Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father

Most of you have heard that Travis and I both came across a book called Reclaiming Adoption, Missional Living through the Rediscovery of Abba Father. Right before Christmas, via a twitter direct message (oh, so thankful for social media!) Dan asked us if anyone in our church might want to host a house conference. So, yes, we were like 4 year olds in preschool raising our heads and stretching out of our seats hoping the teacher calls us on. Yes, Dan, pick us! Pick us. Okay, so Travis is a bit more subdued and probably didn't make as much of a scene as I did; but he was equally thrilled.

On February 13th, we are hosting Dan and Jason from Together for Adoption in a house conference style discussion and we want you to come! (Well, we want about 50 of you to come.) Yes, we gave some heads up priority to adopting/adoptive families; but this is just a hard core gospel discussion. This if for all of us. If you want to be there, please let me know because we want you to be there, too!

More details: 
Dan Cruver is the primary writer/editor for the book, Reclaiming Adoption, along with Jason Kovacks, John Piper, etc. Obviously, this was part of the catalyst that launched the Carpenter Family Adoption Journey. However, our core Christian foundation was shaken up, flipped over and rebuilt through this discussion and this book. For some of you, this may be old news. But, I believe for most of us, we might have missed this identity and covenant thread that is poured throughout scripture in the redemptive story of God's love for us when we were orphans. We daily forget that we are called "sons of God" and the implications of living fully wrapped up in that knowledge. And ladies, don't get all upset that I said "sons".  (I'm going to Francis Chan you a bit and ask you to stick with me on the fact that God probably knows what He is doing and knows more than us when He sets things in order.) Some versions say: sons and daughters. But, in Bible days, the sons given the inheritance and that's why we are all referred to as sons. You can call me whatever you want to call me, but I'm jumping up and down with Jacob reaching for that blessing and putting hair on my arms for the inheritance of the Father.Except, I don't have to steal it. I've already got it!

Admittedly, I am very overwhelmed and under qualified to shake a stick at this discussion and properly encourage any of you. Travis and I very excited to be going to Together for Adoption Boot Camp with a handful of other friends we've persuaded to attend with us in a few months to deepen our knowledge of this essential part of the Gospel. But, again, we'll still probably always be a bit under qualified and claiming 2 Cor 12:9 all over the place.

But, in the mean time, we are jumping on the T4A bandwagon of waving the flag that Adoption is not just Adoption. Let's go further; and orphan care is not just social justice. If we just "rescue" a few children or start a food bank, without the gospel propelled foundation, we are just doing good works. To further deepen our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ is essential and to be sure that every action is propelled from that anchor is imperative. That is what missional living is about. The outpour of the gospel message in and through our lives into every aspect of our life.

Here are a few excerpts from Dan's posts on Together for Adoption:

Adoption Doesn’t Mean Adoption

by Dan Cruver Published Jul 6, 2010

"But adoption doesn’t just mean “adoption,” at least as we typically understand the word. It also means creation-renewal—big time renewal. God’s work of adoption will one day result in the comprehensive restoration of all creation so that it becomes the happy home of all of His children. One awe-inspiring day creation will be restored to a home of unceasing communion and fellowship with God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. In that day we will enter into the overflowing and never ending peace and joy and gladness of our Father.
As I touched on yesterday, this understanding of adoption has massive implications for how Christians think about and address the global orphan crisis. Because of God’s creation-renewing focus of adoption, everything we do for the sake of orphans becomes a foretaste of the day when there will no longer be any vulnerable or orphaned children, when there will no longer be people who are oppressed or marginalized by society. That day is coming, and it will be an awesome day. So never forget: what we do for orphans now provides a foretaste of what will be then."

"To be in God’s family is to be part of a cosmic story that God is writing for our sakes, his glory, and the good of all creation. Ever since the fall, mankind has succumbed to the unrelenting temptation to write, control, and star in our own story (consider these verses). I know that I am tempted every day to write my own story for my sake, my glory, and my good. As Martin Luther used to say, left to myself I am forever “turned in upon myself” (homo incurvatus in se).  Apart from God’s gracious and decisive intervention, this is my (our) house of bondage.

But the good news of the gospel is that the Son of God became man, entering into our house of bondage, in order to deliver us out of it into God’s story of freedom and renewal. Jesus entered into our house of bondage, becoming a curse for us, that he might bring us into the house of his Father—and bring us he did!
You may be wondering what this has to do with caring for orphans and widows in their affliction. Well, it really has everything to do it. If we are not renewed each day by what Jesus has done on our behalf and for our sakes, we won’t be very committed to caring for orphans, at least over the long haul and for the right reasons.

People who are homo incurvatus in se are much more concerned about their own stories than they are about God’s story, which happens to be very much concerned with the plight of the orphan. To be in God’s family is to be part of a cosmic story that is being written by God for our sakes, his glory, and the good of all creation, which includes the good of orphans.
So let’s together commit to daily rehearse and rejoice in the good news of the gospel for God’s glory, our good, and the good of orphans all around the world."

For more information on this discussion, please check out Dan's posts on www.togetherforadoption.org or follow Dan on twitter.com/dancruver He is always posting essential reading.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chosen: Fundraising

So, since this is our adoption blog, I'll stick with adoption updates.But, I really am still bursting at the seams from all that God is doing in my own life and in the lives of hundreds of women as a result of the time at the women's conference this last weekend. I know it sounds like a bunch of hype. But, I am not sure I've ever stood in a conference and been so fully aware of God's presence and been able to visually see his work in countless women's lives. I'm going to sound super charismatic if I continue on... I'll save that for another post. And I could go on and on about how exciting it is that A21Carolinas is launching, etc. etc.

Ironically, every single speaker, starting with our pastor, related in some way to the conversation of vertical adoption. Of course, I was falling off my chair excited since helping other's more fully grasp their identity through their vertical adoption in Christ is a huge passion for Travis and I.

Anyhow, I'm so grateful to the Chosen ladies for letting me have some of my crafty-stuff in the boutique. The ladies did an amazing job of designing it. A couple days before the conference, my sweet friend Tiffany, told me that she was bringing some of her gorgeous scarves/gloves/heabands for me to sell for our fund.

So, I had the coaster/tile art; Uganda beads (and Helen Lee even talked about Katie Davis in her message!); silver bird necklaces; my cabochon earrings/bobby pins; hair/pin accessories; and the big debut of my bird's next hemp chain necklaces. I think my profit was $750. God is so good! I prayed over everything on the table the day before. I was writing down my inventory list, and very timidly hoped for $800 in sales. My sales was $883!

I also posted some of these items on facebook as I was making them and had about 5 different people request some of the items, too.

So, in the last week, I've been able to add about $1000.00 to our fund through all of this and some other donations. I still have the other orders for bird's nest necklaces and other items, too from the conference and other friends!

Right now, our next large amount due is estimated to be $3300 to $3400.  Here is the breakdown. Our agency fee is $2000 due with our final homestudy, immigration fee of $900, and another certification fee of $200, and a few other random fees for processing and documents that will probably be about $200-$300.  Right now, my bank account is showing $2937.00, $3,210.00. Not bad!

I do really appreciate that Lifeline gave me the breakdown, and sort of lump our fees into lump sums due at certain times.

 A few of you have asked about the cost. Here is a rough overview:
Application Fees: $250-$500
Homestudy Fees: $2000
Agency Fees (including lots of the processing fees, immigration, etc): approx $10-12, 000
Additional document and processing fees: $3000 (reading over this list is crazy how much things add up for $100 for this or that document or $50 for this fee here or there, etc.)
Orphanage/Country Fees: Approx $5000-$6000
Travel: Flights/In Country Travel: Approx $5000-$7000

Grand Total: $26,000-$31,000

Next up on our process:
Finish another online training course
Request records from Vital Check, can't be requested until a certain time, so they don't expire
Wait for final clearances and documents/referrals to come in for our homestudy
Finalize Homestudy
Send Immigration I-800 form
Start Dossier papers, etc.

Stay Tuned: Our Next Fundraiser
Next up, we will be hosting an American Girl Doll Raffle right here on THIS blog and my facebook page. I'm finalizing the details of how you can get lots and lots of chances to win and help us raise lots and lots of funds! I hope to launch that by the end of this week.

Gotcha Days:
Please pray for my friends D&S as they travel to pick up their daughter in Asia this week!
Please also jump up and down & pray for our other friends who picked up their daughter in CA last week, after starting the process last fall and after infertility challenges!

Charleston Community:
There are some amazing things happening in the adoption world in Charleston.
To begin with, our Journey Together Missional Community meeting is this week.
Then on Feb 13, Dan Cruver, www.togetherforadoption.org, is coming to host a house conference at my parent's house! Whoot! We are thrilled!
Feb 25th, Journey Together Oyster Roast at Palmetto County Park hosted by the Fatherhood Ministry.
And I'm not sure if I can share the other info yet; but it's great news for our community!
April 20-21 Together for Adoption Boot Camp
Sept 14-15 Together for Adoption Conference

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

I've Got a Button

This is completely off the subject of adoption. But, I learned how to make a blog button. I also learned how get the aforementioned button on my blog and make a box for it with special code that other bloggers can copy and paste to their sites.

Now, I'm aware of the fact that I was on the cutting edge of blogging in 2005 and that after about 2007, I fell into the abyss of the used-to-be-tech-savvy-bloggers....

But, I have been irritated with my thirty-something-sounding self lately. I noticed that I'm not staying hip and fresh. What? It's not cool to say hip and fresh anymore? I'm still complaining about the new tool bar (that was up dated 2 or 3 years ago) on Microsoft Word. I was almost convinced that I thought I had lost all ability to follow detailed instructions on very minor html code changes.

But, alas, after today, a very tiny sliver of my youth has been restored. Phew! I guess I can still shop at Forever21!

So, all that to say:

Here is my button attempt with a fancy little box for you to copy/paste my html code onto your blog!
<a href=" http://www.bambooandpluffmud.com" target="_self"><img src="http://i1263.photobucket.com/albums/ii623/jmc426/th_largerbutton.jpg?t=1326853140" alt="BambooandPluffMud" width="125" height="125" /></a>

Oh, so, back to the button. Grab it. Post it. Go for it. Thanks for supporting our adoption and for loving on us during this journey!

Monday, January 16, 2012

We Can't Miss This...

I shared this on our previous blog; but this video really speaks to a lot of what God has been teaching Travis and I through this process.  Hope you'll take a minute and listen. What Mr. Bill Shick shares at the beginning of the video is exactly what Trav and I are experiencing as we learn even more about being children of God.

Sidebar: Austin loves this song now. I don't have it on a cd yet; but he gets very excited when it comes on the radio.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Adoption 101: Carpenter Style

I've had a couple friends ask me what the first steps are in the adoption process.

Well, let's begin with the fact that Travis and I barely have our toe in the water. So, we are not experts. We don't even have our daughter home yet as I write this.

But, we did spend a lot of time in research mode. Part of that long time was the fact that I was still bent on S. Korea. Until we let that go, I had lots of back/forth on finding out that S. Carolina and S. Korea didn't seem to be BFFs. I'm guessing they figured out where South Carolina ranked in school systems. I'm joking...kinda.

Anyhow, I had no idea what people meant by "do your research". But, picking and agency and filling out an application the next day, wasn't quite our path. Six months later, I see why; but at the time it seemed crazy.

When God called us to this journey, we spent a lot of time in prayer and discussion together. I also dug head first into every type of agency I could find. Then we were sort of directed to more of what I call our "ransacking of our hearts". The first, aforementioned, "ransacking" was not of just of our decision to adopt. It was a challenge to further align our hearts into God's word and understanding of who God is and who we are and get to be because of who He is.

Drumroll, please: Reclaiming Adoption by Dan Cruver.

After reading this, we really believe God was calling us to a bigger journey than just pursuing our daughter.

We kept digging and read Orphanology by Tony Meridia and Rick Morton.

Followed by Adopted for Life by Russell Moore.

This is not your typical adoption writing. Yes, this writing will continue to challenge you to care for orphans through various avenues; but for us, it was more an essential realigning of our core theology.

Then we attended the Pure Religion conference and heard a mix of excellent biblical teaching and practical adoption information.

We met lots of agencies. We learned more about Lifesong and Abba Fund. We listened to adoptive families. We met a teenager who had been adopted as a baby with cleft lip. We were just there to absorb. And pray.

We continued our agency search, and I was frustrated. I had no idea why we could not pick one. But, at the time, we didn't even have the $500 saved up for application fees, etc.We also were just living a busy life with our boys, etc. But, we were starting to get better at asking questions. We realized what mattered to us. Program details? Do we carry cash or is it wire transferred? Can you accept money from a non-profit that we raise funds through? Who would I talk to on a daily basis for details from your agency?  How smooth things ran. How quickly we were responded to. How much information could we get? Who would help us through our special needs form? What forms do we need to collect? How many adoptions from this country have you completed? What is your wait time? How do you determine match process? Finally we were learning what it all meant.

We thought we had landed on an agency in October, and this is an agency we really love and respect. But, we realized a few weeks after mountains of initial paperwork that God was leading us in a new direction. We see why now; but at the time, it was still an odd feeling.

We continued to read blogs, read books,etc. We were kids in a candy store attending Together for Adoption National Conference in AZ in October after winning tickets through Lifesong.

In November, we dug back into researching agencies. Suddenly, we were in a large group of connected families and had water falls of information flowing our way. We were settled on our decision and excited. I still know that a lot of our back and forth is that we thought we were going one way and wanted to turn over every rock to be sure we were needing to change course.

My twitter and facebook feeds are full of adoption news. In our world, everyone is adopting or has adopted. In our world, "everyone" is reading theology on adoption and facing the realities of the hard work. In our world, "everyone" reads all the Together for Adoption posts and Rage Against the Minivan is in our RSS feed.

In the mean time, our fundraising was taking off, our missional community was growing, and the call to be a voice for the orphans was stirring in our hearts daily. Now we felt poised and ready to take our first real steps in solidifying our time frame for our homestudy.

We linked up with 147 Million Orphans and Just Love Coffee.
We receive(d) messages weekly that we "are being watched" by friends who hope to adopt someday, too.

I look back over it and still see that I would have loved to say that our daughter is almost on her way home; but I see God's hand and thumb print on each month and day of our lives over the last few months. I hear the call daily. I feel the nudge. We've absorbed as much as possible at this time. We have discussed, and we have prayed. We can now rest in the timing. We also feel very confident in our agency(ies) and decisions.

I hope that other friends of ours don't have to spend so much time in research mode; but we are grateful for what we've learned so far....

And we are coming, Baby! You are loved. You are our daughter already. You are a Carpenter and you have two brothers. Every day, you will here that we love you and you are our daughter. Every day, you will hear about your Abba Father who we merely reflect in all humility and grace to as we navigate our own horizontal adoption and redemption.
P.S. Your Grandma Miner really wants us to name you already; but we want to see your face. But, know that the orphan stigma in your country that brings devastation and social scrutiny for life has been defeated and will be sealed to defeat soon.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Here we go!

Welcome, to our new blog! I've moved from Acrylic Nails at jessicacarpenter.wordpress.com over here to Bamboo & Pluff Mud for our adoption journey!

If you don't know what pluff mud is, that's okay. It's the sort of stinky marsh mud that smells a bit like rotten eggs. I guess I could have picked something like "ocean breeze". But, truly, I find myself smiling almost every time I smell the pluff mud becuase it's unique to the South and to me it's unique to our home of almost a dozen years here in the Charleston area.

Maybe I just have an odd affinity for weird smells.

Not really; but every area that Travis and I have lived in has had its own stinky odd smell. I do actually miss the midwestern summer breezes that brought the farm smells of cows across the green flat land. And Travis always comments that he misses having skunks around and makes a big deal out of smelling one when we travel to the mountains. So, I guess the pluff mud is like cow is to the country and skunk is to the mountains.

So, I had not really planned to dissect our family that much from the title. I really just thought it sounded catchy and cute.

But, thanks for reading.

Sidebar: I hope you will subscribe because we might eventually lock the blog or add some security as we get closer to our travel and dossier date.