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.

"...to 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." 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

I Carry Your Heart

The last few evenings have been a bit tearful for me. Perhaps it is the still quietness of the house after the boys go to bed that has allowed me to think more deeply about things. Perhaps it is just this waiting season. Whatever the reason, my mind and my heart are working through some complicated emotions that I could not have been prepared to experience. Sure, I read lots of blogs, books, pamphlets about this, but until now these things have just been head knowledge. As my mom says, "How do you explain 'cold'?"

When another mother chooses you to become the mother of her child, it is a daunting thing. She is trusting me with her very heart. Her infant. The child she has felt kick, squirm, and hiccup for many months will be handed to us. She is not only trusting me to mother her baby with absolute love, but she is also trusting me to protect her name and place in our baby's heart. I take this truth very seriously and it sits on my heart daily. Questions swirl in my head. Questions that no book can answer because every open adoption scenario is different. Questions that I have to trust to Jesus because only He can give me the wisdom that is needed right now. The promise found in the book penned by Jesus' brother James is, for me, not just a verse found on a coffee cup. I cling to the truth that whoever asks earnestly for wisdom from the Lord will be generously given wisdom. (James 1:5)

There are moments when the joy I have about welcoming Alanna home is tinged with some sharp pain. Pain because our joy will come at the expense of some deep hurt for our birth mom. The hard truth that right decisions aren't always accompanied by rainbows and butterflies reminds me that the compassion and abiding love of Jesus must guide my every word and action. Sometimes the tears are because of the gripping fears that sometimes overcome my heart. In 20+ years, when we're (hopefully) sitting side-by-side at Alanna's wedding, will she be glad that she chose us? Will she have known that we loved with all we had? Will her pain have been eased by the way we walk out our love for Jesus in the way we love her and Alanna?

Although our little girl has 3 more months to grow before we meet her, not too many moments pass that I do not think of our birth mom. We will forever share a bond that is profound. Her heart will always have a beat in our home and in my heart too. Oh, sweet birth mom, I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart. I am never without it. e.e. cummings

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Making All Things Beautiful

One of the most basic truths in Christianity is that this is a fallen world. The fall into sin began with Adam and Eve and the consequences are still felt today. But the very hopeful news is that Jesus has come. He has come to bring us peace and to reconcile us to a holy God. There are many tangible benefits to point us to the beauty of this reconciliation. Throughout these beginning months of our adoption journey we have been privileged with seeing many facets of what this means in a very practical way. A way that is bringing healing, a way that is bringing joy in what the world sees as a situation that doesn't have room for such joy.

"...to give unto them beauty for ashes..." Isaiah 61:3

When we were expecting Jackson I read from the book of Isaiah quite a lot; hence, his middle name is Isaiah. I particularly love chapter 61 which foretells what would be brought to God's people at the coming of Christ. Jesus came to bring good news, to bring healing to the broken, to free the captive, and to make beauty out of the ashes of those who mourn. We are seeing these things unfold in a difficult and yet beautiful way in the life of our precious birth mother. Without giving any details, I will simply say that her situation looked tough. And yet through the encouragement of many who love her dearly- family and friends- we see beauty coming in so many ways. This does not diminish the very complex emotions she is grappling with. This does not in any way diminish the difficult moments that will occur in the days, weeks, months that will follow her placing her baby in our arms. But it does offer a healing balm to soothe her raw heart. It offers the precious and unfailing hope of the truth that comes from knowing that Jesus came to bind up the brokenhearted. There is beauty to be found. Though I do not see that this is the right time to share much of the sweet story that God is weaving together in this particular part of His tapestry, I can say with great assurance that my God is a god who can make anything beautiful. He is a master at that. He is THE master of that. 

When choosing names for our sons, we wanted to give names with great meaning. Choosing a name for our daughter was no different. We desired to honor our birth mom in the choosing by including her in the decision making process and we thought it to be important that our daughter's name carry the testimony of how God worked her life into a great display of His beauty even before she was born. We had 2 names chosen and together we landed on the name Alanna, a Gaelic name meaning beauty. Her middle name will be Kathryn because it is somewhat of a tradition in my family to give daughters family names and Kathryn is my mom's name. More importantly, my mom is nothing short of amazing and as Alanna grows I know she will treasure sharing a name with her grandma as much as I treasure that I share the names of a grandma and a great-grandma. So, there you have it- Alanna Kathryn. Our precious gift of beauty from the Lord.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

You've Got Questions, I've Got Answers!

We have learned quite a lot in the last 5 weeks as we have very quickly gone from talking about "someday" to planning and preparing for THE day that will come in August. One of the things we've learned is that when the word adoption is used, many questions ensue. We welcome all questions that are honest and thoughtful. Here's an attempt to answer some of those questions en masse:

This seems kind of sudden. What led to this?
Though this might seem sudden, I assure you it is not. For a little bit of background, read this link. Adoption has been on my heart for years and years. The Lord graciously brought our hearts together on this issue in a very sweet way. Someday we'll share that testimony.

I thought you wanted to go the international route?
Yep. I thought so too. But things changed one Friday night last fall when one of my dearest friends prayed with me after I expressed much of my heart to her. When I woke up the next morning I knew that I had to confess my plans to the Lord and then surrender them. He kindly and gently showed me that He was the Creator of families and that He had a perfect plan for us and for any child(ren) He would trust to our care whether biologically or through adoption. The Lord then made it very clear through His Word that we were to wait. And so we did.

Why Open Adoption? Isn't that weird?Won't your child be confused?
We love the idea of open adoption. The thing about adoption is that it is always a result of profound loss for birth parents and the child. Though we are currently in a season of great joy and excitement, we recognize that our sweet birth mom is in a season of very complex emotions and we grieve for her. We also grieve for the families who were told "no." We can clearly see how open adoption will greatly ease the pain of loss for both our birth mom and our baby as the years pass. I'm sure it could be weird and there might be seasons when we will need more wisdom than others, but we are very thankful for our birth mom whom we already love. No, our child will not be confused. We're not walking into this with a lack of research and we will continue to do much research for the sake of all involved.

When will you tell her that she's adopted?
Well, when do you tell your kids who grandma is? You sort of don't have to. Further, because our daughter is biracial, she will clearly not look like us and so it will be fairly obvious. She will always know that she is adopted, but more importantly she will know she was chosen for us and us for her. She will know the many ways God worked for her good long before she was born.

What about her birth mom?
We love her. She has quickly become very precious to us. Because we greatly respect her very courageous decision to choose life and then choose adoption, we have great respect for her. We ask that everyone respects our desire to protect her and therefore we are unwilling to answer questions about her. She is a brave, brave young woman. That is all you need to know. :)

Can the birth mom change her mind?
Yes, to a point. She will have until baby is discharged from the hospital to change her mind. Once she signs the baby over to our lawyer, she cannot change her mind.

What if she does change her mind?
If this happens, we will likely go through a period of mourning and we will need much support from our friends. Yet we will still see all of this as coming from the Lord for good purposes.

Who chooses her name?
We do. Her name has already been chosen, but we are not ready to share just yet. It was very important to us when choosing her name that we include our baby's birth mom in the choosing process and recognize what the Lord has done in this situation with our choice of name. We were thrilled that our birth mom wanted to participate in the choosing process with us.

I'm sure there are other questions, but hopefully this hits the big ones. We would love to invite all of you to pray for our baby, her birth parents, and us as we travel this path.


Monday, April 20, 2015

A Change In Plans...

I have very few regrets in life. Two, to be exact. One of those regrets is that I didn't enter into a Master's program immediately after my undergrad. For many years I have tossed around the idea of entering a grad program once our youngest starts Pre-K or Kindergarten. Guess what? Our youngest will start Pre-K this fall. Time to start choosing a program! The list was starting to whittle down and I was very close to choosing a school...

And then God gave us something far better-

A man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps. 
-Proverbs 16:9

A  message that would prove to change all sorts of plans we were making came to my inbox several weeks ago. The message asked us what we thought about the possibility of an open adoption. Our initial response was to pray. Over the course of the next few weeks it became very clear to all parties involved that we were all a good match for each other. All sorts of small and large details began to come together very rapidly and we wrapped our minds around the fact that we would have a daughter in just 4.5 months. I could write a short book about all of the details that came together at just the right moment, but for now I'll just say that my God is still a God of miracles. We look back at things that have been happening in our lives for the last several years, things that have prepared us for something we never imagined, and we can honestly say, "God was working." We didn't know it, but He was. 

Lord willing, we will bring our daughter home in August. In a short while I will post another blog that will attempt an answer at some of the questions I know some of you might have. But for today I invite you to celebrate with us. There is much reason for great joy!! For the last month or so we have looked at each other with joyfully astonished faces and we can now declare Paul's words with a beautiful testimony behind them- 

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen
Ephesians 3:20-21