Friday, August 26, 2011

Meeting Expectations

Ever feel like you get NOTHING done? Ever feel like the house and yard have declared war against you? Do you hear comments from others like "When are you going to finish______?" It's so easy, way to easy to look around my house and my yard and see TONS of unfinished projects. I have created actual lists, and mental lists of things that I think need to be done. 

It's discouraging.... some days my house looks like this...

no should see my toilets!

And then there are the days the kids, oh the kids.... they look like this...

mud puddles, they migrate to mud puddles!

But why is it I find myself focusing so much on what doesn't get done, what I don't have, and what I don't do? I find myself so quick to compare myself to what other people do or have. I find I wish I worked, had extra money like others, went out to fancy dinners or concerts, went on cruises with Kenney, had nicer cars, a bigger, nicer and newer house, and the list goes on...

We have made the choice to adopt (and spend lots of money doing so) and to pay down debt, in doing so the lifestyle we live is drastically different than most in America. It's hard to be different sometimes, it's hard when most others don't "get it." 

Simply put, God wants me to be content RIGHT WHERE I AM! (Philippians 4:11-12; Hebrews 13:5)

con-tent (kuhn-tent) adjective  1. satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else

Secondly, God wants me to live for HIS glory, NOT mine. (Galatians 2:20; Romans 8:4-8)

A new house, new car, expensive vacations, nice restaurants, movies, concerts, clean perfect house, clean perfect yard; they are not requirements for my life to glorify Christ.  Mostly (note I said mostly) those things allow me to put the focus on me and my life, not giving room for glorifying Christ and showing what He has done for me.

My prayer, Lord, is to be content. I need to allow you to work in my life. Help me take the focus off of me. Help me be content with ALL that you have done and given me. Teach me what is important in life. Teach me to love You above all else. Teach me to prioritize my life based on Your priorities not my own. Teach me to meet Your expectations not my own.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Adoption and Money - part 4

Finally, I finally have my thoughts together regarding adoption and money, and now I can be done! Whew! I am so ready to write about things like Noah falling flat on his face and nearly sending us to an emergency dentist.  It is only by the grace of God we haven't ended up in an emergency room yet!

Yep, I took a picture.  If Noah has kids of his own, and he calls to tell me how they nearly give him heart-attacks every single day, and then I tell him he did the same for me, and then he proceeds to tell me "he wasn't that bad"... (which I am sure he will) I will just pull out the pictures. Case closed.

I digress. 

"I can't adopt because I can't afford to" or, "I don't think you should adopt because you can't afford to...."

I really only have one thought on this subject, and I just want to put it out there. Again, I am stealing from John Piper...

We adopt a child not for our own glory but for God’s glory.
God adopted us for the praise of the glory of his grace. Therefore we adopt for the praise of the glory of his grace. The questions you ask as you ponder adopting a child who needs a family are not first questions of feasibility or affordability. The questions you ask first are: Is my heart fixed on glorifying the grace of God? Is my aim in this to make the grace of God look glorious? Is Christ the center and goal of this decision? Are all the factors being weighed in relation to Christ? We adopt a child not for our own glory but for the glory of God’s grace.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Adoption and Money - part 3

Why should I support someone who is adopting?

It's a Wednesday evening and I am home alone. That. Never. Happens.  I so should be doing something else, but instead I am writing my thoughts! Yep, I am crazy!

The subject of "why we should support adoption" is a sticky one.  There are a lot of thoughts Kenney and I have on this, so it's been really hard to compile my thoughts into one. I think I'll follow the K.I.S.S method here...I will try to keep it simple.
If you haven't read Why Does Adoption Cost So Much? then you need to. Before you can really understand the scope of this, you have to understand the Gospel of Adoption. The very heart of the gospel is God's passion to not only redeem sinners, but to adopt them as His sons and daughters. (Ephesians 1: 4-5) Assuming we are on the same page then, I'll continue.

Point 1:  As Christians we should support our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Acts 4:32-35 All the believers were united in heart and mind. And they felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. The apostles testified powerfully to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great blessing was upon them all. There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

As believers in Christ, we share everything we have with each other.

Point 2: I should be passionate about what God is passionate about.

Verse after verse, God shows His compassion for the fatherless and His love for the orphan.

Psalm 68:6  ... He sets the lonely in families...
Exodus 22:22 ... you must not exploit a widow or an orphan...
Deuteronomy 10:18 ... He ensures that orphans and widows receive justice...
Psalm 10:14 ... You defend the orphans...
Psalm 82:3 ...give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute...
Psalm 146:9 ... He cares for orphans and widows...
Isiah 1:17 ... defend the cause of orphans...
James 1:27 ...pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for the orphans...

There are more verses, but I think you get the point.  GOD CARES about orphans.  SO WE SHOULD CARE about orphans.

How we choose to "care" is at our discretion.  It could mean adoption, or financially supporting women's programs, orphanages, or an adopting couple.  It could be volunteering our time for, fostering, donating, and much more. 

Everyone has things they fight for, they are passionate about, or that they support, but I think the real point is adoption is not just something I am passionate about, but God is.

Point 3 :  Asking for help is hard for me.

Okay, so that has nothing to do with supporting adoption, but it does have to do with me, and this is my blog! I remember when I was in grade school and we had Jump Rope For Heart. We had to have sponsors to support us, and I nearly had a panic attack going to people to ask them to support me to jump rope for the American Heart Association.  It was so hard for me, that I actually made my little sister (yes, I am the oldest, and we can do that) go door to door for me, selling, because I didn't want to do it.  In the eighth grade to earn money to go to Washington D.C. we had to sell candy bars. I am pretty sure I spent nearly all of my babysitting money on the chocolate just so I wouldn't have to ask people to buy a candy bar. Don't ask what I did with the chocolate...

Obviously there are some issues of humility and pride going on here in me, but know that to become vulnerable, to ask for help, to be needy and put ourselves out there is hard.  Kenney and I have made sacrifices to be able to adopt these babies.  We've cancelled our cable. We drive crappy paid for cars. My grocery budget is 250 dollars a month. I cut the families hair. There are barely any dinners out or concerts or movies.  The point is NOT to make ourselves martyrs, but to point out that even with our own sacrifices we will still need the help of our friends, family, co-workers and most importantly our brothers and sisters in Christ.

To tell you that we don't have it all together, to tell you we don't have a designer home or car, to tell you we can't afford to do certain things has been and is quite the humbling experience.  To tell you parenting our three kids isn't easy, to tell you some days I have no idea how I am going to parent two more, to tell you our life isn't perfect is humbling.

Praise God that He is glorified in our humility. Praise God that through our weaknesses we can see God's glory!

James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and He shall lift you up.

I stand in awe to know that God is graciously involved in our adoptions.  He has done it himself.  He knows what it costs.  And he stands ready to support us all the way to the end!

Friday, August 5, 2011

One Hundred Good Wishes Fundraising

I wanted to put a couple of details regarding our "100 Good Wishes" Fundraiser out there.

To welcome and celebrate a new life, there is a tradition in the northern part of China to make a Bai Jia Bei, or 100 Good Wishes Quilt.  Which by the way is where our little girl Isabelle is from. It is a custom to invite friends and family to contribute a patch of cloth with a wish for the baby. Part of the patch of cloth goes into the quilt for the baby, and the other part of the cloth can go into a creative memory notebook with the wish for the child. The quilt contains the luck, energy, and good wishes from all the families and friends who contributed a piece of fabric. The quilt is then passed down from generation to generation.

The idea of this fundraiser is quite similar.  Our friends and family can click on a square of our "100 Good Wishes Quilt.  From that square, a picture of yourself or any photo can be uploaded, as well as a good wish or prayer to our newest babies.  Once the squares are all filled, we will be able to get a large print out of all the pictures and good wishes that we can then frame for our children. 

We thought this was a simple and easy fundraising idea.  Both Tommy and Audrey have baby pictures, and special pregnancy pictures that neither of these children will have.  This is an opportunity for us to show our children that no matter the "birth" situation they are loved by many!!  It will be a special keepsake for them forever!

For us, anyone who clicks on the square can donate any dollar amount to help raise money to fund these adoptions.  We are specifically looking to raise the orphanage fee (which is $5,000.)  You can choose to donate as little as a dollar or whatever amount you'd like.  You can also keep the donation private if you choose.  The other nice thing with this fundraiser is payment is through a credit/debit or check.  Which most fundraising opportunities are cash only.

I would really like to encourage our closet friends and family especially, to just click on a square, upload a picture, give a good wish, and donate a dollar (I'd say donate nothing, but the website has to have a dollar amount.)

We would really love to fill all the squares and let our children know they were loved and prayed for even before they came into our lives.  It would be very special to us to have our friends and families support, even if there is no monetary contribution, so please, this fundraiser to us, isn't about fundraising really, but about showing our children the love that we have for them!  All you have to do is click on the 100 Good Wishes icon on the top left side of the blog page, the rest is pretty simple!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Adoption and Money - part 2

Is adoption expensive? YES. When we first decided to adopt and we looked at the costs, the real costs (not just what google said, but what actual agencies said) we had a little bit of that sick feeling. The three different agencies we contacted to adopt from Russia were telling us around 40-50K. China this time for our two kids probably around the 45-50K range. Most all international adoptions are going to cost anywhere from 25-50K. Do some tell you less, sure. These costs vary greatly depending on the country and the agency, however the low end of the range (25K) is still pretty pricey!

But for the purpose of this series, the exact amount is not important. Just the fact that (outside of the domestic world of adoption, which I can tell you I know not much about at all) adopting is expensive is what matters.

There is a bit of a myth in the international circle that says everyone is trying to make money from your adoptions. Honestly though, even if it is true, I just don't see it.

Following is a bit of a breakdown of the costs. The information is gathered from our personal experience, as well as multiple adoption agencies. I know there are probably others who have spent much much more, or much much less, but again, this is just a generalization to give people an idea.

1.  Homestudy Fee - $1,500-$4,000  The homestudy is the huge report an agency and or social worker completes. This study is what determines your suitability to adopt and parent a child. In this study, fingerprinting through child abuse registries have to be done, at both the state and federal levels usually, someone has to physically meet with you and your family 1-4 times. An actual agency has to be run - a building to maintain, employees to pay, Internet or yellow page information, pay gas and electric etc etc....

2.  Your Agency Contract Costs - $5,000 - $15,000  Your agency is who does EVERYTHING, they prepare the paperwork, they have the relationships internationally, they have to translate every single piece of paper, they again have buildings to operate, employees to pay, and usually have offices both in the states, and abroad. They (ours does) have escorts while you are traveling, interpreters, arranged transportation to pay for etc etc

3.  United States Dept of Homeland Security - $670 + $80 for each additional adult member in your house. This is the united states saying we can bring home a child, and make them a US citizen. Again, people to go over your paperwork, make sure you are suitable parents, make sure you are bringing kids home for the right reasons (hey, there are a lot of terrible things that go on involving child trafficking, sex slaves, etc)

4.  The Adoption Donation - $5,000 - $25,000 - for Russia ours was $21,000 and for China it will be $5100 for each child. This is the money that goes directly to the orphanage your child came from. In America we have Welfare, Medicare, Medicaid etc. Most of these countries do not. The money to take care of these children and operate an orphanage comes directly (mostly) through independent funding. Every time someone adopts that money goes for food, clothes, medicine, doctors, staff etc etc etc

5.  Legal Fees -   $1600 - $3000 Obviously to adopt a child, things need to happen on a legal level. Lawyers, court, all the legal documents involved.

6.  International Airfare $1000- $2000 per adult per flight-  Need I say more?  Russia was four trips for two adults (nearly $16,000 total) China will be one trip probably around $4000 total. Don't forget the flight for the kids home too.

7.  International Travel $2000 - $5000 per person depending on length of stay. This would be your food, your hotel, your in country travel, etc. Anyone ever taken 2-3 weeks of an International Vacation???

And there you have it!!! No one is really getting rich here. Are there things that could make adoption cheaper? Sure, like less travel, less time possibly, but the reality is, it is what it is! 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Adoption and Money - part 1

Yep, sorry for the boring title!

The topic of adoption and money go hand in hand, just like tomatoes and basil (it's summer people, I'm in the garden, what did you expect?)

There is so much information and so many questions regarding this topic. I'd like to take this information and put it into a four part series. 

Why does Adoption cost so much? 

What does it really cost to adopt and why?

Why should I support someone who is adopting?

I can't adopt because I can't afford to.

Why does Adoption cost so much? Most people would read this and think I was going to detail out all the work involved in adoptions like the agency costs, travel and international fees. Don't worry, that is for the next post! 

There is an aspect to the high cost involved in adoptions that both Kenney and I did not really look at until recently. It's probably one of the most overlooked aspects, but most important.The cost of OUR adoption into God's family.

John Piper has a wonderful sermon that lays out eight similarities to God adopting us, and us adopting children. I've copied one reason below, however if you'd like to read the entire sermon you can click here. (I would encourage you to read this it is AWESOME!)

1. Adoption was (for God) and is (for us) costly.

When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:4-5)
To redeem means to obtain or to set free by paying a price. What was the price that God paid for our liberation and adoption? In the previous chapter, we heard the answer: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree’” (Galatians 3:13).
It cost God the price of his Son’s life.
There are huge costs in adopting children. Some are financial; some are emotional. There are costs in time and stress for the rest of your life. You never stop being a parent till you die. And the stresses of caring about adult children can be as great, or greater, than the stresses of caring for young children. There is something very deep and right about embracing this cost for the life of a child!
Few things bring me more satisfaction than seeing a culture of adoption flourish at Bethlehem (our church). It means that our people are looking to their heavenly Father for their joy rather than rejecting the stress and cost of children in order to maximize their freedom and comforts.  Praise God for people ready to embrace the suffering—known and unknown. God’s cost to adopt us was infinitely greater than any cost we will endure in adopting and raising children.