Thursday, September 30, 2010

Adoption is all about miracles

There is a quotation that reads: Some people dream of angels, I hold one in my arms.

I would edit that quotation to read: Some people dream of miracles, I hold one in my arms.

That's what adoption is: a miracle. In so many ways. Little babies being knit together in the womb. Parents with empty arms longing to hold babies.

God brings babies to hopeful, waiting parents and creates beautiful families. He makes dreams come true. He brings miracles to life.

The same God who turned water into wine, fed thousands, walked on water, healed the blind, the lame and the sick, and calmed the storm, creates babies and places them in the arms of waiting parents. 


Just look at these pictures from the first couple days we held our miracle....


















My empty arms were filled to overflowing in 24 hours. While my womb was still healing, and my physical and emotional scars still tender, God placed a baby boy in my arms. I didn't need to wait 9 months. I met him within hours of learning about him. That can only be attributed to God. That can only be a miracle.

I love Samuel as only a mother can. I know him deeply and love him completely. But when I look at Ryan, I see that he was meant to be Samuel's dad. Ryan loves him and plays with him and cares for him and makes him laugh in ways I can't. They make up crazy games for hours on end. Samuel often cries out, "My dadeeeee." No one is of greater importance in Samuel's life than his dad. And that can only be a miracle.

I believe God uses adoption to perform miracle after miracle. I believe adoption is God's perfect plan. It is not plan B or C or D. Adoption is God's plan and His plans are always perfect.

Thank you Jesus for entrusting us with a miracle.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Everything to me

I have posted these videos before, but I feel the need to post them again. The first is a video of the song Everything To Me by Mark Schultz. It was written about his birth mom in gratitude for the gift of life that she gave him.

The second video is Mark talking about making the video and realizing how his birth mom chose life. It's beautiful.

The Everything To Me video is powerful and I love watching it. And when the video shows the couple walking through the hospital doors, I burst into tears. 

Because that was us.

We were that hopeful couple walking into the hospital one fall Saturday morning. We had no idea what to expect or who we would meet or what would happen.

But we were given a gift. A gift of life. And walking through those hospital doors changed my life.




Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 adoption questions

I have created an Adoption Story/Gotcha Day album for Samuel. We love reading it to him! It's 8 x 8 and I used digital software to create the layouts. I will post some of the layouts this week. I found a list of these adoption questions and used some of them for my journaling. These are taken from Creative Memories' 10 questions Idea Book.

1. Where did  I come from? Different city, different state, different country? What’s it like there?
2.  What was my birth family like? Did my birth family love me?
3.  Why did you decide to adopt? Did you try to have a baby on your own first? Or did you feel like God was calling you to take in a child who needed you?
4.  Why did you pick me? How did you know I was the one? What were you looking for?
5.  How did you find me? How did you decide which adoption agency to work with? How long did it take to find me?
6. What did you do while you waited? Were you anxious, excited, scared? Did you have everything ready?
7. What was it like when we met? Were you excited to get the news? What did you think the first time you saw me? How did I react?
8. How did you pick my name? Where did it come from? What does it mean? Did I have a different name before? Tell me about it.
9. What was it like for us all getting used to each other? How did I like my new home?
10. Will you love me forever?

Some questions are geared toward international adoption so I just answered the ones I felt were relevant to Samuel's story. These questions are wonderful to help adoptive parents begin writing out their child's story. I love to write to my kids rather than write about my kids - it is so much more personal and easier to write that way.

There is no story like you're own story. I am so glad Samuel has such an amazing story to read about his birth and how he came to be part of our family.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

It's because of one

This morning at church I chatted with a woman I haven't seen in a long time - probably for about two years. Her daughter is expecting next month after numerous miscarriages. Of course, upon hearing that, we launched into a lengthy conversation about the difficulties of losing babies, how devastating that is and yet how God can redeem that and use it for His glory.

In our conversation I said, "If we hadn't miscarried we wouldn't have Samuel."

We. Wouldn't. Have. Samuel.

Thinking that statement, much less saying it, is like ripping out part of my heart. I can't fathom how our lives would be different without that little man. We are crazy about that kid.

I think about how hard my miscarriages were and then how much joy we experienced when Samuel was born and given to us through the gift of adoption.

Because of the miscarriages, and waiting on the Lord and not knowing if our future held biological children, we jumped when we got the call about Samuel. It's because of one that we got the other.

Sunday marks two years since Samuel was born. Ryan and I can't help but remember our wild, crazy ride two years ago. We are celebrating the amazing gift that adoption is. I can't celebrate Samuel without celebrating adoption. It's because of one that we get to celebrate the other.

And this week I also think of Samantha and Jill. Samuel's birth mom and grandma. My heart hurts for them as this week surely is one of remembrance for them as well. I can't think of Samuel without thinking of them. It's because of one that we get to love the other.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

You know

You know you're a mom of small children when...

You realize you haven't put on deodorant for three days because you don't know where your husband put your deodorant after your son was recently caught licking it.

You've gone through four cell phones in ONE summer....sometimes due to your carelessness and sometimes due to your childrens' curiosity.

Your lunch consists of three grapes from your son's plate, 1/2 a piece of your daughter's toast, two bites of string cheese, what was left in the jar of applesauce and the three pita chips dipped in hummus that you crammed in your mouth while standing at the kitchen counter.

You find yourself saying, "I'm going to the bathroom. Alone."

You cut all food into small pieces. Your kids' food. Your food. Your husband's food.

Upon waking in the morning, the first thing running through your mind is "Head shoulders knees and toes, knees and toes."

Your life is run by the clock. Wake time. Nap time. Meal time. Play time. Bath time. Bed time.

"Moo, chugga chugga choo choo, and Elmo's world," are part of your daily vocabulary.

You can make up games to entertain or distract - anytime, anywhere, without using anything.

You lay your head on your pillow at night and think, "Blessed. Physically and mentally exhausted. Yet so very blessed."

**New addition: You know you're a mom of small children when.....you're checking to see if your daughter's formula is recalled because of bug parts. Fun.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Unemployment

Not too long ago a friend asked about unemployment and if it was enough for our family to live on.

The short answer is, "Um, no."

The long answer is this:
We receive an unemployment check each week. After we make our weekly mortgage payment, we are left with $70 a week to live on. 

That $70 needs to cover:
Health insurance
Electric bill
Gas bill
Water bill
Garbage bill
My car payment (Ryan's car is paid for)
Cell phones
Comcast bill (Internet, tv and home phone)
Food
Gas
Any non-food items - toiletries, paper products
Clothes
Diapers

In July we signed up for a government-sponsored program called WIC (Women, Infant and Children). This program is income based and we qualified to receive help. WIC provides vouchers for bread, milk, cheese, peanut butter, formula, baby food, juice, and a few fruit and veggies. However, even with this assistance we still spend at least $50 a week on groceries.

That leaves $20 a week for gas.

Then we're outta money.

So, no. Unemployment is not enough to live on.

My husband has taught financial classes at church for a number of years and we worked hard to get out of debt when we were first married. Thankfully, we had a few months worth of savings to live on when he lost his job.

That was four months ago.

We are out of savings.

We've drawn from a few different resources to have money to live on so we'll be OK for a couple more months. Even though unemployment doesn't pay for everything, we are very thankful that we receive an unemployment check each week. 

We have several family members on both sides who are self-employed and when their income slows down, or even disappears, there is no unemployment to sign up for.

I'm not writing this to get tips on saving money or living frugally or reducing debt.

I'm just writing to inform. To share. To be authentic.

I'm writing so that if you hear about someone you know losing their job - or not having steady work if they are self-employed - it's a big deal. Every time I look at the newspaper, I see articles about people losing their homes and/or acquiring massive amounts of debt.

Here's what I'm really trying to say:
God calls us to be wise stewards of our money, friends. If you have an income - regardless of whether it's a high income or a steady income - please do not neglect two things: tithing and saving. You will only be blessed and benefit from these habits. God calls us to give back to Him from what He has blessed us with. God calls us to be good stewards by saving a portion of our income.

God has a lot to say about money. There are more verses about money in the Bible than any other topic. How we spend, how we save, how we give...how we live.

Being unemployed is scary. Some days it's terrifying. Even as a Jesus-follower, when you don't know how the bills will get paid, it's a difficult place to be.

But He will provide, of that we are sure. Unemployment check or not, He will meet all our needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Amen.

Monday, September 20, 2010

To the moon and back

Tonight Samuel and I sat on our screened in porch looking at the moon.

It was a 70-degree warm, fall evening. And the moon was big, beautiful and very bright.

It was a precious moment between mother and son.

As I looked at the moon, I couldn't help but think of one of our books titled: Guess How Much I Love You.













In this sweet book, Little Nutbrown Hare is playing a game in which he tries to out due his father in expressing his love for him. The book concludes with Little Nutbrown Hare telling his father he loves him to the moon. And Big Nutbrown Hare responds to his sleeping son, that he also loves him to the moon....and back.

Neither of my children are currently intrigued by this book, but I hope they will enjoy listening to it one day because I plan to read it to them.

Looking at the the moon tonight, thinking about how many thousands of miles away it is, and treasuring the amazing feeling of loving the little boy in my arms all way to the moon...and back.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Adoption post

Here's a great post from a blogger coming out about being infertile. For those of you walking this path, you'll identify with much of what she writes.

She is now awaiting the birth of her daughter-to-be through adoption. 

I am enjoying following her journey. You will too.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Gratitude

This morning I could no longer sleep, and decided to pull out my journal from my first miscarriage and the following years of waiting. I was reading through it (trying to find some nuggets of truth and wisdom to carry me through this time of waiting) and came across a powerful quote.

It was taken from a book called Tender Fingerprints about a couple who grieved the loss of their baby:
"Gratitude, not remorse, should come to be the defining sentiment of your life. I know that is easier said than done, and you must not try to suppress your feelings of sorrow and grief, but as God's child and someone who has been the undeserved recipient of his grace, gratitude, whatever your circumstance, is warranted."

When I read this book I was dealing with feelings of sorrow and grief. But today as I read it I am struggling with waiting and trusting and believing.

So the last sentence spoke volumes to me:
"...gratitude, whatever your circumstance, is warranted."

What is the defining sentiment of my life?

Faith? Doubt? Belief? Joy? Gratitude?

I would venture to say that people who have hearts of gratitude deal with trials in life very differently than those who do not have hearts of gratitude.

defining. sentiment. of. my. life

g  r  a  t  i  t  u  d  e

undeserved. recipient. of. his. grace.

g  r  a  t  i  t  u  d  e

whatever. my. circumstance.

g  r  a  t  i  t  u  d  e

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

A little getaway

Dad and Mom are off for their first overnight away since Lauren was born a year ago. We're using points for our hotel room and family is watching our kiddos. Away we go!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear Sweet Baby Girl

Baby girl,
It's the eve of your first birthday.

Your FIRST birthday.

All day I've been thinking about one year ago...I was hugely pregnant with you. One week overdue. Anxiously awaiting your arrival. Fearful of the pain I would experience in labor and delivery. Pondering how life would change with two babies in my arms. Wondering how fun it would be to have a girl.

Today I can't imagine not having a baby girl. I thought I loved you then. 


I thought because I had waited for you for so long, that my love was overflowing. And it was.

But it doesn't even compare to today.

You are the sweetest baby girl. Your smiles are never ending. Your blue eyes melt me over and over again.

As I look back on this post from one year ago, I am reminded that birthing you baby girl was one of the hardest things I have ever done. And I can't wait to share that story with you some day (I'm working on an album that tells you the story of your birth....but it's not done yet!).

This first year of your life was filled with plenty of challenges. But even more joys. The pitter patter of crawls on my hardwood floors, the giggles, the tickling, the laughter, the splashing in the tub, the babbles on the monitor...it fills my heart to overflowing.

Today you crawled into the kitchen and signed 'eat.' Your daddy and I are so proud of you. You are learning and growing every single day. We are madly, crazily, totally and completely in love with you baby girl.

As I put you to bed tonight I prayed over you. I prayed that you would be a woman of faith, honesty, purity and kindness. But I also prayed that you would be courageous and bold. I asked God to mark you for something great. I prayed that trusting would come easy to you and that your identity would be found in God alone.

I can't believe it's been a year since I held you in my arms like this:





I am so proud to be your mama.

One year down baby girl.

Forever to go.

I love you,
Mom

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Praying my heart will never forget

This afternoon at 3:30 I walked my baby girl to sleep. She was long overdue for an afternoon nap and her 1st birthday party was starting in 30 minutes.

For some reason she hadn't gone to sleep at 1:45 so I was trying again. I walked and sang. Walked and sang.

"How great is our God. Sing with me. How great is our God. And all will see how great, how great is our God. Name above all names. Worthy of all praise. My heart will sing how great is our God."

As I walked I thought about what I was singing. My heart will sing how great is our God.


Recently I was told a friend: "I know in my head that God is faithful. I know that He is trustworthy. I know that His timing is perfect. But my heart doesn't seem to be understanding that lately." 


We discussed how the two feet from our head to our heart can be a long way to travel sometimes. Just because we know something in our head, doesn't mean our heart always understands it.

Today as I sang,
My heart will sing how great is our God, I wondered to myself, "Is my heart really singing that our God is great? Or is my head just singing that?"

But as I walked I realized I was holding my answer in my arms.

Two years ago on 9.11.08 I was told the baby in my womb had died.


That very same day my sister lost her job.

That day sucked. A lot.

9.11.01 was a devastating day.

9.11.08 was also a devastating day.


Today, exactly two years later, I walked and sang my DAUGHTER to sleep on the day of her 1st birthday party.

How is that possible? How did I go from an empty womb, with empty arms on 9.11.08 to full arms and a full heart on 9.11.10?

Because our God is great. He turns mourning into dancing and brings beauty from the ashes.

I pray my heart will never forget 9.11.01.

But even more I pray that my heart will never forget to sing how great is our God.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Words on Waiting: Joy

Last year I was waiting. Anxiously, excitedly, joyously waiting. Exactly 365 days ago I wrote this post about waiting. I was pregnant and waiting for my overdue baby to be born. I was striving to wait well.

TWO years ago on September 8 I wish I could have seen what the future held. Two babies in less than one year.

Here I am today on September 8 and we are, once again, waiting. Waiting for job postings. Waiting for e-mails from HR departments. Waiting for phone calls to set up interviews. Waiting for God to show Himself and unveil the plan that is already in the works.

I think back to a year ago and how I was waiting in sweet anticipation to meet my little girl.

I think ahead to one year from today and how we will have (I hope!) seen God answer our prayers for a job.

Oh, but the days, weeks and months of waiting are hard. And the longer the wait, the more I wonder when the waiting will end.

I'm not sure I really learned the lessons of waiting well because this time around I'm not doing a very good job of waiting well. Mostly I'm pretending we're not waiting. I try to avoid thinking about it, talking about it or praying about it. Unemployment that is.

My husband is consumed by searching for jobs, applying for jobs and planning for the future. I, on the other hand, seem to be doing a very good job of avoiding reality.

For some reason, my heart (or my head?) thinks if I avoid facing reality then maybe it's not really true?

I'm pretty sure that avoidance is not one of the 5 ways to wait well.

And avoidance is only making me crabby, unkind and impatient. I don't think those character qualities are marks of someone waiting well.

Psalm 90:14 says, "Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for JOY and be glad all our days."

I have these dates written next to that verse: 5/8/07, 7/10/07 and 9/17/07. Clearly 2007 was a hard year for me. Today I will write 9/8/10 next to that verse. Because once again, I need to pray these words.

I found a prayer based on Psalm 90:14 and prayed it often during my days of waiting: Satisfy me in the morning with your unfailing love, that I may sing for joy and be glad all of my days. Lord help me to pass these days of waiting with a song in my heart and gladness on my mind. Help me to learn the JOY of singing when you delay.

I left that prayer on a friend's pillow one night when I was at a weekend retreat because as I waited for a baby, she waited for a husband.

In Living on the Edge, Chip Ingram said this last week: The evidence of unfailing love in the heart of a believer is JOY.

Oh Lord, please teach me once again how to wait well. But please do it gently. My heart is tender and fragile these days as I look to a future filled with uncertainties. I long to seek you in these days of waiting. I long to have a joy-filled heart as I wait on you. Let me stand firmly, believe undoubtedly, trust unwaveringly, and know with certainty...that you make everything beautiful in its time.    

Lauren is turning one

I am totally a list maker.

I LOVE lists. I live by lists. My lists are always things I need or want to do...so I guess I don't love that part of list-making, but I could not keep a straight head if I didn't keep lists.

Lauren's birthday party is Saturday and I am in list-making mania :)

Clearly first birthdays are not about what the child will remember...but rather about what the parents want to remember and celebrate about the child. Here are the invitations I made. Isn't she just the sweetest? I can't believe my little Lauren love is going to be ONE!







Monday, September 6, 2010

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Practical Parenting in the works!

Thanks to everyone who left comments/suggestions on my Practical Parenting post for how to make Sunday mornings (and Sunday lunches) run as smooth as possible with little ones at home. 

It's 9 p.m. on Saturday night and I've followed many suggestions:
Diaper bag is packed and ready to go
Bottles filled with water and sitting on counter
Kids' clothes laid out
My clothes laid out
Breakfast dishes for kids on counter
Post-it note in kitchen with breakfast and lunch food listed so Ryan and I both know what the food options are

The only two things that I should do now - but just don't have the energy - are cut up a cantaloupe for breakfast and wash sippy cups so they are ready for church. But with everything else I've already done to prep for the morning, I think I can manage those two things.

Of all the suggestions, my favorite is from my friend Chanda who prays Saturday night for Sunday mornings. She is SO right in that I believe there is a spiritual battle going on in homes all over the world to cause division, distraction and disagreement on Sunday mornings. I prayed over Samuel when I put him to bed and I will pray again before I go to sleep. I also agree with the reader who commented about a peaceful ride to church and peaceful time with God at church. Last Sunday after the craziness I was completely distracted at church and could not focus. So I'm praying for peace in our household tomorrow.

I am excited to see how the morning goes! And I'm quickly thinking of many Practical Parenting questions to ask my wise and experienced readers!

Friday, September 3, 2010

September

For those of you who are struggling with waiting....of any sort...infertility or other, I encourage you to take a look at this post by my friend Stacey. After 12 years of marriage and six miscarriages, Stacey is pregnant and due to have her baby girl in less than three weeks.

Stacey remarks in her post that she and her husband have been waiting for this month for eight years. The month that their baby is to be born.

One year ago this month I labored and delivered my baby girl. I didn't know if I would ever conceive and carry a baby. But I did and in just 10 days she will be one.

Oh Stacey is so right. We don't know the month that our dreams will come true. The month that we wait and pray and hope for.

But God does. He knows if our waiting is nine months or nine years.

I praise God for how He has used Stacey's struggle to encourage others and bring hope to those who are waiting. And I can't wait to celebrate the news of Baby Lily!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Be ready

I got to thinking yesterday about the day we got the call about Samuel. I recalled the moment I told Ryan and the look I gave him. He looked back at me (as I was crying trying to explain what our friend on the phone was telling us) and I knew. 

He didn't have to say a word. I just knew.

I still asked him, of course. "Can we? Can we go and meet this birth mom and her baby boy?"

But I already knew what the answer was.

I'm so very grateful that Ryan and I were in a place in our marriage where we could go, when God said go.

Really, it was more like, "GO!!!!!!!!!!"

As I think about relationships and families and marriages and individuals and how we're living our lives today, I wonder what are the things holding us back from going when God says GO!!!!!!!!!!

Are we living paycheck to paycheck barely making it each month? Are we chained to our creditors because we are heavily in debt? Are we locked into a dead-end job that we dislike and leaves us feeling dissatisfied? Are we staying in a relationship that is unhealthy?Are we too committed, too booked, too planned?

Nearly two years ago Ryan and I were living our lives in such a way that when God said GO, we could go. There was nothing holding us back from saying "YES!!" to adopting a baby in just a matter of hours.

Not a job. Not finances. Not health concerns. Not marriage issues. Not commitments. Nothing.

Obviously there are things that happen that are out of our control. But many of us have self-imposed restraints on that keep us tied to where we are. We might take small steps forward. But what if God wants you to take a giant leap forward? Are you ready? Are you willing? Are you able?

A single friend who I was in a Bible study with a few years back took a leap of faith and moved to Texas. Today is she engaged to be married. My friend was ready when God called her to move across the country. She was obedient to His calling, even though she was nervous. She let nothing hold her back. Did she knew she would find the man of her dreams? Absolutely not. But she answered YES when she got her call.

I'm grateful Ryan and I were ready. I wonder if God called us to something extraordinary today, are we still ready? Are our hearts spiritually ready? Are our minds emotionally healthy and ready? Are our finances ready? Is our marriage ready? Is our family ready, willing and able?

Oh, be ready friends. Ask God today what He might have waiting for you. And then be ready when He says GO!!!!!!!