Monday, December 17, 2012

Encouragement in the Christmas Season

Hey all!

We have some exciting news! We moved up to number 27 on the waiting list! :) It may not seem like a big jump, but hey, we're moving on up, by God's grace!

God has cheered our hearts and encouraged us. He has solidified over and again his calling for us to go get our child in Uganda. For that, we are so very, very thankful. No matter what challenges arise, no matter how often we lose heart, no matter how confused we may become, God never changes and he is faithful and encouraging. For him and to him we are most thankful. God continues to encourage us through his word, through prayer, through song, and through others (many of you!).

Let us say again and again with true joy, "God is good. There is no one like our God." :)

In the holiday season (I say "holiday season" because there is Christmas [woo!] and New Years in which many people have time off from working in the workplace to enjoy with friends and family), we want to encourage you to pursue the God that pursues and graces you. CHRISTMAS, oh what a reason to celebrate! The Word became flesh; Jesus was born! Emmanuel! Savior! Lord! LORD! King! He who came to bear our sin and to bring us into relationship with the Father, a RESTORED relationship with the triune God, is whom we celebrate, praise, and worship this season! It can be a time that brings up sorrow for various reasons. And the sorrows are legitimate and should not be neglected nor minimized. God's heart breaks with us in our sorrows; yet, God loves the opportunities that come in our sorrows. He loves to comfort and encourage us. He loves to be our provider. He loves to be generous to us. He loves to care for us. He loves to love us and show us who is is. So in this holiday season, celebrate God more than circumstance. He has given us the most wonderful reason to celebrate......himself! :)

In our last blog we mentioned that we are working on a project that we hope will let you in on some of how God is encouraging and strengthening us, and hopefully as something God uses to encourage and strengthen you in life. That project should be completed this month (December). We were planning on waiting to tell everyone what the project is until it was completed, but we think God may encourage you through knowing what it is. So, for all of you that might be wondering what it is (which may be none of you), here you go...........
We are making an album of songs we have recorded that we have sung to the Lord out of heartache and joy. We are leaving much of the "rawness" to songs because we want them to be accurate representations of us worshiping our holy God. So, you will hear wrong notes, maybe hoarse voices, possibly tears or sniffles, exuberant joy, some "unprofessional" instrument playing; but you will hear (and hopefully are invited in to) worship. We hope it will be something God uses to encourage you in Christ.

We do want to give a quick shout out of thanks to Bryce Neimiller and Elevate Rock School for allowing us to record, to Josh Barber in Kansas City for mixing the songs for us, and to some anonymous donors that wanted to add something special to the adoption journey.

We pray that God will strengthen you with the fullness of Christ. :)

The Svalesons

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Waiting List!!!

Hello family and friends!
Picking up where we left off (3 months ago), which is us sending our approved homestudy to the government to be approved to bring an immigrant into the U.S...WE'RE APPROVED! We found out we were approved by USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services) on Monday, October 1, 2012. We were BEAMING!!!! (and still are)

Now that we've been approved, we are on the Lifeline Children Services (Our agency in Alabama) waiting list! AAAAAAND, we've already moved up 2 SPACES since Monday....from 31st on the list to 29th on the list! Before you know it...............probably 12 months..........and WE'LL BE MATCHED!!! :) We joke about it, but seriously, sometimes, it's you know, on average, it takes about 12 months to be matched with a child.

Which brings us to some other potentially exciting news. We are working on a project that will give you all the opportunity to see a little bit of how God sustains us and pulls us out of the depths of despair. And hopefully, it will be an encouragement for others who are in trying times.

And because people keep asking, and it's good to note, we are almost half way to our financial goal!!! Praise God for that! That's really exciting! We still have about $15,000 or $16,000 left to acquire, BUT we are well on our way! What we've been told, is to try to get the financial things all taken care of before being referred/matched with a child. So, we would like to raise this within the next year. If you have any ideas, we would GLADLY like to hear them. Ideas for fundraising, simply working for extra money, ways to get grants or gifts would be greatly appreciated. You can get a hold of either one of us, or comment on the blog.

Even though times will probably continue to get even harder, God is so good and faithful. Please continue to pray for us to be patient, and to be transformed into his likeness through this journey. All glory is HIS. That's a huge reason why we're adopting; so help us keep that in the forefront of our minds.

The Svalesons

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Homestudy Approved!

Hello everyone!
We thought we would update you! We have exciting news, but let us tell you the story of how we got to the exciting news!

As of May 21st, Atonement was no longer our church home. Josh no longer works there, but Marissa is still the secretary there. We now worship with River City Church, and are hoping to plant a new church someday (In the next few years). We are learning from River City how they planted their church. So, as you can imagine, life is VERY different. Josh works at a temporary part-time job as a home inspector for Blake Strehlow Property Management (Cass County Housing Authority).

We were waiting for Josh to get a full-time job to complete our homestudy. Our agencies (case-workers) need to know pretty much everything about our lives; so when things change, especially a job change, they need to know, which requires paperwork to change. An amendment needs to be added when there is a change, such as a job change, once the homestudy is completed. These normally cost a few hundred dollars. We wanted to avoid that fee and wasting money; so we decided to wait. We had been waiting for MONTHS. It was hard.

In talking with Lifeline (our international agency in Alabama) they mentioned that the fees for an amendment come from local agencies. So, we asked our case worker at The Village what the fee would be, and she said that it costs NOTHING! Had we known that MANY months ago...our process would be further along....BUT God has a plan, and His timing is perfect. So, we proceeded in finishing all of the paperwork for our homestudy! 

So, last Friday, June 29th, we went to the Village for a meeting with our Case Worker (to tie up loose ends). We were excited to finalize our homestudy...BUT we found out that their license was up June remind you, this was a Friday, which means they had only one day to get it all done before the license expired. Changes needed to be done to the homestudy, signatures needed to be added and it needed to be notarized. They said it could be weeks before the license would be renewed. Marissa was very sad in hearing that, and was hoping they could get it signed before the license expired! Patience was being tested. 

Well, a good chunk of Friday went by, and we still heard we assumed they didn't get our homestudy signed. THEN, we got a phone call from our NEW caseworker at Lifeline, and she said she got an email saying our homestudy was FINALIZED! We were so excited that God answered our prayers! But, we still didn't officially hear it from our caseworker here in Fargo. So, we waited to make it public. The weekend went by, and we found out on Monday, July 2nd, that they DID finalize it, and that it would be sent in the mail that day! 

So yesterday, July 3rd, we received our homestudy AND sent it out to immigration! It should be in the government's hands on Friday at 10:30 am! 

Now, we wait. The immigration process should take 2-4 months, then we get to be on the waiting list for a child! 

In the meantime, we get to apply for grants. Woo!

Please keep us in your prayers as we continue through this journey. We know God has a perfect plan that is in His perfect timing. It is hard at times to wait, but it is so sweet to be able to cling to Jesus and know that He is in control.

Thanks for your prayers and support. We really appreciate it.
Josh, Marissa & Lily Svaleson

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Treasures Among the "Rough"

Hello everyone!
     It's Marissa! So sorry that it has been so long since we have posted a blog! We hope to blog more frequently to keep everyone more updated.
     I first would like to start off by saying, God is good, and God is faithful. I know that we say that a lot, but it is SO TRUE, and we can't deny it.
     A lot has happened since we last blogged. God has been doing mighty works in our lives. I wanted to blog today to tell you a little bit about what God has been doing in my life lately. I am sorry it is so long, but I promise it will not be a waste of time!
     First, I changed the look of our blog this morning. I was in the mood for something fresh, and new, because I feel like God has brought (and is continuing to bring me) into a new way of life. I looked and looked for a new background for our blog, and couldn't find anything. Then, I stumbled across the background you now see. It looked a little busy and crazy, but it caught my eye. I thought, "this is perfect!", and I will tell you why. It's hard to see, but if you look beyond the beautiful jewels, you see what looks like a white, dried, cracked surface. This is what it looks like before I placed it on our blog:

     Isn't it beautiful? I wish it would show this whole image on our blog. What drew me to this image is that despite all the cracked, dried, peeling surface, there is something beautiful. This is EXACTLY the journey that has brought me to the place I am in right now.
     Let me tell you all about this journey. The last few months have been very difficult for me. A time of deep sadness and confusion. I was in a place where I wanted a child so bad, I could barely stand it anymore. I was sad almost all the time. I was/am constantly surrounded by people who have children, which made/makes my desire to be a mom that much more passionate. I couldn't understand why we had to go through so much work to adopt a child. Why we had to do all this training and paperwork, to just love a child that is in need, and to love a child that God has called us to love. I was wanting so bad to experience what it would be & feel like to be pregnant. I wanted to know and feel that God was creating LIFE inside of me. I was confused...I was at the point where I didn't care how a child came to us...I just wanted a child. I couldn't understand why God was withholding something from me that I wanted so bad. I asked him, "What am I doing wrong? Is there something I need to do before you make Josh and I parents? What are you waiting for? Is there a lesson you are trying to teach me that I'm not catching on to?" etc...the questions went on and on.
     I reached out to people, I was "seeking" God, but nothing seemed to satisfy me. I felt really stuck, and didn't know if I would ever come out. My life seemed like the white, cracked, dry, peeling surface that you see before you. There seemed to be NOTHING good or beautiful about the life I had. But then, things started to shift just a little bit. There was one time I met with a friend at Teaberry! She told me something that I believe was straight from the heart and mouth of God. She said, "Marissa, God is the BEST at giving gifts, and knows the PERFECT time to give them. It's worth the wait." That was the first "jewel" that appeared to be in my dry, peeling, cracked life. Something I could hold on to. The promise that God knows what he's doing :)

 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17 (NIV)

     After that moment, I had a roller coaster of a life. I would be happy in the life God had me, and then I would be sad, and felt stuck...but not as stuck as I was before, because of that one "treasure" of advice. God kept placing beautiful people in my life who encouraged me, and reassured me that everything was ok, and is in God's timing. People who truly were there for me, and truly empathized with me. What a blessing that was. The jewels continued to multiply. God continued to speak to me through his word. And then something so magnificent happened. You see, I was "seeking" God, but not in the way I should. I was seeking him, but was also frustrated with him, and mad at him (which is ok, because God can handle my emotions) BUT it was like I was telling God that I wasn't going to be happy until he granted me my wish; until he gave me what I wanted...because we all know that "I know what's best for me" (hint of sarcasm).
     I was crying to my husband one evening, because I had a rough day of struggling with these issues. I felt bad for him, because I felt like a broken record....I felt like someone who just couldn't move on. I felt embarrassed and ashamed that I wasn't seeking God the way I thought I should. My husband is so gracious, patient, loving and encouraging. He really told me what I and we needed to hear. I thought all this time that I was struggling with this issue by myself. I didn't think he struggled with it all. And then he told me that he also struggled with wanting to be a dad, and the wait that we have to endure. BUT here is the thing that has changed my life. I have heard it many times, but it really seemed to hit home this time. Josh told me that we needed to have joy. I at first was not very happy, because I didn't feel like being joyful. But, he was absolutely right. I read this quote once, "Joy is not the absence of troubles but the presence of Christ." That is SO TRUE. God did not promise us that our lives were going to be easy and without trials and suffering. But he did promise that He will never leave us, and that he knows what's best for our lives. HE is in control.

     I love my husband so much, and I thank him for telling me truths of God. What a blessing He is. Ever since that moment, even though I didn't feel like it, I told God that I was choosing to have joy, no matter what happens in life...I wanted to choose to have joy, that's all I could do. I decided that God's plan really is what is best for our lives. God is worth it...God is worth going through the suffering and trials. He endured the most painful thing anyone could ever endure. He suffered physical pain on the cross, but also suffered the heavy weight of all of our sins on the cross. And for that I am overwhelmed, and so thankful. Which makes me want to submit my life to him, and "Raise my white flag" as Chris Tomlin has sung in his newest song. I surrender to you Jesus...because that is the ONLY way to do this thing we call life. 

     I am so thankful that God is bringing us through this journey of adoption. I truly am HAPPY, and have JOY. I am happy with where we are in life right now, and am happy with waiting, because I know that it is worth the wait for whatever God has in store. I know we have a long way to go, and I am sure there is going to be many many more trials and suffering, but now I have so many more treasures of God to hold on to and to see. I can see the work he is doing in our lives, and I can read and see his promises in His word that are sweeter than honey, and are the most satisfying thing EVER. All the glory and honor goes to Him. I am nothing without Him, and I wouldn't be where I am in life today without Him. He is everything, and without Him I am nothing. Thank you to all of you who were there for me in those times I needed you the most, and for the encouragement that you shared. You were truly the hands and feet of Jesus in those times. I am sure I will be needing you again! lol 

     I am sure you are also wondering where we are at in the adoption process. We are still doing paperwork, but we see the end in sight! We have a little bit more of online training to do, half a book to read, and some joint paperwork and observations of our community/neighborhood to do, and then we will be done! (I hope) Our goal to have all of this paperwork done is the end of May! And then it will go through Immigration (which on average will take 3-4 months), and then we start waiting for a referral of a child! We still have about $16,000.00-$17,000.00 to raise. Please pray for God's will to be done in our lives. We know he will provide in His good time. God is good...all the time.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

We're Comin Along!

Since the last time we blogged, it feels like a lot has happened, when in all actuality, not much has happened in terms of the actual adoption process.

We received our paperwork for the Lifeline (our agency in Alabama that works directly with Uganda) homestudy. It's A LOT! When we first got it, it didn't seem like too much, because we thought we weren't going to have to do all of it since we already did a lot of the same things for our other homestudy at the Village here in Fargo. Then we got the news that we have to do all of the paperwork Lifeline sent us. There is A LOT! In all honesty, we became overwhelmed, and disheartened. And so, we took a break from doing paperwork.

Recently, in the last week or two, God has given us new gumption. Marissa struggled with being content in where God had her in life. She didn't want to wait for a long time to receive a child. She felt like she was scrambling to find the fastest way to get a child. She was then, by the grace of God, given advice from a friend who said, "Marissa, God knows how to give the PERFECT gift at the PERFECT time. He is good at that!" And that is something that she was able to hold on to and remember. Then, she came across a picture that touched her heart....a picture that was taken when she was in Africa in 2006.

This is Marissa's reminded her of why God wanted her and Josh to reminded her of the lives over there that need help, and reminded her that somewhere over in Uganda their child is waiting for them, and they need to do whatever it takes to get to him or her, because God would and does whatever he can to get to us. Marissa is very thankful that God reminded her of this!

So now, we are working on our training for our homestudy. It involves a 10 hour online course for each of us about adopting from a "Hague country" which is a country that signed an agreement that gives rules for adoption (that's a BIG summary). Our goal is to get the online training done by March 14th (Dad, Grandma and Uncle Jerrys birthday! That will be a day of CELEBRATION!!). In addition to the online course, we have to read a book together, finish other paperwork, visit local events and observe the ethnic make up of the events, and interact with children the same age and race as our prospective child. So, there is still a lot left to do, but it's coming along!

We are pleased to say that we are up over $10,000.00 for adoption! To be exact, we are at $10,283.86! Praise the Lord for his faithfulness and provision! And thank YOU for your prayers and support!

We will continue to keep you posted!

Josh & Marissa Svaleson!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Which Way To Go?

Today was the end of the beginning of a really loooooong journey! It ends with figuring out where we are going to be adopting from, Lord willing!

Previously, we had thought that we would probably be adopting from Ethiopia. Obstacles arouse, and so we started to wonder if that was really where our child(ren) are coming from. So, we started looking into domestic adoption. One thing to note is that we did not see obstacles, necessarily, as something saying, "no, don't go!" but rather as something the Lord could simply overcome for us. With that, it lead us to implore the Lord about whether that was really where we were supposed to go. And so began a very interesting journey filled with lots of unknowns.

Ethiopia has virtually ceased adopting out children under the age of 3. And adoptions have slowed A LOT for children 3 and older as well. This is due to a lot of conflicts in Ethiopia currently. And our age range that we believe God has told us to pursue would be UNDER the age of 3. And so, as you can see, the situation in Ethiopia presents a problem OR an opportunity.

And so we looked at adopting African/American babies. We found an agency that we could use, and things looked like they would "fit" our life situation. This possibility was also rather exciting.

On Monday, January 9th, 2012, Marissa had her individual interview for our home study, and through that we began to see the urgency of knowing where it is our child(ren) are going to be coming from. And so began a rather intense time of prayer. We implored the Lord for two days of this intense time of prayer. We sought after the Lord, in particular seeking out an answer to our question of where our child(ren) would be coming from. Isn't funny how the Lord works? :) Through things that were seemingly unrelated to our question, God changed us in the way we were thinking to get us ready, and to test our faith for the answer he was about to give.

A major verse that fueled this change was Hosea 6:3 (NLT) "Oh, that we might know the LORD! Let us press on to know him. He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn, or the coming of rains in early spring." It says press on to know the Lord. PRESS ON to know the Lord! THAT was the purpose of this intense time of prayer. And so, though we continued to ask our question, we realized that the point was to press into the Lord, to know him, to seek him. You see, when we seek the Lord, we find his will. When we seek the Lord, he reveals to us who we are. The point of life is to seek the Lord.

In our family, the man is the head of the house hold, meaning all the decisions finally go through him. And so, with this as our reality, we knew that the Lord would confirm, through Josh, whatever decision would need to be made. With this in mind, this morning, Josh prayed that the Lord would reveal the place to Marissa, and that when Marissa would tell Josh the idea, Josh would whole heartedly agree. Thus, the revelation came through Marissa, and was confirmed by Josh.

This is what Marissa heard from God. She was prompted (by a friend) to look at a blog of a couple who had adopted from Uganda. After checking out this blog, she decided to look at possible agencies that worked with Uganda. She found an agency in which Josh and Marissa met all of the requirements! That was so exciting! She tried not to get too excited, but started thinking that this is possibly where God wanted us to adopt! While thinking about possibly adopting from Uganda, Marissa decided to read the Bible, hoping that the Word of God would help make this possibility clear to her. She came across these verses:

Psalm 29:1-5, 7-11
Honor the LORD, you heavenly beings;
      honor the LORD for his glory and strength.
 Honor the LORD for the glory of his name.
      Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness.
 The voice of the LORD echoes above the sea.
      The God of glory thunders.
      The LORD thunders over the mighty sea.
 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
      the voice of the LORD is majestic.
 The voice of the LORD splits the mighty cedars;
      the LORD shatters the cedars of Lebanon.
The voice of the LORD strikes
      with bolts of lightning. 
The voice of the LORD makes the barren wilderness quake;
      the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the LORD twists mighty oaks
      and strips the forests bare.
   In his Temple everyone shouts, “Glory!”
The LORD rules over the floodwaters. 
      The LORD reigns as king forever.
The LORD gives his people strength.
      The LORD blesses them with peace.

 Marissa thought, "I think God might be trying to tell me to listen to his voice, because it is powerful." After prayer, she was moved, and started crying and felt a peace she has never felt before. She thought, "This has to be where God wants us to adopt!" She was so excited that this is possibly where God wanted them to go! She told the whole story to Josh, and he got excited, for he had prayed for this to happen (that Marissa would get the revelation from God, and that she would end up telling him about it!) Josh prayed about it, and confirmed that this where He feels God leading us to adopt! The smiles on our faces were HUGE! It feels so good to know we are following God's plan in where he wants us to adopt from! So, Marissa called the agency we will be using, and told them we were going to go forward with Uganda!

The answer of Uganda is so funny. When we first got the call from the Lord that we are going to be adopting (in March of 2010), Uganda was where Josh really wanted to adopt from. It holds a special place in his heart for some reason. So, we looked into adopting from Uganda and found nothing that would work, very few agencies with programs and most of them were pilot programs that we were ineligible for. So, we stopped looking. And now here we are, almost 2 years later, after looking at so many other places and nearly completely forgetting about Uganda for adoption, God has brought it back. :) My friends, when we seek God, He changes our desires. And then, He gives us the desires of our hearts. Josh's desire was to adopt from Uganda. After disappointment and struggles for 22 months, it is good to know that God placed that desire there. :)

We now (while working on our homestudy at the Village) need to fill out applications for this networking agency, and fill out more paperwork, and do some trainings. We are excited to get going on this! God is moving, and it's so exciting! 

We still have a long journey ahead of us, and possibly a long wait. But we have to remember that we are on God's time. So he can make it go as long or as short as he wants! We are willing to follow him! We thank you for your prayers and support, and ask that you pray for us, as we move forward in this exciting adventure to Uganda! Pray for the child(ren) that God has for us there, and pray that we follow his plan! 

We love you all,
In Christ's love,
the Svaleson's