Saturday, October 8, 2011

More than just a picture...

WOW! Where do I even begin. Such an amazing eye opening experience my trip to Ghana, my trip to see my girl, was. As an adoptive parent, not yet having met your child, only having a beautiful picture to stare at, to dream about, to wonder, to cry over, to pray over and plead with our ALL KNOWING Father to bring them home now, you can only imagine the thoughts that race through your head when this tiny face in a picture will become reality and be in your arms. SO many fears race through your mind as you prepare to make that trip to see your child. BUT OH how extciting it all is!

After I landed in Ghana and was on my way to the orphanage I was filled with anticipation, my heart was racing, I could not wait to meet my little girl. Once we arrived and saw ALL of the children that I have come to know through pictures over this past year it was so surreal, I could not believe I was finally there. And then my beautiful girl made her way out of the crowd, smiled so beautifully at me, came to me and wrapped her arms around my neck. Finally!!! We were together!!! It felt right, she was mine and all I could do was hold tight as tears of joy streamed down my face. If only I could describe to you what my heart was feeling at that moment. How precious. How priceless. How thankful I was to hold this amazing, beautiful child and know that the Lord, in all of his goodness, picked me to bless with this little girl. In the short week that I was there, I saw my little one blossom right before my eyes. So shy and quiet when I first arrived, to this silly, unique, awesomely quirky, sweet as sugar, talkative little girl!! How amazing to see the transformation of a child when they feel loved and wanted. When they know they have a mommy and daddy. I had my expectations from staring at that photo and they were all wrong. Seeing her face to was real, this little life was so much more than anything I could have came up with staring at that photo. She has hopes, she has scars, she has fears and tears that follow close behind. She has a story. She is real and she is mine. I know that this is just the beginning of our journey together and so many memories are yet to be made, so many struggles are yet to be walked but what I do know is when she does finally come home, in God's perfect timing, hand in hand, we will begin to write the rest of her story...our story. A story of trust. A story of love. A story of joy and of tears. We will show her and constantly remind her that we are forever....a word she does not "know". We will teach her of our Saviors perfect, unfailing love. And that while she is the apple of our eyes...Jesus's love for her goes above and beyond ours. When I left Ghana, I praised the Lord for redeeming my little girl's life. For allowing me to leave knowing that this little girl, my little girl, has a family, a mommy and daddy who adore her. I can't wait for her to come home BUT my heart breaks for the rest of those "beautiful faces" you see in the pictures who do not have a family, a mommy and daddy, a home. You see, these children are so much more than what you see in the pictures. They have a depth to them, they have hopes. A hope to be loved. A hope to be wanted, to have someone to call them "mine". To have a mommy and daddy. My heart breaks for these "beautiful faces" that long to be known and loved. In one short week, I saw the beauty these kids bring to life, the joy that the Lord has given them despite their circumstances. Their smiles and laughter are enough to light the world. So beautiful, so precious, so much more than a "beautiful face" in a picture. It's at times like this that I am beyond grateful for having a God who at all times has our best interests at heart. Who loves and adores us right where we are. Who gives love, peace and joy to these children who have no one else. So while too many of these children will remain just a "beautiful face" Him they are sooo much more. They are real. They are His and that is amazing.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Adoption T-Shirts!!!

We are selling adoption t-shirts in order to raise the last portion of funds needed to bring home our little girl from Africa. Shirts are $20.00 per shirt and 100% of the money goes to our adoption. 150 shirts sold will help us meet the last of our fundraising needs. The T-Shirts are light blue with designs (see images) on the front and the back. The shirts are a soft cotton heathered materials and are very lightweight. We are asking that any order outside of the Chicagoland are include a $2.00 per household contribution to help with shipping costs.

If you would like to order a T-Shirt(s) you can do so in one of a few ways. You can send a check to:

Michael and Rachael Collins

416 Valentine Way

Oswego, IL 60543

Along with the number of T-Shirts and sizes you would like. Or, you can send us an email ( or Facebook message (Collins Family) noting the number and sizes you would like and then mail us a check or pay on the PayPal link here on our blog. Shirts will be made at the end of September and shipped out immediately upon reciept from the printing company.

Sizes of the shirts are:

Youth: Small, Medium, Large

Adult: X-Small, Small, Medium, Large, X-Large

We are so appreciative of all of your support and prayers and can't wait to share in the joy of having our little girl with you all!!!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Second Girl Who Stole My Heart

It’s been quite a while since we have posted on our blog, but in that span of time a lot has happened, yet much has still stayed the same. Last time we wrote we were sitting and waiting, and as it turns out we are still doing very much the same. Papers and reports are now out of our hands and in the hands of others with so many other things to do than to dedicate sole focus to our adoption. For that we turn to the only leverage we have… prayer! We pray daily for our little girl and that God would put in the hearts of those who come in contact with our adoption the same feelings we have for completing the adoption and bringing this girl home to where she belongs as soon as possible.

In between the sitting and waiting though, I had the amazing privilege of traveling over to Ghana and meeting my little girl!!! I could never anticipate the entirety of that one week trip to Ghana, but the time I spent with Clara was a week of my life I will never forget. So far in my life there has been one girl who has completely stolen my heart never to give it back, and she is the wonderful woman with whom I am adopting Clara. There is now officially s second girl in my life who owns my heart. Clara was incredibly sweet and shy when we first met face to face. She slowly walked up to me and wrapped her skinny little frame around my frame as if to say “I know we haven’t met but I also know that you are MINE, and now I am yours.” From that moment when we arrived Clara almost never left my side; partly because she always wanted to be close and hold my hand, and partly because her dad knew he had a very short time to spend with her.

As the days went by Clara opened up more and more. She is reserved with new people and very emotional (remember I have 2 boys so this is completely new to me). She is also hilarious and goofy which melted my heart and made me think even more that God designed her knowing full well that she was going to end up as Rachael and I’s daughter. She is also so much more beautiful in person than I could have imagined. Now this might be a doting father speaking, but even the pictures in which you think wow she is soo cute, do not do her justice. And though she may not be the same skin color I have to tell you that there are some very distinct characteristics about her that make me feel like she is the exact type of daughter Rachael and I would have wound up with if we conceived her ourselves. In so many ways from looks, to personality, to her big brown eyes Clara is a mini version of Rachael , which as you can imagine makes me a very happy man. She can be shy one moment and then rolling on the floor laughing and making faces the next.

Coming back from that excitement and love was extremely difficult. Not because I wasn’t thrilled to be back with Rachael and Noah and Henry, but because at that point it became very real to me that I was coming back to a family who was missing one of its own. Talking with Rachael after I got back, it was wonderful to see her face as I told her all about Clara and showed her the thousands (literally thousands) of pictures I took while I was over there. I could also see how badly she wanted to go over and have the very same experiences I did. And for that I can certainly not blame her. It is incredibly difficult knowing Clara has already lived 6 years of her life without us and now its tough to swallow as more days and months tick by.


We decided that because paperwork was going slowly, and we didn’t want Clara to have to go too long in between me coming over there and her seeing at least one of us again, and because it seems a mother just can only be separated from her child for so long, we are raising funds to send Rachael over in the very near future. The trip will also serve the adoption process as we will need someone to deliver our dossier as well, but the trip will none the less be expensive. We fully trust that God will provide us with the resources we need to complete this process, but that certainly doesn’t mean he has or will give us more than we need. We have found out of the last few months that there are some additional costs that we will need to fund in order to complete the adoption, but we have had some amazingly generous family and friends that have helped us so far and we are praying God will continue to send people and resources our way.

Right now we are selling hemp bracelets that Rachael is making for $10 each to fund our next trip and then later this summer we will be selling T shirts locally and to anyone else who is interested. You can use the paypal button on the side bar of this blog to donate the $10 for a bracelet and you will be able to use the same process once we get t shirt sup and running. Thanks for all the support and prayers!!

The shirts will look something like this. (Rachael designed them)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Hurry Up and Wait

And now that that the emotional high has begun to fade and the daily grind of paperwork and waiting have set in, all we can do is sit and think about her and pray that God continues to shower her in his love and ours.

It has now been two full months since we started this adoption process and in some ways we feel a bit further from brining our little girl home than we did a week into it. The mountains of paperwork that Rachael has sifted through continuously seems to hold additional pieces we haven’t filled out or we still need copies of….. and for a decidedly unorganized family (like we are) the process has certainly turned into a challenging one. On the other hand, even in this time of waiting, God as continued to be unshakingly faithful and has allowed us to continue to grow in our faith. Now more than a week ago, or a month ago, or certainly 6 months ago we understand that leaning on our understanding, attempting to overcome obstacles with our own might is laughable at best and detrimental at worst. I truly believe that beyond the amazing blessing of bringing this precious girl home God has chosen to use this process to help bring us ever close to Him and lead us into a place of complete trust in his goodness and faithfulness. For once in our lives I think we can full say that in this moment of personal helplessness where neither Rachael nor I can do much of anything to ensure we get our little girl home and in an expedient manor, there is no other way we would want it. Who better to set our course of direction, to ensure that we end up where we are supposed to be, than the creator of the universe; a God that loves us so much that he adopted us when we certainly did not deserve for him to do so.

So we work and wait and pray and anticipate the day we get to first fly over and see her smiling face in person. The day I can pick her up and wrap her in my arms. The day I get to see Rachael with the daughter she’s always dreamt of. Even waiting and working is such an amazing gift knowing that we are doing it because it’s exactly where God wants us to be and its exactly how we are going to bring our little Girl home.

And so we’ll wait some more….

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Apple of Our Eyes

And now it is our greatest joy to introduce you to the little girl that has stolen her new mom and dad’s hearts and will be your new grandchild, or niece or cousin or friend (depending on who is reading this). We have been matched to an incredible 6 year old girl with beautiful big brown eyes and a smile that could melt the 4 feet of snow outside of our windows in a moment. She speaks with a precious accent that sounds like a mix of English, French and Hatian.

We prayed long and hard for God to make it exceedingly clear to us who he had chosen for us to bring home into our lives. The decision for us was not overly easy. Rather than being matched with a single child we were presented with multiple children and asked to pray for discernment about which child we were meant to adopt. All of the little girls we were presented with were adorable and precious and all in need of a mother who could present a wonderful example of a godly woman and care for their daughter like they had never been cared for, and also in need of a father who would show them the way men ought, or perhaps must, treat women and demonstrate the kind of protection and shelter that God offers us each day. It was terribly difficult deciding which little girl we would offer our hearts and home and lives, and which of the others we would have to simply pray would be adopted by a different loving family. And so we didn’t decide…… we let God do the choosing. After a few days of prayer God may it clear that exactly who our little girl would be.

Rachael and I are still praying about the name we will give her. We have been told the little ones often prefer their new moms and dads to give them a new name, one that represents that they are now no longer orphans but a child of ours and their name has been chosen by us just as the names of our boys were chosen by us. Right now we are leaning toward the name Zoey. We are still praying over it, but every time we see pictures of her smiling face she becomes more and more, Zoey, my little girl.

Zoey (as we will call her tentatively until we are sure of the name and we tell her of our intention to name her that), is sugar sweet and super shy. She is often in photos wrapped around someone’s leg or grinning shyly at the camera. However in the rare photos where she is surrounded by friends, you can see the pure joy pouring out of her. She seems to be rapidly learning the English language which as you can imagine will be a big help to her new mom and dad. Every day she gets a little older and every day her new mom and dad can’t wait to have her in our home so we can witness all of her joys and sorrows and live every moment of life with her.

We would love to talk more with all of you about our little girl and can’t wait for her to meet you all. It is such an amazing feeling to think God has had this little girl picked out for us long before she was born our either of us were even thought about by our parents. God has blessed us with such an amazing opportunity and stand in awe of what He is doing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Little Girl Will Change Everything....

Now, comes the difficult part. After praying and praying and wrestling and talking and finally deciding to take the leap of faith and adopt, now comes the point of waiting. Now comes the point of papers, upon papers, upon papers, all of which need to be stamped, copied, sorted, sealed and mailed out along with a large portion of our savings account. However, even with the endless work and monotony, and not knowing when it is we will finally be able to bring our little girl home is nothing compared to knowing WE HAVE a little beautiful wonderful girl that we will have the unimaginable privilege to care for.

The process we find ourselves in is different from a lot of international adoptions stories. The orphanage from which we feel called to adopt from is in some ways an orphanage in name only. Perhaps it is better described as the home of a pastor and Godly man who has chosen to open his doors to care for children around his country who have no one else to care for them. He daily loves on the children, leading them through schooling and teaching them about the love of God and his Son which he sent to earth for us. The love of this man for each of the kids, and his commitment to caring for them while they are with him, and searching for permanent parents for them, makes this experience not one of calling or emailing an unnamed agency representative and then waiting for days for them to get back in touch. He has truly been a blessing to us even in the short time since our decision to adopt. John (the pastor) and the wonderful woman here in the states he works through are so incredibly invested in the lives of the children in the orphanage but also the parents that are matched to them. They pray for and over each couple and child asking God to show the parents exactly which Child he has chosen for them. How often can one claim that sort of Godly interaction in an adoption process?

However, the amazing pieces of this adoption process also bring challenges. Adopting internationally independently can be a struggle. Many of the automatic steps that are taken for granted with international adoption through an established international agency are not and are instead arduous and time consuming. Additionally, adopting internationally from Ghana is a new experience, for almost anyone, as Ghana has only recently opened its doors to international adoption. This means that rules and regulations can be fluid and that nothing is ever a given until the child is home in the U.S. with his or her parents. But these struggles and challenges are also a blessing. They are simply another opportunity to trust wholly and completely in God. This adoption experience has been and will be a very humbling one for me especially. As many women around the country and I’m sure the world know, men enjoy being in control and where a problem exists something deep inside us stirs us to fix it….. even if you don’t want us to. In this process though, Rachael and I will be helpless, unable to fix things if and when they go wrong. But luckily for us we are following the path of a God who is so much greater than any struggle we might face. And so we look to Him to provide us with things we do not yet have and to remove obstacles where one might appear. What an amazing God we get to call father. He adopted all of us, and refused to leave us as orphans and now Rachael and I get to live out his heart in this very process.

All of this is to say that we are so very excited for what God has already done and what he will do in the near future. He pointed us to an orphanage filled with amazing and beautiful children, run by a man of God who is sincerely invested in our adoption journey, and now…….. He has lead us to a beautiful 6 year old girl who has already stolen her new mom and dad’s heart.

More to come soon, on our unbelievable new addition.

“If you look at me I will fly like a butterfly…”

God Called...... It Just Took Us a While to Answer

It seems that often times in life, when we really want to seek God's will, we ask Him to give us some sort of tangible sign to let us know the direction we ought to take our lives. We ask for things like a raise if we are supposed to stay at a job, or a great job offer if we are supposed to leave for another, unsolicited encouragement from friends if we are supposed to make a difficult decision, or a roadblock if he doesn't want us to. This is not necessarily the story you are about to hear.

Rather, the story of this adoption revolves around a different way God often relays his will for us. While it may be easier to ask God to move a mountain if He wants us to walk in a certain direction, often God will respond instead by simply giving us the courage and drive to climb over it. God will inspire us, or place inside of us a longing or desire to move, or act, or give, or serve rather than sending a neon sign from Heaven that says "Though Shalt Do This NOW."

The process of God speaking to Rachael and I's heart about adoption began a long time ago (or relatively long ago in the context of a 3 ½ year marriage and 26 and 24 year old lives). Rachael and I have always felt called to adopt at some point in our lives, and after walking through the adoption process with my sister and brother in law and being able to witness the joy and love they pour into their adopted son's life, our initial inclinations were confirmed. Now, while we both have always agreed on the desire to adopt, the timeline for such a decision has always been disagreed upon. I have a logical, practical side when making decisions often having a voice in the back of my head that whispers: "Does this make financial sense? Couldn’t you wait a bit and it would make more sense?" Rachael, at least in the context of the adoption decisions, has a true mother’s heart and wants to immediately open her heart to a child or children without parents or a home and love them as one of her own.

Now for background and understanding about our current family dynamic, Rachael and I have two beautiful biological little boys: Noah, who is 2 1/2 and Henry who is still working towards 1. Life right now is comfortable and filled with joy. God has blessed our family exorbitantly. But, God also wants more for our family than comfortable living accommodations, date nights every so often and an occasional vacation. God wants us to pour into him and his children, with are hearts and minds, time and finances.

The context is important in understanding our decision to adopt, because the comfort and fulfillment of our current life is the very thing God needed to work past in my heart to lead us to where Rachael and I currently are.

Now, on to the actual beginning of our adoption story.........

Around late fall/early winter last year, Rachael came to me wanting to talk about adopting our next child. I immediately told her how wonderful of an idea that was and that if we started saving now in about 2 years we would be in a wonderful place to make that decision. Rachael, being happy for at least my excitement for eventually adopting, was feeling a bit different about the adoption timeline. Now shortly after I came driving home for work one day, listening to the radio when the DJ's brought on a little girl who told a story about visiting an orphanage in Russia. She spoke about a 7 year old little girl she had met there. The orphan girl told the American little girl visiting the orphanage that she did not expect to ever get adopted as "only the babies get adopted, and I am much too old." This terribly sad statement struck a coard somewhere in my heart and that evening was spent with me and Rachael out on a date night discussing the possibility of adopting an older child rather than an infant as we has always imagined (eventually).

Little did I know the wonderful conversation we had and conclusion we came to that night about adopting an older child and having the privilege to become their mother and father and love them for the rest of their lives, would only spur on my wife's silent belief that adoption was not something for us in 2 years, but that God had already been tugging on her heart about doing it much sooner.

After a wonderful Christmas break and off and on again conversation about the adoption issue and even some preliminary budgeting on my part to ensure in my perfect timeline of two years we would have all the financial means necessary to bring home the little girl God had in store for us, things started to change in the new year. We arrived back home in Chicagoland, after wonderful time with family and friends, and met up with friends of ours to catch up and see how life was treating them. Our friends are going through the adoption process currently and have been matched with beautiful siblings: a 6 year old little girl and a wonderful 3 year old boy. After hours of conversation and fun Rachael and I grabbed our coats, the boys, and the 15 suitcases we seem to travel everywhere with now a days and loaded up the jeep to head back to our apartment. It was on that ride home that God finally got a hold of my heart and started to change things. On the ride all I could think about were the faces of the beautiful children at the orphanage in Ghana that our friends were adopting from. These weren't babies or toddlers who didn't quite understand their circumstances, but rather these were 5, 6, and 7 year olds who knew their parents were no longer alive and knew that they were different from other children in the villages they used to live in, the ones who had parents. These were children who didn't have people to point to and say "those are my parents, I know they will always love me and protect me and care for me." Rather than let their parents worry about providing the life’s daily necessity’s these kids instead carried that burden themselves.

When we got home I sat down with Rachael and told her about the growing emotions I had and the fact that even though it went against all my better judgment I feeling like God might want to do something in our lives. She smiled like she always does and told me she had been praying for quite some time that if the feeling she had to adopt soon was indeed God's will for her life that He would show that same vision to me, without her having to convince me on her own. Well after a TON of prayer and much disbelief on my part, God had done just that. The overwhelming drive to, even for just one of those children, bring them into the blessed life that God had already provided our family and share with them our love and God's love was too much to deflect.

And so we have decided to adopt from that very same orphanage in Ghana. Details still need to be worked out. My perfect financial plan has fallen to ruin. We are moving into a new place in about a month and much still needs to be done on that front. But.... we know that if God has truly called us to adopt, that as always He will be faithful. We aren't exactly sure where the finances will come from, and we are not exactly sure how we will set up the new place to accommodate three children instead of two. However, we know that at the end of this process we will be able to take a beautiful little girl and explain to her that she is now our daughter, which means all of the things she used to have to worry about she no longer does. We will protect her and care for her and love her unconditionally.

So that’s where we are. Convinced of God's calling and excited to see where this journey leads our family. I have little inclination to believe the adoption process will be easy, but I do believe God has plenty of lessons in store for our family and that in the end it will be well beyond worth it. God may not have sent us a neon sign that says “adopt now and life will be grand,” but he did bring our hearts to a point where we know giving our love and his love to another child is exactly what he wants, which means it’s what we want as well.