Thursday, November 10, 2016

unending love, amazing grace

exactly one week ago evan and i were sitting in the parking lot of the post office sending out a few prints and our phones buzzed at a new e-mail at the exact same time. it had been a week on constant e-mail refreshing as we awaited our referral documents and new pictures and the financial invoice and all the answers to the 500 new questions that pop up daily. evan and i have the type of relationship where one of us loses our heads and the other is completely chill. so, evan first. he tried to open the invoice attachment but couldn't so i tried on my phone. and there it was. twenty three thousand, three hundred and seventy five dollars.


that's a chunk of change.

and you guys know the story. you know how we were about $8,000 away from that amount and to make matters worse, we had exactly 14-days to pay it.

and so, like i said, evan freaks out and i'm calm. i freak out and evan is calm. so he went first. he's the protector. he cares for us. money is always on his mind. i'm the exact opposite about money so i'm like, IT'S TOTALLY FINE! oh my gosh! let's watch what God does! as i'm laughing hysterically because i don't even know what else to possibly do.

and then we went to ask my parent's advice because they have all the money answers (literally. all of them. i trust their advice over anything when it comes to money.) and as we were talking i could feel the weight of this problem creeping up into my chest and i was doing everything in my power to act calm, act natural when all i wanted to do was hide behind a door and scream.

and then we left their house (with three jars of my mom's homemade tomato soup, which is the best soup in the whole world for moments of stress because tomatoes are my comfort food) and i started flapping my arms and stressing out while evan literally told me to chill out because i was the one who had been so calm an hour ago. NO MORE.

we'd already prayed about the situation before we met with my parents but i don't think i've stopped praying since we opened that e-mail.

because this thing that i'm doing right now, these past seven-days, this is the hardest thing i've ever had to do. i don't like to ask for help. i like to be independent and do things myself and do them correctly and not worry about the stress on other people and blah blah blah. literally every fundraiser i've done that involves people in a place (ie: garage sale, spa night), i'm like, "i don't need help." then proceed to give evan and probably my mom a list of things to do and then other people force me to let them help and then i'm so unbelievably grateful that they forced their help upon me but then the next fundraiser comes along and i'm like, "nope. i'm good. don't need help. that would be rude to ask." AND THEN I LITERALLY DIE FROM THE STRESS. even though, once again, people force their help upon me and i'm so so so so so grateful.

SO. this. asking for help. trusting that God has this all planned out and knows exactly where each dollar of this adoption will come from. and every time i get anxious about this process, God jumps in with a wise word from a friend, the exact word that i need to hear in that moment.

for example, last night i was telling my dear bible study girls that after this big ask, i will feel so guilty asking for any more money. that we have done NOTHING these past two weeks besides ask for money (lie, BIG FAT LIE.) and how people will be so over us. but they obviously spoke truth over me and brought comfort and peace AND TRUTH.

and all the people who have said, "thank you for letting us in on your story." no, THANK YOU for being part of our story. for making this possible for us. for encouraging us.

we've been so humbled this week because my life is one big fight against God to relinquish control. i don't want to. i want to hold onto all the things in my life and control it all and be in control and have control and i don't. i have zero control and that's terrifying for this control freak.

so to ask for help and say, we have nothing left. i can make you a print. it's a tiny little drop in the bucket of what we need but that is all i can give you right now, and for people to say, we don't even want anything in return. it's too much for me. we've been humbled and blessed beyond measure and i can't believe how much people love us and how much they love zara.

so when we opened that e-mail last week and felt the overwhelming sense of failure and fear that we couldn't do it, God stepped in and brought forth such generosity that we have probably cried daily as we see the money roll in. before 24-hours had even passed, we had raised over $3,000. seven-days have passed and we're $700 away.


i know. we can't comprehend this. God is so good. he is so, SO good. my friend carrie who doesn't have a facebook was like, "how did you do this?" i literally did nothing, girlfriend. nothing.

so, there you go. our money is due next wednesday the 16. we'll wire it from our bank and sit back and watch God in his wonders and miracles as we start the next phase of this journey.

we don't have anything left except for THANK YOU. thank you for being our tribe and for loving us beyond measure.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

she has a name

yesterday we announced the name for our baby girl. this is completely backwards from maddox because we a) didn't find out what we were having and b) didn't tell anyone the names we had picked out. but can you imagine? that would not work with adoption. the not finding out part.

we've had our name chosen since our second anniversary. i remember coming out of our house on the way to dinner and asking evan, "what do you think of the name zara for a baby girl?" we'd had our boy's name picked out since evan and i started dating over 10-years-ago. we always thought we'd adopt a boy first (aka, i'm still waiting for God to add a boy to this adoption), but we are so excited to add a girl to our family. but LOLOLOL to God's timing because we picked out her name and then found out i was pregnant a few weeks later.

we liked the name zara before we looked up its meaning but it means "princess" or "to blossom." LOVE LOVE LOVE. and her ethiopian name is actually a boy's name meaning "blessing." which a) i love boy's names for girl's (charley, blake, etc. YES.) and b) CAN YOU JUST. this entire process is just blessing after blessing. i'm telling you, GOD SEES THE LITTLE THINGS.

also, the cutest thing in the world is maddox talking about his sister. we have her picture on our fridge and maddox brought me to the fridge last night and said, "i love zara, mom."


Thursday, November 3, 2016

paper pregnant

i have been waiting to write this blog post since july 20th but so much has been top secret because adoption is tricky.

i'll give you a little timeline of what has happened since the end of july to catch you all up to speed:

july 20-alicia at CHI e-mailed us about a waiting child. it was a tuesday and evan was at college age and i was probably at home dying from my parasite like i did all summer. i sent him a thousand texts FREAKING OUT about it and dying until he came home. texted our moms and my bible study girls and was like "Y'ALL BETTER PRAY RAT NAOW."

--the referral was for a little girl who matched our profile (you have to specify medical/emotional/physical needs that you're willing to accept) and was in our desired age range (younger than Maddox) and had a medical necessity that required us to say yes or no within 24hours so they could get the funds to move her to a better orphanage and get whatever medicine/tests/whatever done.

--we literally said, "the only thing holding us back is money. we're saying yes." SO WE SAID YES. we would owe over $15,000 when we accepted the referral.

--here's another part of this story: we didn't even have our homestudy done. NO HOMESTUDY. but we've got a child. i had just turned in the last piece of paperwork FIVE DAYS BEFORE this e-mail. typically this is not how this happens >>>> more on that in a minute.

july 21-we said YES!

--since our homestudy wasn't done, we couldn't officially accept so we were only given a "soft referral," which meant that she would be ours if we could get our stuff turned in quickly. it also meant they wouldn't show her profile to any other families. 

--we didn't even have our homestudy scheduled and my agency was like PLEASE DO THAT A MONTH AGO. and so my gf callie was like, "give me something specific to pray for." i'm all, "my homestudy needs to be done and i don't even have an appointment for it." within an hour, my social worker had called us and set up our homestudy for that saturday, as in two days from the phone call.

july 22-clean the entire house. buy one million stupid outlet plugs. freak out about the rugs that move too much and the book case that isn't nailed to the wall (hint: IT'S NOT A BIG DEAL).

july 23-our social worker came for a few hours and interviewed us and questioned maddox about how he shares and is he excited for a brother or sister (I DIE, SO CUTE) and toured our house. she's amazing and we love her.

--we then went to shoot a wedding for the rest of the day. ALL THE NERVES.

july - august-meet with our social worker two more times to fill CHI's quota. do a million hours of online training.

august-feel like we're going to get our homestudy back any day and stressed about having no money (started with about $6,000 in july). i prepare all the grant stuff.

september-feel like we're going to get our homestudy back any day and still stressed about having no money. i complete all the grant stuff but can't send it in because lack of homestudy.

october-CRAZIEST MONTH OF MY LIFE. i don't know why i thought it was a good idea to schedule everything in one month but i did: a conference at our church (well, i didn't have anything to do with that), mini session and a spa night fundraiser ALL IN THE SAME WEEK. i almost died of lack of sleep. still feeling like we're going to get our homestudy back any day. i thought that because our social worker TOLD me she was finished with it and waiting on CHI to send it back. there was some sort of miscommunication about some papers so i waited for over two weeks from the point of it being finished and actually getting it back.

november-NATIONAL ADOPTION MONTH! our homestudy is approved by CHI! we can accept our referral! we accept! WE ACCEPT! we find out we have 14-days to make a payment and we've got our $15,000 ready to go! i have a weird feeling that it's not $15,000. guess what? it's not. there were two financial statements and i wasn't looking at the correct one when i was getting all excited about hitting our goal. i beat myself up, have a quick panic attack, cry to evan and FIGURE IT OUT. the actual total that we owe is almost $24,000. so we're about $8,000 away from our total THAT IS DUE IN FOURTEEN DAYS.

here are some things that i find incredible:

1. we got our referral acceptance on november 2nd because God knew i would straight up KEEL OVER if i found out that i can't read and was $8,000 wrong in my crazy stressful month. because i had a week of "rest" (it was not restful in the least) at the end of october in preparation for this new kind of crazy.

2. last year i wanted to announce our adoption during national adoption month. this year we get to accept our referral! WHO KNEW?! this year has flown by.

3. God is in the details. i know this. otherwise he wouldn't have made us do this completely backwards.

so, we get asked all the time about what a "referral" actually is. when you apply to adopt and are eventually matched with a child, the referral is basically the child. our babe came with a bunch of papers explaining why she's an orphan and her medical needs and height and weight and the things she can do like walk and talk, etc.

we filled out several applications for grants but because we're doing this out of order (proper order: homestudy > grants > other stuff > referral. our order: child > rest of the stuff), we don't even have time to receive any grants. this is literally a test of my faith, RN.

reasons we won't get any grants (probably):
grants take a bajillion weeks to be approved.
grants won't cover anything you already paid.
grants won't cover any loans you take out.
grants won't cover travel expenses.

we have a few more payments that we'll make to our agency so we can probably get a grant for a few thousand dollars but i was reading this other blog where they broke down their financial situation after their adoption and they received like $20,000 in grants and i'm like YES! I LOVE GRANTS! FREE MONEY! and then God was like, "actually no." so we don't know where this money is coming from. but we have faith. and $8,000 is a lot of money but shoot. i serve a God of miracles. #praisehands

we can't share many details about our babe but since we accepted the referral, we did announce that it's a girl! i may have secretly, not so secretly shared that on FB already but for those that missed it, WE HAVE A DAUGHTER!!! i can't believe those words! we've known since july. her picture has been on my fridge for months. but it's real now! THIS IS REAL LIFE!

if you made it this far, THANK YOU. thanks for praying. thanks for sharing in our JOY. thanks for being a part of our tribe to bring our love home. more to come. this story isn't finished.

 ps. maddox took this picture. he was like, "okay, now just mom." click click click. "okay, now just dad." click click click. "okay, mom get back in there. okay, now kiss." WE DIE. he is literally a mini us.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Tips for a successful fundraising garage sale

Earlier this summer we had a giant fundraising garage sale. We asked for donations from our friends and family and they passed along the message and we had random strangers calling us telling us they had items for us to sell! It was definitely one of the hardest and most time-consuming fundraisers we could have done but so worth it in the end. We made over $2,500 and were able to cover a giant payment that was due around the same time! So, here are a few tips and tricks for anyone who is thinking about conducting their own garage sale fundraiser!

1. Pre-price! Do not wait until you're setting up to price everything. We priced 90% of our stuff and left the big pieces that were in storage until the morning of. It was chaos to get everything set up and then priced and stuff was dusty and needed to be wiped down and I wanted to just sit for five minutes. If it's big and you're storing it where you won't get to it until the sale, price it as you're putting it away. I read another blog that suggested big tags for big items and I 100% agree. If it's a couch, use an entire sheet of paper. People driving by will see it and people won't have to search all over for a tiny little dot.

2. Don't shoot a wedding the day before for 15 hours. We're crazy. By the time we went to bed on Saturday night, we had been awake for 36-hours straight. I'm still recovering.

3. When you ask for donations, be specific about the things you don't want. I'm sure there's a kind way to say, "Please don't give me used underwear and your broken garbage."

4. People will give you their used underwear and broken garbage.

5. Offer to pick up donations! This was our biggest ally. We had access to my dad's truck so we were able to pick up big items. We let people dictate our pickups but it would probably be less stressful and more organized if you gave specific dates and times when you are able to, especially if you need to rent or borrow someone's vehicle.

6. Yes, this is a fundraiser for a good cause. No, people do not care. People would barter over a whole dollar even after we told them about our adoption. I have a hundred stories but here's two of my favorites:
a) A guy asked the price on a brand new Hurley kid's hoodie. I said $3. He responded, "Ten cents?" NO, GUY!
b) A lady asked how much the shoes were ($3/ea for most), then proceeded to fill an entire plastic bin with 15 or so pairs of shoes and ask for all of them for $5. YES. I KNOW. She gave me some story about how she sends them to kids in third world countries and it costs her a lot of money to do so and so I needed to basically give them to her so I offered 3 pairs for $5 and she agreed then proceeded to take a $1 tag off something else and put it on a pair of nice soccer cleats and tell me she'd do 3 pairs for $3.
If you're not comfortable bartering with people or pricing items as people are paying, ask someone to take that job! I'm the most uncomfortable with money (and bad at math) so people would bring stuff to me and I would say, "A quarter!" All the time! Like, we would have made $5 if I ran the whole thing! So, our friend Nick took over and was great at keeping the price where it was originally labeled and bartering when he needed to. I'm so thankful he was there for that because it definitely took a lot of stress off of me.

7. ASK. FOR. HELP. Are you like me and hate asking for help? Well, get over it, cupcake, and ask for it! Be specific in your needs, not just telling people, "I don't know! If you want to stop by, feel free!" Ask people to help price or set up for a few hours or tear down or hang signs or be available to carry heavy items. People want to help. LET THEM. You will straight up die if you think you can do it all by yourself.

8. Set up an end date for donations. I thought I'd be taking things up until the day before. Because I didn't realize that people will fit 943 of the tiniest things in one box. It's too much work, especially if you a) have any kind of life or b) want to sleep ever again. Stop taking donations on a specific day and announce it! We had people offering stuff the week of and it would have been great to make more money but it wasn't worth the stress of accumulating more stuff in my already stuffed house + pricing and hauling.

9. Try to be organized but you probably won't be. My plan was to take over a giant room in my basement. I received one very large donation of basically an entire house-full of stuff and tried to keep boxes organized so all of my kitchen stuff could be together. It lasted two hours and then it was just boxes upon boxes upon boxes. I did try and keep what was in the box organized but it took forever to set up, had I been organized in the beginning or not. PLUS, I didn't even haul the stuff to my parent's (where we held the sale), so it would have been completely disorganized in the move.

10. There is absolutely no good way to display clothes. We had tons and tons of baby clothes so I separated it by size and put it in boxes. There was no way I could hang up 75 newborn onesies. I mean, it was just out of hand. Hardly anyone looked through the clothes so now I have like 10 giant tubs of baby clothes in my basement because my plan is to someday sell them online.

11. You will be so surprised at what sells and what doesn't. Someone gave us some broken furniture that I had planned on fixing but then obviously life happened so I didn't. Someone still bought it. Someone bought an upright freezer that didn't work to use as storage. People did not want computers or printers or TVs and I was sure that those things would sell the fastest. You really have no idea what people are looking for so don't throw away the things you deem as junk because sometimes those are the fastest things that go!

12. Have a plan for the extras. Some donation stores like Goodwill will pick up your donations but only do it on specific days. Our garage sale was on Saturday and the truck only picked up donations on Tuesdays. When they came they only had room for half our stuff so we still had to haul a load that filled up my dad's truck and our car. It sat in my parent's driveway until we could haul it off so it would have probably been smart to just make a giant FREE sign and let people take it off our hands.

My biggest tip is to just ask for help! Get a rockstar team together to set up and tear down and help you greet the millions of people who are going to stop by. You're going to be exhausted no matter how organized and careful you are with planning. Good luck!

Friday, May 6, 2016

a [less vague] update

I'm not good with decisions with open-ended answers. Like, maybe it would be good either road I take or maybe it wouldn't. The kind of decisions where people always add, "There's no blanket answer for this kind of thing." No. I hate those. I'm not great at making decisions anyway and then you through in the "no right or wrong, just make a decision," and I'm out. Gone. Done. Dead. Bye.

So, I'm here to tell you a story since the last time I wrote the vaguest blog post ever and begged and pleaded for prayers and insight. To all of our friends who wrote and e-mailed and left comments and personally messaged and texted me, I just want to say a giant thank you. Your words and prayers and encouragement meant so much to us and I've read over every message so many times over the past few weeks.

Earlier this month Evan and I applied with the agency that we had chosen last year. We loved them, she loved us, she was encouraging, they're a Christian organization, blah blah blah. Well. We are aware of the long wait times for adoption in Ethiopia and were expecting a couple years from now until we bring our babe home. But the response from my beloved agency was that actually we'd be waiting five-to-eight-years and she highly recommended we choose another country because that adds over $10,000 to our adoption fees.

And I had a meltdown.

Which is an understatement.

Sorry, Evan.

I don't want to trash this agency but things kept happening that kept upsetting me and I kept getting question after question deflected and ignored and so I just stopped responding to all e-mails. And that's when I wrote in my daily devos that I needed to get out of the way because my humanity was causing some problems. I mean, I was seriously considering calling it all off because suddenly, even two-years sounded infinitely far away and I just suddenly felt exhausted by all of it. And I am like the most positive person about this and I just did not know what was wrong. Well, besides that everything was wrong.

Side note, I don't expect to have a meltdown and freak out and be on the verge of quitting every time something is a little hard on this journey. Sometimes all of life happens at once and the beginning of your dreams do not go as expected.

So. I searched online for an entire morning and found so many precious waiting children all over Africa. And I wanted them all. And most kids are on the waiting list because they're older or they have serious health problems and they haven't been matched with a family. But I found a little boy from Ethiopia, age three, who was on the list and I just fell in love with him right then and there. Except for that I was like, "But Maddox! But birth order! But help!" (Which is where my last blog comes in and I was basically like, "Dear God, send someone to tell me exactly what to do but don't let them know what they're telling me. Amen." And God was all, "No.") So, for a few days, Evan and I entertained this idea about adopting out of birth order. And I read 500 blog posts about it. And reasons for it. And reasons against it. And every. single. one. said, "There's no blanket yes or no. You gotta do what you need for your own family." And I'm like, "BUT I DON'T KNOW." Yelling. Yelling at all these people who can't just see into the future and know that some 27-year-old adopting mama will someday visit their blog and need a specific answer to this very issue.

And I prayed long and hard about it. But the only thing that I kept feeling over and over and over again was, "You aren't the only one who can save him." And I realized that I had this god-complex about this sweet little boy, that if I did not adopt him right this very second, he was going to die and it would be my fault. But we live in a broken world and there will be instances where the orphan will die before the chance of adoption. Or maybe a family gets a referral and has a picture of their brand new child and then something happens. Our world is broken and your good intentions and my good intentions cannot protect anyone. And so, we had a phone call with a social worker and she told us that it's incredibly hard to find a home study agency who will even allow adoptive parents to disrupt the birth order. And we knew as we ended the call that it isn't us who will be adopting this sweet boy. And he's on the waiting list and I hope and I pray and I'm begging God to send his family to him.

But meanwhile, this little boy was on the waiting list of another agency. And this agency has more options for us. And they only take a small number of families so last summer, when I was doing all that research, they were closed because they didn't have anymore spots for Ethiopian families. And now they need families and we're on the list. So, we're switching agencies and besides making decisions, telling people "no" is my least favorite activity so now I have to do that. Pray for me because I would rather eat dirt than tell someone no or that I changed my mind.

So, what's next for our journey?! We've turned in 99% of our homestudy documents. The documents alone have taken us the better part of two weeks and we still have some training to do and a home interview to complete. And then we'll move on to the immigration paperwork and submit more documents and do more training and pay more money and then we're going to check the waiting child list again. Because there are currently a few younger children on our agency's list. And we'll either move forward with a waiting child or we'll wait for our referral. If we move forward with a waiting child, we'll owe about $17,000 right off the bat. The hardest part about adopting a waiting child is the money due so insanely soon.

We'll keep you posted because who knows, maybe our child will be placed on the waiting child list in the next few weeks. We're going to just trust that God's plan is wider and bigger and better than anything we could ever imagine.

You can check out our new prayer request page if you'd like to know more specifics! I'll update that frequently. Thank you for following our journey.

Friday, April 8, 2016

a humble cry

I think that Evan likes to go out of town when decisions need to be made because he knows that I don't sleep and therefore I'll get S done. Usually the S that I get done is in terms of putting paint on things. The past three trips he's taken I have: painted our bedroom, painted our livingroom AND (bonus) drew gold triangles on one of the walls, and painted our piano. I'm sure he comes home now half-expecting, half-dreading the mess I've made and failed to clean up and sure, he pretends to look surprised ("Oh! Wow! You painted something? I would have never guessed!") and he pretends to look pleased.

But this time, I'm not painting anything. That's a promise and not a lie so hopefully he's not disappointed that I didn't repaint our kitchen cabinets or begin to demo this obnoxious thing attached to a wall in our family room. Even though I thought about it.

This time I've got lots of praying to do. I've got home study paperwork for DAYZ. I didn't even know what a home study was and then I started doing it and I'm answering questions about every single thing you could possibly ever think of. And the forms I have to print off and write on and get notarized and the people I have to ask to be references for us and the list goes on and on AND ON and I'm here and I'm doing it.

But really, what I really need tonight, this weekend, is major prayer warriors. We sent off our application last week and then some things happened. I had about ten panic attacks in the course of two-days and then I wrote in my devos: "Larissa Jane, move aside and let the Lord of Lords move mountains. Let his miracles abound and stun and shake the ground." And then I wrote, "Help my unbelief." I can't go into everything right now but I wrote that and the very next day (which is today, April 8) something happened. I'm the type of person who needs results immediately or I'm out. This trait of mine is going to be very problematic in this waiting season.

But back to the prayers. Evan and I have some very intense, crazy, amazing, wild decisions to make in the next few weeks. Don't ask me, because I'm not ready to tell the world yet. We'll tell everything or we won't, but this is part of our story and it's messy and crazy and beautiful and it's just the beginning. But anyway. I also get sidetracked easily. I'm working on it. These decisions. I'm the worst at making decisions. Have you seen that (I think it's a .gif?) from The Notebook where what's his face is saying to Rachel McAdam's, "WHAT DO YOU WANT?" He's actually screaming it at her and she can't decide. Evan sends me that weekly because that is our life. I can't make decisions to save my life. I mean, I could. But I also can't. So, please just pray that I could make a decision. And that Evan and I would come to the same decision without speaking to each other about it. I've always wanted that to happen to us. And for basic guidance and patience. Pray that we wouldn't rush into anything without prayerful, prayerful consideration. And also, pray for our finances. We could very possibly find ourselves in a situation where almost $20,000 of fees is due in a one-month-period.

Adoption is pretty vague unless you're the people in it. And even then I'm like, "What's happening?" I'm pretty okay to just roll with it but in this moment, in this right now, we need your prayers and your support and encouragement. So maybe, maybe you have a favorite verse or quote or piece of encouragement you want to bestow on us (leave it in the comments? E-mail us []? THANK YOU.) or maybe you have five quick seconds to lift us up in prayer. THANK YOU. Oh my gosh, we love when people tell us, "We've been praying for you!" Our hearts melt and I almost cry every single time because we know that people are praying for us when things like these 4025 things happen.

That's it. So vague. More to come, I promise.

[a cute picture of our little love, just because]

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

a raffle!

Last week my girlfriend introduced me to another adoptive mama on instagram and this mama raised almost $1,000 via a cute little raffle. So, over the past week I put together some of my favorite things and you can buy a $5 raffle ticket and win it all!

Here's what you'll win:
> canvas BEST DAY EVER tote bag
> pineapple and polkadots zippered pouch (obviously the inside fabric is ALSO polkadots)
> YAY embroidery
> GOOD MORNING mug (it's giant. i'm going back to get another for me.)
> $10 starbucks giftcard (GOOD MORNING, YAY, BEST DAY EVER INDEED)
> Chocolate (milk chocolate with caramel apples. i had to get it. how could i not?)


Here's how to win:
Each "ticket" is $5. You can donate via our youcaring website. Just give $5 and I'll put you in the drawing! Probably once or twice I'll sit down (with a bottle of wine) and write out all the names and put them in a bucket and on March 18th I'll draw a winner! That sounds probably a little tedious and ridiculous but I've been thinking about this process so much over the past few days as I prepared for this, and I'm so just excited to take a night or two and sit down and really pray over this entire process and for each person who has prayed and donated and helped us on this journey. So, it's fine. One of my spiritual gifts is administration, so don't even worry about me. I'll find some cute stationary and be so in my element.

You can also buy more than one ticket if you'd like to increase your chance of winning! So, one ticket is $5, two are $10, three are $15, etc. etc. All of the money from the donations goes straight into our account for adoption and let me just say, we're LESS THAN three thousand dollars away from our ten thousand dollar goal! That's crazy and awesome and wonderful!

And just because this YAY hoop is maybe my new favorite (making myself one ASAP as possible) (ha! office fans, where you at?!), here's another picture of its preciousness!

Monday, February 29, 2016


I've been planning out this blog post since this afternoon and I still don't have adequate words to describe this past month in our adoption process.

So, here's a little update/refresh: We made a couple hundred dollars from our strawberry fundraiser + got to eat some delicious strawberries made by our friend Kira PLUS got to see people in person and thank them for donating to our adoption cause. That was so cool and so humbling. Then, a sweet friend of ours offered to match donations up to $2,000. If that goal was met, we'd raise $4,000 this month, which is just month two of our journey. And we did it. We made over $4,000 this month ALONE because today someone asked how much we had left in our match goal and then gave us the exact donation.



heart eyes and praise hands!

//I have to back up a second and tell one quick story about this because God is good. Last week we were just under $900 away from our match and I posted a quick something about that on my Facebook and we received a few extra donations but I didn't recheck our funds. I knew we were quite a bit away and as I was going to bed last night I just prayed over our adoption, over our funds, over this entire process. I felt from the initial correspondence with my girlfriend that we would meet this $4,000 goal but being a couple hundred dollars away on the second-to-last-day, I was like, "OKAY GOD. You're up!" I prayed against discouragement, as I knew I would be sad if we didn't meet our goal, but that he has greater things in mind for us. So, I prayed. And today I got that text asking how much we needed. He brings me to my knees again and again.

The first time Evan and I were going to Ethiopia, Evan was exactly $1,000 short of the required funds and the deadline was the following day. Evan got a $1,000 check in the mail that day and we all cried because raising money is stressful and challenging and humbling. I have never had something like that happen to me until this very week and I'm humbled again and again, every time I check my e-mail and see a donation.

Once again, my current verse (Gen 16:13) still applies, and now even more than ever. He is the God who sees us on this journey. We know this and we believe it, whole heartedly.

Maddox is also as cute as ever when it comes to talking about adoption. He asks where his brother or sister is all the day long. "Where are they?" He asks. He calls it "E-fee-oh-p-ia" or "E-p-oh-pyuh" and whenever I do anything from buying food to making something he asks, "Is that to bring my brother or sister home?" We talk about it all day long and he's totally on board and so ready to meet his brother or sister, we can't help but love and feed off his energy and encouragement. We love having this two-year-old perspective; it keeps things fresh and real and happy.

I've got big things planned for the next few months and something I'm super excited about for March, so keep your eyes peeled! We're one month (and so close to my first goal of $10,000) away from our application and once that's in, things will really get rolling. Please continue to pray for our family and especially this week as Evan and I are headed to SoCal and Maddox is staying with his grandparents. Protection all around as well as less worry from this mama bear ;]

Peace and blessings and love and heart eyes and kindness and unending things,

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Just a little update

Well, we're one month and a week into this and we've been blown away so many times, I can't even keep track of all of the blessings that have been poured out on us. So many people have blessed us with their talents and finances and prayers and encouragement and we've been overwhelmed in the best way. It's always a struggle for me to ask for help because I'm independent and hate the thought that I'm burdening another person. So yes, this has been incredibly humbling and has been a lesson in not doing everything myself, even when I'm able. My bible study girls, my tribe, they always say to me, "Let's bring our baby home," and I fight back tears every time I hear it because that is exactly what Evan and I wanted when we started this and envisioned our adoption journey. We want to use this as a ministry to change lives and we want people to partner with us because how lonely life is when it's not lived together?

We've got about a month and a half left to raise the rest of our first goal and we're close, but we're still a couple thousand away. If you'd like to donate, you can through our youcaring website. We had some incredibly generous friends offer to match up to $2,000 through the month of February (again, more tears) and this brings us so, so close to our goal. So, we'll get there, I know it! And, Billings friends! If you donate in February, I'll throw you in a drawing for a free family/couple/selfie/whatever photoshoot!

Also, our (first) t-shirt fundraiser ended in mid-January and we raised over $1,000 and we were definitely blown away by that! We loveee love love seeing pictures of everyone in their shirts AND a friend of ours even was wearing her shirt when she got engaged! (heart explosion) We'll have another one in a few months, but we don't have anymore of these. So, if you wanted to get in on this, so sorry that you missed it, but I promise the next design will be even better! Pinky swear.

I still need to create a prayer request page, but I also have a sink full of dishes, loads of laundry and a sneaky two-year-old who refuses to nap unless I cuddle him, among about 50 more pages of things to do. So, it's coming. For now, we would love prayer for our health! I've personally been battling a never-ending sinus infection since the beginning of January (which seems to be on the out, so pray that it stays out!) and Evan and Maddox have had a handful of other things and we're just over it all. I always joke that when you live with other people, you just pass your sicknesses back and forth BUT IT'S SO TRUE. We passed pink eye around for an entire weekend and after I bleached my entire house I must have missed a spot because Evan woke up with it (again) a few weeks later. Winter is always rough when there's no vitamin D to help boost that immune system, but please just pray that our health would return (and stay). Exhaustion is a huge struggle for me when I'm sick and I've found myself with low energy and no motivation, which means I've had so many things I want to do and have yet to do them. We covet your prayers and thank you so much for partnering with us and covering us with them.

Peace and blessings and love and heart eyes and kindness and unending thanks,

Friday, January 8, 2016

Embroidery Fundraiser

If you know me even a little bit, I'm sure that you know that I love to craft. My house is always a mess of the 400 crafts I'm currently working on and Evan is forever picking up after me. Bless him. I've had these four embroidery hoops in my stash of supplies forever and decided to whip out four embroideries. I already had the supplies on hand (craft supply hoarder) and so this cost me absolutely nothing. All proceeds will go towards our fundraiser to bring home our baby!

We have raised a couple thousand dollars in the past week since we announced and we are so blessed and thankful for every prayer, every t-shirt purchased, every print purchased and every donation. So, thank you, thank you! Since Etsy takes a percentage of every sale, I'm attempting to sell these hoops here first. If they're not sold by Sunday night, I'll move them to Etsy. But, if you're a Billings native, I'll deliver to you for no extra charge! If you're not, shipping is $3. Thank you so much for your support! We could not ask for a better village.

///RULES: to purchase, please e-mail me at youandusforever[at]gmail[dot]com. I'll send you a PayPal invoice and you must pay within 12-hours. If you're local, you can pay me at pickup! 

1. YAY!: four-inch hoop with pink and cream floral fabric///$10--SOLD

2. Love: six-inch hoop with vintage blue floral fabric///$16--SOLD
[ps. the red dots are not stitches, that's part of the fabric]

3. Happy heart: nine-inch hoop with polka dot fabric///$25---SOLD

4. Tune my heart: ten-inch hoop with cream and gold fabric and lace///$25---SOLD

Monday, January 4, 2016

I always wanted to be a dad

From the time I was a young boy, I knew that I wanted to be a father. I remember watching my dad love my mom and I so well, all while running his business. One of my first memories is sitting at the foot of his chair, listening to him and my mom talk about their days. I’m sure it was a pretty basic conversation, I don’t remember the specifics. What I do remember is looking at my father and thinking about how amazing I thought he was. He was so big, strong, imposing and when he spoke, you couldn’t help but listen.

I respected my dad. I loved my dad.
In high school, we had our disagreements like most sixteen-year-old boys and their dads. He thought I stayed out too late and that my hair was too long. (He didn’t appreciate the magnificence of the curl.) In those years and the years that followed, I kind of became a momma’s boy. She let me get away with way more. She was more lenient when it came to curfews and every limit that there was, she let me push it a little further. I think that in those times, I started to lose my appreciation for my father. Not because of anything that he did, but because of my own selfishness.

But, I still respected my dad. I still loved my dad.

Through years of dating Larissa, my dad was always steadily giving me advice. “Open her door,” he would instruct me. “Always make sure she gets home safely.”
At the time, it was almost an annoyance. I knew how to date. I didn’t need his input. However, I did everything that he told me to. You know why? He was right, and…

I still respected my dad. I still loved my dad.

In the summer of 2012, my wife walked into our bedroom and told me that she was pregnant. I would love to say that I jumped with joy and that I swung her around the room. I didn’t. I smiled the weakest smile that any man has ever smiled; I sat in silence and then hugged my beautiful bride and told her how excited I was.
However, in all honesty, I wasn’t excited. I was terrified. This wasn’t the plan. The plan was to wait until we were 25 before we even had the conversation. The plan was to continue going to third world countries because we had zero obligations at home. The plan was to adopt from one of those countries before we had any children of our own. The plan was to travel and be in love and not let anything get in our way. This got in our way, this baby, this unplanned inconvenience was IN OUR WAY.
It took me days to come to grips that our lives were changing forever. My emotions would go from angry to terrified to absolute jubilance. The Lord was working on my heart constantly to help me understand the magnitude of what was going to happen in just a few short months. He knew that Maddox Oliver would be one the greatest gifts I would ever be given. Eventually, I was consistently in a place of joy, I had always wanted to be a dad. I just didn’t think it was going to happen so soon and I didn’t think it was going to happen in this way.
One of the best parts of Larissa’s early pregnancy was thinking of ways to tell our parents. We debated on several different ways and decided to have them all over for dinner. We gave them cards that had a little poem on them. My brother and his wife had also just recently announced their pregnancy, so ours read.

“Roses are red
Violets are blue
Stan and Kalcy are pregnant
And we are too.”

Cheesy I know, but we thought we were cute.

If there was any question of whether or not I should have been excited, it ended in that moment. I watched my dad leap from the table and embrace my mom. I saw tears in his eyes and saw him mouth the words “thank you” to the heavens.

I respect my dad. I love my dad.

With the help of Christ, he changed me that day. He doesn’t even know it. I don’t know that I even knew it until I began to type this out. He in that moment and so many others has been an incredible father. He makes me want to be one too.
Over the last three years, I have watched my father become an amazing grandfather. He loves my son so well. He runs around and wrestles. He screams and yells ridiculous sounds and gives him ungodly amounts of snacks.

My son respects his granddad. My son loves his granddad.

This idea of adoption has been something that has been on our hearts for year. Since before we were even married. Yet, I would be lying if I didn’t say I have hesitations or worries. I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t terrified. I would be lying if I said I didn’t think about the fact that I was going to take a little boy or girl that isn’t my blood and try to raise them as my own. To give them a family.
But you know what? Thirty years ago, my dad fell in love with a single mom. He decided that he wanted to marry her and raise her son as his own. He wanted to give him a family. Now, my older brother and my dad will both admit that he made mistakes. They both did. However, he courageously stepped into parenting a child that was not his own. I cannot wait to wrap my arms around my new son or daughter. There are a million reasons why I can’t wait to be the dad of another child. You want to know what one of the main ones is?

I respect my dad. I love my dad.

I want to be my dad.