Saturday, September 29, 2012

Still Fundraising!!!

I'm still standing in awe of God's perfect timing of our current funding, and the jaw-dropping gift of $3,000, and I wanted to write a post about our upcoming needs.  Not from the standpoint of doubt, but from one of information, and especially because this need is time-sensitive and explains why I can't stop fundraising right now.

Counting our $3,000 gift, we'll have roughly $2,400 in our fund when we come home.  When we come home, our agency will be waiting on a package from our kids' country, so they can file our I-800 with USCIS (2nd stage immigration paperwork).  As soon as that package arrives, approximately 2 weeks after we come home from this trip, our final foreign fees will be due.  Some of our fees are due in euros, so this is a very close estimate. 

  $4100 - "Katrin's" fees
    4000 - "Denny's" fees
      900 - Post-Adoption Reporting Service fees
      500 - Report Deposit (refundable after 3 years)
      720 - USCIS fees (2nd unrelated child)
-   2400 - In our fund
  $7820 - Due about two weeks post-visit

I thought we would have more time to fundraise for these final fees, but we don't.  The timeline I originally read said we'd pay after we officially accept the referral for the children; then I read a timeline that said we'd pay when we received a court date.  The second timeline was for non-Hague cases, so my first information was correct.  We're looking at the end of October.

We've applied for grants, and have heard "no" from one and nothing from the others yet.  We're trusting in God's perfect provision, and we have had every penny as we've needed it thus far.  It's a big, scary number, but it means we'll have only a tiny bit left to raise for the final trip once it's paid. 

We're never sure from where the money will come, but it always does.  We don't know if it will come from a grant, or from a fundraiser, or as a large gift.  We don't know if we'll have it ahead of time or at the very last minute.  But we know it will be there.

In the meantime, our giveaway is still running, and we'll draw the second vacation winner on 10/15.  If we hit (or exceed) our goal of $2,500, we'll draw a winner for a $100 Amazon gift card, just in time for you to start Christmas shopping!  (Our current giveaway amount raised is $1,432!)

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Prayer of Relinquishment

A few months ago, one of my dear friends, Jessica, passed around copies of an article to a small group of women, gathered together for a short, 3-week study.  The article was from a Guidepost magazine from 1960, and her mother had passed a copy along to her.

The title of the article was "Prayer of Relinquishment" and was about a woman's journey through illness, and giving up control over that illness, even giving up praying for healing.  She questioned why some prayers are answered and others are not, even the most sincere prayers.

Coming to the end of herself, she told God, "I'm tired of asking.  I'm beaten through, God, You decide what You want for me."

She had not given up faith.  She had given up control over her health.  Over time, she realized that "a demanding spirit, with self-will as its rudder, blocks prayer... God absolutely refuses to violate our free will; that, unless self-will is voluntarily given up, God cannot move to answer prayer."

That hit me like a ton of bricks, and I thought back to times when I had witnessed God moving.  When Sadie was born, and her tiny 4 lb. body couldn't self-regulate temperature, couldn't be outside of her little "tanning bed," I went in to the NICU every day, trying to gauge when I thought she would be able to leave.  Of course, I wanted her to be well enough to leave, but I wanted it NOW!  It was so hard walking out of the hospital without her every day, and I cried out to God for 50 miles to the hospital and 50 miles home to make her well enough to come home.  Every single day.

I sat in the pod with her for 10-12 hours a day, praying over her, holding her close to me as often as I could, feeding her, bathing her, willing her time in the NICU to come to an end.  Finally, I let go of what I wanted and asked for God to heal her in His time, to let His will be done.  Within a day or two, we were asked to bring her car seat in, and she went home shortly after.

When we started this adoption, we needed $7,000 in 7 days, and I didn't know where that was coming from.  Even though we were fundraising, there wasn't enough.  I remember laying on my couch, crying violently, telling God that $7,000 was too much for me to raise in such a short time, that He would have to work it out.  That I didn't even know if I had a mustard seed of faith to go on.  And on the 7th day, ten minutes before our agency's office closed, I hand-delivered a check for the full amount.

And I thought about other times I prayed and prayed and prayed, and I didn't get an answer.  It's hard to let go of those prayers, to give up that control.  If God's not answering, at least I'm still asking, still doing something, right?

And this next part is really important.  "[The Prayer of Relinquishment] does not let us lie down in the dust of a godless universe and steel ourselves just for the worst.  Rather it says: 'This is my situation at the moment.  I'll face the reality of it.  But I'll also accept willingly whatever a loving Father sends.'  Acceptance therefore never slams the door on hope."

All of that novel to say this:  Early yesterday afternoon, I told God I was overwhelmed.  That I don't know if I can keep working on this large local fundraiser, get ready for two weeks of travel (and two weeks of everything at home needing to be ready), and focus on fundraising for plane tickets.  It was too much for me, so I just really needed Him to do something big.  I had reached the end of myself.  (Scott later told me that he had been praying for something big for me, because I was at the maximum I could handle.)

Now I'm tearing up as I type, because the answer was so swift, such a blessing to us, and such an incredible sacrifice on the part of the giver.  At 5:00, I received a phone call from one of my dear friends, who we are so blessed to have in our lives, and her family is gifting to us $3,000.  It's not here yet, but it will be.  I was an absolute mess after I hung up the phone.  I went to the one place every woman can have a good cry, and just washed all those tears of joy down the drain.  And at about 8:30 last night, I was handed two checks: one for $1,000 and one for $200.

So, the God of the universe, my Father, my Abba, the One who says He cares for the orphan, provided when I gave up on being in control of the money.  Once we have that $3,000 in hand, we will have the remainder of our first trip expenses, our USCIS fees that we need to pay as soon as we get home, and the start of our final fees, which will be due within a month or two of us coming home.

I immediately thought of Ephesians 3:20: "Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us..."  He did abundantly more than I hoped for.  Abundantly more than I imagined.  He provided beyond my expectations.  As He always has, when I allow Him to.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

First Winner!

Just a quick update, since I said I'd draw the first winner after we passed the $1000 mark in our newest giveaway.

The winner of the first 4-night vacation is #190 of 229 entries... the lovely Erika Rogers!  (I'm guessing she'll want to stay in the cabin with that big, beautiful family!)

Thank you, dear friend, for sowing into our adoption, and let me know when you want to go!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

I'm Leaving on a Jet Plane!!!!!!!!!

I was on the phone with Scott, just chatting a bit over lunch, and I saw the number on my cell phone caller ID.  THE number.  It was our agency.  Regular stuff happens over email, but BIG news makes the phone ring!

When I saw the number, I screamed something like "OhmigoshitshopscotchigottagonowBYE!!!" 


So, we leave in 11 days (and counting), on October 6!  And we're still fundraising for our first trip.  That ticker needs to read $9820 for us to be fully funded for our first trip.

Am I freaking out?  Nope.  I know we're good.  I don't know where it's coming from, but I know it's coming.  Our current giveaway is running until October 15, and we'll be drawing the first winner as soon as we raise $1000, and we're at $210.  It looks like we'll be drawing the other winners while we're in country!

In the meantime, if you don't see me in blogland or facebook, it's because I'm running around like a headless chicken, trying to pack for a 2-week trip, while organizing a very large fundraiser that is taking place the same day we leave, while packing my kids for a trip to the beach with my mom, while sending emails to the guests who have booked trips to my parents' vacation homes during the time I'll be gone, while still being mom to my three precious kids, who I am going to be miserable without while we're gone. 

I am so looking forward to updating everyone once we are in our kids' country.  Now, to get the money for the plane tickets... that I need to book NOW!  If you feel led to give, please know that every amount is needed, appreciated, and I will never be able to thank you enough.  If you can only share our need, please, please link people to our giveaway.  We've got two vacations up for grabs, plus a $100 Amazon gift card if we hit our goal of $2500 raised.

And a huge thank you to everyone who has been excited for us today!  And another thank you if you have offered to do even the smallest thing to make life easier for us before we travel, or while we are gone.  We are so, so blessed to have such an amazing support group!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Getaway Giveaway!!!

We are $2500 from having all we need to travel on our first trip, which is quite possibly just a month or so away!  So, it's time for another giveaway!

We're bringing home TWO kids, so how about TWO vacations, to your choice of TWO homes!!!

And because waiting is no fun, we're going to stagger the drawings for winners!  As soon as we reach $1000 in entries, we'll draw the first winner, and at the end of the giveaway, we'll draw the second winner!  (All entries from the first drawing will count toward the second drawing, so give early to make sure you don't miss TWO chances at winning!)

Here's how the entries will be added:

Sharing on facebook/twitter/blogs -- 1 entry per day
Up to $20 - 1 entry/$4 donated
$21-$50 - 1 entry/$3 donated
$51-$99 - 1 entry/$2 donated
$100+ - 1 entry/$1 donated

For those of you who don't like math, that's 2 entries for a $10 donation, 5 entries for a $20 donation (or 7 entries for a $21 donation!), 16 entries for a $50 donation (or 26 entries for a $52 donation), and so on.  The more you give, the better your odds, but even if you are only able to share, please tell me so I can add your entries!  

Donations can be made directly to our grant, so the donation IS tax-deductible.  In order for your donation to credit to the giveaway, you MUST email your Paypal receipt to me.  The giveaway is running from NOW through Monday, October 15 at 10:00 Eastern, so you have just over 3 weeks to donate, share, and help us raise the money for our plane tickets!

Oh, what's that?  You wanted to know more about the houses?  Well, why didn't you ask before?!  You'll have four nights at your choice of either a 3 bedroom/4 bathroom cabin or 2 bedroom/2 bathroom chalet, with hot tubs, pool tables, Xbox with Kinect, and only 10 minutes from Dollywood and everything else in Pigeon Forge, TN!  Slideshows for the homes are on the right side of the blog, under our grant button.

Oh, and if we hit our goal of $2,500, everyone who donates or shares will be entered to win a $100 Amazon gift card!  Just in time to do some Christmas shopping!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Coming Soon: Another Giveaway!

I don't post about money on this blog very often, for several reasons.  First, there are many families fundraising who have needed money urgently, and it was hard for me to push for our adoption when our need wasn't urgent.

Second, God has provided exactly what we needed, exactly when we needed it, and I try and pay attention to when I feel led to write about money and when I'm hearing the whipser of "Just leave it alone, be still."  So, when I feel the "be still" whisper, I do my best to do just that.

Recently, I felt I should be still on fundraising, and now, it's starting to sink in that we need another Three. Thousand. Dollars.  Not to finish, but by the time we go on our first trip, which could be as early as a month from now. 

We got the green light on another vacation giveaway, which is exciting!  And since we're bringing home TWO  kids, we'll have TWO vacations up for grabs!  As soon as I figure out how it's going to work, I'll make another blog post but, for now, that's your teaser!

Our grant button is hanging out on the right side of the blog, so if you want to help chisel at that $3,000 mountain, we'd appreciate every single cent!  And if you donate now, and forward your receipt to me, I'll make sure you're entered in the giveaway when I get it started!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The First Month of 7 - Halfway

I wrote an earlier blog post about studying Jen Hatmaker's newest bok 7:  An Experimental Mutiny on Excess.  And I was tempted to start a separate blog just for the book study, like a couple of my friends have.  But I struggle with what to write on this blog most days, without sounding like a broken record (still waiting to hear that our dossier has been reviewed, still need lots and lots of money, still coming up with ways to fundraise with my limited time available, etc.).

So, I'm borrowing my adoption blog, which I borrowed from my crafting blog.  I'm won't stop blogging about the adoption, but it's just easier than remembering another bloggy place, and I'm sure blogger is happy that I'm not going to create another account that's never going to be used after the book study is finished!

And here's my feeling about "7", after almost half of the first month:  cooking foods from impoverished countries while running the kids to soccer, Girl Scouts, piano, AWANA, Music Together, museum classes, and who knows where else, is HARD!  I feel guilty every day, and I feel like I'm missing the point of the book, which is to be intentional in our actions and in our sacrifice.  It mostly felt like I was always spinning out of control, and dinner was happening later and later every night.

We had our group meeting last night, where I admitted that I feel like I've failed this month, and the other women reassured me that I haven't.  I came home and talked to Scott, and he told me that this month had been MUCH more stressful for him, and he's usually the one who cooks.

So, I'm changing direction halfway through the month.  I think my goal was a bit unrealistic for the month when all our activities begin again.  Instead of focusing on preparing a meal each day from an impoverished country, I'm going to focus on preparing a meal that reduces the stress on my family and my husband (who has enough stress right now, but that's a whole other novel).  So, I'm dusting off the slow cooker, looking up recipes for cooking in bulk for freezing, and continuing to intentionally buy local food.  This will free up time to focus on my kids, which is something I never feel I have an excess of time to do, and we'll try recipes from other countries throughout all seven months, planned around our busy schedule!  And since Scott has cooked almost every meal for the past four years, actually doing the cooking myself is still a sacrifice.

And dinner tonight is already going in the slow cooker!  I made a bed of sweet potatoes and onion (purchased at the farmer's market), and laid a grass-fed beef roast on top (purchased from a friend whose father raises the livestock just a couple of hours from here).  I added in a bit of water and butter, instead of beef stock, and topped the roast with cinnamon, cardamom, and pepper.  Hello fall, and hello dinner after soccer practice!

(On a side note, if you only read the blog to follow the adoption, our dossier is in country, there was a big meeting yesterday to issue referrals, and our agency told us not to expect to hear anything this week.  More waiting, fun, fun.  And we still need somewhere in the ballpark of $2600 before our first trip.)

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Birthday Wish

A baby was born
Ten years ago today;
The child of my heart,
An ocean away.

A crease on her palm
And almond-shaped eyes,
Meant for a mother,
She must say goodbye.

So long she has waited,
So much she has grown
One wish has the girl,
A mommy, a home.

Another birthday,
Another year passed;
Sweet child of my heart,
I promise, the last.

A late birthday gift,
If only you knew;
Just a few months more,
Your wish will come true.

~Chandres Pickett

Written for and dedicated to my VKP, on her tenth birthday.



Saturday, September 1, 2012

Beginning an Experimental Mutiny

These past few months, God's been working on my heart, and here are some facts that keep running through my head.  In our kids' country, their yearly minimum wage is less than one month of Scott's salary.

My friend in Zambia provides for his whole family each month on less than my weekly grocery budget.  That means his family's yearly income is less than two weeks of Scott's salary.  And the argument that "things are less expensive there, so they don't need as much" is not convincing me.  When he is trying to scrape by and care for his family, and also trying to minister to the people in his community, watching children starve all around him, it's not simply a matter of inflation in our economy.

So, when I read Jen Hatmaker's new book 7: An Experimental Mutiny on Excess, I knew I had found a way to shift my focus from simply feeling burdened to taking action.

I sped through the book in only two days and, after talking myself out of selling everything I own and moving to Africa (which would completely throw off the adoption, by the way), I talked to a couple of my girlfriends about doing a book study, going through the book month by month.  There were some changes my family made immediately, like...

1.  Parting with jewelry I don't wear, by holding an auction on facebook to raise money for the adoption.  (That auction raised over $800!!!!)

2.  Recycling!  Look at just two weeks worth of recyclables, and our area has a very limited list of things to recycle.

3.  Composting!  And no, it doesn't stink.  It smells like coffee, since we put our coffee filter and grounds in every morning!  We keep it 50/50 with wet and dry items, so we're actually keeping up with our shredding, since we need to add it to the compost to keep it dry enough. 

Between recycling and composting, we cut our trash in HALF!  We used to put two absolutely full trash cans out at the curb, but the past two weeks, we've had only one can of trash, and we'd have less if our area offered more recycling options, like more plastics and glass.

4.  Shopping local!  Look at my great spread from the farmer's market and meat shop uptown.  I love knowing where my food came from!

Today begins the month of September, and the book study's first month of 7, which deals with food.  In the book, Jen Hatmaker limited herself to only 7 ingredients for the whole month.  I took an idea from some of her girlfriends, who also followed the seven months with her, and our family will be eating traditional meals from seven impoverished countries/regions.

It's my plan to share the recipes and photos as the month goes on, probably not every day, but definitely our favorites!