Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pumpkins, Ruby Red Slippers, & A Pirate

Oh, I forgot to mention there's a scary creature, too (not sure why Kade insists on these creepy masks??). You'll forgive me for not being real wordy on this post, but I wore myself out on the previous two with Kendi's testimony. Shoot, you should just be proud of me for posting pics at all in my semi-conscious, sleep-deprived state! But, it's all good.... (well, all except my darn camera that's totally ticking me off...I keep getting hazy pictures only to find that the lens looks all smudgy from who knows what--not fingers b/c the lens is only exposed when taking shots??? ugh)

Happy Fall, Friends!!!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Story: Part 2

Okay, sorry to divide this up, but man, it was getting long & my time was running short. If you are just tuning in, you might want to check out Part 1 first.

Where I left off, our SW had shared the circumstances surrounding the birth mother's decision to look at adoption. Remember I had asked that God convict my heart that we were headed in the right direction? That's what this felt like to me. Honestly, friends, I was not super-hyped up that our family would be chosen b/c several profiles were being shown to her, & quite frankly, I kind of had my mind made up that we might never be "chosen" by a birth mother but rather we would be matched with an emergency-type situation where the birth mother wanted the agency to choose. But what I felt about this was that it was an answer to my prayer, b/c it rang so true with that verse from 1 Timothy. It was a Friday when they shared the profiles, & we were told that we would probably hear early the next week. Oh, & I should mention that we were told that they thought the baby was a boy. We did not care one way or another, but it seemed a bit strange for us b/c we both along the journey felt like a little girl was in our future. Joe just always felt that way, & I felt it a lot through that bible verse (...puts her hope in God...we had picked the name "Hope" as a middle name for a girl), but we also thought we would be adopting a male teenager when Kaya came along, so whatever!

We had a bit of a snag, though. In order for our profile to be shared, we needed to go ahead & pay our agency activation fee. We were not anticipating being shown so soon, so we were a couple thousand short. I'd like to tell you that I was completely mature about the whole thing, but I got pretty grumpy with Joe trying to figure out how in the world we were going to scrape this together. I just wanted to do what seemed easy & dip into his retirement (which is not a good option b/c you get gouged with taxes & penalties, but I didn't care). On Saturday, I was getting a bath & Joe burst into the bathroom holding a check. receives a royalty check twice a year, & it "happened" to come & "happened" to be the largest check he's ever received, which "happened" to be exactly what we needed.

Come Tuesday of the following week, it was very strange. Joe & I both awoke to butterflies in our stomachs. For me, that's not so strange, but for Joe...he just doesn't usually get those. And then he calls me at lunch to see if I've heard anything. Huh? By now, I'm kind of laughing at him b/c this is not how he does business. Again, I'm just feeling like this was God's way of saying, "Yes, this is where you're supposed to be." About an hour and a half later, our SW, Megan, calls me. "J has chosen your family." Say what? "And she would like to meet you. She's due soon, so it will have to be in the next couple of days." Umm, okay. I think my first response was "Why us?" Megan didn't really know, but said that would be a good thing to ask when we met.

We ended up meeting "J" two days later for dinner. I cannot begin to tell you how blessed I feel to have had that opportunity. It was hard beforehand b/c we didn't know what her personality was, if she would be shy, would it be awkward, etc. From the moment we met, we just connected, & it was amazing. I couldn't stand it, though, & had to ask almost immediately why she had picked us. Her SW laughed a little bit & said, "Tell them what you said." She proceeded to tell us that she was drawn to our large family, could tell that we loved each other, & then told us something that still just touches my heart so deeply. She said that the agency had asked her to give them a 2nd choice just in case, & she refused...she was adamant that it had to be us. I'm sitting here getting teary about it again, not b/c of some ego trip, but b/c through her, God was teaching me again. I had myself so convinced that we would not be chosen b/c of our large family, but my only basis for that thought was a human measuring stick. God has made our family exactly as it should be. Period.

The rest of our meeting went really well & ended with pictures & lots of hugs. We felt really good about everything, so we settled in to wait for the baby to be born.

The following Monday, J delivered a baby girl. Joe had become convinced after meeting J that it was indeed a little boy, but I told him on Sunday that I really felt everyone would be surprised & that the baby would be a girl. However, the whole situation took some twists & turns. In my journal I wrote, "Every fiber of my being wants to scream, 'Stop the ride...I want to get off!'". J was still saying that she needed to move forward with the adoption plan, but she wanted to take the baby home for a few days first. Going the route of domestic adoption, I had myself prepared that a birth mother would make the decision to parent, but I had never envisioned this. I spoke with her by phone, & she asked if we would wait & give her that time. So, come Wednesday, the baby was discharged from the hospital, but no one heard anything from J & she wasn't returning the agency's phone message.

Our prayer & desire has been "Wherever He leads", but I have to be honest, I didn't much like where we were. It was uncomfortable, uncertain, & the waiting & not knowing was really hard. I just wanted to know. I was struggling with all of the things pointing to this moment, this birth mother, this baby...Did I misunderstand? I was confused & emotionally spent. We had a chat with Megan after still not hearing anything. I have the utmost respect for our agency b/c they suggested, & we wholeheartedly agreed, that they would not try to push for contact. I am so thankful for this b/c I did not want in any way for J to feel pressured by anyone. And I also knew that should anything develop, it was God opening a door, not anyone else.

On Thursday, I spent the day focusing on my faith & the truth. These are some things I wrote in my journal:
  • The truth is, adoption is Your heart, & when we step into that, we are crossing into enemy territory.
  • The truth is, You do allow the twists & turns b/c it forces us to dig deep & grow closer to You.
  • The truth is, You love us & have not left any of us, including J.
  • The truth is, You are bigger than any of my circumstances.
I also journaled about my thankfulness for many things, not the least of which are the women that I counted on for prayer support. I was literally texting them several times a day as the prayer needs changed. Amie, Amy, Christie, Jill, Pam, & Sarah...everyone should be so blessed to have friends that will fervently pray over life's crazy moments. At some point during this day, I sent a text or email pretty much saying I was at peace (ie: I had resigned myself to the fact that this was not to be). And then some crazy's an email I sent out later to my prayer friends:

So, my friend, Amy, sent me an email earlier that was very nice. Then, as I was making supper, I was stopped in my tracks over something she said (not sure why it hit me then). She said, "God is in the business of miracles...don't ever forget that". I have really had a nice day "sitting in the boat, on His lap" focusing on the truth. It was a good place to be, but then I realized I had not yet asked for a miracle. Maybe it's easier to give up emotionally & move on. But I didn't sign up for easy. I signed up to jump out of the boat. So, I mentioned it to Joe, & he agreed. We spent some time in prayer asking God to move a mountain on behalf of Baby K & J. Earlier in the day, I had asked God to help me regain a sense of hope & anticipation for His plan b/c I don't want to just go through the motions with an underlying attitude of fear & pessimism. I just realized that He has already answered that prayer. So, I'm standing with arms high & heart surrendered, knowing that I have not just knocked, but beat on this door, so if it opens, it's all Him. And if it doesn't, it's all Him. But I have put myself out there & asked...

Let me clarify something. In a perfect world, adoption would not be necessary. Please do not take this that I was praying for another woman to give up her child for my sake. Joe & I felt so strongly about this "situation" b/c we felt so connected to J & that we were stepping in where she needed help. I confess, I can get caught up in praying "neat & tidy" prayers. I realized that we had not laid it all out there & prayed that if there was a mountain to be moved, that it would be to enable J to make a decision she at one point was so confident that she needed to. My concern was that since we are all in enemy territory, that she was being fed lies that distorted everything. Sometimes, it's easier to walk away from an uncomfortable situation to feel like you are guarding your heart than to completely invest, you know? Funny, though...once we had prayed in every way we knew how, we felt an overwhelming peace. There truly is freedom in surrender.

We ended up having a really nice family weekend, but never heard anything. At 6:00 Sunday evening, I was taking a few minutes to email my prayer friends to thank them for sticking with me through a crazy week. I was at peace. Literally in the middle of the email, Kyler came walking in with my phone with Megan on the other end. J had called her SW at the agency on her cell & said she was hoping Joe & I were still willing to go through with everything. My mind still gets dizzy thinking about it. I was unbuckling to get off the roller coaster, but settled back in.

J promptly called the agency Monday morning to make arrangements for Tuesday. I spent Monday in a surreal state of just getting things ready as best I could while keeping my emotions at bay. I was blessed with a decent night of sleep, & then we got up to make our trip. Friends, the battle raged on. A trip that should have taken us an hour & 15 min. took almost 3 hours. Somehow, a semi lost it's load all over the highway & backed up traffic for miles. And all along those many miles was absolutely NOWHERE to go to the bathroom. I typically have a bladder of steel, but on this day between my iced coffee & nerves, I was not in good shape. I was literally in pain, so when we got a call that J had postponed signing the papers, I couldn't even focus, nor was I surprised. Somehow, we made it to a bathroom & then made our way to someplace to sit down & try to eat something while we waited to find out what was going on. During this time, I was so blessed b/c the texts of prayer & encouragement just kept coming in. A couple friends recruited people to pray in general through their blog & FB. I was so thankful to be held up b/c I was emotionally wiped out.

Megan told us we could just hang out at the mall while they sorted things out, but that didn't last long. When we got word that the SW was headed to J's home, we went ahead & made our way to the agency to begin signing paperwork. A little after 1:00, we received word that the baby was on her way. We quickly finished signing what we needed to, & waited. In those few moments, I received a text from J so filled with hope & love...I was blown away (& yes, I cried). I am happy to say that I continue to have a special relationship with her that blesses me beyond words. I hope to share more about the opportunities for these connections with birth mothers in the future.

Then into the conference room at our agency came a gal carrying a car seat containing the tiniest, sweetest bundle. Somehow, I got her out of the seat & into my arms. In that moment, every bit of internal wrestling, every question, every doubt, every hope, every dream, every bit of waiting, & every prayer made sense. And while I would have traveled around the world for her, Joe was right, she was right here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Story: Part 1

We have now been home with our little Kendi for a full week. It has been such a precious time of becoming acquainted with her & falling completely in love with her. Before another day goes by, I want to share the story of how God brought this treasure into our family. This may be a little long, so I hope you'll hang in there with me.

First of all, I came to the realization that in a little less than a year's time, we have adopted 3 children. Kaya has been with us since birth, but her adoption wasn't finalized until 11/4/09. The reason I mention this is b/c someone else made that observation & also made the assumption that we've had it "easy", as if we decided one day that we wanted to adopt & these children just fell in our laps or something. Umm, no. I don't think the words "adoption" & "easy" ever go together, but "adoption" & "my life is forever changed b/c of the paths that led me to each of my children" will work. The adoption seed was planted in our hearts very early in our marriage, but it wasn't until 2006 that we began to position ourselves to walk stumble, fall, drag ourselves, limp this road of adoption. I don't ever want to come across as being discouraging at all; quite the contrary...I hope that anyone thinking about adoption or in the process of adoption will be encouraged to know that we have all experienced various forms of the roller coaster, but it's totally worth it! Ok, I feel better now...on with Kendi's story...

As we were in the process of K'Tyo's adoption from Ethiopia, I could not shake that "feeling" that we had another child. I finally called our coordinator & processed my feelings. She told me that she would keep me in mind should any other children become available before we were submitted to court. When it became evident that we would not be bringing home 2 children at the same time from Ethiopia, our coordinator discussed some other possibilities with us. At the time, our agency (IAN) was allowing people to go on the wait lists on a case-by-case basis (they have since changed their policy on this), so we opted to go on the infant boy & girl wait lists (for all of my IAN friends, we would have been about #2 on the infant boy list now...I lost track of infant girl). I finally felt at peace with that "feeling", so we focused on getting our little man home. We also made the decision to keep this next adoption between us b/c we didn't want to take away from the excitement surrounding K'Tyo's arrival, & also b/c it's nice to share something "just between us". Months later, I did have a few women that I shared with so that I could ask for prayer...more on that later.

Once K'Tyo was home & transitioning into our family, those stirrings started up again. However, Joe & I were not on the same page. I was content being on the wait lists; Joe said he was feeling something else. Oh. At this point I might mention that Joe & I have always found ourselves on the same page with regard to our adoptions, but typically God was placing things on my heart, I would share, & Joe would be on board. This was not what I was used to, & I confess, I was kind of like, "What is up with this?" We continued to pray & wrestle & pray some more. We were both in agreement that we were called to adopt again, but the "where" was the issue.

I believe that every one of our adoption journeys has not just been about adoption. They have each had special learning curves & opportunities for growth in faith, in marriage, & as individuals. During some prayer time, it hit me. This journey would be no exception, & I realized I was being called to submit to my husband. Now before anybody freaks out over the "submit" word (I say that b/c I saw it happen at a marriage retreat once), I don't think it's a bad thing. It's not a barbaric word. It's about respect, & it doesn't just happen where a woman submits to her husband. Joe submitted to what I felt strongly in my heart with our first two adoptions; now it was my turn. When I really thought about it, I realized how hard this must be for Joe. He is always doing things to make me happy, so to ask me to remove us from the wait lists was definitely not easy for him. But, I trust my husband, so we moved ahead.

We had moments of doubt, moments of uncertainty, curve balls in the form of trying to help a young man back on his feet. At one point in August, we actually stopped taking steps with the domestic agency we had been in contact with. But then that "feeling" started up again...that constant pulling on my heart that consumed my thoughts. I was processing it all with a dear friend, & she had the guts to be real with me. I was in the midst of chaos, yes, but some of it I was bringing on myself. I was beginning to fall victim to the "what will people think", "we have a large family", "I'm too old", "what will people think"...All garbage. When I could get past all of that, the reality was that pulling on my heart was God. And God doesn't call us to easy or to what's acceptable according to the American dream. So, even though we were in the midst of some challenges, we took steps of obedience & continued getting our domestic home study updated (thankfully, our social worker did not think we were completely coo-coo when we called her back & said we were moving forward!).

By the middle of September, everything was in order & our SW said that she was ready to circulate our profile to birth mothers as situations arose. To be honest, I was still wrestling in my mind. When you go to Ethiopia, the need hits you in the face. Was there really a need here? Would a birth mother even look at our large family twice? I finally prayed & said, "Lord, please convict my heart that we're headed in the right direction."

A couple Sundays later, a scripture was emphasized in church that hit me right where I needed it.

"The widow who is really in need & left all alone puts her hope in God & continues night & day to pray & to ask God for help." ~1 Timothy 5:5

There are some different definitions for widow, but suddenly my heart became heavy with the needs of birth mothers that we don't always see, so I continued to ask God if that's what he's been preparing me for.

On 10/1/10, we received a call about a situation to see if we would like our profile shared. (At this point, I want to say that there are many details I will not share out of respect, but I will share as much as I can that seems appropriate). When we were told of this birth mother's circumstances, my heart broke & I cried for her.

To be continued...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Snapshot: {First Days Home}

Kendi Hope has been home less than a week, & we already have a bazillion pictures.

As it should be.

I know I promised in our announcement post that I would be sharing about this miracle. And I look forward to doing just that when I am not so blissfully exhausted! ;o)

In the meantime, enjoy the pictures.

Yes, we are in love........

Ni Hao Y'all

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Huge, Happy Announcement!

First of all, please forgive me. I have been keeping something between my hubby & me (and a handful of the most wonderful friends that have prayed to move mountains, but that's a whole 'nother blog post!). It's been an overwhelming, wonderful day...I look forward to sharing more soon, but right now, I'd like to introduce you to the newest member of our family.

This little miracle is Kendi Hope, & she is 8 days old today.
We just arrived home a few hours ago, & while she's getting acquainted with everyone, I snuck away for just a minute to share our miracle with you.

These are some pictures from our first moments together & after getting home.
There will be LOTS of pictures with her brothers & sisters coming along soon!

Thank you for letting us share. We are overjoyed that God brought us together with this bundle of sweetness.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Happy Birthday, Kade!

Kade turned 11 years old today.

Kade LOVES sports. Seriously, when other kids were playing with cars, he had a ball in his hand. The one sport that really makes him light up is football.

And this year, the dream...he is old enough to play tackle football.

Some of these pics are from last week, & some are from yesterday.

Joe did a good job getting some pictures before the game last week when the guys were running through some plays. I wish I had some action shots, but once that game starts, having a somewhat expensive electronic device in my hand is not a good idea. The boy has some crazy, long runs (some for touchdowns!), so I have to be able to have hands free!

What an amazing blessing to have great grandparents cheering you on!

Dad & Mom are pretty proud of our guy!

And, of course, 2 of his biggest fans (the teenage fans had car keys & left the premises before pictures).

Grandma & Grandpa made the trip for the game, too.

After the game, we enjoyed some time with family for dessert.
And a certain birthday boy was pretty stoked to find out he's headed to the Browns vs. Patriots game in November with Dad. :o)
We love you, Kade! You make us so proud in everything you do!!
Happy Birthday!