Thursday, November 10, 2011


"When I choose SERVANT instead of MARTYR, my children enjoy the security that they are welcomed in our home. They are not a thorn in my flesh, cutting into my personal time. They aren't a nuisance, making me sigh with irritation all day. They are welcomed members of this family, loved and purposed. And when my children are welcomed, I have opend the very doros of heaven and invited God himself into the laughter, chaos, and life of our home."
-Jen Hatmaker *Mark 9:36-37

Monday, October 10, 2011

Most challenging season of my life…

(Adoption Journey Update from Mary)

I haven’t blogged in a long time. We just passed the 7 month mark of having our Justus and Hanna Mercy home from Ethiopia….yes, It’s been wonderful, but at the same time, truly the hardest thing I’ve ever walked through…. For all 8 of us I’m sure, although my oldest daughter is now in Texas for a year at the Honor Academy.

Exhausted is how I feel most days and often wish to feel my “old self” again… the “old self” that used to have something left at the end of the day. At age 42 it’s not as easy to chase 2 toddlers and keep up with older kid’s schedules…. actually it’s very hard work that never ends… and then we go and put our house on the market (desperate for more space) and add house hunting to the mix over the summer. We did move… just 10 days ago, so it’s funny that I would sit here with an urge to write while still surrounded by many boxes… but it’s daddy’s day off and he is lying in the playroom with the “littles” climbing all over him… so I saw my little window to escape and for some reason feel compelled to write.

I read a blog a few days ago by Haley Ballast titled “Fake it till you make it”. I sent her a message thanking her for taking the time to be real with words, but confessing that this momma seems to fail at the “faking it” part now that we are so many months in. Basically when I’m frustrated… my kids see my frustration…. Which leads to me being even more frustrated with myself… it’s a crazy cycle and I’m so in need of Jesus to show me again and again how to love without condition… to respond and not react. I fail so many times…. then the enemy tries to put guilt on top of the frustration that someone else could do a better job…

My sweet 31 month old boy has come a long way, but has an emotional tank that doesn’t seem to ever get full. When he gets ALL my attention, he truly is the most wonderful, charming, active little boy, but as soon as anyone crosses his will, or when he has to share my attention with the baby, my older kids, or anyone else for that matter, he seems to resort to doing everything he knows he’s not supposed to do. Anything from pouring out his drink, hurting the baby, climbing the fridge, railings, doors, getting into anything he knows is off limits to him, basically challenging any structure to make sure he’s not going “unnoticed”.

The challenges daily… the anger and frustration I feel with myself for the many emotions that seem to come from feeling so at the end of my rope some days… the lies of the enemy that tell me Justus would have been better in a home where he would be the only focus. Halley sent me a message back and as I read it I could actually hear myself saying it to other moms… so why was I not speaking that truth back to myself?? I’m so thankful that God made us need each other in the body of Christ and that Haley from Washington “spoke” words of truth to me in the midst of me having a hard day. Here is a copy and paste of her response:

”I totally understand the desire to be that 'perfect' mom for our children from hard places... we feel they deserve more than us after all they've been through... but honestly I have had to recognize the part that Satan plays in those thoughts, at least in my head. He wants to discourage me and derail me, and perfectionism is a great weapon for him in that. I am the mom that GOD chose for Zeke, so saying that I am not good enough is saying that God messed up. He KNEW we were not perfect when he chose us! Be strengthened in the knowledge that you are not a perfect mom, but you are the perfect mom for all your kids because you are the one God chose for them.”

Here are the lyrics to a song we sang at night of worship on Friday night and then again at the weekend services…. It resonates so strongly with me… like water to a dry land as I proclaimed it and sang it. It’s not left my heart since… I sang it as I fed the babies, I sang it as I got ready for bed last night, listened to it as we hustled and bustled to get the older kids to their schools this morning, and I’m singing it now and want to share it with you. It’s a Hillsong worship song so listen to it online because it’s so beautiful and true.

FOREVER REIGN by Jason Ingram and Ruben Morgan
You are good, You are good….When there's nothing good in me
You are love, You are love ….On display for all to see
You are light, You are light ….When the darkness closes in
You are hope, You are hope….You have covered all my sin

Oh, I’m running to your arms, I’m running to arms
The riches of your love..Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are peace, You are peace….When my fear is crippling
You are true, You are true….Even in my wandering
You are joy, You are joy ….You're the reason that I sing
You are life, You are life….In You death has lost it's sting

Oh, I’m running to your arms, I’m running to arms
The riches of your love..Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

You are more, You are more….Than my words will ever say
You are Lord, You are Lord…..All creation will proclaim
You are here, You are here…..In your presence I'm made whole
You are God, You are God….Of all else I'm letting go

Oh, I’m running to your arms, I’m running to arms
The riches of your love...Will always be enough
Nothing compares to Your embrace
Light of the world forever reign

My heart will sing , no other name….Jesus, Jesus

Well, I hope this encourages someone today… it’s encouraged and is continuing to encourage (put courage into) me… I LOVE this song… listen to it online… what an anthem to confess over and over WHO HE IS in the midst of our everyday lives.

Make me walk along the path of your commands,
for that is where my happiness is found." Psalm 119:35

Still learning to let go and enjoy the journey… I’m just a bit of a slow learner… but He is patient with me and my heart will sing no other name… JESUS, JESUS!!!
Have a wonderful day walking by the grace of God,
~ Mary

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

25 years ago...

It's May 17th. This is a big day for me! 25 years ago today I gave my heart to Jesus, and surrendered my life to Him. As I end this day, I am reflecting on what that choice has meant to me…

25 years ago…
…I started the day a messed up teenage kid with no clue of why I was here, and a deep sense of sadness. I ended the day with a fresh perspective on life and joy on the inside.
25 years ago…
…I started the day feeling old, tired, and used up, I ended the day feeling like life had just begun, I felt alive for the first time in my life, and was full of hope for the future!

25 years ago…
…I felt alone when surrounded by friends. Today, I am never alone even when there is no human in sight.
25 years ago…
…I was a slave to my feelings. Today, I live by faith in God.
25 years ago…
…I lacked the self-control to say no to anything that sounded good. Today, by God’s grace I am submitted to the direction and conviction of the Holy Spirit.
25 years ago…
…I never went a day without trying get high on drugs or alcohol. Today, I never go a day without seeking the Most High God!
25 years ago…
…I was fatherless. Today, Father God is always here for me!
25 years ago…
…No one could trust me...I didn’t even trust me! Today, my beautiful bride and 6 amazing kids trust me to love, provide for, and protect them.
25 years ago...
...Most parents considered me a bad influence on their kids. Today, parents want their kids to hear what I have to say.
25 years ago…
…I had shallow dreams. Today, I am living the dream God gave me!
25 years ago…
…My life was defined by my experiences, reputation, and desires. Today, my life is defined by who God says I am, and who He has called me to be.
25 years ago...
...I was angry at the world. Today, I pray for the world.
25 years ago...
...I hit a dead end. Today, God's plan is becoming so clear!
25 years ago…
…I was a mess. Today, I am blessed!
~ Clint

2 Cor 5:17
This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Thursday, April 28, 2011


It’s honestly how I’ve felt the last two months. I read a devotional about a month ago that posed the question: When life squeezes you, what comes out?

Never before in my life have I truly felt so squeezed… at least not that I can remember. I thought the roller coaster of the long adoption process was hard, but the real challenges began the week we brought our 2 year old son and 11mos. old daughter home from Ethiopia. I’ve had a lot of experience parenting with 4 biological children between the ages of 6 up to 17, read so many ages and stages parenting books over the years, developed good “parenting skills”, and even taught on parenting over the course of years in ministry…. I used to think I was a good mom, but we weren’t even a month into this new venture when I lost all confidence in myself and knew I was totally out of my league without the Lord.

The verse that I meditated on continually was 2 Cor. 12:9...
“My GRACE is sufficient for you, My power is made perfect in your weakness.”

You can’t parent your adopted children the same because they come from loss and abandonment…you don’t know them and they don’t know you… there is no trust yet… no history or connection to you… you are just one of the many care-givers they have encountered…and you’ve taken them away from everything familiar (tastes, sounds, smells, etc), and so while our teething 1 year old has been sheer delight with the normal work it takes to care for a baby her age, our 2 year old has been a wonderful, but really big challenge and constant learning curve for me.

So along with the sleep issues, food issues, communication issues, behavioral issues, health issues (parasites and unending amounts of diarrhea, and sickness passing from one kid to the next and then back again in our home), finding out Nana had breast cancer and had surgery coming up, and really just the adjustment of having our family go from 6 to 8, all the while, trying to obey the adoption books recommendation of “Cocooning” (not taking them out for the first several weeks) was making me feel so stir crazy!!

When we finally got a warmer day after having the kids home a few weeks, Clint and I put on the Ergo baby carriers and took the babies out for their first power walk around the neighborhood!! Woo hoo!! I can’t even express the thrill of being outside of my house in the fresh air… (I’m not one who likes “cocooning” that’s for sure), and then it happened… less than a mile into our glorious power walk, on March 11th at age 42, I broke my first bone (the fibula where it connects at the ankle) by missing the curb and falling down THE DAY BEFORE Clint was leaving town for a conference…I couldn’t believe it…did I really just do this????, what timing!!! And I thought taking care of my 2 babies was challenging when I had both of my legs!!!!!!! Will His grace be enough??

Romans 5:3-5 NCV “We also have joy with our troubles, because we know that these troubles produce patience. And patience produces character, and character produces hope. And this hope will never disappoint us, because God has poured out His love to fill our hearts.”

Well, the heat just got turned up! The refiner’s fire had me in the heat at a much higher temp than I ever remember. Now a broken leg to a person who loves to relax and watch movies and move at a slow pace would not be considered HEAT at all, but I’m an independent, task-loving “do-er” personality… so to be immobilized… unable to drive (broke my right leg) myself or my 6 kids anywhere, unable to carry my new babies, and unable to catch my 2 year old when he’s testing me continually, and unable to care for my family the way I like to…. This was MAJOR HEAT to me!!

My literal cry every day to the Lord was “help!” Please teach me YOUR way Lord… YOUR way of adopting… Your way of LOVING… Your way of patience and compassion…. Because my way is not enough, my love is so conditional...I felt so frustrated and helpless at times… and then I would feel so angry at myself for feeling so frustrated and couldn’t stand being with myself at times when I knew what I needed was an attitude adjustment…Argh!!!!

Heat is a good thing you know… it can be used as a refining tool… when the heat is turned up… the dross emerges… even though we hate to see it. When we are in the heat we experience more tangibly our desperate NEED for God and we have constant opportunity to allow Him to work on our character. Pressures and troubles squeeze you, and the squeezing brings out what is inside you…. And that my friend is actually a good thing… because that’s when we allow Him to bring forth more growth in our lives.

I had to recognize my need daily… even my unwillingness at times…and to deal with my emotions and not be led by them. Sometimes our flesh cries, “I can’t” or even worse yet… “I really don’t want to”… and that’s when I can stop and choose to cry out, “Change my heart oh God!” You see, Justus can be a stinker…he’s 2 years old and been through a lot and he hasn’t been redeemed yet, but this old momma of his has chosen to follow Jesus…His way of being and doing… so when she’s feeling like a stinker it’s time to face the facts, stop walking in my own strength, and RECIEVE the grace of God.

His Word says He opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. Realizing in the heat of the moment that I have a choice… it’s my choice to humble myself and then RECEIVE His grace…. To yield to the hand of the potter working in my heart and life… molding me and making me into a vessel His love can pour through. God didn’t redeem me to just get by, but to walk in His peace and joy everyday regardless of trial…. And to declare the goodness of God!!

His kindness leads me to repentance
His goodness draws me to His side
His mercy calls me to be like Him
His favor is my delight
Everyday I AWAKEN my praise
and pour out a song from my heart
YOU ARE GOOD, You are good, You are good, and your mercy is forever!
Your kindness is forever, Your goodness is forever, Your mercy is forever.
-song lyrics by Kari Jobe

As you can tell, this blog post today really isn’t about adoption or a broken leg for that matter… it’s about the things in life that seem to squeeze us… loss, suffering, sickness, hardships, finances, work place challenges, marriage or relationship challenges, relatives, parenting toddlers (smile)… whatever is causing you to feel squeezed right now in life... and realizing the truth that His grace IS SUFFICIENT for us in the midst of it!

Is His GRACE enough?? (say it with me..) YES, if I CHOOSE TO RECEIVE it!! Just like a gift given… it has to be RECEIVED and used if it’s going to benefit us.” … I’ve continually felt weak (literally without a leg to stand on.. ha), but it’s good to humble myself and ask for GRACE to make it through another day. Jesus wants to help us and empower us in every area… not just the parts we call “spiritual”. (I was even asking for “poop” grace….because the constant blow outs and diarrhea were overwhelming, and even now after 2 months and 3 rounds of medications for our son, we still are not to the end of it. Yes, today more poop was delivered to the lab @ Children’s Mercy.

So thankful that His Word is true… it is a matter of if I will believe it and allow it to work mightily in me. His grace is enough and “I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST who strengthens me” Phil. 4:13. As I finish typing up this post, my son is finally asleep in the porta-crib next to my bed after 2 hours of rocking and putting him down only to try again and again and again…. The crazy thing about it is that there is never any rhyme or reason to it. Some days it’s super easy and he’s out and in his crib in 20 minutes, then there are still days like tonight that still take a marathon of effort… regardless of if it’s a easier day or a harder day, God’s grace is sufficient IF I CHOOSE TO RECEIVE IT. And let me tell you, it’s a night and day difference in my attitude when I choose to receive it (smile).

What are you making bigger than God in your life?? Put the trial, challenge, or circumstance in right perspective by putting God in His rightful place… As Beth Moore says, Are you believing God? Will we allow Him be the umpire over our emotions and trust Him to call the shots in our lives everyday? That’s the daily challenge to myself personally right now… surrender to my King… and when I feel squeezed… choosing PRAISE to come out of my mouth, not complaining…. And by all means ENJOY the journey!!

“Breathe in the grace of God when life is most aggravating and know He gives new beginnings every day when you ASK.” Be encouraged today… even when you don’t know how you are going to make it tomorrow... He not only strengthens… He SUSTAINS!!!

In closing this blog post, it would not be complete without a few words of THANKS!!! Clint was my total HERO dealing with fussy babies during the night time shift of bottles and diaper changes. He’s already been over the top amazing before I broke my leg helping with blowouts, baths, and just keeping up with the daily stuff… but when I was reduced to using crutches in a house full of stairs to get anywhere… he had to shift into overdrive. I’m so blessed with an incredible man and best friend who would “talk me down” from climbing the walls being cooped up so long. My older 4 were who were stretched by not having momma do for the, and then having to do for me and the babies… and having to help with the night shift when daddy was out of town two times. Thanks also to Life Church family for prayers, meals, hand-me-downs for the kids (even a box with pjs was given at the right time for Justus… you go through a lot when you’re having poop issues)… I can’t imagine life without such an incredible church family!!! And to my friends… Janice, Alisa, Julie, Angela, Hayley and Heather who helped keep me a little sane in little ways by their friendship through it all…. even being willing to allow me to order you around while “we” re-arranged my furniture to change up the scenery…. It’s a wonderful life.

~ Mary

(Pic at the top is us celebrating Hannah Mercy turning 1 year old last month!!)

Levi is loving having a lil brother to teach his moves to:)

Mercy loves swinging

Justus Clinton Sprague... an amazing lil boy!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Learning daily…

I’ve meant to blog for days… but due to fatigue, I’ve kept putting it off…. I’ve so much to learn and grow in DAILY… I’m so thankful for the way the Holy Spirit helps me… a thought that has continually come to my mind lately is…. “when I am weak… THEN I am strong”… how truly amazing is that??!! Thank you Father that YOUR mercies are new EVERY morning, GREAT is Your FAITHFULNESS!!

Well, today marks our 11th day home! Wow… in some ways it feels so much shorter and others it feels so much longer. Justus and Hannah Mercy are doing great… and their momma is trying to keep up with them. Let’s face the facts… two biological kids in diapers at the same time is challenging… so why would I expect anything less in the physical realm with my adopted kids… when you have two and they each wake up 3 times a night… that’s 6 times… so yes, that was quite a week… so glad it’s done. They have both slept through the night twice now… so I think (and hope) we are finally getting on the right track. One day my son alone had 12 poopy diapers… I thought I had stockpiled some diapers… but wow… they went curbside quick! Levi made fun of it by putting tally marks on the whiteboard throughout the day to see who had the most… Justus or Mercy. I’ve finally gotten used to the daily blow outs… giving frequent baths… and keeping the laundry going… I know that eventually this too will pass.

Justus is a smart, sweet, but a very strong, affectionate boy… his tantrums, pickiness, and spitting out food are small issues compared to how WONDERFUL he is….and how much better he is doing with each passing day. He is so precious and when he laughs and or is so thrilled to be wrestling with his daddy or riding on his back trying to keep hold of that daddy bronco… I just can’t explain to you the intense emotions I feel. He was just meant to be a part of us. He holds me so tightly sometimes…. It melts my heart and causes me to speak blessing over him again and again. Redeemer… Restorer… Rebuilder… have Your way in my sons little heart… may He know your loving-kindness through us.

Hannah Mercy continues to be a constant delight… her smiles are so energetic and contagious. She is a bright light and so, soooo cute. She has cut 2 more teeth since we’ve had her and even when she is crying mad… she is so, so cute. Oh… and she absolutely LOVES to eat! It’s been wonderful to see our biological kids lavishing them with love as well. Justus and Mercy have been smothered with our kisses every day and we are all SOOOO THANKFUL for God blessing us with 2 more Spragues… growing pains and all.

Okay enough rambling… there really is a point to this blog entry… I thought I’d share an excerpt from my journal from last week:

Feb. 26th… the one week home mark… things You are teaching me this week in the midst of sleep deprivation…

When the goal is that they do what I want them to do (like lay down and go to sleep) then I easily begin to feel frustrated after many failed attempts… falls asleep in my arms, put them in crib… they wake up and cry… start all over again… then again… then again…. Then in the midst of one of these episodes, I felt like the Lord said to my heart… “If the goal is to love them and connect, you won’t be frustrated with trying to get them to sleep.” Oh Lord, help me to walk with this goal @ every nap time, bed time, meal time, bath time, etc. Eliminate “hurry” from my life so that I can enjoy my kids to the full.

The Lord says, “I am the master teacher on this… My goal is always to love my children without conditions. It has never been to accomplish a task… it’s about drawing them to myself… and loving them, filling them, relating to them, connecting to them. And from that place of intimacy and trust, obedience from a heart responding in love and trust releases the joy of doing life together… running together… enjoying together… the goal has always been relationship.”

Thank you Holy Spirit that you will always be faithful to open my eyes to see the perspective of your heart. I’ve so much to learn… teach me your heart more as I walk this path with my adopted children. Thank you that you led the way by adopting us into your family first. Release the spirit of adoption over our family…. Release the heart You have to cause our hearts to gain greater insight and understanding. Let our goal be to Love and to Connect… to see wholeness and healing in our children lives… to cultivate and to nurture relationship with them.

Romans 1:6 .. “And this includes you, called of Jesus Christ and invited [as you are] to BELONG to Him.”

Well, that was some of what I wrote in my journal on the 26th…. And I’ve found that EVERY single day since, I am having ample opportunities to learn, be challenged, and to put it into practice… in the heat of the battle…to ask myself, “Is it about my agenda?, or is it about loving and connecting with my kids? What is the goal?” Because it’s game time now…today matters… today is a gift, and at this foundational building time we are in…. I’ve got to do it HIS way, not mine. Does this mean I do it perfect every time, no… I’m very human, I fail… but HE doesn’t… HIS grace is sufficient for me. What it does mean is that I’ve got to keep running to THE SOURCE… to plug in so that rivers of living water flow through me… may I continue to SURRENDER in the times of frustration… may I grow in heart and perspective as I learn from the Master…. My Abba Father.

When I am weak (and feeling weak has felt quite familiar these last 11 days), THEN I am strong … what an amazing God we serve…. Be magnified O God, there is truly none like You.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sprague Family Homecoming from Jessica Strom on Vimeo.

Update from Ethiopia - February 17, 2011

These past 4 days have been so life-changing. Don’t even know where to start so I’ll just skip through a brief highlighted review. Monday… We got to pick up our kids from the Thomas Center (read the last blog post for the play by play). It went so much better than we expected.

Tuesday was a day with no agenda, but to love our kids with the love of the Father. The morning went fairly smoothly as we tried to connect with our fearful 2 year old son. Our almost 11 month old baby girl is a sheer delight and full of smiles… we just eat her up and she loves every minute of it!

Anyway, things were going better than we had expected until Clint was leaving to go try to find medicine for Mercy’s cough. Right when he opened the door to go, our son had a melt down. It was very traumatic for him. When Clint returned 2 hours later, he wouldn’t even let Clint near him. It seemed that any relationship that had been built was now gone. It broke our hearts knowing that our son has no idea of our love and commitment to him. Children who have been abandoned have emotions that push people away as a defense against future abandonment. We have to prove to him we are here, we aren’t leaving, and that we are trustworthy…. And we know that will only come with time. We are the 5th set of caretakers he has had in this past year, and we have no idea what he faced in his first year.

We have the long term vision for the healing of our sons heart, while understanding we may face two steps forward, one step back, 3 steps forward, 2 steps back… etc… but we know that no matter how long it takes, the vital thing in it all is that we are making progress. I’m so thankful for the books read… especially “The Connected Child” because it gave Clint and I vocabulary as we quickly began to see so much of what we learned be true in the actions of our son, and how it has given us a bit more insight into the road we are on. By bedtime, we were making progress again, and Justus once again allowed the arms of his father to hold him… although with some reservation…he fell asleep for the second night in his daddy’s arms.

Wednesday we were picked up at 7:30am and off to the Embassy! We had a 9am appointment, but were supposed to be there early. By 9:30 we heard the words, “It’s official” that our children our now United States citizens! This was the final piece of the puzzle we had waited for these last 3 months since our adoption court date here in Ethiopia back in November.

Next, it was back to the Thomas Center by 10am. The kids had to have their last doctor’s review there after 11am and then at noon they took us and 3 other families to the CHI offices for lunch. Made it back to our guest house by around 3pm and were told we would be picked up at 5pm for the adoption celebration at the Thomas Center. The kids there sang for us, we heard a message from Pastor Abdissa, were given gifts, and did the Bread Ceremony. By about 7:30 they loaded us all up to have dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant with traditional dances, food, and tour. It was a wonderful day and we were all exhausted when we were dropped off at our guest house around 10pm.

Which brings us to today… another down day with the entire focus being to enjoy and connect with our kids. We did one outing at 2pm to a Historical museum. Thanks to my brother we enjoyed the ergo baby carriers (getting some practice in for our airport/travel trek that begins tomorrow). It was the best day so far, yes, still ebbs and flows, but for the first time we heard laughter from our son… and we see glimpses into our son when he let’s his guard down… he’s such a charmer and very smart. There were less times of him withdrawing, and more times of him enjoying the love of his parents and sustained eye contact. Even more times of him testing boundaries like every 2 year does… we are loving every minute of it.

Tomorrow is Friday, our last day in Ethiopia. Our completed paperwork from the Embassy will be ready to be picked up by 10am. We will enjoy the day with the kids, then pack up and get picked up from the guesthouse at 6pm. Our flight doesn’t leave Addis until 10:15pm, but we are to be there 3 hours early normally, and we were told 4 HOURS EARLY if we want to ensure getting bulk head seating on the plane for our kids. So we appreciate your prayers for us and the kids. The flight from Addis to DC is 17.5 hours… then a 9.5 hour layover in DC… followed by another 2.5 hour flight to KC!!! We are dependent on the grace of God for our kids… as this will be a huge amount of change and stimulation after being used to living in an orphanage inside of gated walls. I’ve changed more blow outs in the last 4 days than I ever experienced in 4 months with my other 4 kids combined! I have no idea how they can both poop so many times in one day… but I was warned about it, so we brought plenty of diapers and wet wipes!! Pray for the plane ride home… it’s an overwhelming thought to handle this on the plane, but I know that God’s grace is and will be sufficient.

Everyday we end the day in awe that we’ve been blessed with these precious children. Our God is so good and it is indeed a wonderful life!

What an Incredible Valentines Day!

(Update from Ethiopia on 2-14-11)

I sit here and type with tears of overwhelmed gratitude for the incredible gifts God entrusted to us today. We agree with God, that children truly are a gift from the Him!

We started the day so excited that we were finally going to hold our kids in our arms this morning. We swung by a nice grocery store called Bambis and stocked up on some groceries that we couldn’t bring with us in our suitcases… things like bananas, bread, and a case of water. Then it was straight to the Thomas Center, and as the gates opened for the car to drive in, there was a crowd of kids standing right out front of the building yelling “welcome” and greeting us with huge smiles, roses, and of course the two new Sprague kids that were in our arms as soon as we stepped out of the car. We did enjoy giving the kids some balloons to play with and I even had a few little kids standing at my legs calling me mommy.

Justus and Hannah Mercy are so precious and today went so much smoother than we had ever imagined. We made it back to the guesthouse by 4;30pm and Justus had time to play with the toys we brought for him. Then it was bath time for both of them, then I made some mac-n- cheese for dinner and Justus finished his whole bowl. The place we are staying is working out perfect for us, it’s clean, quiet, and spacious.

Cutest memory of the day… Justus holding onto his daddy’s finger while exploring the hotel lobby… wish I had a camera at that moment, but my arms were full with my baby girl so I just watched the two of them walk around while Clint talked to him. He’s so tiny next to his daddy… the picture in my memory is there for keeps… and later Clint told me how much it had blessed him when Justus had taken a hold of his finger…that my friends Visa just can’t buy.

By the end of the day Justus made it clear that he will be his daddy’s boy… when he cried tonight after I put him down in his crib for bed, daddy quickly said, “ Let me take care of this… and the two of them relaxed in a chair with Kenny G music playing while Justus happily fell asleep in Clint’s arms... I could have been tempted to be a bit envious of the sight, but I did have Baby Mercy in mine drinking her bottle and being as cute as ever. She is a total delight and so full of smiles... still can’t believe we really get to have them. We talked together about the day and both just stood in awe of God’s blessing and answer to prayers.

Well, it’s our bed time now… we are wiped out, and being on the 4th floor is giving us some great exercise. Pray for Mercy, she has an awful cough, but is sleeping through it so far. We are praying for restored health for her before we have to do the 17.5 hour flight back to DC, with 10 hour layover in DC, and then another 2.5 hour flight to KC. Our visa appointment at the embassy is at 9am on Wednesday, so we appreciate prayers for that as well.

This is the day that the Lord has made… and we are still rejoicing and so glad in it!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Every day I will bless you…

If there is anything we have learned over the course of this adoption journey is that we can’t control the circumstances, we have no power over the long waits between steps along the way, but one thing we do have control over is how we face each new day. For us it was growth in determining that regardless of circumstances or set backs, we had a choice to walk in the peace and joy Jesus came to give us, or to yield to the roller coaster of our emotions. The key was obeying His Word… “I WILL BLESS the Lord at ALL times, HIS praise shall CONTINUALLY be in my mouth.” Declaring who our God and thanking Him for His faithfulness refreshed us with renewed strength and peace for the day. Casting our cares on Him daily had to become the “default setting”, and thanks be to God who leads us into victory! We FINALLY made it to the last leg of the journey!

Once again, this is the day that the Lord has made, we are REJOICING and so glad in it!! Our flights took us through Washington, DC and we were so blessed to spend a wonderful evening catching up with my Aunt Jungmi and cousin Daniel. The took us to the best Korean restaurant we’ve ever been to and we feasted… literally!! It was so delicious and we were so thankful to reconnect with family. (Thank you Aunt Jungmi for an amazing dinner, great breakfast and taxi driving to and from the airport. We loved catching up with you!)

This is a picture of all our baggage!! It took two smart carts to get it from the curb to the check in counter. Two of the suitcases are filled with formula, diapers, clothes, and toys for the YWAM orphanages. Thanks to Jon Umstead, we get to donate the suitcases too so we don’t have to bring so much luggage back with us when we have the kids on our return trip.

Psalm 145:2-9
“EVERYDAY I WILL BLESS you and praise your name forever and ever. Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, and His greatness is unsearchable. One generation shall commend your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. On the glorious splendor of your majesty, and on your wondrous works, I WILL MEDITATE. They shall speak of the might of your awesome deeds, and I WILL DECLARE your greatness. They shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness and shall SING ALOUD of your righteousness. The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.”

Looking forward to being in Ethiopia soon and holding Justus and baby Mercy!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011


It’s late and snowing in Kansas, but I’ve got to write to tell you how great our God is!! First let me catch you up with the last leg of this journey… We had a court date in Ethiopia Nov. 11th and our adoption became final. We were then told it would take about 6 to 8 weeks to be given visa appointments with the embassy in order to bring the kids to the U.S. So although we had full custody of our kids if we stayed in Ethiopia, we were not allowed to bring them out of Ethiopia yet. Thus the wait began… and weeks slowly turned into months… and the Lord was WITH us each day as we waited for 3 long months to hear the news we received today…

Early this morning Clint was sitting at the breakfast table drinking coffee and checking email, when he shockingly said we got an email from the embassy….“We have APPROVAL?!?!!!!! What? How is that possible?? We read and re-read the email from the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia over and over as we stood in awe and knew with great joy that our GOD had truly “turned the king’s heart”… there is no other explanation.

You see, on Dec. 22nd the U.S. Embassy had given our agency a list of 5 things to be obtained before a visa appointment would be issued to us. They were told they would have to wait and submit all 5 things together. So six weeks later they were still lacking one, but finally had made contact with the police officer of the small town and were in process of sending someone to obtain it this week, BUT before that happened we were granted APPROVAL!!!!!!!!!!!!

I ran upstairs after we read the email from the embassy to write in my journal praise to my King and when I opened my Bible, I read Proverbs 21 and was overcome with gratitude because I knew this victory was the Lord’s!! I then wrote these verses in my journal…. Prov. 21:1 “The Kings heart is in the hand of the Lord, as are the watercourses; He turns it whichever way He wills.” And verse 30 & 31 at the end of that chapter says “There is no [human] wisdom or understanding or counsel [that can prevail] against the Lord. The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but deliverance and VICTORY are of the Lord!”

A few hours after we received the good news from the embassy, our agency emailed to let us know an update of the process and that hopefully by the end of this week all would be submitted to the embassy. I immediately emailed our agency rep back the news we had received and proclaimed, “God has done this!!” For all of you who have been praying with us… THANK YOU!! ALL praise and glory and honor be to our God for He has opened the door for us! The victory is the Lords!!

Psalm 118:23-24 “This is from the Lord and is His doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day which the Lord has brought about; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”

Our Embassy appointment is set for Feb. 16th! THANK YOU LORD!!!!!!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Where is my HOPE today?

A brief adoption update:
We are still in Kansas… our kids are still in Ethiopia… and my God is still on the throne! He is still trustworthy… still faithful… and still fully ABLE! He cares more about my character than my comfort… and for that I am truly thankful. As we have walked this road, there has been continuing opportunity of coming to terms with each “disappointment” or delay we have faced. When things don’t go according to OUR plan…we can look to the PLAN MAKER! Why do I always want to have some sort of say or control? Do I really trust You Lord? Where is my hope today?

I can’t imagine doing life without the Holy Spirit…He is our comforter, counselor, teacher, and guide in life… He seems to know just how to break through to me when I take time to listen. Sometimes He speaks so clear to me that I stand and wonder… wow, how did I never put that together before? Not getting what “I want” or what “I think is best” has really brought about opportunity to discover another powerful truth this week. Fresh revelation that energizes me and enables me to continue walking in joy and peace despite things not going according to MY plan. It’s not that I hadn’t “known” these verses before… but there is a big difference between TO KNOW (head knowledge) and TO KNOW (heart revelation). So here we go…

There is a verse in the Bible that says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick”, and we all can see that happen often in the world we live in… but I know that God doesn’t want my heart sick? As I follow Jesus I must ask myself, WHERE is my hope today?? Is it in me getting my way and things going according to my plan? David must have asked himself this question too, because in Psalm 42:5 he says, “Why so downcast oh my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your HOPE in GOD, for I will yet praise Him.” Wow… each opportunity for disappointment in life is really a reality check to expose where I’m putting my hope because His Word promises us that “Those who hope IN THE LORD will NEVER be disappointed”.

The key… keep my trust and HOPE in HIM and I will NEVER be disappointed!! I remind myself that He sees the whole picture… that He loves our kids more than we could in a lifetime… He is all powerful…. He can part the Red Sea…He kept the boys from being burnt in a fiery furnace… not even smelling of smoke…He can open prison doors and set captives free… HE KNOWS the plans He has for us…plans for GOOD and not for evil, to give us a future and a HOPE… and lastly…if God is for us, who can be against us?! Thank you Lord that our hope is in YOU!! I trust your judgment over my own…your timing over my timing….your way is PERFECT… so teach me your ways. I want to mean it when I pray, “not my will but Your will be done”. Every day I can live in the realm of reason or I can live in the realm of confident TRUST in HIS WORD. I choose to HOPE in God today. ~ Mary

Sunday, January 9, 2011

A constant reminder…

The puzzle is complete, framed, and hung in our living room serving as a constant reminder that we have not walked this adoption journey alone. There are names on the pieces of our puzzle of people whom we have never met, as well as names of friends and family who we’ve known for years… who all came together to play a vital part of bringing our children home from Ethiopia. Our hearts are so thankful to God for each and every one of you!

“We continually give thanks to God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we are praying for you,” Colossians 1:3

View of the back of puzzle

The most asked question we are constantly bombarded with is…. WHEN do you get to go???? Good question. When we traveled to Ethiopia and passed court on Nov. 11th, I had met another adoptive mom on the plane that was returning to pick up her daughter less than 4 weeks after she had passed court… I then remember having hopes of a Dec. 7th embassy date. We knew that would take a miracle, so we just figured for sure we’d get to go for the Dec. 21st embassy date…. until we received a sad call and that date came and went.

We were then given the Jan 4th tentative embassy appointment date, tickets and housing were booked, lists were checked off, and with only a few days before we were to fly out, we received the phone call that said the embassy was asking for more documents for each all 6 of the families that were supposed to travel, so we needed to change our tickets. Wow, yet another opportunity to choose to Consider it all Joy and grow once again in a thankful heart in the midst of circumstances outside our control.

So here we are, less than a week from the day we are to fly out again. Two suitcases loaded with formula and stuff to donate to YWAM’s Orphan & Widow homes, 1 suitcase full of stuff for our kids, and then 1 still to be packed with our stuff. Our tentative embassy appointment date is January 18th. Plans are made and airline tickets are purchased again and every time I feel unsure, Clint proclaims to me, “We ARE GOING!” We are hoping and praying that all the additional requested paperwork has come together on that end to satisfy the embassies requests. PLEASE CONTINUE PRAYING for the favor of God to surround our case and that the U.S. Embassy will grant us permission to bring our children home. GOD is ABLE!

Eph. 3:20-21 Amplified “Now to Him Who, by (in consequence of) the [action of His] power that is at work within us, IS ABLE to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams] – To Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations forever and ever. Amen (so be it).