Tampa Trip Continues . . .

**Typing this quickly between scheduled events. Please forgive any typos until I have time to go back and do a more thorough job of editing**

We had hoped to blog at the end of each day while we were here, but we underestimated just how intense our schedule here would be. It has been one of the most exhausting things we’ve ever done; and there are few times in our lives when we’ve felt so blessed. It has been too awesome even to describe spending time with TSC families we’ve never met before, connecting with other adoptive families, reconnecting with TSC families we met years ago, and seeing new hearts ignited by the thought of adoption and orphan care.

I’ll just briefly recap each day/service, etc. below and include pictures with captions.

Sunday morning we spent at Grace Church in Zephryhills. As soon as we arrived (late, of course!), we were greeted by an old high school friend we haven’t seen since our wedding in 1977 who has been living here in FL for years now; and by friends from MD we haven’t seen since about 1980. We knew our high school friend and her husband were coming, but the other couple completely surprised us. It was such a joy to see all of them.

The small congregation at Grace made us feel so welcome and loved, and we enjoyed lunch afterward with the Clantons — a family with several adopted children, one of whom is a TSC child. Here are some pictures from that morning.

Presentations #1

Scott’s intro

Presentations #2

My portion of our presentation

Presentations #3

Scott singing with Jaden and Lilyan

Presentations #5

Our friends and long-time TSC supporters the Konyas — from our newlywed days in MD — surprised us by showing up Sunday morning

Presentations #6

Our high school friend Rhonda and her husband Paul. Last saw her at our wedding in 1977

Presentations #7

Our kids had the honor of meeting Selah — one of the Clanton’s adopted daughters from Ukraine. Our family has prayed much for little Selah since her accident a few years ago. She is precious.

Presentations #8

Jaden and the Clanton’s TSC son Shadrach totally hit it off.

After lunch, we dashed back to the hotel for a quick little freshen-up session, then dashed to Crestview Baptist here in Lakeland. We arrived late again (there’s a theme here), and were met by a crew of people anxious to help us get set up and ready to start on time. What a beautiful evening we had. After the service and a little Q&A at our TSC table in the lobby, the pastor and his wife (adoptive parents themselves) took us out for a late dinner. The kids have handled all of this amazingly well. Roslyn, our child most likely to become stressed in situations like this, did start to melt down a bit by the end of the evening and was a puddle of tears by the time we got them in bed at 11:00 that night. Thankfully, she returned to her perky little self after a good night’s sleep. Pictures of our time with the Crestview crew:

Time to sing again

Time to sing again

Love this shot of Jaden :-)

Love this shot of Jaden 🙂

Incredible experience seeing Faith again - TSC daughter of Jim and Angie McGrath. We met her once right after she came home. Now she's a beautiful, poised, amazing teenage girl.

Incredible experience seeing Faith again – TSC daughter of Jim and Angie McGrath. We met her once right after she came home. Now she’s a beautiful, poised, amazing teenage girl.

Jim McGrath entertaining the kids while we waited for our table for dinner

Jim McGrath entertaining the kids while we waited for our table for dinner

Faith and her sister Hope (also adopted from China) were awesome babysitters for us throughout the evening

Faith and her sister Hope (also adopted from China) were awesome babysitters for us throughout the evening. You can see the stress in little Roslyn’s face here.

Presentations #14

My sweet friend and TSC mom, Angie. Was so good to see her again.

Presentations #15

With Angie and her husband, Jim — parents to Faith and Hope

Presentations #16

Dinner and good conversation at Cracker Barrel Sunday night

On Monday, we met our high school friend Rhonda and her daughter for an early lunch. They drove two hours for our talk on Sunday morning, drove two hours home, and then drove two hours back over here again on Monday so we could have lunch together. Amazing!

Presentations #19

Lunch on Monday with Rhonda and her daughter, Kim

After lunch, the kids had time for a bit of a nap before we went to the beautiful home of Garry and Jan Seitz, nestled at the end of a quiet street and almost surrounded by a lake bordered by huge trees dripping with Spanish moss. It was breathtaking and just looking at the scene from their backyard lowered our blood pressure.

The Seitzes have adopted many children and a number of those were TSC children. Jan served us dinner, and we also had the opportunity to meet briefly with a couple whose hearts long to follow God into any adopting journey He has planned for them. They already have one adopted child from Ukraine, and hope to return soon to bring home three more. We wish we had been able to spend more time together. That has been our feeling after pretty much every visit here in FL.

After dinner, we all scooted over to the Seitzes home church, Victory Church, for one more presentation to a small informal group. It was warm and friendly and a very pleasant way to end this portion of the trip. TSC parents Morgan and Patty Roe drove into Lakeland, and it was such a blessing to meet them and hear how their new sons are adapting to their new family. We’re still so frustrated that we forgot to get pictures with them.

We also had the privilege to meet the Altman family that night. They are not a TSC family but adopted Jaelynn, a darling little eight-year old girl who lived at Maria’s Big House of Hope with Roslyn and Jaden in China. In fact we met our children at the same time, and once we learned this, we are able to go back and pick each other out in the pictures at the Civil Affairs office that day. Jaelynn remembered our babies well, and was so happy to see them, and although Roslyn and Jaden didn’t seem to remember her, they (and Lilyan) had a blast playing with her. More pictures:

Presentations #21

My dear friend Jan, adoptive mom to many (some of whom are TSC kids) introducing us

Scott talking while I look on adoringly. :-)

Scott talking while I look on adoringly. 🙂

My portion of the talk again

My portion of the talk again

Q&A session at the end. I wasn't as bored as I look. Jaden was. :-)

Q&A session at the end. I wasn’t as bored as I look. Jaden was. 🙂

Our photographer for the evening just happened to notice Lilyan and Jaden while they were listening to us talk. I'm so glad she snapped this picture.

Our photographer for the evening just happened to notice Lilyan and Jaden while they were listening to us talk. I’m so glad she snapped this picture.

Roslyn and Jaden reunited with their housemate, Jaelynn -- and Lilyan totally into the action with them.

Roslyn and Jaden reunited with their housemate, Jaelynn — and Lilyan totally into the action with them.

Big open space at Victory where the kids had a great time wheeling around with Jaelynn

Big open space at Victory where the kids had a great time wheeling around with Jaelynn

Today we were able to meet with Jaelynn and her parents, David and Teresa, and her two older sisters for a quick lunch before they headed back home. They also drove quite a distance to be here and meet with us. We were so very blessed by our time with them. One more picture:

One last meeting with Jaelynn before they headed home.

One last meeting with Jaelynn before they headed home.

This has been an amazing few days, and we are so thankful that God worked out the details so that we could come, and so thankful to the churches and individuals who donated money and time to make it such a comfortable, fun, beautiful trip for us.

Now we will be shifting gears just a bit. Scott and I are getting kids up from naps and getting them ready to go to a dinner where we will meet, for the first time, families members of others who lost loved ones in the shipwreck that took my brother’s life. We will also be meeting a number of survivors from that horrible night.

Tomorrow morning, we will get up very early and drive about an  hour and a half to attend the 35th Memorial Service of that night. We will try to post more after that.

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