Be still my soul

"Be still my soul the Lord is on thy side. With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain."

I've had this song on repeat in my house and on my heart this week.

Be still my anxious, weary soul. The mountains of paperwork, the not-knowing-where-to-start, the missed photocopy, the wrong document, the simple mistake I can't believe I made, the racing against the clock to get everything in the mail.... they all make it seem like the world is against me. They make me question if the Lord really is on my side.

Then I'm listening and singing to this song and whispering the lyrics with watery eyes, "with patience bear thy cross of grief or pain."

It might seem silly to get so worked up over paperwork, but when paperwork is what's standing between you and your baby- it feels about as stressful as a war at your dining room table.

When it comes to paperwork and bureaucracy, John and I have a long standing history with little things going wrong. This week was no exception. I think we both woke up with clenched teeth and stiff shoulders today as we prepared to face another "battle" against the paperwork in an attempt to send our preliminary dossier to our agency. We absolutely had to get these documents in the mail TODAY, so we had a lot of anxiety about it.

The Lord is on your side. The Lord is on your side. The Lord is on your side.

I'll tell you what: I got a little pentecostal last night and actually laid my hands on that inches thick stack of paper. I prayed over that dossier all God's commands about orphan care. I prayed the Spirit's power to overrule any mistakes we made. And then I brought it upstairs to John and asked him to do the same.

This morning John brought it to our local Fedex counter.

Also this morning, I received an email from our agency explaining something I had misunderstood in the dossier instructions.

It was a bit of a heart-stopping moment as I realized that, had John already mailed it, we would be looking at weeks added onto our adoption wait.

I've never dialed so fast in my life. John answered, "Hey can I call you right back?"

Without breathing: "No!Ourdossierisn'tdonerightpleasetellmeyoudidn'tmailityet!Didyoumailit?"

I heard John muffle the phone and say to someone else, "Oh wait- sorry- I actually need that back."

He was handing our dossier over the Fedex counter when the phone rang.

Thank you God for preventing that mistake. Next time, maybe not so close? ;-)

Anyway, after a hurried morning and a trip to the Secretary of State for some fancy-pants apostille seals, our preliminary dossier is in the mail and on its way to our agency! You can pray that it passes their approval and gets forwarded to Russia shortly.

In other crazy-blessings-news from today: we are $1,000 closer to our goal and a mere $249 from meeting it. A few days ago I was crying over our soon-to-be outgoing mail, while whispering with little faith, "leave to thy God to order and provide." Today I opened our mail to see this generous donation and cried again while singing the next line, "In every change, he faithful will remain!"

Today was a little picture of those "thorny ways" leading to a "joyful end!"


Fundraising Friday

When John and I started this adoption journey I remember saying to him that I had no idea how we were ever going to be able to afford our adoption, but I was excited to see how God would provide.

If I could have only looked 5 months into the future and seen our little thermometer nearly hitting it's top. Wow.

God provides.

For all the generosity we've been shown, we cannot say thank you enough. There are no words to express our amazement and gratitude.

The breakdown:

Donations: $16,924

Various Fundraisers (jewelry/coffee/shirts/auction/cards/dinner/breakfast donations): $8,306

Out of Pocket: $8,425

Totaling: $33,655

We are only $1,345 away from our goal! I think "Hallelujah" about sums it up.

Here's something real: I always pictured running across the fundraising finish line with my arms in the air and a giant smile on my face. The truth? I think John and I both feel like we're running toward that finish line with giant blisters on our feet and an enormous desire to collapse in a heap on the ground. Don't get me wrong, it will be a collapse filled with victory and celebration, but it will be a collapse nonetheless. Fundraising for our adoption as been the most wonderful and most exhausting experience at the same time. All you generous givers, supporters, and pray-ers out there have been holding us up by handing out orange slices and splashing Gatorade into our faces as we run by... or whatever people do in marathons... (can you tell I don't actually run?). We would not have made it past- well, past $8,425 without you!

So when we collapse into our victory heap at the end of this fundraising journey, we'll be staring up at all your bright shiny faces, hearing all your "YOU DID IT" cheers, and giving you the biggest sweaty thumbs up we can muster.

I've never ran actually ran a race, but I bet after those marathoners finish puking and take a minute to catch their breaths, they feel the best kind of tired they can imagine. I think that's how we'll feel: the best kind of tired.

We're almost there.


John and I have a wonderful set of friends at our church named Jason and Emily. Jason and Emily ran the adoption race before us and came home with their precious son Gus. Gus just turned four this week! I have the privilege of being able to watch him in my daycare on Fridays. Gus is a character! He has a crazy love for elephants. CRAZY LOVE. Jason does a mean elephant impression too, so that's probably where the love comes from. Gus also does this super adorable knee-slap when he laughs, which never ceases to make me smile. And his hugs- oh his hugs! His hugs are full on wrap-around-tight-squeeze-melt-your-heart kind of hugs.

He's pretty awesome. He also has bragging rights to boast about having more chromosomes than you because Gus has Down Syndrome.

Baking at Miss Jill's house! I won't lie- a lot of the flour ended up on the floor after the middle picture happened. ;-)

Expectant parents are often asked, "Do you want a boy or a girl?" And the answer is almost always, "Either one as long as the baby's healthy!"

Jason and Emily are the kind of parents who've taken that desire and placed it before the throne of God. They have opened their hearts and lives up to the world of special needs and boy has their son blessed their socks off. They embrace that extra chromosome for the magic it is and they face the doctor's appointments, medical tests, and special therapies with unwavering grace. They are the kind of parents I can only hope to be.

Now they want to make Gus a big brother and they are opening their hearts up to adopt another precious son or daughter with special needs. I can only marvel at the conviction God has given them and the obedience they have to honor it. You can read more about their remarkable journey to South Korea (for Gus) and now to Hong Kong (for baby #2!) on their blog: http://jasonandemilyperton.blogspot.com/

Jason and Emily are also holding a creative fundraiser in a few weeks: a Mom2Mom sale! I have heard many a mom rave about a good deal at one of these events, so I know my local mom friends will want to check it out. Or better yet- do some spring cleaning and rent a table to sell your kids stuff! If I had kids stuff to sell I'd be all over this: no worries about rain, no dragging your patio table out to the driveway, no advertisting, and lots of people looking to take all your old stuff off your hands! This is just win-win-win-win-win!

The $2 entry fee and the $25 fee to rent a table is what will go toward making Gus a big brother. Any money you make from selling your stuff if yours to keep! Here's the FB event link for more info: clicky.


And finally- remember to check out out my last post for your chance to win one of my hand-stamped necklaces!

Good night to ya.



Standing in the gap / and a GIVEAWAY!

*This giveaway is now closed*
Ah, reading. As a somewhat recent seminary grad, I admit I haven't done a lot of it lately. Seminary burnt me out. I actually like reading too, so that's saying something.

Among the slim list of books I've recently read, however, is a gem. An easy yet impassioned read. It's a book called Orphanology by Tony Merida and Rick Morton. Consider it recommended. This book found it's way into my life in a very timely manner because John and I have just started meeting with two other couples in an effort to form an orphan care ministry at our church (just recently named "Embrace"- you read it here first, folks).

When John and I were discerning John's call to full time ministry at our church, we actually had this conversation:

Me: "You know I heard a radio broadcast a while ago about a church in the States that adopted something like 10 boys from the same country. One family adopted and nine others followed suit."
John: "I have a feeling that Providence is the kind of church that could really get on board with something like that."
Me: "I think if you take the call one of our goals could be to start some sort of an adoption or orphan care ministry."

And well look where we are now! God had already planted this ministry idea in the hearts of at least two other couples and we are now staring our third meeting right in the face. Making progress and moving forward!

As a team/group/coalition/callusanythingbuta"committee," we've been discerning our purpose and our goals. "Orphan Care" includes a huge spectrum of issues, from domestic and international adoption and foster-care, to birth parent support, to care for the unborn, etc. And this is where the Orphanology book really gave me (and us) some vision for an issue that might not be one of the first you'd think of when considering orphan care:

human trafficking.

(Photo from IJM's FB page: Rescued girls at a safehouse in Cambodia)

To share a few quotes from the book:

"Orphan ministry means being engaged in the fight against slavery and human trafficking."

"According to the US Department of State, somewhere between 600,000 and 800,000 people are trafficked across international borders each year, and approximately 50% of those trafficked are children."

"As ambassadors of Christ we must stand in the gap for these helpless children. They are our concern because they are God's handiwork, and they are being treated unjustly. The presence of this kind of injustice is dishonoring to God."

We MUST stand in the gap.

If you bear the name of Christ, human trafficking is your concern.

I am ashamed. I am ashamed that I have been blind to this problem- to this vile and shocking problem- for so long. I want you to know that I am praying that God will point out the gaps and show me how to stand in them.

Now I want to introduce you to one of my friends from college who has undoubtedly been praying this pray for longer than I have. Laurel and I worked in our college's writing center together and I wish you could meet her in person. She is a gentle and kind soul with an infectious laugh and the spirit of Christ himself. And she's on a mission. Laurel is on a mission to raise enough money to fund one sex trafficking rescue operation. I've asked Laurel to guest blog for me and share about her mission:


"Thanks, Jill, for opening up your heart (and blog!) to fight against the horrific problem of human trafficking. My name is Laurel. I’m 25 years old, and I love kids. I am eagerly following Jill and John’s journey to adoption!

A couple of years ago, I saw the 2008 movie “Taken.” In it, a teenage girl was kidnapped to be sold into prostitution. Her father, a retired CIA agent, tracked her down and rescued her. But—as I snapped off the TV that night—I wondered, “What happens to all the kids who don’t have a dad like that to step in and rescue them?”

The answer hit me like a bullet: They have me.

I began to read up on human trafficking statistics. What I found shocked me.

“Trafficking in humans generates profits in excess of 32 billion dollars a year for those who, by force and deception, sell human lives into slavery and sexual bondage. Nearly 2 million children are exploited in the commercial sex industry” (http://www.ijm.org/our-work/injustice-today).

Almost 2 million KIDS are trapped in sex trafficking. Right now.

I knew I had to do something. Jumping online, I researched organizations that fight human trafficking. One stood out head-and-shoulders above the rest: International Justice Mission (IJM).

Here are a few reasons why I choose to support IJM:

1. I am impressed by their system of care—it helps victims get back on their feet and puts perpetrators behind bars (http://www.ijm.org/our-work/what-we-do).

2. IJM is honest about how they use donations. They’re held accountable by an outside accounting firm that conducts an annual audit, and they’re a member of the ECFA—the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (http://www.ijm.org/faqs).

3. IJM is a faith-based organization. “IJM's work is founded on the Christian call to justice articulated in the Bible (Isaiah 1:17): Seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. IJM's staff members are Christians from a variety of traditions who are motivated by this call to seek justice for the oppressed" (http://www.ijm.org/faqs).

As I began giving to IJM, I realized that my gifts were just a “drop in the bucket.” I knew I was making a difference, but I longed to do something more. Then, IJM launched a new opportunity for supporters…a way to link people together to make a greater impact.

Thus, “Help Laurel Make a Difference” was born.

On October 16, 2012, I’ll be 26 years old. The best birthday gift I can imagine is to see the “Help Laurel Make a Difference” page raise enough to cover the cost of one sex trafficking rescue operation—$4,500 (or 100 gifts of $45).

Things you can do:

1. Give—whatever amount you can here: https://ijmfreedommaker.org/campaign/252/Help-Laurel-Make-a-Difference
2. Share this link with your friends and family: https://ijmfreedommaker.org/campaign/252/Help-Laurel-Make-a-Difference
3. Pray for IJM and the kids waiting for rescue.

Thank you!"


I'll ask you to pray with me tonight, about which gaps God wants you to stand in. I pray that for those of us to whom God points out this gap in particular, we'll have the faith to obey. And if I know anything about fundraising, it's that every gift matters. If you have $2 , $10, or $45- it all matters.

As a way of saying thank you: a GIVEAWAY! Leave a comment on this post for an entry to win one of my necklaces! And for every $2 donation to Laurel's mission, receive an additional entry! If you make a donation, after your comment include " [your donation divided by 2] additional entries please!"

Winner will be randomly selected by electronic means. Check back Friday March 30th to see if you won. Happy commenting!


Living while you wait for your adoption

I'm a bit of an expert on waiting.

I first learned how to wait in a hospital, well, waiting room when I was five. Way back in those olden days 21 years ago I was suffering from a painful mysterious bone condition. My diagnosis- which turned out to be Osteomyelitis- required lots of x-rays, scans, appointments, hospital stays, and two surgeries. One of the hospitals where I underwent these procedures must have had an abundance of carbon paper (you know the old kind you could wheel into a printer? Triple layer of white, carbon, and pink, bound by a tear-off row of round holes?) because I spent hours- or at least what seemed like hours- coloring on it in the waiting room.

And what it is with hospitals, I don't know- but just when you think you're done waiting and get moved into an exam room, you wind up waiting some more. Only this time you're in a smaller room with fewer toys and no carbon paper. My dad spend a lot of time entertaining me by "magically" removing his thumb (aka hiding it in his fist) and putting it back on again. That's still my go-to "hey kids look at this and don't have a melt-down because you're tired/hungry/bored/sad" distraction.

In any case, that experience taught me from a young age that waiting is part of life. And likely a longer, more boring part of life than anyone wants it to be.

When my mom got really sick in the fall of 2007 I spend a lot more time waiting in hospitals. The ICU waiting room was perhaps the worst place to wait. The atmosphere is dense with an excruciating combination of anxiety and exhaustion. Everyone in that room is united with a common bond and yet no one knows what to say. At one point during my mom's ICU stay, a young man was admitted after a serious motorcycle accident. His whole big family camped out on the far side of the waiting room; pillows, sleeping bags, and pizza boxes scattered around terrified faces and pushed-together chairs. Waiting. Just waiting.

And always wishing you could do more.

I felt exactly that way during my immigration process. You fill out all the paperwork, you get your medical exam, you read every forum out there on how to speed up the process.... and then you enter the sea of waiting.

Waiting for that green card to come through.
Waiting to wake up next to the love of your life.
Waiting for your mom to wake up from the coma. For your loved one to get better. For healing.
Waiting for the doctor. The x-ray technician. The surgery. The diagnosis.

Waiting for life to get back to normal. And in some sense, waiting for life to finally begin.

Here I am, once again, in a season of waiting.

I'm starting to think that this waiting game is less of a season and more of just... life.

Something I'm trying to put into practice this time around, which I'm not sure if I have in the past, is to heed the advice of another adoptive mom who, in response to the question, "What do you DO while you're in the adoption wait?" said:

"Live your life."

Live. Don't pine away. Instead of spending each day dreaming about what life will be like; cultivate the practices the life you want today.

Last summer I was dreaming about how I can't wait to take my children out to pick fruit together. I was desperately sad that those days seemed so far away. In a moment of inspiration I sent an email to a group of our friends with kids and two weeks later we were crouched in a fragrant field on a warm summer evening, filling our baskets and bellies with strawberries.

I still wait with great anticipation for a summer when I'll be the one wiping a little pair of sticky hands with the inside of my shirt, but for now I'll revel in the beauty of what I do have. Lazy Saturday mornings with my husband, quiet evenings with a book or a blog, quick grocery store trips, and date nights- no babysitter required. And I'll cultivate the practices I want to enjoy with my children someday: summer weekends at the beach, Sundays in worship, trips to the farmer's market and enjoying its produce on the porch. Prayers of gratitude before lunch and moments of wonder on a morning walk.

Live your life.

Wait. But don't forget to live.

I'm waiting for summer, but totally LIVED this beautiful spring day today. A crocus in the hand of my two-year-old friend. In her breathless words, "Wow. Miss Jill. This is bea-u-t-i-ful. SMELL IT!" And I did.



FAQs answered!

Thanks for sending me all your questions! As it turns out, they were mostly the same questions we got asked at our breakfast. (If you're new to our journey, you'll want to check out this post first.) Here are the top 4 FAQs:

1. How did you decide on international adoption?

When I pictured adopting, it was always internationally. I want to be careful how I explain this because I do not want to make one form of adoption sound better than another, but I think it had something to do with "felt needs" vs. "real needs."

Felt needs are needs that are readily apparent to an observer; needs you know are out there... needs you feel. Felt needs may or may not be real needs.

Real needs are just that- needs that truly exist. They may or may not be apparent or recognized. And they may or may not be felt needs. Both domestic and international adoption are real needs, but for me only international adoption met the "felt need" category. Whether this was from ignorance or divine leading, I don't know. But that's why we started our adoption research with international adoption.

We were initially a bit discouraged to find out that 1) we were too young to adopt from a few of the countries that interested us and 2) other countries that interested us were "unstable" with respect to their adoptions.

After that discouragement, we researched domestic adoption and foster-to-adopt. Foster-to-adopt wasn't a good fit for us because of the uncertainty involved. I was hesitant to consider domestic infant adoption, but John wanted to at least explore the idea, so we did. When we researched domestic infant adoption we learned that there is a need for adoptive parents for African American babies. That greatly interested us and I did some reading on becoming an interracial family, which also excited me. My heart is still very much open to this option in the future, but before we fully committed to this route, we saw our little guy's picture and God led us to Russia! Which leads me to...

2. How did you decide on Russia?

The short answer is: we didn't choose Russia as much as Russia chose us! Some countries and agencies post pictures and biographies of children online called waiting children lists. These lists often have older (non-infant, like in our case) children or children with medical or special needs. For privacy's sake, I'm not going to say exactly how we got to this waiting child list or which one it was, but suffice is to say- when you get into the online adoption world, these things have a way of finding you. One email leads to another, one site to a blog to another blog etc. When we saw our little guy's picture, we knew we wanted to at least pursue his adoption as far as we could and leave the rest in God's hands.

Of course our first step was just to see if we met the criteria to adopt from Russia- which we did. And then we wanted to see how stable to adoptive program was. It was fairly stable. Actually 10% of international adoptions in the US are Russia-US adoption. We also know a family who adopted from Russia so that encouraged us. The only thing that made us hesitate slightly was the fact that we had to travel twice. We were really hoping that we'd only have to travel once.

It's been over 5 months since we saw our little guy's face and now not only have the travel requirements changed (we have to travel three times now!), but there is a suspension on Russian adoptions. We keep praying and moving forward, trusting that God's grace will meet us where he leads us. And remembering how we started: pursuing this adoption as far as we are able and leaving the rest in God's hands.

3. What do you think about this whole Russia/US adoption suspension etc.?

Obviously I hate the fact that it has the potential to slow our adoption down. It makes me very anxious to think we might not get to our son. I try not to think about it unless I'm praying about it... and even then I get a big knot in my stomach.

At the same time, I would love to see Russia implement a foster care system that would allow Russian children to find safe, caring homes without leaving the country.

So basically I would love to see Russia close to adoptions if it could happen without negatively impacting the children. Right now if they closed their doors I hate to think what would happen to all those children waiting for families.

4. When are you bringing your little guy home?

We wish we knew the answer to this question too! We simply do not know. We hope the answer is measured in months. If the suspension does not resolve soon, it could be longer. At this point we'd only be guessing to give you a time frame. We'll keep you posted as we learn more!

Thanks again for all your questions and keep them coming! We want to be as transparent as possible in order to help others who are considering adoption themselves. It is the best journey you'll ever wish was over fast. ;-)




When something big is happening in your life (like an adoption) and you're basically eating, sleeping, and breathing it all day long, you sometimes find yourself surprised when other people have questions about it. Sort of like when you're planning your wedding and obsessing over every detail someone asks you when you're wedding date is and you wonder how they could have missed your monthly, then weekly, and now hourly countdown on facebook?? Or when you've spent the last three months pinning pictures of bouquets and bridesmaids dresses on pinterest and someone (who SHOULD BE following you) asks what your bridal colours are. I mean, seriously- haven't you expressed yourself clearly by now? ;-)

Obviously I'm joking, but I was surprised at our pancake breakfast how many people asked the same questions over and over again- mostly about how we chose Russia, what our timeline is, if we have a picture of the little guy we're pursuing... and the like. And it made me wonder what other questions people have about our adoption. Or really- about our lives in general. I mean, adoption is one of those big events that touches every area of life: family, faith, marriage, finances, and the like.

With that in mind, I thought I'd open a post up to answer some frequently asked questions. So- would you help me figure out what those FAQs are? You can leave a comment here or on FB or submit one anonymously by clicking the link below. Thank you in advance! Depending on how quickly the questions come in, I hope to post my responses by Friday.

What question or topic would you like to see me address?

Answer here.


Pancakes for love adoption fundraiser

First things first:

We didn't run out of pancakes!!!!

Phew. I was seriously concerned about that, but crisis avoided. We had two pans leftover and three bowls of dry ingredients to boot. Victory for this detail-oriented-over-planner.

Now, to more important things:

I saw some real church this weekend and it's not even Sunday.

Last night (Friday) John and I started our prep work by setting up all the tables and chairs etc. Already having recruited our small group to help cook breakfast the next morning, we were planning on setting up ourselves; true to their incredible form our amazing friends stepped forward to spend their Friday night rolling tables and tucking in chairs.



While we were setting up my friend Julie told me that she got to explain "adoption" to her 5 year old daughter Kya for the first time. Julie is expecting a baby herself (the in-womb way) so Kya's response was to ask, "Is Jill's baby going to be my brother?"

In Christ, baby girl. In Christ.

While John and I were serving pancakes this morning someone else asked me who was back doing all the work in the kitchen. "Your family?" "Our small group and friends from church," I explained, but all I wanted to reply was, "Yep."

Our families may not live nearby, but we definitely felt the love of family today.

We got to the church bright and early this morning and started flipping pancakes, cooking up bacon, and scrambling eggs. We were blessed to receive all the eggs and bacon as donations, a gift for which we are beyond grateful! The troops soon arrived with lots of enthusiasm ready to spend hours slaving away in the kitchen and front lines. And they did, with great joy!







After cracking probably 20 dozen eggs, I don't think Julie will be eating eggs anytime soon. In hindsight, it probably wasn't my best decision to put a pregnant lady with a heightened sense of smell on egg-duty. :-P No complaining from her though- thank you Julie!

Keith and Mark handled the front door with class.




Serving the food!







Happy breakfast eaters!



We also sold some paraphernalia! I get a little glowy inside when I see people wearing our shirts and jewelry!



The entire breakfast from conception to completion was a blessing. We are so thankful! From the women who lent me their tablecloths, to the little girl who donated half her piggy bank for "Mrs. Burden's baby," to the families who donated way more than the suggested donation- thank you. Our son could not come home without you. What a legacy you are building for him and for our family!

And now the question I'm sure is on your mind: how much money did we raise!?


We're shocked too.

Unbelievable blessing. Floodgates open crazy wide. Blessed. Blessed. Blessed.

(Our friend Sara and Keith's daughter Kaitlyn was the first baby John ever baptized. Even though she's a baby, we love having her walk through this journey with us! Her contended spirit and beautiful smile makes our hearts happy!)

Someday I hope our son will read all these posts. Baby boy: look how many people love you already. God has a purpose for your life. We're not there yet, but we're coming! Everyday we're one day closer to getting on that plane, one breath closer to breathing you in, one moment closer to wrapping you in our arms. One day closer to bring you home. And with this community around you, what a blessed home it will be.

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