Saturday, December 29, 2012

James 4:5

Warning: if you are not passionate about orphans yet, you might be offended by this post.  Or you might let the Lord touch your heart and make you passionate :)

Yesterday at Bible study we watched session 6 of Beth Moore's James study.  The first part of the session dealt with James 4:9-10, and when is it appropriate to change our joy into gloom, and our laughter into mourning.  She listed 4 situations in which we should be grieved at our own selves and change our joy to gloom.  Point number two was "When we don't take God seriously."  This is a frightening thought in and of itself, that we should be cavalier in our attitude toward a holy, almighty God.  She went on, however, to talk at length about a verse just prior to this, verse 5.  In the NET it is worded, "Or do you think the Scripture means nothing when it says..." (italics mine)  Then she listed several examples of commands of the Lord that we often do not take seriously.  I won't take time to list them here, but I'll give you one guess as to how I filled in the ...  Do you think the Scripture means nothing when it says take care of the orphans???!!!!  It seems to me that the church as a whole does not take this command of the Lord seriously at all.  If it did, there would not still be millions of orphans worldwide suffering unimaginable abuse and neglect.  Children would not be left to lie in cribs, untouched, dirty, hungry, bored or hopeless.  Ministries like Compassion International and Samaritan's Purse would run out of children needing sponsors.  Adult mental institutions in Eastern Europe would no longer be home to vulnerable children who just need a chance to live.  And foster care in America would cease to exist because children would have families to call their own. 
But this is not the reality.  The reality is that most Christians are doing nothing to help the orphans.  And the church is largely silent about this grievous sin.  (I am talking about the church as a whole, not any individual congregation.  Many individual churches do "get it" and are a wonderful example of caring for the fatherless!)  We have no problem preaching against alcohol, adultery, anger, gossip, etc.  And we feel justified when we cast out those who fall into such sin.  (We aren't, by the way.)  But what would happen if caring for orphans became the norm, instead of the exception?  What if pastors started teaching that not caring for the orphan is as much of a sin as any of those other things?  Because it. is.  Or do you think the Scripture means nothing when it says...

If you're not in tune with the adoption world, you might not know that Russian President Putin signed a new bill/law this week, shutting the door on American adoption of Russian children.  And maybe you don't think this is such a big deal.  But for the 46 families who are already matched with children, it's devastating.  And for the thousands of children still waiting for a family to choose them, well, it's catastrophic.  Healthy children will be turned out on the street at age 16, while special needs children will be sentenced to a life in an adult mental institution.  Church, we need to wake up!!  We need to pray!!  God CAN change this decision.  He can change hearts.  He can move mountains to bring orphans home.  But we are not off the hook.  We can't sit and do nothing.  We can't expect someone else to pray or to fast on behalf of the least of these.  We. Must. Do it.  Many people all over the country and are praying and fasting today about this very issue.  But one day is not enough.  We need God to open our eyes and awaken our hearts, so that the plight of the orphan becomes part of our everyday lives.  Both in words and in deeds.  Please, please ask the Lord what YOU should do.  I promise the answer will not be "nothing."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

On the Upswing!

This has been a hard week in the part of my life that is not wrapped up in all things adoption - friends experiencing so much heartache, that all I can pray is "Oh Jesus!"  And I know that he hears that prayer, and he knows that ache, and he will do what I cannot for those I love so much.  Because he loves them infinitely more, and more perfectly than I ever could.  And for that, I praise him!

But on the flip side, in my adoption world, this has been a great week!  James's visa was issued on Monday, and while we have yet to receive our invitation to travel, tickets have been booked, seats picked, and today I bought the first of many items needed to entertain a 4 year old for 24 hours on a plane/in an airport.  We also received word that James has seen our photo book now, knows who we are, and is very excited about his family, especially his siblings.  This has really been a source of stress for me, and while I don't really know exactly how much he understands, I know that he has about a month to process it and ask questions as much as he is able.  I pray every morning, as soon as I wake up, that the Lord will prepare his heart for us, and that his transition to us will be as minimally traumatic as possible.  I feel very reassured that our Father is doing just that. 
Aedan and Liana are getting more excited too, now that we have a definite timeline.  They talk about James, what they will do with him when he gets here, and how they wish he was here now.  It's so sweet.  I've read them the emails we've gotten, telling how excited James was about their pictures in the book, how he imitated their silly faces, how he put his Pirates t-shirt on immediately.  I think that's helped make it more real to them.  We're hoping to be able to skype soon, if we are given permission, and if his foster mom can get to an internet cafe and get access to decent internet.  That would just be icing on the cake at this point!

A few mornings ago (I forget which morning, because I was not diligent enough to get out of bed and get my journal!)  I was reading an Advent devotional, which, of course, was about waiting.  And I realized that waiting has been a part of God's plan for us from the beginning of time.  Abraham and Sarah had to wait for Isaac.  Joseph had to wait in prison.  The Israelites waited in slavery.  Then they waited in the desert (granted, that was their own fault, but still).  The list goes on.  And then God's people waited for hundreds of years for the Messiah.  Generations passed, and God was silent.  No prophets, no messages, nothing.  And then it occurred to me that God waited too!  He waited until just the right time to send his Son, his plan for the salvation of mankind.  How difficult it must have been to watch generation after generation live and die under the law, knowing what was in store in the future. But, in his infinite wisdom that we can't even begin to comprehend, he waited.  I don't know what that time was the right time, but God does.  Maybe he'll explain it to us in heaven, but maybe he won't.  And honestly, it probably won't even matter then.  So to all of you who are waiting, whether for something adoption related, or for healing, for relationship restoration, for the return of the prodigal, for whatever... be encouraged today and know that you are in good company.  Our Father knows what it is to wait, and he also has a just the right time for you.  We might not understand what's taking so long, but we can take comfort in knowing that he knows all things, he sees the beginning and the end (we only see about three seconds worth!) and his plan and his timing are perfect.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Big scare!

Today while on a field trip with my kids, I got a text from a friend about a typhoon in the Philippines. Then she proceeded to tell me that she saw online that Manila was completely underwater and 81 people were dead and thousands had been evacuated.  Now, remember that James's visa appointments are this week. So he is IN MANILA right now! Talk about a major freak out moment!!!  And, not having my own "pocketful of Internet access," I couldn't find out anything for myself.  Finally Jason got home from work and was able to call our agency, and found out that the storm is actually south of Manila, in the Mindanao region.  Huge sigh of relief and much thanks to God, who again, showed his perfect timing.  Here is a picture of the southern part of the Philippines.
Manila is way north of this area.  So, if James was at home right now, he could be in danger.  But as he is in Manila, far away, the worst he's likely to see is a thunderstorm! 
The affected area does need our prayers though!  This time last year saw a similar storm with incredible devastation and many deaths in the same area.  And we don't know what, if any, kind of damage has happened to James's home, or to the island in general.  It's already a pretty poor area, so flooding and high winds will really be a problem.
I'm thanking God for His perfect timing and getting beyond excited to travel so very soon!!!!!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Almost. There.

I'm not a runner.  I have some friends who are, and I tried a few times.  But I just couldn't get into it.  It made my shins, feet and ankles hurt.  And we live on a hill.  Nowhere in our neighborhood is there flat ground.  So my running career was short lived.  But I imagine that if I was a runner, this is what it would feel like to be so close to the end of a marathon.  Last summer I had the joy of watching two very dear friends cross the finish line of a real marathon.  I listened as they described the last few miles, and the sheer determination it takes to make it to the end.  The adoption process is like a marathon, and we are almost at the end.  Just those last few miles to go.  But the waiting and the uncertainty of when are hard to take some days.  Ok, everyday. But some days are harder than others.  This week we got word that James's visa and medical appointments have been scheduled for this upcoming week.  That's the very last thing that has to happen before his visa can be ready and we can go get him.  But it's December 1st.  His second appointment is on the 6th.  The very latest we could possibly (I think) fly out and still make it before the embassy closes is the 14th.  Which means we need those two appointments to happen, the visa to be done, and travel approval given all next week.  That in itself is basically impossible.  Then, if God so chooses to do the miraculous, we'd have just a few days to purchase insanely expensive tickets, make childcare arrangements, buy stuff for the trip, pack...you get the idea.  My head is spinning with all of it!!  And I'm having a hard time keeping my thoughts in order just to write this blog!  So, let's suffice it to say, we're at the end of the race, and I don't know exactly how many more miles we have to run.  But I know that God has brought us beautifully this far, and the rest of the journey will play out exactly as He has planned.  And I'm ok with whatever day I get on a plane.  Because I am getting on a plane, SOON!!!!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Another down...

So today I got a very unexpected email from our agency with some very upsetting news.  Unfortunately, I can't share any details in a public forum, but I'll be happy to fill you in personally if you want to know.  But suffice it to say that much prayer is needed!!  James is fine, and I don't forsee this situation causing us further delay, but some decisions are being made that are not in James's best interest in the long run.  We have no control over anything, and it's so frustrating.  Especially because we are going to be the ones who have to help him deal with the emotional fallout.  My heart is aching, I'm angry, and I'm sitting here helpless while someone else makes decisions that could affect the rest of my son's life.  Please pray that the visa appointments will be scheduled ASAP, that what is best for James will be done, and that I don't go crazy waiting!!!! 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ups and Downs

The adoption process is such a crazy journey.  It's full of things that don't make sense, take entirely too long, and really test one's faith!  But it's also full of things that show God's awesome power, His totally sufficient provision, and His perfect timing.  Since the first things are at odds with the latter things, you can understand why it's such an up and down experience.  The last few weeks have been just that.  Since I haven't updated in a while, let me catch you up.  We finally got out I800 approval a few weeks ago, but since it was the end of October, I still was resigned to the fact that we would not be traveling this year.  And as my husband is facing possible back surgery in the near future, that was probably for the best.  Then I got an email on November 1st saying that James's passport would be ready the following week, on the 8th.  This gave us a very small chance of still being able to travel next month, as we now only need to wait on his medical exam and interview appointments for the visa.  So that was when I started emailing the US embassy in Manila, trying to get dates for these.  The medical exam is done first, and then the interview is scheduled.  Since James is so far from Manila, we are really hoping these can be done together, so they don't have to make the trip twice.  After both of those happen, we wait for the visa to be issued, typically a two week wait.  So, as you can see, this is a very small window of opportunity.  But I had given up all hope of even possibly getting him this year, so I was willing to take a small window!  And I've been praying constantly that God will make a way, like only He can.  Not only for us, but for two other families that I've "met" that are in this last phase too.
Fast forward to today.  I was waiting on a second reply from the embassy that I greatly hoped would tell me his appoinments had been scheduled and would happen very soon.  Instead, I got an email from our agency, saying that yes, the ICAB has the passport, but not to expect appointments to be scheduled soon enough to travel this year.  Apparently there are a great number of families at this point in the process, and every child being adopted must have a medical evaluation, and there is only one clinic that handles all the cases.  (Ok, really, US government??  I would understand if this was the Filipino government, but this exam is required by USCIS for entry into the country.  You would think that the United States could get a few more doctors in there to move things along!!)  And for whatever reason, things are moving slowly, and families who should have traveled last month are still waiting for their exams.  This is not good news.  But, as I said, I knew it was a long shot, so I'm not surprised.  And I didn't feel much at that moment.  Then I went to the grocery store, and while wandering the aisles trying not forget something I needed, I was texting my dear friend Kathy about our disappointing news.  She told me that she wasn't going to give up, and that until 2012 ends, she would keep praying that he could come home this year.  Right then I knew I couldn't give up either!  So while wandering I started praying, asking begging God to do what only He can do.  And then I felt guilty, thinking about the families that are ahead of us in line for the exam, and that it wouldn't be fair for us to get our child while they waited.  But then I remembered that God can do anything!! He can bring home ALL of those children this year!!  By now I'm almost to the checkout, and I'm practically in tears.  I know God can do it.  Nothing is too hard for Him.  It's completely impossible apart from him, but not even remotely difficult for Him.  I also know that He might not.  But His love for orphans is much bigger than mine, and His plan much more perfect than mine, (although I think my plan is pretty stinkin' good!) and I will trust Him no matter what He decides to do.  But, in the meantime, I'm going to keep asking!!  And listening to this song play over and over in my head, and on my spotify :) All Things Possible

Sunday, November 4, 2012

What I Really Wanted to Say...

In case you missed it, today was/is Orphan Sunday.  I have to admit, it was a rough day.  I've been looking forward to it for a few weeks, since I found out that we would be given time in the services today (for the first time!).  And I got more excited when I volunteered to introduce the video we were showing.  And then, this week we got some good news about our adoption (which I will share later), which made me even more excited!  I knew I only had about 30 seconds to introduce the video (I hope you'll watch it when you finish reading, even if you saw it this morning, since it was cut by about 3 minutes), so I spend all week going over what I was going to say, trying to fit about an hour's worth of thoughts into half a minute.  What I finally settled on was this: "Today is Orphan Sunday.  But for me, everyday is Orphan Sunday.  Because I know that right now, all over the world, millions of children wait.  They wait for a family, for a sponsor, for someone to love them.  All while most of us sit and do nothing.  If you've never thought about adopting, fostering, or sponsoring a child for less than what you pay for your cell phone, or if you've thought about it and made excuses of why you can't, then I've been praying for you.  And I believe that in the next 5 minutes, God is going to mess you up, to ruin you for normal.  And you are going to leave here, and look outside of your comfortable life, see the need, and DO SOMETHING."
Truly, it was all I could do to contain myself, to get the words out through the emotions that were overwhelming me.  Because what I really wanted to say was this: Today is Orphan Sunday.  But for me, every Sunday is Orphan Sunday, and every Monday is Orphan Monday, and every Tuesday...you get the idea.  Everything I see, hear, sing, read, think about, I do through the lens of adoption.  It's always on my mind.  Children who desperately need to be rescued, either through physical adoption, or through the adoption of child sponsorship with ministries such as Compassion International or Samaritan's Purse.  Every dollar amount I hear that people spend on unnecessary things, I think, "That could feed this many children."  Or, "Do you know how many children that could sponsor??!!"  Sometimes I even drive myself crazy with it!  But I can't help it.  I can't get away from the fact that we, as Americans, as the church, have no qualms about spending outrageous amounts of money on our own comfort, entertainment, and convenience.  But how many people balk at $40 a month to provide food, clean water, clothes, medicine, and education for a child who is otherwise going to die!!  It keeps me awake at night. 
And while I rejoice at the children who have been adopted and are being adopted, I grieve that so many people who could adopt, aren't.  I am not in the "adoption is a calling" camp.  I think that's just an excuse, and I wonder how many people who say they're "not called to adopt" have actually consulted God about it.  Now, I understand that not everyone can adopt, maybe for health reasons, age, or legitimate financial reasons.  And I understand that not everyone should adopt.  But, it is my belief that if you can, then chances are good that you should.  If you've ever (or never!) considered adopting (or fostering), and you have the ability, then please, ask God.  I don't think He's going to say no! (to paraphrase Katie Davis)  The devil is certainly not putting that idea into your head.  And it's highly unlikely that your fleshly self is either.  God loves the orphan!  He commands us to care for them.  That can happen in many different ways, yes, but I really believe adoption is God's favorite way.  Not every child can be adopted, because of laws and circumstances, which is why sponsorship is so important.  But if a child is available for adoption, they should be adopted.  But too many children wait.  And will continue to wait (in deplorable conditions you can't even begin to imagine, unless you've done some research) until someone, until YOU go and rescue them.
So please, I'm begging you, on behalf of those who can't beg for themselves, PRAY!  Ask God what He wants you to do.  And really listen.  Put aside all your excuses, all your arguments, and listen.  And then.  Do. Something."
If you're still with me, watch the video.  I dare you.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Hurry up and wait!!

Well, it's been a while since I've posted, but there hasn't been much to report.  We got James's legal documents a few weeks ago, had a minor fiasco trying to get a copy of our income tax from this year (I'll tell that story in a minute!) and finally got everything off to USCIS on the 1st.  And here we are, on the 18th, still waiting for our I800 approval.  I called today and actually spoke with the officer assigned to us.  Our file just arrived today and hasn't officially been given to him yet, which was good because I was able to give him permission to send the approval directly to our agency.  That should save a few days, but we still won't have it until sometime next week.  So that's a bit frustrating.  I also sent our photobook and a Pirates t-shirt so James can start getting to know us.  But the foster parents think it's best to wait until closer to our arrival to show him so he's not confused by the long wait.  I'm not really pleased with this, because I want him to see us and know us, but I keep telling myself that they've done this dozens of times, so they might know a bit more than I do about what is best.  But still...  So here we are at the end of October with the visa process not even begun.  Please pray with me that all the paperwork and appointments happen extra quickly, so that we can still travel in January.
And now for my income tax mishap story... When I applied for the grant we received this summer, I had to include a copy of our income tax report, with our SSN blacked out.  Well, I didn't want to black it out permanently, and I didn't think to make a copy, so I covered the numbers with masking tape.  Just long enough to make a copy, mind you, but when I pulled it off, the numbers came off with it.  Now this was many months ago, and I had forgotten about this until I got it back out to make a copy for immigration (even though I'm fairly sure we supplied the same information with our first form).  So now I needed a new copy.  Jason said he filed our taxes in an office this year, so i called the tax office and found a location that was open that day and accepted walk-ins.  The only one was in the Mills (about 20ish minutes away), where I had just been the day before shopping.  So I loaded up the kids and headed out.  The only lady working that day took me to her desk, asked for our info, and tried to locate our file.  The computer gave her an error and said we didn't exist in the system.  After this happened several times once, she looked at me and basically said, "Sorry, nothing I can do.  Don't be mad at me."  Seriously??!!!  Very calmly, I asked her if there wasn't something else she could try, someone she could call, etc??  I explained that I needed this paper TODAY (it was a Friday) and that it was extremely important.  Finally she gets ahold of a tech guy who finds us but says the server is down and he can't help us either.  We'll have to go to the office where we filed, which would be open the next day.  I had to work Saturday, so I told Jason he would have to go.  Neither of us was very happy at this point.  So, Saturday comes, and Jason calls the office to make sure he will be able to actually get our return.  They don't have it in their system either.  Finally, he remembers that he really filed online, and was able to quickly find and print the report.  Needless to say, I will never use tape to cover anything on paper again!!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Surpise!!!!

Well, it's not Monday, but....WE'VE BEEN MATCHED!!!!!  I got the call this morning while I was at work!  Everyone was totally surprised by it!  Well, not God, of course!!  But we certainly were!! 
So now we have to fill out more paperwork, pay a bunch of money, apply for his visa, and make it to January without going totally crazy with excitement :))  Like I said in my last post, even though the three month wait for his visa puts us in December, we will have to wait until after Christmas to travel.  But if I can get on a plane on January 1st, I WILL! Actually I think we fly out over the weekend, so the 4th is more likely the earliest we will go.  Of course, I would be really happy with December 28th, but I don't know how long "Christmas break" lasts for the government.  But either way, I know it will be here before we know it. 
Thank you all so much for your prayers and support thus far!  Please keep 'em coming!!  GOD IS GOOD!!!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Space for Grace

Well, it has been a disappointing week, to say the least.  First, after I've been telling everyone for the last few monthsthat we should have James home by the end of this year, this week I found out that was very unlikely to happen.  You see, once we get our referral (match) it's basically a three month wait to get his visa until we can travel to get him.  Here we are heading into September, which puts us in December for travel.  Only one problem: Christmas.  Government shuts down for Christmas; officials take most of the month off and you can't get your visa when no one is working in the embassy.  Plus, ticket prices go up because of the holiday.  So I was told that we would most likely have to wait until January.  But, I was holding out a little bit of hope that if we could get matched this week, maybe, just maybe, we could squeak in at the very beginning of December.  That hope was smashed this morning when I got an email from our CW, saying that the ICAB has some crazy policy, that if there are five Fridays in a month, they don't do any matchings that Friday.  Seriously??!!!  First of all, that's just dumb.  And second of all, they are "backed up" as it is, because of the flooding earlier this month.  So really, I don't think this week should have counted as a fifth Friday.  But that's just me.  So, as you can imagine, I am very unhappy right now.  Not only will we not have our baby home for Christmas, but we will miss his birthday as well.
Now, you're probably wondering about the title.  This morning, before I read the dream-crushing email, I went to Bible study at church.  We're doing Beth Moore's study on James.  I love Beth Moore, by the way.  I've missed the first two weeks of the study, so I didn't see the video sessions.  But most of the regular ladies weren't there today, so we decided to watch session one, since two of the three of us hadn't seen it yet.  At the end she was talking about how James didn't get a free pass or special treatment because he was Jesus's brother, but he needed grace just like the rest of us.  And she went on to say how our sins and problems and life circumstances create space for God's grace in our lives.  I was thinking of a few things in my life that need grace, and this situation was at the top of the list.  I need grace for myself, for being frustrated and angry with a system that makes everything so difficult and drawn out.  And I need grace to give to said system and the people who run it.  And I need grace to trust in God's perfect timing, especially when it does not line up with my own plans.  So today, I have a big space.  Lord, please fill it with your grace.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back in line!!

This has been such a tough week, and none of it has to do with adoption.  So I was very glad to get some good news from our agency this morning.  The assessment requested by the ICAB has been done and submitted, and we are back in line for matching!!  I could tell a story about being in line, but I don't have time right now, and my heart is a little too heavy.  But for those who go to church with me, you'll know what I'm talking about. :)  If you're curious, go to maog.org and listen to the message from Aug. 5.  It's not up as of right now, but check back later.  It's worth it!  And as for us, the flooding in Manila last week has put the ICAB a little behind, so it may still be a few weeks, but at least we are almost there!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fundraiser

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Burton-Performer-Snowboard-/290760139252?pt=Snowboarding&hash=item43b2a7a1f4
A few months ago this snowboard showed up at our church yard sale!
Vintage Burton Performer Snowboard


If you know anyone who might be interested, please feel free to share this.  Or bid on it yourself!  All the money will go toward our adoption costs.  Happy bidding!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

One year ago...

One year ago we did our first adoption fundraiser, concession stands at a church softball tournament. It was a long day, and super hot.  We worked at 2 different fields and my dear friend helped me by running the second location. We made about $400, which covered our agency application fees and helped get us started.  At that time I wasn't even sure what country we were going to, let alone what specific child. 
Today, while we wait (and wait) for our referral for our sweet boy, we had the same concession stand to help finish off our fundraising.  I really wish I could say that today capped off what we need, because that would be really cool, but we're not quite there.  Super close though!  And while last year was hot hot hot, today was freezing!!!  And unlike last year, when several people asked about our adoption that we hadn't even officially started, hardly anybody asked me today, even though I was wearing my Celebrate Adoption! t-shirt (not that you could really see much of it under my hoodie!) and I had a picture of James right on the table!  That was a little disappointing.  And since we only had one location, and it was freezing, we didn't make nearly as much money.  BUT we have more than we started the day with, and a very sweet teenager got up early and spent her Saturday with me, freezing, and memorizing the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1.  So I'd say it was a day well spent :)

And in case you're wondering, we haven't heard anything further from the ICAB.  There was a major typhoon in the Philippines this week and Manila was basically underwater, so the government was shut down for a few days.  I don't know what that will do to our timeline, but hopefully not much. I don't really expect to hear anything next week, given the disaster. The country can really use our prayers too, as they face massive devastation in Manila and surrounding areas.  But as far as we know James is safe and sound, praise God!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Repost: hosted orphans desperately needing families

If you haven't already read this blog, please take the time to read it.  Maybe YOU could be the family one of these children so desperately needs!!

No Greater Joy Mom: hosted orphans desperately needing families: The precious children listed below are all currently in the U.S. on a hosting program.  Sadly, none of them have found committed families (y...

Monday, July 23, 2012

Not yet.

Well, I got an email today that the ICAB has decided they want a new developmental assessment of James before they will approve a match.  I think the one currently in his file is over a year old, maybe more.  So, while it will be a big bonus to have updated information when we are matched, I'm more than a little frustrated that they didn't think of this earlier.  But it's the nature of the beast, I guess!  I don't know how long it will take to get the evaluation, but I know the foster parents will get it done just as soon as they possibly can.  And I'll trust that the ICAB will be satisfied with the report and will match us, finally!  But until then...waiting is terrible!! :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

No news...

...is good news.  Or so I've been told by our agency.  But it is still no news.  Many of you have been asking regularly if we've heard anything, and I haven't blogged simply because I had no news to share.  And I was hoping I would have something soon, so I didn't have to write the "waiting is terrible" blog.  But waiting is terrible!!  Especially because we are so close.  A few weeks ago, before I went on a missions trip to Michigan, I got an e-mail from CAS telling me that the ICAB wanted more information/documentation.  As irritating as that was, to have to scramble around for things before I left the state, I took it as encouraging news.  After all, if they want more info, then they must have been presented with our file for matching.  And if we send them what they want quickly, we should go back in for matching quickly, right?  Well, two Fridays have come and gone since they received our additional documents, and so far, nothing.  That's not to say we weren't matched two days ago and we just don't know it yet.  Please pray that's the case!  I'd love to publish this post, only to follow it up with good news this week!!  But in the meantime, I'll share some small cool things that happened over the weekend.
Yesterday my kids went to a birthday party where they got a small stash of candy from a pinata.  As they were comparing their loot and trading candy, Aedan said, "I have enough licorice for everyone in the family to have a piece.  And we can save one for James!"  My heart!  I explained that James won't be home for a while still, and the candy won't keep that long, but we can get him something else when he does come home.  Later that evening Aedan asked what I thought we could get for James.  He's thinking about his brother!  I do, however, need to get him thinking about using sign language!  Liana is much more willing and knows a decent number of signs from watching Signing Time.  Aedan is more resistent to new things he doesn't know how to do.  I will definitely be making sign language a part of his school day this year! 
Anyway, the second cool thing happened today.  I spoke with a very sweet lady who also adopted from the same foster home James is in.  She could not say enough wonderful things about the foster parents, the Filipino people, and the whole travel experience in general.  She also offered to give us more help when we get closer to our travel time.  And she eased my worries about taking James from such an obviously loving home.  She said she felt the same way about adopting her own son, but that everything was fine, and that they do a great job of preparing the child for the transition. 
I cannot wait to be matched, and be able to communicate with the foster parents, and get more information about James, and be able to send him pictures and other things!!  Oh, the waiting is terrible!!!
One more thing.  I don't have an exact dollar amount, but we are so close to being fully funded.  I think it's safe to say less than $2,000 is still needed, maybe even $1,500.  If you feel led to help us get to the very end, please do!!  You can give through the Chip-in button, or by sending it directly to our agency, Christian Adoption Services.  And please pray for our match to happen!!!  Hopefully the next time I blog will be with an answer to that prayer!

Friday, June 15, 2012

Big News, short post!

Three weeks ago I went for my FBI fingerprinting.  Jason went on Monday.  And today I received our I800A approval in the mail!!!!!  (For those of you who are not adoption lingo savvy, that basically means that our government has approved us to adopt a child.  Now we can get our official match from the Philippines.)  Now, I have been a bit peeved that we wasted 3 weeks waiting for Jason's appointment, because no one bothered to tell me that we could try and walk in anytime and see if they would take us.  BUT GOD.  God knew.  Because, you see, yesterday I got an e-mail from the JSC Foundation saying that we have been awarded a $5,000 grant!!  After Celebrate Adoption!, that puts us at aboout 75%, maybe a bit more.  But if we had gotten our USCIS approval 3 weeks ago, I would've been freaking out about the money, because from everything we've been told, things could move fairly quickly from this point.  But now I feel much more confident, knowing that we are so close to our goals, both financially and with all the paperwork and approvals.  God is clearly working this all out, much easier and faster than I had anticipated, but have certainly hoped and prayed for!
Please continue to pray with us!  Our I800A will be faxed to the ICAB on Monday; they already have our dossier, so in theory it won't take long for a match because we are the only family in line for James.  In fact, I am pretty sure we are the only family who has ever been in line for him.  That's because he belongs with us, in our baseball-obsessed family!  :)

Renewed hope for Kamdyn

No Greater Joy Mom: renewed hope for Kamdyn: It's no secret.  One of the things which breaks my heart the most is seeing children on advocacy websites just waiting to be CHOSEN! Heari...

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Items for sale!

 We had some items left over at the auction.  If you are interested in buying any of them, you can comment, email, or facebook me.  Prices do not include shipping if you live out of this area.  Sorry the picture quality isn't great.  My camera died so I had to use my webcam.

Bows and Butterflies!  This decorative trunk contains 16 handmade bows and a fun pink feather boa bow bed.  There are 4 sets of double bows for pigtails, the rest are individual.  The whole set is about a $100 value; sale price is $70.
Silver Luckenbooth handmade jewelry set.  The luckenbooth is a Scottish symbol of love.  This particular one has a shape like an owl, and is handmade by a friend of my parents, a world-renowned silversmith.  The set contains earrings and a necklace.  It is worth at least $100.  Sale price is $75.


Small painting by Lainey Anderson.  $20

Handmade genuine pearl rosary necklace.  The crucifix is from the Vatican.  $50

The following are all Cookie Lee jewelry pieces.

 19-22" Adjustable necklace.  Retail price $38.  Sale price $30
 Genuine crystal flower stretch ring.  Retail price $28.  Sale price $22
 Criss cross metal hoop earrings.  Retail price $20.  Sale price $16

 Genuine dark pink crystal stretch ring.  Retail price $24.  Sale price $19
 Genuine crystal penant necklace.  Retail price $22.  Sale price $18
 Necklace with genuine crystal starfish.  Retail price $44.  Sale price $35
 Earrings.  Retail price $18.  Sale price $14
Genuine CZ ring, size 7.  Retail price $29.  Sale price $23

I also have gift certificates to Stephanie's Hairstyling salon in Plum.  One is good for a haircut, the other for a shellac manicure.  They are worth $30 each, sale price $20 each.

I have another gift certificate for a haircut and style, plus a mani-pedi by Holli Stegner.  $40.

If none of these items interest you, you can always just donate through our Chip-in button :))

Monday, June 11, 2012

Celebrate Adoption! and more!

First of all, let me just say, GOD. IS. AMAZING.  And second, let me say once again, a giant THANK YOU to all the wonderful people who helped us make Celebrate Adoption! a success!!  If you contributed auction items, helped set/clean up, served dinner, or shared your heart, THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!!!  It really was such an amazing night, and it happened almost exactly the way I imagined it would.



There were a lot more auction items than this!  Most were sold, but I still have a few things left.  I'll post them on here soon, if anyone wants to buy them!


The food was fantastic!  Friends of ours were wonderful enough to prepare it all, except the cookies.  Those were baked by my aunts, sister-in-law, and friends.  For dinner we had chicken adobo, fried rice, green beans with sesame seeds, and fruit salad.  And bread, "from America," as my son described it. :)

 Mia sang "When Love Takes You In" by Steven Curtis Chapman.
 Robin shared about their adoption of their daughter from Russia.
 Debbie shared her story of growing up in foster care and being adopted.  Then she sang "Your Grace Still Amazes Me" by Philips, Craig, and Dean.
 Tom and Teresa talked about their adoption of a boy from Haiti that is still in progess.  They showed a video of Haiti and the children in the orphanage they are adopting from.
 Gianna shared her passion for adoption and challenged everyone to consider giving a child a home.  After that we showed a video that I made.  Sorry, I am not going to post it here.  But trust me, it was good! :)
Then Jason shared his story of being adopted.  Even though no one talked to each other beforehand about what they were going to say, the theme of the night was clearly that God has a plan for each of our lives, and that He allows circumstances to make us into the people He wants us to be.  He puts orphans into the perfect family for them, to accomplish His purpose for their lives.  It was really beautiful the way everyone's story shared a common theme, without any advanced planning.  Finally, Debbie came back and sang "Orphans of God" by Avalon, while many friends and family gathered to pray for us.  I don't have any pictures of that, because Gianna, my photographer, was the first one out of her seat to pray for us! :)  It was a wonderfully special moment.
Then everyone who won their auction item paid up, and other people simply gave.  I still have to figure out how much I spent on food and such, but we definitely raised over $2500!

And most importantly, at least one other family has already decided to adopt!!
So, in a nut shell, the Gospel was preached, God was glorified, adoption was celebrated, and we are one step closer to bringing our little guy home!

Now, the more part of the post!  So, when Tom was talking about their adoption, he spoke about how their little boy fits perfectly into their family.  I started to freak out, and wonder if James was going to fit perfectly in our family, if he was really meant to be our son.  Fast forward to last night.  I'd been waiting for the foster family that is taking care of James to update their quarterly newsletter. (Since we are not yet officially matched, information is hard to come by!  And once we are matched, we still are not allowed contact with the foster parents; everything must go through the adoption board.)  They talk about all the different things they do on their island, one of them being their foster home.  Specifically, James.  He is currently the only foster child in the home.  Anyway, when I checked last night, there it was!  I got to the Baby Home section, and read that James is healthy, he loves books and coloring, cars and big trucks.  But his favorite thing of all: baseball!!  If you know anything about our family, you know that Aedan is obsessed with baseball!  Just like his daddy :)  They said that James likes to watch baseball on tv, that he copies the pitcher and batter, which is exactly what Aedan used to do.  He has his own small glove, can catch and throw, and is learning to bat.  I was so excited, I woke Jason up to tell him!  And I told Aedan first thing this morning.  He was equally excited at the idea of having another baseball playmate.  I am so thankful to the Lord for reassuring me, when I hadn't really even asked Him to!  And I'm thankful that we bought James his own Pirates shirt when we bought the other two theirs!!  And now I know what kind of bedding to buy him, too!  We already have baseball curtains in the boys' room, so it will fit nicely!
Now we just need our I800 to be approved so we can get our official match.  It should be about 3 months after that when we got our travel approval.  Please pray with us for speed and favor with the two governments!!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

One of the many blogs I follow...

This, my friends, is what the miracle of adoption can do!  I love this little guy!!  You have to click the link to read the whole post, but please do!

Add to the Beauty: Three Months Later:     What a difference three months can make . . . It is hard to believe this even the same little boy! Micah was scared, ...

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Looking for a blog

Ok, this post is going to sound a bit random, but I'm looking for a blog I used to follow, but somehow have unsubscribed from mistakenly.  It's about a little boy named Seth, adopted from EE, with CP.  If anyone out there knows who I'm talking about, please send me the link!  I tried to find it through google, but that's next to impossible!
Thanks!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Noma Kanjani (Whatever it takes)

In case you didn't notice, I added a chip-in button that you can use to donate directly to us through pay-pal. :)

Today at church we had a guest missionary speak.  His message was from the story of the good Samaritan.  The basic message was that we prove our love for the Lord by caring for people.  As I was listening and (doing a very poor job of) interpreting, I felt that feeling in my stomach.  You know, the one where you feel all floppy inside?  That's the best way I can describe it.  But the reason is that I really wanted to stand up and shout to the whole church, "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I AM TALKING ABOUT!!!!!!!!!" If you missed my last post, please go back and read it, and you'll understand.  Taking care of orphans is following Jesus' command to care for the least of these!  And when we do it in his name, it's the same as doing it for Jesus himself!  And if we refuse to care for them, it's like refusing to care for Jesus himself.  And to those people, Christ says, Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. 
Do you get it?  This is NOT OPTIONAL. 
At the end of the message, he gave 3 levels of involvement.
1. Do Something NOW.  In our service this was answered with an unplanned offering for Cry Africa, the ministry these missionaries work with.  But for you, I'm giving you the opportunity to do something now by coming to Celebrate Adoption!  Not only will you be helping us rescue an orphan, but I believe God is going to stir hearts for adoption, and other families are going to get on board.
2. Short-term committment.  To me, when it comes to orphan care, this can come in the form of child sponsorship.  As I said before, I understand that not everyone can or should adopt.  But almost everyone can sponsor a child.  It costs less to feed, clothe, educate, and provide medical care for a child than it does to pay for your cell phone.  And because so many orphans will never be available for adoption, we need people to step up and provide the care their country cannot.
3. Long-term commitment. Obviously, I'm going to say this fits into the adoption category.  Adopting a child is forever, just like having a biological child.  It takes work, sacrifice, money, and more.  But it's so worth it.  The life of a child is worth it.  Jesus is worth it.

If you want to join us for Celebrate Adoption!, please let me know this week so we can plan accordingly.  And bring a friend!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Questions and Answers (that you might not like)

People always ask a lot of questions when they find out we're adopting.  Which is totally fine.  I'm happy to educate people about such an important topic.  But I find some questions more difficult to answer than others, simply because I don't know how to say what I really want to say, without sounding like a jerk.  And I feel like I'm not being totally honest in my answers. For example, people often want to know why we chose the Philippines, as opposed to a domestic adoption.  That answer is another post for another time.  Another question I find hard to answer honestly, and I've basically made up my nice, standardized answer that won't get me all riled up and into rant mode, is "Why are you adopting?"  And I give them my safe answer, but what I really want to say is "Why aren't YOU??"  You see, for me, the choice to adopt is a no-brainer.  For starters, God commands us to care for orphans.  Yes, that can mean more than just adoption, because I understand that not everyone can adopt.  And not everyone should adopt.  But it seems that most people can adopt, and in my opinion, therefore should adopt.  Millions (yes, millions) of precious children are being thrown away, literally, in orphanages and mental institutions (which are even worse than they sound!) simply because they were born in a country that does not value human life.  Namely, human life with any kind of difference that will require extra care.  Children born with special needs are considered not worth the time or money it would cost to care for them, and parents are encourged to abandon such children to the orphanage where they can be "with their own kind."  They are neglected, denied medical care, starved both physically and emotionally, often abused, and the most needy children are left to die.  Alone. 
Children who are orphaned or abandoned for reasons other than special needs have it only slightly better.  But their lives still have little hope apart from adoption into a loving family. 
Maybe right now you're thinking, "Merissa, aren't you being a little melodramatic?"  Is it really all that bad?"  If you don't believe me, take a look at some of the blogs I follow.  Or google it.  You'll find plenty of information out there on foreign orphanages that will leave you speechless.  Heartbroken.  Outraged.  And hopefully motivated to do something about it.
I said, 'for starters...' and for me it really doesn't go much beyond that.  We are commanded to care for orphans.  And the poor.  And God puts no qualifications or conditions on that commans.  There's no "if you feel called" or "if you feel qualified" or "if you are rich" or "if you ..." But we selfish Americans put our own conditions on obedience (in many areas,  not just this one).  And we make excuses as to why we aren't obeying.  And we try to justify ourselves and create a version of Christianity that looks nothing like what the Bible calls us to. 
Now you see why I have a hard time answering the question "Why are you adopting" in casual conversation??  I've probably lost most of you already, but the reality is that we are commanded to care for the poor and the orphan (and all orphans are poor, so they should get double care, right?:)).  And for the most part, we really are not doing it. 
Yesterday at church we were singing the song "Hear Us from Heaven."  The chorus says "Open the blind eyes, unlock the deaf ears, come to your people as we draw near."  Before when I sang that song I always thought about people who are not yet saved, and need to have their eyes and ears opened to the truth of the gospel.  But really, the song is about the church. We are blind, and we are deaf.  We are blind to the needs of the world, deaf to the cries of those we are supposed to care for.  We need to wake up.  We need to repent.  And we need to move. 

I hope you will all come to our event, Celebrate Adoption! on June 9th.  My prayer is not only that we raise money for our adoption, but more so that many other people will decide to adopt, and rescue a child (or children!) from a life without hope, without love, and without Christ.

I know this is a rather long post, but I also want to give you all an update on where we're at in the process.  Last week I spoke with the director of our agency, Jim.  Before I talked with him I had gotten a bit of a scare from one of the other agency workers, who told me that Philippine adoptions typically take 2 years, start to finish.  This was the same lady who told me at the beginning that they had recently had a family finish their adoption in about 8 months.  So I was freaking out a bit.  But I talked with Jim the next day, and he explained the process more thoroughly, and also told me he was planning on calling the Philippines that night to check on the progess of all the families in the process right now.  He emailed me back later in the week and told me that a social worker is still reviewing our file, and has to give her approval to match us with James.  That matching happens on Tuesdays.  Then she must present us to the ICAB (Intercountry Adoption Board) for a vote to approve us and match us officially.  That happens the Friday following the Tuesday approval.  Once that happens, it is roughly another three month wait while they get his visa ready, and then we can go and pick him up.  So, we could get approval as soon as this Friday, or it may be a few more weeks.  We are also waiting on USCIS approval, which is going to be slightly delayed because we had to reschedule Jason's biometrics appointment.  But hopefully that will still happen quickly.  So that's where we are at, and we would appreciate your prayers for our social worker, Angelie, and for the ICAB.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

No Greater Joy Mom: a matter of life and death

This is one of the blogs I read.  Maybe YOU could be this little girl's family!!

No Greater Joy Mom: a matter of life and death: Friends, today I come to you with a situation which is truly a matter of life and death.  A situation where one little girl's life hangs in ...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Just a quick thought...

I spend a lot of time reading blogs of other adoptive families.  I'm always adding more blogs to my following list.  It's encouraging to read about other people, on the same adventure we're on.  It builds my faith, showing me that we will make it; it's hard, but not as scary as some of the adoption books make it out to be.  God will teach us, lead us, and bind us together.  And it reminds me, over and over, why we have chosen adoption.  I can't wait until the day when my posts will be filled with updates and stories about our new family.  In the meantime, I'll live vicariously through people I'll probably never meet this side of heaven, and continue to dream about my little guy, and what life will be like when he gets here.  If you have a minute (well, you might need an hour once you get started!) check out some of the blogs I follow, and see if your heart isn't stirred for adoption.  Go ahead.  I dare you.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Well, since I last posted, our homestudy has been finished, our dossier sent to the Philippines, and our I-800A filed with Immigration.  So now we wait for approval from two governments, try not to go insanse, and raise as much money as possible.  So on that note, I'd like to invite you all to a very special evening I am calling "Celebrate Adoption!  Because every child deserves a family."  This is a fundraiser dinner and silent auction on June 9th at 6:00pm at Monroeville Assembly of God.  For $20/$35 per couple, you will enjoy traditional Filipino food (I'd say authentic, but since Americans will be cooking it, I can't guarantee that!), inspiring speakers and special music, and have the opportunity to bid on a variety of auction items.  My goal for this night is not just to raise money for our adoption, but to celebrate adoption in general, and hopefully stir the idea of adopting in many other families.  So please put this night on your calendar, tell all your friends, and pray for us as we move closer to bringing our little guy home.  And if you're able to donate items for the auction, that would be great too!!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Hallelujah!!

The homestudy has been approved!!!!!!!!!!!!  Almost two months exactly, and I was starting to feel like it was never going to get finished!  But we should get it in the mail on Friday, then I have to mail it to the adoption agency, at which point they can send our dossier (fancy word for tons of paperwork!) to the Philippines.  After that, we have to wait for approval to adopt James, then approval to travel, etc.  A lot of waiting.  A lot of praying.  And a LOT of money.  So if you feel inclined to help with the praying and/or the money, please feel free! :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Homestudy

Everyone's been asking, so here goes: We had our homestudy on Saturday, which is when a social worker comes to your house to interview you.  It went really well, as far as we can tell!  The guy was here for 4 hours, and asked us a million questions.  Ok, maybe not a million, but it felt like it!  They ask anything you can imagine... What was your childhood like?  How is/was your relationship with your parents and siblings?  What were/are your hobbies and interests, both individually and as a couple?  How did you meet?  Why did you start dating?  Why do you love each other?  How do you discipline? What are your children's personalities?  What are your goals for your life?  What are your strengths and weaknesses?  And you get the idea.  He talked to us together and then individually.  And then he walked around the house and looked briefly at every room.  And that was it.
Now we wait a few weeks while he types us his 15 page report, then we review it and make sure everything is right.  After that it goes to our adoption agency and they have to approve it.  Once that is done, our dossier (all the paperwork) gets sent to the Philippines.  And we wait.
So there you have it!  In other news, some very generous friends have helped us get to about 1/4 of the way funded!!!  We still have a long way to go, and would appreciate your prayers.  And your money, should God so speak to your heart :)))
Oh, and in case you haven't heard, the Philippines suffered an earthquake sometime yesterday or today.  I don't think it's affected the small island where James lives, but that area could use our prayers as well!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Family

There's a thought that's been plaguing me ever since I found the website with James' pictures.  "He looks so happy and well cared for.  What if he doesn't really want to be adopted?  What if he doesn't know that he needs a family?"
But he does need a family.  The people taking care of him are clearly doing a good job, but if they wanted to be his family, they could be.  They have several adopted children already, so they could just make him part of their family as well.  But, for whatever reason, that's not the choice they've made.  And that's ok!  Because he will get to have a family, hopefully soon.  A wonderful family, I might add. A family full of aunts and uncles and cousins.  Lots of them.  And even though we might not see all of them on a regular basis, they still love us and support us just as if we were together often.  That's what family does, after all.