Saturday, June 15, 2013

Father's Day 2013

I have to be honest...Father's Day always stings just a little bit.  It reminds me of one of the very last conversations I had with my Daddy.  DH and I were in our car, on our way to Springfield for lunch after church.  I had called to wish Daddy a happy Father's Day, and I remember him saying,  

"Didn't you have a birthday recently, too?"

Daddy was never very good about remembering to wish me a happy birthday or even remembering when my birthday actually was.  He only came to two of my piano recitals and a couple of drama performances.  There were many days I would go without seeing him because he worked from sunup until late into the evening pretty much every day of the week.  And even though it hurt not to have him there for things important to me, I knew my dad's way of showing love to me was by trying to provide for me and my family so that we WERE able to do those things we enjoyed.  I've been thankful that God has given me that perspective, because while I certainly have cried many tears over time missed with my Daddy, I've never doubted that he loved me.  I remember that Father's Day conversation 6 years ago well--he was asking me about how my pregnancy was going and if DH and I had picked out baby furniture yet.  I'm sure he gave his signature laugh (he had SUCH a great chuckle!) over something at some point in the conversation, too:)  Oh how I miss that laugh... and the other thing I miss, which is going to sound strange at first, is getting to buy him his yearly Father's Day card.  Each year I would go in search of the "perfect" card for him (which wasn't easy) and mail it to him, and when I would come home for a visit and go to his office, he would have them proudly displayed on his mantle.  So each year when Father's Day rolls around, I always tear up a bit when I go by the card asile.  I can't help but glance over the "Daddy from daughter" ones wondering which one I would have picked for him.  And then I stop and realize that even though it hurts so badly to not have him with me, I am blessed that there is another man in my life that I can celebrate on this day: Lucy and Gabriel's Daddy!

One of the things I love so much about my husband is the amazing Daddy that he is.  While he works hard to provide for our family, his job is not his number one priority.  In no way am I trying to be negative about my own daddy-I truly believe that he loved in the best way that he knew how to love, and I am so grateful that he was my daddy, but the things that I missed out so much with my daddy are things I am so thankful that my husband makes a priority with his family.  I love how Lucy begs to climb her Daddy's neck like a monkey as he goes to tuck her into bed; I love how Gabriel's face lights up when his Daddy enters the room; I love to watch the way DH loves, cherishes, and challenges our children.  He reminds them constantly of his love for them, and he encourages them at their levels to strive to be all God has for them to be in life.  He is SUCH an amazing Daddy, and I am SUCH a blessed woman to have him as the father to my children:)

So on this Father's Day, I honor two very special daddies in my life: I honor the man I was blessed to call MY daddy for 25 years, and I honor the man who has blessed my children's lives by being their daddy.  And the reason I honor them is not to try and put them on a lofty pedastool, but I honor them because they have each made an impact on my life that continually draws me closer to my HEAVENLY Father.  

You see, even though my daddy would probably tell you he didn't have a very personal walk with Christ, his life caused me to draw closer in MY personal walk with Christ as I daily would pour out my heart to the Lord to see my Daddy have that same desire to walk closely with Jesus.  I struggled in my faith after his death because I couldn't understand how my Daddy's death could be the answer to my years of prayer...but I was challenged in my walk that I serve a God that I can trust, even when life doesn't make sense, so through the questions, I chose to follow Him WITHOUT question...

And then there's my children's Daddy...while he isn't perfect (I always say his one fault is that he doesn't like chocolate;-), he maintains a daily walk with the Lord and allows Him to guide his steps and the steps of our family.  It is such a privlege to have him as the spiritual leader of our household, it is an honor to submit to his authority over our family, and it is a blessing to serve alongside of him as a wife, a parent, and a minister of the Gospel.  All of the things that I missed so much from my Daddy growing up are things that come so naturally to my husband.  In some ways, I feel like God purposely and graciously made DH to be that way so that I might experience those things that I missed out so much on from my own Daddy.

So today, I say thank you to my daddy and to my childern's daddy. Thank you so much for drawing me closer to my Heavenly Daddy.  Oh, how loved you are, and oh how blessed I am!
 Here's a link to a slideshow my brother put together and I performed and recorded the song for it...

Happy Father's Day everyone--never miss out on an opportunity to say how much you love the Dads in your life...

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

My daughter=my heart...

I would be the first to tell you that I'm pretty sensitive and emotional...except you'd probably beat me to it because I couldn't get it out before the tears start flowing.  A lot of people make this out to be a bad thing, but even "Jesus wept," and I think He gave us the gift of emotions. That being said, I exercise those emotions, and things effect me deeply. So throughout my 29+1 years of life (yup, we're still going with that!) I have shed many a tear from sad to mad to glad to everything else inbetween them all! But even through all of the tears I have cried, I don't think I have ever hurt as deeply as my heart has ached for my children.

It's an interesting thing when you become a mother...your heart somehow opens up this entirely new area that's been reserved specifically for your children (maybe that's why your heart aches so much when you want to have a child and cannot-because that area of your heart feels trapped.) and it's unlike any other part of your heart, because it's connected to those you hold most dear.  When your kids hurt, you hurt, too, and tonight I found myself hurting for my precious daughter.  As the tears stung my cheeks and the lump grew larger and heavier in my throat, I tried to figure out why the emotions were so deep...and then I realized it's because I wasn't just hurting for myself, but I was hurting for my daughter, and that part of my heart reserved specifically for her felt like it was shattering and there was absolutely nothing I could do about it.

Some of you may be thinking, ok, she's FIVE! What can seriously be so bad to a 5 year old?! Well, that's just LITTLE girl is about to undergo some seriously BIG transitions, and that's hard enough for me at my age, so I can only imagine how she's able to process it all...

Two weeks ago, we announced to her that we are moving.  She seemed mostly excited when we first told her, and she went about her day normally from there...until about two hours later when she started processing things.  Little did I know you could hear a 5 year old processing something, but I did--as I was in the other room and I started to hear a little girl WAILING in the living room.  I think for a second, her Daddy said, "Ok, that's it.  We're not moving."  But we know when God calls you to go, it's always best for everyone if you follow.  So, he explained to her with love and care how it's okay to be sad and to cry, and he let his little girl pour out all of her big emotions.  (Seriously, he's SUCH a good Daddy!)  So what was it that caused Lucy to be so upset?

She didn't want to leave her friends...

My heart immediately hurt for her that day two weeks ago, but my heart ached for her even more this evening when I found out one of her best friends is going on vacation all next week, so it's unlikely she's going to have much time with her at all before our move other than to say goodbye.  Even as I type those words, tears are falling from my face as I think of how much she is going to miss those she loves so much.  (I know she's only 5, but she is my little social butterfly, and her friends are very important to her.)

California girls-friends for over 20 years!
I remember another little girl very well who had that very same emotion.  She was a few years older than my Lucy, but every bit as sentimental and loyal.  She cried for HOURS throughout the long car ride to her new home.

She was me.

And as I thought of my Lucy-bug dealing with the sadness of moving away from her friends, I was instantly brought back to that moment almost 20 years ago when my dear friends stayed with me at my house until the movers finished loading the van, and my next door neighbor went running after my car as it drove away from the street we had shared for four years.  I never thought a move could be so emotionally devastating as that one...until that place reserved in my heart just for my Lucy began to break for her as she dealt with the first move she remembers. As my heart poured out in sobs for my Lucy, I immediately thought of my own mother and what she must have felt as she listened to me cry over missing my dear friends.  I remember her telling me growing up, "When you hurt, I hurt," but I think that this was the first time in my life that I really understood the depth of that statement.

I don't want to make this move out to be a bad thing--we truly are SO excited for what the Lord has in store!  But I would be lying if I said that it is without any sadness or difficulty.  This is the only home my son has ever known and the only home my daughter remembers, and we have LOVED being a part of this church body.  We move with sadness for the friends and the ministry that we have loved so much, but with excitement for the relationships that will continue, new friendships that will come, and the new ministry God is going to bring forth both here and there.

I share all of these things with you to ask for your prayers.  Please join me in asking the Lord that I will be able to handle all of the upcoming changes well so that my children can transition more easily, too.  Pray for them to be able to transition easily and smoothly.  Pray for us to draw closer to the Father as a result of all of this.  And pray that my daughter will feel secure, not just from her momma that loves her oh so very much, but ultimately from her Heavenly Father!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Meeting Rachel...

Today marks a very important date in our adoption journey.  Exactly one year ago, we were meeting a woman who would forever change our lives...  You may remember a post from last June where I announced we had been selected by a birthmother.  I said in that post that at some point I would share more details.  I'm sure you weren't expecting it to take quite this long, but there are certain things I've chosen to hold close to my heart because I just didn't feel like it was the time to post them.  Today though, I'm going to share some of those things that I have tucked away in a very special place in my heart...

I remember that week this time last year very grandmother had just asked me if we had heard any news on the process, and I was growing weary of telling people we were still just waiting.  I know, in the scheme of the adoption process as a whole, it wasn't like we had been waiting an incredibly long time, but when you've been actively working for months to get paperwork done and requirements fulfilled, the waiting period to be chosen can seem excruciating, because you have no more "busy work."  You just sit...and you wait...and you PRAY...and each time your home telephone rings, your heart stops, because maybe, JUST maybe, it's the call you've been waiting and praying for...and then your heart sinks when you see it's just another telemarketer.  But I remember the morning very vividly that I did receive that important phone call...

I had been struggling through our waiting period, but I also felt like the Lord had told me that our baby would be coming around my birthday, and on June 4th, 2012, I had felt very compelled to pray over our baby's birthmother.  I prayed for her daily, but that morning in particular I felt very strongly I needed to pray for her and for the whole adoption process.  After my quiet time, Lucy was watching a show, and I decided to finish putting some fringe on a scarf I had knit (which ended up selling at an adoption fundraiser a friend hosted for us at her home), and while I was working on it, the phone rang.

My heart stopped.

Could this be the call? I immediately thought.  I grabbed the phone but closed my eyes, and I forced the thought of it being "the" call to leave my mind, because I knew I was just setting myself up for disappointment again.  But then I opened my eyes, revealing that this was in fact a call from Christian Homes.  My heart raced and my hands began to shake, and I began pacing all over the house.  It was our caseworker, and at first she just made some small talk and asked what we had been up to.  I began thinking, OK, this is kind of weird.  I guess she's just calling to check in?  But then, as I was standing between the doorway of the kitchen and the laundry room explaining to her how crazy of a month June was going to be, she said this (and I could HEAR the smile in her voice!)
"Are you read for your applecart to be overturned?"

My eyes opened up very widely as I hesitantly responded, "Yeeeeeees??"

She then told me, "You've been selected by a birthmom!"

I immediately began crying (not the sobbing kind--the kind where your voice shakes and you're super excited and nervous at the same time, so nothing is really coming was the same kind of cry I had when DH proposed to me:) and pacing back and forth through the hallway of our home.  My mind was so flustered with emotions that I didn't even know what to ask!  I got off the phone and immediately called DH.  I was crying (this time a more normal definition of "crying") and he was afraid something was wrong as I blubbered, "We've been chosen by a birthmom!"  He couldn't understand me, "What?"  I tried to calm down and told him again, more clearly.  He couldn't believe it either!  He started asking me all sorts of questions, which I knew none of the answers to because I really hadn't thought to ask our caseworker many details at all.  I then told Lucy that a birthmom had chosen us...I so wish I would have videoed her response.  She immediately jumped to her feet on the couch, jumping up and down and squealing with excitement "EEEEEEEEEEE!!!"  It was so cute to listen to her tell people, "A birthmommy picked us!" over the coming days.  She was so excited and so proud that she was going to be a big sister!

The following morning, Tuesday, this phone call came in:

It was our caseworker and the birthmother's caseworker.  Michael and I both were on the phone and we got our first glimpse into this woman's life...the woman we had been praying daily for, for so very long...the woman who was possibly carrying the baby we so desperately wanted to parent...and ultimately the woman who would forever change our lives.  We learned she was expecting a BOY and that she was due on June 26th.  As in..

wait for it...

Three weeks.  THREE weeks!  Three WEEKS?!  What?!

Here's the crazy thing about adoption: the waiting seems endless, but once things start moving, you feel like everything is happening SO fast.  We had no baby furniture, no baby clothes, not even a single diaper in the house!  (We had purposely not been getting baby stuff or setting the nursery heart just couldn't handle seeing it all sit there not knowing when it would be used.  More importantly, we knew God would provide exactly when we needed Him to.)

But first things first...we found out we were going to get to meet her in TWO days!  Her caseworker was leaving the COUNTRY for a two week mission trip, so we had to meet her before she left.  The problem?  We were in the midst of VBS week at church, which DH was the only staff member at so kind of in charge, and I was leading the music.  To top it all off, Lucy couldn't come with us, and she got SICK.  My mom wasn't able to come in to watch her, DH's parents were not at a drivable distance to be able to come, and we just did not know what we were going to do.  But a sweet friend gladly let her stay with them, even with being sick.  I remember her saying, "You don't worry about Lucy.  You just go meet your baby's birthmom!"  So, on Thursday, June 7th, 2012, DH and I hopped in our green Saturn Vue and headed out to do just that!  But after a few of my little quirks...

Like staying up late the night before to "shine my sink," (I did this before our homestudy, too.  Something about my kitchen being extra sparkly helps relieve stress.

I also always feel much more confident in a situation if my nails are painted.  I know that sounds absolutely ridiculous, but remember, I prefaced this by introducing them as "my little quirks," so you were warned;-)

Snapshot of my actual journal entry
Going into that meeting, the Lord had given me a specific verse which I posted to my FB that day:
Romans 15:13
"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

As much as everyone wants to prepare you for the what-ifs of an adoption falling through, I felt like the Lord was telling me that it was OK to hope, so I ended my quiet time that morning with this:

Dear Lord, I'm overwhelmed by how you work everything together to follow Your perfect path.  Please continue to work in this situation and allow Your glory to be shown.  Bless Rachel and baby boy, and give us safety as we travel and protection and health for Lucy.  Amen.

There was a pretty thick tension on the long car drive to meet Rachel, and you could just sense the weightiness inside that vehicle.  We both knew that this was such an important meeting...what if she didn't like us or we came off the wrong way?  I think one of my biggest frustrations in life is when I'm misunderstood--I want people to be able to see my heart, and that's what we wanted Rachel to be able to see.  You could pretty much sum our feelings into the following: EXCITED, EMOTIONAL (notice the no makeup--way too early on an emotional day for mascara!) and just EXCEPTIONALLY blessed to be on God's path for our family!

Our meeting took place at a church.  We were the first to arrive (yes, I know that's shocking!) and kind of freshened up in the bathroom (I didn't really want her first impression of me to be getting knocked over by my coffee breath wafting through the air.) and then took a seat in one of the conference rooms.  Rachel's caseworker soon joined us and set a very comfortable and easy-going tone for the day.  A few minutes later she got the text from Rachel that she and her sister were in the parking lot.  I remember looking over at DH with my eyes wide open and my breath held in as I gripped the arms of my chair and stood up.

And then she walked into the room...this beautiful, adorable looking pregnant woman in a Texas Rangers hoodie.  She had a huge smile on her face and seemed so at ease.  I immediately went up to her and gave her a hug and we all just sat down and talked.  Was it awkward?  Well, yes, there's quite a bit of information pouring out around that room, and it's very emotional, too.  As she explained her reasoning for placing her baby, there was not a dry eye in the room.  We got to know each other, share our hearts with another, and I think we would all say we just felt a huge connection with one another.  We would have signed the match confirmation right then, but CHFS requires you sleep on it before making a decision, so we agreed to that.  We exchanged phone numbers with Rachel so that could keep in touch, and we asked to take a photo with her before we all headed out.  When we went outside it started to rain, but we huddled together and prayed for Rachel, for her baby boy, for her safety during her pregnancy, and for God's direction and peace.  We had our hands on her belly as we were praying and baby boy was seriously going crazy!  Maybe he was raising his hands in agreement:)  We all hugged and said goodbye, and then we hopped back into our green Vue.  As our car doors shut, Michael and I both blew out a very collective SIGH!  So many emotions had been pinned up leading to that day, and yet there we were having faced them just moments ago.
Signing our match comfirnation
 We had no reservations with our match, so 24 hours after meeting Rachel we signed and submitted the papers to confirm the match.  

Signing our match convfirmation
It's so hard for me to believe that it's already been a year since we met Gabriel's birthmom, but yet, at the same time, it feels as if she has been a part of our family so much longer than that, because I just can't imagine not having her in our lives.  

As I was giving Gabriel his bottle and rocking him before bedtime, I looked into his beautiful brown eyes and told him this:   
Exactly one year ago was the first time I got to feel you kick, and we got to meet your birthmommy.  She is such an amazing woman who loves you so much, and we love her.  I am so thankful she chose me to be your mommy...

And as he fell asleep in my arms I whispered softly to him, Never never ever doubt how much you are loved by so many...

You see, one of the things that is so beautiful about open adoption is the love that surrounds our baby boy and connects us all.  Not only will Gabriel grow up to know the unconditional love that our family has for him, but he will know of the amazing and selfless love that his birthmother has for him, too.  Those were all things that we were told about open adoption, but there's something else that I've come to know along the way, too...You see, I was aware of the positive effects open adoption has for the child and their birthmother, but I never dreamt of the joys it would bring to me personally.  My life is filled with more love because of this amazing woman that gave birth to my son.  She isn't just Gabriel's birthmom-she is also a cherished part of our family.

One year ago I not only met my son's birthmother, but I also met a dear friend...