Saturday, February 25, 2017

"I could never do that."

In the Summer of 2013, we had just moved to Alabama, and we were in the middle of updating our home study for Ethiopia, when through an interesting series of events, we felt like God was leading us to move our adoption process to Haiti.  In a lot of ways, it made perfect sense.  Because of some changes in the Ethiopia process, our agency had been encouraging families to consider other countries and options for a while.  Our hearts had been with Haiti since the earthquake in 2010.  Neal had traveled to Haiti in 2012 on a mission trip, and we (and a group of friends) had partnered with Help One Now to build two houses in Haiti in 2012 and, again, in 2013.  So, when we found out that Haiti was now an option for us, it made sense that we at least consider it.

So, we prayed about it over the course of several days, and we scheduled a phone call with the person who oversees Haiti adoptions at our agency.  I still remember that phone call.  We had dropped our three children off at Awana, and we were sitting in the car outside one of our favorite restaurants.  As we talked with the Haiti coordinator, she explained that we would be a pilot family for our agency's Haiti program, if we were accepted, because Haiti's process had recently changed.  And, since we would be one of the first families to go through the "new" process, there was a lot of uncertainty about the timeline for adoptions from Haiti.  She laid out the timeline as best she could, which was hard for her, and for us, not having any real reference point at that time.  But, the piece of the timeline that stuck in my mind was when she told us that we would be matched with a child, and from that point, that it could be 1-2 years until we could bring him home.  My heart just sank.

I remember hanging up the phone with her, and we both just looked like, "Wow.  That was a lot to process."  And, as we began to talk through the call, I remember that we both felt that the Haiti part just felt RIGHT.  And, there came a point in our conversation when we talked about the long amount of time we would need to wait after a referral to bring our child home.  And, I remember finally looking at him and saying out loud, "I just don't think I can do that."  And, I will never forget when he said, "Well.  I think I can.  So, it's up to you."  And, it just sat right there.  It's up to you.

Several people have asked me along the way if Neal feels the same way about adoption as I do.  And, we will both tell you that the idea of adoption started with me.  God spoke very clearly to me about it first.  And, when I talked to Neal about it in the early stages, he did not feel the same.  And, honestly, I was really okay with that.  But, I asked him to pray about it and think about it.  And, he did.  And, every now and then, it would come up again.  And, I just always knew that if God was calling me, He would call Neal, too.  And, about 3-4 months later, that's exactly what happened.  Since then, every step we have made in this process has been one we made together.  I really don't think you can do it any other way.  If one of us was dragging the other along, it just wouldn't work.  It is much too hard of a process for that.

So, when he said that it was up to me, I knew there was no pressure.  He wasn't trying to manipulate me or impress his desires on me.  He was just telling me where he was at, and I was telling him where I was at.  But, we needed to make a decision one way or the other.  And, I needed to pray about it.  We will both tell you that God is the reason we decided to adopt.  So, I knew that He was the One whose opinion mattered the most.  I really felt like I knew that the answer was Haiti.  But, we had just had our hearts ripped out not even a year before when we lost a referral, and I was still grieving that loss.  I had learned the hard way that we were going to get attached to this child, once we had a referral.  And, I just couldn't fathom waiting so long to get him home.  It honestly sounded like a deal-breaker to me.

So, I went to God and told Him that I didn't think I could do it.  And, there have been very few times in my life where I felt like I prayed, and God IMMEDIATELY responded.  But, that day, He did.  Immediately, I felt the Holy Spirit say, "So, is this about you?  Or, is this about orphans?"  And, I knew that I had my answer.  It didn't matter that I didn't think I could do this.  All that mattered is that I was supposed to do this.

So, we switched our process to Haiti.  What I had no way of knowing then was that the sweet little boy who our family is now matched with was just a few months old and already living in an orphanage.  And, for the last few months, since I have seen his name matched with ours, and seen his face, and since we have held him in our arms, I have been replaying this conversation over and over again in my head. I cannot tell you the number of times that people have heard our story, listened to how long our wait has been, or heard that we have met him and had to leave him, and they have said, "I could never do that." And, honestly, I cannot describe to you the feeling that comes over me when I hear that.  Because that was almost MY answer, too. 

It is heartbreaking to me because I feel like somehow I feel like I have given people the impression that I am the one doing this.  And, I am not.  Or, that I have some superhuman strength to withstand hard things.  And, I do not.  Or, that somehow that walking away from a little boy who is meant to be my son was somehow easier for me than it would have been for them.  It was not.

One of the things that most frightens me about our adoption process is that people will see US and not God.  There is no way in the world that we would be IN the adoption process had it not been for God.  There is no way that we would have STAYED in the adoption process had it not been for God.  And, there is no way that we would be sitting in another country right now, separated from a preschool-aged boy we love, if it weren't for God.  I hope that we never send the message that this is US.

The other thing that frightens me is that someone else might believe the lie of "I could never do that."  It frightens me to think that if I had believed that lie that we would have missed out on this little boy who I now cannot imagine life without.  But, it also frightens me to think of what YOU might be missing out on if you choose to make decisions based on what you think you can and cannot do. It terrifies me to think that children may sit in orphanages all over the world because people think they cannot do this.  The bottom line is this: When we make decisions based on what WE can do, then WE get the glory.  When we choose to do the things that are beyond us, then HE gets the glory.  That's actually the plan.

A few days ago, I was talking with a friend who has heard our whole story, and is still (miraculously) pursuing adoption. And, she said, "I just have to ask you.  Knowing everything you know now, as hard as your journey has been, would you do it all over again?"  And, I told her what I am telling you now.  The answer is "Yes."  Are there parts that I wish I could have omitted?  Are there times I wish it hadn't taken 6+ years?  Do I sometimes wish ours had been the story of a crazy fast process?  Yes.  Yes.  And, yes.  But, that's not our story.  That's not our path.  And, somehow, it all somehow has led us to the boy we think was always meant to be our son.

So, for WEEKS this post has been churning in my head.  And, this is what I hope you hear from me.  Don't settle for only doing the things in life that you are sure you can do.  If God is calling you to step out and do something that is beyond what you think you can do, trust Him and take that step.  Because that is what His callings look like.  They require faith.  They require trust.  They will require more of you than you have to give. Please don't say no because it looks like more than your heart can handle. And, please don't ever for a second think we have done any of this on our own. 

Monday, September 5, 2016

Shoe Fundraiser and Why We Wait

I have not written a blog update in over two years.  I have written a few in my mind, but none of them ever even made it to a keyboard.  We have done a fair amount of paperwork these past two years, but, more than anything, we have WAITED.  I remember the first year that we were in the adoption process we met a couple who told us that they had waited over 6 years to bring their daughter home, and I remember thinking, "Wow.  I don't think I could EVER do that!" :) But, more about waiting in a minute...

This Summer, we did a shoe fundraiser for our adoption process.  We worked with a company called Funds2Orgs, and we had a wonderful experience with them.  We were unbelievably blessed by so many people (lots we knew, and some we didn't!) who donated shoes.  People drove them to our house, mailed them to us, met us in other cities, and in restaurants, and at the farmer's market.  Our friends and family shared about our fundraiser on Facebook and through text messages.  They collected from their churches, their workplaces, and their neighborhoods.  It was amazing.  And, whether you donated one pair of shoes or a carload, we are so very grateful. 

One of the biggest hurdles to overcome, for most people, when adopting a child internationally, is the financial part.  When you begin to do your research, it is mind-boggling.  Most people simply don't have tens of thousands of dollars stashed away for a rainy day.  We have seen God do some incredible things through our finances over the years we have waited, but there are still times that the figures seem daunting.  The average adoption ranges anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000.  I honestly don't know anyone whose adoption expenses were as low as $25,000.  But, I have seen that figure so much that it must be true for someone.  The longer an adoption goes on, the more expensive it becomes.  Every year in the process means more money.  While we continue to save and put money away, the fact that the cost keeps climbing (added home study fees, immigration fees, orphanage fees, and travel, etc.), there are still times when the process feels overwhelming...and unending.  Someone asked me recently how much more we needed to be fully funded.  The only answer I can give is a ballpark figure because we don't have an end in sight just yet. We really just don't know exactly.

All that said, when I first heard about the shoe fundraiser, I knew it was something I wanted to do.  I loved the entire concept of people donating what they no longer needed as a means of helping others around the world.  The only issue I had with doing the shoe fundraiser was that if we DIDN'T collect our goal of 100 bags, then we would be charged a pick-up fee.  We wouldn't have to pay the fee directly, but it would come out of the money we raised as part of the shoe drive.  And, it was a pretty significant amount to me.  So, I prayed and asked God to please help us get to 100 bags because I wanted every bit of money that was given to go directly to our adoption account. 

However, there came a point in the shoe drive fundraiser where I didn't feel like we were going to make it to 100 bags.  It just didn't even seem possible given the time we had left.  While I was driving to pick up some shoes one day, I just prayed one more time about the 100 bags.  And, I said, "God, I just don't want to pay the fee.  I want ALL of shoe money to go towards our adoption."  It felt like, at that point, that it was a God-sized amount that we had left, and I knew I needed to trust it to Him.

About an hour later, I collected some shoes and was handed a card with them.  I didn't even open the card until much later that night, and I am not even sure what I was expecting when I opened the card, but it surely wasn't what was inside.  When I opened the card, a check fell out, for the EXACT amount of the pick-up fee.  I immediately had tears in my eyes.  I knew immediately that God was answering my prayer.  He was reminding me, once again, that He was in the details of our adoption and our finances.  HE was the one writing this story.  And, I believed He was telling me, right then, that He would not only provide the 100 bags (and no pick-up fee), but that He could provide the pick-up fee as a BONUS. In the end, we collected (with your help), 125 bags of shoes.  That is 25 bags over what we needed to have a free pick-up.  You helped us raise over $1,200 that went directly to our adoption account with All God's Children.  It absolutely blew my mind.  And, it was just a reminder to me, once again, that God has walked and is walking every step of this process with us. 

So, we wait.  We are trusting that the God who answers our prayers abundantly, who is so good at the details, has a plan in our wait.  I do wish we had a better update than "we are still waiting," but we don't.  We have been in the adoption process for five years and in the Haiti process for almost three.  The typical timeline for a referral from Haiti is when your paperwork has been in their system for 18-24 months.  Our paperwork has been in their system for 27 months.  If you have not figured it out yet, we are not typical.  :) But, we know we are right where God wants us to be.  He is never late.  He is never early.  He is always on time.  And, He can be trusted.  I know it doesn't make sense to a lot of people why we have waited this long.  And, if we didn't know beyond a doubt that it was God who called us to this process, it wouldn't make sense to us. But, I am more sure than ever that while we are waiting, He is working.  And, we are hoping to find out what He has been working on any day now. 

Thank you so much for going with us on the journey.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

The Encouragers

First, a quick adoption update for you...

As I last mentioned (a mere four months ago!), we submitted our dossier to our agency.  I won't bore you with the lengthy details, but once that happens, our dossier had to go through a few steps and travel back and forth across the U.S. to get it all ready to go to Haiti.  A few weeks later, it arrived in Haiti, where it was translated and went through a few more steps.  Then, on May 23rd, it was submitted to IBESR, which is essentially Haitian Social Services.  That is our biggest milestone in the Haiti process so far.  What that means is that we are now "officially" waiting to be matched with a child.  The estimated time frame for that to happen is "about" a year.  Which, if you've learned anything from watching our process, you probably know that time frames are very "loose." We have definitely learned not to depend heavily on them, since God is working this all out in His time, anyway.  Since we didn't actually find out that it had been submitted until June 23rd (one month later!), we had already been "officially waiting" for a month, and we didn't even know it!  Ha!  How's that for helping the time pass quickly? 

This past Monday, we had our third set of fingerprints done for U.S. Customs and Immigration.  It was our first set for Haiti, and the change in country makes this application a little different than our last.  Once we (hopefully) get that approval, there aren't any big adoption "to-do" items on the list for a while.  YAY!  So, there's a good chance that our adoption updates will not be as frequent from here on out, but we are hoping that one of the next updates will be the BIG one when we can tell you that we have seen the face of the little one we (and many of you) have been praying for over these past 3 years.

With the ups and downs of adoption, the L-O-N-G wait, the updated Home Study, yet another set of fingerprints, the heartbreak of a lost referral, the hours and hours of paperwork, the budgeting, and all the check-writing, there have been a few discouraging days for us.  We have had more than our share of happy days as well, but we have had a few days when it all just felt a little heavy.  I am sure you can relate.  We all have those days when it feels like we are just trudging through mud just trying to make it through the day. 

"But God, who encourages those who are discouraged..." - 2 Corinthians 7:6 (NLT)

"But, God..." God, the ultimate Encourager.  God, the Giver of encouragement.  "But, God encourages those who are discouraged..."

Lately, I have been the beneficiary of the gift of encouragement.  I have been blessed by a number of people who I call the encouragers.  They are the ones God has sent my way, at just the right moment, to lift my spirits, to make me smile or laugh, or to temporarily take my mind off whatever is currently weighing it down.  You know them, too.  It's the neighbor who God puts just a few doors down, in your new town, who welcomes you with a smile, a hug, and a sweet word every time you see her; and when she moves out just a short ten months later (sniff), brings YOU a farewell gift.  It's the girlfriends who text, out of the blue, just to say, "How's the adoption going?" and follow that up with an encouraging word.  It's the random cards that show up in the mail with a check inside, and words that say, "I wish I could do more" or "God told me to send you this."  And, it all just is too much, and you just sit down in the floor and bawl.  It's the friends going through their own adoption, who jump at the chance to help out with your fundraiser. It's when your husband knows that you have been a little down, and he texts some of your best friends' husbands, and they figure out a weekend when you can all get away for some girl time and just tell you to write it on the calendar.   It's the former pastor and dear friend who still sends encouragement and cheers you on even though you are now a few states away.  It's the friend, who you JUST recently met, who decides to raise money for your adoption.  It's the group of friends who change around their Spring Break plans and work schedules on short notice just to get away for a few days, laugh, and make some memories with you.  It's the friend who periodically sends you the most hilarious, random cards, just because she likes to make people smile.  It's the adoptive mom you meet at a birthday party, who befriends you and offers wisdom, encouragement and support every chance she gets.  It's your lifelong friend who sends you random things in the mail to remind you that there are friends who have known you your whole life, and by the grace of God, still love you.  It's the friends who text you to make sure you know there is a Groupon for Starbucks today. :)  It's the two groups of ladies who I am in a group text with that make my life a little happier and brighter in little bits throughout every single day, just because I know they are there for me.  It's the friends who walk in the door with a surprise gift they know that you have been wanting.  It's the person you know you can call and just talk about absolutely everything and nothing at all when life just feels a little heavy.  And, it is EVERY SINGLE TIME someone says, "I am praying for you." 

Maybe you don't know every one of these people.  But, I do.  I know them ALL.  I have been the undeserving beneficiary of their encouragement.  But, I bet if you look around, you will find out that you know people who, in their own unique way, are a lot like the ones I know.  I am so grateful for them all.  Grateful and humbled.  Grateful because their encouragement has meant more than they know.  Humbled because I want to be like them.  What I have learned from watching them is that encouragers are givers.  They are more interested in building up someone else than they are in building up themselves.  They aren't people whose lives are easy, or uncomplicated, or who have nothing better to do.  Often, the complete opposite is true.  They are people, in the middle of their own struggles, their own busy lives, their own to-do list, who simply take a minute, or an hour, or a day, to lighten your load a bit or to do something special for you.  And, I am pretty sure, most of the time, they don't know how much it means.  They are simply just doing what they do.  And, being the recipient of so much of that, has made me want to do more. 

Because I want to do better and because I love a good story, I would love to hear yours.  I'm going to ask something of you that I have never asked before because I have never been "that" kind of blogger.  I'm not sure I am even an actual blogger.  :)  It's just mostly been the way we have been able to best share our adoption journey with those who want to follow along with us.  But, if you don't mind, would you just leave a short comment for me (either here, on Instagram, or Facebook) of a way that someone has encouraged YOU lately?  I would love to hear how the encouragers have been active in your life.  And, I am sure they have been, because they are EVERYWHERE.

This road has already been more than twice as long as we thought it would be when we started down this path, but I am honestly still grateful to be here.  I'm thankful to still be moving forward.  I'm thankful that God called us to walk this road, and that every day is one day closer to our little one.  Thank YOU for going with us on the journey!

~Stacy