Friday, October 29, 2010

Give, Go, Tell: See Our Shirt In Africa!

Since the Lord established our family, He has led us to amazing churches.  The church we have attended for over eight years now is no exception and truly a blessing to us.  We have found wonderful friends there, we are involved in ministry there, our kids love it, and the Lord has blanketed the hearts of the leaders and congregation with a holy desire to see the nations turn to Him.

One central way our church obeys Christ's Great Commission that we should go and make disciples of all nations is by planting churches, 1000 in 40 years, all over the world.  How blessed we are to see the gospel at work in the lives of so many of our friends who have been part of this going and telling the Good News, many times in the farthest, darkest, least loved corners of the earth.

As I may have mentioned before, as Believers, we are adopted by God, grafted into His family permanently.  We hope that our decision to adopt our baby girl form Africa and our love for our daughter would be a demonstration of the love shown to us.  We decided to adopt not only because of our desire to grow our family and to raise godly children, but in response to the immeasurable love poured out on us in our own adoptions.

And as part of our adoption, we are selling some pretty amazing T-shirts with the story of our own adoption amidst words describing our heart for adopting our own child.  Get a closer look at the shirts here, right on the shirt designer's very own website.  You, too, can own one of these, by the way.  We still have lots of Large and XL crew shirts left, and we'd love for you to partner with us in sharing the gospel in this way, as well as advocating for orphans while looking pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves.  100% of the proceeds from our T-shirt sales go toward our adoption fees and expenses.  I have many favorite parts of the shirts, but one of my very favorites is the part that says, "GIVE GO TELL."

This brings me full circle to the fact that our shirt has made it to AFRICA!  One of our very own church family has been serving in South Africa, and her mother took her one of our shirts on a recent visit.  Look HERE to see the shirt and what sweet Amber has to say about it.  What a thrill that she has shared the very first picture of our shirt being worn by a missionary in Africa (notice the wildlife in the background!).  Pretty good stuff.

Thanks for coming back, y'all!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

How Joyfully?

How joyfully would I clean up the spilled milk, how gladly would I read one more book, how patiently would I wait on my little ones to find their shoes when we're late for church, how gently would I correct my sons, how selflessly would I rejoice at my friend's blessing, how kindly would I speak to my husband, how quickly would I forgive and forget when I am wronged...if Jesus were the spiller, the spouse, the child, the friend, the offender?

Of course for so many of us, Jesus seems easier to love.  He is perfect, after all.  But if we are to love one anther as God loves us, and if we are to do all things as unto the Lord, and if love is all of these above, then how miserably I fail at loving even Christ.  When I consider that I should love my family as if they were Christ, it is easier to serve and love them with a happy heart.  But how short I fall at loving even Christ.  I must submit my mind and heart to the truths that I must love and what love is anew each morning (and mid-morning, and afternoon, and 4:00).  I require perpetual, increasing grace and mercy just to walk worthy of my blessings, just to love Jesus.

Our family's adoption process has been more a spiritual journey for me thus far than anything else (i.e., no updates for now).  While the day when we will bring home our little one seems very far off, the reality of how and why we love her already has done a work on my heart.  Total obedience to the whole counsel of the Bible is required, not simply those I'm excited about.  I've long considered my position as mother and wife and homemaker my mission field; that's not a novel idea for evangelical families.  But the requirements for a job well done and how long it is taking me to grow into the role amaze me still.  Loving simply is not easy.

So I hope for a moment to encourage mothers to consider your little spillers, dawdlers, offenders, friends and even spouses as Christ in your kitchen.  Recall what love is (hide it in your heart if you haven't already).  Hold your heart up to the light of scripture, and conform to it.  And remember that you are loved by love's Author, who is love and who loves you perfectly even though He knows how you love.

Thanks for coming back.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Would $13,000 Help?

The reality is that the expense of adoption, whether international or domestic, is what prevents many families from considering adoption for themselves.  Money is very often the deal breaker.  Wide eyed wife pleads with pragmatic husband to consider the many faceted blessing of adoption, and he admonishes her to recall that they have bills and obligations and no such money lying around.  But what if you would be eligible to receive up to around $13,000 back as an adoption tax credit?  Would that change the discussion?

Consider watching a free webinar tomorrow, Tuesday, October 5, 2010, offered by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), at 12:30pm Eastern.  See the invitation here.  And join the webinar here.

FINE PRINT:  I'm not a tax attorney.  Nothing on this site should be considered legal advice.  Please consult your adoption agency and tax professional regarding your eligibility for any tax credit.  I know I will.

I hope this helps.  Thanks for coming back.

More Fees Increasing

In the world of international adoption, there's no shortage of acronyms, agencies, forms and fees.  And the fees would appear to be ever increasing.  Here's one more example.  I mentioned last week that we received our passports in unexpectedly short order, though we had not asked for them to be expedited.  We did, however, have to pay the recently increased fee for passports.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) plays a part in international adoption by performing a federal background check on prospective adoptive parents, processing visa requests and processing petitions for the advanced processing of an orphan and classification of an orphan as an immediate relative (I-600/I-600A).  There's a substantial fee associated with some petitions and services, and they're about to go up, effective 11/23/10.

Among the services commonly needed by prospective adoptive parents from the USCIS are:

Biometrics (fingerprinting) - fee rising from $80 to $85
I-600/I-600A - fee rising from $670 to $720
N-600 (IR-4 visas) - fee rising from $460 to $600

Check the USCIS website for information about their fee changes here.

Please check with your agency, adoption attorney and the USCIS to make sure you clearly understand the requirements for your adoption and that you're paying the correct amount.  Filing for these documents before the deadline may not be of any help to you, as some documents expire or will not be accepted if not validated within a maximum number of months from the approval of the adoption, and you must observe the proper order for your adoption process.

FINE PRINT:  I'm not an adoption attorney.  The information on this site is not intended as legal advice but as general information.  Please consult your adoption professional regarding the requirements for your particular adoption.

I hope this is helpful to folks navigating the international adoption process.  Thanks for coming back.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Orphans and the Justice System

This weekend has been mind blowing and heartbreaking.  The suffering of orphans, the oppressed, the marginalized, the modern day slaves has been so present and so offensive to me this weekend.

I started out my Saturday serving with a local ministry called JusticeMatters, a group very close to my heart.  We kicked off our year of free Christian legal clinics by laying on the hearts of local attorneys and law students a vision for serving our city in Jesus' name.  Among our long term goals:  free or reduced fee adoption services for families living out the gospel in their own family through adoption.  This thrills me to no end that the Lord uses even lawyers to bring Him glory in this way.

Throughout the weekend I've also been following the Together for Adoption conference in Austin, TX.  How I wish I was there.  Knowing that an adoption spares a child from a life of sex trafficking, fatherlessness, hopelessness, suicide, prostitution, crime, abuse.  And there are so very many children.  I know what joy and promise just one child brings.  What joy and promise for a child and for obedience to the call are families foregoing by refusing to adopt?

These two events have so much to do with one another.  A child brought into a family where he can know love and Truth and hope is a child who is spared from being a statistic in our legal system.  10% of children aging out of orphanages commit suicide.  90% of persons in US prisons were in the foster care system.  So many attorneys are employed and an enormous portion of our state and federal budgets spent on the aftermath of fatherlessness.  How different would our court systems, our cities, our families look if Believers intervened and loved the fatherless child, a child with no family to care for and protect her as their own?  Vastly different, vastly better.

That's about all I can do for now.  Thanks for coming back.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Quick Turnaround

Here's a tiny update.  We got our passports today, much more quickly than expected.  In just 11 days from when we applied for them, actually.  Well done, Feds!  Maybe it's due to the recently increased fees for passports.  Whatever it is, it was unexpected.  We were giving ourselves 6 weeks to get our passports back and complete our paperwork in that time.  There are still some other items we're working on now.  I submitted a list of questions to our gracious application assistant at our adoption agency today, too.  Her answers will help us with our paperwork.

As far as travelling goes, at the start of this process, I thought a lot about our little girl waiting for us.  After the initial excitement, I really didn't allow myself to think about the actual travelling to Ethiopia and meeting her (and leaving her) and going back to bring her home.  But lately, I'm going there in my mind.  Purchasing plane tickets.  Packing bags.  The smells and sights of the city.  Marathon flights, one with our little one.  Arriving home, our baby girl's HOME.  HER house.  HER brothers.  HER room.  It's a thrill to think of our family all together at the dinner table.

And then I get all teary and remember why this is a hard place to let myself go.  A little bit encourages me and reminds me why we're going through the work and expense of the adoption process.  Dwelling on it is hard, a reminder that our family is not complete.

But our Father endures with much patience and work and at great cost to Him a world where His family is not yet complete.  A worthy and not remotely coincidental example for me.

And in other life outside of this adoption.  I'm blessed to be working with a nonprofit in our city called JusticeMatters.  Tomorrow is our fall kickoff and training.  As the resident (read: only) poverty law attorney on the board, I have the privilege of addressing volunteer Christian attorneys and law students about the substantive law questions they can expect when they volunteer in our free legal clinics.  We have timed the training just right so that Duke law students wanting to escape their camp-out for basketball tickets can attend our approved training.  So we're expecting a crowd.  I'd appreciate your prayers as I address the group (along with other volunteers and some local dignitaries) and that they would see the need and respond to the call to serve and advocate for people of modest means in our city.

That's all for now.  Thanks for coming back.