Handing Over the Reins

I am, admittedly, a bit of a Type-A, control freak!  I don’t like surprises if I know that they are coming (but don’t know what is coming).  My husband learned this the hard way as he was planning our proposal.  He kept telling me he had a surprise planned and that he was working on it.  He thought the anticipation would get me excited.  Quite the opposite happened.  I was a WRECK, thinking he might be proposing, but worrying that if he wasn’t proposing, I would be disappointed, when he had just put so much effort into surprising me with something else.  For a month, my poor family members and college roommates had to listen to me fret (and yes, cry) over this.

Well, adoption is NOT for the control freak.  Or, maybe it is…maybe it is God’s way of teaching the control freak, like me, to trust Him and hand over the reins to our lives.  I can tell you, though, this lesson does not come easily for those of us who like to take the reins in our hands and make something happen.  You would think, having been down this road once before that I would have learned my lesson and would be content to wait on the Lord and his perfect timing.

I do believe with my whole heart that God’s timing is perfect and I wouldn’t want any child, except the one He has for us, yet I still find myself obsessively trying to find our next baby and raise the necessary funds.  I search for adoption situations online through different agencies multiple times a day, then I focus on raising the rest of our money, then I read adoption books about successful adoption stories.  Obsessed? I’d say yes!  You probably think I am crazy right now, but I’m just being honest and I can honestly say that my experience does not seem to be unique.  Many adoptive moms I have talked to become obsessed about their adoption journey, having a constant internal tug-of-war between making something happen on their own and trusting God!

Be still and know that I am God.  Psalm 46:10

I’ll admit, I haven’t “been still” much lately.   I have been so afraid I would miss an adoption situation, that I have been obsessively checking online for adoption situations.  I keep trying to make something happen on my own or wish it out of thin air.  Guess what?  I haven’t found a single situation.  Oh, the irony!  When I do step back for a second and remember who God is and everything He is done, I am reminded that if it is the situation for us, I won’t miss it!  I’m not saying that I need to stop looking or reaching out to adoption professionals or sharing our profile, but I am saying that I need to make sure that I am first sitting at the feet of my King and that I am trusting Him to work in His perfect time.  I should be making myself available without making something happen.  I don’t want it, if God didn’t make it happen!

I’m sharing this, because I am sure there are those of you, like me, who are control freaks who struggle in many areas of life with giving the reins to God.  If you’re like me, when nothing is happening and you are just supposed to wait and pray, you instead try to make something happen.  If that is you, in any area of your life, I ask you to join me in waiting first on Him.

Wait for the Lord; Be strong, and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord. ~Psalm 27:14

As I wait on Him, God reminds me of the story of Abram, Sarai, Hagar, and Ishmael.  You see, God promised Abraham a son of his flesh and blood (Gen 15:4)  and descendants as numerous as the stars (Gen 15:5).  Yet, year after year went by and Sarai still had not conceived, so Sarai tried to take matters into her own hands:

Genesis 16

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

Abram agreed to what Sarai said. So after Abram had been living in Canaan ten years, Sarai his wife took her Egyptian slave Hagar and gave her to her husband to be his wife. He slept with Hagar, and she conceived.

When she knew she was pregnant, she began to despise her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You are responsible for the wrong I am suffering. I put my slave in your arms, and now that she knows she is pregnant, she despises me. May the Lord judge between you and me.”

“Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her.

15 So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne. 16 Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

Genesis 17

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty[a]; walk before me faithfully and be blameless. Then I will make my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.”

15 God also said to Abraham, “As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. 16 I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.”

17 Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” 18 And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!”

19 Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac.[d] I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. 20 And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. 21 But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.” 22 When he had finished speaking with Abraham, God went up from him.

Genesis 18

“Where is your wife Sarah?” the three visitors asked him.

“There, in the tent,” he said.

10 Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.”

Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him. 11 Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing. 12 So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?”

13 Then the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh and say, ‘Will I really have a child, now that I am old?’ 14 Is anything too hard for the Lord? I will return to you at the appointed time next year, and Sarah will have a son.”

15 Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.”

But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.”

Genesis 21

2 Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.

Abram had received a promise from God, yet when it didn’t appear as if God was fulfilling it, he and Sarai took action and tried to make the promise happen on their own.  This caused a wedge in their home and a host of unnecessary drama.  It took God over 15 years after Ishmael was born for Sarah to give birth to Isaac.  Their waiting was long, but God was faithful and fulfilled His promise.  I bet that it was worth the wait and I bet not a day went by that Sarai didn’t wish she hadn’t interfered.  Let’s not be like Abraham and Sarah, who couldn’t wait on God’s perfect timing and instead took the reins and created drama.  Instead, let’s spend our time seeking Him and trusting that if God promises, He will deliver.  There is nothing more powerful we can do in this time than to pray and turn to Him.  I promise His plans are better than anything you could make happen.  If you wait on Him, you will avoid unnecessary heartache, stress, and drama, and, most importantly, your relationship with Him will grow in untold ways.  Will you join me in waiting on our King?

I Say | He Says

When I talk to others about our unique adoption, which was clearly penned by God, I often hear myself saying, “we’ll never have another birth mom like Natasha” and “our next adoption probably won’t go as smoothly,” or “the odds of us having an adoption as affordable as our first are very slim.”  Oh me of little faith!

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! ~ Matthew 7:11

Oct 5-7

Who am I to put God in a box?  God is the one who gave us the gift of Abigail (our daughter) and Natasha (Abby’s birth mom).  He gave us a perfect baby, a birth mom who is like a sister and more family members that share our faith (Natasha’s family).  He gave us a situation that our entire family was comfortable with and excited about.  Who am I to say He couldn’t or wouldn’t give us another amazing gift?

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.

 “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone?  Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?  If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him! So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. ~ Matthew 7:7-11

One time, just days after uttering my “we won’t” sentiments to a friend, I received a call about a girl similar to Natasha, who was considering adoption.   She ended up miscarrying, but that call hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was as if God was speaking directly to me, saying, “I can give you good things, beyond your wildest dreams.  I can bless you again!  I am the God who created the heavens and the earth.  I hold you in the palm of my hand.  I want GOOD things for you.  Don’t lose heart or lose faith.  Don’t limit Me with your unbelief.”

Oct 5-2

When I have doubted, He has continued to show me that He is able!  Just the other day, as I was seeking God, I read this devotional and was reminded again to trust and believe that He is writing our adoption story and it will be for our good:

And He marveled because of their unbelief. ~ Mark 6:6

This is the day of miracles. My power and love will combine and My glory will be shown. Awaken your heart, be expectant, not reluctant, before My promise. I can do exceedingly abundantly above all you ask or think. You need to stretch your faith, My child, instead of nursing puny, negative doubts and fears. Faith still moves mountains – faith and prayer. Faith borne on the wings of prayer. This is what you need to practice – faith-filled praying, expectant, eager and confident praying. My heart is gladdened when My children pray this way. Don’t be afraid of believing too much. Be afraid of limiting My work and cheating My glory by believing too little. I love to reward a chastened, believing heart, a faith that has been tried and not found wanting. Pray for such a faith and I will give it to you; and then it is yours to guard and use for My glory. Awaken, my child, awaken your heart! (Helms, Hal M., Echoes of Eternity (Paraclete Press, 1996) October 3, 213-214.)

Friend, please don’t be like me and operate in a state of self-protection, saying “we won’t” or “it won’t happen” in a poor attempt to guard your heart from hoping, wishing, and dreaming.  Instead, ask, believing that our Father in Heaven gives good gifts to His children and believing that He is more than able.  Walk in the knowledge that if you ask for something that isn’t good for you, He will say no, but if it is good for you and glorifies Him, He can, and very well may, say yes!  Have faith, even if it is as small as a mustard seed.  Then, watch Him amaze you!

Apart From Him, I Can Do NOTHING

God blows me away.  When I strive and strive to get funding for our adoption, the donations or 31 purchases trickle in or don’t come in at all. Yet, when I get down on my knees and pray for God to provide the necessary funding, it comes in the most unexpected ways or in large, completely unexpected donations.  People we don’t even know support us.  God is teaching me, as He has before, that He is our provider.  I am not saying that He is telling me not to share our story or fundraise – in fact, I think we are supposed to, but He is teaching me that without Him, I can do nothing.  So often, I do good things, but I don’t do those good things with God.  I do them in my own power and expect results that only God’s power can obtain.  He is teaching me that it is more important to be on my knees as we go through this process (and through life), than it is to send emails, post on facebook, or talk to every person.  Those things have a place, but only when He is the priority and He is at my side.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” ~ John 15:5

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7

It’s a Party! A Photo Party!

Here is one of our upcoming fundraising events:

Microsoft Word - flyer-green.docxI just thought I would share, in case there are other adoptive parents who double as photographers looking for fundraising ideas!  The idea was one of my new friends and I am so excited to see how it turns out.  It is aimed at parents of young children.  She is inviting her friends with kids and hosting at her house.  It will be like any other kids’ party, but with a photographer (me) taking time with each kid to get professional photos.  After the kids have their photos done, they will get to have a fun dinner!  The suggested donation is $20/child and the parents will get a CD with 3 edited photos of each kid!  I’m so excited to meet more kids and families in the area, while raising funds for our adoption!  So thankful to our sweet friend for hosting and coming up with the idea!

Adoption Funding Part 3: Resources ~ Grants, Loans, and Fundraising Ideas

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. ~ Prov. 13:12

Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.
~ Prov. 13:12

When people find out we’ve adopted, one of the main questions we get is about funding.  How did we afford it and how can they (or someone they know) afford it?  First of all, we afforded our adoption because God provided in amazing ways.  If you haven’t read our story, you can read it here.  Second, I am by no means an expert on raising funds for an adoption, but over the last few years, I have encountered some amazing resources and ideas, so I thought I would share some with you today!

The first thing you need to know about is the Adoption Tax Credit.  This is a tax credit of up to $12,970 for eligible adoption expenses. It will only refund or cover up to your tax liability, but it can carry forward for up to 5 years. More information can be found here: http://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc607.html

The tax credit can be an incredible help.  However, you still have to have the money upfront, which many of us do not have, but there is hope!  There are grants available, interest free loans, possible employer assistance (only certain companies offer this), and you can always fundraise!

One of the first resources that I would recommend is Adopt without Debt:Creative Ways to Cover the Cost of Adoption by Julie Gumm. Her blog also some great fundraising ideas: http://juliegumm.com/page/6/?cat=18

Here are some other great websites that offer great ideas or point you to funding help:

General Overview of Grants, Loans, and Scholarships:http://www.bethany.org/assets/guides/Adoption-Financial-Resources.pdf

(please note this is not an endorsement of Bethany Christian Adoptions – I haven’t had any experience with them)

Adoption Essay Contest: http://www.adoptiongrant.net/

A fellow adoptive Mom put together a list of “The Ultimate List of Adoption Fundraisers” and it really is the ultimate list: http://www.walkingbytheway.com/blog/the-ultimate-list-of-adoption-fundraisers/

Adoption Fundraising Advice from a fellow adoptive mom: http://www.addingaburden.com/2012/08/adoption-fundraising-advice.html

Another all-inclusive list of ways to fund your adoption: http://www.myadoptionadvisor.com/how-to-afford-adoption/

These resources can be overwhelming!  Please take this journey one step at a time and pray about what the best options are for you and your family!  This is a reminder I need constantly.  I am a control-freak and love to take the bull by the horns, diving in, picking the fundraisers that I think would be best for us, without seeking God out and asking Him what He would like us to do and when He just wants us to wait on Him.  Remember that if God has called you to adopt, He will provide the funding!  He is our provider!

Adoption Funding Part 2: Feeling Unworthy

This is part two of a three part series on adoption funding.  If you haven’t read part 1, I encourage you to do so before reading this post!

As you read in part 1, we have been down a road like this before – a road that seems so steep that it is impossible to climb, yet for some reason unbeknownst to us (but known to God) we sense God prodding us to climb it, taking one step at a time, trusting and leaning on Him as we go.  The last time we climbed this adoption funding road, God provided in miraculous ways.  Even more miraculously, I was not worried about the funding – I asked and trusted that He would provide, because He was the one calling us to walk this road.

This time around I started out full of insecurities.  “How will we ever have enough money to adopt again?  Are we chasing a pipe dream?  Are we even worthy to fundraise? Should we be fundraising for a domestic adoption, when we could adopt from the foster system for next to nothing?”  These thoughts swirl in my head as I take my eyes off of God, our Jehovah-Jireh.  They bombard me on days when I act like Israel and forget to REMEMBER, remember the things He has done for us before and the ways He has provided!  I get worried and obsessive when I take my eyes off of my King and focus on my human limitations!

I question God and think:  Is it fair to raise funds when there are so many people who want babies that can afford a domestic infant adoption right now?  Is it fair when there are kids in the US foster system right now that need families? This seems more logical to me – there is such a need!  My logic takes over and I forget that God often calls us to do what appears irrational.  He reminds me that He called Moses to take His people across the Red Sea, where they would surely drown.  This would appear irrational to anyone, but God knew what was to come.  Moses trusted Him, the sea parted and the Israelites were saved from Pharaoh and his armies.

In our financial situation, looking just at finances and at the great need, foster adoption seems more rational (although, incredibly difficult – I applaud all foster families).  Yet, God has given me such a heart for women with unplanned pregnancies, to walk alongside them and provide them with an option besides abortion – the option of adoption!  God keeps placing this burden and passion on my heart, a desire to walk with an expectant mother and help her in one of the most pivotal moments in her life, while welcoming a child that could have otherwise been aborted, into our home.  This intense desire and longing, which continues even when I repeatedly turn it over to God, makes me believe that there is a baby and expectant mother (like Natasha, Abby’s birth mom) who need us!

Even in my weakness, God shows himself strong.  As I wrestle with insecurities, He gives me answers.  As I wonder HOW we will afford it, He provides money and shows me that He is in charge.  For example, just last week, we made the announcement that we were starting the adoption process again.  Already, two amazing thirty-one consultants are giving the proceeds from two parties to our adoption (more details to come).  In addition, Jonathan found out that his work is paying for him to get his real estate license and that, as a licensed agent, any referrals he makes to other agents will result in a commission for him.  Without trying, I booked five photoshoots (all money from photoshoots goes into our adoption fund) in one week!  Blowing us away even more, we had two friends commit to donating to our adoption and another business owner who committed to a substantial donation in exchange for a work day at his property.

When God calls He provides!  Sometimes it requires us stepping out in faith and making our needs known, so that He can use others as vessels for His provision.  Other times, He provides without us doing anything!  But, when He tells you, “this is the way, walk in it,” you can trust that in walking in it, He will provide for all of your needs!

I am choosing today to not worry about funding and to trust that God will provide exactly what we need!  $8,000 or $23,000 or somewhere in between…I trust that He will provide as He guides us!

Adoption Funding Part 1: God’s Provision

As we start our second adoption journey, funding is on my mind all the time!  I am sure those of you who are also on the adoption journey can relate!  Adoption is expensive (most of the time, with a few exceptions, including adoption from foster care).  As a one income family, frankly, it isn’t something we could afford, without God’s intervention and a lot of fundraising!  Over the next few days, I am going to do a three part series on Adoption Funding:

1) God’s Provision: When you step out in faith, God Provides

2) Feeling Unworthy: Should we be fundraising?  ~ My personal insecurities as we raise funds.

3) Funding Resources: Grants, Loans, and Fundraising Ideas

TODAY: God’s Provision: When you step out in faith, God provides!

I am going to start this series by sharing our story of provision, not only because I need the reminder, but because sometimes we can get so bogged down in the dollars and cents that we often forget the one who called us to adoption in the first place and what He is capable of.  Personally, this blog post is a bit of a “remembrance stone” for me (see Joshua 4) – a post to help me remember when the going gets tough!  Hopefully, it will also serve as an encouragement to you!

A little over two years ago, a time came when we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God was calling us to start the adoption journey.  It had been a desire for a long time, but we finally knew God was saying, “this is the time and this is the way – walk in it.”  The only problem: we were both still getting our graduate degrees and living on one [small] income.  We had no idea how we would afford it, but for some reason (God), we both had a peace that financial provision would come.  In fact, we hardly worried about it – we just turned it over to God and prayed (Hmm…maybe I should consider doing that this time around).

A week after we started the adoption process, Jonathan’s car started having major issues.  It was old and worth less than $200 – no joke.  We had a hard time justifying putting money in it to fix it.  We needed a new car, since we both needed them for our jobs, but did not have the money to adopt and buy a new car.  We always liked to pay cash for things, but started considering a loan, so we could use our savings to adopt.  Then, we kept praying for direction.

The next week, we went to Alabama to visit family (a trip that had been planned and paid for for months).  On our last day there, a family member wrote us a very large check to buy a new car.  She had no idea we even needed a new car – she simply said she had received an inheritance that she didn’t need, so she was buying a new car for each of her three grandchildren!  We were blown away.  God was such a good provider!!  Not only did he provide money for a new car, he provided enough money for us to get an SUV, which would make life with a little one so much easier!  This was not necessary, at all, but so representative of our lavish God (and generous family members)!  He truly is the God who gives immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.  (Ephesians 3:20)

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A month later, after we were officially matched with our first birth mom (more details can be found here), we found out that Jonathan got a new job that came with free housing in a larger apartment than we currently lived in.  His new job wouldn’t start for  two months, but when they heard that we had to have a homestudy completed, they let us move in the next week and started the free housing immediately (this saved us over $1000 a month that could go toward the adoption)!  We were, once again, blown away by God’s lavish and timely provision!  Add this to our savings and we were well on our way to affording this adoption!

After the first adoption fell through, we knew it would be slightly difficult to afford another one (we had lost about $3000 in counseling and legal fees), but we continued to trust in our God who is an amazing provider!  True to His character, God provided again!  Shortly after our second match, we received a matching grant from Dark to Dawn, provided through Lifesong.  Normally, the grant process takes over eight weeks, but they were able to get it processed in just shy of two weeks, so we were able to raise funds before our little angel joined us.  The matching grant was for $2,500 and our generous friends matched it and more, providing just enough to cover the adoption expenses, so that we didn’t have to take out a loan!  We even had friends share it with their friends and received donations from people we had never met! It was difficult to ask for help, but it was amazing to see how much joy people had in giving and how they all feel a special connection to Abigail, now, as a result!  God used his people as vessels to help build our family!   They all served a different role: some as financial providers, others as prayer warriors, and some as emotional support!

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Many of the people who helped bring our little girl home

Then, to make it even better, a year after Abby was born, we were able to file for the Adoption Tax Credit.  Over the next few years, we will receive a tax credit, up to our tax liability, because of the adoption!  Hopefully, this will help pay for future adoptions!

Lesson learned: if God is calling us to something, don’t let finances or your fears stop you!  God provides and will make a way!  He is Jehovah-Jireh (Genesis 22:1-14), our provider!

Some scriptures to meditate on:

Psalms 50:10 ~ For all the animals of the forest are mine, and I own the cattle on a thousand hills.

Zephaniah 3:17 ~ The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.

Ephesians 3:20-21 ~ Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Philippians 4:19 ~ And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 6:25-34 ~

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

I hope and pray that God provides for your adoption, as He did for ours.  Sometimes he provides in ways that we do not think are ideal (loans) or in mysterious ways or through redirection, but I believe wholeheartedly that if God is calling you to something, He will make a way!

How has God provided in your life?