Friday, November 27, 2015

Bradley’s First Thanksgiving

I LOVE Thanksgiving. I love being with family. I love being reminded of all that I have to be thankful for in this life. I love eating. And I especially love that it was two days after last Thanksgiving that we got our referral call and saw Bradley’s sweet face for the first time. It’s a good day. Our Thanksgiving this year looked a little different than we had originally planned. We were supposed to spend the holiday with Adam’s mom down on their family farm, but my sweet MIL came down with the flu. We asked my doctor about the risks of exposure, and he responded by telling me that the three groups of people most susceptible to the flu are the elderly (not us!), pregnant women (check) and small children (check). So he recommended that we stay home, and while we were so sad to miss out on time with family, we were still able to enjoy our first Thanksgiving with Bradley home here in Birmingham.

We started our day out by taking Bradley and Daisy girl to a park near our home. Little Man is SO close to walking, so we took his push toy to help him get in some extra practice.

 We walked all over the place, played on the swings, went down some slides. It was all going so well until another family drove up on a golf cart. All B wanted was to ride in it, and the morning ended with a back-arching fit because we would not play with someone else’s vehicle. 
Oh, the inhumanity of it all! 
 So because we were not planning on being home for Turkey Day, my meal preparations consisted of nothing. Thankfully, Adam’s wonderful boss and her sweet family invited us into their home to celebrate the holiday. It was a wonderful evening full of good food and great company. 

Adam and I have so very much to be thankful for this year. One year ago today, we did not even know that Bradley existed, and now he is so much a part of our family that I cannot imagine being without him. The Lord has done great things. 

And then today we braved the Black Friday crowds for the first time ever. Well, technically it was the second time. A few years ago, Adam and I went to Wal-Mart to try to find a TV. It was pure insanity, and we did not get what we were looking for, but I did see a woman wearing a sweatshirt that was a map of the Mason-Dixon line. I thought that was a nice touch.
  Anyway, two crazy hours in the mall earned us a family dinner at Chick-Fil-A. Bradley and Adam had quite the time in the play area. 
These boys. I love them. 

I hope your Thanksgiving Day was beautiful and that you were able to bask in the love of your family while reflecting on all the Lord has blessed you with! 

With love, 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Orphan Sunday

November is National Adoption Month and today is Orphan Sunday. I'm sitting here trying to sort out all that this means for my family and for the Gospel. Needless to day, there is a LOT swirling around in my head today. The care of orphans is so very central to the heart of God. His love for the fatherless was the catalyst for sending Christ to the cross. His death and resurrection are the means by which we can be adopted into God's family. A deep sacrifice that led to the creation of a beautiful family.

This truth is one I have heard countless times before. But it is different this year.

This year I know what it is to get a phone call telling you that you have a son. I know that it is to walk into an orphanage and see the child you love, your own child, sitting among the fatherless. I know what it means to stand before a judge and tell him, "Yes, I understand that this {the adoption of my child} is permanent and cannot be undone.” I know what it is to walk out of an orphanage with your child in your arms and know that the term “orphan” no longer applies to his life. I know the vast and glorious reward that comes from fighting for your child.

The harsh reality is that there are 153 MILLION orphans living on our planet today. That number is far too staggering to comprehend. I don't think I have ever seen 153 million of anything, let alone children who need and DESERVE families. And because that number is so mind-numbingly huge, it is easy to ignore. I used to have this discussion with my students when we studied the Holocaust and the loss of six million Jewish lives in one war. We would talk about how the enormity of the number tempts us to hold it at arm's length, to keep it impersonal. And then we would talk about how wrong it is to do that.

The same holds true here. One hundred fifty three million children without families is not acceptable. It should not be acceptable to a secular society with any kind of moral compass, but it most certainly should not be acceptable to the church.

We, as Christians, have been adopted. We were spiritual orphans, and God DID SOMETHING ABOUT THAT. He MOVED. He SACRIFICED. And He did so because of LOVE. He loves us. Enough that He was willing to do the unthinkable to redeem us unto Himself.

How then can we, as recipients of such lavish love close our hearts and homes to those who are exactly where we were? We simply cannot. We cannot let that number intimidate us or keep us from action. We cannot fall victim to the lie that because we cannot do everything that we might as well do nothing. There is not an immediate solution to the orphan crisis. It is something that will be taken on one life, one child at a time. And that is OK. All we have to do is being willing to walk where God leads.

Clearly, I am an adoption advocate. Adoption gave me one of my most precious gifts: my son, but please know that I am not saying every Christian should adopt (although I would love that!). I am saying that every Christ follower must be involved in some way in caring for the fatherless. It is God's heartbeat. He commands it. And it is too beautiful for words.

There are so many way to do this:

-Foster care
-Orphan care ministries
-Orphan prevention ministries
-Birth mother ministries
-Respite care for foster families

God calls us to love the world and that means loving the people who live in it.

“Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” 
John 13:35 

“For He chose us before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in His sight. In love, He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ in accordance to His pleasure and will, to the praise of His glorious grace, which He has freely given us in the One He loves.”
Ephesians 1:4-6

With deep love,

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

A Love That Grows

I'm constantly amazed by how much the Lord is teaching me and revealing to me as I make this transition into motherhood. He is changing me and molding me, yet again, into a completely new person. In one of my recent posts, I talked about how some of that has been painful and less than pretty. A lot of sin has been brought to the surface during this very sanctifying experience.

But there is this new phenomenon I have been seeing take place over the last two weeks.

When you are going through the adoption process and attending countless classes, conferences and online seminars, you are warned time and again that it is not always "love at first sight" with adoption. That for some families, it takes time to get to a place where you truly feel like a family. God was very gracious to us in that we both fell head over heels with Bradley the moment we saw him. Then that love was confirmed when we finally got our feet on Ethiopian soil to meet him.

Then we got home and the reality of parenting a child from a very hard place set in. It was so much harder than I ever imagined possible. I loved Bradley so much, and I knew that he was my son. But he didn't know that. To him, I was just a lady who had taken him away from all he had ever known. I had to FIGHT SO HARD for his heart. Day by day, minute by minute showing him that I love him, that he is mine. And that those are good things.

And rarely was that love returned. The first several weeks home were mostly trying to get him to stop crying. I have hesitated and wavered back and forth about sharing a lot about this period of our family's life because it is so personal, and it is part of our son's story. But I do feel a sense of obligation to be honest about what adoption really looks like after the airport and behind the pictures. So I am going to use broad strokes here.

Bradley was scared. Everything in his little life had changed. Every single thing. How terrifying for a baby. So every moment of my day was spent teaching him that this is a safe place, that he is loved, that he will always have enough to eat, that he doesn't need to be afraid, that he can stop crying. Please stop crying.

I loved this boy so much, but life did NOT look like I wanted it to.

The Lord sent His Spirit into our home and carried us through those first weeks.

But over the last few weeks I have noticed a shift. It was very subtle at first, but now I am seeing it more and more clearly.

Bradley loves us back.

We have crossed the shaky bridge from being a source of food and cleanliness to being people he truly loves and wants to be with. I see it in the way he reacts when I walk in a room or when Adam comes home from work. He smiles and giggles, lets out a squeal of delight and reaches for us without screaming. When playing, he will randomly crawl into my lap just to give me a hug and then go right back to what he was doing.

He sees us as his mom and dad. He has learned what those words mean, and, more importantly, he has applied them to us. I could collapse on the floor and weep for this. My son sees me they way I have always seen him. The Lord has grown his love for us, and truthfully, He has grown our love for Bradley, too. Each day we feel more and more like a family.

Don't get me wrong. There are still a LOT of hard days. There is still a TON of crying. But the undertone is different. He wants to be consoled, and he wants me to be the one to do that. He wants to play with us, not just sit in our laps or be held.

He is learning what it means to be a family, and it is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Our God is a God of miracles. Truly.

With love,

Monday, November 2, 2015

Her Name

I feel so much pressure when it comes to settling on names for children. It's something they will carry forever, so I want it to have meaning and, obviously, be pretty. A few weeks after we found out we were expecting babe number two, a name that I had never even considered popped into my head. It was one that could work for a son or a daughter. Adam loved it, too, and so it stuck.

All we had to do was settle on a middle name. When we were in the process of adopting, we knew our boy name right away, but we could never settle on a girl name. But we have had the opposite experience with this little one. We had our girl name picked, but could not nail down a boy middle name.

So, all of that to say, we have named our precious baby girl:

Asher Elizabeth

Asher because the Lord has made us glad with the news of another life to love. In the Old Testament when Leah gave birth to Asher, she gave him is name because the Lord had blessed her and made her glad. And that's exactly what our girl is to us: a blessing that has filled our hearts with joy. 

And Elizabeth for a woman in the New Testament, the mother of John the Baptist, who waited a long time to give birth to a child. She asked a miracle of the Lord, and He poured His grace out on her. And it happens to be my middle name, too, so that doesn't hurt. :) 

So it is with much anticipation and excitement that we await Asher's arrival early next year! 

With love, 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Boy or Girl??

The reality of being pregnant and carrying another life into this world is finally starting to settle in and around me. It's funny. When we first found out that we were going to have another baby, and a biological one at that, the overwhelming emotion I felt was fear. We had just brought Bradley home from Ethiopia (like days before), and things were not going super smoothly. I felt like we were barely treading water as we figured out what parenting meant and how to best meet the needs of our son, for whom every single detail of life was new and, likely, scary. So when we found out that another little one would be joining us in just eight short months, I was terrified. I didn't think I could do it. (Ahem, I still have my doubts, but God is BIG.)

But as the weeks have passed and I have had more time to really wrap my head around what God is doing in our lives, I have become so incredibly thankful for this beautiful gift and have begun (ever so slightly) to feel like with God's strong arm for help, I can do this. 

And this past week, we got to experience the most incredible thing. I have thought and whole-heartedly believed for years that I would get phone calls to tell me that I was having another baby. And there is nothing quite like that in the entire world. Having your phone ring and being told that you are a mom and that there is this precious and beautiful child waiting for YOU. I still cry when I look at our referral day photos from last year. This week, though, we got to do something that I did not think we would ever do. We got to sit in a doctor's office and watch our baby wiggle on an ultrasound screen. We got to see our child before birth. I just didn't think that was in the cards for us. 

It was a humbling and breathtaking thing. To see this life the Lord has given us, this life I get to carry and help grow. I just didn't think...I just didn't believe we would get to do that. 

But we saw a strong heart and healthy bones. A cute little nose and long, long legs. 

And the big news is... 

We have a daughter. 

Crazy, insane words to type. I am so wholly and completely overwhelmed by God's work in our life. He has given us the family I have dreamed of. A beautiful boy from Ethiopia who made me a mom and fills my heart. And a sweet little girl who is the most wonderful of surprises. 

Before the technician began the ultrasound, she asked us what we thought we were having. Adam has always said girl, and I have always said human. We were both right. :) She started out scanning different organs to check development and then finally got to determining gender. I was not doing a whole lot of breathing. And then she said, "It looks like dad is right. You're having a girl." 

And I started sobbing. A daughter. I have a daughter. Oh, my heart. 

The Lord's faithfulness is abundant and in such stark contrast to my wavering and shifting. Again and again He demonstrates His love and mercy; both run deep. And I am so humbled to serve One so gracious, One who stoops to pursue me and my heart, One who tests me and then reminds me of His own goodness. 

With deep love, 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

I Need Jesus

I cannot believe that we have been home with Bradley for three months. Being flung headlong into parenthood with a toddler has been more of a learning experience than I ever dreamed possible. My expectations have been tossed out the window, and I am learning more and more each day just how much I HAVE TO hang on to Jesus in order to be a mom.

Bradley has grown and changed so much in these few months with us. This has been such a testimony to the power of God's design for the family unit. Bradley has THRIVED under the love of a mom and a dad. He is learning to trust us as his providers and to come to us for love and comfort. He is gaining independence, too. He crawls and cruises all over the house to play. This is such a miracle to me because when he first came home, he would cry as soon as I put him down. Now, he is able to go from being held to playing and back again. He is eating like a boss, loves bath time and is even starting to interact more with sweet Daisy girl.

Simply put: He is not the same child I brought home from Ethiopia three months ago. The Lord has grafted this boy into our family and rooted him way down deep in our hearts. And each day we see him reciprocate that a little more.

Those are the awesome things.

But there have been some tough things, too.

The Lord is using motherhood to reveal this whole new stockpile of sin that I never knew I had. How fun! He is using this sweet boy to sanctify me and remind me that I NEED Jesus every second of every day.

So often I feel completely overwhelmed and exhausted and lose my patience. It is HARD to be a parent, and it is REALLY HARD to parent a child who has not known you from birth, a child who has lost everything he ever knew, a child who is (rightfully) scared. And the Lord is showing me that I really thought I could do it on my own. I could not have been more wrong. Being a mom has required more grace, patience and love than I ever imagined. But I am so thankful that God is using this beautiful boy to show me these things, that through being Bradley's mom I am learning to lean more on God.

I think that I believed that because it took us SO LONG to become parents that everything would go a certain way (and by that I mean MY way) once we got home. But things just didn't. Bradley struggled. We struggled. He cried. I cried. It was so hard. Impossibly hard. And I learned, yet again, that I had imposed my will on God and then gotten upset when everything didn't go the way I thought it should.

I mean, you would think I could learn a lesson by now, right?

I hunkered down into some very appealing self-righteousness, reminding God that we had already done the hard stuff and that now there should only be joy and happiness and rainbows.

But in these recent days and weeks, through seeing so much progress in my son, God has shown me that ANYTHING worth having is worth working your tail off for. And anything worth fighting that hard for will require an ENORMOUS amount of faith in God Almighty. The Lord has shown me that He will most assuredly give me all kinds of things that I just CANNOT HANDLE. Because those things force me to turn away from my own power and back to Him.

And that's the point of it all, right?

For us to lean so heavily on God that when the seemingly impossible happens in our lives all the glory and credit go immediately and inarguably back to Him.

So maybe you just brought home the baby you have prayed over for years and it's not going the way you thought it would. Maybe you are begging God to give you a spouse. Maybe your teenager is going off the rails. Maybe you are fighting for your marriage. Whatever it is, you cannot handle it. You and me? We are weak. But we serve a mighty and powerful God who is sovereign over every tiny detail that has ever existed in the history of time. And He knows you, sees your circumstance and has power over it. And best of all, He loves you. Not the you you are trying to become, but the you you are right now. And He is FOR you. Please cry out to Him. Ask for His strength and mercy. Ask for His guidance and grace. He will answer. It might not look the way you want it to, and you might have to learn some TOUGH things about yourself on the way, but I PROMISE the risk is worth the reward. I promise.

With love,

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Say What?: Adoption and Pregnancy

If you haven't read my previous post, please take a moment to do so HERE before you read this.

Everyone has heard the stories about couples who try for years to have biological children and then get pregnant once they adopt. The Lord has decided to make that our story. But I want to tell you that this is not the case for the VAST MAJORITY of couples who walk this road. This path is one that is full of hurt, fear, shame and anger. I know because I walked it for four and a half years. I know how much it hurts to see person after person in your life have children while you remain childless. I know how hollow words can sound, even when they come with the best of intentions.

So I wanted to take a moment today to share some things that come from deep within my heart. I wish so much that there was a way for me to clarify my tone in this post. I'm fear that I may come across as angry or self-righteous. Please know that is not how I feel at all. I feel very humbled by our current reality, and I feel a profound need to speak for those who are on a difficult journey. Imagine me sitting on your couch with a cup of coffee, speaking quietly and sincerely. That's where I am today.

If you know someone, myself included, whose story includes adoption and then pregnancy soon after, I want to humbly ask you to be slow to say some of the following things:

-"I just knew this would happen."

No one knew this would happen. Especially not me. There were years of hurt, deep hurt, about not being able to have a biological child. We walked the path of adoption believing wholeheartedly that it was the only one we would know, and we were honored to be called to such a life. Hearing that someone knew it would happen makes the suffering feel small, makes me feel like I should have known this all along, makes me feel like my faith was not enough and if it had been then the last four years would not have been so hard. And it makes me feel like people believe we adopted in order to also have a biological child. Not one of these things is true.

-"This always happens."

I think this is the hardest one to hear. Mainly because it doesn't always happen. It almost never happens. I think the perception is that it happens a lot because these are the stories people tell, so we feel like we hear it all the time. I have met hundreds of women on this adoption journey, hundreds, and two of them have had this happen. I know so many beautiful women with faithful hearts who long for both adopted children and biological children and their reality is that it might not ever happen. That is the same reality I lived with for years, too. Hearing that "it always happens" hurts so much because those of us walking this road know it might not happen. And for those of us who did get pregnant soon after, it cheapens what we have experienced.

-"You must have finally been relaxed."

I cannot speak for everyone who has experienced what Adam and I are currently walking through, but I can say this. Sweet Baby #2 came our way sometime between our trips to Ethiopia. It was the most stressful month of my entire life. We had just left our son in an orphanage, and we did not know how long it would be until we could go back and get him. The week after we got home, my sweet, sweet grandfather went to be with Jesus. It was such a deep loss for me, especially coupled with the fact that we were away from our son. That month might be the hardest month I will ever live through, and it was in the midst of that that the Lord brought us this very unexpected gift. I can say for certain that I was not relaxed, and I know that, ultimately, my state of mind has very little to do with what God is up to in our lives. This is God's story; we are just the instruments.

If you you know someone who is in the adoption process and struggling to have biological children, too, I want to ask you from the bottom of my hear to be cautious in using these next few phrases.

-"Don't worry. As soon as you adopt, you'll get pregnant."

Oh, I had so many people say this to me. I would nod and smile along, but in reality I wanted to hide in a closet and cry. It is so hard to hear this, and it is hard for a few different reasons. The first is that there is absolutely no guarantee that this will actually happen for anyone. We reached a place where I fully and completely believed that I would never carry a child into this world. It was a hard reality, but I was doing my best to trust God with my life. When people would say this to me, it would just remind me of what I was not going to experience. The second thing that is so hard about hearing this is that it sounds like the only reason I am adopting is to get pregnant. Nothing could be further from the truth, and I feel confident saying that about every single adoptive mom I know. We adopt because we believe it is God's calling on our life, because we have a deep love for a child brought into the world by another woman, because want to. We do not adopt to trick God or the universe into letting us have a biological child, too.

-"I'm praying so hard that you'll get pregnant after you get this baby home."

I heard this a lot, too. And I appreciate the prayers and the sentiment, but I was not praying for that to happen. I was praying for God to protect Bradley and bring him home and prepare my heart and his to be united as a family. Hearing this, along with the previous statement, really makes it seem like adoption is second tier parenting or second best. Like once I have a biological child, then I am legitimate. Those feelings hurt, and they simply are not true. I cannot imagine loving a child more than I love Bradley, and there is nothing in my biology that ties me to him. I even jokingly told my mom on the plane ride over to bring him home that if the Lord ever chose to bless us with a biological child I hoped I would love him as much as I love Bradley. Please be careful with statements like these, as they can hurt an already wounded heart.

-"I have this friend who tried for years to get pregnant, and then she adopted and BOOM...twins."

I know that we love to share stories to encourage people we love. I do it all the time. But for a woman struggling through infertility, these stories are not encouraging. At least they were not for me. She may nod and smile and thank you when you say it, but chances are she is dying inside because she believes with her whole heart that that will never be her. Because the truth is that there are people in this world who walk through all of life and never get the thing they want most. Maybe it's a spouse. Maybe it's a child. And hearing story after story of it happening for seemingly everyone else is so hard because you know that it might not ever be you. So if you find yourself about to share a story about someone you know who became pregnant right after an adoption, please ask yourself if sharing it will truly help the person you love or if it runs the risk of hurting them even more. And I would urge you to err on the side of caution. Please be slow to share and quick to listen. That is what those on this road need the most.

With deep love,

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