Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Little girl lost. & found.

"Are you sure you can help her?" We were asked.

The meaning was clear: this child is beyond help. There are others who can be helped.

"Yes, absolutely!" I answered, with more assurance than I felt.

Truthfully, I had no idea how we would help her. I knew where we would start, and I knew we had a lot of knowledge, but frankly, I was unsure what she was capable of. I was unsure of what I was capable of.

I knew she was ours, so I HAD TO help her. There HAD TO be a way. So I answered with more enthusiasm than I felt. 

I felt a lot of fear that day, after we met the wild little girl who was clearly locked very deeply in her own world. I don't know what I imagined her to be like, but this wasn't it. I wasn't disappointed - I learned long ago to let go of my expectations of what my children would be like & free myself to enjoy who God made them to be. I knew in my heart the moment we committed, before we knew anything about her, that her needs would be significant. But wow. This was actually a lot.

But I said yes, without a doubt, that I could help her. She was my child. I've heard lots of labels for my sassypants, both from her country of birth and highly paid specialists here. Most of the labels have been scary, but I mostly ignore them. I've always been the type that has a NEED to do what is deemed impossible. Maybe God knew that question needed to be voiced to me, because my instant response mentally would be "challenge accepted!"

So, day by day, little by little, we tackle the hard work that goes into undoing 6 yrs without language and learning. We tackle it slower than most, because she learns very uniquely. I have a lot of knowledge but I'm not a professional, just a mom taking it one day at a time, teaching as we go. I think that Sassypants mentally responded "challenge accepted" somewhere along the way too. She certainly seems to enjoy surpassing expectations. She is the rock star here, not me. Her & Jesus, who orchestrated this whole thing. ❤

This journey has been hard. I have often doubted my ability to be everything she needs. I have lost a lot of myself along the way, but I've also learned along the way that I will gladly sacrifice myself to help my daughter find herself. She has both broken me and put me together. 

So, on to the update... for those who are wondering, THIS is the picture of unteachable.


She needs lots of help (less each time!) and she always sneaks a bite of the food, but look at her there - cooking! (For the record, I usually steal a bite too. I might be enabling that habit. Oops.) ;-)


That pic was right after tasting the pizza sauce. She's not amused by my picture taking though. ;-)


Dinner. Made by Sassypants. I guess we figured out that whole learning thing. 

That first day I wondered what her future would look like. If I asked an expert even now, they would tell me independence is unlikely. But we know already what my response would be, right? 

Challenge accepted. 

Maybe I'm crazy to say I'm excited to see how much independence she will have in the future; but then again, I just ate dinner prepared by the little girl who was too far lost to be helped. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Adoption update

Whew! The last few months have been crazy busy with fundraisers! Last weekend we just wrapped up the second huge garage sale, and we are exhausted!

I crunched numbers today and our financial need is down to $10,500! That is a huge number, but it is less than 1/3 of the total cost, so that is awesome!! Our first trip should be the end of July, so we are nearing the home stretch of fundraising as well as the adoption process. That is so encouraging! We are so thankful for all of the love and support thus far. Our local community has been especially amazing! Everything we have done has turned out well! Our long distance friends & family probably wonder why we're never fundraising, but we've done so much local stuff that we haven't done as much online.  That is awesome! :-)

We have also been blessed with 2 matching grants and some super generous donations, which helped us meet both! That made a huge dent! (& to be clear - any size donation is super generous in my book) ;-)

For the next few weeks we are taking some down time to rest & enjoy our kids at home. We have been going 100mph for several months now, and we need some rest. At the center of our desire to adopt is the desire to share our family with children in need. This only works if our family is healthy, happy, and well-tended to. Our children deserve our best. So perhaps it seems irresponsible to rest while we still have so far to go, but this is what our family needs. We will still work on smaller fundraisers, but don't look for anything big until July. Please keep praying for our process, especially for the boys who are about to have their lives changed in a huge way. Thank you so much for the way you have  loved our boys. As I sit and reflect on this process, what blows me away the most is how so many people are rooting for these boys - children who were largely forgotten by the world are now loved from afar by so many people. <3

Keep praying & sharing. Thank you for being part of our tribe.

www.reecesrainbow.org/sponsoroden-2

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Community.

You know, I really hate fundraising for something for myself (like this adoption.) I have many times just wished we had enough money to afford it on our own. But you know - in the months since we shared our commitment to our family, church, and community, we have seen people come alongside us in amazing ways. We have seen our tribe rise up and support us, even people who really don't know us that well. We have seen how the people in our circle & our greater community value the lives of these children. If we had been able to pay for this all ourselves, we would have missed this.

If we could have afforded this adoption we would have probably forever missed knowing exactly how amazing our friends, family, church, and community are.

I am convinced now more than ever that this place of overwhelm is where the magic happens. God called us out into this place of overwhelm - this place where we are so out of our depth that we HAD to have a miracle. We went. (I'll admit, we whined a little to God about how maybe He was just asking too much, but in the end, we went. This faith thing is still a work in progress after all!)

I guess what I didn't know before, that I'm convinced of now, is that  in this place where a miracle is needed, the magic is in ordinary people. The magic is in the friend sewing for us, the friends organizing fundraisers for us, the people finding us fundraiser opportunities, donating goods, services, money, and time. The magic is in the women asking for Valentine's from our fundraiser as well as anonymous donations and not-so-anonymous donations. The magic is the excitement everyone has over 2 little boys who most of the world would label as "broken." The magic is our people, and I'm so thankful for them all.

If you ever wondered if doing something small for someone else even matters, let me assure you - it does.

(P.S. if you are one of the people that has helped, welcome to our family - you now officially have crazy relatives. 😉😂)

And I am convinced now more than ever, that we live in the best place on earth - even if we don't have trees. 😉 (my long distance supporters, we love you too. I'm just kind of blown away by the locals right now) 😊

Monday, February 5, 2018

fundraising stinks. friends are awesome.

I hate fundraising for my own adoption, I really do. I just want to be able to write a check and bring these kids home. A little part of me feels like I'm begging people for money. A little part feels like it's my responsibility and maybe I shouldn't ask my friends and family for help. I have a million doubts about fundraising, but at the end of the day, I think of kids stuck in institutions, and I press on. The kids need me more than I need my pride. 

I know deep down that it's okay for people to come together to bring these boys home. I know that it allows the story to ripple out and touch more people, but I still don't necessarily like the exercise of repeatedly humbling myself and asking for help.

For the last three months I've had a list of fundraisers rolling around in my head, and I've been working on nailing down dates for them all, and coming up with an overall plan to get us funded. It has been a daunting, overwhelming task. Every time I see or say $32,000, I get a little scared.  

So one day I'm at church and 2 friends pull me aside. They've been talking, and they have an idea. They came up with a fundraiser idea, ran it by me, and then here's the good part - they took over the planning. They told me they wanted the load off me, I just needed to show up. 

They planned a ladies' paint party. We had it last weekend. Now, I did help before the event (just FYI so you don't think I'm a slacker) ;-) It was SO FUN. The prep work was fun, because instead of doing it largely alone, I was hanging out with friends. The ladies took care of the details like registration, location, etc, and basically just bossed me around. Which was a HUGE weight off. The physical load isn't the hard part of adopting and fundraising - it's the mental load of finishing the dossier, planning the fundraisers, raising the kiddos already home, and preparing for 2 more. I feel like my head is about to explode with details half of the time. And somehow my friends knew just what to do.

These ladies - they know how to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Sometimes it's not asking "how can I help?", but it's enthusiastically saying "this is what I'm doing to help you." 

The actual painting party was a blast. I'm not crafty so I don't really get the appeal of those events, but now I do. It wasn't the painting, it was the tables full of ladies laughing, talking, and helping each other paint. 

At the end of the day, we counted the money... I needed just under $1100 this week for USCIS fees. We raised $1100. Isn't God cool?

I felt so uplifted after this. It wasn't just the money; it was the fellowship, the love, the feeling of the burden shifted as it was carried by many and not just me. It was really profound.

My takeaway is this: How can I help carry the burden for someone else without waiting for them to ask?

I am so thankful for my friends, for all of the amazing ladies who showed up, and for God's perfect provision and timing. 

Fundraising stinks. Friends are awesome.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

radical obedience, holy desperation

I sit here in this place of radical obedience to God's call - where my entire life is laid out on the altar for what He has called us to do, and the thoughts whir...

Here's the thing about radical faith that you don't realize until you dive in over your heads - this is a holy place. This place where I can't possibly finish this on my own, where God HAS TO show up, it's a holy place. It's a place that can make you want to turn around, walk away, and do something sane with your life; but it's also a place that can drive you to your knees.

This place can show you God in a way you've never seen Him. All of the sudden you NEED Him. I live a comfortable American life. How many times do I need God? Sure, I need His grace and love every day, but when was the last time I needed Him to handle the logistics of my daily life? It's not very often. My life is pretty smooth. But this place - He HAS TO show up or these kids aren't coming home. It isn't even remotely possible for me to come up with $30k in 6 months on my own. So I live in this place of holy desperation - desperate to see God, to feel God, to know that I'm following His instructions in every monotonous detail. I'm desperate for Him to come through. Every cell in my body cries out for Him. It's hard to maintain this level of need in my every day life. I'm weak, and I slip & take the reins back. When I'm in this desperate place I can't help it. It is a holy place, because it is the place where I find Jesus over and over. 

It's not easy to live life in over your head, but it is easy to enjoy this closeness with God. We've done this before, and we know that with this adoption we are committing to be over our heads for quite awhile. We don't really know what is coming with these boys, but we know we are committing to walk a long, hard road with them for as long as it takes to see deep healing. We don't know much about their needs associated with their disabilities, but we are committing to whatever level of support they need for the rest of our lives. It's not always easy to live this life, but it's easy to love this life. It's easy to love the beautiful family that God is knitting together, and that makes the hard work become good work. Helping children heal - it's consuming, exhausting, hard work, but it's holy work.

I am a control freak by nature. Perhaps the hardest part about this place is the lack of control. We have given God complete control of building our family. The country we are going to doesn't legally match children with families until the families are in the country preparing to meet the child. This means that it's possible that we could come home with different children. We are praying for, loving, and preparing for these 2 children, but there are no guarantees. That thought takes my breath away. All I have is God. All I have is the assurance that God will place the perfect children in our home. All I can do is pray, because my only power is prayer. 

This place I'm in - it's so desperate. I'm utterly powerless over so many things - timelines, finances, travel, even the children I'm coming home with. I have to repeatedly lay aside my desires and ask what God's will is. I have many ideas of what our family should look like, but it's not up to me. The only thing I can do is pray, listen for God's voice, and work hard at what I'm asked to do. Everything else is up to God. This is a hard thing, but it is a wonderful thing - I have front row seat to watch the miracles. When I lay aside my wants, I have the experience of feeling God change my desires to match His will, and suddenly I'm handed something way better than what I wanted in the first place. God's will is always the best for us.

I'm at the very beginning of this journey with God. My faith is young, my experience is limited, and I have a lot to learn. But I am not content sitting back reading about it - I want to learn while IN this place of desperation. Every hour fundraising, every dead end or great success, every piece of paperwork, every prayer uttered for those boys, and every hard moment when we get home is my offering to them and to God. Every part of my life and my family is laid out as an offering to God - He can do what He wishes. Our entire family, even our children, are on board with this. We've done this before, we know the possibilities, and it would be easy to pick the pieces back up and tell God we don't want to surrender it all. He would let us do that. He would let us stop. He would let us keep our comfortable American lives. But it wouldn't be His best for us, and we know that. We certainly hope that we are impressing that upon our children, as they willingly walk this road with us.

So, I lay it out for God, because I do not fear what hard things I will be asked to do next - I fear what hard things these children will endure if I do not walk this road. I fear what I will miss if I walk away from God's will. So I will remain in this hard place of surrender. Surrender is beautiful. Desperation is life-altering. God is good.

If you are standing at the edge of a cliff, waiting to take that jump into what big,crazy thing God is asking you to do - do it.

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God" - Corrie Ten Boom

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Reckless love

I have a confession. Sometimes it's hard for me to actually comprehend how much God loves me. It's hard for me to really truly understand why He chooses to love such an imperfect human. I don't deserve it.

And don't quote the bible to me please - I know what it says. Comprehending that deep in my soul is different than reading it.

Not long ago my husband and I attended a prayer conference with some members of our church. The worship there was the most amazing experience of my life. In the midst of this worship we sang a song that I had never heard before, called "Reckless Love." Music speaks to me often, but this time was so powerful - it finally clicked.

As I sang, I saw this exact moment in my mind:

This moment sums up so much. It was the beginning of a little girl accepting her daddy's love.

I've heard repeatedly that adoption is gospel in action. I always brushed it off, but now I see it.

Adopting V was reckless. That daddy in the picture - he didn't need another kid, he CHOSE another kid. He committed a reckless amount of money that he didn't have, to adopt a little girl he had never met, who lived halfway across the world. He chose a kid who was written off because of the severity of her disabilities. He left his other children home to travel thousands of miles to chose her. He chose to sit with her in a tiny, hot, cramped room as many hours as they would give him, to earn her trust. He chose to pick her up, sing to her, and love her with no expectations in return, and in this moment she received it for a few minutes. He wasn't naive - He knew she may never fully love him in return, he knew her needs were huge, he knew the cost would be great for many years to come. He knew she was a mess. And he loved her recklessly.

Like God loves us.
Recklessly.
Unconditionally.
With no expectations.

I look at my daughter and I see it now. I see how God loves us. As I clean poop off her, chase answers for her, and pour into her, I see it. I know she is a broken, imperfect human. I know she may not yet understand what "forever" or "I love you" means. And I would do it again. If the cost was higher, the miles were longer, and the rewards were less, I would still do it.

I love her recklessly, because she is my child. I love all of my children recklessly, because they are my children.

God loves us recklessly, because we are His children. It really is that simple.

I hope you take a minute to listen if you haven't heard this song. It has blessed my socks off.

Take a deep breath today and just receive God's love.

These lyrics are so true:

There's no shadow You won't light upMountain You won't climb upComing after me
There's no wall You won't kick downNo lie You won't tear downComing after me
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of GodOh, it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nineI couldn't earn itI don't deserve itStill You give yourself away
Oh, the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God




Saturday, January 20, 2018

An update on the current process

Finally, a long overdue update on where we are in this adoption...

We haven't updated a lot, because this part of the adoption is pretty boring, but very busy behind the scenes. The first step in any adoption is getting a home study done. This is where we hire a social worker to look into our background, finances, home, etc, and determine if we are prepared for another adoption. This process was daunting for our first two adoptions. The first time was, well, nerve wracking because it was the first. The second time was nerve wracking because it was the first international adoption, so very different. This time has been much easier, because it was very similar to the last time, so we knew what to expect. The home study takes awhile, but a lot of that time is waiting - for background checks, for the social worker to have time to come here, for her to write and edit it, etc. Our home study is currently complete and being reviewed by our agency, which is great! We expect to have it in our hands next week.

While finishing up the home study, it's time for the next step - dossier prep. This is where you gather the documents required by the country that you are going to. We have a big chunk of the dossier done. A couple of weeks ago we took 27 dossier documents to have them state certified, and sent them off to go with a traveling family to our children's country. A couple of the forms need to be filed now, but the rest will be translated and wait for the rest of the dossier to arrive so that our complete dossier can be filed and we can receive approval to meet our children. Filing is the last step, which can't be complete until our USCIS approval is in hand.

Next, we file for USCIS approval. We need pre-approval for our child to immigrate into the country. This approval is taking awhile right now, so it will cause some waiting. I'm guesstimating between 2 & 3 months, but I'll start obsessing over timelines and comparing with others, and get a better timeline pretty soon. ;-) This doesn't completely take care of immigration - we still have to file for final approval and a visa after the adoption is complete and before we can bring our children into the US. However, all of this work (& expense) ahead of time means that our children will become citizens as soon as we enter the US. We will file for this approval as soon as we have the home study in hand, so it will most likely be next week. Then we wait.

After our USCIS application is approved, we send it over the ocean, our dossier is filed, and we wait for travel approval. Right now it's taking about 3 months from submission to travel (a few weeks for approval and then travel a few weeks after that), but again, I'll have a more accurate guesstimate soon. The time lines for USCIS approval, dossier approval, and travel can also speed up or slow down depending on a lot of things, so we plan very loosely and pray a lot once the home study is done. And fundraise like crazy.

SO - my best guess is we'll be traveling in 6 months or so. We'll fundraise like crazy for the next few months, and try not to plan the big stuff at the end of the time period, just in case. We'll plan for our kids and home very loosely, and finalize things when we get our travel dates.

The biggest challenge is coming up with $30k in 6 months. We have taken care of most of the up front costs from savings, but now we HAVE TO fundraise the rest. We tapped everything there was to tap for the last 2 adoptions (especially the last international adoption) & to get this one started, and now we can't do it on our own ability. We have to fundraise. On the flip side of that - this time we know what we're doing, and our community is already beginning to step up to help us. We have a daunting number in front of us, but we also have the faith to know that God will provide. 

If you want to be part of helping us fundraise, please contact me. It can be as simple as an idea for a fundraiser, or as complicated as putting one together for us. It can be donating an item we can sell, giving time to a fundraiser, making a financial donation, or pooling money with friends to create a matching grant that can help us garner additional donations. It's all equal. Every dime, every hour of help, every prayer is appreciated. We don't consider any of it to be small - it's all love for our family and our newest little boys, and that is huge. It's all huge to us, and God sees it all. Thank you to those who have already come along beside us - we have already been moved by you. And thank you to those who still will. You are all our heroes.

P.S. Take a look at the pages across the top - the Cost page is updated and a Fundraisers page is in the process. They'll both be updated regularly as we go, so check back if you're curious what we're up to

P.P.S. Tax deductible donations can be made at https://reecesrainbow.org/123291/sponsoroden-2