adoption, fundraising, Uncategorized

Shortly after we received word of our Invitation to Travel, we received the welcome, wonderful, and timely news that our family has been selected to receive a matching grant from Lifesong for Orphans! This organization offers many ways to help bring children into families by helping families meet the high costs of adoption. We are very thankful to have been selected to receive a $2,500 matching grant! This means that any gift that is made to our Lifesong account will be matched, dollar for dollar, doubling the impact and potentially becoming $5,000 toward our remaining expenses. If you would like to know more, please let us know.

You may also like to see what wonderful things they are doing by making a visit to www.lifesongfororphans.org

adoption, fundraising, Uncategorized

I promised a post about the garage sale, but – just like preparing for the sale itself – writing a post about it has been a little overwhelming and rather time-intense simply because what God did in and through this event was far more than we could ask or imagine! I’m very thankful He isn’t limited by my imagination: I think these stories of how He has provided for this adoption is going to be a very helpful reminder to us when we hit bumps upon our re-entry. His pattern of caring for and providing for this beloved child didn’t begin with our receiving a call to adopt her, and it won’t end when we get her home; this is just one piece of her story. From what we can see of it, the Author is writing an amazing, intriguing, suspenseful story of love and adventure!

When we first started thinking about ways we could raise money for the adoption expenses, we decided a garage sale would be a great way to pare down and sell all the junk we have accumulated and moved around in spite of having read every decluttering book ever written unneeded household items and increase the adoption fund.

God had something much bigger planned.

About three months before the sale date, dear friends who were moving gifted us the items they wouldn’t be taking to their new home in a different region of the U.S.. A few weeks later, we were blessed with another few pieces of furniture, and a few weeks later, a few more! That all sat in our garage for a month or so until we firmed up a date, and then our driveway got really busy. Word had somehow spread that we were having a garage sale to raise money for the adoption, and for the three weeks preceding the sale, car after car – and even some pick-ups and two trailers – pulled into our driveway to bring loads of treasures! Our whole garage was filled with furniture to sell, loaned ladders, planks, saw horses and tables to display the items. Our entire rec room floor was covered wall to wall with stacks of every imaginable item – and duplicates of some – getting sorted, priced, and packed into boxes by category to be displayed on the weekend of the garage sale.  Our family and some cheerful helpers spent days and evenings preparing, and as soon as we would get caught up, and get ready to start pricing our own boxes of stuff we had perennially forgotten to donate gathered goodies, someone else would gift us more merchandise. We were absolutely giddy with amazement over the abundance of truly wonderful things people had offered to us to sell!

IMG_5329Only about one-third of the yard sale is visible in this picture!

About a week before the sale, I felt the need to be praying for a specific number of shoppers – 1,000 to be exact. It seemed like a crazy ask, but when I looked around at the number of wonderful items to be sold, I knew that not only could God do that crazy thing, but also that we needed Him to, or there wouldn’t be enough buyers for all the merchandise. I asked a few friends to be praying with us for 1,000 shoppers. Although it seemed like an off-the-wall large number, if you’ve read the paragraph above about how God turned our family garage sale into a giant sales event, it will not come as any surprise to you that He again did more than we asked. In two days, we had over **1,200 people shop at our garage sale!

IMG_5331We had steady or heavy traffic on both days!

To top it off – literally – in keeping with God’s nature of providing what we need even before we know we need it, thoughtful friends had loaned us a huge, sturdy canopy which shaded us during the hottest weekend I have intentionally spent outside.

IMG_5333That canopy was sale HQ and a welcome reprieve from the sun’s heat!

** Although this number is an estimate, it is probably on the low end. Not only is the number of people who came to our garage sale astounding, but the conversations that we were able to enjoy with many of the people were wonderfully encouraging for us, and hopefully for them as well!

Here are a few snapshots of our favorite stories in brainstormed order:

  • A friend who adopted from China a few years ago came to our sale and walked around explaining to people what we were doing. She even tried to engage in a bidding war over an oriental rug to raise more money 🙂 It meant so much to have friends helping us spread the word to the many shoppers about what we were doing.
  • Friends came and took pictures and shared live updates on social media, which brought more shoppers.
  • We learned a good deal about future ministry opportunities and thoughtfulness: at three different times throughout the sale – and just when energy was flagging – friends appeared with slices of watermelon, a blender of fruit smoothies, and pre-cut cups of fruit with disposable forks. It was just so wonderful to have the much-needed refreshment as well as the reminder that we were being prayed for and cared for on the hot days.
  • We met an astounding number of people whose lives have been touched by adoption. Many of them had great stories to share about when they or their family or friends were adopting, and then – best of all – great stories from present day about the children and what they are doing now. Several shoppers had recent experiences of traveling to China and were able to talk to us about that, too.
  • One man came to shop who had just seen the signs on the street. We didn’t have anything that interested him, but after I told him what the garage sale was for (“You are adopting?” Note to self: schedule hair appointment or face lift), he continued looking around. He eventually came up to me, handed me an item that wasn’t marked and asked me the price. I gave him a price, and he handed me more money than I said, and told me he didn’t want the item – just wanted us to have his contribution.
  • One friend came and brought us a fresh flower in a water tube and told us she was praying.
  • Countless customers came strictly because we were having such a gigantic sale, but when they found out what our purpose was, they shopped and shopped, and paid full price or more for the items they took home!
  • One couple came who heard on social media about our garage sale from my cousin in Virginia. They have been long-time friends of my godparents, and have been in Omaha for a while, but this event was the first connection our families have had!
  • We were blessed by several young people who were themselves adopted: one, a young lady who was adopted from China came with her parents and they all offered to help us as we welcome this little one into our home and into our community. It is so helpful to have a supportive community waiting with us, and standing at the ready!
  • Jason was finishing a sale with a customer who had been shopping with her daughter, a girl about 10 years old. After her mom finished her purchase, the girl started digging through her wallet and reached out to him with her last three coins.  She handed them to him saying “I am adopted and I want to help.”  It was incredibly humbling to see this modern day version of a parable lived out through the faith of this young girl who knows what it means to be adopted.
  • We hadn’t asked for friends or family to help, not because we didn’t welcome the help, but because we didn’t want to ask anyone else to stand out in this weather. Nonetheless, we had an unbelievable number of family members and friends come to help us prepare, to set up, to man the tables, and to help get it all put away afterward. The most surprising help came at the end of the first day when we were hot and tired. Jason and I were both marveling at how much had been sold, and trying to assess how to close up shop without taking everything inside. As we stood surveying our yard, another car pulled up, and a man got out. I thought, “Wow. He sure looks like my Uncle Armando.” It was enough of a resemblance that Jason also commented on it, and we took another glance at the vehicle, which wasn’t their Honda. And then a woman got out of the car who looked remarkably like my Aunt Lynn, because Lynn and Armando had, in fact, come all the way from Longmont, Colorado, to spend their 35th wedding anniversary helping us at our adoption garage sale. Don’t we have the most amazing family and friends?

IMG_5326Some of our amazing work crew enjoying the breeze and a break

Thank you for helping – for praying, for donating, for sharing the posts on social media, for shopping, for gifting us with your time, energy, and financial resources. We are so grateful for all that you did. Thanks to so many people’s generosity, the garage sale added over $5,000 to our adoption fund!

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Thank you!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

adoption, family, fundraising, legacy, Uncategorized

A few weeks ago – before an enormous garage sale, a sudden and successful surgery, and out-of-town friends coming – I wrote about my doubts about how this adoption could really happen, and about God’s answer as to how He would bring it to pass here, if you missed it.  Today, as I continue the idea of how this adoption is happening, I’ll tell you four little stories that each came at exactly the right time to remind us to trust Him for reassurance, resources, restoration, and relationships.

Reassurance

The day we decided to go ahead with sending in the initial paperwork to our agency and the first of the China Center for Children’s Welfare and Adoption (CCCWA) forms, not having any clear answers to the litany of “How” questions we were each still trying not to obsess over contemplating, we received an unexpected gift in the mail. There was a note and a check – completely unrelated to this not-yet-public news – and we were blown away by the reassurance that God will provide for every need of His children, however He wants, whenever He wants.

This has happened multiple times at timely intervals in the past few months; plainly, we have a number of friends who are in tune with the promptings of the Holy Spirit and who are responding with joy and generosity! My children have seen some bizarre reactions as I have read email, opened envelopes, answered the door, received texts – crazy laughter, spontaneous tears, and audible gasps just to name today’s visible responses. It is flat-out incredible and deeply humbling to get a glimpse of how many of you are loving this child and are coming alongside her and us in this journey.

Resources

We saw that same kind of supernatural provision again as we started educating ourselves about parenting a child who was adopted. Multiple friends recommended that we read The Connected Child, so I ordered a copy and immersed myself in it. Jason also read it, and we both realized that not only is this going to be crucial for Rui Shan, but also we can be better parents to the children who are in our home right now by beginning to implement some of the principles outlined by the authors. Figuring out how to do that was a huge and daunting task, and just as we were asking, “How can we do this?” we became aware that a magical solution conference called “Empowered to Connect” was being broadcast at a local church, so I signed up, found cheerful helpers to spend the day with our kids, and got coached in some of the basics of implementing the connecting principles that Dr. Purvis and Dr. Cross identify as key.

Some weeks later, when we were stumped by how to implement some of the things we learned, we received an email from Show Hope, an adoption advocacy movement dedicated to restoring the hope of families to waiting children around the world.  We had not been selected to receive one of their grants as we had hoped; nonetheless, they were offering us free access to the very resources we had just been needing – DVDs covering the topic we were struggling to implement, as well as a copy of The Connected Child, which we had been wanting to share with someone we know. In spite of not being able to give grants to each family, they wanted to help us in the way they could to prepare our home for the child they knew would be coming into our family through God’s provision in some other way.

Restoration

In praying and considering how we might earn some additional money to funnel toward the adoption, I applied for a temporary position which would have fit my skills and timeline exactly. For God’s reasons, I was not chosen for the position, and as I was working through the disappointment, I had two friends call to tell me the Lord had put me on their heart to be praying for me that very day.  One of them specifically had called to ask if we were fully funded yet, because the Lord had placed it on her heart to be praying for me, and as she did, she had heard the Lord telling her a particular figure to send toward our adoption. It was a tremendous balm from God that He had impressed it upon friends to be ministering to me, and further that He knew that not only was I battling disappointment, but also that I was wondering where the money was going to come from. It was a humbling lesson to me that as much as I like to be capable, in control, independent, and resourceful in my own right, He is doing something bigger in this adoption by requiring us to be dependent on Him and to do this according to His plan.

Relationships

As important as anything else in this adoption, what we are seeing  – and knowing Jesus, this is no surprise – is that His plan seems to be very much about building relationships. The piece of paper we sent in to assure the CCCWA of our plan to nurture Rui Shan read, in part, “Our family and friends are all aware of our adoption plan and are happy and supportive of it. She will be loved by all of our extended family and friends.” What we have seen, as we have begun to share this need, is that we are getting to know and understand that each one of us has gifts to offer. Because of this adoption and the kids’ fundraiser, Operation: Adoption, we have met a number of beautiful,new friends in our neighborhood and surrounding neighborhoods. Through the garage sale, we met countless (literally – this will be a separate post!) people who wanted to be part of this journey. As we have interacted with people throughout our city and beyond all summer long, we have been excited to share what God is doing, and have been amazed and delighted by so very many people sharing with us their own, or their family’s or their friend’s story of an adoption journey.

James 1:27 teaches us that we are to care for widows and orphans in times of need, and we are seeing how very active our community is in living this out. We have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination both by having financial resources available as we need to send in a payment because of the faithfulness of loved ones and new friends, and equally by knowing that people who love and shower this kind of care on a child whom they haven’t yet met are standing ready to love a child who will be coming home to join our community. Because of these amazing interactions, we had not even one doubt when we signed the care and nurture plan that our little daughter will be loved by a welcoming and supportive community: we are already seeing it, and it is crazy amazing! Thank you!

adoption, China, family, fundraising, milestones

to bring you a real-time update.

One thing you may not know is that our children would like to accompany us on the upcoming trip to China.

When we first started thinking about the configuration of what travel might look like, we came up with a number of possible groupings of who would stay and who would go. But the more we talked to people about it, and thought and prayed about it, the more clear it became that in this case, our very best scenario would involve all four of our children coming along to welcome their little sister into our family. Our agency identified a number of wonderful advantages to the whole family going, and we can think of several additional important reasons that would make this the best situation for Rui Shan, and each of the children. Obviously this will add additional expenses – for travel, particularly, and a bit for lodging – so our oldest three children formed a cooperative business called Operation: Adoption to contribute to the additional expenses, and our youngest son is collecting aluminum cans to recycle to boost the fund.

Through Carloads of Cans and Operation: Adoption, we have been blessed beyond our wildest imagination! Our big kids have offered their services to residents of nearby neighborhoods to perform all sorts of odd jobs, yard work, pet sitting, baby sitting, etc. in exchange for a donation to the adoption fund. And have they ever been blessed already! Not only have a number of neighbors offered them a wonderful opportunity to work, but through both of these ventures we have all had the chance to meet and get to know some amazing neighbors we otherwise might not have connected with. Best of all, we have discovered that we are definitely part of a community that loves and welcomes this little girl. We know that we are made to be in community, and this summer has already been a perfect reminder of the gift that we have in our neighbors and friends, old and new!

So our days look like this right now:

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Preparing for a HUGE garage sale next weekend to raise funds for our adoption. (Please spread the word!) We are praying for an *incredible* number of customers to buy the things many of you have so generously contributed!

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Operation:Adoption – weeding

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Operation: Adoption – preparing a garden site

 

 

And in the midst of all this industry, look what arrived:

 

 

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It’s our I-800! Today’s mail told us that we are one milestone closer to our trip, and we are trying not to freak out amazed by how quickly this is going!

 

Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations. Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. (Psalm 90:1-2, 12)

 

adoption, China, dossier, family, fundraising, milestones

Did you see that finish?  Two 3-pointers in the last 5 seconds – one from North Carolina to tie the game and one from Villanova for the win and the national championship.  Guess that is why they call this tournament March Madness.  With that final buzzer, our Freethrows for Family contest comes to a close as well.  We are so blessed by each of you that participated in the game and for your generous contributions to our adoption fund.   We are happy to report that the Gaskill family won the iPad with the #40 square.

Additionally, in the middle of the craziness of hosting a speech and debate tournament for 100 students last week, we received our log in date on Thursday, March 31, 2016.  This is the date that our dossier was officially entered into the system for review by PRC.

Welcome Home

Travel to China

Invitation to travel

Finalize Immigration

Letter of Approval (LOA)

Log-in Date (LID) - 3/31/2016

Dossier to China (DTC) - Completed

Authenticate Documents - Completed

Immigration Approval (I800-A) - Completed

Homestudy - Completed

Pre-approval to adopt - Completed

adoption, authentication, dossier, fundraising

When I woke up this morning, I was mindful of the fact that the NCAA Men’s Basketball ChampionshipTournament would be starting in less than four hours, and we had hoped that we would have all the Freethrows for Family spots filled. It didn’t look like that would happen, but I posted an update of the remaining spots on Facebook, went to get ready for the day, and came back to a trickle of messages that turned into a deluge! While we were packing lunch and eating breakfast, more requests for numbers came in, and by the time I was ready to leave for Bible study, it was clear that God’s work for me today was going to be here at home instead.

Friends, this is the board now:

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When we planned this, we had hoped that by some long shot, all of the spots would be filled by the time the first games began, and although I was too busy to watch the clock or any games, I am pretty sure every single one of the spots was claimed before halftime of the first game, and there were more people asking for spots after we ran out as well! As my friend Dana put it, “God’s timing is always perfect.” So many of you were instrumental in getting this board filled, and we are incredibly grateful! We will keep you posted as we find out who chose the number with the winning team underneath it. If you were wanting to enter into the story through a contribution, we are planning to do another project in the late spring or early summer, and we will welcome your help!

In a seemingly unrelated development, we have been waiting for our paperwork to be verified at the State Department and affixed with a seal at the Chinese Embassy so we can send our dossier to China, which is the next step in the process.  When we send our dossier in, we will also send a payment that is roughly 20% of the total cost of the adoption. Together with an amazing gift we received earlier this week (which is a story for another post), the contributions you made for Freethrows for Family have prepared the way for us to send the dossier right away. God’s perfect timing and provision were evident in this; just as I was getting ready to write in names on some of the last remaining spots, the FedEx driver pulled up with the documents we have been waiting for!

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With the authenticated documents in hand, we are now ready to submit our completed, authenticated dossier and the accompanying payment to the agency where they will prepare it to go to China!

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This stack of 16 authenticated documents along with letters of reference and a small photo collage showing who we are will soon be on their way!

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This is the Chinese Embassy Seal that we were so eager to see in place on our documents. It’s interesting, isn’t it?

Thank you so much for being part of this story of a glorious unfolding! You are welcome to subscribe using the button on the right so you will get an email notification of the next part of the story. We are so grateful to have friends with us in this adventure!

adoption, fundraising

A friend and I have been working on a project to catalog our church’s amazing children’s library, and I was being trained on the data input this afternoon. It is quite an undertaking, but the end result will make this great collection of family resources easily searchable, which will be wonderful!

While I was away working on that, our dear friends (you!) were busy sharing links to our Freethrows for Family game; when I got back to look at updates, we had quite a few more spots filled!  Thank you for sharing information about what we are doing and for helping us move forward in this adoption. Before we started this journey, I had no idea what an incredible encouragement it is to families in the process of adopting to know that there are others who are willing to walk along the road beside them. As we were praying tonight, with gratitude for each of you, I saw an image of a couple and their children walking along a country road. Before long, there were a few people beside them, then a few more, and pretty soon it was a crowd of people all walking along together with this family. That’s what it feels like tonight. Thank you for walking along this stretch of road with us!

Here are the numbers we have left. We’re hoping that the word will continue to spread and that we may have all the spots taken before the games begin. If they aren’t, we will still keep playing anyway with hope that more people will join in and fill the board, but it will be more fun if all the players can be cheering for their iPad team right from the beginning! Please keep on sharing… 🙂FullSizeRender-3

adoption, dossier, fundraising, Uncategorized

FullSizeRender-3

We usually enjoy filling out March Madness brackets for some early spring fun and bragging rights, but this year we decided to do it with a twist for our adoption. We are going to be giving away an iPad Pro to the winner of our Freethrows for Family game, and we hope you will consider either playing along or spreading the word of this adoption fundraiser with anyone you know who might like to follow the tournament with an eye toward winning an iPad Pro and helping us get ready to take our next big step – sending the dossier to China.

Here is how to play:

  1. Pick a number between 1 and 68. Email your top three choices of numbers (in order of preference) to jason@seasonsofwonder.com We will post updates of the remaining numbers in the comments section as numbers are taken, so you may want to check the comments first for a current list of available numbers.
  2. Make a donation of at least $25 per number you would like to claim. (You can use the PayPal button on the right or make other arrangements if you prefer.)**
  3. Begin cheering. The number you pick is the number that corresponds to a team name.  The teams have been randomly placed on the board using a roll of the dice system, so the team you are cheering on to win an iPad Pro may be in addition to your ordinary team loyalties 😉

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We will send an email confirmation to you with the name of the team that corresponds to your number so the cheering may begin.

Thank you for playing along with us and for spreading the word! Please share the link to this post with friends and friends of friends!

** If you don’t want to play but are interested in making a tax-deductible contribution to our daughter’s adoption fund, please contact jason@seasonsofwonder.com for how to do so. The PayPal button will not be able to generate a tax-deductible receipt.