long journeys, and each lesson is hand-crafted and unique for each of us. All he requires is that we take a little time to sit back and enjoy his handywork.

For me, and I guess for most of us, God likes to teach us lessons by challenging those things that we try to keep hidden from Him. That one sacred piece of our lives that we think we can handle better than He can. If we only can muster up enough courage to listen, each of these lessons has the potential to bring us closer to Him by breaking down the walls that we have put up between our heart and God's will.

Our adoption journey started about 7 years ago. When your OBGyn Dr. tells your pregnant wife during her 3rd high-risk pregnancy that "if you would like to be around to raise the 3 children you have, I would suggest that you not have any more," well even us stubborn, bull-headed husbands can take a hint. Truth be told, and Candi reminds me often, that we both wanted a large family, and I have wanted 6 children since we were getting married and had our first conversations about kids. The fact that we have waited this long to start our journey is due in large part that we put up walls between our hearts and God's will. My wall was mostly financial. Always wanting to be in a better place financially before we could even think of starting the adoption process. Always under the illusion that our finances were the one thing that me as the CPA and Financial Planner could control.

So God placed adoption on Candi's heart this time last year, and although it took me a couple of weeks to warm up the idea, somehow I set aside the need to control everything and blindly follow His will. What this journey has taught me so far is the power of God's faithfulness if I can just have the courage to listen, the faith to trust that God will provide, and the patience to see his will lived out in my life.

I'm not sure how much you know about the cost of adoptions. Well, as an CPA would do, before I could sign the application, I had to understand exactly what the costs were and how and where we could afford it. When I added up the costs and what we had on paper to pay for it, the bottom line just as many other adoptive families have learned before order for this thing to work, we had to hand it over to God, completely, and trust in his provision.

Over the past 12 months, I have been shown time and time again the power of God's provision, as He has time and time again provided Exactly what we have needed in His perfect timing. Just a couple of examples of God's provision, like manna from heaven...
-- On the night we signed the agency application, scared to death that we just got in over our heads, we were blessed with a phone call and a gift that enabled us to make our first large deposit
-- We have been fortunate for friends and family, and their participation in several fundraisers we have had...from 30 families donating items to our garage selling t-shirts that we designed and a highly successful movie night in our backyard...and a Chick Fil A night with over 400 people. Every t-shirt, gift, and donation have been blessed by God. Thanks to all who have been a part of our journey so far.
-- In mid-December, out of the blue, I received a check from an estate of a great aunt of my mother. It was a small check, less than $1000, but it provided exactly the amount that we needed to make up the difference when we had to make a payment to accept the referral for our 2 children
-- The process for adoption in Ethiopia changed significantly in May 2010. We found out just 2 months after we started this process that we were now going to have to make 2 trips to Ethiopia instead of 1. at just under $2,000 for a flight, plus travel expenses, that added about $5,000 to the cost, and we didn't have the money to cover it. As we were paying our agency fee in January, we found out that the fees for siblings were almost $5,000 more than I had originally estimated. That puts us at $10,000 more than our original estimates. On the Tuesday leading up to our first trip for which we leave on Saturday, I get a call out of the blue with a substantial unexpected gift. On Thursday, I get a separate amount of money fall into my lap. The combination of the two gifts, just 2 days before we leave to go see our children for the first time, was within $500 of making up the entire difference in unexpected costs compared to our initial estimate.

Now one of these examples of God's provision, I tend to write of as good luck. Two times, and it's a coincidence. But by the time we are flying out to truly begin our journey to meet M and S for the first time, we do so with peace in our hearts that we are completely in submission to His will.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


How many times in your life does one moment literally change your life forever? For me there have been only a few milestones that mark my life by which I can without a doubt say my life has never been the same. Yes, it's obvious and easy to pick out our wedding day and the birth of our children as milestones, and yes those definitely changed our life - for the better - never to be the same. For me, I can really look back on 3 milestones that have forever changed my life.

The first is the night that I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior...the culmination of a patient girlfriend and my future wife who didn't give up on me and an even more patient God, who walked with me through the valleys of my Freshman year at UT to show me that His love was bigger than all of the sin I could muster. It was on this day that I surrendered my life to serve my God, and while I ask forgiveness daily for falling short of His Glory, I continue to this day to walk daily with Him and ask for his guidance as I lead my family and raise my children in the way and teaching of the Lord.

The second milestone. I am working for Arthur Andersen and in a hotel room in Wilmington, North Carolina. It's in the middle of winter, and I am out of town for what seems to be weeks at a time. At home is Candi, pregnant with our first child, working nights at Vanderbilt and sick as a dog...anyone who calls this morning sickness has 1) never been pregnant or 2) never had a wife that is nauseated 24 hours a day for easily the first 4 months of her pregnancy. I remember that Candi had to go to her OB Dr. and she took her mom with her because she didn't want to go by herself...and she had to get an ultrasound because the Dr. couldn't hear the heartbeat. Everything was okay, and I can remember thinking that this was the end of my days working as an auditor with AA, and I promptly found a way out of public accounting. Now that's not my milestone as I digress...As I'm sitting in North Carolina, I get a call from Candi, almost in tears and terrified to talk to me over the phone..."it's your mom," she says. "I just talked to her and she has ALS." As a nurse Candi knew the gravity of the news that she just shared with me, and she also could tell by my reaction that I had no idea how our lives just changed. The next 2 years are a blur, but I can remember several moments during this time like they were yesterday. I can remember a Sunday at Brentwood Baptist, I was sitting alone in church - the old sanctuary on Franklin Road - not sure why Candi wasn't there - but I can remember going up to the altar for prayer time in tears, asking God for help as I watched my mom struggle with this awful disease and as I struggled to be the son that I needed to be and find a balance as I also needed to be a strong husband to my wife of under 2 years and father to my precious new baby girl. Those first 4 years of marriage, Candi and I went through just about every major life event one could imagine...We bought a house a year into our marriage, we had a baby within the next year, mom gets diagnosed with ALS and after taking care of her before and after work for over 6 months we decide to sell our houses and buy a house together so we can take care of her full-time. While we are living together we become pregnant with our 2nd child, so I have a pregnant wife, a 1 year old baby girl, and a mom who is going downhill all too quickly. We bring in help for mom and ultimately move her to the Alive Hospice Residence, where she spent the last month of her life. Within a week of mom's death, we were blessed with the birth of our 2nd daughter. Just writing this down makes me exhausted, but the lessons I learned and the growth that Candi and I experienced during this time - it strengthened our marriage and our dependence on daily help from our Heavenly Father, as we truly could not have endured that time in our lives without is sustenance.

This past week, I have had the 3rd milestone in my life. I have a picture in my mind that will be forever embedded in my heart of my new daughter running out of the orphanage door with arms open wide and a smile bigger than life...saying "mommy" and running into the arms of a stranger she had never met...with the faith that only a child can manage, she reaches her mother who picks up her new daughter and they embrace as if the prodigal child was finally home. I can't wait until I can share pictures and video of this and the other moments that we experienced this past week as we met our son and daughter for the first time. It was a trip that changed me forever. I am thankful that Sarah Beth and Haley were able to join us for the trip for many reasons - they were able to see the level of poverty that the people in Ethiopia live - they were able to see first hand the joy of the people, many of whom had virtually nothing but they seemed more content than most Americans. The children in the orphanage were also content and happy, but we witnessed one sibling set of boys - ages probably 5 and 3 - the day they were brought to the orphanage. I can still see the looks on their faces. Their eyes are dead and their little bodies look broken as they have just lost everything they have ever known. This is where our children were 5 months ago, today. I can tell by the looks on their faces in those first pictures, and the only thing that keeps me going is knowing that those two little boys will get a family one day very soon and I know their faces will light up when they get to run into the arms of their new mommy and daddy, too.

It's been less than a week since last Friday when the judge said those magic words that we have been waiting over a year to hear: "They are Yours," she said. And with those words we are now a family of 7. Albeit, for the next couple of weeks, we are here and they are still at HH in Ethiopia, but we left with them part of our hearts, and I long for the day (and it can't come too soon) that that door will open and our son and daughter will look into our eyes, run with open arms and say - mommy! daddy! - embrace with the love that only a mother or father can give. The thought of that moment consumes me.

I am already changed. I love a son and a daughter that I have seen in pictures for a little over two months and I have met in person for only 4 days, and yet I know they are mine. That moment when I first held them in my arms - I will truly never be the same. I am changed forever.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Meeting our Children

Where to begin?! It was THE trip of a lifetime.  Every time I go overseas it changes my heart a little more.  This trip changed the most.  Ethiopia is an amazing country. The people are so kind and friendly.  We loved being there and felt so welcome.
Quick summary of Rome.  We did fly through Rome and stayed in Rome for 2 days.  It worked out so well to do that having our girls with us.  And really for us, because we were able to fight through our jet lag in Rome and not while meeting our kids in Ethiopia.  Rome was amazing.  We, as in the ole USA, are just babies compared to the streets we were walking there.  Highlights we saw: The Coliseum, Palentine Hill, Valtican Museum, Sistine Chapel and Trevi Fountain.  We also did a bus tour (during the cold rain!) of the whole city, so we really did get to see a lot in 2 days thus making one of my life long dreams a reality. I had always wanted to see Rome.
We flew into Ethiopia on a Tuesday night and got up Wednesday morning to meet our children.  Going into this you never know what your child's reaction will be.  They are grieving and losing so much and it is questionable how they will react to you.  You dream of meeting them, what you pray it will be like.  Our whole family has been praying since we saw their faces the first time for their hearts.  For God to prepare the best He can for meeting us and being able to transition into our family.  I recognize they are in pain and cannot process all they are going through, but how I love them and just want to be there.  So, will this in mind we drive to HH the first day.  First time to see Ethiopia in the day light as well!  You see pictures, but seeing that poverty in person rips you apart.

When we get there they do locate our children and we are standing in the courtyard of HH waiting on them, then M, our daughter, appears in the doorway, makes eye contact with me and it becomes my dream come true.  She runs to me with arms open wide, a smile spread from ear to ear, saying "mommy."  (yes it is on video and great pics!) She holds on tight.   There are not all the words in my vocabulary to describe this moment.  It is a moment I will hide in my heart forever.
Next they bring out S, our son.  He's not so sure about what is going on, but he comes right to me and let's me hold him.  They both love their picture books.  M keeps looking the pictures of her new house and room and looking at me in amazement and putting her hand on her chest asking if this is really hers.  We got to spend the day playing with both of them.

Wow, so those 2 precious faces in pictures have become a reality.  My arms are around them, I'm hugging, kissing and yes, wiping noses!  We don't have the dreams that most people do, but this was our dream come true.  For those who prayed, I must tell you this is the first time in my life I can honestly say I REALLY FELT the power of prayer.  Thank you!  I got an infection on the way over and fortunately had taken the pharmacy with me so I had antibiotics, but it made the week that much more tiring and hard on my body.  So the prayers are what sustained me and made the week amazing!  I can remember one day thinking how am I able to do all of this and I had a gentle reminder of all those praying back home.  A very nice God moment for me.  Thank you so very much!!!   

Oh - I guess I do need to write in this post that we did pass court!  Woohoo!  We were very fortunate to know prior to even stepping in the court room we would pass (minus any major catastrophe.)  We were told the day we arrived that the infamous MOWA letter was already there and all that was left was for us to stand before the judge.  At this point our paperwork is being processed and should be to the US embassy soon and we wait for the phone call to go pick them up!

I'll try to share more soon.   The jet lag is winning today!   The girls had an amazing trip and I am so thankful they went.
Thank you all again!
We love you dearly!


Sunday, March 6, 2011

It's getting real

One week from right now, Candi, myself, and our two girls will be waking up in Rome on the first leg of a trip that will soon shape the rest of our lives. Please pray with us for safe travels and for our 2 little ones waiting for us in the Ethiopian orphanage. But please pray for the hearts of my 2 girls. Prepare them for what they are going to see...the poverty, devastation. Help them understand that though these people have few or no material things, that they are rich in joy. And while many do not know Jesus, they live with a much stronger faith than those of us who proclaim Jesus and have to rely on him for little in comparison. Pray for all of us that our hearts be broken for this nation and its people. May the pictures be etched in our memories lest we forget through the passage of time.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A story of Miracles

I realized for those who might not follow facebook I should do a much better job of updating the blog!
We had an incredible Chick Fil A fundraiser last Thursday. It was 3 hours packed full of friends!! It was like a wedding reception. Have all your friends from so many walks of life all in one place! It was great. Many thanks to all you came and donated items for Hannah's Hope! We have filled up all of our bags!

We also got news last week that our birth mother did show up on the 23rd. And as far as we can tell, everything was there at our first court appointment, which means all that is left is for us to show up on March 18th and promise to love and care for these two precious children for the rest of our lives - THAT I AM VERY READY TO DO!!! VERY exciting news!!! Thanks for all your prayers last week!!

And it is March 1st - we leave in 11 days. I'm starting to feel the crunch. My calendar is packed full between now and then. Including my son's 7th birthday on Wednesday and we are having his party Friday night the 11th! That's right -just hours before we take off we are celebrating a life that is a miracle to me and Jay! (Side note - we rented the local indoor soccer field near our house - we are having a football combine with these boys. then playing a football game and maybe a soccer game. doesn't that sound like fun? I cannot take credit at all. Carter knew what he wanted and then he and daddy dreamed up something big!) Carter's story is another walking miracle. Carter being here reminds me on a daily basis that God still works miracles. My pregnancy is a very long story that we will skip - it was bad, that's all that needs to be said! I made it weeks farther than my doctor ever thought - miracle #2 - first being getting pregnant to begin with.

Carter was born in the middle of the night at almost 35 weeks. The doctors thought he was fine and left him in the room with me and Jay. All the family had gone home to get some sleep. Me, having just been through labor, I was out - snoozing! Jay was holding Carter in the corner in a rocking chair and a nurse came in and said "I just feel like I need to check him, I'm sorry." (miracle #3 )She turns on the light and Carter is blue! She takes him away in a rush and we don't see or hear a word for hours. I finally send Jay and told him he better find somebody and find out what is going on! Skipping details, Carter's lungs were very immature and he was intubated and sent to another hospital to a NICU where he stayed intubated for a week. Part of his stay included a collapsed lung requiring a chest tube. Fast forward a bit through the NICU stay - We went home after 2 weeks - that's right, he was intubated for 7 days, weaned to CPAP then to O2 and he progressed so rapidly we went home at 2 weeks of age! Miracle #4. That was unbelievable to all of his nurses. When your in the NICU you are in the most critical area first, then progress to the step down once you are breathing on your own and starting to eat from a bottle, etc. I can remember his nurses from the first week being astounded when we were going home.
So here we are and tomorrow we will celebrate Carter turning 7 and he is HUGE! He is one of the tallest in his grade. I love to tell people he was a premie and how far he has come. I fully believe it all goes back to that nurse who felt the tug to come into my room and turn on the lights the night Carter was born. I have no clue who she was and we never saw her again. She saved my son's life. So, I do thank you from the bottom of my heart for being our miracle.
Lesson learned, God can use you in very simple ways to do some VERY BIG miracles. All she did was turn on the lights to look.

This is another stepping stone to our story. Jay and I always wanted many children, all of my pregnancies were not the best and each got worse and each child came earlier and earlier. My doctor even looked at me while I was pregnant with Carter and told me if I wanted to be around to raise my children, this one would be my last. When someone says that - you say "Yes mam!" Jay and I really looked at our family and felt so blessed to have 3 healthy children all here and accepted we were done having children 7 years ago. I even have a stepping stone at my front door with the 3 kids footprints that I had done for Jay on Father's day the year Carter was born that it "was set it stone" we were done having kids! We could not put my life at risk again and I could not live through another premie.

It didn't take a year for my heart to break for more children. WE had decided we were done, but God knew we were not. I love that my heart has been broken for the orphan and that I see things more clearly now. If my pregnancies had been easy, I'm pretty sure I would have kept on birthing babies and might have missed this calling. I'm so excited to meet my children in a few days! It's that same anticipation when you are at the end of your pregnancy and you just want to hold them! I feel that now! I am so ready to put my arms around my children, I just can't stand it!

And when I look back at all the details falling in too place over the last year for this adoption, there are miracles after miracles, some of them very little (like turning on the lights) that all add up to a very big miracle in our family.

Happy 7th Birthday Carter! We love you!