Monday, October 29, 2012

If Only This Was the Truth

Oh man, I'm gonna make some enemies with this blog post.

Earlier this month, this post on who is called to adoption was picked up by LifeSite News. The comment section was full of people agreeing that we're called to care for the fatherless, but many commented that adoption was near impossible due to the expense, red-tape, and presumed "waiting line" for adoptive families.

This comment really stuck out to me:
This article is kind of strange to me. I thought it was only  the pro-aborts who are saying abortions are being done because us selfish pro-lifers won't adopt babies or children the well-know truth is that for every baby available for adoption, whether handicapped or not, there are at least 35 couples on the waiting list. I have been a hard working pro-life worker for almost 30 years. Once my husband asked me if I would adopt this baby whose Mom was not a good care-giver and single. If it would save her life. I said sure, I would. But, we have four of our own children and so many people have none. I couldn't/wouldn't be so selfish when there are so many couples who have no children and are waiting and waiting.
Although my heart longs for this to be true, sadly the reality is it's far from the truth. I'm sure the person who made this comment was well-intentioned and good-hearted. But my experience is this: there are many (although not nearly the statistics quoted above) families willing to adopt perfectly perfect children. By this I mean there are families willing to adopt Caucasian babies will no physical or mental health concerns and no history of any concerns even in the birth parent's extended families. Period.

The "waiting list" and "waiting and waiting" that couples go through when this is their plan for adoption is because the babies they are looking for are so few and far between. A baby with no history of any health concerns with their biological parents or extended family? Almost non-existent.

The truth is there are birth mothers who are refused adoption services because of the color of their child's skin and the reality that her child will be harder to place. Or babies that go straight from the hospital into foster care because the drugs in their system impeded any adoptive parents from taking them home. And babies that adoption professionals like me who have to comb the nation to find a family for because they have a medical diagnosis that no family wants to "take the risk on."

Every adoptive parent will tell you there is a form they fill out as part of the adoption process detailing what kinds of situations they are open to. This document is in the form of a checklist and includes everything: physical and mental health of the baby, birth parents, and extended family, exposure to substances, and race and ethnicity. I firmly believe that families need to thoughtfully and prayerfully consider these options. Most families can't check "yes" on all issues (and shouldn't) and are aware of their strengths and limitations. However, many are surprised what they are open to after being educated by their family physician, talking with friends and family who will offer support, and praying about how to open their hearts as wide as God's.

Ultimately I've found that this comes down to a control issue for parents. And one that we all struggle with. I would love to guarantee that my kiddos will be perfectly healthy and live a life with no pain of any kind. But I was not able to fill out a checklist for my babies when we got pregnant (based on health, color of hair, etc.) And even though we've been blessed with healthy kids, I know this could change in an instant. There are no guarantees in life and I have very little control when it comes to my kids.

And ultimately this isn't the gospel. God's plan for our kids isn't that they live easy, painless lives. His plan is for them to live to love Him and love others. Kids don't need to be "perfect" to do that well. As parents, our job is to steward the children we've been given no matter the hardships and heartaches that might arise.

Photo of Creed and his siblings by Tina Wilson Photography

Here's the bottom line: the more boxes on this list checked "no" means a longer wait. The more checked "yes" means many more situations available for an adoptive family to walk into. Many more babies available. Less of the obscure waiting line and more chances to say wholehearted yeses to God and His kingdom work.

There are not nearly enough adoptive families available to step into adoption where it's needed. Babies who are African American or minorities.  Babies who have been exposed to substances. Babies who have special needs. Babies who need homes and families and someone to love them.

God's heart for the orphan doesn't stop at healthy Caucasian babies. His heart is for all of them. If our heart is going to match the Heavenly Father's for his children, we'll be willing to say yes to all of them as well. When we say an unhindered "yes" to God, the only thing we'll be waiting on His timing.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Cost of Adoption

One of the most common questions I'm asked about adoption is why it's so expensive. When my recent post on who is called to adoption was picked up by LifeSite News, the comments section was full of people saying that they would adopt if it wasn't so expensive. Although missing the point of my blog (because even if you can't adopt you are called to be a vital part of the caring for the orphan by doing something), it's still a valid point.

Photo by We Are the Parsons

The truth is, adoption is expensive. The average domestic infant adoption in the United States is somewhere between $25,000-45,000. International adoption costs even more, often due to the added travel expenses. Understandably, this is a staggering amount to most families.

So why is it so expensive to adopt? There are many legitimate costs to adoption to ensure that the adoptive family, birth family, and the child are getting quality care throughout the process. Here's a break down of where the money goes: 
Agency Fees
This includes administration fees, reports that are required (home studies and post placement visits) and marketing and networking costs. 

Birthparent Care
This is comprised of vital counseling for the birth parents (both before and after birth), possible living expenses, transportation, maternity clothing, utilities, etc. A good agency will always access community services that are available before asking the adoptive parents to assist with these fees.  
Medical Expenses 
If a birth mother is not fully covered by insurance for prenatal care and labor and delivery, these fees are a part of the adoption process to ensure both the birth mother and baby have proper healthcare. 

Legal Fees
Legal expenses include hiring an attorney for the adoptive parents and often the birth parents to ensure the adoption is handled legally and ethically for all parties involved. It also accounts for court filing costs and representation.  
*These fees are associated with domestic infant adoption. Although private adoptions bypass some agency fees, reports are still necessary as well as proper birth parent care, legal fees, and possible medical expenses. It's important to note that there are little to no fees when adopting through the foster care system and states offer a subsidy and medical insurance until the child is eighteen.

One alarming and disturbing aspect of adoption are the differences in fees associated with a baby's race. The average cost of adopting a Caucasian child in the US is $30-45K where the average cost of adopting an African American child is $24-30K.  In my experience, this is due to two reasons. First, the harsh reality is that there is more demand for Caucasian babies in the US. Sadly, there are many more families willing to adopt if the baby "fits their family portrait" than to take on the task of having a multiracial family. The second reason is that many states require agencies to have lower fees for minorities in hopes of encouraging minority adoption. The goal is for adoptive agencies to recruit "potential adoptive homes that reflect the ethnic and racial diversity of children in the state for whom adoptive homes are needed." (Missouri Revised Statutes  453.005) In hopes to recruit more minority adoptive parents, the adoption costs are subsidized. In many minority cultures adoption does happen, just more often in a non-traditional sense. If an African American or Hispanic mother is not in a season to parent, instead of making a legal adoption plan she'll often get assistance from her mother or auntie or another family member or friend to help her raise the baby. 

Sadly, in the US, special needs is (unofficially) considered African American male. For no other reason than race, these sweet babies are some of the hardest to place. The issues of trans-racial adoption are complex and outside the scope of this discussion. Every life is equally precious but we function in a broken world with broken systems and this is one of the results. We need more families who have a willingness to adopt; no matter the skin tone.

Although one reality is that adoption is expensive, another reality is that some costs can be avoided all together. There are pitfalls in bad agencies, unethical attorneys, risky situations, and unnecessary bills due to ignorance. Families who walk into adoption "blind" with no one to help them through the process often end up losing thousands of dollars this way. You can see that it's critical to find agencies and attorneys that provide ethical and excellent services to both the birth family and the adoptive family. To know that your adoption finances are well stewarded is of the utmost importance.

Raising this kind of money is not impossible. It's rare that families start the process with tens of thousands in the bank. There are grants, low or no-interest loans, tax credits, employer benefits, and creative fundraising that make adoption possible for families.  I've never had a family be matched with a situation and not have the money available. But that's not to say they didn't do the hard work of saving, fundraising, and financing for their adoption. And when you get down to it, is there any better investment you can make financially than investing in the eternal destiny of your child?

This is why I love what I do. As an adoption consultant, I help people through the complex task of finding quality agencies, ethical attorneys, and situations that are a good fit for their family. I also connect people to helpful grants and coach them on financing and fundraising. In the end all of this hard work ends in the creation of a family.

I don't want to imply that the path of adoption is an easy one. That there won't be significant and very real costs both financially and emotionally. But ask any adoptive family if it was worth it for their son or daughter.  I'll bet they'll tell you they would have paid ten times more if they had to now that they're on the other side and see the infinite value of their child.

Adoption is worth the cost.

For more on the adoption process and consulting, contact me at

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Farming Friendships

Last week we took advantage of fall break for the kids and a glorious day and headed to Johnson Farms. We went with our dear friends Justin and Gretchen and their four kiddos. We all met last year when Isabelle and Jillian were in kindergarten and Jackson and Caroline were in pre-K together. It's been an easy friendship and one where the guys get along just as well and the girls (a rarity after marriage it seems).

The afternoon was spent picking pumpkins, riding hayrides, watching the farm animals, and laughing with the kids as they explored together. The kids were in awe of the pumpkin shooter that that shot pumpkins a mile in the air and chased chickens and ducks around a pen. We also discovered Justin's mad photog skills with his phone that can take 1,234 pictures in ten seconds (helpful when attempting to get six kids to pose for a shot).

Gretchen and I are amazed at our daughter's friendship.  Isabelle and Jillian are best friends (aka BFFs) and have alarmingly similar personalities. They are both outgoing, strong leaders, stubborn, and dramatic. On that account almost as often as they are best friends they are worst enemies. You can imagine what this looks like on the playground when one of them creates a "club" and recruits members. Suddenly the president of the Irish Step-dancing Club and the president of the Mommy Club are in a screaming match about who serves better tea. But within five minutes of a fight, they are best friends again, forgetting they were members of opposing clubs and staunchly defending each other when the boys (aka bad guys) come to play tag.

They're also competitive  Not only on the playground but in the classroom. I just heard from their teacher that they race each other to get a right answer and if called on first, will look in the other's general direction, with victorious eyebrows raised. But they also cheer each other on; spurring each other to do even better in their schoolwork.

Luckily, the adults in their life are on to them.  I'm so thankful that Gretchen and I (and their teachers) are on the same page in desiring to shepherd our girl's hearts in a way that teaches them about true friendship, servant leadership, and putting others first. We've had multiple opportunities to use their friendship to teach them about God's upside down kingdom.

I can learn a lot from Isabelle and Jillian's friendship.
Celebrate your friends victories
Shield them from the bad guys
See their success as a challenge to be better yourself
Laugh at each other's silliness
Say "I'm sorry" and move on
Be passionate about your friendships
We could probably all benefit from these 1st grade girls. I often struggle to connect deeply with other women due to past broken friendships, fear of failure, and lack of time and energy. It was so much easier to connect with others when I saw them everyday in English class or in the dorm. Now with the busyness of a career and kids and housekeeping and general grownup stuff, friendships more easily fall by the wayside.

But we were created for community. We were created to live life with and for others. Even though it can be hard and messy and competitive and hurtful, having someone to defend you from the bad guys on the playground is worth it.

Monday, October 22, 2012

3 Months, 20 Days

That's how long I've been blogging.  And it's been an adventure writing about my grace-filled mess of a life.

My blog is a mash up of my life:  
My passion for adoption.
My heart for my family.
My love for birth mamas.
My amazing family.
My reach for Jesus and the gospel.

And it tuns out that more people than my mother read it. My friends who read it say it has a "conversational style" (which I'm not sure is their way of coping with the ensured grammatical errors). They say reading it is like they're out with me for coffee - I like that. 

When I began to share our story, it was in a hard season. Things weren't going perfectly (even as I write that I roll my eyes because when does it go perfectly for anybody?) and I was struggling. But I felt like God was asking me to share all that we had been through.

No problem, I thought. I'll just go to Jamy, let him know what I'm thinking, and he'll shoot the idea down. I would be honoring my husband and get an easy out. No luck. He was all for sharing how God has been redeeming our marriage. [Shoot.]  

I decided from the beginning that I would use this space to be transparent and real. To tell God's story rather than mine. To share how the gospel and adoption are so intertwined they are inseparable.     

So I wrote about our life for the past year (hit the marriage label on the right for more of our story). And then I posted it. As I watched the hits build, I contemplated taking it all back. And Jamy sent me this:

He's right of course. And I found that an amazing thing happened. I was getting a lot of feedback and people sharing their own stories. And I found that as I began sharing more of the details of my story through emails and Facebook and chatting over coffee, I was also preaching the gospel to myself. Because I need to hear it just as much as I need to say it.  

Jesus is enough.

His truth is the last word.

Christ is my hope.

He is faithful even when those around me are not.

Over and over and over and over.

So if anyone is still reading, I'm glad you are. I love that this has become my little space to share the good news of a good God. Keep reading. There's more lessons I need to learn.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

My Brother is Doing it

I have to start by saying that my brother and his wife are amazing. Tim and Meg are two of our best friends with compassionate and servant hearts. Anyone who knows Tim will tell you he has a laugh that's infectious and dry humor that doesn't allow me to read texts from him in while I'm in a serious meeting. Meg is passionate about everything she does and doesn't know what half-hearted means.

Sadly, we live in different states, but when we get together we stay up for hours talking and laughing. Somehow my parents have two kids and a daughter and son-in-law who are all in social services so we always have stories to swap and "get" each other like few of our friends do. We have trouble scheduling Skype dates since we know they will inevitably last a few hours.

However I didn't always hold these views. I mean, having a brother who was eight years younger soon lost it's glamour. Growing up he was annoying and always running around and constantly in my much cooler business. It wasn't until I was in college that I realized he was pretty cool too.

But the most important thing you need to know about Tim and Meg is that they are fervent Christ-followers. So it didn't surprise me that they talked about adoption early on in their relationship.  When they talked to Jamy and I over a year ago on a family vacation, they were talking about adopting an infant before they had biological children. It wasn't a jump for them. It seemed to be the natural overflow of their faith; building a family and grafting in a child who needed parents. And the "when" that most people struggle with was never an issue. Our first child doesn't need to be biological, there are babies who need homes.

But then there was a shift in their hearts. It began in Meg's. I remember her telling me over the phone that after sitting in church one morning she felt called to adopt from foster care. Her voice breaking, she shared that she wanted to care for the kids that others labeled unwanted and unlovable. She thought Tim would think she was crazy. Surprisingly, he was on board from the gate to adopt from foster care.  

Then God called them to take it a scary step further. To be foster parents and leave the outcome of adoption and permanence to Him. To hold loosely to God's children and think of nothing but meeting a child where they're at and love them like crazy for as long as they can.

This step was admittedly a lot harder, especially for Tim. We walked with them and watched them struggle with the realities of God's calling to hard things. It became their prayer that God would break their hearts like His is broken. For Meg, it took seeing the faces of children waiting for forever families on a website. For Tim, a training at work on children in transition and recognizing that he could be a father figure to them, if even for a limited time. And they were in. All in.

For a season, the big sister in me kicked in. Do they really know what they are getting into? What if they get one of the tough cases? Will they have good case workers who are sensitive to ensuring they get the support they need? Do they have the right support all the way over there?

This adoption advocate hesitated when it came to her little brother. And then I had to stop myself and remember that God is bigger.

God is bigger than my fears for my brother and sister's hearts.  
God is bigger than plans for how a family is created.  
God is bigger than bank accounts or resources.  
God is bigger than the hurts and wounds in little hearts.  

God is big enough to care for the orphan and use my brother and sister as His hands and feet.

They made this announcement to friends and family last night:
We're expecting!
There are many ways to create or build a family. We have chosen to start building our family through foster care.
Foster care is complicated; each child’s situation and story is unique. Why the child’s biological family was unable to care for him/her is private. For a foster child, this is their story to tell when they are adults, with the closest people in their lives. But what we can tell you is that we are blessed to have been given the opportunity to parent these children, however long they are with us.
We may or may not have the opportunity to adopt our foster child, but just like a biological child our love for him/her is born and grows from our hearts. This makes him/her our real, chosen, beloved son/daughter.
So today I'm celebrating. I'm celebrating that I will be an auntie. I'm celebrating that there will be one (or two or three or fifteen) more to add to the family. And I'm celebrating that my brother and sister's heart so closely matches my Heavenly Father's heart for the orphan.

Tim and Meg, I'm so proud of you. This is just one of the reasons that you two are my heroes. You're starting the revolution in our family and I'm with you...

Photos used with permission by Kate Grysen

Monday, October 15, 2012

This is What Community Looks Like

A few summers ago friends invited us to a weekend parenting seminar at their church in midtown Kansas City. Free tips on how to raise our kids, free food, AND free childcare?  We were in.

It was good. Discussing how the gospel should impact our lives so deeply that it's core to our parenting was good for my soul. But even better was the discussion among the church members about how this really looked in their community.

I remember one guy asking, "But what if I don't see my buddy doing it (being a good husband, father, and leader in his home)?" What followed was a discussion I didn't know would radically change our families life. They talked about what it looks like in community where we, as believers, push each other to trust Jesus, love well, and hold each other to it. I had tears in my eyes overhearing how this community was living life together and I was aching to be a part of something like it.

Fast forward about three months. In God's crazy grace and sovereignty, we made this church our home and our community. And we began to live life with the body. We joined a gospel community, a small group made up of a handful of families that meets together weekly to break bread, dive into the Word, and do life together.

Our church set a goal for Gospel Communities that looked like this:
...for us to be a people who constantly remind one another of our desperate need to be centered around the truth of the gospel.  In this group we are dedicated to lovingly call foul when we see ourselves moving past the gospel and to helping one another repent and reorient our hearts around what Christ has done for us.  We will push each other to believe the gospel and to live gospel-centered lives that never get beyond God's redemptive story.  
And last November this really happened for us. I mean the above paragraph was lived out right in front of us and around us. Our Gospel Community became a safe place of confession and repentance, accountability to the truth of the gospel and it's life-transforming power, and constantly pushing us to trust Jesus and his ability to heal our family.

When our lives were turned upside down, our community of believers was there literally within minutes to help us weather the storm. There were men to walk beside Jamy through repentance and accountability,  there were women who supported and encouraged me living as a single mom for a season, and there were families who offered tangible support. We got way more than the pat, "I'm praying for you." Although they prayed for us (and we know this because they also prayed with us), they put teeth to their prayers and offered concrete support. Jamy had a place to stay for three months while were were separated.  I had help with meals and childcare. We had help financially to help pay for all of the counseling our entire family was accessing. There were gas cards and gift cards and letters and texts of encouragement. When I left on a road trip to go to my parents for Thanksgiving, just me and the kids, dear friends created busy bags for the kids, packed treats for me, and even fixed a broken headlight.

There were men and women in our community who literally walked us through some of the hardest and darkest days of our lives. I can remember one of my friends sitting with me in an earth shattering appointment and holding my hand when all I could do was cry. And another who grabbed my favorite Starbucks drink knowing I was about to walk through a few very hard hours and going with me.  They were Jesus to me.  They were my tangible reminder that I was not alone. And it made all the difference.

In January, Jamy and I invited our community to celebrate all that God had done for our family in those preceding months and witness our renewed marriage covenant (you can see the video here). It was an amazing time to share with the people who had walked so closely with us in worship, prayer, and thanksgiving.

And the great thing is we keep walking with them. We still receive love and accountability and childcare and encouragement from them. And God has slowly moved us into the place where we can graciously give to them as well.

This, my friends, is what community looks like.  A place where believers who are all broken are living out the gospel in a tangible, real, and sometimes messy way.   

What would marriages, families, and individuals look like if we all had a safe place to be transparent  to share the real struggles, and push each other to really believe the truth of the gospel? Marriages would be saved, families would be transformed, and individuals would know the true saving grace of the Rescuer.

Photos thanks to Jeremy and Ashley Parsons.

Are you aching that you don't have this kind of community like I once did? Find one. Can't find one? Create one. I often think of where my family would be had we not had a strong community surrounding us and  pushing us toward the gospel.  I'm convinced we would have had a much different story to tell. It was completely Jesus who got us through that season, but He used His people to do much of it.

I'm so grateful that God, is his infinite wisdom, gave us this body of believers. They are forever a part of the story of how God redeemed our family.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Who is Called to Adoption?

Here's my short answer: EVERYONE.

But not how you might think.

James 1:27 is pretty clear: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. 

There are orphans all around us. I talk to families often who assume that the only need for orphan care is across the world. Although this is true and a desperate need, most people don't know there are orphans across their street. I get calls often of babies born and if an adoptive family isn't found in the next 24 hours, they will go into foster care.   

We're all called to care for the orphan, but that looks different for different people.

Are you single?  You don't have an easy out.  

Ask any child stuck in the foster care system or an orphanage if they would rather stay where they are or come home to a single parent who's going to love them like crazy. Read this young girl’s story and you’ll believe that God can use you in a powerful way to live out the gospel to children.

Think you can't afford it?  Sorry, that's not legit either.  

More often than not families who share this with me really mean they have better things to do with their money than rescue a child: the annual family vacation, or boat, or [fill in the blank]. Friends,  the gospel is clear in where our treasure should lie – in things of eternal value. I can think of nothing more valuable than stepping into a child’s eternal destiny.

Although I would never counsel a family who is financially unstable to begin the process of adoption, there is the other side where families don't feel like they have the resources it takes. I love this recent series of posts by an adoptive mom who points out that our Heavenly father isn’t a deadbeat dad. The bottom line: if He has called you to adoption He will provide the funds and the abilities needed. Do we really believe this?

Is your sedan full?  Get a minivan (or better yet, the big white 15 passenger van).  

I have friends who have a big white van and have made it their mantra that there is always more room at their dining room table. Now they tell other families to "scootch over" and make room at their tables and in their homes. 

Are your hands already full?  God provides the grace.

Richy and Jess already had their hands full with full time ministry, three kids (the acceptable norm for the "average" American family) and one with special needs. But they felt the clear call to live out their convictions for life in their living room.  

Photo by Shelley Paulson

Afraid you can’t handle the heartbreak and chaos?  There’s nothing on this earth more worth it.

My dear friends John and Tracie thought they were done with three kids. Then they adopted and it forever changed the trajectory of their family. They adopted domestically. Then they went to the Ukraine to adopt one and came home with two. And then they did it again. They have a crazy house but it’s full of love.

Not in the season to adopt?  Make it your season to serve.

That's what Joanna and Tyler do. A few years married and just beginning their family, they've decided to serve in the midst of it. They are often found babysitting, cooking, cleaning, and running errands for those in their community who have adopted or are providing foster care. They are in the thick of it loving those around them well. 

Is adoption or foster care not for you? Not possible. 

There is always something you can do even if you’re not called to bring kids into your home. Each of these families literally couldn’t do what they’re doing without the tangible support from their community: providing child care so they get an occasional break, offering mentoring to their kids as “aunties” or big brothers, cooking meals, praying, offering financial assistance, and the list goes on and on.

Notice I don’t think everyone is called to adopt, but every one of us, if we are true Christ followers, are called to have some active part in adoption and caring for the orphan.

Each of these families have started their own adoption revolution. There isn’t a person who meets them that can’t see the redemptive path they’re on and their hearts for the orphan. And because of that they're starting something right where they are and inspiring others to do the same.

Practical ways you can care for the orphan
Pray for them - keep children who need homes at the forefront of your prayers
Give to them - give out of the abundance that God has given you
Support them - find a foster or adoptive family to love on
Protect them - become a foster family or safe family
Care for them - open your home and become a forever family

If you've ever been on the front lines of the life movement, you've heard firsthand what proponents are are pro-choice shout: "You don't want the children either!" Our initial reaction is, but of course we do! But do we? Are our lives, homes, bank accounts, and free time too comfortable? Are we willing to give up our cozy lives to step into the movement and say we want the babies? We need to start making a statement that we want the children.

What will you do to look after the orphan in distress?

Monday, October 8, 2012

Hello Fall

Fall has grown to be my favorite season.  I love digging out my sweaters to match the cooler air, drinking hot cider out of over sized mugs, lighting pumpkin spice candles on the stove, and heading to the farm with the family to go on a hayride to pick pumpkins.

Taking the lead from many others in the blogoshere (thanks Therese!), I'm welcoming the new season with my list of "currents" as a snapshot in time.

Location:  My usual office: my dining room table with my laptop and a view of our backyard and trees just beginning to turn.

Watching:  Downton Abbey's third season. Although it doesn't premier in the U.S. till January, I found a way to watch it with the Brits. Anyone else LOVE Maggie Smith?

Eating:  Too much. For real. And the holidays haven't even kicked in.  But my husband is an amazing cook, what can I say?

Drinking: Pumpkin Spice Lattes, what else?

Wanting:  Things to slow down. My kids are growing up WAY too quickly and I have a constant reminder with the way they outgrow their pants (I'm headed online shopping right after this).

Needing:  Grace for this hard season. We're coming up on a year anniversary when things hit the fan and I'm already sensitive to the cold air and anticipating the holidays.

Loving: My new vintage mustard clutch from the West Bottoms last month. It's fantastic AND I got it for only $8 which makes it even more fantastic.

Creating:  Space to be more purposeful about how to care for my heart and those closest to me. I want to intentionally create memories and I'm driven to teach my kids about the things that really matter.

Thinking:  How in the world can I do more of the above?

Wondering:  What God has in store. I've had this feeling that I'm on the brink of something BIG. We shall see...

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Choosing Life

She was on the exam table about to have a major procedure.  Scared, she felt she had no other choice. She was in this country on a student visa, had just completed high school, and was headed back home. This had been the plan. Come to America for an education, for a chance. But things hadn't gone according to plan. She had just found out she was pregnant...six months along. And if she boarded the plane next week headed for her country, still pregnant, she would be killed by her parents. Having a baby out of wedlock was considered a sin against her family and her village.

So here she was, in an abortion clinic. The money was paid and she was almost prepped for the doctors. Then, something happened that changed everything. "I saw a vision of God and my baby judging me on the last day...and I walked out."

She walked out of the abortion clinic and into a pregnancy resource center. And called me.

We walked together for months; attending prenatal appointments, chatting over coffee, making an adoption plan for her baby, and dreaming and laughing together. She had an infectious belly laugh and eyes that still sparkled even after all that she had been through. She was amazing. I was in awe at her strength, her fortitude, her faith, and her determination.

She was risking her own life for the sake of her baby's.

All too quickly, it was time. "Susan, I think the baby is coming" in that sweet accent I will always treasure. After over 24 hours of labor, the doctor had bad news. A c-section was necessary for both mama and baby. I had talked to the doctor about this before. "But you know she can't have any visible signs that she's had a baby, her family will still kill her!" But there was no choice.

I remember crying and praying as I was getting my gown on for the OR. She had decided she didn't want to know if she had a boy or a girl, didn't want to choose the family who would raise her sweet little one, didn't want any contact afterwards. In an effort to guard her heart and save their lives, she only heard her baby cry once just after birth. She never knew she gave birth to a beautiful baby girl.

I stayed in the hospital with her for the next five days. Me, going between mama and baby, creeping out of her room only when she was sleeping soundly in order to be with her sweet little girl and tell her what a miracle she was. Her adoptive family was coming from halfway around the world to be with her and knew they were walking right into God's redemptive story.

It was only three weeks before I put her on a plane to fly home. By now her student visa had expired and she was here illegally. We had to act fast. Too fast. On my way to pick her up I was concocting stories in my head she could tell her family to explain her scar. But on our way to the airport, she explained, dumbfounded, that when she woke up that morning her scar was completely gone.

And then she was gone.

Her daughter is still here. Her beautiful, energetic, amazingly smart daughter is two now and just a few miles away from me. Our families just met for a play date the other day. She calls me Miss Susan like her birth mama did just without the accent. But her eyes have that same sparkle.

As she was sitting on my lap, pointing to pictures in a book and playing with my hair, I was overwhelmed at the bravery and sacrifice of her birth mama, thankful for her adoptive mama sitting across from me, and amazed at God's goodness and sovereignty.

Even though you're across the world, you will never be forgotten sweet birth mama. Your choice for life has forever changed more than just the two of you...

Monday, October 1, 2012

Here's Hoping

There are days I find myself torn between despair and hope, hurt and healing. I've often made mention to friends that I wished the path to healing was one linear line upwards. The reality in my life though is that it's often a messy, zig-saggy, roller coaster of ups and downs, stops and starts. 

Healing is messy. Hoping is hard. Trusting is rough.  

I read this recently and it shook my world:

Hope and despair are not opposites. They are cut from the very same cloth, made from the very same material, shaped from the very same circumstances. Most of all, every life finds itself forced to choose one from the other, one day at a time, one circumstance after another. The only difference between the two is that despair shapes an attitude of mind; hope creates a quality of soul. Despair colors the way we look at things, makes us suspicious of the future, makes us negative about the present. Hope, on the other hand, takes life on its own terms, knows that whatever happens God lives in it, and expects that, whatever its twists and turns, it will ultimately yield its good to those who live it well. When tragedy strikes, when trouble comes, when life disappoints us, we stand at the crossroads between hope and despair, torn and hurting. Despair cements us in the present; hope sends us dancing around dark corners trusting in a tomorrow we cannot see. Despair says that there is no place to go but here. Hope says that God is waiting for us someplace else. Begin again. --Author Unknown
I naturally lean towards despair when things get rocky. Call it personality or outlook. I think it's mostly just human. 

Last November, when I needed it most, this was left on my desk. I still don't know who left it there but I'm so thankful. This little sign (and accompanying note) has been a powerful reminder for me.  

Daily I need to choose to "begin again" and choose hope. To put behind me my fears, me insecurities, my leanings to trust in my own strength. I'll work to lean into the One who is truly trustworthy, look to Jesus as my hope, and let the overflow be to love and forgive and heal.  

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us. (Romans 5:5)

Amen and amen. At the end of the day, I want to be found hopeful...He's promised I won't be disappointed. If you're looking for me, I'm the one dancing in the dark corners...
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