My Best

Yesterday was my first day back to full time work since our son came home. Nothing was different for him as he has been doing part time daycare for a couple weeks but for me it was glaringly different. Gone are the half days at work and extra time at home to tackle the larger piles of dishes and laundry, the endless string of of toys running through my house, and all the things that come with managing a household of now three.

Suddenly I felt like I needed to do all of the things. The laundry and dishes were staring at me. I’m pretty sure I heard them tell me that if I didn’t get them taken care of right now, they would never be done. So I got up from my spot on the couch, walked away from my son who was sitting with his back against me, distracted by his tablet, and began to fold laundry. It took exactly two seconds for him to realize that his mommy, who he had been away from for eight entire hours, was no longer propping him up and for him to run into the room crying.

I tried being patient, getting on his level and explaining to a not-even two year old that mommy needed to put the clean sheets on the bed. I tell him he can help and set him on the bed and try to make this mundane task some kind of exciting for him. Big surprise that being close but not being held really did nothing for him, my little boy who thrives on touch and closeness.

Fast forward thirty minutes. Frustrations are at an all time high for all three members of our happy, blessed family. Asher is frustrated, wanting so desperately for me to just sit with him, Daddy is frustrated because our son is not going to be consoled by anyone but mommy at this point, and I’m frustrated because how can I possibly do everything (my words) while sitting with my son. I’m certain I’m not the only mother to have encountered this night and I’m certain it probably won’t be the only time this scene is played out. (Side note: I never quite understood mom guilt. I totally get it now; I’m in on the joke. Pray for us, folks.)

I eventually get the laundry folded and put away and lay down with Asher as I had promised and he immediately calms down. He’s exhausted and he relaxes as he gears down to fall asleep. I immediately break down into full on ugly crying beside a baby who is sleeping a deep sleep. You see, somewhere between leaving the arms of his very first mommy, his birth mom, and into his second foster mom’s arms, he had learned a comfort mechanism to fall asleep. He likes to rub the skin around your elbow. I thought it was cute at first; last night I saw it for what it was. Because for him to reach and rub your elbow, you must wrap your arm over him and then he has to lock his arm over yours. Somewhere from first mommy to third, and now fourth mommy, he has learned that comfort means locking his arm over yours in a tight grip so that he knows you can’t go anywhere. In under two years, my son has learned that he must hold tight to his comfort for fear of it leaving.

Are you a wreck yet? Same.

So I sat and cried.

For all the hard that he has experienced.

For all the ways I could have been better, done better, loved better.

And then I prayed.

“God, I just want to be everything You made me to be for him. I want to give him my best.” And before I can even completely think out those two sentences, I hear Him interrupt me, the way He frequently and gently corrects me. I hear, “Give Me your best first. That’s the only way you’ll have anything else of worth to give.”

Talk about correction. If I’m being honest, since becoming a mommy, I’ve really not been disciplined in my relationship with Christ. Which is a way of sugar coating “I haven’t made Christ a priority.” Which is also a way of sugar coating “I’ve prioritized everything over Christ.” Things that have no eternal value and, often, even marginal earthly value. We have all heard the saying, “you can’t pour from an empty cup.” I’m going to venture a little further and say you can’t parent well when you don’t spend time with your Heavenly Father. He should be my example, my wise counsel, and my guide. If I’m not spending time with him consistently, how can I know how to react, when and how to prioritize tasks and time, and all the ways to love on my family well?

Don’t read this and think that I expect to be a mommy and wife without flaws and mistakes. But as a Christian, I should hold myself to a high standard. I should expect myself to show my family the goodness of Christ through my words and actions.

Ephesians 4:23-24 says: “Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes. Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy.”

My biggest and best testimony to all that Christ has to offer starts in my home. So that’s where I am today. That’s my ugly and beautiful woven into a tapestry of mercy and grace, beauty and ashes being laid out as an offering to the God who sees all, knows more of my heart than I do, and is continuously wooing me closer to Him.

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#Found

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Disclaimer: Have you ever struggled to put something into words? Like, legit don’t even know where to start? That’s where I am. So I am going to try to string together words into sentences that won’t even remotely reveal the intricacies of God at work.

April 3, 2018 –

I am one of those people who wake up with a song already playing on repeat in my mind. I like to think it’s a little gift from God to start my day out with a worshipful mindset. April 3rd is no different. I wake up singing of breakthroughs and how we serve The God of the breakthrough. What a powerful message – to know that no matter what strongholds, valleys, or struggles we are standing amidst, our God is THE God of the breakthrough. Commence the rest of my normal Tuesday..

  • Touch base with other adoptive mommas in process and encourage each other.
  • Freak out every time my phone rings, hoping its the agency telling us that we have our match and can finally lay eyes on our baby. Instead it’s a call about my online credit card application, my chance to participate in a premier survey, my free cruise, *insert any other spam call that I know we all receive*. #EndSpamCalling
  • Go home, rinse, and repeat.

April 4, 2018 –

This morning I wake up with an oldie stuck in my head. “I went to the enemy’s camp and I took back what he stole from me.” We sing this song at church occasionally so it’s not a totally off the wall song to wake up with. So I go with it and played it on repeat while getting ready for work. I even sing it to the girls in the office when I got to work later that morning; they love it, by the way.

THIS DAY. This is the day Caleb and I laid eyes on our son for the very first time. Let that sink in. #FindingAsher is no more, you guys. My baby is #FOUND.

My soul was telling me something this morning. By the hand of God, we fought and prayed and, though the enemy thought he had stolen our family from us with a miscarriage and a diagnosis, we walked into his camp and took back what he stole. *Can I get a Hallelujah and an Amen?!*

And let me tell you right now. Our baby is the most beautiful little boy I have ever laid eyes on. The name we prayerfully chose for him two whole years before he was born was made for him. When we named him we weren’t even certain that we would get matched with a boy. Exactly ZERO, ZILCH, NADA of our official paperwork said anything about us wanting a boy. But we knew God had promised us exactly that and so I ran with it. We did the nursery in a boy theme, I talked about “my son” all over my social media unashamedly, and even put boy clothes in his dresser. What a God we serve. He who has no word or syllable spoken in vain, He who will fulfill EVERY promise, not halfway, but to completion.

God is so good, guys. He is also in the details.

Our adoption process until this point has been brutally slow. If you read my previous post, you know that our home study was expected to take around 30-90 days. Ours took 9 months. It was frustrating and painful at times. But we had peace with the timeline because we knew that God was ultimately in control of the situation. And while average timelines are helpful in setting expectations, we had to accept that God’s timeline was the only one that held any weight.

Exactly one week after our little guy was brought into the Korean side of the agency, our home study was finalized. Had our file been completed much sooner like we had hoped, we could have missed this baby. We would have been matched with a baby, yes. But would it have been the specific child that God had ordained us to love and parent? Probably not. There were many times throughout our wait that God had to remind me that we could still have something good but it not be His plan – to wait and see what He had in store, trusting in His timing. That is so humbling. To know that I had been given a promise that I had no control over its completion. And to see the end result, just wow.

I wish I could put into words so much more and more elegantly. For example, our first psych appointment was exactly one year before the day we saw him for the first time. And the fact that we put his crib and dresser together in his room exactly one month before he was born. Or that we bought him books on his birthday. I’ll say it again: God is in the details.

So what’s next?

We have sent off all of our official paperwork to get the ball rolling for legal proceedings on the Korean side. If you follow me on Instagram, it was that 1 pound and 8.3 ounces of documents that were mailed this past week. That paperwork will be looked over this coming week and, God willing, it will be shipped off to Korea for translation on Friday. Once the translation is finished, it will be sent to the next stage where it awaits to be submitted for Emigration Permit (EP). This happens in batches and there is no predictable rhyme or reason as to when the next one will happen, at least on our side of the equation. We are praying and fasting for EARTH SHAKING FAVOR – that our dossier is in that next EP Submission batch. In non-adoption terms that translates to “that we have the quickest timeline we possibly can have from this point on.”  Once we have been EP Submitted, which can take several months, we will receive EP Approval and then our file is handed over to a judge. There are two that do intercountry adoptions. TWO. Which is probably a huge part of the answer to the question, “why does this process take so long?”

I’ll go into detail of the following steps after EP submission and approval once we get there. I’m a step-at-a-time kind of girl; I like to conquer what is right in front of me before worrying about the next step.

So if you managed to read all the way through this, first off, I think you deserve a gold star and you’re way cool. Second off, we have a little video to announce our little guy. However, you will notice his face is covered. Please know we are not doing this to build suspense or tease you but because we can’t legally show his face on the Internet since he is not officially ours. His confidentiality is of utmost importance to us. That being said, if you’re family or friend and you see me out and about in our giant town of 5,200, and want to see a picture or two, I will gladly show off my handsome, perfect little boy to those who want to see him.

In my last blog post, I said I long for the day that I can say Asher has been found. FOUND, though never lost, never an orphan in my eyes, always loved, always longed for, always seen by our God, and yet, found.

Adoption – a marathon, not a sprint

Adoption is long. The longest marathon I’ve ever ran in my life.

We are the people others talk about as extreme examples when it comes to wait times for simple milestones. 2 months to complete our paperwork. 4 months for a psychological evaluation. Another 2 months for home study appointments. Plus another 2 months for that home study to be written. And then it sits on someone’s desks for weeks because there was a failure to communicate. Jesus take the wheel.

I’m a patient woman. Ok, not really. I’m the woman yelling at the driver in front of me because they’re cruising along at the speed limit. Give me grace.

But so far God has somehow blessed me with a patience of steel for all things adoption. And thankfully so, or I’m not certain even my easy-going to the extreme husband would want me anymore. I’ve seen families fly through the adoption process, surpassing our milestones like they were 1 foot hurdles. And it hasn’t hurt. I haven’t needed a night of tears and “why not us?!” {yet}. I’ve loved celebrating and walking beside others. After all, we are all pursuing our children. Similar, but specific, races to see their faces, hold their hands, love them through life.

So I’ve been patient. Until yesterday. Yesterday I was adding up days and weeks and months and was just plain frustrated. Our home study was {finally} finalized on Sept 28th and I had yet to receive confirmation that it had made its way to South Korea. In fact, I had yet to hear anything at all. So before I left work for the evening, I sent out an email asking “what in the heck is going on?!” if I could please have an update as to what we are waiting on. And then I went home and stewed. And vented to some sweet and patient people who encouraged me. I eventually ended the night not praying for movement with us but instead for doors to be opened wide for another family currently in the midst of the adoption hurdles.

Fast forward to this morning. I get to work and notice no email updates and resolve to email another person if I still haven’t heard anything by 1:00.

But it turns out I wouldn’t need to! Because I got the email I needed to completely change my mindset. It went a little something like this:

“I must have missed sending you the update because your home study was sent to Korea on 10/27, so it has been over there for a few weeks.”

Um, commence happy dance. It seems like today was the day that I was supposed to know we are officially on what is called the “wait strip.” Meaning we aren’t in a batch currently being assigned children but we are one step closer. In an average wait time of months for a match, we are already 1 month in and that is a big deal! It feels like in a timeline of delays and waiting, we seemingly just gained a month without even realizing it.

Oh and that family I prayed for last night, they received good news today. All little steps, slowly but surely, lead us all to our individual families and every step is worth celebrating! God is good, you guys.

All of that to say this:

We will be launching a campaign for shirts through Bonfire to officially celebrate our file having made its journey. Keep an eye out on my Facebook for that! I long for the day when I can tell you all that Asher has been found. Until then we will continue working on #FindingAsher. Our joy. Our blessing. Our happy. Our Asher.

An Ultrasound

You guys. Do you see that cute shape right there? Sitting on top of an ever-growing collection of books bought in anticipation of bedtime stories and toddler snuggles is our first tangible glimpse of our son.

Much like the first ultrasound for an expecting mother, they tell me my child is in there somewhere. There’s not any distinguishable features yet.. and of course, I can’t really see him yet.. but all the signs are there – the expectation and knowing, the excitement, the love.

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“Why did you choose South Korea?”

In all honesty, I can’t say that we chose South Korea.

When we first made the decision to adopt in 2015, we had to navigate the options available to every adoptive couple.

Foster/Domestic Private/International.

All three options unite families and children. Each with complex layers of grief and loss, joy and gain. No child more deserving or needing than the next. All options come with a cost – financially, emotionally. I wholeheartedly believe that there is only one wrong choice when it comes to choosing the avenue to which a family grows – having a passion (and a calling) for one of these specific avenues of adoption and choosing to ignore it. If you have thought to yourself, “why are they adopting internationally when there are children in the US that need adopting?” I ask you with humility, grace, and ardor for my own calling – when will you step up and answer your call?

The day I completely surrendered this area of my life to God was the morning after I had stumbled across an image of a little boy from South Korea who had been adopted. His name was also the name we had chosen for our son, Asher – happy, blessed. That was the moment I knew South Korea was for us. It was that morning that I felt the sheer weight of what we were stepping into. I sat with a friend in an office and cried all-out ugly tears. For an hour. I had no words. I felt so unworthy, so unprepared. Not to mention that we had zilch in savings and were looking at the most expensive country possible.  With that weight also came an unquenchable love for a child I have yet to see. I knew by the hand of God that I would move Heaven and Earth to know this child.

So we moved forward. We considered other countries that had less expensive fees, lower quality child welfare systems – more of what we had expected and envisioned when we said yes to international adoption. And when we applied to our agency, we wrote in many countries we felt would be a good fit with us. I felt we were leaving it open to God – there was a wide variety of prices and needs with each country’s program. But after several weeks, we were told the only program that was interested in us was the Korea program.

And of course it was. It always had been.

Because we didn’t chose South Korea. God did.

At the end of the day, it’s not about us or our desire for a family. It’s about this boy. A child I have thought about every day, long before he took his first breath. And I can’t wait to meet him.

Two Days

“It’s only two days,” I told myself.

My first instinct had been to say no. How could we open our home to children for two entire days? We, of all people, were not prepared for something like that. We don’t have any children. What would we do? What would we say? We could not possibly relate to them or know what they needed. We don’t know the first thing about kids. Of course, one day we will, but not now; we aren’t ready! Surely, I told myself, there are other families much more equipped to do something like this.

During the last week of sign-ups for host families for His Little Feet, however, I watched other families that I considered much more “equipped” to do this, say no. And as I stood in the foyer at church, I heard God tell me yes. And I realized, in that moment, that I desire God to provide me with opportunities to do much harder, holier things. And if I expect Him to ask me to do those things, I had better say yes when He asks me to do the easy things. Things like opening up our empty bedroom to a few children from overseas as they minister to families in our community. And so I said yes.

“It’s only two days,” I told my husband.

“I thought you said you didn’t want to do it,” he asked me apprehensively.

I told him I didn’t think I did – that I didn’t feel prepared to do this – that I was uncomfortably nervous about it too. And with that nervously short conversation, we prepared our home for “only two days” of child-sized guests.

Twenty orphaned children in groups of two to four from Ethiopia, India, Kenya, and Haiti. I’m sitting in my office looking at these faces smiling back at me from my computer screen. In choosing which group of children will spend two days with us, my head is telling me to choose the youngest group. Somehow, they will expect less of us because they are younger. Maybe they won’t notice how ill-equipped we are to do whatever it is we are supposed to do in these two days. But my heart, that rebellious trouble-maker that it is, locks on to two ten year old girls from Kenya. Something about their names, the fire in their eyes.

“It’s only two days,” I tell myself  as I write my name next to theirs, Melda and Marvelous.

It’s Sunday evening. I have two young ladies from Kenya in my backseat as we are driving home from church.

“Auntie, do you have any children?” Melda, the inquisitive one, asks me in her sweet accent before we make it out of the parking lot. I tell her that we don’t yet. I leave it at that, though my head begins to swim with the untold year long journey of finding Asher that is only beginning.

I get them home and settled in for the night.

“It’s only one full day tomorrow,” I tell myself as I go to sleep.

And it was one full day. Good morning hugs and bowls full of honey nut cheerios. “Yes, please,” and beaming little smiles. Guitar lessons and nature walks. Tortilla chips and ketchup. Marvelous, the adventurous one, shouting “amigo” followed by a boisterous giggle. Two little girls side by side, contently pushing a shopping cart through Walmart. Hugs full of gratitude and hushed excitement from simple Barbies to take home. Clumsy, inexperienced hands petting our dog. The first time holding a paint brush, creating something all their own. Serious discussions among themselves about the proper spacing of cookie dough on the cookie sheet. Tinkerbell movies, warm cookies, and milk.

A splatter of questions. “Auntie, what is your favorite color?” “Auntie, what is your favorite food?” “Auntie, what is your favorite pet?”

“Auntie, when did you become a Christian?” It was at this moment that I knew a piece of my heart would forever belong to two Kenyan girls.

Pajamas and goodnight hugs. A bedtime prayer – so innocent, so perfect – prayed over us. 

It was only two days, I realize on Tuesday as we prepare to take them to their tour bus and the other children. The goodbye hugs last longer than I expected. Sweet Melda squeezes tight as I fight back tears. A lifetime of strength and beauty wrapped up in such young little girls.

“It was only two days,” I say to my husband on Wednesday as we shut the door to the empty bedroom.

Our house is quieter. Our hearts are wrecked but somehow fuller. In two days, two ten year old girls from Kenya opened our eyes and our hearts to the boundless love of Christ. It is because of their stay that we got a tiny glimpse of our future with Asher. It is because of their hearts that we have heard God call us to do more, go further, and say yes to those scary things. Things with eternal value – things that tear your heart apart but fill your soul. 

 

One Box

 

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Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.

-Vincent Van Gogh

Ten thousand dollars. Roughly a third of what we need to complete an international adoption. Exactly what we need to begin to dig deep into the paperwork-laden process. It seems astronomical.. unobtainable.. so far away.

I’m the kind of person who has to celebrate small victories. With a mind that can get so wrapped up in the big, unreachable goal, I have to see progress to be certain that I am on the right track and that I don’t lose heart. If I can see a small thing slowly grow into something larger, it suddenly becomes a goal that is conquerable.

At the beginning of 2016, I started a chart similar to the image above. Each box represents $100 – an amount that is not so large that, at one time, could break us, but is large enough to see a tangible difference in the Asher Fund. We save $100 every week. Those are the green boxes. I could complain about how, without an 11 day hospital visit, we would have twice the green boxes as we do. But that visit was so God-ordained, certainly filled with confirmation that we did hear the call to adopt, and entirely grace-driven, it was worth the $3,000 bill. I know that if we are in the middle of God’s plan, which was most certainly the case, that money will come back to us at the right time.

The blue boxes are from the beautiful souls that have invested in our son by buying a cup from of us. Twelve boxes from people we’ve known our entire lives and others we have never met. Twelve boxes of cup money means twelve whole weeks (and counting) sooner that we get to meet our little guy. How phenomenal is that? It has been incredibly humbling to be handed money for something that is as insignificant as a piece of pottery. There are times I walk away from a delivery with tears in my eyes. People are good. God is so good. And we thank you.  (Side note to those still waiting on their cups: We haven’t forgotten you! Thank you for your patience and generosity. I’m trying my best to finish up a couple large orders and will be back on track soon.)

As you can see, today’s Asher Fund has 30 boxes completed. We are 30 weeks closer to Asher. Two more rows of these boxes, and we will be halfway to our goal! If I focus too closely at the whole image, at the boxes that have yet to be filled, I tend to forget how much we have, how quickly it has grown, and how little more we need to get to halfway. It’s in those times that I remember that God will provide us with the next box. And the one after that. And so on.

Often in our Christian walk we get so caught up in knowing the whole story before we are willing to take the first step in the journey. However, that is not how we were created. We were designed to rely on our Creator. It’s in the seasons of uncertainty and dependence on Him that we grow closer to God. Think of your little. How it felt when he or she asked you for help with something. The task may have felt so small to you but seeing the joy on your child’s face when they accomplished a goal that meant the world to them was so fulfilling for you. You got to celebrate with them. And that’s all our Father wants to do with us. He sits back waiting for you to ask for help with that dream or obstacle that seems insurmountable. He wants to step in and make your dreams a possibility. And He wants to celebrate with you.

That’s what we’re doing. One Asher Box at a time. One God-led, unknown, crazy-beautiful step at a time. All while celebrating with our Father as He leads us on a journey called #FindingAsher.

To My Little One

You showed up in my memories today. Three years ago you became known to the world. And though we never heard your heart beat and you never took your first breath, your life changed mine. 

Today I choose to celebrate you. Because of your life, though entirely too short, my life will never be the same. Without you, I don’t know that I would have turned back so quickly to our loving Father. I don’t know that we would have opened our hearts to adoption and I don’t know that I would have heard God call me to orphan advocacy. 

Your life – so small, your purpose – so grand. You created waves of change, of grace, and of redemption. As your mother, I look forward to continuing to see the effects your life will have on others and on myself. And I can’t wait to celebrate with you and our Father when we all meet one day.