Monday, April 28, 2014

Life Lately

*Yesterday was Libby's second piano recital. Man oh man, how my girl has grown.

*This song has been making me happy all week. It has absolutely nothing to do with my life right now, but it's making me happy nonetheless. 

*IF: Equip. Have you gotten in on all the IF goodness? I am loving it. Seriously. 

*I leave for Rwanda in eighty days. I may or may not have already made my packing list. 

*Easter candy. It's gonna be the death of me. It's also gonna be the reason we can't afford to send Hollyn to college, seeing as how we will have spent that money on dental bills. Make it stop.

* Funny thing about adoption-- it takes lots of patience. I have almost zero patience. You can see why this would be problematic. 

*We are currently working on our Summer 2014 bucket list. Anything we need to be sure to add? I'm most excited about snowcones and a trip to the beach to visit our best friends who happen to live there. 

*I'm still coming out of a "The Fault in Our Stars" reading slump. Anyone have suggestions for a book to read next? 

Here's hoping your Monday has been kickin' it. 
We ate lunch at 10:30 this morning, so there's that. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Secret Church 2014: The Cross and Everyday Life

We look forward to Secret Church every year. 
In fact, I can honestly say it's one of the things we MOST look forward to every year. 

What is Secret Church? 
It's a chance to come together as Christians and worship and study in a way that mirrors the way our persecuted brothers and sisters worship and study around the world. 

This year, we joined together with approximately 60,000 Christians, representing all fifty states and over ten countries to study from 6pm-1:30am. Yes, that's seven and a half hours of church. And we LOVE it. We leave feeling full, refreshed, and equipped. I honestly can't think of a better way to spend Good Friday than studying and worshiping and soaking in Jesus. 

The past two years, we have participated in Secret Church at a local church via satellite.
 However, this year, we made the trip to Birmingham to participate live. 

In case you were wondering, I think the worship/learning/studying part of Secret Church was very comparable to the experience we've had via satellite.
 David Platt is just as animated on a screen as he is in real life. 

However, the worship--- it was worth going just for the worship. 
We live in a small town and attend a small church, and while I love our church, there is just something so powerful about worshiping with thousands of brothers and sisters in Christ. 

I was also so excited to see one of my favorite adoptive mamas
Love her heart, and just being around her makes me happy. 

As for Secret Church, it's hard to sum up almost eight hours of study and a 178 page workbook in one little blog post, but here are a few of my favorite takeaways:

*"May the Living God, who is the portion and rest of the saints, make these our carnal minds so spiritual, and our earthly hearts so heavenly, that loving him, and delighting in him, may be the work of our lives." -Richard Baxter

*Our children will not be what they cannot see. 

*"He is not nearly so impressed with our late nights and early mornings as he is with the peaceful trust that casts all anxieties on him and sleeps." -John Piper

*"Rest in the Lord. What? Where? When ? Why? How? a most divine precept, and requires much grace to carry it out. To hush the spirit, to be silent before the Lord, to wait in holy patience the time for clearing up the difficulties of Providence-- that is what every gracious heart should aim at." -Charles Spurgeon

*Social media, among other things, can kill contentment.

*"Our children will pursue what we applaud. They will emulate what we celebrate. If we celebrate scoring and winning, then our children will define success in these terms. But if we celebrate evidences of godly character in our children, we will help them define success [far] more biblically." -C.J. Mahaney

*"The true god of your heart is what your thoughts effortlessly go to when there is nothing else demanding your attention." -Tim Keller

If you're interested in learning more about Secret Church or would like to listen to any of the fourteen Secret Churches that have taken place, you can find all that you need here

Until next year, Secret Church. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

He Is Risen

He is Risen. 

Three little words with so much meaning.
Three little words that changed the world. 

Our Easter was spent taking it all in...all that He gave and did so that we may be free from sin. 

There were bunnies and chocolate and time spent with family, but mostly there was thanks for Jesus. 

Here's hoping you and your family had a day of rest and reflecting. 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Please Just Stop It

When we started our adoption journey, I wasn't looking for a cause to stand behind. I wasn't on a hunt for a passion or a calling. I wasn't out there searching for the thing that I would come to represent. Truth be told, there are all kinds of causes we can stand behind. Abortion, animals and all that that entails (fostering, spaying, controlling, animal rights, etc.), education, the military, homosexuality-- the list goes on and on. God calls us to all sorts of different things thankfully, because if we were all called to fight the same fight, very little would get done.

When we said yes to God's call to adopt, it wasn't because we were trying to be do-gooders or to solve some sort of problem or even because we wanted to grow our family-- we were simply being obedient to God's call to grow our family via adoption. Does this mean we aren't excited? Absolutely not. Totally excited. Does this mean we don't want another child? Again, no, We can't WAIT to have our girl home!

But, here lately I feel like my life has been one big ole' soapbox after another. What once was not my cause is now hitting very close to home. All of the misinformation floating around out there about adoption? It affects my family. Every time someone tells me an adoption gone wrong story (way worse than a scary pregnancy story, btw), it sends my heart into panic mode and puts a watermelon sized knot in my stomach. It's funny how we don't always notice people's words or the language they are using until it directly affects us.

Today, I want to talk specifically about one question we have been asked consistently throughout our adoption.

Are you ready for it? Any guesses which question I'm talking about?

Ok, here you go:

Oh, so you're adopting. Does that mean you can't have more kids of your own? 

There are so many reasons why I am not a fan of this question.

While I realize many people simply don't think before speaking and are just innocently asking a question, this question is not my favorite.

First, this question implies that I want to talk to you about my body and whether or not I can get pregnant again. It implies that something is unnatural about adoption. Just to get this out of the way-- yes. As far as we know we could get pregnant again... easily. We have never actually 'tried' to get pregnant, and yet there are two cute little girls living in our house, both of whom grew in my belly. So even though this question doesn't hurt me in terms of infertility, I have LOTS of friends whom this would hurt deeply. Point being, unless someone approaches you wanting to talk about the status of her reproductive organs, I say don't go there. It's potentially very hurtful and really not okay.

Second, this question implies that I would ONLY want to adopt if I weren't able to have a baby growing in my belly. This question cuts me to the core. My daughter is NOT a second option. She's not a back-up plan or a result of a failed attempt to have my 'own' baby. In fact, she IS my OWN baby. I can honestly say that I feel more bonded with Emily having not met her yet than I did when my girls were growing in my belly, and I had yet to meet them. I've seen her face. I've heard stories about her personality. I know that she likes to play with trucks just as much as she likes to play with baby dolls. I know that is fascinated by a pair of sunglasses. I've watched the three videos I have of her on my phone so many times that I can quote every sound and movement. Do I KNOW her? No. Do I LOVE her? Absolutely. And when you ask me if I'm adopting because I can't get pregnant, it offends me. It hurts me. It lessons what we are trying to do. We aren't following God's call to adopt simply because our own plans fell through. We are adopting BY CHOICE because we believe in God's call to take care of His children.

Are there a lot of families out there who only became drawn to adoption as a result of infertility? Absolutely. Does that in any way lessen their families or love for their kiddos? Not a chance. God chooses to bring families together in many different ways and under many different circumstances.

What I'm saying is this: please don't assume that the only reason people adopt is because they are unable to get pregnant. And if you do assume that, please don't tell me about it, specifically in front of my children who have ears and are very intuitive, as most all little people are.

God calls us all to different things. And you know what? THAT IS OKAY. It's HIS plan; how could it NOT be okay? Just because what God calls someone else to do may fall outside of your comfort zone doesn't mean it isn't someone else's heart's greatest desire. I long for Emily in a way I have never longed for a child before. I believe this is one of the many ways He is confirming our call to adopt. She is so much more than the back-up plan this question implies.

Moral of the story: Choose your words carefully. And I need to eat more M&M's. Words hurt less when padded with M&M's.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Honesty and Motherhood are My Favorite Combination {a giveaway}

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: being a mom is friggin' hard work. 

And I'm a firm believer in the notion that the mom of the 1950's, with her perfect everything,
 simply doesn't exist. 
However, this precedent she seems to have set has left mothers everywhere crying and feeling as though they simply aren't enough. And I don't know about you, but I'm just not that okay with that. 

Instead, I prefer for us just to be honest about how hard this job is and support each other in the trenches, while we are covered in spit up, surrounded by dirty clothes, 
and in desperate need of....oh, I dunno...a shower. 

And really the only thing I love more than honest conversations about motherhood is honest memoirs about motherhood. 

Friends, I'd like to introduce you to my real life friend, Robin O'Bryant. 

When I tell you that Robin is seriously one of the funniest people I've ever met, what I really mean is, I almost wet my pants and sprayed Diet Coke out of my nose in her kitchen while sharing birthing stories one night while we gorged ourselves on the most divine shrimp dip ever created. 

She's real and honest and real honest. 
And she literally makes me laugh out loud. 

Oh, and did I mention she's an author? 

Not only that, but she's a cool author. 
(Note: I totally swiped this picture from her facebook page because how cool it would it be to purchase this book and find it was signed by the author. And how cool is the author who does this?!? Love it. Please also feel free to notice that sister friend is wearing Noonday. I spy with my little eye at least two pieces in this picture. The girl has good taste AND can write.)

And oh, her book. 
With memoirs with titles like 'Boob Sweat' and 'Awkward Naked Moments', how could you not love it? 

She loves Jesus, loves her husband, and loves her little girls to the moon and back. 

And I found her book to inspiring, relatable, and hilarious....all at the same time. 

And, because we need just one more reason why Robin is awesome, she'd like to give a copy of her book to one of you. Oh, and she'll sign it for you. Make that two more reasons why she's awesome. 

All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post. 
Perhaps tell me about one of your own funny moments as a mom. 
Or one lie you tell yourself in terms of motherhood (my personal favorite is that just because I don't eat broccoli is no excuse for me not to force my kids to eat it. That's fair, right?). 
Or just tell me why you'd like to read Robin's book.
I'll choose a winner on FRIDAY, so hop to it. 

And if you'd like to get to know Robin a little better, check out her website or her oh so funny blog.  

And just for the record, the thoughts and opinions presented here are all my own. Robin did not have to pay me to honestly say that she's all kinds of funny and talented. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Where Does All the Money Go? {an adoption financial breakdown}

This picture was taken the day we found out Hollyn was a little girl baby and not a little boy baby. 
First, please notice how little Libby looks in this picture. 
Second, please do not comment on the fact that she is almost the exact age in this picture as Hollyn is now. Apparently our family grows by one child every five years. 

There are many ways that being pregnant and adoption are different, but the one that I'm noticing every single day here lately is the financial aspect of adoption. 

It's scary and overwhelming.
It's also the reason we initially said no to adoption before we got pregnant with Hollyn-- how in the world were we supposed to pay $30,000 for an adoption on a teacher's salary? 

While we're still living on that awesome teacher's salary, we also now realize that God is so much bigger than many many zeros.
 He loves our girl. 
He loves adoption. 
He places children in families. 
And isn't He ultimately in charge of our finances all the time any way? 
Yes, yes He is. 

But the two most common questions I get asked about our adoption are:

1. When is she coming home? 

Do you know the answer to this one? If so, PLEASE tell me. I'd love to know. 

2. How much does it cost to adopt internationally? 

First, let me say that every agency asks for payments in different amounts at different points throughout the adoption process, but they all equal roughly the same amount of money. 
Second, the last expense-- travel-- that totally depends on what time of year we are required to travel. Everything is more expensive near Christmas. 

Point being, the actual total? 
It's an estimate. 
Also, other factors such as time play into the final costs as well. 
If our adoption takes longer than expected (which is quite likely with any international adoption), then we will have to get our Home Study, fingerprints, etc. renewed-- each to the tune of a renewal fee. 

Again, the total is an estimate, but I hope this post will give you an overall idea of the financial commitment of an adoption. 

***NOTE: You may have noticed that we have not mentioned what agency we are using. This is strictly to best protect our adoption and our daughter. When all is said and done and she is home, I will be so happy to tell you about our agency. Also, if you're considering adopting from the DRC and would like more info. on our agency, please email me.*** 

Home Study (fingerprints, documents, notarization, etc.): $2000 (approximately; varies by state) (Paid July 2013)
Agency Application Fee: $500 (Paid January 2014)
Agency Management Fee #1: $2800 (Paid January 2014)
Child Medical Fee: $350 (Paid January 2014)
Referral fee: $7500 (Paid January 2014)
Referral fee #2 (due when we pass court which will hopefully be within the next six months): $7500
Agency Management Fee #2: $2800 (Paid March 2014)
Child Care Fee: $900 for every six months of care (Paid January 2014  for the first six months of care. Due again in July.)
Home Study Review Fee: $350 (Paid January 2014)
Child DRC Passport Fee: $350
Post Placement Coordination/Translation Fee: $800
i600a Form- $900 (approximately) 
i600 Form- $900 (approximately)

This alone, is over $20,000. 
Throw in fingerprinting and all the forms we have to acquire and then have notarized and then travel costs, and you're looking at approximately $30-35,000. 


That number seems just crazy to me still. 
It's hard to hear it, but not for the reason you may think. 
And this number seems to be pretty much across the board for every country--- this is not a Congo thing or an Africa thing; it's an international adoption thing. 

Yes, it overwhelms me because we will actually have to have that money and then pay that money-- crazy. 

But, it's even crazier to think that it costs that much to give a child what every child deserves-- a family. 

We used to think this number was absolutely insane. 
Okay, we still kinda think it's pretty insane. 
But, I will say that the deeper we get into the adoption process, the more the expenses make sense. 
Although I still think there are ways the overall process of adoption could be improved (couldn't pretty much everything be improved?), I respect the process and all the zeroes. 

You may be wondering just why I'm sharing about our finances and whatnot. 

There are two reasons I'm sharing this: 

1. I want people to have a better understanding of what it takes to complete an adoption. We almost missed out on what God has in store for us because we were scared by some big bad zeroes. If I could go back in time five years ago when we first started thinking about praying about adoption, I'd laugh at how unfaithful I was being, look myself in the eye, and tell myself to let go and LET GOD. 

2. I want people to see all the ways God is working to bring our daughter HOME to us. 

The myth that you have to be rich to adopt is just that: a myth. 

"With God, all things are possible." 
-Matthew 19:26

We are currently working to raise the funds we will need once we pass court. 
While I'm praying we pass in way less than the six months we're expecting to devote to this process, I'm not sure what we'll do if we pass tomorrow. 
We don't have the $7000. 
Does this stress me out? 
Yes, it does. 
But more than I'm stressed about it, I'm faithful. 
God will provide. 
He will give us what we need to bring our daughter home to us. 

If you'd like to help in any way, we're currently running our MAKE YOUR MARK fundraiser. 

You'll find the Paypal button on our sidebar if you feel led to give. 
We truly truly truly appreciate every single dollar that is donated. 

If you have any further questions about international adoption or fundraising or anything else you think I might can help with, don't hesitate to email me.