Bonefish Spurs Adoption Talk – How Will We Respond?

Last night Liza and I went out to eat at one of our favorite restaurants – Bonefish.  These days we don’t go out much; the job of a full-time blogger is never done (and as such, the job of the assistant of the full-time blogger is also never done).  But with a free Bang-Bang Shrimp appetizer threatening us with its expiration date, we decided a date night was in order.

As we walked into the restaurant, we noticed a young girl – probably 8 or 9 – in a flowery, flowing dress and beautiful mocha skin looking back at her mom.  The closer we came, we realized the mom was as white as my pasty skin, and immediately we both thought….is she adopted?  We didn’t need to say anything to know what the other was thinking – that’s what happens after 10 years of married life. Just the thought that she could be a carbon-copy of my future daughter was enough to bring a little mist to the edges of my eyes.  No tears; just mist.

Sitting in this nice restaurant enjoying some delicious food, I couldn’t help but wonder what people would be thinking/saying/thinking-about-saying if our two little black children were next to us. I’m sure many would avoid the conversation altogether. But how many would venture forth a comment bereft of all sensitivity and gentleness?  Even more importantly, what would my response be?

On the one hand, if some punk made a racist slur directed towards my kid, I’d want to pump every last bit of the scrawny 170 lbs I have into his cheek bone or gut.  That would be my instinct – protect my son, protect my daughter.  And yet I could see myself instead using words to batter my opponent; sarcasm can be very effective.  But what would that teach my children?  Fight one set of bad words with another?  And how will they feel about being singled out anyhow?  Will they feel like they’re the cause of our problems?  Will they feel insecure?  Unwanted? Unneeded? Will they will feel like something’s “wrong” with them?

No, I don’t want to depend on my natural inclinations to teach them, protect them, and honor them the way God wants me to.  I think that’s part of the problem.  So many people feel they have the right to react however they want because they’ve been wronged.  But considering how much we’ve wronged God, can we really hold others accountable for a standard we can’t even keep ourselves?

Liza and I spent much of the evening talking with our server about what she thought.  It’s funny to get other’s thoughts, especially when you know they’ve never thought of the subject before.  By the end of the night, however, she was ready for us to bring them back to Bonefish as soon as we brought them home. We told her it would be a while.

She even gave us a free “chocolate and vanilla” dessert for my birthday, in honor of our future family.  How appropriate.

- Jeff


Adopting Is a Roller Coaster

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The best metaphor for the adoption process has to be a roller-coaster. There are days when we are flying high, energized, hopeful, expectant, and thoroughly content in the place God has us.  Then there are times when we are just plain low, tempted to sulk or feel sorry for ourselves, all the while knowing we willingly stepped onto the roller coaster the moment we filled out the application to adopt from Ethiopia.  No one forced us to adopt.  It was a calling.

We use that word because we don’t have a better one. There’s this inner compelling, something greater than ourselves, that pulls us into a mound of paperwork, a ton of dollar signs, and sundry unknown risks associated with international, interracial, adoption.

This week has been an abosolute whirlwind, so we are glad it’s winding down.  Late last week we found out that we could be receiving a referral any moment from Haiti (for those who don’t know, a “referral” is a child and his or her file to review).  Haiti is different from Ethiopia because we would end up accepting a referral from Haiti very soon after our daughter/son is born, and then the waiting game begins.  But this was really exciting news!

Then the middle of this past week, we found out the the IBESR in Haiti (Institute of Social Welfare and Research, in English) was delaying accpeting new dossiers until July.  For those who don’t know what a dossier is, it’s the months of gathered paperwork that is sent to the country from which a family is looking to adopt, petitioning the country to legally adopt from there. This news was a bummer.

This morning, however, we went on Daytime, a national television show, and were able to talk about our story, adoption awareness in general, and were even able to sell a couple of our Haitian artisan-made bracelets to hosts Cyndi and Lindsay.  The show’s producer, Deanna, wanted one too but we didn’t bring enough!   Next time, Deanna.  ;)   So the week ended up at the top of a roller coaster hill.  Film at 11.

Surely there’s another valley waiting around the corner.  As the husband, I desire to be a rock for my wife, a strong tower she can rely on through this roller coaster process. I want to be sensitive enough to connect with her emotionally, and at the same time, brave enough to confidently face the ups and downs for the both of us.  I want to be wise enough to know that each day is gift prepared by our Maker from eternity past, and we need only to walk in confidence that He knows what He’s up to.

If you’re a praying person, we certainly would appreciate your prayers for strength, discernment, and guidance.  There are many choices to be made in the upcoming days and months, and we aren’t too proud to ask for your help.

- Jeff

Addicted to Saving 101 Kicks Off Our Fundraising

Last Thursday evening Liza conducted an Addicted to Saving 101 seminar for free to help kick off our fundraising for our two adoptions. Thus far the Lord has blessed us financially to be able to pay for some of the up-front fees, but we’re at a point now where many of the costs will kick in. This site has gone up with the hopes of sharing our story and raising the necessary funds (go HERE to see how you can help), not only for us, but for others as well. We’re so excited to see what God has in store for us as we trust Him and just keep moving forward.

The picture above is Liza talking in the seminar.  We had, including helpers, between 140-150 at the event.  Hopefully the seminar participants learned how to save a bunch of money on their monthly household expenses!   Among the items we sold to raise money were these Haitian artisan-made bracelets, which we sold for $10/bracelet.  Thanks to Mrs. T and Ellie for such an elegant display, and thanks to Briana Castleberry for such elegant pictures!

I love this second one because you can see the face of one of the artisans.  Each bracelet is hand-made and sent to us with a picture of the artisan attached to the bracelet.  $4 of every bracelet we sell goes directly back to that artisan and his or her family.  So buying these bracelets not only helps us pursue our dream of adoption, but it helps the artisan’s financial well-being too.

We also sold cookies and brownies, 2 for $1.00, including these scrumptious-looking brownies made by Liza’s mom (delish, by the way).

It was really neat to have so many of our Life Group friends at the event, supporting us and bringing baked goods. We’d like to publicly thank the Tuccy’s, the Castleberry’s, Teagan, the Dirks, the Severs, the Moores, Dr. Bender, and the Hodges for their help.

We’d also like to give a major shout out to Clearwater Chick-fil-A on Gulf-to-Bay, who donated trays of nuggets and wraps and sandwiches for the event. We are so appreciative of Chick-fil-A and all they do to help and support the community.

And of course, thank you Deborah, Danny, Fernando, Gary, Augusto, Diane and the rest of the staff at Calvary Baptist for making this event possible.

The final count is still being tallied, but we approximately raised about $600 for the adoption fund. We’re really counting on a lot of people giving a little bit, so to see more about how you can help us, go HERE. One dollar will go a long way.

And hopefully the attendees at Liza’s class learned how to save a buck or two as well! I’m so proud of all my wife has done.  I’ve seen the tireless hours she’s put in to help her readers save money.  The idea of owning your own Internet business sounds glamorous until you realize that the Internet never sleeps, and people have really short attention spans.  She’s going to make a great Mom one day, I just know it.

- Jeff

Instead of White Picket Fences

(Photo credit: Noomizo)

I never thought of myself as the poster child for adoption.  I so want to be able to honestly tell you that my whole life I thought I would someday adopt.  But truthfully, adoption didn’t enter my mind until January of 2011.

Growing up, I was one of those little girls who had this picture in my head of what my life would be when I was “grown up”.  My picture was going to be taken by an amazing photographer who was working with perfect lighting as he or she photographed me and my family as we stood behind a clean and brilliantly white picket fence.  In the picture would be our 2.5 kids – one girl and one boy and I would be pregnant – but adorably pregnant – you know – with the basketball belly and zero fat elsewhere, my husband would be standing by my side (he would make gazillions of dollars working a job where he climbed the ladder all the way to the top – so high that he now owned the company and no longer had to work), and we would have a golden retriever (a beautiful golden who never shed a hair, never pooped in the neighbor’s yard, no one was allergic to her and she always waited on baited breath to hear and obey each and every command I gave her).  Oh – and did I say that in my ideal picture we would live in a huge, two story house made of brick on 3 acres of land that we paid all cash for.


Let’s just say that my life’s dream came to a screeching halt.  Somewhere along the way, I saw the imperfection in my dream of perfection.  I fought it.  I wanted my life to go the way I planned.  I watched almost every Disney princess movie growing up and I wanted to be the princess living in a castle with a handsome prince.  I fought imperfection as I realized that life was short and loved ones can break your heart.  Loved ones can die.  Sometimes we are left alone in this world.  I fought imperfection when I realized the house we bought not only was bought right before I lost my job (and thus more than half of our income) and that our house was not an investment – instead it was a sinking ship as it became more and more upside down.  I fought it when my doctor gave me some discouraging news regarding the prospects of having kids naturally.  I fought it when my sidekick, my dog who has stood by my side through thick and thin, fell prey to cancer.

Do you know what though?  Through the realizations that perfection was NEVER going to exist in my world, God was rocking my world.  God rocked it so hard that the walls shook.  My eyes started opening up to the world around me.  I started really dwelling on the realization that some people only eat once a day.  Or maybe once every other day.  Some people die of starvation.  Some people die because they are lacking simple medications.  Some babies are left on hospital doorsteps.  Some children grow up without knowing the love of parents.  One day I mentioned in passing to Jeff that I would be interested in thinking about adopting internationally.  His eyes lit up as he said he had the same interest.  The next thing he/I/we knew, we were adopting.  Not just one baby from one country.  But two babies from two different countries.  God has rocked my world so much during the first three decades of my life that now when I see an opportunity that He is pushing me towards, I no longer steer clear from it.  I no longer avoid it.  I dive in.  And we have done that.

Together, Jeff and I are embarking on an adventure that looks scary, very impractical, and beyond expensive.  We are relying on third world nations to dictate how our adoption processes go.  We are preparing our hearts for disappointment, long waits and the fear of the unknown.  And through this, we are already dreaming bigger dreams beyond adopting our kiddos.  We are diving into a future of insecurity and yet excitement as we step outside of our comforts and my selfish ideas of perfection as we move forward towards taking in two orphans who would otherwise have no home and making them a part of our family.

I am so excited.  And scared.  And privileged to be one of the many who open their hearts up to adoption.  Join me on our journey – the ride will be bumpy and we will need some help along the way.  But the end result will be perfection in our imperfection.

- Liza