Sunday, July 31, 2016

On Being Pro-Life

Though I wish the abortion conversation were not a political one, it is. I will not rehash the debate in this blog as the arguments on both sides of this issue have been presented in full in many other forums. What I will address is what I know to be true of those of us who are pro-life.

A few years ago I was reading through a heated discussion on abortion and read a phrase that essentially said, "Pro-lifers aren't actually pro-life, they're just pro-birth." I found the statement both exasperating and patently false. Yesterday, a similar phrase was issued on another friend's page. This time it didn't make me angry, it was just plain hurtful. I told my husband about this statement last night and about how hurt I was over this sentiment. He quietly took my hand and led me into the room where our three children were happily playing together and said, "Right. Our daughter is clear evidence that we're only pro-birth." I then told him that I was considering blogging about this but that my emotions would get the better of me. For the first time in ten years of marriage, he encouraged me to act on my emotions...and so I will.

My introduction to the pro-life movement was through my parents. My parents have lived their convictions on many levels and that is certainly a major factor in my own strong conviction surrounding the sanctity of human life and the protection of the unborn. My parents' willingness to open their hearts, schedules, home, and resources to teen moms was certainly not just pro-birth. I have countless friends who have counted the cost of living out their pro-life convictions. To list a few:

Friends who chose life for their own child knowing he might not live through birth due to chromosomal anomalies.
Friends who chose life for their own child knowing she'd face profound challenges, but that her life was created by God and was just as valuable as the lives of her "normal" siblings.
Friends who chose life for their sweet girl who was diagnosed with Down's before birth. (Side note: 67% of American babies diagnosed with Down's are aborted and 90% worldwide.)
Friends who chose life for their darling boy who was diagnosed with Down's.
Friends who have said, "Yes!" to adoption, some have done so multiple times, so birth families would feel empowered to choose life.
Friends who make significant financial sacrifices to support Crisis Pregnancy Centers and/or Adoption Grant organizations.
Friends who make financial sacrifices to help birth moms and dads fund their educations.
Friends who volunteer countless hours to provide free childcare so moms and dads who have less than ideal circumstances can go to work/school.
Friends who chose life in spite of the pressure they faced to choose otherwise.
Doctor and nurse friends who donate their time and expertise to serve Crisis Pregnancy Centers and/or to moms in crisis pregnancy situations.

The list could go on and on, but the last one I'll mention in this blog is a very emotional one for me- our precious girl's birth mom, her extended family, and her birth dad. The first time I met Alanna's birth mama I was overcome with the bravery she showed in choosing life in spite of the many hard things she faced with being a teen mom. She wasn't merely pro-birth. Her mom and many extended family members who supported her greatly through her pregnancy truly lived their convictions. Her birth dad's willingness to trust us with the little girl he loved, and loves, has reminded us in a tangible way that conviction takes courage of action. We dearly love these young people with whom we share a most profound connection. The accusations of "pro-birth" are especially painful when I think of these dear people.

Most pro-lifers are not the type of people to toot their own horns and defend themselves when accused of being "pro-birth only." Most prefer to act in quiet, unsung ways for various reasons. It is likely that we will choose to become exceedingly careful in our outward voice against abortion because we want to be very thoughtful of our daughter's future feelings regarding her adoption. We also, like most pro-lifers, want to keep the door widely open to women who have endured an abortion and now need a soft place to fall. As I have read and have been told by personal acquaintances who have gone through an abortion, abortion providers do not provide after care counseling and the emotional toll is tremendous. We want those women to know they are loved and not condemned. There is much grace, love, and hope that can be found within our ranks...and you won't have to look very hard to find it. We're eager to love you. We're eager to show you hope and compassion.

Why are we pro-life? Because the unborn are the most vulnerable, the most helpless, and the most voiceless in society. Who will speak for the defenseless if we don't?

"Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use violence to get what they want. That is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion."
Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Sunday, March 6, 2016

The Final Cost, Part 2

And now, part 2-

To encourage those who think adoption isn't an option because of the expense, I'd pose two questions- 1. Why do you want to adopt? and 2. What avenues are you willing to try? A few facts:

1. Adoption from foster care is, generally, free.
2. A large chunk of adoption expenses will be recouped over the course of about 5 years through tax credits and refunds for adoptive families.
3. Many companies offer adoption assistance. Ours didn't, but God provided in other ways.
4. There are many very reputable organizations that give interest free loans and/or grants to qualifying families. A little bit of time on your favorite search engine should yield you plenty of hits.
5. If adoption is your heart, go sit down with a good financial planner RIGHT NOW. There is no fee and you don't have to be wealthy to do this. These professionals are trained to help you reach your financial goals in a responsible manner.
6. There are lots of ways, other than adoption, to care for orphans, support women in crisis pregnancies, support families who choose life in the face of insurmountable odds, and nurture those who need nurturing. You shouldn't feel pressured to adopt nor should you feel guilty if God is not truly calling you to this.

God provided abundantly for us through ways we are still uncovering. (see this link for the story of how God provided.) We aren't rich. Kyle is an engineer and I'm a mom. When we look back at the ways God provided for us at just the right moment, we still tear up. Seemingly simple things like keeping appliances running, keeping cars running, protecting finances, providing 2nd jobs, and the list could grow exponentially. Before we married we were strongly encouraged by my parents to meet with a financial planner. I'll admit, we thought this was ridiculous because we didn't have lots of money. How foolish! What better time to meet with someone? This man was able to guide us in making decisions that would result in our being able to quickly say "yes" after 9 years of saving. It was God who protected those investments for "such a time." If He did it for us, He'll do it for you.

I've lately read many comments from myriad sources bemoaning the cost of adoption and the amount of paperwork involved. I know it's overwhelming. I know there are times when it feels like you're answering the same question 10 times. I know continually getting forms notarized is inconvenient. But every check written, every form completed, every fingerprint taken is just one more opportunity to fight for your future child. It's often called the "paper pregnancy," and for good reason. We didn't get the fun of feeling Alanna kick and play in utero and so all of those papers and checks were our way of connecting with her. Each one just brought us that much closer to her and so it could be done with joy.

The financial costs can certainly be overwhelming to the adoptive family, but let me encourage you, if you are in the "saving" mode, God will honor the time you faithfully save. Waiting time doesn't have to be wasted time. Our 9+ year wait was so that our hearts could be pruned, refined, unified, and broken in ways we couldn't have imagined. God is the Author and Creator of families. He has you waiting because He's writing the story. It's not wasted time, I promise. Keep the financial cost in perspective- you are using the resources God has given you for a human being. I've never heard of anyone complaining about the cost of a car the way I hear of people complaining about the cost of adoption. A car depreciates the moment you drive off the lot. Let me put this another way, how much vetting would you have wanted done on your behalf if you had been a child in need of a home? How much would you have wanted parents who were willing and wanting to joyfully do whatever it would take to bring you home?

By way of personal testimony, I remember calling my dear friend Sarah one night and bawling my eyes out over my desire to adopt and the impatience I was experiencing. Whether she actually understood what I was saying through the tears, I don't know. But, 14ish years of friendship made up for the unintelligible sobs. She asked me to right then get on my knees and she would pray for me. She prayed that I would find joy in the waiting and that I would confess my unbelief and rest in God's Sovereignty for my family and future children. This prayer time was a real turning point and I can now see how God wanted to break my heart of various things before the adoption ball could roll. Praise God for wise friends who know when and how to speak truth.

For those considering adoption but think the financial burden is too great, be encouraged. If this is God's plan for your family, He will make a way.

Ephesians 3:20-21 has been our family's proclamation this year. We believe it, we've been shown its truth, and we have the profound joy of living it.

Now to Him who is able to do 
far more abundantly 
than we think or ask, 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Final Cost

Part One...

Now that Alanna's adoption is complete, the question we get most often is, "How much did it cost?" We used to be a little surprised at the abruptness of this question, but not anymore. We actually don't even mind fielding the question. Only a few people know the full dollar amount, but I will tell you that the average adoption falls in the same range as a nice mid-size car.

About a week ago I was involved in a discussion on social media regarding the cost of adoption. Most folks had comments like, "I'd do it if it weren't so expensive" or "I just can't see why it has to cost so much." Having gone through the entire adoption process, these comments really grate on me because the cost of adoption, though monetarily high for the adoptive family, is far more expensive for the adoptee and his/her family. This cost is rarely spoken of, but let's consider this cost-

1. A birth family is relinquishing the joy of parenting. Whether this is because a birth mom isn't ready to parent, the birth family is unable to care for a child, the birth parents die, etc, the birth family, both immediate and extended, pay a huge price. Birth parents are losing all say in the raising of the child. Quite often, the birth parents are also losing any sort of connection with their child. No first baths, no first steps, no first birthdays, no graduations, no weddings. No sure way of knowing that their child is being well loved and cared for. Birth parents are also placing a profound amount of trust in the adoptive parents. The cost is great.

2. A child is losing his/her first family.  Again, the situation really doesn't matter, the loss is still acute. Regardless of whether a child is adopted from an orphanage or brought home from the hospital, the loss of first family will always play a role in the life of the adoptee. Even if the adoptee knows that, in many cases, his or her adoptive family's dynamic and lifestyle is better, more nurturing, safer, more stable than what his first family could provide at the time of adoption, there will always be a twinge of grief. The cost is great.

3. A child is potentially losing his or her culture. Though we adopted domestically, our little girl is biracial and we are both white. We are so very thankful for the open relationship we are beginning to develop with Alanna's birth dad who can tell us what we need to know about raising her in a way that honors her culture. We also have a bevy of good friends and former students who have been incredibly gracious in sharing experiences, entertaining questions, and offering great advice. But we also recognize our limits. I can only imagine the loss a child experiences when he or she is removed from familiar language, food, smells, sounds, and community. Yet another huge cost.

4. Biological grandparents are losing their grandchild. It seems the biological grandparents, if alive and involved, not only suffer a huge loss, but are often completely forgotten. These grandparents have not only watched their child experience an agonizing situation, they've also lost a connection to their grandchild. A great cost.

Though this is not a comprehensive list, it gives an idea of what an adoption actually costs. Yes, it cost us money, but money can be recouped. A broken heart will always carry certain scars. 

Stay tuned for part 2; I'll write about our experience with the nuts and bolts of paperwork and bills. 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Providential Provision

A few years ago I had a conversation about adoption with my dear friend, Rachael. Rachael is an adoptive mom herself and has been a source of true encouragement, wisdom, and support. In the course of one of our many conversations she said, "Well, what God favors, He funds." I now easily tell you this is true.

Adoption is expensive. Very expensive. The mounting bills can seem overwhelming at times and we have used the phrase "hemorrhaging money"more than once. Don't get me wrong, every penny is gladly spent. We spend the money with great joy in our hearts! Because we recognize that our money isn't actually ours, it is from God- the God who provided us with jobs, the ability to work, etc.- it is with steady hands and hearts that we write the checks. It is also with the knowledge that our God provides.

 "All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided."

We have seen the Lord's providential provision over and over again in the last several months. From unexpected and generous monetary gifts to meals provided to gifts of diapers, formula, bottles, clothes, and a very talented photographer gifting us with her services, we have seen God provide beyond what we could have thought or even asked. Every single gift card, every package of diapers, every meal, every gift has been an expression of providential provision. Our dear friends threw a beautiful welcome party in Alanna's honor a few weeks ago and the tangible gifts were an extraordinary blessing to our family. The intangible was just as meaningful and powerful. The provision of friends and family who have welcomed Alanna just as a biological child would be welcomed means more to us than we could express. The joy that is so clearly shared blesses our hearts. My aunts threw a surprise party for Alanna while we were visiting Northern Illinois in July. This beautiful picture of wholly welcoming our sweet girl, before she was even placed in our arms, was tremendous. What God favors, He funds. 

I must confess that when Rachael first offered that wisdom to me, my view was incredibly limited. I thought of only one way- my husband would get a huge promotion. But God is far more creative than that and His method of provision beautifully involved many, many people. His method of provision allowed us to see Him in our friends and family in ways that we would not have had my "simple" solution been the provision. Our boys would not have seen the clear ways God provided to us. Additionally, because our adoption is open, Alanna's birth family has been able to witness the sincere welcome she has been given. This is no small thing.

To all of our family, friends, co-workers, and students, thank you. Thank you for blessing us. Thank you for showing us love by eagerly welcoming our sweet baby. Thank you for every box of diapers left on our doorstep. Thank you for each thoughtfully chosen dress. Thank you for meals brought so I could focus on children. Thank you for gift cards that provided much needed items. Thank you for hugs, words of support, and prayers offered on our behalf. Thank you for loving our family. Thank you for being a tangible expression of God's love for adoption. We love you all and are so grateful to have each of you in our lives. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grieving Adoption

The time has come to share this difficult component of our story-

During my middle and high school years my mom volunteered as a counselor for teen moms through a local crisis pregnancy center. Because my parents walk the walk of loving those who most need love, they invited one of those moms to live with us after she gave birth. Perhaps it is because I saw how my parents extended love to young women in hard places that my heart was made ready for these present days.

Women all over the world, in all sorts of different situations, are sometimes faced with the agonizing decision to make an incredibly sacrificial choice on behalf of their children. I don't know as though any birth mother hands her baby over to an adoptive mom without deep sorrow and even pangs of regret. Sometimes that grief is immediate, sometimes it comes much later. Likewise, I don't know as though any adoptive mom doesn't grieve along with her birth mom because regardless of the circumstances that led a woman to place her child into the arms of another, a loss has occurred and to ignore that loss would be to diminish the truth of the situation.

We are often asked, "Are you excited?" The answer is far more complicated than a simple yes, though we are most certainly very excited. We are excited to follow God's clear leading. We are excited that He has heard the cry of my heart and has done a beautiful work in our marriage and in our hearts to bring us to these days. We are very, very excited to see the face of our daughter. We are excited to become a family of five. We are excited to give our hearts fully to our little girl. We are excited to expand our family to include our birth mom, all of her family, and our birth dad. But we also grieve. We grieve for our birth mom. We hurt because we love her and we know she hurts. She is making a choice out of extreme sacrificial love for her child and this fact is ever-present in our hearts and minds.

It seems there is a sort of misinterpretation of how things play out when a woman chooses to place her child. I have been guilty of this myself. I think many people seem to think that once a woman makes the choice to place her child, she has a sense of happy surrender. Though I'm sure there are a few situations that could verify those thoughts, my guess is there are far more situations where that is not the case. Most women very much want the baby they carry, but for various reasons, cannot parent. And so a choice is made out of love. It is a very pure and deep love that says, "I am not what is best for you right now, but I can do everything in my power to give you parents who can be." The weight and depth of this sacrifice that our birth mom is making out of deep, deep love for her little girl is staggering. It takes me to my knees and brings tears that I have never before experienced.

In the midst of this sorrow, we still find joy. We find joy in knowing that our hope is in Christ. We find joy in knowing that because Christ has fulfilled promises like those found in Psalm 147:3, healing will come. We find joy because of a Savior who has promised to make beauty from ashes and give strength where there once were fears.

" give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." 
Isaiah 61:3

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Why Adopt?

One of the questions we get a lot lately is, "Why are you choosing to adopt?" We really like this question and we very much appreciate those who want to know about this journey for our family and our birth mom. For us, the road to choosing adoption was long and paved with much prayer.

Adoption has been a topic of discussion for quite a long time. We truly enjoy being parents and we take the command found in James 1:27 seriously. We talked about various aspects and options but didn't have clear direction and so we concluded that the answer was to wait. We committed to prayer and asked several friends to join us in praying.  March 7th then rolled around and a picture began to come into focus. A friend sent me a message and asked me to pray about meeting with a young woman who was looking to place her unborn child with an adoptive family. Suddenly all of the hypothetical situations and nebulous ideas became very real situations with very specific questions. The time had come.

After much prayer and many conversations, the answer boiled down to how we would answer the question, "Why would we not adopt this child?" All of our answers had the same root... fear. We had some very legitimate fears- Would people accept our daughter as our daughter? Would wiping a large part of our savings out be wise? Would putting career goals (Lisa) on hold for at least another 5 years be smart? Would those opportunities still be available in another 5 years? Would we be equal to the task? Will this be a good situation for our boys? Would we be the right parents for this child? What about other financial plans we had? Plans for a bigger house? Plans for....But in the midst of all of those questions and the many discussions that came of each one, another question became obvious. That question was, "How do we best obey God?" The answer came back to the fact that we love God more and because we love Him, we want to obey Him. The money is His anyway. He gave us the jobs and skills we have and protected certain financial decisions for such a time as this. The career goals, though not without merit, can wait. No, we likely are not equal to the task, but when we are weak, He is strong. Yes, our boys are ready. Probably more ready than us.

It is no coincidence that the very evening we first met our birth mom our nightly "Bible Time" with the boys was the story of the woman with the alabaster jar. God was calling us to break our proverbial jar. The jar of finances, career goals, comfortable routines, various other comforts, etc. Did we trust God enough to break our jar? Once we realized that God was calling us, allowing us, to break our jar in this way for this purpose we gladly did. Those early steps of obedience were filled with a joy I cannot explain.

Last summer I had the opportunity to attend The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference in Orlando. Though all of the sessions were wonderful, there was one that resonated deeply with me. You can listen to it here. As one who fears God, not one who is merely afraid of God, but one who has a correct fear of God, I am called to action. The fear of God is not a contemplation, but a motivation. Here's the really good news that is part of that- God's grace relieves all earthly fear. When our fear of God is correctly placed, we can go forth in confidence because we know the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him. (Psalm 147) This is the source of our joy and our peace. This is the "why" to the original question. We adopt because the Lord called us to action. We walk not in fear of circumstances or reactions, but in joy because God says,

"Fear not, I am the one who helps you."
Isaiah 41:13

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

The Vast Array of Emotions

Over the course of the last several weeks we have been asked, "Are you so excited?" many times. It is a very kind and honest question and we're so glad people ask. The hard part is the answer. I'm guessing that most people don't really want me to launch into the unabridged answer. The short answer is that we are very excited and very overwhelmed. Now,for those who are interested,  the longer answer...

We are very, very excited about what God has done in our lives and what He continuing to do. That excitement is not negated by various emotions that we are experiencing, but it is sometimes tempered. A fellow adoptive mom once told me that the emotions experienced during the waiting period really can't be explained and can only be understood by others who have "been-there-done-that." I'll admit, I didn't believe her. I thought that I was a pretty intelligent person who had a great desire to understand others. Of course I could build an understanding of those emotions! Boy did I under-estimate the intensity of this time. I also very mistakenly thought that once we were matched with a child and into the adoption process, many questions would be answered and we'd be home free. Another very, very wrong assumption. Some questions are answered, but more questions are created. There are days when the weight of it all is great. There are moments when it feels like because my 3rd child isn't in my tummy but only in my heart, the anticipation of her arrival is diminished by those on the outside. I've heard comments that range from inappropriate to outright strange. I certainly want to be magnanimous because I know many of these comments are probably just out of curiosity or out of just not knowing what to say. But they still sting a bit and sometimes add to the anxiety that tries to creep its way into my heart.

To be sure, the anticipation of this little one is different from that of physical pregnancy. In big and small ways various comments and actions can try to steal some of our excitement. And so we continually take those hurts to the Lord. We keep our eyes on Him and we know that the same God who causes the oceans to stop where they stop and the earth to stay in orbit is the same God who sees our hearts and directs our paths. The question we get asked so often is the one that every single waiting family lives with constantly- "What if your birth mom changes her mind?" Sometimes that question is asked out of genuine concern. Sometimes it is asked out of a sort of twisted curiosity. Believe me when I tell you the question is one that is continually in my mind. Yes, we know this is a risk. It's one we're willing to take, but that doesn't mean it's one we want to talk about. Lately we seem to be getting the question from people who pose it in terms that insinuate we haven't really considered the possibility. We have. We've considered it from day one. It's a very, very scary possibility. Our lawyer has told us that if that happens, it will feel very much like a death and we will need to give ourselves time to mourn. We have every confidence that God will give us grace to walk those days and that what He has asked us to walk through is for His purposes.We are learning to trust the Lord with our hearts, our finances, and our plans in ways we've never had to trust before. It is good for us to be stretched and grown in ways we could not have imagined. Our marriage is stronger. Our love for God is deeper.

It is very easy for me to let my mind wander into places fraught with fear. Places that ask too many questions. Though I think it is good to be pragmatic in life, the Lord also tells us that we can cast our anxieties upon Him because He cares. What a sweet promise! As a freshman in college I was introduced to the work of Dietrich Bonhoeffer. To read so many treasures from a man who walked in faith at costs that I'll never know is of great encouragement. His thoughts are not mere poetry, all of his words were backed up with clear action. And so I end with one of his thoughts-

"But the Christian also knows that he not only cannot and dare not be anxious, but there is no need for him to be so."