Saturday, May 31, 2014

Through Mighty Waters

I love summer. I cannot say it enough. I love, love, LOVE it. The end of the school year is soooooo hectic. Grading last minute assignments, trying to get through a Shakespearean play with my 8th graders who have never seen Shakespearean English before, finalizing grades, readying report cards, managing tearful good-byes from some of my students and shouts of "See ya!" from others.

But then, all of a sudden, with no warning, SUMMER.

No alarm clock. No Shakespeare (whom I do truly love).

Peace. Quiet.

Our last day was Tuesday, so I have been off work for most of this week. And because I have not had to be anywhere by 7:30 (OK, 7:45 as the year wore on…), I have been able to do something that I cannot do during the school year.

Read my Bible in the morning.

To clarify, I would LOVE to read my Bible in the morning every single day. But I am not a morning person. And, truth be told, that even feels like the understatement of the century. I HATE waking up. And I am no good at it. There is a LEAST one morning a week when Adam comes into our room, fully dressed and ready for his day, only to ask me, "Sweetheart, are you going to work today?" I have tried waking up super early, but the problem is that I am never fully awake when I am reading and/or praying, and so I feel like I am missing out and just doing it in the morning because people say that is the best time to spend time with God. So during the school year, I try to make that the first thing I do when I get home, which totally works for me.

BUT, all of that to say, now that I do not have to be anywhere super early, I have been spending time in God's Word in the morning, and I have been wide awake and loving it.

So with my morning reading, I have been in the book of Psalms. And for no particular reason, I have just been reading five Psalms each morning. And it has been WONDERFUL. Psalm is an easy book to fall in love with. It is so accessible, so raw. Which is very much where I am these days.

Earlier this week, the Lord brought me to Psalm 77. It centers around the idea of God upholding us and sustaining us through difficulties. Muy importante, especially right now.

I was almost at the end of the Psalm, when I got to verse 19.

"Your path led through the sea, 
Your way through the mighty waters, 
though Your footprints were not seen." 
Psalm 77:19

That just hit me square in the chest. I think because that is so where we are right now. I was explaining as much to the wonderful ladies in our Tuesday night small group. I just feel like we are being tossed around on this sea of uncertainty, like we will always be waiting and never actually BE parents. It FEELS like God has let us drift off any kind of charted course, like we have been forgotten, like I cannot see His footprints in our lives anymore.

But that is not true. He is here, and for whatever reason, He has decided that the path for us will be one that goes through the deep sea, through the mighty waters. And it is so, so, SO hard. There are days when it makes me angry, days when it makes me want to give up, days when I feel like I just can't hang on any more. 

But look at Psalm 77:19. 

The psalmist says it is "Your" path and "Your" way. Who is "Your"? 

It's God. The path through the sea is His. The way through the mighty waters is His. So even when we cannot see His footprints, we are still on His path, they way He chose for us. 

Knowing this doesn't always make our struggle any easier. In fact, sometimes it makes it harder. Because I feel as though if God can see what is happening and how much it is hurting, then, if He truly loves us, He should change it. Right? That is exactly what my human nature feels. But I have to trust and believe that there is something going on that is so far beyond my comprehension and that God is, in fact, working all of this together toward a beautiful outcome. So while knowing that God sees me and isn't changing our situation is so hard for me to digest, I am trying every single day to find comfort and assurance in knowing that He is here and that He is good. 

If this is you, too, then I encourage you as I remind my self to remember that He is good and that He does love you. I know it can be so hard to trust that. I struggle with it all the time, so you are not alone. I am in your boat, and even though we are being thrown around on these raging seas and mighty waters, God is here, too. 


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Say What? : An American Baby

I usually get a little nervous when I sit down to write a Say What? post. But my stomach is doing some extra turning as I think through what I am writing today. It is something I have wanted to write about for a while, but I have shied away from it for a lot of different reasons. Primarily, I do not want to offend anyone. I don't really know what my readership is out there, but I do know that we all have varied life experiences that color and shape the lens through which we view the world and everyone/everything in it. So my life experiences very much color the way I see and feel about the world around me, especially the adoption part of my world. The last thing I want to do is be offensive or put someone off, but I do feel like what I am about to try to address needs to be said. And so I am going to try to get it out there, and I am asking for your grace as I do.

I have to start out by saying that, to me, adoption is one of the most beautiful things in the world. And just like anything that is truly beautiful, it is different. Adoption never looks the same. For anyone. Ever. People adopt for different reasons, from different places, at different times. And no one reason, place or time is better than another. So here is where we are starting:

"Why aren't you adopting an American baby?"

"If there are so many American babies that need families, why are you adopting from Ethiopia?"

"Don't you feel like you are turning your back on an American baby?"

"Did you just give up on an American baby?"

I have gotten each of these questions over the last 2+ years that we have been in the adoption process. Most of them from people who do not know me or Adam personally. One was actually at our adoption yard sale. I am always a little surprised when people ask me this type of question, and I always struggle with the best way to respond. Generally, it goes something like this:

"Oh. Well, we just really feel like God has called us to adopt from Ethiopia."

So deep. So profound. You're moved, right? Gah! I freeze up, because there is so much I want to say in that moment, so much about adoption and love that I want to convey, so much about how love isn't about borders and nationalities. So while it is true that YES we absolutely know that God has called us to adopt from Ethiopia, there is SO much more I want to say. And that is why I am writing today.

I need you to know that I LOVE American babies. I have lots friends with American babies. I am about to be an aunt to an American baby. And some of our very closest friends are in the process of a domestic adoption of an American baby. I hope to one day give birth to an American baby. Yay America! We are not anti-domestic adoption in any way. In fact, it is something we will very likely pursue in the future.

But what we know right now is that the Lord has called us to a place on the other side of the world. God has asked us, and so many beautiful families we know, to love regardless of borders and nationalities and ethnicities and races. We are not doing this because it is somehow more noble than a domestic adoption. It isn't. At all. We are not doing this because it is faster than a domestic adoption. It isn't. We are not doing this because it is cooler than a domestic adoption. It isn't. Not even a little bit.

We are doing this because it is what we know we are supposed to do.

Since I was a junior in high school, my family has worked with an orphanage down in Honduras. Beautiful people in a beautiful place. And while we were doing that work, we got similar questions:

"Why aren't you helping people in America?"

And I could never come up with a great answer. But my friend Ashley did. Here is what she said:

"I don't think God looks down at us and says, 'Those are my American children, and those are my Honduran children.' I think God looks down at us and says, 'Those are my children.'"

And I think that is so beautiful and completely spot on.

More than that. I think it applies to the adoption world, too.

When we consider adoption, I don't believe God says, "These are my American children, and those are my Ethiopian children."

I think He says, "Those are my children. Love them."

And that is what we are compelled to do. Every single one of us. We are compelled to love the fatherless and care for the abandoned. It is God's heart. You see it all over His Word. Take care of the fatherless. It doesn't matter where they are from. Nationality does not determine how deserving a child is of having a family. That should be a right, not a privilege. It is something every single child is entitled to.

Several months ago, I shared a video with you called, "Depraved Indifference." In it, a pastor is talking about the orphan crisis and what our responsibility is. Here it is. Take a minute to watch it.

We are all called to love and care for the fatherless, wherever they may be. If that means that you are a foster parent, then I applaud you. If you are domestically adopting, I am cheering you on. If you support orphan care ministries here in the U.S. and/or around the world, you are doing an awesome and necessary thing. If you are adopting internationally, I am running the race right beside you. All of these things are pieces of God's heart for the fatherless, and they are all important.

What I think most people mean when they ask me about not adopting an American baby, is "What made you choose Ethiopia?"

This a question I LOVE to answer. So please ask me. Ask me, and I will tell you how we did not start out even on the African continent, but in Asia. And then we found out that we were not old enough to adopt from that part of the world. How we felt called to Africa, Uganda specifically, and then some requirements changed. And the Congo was closed when we applied. And how, FINALLY, we found a country whose requirements we met and whose children we felt instantly drawn to.


I love to tell the story of how God brought us to Ethiopia. So ask me over and over again; I will always answer.

"Father to the fatherless, defender of the widow is God in His holy dwelling. God 
       sets the lonely in families."
Psalm 68:5-6a

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Best. Husband. Ever.

When the month of May rolls around, I always start to feel a little anxious.

Mother's Day.

This past Sunday marked the fourth empty-armed Mother's Day since we have started the process to grow our family. Each year it gets harder and harder as I watch the world honor this incredible group of women to which I long to belong. Last year was a total catastrophe. I spent the vast majority of the day in hysterics, and so my incredible husband decided to take matters into his own hands for Mother's Day weekend 2014.

He planned a Staycation for us. If we are Instagram buddies (@bayknott07), then you probably noticed that my feed blew up this past weekend as I documented our adventures together. Here are some of the pictures.

Friday Night: A quick family workout! 
Friday Night: PJs + Pizza = Picnic! 
Saturday Morning: Massages please! 
Saturday Lunch: Burgers at Tip Top Grill! 
This little spot is right by our new house, and we have been itching to try it. 
Talk about a view! 
Saturday Afternoon: Back porch sitting' with my girl. 
Good book + Daisy girl = Happy me! 
More to come on this book I am reading. It's intense. 
Saturday Dinner: The Boot! 
The Boot is right next to our new hiking spot in Hoover. 
Delicious food. Get the Mahi Tacos. 
And dessert! 
Sunday Morning: Brunch at Chez Lulu, my favorite!

Sunday Afternoon: Hiking with my two loves! 

Sitting with my favorite girl.

So, basically… I have the best husband ever. 

He knows how hard Mother's Day is for me, a reminder of our current (and seemingly endless) childless (hate that word) state, and how I dread it each year. And I am so thankful to have been forever matched with a man who not only knows my heart, but also plans ahead to protect me from hurt whenever he can. Adam, you are such clear evidence of God's grace and love in my life. I love you. 

And, of course, we are praying that this past Sunday was our last empty-armed Mother's Day. The last time we will have to hide out to avoid these painful reminders. The last time we will have to endure the, "Someday it will be your turn" and "Happy almost Mother's Day" from well meaning people who can't possibly know how much those words hurt. We are hoping and praying that God will soon, very soon, bless us with the joy of parenthood. 


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

One of Those Days

Yesterday was one of those days.

It was one of those days when I felt like I was slipping away, like the whole world was moving forward and I was standing still. Not by choice, but because of the circumstances surrounding what God has asked of my life. It was one of those days when I was in physical pain from this deep, deep longing I have to be a mother, to know that joy, to experience that kind of love. It was one of those days when it seemed that every single other person I know gets to be a parent, and I am reminded over and over again that I am not one yet. It was one of those days when tears were hovering at the rims of my eyes all day long, and I was barely able to keep them from spilling over.

It was one of those days when I had to coach myself through every minute:

"You cannot cry here. You have to get through this day, this class, this hour, this minute."

It was one of those days. One of the dark ones.

One of the ones that fills me with fear and doubt, that shakes me down to my core. One of the ones that leaves me feeling so far away from our children that I am certain the chasm will never be crossed.

By the time I made it to my car and pulled out of the parking lot, I was barely hanging on. Tears came, fast and sure. And I didn't know what to do.

I called Adam and did a terrible job stumbling through what was upsetting me so much. I said all the wrong things in all the wrong ways. And when it just came down to it, I realized that I felt completely forgotten by God. As though He was seeing everyone else, working things together for the good of everyone else, loving and blessing everyone else.

But not me.

I felt like I had been left behind. Abandoned. Alone.

And I couldn't deal with it. I couldn't deal with once more feeling this way. Knowing none of it is true but completely and entirely unable to get away from the sense that somehow it was true. Unable to escape this deep and gut-wrenching sorrow, anger and resentment.

It terrified me.

On these kinds of days, I have such a hard time believing that somehow all of this is actually working together for anyone's good. I think of us, deeply desiring to be parents. I think of our children, living in an orphanage on the other side of the world. And I just fall apart.

And that's where I was when I got home. Lost and scared. Hurt and confused.

I didn't know what to do, so I decided to update our memory verse chalkboard. We are trying to memorize a verse a week, and Adam had told me what this week's verse was, but I hadn't had a chance to update the board yet. I remembered the verse's address, but I couldn't remember what it said.

Imagine my face when I looked it up:

"No discipline seems pleasant at the time, 
but painful. 
Later on, however, it produces a 
for those who have been trained by it." 
Hebrews 12:11

Can I get an AMEN? 

What God is asking us to walk through right now is the farthest thing from pleasant that I can possibly imagine. It is terrible. Painful. Heartbreaking. But this pain does come with a promise. 

One day there will be a HARVEST of RIGHTEOUSNESS and PEACE. 

I love the word harvest. It carries such powerful imagery and connotation for me. I am not sure why, because I am just about citified as they come (ask my man). Still, I love the picture. I think because, at the mention of the word, my mind envisions a great and abundant gathering. And love that this is what God is leading us toward. 

A great and abundant gathering of PEACE. Of RIGHTEOUSNESS. Of JOY. 

My heart and soul are so ready. If you have been with us since the beginning, then you know that this has been a long road. Much longer than we ever anticipated. And we are tired. I am tired. Exhausted. 

I am ready for the harvest. 

And I am so deeply thankful that the Lord does not abandon me. Not even when I have days like yesterday and I cry and doubt and think terrible things. Even in those moments, maybe ESPECIALLY in those moments, He is holding me. Carrying me. Keeping me from running. Reminding me that He is sowing these difficult seeds in our lives so that one day a bountiful harvest can be gathered. 

If this is where you are, know that He is doing the same in you. If you know Him and you trust Him and you love Him, then He is working to bring a HARVEST to you. And if you don't know Him, He is reaching for you, calling for you, longing for you to be His.


Friday, May 2, 2014

After Pausing to Take a Breath

Yesterday I just wanted to get our good news out there.

An "AHHH! There it is!" kind of thing. Too excited to type a long post explaining to you exactly why the timing of all of this is so, so good. God's kind of good. The best kind of good.

But after pausing to take a breath, I want to share some if God's goodness with you. 

This week had been particularly difficult. I am not sure why, but things were just HARD. There is a lot going on right now that is just difficult to process and deal with (mainly trying to reconcile a good, gracious and loving God with everything we are going through, but that is another post for another day), and all of that had left me feeling sad pretty much all day every day. 

And I knew that May 1 was coming. The first of each month used to bring such excitement for me, as I would wait to see how many spots we had moved up on the list. I would excitedly refresh my email, just waiting for the good news that we were getting closer to our babies. And then November happened. We stopped moving. And we hadn't moved since. 

Month after month crawled by, and we would wait to see not how much we moved, but if we moved at all. And we didn't. November. December. January. February. March. April. Silence.

We did not moved an inch. 

Until May. 

I knew that three referrals had gone out in May. Our agency announced it, and I knew for sure that one of them was a family ahead of us on the waiting list. And I was overjoyed. FINALLY. Something was moving in Ethiopia. We even heard of a few families getting court and travel dates. Remember that little boy we prayed about adopting off the waiting list, who then was matched with my friend? They got travel clearance. All of this was good news, and I was so happy. 

But then yesterday morning, my old friends, Fear and Doubt, showed up. I wanted so badly to move all three spots, but I just didn't know if we would. And I knew that I should be happy and grateful for even ONE spot of movement after so much stagnancy, but I wanted more. Fear and Doubt we're assailing me at every turn, telling me that we would always be waiting. I hate those guys. 

For those who do not know, I am a middle school teacher. This week is standardized testing week at my school. Oy. So my kiddos took their test yesterday. That meant that for the entire day I was walking around monitoring them. No grading. No planning. No internet (read: No obsessively refreshing my email.). No anything. So that left me with a lot of time to think and PRAY. And I did. I begged God to move us. I prayed that in the wake of six months of silence, He would bring a trumpet blast of good news to these waiting families. 

Guess what He did? He reminded me, yet again, of who He is and what He is capable of.

"Do not be afraid for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west." 
Isaiah 43:5

And so my soul was uplifted this week. I was reminded that God does see us right where we are. Even we we feel like He doesn't. The Lord brought us good news, and we are praying this is just the trickle that will be followed by a gush. A drenching rain following a drought. 


Thursday, May 1, 2014

Wait List Update: May 2014

After almost SEVEN months of silence and sitting in the same spot on the waiting list, I am happy to say that we have FINALLY moved up on the list. So we can't share the number on public forums anymore, but here is our first excited picture in a long, long time!

 Happy, happy smiles! 
Email or message me if you want to know the real number! 
Daisy is excited about the new number, but not so thrilled to be back to taking pictures. 

We are hopeful that this bit of movement is just the beginning, and that we will see many referrals in the days and weeks to come. The last seven months have certainly been a test for us, and we have tried so hard to stay faithful to the Lord. I have been far less than perfect, but I serve a God who loves me anyway! 

Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;
for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love 
and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.
Psalm 26:2-3

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