Thursday, July 24, 2014

A New Adventure

As new parents, we were clueless. Our highest goal could be summed up simply as "Try not to screw the kid up, . . .too badly".

We were saved when we were challenged to parent with vision, to see our calling as parents as more than just trying to raise functional citizens in society.  We were to know our children's hearts, their giftings and their callings.  We were to train them in the way they should go.

Our charge was not only to teach our children the values and lifestyle of the Kingdom of God, but to demonstrate and walk alongside them as they grew in understanding.  Not just good citizens in society, but citizens of His kingdom, walking in power, freedom, and the fullness of His love.

Four years ago we adopted our youngest son from Bulgaria.  When our journey was finished we realized that one of our strengths during that time was that my wife and I never saw the adoption as "our thing", but rather a family journey.  Our children prayed, labored, and contended for faith right alongside us.  Ever since then, we've chosen to see everything we do as a "family thing".

Originally we had plans to adopt from Albania.  We researched the country and fell in love with it.  During that time we met the wonderful Waggoner family (Waggoner News and World Report)that was in the process of adopting their second child from Albania.

Unfortunately the adoption agency we were with closed its Albania program. Our hearts were broken, but we were led to Bulgaria where we met our youngest son.  Throughout the process we continued to stay in contact with the Waggoner family and have continued to carry a burden for the people of Albania ever since.

Since that time the Waggoners have moved to Albania as full time missionaries, and we have continued to dream of doing a short term mission trip to Albania as a family.  Family was God's idea.  He has chosen to reveal Himself to us as Father. It is only fitting that He would be made known in and through family.

Early this year, the Waggoners invited us as a family to come for a two week period this fall to serve along side them in the village of Vlashaj, Albania.  We've spent the year debating whether it was the right time or not, but it seems that God has lined things up for us.  Its a shorter prep time than what we would have chosen, but God does His best work in impossible circumstances.

While our exact itinerary has yet to be determined, our children will not just be tagging along. They're part of the team and there will be plenty of work for them to do.  The Waggoners tell us that the ministry yard in Vlashaj is visited by Albanian children every morning, many of whom speak English.  Our children will have the opportunity to interact with them daily.

So here we are wrapping up this blog as we feel we've transitioned into a new stage of life with our son. We have started a new blog, The Warrior's Quiver.  This new blog will go on indefinitely and primarily be a source of family updates and such, but for the time being, we will kick it off with updates and prayer requests concerning our Albanian adventure.

We'd love for you to join us for the next journey.  We will desperately need your prayers.  In the coming days we'll be providing links to fund raiser sites.  If you would consider supporting us on this adventure it would mean so much to us!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Aaron was given the opportunity to speak at Toccoa Falls College during their chapel time this past Wednesday.  He felt God's leading to speak on our adoption journey.  You can watch it here   at Toccoa Falls College Videos. You need to find 1-23-13 (Aaron Santor).  He starts speaking at the 20:40 timecode.

The next day the Director of Spiritual Formation wrote about us on his blog
The Thursday Circle.  He titled it "In Favor of Life". It really meant a lot to us that he featured us in his blog and supported and promoted adoption.

In other news, Aaron has rerecorded some of the songs that were on the CD that helped raise funds to bring Andrew home.  He also recorded a few new songs as well. This time they were recorded in a studio and are a better quality and are all available for download.  Feel free to listen to the songs on the playlist on the right hand side of our blog and visit his page.  All these songs can be purchased through reverbnation, amazon, itunes, zune, etc.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

School, bike rides and Jesus

Quite a bit has gone on here in the last few months.  To start with Aaron transitioned over from being worship leader at Grace Fellowship for the last 12 years to being the pastor.  This past October our pastor and his family moved to Fargo, ND to start a church plant with 3 other families from our church.   Aaron is still doing his auto restoration job 4 days of the week and now working on sermon preparation 1 day a week (plus whatever extra time he can find mornings and nights).  It has been a pretty smooth transition and once again God has given us grace for this season in life.

Jen and the kids took 2 weeks off from school for Christmas.  It was so fun watching Andrew as the holiday season kicked in.  He knows our traditions now and is so excited about each and every one of them.  He knew as soon as Thanksgiving was over we would go and find a Christmas tree and cut it down.  Once it was up he kept asking what night woud we be sleeping under the tree. 

Andrew has made it over half way through Kindergarten and is learning to read.  He loves school so much.  He has a hard time with some concepts like above and below, but knows his numbers and can blend certain sounds together.  He also has a hard time memorizing sentences.  It seems like the hardest part is remembering articles and prepositions.  We're assuming this is a language barrier thing still. 

His siblings memorize scripture nearly every day with their curriculum, so Andrew wanted to learn a verse too.  We didn't think it would go well with his inability to memorize sentences, but Jen decided to plunge in since he wanted to so bad.  It has only been 2 days now, but he is learning John 3:16 and doing an amazing job with it.  He is a determined little boy and if he wants to figure it out, he will.

We do crazy things in our family like talk about when you will one day ride on the "magic" bike trail and learn to ride your bike without training wheels.  Andrew has been waiting for it to be his turn.   So, one day in September we took him to the bike trail, took off his training wheels and Aaron began the tough job of teaching him how to ride.  The wild thing is, it worked for the fifth time.  One way on the trail each kid has fallen down and cried and tried to ride and by the time we come back up the trail they are riding without falling and enjoying themselves.  Yet another big accomplishment for Andrew.

As we have stated in previous posts, we quickly realized after bringing Andrew home that we really missed out on so many foundational things during the first three years of his life.  For us the biggest concern was his inability to grasp the idea of who God or Jesus is.

We of course continued to train and teach him as we have done with the older children, but he has had a hard time dealing with the abstract.  As a parent, you just know when you child "gets it" and when the connection is just not being made.  So our only other option was to pray and ask God to break in as only He can do.

Two weeks ago while at church we had a communion service, followed by a fellowship lunch, followed by a family birthday party.  Andrew had spent most of the day playing with his siblings.  As we drove home that evening, unsolicited by anyone, Andrew spoke up from the back seat,"I drink the juice, I eat the bread, I talked to Jesus."  Interesting.

We responded,"What did Jesus say to you?" We weren't sure what to think, often times he is just goofing around.

"I asked Jesus into my heart." We were shocked. Where did this come from? He continued"that was my favorite part!"

We didn't know what to think. We're still not quite sure what happened, but we've(kids included) immediately noticed that there has been a sweetness about him that's different than before.  Also, in the past as we corrected him he would glance down at the floor in shame. No more. It's gone.

This past week he made this statement, "Jesus told me He took the sin out of my heart and that I should obey my parents."

Last night he asked us,"What's baptized?"

Again we're not really sure what has happened, all we know is that God answers prayer, and we have nothing left to say except "Thank you!"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Andrew's 6th birthday and October neurologist visit

This July we celebrated Andrew's 6th birthday.  This year we were unable to do his traditional "crazy" hair picture since he prefers his hair cut so much shorter so that he can look like his daddy.  He is doing so well and we are so proud of him.  He is half way through Kindergarten and is learning how to read short vowel, 3 letter words.  He loves school. 

Andrew was born with hydrocephalus, water on the brain, and at the young age of 6 months they did surgery in Bulgaria to put in a shunt to control the extra fluid made in his brain. 

September of last year, Jen noticed something different about Andrew's valve and the tubing that runs from it.  We called the neurologist to see if we should be concerned.  They asked if there any signs of dizziness, nausea, or disoriention.  We told them that there were none and they told us it was probably something normal that we didn't notice before.  We were welcome to come in for an appointment if we were concerned, but we weren't and considering the 2 1/2 hour trip to their office, we opted against a visit.

We went to our normal scheduled appointment in April.  They did a CT scan and x-rays.  The neurologist looked over the scans and told us that the shunt had malfunctioned and that everything looked normal on the scans.  He then scheduled an appointment for this October to check and see if anything had changed.

Sure enough the shunt was still broken and his scans still showed everything was normal.  The neurologist then scheduled an appointment for a year from now where he will check one more time and then schedule surgery to remove all the parts of the shunt.  He told us it appeared that he had outgrown hydrocephalus and that keeping the shunt in could cause problems in the future.

A year and a half ago during our first visit to the neurologist, we asked whether Andrew would ever outgrow his hydrocephalus and we were told not to count on it.  He said it was a 1 in a 1,000 chance that he would and that there were only 2 ways that we could tell.  One would be that he removes the shunt to see, but he won't do that because he ends up having to put them back in because the patient did not outgrow it.  The other way would be if the shunt malfunctions. 

Looks like God wanted to really make a statement.  He healed our son.  The main reason we were able to adopt him was because he had a special need and now here he is without this need.  Our son is the 1 in a 1,000 and we are so thankful to Jesus for His work in our son's life.

Bulgarian Reunion 2012

At the end of June we drove to Cincinatti, OH for a reunion of families who had adopted, or are in the process of adopting from Bulgaria.  It was a great weekend for both us and the kids.  We were finally able to meet many of our online friends in person and see the children whose stories we had followed. 

During the day there was a splash pad for the kids, minute to win it games and plenty of play time to meet new friends.  At night there were pot luck dinners, traditional Bulgarian music and dancing, and time spent listening to each other's adoption stories.  This was a great weekend to learn Bulgarian culture, talk to other adoptive families and simply spend time together as a family.

The kids spent most of their time together in the cul de sac of cabins.  They were different ages, nationalities, backrounds and special needs.  The thing that really impressed us was that the kids were so well behaved. They were all polite and respectful and there was not a single incident or fight during the entire weekend.

We stayed a couple days longer to visit the Creation Museum.  We all enjoyed it but it was a bit much for our 8 and under kiddos.  Lots of reading, and while some of them can read, they didn't read a full priced ticket's worth. But they all loved it and we're glad we went.

We can't wait to go to the reunion next year.  We look forward to time with our new friends and meeting the new family members that have come home from Bulgaria (and other countries) since June.

We are so thankful to Yvonne and Viviane for their hard work in making this reunion such a great success.

On  our way home we stopped in Kentucky to meet other online adoptive friends, the Waggoners.  We met them way back when we were in the Albania program before the agency closed the program.  The Waggoners adopted their 2 kids from Albania and are in the process of raising support to move to Albania as missionaries.  We were so glad to have met them in person.  They are an amazing family and we are looking forward to spending some more time with them when they come through Georgia on their support raising venture.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Finding Joel a family

This past Spring we were made aware of a little boy named, Joel.  He lives in an orphanage in Albania and needs a family to call his own.  He is just over 2 years old and absolutely adorable.  Our friends, Nathan and Cydil Waggoner, adopted 2 of their children from Albania and are in the process of raising the funds to move to Albania as missionaries.  They were able to meet Joel in 2010 when they went to bring their son home and again in February of 2012 when they went on a scouting trip for their missionary journey. The primary caretaker of the Waggoner's son has now made it her mission to find Joel a family and has asked the Waggoners to help in this mission.  For more information and pictures of Joel please vist the  The Waggoner's blog

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Spring Happenings

The first half of the year went by without any other major incidents like what we had in the previous post.  In March, we went to Gatlinburg for the weekend. We stay at a timeshare but Andrew always calls it "the big house".  Our kids enjoy exploring and learning about "the olden days" so visiting the settler's houses is always a must, second only to swimming in the pool.

During March and April the boys played ball.  Unfortunately, due to their birthdates Tobin had to be put on a prep-ball team and Andrew was put on a T-ball team.  The good news was that their younger cousin, Sadie could be on the team with Andrew.  Andrew was so excited to play T-ball and cannot wait to be on a prep-ball team with his brother in the Spring.  The boys games were on the same night, one after the other with about an hour in between games, so we packed dinner every night and enjoyed it together as a family at the baseball field.  Some people ask how we can afford to go on vacation and one of the reasons is because we hardly ever eat out. 

One night a couple of the girls and Andrew were bored at Tobin's game, so they found an empty warm-up pen and tried to play with a bat and ball.  Next thing you know, Jen hears Andrew's scream and knew something was wrong.  Andrew came running over and by the time he got to Jen(only seconds) he had a bump in the middle of his forehead between his eyes the size of an egg, no exagerating.  Turns out he walked right into the aluminum bat as his sister was swinging.

Jen scrambled around trying to find someone with a cooler so she could put ice on Andrew's enormous mound.  Andrew ended up being completely fine except that for the next week he had a bump with a bruise, which then turned into a scab for several weeks. To this day it is a faint red spot.  He keeps asking when his bump will go away.

Living in the middle of the National Forest, 2 miles in, on a dead end road has it's disadvantages.  Apparently, people think it's a great place to free their unwanted animals.  Being a family with many kids in a neighborhood of not many kids, most strays find their way to our yard.  In May we picked up 3 sweet little German Shorthaired puppies playing in the road, obviously malnourished from being recently dropped off.  Animal control would not come since it was a Friday, so we kept them for the weekend and of course, the kids fell in love.  We have one Alpha male dog already, so we decided to keep the female.  We brought the 2 brothers to a foster home for dogs sponsored by the Humane Society. 

Even though we were keeping one of the puppies, our kids were really upset about giving up the other two.  It may seem strange, but we were really encouraged to see Andrew grieve over this loss.  To us it showed that he was in a good place emotionally.  Just this past week, our puppy(4 1/2 months old now) unexpectedly passed.  Again, we got to see him process his sadness with many tears.

We went camping in June with family and friends.  We went to our favorite spot in the woods, a small hike in to a campsite surrounded on 3 sides by a creek. It doesn't have a strong current so its perfect for children of all ages to wade in.  It's full of rocks and wildlife so it makes for a kids' paradise.

The creek turns into a waterfall that flows into the Chattooga River.  There's a small beach area by an edy for the smaller kids to play. Some of us swam out with the older kids and explored the rocks across the river.  Andrew absolutely loves water, so again another great trip for him.