Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Reflecting Back on the Journey: Match Made in Heaven

This time last year, we became "active" meaning that our homestudy, adoption paperwork & profile books were complete, & we were ready to start presenting to birth mothers. We were living in Canada, for those you know don't know, my husband played football in the CFL for 5 years & recently retired. At this time last year we were living in Hamilton, Ontario & about halfway through the football season with the TigerCats. 

Back to our adoption journey: We were sooo excited to finally start the matching process. Cue me thinking it would happen quickly & being frustrated when it didn't. It took 3 months before we were matched with Isabel's birth mom. Those 3 months were rough. Week after week other families from FAC matched while we didn't. We prayed nonstop, raised our budget, considered situations we weren't initially comfortable with & STILL we didn't match. I had no idea how to guard my heart during this emotional season of our journey. I remember feeling frustrated, heartbroken, confused, jealous & bitter during that time. God was pulling all of that out of me, forcing me to lay my doubt at His feet & trust in His timing.

In November, like we'd done a few times before, we heard about a situation & sent our profile book to the birth parents. We soon learned that they had narrowed down the prospective choices down to two couples, & we were one of them! Our hearts leapt; we just knew they were going to choose us. We tried not to get too excited (yeah right!) & spent time praying for that couple every day for 10 days while we waited on pens & needles for news. Finally, we learned that they'd chosen the other couple as the parents of their baby. This news left us shocked & crushed, but more than anything, we were emotionally drained & exhausted. Together in prayer, we came before God & expressed our disappointment, our weariness & desire to be matched to our baby. We cried & held each other close that night. Over the next week, I remember feeling more peace than I had in the 3 months we had been active. 
When I checked my email a few days later, I saw an email from our consultants about a situation with a birth mother in Georgia. A feeling of peace came over when I read the limited information available. Cary was at work, so I sent him a message telling him to read the info & call me back so we could make a decision on whether we wanted to present our profile book to this birth mother. Within 5 minutes he called me back & said a simple, "Yes, lets do it." I agreed with him & had complete peace with saying yes. This situation was the only one we'd heard about so far where our "yes" was immediate. God's plan is so amazing. Within a few days we learned that the birth mother had received the books & was in the process of narrowing down the potential couples. Then on November 25th, 2 days before Thanksgiving & my 25th birthday (they fell on the same day last year) we heard that we had made it into the top 3 or 4 couples that she was considering. I remember exactly where I was & how I felt when I received that information. At this point, we'd learned that it was wise not to get our hopes up, but we were still trying how to figure out how that was possible ;). I got off the phone & sat down at the table in our apartment & looked across the room out the big beautiful windows watching the leaves on the trees outside dance & sway in the wind. I remember feeling an overwhelming peace come over me as I whispered a simple prayer, "Lord, I trust you. I give this situation to you. Be with this birth mother as she makes this difficult decision. Give her peace, wisdom & clarity. Surround this sweet baby with your love & protection. Be with us as we wait. Calm my anxious heart." I can still remember that prayer & the feeling I had so vividly.
We assumed it would be days or another week before we heard any news about the birth mother's decision. Even so, for the first time since becoming active, I was able to put the situation in the back of my mind & wait for news without great anxiety. That same afternoon Cary was on a 6 hour plane ride to fly across Canada to Vancouver for the Grey Cup (the Superbowl of the CFL). About 4 hours into his flight, I was sitting in our apartment watching the Dancing with the Stars finale when my phone rang. I looked down & my heart almost jumped out of my chest when I saw our consultants name & number on my screen. I answered the phone to hear three simple words that changed our lives forever, "She chose you!"  Tears filled my eyes as those words replayed themselves in my mind...."She chose you!" Hearing the words that we had longed to hear for so long was truly surreal. The hardest part about all of this was that I was experiencing it alone & had to wait another two hours before telling Cary the amazing news. I'll never forget the moment I got him on the phone! I wish I would've been able to see his face, but the excitement in his voice was priceless. Later that night I laid in bed reflecting, thanking God for answered prayer & recorded a little video for our baby-to-be. 
The next morning we had a conference call with the birth mother, social worker & attorney. The purpose of the call was for the birth mom & us to ask each other questions & for her to be able to confirm her decision in choosing us as parents. We were so nervous! My stomach was in knots & I hardly slept the night before... I woke up every hour or so to check the time & pray over the upcoming conversation. Again, the most difficult part about everything was that Cary & I weren't able to be together for all of this (remember he was in Vancouver for the Grey Cup while I was still in our apartment in Ontario). Before I knew it I was dialing the number for the conference call. The moment we heard Isabel's birth mother's voice for the first time was a moment filled with so much emotion! After praying for & wondering about our birth mother for months, we were finally speaking with her for the first time. When Cary spoke, I could tell I wasn't the only one who was choked up! It was amazing how God's goodness covered every word of our conversation. I'm keeping the details of what we said to each other private, but it was truly a beautiful conversation. Whenever we hung up the phone, I remember being flooded with peace & confidence that God's hand was all over the situation. The next day, which was my Birthday & Thanksgiving, we were able to officially announce that we were matched with a baby due in February. 

Sharing our news with everyone felt incredibly surreal & totally wonderful. A few days later, I flew to Vancouver to join Cary for the Grey Cup festivities & we were able to celebrate the amazing news in person. While in Vancouver, we had the opportunity to share our testimony of God's faithfulness through our infertility & adoption journey at the Grey Cup Prayer Breakfast. God's sweetness to us really blew me away. He orchestrated that we could receive this wonderful news the week of my birthday, Thanksgiving & also the week that we would be publicly sharing about trusting in Him through the highs & the lows of life. I realized that He had saved this incredible gift for us at just the right time, for our joy & for His glory. I remember sitting on that stage testifying of His goodness in front of a few hundred people & thinking "Wow, God. Your ways are truly miraculous & your timing is perfect." In that moment, I realized so clearly that every "no", every delay, every disappointment & frustration hadn't been in vain. The Lord had used every step of our journey to bring us closer to Him & to refine us. He allowed us to truly understand the depth of our desire for this child, to spend months on our knees in prayer for our future child & birth mother, to learn to lean on Him in a whole new ways & to experience His peace in the midst of waiting on answered prayer - all of these lessons would be vital to us as we walked through the next few months of our adoption journey. 

I share our story for two reasons: to testify of God's goodness & to encourage others. I pray that God would use our story to touch the hearts of everyone who reads it. If you're currently going through this process & are waiting on your "yes" I pray that our story would bring you comfort & hope. My advice: press into the Lord & surrender your plans to Him. SO much easier said than done, I KNOW. I struggled to give up control through every step of our journey, but His grace covered my struggle. I learned that when I gave my heart to Him, His love & peace always refreshed my weary soul. It's natural to over analyze every detail of every situation, to make yourself sick over the "what ifs" & to be overwhelmed by the "no's". You've got to process it all in your own way for sure -but y'all- I promise you, God does not make mistakes & He hasn't forgotten about you. He knows which baby will be joining your family in what time frame. His plan is perfect & His timing is worth waiting on! Cling to that! It doesn't mean His plan isn't going to include a whole lot of hard, because let's face it, "hard" & "adoption" go hand in hand- BUT what's for sure is that His strength will sustain you through every second of this crazy journey. For us, His strength is literally the only thing that got us through it all. 

Ways to help you from going completely bonkers in the waiting stage: 
-Read God's word & stand on it. Combat negative thoughts with scripture. Pick a verse for your season of waiting & cling to it. Mine was: Philippians 4:6-7"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
-Find someone (or a few people) who are believing with you & will commit to praying with you & for you as you wait. It helps to be able to express frustration, disappointments & fears with someone other than your spouse (as long as they are trustworthy, on the same page as you & have your best interest at heart). For me that person was most often my mom. 
-Find an outlet -for me writing & painting were extremely therapeutic. I wish I would have channeled more of my nervous energy into exercising ;) 
-Set boundaries. Leaving this one mostly up to interpretation because you'll know what works for your specific situation. For ex. No adoption talk at dinner, etc. For women this is especially difficult since when something huge is going on with us we tend to process by talking & over analyzing...try to give your hubby an occasional break ;) I definitely wish I would've done a better job with this. 
-Fill up the waiting with fun memories: I know it's difficult to do this when you are trying to save every extra penny & focusing so much energy on everything adoption. Although during our "waiting to be matched phase" we were fundraising day & night, we still tried to make time for quality time & simple dates. My only regret is that we didn't enjoy the last bit of time with "just the two of us" more! 

No matter what answered prayer you are waiting on, whether your journey is adoption related or not, I pray that you would experience His love, goodness & faithfulness as you walk through your own season of waiting. 

And as always, I want to encourage you that the wait for your baby is worth it! We are grateful for everything that led us to Isabel, even the disappointments & rough patches in the journey. We wouldn't trade any of the hard parts for the joy we are experiencing now! 

With love,

Friday, August 21, 2015

Love Has No Limits: Bonfire blog post

Remember the "Love Has No Limits" fundraising t-shirts we designed & sold last year? I wrote a blog for the company we used for the shirts, Bonfire funds, to encourage families who are in the fundraising & waiting stage of adoption. 

 At this time last year we were in the middle of fundraising & waiting to be matched with a birth mother. Every night I would stay awake praying & longing for news of our little one. In the midst of the waiting I was often discouraged, but looking back now I'm amazed at how our story unfolded. God's plans are always perfect! I'm so thankful He brought Isabel to us. 

"Some days I remember the months of waiting, the sleepless nights, the prayers and countless hours we put into adoption fundraising like it all happened yesterday. But most days, those memories are foggy and seem like just a tiny part of our journey compared to the overwhelming JOY that we’ve experienced since Isabel joined our family. The years of longing for a child were difficult, but I can now look back and see that there was a beautiful, perfect purpose for our wait. God had a plan for our family all along." 

Hold onto is coming! 
Go check out the post here:
I sincerely hope & pray it encourages those of you waiting for your little one. Please feel free to share with anyone you know who is adopting! 

P.S. If you're looking for a good company to do a t-shirt fundraiser through, I absolutely recommend using Bonfire ->  quality shirts, easy setup & no upfront money required! 

 I'm SO thankful for every single person who blessed us on our journey to bring Isabel home… Thank you all for your amazing generosity & love for our family. 

With love,

Friday, August 7, 2015

Stand for Life

The other day I heard Isabel stirring, so I went into her nursery to get her up from her nap. As I walked up to her crib, I stood quietly & watched her beautiful little hands reach down to grab her tiny perfect toes. As I took in the sight of my sweet daughter, I felt a wave of emotion come over me: amazement over the beauty of my baby’s perfectly formed body, gratitude for her precious life & the gift of being her momma. Then in an instant, I was overcome by sadness, anger, disgust & grief as an image of tiny torn apart body parts flashed through my mind. You see, the visual of my daughter’s perfect little hands & feet brought up the recent images from the Planned Parenthood videos in my head. The room spun & I felt like I was going to throw up. The thought, “That could have been my daughter’s fate” echoed in my mind. I blinked & was back to reality just in time to see Isabel turning her little face toward me & giving me the most adorable smile. As I reached down to scoop her up & snuggle her close, my eyes filled with tears of gratitude for her birth mother’s brave choice. As I felt her little heart beat against me, my heart exploded with praise to the Lord for protecting her life & bringing her to us. I sat down to rock her & held her close, as my heart mourned every precious life that has been sentenced to death by abortion.

I am sick over what is going on in our country concerning abortion & the culture of death. We live in a country where it is legal for a mother to kill her child if she so desires, a country where the price of baby body parts is negotiated over lunch by high ranking Planned Parenthood officials, a country where the government, media, general public (& even the church at times) all but turn a blind eye to these gruesome activities, a country where the government has chosen to forsake the rights of the unborn because after all, a woman should be free from the consequences of her sexual choices, even if that means she must murder her own flesh & blood in order to do so, right? How have we strayed so far that we are willing to condemn innocent babies to death for the sake of convenience… My heart is heavily burdened for all of the innocent lives taken by abortion, for the way our culture has justified these evil acts, & I’m broken for every woman who has made the choice to abort & lives haunted by regret.

My heart is also so incredibly grateful for every brave woman who has been faced with an unplanned pregnancy & chosen life. Thank you Jesus for every selfless woman who has sacrificed her body for 9 months in the name of love. Thank you God for every birth mother who has chosen adoption. Thank you Lord for every family who has chosen to adopt, foster & radically love children in need of a forever family. I am so grateful for every pro-lifer in our country who fights for the rights of the unborn, for every person who supports families who are adopting, for every soul who hits their knees in prayer for the women faced with an unplanned pregnancy.

In a lot of my posts on adoption, you will find the hashtag #adoptionislove. I don’t use this phrase lightly. After all, I’ve witnessed firsthand the brokenness, pain & loss that all plays a huge part in adoption. BUT I have ALSO seen the abounding joy, the redeeming grace, the deep LOVE that is involved in adoption. Birth mothers come from all sorts of different backgrounds & circumstances, but regardless of their situation, they all share one important, beautiful thing in common: they chose to put the well being & happiness of their child above their own. Birth mothers humble themselves by admitting they are not the what’s best for their unborn child. They suffer through 9 months of pregnancy knowing that they will have to face the pain of giving up their rights to their own flesh & blood. They say no to abortion & yes to life, even though they are scared & overwhelmed by an unplanned pregnancy. Do you know what force drives them to reject abortion & put themselves through monumental pain, pregnancy & loss? It’s called LOVE…selfless, sacrificial love. Love also motivates families to wholeheartedly accept, care for, provide for, fight for, and sacrifice for a child of a different biological background than their own… Adoption is truly a picture of love.

I’m reminded of Isabel’s birth mother’s sacrifice every single day. I am so grateful for the bravery & strength that led her to choose life for our daughter. Isabel lights up every room she’s in & brings joy to everyone she meets. Our lives have been forever changed by her short life & I cannot imagine the world without her. Every life is precious & has potential. The unborn deserve the right to life, they do not deserve death, NO MATTER the circumstance under which they were conceived. My heart aches for all the beautiful babies the world has lost to abortion.

There are many ways we can stand against abortion: prayer, peacefully protesting at clinics/rallies, watching & sharing the Planned Parenthood videos & educating ourselves on the facts (the videos are horrific & very hard to watch but watching them means educating yourself on what is going on…let the footage motivate you to take a more active stance on fighting for life! People need to see for themselves what is really going on), voting pro-life, letting women know they have options other than abortion, supporting organizations that help connect pregnant mothers & single mothers to resources/counseling/life giving options, stop shaming & judging unwed pregnant women, supporting families who are adopting, adding to your family through adoption, speaking about adoption with positive language, praying for birth mothers who are choosing adoption, etc.

Even though the darkness seems overwhelming, God is moving. He’s inviting us to shine bright & cut through the darkness by standing for truth, speaking up for life & sharing our stories so that others can see the life-changing love that can come from even the most unplanned pregnancy.

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*A note to anyone reading this who has had an abortion & lives with regret: God’s grace is enough for you & His forgiveness will change your life. We have all sinned & fallen short of the glory of God…we have all made mistakes & decisions that we deeply regret. This post is not meant to shame you. My heart breaks for you & I genuinely pray that you would find peace. There are resources available to help you heal. God makes all things new when you put your life in His loving hands. 

“For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.”
~ Psalm 139: 13-16 

Happy 6 months, Isabel! You are a blessing & we are so incredibly grateful for your life. Every day with you is a gift. Love you so much sweet girl!