Sunday, November 22, 2015

One Year Reflection

This week we've been remembering a lot of “on this day” moments, as Micah was born a year ago Wednesday, kicking off our 3-week journey to bringing him home. The journey to adopting Micah and his first year of life have changed us so much. To say that this year has been easy would be completely false. To say that our hearts are fuller today than we ever could have imagined would be absolutely true.

As we've reflected on Micah's birth week, I feel like we'd be missing something without pausing to look back at the beautiful story God wrote in bringing Micah into our family. If you are a new reader and aren't familiar with our adoption journey, feel free to read through our blog archives, but in short, parenting three small ones under the age of 5 has been the wildest ride of our lives, a ride we didn't expect when we were newly married with dreams and aspirations and all those lofty goals “they” say you're supposed to aspire to in life. In the summer of 2012 when our first son was just 14 months old, God asked us to redirect our individual pursuits and focus our family on His call to adoption. And now here we are, somehow finding ourselves closing out 2015 with three beautiful, active, vibrant little lives looking to us as Mommy and Daddy.

Some of my favorite verses from childhood are Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don't depend on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.” These verses capture exactly what God taught us in the road to Micah. So, for my own sake of remembering and re-applying, here are some of the big “trust lessons” we've had in the past few years.

First, we learned (over and over) that our own understanding is not dependable. After hearing a clear call from God to pursue adoption, we (I) expected God wanted us to hurry through paperwork, buckle down and work our hardest at fundraising, and spend every ounce of energy to bring our new little one home. One “Um...surprise?!” pregnancy test a couple months later quickly sent all hurry and energy out the window as morning sickness jumped back in the door, and just as we finally finished our home study we welcomed Zoe Grace into the world with all her fiery vigor. At the time, I definitely felt disappointed to have to put the brakes on “our” adoption plans. But it is so sweet to look back now and realize that God was very much at work during our year of delay and had the timing fully under control (of course). As one wise adoptive mom encouraged me in our waiting, God knew just which child would call us Mommy and Daddy—and as it turned out that child wasn't even conceived yet in all the months we spent trying to hurry. Also, shortly before Zoe's birth, I was able to help our best friends fly through adoption paperwork and a family profile in just a couple hours (that had taken us a few months) as they received unexpected news they would be adopting a sweet baby boy in just 5 weeks. I was also able to seemlessly transition to nursing Micah as I weaned Zoe. I don't know if I would have considered adoptive breastfeeding had I not already been nursing a child. Through each of these, God just made us smile at our terrible lack of understanding of His timing.

Also, we learned how to trust God more than ever before. From financial provision to travel plans to health concerns, we had many occasions for worry and anxiety. With so many concerns weighing on us, Daniel and I began having deliberate nightly prayer together during the months before adopting Micah, a practice we still try to maintain now. We grabbed on to Philippians 4:6 and reminded ourselves often, “Don't worry; instead, pray about everything!” We had expected to raise most of our funds through extra design and development freelancing, but after Zoe's pregnancy zapped my energy, we were left having to trust that God had a better plan for financial provision. Just a week before our profile was presented to Micah's birth mom, we (God) sold our small rental house for about the exact amount we needed to complete our adoption fund. In the weeks leading up to Micah's birth, we learned of potential health concerns we might face at his birth. However, after 9 days of sitting with him 16 hours a day in a tiny room so he could be observed, he was discharged healthy on Thanksgiving Day. What a day of rejoicing that was!

Looking back, we can't help but praise God for His goodness, faithfulness, and unexpected blessings. And, as we move forward, we trust that God will continue to direct our paths as we seek Him. While we're a bit weary with three littles (ok, a lot weary) and would welcome a short reprieve from diapers and sleepless nights, we also have a deep passion to follow God into adoption again and are placing our trust in His leading in the future. We can't wait to see what unexpected journey He has for us next!

1 Day Old

The Birthday Boy!

He really liked his cake, and his diggers

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Cloth of Christ

I have wanted to write a post for weeks now, but every time I sat to write, nothing seemed post-worthy, and I was interrupted before I even started. Truthfully, living in a 550-sq-foot house with three littles was taking its toll on me and claustrophobia was setting in, so writing fun stories about life was not quite reality. But this week has been different.

Last Saturday night, I crashed on the couch refusing to do any housework or dishes because I was just over it. I was so tired of messes, so tired of whining children, so tired of dirty laundry. I was one big complaining, selfish mess, knowing my family needed me but feeling totally unwilling to pick up one more dirty sock, wipe one more messy face, or cook one more meal for a child to criticize.

I was done. D.O.N.E. But knowing being done was realistically not an option, I asked Daniel if I could leave the house for just an hour or so to regain some mental composure before starting a new week. I ended up running out for ice cream, bringing some home for Daniel too, and attempting to erase my despair with frozen chocolate and peanut butter goodness. Surely that would help.

It didn't. Sunday morning I woke up feeling only slightly better. I had managed a half-decent night's rest thankfully but still felt so weary. Weary from half-decent sleep, weary from messes, weary from being mom. As my family was loading up in the van for church, I sat in the house for a few moments asking the Lord for just enough patience and kindness to make it until nap time without yelling at anyone. (Yes, this mamma gets angry and yells sometimes, resulting in tangible opportunities to teach little ones about sin and forgiveness and grace.)

Then we went to church. I knew that Dr. Jim Lo would be speaking that morning, so I was prepared to hear a powerful message from the Lord. But I was not prepared for the Holy Spirit to speak pointedly and specifically to my mamma heart. As Dr. Lo unpacked the various “c”s of Christ such as the cradle and the cross, my heart was struck as he discussed the “cloth” of Christ--the cloth Christ humbly picked up to wash His disciples' feet.

Do you know how many “cloths” a mamma picks up in a day? I can't tell you, because I've never stopped to count. There are wash cloths for messy faces, dish cloths, burp cloths, wet wipes, towels, sheets, and various other quickly-grabbed cloth items used for spills, messes, and disasters. But never have I associated this work with anything Christ would have done. Until Sunday. As I heard the message, the Lord spoke clearly to my heart, “You pick up a cloth every day. But how are you using it? Are you using it in loving service to the ones I've entrusted to you? Or are you grumbling and complaining about having to clean yet another dirty face, disregarding this great opportunity to show My character in serving the little ones before you?” Then He also spoke, “Remember, if you come to Me I offer rest. Stop striving on your own; let My Spirit give you strength and fill you with love as you pick up your cloths each day.”

Sometimes you hear a message and reflect on it awhile before gleaning a life application. Not last Sunday. I left church with a repentant and resolved heart. I had been trying for so long to work a little harder at this mom thing, do better at being joyful, play with my kids more, get my laundry done just a little faster. All in my own strength. I wish I were quicker to remember that true rest and strength can only be found in the Lord, but I'm so glad for second (and third, and 17th) opportunities to re-learn :-)

This week of being mom has been my favorite in a long time. The cloths I've encountered remind me to rely on the Lord's strength in caring for my little ones. Wiping faces reminds me of Christ's love. Changing diapers reminds me of Christ's humility. Cleaning up spilled milk reminds me of Christ's kindness.

Of course I still dislike laundry and sigh about spilled milk. But I'm so thankful for a real, living God who speaks personally and specifically into our lives and offers rest and strength in the journey of life. And I'm thankful for the simple yet profound example of Christ's serving others with an ordinary cloth.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

August 2015 (and the previous 7 months...)

Well, we started this blog several years ago with the intent to keep you informed throughout our family's adoption journey. As I checked tonight, it appears the last time I posted was January 22...let's just keep that quiet that it's been nearly 7 months since I posted last. A lot has happened since then—specifically, Micah has been growing, smiling, jumping, rolling, and giggling to his heart's content while I do my best to keep his big sister from smothering him in hugs and kisses.

I've been wanting to write a blog post for awhile, but life has a way of keeping a mamma of three little ones from having time to think through thoughts. As a matter of fact, a mamma of three little ones seldom has time to think at all, so I'm finding.

Today is such a special day though. For one, as many of you know, we were surprised with a sale of our former home before we had even planned to sell it. Long story short, a realtor called out of the blue, asked if she could show it to some clients, we said sure, they saw it, they liked it, they bought it.

Which left us homeless. Ha! Homelessness is always fun with three little ones. At least this homelessness also included a full bank account thanks to the above-mentioned surprise home sale.

So, we did what any wise parents would do and found a home for our littles—the 550 square foot house that we used to live in when we were first married just happened to be vacant, and the landlords generously offered for us to rent it temporarily until our next home purchase closes (or until we get replaced by long-term renters, whichever happens first ;-)). Then it was time for serious house hunting.

Finally, just this week, we decided on a house that should work great for all of us (yes, Daniel will even be able to do some target practice in his backyard), and we received an accepted agreement this afternoon. So today is special as we look forward to a new chapter in life with little Vs :-)

However, today is extra special for one other reason. One year ago today, a very brave, very strong, and very awesome expectant mom captured our hearts for the first time. One year ago, Micah's birth mom viewed our family's profile for the first time ever and decided she'd like us to parent her tiny growing son. Thinking back to last August, I remember so many waves of emotion as we learned we would become Micah's parents in December (which became November, haha). We are so thankful to have met Micah's birth mom when he was born and for the chance to send her updates throughout his life.

In reflecting on this past year, I can't help but write about God's faithfulness. As we felt God asking us to pursue adoption way back in 2012, we knew that we didn't have much to offer but would have to trust Him to provide and make a clear path to bring a little one into our family. He has done that. Not only has he blessed us financially with both enough funds to bring Micah home as well as with enough funds to afford the down-payment on our next family home (and remember Daniel was jobless for a few months—another awesome testimony to God's faithfulness at just the right time!), but He blessed us with the perfect son to become our third little V. Micah James has blessed us tremendously, and we can't imagine what life would be like had we said 'No” to God's prompting to follow Him down this road.

While Micah's adoption is legally complete, we do not plan to end this blog any time soon as his story of entering our family is simply the beginning of what we know God will do in his life and in ours as a family. I do hope to blog more than once every 7 months, but until then, please pause with us to remember God's faithfulness, His goodness, and His blessings in your own story!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

All He Has Done

"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

This morning I glanced at these verses for the first time in a couple months. These words have become seared in my mind and heart this past year, as I clung to them throughout the days leading to Micah's adoption and purposed daily not to worry but to pray. But today, I was struck by the words "and thank him for all he has done." Recently I've not been doing much thanksgiving. Little Zoe was not feeling well again yesterday, likely from her new outburst of teeth, and I've been so quick to begin grumbling each time illness reappears.

Much of our adoption journey was about learning who God is, but this morning I just want to throw out a list of the things God has done that I am thankful for in the past several months:
1) He guarded our hearts and minds with his peace throughout Micah's adoption. We were a bit unsettled when unexpected information came early on in our match with Micah, but the Lord gave overwhelming peace, and of course today we can not imagine Micah not being our son.

2) He healed our son. Micah never stayed in the NICU for the health concerns we anticipated. Today he is a chunky little 2 month old who saves his biggest smiles for his Daddy :-)

3) He showed great mercy and love for our family--our paperwork was rushed through both Florida and Indiana, and we were home for Christmas, weeks earlier than we expected.

4) He's given us three beautiful children who love each other. I had not expected the deep love my two little children would have for their new brother. They absolutely adore him.

5) He's given us extended family and friends who love us. This past weekend my parents were here, and it was so special to see the love they poured out on all of us. Friends also have offered much encouragement and support in the past weeks.

6) He restored our souls. Through these past weeks of illness, there were moments when the toddler screaming was unbearable. The Lord provided rest and refreshment, and we feel greatly renewed in our parenting and marriage.

Take a moment to reflect on what the Lord done for you lately. Have you prayed for and received His promised peace? His peace truly exceeds anything we can understand :-).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Well, it's been over a month since I've blogged. I've felt on several occasions I owed you a post, but in reality, every time I sat down to write the page stared back blankly. It's been hard to put into words all that we've been feeling this past month.

Our first week home with Micah was absolutely wonderful. We took him to church for the first time on his original due date; a healthy little guy without a care in the world. He and his siblings were decked out in cute little Christmas clothes from Grandma, and life was smiley, happy, and truly joyful. Christmas Day was one of the highlights of our year, I think, as we enjoyed the bright-eyed wonder of small children opening their first Christmas gifts in their own home, as well as a three-year-old who is really starting to understand who Jesus is and why we celebrate Christmas. We experienced such a blessed Christmas Day as a family of five and could see the beautiful story of adoption finally unfolding in our home.

Then there was the day after Christmas. And the following 21 days. Sickness hit our family in waves, first coming for Micah as a bad cold, then a stomach bug passing through Micah, Daniel, and I, then a cold hitting Nathan, Zoe, and I, teething for Zoe, and finally another stomach bug hitting all of us but Micah.

There is nothing like sick children to suck the happiness and smiles from life in a hurry. Wondering if your 5-week-old baby has kept enough fluids down is hard. Having to wake up at 2, 4, and 5 a.m. between newborn feedings to clean up bed sheets and change pajamas and bathe children is miserable. Having to fill the bathroom with steam quickly so your 3-year-old will stop panicking that he can't breathe is stressful. On the days Daniel or I or Daniel and I were also sick, happiness quickly diminished.

From the beginning of our adoption journey, we knew that entering into adoption meant engaging in spiritual battle. Throughout Micah's adoption, Satan has attempted to shift our gaze from God's best plan for us in this season of life through discouragement, disillusionment, and doubt. During these past three weeks, I lost sight of God's best plan on more than one occasion. What were we doing? Caring for three sick children was absolutely beyond our physical or emotional strength capacity.

In reflecting on these weeks, I am reminded of the time Elijah fled to the wilderness wanting the Lord to take his life because Jezebel was trying to kill him. Elijah had just seen God work mightily, but the moment the enemy (Jezebel) entered the scene, he lost sight of the Lord for a bit. But in response to his pitiful plea to die, the Lord simply allowed him to rest, sent an angel to give him food and water, allowed him to rest more, and told him to eat more so the journey ahead would not be too much.

I love that instead of reprimanding him, the Lord just hit the reset button for Elijah by allowing and providing necessary rest and physical nourishment. And in Elijah's moment of great emotional weakness, God showed Himself to Elijah not as a tornado or an earthquake but as a gentle whisper; a still, small voice.

This is what the Lord did for me this week. I was the one running to the wilderness (or, in mom terms, the bathroom) to escape. I was definitely hitting an emotional low, despite having just seen the great and mighty acts God had just done in Micah's adoption. Yet God gently provided what I needed and is bringing me back to a place where I can hear His gentle whisper again.

Just as God sent an angel to Elijah's side, He sent other believers to our side this week to bring rest and nourishment. One family brought groceries and Starbucks to our door. Another family watched all three of our kids for a day so we could have a break from our sweet Zoe's constant screaming. Several friends sent messages that they were praying specific Scriptures over our family. Grandparents drove 8 hours to spend the last three days with us, knowing fully that they would likely catch the stomach bug we've been sharing. A dear friend brought encouragement from halfway around the world. The Lord sent His people to bring rest and nourishment to see us through a tough low in our journey.

I will enter this new Monday morning feeling refreshed and renewed by the Body of Christ. This morning in church as we sang the song “Build Your Kingdom Here,” I was filled with hope and resolve. As you continue pray for our family, please pray that we will let the Holy Spirit fill our hearts and home with the strength and love of Christ.

Come set Your rule and reign
In our hearts again
Increase in us we pray
Unveil why we're made
Come set our hearts ablaze with hope
Like wildfire in our very souls
Holy Spirit come invade us now
We are Your Church
We need Your power
In us
-Build Your Kingdom Here; Rend Collective

Sunday, December 7, 2014

And we're off!!!

Well we are spending our last night in Florida and have already packed up the RV and headed to the top of the state! Unfortunately the last 24 hours went nothing as planned (Micah was up until 3 a.m., Zoe woke up at 5 a.m., Nathan peed the bed at 5:30 a.m., it started raining at 9 a.m. and ruined our outdoor day plans...such is life with three littles!), but we are nevertheless on the road and so excited to be on our way HOME!

If you've been confused on why we're still in Florida if Micah was discharged on Thanksgiving, there is a small "detail" after you adopt a child out of state called Interstate Compact agreement that basically means the state you're adopting from and the state you reside in agree that you can legally transport your child home. As we mentioned on Facebook, Florida cleared our paperwork this week after just four days, which is incredible these days as they generally take 10-14 working days. Our agency expects us to clear Indiana early this week; in the meantime we are free to travel anywhere in the U.S. (even Alaska, haha!), as long as we don't go back to Indiana :-). So we are getting ready to meet our newest nephew, 1-week-old Samuel, tomorrow!! We will spend a few days there, and hopefully head back home at the end of the week, as long as all lights are green with paperwork! If not we'll be poling you for the best places to visit in the country with 3 children 3 and under--HAHA!

We can't wait for all of you to meet sweet Micah! We know so many of you have prayed with us for his adoption over the past couple years, and we were so blessed this morning to be sent of in a circle of prayer from our host family just before hitting the road. We are so excited for all the Lord has done in Micah's adoption--we have seen the Lord working in every area, and we are so thankful!

As you continue to pray us home, please pray this week for Nathan and Zoe's endurance with being away from home. They are struggling a lot with being out of routine, not in their own beds, and not in familiar environments. They have enjoyed some fun moments, but they are really ready to be home. We are ready also, as the travel has taken a toll on all of us with the kids' sleeping habits falling apart away from home. We trust the Lord will strengthen us for one last leg of this journey to get all FIVE of us home for Christmas :-)

Oh yes, and and for the record, I have no idea how to format pics on our blog--but I will do my best here for those of you who aren't Facebook users and have seen no pictures yet :-). Meet Mr. Micah James--our newest sweetie!


Monday, December 1, 2014

Songs of Thanksgiving

While contemplating what to post on our blog tonight, I stumbled upon this verse on a friend's Facebook page: “The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.” (Psalm 28:7 NLT)

If you read my post from November 16, you'll know I blogged about really struggling spiritually with discouragement and anxiety. The Lord had been working in my heart over the previous months, encouraging me specifically to transform my thinking according to Philippians 4:6, “Don't worry about anything; instead pray about everything...” but I had recently been allowing Satan to speak lies into my heart. After asking for your prayers that Sunday, just two days later on Tuesday we received the call that Micah was going to be born. After about 45 seconds of panic, we chose to pray instead of worry, and just three days later we were suddenly guardians of a beautiful baby boy we'd prayed for over the course of two years.

In reading Psalm 28:7 tonight, I really just want to burst out in songs of thanksgiving to the Lord! Even in his few days of life, God has been Micah's and our strength and shield each day. So tonight I just want to list a few ways we have been thanking the Lord for helping us and filling our hearts with joy.

--Our sweet Micah James was born 4 weeks early on November 18. Despite being 4 weeks early, he has, as of today, passed his birth weight by 4 ounces :-). The Lord was watching over his delicate body, and we are thankful!

--Due to some health concerns, we had planned to be spending 4-6 weeks in the NICU with Micah. We were instead discharged on Thanksgiving Day after an 8-day observation with a couple days spent just waiting for him to gain weight. Though concerns could still surface, we are trusting the Lord that He has indeed healed Micah's little body in answer to many of your prayers! We were especially excited to tell Nathan that his daily prayers for Micah's health have been answered. The faith of a three-year-old in a powerful, healing God has truly humbled us, and we are thankful for the spiritual lessons we learn from our children.

--Many of you prayed with us for provision of housing and childcare while we were away. As you know, a sweet family is letting us stay in their RV, and to date we figure we've saved somewhere around $1500 already from the accommodations, which often include unexpected (and amazing) dinners :-). We are so thankful for the Hogue family! (P.S., for those who have asked how you can help us in our adoption expenses—please consider visiting the Hogue family's website here and donating to their orphan care ministry! We would love to see any funds that would have been donated to our travel expenses be put right back into orphan care!)

--We are thankful for my sweet Mom who drove all by herself 16 hours to get to my sister's to watch our kids the first week and then drove another 4 hours with our kids (by herself—gold metal status earned!!) with plans to stay with us for the coming weeks. Unexpectedly, my sister also had her baby 4 weeks early last night, so Grandma had to leave hastily yesterday morning and we're now flying solo. We are so thankful to have had Grandma around to help us get settled together under one roof!

--We are thankful for the Lord's continual reminders of “this is the way; walk in it” throughout our journey to adopt Micah. I could share countless ways the Lord has reaffirmed His call to adopt Micah, but one specific instance recently involved Micah's middle name. We had actually landed on a middle name for him together as a family, but then we really felt we would like to involve his birth family in naming him, so gave his birth mother and siblings the honor of choosing his middle name. After much deliberation and a majority-rules “vote” between his sisters, they decided they wanted his middle name to be James. We laughed in awe of God's hand at work yet again, because our family had also desired the middle name James. We are so thankful for the Lord's small reminders that He is actively working in our lives and calling us to follow Him daily.

Thank you so much for your continued partnership in prayer for our family as we parent all three of our children! We are indeed blessed, and we are exceedingly thankful :-)