Monthly Archives: March 2016

He is faithful

In the very beginning of our adoption process, God was clear with us about some things.  He would provide for this adoption.  He would guide us to bring home the child He knew would end up in our family (aka we weren’t going to screw this up and bring home the wrong child).  He would provide the endurance and grace to walk out what felt like initially to be a very overwhelming process.

There was something else.  He spoke clearly to us to live our adoption out loud.  I read a statistic recently that said something like 95% of people who consider adoption never act on it.  For a long time, we were those people.  We thought about adoption and sort of wistfully said, “maybe someday”.

God said to us in the beginning of the journey – be open in this process and your child will not be the only one who comes home because of your yes.  Be open, I want to make adoption feel reachable to people like you – average people.  You are one of many who has considered this, this journey isn’t just for you.

I’ll be honest, it felt awkward.

Through the years I have become more introverted.  At times during this adoption, I have felt like I was putting my most raw and vulnerable out there for the whole internet world. I had no guarantees of how any of this was going to go and it was scary to be putting everything out there week by week.

But I wanted to be obedient.

We were a couple of months into the process and still walking on very, very shaky legs at the beginning of March last year when I got a phone call on a Sunday evening from my friend, Tonia.  God was calling them to adopt.

To summarize what is obviously their own more lengthy, faith-filled journey, they had considered adoption for many years on and off.  They had looked at different avenues.  They had never been on the same page at the same time and much like us, had never moved forward.  Adoption often seems so daunting, particularly international adoption.  When we began the process, it began to click with them that they COULD do this and they began to pray through it again.  This time, it was a yes for them.

We were overjoyed for our friends.  We were OVERJOYED that another orphan would have a home and a family.

But for us, there was a deeper thing that happened after they said yes to adoption.

It was the first answer, the first response, the first “yes” we heard from God in our adoption process.  While no part of us felt like our adoption process was the sole motivator for our friends to adopt, we saw that He really did use our scared vulnerability for something, just as He had told us He would.

It began to click that if He had done this thing He told us He would – used our openness about our journey to spur on the conversation about adoption with those around us, than we could trust Him to do the other things He said He would.  We could trust Him to provide the money.  We could trust Him to lead us to our daughter.  We could trust Him to get us to China and back.  We could trust Him in the first days, weeks, and months home.  We could trust Him to guide us to raise a daughter we didn’t give birth to.

It was a beautiful piece for us in seeing God’s faithfulness in our story and beyond.  That He was bigger in this than we could have ever imagined.  Our legs began to feel a little less shaky as we kept on walking forward.

This week, our friends met their daughter.  I cry just typing that.  In the next weeks, they will bring her home.  And again, I am filled with such joy for them.  This side of the adoption process has had many hard moments for me, but it has felt like walking on sacred ground as well.  God was great to get us to the point of bringing Elliott home, and He has been great as we watch her become cemented into our family and begin to thrive.  I look forward to watching Corrie become a part of her forever family and watching God continue to write this story that He has been writing.

Today we celebrate being home with Elliott for four months.  Four months as a family of five.  It was also one year ago today that we experienced the beauty of the New Testament church at the garage sale of our lives.

I’ve felt so tender the past few days, as I have prayed for our friends through their China journey. As I reflect on His provision for us, the way He has carried us to China and back, the redemption and transformation we have all five experienced in the last four months, and the miracle of seeing Corrie Song placed with her parents today,  it’s been a reminder to me, God really is faithful.

I don’t have to know and understand the way ahead.  I don’t have to see how all the puzzle pieces fit together.  I don’t have to feel the confidence to act on what I believe to be true.  I don’t have to “get” why God is asking certain things of me.  That whether I feel scared or not is not an indication of whether God has this.  As flawed and fearful as I am, I get to say yes and watch God do what only God can do, be greater than I ever could ever dream.

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Four months a King

In the free moments I have these days, the pull between wanting to write and wanting to sit on my couch and eat M&Ms in a daze is fierce.  Clearly, not writing has been winning.  We don’t need to talk about my unfortunate post-adoption weight gain.

It’s been four months since we were handed our daughter in China.  One third of a year.

I can say with full assurance that these have been the greatest, hardest, most heart breaking, most exhausting, most humbling, most sacred months of both Russ and my life.

To say Elliott is different four months later is such an understatement.  She has grown a ton – gained 8 lbs, grown 2 inches, and her foot has grown 3 sizes.  Her hair seems to get longer and thicker on a daily basis.  Where she was flat and muted in personality initially, she has come alive now.  Girlfriend can tell a whole story about how she feels about something just through her eyebrows.  She is dynamic, spicy, funny, active, smart, and bossy.  For someone who only has about ten words and a handful of sign language, she finds a way to try to boss/charm everyone around her.  She is endlessly creative, finding new adventures and new ways to make us laugh constantly.

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Very happily making a mess with orange juice

Watching her evolve through these past months has been a miracle I didn’t anticipate.  Once the overwhelmingly hard started to wear off and we had some sense of rhythm in our life, I began to be overwhelmed by moments that showed the power of redemption on a day to day basis.  The truth is, I did not expect it to be as hard as it has been.  The other side of that is that when we see the victories, they mean a lot more.  Because of some of the depths of hurt and hard we have experienced in the past months, the greatness of the changes feels magnificent.

In January, one of my adoptive mama friends, Natalie, posted this on her blog at a time that I really needed to read it:

“My social worker has been the sweetest and she recently reminded me that I am filling up her bucket and one day I will look back and it will be full.  The visual of her bucket and my love, patience, and commitment filling it up was something I needed to hear this week.  I repeat this often to myself.  Where the hard part is, with all kids, especially traumatized kids, they have different size holes in their buckets that may cause their water to leak a little or a lot.  You have to determine where the holes are and how best to repair them while still pouring water into the bucket.”

(http://www.maebesew.com/blog/2016/1/29/meis-mom)

There are days, like yesterday, that feel blissfully normal around here.  Elliott communicates her needs to us.  She expresses her wants, desires, and fears instead of melting down when her needs aren’t met or when she feels fearful.  She demonstrates trust that we will meet her needs – that we will be there when she wakes up, that the next meal is coming, that she can sit in her little chair and be safe.  She plays, runs around like she owns this place, and instigates trouble – just like a little sister does.  She makes eye contact more and dares to try to use her voice more.

Then there are days, where the holes in her bucket seem overwhelmingly large.  Days where we feel her anger, her sadness, and her grief.  Days where she wants us only because we are there, but it feels strongly like we are not the ones she really wants.  Days where I feel certain that she would leave with a stranger and never look back.  Days where the loss she has experienced in the first two years of her life feels like it has taken up residence in our family.

Although we have much fewer hard days than we did in the beginning, they are still there.  Sometimes the moments sneak up out of nowhere.  I can recognize the change in cry, the avoidance of eye contact.

And I’m reminded, I’m pouring water into a bucket that still has holes.

And then there is us.  It would be foolish to think that we could be “bucket fillers” without being changed in the process.

I realized the other day that we are having to learn to live in the tension between.  Between how we know how to parent and learning how to parent a child from a hard place.  Between doing things how we have always done them and finding what works for her.  Between helping her attach and learning how to discipline her.

Between intellectually knowing what we are doing is going somewhere and having faith that meeting her needs in the moment will come together as pieces of the redemption in her story.

For 3 months and 3 weeks we held her on our laps for every single meal. She refused and showed lots of fear towards high chairs, booster seats, sitting in a chair on her own, and sitting on the floor to feed herself. At some point, the Lord helped Russ and I understand that by holding her and feeding her, we were giving back what she didn’t have as a baby – associating eating with comfort and bonding. Last week one day she picked up her yogurt and sat down in a little chair to feed herself.

We never know if what we are doing is adding up to anything. And although it may not seem like a significant thing, there were moments in the past few months that Russ and I looked at each other and wondered if we would ever not hold her on our laps for every meal and snack.

I’m so grateful that God takes all our broken pieces and uncertain efforts and does something with them.

So we walk forward learning to believe that the ways the Lord has called us in these present moments are like putty beginning to fill the holes in her bucket.  We ask for wisdom from Him, look for guidance from those who have gone before us, look to the experts, and most importantly – we choose faith over control.  And although it feels like a never-ending, humbling dance, we are learning to hold our need to have things just as we want them on our timetable much less tightly than our desire to surrender fully to being part of the bigger picture of what God is doing (I’m looking at you, cosleeping.)

Because here is the thing, the beautiful, excruciating thing that I am having to learn day in and day out: this journey is a marathon.  For us and for Elliott.  Maybe that seems obvious, but I was reminded of something recently.  The greatness of a marathon is in its length.  If I tried to run it all at once, I would be frustrated and exhausted.  That would also negate one of the most important things needed for a marathon – endurance.

 It is in the endurance and the consistency that these holes are slowly filled.  That the putty begins to harden.  That water begins to stop leaking out.

And that we see the miracle of a sweet little girl eating in her chair.

Happy 4 months, Elliott Hope.

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Garage Sale tips

We have had two successful garage sales fundraisers.  During our first adoption we raised almost $7500 from our garage sale.  During our second adoption, we raised $10,000!

Consistently there are families I have connected with via social media who are looking for tips and ideas for fundraising and a garage sale is a popular idea.  Rather than type out the tips over and over again and risk missing something, I’m writing it all out so I can easily link to a post.

I posted about our original garage sale here.

We held both of our garage sales at our church.  We had the luxury of utilizing the building for several days leading up to the sales, which made a WORLD of difference.  The church is located on a busy road, so we were able to have some items outside as well and got lots of drive by traffic.

We chose to only hold the sales on one day, Saturday, from 7:00am – 4:00ishpm.

We followed the same formula both times.  I had the benefit of being coached the first time by a friend who had done large scale fundraisers for charity.

First, we picked a date for the sale and secured a location.  I then created a flyer asking for donations.  This included the why (we are adopting!), the who, what we were looking for, the date of the sale, and how to contact us.  I included my phone number, my husband’s, my mom’s, and a friend’s.  That way we could spread out love in picking up donations.

We posted the flyer around our church, we posted it on social media, we posted it in local beg, barter, and buy groups, we emailed it out, we posted it at workplaces.  And then we got to work picking up donations.  For our first garage sale we started doing this about a month before the sale and for the second about six weeks before.  Picking up donations felt like a FULL time job sometimes.  We took most everything.  Furniture, clothing, kid & baby stuff, household items, shoes & purses, sports equipment.  We found that furniture especially seemed to sell well.

We filled our garage, our parents’ garages, our friends garages, a storage unit, empty space in a friend’s business, and then filled up our dining room.  We begged friends to help us and borrowed trucks.  The amount of donations both times was insane.  We just kept picking stuff up though.  More stuff = more potential money.

About two weeks before the sale, we stopped asking for donations and started publicizing the actual sale.  I made a different flyer, which we put up at church, at Starbucks, on mailboxes in nearby neighborhoods, and really any other bulletin board we could think of.

We also did a LOT of advertising online.  There are hard-core garage salers that check out Craigslist and garage sale sites (Google “Garage Sale Finder” and put your sale on as many sites as you can!).  We put the information about the sale all over Facebook as well.

In addition, we put the old-school signs on the stakes out in the area around the church.  On the day of the sale, we had some teenagers from church who came and held signs at the street.  They did a great job at getting people’s attention and driving traffic in!

The week of the sale, we rented Uhauls and assembled teams to help at different points.  This is how our week broke down:  Thursday afternoon/evening – move everything to the church, Friday all day – organize the chaos and prepare for the sale, Saturday – sale day!

We didn’t price everything.  We priced all the furniture and things that had more value.  We also had a few universal prices posted (all framed pictures are $10, etc).  We did $5 per grocery sack of clothes and the clothes moved well.

One of my good friends organized a bake sale both times.  All the baked items were donated.  It made several hundred dollars each time!  One time we had hot dogs and drinks donated and we grilled those and sold them for $1 each.  One time we had some tables of craft items that people made and sold and donated the proceeds to us.  Our church coffee shop opened as well and they donated the proceeds to us.

We had a check out table by the front door.  We put a place for people to put donations on it and a sign explaining what we were doing.  We utilized a Square card reader with a $25 minimum purchase.  We several people who worked as “hagglers”, so by the time someone would step up to check out, they would have already negotiated prices with one of the workers and would just pay and go.  We advertised at church and among our friends and family, so we had a good amount of volunteers.

Both times, even though we sold SO much stuff, we still had a lot left over.  Towards the end of the day we started letting things go for cheap.  Fill a box for $5, a bag of clothes for $1, etc.  We would rather sell it for something than move it again.

I hope that helps!  It has been a beautiful thing to see other peoples’ unused stuff turn into a significant portion of the funds for two adoptions.