Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We're Having a Party!

So, I wasn't sure how to handle Meili Joy's birthday, and today it hit me. We'll have an online fundraising party for her. And I think we'll go ahead and have some pink cupcakes that day, too. 

And, you are invited! You are invited to make one more donation, and we are seriously just asking for $10. Yep, that's it! And then, maybe you could share this with 10 other people if you'd like to. Because that would be even more fun.

And then we're going to take a set of wooden building blocks and custom paint them and creatively write on the side of the blocks, the names of everyone who gives to this birthday celebration. I was looking for a way to preserve the names and faces of so many people who have loved this little girl and helped us bring her home, and I believe this will be it. 

I'm even thinking we might have a creative painting party for the blocks, too since I have so many crafty friends.

Please remember, we are so thankful for each one of you and your part in our story to Meili Joy, and so excited for so many of you to be a part of her life here in Charleston.  

Ah, yes! We are in the home stretch. I keep seeing paperwork coming in at lightning speed in my facebook groups with other adopting families. And I just know we are really close to LOA. I'm excited. I'm a bit nervous. Okay, a lot nervous. And I'm very eager to be done fundraising (for us, at least ) and just settle into adjustment phase, new family of 5, let reality sink in that I'll be a Mom-of-two 2 year olds by next spring. 

In the mean time, we have a fun event for JTM, then a birthday for Meili Joy, then a fun birthday for my big boy (how did he get to be so big!?), and then Christmas and New Year's! 

And besides y'all, it's advent! Come, Jesus, into all of it! Into all this craziness and all this joy and all this nervousness and all the weariness. O, Come, O Come, Emmanuel!

Monday, November 19, 2012

{Out of Translation} One Step Closer!

We are OOT! Meaning our fancy dossier paperwork is out of translation and ready to find our other paperwork, PA, and take us to our next step of LOA (Letter of Approval that takes about 4-6 weeks), and then we have a few more steps of paperwork to wait for that will take us about 2.5 to 3 months.

So, with shortest time from for LOA and other steps, we could be going to China Feb 19th, um, okay, that's my bday, let's just say that would be an amazing birthday present! Longest estimate would be around March 30th.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Our Joy {Meili Joy Carpenter}

On October 30th, Travis and I met our daughter, Meili Joy, on paper. 

We were very surprised to receive her referral. The night before I had spoken to our case worker with our agency, and I did not at all anticipate a referral. 

I had been told over and over that we'd "just know" when we saw our daughter's face. And between the hand full of files we'd reviewed, I honestly started to question if that was going to happen. I knew we weren't picking our daughter based on a cute face; but over and over I had other adoptive moms tell me that we would just know. 

I was clutching my big old Anthropolgie porcelein "J" mug from Abby, sipping my brew and soaking in Jesus through my Bible on my iphone. Trav was wrapped in a dark gray robe, holding his Bible on his phone, too. I realized that I had missed an email from the night before, and ended up on the phone at 6:45 am with someone from the agency.

 So, quickly we were on the phone discussing her special need and the fact that there were some things about her file that were outside of our original "child desired" form. And it mattered; but it didn't.

We both just nodded, and mouthed "This is it! This is her file!".

I think that early morning moment will forever be frozen in my mind.

A few hours later, as her pictures scrolled onto my computer screen, we laughed and were grateful for the hours and days we had spent looking at photos of children online from Asia. She was, of course, dressed in masculine clothes, and we weren't surprised. But, as the picture loaded, Justus knew, too. He rushed to the computer, turned his head to the side in a shy smile. "Baby!" He kept smiling and pointing "Sister!", he said. 

He wasn't phased by the long scar on her little bare chest marking her as a survivor of open heart surgery. 

The morning turned to a flurry of phone calls and rushing her file to via email proper doctors to review. And, by God's amazing grace, we had three cardiologists review her file within hours. Three doctors that I had never spoken to before that day. In fact, one called me from Charlotte after I was given a referral to his office from an online facebook group that new he had a heart for children from Ch**a with this specific heart condition. He was very gracious and kind and eager to help us in any way.

All agreed that her file looked promising. There are always unknowns. Always. Especially in international adoption. 

And we know, there might be more surgery. 

There might be some scary days for her; 

but she is our daughter. 

And, now, it's time to bring her home. 

We are so grateful for every step of this journey. We are constantly humbled and amazed by the work he is doing in Charleston and with Journey Together, and are excited for the next steps. 

Please pray for us as we wait for the last round of paperwork, we are hoping to bring her home early next year, possibly between February - April.We are waiting for LOA, Letter of Approval, and then there a bunch more "A" steps that will get us closer and closer to our approval to travel. We'll keep everyone posted! Please also pray for those taking care of her. Pray even now that God will work to heal her heart in more ways than one.

Fundraising Update:
As for fundraising, we believe we may need about $5,000 more to cover the final costs of our travel, guides, fees, etc. At this time, we have been given a wonderful blessing of having our international flight covered, so we are only looking at our flight from Beijing to Guangzhou, where she is and where we will visit the consulate. We will have several other final agency fees, immigration fees, travel fees, hotel, final document fees, and other miscellaneous fees involving paperwork, Jess' visa will have to be expedited, etc. 

At this time, we are still selling Uganda beads and I am trying to figure out if I can carve out any time for bird's nest necklaces; but I'm honestly not sure I can. I think we'll need to get creative after Christmas and do some type of fun event, etc.

We will also be a featured family at the Journey Together Hope Fund Gala, A Night to Give 1 Hope. This event is raising funds for the Hope Fund that will allow local families to apply for adoption grants. But, people will also be able to donate directly to us through JTM's non-profit status then, too. I hope some of you will be able to attend. 

We do have limited tickets to this amazing event, and you can get them through our eventbrite link: www.journeytogethercharleston.eventbrite.com

 We are also a Hope Family with Journey Together, and that means that we can receive donations through JTM's non-profit status for our adoption. They will write checks directly to our agency, etc. You can see our Hope Family page here!

Thank you for walking this journey with us. For loving our family and our daughter.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Orphan Sunday 2012

This week, I saw my daughter's face for the first time.

This week, I walked to the back of the auditorium to light a candle to pray for our daughter, knowing exactly what she looks like.

This week, I saw my daughter on a vimeo video. She was wearing pink sandles, an orange sweatshirt and yellow pants.

This week, I saw the scar on my daughter's chest where doctor's performed a potentially life saving surgery last March.

This week, Travis and I have a daughter.

This week, my boys have a sister. 

This week, my heart is forever tied to a family in Asia, her birth family.

This weekend at Seacoast Church, Rob Braniff, one of our new pastors, opened our services introducing his family and his three adopted children. This week, Josh Walters, shared our communities story of how God's heart for loving others can change a community. This week, Chris Russo, shared a spoken word to the song God of the City, and I raised my fist in the air and nearly jumped out of my skin.
My child doesn't know it yet; but she is not an orphan anymore. She is still in a foster care/orphanage situation half way around the world. But, she has a Mom and Dad who are ready to bring her home. And she has a Mom and Dad who probably made the decision to give her up in order to save her life due to difficult circumstances they can not take care of her.

Today is Orphan Sunday 2012 and such a huge day for our journey into adoption. Yes, it is all about one child. Yes, it is a journey of each family. But, it is always a bigger story. So many of us do not know we have a Father. We live without hope. And my hearts prayer today as I pray for 147 million without families around the world, is that the rest of the billions that do not know their Abba Father will also find their way home today!

Soli deo Gloria! 

"I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you."

Monday, October 22, 2012

Our Meili Joy{s}

We decided on a name for our daughter and it is Meili Joy. It is pronounced  like "May-Lee" Joy.

Here is the backstory:

{Info on Naming Children from Orphanage File}
Several months ago, around April, I became eager to decide on a name for our daughter. Naming a child who is already born, is sort of an odd thing. Most of the time, the name that a child has in an orphanage, especially in the Asian country we are adopting from, has nothing to do with anything personal. Sometimes, it does; but not often. Usually, it is a street name or a common last name for all children. So, there is possibly an original name given by birth parents, then a name given by the orphanage and possible a name given by an orphanage or agency on a file as an alias. For instance, we follow several sites on Facebook that have children's photos and names like "Louise" or "Oliver" or "Cheryl", etc. These are just their public names. They also have an Asian name on paper. So, we realize that most likely our daughter's name on paper, will have no significance. If we find out that there is some type of significance, we plan to maintain some of that identity! 

{Picking our Name}
With that said, as I was praying over names, I realized that somehow my original ideas of names didn't seem to be fitting. I had always love Bella Grace because it means Beautiful Grace, and well, really, do I need to explain that any further? But, it wasn't settling in my heart this time. As I was praying and pondering her name, I googled "Bella Grace in C*&*se" and one translation came up "Mei Li". Suddenly, I wrote down "Meili Joy". We felt that Mei Li would give her some identity to her birth country, and if she ever wants to pull her name a part into two words, she could also do that. Joy is my sister's name, too and special to us. And it's a cute American sounding name (I had no idea it was becoming popular). I talked to Travis about it and he loved it. That is a huge deal because we have never agreed on names right away. But, then again, I might have pulled the "I think God gave me a little nudge toward this name". Maybe after the entire Isaiah passage for Justus, he didn't want to get a theology lesson on my time in the Word picking names. Either way, we were excited to be on the same page.

{Sharing the News}
I called my sister to ask for her blessing for us to use "Joy"; and explained we thought it'd be very special for her to have a family name. I also called Abby, my BFF, that I plan to write about later this week, and asked her to be Meili Joy's godmother. We don't even do godmothers; but I feel that Meili Joy will 
need one and I know the perfect godmother for her! 

We still didn't want to announce it for some reason. And I was still wanting to be sure that when we saw her, the name would still be perfect for her. But, in a very small circle, and between the two of us, we started to share the name and refer to her as "Meili Joy". Here is where our story gets a bit crazy. 

So, two months later, I was on the Facebook page of an organization that cares for mild special needs children. I used to scroll the pages all the time. And as I was scrolling through and praying for the sweet faces with their ful American names next to them: "Herschel", "Oliver", "Louise", "Cheryl", etc. there was suddenly a six month old little girl, with the name "MeiLi Joy" staring at me. I almost dropped my laptop. 

Travis and I were in shock. Of course, we thought it had to be our daughter. 

{Meili Joy and MeiLi Joy}
Yes, we contacted the organization. Yes, we contacted our agency who has been more than helpful and understanding. Yes, we prayed. We tried to figure out how to request her file, not possible. We realized we had no idea what her diagnosis was and we did not care. We started sponsoring her monthly. We started lighting two candles every Saturday in our commitment prayer time as a reflection of support and love. We did everything we could to try to find her. I google mapped the city where she was supposedly living. I prayed that our agency would begin a partnership with her foster care city, etc. Time after time, it seemed like a dead end. And yet, we still keep asking in case her file shows up in the right place. Our agency has been very kind in understanding. Month after month we get a very small update on her from her foster care family since we sponsor her. But, at this time, we have been told that this "MeiLi Joy" on Facebook is not the "Meili Joy" who will be our daughter. 

And for legal reasons, I'm going to refrain from explaining the details on here about files and requesting them. Everyone has been extremely professional and maintained all types of appropriate and legal process in this case. We do not want to do anything to disrupt the system and are in full respect of the process to protect children from being trafficked and exploited and all the other reasons for strict country rules and the Hague. So, we have been sure to respect our agency and the organization on what we can and can't ask for.

 So, what does it mean? We have no idea. We are trusting God. Can we say we were able to guard our hearts and not fall in love with the little MJ that showed up with "our" daughter's name? Nope. 

We are head over heels for her. Can I tell you that we really have days where we think she is our daughter? We honestly in our gut hope so. But, we really try not to go there because we know that would just kill us; and we understand that everyone has told us "no". And this is not the kind of thing you mess with. (Read: We do not want to tick off the wrong people.)

We have talked crazy, too; and called our agency to tell them that we will be willing to accept two referrals, if one of them is her file, and all that jazz. But, for now, we are praying for our daughter, Meili Joy, and our sponsor child, MeiLi Joy. 

And if by God's grace they are one and the same, we will rejoice. 

And if they are not, then it is our immense privilege to love this "MeiLi Joy" during this season of her life until she is with her forever family.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Lighting Candles

{I know my blog looks funny, totally apologize, tried to fix something & change it up and it didn't work.}
Each week, we have walked to the side of the church to light a candle for our daughter during our response time.

We have made this walk for almost a year. And each time, it has been something that has felt joyful and full of anticipation.

Until last week. 

We lit an extra candle last week. For the child that we couldn't say "yes" to, in addition to our daughter's candles and two others. And, someday, maybe when I can edit a post without rambling sentences, I'll start writing more again on that. But, honestly, I'd feel defensive and wordy. And then I'd just be sad and emotional and caught up in the heaviness. And then there is the layer of one of other candles, of the child we are sponsoring with the same name that we plan to name our daughter, but that we have been told we can not adopt. And then the feelings that come with the wait, and the shift in time line, that we anticipated, but never wanted to accept. But, I don't know if that's the story that we tell. We promised to be honest about our journey, and yet, I don't know if the details are helpful to others or not. And are details as important as the outcome of the journey, of the story, of who the story is about? I'm not sure. And I'm not a professional blogger, so I'm still sort of a journaling blogger with my own somewhat self-absorbed view.

Yet, I know we are supposed to tell our story. So, if you'll forgive me for the half pieces, and the fact that I can barely get all of this together right now, I hope you'll be encouraged and see more Jesus. 

So, in the midst of some amazing miracles and work this month; in the midst of getting to stand on top of the mountain;  in the midst of some really amazingly fun and slightly intense ministry work; in the midst of getting to witness God's word change lives more dramatically than I have witnessed in a long time (up close); as we rejoiced and were overwhelmed by so much joy, I also grieved.

And the theme continues, joy and suffering. {Stick around my facebook page, and you'll see it.}

And as I ugly cried right there in our church last week, with my hand stretched high above my head in the most desperate reach I might have ever posed, I know that never once is our daughter walking this alone. 

Never once. And God is faithful.

And I will white-knuckle that truth over and over when it gets too thick and the air seems to stop. I will hold onto the gospel until I can breath again. 

The problem with my constant self-analyzing and hyper-perception is that half the time I am fully aware of how ridiculous I am. I knew that God gave us a new season of ministry. And I knew it was a start and finish for this much intensity. I knew that it would last intensely for 2 months. And I knew we could do it, for this season. We had cleared our plates most of the summer and spring; and we were ready. And I knew I'd be tired when it was over. And I am. And it's not quite over.

Yet, I was quietly wishing every day, that I'd have to drop everything to rush around for paperwork because we had just met our daughter on paper. And when we had to keep going, twice in the last month, because we knew it wasn't the right file, I kept busy. I kept going. I had a good cry or two and appeared to have moved on. I am not sure who I am anymore, because quick good cries are not my style.

And even last weekend, in the middle of my first really hard cry {there were two}, God spoke pretty clearly to me through a few friends that our file review was not wasted. And we were able to see God work together for good something hurtful in the matter of hours. Amazing. It seems that situation was never really about us {I mean, really when is it ever!?!}

And yet, at the end of the message tonight, that did not even touch on a theme about our daughter, I realized 
as I stood to head toward the candles, that I wanted to sit back down. I did not want to make that walk. It hurt. I fought back the lump in my throat immediately this time.  

I almost found myself counting the steps. Starting at my feet as I walked. I started thinking I need to bring some face powder to church. And I kept walking. And I kept praying. And Travis must have sensed it because he reached back for my hand. Then we stood silently and lit our three candles {one for our daughter, one for our Compassion child, and one for the little girl I mentioned above}. 

And as we sang, "God you are faithful....Never once...Standing on this battlefield...", I stretched my hand up once more, and it hurt to reach that hard for heaven.

But, I will walk that walk to light that candle each week, 
                                                  even though it is getting harder,
and even though I hear this is only the first wait, and the next one after we know who she is, is worse. 

And I really wish, I could write more clearly right now. It's jumbled up in all the good, and all the sadness, and all the joy, and all the present joy and all the future joy. 

And God is faithful. So, I will put each foot in front of the other and walk to that candle and trust God for our daughter, each week, and each day. And each week, I'll re-up that commitment. Until she is home... 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Third World Symphony While We Wait

It has been a very long time since I've fallen in love with an entire album.

Probably since Over the Rhine's release of Ohio or Long Surrender has their been a time that I listen to a cd over and over start to finish. We have some other rocking worship music and favorite friends who have albums we love, too. But, a long time since I've found something that becomes the anthem to my soul for a solid year.

And, I'm telling y'all, the Carpenter family has been in love with Third World Symphony since last October.

Shaun Groves Third World Symphony iTunes-banner-125x1
I am not exaggerating that we have listened to it in our car, every single day since we first heard it almost a year ago.

Austin sings the words to most the songs. "You have loved us...You have loved us all..." I hear him sing. Many a day, I have found myself scrambling to change the cd player to disc 3 over and over on the craziness of driving in the car with two boys or a stressful day of busy thoughts. Most music is either too chill or too loud for us amidst traffic and kids, but not Third World.

I finally was able to play  "Down Here" for my Mom in the car for the first time on the way to the Beth Moore conference here in Charleston the other week. "Up there, the prayers of generations split the sky..."  God has given me a few of those almost spooky; but very real visions of his Kingdom work, and this song has helped me put into words what I believe He's been showing me. I have felt the presence of the cloud of witnesses in my life this year!  I have found myself in parking lots with my foreheard on my steering wheel as I sang and prayed that song over and over (on days when I get to drive alone, of course). I know people must think I'm having a meltdown. But, this song has kept me rooted on so many days this year to the fact that this present world isn't all there is.

What in this life ain’t passing?
Big deals and beggars end in ashes
All go from cradle to casket
Down here
What in this world ain’t busted?
Crowns and cathedrals rusted
Is there a thing we can trust in
Down here
Up there
The prayers of generations split the clouds
The groans of all creation turn to shouts
Up there
The One who has no start and no goodbye
The One who mourns our fall hears our cry
And comes to live with us and die for us
Down here

I also love that Shaun's album contains the song "All is Grace" and I believe was penned from inspiration from his friend Ann Voskamp's book that God has give her to write, One Thousand Gifts. Again, just love that God is giving us that theme in song and writing through these two!

Okay, so maybe we feel a little bit personally connected to this album, too. Travis and I met Shaun as he casually strolled the exhibitor booths during a break out session of Together for Adoption in Phoenix, Arizona last fall. He was MCing the event, and we were just starting our journey of adoption. We had a mutual friends (shout out to the Tavianos!) and since we were not very shy at that conference, we introduced ourselves. We are not claiming to be BFFs with Shaun at all.  But we loved that he took some time to chat with us. He so openly shared  with us about his families journey into adoption world and just their journey with Jesus the last few years. We were touched and realized that this guy was not pretending to be authentic. He just was authentic. He loved Jesus and his family something fierce. And he didn't pretend to have it all together, but he was wrestling and working out his faith and he was kind enough to let us in on what God was doing in and through him.

But, truly, I can tell you that our lives this year, feel that we have lived almost every word on these albums. Now, that is not something I can say about just any music. So, I truly believe it's been a gift to us this year.

We are attending Together for Adoption again in Atlanta in just a few weeks, I gotta tell you, we are both excited to get to say hello to Shaun again and thank him for his words that have carried us closer to Jesus every step and day of this year. We are so glad that he'll be back to be a part of the Together for Adoption community, especially since we are also self proclaimed T4A Groupies!

While we wait for a referral. We are living in God's grace. Our boys remind us of the Grace every day that we receive, that we give, that we must give. The blessing of working with Journey Together Ministries is just thrilling our souls.

So, while our hearts are bound up in Jesus' perfect timing, I'll be honest,  I can't let words spill onto page without possibly breaking into a thousand pieces because this wait isn't easy and it's not even the hardest part yet. But, as we cling to the Truth we know, we'll also be singing over and over this gospel message....

Arches of reaching limbs
Crickets sing secret hymns
Over all of us
Tickle across our palms
Lit up like diamonds drawn
From the black above
Awake my soul to live this moment
Awake my soul,
give thanks and hold it
Dear now
God is here now
Awake my soul

and this...

The doubters pray for your signs and wonders
All the cynics say You’ll let us go under
But we’re here to stay
God, will you come by here?
Come, we have nothing else God
And having You we want for nothing
No death, life
Angels or demons
No depth, height
Can come in between us
And Your love, Your love, Your love, love

And this will probably the only time, I put a music player on my blog, too.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Together for Adoption::

If you can join us in Atlanta, for Together for Adoption conference, please please make it a priority!

Check out a bit of Dan Cruver, the co-founder of Together for Adoption, share part of his story here::

Together for Adoption 2012 Atlanta (Trailer 2) from Together for Adoption on Vimeo.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Journaling:: During the Wait

Sharing some of the more emotional side of this journey. 
A little more journal, and raw, and a lot less factual..... 

He is still there. My God. He is on that Throne. 
It will not be moved. It will not be shaken. 

And I know it, as we shift eyes and steer conversations away from the Wait.  
As we muster up smiles and shurg off sighs. 
I regurgitate all the Christian-ese that everyone else wants to hear. It is indeed peppered in truth; but manufactured in emotion.

I know the Truth in all things.

So, I preach the gospel to myself. I preach. And I preach, and I pray. 

And I know that the love of Jesus is the only Truth that heals. 

I know that the Grace of God is the only strength weak hearts will feel coursing through their veins. 

And I choose. 

I choose joy. 

I choose peace. 
I choose to trust. 

I choose to live fully in the fights and bickering of young boys. 
I choose to smile at the curls and dirt and insects that fill my home.
I choose beach and sand and squeals and splashing. 
I choose to stretch my eyes over the bridges to the horizon of the sea as it passes in moments.

And, yet, at night, when it all slows down. When the darkness fades from summer sun,
I let it breath at times. The Ache. 

The reality that my daughter is half-way around the world and another human being that we do not know may {or may not} be taking care of her is suffocating. That is a fact. And for a Mother who is overly caution on anyone who takes care over her children without her presence, this is a harsh reality.

Beth Moore preaching from James in our women's Bible study states that Joy and Anguish can co-exist. And I can tell you, I am living that out. It seems odd to say that waiting for a child can result in anguish. But, this is a different wait.

I fail miserably at blowing rainbow sunshine at anyone when situations unravel. When pain creeps in. When reality pulls up a chair to the table and pours himself another glass of wine. The Truth never leaves and pain never becomes unreal. But, I've sworn off band-aids and voted for bleeding on the table and cleaning up the mess. 

So, here is my mess. I ache.

I search the websites of the organizations online. 
I look into the eyes of each little girl with similar medical conditions that could be like our daughter's.

And I pray. And in my heart, I talk to that baby. Just like a Mama talks to the baby in her womb. I find my hands clutching my heart more often than not because she didn't come from my womb; but she's in my heart.
And I continue to search as I wait. At naptime, and at night, I scroll the pages. I google the towns. I look at the faces of the care-givers. I read the lists. And I pray. And I plead to God for mercy for our girl.

And then sometimes, sometimes I dare to draw back the curtain, and enter another room. 

And her face is there. 

Her hands. Her heart. 

She probably did not have a choice. She most likely could not parent this baby legally. 

Her Baby.         My Baby.           Our Baby. 

And I ache for that Mother whose heart I share. And in the midst of that layer, as my heart reaches for hers, I know that only the God of the Universe can knit hearts together for his Good! Only His Redemption reaches this deep to the places of a mother that faces the loss of a child.

And then still, on some nights, I follow the wizard behind the final curtain. To the place where all the faces multiply to thousands and millions. Lines blur. Time is caught in fistfuls of wind.  

I lay in the dark, my heart feels as if it could break free from my ribs. And my breath is caught in lumps of air. And I can feel it. I can feel the weight of the lonely who are not yet set in their families. And it is suffocating. The numbers. The reality. The horrific facts. The system. The messy system.

The physical pressure is tangible. I do not lie when I say that I can, in moments,  feel the weight of it. The depravity. Only for a moment, thank you, Jesus. For I was not meant to bear that weight. I will not climb on a Cross to save this world. I will not be the Redeemer. Yet, in His Grace, He lets us in. To the suffering. To the immense pain. At times, a strange gift is given when reality is revealed.

And so I cry. I wail. I sob. I squeeze fist to flesh. I feel finger nails to roots of hair. 

I push covers back. Feet to floor, I open doors and press my cheek to my son's and then run fingers through curls of our youngest. To remember. To see miracles. To see His children home.

And I breath. And I ache.  I can feel the rush, the outpouring of Grace. The hope. I can hear the calm waters. I can see the Truth. 

I reach for it with white knuckled faith. I stomp my feet in anger. Then in raw determination. Then in hope. Fists pound air.

Blood shot eyes darting back and forth in the darkness. Almost hoarse at times, I whisper:
"Please, Jesus. Please, Jesus. You make all things sad come untrue. You Redeem. You Rescue. Let Your Kingdom Come. Let Your Will Be Done. You are My Father and Hers!" 

And so, I rest in the end game. I know the stories/y's end. And yet, as the pages turn so slowly. As ink smears to parchment on our own small journey, as we live fully in each moment...

I wait. 
I ache. 
I hope.     

Sunday, July 15, 2012

This Week:: Ugand Beads for Fundraising

Please check out our Bamboo and Pluff Mud Facebook page if you'd like to purchase a strand of hand-made magazine paper Uganda beads. These are not the same 147 Million beads that are on this blog. These were donated to us from friends who recently returned from Uganda while they were adopting their son. We are so thrilled to have 23 strands available. Our suggested donation is $20 for one strand or $45 for three strands. You can choose them on the facebook photos page. It is a public page, you can see it without a facebook. 

Yes, you can still order through our 147 link on our "Uganda Beads" page on here,, too. 
Also, you can use this special link to order:: http://www.147millionorphans.com/?AffId=47
If you start with that link, we'll get 30% commission on all orders!

If you have no idea why I'm saying "147" don't worry. Just stick with my facebook page. 
Thanks friends! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

{LID}:: Logged In:: So, what does all of this mean?

Hi Friends and Family,

Whoosh! That is how we are feeling! 

I was going to gloss over this part of the process a bit because I think it is might be mundane to anyone who is not in the adoption process; but then I realized that I'm getting plenty of inquiries from sweet friends and family and so I'd like to detail it out for everyone. Again, we are hopeful that our journey will help and encourage other families as they start their own journey. I appreciate all our friends and family who are also interested in the details of the process. I guess it's sort of similar to the posts that people do on facebook when they say "Oh, our baby is 12 weeks and the size of a ______". That's kind of how these posts feel to me. They feel very Carpenter Family focused; but I hope that what we are sharing will be encouraging to many other families considering adoption or families who are supporting families adopting, etc.

So, we are Logged In to the C**WA.
Our file is ready for a referral. It's been translated and accepted. And our official, LID date was July 6, 2012. (1 Year and 1 Day from the day God clearly spoke to us about walking into this journey!)

How will you receive a referral and what does that mean?

First of all, we are going through one route with an agency and for a child in Ch**a. Each country is different and each route is different. We believe that God is leading us to a child who will be under the age of 2 years old when we are "matched". We also believe God has opened our hearts to requesting a child that will have a minor correctable need. In Ch**a, the most common needs are for cleft lip/palate (repaired or not yet repaired), minor heart conditions and webbed digits or missing digits, club foot/feet. We are open to variations of those things and the hardest form to fill out has been the "Medical Openness Form". So, I mentioned most of them; but we are also open to some other needs as well. To protect our daughter and some of our own personal choices, I'm going to leave it at that. Obviously, if our daughter comes home with a cleft lip or palate, it will be obvious; but after we go through this process and depending on her needs, we will evaluate how much we share publicly about this.

Shared List::
So, all that to say, because those are some of our "choices":: young female, minor needs, etc. We have a certain path to follow to be matched with a child. Because of the age factor that we are requesting, our daughter is most likely not on a waiting list anywhere yet, {keyword: yet; but that she could be soon} or our agency would know about her.

Each month, there is a global Shared List that comes from the C**WA to all the agencies that can process adoptions from Ch**a. Each agency, looks at the files as they come in and "locks" a file if they believe they have a family that might be right for a specific child.  These files come out at the end of each month. The younger children will usually have "must have LID" on them. That is why it was so important for us to be "LID" so we could be ready for these referrals.

For example, at the end of July depending on which child comes up in the system, our agency could "lock" a file for us that might be a child they believe we would be the right parents for. They will do this based on our homestudy, what they know about us, our personal conversations, etc. Also, for us, fortunately, I know our agency also goes into this with a lot of prayer for guidance and direction.

Bottom line:: Yes, at the end of July, we could receive a phone call at any time and our daughter could most likely be on a Shared List. Or, it could be a few months.

Y'all know by now, that we are hoping for July, right?

Orphanage Partnerships::
Also, some agencies have partnerships with specific orphanages in Ch**a. Our agency is in the process of being granted up to several thousand new files. However, these files are not just ready and waiting. It takes months to be sure a file is done correctly, doctor visits, review, translation, etc. But, when those files comes up, each agency will then be responsible to match their families (families going through their agency) with their children in the orphanages. Because our agency has all these new files potentially coming in August, we could also be referred and matched with our daughter this way.

Example, for the last year or so, our agency had a partnership with Maoi Ming and I am not watching families in our closed Lifeline China Group on facebook talk about the kids they have just brought home from Maoi Ming, etc. So, they were referred through a partnership, etc. 

Waiting Lists:
There are also children that are on national waiting lists that are maybe 3 years or older or have a more significant need, or they were matched and something fell through, etc. So, least likely, that could happen, too.

Okay, so I think that covers the ways we could be matched.

Will we go through dozens of files? How do you do that? 

I know our agency is going to work hard to give us a file that they believe we would be potentially the best parents for this child. We are hoping not to have to go through very many files at all because we are not going to want to say "no" to any child.

So, this is where it gets tricky.

I'll be brutally honest, it really is hard to stand here and think of "choosing" a child and it makes me want to spew out everything I'm thinking about it to all of you. It feels bizarre. I know this could be a long conversation and there is no way for me to type out every angle of what we believe or how we feel about all of this. For instance, if this child was biological, we'd face whatever came. We never did any of the pre-testing on our boys, etc. But, since we are knowingly walking into a situation, we do have the opportunity to think through what we know will be realistic for us based on where we are right now and we feel best equipped to be there as early as possible for our child's needs so that we can also grow into knowing how to best care for her from a young age. Obviously, God will give us the strength to handle whatever he has called us to. So, we are also not out to be obnoxious in our own abilities and try to be wise in our own eyes and step outside of his plan for our family. So, you can see that this is a super sensitive and intricate process.

So, fortunately, our agency wants to be sure that this child has the best possible family situation, too. So, they have asked us and they will not be giving us things beyond what we have said we feel comfortable with either. So, truly, we won't have to turn down a file on a severe case because we know that's not where God is leading us at this time. We are also listening and drinking in all that we are hearing from our training, agencies, friends and adoption community, and we know that taking a child that has been in an institution will face some different challenges. So, we are leaning on the side of being conservative at this point with needs and age, etc.

But, I will keep saying this. It's just a bizarre feeling. It's just, honestly, part of the sadness that I know one day our Father will make come untrue. But, it's the reality.

Please join us in praying for our hearts and minds and our daughter and her caregivers and our agency who will be pulling files, etc. We value your prayer for us so very much! 

What happens when you get a file that you are considering? 

Well, when we get the file that we are considering or feel strongly that we will accept, we will be sending it to a professional based out of Cincinnati {My home state getting in on our journey!} that is very generous in her fee to review adoption files. A lot of places charge around $400 to review a file, and she does not. {Um, wow!} But, we will send it to this medical professional and she will give us the worst case scenario and also her prognosis for care, etc. She does this in 24 hours. But, this will help us have a professional who is used to seeing files come from international adoptions and will know what to look for. We are very aware of the fact that the records could be wrong. We are prepared for that. But, trusting that God knows what we'll see and what we can decided to do.

What happens when you say "yes"? 

I believe we'll only have a few days to say "yes" or "no" to a file. So, you may see us post "Please pray, we are trying to make some decisions" and that's sort of code for we may be reviewing a file. I also believe that once we say "yes". That we have a flurry of things to sign in a time sensitive manner and do over night shipping of papers and forms, etc. {And I'll tell you right now, my parents have been so helpful when we have had anything that needs to be done in a time sensitive matter so far. We've been able to get homestudy appointments and finger print appointments scheduled so quickly because my Mom and Dad have been so willing to make it happen by scooping up the boys so we can focus! So, yes, we're hoping we get a referral when they are in town, or we may be asking for some local help to focus, fast and pray!}

Then what? 

I'll write more about this later, but there is another 3-4 month process of waiting for Ch**a to do final approvals of us, we have another round of immigration approval in the US, and all types of articles and letters, etc. So, we'll be posting things like I-800 again, then LOA (Letter of Approval), and PA, Article 5, and then the big one:: TA (Travel Approval). Then we'll be approved and waiting on approval to travel there and have a consulate appointment.

So, from time of referral {when we say "yes" are officially matched} to a the time of going to Asia, is about 5-6 months.

How much money do we still need to save up for this last part?

Y'all, I just thank God over and over for the way he has provided. The feelings of late last summer are so fresh. The jar on the counter clanking full of change. The surprise fundraiser at Sisterhood. The hours and pounds of things poured into our garage. The piles of head bands that launched my crafting. The hand knit things friends have been selling. Uganda beads. And let's not forget all the woven wire that so many of you have purchased. My birthday week of blessings from my best friends. And the crazy blessings in April and June for "non-raffle" and grant. And the one-day sale from Naptime Diaries, and let's not forget the crazy ebay sale of sparkly shoes. And then there are the flatout donations that have been pressed into our hands and hearts over and over. All of it mounting to $22,000. Twenty two thousand dollars! Thank you, Jesus!
Talk about a mountain moving.

God's abundant provision and grace poured out on us through this season. It's been such a weird feeling, and yet it has felt that it is just a necessary part of God's hand in our lives. To see the real hand of generosity and grace. I'll tell you, I believe it's so true that the more that is given to you, the more it turns your heart toward wanting to give to others. We will never stop saying "Thank you!" to each person who has prayed and supported us!

We think we'll need between $8,000 and $9,000 before we go this breaks down into all types of fees we have for traveling, guide, hotel, flight, extra misc. fees, etc. But, it's all estimates because we just won't know until we know our exact flight/travel plan.

We are also separately saving up for about $1000 when we get back to do some legal work here. And we'll then be saving up our own separate funds for possible medical expenses. We have a high deductible plan.

We will continue to sell the Uganda beads that we have just recently been given and also hope to sell about $20 more in commission trough our affiliate link on the 147 page. We have about $80 in commission there right now. They'll release it to our agency, when we hit $100 of online sales. I'll be doing an "online" sale soon, too of other things around our home, etc. And then, we'll wait to see when we get a referral based on the time frame for our next big fundraiser. Please "like" my Bamboo and Pluff Mud page on Facebook for these details. I'd like to focus on the Uganda beads for now since I've got a lot of them at this time. I'm doing a deal of 3 for $45 on the new ones, so it's a great way to stock up for extra stocking stuffers!

So, what's the break down on final expenses?

The plane tickets will be our biggest expense. They look like they could be about $4,000- $5000 which means we'd need 100's of bonus miles. But, for now, we are trying to at least build up points from Capital One. So, we are building our own points, and we've already been offered another 20,000 points (equal to about $200). So, please let us know if you have any wisdom on this. Also, for now, it does look like it's pretty simple for donations from other Capital One cards to be transferred to our account. So, if you have some you'd like to hold onto and possibly send our way, that'd be awesome! I am exploring this; but I think we can even turn them into "cash" towards our tickets even if we can't cover the entire cost of our tickets this way. Or, you know, if  someone just happens to have a few hundred thousand miles sitting around, we'll be happen to use those up for you, too.

There are alot of other fees like hotel, guide fees, an extra few hundred that we have to pay to visit our daughter's orphanage, and all types of other misc. travel fees.

Please also pray, we may have a chance at other additional grants after our referral, etc. Just pray for wisdom on how we should proceed here. Thank you so much for support and reading all the details.

Monday, June 25, 2012

{DTC}: Dossier to China!!!

Updates from our Previous Post from June 8 on where we are in the process!

Next Steps:: {UPDATED}::
1.Authentication (began June 4, 2-3 Weeks. Hopefully, by June 21st at latest) Completed
2. Dossier To China (DTC 2-3 Weeks)   Completed!
Sent on June 25, 2012 & Logan let our friend, Angie Rylands, who is the state director for Lifeline SC have the honor of  calling us to tell us after she helped us with what could have been a glitch and made sure our files were ready to go.

3. LID (Lock In Date- 2-3 Weeks) 
Dossier to China is DTC:: That means all of our files are officially being tracked on their way to China. Once China receives our paperwork, they "lock us into their system" and we have LID.The reason those precious letters: L-I-D mean so much to us is because we are not yet matched with a child. 
We are requesting that our daughter be under 2 years old with some of the mild correctable special needs. Most of the children under 2 years old are not going to be referred to a family who does not have their Dossier in China & Locked In (DTC & LID). They want these "babies" to be matched to families who can travel withing 5-6 months. So, we have lots of friends who already know who their child is because they are matched with an older child or a child whose file does not say "LID required", etc. So, if that didn't confuse you, just know that

LID = Referral Ready = Find out who our daughter is!
We are hoping to be LID by the end of July or we could get really crazy & pray for the middle of July! If we do, we'll be ready for the new "shared list" of babies that will become available around July 22-25.
{Prayer Requests}Keep praying with us!
* As always, please pray for our daughter, her health, those who are carrying for her, and her birth family 
* Please also pray for a special situation that we are praying through; but can't share about it yet. 
* Pray for us, please, as we live our lives as a family of 4 and that God will continue to draw us closer to Him and that we will reflect Him more and more in our family, our ministry and our for our future journey as an adoptive family
* Please pray for a quick Authenticiation, DTC & early LID date! {Um, praying for July 15th w/ me is very okay... ) 
* Please pray for our application that is with Show Hope. We will find out around the 1st week of July if we received any grants from them (We still need an estimated $14K :: about $7 6K for orphanage fee & $7K for flights, travel & final misc out of country fees, etc)
* Pray direction on our next fundraising after our fundraising rest month (which has been the end of May/June).
* Pray for wisdom on pursuing other grant applications (we have a few that we are considering after we have a referral)
* Please pray that the peace that we have had over the finances and the process of waiting will continue
* And as always, however, else you feel led... we always covet your prayers!
* Please also pray for our Journey Together leaders & team & next steps of the ministry, etc.


Tuesday, June 19, 2012

One Thing I Hope You Know

There is one thing that I hope you know...

As you listen to our stories. As you help us raise funds. As you pray for our daughter. As you walk your own journey of adoption. As you fill an empty nest and heart. Or as you stack bunk beds in overstuffed bedrooms.

Our adoption journey is either just a story that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy and excited over one incredible child's life and one family's heart and call. Or it is more.

And we believe it is more. It's not just our story. Not because of a single thing that we have done. Please hear me. We, the Carpenters, Jessica and Travis, have not done a single thing.

This story is more only because of everything He has done.

This is the one thing I hope you know...
Deep into the chamber of your heart. Into the crevices of your soul. 

Into the really hard places. Into the swelling joyful moments. 

I hope you know that our story and your story are not as they seem. There is an underlying earth shaking core foundation to these stories. To the narrative of life. You see, our stories, are simply a part of  The Story, God's narrative, the ultimate story of Redemption and Glory through His adoption of us in a broken world. You and Me.

Yesterday Max Lucado said it this way on the radio. Get every single word of this.

Because I hope you'll know this, and hold onto this truth with either white knuckles or arms thrown high..

The one thing I hope you know is who you are...

"You’ve been claimed… adopted as God’s very own child!

Romans 8:29 says “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn, with many brothers and sisters.”

Abandon you to a fatherless world?  No way.  Before you knew you needed adopting, he’d already filed the papers and selected the wallpaper for your room. Those who have access to God’s family Bible can read your name.  He wrote it there.  He covered the adoption fees.  We don’t finance our adoption, but we do accept it.  And the moment we accept his offer, we go from orphans to heirs!

Romans 8:17 says “we’re heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”  No stepchildren or grandchildren.  

You and Christ share the same will.  What he inherits, you inherit.

You are headed home!"


That is the one thing I hope you really know. 

If this sparked something in you, please let us know and please jump into the Together for Adoption community for a lot more wonderful explanation of the doctrine of Adoption. And don't get all weirded out that I said "doctrine". But, this September Travis and I will be joining the T4A team with our Journey Together team for the national conference: "I am living in the Story!" . The T4A team & message will ransack, then re-energize and refresh your soul as you walk through the narrative of life and into suffering, joy and adoption.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

There's No Place Like Home: A Shoe Sale!

UPDATE:: Shoes sold on June 19th for $420. No I don't know the buyer. From Florida! THANKFUL!

The little red sparkly shoes.

Waiting for our daughter on our mantel.

I whisper prayers to Jesus in the middle of the chaos every time I see those shoes.

Austin points them out to people every time they come into our home.

I actually had a similar pair of red sparkly shoes like this for my junior year {prom}. So, there is a theme to sparkly shoes already.

Ironically, those sparkly red shoes have already been turning hearts and have a story of their own. One of our family members told us that staring at that photo really had turned their hearts more and more toward this child and adoption in general.

Now, there are another pair of sparkly shoes that are coming down the yellow brick road.

A sweet sweet friend who I known have for over ten years, shared with me that she had something for me to try to sell for our fund. Thank goodness, I have one friend who rocks a pair of these faithfully or I might have been confused, when she said she had a very fancy expensive pair of shoes to sell. She left the hair salon, where we were and ran home and brought them back to me. When she pushed the box of the legendary red soled Parisian stilletos into my hands, my mouth dropped open in shock. These are truly legendary fashionista shoes. And now these incredible friend and these insanely gorgeous shoes would be part of our daughter's story.

When I left the salon, I text my friend to get pricing and options. But, we were also heading into the Mother's Day crazy and nesting and the end of the give-a-way, so I set them aside and knew I was supposed to wait a bit to sell them. I don't know. Maybe so they could sit in our home and be a part of us and our story for awhile. I don't know. But, as I am slowly coming off our resting month, I believe selling these bad boys is the first place to start back into our fundraising. We are working on our orphange fee of $7000. This goes to the orphanage that has been carrying for our daughter, or paying her foster family, etc. It also goes to care for the children who will not yet be adopted. Less than 1% of all the orphans in the world will be adopted. So, this is a fee that we are blessed to raise support for to not just help our daughter; but to also help care for other children who are our daughter's only family right now.

So, the shoes..I have them listed on Ebay. Bidding starts at $385. They are being sold "as is" and have been worn a handful of times. Retail is $895. And I've contacted Bob Ellis here in Charleston to ask their re-sole price. But, I know it's about $80 in NYC price range. They are a size 38/size 7; but you need to try on a pair like these to be sure they'd fit. They are super high!

Here is the ebay link, please spread the word to all fashionista friends::

Local, friends, if there are no bids on ebay & you want the, let me know & I'll pull the sale down. Once there are bids, the sale will need to run it's course.

We know that our paperwork is now on it's way to the Consulate here in the US. It should be back and on it's way to China within the next week. So, that means we are getting close to being ready for a referral.