Organizing Your Home Study Paperwork

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You’ve set up the foundations of your home study binder (you haven’t? Check out my process here!) and now you’re ready to start organizing your paperwork.

Here is what you need:

– The Following Expandable Folders from your Home Study Binder

-To Do

-To Copy

-To Send

-Original Documents

– Binder clips

– Sticky notes

– Pen

– 3 Hole Punch

First things first, make copies of EVERYTHING…yep, everything. Make copies of your application before you send it in, we had to reference ours several times. When the agency gives you the giant packet of home study paperwork make copies of all the forms you have to fill out BEFORE you fill them out. This may seem crazy, but these blank forms can’t often be found online and if you mess up or something changes during the adoption process (job, house, etc.), you are going to be stuck waiting for the agency to send you another set of papers. This might be hard to hear, but the agency’s top priority will not be to get you another set of forms. Non-profits are usually run by a small staff, each staff member working his/her ass off for these children, expectant parents, and adoptive parents. Most staff members are working with multiple families and doing multiple jobs and things like mailing out another set of paperwork tend to get pushed to the bottom of the list. The more time you spend with these men and women the more you will recognize how hard they work and how much they care, but at first (as an adoptive parent) you might feel like your needs are being pushed to the side. It’s ok to feel this way, and I once again would suggest finding a therapist or counselor you can talk to. It’s best to face these feelings with another unbiased person behind the scenes so you don’t start harboring resentments towards your agency. I found for myself that I just wanted someone to fight for me- for my rights to become a parent. I wanted someone to have my back and validate this injustice (infertility) I was going through. Your agency wants to help you, and wants to have your back, but their primary job is to fight for the rights of the child(ren) and to counsel and guide expectant parents in crisis. My suggestion? Join a support group, attend waiting parent meetings, GET A THERAPIST! I’m serious! God gifted me with a therapist who was united with her two children through the adoption process. Just having someone to voice my frustrations and hurts to helped me so much. She didn’t feed my feelings of injustice or anger; she validated my feelings and helped me to see the reality of the situation: this agency was doing everything they could to ensure the safety of my child.

Okay, back to the paperwork. Your agency may or may not give you a “Home Study Checklist.” Our agency gave us a Checklist but within the first couple of days of working on paperwork, I realized that this simple checklist was not going to cut it for me. The home study is more than just: do this and check it off the list and my paper soon turned into a colorful display of dates and statuses. The reality of the checklist tends to be more like this:

Fill out this sheet of paper and sign it

Set it aside so your partner can sign it

Make a copy of the specific paperwork for your files

Bring the paperwork to the appropriate vendor, doctor, agency, etc. to fulfill whatever requirement needs to be fulfilled.

Wait for the vendor, doctor, agency, etc. to return the paperwork to you

Scan the returned paperwork and email it over to the adoption agency

Set the original paperwork aside to mail it to the adoption agency

Every now and then this process will be peppered with notarized signatures, payments, lost mail, and animal sacrifices; so you can see how you might have a mental breakdown without some sort of organization set into place.

The second thing I did was create my own Checklist. This checklist not only included the list of requirements, but also had columns to help me keep track of the status of each line item. Here is an example:

Form Parent 1 Parent 2 Other Signatures Notes Mailed/Completed Date
Matching Agreement N/A Copied, scanned, emailed 3/17/17 Mailed 3/21/17
General Medical Forms Dr. Appt. on 4/1/17

Depending on your agency and state you may have different requirements to fulfill, I have attached my checklist for your reference, but this is in no way the list you should use. Feel free to add and remove line items to fit your own agency’s requirements. Homestudy Checklist

The checklist was a great way to get an “At a Glance” view of where I needed to put my energy. It was also a great way to look and see that sometimes the adoption process is just a waiting game: waiting for your partner to fill out his/her forms, waiting for a doctor’s appointment, waiting for your security checks to come back, waiting for lab work to come back, etc. In those times of waiting you may feel like you need to do be doing something, but your checklist may tell you otherwise. You can’t control it all; you’ve done your part so take a break! Have some fun and just enjoy the waiting. (Easier said than done right?)

Third thing: I made sticky notes entitled with the following statuses:

To Fill Out

To Sign

To Be Signed by Others

To Notarize

To Pay

To Scan

To Email

To Copy

To Mail

To Hole Punch

To File

Then I attached a binder clip to each sticky note and most of them set up camp in my “To Do” expandable folder located in my binder. This made it easy for me to shuffle through my papers when I had 5 minutes of free time here and there to make copies or scan forms or whatever. As I would complete a task I would move that specific form to its next status clip. In that way I could have several different papers in several different statuses and not get confused about what paperwork I had already emailed or scanned, etc. It took time to set up the system but it allowed me to work in small 5-10 minute increments throughout the day without having to go through all my paperwork over and over again to figure out what I still needed to do. Plus, each time I moved a form to a new status it felt like I was accomplishing something. Instead of seeing a form as still incomplete because I didn’t have a signature or because I needed to make copies, I saw the form as “filled out” and moved to the “To Sign”  status binder clip. If nothing else, it helped me feel like I was actually making progress.

I used a separate expandable folder for my “To Mail” items, simply because I could just take the folder if I was running out the door to do errands. I didn’t like the idea of all my paperwork sitting in my car, so if my “to mail” items were separate I could grab them and go straight to FedEx and my “to mail” folder would then be empty.

I also had a separate expandable folder for my “To Copy” items, whether or not you do this is up to you. This was due to the fact that I had TONS of papers to copy and they started to take up most of the space in my “To Do” folder. Again, this is the system that worked best for me. This is not the only way to do it; I just want to give you a place to start.

The Fourth Step is to start organizing! I can’t really help you with this piece, but if you have any questions feel free to send me a message or comment. I will say this though: Any originals that I didn’t have to mail out, I made a copy of and put the original in the “Original Documents” expandable folder. All the copies of my documents (even the mailed ones) I then hole-punched and filed behind the “Home Study Documents” tab in the binder. I chose to file my documents in the same order that they were listed on my checklist so they were easier to find.

Well, I think that’s it for now! Next time I will be going over how to organize your expenses and donations. Hurrah!

It Is Easy to Be Pro-Choice

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“I am now pro-life…which I have to tell you, to be honest, is a heck of a lot more difficult than being pro-choice. It is. It’s really easy to be pro-choice where everybody is friends, you’re like a great feminist, you’re not judging anybody, you’re not crazy, I mean there’s all these things….it’s just easy to be pro-choice. I liked being pro-choice, it was just a lot more pleasant, but the thing is it wasn’t right, nor was it correct. And the truth will set you free even if it makes you horribly uncomfortable in the process.” – Linda Couri, Former Volunteer for Planned Parenthood

It is taking everything in me not to yell, rage, and hysterically sob over the hidden holocaust that is happening in our country. So much of me wants to shake people and just say it, the brutal truth: “you’re supporting the murder of babies!” But it’s so hard to say this when I know the friends of mine who march for choice, who volunteer at planned parenthood, or simply just believe in choice aren’t evil people with the intention of murdering babies. These friends of mine have good hearts and they are filled with compassion; compassion for women in crisis. But I’m starting to think that maybe I shouldn’t be holding these emotions of mine back. I thought I wasn’t saying anything because voicing my opinion might cause others to feel awkward, angered, judged, or ashamed in my presence and how can I share the love of Christ if those feelings are present?  But really, I’m just being a coward.

I have remained silent for years out of selfish reasons driven by fear. I don’t want to lose friends. I don’t want to argue. I want to avoid all forms of confrontation. I don’t want to be labeled as anti-intellectual or foolish because I believe in Jesus. I don’t want people to say I don’t care for women or have compassion for them.  I want everyone to think I’m great, lovely, smart, compassionate, and that I’m a joy to be around. But what price am I willing to pay to keep this I-get-along-with-everyone façade; apparently, the price of 3,000 abortions per day, and that’s in the US alone.

For so long I have felt that I have “done my part” because I have participated in the March for Life and 40 Days for Life a couple of times, and because I pray fervently for mothers in crisis, but really I just did the minimum. I have kept quiet when it came to discussions with people I love and care about. I don’t want to lose the respect of others when I say the name of “Jesus” as a reason for my stance. I fear people will laugh at my “foolishness” for believing that all lives are sacred and that God provides for His children because the Bible says so.

Now that I am a mother I see how little effort I had put forth. I know these efforts still help and if that’s all you can do, do it! But what I’m getting at here is my motives behind my efforts. My motives were to keep my conscience clear so I didn’t have to have difficult conversations with people I love. I wanted to justify my silence with actions that I only shared with strangers and not those closest to me. I wanted to make sure I felt like I was standing up for what was right, without the discomfort of sacrifice.

I feared what others would think of me. I feared what others would say about me. I feared friends would abandon me. I feared family members would judge me. I feared being called names for justifying my beliefs with the Bible and the Word of God. And that, my friends, is why my heart is no different from someone who has aborted their child. I used to think, “I would never do that” or “I could never do that” or “how could they do that?” Guess what? Most of the people who DO “that” act out of fear: fear of what others will think, fear of what others will say, fear of abandonment, fear of poverty, fear of death, fear of sacrifice, fear of discomfort, etc. The very same reasons I remain silent. And my silence means I’m not wholeheartedly fighting for these babies! My silence means I’m not willing to sacrifice my comfort for the life of an unborn baby, so how can I ask someone else to do the same?

So, I can’t, in good conscience, stay silent anymore. I can’t pretend that abortion doesn’t affect my life, it does. I look at my son and wonder why his birth mother didn’t abort him. Who did she talk to? Who did she confide in? How did she know his life was worth something more than her pride, her comfort, money, status, her relationships, etc? Was she raised with those beliefs or did they come later? I can no longer just listen to my friends justify their support of Planned Parenthood with, “they have good intentions.” I can’t. Babies are dying.

I can’t pretend like my voice won’t make a difference. I can’t live in comfort while innocent babies die and scared women agree to kill them. I can’t stand by and let the evil one continue to lead God’s children astray with sneaky half-truths. I’m not exactly sure what God is calling me to do right now, but I’m listening and I’m done hiding from this battle. I want to fight for men and women everywhere, the womb included! I want to fight for the women whose consciences are being pricked and are told they shouldn’t feel bad about their abortions. I want to fight so these women can find healing in the forgiveness and grace of Jesus Christ. I want to fight so these women can talk about the pain they have felt from abortion without being shamed by pro-choicers(for feeling guilty about exercising their “right”) and pro-lifers(for killing a baby). I want to cry with women as they work through their unwanted pregnancies, not by running from them with death, but by facing them with life. I want to find ways to encourage women to stand up for themselves and their children when everyone else is telling them to abort.

If you have the time to watch this video it is incredible. Linda Couri is so honest in her approach and it is so refreshing.

I Saw My Fawn Girl Again

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I saw her again; my little deer, my fawn.

I was dreaming.

Sammy was standing and he could walk, but that was about it. He couldn’t talk yet. We were in my old neighborhood and we were waiting to cross the street. Dean had a child, I’m not sure if it was ours, and I can’t even remember the age. I had a child as well, but I don’t think he was ours, or maybe he was, I don’t know, he was older than Sammy but younger than our deer, he could talk and he was scared of ghosts and I was telling him about Jesus. My brother Tommy was with Sammy and my fawn girl. My fawn girl was around 8 or 10. We were all about to cross the street. Then suddenly Dean and the other child were on the other side of the street. Tommy, Sammy, and Fawn were about to cross, and me and the little blonde boy were lagging behind because I was telling him about how Jesus helps me when I’m scared. Suddenly a car came zooming down the street and Fawn decided to try and make it across the road. She let go of Sammy’s hand (Sammy was holding Tommy and Fawn’s hands) and darted across the street. Tommy let go of Sammy’s hand and ran after her to try and catch her before she was hit by the car. The car nearly killed her, but it slammed on its brakes just in time. Dean ran to Fawn and embraced her. Sammy was crying on the curb and I ran to him. I remember desperately needing to hold all my babies at the same time. I kept trying to find Fawn so I could embrace her and make sure she was ok, but then the neighbors came out to see what happened and they all had these really aggressive dogs. The dogs kept trying to bite us and I couldn’t seem to round up my family to get us out of there.

My fawn had long sleek blackish blue hair; long like down to her butt. I couldn’t see her face though. But she was as tall and thin and as delicate as ever, just like a deer. Her name reminded me of a secret. I remember trying to yell it before she ran across the road and I kept thinking, “it’s a secret.”

 

I’m not going to lie, this dream scared the crap out of me. Not just because my little girl almost died, but because my little girl wasn’t so little in relation to my first child. I’ve been feeling called to older child adoption for almost a year now. Really, ever since I dreamt of my fawn for the first time. I wondered if maybe her quiet nature was because she wasn’t completely bonded or she was holding onto hurts or something.

Anyway, if God is calling us to adopt an older child, it means this will happen soon. Sammy wasn’t very vocal yet. How could we possibly be able to raise an older child. But how could we possibly live without her? I almost died when I thought she was going to die.

Oh Lord Jesus, guide us. Guide me. Protect our little Fawn, wherever she is. Amen

The Top 17 Times Bob’s Burgers Perfectly Illustrated Your Infertility Struggle:

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  1. That time someone said, “Stop worrying about it, I know you’re going to be a mom.”

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  1. Every time someone apologizes when you tell them about your infertility.

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  1. That time Aunt So-and-So told you about how angry she was that her friend’s meth head daughter just gave birth to her sixth baby and “two great people like you can’t have a baby…”tumblr_n6hyn5kbro1sl1tibo2_500

 

  1. That time someone tried to give you sex advice and were totally unprepared for the amount of reproductive knowledge you now have, so then they started asking you reproductive questions

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  1. That time you were super hopeful and everyone else was worried about how disappointed you would be if you weren’t pregnant.

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  1. That time your husband accused you of ignoring someone when they asked you , “when are you guys going to start having kids?” giphy.gif

 

7. That time someone told you “to adopt and then you will get pregnant.”

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  1. That time you see the mom-of -three is pregnant…again…

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  1. That time someone told you about their cousin’s sister’s friend getting pregnant after she did such and such.

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  1. All those times you tried anything…seriously ANYTHING… to help you get pregnant

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  1. That time you just needed to vent about how much infertility sucks but everyone keeps bringing up things you should be thankful for.

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  1. Every single time the test is negative

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  1. Every time the fertility doctor switches your medication and you freak out on someone for no reason

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  1. Every single two week wait when all you can think about is whether or not you will get your period and EVERYTHING makes you think about it.3e6c427b9589a3971fe7f9fadb242bf5.jpg

 

  1. That time you tried to soothe your broken heart with food. enhanced-buzz-7417-1401462036-11

 

16. That time your doctor put you on progesterone, but the IUI didn’t work and you got the most intense period known to womankind

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17. After every single trigger shot or progesterone injection

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Hang in there champ and do what Tina does, put your bra on one boob at a time.

Assembling Your Home Study Binder

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The dreaded home study- this is the adoption version of birthing: tons of paperwork, hours of labor, and a lot of waiting. Many prospective adoptive parents fear the home study because of its daunting nature and mountains of paperwork, but it really doesn’t have to be that scary. I was blessed to be a housewife during our home study process which really allowed me time to organize and reorganize our home study binder until I found a system that worked for me. And I believe God called me to help others who may not have the same luxury of time I was blessed with.

With that being said, this is not the only way or even the best way for YOUR home study binder. This was the best way, so far, that I have found for myself. But I understand that many of you work and may not have extra time built in to your schedule to organize and reorganize a home study binder to fit your needs. I know for myself, when life got super busy and I was still searching for a way to best organize my binder, the paperwork stacked up super fast. Before I knew it I had a binder full of loose papers and I had no idea which documents I already copied and which ones I scanned and emailed before sending out all the originals to the agency. The confusion is enough to make you have a breakdown, IF you don’t have the time to or energy to “deal” with the mess of papers.

First things first, if you are on the verge of a breakdown or at the very least a tantrum, THAT’S OK!!! Go ahead and feel it. It’s ok to be pissed that you have to do this in order to have a baby. It’s ok to be angry with God, He can handle it. It’s ok to cry and mourn over this process. I believe the greatest blessing of the home study process is the very stressful nature of it all. I believe the fact that you will be interviewed about your past, questioned about your parenting, and expected to sign forms stating you promise to vaccinate your child (I agreed, but I still felt like the choice had been taken from me), is all a beautifully challenging way to get us adoptive parents to mourn our inability to conceive our own children. A lot of this process seems unfair because most parents don’t have to go through these hoops in order to have children. And as much as I hated all of that in the moment, it forced me to recognize how hurt I was by the unfairness of it all. It forced me to confront the issues of unfairness with the head of it all: God. The agency was doing their best to help me become a parent, these measures were to cover their butt in case I turned out to be crazy, and most importantly to find a suitable and loving family for these babies that they vowed to protect and speak for. As much as it felt like it, the agency was not causing my feelings of unfairness and hurt, no, I had to take this up with the source of all life: God. So if you find yourself in this place, GREAT! You are well on your way to becoming the parent your child needs! Because this mourning process will help open your heart FULLY to the wonderful child God has planned for you and your family. Every piece of paperwork is a labor pain that is so worth it, I promise.  Start working through the emotional crap (I ended up finding a counselor to help), and I will help you organize your home study binder, so you can work through the shit and still have a beautiful binder with everything you need. YAY!

Today, we will simply be putting together the binder. No paperwork just yet, but at the end of today you will have a place to put your paperwork. This binder will be able to store all of your home study paperwork before you are matched with your child and all of your placement documents and progress reports after you matched, so everything for your child will be in one organized place! This is super helpful, especially if you move houses less than a week after you have been matched (Like us).

 

What You Will Need:

  • One 4in Binder (believe me, the bigger the better, even my 4 in binder is about to bust at the seams)
  • One set of 8 Tab Dividers
  • At least eight Velcro expandable binder pockets (I have 8 and wish I had 2 more)
  • One 3 hole punch (not those sissy plastic things you put in your binder, I broke 3 of those before sucking it up and buying a nice hole punch)
  • Easy Access to a Printer
  • Tape

Instructions:

1.Go into the kitchen and rustle up your drink of choice, beer, coffee, wine, whatevs, I don’t judge, but I prefer drinks I wouldn’t be allowed to have if I was pregnant; it makes me feel special or something.

2. Download the following pdf for your title-labels-dividers and print them out. Of course you are always welcome to make your own.

3. Let’s get these title pages out of the way first. The large print “Adoption Paperwork” will go on the front of your binder and the smaller version, needs to be trimmed to fit on the binding.

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4. Insert your 8 Tab Dividers into the binder. Use the hole punch to punch holes in the 8 Divider Title Sheets and place each title sheet behind its own divider in the following order: “General Info & Notes”, “Application”, “Instruction Sheets”, “Home Study Documents”, “Renewal Documents”, “Home Study Drafts”, “Placement Documents”, and “Progress Reports” img_9772

5. Take a moment to cut out the labels for the divider tabs and insert them into the corresponding divider tab (or just write them on the tabs, it’s up to you!). img_9775

6. Now, cut out the medium sized square labels along the gray lines. Each one of these labels will be taped on an expandable binder pocket. I taped mine behind the pocket flap to keep it looking nice. Actually, to be completely honest I made these labels for this blog post so that your binder would look nice. Mine was just these same titles scribbled on sticky notes. I put it behind the flap so dust wouldn’t get in there and make my sticky note stop sticking. img_9779

7. Some of the locations of these expandable binder pockets are obvious, but some not so much. These expandable binder pockets were the MOST useful items when it came to my home study binder. They easily held packets of paper, loose receipts, business cards, donation checks, etc, without any fear of them falling out of the binder. If I didn’t have time to hole punch some papers, I just slipped them into the “To Do” binder pocket with a sticky not label “to punch” (sometimes I put a picture of a pregnant lady in there with that label on it just for fun. Just kidding…but you know…that feeling is legit.)slapping-pregnant-ladies

At the moment, most of your expandable binder pockets will go behind the “Home Study Documents” tab because you will be using them to organize paperwork that is still be processed and is incomplete, but we will go into more detail with that in a different post. Right now, let’s just focus on getting this binder put together and ready for the eventual paperwork. Place the “To Do”, “To Copy”, “To Send”, and “Original Documents” pockets behind the “Home Study Documents” tab. The “Placement Documents” pocket will go behind the “Placement Documents” divider and the “Progress Reports” pocket will go behind the “Progress Reports” divider. You should have two more pockets: “Donations” and “Receipts & Expenses”. These two pockets I have moved around so many times. It changes based on where we are in the process. When we were accepting donations I had the “Donations” pocket in the very front of the binder. Then every time a check came in I could quickly get it into a safe place until I had time to deposit it and write a thank you note. Now that we have our son and don’t need donations, I keep the pocket in the back of the binder where it stays out of my way. The “Receipt & Expenses” Pocket I like to keep in the back of the binder, simply because I hate looking at it. Really, it can go anywhere as long as you know where it is because this pocket will be your frenemy during every single portion of this process, especially when you go to file your taxes (yup, sorry I brought up taxes, but this will be so helpful I promise!)IMG_9782.JPG

8. (Optional Pockets) I would have liked to have an expandable pocket for my photo book ideas and quotes and a pocket on hand in case I needed an extra for some reason. I don’t know why I never bought 2 more pockets…I guess I felt we were already strapped for money with the adoption, but honestly I could have just gotten them.

9. (Optional) Print out some encouraging quotes or bible verses to place in the front and back covers and the front and back pockets. Or just tape them anywhere you will see them. This helped me a lot. I read these bible verses over and over and over and over again, and slowly I started to believe them and feel the truth in them.

10. Close your binder, take 3 deep breaths, and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Your binder might not be full of papers yet, but it is ready and so are you!img_9783

I hope this has been helpful so far. If you have any questions do not hesitate to comment below. I will do my best to answer them in a timely manner. Also, keep an eye out for the next Home Study Binder post: Organizing You Home Study Paperwork. Also, please share this with anyone who you think might benefit. Happy Home Studying!

Joy Shared is not Divided, It’s Multiplied

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Luke 1:41-45

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

 

My husband Dean and I were moving to Annapolis, so I met up with my friend, Daisy, to hang out before we left. Daisy was one of those friends that entered into the sad and scary places with me. And not only that, but she struggled with infertility too. Her infertility struggle of 4 years began after Dean and I were already 3 years into ours. We had been in this journey together, crying with each other when others became pregnant…and then pregnant again…and again. It was with her I could be brutally honest about my feelings, no matter how ashamed I was of them. I had decided that if I ever got pregnant or matched with a baby through adoption I would tell her in person.

I wanted to enter into every feeling she had, no matter how sad or upsetting. I wanted to show her that I recognized my joy brought pain and I wouldn’t shame her for that pain. I wanted her to know just how much I loved her friendship and how much I wanted to be a real friend to her just like she had always been to me, which meant, entering into her pain.

But I hadn’t planned on being matched with a baby just days before my time with Daisy. Was this the time? I didn’t even know for certain the Baby would be ours. We still had 9 days left in his revocation period (the time that birth mom can change her mind)! And we had only told family, but I wouldn’t be able to see her in person before bringing the baby home (if he was to be ours), because of the move.

The whole drive there I prayed, and God said, “Trust me.”

“But, God, So many years I have worried about which one of us would be a mom first, which one of us would be ‘left behind’, and how much it would suck to be the one left and to be the one to do the leaving. (I know having a baby doesn’t mean you have to drop your non-baby having friends, that’s not what I’m saying. In the infertile world, us women, tend to remove ourselves from our baby having friends just because of how painful of a reminder it is all the time. We do it to protect our hearts.) God I’m so scared to be the bearer of “bad” news when this news is so incredibly joyful for me. How will I tell her?

“Trust my spirit within you.”

“Um…easier said than done God…going in without a plan is one of my biggest fears!”

“Elizabeth…(*God chuckles to himself*) you aren’t going in without a plan, your plan is to trust that my Holy Spirit will provide you with the words you need. That’s the best plan!”

So I went in with a plan to trust the Holy Spirit within me, and before I knew it, Daisy was crying and telling me she was 8 weeks pregnant!!!!! I hadn’t even had a chance to mention our news and here she was telling me the best news in the world and crying for the pain she was inflicting on me! But she didn’t know…she wasn’t inflicting ANY pain on me!  It still gives me chills. She was crying for me, and joyful for her, and I was just joyful!!! And then the joy burst forth from me!

“We have been matched with a baby!!!!”

Daisy and I jumped up and down, hugged, and cried together. The joy was beyond anything I have ever felt. There we were, completely unprotected by ourselves (but fully protected by God) and we were both so full of joy! It didn’t seem possible. This was greater than I could have ever imagined! I felt like I got a small glimpse of what Elizabeth and Mary felt when Elizabeth’s baby leapt in her womb at the approach of Mary’s pregnant belly.

And the best part was to come. Daisy was really nervous about this pregnancy and had not heard the baby’s heartbeat yet. She had her first ultrasound in 10 days and she was waiting for that day with bated breath. We were in the same position, waiting for the “ok” to celebrate the fulfillment of a dream and a promise from God.

But God wanted us to praise Him and experience the joy NOW and always, not in the “if…then…”statements, but in the moment. We are to praise him in the present always, because he is with us always, because his protection is with us always: Emanuel, God with us…Always. That doesn’t mean everything will work out the way we want it to, but it does mean God is good and God is good to me! It DOES mean that I can praise Him now in the joy because he is good, and I can praise him later in sorrow because he is good.

And even though Daisy was worried about the reality of her pregnancy, I was not. I was so certain this was her time and I was able to fully feel the extreme joy of this long awaited dream of hers. And although I was worried about this revocation period, Daisy was not. She was certain that this Baby was mine and she was able to fully feel the extreme joy of my situation. So the more we talked, the more I experienced the joy for myself, and vice versa. Her joy for me allowed me to experience the joy for me and my joy for her allowed her to experience the joy for herself. Together we praised our God and savior. It was like an extra awesome blessing from God to help us both experience the joy of this waiting period and we couldn’t do it without each other.

 

I Do Not Give as the World Gives

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“When you hold your baby, you’ll understand why God had you wait.”

“It will all be worth it, I promise.”

“I prayed that if I wasn’t to be a mom then God would take away my desire to be a mother. In the months that followed, God multiplied those desires.”

“I prayed that if I wasn’t to be a mom then God would take away my desire to be a mother and he did. He gave me a new desire; one that is in line with my spirit even more. I have never been so joyful and content in my life as I am now.”

“These years of waiting are preparing you and growing you in ways that will bear fruits of blessings in your years as a mother.”

“God’s got this, trust him.”

All these things have been said to me over my seven years of infertility. These words of advice were different from the well-worn “just relax and it will happen” or “once you adopt you’ll get pregnant” words of advice. They were different because of who they came from. These words of advice came from women who waited too; women who waited 4 years, 5 years, 8 years, 12 years, even 15 years for their precious children; women who miraculously became pregnant; women who adopted; women who found their miracle in IVF, women who found their calling in their career instead of motherhood; you name it! And God didn’t just provide an answer to prayer for these women, he showed off! God went all out and blew their minds with his amazing plans for them. (Don’t worry, if you don’t struggle with infertility that’s ok, God will use something else to blow your mind…just wait…because well, the waiting is part of it!)

When I heard these words of advice I knew they were genuine, because every single woman told me their amazing story of how they found joy in God’s plan for them. I knew these women understood my pain because every single one of them cried when I expressed how I felt. Every single one said, “I remember that feeling.” Every single one became a kindred spirit, but they also became my cheerleaders. These were the women who would encourage my broken heart to keep hoping. These were the women who were living proof that God is faithful. These were the women that reminded me, “it doesn’t hurt forever, but you have to be willing to go to those scary places with Him.” And these women were everywhere; some were friends, some were friends of friends, some were church family, some were blood family, some were counselors, and one was even my Physical Therapist!

I tell you this because I want to encourage you to start talking about your struggle. You are not the first person to struggle with this. Whatever it is, there are others out there too; others who get it. Not everyone gets it, and a lot of people think they have the answers (they don’t), but there are those out there who know who the answers come from (and it’s not them). Go out searching for them! Start talking, because the journey is so much better when you have a team of encouragers who understand the hardship.

I remember when I was talking to my physical therapist about my infertility. I don’t even know how it came up, but it did, and she confessed that she had struggled for 15 years with infertility. After 10 years her husband had found peace in his life without fatherhood, but she had not. She told me about how she prayed for the following 5 years that God would take away her desire to be a mother if she wasn’t meant to be one. And He did. It took a while, but slowly he removed the desire and she has no regrets, in fact, it has opened her up to be the best physical therapist she can be. How cool? I will never forget that day, because that was a story I needed to hear. So many people told me about their sister’s friend’s cousin who struggled and then finally got pregnant or adopted and now has 10 kids, etc. But as well-meaning as those stories were, I wanted to know that I would be ok with or without a child. There were times that I wasn’t sure if I heard God’s promise properly, maybe he didn’t call me to be a mom. But I was terrified to pray away my desire to be a mom. I wanted to be a mom so badly, that I just couldn’t let go of my plans if His plans didn’t involve motherhood. I couldn’t imagine that a life without my own children could still be a life of joy, contentment, and purpose. Hearing my PT talk about how God transformed her heart was so encouraging. She explained to me that He knew her wants and needs better than she did. He knew that her purpose was in the healing ministry. He knew that she would find more joy and contentment in His plan for her than in her plan to become a mother.

Her story didn’t end with the happy family of ten. Instead it continued with a happy family of two and their journey as husband and wife to live for God, and God blessed them beyond their wildest dreams.

John 14:27

27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

 

“I do not give to you as the world gives.” That is the part of this verse that always sticks with me. If it was up to the world we would tie beautiful bows around every problem:

You want a kid? – Here’s a kid!

You need a job? – Here’s a job!

You hate your husband? – Here’s a divorce!

You feel ugly? – Lose weight!

But we don’t often see what comes after that. Having a child doesn’t stop the feelings of worry and fear of an unfulfilled plan. No, having a child brings about an entirely new set of worries, fears, and plans. Getting a job when you need one doesn’t stop the feelings of inadequacy; new feelings of inadequacy come with the new job! Divorcing your husband doesn’t suddenly cure your feelings of hatred and fix your relationship issues. Now you just have more baggage to bring into the next relationship. If you feel ugly and lose a bunch of weight without working through the roots of your insecurity, you’re still going to feel ugly in your skinnier body. As humans we want quick fixes, but it’s in the waiting that God fixes our hearts. It’s in the discomfort that we learn to rely on God instead of ourselves. It’s in the unknowns that we come to the conclusion that we are not God because God knows all and we definitely don’t know it all.

Do you see what I’m getting at here? I know, I’m jumping around a lot, but I have very limited time to write and I just need to get these thoughts out.

If Jesus gave as the world gave, I would have had a child 7 years ago when Dean and I lived in Columbia. I would have thought that would solve my unhappiness and it wouldn’t have. I’m not sure what would have happened in the years to come but I’m pretty sure I would not have been able to go to Kenya, I would not have connected with my dear sweet Chantal, I would not have become a Director of Youth Ministry, and the list goes on. It was my deep sorrow of infertility that drove me to my emotional breakdown, which in turn led to prayer within my yoga practice, which then lead to me becoming a Holy Yoga instructor. None of those things were in MY plan. And then the move!

God really boasted of his goodness with our move. I can’t even believe I get to live in this house, in this neighborhood, in this city. I can’t believe he has called us to the water, the beautiful water. I cried when I said goodbye to my beautiful backyard sunrises of my old house. In my new house the sunrise is blocked by trees and by my neighborhood, but when it comes down to it, I couldn’t really sit and watch it even if I could see it. Mornings are busy with feedings, snuggles, coffee, and prayer. It is in my evenings that I now find leisure, and wouldn’t you know it….God gave me a beautiful spot to watch the sunset! He gave me a spot where the water transforms from murky brackish brown to the pinks and blues of cotton candy; a spot where Sammy and I can watch daddy paddle in from his kayak excursion; a spot where mommy can walk the beach and pick up shells and stones and revel at all of God’s glorious creation.

God took my dream and enhanced it with elements that I didn’t even know were possible. And when I look into my son’s face I get it. I know why I had to wait, because any other child would not be Sam. Samuel was meant for us and we were meant for him. My entire being knows it. I knew it from the moment I held him in my arms and looked down upon his face, “This is my son.” Thank you Jesus!