Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fighting for Redemption

Sometimes I write blogs in my head or draft them out completely and never get around to posting them. I recently found this unpublished post and decided this one was worth it to come back to, even though it's dated. I wrote it over two years ago, right in the midst of our mess. I should say one of our messes. One of the spaces where I was desperately praying for my husband to believe the Gospel and wondering if our marriage would survive his unbelief. A season where I literally felt like I was fighting for our lives. 

I'm not sure why I never got around to hitting "publish" on this one. Maybe because it felt too vulnerable. Maybe because we were in the thick of it and it's hard to be that honest on top of all the other feelings when you feel so raw and tired. 

And I'm not sure why I'm hitting "publish" now on some of these brief thoughts I had awhile ago. Other than as a reminder to myself and those who might read it that fighting for redemption is always worth it, even if you don't know how it will work out in the end...

Disclaimer: I'm using these words to preach the gospel to myself today.

Our family is in a tough season. A hard space where all of the stuff you always talk about happening and preparing for "just in case" we're actually living. I’ve hesitated to share much of our family’s last year on the blog. But we're right in the thick of it: in the midst of heartache and healing.

There are unknowns and we're unsure of a lot of what the future holds for our family and our lives. In this constant state of uncertainty, it can lend to feelings of fear, loneliness, and even despair. But there are truths that are just as true today as they were last week, and last year, and hundreds of years ago. God's promises of faithfulness and loving kindness are some of the only things I cling to and that make sense in the midst of this kind of chaos.

Redemption is beautiful but long. We've been in this season for years. A dear friend recently described it as long-suffering and I feel every ounce of those words. Merriam-Webster defines long-suffering as "patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship." Admittedly the patient part of that doesn't resonate with me as much as the enduring hardship does. But knowing that God promises that our suffering is not meaningless changes everything. God's promises that "suffering produces endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:3-4). In this space I am banking that this kind of suffering is valuable and meaningful.

Redemption can also be lonely. I've found our family's healing has come in ripples. It starts with Jamy's heart, moves into our marriage, then our kids, and eventually out into our extended family, friendships, and church community. It's easy to get overwhelmed at all we have ahead of us. There are relationships to heal, forgiveness to ask for and to extend, and hard conversations to have. If I'm honest, I'm not sure some of those relationships are still there or will be fully restored. In the midst of waiting for the ripples, sometimes I feel stuck in the middle of where the pebble (or bomb) originally dropped feeling very alone. It's during these times I rest in the Psalms, especially where I read that God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and a constant refuge and help (Psalm 46:1).

My prayer is that someday in the future,  I can look back and see redemption in this long and lonely space in our life.

But if not, he is still good.

In this time, he has been good and faithful, generous and gracious, kind and so, so near.  He has been enough for our family.

He has been enough for my husband.

He has been enough for my kids.

And he has been enough for me.

I'm learning redemption can look different than the way I would like it, or picture it. As agonizing as it can be, I want to trust Jesus for redemption and restoration, even if I won't see it fully this side of Heaven...

Two years after this original post, I can tell you that the Gospel transformed (and is transforming) our marriage. But reading my own words, I know that the real miracle isn't a transformed marriage. If you're reading this today and your future is unclear, know that your fight to hold on to Hope, to trust God's promises to you, and to believe the Gospel is always worth it. You might not know how this season will end, but we already know the end of the story.

God always wins.

He always gets glory.

And He never leaves or forsakes us in the midst of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Adoption Story: Blake and Dena

This little family of three is prepping to celebrate a first birthday next week! When Blake and Dena started with Christian Adoption Consultants early last year, I'm sure it was hard to imagine that their son would be born just a few short months later. You can read more of the story and journey to their son below as Dena shares the details...

As we are busy planning a 1st birthday party, we can’t help but to reflect on our son’s adoption story and the pure joy he has brought to our lives this past year.

When we began working with Susan we were in the healing process after a failed adoption. We knew we wanted to move forward with the adoption process but were also very cautious and full of questions for Susan. We would highly recommend Christian Adoption Consultants and Susan, specifically. She was so genuine and helpful and her words of encouragement made our adoption experience very positive.

We signed up with Christian adoption Consultants in February 2017 and started working with Susan right away. With our help, she created our profile book (which was beautiful) and we began applying to adoption agencies.

We started receiving potential situations in March. Each situation we viewed, we would discuss things that worried us, scared us and the things that we liked about the given situation. I feel like we were pretty cautious with things after having experienced a failed adoption just a couple of months prior. We presented our profile four times before presenting to our son’s birth mother. Each time we presented, we prayed for all involved and knew that even if we weren’t chosen, that just meant that another family was a better fit, but mostly, we kept our faith and knew that God had a plan for us.

In late April, we received the adoption situation for our son. It was similar to some of the situations we had chosen not to present to in the past, but for some reason we were drawn to presenting and it just felt “right” to us. We presented our profile and before the expectant mother had a chance to view all of the profiles and choose a family our soon to be little one entered the world the very next day!

We were notified of his birth and patiently (or rather impatiently!) awaited to see if we were the family to be chosen. The following Monday, we received the news that this sweet baby boy would be our son! We were overwhelmed by emotion and were so excited to meet our bundle of joy!

We traveled to Arizona right away and were able to spend the month of May snuggling with our sweet baby boy in the NICU. He was born weighing just 2 pounds 10 ounces, so he had a long NICU journey to grow and get strong enough for us to take him home. We were so blessed to be able to stay with him and spend each day snuggling and bonding with him. Although having a child in the NICU can be a little scary, we continued to pray for health and growth and we were soon able to go home. 

To this day, almost one year later, we still feel that same excitement and joy as the day we met our little bundle. Our son is certain to put smiles on our face every day. We are forever thankful for his birth mama’s strength, for the adoption process, and for many answered prayers.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Knowing When To Say Yes in Adoption

One of the hardest issues many couples come face to face with in the adoption process is knowing when to say yes in adoption. This often comes up after the home study is complete, the profile is created, and the fundraising is happening.

In the beginning of the adoption process, the pathway is pretty clear. Hire a home study worker. Fill out these forms. Check those boxes. Get the fingerprints and the physicals and the baby items. Check, check, check.

But then a couple comes to a stage in the adoption process when they begin to review situations: an expectant mother who would like to make an adoption plan for their child. It often includes information like the gender of the baby, due date, and social and medical history of the birth family.

And it's at this point that a hopeful adoptive parent decides if they want to present their profile. And when and if they do, that's their 100% commitment to raise this child as their own if chosen.

This is also the point when it's easy for hopeful adoptive parents to become incredibly anxious (read: freak out) about saying yes to the right situation.

How do you know when to present to a situation? How do you know if this is the baby God has for you? How do you know you're not missing your baby?

Value of Wisdom

When deciding if you're going to present to a certain situation, one of the first things you want to do is gather all of the information available. Ensure you have all of the significant information involved (social and medical history, birth father information, a break down of fees, etc.). Educate yourself on any medical or legal issues that might impact this match. During this step, it's critical that you are working with trusted, ethical agencies/attorneys that not only are serving you well, but also provide expectant and birth parent care and counseling (both pre and post birth). An adoption consultant can help you weigh any possible risks involved and walk through each of these steps to help you decide if it's a good fit for your family. It can be invaluable to have someone who is neutral help with this part in the process.

Myth of Control

It's easy to think you have a tremendous amount of control in adoption. And in some ways that's true. You decide when to begin the adoption process. You complete the paperwork and even check dozens of boxes pertaining to openness and medical history and preferences. You analyze a situation and educate yourself as much as possible. You decide to present. But you inevitably come to the point where you are left waiting on a situation to come through and ultimately, to be chosen.

I've called control the lie of adoption. Because the truth is there's very little control you can have in the process (like so much of life). Ultimately an expectant or birth mother chooses an adoptive family. You realize you simply can't check all of the boxes for your preferences in life. After you've done your part, weighed all of this important information, and decided if you want to present, you realize that there's only so much you can do. 

Truth of God's Sovereignty

Once you come to terms with the lack of control you feel in the process, your frustration can also swing the other way. You can think the control is all in someone else's hands: the birth families choosing adoptive families, the adoption agencies serving you, or even the idea of waiting for fate or good karma. But God is ultimately in charge. He is writing a grand, redemptive story in history that he's invited us to be a part of. To reflect his glory right here on Earth.

God has woven the story of adoption throughout the Gospel and invites us to be a part of it as well. He's known the details of your days (and your child's) from the beginning of time. No one can thwart His plans or stand in their way. There's tremendous freedom found in not just believing in God's complete control, but truly resting there.

So practically, where does that leave you? When you are wrestling with the tension of balancing earthly wisdom and common sense with godly faith (which I believe are both gifts from God)? What does this actually look like?

Honestly, I don't have the answer. And I think it looks different for each couple and individual desperate for God's will in their lives. Some families have a "gut" about presenting to one situation or another. Some, after reading through the details, know pretty quickly that a certain situation just isn't a good fit for them. Others describe a very clear direction one way or another from God. My experience is that most families generally don't feel a tremendous amount of clarity or feel 100% in on most situations they see. But, in my work for a decade with hopeful adoptive parents, I have seen some families have incredible peace during the process of deciding when to present.

Wanna know their secret? They decide to walk through every open door that God opens for them and pray that he slams it shut if it's not His will.

It's that simple. Ultimate trust in the One who has all the control. Faith in the Author of good stories. Hope in the God who promises to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20). A wholehearted "yes" on the table before God, with the courage to put it into action.

And can I be honest about something else? I don't think there's a perfect situation out there for you. Adoption is always born from brokenness and the perfect scenario is that a child is always meant to be with their birth family. But of course we live in a broken world where sometimes that's not possible or best. We live in a world touched by infertility and substance use and unhealthy relationships and hundreds of other broken things. So the idea of "ideal" quickly goes out the window.

BUT. I do believe there's a perfect situation for you. What I mean is that I believe God is sovereign over everything, and that includes putting families together. So while there's no "ideal" or "perfect" scenario or situation, I strongly believe God has the perfect match for an adoptive family. That there is baby that fits perfectly and is divinely ordained to be placed with a specific family.

How do you find joy in the midst of waiting? How do you know when to say yes? How do you make sure it all works out in the end?

God will not let you miss your baby. You can rest in His perfect plan. Your job is simply to say yes to Him.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

If I Could Say One Thing...About Caring for Your Marriage During an Adoption

So often in the adoption process there's a focus on learning about the process and preparing for adding a child into a family. We talk about the home study, creating your family profile, getting through the wait, and building a relationship with the birth family. But what about caring for your marriage during the adoption process? It's no secret that adoption can be an incredibly draining journey, and ensuring you take the time to build into each other as a couple will be priceless. I asked families who have been through the adoption process to share their insight on taking the time to care for their marriage. I love their practical and helpful thoughts!

See the wait as God’s encouragement to grow closer together and closer to Him.  - Caroline

Sometimes it's okay just to sit together in the hard and not talk through every possible scenario that could play out. Sometimes just sit in the quiet and let the Spirit speak to your hearts. Find out each other's love languages if you haven't already and act on them! Get it established before the baby comes home. You will fall more deeply in love with your spouse through this journey but you have to be purposeful to turn towards each other in the hurt rather than away from each other.  - Casey

Don't let every conversation be about babies or the adoption process. Talk about other things; keep doing other fun things.  - Ashley

Don’t put your life on hold waiting for your baby. Go on dates. Plan fun little over night trips. Embrace the time you have before you add another little person to the mix. Don’t forget to keep enjoying each other.  - Leigh

Give each other time and space to walk through the different stages (agreeing to pursue adoption, the home study, the family profile, etc.). You might find that some of the steps require a little more discernment for one of you. Be patient with each other - make adoption a portion of the big picture of your marriage, not your whole world.  - Tracy

Sometimes you need to forget about the paperwork or personal deadlines you have made and have a normal weekend! Get out in nature. Go to brunch. Invite friends over. We often felt like we had too much to do to enjoy life and felt guilty doing anything else other than adoption stuff. Getting your home study or profile done quicker doesn't necessarily speed up your adoption wait time, so find a balance that works for you. Something that has worked for us is to reserve at least one full weekend a month to keeping your computer closed and just enjoy each other without having any other distractions or lists of things you need to get done! It has been our time to reconnect and just have fun together.  - Kayla

Trust each other. It was hard when I wanted to say yes. And he wanted to say no. And we had to be able to be free to say the yes and the no's with no judgement from each other. And sometimes there was no real explanation. The leaning into and trusting each other was hard. Hard! But we grew so much closer through it! We ended up at an 80% truce. We both had to feel 80% certain before we presented.  - Joy

Lean on each other through the bad news and celebrate together through the good news. You are going through this together, so you should experience it together. Support each other (be present in the moments) so the stress of unexpected news (good or bad) brings you closer together instead of driving you apart.  - Nathan

Take a break every now and then and spend quality time together. Do something out of the ordinary to refresh yourselves as a couple. Reminisce on what brought you together and talk about the early days, dating and falling in love. I’ve found that helps keeps us from talking about adoption during our quality time and brings us back to why we chose to do life together.  - Michelle

Be cognizant of your limitations and those of your spouse so you can hold each other in check. Sometimes he needed to be pushed and sometimes I needed to be pulled back. Walking through this process as a team is essential!  - Kim

For more in this series:

If I Could Say One Thing...About Beginning the Adoption Process

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Cost of Adoption

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Adoption Home Study
If I Could Say One Thing...About Expectant and Birth Families
If I Could Say One Thing...About the Wait in Adoption

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