"This is eternal life, that they may know You, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent." John 17:3

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

The Sweetest Thing

This is what has been gracing my counter top for the past two and a half weeks.

Over the years seeing this sweet clutter on other people’s counters always made me smile because of who it means they have - a little baby all their own. I’ve washed so many bottles for friends, changed so many diapers, tickled so many tummies; I’ve loved it, and at the same time wondered if God would ever choose to bless me in the same way.

Now here I am with a cute grassy drying rack becoming part of the set of my kitchen and daily routine. And it thrills me because of who it means I have - a little baby all my own. You see, my family is in the middle of another one of God’s incredible stories, one that points to Him and humbles me and makes me so glad to be His.

Would you like to hear about it?

OK, I’ll tell you. 

Here's the short version...

8 years of marriage, 8 years of fun, 8 years of infertility, of learning to trust our sovereign and loving Father. Almost 2 years since God began His first glory-giving adoption story in our family.

Even before Danny and Livi’s adoptions were finalized last November, Michael and I knew we wanted to look into infant adoption. Last October we got the initial paperwork and prayed about the whole thing, that God would direct our paths, and for the future birth mother of our possible child.

In March we started the state-required classes – we were told that our agency usually cancels the 8-week-long sessions if there are less than 3 couples signed up. Our class had only two couples, but they had been canceling so many that they decided to keep it on the calendar.

Lord, is this You clearing the way for us?

We filled out our “child desired form,” checking boxes as to what we would/not be ok with. Any race, we said – but we wanted a boy.

We wanted to raise warriors for Christ 
in this feminizing society of ours! Huah!

We wrote a “match letter” – a letter with lots of family pictures written to potential birth moms telling them all about us. We were told that birth moms choose three families and then make their final selection after meeting each family.

Praying that God would lead the right woman to us, 
and praying a lot for her.

We were told that once the match letter was in circulation the average wait to be matched with a birth mom was 6 months. We made a ton of copies and brought them to the agency to be distributed state-wide.

Grappling for my phone every time it rang from then on 
to see if it was “the call.”

Shortly after we put our match letter out, God moved our hearts to change that child desired form to accept a boy OR a girl. It wasn’t wrong to choose one or the other but we felt we needed to let the Lord bring us whoever He wanted.

YOU direct our path, Lord!

4 weeks later on a Friday in May, Mike found out that we would be moving this fall. I was sad…we’d have to start this whole adoption process all over again in our new city!

More good lessons on resting in His time.

And then that same night we got the call. A very brave and selfless birth mother had chosen us – and not only that, but she hadn’t chosen anyone else! We were the family. She was having a baby girl who would be born in July and had no problem with us leaving so soon.

Lord! Really?! Are you REALLY blessing us like this?!

…And so after lots of baby shopping and planning and preparing, on July 11th our precious little one was born and we took her home two days later. Her name is Arlie, and we are so in love, and I am so glad she’s not a boy, and I am overwhelmed with God’s love for me. Overwhelmed.

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, 
coming down from the Father of lights, 
in whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 
James 1:17


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Very Blessed Mama

Today was my first official Mother's Day!  We had the kids last year - my mom was here and made it special by potting a basil plant  and baking a cake for me - but this year it was official since the kids were adopted in November. 

On Friday Mike took the kids out for a while and gave me a couple glorious hours alone at home with the command to stay seated and relaxed (I was a good wife and submitted). On Saturday he went and found a butcher shop and picked up some amazing steaks, got some extras at the grocery store, and came home and prepared dinner all by himself for me! I am still impressed.

 After dinner the kids brought out presents - they had gone to the mall where Mikey got some beautiful sunglasses for me and the kids picked out a workout t-shirt. They were so excited to give it to me! Then Danny presented a project he had made at school, a little book - here are my two favorite pages:

I love it! I always get a kick out of seeing what my friends' kids make on Mother's Day and when he gave it to me I got so choked up! I have a son who made one for me...God is so kind to give me such a sweet-hearted little guy!

Olivia realized she had nothing to give me so she ran upstairs and brought down her toy ambulance and gave it to me. That was so meaningful because she loves emergency vehicles - she hears far-off sirens and yells out "Fire truck! I hope the people are ok!" and always points out police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances on the road. So in her little world giving her mama her only ambulance was a big deal. I feel so loved!

Every day Michael is very appreciative of me and makes sure the kids are aware of all I do (he's amazing), but this weekend he really celebrated me and I feel SO LOVED! God has blessed me more than I know, as I am finding out more and more. I'm so thankful that He made us a little family, that these two precious little souls have been entrusted to me to raise up, AND that I don't have to do it on my own strength!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Sick but Happy Day

I never thought helping someone throw up would bring me so much joy.

 Today Olivia woke up sick. She gets this stomach bug every so often and today she is weak and nauseated, and I've been tucking her in, cuddling her, and speaking softly and lovingly into her ear when she has to throw up.

As I was watching her fall asleep on my chest I thought back to another time she had this bug - we had had the kids for a few months and at that time she and I hadn't really bonded. Those few days she was sick was a sort of testing period - I was proving my love and devotion to her as her mommy. I still want my mommy when I'm sick, and at that time I hadn't quite won that spot in her life yet. I remember a change in our relationship after that; God had used her sick tummy to bring us closer together. 

"God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love Him, 
who are called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Today is different from that day. There is no doubt in her mind that I'll comfort and care for her; she expects it and relies on it. I love being her mommy, her safe place. I love when she asked me today all puppy-eyed, "Mama, will you lay down with me?" and as soon as we got snuggled, she fell asleep. I love thinking about how far God has brought us in the past year and that what my mom is to me, I am becoming to her - just as sure, just as comforting as if I'd been there all along.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Boy vs. Girl

One reason it's super fun to have a boy and a girl is because we get to see the amazing ways God uniquely creates males and females. There are such differences, and so early on in life!

Mike and I laughed at one together last night. As you know, I've been rocking Olivia before bed and singing to her. I also recently started stroking her face while I rock; just one soft finger drawing little paths all around her sweet little face as I sing to her. She loves it, and every night as we're brushing her teeth she makes sure I'm planning on doing it. She says, "Mom, will you pease do this to me tonight?" and she pokes her stubby little finger around her face.

She's been fighting the flu so for the last couple of nights I've had the huge blessing of rocking her to sleep. Oh...those sweet moments in my life...my heart swells and I praise my loving Father for letting me experience them with her, my daughter! Last night we got all snuggled in her pink crocheted blanket and started rocking, both of us looking at each other and smiling. She just stared into my eyes as I sang. I LOVE watching her...watching her little eyes fighting to stay open but slowly losing the battle against the swaying chair, the soft humming, and mommy stroking her soft face...soon her eyes closed, then opened every so often, looking right up at mine. Oh my, how thankful I am for those moments and that I am her mommy, the very last thing she sees and the very last voice she hears singing of God's love before she falls asleep. We love our time together, my girl and me!

So last night as my heart is swelling, I lay my sleeping beauty down and cover her all snuggly and pink and say "I love you," as I shut the door, even though I know she can't hear me. And I walk down the hall to Danny who is waiting for me to say good night. He is sitting up in bed, all energy, and asks if I will rock him. Of course! He is quite a bit bigger and heavier than tiny Livvi, but we manage to get him on my lap and wrap his big 6-year-old body with his spiderman blanket, and I begin singing the gentle songs I always sing to him. He is looking into my eyes just like Livvi had been and I think to myself that I will stroke my sweet boys face too. He'll love it.

I start at his forehead and he says "Mmm, that feels good!" Then I slowly move down his cheek, and he starts getting a look in his eyes...and by the time I'm down around his chin he is pretending to be a dog, snapping and bouncing and trying to bite my finger. 

And there's the difference between my boy and my girl! I love it! I'm thankful I have a boy who is all boy, along with a tender heart, and a girl who is all girl, along with a love of adventure. My kiddos. :)

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Danny Boy

Our son has the goofiest way of smiling for pictures.
He says the funniest things, but not always on purpose.
          "Mom, I think that man is from Mexico because he looks a little Jewish."
When he prays, I am amazed at my God who can do so much in such a young heart.
He sleeps with one of Michael's t-shirts under his head and snuggles up to one of mine:
          "It makes me feel so close to you." 

This is one special little guy God brought along to us. A couple months ago in the middle of breakfast he said, "I think God saved me last night." My heart flip-flopped...up until now when he was asked if he was a Christian he would say, "I don't think so. I just don't know if I believe it." He told me that while he had been laying in bed the night before he was praying...
          "Jesus, my mom and dad say that You're true, and they don't lie. 
          If they say You died for me then I believe it."

And it was that simple! Faith like a child. Begging God to grant our children salvation has been our most frequent topic of prayer - how AWESOME is God to grant that to us so early on!! We are so thankful for God's answered prayers and humbled that He would use us in this kiddo's life. Time will tell if it's genuine...It's been neat to see small changes in him and so refreshing to be able to interact with his as another believer. God has done so many special things in this little life already, I'm excited to see what He does through the years.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Rocking Chair

Adopting older kids has meant not only adjusting to a new life personally but also being responsible for the transition of our kids and keeping a very close eye how each of them are adapting. A few months into my life as a mother, I noticed that Olivia had not really bonded with me much. She is so bright and cheery and she liked me, but I hadn't become her safe place yet. I know it will just take time, but in order to help our relationship along I decided to get a rocking chair.

One of my favorite childhood memories is of my mom wrapping me in a blanket and singing to me as she rocked me. I remember looking up into her face and feeling so cozy and safe; it's something I've always looked forward to doing with my own kids. So I found one on craigslist, nice and rickety, and we went and picked it up. It's become part of our routine now; we rock and sing before nap time and bedtime every day. "You rock me before I go night night?"

At first she was very squirmy, as she has been from the beginning; always wired and never wanting to just be still for more than 15 seconds. The more we rocked each day the more quiet and still she became, looking up at me, and the more we have became not just a woman in a chair holding a little girl but a mother and a daughter.

I didn't realize how much God has used our rocking chair in our relationship until a couple of weeks ago. Em was having her baby shower, so Mike sent me packing to Austin for the weekend (amazing man). It was my first time away from the kids for more than 24 hours and Mike's first time along with them for so long. One night I got this in a text from him:

Mike was putting her to bed and on their first rock backward they just kept going - this is the result! There were no injuries, but Olivia lost it and was crying so hard because she thought I wouldn't be able to rock her anymore. Mike said, "Baby, you have no idea how much it means to her the time you two have together rocking in that chair." He couldn't console her for a while, but finally she understood that he would fix it or get a different one. (He also took a picture of her crying and I wish I could post it! SO precious.)

He will tend his flock like a shepherd;
    he will gather the lambs in his arms;
he will carry them in his bosom,
    and gently lead those that are with young.
Isaiah 40:11

I love my Lord! It is so neat to look back and see these little decisions that God gives me, like buying the rocking chair, that He uses in big ways for us. He is gently leading me. He is so kind to me! I read once that, "He is the Father of fatherhood and the source of all motherhood." I look back and see in myself a failure as a mother but success in what God has done, and that's really all I want, for His strength to be seen. I praise God for the blessing to my sweet daughter and me this chair has been!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mike got home recently from being gone for 4 months overseas. I steered clear of sharing anything online; we try to be super careful about sharing too much information. Most nights of the deployment Olivia prayed, "Dear Jesus, thank you Daddy come home, us, hurry hurry." And we are SO thankful God answered our daily prayers for a safe return! It is good to finally get back to being a whole family again. We took time to go camping, had lots of fun waffle mornings, and enjoyed just being together for the couple week before Mike had to go back to work. Then we got back into the swing of things and we are happy to be back to learning our new normal as a family of 4.

This morning at church we sang How Firm a Foundation and the fourth and fifth verses made me think back to the deployment...

"When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with thee thy troubles to bless
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress."
we went through a lot while Mike was away; a broken leg, a torn meniscus, a move into a new house, a minor surgery...and it was AWESOME to see God provide through it all! Our lovely family members sacrificed and stayed for over half the time Mike was gone and were present for each of the big events - God's protection. Our church body also loved us SO much through it all, especially during the move which they organized and carried out themselves as I laid on the couch icing my knee. Friends here served us so well by watching the kids often, letting me go to doctors appointments and giving me breaks. All the while poor Mikey had to sit there overseas wishing he could be here to protect his family...

Right now I'm remembering walking into the orthopedic office for her broken leg check-up; I carried her in my left arm with her hot pink cast sticking out and used a crutch with my right arm because I still couldn't walk myself. It makes me laugh now - it felt like it would never end! But here we are, and I look back now smiling because I see how God used it for our good. God used it all to bring us closer together as a family and to grow our trust in Him. He humbled me and MADE me have to ask for help frequently. He used our church to encourage us which encouraged them in return. The kids' relationships with family members grew. Mike lead us in amazing ways from 1000s of miles away and came home an even better leader than before. And I know I don't know the half of what He has done here...

"When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine."

And that is what this life is all about; letting Him refine me and pull me closer through the heat! I'm thankful.