Thursday, February 23, 2012

Adoption Fundraising

We just got our in-country travel package bill today and paid that bad boy so I have $$ issues on my mind! That and a friend asked for fundraising advice so here it is for anyone else interested.. pardon the crappy grammar/punctuation but I don't have time for a real post right now and am trying to shake sickness - so you get the email version. My apologies.

In regards to in-country expenses, we will be in country 9 days this trip. and 2 more to travel to/from. You only are required to stay 4-5 but we tacked on extra days since this is a once-in-a-lifetime and the airfare is the bulk of the cost - why not stay longer to see more? We have arranged those extra days to go to her hometown and tour the orphanage she stayed in until placed with our agency. So that adds some extra expense but we also feel it is well worth it.

Now onto fundraising - keep in mind that my kids had to have passports, shots, and airfare -- and we had said only, and only IF God provided money for them to go, could they go. So that hikes our price up a bit vs others. My jaw dropped when I added up today's final total. NO.WAY. I have NO idea how all that was paid. I just know that we had $20-$40 little donations, little store sales, little bit in savings for the last 3 years... and it added up. Remember, we started at $0. ZERO.

We have about $3-4000 left to fundraise for Trip #2 but I have no worries!! As my dear friend Farrah told me once re: the kids shots -- write the check as if God has already put the money in your account. Faith.

Fundraising Letters - we put the support letter on the back burner as a 'last resort' since I had just sent out letters a year prior for the Compassion missions trip I took. But would have used it if we still needed to, here in the end stretch. Many people do, and have success. (And it's not off the table for this last amount, either.) One thing to remember, someone once told me as far as sending out letters - you feel like - 'I know they don't have the money so I'm not going to ask' BUT then you are stealing a blessing away from them that God may have intended for them. If they give $10, God may bless them 10-fold. So why make the decision to not give them the opportunity?

As far as tax deductions - our agency has a fund they can donate to and be tax deductible, the Eternal Family Fund. We had $1000 in there today to be taken off our bill owed. $500 made it's way in there without me knowing it. But we also had 2 churches offer to be our conduit for tax ded. donations. They offered for people to write checks to them with our name in the memo and then to write them back to us as a missions donation.

Grants - I also know of several couples who have gotten grants, some straight out, some matching. There are many out there - we are applying for one specifically for Carolina residents now "Caroline's Promise" for the remaining $3000 we need. For most you need a completed homestudy to apply.

Yard Sales - We have had 3 (maybe 4) mega yard sales with anything I could find to sell in our house and donations from other people. We made around $600 each time. But those are ALOT of work, I am henceforth yard-selled out.

In regards to feeling like we need to pay back donations once our adoption is complete - no. I truly feel that God blesses those that follow his commands to help take care of the orphan and it is the same as with missions - some are asked to GO and some are asked to GIVE. None are asked to DO nothing. The tax credit is changing anyway so it will no longer be refundable.. (stinks) so no money coming back into our hands which we could repay to donors anyway. Now it will just offset any taxes we owe. Which will help me as I always owe, being self-employed but families such as pastors and such who never have to pay and always get refunds, wont see
much of anything.

Raffles, suppers - What we started with - $ZERO: a family friend donated a framed print which we raffled off and made $800. you would be surprised how many things you could get donated if you ask. Many families do silent auctions paired with a spaghetti/pancake dinner with homemade cakes etc to get started and have done very well.

T-shirts - we tried doing t-shirts but didn't make much there. lots have good success with selling shirts. "Simply Love" is a cool organization that makes really cute shirts, you can 'purchase' their design kit and sell their shirts for a profit, even if adopting domestically.

Coffee Sales - we signed up with 'just love' coffee company. they are an Ethiopia adopting family but I think are open to any kind of adoption - you just send people to your 'storefront' website address and get $5 for every bag sold. I think we have made around $600 this way with no read effort. The best coffee E'VA.

BIGGEST TIP: don't TRY to raise the money. Let God lead you on what to try and go for. That way he gets the glory and we don't. I have struggled with this on and off but truly, this is the FIRST time (well, this and the trip I took prior) where I actually practiced my faith. Before it was just that he was a God I said I worshiped on Sundays but really didn't believe in His awesome power with my actions. But when I let go and said 'you do it Daddy' it happened.

Fundraising Store - I found a company where I could buy wholesale as I was looking for African toys to sell to adopting parents.. the toys weren't that cute so I didn't. But kept feeling the Spirit tell me to 'buy the zebras and giraffes'. haha. So I did - but they weren't that cute and didn't sell!!! BUT - that got me going with the jewelry and soaps and we have now made $3-4000 off Lil' Olivia's. I have heard of other families who have sold cookie cutters, magnets, stickers, homemade dolls, paintings, etc. Etsy is a great place to find and support families selling items for their adoptions.

I tried to paint watercolor painting and sell them - and haven't sold a one. I had a friend out-of-the-blue give me 15 baby blankets to sell and only have 3 left.

God provides: Over, and over, and over - we have heard - God provides. We have heard it said many times - "you guys are so great to do this, I wish we could." or "I've always wanted to adopt but we just don't have the money." Zero friends. ZERO. Did you catch that? God provided it all. Tens of thousands of dollars that HE provided for us to be blessed enough to call this little munchkin a Wages. Take that first step. Say I will GO. And watch Him WORK.

**just as a reminder, I have a page entitled 'Our Paper Pregnancy' which lists times, costs, etc. associated with our adoption. It isn't to see 'how much she cost' - but instead to encourage others that even when things seem to be hopeless, God still has the details, even when they seem insurmountable and that total amount of $ or total amount of time it takes seem like a mountain too huge to scale.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Pessimistic's Perception on Wait Times

At this point - I could go back and link up to the top 10 depressing posts of the last 2 years as we waited for our referral. And there were a few standouts.

crying out that we could go no longer
questioning why it was taking so much longer than it should
pouting about how long it was taking

And that's not counting all the 'it should be X many months!!', 'we DEFINITELY will have our baby home in 2011!!', 'yeah, we've been waiting X months!!'. All those and my cheerleader optimism kind of makes me snort now.

And I could list all the comments and encouragements we received in the last months - those that helped, and those that after hearing them for the 1,324,532th time in a year, started to make me throw up just a little in the back of my throat:

It's all in God's timing. God's timing is perfect. Good things come to those who wait. Have you heard anything yet? She's just not ready yet. You'll forget all this once you see her face.

But no, I haven't forgotten. Do I believe in God's timing? YES. A resounding YES. Have I forgotten the tears, the pain, the feeling that God had left us out to dry? NO. A resounding NO.

BUT. What I can tell you - and especially any of you who are in the Hell that is adoption waiting - is that it will pass. And you will be happy you were made to wait.

Last fall I was feeling so defeated... we had counted on a 2011 baby. And a friend got her referral for a gorgeous little girl. And then another got her referral for a teeny tiny little girl. I turned a light shade of green with envy.

I've now seen those two girls. They are NOT my girl.

Right before Christmas, we were praying for a Christmas baby. A dear friend got her referral for another precious little munchkin. Or big munchkin to be exact! Why couldn't we have a Christmas baby to celebrate over I pouted? I've seen that girl.  I've held and kissed that baby girl.  She is NOT my girl.

In late December, we got wind of another teeny tiny little girl. I was #1 on the list and KNEW that was our girl. Our referral was not that teeny tiny little girl. I've seen that precious girl.  Cuddled her close.  She is NOT my girl.

But I look at MY GIRL. Every night I look at her photos. They scroll through my album like a mini-movie just for me. And THAT is MY GIRL. My heart feels her. My heart aches for her. Hurts for her when I heard she was sick. Cries tears for her to think she doesn't have her mommy to hold her feverish body. That is MY GIRL.

Is it because our names are attached? A couple files matched up? No, I don't think so.. I think it is because of the true miracle of adoption - and how God prepares your heart for just the right child. And those other babies, while amazingly cute - their puzzle pieces just wouldn't have fit mine. And that is amazing to me.

So while I hurt for all those 'stuck', who haven't seen their littles yet. And ache for that puzzle piece sized hole in your heart to be filled - I have to tell you - at the risk of making you throw up a little in the back of your throat: I was one of the WORST waiters. I was pessimistic. I was not encouraging. I was frankly, pretty pissed at the whole process. But God's timing is perfect.

Would I trade it, to have another child's picture taking residence in my purse, on my mantel, in my kitchen, on my computer, in my heart 6 months or a year ago? No. Because MY little wasn't born a year ago when I was praying, hoping, knowing that our referral would come any day. But God's timing is perfect.

I have no idea why we were THE group that had their i600 requests lost in a monstrous stack at USCIS for 3 months, putting us 3 months behind the crowd. Or why we were in THE group that got stuck in what will be known as the Great Ethiopian Adoption slowdown. But I know God's timing is perfect. And I know he was here all along - smiling at me, his pessimistic, frankly-a-little-pissed-off toddlerish daughter - holding my hand, and telling me he had it all under control.

It is 27 days til I hold MY GIRLS hand, and cry when I have to let her go. And hate having to wait to go back and get her. And not understanding why things are taking as long as they are. But, I will try.... I'll try... to remind myself then - that God's timing is perfect. And he'll still be holding my hand. I know it, because I am HIS GIRL.
(That's my girl holding a bracelet that I made SIX years ago. I had given it to my friend Jerry as we left Ethiopia from a week of visiting Compassion International projects. After being told that week that, "You are not here by accident. You are here for a reason. For you to have come to Ethiopia, at this time, this year, in 2009 - not last year, not the year after - is not an accident. God has his plan for you. Remember that."

Hmm, sound familiar?)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Court Date!!!

Ethiopian airlines was running a special - BOGO tickets through Jan 31st. It was a long shot that we would have a date by then, as most take around a month to get and our referral date was just January 9th.

Our friends were praying REALLY hard for us. Cause with 5 tickets to buy. BOGO would be sweeeeeetttt.

Jan 31st, at 1:00 pm, Tony gets a call - "I've got good news!!! You have a court date of March 8th!!!"

Jan 31st, at 1:02 pm, Tony calls me and I almost wet my pants. Which wouldn't have been very nice considering I was at a friend's house for the first time ever. But hey, at least they were hard wood floors. And she got to do the happy dance with me. Well, figuratively, cause this white girl can't dance.

Jan 31st, around 1:05 pm, I message the travel agent to tell her we have a concrete date, so we might wanna get in on that BOGO deal. Stat.

Jan 31st, around 2:00 pm, she messages me back to say for me to call her when I get home because we have to have it all finished by 4:30 EST. No kidding. And here is where my heart starts a beatin!!

Jan 31st, around 3:00 pm I get home and call her... and call our friend Mindy who was going to go with me on trip #2 but hey, it's buy one, get one -- so don't you want to make a 20 minute decision about a life-changing trip to Africa, move the date up by about months, extend the time gone from your family by 7 days, and by the way - did I tell you that you only have a couple minutes to decide???

Jan 31st, around 3:45 pm, I get on phone with travel agent and arrange dates. My dear friend Stephanie messages me to tell me she is 'praying all the details fall into place'. Oh girl - thank you, cause they did!! Erica said it was 'the easiest package she had done'.... 'the smoothest trip'..... 'dates worked out perfect'..... 'can NOT believe it worked out that easy for you'.... oh yeah!

Jan 31st, at 4:10 pm, forward email to our travel coordinator at the agency for preapproval... call her to tell her to approve it. like now. please. The receptionist says she is away from her desk "but did you say by 4:30? as in 20 minutes from now? yes? ok, I'll go get her out of that meeting"

Jan 31st, at 4:15 pm, get preapproval from agency

Jan 31st, at 4:20 pm, get BOGO tickets confirmed. With 10 whole minutes to spare!

So dear friends, we will be on a plane to meet/hold/smooch on that precious baby girl in about a month!! With 3 kids and a dear friend in tow at a discount. And here I thought this adoption was going to be stressful from beginning to end!

Thank you God for answered prayers!