#NICUawarenessmonth

Seems like the way I do awareness months is to drag my feet until the last day, huh? But it IS still September, so here we go…

The Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is where our lifelong journeys with both adoption and cystic fibrosis began. 

During Joanna’s 34-day stay in the NICU up in snowy South Dakota in November/December of 2019, we became a family of three (and part of an extended birth family) as we transitioned from visitors to Mom and Dad. It’s where we learned how to hold, soothe and care for a 33-week preemie, and where we started learning how to manage her cystic fibrosis. 

We spent hours and hours taking turns holding our precious girl. We introduced Joanna to friends and family who were able to visit (thankfully this was 4 months before Covid hit). We listened to our favorite songs and lay on blankets and pillows from home to try and bring some of ourselves into the sterile environment. We crammed our coats, computer bags, snacks, adoption papers, books, everything we could into the cupboard in the corner. Taped up pictures and scrapbook pages made by the sweetest nurses celebrating little milestones. I kept cardigans, a robe, and a pair of Crocs at the hospital. I had a little caddy in there with pens, notepads, chapstick, and everything I might need during the day. We FaceTimed with loved ones, phone resting on the plastic lid of the isolette that helped regulate her body temperature. We arranged her stuffed animals and gifts wherever we could, and eventually set up a Christmas tree and nativity set.

We got into a routine. We ate quick, quiet breakfasts at the Ronald McDonald House before rushing out into the snow to get back to our baby– Mike went first, and I took a little longer to get ready and listen to the news in solitude (which was my first lesson in taking little bits of time for myself as a mom). We ate meals in the hospital cafeteria that were graciously donated and saved us lots of time and money, but didn’t always leave us feeling the best. We said prayers together as a family before walking back across the street for the night. We watched TV reruns and old movies, did work, filled out adoption-related paperwork, managed our household from 90 miles away, and were only occasionally bored. We met amazing nurses, practitioners, therapists, doctors and support staff who each brought a unique set of skills, gifts and heart to their work. While everyone was great, we definitely had favorites 😉 and relished the days we got to spend with the nurses and doctors we knew we could relate to or joke around with. The days were long, and sometimes hard, but every moment was precious.

Our girl grew and thrived and was loved in the NICU. We learned about so many generous people in the community who pour out love to families like ours on a regular basis with gifts of snacks & treats, baby goodies, blankets, toys, books and more. We felt just as cared for as our baby. 

I’ll also add that as an introvert it’s one of my greatest achievements to have survived five weeks of 12-14 hour days where another person could come into my space at any given time. 😅 But I would do it all over again for my girl. 

All in all, we had a wonderful time in the NICU, and I realize that is not the typical experience. We hadn’t just gone through a high-risk pregnancy, or a c-section, didn’t have other children at home, and were able to drop everything and focus on the joy of becoming parents. And while Joanna certainly had some growing to do and a lifelong health condition to navigate, she had very few complications and was in stable condition during her time there.

We met a few other families whose babies were truly fighting to live, or facing scary long term effects of premature birth and/or health conditions, and we heard some heartbreaking stories. While we were basking in the rosy glow of our tiny but healthy baby, I was very aware when I walked into the hallway that any other parent I encountered could be having a terrible day. Any interaction with other parents was tense at first, like we were nervous to ask them how their day was going, and vice versa. Most of the parents didn’t talk to others at all. That was so hard, because I felt such a connection with them… it was hard to know what to do, so while we all quietly crossed paths, I prayed for God to carry them as he was carrying us.

That was our experience, but some things about the NICU are universal, so here are my “tips” or encouragements: If you know someone whose baby is in the NICU right now, please don’t wait for them to say what they need. Go ahead and send a gift card for coffee, takeout, or a big box store. Send it to their home or to the hospital. If you’re close with the family, ask what their days are like and get some gift ideas from the conversation. Some of my favorite gifts were tea, chapstick, little snack bags of trail mix, Target gift cards, and special NICU baby clothes with Velcro closures to accommodate Joanna’s wires and tubes. I also picked up a few cozy pieces of clothing for myself because of all the time I spent sitting in the recliner with Joanna. We were away from home, too, so we still had to buy breakfast food for ourselves and some meals out when we got sick of hospital food. We were also able to have a few “date nights,” because as the nurses reminded us, we would probably never have such skilled babysitters again! I would also recommend a massage gift certificate as a “homecoming” gift for moms and dads, because all of those sweet, snuggly hours in the recliner can do a number on your back. Some other ideas would be: help with cleaning or laundry at home, school pickup, taking the family’s other children to a movie, lawn care, snow removal, etc.

If you know someone who has been in the NICU, no matter when it was, ask if they’d like to share with you about it. (They may not want to, and that’s okay.) But it’s a unique experience and a place that can benefit from community support, even during the pandemic. You might consider donating new or used baby clothes, baby gear, or gifts for the families and babies. 

I would also encourage you to support Ronald McDonald Charities. They were our home away from home and were just the best! (They serve all kinds of families with children who need to be in the hospital, not only NICU families.) Every location is a little different, so call for specifics, but I know they accept donations of food, household items and gifts for the kids and families. And this next idea wouldn’t fly during a pandemic, but make note for the future– during our stay, one very sweet family whose daughter is a NICU nurse brought their Thanksgiving feast and their entire family to the Ronald McDonald House and shared everything with any of us who wanted to join them. It was the sweetest thing, and I know that others in that community would bless the NICU staff with holiday meals, too. If you have a creative idea, just reach out because you never know what’s possible until you ask.

We are so grateful for the strong start our family was given during our baby’s NICU stay. The place and the people are forever in our hearts. 💗

My Thoughts on Time’s Baby Brokers Article

I initially drafted a couple of social media posts with my thoughts on this recent article from Time magazine about the private adoption industry, but considering how significant it is in the fight for adoption reform, I wanted to give my thoughts a more permanent place on the Internet, so here we are (although you probably got here from social media, haha).

Please read the article before continuing! https://time.com/6051811/private-adoption-america/

There’s a video to go along with the article, as well.

I’m still processing, and I don’t usually share my processing in real time, but it seemed important to say something now and invite my social circle into the conversation rather than retreating into introspection and missing the moment to speak up.

This news is a lot. It’s heartbreaking and sickening. It’s hard to hear or read about something usually regarded as “positive” get boiled down to financial or marketing terms. It may be surprising or shocking to you, but I can tell you that after only a few years in the world of adoption… I am completely unsurprised. There is a pattern of unethical, illegal and predatory practices in this industry.

This is important. We, as a society, have stood by and let this happen. I promise, it’s more than a few bad actors. There are so many more stories like these, and I pray that they come to light soon. The corruption goes deeper and spreads wider than we’d like to think. Expectant/birth parents and potential/adoptive parents are being taken advantage of, but the ones who truly lose the most are the most vulnerable— the children.

Before going any further: I’m not anti-adoption. I don’t think every case is unethical. I am grateful for how our story unfolded. But I can see where the murkiness lurks throughout this industry as someone who has walked through it, seen the potential, and possibly been very close to it, so naturally I have a LOT of questions, feelings and ideas. Just because these stories are not like mine, doesn’t mean I get to look away, or that I get a free pass. It’s hard to speak up about this because I’m protective of my family’s story— it’s not only about me and my husband building our family anymore, so I walk the line of trying to protect privacy and keep the sacred details within our family circle while also advocating for change for the future.

I’m angry and fired up, but I’m also hopeful when I see things like this coming to light. I hope it leads to more reporting, more awareness, and more change. I’m encouraged because the article was written by an adoptee who specifically sought out birth mother voices. We have not had the opportunity to hear these voices in this way and from such a widely read and trusted source, so that’s something to applaud.

Whether you’re directly connected to adoption or not, I don’t believe any of us gets to read this article (or generally know about these issues) and continue to think and speak about adoption as always only good, beautiful, right, or the best choice. It is so much more complicated than that, and there are problems in other areas of our society that continue to lead to the corrupt and predatory practices outlined in this piece.

Adoption does not exist in a vacuum, friends; we can all participate in the change.

Some great ways to start…

-Listen to birth parents and adoptees. If you don’t know any, I’ll include some links where you can find folks who are bravely sharing their experiences.

-Be gently curious when someone involved in adoption shares their story with you. Remember that some things need to be kept private, and try asking questions about adoption in general rather than their particular story. It is considered insensitive by many to ask about the cost of adoption for adoptive parents, or to ask about birth parents’ reasons for placing their baby, and every person has their own pet peeve questions, so a good starting point might be to ask, “What do you want people to know about adoption?”

-Reflect on your own perception and understanding of adoption. Is it something you may have joked about, like teasing a sibling about being adopted because they have a unique physical/personality trait, or saying that on a hard day you would consider “giving your kids up”? Now is the perfect time to stop that. 🙂 But you can reflect more deeply: is adoption always good? Always necessary? How do you think it would feel for a mother to be separated from her child, even if she felt it was a good and loving choice? How would it feel for the child, even if they love their adoptive family and have access to their birth family? What are the issues contributing to mothers/couples deciding not to parent? How can we help families stay together? How can our churches and other religious communities help those affected by adoption? How have religious ideas about adoption caused harm? I could go on and on, but I won’t. 😉

-Find ways to support family preservation, adoption reform, and other issues that affect adoption. The way I see it, these can actually be unifying between the pro-life and pro-choice camps; I understand that not everyone sees it that way, so I won’t get into politics now, but hear me when I say: both sides of the aisle have solutions to offer for these problems. No matter how you vote, you are likely aware of organizations that serve families. Get involved there. Ask how the people they serve are affected by adoption. You may know directors or board members of such organizations– ask them about issues of accountability, regulation, oversight, and what opposition they face. Think critically about the answers, and continue asking questions. Some causes I recommend looking into would be adoptee rights (specifically making it easier for adoptees to access their birth and adoption records), post-placement mental health support for birth parents and adoptees, maternal health care, crisis pregnancy support, and anti-trafficking. There is also a national bipartisan healthcare initiative in the works that would provide resources for women considering adoption, and you can read about it here and ask your representatives to support it.

-Finally, if you are an adoptive parent or someone pursuing adoption… do your work. You don’t know what you don’t know, but there is so much we CAN and DO know now. The cat’s been out of the bag on corruption and unethical practices for a while, so there are really no more excuses. As a starting point here are a couple of great resources for preparing to adopt: some free and one for purchase that gets excellent reviews. As adoptive parents, we are often the first voice people choose to listen to about adoption (and I could do a whole rant on that someday), so we have a responsibility to use our voices to advocate for our children and their birth families. We are also the consumers in this “industry” (yes I know that’s icky), and can hold the professionals accountable. It may feel intimidating because of the tactics the article sheds light on, but we DO have every right to ask questions in every part of the process, contest a contract, leave a negative review, walk away, etc.

If you read this article and find yourself uncomfortable, or with questions, or feeling defensive or dismissive, or with any kind of feeling, let’s have a conversation. I would honestly be SO happy to hear from you even if you come to different conclusions than I do. I don’t have all the answers, and we may not agree, but I’d love to listen and share some ideas and resources. If you have resources you’d like to share with me, I’m all ears for that too. You can comment here or find me on Instagram @deep_delightful_life.

Now for the LINKS:

Kindred + Co. Blog: so many beautiful stories here from all sides of the adoption triad (triad = adoptee, birth family & adoptive family). I love the way Kindred shares adoption stories! Most of the blogs include links to the authors’ blogs and social media. Great starting point.

Ashley Mitchell: A powerful (sometimes salty!) birth mother voice for adoption reform and post-placement support for birth mothers.

Torie Dimartile: A transracial adoptee who is doing wonderful work on- and offline to educate about adoption. She’s featured on the Kindred blog but I wanted to link to her website as well.

Sherrie Eldridge: Adoptee author with books for children and adults. Her blog is a great resource, too. She has a heart for adoptive moms that was born from her relationship with her own mom. She also did a Bible study series on her blog about Moses that I found fascinating.

Becky Banks: Another adoptee voice. Thoughtful and valuable perspective in the adoption space. She’s not super “active” online but her writing is out there on her blog and Instagram and I think she is just the best. She has a very tender way of explaining things.

I’ve specifically tried to share voices with experience with private domestic infant adoption. There are may other great voices speaking about adoption in general (including foster care and international adoption), and you can find those on my Instagram by going to my profile and flipping through my story highlights from this past National Adoption Awareness Month. The highlight is titled “NAAM 2020.” Enjoy that rabbit-hole!

Cystic Fibrosis Awareness Month 2021

As cystic fibrosis awareness month comes to an end, I’ve been trying and trying to come up with something to share.

There’s no lack of thoughts or words, I just can’t seem to get them organized with everything going on in our offline life with CF. This post is all I can muster, and I’m going to share some links that I’d love for you to check out.

I realize that I’ve skipped some context, blog-continuity-wise, so… sorry? But in a nutshell, our little Joanna was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis shortly after birth through the newborn screening (aka the heel poke).

Anyway, I’ve recently gone through a new wave of things sinking in for me about CF, the gradual realizations that I’m guessing come up for family and patients when a lifelong disease is involved. This time my realizations have revolved around: 1) the reality of being a special needs parent, 2) the persistent, complicated nature of cystic fibrosis when it comes to related medical issues and 3) navigating life with others as the pandemic recedes but our girl is still just as much at risk from not only Covid-19, but all the garden variety pathogens we will encounter in the world and haven’t had to worry about for most of her life because we were staying home.

That’s all heavy, but life is also very good! Joanna is a bright, curious, funny, smart, sweet, kind little girl who is growing in amazing ways. Just over the past week she has become a TALKER, imitating most of the words we say to her and using an ever-growing list of her own words. (And of course, “no” is one of them. 😆) We have a LOT of fun and are excited about every new stage when we get to see more of who our girl is growing up to be.

Joanna is so strong and becoming a real champ with all of this CF business, knocking back meds and participating in her care as much as a toddler can. We have graduated from having to hold her and her nebulizer during treatments, to her sitting in a chair by herself– what?!? We are also looking forward to her turning 2 this fall, because then we can start talking about an exciting possibility: modulator drugs that work to repair the hallmark cellular dysfunction of cystic fibrosis. Joanna will be eligible for one of these drugs based on her age and having the most common CFTR mutation, but they’ll have to do a little more testing to make sure the risks are worth the benefits. Still, we’re excited that she’s part of the generation of CFers who can start these drugs at a younger age and hopefully avoid/lessen some of the effects of the disease over time.

But please don’t miss this: for all her adorableness, for all the fun things she can do, she does have a disease— one that currently has no cure. The invisible nature of CF can be a blessing but also a curse, because it makes it easy to forget how vulnerable she is and how different life is for us.

Please remember these things about our family: First, we will always be dealing with something related to CF; it doesn’t let up, so we can’t either. It may “just” be the twice-daily treatments or it may be more, like extra appointments, a hospitalization or complicated insurance issues… but there are ZERO days when we can forget about it. Second, germs are our mortal enemy. We are still figuring out how to do life with this in mind.

We have also been in survival mode for the past few months, as Joanna’s reflux and vomiting mysteriously ramped up in March, and we sometimes see as many as 7 episodes of projectile vomiting in one day. Sometimes it’s like a little baby spit-up and other times it’s like a pint-sized volcano. We are working on it with her team, and thankfully she has not lost weight during this time, but it’s got us all pretty wiped out. (This may not be directly related to CF, but GI problems are very common for CFers, so even if it’s “unrelated,” CF still plays a role.)

As we talk with other CF caregivers, we’re hearing that the first five years can be the hardest. Kiddos grow and change so much during that time, and as parents we are finding our footing and processing the realities of a disease like this. So we’ll be the first to tell you that we need the support of our community.

Please feel free to ask us questions about CF. I didn’t know ANYthing about it when we first got Joanna’s diagnosis, so I can imagine many of the people we know are in the same boat we were 19 months ago. An easy way to ease our burden just a little is to understand more about what a CF diagnosis means for an individual and their family. Here’s a basic overview from the CF Foundation.

If you’d like to know what to do for a CF family (or really anyone with a chronic illness or special needs), here are my suggestions:

1- Ask questions, listen, empathize, then get creative about helping. Sometimes I can articulate what I need, but when I’m up to my neck in laundry and feelings and research and phone calls and questions for medical professionals, I do not have the capacity to come up with ideas for how someone could help me. I need people who know enough about my life to make an educated guess. Good starting points (for myself or others you know) would be the basic stuff anyone can do: cleaning, cooking, and errands. Super bonus points if you have the time and heart to learn some of the actual caregiving so there is someone else who can occasionally do a treatment or a feeding. We have had friends do laundry, cleaning, and pharmacy pickups for us and it is such a blessing. Prayer is wonderful, too. 🙂 This post does a good job of describing the CF caregiving experience.

2- Respect our boundaries around germs. We are trying to develop routines around this and are still figuring it out, but simple things like washing/sanitizing your hands (and your kids’!) and staying home when you’re sick go a long way for us. We’ve already had a few friends tell their children that they need to be careful about germs with Joanna; that’s looked different during her different stages (i.e infant, crawler, walker) but I have so appreciated their taking that on so I can relax just a little bit when we’re out and about, which we hope can be a more frequent occurrence this year. Here’s a short piece about a CF patient’s perspective on cold & flu season. Hygiene, masks and distance have been part of the CF vernacular since well before the Covid-19 pandemic, and some of those things will remain a part of our lives forever.

3- Support the cause. We do not yet have the energy to organize walks or other fundraisers like that, and admittedly my energy for advocacy is often spent in the adoption realm, but if you feel led, there are some great organizations that help our family in amazing ways (as well as doing excellent work in advocacy and research).

The CF Foundation helps us tremendously through their free Compass program for CF patients & caregivers. I can call any time and speak with a case worker who can answer my questions about… well, a lot of things, but it’s always insurance! They also provide legal assistance but we haven’t had to use that service yet. I’m convinced our first case worker was an angel sent to earth to hold my hand (virtually) and teach me YEARS worth of knowledge about navigating insurance. I can call or email Compass to ask about equipment, coverage, preauthorizations, etc. They do the legwork and get back to me either saying they took care of the issue for me, or that they will call the pharmacy or insurance company with me to figure it out, or give me a detailed list of steps for what I need to do. They provide valuable peace of mind and save me hours every month. The CF Foundation is also involved in research, advocacy, support, and accrediting CF care centers (including Joanna’s clinic here in Houston). They do so much more than I can say here, and probably more than I know. (Our local chapter is Houston/Gulf Coast)

The Cystic Fibrosis Research Institute (CFRI) has provided me with a virtual community of moms as well as mental health support in the form of a counseling grant. I was able to attend their virtual moms’ retreat at the beginning of this month, and it was such a lovely experience to hear from other women who know what I’m going through. I heaved several sighs of relief hearing them talk about daily treatments, worries and fears, triumphs, and the expectation adjustments we all have to make (like using screen time to distract our children into eating more and doing their treatments!). I’m able to keep in touch with these women to ask questions and give and receive support. CFRI does a lot with research and advocacy, too. For example: there is a LONG way to go with racial/ethnic equality in the diagnosis and treatment of cystic fibrosis, which was once thought of as only occurring in people of European descent. This has resulted in delayed or missed diagnosis for people of other ethnic backgrounds, and will require a multi-faceted approach to bring about equal access to testing and treatment. Ethnicity aside, there is also a great variety of CF mutations, some of which are extremely rare and do not qualify for life-saving drugs. So yes, there are a few modulators that work very well for the majority of the CF population, but there are still many patients who cannot benefit from these drugs.

It’s not CF-specific, but The Healthwell Foundation has been a lifesaver for our family. They provide grants to cover out of pocket medical expenses for people with a number of different chronic conditions, including CF. It’s interesting, because the front page of their site mentions “underinsured individuals,” which I wouldn’t have identified with because our insurance has been pretty good and seemed like a normal plan to me. However, because of some factors like higher deductibles and copay accumulator programs, we do fall into that category for the purposes of receiving a grant (yet another advocacy issue!). With the majority of her meds and equipment that specifically treat CF symptoms, Joanna’s Healthwell grant can be billed as secondary insurance, saving us thousands of dollars. Fun fact: Joanna’s individual insurance deductible was met by the beginning of March this year. The cost of her digestive enzymes and one inhaled medication– just two items– could meet a deductible within three months.

Well, I think I’m spent. Thank you so much for reading about our family’s experience with CF.

If you have questions, or are a fellow CF patient or caregiver and want to connect, please don’t hesitate to reach out! Comment here, or find me on Instagram @deep_delightful_life. That account has been mostly adoption-related, but as I start to come out of my new parenthood/CF/Covid haze, I’m finding more capacity to engage with the CF part of our story.

Mother’s Day

Well, I’m doing it. I’m blogggiiiiiiiinnnnnggggg! This must be how Maria felt on that mountaintop.

I wrote three “vignettes” for Mother’s Day that I also shared on my Instagram (@deep_delightful_life), but I know some of my people aren’t connected to that account, so I’m dropping it here too. Maybe this is me coming back to blogging, or… maybe not. But today, I did it. Here it is.

1: Mother’s Day is Hard

There were Mother’s Days when I didn’t get out of bed, or go to church, or feel very good about the day at all. Year after year I hoped I would be parenting, and year after year my arms were empty. Even now that I’m parenting, I think of the two souls waiting for us in heaven.

It can be so hard when life isn’t roses and breakfast in bed and pedicures and hugs and handmade cards. When the reality is so different from our expectations and hopes.

Our hopes aren’t wrong, they just highlight that, indeed… it wasn’t meant to be this way. Brokenness, illness, separation, dysfunction, hurt, loss, etc. etc.

Infertility, loss and adoption broke my heart wide open in empathy for all those who find themselves in the shadows on days like this. For me, it was a way to experience and receive God’s love, and to show it to others.

For anyone who mourns what was or what could or should have been, you are seen, and loved, and precious. Your heart’s desire for things to be different, the hurt you feel, the sadness… it’s all okay to feel. It reveals that things aren’t meant to be this way.

It is okay to get the pedicure and raise a toast, to enjoy breakfast in bed if that’s your situation. It’s also okay to hide away, to listen to sad songs, to skip church.

Please let somebody know, though. Please let somebody see your tears. Tell somebody how it feels: your loss, or rejection, or anger, or pain. I would encourage you to tell God and to tell a person. It’s not always sunshine and flowers on Mother’s Day. I see you. You will get through today, because you got through yesterday. The way you feel is important and okay and real AND a part of how I and people like us celebrate Mother’s Day.

So. Check on your friends. The mamas of all kinds: birth mamas, bio mamas, adoptive mamas, those who have lost their moms, lost a child, those who are estranged or experiencing some kind of hurt or tension in their relationship. Mothers are important, or else we wouldn’t feel so deeply about this day.

2: Motherhood is Shared

My daughter is hers in a way she will never be mine, she is mine in a way she will never be hers, and together we are motherhood.
(based on Desha Woodall’s words)

We each have our role, and it. is. okay. It may not be what you see every day, but it doesn’t have to be confusing… it is just more love. And it IS our everyday experience.

The little hand I hold is doubly precious because that hand formed in the womb of a woman I am now blessed to call my friend. It’s a bond like no other, to know somebody else loves your child as much as you do.

We will each be what our daughter needs in our own way, and neither of us takes anything away from the other.

I needed her, she needed me, our daughter needs us both, and we are in this together. This is our motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day, Abby! 💐 🥂 🤗 💗

3: Motherhood is Beautiful

Motherhood is an invitation to give and receive God’s humble, gentle, patient, joyful, forgiving, lavish love day after day.

When I accept this invitation , it’s a beautiful thing. When I don’t, when I forget, when I refuse because I’m being extra human, it is still a beautiful thing… because God’s mother heart for us never stops beating.

I am infinitely blessed to be mothering someone. To be the word she wakes up and lies down calling out. To be the one she looks for when she’s happy or sad or something isn’t right or she’s just wandering the house, checking to see where I am. To laugh with her, hold her when she cries, and occasionally cause her to cry while teaching her where the boundaries are.

Being a mother is not all I am, but I’m thankful for the ways God is using it to *bring out* who I am and refine me into who I will be in the future.

It is a beautiful gift to have been mothered sweetly by my own mom, who was so good in so many ways, and shared enough of her story with me so that I could understand if she fell short. It is a gift to have a mother-in-law who is a friend and a supporter and who cares so deeply for me. It is a gift to have one grandmother left in my life who delights in me, listens to me, and has let me get to know her as a real person. It is a blessing to love my new soul-sister-mom (my daughter’s birth mama), to love our daughter together, and to know that the mothers who shaped her are also cheering for and loving Joanna and me. I have also had motherly influences in my life through work and church— too many to count.

Motherhood is a gift from God to the world. I’ve heard it said, and I agree… it’s a miracle however it comes to you.

A Year of Waiting, a Month of Awareness

It’s been a little over a year since we became an approved waiting family with our adoption agency. Many people have asked how it’s going since we announced our pursuit of adoption back in the spring of 2018, and we’ve done our best to share what we can in those moments, but sometimes there’s nothing going on, or something going on that we can’t share, or we’re just not sure what to say. So I figured I would write a summary of the past year-ish, because I know there are so many of you who care about us and hold us in your thoughts and prayers. THANK YOU for loving and supporting us!!! We can feel it.

There have been highs and lows on our journey, to be sure. We’ve had times of feeling excited and hopeful, imagining the future with joy. Other times we have felt discouraged over the long wait, or not being chosen for a particular situation, or over the deeper feelings that can come up for us related to infertility, the loss of our two babies, or what God is doing in the midst of this when we don’t see it yet.

We’ve gone through phases of preparation in our home— researching and buying a carseat and stroller, clearing furniture out of our spare room, painting and decorating to turn that room into a nursery, assembling the crib, etc. But there have also been times when there’s nothing baby-related going on; nothing to do in the nursery, no word from the agency.

A corner of our nursery

A refresher on how the domestic infant adoption process works: expectant mothers (sometimes with the expectant fathers) come to our agency to explore adoption as an option for them and their baby. Part of that exploration process is to view “profiles” of hopeful adoptive families. (The profile is a photo book the family puts together to show what their life and home are like and why they want to adopt.) Once the expectant parents are ready to look at family profiles, a message is sent to the agency’s waiting families with some basic details about the expectant parents and baby (due date, brief medical history, level of openness desired), and we decide if we’d like our profile to be shown to them. Once they have viewed profiles and taken some time, we are notified if we have been chosen or not, and what the expectant parent is planning to do next. Sometimes they choose to parent, sometimes they choose a family right away from the books they look at, and other times they get it narrowed down to a couple of families they’d like to meet with before making a decision.

Our profile book

(I also want to say this, although it’s a bit of a digression… when the expectant parent/couple selects a family, it doesn’t mean they are officially placing their baby for adoption with that family. They are intending to make that choice, but the choice is not official until the baby is born, the state-mandated waiting period is cleared— usually between 48 to 72 hours— and papers are signed to terminate parental rights. They could still choose to parent their baby, and the baby only has one set of parents until the legal process takes place. When a hopeful adoptive family is selected, they are essentially invited into the expectant mother/couple/family’s space, with the expectant mama in the driver’s seat. I just feel like this is an important explanation to provide.)

In our wait so far, we have seen 19 profile opportunities, and asked for our profile to be shown to 13 of those. Some of the opportunities we passed on were because of high legal risk, medical needs we felt were too much for us to handle, or because the expectant parents wanted a very closed adoption. But each one of them tugged at our heartstrings, for sure.

Something I didn’t foresee was how strongly I would be drawn to pray over these women and how deeply my heart would be touched just by reading a few short lines about their current situations. It really is an honor and privilege to know about and pray for these mothers (and fathers) and babies. For some of them, we may be the only people who know about the pregnancy, or the only people who know they are considering adoption. The pull toward prayer has been very strong; whenever we’re waiting to hear back about a situation I feel the pull at night as I’m falling asleep, first thing when I wake up, and as I go through my daily tasks and wonder what this other woman is doing and feeling as she considers the possibility of adoption. Our prayers are always that the mama/parents can get to a place of peace with their decision, that they will find support for whatever they choose, and of course that everyone will be healthy and safe. I also pray that God will prevail over any toxic outside influences. I imagine it’s hard enough to be expecting a baby and not have a plan; if haters start hating it can only steal peace, and to that I say NO. Often we’re led to pray in other ways based on the details we’re given, but that’s it in a nutshell. We would welcome your joining us in prayer over the women who seek help from our agency. They are supported through whatever choice they make— not only if they choose adoption. I’ve got a longer prayer list at the end of this post, too.

Anyway… as you can guess, we’ve gotten a big fat string of “no” responses so far. (Don’t worry, our social workers use much gentler wording than that!) One time this summer we were in a short stack of 3 profile books that a mama took home to consider, and this fall we were one of two families being considered by an expectant mom, and had the honor of meeting with her so she could see us and ask some follow-up questions. Both of those mothers chose other families, but still, it was an honor to be a tiny little part of that decision for someone, and to pray for her as she walked through a heavy, complex, emotional process.

As I’ve shared about this waiting process with people, most think the “rejection” of not being chosen must be painful. I thought it would be, too, but there’s been a lot more peace than I expected. It’s still hard to hear when we aren’t chosen, but it doesn’t feel personal, or even like rejection. The biggest reason for this is all the education we’ve sought out, specifically stories from birth mothers’ perspectives. It’s hard to feel personally rejected when you know more about the other side, where a mama who has chosen life is trying to decide if she should parent her child or entrust her child to another family for a lifetime. That is in NO way about me. If part of my wait includes waiting for someone to make the choice to place her baby in someone else’s arms, I can find the patience to endure my side of the story until our paths meet. Another surprise for us on this journey to adoption has been how much our hearts have opened toward the expectant parents. For us the purpose of our adopting a baby has expanded to include loving and connecting with Baby’s first family.

With all of that said, there are ways in which this wait IS about me. Even though I’m coming from a position of privilege and am content to wait, God still cares about the desire and condition of my heart. The hardest part of not being chosen is that we have to keep waiting. Every opportunity that comes up brings the possibility to get off this seemingly never-ending ride, and the tunnel seems dark and long when we hear another “no.” It doesn’t feel personal in terms of an expectant mother not liking me or anything like that, but it can feel personal in terms of my relationship with and beliefs about God. This is where the real wrestling comes in and I have to confront false ideas I didn’t even realize I held. The gifts God has brought out of discouragement, loss, and waiting have been rich: hope, faith, humility, truth, patience, and so much more.

Another gift I’ve received from the time spent waiting has been all the education I can take in. Some of it has been in the form of books, conferences or webinars, and some of it has been from our agency or other organizations, but the richest education has come from listening to voices from the adoption community: adoptees, birth parents and adoptive parents who are walking ahead of me on the path and are sharing their stories with courage and generosity.

From adoptees I learn to listen and validate, and to hold space for any pain or confusion our future child(ren) might feel related to their adoption while still celebrating who they are and their place in our family. From birth parents I learn the importance of keeping promises and being an open and generous “host” as an adoptive parent someday. From adoptive parents I get a glimpse into what it looks like to honor first families, to hold grief with joy, to shepherd a little person into who they were made to be, and of course the practical things like how to answer or deflect nosy grocery store questions. Adoptive parents also encourage me to keep waiting for the little one who will become mine, because while we can’t know the “why” of everything in this world, it seems pretty universal that a lot of things make sense once you meet your child.  I am SO thankful that God led me to all of these voices. Through my listening God is growing my heart in compassion, understanding, patience, grace, humility and hope.

Today actually marks the start of National Adoption Awareness month, and I’d love for you to learn along with me as I prepare myself to someday become an adoptive parent. Last year was the first time I followed along with #naam, and in a word it was overwhelming. It was my first time hearing some of these different perspectives on adoption, and I was thrown for a loop. I leaned in to listen, even when it was uncomfortable, but I didn’t feel like I had much to say since I was still pretty new to the space, and my mind sometimes reeled from all the processing.

This year I have more understanding, more perspective, and a little more to say, although I’m still not sure how valuable it is— there are definitely other voices worth listening to that have WAY more experience and authority.

So: if you don’t know much about what adoption looks like these days, or how adopted people or birth families view adoption, please consider checking out Instagram this month. It’s where the conversations and change are really happening. I’ll be there listening and occasionally speaking up, and will share some of the voices I think are important to listen to. You can find me as @deep_delightful_life, or search for #naam19. I hope I can shine a light on adoption issues and provide some encouragement for anyone who’s in the shoes I wore last year— new to the adoption conversation and Overwhelmed. Please reach out if you’d like to talk.

How to pray: As I said at the start, we have so many amazing people supporting us on this journey, and we are forever thankful. If you’re holding us in your hearts, here is how you can join us in hope and prayer…

-For us we ask for patience, peace, hope, and strength for the wait ahead of us, however long it might be. It can be a heavy thing to hold at times, and we aren’t always able to share what we’re going through since it involves confidential details about someone else’s life.

-We are asking God to prepare us to parent the unique baby who ends up joining our family, and asking for a healthy and trusting relationship between our child and family and at least some members of their biological family

-Our families and community: may God prepare everyone who will be part of our child’s life to support them as they grow

-For the expectant mother and father who will eventually choose to place with us, and for their families, we pray for peace, wisdom, and support for the decisions they will face and the road they will walk before and after placement

-For Baby we pray for healthy development, peace, safety, and for loving and informed adults to help them through birth, adoption, and growing up

-We pray for our agency’s social workers as they strive to operate ethically and with compassion for expectant/birth families and waiting/adoptive families. This is a tall order!!!

-For the process of being selected, meeting expectant mom/family, waiting for birth, meeting Baby, etc. we pray for grace on all sides as we walk through that delicate process in agency offices and hospital rooms

-Thinking past birth and placement to the newborn days, we pray for ALL involved. There will be joy, but there will be grief— baby separated from mama, mama without her baby, and two new clueless parents holding an infinitely precious and undeserved gift.

I’d better stop before I cry. Yes, adoption is beautiful, but it’s so very complex.

This is not a complete list… I could think and pray forever and not come up with all the hopes, desires, and requests that populate my prayers… but this should get you started!

THANK YOU for reading. If you’re also in the adoption wait, considering adoption, or would like to connect for any reason, please reach out here or on Instagram. 

Recipe Round-up

I apologize if you thought you might be getting an adoption-related post today. 😉 I have at least one of those brewing, I promise. In the meantime, you get my light and easy re-entry into the blogisphere so I don’t let a whole YEAR go by between posts. Not that 11 months is that much better… oops.

Anyway, I have yummy foods to share! I always feel the need to freshen up my recipe rotation this time of year when school is out, the garden has been planted, and the produce section becomes more varied and enticing. If you do the same I hope you’ll be inspired.

I’m including links to some of the allergy-friendly ingredients I use, but I feel obligated to say that there is NO benefit to me if you purchase from these links. I do think Vitacost is a good source for healthy foods, and the prices are good, but I’ve also gotten this stuff at WalMart and Azure Standard for great prices, so… do what you like!

With disclaimers out of the way, let’s get to the FOOD…

Salads:

Addictive Asian Cabbage Salad from Michelle at Sunkissed Kitchen: it’s easy, light, colorful, and allergy-friendly. If you needed to serve the almonds on the side, or use a different sweetener than honey for strict vegans, you could easily do it. This one seems like it would be kid-friendly, too, but I haven’t tested my theory yet.

(from Sunkissed Kitchen)

Vegan Italian Chopped Salad from Well Vegan : we’re not a vegan household, but because I need to avoid eggs I use it as a keyword when I’m searching for recipes, and then things magically show up on Pinterest, and… you know how it goes. This salad became our new favorite when we tried it a couple weeks ago. I made it once for dinner, then again the following week for a potluck lunch. It’s delicious! The only allergy swap I needed to make was to use gluten free pasta, so instead of ditalini I used my favorite rice “elbows”  which are always in my pantry. If you don’t need to be vegan, it would be fun to throw in some pepperoni slices.

(from Well Vegan)

Watermelon Salad from Erin Gleeson via Design*Sponge: such a fun summer appetizer! I avoid dairy for the most part, but fresh mozzarella is hard to resist and doesn’t bother me too much, so I go for it with this recipe. I think you could use goat cheese if you needed to. We like to add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar to spice it up a bit.

(from Design*Sponge)

Main dishes:

15-Minute Coconut Curry Noodle Soup from The Woks of Life: this is one of those recipes that actually comes together as quickly as it promises to, so you don’t generate a lot of heat which is probably the last thing you want in the middle of summer. You can make it spicy-hot as you want, though! Some might not want to eat hot soup as a summer meal, but for us we don’t mind when it’s light and fresh like this one. Plus, it’s very allergy-friendly.

(from The Woks of Life)

Grilled Chicken Shawarma from Edyta at Eating European: this chicken is capital-F Flavorful. We love it. My husband isn’t a fan of bone-in meat, so we use boneless chicken thighs, and usually end up cooking them in the oven. This gluten-free flatbread would be a perfect complement, and I think this pea and lentil salad would be a nice side dish.

(from Eating European)

Dessert:

The Best Eggless Chocolate Chip Cookies from Holly at Keeping Life Sane: not a summer-specific dessert, but when is it not the right time for chocolate chip cookies??? This is my new favorite cookie recipe because it tastes as close to “the real thing” as I’ve been able to get! The only allergen accounted for is egg, but I’ve still had success using my favorite gluten-free flour blend and allergy-free chocolate chips. When I’ve made these, I have just used regular butter, but considering the rate at which I consume them, I should really switch to a dairy-free substitute. I don’t have a favorite butter substitute, but I’m guessing Earth Balance or whatever you can get your hands on would work. You may need to adjust the flour, water, or oil to get the right consistency. But in my experience, if a recipe can go gluten-free and still turn out good, it can handle other substitutions.

(from Keeping Life Sane)

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope you’ll find something here that you like, and feel free to share a favorite recipe in the comments! Happy Summer!

Sadness and Joy

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I’ll make this as coherent as I can. I feel a need to share, but I’m not sure how well-formed my ideas are. It’s been a weird summer. It’s been filled with bittersweet first anniversaries from my second pregnancy that ended a year ago on this day. Memorial Day commemorated the weekend we found out I was pregnant after yet another grueling Clomid cycle. All of June I kept thinking about how just a year ago I had been pregnant and had no reason to think anything was wrong. As July grew closer, my mind started going back to the day we learned our baby’s heart had stopped beating, and the days that followed. On the 4th of July I was in a really weird space, because even though we were celebrating with good friends and having a fun time, I couldn’t help thinking back to who I was a year ago– someone three days away from her worst fears becoming reality.

The first days of living in that new reality were the worst, and the few weeks after were not much better. I wasn’t able to leave the house for more than a couple of errands before the tears would start up again. I had brand-new experiences of anxiety and shortness of breath. It took a few months before I was able to cook a full week of meals. Grief took up residence in my body, and I’m still working on how we can live more comfortably together. I still can’t breathe properly, I have new aches and pains, and sometimes my very thoughts feel different. It’s taking a team of practitioners– family doctor, functional medicine doctor, chiropractor, acupuncturist, massage therapist, counselor– to help me figure out what’s going on and how I can get back to myself, or I guess to a healthy new self.

A year is a long time, and it’s also not. The sadness feels long, but there has been joy, and that has made the time fly. When I think that not even six months after my miscarriage I was hearing God’s voice encouraging me to stop fertility treatments and consider adoption, and just a few months after that we researched and chose an adoption agency, and not long after that announced our plans, I just think, “Wow.”

Once I stopped treatments, I gradually felt less and less of a desire to be pregnant. I actually found myself feeling grateful at different points as time went on. When it got closer to our baby’s original due date, I truly felt relieved that I wasn’t living through the uncomfortable third trimester. After the due date had passed I would occasionally feel blessed and happy to not be recovering from childbirth or in the throes of breastfeeding. These are experiences that I know I might still have, and would be grateful for, but during the past year I think the Holy Spirit has worked in my mind and heart to give me a gift in the form of relief. Yes, there’s plenty to be sad about, but at the same time it feels like a weight lifted to no longer be trying to conceive, to no longer wish to be pregnant. That’s not just amazing, it’s supernatural.

Speaking of supernatural, some of my closest moments with God have taken place during these saddest times. The one I most want to share with you is something I now feel very strongly about, and want every person to consider. As I poured out my heart to God over losing my baby I heard him tell me that I’m his baby. And I had to practice it a little, but I let myself be that baby. Let myself be comforted, soothed, rocked by the God who created me and cares so deeply about what I’m going through and how I feel. I accepted being truly helpless to have controlled anything about the situation I was in, and let myself be the child who cries out “Abba, Father.” It didn’t change what happened, or necessarily make it hurt less, but it changed my heart in a way I struggle to explain but feel deeply. We are all God’s children, uniquely created and uniquely, purely loved.

This comforting image of Father God is consistent with what we read in Scripture (especially the Psalms but it’s definitely found elsewhere), and I’m so thankful to everyone who ever taught me the Word, every person who ever encouraged me to read it on my own, every nudging from the Holy Spirit to open my Bible and sit with God’s words. Because all of those little moments are investments into our souls; those words get tucked away, waiting for the moment when they are brought back up for use. And in my moments of grief, God’s Word came back up to teach me about the depth of his grace and love. It came back to remind me that God is sad with me, will comfort me, and is ready for whatever comes next for me. The Word came back in new ways to show me that as I take my wobbly steps into the future, God is there with me. I want everyone to know that no matter who you are or where you’re at with God, you’re his baby and he loves you SO much.

(As I write this there’s SO much more I want to say, because obviously we can’t always just be a baby. We need to obey and do what’s right, we need to mature, do the good works we were created to do, and there are things in life that we are responsible for, etc. etc. BUT I do firmly believe that one facet of how God views us will always be as his babies, and if we can learn this it will help a great deal with how we view God, ourselves, and others.)

While I have learned and grown a lot, can let go of a lot of things, and can “move on” in a lot of ways, I still carry the grief and the pain of loss… and probably always will. And there are plenty of triggers out there in the world for someone who has experienced miscarriage(s), especially for someone who doesn’t have children yet and may never have biological children. Mother’s Day, casual conversations about surprise pregnancies, assumptions everywhere that families are only biological, movies and TV shows that either get infertility/loss/grief/adoption completely wrong OR get it so right that it hits you in the feels… there’s a tenderness that is part of me now as I move through my life.

It seems to me that loss is like a thinning of the protective barrier between the individual and the world. In many ways it can be good– I’ve certainly found that being more vulnerable is good for my personal growth and for my relationships. But, of course, it hurts. I know the two babies I’ve carried and lost can’t be here, and I’m at peace with that fact, but it was painful to lose them and the dreams we had of knowing them here on earth. That kind of pain sticks with a person.

I could continue to write paragraphs going back and forth on this forever– how sadness hangs out with my peace and hope and joy. Where I’m at right now is that I simultaneously carry multiple things: the pain of infertility and recurrent miscarriage, and also the joy and hope of pursuing adoption. But even in the pain of infertility, there has been joy. And in the joy and hope of adoption, there will be sadness and pain. I wouldn’t change any of this, because I can tell I’m on the right path, and God is doing amazing things.

A year ago today I was beginning to walk through one of the darkest, saddest times of my life. But it was also one of the deepest and kind of best times for my relationship with God and others. To let my guard down, to really feel my feelings, to be served and ministered to in new ways, to wrestle with my thoughts… it all helped make me the person I am now, a year later. I trust that it will make me the person I need to be a year, five years, twenty years from now, too. I trust in a God who, through my pain, is growing me more and more into who I was truly created to be.

For anyone else who carries sadness along with their joy, I see you. As we move through the world with this extra tenderness, let’s also use the gifts our loss has given us. For me it’s compassion for others, remembrance in prayer for those who grieve, grace, and vulnerability– just to name a few. I hope I’ll get better at using these gifts and discover more as time goes on.

I’m coming to see that everyone I encounter has either experienced loss already, or will experience it at some point in their lives. This might not be a super-profound realization, but it’s new to me and I’m trying to let it color my thinking and actions. I’m aware that if you’re reading this, it’s very likely that you carry a grief of your own. So if you like, leave a comment about the ways loss has shaped you. We need each other!

Inside Out. Cue the tears, am I right?

Our Path to Parenthood: Change of Course

Oh, hello, blog. It’s been a crazy bunch of months since I last shared about our personal life. First, I want to share my most recent Facebook post.

The latest from the Henrys…

We’re adopting! (Or starting to/hoping to!)

We don’t have a ton of details to share yet, but might be able to answer some FAQs. Check out the link for more!

In a nutshell, we are pursuing domestic infant adoption. We are working with an agency and are just beginning the home study phase. As far as what we need, please PRAY for us- for wisdom, strength, peace of mind and heart, and for financial provision. (On that note, we will be sharing details in the near future on how to partner with us IF you feel led. No pressure, but we’ve had people asking about this already and are starting to make plans.)

Please pray for the baby who will (hopefully) join our family, and for their first parents and family members. We pray that they will also be blessed with peace, wisdom, and strength for their own journey.

We invite you to read more on Kristen’s blog, deepdelightfullife.com

…And here you are! Welcome to Mike and Kristen’s adoption announcement FAQ!

Why are you adopting? Most of you know about our history of infertility and miscarriage over the past few years. After my last medicated cycle at the end of November 2017, we didn’t feel like doing any more for the time being. It is such an arduous process that takes a physical and emotional toll, and to be honest… we didn’t like our odds as we continued to roll the dice. It felt like time to stop pursuing the biological route, but at the same time we still felt strongly called to parenthood, so adoption seemed like the next step for us. There’s already been a HUGE sense of relief to be off the “TTC” (trying to conceive) train. We don’t feel like biological children can never happen, but we will not be trying for that for the time being. Ultimately, we just want to be parents, and I feel reassured that we can do this because for both of us, our life’s work has been devoted to loving other people’s children. We know we have the love and care to give to someone who needs it.

How are you adopting? We are working with an agency on a domestic infant adoption. In this type of adoption, the baby is typically placed with the adoptive parents shortly after birth (a number of days determined by state law). We feel that this is the best option for us– we definitely considered them all!– and we look forward to knowing a child from almost the very beginning of their life. We are open to locations other than our home state of Iowa; we live in a tri-state area with Nebraska and South Dakota, so it’s possible baby could be born in one of those states, and we are open to other states as well.

How much does it cost? This is a common question. We are looking at a grand total of around $30,000 for all of the agency and legal fees, and possibly more for travel and legal if baby is born in a different state.

Where are you in the process? We are currently beginning the home study phase with our agency social worker. This is essentially a series of interviews, references, and background checks to make sure we’re safe, trustworthy, and capable to be parents. We are also required to go through some education about adoption during this time, which we’ve begun already by attending a conference and listening to some audio courses. It can take several months to complete this phase, so we hope to have it all wrapped up by Fall.

What happens next? After the home study is complete, our family profile will be shown to expectant mothers who are considering adoption (and fathers if they’re involved), and we will wait to be “matched” with an expectant mom or couple. We’re told the wait can be anywhere from a few months to two years. A lot of that time frame depends on how open we are to different factors of the parent/baby profiles (which is pretty open). Once we’re matched, it may be someone who has a few months left until her due date, or just a number of weeks or days. Sometimes the match occurs after the baby is born. We might share publicly once we’re matched– depending on how quickly things happen and what the situation is– but we’ll have to hold off on sharing details until things are official and baby is in our care. After baby is placed with us, it will be a while longer before the adoption is finalized by a judge (but we’ll be able to share pictures and info before that, don’t worry!).

Are you going to have an open adoption? Yes, we anticipate that there will be at least some openness between our family and the birth family. Openness looks different for every family, and depends on many different personal factors. We are very open to communication and visits– essentially a relationship with the birth family– but openness is determined by the birth and adoptive families together, so we won’t know until we meet them and discuss it. We do plan to be open with our child from the start about their adoption and their first family, too. A lot of the education we’re going through covers to these topics, so we feel like we’ll be as ready as we can be to handle them as they come up.

What do you need from your friends and family as you start this process? The very first things we ask for are prayer and understanding! We feel absolutely called to go through this process, but there are so many unknowns that it can feel reallllly overwhelming, so we need peace of mind and heart. We also need patience since we’ll be waiting for indeterminate amounts of time as we go along. Then, there are a lot of decisions to be made, many of which feel pretty heavy and important (probably because they are!), so we’re in need of wisdom. Pray that we will grow closer together as a couple and that God would use this experience to make us better parents, better partners….. just people who are more like Jesus and who lean on the fullness of God’s character.

Please also pray for our future child and their first family. Pray for the expectant mother, as she is the one who will be making most of the decisions– the decision of life for her child, the decision to make an adoption plan, and all the decisions in between. I can only imagine what it feels like to go through that process, and I am praying for her for grace, peace, wisdom, health, safety, clarity, hands to hold, and ears to listen to her. But it’s more than the mother. Baby will have a father, of course, and grandparents and extended family. We want to cover them all in prayer as they will have to go through their own journey before and after adoption is chosen. Please pray for these requests when you think of us!

As far as understanding, we ask that you bear with us when we don’t have any news to share, or are frazzled from decision overload, are going nuts from waiting, or whatever! When we get to the point of meeting expectant parents we may need emotional support when we have not been chosen yet. And, while we hope it won’t happen to us, sometimes a match falls through and the baby you think is “yours” …does not become yours. Just like our fertility journey, this new road is bound to have highs and lows. We hope you will rejoice with us, too, as we check off each part of the process that brings us closer to parenthood!

We would also ask that you join us in learning how to speak respectfully about adoption. There have been changes to how people in the adoption community are speaking about the different roles and parts of the process, and while the changes may seem small, they reflect a greater understanding of what each party in the adoption triad is going through. We’re still learning, too, and will probably make adjustments as we get farther along in the process. Still being new at this, I am hoping and praying I haven’t been offensive at any point in this post! Anyway, check out this short article about what to say.

Another way we will need help is for some to consider giving financially. It’s humbling to ask for, but we know we will need it. We have trimmed our budget and continue to find ways to do so, and have opened a line of credit with our local bank to cover some of the upcoming expenses. Once our home study is complete we can start applying for grants, but we’re pretty sure we will still need help. We want to keep our debt as low as possible as we look toward becoming a family of three, because that third little person will bring expenses of their own into the picture! The pre-existing budget is sufficient for adding children, but we’d like to avoid paying for adoption for years to come.

We will be sharing fundraising details once we have made those plans. Please hear our heart here: we hope that no one will feel obligated to give– just know we’re sharing for those who feel led, not because we’re trying to track down every last person and guilt them into it. 😉 So far, everything we’ve read and everyone we’ve talked to says that the money comes in, even when it looks impossible. Well, other people seem to be a BIG part of the money coming in! Please know that when we share about fundraising it is from a place of vulnerability and not of entitlement or expectation. We are not going to keep track of who’s NOT giving!

I think that sums up the FAQ. We would welcome your reaching out with questions, encouragement, etc. Because of the intense emotions and overwhelming nature of the adoption process (much like the fertility treatment process!), we need YOU, but it can be hard for US to reach out because of all we are carrying. So if you are feeling led, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. You will not bother us. If it’s not a great time we will get back to you when we can. Now, as I’ve mentioned before, the church lobby is usually not the place for the in-depth check-in! 😉 That’s where the simple “praying for you” or meaningful hug is welcomed, and speaks volumes. BUT….. I want to express just how much I have appreciated the emails/messages/texts/notes from people checking up on us and showing support in the past… we may both appear strong, but our hearts could always use a little more encouragement.

Dear friends and family, we love and appreciate you! Thank you for being part of our lives, and for reading this update!

To any readers who I don’t know: if you found this post because you’re thinking about adoption after infertility, or are planning to announce your adoption plans…. welcome! You are not alone! I’m planning to write more on the topic here because getting to this point has been very emotional, and I can’t be the only one, so I’d love to connect with you. In the meantime, I have written about infertility, hope, and encouragement from God’s Word if you’d like to read some of those posts.

If you’re reading this and are farther down the road in your adoption journey…. I’d welcome your ideas and encouragement!

My Favorite Granola!

I’ve been making granola for a while, but haven’t shared the recipe because it’s taken time to get it just right. I started out using this recipe, which is awesome, but I was making changes right away. I used honey instead of agave, added some other ingredients, and spread it out on a baking sheet for a more even golden color (and to avoid burning). I had to adjust the baking time quite a bit. I also found I needed to consistently double the recipe to make it worth the time and effort. It isn’t hard to make granola, but it’s kind of… a process. Lots of ingredients and measuring cups taking up counter space. Many dishes to be done, although it’s not like they’re super dirty, there’s just a lot.

When I first started with granola 5ish years ago, I wasn’t even making it for myself, but for my husband who loooooooves cereal for breakfast. We had just started eating clean, and I wanted to say goodbye to his boxed cereal, but he had to have something in a bowl with milk on it, so I started making granola for him on an almost-weekly basis. He initially said it was “better than Honey Bunches of Oats,” which he later admitted was maybe more of a nice thing to say to one’s wife, rather than an actual opinion one holds. (He is always and forever a peacemaker!)

Fast forward to the trenches of my life on a gluten-free/egg-free/etc-free diet (and my husband’s life being reunited with his honey-bunches). I had been eating oatmeal every morning for years, and it didn’t bother me at all… until I couldn’t have anything else, and then it super did bother me! I remembered the granola recipe and came back to it, and have been working on it ever since. Lately I’m eating it every morning, only going back to good old cooked oats when I run out of granola and haven’t yet convinced myself to make more.

This recipe is great because it can handle approximate amounts of all the dry ingredients, and you can use pretty much whatever you like! I typically use the ingredients listed in the recipe, but I’ve also thrown quinoa or cashews into the dry mix, and have added nut butter to the warm honey for a creamier consistency. I only just realized while writing this post that chocolate chips would be a fun addition– why haven’t I tried it yet??? If you find it too runny or sticky, add some more oats. Too dry? More honey. But I haven’t had to make too many adjustments, even when I make bigger changes. I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe as much as I have!

My Hope Is You

This isn’t a story I’ve told before, but I really should, for a number of reasons. First of all, I remember the things I write about, and I want to remember more. Second, we encourage one another when we share about our own experiences. Also when we tell our stories, we might jog another’s memory back to a time they had forgotten, to an experience of their own that they can share. In fact, I only thought to post this story because of what another friend shared, “just in case” someone needed to hear it. So you never know!

Here it goes; I haven’t spent a lot of time on this so there might be gaps or incoherence… dear God, please make sense of this!

When I was a junior or senior in high school, I was blessed to travel with my youth group to a New Year’s Eve event in Gatlinburg, TN. This was a huge event with hundreds of students and leaders gathering to hear speakers and bands, and I’ve since met others who have attended… but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was called. Maybe someone can help me out. I do remember that David Nasser was a speaker- so funny and encouraging. I’m also pretty sure that NewSong played “Faithfully” as part of one of the guys proposing to his girlfriend. That was cute. Anyway, I clearly remember that Third Day was one of the musical acts. I’ve always appreciated Mac Powell’s voice and approach to “performance;” every time I saw Third Day (which was quite a few times growing up in the Nashville area) it was more about worshipping God than about the band. So even though I was having fun with my friends, giggling over all of our inside jokes and discussing the minutia of our high school lives, Third Day’s music focused my attention on the Father.

It was during “My Hope Is You” that God really grabbed me, and the moment felt important, even as a young person who frequently found herself wrapped up in the little distractions of teenage life. I had a pretty deep inner life, too, but the pulls of pride and friends and comparison were strong! With a transition to college looming on my horizon, and not having life planned out to the degree I thought my friends had, I felt in my heart, assured by God’s Spirit, that I could say the words from the song to my heavenly Father: “My hope is you, show me your ways, guide me in truth, in all my days.” I prayed it in my heart, and I meant it, even though I couldn’t know then the true weight of it. And somehow I grasped that, too… “I don’t know what this will mean, but I know what it means to say it now.” As much as I could at the time, I was willing to put my life in God’s hands and accept whatever he had for me.

At different points in my life, the Spirit has snapped me back to that moment, in the dark, surrounded by youth group friends plus hundreds of strangers. Because of how God’s Spirit can move our hearts and communicate with us directly, I felt for a moment that it was just me and God, his listening to me and my telling a feeble promise to him.

Flash forward… the latest example of God upholding the promise I made to him (sounds backwards but it’s true) was near the end of another medicated cycle. I found myself in the middle of another “two-week-wait“– that time when everything I could control had been done– feeling defeated. My post-ovulation blood work had not been good and we weren’t sure we had gotten our timing right, so I figured this cycle would be another bust. But I’ve been through this experience enough times to know that, inevitably, for “whatever reason” (hint: there’s a reason), I would find myself hoping against hope for a positive pregnancy test as the wait neared its end. It had happened without fail every time before: I would find any shred of positivity I could and think that maybe, just maybe, we would finally have a success. I really felt like I couldn’t bear feeling that way again only to be disappointed. So I prayed that God would protect my heart by keeping me from hoping for a positive. “Please, don’t let me get my hopes up just to be brought down again. Let this end quietly, on a down note, so I can just move on to the next round.”

But this is what I heard back from him, from his Spirit to my heart: “That hope you feel when you reach the end of every wait… it’s not yours, it’s mine, and it canNOT be taken away. You asked for my hope all those years ago, and I’ve given it to you. I want you to feel it regardless of what happens, because I am here for you in every disappointment.”

I didn’t get that positive, as I guessed, but I was so humbled and thankful that God would remember. That he would give hope, and then sustain it in his strength and faithfulness. That he gives me what I need so I don’t have to be afraid. That his presence is constant, even though I sometimes think I’m alone. That he can bear my disappointment because we both know I’m not strong enough.

This is just one example of God helping me keep my promises and reminding me of who he is when I ask him to show me. He is always moving and working, even when I forget the things I’ve asked for.

It’s because of moments like these, and many since, that I often find myself praying for God to “bless and multiply my efforts” in this life of following him. I’ve seen him do it many times. It is exactly because of what he has done in faithfully showing his hope to me that I can keep going and keep doing this life, even and especially through the dark times. He’s taking the growth he brings about in my heart, mind, and deeds and graciously using it for his glory in so many big and small ways.

If you are a follower of Christ I’m sure you have examples of these gracious, “only-God” things, too. Ask him to show you what you might have missed… and then tell someone! We need to remind each other of his goodness.

Here’s a little image to remind us of God’s hope…

…and the song that God used to speak to me all those years ago.