Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Speedy Log-In-Date!!!

We had prepared ourselves for at least a couple week wait for our Log-In-Date, but instead it came in only 4 days!!!   Our Dossier is officially logged in to the CCCWA's system as of May 17!! 

We are now in the LOA (Letter of Approval) wait.  This could take 1-3 months (or more). Last time this was a 71 day wait and nearly stole my sanity. :)  There is no rhyme or reason to how long it takes, so we just wait, wait, wait!

In the meantime, another care package is on its way to China!! This one has some toys and clothes, along with a book with our pictures labeled in Mandarin that shows him who we all are and telling him that we love him!! Oh how I wish we could be there when he opens it.

We so appreciate our support system. It warms my heart that people ask about Joey every day, inquire about where we are in the process, how we're doing, etc. Thank you for that, it means so much to us. 

Monday, May 16, 2016

Mountains are Moving - a BIG 6 month update

It has been 6 months today that we submitted LOI (Letter of Intent) for Joey.  It was a HUGE leap of faith for us and we had no idea what the journey would bring. 

These past 6 months has been CRAZY.  We have been in a flurry of activity getting another home study done and doing all the insane amounts of paperwork together for that and our dossier.  We've had doctors appointments, fingerprints, and been to the notary and Fed Ex more times than we can count.  We've had our final copy of our homestudy temporarily LOST thanks to Fed Ex, and have had so many delays that are typical for an adoption process.

It's no coincidence that this first phase of the process has come to a close as we hit the 6 month mark. Friday was a huge milestone, our Dossier was finally "DTC", which means "Dossier to China".  A Dossier is basically our life on paper, everything from finances, to family history to health information to marriage information... you name it, it's in the Dossier. Everything had to be notarized, then certified by the Secretary of State and then authenticated by the Chinese Consulate in New York. (Interesting side note about the last step- The Chinese Consulate doesn't accept MAIL, so we have to hire a courier who we pay to accept our paperwork via mail and then walk into the consulate for us, drop it off, go back and get it when it's done days later, then mail it back to us.  See what I mean about CRAZY?!?)

Everyone wants to know, what happens next? Here are our next steps in very general terms:

LID- Once China has our dossier, they will log it into their system and they'll give us our "Log In Date".  That basically means they are acknowledging that they have our paperwork!  Waiting for LID usually takes a few weeks to a month.

LOA- Once we have our LID, then we wait for our LOA (Letter of Acceptance), which is basically China officially giving us permission to adopt Joey.  (We already have PA for him (Preliminary Approval), but LOA is much more official).  LOA usually takes 2-3 months, and for me was the most excruciating part of the wait last time.

TA- Travel Approval.  Between LOA and TA, several big important steps have to happen that can take several months.  Once we have TA, we can then plan our trip to bring him home!

We are still guessing that we'll be able to travel to bring him home sometime this fall, with October as my best guess right now.  It's all so variable, though, so we'll just have to wait and see!

One of the biggest challenges in international adoption is cost.  Especially when this is our third adoption in 5 years!  We've estimated that if both of our boys travel with us to China, we'll need a total of around $37,000 for the adoption process. That's a huge number to have to come up with in less than a year's time!!  In fact, the cost of adoption is one of the biggest reasons why many people choose not to adopt.  But we're proof that it's very possible; in fact, taking a leap of faith is an opportunity for God to shine and move mountains!

I believe in being as transparent as possible because one of my greatest hopes is for people to realize that we are just a normal family who simply said yes to adoption, and you can do it too!. We are not special and we certainly don't have $37,000 to spare.  We are a one income family and Jeremy is a mechanic, and money is tight.  We had NO MONEY set aside for this adoption when we started and no plan for where it would come from.  NONE.  ZERO.  But we had faith that Joey was ours and the money would work itself out.

So it's been 6 months since we started, and in that time we've been blessed with many donations from friends, family and anonymous donors.  We're blown away by the level of support we have!  We also have had several friends do some jewelry fundraisers to help raise  money, and of course we held the garage sale to fund raise as well.  We've also applied for over 20 grants and been blessed with 5 grants so far!

Today is 6 months to the day that we said yes to Joey. In those six months, via donations, fundraisers, a garage sale and grant money, we have raised over $30,000 to bring Joey home!!!! Yes, we have raised nearly all of the funds we need for the entire process!!!

Folks, there is only one explanation. Yes, we had to put forth some effort on the grants and the fundraisers, but we cannot take any credit for the fact that over $30,000 has come in in 6 months time. We give all credit to God. He called us to this particular little boy. He called us to step out on the water, take a huge leap of faith financially and simply say YES. He asked us to trust him and let Him work, and boy did He!!!

We share this because we pray that more families will no longer consider the financial aspect as a reason to say no to adoption. If God is whispering to your heart about adoption, then listen. He has a plan that's so much bigger than we can imagine, if you give Him the chance to shine!

We feel confident that the final funds we need will come; we don't know how, but we're leaving it up to our mighty God who is moving mountains to bring our new son home.

If you'd like to contribute, we are still taking donations for our matching grant. You can find information for that here:  Joey's Matching Grant

Friday, May 6, 2016

Our Village

They say it takes a village and boy is that the truth.

Total disclosure:  I didn't want to do a garage sale. I swore after Maggie's we'd never do it again, even though it helped us bring her home. It was stressful and time-consuming and YUCK. I'd much rather donate my old stuff so I really didn't want to collect other people's stuff!


When God calls us to something, it's not all rainbows and butterflies. We have to swallow our pride and get our hands dirty sometimes.  And I realized as our donation pile grew that the sale was a very tangible way for us to be Joey's parents from afar.  We can't hold his hand or look into his eyes or tuck him in yet, but we could do this.  And it turned into something miraculous.

We asked for donations and they came.

We asked for tables.  I panicked a bit about the lack of tables. We asked again. THEY CAME.  I would come home to find stacks of tables piled outside our garage. In the end I had to turn away tables. Amazing.

We asked for help working the sale. Help came.

We asked you to share and shop. You shared and you shopped.

We asked for prayers. You prayed.

Y'all, this wasn't a fundraiser, it was  GOD-RAISER.  God showed up so big for this sale, and not just monetarily. I have so much to share, so many amazing miracles that I'm still trying to process it all. I'm in shock and awe at how it worked for the good of not just our family, but others as well.  We give all praise and all glory to our loving God.  My words won't do it justice, but I'll try to share a bit of the amazing stories.

First, everyone wants to know the number-how much did we make?  I don't have a final number yet as we're still selling a few bigger items on Craigslist, but friends, we raise over $5000 from this sale!!! That's double what we made in our last sale.  And every cent goes directly towards bringing Joey home.  We didn't dare even hope to make that much and we are just blown away!

But as I said, that's only part of the story.  Here's some other amazing things God did through our sale:

A cousin offered to loan us an empty 15 foot trailer to park in our driveway and fill with donations. I thought there was no way we'd fill up that trailer, but it became PACKED, as did our garage and living room.  That trailer was such a blessing!

In the weeks building up to the sale, my mom was my sidekick. Despite recently having knee surgery, she came nearly every day for hours, helping me sift through other people's things, sort them and price them. She helped me talk through a plan, brought me iced tea and lunch and literally walked through every step with me.  I'm so grateful, we truly couldn't have done it without her.

It quickly became unbelievably time-consuming and overwhelming. We had SO MUCH STUFF. It filled my garage, a 15 foot trailer and our living room to the brim. It seemed like to high a mountain to climb, especially as the start of the sale approached and I literally had to eat, sleep and breathe the sale in order to be ready on time. 

 But the day of the sale, I felt the mood shift. The air became thick with the Holy Spirit. I don't know any other way to describe it. He was there and I became filled with peace that God was not only going to make magic of the sale, but that it was much bigger than just the dollar amount.

As the sale approached, weather looked ominous. I didn't know how we would be able to set up in time with the storms predicted. My prayer warrior friend called me the morning of the first day of the sale and caught me panicking. She  immediately began to pray for God to chase the storms away and my panic eased. A few hours later, the same friend came to help a group of us set up for the sale. The skies were actually sunny despite a strong prediction for bad weather. At one point, though, we heard thunder in the distance and I said, "I heard thunder." and my praying friend confidently said, "No you didn't. It's not coming."  And it didn't. It passed right on by and never dripped more than a couple drops on us. We went on to open successfully that first night and made over $1200 in just 2 hours!!!

A couple came to pick up an appliance we were selling and asked why we had so many things to sell. We explained it was an adoption fundraiser, and their eyes grew so large, clearly shocked for some reason. They then shared that they've dealt with infertility for many years and also lost a son at birth. They had never considered adoption, yet on the way to our house, not knowing we were an adoption fundraiser, they talked about adoption as a possibility for the very first time.  There were tears all around as they shared their story and I shared ours. They met my girls and I watched their hearts open to the possibility of building their family in a different way than they had planned. We're keeping in contact and I can't wait to see how God uses this couple in the future! 

Near the start of the sale, a neighbor came, grabbed ahold of me with tears in her eyes, and said "God is going to bless you and bless Joey and bless so many others because of this sale."  It was just the confirmation I needed that we were doing the right thing.

As a busy family with 4 active kids, we needed help running the sale itself. We literally couldn't do it by ourselves.  We were so humbled by our friends and family who showed up to help us for hours on end, take money, load cars, arrange items and share our story.  Some friends were literally with me for days on end, they literally walked through nearly the entire sale with us. Amazing.

A sweet neighbor couple we had never met came to shop and introduce themselves. Turns out they have always felt called to adopt, and plans were made to chat in the future and help them get started on their journey.

Lots of shoppers had questions about adoption. So many people just aren't aware of the staggering number of orphans in the world. I love the opportunity to spread awareness and to hear my friends who were working the sale share with strangers about orphan care.  It wasn't about what they bought, but that they walked away with a new perspective on the need of orphans.

A woman came to shop and I noticed she had a name tag on from our school district. Turns our she oversees the Occupational Therapy department for our district-really cool since Joey will be receviing a lot of OT services once he's home!

A young couple was shopping and carrying their very tiny new baby. This beautiful baby with bright red hair just happened to have Down Syndrome. The baby was very young and they were just beginning to wrap their brains around life with a child with special needs. My mom was able to share our story and how we adore our children regardless of special needs and we as parents of special needs are blessed to be the ones to care for them. So heartwarming.

A woman came searching me out. She saw our sale advertised as an adoption fundraiser and she said she couldn't believe the timing and had to come speak to me. She and her husband have 4 biological children and she has felt God lay on her heart that they should adopt, even though life is crazy and hectic with 4 kids.  She didn't know where to start, though, and felt called to come find me via our sale. She was in tears telling me she felt that she was meant to meet me.  I told her that Jeremy and I love to meet with couples to share our story and help couples get started on the path towards adoption.  We've already made plans to chat, I can't wait to see where their journey takes them!

We had friends donate baked goods to be sold and it seemed like we had way too much donated and I wondered what we were going to do with all the perishable leftovers. But at the end of the last day, we had just 3 cookies left. Perfection.

Jeremy wasn't able to take time off work for the sale since he's saving time for our China trip, plus the boys had ball games most of the day on Saturday. I was feeling so bummed that he would miss the majority of the sale. But both of their games ended up being canceled on Saturday, so he was there with me the entire day, lifting me up when I felt I had nothing left to give.

Rain wasn't an issue on day 1 of the sale, but by day 3  it was coming. No worries, though, because our village, our people, worked it out for us. We had dear, dear friends come on Friday afternoon and rework our entire set up so that it fit completely under 6 canopies and in our garage. We wouldn't have been able to do that on the first 2 days of the sale because we simply had too much inventory. But by Day 3, it all fit.  Saturday was a rainy, cold day and we planned to offer things at half off and even close early. When will I learn not to doubt our God? People came in DROVES through the rain. People ducked their heads and stepped over puddles, and brushed off raindrops and bought and bought and bought. The rain never let up and we couldn't even take a break we had so many customers. It makes no sense at all that that many people would come shop in the rain, it was simply a miracle.  Even as we were packing up for the day, people were digging through boxes to buy things.

St. Vincent de Paul came at 3:15 on the last day of the sale and loaded up their truck with every last item that wasn't sold. I was so, so, SO happy to see the last of the stuff go, especially knowing it's going to a great place.  We had faithful friends who stayed through all that rain and cold and dreariness and helped us load up that St. Vincent de Paul truck and clean up.

Matthew 25 Ministries called me when they saw our sale advertised and said they were in great need of clothing.  They came to get all the leftover clothes that did not sell and it's was abundance of clothes. We're so thankful that we're able to fill a need for them!

Even now,  I'm still getting contacted about our sale, by people who want more information about adopting.   We met people who we have unbelievable connections and "coincidences" with and the ripple effect just keeps on spreading.

Y'all it was simply amazing. We didn't stop for 3 days straight and we're still cleaning up, returning tables, resting up, etc. but it was SO WORTH it.  We had to sacrifice time and energy to get it done. We had to sacrifice our poor kiddos the past few weeks in order to get things ready. They had more junk food and screen time and no naps and  unsupervised time than I care to admit, but they powered through. I think they enjoyed the extra freedom actually! (All but poor Maggie, who is stressed by company on a good day, so having streams of people come in for 3 days straight was more than she could take.)  We had extra kids here throughout, as their parents helped us, and they played and played and played. We had strangers use our bathroom. My house was filthy, and as a Type A person, this does not bode well for me, but it was WORTH IT.

Worth it because, yes, we raised a ton of money to help get Joey home.

But worth it also because seeds were planted. Hearts were touched and maybe even broken for children without families. God reminded me yet again about the ripple effect that one simple act like a garage sale can cause.  I felt like God was chuckling at me saying, "Silly girl, you thought this was JUST a sale."  I'm praying that more kiddos find their forever families by a tiny seed that was planted this last weekend.  I was also constantly reminded of the story in Matthew 14 of the loaves of bread and fish being multiplied. Truly, we saw blessings multiply throughout the process of the sale and it was amazing to be a part of.

And to our village. How can we thank you enough? You know who you are- and you're amazing.  You sorted, priced, lifted, worked, organized, fed us, prayed, shared and shopped.  We literally could not have done it without you. A thank you note is not enough, words are not enough,but just know that we'll never forget. You'll always be a part of Joey's story.

To our new son: We are coming, sweet boy.  You have a village of people who love and care for you and can't wait to welcome you home!


I had 2 theme songs during this season of our life:

Ever Be by Kalley Heiligenthal

God is on the Move by 7eventh Time Down