Friday, August 27, 2010

Blog Rewind: A little over a year ago....

Originally written July, 2009. Why I am who I am:
NEON SIGNS AND EXPECTATIONS:

At one point in my life, I would hear others talk about how God had worked in their life and if I honestly and truthfully stood back and thought - I wouldn't be able to think about an example to give. Yes, I was blessed. Yes, I was a Christian. But did I have any instances where I personally felt HIM, up close and real?

Then a few years back, after the birth of my second son. After I had just quit my full-time job. After I had just told him one night how "comfortable" I was. Tony was laid off. He was then offered a sweet deal in Florida. I didn't want to move, I cried every night. But we got down on our knees together and prayed, "Lord, if you want us to move - you're going to have to sell the house. We can't afford two payments." The house sold. In two days. No sign up. No real estate agent. Neon sign in the front yard from God "Your tail is moving to Florida."

Fast forward more years, I start volunteering for Compassion. Start feeling God telling me to go to Africa. Just that little voice you hear that you can't really make out - "was that my conscious or God's voice in my head??" We make a commitment and give it all to Him praying, "Lord if you want me to go, you're going to have to help us get the money." I had the money. In about a month. With $10 to spare. Neon sign from God "Your tail is going to Ethiopia."

And now less than 6 months later, I have that little voice again. Can't really make it out, is it my conscious or God's voice in my head?? Saying: you need to adopt. You need to follow my commandment to look after the orphans (James 1:27). Um, hey God, I have three kids already. That's a-lot. I'm helping with Compassion. Helping lots of kids. Isn't that enough? And yet I hear the voice still. I kind of ignore it as just me. Keep it to myself.

I'm driving down the road to Columbia, by myself. Thinking of my trip. Remembering how excited I was and talking to my new friend Mike for the 16 hours over. I think to myself, "how cool would it be to be able to experience that with Tony? To be able to go back with him?" And then that little voice out of nowhere, in my head: "you will when you go to get your little girl." And right then, with a cloudless sky. Perfect Carolina blue sky - it starts drizzling just a little. And I break into tears. I can only describe it as the feeling of when you think you have lost your two year old in the mall and you see him, the feeling of that weight being lifted. Neon sign from God - "I want you to mother another of my children."

So I tell Tony and we agree this is huge. (understatement) We really need to pray about this. So for about 2 weeks I have prayed faithfully every morning. "God let me know if you really want me to do this. God please make it without a doubt clear if you really want me to do this. Please God, don't let me make the wrong decision for my family. By the way God, could you really let me know if you want me to do this?????" And then this week - I am looking at a normal blog. See an icon for "Ethiopian Coffee for Orphans" to the side. Click on it and read about the charity. See a mention of the couples dear friend's blog "Blessings from Ethiopia." I click and go on to read the post I mentioned to you earlier this week. But I didn't then give you the last line of that post as I was still too scared to acknowledge that Neon sign. It said, "Go. leave behind the life you planned. SEEK OUT the orphan. Don't ask God one more time if He wants you to adopt. Because... HE's been asking YOU, who WILL?"

Do I feel God? Absolutely. Am I scared out of my wits? Absolutely. And by the way, I had Tony read that post and he had the exact same reaction that he had last September when I said God really wanted me to go to Ethiopia, "Well, if God wants you to go - I guess you'd better go." "I love that man" would also be an understatement.

So now - we are scheduled to attend a workshop with an agency on August 1st just to learn the basics. And we really thought about not writing or telling anyone until after we had all the facts and could make an informed decision. But then - when you have a Neon Sign from God, is a workshop going to make a difference? As I have told others now, I am much safer living in God's will than out of it. So I think I should be more scared to disobey Him than to dive right in head first. One glance at the Old Testament will tell you that disobedience comes with a hefty price.

So I guess in a way we are expecting baby #4. But I am still paralyzed. I have the feeling of a woman pregnant with baby #3 who just found out she is pregnant with twins. Oh.....my.....goodness..... what did I just get myself into. We don't have the money. We don't have the time to figure out how to get it. We aren't the most patient people. And a year or two of worry is a long time.

I am expecting much pain.... I am expecting much fear......I am expecting much impatience...... I am expecting much cost........ But I also know that in Jeremiah, God says, "
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

So to all my friends, I am expecting a little girl.... So please pray for Tony and I. I would really love to have some more Neon signs up to tell us which way to go from here...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

First ever giveaway - no purchase necessary!!!

So after a quick start out of the gate on our newest fundraiser - traffic has slowed considerably. SOOOO.... how bout if I bribe you to come and look and tell others to come and shop??

HOW BOUT --- My first GIVEAWAY!!!!!

Since this is my first giveaway and I have no idea what might motivate others to visit my blog, I'm going to go cheap (for me) and offer up a piece of Lil' Olivia art!

Winners can choose one 5X7 personalized piece painted by yours truly.

Art can be chosen & personalized from art currently for sale
(also have: butterfly and frog pieces drawn but not painted)




Or I can custom design a simple 5 X 7 piece based on previous
artwork painted, or the design element of your choice.
(please allow 2-3 weeks for custom designed paintings)
**Visit Lil' Olivia's Store for additional past work





I know you are excited, so here's how to play:

~Post about this giveaway on your blog (with link back) - 1 entry!
~Share my fundraiser website on Facebook (or mass email) - 1 entry!
~Every person you refer here that purchases from any fundraiser - 2 entries!
~You place an order from any fundraiser (art, coffee, African) - 5 entries!

Remember to leave comments telling me what you've been up to so I'll know how many entries to credit you.

There's only 1 rule: We need a minimum of 20 people to enter. So start working those referrals! Giveaway ends midnight (my time) Thursday, Sept 2nd !

Remember the purpose of the giveaway is to let more people know about our fundraiser items for sell (bracelets, stuffed animals, coffee, art).

So here's the link for our African items store.
Artwork can also still be designed and painted for anyone from Lil' Olivia's store.
Awesome coffee can still be purchased from Just Love Coffee.
Happy shopping!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

For: YOU From: Africa

PLEASE SEE OUR NEWEST LIL' OLIVIA FUNDRAISING SITE FOR CURRENT ITEMS AND PRICES



SO - our newest fundraiser!!!! These items were shipped from a company which buys from Africa and then donates a portion of their proceeds to feeding hungry children. Please, please, please forward this link to everyone you know, share on Facebook, (take out a road sign) etc. We can always order more items and would love to see that thermometer on the right moving again!

Adorable, stuffed giraffes and zebras; made in Kenya. $10 each They would make great keepsakes for adopted little ones or just as a unique gift for someone you love.

Massai beaded wrap around bracelets ; also from Kenya - $7 each.


Large colorful Tuareg bangles; Made in Mali. - $5 Each.
Small, woven Tuareg bracelets; Made in Mali. - $2 Each

Bangel Set: 1 large bangle and 4 smaller bracelets - $10 Set.

** Orders may be made on our PayPal donation site on the right. Please specify in the comment section which items you would like for your donation to our adoption fund. We would also appreciate you adding $2 for each order (no matter how many items are ordered) to help defray shipping costs. (unless you are having me hand-deliver of course - for my Lexington or SC friends)

Why still fundraising?????

Now that we have submitted our dossier and finished that stage of our adoption (think first semester of pregnancy - the throw up, nauseous, tired part) - we are on to the 'Honeymoon' portion where we wait months and months until our name is farther up the list - and then the third trimester, the heartburn and stay-up-all-night portion, of this paper pregnancy commences!

In the meantime, our goal is to raise the money needed to accept the referral of our little girl. When we get her picture, information, name - we will have 2 days to send in our acceptance paperwork and $5500. This money pays for her care in the orphanage and the remainder of our agency fees.

A month to two months later, we hope to have a court date assigned and will have to travel to Ethiopia to the tune of about $5-6,000. And that's just for Tony and I. We would love to take the kids on that trip but are leaving it up to God as far as funding goes.

Thank you so much!!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dumpster Diven'

I'm almost embarrassed to write this post, almost... but as not so much embarrasses me anymore (too many years married to Tony??) - here goes...

In an attempt to journal the crazy things my kids do, I couldn't leave this nugget of information out as I'm sure my son will greatly appreciate my sharing when he is trying to get a date or get into a good college.

He's an addict. And I'm o.k. with that (most of the time). My son is a dumpster diver. There. I said it. He loves to go with his Daddy to the county dump on Saturday to "hunt for treasure". And he's proud of it.

Since I'm not a dumpster diver myself, as I understand it, there is a special "Treasure Dumpster" where he finds his stash. He's come home with an ambulance, goggles you "can see race cars in!!!", barely used bikes, which his Daddy then changes out a seat on or replaces a tire tube in - and they're good as new. They have then given these bikes to neighborhood kids that don't have bikes, or taken them to Goodwill. Tony's highlights of the year were a real barber's chair to cut the kid's hair, and a good as new pitching machine for the ball team. Like son, like Daddy.

Now that I have completely grossed you out that we allow our son to bring home treasures from the county dump, (and most likely secured it that you wont let your kids play with my kid's toys anymore..) let me get to the point...

We Americans throw away half a pizza un-eaten, left-overs that we 'just don't feel like eating again tomorrow', shoes that were 'so old I had them in high school'. And yet still, we often are able to say, without a hint of sarcasm, that we can't afford to help out children in poverty. It amazes me. Even in a recession/depression, as we tighten our belts and watch our money more carefully, we still have more than we need. But maybe not all that we want.

In a personal reference letter a great friend wrote for me for my adoption packet, he wrote that I was "passionate for social justice." And that made me cringe. Social justice today has come to mean Michelle Obama's pie explanation - we need to take some of your slice of pie to give to someone else who doesn't have as much pie. And while that imagery fits - it is still wrong.

Today's social justice in America is - the government taking what they think is your excess, and (wastefully spending) on those that don't have an excess. And that, to me - is not justice, that's stealing.

But how much good could we do if instead of being forced to give, our wages stolen out of our hand and given to another - that we would be known as a Christian society that instead just gives. To hang on to our excess, to turn our eyes from those in need because we never know when we may need that extra money, is not Christlike. That's more like greed.

Because even if my husband is laid off again, even if my car is repo-ed, even if we have our house fore-closed on and have to rent a smaller place - we still have more than we need. And that's painful to realize.

So my little son - we are so, so blessed that you can find your treasures at the dump. That you can smile over a new toy. We are so, so blessed that our children have more than they need. That they have more than one meal a day and it does not come from a garbage pile. Just something to think about in these tough economic times.

As we are able to bring gently used items home to our clean home, soak them down with Lysol and anti-bacterial wipes --- there are thousands of children around the world who don't have that luxury. Their treasures are not used bikes, or push toys - but scraps of food. Food that is needed just to make it to the next day. To another day of scavenging on the streets, or the city dump. This is the images that have been on my mind lately - a place in the very city I visited in Africa. I place that I didn't know about until recently. A place that many of the orphans that come into agency placement may come from.

"Once our eyes are opened, we can't pretend we don't know what to do. God, who weighs our hearts and keeps our souls, knows what we know, and holds us responsible to act."
Proverbs 24:12



What is it that God would have you to do with that which he has given you?
Help others to have clean water Sponsor a child in another country give to a poor village help mother's and babies in need provide help for street orphans give a barefoot child a pair of shoes

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Calling all family!!!!

Copied from an adoption friend, but made me wonder too:

This is a quick little SHOUT OUT to our families.


DO YOU READ OUR BLOG??

Seriously, we’re curious. My sweet sis definitely pops in. Have you??




Most of the extended families haven't made a peep. That makes us sad....Let us know you’re here! Show us some love! You guys are one of the reasons we’re keeping this blog, so it’d be great to know if you stop by. At the very least, to know who knows what so we'll have our communication bases covered!
Don’t be shy…. Leave a comment.



Wednesday, August 18, 2010

DTE!!!

Our file has been approved by our case worker and will be on it's way on a jet plane to Ethiopia on August 27th, 2010!!

Current official wait time for a baby girl is DTE + 7-11 months. So early next year we may be seeing Olivia and finding out more about her. (although recent families have been receiving their referrals in approx 6 mos.) But no getting my hopes up!

We are so excited! So excited that I bit down on a granola bar, chipped half a molar off, and now have to drop everything for a dentist appt. ( I have a dental phobia... truly) Away from me Satan!! Your not stealing my joy today, I am stoked!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Two words

PRAISE GOD!!!!!!!


TWO MORE WORDS:

ETHIOPIA BOUND!!!!!!! (by way of Virginia & DC)


that my friends, would be one piece of paper that was prayed and waited for (and not patiently I may add) for 117 days. And is now with the other 14,568 pages of our dossier, in triplicate, on it's way to be proofed in Virginia at AWAA - then to the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington for authentication - and then to Ethiopia! Hallelujah!!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

I want different kids

When discussing the logistics of adopting, Tony originally had said he wanted to take the kids with us to Ethiopia. I disagreed. The logistics of a trip to Ethiopia, with 3 kids in tow, to pick up a new baby, who may or may not have problems attaching to us - was a little too much for me to stomach. Picture 3 kids on a plane for 18 hours, 4 kids on the way back. 3 who may experience stomach problems, and a baby in diapers who most likely will have her own intestinal problems. Nope. Not happening. As much as I would like it to. I didn't like knowing that I would be needing to devote everything to this new little daughter, but knowing that my other kids needed me too. Safety was not my concern. Many parents have taken children and felt very safe. Addis Ababa is an extremely safe city..... Nope - it all boiled down to stomach issues, sadly.

Then the two trip rule was put into place. So now we must travel to Ethiopia, spend time with Olivia, before appearing before court to attest that we do want to be her parents. So time spent in the orphanage, most likely time spent seeing Ethiopia, visiting the out-laying orphanages, hopefully seeing more of Compassion's work (or my kids!) while we are there. Being able to play with kids of a different color, language, and economic status and see they are just the same as we are. See the joy the kids at Compassion have at having faith in God vs. faith in Daddy's paycheck and American comforts. Now this was something I could wrap my mind around. We would not be able to take physical custody of Olivia yet as she will need to remain at the transitional home until we get her US Visa. But the kids would be able to love on her, see Ethiopia, and see the sights that changed my life.

And could it change theirs?

So for about a month, I have been praying for God to throw open His floodgates of blessings on our first trip - to be able to take my own munchkins on a 36 hour plane trip to learn a lesson that no video, no book, no sermon would ever be able to teach them. OR, that God would fling those doors shut and I would be at peace knowing that it was not what was best for my kids at this time in their lives.

As our pastor preached today, Satan wants to rob and steal these little ones from us. To tear their hearts away from God, whether now, or in their rebellious teenage years, or in college. But I hope, and pray, that our kids would have their faith foundation so firm, so strong - at such an early age - that they would be true soldiers for Christ the rest of their lives, Ethiopia trip or not. A witness to the need for missions, the need for loving the least of these, the power of God's hand when Christians stand up and say "use me".


I want my kids to be different. And being different, and not of this world, is a good thing.



Addisyn, the 15 year old daughter to Amy at "Building the Blocks", recently wrote the following. Addisyn has 3 biological brothers and FIVE adopted siblings. She just returned home from traveling to Ethiopia with her mom to bring home her newest baby sister:

Re: adoption
"What I didn't know then was how God would use this experience to mold me into becoming who I am today. What I didn't know was that God would use our experience to create a passion for the least of these. What I didn't know then was how glad I would be that He did."

Re: Visiting Ethiopia
"Being at the preschool that day also made me realize how much I had been taking for granted. I no longer wanted to just claim to be a Christian - I wanted to LIVE as a Christian. Instead of just memorizing the verses in the Bible - I wanted to put them into action. I knew that I couldn't return home and go on with my life the way it had been. I couldn't open my closet door and see 12 pairs of shoes in there without thinking about those left behind with none. I couldn't go into the mall with friends and spend $15 on yet another t-shirt knowing that $15 would have fed 5 children at the preschool for a month. I couldn't just be a regular American teenage girl anymore - I was different. And different, I am realizing, is a good thing."

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Blog Rewind : CSP Projects

Originally posted February 2009. To show you what $20 can do:

Day 10 of our trip was to be our last. I would love to say I cherished every moment of it - but getting out of bed that last day was tough. I was sick and I was tired. I wasn't able to eat much. And I really missed MY babies. BUT... God in his wisdom, took me back to a place of joy and of rest, knowing that we had come for a reason. On that last morning we visited one last Child Survival Program (CSP) in Addis Abada. At this program were the most beautiful children, the most loving mothers, and a wonderful morning to book-end our time in this beautiful country. Who wouldn't smile when greeted by these little munchkins?? It was here that I met the woman I had spoken of in a previous blog that volunteers with mothers in the community. To hear her talk about "so many disabled babies", and once again, see these beautiful and healthy children - I knew Compassion had made a difference in the lives of these mothers. Just the weight that must be lifted when you know that your child will not starve to death, or die of a preventable disease like diarrhea or malaria, must free these mothers to instead hug their babies every day, without the fear of loosing them. And to know that your baby will have the opportunity to go to school, to learn, to just be a child - is priceless.

It is a gift that we take for granted everyday. Yes, I worry about my children. But my worries are more the "what ifs". Sex. Drugs. Pregnancy. Homosexuality. Atheism. Selfcenteredness. Naivete. Most of those worries are for another day and not the survival in the here and now. (Although Braeden likes to test that theory...)

In that church, we had a wonderful morning playing with those babies and it really put my heart at peace. If it had not been for our ride to the center through the poverty and the dirt, if we had just been placed in the little church compound, you would never know that we were in a place of immense poverty. Now I don't want to brag about the wonderful thing that the great America was able to bring to those mothers and children. It wasn't like us high and mighty Americans were happy to see what great things our money could do in that barren land. Now follow me here: instead - it was mothers meeting mothers. God's children playing with God's children. We were not giving to them, not blessing them with our presence. God had found a way to level the field and bring His blessings to His people in that land. And we were there to be able to witness that and to see the smiles His gifts had born. To remember with humility that those children are healthy, and smiling, and playing - because God gave to us, so we could give to them. And that was my peace. It's not about us. It's all about His children.

Luke 18:16 "But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."






Compassion now offers sponsors the ability to partner with a specific CSP project in the country of their choice. You receive quarterly newsletters, information about the women in your project, and letters from the mothers. Your money - $20 a month; can help the above mothers remain mothers to their babies through health and AIDS education, prenatal/infant care education, and economic training or assistance. God-willing, these babies will not be orphans.

Partner with a CSP project today.
Click on "make a contribution"
Then choose "Child Survival Project" from the left side column.

**90% of Child Survival Project babies meet their developmental milestones on time.
**At the first CSP project we toured, over 1000 mothers stood in line for the available 50 slots. **Why not help more? Because we need you to help first.


Matthew 25: 34-36,40 "Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'... "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Counting the cost

I realized in trying to explain yesterday why we are adopting, I did a pretty poor job. I'll just blame my negativity on PMS.

I told them adoption was hard, WAY hard.
I told them adoption was stressful, WAY stressful.
And I told them adoption was expensive, VERY expensive.

I also told them that were it not for God's leading, I probably would have given up a long time ago.

(Well aren't I just the warrior for Christ that I thought I was 12 months ago??)

Truth is - while it is hard, stressful, expensive, and about 26 other negatives I could think of to describe my feelings and experiences - it isn't all about me anyway....

While the reality of the fact that having 4 kids will probably nix any plans for neat vacations like New York City, cruise ships, trips to Jamaica, etc. --- will sacrificing those be worth the cost of feeding / clothing / loving another?

While the reality of the fact that having kids share rooms, closets, and clothes will make things a little more cramped and uncomfortable - will my children sacrificing that privacy be worth them being able to see what the love of Christ is capable of? To grow up with a heart of compassion?

While the reality of the fact that saving for adoption means less money for eating out at nice restaurants, less money to buy new tennis shoes we may want, less money to have to put my little girl in a dance class or little boy in gymnastics - at the end of the day, will those things be missed or even remembered? Will my lack of a gym membership ruin my life completely? Will we miss not being able to go out to the theaters and settling for $1 RedBox movies instead? Will my lack of an iPhone damage my ability to parent a child who has come from nothing?

No -- our sacrifices aren't really even sacrifices when you sit down and list them out. Minor inconveniences maybe. Small disappointments that last a day or week, perhaps. But will my children, ANY of them, truly miss any aspect of their childhood because of the cost of answering God's call to help the 'least of these'?

No -- I think it is when we, as the world's elite, choose those little pleasures that add up, and leave no scraps to throw to the poor or needy; innocently ignoring these little ones because we are too engrossed in our own lives to see, that there is a cost...


Not everyone is meant to adopt. Not everyone is meant to travel to a third world country. I'm just as guilty as the next at not doing enough. But if you are a Christian, if you claim Christ as your own - has it cost you anything? Or is it costing them?

Job 31:15-17; 28.
"Did not he who made me in the womb make them?
Did not the same one form us both within our mothers?
If I have denied the desires of the poor
or let the eyes of the widow grow weary,
if I have kept me bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless .....

Then these also would be sins to be judged,
for I would have been unfaithful to God on high."


**Take time to read this eye-opening post that will be bothering me the rest of this evening. Amy has a much better way with words than I do.