Having a party about being annoyed not discouraged!

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I can’t tell you that it’s gone. I can’t tell you I’m super happy about it.

I can’t tell you that my pain level doesn’t rest around an 8 or 9 on a daily basis.

I can’t remember the last time I woke up and something didn’t hurt.

I can tell you that I’m annoyed; but not discouraged. And I think that’s awesome.

What?!

I realized that as I was sitting here hoping that some medicine might take the pain level down a notch, that I didn’t go down the path of “why me, God?” or “how am I supposed to do anything for the Lord when I’m always in pain?” or “will I ever be low-maintenance so I can be used more by God?”  or “Don’t you know how much I have on my plate this week? ” Nope. Those thoughts have been squashed.

My first thought was, “Wow, this is super annoying and distracting.” The fact that this is my first thought and not my man-up-face-the-battle  second thought is huge. Working on our second thought is huge. But, when our first thought is more on target, this is progress!

That is Jesus. The God of the universe is at work in me! (Me?!?!) He is the one who transforms us by the renewing of our mind.  But, the tinge of discouragement wasn’t taking over. The emotion and mental onslaught of crazy was held at bay. Who gets excited over being annoyed and not discouraged? This girl does!

This may seem insignificant; but let me unpack this a bit. There is a super-sized daily battle that faces anyone with invisible chronic pain. As you hipster kids say these days, it’s legit. The connection, it’s legit. The pain, it’s legit. I’ve shared with friends (who face chronic pain) over and over that half the battle is in your head. To have a stabbing pain in a part of your body and carry on a normal conversation is somewhat challenging. That’s a fact. It’s so easy to go down the trail of discouragement. To give up. Truly, it is. Anytime someone is overly tired or sick, we don’t feel that we are acting like our normal self. Physical pain does show real connections to mental pain.You don’t even realize how you are responding at times because you forget what it feels like not to be in pain.

But, here’s the deal. I’m annoyed; but not discouraged. I’d like this pain to go away; and when I get moments without pain, I’m as giddy as a 3 year old at Christmas. I don’t move. I just stand still or I over commit myself to new projects, either way.  But, I digress…Truly, the point is: He’s got this. I can truly believe He will heal even though I’m still in pain and lots of it. He’s winning the war emotionally and mentally even when I physically might still be losing.

Sure, we have weird patterns, like taking a seat cushion with us everywhere we go. Sure, I have odd requests for where to sit in a room based on how I’ll have to hold my neck. Sure,  I stack dishes and other things in our house in a pattern that will cause less stress on my hands and more chaos for everyone else. Sure, I ask people to wash dishes when my hands hurt. Sure, I might trip several times a month and twist my ankles often and leave my chiropractors in confusion by how exactly I managed to do that”.

I hope and pray for more grace to trust Him even more and the faith to keep walking. I pray that whatever mental battle you, as my friend, are facing, that you, too will remember that God is in the business of renewing minds and that’s where most of this starts. But, again, it’s not man-up or try really hard. It’s God, he’s the one who renews the mind.

It might sound odd to you; but being annoyed and not discouraged is a big step.

So, again I can agree with Ann Voskamp is so right: All is Grace

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Next Steps: Adoption

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So, we have some exciting new! We chose to work with Bethany Christian Services for our adoption (Bethany.org). We are applying to their Waiting Child Program. In adoption, things can change at any time. So, what we know is that we are applying for a little girl most likely from Asia through the WCP (Waiting Child Program).  This means she will probably be about 12- 16 months old and that is about how long the process could take…which means, she could possibly have already been born or she is about to be born (Oh, please pray for her birthmom and our daughter and her caregivers if she’s already in foster/orphan care!)

Travis and I have already had chances to talk to so many of you about adoption and we are so excited to hear how many of our friends hope to adopt some day. So, we have had confirmation over and over from our close group of friends and some family that we know we need to be very open about the details of how this process goes. That means, we are going to really try to share the ups and downs of this journey and as many details as we are allowed to share or legally can. So, yep, we also feel that we should share about the money challenge, too. I had a friend just last week call and tell me that she’s watching to see how this goes. I’ve had other friends say they hope to be able to afford this someday, too. So, I want to be open, too that we are just following and trusting God for this. We didn’t win the lottery or suddenly get rich and I’m not going back to work full-time. I fact, we have a hole in our kitchen floor that is proving to us that this isn’t going to be any of our fancy footwork; but HIS!

But, for now, our first fee is $550.00 for the Formal Application which is different than our initial application and includes a pile of paperwork about an inch thick and asks all kinds of background questions about our lives and our families, etc. We also will be meeting with our social worker from Bethany very soon. She is going to meet with us as we are working on collection all of this initial paperwork. We also will then schedule our homestudy meetings. That fee will be roughly $3000.00. So, this first chunk ($3500) is about 1/7 of our total fee. I’ll explain more later about fees.

We are trying to be creative with our fundraisers so that we can truly know what might be helpful for others, too. So, here are just a few of the things we are starting with:

Joy’s Headbands: Joy is making amazing headbands for babies, toddlers and adults. I think she’s going to try to make us 100 of them before the end of the month. Stay tuned for those who are interested! I’ll be posting them here and on facebook and twitter and possibly having them available at the Rocktoberfest at Seacoast.

Coffee from Just Love Coffee: We can make $5.00 a bag of coffee and small fees off everything from Just Love’s website. Their coffee is fair trade and also goes to orphan care ministries all over the world. We chose them for this reason and the fact that they are connected to the Together for Adoption organization. Our page is http://www.justlovecoffee.com/TheCarpenters

That is just a few of our ideas and we have more that are in the works and welcome any other ideas, too.  We’ll do a big garage sale (and yes, we’ll take your donations for that) and silent auctions or online raffles (maybe even for an American Girl Doll) ,etc.

Please pray for us. I truly mean that. Please pray for us during paper work times. I’ve had some pretty intense stress any time I have to sit down and work on paperwork and would love prayers for peace.

We have a lot of peace that this money is going to show up and please pray that our faith continues every day and that we can continue to just follow God’s lead.

I just told Travis that I feel like I have so much to share right now; but we’ll stop here…

Other things on our task list: Makeover Jess’ blog! It’s not too fancy, I know!

Please vote for us Today only, August 26, so we can go to Together for Adoption Conference!

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We have been praying, hoping, crossing toes & fingers & almost making people crazy trying to figure out if we can make it to this conference in October. Why? Well, we are in the process of starting our own first adoption; but at the same time feel a huge call to orphan care in general. This conference is the core of what we feel God is calling us to: Missional Living, the Gospel & Orphan Care. So, we are so eager to be there. Bonus: It’s 10 minutes from my sister & brother-in-law’s home so we would get time with them and have a free place to stay, too. Anyhow, we’d love your vote.

Here is the quick version:

1. Go to http://classyawards.stayclassy.org/classy-awards/voting
2. Vote for Kids Caring 4 Kids in the “Most Creative Fundraiser” and “Small Charity Category”
3. Then on FB like Lifesong for Orphans & post on their wall: Jessica ‘Miner’ Carpenter Miner Carpenter asked me to vote for Kids Caring 4 Kids & I did ”.
(see my note on my wall for specific step by step details)

Here is the step by step version, if this seems challenging.

1.    Go to http://classyawards.stayclassy.org/classy-awards/voting

2.    Go to “Charity Categories”

3.    Click on “Small  Charity of the Year”

4.    Select “Kids Caring 4 Kids”

5.    Click “Vote”

6.    Scroll down a bit more to “Most Creative Fundraiser” (also under Charity Categories)

7.    Select “Kids Caring 4 Kids”

8.    Click “Vote”

9.    Scroll up to the top of the page, to the right, click on the gold button that says “Submit My Votes”

Half way there!

10.    Go back to Facebook.

11.    Go to LifeSong for Orphans page (http://www.facebook.com/lifesongfororphans)

12.    Click on“Like” to like their page.

13.     Post on LifeSong’s wall “Jessica Miner Carpenter asked me to vote for Kids Caring 4 Kids and I did ”.

Austin’s Conversations on Adoption

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I am afraid that I might forget some of the absolutely hysterical things that Austin has said about the adoption.

So, this is just a post to freeze those memories into time. I really hope that if anyone stumbles upon this blog that you will realized we are working on teaching him what adoption is really about (And even the theology of our adoption as heirs of God and what it means to take care of the fatherless…okay, got it? I’ll get off my soap box..) But, these comments are just a really big part of our family’s conversation and life right now.  Since we had Justus, he has decided that he wants a sister too. His reasoning: “Well, I have a baby brother and now I need a baby sister!”

Adoption Conference

Tonight, we explained to him that he’s going to stay with my parents for two nights while we go to an adoption conference a few hours away. I was half expecting him to start hugging me and saying he didn’t want us to leave him.

He started jumping up and down. Oh, he thinks he’s going to get away with something and get treats at Grandma & Grandpa’s house. 

He’s clapping. He’s jumping. He’s wiggling all over with every inch of his four year old body: “YOU. ARE. GOING. to an ADOPTION.CONFERENCE?!!!!”

“Yes..”

“MOM!” He stopped and stared at me. “Bring me home a 4 year old sister, okay!? Yah! I’m getting a 4 year old sister!”

“Well, buddy, it doesn’t quite work like that…”

Date Night, Baby

I didn’t realize that Austin had overheard us talking about free child care for Mission: Date Night in a few months at our church.

That night, I was tucking him in bed and walking out the door.

“Mom, have fun on your date..”

I cracked the door back open and looked at him: “What date? We are not leaving tonight.”

“The one you are talking about. Maybe it’s the one where you go on a date to get a baby out of your belly and bring home a sister…”

Okay, so we are back to thinking the baby is still coming from my belly.

Acceptance

We were looking at a Waiting Child photo a few weeks ago, and Austin looked at us and said in a ultra serious tone: “Mom…Mom, this little girl doesn’t have a mom and dad?”

“No, buddy, she doesn’t.”  He looked a bit confused.

Then he looked at me and at her: “Well, if we have a  Mom and Dad and she doesn’t….” I could tell he was really thinking through this.

“And if we don’t have a little girl.. or a sister..” He pauses a bit longer: “Then why don’t  we just go get her to be our baby sister? ”

Adopting Abigail Walters

A few weeks later, he tried to adopt Abigail Walters, our friend’s six year old.

I think he may have his first crush on an older woman. But, that combination carried into figuring out the adoption. He was trying to figure out how we might have another baby that doesn’t come from my tummy, he said: “Well, I wish Abigail was in our family. I wish she had come from your tummy. I wish she was in our family. But, she didn’t. So, we can adopt her. She’s six. I want a six year old.”

Naming the Baby

Then a few weeks later as we were talking before his bed time, he said: “Mom, when we adopt my sister, I want to call her Abigail.”

“Wow, that’s a beautiful name and—-”

He cut me off  “And I want her middle name to be Grace.”

“Wow, honey, that’s great. You know I love the name Grace, Austin…What made you think of that name?”

Shrugging  “I don’t know. I just like it.”

“Really? No particular reason? ”

“No, I just like it…”

After I put him down, I scurried for my phone to send a text message to our friend Katie. “Um, what’s Abigail’s middle name?”

Katie: “Grace. Why?”

“Just checking, Austin is trying to adopt Abigail again.”

Adoption Fund

We have a jar on the counter, that we are collecting change for the Adoption Fund.  Since Austin loves to spend his own money and buy things and talk about what he wants from Santa and for his birthday and Christmas all the time. And yes, I mean, all.the.time., we’ve started working on teaching him about saving and generosity, etc. So, we thought the visual of the fund would be good for all of us. We also are encouraging him to put money in the fund if he finds change on the night stand or bedside table. So, if he randomly asks you for money, I apologize in advance. He was obsessive over the Hope Epidemic bottle, too.

Anyhow, my mom told me that he found some quarters and was extremely excited to put the money in the fund with her:

“Grandma! Quick! Let’s put the money in the adoption fund so we can buy a baby sister!”

Again, we’ve got a lot of work to do on how he comprehends the adoption. But, so far, we love his enthusiasm!

Disclaimer: We really don’t want him to every carry over a “buy a baby” concept at all; but truly he thought we were going to get Baby Justus at Target or Walmart or pick him up from the hospital and buy him, too.  So, baby sister, when you read this someday, know that your brother Austin already loves you and can’t wait for you to get here, too!

The Floor is Caving In

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Nothing to do but trust. Laugh. Trust some more.

Because the kitchen floor is really caving in. But, let’s back up.

Travis and I have a pretty good process worked out right now. I research like crazy and try to bring him the summary of what I find. Then he hears the pros and cons of our next steps and gives me the nod, asks questions or sends me back to my research. So, the other night Travis gave me the nod to finalize an adoption agency this week and send in our application. That means: Take step one!

For the record, no, the Carpenters have not fallen into a large sum of random money (but yes, we will most definitely take a large sum of money if anyone knows of one lying around somewhere…). But, we knew early on that this is gonna be faith and some elbow grease on our part. A lot of creativity and humility and a lot of patience in the area of finances.

But, in case, we were getting any bit proud of feeling extremely capable without Jehovah-Jirah, we’ve had a great chance to continually trust Him. Let’s recount the last few days at the beginning of our adoption journey:

Last Wednesday, I noticed that the floor by our back door was caving in. Yep, I said caving in. Stepped on the vinyl and it was soft. After Mr. Bill (or Pastor Bill as Austin calls him) spent some time under the house, we found out there are a couple places of water damage. Not t0o extensive; but no way to fix it except for a new kitchen floor and a lot of work. Never mind the fact that we also think the roof might be leaking into the wall into the laundry room and into the garage and into the floor via the wall that attaches to Justus’ room.

Phew…Okay….Not panicking. No big deal. Minor set back.

Moving on to Friday, I noticed that the A/C unit was not really working. Awesome. In the summer,  I have to reset the thermostat more often to restart the A/C; but after about 18 hours of the A/C not kicking back on. Good thing we have a warranty; but super annoying to drop another fee on this.

Again, no worries, right? This is not as big of deal as the floor, and let’s just get a tab going. Man, in these moments, I truly wish for a half second that we believed in credit card debt or even had a credit card. I’m kidding.

Fast forward to Monday, Travis had to see a specialist, ENT, for his ongoing sinus issues. How many of you know that when you are clearing your throat all the time on a sales call, that isn’t good? Nope, so, Travis dutifully went to the ENT who performed a necessary and revealing CT. Nothing major; but he’s got some issues going.

Okay, swallow. Breath. How much was the bill? We have a High Deductible Health Plan, right? Did you tell them that we are basically cash pay customers? Let’s back up and say that for the record, this appointment is way over due and apparently his scan made the doctor ask if he could keep the charts as an example to others of how your sinuses should never look.

So, this evening, Trav wanders in as I am unloading groceries with an odd smile on his face. Taking notice that my mom is still here, he realizes this is a great time to share some other news. He slowly divulges that he and a friendly law enforcement officer had to have a little chat today involving some blue lights and the speed at which his car was traveling. For the record, my husband is a wise man because he knew I’d try to be all proper and sweet in my response with my Momma in the house! Wise man, I tell you!

So, for anyone all that financial chatter is stressful. It doesn’t feel like great timing to us. Anyone keeping a tab here?

To date, the process for trusting God for the finances is the biggest step of faith we’ve been called to. I almost feel like we are supposed to worry because it seems proud to just step out and say that the money will come at the right time. I feel crazy not panicking or freaking out. I feel like I’m naive. That’s just the truth.

For some reason, we just keep looking at each other, taking deep breaths and carrying on. I don’t know who we are right now. Truly, I feel like everyone else who hopes for the peace that surpasses all understanding, and then when it comes, we’re shocked it’s actually here.

I just keep shrugging and thinking, God is good. He’s got this! God is repeatedly reminding us that nothing about our lives is about us or our timing…or my planning..or my research skills. And, y’all know I do have some mad research and planning skills.

Then, the Lord reminded me:  “It is not proud to say that you believe God will provide more than you can ask or imagine. This is about me anyhow! I’m God! I’ve got this under control!”

I don’t think God always calls us to things that make sense to everyone around us. We already know not everyone is going to understand why we are moving in this direction or how in the world we will afford the upfront financial cost. We’ve already faced some opposition in other areas, too and we believe we’ll face some more eventually, too.

Life doesn’t always have to be hard; but truthfully, a lot of time it ain’t easy!  There is a cost to taking up our Cross. Sure, we are swallowing hard and making crazy expressions at each other. But, I’ve been encouraged with this verse in the last few days by two of  my sweet girl friends and I’m clinging to it and claiming it.

“But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

We are so grateful to God for who He is in our lives.

He’s got this. Rocky start to the first steps or not. We are trusting.

God delights in exalting our inability. He intentionally puts his people in situations where they come face to face with their need for him in the process he powerfully demonstrates his ability to provide everything his people need in ways they never could have mustered or imagined.” -David Platt, Radical

Children of God

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I’ve thought about this blog post, facebook update and tweet for a long time. More than my usual twitter and facebook babble.

In the last few months the conversation from two love birds in 2001 in Greenville, South Carolina went from a small pipe dream of “wouldn’t it be cool to adopt someday” through a metamorphosis that completely ransacked our hearts and lives for the plight of the orphans.

We are amazed.
We are humbled.
We are scared.
And by that, I don’t mean we are just feeling a bit emotional.
Nope, we are unglued. We are ruined.

And by faith..and I do mean, by faith, we are saying “yes, Lord!”

So, this is the soft leak, I guess for a lack of a better word, of the call we believe (and have had confirmed by godly counsel) God has placed on our lives for our next season.

The story of how we fit in this picture, is important; but it’s not the real story. It  never is though, is it?

We are not the lead characters. We are not going to write the script. Even though I’m sure we’ll try.

We aren’t even sure who the characters are going to be; but we are already dreaming of him/her.

True, through grace we step into amazing roles and story lines created only by the Author of Life; but we are not the heroes.

We are not the stars.

We are only a  “trail of stardust leading to the Superstar” (Lecrae’s album).

But, this is even the deeper foundation of the story, the only story there really is to tell…

If we fail to proclaim this message in anything we do, we’ve got it all wrong.

So, here is where we begin, at the Cross….

Praise to the Father of our Lord, Jesus Christ
Our God and our King, to Him we will sing
In His great mercy, He has given us life
Now we can be called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

Children of God, sing your song and rejoice
For the love that He has given us all
Children of God, by the blood of His Son
We have been redeemed and we can be called
Children of God
Children of God

A mystery is revealed to the universe
The Father above has proven His love
Now we are free from the judgment that we deserve
And so we are called the children of God

Great is the Love that the Father has given us
He has delivered us
He has delivered us

We are the saints
We are the children
We’ve been redeemed
We’ve been forgiven
We are the sons and daughters of our God

We covet your prayers. We thank our family and oikos-community-covenant friends who have been standing with us over the last few months in prayer and confirmation of this call: “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant…” (2 Cor. 3:5-6) 

There is so much more to share; and we hope you will join us in this journey as we unpack the next steps.

Pray for Vision

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In December, I started to venture into a new position at Seacoast. Justus was only a few months old, and I was still a zombie with nursing and baby stuff. I sat with my new boss and hashed out a the role of my position. I have a part time gig overseeing our online community. I only have a small piece of it and can honestly say I touch maybe 10% of how massive this tool is.

Anyhow, during this meeting, I remember that Josh prayed that I would have a vision for this ministry.

Just like John Piper’s request for prayer for his faith to increase, now I’m remembering and re-hashing this moment of prayer for vision. It seemed sort of odd to me because I am working very part-time on a massive online community that I was quite frankly concerned about crashing and even more hoping to anonymously hack away at this project.

Fast forward six months later, I still am a super relectant “specialist” on this area; but I am so greatful for a role and a season of seeking God’s vision in each step. I don’t want to step out without his presence (Exodus 33) and I certainly only want to step where he is leading (Prov 16:9). But, over and over throughout the last few months, as my fingers have paused over the key board and my eyes have scanned the news feeds, I’ve heard that prayer whispering in my heart: God give me the vision! Help me see this work! Gotta be honest, this is a pretty sweet and peaceful place to work from.

God, help me to keep this focus!