Organizing Your Home Study Paperwork

Standard

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

Standard

“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.

Assembling Your Home Study Binder

Standard


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.

img_9768

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!

The Tiring Truth of Motherhood

Standard

I haven’t been able to really write since we brought Sammy home. Not necessarily because I haven’t had the time, but mostly because I hadn’t really processed everything. I still find myself looking down at my son and bursting into tears because I just can’t believe it’s finally my time to be a mom. But I will admit the first couple days weren’t filled with joyful happy tears. I thought they would be. I thought I would be on cloud 9 and no amount of exhaustion could break me.

The exhaustion from years of infertility broke me several years ago. It was the scariest place I have ever been. I remember back in college going to see one of my favorite bands in concert. At one point the band was taking requests from the audience and many of us shouted, “Silencer.” It was my favorite song of theirs, and I had never heard it live. I was excited to experience it, but then the lead singer, Aaron Weiss said, “I don’t play that song anymore. I never want to go back to that place.” At the time I didn’t really understand- It was just a song about that place, it wasn’t the actually place. But ever since that dark summer, I get it. I have experienced that oppressive darkness and every now and then I will get a glimpse of it again and I can’t go back, I must run into the arms of my savior, I can’t go back. Aaron Weiss sang of a girl, and in the past several years I have felt like that girl. I have called out to God, “please take me home!” more times than I can count. That anguish that Hannah felt in 1 Samuel 1…I felt that.  I thought that becoming a mother could never bring me to that place, because being a mother was the exact opposite of what broke me before.

But there I was day 1 of being a mommy and as I looked down at my little boy, all I felt was panic. I didn’t feel ooey gooey and full of love like the very first moments I met him. Now we were home and it was just our little family and I felt terrified, stuck, and unsure. I felt the rapid flutter of my heart, the tinglies in my feet and hands, and the heat slowly spread from limbs to my core. I am not describing what it felt like when I would see Dean walk into a room back in the day…no, these are my very beginning signs of a panic attack. These signs suddenly brought flashbacks of those dark days…those dark days that I never wanted to revisit. Those days when hope was like a fish in a stream, but every time I thought I could grasp it, the fish darted away before I could even lightly brush a scale with my finger. The more I tried, the more I failed, and the more I failed, the more sediment I dredged up from the bottom of the stream. And then the stream was so cloudy and I couldn’t see the fish anymore.

But now, I held my son and I cried in fear. He slept in my arms and I cried. I still loved him, I felt that love from the moment I saw his picture…no, even before then. I had felt emotionally pregnant with my son for months now (that’s another post though). I loved him before I even knew him. But right now, fear was overpowering love. I couldn’t go back there… I couldn’t…I wouldn’t survive. Luckily, God taught me how to fight. God taught me how to wield my sword of truth. And I wasn’t going to be some Bella Swan or the little mermaid…I was going to be Hermione Granger, Princess Leia, Arwen. I was a warrior; God had showed me that many times and now was time to fight for my son.

All I could say was, “Jesus come.” I sat there for 15 minutes repeating that phrase, “Jesus come.” And I knew in those words I was safe. I knew just the name of Jesus brought every creature to its knees! I claimed Jesus’ presence in my life. And the panic started to fade.

Every now and then the panic comes back, but only for a moment. It’s usually when I’m really tired and I think, “I can’t do this…” but then God reminds me, “I called you to this, I need you to remain in the moment. No more saying, ‘I’m so tired.’ Start saying, ‘God has given me the energy for this moment.’”

I want my infertile friends to know the truth, motherhood doesn’t cure those dark places. Only Jesus does that. But my infertility helped me learn how to invite Jesus in. Motherhood is a different fight, but it uses similar tools. But I will say this, nothing melts my heart much like my sons little toes. Nothing softens my frustration like Sammy’s little smirks and gurgles. In infertility it was hard to live in the moment, because I had so many goals, and so many wants, and only me to worry about. Motherhood…oh, sweet motherhood: slowing down and remaining present is easy when it means sharing smiles with my Sammy-Sam. Stopping everything is easy when my son is so in need of a feeding. Sacrificing my needs for his is one of the biggest blessings I could imagine. It’s learning to live in the moment for the betterment of another. Does that even make sense? With infertility I had to learn to do that for myself, I had to stop everything and be present with God, because I was the needy one, I was the one needing a feeding. I still need those moments with my Father, but it’s easier for me to take them, because I have to, because if I don’t, Sammy suffers too.

I get when mom’s says they have never been so tired in their life, it’s true. I have never been so tired as I am now, but I have also never been so purposeful, so full of love, so sacrificing, so fulfilled, as I am right now. Every day I spend with Sammy I understand God’s love for me, his child, more and more. The more unconditional love I ooze out to Sam, the more unconditional love I feel washing over me from my heavenly father. This lack of sleep, this 17,000 steps a day, this constant giving IS tiring, yes, but it is nothing compared to the exhaustion of infertility. I feel so blessed for my seven years of infertility, because as I struggle to fight for what’s best for my son, I remember that I’m fighting for my son and Jesus is leading the charge and I know the outcome: Victory!

I probably should just end this post on that note, but something in me keeps wanting to say something more. I want the other mom’s out there to understand why their infertile friends are so hurt by their complaints of motherhood. And I want my infertile sisters to understand why it’s so important for moms to have that time to vent about how tired they are without fear of hurting someone’s feelings or being called, “ungrateful”.

If motherhood is a soccer game, infertility is the player that always comes to the games and never gets to play. Infertility is the player that never misses a practice and works her ass off trying to get better, trying to strengthen her weak side, trying to fix her game in every single aspect so, maybe, just once, she will get to play in a game. Sometimes there are players who don’t show up to practice ever, and then show up to a game completely wasted and still get to play the entire game. And a lot of times there are players who show up to practice, who work their asses off, and who play amazing games. But the infertile player is upset, because they never get a shot. They are exhausted from the mental and emotional battle to finally be chosen. Sure they get to play during practice, but it’s not the same. And then to hear your friends run in from the field after a big win and say, “wooooo, my legs are shot! You have no idea how tired I am, because you haven’t played in a game yet.” Ouch….

But the reality of the situation is, it’s totally true! The infertile player hasn’t gone out onto the field with a crowd cheering them on and booing them! Mom’s are judged every single day for their choices in parenting and applauded or slandered. And the infertile player hasn’t experienced the high stakes energy of keeping a little human alive! But the infertile player also hasn’t experienced the celebration of a great pass, a goal, or an amazing save (if you’re a goalie) and all they want is a chance. But none of the players get to decide who gets a chance and who doesn’t. So instead of getting mad or frustrated with the other players, it’s high time with take up our issues with the coach…God.

He can handle it. He can handle your anger, your sorrow, your threats, your accusations. But just like with a coach in real life, you have to be willing to listen, and sometimes he says, “not yet.” But he never says, “you’re not good enough”.

Anyways, I’m rambling, and Sammy is calling for some love!

Hope or Stupidity?

Standard

We are moving.

The packing has started and so have the tears, although, they aren’t the tears I thought they would be. I’ve cried about leaving my church family, but we are only moving an hour away, so it’s not like I will never see them again. I thought I would be more upset about moving further from my friends and family, but it really isn’t that far. So, I was a little shocked when I started packing up my Office/Craft Room and the floodgates opened.

My Craft Room was not intended to be a craft room, it was intended to be a nursery. When I painted it, I painted it as a nursery. When I walked in there I said prayers for my babies. Over the five years we have lived in this house it was into that room that I would drag my bleary eyed, defeated body and lay upon the floor to cry when life didn’t go according to plan. So many tears and prayers have been baked into the walls and floors of that room. It was in the confines of that room that I imagined myself praying with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Just as Jesus pleaded that this cup be taken from him and then accepted the will of God over his own, I prayed for the mothers of the babies I hoped to adopt. I prayed for their courage and wisdom. I prayed that they would know that God was their strength and that their children needed THEM. These prayers broke my heart every time, because I was praying God’s will instead of my own: I desperately wanted to be the mother to all these children.

God had promised to settle me in my home as a happy mother of children (Psalm 113:9). He had promised me that to me back when we lived in our apartment. I thought he was settling me in this home to welcome in our children. And five years later I am packing up the craft supplies that migrated and made a home in the room I so desperately wanted to hold our most precious creation.

Packing up this room felt like another stepping stone in my journey of infertility. The other infertiles out there know how daunting those stepping stones are. They are not the excitement of birthdays or growth. These benchmarks aren’t celebratory like when a child begins to coo and make noises: the first steps to talking. No, benchmarks and stepping stones of infertility always mark the loss of a dream. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but it means it still hasn’t happened. We’ve been through so much and in all of that still no baby. If God would have told me that I wouldn’t become a mother in this house back when we moved in, I think it would have crushed me. I really don’t know if I could have handled knowing that I had 5 more years  of infertility ahead of me.

And that scares me now. What if that happens again? What if this new house isn’t THE house either? What if I’m wrong about what God said to me?  I keep trying to explain away God’s timing and plan. Like, “Oh, he had a different house in mind for us and that’s why we have to move, and that’s why I didn’t have children yet, and this is good.”

But this doesn’t feel good. This feels like disappointment. I know He is good, but this hurts so much. Jesus dying on the cross was good, but I’m sure it didn’t feel good. And I don’t dare want to think that my struggle is anywhere near what Jesus went through, but I do know that He has given me a reflection of that pain. How did Jesus keep going when it felt so awful? How did he get up after falling? How did he look into the face of his mother and then continue on to death? How did he leave them all behind when he didn’t know exactly how God would reveal His goodness? How did he continue to pray for those that couldn’t even begin to comprehend the blessing they were receiving through his death?

Did Jesus have a dreams about his life? Did he imagine growing old? How did he submit those plans to the plans of God. This room, this room has become an emotional prison. It has become a plan of my own feeble mind. And that plan, along with 7 years of other plans, has once again been foiled. And I am left, in this empty room, feeling silly for creating yet another plan, knowing full well that the first room I will paint in my new house is the nursery. Is that stupidity or hope? Does that make me a bad Christian, trying to make my own way; or a faithful servant putting my hope in the goodness of my Master and believing in the promise He gave me?

Adoption Update: Hope that Triumphs Over Fear

Standard

image1Well, life has been a bit crazy. I don’t even know where to start. I don’t even know how much to explain. I want to explain everything so you can hear my stress and then be like, “Oh Liz, how are you handling all this?” because if I’m honest, I want your admiration. I want you to think I’m kick ass and super strong. And because that is a weakness of mine, I want to purposefully not go there. Especially since, I’m really not handling all of this completely well (just ask my husband and my realtor…they see the breakdowns). But is this post going there? I don’t know, if it is I guess God will let me know when I’m ready to hear it.

But, I do know I need your prayer. And I also know, I want to express my hope and excitement. I might not post this until I know one way or the other, but I want to write this in the moment so I can capture my current thoughts.

We have some updates: Our house is under contract and we have put a contract on a house in Annapolis. Everything seemed like it was going to go through and then we randomly had an issue. Our buyers were thinking of walking. The issue just didn’t seem right though, it seemed like a mistake. Ok, I’m getting off track, that’s not the point. We fixed the issue. Everything seemed to line up again, and then…

We got an email from the adoption agency. They wanted our permission to show our profile to a couple with a very unique case. We said, “yes.” Nothing is set in stone. We don’t even know if the couple will pick us. I’m in the adoption version of the TWW (two week wait between ovulation and when you can take a pregnancy test). It’s really early to talk about, but I’m so excited. I’m dreaming of the nursery and cuddles and introductions. I’m dreaming of the baptisms, yes baptismS, because they are twins. I’m dreaming of the songs I will sing, and the spit up I will be covered in, and the exhausted mornings from being up all night comforting the cries of two precious babies.

But I’m also worried. How is this all going to line up? The timing of all of this seems impossible! We have to move, get our new house approved by the agency (water tests, fire marshal survey, and a new home inspection), and the second we are out of our current home we are out of the adoption pool until we can get the new home approved. But as long as we are in our current home we can be matched. If we get matched before we move then we can still have placement in the new home as long as we can get all the paperwork done before the placement occurs. I can’t even begin to go through possible timelines of things, because everything is constantly changing.

Just yesterday it seemed like everything was going to go through with the houses and then we heard that the buyers were not happy with the solution we had come up with and unless we did something else they were thinking of walking away, again…. So the timeline went completely wonky again and I gave up trying to figure it out.

So here I am, confused, excited, and hopeful. And my hope is greater than any hope I’ve ever had before, because this time I have a knowledge that surpasses understanding. This time I know that if it doesn’t work out and I must grieve another loss (or two), that I will not remain in that place of sorrow. I know who my savior is, I know how much he loves me, and I know he will rescue me from my disappointment and sorrow. He will restore me. I know it because I have experienced it. He has been faithful for seven years of grief. He has been faithful longer than that, but that is only how long I have had this struggle.

I am hoping. I am putting my hope in the Lord and in his goodness. There is something about this circumstance that seems completely beyond anything I could imagine or facilitate or control, and so it must be up to God. And there is something about that that gives me peace and hope beyond what I have ever known before.

I naively thought that my hope would extend to everyone around me, but it doesn’t. I see you out there doubting, I see you worried about me, I see you trying to tame my hopes and prepare me for disappointment.

Stop worrying so much.

I know you are doing this out of love for me, and I appreciate that, but it seems like you might be letting your fear overcome your faith. Disappointment won’t kill me, I’ve been disappointed many times before and I’m still alive! In fact, the more disappointment I have had the more I have found my joy in the only thing that can never disappoint: Jesus!

I’m excited. I’m happy. I’m hopeful! You can try and protect yourself, but please stop trying to protect me from disappointment. I don’t need your protection, I have the best protection: Jesus Christ. He is with me right now. He keeps saying, “I got this. You don’t have to figure out how, you just have to say, ‘yes’.”

I’m saying, “yes!”

Whatever he is offering to me in this situation, I say, “Yes! Yes, God! Yes, Father! May it be done as you have said! May it be done as you have said! May it be done as you’ve shown us through Jesus!”

I’m not trying to change your mind. You can feel whatever it is you feel. I’m just letting you know that God has got this, and he has got me, and he has got these houses, and he has got these babies, and he is the only one who I want to have this and so I am putting all my eggs in His basket.

I am at a bend in the road and I’m not going to slow down and creep to the corner and crane my neck around the bend to try and see what lies ahead before I dance with praise and excitement. I’m dancing in the road, and praising my God because whatever lies around this bend doesn’t really matter. What matters is that he is good! And I want to experience whatever lies beyond this bend with Him by my side. I’m running toward it! If beyond lies a dragon, I’m prepared because I have the God of angel armies by my side! If what lies beyond is a sunrise, I’m going to experience as much of it as I can, and not waste a moment worrying instead of witnessing its beauty.


­­­­­­­­­Well, that was fast. I wrote the above post yesterday morning (but didn’t post it) and now this morning I write to tell you the birth mother has decided to parent her twins. What wonderful news for her and her children.

Yes, I am sad for me.

No, I have not lost hope.

God is so good to me. Yesterday, I read the book of Philemon. I never read that book before and it was exactly what I needed to hear. This book is about how every movement we make in response to God has a ripple effect. In Philemon 1:10-16, Paul says, “While here in jail, I’ve fathered a child, so to speak. And here he is, hand-carrying this letter-Onesimus. He was useless to you before; now he’s useful to both of us. I’m sending him back to you, but it feels like I’m cutting off my right arm in doing so. I wanted in the worst way to keep him here as your stand-in to help out while I’m in jail for the Message. But I didn’t want to do anything behind your back, make you do a good deed that you hadn’t willingly agreed to. Maybe it’s all for the best that you lost him for a while. You’re getting him back now for good—and no mere slave this time, but a true Christian brother! That’s what he was to me—he’ll be even more than that to you.”

I know this seems like a weird a verse, but Paul understands the joy and sorrow of my loss. He understands the prayers for the one who doesn’t quite know the gift that they have. He understands that his purpose does not override Philemon’s purpose, that God’s call for Paul does not counteract Philemon’s call from God, or Onesimus’ call from God, but instead their calls all join together and interact in a way that only God can facilitate.

God has shown me over and over again that he uses me as a prayer warrior for these mothers and their children. His glory is so beautiful! He allows me to be a part of their lives and they don’t even know. He connects me to these families in the most intimate of ways: through union with God. What a blessing to me! It is not a blessing you can see, it is simply known.

Yesterday, I prayed for the mom of these twins. I prayed for her, and my prayers for her broke my own heart because they went against everything my physical, mental, and emotional body wanted.

“Lord, make your strength known to her; help her to see that she can do this with You as her guide. Her babies need her, Lord, help her to see that, help her to see that you have chosen her for them. And Lord, if she can’t see that then let her know you will provide a loving family for her babies.”

It wasn’t a surprise to me when I received the email saying that this mother had decided to raise her children. It still hurt, but it wasn’t a surprise. And then a huge storm rolled in and I felt like God and I were fighting together. I felt like my prayers were fights against the evil one. I felt like God wept for me as we fought for her and her children. I can’t even explain it. My physical body simply sat there watching the storm rage around me, while my spiritual body wielded the sword of truth alongside the armies of angels and Jesus my king. I wept and prayed and fought. The darkness was so great and ominous and yet, I felt completely at peace in the outcome. I had said, “yes” to my purpose, and in that I found joy beyond sorrow, peace beyond circumstance, and a will to keep going, to keep hoping, to keep fighting, to keep loving, and to experience the beauty of the storm.

This morning I asked the Lord what he wanted to tell me today. He said, “Isaiah.” He knows me so well, Isaiah is my comfort book. Isaiah is where I go when I don’t know where to start. I opened up to Isaiah and began to read Chapter 26. It’s amazing how good God is.

Isaiah 26:3-4 says, “People with their minds set on You, you keep completely whole, steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don’t quit. Depend on God and keep at it because in the Lord God you have a sure thing.”

Another Dream:Caramel Fringe and the Three Black Bears

Standard

In the world of sleep I lay on my dream-bed, next to dream-Dean, in my dream-bedroom. I woke from my dream-slumber in the early morning of Dreamland and looked out my bedroom window. There, in my backyard, was a black bear. I kept my eyes fixed on it as I tried to wake Dean up so he could see it too. But by the time Dean woke and started to understand what I was saying the bear had disappeared into the wooded area behind my house. When I said, “Oh, never mind, he is gone back into the woods.” Dean replied in a sarcastic tone, “Uh huh…sure…I believe there was a bear there.” I started to say, “There was, I swear….” When suddenly there were three black bears in our backyard and huge brown grizzly bear!

“DEAN! Come here! Come see! There are now four bears and one is a grizzly!”

Dean groaned, stuffed the pillow over his ears and attempted to go back to sleep.

As I watched the bears from my window I began to look closely at the grizzly bear. It wasn’t a grizzly bear at all. In fact, it was a small herd of deer huddled close together. The bears and the deer were not at odds. They hung out in our backyard as if of the same tribe. The Deer slowly began to separate from each other and that’s when I noticed the baby girl. She was so long. She had caramel skin and caramel hair, thick, but cropped short into a bob. She was an infant, but she had the face of an older child, and she was so long and skinny; her cheeks bones so pronounced.

Suddenly I was holding her. She was upset, inconsolable. I tried offering my breast to soothe her, but after latching for just a moment she let go and continued to whimper. I cooed over her and loved her dearly despite her inconsolability (is that even a word?). It wasn’t her fault she was so upset. Eventually she would recognize me as her mother, but right now she just didn’t and that was okay.

My mom came in and said, “Finally it is your turn.” Without looking up at my mother, I gazed into my daughter Scout’s eyes and said, “Isn’t she beautiful?”

“She? Haven’t you seen the baby yet? It’s a boy, not a girl.”

I looked up at my mom, confused and when I looked back down at Scout; my arms were wrapped around nothing. Scout had disappeared and I wasn’t holding anything, not even a blanket. I felt crazy, I knew Scout was my daughter, but where had she gone?

My mom pointed to a baby carrier in the room. I approached it and saw the cutest, chubbiest, little baby boy snuggled into it. His head had several dark curls resting just above his forehead. He had rich milk chocolate skin and dark roasted coffee hair. He gazed up at me and giggled. I removed him from the carrier and hugged him close. I pulled him away from me so I could gaze into his brown eyes and I said, “You are my Isaac.” And I sobbed. I held my son close to my heart and wept. I covered his head in kisses and tears. I was surprised he wasn’t the blonde version of Dean I had dreamt about before. I had just assumed that Isaac and Casey were the same boy because they were both so full of laughter and joy. But this son of mine was most definitely Isaac, and yet did not seem to be Casey. My joy was too much to handle and for a long time I just held him close crying. My tears matted his curly hair to his head, but this didn’t bother him in the least. Isaac cooed and smiled and reached his roly poly arms up to my face and touched my tear stained cheeks and he giggled whenever the tears wet his fingers.

I was full of joy, but there were other feelings mixed in. I was irritated that no one was taking pictures of the moment I met my son. I never wanted to forget this moment of joy, how could I preserve this moment? And then deep sorrow and fear surfaced. Where was my Scout? What happened to her? As much as I rejoiced over Isaac a part of me still longed for my darling girl. They were both so precious to me. But no one else saw Scout. Was she a figment of my imagination? Was I crazy?

I woke from the dream with a start, my mind racing: I thought Scout was my first…in my other dream she was older than my Casey boy. Were Casey and Isaac two different sons? Was Isaac still asleep upstairs in my first dream? Was Isaac my first and Scout would come later? What would I do with all the books and prayers littered with Scout’s name if she was not my first? How would I know that Scout was not Isaac and Isaac was not Casey this whole time?

And what was up with these black bears? Both dreams had black bears. Before I even knew we would be moving, I dreamt of My Little Fawn and My Brave Boy and in that dream there was a black bear in our yard as well. Dean and I have been looking for a house in an area we really like, and several months ago I noticed that the high school mascot was a Bruin: a bear. Is that connected in any way? How much of this dream is just dream? Is all of it just nonsense? Is some of it from God? What does all this mean? God knows…maybe someday I’ll know. But now, I’m praying for my three: Isaac, Scout, and Casey. Whoever you are, wherever you are, I love you. I love you, my dear children, I am forever yours.