Tuesday, February 4, 2014

two weeks in

Some times "thank you" seems so inadequate.

Two words to try and express appreciation for a community that has held you up, supported you and still prays for you, hurts with you, hopes with you, cries with you and laughs with you.

We have needed every bit of that these past two weeks.

Seems unreal to think it has been two weeks today since life turned slightly upside down.

I'll be honest - at times we hid out.

That first weekend we took the girls and went to Chicago for some time as a family to absorb what had happened, hold tight to each other, and just be together.  It was so needed and so good for us.

There were a lot of different dynamics going on that first week - yes we were still grieving and in shock and just absorbing a different reality than we had planned on - but there was just alot going on within our story that I think kept the grief from hitting as deep beyond what we were able to share.

A week ago some large details happened that changed this dramatically and we were left with a pretty clear reality and the grief hit hard.

Grief is a funny thing.  Some days you feel you can manage it.  Some days it is there but in the distance.  Parts of days feel normal. Then other times it comes from nowhere and takes over.  Tuesday and Wednesday it managed me and laid me on my back.  Literally.  We grieved deeply what was lost and the way that lost seems tangible in almost every area of our lives.

I know we need those days.  You can't move forward without those days where you feel and cry over all the loss holds.  It affects our hearts, our home's make up, our calendar, our budget, our prayers, our pictures, our relationships.

I am not trying to be over dramatic . . .it is just the reality of where we sit.  Family gatherings look different than you expect, friends you are looking forward to walking similar journeys alongside still walk those as you absorb a different one, budgets look different, and time off plans suddenly have to be discussed as Ethiopia becomes a possibility that needs planning and foresight for even as you grieve and want to pause. There is the reality of stepping back into an unknown wait.

And yet through it all, friends have prayed and reached out.  I was trying to explain it to one friend that not only do you love and absorb the connections that remind you others are hurting alongside you and praying for you in the hard . . .but you love and crave the reminders that they are thinking of you in the day to day and moving forward with you.

I remember one friend texting me a totally random text about a tv show and that was all it was about.  And I laughed and gave thanks for it . . .because it kept me moving forward and reminded me that grief is not all that defines us right now.  That text may have meant as much as any other that day.

Last week was hard but in different ways as we stepped into the reality that we are now in.

There was good moments in there - almost normal moments - but again hard ones as snow days drifted away, activities resumed and our new reality became more real.  Workout classes you go back to where people ask if we are home with the baby with hope and excitement in their eyes.  Neighbors that come out of their homes and ask for any news and update.  Preschool teachers exclaim "you're back already!" and excitedly wait for the update.

God has been so gracious through those encounters and I know He will continue to be as they are going to continue for the next little while.  I feel as badly, if not worse, for the people asking as they feel for me because I know how awful they feel for asking when they hear. I don't ever want them to feel badly for caring and hoping alongside us.  That has meant so much.  And as hard as that reality may be to revisit as we tell them we are walking a different journey, I can't begin to consider walking this journey alone.

This past weekend held alot of tender moments.

The crib had been moved to our bedroom. Thursday night I looked at Ryan and asked if we could move it over the weekend as my heart couldn't handle any longer having that be the first thing I looked at each time I stepped into our room.

So Saturday as Ryan took apart the crib to store in our basement, I finally unpacked baby boy's suitcase and emptied our dresser of the clothes we had collected.  There were tears and there were prayers for redemption in this loss and for the faith to trust God for the beauty we know He has within it.  And as only He could, He timed the most perfect expression of love of a friend right as I folded and packed and prayed and cried.

Saturday afternoon we got to have a super fun visitor in my 16 year old niece.  My girls were so excited and it was so special to have her.  She sweetly offered to babysit so Ryan and I could get out for a couple hours which ended up being a blessing for a whole different reason than she might have thought . . .

Ryan and I spent our time out making returns for baby boy of the items we decided not to keep and hadn't washed.  A friend had offered to do those for me but the more I considered it, we needed to be the ones making those returns.  To hand them to her felt like denying a reality that we needed to accept and almost harder. While it was tender, to be able to have Ryan with me and just handle each stop together felt healing.  It was almost a slow acceptance and determination that we are still a family and are going to be ok.  God was with us at every stop, even one particularly rough one, and when we returned home it felt good to step into a fun evening with family and making memories and enjoying time together.

Sunday we returned to church for the first time.  I felt anxious but fairly calm until we sat in church and I sat down and the emotions came.  Sitting there brought the grief again. . .as every part of us had been hoping the next time we went to church would be with a little bundle snuggled in our arms.  Arms felt painfully empty that morning. But God.

One of the things that has been so clear and real to me this whole journey of the past two weeks is that we are not the only family walking hard.  I don't mean that in a trivial way.  I don't mean that in a melodramatic way.  It is just a very real statement of what others are walking around us even as we grieve.

I can rattle off a dozen families I know personally and love that are walking their own deep journeys of grief and heartache and their own trampled dreams. . .many of them walking journeys that are harder and deeper.

We are not alone.  We are not exceptional.  We are not abandoned in it.

But it is a heartbreaking reality of a fallen and broken world we find ourselves in and I am so deeply grateful to know that Jesus sits with each of us in our hard, cries each tear alongside us, and promises to right all that is wrong at the end.  In fact He promises to not only make it right, but more beautiful than we can imagine or desire even if it is on the other side of heaven.

Yesterday was a good day. In fact, I would dare to call it a great day in light of the past few.  Laughter came easily to our home yesterday and I felt present with our girls in a way I haven't the past couple of weeks.  It just felt like a whisper of hope in our hearts for our family and our future and I just felt at peace as I looked at our family, our girls and this season.

I felt the grace to look forward as opposed to back.

I was so thankful for that and just texted that praise to some friends at the end of the day.  I don't expect there not to be hard days ahead, tears flow even today as I write, but I just feel the hope for what God has yet to write.

The truth is? That even as we grieve, we firmly believe the risk was worth all this.

We look back and would make every "yes" all over again.

We are choosing to believe this journey was more than just about our family.  And yet we see bits of the fruit for our family too. Last night, as Ava said her prayers before bed, she thanked God that our baby brother was born healthy, prayed he would stay safe . . .and then prayed the sweetest prayer for birth mom by name as well.

Fruit.  Deep.  Real.

Our girls are learning some beautiful lessons about love, compassion, grief . . .and God's faithfulness in all of it.  While it is hard for us to know they still hurt, too, over a baby brother that didn't come home, I am hoping they are also learning that God is big enough for all the voids in their hearts and that to love big is still worth the risk every time.

I am hoping that somewhere in our mess and our hurt, they are seeing that God's grace is there in the hard and sustains us and carries us and gives us hope even when we don't see the other side of this story yet.

At one part of the service on Sunday, they read from Ephesians 3 some very familiar verses:

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness of God. Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen."

Those are neat verses.  But where God spoke to me was in the very verse right before these that wasn't read and my eyes just planted on.  Other versions read a little differently, but for that day, God knew just how it needed to read for me that day right before that bigger passage that begins "For this cause . . ."

The verse reads:

"Wherefore I desire that ye faint not at my tribulations for you, which is your glory.  For this cause . . . ."

We didn't desire to walk this hard or this grief.  But we are holding tight to the truths that we are being prayed for in it, strengthened in it, grown and rooted in love in it and comprehending God's love in new ways.

Thank you for every way you have been a part of that.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When the cost is great, He is greater still.

It's been a long few days.

It's been a different few days than we thought.

It's been raw, emotional, numb  . . .yet even sweet.

Sweet because of so many of you.

Tears have come because of what we are walking and the ache it brings.

Yet tears have just as often come because of the countless messages, texts, emails and calls from the body of Christ.  You have stood with us so beautifully.  Cried with us.  Prayed for us.

We have been loved as extravagantly as we grieved.

There are no words.

In some of my weakest moments when all I could do was sit on our stairs and cry . . .I have felt held.

I have seen God provide for our girls beyond what we could have hoped.  And oh they have been a blessing amidst it all.  To still hear their giggles and have their hugs.  To see them moving forward  amidst the questions and prayers for "baby brother" reminds us to do the same.

I have felt the prayers as Ryan and I have stood in this together, hurting, but so thankful to have each other amidst it all.  I told him I am beyond thankful to be married to be a man who is willing to say "yes" to God even when it opens us up to be vulnerable and is willing to love deeply enough it leaves us open to grief.  We have felt His grace in the moments He reminds us this hasn't broken us and He whispers we will be ok.

The last 24 hours especially have been a whirlwind.  Some things happened in birth mom's life that left a window of hope that a last minute phone call might still come and allow us to go and bring home our son before events would transpire that could not be reversed.

While we don't know 100% that it all has moved forward in a way that would permanently close this door to us, based on our last connection with her, that is our assumption and the way we are moving forward in our hearts.

Would we love a phone call tomorrow proving us wrong?  Yes.

But we aren't expecting it.

We have been thankful, so, so thankful, that birth mom has continued communicating with us through this all despite disconnecting from some others during it all.

It is how we found out baby boy was born.  7 lbs, 5 oz and 20 inches long and came a day earlier than planned when birth mom's water broke.

We even were sent a picture.  It broke us to see but I will forever treasure it.  I have said over and over that to not have that picture would be a million times harder than it was to receive it.

I will be honest and share that this story has progressed in a way we wouldn't have hoped.  It is hard to see the better in this as events have unfolded in birth mom's life and this baby boy's life.

But God continues to challenge me not to doubt that His love for this mama and baby go far deeper than our own.  He has challenged me what it means to hold things loosely.

These have been times in the past day I have wanted to fight for what felt like ours.  And yet God had begun weaving a different story.  And instead of grabbing tight He was telling us to love extravagantly and give our support where it felt most hard to do.

This is not where we would choose to end up.  That has been clear every time I step over a packed suitcase or walk by the crib in our room.

Yet I am firmly clinging to the truth that God did not bring us here to abandon us.

I look over every single day of our adoption journey since that first day we moved forward a little over 3 years ago . . . .and I wouldn't go back for a second even knowing where we stand today.

God has gloriously wrecked us, is still wrecking us, but in a way I pray leaves us more moldable and usable to Him.

We are holding tight to the promise that He sees a bigger picture than we can right now. 

We are holding tight to the promise that He is the redeemer of broken things.

Please keep praying.

There are sweet moments amidst it all.  Precious moments.  Times where laughter and nonsense conversations are such a gift and friendship a blessing. Life can feel sweetly almost normal. And there are moments that are raw and tender and often unexpected and the tears flow.  We are trusting God to just continue to carry us through those waves that will inevitably still come and to continue writing our family's story as only He could.

And as He does, this is the cry of my heart.

Thanks for standing with us.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

when life is messy

Some posts you don't want to write.

This is one of them.

There is no easy way to write this but we received a text late tonight from our birth mom that she has changed her mind and now wants to keep her baby boy.

We have spent some time on the phone with caseworkers from our agency - to say we are all shocked by this is an understatement.

Alot has happened in 24 hours that none of us foresaw and we are trying to absorb, regroup and understand where we go from here.

There is alot of unknown still truthfully.

There is still a question mark if this is final . .. which I will admit is scary for me to write as well.  To leave the door open to hope seems so vulnerable right now as we just try to wrap our minds and hearts around the words we read and its implications for our family.

I will just be bold and say it would be a miraculous answer to prayer if this baby boy could still be our son for so many reasons.

This is what we will not do - we will not rob birth mom of her choice.  Our hearts are broken and break further when I think of three little girls upstairs who went to bed prepared to send us off tomorrow to meet their baby brother.  But  I can't be a mother to those three precious girls and not empathize with all this birth mom has to be experiences and processing during some extremely stressful situations in her life.

There is nothing easy about adoption.  It is beautiful and glorious . . .yet it is full of heart break and loss.  And tonight, we are having to experience that loss in a way we never hoped or prayed.  I have to think and trust that God is going to use this, in some way, at some time, for His glory.  It is all I can cling to right now as we head to bed with so many questions.

Maybe we should have waited for more answers to these questions before we shared. But truthfully, I couldn't bear to start the day with so many hoping and praying alongside of us and believing we were getting on a plane.  You all have held us up more beautifully than I could have ever imagined this past week.

As of right now, we have canceled our immediate travel arrangements and are in holding to see what the next 72 hours holds.  We lean on your prayers and your grace as we sit here in this limbo.

As I head up to bed, I am clinging to words that I shared in passing with a friend I encountered yesterday.  As she sweetly shared how she has been praying and praying for us and would continue to, I told her how much we have been held by those prayers.  Then I said words that I am praying I will not forget.

I told her that part of the peace God has given us to this point has been that even with an uncertain future, we know without a doubt that we are where He asked us to be.   Those are hard words to type right now as the tears stream down.

We are clinging to that tonight.  Falling before Jesus with that tonight.  And trusting that He see a story we don't see fully yet. . . and that our hearts, and our girls hearts, are still safely in His hands.

Thanks for how much each of you has been Jesus to us these past weeks with your words and prayers.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The end stretch . . .and what to expect

Baby arrives in FIVE days.

Absolutely crazy, surreal, and amazing to write that.

A friend asked me the other day how I was feeling.

When I wrote last week, we were sitting in some hard spots and anxiety was definitely higher.

Don't get me wrong, the anxiety still rises up at times. But when my friend asked, I decided that overall, the main feeling I hold right now is relief.

I feel relief to know that in a week we will know; to no longer be walking this road of hoping and wondering and "what if?!"  To know if I can sit freely in soaking in that we have a son or if we are walking a different road of faith.  We ache to know and be able to say he is our son.  But we are taking each day as it comes and re surrendering how this all goes.

In the meantime we are in planning mode as we step forward in faith.  Who knew it would take the 4th child to make me finally have some nesting urges (not being pregnant myself may help that)?!?!

Bathrooms are scrubbed, some food prepared, house is slowly being cleaned and picked up, store room has been sorted through (because that is a necessity before baby - didn't you know?!), shopping trips for essentials and piles of things we might need are being put together in his bedroom to get ready to pack.

You forgot how many little things you need for a new baby around the house!!

Several different people have asked me what this next week is going to look like and while I have shared with them, I thought it might be helpful for me to come share what we know here . . .as it is comforting to know the many that are lifting us up and praying for our family in this journey.

Ryan and I plan to head out wednesday.  We are so thankful for grandparents who are watching our girls and are able to come to us so that amidst so much unknown and so many potential changes, the girls can stay in their own beds and continue their routine as close as possible.  They are excited for time with Gpa's and Gma's!!

We will get into Texas early evening - enough time I hope to be able to sit down for a dinner, make a target run for any last minute needed essentials as well as time to just pause before heading to bed for some sleep (we hope!).

Baby is scheduled to be born thursday morning by c-section - 8:30 for my friends who like to set alarms and pray. : )  I would say it is here that begins the timeframe we feel the most prayerful for and ask for your prayers as well.

Birth mom will have 48 hours before she signs papers that would make him our son.  During those 48 hours, we are essentially completely at her whim in terms of when we can see him, where and how much.  I have heard from other adoptive moms, and been prepared by our caseworker, to not be accommodated for or catered to.   Her, and her choice to choose, is the priority.  We don't hold an official role in his life as that point.

There won't be any caseworkers or anyone from our agency with us the 48 hours.  That morning he is to be born, we will be at the hospital in the waiting room.  The plan is that birth mom will contact us when she is able to have, and is ready, for visitors.  I don't know if that could be an hour or six.  That will be our first time not only to meet our son, we pray, but birth mom as well.

There aren't words to try and explain how we not only love her .. .but just pray God will use us to bless her and love her and show her His love.

We know we will also be able to meet some of our birth mom's family - also a big prayer request I would have; that God's hand will just be on all these meetings.  I want to be able to form relationships that can be long lasting but am working to just give those details over to God and trust that He is going to walk those conversations with us.

So those 48 hours will be come and go - probably influenced by how relationships mesh, how birth mom is feeling and how baby is doing.  Personally, I am just praying for the grace to be flexible and smiling . . .and to not take decisions weightier than they should be or even personally.  I can't begin to try and imagine all that this precious birth mom will experience or feel.  We want to honor her in how we walk those in between days as well.

Then, praying that at 48 hours, he truly is our son, someone from our agency will come and process all the necessary paperwork.  Assuming all goes well again and he is doing well, my understanding is that it is then he would be able to "come home" with us . . .as in the hotel.

And there begins the connecting, real life and getting to know each other and snuggling him to pieces like I have been waiting to do.

At the completion of paperwork after those first 48 hours, we will begin another waiting period of 7 - 14 days before we can come home.  This period is really just waiting for necessary paperwork to connect between the two states that acknowledge the adoption occurred and that we can bring him across state lines.  This would probably be another point of prayer we would ask you to cover.  We will quickly hit two different weekends right away.  This has potential to just stretch out long and we are praying we will be on the short end of that timeline.

We have prayed and discussed several different scenarios  - as that is a lot of days for Ryan to take off work (that we would love to be able to use some for when we are home and in transition there) and it is a long time for the girls waiting at home with us both gone. At one point we had talked about Ryan coming home for a while and then flying back to travel home with us.  That isn't looking like an option any longer - but we will be needing to decide if he stays that whole time with us or just comes home . . .and then myself and baby will travel home alone when we get the ok.  Many different factors will play into that so we just ask for prayers of wisdom and agreement and direction over those decisions.

It is when we finally get that last ok that we'll be able to book flights to come home!!!! I get teary just imagining it and getting to introduce our girls to their baby brother.  They are asking often now "so does our baby brother get to be ours now?!"  They are so excited - we all are - and I am just trusting their hearts to a God who I know loves them even more deeply than we do.  We talk honestly about it and I feel like He has been gracious in preparing them as well as I could have hoped or prayed.

Until then, I can't tell you how grateful we are for all the prayers we feel just surrounding us.  God just continues to speak reminders of His nearness to us through so many of you.  We are leaning on them in these coming days.

Baby boy - We are waiting for you!!  We are praying for you!!  We love you.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The roller coaster of "in between"

This last month has been a roller coaster in about every area of our life.

Balancing the scurry of adoption paperwork and updates needing to be done in order to adopt domestically amidst the already "busy" the holidays naturally bring.

At times I was a total scatter brain - forgetting gymnastics (which has only been every Thursday since august), blanking on scheduling sitters, running to get needed gift donations during preschool because I had forgotten they were due that day . . .the list goes on and on.

Ryan was beyond gracious as he would take Ava to Occupational Therapy to let me catch a breather or talk me through my day to make it doable and without total break down as I worked through conference calls, post office runs, Christmas shopping, school parties and holiday hosting. : )

But we managed to get through it all and we mailed off the last needed document request on friday to have us be as ready as we can be for this baby to come.  It is a fingerprint request from the state of Illinois, so we would appreciate prayers that they will process them quickly so our agency in Texas can receive them.  My understanding, as of now, is that baby, if born early, could not be handed over to us if they have not received them back.  We are on a 2 - 3 week countdown at my best guess right now. :)

Emotionally it has been a roller coaster as well.

It has been so exciting to share the news with those we love and share the anticipation and hope we have of a son.  We have been so blessed with the support we have been shown and the prayers being prayed.

Yet with each step we take towards baby, there comes a new level of anxiety and fear that has to be surrendered daily and a new reality to that fear.

My mom, sisters and I went out for some christmas sale shopping to prepare for baby boy so he wouldn't have to be clothed entirely in pink. : )  We found some fabulous deals on some needed essentials and I even shopped ahead for next winter some, as I couldn't pass up some of the prices we were finding. 

I think coming home and organizing through it all and seeing it spread out that suddenly made the vulnerability of my heart become extremely real.  For not a single tag came off, bags and receipts are in the closet, and still, a baby boy needs to be prepared for and needed items readied.

I knew the anxiety had been building up but it became very real when one day I stopped at store to make some exchanges.  I had found a diaper bag I loved (ours had been spoiled - literally - by spilled milk with the twins) and went to also pick up a couple boy swaddling blankets and burpies.  As I stepped up to the counter to make the exchange and use my credit, the anxiety became almost too much.  It was as if in that moment, my heart couldn't go forward with one more purchase and chance having one more thing to take back if we don't bring our baby boy home.

Fighting tears, I put the items on hold, and walked out to the car, and called a dear friend of mine and just cried.  She, too, is walking a similar journey of faith to her own little boy and I was just so blessed at having someone to simply sit with me in the fear, understand it, and stand with me in it with compassion and hope for me.

A day later I went back in, and choosing hope, purchased the items and they, too, are sitting in his bedroom closet with the tags and receipts.

Living with hope. 

All the while surrendering how it all ends. 

That is reality we are walking right now. 

Speaking truth of God's goodness to ourselves and our ability to trust Him, regardless, and that we will be ok, regardless.  OH, and somewhere in the midst of that not having it affect my ability to respond to the girls (or Ryan) in love. : )

I have been really grateful that we are in communication with our birth mom. 

Some days that blesses me as I feel a relationship and re pore slowly grow. We want, so much, for her to be a part of his life and our life and family.  So I am thankful for every interaction and just pray it grows trust and connection. 

Other days it feeds the anxiety, as the weight of how I respond can sometimes feel heavy, or certain conversations make it very real how little control I have in this situation; both in baby's care/growth or in how this all ends.

We are hopeful to have a c-section date this coming thursday!  While we know that still doesn't mean baby will for sure wait until then to come, it does feel comforting to know that a day is coming when we can step off this rollercoaster and know, with some level of certainty, what the future will look like.

So that is where we sit these days.  Praying constantly throughout each day and night and leaning heavily on your prayers as we pray.  I wanted to come share, not only because people kindly ask, but for us to remember God's daily provision as we walk this journey and His grace through the many emotions too.

I continue to find so much comfort that even on the days I have to pray through the anxiety the most, it is still so clear we are exactly where He has called us.  That encourages me and comforts me to keep pressing forward, secure in His calling and His faithfulness to us.

Thanks for walking with us through it.

Hebrews 6:19 "We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure."

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Next Steps and "what about Ethiopia?!"

Thanks for stepping into the joy of where God has led us.

Thanks for having hope for the remainder of this journey.

We need that moving forward these next couple months.

Sharing that story, it is easy to sit and get comfortable in the beautiful parts of it.

Yet I am sure there were some of you reading through that who were feeling guarded for us and its unknown ahead . . .but with the journey we are walking, I desperately needed to share the beauty and clarity of what God has done separate from the "what if's."

Because this is what I am daily reminding myself.

Every detail God has provided and shown us thus far is not negated by the fact the ending of this story isn't known yet.

He is not less faithful if we fly to Texas and come home with empty arms.

I need to write that.  I need to speak that.  I need to claim that.

Because yes, here is the truth that still lingers in our story . . .we don't yet know the ending.

And there begins our next steps.

1.  Baby is due January 27th.  Mom will have a scheduled c-section so unless she goes into labor early, we will be able to know how to plan and schedule flying down there.  We are blessed that at this point, birth mom does want us there.  We are planning and holding loosely to that as we want to honor her, her heart and her journey . . .and her choices in all of this.

2.  After birth, birth mom has 48 hours before she signs relinquishment papers.  There is no way of knowing how that will go.  We are trusting God has brought us here and knows the ending.  We are trusting He goes with us either way.

There are parts to that unknown that caused us to really debate even sharing about all this until it was done to protect our hearts, the hearts of our girls, and just so many pieces of this story.  We have sat with this fear.  I have watched too many of those I love walk the hard of adoption and adoption journeys that have gone differently than they would have chosen to write to claim ignorance or naivety.

But I feel like God has asked us to count these costs and still called us to this.  He has asked us if it is still worth it if it doesn't go through and our answer is yes.  I go back to that session we sat in on at Summit and if this was only for birth mom to know that she and her baby are precious, it will have been right.

It's excruciating to sit there.

In our hearts, this is our son. 

Our girls have been told there is yet a chance his birth mom could decide she wants him to grow up with her.  We have talked about it as simply and age appropriately as we can as their questions allowed us to share this part of the story with them very naturally. Yet we aren't sitting there in the fear with them and we can't sit there either.  It is a daily battle to hand this all to God and so we plead and ask for your prayers.

3.  Once mom signs termination papers, we will have to stay there for essentially the two states "to talk."  We are told this can take between 7 -14 days (there are so many jokes I want to make here but won't). We are planning roughly 10 days but will take it as it comes.  After that we are praying we will be able to bring home our son and began the transition to a family of six!

4. What about Ethiopia?!

Our heart is that this is a concurrent adoption.  So when I say this journey has been as much about handing two adoptions to God as it has been about one, I mean that in every sense of the word.  This detour has thrown our current age parameters (0 -3) out the window as our agency has a strict birth order rule (so our Ethiopian child will have to be younger than this little guy).  They also won't place two adoptions close together as they feel the family needs to focus on the current attaching and bonding (this is me sharing their policies - not said in judgement). So we will go on hold for a year once the adoption is finalized (as they too recognize nothing is final yet).

We have had to grapple with all of these details.  Because of some incredible number crunching friends :), I do know our current numbers with our Ethiopian agency (best guess of course) are 44 for a girl and 30 for a boy.  With those numbers and our parameters, that could have been one month to two years left to wait (how is that for estimates!!!).  I have had to ask myself is this journey still right if a referral goes out that we might have "otherwise gotten."  One day as I really wrestled with that, it was as if as clear as day, God whispered to me, "then that wasn't your child."  We can't control every detail of this story and we don't need to.  I am also daily reminding myself of that.  Some days that is easier said than done.

So that all sums up to the simple fact that praying our domestic adoption goes through, the earliest we would receive an Ethiopian referral is January of 2015.

5.  What about birth mom?  Here is what we can tell you. Birth mom is African American. Birth mom is young.  Birth mom is incredibly courageous.  Birth mom made the choice for life and for that we honor her and thank God for her.  There may be some of you that as circumstances and relationships allow, you may learn more of her and our child's story.  But beyond that, we really ask that you honor her story as you would want your own story to be honored if you were in her shoes.

It is easy to want to write a really good story or share a really good story.  But this is our child's story and her story too.  Both are sacred to us.  So we just ask for your grace as we navigate that all together.  Please don't be afraid to ask, just please know that there may be pieces of the journey we hold close for our child and for her yet and I want you to understand the why.

And with that, I'll sign off for now.  Thanks for walking this journey with us.  We are so grateful for each you!!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

We have a son! Our journey.

It seems surreal to type those words.

It seems a little anxious to write those words.

But it feels so good to write those words.

As some of you may know, whether through word of mouth or facebook, we were super thankful to share this thanksgiving that we are expecting a little baby boy!!!

The twist and turn of this journey, as only God can write, is that this little boy will not come from across the ocean in Ethiopia, but will be born to a precious birth mom in Texas . . .due THIS January 27th!


So are we.  : )

And in that we find comfort as this story is one that only God could have written.

We've been asked for the story, the "how" of how we got here. Not only do we want to share with all of you who have been praying and loving us through the waiting of these past 3 years, but we want to share so we will remember and tell what good things He has done and is doing.

To really share how God has been weaving this story I need to back track just a bit (I can never make it simple, don't you know yet?!).

This past May, Ryan and I were blessed to be able to attend Summit in Nashville.  It is a gathering of those with a heart for orphan care, adoption, and foster care.  There is so much good info, incredible breakout sessions, solid teaching and ministry opportunities.  Ryan and I chose most of our breakout sessions based on our upcoming adoption from Ethiopia . . .but we wanted to be open to other ministry opportunities and we both were drawn to an session entitled something like "Abortion and the Church" (as I work to retell from a faulty memory).  We both felt pulled and walked in, neither knowing quite what to expect.

This session changed both Ryan and I.   It was a session you can't pretend you haven't heard.  But what really impacted us both was that it talked less about abortion itself and spoke more of how the church is failing birth mom's, vulnerable moms, teen moms . . .and how we bear much of the responsibility their roads sometimes otherwise take.

At the end of the conference, Ryan and I went out for dessert, partly to celebrate my birthday, but partly to just talk through all we had sat through those two days and what God had been speaking.  We dreamed big  - even speaking out loud what might otherwise feel like the absurd.  Some of our dreams involved how God might use our family and birth moms.  We wrote some of those down.  And we put them in God's hands and asked Him to keep leading our family and its future.  I firmly believe God knew we needed to be in that session for where He has us now.

A month or so later I was watching a friend's baby boy for part of the day.  On that particular day, my heart was aching with the wait and for our child.  The past month or so had been especially hard. I can look back in notes, emails, writings, just speaking over and over about working to surrender an urgency I felt for our child amidst a wait that seemed to stretch out unending in front of us.  The two didn't make sense to coexist and yet there I was, aching and waiting, amidst a very real urgency for our child.

As I rocked this sweet baby to sleep and then held him as he slept, I snapped a picture on my phone and sent it to a couple close adoptive friends and just shared how thankful I was to God that day for letting my tender heart get to snuggle and love another friend's little one that day.

I still remember getting an instant text back from one.  My friend Rory shared this,

"Amber, I gasped as I saw your picture.  Because as I have been praying for your adoption this week I felt God whisper He might have something different for you and this picture is almost exactly the picture He gave me."

Receiving moments like that are a little vulnerable . . .as not only do you not want to make more of those words than they are, but you don't want to miss God speaking.  Because if I am honest, that is some of what Ryan and I had been feeling too; that God was moving, and yet we couldn't see.  That He was at work but we didn't know the how.  And so I have shared that all I could think of were the words, "And Mary pondered His words in her heart. . . ." and I tucked my friends words deep in my heart and continued to move forward.

As months went by, the ache just grew.  There had been numerous times we had inquired about waiting children, and each time God had firmly closed those doors and said "stay."

In October, after yet another home study update visit with our wonderful caseworker, an email went out from our agency about some waiting kids with another country program they had.  We didn't feel those children were ours but as my heart was a mess of emotions that day, I set out on what had become my therapy of past months . . .a walk/run with God to hash it all out.

This time, I needed to put it in words.  And as I started to walk, I started typing out an email to our current Agency and caseworker, Julie, . . .tears just falling as I pecked away on my phone.

It was one of those days my heart couldn't handle even the thought of waiting one more day.  We were open, we were available, we were ready . . .and yet we waited.  And I bared my soul.

Bless her heart, Julie called me that same day.  She heard me and encouraged me to possibly pray about a concurrent adoption with another country's program that was moving more swiftly and that, with our open parameters, could hold potential to move extremely quickly.

Mind spinning, I got off the phone with her and called Ryan and before I knew it, we were seriously praying about stepping forward with a concurrent adoption.

It is in that season I wrote the most recent post on my blog, the dichotomy of the wait.

As we wrestled and prayed and talked, we both felt open . . .but there was a burden we couldn't shake. I remember looking at Ryan and saying, "I can't tell you why we shouldn't move forward.  But I do know that all that has sustained me in how long this current wait has been is that I know, that I know, that I know God called us to it and I know, that I know, that I know until now He has said "stay."  I don't feel that here.  And  I can't justify moving forward with out that.  When the hard comes, we need that to stand on.  Without it, we can't." Ryan felt the same and we knew it was a "no" to move forward.

Sending that email to our agency was heart breaking. I don't know how else to say it.  Because we were saying "no" to the very thing we had prayed for . . .to move forward.  By saying "no," we were settling back into the wait for the unforeseen future.

It was like facing the wait all over again and that was another email I just cried as I typed.  And yet I knew it was right.

I loved the words our caseworker responded to me with.  Julie wrote:

"When we are in desert times, we are blessed as Christians to have the shade that Jesus gives us.  Trusting and having faith one day at a time is what we have.  Please know that I am here to wait by your side."

Trusting and having faith one day at a time was all we had.  But it was enough. And day by day He kept being enough.

Yet I'll admit I kept looking.  Because the urgency was still there.  And we felt He was telling us to be ready.  And I started letting the urgency take over.

One day, as I was working on my Bible Study, God just spoke so clearly to me and stopped me in my tracks.  

My study took me to 2 Chronicles 20.  Jehoshaphat had been told a vast army was marching against him and his people.  He was terrified and was begging God for guidance.  He began looking to those around him for help, was fasting and praying and in his prayer, reminded God of what He had already done, what He had promised and pleaded for God to show Himself.  Part of the last verse of his prayer was the exact cry of my heart as he said in verse 12, "We do not know what to do, but we are looking to you for help."

That is where I felt we were at. We knew we were where God had called us.  He had shown His faithfulness time and time again.  Yet every where we looked we saw adoption under attack.  We were pressed down on all sides.  We didn't know what was next and it threatened to overwhelm us and rob our hope.

God's reply to Jehoshaphat struck me to my core.  

"This is what the Lord says: Do not be afraid!  Don't be discouraged by this mighty army; for the battle is not yours, but God's.  Tomorrow, march out against them. . .But you will not even need to fight.  Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory.  He is with you, O people of Judah and Jerusalem.  Do not be afraid or discouraged. Go out against them tomorrow, for the Lord is with you! .. . Believe in the Lord your God, and you will be able to stand firm."

Oh the words planted me, chastised me, encouraged me and held me up.

I remember texting friends those words as I knew they were feeling some of the same and wanted to encourage them with those truths.  

The next day, I was picking up at my desk and found a random scripture card that again just spoke to me as it read, "The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still."  Exodus 14:14

I chuckled to myself as I read it . . .as I finally felt like I was hearing Him.  That waiting, available, was exactly where He wanted us.  And I remembered it was this same verse a dear friend had written out for us a couple months ago and had been hanging on my fridge every since.  Sometimes we just need it spelled out for us again. : )

I knew we were where we were supposed to be . ..I just had no idea how fast God was going to show us His doing . . . .

That afternoon I had some down time and sat down with my computer.

I about wanted to shut it again after the first thing I saw on my agency's facebook page was a post from another family.  She shared that an agency her friend had used recently had two birth mom's due this january that they were looking for families to match with for adoption.

I wanted to run.

God had just said "stay?!"  RIGHT?!

Or did He.  That verse from 2 Chronicles just echoed through my mind.

"Take your positions; then stand still and watch the Lord's victory."

Was this what God was doing?  

Yet I was so skeptical.

You see so often with those posts, I feel like you always find out it is actually a few weeks old.  Or you go to find out more and see that 100's have inquired.  I was a skeptic.

So as a skeptic, I messaged this friend to see what she knew about the agency (because you know, it probably was just a fluke).

Instead she said, "Oh, let me put you in touch with my friend who used them."

gulp. a little real.

Next thing I knew I was messaging with this friend about her experience with them (all good) which I took in but then still closed a reply back with, "I'm always such a skeptic with these kind of posts so I'll talk to my husband and we'll pray and see what God does."

She replied this was exactly how they found their son.

gulp.  a little more real.

I went to Ryan expecting him to kind of shove it off too.  But my husband?  He was all in.  He thought we should inquire and see what came out of it as little bits that we did know resonated with our story thus far.

So I sent an email and put it in God's hands.

The week went by without a reply and I am a little ashamed to say I washed my hands of it initially and shrugged it off and was ready to put it out on my mind and just settle in again.

That sunday night we had put the girls to bed and were hanging out down stairs when the alarm on my phone went off.

You see, for much of the past year, a group of us with my agency have set alarms on our phones at 8:38.  It is meaningful to us with Ethiopia and it is a time we commit, where ever we are, to say a prayer for Ethiopia, adoptions and each of our family's journeys.  Sometimes it has been a silent, short prayer by myself.  Sometimes I have prayed with others.  There have been nights those alarms has seen me falling straight to my knees.

That sunday night? I wanted to run from that alarm.

I was weary with the wait.  I was defeated by it.  I was emptied by it.

I looked at Ryan and said, "I can't pray. I don't have anything to pray.  It is all I can do to say I believe it will happen . . .because tonight I don't."

God bless my husband as he took my hands in his and he prayed for both us as I cried.

And Ryan prayed the most beautiful prayer.  But it was these words that stopped me.

Ryan prayed, "God we just ask you to move really mightily in our adoption and in our family this next week. . . ."

Can I confess that as he prayed those words, all I could pray was, "Lord, forgive my unbelief."

I didn't believe it.  And all I could offer God that night was my confession of unbelief.

I wasn't thinking of this inquiry. I wasn't thinking of a plan.  That night I just prayed for hope and faith to believe He could.

Monday I was on the phone with Ryan after lunch and he asked if we ever heard back about that birth mom from the agency.  When I replied I hadn't, he asked if I thought we should just check in. I was so torn.  Was this taking up the battle that wasn't ours?  Ryan said he was fine with whatever I chose to do but thought we should at least follow up.

I wrestled after getting off the phone.  But the more I wrestled, the more I realized that this time, I would not be ok letting it go without knowing they had found a family.  As clear as it had been we felt burdened to move forward with another country the month previously, it was clear that same burden wasn't present.  In fact, I felt like we would be disobedient NOT to inquire further. So I sent one more follow up email just seeing if the mom had been matched. An hour later I was reading the reply that birth mom was still unmatched and they were still seeking families.  Then I was texting with a case worker.  

Fees were then being shared.  This was another part of the story that astounded us.  

You see, a couple months ago we had been contacted unexpectedly asking where we were at with our adoption expenses.  God had blessed us hugely with our Both Hands project we had done but Ryan and I never wanted to just fall back on that or negate our role in those expenses and had really wanted to try and save and provide the travel portion of our adoption as we felt like the tax credit was there to bless adoptive families and it would be such a blessing to provide that part ourselves if we could. We had been saving towards that so that more of our Both Hands project could go to more immediate needs outside of us but with some different circumstances that had arisen, still had a decent gap left there.

As this individual probed, we shared what that deficit would be to meet that and before we even knew what had happened, these people had asked if they could cover that difference.  It was incredibly humbling as we in no way asked for it. It was incredibly encouraging as we felt so stuck and unmoving with our adoption. Yet I will admit it left us wondering what God was up to as we had no immediate need for it and yet there it was.  So we gave all glory to God and had accepted the funds with deep gratitude.

Would you believe that as the caseworker was messaging me what all the immediate fees due would be, this amount covered those initial set of fees almost exactly?  It wouldn't cover the entire adoption, but it allowed us to step forward in faith and not use the immediate financial investments as any reason to say no or to hesitate.   It was in that moment that I knew without a doubt God was up to something and we were looking at a situation that had just gotten very real, very fast.

Monday night involved alot of talking and praying.  We shared we were wanting to possibly move forward.  Next thing I knew, it was tuesday and I was looking at medical records in my inbox and talking more next steps.

I called Ryan with some details and parts of the mom's story.  The reality of the situation was hitting me and I was feeling anxious.  Ryan was stedfast, constant, and committed to moving forward. I have always prayed, in any circumstance, that when I doubt, God will be my peace, through Ryan's leadership, and time and time again over these days, this was exactly what He gave me.

As I was texting with the caseworker that tuesday afternoon, I shared we did officially want to be included in the families presented to birth mom and to please let me know what we needed to do next.

"Great!" The caseworker replied.  Just send me your profile book and we will mail those out to birth mom on friday!"

Profile book?

What profile book!?!?!?  (Insert panic attack - please remember it is tuesday.  They want to mail out friday).

I may had googled "adoption profile book."

So tuesday night we put the girls to bed and I got on snapfish and hit "overnight ship" and "submit order" at 3:45 the next morning.

I am convinced God knew we needed 8 hours to make a profile book so the only option we had was to leave it entirely in His hands. We couldn't make changes, we couldn't try to influence.  All we could do was put ourselves out there and let it go for what God wanted to happen.

Well friday came and books weren't mailed out.  Then monday came and went.  They were supposed to mail that next friday but another family that wanted to submit was having computer issues.  I tried to be thankful they were waiting knowing that every birth mom should be gifted with choice for her child.  In the meantime, I was a scatter brained mess. Forgot to book babysitters.  Forgot to make potluck reservations.  Forgot to order christmas presents in time for an early christmas. : )

Books were finally mailed that following monday . . .and I left tuesday for a girl's trip in California not knowing how this was all going to end.

This trip was such a blessing.  It was with 4 friends who had become like sisters to me as we walked adoption journeys together and had met through our agency.  They know me about as well as anyone and we have lived the crazy, the raw, the hard and the silly together . . .and often in the same night.  

Thursday morning came and I was messaging back and forth with our home study worker about some details that we were suddenly worried could become problematic in moving forward.  Next thing I knew I was on the phone with the case worker from Texas, Alicia (keeping all this straight?), as she could tell I was panicking and wanted to set things straight.

I was relieved to realize that the details we thought were issues weren't . . .and in the conversation I was able to find out a little more.

 I was able to find out a touch more about birth mom and learn there was a total of four families whose books had been given her . . .and that until now, not a single family had been presented to this sweet, sweet momma.  Oh my heart hurt for her . . .and how thankful I was that she wasn't just given one family, but four.

I was also so blessed to learn that the caseworker had prayed over the books before she mailed them out and just shared that she really felt this momma's family was one of those four.

My friends was excited we were 1 of 4.  My pessimistic nature told them I heard that and thought it a 75% chance of a no. :)

Friday morning, our Ethiopia agency sent out an update that was the most encouraging and transparent we had received in months. It encouraged me and shook me.  As I opened my bible just pleading for a word from God, He gave them to me.  I opened up to read, "We do not shrink back . . ." I sent Ryan an email just asking him to pray. I told him I was just fighting doubts . . .that I knew it didn't change anything or God's hand over all of it, but that I was having to work to speak those truths to myself amidst all of this.  Suddenly it wasn't just one adoption we were having to surrender to Him, but TWO and I felt it threatening to be too much.  Ryan's response blessed me so much.

"I am comfortable with what we’ve done.  Like you said, God sees the bigger picture.  We are doing the right thing.  Keep making ourselves available to different situations/needs and letting God lead hearts to what He wants.  I am peaceful with whatever decision comes from Texas.  I might be a little disappointed if it’s a “no”, but I will be okay with it too."

We were taking a walk on the beach as I got his email and again tears just came . .. but in thankfulness.  Ryan's leadership and steadfastness the past few weeks had been such a blessing.

A tiny bit of me wondered if I would find out while still in California . . .but when friday afternoon came and went, I put it out of mind and figured we would wait until next week to hear anything.

Friday evening we attending a prayer/worship night at my friend, Cat's, church.  It ended up being such a sacred night I can't quite even try to put down words.  But know that God met each of us so sweetly.  Even more precious? I was able to pray for this sweet birth mom, and to pray surrendered to however the story would end.  That night was such a gift.

Saturday morning came and Ryan texted me a picture that once more brought tears (see a theme yet?!)  It was this:

But as I shared the photo with my friend Suzanne, she looked at me and said, "Amber, do you see what I see?" I see both adoptions, your baby and Ethiopia."  Oh the peace that spoke right then.  It was as if God was saying, "I can be trusted with both."  And I knew He could.  No matter the outcome.

We headed into San Francisco for the day as we were flying home sunday morning.  We had barely settled into the hotel when my cell phone rang across the room.  My friend, Catherine, not knowing who or what it was sang the name on the caller id to me and I about froze, as it was Alicia, from the birth mom's agency.  In that instant, I was convinced the only reason she would be calling me on a saturday was to let us know it was a "no" and to not make us wait out the weekend.

So I took my phone and walked out into the hall way before answering with as calm of a hello as I could and prepared for the gentle let down.

The next thing I knew I was sliding down on the floor in that hotel hallway, crying, as Alicia told me we were going to have a baby boy and the birth mom had chosen us.

It was surreal. It was nothing like I expected.  It was totally undocumented. :)

I tried to process all she was telling me. I remember at one point just taking a picture of the view outside the window I was later standing at so I had some documentation of the call.

And then the next thing I knew, I was calling Ryan to tell him HE had a son amidst tears.

Can I tell you that I kind of LOVE the fact that Ryan found out he as expecting a son in BEST BUY!?!

And then it was sweeter than sweet to walk into a room of dear friends who so intimately understand the journey we have walked and tell them "I have a son!!!" and cry and scream and celebrate the moment as only they could.  It was precious to then have them, as a group of sisters, to stop and pray, thanking God for me, until there weren't words and all that was right to do was praise.

Then we headed out to Chinatown for a long awaited lunch to celebrate my friend, Rory's, adoption before she had to fly out that afternoon. It was totally surreal and didn't quite feel real.

After we got Rory on her plane home, we headed back down town for dinner and a little shopping.  It got a little more real when we walked into Gap Baby and I stood in the boy section.  Gap shoppers got 50% off their purchases and I couldn't resist to shop just a LITTLE.  Ryan may have received this as a text.

And yet I fell a little more in love with my husband when he sent me a text saying, "Strangely, I am really glad you are there with them when you found out," as he understood what these women have meant and mean to me.

And such is what brought us to today. Expecting a son.  Praying for a son.  Trusting for a son.

It has been joyful to share, scary to share, and stretching to share.  And yet God.  He has carried us this far and we have no choice, no other desire, than to trust Him with the future.

If you have made it this far with me, I am beyond impressed. But I don't just share to tell you. I share to tell us, to remind us, of how God has been in every bit of it.  

Tomorrow I will share a shorter (I promise) bit of next steps and try to answer a few of the common questions we get right now.  

But until then, know how deeply we appreciate each of you.  There are those of you who maybe aren't in the specific telling of this story, but you are in SOO many parts of it.  Your prayers, your encouragements, your caring . . .your grace on our hard days, your faith the times ours has been and is weak, and just for doing life with us.  Know we still need you, more than ever, and are as reliant on your prayers as ever, if not more so.

Until then and always, God is good.