Monday, June 18, 2018

Our Adoption Journey Part 1 -- A Labor of Love

I know some of you might want to hear about how we got from point A with our adoption announcement last September to point B, bringing home our baby!  Well, as I mentioned before it was a crazy-whirlwind of a time but everything happened pretty swiftly and seamlessly with the adoption process.  Praise God for that.  We knew for sure that we wanted to adopt a newborn baby in a domestic adoption and we knew the home study agency we were going to use. It was a good start but this was our second time doing it so we had a better grip on what was required than the first go 'round. We really didn't expect for everything to progress as quickly as it did, but it was really a God thing that it happened that way!  So let's go back to early August and it'll probably be self-explanatory why I had to break from blogging, even when I had good intentions of taking you along with me.

Home Study

We began by renewing our home study.

The home study is basically where you begin in any adoption. It is how you are officially approved to move forward in the adoption process.  It's how you are approved to be financially, mentally, physically and emotionally "fit" to parent. That may seem overkill, but it does help to be sure there aren't any crazies looking for kids for the wrong reasons.  It can be daunting if it's your first time getting your home study completed. There's an enormous check list of documents to collect, paper to fill out, references to get, fingerprinting, background check, and finally the home visit by a social worker from the home study agency. You are basically proving you and your household capable of loving and providing for a child!  

I didn't say adoption was for the faint of heart, but when you're looking to make a way to give an orphan a home and expanding your family you will do whatever it takes!  Honestly, it's worth the work and effort involved.  My husband and I have always have made it a labor of love and that's what it is!  If we can do it, so could you!

The home study process with our first adoption took about 3 1/2 months for us to complete. Heath didn't have nearly as much time to help since he was in his medical residency at time; and while I took the job of completing if very seriously, I needed his help with much of it. Also, the first time we floundered around between international and domestic adoption, which took a little extra time.  We landed on domestic and completed the first home study just 3 weeks before getting the phone call and bringing home our oldest two! Once we did that we had to change our some study to a home investigation anyway, because we ended up having an independent adoption. (Making that change wasn't a big deal though.)

We started this adoption process the first week of August 2017 and had our home visit that very week (!!!) so I was VERY busy cleaning the house after the kids had been home for the summer and preparing it in all the ways.  This happened to be the kiddos' first week of school, too! And the week my husband and I helped to launch our branch new church service while being the worship leaders for it! 

All the things!  All at the same time!

It was a tiring week to say the least, but God helped give me the stamina and know-how for it all.  We knew we were called to all of these responsibilities and it's that purpose that push us through.

In September, we applied to a referral agency called Faithful Adoption Consultants. We have heard so many good things about them, and know a few families who have used their services to help with their adoption!  They are a good, quality referral agency.  However, a referral agency is a go between and is not required and they are a few thousand dollars to use.  At that point, quite frankly, we didn't know where all the money for this adoption was going to come from, exactly.  Domestic newborn adoptions can be the most expensive kind of adoption for a number of valid reasons, but we felt a peace about adopting a newborn this time.  We knew God said to move and get started and that's what we were doing.  Adoption is such a faith walk!

We completed our home study by mid- September and it was said and done in just 6 fast weeks.  It felt so good mailing off the big packet of forms and documents at the post office together!  We were very excited about renewing our Home Study and thankful we blew through the process.  Nobody but our closest family and friends knew we were adopting again at this point.  We wanted the Home Study to be completed and me be officially "paper pregnant", carrying a baby in my heart.

We made our fun adoption announcement in September and that's when it felt so real--God really was about to grow our family! There was a time a few years ago I thought we were probably finished after having two children.  We had our girl and boy, and it wasn't an easy transition into parenthood, but we were so fulfilled and so thankful to God be parents to our treasures.  We were content in parenthood and that was a good feeling.
But God!

Now here we were steady in our decision of pursuing another adoption.  Pursuing a child!  Becoming a mom of 3!  The stirrings began back that spring and developed into a deep desire to bring another child home.  I truly feel we were called to it.

We did get approved with Faithful Adoption Consultants, however, Heath had a quickening in his spirit to wait on moving forward with them.  We wanted to see if there was a "situation" presented that we wanted to show our profile book to through the agency we used the first time we adopted.  It's the same place who did both of our home studies.  This way we wouldn't be out the extra few thousand dollars for a referring agency, and we could put that money toward the adoption fees.  I immediately felt a peace about this decision. There are many times in our marriage when Heath and I go back and forth on an issue but this wasn't one of them.  I trusted his wisdom on this.  We decided to see if we could get matched with an expectant mom by the end of the year this way and if not, we would go through FAC to help us, after all.

Surrendering to His Plan

Throughout this time and with all these decisions in our adoption, we had other big-time decisions to make, as well.  One being to put our house on the market so we could move closer to our church and school, and downsize our mortgage in order to pay for the adoption.

You guys.  This was not easy for me.  

I LOVED our home!  I loved the property, the location, the staircase and the windows in the kitchen.  We made some precious memories in that house!  I had never loved a house like I loved that one and when we bought it we saw ourselves living there many years!  I was laying our (large to us) home on the altar, trusting God and trusting my husband. But it wasn't easy for me. There wasn't really a house for sale that we were interested in, but Heath felt strongly this was the right thing to do and he was right.  We could possibly pay for this adoption by selling our beloved home!

I wrestled with the Lord on this, if I can be perfectly honest with you. At the end of the day the sacrifice was still felt, but I understood this was what the Lord wanted for us... it became completely clear in my heart that I wanted another child --a baby-- way more than I cared to stay in that house!  If that house was standing in the way of adopting again then the house had to go. Family is more important! Jesus was so kind to open my eyes to the fact that I was actually laying down something I didn't need in order to gain something eternal, and that is a child!  He was calling us to walk this road of selling and downsizing square footage to gain a priceless treasure.  
In September on top of just starting a new church service, working on an adoption, (oh yeah, planning showers and the wedding of my sister in October whom I was the Matron of Honor!) we decided to get our house ready to be put on the market and try to sell as soon as possible!  We had handy men, painters, floor guys, you name it at our house from breakfast to dinner for a few weeks.  Our basement got a nice face lift and our whole staircase and banister was stripped down to the bare bones and redone to look gorgeous as a first impression in the entryway.  I was cleaning in every room, painting base boards and one entire bathroom floor to ceiling and purging the rooms to look lighter and brighter!  Cleaning closets, taking things to consignment and donating items galore.  We put a fresh coating of mulch out and got the outside spruced up.  All in a few weeks time. Again, a labor of love, but our home looked more beautiful than it ever had! 

To say that I was juggling a lot during that season is an understatement!!!  

I felt like my head was just above the water as I was trying to do all the things.  It felt like I wasn't doing any one thing very well.  I was forgetting homework.  I was forgetting to call people back.  I was corresponding to so many different people about important things about this adoption and the house reno and realtors and I felt fuzzy brained all the time. You know how you feel when you're so tired, and I was plain exhausted.  Our kids began to act out in school and that brought me to my knees with the Lord!  I needed extra grace for it all!  September had many fruitful blessings and seeds sown, but it was very tiring and also a hard month, in a way.  Looking back I see how things were working out for good and lining up but it the midst it felt like "just keep swimming".

This is when Mom in all her gracious hospitality invited me to come to her house one day to plan Faith's shower, but in all honesty she was giving me a needed respite.  I was mentally and physically spent and she knew it. She spoiled me with delicious homemade mochas and the best seat in the house, a cozy rocking chair she has had for years.

She made a wonderful lunch and had our favorite instrumental music on. She served me hand and foot while telling me to just enjoy.  I breathed deeper that day and the Lord used that time with Mom to give me the break and rest my body much needed! I still need my mom and I will in every season of life!  This beautiful day renewed my spirit and I carried on!

Profile Book

While all this was happening, we created our profile book!  It's a portfolio/book that tells the story of my husband and I and of our family together and extended family.  It shares about the community in which we live and explains why we are adopting.  It lets these prospective expectant mothers/parents/grandparents get to know who we are and what we're about. It requires creativity placing pictures and writing from our hearts. We enjoy making a profile book, although many people chose to get help with this process.  At the least, a good place to start is asking friends who have done this before to loan you their book before you get started or to help you.  Some couples choose to hire help with it. This is an exciting process and it should be looked at again as a labor of love and something you can look forward to putting together alongside your spouse.  While it can be a bit unnerving, we have always gone into the process believing that it will be placed in the right hands and the right person will choose us so that takes some of the pressure off from wanting it so perfect. We were really determined to get this book promptly finished so Heath got a fire under him one evening, and we completed creating a profile book in under 24 hours!  It felt like a real "win"! We like to pray over it before sending it out to the agency.  Now with the profile book finished, we were able to present to expectant mothers! 

It's the middle of September, the paper prep is all over and the adoption journey gets real! Now, it's time to present!  Get your heart steadied because the pursuing and the waiting begins!

This is when the Lord really showed off!....

Friday, June 15, 2018

It's All Grace--A Story About Answered Prayer

On February 21st, 2018 at 3:00 in the afternoon, we had been in the packed L & D waiting room for about 12 hours and we were going on just two hours of sleep. There was a full moon that night and, as they say, that's when all the babies come!  

I kept reliving the phone call at 1:00 am.  The call which became the best reason  in the world to get up in the middle of the night that we have ever had! …

our baby was on her way to meet the world!  

Heath and I were booking it to get to the hospital a few hours away through a big-time thunderstorm with torrential rain but it didn't slow us down! God made the wettest of roads safe that night, preparing a way for us as He had been doing throughout this entire adoption process.  If an obstacle was about to arise, be it financial or interpersonal or come what may, every. single. time. we went to Him about it, and He calmed that storm!  This night was no different. 

Now, there we were, sitting hopeful with the diaper bag full to the brim and a blanket under the bright fluorescent lights of the crowded waiting room.  I was full from Starbucks coffee and the breakfast Heath picked up that morning and the delicious Blaze pizza we had for lunch.  It was an extraordinary day! On extraordinary days, you either eat too much or not enough. Up until that moment I was eating to pass the time, but now as I received text after text with updates on our birth mom's progression, I was full from excitement and anxiety -- emotions were running high for me, which I expected. One of our lawyers was sitting across from us as we anxiously awaited. How do you act normal when your life is about to change?  When your prayer is being answered?  I thought my heart was going to pump out of my chest as I tried to look somewhat calm.

I look over at Heath who had been watching the Olympic games on the small tv wedged in the corner of the room, along with a couple dozen other people as they are waiting on daughters, mothers, wives and sisters to deliver.  In a room full of people, we were the only parents waiting on our child to come.  It's like you are carrying the most delightful secret you want to let everybody in on!  

This time in the waiting room, I was the new Mom!

Even as we sat there, we were still trusting and believing God for a beautiful delivery and healthy baby.  It's a faith walk till the finalization. Every step, trusting.

My phone buzzed...we received the text message!!  It came with a picture as beautiful as I have ever known in my whole life!

She's here!!!

I glanced at Heath through tears welling fast in my eyes.

Heath, our daughter is here!  Here she is!!!  I show the photo with shaky hands.  

A chubby baby girl with a round face and a perfect dark head of hair!

Thank you, Jesus!!!!!  Thank you, Lord!!! 

We stand, cry and embrace each other not as you see grandparents or aunts do in the waiting room, but our emotion came as parents whose daughter just arrived!!!

We experienced our daughter's arrival in the packed waiting room...which is so fitting since we have been in a waiting room for about 12 years with the Lord, as we've sought for a baby and surrendered ultimately to His will.

We couldn't believe the moment had finally arrived after not just a series of months, but we had waited through our entire marriage for this moment to be in the hospital at the arrival of our baby.

The next couple hours were no less a whirlwind of emotions as we waited to meet her.  I was not sure exactly how the details would pan out but I knew we would be in the room and handed a life that another beautiful woman grew and nourished and labored and delivered.  There's a feeling you can't quite explain, unless you experience it for the person who purposefully hands their baby over to you. There's a deep respect for this birth momma, this respect that feels and looks different from any I've had.

She made and bore the child I could not.

I parent and raise the child she could not.

This is when the crux of it all comes to be. This beautiful soul of a woman blesses me by literally handing over this child out of love, and I bless her by giving this child a future full of hope and love.

It's all grace. It's all by the grace of God!  Grace that an infertile woman is able to be a mom and lovingly raise children at all!  That our family can grow and that babies are born not from me but for me.  By the grace of God alone.... and I'm profoundly aware of that and thankful beyond belief!

It's grace for this birth mom, and I pray sincerely she realizes it even more each day! Grace that her child can be raised in the stability and love of a home that will never dissolve.  That she'll have siblings and cousins and grandparents who will cherish her and share the love of Jesus with her throughout her entire life.

It's grace that God gives second chances!

Rosemary Grace was born February 21st.  It's the day our hearts were burst open bigger than I ever could even imagine!  All my children have grown my heart-- don't get me wrong!!-- but I have never been handed an innocent baby from someone who chose us. That innocent life, not planned on earth but on purpose by God, handed to me was a sacred moment.

That day, I honestly fell in love with my husband all over again!  After years of getting on our knees together, receiving answered prayer together, hurting & losing together, watching the as we walked through The Refiner's fire together, we came back out with hands in surrender to God and now with our feet dancing with joy. Yes, I have never been more in love with my man since our honeymoon like I was when this babe of our was born!

Those few days in the hospital we experienced a myriad of emotion and that's what adoption will do!  It's not straight forward!  You have to go into it flexible and trusting in God because there are so many things out of your hands until it's finalized.  But adoption is a story of redemption and of second chances! It's a story that mirrors the gospel of Christ and how he has adopted me into His family.

Our Rosemary Grace is 16 weeks now, and it's been possibly the best 16 weeks of my adult life!  I'm still sleep deprived and living on coffee every day, but the thankfulness and joy that resides in my heart as a mom to my 3 is the song of my life right now.  It's the one He has written and had all along, I just finally turned that page.

It's all grace and it's all because He is a good Father!

                                              Very first time rocking her.  I'm in love!!!!!

Cheeks for days! Born 8 lbs. 15 oz.  21 1/2 in. long

First time Heath held her.  Priceless!!!

First time feeding her.  Glorious day.

First picture/selfie of the three of us!  So tired and sooo happy!

Going home!  Praise God from whom all blessing flow!!!

Our first family photo together!  She's 4 days old here, and it's our big girl's 7th birthday.

(I wanted to add here that for some reason my text turned out very wonky in this post. I am so sorry about that and will change it if I can, but I'm doing my best not to delay writing and publishing anymore -- so that's why it is what it is!  Thanks for understanding and I hope it doesn't detract from the story too much.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The Story the Lord is Unfolding...

What a ride I've been on since I last wrote here in September when we made our adoption announcement!  

We have been crazy- busy with life changes and adjustments from this time last year. In all honesty, I'm just now catching my breath from all the blessings the Lord has given us, all the answers to prayer and all. the. kids. to feed.  

I've almost gotten back on this blogging horse a dozen times in the past few months but something always seems to get in the way.  One of my reasons has been that I haven't been able to download photos onto the computer so I don't have any recent pictures to share. (For now anyways.) I'm determined to fix this problem because I'm such a visual person! It's a poor excuse not to meet up with you on here after so long, but today I didn't care!  

I just decided to begin typing. :)

Also I've been thinking, in the day and age of Instagram and "Inst-sharing" everything we do and wear and eat and read and places we go and see I've almost "written off" blogging as a whole.  That sounds so sad, but I'm being honest about my thought process.  Why blog when you can just pop up in an Instastory and immediately share your mind as you experience something or as the thought is taking shape.  As interesting as those are to watch I don't know if I will ever feel comfortable at primarily sharing my life with you via video.  Call me old fashioned ( I know I am) but I want to be mindful of what it is I say and share and I tend to ramble famously when I'm in front of a camera. I love Instagram most days, but there's a depth that I appreciate when I read a curated blog that I know somebody's hands thoughtfully developed.  

Mind you, I want to be completely authentic and genuine in what I share!  I love beautiful photos and I love everyday ones.  There's no need to have another picture-perfect looking life put out there when there's so much more victory in a life that is real and messy but that God is working in for His glory!

I've decided to do my best with this blogging thing I love so much, even with 3 little mouths to feed now... yes, I said three!!!... more to come on that!....

I'm here because there's been too many praises to God not to be here and tell you about them!

I'm here because I've missed YOU. The friends I've made over the years through The Cozy Little Kitchen!  

I'm here to continue with my story the Lord is unfolding.

My story of adoption and redemption and parenting and marriage and delicious baking and homemaking and worship music and the grace of Jesus Christ!  

This journey of my ordinary and sometimes challenging yet gloriously good, good life continues here at The Cozy Little Kitchen!

I hope you will come back with a delicious drink to sip on, and join me here as I begin to share more about my year of God opening the floodgates of faithfulness and the continued tale of my home and family!!!