Monday, July 30, 2012

A Place at Our Table

About a month ago, we sold our dining table and chairs and bought a new (to us) dining table.  It was a break-even deal on the sale and purchase, though we're using a bench made by the seller to match the table and wooden folding chairs as seating.

We bought the new table because it's 7 ft. long and can extend to 11 ft. long with the leaves that tuck into the end.  Which means we can fit more people at our table!  Just this past Sunday, we had our good friends, Marty and Mandy Rhodes, with their four children, sitting around our dining table, enjoying lunch together.  And we all fit around the table, even without extending the leaves.

I love having friends over, because I really enjoy the company, the conversations, and an excuse to put on a fresh pot of coffee in the afternoon.  But is that all? 

12 Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. 13 But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, 14 and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” 

And it made me ask myself, who do we have at our table?  Not only literally, but also figuratively.  Who do you have at your table?  Who do you sign up to take meals to, who do you invite in to your home, who's on your Christmas gift and mailing list?  Where do you send (or spend) your money?

I'd like to tell about a couple of the guests at the Pickett banquet, not to pat myself on the back or for any glory for myself or my family, but to give all the glory to God, for His provision so that we are able to give, even out of our need for funding.   

My children were at VBS last week, where they also attend AWANA.  All week, Ayden and Elijah were talking about Christopher from Zambia, who would love to have a bicycle, and I assumed the church sponsored a child from Compassion International, like our Akoete.  I was only there at the end of VBS, when the donations for the night were announced, and I was imagining the happy smile of a young boy and his family when they received a large financial gift from their church sponsor.

Then Friday night, the parents were asked to stay the entire evening, and the pastor of the church told us Christopher's story.  I was confused when I saw that Christopher is not a small boy, he's a pastor in Zambia.  A pastor who travels on foot to his church and to minister to his community.  A pastor whose family is scraping by on the equivalent of $160 USD per month.  A pastor who wants a bicycle to be able to reach more people, to bring more glory to God.

As I sat there in the pew, my heart breaking as I listened to his story, about him holding his wife as she died giving birth to their daughter, his faith during crisis, and his love for the people in his village, and him remarrying and having another child, and seeing the photos of all the ways they serve, all the ministries they run.  And all he wants is a bike.  A bike!  My kids have bikes they barely ride, and only when they want to.  Christopher wants a bicycle to be able to reach more people, win more souls to the Kingdom of God, for God's glory alone.

And I knew.  I knew right then that Christopher had a place at our table.  I had to force my feet to walk past the pastor as we left the sanctuary and went to the fellowship hall, because I knew I needed to talk to Scott about buying a bicycle before talking to the pastor.  As soon as we sat down to eat, Scott's first words were "We're buying him a bike."  Out of God's perfect provision, we have what is needed to buy a bike from Zambikes, a company in Zambia.  Christopher will soon have a bicycle, and hopefully a small cart that attaches to the back.

Now, back to the Rhodes family.  They literally and figuratively have a place at our table.  They were here for lunch on Sunday, because they needed to be in town to have commitment paperwork notarized.  COMMITMENT paperwork.  They are GOING BACK!  While I would love to tell this story, because of how beautifully God has written every small detail, it is not mine to tell, and cannot be told until they are officially committed.

Their unplanned, unexpected paper pregnancy comes with around $7,500 in up-front expenses, between the commitment fees, homestudy, background checks, and apostille fees.  Oh, how I remember being there, how stressful those upfront costs were.  So, please, sow into their adoption, no matter how little or how much.  Pull a few extra chairs up to your table.  Donations can be made to the ChipIn on their blog, and they need $2,400 of those fees NOW to start the expedited homestudy. 

I'll end this very long post with a quote:  "Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little." -Edmund Burke

Monday Morning Update: 7.30.12

I'm not doing so great at updating weekly, but it's because so many exciting things are happening throughout the week that I want to share right away!  My days are beginning to run together, so I'll just give a general update.

I mailed in our USCIS I-800A application on July 12, and on July 15, the application was picked up from the lockbox.  On July 19, the check for $890 cleared the bank, and on July 23 the official receipt came in the mail.

None of that really meant big progress, but at this point we get excited about every step forward, no matter how small.

Then, just Saturday, July 28, there were two letters in the mail from the Department of Homeland Security... our biometric appointments!!!  (This is simply another set of fingerprints, on top of the fingerprints we've sent to the state and FBI, but done by a fingerprint technician at a USCIS Support Center.) So we're leaving the house at 6:00 a.m. to drive to our appointment, which, with 6 hours of driving round-trip, means it will be a full day for our family.

So, there's your update!  We're busy busy! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Cleaning Out My Closet

When you've been fundraising for six months, there are always a few leftovers.  It's kind of driving me nuts to have this stuff just sitting in my closet, instead of being used.  So, here's your chance to help me clean out my fundraising closet! 

I still have three Made to Crave books and one Participant's guide, by Lysa TerKeurst.  If you want just the book, it's $10 shipped.  If you want the book and participant's guide, it's $15 shipped. 

I also have shirts left over from our "Playing Them Home" event, and they are $15 shipped.  Sizes are listed below the photo.  Under the team name reads "This is the victory that has overcome the world: our faith." 1 John 5:4.  It makes me smile every time I see a friend wearing one of the shirts!

Blue Shirts w/ White Wording:
Adult Lg. (1)

White Shirts w/ Blue Wording:
Adult Med. (1)
Adult Lg. (3)
Adult XL (4)

If you're local, I still have walking sticks and canes, made by my father and grandfather, for $20 each. 

 Oh, and don't forget!  We need our grant to grow by $400 to get our match (needs to show $2225)!  A donation of any amount gets you the password to the private page on this blog, which is titled "Beauty" for a reason!  If we sell everything on this list (minus the walking sticks/canes), we'll be halfway to our match!  So, shop shop!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Another Envelope Filled!

A couple of weeks ago, I was told someone wanted an envelope to fill.  Envelope #3.

They didn't know I had begun praying that we would fill one envelope per week for ten weeks.

They just knew we had 50 envelopes to fill, and they could commit to filling one of them.

This morning, Envelope #3 arrived at my door, with $400 inside.

$400 toward our first trip.  $400 closer to meeting our two children.  $400 closer to bringing them HOME!

One of my favorite verses is Luke 6:38.  "Give and it will be given to you.  A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap.  For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

The people who gave this money aren't rich by our culture's measure of wealth.  They don't live in a large home or drive new cars.  They have gone through job losses and health crises.  But they give anyway.

One of the songs that I turn way, way up in the van is For King and Country's "The Proof of Your Love" and in one part of the song, they say "If I give to a needy soul, but don't have love, then who is poor?" 

To the dear, dear people who filled Envelope #3, you are as far from poor as anyone could be.  You give even out of your need, and you have truly blessed my family this morning.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

What's That? A Match?

***UPDATE*** Since yesterday's post, one other envelope has come back, and funds for an item I sold have come in.  We now need under $3500 to be able to travel, so this $400 match will get us 25% closer!  The next $400 to show up in our FSP will be matched!!!

I mentioned in my last post that we need $4,000 more before we travel, and now, we could take care of 20% of that in one go!  We have a $400 MATCH!!!

Through this adoption, we will be able to show our children the truth of Jeremiah 29:11, that God has a plan to prosper them, to give them a hope and a future.  So, when YOU help us fill Envelope #29, our MATCH will fill Envelope #11!

All donations can be made to our grant on Reece's Rainbow, and no donation is too small!  $5 becomes $10, $10 becomes $20, and $50 becomes $100.  Please comment here if you contribute to Envelope #29 so I know when the matching challenge has been met.  (If you're working on a different envelope, let me know if a donation comes in for that, so our match completes Envelopes #29 and #11.)

Thank you so much for sowing seed into our adoption, and for the continued prayers for our family!

***I've shared about the ENVELOPES before, but to summarize the idea, there are 50 envelopes that people (like YOU!) can commit to filling.  Each of the large envelopes holds 4 smaller envelopes.  If each small envelope is filled with $100 (either cash or donations to our grant online), the large envelope will hold $400.  Having 50 envelopes filled with $400 each would amount to $20,000 toward our adoption expenses, getting us to the "Fully Funded" status.***

Monday, July 23, 2012

And More Progress!

I called Scott today to pass along some GREAT news!  Our USCIS receipt came in the mail today!  I'm praying that means we'll have our biometrics appointment letter in the mail within the next two weeks.

Scott's first question to me after I told him this letter came was, "Are we going to be traveling while I'm supposed to be in Arizona?"

Before you think he's more concerned about a work conference than our adoption, you should know that, historically, his business trip dates usually cause some major conflict or crisis.  And he asked me over and over again if I thought it would be okay for him to book a work conference for the end of September, because he knows how true my previous statement is.

He left for a business trip on June 22, 2010.  I suggested that he and a co-worker drive separately, because I was 33 weeks pregnant and had been having contractions for the past 11 weeks and was already on restriction.  But no, they left together, heading only about 5 hours away.  That night, as I was chatting on the phone with a friend, my water broke.  So, Scott's co-worker started driving back toward home, while his dad started driving to meet them.  It was a little hectic figuring out the plan for getting me to the hospital and getting someone to watch the kids, but he made it home with 3 days to spare before Sadie made her appearance.

None of the other trips were quite as eventful, but having to break into my home on the day he leaves isn't unheard of (that's happened twice).  So it only makes sense that he's been so worried about booking this conference trip.

Of course, I still don't think there's going to be a conflict, but I'm praying that almost as soon as he's home from the conference, it'll be time to get on another plane and head to meet our two kids.

Getting our travel dates means we'll need another $4,000 to book our hotel and flights, and be able to eat on the trip.  If we fill one ENVELOPE a week, we'll have the remainder of what we need for our first trip in just 10 weeks.  All donations can be tax-deductible, if donated to our family's grant through Reece's Rainbow.

Will you please pray about whether God would have you sow seed into our adoption?  We are getting closer each day to traveling to meet Katrin and Denny, and them being "orphans no more."

Friday, July 20, 2012


When most of the adoption feels like you're just "twiddling your thumbs" waiting for things to happen, you take absolutely any progress as reason to celebrate!

Last week and this week have been full of progress, and each little thing makes me feel like we're a few steps closer to meeting and bringing home our kids.  Last week, on July 12, our USCIS paperwork was in the mail, heading to Dallas.

On Monday, Scott and I met at the credit union to wire fees to our agency and have a stack of documents notarized.  We were glad it was a slow afternoon, because we were there for 45 minutes, until 4:45 p.m.  I rushed to the post office to mail 9 documents to the Secretary of the Commonwealth and one to the NC Secretary of the State, running in at 4:55 and walking out at 5:00 on. the. dot.

Yesterday, July 19 (exactly one week after mailing our USCIS paperwork), the check cleared the bank!  I don't think it means anything significant, other than the papers are out of the lockbox and waiting in another box to be assigned an officer.  But it's something, and it's better than being in the lockbox or lost in the mail!

Today, I checked the mail, and waiting inside was a big brown envelope with my handwriting on it... the documents I mailed in to the Commonwealth's office are already back, with shiny gold seals on them!  That was fast!!!  Those documents have all been scanned and emailed to our stateside agency, who will email them to our foreign agency to be translated.

They're not big steps, but they're steps, and we'll take them!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A *BIG* Miscalculation!!!

You know when you reconcile your bank account and you realize there's extra money in the account because you made a simple miscalculation?  And how it feels like you've just given yourself a great gift?

Well, I didn't find extra money, but I made a BIG miscalculation in what we need now!

When I read our fee schedule, for some reason, I thought our next fees were due when we got our official referral (which means travel dates!), and our last fees were due when we came home from the first trip.  I was wrong!!!  Our next fees are due just as I thought, when we get our official referral, but our last fees are not due until we have a court date.  That gives us a few extra months to raise the last fees!!!

The ticker on the right side of the blog shows the correct amount we need by our first trip, and we are just over $4,000 away from that goal!

(Of course, our last fees did not disappear, so we still need just shy of $19,000 to finish the adoption: $4,019 by our first trip, $9,070 by our notification of receiving a court date, and $5,830 by our pick-up trip.)

I am praising God for His perfect provision and timing, because those few extra months to fundraise are such a blessing!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"When are you traveling?"

This is probably the #1 question I get regarding our adoption.  I don't mind answering any adoption-related questions, but I really wish I could answer this one with a specific date.  Of course, Scott just booked a business conference for late September, so that probably means we'll have some big adoption-related conflict!

We are now six months into this adoption, so I had to write a letter to the children's government, detailing where we are in preparing our dossier, and when we plan to submit the final copy of our dossier for approval.  This is to make sure they know that we are still moving forward with the adoption.  Of course, I wanted the letter to be PERFECT, so I spent about 2 hours writing and re-writing it.  I heard from our stateside agency that I am awesome, so I assume that means my letter will keep everyone happy!

And I got what I consider to be great news today, even though it's going to be a little more work for me.  Throughout the process, we have to get LOTS of documents notarized, then apostilled by the state.  Our foreign agency has requested that we scan over each document after it's apostilled, for them to translate.  Which means we'll save several weeks by not sending over the whole dossier for translation after we have USCIS approval.  I'm praying this means we'll travel in October, instead of November!

All this has me very excited, though I've got one number in the back of my mind: $12,000.  That's the remainder of what we need by the time we travel ($4,300 for the remainder of our first trip fees, and $7,700 due as soon as we get home).  It's a big number, but my God is a BIG GOD, and I have absolute faith that the money will be there when we need it!  

I don't have any big fundraisers planned right now, especially since I need to spend a good deal of time working on paperwork for the dossier.  If you would, please pray for our USCIS paperwork to be assigned to an officer quickly, pray for our funding, and pray for our whole family, especially the two who are waiting for us.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

All the Spinning Plates!

I consider myself a very optimistic person, one who rarely complains (at least openly), because truly, my complaints would all be trivial.  You know, as soon as I start the last load of laundry, one of the kids brings down a month week of dirty laundry from their hamper.  Or Sadie finds a package of sunflower seeds her sister left on the counter and now my kitchen floor is covered. 

But the past week has been TOUGH.  I'm worn out, overextended, overwhelmed, and I'm trying to keep all these plates spinning, and eventually one is going to drop.

This is a very accurate representation of my week!

If I wasn't handling one issue after another with the cabins in TN, with the power outages, I was unjamming my sewing machine, trying to work on the four dolls I need to finish now.  Or working on getting the kids ahead in their schoolwork so they can take time off later this year when we travel.  Or worrying about the BIG fundraiser that I'm chairing, coming up in only 3 months.  I'm terrified that something is going to slip through the cracks, and the pile on my desk is not helping my feeling like I'm forgetting something.

There's so much I want to do right now.  I want to plan a curriculum sale to make some extra money for the adoption; I want to get donations and vendors lined up for the quarter auction that's coming up this fall; I want $12,000 to magically appear in our grant.

So, I'm not making a doll to auction this Friday.  I need a week to get things under control around here, and I can't do it if I'm not willing to let at least one plate fall.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Morning Update 7.9.12

M: I heard from our placing agency that we got a response from our kiddos' country that they wanted our application done differently.  Hmmm... you know that little voice that says "Go ahead and do two sets of paperwork, one worded this way, one worded that way, and have them both notarized, just in case?"  No?  Never heard that little voice?  I did, and I listened, and I scanned and emailed over the other paperwork right away!  That saved me another day of paper-chasing!

T: I called our homestudy agency to find out where in paperland our written homestudy is so I can submit everything to USCIS already!!!

W: Our family went to a cookout with several other families, including the Rogers family!  If you don't know, they're leaving VERY SOON to rescue two more children from life in an institution!  They're still not fully funded, so please consider donating to their grant!

R: The homestudy is done, signatures and notarizations are done, and it's IN THE MAIL!!!

F:  Ivan is the newest doll up for auction, and if you can't tell, Elijah picked out the fabric!  I tried something new... breaking away from the pattern!  It took a little work, but Ivan is the first boy with shorts instead of overalls!  Of course, I love the overalls, but they just weren't working with these fabrics.  Whatcha think?

That's it for last week, I think.  I'm not sure where the time is going, but it's flying right now!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Monday Morning Update 7.2.12

Last week was very exciting!  In case you missed all the exciting news (and because you probably don't know all the stuff that led up to the exciting news), here's a recap of last week!

M: Our foreign agency was contacted to get a fee agreement and commitment paperwork set up for adding Denny to our adoption, and we waited to hear back from them after they secured his file with his country.

T:  Still waiting, and stressing over what amount we would hear back, and sending emails to the ladies at Reece's Rainbow to let them know that we were preparing to commit.

W:  Our homestudy was revised by the homestudy agency, and then it was off to our placing agency!

R:  We filled out commitment paperwork, and wired the first installment of Denny's foreign fees.  I updated our "Priceless" page with all our new payments, and updated the ticker for what we still need by this fall, when we travel.

F:  I got an email that our commitment paperwork had been submitted to Denny's country!  And that afternoon, I got to make the best announcement!  That Denny is going to be a Pickett!!!

I also started the next doll auction, inspired by one of my kids' favorite books, Corduroy.  Little Lisa and her bear are off to a great start in the auction!

And that was our week in a nutshell!  Happy Monday!!!