Sunday, September 25, 2011

Defeating Discouragement

Today's message at church was so right on track with so much of what I have experienced and heard others experience through adoption and just thought I would share because it was so encouraging to me!  I only wished I would have heard this a year and a half ago when we started announcing our decision to adopt, I think it would have helped me even more.

You can watch the series we are going through right now entitled "Change Your World in 52 Days: The Story of Nehemiah at  LifeChurch.TV  but the focus points today were based on the facts that "we don't face opposition because we are doing something wrong, we face it because we're doing something right." -Craig Groeschel 

Anytime you feel called to start something and take a leadership role you will encounter opposition in many different forms.  This may be verbally from others or in more tangible ways such as financial hurdles and unexpected happenings in life that will come right when you don't need them to.  This of course is so discouraging and makes us second guess what we are doing and if we were really in fact "called" to the action or not but it is important to know this is just all part of the process and we have to fight for our cause and remember God.  You are not here to answer to those who will criticize you but rather to answer to God who has called you.  Craig talked today about facing criticism everyday and how so many people think he doesn't deal with it, I imagine because he is SO good at what he does.  He has been a huge pioneer in many many ways, getting people that wouldn't ordinarily go to church  (like myself), to have various ways of going and being able to really learn who God is as well as learn how to apply what we learn from the Bible in our lives today.  He said he does face criticism and always has but he has learned that no one wants to be converted in any situation and to lead without being defensive.  Oh this is something I struggle with SO much when it comes to advocating for orphans!  It is so hard to not let my passion for orphans get the best of me and feel like I might go into a "preaching" moment when someone questions our adoption in a criticizing manner, I am trying though...pray for me :)

 Anyone that knows me, knows I am stubborn and I don't back down when it comes to what I believe in or what I am passionate about. Although I am this way, I still always second guess myself and do let critics get to me but the end result is almost always me sticking to my beliefs.  I do think back on "what if" we would have let what others said about us adopting (internationally at that), get to us to the point we didn't follow, where would we be today?  Or where wouldn't we be today?  Well, we wouldn't have a blog that we could share with all of our friends, family and others about adoption, we wouldn't have had a garage sale fundraiser in which most of our town saw (due to it being on main Street during a big festival) and heard our story, we wouldn't have started It's A Child's Life with 3 other orphan-loving families we got to know so well, we wouldn't have the many new friends we have made through our blog, adoption agency forum and through other get-togethers and most importantly if we would have listened to many critics and not followed through there would be 1-2 children out there that would be waiting even longer for a forever family because we wouldn't have been available.  I think about a year and a half ago when we decided to adopt we only knew of one other family in our area who had adopted internationally and we thought we were going to be the outcasts but we didn't care, we realized our church supported us, our life group supported us and those people we had met who we really treasured, supported us too.  Now I sit here and can think of 6-7 families off the top of my head who have decided to adopt since and many many more who have expressed interest in adopting or fostering and I think "what if", what if each of those families listened to their critics who would be affected the most?  The Children...and I don't know about you but I for sure am never going to let a "critic" determine the fate of a child's life no matter what the circumstance is.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Fundraising, Siblings and A Half Marathon

Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows.  ~Isaiah 1:17

It has been a while since we have done any major fundraising and to be honest it felt nice to take a break.  If you're adopting, you know fundraising can be so stressful yet joyful and really just full of so many emotions...mine are usually excitement for the event, followed by stress that I don't want to feel like we are asking everyone to drain their pockets, followed by worrying that the fundraiser will be a big flop and it will be lots of time and effort for nothing, followed by realizing even if it is for "nothing" financially we will have spread the word about adoption through it and then I come back to being excited for it again...a vicious cycle!

I just have to say with every fundraiser we have done thus far though, God has surpassed our expectations and as usual is almost always at the last second when we really need it.  I have to keep reminding myself of this because let me tell you it can really consume you.  Truly when I think back, it's not our fundraiser events so to speak, that have brought us closer to the financial milestones we have needed to meet, but rather donations from friends and family and even some strangers that have now become friends so to think about that I realize that our fundraising events have been more of a profit of knowledge to share with everyone around us.  Knowledge about adoption in general, about living conditions in Africa, and Ethiopia specifically, knowledge about the costs of adoption yet also about the resources that are there to help and knowledge on the fact that we are called by God to take care of orphans.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.  ~James 1:27

 When I think about all of this and actually write it all down, this knowledge that we spread through the trials and tribulations that comes with an adoption and fundraising for it is worth so much more in the end  than any dollar amount we can raise.  We do know that God has been faithful to place people in our lives who have helped us get through this past year both emotionally and financially and I do find comfort in that when thinking about the next year (or maybe less) to come.

Now that we have changed our request to SIBLINGS (still makes me smile and get so excited!) from a single child, our adoption expenses has gone up of course.  It doesn't double in cost because much of the expense is on things like a home study, USCIS background checks, paperwork expenses and the biggest part, travel!  Since these are all things that will stay the same (minus one extra seat on a flight home one day) our estimated total adoption cost has went from $28,000-30,000 to $35,000-37,000 which guessed it...more fundraising and more saving but we are ready for it! 

We have been training for a half marathon for the last month and are up to 6 miles now (7.1 more to go).  This half marathon isn't just any run but the Chosen Marathon for Adoption in which families and supporters can run and raise money for specific families adopting through ABBA Fund Organization and Bethesda Family Ministries.  We are running as part of our non-profit, It's A Child's Life, to promote it but also to raise money for our own adoption.  The great thing about this is that all donations are tax deductible as the donations go directly to Bethesda Family Ministries which will in turn donate to our adoption after the run is complete. 

If you would like to make a tax deductible donation to our adoption, you can Donate To Our Team Here.  Just make sure you put our team name in the "special instructions" box:  It's A Child's Life- Team O'Neal

and now I will leave you with a few recent photos taken at our county fair this weekend.  Jalen just loves being around other kids, it makes me so excited for him to have a brother and/or sister someday.
Jalen (almost 3), Kade (1 year old), and Peyton( almost 2)...2 of my co-worker's children
Peyton and Jalen walking hand in hand around the fair
Peyton and Jalen sharing a seat on a tractor tire