Saturday, January 26, 2013

His Curious Ways

So much for keeping the blog updated at least once a month. We decided to stretch it to two months this time. Two is better than one, no? Alright, that's probably not always true. Regardless, some of you, much to our surprise, actually visited the blog in December and January. First of all, thanks! Second, sorry to disappoint you with two months of nothing. Rest assured, the last two months have been anything but empty.

I realize that at the pace in which we live, Christmas was so yesterday. If you will, though, allow me to share one of our Christmas stories from this past December. If you recall from the last post, we had just completed some major steps towards becoming an active family. Our home study was essentially complete, and we had finally answered all the questions and compiled all the pictures necessary to complete our profile. We had basically reached the point of saving funds and, eventually, calling the agency to activate our status.

In the midst of all this, I sat down on Sunday morning, December 2, to prepare for a study that evening at our church on Luke 1. As I read the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, I was truly encouraged by what I read. Elizabeth, well advanced in years, viewed her barrenness as a reprimand (vs. 25). Even though she and Zechariah were both righteous and blameless before God (vs. 6), she saw her situation as some flaw she was destined to live with forever. If you are familiar with this story, you know Elizabeth goes on to give birth to John the Baptist (the greatest of those born of women according to Jesus). What struck me on this morning, however, was not that God eventually gave Elizabeth what she always wanted. Rather, I was reminded that God's plan for us, while not always embraced, always has the better blessing in the end. There are numerous other examples of this in the Bible alone:  Sarah (Genesis 18), Rebekah (Genesis 25), Rachel (Genesis 29), Samson's mother (Judges 13), Hannah (1 Samuel 1).

As I pondered on this story, I thought about the trials and disappointments we had experienced in trying for another baby prior to our decision to adopt. For our family, the ideal plan had always been that we would conceive our second child and then look into adoption at a point down the road. That was our plan, our thoughts. As God says in Isaiah 55:8 says, though, "...my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways." As much as we want to know what's best for us, most of the time we just don't. For us, I realized, the better blessing for our family was to adopt now. I was greatly encouraged by this and completely reassured in our decision.

Feeling pretty good about where we were, I stopped studying for a quick lunch break. As I did, Sarah, who had not been feeling well, decided she needed some more medicine. As had become common practice, she took a quick pregnancy test to make sure the medicine was fine to take. Without the slightest sliver of optimism, I headed into the living room to eat my sandwich (these tests had become ordinary). As I did, Sarah walked out of the bedroom and simply said, "Jon." One look at her face, and I knew then what you probably know now. The test was positive.

As much as I'd like to describe our state of mind that afternoon and the rest of that week, I'm not sure I could. Disbelief, wonder, excitement, anxiety, hope, and, finally, belief. Let's just say it was a long week. On Wednesday, the blood work was confirmed. On Friday, a heartbeat was confirmed. The impossible had happened.

An 1/8" long, and it has a heart beat. Amazing.

Today, Sarah is just over 13 weeks pregnant with a due date of August 1. We're excited (obviously) and continue to process the seemingly round about way we got here. We don't have all the answers, but we know we're better people and a better family because of the winding road that brought us here. Had we gotten pregnant a year and a half ago, we surely would have missed out on opportunities to grow closer and stronger. For that, we are grateful for the journey and look forward to what's yet to be revealed in our lives.

Since this is an adoption blog, you probably want to know what all of this means. The short answer is the adoption is on hold. The agency we are using does not allow pregnant couples to adopt unless they were already matched with a baby, so any decision we would've had to make has already been made. In that regard, it's nice not having to make a decision like that at this point. Relating back to something I said earlier, however, we still believe that God may have plans for our family to adopt down the road. The details and circumstances might differ from what they were this time (domestic, international, infant, toddler, etc.), but we have time to figure it all out. Bottom line, adoption has found a place in our hearts, and we never want to completely shut that door.

We also graciously received a number of donations during the process. Some of these donations were cash, while others were items we sold for cash. We're currently talking to those that gave to see what their intentions might be for those contributions. For anything that remains with us, we've discussed starting an adoption fund at our church, and we continue to work on those details.

As for this blog, we don't intend to delete it just yet, so we'll just see what happens. The good thing about it is it's such an easy way to connect with so many of you at once. Having said that, we wish we could have communicated all of these events to each of you in person. We truly appreciate your friendship, support, and prayers throughout this process. As stated, we are certainly better people as a result, and hopefully our story has found a way to encourage many others along the way. With that in mind, rest assured His ways are not our ways. Sometimes they're close. They're always best.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Two Hands Are Better Than One

Hello, friends! Well, it's time for another post, and, as usual, it's taken longer than anticipated to put something together. We've actually been really close to posting a few different times the past couple of weeks, but when you're publishing thoughts for the entire internet world to see, it's easy to over analyze what it is you want to communicate. Eventually, you get tired of trying to find the right words and just put it off until another opportune time which usually doesn't end up presenting itself as soon as you hoped. Not that we've had much going on lately.

I'm kidding, of course. Like many of you, we've had a busy month including a very full Thanksgiving week: too much time on the road, too little time with family (some of you might disagree), too much food, and, for some, too little patience at the local retail stores. No, we are not against Black Friday. It does tend to overstimulate the "crazy" cells in some people's brains, but it can also be fun. We didn't hit the door running before daylight this year, but we did manage to snag a few deals for Christmas gifts in between family gatherings.

We also managed to be very productive on the adoption front. We had our final home study visit the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, though it wasn't at our home. We were able to meet our specialist on the road for the final portion of the study which worked out great. The visit went very well, and, at least for our part, the home study is done. We still have to wait on a formal approval from the agency, but that should happen in the next couple of weeks. Best of all, it's out of our hands now, so we don't have to complete any more tasks. If you've been keeping track, this means we are now done with 2 of the 3 requirements before we can become an active, waiting family.

One of the many, many pics we submitted
The only requirement that remains for us to complete is our family's profile (the published material birth mothers review when trying to decide which family they want for their child). It's essentially a collection of photos and narratives about different aspects of our family: community, lifestyle, extended family, traditions, etc. The written profile also contains a letter from the adoptive family to the birth parents. This was probably the hardest part to write, but we just submitted it last night. Now, we just need to send the agency pictures for our profile (already collected) so that their media team can put together our family's handout. Again, this means we are essentially done with our part of the profile and are just waiting to approve the agency's final product. Once we do, we will then be at a point, procedurally at least, to flip the switch on our activation.

Our goal has always been to be an official waiting family by February 1. From a paperwork standpoint, we'll likely be ready to go by the New Year. If you recall from one of our earlier posts, however, we also have to have access to all of our adoption funding prior to going active. Unfortunately, it's unlikely we'll reach that point prior to February meaning our focus the next couple of months will shift towards more aggressive saving and applying for some adoption assistance (this requires a completed home study which we will now have). We have a couple ideas for a second fundraising effort that we hope to organize through two agencies that work together, Lifesong For Orphans and Both Hands Foundation. Together, these agencies offer a unique approach to raising money for orphan care. Check out a short clip on the concept below or by clicking here. It's a cool idea, and we hope to organize a project soon.
 
video
 
As always, we are extremely grateful for everyone's support. Our family and friends have been such an encouragement throughout this process, and we wouldn't be at this point with their help. We greatly covet your prayers as we move a little closer each day to meeting our new kiddo. We only get more excited with each passing day, and Riley is especially ready to be a big sister. She's going to be awesome at it.

Thanks for tagging along with us. We'll talk to you all again in December...hopefully. :)

Monday, November 5, 2012

Octoberfest

Sold!
Wow. Where did October go?? Exactly one month ago, we were opening the garage door for day 1 of our adoption fundraiser garage sale. By the way, it went very well and you can read more about it here. It actually continues to go very well as we just sold a few of the leftover items this past week via Craigslist.

Speaking of which, we still have a number of clothes and other items remaining from our sale, but probably not enough to host a third garage sale prior to our activation. If you know of another family looking to host an adoption-related sale in the future, please let us know. We'd love to pass on any of the items we received to help supplement the stock of another family.
 
Back to October. It really did seem to fly by. Between the garage sale, time spent out of town, birthdays, a wedding, and pumpkins, we somehow managed, with some help, to prepare the house for our first home visit. In addition to being ready for the visit, we got a really clean house out of the deal. Well, it was clean for a little while at least. We also ate Shakespeare's three times in the last month, and that's always productive.

Say pumpkin!
The home visit itself went as well as it could. Our home study specialist, Karla, was super friendly and very accommodating to us. She visited with us for a couple of hours as a family to learn more about our history:  how we met, our first impressions of each other, our experience raising Riley, and so on. She also did a home tour which, thankfully, we can say passed her inspection. All in all, it was a great visit and a good feeling to have our home study essentially 50% complete. We have one visit left, and we'll be doing that later this month, just before Thanksgiving. Once that visit is completed (and successful), it's just a matter of us waiting for Karla to finish the paperwork so that the home study can be formally approved. Overall, the process has been simpler than we thought, and it will be great having it completed before the end of the year. 

Hayride at the pumpkin patch
A successful home visit wasn't the only adoption-related milestone we reached in October. We also formally submitted our APQ (more info here). The APQ, along with the home study and the profile, is one of the steps that must be completed before going active. With this document submitted, we can now have a conference call with our adoptive family specialist, Laurie, to finalize this portion of the process. That call will be happening this Wednesday and will represent another big step forward towards being an active family.

All in all, October was super fast, but also pretty productive. We have been fortunate to stay on task thus far, and, as of now, we are still on target for activation as a waiting family in early 2013. Our current task is to complete our adoption profile (narratives, dozens of pictures, and even a video) which will essentially represent who we are as a family to potential birth mothers. This process will likely take us through the end of the year, but it will be fun to watch it come together. Special thanks to Kelso for a last-minute photo shoot yesterday! Once the home study is complete, we'll also have the opportunity to apply for some grant programs and other fundraising resources.

One final thought for today's post. Yesterday was Orphan Sunday and next week is collection week for Operation Christmas Child. If you have not heard of either of these events/efforts, check out the links for more information. These are excellent ways for individuals, families, churches, or other groups to get involved in supporting children across the globe. I hope to post more about this and other things we've been learning through the process in a future post. Maybe we won't wait a month this time.

 

Monday, October 8, 2012

More Than Enough

That was fun.

We had our first ever adoption fundraising garage sale this past Friday and Saturday. To be honest, we weren't quite sure what to expect when we hit the garage door button that first morning. We knew we had stayed up extra late getting ready. We knew that a lot of generous people had helped us prepare for a successful sale. We knew the weather was "iffy". We just weren't sure what might greet us when we opened the door.



All set to go.

At 7 AM on Friday, we pushed the button and got our first clue. There was nobody there.

It was a bit chilly.
I don't know that our hearts sank right then and there, but there was at least some concern. After all, we'd had a garage sale in our neighborhood a couple of years before, and the first hour of Friday morning was the peak of our sales. Given that not a single vehicle was waiting for the garage door to open on this morning, we quietly wondered if the chilly, wet weather was going to deter most visitors. It wasn't exactly a beautiful morning.

A few minutes later, however, here came a car. Then another, and a few minutes after that, one more. That would prove to be the pace of the weekend. Never a huge rush all at once, but just a slow and steady trickle of people and the cash they brought with them. It was 6 bucks here, 50 cents there, and from time to time, 20, 30, or 40 dollars.

At one point, the rain actually proved quite beneficial. Around 9 AM there was quite a downpour that one would think might keep people from coming. Fortunately for us, it kept people from leaving. We probably had about 10-12 people at the sale at that time, and they were stuck in our garage. The longer they stayed, the more often they kept coming back to the front to pay for stuff. Funny how things we can sometimes perceive to be a detriment actually prove to be a blessing. Lesson learned.

 
It wouldn't stop there. After Friday, we had sold quite a bit of stuff, but the big ticket items hadn't sold. Weren't these items the big draw? Shouldn't they sell immediately? It was going to be hard to reach our goal of $1,000 if they didn't sell. Maybe these items weren't garage sale material. Or maybe I'm just not very patient.

The latter turned out to be true. By Saturday afternoon, most of the "big items" had sold, including the awesome antique dresser we pictured earlier. By Saturday night, the response had been greater than we even hoped for, and we had raised over $1,300. Beyond that, we still had a large enough supply of items to potentially host a secondary sale at the end of October. I was reminded that God's not only enough to meet our needs. He's more than enough. Like 12 baskets of leftovers more than enough. Lesson learned.

To say the least, it was a lot of fun. We also got to talk to a lot of people about our adoption and hear stories of their own experiences. Riley had a blast, and our excitement to continue moving forward has only been fueled. Thanks again to all the wonderful people that helped us prepare for the sale whether it was donations, organization, suggestions, etc. You all are great. A special thanks to Mema, Papo, and Annie for helping us out during the sale. We couldn't have done it without you!

Hot chocolate anyone?
 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Rain, Rain, Go Away...

Seriously, I don't know how people keep these things up to date. We had a modest goal of updating this blog once per week. This post comes two weeks after the last...and it's mostly a picture post.

Regardless, we are excited about it as it represents an early milestone in our potentially lengthy journey. This Friday is garage sale day. Not just garage sale day, but adoption fundraiser garage sale day. In the grand scheme of things, it's not the most significant step we'll take along the way. It is representative, however, that we are indeed moving forward and making progress. This is our first organized fundraising effort, and it's exciting.

Though it's been some work to put together, it's only served as affirmation that this is what we're supposed to be doing. We also have awesome family and friends who have done a lot to help make this happen...suggestions, donations, promotion, spending extra time hanging out in our garage, etc. A big thanks to all who have helped. You've made it a fun process.

In case you're interested, the sale is this Friday from 7-4 and Saturday from 7-12. For those of you in the area, feel free to spread the word. Below are a few pics of some of the items that ended up in our garage, many by way of the generosity of others. It should be a good time.

One last note...we will have our first home study visit in two and a half weeks. More about that milestone later.

Now, if only the rain will go away...



Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Are We There Yet?

Warning. The following post may bore you. There are no pictures. No fun links. Just information.
 
Unofficially, the goal of this blog is to provide an update on our adoption experience about once a week. At times, the posts won't be very eventful, but our intent is they will, at the very least, be informative. That is the hope of this post as few logistics have changed and no new life-changing revelations appear to have occurred over the past few days.

Upon learning of our plans to adopt, one of the more common responses we receive is in the form of questions.

"Where will you adopt from?"

"How long will it take?"

"Boy or girl?"

It's been great for us to get to share some of these details in person, but since that isn't always the case, we thought it might be a good to have a post that highlights some of the more pertinent information.

First, we'll be adopting an infant from the United States. There are a lot of options regarding location when it comes to adoption. For us, we felt a significant desire to adopt a newborn baby. It's nearly impossible to bring a child under 6 months home from another country. Given that, our decision to adopt domestically was determined fairly early on in the process. We will be adopting through American Adoptions, an agency in Kansas City some of our friends have used and one we've enjoyed working with to this point.

The length of the entire process varies and is dependent on a number of circumstances. An adoptive family must first become "active" with the agency. This process can take anywhere from 3-6 months itself, and this is currently where we fall in the process. Once a family becomes active, it takes anywhere from 1-12 months (possibly longer) to be matched with your child. Our goal is to complete the pre-activation process over the course of the next few months and hopefully become an active family in the early part of 2013.

The pre-activation process itself consists of 3 primary steps:
  1. Completion of a home study
  2. Filling out the Adoption Planning Questionnaire (APQ)
  3. Composing our family's print and video profiles
For the multi-taskers out there, these three requirements can be taken on simultaneously. Currently, we are attempting to do this with our immediate focus on starting the home study and completing the APQ. The home study essentially ensures the state that the agency has found our home and family suitable for adopting. We are prepping for our first home study visit now and hope to have it scheduled in the next few weeks.

The APQ outlines our personal preferences for the child we'd like to adopt. This is where matters like gender, race, budget, and so on come into play. The details of the APQ probably warrant more than a paragraph, but we have elected to remain non-specific on preferences for gender and race. This choice will likely result in a shorter wait time to be matched, but more importantly, we feel like it helps keep our hearts open to accepting the situation God intends for us. This decision definitely brings about some uncertainty, but along with it, a great sense of freedom. It's very liberating to leave these specific decisions out of our hands and trust God knows what's best for our family.

As for the print and video profiles, we'll dive into these items once we get the home study going and formally submit our APQ. This step will be sure to challenge the inner artist in each of us. Fortunately, we know some hip, trendy "kids" that will help keep our profiles fresh and inviting.

There is actually a 4th piece to the pre-activation stage, though the circumstances vary for each adoptive family. The agency requires a family have access to their entire adoption budget once they go active. The costs of the adoption aren't fully known or paid until a match is made, but because there is no way to know if a family will be matched in two weeks or twelve months, the agency requires the family be prepared financially for any circumstance.

We'll likely have a future post specifically on adoption costs and our plan for saving and raising funds, but one of the first things we're planning is a garage sale the first weekend in October. It's a good opportunity for us to get into a "saving" mindset and also reduce some of the clutter in our home. I'll refrain from using this blog as an ad, but should you be interested in helping out or even donating items to the garage sale, simply call, text, facebook, or email us at jonmbc1@gmail.com.

Hopefully this post has provided a little insight into the process adoptive families face and some of the decisions that have to be made. Should you want to know more, just ask. We're more than happy to fill you in.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

A New Hope

Here we go. Time for a new experience.

No, I'm not talking about this blog, though it's certainly new in its own right. After all, we've never been "bloggers" in this household. I've thought about it before, but the alternative of simply being a "reader" has always been too easy. I'm only six sentences in, yet I have new respect for those who manage to keep these things up to date. Even well written in some cases. Impressive.

Not just a new experience, but a new risk, a new faith, a new hope. I'm talking about adoption. Over the past 18 months and through a number of circumstances, God has clearly been preparing us for this. It hasn't always been easy to see, but it's an idea that never felt too distant. It was almost 5 years ago we began hoping God would give us a baby. He delivered on that hope at the start of 2009, and our lives have never been the same. A little over a year ago, we began hoping God would grow our family. This new hope is where we currently reside. I have a feeling our lives will never be the same...again.


Our hope realized on January 2, 2009 - Riley Kate
 
Earlier this year we attended our first seminar on adoption, and six weeks ago we formally applied for a domestic adoption through an agency in Kansas City. As overwhelming as the process is, we could not be more excited. Our goal is to use this blog as an outlet to share our experience with each of you and keep anyone who's interested informed on the process. Who knows, it may even turn out to be an outlet for the spectrum of emotions we're sure to experience over the next who-knows-how-many months. Maybe we'll even become real bloggers.

I will try to provide a current status of where we are (and what we've got planned) in the next post, but for now, we simply wanted to invite you to join us as we covet your friendship, prayers, and support. There is much ahead and much to share, but for now, we simply wanted you to know.

One last thought regarding our new hope. We chose the scripture at the top of our blog because of it's encouragement and application to this endeavor. For us, our ultimate hope is in Christ and what he accomplished for us through the cross. Likewise, he gives us hope in the things he's called us to, even things we cannot see. Especially things we cannot see. On the one hand, we wait for the realization of our hope with eagerness. On the other hand, we wait for it with patience.

This is where we are. Eagerly waiting. With patience, of course.