Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Our ellipsis . . .

I have started this post so many times.  But my heart just wasn't quite ready to put words to keyboard and click the word "post."

Call it self preservation.  Call it fragile hope.  Or maybe fragile faith.

Add in a blog that hasn't been posted to for over a year . . .and it becomes quite clear that this post is more for my own marking than public sharing. : )  But this morning I felt the need to mark this past season down for our own memory if a single other person doesn't make it through.

An ellipsis is, by definition, "a series of dots that usually indicates an intentional omission of words, a pause, or a sudden leap from one topic to another." And such is the word to describe our adoption journey.

These past couple years have been some of the most faith stretching/faith building that I have known. Faith stretching because I had come face to face to the fact that as much as I would have stated differently, far too much of my faith had been built on what I had seen God do for me than on WHO my God was.

That verse in Proverbs 13 that begins as, "hope deferred makes the heart sick . .." often struck a chord in me as I began to understand it in new ways.

It seems unreal to think that we are past the 5th year mark of when we sent off our first adoption papers.  Anyone who has been given a God gifted spark to go, do, or love knows what that drive feels like.  It is invigorating, purpose giving and can consume (we've all done it - everyone you know should be as excited as you are and called to the same passion as you :) ).  You are moving forward and until that is gone, you don't realize what a gift that is.

Our journey has held many twists and turns.  Yet even the twists and turns felt like forward movement and with purpose. Our yes to baby J turned to loss and that void hit hard.  We felt so much conviction our yes was the right answer but weren't prepared to hurt so deeply in it or the journey to follow.  A journey I am learning to be thankful for amidst the mess.

Our grief was often largely compounded by a lack of "next:" a lot of unexpected unknown of if our family was able to grow any other way, a lot of loss associated with our grief (dreams, ability to plan, finances, empty arms) . . .we learned how multidimensional grief is.  How unpredictable it is.  How it both heals and compounds with time in the most unusual combination of ways. We learned how to move forward . . .yet at times I struggled so much spiritually as we continued to wait to see God move. And you grieve the loss of that for yourself.

And that has been much of our past two years coupled with seeing God continue to keep showing up in small ways right about the times I most struggled to see Him.  In a journey that is hard to know how to speak into, God became our one source of both comfort and direction. There has been little "known" to our next year for the past  5+ years and it became revealing to me how much comfort I glean from the known ahead (down to simply knowing we'll make a planned vacation), even as we know tomorrow isn't promised.

Our first year grieving baby J was hard simply in the dynamics of grief.  Towards the end of that year we were receiving increasingly discouraging updates from our Ethiopia agency and from a few personal conversations I was able to be in and be informed of, both Ryan and I felt a increased lack of peace to stay in the program or in the ablity to have confidence in completing an adoption with the current climate we saw.  We started having some serious conversations with God and each other if we should continue or if we needed to walk away.

Can I be honest and say this brought about mixed emotions.  Grief for sure.  We had planned and hoped and prayed. We had been come around by so many and cheered on in this next step for our family.  We had invested years of our family's planning and future in that journey.

It also brought some relief.  For almost 5 years we had protected vacations days and often weeks of them.  Some needed projects, plans, etc for our home, savings, and even trips had been put off until someday "when the adoption was done."  Your heart, while seeking to be intentional in living for "now," was also always just a bit on the other side of the ocean.  It affected our ability, to an exten,t of even what to pour ourselves into with such a huge unknown of our next year and family's needs.  And to think of stepping away from that and just fully into the "now" of where God had us felt somewhat freeing if I'm being honest. 

So we gave ourselves permission to sit with the idea of simply being done. That first night felt amazingly light.

Within two days both Ryan and I were miserable.  We both felt the weight of walking away from what God had called us to.  And bluntly? We both felt the weight of what we would step back into.

I have a dear friend who has walked a hard journey of loss with conceiving and pregnancy.  In phone conversations with her, I felt very seen.  Because you see, when all you have known about conception and pregnancy and growing your family is the fruition of it?  It is all possibility and joy (I do realize these are broad statements :) ) and expectation of completion of a journey.  When you have had pregnancies unknown or children lost . . . to discover you are pregnant (or to even hope you are) is both pure joy and terror in one.  Because the story isn't over yet.  The exhale isn't there.  And the following months become an exercise of surrender and faith and anxiety and fear and trust all woven in one. And involves a willingness to invest more of your heart (and at times finances) when you are weary and so ready to rejoice. All while worth it and deeply desired. 

For us? The thought of signing back up was all those emotions.  Not to mention there was a reality of where we had walked in and where our hearts and lives were in the ability to walk another journey.  My heart was so fragile to hope. Our family was ready to move forward in planning and living again and the thought of a long wait seemed more than we could handle. Finances weren't an endless supply and we were so sensitive to the fact so many had come around us in overwhelming ways already.  After 5 years of yearly paperwork updates, a home study agency change (which meant an entirely new home study . . .not just an update) . . .the thought of starting from scratch paperwork wise and with new agency relationships seemed overwhelming.

And so Ryan and I began to pray.  We took all those dynamics before God and simply told Him we felt we weren't free to let go of this call . . .and yet struggled to see how all the realities of where we had walked could reconcile with the current adoption climate we saw all around us.  We struggled walking our girls (who already walked a lot of waiting and loss) into another long wait.  We struggled to see how to continue to step forward in this call while being wise stewards of our finances and what had been given in support of us. That weight felt so heavy.  We struggled to make sure we were meeting a need in this call and not simply adding a name to a list.  And we really, really boldly asked Him to make a way that didn't involve us starting from scratch somewhere.  Because momma was just tired and fragile. Then we put our hands out open to Him to wait to speak.

Around that time, some close friends of mine began speaking of a small adoption program in South Africa.  I listened with half an ear because all I kept hearing seemed totally outside of us.  It was a very small Hague accredited adoption program (essentially means an important certification in the adoption world) and in so many words spoke, "start paperwork over from scratch with new agency" to me. : ) I mentioned it in passing to Ryan as a "non possibility," and we were just still sitting and trying to see what was next for our fam.

Then one Monday night, Ryan headed to bsf with the girls and I was home.  I got on the phone with a friend and we were dialoguing where we were at and somehow South Africa came back up.  I began down this long list of why it wasn't a match that largely coincided what all I was really asking God for in this next journey . ..and specifically not having the emotional and mental energy to start paperwork from scratch. At some point, the fact that I had never gotten on the agency's page to confirm any of the details I was throwing it for came up and so I got on the site while still on the phone.

I glanced over the bare basics of the program and saw that they only worked with currently established partnerships for home studies (the agency is in another state) and immediately threw it out as why this all wouldn't work. Our home study agency that we had been forced to change to when our previous agency (large and well known) had stopped working with international adoptions was just a small agency out of another town. So to prove my point to my friend why this all wouldn't work, I agreed to see what their agency for Illinois was . . ..and my heart stopped when I saw our small agency was one of two agencies in all of Illinois with a partnership already in place.

My heart further stopped when I started receiving texts from Ryan that night.  It's been so long since this adoption journey first began that many may not rememner the dynamics we struggled with in the beginning over who was driving the direction we were pursuing.  Adoption often has a driver and a dragger.  And in the beginning, I was a driver and that is ok to a point . .. but then we (I) struggled to transfer that leadership to Ryan and we sat at an impasse for a while.  It was a huge growing season in our marriage and since then, I have really asked and sought and worked to allow Ryan to take/keep that role in this journey of ours.

So when Ryan started sending me long texts one after the other, I started paying attention. Lets be honest, our typical texting relationship is usually about 3 texts from me to his one. :)  But God stirred in his heart that night and he felt confirmation and direction through both the Spirit and Word that we needed to be pursuing this program in South Africa.  And that our reasons for not doing so were purely fear and self and not valid.  I agreed to call the agency the next morning and have a conversation . . .with a long mental list of why it still wouldn't work.

That next day I got on the phone with my long list of questions . . .and within about 5 minutes of the conversation I had tears rolling down my face for two reasons. 

1?  Every question I kept asking had an answer.  After a long year of feeling little to no direction in this area of our life, it was overwhelming in a sweet way to feel God moving in some clear ways and open paths.

2?  It was simply overwhelming as this time in a "new" adoption journey there were no blinders on.  We knew the cost of what we were stepping into and the risks to our hearts, family and lives.  And to step forward meant embracing all of it and trusting that God was big enough to care for us in it all and enough if it all fell apart.

By that night we knew we were moving forward.  And so began the process.  For the sake of time, I will just tell you that it quickly became messy. 

Anyone who knows my history knows there is a part of my journey that was messy in its own as I struggled with depression and an eating disorder in late high school and early college that I sought treatment for.  God was incredibly faithful in bringing me out of that, but it adds a complicating factor to every adoption beginning as agencies seek to make sure it isn't a current factor in my life and this was no different. 

We actually had to do a full in country pre-approval that took several months - and we spent the Christmas season of 2014 wondering if this was God closing the door for good on adoption as we knew it or if He was starting something new.  It was emotional and hard to be placed in this season of unknown again (a theme of our life :) ) but helped serve as a confirmation that we were invested and committed to this new path and new hope for our family's growth.

In February of 2014 we officially began the paperwork chase to adopt from South Africa and made the official step to terminate our Ethiopia process.  We felt really protected emotionally by God in all of this as within a short time of this our agency announced they were closing their Ethiopia program due to the current climate there and their inability to confidently refer children reliably and ethically.
To have already process this door closing felt like a gift amidst a lot of hard realities.
Thankfully, our home study was just an update but it still was an entirely new dossier process and I was so thankful that God had gifted us with a few friends ahead of me to walk us through the unknowns and ups and downs that the paperwork process inevitably is.  It felt like a huge answered prayer when our dossier was mailed off to South Africa completed the last week of June and we stepped back into a season of waiting.

As adoption is always unpredictable and full of twists and turns, and this path has been no different.

Because of the small size of the program, and the fact that they work to refer children that can't be reunified or adopted within country (a huge reason we loved the program), waits rarely extended beyond 6 months with fairly open parameters (that we have always had).  But as God continues to refine us and teach us to lean on Him alone and not a predictable process, life or timelines . . .we had learned new reasons to find this true.

A magistrate over there went through a political season and refused to process any cases on his desk for a period of about two months and cases backed up.  Shortly after his personal strike ended, the court workers over there went on strike.  That was thankfully short lived and again, backed cases up.  Then the holidays come and as the cases, several workers took their six week holiday vacation. :)  Anyone want to move?!

We had originally had high hopes for a match by Christmas . ..and I will bluntly say at one time I held the pipe dream of a new year in South Africa.  God saw otherwise.  And so it has been a daily surrender and choice of trust to His timing and sovereign hand.  Our new prayer and hope is to be matched in a timeframe that would allow us to travel so that the girls don't miss the beginning of a new school year.  That isn't a gurantee with what we are currently seeing.

I have related to the story of Jacob much this past year as we stretch closer to a 6 year journey of adoption.  It doesn't make sense in light of a need and a willingness.   It doesn't make sense in the light of God placing us on a path.  I could say all that about his story and I look at in new lenses.  Because God had placed him there.  And we are trusting God has placed us here.

Ryan and I have had the gift of studying the book of Revelation in BSF this year, along with our girls, and God knew the timing of it all.  He has reminded me of the eternal perspective I have lacked.  He has reminded me what true suffering is (and it isn't a delay in plans and dreams).  He has reminded me there is joy and intimacy in learning to suffer/struggle as He did.  He has made so clear that He is the only place to put my hope.

Prayers are still so appreciated and needed (if you made it through all that). 

There are still many days my hope and trust is built on the truth I speak into my heart as opposed to the fear and doubt I feel.  In a really hard period of few weeks, a friend took me back to that Proverbs verse as I wrestled with my fragile hope and faith in trusting God to bring this to pass and reminded me of the second half of that Proverbs verse:

"Hope deferred makes the heart sick: but when the desire comes, it is a tree of life."

I found so much encouragement in that back half of the verse.  I have known, quite well, the truth of that first statement.  I know of so many others who are walking their own deferred dreams and struggling amidst them to grab hold of truth and a hope that won't disappoint.  And there is a reality that long seasons of that can bring much discouragement.

But I love that God knew that already.  And in that verse? I don't hear condemnation.  I hear encouragement and a God who sees us in all of it.  Because there is a reality that seeing God move in answer to our prayers and hopes allows life to take root.  And when I don't always see that in my day to day, I can know I have an eternal hope that will make this all pale in comparison.

But feeling His compassion in this season, encourages me to keep my eyes on Him to move and answer this prayer of hope for our family.

But if not?

Do I dare type we will be ok? 

Because while these past 5 1/2 years have stretched us more than I would have ever asked for.  I have learned He is enough.  And I have had to transfer many "hopes" to only rest in Him.  In my first 5 devotion this morning, I was so encouraged by its direct relation to our family's story and truth of what God has taught us.

"Let's not put a period where our life story just needs a little string of dots. . . .

We must never confuse delays with dead ends.  . . when we confuse what's really a pausing point with a terminal point, we can get into trouble.  And this is exactly what the people of Israel were doing when Moses was so long coming down from the mountain.  When they didn't understand the delay, they decided they couldn't trust God . . .

When there is a delay in our lives, we must determine to fill the gap between here and there by intentionally proclaiming every hint of God's activity.  Just the fact that we woke up breathing this morning is evidence of His goodness.  So, let's make a list and keep acknowledging that just because God is silent in one area of our life does not mean He is silent in every area.

Also, let's think about an area of our life where we've been waiting for what seems like an unreasonable amount of time.  Let's determine today not to mistake this delay for a dead end.  Say out loud, "I will not run ahead of God in this. I will not manipulate or manufacture solutions.  I will not give up until God confirms I should. I will keep seeking God, fully anticipating and trusting His perfect plan to unfold in His perfect timing and His perfect way. And if He does confirm this is a dead end, I will still honor Him."

And so unless and until God us otherwise, our family is looking and trusting Him to grow us and expand to South Africa.

Thanks for loving us in it all.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

As the year draws to an end

I have started to write a "next" post so many different times in my head.

It still seems unreal to think that the last time I clicked "post" on this blog was the height of the grief and loss of our little guy. Almost 11 months ago.

To say that this year was not what we had expected seems like an understatement.

It was more stretching, more hope filled, more grief filled, harder and more foundational than we ever dreamed.

Losing our little guy rocked our home and my heart.  I won't lie.

Figuring out how to pick up the pieces and move forward as a family that is forever changed just a bit by grief took some time and much grace.

Because a loss I learned, forever changes the lens you view life through.  It always look a little differently and with one less face.

You cradle life a little more carefully, soak in who you have, and give yourself permission to let go of the extras for a bit.

I learned that comparing grief always come out with someone losing.  So often I would try to stuff my grief down with the thought that some one was walking a harder road and greater loss and I learned that  satan can attack deeply in that place.  Both losses can be validated, loved in and seen.

God met us with so much grace.  He taught us that joy and grief can be walked in tandem.  That they don't negate the other . . but in fact bless and ease each other.

He showed us so much grace in the friends that loved us through the tears, the (continued) transitions and at times, my need to pull back and hold close to the Father, Ryan and our girls.

He showed grace in the gift of our girls and all they bring to our family.  We saw Him meet them in their grief and in stretching their own hearts to trust His future for our family. They bring so much joy.

He has given grace to dream again and hope again . . .even as grief still can surprise and creep up.  Christmas was tender - we had hoped to be celebrating as a family of six.  Yet again, the grief of the loss exposed all the blessings God has given and so we held those close and gave thanks even as tears fell at times.

I have a time hop app on my phone that shows what you posted on social media 1, 2 , 3+ years ago on that day.  It is often so sweet to see what memories surprise me with each day.  Yet this time of year I am also seeing the posts of our preparing and hoping to welcome our little guy home last year.

It's interesting  - this looking back.  Without a doubt it feels tender as we approach the first birthday of our little guy and the culmination of our hope and grief that we walked.  Part of me wants to go back and prepare my heart back then . ..and yet even in it, I wouldn't change a thing.

No child deserves to be welcomed with a guarded heart.  This little guy was our son in every facet of our hearts.  God had worked a miracle of binding hearts and I will only give thanks for that even in the  heartache that can still surprise me some days.  And his story, his momma's story, and our story, all intertwined, is this daily reminder to pray for all that is broken and all that needs Jesus.

I haven't always shared the specific ending of our story on this blog . . .it ended in a way no one quite hoped.  Baby boy never went home with birth mom but instead entered the foster care system.  The entire time it unfolded, birth momma maintained contact and was grieving alongside us  and we grieved a young girl who had no real support, no long term perspective in her decision and a mutually lost son to both of us.

We had a few months of contact with birth mom and my heart grieves for her to this day.  She was struggling, greatly, last she connected and still without much support.  I wonder about her often and pray for her safety and hope she is still with us.  It is hard to hope for the miracle of reconciliation for her and baby boy . . .and so I pray for that family that is loving him and raising him for us.  We pray they love Jesus.  And we pray they are teaching him to love Jesus as well.  I never dreamed my heart would be tied to foster families in this way . ..the sweet family caring for him had no idea the story they were taking on.  And so we pray for grace for all.

Our family?  I am so grateful our family's future hasn't changed and is no less secure in the hands of loving, sovereign God.  A little baby boy and his last shared picture will forever have a place in our home.  He is a part of our story.  Our hearts.

My devotional yesterday was titled, "I have taken away Your Fear of the Future" and was based on Proverbs 31:25.

"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."

While I don't pretend to have walked this journey with all the strength and dignity that I would have liked, God has taught me so much about fear and my faith in Him for our future.  He's exposed alot and the journey has not always been pretty.

But step by step, He is teaching me that fear does not have its place in trusting our family's future and walking forward with Him.  He is teaching me to step beyond it and away from it and confidently forward.

The devotional read, "The year ahead may hold new joys and opportunities, and it may hold new hardships and hurdles.  But you can greet whatever comes, confident that I am your refuge and strength . . .not because you are sure that you can handle it, but because you are sure that I can."

We still walk many unknowns right now.  But I am so deeply, deeply, thankful, that my God's faithfulness is not one of them.

Serving Him was never about the blessings or happy endings.  It is about knowing Him, becoming more like Him, and finding Him to be true.

There are days I see a little boy and would love nothing more than to have our little guy home with us and in my arms.  But what I have learned about my Father and His goodness in this loss, is a gift I couldn't for go.

And so it is for all that, that we step into a new year with much hope and grateful that we can find confidence in a God who remains our refuge, remains our strength and is with us in all the year may hold.

Happy New Year friends . . .

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."