Piece of the Puzzle

Piece of the Puzzle

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Orphan Sunday

Today is Orphan Sunday. It's a day to share, pray and advocate on behalf of orphans around the world. This morning at church I had the awesome privilege of sharing in our Children's Ministry about my trip to City of Refuge Orphanage and how God used that trip to open my eyes and heart to adoption.

This was the first time that I've shared our adoption story with a group of children (kinder through 5th grade). I was very curious about how they would respond and if they would fully grasp the life-changing power of adoption. As I was telling the children about my time in Jamaica, I was so impressed with how engaged they were with the story and the pictures which highlighted our team's work on the property and in the school. I could tell that they were really processing the difference between how we live here compared to the conditions in Jamaica. I could see some of their little hearts grieving for children who did not have mommies and daddies to love and care for them. And when I shared with them how God spoke to me about becoming a mommy to one of the children, their faces lit up like little rays of sunshine! Even at their young age, they understood that adoption is something special.

As I talked to the group of children sitting there, it suddenly struck me that my little boy would be sitting there in the midst of them in just a few short months! As I said this aloud to the group, my heart began to swell. Even though our family been talking about his arrival for months and all the new experiences that he will have, there was something about picturing him at our church, sitting in KidsZone that made my knees weak.  It was suddenly so very REAL!!

God is so amazing and living for Him just keeps getting better and better!!  In this month of thanksgiving and on this Orphan Sunday, I am so thankful that I am no longer an "orphan" for I have received the Spirit of adoption whereby I cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:15), because God predestined me to be His own adopted child by Jesus Christ (Ephes 1:5).  And as believers, who have been adopted into the family of God and who are no longer spiritually "orphaned", we have a responsibility to rescue and care for those children who have been physically orphaned in this world. And while God may not have called all of us to "adopt", He has called all of us to care for those who are orphaned, be it through giving, praying, supporting &/or advocating on their behalf. During this month where we bring awareness to Adoption and Orphan issues, please consider how you may be a part of the change.

Orphan Sunday 2011 from Christian Alliance for Orphans on Vimeo.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

God's plans are always BIGGER - How GREAT He is

It was November of last year when I headed to Jamaica for my first mission trip. I had no idea that November was National Adoption Month, nor did I have any idea that this November we would be close to finalizing our adoption of a little boy that I met on that trip. But God knew! I am continually amazed at how God works and how He orchestrates everything to His glory and for His purpose.

When I went to Jamaica last year, I planned to spend the week helping in the school and working on a building project. I felt like that was enough fulfill God's call for us to "care for orphans." I wasn't planning on any longterm commitments or really doing anything that was too far out of my comfort zone, if I'm completely honest about the whole thing. My husband's family is Jamaican and I'm very comfortable with the people, language and culture, so even going to this particular foreign country, wasn't going to be that foreign to me. I work in education, so spending time in the orphanage school wasn't going to be particularly difficult work. Nonetheless, I thought that what I was doing was a BIG deal, that I was really stepping out for God. Oh silly me!! Now, don't get me wrong. I'm not criticizing or minimizing the importance of mission trips or the impact that they have on the lives of those involved. I'm not saying that it's not a big deal to take a mission trip and serve those who are less fortunate. I'm just saying that the trip was just a small step on the bigger journey that God had for me.

Isn't it amazing how small (& often selfish) our thinking can be? We say that we are God's servants, and we know that His ways are not our ways and His thoughts are not our thoughts, yet we rely on our own "thinking" to guide us. God has GREAT plans for us, but we can miss living the amazing life that He desires for us because we have limited ourselves to what we believe we are capable of doing and what we are comfortable doing. But God has not called us to be "comfortable" and He has already said that apart from Him, we are incapable. God has called us to faithfully trust in Him so that we may be world changers and do even greater things than our Lord Jesus Christ did!! He is able to do exceedingly, abundantly above all that we can ask, think or imagine!! What a life He has in store for us!

I did not know last November where the following 12 months would take me. I certainly had not expected the year that I have had. But I'm glad that I have been willing to let God lead, even when it has been uncomfortable. Because the place where I am now, is so much better than where I was a year ago. And while I did not know that last November's mission trip was really the beginning of an adoption journey, I'm so glad that it is the BIGGER plan that God had for me.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

12 on 12th

Today is a big day in the Graham household. . . little Jellybean turns 12 today. She's been announcing for  eons (or at least since her older sister's birthday on May 12th) that she's going to be "12 on the 12th."  Back in May, October seemed so far away and yet in the blink of an eye, here we find ourselves. Every year on Jelly's birthday, my husband and I will inevitably spend time remembering the day of her birth and what that whole experience was like for us. It's never planned and it's never been deemed a formal "tradition", but as we wind down each evening on October 12th, we find ourselves remembering the day that Jelly joined our family.

And as I sit here waiting for my hubby to get home so we can go out for our "traditional" birthday dinner, I can't help but wonder what the day will be like when our son joins our family. I wonder if that special day will be an annual day of celebration for us as well. I wonder if hubby and I will spend that evening each year talking about the day that our son came home. I wonder what we will talk about on the evening of each of his birthdays.

On this 12th day of October, we are quite possible 12 short weeks out from bringing our son home. Last January when we started this process, we thought that a December or January home coming date was soooo far away, and yet it's almost here!!

On Saturday we have our final home visit for our Home Study (YEAH!!). We could quite possibly be sending off for our US Immigration clearance by the beginning of November. With that timeline, we could feasibly have our Federal clearance and our Jamaican adoption license sometime in December. WOW!!! That's incredible!!

So, our next big step is planning a time to go to Jamaica to share the good news with our little guy!! It's the most incredible and scary thing to contemplate right now.

Please be in prayer for us as we close in on the last few steps of this "home coming" journey. We are believing for a quick turn around for our home study report, a quick turn around for our Immigration clearance, and a quick and positive approval with the Jamaican court system. We are also believing for the remainder of the funds to come in to cover these last few expenses.  We have sold just over 1/2 of the pieces to our puzzle. We need to sell the remaining pieces in order to pay everything off. We are asking all of our friends and family to purchase at least 1 puzzle piece for $10 and to prayerfully consider sharing our adoption story with at least 2 other people.

Well, hubby's home, so off to dinner we go to celebrate our little "12 on the 12th" bday girl!!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Project Keddar Day

I first wrote this piece on March 25th, as a guest writer for Project 3six5. I can't believe it has over 8100 views!!

I wake up 20 minutes before my alarm to the sound of my husband snoring. Usually it wouldn’t be a welcoming noise, but since he’s just gotten back home after a weeklong business trip, the deep & familiar nasal rumblings brings a smile to my face. It’s nice to have him home. 
Trying not to disturb him, I throw on my robe and softly pad down the carpeted hallway knocking on bedroom doors to ensure that the girls get up in time for school. Before my body completely loses its “nighttime warmth”, I hurriedly jump back into bed, thankful for the day off from work. I lay there trying not to be fully awake (since my alarm has yet to sound) listening to the house come alive, one daughter showering in the bathroom, the other opening and closing drawers in her quest for the perfect Friday outfit, and the dog stretching in her crate hoping to be let out soon. I almost can’t imagine life getting any better than it is now. But then I remember, life IS getting even better than this! And now I’m fully awake!
Today is Project Keddar day! Today is the day to wrap up the last few “to do” items for our adoption dossier. As though God was listening to my thoughts, my ipod alarm chimes in with “I Am Not Forgotten” by Izreal & New Breed.  Tears begin to roll down my cheeks as I’m taken back to last November when I first heard that song and first met Keddar at the orphanage in Jamaica.  I went on the mission trip with the intention of using my teaching background to assist in the orphanage’s school for a week. I had no plans to fall in love with a little 10-year-old boy that had an eerie resemblance to my Jamaican husband, right down to the chocolate complexion and dimpled cheeks.  There’s a saying that goes, “People plan and God laughs.” I think God is having a good laugh right now.
Warmed by the thought of my growing family, I lean over and wake my sleeping hubby. It’s time to get up and start Project Keddar day!
Here's the original link: 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Putting First Things First

Yesterday at work I was feeling completely overwhelmed. Transitioning to a traditional school schedule without a vice principal has truly put a demand on my time, energy, and work load like nothing that I could imagine. As I sat at my desk yesterday looking at all the stacks of papers that I needed to review, the enormous amount of emails that I had yet to respond to, the 2 page "to do" list, the 10 parent calls to return, and the upcoming appointments, I just felt like I was drowning.  I shared with someone that all the things that I love to do as a principal and all the things that I thought I would be doing as a principal are getting squeezed out and replaced with tasks that used to belong to other site personnel before their positions were eliminated. I was bemoaning the "good ole' days" of really being able to focus on the things that I'm passionate about with my work.

I was reflecting on this yesterday evening when I got home, when I realized that I had allowed the demands of the job also squeeze out the most important aspects of my "non-work" life. I was moving further and further away from what really needed my "passionate" attention at home. And I've been down that road already - I know where that journey takes me physically, emotionally and relationally with my husband and family.

So today I woke up before my alarm - 3:52 am to be exact! I took a few minutes to pray and then headed out to the gym. I had a great, sweaty, grueling cardio session listening to all my favorite praise music. I came home and spent some quality time reading and reflecting on the day's Bible reading from the Life Journal that we're using at our church.  Even after all of that, I still had time to prep dinner (season a roast, cut up some veggies and throw them in the crock pot) and get to work early! And what a different day I had at work today!! The workload hadn't changed, the demands were no less daunting, but I was different. I had started my day focusing on those things that need to take priority - my relationship with Christ (reading scripture, listening to praise music), my family (preparing dinner so we could look forward to quality family time at the dinner table), and my health (though my sore quads my argue).

As familiar as Matthew 6:33 is  - "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." - it can sometimes be so easy to let all the wrong things impede on time spent seeking God. But when we do align ourselves with His word - WOW!! He shows up and adds to our life all the ingredients that we need!! God cares for us and about every aspect of our life. When His word says "all these things shall be added", it truly means ALL the things that we need (see Matthew 6:32). Sometimes we need the obstacles, challenges and situations to be removed, but sometimes what we need is to be reminded of His promises & His love so that we can endure those challenging situations with grace, love and peace. I'm so thankful that I know and serve a patient, forgiving and loving God. Who steps right in and meets my every need. I pray that I will not lose site of putting "First Things First."

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Real Cost of Adopting

For the last couple of weeks, and especially over this weekend, I have let myself be really bothered by the mean-spiritedness of another person regarding our adoption & our need to fundraise. I think the thing that has bothered me the most is the fact that this person has completely mis-represented my intentions in this particular situation. In all areas of my life, I truly work to operate with integrity and with pure intentions. And while I make plenty of mistakes in life & don't always do things properly, I know that those closest to me do know the condition of my heart. And even as I write this, I realize how silly it is for me to let the actions of someone who doesn't know me, or my heart, to affect me so deeply. There's the old saying "those who matter, don't mind; and those who mind, don't matter."  However, as much as I know that to be true, I can only assume that my heart is troubled because the adoption is a heart issue for me and my family.

Since we began our adoption process 10 months ago, I have sought out adoption blogs, website and groups in order to better educate and prepare myself for this new journey that we are on. I have heard many family's talk about the "cost" of adoption that have nothing to do with money. Just a few days ago, someone sent me the link to a post on just the same topic. While there are definite financial costs to the process, there are other costs that only adopting families really understand. One of those being the cost of enduring hurtful opinions and comments from people - strangers and loved ones alike.

Just a few hours ago, my youngest daughter, Jelly Bean, and I were working on adding another 62 pieces to our adoption puzzle that came in this week (WHOO HOO!). As we sat there working together, I was reminded of just how many benefits there are to being on this journey - precious and amazing experiences that far outweigh whatever challenges may occur. Seeing my daughter's face light up as she talks about her excitement at having her brother home soon. Listening to both of my daughters talking about all the things they are looking forward to when "their brother" comes home. Planning for our first Christmas together as a family of five. Developing connections and relationships with other people who have a passion for helping orphans. Watching God move in ways that we've never seen before. Becoming more connected with my husband and we go through the home study process. Hearing my daughters' level of appreciation for the gifts of support from other families and seeing it translate into a desire to "pay it forward."

When I think on all of this, I know that the costs are SO WORTH IT!! Whatever hurt my heart must endure through this process, I know that the reward of being able to replace that hurt with the love of another child in our home and our hearts is a small price to pay.

Monday, August 29, 2011


What a surprise it was to check our adoption email while sitting in the orthopedic surgeon's office waiting for hubby to be seen & find a donation posted by his ortho doc!  We had briefly mentioned the adoption to him at the last visit and he blessed us with a donation. While in the appointment, I think he talked asked us more about the adoption than my hubby's knee! I can share story after story like this where people that we barely know have given to our cause. And then there are the high school friends that we haven't talked to in almost 20 years, and the complete strangers who've we've never met but heard our story from a mutual acquaintance, and the distant work associates and the old navy buddies. The list goes on and on. My heart is just so full, so thankful for the generosity of others.

Here's what our puzzle looks like so far:

Our first 87 pieces sold!

Each piece is "tagged" with the name of the person who bought it

We have raised enough to pay the next installment of our Home Study, exactly at the time that it's due.  With the next $1000 will be able to pay the balance due. I am trusting God that those monies will arrive right when we need them. This is the biggest faith walk that I've ever experienced and I'm learning and growing so much through this process.

"Depend on God and keep at it because in the Lord God you have a sure thing." Isaiah 26:4 MSG

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Hole in Our Gospel

A few weeks ago hubby and I were talking to another couple about our adoption and our fundraiser. The couple became very excited about our journey and began sharing our story in an effort to encourage others to become a "piece of the puzzle." Last week one of them was sharing our story with someone, & this person became extremely offended. First they felt like my & hubby's salaries should be sufficient to pay for an adoption (REALLY??) and if they weren't, we certainly shouldn't be asking other people for money to pay for this. After several other objections, he said he was also offended that our adoption flyer included a scripture. When I first heard about his response, I was really hurt because I felt like his comments were a personal attack. Then I became incredulous. I couldn't understand how someone could reduce the opportunity to be a part of giving an orphaned child a home, to being an issue about my income and a one sentence scripture in 8 pt font on a 2X3 inch picture.

But then I was reminded of a book that I've been reading, "The Hole in Our Gospel." The basic premise is that many of us Christians have reduced the Wholeness of the Gospel to being simply about salvation, deliverance from sin, & a better life in the next life. While these things are certainly important and key to our faith - the gospel, the Good News, is about more than just this. It's about creating a better life NOW.  The whole gospel includes lifting up the poor, orphaned and marginalized, challenging injustice, rejecting worldly values, and loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Any attempt to live a life based upon the "gospel" without those things, is a gospel with holes in it. Having a head knowledge of what the "gospel" means is not enough, it must be accompanied by the heart, hands & feet. It must involve action on our part for others.

I realize that the man's opinion about our fundraising isn't about me, just like this adoption isn't about me. This adoption is about God's love in action. My family is simply a willing vessel being used by God to show His love to a child in need. This is our calling to live out the whole gospel in this life. Instead of being mad at the gentleman who's unable or unwilling to see the bigger picture, I am choosing to care enough about him to pray for his heart to be touched - not for my benefit or the benefit of our adoption, but for his benefit. And just like in my opinion, he's missing the bigger picture. I know that there have been many times that in God's opinion, I have been guilty of the same thing. So I continue to also pray for myself - that I will never again be blind to what God wants me to see nor be numb to what He wants me to feel nor be deaf to what He wants me to hear. Break my heart Lord for the things that break your heart. I want to have a heart after God's own heart and for Him to make me an answer.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

A hole in my heart

A couple of days ago we were informed that the results of an EGK for our son showed that he has a hole in his heart and he has also been diagnosed with asthma.  He has a follow up appointment in 2 weeks to determine the next course of action - possibly surgery.

Ever since I got the news I feel as though I have a hole in my heart. My heart just grieves for him. I feel as though the hole in my heart is only going to be whole when I'm able to hold him in my arms. It's strange that this child that I have only met twice has managed to carve out such a big place in my heart and in my thoughts. If he has to have surgery, I want to be the "mommy" that is waiting for him when he wakes up from surgery. I want to be the "mommy" that cares for him and nurses him back to recovery. I almost feel jealous of his "family" in Jamaica that gets to be with him every day - watching him grow up and experience life.

Our 2nd home study visit was today - mine and Fil's interviews. I'm so thankful that we have taken one more step on this journey. I'm praying that the finances will be provided and the process expedited so that our son is home for the holidays.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Out of the mouth of babes

I asked my girls to share their thoughts about the adoption so that we could add them to the blog. They kept asking me what I wanted them to write about. I told them they could share whatever they wanted. Both of my girls are "get the right answer" type of gals and had a hard time at first just letting their thoughts flow without a prompt or specific direction (is this what public school's focus on testing has done to kids?? hmm . . .  but that's another blog!) Here's what they decided to share . . . turns out they had some profound things to say:

Lady Bug (our 18 yr old):

Adoption has been something that I have been striving for since the third grade. It was something I wanted more then anything in this world. Not for someone else but for me. I wanted to be adopted by my step dad into a family that was already mine but I wanted some assurance of permanence. Then 10 years later I hear that our family is going to finally adopt but not me that’s getting adopted. It’s a little boy from the tiny island of Jamaica. I was expecting to be upset. I mean I had wanted to be adopted longer then this child had been alive. I wasn’t though- I was excited. I knew that our family would be perfect for him and that we were ready to bring someone new into our home. My sister and I started making plans right away. Where he would sleep, which of us was going to be his best friend, who was going to show him around, which of us got to introduce him to our friends first, and everything else that we could think of. When we moved into a new home we planned out his side of the sink and which bedroom he would want. We make decisions like he is already a part of our lives and it is only going to get better. It’s not necessarily the adoption I always thought our family would go through but I am happy that this is the one that is happening.  

Jelly Bean (our 11 yr old):
I have always wanted a little brother. I think I have just always wanted to be older and to grow up with someone. I now have the opportunity to do that. Although my brother is already 10 we both are only halfway to adulthood so we still have a lot to learn. I’m mostly excited because I’ll have someone close to my age in my house that knows what life is like at this age.

         When my parents first said that we were adopting I didn’t believe them. But when they started the paperwork I knew they weren’t kidding. When I saw my brother’s picture after that I wanted to cry. I was just so happy that he was about to have a family that he could be with everyday. After we were certain we were adopting him I was happy to know that we would be changing his life for the best.  When my sister and I first talked to him over Skype I couldn’t stop smiling. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how one day he would be my brother. Mine. All mine. He is very sweet and VERY funny. He loves to joke around and he has a beautiful smile.

I want my brother and me to be best friends rather than just siblings.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Home Study Interviews Scheduled

Today we were able to confirm our next Home Study interview session. We are meeting with a new social worker (our original one is on maternity leave) next Wednesday at 4:30!  Even though we are meeting at our home, it's not the "official" home visit. She was kind enough to agree to meet us here since Fil just had knee surgery yesterday. I don't think he would have been able to manage a drive to Modesto with his leg in the brace. I know there are no "perfect parents" but it's still a little nerve-racking to think that we are being interviewed to determine if we can be Keddar's parents. If we don't pass, then I guess we should feel sorry for the two girls we already have! 'Cause they're stuck with us! LOL!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Stay Amazed

I know that I shouldn't be amazed at how God brings things together, but I am!! Yesterday Fil and I were sharing with a coworker/friend and her husband about our adoption when they stopped by to look at a freezer we were giving them. In jest, I told them that in exchange for the freezer they had to contribute to our adoption fundraiser. We chatted a bit about the adoption and fundraising and they left. Early today, my friend texted me a bunch of questions about Keddar and our story. It got me curious about what she was up to because she was asking such specific questions. She told me that she was working on a fundraising effort for us. Later in the morning, she admitted that she had contacted our school district to get permission for her to do the Piece of the Puzzle fundraiser at our school site. She was working on a flyer to send to the district for approval. I couldn't believe this. When I mentioned the fundraiser to her yesterday, I never expected for her to spearhead an effort for us. I am so humbled and thankful for her and her husband's support.  Inside, I have really been a little nervous about the fundraising. I have a hard time asking people for money and I wasn't sure if we could really sell 500 pieces (I know . . . oh me of little faith). They flyer is gorgeous (in fact, Fil and I based ours off of the one she made) and so PERFECT!! I don't know what caused her to be so moved by our situation, but I am so blessed. As I said, I am just amazed at how God is at work, even when we doubt.

Back for the very first time

Allow me to introduce myself, my name is Filmore Graham, and I have a wife and two daughters.

After my wife came back from Jamaica the first time, I knew our lives were about to change. We began talking in ernest about the idea of adopting a boy. I was so full emotionally I could hardly contain myself. My mother and all my brothers and sisters were born in Jamaica. I was born and raised in New York City, in an area that was heavily populated with Jamaican immigrants. After we left NYC and moved to Miami, FL, we were again in the middle of a community surrounded by Jamaican culture. I have always considered myself Jamaican, even though I had never been there. I spoke with a Jamaican accent, I ate Jamaican food, I listened to jamaican music and I hung out with Jamaican people.

How funny is God that when I decide to adopt a child, he would be Jamaican. In  April 2011 My wife and I traveled to Jamaica to meet Keddar. As we arrived I felt like a ten year old, the night before Christmas. Here I was in my adopted homeland.  I was "back for the very first time". We stayed on the property where keddar's orphanage was located.

I remember walking down to his residence hall to meet him. I wasn't allowed to divulge my intention to adopt him so I had to control myself. He smiled at me and gave me a hug. It felt natural and right. He was mine and I was going to do whatever I had to do to bring him home!

Allow me to re-introduce myself, My name is Filmore Graham, and I have a wife, 2 daughters and a son!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Piece of the Puzzle

 We decided to do a "Piece of the Puzzle" fundraiser. I found a great caribbean puzzle on Amazon and it arrived today. The girls were so excited!!

 Essentially we "sell" each of the 500 pieces for $10 and write the donors name on the back. As pieces are sold, we put the puzzle together. When the entire puzzle has been completed, we will have raised $5000. The completed puzzle will be mounted in glass so that we, and Keddar, can always remember the people who were "a piece of the puzzle" that brought him home.  Jelly Bean wanted to be the first donor so she told me she wanted to forgo her allowance this week so she could buy a puzzle piece.  I nearly cried. Our girls are so sweet and they so want to help bring their brother home.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

CDA Update

Today we heard from the CDA social worker. After advertising for family in all of the Parishes, there has been no inquiries about Keddar! She said that as soon as we submit our home study, they will write a report to release Keddar for adoption. WHOOO HOOO!! We were waiting on this news to determine our next steps. Now fundraising and home study completion go into full swing.  We are scheduled for our next home study appointment on August 3rd.  God is so good!!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Good News

Today we found out that our church is going to assist us with some of our adoption expenses!! They are going to pay for all of our travel expenses to and from Jamaica. That is such a blessing. This eliminates about 50% of the cost of the adoption.  We are left with about $6000 to raise. It seems like a lot, but it's much cheaper than other country adoption and we know that God funds what He favors.  Keep praying!!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Adoption Update

WOW! I can't believe how much time and how much activity has passed since I last blogged. we are officially adopting!!

A quick update -  We started working with Bethany Christian Adoption Agency to complete our adoption home study. In April, Fil and I traveled to Jamaica to submit our Jamaican paperwork to the Child Development Agency and to spend time with our little guy. This was Fil's first trip to Jamaica and his first time meeting Keddar. We couldn't tell Keddar about our plans to adopt him, but we had a great week spending time with him and getting to know him better.

We had a blessed meeting at the CDA, the social worker was so helpful and supportive of our plans to adopt. She gave us a lot of tips to help make the process smoother for us. Part of the Jamaican process involves advertising for relatives in the local paper before releasing a child for adoption. The "ads" began to run while we were there, so we are prayerful that this will not hinder our progress.

Since our return, we have had Fil's mom living with us, foot injuries, crazy work schedules, a high school graduation, 6th grade promotion and a move!! All of this has kept us a little busy - which is why the lapse of blogs.  I look forward to keeping this more updated.