Monday, March 20, 2017

Send Me

 Send me! This has become our family's battle cry over the last nine months. We didn't plan it. We didn't pray for it. If I am completely honest, we didn't want it, not really, not at first. God showed up and grabbed our hearts like never before. He opened our eyes and very clearly called us. For awhile we just sat in stunned silence. We asked ourselves all the questions that were holding us back. Do we have the money? Do we have the passion? What will we loose? What will we gain? Are we enough? What about fear, doubt? What about Tessa and Bella? People might think we are crazy. They might not understand. What if they think we're fanatics? The future we had pictured kept playing in our minds. Were we willing to give that up for God's future?
               When we said "yes" to Ping, we had no idea we were saying "send me" We didn't know God had already begun shaping our hearts and giving us new desires for our future and new direction for our family. If we had known, we might have run. We might have said "no" and continued living our comfortable, American lives. We might have missed our purpose, but we said, "yes".
               Ping plunged into our lives and became our beloved daughter. She was loved from the moment we saw her sweet little face and impish grin on the computer screen. We began actively pursing her. Chasing documents, certifications, authentications, and seals. We received our home study approval and China said we could be her family. During our rush to get everything completed we learned just what life is like for many orphans around the world. We saw the neglect, abuse, and depravity so many children were suffering. We learned that children like Ping are often left in rooms and tied to cribs because of their disability. A diagnosis of Down syndrome in many countries means you are not worthy of basic care, schooling, or love. It means you will live your entire life in institutions. Imagine, children as young as four years old in mental institutions with adults. Imagine rows of cribs and potty chairs with babies and children tied to them all day. Our eyes were opened and when we tried to fight it and shut our eyes as tightly as we could, we were haunted by these images. We asked God what He wanted from us and He answered "all of you". Our hearts, our money, our time; He wanted it all. Our dreams, our pursuits, our failures, our brokenness. Everything; He wanted everything. We knew God's plans were so much better than ours. We knew He was bigger than any obstacle or fear we faced. We knew we had no choice but to give everything to God. So, we did.
               Then, we saw the cutest little boy in the corner of a picture. He was very excited about the cake his friend had received. The picture was taken in Ping's orphanage during a "cake party" celebrating an upcoming adoption. The family who posted the picture could have chosen from over 30 other pictures (none of which had this little boy in them) but they didn't; they chose that picture and we saw it. We knew that little boy was our son, Liam Worth. Once again, we found ourselves telling God, "Send Me!"  and this time it was easier. We quickly added Liam to our adoption and began the paper chase again. We learned that Liam is a sweet and energetic little boy. He has the most infectious smile we have ever seen. He, like Ping, has Down syndrome and like Ping he is chosen and loved by our family.
               Now, we are all in! We know we have been called to orphan care. Right now, that means we are called to adopt these precious little ones. We are called to be the vessels that God uses to make two less orphans in the world. We get asked "will you adopt again?" and our answer is simple "maybe". Maybe God will call us to adopt another precious child. Maybe He will call us to support other families adopting, with our finances, our skills, and our prayer. Maybe God will call us to foster care. Wherever He calls, we will go. Though we are broken, weak, and scared, our cry is loud and strong, "Send Me!"
"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, "Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?" And then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)

Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Best Christmas Ever

        Christmas was full of laughter and family this year. My brother and his wife were home for the holidays and we enjoyed their company a great deal. A few months ago our girls expressed a desire to "give up" their Christmas gifts and instead use that money for our adoption. It was a selfless act on their parts. A few years ago, we completely rocked their worlds and stopped buying "stuff" through out the year for them. Of course we provided for all their needs, but the wants were up to them. They could earn money for things they wanted or wait for Christmas or their birthdays. In the beginning they really struggled with our new normal, but over time we saw them understanding the value of money and hard work. They also looked forward to the times during the year that they received gifts. So, when they decided to give up gifts we were a little shocked, but then quickly we were overcome with their selflessness. We decided as a family, to all forgo gifts and put the money saved in jars which would be counted on Christmas morning.
        Our family is competitive, like really competitive! Not surprisingly, our jars became a competition. Who could save the most money? Instead of just putting Christmas gift money in the jars, we began putting all of our change. Then we started putting any money we saved from coming under budget. We also sold items and put the profit in the jars. We even had some friends join in and give us jars full of pennies, checks for Ping, and Tessa's sweet friend gave us $236.00 for Ping! She is 12 years old and this was her entire savings! On Christmas morning we counted the money in our jars. We had $4,119.90! We were so surprised at the amount and felt so blessed! Our next round of fees was due in January and we were only $250.10 shy of the total amount.
        As we spent time with our family on Christmas, we were reminded of God's deep love for each of us and in particular our little girl, Ping Joy. His love is so strong, that He sent his son, Jesus, to earth as a little baby many Christmas's ago. Jesus, the King of Kings, came to us in a stable. He sacrificed his crown, his comfort, and eventually his life to save us. Now, we rejoice as he moves each mountain in our path to Ping. We were blessed with pictures and videos of our precious daughter from a family visiting her orphanage. They were able to hold her and tell her she is loved and that we are coming. Ping was enamored with the husband and thought he was her Daddy. She climbed out of her crib and ran to him calling "Baba". Billy and I were overcome with emotion as we watched the videos over and over. What love God has for us that He would give us such an undeserved blessing. What value He places on a single life! He has moved the hearts of friends and family and even strangers and through them showered blessings on our family.
        This Christmas we were able to better understand what it feels like to be separated from your child. We were able to focus on the true gift of Christmas and forget about commercialism, status quo, and stuff. We were blessed and hopefully able to bless others. At the end of the day, Bella loudly proclaimed, "This Is The Best Christmas Ever!"
        "It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It  came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." 
-- Dr, Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Friday, November 25, 2016

When God Moves

       It has been a busy month for us! School is in full swing for the girls and their after school activities have begun. Billy has been working lots of overtime and I have been keeping busy with paperwork, driving the girls everywhere and our normal day to day stuff. I have also been working on some craft items to sell for Christmas and help fill our "Pennies for Ping" jars.
        In the midst of our busyness, God continues to move and speak through those around us. We received a message from the founder of Reece's Rainbow letting us know that a church (somewhat) close to us, had decided to host a walk for Ping. The funds raised would go towards her adoption expenses. We were blown away with this news. Just a few days before I had been wondering how we would ever raise the funds necessary. I kept thinking "We don't know that many people". God showed me how small my faith is at times when this church stepped forward to bless our family. After all, there isn't anyone He doesn't know.
        We didn't know what to expect when we arrived at St. Mary of Sorrow's church. Neither Billy nor I excel in new social situations. I often feel awkward and out of place, but we really wanted to be a part of the walk and meet the people who so graciously organized it. So, we arrived around 8:30am on a Saturday morning and followed signs until we found a hall decorated with Reece's Rainbow posters and tri-folds. There were even flyers with our sweet Ping's picture and a short bio. We were immediately met with warm hugs and offered snacks and drinks. We met so many families who had such passion for the orphans and wanted to help. Many of the families had children and adult children with Down syndrome. We felt an immediate connection with them and soaked up all their advice and encouragement.
        We were blessed just to join this wonderful group of people and encouraged by each person present. The sense of community was strong and the love of Jesus came through each and every person present. When we left, Billy and I were overcome with emotion. These wonderful people whom we had never met before, had hosted a fundraiser for our family, our Ping! They did it with such joy and love. They exuded Christ in every action, every word spoken, and every hug given. We left feeling a call to serve others as we had been served, to show true, unconditional love for others, and to be a blessing to all we are in contact with.
        They raised $1600 which will be placed in our Reece's Rainbow FSP and used for in country fees. While this was a tremendous blessing to our family, the greatest gift was not the money we received, it was the love of Jesus poured out on our family!
Let you light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Matthew 5:16

Sunday, October 23, 2016

What Do You See?

What do you see when you look at the pictures of orphans? What thoughts cross your mind?

       About a month ago, a "friend" told me she couldn't pretend anymore. She had to tell me the truth about our adoption and our daughter. She went on to explain that she may be the only friend honest enough to tell me the difficult things I needed to hear. She said, "You are ruining your life and your children's lives." She asked if I knew what "orphans are capable of"? Did I understand that "this child" may never love me and would certainly be a burden to my husband and I and then, we would die and pass that burden on to our girls. She implored me to rethink our adoption. I was so shocked by her "honesty" that it took me a full month to process everything she said. I didn't know how to respond.
       The song "Mended" by Matthew West is the perfect response. I can't say it better in my own words, so I won't. You can listen to it here. When she saw the pictures of my little girl, she saw broken, gone, damaged, wounded, a mistake, scars, worthless, pain, unworthy, undeserving. That's not what I see. When I look at my child I see healing, chosen, something good, mended, a redemption story, priceless, purpose, I see God's mercy.
       This precious child is a gift to our family; a gift we do not deserve. For years we pursued stuff. We believed the lie that things would make us happy, fulfill us, bring us joy. We measured our worth against our house, our cars, the clothes we wore, the presents we bought, and the friends we had. We chose comfort over calling. We chose money over meaning. We chose to remain in darkness because the light was a little scary. Then God opened our eyes and we saw His heart, His purpose. We heard His calling and we could no longer chose ignorance. Webster's says the definition of ruin is "the physical destruction or disintegration of something; the state of being destroyed". Our adoption can't ruin us. Ping Joy can't ruin us. We are already ruined. God destroyed our desires and pursuits. God broke us so he could heal us and use us for His glory.
We are coming Ping!

Sunday, October 9, 2016

House Keeping

      There are so many ways in which our decision to adopt has stretched me. One of the ways is financially. Of course it's expensive (everyone knows that), but it's not this fact that has caused me to stretch. It is the fund raising. If you know me well, you know I struggle when it comes to asking people for help and the idea of asking people for money seriously sends me into panic mode. So, when we decided to adopt, we knew we wouldn't be able to raise all the funds necessary in the short amount of time required. We also knew that since we had spent the last year and a half eliminating all debt (except our mortgage and school loans) there was no way we wanted to go back into debt. Billy and I prayed and felt that if this was God's will for our family then He would make a way. That very week a sweet friend sent us a $300.00 check, which confirmed to us that God would indeed make a way.
       When we decided to utilize fund raisers to help fund our adoption, we decided to be very transparent with our finances. After all, many of our friends have sacrificed to help us financially and we want them to know every penny has gone towards our adoption. Early on we outlined the estimated cost of our adoption and shared it on our Pursuing Ping Face Book page. The total amount is $31,905.00. Below is an update on the fees we have paid, how we have paid them, and what is left.

Application Fee       $250       Paid (Marshall)
First CCAI Fee        $2900     Paid ($1100 - Gift, $800 - Marshall)
RR Fees                   $275       Paid (Gift)
Home Study Fees    $4050      Paid (Marshall)
VA Training Fees    $199        Paid ($25 - Gift, $174 - Marshall)
Paperwork               $350.87  Paid (Puzzle Fundraiser)
Postage and Misc.   $359.38  Paid (62.03 - Puzzle Fundraiser, $297.35 - Marshall)

Total Paid as of 10/09/2016 = $8384.25
            Gifts and Donations = $1812.90
                              Marshall = $6571.35
Billy has been blessed with overtime and my Mom had also been able to pick up an extra shift each pay period. I have been able to sell a number of my crafts. We have also cut our budget and given up things that are not necessities. It isn't always easy but it is worth it!

Moving ahead we have a couple of expenses on the horizon.

USCIS Fees - $890 (We plan to use money from our yard sale to pay this fee)
2nd Agency Fee - $2900 (We plan to use the remaining yard sale money $125.06, Puzzle Fundraiser Money $486, and Marshall $1884.94)

After these fees are paid, we will have 30-40 days before we will have any more fees due. We plan to hold a couple of fund raisers over the next two months to help with those upcoming costs.
A jewelry auction will be held via Face Book, November 25-27. The jewelry is made by another adoptive Mama who so generously gives her time and talents!
We will also hold a give away for a beautiful, hand made, quilt. This quilt was sewn by my mother in law who has many years experience making quilts.

Thank you for walking alongside our family on this beautiful journey. We appreciate your prayers, words of encouragement, and your donations of time, talent, and money. Through you, God is doing amazing things.
We are coming Ping!

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Yard Sale

       I have held a number of yard sales in my life. Most were what I would consider successful. I managed to rid my house of items I no longer wanted and made a little money too. I think my biggest yard sale generated around two hundred dollars. So, when we decided to hold a yard sale as a fund raiser, I wasn't expecting to bring in a great deal of money. But, every penny helps!
       On the morning of the sale I prayed that God would bless our sale. We have a couple of large expenses coming up and I knew the extra money would help. I decided to think big and asked God to provide five hundred dollars profit. I was skeptical, but decided to pray anyways. We had already been blessed by a number of items from our friends. Since we moved and downsized quite a bit, we had a lot of items to sell. We debated on setting prices. I really hate all the effort required to price each item with tiny little stickers so I was truly looking for a reason not to do it.
       Throughout this process God has impressed upon me that I can not out give God. Even though we are saving, and cutting back, and working like crazy to meet our financial goal and bring Ping home, we must be generous (even with our finances). So we decided we would accept donations for our items. I printed posters with Ping's picture and a short bio. When people asked how much, we told them "Name your price; nothing's too small and nothing's too big!" I was in awe of our village! People gave generously and without hesitation. I met other adoptive parents, people who had been touched by children with Down Syndrome, and children who gladly gave their pennies for our sweet Ping. We raised $1015.06! "Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21)
And because you can't out give God, we were able to donate:
                       * 28 pairs of shoes to a local little girl. She has Down Syndrome and Epilepsy and will                           benefit from a service dog. Her parents are collecting shoes for a fundraiser.
                       * Men, women, and children's clothing, kitchen appliances and dishes, an air
                          conditioner (window unit), toys, sheets, and a number of odds and ends to Western
                          Branch Philanthropy which provides aid to a number of locals and the homeless in
                          our community
                      * Books to a local teacher
                      * The remainder of our items to the Salvation Army
       I was reminded to think big and never limit God. I was skeptical that we could raise five hundred dollars and look what God did! Like the father with the sick child who cried out to Jesus, I too find myself saying "I believe! But, forgive my unbelief."
       Thank you to our village! You donated items for us to sell, you came and supported our sale, and you prayed for our sale to be successful. We can't do this alone. Thank you for coming alongside us each step of the way.
We are coming Ping!


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Red Thread

     There is an ancient Chinese proverb that states, "An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle, but it will never break."
       My red thread to Ping began when I was twelve. I watched a documentary on orphanages in other countries and I decided I would one day adopt a child from another country. I really didn't think much about adoption again until a few years into my marriage. We had Tessa who was five years old and just starting kindergarten and our baby, Bella, who was not quiet two. I bought up adoption one evening to Billy and he was open to the idea and in that moment his red thread to Ping formed. We discovered we were too young to adopt from China. We could have chosen a different country, we could have chosen to adopt domestically, but none of those options felt right. So, we put the whole idea on hold. I remember telling my Mom how unfair it all was. She responded "Your child may not even be born yet. Wait for God's timing." Three months later Ping was born in China and five years later her file was prepared.
       Last August (2015), I saw the sweetest picture of a little Chinese girl. She had the most adorable cheeks and eyes that turned into almond slivers when she smiled. I knew in that moment that she was my daughter and I rushed to tell Billy I had found her. Billy agreed that she was adorable, but he had some reservations. How would we afford an adoption? Could we handle her special needs? I knew if Billy wasn't 100% sure we could not move forward. So, once again, I waited. My red thread to Ping stretched and it was painful. I prayed for months that God would change Billy's heart and he would know what I already knew; she was ours. During those months we took a class by Dave Ramsey and we were able to pay down our debt and create financial stability for our family. We reevaluated what was important to our family and began to seek God's will for our lives. I continued to pray for the little girl in the pictures, but my prayers became focused on her family finding her. The red thread between us twisted, tangled, and knotted.
       One afternoon Billy and I began discussing purpose and I mention adoption again. Billy surprised me by saying he was ready. We immediately searched for Ping's profile and we were thrilled to find it. Within two days we had verbally committed to her and begun the process of locking her file. The day we locked her file we told our families. Our red threads knitted together and formed a cord that spanned the oceans to Ping.
"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11
We are coming Ping!