Monday, January 30, 2012

Faith as Small as a Mustard Seed

"'If You can'?" said Jesus.  "Everything is possible for one who believes." 
-Mark 9:23

I'm so very human, and God knows it.  I doubt, my faith wavers, and I question whether He will show up when I need Him most.  And I know I'm not the only one.  In Matthew 17 and Mark 9, even Jesus' disciples were rebuked for their lack of faith.  The guys who dropped their nets, left their lives, and followed Jesus without hesitation were rebuked for their lack of faith.  They were called a perverse and unbelieving generation. 

I think there are a lot of times when we believe so strongly that something won't work, that it just doesn't.  When our negative inner voice is telling us we're going to fail, we don't give 100% of ourselves.  I can imagine the disciples saying "I just don't know if we can get the demon out of this kid.  I mean, he's seizing, foaming at the mouth, and falling into the fire; that demon's really got a hold on him."

Even the boy's father says to Jesus "if You can."  (Mark 9:22) How many times have I said "if You can?"  Then Jesus tells his disciples "Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move.  Nothing will be impossible for you." (Matthew 17:20)

Do you know how small a mustard seed is?  Here's a visual reference:

There are many days where my doubt screams louder than my faith whispers, but it's still there.  My little mustard seed, with which God can do so much.  I looked at this $9,675 mountain and, in my humanness, said "if You can" to the Creator of the mountains. 

I saw my mountain moving because of my tiny little mustard seed of faith.  Immediately, a very strong and faithful friend started the 1 of 1,000 event to raise the money we needed.  People were giving.  Then I got a phone call that we were being given a second prize, the YMCA membership, and then we were told that donations for that prize would be matched.  We received more money.  Another strong and faithful friend posted our need anywhere she could, and immediately someone responded that our vacation giveaway would be aired on radio in Tennessee, thanks to their friend, a DJ.  And we found out we could match $2,000 in donations for the vacation giveaway.  We were even given a third prize to give away, and we're hanging onto that one until we draw for our first two giveaways.  (Stay tuned, it's awesome!)  Yet another friend started a Couponing 101 fundraiser for us.

Let me tell you what God can do with a mustard seed of faith.  He can make it grow.  He can take a tiny seed and turn it into this:

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Matching Challenge!!!

Hebrews 4:16 has been replaying in my mind the past two days, and I knew that I needed to "approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."  If there ever was a time of need, it is now.  Our daughter lives in an orphanage in Eastern Europe, and we received an approval from her country in only four days, when we expected 2-3 weeks to fundraise before hearing back.  We now have FOUR DAYS left to raise the funds that are due to the placing agency!

It's only fair that, since we were matched with our little girl, and we have an anonymous donor matching the YMCA Giveaway donations, that we would have a MATCHING CHALLENGE for the Vacation Giveaway, too!

The next $2,000 we receive for the Vacation Giveaway (through ChipIn or cash/check in hand) will be matched, dollar for dollar!  So that $10 just became $20, and that $50 just became $100!  This is HUGE!  We are watching God move this mountain, in a way only He can!

In case you've forgotten how beautiful this vacation will be, here's a fresh reminder:

For specific information on each giveaway, you can see more photos and get descriptions HERE and HERE!  The first ChipIn button is for the 6-Night Pigeon Forge, TN vacation, and the second ChipIn button is for the One-Year Membership to the Martinsville/Collinsville YMCA.

Thank you again for all the support and encouragement, and thank you for getting us closer to our little girl!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Thank You

I've said it before, and I'll happily say it again -- I love where God has planted our family!  This community, as small as it is, and as hard as it has been hit economically, is FULL of the hands and feet of Christ, people going the extra mile to do what is good and what is right. 

Do I believe that James 1:27 instructs everyone to adopt?  No.  But, but it does command us to care for the orphans.  Scott and I are being obedient to that command, and we are seeing the body of Christ move in obedience, rallying to support us financially, and that is just as much a part of that command as adopting.

I would be lying if I said that Scott and I can pull of this adoption on our own.  We're looking at a budget of around $27,000, and I'm not sure about you, but that's a little more than loose change for us.  It would take us years to save that amount of money, and I promise that, on our own, we'd be spending a big chunk on new flooring and (my personal lust) butcher block counters. 

We are trusting God to provide the money needed for this adoption, and we are seeing that provision grow each day, through the obedience and selflessness of others.  We are so, so thankful to those of you who are stepping out in faith with us, who are allowing yourselves to be used for His purpose.

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

More to Give! Two Fundraisers at Once!

Yesterday on facebook, I wrote "To say I am blessed is such an understatement. I love my community, my church, and I have the privilege of going through life with some of the most incredible women I've ever known!"

Today, I stand firm by that statement!  We have more to give, thanks to some pretty incredible people!  We are giving away a One-Year Membership to the Martinsville and Collinsville, VA YMCA (about $400!).  On top of that, we have an anonymous donor who will MATCH any donations received for this giveaway!  Make sure you use the second ChipIn for this giveaway!

So, two giveaways, one great purpose!  All the money from the giveaways will go toward the big ticker, which is tracking all donations received, through the ChipIn, cash, and checks. 

Take a peek at the prize!

Both facilities offer weight and Nautilus rooms, and gymnasiums.  The Martinsville branch has an indoor pool and indoor track, and the Collinsville branch has an outdoor pool and outdoor track.  There is something there for everyone, and they're open 7 days a week!

Here's how to enter:
Just click on the ChipIn to enter online, or leave a comment if you'd like to mail in/hand deliver your entry, and I'll email you!

$5 = 3 entries
$10 = 7 entries
$20 = 20 entries

The more you give, the better your chances of winning!  You can also get 1 entry per day for sharing on facebook, so post here when you share!  Remember, all donations to this giveaway will be MATCHED, so your donation doubles!!!  
Donations received by February 13 will be entered in the giveaway, and we'll draw the winner on Valentine's Day!

This fundraiser is not tax-deductible, as we will personally receive all contributions and apply them to our agency fees.

Sadie is On Board!

Ayden and Elijah are way, way on board with this adoption.  It's evident from the two HUGE piles of toys that I need to price for a local consignment sale coming in March, from the change that keeps appearing in our jar, from the things they say.  As Ayden was going through her Barbie containers, she said "Mommy, I'll sell all of my toys if it means [my sister] can come home!"  Elijah even got out all the puzzles he's outgrown, including the ten or so Thomas puzzles, and added them to the consignment pile.  Sadie's so young, we just tell her she's getting another big sister, show her the photos, and leave it at that.

Last week I picked up a print of one of the photos we got from the agency and put it in a frame.  It took Ayden only seconds to spot it the following morning; she was literally halfway down the stairs after waking up and spotted the photo in the dining room.  "Look what I see!" 

I had a friend over for coffee one morning this week, and as soon as she walked through the door, Sadie grabbed the photo and took it to my friend to show it off, happily squealing "Baby, baby!"  Apparently Sadie is on board, too!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

1 of 1,000

These adoption families amaze me, really, truly amaze me.  You have people who are in the middle of their own financial hurdles, trying to raise money to bring their own sweet children home, and they hear we need help, and all of a sudden, our need is on their front burner.  My friend, Mandy, created a facebook event called 1 in 1,000 HERE to get 1,000 people to give $10 each, to raise the $10,000 we need right now. 

When we posted that we were taking a step of faith, we were expecting a 2-3 week wait before we heard anything back from the country.  We just got the call from the placing agency that the country officially matched us with our daughter (in only FOUR days)!  Which means the placing agency fees are due in SEVEN days, and we need to have the homestudy started in the next two weeks to provide the country with that initial information.

I've got the fee breakdown on the "Priceless" tab at the top, and I'm adding a second ticker, because the ChipIn ticker only shows what we've received in online donations, and doesn't take into account the cash and checks we've received. 

Thank you all for your prayers, support, and donations!  Our vacation giveaway is still going, so anyone who donates will be entered to win 6 nights in Pigeon Forge!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sophia's Heaven

There are some children who, for whatever reason, weigh so heavily on my heart and mind.  Sophia, who has the brightest blue eyes I could ever get lost in, is one of those children.

Ayden recently asked me to tell her about heaven.  My first thought went to Sophia.  A mother who did not care and tend to her unborn daughter, and sent her daughter to live in an orphanage because of HER mistakes.
Sophia shows the physical characteristics of a child born to drug and alcohol abuse - Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, almost total vision and hearing loss, missing and deformed limbs, hydrocephaly, cleft lip and palate.

My heart aches for her, and I imagine what heaven will mean to her.  It will mean no orphanage, no physical or mental disabilities, no loneliness, and best of all, spending each and every moment with the one who said "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."

Oh, Sophia, my heart aches for you, and my prayer is that your family finds you and gives you a glimpse of what heaven looks like from here.  Maybe someone who reads this will call Sophia their daughter, is it you?

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Sanctity of Life

The sermon at church this morning was so powerful that I wept through most of it.  FIFTY MILLION.  That is the number of abortions in the United States since 1973, when Roe v. Wade made history.  I can't even wrap my head around that number, it's so huge.  Too big for you, too?  Here are 50,000,000 pennies, to represent the lives of the unborn.  Half a million dollars.
For different reasons, both of my girls could have easily been two of those 50 million, were it not for who carried them in her womb.  Ayden, because our circumstances were not "perfect".  We were young, in college, and found ourselves planning for a baby while rearranging our wedding plans so the dress would still fit.  Sadie, because there were markers for a chromosomal disorder, like Trisomy 18 or 21.

God gave me a fierce love and defensiveness for my unborn children, stronger than the suggestions for abortion or dangerous additional testing, stronger than the terrifying and nagging thoughts and emotions.  My heart aches for the millions of mothers of unborn children who are full of guilt, loneliness, and longing, who will never experience the joy that their unborn children would have added to their life. 

EVERY life is precious.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.
Proverbs 31:8--9

Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back.  If you say, "See, we did not know this," does He not consider it who weighs the hearts?  And does He not know it who keeps your soul?  And will He not render to man according to his work?
Proverbs 24:11-12

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Status, and Transparency

We sent our documents to the placing agency (again), who will be sending them to the foreign agency (again).  As long as there are no errors on the paperwork, we'll get the originals apostilled, and send them to the country!

I spoke to the homestudy agency at the beginning of the week to see when we needed to begin that part of our process.  During the conversation, I asked if there would be any issues with us adopting out of birth order; they said they do everything on a case-by-case basis, and that they would hold a special committee meeting to decide if they would work with us.  Well, we heard back today, and they felt we did our research and took our biological children's development, needs, etc. into consideration when we made the decision, so they'll work with us!

After reading a friend's blog post about the need for financial transparency when fundraising for an adoption, I quickly realized that we need an easy way to keep personal and fundraising money separate.  We're going to add all fundraising proceeds to a savings account specifically for our adoption, and any checks that need to be written will be certified and written directly to the recipient (agencies, FBI, etc.).  So, unless you hand us cash, we'll never touch the money, and even that will go straight to the savings account.

Speaking of fundraising, our BIG Vacation Giveaway is running through February 13, and will choose the winner on Valentine's Day!  So check out this post to see how it works, and click on the ChipIn at the top of the page to enter!

A HUGE Thank You! to everyone who has already donated, shared, and sent words of encouragement!


Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Our First Fundraiser! Vacation, Anyone?

We took a step, in faith, and sent in the paperwork that will head to the country to be translated and reviewed.  We need $7,000 to cover the agency fees that will be due within seven days of our referral being accepted in country.

While we believe, and have already seen, that people will come alongside us to support us in any way they can without reward, we also believe that the need for fundraising is great, and gives us an opportunity to give back to those who support us.

So, here it is.  Our first fundraiser, and your vacation getaway!  6 nights in Pigeon Forge, TN! Just 10 minutes from everything in Pigeon Forge, yet far enough away that the only sound you'll hear is the whistle of the train at Dollywood!

3 Bedrooms, 4 Bathrooms, Game Room w/ Billiards, 6-Person Hot Tub, XBox Kinect, HDTVs, Full Kitchen!   
You Choose Your Dates! No Blackouts! Drawing on Valentine's Day!!!

Here's how to enter:
Just click on the ChipIn to enter online, or leave a comment if you'd like to mail in/hand deliver your entry, and I'll email you!

$10 = 3 entries
$20 = 8 entries
$50 = 20 entries
$100 = 50 entries
Each additional $100 = An additional 50 entries

The more you give, the better your chances of winning!  You can also get 1 entry per day for sharing on facebook or your blog, so post here when you share!  Donations received by February 13 will be entered in the giveaway, and we'll draw the winner on Valentine's Day!

For everyone who enters, the owners of the cabin are offering a 10% discount if you book a stay.  Just visit their VRBO Listing to book, and let them know you donated!

While I believe we will pass the $800 mark, I need to state that we are paying for the vacation from the proceeds.  If we do not raise more than $800 during this giveaway, we'll split the proceeds with the winner 50/50. This fundraiser is not tax-deductible, as we will personally receive all contributions and apply them to our agency fees.

Monday, January 16, 2012


I went to bed last night, feeling very convicted about whether I had truly given up control regarding financing this adoption.  When we send these forms, we are also agreeing to send the $7,000 due to our agency within 7 days of our referral being received and accepted in country. 

My Bible was on my nightstand, so I picked it up to read for those few minutes between lying down and closing my eyes.  I wasn't looking for anything in particular, I just enjoy spending my last quiet moment of the day with God.

I had notes from a sermon tucked into a page, most likely shoved there as I rushed to get from my seat to the nursery, where I know Sadie will be upset if she's the last little one picked up.  I opened to that page, James 1.

If you're feeling convicted about giving up control, this is what you need to read.

"But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." James 1:6-8

With that, I closed my Bible and gave up that last bit of control.  Take it, Lord, this is too big for me.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Five-to-Twelve Kind Of Guy

I was the Children's Ministry Intern for my church one summer, and the day before my internship was over, I still didn't have another job lined up.  There was a sweet woman who volunteered at the church, making copies, getting things ready for Sunday School classes.  She came into the Children's Minister's office, where she heard me talking about not knowing where I'd work after the summer ended.

What she said to me then didn't seem big, but it has stuck with me all these years, and has been my motto during times of waiting.  She told me, "Honey, God's a five-to-twelve kind of guy."  When I gave her a confused look, she told me that He comes in at the last minute, just before the clock strikes midnight, so we'll be sure to give Him the glory.  The next day, which was my last day at the church, I received a great job offer. 

This Tuesday, we'll take our first formal step into adoption, and it's really making me nervous that tomorrow is a holiday.  We need things notarized, we need important answers from people who won't be at work tomorrow because it's a holiday.  So, I get to wait until five to twelve, when God shows up.  Because this is His time, not mine.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Born In Our Hearts

Not flesh of my flesh,
Nor bone of my bone,
Yet still miraculously my own.
Never forget for even a minute,
You didn't grow under my heart,
You grew in it.

As Scott and I searched photolistings of children, we wondered how we could ever make the "right" choice, if none of the children would be a "wrong" choice.  All are in need of a mommy and daddy, all have lived without a family for too long, whether they are only months old or are 5 or 9 or 16 years old.  But still, we searched for the one who spoke to both our hearts.

And there she was... her beautiful smile and captivating eyes made us stop.  We both knew, she was the daughter born in our hearts.

We immediately requested more information about her, and after reading everything we received, we asked what we needed to do to move forward.  Now, we have begun the process of applying to be "matched" with our daughter.  There will be many forms to sign, many miles to travel, many days, weeks, and months to wait, but it will all be worth the reward of having her in our family.

We pray that God will move the mountains before us.  We pray for provision.  We pray for our daughter, her caretakers, and the officials and caseworkers in her country and ours who will be handling our case.  We praise God for the blessing of friends who have traveled this path before us, and the family and friends who are supporting us as we begin this journey.

We look forward to the day we can share our daughter with you, when she is home with us, with her family.  The family she has waited nine long years to have.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Are You There, God? It's Me, Chandres

When bad news comes at 1:00 and fantastic news comes at 2:10, and the news is for two completely separate things that have become intertwined, I find myself in my flesh.

After the blow of today's bad news, I was totally expecting the other news I was waiting on to be equally bad.  But it wasn't.  It was the best news we could hope for for!

Which has my feelings so mixed.  I know God's going to show His perfection in the situation, as He always does.  I know that I can't speed up His timing, even though my timing looks better on paper (not that I have His plan on paper to compare mine to).  That would mean that I am in control.  To be at peace, I need to give the control to God.  And it's hard.

I did my human thing, made a couple of phone calls, sent an email.  Impressive, huh?  Alright God, let's see what you can do!  Praying, and asking for prayers to be lifted up for us.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Nerds and Free Spirits

I'm a nerd.  Scott is a free spirit.  Which may seem odd, considering I'm the crafty one, and he's the chemist.  But by Dave Ramsey's standards for our family budget, that's how it is.  And it's spilling into the adoption search.

Scott's all over these international adoption websites, picking out about 20 different kids he'd be happy to bring home, from many different countries (and continents), and with a broad range of medical needs (his biggest stipulation is that they be able to go on hikes with us eventually).  He'd ask me to email every agency, if he thought I'd actually do it.  (I've only emailed one for him, one for me, and told him no more until we have a homestudy in the works, at least.)

As he's free-spiritedly going along, I'm writing down descriptions of fees, punching in numbers on the calculator, and shaking my head at some of the more outrageous costs (let's just say that there are some regions of Russia I've already had to say absolutely NO to considering). 

So there you have it.  I'm a nerd.  Scott's a free spirit.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Comfort Zone

I said on facebook that God didn't call us to be comfortable, and that I'm feeling pulled in the direction of uncomfortable.  Then, today, a friend of mine posted this photo.

So excited about this beginning!

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Least of Them

I've been all over the place in my Bible today, not really feeling like I was where I was supposed to be.  I stumbled upon a blog this afternoon, where the header was Proverbs 24:12.  I backed up one verse in my Bible.

Proverbs 24:11, 12 - Deliver those who are being taken away to death, and those who are staggering to slaughter, oh hold them back.  If you say "See, we did not know this," does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know it who keeps your soul? And will He not render to man according to his work?

My footnote reads: "The excuse of ignorance is not acceptable." 

I keep going back to James 1:27 - Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress...

Pure religion.  Not legalistic or works-based.  Pure.  How can I ignore that?  And so began my study for the evening.

Romans 2:13 - For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. (emphasis mine)

Galatians 3:11 - Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for "the righteous man shall live by faith". (referencing Habakkuk 2:4)

Hebrews 10:38 - But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him.

Okay, God, I really want you to take pleasure in me.  I mean, I'm fearfully and wonderfully made (Ps. 139:14).  By You.  To bring glory to You.  How can my goal be to do any less than that?  Sure, I'm human, I make mistakes, and I'm so far from perfect I don't even register on the scale.  But if shrinking back from living out Your plan brings you displeasure... wow.  Talk about fear of the Lord.

So, on the subject of judgement...

Matthew 25:34-40 - 34 "The the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; 36 naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? 38 And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 40 The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.'" (emphasis mine)

Oh, my heart is aching.  My mind has been full of thoughts of "the least of them" for some time now.  Even in my sleep, they're there.  My husband asks me several times a day why I'm so quiet, and it's because their sweet faces are there.  The little ones who are hungry, thirsty, naked, in prison.

There are so, so many waiting children.  As Scott and I look through the different advocacy websites, we're overwhelmed by all the options.  Country, age, disability, etc.  I know the direction I want to go, but I'm praying that God will lead Scott and me, together, to our waiting child.