the story

I haven’t posted in a long, long time. And I’ve realized this update will never be all that it should. But I sense a great responsibility to let you know the rest of the story. You can assume the silent months were full of lessons – what they are I have yet to comprehend completely. I likely never will. Life can be like that sometimes. I’ll sum it up with this: it got really dark after I posted about our second failed adoption. Grief, pain, sickness, “no” after “no” after “no” – the suffering seemed to have settled upon us. But somewhere along the way, there was hope. I know we aren’t the only ones with a hard story. I know others have hurt deeply and maybe some are even reading this blog in the midst of difficulty.  Hear this: GOD IS GOOD. He is faithful. He is worthy of our trust. And He loves us. I know that more deeply than ever. And if nothing else I have learned I can do nothing, no nothing without His help. With that in mind here’s the next installment of our story…

April 8th we got an email saying that a baby was being born in Florida in an hour and would we like to present our family? I immediately said yes, called Zach to say, “we said yes”, and went about sending the necessary paperwork and our profile electronically. As I was talking to this agency over the phone (it was one we had NOT applied to, but we heard of the situation from our consultant, Susan) the social worker said she was having a hard time printing our profile. And then she said she thought the birth mother was looking for a family with no kids or maybe one kid. “Oh, we’re out,” I said. “I don’t want to overwhelm her and I want to respect her wishes, you could just take our profile out.”

“If you don’t mind, I’d like to keep you in,” the social worker said. “You never know.” They were going to present profiles that night and let us know how it went the next day. The trouble with printing our profile persisted and I asked where in Florida their agency was located. They happened to be in the same county as another agency who DID have a profile of ours. I have no idea how God orchestrated getting those books in the right hands, I just know He did.

The whole next day I kept thinking of the story of Moses and the Israelites in front of the Red Sea and prayed, as many times before, that God would fight for us while we kept silent. And you know what? He DID. And this time it meant that SHE CHOSE US. I was in the middle of the Gap outlet wondering around not really looking at anything when my phone rang. It was our amazing consultant, Susan, calling to say “she chose your family”. Unbelief, utter amazement, and thanksgiving. I crumpled to the floor and began to weep. That’s where my sister found me, alarmed and a bit worried until I choked out, “It’s a yes! She said yes!”

This picture was taken after the birth momma signed. It was the first time we saw his face. A sweet baby boy in Florida, his brave mother and plans too complex for us to understand.

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The baby was in the NICU due to a meconium aspiration but it wasn’t until we arrived in Florida that we realized how sick he was. We assumed he’d be in the hospital for 7 days and then we’d wait out ICPC (paperwork to cross state lines) and then we’d finally get to bring our son home. I’m glad we didn’t know what was in store. It was six weeks, 2 different NICU’s, 3 trips to and from Florida, dozens of nurses and doctors, I lost count of the chest x-rays, SO many hours of praying, fretting, praying and more fretting. It was ridiculously hard. And all the while fear was crouching near and whispering threats. “This isn’t really your baby. I know the risks are small but you’ve seen what happens with small risks. At the last second God is going to take him away from you as He’s done the previous two, just wait.” I hate to admit how fragile I was…er…am. But it was there ALL the time.  If not for family and friends praying for us I’m convinced we wouldn’t have been able to hold on. Again, I know our NICU stay wasn’t so bad in comparison. 6 weeks by some standards isn’t really that long. But that just tells you how weak we were.

Seeing him for the first time was unbelievable. Even now that he has been in my home for a total of 71 hours  – I am in awe. Shocked, almost. I think we’re deliriously happy. Well, we’re delirious for sure. Exhausted and thankful. I couldn’t possibly put into words what we’re feeling. But every now and then Zach and I will catch each others eyes and just stare at each other. It happened. It really happened. A son. A son. We have a son! He is still healing from the insult the meconium took on his body and I am daily trying not to stress about his heavy breathing and occasional wheeze. But he is here. When I read the word “adopted” from the bible my heart won’t hurt because our baby isn’t with us, it will hurt because his is! Because of his birth mothers selfless decision we gained a new child to our family. I will never get over that. The rest of my days I will contemplate the breadth of that incredible decision. It wasn’t easy for her. When we met her she cried tears of joy and worried that he might not understand her choice. We hugged her hard. “He will know you love him,” we assured her, “because we’re going to tell him.”

God met us in so many ways during this last part of our journey – just as He had in the other parts. Buddy passes, all of them but two, from the same generous person who was rooting for us the whole time. A hotel across the street from the first hospital that gave us an amazing rate and when I came back by myself gave me a night for free, because the manager was adopted. Our first nurse didn’t waste any time before she said, “I just love adoption, it’s such a picture of God’s love for us.” I can’t make this stuff up. Of the nurses we had one was adopted, two had adopted children, and another had a family member going through the process. After the transfer to a different NICU there was a Ronald McDonald house where I stayed for free. Every bit God gave I hungrily took and begged for more. I pouted and threw fits, I clung to truths like Psalm 40 and Isaiah 25. I shared every fear with God and wondered even up till minutes before he was released to go home with us if they’d let him leave. But he did! And the redemption that we prayed for? It came in so many ways. We slept in a hospital bed in the room next to our beautiful birth mother for our first baby who was stillborn last June. We slept in one with this baby, too, but life was next door. As a matter of fact, this baby was being knit together as we grieved the first son we lost. Familiar places we visited and stayed for our bleak trip to Florida last October had much different meanings this time. We finally got to use the car seat, the clothes, the diapers that we’d been collecting. The name we’d been saving for years? It means “God Redeems”. That, my friends, is God’s amazing grace.

Ladies and Gentlmen, meet Isaiah Wade

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He’s even more beautiful in person, I assure you.

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Many of you feel the weight of this because you walked so closely with us. Believe me, we feel the pull with you. You share in the joy of his homecoming because you fought in prayer, some of you in tears for us. We will never get over that. We are so excited to celebrate his arrival with you over the coming months, but even more, the God who provided it.

“O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; for you have worked wonders, plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness.”

Isaiah 25:1

More to come, but for now you can just bask in how gracious God is.

the plot thickens…

Failed adoption is what they call it when you’ve been matched but don’t get to bring the baby home for one reason or another. I’ve heard many couples describe it as a death of sorts. I can say from experience that’s true in many ways.

We’ve been somewhat mum about having been matched again. When our full-term baby went home to heaven in June we didn’t want to be matched again, love another birth mom, be vulnerable. But then we felt God was working on our hearts. There was a woman due on our anniversary who chose us. We found out in early August, which happened to be our youngest child’s birthday. The agency shared our story with her and she chose us. We, very timidly, moved forward. I flew to her state and met her. Something I thought I’d never do again. I fought fear daily. I wrote her letters and cards, sent packages. We even admitted to God that we wanted this child in the night hours when we thought no one else was listening. We knew that just because a hard thing had happened once didn’t guarantee protection from a second hard thing. Our small group was praying, we were praying, people I hardly knew were praying. For two months we tried to guard our hearts but still dared to love this baby. We tried to stay in a place where we didn’t picture him coming home with us.

It doesn’t matter how hard you try. When, at the last minute, it’s all ripped away from you again, you hurt. Deeply.

We got an induction date on a Monday, flew to the state on Tuesday. In order to do that several things had to be in place for us to leave home. We left our four sweet babies here. That is never something we’d do lightly. There were countless hours I’d spent dreading that part of our journey. We told them that Momma and Daddy were going to check on a baby to make sure he was ours. If he was, we’d have to stay long but we’d bring home a baby brother. If he wasn’t, we’d be home soon. The grocery trips, the stocking up, the pages of information, insurance cards, gifts to give – we tried to prepare well.

Anyway – we flew Tuesday and we were supposed to meet up with the birth mom Tuesday afternoon. She didn’t show. Said she was in a meeting. So the agency encouraged us to go shopping. We went to the beach. We were supposed to meet again at 6pm. She didn’t show. This is where it started getting real ugly. They couldn’t get her on the phone, she wouldn’t answer texts. Then they started calling the hospital to see if she’d already had the baby. I had a picture of hope held on by a string flinging in the wind. I was already a basket case. This felt really gross.

It wasn’t until Wednesday morning, when she didn’t show up for the supposed induction that the agency really started investigating. We found out about 10am that she’d had the baby several days ago. For reasons unknown to us or the agency, she would not be placing her baby with us. It was over.

We flew home someone’s buddy passes – I felt so guilty for having used them. I felt all of it had been wasted. Time, money, distance from our kids. I’ll be honest. I felt that even our love and the prayers of so many had been wasted. I went straight to the source. I questioned God about all of this, a deep sense of dread making me feel like He was an unkind Father. Why God?! Why now? Why did you make us wait and form a relationship and spend money and fly here only to leave the next day with no baby? Why, in this helpless situation, did this seem like the right thing? How are we supposed to go home and be brave for our kids? The pain was real – a searing, tearing ache in my chest. Zach and I were beside ourselves. He was angry. I was sad. It made the loss of our first son back in June so keen, so clear.

I realize how small it sounds to say I was at odds with God. My faith, shaken to the core. My trust, shattered. I’m ashamed to admit it – I know so many others who’ve suffered more. We have a ridiculous amount of things to be thankful for, not the least of which is salvation. Our arms aren’t empty, thank God, we have four amazing little people in our home. But the suffering is real and I was able to share my gut-level emotions with God, I grasped at scripture and was comforted. (Job 38-41, Genesis 40, Psalms 91, 40, 27, 139, 136 just to begin) I feel certain this was due to the number of folks crying out on our behalf.

He is so much bigger than this.

That’s enough for now. He is not an unkind Father. He knows things I don’t. Despite these circumstances and even in these circumstances, HE LOVES US. I know that in a deeper way. I know it in the dark.

We did everything right by human standards. We used a consultant, we picked reputable agencies, we asked all the right questions and followed the advice of folks who’ve worked in adoption for a lifetime. So what happens when you do everything right and then everything goes wrong? Twice? The quick answer? I. Don’t. Know. BUT GOD DOES. I really believe that.

We’re not done praying for the other situation. We still don’t know where it all went wrong but we’re daily (hourly, by the minute) putting our trust in the ONE who does and asking Him to care for the mom, the baby as He sees fit. It’s not easy, but there is grace.

So now we wait again.

Not for the agency.

Not for a prospective Birth Mom.

Not for the right situation.

But for God to move.

He Will Hold Me Fast

Last night we sang the above words at church. Well, we listened anyway. The last time we heard them was May 4th. Right before our first birth mom chose us. I remember it vividly because that day I was undone for her and for all the other birth moms whose stories we’d come in contact with. That day I had a vision in my head of a child, our child, curled up on Zach’s chest. Because our Father in heaven loved us, we were going to get to love a baby who, likely, didn’t have a father. It broke me then, it breaks me now. He will hold me fast.

This past weekend we were at a counseling training at our church and heard these words from Milton Vincent (check out the series on forgiveness beginning in April) in reference to the cross and gospel thinking: “Christ has suffered as I am suffering right now, and infinitely more so, which means I am never alone in any pain.” Isaiah 53:3-4 If that doesn’t bring comfort nothing else will. When we really stop to look at the cross it’s not just a man dying – it’s so much more. I’m learning that.

The waiting, the grieving – it threatens to unravel me daily. But I also have great hope and know more deeply the love of God and His faithfulness.

He Will Hold Me Fast.

Adoption and the Gospel

I was adopted.

I grew up in a family who loved me and taught me the story of Jesus from a young age but I didn’t quite get it until I was 13. And then again (for real) at 18. I saw that, although I had an incredible earthly family, I also had a Father in heaven who loved me from before I was born. He knew my story before it was written. He moved heaven and earth to send His Son into this twisted world to redeem it. He had to dip down into the creation He’d perfectly made and get the mess all over Himself and His Boy to save us from destruction because He knew without it we’d be condemned forever. He loved us enough to do that. To live, to die, to live again. He loves us still. Enough to invite us into His forever family regardless of our past or race or social status or demeanor or looks or…anything. He gave everything to make us belong – to make us His sons and daughters.

You see, I can’t get over this story. I can’t get over that it’s mine. That God loved me enough to come into my world – messy and broken – to rescue me. Every day it moves me to be more, do more, love more – even though if I didn’t He’d love me still. It’s this gospel love that compelled Zach and I to adopt. Whenever someone says something about our adoption like, “I can’t believe you’re doing that” or “wow, that’s so good of you”, I feel sheepish. It wasn’t my idea. Adoption is GOD’s idea. We truly want to adopt because we know what it’s like to be adopted ourselves.

The more we go on waiting, hoping, the more I learn about God’s redeeming love.

Adoption. Is. Messy. There is brokeness and loss and sadness. There’s a great expense of money, time, energy, emotions. There’s the waiting, holding your breath as you wonder if the next situation will be “it”. Oftentimes I’ve looked at situations and thought, what would it really be like to bring that baby home? To meet that mother? It has in it the power to change not only us but the birth mom, her child, her family. The closer we get to adoption the more I’m forced to rely on Jesus. Either that or sink into the abyss.

He knowingly stepped into the mess to adopt us. He counted the cost and it was immeasurable, but He did it anyway.

The hope for a baby isn’t compelling us.
The desire to add to our family isn’t the real reason.
That we are “good” certainly isn’t it.
It’s the gospel, plain and simple.

I love this child. I love him enough to give, to trust, to obey, to get messy. I love him without ever seeing that he’ll love me back or appreciate everything we’ve done to bring him home. I love him with a “Never Stopping, Never Giving up, Unbreaking, Always and Forever Love.”

Because that’s how He loves me.

What we’re learning…

In the midst of growth – isn’t that is where most of our Christian life occurs? If we are doing what we are supposed to by grace aren’t we always in the midst of “stuff”? Or maybe coming out of it. Or going into it unbeknownst to us. Here’s what we’re learning in the midst of adoption, loss and life:

– God is GOOD. I know it’s cliche among believers. But He is. When I look back on those days when we were initially matched with our first birth mom (understand I’d love to use her name but I just can’t) I can see His hand at work in every detail. Even when the unthinkable happened and the three of us suffered an enormous loss. God was so merciful in the details, big and small. We found out when we were among family who, in a moments notice, took care of our children while we were gone. We were already 2 hours into an 8 hour drive because of our location. The delivery of that sweet baby was mercifully short. The timing worked so that we were only away from our kids for one night but we still got to spend ample time with the birth mom and our son. The hospital staff was incredible. The support from friends, family, co-workers, donors – tremendous. And our relationship with the mom after? Incredible. Even more so than it was before. It’s not like He doesn’t know what He’s doing. It can be hard AND good.

– Waiting is for everyone. I’ve learned this lesson over and over, it seems. Waiting to get married, waiting for a house, waiting for a job, waiting for a decision, waiting for a child, waiting out sickness or pain…but it just keeps coming back. And the thing is, we’re not waiting on any of those things. WE WAIT FOR GOD ALONE. We’re not waiting for another birth mom to love or for a child to come to our home. We’re learning to wait on Jesus! We’re not waiting for news from an agency or boss or doctor – we’re waiting for GOD to move. And when He’s seemingly quiet, the wait gets intense. But we press on “to know the LORD. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; And He will come to us like the rain, Like the spring rain watering the earth.” Hosea 6:3. Don’t think I sound super holy. I don’t get this right all the time. I’m anxious and angry at times, too. But I do know that my waiting is NOT on a human level. He’s sovereign after all.

– And then there is HOPE. There really is hope in suffering. There is something about being at a place where nothing seems right – save the grace of Jesus. It is a beautiful reality. Most of the time it seems like it fades after a trial has come and gone but right in the middle of it, when we’ve needed it the most, His love has carried us. Even if we’ve ignored it we can look back and see it. I can say this with certainty: never before have we felt more loved than we do now. The gospel is deeper, somehow, more meaningful. We look around and couldn’t be more thankful for the four little lives He’s entrusted to our care, the “things” He’s given. We don’t feel like God has done anything against our family. The trials are His way of loving us, even if it doesn’t make sense to us. His grace really is enough.

This isn’t all we’ve learned – and we don’t have it down. But it’s causing dependence in a brand new way.

severe t-storms and other good lessons

I’ve been feeling a little fitful today. Like I-want-to-get-up-and-do-something-significant-but-I-just-can’t-make-myself fitful. And, maybe-I-should-organize-my-whole-house-or-plan-my-entire-homeschool-year-but-that’s-unatainable fitful. Like I-want-to-know-my-future-get-this-horrible-weight-off-my-chest fitful. Anyway, so I’m finally doing something worthwhile with my day – cleaning the floor (like going to worship at church or feeding my family or whatever else wasn’t worthwhile – but it wasn’t in my mind) and my 5 year old keeps worrying about the looming “t-storm” coming. “Is it severe?” she asks between the dolphin noises she can make with her new water bottle. “Is it severe?”, seriously she asked at least 6 times in a 2 minute time frame. I’m getting a little frustrated. And she literally calls it “t-storm”. Anyway so I ask “Are you afraid of something, buddy?” And then she goes onto inform me that if it’s severe then the lights will go off and she won’t have a nightlight in her room or know what time to wake up and…”Sweetie, you’re trying to know the future and we just can’t know the future. But we know God will protect us whatever comes.” Instantly I was ashamed of myself. Do I really believe in God’s protection? In His provision?

I am that child. I have been begging God to let this storm pass and lead us onto our next “situation”. I have been so fitful to know our future all the while grieving for the babe who was supposed to be ours. At times I’ve thought, “I want out! I want this to be over!” understanding that it will never pass. It will never be over. Not till heaven. How can I be so sad over the things that never were yet so hopeful for the things that are yet to be? A few seconds later when my girl said, “It’s ok, right, mom? Cause if it IS a severe T-storm God will protect us, right mom?” I couldn’t answer at that moment. I know all the true things. I believe all of them. “Yes, babe”. It’s enough for now, I hope.

I do trust God.

I do believe He is sovereign.

On my less than wonderful days when I am fitful I am so thankful for grace.

Hope in the storm.

don’t rush the middle

Someone wise shared the above words with me last week when I was telling her that I’d love for this part of our journey to go quickly. That I’m ready for our next baby to be in our arms at any time – preferably soon. She said, “don’t pray away the middle.” She said it so lovingly and with so much grace that I heard it. sigh. It’s still not about me. BIG sigh. She probably never intended for me to think of it exactly that way but it was exactly what I needed to hear.

Since then I’ve had lots of peace about continuing in adoption. God already knows our baby. He knows the when, the how, the who. I don’t need to get myself all worked up about the urgency I feel. We even had a situation over the weekend that seemed perfect – at first. But God really protected my heart and I knew before anyone else told me that this wasn’t our baby. That is amazing grace. He’s given me that all along and He totally doesn’t have to.

I feel pretty crummy about not boasting about what a great fundraiser our small group friends held for us till now. It was amazing. And really super fun. All the way from the decor to the food to the organization and prizes and people and music and fellowship. It was extremely humbling. I hope all of you who helped or came or donated know what a blessing it was to our family. To know we are loved is helping us now in ways that we did not anticipate. It was the most uncomfortable, comforting experience I’ve ever had – if that makes sense. Thank you! Thank you so much. We had friends give even after our tragedy – which means – there are others who believe that a baby is coming home with us. That is the sweetest gift.

I kind of laugh an awkward little ironic laugh when I think about myself at the beginning of this process. I really wanted to help someone. I thought that’s what this whole thing would be about. We’d be ministering the gospel to others through adoption. I think I’ve been given more opportunities than I ever even wanted and somehow fumbled my way through them. But as we go further and further into the ache and the loss and the hope and the growth – it’s me that’s changing. And we’ve had the gospel of grace ministered to us in more ways than I could count. By attending a fundraiser that we didn’t deserve and having amazing people give that don’t know us. By friends loving us and waiting with us, hurting with us when we didn’t get to bring our baby home. We didn’t deserve anything we’ve received over the past several months. But because of grace, we’re getting it. I’m reminded again – my biggest problem is already solved.

And Zach and I already have one child safe at home.

I’m thankful.

so many layers

Getting over the loss of a child is just something you don’t do. We’ll never “get over” our son going to Heaven before coming here to earth. It’s hard. And everyone around you might get over it more quickly than you and still you’re left with your heart aching, your arms empty. Or your dearest friends don’t get over it and that has it’s own ache. Many couples have faced adoption loss, or the loss of a child. We’re not unique. And I keep telling myself that my reality of having our baby home isn’t true reality. God always meant to have him for reasons I won’t really understand. And I don’t need to. But it’s still hard.

It would have been easier for us to pretend this wasn’t our baby. That this was only the birth mom’s baby and we went just to help her through the toughest day of her life. But that didn’t hold up for long. Especially because everyone treated us like his parents. Even his sweet momma. It is amazing grace that the three of us are grieving together. I had one of my worst days yet this past week. So did she. We both found out later that we had grieved in the exact same way for our baby boy on the exact same day. There is hope somewhere in that.

Now the wait continues. We are not giving up on adoption. Not because we need a son. Not because the next child will replace the loss. No – that doesn’t happen. But because we believe this is what we are supposed to do. We believe in a God who can redeem even the deepest aches. It was already hard before this situation came our way. But God didn’t promise it would be easy. He’s not even promising it now that we are stepping back out into situations that are sad and needy all over again. But He’s good. He is very good.

Having our girls around us is healing. We didn’t think it possible to be more thankful for them than we already were. We ARE. So many layers to this. There’s no greeting card for losing the adopted child you thought you’d have. Life has lots of things like that. But we are hopeful. Sincerely, we are. There is a part of me that would really like to write the next chapter – but I know that wouldn’t go well for any of us. So we leave it in His hands again and wait. And now the wait has more meaning than ever.

loss

It is with unspeakable sadness that I am writing to say that we did not get to bring our baby boy home. Neither did his momma. He went straight to the arms of Jesus. On Tuesday at her appointment the nurse could not find a heartbeat. We were on a family vacation in Indiana at an amusement park. I checked my phone because I was expecting news from her. Instead I saw that the agency had tried to call and left texts. I called immediately. Everything after that felt like a nightmare. She was already at the hospital and the staff would begin induction later in the day and give her more meds on Wednesday to get labor started. We left Indiana and drove to Kansas, not for the trip we were hoping for, but to walk through the next several hours with a woman we had come to love.The events that followed were as precious to me as any birth I’ve been a part of – just in a very different way. I will always remember holding her hand as that beautiful boy made his entrance into the world. I will always remember the silence of the delivery room, save the weeping of those who loved him most. She could not hold him at first. With Zach’s arms around me, I did.

I feel like I’m living someone else’s life. Walking around in a daze, confused and broken hearted. This doesn’t make any sense. Many of you intimately know the ache of losing a child. It has changed us forever. We don’t know where we go from here. We believe there is a baby we are supposed to bring home. But we also believe we have a son in heaven. We have full assurance we were called into this situation to walk through these last couple months with this woman. Our relationship was immediately so close, so amazing. It was for this time, this reason. God is working His incredible grace in her. The gospel is real. This was no accident. These are the truths I am clinging to.

I wrote in the last post that the family of God was bringing this baby home. The truth is, he is already home.

Overwhelmed

I’ve been feeling…torn. Torn between my desire to see this baby in my arms and my home, to smell his sweet head and cry a thousand tears of thankfulness…and then there’s the reality of his beautiful mother. Broken-hearted and grieving a significant loss. I can’t even wrap my mind around that. Words fail at a time like this but “bittersweet” gets at it pretty well. Last night God showed me something. Loving this child IS loving his momma. Every time I change a diaper, calm cries, and feed hunger I’m loving her, too. So even though I’ll be grieving with her, I feel a freedom now to love this little one like crazy. Because that’s why she chose us.

I’ve noticed that the closer the fundraiser gets, the more uncomfortable I become. Last night over a dozen of our close friends came to our home, rolled up their sleeves and made meatballs. Like really good, homemade, organic meatballs. I watched them grind fresh meat right on my counter! Part of me wanted to run away and hide because I don’t deserve this. I’m not worthy of this love! That’s true – but it’s not about me. And I certainly can’t let pride come in front of what God is doing. That’s really what is compelling our friends and family – God’s love! So instead of feeling like it’s all these people with their arms outstretched to us – it’s all of us with our arms outstretched to Him who is truly in control. We will be able to say, unhindered, the family of God brought this baby home. Not Zach or me. Not our dear friends who’ve worked so hard and prayed faithfully. God’s love in the people around us will bring this child home. At least that is the hope.