Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Adoption Story: Gilbert and Kate

A few months ago Gilbert and Kate sat in my living room, on the verge of a possible big move for their family and anticipating the birth of their daughter. With all they had walked through up to that point, with nothing sure and so much of their future unknown, much of our conversation revolved around how faithful God had been to their family and how he could be trusted in the midst of so many changes.

Last week, I met up with Kate again, this time with them settled after moving and with their daughter in her arms. Gilbert and Kate will be the first to tell you their adoption story didn't go anything like they anticipated. But they know it was exactly how God planned it from the beginning...

Our adoption journey began three years ago when a series of events and encounters led us to believe that God was calling us to open our homes to a little one through adoption. This was the first time that I had truly felt called to something that was big and scary, and my first step of courage was approaching Gilbert about this spiritual nudge. We prayed about it for some time, and during that time God revealed to us on several occasions that this was His plan for our family. 

At the time we began the practical steps to adoption, we had six-year-old and three-year-old biological sons, and we felt that it was a good time to get started. I told Gilbert more than once that I didn’t want to be one of those parents who was raising two rounds of kids, so if we were going to do this, we should get things going, so we began paperwork as soon as possible. When asked to think about the types of situations we would consider, we marked “would consider” on every blank—any race, any gender, exposure to any substance, any special needs. We deeply wanted God to use us exactly how we wanted. However, the box we checked that made us the most anxious was the one related to special needs. We felt protective of our boys, and we were nervous about choosing to put our family in a position that would turn their lives upside down in ways other than the normal ways welcoming a baby does. So although we wanted to be open to God’s plan for us, we were most cautious about this type of situation. 

Early on we anticipated that we would have a baby in our arms within a year or two, as we began by working only with a small, new, local agency. After only seeing a small handful of presentation situations during the first year, we made the decision with the encouragement of that agency’s staff to connect with Susan at Christian Adoption Consultants. It was at that point that we imagined things would move quickly for us. Five months after signing on with CAC, we were matched with an expectant mom who was due in May of 2015. The situation was perfect—a little girl to join our boys, and we had so much in common with her mother. We were thrilled and thankful for the way God was rewarding us for our yes. We spent the next three months preparing and developing a relationship with her sweet mother. On the day she was born, we anxiously waited to be called to the hospital, but that call never came. We were heartbroken and confused, and we couldn’t imagine putting our hearts on the line in this way again. Over and over, though, I kept thinking and saying, “This CAN’T be how this story ends. It can’t.” So we mustered the courage to keep saying yes. And we said yes so many times. We had heard many stories of families who experienced failed matches and were quickly afterward matched with the babies intended for them. But we weren’t one of those families. Yes after yes from us and no after no from expectant parents, and many times we questioned what God wanted from us. Maybe we misunderstood his call? And if we hadn’t, how could we possibly end up with a baby more perfect than the one we didn’t bring home? And, the question that baffled me, why did He call us so long before he needed us? It didn’t make sense. 

But six months after our failed match, we received news about a baby to be born with Down Syndrome. As I read about this baby, my heart raced, and it occurred to me that God might be calling me to parent a child with Down Syndrome. So I went to Gilbert and shared my heart. He heard me, but I’m not sure he was quite where I was at the time. Turns out, this specific situation was not the one for us, and months went by that allowed me to decide that I had read too much into my racing heart that day. But this past July, Susan sent us word of a baby girl to be born in August—a baby who had been diagnosed with Down Syndrome. And we were a little more ready this time and a little less caught off-guard, so after a little time thinking and studying and praying, we knew that we should say yes. And finally, three years into our journey and 15 months after our failed match, we got the call that we were matched again. We were nervous and excited at the same time, but mostly excited. We spent the next few weeks (quietly this time) preparing for this little one, cautiously optimistic about the chance we might have to bring her home, and trusting God to equip us for the journey. 

On August 22, we got the call that she had been born and then finally the call to come and meet her. From the moment we laid eyes on her, we truly knew that she was the one we’d been waiting so long for. And we knew we would have waited a thousand more years for her

Now, finally, I can look back and see the answer to the question that had made my heart ache. If God truly called us to adoption, why did he make us wait so long? Why didn’t He wait to call us until He was ready for us? We had watched our little boys turn into big boys while we waited. But now we know. He knew it all along, but we couldn’t know. We weren’t waiting for Him to be ready for us. He was waiting for us to be ready for Him. We had wanted desperately to be open to whatever he wanted for us, but we hadn’t quite been where he needed us to be. So he used that time, our long wait, to shape our hearts for parenting this one perfect sweet girl. And we are so, so thankful that we kept saying yes in the midst of the heartache and the painful wait, because we didn’t know that we were just giving him time to grow our family the way He wanted to. 

And already we can’t imagine our lives without her. 

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How to Use Essential Oils When You're Feeling Ugh

'Tis the season for the yuck being passed around. UGH. So I wanted to share with you all about how we use our essential oils to combat this nastiness. Since we started using oils, we've all visited the doctor way less (yay for saving on copays!) and been MUCH healthier. When I feel something coming on (or notice Jamy or the kids feeling crummy), I run to our cabinet with the oils first!

I this it's important to note that anyone who tells you that oils are a magical unicorn and they're the only thing you ever need to help you is just silly. Our family still takes vitamins, drinks extra water, and tries to maintain healthy sleeping and eating habits. Oils are an incredible tool in our toolbox, but they coincide best when used with a holistic frame of mind.

So, here's how I use what's in our Premium Starter Kit from Young Living.

If I'm feeling stuffy, I put a drop of Peppermint in my palms, rub my hands together and then inhale deeply for 4-5 breaths. Stay away from fingers, as you don't want peppermint oil in the eye. (If that does happen, simply put a dab of coconut oil and wipe away. Oil takes oil off, not water.)

One of my favorites is using RC on the chest for some lung support. Usually, I have this already made up in a glass jar with a lid, labeled Chest Rub. I put 5 drops of RC per heaping tablespoon of coconut oil in the jar and keep it on hand. It's better to have things pre made so you aren't doing this while in the stressful times of caring for others! Pre game when you can, you guys.

This little roller is what I swear by just as soon as I feel something coming on. In a 10mL roller bottle (you can get these from Amazon!) I add 4 drops of Thieves, 3 drops of Peppermint, and 1 drop of Frankincense and fill the rest with fractionated coconut oil. (For added punch you can add 3 drops of Oregano). Every hour I roll this either on my feet or up and down the spine.

For throat support, I rub a little Lemon or Thieves (with a carrier oil like coconut oil) right on my throat. I even gargle a drop of lemon in some salt water. Isabelle loves making herself hot tea with a drop of Thieves, Lemon, and some honey. It's so soothing!

If I'm feeling toasty, I'll put peppermint up and down the spine hourly until I feel better. If you're out of Peppermint, try PanAway. Both are minty and do the trick.

With occasional aches and pains, I would use one drop of Copaiba oil on the ache and then PanAway or Peppermint on top. Minty oils are known to be "sealing" or "driving-in/amplifying" oils, so I do those last if doing oily combos.

I love running the diffuser in the house, especially when we're battling things. In the diffuser, running constantly (especially in bedrooms at night!), I add 4 drops Thieves, 2 drops Frankincense. If it's a puke fest around the house, I add a couple of drops of purification in there to cut the smell and clear the air!

Speaking of occasional tummy troubles, there's an amazing essential oil blend in the kit called DiGize (I've talked about how this oils has been a life-saver for me here). I really can't say enough about this oil! I put 3 or 4 drops in a capsule and fill the rest with fractionated coconut oil. It settles my stomach so much better than anything else I've tried. It's no secret that ginger and fennel are great for this, but I guess I didn't believe it until it worked for me in this way. The capsule trick worked for me. You can also rub DiGize right below the sternum. Beware, you will smell like a fennel festival. I'm not a fan o the smell, so I just go the capsule route or apply at night so only Jamy has to bear it!

I also put a drop of thieves in my mouth, under my tongue from time to time, or even put it on the tooth brushes to sanitize. If it's too spicy for you, try lemon instead! 

I like using the lavender in the kit to promote a more restful nights sleep. Here's my recipe for a simple sheet and pillow spray: in a 4 ounce glass bottle, add a pinch of salt (this helps distribute the oils so that they don't all float to the top. I still shake before each use). Then I add 5-10 drops lavender essential oil and fill the rest with water. Simple, easy, and so restful!

You can always put all these oils on the feet, focusing on the toes and adding pressure. (I pinch the toes for 10 seconds.) Below is a foot map if you're wondering why I do that, but don't worry about location as much as just getting it on your body! Isn't it crazy how God connected our bodies?!

Anyway, I hope that helps you as work through the more unpleasant parts of the fall and winter season. As much as we all do our best to avoid it, sometimes it's an inevitable part of being a human.

Don't have a kit and want to add to your wellness toolbox? Email me for more info or start here to order! Here's a pic of everything that comes with your starter kit along with FREE Christmas Spirit this month! (Think all the smells of Christmas wrapped up in a little bottle to diffuse in your home this season.) $160 for the kit worth over $250. (Merry Christmas to you just a bit early!)

You can find more on @bella.b.oils on instagram and Bella B Oils on Facebook. Follow along for education and tips.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Adoption Story: Justin and Shawnna

Justin and Shawnna knew years ago adoption would be a part of their family...

Early on in our marriage we talked about our desire to have a uniquely beautiful and diverse family through adoption. This desire deepened when we started trying to conceive. Shawnna had a difficult time sustaining a healthy pregnancy, suffering two miscarriages and an ectopic pregnancy. We started speaking with adoption agencies in the midst of our loss, but we didn’t have peace about pursuing adoption at that time. We received a clear word from the Lord that we would have a biological child, despite our doctor telling us the only way to prevent another ectopic pregnancy was through in vitro fertilization, which was an option we didn’t feel was right for us. We were finally blessed with our beautiful daughter, Mya, in God’s perfect timing. We are ready to grow our family again and we know in our hearts that adoption is the next step. God has given us the desire to adopt and he’s softened our hearts for domestic adoption, specifically. 

Fast forward when Justin and Shawnna officially began with Christian Adoption Consultants and working to obtain their home study. Last September, in 2015, they were matched with an expectant mother and anticipated bringing home a baby during the holidays. But that day never came after she decided to parent. Shawna shared about their failed adoption... 

I was his mom for a day. And he was my son... Despite all this, we fully believe and trust that God will use this tragedy for good because He works all things for good. Right now it’s hard to see and even believe, but we know it’s the truth. God is always good. And, even through our loss, I also still believe that adoption is beautiful. But it is also bittersweet, messy, and hard. We are trusting God as he writes each page of our family story, and we know one day be complete and beautiful. Until then, Justin and I are taking our time to grieve and find peace as we lean into Him and each other. God has met us in our grief and held us close.

Fast forward to this past September. One year later God wrote the rest of the story...

It was a Wednesday afternoon in mid September and I received a call from an adoption agency in Texas. They needed to know within an hour if we wanted to present our family profile to an expectant mom scheduled to be induced the next day. I quickly called Justin and we reviewed the limited information. There were a few particulars that seemed risky, but when we saw a picture of this expectant mom, we both felt in our hearts to say yes to her and to her baby boy. The next day the agency called back to say the expectant mom chose our family! I was honestly shocked. In just a couple hours our son was born.

The following 48 hours were a blur of activity as we made tentative plans, while praying this was God’s will for our family. We decided to keep this information in a very tight circle of praying friends.  Just two weeks prior to this, we had a very similar situation that failed. We had involved our families and other friends in the planning only to be disappointed again. This time, we decided to keep the details private and pray, pray, pray.

We found out late Saturday night that birth mom had signed consent. We bought plane tickets to fly out early the next morning. We booked our car rental and hotel just hours before we arrived. As soon as we arrived at our hotel, the caseworker brought us our son, Xavier James. I took one look at him and wept, so overwhelmed by the goodness of God.

Xavier’s birth mom was eager to meet us, so after cuddling our sweet boy for a couple hours, we went to see her. She is amazing, and we have an indescribable amount of gratitude towards her. Though we don’t know her well yet, we love her deeply through the incredible bond we share: our son. Her son, our son. We sat side by side on a couch and passed Xavier to each other, while we admired his hair and little squishy face. We talked for a couple hours, and we got to hear about why she chose to make an adoption plan, her hopes for Xavier, and as much as we could fit in during our brief time together. We’ve been keeping in touch and we’re planning to visit her again next year.

And, as if that wasn’t enough, we are also expecting another biological child next Spring. At the beginning of the year I never would have imagined myself laying in bed with a baby on my chest and another one in my belly, with tears streaming down my face, partially due to sheer exhaustion, but mostly due to an overwhelming thankfulness to my Heavenly Father who gives such good good gifts.

Photography thanks to Brooke Collier Photography.

For more on Justin and Shawnna's adoption, you can read their blog, Our Adoption Adventure.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

In Their Own Words: 3 Things That Surprised Me About Adoption

This is Preston and Sarah's first November to celebrate National Adoption Month with their son who recently joined their family through the gift of adoption. I love Sarah's thoughts on her love for her children and her son's birth mother and some of the most popular comments and questions she gets.

{The above picture is of our family’s hands, minus Caleb because he was having a toddler moment and didn’t want to participate in the mushy gushy. Oh well.}

November is National Adoption Month. It’s also Banana Pudding Lovers Month, No Shave November, Aviation History Month, and a whole host of other notable observations.

And while I do enjoy bananas, beards, and the miracle of flight, none of those things come anywhere close to the deep well of love that I have in my heart for adoption.

So in the spirit of November and adoption, I thought I’d share a few things that have surprised me (so far) about this beautiful, emotional, holy way to build a family.

1. I Love You All The Same
Many adoptive parents wonder if they’ll be able to love their adopted child with the same love as a biological child. We wondered what it would be like for us once we met our little babe. Would there be an immediate connection? Or would it be a process? But since the beginning, it’s always felt…normal. We can testify that the love of a parent doesn’t distinguish based on DNA. A parent’s love is non-discriminatory, all-inclusive, forever and ever, amen. (Only good ol’ country music fans will catch that last reference.) We’ve even had a couple of family members share, with great vulnerability, that they were nervous about loving our adopted child with the same love as our biological children. But through smiles and tears, they confessed that there has never been a difference. Not even for a moment.

2. My Love For Birth Mom
Let me grab a tissue real quick. Because it’s hard for me to talk about our child’s birth mom without getting emotional. I knew I would be grateful to her. But I never expected such a deep, deep love for her. In many ways, she is a part of our family. To put it too simply, if it weren’t for her, we wouldn’t have our third child.

From the moment we heard about her, met her, and said goodbye to her, there was within my heart a new space that opened up. Her life has not been easy. But even in the midst of the hard stuff, she chose to put her baby’s needs above her own, giving the child of her womb the opportunity for a life that she felt she couldn’t provide right now. The courage, the sacrificial love, the selflessness, the strength that it takes to make a decision like that is beyond commendable. We pray for her. We speak of her with dignity and honor at all times. We love her so much.

3. The Most Popular Question and Comment
I was as prepared as I could be for a whole host of questions. Generally, they come from a place of loving curiosity from friends and family and even strangers. The various questions can be a wonderful opportunity to share about the beauty of adoption and to educate people on the process, to some degree. Many of the questions we’ve received have been fairly predictable and easy to answer. Others have left me dumbfounded, shocked, floundering to give an answer wrapped in grace and truth, being honest while also not feeling obligated to share personal information. But mostly, I’ve been surprised at the most popular question and comment that people have had for our family…

Most popular question: How old is your baby’s mom?
My answer: I’m 31.

Most popular comment: You look great for just having a baby!
My answer: Thank you!

Has your family adopted? What are some of the things that have surprised you?

For Sarah's original post and to read more on her blog, you can go to This Glorious Wait.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Halloween Cuteness

I'll be honest, Halloween isn't my favorite holiday. But one of the things I love is watching my social media explode watching my adoptive families celebrate fall and dress up their sweet littles. Over the past couple of days the private group I have for my families has been exploding with dozens and dozens of adorable princesses, butterflies, lions, and some of the most creative costumes I've seen!

This is truly becoming an annual post but who ever tires of beautiful babies all dressed up? Last night I was like a proud auntie crying at all of the cuteness. Here's a few little pumpkins for you to enjoy!

Eliana (11 months) clearly enjoying her first time at the pumpkin patch

Brendan (17 months) makes a great POTUS and even won his city's costume contest!

Ethan (22 months) enjoying the pumpkin patch

Isaac (15 moths) - clearly the scariest monster out there

Ira (5 months) and brother Sage (10 months) and their little pumkins

Austin: aka Alfalfa (2 years)

Sawyer (22 months): a hunter with his mama deer

Ava (11 months) and the sweetest little sheep

Barrett (14 months) - isn't he the most ferocious lion you've seen?!

Christopher (9 months) and his brothers make for some cute Dalmatians!

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