Monday, January 16, 2017

Bringing Home Brantner Boy

Let's cut to the chase.

Adoption is expensive. Like crazy expensive. 

There's not much we haven't done to help bring our boy home. 

Offering cleaning services: Yep. Did That.  Garage Sales: Yep, quite a few of those.  Acquired extra jobs: A handful of those too. 

And although this process has been costly, we've seen the Lord provide in so many wonderful ways. 

There's been lots going on in our little adoption process the last few weeks. And we can't wait to share ALL THE DETAILS about all the happenings. 

But first. Some friends have graciously offered to help us raise the last teensy bit of funds to help us bring our boy home! (Eek.. its getting closer and closer!!)

On March 24, our church will host a benefit not only to bless our family, but our hope and prayer is that it will serve as a catalyst for Orphan Care around the world. 

You can Reserve your spot HERE!!! 

And if you want to be a BIG PART of the event, email me! :) (We're collecting donations for a silent and live auction. Your donation would be a huge blessing to one very loved and lonely little boy. And will serve as a catalyst to provide love and care to many more kids in need of a loving family.)





Wednesday, December 28, 2016

It's A Wonderful Life

The past few weeks have been filled with one fun activity after another. All the Christmas celebrations and festivities have provided a welcomed distraction from all the waiting. Sort of.


Because even in the midst of all the amusement, it's hard to keep my mind from wandering to what it will be like with our boy home and enjoying all the fun, too. Will he like the sugar cookies, too? Or will the process of baking them be overwhelming to him? Maybe he'd prefer chocolate chip cookies?

Our family loves piling on a couch with a bowl of popcorn and watching movies, especially Christmas movies. But all the relaxing can sometimes be hard, too. My mind wanders during those still nights. One night specifically, the cost of the upcoming part of the process seemed incredibly daunting. (Around $20,000+ left.) Dollar signs would not stop swirling in my head. I snuck away from the couch for a quick second, ran as quietly as I could to the computer, logged in to one of the organizations (ShowHope)  we had applied for a grant through. 

A few weeks prior, I had told some friends "this Christmas would be so awesome if it were like It's A Wonderful Life and all these organizations and people just throw money at us for this adoption." (You know, sans the reallllly sad and troubling rest of the movie.) Then, we laughed because sometimes I say ridiculous things. But.. there I sat.. waiting for the computer to load up the page.

Wait. What?!!? What does that mean?!? Why can't you just TELL US ONLINE?!?! Why do we have to wait for a letter in the mail?!?! The suspense is KILLING ME!!!

After freaking out for a minute and texting a few friends, I breathed.. and prayed. I prayed for the Lord to calm my heart... my mind recalled another organization (Lifesong) we had just heard from the day before. We were awarded a pretty generous matching grant through Lifesong. But the thing with matching grants is that people donate.. and the organization then matches the amount that has been donated toward your fund. We were so grateful for the news... but wait. All these people... they've all lavishly poured money into our adoption process. Knowing this little boy... our boy deserves a family though, I don't mind putting his story and our story out there. If anyone deserves being donated to, I know he does. So, we put our situation out there for all the people to see. We praised God for the gift of this grant. 

I made my way back into the folds of entangled limbs on the couch and enjoyed the remainder of the movie. And the next day held more distractions in the form of sugary treats, errands and general Christmas break fun. I had resolved in my heart and mind to try my hardest to not check the mailbox 500 times a day in anxious waiting of the letter from ShowHope. I prayed for extra grace.. for extra patience.. and to fully enjoy the wonderful gifts the Lord's given me in the form of 4 blonde people that take up all the room in our warm home. 

Imagine my shock when I opened this that very afternoon... just one VERY SHORT day after the decision was made regarding our ShowHope grant.

My fingers fidgeted and fumbled clumsily... my eyes refused to focus on the words. A few deep breaths later, my heart slowed enough to make all my motor skills work fine enough. And much to my surprise and delight... Show Hope had granted our family an abundant amount towards our adoption costs. ($5,000 to be exact!!!) WHAT?!?! It goes without saying that we praised God for this beautifully HUGE gift.

And much to our surprise.. people weren't done being openhanded with their cash either. Donations poured into our Lifesong account for the matching grant. 

Sure, we've discussed the costs of adoption... its a whole bunch of agency fees, government fees, costs of forms, postage and a million things all wrapped up. All the donations towards LifeSong and Show Hope will largely pay for the remainder of all those agency fees, and even 50% of our travel fees. The other 50% of travel is cash we HAVE to have in hand. Lifesong and ShowHope can only send all moneys raised to our agency. And our agency cannot just send us that cash needed for traveling. So, it's a funny little line.. trying our best to raise all these funds through these two beautiful organizations.. but also, somehow acquire the cash needed when we step on the plane. 

Overjoyed by the news of Lifesong matching grant and the Show Hope gift, my mind was pretty far from being too worried about the cash we still had to come up with for travel. 

Christmas Eve was spent celebrating the birth of our Savior with our wonderful church family. A few of our dear friends wrapped me in warm embraces, celebrating all that's been happening in our adoption world lately... and snuck bits of cash into our hands as well. And I cried... and laughed...cried some more. 

That ridiculous notion I had about our Christmas being like It's A Wonderful Life... that thought I had chuckled over for weeks... that seemed absolutely preposterous... well. I guess it really wasn't. 


In just 12 very short days, people generously gave 75% of our matching grant goal, we were awarded the Show Hope grant... and were given about 5% of the cash needed for traveling. In less than HALF a month, the Lord provided $14,040 through many generous donors!

We are grateful for all that He has done! And I am especially grateful that He is teaching me more and more about His grace and provision by providing in such a short time frame! Hah!


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Process is Craziness

The adoption process is craziness. All the work.. all the emotions.. all the things.. it's just a bit crazy. But it's also a lot wonderful. It's challenging, because you feel like all the papers have overtaken your entire life. Quite frankly, I have no idea how a couple could possibly gather all their documents and both hold down a full-time job. It's challenging, because your heart breaks for the millions of children in the world that NEED a family... and knowing the one that belongs in your family is sitting there waiting for you, while there's nothing you can possibly do to get to him sooner.  And it's challenging because crazy things happen to you during the process. (Being involved in a hit and run accident in the midst of gathering all the documents, or your oven quitting on you and putting on quite a theatrical display of it, too.)

Our hearts have been on this passionate tug-of-war for quite some time now. Our lungs have felt at full-capacity for quite some time as we've been holding our breath in anticipation for our sweet boy. 

But in the midst of all the crazy.. in the midst of the heart-wrenching moments.. in the midst of all the work, the encouragement never ceases to amaze me. From random text messages, to Facebook comments, to a note in the mail, a hug from a friend, a random donation to our adoption fund.. the ways we've been cheered on over the past 31 months has been incredible. 

It's been so inconceivably amazing that it was safe to assume we'd reached a point that no form of encouragement would be quite shocking. Does that mean that any kind of encouragement is expected now? Well, no, definitely not. Does that mean that we don't cherish every donation made and we're not brought to our knees in praise when it happens? Well, no. 

But sometimes, something new.. something fresh.. something different happens... and it doesn't always have to be a GINORMOUS gesture, but even the small and so amazingly sweet things bring a smile to your heart, a gasp to your lips, and the ugly cry to your eyes. 

As we returned home after Community Group, I checked the mail. In the box was a handful of cards and such. It's not unusual for our mailbox to be filled with personalized envelopes this time of year. I love seeing our name and address handwritten on the outside of an envelope. And it brings me so much joy to see all the beautiful faces of our loved ones that take up the space inside those envelopes. But inside one of those envelopes, I also found this red envelope. 

In it, my incredibly sweet friend wrote that it's customary for someone to be given a red envelope in celebration of the Chinese New Year. She wished us well on our adoption journey, and is praying that we can use her gift in China soon. 

And again. At a completely random moment... on a mundane day.. I was overwhelmed by the goodness of the Lord....for this friend that has been so gracious in helping me learn about our son's culture, and hasn't snickered too loudly when I've tried my best at his native language. As the tears poured down, I recalled all the ways He has provided for our family on this journey. For the friends that have spent countless hours helping raise funds... for the friends who've prayed countless prayers on our behalf and for our son... for those who've not held their tongue or stopped their fingers from sending encouraging words.. for those who've selflessly emptied their pockets. 

If there is anything I want to remember about the last 31 months.. and the next few months, its that the adoption process is crazy. The adoption process is crazy amazing. It is crazy good. It is crazy encouraging. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

Oh.. Hi there... I have a blog?

It has been so incredibly long since I have blogged. Let's all hope my brain can still make complete thoughts that flow pretty.. and are comprehensible.

About a year ago, we were wrapping up the "paper chase" for our adoption process through Haiti. (The paper chase refers to allllll the 500bazillion documents you have to gather for the adoption process. These documents are pretty much your life on paper. Birth certificates, Marriage certificate, a homestudy that outlines your entire life, reference letters written by people who love you, etc.) Signing up for an international adoption, you know the process could be lengthy.. and sometimes crazy. There is no way to guarantee a completely smooth transaction, and there can always be some unknown twists in the process. So, when we submitted our 5trillion documents to be mailed to Haiti, we didn't necessarily bank on the promise of bringing home our son in a short amount of time. However, we weren't ready for the news we received when we did submit our docs. Our agency had to relay the difficult news that while Haiti wasn't exactly shut down, they weren't really processing adoptions either. The documents we had spent months and months gathering would have to wait in our agency's office for almost a year before they could even be mailed to Haiti. Once there, because Haiti is SO backlogged and unable to keep up, it would be another year before our information would even be put into their child welfare system. Then.. it could be another 1-2 years before we received a referral... and THENNNNN it would be about another year (or possibly longer) before we could travel to pick him up. 

We were heartbroken. We prayed. We asked a lot of questions. Our agency was so gracious and kind.. and honest. We prayed more. We researched other countries. Our agency provided wise counsel. 

And so.. we switched our adoption process to China. Because we stayed with the same agency.. and because the news from Haiti was so sudden and shocking, the agency carried over all fees that had been paid towards our Haiti adoption process to the China adoption process. With one of the biggest hurdles being cleared (financial), the only thing standing in our way of switching countries was losing ALLLLLL that work we.. well, I, had done in collecting those 8zillion papers. But. I was DETERMINED! Hours upon hours.. days.. were spent collecting new papers and new letters. Because China's adoption process moves SO quickly in most cases, ALLLL the documents can't be over 6 months old when you mail them to the country.  And while it was hard and tedious work, it was all the more opportunities to witness the loving kindness of God even more. From big things like finding out of our dear friends is a notary and acted almost like my personal notarizing assistant, to small things like meeting REALLY kind government employees and passing time standing in lines chatting with interesting people. Having fees waived here and there.. 

Once our documents were all collected, we had to get special certifications by the Secretary of State. Next, our documents had to be certified by the Chinese Consulate in Houston. Yall. I'm not even lying or halfway exaggerating when I say that building is the stuff nightmares are made of. There are (almost) literally 500 rules about your adoption documents. So many stipulations. And there must be copies of said documents and they MUST be in a certain order. I prayed a lot about that particular step in the process... I dreamt a lot about it too. And I might have put on an extra layer or two of deodorant the day we had to go to the consulate to drop our forms off. Once there, I was a mixture of nausea and anticipation. After waiting in line, we were greeted with one of the nicest people EVER. No, he didn't cut jokes or smile profusely the entire time. But.. he was kind, patient and APPROVED ALL OF OUR PAPERS! Seriously, not one person I have ever talked to has had their paperwork approved on the first try! But. We did! PTL! 

It takes a few days for all the papers to get their special stamps. If they would have let me, I probably would have slept in the consulate and kept a watchful eye on them. But.. they wouldn't let me. So, I had to leave months of tears, sweat and hard work in the hands of some random guy holding our adoption destiny. 

Several days later, we picked the forms back up, rushed to make copies, copies and more copies, and then mailed the ORIGINALS to our agency. For real. If someone had given me a plane ticket to Virginia right then, I would have not hesitated flying those documents to the office myself. And from there, the documents made their long journey to China. Our sweet family coordinator (person who facilitates your adoption, and virtually holds your hand and emotions throughout the entire process) emailed me the tracking number for the shipment of documents.  Again. I'm not exaggerating.. if I could have flown them to China myself, I would have. My prayer for those few days was that the plane would not have any serious damage while over the ocean, and ALLL those precious papers would not end up floating in salt water. So many friends were so gracious to not laugh in my face about those silly fears, and were so kind to pray on our behalf for those things. 

Once your docs arrive in a country, you have to be logged into the child welfare system. This pretty much means that you'll be recognized as an adoptive family by that country and be available to adopt.

Our docs reached China at lightning speed... okay, 3 days. And we were prepared to wait about 2-3 weeks for our file to be logged into their system. We were SHOCKED to receive an email the same day our documents arrived in China to say that our file was logged in the SAME DAY!  

It seems like our little adoption process has had about 500 crazy little twists, turns, stall outs and general mayhem. So, when we get all those 9trillion documents gathered in the right time frame... and those documents are approved by a consulate that's been known to have stringent rules.. and they arrive at all the destinations without any hiccups.. and they also are logged in so quickly.. we CELEBRATE all those victories.. even if they seem small! 

So. Now. We're waiting. Waiting for the call to say they've found the perfect, most precious, little loveliest boy for our family. We're hopeful, anxious, and like every other part of this process.. we've only got about 500 feels and emotions on the matter. 

And this waiting.. it could be the absolute hardest part of this whole entire process. We know our boy is there.. in need of love.. in need of medical attention.. in need of a family that will love him fight for him no matter what!

Friday, October 31, 2014

A longing. He must feel it, too.

The aroma of Pumpkin, enchanting spices and warm sugar seeps through my home. The kids spend the days giddy for all the festivities that this time of year brings. Their bright smiles are infectious and contagious.

We, Dad and Mom, find ourselves chuckling with them. It is a joyous time a year with much to be thankful for. We are happy.

But with each activity, there is an underlying current of anticipation. A sense of longing. We are anxious for this boy to join our home and our family. A boy we have prayed for often. I know he must feel it, too.

(Photo Courtesy of Coreluv Intl.)
Running, playing and even laughing with his friends in the hot Caribbean sunlight. Chowing down on rice and beans. He must wonder what its like to have a family of his own. He must wonder if there will be a Mom to love him and wipe his tears, a Dad to play soccer with.

This boy, our boy, should know the immense love of his Mom and Dad. He should know the love of his brother and sisters. He has the right to a family that will cherish him forever and always, the right to be loved and to be a part of a family!

We rest in the fact that God absolutely loves this boy! He LOVES him! Far more and greater than we could ever love this precious child. He sacrificially and selflessly sent His Son to make a way for this boy to be called into a greater family. We pray this boy knows this Father's LOVE. We pray that He will use us to help show this precious boy that LOVE.

What a joy and privilege it is to show our children this wonderful LOVE! We would love to share this love with our boy. We're onto the next hurdle in our adoption journey. Will you please pray for us as we move forward?

There are many more documents to be collected. Many more official stamps and seals to be obtained on said documents.

It has astounded us that so many have been so kind and generous to us in this journey. Your giving, prayers and kind words are humbling! We are so very grateful!

We know that this time of year presents many opportunities for people to be charitable.  There are MANY wonderful ministries and organizations that do so many wonderful things, that accomplish so much and ministers to people in very tangible ways.

Would you prayerfully consider supporting our adoption journey? We would be so blessed by your charitable gift and generous giving to help bring our boy home.. to his FAMILY!

Please visit our Adoption Fundraising Website.

Thank you for loving us.. and thank you for loving our boy!


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Homestudy Part 2

Oh the Homestudy. Its the first step in the adoption process.

It sounds so simple, so easy.

I think we win the award for LONGEST home study process. EVER. Funny (and by funny, I really mean, not-so-funny) things happened like our coordinator leaving the country for a little while and our agency encountering a slight hiccup, and well.. it just made the process drag a tad.

After rounding papers from here, there and everywhere, we were finally ready to welcome our Social Worker into our home. We'll call her "B."

"B" came by on a lovely Sunday afternoon. We loved having her in our home, and the kids enjoyed "showing off" for her. She had a knack for being warm, welcoming and listened generously. Everyone tells you not to worry about the interview portion of the home study.

But you never listen. Instead you purge 8 years worth of stuff from every nook and cranny in your home. You get 4 hours of sleep the night before, and are running on pure caffeine and adrenaline when the worker gets to your home. Its awesome. (Said no one ever.)

About 30 minutes into your interview, you realize you should have totally listened to everyone. The interview portion is nothing to sweat over.

As soon as "B" left, and my caffeine high subsided, I went into a deep coma for 80 days. Just kidding. But I did sleep REAL good that night. And I've enjoyed the fruits of my spastic cleaning ever since. I've never found things so easily in my pantry before or had so much room to walk in my closet! Its totally amazing.

"B" does all the fun work of compiling all those documents and the interview into a nice 30-some-odd (really its just about 10) page essay about your entire lives and those closest to you. You get to review it, advise of any adjustments/corrections here or there. And then it gets mailed to you several weeks later.

Sometimes you might cry when you FINALLY have it in your hands after all those months (5 to be exact) of hard work to complete that thing!

Yes, we finally have completed our home study! YAY!!!

Next up? The DOSSIER building. That's just a real fancy word for all. the. papers. of. the. entire. world.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

LEMON-AID Stand

There is not a day goes by, that our children don't speak about adoption. Most frequently, our conversations involve their brother.. what he might be like, how old he might be, how he will share our room with our sweet JoJo.

Inevitably, the conversation turns to WHEN our newest family member will enter into our home and call it HIS. We are all so very excited and anxious for the day that our precious boy will eat, sleep, play,  love, pick fights with sometimes, and BE HERE with us!

And sometimes, the conversation even leads to the financial aspect of adoption. Our eldest fair-headed one has a knack for being on top of things. She is in the know.. about, well everything. She is wildly confident and is a wonderful planner. Her mind articulates all kinds of scenarios, solves problems with ease, and best of all.. she is a dreamer!

When this girl gets an idea in her head, there is NO STOPPING her! Her bravery amazes me, and I wish I had half her self-esteem and confidence.

This morning, like so many other mornings, she sat at the table doodling. (Sorry. We are the reason all the forests and trees are cut down everywhere. I promise we will start planting trees somewhere to make up for all the paper this crafty kid goes through.)

And while she is doodling, she is rattling off all these grand plans left and right. The words flow off her tongue a mile a minute, while her tone fluctuates with excitement at all the right moments.

She's found the perfect solution to bring her brother home. She is going to have a LEMONADE STAND! Hard at work, the crayons and markers create beautiful images on the paper in front of her.
(With a tiny bit of help from Mom on making the words all fit with proper justification and such.)

We spend the rest of our day much like all other summer days. In the blistering Texas sun but making sure to keep cool in a neighborhood pool where we are LITERALLY the only ones in the pool for most of the afternoon.

We stop by the store on the way home to pick up a few supplies for our grand LEMONADE STAND adventure. And every chance my children get, they chirp to those passing by about our plans. They excitedly share about the boy they will share all their toys, time and love with. They gush over how they can't wait to help bring their brother home with the sales from this endeavor.

With little time to spare before the coming-home-from-work traffic hits our neighborhood, we prepare our Fresh Squeezed (straight from the Country-Time container) lemonade. We make sure to have all our supplies out and ready.

Then, the fun began!

The girls rushed to hold the signs advertising our "LEMON- AID" stand to each car that passed by!

I just prayed it wouldn't be a huge flop, and the girls would get just a couple of cars to stop.

Several minutes passed. We had our first customer. The girls ambushed politely asked him if he'd like a cup of lemonade.

He did.

Chattering a mile a minute, they enthusiastically explained how they will have a new brother soon because we are adopting! They explained how they wanted to have a "LEMON-AID" stand to help bring their brother home!

(I fought back the ugly cry. I actually fought it back the whole day. It snuck out a time or two throughout the poster preparing, and the shopping.. and the swimming. And I've realized I need someone to teach my the art of the "Pretty Cry." For pete's sake.. I'm going to be crying lots of big emotional tears. There will be lots of FEELS throughout this process. I can't be breaking down in a completely hideous face  everytime the FEELS overwhelm me in public!)

The man laid $7 down in our collection box. AMAZING! Which, also kind of set the bar high for future customers. I may have had to remind the girls that our most generous customers were free to give as they wished.. and not feel obligated to fork over $7 for some water-downed CountryTime mix.

The girls worked and worked. They sprinted to pick up a sign each time they heard the faintest sound of a car. With eager grins, they presented the signs advertising a sweet, refreshing beverage.

Occasionally, a car would stop. But there were others that just whizzed right by. (From henceforth and forevermore, I vow to stop at EVERY SINGLE LEMONADE STAND from here to kingdom come!) Our expressive four-year-old found great delight and pleasure from throwing her sign on the ground at every failed attempt to attract customers to our tart beverages. And with each person that did stop, we had the chance to chat with neighbors we never even knew lived down or around, or a street over from us. We had the chance to chat adoption, and orphan care, and our Faith. And we did it together. As a family. With my kids more than eagerly serving to bring their brother home.

As the evening wore on and nighttime drew closer, my little sales-people were ever so polite to keep checking product quality. Being sure to do a taste check here and there, they wanted to make sure that our product was of utmost greatness to serve to the general public.

We called it a night and closed up shop just as traffic slowed to a near trickle through the neighborhood.

 After a long evening in the hot sun, the kids enjoyed running through the sprinkler. The water cooled them and only made the excitement over the evening that much more palpable.

And I vowed to want to ALWAYS believe in my little dreamer girl. I want to keep encouraging her and the ways she dreams up ways of bringing her newest sibling into this family. I want to continue to remind her that her ideas are important, they are valued!

(And I may or may not want to keep cashing in on that brilliant mind and killer smile of hers... which might have raked in over $100 this evening! We are so grateful to God for the very generous people that stopped by our little stand! Thank you for loving our family and loving our sweet boy that we just can't wait to welcome home!)