Mountains and Valleys

Last week, Josh and I celebrated our 3rd anniversary! It doesn’t seem like three years have past and in some ways its incredible to think it’s only been three years because it feels so natural, like I have known him all my life.

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Here is our picture perfect life.

In reality, right now, I feel like a hot mess. ¬†Our anniversary also signals one year since we started our adoption journey. ¬†And let me tell you, in no way does it feel like this journey has gone too fast. ¬†I feel like I can remember every painstaking step we took. ¬†The hours upon hours spent filling out the application. ¬†The stress of waiting to find out if we would even be pre-approved. ¬†Followed by the stress of completing our home study. ¬†And let’s not forget the extreme amount of pressure I put on myself to get our portfolio ready for birth mothers to view and hopefully choose us. ¬†Then… the stress of waiting to hear if we’d been approved upon completion of our home study. ¬†I know most, if not all, of this has been self-inflicted. ¬†Nonetheless, it’s the path I’ve walked.

I use the singular tense because Josh is much more rational going through this process and has held his confidence that we would be approved all along. It’s just one of the qualities I appreciate about him and how we compliment each other.

I don’t want to give the impression that it has been all bad. ¬†Each of the above stresses have been followed by joy and celebrations for each milestone passed. ¬†And, celebrating the little things, like splurging on little shoes that are just too cute to pass up!

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There have been mountains and valleys and we are still trekking through them. I have to admit, for someone who shut herself down from feeling for years in order to avoid getting hurt, I have felt a lot this year. There are times when I feel I have reached the top of the mountain and I see everything clear from the top.  I know and I feel that God is in control. I trust that He has a plan and He is going to place our child with us.  And then, there are times where I feel deep in the valley with fog rolling in clouding my vision.

We are at a crossroads in our journey and I feel like we are sitting at a stop light that is forever red. ¬†It will turn green again. ¬†And perhaps it will be sooner than later as we mull which direction to take. ¬†Until then,¬†please join us in prayer for God’s direction as we take¬†our next steps.

 

Hope

As 2016 comes to an end, one word rings through my head– HOPE.

Entering 2017, I have hope for what this new year will bring. ¬†Chances are high that we will be matched with our first child in 2017. ¬†Chances are equally as high that we won’t. ¬†All I can cling to, is hope.

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I know that I have posted this verse before.  I love it.  I wear it around my wrist on a leather strap every day as a reminder of the great plans that the Lord has in store for me.  He wants me to prosper, to succeed.  He wants me to have peace.  He gives me hope.

To be honest, at this point in the adoption process, hope is what it comes down to.  I wake up most mornings wondering if today will be the day that changes my life as I know it.  I have increased anxiety each time I have to travel out of state for work (which, believe me, I know is not a healthy habit to be starting!). I have an internal struggle where I feel like I need to get everything in order- sheets washed, clothes washed, bottles washed, diaper bag packed, nursery furniture assembled- and then that feeling is quickly replaced with one that all that hustle and readiness is just useless. Useless because in those moments, I do not have hope.

So, as we end 2016 and enter the New Year, I ask for you to join Josh and I in our continued journey. If I can be so bold to ask- please pray for us in 2017, rejoice with us in 2017 and above all, share in our hope for the plans the Lord has for us.

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Fearless

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. ¬†We took some time off from work to enjoy a vacation in Kauai with just the two of us…

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It was so great to get away. ¬†As trite as this might sound, it felt good to get out of our house. ¬†Separate my mind from the current status it sits in and the transformation that I want to begin to get ready for our child. ¬†For 8 whole days, I didn’t stress or dwell on the pending adoption process.

We did a lot of activities to fully experience the beauty of Kauai from hiking through the rainforest and desert conditions on both sides of the island to viewing waterfalls from a helicopter. ¬†On our last day, our adventurous side took us rappelling down a 60 foot waterfall. ¬†I was so excited to not just experience something new that we couldn’t experience at home, but to experience this with Josh for the first time. ¬†It was his excitement that drove me through any hesitations I had when we discussed whether or not to sign up for the tour.

It was a perfect day for the tour, sun shining, not too hot and not too windy. ¬†We were lucky to be paired with just one other couple, so the tour guides were able to provide ¬†personalized attention to each one of us. ¬†I’m not going to lie or pretend to be brave. ¬†I was NERVOUS after we received our introduction and “how-to” from the guides. ¬†We complete a test run down a dry cliff before hiking to the waterfall and that calmed my nerves. ¬†We arrived at the waterfall and I was first up. ¬†Fearlessly, I walked to the edge and began the descent down. ¬†Remembering the instructions the guides had given us and listening to the cues they were yelling from both above and below, I shuffled my feet and dropped my hips all the way down under the thunderous roar of the water pouring down on you the entire way. ¬†At one point, it was enough to literally take my breathe away and I had to settle my thoughts and recenter before I could continue down.

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For the second descent, we moved to the other side of the waterfall. ¬†I was full of doubt and fear as I latched into the harness and nodded my head to the last minute tips from our guide. ¬†I stepped to the edge and slowly back to lower myself over it. I became gripped with fear and immobile. ¬†I could hear the guide telling me where and how to move my feet, but I couldn’t do it. ¬†I was frozen. ¬†Looking up at him, I started saying “I can’t” over and over. ¬†Finally, I reached up and hoisted myself back towards the top. After “negotiations”- ok, more like¬†pleading¬†“puh- leeeeez”¬†on my part with the guide who was instructing me to keep rappelling down, for my own safety, he finally got more rope and rescued me, pulling me back up to the top of the waterfall.

As I sat there and contemplated what had just happened, the guide spoke truth to me.  He told me I was bigger than this fear.  He told me I just needed to get past the spot where I froze and I would excel to finish the 2nd run down.  He told me I was strong and this was not a feat too big for me to overcome.  I let it sink in.  I knew he was right.  I had a choice to make. And I completed the 2nd run flawlessly after all of that.

I was so embarrassed at my actions, at my inability to control my fear in that moment.  It was hard to focus on the bigger picture.  That I overcame that fear. I moved beyond it. And that makes me fearless.  To me, it was symbolic for where we are at in our adoption process. I have a choice to make.  I can wander my house in fear that we will not be matched with a child.  I can let fear overcome me and take my joy.  Or I can choose to be fearless. Moving ahead every single day, preparing for our child to enter our house- their homeРand live with joy.

I choose to be fearless.

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.

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(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! ūüôā ¬†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. ūüôā