A Joyful Heart is Good Medicine

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.

Proverbs 17:22

As I’ve been recovering from surgery to remove my gall bladder, I’ve been reflecting on this bible verse.

This post will be short and sweet as there isn’t an update on the adoption process to date.  We are patiently waiting to be placed with birth mom and our unborn child.  Ok, let’s be real… Josh is patiently waiting and I am learning how to be patient with every day that passes🙂.

As I’ve reflected on this verse the last few weeks, I have found peace.  Real peace. I know that we have a child.  We just haven’t met him or her.  But, God knows our child.  And in HIS timing, we will meet.  Trust the process.  Walk in faith.  And praise God every step of the way for the wonderful gift that is coming to us.

Judgment: an opinion or decision that is based on careful thought

The biggest part of the home study process that I have struggled with is the feeling of being judged.  I know that is not the intention.  The intention is to vet us thoroughly in order to provide a safe, loving and stable home for a child to live and thrive.  But, in order to do that, it is the social workers duty to use judgement.

Before we started the process, my biggest fear was that my past mistakes would stand in the way of ultimately receiving approval to adopt.  As we began to research adoption agencies, it jumped out at me that many agencies treat couples who are in their first marriage differently than couples where one or both spouse is in their second marriage.  It’s another reason we settled on NHA.  There was no judgement based on previous marital status.  All couples were treated equally.  Not to say it wasn’t discussed during our home study.  We covered all the ugliness that accompanied my previous marriage.  But, I felt like I was in a judge- free zone as we answered questions about the past honestly.

It never dawned on me that it wouldn’t be my past that was scrutinized.  My husband is straight and narrow.  He is everything I prayed for in a spouse. So, it is often incredulous when others learn that he had a bit of a rebellious streak in his late teens.  It was twenty years ago.  So what?  Not a big deal.  So, again. we answered questions about the past honestly.

So, after our third and final home study visit, we felt pretty good as things stood.  I was working one morning when I received a call from Josh.  Our social worker had emailed to notify him that he would be required to complete a chemical dependency assessment.  I lost it.  Cue the alligator tears.  Cue the heavy sobs.  I mean, this was an ugly cry.  What did this mean?  Were we not fit to be parents?  As soon as we hung up, I called our social worker.  She answered and I barely seemed to get the words out between sobs and gulps of air.  Immediately she said “oh, I knew I shouldn’t have sent that in an email.”  She explained it was customary and simply part of the vetting process.  I wasn’t sold.  I calmed my tears but remained distraught.  And angry.  I mean, come on.  Anyone who knows Josh, knows how ludicrous this assessment was!

As I was pouring my heart out and probably crying again to my best friend later that afternoon on the phone.  She just started giggling.  It turned into a hearty laugh.  She helped me turn something devastating at the time into something ridiculously humorous. She was right.  This was funny.  Josh is a stand up guy.  His idea of a perfect Friday night would include reading for hours uninterrupted.  We go on vacations and play cribbage in our hotel room. He has a masters in accounting. He’s more like David Spade in Tommy Boy verses Chris Farley.    Anyone completing the assessment would see that right away.

My fellow nerds and I will retire to the nerdery with our calculators.

This was probably the biggest derailment we encountered throughout our home study.  It was ridiculous.  I felt judged.  I felt angry that we were singled out for this.  It felt unfair to be scrutinized for something that happened twenty years ago and is no longer relevant to our character today.  It felt unnecessary.

The rationale side knows it is necessary.  We should be scrutinized to the tenth degree in order to adopt a child.  It’s the irrational side of me that triggers the many emotions that I’ve felt on this roller coaster ride. I guess that’s what makes me human.  I guess that’s what makes this journey real.

Oh.  And p.s. Josh passed with flying colors.  The counselor assigned to complete his assessment was adopted herself and offered to be a resource in any way should could help facilitate the process for us.  Another God thing we’ve experienced along this journey.


Every Day Miracles

There is a saying that “you are only as good as as the company you keep.” 

This has never been more pronounced as it is during this chapter of my life.  The supportive community that Josh and I have found ourselves surrounded in as we set out on our adoption journey has been a tremendous blessing.

It’s not lost on me that God has positioned us to meet the right people at the right time throughout this journey.

Early on, before our home study even started, we met with a couple from our church who opened their home to us and counseled us based on their previous adoption journeys.  They shared the joys and the heartaches experienced along the way from bringing their daughter and son home to saying goodbye to a child whose birth mom decided to parent.  They shared their faith in God and how that brought them through the process.  They encouraged us to walk out in faith and pursue the dream we have for our family.

About the same time that were finishing up our home study process, another fitness instructor that I barely knew posted on Facebook a tiny glimpse into her adoption journey. I took a chance, reached out to her and shared ours.  From there, we learned we had much more than a love for fitness in common and have met regularly for a few months to encourage each other in our shared faith in God.

After our home study wrapped up, I was carrying a lot of stress and anxiety as we moved into the waiting portion of this journey.  I met a new group of runners in my neighborhood to tackle a new, hilly route.  In the first mile, I discovered that another woman in the group had adopted and I found myself sharing more with her than would normally share with a stranger.  She listened and offered advice. She related to me.

It’s incredible to me how God meets us in our darkest places.  He knows our need and brings us hope.  For me, in this journey, it has been new relationships in unexpected places.  It’s not lost on me that God’s hand has been on our journey every step of the way.  He is still performing miracles.  They may be small.  But they are there, every day, if you look for them.


(this photo was sent to me by a dear friend)

The Home Study

For those of you aren’t familiar with the adoption process, once the application is approved, you are assigned to a social worker who basically becomes your advocate through the process.  This person is also responsible for the final recommendation to approve you for placement with a child.

In our case, we were assigned a social worker who was located in Iowa, but not in Des Moines.  Our home study process consisted of 3 in-person visits and many correspondence  in between visits.  This is also where our 9 references came into play.

Our first in-person visit was in late April.  I read waaaay too much about what to expect, what to do and what not to do.  For instance, do NOT obsessively clean your house.  Let the social worker see the “real” you with dishes in the sink, beds unmade, whatever it is that is your typical “lived in” feel.  I really do not like to clean, so that was a bonus for me!🙂  I was still stressed.  Would she like us?  Would she approve of us?  I had no idea what to expect.  All I knew was the meeting would last 3 hours and that would put us past our normal bedtime. Sacrifices, right?!??  LOL

So, I did what I would normally do to calm my jitters.  I poured myself a glass of red wine while I lightly cleaned the kitchen, cooked dinner and waited for Josh to come home from work.

The social worker showed up right on time. After introductions, we sat down and began with questions that Josh and I had for her.  And, in true form, we had a list of questions that I pulled out, eager to get some answers! What does a typical relationship with birth mom looks like?  What happens if birth mom changes her mind? What does this process all entail?  Who gets naming rights of the child? Can we begin to decorate a nursery?

Then, we dug in.  How did Josh and I meet? What is our biggest struggle in our marriage? The first meeting focused mostly on us as a couple and then focused solely on Josh.  How was he brought up?  What is his relationship with his family?  What are his hobbies? Etc.

Before we knew it, 3 1/2 hours had past.  We ended with a tour of our house.  And that was it. The first visit was done and it felt “official” now.  We were on our way…

And all was rainbows and unicorns, right?  Ha!

I struggled big time after this visit.  The answer to one of our questions was not what I expected nor wanted to hear.  Our social worker strongly recommended that we don’t begin to prepare a nursery in advance.  She explained that in the case we are placed with a child and it falls through, it will be harder to come home to an empty nursery.  Realistically, I get that.  I can understand and appreciate that.  But it is not what I wanted to hear.  In order for this to feel real, I needed something tangible to be excited about.  I felt crushed and frustrated.  Cue more tears.  For days.  Cue the whining to family and friends.  For days.  Something seemingly so small completely derailed me off the path forward.

In the end,  after counsel from Josh and family and friends, we decided to do what we need, as a family to prepare our hearts and home.  And we have begun to prepare a room for our baby.🙂


Beginning the Long Journey

To pick up where I left our adoption story in The Decision, we thought we had our direction to pursue adopting a child from Africa.  I won’t bore you with the mindless details or lack thereof from the time we received the pre-application from NHA and the time we actually filled it out and sent it in.  I’ll be honest, the packet sat on our kitchen counter for over a month.  It was something we both wanted and at the same time, something we both knew would change our lives forever.  For me anyways, that resulted in the delay to complete the 40 pages.

Until one night, we brought a bottle of red wine to our bedroom and started filling out question after question about ourselves, our families, our careers and our hope for our future.  We left the pages blank that required us to choose whether we wanted to pursue a foreign or domestic adoption because we felt we needed more guidance and confirmation from the agency on that decision.  Turns out, it was one we didn’t have to make.  I called NHA the next day and learned that adopting from Uganda was no longer an option.  The government, as many African countries had already done, passed a law within the past months that requires potential adoptive families to have at least a one year residency in country before even being considered for placement.  We can’t do that.  As much as our hearts feel led to Africa, that is a commitment we cannot realistically fulfill.

Domestic adoption was our new focus.  This would be the first of many turns we did not expect to make during this process.

In true Nikki fashion, I dove in.  I anxiously checked our mailbox each day to see if we were pre-approved and thus could move on to the real application process.  It finally came.  It was a very thin manilla envelope.  My heart fell.  The pre-application had been so thick, how could this be so thin unless we were not approved, right?  I compared it to a college application approval letter- you know- the thicker the better🙂.  Somehow, I managed to wait until Josh came home from work and we opened it together.

My fears were unfounded.  We were pre-approved!  The application itself paled in comparison to the work of competing the pre-application.

I am, to this day, so very touched by the outpouring of support that we received during this time- and continue to receive. Finding enough references -9 total- wasn’t an issue at all, as we had many friends offer to serve as one for us.  Turns out, we have a community that truly believes in us as we take this next step.  And thank God for that!  I would need this community to lift me up and keep my eyes focused on the bigger picture through the next several months.

“… and I will give you rest.”

A funny thing has happened in the last month.  As my anxiety levels have sky rocketed and my energy levels have plummeted, I have been knocked out for few weeks with mandatory rest.

I had a gall bladder attack on September 1st- yes, it’s a real thing!  I didn’t believe my doctor until I googled it and lo and behold, I had 9 out of the 10 symptoms.  From there, I underwent several tests including ultrasound and HIDA Scan, which eventually showed I have chronic inflammation due to chronic gall bladder disease.  My gall bladder is operating at 29% of what it should be.  Since my symptoms were progressing pretty fast, a rush was put on surgery orders and last Friday, my gall bladder was removed.

I am very optimistic that this will resolve ongoing problems I’ve had with my digestive system- including nausea and throwing up bile during tough races.  It all makes sense now, understanding what the gall bladder is responsible for, and I am convinced I’ve had symptoms occurring throughout the past several years.

In my usually fashion, I deeply underestimated the time it would take to recover.  It didn’t dawn on me that I did have an organ removed and not only do I need to heal from the incisions, my body also needs to learn how to operate sans organ.

So, now I rest.  And I find comfort in learning to be still.

It’s a humbling situation to be in and I feel like the most unreliable person at the moment.  I have had to cancel fitness classes I teach through my small business Kick@515 and I have had to notify my fellow coaches at Girls on the Run that I cannot be present to lead sessions this week.  It’s not my MO to be unreliable and it is an uncomfortable place to be.  It’s also uncomfortable to rely on my husband to do everyday simple things for me, like help me put on socks, help me get up and out of the recliner I’ve been spending both day and night in in order to use the bathroom and refill my ice pack for me every few hours.

I can’t help but wonder if this experience, this time to be still is just part of the journey, part of what I need to go through before I become a mother.  To learn to rely on others. To learn that expressing I cannot physically do all that I want to is ok and it does not make me unreliable.  To learn that where I am at in life right now, imperfectly perfect, well, simply put- is enough.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Now, for some humor- because let’s be real, every surgery comes with it’s own🙂.

I was given the nickname “pee wee” upon waking up in the recovery room by a male nurse.  He noticed I was trying to do too much on my own and not asking for assistance to cough and blow my nose.  I had already asked for a sip of water a few times and he came up along side of my bed with a table on wheels and a cup of water with a straw and said “here pee wee, you’re really too much of a whiner.”  Of course, my altered state of mind reacted and I started apologizing and asking if he was serious?!?  He said no, the opposite, I was exhibiting too much of an independent streak and didn’t think I would want to wait on my next water request.   Smart guy🙂

The nick name “pee wee” stuck throughout my time in the recovery room- which they explained was due to my size- I was just a little pee wee on the bed.  A pee wee with a flair for independence.  Due to my pee wee size, I was instructed to only take 1/2 of a pain pill once discharged and they only gave me half a pill once I got some food in my system.  Which- yuck!!  I had to settle on jello because the other options were not gluten free.  I kind of loathe jello.  It’s a texture thing- I can’t really stand the way it wiggles in my mouth.  And to make it worse, the flavor they brought was cherry.  Which makes me gag.

After I finished my snack, I continued to struggle to open my eyes, so I stayed a bit longer in the recovery room.  I have no idea how long, although it felt like hours in my altered state of mind.  During that time, nurses or techs would come by and check out my blood pressure and heart rate stats.  I guess they were pretty low.  I heard the nurse taking care of me repeat over and over “yeah, she’s a runner.”  The male nurse made his way back over and made an ordeal over the stats exclaiming “pee wee!  I also work in the ER and if you came in with those stats, we’d be rushing to resuscitate you!” Which, of course is an exaggeration cuz my heart rate would have to be zero for that to occur.  My heart rate was steady at 39.

For now, well, I’ll enjoy the accolades for just accomplishing the simple stuff.



And instead of a delightful glass of red wine, well, a virtual cheers with my best friend will have to do



Thy will be done.

Four simple words- thy will be done– that pack a large punch.

It’s been exactly one month since we were approved to adopt a child.  It feels like it has already been an eternity.  As I wait, those four words have been put in my heart and in my head.  This process, this time of uncertainty- it’s not about me.  This is time the Lord is using to perfect our family.  It is HIS will- not mine.  It is HIS plan- not mine.

For someone who has been so wrapped up in my own emotions, my own wants, my own desires- these four simple words have changed the course for me.

My plan was to tell our adoption journey from the beginning, each post continuing from where the last left off.  But, I feel compelled to pause our story and update on where we are today.

It’s hard to admit and as I look back over this past month, which should have been full of joy, I see how depressed I’ve let myself become.  I have been so obsessed with what I don’t have and not enjoying the blessings that surround me every day.  I have been so focused on the future state of our family, that I have not realized how awesome my husband is and enjoying our active lifestyle.  I have spent more hours this past month in bed either sleeping or watching T.V. than I have living.

This is not God’s will for me.  Scripture calls on us to give thanks in all things.  Scripture calls on us to cast all of our anxieties at the feet of Jesus.  Scripture teaches us that God is our strength in our weakness.  And… scripture teaches us that every season of our lives is part of God’s perfect plan.  God uses our weaknesses to His glory.  If we let Him.

The irony is all of this, is that I wanted to proceed with adoption because I thought I would have more control over this journey than I would if we kept trying to conceive.  How very naive.  It is a daily struggle for me, but I know that I have no control over the current process or when we will finally meet our child.  It is all in God’s hands.  It is all in God’s timing.  Thy will be done.