How We Dwell

IMG_2186It’s been a hot minute and a half since our last post in January.  Honestly, it doesn’t feel like it should be almost Thanksgiving…but here we are.  I took the last half a year and then some off from blogging and instead enjoyed being.  Honestly, it was kind of nice!  I never want to write because I feel like I have to, and so the break was good for me.  Now, here we are and maybe because it’s this time of year my words are always easier to find.  And even though none of these photos have anything to do with what’s been on my mind, they’ll also give you a glimpse of our summer.  There is something about the in between of fall and winter that always stirs up a lot of memories of all different kinds, but this year, we’ve been learning and focusing on how to remember–and not to dwell.

Aren’t those the same?

Kind of.

IMG_2617I can remember that three years ago Jet was in and out of the hospital.  I can remember the complete and utter helplessness each of those illnesses created in me.  But if I dwell on just those feelings, it can warp the memory and even change my mood today, choosing to feel sorry for myself and even him, instead of celebrating how far he’s come.

EE96880E-9C86-4E4D-A1D6-F4E3A4D73374I can remember that a year and a half ago Judah came home and we thought what have we done.  It’s okay to catalog the experience, to remember and learn from it, but I can’t let what ifs guide our future choices.

IMG_1844I can remember meeting both my kids for the first time.  How excited we were.  Nervous and hopeful.  And if I’m not careful, I can start the comparison game that nothing will ever measure up to those moments ever again.  I can warp happy memories into bittersweet, melancholy ones…wishing for things that didn’t really exist.  Family days are hard, and adjustment periods are even harder.  It’s important to remember the hard too, even if it’s easier to remember only the happy.

img_1950.jpgI can remember how easy things used to be. Friendships, finances, life in general…what I’m trying to say is that remembering isn’t bad!  But the way I dwell on these thoughts can taint my reality.  I can choose to be thankful for the experiences or to learn from my experiences, or I can choose to be bitter, jealous, anxious, etc.

In Philippians 3:12-14 Paul says, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.  But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the price of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

I don’t think Paul is saying to erase our memories completely.  After all, our past shapes us–but it does not define us.  If I lived in the past, what future do I have to live for?

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I’m not sure yet how we’ll remember the events of this year.  Ironically, even though so far this year has seemed to be one of our quietest yet, I can also say that so far, not a single thing we’ve planned for has happened and much of the unplanned has thrown us for a loop.  I’m not saying this to be vague, but instead to ponder how I’ll remember 2019.

Like the apostle Paul, I too can choose how I frame my memories.  I’m not saying we should ignore our ups and downs, but instead, how can we use them, ultimately, to glorify God?

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The Biggest of Changes

Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, we have to make hard calls that mean major changes.

In this particular instance, we’re making the biggest of changes to make room for the smallest of people.

As I’ve written about before, when we applied for our third international adoption in September, we did so wholeheartedly. We were all in. I won’t rehash our entire thought process when changes were brought to light, but you can read about it here if you want. We planned to simultaneously apply to two separate international programs, and see what happened next.

Well, what happened next was not what we were expecting. We planned on adding to our family at least one more time via international adoption (and someday maybe we still will), but God, once again, showed us he had other plans for our family. There are a variety of factors that contributed to this change of plans, but ultimately, what you need to know is this: once we changed our course, once we went into complete and utter unfamiliar territory, all those feelings of doubt and frustration disappeared. The weight we had unknowingly been carrying for months lifted off of our shoulders, and we finally knew we were moving in the right direction. The right door had opened.

img_8718And so.

Moving forward, onward and upward, we are now pursuing domestic adoption through Christian Adoption Consultants. Our home study will be complete by the end of next week, and we hope to be presenting to expectant mothers by the middle of March.

This is brand new territory for us, since our experience has only been limited to international adoption (NOT with infants either). However, we’re very excited about these new plans and hoping for a baby girl, a sister for some rock star big brothers who have already told me that they will change their baby’s diapers, feed her, and “rock her like this”. All of those things will not last long I am sure (and in the last instance, will be heavily supervised).

Why domestic? Why not another country? Why not “wait it out” with the existing country?

All I can say is each family is responsible for their own decisions and actions following prayer and consideration, and this is the direction we are taking. Our end goal is still the same. We are growing our family through adoption, the way God has adopted us into his family. While we mourn the could have been, we also celebrate that this little girl will still wear her PomPom the Panda shoes, because they are a part of her big brothers’ culture. We are each our own person, and we will continue to celebrate all of the cultures, ethnicities, and identities in our home.

 

When Derek was born, his birth mother chose life. We know, from her own words, that she refused to consider abortion. We pray for an expectant mom right now in whatever circumstance she’s in and whoever she may be, considering those same options, that she too will choose life and inextricably be woven into our family.

Because we are using an adoption consultant, we anticipate being matched sooner than later. You also might be surprised to know that domestic adoption is about one and a half times more than each of our previous international adoptions because of agency fees, lawyer fees, travel fees, hospital fees, prenatal care, etc. We have never believed that finances should stop you from adoption, because then we wouldn’t be trusting God to provide what we need–when we need it.

While we will anticipate being able to cover much of the cost ourselves, we once again are asking that you prayerfully consider helping provide toward our remaining need to our tax deductible AdoptTogether account. By using this account, all financial assistance will go directly to our agency. Unlike international adoption, where you pay in increments (almost like trimesters!), we need to have the full amount as soon as we are matched–which could be April or it could be August. We simply don’t know, which is why we need to be prepared.

As part of a video for our church this morning, our family contributed a small voiceover that I’d like to share with a bit more detail.

Adoption costs. It costs in more ways than you can ever imagine. It tests everything in you: your strength, your finances, your heart, your faith.

Yet there is not a dollar amount high enough, a hospital stay long enough, an amount of sleep deep enough, that will ever be greater than the life of a child.

When tested, the balance will never show that our personal cost is more important than having an impact on the eternal soul of a child.

Because of this, our family will always choose life. We will always choose hope.

No matter the cost.

 

 

 

Looking Another Direction

IMG_2941It’s no secret that our family loves the beach, and specifically the beaches along 30A. Every year, we make it a priority to spend a week together at one of the most beautiful stretches of sand in the world (no, really, I think it’s in Fodor’s or something, even though we still might be a little biased). Of course, the beach town vibes, the food, the shops, the lack of commercialization, the Southern charm, the white sand and warm Gulf coast waters all play major factors in why we choose this location to stop and reset as a family, year after year.

But my favorite part of the each day? My favorite part of each vacation?

Sunset.IMG_3494

Any and each and every sunset, both the time leading up to it and the time just after it goes beyond the horizon. I’ve never not seen a gorgeous sunset there; and if you’re a Pirates of the Caribbean fan, you’ll understand the reference when I say we’ve even witnessed (and recorded) the “green flash”. And when the sun finally sets, the bell rings; signalling that the day is done and time to get ready for the next. Clouds or no clouds, the sky is a painting no one could ever replicate, no two the same, and even a photo never compare to seeing God’s paintbrush in person.

IMG_3626This year though, when we were watching the sunset in Seaside on our what we anticipated being our last night there as a family of four, I happened to look the other way, and saw something just as beautiful: the reflection of the sunset in the eastern sky. I never considered to look the other way; I was always so focused on the obvious beauty in front of me that I didn’t consider the beauty around me.

Adoption can be a lot like that.

At the beginning of this week, we received the shocking news that we could be facing a three year wait time until referral, and three years is what they were hoping for; the possibility that it could be even longer exists. We were also encouraged to look into adoption programs with other countries. I have to admit, I spent a good part of the week angry, confused, and questioning God, His timing, His plan. The added bonus of watching constant content streaming in every feed reminding me that it’s National Adoption Month didn’t help my state of mind either.

Because obviously, since we’re following God’s leading, everything should go our way, right?

In the space of 24 hours, we went from having a plan to having no plan. We planned to adopt internationally from the same country again, the same country of our boys’ birth, knowing the wait might be a smidge longer but ultimately going the way of our previous two adoption with being matched fairly quickly. Suddenly, a possible three year wait is looming ahead of us, along with the unknowns of could we/should we pursue a different country–a country with a whole new set of rules, a whole new set of documents, a whole new process…a whole new everything.

The only way to describe how we were feeling is that we were standing in front of two doors…but were the doors half-open or half-shut? Which door was half-open? Were they both half-shut? Do we push or pull? Did we, after everything so far, do the wrong thing? Should we change our plans completely? Agencies? Countries? Ages? Throw in the towel altogether? Everything we were assuming we knew was suddenly not true, and we felt sucker punched.

And then we remembered, just like a light bulb went off. The country we were encouraged to pursue is the same country we originally planned to adopt from, before switching to the one we actually adopted from–twice. Talk about a full circle moment.

IMG_1856 (1)And look. Just look at how that turned out, even though it wasn’t our original plan.

We’ve been so focused on what was in front of us, the beauty of adoption from where we’ve been twice before, that we failed to consider beauty anywhere else. Because of these changes, we can open our home to a child from yet a different country, a different culture, a different ethnicity. Our focus wasn’t on the end game, providing a child with a home and family. Instead, our focus was on ourselves, and how this affected our own plans for our home and family–while not even being thankful for the family we’ve been given thus far.

So here we are. It may have taken us a week to process and understand and change our mindset–and yes, mourn a little bit–but we don’t have two doors half-closed or closing. We’ve had lots of questions and answers and Facebook messages and phone calls…and still have some questions that are unanswered. When we’re ready or able to, we will answer them. But, we have found out that we can and will apply to two programs simultaneously. Yes, we might be waiting a little longer…or we might not. Yes, we might not know what we’re doing…but really, does anyone? Yes, we might have to pay more, or we might not…but what’s the balance in our checking account compared to the actual life of a child?

These are the truths we came back to. Our heart for adoption has not changed. We are not alone in this journey. And we’ll have two doors to leave open, looking for the beauty from ashes waiting for us from whatever direction our son or daughter, our boys’ brother or sister, comes from; and we’ll be greeting them with open hearts and open arms, whenever that may be.

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