Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Friends are selling their car and donating the money to our adoption! (It's a 2000 Honda Accord, 173K miles, $5000.)

Update: Praise God that the car has been sold! Our cup overflows.

I mentioned a few posts ago that friends of ours were planning to sell their vehicle and donate the money from the sale to our expenses in bringing Zoe Amanda home! This is the same friend who initially approached us about Zoe Amanda's need for a family. We are still blown away and humbled by their generosity.

If you're in the market for a vehicle, read on! And if you know anyone else who might be, please share this information with them.
2000 Honda Accord
173K miles
Dark Green exterior
Tan Leather interior
Power Locks
Power Windows
Power Seats
Sunroof
Moon roof
Rear window retractable shade
Cruise Control
CD player
AM/FM radio 
We just did A LOT of work on it. But we're just selling it as a fundraiser for you, so we'll take $5,000. It has been brought up to excellent working condition by a certified mechanic at a Honda Dealership. He is someone we trust completely! To name a few things...it has a new timing belt, 4 new tires, new rear main seal, new engine mounts, and much more that I can't think of off the top of my head. But the repairs cost us over $2000 (and he charged us less than half the price...so it would have been almost $5000!), so I am confident it is in excellent shape!
And here are pictures:










If you're interested, you can contact me, or email our friend directly.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

so how did this whole crazy adoption get started? (part 2)

I ended yesterday's post - the first part to this story - with a message I sent our friend, asking for more information about Zoe Amanda. Here's part two...

That was January 30. We were sent more information later that day, along with her picture. I forwarded the email along to Lee, with the note below (minus the financial and logistical portions that I'm not willing to share on the blog):
Lee, you know me. You know that it doesn't take much to tug my heart strings, but God also gave you to me as my perfect husband to protect me from my desire to help others at the expense to myself. I was honest this weekend when I told you that I wanted us to pray about it and that I wasn't trying to steer you either way on it. I was honest when I said that I wasn't thinking we needed to do this but rather that we needed to pray about it.

And I need to be honest now: I just saw her picture and learned more about her. And I want to move heaven and earth to bring her home. [...] And I don't know if we can logistically make it happen. I just know that God says we are called to care for orphans in His name, and I know she needs a family, and I know we want to adopt, and I know that I'm willing to abandon speaking engagements and doctoral studies if that's what it'll take to give her a family.

But I also know that God gave me you as the perfect leader for our family and that I trust you and Him. We have to decide fast if we'll pursue this, because of the timing. [...]

Please know that I love you, and I'll love you no more or less if you and I don't see eye to eye on this and I will follow and respect you no matter what. I love you, and I'd love to talk to you more about this tonight.   
We didn't get to talk that night. I can't remember why, but it was probably because we were all recovering from colds.

On the 31st, with Lee's permission, I asked my Bible study group to pray about this. That evening, prior to a special needs ministry leadership meeting, I texted one of our pastors and asked him and his wife to pray. At the meeting - once again, after asking Lee first - I shared the need with our team and asked them to pray for her without mentioning that we were considering being her family; a couple of them know us well enough to call us on it, and we 'fessed up that we were praying about it. Lee and I had driven separately that night because I had physical therapy for my knee right before the meeting, so we sat in my car and discussed everything before us.

The next morning, Lee asked me to find out everything I could about her, about the process, and about the children's home where she was. I began to do that. And we each told our parents that night about what we were considering.

The next day, I set up a phone conversation with the US-based adoption coordinator, and Lee and I decided on a list of question to ask and answers we would need to hear in that conversation to feel comfortable moving forward. I asked every question. I got every answer. Later that night, less than a week after we found out about her, we realized that we no longer felt like we were praying for some girl on the other side of the world.

We realized we were praying for our daughter.

We contacted the adoption coordinator to say yes. I called a friend from church who has a son with cerebral palsy and, after leaving an only halfway lucid message on her voicemail, had an encouraging conversation when she returned my call. I called a few more friends. We decided on a name. We told friends at church on Sunday. We formally accepted the referral Sunday night. We shared the news with our immediate families. And then we posted the news on the blog that Tuesday, holding off long enough for me to be able to share the news with my Bible study group in person.

And here we are now. On a wild and crazy and unexpected ride that is blessing us all beyond measure.

Monday, February 27, 2012

so how did this whole crazy adoption get started? (part 1)

We always planned to adopt. Eventually.

Our first plans were for domestic adoption of an older child or sibling group, with or without special needs.

As we learned more about orphans with disabilities, though, we realized that the likelihood of having a family - even a foster family - for a child with special needs was slim in many other countries. And the story of Kirill pushed us over the edge to consider international adoption.

In May 2011, we put our plans out there on the interwebs, stating that it would be a few years yet before we adopted. In that post, I wrote these words:
After a lot of prayer and research and prayer and conversations and prayer, we're willing to share where we stand in our plans right now. No guarantees that it won’t change, though, because God does his thing (the best thing!) in his time. However, I don’t think it’s unwise to share our plans, just as others aren’t shy about saying “ideally we want two kids” (or one kid or five kids or no kids). We trust that God is sovereign, and we'll be content whether or not his plans are the same as ours.
On January 21, 2012, I blogged that "we decided that we would move toward selling and wait to begin the adoption process until we're in a new home." (In case you're wondering, the house isn't on the market yet, but it will be soon.)

In that post, I also asked, "pray for us as we research a tough topic related to our adoption plans. I wish I could share more than that cryptic comment, but I can't yet, except to say that God has drawn us to consider something we hadn't considered before and that we need to be bathed in prayer." Some friends have asked if we were talking about Zoe Amanda then. The answer? No. We didn't know Zoe Amanda existed then. I don't mind sharing now that what we were considering was adding HIV-positive to the list of special needs we'd be open to in adoption. (By the way, we decided we would be open to that. Here's a link explaining why.)

On January 28, 2012, an old friend from Bible study sent me this Facebook message which began,
You had mentioned a while ago that you might be thinking about adopting a child with special needs...I know of a 3 month old baby girl who is up for adoption in Taiwan with a brain injury that will most likely result in some form of CP. I have no idea if this is something you're even thinking about, but I can give you more info if you are.
In my response, I said I'd talk to Lee about it. In my recollection of the message, I thought I agreed to pray about it, but I just checked - I didn't. Not then. Honestly, I didn't plan to. I planned to talk to Lee, agree with him that the timing wasn't write, and ask this friend how I could spread the word. In my message to her, I wrote out the reasons that it wouldn't make sense and ended with a lie: "I'm definitely not saying no, just sharing with you where we stand."

It was a lie because I was telling her no. I just was planning to do it in stages.

The next day - January 29 - Jocelyn turned 5. As we celebrated with friends, I mentioned this little girl to them dismissively, saying, "it just wouldn't make sense for us to adopt her."

Lee and I talked later that night. We agreed that the answer was probably no. But we also realized that this lined up with the passions God had given us for adoption and special needs, so we agreed that we should pray about it.

I contacted that friend again, asked for a little more information, and added at the end of the message, "Please pray for us, that God will make it clear how He plans for us to help her - be it through my blog or through welcoming her into our family - and that we would have the confidence based in Him to be obedient if He is calling us to abandon our plans and pursue her adoption."


~+~
And part two will be coming in the morning...

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Failed attempts at a family picture...

Before we got a good picture for our dossier to Taiwan (the same on your see on our fundraising button), we had a lot of failed attempts. Take a look at the blooper reel...






















Friday, February 24, 2012

Zoe's four month birthday present: A stone of remembrance

In Joshua, God's people set up stones to serve as a reminder of what God had done on their behalf.
And those twelve stones, which they took out of the Jordan, Joshua set up at Gilgal. And he said to the people of Israel, “When your children ask their fathers in times to come, ‘What do these stones mean?’ then you shall let your children know, ‘Israel passed over this Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan for you until you passed over, as the Lord your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the Lord is mighty, that you may fear the Lord your God forever.” {Joshua 4:20-24}
Skip ahead a couple books in the Bible, and we see Samuel setting up a stone after God acted in a mighty way to give victory to His people. He called the stone Ebenezer, which means "stone of help."
Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, “Till now the Lord has helped us.”{1 Samuel 7:12}
In Joshua, the people remembered God's provision of dry ground and safe passage.
 
In 1 Samuel, the people remembered the great victory God accomplished for them.

In our lives today, we have a new stone of remembrance. 

Or, perhaps I should say, Zoe Amanda has a new stone of remembrance. 

When I initially drafted yesterday's blog post, I shared the deadline of the end of this week for the rest of our first adoption payment to be raised. Then - before the post went live - I thought, That's crazy. It just isn't possible. And even though we needed the money sooner, I changed the deadline in the post from the end of the week to the end of the weekend. I just wasn't sure $1,870 could be raised in two days via this blog.

Two days weren't necessary. We didn't even need 24 hours. It is all raised. The exact amount.

Today Zoe Amanda is four months old. And to be honest, I was dreading today. While I praise God for each milestone and birthday, I know my heart will ache a little every time she is one month older and not here with us.

But I didn't need to dread today. I didn't need to because God's timing provided a stone of remembrance instead.

For me.

For her.

For His glory.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

A breakdown of our adoption costs, if you're curious

I always knew international adoption = $$$, but I don’t think I’ve ever come across a breakdown of that, so I’m going to try to do so in this post. {But first, let me be honest: we need $1,870 $100 by the end of the weekend. See more info about that at the end of this post.}

Before I list the costs, though, consider this: if someone you know bought a vehicle for $20,000, you might say, “hey, nice car!” You probably wouldn’t say, “Geez, that’s a lot of money. How can you even afford that?” (I know some of y'all are impressively frugal, so you might think that, but most of us wouldn’t say it.) However, when someone is adopting and the cost is the same, that censor of "maybe I shouldn't say that" seems to disappear.

I don’t mind. Actually, I expect it. Because we’re having to ask others for financial support, we're opening ourselves up to a little more scrutiny. If I have to ask others to consider supporting our adoption, I want to be as transparent as possible. So feel free to ask away, and I’ll do my best to answer your questions about the cost! 

{And for your reading pleasure, here’s my all-time favorite post about the cost of adoption from Stephanie at Ni Hao Y’all. She uses a vehicle cost analogy too, but hers is much better than mine.}

Before I list our expenses, let me add this disclaimer: these are just our costs. Every adoption is different. Every country is different. Two adoptions in the same country can have different costs depending on the region, the agency, the orphanage, the judge assigned to the case, and a whole host of other factors. That disclaimer given, here's the breakdown for us...

Expenditure
Cost
Home study fees
$1,400
US CIS paperwork fees
$890
Translation fees of documents from English to Chinese and vice versa
$400
Wiring fees
$150
National insurance in Taiwan
$170
Paperwork and agency fees in Taiwan
$6,600
Cost of full-time care in the children’s home for Zoe Amanda from her birth until the time we bring her home
$9,000
Travel for me and Lee (5 day trip, including airfare on short notice)
~$4,000
Re-adoption paperwork in US (required because we won’t meet Zoe Amanda before the adoption is final)
$400
Required post-adoption visits from home study social worker
$500 (2 at $250 each)
TOTAL
~$23,000

Yes, that's a lot of money. Some of it will come from our savings, and some may be recovered via tax savings (though the exact amount won’t be certain for a while because part of it may be on the budget chopping block), but we still need to raise a big chunk. We had planned not to have to raise many funds because our timing would have given us another year or two to save, but God's timing was different from ours. We've had to take several huge steps in faith as we work to bring Zoe Amanda home, but we think she's worth more than a car, don't you think?

Please pray that the exact amounts we need will come in as we need it and that God would increase our faith in His timing and provision throughout this process!

If you'd like to contribute toward these expenses to bring Zoe Amanda home, instructions are provided in the upper left-hand side of the blog. You can donate directly to the children's home - which goes toward the Taiwanese costs (childcare, paperwork, translations, etc.) - or to us via the Paypal link - which will go toward the US-based costs (travel, paperwork in the US, etc.). Of those costs, nearly $9000 need to be paid by the end of the weekend; we have a sizeable chunk of it, but
we still need $1,870 $100. Before Monday.
And then - assuming the car being sold by our friends for our adoption funds sells for what we think it will and assuming our fundraising night goes as well as we're hoping - we'll need to raise another $6,000 via donations before we travel to Taiwan.

Would you consider making a donation? If you could help in any way, we'd greatly appreciate it! 

{And if you can't give but would be willing to add a fundraising button to your blog, you'll find the code you need here.}

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

an atheist practicing Christianity for Lent, and a fundraising blog button I made for her

My friend Dy-Anne is an atheist, but she liked the idea of taking a set period of time to give something up, like many Christian do during Lent. So she posted on Facebook,
 So I may not be catholic (or a theist at all) but I see Lent as the opposite of Christmas. So what should I give up this year?
And another friend of ours - who is a Christian and a journalist - suggested
So I am TOTALLY not joking, but I think it would be awesome if you gave up Atheism for lent. I know sounds crazy, and obviously you can't just not be one, but I think it would be interesting if you like went to church and immersed yourself in the culture and blogged about the whole thing. I REALLY think that would be an interesting social experiement. And especially since Lent has a religious background, it owuld be fitting.
After some back and forth throughout comments, Dy decided to give it a go. She's not giving up atheism for Christianity because her belief (or lack thereof) hasn't changed. However, she's giving up the culture of atheism (discussion forums, books, activities that she associates with atheism) and adopting the culture of Christianity (attending church, reading the Bible, praying even though she considers it to be talking to the air, and so on) for the season Lent. And she's blogging about it; check it out at A Temporary Christian.

As her blog started to get a lot of hits, she asked me if I could give her something to put on her blog that would link to our Paypal account, in hopes that her blog could raise money for our adoption.

So I made this button for her.


If you'd like to add one to your page, here's the code:

If you have a Wordpress blog, that code above won't work for you. Here are the instructions you should use instead:


I have another post coming this evening tomorrow, in which I'll be providing a breakdown of our adoption costs, but I wanted to share this now since Dy-Anne's blog started up today!

Wanna shop for a good cause?
Support our adoption by buying from Wild Olive Tees, Just Love Coffee, or Mary Kay!

First up, biblically-encouraging tees for the ladies...

I love Wild Olive tees. I have more than a half dozen. If you remember when my little guy needed an MRI to check for spinal abnormalities, you might remember that I wore a Wild Olive tee that day, one that reminded me to sing praises.


Well, if you put a shirt from this link in your cart and you use DINGLE220 as your code at checkout, then we’ll get $7.50-10 for each shirt purchased! This code can be used as often as you’d like and as many times as you’d like, so feel free to share it! {Note: the code doesn’t reduce the cost for the shirt – it just directs the funds to us!} I do find that their fitted shirts are a little snug, so you might want to order a size up if you want it a little looser.

Wild Olive Adoption Fundraiser Tees

Next, COFFEE!

Who likes coffee? {Me, me, me, ME!} Well, next time you need to restock your supply, if you order some from Just Love Coffee using this link {https://justlovecoffee.com/zoeamanda}, we’ll get some of the money from your sale.  It's fair-trade coffee, and I hear it's tasty (though we haven't tried it... yet!)

You get coffee; we get adoption funds. It’s a win/win, right?


Finally, beauty products {'cause we all like to look purty} 

I’ve been a Mary Kay girl on and off since high school. My friend Kelly has graciously offered to donate her profits between now and March 22nd to us if you list our name at checkout. How gracious is that?

So if you need make-up, skin care, or other beauty products, go to Kelly's page, place your order, and put "DINGLE" in the notes field.


Of course, if you don’t want to shop and still want to make a donation, you can always donate using the button at the upper left-hand side of the blog or using the instructions in this post!

Thanks, y'all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

honest and ugly, but grateful

Yesterday was a rough day. Basically, we were given hope last week that a large donation toward our adoption expenses would be coming in this week, and the actual amount turned out to be a fraction of what we had been expecting and felt that we had been promised. I went from thinking that most of our expenses were covered to realizing that we still have a long way to go. The "how to donate" post I had taken down last week in anticipation of the donation went back up.

It was hard. Tears were plentiful. 

The hardest part, though, was dealing with the ugliness of my emotions. When I read the Bible and see examples of God doing something huge for His people and then those same people doubting Him the next day or next month... well, it frustrates me. I think in disgust, "Seriously?!? Look at what God did for you, and your hearts shift from grateful to whiny in such a short time anyway? How fickle."

Well, my friends, that was me yesterday. God has been moving in huge ways in our lives in the past few weeks, and I was mad that He didn't move in the one way I wanted and expected. And instead of being thankful for the gift that was given, I was angry it wasn't more.

Yep, an attitude of entitlement is an ugly thing.

I share this because I want to be real and transparent. And because I want you to know that we are not perfect. Yes, we're being faithful in following God's will for our family all the way to Taiwan, but we are unfaithful daily in so many other ways. 

Today, I'm choosing gratitude. I'm choosing trust. I'm choosing faith.

Specifically, I'm thankful that in the last 24 hours:
  • we did have the commitment of that donation
  • we had a friend share with us that they're selling their third vehicle (valued about $7,000), hoping to get $5,000 for it, and planning to donate the entire sale amount to our adoption expenses (I'll be posting the details and pictures of the vehicle later this week!)
  • a popular blogger in the disability community contacted me about donating a $50 Amazon gift card to our silent auction
  • I confirmed March 22 as the night for our adoption fundraiser at Chick-fil-a at Falls Village (mark it on your calendars, Raleigh folks! more details coming soon!)
  • I woke up to two new pictures of Zoe Amanda in my email inbox!
I'll have two posts later this week with info about donations and with practical needs we have, and - to be honest with you - I'm not looking forward to those posts. (I didn't even like asking my parents for money when I was in high school, and I find it even less fun to post about the financial aspect of adoption on this blog.) But I'm grateful that we have the opportunity to be blessed by the addition of Zoe Amanda to our family, so I'll do it. And I'll balance those out with a couple posts full of pictures and stories from our lives (like yesterday's post about Robbie's antics), as a way of making myself feel less guilty about asking for money.

And you know what? I'm looking forward to the day when the pages of this blog can be less about the nitty gritty adoption details and more about random thoughts from yours truly and reviews of books and pictures of our three children.

Monday, February 20, 2012

little boys love mud

even the drywall compound variety. You see the white on the bed?


Well, we were repairing a hole behind little man's bed.


When he came downstairs saying, "Mommy, the goo. Oh, no. The goo," I knew the outcome probably wasn't going to be good!


Thankfully, he only managed to get it on his hands - not even his beloved dinosaur clothing, thank goodness! - and the plastic parts of his bed. It all cleaned up just fine!


Silly little boy.

Friday, February 17, 2012

would you pray for another baby girl who needs a family?

Our adoption coordinator just asked if I could get the word out about another baby girl in Taiwan who needs a family. She's in the same home as Zoe Amanda. She is seven months old. Her mother is 16 and gave birth alone in a hotel room; she was later found wandering the streets. This baby girl also has special needs; the primary diagnosis appears to be schizencephaly, which is a rare developmental disorder of the brain. She is able to track items with her eyes and enjoys being held and loved by the caregivers in the children's home where she and Zoe Amanda are living now. Some short videos and medical records are available for families who are seriously interested.


image source via pinterest
Please pray that God would provide a family for this little girl and, in the words of Psalm 68:6, "set the lonely into families."


If you're interested in adopting her or know someone who might be, please contact me at shannon@dinglefest.com. Because of changes to Taiwanese adoption law, the process of getting everything together and submitted to the courts in Taiwan would need to be accelerated. A home study should already be done, or a family must be willing to have that process expedited. (Ours was done in less than a week, so it's possible to rush it.) The total adoption cost will be $20,000-25,000.




P.S. - Tomorrow I'll have a post with loads of pictures, more in line with the posts I usually have around Dinglefestopia, so if you've been missing those, don't worry... they're coming!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

so you must know a lot about cerebral palsy, right?


Nope.

My MAEd is in special ed, but my concentrations were learning disabilities and autism. I taught special education for four-ish years, but the preschool I was at focused on kids with developmental delays and fetal alcohol syndrome and my middle and high school teaching experience was mostly to kids with learning disabilities, ADHD, behavioral/emotional disturbances, and mild intellectual disabilities.

I'm not incredibly familiar with brain injuries or abnormalities. Physical disabilities aren’t a world I know well, though I technically would be classified by some medical professionals as having a mild degree of physical disabilities in my hands due to damage for rheumatoid arthritis. And my experience with people with intellectual disabilities is limited.  (Learning moment for today: “intellectual disability” is the new term for what we used to call “mental retardation.”)

So what outcome are we looking at for Zoe Amanda? Some degree of physical impairment with a possible side of intellectual disability.

(Can you tell from my metaphor that I’m hungry? Planning for this baby has me wanting to stress eat without the justifiable excuse – It’s for the baby! – for it.)

(Though, considering that I gained more than I should have with my two pregnancies, perhaps that excuse wasn’t so justifiable then either.)

We’ll be setting up an appointment soon with one or more medical professionals to review Zoe Amanda’s MRIs, but the three top pediatric neurosurgeons who have already seen them (before we knew anything about her) have each confirmed that the range of possibility is wide for her. On one end of the spectrum, she could be in a wheelchair and have mild-moderate intellectual disabilities (as a point of comparison for you, most people with Down syndrome who have intellectual disabilities fall in the mild-moderate range). On the other end, she could have typical cognitive functioning and a limp.

Here’s a good link describing CP, and I think the liberal use of “sometimes,” “different,” and “may affect”/”may occur” show well how varied CP outcomes can be. The root of CP is always in the brain, caused by injury or abnormalities that occur in utero, during birth, or in the first two years of life. Zoe Amanda was born at 30 weeks gestation – that’s 10 weeks early – and while lots of babies with CP are preemies, recent research indicates that the brain issues could cause the prematurity or the prematurity could cause the brain damage. It’s one of those, “which came first, the chicken or the egg?" sort of things.

(And now I’m hungry for chickens or eggs.)

We know that Zoe Amanda’s CP is caused by several small areas of periventricular leukomalacia (PVL) that are spread out in her brain.

Peri-what? you say?

Here’s a link for you other research-loving nerds, but my best description is that she has small areas of dead or underdeveloped brain tissue. The fact that they’re small instead of big and spread out instead of all concentrated in one area could be a good thing. Or maybe not. Basically, brains are complex, and a small boo-boo in a crucial spot can affect someone just as much as a big boo-boo in a less vital area.

We’ll know more after reviewing her MRIs with people who know what they mean, but the best indicator of how she’ll develop is how she develops throughout her preschool years. Right now, she’s responding well to caregivers and, other than some muscular tightness in her upper thighs, seems to be developing typically so far; she’s only three-and-a-half months old, though, so only time will tell what the outcomes will be for her.

In other words, right now we have a diagnosis; we won’t have a prognosis until Zoe grows more and shows us what she can and can’t do.

For now, we’re trusting God with the unknown, and we’re thankful that He has called us to adopt so that “having a family” is one thing she can do. 

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

life worthy of love

Note: Today's post and - to a greater degree - tomorrow's will give some details about what Zoe Amanda's special needs are expected to be. While many of you have asked questions and I do want to answer them with transparency, I am taking a risk by posting about this so early in the adoption process. You see, cerebral palsy is something that Zoe Amanda has, not what she is. We want you to love and care for our baby girl as a person, not as a label. In most cases, you'd see pictures of a child and meet her before learning of a diagnosis, but we can't yet share pictures publicly and we haven't even met her. Information in the absence of a baby in our arms could have a dehumanizing effect, and we certainly don't want that.

Lee's approach to this? He just tells people we're adopting and doesn't mention special needs. His take is that everyone will figure it out eventually and he wants people to remember her name and not her disability. Me? Well, I'm sure it doesn't surprise you that I like to learn and offer as much information as possible. 

So read on, but as you learn about the special needs Zoe Amanda has been diagnosed with, please think of her as a kid first and foremost. If you think that might be a struggle for you, then just skip this post and tomorrow's and pick back up with us on Thursday or Friday. 

Thanks.
~+~

I’ve started a baby registry (one on Target, and another at my obsession Amazon), not so much for gifts but rather to help us keep track of what we do and don’t have for Zoe Amanda and what we need/want/desire. It’s helped in an unexpected way:

It has helped me wrap my mind around the realities of becoming a mom to a child with special needs.

I think we registered for a little kid potty for Jocelyn. When I saw those this time around, I realized that I don’t know if Zoe Amanda will ever be potty trained or not.

I considered strollers as something we’d use for a short period with our two oldest, and I considered pricey strollers with high weight limits to be an unnecessary and somewhat impractical luxury. Now I’m looking at brands I would have scoffed at before, considering what stroller might work well as Zoe Amanda grows. We don’t know for sure that she’ll need a wheelchair, but – considering that’s a good possibility – a stroller that can work well for a longer period as a pre-wheelchair option is a wise investment. (Side note: Anyone have a used fancy schmancy one – with life left in it, of course – in need of a new home? If so, we’d love our home to be its next stop!)

When Robbie and Jocelyn were babies, I tried to gauge what type of shoes to get them in each size, guessing when they would need “pre-walker,” “toddler,” and “walker” shoes. Zoe Amanda might never walk. Or she might use a walker. Or the braces she might need could work better with some shoes than others.

For everything we know, we realize how much we still don’t know.

I’m not anxious or sad or upset by any of this. Most parents of kids with special needs have to set aside their old dreams and dream new ones for their child. For us, we found out about Zoe Amanda and her cerebral palsy at the same time. It’s not what defines her, but to us it’s always been one characteristic that she happens to have.

People with CP have higher odds of other conditions – like epilepsy and autism – so we may experience unexpected diagnoses in the future… but we could experience that with Robbie or Jocelyn too. Regardless of labels and disability and all that, we will have a sweet reminder every time we say her name. 

Zoe Amanda

Zoe means “life,” and Amanda means “worthy of love.” Her name explains who she is, why we were called to adopt her, and what God has taught us in His word about disability and orphans. Hers is a life worthy of love. Christ declared that when He lived the sinless life we couldn't, died on the cross we deserved, and defeated death by his resurrection. For me. And you. And Lee and Robbie and Jocelyn. And Zoe Amanda.

In her name's meaning, we’re merely affirming what He already declared to be true.

Zoe Amanda, we have no idea what God has in store for you, but we look forward to finding out.

many thanks to Heather for taking this shot at church on Sunday
and to her husband and youngest daughter for goofing off behind her to elicit the smiles on the kids' faces


P.S. - If you'd like to know you can support us during this process, here are a couple posts about that: {part 1: financial support} and {part 2: PRAYER!}

Thanks, y'all.

Monday, February 13, 2012

how you can support our adoption {part 2: PRAYER!}

Wow! I'm not sure where to start with this one. There are so many requests we could share, so I know this list won't be exhaustive, but here are some things we're praying for...

For our family
  • We know all of our lives are already changing and will change in a big and beautiful way this summer. As we prepared, we're praying
    • that our marriage will be strengthened through this
    • that our children will understand God's love in new ways
    • that Jocelyn - who doesn't usually handle transitions well - will adapt to getting a baby sister, starting kindergarten, and going to summer day camp for the first time, all in one summer
    • that Robbie - who is a momma's boy and fills the role of resident cuddler in our house - will adjust well to no longer being the baby of the family
    • that Zoe Amanda will be loved and cared for well in Taiwan until we can bring her home and that her transition - as everything about her life will change when she comes home - goes as smoothly as possible
    • that all of us - in our immediate and extended families - will be changed for the better in all this

For the logistics of the adoption
  • I'll share more later this week about the steps along the way, but here are the some of the key ways we're praying:
    • that God would allow our paperwork to be complete and acceptable the first time we submit it
    • that the Chinese translations of our documents will be accurate
    • that our schedule would fall on the shorter end of the spectrum so Zoe Amanda can join our family and receive needed therapies and treatments as soon as possible (as a note of explanation: lots of steps in the court process in Taiwan have estimates of "2-8 weeks," so we're praying that each of those steps be closer to two weeks instead of eight)
    • that breakdowns in communication will be rare and quickly resolved
    • that we will remain focused on Christ instead of the sea of paperwork around us
  • We're praying that God will provide for the money needed to adopt Zoe Amanda, and we're praying for God's help in trusting Him in this area. (I'll admit I had a bit of a meltdown today about the moola. During lunch. In public. With my poor husband sitting across from me and fielding the "is your wife insane?" glances from the waiter.)

For health and energy
  • A lot is happening very quickly, which means we have a constant to-do list... and one that will become more challenging if an illness hits any of the four of us. We're praying for protection from sickness for all of us. 
  • Y'all know that the last five years have included the diagnosis of a couple of chronic health conditions for me. While those are under control and treatment right now, the only persistent area of anxiety for me in all this has been a fear that something new - like cancer - would be diagnosed that would make us ineligible to adopt Zoe Amanda. I'm not a big worrier, so I've been caught by surprise by this anxiety. I'm clinging to prayer and the truths of Philippians 4:6-8. 
  • Our kids - who used to be great sleepers - haven't consistently slept well in the past six months. We're praying that they will rest well (which will also mean that we can rest well)!

For home plans
  • We're still putting the house on the market in a couple weeks. We'd love it if our home would sell quickly and a new home that is perfect for our growing family would become available at the same time so that we can sell and buy and move before Zoe comes home. 
  • We're praying for endurance through the home-selling process, whatever the length may be. We know it can be long or short; it can be 100 showings or just one; it can have ups and downs or proceed smoothly. While we're praying for the latter in each of those examples, we're also praying that God will sustain us through whatever timeline He has for this process.

For Access Ministry, the special needs ministry we coordinate at our church
  • We are just as passionate - if not more - about this area of ministry and will continue in our present roles, but we know there will be a period of time of at least a month that we'll have to step back from that when we're traveling and first have Zoe Amanda home. We're praying for wisdom in handling the logistics to make sure we can serve our family well and others can serve our Access families well during the initial transition period.

If you'd join us in praying for just one of these requests, we'd appreciate it. And please join us in praising God for the journey He has set us on!


(If you'd like to see part one of this post, here you go: "how you can support our adoption {part 1: financial support}. Later this week, I'll post part three about practical support we would appreciate, but I have a couple other posts scheduled between now and then. 

And if you came across this post without reading other recent ones, you might want to start a few posts back, with our adoption announcement post and our thankful post.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

how you can support our adoption {part 1: financial support}


I wasn't going to devote a post of its own to donations, but many of you have asked, so here goes...

Here's the reality: bringing home Zoe Amanda will cost somewhere between $20,000 and $25,000, once you add together everything: court fees, travel costs, paperwork expenses, translations of documents, and so on. We had some money set aside and a savings plan in place for adoption, but we weren't planning to start the process until late fall 2012 and we were expecting a typical slow process rather than the fast-tracked (and exciting!) one set before us.

In other words, we don't have all the money we hoped to have saved and we don't have a long process in which to make up for that through a variety of innovative and carefully spread out fundraisers.

If you had asked us two weeks ago about our plans for adoption, our answer wouldn't have sounded anything like the exciting news we posted on Tuesday. Everything has developed so far in ways we never could have imagined and with speed we didn't know was possible in international adoption, and we are trusting that the finances will come together too. (God has already moved mountains to bind us to Zoe Amanda, so what's one more?)

Today and next week I'll be posting about prayer and practical support you can offer without a single penny. We've been asked enough times in the past couple of days about donations, though, that I figured it was time for a post to share how you can offer that kind of support if you are interested and able to do so:
Morning Light Home offers a way for those who wish to help with our adoption expenses to make a tax-deductible donation. A check can be written to "Central Missionary Clearinghouse" and mailed to the address below with an attached note that the funds be applied to "Deana and Luke Pan at Morning Light Home in Taiwan," and you will then receive a tax receipt for your donation. To make sure the donation is credited to our adoption, please send an email to Jeff Land at mlhadoption@gmail.com with our name (The Dingles) and the amount of the donation. Unless you indicate otherwise, Jeff will share your name with us so that we can thank you, but we will not know the amount given. The address for donations is:

Central Missionary Clearinghouse
P.O. Box 219228 
Houston, TX 77218-9228 
From my experiences with fundraising for the NC Children's Hospital and a couple other non-profits, I know small amounts can add up, so we'd appreciate any gift, no matter the size. Just make sure a separate note is included with the check so that the money is directed to Morning Light Home and an email is sent to the address above with our name and the amount so that our adoption is credited with the donation.

Also, we'll be having a silent auction in conjunction with the one fundraiser we have planned - our Chick-fil-a fundraising night (March 22 from 5-8pm at Chick-fil-a at Falls Village) - so if you know anyone who could donate something - like an item, gift card, service, or week at a beach or mountain home - please email me at shannon@dinglefest.com

The greatest gifts you can give us, though, are prayer and encouragement. Thank you for already providing that!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

oh so very thankful

Today was an exhausting day, but the sweet encouragement I received from each of you carried me through. I have loved reading your texts, emails, and comments about our news. I am moved to tears right now even thinking about it. Y'all have reached through the computer and virtually hugged us, and we rejoice that our Zoe Amanda is being covered in prayer by you already.

Thankful.

Last night I had the opportunity to chat with one dear friend on the phone and two others over a latte at Jubala, allowing me to take a break from the paperwork and the cleaning.

Thankful.

After posting yesterday that we could use a crib, I had seven offers of cribs.

Thankful. 

A friend stopped me in the hall at Bible study yesterday to offer her daughter's baby girl clothes to Zoe Amanda. I'm not sure we'll need them, because Jocelyn had a plethora of baby clothes and we've saved them all, but it was still touching.

Thankful.

Lee's bosses gave him today off so we could spend all day on adoption paperwork and so that I could attend a meeting a church.

Thankful.

Precious friends of ours cared for Jocelyn and Robbie while our social worker came to evaluate our ability to parent the girl we already consider our own.

Thankful.

Our social worker scheduled us right away and will have the first draft of our completed home study ready on Monday for us to review to make sure everything is accurate and for our adoption coordinator to review to make sure it includes everything the Taiwanese courts will want to know.

Thankful.

The project leader for the Treasuring Christ curriculum included lunch in our team meeting today, which was the first food I had all day in the midst of all the busy-ness.

Thankful.

Our pediatrician and our family practice doctor each made sure we got the paperwork we needed right away to complete our home study.

Thankful.

GPS helped me get to the pediatrician's office after I discovered that it has moved. (Jenelle, when did that happen?)

Thankful.

The planning team for this weekend's special needs ministry respite event has stepped up in a major way, so that we can focus on bringing Zoe home instead of concerning ourselves with every detail for this weekend's event.

Thankful.

This gift arrived in the mail today. Taitung City on the southeast coast of the country - just labeled "Taitung" on the map below - is where Zoe Amanda lives now, and now I can wear it around my neck until I have her in my arms.


Thankful.

And now? I think a warm bath, a hot mug of coffee, and a good book are in order, followed closely by an early bedtime.

Thankful.

But before I go, know this: thankful doesn't cover it. You all are rallying around us while we fast-track everything to bring home Zoe Amanda, a baby girl we love now but we didn't know existed two weeks ago. While we are heeding God's call in these verses,

learn to do good; 
seek justice, correct oppression; 
bring justice to the fatherless
plead the widow's cause 
{Isaiah 1:17}

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: 
to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, 
and to keep oneself unstained from the world. 
{James 1:27}

you are doing so as well as you pour out encouragement on us. You are expressing your love for an orphan on the other side of the world. You are affirming with us the meaning of her name - "life worthy of love" - as you pray with us. When you gush with us over the chubby cheeks in the pictures we have of her and accept with us the unknown prognosis stemming from her diagnosis of cerebral palsy, you are agreeing with us that she is - in the words of Psalm 139:14 - fearfully and wonderfully made.

I said I'd be posting today about ways you can support us, but that will wait for another day. Because y'all have overwhelmed us with love and support already. 

Thank you. 
Thank you. 
Thank you.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

did you know...


Did you know that the abortion rate is higher than the birth rate in Taiwan?

Did you know that in Taiwan an estimated 90% of pregnancies to unwed mothers end in abortion? (source)

Did you know that only a handful of crisis pregnancy centers operate there, each supporting unwed moms who choose life for their child and each doing so in the name of Christ?

And did you know that our third child is named Zoe Amanda, is three months old, has cerebral palsy, is living in a home affiliated with one of those crisis pregnancy centers, and will be coming home as an official Dingle family member sometime this summer?

(I apologize for my little man's sullen look. He was running a fever when we took this!)
Yeah, we didn’t know any of that either until January 28th when a friend contacted us and asked us to pray about adopting Zoe. We agreed to pray, fully expecting to say no. But we prayed. And God moved our hearts and plans and minds.

This was not the timing we planned, the country we planned, the age we planned, the special needs we planned, or… well, suffice it to say, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” {Isaiah 55:8-9}

This is crazy. And exciting. We’re still in a bit of shock about all of this, but we can’t wait to meet our little girl and hold her and bring her home.

I’ll share more details in my next post, but please pray. Pray for Zoe, pray for Taiwan, pray for us. I’ll also be sharing information about specific prayer, financial, and practical support we’d appreciate (for example, anyone have a crib to spare? we don’t anymore. we thought we were done with babies in the Dingle household, so we gave that away! update: praise God, we now have a crib!), though prayer is our greatest need.

Thanks, y’all.


P.S. - If you see me around, ask to see Zoe's picture! I can't post them publicly here, but I have a couple of pictures I can share in person and via email.