Be Strong. Rock on.

As many of you have seen via Facebook, we have an auction going on right now to bring little Thadius home.  Two of the many amazing items up for bids have been generously donated by Andrew Banar of Group Hug Apparel.

Andrew was born with Down syndrome, and an irrepressible zest for life.  One day, when his cousin was going off to college, Andrew decided he wanted to go, too.  He needed to raise some funds, however.  His mom, Karen Pickle, suggested taking one of his rock and roll sketchings and turning it into a t-shirt design.  They have used much of the funding received to support various charitable organizations.

Any t-shirt from the website and infant onesie in our auction feature Andrew’s own artwork, and are sold by a company he owns.   To keep up with the many adventures of Group Hug Apparel bringing joy, fun, and rock-star status to events all over Canada, click here: Group Hug Blog.

Imagine how you could help Andrew change the world by sharing his story and his message, one t-shirt at a time.  Be strong.  Rock on.  With friends.

Dotting the ‘i’

My husband and I are complete band nerds.  In the best way possible.  We loved our time in our respective marching bands, and will demand hope that our children will share in this incredible experience themselves some day.

A certain level of greatness is evident even in rehearsal. The uniformity of our spacing? The hunger in the eye?  Eh, not really. We were all just looking for something to do.

I used a marching band metaphor a couple of weeks ago:

(It’s) like having a football game packed around the main attraction: the half-time show.

And Thadius’ adoption is a whole half-time show. It’s script Ohio. Sure, he’s dotting the “i”, but without every member of the band, he’s just a baby dude alone on a field.

Don’t get grumpy, Wolverines ;)

We need a strong band to bring this whole production home.

And those few words and a little picture brought on a cascade of blessings, financial and spiritual, allowing me to make a wonderful contact with Joyce and Sarah.

And I had a little idea. We would like to welcome our Thadius home with a meaningful representation of the people who helped get him there.  Script Ohio-style.

Andy and I are in the works to paint a 4 ft. x 7 ft. mural of a football field on the wall in the kids’ playroom.  Our goal is to sponsor 225 “members” of the band for $10 each, which will look something like this, except drawn by, you know, someone with talent (who has been contacted, no worries):

Pick the face and instrument of your choice!

As our band gets filled, I’ll print and laminate our members, and put them on the mural to spell out the name of our sweet new boy: Thadius. Well, except his real name. Which also has an “i” in it. Woohoo!

And when we have a whole mural, and our little boy has come home, we will make sure that he is the one who gets to dot the “i” to make our journey complete, and to kick off the next part of our lives together.

Here’s how it works:

1) Donate twenty dollars for each band member you would like to sponsor to our Chip-in (not tax-deductible, but immediately available, no further action needed) or to our FSP (tax-deductible, and send me a copy of the receipt at biglittledays at g mail .com).
2) I will send you an email with directions for getting an image for your band member(s).
3) I will email you back with your completed image, your file to keep, and I will make it a (soon-to-be modified into) very cool marching band dude/dudette for our wall.
4) The band fundraiser will continue until all of the marching band members have been sponsored, with our goal being before our second trip to court in (hopefully) late fall.

And for those of you who still have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, I present The Best Damn Band in the Land, doing what it does best:

Enforcing Peace

It’s been a crazy few weeks.  We are so anxious to complete our paperwork to send to the country.  When we have that ready to go, we will receive a travel date, secure visas, and be ready to head over to meet our boy.  What’s great is that after this initial visit, we’ll receive a referral from the country, and then YOU’LL get to meet this boy, too.   Then 2 months until the court date where we appear in person to plead our case as adoptive parents.  Then 30 days later, we return to bring him home forever.

Now, I need to apologize for something.  The past week or so, I have been going nuts.  So many big things happened, and I just wanted everyone to know about them.

I was given the chance to write a guest blog post on Classy Chaos.

We received a matching grant opportunity.

Cal wrote a blog post.

You have donated all the funds to cover our USCIS/immigration paperwork.

I wanted to make one thing very clear.  In our hearts, we know completely how much we have been blessed by our friends, who are supporting us through prayer, donations, and advocacy.  I’m worried that you might think we are asking for you, the people who are already side by side with us, to give more than what you already have.

I want to reassure you all:

If we never receive another penny, another kind word, another blog share, another Amazon click for the rest of our journey, you have given a measure far beyond what we could ever dream.

Thank you so much for all you have given.

And, I wanted to share with you all that I will be fasting from this blog and social media for the next three days, because I am becoming a serial-clicker: liking a million and one stories of redemption, last-minute fundraisers, and prayers for at-risk orphans.  I am not weary at all.  Just the opposite.  I am getting irritated at the life I have going on right here at home, because this work is so important.

I have always said, that if I were to become First Lady, my platform would be Adoption.  And now, I am in the center of the game, waiting enthusiastically for my turn to play.   And that is just no good at all.  Because I am not important in this whole thing.  I am just a person who God is working through.  And I am so focused on what I need to do right now, I am growing impatient with what God is doing right now.

And right now, I need to stop looking at statistics, shares, likes, and dollars.  I need to let the seeds planted grow.  Honestly, I don’t like it.  But, sometimes I need to enforce peace to make it happen.

 

 

God’s Allen Wrench

I am always amazed to find out that God has been using me to love other people.  And today, I was assigned to be an Allen wrench in God’s tool box.  The Allen wrench is commonly found in the bottom of your sawdust-filled tool bag, or kicked around your living room floor for a month or two after you finished putting together that end table from Ikea.  

It’s definitely not a tool that inspires awe, and is never summoned for adulation on This Old House.  It has no power except your own hands, and only has two settings-short side and long side.   The Allen wrench is at one moment indispensable, and the next completely disposable.  An Allen wrench rarely sticks around for the next job.  You know your Ikea bookshelf will come with its own Allen wrench.  But still, you hold on to it.  Because when you need that very specific tool, you just can’t find a substitute.

Envision yourself back in the panicky stages of putting together a chair from Walmart in the middle of your living room floor, when suddenly the carpet eats your wrench.  You’re pretty sure you’ll find it (“It has to be here, right?”), but if you didn’t, you have a useless set of legs, seat, and backrest that have no way of connecting otherwise.

Today, I popped over unannounced to the new home of my dear friend, B.  She really needed a clear space in her living room.  We laughed, and loaded, and stacked, and hauled the leftovers of last week’s garage sale gone bust while our kiddos played.  In return, she watched my kids while I ran to the bank.  I stopped at home to unload the back of my car so we could bring the rest of her things over for a newly-planned fundraiser garage sale at my place.  I bumped into our garbage man and gave him the loaf of bread I had wanted to give him since Christmas.

That afternoon, as I was loading my kids up to go get Cal from her scout troop’s day camp, I called up a fellow scout mom, T, to confirm the pick-up time.  She didn’t know the time, but she asked if there was any way I could pick up her twins, as she was stuck 25 minutes outside of town.  I looked at our newly re-filled car (one car seat had already been removed), and said yes.  I legally, safely, but quickly headed home to purge the car again and put two extra boosters in.  In the twenty shortest minutes ever on record, we were back on the road, late, and on our way to get the three girls.

As I was driving, I just felt the perfect little settling into our day.  This blessed, wonderful, full, day of service, being served, and basically living a day bigger than I could ever do on my own.

When I dropped the girls off at their house, I was greeted by the most exhausted looking version of T that I have ever seen.  I asked if she was sick, and she insisted it was just an over-filled week taking its toll.  I offered to take the girls home for dinner with us.  She already had dinner going, so we said goodbye and made plans for Cal to come play during our home study meeting next week.  T said she doesn’t know how God does it, but I always call and offer help at just the time when she’s about to collapse.  I laughed, and said that I know that feeling.  I told her how just now she had helped me figure out how we were going to negotiate another car seat once Thadius comes home, and was just thinking how grateful I was that God used her for me.

Between these perfect moments, and some wonderful people who have stepped forward and offered unexpected financial and emotional support in the past couple of days, I am feeling so protected.  This week has been swamped with doubt, questioning, accusations, and implications that have come our way through legitimate concern and busy-body patronizing.  It’s not worth addressing, except to say that I am perfectly certain that God will stop our pursuit of Thadius through impenetrable roadblocks if He needs to.   We could be doing this adoption only out of obedience instead of a specific call, and it still wouldn’t be wrong.  God is always the same, and there is no iteration of “pursuing adoption” for us that is sinful.

But, a day like today shows me that God is using my life as a little, simple tool to do a specific job.  I was designed to do it, making friends easily, offering help before people can ask, and in return, God is keeping this one little wrench in a handy pocket.  Ready to loan it to anyone who might need it.  But, the metaphor is too simple.  Because the Allen wrench never gets anything in return, except maybe a sense of usefulness.

And we aren’t just tools to God.  We are full people who have incredible skills.  We are empty people who have desires that outweigh our resources.  On a day like today, I am just grateful to live so clearly in this intricate framework of needs, desires, and abilities that connect us.

I think we each have our own gift that is just the right wrench for putting together the pieces of someone else’s life.  And sometimes, we’re lost in the carpet.  But don’t worry, you’ll be found soon.  Somebody isn’t going to stop looking until they find just the right tool.

Is Thadius your Kaden?

One of the reasons my husband and I gave for pursuing Thadius is because “no one else may be coming.” And it was true. We had no assurances that anyone was going to pursue him. That’s part of what makes adopting a child from Reece’s Rainbow so powerful. These children are guaranteed no future, even with thousands of people seeing their faces every week. And so, at risk of undermining a reason we, as the Big Little Days family, must take action for this little boy, I want to share something with you.
A few minutes ago, I received this comment on “Fundraising and Freaking Out” :

Here is my response:

Oh, Melissa, what a gift you have given us! Thank you for sharing this story with us. I have to tell you, *THAT* is exactly how my husband and I went from “I don’t know about this, but maybe,” to “Oh my goodness, yes, God wants us to do this!”

There was a little baby on Reece’s Rainbow, Kaden, who we just couldn’t get out of our hearts. We had to know he was being pursued before we could go forward with the domestic adoption we were planning. Two months later, Thadius appeared on a friend’s Facebook page, we clicked, and realized if we were willing to do it for Kaden, we were ready to pursue adoption for Thadius. We assessed our capabilities, with 4 children ages 6 and under at home already, and no personal experience caring for special needs, felt Thadius, younger than our baby by 6 months, was the right child at the right time, and oh, did that face melt our hearts.

We wondered if choosing such an easy-to-love little boy was somehow wrong, and found out a few people had inquired, but no one had sent in paperwork. We want to honor our commitment to our biological children, and need to ease into parenting a child with special needs, saying yes to Down syndrome, which we are familiar with, and feel well-prepared and educated for. Then we realized, that the families, like yours, who could say yes to Thadius, was just a heartbeat away from finding their little one. We are so blessed to know you, blessed to know that you would have pursued this little boy, and blessed to know that, if you are anything like us, your own precious child is just around the bend. You wait, God doesn’t prepare hearts like that to do nothing with them. I can’t wait to see what He’s preparing you for, and preparing for you!

I can’t wait for the day we’ll be following your adoption journey.

****

And, I’m having this little realization. God is going to melt away all our reasons, all our logic, and all of our explanations, and leave us humbled to admit the real reason we are adopting Thadius.

To make Him happy.

Because God’s plans have brought us together for 8 wonderful years of marriage, 4 healthy children, 2 homes, and 1 incredibly loveable, get-you-to-say-yes little boy who, for now, we call Thadius, but some day we will call ours.

“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. I will say to the north, “Give them up!” and to the south, “Do not hold them back.” Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” –Isaiah 43:5-6

Fundraising and Freaking Out

Many people want orphans to find families. But, not everyone thinks families should ask others to help them out. After all, we don’t ask our friends and family to pay for our hospital bill when we have a baby. And that’s what adoption is all about, isn’t it? Bringing a new child into your home.

More succinctly, your family wants this; your family should pay for it.

So, let’s look at this assertion a little more closely. First off, we have to acknowledge that adoption, in some ways, is different from a birth. There is an associated cost to file paperwork to make the transfer of custody legal that is not covered by any insurance plan. This is NOT the same as “buying a child.” When we buy something, we are exchanging cash that is understood to be equal to the value of the item…even if it’s a great deal, ownership is transferred. In adoption, unlike buying, the child’s value is never being weighed against a cash system. The cash is to tackle the massive amounts of legal paperwork associated with transferring custody, and in some cases national citizenship, to the child’s adoptive family.

Secondly, unlike the birth of a biological child, the adoptive child has no claim on its biological or adoptive parents. That means that NO ONE, except a compassionate state, is required to care for a child given up for adoption. While the state generally meets all of the child’s physical needs, the state is incapable of creating a care system that mimics a parent-to-child bond, particularly in an orphanage setting. Thus, a child without parents, even domestically, even as a newborn, is at risk.

Think of one of your precious children, or even pets, being cared for by the postal service. Every town gets the mail delivered in a timely manner. But, some postal workers smile and talk to your kids. Some put your junk mail on the bottom of the good mail. Some put an extra $0.02 stamp on for no additional charge. And some are just plain mean. Like in the postal service, in an institution (or even foster care system), the quality of physical care is mandated and regulated, but the psychological care of the child is wholly dependent on the training and compassion of the caretaker. Many safeguards are in place, but a child who does not have invested, devoted caretakers is widely acknowledged to be a child at risk. Most people instinctively know that no child will reach his or her full potential outside of a loving family home.

Next, let’s consider parents who choose to adopt, either domestically or internationally. What is their motivation to adopt? Some would say if they are adopting to grow their own family, only they should cover all the costs. But, let me offer you this: any child who was not born into a family will in some way require more care. A child with special needs, or who has been institutionalized for any time will almost certainly require special care. Parents who adopt are fully informed and are still choosing to accept this child. That means that every person who is adopting a child is at least in some ways prepared that their child will have more special care needs than a biological child. This makes choosing adoption, at least in one way, more taxing on parents than birthing a biological child.

So now, there are levels of acceptance of asking others to contribute financially to bring a child home;

1) Absolutely no one should ask for anything to adopt a child ever. If you don’t have the money, you are not meant to adopt. You are enhancing your family.

2) Only special needs, international adoptions should receive any “charity” money because those kids will never be chosen first otherwise.

3) Only international adoptions should ask for money, because they are rescuing a child from life in an institution.

4) Only domestic and international special needs adoptions should be considered charitable causes, because the parents are getting less than they are giving by providing a home for this child.

5) Only older, foster adoptions should be considered for domestic fundraising (though this is rarely a concern, as most foster adoptions are subsidized by the state) because those kids need a lot of care to overcome previous abuse.

6) All adoptions should be considered for charitable donations, because all children need homes and this will make it more attainable for prospective parents.

All of these options are based on logical assessments of who is benefitting from the adoption more: the adoptive parents or the adopted child. Now, let me tell you what I think about all of this.

People are generally compassionate, but that inclination is easily overcome by worry that they are being snookered and some adoptive parents are just fundraising for the free ride.

And now, I need you to trust me.

Because I am going to ask you to press the “brain, don’t try to protect me from looking like a fool” button, and offer you this:

People believe orphans are better off outside of institutions. They grow stronger, learn more, and reach their full potential only when they have a loving caregiver who is fully responsible for them, who they can call their own.

Are you ready?

The path to reach all of these benefits, which we wish in our heart of hearts for every child on earth

…looks just the same as a couple who can’t have children, so they look to adopt.

…looks just the same as a missionary going overseas to build houses for grandmothers to become primary caretakers for AIDS orphans.

…looks just the same as a family of empty-nesters who can’t bear to think there is a child who they have the resources and skills to parent, apparently surrendering their retirement.

…looks just the same as a couple pursuing a cousin’s child who, unbeknownst to them, has been living in a group home on the other side of the country for three years.

…looks just the same as the couple who went this year to rescue a severely disabled 14 year-old who only weighs 14 lbs. from one of the worst human rights violating orphanages ever uncovered.

…looks just the same as a family who has four healthy kids and could easily have more but choose to adopt a baby from Eastern Europe with Down syndrome.

Who on this list is worthy? Who on this list could ask for financial support without you judging them? Who is doing it for themselves? Who can afford it? Why are they doing this? Who do they think they are?

But wait…didn’t we just say that we want these orphans to be rescued from being, well, orphans?

We did, and we do.

This part may be hard to accept, but it is the truth. The only way out of being an orphan is to make them part of a family. Families that already exist. Families who are already covering the bulk of the fees. Families who didn’t plan on this. Families who don’t have the excess money even if they had planned on it.

So, if you ask me if I think giving money to help orphans have a lifetime of access to clean water and food, loving parents who will embrace them fully as their own, access to world-class medical care, acceptance of syndromes that are shunned and unacceptable in their country, access to quality education, is acceptable…the answer is, internationally and domestically, YES! There is no CHEAPER way to do this than placing them into the arms of parents who will do all of these things for their adopted children.

Demanding that a family be financially prepared to pay cash to process the paperwork to transfer the orphaned child into this situation is condemning a whole generation of children to a lifetime of institutionalization or transient foster care.

If more people knew how much our world benefits from simply placing orphaned children into the homes of forever families, who from that moment on don’t ask for another penny, more people would be able to see themselves adopting.

I am not ashamed that my husband and I do not have access to $35,000 in cash.

Ask yourself if you are ashamed of needing to take out a mortgage to buy your home. Your family benefits, so your family pays.

Now ask yourself if you are ashamed for us that we are asking others to help fund the freedom of a little boy from life as an orphan. That is the only step we are asking for help with. The cost of adoption is not about the family who is adopting. It is entirely for the benefit of the child who will no longer be an orphan. He cannot pay. Cannot even take out a loan. But we can stand at his side, and pay on his behalf. We believe that there are people who want to be a part of that. We believe that our Thadius *needs* more than just his future parents to be a part of that.

Orphans are children who have been done a great harm, even if it was done out of necessity or love. They have been denied the un-earned love of parents that the majority of us have been given as a gift. When they are adopted they have a deficit to fill. Hearing a thousand little voices saying, “we prayed for you before we knew you, we gave for you because you had worth, we advocated for you because you are so valuable,” creates the loving cushion to help fill the void. We do all this in the hope that the sweetest words of a parent as she whispers “I love you. You are mine,” can land in fertile soil. Because adoptive parents become “real” parents awfully fast…and kids will need more one day. Proof that they aren’t flawed, and their adopted parents aren’t just kindhearted or worse, selfish. A thousand little voices will speak the truth these children need so desperately to hear from us all. We saw you, we gave for you, you are valuable.

When we stop freaking out about making the process of adoption all about who should pay for what, and instead about “child becomes orphan no more,” our hearts can see clearly what a noble cause we are pursuing. And what a worthy recipient of our prayers, tithes, and love.

****

If you are moved to action, please join our efforts to bring Thadius out of an orphanage. We are working with an incredible organization that allows us to receive Tax-deductible donations(proof that it ain’t for us!), Reece’s Rainbow. We are also accepting Chip-in donations for our immediate expenses, but please know that such donations are NOT tax deductible.

Click this picture to donate to our ChipIn

For those wondering, we are asking for tithes for our little boy with the goal amount of what we believe we will need for our first trip in the fall ($15,000). We have a solid financial roadmap to take care of the rest. We trust, like ourselves, that all prospective adoptive parents give sacrificially for their own child, and believe the majority already plan and expect to do so, as minimum income requirements, and homestudy evaluations of financial qualifications are required to be approved.

The reason we are doing incentive-based fundraising giveaways is to engage a larger population of people who might not be actively pursuing ways to help an orphaned child get adopted. In a perfect world, we would have the opportunity to present our child’s need to a wide audience without incentives, but that is just unrealistic, and time is of the essence. Giving our donors a fun giveaway allows for a “reason” to share our story with a wider audience than asking for donations alone would garner. We believe people who are inspired by our story may be moved to action by our incentives. That’s how we started, and now we give just for the joy of it!

Also, please understand that I know I am generalizing about “good” home situations. In the interest of brevity and clarity of this important point, I am speaking specifically to the kinds of homes that do nurture and protect children and give them appropriate care and support so that they can thrive. My heart is always with children who are victims of abuse, and these words are in no way intended to ignore the pain of those situations. This information is based on the low death rates of children adopted internationally compared to those adopted in their home country. Wider, easier access to funding of all adoptions could change those statistics, but that’s a risk I am willing to take.

I am in no way insinuating that this is a call for government action. This post is meant to ease the fears of individuals who are undecided about whether financially supporting an adoption is appropriate or not.