Thursday, June 27, 2013

How Adoption Has Changed Us

It's hard to explain how dramatic an impact this process has had on me and Seamus. It has only been a few months since God so beautifully burdened our hearts to pursue this adoption. I love to reflect on how he has changed us in such a short period of time. It's impossible to share all of our experiences up to now but here's a glimpse in to what God is doing in our lives.

In 2007, my brother suffered a brain injury and shouldn't have lived. He was in the neuro-ICU on life support for weeks and a third of his brain was removed. Needless to say, this was a very difficult time for me and my family. Many miracles came from this tragedy. The most obvious is the fact that today he functions well (all things considered). But even bigger than this is the amount of grace that God poured on us through other people. God displayed HIS infinite compassion through the love and support, prayers, phone calls, cards, flowers, meals, finances, errands, babysitting, listening, and hugs of So. Many. People. It's this same compassion I feel through our adoption process. I am overwhelmed by, not only the number of people, but the amount of support so many have offered. We are forever changed, once again, by God's amazing and unlimited grace. Y'all. God. Is. So. Good. When we started on our journey only a few months ago, our hearts aimed to please God, to shine light on His glory, to walk a road that honors and blesses Him. While these are still our desire, it turns out God has decided to bless US beyond our wildest imaginations! All glory and praise, for all these life-changing experiences, are given to Christ alone. It's all His work, His grace, His perfecting. I am continually overwhelmed that He chooses to use me for His purpose. I am even more overwhelmed at how He uses YOU for His purpose. His love, mercy, generosity, protection, justice, creativity, wisdom, and grace are all displayed through each of you who are walking with us. We are forever changed by your willingness to love us.

We are also growing in how we handle our finances. He is calling us to be better stewards of our money (His money, really). We are being challenged to cut back, reorganize priorities, and become much more transparent. I am thankful for those of you who have held us accountable in our fundraising efforts, asked the difficult questions, and have given wonderful advice on how to do this the right way.

Another way I have changed through this process... Perspective. We are more aware than ever of the sad reality that so many children in this world are orphaned. So many, too many, don't have a family to love them or even feed them. The harsh and ugly realities of their existence have been presented to us bluntly. This too, has become a blessing for us. We have been burdened by what we have learned and it's a privilege because this is the same burden that Christ has in His heart. We aren't able to just turn our backs now. And thankfully, we don't want to. “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.” (Prov. 24:12) I've been reminded that adoptive parents aren't the answer to the orphan crisis. The answer is Jesus Christ. My eyes have been opened to the disgusting truth of what is happening across the globe to helpless children. I plan to be an ambassador moving forward, not only for earthly adoption, but for birth parents and children everywhere to realize their adoption in Christ! This is the only solution to our problem of sin and abandonment. I pray that my perspective would be constantly morphing into the perspective of God's. I am thankful that he has answered prayer by burdening our hearts for adoption.

More growth in perspective... When we started this journey, I was very skeptical. Yes, adoption had been on my heart for years and I knew God was speaking to me regarding His will for us to adopt. But I had so many questions, so many doubts, so many fears. "Why would God use little me for this? Surely He's not really asking me to follow through with it? I'm too busy. It's too expensive. I could never love an adopted child the way I do my biological ones. What will people think? There's too much we'll have to sacrifice to make this happen." Sure the questions still creep in to my mind periodically but God has truly given me a clearer picture of His purpose. Although I don't have all the answers, I am secure in our decision because I know it's of God. I don't know what obstacles and hardships lie ahead. And I know they do lie ahead. There are so many unknowns for us. But isn't that life in general? Really, we don't have any guarantees in this life, except that Christ will always walk with us through it. The truth is, if we are never doing kingdom work that is unnerving or uncomfortable, then we really aren't trusting in the only one who truly keeps his promise to provide. Christ calls us to "carry our cross", to "lose our life" for His kingdom (Matthew 16:24-26). That's a huge load, y'all. It's not just heavy, it leads to death... death of self. And that's okay because death of self and life in Christ's work is the only life that leads to true joy! Yes, I'm scared and unsure of how it will all work out but God's word reminds me that those doubts are my flesh, not Him. His words tell me that I am treasured and loved, and that love never fails. No matter what valley we face, Christ is in it with us and I wouldn't trade that for all the comfort in this world! He is the giver of all that is good and the taker of anything he wants. We accept whatever He wants to give or take away, knowing that it will further His kingdom on earth and that it's all for our good (Romans 8:28).

This process has blessed our family beyond measure. It's exciting to think about what God might have in store for us in the near and long-term future. He never stops providing, never stops blessing, never stops loving. And I will never cease to be amazed at his infinite glory that he so gladly shares with me. How incredible is our God who loves to bless His children. Wow! Thank you, Father.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Blessings Galore

These past few days have been filled with crazy surprises! It started with an amazing family offering to purchase our travel to China for me, Seamus, AND our son Brady. It's hard to imagine what was to follow...

If we weren't overwhelmed enough, we received a cash donation the next day from another loved one, in the amount of $750! Wow! We were blown away... AGAIN.

Then there was our garage sale this morning. We made $250 to benefit our adoption! I was hoping for $100 because I pretty much give everything away at these type of things. :-) Thanks to those of you who donated items! (We're probably going to do another one later this summer so feel free to save more junk) The garage sale was a blessing to me personally because I had several strangers share their hearts with me. I love when people open up because there's always an opportunity to share the love of Christ with them and the Lord uses these stories to humble me. One lady shared a story with me about an injury she had years ago and left her almost paralyzed. She woke up one morning crying out to a God she didn't really know. Long story short, God responded through physical healing and she hasn't stopped sharing her story since. Another lady shared with me that she has a 6 year old grandson who has terminal cancer. Sigh. There were others who touched my heart. I didn't expect to give so many hugs at a garage sale. Amazing how God works through such an ordinary event!

After the garage sale, I went to check the mail (as I do so faithfully, always hoping for a letter back from the Immigration Department) and there was a letter from someone we love with a donation of $500! WHAT?! Really?!

Uh... uh... uh... yeah, I'm pretty speechless (and y'all know that doesn't happen often ;). Hugs, kisses, thank you, and blessings to each of you! Every time I thank God for his faithfulness in providing, he laughs and drops another one on us! :-)

Between the 2 donations and our profit from the garage sale, I have increased our fundraising thermometer by $1,500! We are almost half way there, y'all... Wow!!!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

To China and Back... TIMES THREE!!!

Seamus and I have been discussing which, if any, of our children to bring with us when we travel to China to pick up Emily Hope. It's a question that all international adoptive families are faced with. We have to spend 2 weeks in China and that is a very long time to be away from our little people. There has been a lot of contemplating and praying over this. The trip is completely safe for children and it would be great to not have to separate for that long but in the end, we decided we can't bring all 3 of our littles. The main reasons are the cost involved as well as the fact that we really need to focus on Emily while we're there and give her our attention as needed.

After the back and forth, talking to families who have done it, and praying diligently, we decided that Brady (our eight year old son) should come with us. We feel like this would be an amazing experience for him on so many levels. We knew from the beginning that Brady's plane ticket could not be paid for through fundraising. It just wouldn't be right. His coming with us is our personal decision, one that is very important to us but nonetheless, not a necessity. We recently decided that his trip would have to be funded from savings we have tucked away for the kids (college, etc.). This will truly be a once in a lifetime experience for him and we decided that this sacrifice would be worth it.

Since making these decisions, we have had a wonderful surprise enter the scene. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a close family friend generously offered to pay for me and Seamus' flights to China. So, what do you say when this same family later offers to fly your child to China with you as well? Well, that's exactly what they did! Be careful what you say around loved ones because apparently, our talk about possibly bringing Brady had an impact on them. They feel the same way we do about what an amazing experience this would be for him... so much so that they offered to fly him too!

So, what do you say? (big sigh...) Thank you... And PRAISE GOD! I mean really, there are no sufficient words. Thankfully, God knows our hearts. When this extra gift was extended to us, Seamus took the opportunity to pray with them. He thanked God for His faithfulness and for continuing to provide. Man, He is providing beyond our wildest dreams! The neatest thing about this family being so involved financially is that they give all the credit to Christ and recognize that it all comes from Him. They recognize what a privilege it is to be used by God in this way. We are so honored, not only to receive such a generous gift, but to experience God's mighty love through some amazing people.

We estimate one round trip flight to be around $1,500. Because only Seamus' and my flights were factored into the total estimated adoption expenses of $32,000, we are not reflecting Brady's $1,500 flight into our amount raised on the thermometer. Nonetheless, it was important for us to recognize this special donation here. We are overjoyed by knowing our little man will join us and that we don't have to stress over this extra expense. We are thrilled to share our joy with you!

Once again to our sweet friends... We love you to China and back... TIMES THREE! :-)

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

T-Shirts Have Arrived!

Our adoption t-shirts arrived today! If you preordered a shirt, we will get it to you as soon as possible. I'll sort and organize over the next few days and should have everyone's shirt to them by next week sometime (or in the mail at least). If you haven't ordered one yet and would still like to, we have plenty of adult-sized shirts left. You can get all the information HERE.

A little fundraising side note... my friend Jacelyn and I are having a garage sale this Saturday at her house (714 Aloha Court, Abita Springs). Lucky for me, I have a ton of junk to get out of our house! All of the stuff we sell from the Loman household will benefit our adoption expenses. If you have items you'd like to get rid of, we'd love to take them off your hands! I'd be happy to pick them up from you before Saturday.

Thanks again for your support with all our fundraisers! It's been a fun ride with doughnuts and t-shirts. ;-) I can't wait to disclose our big event we have in the works... lots of fun gonna be happenin' for some very worthy causes! Until then, please keep the prayers coming. Love y'all!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Happy Father's Day

It's Father's Day. Today is a reminder of how much I adore my dad. It's also a day to thank my sweet husband for his Godly rearing of our children. It is good to recognize our fathers. The Bible commands our men to protect, provide, and sacrifice for our families. You may have a loving father. You may not. Your father may be alive, or perhaps he has passed. Maybe your father lives with you, maybe he's 1,000 miles away. I hope that, like me, you can say that you adore your father and can name the many reasons why. But regardless of your situation, we can all give thanks and praise to our Heavenly Father. This Father is perfect. He is love. He is strong. He is faithful. He is the ultimate provider and protector. He never gives up on us, never abandons us, never forsakes us. He only speaks truth, he is just and merciful all at the same time, and his forgiveness is unending for those who call him "Father". He is the defender of the weak, father to the fatherless. He is the redeemer of my soul. He is... "I am." Happy Father's Day to my awesome dad, to my amazing husband, and to my Heavenly Father who adopted me in to His forever family!

Here's a post I read earlier from our adoption agency blog... God Our Father. I enjoyed it and thought you might as well. :-)

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dear Emily Hope...

Dear Emily Hope,

We are getting closer and closer to being united with you! Our home study process has been much shorter than expected. All of our initial paperwork and required coursework has been completed. Our social worker wrote an excellent report about our home study visits and interviews. All of this information has been sent to the Immigration office so they can give their approval on us being your parents. For now, we wait.

In the meantime, we think about you often and we love you already. I imagine your sweet face, what you may look like. I dream about you and imagine your presence within our home. We pray for you daily. I long for the day I can hold you and call you mine.

If you could read this right now, I would tell you all about your creator, His love, and your identity in Him. I would tell you that your current circumstances are just a temporary affliction, that you have a future filled with glorious riches as a child of the one true King. You have a family who is fighting for you, and hundreds of people supporting them, helping in this fight for you. More important than this family who loves you enough to bring you in to our family, is a God that gave everything in order to adopt you into His. Your creator sent His only son to become a man and live a perfect life on your behalf. He bore your sin and darkness by suffering and dying on a cross, in your stead. He secured victory against evil by coming alive 3 days after his death on a cross. He still lives today and will reign forever and ever. He wants you to be a part of this eternal, beautiful life! That's good news, sister.

So know that the brokenness of this world is temporary. The pain, the sin, the abandonment, the selfishness, the disease and hurt... it's all temporary sweet girl. We are coming to get you and more importantly, Christ is revealing himself to you and adopting you into HIS forever family! Christ will return for us and "he will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain." (Rev.21:4) Rest in this truth, Emily Hope. Your name reveals this "hope" we have in His promises!

Wo Ai Ni! (I love you)
If I could play you a lullaby...

Hugs and kisses from 12,000 miles away!


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Another Big Step up our Mountain

It's hard to believe the progress that's been made. Our home study report is complete. This report was sent off with our I800A application to USCIS (US Citizenship and Immigration Services, AKA "Immigration") today. Now we wait for their approval of us to be adoptive parents. This first part of the process (home study and application to Immigration) typically takes about 4 months. We have somehow moved through in about 2 months! Can I get a "WOOP WOOP"?! Anyone and everyone with adoption experience says that no adoption goes without a kink along the way. We are certainly expecting that ours will be no different. For now, we are thankful that things are moving so smoothly.

According to our agency, it takes about 2-3 months to receive approval from Immigration. While we are waiting for their approval, we begin compiling what's called our "dossier". This is a fancy term for the collection of documents required by the Chinese adoption officials. Back to gathering we go! Just yesterday we had a fun-filled, family afternoon at the Post Office, applying for passports, and legal stuff at the courthouse... yeah, not so much fun really... do your kids always have to go poo-poo in public places too? Geez!

I must give a special shout-out to our home study social worker. You are such a doll... amazingly efficient, knowledgeable, considerate and compassionate. I am so thankful we found you! We really look forward to you visiting for our MANY post-adoption evaluations (feel free to stop by before then). Thank you for everything!

You know I'll keep you posted as soon as we get approval from Immigration. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Operation T-Shirt Success!

With your help, we raised a whopping $590 (net profit) through t-shirt sales that were pre-ordered during May!

Thank you for your involvement, whether you purchased a t-shirt, prayed for our fundraising efforts, or just spread the word. I can't wait to see so many of you sporting our tee!

We placed our order today for all the shirts we presold. They should be ready this month and I will let you know as soon as they arrive! We decided to order some extras to have on hand, in case anyone missed out on the pre-sale. We have extras in Adult Small, Medium, Large, and XLarge. If you would like one of these, let me know at any time.

Thanks again for your support through this fundraiser. We are one step closer to bringing our baby girl home and we certainly couldn't do this without your help! We have made some exciting progress in our adoption process and will be updating you on that this week. Check back to hear what's going on!