We’re moving to…..



Not much time tonight to write but comment any of your questions and I will try to write a Q&A post in the next few days.  Ask away!  I’d love to know what you’re thinking.

We will finish up training here for another 3.5 weeks and then head back to Indiana to start raising our support.

Thank you for praying for us and please continue!

The Faces of Week One

So those unedited photos were totally staged this morning….. in our pajamas… at 11am.

My brain hurts.  We have taken in so much information this week.  We’re pretty much feeling every emotion possible.

We are so happy and excited because we know for sure this is what God is calling us to do and we just can’t believe God trusts us enough to join this amazing ministry and the amazing work He is doing in it.  We have done a lot of learning about MAF’s mission statement and vision and we are so on board.  My heart swells just thinking about how their vision lines up with ours.  I find myself nodding in agreement all day.

We are so scared.  This is a lot.  Just thinking and seeing that this is real.  We are really gonna move to another country.  We are really putting ourselves out there in this huge spiritual battle field.  We are really gonna do this.  Really….

We are sad.  We miss our friends and family already.  I missed my nieces wedding yesterday.  The kids miss their friends.  I miss my familiar kitchen utensils.  And this is just the beginning…..

We are exhausted.  Especially me.  I am not used to “working” 8-5 every day and trying to keep a house clean and cook and take care of the kids and get time in with God.  We are trying to be so present in our training and soak up all this knowledge. By the time we get back to the apartment I wanna crash.  I’ve been getting up extra early for devotion, worship and prayer time and then try to throw something in the crock pot or I’ve also done a few big cooking nights and getting a bunch of meat cooked up so dinners are quicker in the evening.

We are thankful.  We are so thankful for the opportunity to do this and for all of the people we have met.  There were some circumstances that happened yesterday that really affected some of our classmates.  Member care talked with us and we banded together as an MAF family and our apartment was filled with people who all brought whatever food they had and we together created a big meal that we then delivered to our classmates who were hurting and then sat back at our table for a time of friendship.  It felt good.  It felt good to be a part of the body of believers here and to love on and support each other.

We are curious.  We are very curious to find our for sure which country we will be based in.  We think we might know but we won’t find out for sure until our final meeting as candidates on Tuesday afternoon.  The kids sat in with us when all the regional directors presented their ministries and the kids definitely know where they want to go.  I’m really grateful they are old enough to give us their input and that God gave us the insight to let them be such a big part of this process and decision.

Lastly I just wanted to list some of the classes we have been taking in case someone was interested in that.

Faithfulness, Personal Call to Missions, Chapel Planning, Structure & Philosophy of Ministry, Playing with Fire, Business as Mission, D.I.S.C. Assessment, Online Resources and Training, Immunizations and Diseases, Social Media: Blessing or Curse, as well as each regional director’s presentation from all MAF programs and meetings with our candidate committee and member care.  Phew!  I’m tired.

I might go take a nap ;)

Eight States Later

From Tuesday night to tonight we have gone through EIGHT states!  We are finally in Idaho!  Tomorrow will be another 5-6 hours in the car and we will arrive at Mission Aviation Fellowship and will settle in there for five weeks.

Today was one of the most incredible days of my life.  We took the whole day to drive through Yellowstone National Park.  It has always been a dream of mine to see the waterfalls and the colorful hot springs and today that dream became a reality.  There are really no words to describe what I saw today.  The best thing I can say is that God is an incredible artist and I was moved to tears several times at the infinite beauty that He has given us to enjoy.  Pictures posted below :)   I will also give you my overwhelming theme that I felt God telling me throughout this whole trip….

There were several times throughout this trip that we decided to turn off at the last minute to explore something that looked interesting.  The first time was to go through the Bad Lands National Park on the way to Mount Rushmore.  The car activity schedule did not have that included…. if you know me, you know we STAY ON SCHEDULE.  You don’t start movie time until the clock turns that next half hour and I get overly excited when the movie ends right on the minute the schedule said it would.  Yes, I have a problem…… :)   So anyway, Jack remembered that one of my dad’s friends had said that it would only take us a little longer to take this scenic route.  I’m SOOO glad he did.  The Bad Lands was so incredible and if I had been strict to stick to my schedule and my plan I would have missed out on so much beauty.  I found that many times as we went through Yellowstone today as well.  The drive is wonderful and beautiful but for some of the most amazing parts, you have to take a side road back into an area that you couldn’t otherwise see.  So much going on just behind a tree line that we would’ve just missed.  This made me think of our new adventure with MAF.

We could choose to say no to this new calling out of our comfort zone….. way out of our comfort zone!  But for one thing, God has made His will so clear in this that it would be very hard not to obey Him.  And for another, I do not want to miss out on the beauty waiting on the other side.  I have this huge foundation of God creating beauty out of the fearful situations and I don’t doubt this will be another one.  Moving to another country, not being financially “stable,” wondering how our kids will adjust…. these are all things that could send us running away from this but we are trusting God that He has another surprise waiting just around the corner and we don’t want to miss it!

Are you hesitating in something you know you should step out into?  There might be adventure and blessing waiting for you to just take that side road and find it!  Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afriad; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”

We love you guys!  We are so grateful for all of you that are cheering us on, even those who are doing so reluctantly ;)   Please, please keep praying for us.  Monday starts candidacy and learning and praying about all that programs MAF offers and asking the Holy Spirit to speak to us and the committee on where we should be placed.  We find out in less than two weeks where that will be!

We’ll keep you updated!

1150 Miles Down

We are officially over half way through our drive out to Idaho!!  Not only is joining MAF and doing full time mission work a dream come true, this drive out there is as well.  Our family has always wanted to take this trip out west to visit these amazing sights but never had the chance.  We contemplated it a couple of years ago but it just would’ve been too complicated.

I don’t have too much to say today except that God is an amazing artist, I LOVE my family and we have so much fun travelling together and I LOVE how easily awe struck and grateful our kids are.

We just crossed over into Wyoming and will stay just outside of Yellowstone National Park tonight.  Yesterday we saw Badlands National Park and  Mount Rushmore National Memorial.  Looking forward to another few fun days of travelling.

Thank you all for the prayers!!  Please continue!!

I had a couple funny pictures to upload but I’m losing cell service driving through the Black Hills.  This will have to do for now!



The Grief Calling

I’m currently writing to you from the passenger seat of our minivan as we drive across the country to our candidacy phase of joining Mission Aviation Fellowship in long term overseas mission work.  Whoa.

Saying goodbyes was not my favorite thing and this time it is only for six weeks.  I do not look forward to those long term goodbyes in a year or so…

Sometimes I get bogged down with how much grief we put those around us through as we continue to follow the call God puts on our life.  Throughout the things we have followed Him to, it has not only affected us but those around us.  That is really hard.

Laila’s death was a huge part of that.  Knowing that we followed God in finding and adopting her but then watching how many lives she touched and how grief stricken so many people were alongside us when she died was overwhelming at times.  I never regretted one minute with her and we would chose her over and over again but I would be lying if I said I didn’t struggle watching her siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, classmates, teachers, doctors, therapists and friends REALLY struggle with her death.  Watching some need counseling and some dive into depression was very hard.  It is hard to know that these people who were along for the ride with us really had no say so in it.

And now this new calling  and the grief that goes along with that.  See, I almost typed “that we are causing” but I really have to take that thought captive and realize that we are not causing it.  It is just a part of this and I have to choose God and His plan over anything else.  But it is still SO hard.  It is so hard to watch our parents realize that they are now having our other three children taken far away from them so soon after grieving the loss of Laila.  Watching close friends grieve as it will be harder to be there for each other and wondering if this friendship is one that will make it through this huge refinement.

Above all else I have learned to that to please my heavenly Father is the number one goal.  He makes all things right in His time and all of the things that have caused grief have also caused much joy.  MUCH joy!

If you have been dragged through the grief of being part of the Hamstra journey, we thank you.  Thank you for sticking it out with us and please continue to do so.  We hope you have found joy along with the sorrow.

Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”\

We love you and we thank you!  Today is our longest travel day as we journey hopefully to the border of South Dakota.  We appreciate your prayers and we will keep you updated!


On The Verge

This time next week we will be in the car, a few hours into a six week long journey.  Time is literally flying by so fast that I can kind of picture numbers and times floating past me.  It is crazy.

One day last week I had one of my really bad grief days.  Those days are still there and very real.  The world is still the world, Laila is still gone, and humans still suck sometimes.  It’s just the gosh darn truth.  But, there are way more good days than bad at this point.  I honestly never thought that would happen, even 4-5 months ago I thought that.  Anyway, on that day last week I was literally on the verge of tears every. single. moment.  Any second tears would be dripping down my face… well and here they come again right now.  Triggers….

AHHHH, OK, refocusing on what I want to say.  I love when you guys have to go on this crazy rabbit trail blog craziness with me ;)   What I wanted to say today is that as I sat on the verge of tears that day, I sat and reflected on all of the things I was on the verge of in my life right now.  When I have the grief days, one of the things I do is try to figure out what is triggering me and work through those things.  Sometimes I can identify them and sometimes I can’t but that day God revealed a whole load to me and I’ve been prompted for about a week to write them down.  So here goes….

I’m on the verge of:

My last day of work today.  Working at Revived for the last year helped me finally get out of the house and face the humans that I sometimes dread who say rude things and are very insensitive to people who are grieving.

Jack’s last day of work this Friday.  He’s been at Excel for over 11 years, worked with some incredible guys who make him laugh and fill his life with teasing and challenge.  Also, we see clearly some of the roles a few of them had in  leading us to this new adventure with Mission Aviation Fellowship.

Selling our house.  We thought we would wait but a few people have been interested and in looking at finances we think we will probably sell it sooner rather than later if the right offer comes along.  This is the only house Laila and RJ have lived in with us.

Cleaning out Laila’s room.  I’m actually just wanting it done at this point.  It is a good point.  I have no problem going in there anymore which is a huge blessing.

Leaving for six weeks.  That is a LONG time!!  Cleaning, preparing, budgeting, booking hotels, getting cars ready, finding people for our animals.

Saying goodbyes…. dang it.  I know these goodbyes are only for six weeks right now but did I mention that’s a LONG time?!!? And of course in the back of my mind it also includes the goodbyes in my head that I know are coming in a year or so when we move overseas.

Homeschooling.  All the kids are homeschooling this next year!  Woohoo!  I’m very excited to have all my babies home (yes, I’m calling them all babies even though the oldest is in China on her own like a freaking adult right now!).  Our whole family will get to be together all the time.  I’m sure I’ll probably want to lock one or all of them in a closet at some point but for now it sounds exciting ;)   Are you picturing me trying to shove giant Jack in a closet?  No?  Oh yeah, me neither…

Processing Emma being in China.  I’m processing the fact that Emma is doing this grown up thing and is telling me that she is so drawn to these special kids at Maria’s Big House of Hope and all the feelings of realizing how grown up she is and the heart God has given her for the poor and needy and what is He gonna do with her life.  I’m definitely understanding more and more how our moms are feeling about our situation as I process Emma’s.

Handing over the Celebrate Recovery ministry.  I don’t know to who yet but I know that at some point in the next year I won’t be able to run this anymore as we need to focus on our new ministry that God is giving us with MAF.  Learning God’s word through CR has changed my life as a parent, wife, sister, friend, Christian…. Having that safe environment to process my challenges in especially the areas of parenting and grief was key for me.  It’s so close to my heart.  I look forward to what God has planned for the future but for a control freak like me, giving up this one is hard.

Going into full time ministry.  In a few short weeks we will be accepting a position that will be based on people financially supporting us monthly and all the details that go along with it.  All the responsibility of being All In for God every day.  That’s a whole blog post in itself…


So that’s a lot of stuff and a lot of change I guess.  When I look at it all in print it helps me give myself grace on the hard days as I process everything but also excitement about all the ways God is trusting us with His kingdom and all the adventures ahead.

On last thing…. we have had to take a few family pictures for our newletters and prayer cards and you all know family pictures are hard for me.  But they did turn out pretty cool :)




The Bragging Mom

I’m sitting here this morning in disbelief that my 15 yr old daughter is headed to China this afternoon.  Let me just brag.  I’m gonna do it.

This girl is special.  SO stinkin’ special.  Her heart for others and her beautiful spirit have been different since she was very little.  I remember when she was about three years old and cried in the back seat of the car because the beat of the music on the radio “made her feel sad.”  She has always been a feeler and a lover but somehow (thank God!) that hasn’t translated into a crazy unbearable hormonal teenager.  She is just still that loving, kind hearted deep feeler with a heart of gold.  She has her “normal kid” moments but man, I’m just so blessed and thankful to be her mom.

Emma set out several years ago and said she was going to China with Show Hope after they helped us bring RJ home from India.  She planned and saved and asked for babysitting jobs.  She crafted and decorated a box that she just continued to throw cash into and God blessed her.  Oh, did He bless her!  And you all blessed her!  We spent about a year trying to find a cheaper trip or even just praying that maybe God wanted to open a different door for Emma but he didn’t even crack another door.  We emailed and contacted other organizations with ZERO response.  Emma had heard God tell her she was going to China with Show Hope and now it’s really happening.

I wanna be Emma when I grow up.  I want to hear God clearly and trust Him for years and then watch Him do the thing.

Our family has been called to very “different” things and while it is SO hard sometimes, it is also so worth it when we get to watch God show off and be so present and unmistakable.

We are blessed.

Please pray for my amazing girl for the next ten days and watch our Adopting Judah facebook page for updates.  You should be able to see it even if you don’t have facebook.  facebook.com/adoptingjudah

Laila Smiles 2018 winner is…..

Julanna Fox!!! We are so grateful to have this special scholarship and award in memory of our precious Laila. We love that Laila’s legacy continues to challenge kids to love school and spread joy and smiles throughout Wheatfield Elementary.

For those that don’t know, each second grade teacher nominates a student with these qualities and then every staff member in the school casts their vote. The recipient receives a trophy, their name on a perpetual plaque and the scholarship fund pays their book rental for their third grade year. This gives our family the opportunity to usher a second grader into third grade and pray for them throughout their third grade year since Laila didn’t get to make it that far.

We are privileged and honored to have Julanna receive this award with her sweet, gentle smile. One fun fact that no one in the school knew…. Julanna is Laila’s cousin. This made it extra special for her mom and I this morning as we watched her receive the award together.

Congratulations Julanna and way to go Danielle and Steve for raising an amazing, kind, joyful daughter! Our prayers will be with you this next school year!

A HUGE thank you to all who donated to the scholarship fund last year to make this possible.

MAF Candidate

I’d like to very proudly announce that Jack was invited to and accepted candidacy for Mission Aviation Fellowship :)   Would you just check out that handsome guy’s smile!!!  SO PROUD of him!

He will finish out his time working for Excel Air Services the end of June and then July 4th we will leave, with the kids, to start our adventure out to Idaho for candidacy and training. We will be at MAF from July 9-August 10th and then head back to Indiana. We will be in DeMotte with our sole focus being to raise our support to fund our 3.5 year term with MAF. We ask you to start praying with us now for how God will provide that funding.

We will find out during our second week of candidacy in July which country God has picked for us to serve in. There is currently a huge need for maintenance technicians in almost every country where MAF serves isolated people who can only be reached by airplane.

The kids are praying about whether or not they will attend school next year or start their online schooling. We could use your prayers in that area. We are thankful for the options that are before us.

We will be selling our house and almost everything in it but we aren’t sure exactly when yet.

Our goal is to be fully funded by next spring for MAF’s April commissioning and then Jack can finish his training with them in Idaho and we will move to wherever God has planned for us.

That’s all of the questions I can think of to answer right now. We are…… exerrified. A term I made up during our adoptions that is a mixture of excited and terrified.

THANK YOU for praying for us. God made Himself very known over and over again while we were in Idaho. So clearly that even one night Jack fell asleep praying with a heavy burden over the kids and how this will affect them and when he woke up in the morning the verse below was the first thing he saw on his phone when he picked it up.

“May the Lord cause you to flourish, both you and your children.” Psalm 115:14

If you would, we would love if you would share this post so that as many people as possible can be praying for us through this and that every opportunity God gives us to see His glory can be shared with as many as possible. Thank you!


I’m sitting here today thinking about all the things that have changed in the past year and I just wanted to see some of them listed in print.

*We lost the precious littlest biggest light of our lives.

*I started working again for the first time in 10 years.

*I became the ministry leader of our Celebrate Recovery ministry at Grace.

*Emma became a high schooler and has grown up so much. More than some kids should have to at her age.

*Jackson started middle school and has started trying new things and branching out of his comfort zone.

*Jack felt called to pursue an aviation mission position with MAF.

*RJ started un-schooling and has been bonding with me in a way he never has before.

This has definitely been a year of change and tomorrow decides if this next year brings more change than we could’ve ever imagined.

Thinking of all this change made me think of a little miracle that has been going on right outside my back door for the last couples of weeks…..

Remember the post last year about the little lilac? It is one of my most quoted and remembered posts that I have ever written. I look back at it now and see that I didn’t write that, the Holy Spirit did. He had foreknowledge that I didn’t. It was so clear we had only precious hours with Laila but I didn’t realize it. He did. He knew change was coming and He was preparing my heart (and some of yours) for that change. That is how much He loves us. Do you know that? Can you understand it in your heart? Sometimes I can but sometimes it’s too much for my small brain to comprehend.

So anyway because you are all so thoughtful, several of you gave us lilac gifts at the funeral and two groups of people even got us lilac bushes. I’m going to confess to you today that I let those lilacs die. I’m so sorry to those that got them for us but keep reading and I’ll tell you just how good our God is. Hold on with me for a few more minutes… so I let those plants die and I felt so bad about it. I just couldn’t plant them. I’m not sure why. It felt so permanent and I couldn’t decide where they should go and almost every day I would watch them shrivel up more and more but I just couldn’t plant them. Maybe there’s something more there to psychoanalyze, I don’t know. But either way, I felt terrible that I had let these beautiful, thoughtful plants die when they were supposed to represent Laila.

But then something happened….

Those shriveled up lilac bushes started to get buds and grow a few weeks ago. Those buds of new life have spoke volumes to me these past few weeks more than they ever could’ve if I had planted them. Should I have taken better care of them? Yes. Can God take my mistakes, my hurts, my shortcomings, and turn them into something beautiful to teach me? Sweet friends… that’s the name of His game.

Seeing beauty from something I thought was gone. Seeing that change can come and be beautiful in completely unexpected ways. Well I just think that is God’s face shining on me to continue to teach me to trust Him… even in change, even when I’m scared.

I write this today not knowing what tomorrow will bring us or what you may be going through either but please know He’s got you, and He’s got me. Will you trust Him alongside me?

If there is anything I can pray for you today please inbox me on Facebook. I’m gonna take some time to pray over your precious souls and lift you to our Father who loves each of us, no matter where we are.

2 Corinthians 5:17 “Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; the old things passed away and behold, new things have come.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that in ALL things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His good purpose.”