Thursday, March 29, 2012

re-opened wounds...

I'm surprised how easily old wounds can be reopened.

It's been so invigorating in recent weeks to begin this adoption journey. To rekindle the passion for adoption and remember it's the Lord's calling for our family. To dream of welcoming another child into our home.

We love adoption!

If you asked me if I even WANT to get pregnant, I'd scrunch up my nose and give you a huge, resounding NO. For whatever reason, pregnancy's not for me. (I must be sensitive here because I know that's not the case for my other infertile friends, so please realize I only speak for myself.)

I remember as a schoolgirl, my friends would crowd around and they'd say, "I want to have 3 kids!" "Well, I want to have 5 kids!"

And then they'd look at me and say, "How many kids do YOU want to have, Amy?"

Never being the "kid" type, I'd look at them, shrug my shoulders, and my answer was always, "Well, I guess I want to have kids, but I don't really want to actually have the kids." (I was terrified of the whole labor & delivery part. Still am.)

But I look back at that and wonder, Was that the Lord's calling of adoption upon me even way back then? Is that the Lord "giving us the desires of our heart"?

Sure, I went through the years of infertility treatments, and oh, I'd rather not bring back those memories right now. It is more than anyone can bear, both physically and emotionally. I'd never considered adoption until then, but looking back, I can see that it was the road of infertility that God used to help me see the beauty of adoption!

Adoption has always been God's Plan A for our family, not Plan B. Adoption is our family's story. It's all of our stories, for those of us who are believers. It's a more beautiful picture of the Gospel: that God takes those who weren't His and brings them into His family and calls them His children.

But I'm also more convinced than ever that there are lasting scars upon me from infertility. My sister, who fought infertility herself, once said, "Once an infertile woman, always an infertile woman." Meaning, once you've felt that pain, you don't forget it. It comes back at various seasons of life, and the wounds reopen.

Even after you've resolved your infertility,
even when you know you're called to adopt,
and even when you don't long to be pregnant!

Here's why...

In the midst of this MARATHON of paperwork for adoption, here I am panting from the long haul, yet I'm still trucking forward, ever so slow. Just a little bit longer, just a little bit longer, I tell myself as my muscles are killing me and I'm fighting the mental game. Keep going, Amy. You can do this. My hope is that at the end of this marathon, there's a baby out there waiting to join our family. One that we have tried for SO LONG to find and love.

And then I hear a pregnancy announcement (it was a total surprise to the young couple, of course!) and I watch other gals younger than me carrying their newly wrapped bundles of love around church. My heart suddenly stings within my chest and I fight back the tears.

That's not YOUR story, Amy. Stop looking at their stories and remember YOUR story is different. For whatever reason, He doesn't want you to have that story.

But it's so EASY for them! They have no idea! Why must I struggle to run this exhausting marathon, and they come careening by me to the finish line first??? And to top it off, it was just an accident?!?? I'm working so, SO hard at this. How is that not supposed to hurt? We've been married for almost 13 years and we'd make a great family for a baby, God! (As if God is obligated to do what I say.)

It's so dangerous for our hearts to compare, isn't it?

Nevertheless, the wounds are there. And sometimes, like now, they hurt.

I'm not sad that I can't have my own child biologically. I'm just grieving the fact that I have no control over it. I know NOTHING about planning the spacing of my children and have not been given that option in this life. I don't know what my family will look like or if a total stranger will like me enough to place their own flesh and blood in my arms. I'll admit it. I'm insecure. And scared.

And sad.
And a little bitter, if I'm being honest.
Though now I feel the sting of pain, yet I will trust Him.

Monday, March 26, 2012

it's commitment time, baby...

Tomorrow will mark the official beginning of our homestudy process! woohoo! For those of you not familiar with the adoption process (and it's a looooong & crazy one-- I laugh when people think they can just "up" and adopt), the first item of business is to jump through all the hoops required to get a homestudy for the state in which you reside. (and since Caroline was born in Texas, our homestudy was for Texas, therefore... new one for Virginia...)

This doesn't mean that we have to ADOPT in Virginia, you understand. But we have to become approved TO adopt & bring a child into our house here in Virginia. So if we happen to meet a birthmom in another state, we can still pull off an adoption.

On a former adoption post, I told y'all about the long "to do" list of paperwork, etc. that is involved, and there's still a TON of that to do.

But tomorrow marks the official beginning because it will be our first of three visits by our social worker here at our house. (and not to mention we'll have to divvy out that $1,600 non-refundable homestudy fee....) So it's commitment time, baby. :) Bring it on!

So we've been tidying up the house & taking some photos for our birthparent photo album profile (the one I told y'all about last week-- aka scrapbook competition).

And we've been taking some fun photos to show a future birthmom how much our RUF students love our KIDS!

(I think the students had even more fun with this one than Caroline) :)

But you'll also be happy to know that in the meantime, we've also mastered the trick of crossing our eyes without putting a finger on our nose to help.... he he

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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

push pause...

Though we're rolling ahead with all of the "to do's" of our adoption homestudy now, we must press pause to be thankful for that which God has already given us.

And that's a whooooole lot.

Caroline's turn to push.

Mommy's turn...

And when your kid is up in a tree, why not act out the Zacchaeus Bible story, right? :) ("Zacchaeus, you come down!")

As we hope the Lord will bring us another baby to adopt, we are praying the same for Janna and Bryan, whom we met at our adoption training weekend. They will make awesome parents, and we can't wait to watch their story unfold.

This little one brings our family more joy than we ever imagined.

Thank you, God.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

i was picked...

Well, there's nothing like crying all throughout church when you're the worship director of said place...

Marc & I just returned from attending a mandatory adoption training all weekend with a small agency that will be conducting our Virginia homestudy. The training itself was good!, even having gone through an adoption in Texas already. Can I just say there is nothing, nothing like being around folks who just get it, too? All of the couples themselves had faced varying infertility problems and were eager to grow their family through adoption as well. It's literally like a little piece of heaven for me to sit among folks who themselves carry the same pain of infertility and yet share the heart for adoption! I loved being able to share our amazing adoption story, brag all about our birthmommy Megan, and to reflect on God's goodness to us in giving us Caroline. We also got the renewed excitement to bring in another baby (of whatever color!) into our hearts and home. Amazing.

What's not so amazing is now the search for another adoption. (on this end of it, at least.)

Soooo many thoughts pass through your head as you sit among eleven other couples, who are all wonderful in their own ways, that want the same thing you want:

To be picked by a birthmom.

In my sinfulness, I can't help but look around me as I'm enjoying my time with these great couples thinking, They'd make GREAT parents! or They're cuter than me-- surely they'll get picked first. (isn't that so awful of me?) And it's not like there's a ton of adoption placements at this place, either-- average is about 8 a year. Nevertheless, I know how some larger agencies tend to treat their birthmothers, and out of my love for Megan, I just can't sign up with a place that I don't feel has a heart for these girls.

So then I listen to a panel of birthmothers as they explain their particular reasons for selecting their adoptive family for their child:

"I do hair for a living, so hair is really important to me."
"As I was looking through the profiles, this lady's wedding dress was totally outdated."
"I don't know, I didn't have anything I was really looking for in particular, but I liked that the couple had a timeshare in the Caribbean."

Um, really?? And I'm supposed to think that I'LL get picked? I'm supposed to believe the God of all the universe is going to allow a young lady to fall in love with us & place a child with us simply by looking at a photo book of my life?? And if hair is important to you, well then, take one look at MY kid and you'll shut the book! Ugh, then every insecurity seems to crawl out of its hole...

Then I flip through the pages of sample profiles from previous adopting couples. Perfect smiles. Extended families that appear glossy and vacation in exotic places. Their homes all have huge kitchens with granite countertops and large, open floor plans with no clutter. Poses that appear so natural, yet so overly "perfect." All on a spreadsheet that is gorgeously put together with colors, design, fonts... So I've got to be a scrapbooking queen as well.

I listen to stories of adoptive couples who waited and waited to be picked. Some WERE picked, and then a birthmom changed her mind after the birth. Some waited over a year and a half, interviewing with birthmoms several times. Some couples got picked by a birthmom right away (and of course, confirming my fears, they were cute/attractive & had the killer profile album), and I know there must be still others who weren't there at all because they never got picked. Or they're still waiting.

I know many, many of our single students feel this same way as they hope towards marriage. Will someone ever pick me? I feel like I have to look perfect and feel the pressure to present an image of myself IN ORDER TO be picked. What if God's plan is that NO ONE picks me? they wonder.

Now, I know that Marc & I are blessed beyond measure, and I know that what we have to offer a child is worth FAR more value than granite countertops and exotic vacations (though heck, we're taking our kid to Australia! ha!). And I even know that we're not too repulsive looking and by golly, with all the pictures I've taken for this blog, I should be able to put together quite the spread.

But I don't know if what I can give to a child can be conveyed in a 15-page photo spread, you know? I don't want to be ABOUT material, visual, worldly STUFF. How do you show the depth of your heart through still pictures of your life? Will a birthmom be able to look at what's lacking (in our case, a head of hair, for example), and see the depth of our love?

Then just like there's no perfect church, there's no perfect adoption agency either. Little things I don't like and don't agree with. Alot of it stems from our state's adoption laws, which say that the birthmom cannot terminate her parental rights until 10 (!!!!) days after the birth of the baby. (in Texas, it was 48 hours, which worked out beautifully.) There's no taking the baby home from the hospital, and there's no chance of even being at the hospital, even at the birthmother's request.

Basically, I have to die to the fact that our second adoption experience probably won't be as amazing as the first one was. (unless we can find a private adoption situation through word-of-mouth somewhere... please continue to keep your eyes & ears open.) I have to grieve things that we LOVED with Megan won't necessarily be the case with adoption #2. That's hard. I know every adoption situation is different, but when your first one was unbelievable, there's probably no comparing...

So disappointments, insecurities, and wondering abounds in my heart. And so this morning, when my pastor started talking about how the Gospel is NOT about what a great record WE have and show to God for Him to "pick" us, but it's about God picking us even when we were unbelievable messes, I lost it big-time.

I'm entering what feels more like a scrapbooking competition that IS about showing off what a great record we have, hoping I'll get picked. (How backwards is this?!) And yet thankfully the Gospel is totally the opposite. Because when God looks through peoples' profile albums, the Gospel is that He chose to pick the WORST among us, NOT the glossy, attractive ones who have it all together!! As He looked at the apostle Paul's profile with a vocation of "killing Christians," He said, "THAT'S who I want to be Mine." Or what about King David, the adulterer?

You see, thankfully God doesn't care about hair or outdated wedding dresses. He wants the profiles of the WEAK, the WOUNDED, the FOOLISH, the BROKEN, the SICK, the UGLY, the POOR. That's who HE adopts as HIS children. (how backwards is that?!)

SO thankful I've already been picked.

"God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, 'Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.'"
-1 Corinthians 1:27-31

Sunday, March 11, 2012

at 4 years...

Time to check in with my quarterly stats, folks, as this blog serves somewhat as my baby "book." Time is flying by WAY too fast, and this post is to help document some of the more memorable things about life during these days...

At 4 years old:

  • I have been reading for several months now, but boy, I'm getting better each day! (this is waaaay early, while most kids at this age are recognizing letters & may be able to tell you a few sounds they make) Books have always been a first love of mine, and I'm curled up in them during my roomtime for an hour a day, (since naptime is a thing of the past) so I guess it's no wonder I'm figuring out new words on my own each day.
  • I can count to 100!! (this is also early.)
  • I'm also writing almost all of my capital letters & some lower case letters, too. (also early) I'm writing out words on paper like "MOMMY DADDY CAROLINE" and the other day I wanted to write out "We wish you a merry Christmas." (who cares if it's March, right?) Can you tell I'm an extremely smart little gal for my age?
  • I'd do anything to be a grown up. It's my number one goal in life to be like Mommy, so I'm bent and determined to learn and watch everything she does to hurry up the process. (much to Mommy's pleas to enjoy being a kid!) What most kids don't notice or care about, I do.
  • Other words to describe me at this age would be: confident, leader, assertive, perceptive, observant, concerned, musical, thoughtful, sweet, enforcer, verbal, strong, helper, active, athletic, energetic, focused, caring, mature. (please notice we substituted multiple other words for "bossy." :) Mostly likely a blog post on that topic later...)
  • I'm telling everyone I got my ears "pierced," but what that really means is that I got some cute little magnetic earrings for my birthday! Mommy says whenever I want to get my ears truly pierced, I can. But since that would hurt, for now, I'm sticking with these. :)
  • I may not have any hair, but I'm as girly as they come! I still LOOOOOVE high heels, I insist on wearing skirts & tights EVERY DAY, and I like putting on different headbands and jewelry and dresses. (I'm also currently terrified/disturbed when bugs are in our house.) The other day Mommy had to take away all of my dress up shoes as a consequence and it was the worst thing you could've done to me...
  • Speaking of having no hair, I don't really like it. But you'd only know that if you asked me since I don't even talk about it. I love life! Strangers think I'm the happiest girl ever, and I am. When I draw stick figures of our family, sometimes I'll draw myself with a hat on. Other times I'll draw myself with hair, (ahem) "like I'm gonna have when I'm a grown up."
  • Australia is on my mind! I talk about it quite a bit. I watched a movie about it, and it made me a little nervous that Mommy & Daddy might take me to the part of Australia where these scary people would paint my face funny. Mommy & Daddy keep reassuring me they won't take me to the aborigines. :)
  • My interest in Australia has also peaked my interest in the PLANETS! I love to read library books about the planets and learn all about each one. I always tell Mommy & Daddy, "Do you know how much I love you? All the way to Pluto and Mars and Australia and back!"
  • I'm also quite the musical little gal, too. I just learned my "do, re, mi"s, and now my favorite song that I'm singing all the time (in Julie Andrew's british accent, of course!) is "Do, a deer, a female deer..." from The Sound of Music. (Mommy's sensing the need to buy the movie very soon...)
  • As an RUF kid, I LOVE having students over in our home each Sunday night for small group. It's a pretty nice arrangement because I think they like me alot, too. :) Hmmm, maybe that's why I always seem to be 4 going on 19....
  • Now that I'm 4, I have definite opinions and I know how things are "supposed" to go. So when they don't go as I planned or how I'd like them to go, I do not handle that so well. (neither does Mommy, but at least Mommy knows not to mouth off, scream "NO!!!!", break into hysterics, or run frantically to her room & shut the door behind her...)
  • I'm 4 and I still drink water at every meal. It's by far the best thing to drink, and it's what I've always been given at home with meals since I was 2. I've never put up a single fuss about it, which makes it so easy to keep doing in our house. (we don't claim to think this would work in every house!) So the other day when Mommy got me a milk with my kids' meal at Chic Fil A the other day, I honestly asked her, "Mommy, did I get a milk because they were out of water here?" (ha ha!! Sad, isn't it?) :)
  • Yesterday I went to my 2nd wedding, where I watched our RUF student get married! I LOVED Kirsten's beautiful wedding dress, and as soon as she walked into the room at her reception & everyone else quieted down in the room, I yelled out across the room, "KIRSTEN! I LOVE YOU!" (no social anxiety here....)
  • I'm still loving preschool 2 mornings a week and am excited to go 3 mornings a week next year before I go to kindergarten.
  • Favorite things to do right now (besides going to school & reading & singing): being chased, kicking a soccer ball back & forth, running, going to a playground, playing imaginatively with someone or by myself, being tickled or "wrestled," going to church, painting, and doing a craft.

  • There's no doubt I love my Daddy!
  • I got these books for my birthday, and since then I am LOVING the stories of the Bible. I act them out quite dramatically in my room. Mommy also hears me talking to God & telling Him thank you for everything He made quite often. "Mommy, I think God is like A HUNDRED years old!" :)
  • I'm MUCH more independent as a 4 year old, too. We've FINALLY reached the days where I can open the car door, hop into my car seat, and buckle my own seat belt, too!! (celebration!!!) Other jobs I have are setting the table, brushing my teeth, fixing our drinks, taking my dishes to the dishwasher, picking up, washing my face, etc. I LOVE to have responsibility and jobs, so bring 'em on. (as long as they're jobs I like, of course. And as long as I'm not doing something that I want to get the picture...)
Being 4 is a dream come true for me.

(and YOU, Caroline, are a dream come true for us.)
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Sunday, March 4, 2012

when heaven comes down...

It's a crazy thing to watch your child come to terms with a broken world.

To answer their questions about death, about heaven, about God.

Even at the age of 3.

Caroline has known for quite some time that when people die, they go to heaven to be with Jesus. I watch comfort wash over her at that thought.

But it's not the end of the story, is it? Because those who are believers know the ending is even MORE glorious and wonderful than heaven. So Marc broke the news a few months ago around our dinner table.


Caroline's gasp of excitement could have been heard across the street, I'm sure. Her eyes practically popped out of her head. "REEEEEEAAAALLLLY???? Oh my word!" she said, in typical Caroline fashion. :)

"Yes! Isn't that wonderful? Someday heaven is going to come down here to Earth and everything that is sad right now won't be sad anymore. Everything that is broken will be fixed, and everything that hurts won't hurt anymore."

It was as if you'd given the kid the largest pile of candy imaginable. (Oh, if only I longed for the resurrection with such excitement and such anticipation!)

"When is it gonna happen, Daddy? When is heaven going to come down here?"

"We don't know when. Only Jesus knows when he's coming back. But when he does, heaven and earth will be one!"

That dinnertime topic launched into lots more discussion over the next several weeks, as you can imagine, but it was all bathed in a beautiful expectation of the day when everything would be made right again.

One morning recently, sweet Caroline started talking to me from the other room about the new heavens & the new earth. She had no idea I sprinted to find a pen & paper so I could transcribe her words as she was speaking.

And here's what she said:

"Mama, when heaven comes down here no one will die!
And Papa can see!
And no one else will be blind.
When heaven comes down to earth, no sharks will bite.
And we can pet them and we can feel how soft they are.
Jellyfish will not sting us.
Alligators and crocodiles will not bite us.
We can pet them and talk to them.
And even whisper to them.
Snakes will not bite; we can play with them
and throw them up in the air!
One day Tuggie will come and see Nanny.
And when heaven comes down here, heaven will stay here ALL day.
Heaven doesn't get even night or day.
It's beautiful, too."

Now, I don't know if it's just me, but that brings tears to my eyes. Not just because it's a sweet sentiment from my (now) 4 year old. But the truth of it. The longing for it.

Lent is a season of waiting in the Christian calendar. We long for the day when we'll celebrate Jesus's resurrection (aka Easter), but even more importantly, it reminds us that we are always waiting for an even larger day of Resurrection. A day when a Savior will return again to fulfill his promises, and return the creation to all of its glory.

Maybe my daughter is longing for things like petting sharks and whispering to crocodiles, but my heart finds solace in longing for other things:

When heaven comes down here, no one will die.
Aches and pains will be no more.
And relationships will not wax and wane.
Exercise will be purely for enjoyment, and not in the quest for a longer life.
I will know with certainty that I am loved and never question it.
Food will be good tasting AND good for you, and it won't be a source of self-righteousness anymore.
I will no longer battle the loneliness, the ups and downs, the jealousy, the hurt.
People will be honest and genuine, no longer hiding behind masks and false words.
Worship will not feel fake or "mustered up," but will flow forth naturally.
The church will join together in complete unity, and my heart won't always long for something better.
I will be reunited with loved ones who have gone before, whom I miss so much.
Never again will I be gripped with fear so intense it feels like I can't breathe.
Everything will work as it's supposed to work.
And my heart will be content.
And filled with joy unmeasurable.

And with that, I say- Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21:1-5

Friday, March 2, 2012

it's official...

Well guys, it's finally official!

We're going to Sydney, Australia, for 6 weeks this summer! (cue Amy screaming wildly in disbelief HERE.)

This little gal has been talking EVERY DAY almost NON-stop about going to Australia this summer! Chances are if you've talked to her in the last month, she's either told you:

1) That you have to fly a long, long time to get to Australia.
2) That it's the middle of the night in Australia right now.
3) That she's now 4 years old. (because, of course, we had a birthday in there, too) :)

So this little $5 inflatable globe seemed like the perfect thing to begin teaching her more about our upcoming trip and our world.

And here's where we'll have to fly to get there...

(Um, I'm not gonna lie. I, Amy, am a nervous flyer in general, much less all the way across the world... would appreciate your prayers in this.)

And when the sun is shining in Virginia, it's nighttime in Australia!

We're not only excited about how the Lord is going to use this trip in the students' lives and those we come in contact with, but how He is going to give our little family a bigger picture of His Kingdom around the world!

(Did you know that less than 5% of Australians would call themselves evangelical Christians? More about the ministry we'll be involved in later...)

But for now, we are so thankful and excited for this incredible opportunity! Hope you'll follow us around the world!
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