Uganda

What I Want You To Know About Adoption

I want you to know that you are not invited to the airport when we come home. I cannot even deal with these airport arrival parties. I’m not really into big groups of excited white people to begin with. Let them start clapping and cheering, and I’m totally out. Like, peace sign in the air as I walk away totally out. While this is super exciting, it’s also totally terrifying for our child. We will have just taken him away from everyone and everything he knows. So, riding down an escalator into a group of crazy, smiling, clapping, cheering, excited white people sounds like a terrible first move.

I want you to know that we chose adoption. Our child did not. Our son has been through more pain, loss, and abandonment than I will ever go through in my entire lifetime. All of that pain and loss is what led to adoption. He isn’t “so lucky to be adopted” and this most certainly wasn’t “God’s plan for him.” God’s plan for him was to be loved by his biological family forever. He was never intended to be mine. So, while adoption is a beautiful, redemptive, Jesus filled thing it comes at the cost of sadness, grief, loss, abandonment, and pain. Please keep that in mind as you form sentences out loud and in your mind about adoption.

I want you to know that the following questions make me want to punch you in the throat:

“So are you ever going to have your own kids?” When you emphasize the word own, I die a little on the inside. While I know what you mean and the answer to that question is, “I don’t know,” this kid will be our OWN. Stop it.

“Are you infertile?” or some variation of this question that implies that we can’t have kids or are having sex wrong. First of all, this question and the likes are wildly inappropriate. They should not be asked: in passing, in the teacher’s lounge while making copies, in front of people you don’t know, or in a nonchalant way. Trust me, we are having sex correctly and while we are not adopting because we are infertile, we do have friends who are adopting for that very reason. Second of all, these kinds of questions are hurtful and stupid. Don’t be an idiot.

“Will your child be black?” ohmygoshyes

I want you to know that it’s okay if you don’t know what to say to us but saying and asking nothing makes me reevaluate our friendship. We love talking about adoption, the process, and why we are adopting. This is a huge thing for us and we want to talk about it. Please ask us questions. I don’t particularly care if you even care about the answers to these questions. Just ask them because you don’t want us to go insane. Here are some questions that when asked make a girl want to hug you:

How’s the process going?

How can we be praying?

Do you need some wine?

Do you want to talk about adoption stuff?

I want you to know that I’d rather do all kinds of things than listen to your stories of adoptions gone bad. Here’s an incomplete list of some of the things I’d rather do: die a slow death, cut my arm tendon like that guy in 127 Hours, pull my hair out one piece at a time, or give myself an Indian rug burn. This sort of storytelling is not helpful in any way right now.

I want you to know that we are aware that we will be a transracial family. There is no need to point it out. Your kind and respectful questions about race, culture and how we plan to tackle this are lovely and welcomed. We have been reading and learning a lot about race and culture and would love to have a conversation about it all. We, however, do not want to talk to you if you have unkind things to say about people of different races or if you begin sentences with, “I’m not racist but…”

I want you to know that I secretly hope all our friends will adopt. Just kidding. Not really.

I want you to know that the best thing in the world right now is prayers. This whole adoption thing has made me believe fully in the power of prayer. Like, on your knees prayers. Prayers move mountains, literally. So, when you tell us you’re praying, I’m sending you a heart hug because heart hugs are the best and so is Jesus and so is praying.

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Purchase With Purpose: Part 2

Check out part 1 if you missed it. 

Recently the question was asked, “What if everything you bought for Christmas this year made a difference in the world?” But seriously… what if it did?? 

So, here goes round 2 of sharing the good stuff…

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I’m obsessed with No. 41. I silently stalked No. 41 on Instagram for a while and then randomly one day I got to meet the brains and passion behind the organization. They’re awesome y’all. Based out of Rwanda, they work with young women at an a orphanage, teach them to sew and give back to their community through a feeding program. When you purchase one of their super cute bags you feed one child, for one meal, for one year. They also have stockings that make me want to die they’re so cute. I’m buying three to hang on my mantel this Christmas, don’t even worry. 

http://www.no41.org

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Thistle Farms, y’all. Let me just tell you. It’s based in Nashville and works with women who have survived trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. Thistle Farms is a residential program that provides these women with housing, medical needs, education, therapy, and job training. Their stuff is all natural and wonderful. I got to spend time with a few ladies that graduated from the program a while back and man y’all, talk about some powerful life stories. They were also hilarious and I wanted to get their numbers so we could hang out sometime but I refrained because of the definition of creepy. Alas. They also opened up a restaurant a while back that is fabulous. Thistle Stop Cafe, go there and love it.

http://www.thistlefarms.org

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It’s no surprise that anything Uganda related I will love unconditionally. So, I introduce you to Imani. Imani works in northern Uganda. If you don’t know much about Uganda- northern Uganda borders South Sudan and the Congo. Northern Uganda is a war-torn region where there are child soldiers, refugees, and children forced into brothels, trafficking, and the sex industry. Imani works to alleviate poverty and free women from the sex trade industry by teaching them to make jewelry. They learn a trade, get paid a fair wage, provide for their families, and get freedom. I love it. I have approximately all of their jewelry on my Christmas list this year. Imani is under the Zion Project; which deserves a whole paragraph of its own. I’ll refrain, as long as you’ll promise me to look them up, read what they do, and love them.

http://www.imanilove.com
http://www.zionproject.org

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Exile International. One day I will work for them. I’m not at all joking. They work in the Congo and northern Uganda providing trauma care to former child soldiers and children affected by war through art and expressive therapy. I KNOW, RIGHT!? Coolest thing ever. They also have a sponsorship program for children who have been orphaned or abandoned by war where they feed, house, educate, and give them psychosocial care. Their vision is “empowering children of war to become leaders for peace.” I mean, it just doesn’t get any cooler. All of the proceeds from their EI store goes to continuing the work their doing. If any of you get a job with them before I do, please don’t tell me.

http://www.exileinternational.org

addone

Last one. Promise. If you didn’t catch the post about add ONE, check it out for a more thorough explanation. The gist is simple: when you buy an add ONE product you will help bring 3 kids home from Uganda, China, and Haiti. I mean, I just think it’s really cool. Regardless of whether Dustin and I are a part of it or not.

http://1907apparel.com/addone/

There ya go. More than enough ways to make a difference this holiday season. Have at it.

add ONE

I started working part time at a philanthropic retail store by our house about a year ago. It was post Africa and I was trying so hard to be a part of something that was changing the world. It was post Africa and I was trying to find a way to encourage others to be a part of world change without cramming it down their throats. It was during Dustin’s unemployed season so extra income was a necessity. Combine all three of those things and I ended up at 1907 Apparel.

I’m so thankful for this little store. 1907 Apparel was founded and is owned by Dawn and Michael Cornelius. They are some of the most humble, spirit filled people I’ve ever come in contact with. They love people so well. It has been a privilege to work for and with them. They are sweet friends who have encouraged us and loved us in ways they will never know. Dawn and I have already arranged the marriage of her middle daughter to my son. The only condition being that he cooks and does everything she says… no big deal, right? Needless to say I’m pretty excited that we will be related to them someday. 😉

1907 Apparel was founded on Dawn’s story and a year that changed her life forever. 1907 is a brand itself but it’s also a house to other brands and organizations who are living a bigger story. The majority of the brands are connected to a cause of some kind- adoption, human trafficking, mentoring underprivileged youth, feeding kids in third world countries, etc. Every month the store gives 7% of their profits to organizations connected to poverty, education, and agriculture. So, pretty much your dollar goes crazy far in this store no matter what you buy. It’s quite fantastic, I think.

Every few months it seems there is another campaign going on at the store that helps people and gives back. Did I mention they love people reeallyy well? Last February they sold shirts that helped a family adopt a sweet little girl from China. This fall they sold shirts that fed kids in Haiti. They are constantly looking for ways to love others both locally and globally.

Dustin and I are so honored to be a part of the next campaign that 1907 Apparel is doing. It’s called add ONE and we’re so pumped about it. Here’s the skinny:

add ONE is a line of products that are currently being sold in the store and online. There are tees, leather journals, water bottles, aprons, coffee tumblers, hats, and beanies. During the months of November and December, $5 from every add ONE product sold goes into a pot that will defray adoption expenses for not one, not two but THREE families who are in the process of adopting. Kevin and Sarah are adopting from China. Amy and Ben are adopting from Haiti. We are obviously adopting from Uganda. So, when you buy an add ONE product you will help bring three sweet kiddos home. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? They make it so easy to change the world. My goodness.

You can find add ONE products in store at 1006 Fatherland Street in Nashville or you can hop on over to their website and get you something there. Be forewarned that the hooded tee is the softest thing this side of heaven and you will never want to take it off. 🙂

Thanks for helping us bring little boy Koctar home. This journey has been anything short of humbling.

http://1907apparel.com/shop/

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It’s A Boy

Well, friends. The other week we got the email I knew would come at some point. Ya know, the one with our child’s face attached to it. The one that would ask us to pray over whether or not this was our child. The one that would tell us to let them know if we would like to accept or decline the referral. The one that would potentially make us parents.

I’m not sure what I thought reading that email would be like. My heart pounded when I saw the subject line in my inbox that read: “Official Referral.” I immediately sent Dustin an urgent message that read “CHECK YOUR EMAIL NOW.” My heart pounded as I read it. My eyes welled up as I looked at the pictures of this sweet child who could potentially be ours. My heart broke as I read their story. We knew immediately we would accept it. We didn’t even have to talk about it. We didn’t even have to pray about it. We did, though. We gave it a few days before we responded but we knew. We knew that God willing, this would be our child the minute we saw them.

We knew that telling our families and our friends would be fun but we didn’t know it would be this fun. It has been so fun to read emails and text messages full of excitement. It has been humbling to read the words of encouragement. It has been an honor to be prayed over and be told people will continue to pray over you and now this sweet child. We walk with good people, y’all. This last month has been a testament to that.

So, Dustin and I are officially so pumped to tell you that we have been matched with the sweetest little 3 year old boy… !!!!! We aren’t telling you his name but trust us his name is legit and we kind of want to keep it as is. We aren’t telling you his story because we are having to sift through which part of his story, if any, is ours to share. We aren’t showing you his picture but believe me when I say he is so stinking cute. Like, so cute I can barely handle it. All of this is to protect his right to privacy. We had to sign a waiver, so it’s for real. Even though we are officially moving forward to adopt him, anything can still happen. The timeline is still the same. We are waiting approval from the U.S. and will then send our stuff over to Uganda for their approval. So, we still have several months and two pending approvals before any talk of travel is on the table.

Keep praying, friends. Pray that the process continues to go smoothly and quickly. Pray that we will continue to have patience in the process and the waiting. Pray for this sweet sweet little boy. Pray that his little heart knows he is so loved by so many. Pray that God is preparing him to be our child. Pray that God will continue to prepare us to be his mom and dad. Pray that God willing, we will bring him home soon. This whole adoption thing is holy ground, y’all.

Twins + Shipping + EVERYONE

It’s time for an adoption update up in here.

In case you forgot, I work with middle schoolers. Some days I like to pretend someone forced me into this job and I did not choose it on my own. Other days, I love every minute of it. I told my students that we are adopting and they just could not be more thrilled about this news. It is quite hilarious. It’s hard to explain adoption to grown adults, so I’ve had to get very creative in how I explain it to 12 year olds. They don’t really get it and it makes for some hysterical conversations. I’d just like to take a moment to share a few of those said conversations with you. Please keep in mind, this is my life. Every. Single. Day. Please also read these with as much drama and exaggeration as possible. This is middle school, remember?

Student: “You’re adopting twins!!?? And you didn’t tell me?!”
Me: “What? No. Why are you asking me this?”
Student: “EVERYONE is talking about it, Mrs. Courtney. EVERYONE.”

7th grader #1: “Why is adoption so expensive? Is it like for shipping?”
7th grader #2: “What!? No! They can’t ship it! What if it’s a BABY!?”

Students: “Mrs. Courtney, have you gotten your baby yet?”
Me: “Haha. No not yet.”
Students: “Ugh!! Why is this taking so long??!”
Repeat this conversation multiple times a day every.single.day.of.the.week.

Students: ” Mrs. Courtney! We told our class today you were adopting from Africa!”
Me: “What were y’all talking about that brought that up?”
Students: “Uhh. We weren’t talking about anything. We just told them.”

Bless.

So, let’s talk what is happening in this adoption process of ours. So many of you kind people continue to ask how it’s going and more times than not we’ve got nothing for you. We’re sorry that’s lame but it’s all we got sometimes. So here is what’s been going on over the last few months: we ended up switching agencies and feel crazy good about that decision. With that came more paperwork, another application, and references but a much quicker timeline. Dustin’s company announced it was getting bought and his job security was up in the air; putting our home study on hold for quite some time. Dustin switched over to a new job and our home study finally got finalized. We sent in our forms to the US government to get approval to adopt internationally. We are currently waiting for the green light from them. We are also scrambling to get our dossier together- the ginormous packet we will send to Uganda for their approval as soon as we get approval from the US. So, things are moving and their moving much faster than we thought. This is happening, y’all.

Lots of people have asked what they can be praying for. So here are a few things:
-That we get approval from the US government.
-That we can collect every piece of the dossier without me developing ulcers.
-That we will get approval from Uganda.
-Continued prayers for our child. I’ve been praying a lot for a full tummy, good nights sleep, that they will spend their day laughing so hard and having fun with sweet little friends, and that their little heart can feel they are so loved.

We continue to be so thankful for the people God has placed in our lives. Thank you for continuing to love us well. We’ve got some exciting things to share in the next few weeks, so stay tuned… 🙂

ZERO.

The amount of puzzle pieces remaining:

Remember that time we blogged SIX STINKING WEEKS AGO about doing an adoption puzzle fundraiser? Remember that time we thought our names were going to be covering the puzzle because no one was going to buy any puzzle pieces? Remember that time we thought it would take months to complete?

Y’all. This is crazy.

As of this afternoon… WE ARE FINISHED WITH THE ADOPTION PUZZLE FUNDRAISER!!!

What!? I know. It’s insane. Total insanity.

We’ll do a real post later. We need to gather our thoughts on this whole crazy thing and put this puzzle together so you can see it.

But for now: you can stop giving us your money!!!! 🙂

Whooah, We’re Half Way There

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Everybody now: Whooah, we’re half way there. Livin’ on a prayer. Take my hand and we’ll make it- I swear. Livin’ on a prayer.

That was fun, right!?

So, my thoughts are all over the place these days. I’ve been thinking a lot about Treyvon and how, as a future mama of black children, his story affects our family in so many ways. I’ve been thinking a lot about how a year ago we were in Uganda on a trip that would literally change our lives forever. I’ve been thinking a lot about our sweet kiddo that’s out there somewhere. And I’ve been thinking about this puzzle.

Let’s just talk about the last two today. Okay?

I can’t think about this puzzle without getting choked up. Y’all are crazy. In two weeks we have sold OVER HALF OF THE PUZZLE PIECES. As of last night 381 of the 550 pieces are gone! What in the world?? I’ve cried more than one time standing in the middle of the street while opening checks that have come in the mail. Dustin and I have sent several high five text messages to each other. We’ve said more than a handful of times, “we know some good people.” Y’all are just crazy.

Thank you for loving us well right now. We have felt so much confirmation that this is really what we are supposed to be doing. Thanks for letting Jesus use you. We feel honored and humbled.

There are 169 puzzle pieces left. I started writing names on the pieces yesterday. I am so excited this puzzle will hang in our child’s room. I am so excited that each of your names are on it. I cannot wait to tell our child about childhood friends, college roommates and friends, neighbors, family, high school friends, dear family friends, and friends of sweet friends. I just love it so much. (If you want to be a part of this puzzle you can click here, and it will take you to the original blog post that will explain what we’re doing and has information on how to buy a puzzle piece.)

While I’m so excited about this puzzle and how much this is helping us bring our child home, I also have a heavy heart. I’ve been praying a lot for our sweet kiddo. I’ve been praying that if they are alive right now, that Jesus will protect them and keep them safe. I’ve been praying that they know they are loved. Loved by Jesus, us, and you all. I’ve been praying that someone is holding them tight, giving them kisses, loving on them when they cry, and making them laugh. I’ve been praying that if our kiddo isn’t born yet, that He would protect their sweet momma. That she would know she is loved by Jesus, us, and you all. I’ve been praying that she has people in her life who are loving her well. That He would surround her with people who will hug her, laugh, and cry with her. That she will choose life. Life for her sweet baby and life in Jesus Christ.

Ugh. These are hard prayers to pray. They make my heart hurt. My eyes get full of tears.

Will you join us? Will you pray for our kiddo and their momma?

That’s all I’ve got today. Puzzles and hard prayers. Y’all are the best.

For a direct link to our PayPal account where you can purchase lots of puzzle pieces for $20 a piece or make a donation to our adoption fund, click here.

CK

The First 100 Puzzle Pieces

For those of you just joining us, you are in for a real treat!  Here’s a quick recap:

1) Courtney and I have started the process to adopt a child from Uganda.

2) We have invited friends, family, and total strangers to join with us on this adventure through our Puzzle Piece Fundraiser.

3) Donations have been flying in from all over the country, and the first 100 puzzle pieces are gone!

As we progress through this adoption process, there are several checkpoints that we will come to, and the only way to keep moving is by writing a check ($$$), so we are truly grateful and humbled by the support that we have received from friends, family, and people we have never met.

When Courtney and I decided to start this process, we knew it would be costly.  Once we applied with our agency, we learned exactly how costly it would be.  At first, I thought, “We could save up the money ourselves,” because the idea of asking for money makes me anxious.  Then after meeting with a few families who had adopted children internationally and hearing stories of families who had been down this road before, I soon learned that fundraising would be in the cards for us.  We learned that people want to help.  People want to share in this joy.

So we blogged about it…and people responded.  People donated.  I don’t think I will ever forget the feeling of receiving that first email from PayPal showing that we received our first donation.  One of my college friends purchased two puzzle pieces for $40.  This was getting real.  Then people started sharing our blog on Facebook and Twitter, and people sent messages saying, “Saw your blog post on ___________’s good luck and God Bless.”  How awesome is that!

I told Courtney that I would send an update once we sold 100 puzzle pieces, thinking that would be sometime in the future…

As of today, we have sold 136 puzzle pieces!!! Thank you so much to all of you who have helped us so far.  This is so exciting!

There are still 414 puzzle pieces remaining.  If you would like your name on a puzzle piece, here is a link to donate to our adoption fund on PayPal.  You can get one puzzle piece for $20, or you can donate to get as many as you want.  If you have any questions or would like to send us a check, you can email courtney.koctar@gmail.com, and we will send you our info.

Adoption Puzzle Update, Y’all.

$937.57

The amount that we have raised so far in the adoption puzzle fundraiser. Holy cow, y’all. So, as of last night we have our USCIS fee PAID FOR!! It looks like this now(!!!):

Application Fee: $250.00 (PAID)

Home Study: $1,775.00 (PAID)

USCIS Fee: $890.00 (PAID As of 7/4!!!)

Acceptance into Program: $3,500.00

Home Study Completion: $3,500.00

Dossier Completion: $3,500.00

Travel Approval: $3,250.00

For a total of: $16,665.

The first 46 puzzle pieces are gone. THANK YOU to the sweet friends, family, and COMPLETE STRANGERS (WHAT!!?) that have purchased some. We are humbled and excited to have you be a part of this story. You guys have shown us Jesus this week and we are grateful.

Do I think we can sell the 504 remaining puzzle pieces? Yes… And no. I don’t know. Every day since we bought this puzzle I’ve had moments of doubt. We have to sell 550 pieces!? No way is that going to happen. There is just no freaking way. When I was at Target trying to find a puzzle the options were 300, 550, or 1,000 piece puzzles. Literally my thought process was, I believe in Jesus more than 300 pieces and not enough for 1,000 pieces… so, I guess 550 it is. My faith is so weak sometimes. Isn’t Jesus bigger than a 550 piece puzzle? Isn’t he bigger than $11,000? YES and YES.

Lately the thought, “for such a time as this” has overcome me in my moments of doubt and anxiety. I truly believe Dustin and I have been prepared for such a time as this. Living faithfully is hard. Following the call Jesus has placed on your heart does not always make sense. It’s not always fun. It’s never been comfortable. People don’t always get it.

But, living faithfully prepares you. For such a time as this.

I’ve been reflecting this week on the past year and a half. I remember one month we didn’t know how we were going to pay our rent. The day before we were supposed to submit our rent payment, a check for our exact rent amount showed up in our mailbox. Or the months leading up to Africa when we didn’t have money for groceries and friends dropped Kroger gift cards off or my mom would load us up with left overs after they would have us over for dinner. Or the times friends would have us over for a meal and say that blessed sentence, “you don’t need to bring anything.” Or the time we had a huge payment due for Uganda and literally didn’t have it and the night before it was due the exact amount came in. Or the time we sat and waited for months for Dustin to get a job. Or all the times we’ve had to be humbled and ask for help.

We’ve been prepared for this. We’ve been prepared to wait. We’ve been prepared to wait FAITHFULLY. We’ve been prepared to ask for help. We’ve been prepared to sit humbly and watch in awe as Jesus shows up. We’ve been prepared to watch as our timing never wins. We’ve been prepared to wait for God’s timing. We’ve been prepared; for such a time as this.

There are still puzzle pieces available. $20 per piece. Buy 1 or 50. It’s whatever. 🙂 You can click here to purchase a puzzle piece(s) on PayPal or you can email me (courtney.koctar@gmail.com) for our address to send a check via mail.

Adoption Puzzle Fundraiser

In case you missed it – we have begun the process to adopt a child from Uganda!!!! You can read more about how we came to this decision here.

Adoption is expensive. Like stupid expensive. There is a finance page in the adoption information packet that makes us both want to die. I have had multiple undiagnosed panic attacks while looking at this page. Dustin’s hands get seriously sweaty when he looks at it. We turn into unstable psychos whenever we discuss the finances of this adoption.

The thing that we’ve argued the most about is whether or not we would have to do fundraising. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to. It sucks to have to ask people for money. It’s not fun. People get awkward. It’s vulnerable. The more we talked about it though, the more it became not so much about asking people for money but asking them to be a part of this story. Our kid’s story. So, we’ve settled on a fundraiser and we’re both pretty excited about it.

We’re doing a puzzle fundraiser. It works like this:

1. We bought a 550 piece puzzle. Do we have 550 friends? I don’t even know and I can’t even think about that.

2. We are going to sell the puzzle pieces for $20 a piece. You can buy one for yourself, your spouse, every member of your family, etc. You can click the PayPal link to purchase one or you can email me (courtney.koctar@gmail.com) for our address and send a check via mail.

3. When you purchase a puzzle piece, we will write the name of the person(s) on the cardboard side of the puzzle. Once every piece of the puzzle has been bought, we’ll put it together and hang it up (the name/cardboard side up) in our kid’s room.

I can’t even wait to get to read the names to our kid and tell him/her that these are all the people who loved you before we even knew who you were. These are all the people who stood beside us and helped us bring you home. These are all the people who are a part of your story. So cool, right!?

In the name of transparency, so you’ll know why we’re asking for money in the first place, and exactly where your money is going; here is the layout of part of that God awful finance page mentioned above. In the next couple of months we will have to pay the following:

Application Fee: $250.00 (PAID)

Home Study: $1,775.00 (PAID)

USCIS Fee: $890.00 (PAID As of 7/4!!!)

Acceptance into Program: $3,500.00 (PAID as of 7/15!!!)

Home Study Completion: $3,500.00 (PAID as of 7/26!!!)

Dossier Completion: $3,500.00

Travel Approval: $3,250.00

For a total of: $16,665.

As I’m typing this, no joke, my heart is pounding and I literally just said to myself, “Don’t hyperventilate.” Gah. What is wrong with me!?

So, our goal with this puzzle fundraiser is to sell every piece for a grand total of $11,000. We’d be honored and humbled to have you be a part of this story. Want to help us bring a kid home from Uganda!?

Click here to purchase a puzzle piece or make a donation. If you wish to make an additional donation above the $20 price of a puzzle piece (first of all, that is awesome!), simply put the desired donation amount in the box and proceed to process your payment.