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.

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Adoption Month Musings – Part 2 (“Babe Ruth”)

The second “Musing” I wanted to share with you for National Adoption Month started with a conversation I had with my dear friend Jamie, who is at the same stage in the adoption process as we are. As a result, we end up talking to each other at least twice a week on my drive home from work. A typical conversation starts like this:

(Speed dial Jamie)

Jamie: “Hey.”

Me: “Hey, how’s it going?”

Jamie: “Pretty good. How are you?”

Me: Oh, ya know… good. Just antsy. You?

Jamie: The same. Have you heard anything yet?

Me: No. Have you?

Jamie: No!!

(Insert 5 minutes of over-analyzing why there haven’t been many birthmoms seeking adoptive couples and when we might hear news of them)

Me: Call you right back, I have to go pick up Elise!

(Insert 7 minutes of chatting with Karla whilst trying to stealthily coerce Elise to the car)

Me: Hey, it’s me again. (This time remembering that Jamie had gone to a conference the previous day) Oh, so how was your conference?

Jamie: It was really good! I actually got to hear a speaker who grew up in foster care talk about his story and he gave some really good pointers on working with “at-risk” children.

She proceeded to tell me his story of Foster-family hopping, right up until the climax when Elise started crying about having dropped something.

As usual.

Me: “I’m so sorry, I’ve gotta go! I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story though – don’t forget to tell me the rest!”

I spot the lost item and determine it is in safe-reaching-distance to grab it at the stop light.

Elise: “Good job, Mom!!!” She cheers and claps for me from her carseat.

As moody of a passenger as she is, gosh, do I ever love her.

A couple nights later, we call Jamie and her husband Nick up to get together for dinner. Jamie finally finished her story while we binged on chips and salsa.

The speaker had shared about keeping a notebook to track how fast he could get out of a foster home, always trying to see what it would take to get kicked out and move onto the next one. He was in disbelief to have finally ended up in a place that he stayed for over a year and decided it was time to kick things up a notch. Opening a checking account and writing a bad check for a car seemed like the perfect solution to get himself kicked out of there. Add a little driving under the influence and he’d be gone for sure.

But that wasn’t how it ended. In fact, his foster parents just kept on loving him and calling him their son. There was nothing he could do to make them stop loving him.

I fought back tears as she told me the story, as I seem to do often these days. (What is my problem?! I’m turning into my mother already!!).

Then she shared that the point he made that stuck out to her was this: Be Babe Ruth.

I blinked a couple times and tilted my head, much like my border collie does when she’s confused about why I want her to back away from the dropped food on the floor.

She explained: Don’t just aim for the fence. Point to a spot on the fence and hit it right there, out of the ball park.

It means that instead of just showing these kids love, they need you to make promises and keep them. All their lives, they have been told one thing and another — all to learn that words mean nothing to adults. They’ve been disappointed and lied to, and they’ve learned that they can’t trust anyone. The only way to really gain their trust is for their caretakers to consistently do what they say they’re going to do.

I’ll be honest, I was a little taken aback by this thought. It’s easy to make abstract promises like “I will always, always love you.” But I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets a little nervous about making concrete promises. “Let your ‘yes’ be yes, and your ‘no’ be no,” it says in Matthew 5:37. Therefore, it’s easier to just say “maybe.” Or better yet, to just make tentative plans, not tell your kid, and that way it can be a great surprise if it works out.

Or you can pull it out as a bargaining chip to threaten with once their behavior heads south.

But a Promise that’s permanent?

That’s commitment.

A Promise that’s not conditional?

That’s grace.

A Promise that’s fulfilled?

That’s love.

The more I thought about the concept, the more I realized it has applications for so many relationships. In our society today, we shy away from committing to marriage too quickly. It’s better to test the waters and pretend to be married for a few years before making any rash Permanent, Unconditional Promises of Love to someone. We want to be ready to jump ship when forgiveness is too hard or pseudo-commitment feels too restricting. After all, love is about doing what feels good for me, and when it stops feeling good, it’s time to move on. And then we pretend a break-up won’t be as damaging, as long as we haven’t exchanged rings.

In our friendships, we make “tentative” plans with each other, just because we don’t want to be tied down if something more pressing comes along. Our agenda comes before the consideration of each other. But we are gracious and understanding of each other, because we know we might be the ones to cancel next time.

In my parenting strategy, I’ve noticed that when I’m not consistent in enthusiastically rewarding Elise with a sticker for her “Nice Chart”, she’s not real enthusiastic about it either. Why should she be if good behavior one day gets her a sticker and the same behavior another day doesn’t even get recognition?

Feel free to pin. No need to give me credit for my creativity and artistry. I'm just that humble.

Feel free to pin. No need to give me credit for my creativity and artistry. I’m just that humble.

In my mind, I’ve reasoned that we shouldn’t have to always bribe kids to be good. But the more I think about the application of this “Babe Ruth” principal, the more I think at the toddler stage, consistent rewards for good behavior makes her more self-aware, so that she can make good choices instead of just always act impulsively. So even though she doesn’t have any trust-issues with us, I still see benefits to making a point of saying you are going to do something and following through.

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Well, those are my profound thoughts for this morning. And they really aren’t even my thoughts. But hey, I told you I was going to write another post this week, and look who’s practicing their Babe Ruth? 😉

I’m on a roll here. Maybe I’ll even write another post this week! And by maybe, I mean: Of course I will write another post this week. Let’s plan on Friday. See you then!

 

Adoption Month Musings Part 1

Here it is, November 12th already, and I can finally sit down and reflect on it being National Adoption Month.

My thoughts ping and pong in all different directions as I ponder if this will be the only post I manage to make time for in November. But if nothing else, I want to share two predominate things that have impacted me recently.

The first came unexpectedly one day after “racing” Elise back to the house from the mailbox. We sat down to flip through the mail and she asked me to read her the Bethany Christian Services Magazine. Instead of reading it to her, I turned to the pages of the kids who are waiting to be adopted. I told her how they don’t have Mamas and Daddies and how we should pray for these kids. After that, she memorized every kid’s name by quizzing me over and over on every picture.

When we got home from Daycare the next day, she opened the magazine up again and named off all the kids.  And then she asked me if they have Mommies and Daddies yet.

If that doesn’t break your heart…

On one hand, adopting a child from Foster Care is not a venture to be taken lightly. I want that point to be clear.

But on the other hand, perhaps we – the church – need to make a little more of an effort in finding homes for these children and supporting those families willing to do so. I know some churches do a great job at this already. But even one of the largest churches in our area offers no special assistance or programs for foster or adoptive families. That seems crazy to me.

Creating programming that appeals to the masses seems like a good idea. That’s how business strategies work, right? Appeal to the largest population using the leanest resources. But how can we call ourselves “the body of Christ” if we are not intentional about reaching out to those in the margins? Isn’t that what Christ did again and again? Broke away from the crowd to give special attention to marginalized individuals who needed Him most?

These children may not seem like our responsibility because they are not a part of our congregations.

They are not a part of our congregations Yet.

Top number: Foster children waiting to be adopted Bottom number: Number of churches

Top number: foster children waiting to be adopted
Bottom number: Number of churches

But can we make room for them? If 1 family out of every 3 churches in Michigan chose to adopt from foster care, what a huge difference we could make! (And not to say church-goers are the only ones who should adopt from foster care – but if we claim to be Christians, we are implored to “Take up the cause of the fatherless.” Isaiah 1:1.7.

Can we make more of an effort to share their stories and implore people to consider if they might be open to making room for a child in their homes? Can we support families through networking and respite care and material services and counseling? I’m sure there are even more needs I’m not aware of yet.

I could never tell anyone that adopting from foster care is something they should do. I don’t know what particular calling God has put on their family. But it is crazy to think of the number of children who don’t.have.parents.

Staggering. Sobering.

And after seeing Elise show so much interest in these children, it’s made me realize how important it is to teach your kids about real-life orphans. To help them grow compassionate hearts instead of self-pitying little souls. And not in an angry, “There are starving children in Africa who would be glad to clean your plate for you.” But in a “What do you think we should do to help kids who don’t have families?” And then involve our children in whatever activity we can think of – whether it’s praying for them, buying material supplies for a home for foster children, donating, etc…

(All that is to say, our daughter is still self-pitying. Aren’t we all? 😉 But the more we focus outward, the easier it is to forget why we thought our busy schedules and materialistic woes were ever so important to us.)

Anyway, this is what has been speaking to me lately. I wanted to share the other thought with you also, but I’m not quite sure how to segue into it without making this post extraordinarily long. 🙂

I’ll just plan on posting Part 2 next week.