Monday, February 25, 2013

Putting Together the Pieces

Our family has been absolutely amazed at the outpouring of love, encouragement, and support that we have already received so early in this journey.  It truly has been amazing.  And we truly have seen God in action in big ways.  I've always wanted to honor each and every person who plays a role in our son's adoption, but I've never figured out a way to do it in a way that truly exemplifies how grateful we are for you.

I also want our son to be able to look back one day and see just how many people loved him before they even knew him.  And see just how many people prayed for him and worked to help bring him home.  I remember sitting in mine and Jacob's new home after we got married, looking at our floor that was completely covered in wedding gifts.  And I remember thinking, "Wow, I had no idea this many people loved us!"  And after the baby showers of each of our children, looking at the stacks of diapers, piles of teeny-tiny baby clothes, and the stash of toys ready to be played with and thinking, "Wow, so many people already love our child! And us!"

I'd seen a few ideas on Pinterest involving a globe and having everyone involved in the adoption - like social workers, nearby friends and family - sign the globe between the location of the parents and the location/home country of the child to be adopted.  I loved that idea, but it wouldn't get everyone on there who was far away.  And I just knew we'd need a ginormous globe and we're a little limited on space!

Then I saw a couple of adoptive families doing this neat puzzle fundraiser, where you could buy a different piece of the puzzle and have your name written on it and then the puzzle was framed for the child.  That's was pretty, cool, too, I thought.  But then, I asked myself, "What about those people who encourage us with words of Scripture and who commit to praying us through this journey?"  I want those people honored, too.

So, here's what I've come up with...

"One More Home" is kind of our theme/mission/etc...There are millions upon millions of orphans around the world.  I'd like to believe that I could be a mother to them all, but I can't.  But I can be a mother to the one that God has chosen for us.  I can bring him home.  And you can, too.  And when he comes home, there will be one more child home with his forever family.  One more home to be tucked into bed by his very own mommy and daddy.  One more home to receive the love and nurturing that he so desperately needs.  One more home to hear about the unconditional and sacrificial love that Jesus has for him.

I designed this little picture and my sister, Maley (who's a graphic designer), put it together for us.  We're going to have it made into a puzzle and each and every person who plays a role in our adoption will have their name put on it.  And by "plays a role", I mean if you share a verse or word of encouragement with us, commit to praying for us through this journey, give us a hug on the hard days, participate in any of our fundraisers, make a donation of any amount...your name is permanently going on his puzzle for him to see just how many people love him and helped to bring him home.  When it's all put together, we'll secure it and frame and it will forever be in our home, a part of our family...because you will forever be a part of the story of our family.  Thank you for helping us bring one more home.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Adoption Orientation...check!

  I think my brain is still tired and still trying to process everything from our orientation we had with our social worker this past Thursday.  It's one of the beginning steps to this adoption process, I can place a checkmark beside, and mark it as one step closer to having our son home!!  I think this post will help me to finish processing everything, as well as (hopefully) give you a little heads up on the first stages of adoption!

  When our application was first accepted, we were emailed a 116 page (single-sided, PTL!!) manual full of Colombia information, the process, forms we would need, payment sheets, questionnaires, adoption education name it, it's in there.  The page that I went to first was the "Adoption Process" page.  I had a pretty good idea about the order of events, but I wanted to read through it again.

  So, back to this orientation.  This was officially our "first step" in our homestudy process.  Yes, there are "processes" within the "process" of adoption.  Anyway, there are 5 steps to our homestudy, which is the phase (oh, I like that word better!) we are in right now.  For the next few weeks, we'll gather up all of our important documents - marriage license, birth certificates, passports, social security cards, monthly bills/statements, bank records, tax returns, insurance cards, etc - and make copies for our homestudy social worker (she's different from our adoption social worker because we are not in the same state as our agency).  I'll write more about the home study in another post.

  The orientation...basically, our adoption social worker wanted to know what our motivations for adoption were and how we chose the country of Colombia.  I pretty much just summed up these  posts .  I wasn't really sure if she was looking for that in depth of answer, but that's what I gave her! We also talked about AB, Lynns, and Creek - how much had we told them about our adoption, what were their feelings on it, how well did they seem to understand, etc.  Our kids really do have a good grasp on what's going on, for their age, I think.  The whole timing thing is a little confusing to them...when I told them we were talking with the "lady who's going to help bring our baby boy home", they thought we were fixing to all hop in the car, go for a drive, and go get him.  If only it were that simple, girls...

   She also wanted to know what kind of support we were getting from our parents, extended family, church, and friends.  It made my heart very happy to tell her how much love, encouragement, and support we've been giving by everyone - but especially by our family members.  We know that our families already love this little guy and can't wait for him to be home, too.  Family support is huge in this whole thing and we are truly blessed to have it from everyone.

  Let's see....oh, she asked how we responded to or were impacted by negative responses from people.  We really haven't gotten any negative responses, so far - for which I am very thankful.  The tiny bit we have gotten...well, it was a tiny bit and really didn't impact us at all.  And we've just told them that we're following God's direction.  She did laugh at Jacob's answer, though.  He said, "When people look at me like I'm crazy and ask why, I ask them why not." She loved it.  So do I!

   She walked us through, bit by bit, the entire process...allowing us to ask questions along the way to clarify or just because we were curious.  The biggest question I had was the wait time and it's kind of hard to judge.

 Basically, it's going to take us about 6 - 9 months to complete all of the paperwork and be approved by both the American and Colombian governments to adopt.  We don't have a "wait list" like many other countries do.  As children are made available for adoption, the files of potential adoptive parents are researched to see who would be the absolute best match for that child - considering all of the needs and situation of the child and compared to the parameters set by the adoptive parents.  So, we could be matched within a couple of months of approval or it could take several months to be matched with a child.  I'll write more about it all later, though.

   Most of the orientation was completed with Jacob and I together, but the last little bit was completed separately.  She asked us about our marriage, our driving record, any past abuse issues...stuff like that.

   Before we hung up, I told her I'd been taking notes and made a "To Do", you would be so proud.  So, here's our "to-do" list for now...
    1. Finish gathering documents for our home study social worker
    2. Schedule and complete our psychological evaluations
    3. Get state and FBI fingerprints
    4. Continue with our adoption education and complete by the end of the home study

Insta-Friday...x 2??

  I totally forgot to do my Insta Friday post last week, so you get a double dose of cuteness today!! I hope you enjoy it.  Happy Friday, y'all!!

I. Heart. This. Kid. Totally. And. Completely.

Check out my Jamberry Nails tab at the top to get the scoop on these fun nails
and how you can have them, too!  All proceeds benefit our adoption and help
bring our son home!!

Melt my heart...

I made this.  Did you hear that? I MADE THIS!!

And it FIT!

I made AB's, too!!

Hers took a little bit of adjusting after she tried it on.
Actually, I had to take it apart and resew it 4 times. 
I'm learning, people, I'm learning!

He makes enjoying my morning coffee difficult sometimes,
but it's totally worth it...

Valentine's Sundae!

She was in sweet tooth heaven...

I so wish I could've caught his eyes when this
ginormous brownie was first placed in
front of him!

Hope you had a great week!!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day

   Jacob and I haven't really celebrated Valentine's Day in several years. I've never Ben a fan of the "holiday", just kinda seemed overrated and all about flowers. And I'm not a big fan of flowers. I can't smell them, they don't live long, require more responsibility on my part, and hey make a mess as they wilt up and die. Some people love flowers. I do not.
   We do, however, realize that this can be a fun day for the kiddos and inevitably they will have Valentine parties at school, so we do a little something in celebration of the day with them.
   In anticipation of their class parties at preschool and Mother's Day Out, I kept my eyes open for some simple bit fun and cute Valentine's they could make. I found some cute ideas on Pinterest...imagine that. The girls really enjoyed making their Valentine's for their friends.
   The girls have been out of school all week for "family holiday"...aka, it's Mardi Gras week so the everything shuts down...and Jacob was off of work today, so we got to spend the day together. We had decided to beat the crowds and take the kiddos out for a special dessert snack at a local restaurant. I'd been given a gift cars for this ace a couple of months ago and today was the perfect time to use thankful to be able to have some family time at a low price!! After using the gift card, we only had to pay $3.45 and we each had our own yummy dessert...score!!

   I probably don't have to explain how much the kids enjoyed it, especially the girls, the pictures say it all. As usual, we were waiting on Lynnsie to finish up so we could leave. The girl loves her some chocolate. Doesn't matter what shape or form, she's gonna enjoy every last bit of it.

   Happy Valentine's Day!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why Does It Cost SO Much?

  Adoption is expensive, I don't think that's a big secret.  And until I started researching international adoption, I had no idea why.  Why does it cost so much to bring home a child?  Where is all of that money going? Is it all on the up and up?  But like I said, I started researching and I got my answer.  Here is a break down of our expenses, taken straight from our agency's (Lifeline Children Services) website:

Application Fee - $250.00
Lifeline Children's Services Fee - $5,500.00
Colombian  Program Fee - $5,600.00
Home Study Fee - $1,500.00 
Orphan Care Sustainability Projects - $250.00 ( Lifeline's orphan care ministry, (Un)adopted )
Medical Fee - $500.00
Shipping fees: All Documents - $200.00
Post Adoption Services - $1,000.00
Post Adoption Deposit - $500.00
Post Adoption Translation - $200.00

Fingerprint Fee -  $102.50
Medical Reports for home study (varies depending on health insurance coverage)*
Out of State Home Study Review - $250.00
Passport pictures (8 copies) - $20.00
Passports for two parents - $240.00
Citizenship and Immigration Services Fee - $890.00
International Adoption Clinic Pre-Adoption Seminar - $150.00
NCFA Parent Training - $175.00
Birth Certificates (1 copy of each) - $26.00
Marriage License (1 copy) - $13.00
Psychological evaluation - $700.00
Dossier apostille ($5/doc) - $140.00
FedEx fees (dossier sent to Lifeline) - $45.00

Dossier Translation fee - $800.00
Document fees, representative expenses: - $400.00
Legalization of documents in Colombia ($10/doc) - $280.00
Wiring fee - $50.00
Child File Translation - $400.00

(Based on 4 weeks in-country)
Airfare (tickets for two adults) - $2,800.00
Airfare for one child - $550.00
Translator/Guide/Transportation fee - $1,000.00
Attorney fees - $1,500.00
Hotel Accommodations and Food - $4,000.00
Medical Exam for one child - $150.00
Birth Certificate and Passport for one child - $300.00
US Visa for one child - $231.00
Copies and Authentification of Adoption Decree - $100.00
Translation of Adoption Decree - $250.00  

Attorney Fees/Court Cost - $480.00
Court report for re-adoption - $50.00
Estimated Post-Adoption Service Fees - $530.00

Grand Total: $28,562

   So, there you have it! It's where every single extra penny we come across will be sent. Why am I sharing this with you?  Well, for two reasons: 1) I truly believe that the more educated people are about something - like adoption - the less scary it is; and if it's less scary because you're learning more about it, then maybe that little tug at your heart or thought in your mind that "maybe one day" you might adopt, would grow into a reality...hey, you never know!... and 2) (and this is really hard for me, friends) We know that we can't do this alone and as we have fundraisers and ask you to consider donating to our adoption fund, we want to be completely transparent with you about where that money is going.

   But before we would dare ask you to participate in fundraisers or consider giving to our adoption fund, we want you to know that we have made the sacrifices.  I wrote a blog post on ways to raise money for adoption a little over a year ago, when I featured adoption throughout the month of November.  Number one that list is SACRIFICIAL LIVING.  I truly believe that it starts here. We've always been very conservative financially - actually, we just hate to spend money! But, again, in order to be transparent with you, here are some ways that we are living sacrificially in order to bring our son home: (Please hear me when I say that I am not sharing this lightly, I'm not trying to say "Oh, look what we did!!" in a proud or arrogant way, I am humbly attempting to show you that we have made the sacrifices.)

1.  We dropped our gym extra $100 a month.
2.  We dropped our Dish Duck Dynasty or Tennessee football...and an extra $52 a month (So, if you want to love on my family a little, you can invite us over for DD or have me over in the fall on game day)
3.  We've been saving for a down payment of a house for a few years.  Being a one income family, it's been a slow process, but through financial discipline and cutbacks, we've saved several thousand dollars.  Our original plan had been to buy a house first and then proceed with our adoption.  But in our hearts, this never felt right.  God reminded us to "seek first His kingdom"...and so we've put the dream of home ownership on hold and decided to use all of that money for our adoption.
4. In August 2012, I began teaching a day and a half a week at my girl's extra $130 a month (after child care for Creek).
5. In October 2012, I started teaching piano extra $100 a month.
6. Jacob is blessed to have a job that offers overtime on a regular basis.  The pay from any overtime shifts that he works goes directly into our adoption fund...amount varies, but it's extra money a month!
7. We are a debt free family and we are constantly looking for ways to save money.

   Now, what this doesn't mean is that our children are going to miss out on their childhood.  We will still enjoy taking them to the zoo or aquarium from time to time, out for snowballs and ice cream, to visit family in Tennessee, and other family outings.  We can sacrifice Dish Network and the gym, but we cannot sacrifice making memories with our 3 adorable children.

   As you follow our adoption journey, we ask you to partner with us in a few ways:
   1.  Please pray for us...for our son, his birth mother, for our social workers, and us as we go through this process.
   2.  Participate in our fundraisers...our first one is up and going in the "Just Love Coffee" tab at the top of our page.  We're going to sell t-shirts and cookbooks, have a yard sale, and other super fun stuff, too!  And ladies, if you love fashionable and fun nails, check out my "Jamberry Nails" tab at the top, too - everything I make through them goes directly to our adoption!
   3.  Pray about and consider donating to our adoption. You can donate through the PayPal button at the top right or by check (just email me and I'll send you our address - Every single penny that is donated will go directly into our adoption fund and will help bring our son home.

   As we make payments on different items on our fee list, we will mark them off so you see can just how far you've helped us come and how far we still have to go.  We have no doubt that God will provide every single penny that we need.  Thank you so much for already being a part of our little boy's journey home!


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Why Colombia?

Friends, I was completely overwhelmed at the love and encouraging words we received after our last post.  Absolutely blown away... I think, though, my favorite response was from a very sweet family friend who believed me when I said, "We want you to ask...".  Within minutes, she sent me a message with the question that I know is on a lot of people's minds.  I love that she loves us enough to ask.  And that she loves us enough to understand.  And that she just loves us.

She was curious as to why we chose another country and not the US.  I seriously cried happy tears reading her message.  I told her it was a post in writing, but I gave her the shorter version.  Here's the longer version...

The thought of children being abused and neglected has always made my stomach turn.  I've never understood how someone could hurt children.  Yes, sometimes children are difficult, but to hurt them?  Really?  I posted last time that I went into social work in college to change the world for these kids. My first job out of college was working with children and youth at a non-profit counseling center.  About a year later, I started working for the state investigating child abuse claims.  It was a hard job, but necessary.  There were times that I had to put children into the foster care system.  I know the numbers...there are over 100,000 children available for adoption in our foster care system.  We always thought this would be our route to our son.  It seemed right.  We knew we weren't trying to adopt a brand new, teeny tiny baby and we thought a private or international adoption was way out of our financial league.

But then we started really researching it.  And we found that our family could not meet the needs of so many of the waiting children in our foster care system.  We just couldn't.  It was a hard reality to swallow, trust me.  For months I felt like such a hypocrite.  How could I have, at one point in my life, put kids in foster care to try to make sure they were loved and had a family, and now not be willing to be part of the solution for their lives.  I cried many, many tears.  I wondered how we would ever fill the desire of our hearts to adopt a child.  And so we prayed.

We thought about a private, domestic adoption, but again we weren't set on adopting a teeny, tiny baby and it just didn't feel like that was the route God was leading us to.

Finally, we started to consider international adoption.  Even though God already knew my heart, I told him that this route scared me.  How was I going to "prove myself" to two different countries? How in the world were we going to afford a $30,000+ adoption?  How would we pick just 1 country among many that allow international adoptions? many things? 

The more we considered it, researched it, and definitely prayed about - a huge sense of peace began to fill our hearts.  We remembered that all we're required to do is to be obedient to Him and He will work out the minor details.

The process and cost for most countries is very similar, so the biggest thing we looked at was the travel requirements for each country.  Some countries require multiple small trips, some require one short trip, and some require one long this was a big factor in eliminating several countries.

For a while, I had my heart set on one country in particular.  Jacob did not.  It was a hard few weeks for us in our adoption discussions.  I reached out to a couple of adoptive mommy friends and simply asked them to pray for us, as we had reached a point where we could not even talk about adoption. They both responded separately, but told me the same thing...that he is my husband, he is the leader of our family, I need to let him take the lead on this.  Honestly, my first thought was, "Okay...I wasn't looking for an Ephesians 5 lesson, but whatever."  But, I did take their advice.  I decided I was going to be quiet about the matter and just let God do all the talking to Jacob - His voice is so much louder than my own, right?

Once I stopped talking, I started listening.  And as I listened, I realized I was wrong.  What?!?! How could I be wrong about this? There were almost 5 MILLION orphans in this one country, who risk death at a very young age because of poverty and hunger.  How could this not be the country? How could this not be where my son was?  But it wasn't.  Don't get me wrong, there are many sons and daughters there waiting to for their mommies and daddies to find them, but our son is not one of them.

One day Jacob just walks up to me and says, "Colombia.  What about Colombia?" And, friends, in that exact moment I knew in the depths of my heart that he was right.  That was where our son was.  We prayed for confirmation and over and over again, God gave it to us.  The number of orphans there aren't as staggering as it is in other countries, but one thing I've come to realize is that it doesn't matter where it seems like the biggest crisis orphan is an orphan, and they need a mommy and daddy...whether they are in America, Africa, China, Russia, Latin America, or anywhere else in the world.

So really, we didn't choose Colombia, God chose it for us.  And God doesn't see national borders or races or ethnicity's or any of that...He just sees hurting, broken, lonely children who need and want a mommy and a daddy.  And He sends people, who are willing to be obedient, to get them, to love them, to parent be their mommy and their daddy.  And so, Colombia is where our son is.  That is where we will go to get him and bring him home.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not into your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path." Proverbs 3:5-6

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Race Before Me

I am so not good with processes.  Or paperwork.  And since adoption is basically one ginormous paperwork process...this is really going to take some discipline on my part.  Not so much discipline to complete it, just discipline to complete it without grumbling, I guess.

I just emailed our social worker a couple of questions about the first round of paperwork we have to send in, which is just some basic forms to sign saying yes, we'll pay the fees; yes, we understand it's non-refundable; no, we're not convicted child abusers... As I was searching for this stack of papers in the 130 page manual of instructions and forms they sent us, I caught myself rolling my eyes at the paperwork.  Already...

I'm so up for it, don't get me wrong.  There is no amount of paperwork that will stand between me and my son.  I will complete this paperwork process ten times if they ask me.  But as I caught myself rolling my eyes and dreading the paper chase (adoption phrase for filling everything out to get on a waiting list to adopt a child), some verses came to mind...

"However, I consider my life worth nothing to me;
my only aim is to finish the race and
complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me -
the task of testifying to the good news of God's grace." Acts 20:24
In obedience to God, Paul was on his way to Jerusalem - not knowing what would happen, but sure that he would face hardships.  Yet, he was determined to finish the race set before him.
"Do you not know that in a race all the runner run,
but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as
to get the prize." 1 Corinthians 9:24
Paul knew that his life - which he had given to Christ and was committed to spreading the gospel - needed self-discipline.  He didn't want to get off course.  He didn't want to run "aimlessly'" (v. 25).  He was running with a get the please tell others about Him. 
"...And let us run with perseverance
the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes
on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.  For
the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its
shame, and sat down at the right of the throne of God.  Consider
him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will
not grow weary and lose heart." Hebrews 12:1b - 3
Paul was encouraging his readers to keep their eyes on Jesus.  He knew that following God's heart and obedience to Him would not always be easy.  He'd experience so many hardships himself for the sake of Christ.  But look at what Christ faced...Torture.  Humiliation.  Death on a cross.  And we were His prize!
The race before me is always spread the love of Christ.  Right now, specifically, it's loving and mothering a child that grows in my heart and not my tummy. It's going after him.  Yes, it will be hard.  As I read over some of the travel warnings for Colombia (required reading), I got scared.  But Christ has clearly set the race before me.  I want to run straight there...I don't want to detour or run aimlessly by lagging on the paperwork or grumbling about the process.  I want to run with perseverance, with my eyes solely fixed on Jesus - as He strengthens me, runs beside me, and even pushes me along the way. 
On your mark, get set, ....GO!!!

Friday, February 1, 2013

Insta Friday!!!

I love Fridays for so many reasons and Insta Friday just makes it that much better!!!! It was a great week that started out with going to our first Mardi Gras parade, sharing our fantastic family news, attempting to keep Creek from climbing on to the roof of the house (lol) and letting Creek try out his new fingerpaints...which are, thankfully, non-toxic. Happy Friday!!