Saturday, January 31, 2009

What I've learned about grief

During my two miscarriages there were many people who aided Ryan and I in our grief.

There were also those that did not know how to acknowledge our miscarriage or didn’t understand our loss, and as a result, were not able to support us during our times of grief.

There were friends who called me on the phone crying, saying “I don’t have any idea what to say other than I am so so sorry, I love you and I’m praying for you.”

There were friends that came over just to be with us. Friends that told us jokes to make us laugh and forget our sorrow for a few minutes. Friends that sat with us and allowed us to ask the hard questions. We didn’t have the answers. They didn’t have the answers, but they knew we needed to voice them as we processed our grief.

There were friends that brought us meals or gave us small gifts to remember our little ones. One dear friend dropped off a care package at my door filled with comfy PJs, chocolate, a book and other small items – just to show me she cared even though she couldn’t take my pain away.

One day we found a grocery bag on our back step filled with ingredients and recipes to make some fall baked goodies. They knew I loved to bake and this was a beautiful way to touch my heart and let me know they cared about our family.

As I think about times of loss and grief in our lives, I often think about Job when he lost all of his children, livestock and everything he owned. This passage is a beautiful example of how to support one another in times of grief:

Job 2:11-13 “When Job's three friends heard about all the troubles that had come upon him, they set out from their homes and met together by agreement to go and sympathize with him and comfort him. When they saw him from a distance, they could hardly recognize him; they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was.”

Can you imagine in today’s culture going to a friend’s home and sitting with them for SEVEN days and not saying one word? Not one? This passage is so precious to me because it is their presence alone that ministers to Job – not their words.

This list may not apply to everyone, but this is what I have learned through my experiences...

What is helpful after a miscarriage:
Sending a card.
Calling to say I care about you, I love you or I’m praying for you.
Letting the person know that you don’t know what to say.
Sending an e-mail to let them know you are thinking about them.
Offering to do something – drop off a meal or bring them a movie or watch their other children if they have children.
Ask them questions about how they are feeling or doing. If they don’t want to talk about it they’ll tell you that. But please ask. We want to know you care enough to ask.
Give them a book on dealing with grief or loss.
Drop off a care package or a memento in memory of their little one.


What is hurtful after a miscarriage:
Not acknowledging the loss at all.
Telling the person, “At least you know you can get pregnant.”
Telling them, “Don’t worry. You’ll get pregnant again soon.” Please don’t promise anything that hasn’t come straight from the Word of the Lord.
Trying to say things to comfort them that could potentially just be painful. Sometimes there are no words – just hugs and tears.
Saying, "Let me know if there is anything I can do." This is a very generic and impersonal thing to say. Instead, think of something specific and just do it.
Telling stories of other people who miscarried and then went on to have bus loads of kids.

I often recall a talk that I heard Beth Moore give (can you tell I am a Beth Moore fan?), where she said that just because something is truth, does not mean it is appropriate to say at all times. For example, when someone has just experienced a painful loss, it is not appropriate to tell them that God works all things together for the good of those who love Him. It might be truth, but it is not necessary at that point in time. Save it for when the pain and grief are not raw.

I’ll conclude this very long posting with a beautiful quote that is full of truth: “While every act of compassion, sympathy and love shown to us by others can be a great comfort and help to lift us out of our grief, only the healing touch of God can completely restore us again.”

For anyone, suffering any type of pain or loss, praying for the healing touch of God to completely restore them is, by far, the most loving act any one of us can do for another.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Growing through loss

A year ago in December our good friends suffered their second miscarriage. They stopped by our home so we could see them, and a discussion came about whether recurrent miscarriages was harder or if infertility - not getting pregnant at all - was harder.

We concluded they are both difficult. They are both losses. They are both painful roads to walk.

In the insightful and well-written book, "A Grace Disguised," Jerry Sittser (who suffered the devastating loss of his mother, wife and daughter in a single car accident) says, "We tend to qualify and compare suffering and loss. Loss is loss, whatever the circumstances. All losses are bad, only bad in different ways. No two losses are ever the same. Each loss stands on its own and inflicts a unique kind of pain. What value is there to quantifying and comparing losses? What good is qualifying loss? What good is comparing? The right question to ask is not, "Whose is worse?" It is to ask, "What meaning can be gained from suffering and how can we grow through suffering?"

Death is death. Loss is loss. Pain is pain.

It’s part of life. It just is.

If there is anyone reading this who doesn't believe miscarriage is a devastating loss, read a heart-wrenching story of loss, grief and pain here. You'll never question again the agony of losing a baby in utero.

At the end of my Beth Moore study from Tuesday, I underlined the following: "The life of a Christian is never about sameness. It's always about change. That's why we must learn to survive and once again thrive when change involves heartbreaking loss. We're being conformed to the image of Christ. When our hearts are hemorrhaging with grief and loss, never forget that Christ binds and compresses it with a nail-scarred hand."

I love that. Life is about change and change involves loss. So why in our culture do we have such a hard time with grief, loss, death?

Death makes people uncomfortable and awkward. But death is as natural part of life as birth. We all are born. We all die.

For those that accept this reality, it might still be difficult to accept that the cycle of life and death doesn’t always happen like it should: the older die and the younger grow up, live and then die.

We all know it doesn't always work that way. Sometimes the young never grow up. In fact, sometimes the young are never even born.

We avert our eyes when we hear stories of death. We want to change the subject. We want to offer some sort of reason or answer for the tragedy. We want to say something to make the person feel better.

What we need to do is encourage them to grieve. We need to encourage them to mourn. We need to walk beside them in their grief and allow them to process their pain – in their time and their way. We need to remind others in their time of loss and pain what Jesus promises us: blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

I have learned it is healthy to mourn. It is necessary to grieve. It is good for my heart and soul. Even now, 2 1/2 years after my first loss, it is good for me to recognize and ponder the loss we suffered with our first baby. I take heart that I am promised comfort when I mourn.

I am thankful for these wise words from Jerry Sittser that give me hope for the future: "The experience of loss itself does not have to be the defining moment of our lives. Instead the defining moment can be our response to the loss. It is not what happens to us that matters as much as what happens in us."

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

With Hope

Music played a profound role in my life during my miscarriages and years of infertility. Looking back, I can recall specific times when a song spoke to my heart like nothing else could.

On July 9, 2006, we were at Ryan's aunt and uncle's house. He had family in from the East Coast and his uncle, a pastor, had just led us in singing Great is Thy Faithfulness as we all sat in the kitchen together. I remember that morning with such clarity. I sang along with our family members and believed every word I sang.

Then I walked into the bathroom and in an instant life changed. I just knew something wasn't quite right with my body.

Looking back, I do not think it was a coincidence that we had just sang of God's faithfulness. God's faithfulness was great before I walked into the bathroom, and His faithfulness was great after I walked out. Circumstances changed. My life changed. My future forever changed. But God did not change. His faithfulness was as real, consistent and faithful as always.

After I miscarried, a friend sent me a CD she had made with various songs on it. I listened to that CD over and over and over again. The first one was a song called With Hope by Steven Curtis Chapman. The song is about the loss of a child and the lyrics reminded me that in times of loss "we can cry with hope, we can say goodbye with hope, because we know our goodbye is not the end."

Just a few weeks later, one of my best friend's told me she was pregnant. It was so difficult for her to share this news with me having just walked alongside me through my miscarriage. Her pregnancy was very much wanted, but the timing was just a little earlier than expected.

The night she told me I remember driving down the county road where I lived at the time into the sunset listening to Joy Williams The Love of the Lord Endures. I blared it on my radio as tears streamed down my face. I combated all my grief and pain and loss with the truth that God's love would endure through my heartache and loss.

When my heart was raw I found comfort and peace in listening to songs that gave me faith, encouragement and hope in a God who was bigger than my hurt.

Here are a few of the songs that have touched my life so profoundly:







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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A binder of broken hearts

This morning I surprised myself. I was sitting in my bed working on my Beth Moore Bible Study during Samuel's morning nap. Suddenly I was overcome with tears and overwhelmed with grief.

How is this possible? A new mom of a healthy, beautiful 4-month-old overcome with grief and tears?

Next week is the two-year anniversary of the due date of our first baby and I can't seem to stop thinking about it. I have been wondering things like: what would it be like to have a 2-year-old in our home? Was it a boy or girl? Would he/she have looked like Ryan or I?

Even though it was 2 1/2 years ago that we experienced our first miscarriage, this time of year always brings to the surface the loss, the pain, the heartache of losing our first baby. As I approach this due date anniversary, it is the first time I have a second baby in heaven along with my first.

I can hardly write these words without tears flowing.

How does a mom ever forget the babies that she grew in her womb - even if for a short time? How does she ever forget the heart-wrenching grief associated with those losses?

I recognize that every miscarriage is different. Depending on your age, if you have other children, how long you have been trying for - all of these things impact how one responds to a miscarriage.

For me, we had the privilege of telling both sets of grandparents that they were just 7 months away from meeting their first grandchild. We had been married for five years and the anticipation of parenthood was so exhilarating. All of these things made our first loss so devastating.

Our second miscarriage was after two years of waiting and trying to conceive. That loss was just as deep and painful, although in a much different way.

This weekend Ryan and I were driving in the car discussing Samuel's name and the names of the babies we had chosen prior to his arrival in our lives. Years earlier we had decided on a boy and girl name (Samuel was not on our list of names). We never named the babies we miscarried, but there was an unspoken agreement that Ryan and I would not name our future children the names we had chosen prior to our miscarriages.

During our discussion in the car Ryan said to me, "When I get to heaven the first two names I will call out are Caleb and Hannah." Those were the names we had chosen so long ago for our babies. I could not hold back the tears.

The reality is that having two babies in heaven is hard. It has changed me. It has changed us. I now hold a miracle in my arms, but my heart will always long for the two babies that I never got to hold in my arms.


If this topic is uncomfortable for you, I am not going to apologize. Life is uncomfortable. Life is hard. Life is full of rejoicing and mourning. It is full of joy and pain. This week I will share what's on my heart as I approach the anniversary of our due date next week. I have always found that as a writer putting words to my thoughts and feelings brings healing to my heart.

Many people say that miscarriage is private. It's personal. And you know what? It is. Deeply personal and private. Yet, we need to talk about it. We need to acknowledge it. Holding pain, loss and grief inside hardens hearts and stuffs emotions.

Today, through my tears, I will praise God for the losses in my life that have made me who I am. I will praise Him for the gift of a baby from another woman's womb, when my womb could not carry a healthy baby. I will praise God that He binds up the brokenhearted...year, after year, after year. And I will praise Him that one day, I will see - and hold - my two whole, healthy and precious babies
in the presence of Jesus.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Celebrating a miracle

Sometimes it is still incredible to me that I have attended my very own baby showers! I have been to so many over the years that, at times, it's hard to soak in the reality that these parties are to celebrate OUR little miracle!

Last weekend I had my final baby shower. What a celebration it was! The brunch was delicious. The decor was so fun and unique. The gifts were, of course, so wonderful. But it was the people that made it so special. My sister, sister-in-law and mom, POPW gals, my homemakers group, friends new and old...what a memorable celebration. I wanted to share a bit of my heart at the shower but I let the opportunity pass by without saying anything. I am not sure I would have made it through anyway, without tears. So today I'm writing what I should have said at the shower.

Dear friends,
As I look around this room I am humbled by the women I see here today. Your presence in my life has blessed me beyond measure. You are the women who have walked me through the past three years. You cried with me and for me. You prayed on my behalf. You encouraged me. You brought me meals. You sent me cards and e-mails. You didn't always understand the journey I was on, but you stood beside me and loved me as I was. You mourned with me when I lost two babies and today you celebrate my sweet miracle Samuel. I am so thankful for each of you and the role you played in my journey to motherhood. To say I feel blessed hardly communicates the depth to which I am grateful and humbled. Thank you for loving me even when I was difficult to love. Thank you for petitioning the Lord on my behalf. He heard our prayers and what we celebrate today is the Lord's answer to those prayers. For the rest of my days, I will not forget the women that God brought into my life for such a time as this. I love you all and I thank God for your friendships.

Here are some photos from the celebration:























































































Thursday, January 22, 2009

To risk or not to risk?

In honor of Sanctity of Human Life week, Focus on the Family is covering topics such as abortion and adoption. Today's broadcast topic was on adoption. You can listen online at this web site: http://listen.family.org/daily/A000001642.cfm

Dr. Dobson acknowledges the reality that birth parents change their minds in adoptions. As I listened to him tell a story about that taking place, I thanked the Lord that Samantha did not change her mind.

My heart also grieved for those I know who have lost babies when birth parents asked for them back.

I believe that people will not consider adoption because of the risks associated with the birth parents. This is understandable.

But I believe that a pregnancy holds just as many risks as an adoption. Having lost two of my precious babies to miscarriages, I have experienced first-hand the reality of pregnancy risks.

I can't imagine the phone call that delivers the news that your sweet baby whom you have had for days, weeks or even months is going to be taken away. It would be shocking, heart-wrenching and devastating.

But I can imagine the ultrasound that shows you will never get to meet the little one in your womb. I can imagine the technician who declares, "There is no heartbeat. The fetal sack has collapsed. Your baby has died." It is shocking, heart-wrenching and devastating.

I have a friend who lost her son Harrison 24 hours after birth due to a neurological birth defect. I have friends who lost their little girl Mia within hours of birth as well.

No pregnancy is without risks.

No adoption is without risks.

We can choose to live in fear. Or we can choose to trust the author and creator of life and ask that He guide us into parenthood as He sees fit for our lives. He gives and He takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

My list

Samuel has been sick this week with a cold so sleep has been very limited. The last few nights we have been up many times with our little guy. I was thinking today about motherhood and what I would write to myself in the past knowing what I know now about motherhood (all 3 1/2 months of it!). Some things on my list I did, some I did not. Some I am grateful for, and others I regret that I didn't do a better job of.

Here is the list I came up with in my head:
Record life as it is currently. Take pictures of yourself, your spouse, where you live, where you work, who you hang out with. Write down where you go and what you do. Someday your kids will want to know how mom and dad spent their time and money.

Sleep in every chance you get. Every Saturday sleep until 9 or 10. Or wake up and just hang out in bed reading, cuddling, being warm and cozy. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep. Don't feel guilty. Just sleep :)

Travel. Every chance you get take trips. Long trips. Short trips. Weekend trips. Trips with girlfriends. Trips with your spouse. Trips with extended family. Go sightseeing. Go somewhere tropical. Save up if you need to - it's worth it. You'll love remembering all the places you went and the things you did.

So many of us wait for life to start before we'll do this....or do that. Don't waste a day. You might be waiting (waiting for a spouse, waiting for kids, waiting for a relationship, waiting for a new/different job). Don't just wait. Live. Serve. Give. Love. Make memories. Laugh. Relax. Grow. Meet people. Get involved. Learn a new hobby. These things will make your wait worthwhile.


Develop your friendships. Your time and energy is limited once kids come along so pour into your friends now. You'll then have solid, stable friends to rely on when your family grows. You won't have the same amount of time to put into the friendships later, and expectations will need to change, but those friends will be priceless and you'll need them in your new role as a mother.

Become an expert on your spouse. My mother-in-law says, "when you love someone you become an expert on them." Study your spouse. Go on dates. Treat him like a King. Go out for breakfast. Learn what he needs to feel loved and respected. Do whatever it takes to make your marriage strong. Develop habits that will carry you into the rest of your marriage and through the years with young kids.

Make personal development a goal. Figure out your strengths and your weaknesses. Challenge yourself (physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually). Seek God like you never have before. Determine your purpose, principles and priorities. Learn what your roles are in life and how to grow in each role. Study yourself and always push yourself to be better. Then go easy on yourself and trust your instinct. Read - for fun and self improvement. Take care of yourself, your body, your mind.


I might continue this list as more things come to mind....for now I thank God for what I know now and trust Him for all I'll learn in the years to come.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Gratitude

Today I'm just thankful. So thankful for the decision another mom made. Samantha, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for making the most unselfish choice a mother can make.






If you want to see the story behind this song you can watch it here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z61zdZJ9uZc


We're still waiting to hear whether or not we go to court on February 5 for the final step in the adoption process. It seems that our post-placement report was not submitted (it should have been submitted long ago....). We would love your prayers for the final step of Samuel's adoption to be completed in the next few weeks. We hope our wait is almost over so we can officially be a 'forever family.'

Monday, January 19, 2009

Adoption video

I will never forget the moment I got the call. Central and 27th....every time I drive by that intersection I immediately remember that moment. I know what I was wearing. I know what I was doing. I know exactly where I was standing. I feel the emotion of the tears that started the moment I heard the words that there was a birth mom who had a little boy.

It was the moment that changed everything. And I am never the same...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Questioning God

After Samuel came into our lives, for awhile I thought I wouldn't ever question God again. I wouldn't question His ways, His timing, His plans. I wouldn't question suffering or grief or pain because I knew that ultimately, God was God and He was in charge of our lives.

I knew all those experiences are part of life and part of our journey. For me personally, those experiences were ultimately for my good. They refined me. And challenged me. And changed me. And I am so thankful for those hard experiences.

And when God dropped a miracle into our lives, I knew that His timing, His plans, His ways were perfect.

And though I didn't understand it all during my waiting season, the big picture was far greater and more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

But here I am just a few short months later....

And I'm questioning God.

I'm wondering what He is up to.

I'm wondering about His ways, His timing, His plans.

I'm wondering why life doesn't make sense.

I'm wondering why life has to be so hard sometimes.

I'm wondering why things are confusing.

I'm wondering about God's plans and I am trying to understand why things happen the way they do.

I'm wondering about tears and laughter, smiles and heartache, happiness and pain, rejoicing and mourning and why they always seem to go hand in hand.

I'm wondering why God doesn't take us from this pain-filled world and bring us to eternity where praising His name will be our sole purpose.

And I keep wondering about this verse: “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the Lord. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8

Tonight in church we sang the song Enough by Chris Tomlin... I recall praying this song during my season of waiting and truly wanting God to be more than enough for me. I wouldn't sing the lyrics unless I really meant them.

Tonight I went through a list of names in my head (many of you who read this blog) and prayed that God would be more than enough for each of you (and me) as we walk through this journey called life. I prayed not that we would just sing and claim that He is more than enough, but that He really would be and that our lives would reflect that belief.

Here are the lyrics:
All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You are my reward
worth living for
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You’re my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You’re the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Dear Samuel

Dear Samuel,
You and I have spent a lot of time together during the past 3 1/2 months. Pretty much all day, every day (and a lot of nights too!).

But last night you took your mom on her first dinner date with you. It was such a fun and precious time, I'm not sure I'll ever forget it.

As we headed out the door it was about -5 degrees out (which is significantly warmer than it is outside today).

Our date started with a trip to the library so mom could pick up some books on vaccinations and sleeping. There are a lot of helpful books for an uneducated new mom to read, so I'm reading like crazy. Then we went to the post office and bought some more stamps so we can send out all the baby announcements and thank yous that we didn't send before Christmas (there are just so many!).

Then we went to return a movie to Redbox at McDonalds and that's when you decided we should stay and have a dinner date together.

You sat in your car seat smiling like crazy while mom ate a #2 all by herself. I talked to you and you always smiled in return. I enjoyed my delicious not-so-healthy dinner very much. But the company was the best. I am not sure I've ever enjoyed a trip to McDonalds quite so much. I soaked it all in so I wouldn't forget it.

3 1/2 months might be a little young to introduce you to fast food, but I don't regret it for one minute. The only regret I have is that I forgot the camera and couldn't take a pic of you on our first dinner date together.

But there will be more dates. Lots more. I'm going to squeeze in as many dates with you as possible in the next 10 years because after that you'll want to hang out with your friends rather than your mom.

Oh my little man. My sweet Samuel. If only I had known what I was waiting for, I would have waited for you forever.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Shoes

Samuel's dad and Grandpa and Grandma May are all traveling this week. Here are a few photos for you three. We miss and love you all.

In these photos I think Samuel is trying to say, "Look at me - I'm wearing shoes for the first time!"






































































I just might have to get Shoes Take Me Where I Want To Go to read to my little man. It's by one of my favorite authors: Marianne Richmond.

Monday, January 12, 2009

When God doesn't make sense

Please pray for these friends. Ryan and I met them last month at church when they shared that they too would soon be adopting. My heart is breaking.

Hello Everyone,

It is with very heavy hearts that we send this e-mail. Last night (Weds.) we received a phone call that Isabel's birthparents changed their minds and decided to parent her. MN law allows them 10 business days to change their minds, but no one, not even the social workers, saw this coming. Our precious Isabel Rose was picked up by another social worker last night and taken away from us. We are completely devastated and don't know where or how to pick up the pieces from here. Our families and our social worker were here with us when she left, and they have been helping us through this. We plan to take some time and get some counseling from our agency and try to figure out where to go from here.

Please pray for us during this difficult time, and please pass this news onto others who may have known that we had adopted a baby. Also, please pray for Isabel and that she would be well cared for by her birthparents. For five wonderful days, she was our little girl, and we hope and pray that she will have a good life.

Love,
Emily and Joe

Saturday, January 10, 2009

God is preparing

My cousin (who is currently looking into adoption) sent me this verse last week. Today it's reigning on my mind and filling my heart....

"No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

Friday, January 9, 2009

Worth the wait

I recently received a Christmas letter from our dear friends Tim and Jeri Anne (the ones who told us about Samuel). Their story is one of miracles as well and I cannot read it without tears. It is inspiring and encouraging, yet not without loss and heartache.

I asked Jeri if I could share her story with all of you. It reminds that it's always, always worth the wait when God is writing our stories. Sit back, read on and praise God for His goodness even when it doesn't seem to make sense....

Our dear family and friends,
Last year we didn’t write a Christmas letter, as our hearts were grieving and I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. Last year at this time we said good-bye to our precious foster children Demi and Rapheal. They had been with us since June, and we had fallen absolutely in love with them, thinking that they would be with us forever. After dealing with infertility for four years, this was a devastating loss and I was not looking forward to celebrating Christmas without our children. What I didn’t anticipate was how much Christmas would mean to me that year.


I missed my Rapheal (and Demi too of course). Raph was only 4 weeks old when we got him, and he became a little person in my arms. He knew me as his momma, and I was hopelessly attached. No, attached isn’t a strong enough word. Glued. Stuck. He was my son, and I loved him more than anything. I had to pack up all of his favorite toys, his little clothes, his diapers- everything he would need. Everything but me. I didn’t know if he would be safe where he was going. I was afraid for him, and if it was my choice I never would have let him go. That is why last Christmas I finally got it. In some small, insignificant way, I understood. God sent us His son by choice. He knew the world wasn’t safe. He even knew His son would die an excruciating death. And yet He still chose to send Him because He loves us that much. He gave His most precious gift so we could be free. It is unfathomable to me.

And not only that- He still loves us that much. He didn’t just save us and leave. He is at work, and moving in the world. There is no way you can hear our story and deny that. If fact, it’s hard for me to fit all of it into two pages, so I’ll have to give you the “cliff notes” version of the four biggest miracles of our year…


A week after Demi and Raph left I got a call from their mother. She wanted to know when we wanted to see the kids next. I was shocked and thrilled, but I knew why she had called so soon. My amazing husband had done what I was too selfish to do. He had gone up to the kids’ mom twenty minutes after the judge announced the kids were leaving us, and with tears in his eyes told her we were proud of her. This choice started a relationship only God could create. We are now family. Their mom is clean and sober, and doing great. She is praising God for how well she is doing, and we just spent a wonderful Thanksgiving together. What a miracle.


Now for miracle #2. We decided to take another foster-adopt baby named Tae in February. I was teaching at Delano High School as a long-term sub. and Tj was busy with snowplowing, but this little boy needed a home and we were told there was a very good chance we would be able to adopt him. Of course, we had heard that song before, and Tae left the middle of April. The day after Tae left my mom called me crying. She had just received a call from a girl from Aitkin (my/our hometown) who was pregnant and looking for adoptive parents for her baby. Without even meeting us, she and her mom had prayed and decided that we were supposed to be this baby girl’s parents. On September 30th, I was given the unbelievable privilege to witness my daughter’s birth. We now have a beautiful baby girl, Chloe Johannah, who will be ours forever! Tim and I are so thankful that Chloe’s birth mom, Elsa, chose life. It is not only life for Chloe, but also life for us as we now have the child we have always longed for. Elsa is an amazing, wise young woman, and we are looking forward to having her and her family as part of ours as well.


Then miracle #3. The day after Chloe was born the doctors decided to fly her to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis because she wasn’t eating, was choking, and there was some concern with her x-rays. She was in the NICU for 4 days, and was released without any diagnosis. She just simply started to eat regularly and stopped choking. We have no other explanation than that hundreds of people were praying for her, and God answered those prayers. While we were at Children’s, another prayer was answered- one that we had been praying for years as well (miracle #4). On Saturday morning I was sitting next to Chloe’s bed, holding her tiny hand, when my mom came rushing in telling me that my mother-in-law had called. Her friend’s daughter had just had a baby boy that she wanted to find adoptive parents for. Did we want a boy too? Tj and I were laughing as we were both sure of our answer. No, we had our baby, and we knew of the perfect couple. Our good friends Stacy and Ryan May had also been longing for children for years, and Stacy and I had often asked the hard questions and cried together, wondering why we weren’t able to have the babies we wanted so desperately. Tj went to the hospital with Ryan and Stacy, and a few hours later the birth mother decided they were to be the adoptive parents. Chloe was released on Sunday and Samuel Lee May was released the next day. Unbelievable! I couldn’t, in my wildest dreams, imagine that this December Stacy and I would be thrown a double baby shower for our miracle babies who are only 4 days apart.


God is good, and He is faithful. He gave up His only son for us, and this season we are so grateful. We are so grateful that we get to experience Him in so many ways. We are so grateful that our waiting is never in vain. We are so grateful that He has blessed us with all of you- who have journeyed with us, cried with us, prayed with us, and now rejoice with us.


We love you. Merry Christmas!


Tj, Jeri, and Chloe


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Words on Waiting

You'd think by now I would be good at waiting...

Last March Ryan and I celebrated 7 years of marriage and still we waited.

Last April I turned 32 years old and still I waited. 

Last May I endured another dreaded Mother's Day (although we avoided it as best as possible and spent the day on our own) and still we waited.

I waited for positive pregnancy tests. I waited for my cycle to start (or end). I waited while others got pregnant. I waited while others gave birth. I waited while friends said, "Maybe you haven't gotten pregnant so we can be pregnant together."

And then they had babies. 

And still I waited. 

I quit my job to work at home. 

I sold my house and moved into a new home.

I did acupuncture, changed my diet, and took dietary supplements. 
And I waited. 

Then I got pregnant. And I waited. Then we lost the baby.

As you know, in God's miraculous plan, He brought Samuel into our lives a few weeks later. And even though we now had a baby, there was still plenty of waiting in store.

We waited for the 10-business day waiting period for the birth mom not to change her mind. 

We waited for the 30 days for the birth dad not to claim his parental rights.
 
We waited for the post-placement study to be completed. 

And now we wait to find out when we go to court so the adoption can be finalized and Samuel will be legally ours.

They said sometime in February but we haven't heard. I contacted our attorney but she hasn't responded. I want to call. I want to get the date on the calendar. I want to be in control of my waiting.

But I'm not in control. In fact, I was never in control. One can't control waiting. We can't start it or stop it.

And it never gets easier.

Even though we have a tentative end to our wait, it is still waiting. And I do not like waiting.

I cannot believe that I still haven't gotten used to waiting. I mean, Ryan and I pretty much chose the fertility method of waiting on the Lord the last two years. We could have done IUI or IVF but we felt called to wait. We couldn't control our wait, but we felt called to wait. 

During my three years of waiting I listened to songs on waiting. I read books and articles on waiting. I marked verse after verse in my Bible that referenced waiting (and I put the date in the margin next to it). I listened to sermons on waiting. I have a lot of waiting resources. And through them I learned that waiting is not an accident. Waiting in not unplanned by the God of the universe. Waiting is not an alternative to plan A. Waiting IS plan A. If I am waiting it is because that is exactly where God wants me to be today.

So here I am. Waiting. And I'm reminded of a verse a friend e-mailed me a few weeks ago and I read in a letter again today:

Isaiah 64:4
"Since ancient times no one has heard, no ear has perceived, no eye has seen any God besides you, who acts on behalf of those who wait for Him."

What a promise that is for those of us who are waiting. Tonight I will lay my weary head on my pillow trusting and believing that our God of miracles is already acting on our behalf as we wait for Him.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Measuring life by cat food

I have been amazed by how quickly time flys as a new parent. It has been only three months, but time is racing. Yes, Samuel still seems small, but I know he is getting bigger. I know, not just because I can see him growing, but also because the cat food container keeps needing to be refilled.

It used to be that it seemed that it would take months for Jersey (our cat) to go through all her food in her container. Today either she is eating way more or time is flying, it seems like every week I am filling the container.

The last two weeks of vacation were among the fastest moving of my life. I enjoyed spending all day everyday with Samuel and am more sad to go back to work than I thought I would be. But the responsibility to provide for my family is all the more real.

Measuring time by the number of times I have to fill the cat food container may be unconventional, but every time I fill it up I smile and think of Samuel growing.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Dear friends, He is able

Last night at church I found myself in tears. The message was over and we were singing Mighty to Save by Hillsong Australia. If you don't know that song, you can click here and listen to it:


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The reason that I found myself in tears is because whenever I hear that song, I am immediately brought back to last summer. It was a hot, sunny summer day and this song came on the radio as I was driving in the car. I love this song but on that particular day it was heart-wrenching for me to hear the lyrics.

I cried out to God, "If you can move the flippin' mountains why won't you move this mountain in my life? The mountain of infertility?"

I was screaming at God, crying tears of frustration and anger. It was so painful because the truth was clearly evident: God can move the mountains. Heck, He made the mountains. God is able to move any mountain in our life if He so chooses.

The reality hit me that God was choosing to not move this mountain in my life last summer. And that truth was painfully real that day.

This weekend my cousin told me that when her and her husband heard about the Lord bringing Samuel into our lives in such a miraculous way, they were encouraged that if God could give us a baby, He could certainly sell their home. It had been on the market for a number of months and they were discouraged it wasn't selling.

Our story of God's miraculous provision encouraged their hearts and reaffirmed their belief of the Lord's power. Unfortunately their home still hasn't sold today. But that does't mean God can't sell it in a heartbeat if He so chooses. As the lyrics below state, He conquered the grave. If Jesus conquered death, He can certainly sell homes and heal bodies.

I am in the midst of a Beth Moore Bible Study and a few weeks ago we were studying the Obstacle of Unbelief. This spoke to my heart: "Please understand. Christ is fully God. He can heal anyone or perform any wonder, whether the belief of the person is great or small. Christ isn't asking us to believe in our ability to exercise unwavering faith. He is asking us to believe that He is able."

God may choose not to move mountains in our life. It is not our place nor our responsibility to believe that He will always move our mountains. But it is our place and our responsibility to believe that He is able.

Friends I pray that today your heart believes that God is able. While it might be painful to know that He is choosing to not move your mountain, may you have a peace that surpasses all understanding as you trust that we serve a God who is able.

Mighty to Save lyrics are as follows:

Everyone needs compassion,
Love that's never failing;
Let mercy fall on me.

Everyone needs forgiveness,
The kindness of a Saviour;
The Hope of nations.

Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.

Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

So take me as You find me,
All my fears and failures,
Fill my life again.

I give my life to follow
Everything I believe in,
Now I surrender.

My Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.
Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

Shine your light and let the whole world see,
We're singing for the glory of the risen King...Jesus (x2)

My Saviour, He can move the mountains,
My God is Mighty to save,
He is Mighty to save.
Forever, Author of salvation,
He rose and conquered the grave,
Jesus conquered the grave.

My Saviour, you can move the mountains,
You are mighty to save,
You are mighty to save.
Forever, Author of Salvation,
You rose and conquered the grave,
Yes you conquered the grave

Saturday, January 3, 2009

3-month photos

"Sometimes, said Pooh, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart."

































































Friday, January 2, 2009

Prayer

I would love to say that during our journey to parenthood Ryan and I spent considerable time together before the Lord petitioning Him for our future children. I wish I could say we fasted weekly or spent hours on our knees.

Yes we prayed. Sometimes we prayed a lot. But sometimes we didn't pray. Sometimes we just cried. Sometimes we didn't have words to pray. Sometimes we were mad or angry or didn't want to talk to God. Sometimes we were jealous and just wanted to yell at God.

And there were days I wasn't on my knees because I was flat on my face before God with a broken heart. There were days I couldn't stop the tears as I questioned God's plan, God's purpose, God's ways.

Other days I would put on some worship music and let the tears fall. Or turn my eyes heavenward and let the praises flow.

I know that God heard the prayers we did offer up. He heard the prayers of others for us. He acknowledged when others fasted on our behalf.

We weren't only praying for me to get pregnant. We were praying for a baby. We were praying for our future family. We were praying for God's will to be done. We were praying for God to be glorified. We were praying for wisdom for the journey we were on and for strength to continue to follow when it was hard.

And now that we are parents I wish I could say we spend hours on our knees asking God to help us be the best parents possible. I wish I could say we fast weekly for Samuel's future and his health.

Some days all I get out is a rushed prayer mumbled over his sweet bald head asking God to bless my little man.

We can always do better. We can always spend more time in prayer. More time petitioning the Lord.

But I think we only truly fail when we don't seek the Lord at all. When we face parenthood on our own. When we try to make decisions without the Lord's guidance. When we ask friends, read books, go online, talk to doctors....instead of talking to the Great Physician who can heal our bodies, our hearts and our babies in the blink of an eye.

As we wait for our season of parenthood to begin, we can wait on the Lord and petition Him for wisdom and guidance.

As we live out our roles of parenthood, we can seek the Lord for the energy, strength and attitudes needed to guide our little ones into adulthood and become followers of Jesus.

I love these two quotes that encourage my heart to pray....whatever the circumstance:

"Perhaps you will have to spend hours on your knees or upon your face before the throne. Never mind. Wait. God will do great things for you if you will wait for Him. Yield to Him. Cooperate with Him." - John Smith


"It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly, continue in prayer until we obtain an answer; and further we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us, and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained, and in not expecting the blessing." George Müller

Lord I petition you today for all those considering adoption. Guide them on this journey. Open doors of opportunity. Speak to their hearts. Provide the finances necessary. Show yourself to them. Keep both partners in unity. Direct their decisions. Give them peace about each step of their journey. Prepare them now for whatever you have in store for their future. And until you reveal what you have for them, may Your presence overwhelm them, your goodness fill them up and your faithfulness remind them they are not alone.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Adoption price tag

I believe that the cost of domestic adoption is much lower than many people think. Ryan and I were spared some expenses because our birthmother chose us independently so that eliminated some steps with the adoption agency. The adoption agency was only involved with the home study portion.

Also, our birthmother was covered under her mother's health insurance so we were not responsible for those bills. Samuel was covered under medical assistance for the most part.

Here is a run down of our adoption-related expenses:

$2,600 - Adoption attorney
$2,500 - Adoption agency
$1,300 - Birthmother's attorney
$327 - Court administrator
$30 - City of Minneapolis
$30 - Bureau of criminal apprehension
$5 - District court administrative fee
$12 - City of Minneapolis
$16 - Hennepin County
$600 - Post placement study

Total: $7,420

Financial things to consider:
  • There is a Federal Adoption Tax Credit of more than $11,000
  • Check Employer Adoption Assistance for both parents (Ryan's work offers up to $4,000 in adoption assistance)
  • Foster care to adopt: If parents choose to adopt through the state the cost can be very minimal

A few resources (there are many online):
http://www.adoptionloans.com/
http://www.adoptlink.com/
http://www.affordingadoption.com/grants.php

It's worth it. Every penny is worth it. I told Ryan the other day that I can't wait to adopt again. Truly, I can't. We had a wonderful adoption experience. However, I'm not so naive as to think our next adoption will go as smoothly or will cost this amount. But if every step is God-ordained, we're along for the ride and we'll bring our checkbook.