Monthly Archives: February 2015

Second major fundraising goal – HALFWAY THERE! AND a name!

Yesterday I posted that we were a third of the way to our funding.  Today we received another amazing donation and we are HALFWAY FUNDED!

Raised to date = $17,250 (+about $1000 we have already spent in miscellaneous costs and fees)
Goal = $35,000

One of my life verses has been Luke 1:45 – “Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.”  Over and over again in the last 17 years as I have walked with the Lord, I have often struggled with believing that He will provide and bring about what He has promised and declared in my life.  And yet He always does.  Time and time again He has reminded me that He is capable.  And when the middle part of the journey is fuzzy and feels very unclear, He often reminds me – what He has said WILL be accomplished.  I already have that blessing and assurance.  The blessing of the peace that comes in the middle is a choice I get to make – will I go back over and over again to what I know to be true?  I can walk through the journeys of life terrified and uncertain – and God will still do exactly as He plans and promises.  Or I can walk through the journeys of life with peace and confidence of His love for me, His sovereignty, and His power – and God will still do exactly as He plans and promises.

This time, I’m believing for two “her’s”.  For me and for Elliott.  Believing that God will do all that He has promised us – bring her safely home, bring hope and healing where there is loss and loneliness, and bring Himself glory through the life of our family.  It’s been scary so far.  Lots of days I don’t feel quite worthy of the task.  I am so in awe of Him though.  I can’t wait to watch His promises for her be accomplished throughout her lifetime.

IMG_9489Elliott – “the Lord is my God”

Isaiah 64:1-4 – Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains would tremble before you! As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, come down to make your name known to your enemies and cause the nations to quake before you! For when you did awesome things that we did not expect, you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.  Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.

What’s happening now?

Home Study & Dossier Preparation

Towards the end of January when we first received all of our home study information in the mail, we made a plan for how to gather all the necessary documents, including appointments we needed to make (doctor, veterinarian, etc).  We set February 13th as our goal to have everything completed and ready to send off for our home study (mostly because that was the day of the kids’ doctors appointments).  We worked liked mad, spent lots of time typing out our individual responses to questions about our lives, childhoods, relationship, parenting, and faith, and on the night of the 12th we went through all of it one more time to make sure it was complete.  On the 13th, Russ picked up his form from the doctor (and they ensured his TB test was negative!) and my mom and I took the kids’ for their well-child appointments and to get their paperwork filled out.  That afternoon we slipped the last three forms in and mailed it all off.  It felt pretty amazing to get that step completed!

IMG_9418

We heard this week from our home study agency contact that all the documents are complete and satisfactory.  We’ll do FBI fingerprints and background checks and when those come back we’ll do the home visits.  In the meantime, we are working hard to get the parent education stuff done (mandatory readings, online training course, and interview with an adoptive family who has already brought their child home).  We have to complete all of this by our second home visit.

Aside from that, we are continuing to get some documents ready for our dossier (book about us that is eventually sent to Chinese government).  These documents have a lot of specificity – notarized, format, and timing, so we have found that requires a lot of effort from us non-administratively gifted types to organize.  We are about halfway through with the extra documents we need for the dossier (the home study will also go in there).

Fundraising

As of right this minute, we have saved/raised $8,800 of the necessary $35,000(ish).  The grand total number is probably a bit lower than that, but it is hard to anticipate exactly what travel costs will be without knowing the time of year we will travel.  At this point, we have paid for all of our costs/fees without pulling money from our adoption savings account.  Obviously the more we can do that, the more our total amount needed will go down.

We are having our first “event” fundraiser on March 21st, a large scale garage sale held at our church.  We are currently asking for donations of items & have had people slowly but surely tell us that they have some things.  The garage sale is also going to include estate sale stuff, craft sale items, a bake sale, selling hot dogs and water, and the church coffee shop open.  If anyone wants to donate, information is on the flyer below!

Donation flyerI’ll be honest, this is still an area I struggle.  Will we make the goal?  Will God provide?  I had been struggling with the anxiety of it lately and Russ and I finally had a very honest conversation a few days ago.  I asked him what we will do if we can’t raise or save all the money.  Because of how he is wired, his first response to me was that we don’t have to be worried about that, he believes God will come through.  But I needed to go there.  I needed to say the fears out loud and realize that they didn’t hold the power that I had been giving them.  The answer = we know we are called to this.  We know we have a daughter in China.  That might mean we take out a loan to bring her home.  We don’t like that idea – we have worked hard in our marriage to avoid debt.  But we have a car note.  Is the call of God and the life of a child equivalent to the weight we have given that car financially?  Yes.  A thousand times, yes.

There was peace that came for me after this conversation.  Not because I have some sort of back-up plan financially, but because I saw again in my husband’s words that we will be obedient whatever the cost, however uncomfortable or inconvenienced that might make us.

And what else?

There is lots of just trying to wrap our brain around what adding her to our family will look like.  I took a good long look around our house the other day and realized that we need to get rid of a lot of stuff in order to fit another person in her.  (Conveniently, we’re having a garage sale!).

One of the most beautiful parts of this process has been watching the Lord prepare my children and watching them become more and more excited to have a sister.  I posted this on Facebook/Instagram a few days ago:

IMG_9500They talk about her a lot. They talk about what we will do with her, how they will help her, what life will be like when she comes.  I love that I can see God preparing their little hearts.  And they are at these precious ages, where they understand and know so much.  I pray over and over that as they learn about adoption, they see who God is.  A God who ran after them.  Who loved both of them when they didn’t know Him at all.  That they truly see the beauty of the gospel.

(Sidenote/Funny story:  some of our friends at church have a one month-old baby.  Last Sunday Mom handed her off to me as she went up on stage to lead worship with the band.  A few minutes later Bennett looked at me with his big eyes all round, “Is that OUR baby?”  He was pretty devastated that this was, in fact, not our baby.  He even tried to talk me into it, “I’ll be a really good helper!”)

On fear, floundering, and faith

This past weekend, I attended the IF:Local Gathering hosted at our church.  I’m pretty sure God put the weekend together just for me.

Some quotes that I have been ruminating on over the past few days:

“It isn’t in the measure of our faith, it is in the measure of our immeasurable God.” (Jennie Allen)

“Being faithful doesn’t mean you are fearless.  It just means that your faith is greater than your fear.”
“At the threshold of any transformation in your life, the enemy will send a spirit of fear”
“Courage comes when we know God is with us.” (Christine Caine)

“Faith is one of our highest prizes, so we should expect a battle for it.”
“Faith does not always demand that God explains Himself.”
“We live out God’s Kingdom to the same fullness that we believe in it.” (Jen Hatmaker)

AND

“The hopeful stare up the steps.  The faithful step up the steps.” (Ann Voskamp)

 If you couldn’t tell, the overriding theme of the weekend was faith.

I’ll be honest, this journey is scary and hard for me in many ways.  And for the most part, I feel exposed.  Although we have been loved on, support, cheered, and encouraged in so many ways, I still feel weirdly vulnerable about living this journey out loud, when the truth is – I still struggle with fear.

They talked a lot about obedience this weekend, about not trying to resolve all your fears, but about faith being a matter of taking a step forward, one step out there at a time, believing God to be true in spite of your fears.

So here I am, I’ve taken that first step.  And maybe a second or so.  Truthfully, I thought by now my fears would be gone.  Yet in moments, they are still very much present.  I recognize that I am stepping forward, following God, being obedient, but I feel very much like while I’m taking steps, there’s a good chance my figurative ankle is going to collapse underneath me.

And yet I know, I KNOW, that we are supposed to be walking this road.  Russ and I are both confident that this is God’s plan for us.  If we know that, shouldn’t it be easy to believe that He will provide and take care of us and make it easy?  I think in the past I would have quickly said yes to that, but I have enough experience with myself now to know that God may provide everything we need and we can still make the journey extra difficult and complicated.  The reality is, our own weaknesses, insecurities, and fears play a part in making our steps feel weighted down.

I find myself going make to Truth, over and over again, as I face the way-down-deep-in-there fears that keep bubbling up.

Lord, I know you call us all as believers to love and legitimately be involved in the orphan problem (James 1:27).  Lord, I know you care about this.

But Lord are you going to provide?  Are you going to call the right people at the right moments to be involved in this?

Lord, I know you desire good things for our family – for all of our kids (Jeremiah 29:11)

But are we all going to be okay through this process?

Lord, you promise to give us everything we need to live a life that brings you glory (2 Peter 1:3)

But do we have what it takes to be mom and dad to this girl, to demonstrate You to this girl, who has already lost so much in her life?

I have felt over the past few days God reminding me Yes. and Yes. and Yes.  And that it’s okay to admit I’m scared.  Sometimes wrestling through the fear is how we land at the faith in the end.

And as I’ve thought through these things over the past few weeks, God led me to this song.  In all my Spotify-browsing and husband recommendations, I’ve never heard it before.  It has so beautifully spoken to me.

Grander earth has quaked before
Moved by the sound of His voice
Seas that are shaken and stirred
Can be calmed and broken for my regard

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
It is well with me

Far be it from me to not believe
Even when my eyes can’t see

And this mountain that’s in front of me
Will be thrown into the midst of the sea

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You
Through it all, through it all
It is well

So let go my soul and trust in Him
The waves and wind still know His name

It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul
It is well with my soul

It is well it is well with my soul

Through it all, through it all
My eyes are on You Lord
Through it all, through it all
It is well with me.

F.A.Q.

We have gotten a lot of questions over the past week about what this process looks like and the specifics of what is going on at this point.  Here are some of those addressed for the masses:

What is happening right now?

The first major hurdle in an international adoption is compiling the dossier.  The dossier is the book of documents about us that will eventually be sent to China.  This dossier includes:

  • Family Information Form
  • Application Letter
  • Birth Certificates
  • Marriage Certificate
  • Employment Letters
  • Certificate of Financial Status
  • Certificates of General Physical Examination
  • Medical Letters
  • Domestic Police Clearances
  • Reference Letters
  • Passport Pages
  • Visa Applications
  • Home Study Report

Seems pretty tame, huh?

The first major step in the dossier is the home study, which is mandatory in every international adoption and many domestic adoptions.  This consists of its own set of required documents (including but not limited to physician forms for all four of us, lots of copies of financial stuff, employment letter, verification of pet vaccines, layout of home with details, references, pictures, as well as many many written pages from Russ and I about our childhoods, families, marriage, parenting, conflict resolution, faith, etc etc).  Once we turn all this in, we will complete parent training and home interviews, then our social worker will write up the home study, which will go into the dossier.

We are almost (!!) done with all of our home study documents.  We have given ourselves a deadline of next Friday (2/13) to complete everything (mostly because the kids go to the doctor that day & that’s our last step :).  Once we send all that in, our home interviews will be scheduled.  All four of us will be interviewed separately and together.

In the meantime, we are slowly compiling necessary dossier documents.

It feels like we are juggling a lot of balls as we do this.  The dossier itself must be logged-in within six months from these documents being completed, so we are under a time crunch less we retrace some of our steps.  And many of these documents take multiple steps – contact a potential reference, drop off a reference form, take my beloved traveling notary/friend with me to pick it up and notarize it.

Once all of the dossier documents are completed and notarized, they all need to be certified by the county clerk, then the TX Secretary of State, and finally authenticated by the Chinese Embassy in the U.S.  Oh and copies have to be made of everything along the way, but be careful not to remove a staple or bend a paper – we have been told that the Chinese government can kick it back because it looks like fraud if so.  I’m not going to lie, when I start to think about this part, I get a nervous tick.  I’m hoping our agency case worker will just answer the phone every time I forget what to do next.

This phase of adoption is generally referred to as the “paper chase”.  We get it. I have never chased paper like this before.  It’s mostly totally overwhelming.  I wonder, though, if six months from now when we are waiting on a random piece of paper to come in the mail for a solid month and have no control and the only thing we can do is wait, if I will miss the busyness.

In addition to these steps, there are other things that we are busy working on.  We sent out a batch of fundraising letters this past weekend and we are working planning our first fundraising event (watch for details!).  We are working to connect with the International Adoption Clinic at Texas Children’s, knowing that they will be a valuable part of our process in the coming months.  And we are making new relationships with families that have gone before us in this process, which has been a beautiful new community for us.

Do you have a specific child you are adopting at this point?

Short answer: No.

Longer answer: There are essentially two routes you can take when adopting a child from China.

First, you can select a child or be matched with a child initially, before you begin paperwork or when you are in the initial stages of paperwork.  These children are what are called “waiting children”.  They tend to be either older or have more complicated medical needs or several concurrent medical needs.  If you go this route, you are matched with the child and then spend the remainder of the time in the process working towards that specific child.  There are currently thousands of waiting children.

The second route, the one we are headed down, involves completing about half of the process before we are matched with our specific child. Once we complete the dossier, it is sent to China and “logged-in” (technical term = LID – Log-in Date).  This is the official point from which we will be able to be matched with a child.

Going this route always us to have more control over the specifications of the child we accept, including age, gender, and medical need.  We would love to have the time and resources to care for any child, but the reality is that we have two young kids already and feel strongly that we have to weigh their needs as we consider the specifics of our third child.

Our agency (most agencies) match children with families both from the “shared list” (a list of waiting children in China) and from orphanages that our agency specifically partners with.  Children are added to the shared list once per month.  We could be matched immediately after being LID or it could take months.  One of the reasons that we chose our agency is because they have a history of being able to match families fairly quickly with the age, gender, and special needs we feel are the best fit for our family.

What is the timeline of all this?

The average timeline of a China adoption is 12-18 months.  This is largely dependent (obviously) on paperwork hiccups and speed of various bureaucracies.  The biggest variation in time frame, however, is dependent on how quickly we are matched with our girl.

Community

I come from a fairly large family.  My people are unique, nosy, passionate, hilarious, loving, invasive, loud, and honest.  They are those kind of ride-or-die folks that can make you a little crazy but give you assurance that you are definitely not alone.

As I have gotten older and grown in my faith, I have come to understand that this is much of how God desires us to approach one another as we live in genuine community.  Not churchy “fellowship”, but authentic community where we are really known and live vulnerably with one another.  Where we do radical, uncomfortable things like: Speak Truth.  Don’t just take things at face value.  Show up even when you aren’t asked or invited.  Don’t just offer , but really bear each others’ burdens.  Pour into people even when there is nothing in it for you.

Russ and I have walked through some things in the last decade that although we have seen the power of God in those situations, we are also well aware of the role real, genuine community has played in the outcomes.

In 2005, we were at the end of ourselves with a marriage we weren’t sure was fixable.  Our community stepped in, wouldn’t let us quit, and helped us walk towards a healthy road.

In 2009 our oldest child was suddenly hospitalized for a month’s time.  For the longest month of our life we watched, waited, and fought for her life.  Our community held us up during those weeks.

In 2013, my dad was diagnosed with dementia.  For the past year, the community I am surrounded by has loved me well and pointed me towards Truth as I have grieved.

Even so, there is an aspect to this journey that felt risky to me, one that I had to work through in the beginning.  The reality is we NEED our community in this.  We need people who will labor with us – in prayer, in getting their hands dirty, in giving.  I need my people – to speak Truth when I start asking myself once again if I can do this.  For the hundredth time.  Today.

It is humbling to put yourself out there.  Even for me, who feels like I know, understand, and consistently desire real community, it has been hard to face the reality that we can’t do this alone.  I feel vulnerable in a way that I am not used to.

It has also been completely beautiful.  Each of these moments, stored up in my heart.

My mom, my sister, and my 16 year-old niece, piled on my mom’s bed at family dinner last Thursday, talking about names.

My very closest friends, who from the very beginning made me feel like I wasn’t alone, like they were behind me.  Who spoke Truth to me when all I could see was fear.

Our precious friends, who have a long history with adoption and foster care as well as an expertise in fund raising , who have led the way in beginning to plan fundraising events.

Our lead pastor and his wife, who celebrated with us, spoke encouragement over us, and affirmed that we are good parents.  And that good parents should raise more kids.

My sweet mother-in-law, who texted me on Friday night that she was going to start making a stocking for our newest girl, to go with the rest of the family’s.  She said “…no way do I not want her to have hers there if she is here for Christmas.  Also I want to pray for her as I make it.”

My precious friend, who has spoken wisdom over me from the beginning, who has used her administrative skills to help us get organized with paperwork (and is serving as a traveling notary!), who has faithfully prayed, listened, and spoken Truth.

The unexpected response in Facebook comments, emails, and texts.  The excitement, love, and hugs of our church family yesterday.

Campbell’s Kindergarten teacher from last year, whom I loved so much.  I walked in her classroom this morning after I dropped the kids off to ask her if she would do a reference for us (one of the many references has to be from a child’s teacher).  Before I could even get the sentence out she enthusiastically said yes.

As I walked back to my car this morning, I thanked God for how surrounded I have felt.  Just this morning after Russ and I prayed together, we were sitting in bed talking.  It hits me hard almost constantly that there is a baby girl that God has picked out for us living in an orphanage on the other side of the world.  Our daughter is spending the first part of her life there without us.  I want to move as fast as I can to get to her, but there is so much I can’t control.

Every time I am wrapped up by one of these gifts in my life, one of these precious people who spurs us on & adds to our journey, I feel us pushed that much more towards her.

And THAT is community.