Glenda, a Jacksonville Beach resident, and Rob, a then London resident, both met during a work trip to New York City where they soon fell in love with each other and with picking leaves in Bryant Park together. The Atlantic Ocean couldn’t keep their love apart, and Rob has now relocated to Jacksonville Beach to continue their love story, where he also dropped to his knee one early morning. “Rob took me to Starbucks and persuaded me against my will as it wasn’t warm and I am not a morning person,” Glenda said, “to go down to the beach to take some landscape photos. He then proceeded to find a washed up message in a bottle that I opened to find a proposal message to me, and he got down on one knee then and there! He’d sneakily hidden the bottle in his camera bag.”
On the same beach they got engaged, they recently held their intimate wedding, exchanging vows very quickly before the tide rolled in too close for comfort after the ravages left behind by Hurricane Matthew a few days prior. Though right after the ceremony, their altar fell down in the tide, and the boardwalk got washed away, they laughed through the whole thing as they now will have great stories to tell from their wedding day.
“He always puts my wellbeing first,” Glenda gushed about Rob. “He is loyal and trustworthy. He understands my mind. He encourages me to be my best and keep striving. He is sometimes funny even though he thinks he is always funny.” But she keeps laughing with him anyway.
“Glenda is a people person,” Rob said of Glenda. “I like how we meet new people and how she cares about people. She always goes out of her way to do something to help my stress, or something to make me laugh or just to show she cares. I like her brain – except with Words with Friends game where she beats me most of the the time – grrrrrrr.”
Hopefully now that they are married, Glenda will let Rob win a time or two.
Here are some of the favorites from their beautiful wedding day.
When we stood at the beginning of our adoption journey, one of my biggest stresses was “How are we going to be able to afford to adopt?” My faith told me “If this is what God has called us to, He will make a way,” but my fear told me “Adoption costs more than some people make in a year, I hate how expensive this is, how are we ever going to save up all this money before the baby arrives in 9 months?” In the end, my faith trumped my fear and that’s what won in the end. But it definitely took getting creative to make it all happen.
In talking with others privately recently who want to adopt, the worry about the financial aspect seems to be a common thread in what holds most couples back from moving forward, and it’s definitely a legitimate and realistic concern. We will be forever grateful for the circle of love that surrounded us that helped us to fund our adoption with our online fundraiser and in other ways. And because of it, I wanted to pay it forward by sharing with you some tips for how to fundraise your own adoption if you ever feel led to do the same. Some of these tips we did, some I heard of others doing, and sometimes what works great for some doesn’t work as great for others, but you never know until you try. If there’s anything I could encourage you with, it’s that if you feel led to adopt, do NOT let the financial part stand in your way. God has such a heart for adoption, He tells us in James 1:27 that caring for orphans is the purest form of worship, and I have found through our story and other’s stories, He always always always makes a way. He is a God of turning the impossible into possible, and our story is a living testimony of how He provided beyond our greatest imagination to bring our baby girl home.
Over the years we contributed to others’ online fundraisers to help fund their adoptions, and this was my first go-to to try to use in asking people if they would like to provide a gift toward our own adoption fund. There are great sites like GoFundMe.com or YouCaring.com that are easy to set up and share on social media. We found a lot of people preferred to give their gift via credit card, so it allowed us to be able to accept credit payments, with the money then deposited into our adoption fund. Yes, the sites take a credit card processing fee, which stinks, but we ate the cost of that if it meant that it was easier for people to give. For people who also gave checks, we could also apply that amount given to the ongoing online amount given to continue watching us grow toward our goal. We also loved that people could write personal messages with their prayers and well wishes, and we hope to print this out in the future for our baby girl to read one day of all those who showed so much love to her before she was even here. Through our online fundraiser, we were able to raise most of the fees needed for our adoption, which blew my mind at how willingly so many people loved to help. Social media like Facebook and Instagram is a very powerful thing, and though I had good size of “followers”, I found it was more people I actually knew more in my personal network who gave rather than perfect strangers, so don’t feel like you have to have a large following to utilize social media. But social media was a great way to share it with a larger audience and keep people reminded that we were fundraising. I was so touched how many people rallied around us and gave to our fund through our link.
SELL THINGS ON AMAZON
My husband surprised me with this one when he figured this out. I thought you had to be a business to sell something on Amazon.com, but turns out, anyone can sign up for a Seller Central account as an individual instead of a professional and sell random used items around your home. He handled this one for us, but somehow through their app on his phone, he would go around our house, point the phone at the item, and it would scan it magically, it would find the item listed already for him on Amazon, tell him what the used price was going for, and he would list it for a few pennies less than what the lowest used item was going for. Then once it sold, you print out the prepaid shipping label, stick the item in a box, tape the mailing label on it, and drop it at your local UPS store. We were able to sell about $1,000 worth of stuff we didn’t use anymore around the house, and I was so shocked how easy it was. Things that sold great were technology items, video games, camera equipment, niched books, boardgames, art collectibles, anything with a UPC code that could be scanned. Things that didn’t sell great but I thought would were regular books, DVDs and clothing items. Also, before Amazon, we tried selling a few things on Ebay and that turned into a disaster with a few scammers trying to trick us to send the items before they paid us, claiming they would pay us once they received it. Thankfully we didn’t move forward with that to get taken advantage of, but that was one reason we liked Amazon better because there wasn’t a way for that to happen.
SELL CLOTHES ONLINE
Though Amazon wasn’t a good place to sell clothes, there are so many online consignment clothing places that make it easy to ship your clothes and accessories, they list it and take care of the sale, and they direct deposit your commission into your bank account. I used TheRealReal.com and some other good ones to look into are ThredUp.com and Poshmark.com. As hard as it was to let go of some favorite items I had splurged on over the years, my daughter was worth the letting go.
I’ve done garage sales in the past, some successful, some not so much, and though I didn’t do one during the time of our adoption fundraiser (since we mostly sold everything online above), I had a friend who did during her adoption process, and she had great success with it. Someone at her church organized it to be held in the church parking lot, and they asked church members and other friends to donate items that could be sold with proceeds going to her adoption fund. They also brought in a food truck, and the food truck donated it’s proceeds. She earned several thousand dollars in one day doing this!
Something I didn’t do but a great idea a friend did was sell cute t-shirts that said “Adoption is the new pregnant!” She used Bonfirefunds.com and it made it easy for us to support her, and easy on her end because they fulfilled all the sales and printing and shipping for her.
FRIENDS USING THEIR BUSINESSES TO GIVE PROCEEDS FROM SALES
You know how it is on Facebook, most of your girlfriends have their side business selling Rodan & Fields, jewelry, pots and pans, essential oils, etc. We had several friends reach out wanting to host an event where people could buy from them and they donated the proceeds to our adoption fund. This is a great option for those people in your network who prefer to get something useful they can use in exchange for their gift to the adoption fund.
RAFFLE TICKET CONTEST
For me as a photographer, I held a raffle ticket contest giving away a portrait session for a $25 raffle ticket. For every $25 raffle ticket they bought, they more entries they got, the more likely they were to be chosen at random. I had them purchase a raffle ticket by donating directly to our online fundraising site, then after a week, I put all the names in a stocking (because it was Christmas time) and pulled the winner’s name. After the session, the winner also had the option to purchase any print products from their session, which I also donated the proceeds to our fund. Even if you aren’t a photographer yourself, most people have a family photographer, so ask your photographer if they might be interested in doing something similar.
FRIENDS DONATING SERVICES
Similar to the raffle ticket idea above, some of my photographer friends across the country also ran their own raffle ticket contest to donate to our adoption fund. But if you know anyone who has a service based business, ask if they might be willing to help. Think of your friends who are hairdressers, housekeepers, massage therapists, manicurists, personal stylists, event planners, etc. Think of things that people might want to indulge in, but get for a cheaper price. For example, a massage at a fancy spa can go upwards of $100 for an hour, so if they could win it for $25 raffle ticket, they are more likely to enter the contest.
This is something you will need to pray about because it can be a topic that some people may have different thoughts about. Some people believe a tithe should only go to the church. My personal belief in what I understand from scripture is that a tithe can also be used to help others fulfilling biblical missions. We give most of our tithe to the church, but from time to time when I see someone raising funds for a biblical purpose, such as a missionary, we give our tithe to them instead so we can help them go spread the gospel. And similarly, we saw adoption as our biblical mission in how there are so many references to orphan care all throughout scripture. So after praying many months about it, we felt led to give our own tithe to our adoption fund during the time we were fundraising. And even more beautiful, without asking, we had others willingly tell us they felt led to do the same, giving of their tithe to our fund over several months. As hard as it can be to tithe, God has continued to show me over and over and over how He will always take that seed and multiply it in ways beyond what I could ever imagine. Even in the seasons where money is tight and the financial forecast doesn’t look the greatest, we continue to tithe. He has never let us down and continues to always provide. One of my favorite verses on this topic I hold dear is: “ ‘Bring to the storehouse a full tenth of what you earn so there will be food in my house. Test me in this,’ says the Lord All-Powerful. ‘I will open the windows of heaven for you and pour out all the blessings you need.'” -Malachi 3:10
Most churches have a huge heart for adoption because of God’s heart for orphan care. Many churches have resources, or grants, or can take up an offering during the service to help their members raise money to adopt. Talk to your church leaders about the options available how they can help.
We started our adoption fundraiser in November, so in our Christmas cards we sent out in December, we included a letter that explained how we were fundraising for our baby on the way through adoption, and asked if they would consider giving a Christmas blessing to our adoption fund. We included the link where they could donate, and asked family and close friends to donate to that in lieu of a usual Christmas gift. Little tip, shorten the link on the card by using bit.ly instead of making people type in a long link.
There are many organizations who provide grants for those adopting. Our adoption happened so quick that we didn’t have time to pursue this, but here is a link a friend provided with a starting place of grant resources available.
This one took overcoming a lot of pride. Growing up as a very independent only child and business owner, I have never been one to ask others for help. I don’t even like to outsource much in my business because I like to do it all myself. But when it came to asking people to give to our adoption fundraiser, as hard and weird and uncomfortable as it can feel, I saw it as my very first “Momma Bear” moment of fighting for my child, even if that meant overcoming my own pride to ask for help. I also clung to Matthew 7:7: “Ask, and God will give to you. Search, and you will find. Knock, and the door will open for you.” So before ever asking the first person, I asked God how we would ever be able to afford adoption after losing a lot of money on fertility treatments, and He told me it would be given to us. So I moved forward in faith, and started asking others. As much as I started to feel like I was posting about it too much on my Facebook and Instagram feeds, everytime I posted, more donations came in. As time went on, I even had a handful of others tell me to keep posting because it gave them reminders in the midst of their busyness while waiting for money to come in that they wanted to contribute later on. And with how much all the social media algorithms mess everything up, not everyone even sees all your posts in the right order, so it’s important to keep posting about it. Also, even if people can’t contribute financially, people love getting creative with you on other ways they can help you raise money, so don’t be shy in asking for their brainstorming input on how you can maximize every one’s creative gifts to come together for this beautiful cause.
CREDIT CARDS OR A LOAN
Our goal was to adopt debt free, which we mostly were able to until the very end when some unexpected expenses popped up beyond what we were able to fundraise. So last case scenario, we had to put our remaining fees on the credit card to pay off over time. I do not encourage anyone to go into debt for their adoption, but I am grateful that we had it as an option for a back up plan. And if you do have to go this route, at least find a credit card that gives cash back or helps you rack up some amazing points toward a future vacation or something with your little one!
I hope these tips help you as you pursue adoption, or at least consider it. As I look at my sweet girl each day and all her smiles and giggles, I am reminded that she was so worth all the efforts to do everything we possibly could to help make our adoption possible. I pray that you receive a similar circle of love surrounding you and your future child the way we received so much love circling around us and our sweet miracle.
Faith, like true faith, not just get up and go to church on Sunday, is one of the hardest things to do. I have learned, faith is not frilly and fluffy raise your hands and sing “Hallelujah!” Faith is not “God is so good,” which, yes He IS good, but faith at the very core is believing He still is good even when nothing else makes sense around us. Faith, at the very foundation of what faith is… is… well… hard.
Faith is… still believing through tears of prayers unfulfilled.
Faith is… dropping to your knees when you barely know how to stand with all of life’s weight on your shoulders.
Faith is… believing in a God, Savior, King that you can’t see, but knowing with all your heart He exists.
Faith is… trying with everything not to doubt, yet trembling in fear, and needing just a little reassurance sometimes that God hasn’t forgotten us.
This morning, I read the story of Gideon, and was so relieved to see, here he was, this normal average guy God used in a big way, who went on to become a hero of the bible, and even he still had doubts in his faith. Here he was, a weak man, the least important member of his family, and God still called him a “mighty warrior.” He doubted he had what it took to conquer a calling God was asking of him. He doubted so much that he even tested God. This weak man tested our strong God. Whew, the courage… But sometimes (cough cough, all the time for me) we need that reassurance that, yes, indeed, God IS with us. God is WITH us. God is with US.
What is God calling you to that you know deep down He is stirring in your heart, yet you don’t know if your faith is strong enough to conquer? Are you moving forward in faith like a super Christian, or are you shaking in your boots like Gideon was? I know for me, it has always been the latter when I have felt God ask me to accomplish something for His kingdom, as strong as I try to be in my faith always failing miserably. But here’s what I took away from reading Gideon’s story in Judges 6-7 this morning that I want you to be encouraged with as well.
God uses the weak.
When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon with His instructions to rescue the Israelites from the Midianites, Gideon was quick to remind the Lord of His incapabilities in Judges 6:11-16. “Lord, how can I save Israel? My family group is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least important member of my family,” Gideon said questioning this whole mission. What was God’s response? Simple and sweet. “I will be with you.” The Lord doesn’t take excuses. He even calls Gideon a “mighty warrior.” Because the Lord knows that while we are weak, He is strong. And really, that’s all that matters. Not how capable we are. Not how much we have up our sleeve to help us, or the big army behind us. Not all the money in the world, or the fanciest of gadgets. Not thinking we are strong. Nope, God calls the weak, because it is in our weakness, His strength is made known.
We don’t need the answers of how.
When Gideon was being called to um, conquer the impossible, he didn’t have all the answers of “how” it would happen. He even questioned God through offering a sacrifice, just to really make sure that this was HIS calling and that he was hearing from the Lord correctly. But often when we are called to conquer the impossible, God does not reveal the game plan of how it’s going to go down. All He simply wants is for us to trust and be secure, not doubting, as He responded to Gideon with only one simple phrase, “I will be with you.” And what I love is after his sacrifice, God threw in a few exclamation points to reinforce His point that He had Gideon’s back: “Calm down! Don’t be afraid! You will not die!” (Judges 6:23) How often do we need those exclamation points to reinforce God’s seriousness when we want to overreact at the things He asks of us. We don’t need the answers of “how” it will all go down, we just need to trust the One leading us. And calm our butts down. Exclamation point.
It’s OK to test God about a calling.
Even after Gideon’s sacrifice where God confirmed his calling and spoke to him FACE TO FACE, the night before he defeated the Midianites, Gideon still questioned if the Lord was really going to be with him in his upcoming battle. So Gideon tested Him, not once, but TWICE, with a challenge. And each time, the Lord showed up and showed off (Judges 6:36-40), reminding him yet again, YES GIDEON. If the Lord’s mightiest warriors are known to question the Lord, I say that’s ok for us average warriors too.
God likes to keep it simple.
Often times I find myself thinking in order to conquer the circumstances swirling around me, that it requires a complicated prayer or a complicated action plan to gain the victory. But then I’m reminded, all God used for David to take down a giant was a stone. And for Gideon, God tore down his army from 32,000 soldiers to simply 300 soldiers to conquer the Midianites. Um, hello, I would have been shaking in my boots a little bit with such a small army behind me. But while he might have had a small army, he had a BIG God. And why would God cut his army to so small? Because God wanted the credit for the victory, not in the numbers of a large army thinking they saved themselves (Judges 7:2).
Victory is found through shouting.
One of my greatest prayer warriors taught me a valuable lesson before she passed. She said, don’t just read the word, don’t just speak the word, SHOUT the word! Because faith come from hearing as God’s word tells us in Romans 10:17. And sometimes, in order to claim our victory, we need to hear God’s promises very loudly for it to truly sink in! And Gideon instructed his army to do just that. As they approached the camp of the Midianites, it wasn’t a casual “Oh hello, nice to see you, don’t mind us while we conquer you.” No, he instructed them that they would blow their loud trumpets and SHOUT “For the Lord and for Gideon!” Because the greatest battles of our faith require giving it everything inside of us to believe our victory is waiting on the other side. And with lots of exclamation points.
TRUTH TO TUCK IN YOUR HEART:
“For this reason I am happy when I have weaknesses, insults, hard times, sufferings, and all kinds of troubles for Christ. Because when I am weak, then I am truly strong.” -2 Corinthians 12:10
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth; burst into songs and make music.” -Psalm 98:4
“Don’t be afraid of anyone, because I am with you to protect you,” says the Lord.” -Jeremiah 1:8
“Do I need to give you more examples of faith? I do not have time to tell you about Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets. Through their faith they defeated kingdoms. They did what was right, received God’s promises, and shut the mouths of lions.” -Hebrews 11:32-33
PUT IT INTO ACTION:
What area of your life do you need to trust God more where He is telling you to calm down and not be afraid? Think of that, and starting by shouting the truth’s above over that thing.