Our Miracle Boy

Most of you have seen our video, introducing our newly official son, Dalton. Our adoption day was Friday, and we spent the weekend celebrating big.

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We wanted to show off his handsome face and let you oooh and ahhh over those blue eyes like we do. But what we couldn’t fit in the video was the miraculous entwining of Dalton’s story and ours. God’s hand moved mightily through our lives, and I don’t believe the details are small coincidences.

The first miracle of our meeting was announced during the first home visit after Dalton was placed with us. Our support-worker said, “he never should have come to you. They made a mistake.”

On the day Dalton was to be moved, the DCS employee making the call mixed something up, and called us by mistake. She was supposed to have called a waiting family, pre-selected as an adoptive home. She was supposed to call someone else. But she called us. And we said yes. Thank God for her mistake.

I also discovered, reading through old journals, that on the day Dalton was born, I had a dream that woke me in tears about our baby. We had adopted a newborn baby and it felt so real, my heart ached for weeks afterward. I believe God was telling me I was a mother. I only needed to wait.

But my favorite detail of our miracle boy’s story is this: on the day Dalton went into state custody the first time, we signed up for our first foster care classes.

It was our first step toward each other. Both of us stepping out into the unknown at the same time. Our stories took time, both stories moved through pain and fear. But God knew. The stirring in our hearts was big and planned from the start.

As Dalton so beautifully explained a few nights ago before bed, “I was in your heart and God told you, ‘be patient’ and you were waiting for your Dalty and God told you, ‘wait for that Dalty!’ and then I was here!”

Thank you, Lord. My son is here.

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No Control

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August. I don’t care for it. It’s hot and humid (my two least favorite weathers), and I’m usually on the tail end of a “everyone gets vacations except us” sort of a pity party, and it marks another year of infertility. This marks the end of year 4. It’s hot and humid, dumb old August, and it’s 4 years of unanswered questions and “trying not to think about IT.”

Maybe this 4th anniversary of noncontrol is triggering my growing realization that I have no control over anything. It could be my inability to control my own sleep, as more nights of insomnia warp my brain into emotional, useless mush. Or maybe it’s the fact that I’m pouring every piece of me into a child I love endlessly but can’t even call my own. Or maybe I’m feeling like I have no control because of court dates and meetings and nightmares I can’t fix, but want to so desperately. Or the utter out-of-control chaos of life with a toddler in general (meal times, date nights, travel, tempers, leaving the house, schedules, all of it really). Or it could be the fact that I have my heart set on THINGS of this world that I shouldn’t have my heart set on. Bigger houses, cuter clothes, another paycheck. It could be the pressure of being a freelance artist I am beginning to really feel in this busy season- the working so so hard all day and making hardly enough to pay one bill (definitely not enough to repair the car for the 5000th time, because what I really needed was another dadgum car repair) and not knowing when the next project will come through. It could be work schedules for Dave and more nights of putting D to bed by myself, knowing I will have only one evening this week to really see him, so we better get all our sweetness and fun and all our arguing and all our relaxation into those few hours. This life is insanely hard. Though it is blessed through and through, it is hard. Whatever the reasons are, I am feeling them all at once. I am racing to grab on to the last thread of control in my life and I can’t find it. Anywhere.

So tonight as one more pretty house I wished for slips through my fingers, one more year of infertility ticks by, and one more night of being physically unable to sleep when I JUST WANT TO SLEEP, I bring it all to the feet of Jesus.

Because many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.

Because he said, “come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.”

Because, Lord, weary doesn’t even begin to cover this mess.

And because the only reassurance I have in being wholly out-of-control is knowing that I was never intended to be in control. For that I am thankful. In that I find peace.

My 26th Mother’s Day

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I’ve been on this earth for 26 Mother’s Days. Most of them have been celebratory of the women I love the most. The great-grandma who speaks truth and light and grace in all things. The grandma who made fried chicken in a cast iron skillet on Sundays and still sings hymns when other words won’t come. The grandma who shows me examples of love everywhere we are- how to love my husband and my family and my church. The mother-in-law who not only gave me the gift of a godly and wise husband, but is a friend and counselor. The mama who pours her heart out to empty every day and then starts again the next day as if it’s not great and hard work to love her children so deeply. The Nashville mothers I have held dearly. My closest friends- the women who have stepped into the gap in my life to make me feel loved where I am, who brought me soup when I was sick, loved me on my darkest days, and treated me as family.

The last four Mother’s days have been a struggle in some way. I’ve written about my infertility so much. I will keep writing those blog posts because there are more of us out there than I can stand and I want us to be in this together. I’ve written blog posts about how hard Mother’s Day can be for women who want nothing more than to be a mother and cannot. And I will keep writing those posts because difficult days don’t go away in the 4th year of infertility and the 7th year and the 20th year and they don’t go away when you find a new path to motherhood. I’ve written posts about hope and about pain, about past, present, and future.

But this year is a new kind of Mother’s Day. This is the year I found motherhood at 5am. Pulled it into my living room and read it a story after driving overnight with my heart exploding with hope. This is the year I woke up on Mother’s Day with squirmy baby feet in my hair, got called mommy 100 times, was asked for when needing comfort. This is the year I am mama.

To all the mamas. The mamas with kids and without, the foster mamas who are temporary and forever all at the same time, the mamas who have lost littles and the littles who have lost mamas, I hope your day has felt blessed.

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The Exclusive Club – Guest Post

My dear friend, Kim, has a great story to tell, and I wanted to be sure to ask her to share it with you all this Mother’s Day. I know the hard road of infertility she is traveling, and am so beyond excited to share in her joy now. Thanks so much for sharing, Kim!

About three and a half years ago the Lord made me a mother. My husband and I were so surprised to find out we were expecting! However, at 11 weeks, we lost our sweet baby. Our pregnancy at that time had been one of those ‘werent trying, but weren’t exactly not trying’ type of things, so we both were relieved when I did get pregnant because it had been a few months and no surprises. That pregnancy seemed to give confirmation that everything seemed to appear in working order. We grieved for our sweet angel baby, and began trying again shortly after. But nothing happened. Month after month, nothing happened. I became confused, angry, sad, and scared.

Something happens when you first hear the words ‘infertile’. To me it meant ‘impossible’. We kept praying & trying. Then one Sunday at church, we went up forward to the alter to ask for prayers of physical healing for our infertility. After the worship ended, our pastor announced it was adoption Sunday and there would be an expo and everyone was encouraged to ‘check it out.’ My husband looked at me, and we both knew we were going. It was life changing and that day the Lord revealed to me His plans for me and my future family. We began the adoption process the following week.

Starting the adoption process was exciting, but at the same time it was draining. I was so excited and over-eager to grow my family. The days went by and nothing happened. I was still not a mother. Now at this point I just didn’t get it. What was God doing up there?? Why was I receiving all these mixed signals?? Pregnant, not-pregnant, infertile, adoption…What was going on? Then one night, after dealing with days of late-night crying fits, my husband sat down next to me on the couch, held my hand and said to me ‘I need to say something, and this is probably going to be a long conversation… but I think you are depressed. I’m worried. We have to figure this out.’ I knew at that time I wasn’t clinically depressed, but I did know I was in a bad place and my heart was not right with the Lord. I think from the day my pregnancy ended, I began defining myself by motherhood. I was failing because I couldn’t produce children. Because I didn’t have a little person running around calling me ‘momma’ I was worthless and utterly useless. These were all lies I was letting the enemy feed me. I couldn’t see that I am a daughter of THE King! The success of my life is not determined by kids, and I owed it to my future children to not draw my joy and hope solely in them. I have had to learn to not make children idols in my life.

Two weeks ago my husband and I received that long awaited phone call announcing we were parents. Two days later, we got an email containing the first images we would see of our son. The Lord is faithful and keeps His promises! We are still traveling down this long twisted road to parenthood- one that I am sure will continue with more tears. But, unfortunately the Lord never promised easy. He never promised a smooth ride. What He did promise is eternity and ever-lasting love. He promised us Hope! He promised to walk this journey with us!

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Mother’s Day is a celebratory event for an exclusive club I have been begging to get into year after year. But by God’s grace it isn’t an idol upon which my happiness hinges anymore. This year God has made me an adoptive mamma with a baby overseas! A baby that was already being formed on that morning my husband and I dragged our broken hearts to the alter and prayed for healing! He was already creating my family and I had no idea! One of my favorite lines is from my favorite book* and is “Don’t ever doubt
in the dark what God has promised to you in the light.” The storms we face are inevitable, and our plans often lie in ruin at our feet. But our God is a Healer, and He makes beauty out of ashes!

*Dancing on my Ashes by Heather Gillion & Holly Snell

When Hoping Hurts

The months of infertility that are the hardest, hands down, are the months I hope the most. Those are the months that my brain is telling me to kill the idea of pregnancy, but it winds its way into my heart and takes root. I begin to hope deeper and deeper. I think about telling my friends, my parents, my husband. Imagine the looks on their faces, the tears all around, and the hugs. So much hugging. Then when a test is negative (if I even allow myself to get as far as taking a test) or my period comes, leaving me empty and broken, I curse myself for getting my hopes up again. “You did this to yourself.” “You should have known.”Of course it’s negative.”

It is an engrossing, hollowing pain that makes me regret every bit of hope I allowed myself to feel. I don’t have a silver-lining to this post tonight; just a heavy heart and a desire to be honest.

The White Box

On the top shelf of my closet, for the past three years, you would have found a white box filled with baby items. Shoes, clothes, bibs – items I found on sale or received as gifts… it was my “someday” box. It got dusty. It got pushed around behind other items and rarely taken down. It was too painful. I’d toss something into the box without looking if I had anything to add. I loved that box. And I hated that box.

Tonight as I was re-organizing the foster kids’ room for the millionth time, I started doing inventory of the items I have for future foster kids. I decided to go through the white box. I pulled out onesies and toys and smiled over all the fun things for these unknown children who will be a part of my life soon. I was getting seriously giddy about all the stuff in the box and all the ways my life is going to change.

But I began to get teary when I pulled out two baby tees my mom had given me in August of 2009 – one pink that says “sweet pea” and one blue that says “peanut.” I had just told her the news that Dave and I were going to try for a baby and she bought them, excited with me about the future. No doubt, she was imagining grandbabies with white skin and auburn hair, like baby Steph – thinking of rushing to the hospital as I called her, in labor, holding my sweet new baby and calling it “sweet pea” or “peanut” and rocking him or her to sleep. I was right there with her, imagining and hoping and dreaming about baby Hagen.

So much has changed since that August. Three years of negative pregnancy tests and blood work and trying and trying and failing. Three years of imagining and hoping and dreaming, but not seeing results. Three years of watching friends get pregnant, have babies, get pregnant again, have second babies. It’s been a really hard three years. But those three, long, hard, lonely years have brought me to this place I’m in right now. This place of being excited about bringing someone new into our home, learning their habits and preferences, getting to know their unique personality and hear their laugh for the first time. It’s not the place I pictured. The baby isn’t white with auburn hair anymore. My mom won’t be rushing to the hospital, Dave won’t be grabbing our hospital bag on the way out of the door, and I won’t be having contractions. Things are different – very, very different – than we all imagined. But they’re better, somehow.

Do I still hope all those three-year-old hopes? Of course! Do I still get sad sometimes when I think about the negative tests? Absolutely. But this new and different place is better. I don’t know how it’s better yet. I don’t understand it and I don’t know if I ever will. But I know that God doesn’t allow these hard things to happen for no reason. I know he’s growing me and changing me.

I know I will love the kid that comes into my home with everything I have. I know that I will do everything I can to be the kind of mother that this child needs. I know that Dave will have my back and be an amazing parent. Always. I know that my mom is going to be an awesome grandma and that I’ll call her with questions and worries and funny stories – just like I’ve been imagining for 3 years. I may not have a dusty white box in my closet anymore, but I have faith that this is better. Somehow.

Wednesday – Haiti 2012

Monday evening, we had reports from the team who had been to an orphanage in the area of Thagami. They said the children were very malnourished; one baby (who they had just discovered was HIV+) had died last week. Because of this, they had to test all the other children in the orphanage, including the HIV+ baby’s sister, Christine. We have since learned that none of the other children are HIV+, thankfully.

Wednesday I got to visit the third orphanage in as many days. The things I had heard about Thagami were true. The children were malnourished and the orphanage was dirty, but the kids had such joy. 

I cannot tell you how fulfilled I feel when I am surrounded by kids who need love and affection. It’s as if every other thing I’ve done is just silliness and all the terrible things I’ve experienced and thought were the end of the world were really no big deal. I don’t care about anything else but being there. It’s when I feel closest to God, most comfortable with who I have been created to be, and most at ease with the struggles I have had.

One of those moments of peace that passes understanding was holding sweet Christine. She was back from the hospital, and I got to spend several hours loving her, feeding her, and praying for her.

She is somewhere between 3 and 9 months old (we have heard conflicting reports) and weighs about 7 pounds. The newborn onesie she wore beneath her dress was baggy. She was very, very sick when she was taken to the hospital. When she and her twin sister were dropped at the orphanage, they could fit in the palm of a hand. Tiny, sick, orphaned baby girls.

This is where she sleeps every night.

Around noon my team was heading out to lunch at the same time the woman who worked at Thagami brought me Christine’s lunch. Her bottle was a plastic medicine syringe. I told the team to go to lunch without me; I would stay back and feed the baby. For about 45 minutes, I fed Christine formula out of the syringe and rocked her back and forth and patted her back. The woman working in the orphanage (pictured below) walked up to me and said, “you are a very tender mother.”

Those words were so sweet and such a blessing to my heart. She knew nothing about my struggles with infertility, my plans to foster, and my heart for orphans. But in that moment, her gentle encouragement was everything I needed to hear. I will never forget her and those words.

So I held Christine a little closer and prayed a little harder, because it was God’s plan for the pain I’ve experienced in trying to become a mother to affect that very moment and change my heart.

As I have been trying to prepare for being a foster parent, I’ve been praying that I’d have an open hand when it comes to the children in my life. I will do what I can to care for them in the time God has placed them in my life, but I know that holding on tightly, possesively to them and thinking of them as “my children” is dangerous for my heart. So my prayer for an open hand is my prayer that I will understand that God places children in my life for a short period of time (for whatever reason they are to be placed there), and I will be able to return them to life outside of me. I have comfort in knowing that God’s plan for Christine is just as grand and wonderful as His plan for me and anyone else.

Toward the end of the day, I was still holding the baby and thinking about how God is using my pain for His perfect plan, the children began singing “Glory to God.” The lyrics to the chorus say, “take my life and let it be all for Him and for His glory.” Hearing the children sing those words as I thought about the things that were hard for me to bear, and realizing that those children who have been abandoned by their parents, have no home, and no hope for a normal life, are singing the same words, to the same God, with such happiness, was so inspiring and encouraging.