Monday, March 31, 2014

When Life Gets Even Harder

It's been quiet around here for awhile. This is the first time since I started using this space that it's been dormant for over a week. My goal is always to keep writing, keep sharing about my journey, or adoption, or God's extravagant grace. 

But last week, on the blog and in my heart, things didn't go as planned.

There's always the tension in my heart to keep things pretty and neat and easy to communicate when sharing about my life, especially is such a public arena. But, of course, as it is with all of us, that's simply not how things always are. I'm slowly coming to a place where keeping things transparent and real is more valuable to me than the pride of looking like I have it all together all the time.

A week and a half ago I found out I needed a minor surgery that I could schedule at my leisure. Quick, outpatient, and back to normal life within days. But things went unexpectedly downhill at a rapid pace and at the end of a rough week I ended up with emergency surgery. Then, when the hours turned into days of pain and no relief of recovery, I was admitted to the hospital with complications. What we thought should be a quick fix and not a big deal turned into five rough days of inpatient procedures to finally get me on the road to healing. And now I'm looking at several hard weeks of recovery.

And really, this has been the picture of my life for this season. An emergency in another form that threw our lives into a tailspin. Then, what we thought would be a period of quick recovery has turned into months of hardship. My expectations of what healing would look like have turned out all wrong, and much harder than originally anticipated.

Last week, in the quiet of the night when the pain was too much, all I could do was listen as Jamy read the Psalms over me.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope. (130:5) 

The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their stronghold in the time of trouble. (37:39) 

My soul is down cast within me; therefore I remember you. (42:6)

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good. (103:1-5)

And now, in the quiet of night when I still ache, this time more in my heart than in my body, I need those truths to still sink into my brokenness and fill it up with hope. When the wounds are still raw and real I need Jesus to soothe them with his grace and presence. His nearness in the brokenness makes all the difference.

Last week, when all I could do was cry out to Jesus for help to take another step, it was a poignant reminder of the reality of all of our lives.

Life doesn't go as planned.

The journey is sometimes more rough than we anticipated.

When life gets even harder, I get desperate for Jesus.

In my desperation for him, I can rest in this sacred space of recovery and healing. Trusting that he will work to make all things new and bring true redemption.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Bella's Long Hair and Big Heart

Last Friday I took the kids to get haircuts. Jackson was well past acceptable dress code at Whitefield and Isabelle was thrilled to finally be getting the shorter style she'd been wanting. I've only trusted one stylist with my kids hair in Kansas City. We've literally followed Sheldon to three different salons and she gave Jackson his first haircut.

When she hopped in the chair, we discovered her hair was long enough to donate if she wanted to go a little shorter. With no hesitation, Bella's eyes twinkled as she said "Let's do it!"

I watched as my sweet girl got 10 inches cut off of her hair, thrilled that she was able to help another little girl.

Before and Afters (also the difference between boys and girls)

We decided to donate her hair to Wigs for Kids. Wigs for Kids provides no cost hair replacement systems for children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and other medical issues at no cost (while other services provide this at a cost to children and their families).

I love that Isabelle was able to provide some other little girl not just with hair, but with self-confidence. I'm sure somewhere in just a few months, there will be another sweet girl with hair that matches my daughter's, and a smile just as wide.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Book Shelf: 2 Children's Books for Adoptive Families

On my continued quest for quality adoption books for adoptive families, today my client turned dear friend Brandy will be sharing a few she recently found for her daughter. You can read more of their journey to their daughter here and check her and her friends as they blog over at Cherokee Chix. In the meantime, check out a few of the books their family has been reading...

I have discovered a couple of things as our family dove into the world of adoption. One, it isn't nearly as easy or even glamorous as it looks on the back side. And two, just like every woman has her own birth stories, every family that adopts has a unique adoption story. The path through adoption is varied and emotional.

As I have searched for children's books on adoption, these points have become even more clear. A children's book often encapsulates thoughts and stories in a very succinct and heartfelt manner. You can see this in the following books...

Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, Illustrated by Lauren Cornell

Age Recommendation: 2+

Theme: A story about adoption and the importance of a loving family.

Synopsis: This book is told from the perspective of a roughly 6 year old girl who was adopted at birth. She asks her parents to retell her the stories from the night she was born - the phone call saying she was born, the flight to go meet her, descriptions of what she looked like and how perfect she was, the first time she took a bottle from her adoptive parents, when they brought her home, etc.  

All in all, this is a capture of a very true to life moment when your child comes to you and asks to be told how wonderful and special their appearance in the family is. I love that aspect of this book. I love how this book tells the details and moments of a special time. It shows how children can create their sense of identity and worth. 

However, there were a couple of things about the book that caught me as well. One, like I mentioned above, this book is specific to a domestic, at-birth adoption, involving a family struggling with infertility and even specifically a young birthmom who wasn't able to care for her child. This is definitely a real and possibly common scenario of adoption, but it is also definitely not the only scenario.

My second "hmmmm" thought about this book is that there are aspects and phrases that would be a bit graphic for me to use with my child. The copy of the book I read is a toddler board book, and so I took my age appropriateness cues from that. However, it mentions mom and dad in bed together "curled up like spoons" and there is a drawing in the book that could lend itself to fun anatomy questions. (Note: My husband read this review before reading the book, and expected something worse on this count. It may not be as bad as my first impression!) This book, in my opinion, would be great for under 2's or over 6's - at an age where it doesn't all connect or an age where real conversation and explanations are more appropriate. That being said, it is a good adoption book. There are phrases that capture the moments of meeting your child very well. The overall feel of the book is sweet and fun and identity shaping. 


Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark, Illustrated by Patrice Barton

Age Recommendation: 2+

Theme: The story of one baby’s journey from her birth parents in China, who dream of a better life for their daughter, to her adoptive parents on the other side of the world, who dream of the life they can give her.

Synopsis: Different from the book above, this book deals with international adoption, specifically from China. The pictures are beautifully painted. It speaks of a Chinese family having a baby girl and not having the resources to properly care for her but wanting desperately for her to have a good life. Out of that knowledge, the birth parents knew that it would be best for the little girl to be adopted into another family. It speaks of the adoptive mom and dad waiting and hoping and watching and preparing for the day their baby would come to them. It shares about the beautiful beginnings of the new family once the precious little girl finds her way to her adoptive parents.

All the way around, this book is beautiful. It is written in a honest and kind manner. Both the birth family and the adoptive family are depicted with honor and love. Love and concern for the child are the primary motivators for both families. I love that! For any family that has adopted internationally, this could be a fabulous family book!

My only other thoughts concerning this book are these: I love that the dad is included in both the adoptive and birth family. Dads can often times be left out in family stories of any kind, and I love that that role is included positively in both families. Being a Chinese international adoption story, the book does have a bit of an Oriental feel to it. That is awesome for families with that storyline, but may need to be explained to other children more thoroughly. And along those same lines, the actual process of international adoption is framed within sweet, mystical language. Where the first book is almost too fact oriented, this one can almost gloss over the process of adoption and make it feel like it requires less than it does.

Both books are excellent in their own ways, telling about adoption in loving and real ways. And like I said at the beginning, there are so many different routes and stories to creating a family through adoption. One is not better than another, but knowing up front which way the book will go can be helpful for both the child and the parents.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Congratulations Stuart and Lauren

Stuart and Lauren's story to grow their family started out like many others. Ready to begin their family, they unexpectedly struggled with infertility and the heartache that comes with it. 

Stuart describes part of their journey this way:  After months of struggling with infertility, God began to reshape Lauren’s heart for adoption. One night last May over dinner at La Parilla, Lauren looked me straight in the eye and said, “I think I want to adopt a child.” For those of you who know Lauren, you know that she has a hard time hiding her excitement and enthusiasm. She was beaming. You see, God had given her a vision for adoption that I had never considered. Through adoption, we had the opportunity to change the course and direction of a life by raising them in an environment where they would come to know Jesus. I had never thought of adoption that way before, but we both left dinner that night confident that this was God’s plan to start our family.

They began with Christian Adoption Consultants soon after their decision to adopt in late April last year. They completed their home study several months later and then began their wait to be matched with an expectant birth mother and ultimately their baby. During this time they prepped a nursery, completed paperwork to apply to agencies, and Lauren even reconnected with a friend, Kristen, who was also adopting. The two had met several years ago through a group of women that met monthly at a mutual friend's (Joy) home. They would commiserate about the adoption process and encourage each other on the journey.

And this is where their story takes an incredible turn that can only be explained by God himself.

In the fall, while Stuart and Lauren were in the midst of all of their adoption preparations, Lauren's friend Kristen's adopted daughter was born. In texting one night while Kristen and her new family of three had just been discharged from the hospital, Kristen shared that her birth mother's teen daughter was also pregnant and wanted to make an adoption plan...and she wanted the same kind of adoption that her mother had just been through. Kristen immediately thought of Stuart and Lauren.

As soon as Stuart heard about the situation, he immediately and uncharacteristically said, "This is it…we need to put our names in." 

And amazingly enough, that was it. They were matched just days later and began an amazing relationship with their birth mother. Just a few weeks ago this little guy came into the world.Lauren shares: God is so creative. His plan is always worth waiting for. I’m so grateful for every situation we said “no” to because waiting on a situation we both wanted and prayed for was completely worth it. God has not only surprised me by the way he wrote this story but has re-instated a sense of awe in me as I watch his plan unfold. Only he knew that 5 years ago, a dinner at Joy’s house would change our lives forever...

Many times in adoption two families are joined together through the birth of a sweet baby. In Stuart and Lauren's case, FOUR families now share an unexplainable bond through two beautiful children; a daughter and a son (an aunt and a nephew!). And this new family had an amazing homecoming a few days ago...

Lauren shares: God is so creative. His plan is always worth waiting for. I’m so grateful for every situation we said “no” to because waiting on a situation we both wanted and prayed for was completely worth it. God has not only surprised me by the way he wrote this story but has re-instated a sense of awe in me as I watch his plan unfold. Only he knew that 5 years ago, a dinner at Joy’s house would change our lives forever...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It Will Get Better...and Other Lies They Tell Us

I've been running now for over ten months. When I began, I hated it. With a passion. My lungs burned, my legs ached, and when I ran for more than two minutes I thought I might literally have a heart attack.

But I was told it would get better.

Your body will get used to it. You'll come to love running. It will be like therapy. You'll look forward to it. Before you know it you'll be running a half marathon.

All. Lies.

The truth is my body still hates it. It hated running during the 7th grade President's Fitness test and it hates it just as fervently today. I still struggle to run 5K and I won't even embarrass myself on the interwebs and tell you how long it still takes me to run a mile. 

Truthfully, I was hoping they were right. It would be amazing if I looked forward to running 5K several times a week as my "alone time" and my body thanked me for this "treat." But running on a 2.5' x 4' span of tread is simply not the joy I was promised (it's been hovering around -10 around here some days this winter so running + frigid weather = nowayI'mrunningoutinthat).

But since this isn't the case, my inner dialogue goes something like this: I must be doing it wrong. Maybe they know something I don't. Perhaps if I just Pinterest better running workouts/quotes/shoes I will like it better.

As I was struggling with my seeming failure as a runner, I realized the theme of "it will get better" didn't just appear in my quest to be a runner. Marks of "it will get better" were evident in other areas of my life. 

Marriage gets easier: your communication will improve, their quirks won't bother you as much...
Parenting gets easier: they will eventually sleep through the night, you'll get to know their personality... 
Life gets easier: you mature, time will heal... 
It will get better.

Although there's some truth to be found in all of these statements and I appreciate the heart behind them, I've found that not only are these things not really comforting, but they're also not always true. I grew up believing that things would get better. That if I made the right decisions God would bless them.

If you don't drink or use drugs your body will be healthy.
If you choose to the right college your career path will be easy.
If you don't have premarital sex your marriage will be amazing.
If you tithe your bank account will always have enough.
If you raise your kids right they will choose to trust Jesus.

But my assumption that if I do things right, then things will get better/turn out the way they "should" is faulty at it's core. Jesus never promised us that things would get better. And the gospel in no way promises an easy life for those who make good or right decisions. In fact, we are promised the opposite.

If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24
In the world you will have tribulation. John 16:33

Of course this isn't to say that we shouldn't make wise choices about our lives like taking care of our bodies and devoting our careers and families to God. The Bible also makes it clear that there are positive and negative consequences for our decisions (Proverbs is full of them) and that his ways are always better and lead to life.

But what if we're looking in the completely wrong direction for things to get better? That instead of a body that easily runs a marathon it's about using our body to glorify and serve him. That instead of a marriage that's full of ease and "good communication" it's one that reflects selflessness, forgiveness, and redemption. That instead of a child that sleeps through the night or has good manners they learn that Jesus is better than anything this world has to offer them.

What if instead of things getting better and easier, God is more about forming a people who are more concerned about His kingdom than their own? What if our sufferings produce in us something of more value than things going smoothly? What if there's something to be learned in the struggle that we would miss if things were easy? What if instead of striving to do things better, work better, and be better, we relied on the One who promises to be better for us and offers us hope way beyond ourselves?  

Let's acknowledge that things don't always get easier. That the hard and tough path is often the right one. That we can sometimes make all the "right" decisions and our lives can be fraught with hardship and suffering. That when things don't get better how or when we expect them too they are still worth our effort. Paul makes a bold statement in Romans 5:3-5:

...we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

What if we weren't looking for things to get better?

What if we were looking for suffering to produce in us fruit of endurance, character, and ultimately hope?

What if we look for Jesus?

Monday, March 3, 2014

Congratulations Nathan and Ashley

I know I shouldn't be surprised. But sometimes I'm still in awe at God's perfect timing.

Nathan and Ashley started with Christian Adoption Consultants last May. But during that time they were in the throes of a move to a new home and completing their home study in the midst of it. Life moved on, they were raising their little guy, and their adoption seemed to be on the back burner.

Because of the move and the busyness of life, it wasn't until February that their home study was actually complete. That same day, they decided to be presented for the first time to an expectant mother choosing an adoptive family for her daughter.

They were chosen. Just weeks later they found themselves on a road trip to meet their birth mother and be there for the birth of their daughter.

God took what we all thought was a long home study process and turned it into perfect timing: a beautiful daughter and little sister for this family.

Photo credit: Kelly Anderson

Did you happen to do the math? It was nine months ago that Nathan and Ashley began their adoption journey.

I know better now than to believe that timing is coincidence. This sweet little girl was meant to be in this family, not just nine months ago when she was conceived but from the beginning of time.

Ashley, Birth Mother, and Daughter. Beautiful. 
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