Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Looking Back and Looking Forward: Reflections on Six Months Post-Surgery

I woke up today with the fresh realization six months ago today I had surgery. Life-altering, emotion-enducing surgery.

Just in case you missed it, you can read about that surgery here.

I don't know why it was on my mind so much but, since it was, I thought I'd share some thoughts with you all, six months after one of the craziest days I've experienced. After all, I didn't know much about ectopic pregnancy when it happened to me. So, if you know someone who needs to read this post, send em on over. There's hope, my friends.


I am in great health. No, seriously. I mean, I  ran  almost ran a marathon last weekend. I feel mostly normal. Most days I have no reminders of my surgery. Unless I wear a bikini and see the tiny scars. And unlike most people, I don't wear a bikini every day. Jokes. I totally do. Jokes again.

I sometimes feel residual pain. I'm told this is completely normal and might last up to a year. But it's the manageable, irritating kind that you only notice because you are hyper-sensitive to your body. And I learned the hard way being sensitive to what your body is feeling is a good thing.  Other than that, I feel in tip-top shape.  Which is great. And makes me super appreciative for amazing medical care.

Mental Health

I'm in a good place. A really good place. I've been through lots of phases. That week and the week prior were very bleak.  I am sure you knew this if you read my post or talked to me. But Jesus was also very, very near to me at that time and for that, I am thankful.  I am so thankful His plan is not my plan. Some days it's easier to feel thankful for that than other days. For the most part, I'm very happy to be in God's will, even when it means some broken, hard times. It almost feels like it never happened. Except it totally did and some days I feel that very strongly.

Never was I mad at God. Never was I looking for answers. But still, I think I found some. He loves when we are close, even if that closeness is through brokenness. And when we ask Him to take control of a situation, He does. Even when it's a completely different plan than we had for ourselves.

I think, if I am honest, I tried to "fill" the broken spot in my heart with the adoption at first. You all probably noticed that.  While we both know God was spurring us to look into older children, we knew that before all the madness.  I don't think I was meant to confuse that with "since you had to suffer, I'll now give you something as a blessing."I don't think it was ever meant to be a trade.  And after some tears, I feel really good about that. Yes, we are so looking forward to "the call." And in some ways, this spurred us on to change our parameters. But one will not replace the other. And healing had to come before I was in a place to understand that. First healing. Then hope. Then future. I think we're there.

The Big Question

The big question I get, more than any other, is will we try to get pregnant again.

Which, by the way, is a very personal question, thankyouverymuch. But since I share a lot here, might as well go for it.

Let me start by saying, for those who don't know, it is possible. Scientifically, speaking. I am told by my doctor the chances of the same thing happening again are slim to none and the possibility of us getting pregnant without any complications and in a relatively short amount of time is very high. We should, on paper, be able to have a biological child, should we chose to go that route.

Follow up: it's much easier to hear those words than it is to believe them. Although I think I am almost there.

So,  will we? Well, I think so. It's not in our near plans. But we also aren't ruling it out. I think we'll say what we should have said all along: God-willing. When His time is right. If that time ever comes.

So that's it. Six months. A very long time and not long at all. I feel whole again. Minus a tube of course.

Thanks for praying for me and letting me be very vulnerable in this space. Community helps in the healing. And I am blessed with beautiful community.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Little One Letter

Hi Little One,

Wonder what you're up to! I am writing this on a Monday, as I often do, thinking of how different life will be when you arrive.

It's Christmas season here. I decorated yesterday and it took every ounce of self-control I have not to put up a stocking for you. Yes, we've had a stocking reserved for you for a while but I don't want to put it up until we know who you are and can put your name on it.  Our mantle looks lovely with the four stockings (our dogs have stockings around here...yes, we are crazy!) but I just can't wait to add one or two more. It will be the most exciting day ever to add yours to the list. I have to say we would be more than thrilled to do it this holiday season. Knowing we've only got a few weeks, though, I understand it might be next year. Hopefully not the next. Oh, for the sake of both our hearts, I hope it is not.

When you arrive in our lives, we will get TWO Christmases! I mean, we'll celebrate Christmas on Dec 25 like we always do in the US but we'll also celebrate Gena.  That's Ethiopian Christmas, as I am sure you know. I am already trying to get used to leaving my decorations up a little later. I wonder what kinds of traditions we'll have together. I can't wait.  Christmas will be so much more fun when you are around.  Sharing our family. Reading the Christmas story together. Getting you your own nativity. Wrapping gifts and watching you open them. Sharing the truth of the miracle of Jesus.  Then I imagine we'll come up with some new traditions, too. Maybe we'll eat popcorn and drink cocoa for Gena. Maybe you'll have a favorite Christmas movie. Maybe we'll meet up with other Ethiopian families. Hard to tell.

I know I've told you before you very excited our community is to meet you. We're all getting more excited. In fact, a few weeks ago, people prayed nonstop for you for 24 hours. For your safety. For your quick homecoming. For people to love and care for you until we can get there. For your health. And of course we pray for you all the time. But for someone else to pray for you and care for you in the way we hope you are, well, it's just heartwarming.

I read an article about someone who's been to our transition home, where you will most likely live. It was encouraging to hear her talk about how much the nannies care for their kids. And how much the director cares about your daily life. It breaks my heart that you are most likely over there, waiting for paperwork, just like we are over here, waiting for paperwork. But it was so nice to know if we can't be united yet, you are most likely in good hands.  We'll continually be praying for that.

I must get grocery shopping but I hope you know you're on my heart. I'm praying until we meet. And forever.



Monday, December 9, 2013

The Race that Never Happened

The journey to my second marathon is a story, I tell you. It starts with registering right after my surgery in June. I put it on the calendar as a goal. A way to remind myself that my body was capable of lots of things. I got excited about it and started training as soon as I was cleared to run.

Fast forward through months and months of training.  Better training than last year, in fact. E and I were pretty confident we could beat last year's time. And even better? Our team was raising more money for St. Jude than we ever had before.  Our first year there were four of us and this year we were up to 19. The funds kept pouring in and we were so excited for the Mizzou Maniacs to have a fun, productive time in Memphis to benefit St. Jude and introduce new team members to this great race and amazing hospital.

Well, right before Thanksgiving I got bronchitis and started to get a little nervous about the race. But I was hellbent on running. I was going to run NO MATTER WHAT. Because I am stubborn as a mule very determined.

We packed and were ready to go Thursday. This is our 5th year running this race so we have a pretty good game plan. E and I head to my parents' house the night before and then we all travel together early Friday morning. We started on the roads to my parents' and an hour in, we slipped, slid, and turned around to go home. We had high hopes of going Friday but couldn't make any decisions.

Friday morning we hemmed and hawed but eventually decided to get going, along with my brother, his girlfriend, and best friend. I'll spare you the details of our harrowing journey. Bottom line: It took us way too long, it was way too scary, and we arrived late to the expo to get our tickets to the fundraising banquet. Right as we arrived, they canceled the race. Perfect timing.

Trees down the street from the expo. Long travels mean I had a dead phone for the banquet.

I won't lie. Tears. They arrived. I didn't shed them but they welled up in my eyes. All that travel and we weren't even going to get a chance to run. But Rick Shadyac, the fundraising CEO for St. Jude, was sadder than I could ever be. He stood on that stage and very apologetically explained that 30% of their volunteers had already canceled, as well as 15% of their medical staff. Branches were falling all over the city and Tennessee was in a state of emergency. The wise thing to do was to cancel the race. And so they opened beer in the back of the ballroom and we all understood. Mostly.

We went back to the expo to grab some St. Jude gear (can't have enough of that!) and saw the coolest SUV with the names of every HERO (fundraiser) on it. Check it out!

Pretty neat, huh? While we were at that car, I ran into a sweet patient. Miss J is a teenager who was in chemo for a brain tumor last year during the race. She brought a team from her small Mississippi town this year and her team was so bummed to miss the race.  We commiserated together as she told me about her story. St. Jude began to treat her tumor but then referred her to the premiere specialist to remove her tumor. This specialist happened to not be a St. Jude doc. So when the bill for almost $90,000 arrived, the family was overwhelmed. But...because St. Jude referred them to that hospital, they paid it. Every dime.

Keycard to our hotel
This is why we run.  This is why we traveled through the snow to get there. It didn't matter that the race didn't happen. Miss J is so appreciative of St. Jude. And she thanked us for being there. Wow.

Since we didn't get to run, we put on our jerseys and headed down to Beale Street to enjoy some jazz at B.B. King's. 

cute parents!

No, E is not wearing his jersey. Because for some reason they didn't have one in his size. But cute St. Jude shirt, right??
We woke up Saturday even more deflated. But we put on our gear and headed to the fundraising lounge. There, lots of people were milling around, eating, taking pics, and commiserating about all the training that ended in a cold, frozen weekend. At least we looked cute.

We sat down next to a St. Jude family and Sweet C. told me his story. He's been a St. Jude patient for 13 years. He has his own team and even invited us to join. We promised we'd find him again next year.  He thanked us for his hard work and told us story after story of how much his family appreciates St. Jude.

This is why we run. Or don't run. This is why we love St. Jude.

CEO of the Fundraising arm of St. Jude, Rick Shadyac
When we finished our time at the lounge, ran by the stadium. It was icy and reaffirmed why they didn't have the race.

But they did give us a finisher medal. Getting there was accomplishment enough. So we said thanks and wore our medals with pride.

Check out all that ice!

We went to Rendezvous, our after-race tradition, and enjoyed some ribs.

Then, we geared up for a sad game. And that's all I'm going to say about that. Here's our team watching the game:

So you could say the weekend was a bust. But I just can't say that.  My supporters raised more than $1,000 and our team, jointly, raised $11,264,73. That, my friends, is a big deal.

Special and overwhelming thanks to each of you who donated, wished us well, prayed for us, and encouraged us along the way.

Will we run another race to make up for this one? We haven't decided. We'll have the opportunity to apply our race fees to another marathon. But that means continued training in the cold. So for now we're going to get in the holiday spirit and decide about the race later.

Either way, St. Jude hasn't seen the last of us! Next year we'll have bigger fundraising dreams and a point to prove. We'll be back, Memphis. You haven't seen the last of the Mizzou Maniacs!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Best Part

It's easy to miss it. That piece of my heart that sings. That knows each moment of a busy morning is important. That stops to breathe in the scent of the baby shampoo.  That understands the cry and the longing of a toddler and doesn't put him on a to-do list.

Tuesday mornings are one of the busiest times in my job. Moms bring dozens of little people in and we love them and teach them church is safe and hope they walk away with a little deeper understanding of the bible.  I always look forward to it but I find myself rushing through. Checking off my to-do list. Making sure diapers get changed, no one is screaming, and everyone is safe and happy on the playground.

Some mornings, though, I get the chance to savor. I would be lying if I said I like the stand back and observe approach. Most of the time, Sundays or Tuesdays, you'll find me in a classroom. I like to be "in the action." What's that? A baby is crying? Let me hold her. A preschooler is having a rough morning? Can I talk to him? Honestly, I maybe a little too hands-on sometimes. I love it, though.  I only get one or two days a week and I take advantage of them.

So the savoring...

The beginning of today was rushed. Filled with checking things off the list, making sure everyone knew all the pertinent information. Then it turned to discipline. Major, heart-wrenching discipline.

Little A was waiting. He was doing his best to try to make himself happy with other sitters. But each time he'd look over and reach for me, I didn't have the ability to take him yet. I'd say, "I promise, buddy! I'm there as soon as I handle this one more thing..."and then had to go back to the discipline and the rosters and the everyday stuff.

With less than an hour left, I grabbed Little A and we settled in.  He was finally happy to snuggle in my arms.  The back story is it's taken him a year to like me. Ours is a love that's rooted in hardship, in trust, in perseverance.

I held him and watched as he fought to stay upright. He was ready to sleep--something I've never seen him do in my care.  I put on my favorite lullaby on repeat and we rocked and swayed. I watched his eyelids get heavy. I watched him look to me and trust me enough to lose consciousness in my arms. And I prayed over him, praying God would help Little A to know how much he loved him. That God would build him and firmly root him. And I teared up. Thinking of how much I love Little A. What a privilege it is to build relationship with him on Sundays and Tuesdays. I wondered if he would ever know there was a 30 year old woman, waiting for her little one, snuggling him, so thankful for the hope he brought. When he's my age, he probably won't know me. But I pray he knows Jesus.

I read my friend Courtney's blog today. She's in Ethiopia.  She's visiting orphanages and seeing children in devastating circumstance. And she's loving them. Rocking them to sleep, singing them songs about Jesus. Praying over them. I may never know if she meets my little one. But I get comfort in knowing there are people out there, loving my little one like I would want to.

Today was one more reminder that my job is not valued in the eyes of the world. I won't get a medal. I won't even get the value of watching these children grow into adults and seeing how God uses them. But I get glimpses now. A reach and a snuggle. A kiss blown by sticky, chubby toddler fingers. A child who tells the Bible story to Mom without being prompted. And I know someday, when all the sadness has gone, I will see many of them on the other side and we can celebrate our savior together.

And my heart sings.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Grace--A Post About Waiting Two Years

Two years. Of waiting. Today.

So today could be a hard day. But as it turns out, we are so blessed it's actually a great, beautiful example of God's grace.  For those of you who haven't heard. let me explain.

I got a sweet letter last week from a woman in our church who told me she'd be praying for me at 3:30 today. It was a beautiful note, explaining her own adoption story and telling me how she would be praying for me today.

Well, I told a coworker about this sweet note and she pulled me aside to confess she'd been up to something. Something big.

Knowing today would be a difficult day for us, this sweet, precious friend of mine had asked those who know us to sign up for a spot to pray for us today.

Every thirty minutes. All day long today. Starting at midnight. People have been praying for us. And for IC (imaginary child).

People who know us well and people who don't know us as well. People who are related to us and people who feel like they should be we are so close.

She showed me the spreadsheet and told me it filled very quickly. Even the times in the middle of the night.  Of course, I couldn't stop the tears from flowing.  I'm trying not to cry now just typing about it.

I was already in tears when I started to realize some people had signed up as "So and So's Mom" and right then and there I lost it.  Something about seeing mamas we mostly know only by caring for their children praying for our child was just too much to bear.  Mamas who hand their sons and daughters over the door to my husband in the walkers room. Or know me from the hallway. I just can't. It's just too much. I don't know why but something about it just was overwhelming.

As I read through the sheet, there were some times that had three and four people praying.

I don't even know how to express feelings about this.


This is what grace looks like.

People loving each other. Loving us.  Taking time out of their day. Their night.  To pray for us.  We don't deserve this kindness.

But for grace.

I will treasure this document forever.

I can't pay these people back.  I wouldn't even know how to begin.


As E and I hit the pillow last night, we knew people would be praying for us as we slept. We prayed for them and thanked God for a community who love us so, so well.

I woke up today, knowing his grace really is new every morning.  E and I had a delightful breakfast together before work and still, I really could only think about everyone praying for us.

I just had to share this because he's so sweet and darling. Can't wait to see him as a dad.

I put the link on our chain.  Here's the verse I chose for the 24th month of waiting:

Phil 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but through everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, submit your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Today marks two years of officially waiting for our referral (that phone call where they'll call and tell us they've matched us with a child). Two years since our paperwork was sent on an airplane to Ethiopia.

Pay no attention to the backpacks and laundry baskets that have overtaken our whole house:)

I went back today and read our announcement post, where I told the world we were officially accepted into the Ethiopia program for our agency.  On that post I said we thought it would take between one and two years to bring our child home.  We've seen lots of changes to the program in the past two years and it's become clear that original timeframe was a little off base.

Or a lot.

In some ways, I can't believe it's been two years since we sent our paperwork to Ethiopia. In other ways it seems like it's been forever.  Here's one thing I know:

I am not the same woman who stood at Fed Ex two years ago and dropped the most important paperwork of her life into an overnight express envelope.

I was told the wait would change me. It has. My heart looks different. My life looks different. My desires look different. But one thing hasn't changed:

I can't wait to bring home our child.

Of course, the idea of who our child is has changed a little. Or a lot.

My expectations of what that process and the challenges that will lie within have changed a little. Or a lot.

But ultimately, God has grown our hearts more for his desires and to care for his people.

We don't know how long we'll keep waiting but we sure can see how far we've come.

Thank you, thank you, thank you. To each and everyone one of you who hold us in your hearts. We are waiting for our child but we are not waiting for our blessings. We are already blessed more than we can even hold. Thank you for blessing us. Thank you for your prayers.

"Tis grace that brought me safe thus far
And grace will lead me home."

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

An update by way of iphone photos

This is where I admit to you that I haven't blogged in a month because I desperately want to blog about something adoption-related. And I think many of you want an update.

But there is no update to be had. As Ethiopia goes through one more set of changes in procedure, nothing is really happening in the way of referrals.

Oh, lots is happening in our lives. Just nothing with the adoption. So in some ways it feels like we're in one of those holding pattern phases again. Desperately hoping someone, anyone will get a referral so we can be renewed in hope.  We're mere days from the 2 year mark. Don't worry. I'll blog on our two year mark. But, alas, we are in the "trust God and be still" part of life.

I got a letter in the mail today. From a family in our church. They told me they'd be praying for me on Monday. They told their story of waiting for their son and how it worked out. It was so beautiful. It's easy to feel like people are only with us for the exciting parts of the journey. It was great to be reminded that our family and our Father are present in the quiet moments, too.

So, I thought today being the 13th (our favorite day around here, in case you had forgotten) I should post. And what makes a better post after a one-month absence than an iphone dump. So in no particular order, this is what is happening in our lives as we try to live on and not wait in suspense, knowing that real life is happening in every moment and not just the adoption-related ones.

OK you caught me. This one was adoption-related. Our 23 months post. We added one more link to the chain with the verse that's been keeping me sane lately. Psalm 18:30 "This God--his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him."

Good thing the chain is cute. The wait is so not.

Oh yeah. The football. So very much football.  If I were to describe my fall it would go like this:  run, football, work, /repeat. 

As it turns out we are good this year. Like, seriously good. Who knew? Not even we did at the beginning of the season but we keep winning so that's a lot of fun. A lot more fun than last year. We're even talking SEC championships and stuff.  Of course, there's no hope for winning that one. Sure would be a lot of fun to play, though.

Cute best friend, right? Right. We both like vests, natch.

No, we didn't move. Orphan Sunday was November 3. In an amazing turn of events our church gave around 200 backpacks to one of our local foster care agencies. So what I'm basically saying is I've been inventorying backpacks in my awake free time for the past few weeks and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

We were blown away by our church's support for foster care. One of the things I specifically prayed for after attending Summit was to develop a greater support for foster care in our community. We've got a long way to go but this was a beautiful step.  

As I unpacked and checked backpacks, it went like this: open pack, cry at the generosity of people, pack it back up and pray, go to the next one.

This was, by far, the best Orphan Sunday I've been a part of. I am still praying God will use this and it would be great if you could join me.

This is Jerry.  No, not my husband. The dog. We have a new foster puppy currently. He's adorable and very stinky. We love him dearly and hope he finds a great new home. And in no way do we secretly want to keep him. We definitely want him to find a great home.

Unless we keep him. 

I kid. I kid. We can't do 3 dogs right now. My head would explode. So if you know a great family who wants a crate trained, potty-trained, beautiful, super sweet and snuggly dog who growls at ALL THE THINGS, contact me.

And finally, we got to see Eric's aunt late last week. I had never met Auntie R. That's mostly because she lives in Nepal. And has for the entirety of our marriage. So it was so cool to meet her. And a bonus: I found out E has some blue-eyed genes in his family line. So you're telling me there's a chance...

And that's about it for our lives right now. They're full. We just need to remember that. Full and beautiful. And not dictated by a wait.

I keep saying. Over and over and over.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Little One Letter

Hello Little One,

It's bright and early here but it's late afternoon on your side of the world. Sometimes I like to look at what time it is in Ethiopia and wonder what you're up to. Of course, that will all depend on how old you are. And boy (or girl), would I like to know!

I think of you each and every day. I wonder if today will be the day we'll get a call that will tell us more about you. I dream of what that call will look like. What will I be doing?  Will your hair be in tight curls or sweet braids? Will you be smiling nervously or maybe you're so shy they won't be able to coax a smile out of you for the picture. Will there be one or two of you in that picture?

There was a time I was writing to you, not sure if you were even born. I think we can be pretty certain you are born, now that we think you're a little older. Still, there are so many uncertainties.

Yesterday I had to run lots of errands and I thought of what it would be like to have you as a shadow. You probably wouldn't have liked sitting in Jiffy Lube for 40 minutes. But...there was a cute baby who would have been sitting next to us. Maybe you would have smiled. Maybe we would have all played together. Or maybe you and I would have been actively played hopscotch in the parking lot and we wouldn't have even noticed the cute baby. Things are going to be so different when you get here. I can't even imagine. Or wait. But I do wait.

Please know, little one, I pray for you so, so often. It breaks my heart to think of everything that's happening on your side of the world before you become ours.  I pray for your safety every day. I pray for people to love you and sing to you.  I have a friend headed to Ethiopia in a few days. I wonder if she will meet you. Are you already in the transition home? Will she play ball with you or paint your nails? Will she sing to you or hug you until I can get there? Only our heavenly father knows but I can't wait for his plans to be revealed.

Little one, I would wait forever for you but I hope I don't have to. I love you!



Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Don't Know About You...I'm Feeling 22

Well hey there friends. It's been 22 months of waiting for us. What? You didn't think I meant 22 years old right? Because: reality check. I turned 30 this month. Yup. And frankly, I don't think anyone thinks I am 22. Mostly because of my genius wisdom and wit. But seriously, I went to get a glass of wine for my birthday dinner with my BFF. They carded her. They carded the couple next to us. Me? Not so much.

I am SO not 22.

And also this: I went to the Mumford & Sons concert the day after my birthday (shout out to my dear friend for the courtesy tickets) and I was seriously ready to fall asleep before the headliner even came on.  NOT KIDDING. Like full on "I wonder if anyone will notice if I fall asleep here in the grass and take a 15 minute nap before the band comes on." Alas, the scents wafting back from the actual 22 year olds in front of us kept my stomach rolling and my eyes open (and rolling if I do say so!).

Me and Man Friend, trying not to fall asleep at Mumford & Sons. So this is 30.

Birthday presents when you turn 30? Ones you actually get excited about?

A toaster. That works. Because the one you've been using for about a year has no middle heat element. Check out this new beauty:

Guys. It's red. Booyah, that's what I say.
Yeah, aside from toasters, apparently the theme of my 30th birthday was, more wine please!

My mom and dad got me a super cute wine glass. See?

And they took us all to the winery for the lunch. I should have gotten a picture of all of us together. Did I? No. Apparently the glass of wine took precedence. I don't know. I'm too old to remember things like "take pictures of your family at your birthday celebration."

Just pretend this is a picture of the 5 of us instead of a lovely glass of Norton.

So yes. I had a great birthday. Not a 22nd birthday.

All that to say. This is not about my age.

AND...don't speak a word about my blog title. I'm pretending it's fine. Worry about yourself. I'll let you know when I have a solution. Mkay?

So, 22.

Months waiting, that is.  Yes, last week was my 30th birthday and my 22nd month of waiting. We have not moved in any direction since our big change in request. I will say that's just fine but reality is it's the kind of fine you say when your mom says go to your room when you're ten.


But not really. It's a bit of a bummer.  Still, the wait cultivates a heart like his, yes? I know the answer without asking the question.

Yesterday I was having a particularly hard day. I messaged a friend who had been there. She told me to grab a bible and read Psalm 40 ASAP. Which was a little awesome because my bible reading the day before was Psalm 40. He knew I needed a double dose reminder that waiting on him is part of the plan.  God has already redeemed me. He set my feet on a rock. But? I must wait patiently and he will draw me out of this pit as well.

And also, thank you to THAT friend who commiserated for one second before sending me straight to my Bible. Amen.

And so, my verse for month 22:

Psalm 40:1 "I waited patiently for the Lord. He turned to me and heard my cry."
Funny how God always has the right words.

Oh God, set our feet on the rock. Keep us focused on your path when all we can see is what we don't have.

That chain is lovely and lonely. And still. God is faithful in the wait. He's called us here.  No matter when and how the outcome.

22? I'm feeling it.

Monday, September 2, 2013

The Funds. They Keep Coming.

Don't think I've forgotten about you. I've wanted to post our fundraising progress for a while now. Except, well, last week this is what our internet was like:


Seriously. No internet. All week. Because, you know, for fun.  Except not fun at all. Finally our company got a repair guy out last Friday. So then I would have posted.

Except football season. And you know me and football season, don't you? Well, if you don't I'd be happy to share more. Except I can't. Because I essentially took zero pictures. Something about being in 100 degree heat for 12 hours makes me not very photo-happy.  Anyway, tiger victory. Let's move on to the week before last week, shall we?

So first, the t-shirts arrived a week ago Thursday. I was so very nervous.  We had the goal of selling 100 t-shirts.  I was hopeful but realistically thought we might not make it.  With a few days to go, we weren't there yet. And I don't know if it's theologically appropriate to pray for t-shirt sales but I did it anyway. And the day we put our order in? It was for 157 t-shirts.

You guys.

They arrived and my fears were immediately put at ease. They were softer than I expected. They were cooler than I had hoped. And since I got both colors, they are now two of my favorite shirts in my closet. We were so blessed to work with a great company, have wonderful people purchase them, and all around just have a fabulous t-shirt selling experience. So fabulous we are considering making a second order.

What a total blessing.

After accounting for the costs of the t-shirts, shipping, etc., we made right around $1500. I couldn't be happier. We were praising God!!

And then a little less after we realized we had to sort and ship all those t-shirts.

I kid. But seriously. They took over our house. The day before trivia. Which was, in it self, kind of a big deal. Exhibit A, my dining room table:

Yeah. That's less than half. They were all over my house. On every piece of furniture. But we were so thankful for the funds they raised.  

The day after t-shirts we gathered for what was quite possibly one of the most fun nights of my life: Trivia Night.

To say I was nervous was an understatement. My wedding was about half the size of trivia night. Never had so many people gathered to support me in an endeavor. It was completely overwhelming.

I ran like a crazy person all day but really didn't have that much to do. Why, you ask? Because I have a wonderful group of friends who took on so many of the organizational and gathering tasks. And by 6:30 everything was ready to go and people started showing up.

Let the masses arrive!

At which point I ran to the bathroom. To hide. And pray. And for all the praying that had gone on in the past 6 weeks over this trivia night, all I could pray at that exact moment was, "God, could you please make this fun?? All the planning and people gathering will not be worth much if people come and have a miserable time. Please, please, make it fun."

Now, I know it was for me. And I know I am completely and totally biased. But I really, truly thought it was a very fun night.

Standing at the front of the room, in our t-shirts, preparing for trivia
There was lots of laughing.

Scorekeeping table, having fun and working hard!
And lots of (I think good-natured) frustration as people worked their hardest to get the questions right

And there was some funny game playing

And I even got to hold the mic a few times

There was eating and drinking and all sorts of merriment. There was even a winning team. Who won a golden mailbox of glory.

But the best part of all of it was so many people saying such kind words and supporting us financially and emotionally.

You see, when you've been waiting for an adoption for 2 years and it might be a while still (even though you hope not), you begin to wonder if people still are around. Oh at the beginning, they're there. And they're praying. But two years later? When there's no cute picture or plane tickets to buy yet? When it's just quiet frustration and more updates that cost more money? It's easy to feel alone.

But we didn't feel alone that night. We were filled to the brim with other people's hope for our future family.

We couldn't have done any of this without our friends and community. And this isn't all of them. But it is a good chunk of our small group, who worked tirelessly. They planned, they wrote questions, they picked up pizza. They set up tables. They prayed with us. And for us. And over us. And they stayed til we locked up that night.  

Do you want to know what love looks like? Take a good look.
As we were putting the place back together, the womenfolk started to count the money. And they sent me away, wanting to do a grand total together.  So when I finally stopped moving long enough to celebrate, they handed E and I a bank envelope containing...

Almost $4,000 in profits. You guys. In my wildest dreams. Seriously. I just stood there and I am pretty sure I was so shocked I didn't know what to say.

So, you might notice our thermometer has moved quite a bit in the past two weeks.  That's all of you.  Coming together. Buying t-shirts. Giving donations. Playing trivia. Telling your friends to buy t-shirts and play trivia.

And while I can't write a handwritten thank you to each of you, oh how I wish I could. Because the gratitude in this heart? It overflows. I pray you know how much it means to us to be supported so fully.

And so, with that, we can officially accept a referral any day. The money? It's there. 

The travel money? Not so much yet. But we are sure it will come with time.  People are already asking what fundraising we'll be doing next. And while there will be a "next fundraiser," we are going to breathe and be fully thankful for the provisions we've had thus far for a hot second. I need a little time to recoup. And I am guessing my friends do, too.

I know this post is long but I will answer the final question everyone keep asking: what about that referral?

Well, here's what we know: the new process in Ethiopia (called PAIR) is slowing down the referral process right now as agencies work to meet all the new paperwork requirements. Turns out having every t crossed and i dotted in a developing nation is not exactly easy. So things are slow right now and they don't expect many kiddos to be paperwork-ready in the next few weeks.

This may or may not have any effect on us. After all, we don't really have a good idea of "where we are" in reference to when we'll get the call. Could be soon. Could be later. All depends on what kiddos get clearances and whether or not they fit in our request or someone else's.

But tonight, none of that matters. We're going to sit back and be thankful for a little while.

Thank you for being our people, all of you.  We can't wait to introduce IC to the people who make us so incredibly blessed.


(Thanks to Ashley and Meg for the photos)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Reflections on What My Parents Didn't Say

I've been thinking a lot lately about values. About teaching values and about learning values.

In my capacity as an early childhood director I have the privilege of being a source of knowledge and a confidant of sorts to lots of parents. I don't know that that role is always merited and sometimes it weighs me down. After all, I don't have kids. So I will reiterate something you've heard me say more than once and I'm sure you'll hear me say for years: I don't know how to parent.  I'm not blind to this. I know how to love kids and get to know them. I know how to build rapport and how to get them to focus on the lesson. But I don't know how to parent.

Which is why, I think, when I get questions from parents I try to think really hard about the answers.  So lately my thoughts have gone to values. How do we teach kids to value what we do? How did I learn what my parents found important in life?

The bible says "Train up a child in the way he should go and he will not depart from it (Prov 22:6)." Right? So how do we help kids determine what these ways are? Well, here's what I've been thinking...

I think we think too much about having these "pivotal conversations." Don't get me wrong: I think there are important conversations that need to be had.  Especially as kids get older. And doctrine is important and should be explained, for sure.  But I just keep thinking about all the conversations my parents didn't have.  Let me explain...

My parents never sat me down and told me how important it was to steal away quiet moments with God.

But as an early riser, I often woke up to find one parent or the other in a quiet chair with their bible study in their lap. I remember the basket that held bibles, notebooks, and study materials. I remember the Upper Rooms stashed around our house.  Yes, I remember reading the bible and talking about it but this whole idea of quiet time? I saw it. In my house. Lived out.

My parents never had a conversation with me about how we don't value possessions and how we store up treasures in heaven. 

OK. I won't say never.  Maybe they did. Probably as I grew a little older. But do you know what I do remember? They took me with them to deliver Christmas presents when I was seven and a family in our small town had a bad car accident that caused major medical bills and deep hardship on their family.  I watched the mom tear up, knowing this is the only way they were going to be able to have Christmas for their family that year.  Their son, in double leg casts, was pretty pumped about the whole thing too. He needed some joy and I needed to see what it looked like to give.  Win-win.

I saw my mom and dad open the door to our small house and hand out diapers and food.  I saw them drive people to the gas station and filled their tanks when the local gas station (right off the interstate) pointed cars our direction for assistance (you know you live in a small town when the gas station sends people straight to the pastor's house for help).

They took me on my first mission trip and held me close as I watched things I had only heard about.  And they let me live it out, walking a little boy back to his shack when his mom had dental surgery and was incapable of carrying his tiny body home.  They showed me what it meant to store up treasures in heaven before I had ever heard of that verse.

My parents and I didn't have long, detailed talks about the value of life when I was little.

But I did sit in my living room at age nine as a scared high-school girl came to my parents as the first people she told she was carrying her child.  I listened in (even thought I don't think I was supposed to) as they told her a baby is always a blessing. I heard them pray with her and hug her and tell her God loved her and they would support her and help her to parent or help her to find parents for that baby.  I knew human life was valued by God because I watched my parents value a life others might have dismissed.  And I was there to see her mature as she raised her sweet daughter, with the help and support of her parents. And mine.

And even these days, the days where I have had deep conversations about this topic with my mom and dad, I'm more touched by their life. I watch my parents support their local crisis pregnancy center. I take great pride in my mom's position on the board. We don't have deep conversations about valuing life but I know where they stand because of how they spend their time.

I don't remember my parents telling me to care for vulnerable children.

But I do remember the boy who came to live in our house. I remember his door right next to mine. I remember taking him on family vacations and I remember the family meeting we had to discuss making him a permanent member of our house. And I remember the hurt we all felt when it turned into a bitter court battle and he had to go back to the home that had asked us to keep him in the first place.  I remember my parents being super torn up about it. But I also know they would do it all over again. That's a conversation we have had.  And as I look back on my childhood, this is one of the many incidents that taught me the way my parents lived were the most impactful and formative moments in my faith walk.  The conversations? good. The lifestyle? Better.

And I guess my point is this: I don't think I'm unique in this. I think if you look back, you probably remember memories and actions more than conversations. My parents could have talked til they were blue in the face. They could have hammered home how the love of Jesus is acted out in our every day. We could have had charts and little "sayings" all over our house. We could have memorized verses to go with our values (and we did some of these things).  But it wouldn't have impacted half as much as it did to see them live it out.

Each day of my pre-kid life I think about how important it is to live out my faith and deepen my values. And I sometimes worry about how I will transfer these beliefs to my kids.  I pray that, like my parents, I will live real life with my kids, deepening my faith each day, and showing them what mistakes and sin and grace and forgiveness look like. And through prayer and the grace of God, when my words and even my actions fail, I pray God changes them in ways I never could.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Little One Letter

Hi Little One,

It's crazy for me to think for so long I wrote to you as a boy and now you might actually be a girl! Oh my goodness! I can't wait to meet you.  I am probably even more excited now that we have absolutely no idea what gender you will bring to our family!!

I have to tell you the kind of love and support our community already has for you.  So many people are excited to meet you. We talk about you almost every day. We discuss what you will be like, when you will arrive, how your transition will be, and how very, very much you will be loved.

You also have lots of prayers coming your way. Not just from me, your mama. Although I have to tell you, I am praying for you often. I pray for your safety. That you will know you are loved by your first family and by us. I am already praying you will connect with us and God will bond our family together. I hate it that I can't be there from your first moments. I may be missing years of your life and it pains me more than you will ever know that I can't protect you from all the things that will happen before we are united in family-hood.  And so, instead I pray.  That God will protect you. But I know it will still be hard.  So I look forward to the times we will get to spend together.

Today I weeded the garden. I pictured you with small garden gloves and a small shovel.  I imagine at first you'll just dig the dirt but eventually I'll help you learn to garden. Or maybe you'll be like I was as a kid and stay inside while your whole family digs in the dirt. I hope not. From personal experience, I can tell you, one day you'll wake up. You'll be grown up. And you'll have no idea how to plant flowers and you'll wish you had spent more time with your mom and dad landscaping.  So maybe I'll just make you garden. Just kidding.  If you pick up my stubbornness, this will be absolutely impossible.

I guess I'm saying, each day as I do things I look forward to the ways we'll do them together. How we'll teach each other about each other. And how I'll teach you about things here and maybe, if you're a little older, you'll teach me your culture.

I've been cooking all day and I've been wondering if you would actually like any of the things I've cooked.  No doro wot, no injera, no tibs. Nope. Avocado salad and pudding.  Yeah, I am pretty sure I'm going to need some new recipes.  Don't worry--I'll learn for you. In fact, maybe I should get on that. There's one thing I can do during the wait.

I love you, little one.  I think of you so much but love you more.



Thursday, July 25, 2013

Break it Down Now

I know many people who read my blog are considering adoption themselves. And I get a similar question from lots and lots and lots of people.  So today, I'm going to try to answer it as best as I can:

How much does this adoption cost? Why is it so much?

You may have noticed a beautiful new thermometer wiki over on my sidebar.  I decided I personally needed a way to show how far we've come (because we've come a long way with all your help!!) and how far we have to go.

That thermometer has a pretty large number, huh? It seems almost ridiculously large to think we will need more than $42,000 to complete this process. Well, first, let's say God has already provided so, so much.  We've used almost $14,000 and, as of today, we have a little over $8,000 in the bank, thanks to generous people who love us well.  But we still have about $20,000 to go.  So how do we get there? Well, let's start with how far we've come.

I think the adoption process can kind of be broken up into three phases that are neither equal in length nor cost.  And when you break it down, cost-by-cost, it all seems to make sense. It's just adding them up to a total that looks crazy-pants.  So let's break it back down.

First, you have the acceptance/dossier-gathering phase.  We were accepted to AWAA March of 2011 and officially submitted all our paperwork on November 18, 2011.  Here are the fees and costs
we paid in between:

Application Fee
1st Installment of Program Fee
Home Study (varies by state)
Home Study Visit Travel Fees
Hague online training module
Documents/Background Checks/Passports
USCIS Fee & Update Fee + Fingerprinting
Notarization, Certification & Authentication

These fees help make sure we are legit. Like, we love each other. And kids. And we've thought about this for more than 5 seconds. Our agency says that through the home study process. And then with the USCIS fingerprinting, the US government puts its seal of approval on the process as well.  Some of this money goes to our agency as well, to help them run smoothly and to continue all they do in-country to keep kids and families healthy and safe.

Next, when you finish all the document gathering, you submit a good chunk of money and officially become a "waiting family."  This is called being "DTE" meaning your Dossier went To Ethiopia.  That's when your waiting "clock" starts.  So, when you hear me say we have been waiting for 20 months, that means our dossier was sent to Ethiopia 20 months ago.  At this point, there's nothing official to do but wait. We have read books, been to parenting and adoption conferences, and prayed a lot. But here's what we submitted to get to that point:

Courier Service
2nd Installment of Program Fee
Post Adoption Report Deposit
Dossier Service & Translation
1/2 International Program Fee (1 child)
training module for older child adoption
home study update (Dec 2012)
gas for free USCIS update
home study update phone call (July 2013)

The wait times continue to get longer. Here's the thing about that: all those documents we gathered? They expire.  Our home study expires every 12 months. Our fingerprints expire (I am 100% serious). And when you update, it usually costs something.  Not always. The first set of fingerprints were free but the next ones we will inevitably need will cost us the same as the first time we did it. So yeah.

One day (and only God knows that day) we will get a call from our family coordinator. She will tell us they have a referral for us. We have a week to review the documents and decide whether or not we think this child or children are the ones God has called to our family.  You get a picture to go with that documentation. I don't know how you don't say yes at the first glance but we will make sure the paperwork is reviewed by an international specialist etc.  When we do decide this is the referral for us, here's what we'll need in the bank to accept it:

USCIS update
International Specialist Consultation
3rd Installment of Program Fee
Post Adoption Administrative Fee
1/2 International Program Fee (1 child)
Full Program Fee for 2nd child

There are plenty of "ifs" in these costs (like will God give us one child in this referral or two--that changes everything) but this is the number we will be thinking of when we predict how much we'll need to be happy and not completely terrified when the call comes.

So... let's say we get the call. We have the funds. We celebrate and accept!!  Next comes even MORE waiting and then two sets of traveling. The first traveling is to go to court and make him or her or them ours. Then we will come home and wait in horrible suspense. And one day,we'll get a call that the US has agreed with what Ethiopia has already said: "they are ours."  And we will travel to bring them home.  

Travel is unpredictable when it comes to costs.  We'll have very little notice to buy tickets and our dates won't be very flexible.  We'll be at the hands of travel agents who will work hard for us.  But here's what we *think* it will look like:

Trip 1 - Airfare
Trip 1 - In-Country Travel Package (2 adults)
Trip 1 - Visas (2 adults)
Trip 2 - Airfare
Trip 2 - Airfare (2 child passes)
Trip 2 - In-Country Travel Package (2 adults)
Trip 2 - Visas (2 adults)
Visa/Embassy Fee (2 child)

As I said, we can't be certain about travel  costs but this is what we think it will look like.

We are so thankful to our God.  Wow. He has done amazing work in people's lives to help us get to where we are. I mean, yesterday alone we received a gift that moved us way up toward our goal. Seriously. You don't know me well if you think for a second I didn't burst into tears. But then again, I burst into tears at God's faithfulness all the time.

We are seriously amazed at how many people love us and feel compelled to help us and we thank God for the way he has brought this together.  Not one kind word, prayer, or check goes unnoticed. We are so, so blessed by our village.

So where do we go from here?  $20,000 is still a sizable chunk. We'd like to raise as much as possible and then we'll move forward with asking for grants.  Here are some of the ways you can help, if you are so inclined (and this is in addition to prayer, which we need desperately):

*Trivia Night! If you are in town, message me for more details. August 23 we are trying to pack out the church. It should be a blast!

*support through our adoption account--we are blessed that our church has created an account for us. You can write your preference is for your donation to go to us in the memo of a check written to our church and it will go into our support account.

*And finally, t-shirts! We are still selling our t-shirts through August 13. You can preorder them on at our Storenvy store.  Here are the designs:

Adult shirts are a softer shirt and are available at $20/shirt.

Children's shirts are a gildan shirt (your everyday tshirt) and are $15/ shirt.

You can order in person from E or myself up until August 13 (or my parents if you happen to live close to them). Share with your friends, your family, your neighbors. After all, who wouldn't want an adorable, comfy shirt!?

We know God will pull this all together. We feel deep in our bones he has called us to this and we are thankful he always provides for the things in his will.  We are along for the ride. And what an exciting ride it is!!

Thanks for blessing us with your love. We don't deserve it. But for grace...