1st Contest and Give Away!

Today is the big day! The day The Archibald Project announces their very first competition!!! Here is the deal y’all: To enter our amazing contest all you have to do is share, on your Facebook wall, your favorite picture from an adoption trip that The Archibald Project has documented. Share why you love it and how it portrays adoption in your eyes. Make sure you tag The Archibald Project or else it wont be an official contest entry! The winner will be announced at noon on Friday, December 7th.

You might be asking yourselves, “what I will win”? We will be giving the winner their choice of an 11x14, mounted print of one of the 3 images below. Yay!!!

The winner of the contest will be based on why you love the picture you choose and the number of likes it receives. You can enter once a day but you must use the same image.
So again, click the “share” button on your favorite Archibald Project photo, explain why you chose it, tag The Archibald Project, and encourage all of your friends to check out our mission!!! Its that easy! Ready, set, GO! Let the photo sharing begin!

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December Contests and Give Aways!

It's been two weeks since we returned from Haiti, and we witnessed and learned things we will not soon forget. Adoption is hard; it cuts deep. But the inexpressible joy, love, and life can heal wounds and make certain pains a faded memory.

We are beyond thankful to have worked with such incredible, compassionate, and gracious families this year. By allowing us to document and share in these intimate moments of their lives, they have helped make The Archibald Project possible. We are so grateful, and we can't wait to see what 2013 holds!

As December begins (where the heck did November go?!) we are reflecting back on our journeys thus far, and we are learning and dreaming for the future. We have some exciting, new things planned for 2013. We can't wait to tell you all about them, but that will have to wait! For now we want to ask for your help. Our mission is to see more children adopted. We believe that when one person in a community adopts, others tend to follow. We've seen it happen in our own neighborhoods and are so encouraged. However, most people are not in a community where adoption is taking place. This is where you come in! We need you to share the journey's and stories of the families we've worked with so far. We believe this can have the same effect as someone living in an adopting community. People can witness a firsthand account of adoption. They can share in the joy and pain of a family they may not even know. The internet is such a wonderful tool for educating and inspiring! So will you please help us?!

We've put together a few fun ways to get The Archibald Project out there! Each week leading up to Christmas we'll have a competition with an opportunity to win fun and adoption oriented prizes! So pay extra close attention to our facebook page and blog to participate in the weekly competitions! 

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Thank you for all of your love and support! None of this would be possible without you.

~TAP Team~

The Long Road To Kelly

There is something special about Haiti that I can’t quite pinpoint. I kind of love it. I don’t know why anyone would choose Haiti. To choose to adopt from this poverty stricken, chaotic country is to choose a long, arduous road with seemingly endless highs and lows. But I guess its not the parents that choose their children to begin with, is it? And maybe that is why this place feels so special. If we believe that God is all knowing and has planned our days before the beginning of time, then it was not Kimberly and Michael Stewart who chose to adopt from Haiti in the first place. If God puts a calling on your heart, woe to the man who turns his back on that calling. I assume that is why I sit here, next to an oddly shaped swimming pool, watching dozens of families grip tightly to their Haitian children. Haiti is not an easy country to adopt from. It is not glamorous. There are not tourist trips to famous monuments nor street markets to bring back knock off souvenirs. It is a broken country, peppered with potholes, decorated in tents, and crawling with homeless, hungry children. The government is next to nonexistent and the country seems to be run by NGO’s. Despite all of this, it is beautiful. There is an untouchable hope in the air. The Spirit of God has taken up residence in the downtrodden hearts of many of these children. This is the 9th trip for the Stewart family. They began their adoption back in 2010 and have traveled to Haiti every 3 months to spend one week with their son. Families from all over the country, with children in the same orphanage, have been on a similar journey as the Stewart's for the past 2-3 years. A bond has been formed. They have shared life giving joy and gut wrenching pain together. They watch aching hearts get temporary relief from this long distance relationship as they all gaze into the eyes of the ones they now call son or daughter. Then, in what seems like only a day, time is up. Their children are once again taken from their arms as they reach back and cry for their mamma. They are placed back in the orphanage, the clock starts over, and heavy hearts head home counting down the days until the next visit. This process never gets easier, but these families have chosen to live out the gospel. They will continue to find hope, joy, and peace, and like our heavanly Father they will not give up. This is the Stewarts 9th visit to spend a week with their son Kelly, in Haiti. They brought their eldest son, Wesley Grant, to meet his new little brother. This is their journey. This is their reuniting. This is Haiti.

I Will Not Leave You Here. I Will Come Back For You.

Before going to Haiti I had heard the Stewart's talk about some of the events and emotions of their trips. I thought I knew what I was stepping into, but words could never describe the level of joy, sadness, hope, love, and desperation that is experienced within the walls of that tiny compound. Even after seeing it firsthand and having my heart broken daily, I still do not fully know the pain that the Stewart's and so many other families are going through. This gives me all the more adoration for them, the commitment to their calling, and the God that called them. One day they wont have to say goodbye. One day, the memories of sadness and confusion will instill trust. Trust that Mama and Papa said they would return, said they wouldn’t leave me in Haiti forever. But for now, parents must literally leave their children in Abba’s hands and entrust their little ones into His will and protection. None of us will be able to fully understand the depth of emotion these families are going through, but my hope for these pictures is that when you look through them you will feel. Not that you would feel guilt or shame, but that you would feel a deep connection to these families and children. My prayer is that this small window into their incredible story would allow you to stand beside them and hope and hurt in a way you previously could not.  And when you pray for them, whether you know them or not, may your words come second to the outpouring of your heart's compassion. “...This sickness will not end in death. No, it happened for the glory of God so that the Son of God will receive glory from this.” John 11:4

Color Does Matter...

An interview with Kimberly Stewart.

Our adoption has taught us an endless number of lessons, one of those lessons is that color does matter. We never set out to adopt trans racially, but when we asked God where we would find our son, He lead us to Haiti.  He led us to a precious, little boy who is black.  Our son's color nor our color has ever gotten in the way of our love, our bond, or being a family, but it has educated us in ways we were previously ignorant. Is love color blind? Does color really matter? These are sensitive and important questions when it comes to trans racial adoption.  Many people say, “Color doesn’t matter…love is colorblind."  We even said and believed this at one time.  While it is a lovely idea, it actually creates a tension that we are trying to avoid.  I wholeheartedly believe now that color DOES matter. It matters to your extended family, it matters to your community, and most importantly, it matters to your adopted child. Color matters because it is part of that child’s identity. It is part of who God made them to be.  To “look past” or ignore a child’s color robs them of their heritage. It takes away the opportunity for them to embrace how God made them. I believe the heart behind saying "color doesn't matter" is to address the racial tension that our world engages in on a daily basis. While this is important, to try and solve the problem by ignoring color differences does not address the core issue and essentially only adds to the tension. Color is not the problem; it is our ignorance and hate toward people God made. Ultimately, color matters because God made color.  The array of skin color in this world is part of God's creation. When He created man, we were created in His image.  This means we represent God both through our physical appearance and personality.  And although we are a marred image because of our sin, we are still made in His image and woven together from His creativity. Part of that creativity is color, and God chose all of us to be a certain color. God chose Kelly to be our son, and we will help point him to the One who made him. We will daily speak truth to him about all that God says of him. Everything matters through God's eyes. Therefore, as we live our lives through the lens of God's word, we find the truth that color is infinitely important because it mattered to God to design us in the color and way in which we are. We praise God for our son Kelly, who God made him, and the color God chose for him.

Sweet Dreams Little One

Nightly routines are precious to growing families, especially when a part of your heart lives in Haiti and time is limited. While in Haiti, the setting of the sun signaled the beginning of tickle fights and wrestling matches. This short time of inexpressible joy, laughter, and touch is forming a bond and a trust that will bury itself deep inside Kelly's fragile, little heart. When that glorious day arrives and Kelly gets to go home, this bonding time in Haiti will help him transition into life with his new family.

 

Meet Lisa!

I'm so thankful to have the sweet and talented Lisa Woods with me in Haiti. So far these trips have been me and my husband, Nick, but Lisa has been the perfect replacement.

We met about a year ago at a photographer meet up group and clicked instantly. She's passionate about justice, serving others and of course photography. She has two beautiful kiddos that she and her husband home school and a keen eye for beauty.

Meet Lisa!

"I'm a low key, laid back girl who likes to ride bikes, drink coffee, travel, and take pictures.  I'm a mother of two precious kids Asia (7) and Titus (6) and the wife of a wonderful dad who home schools them.  I began my photography career just after my kids were born.  I've always had a passion for travel and photography. The love of those two things grew when I studied abroad in Oxford, England while in college.  Documenting life, people, and places makes me appreciate those things more.  When you're in the moment, sometimes it's hard to truly appreciate and be thankful for what you have, but when I look back at the pictures I realize how wonderful and beautiful life can be." Why did you want to come to Haiti with The Archibald Project? Caring for another individual's well being, their rights to be free from oppression or the opportunity to better their situation is what I'm most passionate about in life.  I think the cure for most selfishness and depression starts with letting go of your issues long enough to care for others. 10 years ago we went to Haiti and stayed at an orphanage and met some truly amazing kids.  I've been wanting to go back for quite some time especially since the quake.  This opportunity to incorporate my love of photography with my desire to help others couldn't be a more perfect fit.

If you could do anything in the entire world in 1 day, what would you do? If I had a day to do anything in the world, well to be honest I might need more days because there's a lot out there I'm still itching to do.  But I'd probably spend the day exploring a new city.  Complete with great coffee, hiking a mountain or riding bikes.  And end with card games and drinks with new friends I meet along the way.  :)

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*above picture by Lisa Woods Photography

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Dingle "Gotcha...Meetcha Day"

Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good. It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. - Psalm 127:1&2

The Lord’s mighty hand is upon this adoption. He directed the Dingle’s hearts towards a beautiful, baby girl, abandoned even before birth in Taitung, Taiwan. The Lord directed them to Zoe. It was not by human efforts that they found their daughter. They did not search night and day for the “right one”. They simply opened their hearts to God’s unpredictable leading, followed a call to “take care of orphans”, and 5 1/2 months later found themselves holding a new piece of their heart in a small, Taiwanese hospital. Although this was not a normal “gotcha day,” it was all part of the story that God has been writing since before the Dingle family arrived. Shannon and Lee were escorted from the domestic airport in Taitung to a local hospital the day they arrived in country. They were lead to a prayer room and told to wait. A few moments later, which seemed like a lifetime for them, in walked the newest addition to their sweet family of five. This is the moment that parents fantasize about; the moment they first touch and see their new child. They spend countless nights imagining how it will go. Will there be tears or laughter? But when the moment finally comes, the world stops, all previous thoughts fly out the window, and a child is placed in your arms. Now you are supposed to leave with your new baby. (Insert screeching car breaks here). This is where the wrench gets thrown into the Dingle’s adoption. They weren’t able to take sweet Zoe home. They were allowed to hold her, kiss her, and sweetly whisper how lovely and beautifully made she is, but when time was over they had to leave her in the confines of a cold, sterile hospital. With hopeful but heavy hearts, they left empty handed. The next day was more of the same; more touching, more kissing, more falling in love, and more waiting before Zoe was safely in their arms forever.  It is not easy, but they have been trusting that God is in control. “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” Proverbs 16:9.

Taipei, Taiwan

Every adoption trip is different. Our flight arrived in Taiwan before the Dingle’s to ensure that we got here perfectly with no glitches. We meet Shannon and Lee Dingle in a few hours at the domestic airport in Taipei. They will be exhausted. Their journey began from North Carolina. From N.C they traveled to New York on a 2 1/2 hour flight, sat at JFK for a few hours, boarded a 16 hour flight to Taipei at 1:45 a.m eastern time, and will land in Taiwan literally any minute. Now they will go through customs, catch an hour bus ride to the domestic airport, wait 5 hours to catch an in country flight into a southern city, climb onto a 30 minute van ride, and immediately meet their daughter. It exhausts me to even think about it. To top it all off, their daughter is a baby, and I doubt she will be sympathetic to their exhaustion. So if you have a moment, please say a prayer for them :) We are traveling to Taitung in a few hours. Its a south western costal town and I hear its quite lovely. The Dingles are adopting through a beautiful ministry, located in Taitung, called Morning Light Ministries. Morning Light was founded by two Americans who have started a wonderful education and crisis center. They aim first to save lives by guiding mothers toward options other than abortion and by teaching youth about abstinence, but a lot of what they do goes into serving women so that they can keep their children. (The abortion rate is higher than the birth rate in Taiwan.) For example, they have a childcare facility that offers free or inexpensive options so that single mothers can work, they have a food bank to meet dietary needs, and they have a mother's home for temporary housing. When those measures aren't enough or when birth mothers aren't able to raise their child for other reasons, they facilitate adoptions and care for children who are waiting for their forever families. Please take a look at their blog: http://www.panfamtaiwan.blogspot.tw/ and learn more about what they do to serve the Taiwanese. Before we meet the Dingles I will leave you with some scenic shots around Taipei. Next post will be ‘Gotcha Day’ pictures so be sure to stay tuned!!!

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Stewart Interview -Texas to Haiti

Today I’d like to introduce you to a very special woman. She is a wife, a mom, a servant, a mentor, a friend, a caring neighbor and most importantly a woman who fearfully loves the Lord.

Kimberly and her husband Michael, (or as his friends call him, Stew) began pursuing adoption over 18 months ago. They have 3 amazing biological children whom I fall more in love with every time I see them. The Stewarts are loved and admired by all who meet them. I don’t think I can honestly say that about anyone else I’ve ever met. To say the least, they are a blessing and an inspiration and it is all the Holy Spirit at work in their hearts. Every time I see Kimberly she has something to share about God’s working in their lives and over the past year and a half her faith in God has only increased.

The Stewarts have been living in limbo, traveling every 3 months to spend a week in Haiti with one son while leaving their other 3 children at home. Back and forth, tears and hugs, joys and frustrations. It is not always easy, and no, she is not always beaming with sunshine. At times she is beat, downtrodden and exhausted but she’ll be the first to admit that those times only push her further into her Father’s arms.

Take a few minutes and read through our interview. If you are adopting, be inspired, you are not alone. Their are parents out there just like you, clinging to hope, fighting for children and pursuing love against all odds. If you aren’t adopting, be inspired. There are people out there who are called to adopt and are pushing through life’s challenging circumstances to save a child’s life. If you happened to stumble across this site by chance, be inspired, God wanted you here ;)

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How did you find Kelly/know he was your son?

Long story- but basically, as we kept asking God the question, "Where is our son?".  Stew went to Haiti on a pastoral trip and took an extra day to visit orphanages.  He came home with lots of videos with lots of kids.  We felt led to pray about 2 boys. Kelly was one of them.  We visited Haiti together to visit both children.  One of them already had a family who was going to adopt him.  But that was not even what lead us to Kelly.  We spent time with him and he had no response to us.  That night as we discussed our time with Kelly and others, we admitted that we were looking for an emotional response from a child to lead us to choose that child. But then we were overwhelmed with truth in our hearts.  The Bible says that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  That from the beginning of time he predestined us, chose us to adopt us to be sons and daughters. (Romans, Eph 1)  And the next morning as we asked, "God, who is our son?"  He clearly helped us see that He had been leading us to Kelly all along.  He chose kelly for us. We chose Kelly...not because of anything he had done, but because we loved him and had been searching for him and found him through understanding our own adoption story with God.

Why Haiti?

Good Question! In some ways, I don't know. But the real answer is because God lead us there.  It was where our son was.  We had been praying over the map of the world and asked one question to God, "Where is our son?".  Stew had a meeting that happened to have the founder of our agency there and he was getting the license for the agency that day.  They asked what he needed and he said, "Families who will adopt from Haiti".  The rest is history. Explain the past year and a half of traveling back and forth and your kids perspective and understanding of it? Waiting- Leaving 3 children to go to one...Then leaving one child to go to the three.  It has been hard.  It has left us living in tension.  The tension of not all being together and leaving our children.  But it has been teaching us tremendous things! It has given us Faith in God's work, not man's.  It has helped us lean on friends and family when we prided ourselves to be self-sufficient.  It has been teaching us to parent our children through prayer.  The tension of waiting, leaving, coming and going, has given us time.  Time to think about this journey.  As we have time to think about it, we are finding our own adoption story.  A children's book has come from this waiting time and is being edited to be published.  That has been very fun! We are able to tell many people about our adoption and share many things about God, Haiti and our lives.  We are able to learn from Haiti. Every 3 months we get to see the poorest country in the western hemisphere.  That will change you, change your priorities, your perspective and your longings.  We are learning to believe that God is good.  We are learning that we are weak, afraid and demanding at times. But God shows us Himself and continues to lead us ahead. My children understand tangibly their need to be adopted into God's family.  They are growing in this tension too.  They are learning to experience suffering or let their brother suffer....Experience pain of separation on both sides...and I believe they are understanding the Gospel deeper because of it.  Jesus said we learn to understand the Gospel through suffering and pain.  I am learning to let my children experience that and parent them through prayer, trusting God's work in their hearts.

What would you tell someone who is just starting the adoption process? And especially the adoption process in Haiti?

Pray.

Three things you love about Kelly?

His laugh.  His strength.   His curiosity.

Three things you can't wait for him to  experience/be a part of when he comes home?

Family dinner/reading books together.   Ice cream.  Our church body who loves him and has sacrificed and walked with us.  I can't wait for them to love on them!

Do you know how much longer your waiting process is?

No.

How can people be praying for you and your family?

Pray for our faith to continue to rise as we wait this next year.  In quiet times, we can doubt.  Pray for our paperwork to be signed and passed along the necessary stages so that he can come home.  Pray God gets all the credit for this story and that it will be told to many generations, pointing to everyone's need to be adopted through Christ to God and become children of God.

Thank you so much for your time Kimberly! To read more about their journey, visit their family blog here.

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Our Gear.

Greetings! Today’s post is for our techie friends out there. Some of you have asked about our photography gear and we’d love to share what we know/what we use. If you have more questions that are not answered in this blog post shoot us an email! We are Canon enthusiasts. We love Canon, started on Canon, promote it when we can, and hopefully will die with Canon ;) Sorry all you Nikon lovers; we’ve heard wonderful things! We have two Canon 7D’s and a 30D. We do not use our 30D, its just our back up. Some of you might be surprised by our choice to not use the Mark ll, but honestly, I love our 7D (it keeps us humble!). I actually shot with a Mark l a while back and prefer the 7D. The 7D is comparable to the Mark ll but it is not full frame. This is something I, personally, am okay with. I’ve shot with the 7D long enough to know my frame and what will be cut off. My absolute favorite lens is the 24-70mm L series. I shoot everything with her. Weddings, babies, adoptions, homecomings, personal fun stuff...you get the picture. Nick’s go to lens is the fixed 50mm. It can drop down to 1.8 and is great for low light situations, such as airports. We also have a 10-22mm wide angle lens that we use on occasion. We also have two 580EX ll SpeedLites. These are external flashes that we keep on our cameras while inside, however we don’t always turn them on. (BTW, get ready to grow some serious arm muscles, camera body+24-70 lens+flash is beyond heavy!) I must give a shout out to my wonderful camera strap! My sweet husband got it for me as a Christmas present a few years back and I love it. The company is out of Chicago and everything is handmade. Yes they have dog collars, and yes our dog as one with little planes on it. Check them out at: http://souldier.us For shooting in low light situations you really need to evaluate all your lighting sources. I would not suggest shooting above 3200 ISO or you might end up with noisy images. When light fails you, turn on your flash. Not your on camera flash, but the external flash. Never point the flash directly at your subject, try and bounce it off the ceiling or a near by wall. If we have to use flash I edit my images to muddle the flash and make it look more natural.

Oh, and always, always, always shoot in manual ;)

Thanks!

Random Ramblings From Our Journey Home.

I go to write, and my thoughts evade me. We're on a greyhound style bus right now headed for Hong Kong. We left the Jones family in Guangzhou with plans to meet up at the Marriott by the airport. I turn to watch the scenery go by and am taken back to my internal journal.This trip has taught me much. I was trying to explain to my husband that nothing, besides marriage, has ever been so obviously sanctifying. Traveling with other people so intimately in a foreign land has forced me to see my sins through a magnifying glass. It is not easy, nor is it painless. I don’t think sanctification or pruning is ever easy. I turn to look out the the window again. The terrain has changed; mountains now scale the highway. Factory. Another factory. Again, a factory.  I haven’t seen any factories until this bus ride. I was actually beginning to think all of those stories I’ve heard were fiction. Wrong. The sky is actually lower around the factories, and I’m wondering if its just foggy or smog. I’m gonna go with smog because we haven’t seen the sun in 2 weeks. Literally. I see workers out in the fields. My mind is taken back to a day trip Nick and I took to the “country side” a few days ago. We hopped in a van, sans Jones family, and took a 2 hour ride to a little village. Our driver didn’t speak any English, but we were able to communicate with pointing and made up sign language. He pulled onto a little dirt road and motioned for us to get out. We began to walk. Not knowing where we were headed, we trusted he wanted to share something with us. The dirt road turned into a small community with houses stacked on top of each other and pig pens intermixed. We ventured onto a roof top. Below was a pond. It was beyond stagnant. What’s that? A floating, rotting pig. I turn away only to see a tiny piglet floating by the shore. I vow to never eat beacon again. We continued to walk and came across a gathering of elderly people. Our driver began talking with them, and I asked him if I could take their pictures. He asked, they gave their consent, and I began to snap. They were so beautiful. Their skin looked like aged leather, with folds and creases that told the story of a long, hard life. Some had missing teeth and others unknown growths, but all were beautiful. The thing I will never forget about this village was the people’s reaction of seeing their portrait. I think its safe to assume that they had never seen their own picture. The light that came through their eyes and the smiles that cracked their lips filled my heart with so much joy. Showing someone a picture I just took is one of my favorite parts of the job. I think a picture can speak volumes of beauty and confidence into someone. It can tell someone that they are worthy, that someone wants to see them, and that someone wants to share their story. A picture lets the world know they exist. Its funny that until we experience something its almost as if they or that place doesn’t fully exist. But it does. Back on the bus. There are 50+ realities sitting here with me. Worlds I’ll never know, pains and joys I’ll never see. It can be overwhelming, how do we direct our prayer’s and efforts? Pray. Seek Jesus. Do as He calls. For if we act on our own, we are without the power of Jesus and the world will be a confusing and scary place. Border stop. Bus ride over. Good bye China.

Adoption is Hard.

The last thing we want to do is leave out the hard parts. Yes, we want to share the hopeful and joyful sides of adoption, but we also want to share the hard truths. The times that most people like to sweep under the rug, we want to share. Pictures have the ability to romanticize a situation, and this is the last thing we want to do. There is a fine line to walk when you want to present a story that is hopeful and beautiful but still be honest about the realities that go along with adopting a fourteen year old girl.So here we go... Eliana is very much her own person. She has fourteen years of life experience without much supervision. She was the oldest girl in her orphanage. She had her own room with her own wooden “bed”. She shared her clothes with all the other girls. She attended public school but was sometimes made fun of because she didn’t have parents. She lived in a foster home for a short period where they practiced Buddhism. Until yesterday she had never heard the name Jesus. Unlike most people, she has never had anyone to stand up for her. She has never had anyone speak confidence into her life. She has never had someone to protect her or punish her. Her fourteen years of life have been shaped by doing all of those things for herself. She is tough; she is a survivor. She did not want a hug when she first met her parents. She was told her whole life that parents were mean and that some parents in America would adopt you, take you to the states, and then use your organs for their ill, biological children. She was told that if she wasn’t good enough for her adoptive parents they would send her back. She has believed these lies, and they have shaped the way she reacts toward parents. She is timid at times and does not want to upset her parents. She is soft spoken with them and does not want to burden them with any needs or desires. She plays well with Parker and Lilli (her new siblings) and other adults that she views as friends. This has caused frustrations and sadness in Bill and Kelli because they are desperate to bond with their new daughter that they love so so much.  Their new daughter still does not trust that love, and with distrust comes rejection, and with rejection comes tears.  This is not easy on Bill and Kelli, but nothing of eternal significance is every easy. It has been so beautiful to watch this family adapt. Eliana would laugh and smile the first day, but the smiles were faint and infrequent. Now, after only six days, her whole body language has softened. She is more touchy with mamma and giggling constantly. The tension she has carried for thirteen years is melting away with every passing day. There is light at the end of the tunnel! The emotional defenses from a long, hard life in an orphanage are slowly being broken down, and behind those defenses we are seeing a precious little girl that desperately wants to be loved by her new parents. One of Eliana’s good friends from her orphanage was adopted 3 years ago. She lives in America and has wonderful parents. She wrote an email to Eliana saying that she knew what Eliana was going through. She knew the lies about parents and the fears of traveling to a new country.  She assured Eliana to not be afraid because her new parents love her more than anything, and soon she will trust their love.  She told her that      her parents were not going to send her back to China, and that a man named Jesus loves her and chose this beautiful family for her. This man, Jesus, knew her before her birth, planned her life, and loves her more than she’ll ever know. I teared up reading this email. It was so powerful, so raw, and so real. This is a process. The beginning. The middle. But so not the end.

Normal People, Big God

The Archibald Project is in China. I’m sitting by my hotel window overlooking the city lake. The sun is trying to break through the smog but I just don’t think it has the strength today. It’s supposed to reach 68 degrees this afternoon, but honestly, I’m doubting that as well.Our time in China has been simply lovely. While it feels like weeks, we’ve actually only been here for three nights; I suppose that has something to do with jet lag. One of the my favorite things about our job is not the foreign lands and new foods, but getting to know the families of with whom we travel. I’ve already learned so much from Bill and Kelli Jones. They are admirable people who love the Lord and speak truth. They are normal people, they have normal jobs and children, a mortgage to pay, and fears to fight. The thing that makes them different is not this crazy journey or amazing adoption story, but the wonderful God they serve. It’s easy to romanticize people you read about, or compare your own life to others; I admit comparison and I are old friends. But something so wonderful that the Lord is showing me is that we are all normal, and He is not. Our God is not limited to our ways and thoughts, He does not lay His head to rest as we do. We are sinners; He is perfect. We are thirsty; He is our living water. We are emotional; He is steady. We want and He Is. God is perfect, He is so good! Let us praise Him for His workings and His heart for His people. We are tools, let us not praise the creation, but praise the Father for creating and loving and giving hope! Today is ‘Gotcha Day’ and we leave in 3 hours to meet the Jones’ 13 year old daughter for the first time. I’m so excited and I’m not even in the family. I can’t imagine what Kelli and Bill are feeling, let alone what Eliana is feeling. She has lived in one place for almost 14 years, she has never been outside of her town. But right now, as I type, she is in a car, on the longest ride she has ever experienced, to meet 4 people that will change her life forever. Will post pictures of their meeting soon, until then, here are some Instagram pics from my phone....and yes, we actually stumbled across 'Occupy Hong Kong'. haha

Archie's 6 Month Update

This post is so special for me to write. Archie, from whom our name, The Archibald Project came from, was our very first adoption to photograph. Six months ago today, Archie and his father, Joey, landed at Bush Intercontinental Airport. This day forever changed the lives of the Eicher family. They were no longer 3, but 4.I was able to interview Joey and Lisa today and so many smiles were brought to my face, as I’m sure will be to yours. If you have had the privilege of meeting Archie, you know this child is a pocket full of sunshine, always smiling and infecting others with a grin. When I first rounded the corner at Archie’s orphanage I saw him standing there, waiting for his mom and dad. He didn’t run to me thinking I was mommy, nor did he run to my husband. But when he saw Joey, he knew, ‘this is my daddy’, instantly went to him and exclaimed, “papa!”. I laughed and cried as Archie showed the 3 of us around his home, totally in awe of his spunk and excitement. On the 3 hour drive back to Sophia from Kazanlak so many thoughts raced through my head. “How is he going to adapt? What is he thinking right now being in a car with 5 strange adults? Will he do well on the flight? Will he be able to communicate when he gets to Texas? Will his spunk and happiness change once his new life sets in?”, obviously the questions went on and on. Now, 6 months after the easily romanticized adoption trip and airport pictures, I’m so happy to say, and see, that Archie has flourished being at home with Mama and Daddy and sister. His spunk and excitement for life have only intensified! Below are pictures that I took and a short interview for Archie’s 6 month update, we hope to be able to do this with all of our adoptions. Enjoy!What are 3 words that best describe Archie?

Hilarious. Joyful. Sweetheart.

How does Ace describe her big brother?

"Archie is the best brother and the funniest brother. I love to play games with him. I am so happy cause he's in my family."... Ace is over the moon for her big brother. She loves him so much. They get along so incredibly well.

Joey, how would you describe your son?

Well, he is a happy kid ALL the time. Except when daddy (instead of mommy) takes him to the bathroom. His smile is so contagious. He really is the type of kid that teaches you something new about yourself everyday, sometimes more than you want :)      He eats a lot and loves milk and apple juice.     If he ever thinks you're sad, then you'd better forget about whatever it is you're sad about because he loves so much...to the point where he'll worry about you until you are happy again.       He loves his friends and complete strangers.          He prays (and understands it) before every meal and loves it.         He is not shy about being who he is and never worries about what others think of him.       He is the perfect brother and cherishes every second spent with Ace. They are best friends. He loves all three Toy Stories and pretty much every movie. Its funny because when he is watching Monsters Inc., he hides from the "scary" parts until Ace tells him its 'ok'. He trusts Ace with his life and would do anything to protect her and make her happy. ANYTHING!!!

Sometimes I wonder why I have been blessed to have such a perfect child, but God knows exactly what he's doing. :) This boy has taught me patience and more about myself than I could have ever known! If you had to pick one, what would you say is your fondest memory of Archie? Watching Ace and Archie hug and just embrace each other at the airport when Archie arrived home. It solidified everything for me. This was our son. This was her brother. It was one of the greatest moments of my life.

Funniest?

Oh man we have had quite a few funny moments. I have to go back to the airport again. When Archie first stepped through the doors and into the lobby where tons of people were waiting for their loved ones,  Archie was sure they were all there to welcome him. He waved to the crowd and even took a bow. It was like he was a little celebrity. The crowd cheered and he had the biggest grin on his face. It was hysterical.

Most frustrating?

The most frustrating times have been more recently, since Archie started public school. He started acting out at school, clearly trying to tell us that he was not comfortable in his setting. It wasn't so much that we were frustrated with Archie or his behavior, but more so with not being able to create the perfect environment for him. Since then we have come up with a new plan at his school and he is doing great!

What about your biggest praise?

His English and communication. It is absolutely astonishing how quickly he started speaking English. I was so worried about the language barrier when he first came home, but it has really never been an issue. Even if he can't find the words, he figures out a way to communicate his needs very well. He is now speaking full on conversational English. Is it perfect? No. But I understand him.

Has parenting a boy changed or effected your marriage?

I would say we have more patience (most days). We are also often exhausted. We give everything we have to our kids throughout the day, and don't have much left by the end. But we know that this is just a season. While most days we at least try to take a few minutes to connect and talk before we go to sleep, we are also okay and understand if one of us is running on empty and just needs to be still and quiet. How has parenting Archie effected your views of God or God’s love?

God loved and sustained Archie for seven years in an orphanage. There were times during the adoption process when we were very confused about God and why there were so many suffering and dying orphans. His own children-- left to die in cribs. No love, no food, no touch. That was tough to process and still is. As far as parenting Archie, I feel like I have a better understanding of God's infinite and unconditional love. Even during the hard times, I know that God chose this child for me, and I will love him always, no matter what. Every night we say this prayer with the kids, "Dear God, thank you for loving us, all the time, no matter what." It's a simple, yet powerful reminder.

A list of Archie’s favorite things Food: Macaroni and Cheese or as he calls it, “croney cheese” Movie: Toy Story 2 Word: Happy Activity: Taking pictures Outfit: Anything pink, or a football jersey. Quite the opposites!

Jesus, we pray blessings over this family. We ask that You and You alone would sustain them, lead them and guide them. We thank You for Joey and Lisa’s hearts. We thank You for writing Archie’s story and weaving it so perfectly together with his family. God we love you and praise you!

Cast Your Fears To Jesus

I’ve recently started my mornings with a hot cup of tea, the back doors wide open with our dog bathing in the rising sun, curled up in my favorite chair spending time with Jesus. I’ve come to crave that sweet time all through out the day. I often think about my mornings during the day and the peace that Jesus brings sweeps back over and I can proceed. This morning I began day two of getting to know Elisabeth Elliot. For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, I beyond recommend that you stop reading right now, put down your computer and go to the nearest book store. The Lord will teach you much in her pages, trust me. I like to mix up my working atmosphere, one day in my office, one at my favorite, local coffee shop, some at home with Hook (our yellow lab), and others in book stores. I love book stores. The smell of fresh pages, the bright colors bouncing off the covers and all the different adventures just waiting for you to take part in, I love book stores. Okay, back to Ms. Elliot. I often ponder my favorite quote, “Sometimes when we are called to obey the fear does not subside and we are expected to move against the fear. One must choose to do it afraid.” I was editing at a book store, pondering this quote and realized I had never actually read anything by this woman whose 2 sentences have greatly affected my life. So I bought a book called, “Let Me Be A Woman”, by Elisabeth Elliot. And no, its not a feminist book.
Back to this morning...Day two with Elisabeth... I was in chapter 10 (no i’m not a fast reader her chapters are just short), when I heard something I had heard a million times before. Only this time it showered my heart with peace and excitement! Until the birth of this “adoption ministry”, I had never really understood what it meant to walk step by step, trusting God from point A to B. So I want to share with you the wisdom from Elisabeth, for she can communicate far more effectively than I. The truth is that none of us knows the will of God for his life. I say for his life- for the promise is “as thou goest step by step I will open up the way before thee.” He gives us enough light for today, enough strength for one day at a time, enough manna, our “daily” bread. And the life of faith is a journey from Point A to Point B, from Point B to Point C.... But all the time (40 years in the desert) God was with them, leading them, protecting them, hearing their cries, goading and guiding them, knowing where they were going and what His purposes were for them and He never left them. pg. 30&31I want to encourage you today, where ever you are, to release your burdens to Jesus. You may feel like you are never going to bring your child home, or fears and worries bombard you day and night about someone else adopting them or hurting them or being denied by the local authorities. But friend, I say to you, God knows His plans for you and your children, He is leading you, He hears their cries, they are not alone at night. God is holding each of their hearts. Take your adoption day by day, step by step, casting all fears to the side and fixing your thoughts on Jesus. For He will get you and your child through this process. He, and He alone.

God Bless,