Friday, November 25, 2011

happy black friday

Today we are hosting our own Black Friday sale.

Get the Sending Hugs tee for only $15!  Pass the word along and let's get closer to getting this chick home.

Thanks and have a great weekend!

Sending Hugs

Monday, November 21, 2011

orphan awareness month

When I was growing up, no one really talked about orphans and adoption.  I don't think it was out of fear as much as ignorance.  I don't know of anyone I went to school or church with that was adopted or in foster care or orphaned.  Though I never had a negative image of fatherless kids, it's hard to care for what you don't know much about.  In the midst of all that, God gave me a heart for adoption.  I'll be honest, it was probably spurred by lots of people thinking I was Chinese.  I still get that, too, believe it or not.

Anyway, I became interested in the idea of adopting an Asian baby at some point in my life.
Looking back, I wish we had known more about orphans.  I wish my church had walked us through the realities of James 1:27.  I wish I had known an adoptee.  Maybe I did, and I just never knew it.  I wish it would have been a more open topic.

Being at Auburn exposed me to a more international community, but orphan care was still never addressed by the church.  At least not that I recall, which means it wasn't addressed well.  It wasn't until about two years ago that I knew an orphan awareness month existed!  And boy are we a church of awareness!  Not only do we celebrate orphan education, pray for the orphans, and care for them through various ministries, but we are an adopting church.  I guess what I'm saying is we put our money where our mouth is (literally when you're looking at $18K!).  I have absolutely loved watching our new friends walk through the adoption journey.

Now that we are adopting, Orphan Awareness month has a deeper meaning.  Our orphan has a face and a name now!

November is Orphan Awareness month.  Kevin and I wanted to take November 6, which is Orphan Awareness Sunday, to do a little something for our orphan. Our church hosted a potato bar for lunch with the money going towards orphan care.  I was anxious to head this up.

I spent a couple hours at Sams' Club buying 150 lbs of potatoes, 7 lbs of butter, 10 lbs of sour cream, 15 lbs of cheese, and many other items.  People stared.  A lot.  Especially because I was alone with two buggies.  I can't lie, for a brief moment I thought How will I get all this in the car by myself?  Slightly overwhelming.

So with the help of lots of sweet CCC people, we set up the orphan potato bar, and I really think it was a hit.  Praise God!

We were also blessed this month to have a sweet friend do a baked goods fundraiser for us.

Maggie's family is adopting from Ethiopia, but she still wanted to help us out.  Tell me that is not precious! Her heart is sold out for doing good for the Kingdom of God. She has started her own ministry, Children of God, where she wants to do monthly fundraisers for people in ministry.  Seriously, it's convicting.  The most amazing part of this is that she and her family were praying the sale made $250 for  us.  God delivered that and then some!  I love watching His hand provide over and over again.  I was absolutely blown away that she had us in mind for her first step into ministry, and I'm praying that God will continue to use her obedient and willing heart to serve His purposes further.  Faith like a child...

On a slightly different note, Kevin and I are headed to downtown B'ham tomorrow to get our biometrics measured, whatever that means.  I honestly cannot wait to get back home and tell you all about it.  I've been telling people lately that if every parent had to go through all the paperwork and tests we've had to, we'd have less crime.  :)

While I'm thinking about it...   I know we aren't getting Gia for several more months, but I'd love for y'all to join us in praying for her transition once we do get her.  We know we've been matched, but she doesn't know that.  She doesn't know that her forever family is anxiously waiting and praying for her.  She's happy where she is right now.  She doesn't want to leave.   I definitely don't want to be the person that ruins that for her, but I know I will.  So, please pray that God will start preparing her heart for the huge change she will soon face.

Sending Hugs

Sunday, November 13, 2011

facebook yardsale

At the suggestion of my sweet friend Grace, I am holding a Facebook yardsale.  There are movies, exercise DVDs, clothes, and Playstation games.  Enjoy!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

10 month b'day

Happy 10 month Birthday, Gia!!

Today has been bittersweet.
Knowing that Gia is ours and today is a special day for her but not being able to share it is heart-breaking. I'm sure we will miss her 1 year birthday too. We knew this was part of the journey, but just because you know something in your head doesn't mean your heart is on board.

I say this all the time, and I'll say it again: I just don't know how people do something like this without faith in God.  During our years of infertility I clung for dear life to this verse...
"I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.  Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage.  Yes, wait on the Lord."
~Psalm 27:13-14

We have seen the goodness of the Lord through this adoption, and now we are in the waiting stage.  Everyone's #1 question (including mine!) is When do you go get her?   I always respond with We are in that 6-9 month waiting period.  What exactly are we waiting on?   The "right" answer is that we need EP quotas to reset and her papers to be processed.  The real answer is we are waiting on God.  His timing has NEVER been on target with mine.  I didn't get married when I thought I would, I didn't get a job when I thought I would, Kevin's job wasn't what we planned, our biological clocks didn't work like we thought, and so on...  I promise, we are living proof that God has bigger and better plans.

So, I rest in Psalm 27 through this adoption as well.  How can you live having no faith when everything around you seems to be spinning out of control?   I pray that God uses our journey and this blog to prick the hearts of some of the people reading.  I want our journey to be so much more than just "yeah, they got that cute little baby."  This is about GOD.   Yes, He loves adoption, but I need our story to tell the truth of His life, death, and resurrection too.  I need people to see that we absolutely cannot do this without Him.  I'm not speaking strictly in terms of finances, though we are relying on Him for that too, but about the emotional side that has no black and white answers.  This road is hard.  It's not fun.  There are glimmers of hope that we hold on to, and those glimmers are from the Lord.   I'm convinced He lets us see those moments so we know He is still with us.  More than that, He's in the dark and sad spots of this journey too.  How could we worship a God that wasn't involved in the bad stuff?  I need Him in those times more desperately!   God knew that today would be bittersweet.  In fact, He made it bittersweet for me.  He didn't do it to be mean and hateful, but to show me His peace and love.  He gave me this bittersweet day to remind me to rest in Him, not Gia.  HE is my salvation, not a baby.  HE is my priority, not a family.  I say those truths as a reminder, because Lord knows it's not easy to live out.

So, happy birthday Gia.  And praise be to GOD for blessing us with a precious child that He picked just for us that we haven't met yet.  I cannot wait to be her mommy.  Until then, I'll trust in God that He's making me the Mom that Gia needs.

Sending Hugs

Sunday, November 6, 2011

extra, extra, read all about it

I ran across this blog today after a friend posted a link.  Here is an excerpt.  This is information that I've been wanting to sit and compile for you for a while, but I've been lazy and/or overwhelmed with the task.  I'm grateful for this sweet blogger for posting it, and I'm excited to pass it along to you.  

If you are family or close friends with us, know that this information will directly effect you.  Please soak in every word. 

Supporting Families Before the Airport

Your friends are adopting. They’re in the middle of dossiers and home studies, and most of them are somewhere in the middle of Waiting Purgatory. Please let me explain something about WP: It sucks in every way. Oh sure, we try to make it sound better than it feels by using phrases like “We’re trusting in God’s plan” and “God is refining me” and “Sovereignty trumps my feelings” and crazy bidness like that. But we are crying and aching and getting angry and going bonkers when you’re not watching. It’s hard. It hurts. It feels like an eternity even though you can see that it is not. It is harder for us to see that, because many of us have pictures on our refrigerators of these beautiful darlings stuck in an orphanage somewhere while we’re bogged down in bureaucracy and delays. 

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things:

1. “God’s timing is perfect!” (Could also insert: “This is all God’s plan!” “God is in charge!”) As exactly true as this may be, when you say it to a waiting parent, we want to scratch your eyebrows off and make you eat them with a spoon. Any trite answer that minimizes the struggle is as welcomed as a sack of dirty diapers. You are voicing something we probably already believe while not acknowledging that we are hurting and that somewhere a child is going to bed without a mother again. Please never say this again. Thank you.

2. “Are you going to have your own kids?” (Also in this category: “You’ll probably get pregnant the minute your adoption clears!” “Since this is so hard, why don’t you just try to have your own kids?” “Well, at least you have your own kids.”) The subtle message here is: You can always have legitimate biological kids if this thing tanks. It places adoption in the Back-up Plan Category, where it does not belong for us. When we flew to Ethiopia with our first travel group from our agency, out of 8 couples, we were the only parents with biological kids. The other 7 couples chose adoption first. Several of them were on birth control. Adoption counts as real parenting, and if you believe stuff Jesus said, it might even be closer to the heart of God than regular old procreation. (Not to mention the couples that grieved through infertility already. So when you say, “Are you going to have your own kids?” to a woman who tried for eight years, then don’t be surprised if she pulls your beating heart out like Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.)

3. For those of you in Christian community, it is extremely frustrating to hear: “Don’t give up on God!” or “Don’t lose faith!” It implies that we are one nanosecond away from tossing our entire belief system in the compost pile because we are acting sad or discouraged. It’s condescending and misses the crux of our emotions. I can assure you, at no point in our story did we think about kicking Jesus to the curb, but we still get to cry tears and feel our feelings, folks. Jesus did. And I’m pretty sure he went to heaven when he died. 

4. We’re happy to field your questions about becoming a transracial family or adopting a child of another race, but please don’t use this moment to trot out your bigotry. (Cluelessness is a different thing, and we try to shrug that off. Like when someone asked about our Ethiopian kids, “Will they be black?” Aw, sweet little dum-dum.) The most hurtful thing we heard during our wait was from a black pastor who said, “Whatever you do, don’t change their last name to Hatmaker, because they are NOT Hatmakers. They’ll never be Hatmakers. They are African.” What the??? I wonder if he’d launch the same grenade if we adopted white kids from Russia? If you’d like to know what we’re learning about raising children of another race or ask respectful, legitimate questions, by all means, do so. We care about this and take it seriously, and we realize we will traverse racial landmines with our family. You don’t need to point out that we are adopting black kids and we are, in fact, white. We’ve actually already thought of that.

5. Saying nothing is the opposite bad. I realize with blogs like this one, you can get skittish on how to talk to a crazed adopting Mama without getting under her paper-thin skin or inadvertently offending her. I get it. (We try hard not to act so hypersensitive. Just imagine that we are paper-pregnant with similar hormones surging through our bodies making us cry at Subaru commercials just like the 7-month preggo sitting next to us. And look at all this weight we’ve gained. See?) But acting like we’re not adopting or struggling or waiting or hoping or grieving is not helpful either. If I was pregnant with a baby in my belly, and no one ever asked how I was feeling or how much longer or is his nursery ready or can we plan a shower, I would have to audition new friend candidates immediately. 

Here’s what we would love to hear Before the Airport:

1. Just kind, normal words of encouragement. Not the kind that assume we are one breath away from atheism. Not the kind that attempt to minimize the difficulties and tidy it all up with catchphrases. We don’t actually need for you to fix our wait. We just want you to be our friend and acknowledge that the process is hard and you care about us while we’re hurting. That is GOLD. I was once having lunch with my friend Lynde when AWAA called with more bad news about Ben’s case, and I laid my head down on the table in the middle of Galaxy CafĂ© and bawled. Having no idea what to do with such a hot mess, she just cried with me. Thank you for being perfect that day, Lynde. 

2. Your questions are welcomed! We don’t mind telling you about the court system in Ethiopia or the in-country requirements in Nicaragua or the rules of the foster system. We’re glad to talk about adoption, and we’re thankful you care. I assure you we didn’t enter adoption lightly, so sharing details of this HUGE PIECE OF OUR LIVES is cathartic. Plus, we want you to know more because we’re all secretly hoping you’ll adopt later. (This is not true.) (Yes it is.)

3. When you say you’re praying for us and our waiting children, and you actually really are, not only does that soothe our troubled souls, but according to Scripture, it activates the heavens. So pray on, dear friends. Pray on. That is always the right thing to say. And please actually do it. We need people to stand in the gap for us when we are too tired and discouraged to keep praying the same words another day. 

4. If you can, please become telepathic to determine which days we want to talk about adoption and which days we’d rather you just show up on our doorstep with fresh figs from the Farmer’s Market (thanks, Katie) or kidnap us away in the middle of the day to go see Bridesmaids. Sometimes we need you to make us laugh and remember what it feels like to be carefree for a few hours. If you’re not sure which day we’re having, just pre-buy movie tickets and show up with the figs, and when we answer the door, hold them all up and ask, “Would you like to talk for an hour uninterrupted about waiting for a court date?” We’ll respond to whichever one fits. 

Supporting Families After the Airport

You went to the airport. The baby came down the escalator to cheers and balloons. The long adoption journey is over and your friends are home with their new baby / toddler / twins / siblings / teenager. Everyone is happy. Maybe Fox News even came out and filmed the big moment and “your friend” babbled like an idiot and didn’t say one constructive word about adoption and also she looked really sweaty during her interview. (Really? That happened to me too. Weird.) 

How can you help? By not saying or doing these things: 

1. I mean this nicely, but don’t come over for awhile. Most of us are going to hole up in our homes with our little tribe and attempt to create a stable routine without a lot of moving parts. This is not because we hate you; it’s because we are trying to establish the concept of “home” with our newbies, and lots of strangers coming and going makes them super nervous and unsure, especially strangers who are talking crazy language to them and trying to touch their hair. 

2. Please do not touch, hug, kiss, or use physical affection with our kids for a few months. We absolutely know your intentions are good, but attachment is super tricky with abandoned kids, and they have had many caregivers, so when multiple adults (including extended family) continue to touch and hold them in their new environment, they become confused about who to bond with. This actually delays healthy attachment egregiously. It also teaches them that any adult or stranger can touch them without their permission, and believe me, many adoptive families are working HARD to undo the damage already done by this position. Thank you so much for respecting these physical boundaries. 

3. For the next few months, do not assume the transition is easy. For 95% of us, it so is not. And this isn’t because our family is dysfunctional or our kids are lemons, but because this phase is so very hard on everyone. I can’t tell you how difficult it was to constantly hear: “You must be so happy!” and “Is life just so awesome now that they’re here??” and “Your family seems just perfect now!” I wanted that to be true so deeply, but I had no idea how to tell you that our home was actually a Trauma Center. (I did this in a passive aggressive way by writing this blog, which was more like “An Open Letter to Everyone Who Knows Us and Keeps Asking Us How Happy We Are.”) Starting with the right posture with your friends – this is hard right now – will totally help you become a safe friend to confide in / break down in front of / draw strength from. 

4. Do not act shocked if we tell you how hard the early stages are. Do not assume adoption was a mistake. Do not worry we have ruined our lives. Do not talk behind our backs about how terribly we’re doing and how you’re worried that we are suicidal. Do not ask thinly veiled questions implying that we are obviously doing something very, very wrong. Do not say things like, “I was so afraid it was going to be like this” or “Our other friends didn’t seem to have these issues at all.” Just let us struggle. Be our friends in the mess of it. We’ll get better. 

6. Please do not disappear. If I thought the waiting stage was hard, it does not even hold the barest candle to what comes after the airport. Not. The. Barest. Candle. Never have I felt so isolated and petrified. Never have I been so overwhelmed and exhausted. We need you after the airport way more than we ever needed you before. I know you’re scared of us, what with our dirty hair and wild eyes and mystery children we’re keeping behind closed doors so they don’t freak out more than they already have, but please find ways to stick around. Call. Email. Check in. Post on our Facebook walls. Send us funny cards. Keep this behavior up for longer than six days. 

Here’s what we would love to hear or experience After the Airport:

1. Cook for your friends. Put together a meal calendar and recruit every person who even remotely cares about them. We didn’t cook dinners for one solid month, and folks, that may have single handedly saved my sanity. There simply are not words to describe how exhausting and overwhelming those first few weeks are, not to mention the lovely jetlag everyone came home with. And if your friends adopted domestically right up the street, this is all still true, minus the jetlag. 

2. If we have them, offer to take our biological kids for an adventure or sleepover. Please believe me: their lives just got WHACKED OUT, and they need a break, but their parents can’t give them one because they are 1.) cleaning up pee and poop all day, 2.) holding screaming children, 3.) spending all their time at doctors’ offices, and 4.) falling asleep in their clothes at 8:15pm. Plus, they are in lockdown mode with the recently adopted, trying to shield them from the trauma that is Walmart. 

3. Thank you for getting excited with us over our little victories. I realize it sounds like a very small deal when we tell you our kindergartener is now staying in the same room as the dog, but if you could’ve seen the epic level of freakoutedness this dog caused her for three weeks, you would understand that this is really something. When you encourage us over our incremental progress, it helps. You remind us that we ARE moving forward and these little moments are worth celebrating. If we come to you spazzing out, please remind us where we were a month ago. Force us to acknowledge their gains. Be a cheerleader for the healing process. 

4. Come over one night after our kids are asleep and sit with us on our porch. Let me tell you: we are all lonely in those early weeks. We are home, home, home, home, home. Good-bye, date nights. Good-bye, GNO’s. Good-bye, spontaneous anything. Good-bye, church. Good-bye, big public outings. Good-bye, community group. Good-bye, nightlife. So please bring some community to our doorstep. Bring friendship back into our lives. Bring adult conversation and laughter. And bring an expensive bottle of wine. 

5. If the shoe fits, tell adopting families how their story is affecting yours. If God has moved in you over the course of our adoption, whether before the airport or after, if you’ve made a change or a decision, if somewhere deep inside a fire was lit, tell us, because it is spiritual water on dry souls. There is nothing more encouraging than finding out God is using our families for greater kingdom work, beautiful things we would never know or see. We gather the holy moments in our hands every day, praying for eyes to see God’s presence, his purposes realized in our story. When you put more holy moments in our hands to meditate on, we are drawn deeper into the Jesus who led us here. 

Here’s one last thing: As you watch us struggle and celebrate and cry and flail, we also want you to know that adoption is beautiful, and a thousand times we’ve looked at each other and said, “What if we would’ve said no?” God invited us into something monumental and lovely, and we would’ve missed endless moments of glory had we walked away. We need you during these difficult months of waiting and transitioning, but we also hope you see that we serve a faithful God who heals and actually sets the lonely in families, just like He said He would. And even through the tears and tantrums (ours), we look at our children and marvel that God counted us worthy to raise them. We are humbled. We’ve been gifted with a very holy task, and when you help us rise to the occasion, you have an inheritance in their story; your name will be counted in their legacy. 

Sending Hugs

Thursday, November 3, 2011

last call

Don't forget to check out our Scentsy fundraiser.  Every single dime will go into Gia's "get me home now" fund.

We are thankful for those of you that have supported it.

Pass the word on!  I think it's ending in just a couple of days.

Doesn't this one make you think of Asian things?  Like Gia?  :)

I love snowmen so much.

Sending Hugs

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

business as usual

I promised an update on the business end, and I shall deliver.

A few weeks ago we filled out our i600a forms to mail off.  Those were sent to Dallas, TX and somehow made it to the Department of Homeland Security.  Is that in TX?  Probably, because they have all the guns, right?   No jokes, got it.  It never occurred to me to make copies of all those documents, but that would have been a very smart thing.  Lesson learned in case we adopt again.  Well, after that was mailed off we were matched with Gia (yay!) and then promptly sent a mess load of more documents to fill out.  Let me see if I can remember them all...

  • 864
  • 864a
  • tax documents (all, not just the top copy) from the past 3 years
  • travel form
  • affidavit for EP
  • statement of adoption
  • travel release
  • placement agreement
  • transmittal form
  • marriage license
  • birth certificates
  • my favorite BBQ recipe from my mother
  • burned cd of my last itunes purchase
  • essay on why Gilmore Girls is the best written show ever
Ok, those last three may be made up, but WOW it felt like we were sending anything and everything about our lives.  

It took us about a week to gather everything, notarize a lot of the papers, and get Kevin back in town to sign them.  And then I read it.  I scanned through the instructions on the Holt email again and I saw where it said the primary parent was the one who had to fill out the 864 forms.  Who is that exactly?  Well, the primary parent is the same one who filled out the aforementioned i600a.  You know, the one we sealed up weeks ago never to be looked at again.  That very one!  So a new set of anxieties set it.  

If I fill it out incorrectly, will it delay our travel?
If so, how long will we have to wait?
Can't I just call and ask the people who the primary parent is?
If they can't/won't tell us, should we just sent two copies filled out by each of us?

These, and many other, questions swam around my brain for about three days.  I finally sat on my bed and asked God to please give me a peace about who's name we put on the i600a so that I could get this other paperwork sent off.  And He did.  Hallelujah.  I took my peaceful God-given confidence and filled the 864 out as me being the primary parent.   As it turns out, that was exactly right, so we at least know those papers were correct.  
Side note:  I did call the TX people several times but they kept telling me I'd have to wait for a confirmation in the mail before they could tell me.  

After a stressful week of paperwork, we overnighted the papers ($79 by the way) Monday.  Korea will *prayerfully* be getting our papers next week, and we will officially be on the waiting list for an EP (emigration permit).  Only a certain amount of EPs are released each year.  The quota will reset in January, so we are praying that we will be in one of the first groups.  Once Gia's EP is approved we will travel to get her!  

Again, we are praying for April travel.  We have had many kind and educated people explain to us how unlikely this is.  We are fine with that.  I've said it several times in the past two weeks and I'll say it again: We serve a big God.  He can make it happen if it's in His will.  We are soberly aware that this is a long shot, but we simply don't care.  :)   God is going to do mighty things through our prayers, even if it's only to change our hearts and teach us patience.  

I want to take just a minute to brag on God.  We were matched with Gia on a Thursday.  Friday is when we received all the acceptance paperwork.  Part of that paperwork was an invoice for $18,500.  I immediately emailed Holt back and asked when the money was due.  Their response:  upon acceptance. What?!   We ended up agreeing on a monthly payment plan, but they were clear that they needed money asap in order to process the paperwork.  Saturday morning I woke up to a $500 check in the mail from some very sweet college friends of ours.  They had no idea how God-ordained their timing was.  And then, we went to visit some other friends who gave us a precious card with a $1000 gift.  Seriously!  Another God timing thing.  I don't think any of these people desire recognition, but they know who they are.  THANK YOU!!  Y'all have shown us how wonderful God is through His people.  We only hope to be able to do the same for others in the future.  Those couples are not the only generous people that have helped us, but they are the most recent.  We are completely grateful to every single one of you that have donated or bought shirts.  We love you and can't wait for Gia to meet you!

Sending Hugs