A mama’s heart

“I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you.”

John 14:18

I love this boy. I cannot explain how that is so, but it is so. I think of all the things I do not yet know about him. How his laugh sounds, what he likes to play, what he is afraid of. I realize I do not know even the basic things like the day he was born on, what he eats for his meals, how he spends his time or what his story is. For now, he is a beautiful mystery that I hope and pray I get a lifetime to unfold.

I spend my days stealing long glances at his sweet face on my phone. I study his features and try to guess what he’s feeling or thinking in the photo. I picture him riding in the car with my other kids, sitting at the breakfast table or sleeping soundly in their shared room. I live in this place for now, praying for the day when I will finally meet the boy that has my whole heart.

As we hit yet another snag in our adoption process this week, I’ve been thinking of him all the more. Longing to be where he is. Longing to know him and to be his mama. Longing to take care of him and to love and cherish him for who he is. Longing to hold him close and give him a safe place. I know that he is worth every single snag and the trials that come along with them. He is so very worth fighting for! I will do anything for him. I’m a mom and that’s what we do!

Moms will fight for their child when necessary, love them with every fiber of ourselves, hit our knees on their behalf and whisper a million thanks to God for giving us this honor and privilege. It is all at once breath taking, awe inspiring, frustrating and a job that I don’t ever feel quite qualified to undertake. Being a mom has made me painfully aware of my sinfulness. It has sent me running straight for my Heavenly Father and made me desperate for His strength and grace and mercy just to get through the day. Being a mom is the best way I could possibly imagine to spend my life and I am so thankful that I get to spend my life with these precious little people! I’m so thankful that in His wisdom, He created me to be a mom. I’m so thankful that He put “Shawn” in front of me and gave me a love for this boy that I haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet.

We would love it if you could pray for “Shawn” and for this whole crazy process. Pray specifically that “Shawn” would be well taken care of and that the Lord would prepare his heart for a family. Please pray that we would find a good home study agency to continue our adoption. Pray for wisdom and the grace to wait on Him. I am not a good “waiter” you guys. I’m getting better because I have to, but it’s hard! I know that His timing is perfect. I know He’s always working, even when I can’t see it. I am confident of these things and I wonder what He is up to during our wait. :) Thank you for taking the time to read my ramblings. Thank you for your prayers and support! We appreciate each and every one of you!

This is the way; walk in it

I realize that it’s been quite awhile since my last post. I know I have to be better about keeping this up to date, but truthfully, I have been struggling to stay positive. Who wants to read a bunch of depressing ramblings from me, I don’t even want to write them! Unless you’ve waited to bring a child home, you probably won’t relate to this, but I miss him. I just want to get to this boy that already has my heart. Things are at a stand still. We know now that we cannot pursue an “independent” adoption with the help of a facilitator only. We will have to use an adoption agency to oversee our in-country process in order to follow the new law going into effect on July 14th which mandates that we use an accredited adoption agency. This will mean added costs and delays. I’m trying to work out a way to proceed with our HS agency now. They haven’t gotten back to me on whether or not it will work or if it does work, how much extra it will be in fees. I’m frustrated and sad. I look at my son’s sweet face throughout the day and it kills me not to be able to get to him, at least to be making progress on getting to him! It’s been three weeks of nothing and it stinks. I know, God’s timing is perfect and it is! I know that He is working all the time, even when I can’t see it. Maybe I just need to see that in black and white to feel comforted by it, because sitting here and typing that does bring me some comfort.

Last week, He gave me wonderful surprises. They were sweet little bread crumbs that told me to keep on going, that this was the right path. Feeling discouraged and wondering how we would get the money we need to travel, I tuned into a podcast sermon and heard the words,

“Anything God calls you to do, He equips you to do it. Anything God calls you to do, He will enable you to do it. Anything God calls you to do, He assumes responsibility for the resources needed to carry it out. My responsibility is to respond and obey Him. His responsibility is the gifts, talents, abilities and resources.” 

Later that week, I was really down, really thinking that we might have to accept that this wouldn’t happen and my heart would be broken. As I had just typed that text to my husband, I got a FB message from another mom adopting from Shawn’s region. She had a sweet update for me. Beautiful timing! I got to be reminded of who I’m fighting for, of why this and every struggle is so very worth it. As I was typing out my thank you to this sweet woman, I was reminded of the verse, “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” Isaiah 30:21. It was the memory verse for my Sunday School class the previous week. I thought it was especially fitting for me to have that verse fresh in my mind. I knew, He was giving me this encouragement just when I needed it; telling me to keep going. Later that same day, I made a wrong turn and found myself driving by a park I’d wanted to check out for years but haven’t because it’s so far from our house. Why not? I turned into the park and let Asher play while Noah and I watched. A little guy walked up to Noah and started chatting away. He was super cute and he loved Noah! That led to his mom and I having a conversation while Noah entertained our boys. She immigrated to the US 12 years ago and actually speaks the same language that Shawn speaks! I told her about our adoption and she was so excited. She has a huge heart for adoption and appreciates what a difference a family will make in the life of an orphaned child. She told me that if he stays in his country, he has no hope, no future. She said that anytime I needed a translator, she would be more than happy to help me! She gave me a lot of insight into Shawn’s birth country and was so encouraging about the whole adoption. It was awesome! She said she’d never been to that particular park because she lives 35 minutes away and I admitted that I was there for the first time too because we lived so far away. She asked where I lived, turns out, we live down the road from each other- 3 miles apart! What are the chances? As we left the park, I told my son, Noah, it was a day that had God’s fingerprints all over it. :)

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All of that to say, it has been challenging. The past month has been crazy busy with the kids’ schedules, I have been sick multiple times and our adoption has met some roadblocks to say the least! I am constantly being reminded that I cannot do this. I don’t have the resources or the energy to pull this off. I have to stay connected to Jesus. It’s the only way. He has everything I need and He will accomplish His will no matter what. I just have to be still and trust him. 

Our HS agency just emailed me while I was writing this. They are working out a contract with our facilitation team. Thankfully, one of the reasons that I chose this particular HS agency was because they knew and have worked with our team in the past. They had wonderful things to say about working with them! That has been a huge blessing! Because of that relationship, they are willing to forge a partnership for the sake of completing our adoption. Please pray that we get an agreement in place so that our HS can continue and that God would provide the money we need to bring Shawn home. Pray above all for Shawn; that he would be well cared for and loved while he waits. Thank you so much for your prayers and support!

 

Blown away

Blown away, that’s totally what I am. Last week I received a letter in the mail from my sweet cousin and taped to the letter was a check for our adoption. The check was all of the money in their own adoption account, generously and sacrificially gifted to us. I was crying before I even read her words and I was utterly stunned. I could not believe that there are people like Karen and Josh in this world. That they would give so generously to us! You have to read Karen’s blog in order to fully appreciate the weight and love of this gift. Read her blog here.

Karen and Josh have loved and lost four precious babies. Their kids have loved and lost their siblings. I cannot even speak to the pain they have walked through having never known that kind of pain myself. I can only imagine that it is gut wrenching and deep and all consuming. I was asked by them to take pictures of their beautiful daughter, Lily, when she was born asleep. I watched them love her and marvel at how tiny and perfect she was. I watched them pray over her and love each other in such a way that it was truly one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever witnessed. They pursued adoption and we were overjoyed when they were matched with a birth mom who was expecting a baby girl. I watched Karen and Josh do fundraisers, work extra hours and do anything and everything  they could to bring their baby home. God was faithful and He provided. They were devastated and we were all stunned when the baby they loved and were preparing for was diagnosed with a fatal condition. Their hearts were broken yet again. I couldn’t wrap my head around how cruel this was. They were such amazing parents. They had lost so much and yet they continued to love and to pour themselves out in any way that they could. Even in their pain, they continued to bless others.

I tell you all of this so that you will understand how beautiful this gift is to us. It represents their love, compassion and sacrifice and it represents their unimaginable losses.  Wrapped up in each of those dollars is their heart and their story. It is a precious gift, a priceless gift.

I am blown away that two years ago when they started their own adoption journey, God was moving. He used their little Ember to draw their heart towards foster care adoption and he blessed their family when Karen gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. He knew that when they gave themselves one year to decide what to do, that we would be embarking on our adoption. He moved their hearts to give so that our boy Shawn could know the love of a mom and dad; so that he could find himself in the midst of brothers and a sister who adore him. Most importantly, they gave so that one orphaned boy could know that the God of the universe made him and loves him beyond our wildest beliefs. Not only will Shawn have the hope and future that comes with being a treasured part of a family, but he will know the One who is hope and who gives him a future.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you Josh and Karen. You have no idea how much you mean to us and how grateful and humbled we are that you would give so generously to us. Thank you to each person who gave toward Josh and Karen’s adoption. Your love for them has now been lavished upon us and we are so grateful to each one of you. Thank you doesn’t even seem adequate, but thank you nonetheless for being part of the amazing story God is writing as He makes a boy across the globe our beloved son.

Faithful

This weekend, my husband and I took our kids and headed to his parents house. We both grew up in a small town and actually lived across the street from each other throughout high school. :) Our little hometown has an annual carnival and parade that we loved and looked forward to each year growing up. I haven’t been to it since my dad died 8 years ago and it was time to introduce most of our kids to this tradition.

While we were staying with my in-laws, I had quite the deja vu moment. It was late Friday night and I couldn’t seem to sleep. As I laid in the guest room I found myself in yet another middle of the night battle. It seems fear just lurks around the edges of my day, waiting for the perfect stillness of the night to rear it’s ugly head and attempt to steal my peace. I was reminded of the last time I had laid in that very bed, in the guest room of my sweet in-laws and it brought fresh tears and a deep peace when I recalled how faithful my Lord is.

13 years ago, we made the ride to Scott’s parents in silence, except for the quiet verses of “Shout to the Lord” playing in the background. It was the only noise in our car. I clung to each word of that song, because I knew that no matter what was wrong with my baby inside of me, He would be the only way that I could get through it. After driving for over an hour on winding mountain roads, we finally arrived at their house. I don’t remember much of it except telling them through a lot of tears that something was wrong with our son and we didn’t know much else. The words hydrocephalus, CMV , Toxoplasmosis, pressure, fluid and brain damage were foreign to me. I choked them out as best I could and it felt like some other person was doing the talking. I remember Scott’s mom hugging me and seeing her cry along with me. I honestly can’t recall anything else except getting into bed that night. We hadn’t wanted to make the drive home where it would become real and where we would deal with it on our own. We opted to crawl into the guest room at his parents with my sweet 2 year-old tucked in beside me. I remember feeling like my body had betrayed me when I looked at my swollen, pregnant belly. I was scared for my baby son’s future and what life would be like for him and for us. He was eerily still in my belly and the flames of worry whipped up and threatened to consume me. I was exhausted and restless all at once. I cried myself to sleep that night.

Now, nearly 13 years later, I was laying in that same bed and once again I was fearful. It wasn’t the same fear, but fear nonetheless. As I laid there, the Holy Spirit brought me comfort, reminding me of Joshua 1:9 and Isaiah 41:10.  Sweet reassurance that my God is with me wherever I go. He reminded me of His faithfulness as I laid in that bed. He reminded me that in overwhelming situations, He is my strength and He holds our futures securely in His mighty hand. I thought about each and every miracle that happened in the life of my son and in my own life during that season.

God had allowed us to find the problem at a routine visit to my OB, a visit that I nearly cancelled. We heard his heart rate slow and skip during the few seconds the nurse held the doppler to my belly. The tests they ordered came back normal but the OB wanted to be cautious and ordered a level II ultrasound for the following week. During that ultrasound, they found the hydrocephalus. Two weeks after that, we happened to be near the high-risk OB and my aunt, a former NICU nurse, insisted that they do an ultrasound and check the pressure on Luke’s brain, (they hadn’t checked him since they had found the problem). Thankfully, they let us have an ultrasound and saw that he was under tremendous pressure and needed to be delivered asap to prevent any further damage to his brain. That was on Friday, Luke was born on Monday. He was born without any sign of a rash that would indicate an infection, a huge relief! He survived a large brain bleed, small brain bleeds, a large blood clot in his brain, hydrocephalus, weeks on the vent and even a week on the jet vent because he was so sick. His lungs improved and he learned to finally take a bottle for his feeds without having bradycardias and turning a dusky blue color. We worked for over three years to learn to crawl, to use his right side, and to walk and talk. Through it all, the Lord showed up in meaningful ways, both big and small ways. He gave us talented doctors and nurses, alerted us to problems and held us together. He surrounded us with people who opened their homes and hearts to us; people who encouraged us, babysitted for us and kept us fed. He showed up in a note from a nurse after a particularly rough night when Luke was not doing well at all. I came into the NICU to find that my son was very sick. It was devastating. Our sweet nurse, Tiffany, had taped Isaiah 40:28-31 to Luke’s incubator.

28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

He showed up, He was faithful. When I couldn’t see tomorrow because I was so overwhelmed with today, He carried me. As I recalled His faithfulness, I was filled with peace. I don’t know how this adoption journey will play out. There’s a million questions that I don’t have answers for, but He does. I know He is already in tomorrow, He sees every day of my life spread out and He is walking with me every step of the way.

 

Stepping Out

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I can almost feel the spray of the water, hear the rushing and roaring of the waves in my ears. My trembling hands gripped tightly to the solid feel of the wooden boat. My heart full of icy fear and doubt, whispering, “If it’s really you, Lord…”

“Yes, come”, he says.

Come and follow me. Leave behind the safety of your little world. Deny yourself; your dreams, your plans and your desires. Take up your cross and follow me.

How many times this past year have I repeated those same words that Peter uttered, “If it’s really you, Lord…show me, make it clear, give me the courage, change hearts, open doors, provide what I need.” The list goes on and on. Over and over again He proves himself faithful. He gives me just the scripture I needed to hear, just the bit of encouragement to continue. Provision at exactly the right time. Doors opened, hearts changed. I sit in total amazement of this Jesus who is my Lord and who loves me like no one will ever love me.   He is so good and He has poured out grace upon grace upon grace in my life. I know that. It is like bedrock for my soul. He is the anchor for my life, holding me steadfast in turbulent seas. But the doubts, boy do they come. They come at me fast and angry in the stillness of the evening when all of my babies are tucked tightly into their beds. While I lay under the thick blanket of the night, alone with my thoughts. What if I can’t? I don’t deserve this blessing. I haven’t been faithful. I am not a good enough mother. What if, what if, what if??? My fears, my doubts are because of my weakness. I know full well how broken I am, how faithless and how still steeped in sin I am. It smacks me in the face and drives me straight to my knees. In the darkness I cling like a terrified child to His promise.

” …I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you…Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:5,9

While I am weak, He is strong. While I am faithless, He is faithful. I know His grace is sufficient for me, that His power is made perfect in weakness.  I know that when He calls, He equips. So while none of this may make sense by the world’s standards, I know that I will follow Him, no matter where He takes me. It most certainly won’t be easy but I can rest in the promise that He will never leave me. He will be with me and that’s enough for me. It compels me to loosen my grip on the familiar, to stick one wobbly leg over the edge, followed by the other. To feel the joy and the exhilaration as I find myself looking into the face of my Savior and standing atop the raging seas.

"Be strong & courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9

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