Just Look...

Just Look...

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Double Portion

I have had this tab open on my phone for months and months, waiting to be able to write this post.

Deuteronomy 28:12
The Lord will open the heavens, the storehouse of his bounty, to send rain on your land in season and to bless all the work of your hands. You will lend to many nations but will borrow from none.

{And I have now had this post written for well over a month, waiting to be able to publish it. I wanted to wait because I wasn't sure what sort of internet access our kids had in the Philippines and I wanted to make sure this wasn't a post they would read any time soon. I know there will come a time when they realize the cost of adoption but it's not something I want them to know right now and it's certainly not something I want them to have to think about. I want them to know the miracles of Provision God gave us by way of timing and favor and so many other things, but I don't want them to feel like they "cost something" to us, at least not until they are old enough to see it for what it is.}

God will lavish you with good things: children from your womb, offspring from your animals, and crops from your land, the land that God promised your ancestors that he would give you. God will throw open the doors of his sky vaults and pour rain on your land on schedule and bless the work you take in hand. You will lend to many nations but you yourself won’t have to take out a loan.
(The Message)

When we started to gather information at the beginning of this adoption, we had the option of two different agencies. The one I made initial contact with first was a little bit cheaper than the one we decided to go with.  However, as this process has moved at lightning speed, I am 100% sure that if we had gone with the other agency, we would not be preparing to pick our kids up in the next month. Instead, we would be grieving the fact that our oldest son aged out and trying to figure out what we would do from here.

The initial figure we received was $37,000. That amount, however, was based on one kid instead of three in several categories (airfare, certificate of citizenship, etc). In addition, one figure in that total has tripled (thanks, US Government) since we started the adoption. So, that’s tripled TIMES THREE. Some regulations have changed as well and we are now required to have more post-placement visits, which increases the amount we owe to our home study agency in Tennessee. Additional trainings have been added, most of which cost money. Our airfare was more than anticipated, travel costs were higher than expected, etc, etc.. The total amount for our adoption has ended up being $45,700.

A few things are not included in the total above, but are things that we have worked in our shirt business for, saved, or done a specific fundraiser for.

Not included in that total is the price of airfare for Emma and Kelsey. We desperately wanted to save the money to take them with us to get their brothers and sister, so that was additional money we needed to save and work for through our shirt business.

We love the orphanage that has loved our kids so well and want to be able to do something for them. We inquired about needs and things we could bring and were told that it’s nice to take your whole new family out shopping and buy things there to leave with the orphanage, thus eliminating the need for suitcase space AND allowing your adopted children a chance to feel like they are sowing back into a ministry that has served them well. We are in the middle of a hat fundraiser to raise those funds for that.

Kraig and I wanted to do something special for the staff at the orphanage and also possibly for the other children there.  That cost is not included in the above total either.

One option for adoption assistance is adoption grants. Our issue is that (we thought) ours was going to be so fast that the window to apply for those grants fell the wrong way to apply for most of them. We didn’t have our homestudy completed in time (required) to hit the October deadlines and (we assumed and were wrong) we would be finished before the April deadlines. We did find three grants we could apply for, but we did not receive any of the three. Adoption grants come in various amounts but many of them will provide between $7000 and $10,000. I spent a lot of time terribly stressed out over the fact that we weren’t eligible to apply for the grants that I KNEW we would have a good chance at getting because if there’s one thing I can do, it’s write grants. This is a perfect example of God removing all control from me throughout this process. The FEW things I knew I could handle on my own were all things that He forced me to rely on Him instead.

In November, shortly after the grant deadlines all passed without a completed homestudy (deadlines were October 31, homestudy arrived in our email November 1), we got the information that an anonymous donor (we know the name of the donor but the donor wishes to remain anonymous to others) wanted to give us a substantial amount for our adoption. An amount that, at that time, would have brought us very close to being fully funded after one more big fundraiser (the quarter auction). An amount that was equal to several of the larger grants…. $15,000, an amount that equaled close to HALF of our full total (at that time). I was …. astounded.  Kraig was… elated. God is… a LAVISHING God of good things, to quote The Message translation of that verse. God basically said to me through that donation that He will provide in the least expected ways and the ways that don’t allow me to have control and self-sufficiency. He could have let me write grants, let us get awarded grants, let this donor keep this money, and He still would have been given the glory for the grant awards. But do you know what? I would have, albeit it quietly and in my heart, I would have kept a little of the glory for myself. I would have known that *I* did that, that *I * obviously could handle things at least some of the things, on my own. I wouldn’t have known what it meant to fully and completely depend on Him for the financial provision as much as the other pieces.

One thing that I will admit I have always enjoyed is planning fundraising events. As soon as we decided we were going through with this adoption, I sat down and brainstormed a master list of fundraising events and ideas. We basically did a fundraiser every month for the fall semester. We kicked things off with an envelope donation event, which was very successful. We also made team tees and sold them as an adoption fundraiser in September, did a 5K in October, had a quarter auction in November, sold “Home Sweet Home” shirts in November and December, and then hosted a Cottage Christmas Market in December for the purpose of raising funds for needed household expansion expenses. We realized pretty soon that, with these fundraisers, our significant donation, and generous donors, we would not need to use any other items on our master list of fundraisers (so if anyone needs any suggestions, I have a LOT, haha!). This semester we have done a tshirt fundraiser of an “I Left My Heart in so Many Places” tee designed by our Emma to push us to the end of our adoption bills.

All along the way, we have been BEYOND blessed by people giving so generously to our need. People have participated in our many fundraisers but they have also just given… Just sent cash and coins and checks and paid for specific pieces along the way. Two people very dear to us donated money specifically for Emma and Kelsey’s airfare. One generous person bought the new mattresses we would need. We had several people give significant amounts of money, some of whom knew us and some of whom knew our kids.  Our church has supported us in intentional and generous ways. My mom paid for the plane tickets of our three new kids.

We held a personalized cap fundraiser to raise funds to take with us to the orphanage and to use on the staff gifts we want to take with us. I set up at a booth at a ladies conference to sell Ozark trail mugs, tshirts, and hats.

All of that to say, in 9 months, God provided us with the $45,700 needed for our adoption, the travel costs for Emma and Kelsey, and funds to take generous gifts to the orphanage and staff. When God says He gives lavish gifts, that’s exactly what He does. When we first started this adoption, Kraig was deeply concerned with the financial future of caring for 5 kids and I was overwhelmed with the cost of the adoption itself.  Within a couple of weeks, we traded places and I became daunted by the costs of parenting five kids and he became worried about a $37,500 (which became much more) bill. That is when I knew…. I KNEW… that God was going to make a way. He doesn’t call you to something that He won’t also bring you through, stand beside you, send those to walk with you and hold up your arms. And it is through the experience of Him funding this adoption that has shown both of us that He is also going to take care of our financial future. When we almost double the size of our family, God will double the size of our portion. It’s just who He is.

***Edited at time of publishing, today, June 26, to say that it was perfect timing for me to publish today because I got a rejection letter in the mail today from Show Hope, the Steven Curtis Chapman organization that provides generous grants very freely to adoptive families. I applied at the last minute when our plane ticket costs skyrocketed and hoped that by some miracle, I would get the grant in time to be allowed to accept the money (it must be before travel). Instead, today I got the rejection letter that, even if it had been awarding the money, we couldn't have taken anyway since our kids are already home. However, a letter stating that we had received a grant would have meant that God did not allow us and provide for us to fully fund this adoption without a single grant. So this was yet another piece of this miraculous puzzle of God working everything to the good of these three kids and us in ways that could not be explained by man.

Friday, June 9, 2017

This Amazing Grace

Many people have asked how I am feeling right now. As we prepare to board our final flight to complete our family, I don't feel at all the way I expected to. The days leading up to this moment have found me nervous, excited, and joyful. This may change once we are at the final moment before meeting, but all day today I have felt nothing but the most unearthly calm. If you know me at all, you know that has to have been a Heavenly Calm because I can get anxious faster than the best of them and over NOTHING. ;)

 I am eager and so excited to see their faces in person, hug their necks and hold their hands, hear their voices, but I feel a peace unlike anything else I have experienced. We have known these names and faces for only 308 days today. And it feels like we have been waiting on them forever. But you know? Maybe we have. I know I have been waiting on them for 26 years, since I knew I was going to adopt at 12 years old. I had Emma at 25 and Kelsey at 27, so I guess I waited on them 25 and 27 years. 

I've tried to document everything as we have gone along and a few things I have purposely left unpublished for now, but it feels surreal and somehow simultaneously like the most natural thing in the world to be 3.5 hours away from Manila. I've imagined the coming moments for months and now they are about to be reality. I have tried to keep my expectations open because unrealistic (and unmet) expectations are the key to most disappointment. Emma and Kelsey's births both had elements of unrealistic and unmet expectations (especially Emma's) because I had already mapped out exactly how it would go and both had complications and hiccups and special plans that had to be abandoned in the moment. But both births, the one that ended with a million interventions I didn't want and the one that ended with a baby on the pediatric floor with an IV in her head..... both resulted in the most incredible memories and daughters and family I can imagine.

 I remember on my wedding day, trying to record every moment in my head because I hear so many people say that when they look back later, it was all a blur. I'm trying to go into this fourth huge life event with my hands open instead of holding onto the ways I think things should look and with my mind and heart poised to record all of the special moments that we will want to cherish forever. 

The biggest thing that we want to make clear is that God is so much bigger than every deadline, every piece of paper, every letter of reference, every dollar, every interaction, every governing body meeting, every Skype call, every moment..... I have believed in Him and loved Him as long as I can remember, but I have never had to depend on Him as fully as I have in the past 308 days. I have never had to trust completely in Him with a blind faith like I have these past ten months. 

On the days in the past weeks when I have been overcome with nerves about whether or not I am enough for this future, He sent so many specific words. The two I remember most clearly: 1. John Garrod saying to those who came to camp last Sunday night, "If you're wondering if you're enough, the answer is no. You aren't. HE is enough. And it's only when you come to the end of you that you can fully rest in Him." 2. Lance Colkmire saying on that same night, also in regard to camp but God said it to me in this context through him, "Don't worry about having what it takes. God knows how to love the orphan and He's going to use you to do it." WOW. 
So thank You, God, for all you've done to get us to this point and all You are going to do in the rest of our lives. You are enough.
As we move into these final minutes, this song keeps playing in my head:
"This Is Amazing Grace" by Phil Wickham

[Verse 1:]
Who breaks the power of sin and darkness?
Whose love is mighty and so much stronger?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

Who shakes the whole earth with holy thunder
And leaves us breathless in awe and wonder?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings

This is amazing grace
This is unfailing love
That You would take my place
That You would bear my cross
You laid down Your life
That I would be set free
Oh, Jesus, I sing for
All that You've done for me

[Verse 2:]
Who brings our chaos back into order?
Who makes the orphan a son and daughter?
The King of Glory, the King of Glory

Who rules the nations with truth and justice,
Shines like the sun in all of its brilliance?
The King of Glory, the King above all kings