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Empowering Women: Alison Raskin

~ It is my honor and privilege to bring you a very special “Empowering Women” feature on this Giving Tuesday. I worked with Alison during my time at FOCUS and am lucky enough to also call her a friend. She’s truly one of the most amazing people I know. When I first met Alison at staff meetings, I remember thinking how blessed her students were to have her (*I hardly even knew her at this point!). Her optimism, humor, and happiness are contagious, and her faith and heart to serve others (especially her FOCUS students) is inspiring. Alison and her husband, Josh, both work in ministry, serving others every day. They are also on their way to becoming adoptive parents, which as I have learned, is a journey that is anything but quick and easy.

At FOCUS, we had small “prayer groups” at staff meetings, which were the same at each staff meeting. It gave everyone a chance to pray for each other and know that others were praying for their needs as well. Alison was in my prayer group, and for some reason (*God), Alison and her prayer to become a mom had really stayed on my heart every day for the entire year I was away in Milan. I was SO overjoyed to hear that Alison and Josh were adopting. I seriously can’t think of two people who would be better parents!  Click here if you are interested in learning more about their journey to become parents and be sure to read Alison’s Q&A below…I know you will enjoy each of her answers (all sprinkled with her amazing humor and light), and her journey to become a mom is so incredible to me! Regardless of what stage you are in currently in your own life, I think there is so much to be learned from this amazing empowering woman.

*side note: I couldn’t STOP smiling editing these photos and may or may not have some happy tears sharing this post as we speak! Please be sure to read my note at the end of the Q&A!

What is the best part about working for FOCUS?

Oh man there are so many things I like about working for FOCUS!! My fellow staff are absolutely amazing, the work itself is fun, I get to spend summers on Martha’s Vineyard…the list could go on and on. The word I find myself using most often to describe my job is fun, but really the best thing about working for FOCUS is that it is meaningful work. It allows me to spend time with people during some of our most crucial and formative years. As I gain the trust of my students they invite me into their thinking, which is usually both hilarious and deep. I get to share with them the hope I have found in Jesus and then journey alongside of them as they get to know a God who loves them and heals them. Its so cool. One of my students told me last year, “I go to my Mom for advice and she tells me how to make healthy choices. I come to you because I want to hear how to be holy…I want to know what God thinks about the decision I’m trying to make.” What an honor. I absolutely love being able to have that important and humbling role in someone’s life. As humans we long for meaningful work and spend a lot of time, money, and training searching for it— I know thats how it was for me anyway. I’m so grateful to have found meaningful work through FOCUS.

What is the biggest thing that you’ve learned since working in ministry?

The biggest thing I’ve learned since working in ministry is that it is hard….harder than it looks! Its hard because although it is meaningful^^ (hehe) it is not measurable. Before working for FOCUS I was a teacher and I loved being able to see my students’ progress in learning how to read through gathering data from their reading evals and test scores. Ministry doesn’t deal in data and numbers- its messier. You can’t realllllly tell if you are doing a good job or not so you have to simultaneously trust that God is leading you and is doing something through you AND stay open to feedback and think logically/strategically about your work. Its an odd combo. Since its virtually unmeasurable when I feel discouraged or uncertain about where to focus my attention next I don’t have data-points to look back on to reassure myself or to help chart the next path. This year I’ve tried to hone in on compliments and critical feedback more so that I can try to develop some mile-markers for this job, but even as I write this I’m thinking about how arbitrary those comments might be and how God might be doing something totally unseen.

What are 3 things in your daily life that give you joy?

1. My Pup! My puggle, Oliver is a crazy cuddle-bug that brings me loads of joy AND frustration!
2. Praying. Taking time in the morning to prayer journal and be quiet with God gives me a deep and quiet joy.
3. Laughing. I love to laugh and I laugh a lot—I think its my main (only?) ab workout. Josh and I joke around together almost daily and I know having these light moments have bonded us, given us perspective, and are just plain fun. Laughter is definitely one of God’s best gifts.

When did you first start thinking about adoption?

Growing our family through adoption was not our first choice, but I can say with my whole heart that it is our best choice. Josh and I have struggled with infertility for many years. I think it must have been 3 years ago that I started to think about adoption. We went to some seminars to explore agencies, I did some research online, listened to some podcasts, and started a google drive doc with everything I was learning. I began to get tentatively excited about the possibility but Josh was not on board. He was hesitant about adoption but he also really wanted to support me. It was a hard time for both of us. I didn’t feel right moving forward on such a huge thing without him, but I also really wanted to be a mom and was falling more in love the possibility of adopting.

Almost a year ago, Josh was asked to preach in our church’s sermon series on the 10 Commandments and was asked to preach specifically on “Thou shall not kill”…kind of a no brainer. So he decided to look at all of the ways Christians are called to promote life. As he was praying and researching he read about early first-century Christians who were known for rescuing unwanted infants who had been left alone to die in fields. He sensed God say to him, this is what I have for you and Alison too, you need to practice what you preach. Whoah!! So, he came home and told me he was completely on board and asked what he could do to help with this process. I was so thankful God had given him this change of heart. I think the experience was stronger than his previous fears and gave him the certainty he needed to move forward with me in the adoption process.

What has your journey been like since making the decision to adopt?

Once we were both certain about wanting to adopt we needed to decide what type of adoption God was leading us to. I have to admit I didn’t want to do a big-agency-adoption because I knew we would have to ask for money. I had hoped that something would supernaturally weave into place and we would have a baby left on our doorstep (I wasn’t quite that naive but to save space on your blog we’ll just leave it at that) but it didn’t. Then I was connected with a woman who was pregnant and wanted to make a plan of adoption for her future son but that didn’t work out either and I was left feeling helpless to help her. She was in a very dire place mentally/emotionally and financially and the reality was I wasn’t able to help her at all. The fortunate thing about going with an agency, and the main reason we chose Bethany, is that some of the fees we pay go into a general fund which grants free counseling and covers life-expenses to any pregnant women who come into their office needing assistance. The woman doesn’t need to make a plan for adoption for her future child in order to receive services so there is no coercion. There is also no money exchanged between birth-mother and adoptive families (obviously) so that when the woman gives birth she has the freedom to make a wise and healthy decision for her child without feeling like there might be strings attached; she is free from a sense of obligation. This was so important to us. What a difficult decision for someone to make, I really want that decision to be as honoring of her as possible as well as practically supportive.

After choosing the agency we started down two other paths to make this happen: fundraising and paper work! We needed to raise money to fund the adoption and so we started with a huge yard sale with donated items from people in our church and community. We also created a youcaring.com account and did a few Facebook updates.

For the agency, we completed loads of paper work and also did 4 separate Home Studies. The Home Studies varied— inspecting our house, interviewing us, informing us about open-adoptions. Last Tuesday we finished the final Home Study (whew!) which means that over the next few weeks our caseworker will be writing our Home Study Report and then we will be approved! This means that legally we will be able to meet with an expectant mother who wants to make a plan of adoption with us OR we will have a baby placed in our home with us. Incredible.

We are just about to enter the waiting stage…which I hear can be more emotionally taxing than the Home Study stage because you aren’t “doing” anything and so people begin to feel a little helpless and hopeless.

What has been the most exciting thing about the adoption process?

Its actually happening! I will be a mom and Josh is going to be a dad. We ARE going to become parents and we are moving in that direction…and it could even happen soon. That just seems like crazy-talk after spending years struggling with infertility. Although there was tons of paper work and even book reports (yes, I kid you not) it feels good to be working towards something we’ve hoped for for so long.

What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced since beginning the adoption process?

Creating our profile book has been the most challenging part of the adoption process. The profile book is a book of pictures and some text that show Josh and my life. The book is going to be shown to expectant mothers who are considering making a plan of adoption for their future child. The first time I worked on our profile book I had so much fun and I sat and worked on it for 7 hours straight, no lie. Then Josh came home and in so many words said he thought it was pretentious and too Alison-focused (haha)! I can laugh now but I was not laughing at the time! He was kind of right, I had made this gorgeous book but it was more like an “aesthetic-scrapbooky-journal” for me than an adoption profile book. So we started over. What’s been challenging about creating this profile book is that it feels like it is for too many different audiences – its for us in that it reflects our personal life and home, but it also feels a bit like its for our family and friends who are featured in it and will be in our future child’s life. But then, actually its mainly in hopes of inviting a woman (who very likely will be in some form of crisis) into our lives, painting her a full picture of us that also leaves room for her and our hopeful-baby, and shows her what her child’s life might be like if she decides to place him/her with us. That’s a tall order.

I have heard wonderful things from you and Josh about how friends, family, and your community have been supportive throughout this journey. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Josh and I have felt incredibly supported throughout this entire process.

I had hoped that we wouldn’t have to do our adoption through an agency because we’d have to ask people for money…but also because we would also have to open our wounds and invite people in and we would have to be public about something that I felt would be so much easier left private.

We kicked off our fundraising by hosting a huge yard sale this past June. People from our church, some of my students, and even community members I didn’t know brought truckloads of donations. They filled every room in our house except our bedroom!! It was an awesome display of support. Before the sale, I remember driving down the road and seeing one of our yard sale signs where we had written “All Money Goes To Our Adoption!” I knew this was the first time my neighbors had heard our news. I thought Ok God, we are doing this, we are going to put ourselves out there. In that moment I felt such a sense of peace, like God was going to use this in some way, maybe like this opening-up and inviting others in was going to be very right.

The day of the sale our neighborhood was filled to the brim with supportive people (and patrons of our fine yard-sale-goods!) I’m getting a little chocked up thinking about it. And our journey has continued like this, with people being creative with what they have and their gifts and how they can support us. Our friends here in Massachusetts hosted a Brunch for Baby and asked for donations, my mother-in-law is organizing a nature hike near her home in California, a woman at our church just emailed me to say she is knitting an afghan to be used in a raffle for funds and what color would I like it to be.

This opening-up and inviting people in has been good for our souls and I think good for our community.

In the spirit of Giving Tuesday, how can readers support you and Josh as you prepare to become parents?

If you are able to give financially that would be fantastic. An amazing friend of ours has offered to do a matching gift up to $1,000 for any gift given between now and Christmas…so truly every little bit helps!! Check out our youcaring account.

If you are a creative soul, or a foodie, crafty, or love to host consider adding a price tag to whatever you love to do and send the funds our way. I’d be more than happy to help you brainstorm or organize, I’ll even share a google drive doc with you:)

If you are a praying person please pray for us. Mostly, please pray for our future child that he/she is healthy and safe, and please pray for the brave woman who will be making a plan for adoption…for her heart, courage, physical needs, and spirit.

What women have inspired you?

My sisters, hands down! I’m the oldest of three and we all have very different interests and passions, but when I think of strong women I always think of them. They have heart, strength, and beauty and I love them both to the core.

What’s one thing that most people don’t know about you?

Hmm…I’m not gonna answer this one, because I need to save up all of my little oddities for the many rounds of “Two Truths and a Lie” that I play as a youth minister. haha!

What are the 3 things that you absolutely, positively, cannot live without?

~ Leave-in conditioner…I actually have curly hair with a mind of its own.
~ Coffee
~ Netflix…I’m currently loving Stranger Things, one more episode left!! EEEK I am super excited but also don’t want to watch it because I can’t bare for it to end.

What makes you smile the most?

People…I just love people.

If you could go back, what’s one piece of advice that you wish you had heard 5 years ago?

5 years ago was when Josh and I started to try and have children. I don’t know if I would have listened to advice about infertility at that time because I was just so certain that things would work out.

Lots has changed in my life since then…new house, new job, new adoption process but I tend to agonize over decisions way too much. I think my advice would be….“Light a fire under it!! Do something and make the change— trust God and yourself enough to take a risk and dive in.”

 

Thanks SO much to Alison for bravely sharing her journey on the blog! I know there are so many wonderful causes to give to out there, but if you read this and feel so inclined to give to Alison and Josh’s adoption fund, I would be so incredibly grateful! Even if you can only give $5, their dear friend has agreed to match every gift up to $1000 up until Christmas! That’s a huge deal and so exciting! 
Gratefully with love,
xoxoxoxo Rhiana
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