Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Eric Ludy - Depraved Indifference



This video seriously grabbed my heart and I just wanted to share it with you guys. Maybe God is tugging you to the plight of the fatherless as well.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

URGENT!!!

***UPDATE***
I am so excited to tell you guys that Sergey has been officially matched with his forever family!!! God is so good and I am so relieved to know that this little man we've been praying for is going to have a home and a family to call his own VERY SOON!!! Please continue to pray for his safe travel home and to stay healthy while his family waits to go get him. Praise God for giving this sweet little guy his miracle!!!


Okay my friends, I have never done this before but God has just been really really tugging on my heart to ask for help for this little guy!

If any of you read the story I posted on facebook about American families adopting children with special needs from other countries, you might have seen the reference to Reece's Rainbow, a foundation that supports and helps fund these kinds of adoptions. (You can see the story here: http://abcnews.go.com/International/hidden-angels-american-families-saving-children-syndrome/story?id=15234109#.TvjMAOD1cNg.facebook) I know a family who found their little boy Isaac through Reece's Rainbow and will hopefully be bringing him home soon (You can see more on their story and learn how to support them by visiting room4love.blogspot.com)!

Anyways, the article also described what happens to these kiddos when they turn four. They are taken from the baby house, where they have been relatively well cared for, and put into an adult mental institution. An institution! These little babies who have every opportunity to thrive in the right environment are housed in filthy and disgusting conditions, given no love or attention, and spend their days sitting in an empty room hoping their basic needs will be met that day. The survival rates for children once they've been placed there is extremely low, and their chance of finding a forever family is even lower.

There is one little guy who has been put on my heart, named Sergey, who is only four years old and has been transferred to an adult mental institution. Below is a link to more information about him, but caretakers say he is very gentle and sweet, and his pictures and videos show that!

Apparently there has been absolutely no one to inquire about adopting him at ALL, and seeing his adorable sweet little face it just breaks my heart knowing the conditions he is in as I type this. I am going to post a link to his information and maybe you can be praying for God to lead someone into bringing him home!!!

Sergey is HIV positive, and before that scares the beans out of you, know that with good treatment in the United States, HIV positive kids grow up to live wonderful and full lives! We happen to have an amazing pediatric HIV clinic right here in Phoenix that takes care of so many great kids!

Thank you for saying a prayer for this little guy, and if you happen to have a blog, maybe consider sharing his information with your followers as well! The more that know about his near hopeless situation, the better!

Here is the link to Sergey's site and how you can learn more about him.

http://reecesrainbow.org/22031/sergey-16

If nothing else can you pray for this little guy?? Isn't he beautiful???!!!



Thank you guys for taking the time to pray for Sergey!!!


Monday, December 26, 2011

January Fundraiser...Garage Sale!

Wow I cannot believe January is almost upon us! I hope your Christmas was as wonderful as ours was. We spent our first Christmas in our new home and had a fabulous day with our entire family. The kids were spoiled once again beyond what is reasonable, but that's the benefit of being the only grandkids on both sides! ;) It will be a crazy busy couple of months for me as I am going to be working full-time for the next two months filling in for someone on medical leave at work, and trying to put all of our Christmas stuff away. Oh yeah...and a yard sale to organize and carry out! And let's not forget the adoption classes start in two weeks, as does J*'s football season, and the rest of our homestudy interviews and Josh's coaching commitments...ahhh I'm already overwhelmed!!! But it will all work out and I will try not to have a nervous breakdown in the meantime. ;)

So speaking of the yard sale...it is creeping right up on us!!! January 14th will be here before we know it and our garage is really starting to fill up! If you have anything you'd like to donate, Josh will be home all week as he is still on vacation from school so this week would be a GREAT time to drop it off!!! I know there are mothers out there who, like me, are ready to purge their child's playroom of hundreds of toys to make room for the new ones! So here's a great way to get rid of them and help us at the same time! :)

Text or email me if you'd like to drop anything off, we thank you in advance for your stuff!!! If you guys are praying...pray I somehow find the time to get everything done and also spend lots of time with my babies! I hate working full-time and being away from them so much, but it is temporary and necessary with the cost of the adoption as well as the looming need to replace one of our cars. I'm so thankful for the hours and the opportunity for extra income, but I still don't have to like it!!! ;)

As always, pray for our little one and his or her birth mommy to be kept safe and protected, and for God to somehow bring our families together in His own perfect timing! Thanks guys!!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Moving right along...

I wanted to give everyone an update on where we are in the adoption process right now! I realize that the past couple of blog entries have centered around our loss and grief experiences, but that is where we're at. Remember that just because we are thrilled to be expecting through adoption, it does not erase our loss or the experiences that brought us here. Lily is a part of who I am, a part of who our family is, and she always will be. I continue to grieve her loss while at the same time rejoicing over waiting for a new child! This journey is like a blanket woven with threads of joy and grief, of happiness and sorrow, of anticipation and longing, of tears and laughter. All of it together makes us who we are as a family!

Josh and I are having a particularly rough time right now. We simply miss our daughter very very much. We recently picked out her grave marker and that experience brought to the forefront emotions that are always there somewhere. I have found myself thinking of Lily and watching her last happy ultrasound video and looking at pictures of her little hands and feet. Josh is feeling it too, and we aren't sure if it is Christmas time that makes her absence more noticeable, or simply time moving forward and us leaving her behind that is making us sad. But we miss her, and I appreciate your understanding as this Adoption Faith Walk includes both exciting posts and tearful ones.

Last week, Josh and I met with our caseworker for our first interview in the homestudy process. The homestudy usually consists of about four interviews, at least one of which being in our actual home. This first meeting was in her office. It was our "genogram" appointment. We were asked to each draw a picture of our family tree including us, our siblings, our parents, our aunts and uncles, and our grandparents. It was actually kind of fun! She then spoke to us one at a time asking us all kinds of questions about each family member, our relationship with them, specific memories we have, and what influence they've had in our lives. Listening to Josh, I even learned a couple of new things I hadn't heard before, so that was pretty cool!

It was pretty simple and straightforward, and at the end of the appointment we set dates for the rest of our homestudy interviews. Our last one will be in February, right around the time our adoption classes end! Those begin the second week in January, so things are really starting to move quickly!

Once our homestudy is complete it will be sent off to the courts for approval, and then all we have to do is wait! We will at some point be putting together what is called a "Match Letter", which is really more of an online profile including pictures of our family, a letter to the birth mother, and a few paragraphs telling her who we are as individuals and as a family. Once that is submitted, we are literally just waiting for a phone call telling us we've been chosen and there is a little one(s) waiting for us!!!

Our wait could be anywhere from one day to one year or much longer, it just completely depends on what a birth mother is looking for. We completely trust the Lord to give us the child He has chosen for our family, and we have gotten very good at waiting. :)

So for now, we continue fundraising, praying, interviewing, and living life! If you are praying for us, please especially be in prayer for our hearts during Christmas as we miss the babies that aren't here. I think we feel Lily's absence so heavily because we got to hold her and meet her and love on her and give her back to the Lord. I wouldn't trade any of my time with her, but it makes me miss her even more having met her.

We would also really appreciate prayer for this adoption process to continue going as smoothly as it has so far. Josh and I recently talked about how easily it has gone for us, and how we are so not used to things going so smoothly! We are completely expectant of at least a few bumps in the road, but for now we are enjoying the peace. Please pray for our birth mama and the baby she is carrying. We are praying she is safe and surrounded by people that love and support her, but know it is very possible that she is not. We pray God will comfort her mommy heart and give her courage to face each day. We pray for our baby or babies, that God will bless them with good health and protection.

Thank you so much for following us on this walk, we have been hugely blessed so far, and we can't wait to see what God has in store for us!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Warning: You will be getting no warning.

Last week a story on my Yahoo home page caught my eye. Michelle Duggar, the "reality" show mother who with her husband has twenty children, was said to have lost her baby to miscarriage. I clicked on the story and had tears in my eyes as I read that she had gone to her routine 20 week ultrasound, expecting to find out the exciting news about the gender of her child, only to find out her baby had passed away in utero. I had flashbacks to my own ultrasound in June, where I got the exact same devastating news, and my heart broke for her and her family.

I would have felt compassion for this woman even without my own strikingly similar experience, but since I have, what I was feeling went far beyond empathy. I pictured her lying on the ultrasound table, holding her husband's hand, her excited smile slowly turning downward as the ultrasound tech struggled to find a heartbeat. I could feel the pit in her stomach grow deeper as she realized there was no familiar flicker on the screen. I could hear the staggering silence in that room grow louder by the second. I had been there, I had been in that room, and my heart broke knowing another woman was going through it too.

I pictured her and her husband having to tell their children, some the same age as my children, the news that their baby sister had died. I wondered to myself if they had trouble finding the words to explain it to a five year old, as Josh and I did. Did they find a quiet spot to sit them down and talk to them? Did they cry in each other's arms wondering how they would possibly say the words out loud to their children? Josh and I were picking ours up from Vacation Bible School after our appointment. We found a shady spot under a tree at the church to sit down and talk to them. What did the Duggars do? How did they answer their children's excited questions with news no child should have to hear?

This is where my mind went, where my heart went. I don't know this family personally, but I know they are believers. I know they are kind and loving and respectful to one another. I know they love their kids. My opinions on their family choices are really not relevant, and in that moment as I read of their grief, nothing but sadness for what they were going through crossed my mind. Until I read the comments below.

I should have stopped right there and walked away from the computer, but I didn't. Like watching a horrible accident, my eyes wouldn't turn away. I read comment after heartless comment absolutely ripping this family to shreds for their choices on birth control (or lack thereof). Saying things like "they were asking for it," that this was bound to happen, that they deserve it. People who were claiming to be Christians said the Duggars were giving Christianity a bad name by continuing to breed. That the death of this small child was blood on their hands, that God was trying to teach them a lesson, that He obviously wants them to stop. These were the kindest of the comments.

I was appalled. How could we? How could we as fellow human beings see a grieving family and have anything but sympathy for what they were going through? Was I the only one that wanted to find Michelle and give her a great big hug? Did I only feel this way because I had been in her shoes?

I continued to think about the Duggar family all week. Then, yesterday, my dad mentioned to me that he had seen pictures online of the Duggar baby and how the photos looked strikingly similar to Lily's photos. I went home and attempted to search for the photo he was talking about. I found them easily. But on every site that posted them, the baby had been blurred out. As if she was some obscene image not appropriate for the internet. The internet!!! One gossip site posted blaring warnings on the blurred out images of little Jubilee's hand before you could click on them and see the actual photo. Really? I don't remember being warned the last time some celebrity accidentally showed off their entire butt getting out of a car. But not only do they blur out the image of this child's hand, I also get a stern warning before I can view it? So this is where society is at now.

If I thought the comments last week were bad, I was in for a rude awakening. People who had seen the black and white images of Jubilee's tiny hand and feet were in an uproar, calling the Duggar's "sick," "twisted," "morbid," and a whole host of other names more suitable for serial killers than grieving parents. Others were saying they had gone too far, photographing the "corpse" of their dead baby and sharing the images with the world. I read one comment saying it was "ridiculous" that they were going so far as to hold a memorial service for "it".

As I sat reading these heartless comments, I looked up on my desk and stared at my framed photo collage of my own child. The photos I was staring at on my desk of my baby and the photos that were being torn to shreds by the world on my computer screen were incredibly similar. Anyone but the family of the children in the photographs would have a hard time distinguishing between the two. The hands and feet were the same size, the skin the same translucent color. The comments I was reading were suddenly directed straight at me. They were calling me sick, they were calling my baby's sweet feet morbid, they were calling my family ridiculous. And it hurt.

Where was the voice of the mothers and fathers of these children among the loud and unsympathetic shouts of this mob? Why, in all of these hundreds of comments, were there maybe one or two brave souls carefully defending the choice of the Duggars and other grieving parents? Where was the voice of reason? Why was no one standing up for this family? Standing up for my family?

So this is me standing up. I am the mother of a baby born dead at 20 weeks gestation. I am the mother who fell in love with, named, and cherished my little girl. I am the mother who was given the devastating news that my child's heart had stopped. I am the mother who had to tell my children they would never get to meet their baby sister. I am the mother who had to go through three horrible days of pushing my body to let go of the baby it should have held for five more months. I am the mother who held her tiny baby girl in one hand. I am the mother who saw nothing but beauty in my child's incredibly small hands and feet. I am the mother who asked for a photographer to come into the room and get as many pictures as they possibly could of my baby, knowing they would be the only photos I would ever have, the only way for my sister to meet her niece, as she was half a world away at the time of her birth. I am the mother who has nothing left of my child except the blanket she was wrapped in and the photos I took with her. I am no different than Michelle Duggar, and the thousands of other mothers in America who face this kind of loss every year.

So many mothers face this kind of loss, in fact, that an organization called "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" is used all over America to give something tangible to families facing the loss of a child. It is completely dedicated to taking beautiful photos of babies who have passed away. They are one of the few organizations who support and encourage bonding and making memories with your deceased child. It is only in the past twenty or thirty years or so that mothers and fathers have even been allowed to spend time holding their stillborn baby. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that most of America still seems to be stuck in the fifties when mothers were knocked out only to have their baby ripped from them and disposed of before they were even able to see their child. And yet, I am still appalled at a society who deems pictures of a tiny baby's hand to be so horrific it should be blurred out for the masses.

When a young child passes away, it is a tragedy. No matter who the parents are or their religion or walk of life, the world mourns with that grieving family. Pictures of the child playing and smiling and laughing are no doubt cherished by all who see them. It is a reminder to the family and friends of the beautiful person that has left them, of the happy times you had with them, of the heartbreaking loss of a young life. Yet, what about the families who only had one opportunity to get photos of their child? Only one chance to record what their baby looked like, how small they were, how miraculous their hands and feet were? What if you only got to hold your baby once? Wouldn't you want pictures of them? Wouldn't you want something to go back to in the moments months and years later when you felt yourself forgetting what they looked like, what they felt like in your arms?

Unless you have been the mother or father with only hours to spend with your child, you have no right to judge how these parents deal with their grief. It breaks my heart that this family is being beaten down by the public for valuing the life of their baby, for seeing her as a precious and beautiful miracle, for treating her like a child. What breaks my heart even further is how few people will stand up next to these families, next to my family, and defend their right to grieve.

So this is me, speaking on behalf of so many other grieving mommies, and saying this: I had a child. She was beautiful, she was meaningful, and she is gone. I am so thankful for the memories I was allowed to make with her in the hours following her birth. I am grateful for the photographs I have of my child and the opportunity I have to look at them whenever my heart is missing her. I am proud of my baby girl, and I will proudly show off her miraculous features through the photographs we cherish. And I will never, ever blur them out or warn you before doing so.

You are not alone, Michelle. There are so many mommies who have been where you are and support you whole-heartedly as you stumble your way through this grieving process. The pictures of your baby are beautiful, and I thank you for sharing them with the world, even if the world won't.
 

The tiny hand of Jubilee Duggar


 
The tiny hand of my Lily

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Goodnight Sweetheart

Yesterday, I got to meet a mommy who has five little ones in Heaven. She has faced unthinkable loss and has every reason in the world to turn her back on the Lord and walk far away from Him. But the way I met her? She was delivering boxes to the hospital from the non-profit she started after losing her twins to stillbirth. These boxes are given to mommies and daddies who are forced to leave the hospital without their child. They were created specifically for stillbirth situations, but at our hospital we use them after the death of not just infants but children of many ages. She has chosen to use her pain and loss to not only bring glory to our Lord, but to comfort those in situations of the same kind of loss that she has faced. She perfectly embodies the verse in Corinthians about using the comfort we have received from Christ to comfort those around us.

 2 Cor. 1:3-4
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God."

No one can fully understand what it is like to leave your baby or child at the hospital while you go home to face life once again. It is a horribly guilty, empty, bewildering feeling. Your heart knows where your baby really is, walking perfectly with Jesus in Heaven, but your womb. Your womb is screaming for that baby. Your arms are literally heavy with the emptiness. You fight with feelings of guilt over walking away from the building that holds your child. Your mind wanders to where they are, exactly. Who is with them? Are they alone? Are they being treated with respect and reverence? Are they lonely? Your thoughts aren't necessarily logical, but what about losing a child is? What is logical about handing your child back to the nurse after you have carried her in your womb and grown her from nothing and labored through the pain and turmoil just to see her face? What is logical about that final hand-off, knowing your hands and eyes will never touch her again this side of Heaven? What is logical about that?

I remember being absolutely stone cold terrified of the moment we'd have to hand Lily back to the nurse forever. With each hour of labor I knew that moment was getting closer and closer. Some people have asked me why I chose to go through with a full blown 24 hour labor with Lily when I knew what the outcome would be? Couldn't I have chosen to be put to sleep? The answer is yes, but that thought never once crossed my mind as a possibility. When the doctor told me my options at my last ultrasound with Lily, I cut him off in the middle and told him absolutely not. I would not let them "take her" in a clinic somewhere and dispose of her somehow. I wanted to see her for myself, as hard as that might be. I had my reasons, and every mother's choice in that matter is so personal, but I think one of the big ones was that I wanted to put off that final moment as long as I possibly could. I struggled between wanting Lily out as fast as possible and being absolutely terrified of the moment she was out, because that meant the clock would start. My time with her would be incredibly short. While mothers are supposed to have a lifetime to gaze upon their child's face, I knew I had minutes, maybe hours after Lily was no longer attached to me.

Now I serve a unique God. My God has walked that kind of despair. He has also had to face watching His beloved child leave the safe arms of His care. He has known loss. He has known grief. He has not only lost His one and only Son to a horrible death, but He has watched countless children leave His arms forever. He gets it. And when Lily was finally ready to make her appearance, I literally felt Him in the room with us, His peace surrounding us in a situation that is everything but peaceful.

There were very hard moments during that long labor with Lily. There was one particular moment that is probably burned into my poor parents' brains forever because they unfortunately were in the room with us when God lifted that veil of comfort and allowed me to fully see what I was being asked to do, the moment I finally lost it. Halfway through my labor with Lily, this unthinkable situation hit me like a ton of bricks, and God lifted that peace momentarily so I could fully understand the hugeness of what He was asking of me. I sobbed in that hospital bed uncontrollably, screaming incoherent thoughts about how I could not possibly give birth to a dead baby. Begging God to please, please not make me do this. I couldn't do this. I didn't want to. There has to be another way.

Looking back, it reminds me of those moments in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was also hit with the overwhelming pain of what He was being asked to do. Jesus says in Matthew 26, "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death..." I have no better explanation of what it feels like to give birth to a dead baby than that verse right there. Jesus said it as He was facing crucifixion, and He felt it, and somehow that comforts me, that my God has been to that place too. That He too has begged for another way out. He says later in the chapter, "My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.Yet, not as I will, but as you will."

That's where I was. Begging God to take this cup from me. Begging for another way. Overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. And there, right there, God met me. He allowed me to experience the enormity of the situation because I think it was important for me to understand how huge He must be to get me through it. He let me feel it, express it, and then He dropped that blanket of peace right back over me again. He gave me the strength and will to continue, and I did, but only because my God met me there and carried me through it. And being that the only reason I have eternity in Heaven to look forward to is because Jesus did not pass that cup, that God did not take it from Him, I am so incredibly grateful that He faced what He was being asked to do and allowed God to comfort Him through an unspeakable sorrow. Where would we be if He hadn't?

Lily's birth was quiet and beautiful. Josh and I smiled through our tears when she was born. We anxiously peeked over the nurses shoulders trying to get a glimpse of her. We marveled over the simple smallness of her. We cried, and we prayed, and we talked about her seemingly muscular calves and lips that were exact replicas of her brother's. I sang her E*'s lullaby and an old George Straight song because it was simply the only thing I could think of.

"Goodnight, Sweetheart, sleep tight, wherever you are.
God holds you in His arms, while we're apart.
Though you're far away,
Your love will stay
Tucked away here in my heart.
Goodnight, Sweetheart, sleep tight, wherever you are."

After our families met her and we had enough pictures (though sending that camera away was incredibly difficult as well, because the only lasting piece of my baby was so very limited, there would never, ever be enough pictures), we sent everyone out and had our last moments with her.

With a stillbirth, you are limited in your time. Not by the hospital staff, but by the tiny body of your child. You want so much to have good, beautiful memories of the way your baby looked. Unfortunately death is not kind to even the tiniest of bodies, and there comes a point when you need to close your eyes and not let the images of your child deteriorating enter your memories. Josh and I agreed it was time to say goodbye, and we did.

It was not the moment I had pictured in my head, one of me sobbing uncontrollably while Josh practically had to rip my baby from my hands, but one of total peace. We kissed her sweet toes and told the nurse to please take her. We had spent two hours with her, and I will cherish those hours forever in my heart.

And then. And then, Josh and I looked at each other, and asked, "Now what?" What is there after the birth of a baby when there is no baby? We were slightly thrown off. We didn't know what to do with ourselves. I remember sitting, confused, not knowing what to do next. There was nothing to do but go home. Empty handed, empty hearted.

Our nurses were absolute angels. While I had been laboring with Lily, they had been preparing mementos for Josh and I to take home with us. They made keepsake footprint cards for each of our children, they made me and E* bracelets with Lily's name on them. They made a card with Lily's statistics and teeny tiny footprints on it. They gave me a box. A special box they give to mommies who have to go home empty handed, so that their hands aren't actually empty. So that they have something to hold on to when they are being wheeled away from the hospital, away from their child, while every fiber of their being screams for them to turn back and go get their baby. A box I imagine most mothers use to keep their own special keepsakes in along with the ones the hospital gives you. A box that was made by a woman who has faced leaving the hospital with only a box. A box that for me is now filled with cards and letters and pictures and a tiny pink bunny that I held throughout my entire labor. A box that is incredibly personal to me, something I can open up when I need proof that Lily was here. Because for mothers of stillborn babies, that's all we have. A box, a stuffed animal, a few pictures if we're lucky. That's all we have to prove to the world and ourselves that our child existed.

I got to meet a woman who makes hundreds of these boxes to give to other mommies like me. Oh how we both wish these boxes weren't necessary! How we both wish we could have met under different circumstances, with a different common bond, in a different life where neither of us had gaping holes in our hearts that are only visible to those that bear them. But there we were, standing in the lobby of a hospital talking about these boxes.

I was accepting her donation of boxes for our bereavement closet at the hospital where I work. I told her how much they meant to our parents of lost little ones, and how much they meant to me personally, as I too had a stillbirth and was the recipient of a box just like the ones she was handing me. God brings his children together in very unique ways sometimes! Sometimes it is over broken hearts.

The two of us are not broken women. We have experienced brokenness, which means we have also experienced our Lord on a level not everyone does. We have both had loss inexplicable, but we have both known comfort unimaginable. In our own unique ways, we try to comfort those around us with that same comfort God has granted us. We try to make something of our nothingness. We work to make our babies proud of us, so that one day we can scoop them up and tell them the story of their birth, the story of their loss, the story of their impact.

I am confident that Lily and my other sweet babies are part of such a bigger story. A story that I won't know the ending to for a very long time! But a story that tells of loss and comfort and love and patience and trust and a journey to our family complete.

Thank you for taking time to peek into the hard and heartbreaking moments of mothers of lost babies. If you'd like to sponsor a box or a blanket for another mommy just like me, please visit owlloveyouforever.org.



Monday, December 5, 2011

A Milestone

I realized on Sunday that we have hit a very big milestone in this adoption process. With the last fundraiser, we officially have enough money to get into the Match Book! This is not a milestone I was even hoping to hit this early, so this is very cool! Our next fee that is due is the Adoption Class Fee ($400), which is due in a couple of weeks. The next one after that is our Match Fee ($1500), which is what we have to pay to get our family profile placed in the Match Book that expectant mothers look through when choosing adoptive families. We really don't know when we will be ready to do that, but it will be sometime after our homestudy and classes are completed, hopefully in March or April.

The remaining $9,600ish is one lump sum which will be due when our baby is placed with us officially. That is a pretty scary number, but we have been taking this step by step and one fee at a time, and it is so awesome how God has provided exactly what we need when we need it! And here we are, only a couple of months after starting this process, already attacking that final Adoption Fee!!!

I want to make sure I say this at least once...while these fees may seem outrageous to some, the adoption process is an expensive one. No one at our agency is getting rich off of these fees. They are really very reasonable and warranted, going to a number of different things such as legal fees, court fees, processing fees, counseling for the birth family, homestudy fees, case worker salary (someone has to do all the behind the scenes work, and most social workers, especially the ones at our agency, are wonderful, hardworking, and do not get paid nearly enough), and a number of other things. Our specific adoption agency is kind enough to charge us on a sliding scale, so Josh and I do not pay as much in fees as a couple making more than us would. And to put things in perspective, I know another family personally who is facing a cost of over $45,000 to adopt their son from Russia. They trusted God to provide for it, and they are nearly at their goal after only six months. Our goal seems very doable when I look at what they've had to face!

I just wanted to share the good news with you all and thank you again for supporting us financially and otherwise. It is a humbling experience asking everyone you know for help in bringing a baby home. It is not something I ever thought we'd have to do, but we are so grateful for everyone's support. We absolutely could not even think about adoption if it weren't for you, and we hope you understand how grateful we are for your willingness to help us reach our goal.

Thank you for helping us reach this milestone!!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Dear Baby

Dear Baby,

I have written letters to each of my babies from the moments I knew I was expecting them. Some of my babies got lots of letters, some got only one. You will get lots I'm sure, because I know we will be expecting you for awhile!

I have a feeling that you have begun growing somewhere, in somebody's tummy. You are not growing in my tummy little one, but you are growing in my heart. We are working and praying so hard to bring you home. I want you to know that you are worth every bit of it.

Sometimes I feel a little bit jealous of mommies who can bring babies into their families so easily. I used to be one of them! I feel a tinge of hurt whenever I hear of anyone who will be bringing home a new baby. I think, "Why is it so easy for them?" I wonder why some people barely have to blink their eyes to add to their family, and here we are fighting tooth and nail to bring you home. We fill out mountains of paperwork, answer extremely personal questions, take classes for weeks, have someone study our family and our home, work for months to raise enough money to pay for the cost of all of these things, and wait much longer than most have to wait to bring a baby home. Sometimes I feel that it just isn't fair. But then I think...how much sweeter will that moment be when I finally hold you and kiss your cheeks?

It will be the moment where all of this, all of the waiting and work and uncertainty, all of it will fade away into the background and all I will see is your face. I will think of how I would have waited and worked ten times what I did to have that moment with you. The moment I become your mommy. You are so worth every bit of it.

I hope you never wonder if you are loved the same as your big brother and sister since you didn't come from my tummy. Sweet baby, let me tell you something. I love you even now, and I don't even know who you are or where you are or when I will see you with my own eyes! Let me tell you that we love J* and E* so much that we are willing to go through all of this just to give that kind of love to another baby...YOU!!! Let me tell you that your daddy and I have never had to put so much work into adding to our family! You are the one we are doing this for! You are the one that is so loved already that we are willing to do anything to bring you home! You are the one we are waiting for. You are the one we are working for. You are the one we are praying for. You are my love!

We have so much peace that God has already hand picked you for our family. We pray for you every day. We pray that you are growing strong and healthy, that you are covered in love, that you are safe. We pray for the woman who is carrying you. We pray she is safe, she is loved, and that she has the comfort and peace of our Lord. We pray that she has someone in her life that is supporting her and encouraging her and taking care of her. We pray that God will give her courage and strength.

There are so many people who are praying for you. So many people who are supporting us and waiting anxiously with us. You are going to be smothered in love when you get home, baby. You won't even know what to do with it!

I love you. I'm waiting for you. I'm praying for you. I can't wait to meet you.

Love,

Mommy

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Photo Fundraiser Wrap Up!!!

WOW!!! I don't know what else to say. (Don't worry I will find plenty!)

Today was the day we've been waiting for! The Mini Photo Session Fundraiser was nothing short of a miracle! From the day that Lisa (my cousin, the photographer!) emailed me about this idea, I have been looking forward to it and praying for it to go well. We offered 20 minute sessions and booked the sessions from 9 a.m. this morning until 5 p.m. this evening! The sessions were all taken within a week, and that in itself was incredible. I am so thankful for people's willingness to bless our family!

About four days ago I started getting very nervous after the forecast called for rain ALL day!!! Oh noooo!!! Only in Arizona do we have three hundred days in a row of sunshine only to rain on the one day you need that sun to stay out!!! Lisa and I agreed to just pray the rain away and trust that our Arizona weatherman was inaccurate as usual! We couldn't think of a back up plan so we just went full steam ahead and asked everyone to pray for good weather!

I am 100% convinced God took mercy on me personally and blessed us with the most perfect picture taking weather imaginable! Cloudy skies all day made for gorgeous shots and NO RAIN!!! Thank you God!!! As I type this it is pouring down rain outside, which even further convinces me that God was right there with us today making sure the weather was perfect until we finished!

Things could not have gone smoother. A few last minute cancellations were almost all able to be filled last minute as well, and everyone was so great about being on time and having patience with us as we walked them all over creation getting great and unique shots! We had such a fun variety of sessions, from Senior pictures to infant pictures to family pictures big and small! I had such a blast working as Lisa's assistant today and watching each unique family get so many fun pictures! Even my family got to do a session (courtesy of my sister, thank you so much!) and I can't wait to see how they turned out!


Lisa taking pictures!

To each person that came out today and supported us, thank you. I cannot even begin to express how blessed our family feels after today. Thank you for supporting us, for supporting adoption, and for every hug and encouraging word I got today! I hope you all are blessed by your beautiful pictures, and I cannot WAIT to see how they turn out!

To my beautiful and incredibly generous cousin Lisa W., I cannot thank you enough for today. The gift you have given us is so unbelievable, and I hope you know how much it means to our family. The work you put in today was incredible, and I know how much work is ahead of you editing 13 photo sessions and mailing out each CD! I wish I could do more to help you! You have been such a blessing to me through this adoption process. I can go to you for advice and encouragement and a good laugh over all the trials of mommyhood! ;) I love you so much and am so grateful for the gift you gave us today. Your amazing family is one of the reasons Josh and I decided to pursue adoption, and I can't wait for you to take pictures of our sweet new baby!

All in all we raised over a thousand dollars today!!! How incredible! Thank you all so much for your prayers, your encouragement, your participation and your desire to support us in so many ways! I can't wait to post some pictures of the amazing families who came out today for photos!

If you are praying for us, give God a big fat THANK YOU for what He did for us today. Thank Him for the gorgeous weather, the lack of hiccups and delays, and for very happy and cooperative kiddos! Thank Him that He has chosen to bless our family with so many loving people. Thank Him for continuing to provide for this adoption.

Pray for our little one to grow strong and healthy, wherever he is. Pray for his mommy, that she will get the support and love she needs right now. Pray that God will bring us together somehow and that everyone will be able to see His plan unfold!!!

Thank you all so much for following our story!!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fundraiser Shtuff

I cannot believe it is almost December! I never even got used to November, and feel like Halloween was last week! Josh and I spent the entire day dragging out our Christmas decorations and putting up lights. This is our first Christmas in our new home, and since last Christmas we were temporarily living with my parents, we haven't seen our Christmas stuff in two years! We momentarily lost about four boxes of decorations and lights, and after a minor freak out session and pouting over the lost Christmas artifacts, I found them in my hall closet. All is well! I wonder if one of the reasons it feels completely wrong to be putting up lights already is that it was like 80 degrees today...what's that about? Anyways...

With December sneaking up on us, so does the December Fundraiser! Saturday, December 3rd, is our Mini Photo Session Fundraiser, which will be held at Saguaro Ranch Park and last all day! Our sessions were completely booked almost right away, and I have been looking forward to this day ever since! Lisa Warren, who owns Mood Photography and also happens to be my sweet cousin, offered to do this for us and we could not be more grateful. She is an adoptive mama herself and you can see pictures of her gorgeous family on moodphotographyaz.com.

If you are one of the lucky families who booked a session for Saturday, we want to thank you so much for playing a huge part in our adoption! Thank you for participating and I am so excited you will have some beautiful family photos to remind you of how you have blessed our family!

In other news, we have picked a date for the yard sale...mark your calendars for Saturday, January 14th! We will be hosting the Adoption Benefit yard sale at our home, and will be accepting donations for this yard sale from now until the event! We made room in our garage and hope this sale will be a big success! Contact me if you have stuff you'd like to drop by, and we will arrange a time!

With December also comes the start of our homestudy interviews, the first one in just two weeks!  We appreciate your prayers as we continue this process. We will also begin seven weeks of adoption classes through our adoption agency in mid-January, so things are really starting to happen! I know it will go by very quickly with the holidays around the corner!

We are looking at doing our Raffle Event in February, and you can click on "Ways You Can Help" on the top of this blog for more information on how to be a part of that!

Thank you again for your continued prayers and support! Pray for things to go smoothly on Saturday, that the weather will be beautiful, and that everyone will be totally blessed by their pictures and the opportunity they had to bless us!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful

It has been awhile since my last blog entry! We have had a very exciting couple of weeks and I want to keep you posted on everything. Our official Change Drive fundraiser ended on November 10th, but we have been so blessed to continue receiving change donations from friends and family. Thank you so much to everyone who continues to give to help us reach our goal and bring home a little one. We are so blessed by you guys.

Last week our family was also blessed to go on a vacation to Disneyland with my parents and brother and sisters. My sister, Lisa, gifted us with this trip shortly after Lily passed away to give us something to look forward to, and we really did! It was a wonderful time and the kids especially had a blast. Below is a picture of all of us kids on Splash Mountain, J*'s face is priceless! It was a great way to spend our Thanksgiving vacation!





Another very exciting thing happened while we were at Disneyland! Our caseworker called and scheduled our first homestudy interview for mid-December! This is another big step in the process and we are really excited to move forward! This appointment will be to go over our Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis results. From what I've heard from other couples, the answers we gave and the results will help our caseworker have an idea of who we are as people, as parents, and as a couple, and give us lots of topics to discuss! I am really excited to continue the process of our adoption.

Our December fundraiser, if you remember, is the Photo Sessions on December 3rd. All of our sessions are booked and we are SO blessed by that! We are saving up now for the remainder of our Match Book fee, then will be saving for our final adoption placement fee, which will be due upon placement of our little one!

Our January fundraiser will be a HUGE YARD SALE! I say huge in a hopeful way, but I have already started receiving donations for the yard sale, and our garage is filling up quick! If you have anything to donate, let me know!

February will be a Raffle Event, more details to come, but it will be a lot of fun and a great chance to get some very cool prizes while helping us reach our fundraising goal.

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and Josh and I are keenly aware of how much we have to be grateful for. We are blessed beyond comprehension, and our God continues to pour blessings on us each and every day in so many ways. I would like to take a few paragraphs and thank Him here for just a few things we are thankful for!

-Our marriage, which is a complete miracle in itself, showing first-hand God's healing power, grace, forgiveness, and immense LOVE for us both!

-Our babies, ALL OF THEM!!! Each one has blessed us tremendously! E*, who is our precious lover girl, constantly building us up and telling me how pretty I am and how I am the best mommy God has ever created! She is such a huge piece of my heart, and Josh and I can't get enough of her. J*, who is the sweetest, funniest, goofiest child on this earth. We are so thankful for the laughter he brings into this world, intentionally and unintentionally! My sweet Lily, who taught me and Josh how much love can exist in two short hours and two tiny feet, and who gave us something incredible to look forward to when we leave this earth. For my tiny lost little ones who I never knew or saw or held, but who changed me and my relationship with the Lord for the better, and who gave me an irreplaceable way to relate to people I've never met or barely know on an incredibly personal level.

-Our families! Josh and I have AMAZING families on both sides. They are supportive, loving, funny, godly, wonderful people who we love so much. I hit the in-law JACKPOT with Josh's family, and I couldn't be more grateful for the mom and dad and sister (and now brother-in-law) that I inherited when I married Josh. They are incredible, and I'm so glad they live so close! On top of that, my parents and brother and sister and soon-to-be sister-in-law are huge blessings to our little family, each of them loving us passed what is expected and always going above and beyond to support us and love on us. We are so glad each person lives so close to us and we get to see each other on a regular basis. Our extended families are huge and amazing as well, and Josh and I know how blessed we are to have been placed is such incredible families.

-Our home, which we do not take for granted and are so thankful to have! We love our house and hope to be there for a very, very long time! (Josh would like to die there...but only because that's how much he hates moving!)

-Our friends. I am not sure how I got the friends I did, but I am quite confident that I have the best, most amazing, and wonderful friends on this earth. I am so blessed to have so many people in my life that love us and can make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. They have been there for me and Josh through some incredibly difficult times, and have not only stuck around but also been our support and source of comfort and speakers of Truth when we need to hear it the most. You know who you are, and we LOVE YOU!!!

-Our God. As E* would say, best for last! How do you express enough gratitude for our Lord? I don't think it is possible. But I know He knows my heart, and knows how utterly thankful I am to have a God who loves me personally, who cries with me and laughs with me and feels everything I feel. A God who does not change and will never leave my side. He is the giver of all the other things I'm thankful for!

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving as well! If you are praying for us, please cover our birth mom in prayer. As we get further and further in this adoption process, it is more and more likely that our baby is being carried right now by a very brave and amazing woman who desperately needs our prayers. Pray for her continued strength, for wisdom, for God to provide her needs and comfort her in a very difficult time. Pray that God will cross our paths in a way that will show how awesome He is! As always, pray for God to provide the funds necessary to complete this adoption, and that the process will continue to go as smoothly as it has so far. He has granted us a whole lot of patience so far, because Josh and I feel totally at peace with His timing, which isn't exactly normal for us! ;)

We will keep you posted, and once again, thank you all so much for following our journey and praying with us!




A Thanksgiving photo of our family...praying next year we'll be a family of five!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Quick Update

Just wanted to update you all on the process...today we got a notification from the courts that our application for our certification to adopt has officially been filed, and that our adoption agency is to turn in our completed home study by February 8th. This is just cool because it reassures me that things are moving along, even if I can't see them.

If you have been following along, you have already seen that we had a wonderful response to the Change Drive and were able to raise enough money to not only cover our home study (which was paid in full last week!) but also our entire class fee! This was a HUGE answer to prayer and we are so incredibly grateful that God surprised us with far more than we were even hoping for.

The Change Drive was a hit, and I know there are still a lot of families collecting change, so we will definitely keep it going! If you would like to continue collecting spare change for our Adoption Fund, awesome! We still have a very long way to go and we are so thankful for each and every penny that is donated.

Our December Fundraiser is the Mini-Photo Sessions, and every spot was booked weeks ago, so we are really excited about that as well! The money from that will make a huge dent in our Match Fee, which will be due sometime in March I'm guessing. The remainder of our Adoption fees will be due upon placement of our baby, and who knows when that will be?! It is impossible to know how long we will wait for a baby after being placed in the Match Book, it could be a day, a week, or more than a year! So we will keep chipping away at it and pray that God will give us what we need when we need it!

Thank you so much for walking this road with us. Your support means the world to me and Josh and there is absolutely no way we could do this without the backing of our friends and families.

Until next time...:)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Change Drive Total!

Well, after counting all the change that's been turned in (and not all of it has, we know there are still lovely people collecting change but for the purpose of this fundraiser we are totaling it now), we have a grand total!

We had 19 people/families turn in change by yesterday, which makes our total even more amazing! We totaled each one individually, so if you're at all curious about your total contact me. ;)

Okay, enough with the suspense. Our Grand Total for our very first Adoption Fundraisler was...


$1041.17!!!!!!


This is AMAZING on every level! We are blown away and so thankful to each of you who participated! Thank you so much for making this such a success!

We are so relieved that we have enough in our adoption account to not only fund the home study, but also to pay for our adoption classes!!! We even have a head start on our Matching Service Fee which will be due sometime in March or April.

This is amazing, wonderful news and we are so excited at what God's doing!

Now for the winner of the Fleming's Gift Cards...the winner is...Miss Sarah Mauer! She handed over an impressive freezer bag full of change and won by a landslide haha! Congratulations and THANK YOU Sarah!!! Enjoy your dinner! :)

If you are still collecting, thank you so much. We have a bunch of empty baby bottles now, so if you would like one please let us know!

Thank you guys so much, we are so excited and thankful to each one of you.

Thank you!!!

Still Counting...

Okay, it has been a rough week, but it has also been a wonderful week. I had a very special birthday yesterday with a whole lot of people I love. We've been ridiculously blessed by those who've turned in change and have told us they're still collecting, and we had some more movement in the adoption process today. God is good, today and every day.

We've been really good at keeping up with the change that's been turned in, but we had a lot come in yesterday so we are doing our best to count it so we can announce our total! The thermometer to the right does not include anything from the change drive, so it's awesome that it has still been growing! Josh and I are adding to it little by little as we can afford to, and we have had a few donations that we could not be more thankful for.

I am so blessed by the hearts people have towards giving to our adoption fund. I have heard of children giving their entire piggy banks, couples who are barely scraping by collecting change for us, and friends and family who give and give and give continually. Please, please take a moment to fully grasp how thankful Josh and I are for your generosity. You are playing a huge part in this miracle and I hope you realize that God is using you specifically to bring about a miracle for us and the child He has hand picked for our family! Every penny, every prayer, every hug and note and smile, they are all a part of this adoption journey. They are helping make this possible, and we thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

I see the sacrifice some have made to give to our fund, and I realized too late that we should have just had a drawing for the gift cards instead of giving to the highest amount...but what's done is done, and next time it will be a random drawing for all who participate! Some sacrifice a lot to give a little, and I am so very thankful for each and every penny that is given to us for this baby.

So we are still counting the change, but hopefully by the end of this weekend we will have a grand total that we can all be super excited over!

Our adoption agency cashed our home study check today...and God's timing is so very perfect because whew! We had just enough in just the nick of time (That might give you a clue to the change drive total but I don't care)! I am amazed by His perfect provision and timing, and feel even more blessed by your gifts, because without them we would have to put our home study on hold. Thank you!!!

If you are praying for us, and I hope you still are, please pray for our home study interviews to get scheduled and that the paperwork needed will get back to the agency quickly and safely. Please pray that we will continue to experience a smooth road and that we will not have any big hiccups along the way. But..if we do...that we will handle them with patience and grace. Please continue to be in prayer for our child and the birth family, wherever they are. Please pray that God will continue to provide what we need when we need it to complete this adoption.

We love you guys so much, and I'm so thankful that you're following along and taking these steps with us. Thank you for everything you do for our family!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Lily

I am posting this video because I watch it often, and I wanted to share it. Lily was due to be born tomorrow, but was born on Father's Day instead. I love the words to the song on our Lily video, because they are so completely true and were written and sung by a mommy who lost a baby girl as well. She captures my heart perfectly and sings of heartbreak as well as hope.

The video won't play automatically from this blog but will take you to youtube for security reasons. I hope you take as much comfort in it as I do when I see it, and special thanks to Lisa W. for not only taking the pictures, but putting together this video as well as an extended one that Josh and I have at home. It is precious to me and lets us relive those sweet two hours we got to spend with Lily whenever we are especially feeling her absence, as we are this week.

Love you pumpkin.



Monday, November 7, 2011

Rough Week

Okay, this is not an easy week. It is a pretty rough week actually. I knew it wouldn't be an easy week, so I had expectations of being emotional and having rough days. I was completely right, and to be honest I just can't wait for it to be over.

When I found out I was pregnant with Lily, one of my first thoughts was "When am I due?". I whipped out my phone to find out. They have websites for this, you just google "Due Date Calculator," type in the requested information, and boom! Your due date. When the page popped up that said, "Congratulations! Your baby is due on November 10th!" My jaw dropped. What?! How cool! My baby was due on my birthday? What are the odds? How fun!

But I also was hit with the reality that this pregnancy wasn't guaranteed to end happily. If something were to go wrong, my birthday would definitely be tainted, not only this next one, but all the ones after that. "Let's just hope that doesn't happen," I thought.

And for the first half of my pregnancy, nothing did happen. I was finally in a place of believing that my birthday might not be the most fun I've ever had (either giving birth or recovering from it), but it was sure to be extra special.

Alas, things did not work out how I had hoped. The fear that my birthday would forever be tainted with crushed hopes has been realized, and this week leading up to my birthday has been difficult. Every day I think of how this is just not how I wanted to spend these days. I wanted to be great with child, wondering if she'd be born on my actual birthday or the arguably cooler date of 11-11-11. I am in a constant state of bad mood, forcing myself to smile but inwardly feeling very jipped. When people ask me what I want for my birthday, I swallow the urge to say, "A baby". When people ask me what I want to do for my birthday, I think, "Honestly? I want to crawl into bed and cry all day." But I don't, and I think it is wise that my sister and friends have filled that day to the brim with activity so that I won't have a single moment to be alone with my thoughts.

I have known other grieving mamas who have talked about having certain dates that are particularly difficult to get through. Always the anniversary of the death. Always the birth day. Always the due date (if lost in pregnancy). Sometimes, just another Monday, when the gaping hole your child left for some reason seems particularly noticeable.

I miss Lily every day. I think of her birth day often. I think of that Horrible Day when we found out she had died. I think so often of what could have been, and what life would be like had she lived. But this week, this coming hard day, these days are worse than normal because it is a stark reminder of what isn't happening. I'm not packing my bag. I'm not having my last day at work. I'm not preparing the nursery. I'm not second guessing our name choice. I'm not washing J* and E*'s Big Brother and Big Sister T-Shirts. I'm not excited and nervous and happy and scared and thrilled. It's just another week in November. And it isn't any fun.

This is so not where I thought I would be this week. Though Josh and I are happy and excited about our decision to adopt, we are still grieving. We will be for years to come, forever probably. But this week, this week we are grieving hard. I am grieving hard. I am feeling sad and bitter and angry and sad again. My husband is enduring living with an extra-sensitive wife, my kids are putting up with mommy's irritability. Even my blog entry "Adoption Education..."  had a bit of a touchy edge to it this week (of which I hope I didn't offend...I made a few adjustments because Josh pointed out my tone was a little more confrontational than I probably wanted to be). I have been short with family, stuck my foot in my mouth more than once with friends, and have not been the most fun person to be around. I'm in a general bad mood and am thankful for friends and family that are understanding and loving and patient.

I am especially thankful that I have a God who is putting up with my bad mood. I have spent many a car ride venting to Him this week. I have questioned and cried and inwardly given Him the cold shoulder. Why Lord, would you have my due date be my birthday? What's that about? It's not enough to take my daughter but you also have to ruin my birthday too? And while we're on the subject, did she have to be born on Father's Day? I mean seriously, why don't you just strike our house with lightning on Christmas and frost this cupcake?

I vent, I cry, I vent, I clench my teeth and say nothing. I apologize. I get mad again. But I know He can handle it. He knew this would be a hard week. He has not forgotten. And He comforts. I am fully confident that without my personal relationship with Jesus, I would be so far off the deep end that no amount of prescription drugs could retrieve me. Where do people go with this kind of grief when they don't have God to turn to? What do you do with that much anger and confusion and sadness? Because let me tell you, being a Christian does not give you an immunity idol to use in life. You still experience all kinds of difficult and awful and horrible things. Having a relationship with Jesus does not make your life perfect. It only gives you hope when it isn't. And it isn't.

I have a treasure chest that my mom gave me after a very, very difficult time in my life (arguably even more so than losing Lily). It is filled to the brim with scraps of paper with verses written on them. They were written by many people that love me, and they all have themes of hope, comfort, and triumph in tragedy. I had that chest opened every day after she gave it to me. Many days after my first miscarriage. Most days after Lily died. Every day this week.

My favorite verse, if forced to pick, is Psalm 34:18. "The Lord is close to the broken hearted, and saves those who are crushed in spirit." Awesome promises. Promises I have seen Him keep. I think it is important to point out here that the verse does not say, "The Lord prevents all broken hearts and never allows His children to have crushed spirits." He acknowledges that bad things happen. He knows we will have struggles and trials and broken hearts and crushed spirits. He does not pretend your life will be void of pain and difficulty. He flat out says "In this life you will have trials"! That's a given! But He does not leave us hanging. He does not let us go through this alone. He promises to be close to us during those times.

Before I lost Lily, one of my greatest fears (and I had actually thought about this, because I am a woman and that's what we do) was having to give birth to a baby I knew was dead. I had heard of it happening, knew women who had done it, and I thought to myself, "Impossible. I could not physically do that. I would have to be knocked out, put under, medicated into oblivion. There is just no way I could do it." When one of your greatest fears is realized, it is a surreal thing. Suddenly it wasn't just a sad story I had heard. I was living it. I was being forced to deal with it. And God met me where I was at. He gave me the strength I could never have imagined existed. I was broken hearted. I was crushed. And He was close. And He saved me. Just like He promised.

I am not having a good week. I am hurting, I am sad, I am angry, I am confused, and God is so close to me that I can feel Him. That's the trade off. I truly believe that people who experience pain on the deepest of levels also have experienced the Lord on the deepest of levels. We have seen a side of Him that not everyone gets to see. We have experienced miraculous comfort and peace that not everyone gets to experience. Would I trade all of that for a life with Lily? Probably. But that's the mommy in me talking.

I am still sincerely grateful for the deepened relationship I have with God because of my broken heart. I take comfort in His promises, especially in the one that gives me an eternity with my babies. Until then, I endure. I breath in and I breath out, I hope, and I look forward to the day when there is no such thing as rough weeks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Down to the Wire!




Wow November 10th is creeping up on us quickly! If you have been so kind as to participate in our Change Drive, thank you so very much! We have been SO excited and totally blessed to count the change people have dropped off, and made the first deposit into our adoption account last week (and it was an awesome one!!!). What's really cool is our bank allows us to drop the unrolled change off in big bags and they count it again in their machines and credit our account immediately, no charge! Josh and the kids and I have been counting it as it comes in though, and it has been a great opportunity for Math and Geography lessons! (J* wants to know what state is on each coin...kind of slows us down but it's been fun!) Remember, if you would like to be in the contest for the $100 gift card to Fleming's Steakhouse, get your change back to us by November 10th to be counted!

In other news, the Adoption Agency has received our packet and is working on it right now. Our references are being checked and I am really excited that our packet isn't just sitting on someone's desk but actually being worked on as we speak! We are hoping to make our first homestudy appointment in the next couple of weeks and get the ball rolling on that. Our classes start on January 11th and that will be the next big step in the process.

Right now we are working on fundraising and praying hard for the whole process. God has really laid the birth mom on my heart and I've been praying for her diligently. I don't know her, but her sacrifice and her heart amaze me, and I want there to be at least one person out there praying for her daily. She might not know it, but I hope she can feel it!

It has also been really cool to get to talk to so many different people about the whole adoption process. So many people have been interested and asking questions and it is awesome to share our story and also learn from others who have gone through it or know someone who has. I love talking about adoption and answering questions and sharing how God has totally worked in our lives to bring us to this point. Our story has only just begun, but it is already a very interesting one!

Stay tuned for Change Drive updates and the Grand Total and Winner of the awesome donated prize!!! I can't thank you guys enough for participating and being so generous with your money and your support. We are so appreciative of everything, and hope we can convey that to you all!

If you are praying, thank God with us for how awesome He's been in our lives! We are blessed beyond measure, and through everything we have been through and continue to struggle with, He has given us more than I could ever hope to deserve. Thank Him for the awesome turnout so far in the Change Drive and for filling up EVERY spot in our December Mini Session Photoshoot! Thank Him for making the road totally smooth so far, we aren't expecting the entire process to go this easily, but we will enjoy it while it does!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Adoption Education for the Masses, Part One

I am new to this. Let's be clear on that. I have never adopted before, I hardly know anyone personally who has adopted, and every step I take is a new one. But I have learned a few things along the way so far, and since I think it would do you all a little good to learn right along with me, I thought I would share some of my newly acquired adoption wisdom.

We are expecting a baby. We are not pregnant, but we are on the road to having a baby join our family. I am slowly learning the vast difference in being pregnant with a baby, and expecting a baby through adoption. There is a difference in how people treat you, the resources available to you, the cost to bring the baby home, the wait time, the knowledge of the wait time, the expectations of what your baby will look like, act like, be like. 

In the past, whenever I got pregnant (now that, I am an expert on) I have had about twenty thousand books and limitless internet resources to show me exactly what stage of pregnancy I am in, what to expect in that stage, what my baby looks like in that stage, and what stage I will be in next week. There are discussion forums, phone apps, and websites devoted entirely to informing you about your pregnancy and the little one growing inside of you. You have a due date, and barring any complications, you can expect that your family will be Plus One on or around X day, of Y month, of Z year.

Adoption...not so much. I have no idea, NO IDEA, when we will be Plus One. I have no clue what stage my baby is in in his or her development. I don't know if he or she has even been conceived yet! I do not have books called, "What to Expect When You're Expecting Through Adoption". I don't have a phone app that sends me a cute little email every time I get a copy of something back to my caseworker or we raise enough money to complete the next step of the adoption process. Just like a pregnant mama, I am waiting for my baby to be born and handed over to me, but I cannot tell you with the slightest bit of accuracy when that will be. I am expecting, but I am clueless as to when I am expecting, how I am expecting, and who I am expecting.

I have my own ways of learning more about the adoption process, and one of those ways is by delving into the blogosphere and blogstalking every adoptive journey I possibly can. Man, there are a LOT of adoptive mommies blogging out there, and let me tell you, they know their stuff. They have ridiculous resources, advice, encouragement, knowledge, wisdom, experience, and LOVE. They can answer every question and offer research and resources better than any librarian possibly could. They've been there, their friends have been there, and they know what they're doing. Thank God, because I do NOT.

Another way I prepare myself in this process is by reading everything I can get my hands on. I read and I read and I read. I did that when I was pregnant too, except now instead of studying up on what not to eat when you're expecting and how to prepare yourself for natural childbirth (haha yeah right, I never read anything about that, but I'm sure some women do), my reading includes topics such as open adoption and inter-racial families and fundraising ideas. Just like a pregnant mom, I try my best to educate myself so I can be better prepared when issues arise. And issues always arise, no matter how you're expecting.

Another huge difference I have noticed between expecting through pregnancy and expecting through adoption are the comments. If you have ever been pregnant, I'm sure you have some doozies of your own to report, and let me tell you, being pregnant with the twins brought out some of the most ridiculous comments from people's mouths that I still shake my head at. Below is a video I personally love to send other mommies of twins because they have inevitably seen the dumbest side of humanity just like I have when pregnant or out and about with their multiples. It has nothing to do with this post other than it just goes to show you how people say things without thinking, and think things without knowing, and how a bit of restraint and education can go a long way when talking to others about their children (adopted or not).




Wasn't that fun? If I had a penny for every time someone told me I was "done" since I had a boy and a girl in one sha-bam, I would have enough money to fund this adoption. But I digress.

In following some other hopeful and successful adoptive mommies' blogs, I had read some of the things people might say about your adoption when the topic came up, and I am trying my best to prepare myself in the event that one of those things is said to me in the future. I think naivety is the root of careless comments, and that's why, before we get too far into this process, I thought it would be good to share some of the things you shouldn't say to an adoptive family. I imagine that this will be Part One in a series of many on this topic, but that's fine! I am learning right long with you all, and promise to share my wisdom as I acquire it. ;)

Disclaimer: I have said some of these things myself, so I in no way judge you if you have too, but now that you know what is hurtful or careless, you can no longer play the ignorance card, and neither can I.

Do not refer to the potential birth mother as the "real mom" or my kids as my "real kids". When we do finally add a baby to our family through adoption, I will be the mom, birth mom will be the birth mom, and they will all be my real kids.

The decision to surrender a child for adoption is absolutely heart-wrenching, difficult beyond imagination, and the most selfless act a mother can commit for her child if she feels she cannot raise that child the way he or she needs to be raised. They did not "give their baby away" and they didn't surrender because they "just didn't want the baby". I never, ever want my child to hear anyone say he or she was not wanted. In case you haven't noticed, getting an abortion is as simple as going to the dentist these days. This woman could have made a very different decision, and didn't. She chose to carry this baby to term despite the consequences, judgement, and heartache it caused her and her family. She then chose to give that child their best possible chance, even though it went against every fiber in her being. She LOVED that child, and therefore made a choice to surrender them for adoption. Respect those mothers, love those mothers, appreciate their sacrifice, and pray for their strength, but do not judge them, and if you do, don't ever let me hear you do it.

When first finding out about someone's adoption, don't let the first words out of your mouth be negative ones. Immediately saying things like, "Aren't you afraid you won't love the baby as much as your biological kids?" or "I know someone who took the baby home with them and then the mother wanted her back!" Trust me, adoptive parents have thought through each possible scenario, even the awful ones. We have done our research, we are aware of the risks, we have heard the horror stories, and we are choosing it anyway. If your friend or family member told you, "Guess what!? I'm pregnant!" Would you immediately say, "Congratulations! But what if you have a miscarriage? I know three women who have had miscarriages." I truly hope not, because if you would, you are a crappy friend. And also not that bright.

We would never say this to a pregnant woman because we assume she knows about the risk of miscarriage and certainly doesn't need it to be shoved in her face when she is already worried about a million other things, including losing the baby. Adoptive mommies are no different. We do not live in a bubble, and yes, we have actually heard of failed adoptions and are not blind to the fact that it is a possibility. Certain questions are definitely valid! But negativity straight out of the gate is uncalled for, and be sure to interject some encouraging words along the way!

Adoption Education Nugget: Birth mothers are required to wait 72 hours after giving birth (and must be off all drugs for this amount of time) before they can sign papers relinquishing their child. Once it is done, it is done. There is no turning back, there is no changing your mind. That child's adoptive parents have all rights and responsibilities for that child from there on out, forever. This is one of the many reasons Josh and I chose the agency that we did. They really do their due diligence to make absolutely sure that these birth mothers cannot and do not want to parent prior to signing anything. The mothers are counseled through the process, and that is where part of our fees go. If a mother chooses to parent, that is the best situation for that child. Josh and I do not want to adopt a child who could have and should have been parented by their birth family. If a mother changes her mind in those 72 hours, after we've brought baby home, it would be heartbreaking for us. But we do not want to separate a child from a mother who wants to and has the resources to raise them. Josh and I have dealt with staggering loss. We are not naive to the possibilities of loss in adoption just like we can no longer close our eyes to the possibility of losing a pregnancy. It happens, it is heartbreaking, and we are aware of it. There is no need to remind us.

As you may have guessed from some of the things I've said in previous posts, Josh and I are open to adopting a child of a different race. We are also open to adopting a child with various health issues and backgrounds and genetic pre-dispositions. This was not an easy decision, mostly because we don't know anything about being a multi-racial family or raising a child with health issues. We are very uneducated about it, but are doing our best not to be. When we were filling out our "Child Deisred Form" for the adoption agency, it was one of the hardest things we have ever had to do. We would look at the list and think, am I not checking that box because I'm afraid, or because I know that we would not be the best fit for that child?

The form I'm talking about is a lot like ordering a sandwich at Which Wich, if you've ever been there. If you haven't, it is a sandwich shop that has bags with various sandwich options, and you use these red markers to check each box of the things you want. This form had a million different options for children and their backgrounds, and Josh and I had to go through each one item by item and check the boxes we'd be comfortable with getting a phone call about. I will not go into detail on these options because I think it is a private decision between me and Josh, but I will disclose that we did choose "Any Race". Again, not a decision we came to lightly, but one we feel good about. We do not want to limit God and close the door on the child He has for us because we are scared of a new situation. What we need you to understand is this; We did not come to this decision lightly, we made it, and we need you to support it.

Ask questions. Don't be shy! If you don't know, ask! We are learning too, and we love fielding questions from people who want to be involved and learn more about the process. And a little nugget of advice from my friend Dwight Schrute:

 "Before I do anything, I ask myself, would an idiot do this? If the answer is yes, then I do not do that thing."

Same goes for talking to adoptive families. Ask, encourage, pray, but tread lightly. Be thoughtful of the words you use and sensitive of the things you say. Just as you would be sensitive to a pregnant mother as not to upset her, be sensitive to the expectant adoptive mother (and father), as you might upset her too. We are in an emotionally fragile state just like other expectant parents. There are worries, fears, unknowns, and a lot of waiting. Encouragement goes a long, long way.

So that will end my lecture for today! I hope you learned something, just as I do every time I read an entry similar to this on another blog. Josh and I know we have a lot more to learn and will have patience as our friends and family do the same. We are all in this together and we do not expect everyone to be completely educated on the topic of adoption. We do, however, hope you get educated. Keep reading this blog, keep asking us questions (we might not know the answer but we'll find it!), keep praying, and keep supporting us just as you have done from the start.

Our families love our children harder than any family loves any child anywhere on this earth, and I have every confidence that this baby, no matter who they are, will be loved just as hard. It might take actually seeing the baby and holding them to fall head over heels in love, but this will be one very, very lucky baby. Our children can't comprehend bringing a baby home after one surprise phone call and suddenly having a new sibling. Our mothers do not have the inside advantage of watching my belly grow and falling in love with fuzzy ultrasound pictures. Our fathers have a hard enough time imagining a new grand baby when I'm pregnant, let alone when we are adopting. Our brothers and sisters can't imagine loving a new niece or nephew as much as they love Jake and Eisley, because how does that much love exist? Our friends have never experienced adoption first-hand and aren't sure of the right things to say or how and when to say it. But when that baby finally arrives, when they lay eyes on him or her, no matter who that child is, there will be a ridiculous amount of love added to this world. We have felt the support from them, know they back us 100%, and know they are in prayer for us every day. And though this adoption process is so very different than expecting a baby through pregnancy, one thing remains the same: This. Child. Will. Be. Loved. LOVED. No matter how they get here, when they get here, what they look like, or who they are.

And I can't wait.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

For a Smile...

If you don't know my children personally, this might give you a little glimpse of their awesomeness. We recently took a string of pretty adorable videos that I just wanted to share with you! I hope you enjoy them and they bring a smile to your face!

J* and E* love pretending to be newscasters and when I started videotaping them I had no idea what they were going to talk about, other than the weather! Since they pertain to the adoption, I thought they'd be appropriate here. ;)

The last video is a private concert J* surprised us with, and I will tell you I had to hold a pillow over my mouth to keep from laughing and embarrassing him, but you are watching in the privacy of your own home, so feel free to chuckle.

Enjoy.









And last but not least...Justin Beiber meets Billy Graham. J* made this up on the fly and it is quite possibly the best thing I have ever heard. Ever.

Best news we've gotten all day!

Did you notice our fundraising thermometer to the right??? Did you notice how much LOWER the goal is???

This week Josh and I got our Adoption Fee Agreement finalized and signed, and the total cost to complete our adoption is significantly lower than we anticipated (It's always better to guess high so you don't have a heart attack after low-balling it)! This is a HUGE blessing and while it is still a lofty goal, it feels so much more doable. Not that God couldn't do it if it were five times that amount, and I know He could and IS doing that in another adoption I'm following through a friend, but it is still good news for us that the amount is less than we initially planned for.

We were told that there is always the possibility of fee increases over time, or an unforeseen expense somewhere, etc. But this is the exact amount we have consented to through the agency and the exact amount we have committed to paying in full upon the placement of a little one in our home.

I just wanted to share the good news with you guys and thank you all for praying! A huge thanks to those participating in our fundraisers and donating money to our fund, we are so encouraged by each coin turned in, each photo session that gets booked, and each drawing and painting that you purchase from my little artists! ;) You have a hand in bringing our baby home, and I hope you understand how truly grateful we are. We can't express it in words, so I hope you can understand our hearts and know we are totally blessed.

Onward!