Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Uganda Round Two

These images are forever ingrained on Joshua's heart from his Uganda trip in July. He came home certain that I too needed to GO and see for myself! I agreed, wholeheartedly. I saw the spark (and maybe a manly tear or two) in his eye when he shared how God stirred his soul for the people and culture of Africa. I too fell more in love with Africa from Joshua's time there, the stories and images forever impacted my heart as well! It was a done deal, I was on the next trip! 

I'm sure you would guess that I was the first one to sign up for this trip in February with our church, right?! Well not so much ... truth be told, the business of life seeped in and began to weigh in on my "gusto" to GO. So many hesitations swirled in my head... 
What if we're really low on the wait list by then and we get a referral for Isa while I'm there?! There is no way we can logistically figure out childcare for Jude the entire time I'm gone! What if Jude has anxiety about me being gone? I mean after all, I'm so needed! (Ha!) Ugh, more fundraising! Seriously God?! I'm kinda over it! People are gonna think we're nuts, we've already raised over $30k this year! Plus it requires SO much faith, and sometimes I just don't have it!  My plate is already full with mommy duties, wife responsibilities, and Abba's Children in full swing... I don't think I can tackle another thing!

You get the idea. "Life" began to filter what I was so sure was clear back in July! For months I've been in prayer over whether or not I should go on this trip. Truthfully, I've heard silence. I begged God for a clear answer if I should or shouldn't go. He didn't give it. I went to the first orientation meeting back in the beginning of October for those interested in the trip. As I sat there and listened to the details of what this upcoming trip includes and past experiences, my heart beat fast as it resurfaced the feelings that God had placed in the core of who I am. However, I left that meeting and shortly there after was confronted once again with the filter of my hesitations. Again I prayed, again I heard silence. Sign ups for the team came and went, all the while I was well aware of the deadline dates that I was missing to turn in my application. There was an "ugh" disappointment in my gut but I told myself that my concerns were valid and that God's silence must mean no? Still Uganda sat in the back of my mind. The team of people was set, an amazing team at that, I might add! I thought the ship had sailed and I missed my chance to jump on board.

Flash forward to Saturday, November 19th. Jude and I dropped daddy off before the sun even came up that morning at the church for him to head out with a team of about 40 others to Mexico for a short term mission trip. As we drove away from the church, with tears in my eyes (because I'm proud of my hubs and an emotional girl, I guess?!) Jude and I prayed for daddy and the group of others going. We prayed for the children they would serve at the orphanage, we prayed for safety and God's blessings on the trip, and we thanked God for such a great daddy... and in that moment I was instantly taken back to driving away from the airport in July after dropping Joshua off to go to Uganda. It was as if God was gently reminding me once again of Africa. 

That very next day, Sunday, I was at church and on my way to get Jude checked into his classroom. Jason Kanapkey (co-leader of this upcoming Uganda trip) came up to me as I was walking and said, "You know it's not too late to join the team?! Just sayin'! Another gal dropped out of the trip, so there's room!". Wait... What?! This messed with my head. I had told myself the door was shut, the ship had sailed! Again, my heart beat fast and feelings of excitement resurfaced. Joshua called that night from Mexico to catch me up on the days projects they had worked on. I didn't share with him what Jason had said that morning. I did however ask Joshua, "So do you think I should go on the next Mexico trip?" His response took me back a bit, "Yeah, maybe,  BUT... I think you should go to Uganda." Okay weird.  What was going on?! He didn't know it was an option for me to still tag along on this trip- he was just saying what was on his heart. At this point I informed him that in fact there is room on the upcoming trip and it's apparently not too late for me to sign up! This made him smile, the kind of smile you can hear through a tone of voice. We committed to pray once again. 

Tuesday, November 22nd, Joshua came home from Mexico. We chatted through all his incredible experiences he had while he was there and without intentionally doing so, he kept comparing almost everything to Uganda. I guess when you experience extreme poverty in two different regions on these levels, you unknowingly compare the two. I think it was once again a gentle reminder from God of the foundation of love He laid in our hearts in for Africa many months before.                          

Evening rolled around that night and I received a much anticipated email from our case worker from AGCI with our new November wait list number. I quickly scrolled through her message to find the important line that says, "Your new November # on the boys list is..." and my heart sank! We actually went UP one number, from #21 up to #22!!! I sighed loud enough for Joshua to hear it in the kitchen!
Hmmm... maybe God was up to something. Maybe my concern of us being close to Isa's referral by the time the trip comes around, wasn't such a concern after all?! Maybe God was beginning to wipe away my hesitations.

I hit my knees again asking God for an obvious answer if I was to go on this trip or not. I heard nothing. Crickets chirping, that's all. I decided it was probably a good idea to hash through my remaining list of concerns I had come up with. I invited God to give me His perspective over each hesitation on my list, and asked him to help me sort through what were my fears and what were legitimate issues.  Recalling His incredible faithfulness in our lives over the past two years, God began to assure me that the fears on my list were not too big for Him to handle! He began to wipe away hesitation after hesitation.

At the end of the list I was left with ONE valid concern to figure out, childcare for our Jude man.  Convinced that this was the clincher, I told Joshua, "There is just no way! My sister is the only possibly option and honestly, I don't even think she is an option! You would have to drop him off at her house at the butt crack of dawn (excuse my crudeness, but this is how the conversation unfolded) on your way to work every morning, it would be a pain to try and get the boys dropped off at school on the days they both go (their schools are on opposite sides of town), not to mention that she works and probably has a project or something she needs to tackle, PLUS... it's soccer season, so you're not going to get of of work until later! Yeah, there's no way!". Joshua heard me out and then said, "You may be right. And if so, there is your answer. But, why don't you at least ask to know you've covered all your basis?" Sigh... fair enough. So I reluctantly asked my sister if it was even an option for her to help out with Jude nine of the twelve days I would be gone, doing my best to assure her that there was absolutely no obligation or expectation on my end of the deal that she do this! I was simply convinced that she would say there just wasn't a way to swing it because of work or the logistics of it all! 

Well, so much for roadblocks... Her exact response, "Of course we'll watch Jude! We can sit down and figure out how to best organize it..."! I'm pretty sure she just earned an extra jewel in her crown in heaven!

After hearing from her, I turned to Jude and asked "If mommy goes on this trip, I'm going to be gone for little while. Daddy will be here but Aunt Phoebe is going to have to watch you quite a bit and take you to school and pick you up, are you okay with that?" Jude, "Yes! Am I going to Aunt Phoebe's now? I can show her where my classroom is and maybe even Jake can come and see it! But you'll have to show her where to park. And when Jake is at school and I am not, I'll hang out with Aunt Phoebe and we'll be excited for Jake to be done with school!".... there you have it, hesitation wiped away! (o; Clearly I'm not as needed as I thought I was!

In what I perceived as God's silence to my prayers... every hesitation I have had, He has wiped away! (Well honestly, I am still freaked out about raising all the money... but I continue to reflect on His faithfulness and I have peace!) So maybe He's not so silent after all, maybe He just wanted me to remember how clear His voice was back in July and act on it?!

So you guessed it folks... I'm going to Uganda this February, last one to sign up (nice Hil!) but it's a done deal, I'm on this trip!!!! It's gonna be good!

If you don't think our little Helms family is crazy by the end of reading this, and you want to somehow support me going on this trip- you know we would be forever grateful! Big chunks of money are due in a an intimidatingly short amount of time, BUT God is faithful, He always blows our socks off, so I'm trusting Him despite my fears!

$200 due this Sunday
Raise $1500 by 12/15
Raise $2200 by 1/15
Raise $2800 by 2/15
Balance of $3050 by 3/15
Support letters are going on later this week, so keep an eye in the mail! And obviously if you have any questions, I'm an open book- so shoot me an email or call! Thank you in advance for loving our family and supporting us through prayer! 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fundraising and Faithfulness Re-cap of our Journey

In the past couple weeks I've had several random conversations with people regarding fundraising for our adoption and how we went about the whole thing. As if to just reiterate the recent theme of conversation, I then got an email this morning from another gal who was asking any advice on fundraising because they're beginning an adoption as well and she wanted me to share what had worked for us. It forced encouraged me to look back over the past (almost) 2 years of our adoption story and recall the different ways that God provided!  And man did it ever leave me shaking my head at God's goodness once again!

I thought there might be some of you out there that would benefit from hearing my response to the email I received this morning as well. Maybe you are on the fence about jumping into the sea of huge adoption fees that come with international adoption, but there seems to be a relentless nudge from the Holy Spirit to step out in faith regardless of the dollar signs and trust Him?! Let me urge you, if God has burdened you to "jump"... JUMP! Our family is living proof! God is faithful.

Okay, so first off, here are some of the fundraisers we took on and worked for us....

Our first "big" chunk of money was raised by doing an online auction of items/services that were donated by friends. I started by sending out a heartfelt email to my closest friends and family (both local and far away) asking them if they had a talent, service, or item they would be willing to donate towards our adoption for me to auction off. I was amazed at the response of people's willingness to get involved- not to mention their creativity and determination to find a way to offer something worthwhile to donate! I mean, a week getaway to a farmhouse?! Awesome!  I gave the entire "set up" of the auction a month to get everything put together and hear back from everyone, all the while sending reminder emails and getting people's descriptions/details of the items they were donating. I started spreading the word about the auction dates about 2 weeks before it began, so people anticipated it. I set up a separate blog just for the auction that I could send people directly too, and I would highly recommend doing that. Here is the link to that blog, and it'll give a better idea of how it was set up.
This auction brought in $1455 towards out adoption! God is faithful.

Another big fundraiser we did was our adoption yard sale. This one required the most work on our behalf honestly, but also brought in the most money! If you've ever done a garage sale, then you know the prep work going into it is killer! Pricing items and organizing the garage is a beating! But here again, I sent an email out to local friends and asked if they had items that were thinking of giving to goodwill that they might be willing to give to us instead! I'm truly a minimalist and so even after going through our entire house searching for anything we could possibly put in a garage sale, there was barely anything! So... this project really did require the help of others who were purging through their stuff (and made me grateful for the hoarders in my life, ha!)- and when all was said and done, we had TWO garages (our neighbors generously let us use their garage too) FULL of stuff to sell! Good stuff too, like furniture and refrigerators... big ticket items! The key with the yard sale is to get the word out there! Advertise like crazy on Craigslist and post that the proceeds are going towards your adoption! Post pictures of the best stuff you're selling too! We had several people buy things before the actual yard sale off of Craigslist and give MORE than what we were asking, because they read about our adoption. Link everything back to your blog. The day of the actual yard sale, we did have a table set up with info on Ethiopia and a sign letting people know that all the proceeds were going towards bringing our baby home- but honestly, the majority of the people that were shopping the garage sale didn't speak English (depending on the area you live, that may be different), and so I don't think they were even aware of what the sale was all about. Don't take offense when they want to haggle the $1 candle sticks down to .$25, and you're sitting there thinking to yourself, "But it's going towards our adoption people, you can't seriously swing $1!?!?!". Even just one cent is that much closer to your goal!  The adoption yard sale brought in $2121 towards our adoption!
http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/09/garage-sale-success.html God is faithful.

If you have a talent or craft, or for instance your mom or mom-in-law likes to sew, like my mine... you can always do these simple side projects and auction them off! These Africa t-shirts have brought in a good chunk of money- probably close to $500 or so! The totes have easily brought in over $500 as well! I suggest promoting them on both your blog and FB. I typically have more "lookers" on FB and that's where I have auctioned off almost all the shirts and bag/totes. http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/05/mom-hil-project.html God is faithful.

I make the adoption countdown walls for adopting families and they have raised about $400 or so just making them here and there when an order gets placed. I actually just shipped one off today!  http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/p/adoption-countdown-wall.html God is faithful.

Here's the deal though... what I think you'll find is that God will provide in ways you NEVER imagined and use other people in ways you NEVER imagined! You'll find that you may have others who think outside of the box on your behalf...  and it'll simply bring you to your knees in humility and gratitude! I have MORE stories of the roles others have played in funding our adoption, than I actually have of the ways we came up with the money!

Take sweet Kalisha, one of Joshua's former students for example, who sold our An Inexhaustible t-shirts for us at the high school and raised $1000 towards our adoption! http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/07/1000-what.html God is faithful.

OR the lady from my mom's bible study who hosted a little bake sale on our behalf without us even knowing and sent us a check for $150... http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/07/another-blessing.html God is faithful.

OR the stranger who stopped by our yard sale, heard our story, and generously offered her photography talent to do a photo shoot raffle where folks bought $5 tickets for the chance to win a photo package with her. That brought in just over $500! http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/11/photo-shoot-raffle-winner.html God is faithful.

OR you might go to your mailbox one day and find a note with $4 tucked inside from the sweet 9 year old boy on your street! You WILL cry, trust me! (o;
http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2011/01/sweetest-note-ever.html God is faithful.

OR I can mention my sister's friend from college who took it upon herself to go shopping at garage sales for cheap stuff, and clean it up- then resale it at a consignment event- and then send us all the proceeds from her hard earned money! She sent a check for $75 towards our adoption. http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/09/nudge-of-god.html God is faithful.

OR the day I went to grab the mail and we received a check for $1500 from another adopting family that we had NEVER met! The following day, no joke, another adopting family, who we had NEVER met as well, sent a donation for $500!!! Both of these families were also fundraising towards their adoptions! There are moments you will simply be left speechless!  http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/10/youre-not-going-to-believe-this.html God is faithful.

OR just when I thought God simply couldn't show off anymore, I came home from running errands the next day (after receiving the $2k from the adopting families) and nonchalantly checked my email only to find a pending donation of  $845.26 from my old Promisland Sunday school teacher who lead me to Christ! Her donation was the exact amount needed to turn in our dossier and get put on the wait list with our agency! http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/10/youre-not-going-to-believe-this.html God is faithful.

OR one of my lifeguards that had worked for me one summer at camp, Lenora, that I hadn't heard from in 5 years who randomly contacted me and said she wanted to give us $1000 that she was given from her dad's trust fund! The only catch was, it needed to be tax deductible. Well, let's face it,  there are no roadblocks too big for God! Which leads me to encouraging you to apply for grants!...
http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2011/01/lenora.html God is faithful.

I highly recommend checking out both Lifesong for Orphans and ShowHope for adoption grants! We applied for both and we're blessed with one. We were approved for a Matching Grant of $3000 from Lifesong for Orphans! This opened up the floodgates of people willing to give towards our adoption! Because it was tax deductible sweet lifeguard Lenora was the first to give towards our grant with her $1000 gift! The stories are endless of the generous hearts that God used to meet every need along the way! I mean, crazy generous, make you say, "WHAT?!" kinda generous, like this particular family that gave $2,750 towards our matching grant!  http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2010/10/youre-not-going-to-believe-this.html God is faithful.

 Our grant from Lifesong was by far our biggest amount of money raised! Today we have $10,667.21 sitting in our Lifesong account waiting to be used once we get our referral! http://helmshappenings-ethiopia.blogspot.com/2011/01/one-yep-and-one-nope.html God is faithful.

I wish I could share every single story of how God provided- but I would seriously have to write a book! This is just a snip-it of His goodness! Every story is written down and documented, so we never forget! I would encourage you to do the same in your journey! Give Him the glory along the way! You get the idea, God is faithful! Yes, fundraising is one of the ways God provides, think creatively, bust your butt and do your part to bring in extra money... BUT always know at the end of the day, HE'S GOT THIS! HE WILL ROCK YOUR FACE OFF!!! HANG ON!!!

Monday, November 7, 2011

The meaning of Isa's name

Last week after eying these board/signs on pinterest (I'm sure they have a more legit name, I just don't know what else to call them!) I naively decided that, "I could totally do that! AND save myself a good chunk of money!". Well, let's just say that the ambitious creative Hilary that I thought I was quickly left about half way through cutting out the card-stock stencil letters with a box cutter (that's right, you heard me, box cutter...because crafty me doesn't own an x-acto knife)! It became very apparent to me that the people that sell these signs no way spend this much time cutting out homemade stencils! What I've since discovered is that they probably use one of those glorious and super nifty silhouette machine thingy's or something similar! Lucky them! That expensive bad boy can get added to the wish list of items that will never realistically get purchased in my lifetime! With a cramped hand and a kinked neck, I finished up my first board project at like midnight and was torn whether I loved it or hated the darn thing it because of all the unexpected time I had to put into it! But after after a night of rest, some advil, and a the fresh perspective of a new day- I decided I was happy with it!...

So... I did what every normal person would do, and decided to make another one! Joshua came home from work the next day and saw me sitting at the kitchen table in deep concentration cutting more stencils and was like, "Seriously Hilary?!". The thing is, after I finished the first one, all it did was inspire me to want to make more for around the house! And once I get something in my head- I'm determined to make it happen!

I've been working on Isa's room over the past couple months a little here and there, when I have the time.  Walls are painted, world map is hung, handmade bed (thank you Uncle James!) is on it's way in December, and so I decided it needed an extra little piece of artwork to hang in there too! The one thing we love most about Isa's name (besides the fact that it doesn't scream "white boy"... when clearly he will not be that!) is the meaning of his name...

Isa \i-sa\ , is a variant of Isaac (Hebrew) and Isaiah (Hebrew), and the meaning of Isa is "laughter; salvation of God; the Lord helps me"... good stuff, right?!

So, as a reminder to him and to us, this board will be hung in his room! 

You know that leaves me feeling like I need to make one for Jude's room now too! We just have to wait and see if Ambitious & Creative Hilary comes back out again anytime soon!