Wednesday, January 30, 2013

a letter to Gabriel's birthmom...

One of the big steps in domestic adoption paperwork is writing your "Dear Birthmother" letter.  While there's other information for the birthmother to look at about your family, the letter you write to her is a chance for you to "talk" to her, briefly, but personally.  How do you write a letter to someone you've never met but feel such a strong connection to?  I posted our Dear Birthmother letter on our blog before (feel free to check it out here if you haven't gotten to read it before.), but of course this whole blog is kind of like a letter to our birthmother, too.  ("Dear Birthmother...")  It's a look into who we really are and what we do on a day to day basis.  I'm not sure if Gabriel's birthmother has ever stumbled upon my blog or not, but I hope if she ever does that she can sense the tremendous love and gratefulness we have towards her.  Seriously, I wish each of you could meet this amazing woman!

At any rate, the main purpose for tonight's entry was I'm getting ready to send a package to Gabriel's birthmother this week (Photos and such), and when I send pictures I usually try to send an actual handwritten letter along with them.  We text several times throughout the week, so it's not like we don't ever hear from one another, but there's just something about sitting down and writing and actual letter specifically to her.  This letter is so much different than our paperwork "Dear Birthmother" letter though...this time, I get to address it to an actual name.  And instead of telling her our hopes and dreams we have for our family, these letters now tell her about all of the ways we are getting to live out those hopes and dreams with the family she has helped us have.  I know a lot of people think open adoption is so crazy and scary, but I truly believe it's just because they haven't experienced what it really is all about.  I feel like it is such a privilege that I get to have a relationship with the woman who brought Gabriel into this world--the woman who ultimately chose me to be his mother.  I am so very, very thankful for her!
Just as a side note...I always want to make sure to respect Gabriel's birthmother's privacy, so that's why I have never posted her name or any photos of her.  You can see just a hint of her in the above picture though:)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Case of the "W4's"...

If you've known me for very long, you've probably seen my use of "w4_ _ _ _" quite a bit over the years.  When I was pregnant with Lucy, my blog was entitled "W4lucy," and it's still a screen name I use for various things.  And then when I went in search of a blogger profile, the W4 popped in my head again.  I'm not sure I've ever actually explained it on here though.  So, in case you've ever wondered...

The "w" stands for "waiting" and the 4 stands for "for."  Waiting for...

Did you just cringe a little bit?  I don't know about you, but I do NOT enjoy waiting very much.  I've actually posted on this topic before (and how crazy is it that it was almost exactly a year ago??!), but of course it's a struggle that rears its ugly head pretty frequently.  We live in a culture that wants immediate gratification: FAST food, EXPRESS checkouts, QUICKtrip, etc.  We live in a fast-paced, busy culture, and we just don't want to wait for anything...including God's perfect timing.  If you were to look through my prayer journal, you would see over 2 years worth of entries, most of them scratched through with praise reports written out next to them.  But you would also find some requests that have been in that book since I began using it, and there is nothing scratched out and nothing to report next to it except for the tears staining the blank pages.  They are requests that I have cried out to the Lord over and over again that have yet to be answered, and if I'm being honest, yes, I do have days where I wonder if God is really listening and if He is ever going to respond.

For anyone who has ever struggled with infertility, I know you understand the pains of "W4" all too well.  You have prayed and prayed for God to give you a child, but it just hasn't happened.  You have dreamed of what your reaction would be to seeing a positive pregnancy test, ached to see a sonogram of your own baby, longed to feel a child growing inside of you, and yearned for a baby to hold in your arms.  And yet here you are, still "W4."  You've heard entirely too many times from well-meaning (and sometimes not-so-well-meaning) friends and family, "I understand...Don't will happen when it's supposed to...God is in control!" but it still doesn't change the reality of what you are experiencing right NOW.  And while people usually mean well, no amount of Pollyanna promises will take the hurt away that you feel in your heart.  It sounds like a pretty hopeless lifestyle, but don't worry--I'm not going to sit there.  The reality is: waiting is HARD, and there is nothing wrong with admitting that and working through the hurt of it all.  It's OK to cry and to not understand, just as long as we know Who to cry to and Who to bring our questions and frustrations to: our Heavenly Daddy.  But sometimes, when you've been waiting for SO very long with no response, it's easy to lose hope and feel forgotten.  I don't know about you, but I so needed a reminder today that my Heavenly Daddy has NOT forgotten me, and that He IS listening and working through my pain for a much greater purpose...

I read an amazing devotion this week from Journey (A women's devotional from Lifeway that my church purchases each month.)  It hit my heart in such a deep way, so I just have to share this beautiful reminder with ya'll:

Why doesn't God always answer our prayers immediately?  We know that "He could give us an answer immediately, but He usually does not.  He has far greater purposes in our prayers than just the asking and receiving.  He wants us to learn more about who He is...How many prayers have you dropped because God seemed not to be hearing?  If He did not give a definite 'no,' He may have wanted the delay to draw you closer to Him and establish a better sense of His provision in your need.  Don't just ask, seek, and knock; keep asking, seeking, and knocking.  Such times of persistence lead to a greater, more memorable experience of His goodness."

I'm currently reading in the book of Exodus where Moses is trying to lead the Israelites to the Promise Land.  I've read this story so many times, but each time that I do I am always amazed at how STUPID the Israelites seem!  I mean, they continually doubt God over and over again even though He continually shows His faithfulness and provision to them, also over and over again.  How can they be so blind?  And then every time I feel that way, I examine my own heart and realize I am just as guilty of this as the Israelites.  I doubt that God will provide, despite How many times He has proven His faithfulness.  I grow weary from the "W4's," and sometimes, I just give up.  I forget that God uses these seasons of the "W4" for His greater purpose, and I lose out on an opportunity to experience Him in a whole new way.

I'm not sure what season of "W4" God has you in right now, but let me encourage you to not grow weary.  God IS faithful, He IS listening, and He IS working in His most perfect timing!  Don't give up, don't give in, and don't let go; just keep looking up!  Keep on "W4"ing with the great expectancy of God's promises to all of His children!  One day, you WILL be able to look back and see His amazing works, and it will be so much sweeter after having traveled through such a season of wait and having arrived victoriously to the light at the end of that dark tunnel. 

GREAT is His faithfulness, and I rest in that today.  I hope that you will, too...

My Little Shadow...

close to mommy's heart
 From the time Lucy could move, she worked very hard to make her position as close to her mama as possible.  Even while in the womb, rather than move into the typical position to enter the world, she chose to keep her head as close to her mama's heart as possible.  My stubborn little girl didn't care that she was choosing a more difficult entrance into the world.  She was comfortable, she wasn't moving, and that was that. 
snuggling close to momma

After she was born, she continued her same determined attitude to stay close to me.  She did NOT like to be put down, and we spent many long nights and days rocking in the glider.  I would often even put her inside of a baby sling to keep her close to me while I attempted to get some housework done. 
my little mozart

As she grew more independent, she would crawl from room to room with me, helping me clean house, cook dinner, and practice the piano even.  I used to refer to her as my little shadow, because she always seemed to be right there next to me...and I LOVED it!  True, I was EXHAUSTED for the first 18 months of her life.  The child just did NOT sleep.  But I wouldn't trade a single one of those sleepless nights of cradling her in my arms and singing lullabies to her.  Those moments are precious, and I am thankful to have them tucked away in my heart, because now my 5 year old doesn't need her mommy to rock her to sleep anymore...although that doesn't mean she still doesn't like to keep her mama close by! 

drying her hair like Momma
Just today, as she was home sick from school with yet ANOTHER stomach bug (this makes number 4 since November, I believe) she was lying on the couch watching a show and said, "Momma, will you just sit and watch it with me?"  And when we all went down for a nap this afternoon, I woke up to find her in bed with me.  Then, at bedtime, she came up with what seemed liked a million and one excuses to crawl out of bed and ask me to come to her room. 

But then there's the "peter pan" side of my little shadow.  You know, the part where he loses it and he has to go in search of it.  While my little bugaboo loves to be close to her mama, she also has grown into her independence a lot more in the past few years.  Take this past Sunday for an example.  We get to the end of praise team rehearsal and I ask DH, "Um, where's Lucy?"  We quickly realized she had stealthily escaped the sanctuary and made her way to the upstairs children's wing to find her Sunday School class.  (Note that we had a little talk about not wandering off, even when you're familiar with a place!)  Or if you were to observe her Monday-Friday mornings, you would find a very confidant and independent little girl who does NOT want her momma to walk her into the school building.  (Although she always turns around and tells me she loves me or does one of our special hand signals.  Here's a recent video of me dropping her off.  I love our sweet inside family jokes:)  And while I'm sure that she will continue to grow even more independent as the years go on, I have a feeling she will always keep a little bit of her shadowy ways in tact, and I'm certainly a-okay with that;-)  But, just in case she doesn't, I pray I can treasure these moments now.  The moments of:

Momma, will you sit next to me?
Mommy, will you hold me?
Mom, can I help you make dinner?
Mommy, can I do those dishes with you?
Momma, will you read me a story?
Momma, will you cuddle next to me?
Mommy, can I come with you?

Those are the moments that make us say, "awww," and, "What a blessing to be a momma!!"  But what about those OTHER moments?  The ones where you've told your child NO for the 5th time and they STILL aren't listening...the ones where they deliberately disobey what you ask them to do...the ones where you feel like you're going to pull your hair out and wonder how you're going to fulfill this incredible role you've been given in life.  I don't know about you, but those aren't exactly the moments that give me that same warm and fuzzy Donna Reed feeling.  But on Sunday evening, I had one of those moments, and a very dear friend showed me how even those pull-out-your-hair moments can contain a little 50's sitcom magic to them...

Sundays are typically a hard day for our family.  They start early and usually end late and are VERY full in the middle.  I'm not complaining though-please don't take me the wrong way!  I'm just saying it's a full day, and full days can lead to grumpy kiddos.  Am I right?  At any rate, Sunday was one of "those" days for us.  Lucy was disobedient throughout the morning and squirmed her way through the worship service, refused to take a nap (I know you will argue with me that a 5 year old does not need a nap, but TRUST me that this one does!  Any child who sleeps as little as she does each evening most certainly needs a Sunday afternoon nap!) and then was operating at full wild-child force during children's choir.  I felt like I was getting on to her for the entire hour, and it wore me out!  Then, in the parking lot, she picked up some rocks (something I tell her not to do EVERY single week) and threw them at someone's car!  I was mortified!  So, we headed home and Lucy was sent to bed much earlier than usual...but it didn't happen that easily.  Tears flowed like a river between sobs of, "I don't wanna go to bed though..." as I attempted to put her PJs on, brush her teeth, pray with her, and tuck her in.  By the time she fell asleep, I literally felt like someone had physically beat me up.  I was exhausted and I felt defeated.  I had somehow failed as a mom the entire day it felt like.  And then a text message popped up on my phone:

"From one rock throwing Kid's mom to another: try not to fret too much over Lucy's choir behavior.  (Mind you, this is very easy for me to say since she isn't mine, but...) If you think about it, she was never truly BAD during choir.  Yes, she was up out of her seat dancing but that is enthusiasm that some kids will never exhibit.  And she wanted to share her choreography opinions but so do the big kids.  However, I figure what bothered you the most was that you had to tell her multiple times before she would mind.  But maybe, (in some tiny way) it could be taken as a compliment.  She sees her wonderful mama directing and wants to be just like matter the price...even if it takes a "beating."  The girl has spunk!"

Her words went straight to my heart...I was so hurt that my daughter wasn't obeying me that I didn't realize she was actually paying me the highest compliment--she was trying to be like me, even though she knew that would mean getting in trouble for it.  In that moment, I was reminded of holding her close to my heart, carrying her in the sling, and watching her crawl after me from room to room.  My little shadow was just trying to follow in her mama's footsteps...and I responded in a way that was anything but flattered.  I found myself going into her room and holding her hand and kissing her forehead and whispering to my little sleeping beauty, "I'm so sorry for responding to you in an ugly way today.  Thank you for wanting to be like me...I pray I can act in such a way that brings God glory so you will learn how to act that way, too."  I realized that if this precious little girl wants to grow up to be just like her mommy, am I representing the kind of mommy that I want her to emulate?  Not when I speak harshly or out of anger or when I yell and get frustrated.  Yes, I am going to teach my daughter to be obedient and to respect her Mommy and Daddy, but there are two ways of going about that, just like she has two ways of choosing how to act.  If my daughter wants to be just like me, then I want to be just like Jesus, because more than anything, that's what I want for my children.  What a privilege to be chosen to be Lucy's mama, and what a challenge to lead my little shadow...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lessons Learned from Humphrey...

After I was done feeding Gabriel his bottle tonight, I found myself just hugging him tightly and looking into his big, brown eyes. My heart was just overflowing with love for this precious gift. I told him, "Gabriel, Mommy loves you SO very much! I am so thankful that your birthmommy chose me to be your mommy. I pray you will never ever doubt how much you are loved..." And then I just began to pray aloud over him-for God to protect him from any lies the world may throw his way, or any doubts that may flood his mind.

I found myself struggling with that this week-listening to the lies the Enemy was whispering in my ears. He doesn't shout them at you, but rather seems to whisper them so gently and so often that you don't realize you've begun to listen to them and take them to heart.

1 Peter 5:8-11 in the Message version says this: "Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You're not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It's the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won't last forever. It won't be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, He does."

I've never seen an actual lion pounce upon someone, but I do have quite a bit of experience watching cats pounce upon their prey. I had the most beautiful cat when I was a teenager: Humphrey Bogart Rutherford the 1st. (We called him Humphrey for short:) I couldn't make it through the living room without him pouncing on my legs and biting the tar out of them! For the longest, I never saw him coming until it was too late, but then I grew wise to his schemes. I would roll up a newspaper and swat it at him as I went through the room. It didn't stop him from TRYING to bite my ankles, but it did stop him from SUCCEEDING!
Humphrey the cat:)

So why the trip down memory line with my little ferocious feline friend? Well, it kind of makes me think of how the Devil tries to speak lies into our hearts. Sometimes, he comes around looking beautiful only to catch us off guard. But, if we stay alert, we can learn how to fight off his schemes. I do want my children to turn to Jesus' Truth and find victory over the Devil's lies, but how can they learn to do that if they don't see that modeled in front of them? It's so easy to listen to the Devil's lies, but I pray I can stand firm in my Jesus and allow Him to speak Truth into my heart. I pray The Lord will drown out the lies of this World, but He can only do that if I will continually turn to Him.

family prayer time with GiGi
Growing up, there was rarely a day that went by that I didn't see my momma spending time in the Word and in prayer. Because of her example, I learned the importance of making Jesus my first priority. I pray I can be that kind of example to my own children, too. As I allow Jesus to speak Truth into my life, I can combat the Enemy's lies, and I can lead by example for my children to do the same. I can't keep the Devil from trying to attack, but I CAN learn how to keep him from succeeding.

Family Prayer Time
Maybe there's some truth to the old saying, "Everything I learned in life, I learned from my cat."  Sort of anyway;-)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Those were the days...

Our first home in Macomb, Illinois
I remember when DH and I first got married, we truly relished our days in we slept half of the day away!  I'll never forget one of our first Saturdays as a married couple in our new home and having a church member throw rocks at our bedroom window at 8 in the morning because they needed someone to let them into the church!  But who needs rocks thrown at your window at 8AM when you have two little ones in the same house with you up and at 'em by 7 on a Saturday morning?  Yup, it's true.  I've failed as a parent because apparently my children have yet to learn the importance of Saturdays being different from every other day of the week.  The good news is they are still young, so I still have time to teach them this important fact of life, right?;-)

Actually, truth be known, when I heard the click of Lucy's light switch and the sweet baby coos coming from the baby monitor early this morning, I smiled.  (OK, maybe after I rolled over and groaned.  Ask my college suite-mates--you really don't want to speak to me for my first 30 minutes of awake time in the mornings!)  I smiled because while I would LOVE to sleep in on our one "day off," my children getting up at their usual time means something pretty monumental in our house: MY CHILDREN ARE ON A SCHEDULE!!  I realize this isn't a big deal for some of you, but it's pretty huge in our house considering we've been going through the grueling process of sleep-training!

Putting Lucy to bed (right after I worked out-so I'm all red)
When I was pregnant with Lucy, I was CONVINCED that my child would be on a strict schedule...and of course, she blew those ideas out of the picture like the big bad wolf blew the house down.  We tried everything, but our little Lucy just was not a sleeper.  Now that she's in school, she has FINALLY gotten adjusted to a routine (it only took us 5 years!), though she still fights it quite a bit in terms of going to sleep, but she's VERY punctual when it comes to when she wakes up each morning.  (I never recall being so bright and cheery in the mornings when I was her age.  The child literally opens her eyes and is ready to greet the day with a smile and a big burst of Lucy-styled energy!  She's up with the sun usually, but I guess that's just another way she lives up to her name of being a light bringer:) 

A friend suggested a glowworm might help Gabriel be happier in his bed since he wasn't wanting to be by himself.  I'm pretty sure he liked the idea;-)
Then came baby #2...and I decided it would be best to not have any expectations of scheduling.  I was hopeful he would be a better sleeper, but I prepared myself for him not to be.  However, like most second children, he is COMPLETELY different from his sister.  This boy THRIVES on a schedule, which was obvious yesterday when I had to wake him up early from his morning nap to take DH to the doctor.  Poor baby boy's day was thrown completely off:(  He still shares quite a bit in common with his big sissy though--like putting up a fight to go to sleep:/  It's getting much better though, and while it may take awhile for him to give in and fall asleep, he's taking great naps AND has been sleeping through the night in his crib!  We're still early on in the sleep-training, so I expect some bumps along the road, but I can definitely enjoy these moments when things go well, right?!:-)

I remember people telling us before Lucy was born, "Just you wait until you have a baby...your days of sleeping in will be OVER!"  First of all: I loathe the first three words of the aforementioned sentence more than any other!  It's like people are WISHING unhappiness upon you or something.  But, I'm happy to say they were somewhat wrong:-)  While Lucy wasn't a great sleeper, we still did get to enjoy some late mornings...(even if it was because she had been up half of the night...but that's beside the point:)  Those days are few and far between now, but I can look back on those early years of marriage and say, "Ah yes, those were the days!" and then I can smile at the present ones and say, "And yes, these are, too!"  You see, something I've learned along the way is to cherish every single moment IN the moment.  I wouldn't trade those newlywed days for anything.  DH and I truly grew as a couple, and I am so thankful for the time we had just the two of us...but I wouldn't trade anything for these days now either.  We might not get as much sleep as we used to, but from sun up until sun down we are blessed by the two greatest kiddos on the face of this earth.  Every day is a gift, and it is my prayer that I will treat it as, I've learned the joys of every parent's secret weapon: the NAP!;-)

G'nite all!:-)

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Expanding our family...and our friendships!

I started this post on the 13th, but sickness got in the way and I'm just now getting to finish up this post.  SO thankful to finally be getting on the mend from the flu!

DH and I with Maegan and Jonathan-friends from orientation
Exactly one year ago, DH and I found ourselves sitting in a conference room filled with about 12 other couples. We were all from different places, we all had different outlooks and different experiences, but we all held one thing in common: we were desperately seeking out how God was wanting to grow our families.

Maegan meets Gabriel!
On January 13-14 of 2012, DH and I attended the Winter Orientation for Christian Homes and Family Services.  Talk about information overload!   We were given SO much information! But I think we also left that conference room at the end of the second day feeling like yes, this was God's path for our family.  As I look back on my journal from around this time last year, I can't help but stop and reflect on one particular thought (which maybe I've shared before, but just in case I haven't):
"There are some decisions in life that feel so right that you wonder how you ever questioned them beforehand.  I was just looking back at old journal entries and reading about our uncertainty with adoption--were we really called to adopt?  I can't help but smile and laugh at that now because I am so certain that adopting is exactly what we've been called to do!" And God continually reaffirmed that called in so many different ways, one being the adoption orientation.

Meeting up at Hobby Lobby to purchase fundraiser crosses
I will never forget the session on Saturday where they had birthmothers who had placed their children with CHFS come and speak to us.   It was incredible to listen to their stories and to see first hand the love they truly have for their child. Our society has often made these women out to be the "bad guys," but what a sad and horribly wrong stigma that is!  These women are loving, they are strong, and they are heroes.  I will never find a woman more unselfish and loving than Gabriel's precious birthmother. She gave us something we could never have had on our own, and I will be forever grateful to her for that.  What a blessing she has given our family in choosing us for Gabriel!  (I love the birthmother quote that says, "I didn't give up my baby--I expanded my family!")

It's so crazy to look back on just one year ago being at the start of our adoption journey with CHFS, and now how we are in 2013 as a family of four.  I can only imagine what God has in store for this new year, and I'm excited to follow Him through it with a child in each arm in tow!

Lu wanted to take a silly face pic of us
Our Ormesher adoption fundraiser Chalkboard Cross at Christmastime
But God didn't just use our experience at orientation one year ago to expand our family.  He also added new friendships into our lives that we never expected.  The very couple that sat to our left (and that is pictured in today's post) is actually going through their homestudy tomorrow!  I am BEYOND excited for them and cannot wait to meet the baby boy or girl and the birthmother God has chosen to be a part of their precious family!  We've had the privilege of meeting up with this couple quite a few times since orientation, and each time we are reminded what a blessing they are upon our lives.  They supported us and encouraged us so much throughout out adoption journey, they have loved on our kiddos, and we are so blessed to call them our friends!  Please be thinking of Jonathan and Maegan tomorrow as they have their homestudy, and be praying for them as they wait to meet and bring their baby home.  (And if you'd like to support their adoption journey, I can let you know how to get in touch with them--they have made these AMAZING chalkboard crosses they are selling as an adoption fundraiser!)

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Sleep? Who said anything about needing sleep?!

This picture says it all...well, except you could probably add to it, "DADDY needs sleep," and "SISSY needs sleep," because these days, no one is getting much of it, especially baby brother..."BABY BROTHER needs sleep."  Maybe I should have family mugs made??;-)  At least I'm keeping my keurig happy, right?  hehee:) 

Sleep training, scheduling...some might even just go ahead and call it torture, but however you refer to it, as you can probably already tell, that's what we are in the midst of. 

I've never been a big fan of the CIO (cry it out) method.  If my baby is upset, and me loving on him is what comforts him, then that's what I'm going to do, especially when they are so little.  With Gabriel, I felt it very important to create a very strong bond with him in those first several months.  We held him as much as possible!  I wanted him to feel security from us and to get to know us--how our heartbeat sounds, how we smell (surely that alone would make the child want to be in his own bed and sleep, right?!  LOL:), etc.  But now we are to the point where no amount of not showering or not brushing our teeth will keep him from wanting to be rocked to sleep by us.  (OK, that one was to try to get some laughs, although I'm sure you other mommas know that there are days when you feel you should get a medal for being able to get a shower in and some Colgate slathered on!)  Gabriel has bonded with us well and now we are to the point where it's not so much that his sleep problems are upsetting us (although yes, I am exhausted!) but I know it is effecting HIM.  He's a growing baby boy, and he needs adequate sleep, and he's not getting anywhere near what he should be.  So, thus begins the adjustment from arms to crib.

Now, I realize this is a subject that every parent has an opinion on--what to do, what not to do, etc.  I'm really not trying to start an open forum though.  I know everyone is pretty opinionated about sleep issues (including myself!:)  I'm just stating what we're going through at the moment...  And every child is different, and I truly believe what works for one might not work for another, and really, what works for some PARENTS won't work for others.  Take last night for example...

Gabriel did great "sleep training" for naps yesterday.  I checked on him after 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 7 minutes, etc. and reassured him I loved him but that it was nap time.  (Poor baby boy was SO exhausted and rubbing his eyes--it was obvious he was sleepy.)  He finally gave in, took two great naps yesterday, and woke up one very happy little boy:)  Night time was a COMPLETELY different story though...  After over an hour of crying (and checking on him several times of course--I can't just leave him in there to cry, no way!) DH and I just looked at each other with tears practically in our eyes and said enough was enough.  So I picked him up and loved on him and he calmed down very quickly.  I brought him to DH and he placed his head on DH's chest, looked up at him, smiled, and then went to sleep!  It was so precious!  ...until midnight when he was up until 2 in the morning fighting sleep:( 

rocking my precious GP to sleep...
rocking my precious GP to sleep...
All of that being said, maybe CIO would have worked eventually last night for him, but it just did NOT work for us.  So, where does that leave us?  Well, we will just keep trying to figure it out, but we will also keep going with our mommy and daddy instincts.  Sometimes that means trying to tough it out, but sometimes it means just picking up my precious baby boy and rocking him to sleep and loving on him.  And that's exactly how things looked for us the other night.  He was so upset, but as soon as I began to rock him and love on him, everything else melted away, and he fell right to sleep.  I commented on my FB that day:  "There's nothing like rocking a fussy baby and seeing them transform from being so upset to being completely content from being in your arms.  I think our Heavenly Father must enjoy that part of comforting His children, too.  We "kick and scream" and cry when we don't understand life, and when it gets to be too much for us, and all the while the Lord is loving on us and telling us He has got it under control, and it's going to be OK:)"

Many times in life, we fight whatever is before us.  We don't want to give in to what is best for us because it's not what WE want.  God allows us to "cry it out" during those times and waits for us to come to Him and rest in Him and His perfect plan for our lives.  And then there are other times in life, when even if what lies ahead is what is best for us, we feel like we just can't handle going through it all, and God takes us in His arms, and comforts His children.  Both responses are made out of His love for us--whether we find ourselves "crying it out" or in the arms of our Heavenly Daddy.  And as a momma, I pray that's what my precious Gabriel senses--the incredible love that his mommy has for him as she strives to do what is best for him...

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


When I opened my prayer journal up this morning, I glanced back at the first page.  I had originally started this particular notebook as a journal, and the first entry happens to be from this exact date last year.  I don't normally share my private journal entries, but I want to share this one with y'all because I know that those of you reading can probably relate to some extent with how I was feeling--either you may be going through similar feelings, have been through those feelings, or God is preparing you to go through a similar season...

January 9, 2012
I told a friend today:
"I feel so weak...but I guess that's a good thing."
I guess I just feel so fragile in every way right now--my emotions are all over the place, and I feel like I have no control of my life right now.

That's really a blessing though, isn't it?

If I'm not in control, then I can look to the One who is.
If I feel weak, then I can lean on the One who is strong.

I know in my heart that God blesses us with trials.  I just need to be victorious about that knowledge.  Some days, it's just hard though, if I'm being completely honest.

"Lord, please help me to be thankful in ALL things.  Help me to not lose faith--help me to be confident that you are working.  Forgive my disbelief and wayward tendencies.  Thank you for your patience, your mercy, and your love.  Amen."

 I really believe that one of the greatest blessings we are given is hindsight.  It's incredible to be able to look back and finally be able to fit all of the pieces together and see how God was working.  It gives me hope and confidence to be able to look back and see how God WAS working, even when I couldn't see it or feel, knowing that He will continue to do His mighty works in whatever unknowns I will face in my future.

Praising God today that He is ever going before me to prepare His perfect path for me, and praying that I can surrender my life to follow Him wherever He desires to lead me...

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Happy New Year!

New Year's Eve 2012 at Mema Joan's with my bugaboo:)
Wow...2013.  I still remember ringing in 1998 thinking it was crazy how close we were to the 2000's, and now here I am fifteen years later struggling to make it until midnight to ring in the new year!  lol:)  the difference between 15 and 29+1 I suppose...well, that and two precious kiddos who follow in their mother's footsteps of sleep not coming very naturally for them.  I guess it shows that there is hope that they will one day WANT to sleep.  In the mean time, we enjoyed ringing in the new year together:)  (That's grape juice in that picture, by the way!)

As we counted down the last seconds of 2012, I found myself grappling with a typical struggle: wanting to cling to the past.  But I don't think this was necessarily a bad thing.  As I browsed FB over the New year's holiday, I saw lots of posts from people stating how much they were looking forward to moving on to a new year and leaving behind things from the previous year.  There are always resolutions to be made and a hope to move "out with the old and on with the new," and I will admit I usually join in on those things.  My resolution for the past fifteen years of my life has probably included a weight loss goal of some sort, and a desire to put aside certain things from my past.  But as the clock struck midnight on this new year, I found myself with an unusual (for me) outlook as I entered into the New Year.  I couldn't bring myself to write out resolutions for the year (that doesn't mean I don't have goals for this year, but my focus was more reflective this year I suppose), and while others were excited to step out of the past year, I found myself very sentimental and wishing I could hold on to 2012 for just a little bit longer.  So, rather than write out my list of resolutions just yet, I spent some time on the 31st reflecting on all God had brought our family through that year.  And as I thanked the Lord for each thing I wrote down, I found myself sobbing in such humility and overwhelming thankfulness for all God had done.  It's true that 2012 was a very emotional year for our family and VERY stressful at times, but to look back on all of the amazing things God did in our lives I just can't help but be SO very thankful for where He brought us last year and all that He brought us through and all that he allowed us to become.  We rang in 2012 filling out our first of many pieces of paperwork for our adoption agency, and our journey in adoption was certainly a theme throughout the entire year for us, leading us all the way up to December when we got to finalize our long-awaited baby boy's adoption into our family.  And then here we were, ringing in 2013 as a family of four! 

So as I looked back at 2012, it wasn't the many tears that I shed, the stressful moments, or the disappointments that came to my mind.  Rather, it was an intense sense of thankfulness and joy.  Thankfulness to our Lord for the path He went ahead of us to prepare and guide us through; thankfulness to Gabriel's precious birthmother; and just overall joy at the family we have been blessed with and how so many are a part of that.  2012 was a reminder to me that God hears our prayers, and He answers them in His perfect timing.  And 2012 was a reminder of all of the amazing people God has placed in our lives and how each one of them has touched us in so many ways (YOU were a vessel of the Lord in bringing us our heart's desire this past year!)  We didn't just gain a son this past year--we gained a deeper knowledge of the love of the body of Christ; a deeper appreciation for His providence; a stronger awareness of the beauty of every life; and a greater desire to proclaim Him and His mighty works.  We went into 2012 with the hopeful expectation that we would add a child into our family, but little did we know that we would be adding so much more to our family than just his precious life, for the relationship we have with his birthmother is such a treasure to us.  And as 2012 came to a close and we entered into the earliest hours of the New Year, a text came through from Gabriel's birthmom to wish us all a happy new year, to tell us she loved us, and to also voice a thankfulness for where the year had brought us. 

So, as you can probably understand, I wasn't eager to wish away 2012.  But rather than cringe at the unknown of the future as I clung to the past, I decided a new year meant it was time to have a new outlook on my typical back-row-Baptist attitude.  Rather than glare at the thought of change, I decided to pack up all of the blessings from 2012, tuck them deep into my heart, and smile at what was to come.  If God could do so many amazing things in one year, why would I shudder at what else He has in store for me?  I used to think that not clinging to my past meant that I had to totally let it go so that it wouldn't define me and hold me back, but perhaps the greatest lesson of all that I learned from 2012 was a new perspective on my way of thinking.  My past doesn't have to define me, but I CAN allow it to help shape the course of my future.  I can allow it to mold me into a more dependent follower of Christ, or I can let it crush me like the Evil one desires.  So this year, I choose victory in Christ, and I ask Him to help me be thankful...not so much for my past, but for the redemption He has granted me from my past!  And as for not wanting to have to "come down from the mountaintop" and leave behind such good memories, I choose to allow God to use those in my life as a reminder of His provision and His blessings for His children, and His promises that He always fulfills.  I can enter into 2013 with a thankfulness for all He has done in the past, and a great expectation for all that He will continue to do in the future.

 So happy new year my friends!  May you draw closer to Christ in this year and experience all of the blessings He desires to pour into your lives!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Victory when life feels anthing BUT victorious...

I'm a bit behind on some things that I wanted to post about over the holidays, so here is the first of a back-dated post...

From December 20th, 2012

I remember very clearly one Sunday morning worship service around six years ago. I was standing next to my husband, and the worship team was leading out in "Victory in Jesus"...and I felt ANYthing but victorious.

Me and DH in 2006-a few months before his cancer diagnosis
Just a few weeks prior to that, on December 30th, I was working at what was then Cingular Wireless. DH had dropped me off and was going to spend the day in town until I got off work so we could meet some friends for dinner and exchange Christmas presents, but that get together didn't get to happen that evening. DH had noticed a problem around Christmas time, and between holiday get togethers and a youth event right after Christmas, that Saturday was the first chance he had to go get things checked out.  So, he went in to the clinic just to make sure everything was okay.  They sent him over to the hospital for xrays, tests, etc., and the next thing we knew he was being taken back into emergency surgery for what appeared to be cancer.  Since he had dropped me off at work, I had no car (not to mention that my work wouldn't let me off, so I had to take a "point" to be able to leave early,) and by the time we figured out what was going on and his mom could come pick me up, I didn't get to the hospital until right as they had taken him back into the operating room.  I can remember that day and my emotions as if it had just happened moments ago.  In one instant, everything that had been bogging me down suddenly didn't matter at all to me anymore.  All I wanted was for my dear husband to be OK.

You see, it probably was no secret to those around me that I was pretty disappointed in life at that point.  I was working at a job that I hated with horrible hours, there was some tension at my husband's job that made things pretty stressful at times, and at the forefront of it all, we were struggling to start a family.  My desire to be a mother was so strong, and I literally ached for a child to be in my arms.  I felt broken, empty, and helpless with everything going on around me.   Life was not what I had expected.

So, in that moment six years ago, I got my first taste of a much-needed dose of perspective. While hard to swallow and heartbreaking to endure, I am thankful for it, and I know without a doubt that God used it in our lives in so many ways.   All of a sudden, my job, my husband's job, and our empty arms didn't matter.  Instead of focusing on all of the things I DIDN'T have in my life, I realized all of the things God had already blessed me with, and I knew I needed to learn to be thankful for those blessings...that's not to say that I started living victoriously through life right away though...

About a week after DH's surgery, we learned that he did in fact have cancer.  We were also told that it would be very difficult, if even possible, for us to conceive a child on our own.  I remember so many tears being shed, so many questions filling our minds, and so much confusion and maybe even anger.  So, as we entered into the church sanctuary for the first time since DH's surgery, and all of those around me were singing "Victory in Jesus," I felt completely conflicted.  I wanted to be victorious, but life was uncertain, and while I tried my best to sing out the words, I finally just gave up.  I wanted to overcome my disappointment, but I felt so defeated. There was nothing that I could do--life was beyond my control, and I was truly anything BUT victorious. But as I look back to that morning, I realize one very important truth: I was right that I couldn't be victorious, but I was missing the whole point of the song. Victory is not found in anything I can do; true victory is found in JESUS! 2 Corinthians 2:9-10 says this:

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

11/2007: A family of THREE and DH is almost 1 year cancer free!

When I realize my weakness, I make room to invite God's STRENGTH into my life. When I realize my helplessness, I make room for God's MIRACLES.  Basically, when I come to terms with my humanity, I make room for GOD to be God.   And within just a little over a month after the doctor's dreaded news, we saw God work a huge miracle in our family's life as we learned that we were expecting a child who would come to be known as our precious miracle girl, Lucy Shea.  We have been blessed to celebrate each year milestone of DH being cancer free with our precious daughter by our side, and as each year passes, I think we realize more and more what a true miracle our Lucy is to us since we continue to struggle to conceive a child.  However, God continues to work His amazing miracles in our lives as we trust in Him, and we certainly saw the evidence of that in 2012 as we welcomed our long-awaited baby boy into our family through the amazing gift of adoption.  Interestingly enough, his story ties into DH's cancer as well, but I'll save that post for another time.  Right now, I just wanted to take a moment to say how thankful we are to celebrate DH being cancer free for another year.  While God would still be good even if that wasn't His plan for our family, we are so thankful that He has allowed DH to remain cancer free, and we are so thankful for the victory we can have through our Lord and Saviour! 
December 2012: we're a family of FOUR & DH is almost 6 years cancer free!