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Saturday, December 5, 2015

Ducking Tattoos Fundraiser

Yesterday I shared a new fundraiser that I'm launching for the Rhodes family. If you haven't seen it, start here.

Let's start at the end since if you come back to this post later this will be the part you're looking for.



The Basics

I am pledging to have a permanent tattoo done of a piece of art drawn by Sam and/or Klemi Rhodes once the Rhodes family adoption grant reaches $7,000!

I am leaving the final decision on my body art up to all of You!

Mandy and Marty have Sam and Klemi working hard on drawing some pictures for us. Once they have a few options I will post them for yall to vote on.


Here's How You Can Earn Votes:

1. Share this post on any form of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Etc.)
     Get 1 vote for each method every time you share.

2. Make a tax deductible donation to the Rhodes family FSP by clicking HERE
     Get 1 vote for every $1 you donate
     (You can also mail a check directly to Reece's Rainbow, just put 'Rhodes family' in the          memo line, this lets every $ go to their fund as nothing comes out for Paypal fees! You          can mail your check directly to Reece's Rainbow here: Reece's Rainbow, PO 
     Box 277, Monrovia MD 21770)

3. Participate in any current fundraisers. These will be added and deleted as needed.
     Get 1 vote for every $1 spent

   Right now there is a tshirt fundraiser going on! 


Click here to order yours now!



Cast Your Votes
 You can leave a comment on this blog (comments are moderated and I am happy to leave your comment unpublished if you prefer) to let me know what you did and which design you want to vote for. You can leave a comment each day to let me know what you did that day. You can also message me on facebook, or tag me in a post when you share. Finally, you can email me at kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com if you prefer!



The 'Fine' Print and A Few Q&As

Let's start with a few questions I've received, and the answers. If you have a question feel free to contact me using one of the methods

Q: Are you really letting them do the whole design or are you giving them a design to color or something? (And a related question: Are you accepting designs/idea/artwork)
     A: I am leaving it totally up to the brilliant little minds of Sam and Klemi! I had thought 
          about laying some 'ground rules' so to speak, but, ultimately decided to leave it all
          in their capable little hands!

Q: Do you already have a tattoo artists? (Related: I know a great artist if you want me to introduce you).
     A: I do already have an artist, he did my last two tattoos (the two that were actually 
        designed and not something I picked off the wall in a shop). I messaged with him 
        before hand to make sure this was a feasible idea and I completely trust his work.
        Plus he is actually a great artist, and I trust that he will be able to turn whichever 
        piece of Sam and Klemi's art that is selected into a tattoo and maintain the integrity of
        their original work!

Q: Is this your first tattoo?!
     A: Nope, this will be my fourth. Although it will be my first in about 11 years. I've wanted 
         another for a long time, but never found a design that I loved. I got my last piece right 
         before I found out I was pregnant with Nicholas. I'm excited to be able to do this as a
         way to help Ducky come home and also to wear forever something designed by some
         of my favorite little people!

Q: So will this run until they're fully funded/home/etc.?
     A: No! There is a time limit. The $7,000 goal is based on what the Rhodes family needs
         to pay, in fees, when their Dossier is submitted in country. So this whole thing hinges
         on the money being there when they need to write the check. Most likely this will be 
         around the middle of January! I know that may seem like a big mountain to move in
         less than two month. But, we serve a big God. A God who is faithful, who provides,
         and who we can rely on completely when we walk in obedience! The Rhodes family
         is faithfully saying, "Yes!" to the child and the path that God has called them to. So,
         I know he will provide! (I will update with progress and a definitive date as soon as
         Mandy knows!)

Q: What if I don't like tattoos, can I vote for you not to get one.
     A: I went back and forth with this one for a while. I know that tattoos aren't for everyone            and I totally respect your opinion and your personal choices! Before I published part 1 
         of this, which ended up being short and sweet and humorous, I had written and 
         rewritten several different drafts that were much longer; sharing my heart, sharing
         more of the story of why I wanted to do this particular fundraiser, etc. But, they all ran
         so long I kept nixing them.

         Ultimately, I wanted to make a personal sacrifice, it may sound strange to you if 
         you're not a tattoo person, but, most of us who have them, they're very personal to us.          Each one tells a story. Everyone has personal preferences, like the type of art
         they're drawn to, what they will and won't put on their body, even things like color                  choices, they're all personal. And, it should be that way, I mean we'll have them                    forever!

         Like I mentioned previously, when I first had this idea, I had a lot
         of ideas in mind for 'rules' I'd put in place, like: No cartoon characters, Nothing from 
         Disney, had to be all black, or only one color etc. etc. But the more I thought about it
         the more I realized these were all issues of vanity, that it's not really doing something
         sacrificially if I put rules and regulations on it. So, I'm letting go of all control. 

         The only exceptions are the location (I wanted it to go somewhere I didn't already                  have any thing for it to compete with. And the limit on the size is just due to the                      amount of time it takes to get the tattoo. I wanted something that could be done in one          session, even if's a long one! (For reference, my largest tattoo took about 6 hours                  including short breaks).

         The size also affects the cost and good work doesn't come cheap! I'm not putting any            limits on the number of colors that can go into the piece, so I don't want to end up with
         a really large and colorful piece that would cost a huge amount of $ that could have              gone into the adoption grant instead!

Well, that's all I can think of for the moment. I wrote this while trying to wrangle four kids and a dog that all woke up with an extra burst of energy this morning! So, if I forgot something, let me know, if you have any questions feel free to ask!

Thank you for loving and supporting the Rhodes family! Please cover them in your prayers, and pray for 'Ducky', for his continued safety and protection while his family races to him, and for his heart to be prepared for all the coming changes.

~Brooke~

   


Friday, December 4, 2015

Clever Title Needed

There are lots of awesome aspects about being part of a large adoption community. But, one downside would be this: Seemingly every fundraiser has been done. Seriously, every time I think I have a good idea, I see that five people are already doing it and I'm like..










So much for that....




Necessity is the mother of invention, and with your typical international adoption costing $30,000+ we're a community of creative geniuses. Some have actual artistic talent and have sold every thing from hand drawn cards and coloring books to painted shoes. I'm pretty sure there have been 5,511 different tshirt fundraisers (in 2015). Just when I think I couldn't possibly need another tshirt, someone comes up with an awesome one, like THESE that are on sale now and benefit the Rhodes family adoption!


Speaking of the Rhodes family, that's why I'm finally here on my seriously neglected little blog!

Yes, the Rhodes family is growing again! They're in the process to bring home this seriously adorable little dude.



 Like their three previously adopted children, 'Ducky' is rocking an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. He will be the 6th child in the Rhodes clan, the 4th boy, 4th internationally adopted child, 4th child with Down Syndrome, and most importantly, a cherished member of a loving family!

We've already done lots of fundraisers to help bring Ducky home. We've brainstormed lots of others, some are in the works, some are just half formed ideas waiting on the backburner....










I'd pay to watch grown men race Power Wheels wouldn't you?!


The reality is that the Rhodes family is just weeks away from submitting their dossier to China! Progress is always a good thing, and in the world of international adoption it also means that a large chunk of money is going to come due. 

During our own process there were actually some darker moments where I dreaded hearing that we had made progress because the funds weren't there yet to cover the next step. (Learning to trust in God's provisions and timing was, and still sometimes is, hard for me).

Mandy says that she knows God has a plan. 

I know it too, I've watched as He has provided over and over again, made a way, often when the way seemed impossible. 

We serve a big God who can do all things. 

But, often He does those things through His people. And, I'm honored to be able to come alongside Mandy, Marty, and family to help move the financial mountain that has to move for Ducky to come home.

I had this idea a few weeks months ago, but kept getting bogged down in the details (Update for 12/4 I still don't have a clever title but pressing forward anyway) like what to call it, how to word it, etc.

The truth is I'm still working out the details, but, Ducky is waiting!

So, in a nutshell this is what I'm offering:



A pound of flesh.




(The two natural reactions to someone offering you flesh)

Ok, so I really have no idea how much a 4x6 piece of my calf would weigh, and I'm not exactly going to part ways with it.

I'm offering it up as a canvas!



The artists?


Sam and Klemi Rhodes 


No, I'm not handing them a tattoo gun,



Sorry Sam

But, I am going to turn a piece of artwork that they create into a tattoo and have it inked onto my lower left calf.

You will all get a chance to determine the final outcome!

Details on that coming up later today!

(And, no, none of you get to hold the tattoo gun either, but if anyone is looking for fundraiser ideas you can have that one! ;)  )

PART TWO IS UP! Click HERE  to go to the blog post with all the details of how you can get in on the fun


Thursday, March 19, 2015

6 Months Home ~ We're Still All In!

Wow...6 7 months Home.
(I know, I'm a slacker of a blogger!)

Two years ago we were waiting to hear that we were officially matched in Bulgaria.

One year ago today we were spending our last full (See I started this on 2/15) day with our son, wondering how we'd ever say goodbye the next day and head back across the ocean without him.

6 7 months ago we walked off that airplane and, finally, finally, our whole family was together in one place. I could touch both of my sons at the same time. Tears are running down my face remembering how happy we were, how overwhelmed with gratitude we were, and still are.











Those first few days at least a hundred times a day I would look at him and silently thank God for his faithfulness. That empty space in our family was gone, the shadow of a child that I carried in my heart for 18 months was here in the flesh and my heart was overjoyed.



Those first few weeks he was rarely far from my reach. I constantly wanted to touch him, tousle his hair, hug him, talk to him.



Those first few weeks were beautiful and happy, they were also hard and at times heartbreaking. Ian was 8 and a half when he came home. 8 years of living in institutionalized settings. 8 years of caregivers who changed with the hands of the clock. 8 years of survival of the fittest living. 

We've learned a lot about those first years of his life since he's been home. I'm sure there's a lot still left to learn. It comes out here in there in bits and pieces, in words that rip this mama's heart to shreds. Words that have made me so angry I wanted to cross the ocean and hit someone. I know that's not very Christ like to say, but, it's true. I pray for those people, for the children still there in those places, for change, for peace, for families to step forward.

Our boy has a smile and laugh that are contagious.



Our boy gets a haunted look in his eyes sometimes that will pierce your soul.


I promise I didn't mean to neglect this blog for so long. I couldn't wait to blog all about our pick up trip and those first few weeks home. But, well, life happened. I was exhausted. We were cocooning, we were busy with numerous doctors appointments and testing. We were adjusting to our new normal.

6 months.

On one hand it seems like that time has flown by. On the other it feels like Ian has always been a part of our family, and I guess in a way he has. The One who writes all of our stories knew he would be our son before he was even born.

Well I'm rambling so I'll wrap it up.

Ian has made beautiful, amazing, crazy progress since coming home!

His English is beautiful, though part of me hopes he always keeps that Bulgarian accent that I love.

He has gotten to experience so many firsts, and we're thankful that he's doing it as a part of our family! He and Nick are getting along just like brothers! Ian is helping Nick to be more responsible, Nick's helping Ian to learn to just be a kid.

Willing to brave the ocean waves, as long as Daddy didn't let go.

First time riding a bike, look at that look of determination, now he has it mastered!


9th birthday party

Decorating for our first Christmas as a family of 4



Brothers (hard to believe they're only 6 weeks apart isn't it?!)

We're blessed.

Our boys are both thriving, healthy, and happy.

We can't wait to see what the next chapters hold!


Monday, February 23, 2015

Comparison: The Enemy of Contentment, Friend of Complacency

It's been said the comparison is the enemy of contentment, the comparing our lives to others causes us to be envious, to forget to be thankful for all that we have. But, I think there may be a greater danger to comparison ~ complacency.

As believers, it's really easy to look around us in the world we live in today and become complacent. It's easy to say that we're doing good enough for Jesus because it's easy to find people doing less. But, our goal is not to be like other believers, it's to be Christ-like, to be His hands and feet, to share the gospel with our actions not just our mouths. Because, trust me, trying to witness to someone who doesn't know where their kids' next meal will come from won't do much. Meeting people's physical needs in the name of Jesus is the first step of sharing the gospel.

I used to feel like I was getting this 'Jesus thing' pretty well. I was in church every time the doors opened, I was doing life with other believers, listening to Christian music. It felt good, I felt good about myself. And, while that wasn't a bad thing I didn't know that I was missing out on a more a much more intimate relationship with Jesus.

My complacency started to shake several years ago when I first became friends with people who were crossing oceans to bring home special needs children, with friends who were putting their hearts on the line to stand in the gap for children in foster care, friends who were giving up their comfortable American lives to go and serve in places where most of us wouldn't want to spend the night.

My friends Mandy and Marty, along with their two oldest children are heading to Guatemala soon. It's how they chose to celebrate their 15th wedding anniversary...not by going on a tropical vacation, but by going to serve the least of these.

The Rhodes family on the day they brought their daughter Klemi home from Bulgaria.


 They'll be staying with our friends Susie and Jack and their family, working with the ministry that they are serving with in Guatemala.

You can read more about Susie and Jack, their family and their mission in Guatemala  over on their blog here. You can learn more about the ministry they are involved with here. Susie and Jack  live a life that totally steps on my toes. See they gave up every thing: a nice home, a good job, a comfortable American life with their 6 children (3 of whom were adopted, one of whom has significant special needs) to go and serve for two years as missionaries to the people of Guatemala.



The ministry they're serving with has a lot of goals, most revolving around being Jesus to the least of these by meeting their most basic physical needs. There are so many families there living in abject poverty, in homes made from mud and cardboard, with no electricity, no running water. The ministry team does a lot of things in the community they serve in but one of the most drastic is providing homes for as many of these families as possible. And, how much does it cost to provide a safe, clean home, with electricity and clean water? $3,000

No, I didn't forget a zero up there. $3,000 is all it takes to completely turn a family's life around. While the Rhodes family is in Guatemala they'll have the privilege of helping to build homes for at least two family's. The first family that Mandy shared, the cost of their entire home was covered by one donor whose heart was moved by their story. It would have been easy for Mandy to say, "Thank you God, you rock!" and consider her job done. After all, they were only asked to raise the money for one home. But, there's another family who needs a home. So, Mandy and Marty are still working to raise the money for this family.



Clicking that link will take you to the GoFundMe page Mandy set up. You can read more about the family whose lives will be forever changed by having a safe home. While you're there you can make a donation and I pray that you will feel led to do so. They need just over $2300 to be fully funded for this 2nd family's home. Please pray for this family and consider making a gift towards providing a home for them. Every $ adds up, can you spare $5 today to change a family's life?

Click here to make your donation!

~Brooke~





Monday, September 29, 2014

The Best Is Yet To Come

This Wednesday Ian will have been home with us for seven weeks. If you count the two weeks he was with me in Bulgaria, we've been getting to know each other for about 9 weeks now.

9 weeks.

It seems like such a short amount of time, and I guess it is since I'm still measuring in weeks.

But, as hard as it has been at times, it seems like he's always been here.

He's the piece we didn't know our family was missing until that day I saw his face almost 20 months ago.

And, I have to say, that even with the hard moments, this part is easier for me than that 19 months of waiting were. He is here with us, I can look at him and check on him any time I want. I don't have to wonder how his heart and eyes are doing because I have the ability to take him to the best specialists that we can find. I don't wonder if he's hungry, or cold, or if he is being treated well. He's here and for that we are so grateful. 

Our God is faithful.

And, we are so thankful to every single one of you who played a part in helping us bring our son home.

I know it may not seem like I'm all that grateful though.

I don't update my blog, emails and texts are going unanswered, phone conversations are cut short, and I've cancelled more plans than I've kept, often at the last minute. 

This isolation that helps forge attachment for our family, it's something that we were prepared for, but I'm worried that I dropped the ball on preparing most of our family and friends.

People want to support us and don't know how because I don't reach out, I don't ask. But, please know that I know you're there and it means the world to me.

But, a lot of the stuff we're dealing with is hard, and some of it is ugly. And, we know that none of you would shun us or turn away if we shared with you. But, the reality is, Ian is going to be in our family forever. We pray that one day he will be past the struggles he faces right now, that our family will be past them.

 His story, even what little we know right now (which I'm sure barely scratches the surface), it's his to tell, if he chooses to one day. 

We believe that we serve a God who can make beauty from ashes ~Jehova Rapha (The Lord Who Heals) can heal us all from our pasts. We pray that he will give us the grace, wisdom, and ability to love this boy of ours well while his heart heals.

It won't happen overnight, most likely it will take years.

That's ok. We're in this for the long haul!

Ian has eyes that will haunt your soul. He's a survivor, but somehow he's survived with his smile, and humor, and sweetness still intact. They're sometimes overshadowed by the hurt that expresses itself in some hard ways, but they're there. They're who he is. He is not his past, his hurt, or his anger. 

He's an 8 year old boy.

He's walked a hard road and most of his life he walked it alone.

Now we are blessed to have him in our family and to get to walk the rest of his life beside him.

Every day I am grateful for that fact.

Well, I started this post intending for it to be an update on Ian, but this has gotten long so that will be my next post which I promise I won't wait another 3 months to write.

But, I wanted to leave you with this.

Yesterday we went to church and my 'Secret Sister' had left a bag there for me. Along with a bag of my all time favorite suckers (Caramel Apple) was this candle. I don't know who my sweet sister is, I'll find out in December, but I'm grateful that she knew I needed this reminder.

And, in case you need it today too...








Thursday, July 24, 2014

T-Shirts For Sale

Some of you may remember that we did a 2nd -tshirt campaign a while back. We ended up ordering extras above those that were pre-ordered in order to keep the price point we needed (long story). So, here are the ones we have left to sale.

All shirts say "Do Something, James 2:17" inside the circle and "Faith Without Action is Dead" around the bottom of the circle.

I did not intentionally design another shirt after a Matthew West song, though I do love that song now that I've heard it :) Whether it's helping orphans around the world or in foster care in your hometown, helping the poor, the widows, or just being a friend to someone in need, we can all DO SOMETHING!

*Please note, prices include shipping to the continental US, if you live outside of this area please see note at the bottom of the blog. Thank you!*

Regular Tshirts
$15 each shipped

Dark Heather Gray with White Print

These are super soft and probably the most comfortable t-shirts ever! They are 50% Polyester, 25% Cotton and 25% Rayon made by Canvas. They run pretty true to size though if you are in between sizes you may want to order up.

Available in Adult Sizes:
Medium - 2 available
Large- 2 available
(See further down the page for Youth sizes and Women's Cut)

 Ash Gray with Red Design

Gildan Heavy Cotton tshirt, 90% Cotton 10% Polyester, lightweight and soft to the touch, super comfortable. These run true to size.

Available in Adult Sizes:
Small: 1
Medium: 4
Large: 2
XLarge: 2
(See further down for Youth sizes and Women's Cut)


Vintage Red with White Design
Soft and comfy, Gildan Cotton Vintage t-shirt. 50/50 Cotton/Polyester blend, these are slightly lighter in person than it appears in the photograph.

Available in Adult Sizes:

Small: 1
Medium: 3
Large: 1
XLarge: 2
(This is only available in adult sizes, see further down the page for a cherry red w/ white design in Youth sizes and Women's cut).

Women's Cut Designs
$16 shipped
These designs are more fitted than the regular tshirts an have a scooped neck

Cherry Red with White Design
Gildan 100% Cotton, PreShrunk, these are very soft and comfy and run pretty true to size.

Sizes Available in Women's:
Medium: 1
Large: 2

 Light Ash Gray with Red Design
90/10 Cotton/Polyester blend, Gildan Ultra t-shirt Preshrunk, very soft and comfortable, run pretty true to size.
Available in Women's Sizes:
Medium: 1
Large: 2
XL: 1

Dark Heather Gray with White Design
The softest tshirt ever! 52/48 Cotton/Polyester blend by Cavanas t-shirts
This brand and cut run very small. The XLarge is more like a medium and the Large is probably closer to a small!
Women's Sizes Available:
Large: 1
XLarge: 1

Youth Sizes
$12 shipped

Light Ash Gray with Red Design
Gildan Heavy Cotton t-shirt 90/10 Cotton/Polyester blend preshrunk, super soft and comfortable tee that runs true to size.
Available Youth Sizes:
Small: 1
Medium: 3
Large: 1

Dark Heather Gray with White Design
These are super soft and very comfortable! Canvas brand t-shirt 50/25/25 Polyester/Cotton/Rayon blend
These tshirts run about a size small!
Available Youth Sizes:
Medium: 1
Large: 1

This picture shows the Medium in the dark gray underneath a S in the light gray, you can see that dark gray medium is almost the same size as the light gray in small.


Cherry Red with White Design
Gildan Heavy Cotton t-shirt 100% Cotton, PreShrunk. Soft, comfortable, and true to size!

Available in Youth Sizes:
Medium: 1
Large: 2

*I will try to do update the availability as the shirts sell, but please email me at kirk_brooke81@yahoo.com before you pay to verify availability!*

How to Pay:
1. Email me to check availability for your order
2. Send the money as a gift via Paypal to the above email
or
You may donate to our FSP HERE
3. Email your Paypal/RR receipt to the above email and include your mailing address.

** If you live outside of the US please email me at the above address to get a price for shipping. Shipping is only included in the price to the continental US. Thank you!

Finally!

After 18 months of prayer, paperwork, fundraising and waiting, we leave in 4 days and a few hours to bring our boy home!

My friend Mandy and I will leave early Tuesday morning on 7/29, get to Bulgaria on 7/30, head to our boy's region on 7/31 and hopefully get to attend his going away party (how awesome is that?!), and then leave with him to head back to Sofia on 8/1. We will spend the next 13 days getting to know one another, sight seeing, applying for his passport, having his TB test and embassy medical and our embassy interview done.

Speaking of the embassy interview, please pray that the State Department gets their systems back up and running. They have been down since this weekend which means families all over the world are stuck in country with their children as Visas and passports are not able to be printed! Our son will have a Bulgarian passport but we will need his Visa to be able to leave the country! The latest news reports say that their systems are back up but it's currently slow going getting through the backlog as they estimate they receive about 35,000 requests each day from all of the US Embassies around the world.

Our NGO thinks that we should be ok, we had some extra time built into our trip and now I am thankful for that time! I'm keeping the possibility in the back of my mind that we could get extended in country, but am refusing to worry or be anxious over it. I know God has this!

We are really close to being fully funded! Our last facebook auction just ended with a total of $507 in high bids! This brings our total needed to be fully funded to just $1,145! I know that still seems like a lot of money and not a lot of time to raise it, but I refuse to worry! In one way or the other God has let nearly $29,000 come in during this process and the money was always there when we needed it to be!

I do have some of our 'Do Something' tshirts left to sell and a sweet friend who just days ago returned home from picking up her new son in China has donated some awesome 'Sailing to our Starfish' tshirts for us to sale!

I am working on the list now with pictures and sizes available!

Our family was also chosen as one of the first families for the awesome 5/5/5 For Families campaign!

I have a blogpost about this great project coming soon too! We would love to see our family  and friends support this effort which helps 5 adopting families a month for as little as $5 per month per sponsor! Click the link above to read more about them, or go here and check them out on facebook!

Thank you again to everyone for all of your love, prayers, and support during our journey to bring Ian home! We are so excited to be so close to the end of this part of the journey and look forward to starting the next chapter in our family's story!