Reckless Love

It’s been over four months since we first met this tiny stranger we now call our son. Except, he’s not so tiny anymore, and he’s still not technically our son. But he sure has made a himself at home in our hearts. He is the sweetest, happiest baby– so quick to return your smile with a squinty-eyed, scrunched-nose, toothless, ear-to-ear grin.Isaiah four months

Isaiah’s birthmom signed her parental rights over on February 9, so now it’s just a matter of waiting for the court to pick up the file and sign the paperwork to make us his legal parents. It’s annoying to still have this hanging, but there is really no chance he’s going anywhere. This chubby little man is here to stay.

I haven’t had much time to blog since he came along, but I’ve had so many thoughts mulling in my heart. While in the hospital with Isaiah, I witnessed an adoption-reversal happen right before my eyes. And in just the past 2 months I’ve had two friends lose their babies: one in a tragic car accident that took the lives of baby, mom, and grandma; another in surgery on his tiny little heart.

That baby was born on the same day as Isaiah.

Both babies spent a majority of their lives in the hospital with illness. Both mothers – whether they knew it or not – were a great encouragement to me while I was with Isaiah in the hospital for two weeks.

It just doesn’t seem right… how do you reconcile something like this?

For 10 weeks we loved Isaiah as our own, knowing full well he was not our own and could be taken from us at any moment.

12439177_10153606442922399_5897982114710409840_n

He won’t be taken away from us now. But going through those 10 weeks and then witnessing these families’ losses… it’s stayed with me that we could just as unexpectedly lose either child at any point…

I suppose such a realization could cripple me with fear. And sometimes it starts to.

But besides making me a sappy basket-case, it’s challenged me to cherish every moment and show grace, even when I’m frustrated.

My children NOT napping, in spite of the tranquility it looks like.

My children NOT napping, in spite of the tranquility it looks like.

Ok, not every moment. I’m still human. And don’t forget we are on the undies-side of potty-training a toddler (which, trust me, is much worse than the pull-ups-side of potty training).

The words of another friend has added to my conviction.

Two months back, when we were waiting to get the call that Isaiah’s birthmom had signed off her rights, I was talking to another adoptive mom about how the call really would change nothing about how we felt about Isaiah. No paperwork or phone call could make us love him any more than we already did. She told me in essence that,

“What I’ve come to realize is that each child I have is an amazing gift from God. But I’m not promised any more days with my biological children than I am with my other children. I just need to love them all unconditionally for however long I have them.”

Whether you realize it or not going into it, parenthood requires reckless love. When you love a child, there are no guarantees against heartbreak.

My natural personality is to keep everything the same. I am happy to read books about risk-taking protagonists. But I myself would rather stay in the safety of what I know – the same job, the same community, the same morning routine.

Please don’t ask me to change my morning routine.

Can I get an “Amen”? Surely I’m not the only one.

Risks are not attractive to me. Change is never a welcome event. Hardship, even less so.

Remember the emotional basket-case thing? Yeah, that’s me. I cry even when the team I can’t stand gets eliminated on Amazing Race. I’m fairly confident that no one has ever said of me, “She’s so strong.”

In fact, I am so confident in my weakness that I’ve already decided to home-school both kids all the way through college. I’ve made Elise promise never to date because she’s not leaving home nor is she ever even riding in a car with a boy. And I’ve even designed the “Mom” tattoo that Isaiah will be permitted to get when he turns 16, just so the ladies know he is not available.

941363_10153606947337399_6634518949380544529_n

But my instinct to shelter them is really mostly about sheltering me.

Children are worth the risks. Worth the heart-ache. Worth the heartbreak.

So when the time comes that we can consider growing our family again, I inwardly tremble at the thought of fostering. So much about it hits at the very core of my fears. Getting attached, giving them back to a bad situation, having no control, the possible impact on my kids…

But ultimately, I also want my children to learn radical, reckless love themselves over cozy entitlement and constant leisure.

Growing up, my parents demonstrated this for me. They didn’t “foster” per-say… But for several years, we lived with my grandparents while my mom helped with their care. Then years later my uncle moved in with my family for 4-5 years until he passed in 2007. They’ve also opened their home up for months at a time to my paternal grandpa and an intern at my mom’s PT clinic.

12970771_10157051731900227_8504629056683677087_o

My mom and my Uncle “Grand-brother” Greg

 Although I didn’t always love sharing my house, but I am so thankful that it gave me such a close relationship with these family members. I also witnessed such extreme compassion and hospitality and saw the impact it had. I honestly don’t know that my grandparents or my uncle would ever have come to know the Lord if it weren’t for my parents. That, in itself, is… huge.

And really, having long-term “guests” actually made the time we had as a nuclear family something we looked forward to. Not typical of families with teenagers.

**********

Obviously these are just words right now. But it stands what I said earlier:

Children are worth the risks. Worth the heart-ache. Worth the heartbreak…

Whether that means unconditionally loving on your own children through potty-training, threenager-hood, junior-high, and some season of rebellion or despondency; or loving on another child that’s never known unconditional love.

Advertisements

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.

12227015_10153316282637399_3426743137908645753_n 12249631_10153316282407399_4008406072051366152_n

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.

**********

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.

Shaken

It’s been about 2 weeks since I last blogged and there are a few reasons for that. As you likely experienced yourself, the summer is busy. Not just “To-Do List-Busy”, but “There’s-Only-So-Much-Summer-Left-Busy.”  Since June was pretty much entirely devoted to fundraising, we’ve been trying to make up for lost time with camping and day-trips.

But perhaps another reason is the celebration of our dear friends’ being chosen by a birth-mom, and bringing their baby home, only to lose her two short weeks later. The mother had changed her mind.

It doesn’t happen a lot, in spite of what you might have heard: About 1 in 20 cases, and usually a birth-mom changes her mind before the couple brings the baby home.

We are heartbroken for our friends. We were so thrilled for them and were so blessed to have met their baby girl. The news rattled us, to say the least. No one expected it. Everything leading up to that point seemed so God-ordained. The birth-family seemed so certain, so relieved to know this baby would have such amazing parents.

The past few weeks have led us through a lot of soul-searching. All of which makes our resolve to adopt ever-more sure.

As I’ve said before, one of the common platitudes we hear is, “It takes a special couple to adopt.”

But we are not special. We are not strong. We are not prepared for that kind of devastation. We are shaken and weakened just by this news of our friends.

We are fragile… but our God is mighty. 

We won’t withhold love from any baby… but we very well may have our hearts shattered.

We may face more than we can handle on our own… but we are never on our own to handle it. 

What we may experience through adoption is a mere shadow of the heartbreak our Father has over those who reject Him. Yet His heart can handle it, and He does not shut down. He can never grow weary of loving.

“How great is the love the Father is lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!” (1 John 3:1)

And if WE have been adopted into God’s family, we feel ever-more burdened to adopt children into our own. But our ability to stand and move forward with determination has nothing to do with us and everything to do with Him. The God who loves us and will sustain us. The God who loves these children. 

So that no child will leave our home without being loved as our own and covered in prayer for the rest of their lives.

“We love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

DSC_93431-001

Please pray for adoptive and foster families. They probably aren’t as strong as you think… we all need your prayers!

My Growing Girl

Our baby turns two tomorrow, and it has me feeling equal parts nostalgia and excitement.

When I first wrapped her tiny body in my arms, I expected to feel like we were finally being united – like pen-pals meeting for the first time.

But when I beheld her squishy little face, I was surprised to realize that I didn’t recognize her. In fact, I felt like I was staring into the face of the smallest, sweetest stranger I had ever met.

I wanted to ask her a million questions…

100_3397Do you know who I am?

Do you like me?

Do you like my cooking?

Do you promise not to move too far away when you grow up? 

What’s your favorite color?

What do you like to do for fun? 

Are you an extrovert or an introvert?

Do you like volleyball? 

Do you like to cook? 

Do you like roller coasters? Because I really don’t. Will you hang out at the waterpark with me instead?

I felt like a child myself:

Baby? What are you doing, Baby? Wake up! What are you thinking? I just want to play with you.

I loved the newborn stage. But it was so hard to wait for her personality to shine through. Like holding a present in your hands, but having to wait for Christmas to open it. Except they say not to shake a baby.

And instead of Christmas once a year, she surprises us with something new every single day. It’s like Christmas for eternity!

(Or maybe not eternity. From what I hear, 11 to 15 years old can be a bit more like Ground-hogs Day. The perpetual verdict is: Winter is never going to end. Or at least it feels that way.)

I could tell you a million funny stories from this past year…

Like how she tried to put her one-piece skirted-swimsuit on over her head came crying out to me when her face was stuck in the leg-hole like a lion’s mane.

Or how she startled me when she suddenly poked me in the booty whilst getting ready because my polka-dotted underwear reminded her of the “Press This” book.

Or how, when we’re on a mission and I’m feeling overwhelmed, I subconsciously mutter “We’ve got this,” and she enthusiastically (and clumsily) leaps into the air and loudly squeaks “GO GOT THIS!!!”

 

It scares me how fast 2 years went by. In another 2 years and she’ll be starting preschool. That terrifies me. I’m not ready! What if I just audit her classes?

Alas… I can only make the most of each day. Good-gravy, I just love this girl.

Big Girl

Alright, “Terrible Two’s”… I’m ready!

 

 

 

 

 

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

No Heroes

One of the most common words of encouragement people give when they hear that we are adopting is, “That’s awesome. It takes a special person. I could never do that.” As if we’re either crazy or we’re heroes.

While I know the sentiment is well-meaning, I cringe a little each time I hear it.

Because aside from my aptitude for stacking cheerios, I’m no more special than you are.

wpid-wp-1435223530621.jpeg

In all honesty, adoption is not something that we felt called to 7 years ago when we got married. And there is nothing that sets us apart from any other loving couple, except for the fact that God has called us to it now.

I get it… I have also often thought “I could never go through what she’s going through,” or “Wow, they are special people to live so sacrificially.” 

But actually, it’s God’s M.O. to take our circumstances and ask us to simply yield to His plan for redemption through them. No matter how weak and unqualified we feel.

In fact, sometimes our weakness brings even greater glory to the Lord, because in our weakness, He is strong.

I read a banner on facebook recently that said something to the effect of, “God puts you through hard situations to make you stronger.”

But I’m not so sure that’s actually the case. Over and over in the Bible it says, “The Lord is our strength.” Strength is not about us growing, but about us trusting. Trusting that God is working out redemption from our circumstances and will give us enough strength to face each day.

So if anything, our strength comes from being weak.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in your weakness.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:13

“Fear not, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, because I am your God. I will strengthen you and I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” – Isaiah 41:10

So please… don’t exalt our calling to adopt as any more important than your own. You may feel like life is easy right now and you aren’t living any sort of “calling.” Or, you may feel your weakness has somehow immobilized your ability to serve the Lord. But whatever your circumstances are, they are important to God. And no future plans are more important than every single “today.”

 

P.S. Our Fundraising dinner is this Saturday from 5:00-6:30 pm at Peace Church (6950 Cherry Valley, Middleville, MI 49333). Come grill-out with us!