For Keeps

It was a Monday afternoon and I was just grabbing my purse to head home from work. Tyler and I had been gone to Traverse City all weekend, at a bed and breakfast/winery. It had been so beautiful and relaxing. I felt rested, but also restless. My body was at work, but my mind was elsewhere.

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Suddenly my phone rang, and I tensed and then scrambled. I don’t typically get calls while I’m at work. Could it be…? When I saw the caller name, I could barely feign a “Hello?” as if I didn’t know who was on the other end.

“Hi, Cheyenne?” our adoption worker asked.

I confirmed that it was me and she went straight to the point.

“A birthmom has asked to meet you and Tyler this week, if you are interested.”

My hands shook with adrenaline, and I cleared my throat to try to control the excitement in my voice.

Three days later, we sat in the parking lot, waiting for our appointment to meet the woman who was considering us to be parents to her baby. We were equal parts excited and nervous.

Talk about an important interview. I tried to coach myself:

“Don’t look at Tyler when you talk; make eye contact with her.”

“Don’t mention how far behind you are on laundry or that you love to cook but work too much to make home-cooked meals AND keep a spotless kitchen.”

“Don’t bite your lip or touch your face or cross your arms or ramble on and on…”

I was a hot mess.

She, however, was cool and calm. Friendly, yet distant. But when we got to telling her our story, I could see tears in her eyes. Sometime during our conversation, she told us she was having a boy. I couldn’t help it – I turned to Tyler and squeezed his knee “It’s a boy!” I barely choked out. He laughed at me breaking the wall of formality with my emotional and intimate exclamation of what I knew was our shared excitement.

She laughed too, and I could be wrong, but I think that sealed the deal for her.

On November 29, after 3 hours of torturous, un-medicated labor, she gave birth to Isaiah. We were out the door and on our way to the hospital as soon as we could get a grandparent to stay home with Elise.

He was sleeping soundly when we got there, beautiful and bundled in his mama’s arms. She passed him to me and I stared, searching his face for a sign that he consented to me being his Mama too. When he opened his eyes, I knew I was in love and would do whatever it took to win him over.

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The next 24 hours were spent as a proud, doting family. Three parents feeding, snuggling, and swaddling. Three parents cooing and aww-ing over his toes and his hair and his pouty milk-drunk lip.

Her good-bye the next day broke my heart.

Our emotions were high as in the next instant were asked to wheel our crying baby into the special care nursery. They had warned us that his newborn scores were high. He needed to be watched and treated until he was healthy enough to go home.

We were cautiously optimistic that he would improve over the next couple days. Meanwhile, the grandparents all came to visit and brought Elise to see her new baby brother.

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But his symptoms worsened and the next two weeks would be spent separated – Tyler and Elise at home and Isaiah and I across the state at the hospital.

It was agony to be separated, but Isaiah and I bonded during our time as just us. We had a lot to learn about each other and not a lot else to do with our time. My heart broke over his piercing cries and his stiff, curled body. And it melted over his sleeping smiles, happy sighs, and dark eyes that commanded me to hold him tight and never let go.

Isaiah sleeping

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On December 13 we were finally discharged and came home to begin life as a family.  Even though legally we had only “temporary custody” of him, we were over-the-moon with excitement.

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On February 9th, Isaiah’s birthmom called me to say she had made her decision official and signed the paperwork that would make us able to apply to adopt Isaiah. She didn’t need to do that, but we had bonded during our time together in the hospital. This woman is something else… her call meant so much to us.

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And on May 19th, Isaiah Levi became ours.

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Not, “We ‘are’ adopting him.”

Not, “He’s pretty much ours.”

Not, “We’re just waiting for it to be official.”

He’s ours. We’re his.

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For Keeps.

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Our Family of Four

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It’s official – we are now a family of four. Isaiah5

Isaiah is now 10 weeks old and is now legally ours. Today his Mama gave us the greatest gift anyone could ever give. I truly can’t express how grateful we are to her. And how grateful we are FOR her as well.

On Sunday, we made the 2.5 hour trek out east to visit her for the first time since he was born. I’ve spoken with her periodically on the phone in these 10 weeks, but this was our first reunion. We were nervous, knowing that she could still change her mind. I mean look at those beautiful dark eyes… those precious, chubby cheeks… his sweet cuddly demeanor… I think everyone wishes they could take him home with them.

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You think you know what love is? Love is sacrificing. Love is taking a risk. And I don’t mean being careless and naive about who you love and how much you love them. I mean being so self-less that you give up your deepest desires for the good of that person.

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People have asked us, “How could a birthmom give her baby up?”

My answer: I have no idea.

100_7910I can’t speak for other birthmoms, but Isaiah’s mom loves him more than life itself. Her decision to place him with us is for reasons that are personal and for which we deeply admire her. She is a beautiful, wise, compassionate, strong, determined woman, and we are so thankful to have her in our lives. It’s crazy to say, but I never thought I would be so comfortable sharing the name “Mom” with her. Somehow, it just comes out naturally… in fact, I feel so honored that she is the one that gave me that title.
This is love: Not that we loved Isaiah (that was easy!), but that SHE loved him. And gave over her right to be his Mom, so that we could love him as our own.

Sound familiar at all to some of you?

One of my favorite chapters in the Bible is 1 John, and so much of it resonates with the adoption journey. Here is 1 John 4:10…

“This is love: Not that we loved God, but that HE loved us, and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.”

Friends, we are so very blessed by this cuddly bundle of chub. I just can’t stop kissing his soft baby-jowls. Can’t stop making ridiculous noises just to see his smile. Isaiah has 3 parents that would move heaven and earth for him. And a sister that sure would do her thang too.

 

 First Love

He gave you his first kicks,

First cry, first sigh,

Cuddled up in your warm arms

Settled into his first sleep.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

You gave him his first breath,

First sight, First kiss,

Touched your nose to his nose,

Told him how you’d miss him.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

You gave us his first smile,

First words, first steps.

Every day of his life

We will never forget this.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

We see you in his sweet smile,

Tough guy, won’t cry.

Breaks out in a shy grin,

Studies life with wise eyes.

No matter where you go or what you do

Remember you chose us, but he chose you

You’re his first love.

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So Much to be Grateful For

I can’t even put in words how I feel right now. But let me start from the beginning…

August 14, 2015     The Training Software at work goes down for a planned, 2-week outage so they can upgrade to the latest version.  It’s about as much fun as copying the Dictionary in calligraphy. For 45 hours a week. But no big deal. I’m a planner. I’ve got a great team backing me up. As Elise says, “Go got this!”

August 31, 2015     The Software is back up and working! Now for entering all that calligraphy into the computer! Only, the software is running at about 5% of the normal speed. Anxiety is starting to set in.

September 4, 2015     We get an email that there are many known issues with the upgrade, and the software will be down until further notice. I was able to get all of my data entry done by then, so I buckle in for what I hope will just be a weekend without it.

September 23, 2015     The Training System is still not up and we have our first of three inspections in October. My anxiety is so high, I decide it’s time to talk to my doctor. He gives me a prescription I can take as-needed. I hate taking medicine of any kind, but my stomach constantly feels like I’m incubating a porcupine, so I’m thankful to have the option to take it if I need to.

Sometime in early October      I have a breakdown in front of my boss. And his boss. But they take my concerns very seriously and make a game-plan to speak to the powers-that-be about prioritizing the resurrection of the training system.

October 15, 2015     The Training System is finally back up! Now I can enter all the information from the last 6 weeks for our 70 employees. An exhausting 57 hour week. But with a lot of help from the other Training Tech’s and my dear friend Kelly who’s the Training Supervisor at another center, we got it all done!

October 20, 2015     Inspection #1. No findings! Such a relief! And to celebrate, Tyler surprises me with planning a trip to Traverse City for the weekend after our last inspection!

November 5, 2015     Inspection #2. A much more intense inspection of Training, but after examining stacks of paperwork all day, they find only 2 very minuscule errors that have no affect on the quality of the work we do. Such a relief!

November 12, 2015     Inspection #3. This one was a huge one for our center, but there were really only a few things they asked for from Training. Again, a successful inspection. And the first time I can really breathe with hope that this stressful season is over and we can move forward with the normal, day-to-day stress of business-as-usual. Tyler also finishes his parent-teacher conferences for their first trimester. Time to celebrate!!!

November 13, 2015     Traverse City, here we come!!! Beautiful sunsets and sunrises, delicious food, and a much-needed, perfectly-relaxing weekend together. I owe Tyler’s coworkers a huge “thanks” for recommending this trip to us. I don’t need fancy things, just quality time. This weekend meant so much.

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November 15 2015     The Lions win their second game of the season. I wish this wasn’t news-worthy.

November 16, 2015     The first week I can officially get back to the job I love!

November 16, 2015, 4:00 pm     I notice a missed call from our Adoption Worker. My hands start to shake. I haven’t been completely honest with you guys… we’ve actually put our names in for about 4 babies in the last month. And my call-back to the Adoption Worker confirms it… we’ve been chosen!!!

Yesterday, November 19, 2015     We meet our birthmom. What starts as an awkward introduction ends with two hugs and her smiling and quietly saying words I will treasure forever: “I’m excited.” 

She’s excited about us. 

She clearly had no idea how profound that simple statement would sound to my heart. One of the things I have been dreading is seeing everything unfold as our greatest joy… and our birthmom’s greatest grief. I can only imagine there will still be grief on her end. But hearing that she was excited for us to be parents to this baby means she knows we care about both her and the baby. I’m blinking back tears right now. We care so, so much. She will forever be in our hearts and prayers, that throughout her life God would give her hope and comfort in her grief, strength and a support system in her troubles, clarity and confidence in decisions, and that she would begin to understand just how much her Heavenly Father loves her.

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We’re having a baby….

Big Sister!

Big Sister!

And up until yesterday we thought our birthmom didn’t know the gender. But she revealed to us that she is having a baby BOY!

I think even Tyler teared up when she told us! Not that we had a preference really, but it just made everything more real. Oh yes, and another spot of news: The baby is due Dec. 12. But probably sooner. She had an appointment two weeks ago and was already dilating and having contractions. Please be in prayer for her and the baby!

Funny, isn’t it —  God’s timing? So much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.

Thank you all for following our story, for praying for us and encouraging us, supporting us financially, and most of all, for loving this baby and his mother without even knowing who they are. It means the world.

Silly Girl

As much fun as we had celebrating this journey at our dinner a few weeks ago, it’s been a huge relief to be past the bulk of the fundraising. No news yet. So far, we’ve only been able to put our names in for 1 baby. And the birthmom told the agency she preferred a family that wasn’t “too religious.” We weren’t sure exactly what that meant, but weren’t surprised to hear that we were not chosen.

Meanwhile, we’ve been trying to take a little step back and enjoy some family time this summer. I just can’t get over how hilarious our girl is. Here are just a few examples of her silly antics:

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Me: Elise, I have the day off! What should we do today?

Elise: Ummm… DISHES!!!!

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At a friends house:

Me: Elise, go get some play dough from your bag.

Elise: Oh yeah!!!

(runs her head right into their dining room table like you’d see on America’s Funniest Home Videos)

Elise: (crying) Maaamaaa, hold you!!! Blanket!!!!

Me: Come here, baby. (kissing her head) Here, you can borrow Piper’s blanket.

Elise: Oh-kay *sniff* (10 more seconds of crying) All done.

Me: All done with the blanket?

Elise: No. Crying. (runs to get her play dough)

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At the Family Christian Bookstore

Me: I don’t have my wallet. Tyler, I can take Elise from you if you’ll pay for the books.

Tyler: Sure.

Elise: (spreads her arms wide to gather us all together mid-pass-off) Family Hug!!!!!!

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Also at our friends’ house

Elise: (Rolling around on the floor in her dress) Change? Change?

Me: No, I think you’re ok. We just changed you before we came over.

Elise: Change? Please, change?

Tyler: Ok, here, let’s go back to the room and I’ll change you.

Later on the drive home:

Tyler: So… was Elise playing in your drawers today?

Me: Yeah, why?

Tyler: (laughing) She had 2 pairs of your underwear around her waist.

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I seriously can’t get enough of this silly girl.

 

What’s Next?

Now that our fundraising events are over, the question we keep getting is “What’s next?”

And I completely understand the sentiment. I’m a planner and always like to have a game plan for “what’s next.”

But other than writing a about a hundred “Thank-you” cards, the next thing to do is really just to wait.

(Anyone know a scribe-for-hire? It’s amazing to know that SO many have contributed to our Adoption Fund!)fundraising status

To wait… one thing I ought to be good at by now, but am not.

Compared to the wait for Elise, this has been a piece of cake. But I’m still always anxious to hear any news from our agency of a birth-mom wanting to make an adoption plan. Any news that could be the first contact that leads to our baby.

Tyler and I were talking whilst washing dishes together last week. It was just after we had put our names in for a birthmom’s consideration. I was expressing my excitement that we finally had a chance – albeit a small one – to be chosen. From January to April the agency had 3-4 birthmoms a month looking for parents for their babies. But since we were approved on May 5, there have only been 2 opportunities for us to be considered. And the first one was twins, which we didn’t put in for.

Needless to say, I’ve been a bit anxious. Waiting just isn’t easy for me.

But Tyler couldn’t relate. He’s excited for our next baby, but his emotion doesn’t wax or wane.

Why couldn’t we ever be on the same page? It’s not like I’m looking for him to cry with me through sad dog-movies. Or sad dog-movie previews. Or sad dog-commercials.

Then he said something that reminded me of why I love him, “I actually don’t mind waiting. It means there’s nothing for us to do. Just to wait for God to take care of it for us.”

My soapy hands paused from scrubbing for a second as his words sunk in. I had been looking for him to connect with me, to draw him into my emotions. Instead, I was drawn to his: steady joy in trusting the Lord to work for us.

So what’s next for us? Well… just waiting. But waiting doesn’t mean nothing is happening or that our purpose in life is somehow immobilized. Just that God is the One in control.

And there’s no one better to trust our lives with.

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” Exodus 14:14

And the Winners Are…

Well, so much for trying to eat healthfully now that life should be a little less demanding.

If Tyler, Elise, and I each ate 1 burger a day and then 1 hot dog a day once those were depleted, we’d be eating them till September.

If we each ate 1 piece of cake a day we’d be eating cake until September as well.

But who wants stale cake?

Party at the Werner’s!

Except… I’m really quite excited to not be planning anything for a while, so we’ll just have to gorge ourselves on cake and save the rest frozen for a Welcome-Home-Baby Party later.

Anyway, you’re probably all scanning this to see who won the Raffle and not really reading anyways, so I will cut to the chase. The winners of the Raffle Drawings were….

US!!!

In spite of a turn-out that was a little less than we had hoped for (ergo the surplus of food and resulting imminent weight-gain), people were extremely generous. We still have about $4,000 to go, but compared to $20,0000, that’s a much more manageable amount to finance if we have to. I really can’t believe the gifts we’ve been given. We have been so incredibly blessed by our family and friends, and even strangers. We truly can’t describe the burden that has been lifted and replaced with a…. poncho? parka? snuggie? of support. (You pick the season and imagery. I gave up after 5 minutes of trying to come up with something serious.)

What I mean is that not only are we relieved, we are also overcome by the encouragement and love people have shown us and our future-baby. I can’t wait to be able to hang this in our baby’s room:

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Alright, I’m done with the sappy stuff, here are the real winners of the Raffle:

Essential Oils from Healing Reign: Britta D.

Crafy Momma Designs Pallet Sign:  Sarah J.

Crafty Momma Designs Pallet Box:  Danielle T.

Scentsy Warmer: Lily S.

Villa and Londyn Romper:  Darlene H.

Piano Lessons with Jen Barr:  Mandy B.

Target Gift Card:  Aaron and Jen J.

Old Orchard Juice Package:  Sabina W.

Tyler’s Table:  Jen T.

Amanda Mae Designs Photo Session: Des and Adam S.

iPad Air 2:  Cindy W.

2 Nights at the J.W. Marriott:  Michaellyn and Brian H.

THANK YOU to all who donated and to all who helped us with the dinner! And please check out these businesses who donated prizes for our Raffle:

Sabina Williams from Villa and Londyn Baby Apparel

Vicki Goethals from Healing Reign

Jen Barr from Jen’s Piano Studio

Old Orchard and my friend Dana from Marketing

Lacey Key from Crafty Momma Designs

Mandy Bowerman from Amanda Mae Designs

Laura Hess from Scentsy Fragrence

The J.W. Marriott 

 

The Final Count / A New Song

I think back to where God has taken us since our struggle with infertility. I felt so broken them. And so weak for my inability to persevere with faith in God’s goodness. I knew He would give us a child one way or another eventually, but didn’t understand why He was making it so difficult. People would say things like “It will happen when you’re ready” and “God’s just preparing you to be an even better parent.”

It was crushing to hear those things actually.

When we finally got pregnant I was so excited. Yet, my heart was weighed down with guilt because it was at a time when my doubts were the greatest. I knew there were others struggling with infertility whose faith was much deeper than my own. Couples who were much more deserving and had been waiting even longer than we had.

For the first few months of my pregnancy, I wrestled with this, “Why did we have to wait so long? Why  did God answer our prayers when I was at my weakest? Was it because He gave up on me?

These answers have come since then:

Because God’s timing for our daughter’s life to begin was not all about ME. Much of our future in this world hinges on timing, and Elise’s birth has a purpose too.

Because Christians must endure hardship just like the rest of the world. How else can we be relevant to a hurting world that doesn’t know Jesus? It gives us an opportunity to stand by someone else when they face the same struggles and to remind them that God cares, even when the answer to our prayers seem so far off.

Because God wanted to teach me – who always wants to be perfect and please everyone – that I can’t earn His favor. He loves me just.as.I.am. While I was broken and worn out on faith, He stepped in and showed me Grace.

Let me repeat that: While I was BROKEN and WORN OUT on faith, HE stepped in and showed me GRACE.

And finally, because God was preparing us for our next child. We never would have considered adoption before because of the cost. But once we were met with so many obstacles to conceive, we began feeling God calling us to adopt. And ever since deciding to start the process, we have been overwhelmed with our growing, synchronized excitement for adopting our second baby.

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Our garage sale was these past three days, and I’ve been a little emotional, to say the least.

Friends and family running over to drop off baked goods before a vacation.

Strangers coming to the sale and just slipping us $10 and $20 bills without even giving us a chance to properly thank them.

So many people telling us to “keep the change.”

One woman even coming to share her story and introduce us to her newborn baby… that SHE just adopted.

Lots of encouragement from adoptive and foster parents as well as adoptees.

And so, so many donations of money, garage/bake sale items, and time.

On our own, we would have had our sale on our dirt road in the middle of nowhere. Instead, our father-in-law opened his house in town up to us for the community-wide garage sales in our home town.

On our own, we would have sold a few books, my pre-pregnancy clothes, and a some odds-and-ends home decorations that I don’t know how to decorate with. Instead, OVER 30 people donated items for us to sell.

On our own, I would have had to take a whole week of vacation time to prepare. And taken anti-anxiety medication. Because of a dear friend and our father in law, most everything was sorted and priced by the time I came to help set up on Wednesday.

On our own, we would have sold 3 types of cookies. Because of 12 different people, we had zucchini bread, apple pies, cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, muffins, dog treats, peanut brittle, and *drum roll please* 12.types.of.cookies!!!

On our own we would have been lucky to raise $200. But because of our family, friends, and community, we raised…

Are you sitting down?

Are your tissues ready?

Might as well forget tissues. Grab a sponge.

$5,079

Bringing our Adoption Fund up to $10,614.Fundraising Thermometer

God has taken us from brokenness to the most overwhelming joy and gratefulness. We thankful for our hardship, because it has put a “new song” in our hearts. These last 3 days we were met with gifts and encouragement every time we turned around. We have never felt more loved and can’t wait to share news of this baby with the many people who are helping us bring our next child home.

“I waited patiently for the Lord;

He turned to me and heard my cry.

He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.

He put a new song in my mouth, an hymn of praise to our God.

Many will see and revere and put their trust in the Lord.

Many O Lord,  my God, are the wonders you have done.

The things you planned for us no one can recount to you.

Were I to speak and tell of them, they would be too many to declare…

I cannot conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly.”

Psalm 40:1-3, 5, 10