Adoption – One Year Later

A week ago we quietly celebrated the one year anniversary of Amania’s homecoming.  And when I say quietly, I mean by cleaning out the garage and going to soccer and otherwise living normal life.  Because it was needed.

Fifty-four weeks ago we were making plans and preparations for our quick trip to Haiti to bring our girl home.  Fifty-four weeks ago we were worried about parasites, language barriers, bed wetting, night terrors, RAD, food hoarding, and a dozen other worst-case-scenarios we had read or heard about along the way.  Fifty-four weeks ago, we had no idea what the next few days would look like, let alone the next year.  And a one year anniversary seemed a million years away.

We came home and she settled right in and all those things we worried about turned out to be nothing.  Parasites were treated.  Her English skills grew overnight it seemed.  Bed wetting, night terrors, RAD….all those things were non-issues, needless fear.  Praise. The. Lord.

And yet the past year hasn’t been without struggles and tears and wrestling.  And there were struggles we didn’t expect.  Struggles not directly related to our new addition, and yet connected.

There were the unexpected opinions of others who suddenly felt they could (and should) weigh in on how we run our family and our lives.  There was the Mama Bear reaction in me as I watched the world swarm around our newest family member (for months after she came home), all the while ignoring all of our other children who are all old enough and smart enough to know what was going on.  There were the struggles of our bio girls as they adapted and accepted this new family member – helping them feel valued and loved, while helping her assimilate.

And then there were my own struggles.  Some I’ve shared here, some I haven’t.  And those I haven’t are simply because I just haven’t had words. I do not understand my own struggle to connect with this child, how she has what appears to be a perfectly natural and healthy relationship with everyone else in our family circle, except me.  How our relationship is still so stiff and forced and awkward.  How I’m not a kid-friendly mama.  I love love love my kids, don’t get me wrong, but I’m very German and we are utilitarian, functional, efficient, not particularly cuddly (at least that’s my impression of us).  Unless of course you like cuddling with porcupines, which is what I often feel like around small children.  (True confessions, right here, friends!)  And the level of guilt and shame that I feel admitting all of this because Godly Christian women are all supposed to think young children are the best things since Jesus Himself, or so it would seem.

There has also been the unexpected toll taken on our marriage because of my unexpected and unexplainable reaction to Amania’s home coming – the depression, the disconnect.  And I feel like our marriage has been through the ringer and there are days I wonder if it will ever be the same.

And I haven’t said much here about our journey with her home because I honestly haven’t known what to say about the emotional places we’ve been.  As someone in our family reminds me, she is doing so much better than we ever expected and things could be so much worse.  But the fact is, this is my reality. This is where we live.  And while I’m thankful we don’t live in “worse”, this is by no means easy.

I have been praying about this post for weeks, maybe months.  Because I don’t want it to be about me, but I am, without a doubt, the one who has struggled most since Amania came home.  And right now, I don’t know if I will even hit publish, because I feel so vain, so shallow, so dysfunctional for these struggles I’ve had.  But as I prayed this morning, asking God for words that were transparent yet redemptive, He reminded me that this too is redemption.  This process is His continued refining of all of us.  This struggle has been a struggle for our whole family and He is working out something good.  I don’t know how long it will take for Amania and I to have a “normal” relationship, but I do believe with all of my heart that one day we will because our God is a God that redeems the broken.  He makes beauty from ashes.  He restores the years the locust has eaten.  And I think about how our adoption, my adoption, cost Him everything and why should I expect that this adoption would not also cost me more than money, time, and energy, but also a greater breaking of my heart, that I would know Him more and be more like His Son.

And I don’t know how long this process will take, but I will wait quietly on the Lord to restore and renew and make us all whole again.

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So I will restore to you the years that the swarming locust has eaten….
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied,
And praise the name of the Lord your God,
Who has dealt wondrously with you;
And My people shall never be put to shame.

Joel 2: 25-26

For His Glory ~

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2013: Year in Review

As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 tonight, it only seems fitting to look back one more time on this super-crazy-good year…

2013 started with me just so thankful that the holidays were over.  Thanksgiving and Christmas without Amania last year was indescribably difficult, and for the first time I can remember, I was just happy it was over.  We rolled right on through January and February waiting for news, and in March our answer came – our girl was coming home!

But, first – one last vacation as a family of six to our favorite ranch in Colorado – Lost Valley!

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It snowed and it was cold and Matt was sick and exhausted and in some ways the trip was a forecast for our whole year – good, but not easy, but like everything else, I’m so glad we did it.

Just a few short days after that, Matt and I packed up to head to Haiti to bring our girl home….

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And then the process of adjusting to this new family member began.  Everyone did amazingly well and it wasn’t long really before she felt like just another one of our girls.  It has been a continual process in some areas, and will be for some time, I’m sure; but we are blessed in how easy, all things considered, the transition has been.

And then it snowed.  In May.

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And then, because our lives were just too normal (???), we decided to buy a new (to us) house.  And so, what was meant to be a relaxing summer of bonding and recovery turned into an insanely busy summer of packing, home repairs, moving, showings, inspections, closings, unpacking, painting, and more.  I’ve never been so happy to see a summer end and a school year begin, just so we could have some structure to our lives again!  But, it was totally worth it.

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in with the new(er)….

And all that crazy ended up pushing me over the edge and I faced a season of depression I haven’t seen in years.  And God, in His great wisdom and mercy, introduced our family to essential oils and we have become completely committed to this crazy, oily way of life.  And because of my (sometimes excessive) transparency, I have been blessed with the opportunity to share oils with many old and new friends and watch them also find healing in these seemingly simple treasures.

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In August we started a new school year and we settled in a bit and since then we’ve helped organize a race and had friends visit and taken road trips and celebrated birthdays and life has been beautiful.

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And we played soccer and we played volleyball and I got a tattoo to remind me that hope is that anchor for the soul that gives the heart wings.

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And Thanksgiving and Christmas came again and everything was different because everything has changed.  And two years ago I never would have guessed I could be happier than I was then and a year ago I never would have guessed what a year would bring and today I wouldn’t change a thing.

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And a video, just for fun, because watching Amania open her “big gift” as we call it, on Christmas morning, was absolutely priceless….

(click the photo and it will take you to the video in a new window)

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As we prepare to say farewell to 2013 and welcome 2014 and I look back on this crazy year, I can’t help but have a heart full of thanks for God’s faithfulness, mercy, and goodness.  His love never fails.

Looking forward to a new year of adventure with my favorite people and following God wherever He may lead us.

For His Glory ~

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Joy Find #16 – another year of God’s unending faithfulness and love

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Celebrating My Love

Today my best friend, my beloved, my favorite, celebrates another year of life and I celebrate the gift he is to me, to our family.  I continue to stand amazed at how God blessed me with this man and how thankful I am for the chance to live life with him.

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I’ve shared many times (maybe too many) about how this year has been defined by changes, all good changes, but several big changes.  And those changes had some big effects on each of us individually and on our marriage.  Matt walked with me through a deep valley of depression the likes of which I hadn’t seen in well over a decade, maybe since before we met.  I know he became discouraged when he felt there was nothing he could do to help me, but he never gave up and has been more than supportive as I’ve recovered.

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I watched as people who never had an opinion before suddenly had loud and significant opinions about our family life and his work schedule and the choices we make.  And he stood firm, recognizing that the path God is leading us down is no ordinary path and we may be misunderstood and it may be lonely, but with God we are where we should be.

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And this year our marriage took a beating that I don’t feel like we’ve had since the first year we were married (the year that both of us thought we had made a horrible mistake and wished there was a way out).  It has been a long, hard year for our marriage, but by God’s grace, we have held on to Him and to each other, never giving up hope that things will one day get better, get back to where they were.

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And as our lives start to settle down, just a little, and we find this “new normal” I see glimpses of us again.  But even if things don’t ever get back to what we once were (even though I’m sure they will), there’s still no one else I’d rather do life with, no one else better suited for me, no one else I want to grow old with.  And I believe we will laugh at the crazy days we’ve come through and we will laugh at the days to come, because of the Hope that lives in us.

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For His Glory,

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Joy Find 15 – my beloved
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Getting Older

One of the funny things I’ve noticed about “getting older” is watching those you love get older too.  And so it’s a little surreal today to be celebrating my dad’s 70th birthday.  I’m not sure how my dad is that old, and if you know him at all, you’re probably a little surprised too.

And the older I get the more I come to appreciate my dad just as he is.  Probably because the older I get, the more like him I become.  Our relationship has been marked by some very rocky years, but I’m thankful for a dad who led his family to Jesus and prays for us all like crazy, who is honest to a fault and generous to the same degree, who loves with his whole heart and is in turn loved by so many.

Happy birthday, Dad.  I’m blessed to have a few really great men in my life; one of them is you. We all love you!

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{Quite possibly my dad’s first “selfie”. 🙂 }

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Thirteen

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In August she turned thirteen and over the summer she somehow turned into a young woman and my heart turns over as I watch her grow.  She is stunning and she is funny and she is kind.  She is generous and steady and one of my favorite people.  She is not perfect, but she is growing daily in His grace.  She has survived thirteen years as our guinea pig child – the one who has had to weather the majority of our mistakes and failures as parents.  She has risen to every challenge we’ve given her and she’s never given up on us, her imperfect parents.

Our years with her are growing fewer and fewer.  I am thankful for the fun we have together, for the beauty and laughter she adds to our family, for the quiet love for Jesus she is growing, for the gift of being her mother.

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Grace, may this next year (the nine months that are left of it 🙂 ), draw you closer to Jesus and your family.  May you continue to grow in grace and beauty and wonder of the world around you.  May you seek the One who has relentlessly sought you and follow Him wherever He might lead.

For His Glory ~

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Fourteen Years

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Fourteen years ago today we promised the rest of our lives. We stood and said forever and through all circumstances.  And God has been abundantly good.  We’ve walked many dark and lonely valleys and we’ve stood on glorious mountain tops.  We’ve watched God grow our family, our business, our marriage, and maybe our pants sizes.  But most of all, He has grown our love for each other.

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMugWe do not know what tomorrow holds.  We watch as life takes sharp and jagged turns and we know it is all grace and every day is a gift.  You are my rock and my soft place to fall, a steady voice and a ready laugh.  Fourteen years down the road, and I am more in love than ever before.  It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth it.  I don’t deserve the goodness God has shown, but I am oh so thankful and I look forward to what He has planned for us next.

 

By His Grace and For His Glory ~

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A Decade

Three years ago, I wrote the post below.  It still so accurately describes our Chandler, only now she is ten and beginning fifth grade soon and maturing so fast.  I’m so blessed to see the beautiful young woman she is growing into and so privileged to be her mama.

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Seven years ago, she entered this world.  Not early like I had prayed.  Not late – Praise the Lord!  But right.on.time.  On her due date.  On her great-grandmother’s birthday.  Flesh brought forth flesh and my heart was stolen once again.

The nine months of preparation had stretched body and soul.  Youngest child’s older sister was 18 and one half months.  Her oldest sister was 2 years and 46 weeks.  That’s three children in less than three years.  This body was tired.  Only 25 myself, I was not ready to be a mama again and God and I wrestled daily and hard through those forty weeks awaiting her arrival.

The lessons learned can hardly be articulated, put into words.  Only that it was that third pregnancy, this third child that has brought me low, given me a new, deeper dependence on God.  He has taught me my limits and taught me to respect them.  And when she came forth, a love so deep welled up within my soul, and I knew I could never imagine life without her and that God had a purpose and a plan.  And she was perfect.

She used to rise in the middle of the night, sneak down to the kitchen, climb up on the counter tops and steal granola bars off the top of the refrigerator.  She cuts things that aren’t meant to be cut, writes on things that aren’t made to be written on.  She used to eat lotions and oils like they were candy – and not even the good tasting ones!  She has caused me to question everything I thought I knew about parenting.  She’s been lost on the beach in San Diego and she said she was going to run away in Ohio.  She loves everyone she meets and makes friends easily.  She has an easy laugh, a tender heart, and an amazing smile.  She has rocked our world and we will never be the same.  And I’m so thankful.

This weekend she is seven.  She is no longer baby, toddler, preschooler.   She is one of the “bigger girls”.  Second grade begins all too soon.  Today I give thanks for her.  For the countless things God has taught me through her and the things He has yet to teach me.  I give thanks for her life and the way she lives it – unrestrained and full of passion.  I give thanks for the privilege of being her mother.  And I give thanks for the daily blessings the Lord bestows….

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For His Glory ~

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Week in Review {2013: Weeks 18 & 19}

The past two weeks have been fairly uneventful.  Emma had a piano recital last Saturday.  I am still so proud of her and her determination to master a piece that, by all accounts, was too advanced for her.  Emma and Chandler attended their first track practice on Sunday evening.  We told them they could try it out and we would pray about letting them participate this summer.  A decision has yet to be reached on that, though.  Regardless, they loved it and I want to do what I can to encourage all of the girls to be active.

Today we will (more or less) wrap up school year 2012-2013.  A couple of the girls have some finishing up to do next week and some slacking to make up for in the coming weeks, but “formal” school ends today.  This has been a year of a lot of trial and error on curriculum.  We tried a lot of new stuff at the beginning of the year.  Some of it we pushed through and just finished.  Some of it we changed at semester.  Some of it we will do again next year.  Some of it we won’t.  But overall, it’s been a really, really good year.  There have, as always, been character issues brought to light and we have all grown and changed.  Hopefully for the better.  The slower pace of life after pulling out of most of our extra-curricular activities has been an amazing gift.  And while I know we probably won’t go that slow next year or in future years, I have savored every minute of the slow this year.  We are all so ready for the summer and a long break, but at least I’m not coming out of this year feeling like I just got home from a war.  😉

The big, bittersweet news of this week is that after talking casually about it for years and praying a lot and looking just a little, we bought a new-to-us house this week.  Those who know me, especially those I was texting for prayer on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, know how hard this decision was for me personally.  I love my house.  We first saw this house nine years ago today and I loved it from the moment I walked in.  We have raised our family, up to this point, in this house.  Grace has little to no recollection of our first two homes.  This is the house our girls know and have lived life in.  It will be very hard to leave this house.  But over the years we have come to realize there are certain things we want to give our girls that this house will never be able to provide.  Hence, our casual search over time.  Last Saturday, Matt was browsing through the MLS (not an unusual activity for him) and found a house within our price range that appeared to have everything we needed / wanted.  He went to the open house on Sunday.  He took me back on Sunday night.  We went back again on Monday and walked through the house for an hour and a half.  Long story somewhat shorter, we reached a final price agreement with the owners on Wednesday and signed the contracts yesterday.  Lord willing, everything will go according to plan and we will be moving sometime next month!  I was still struggling with how long it would take for that house to feel like our home until yesterday afternoon when we were able to take the girls over and show them.  Watching them walk (or maybe run) through the house, checking out all the rooms and the yard and everything, it truly felt like home.  Funny how that changed in my life without me even realizing it.  I have placed a lot of sentimental value on this home we are in and it will be hard to leave it because of the memories and blood, sweat, and tears we have put into this house.  But I realized yesterday that my home is where my people are and this is a move we are making for them.  So, soon we begin the crazy journey of packing up a large house full of seven peoples’ stuff (really just six….I can’t blame Amania for too much “junk” yet) and preparing this house to sell.  I will miss our quirky neighborhood and all the wonderful neighbors we have, and especially the friends our girls have (finally) made in the last year.  But we believe this is where God is leading us and we know God is good and we are excited, even if somewhat anxious, for this new chapter in our lives.

So that’s about it for life around here.  Not much going on really.  😉  This weekend is going to be a busy one with lots of activities the next three days.  Looking forward to some sunshine (Lord willing!) and time with family as we celebrate some birthdays and Mother’s Day.  May your weekend be blessed and filled with God’s best gifts!

For His Glory ~

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Our Haiti Baby Turns Six

So, my sweet Haiti girl turned six today.  And while we all celebrated with news of a Visa for her and plans to travel in a matter of days, I can’t help but wonder what she’s feeling, and I can help but think of her birth parents.

Amania

Does she understand what’s about to happen?  How her world is about to turn upside down but she is loved and accepted and safe?  Can she comprehend a family, especially a strange American one, being forever?  Does she even know that it’s her birthday and does this day make her happy or sad?

And her birth parents.  Oh, them…  My heart has hurt for them a little bit more each day as her departure comes closer and closer.  I know they made the choice and I believe they did it out of love for her, choosing life for her future.  But do they keep a calendar? Do they know what today is?  What does her mother feel when she thinks about her?  How much do they miss her laugh, her beautiful smile?  Do they have dreams for her future in the States?  Do they pray for her?

Oh, beautiful Amania Hope, we are so thankful for you and so thankful that you will soon be joining us here, in your home.  We are excited to finally have you with us, everyday.  And while this is a day and season of celebration – your birthday, your home coming, we also realize this is a time of sadness as you leave your homeland, the family that gave you life, and the family you have known and loved for as long as you can remember.  We will rejoice with you and we will mourn with you and we will respect you in this process.  This adoption thing is a beautiful mess, but it’s given by God to all of us, and so we know that it is good and it is for His glory, because He loves us.

We love you, Amania.

For His Glory ~

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Counting…

Home from a weekend away, trying to catch up on so many things before we leave again, my mind overflows with thoughts to share – adoption news, ministry happenings, and an update on 7, plus life in general.  But today it seems fitting to start with a heart of thanksgiving, to begin by singing praises to the One who so faithfully provides for all our needs and graciously gives so much we don’t deserve.

2439.  dates with two more girls – special times with them

2440.  snow – a blanket of falling white

2441.  thunder and lightning mixed in – spring wrapped in white

2442.  Haiti movement – not for us, but at least for someone

2443.  when God opens your eyes/heart/mind and shows us what we’ve been missing and what He’s been doing

2444.  realizing I’ve taken on too much of the world again; ready to lay it all down

2445.  more snow – a foot of white wonder

2446.  two quiet days at home

2447.  snow ice cream

2448.  clusters of white mess on the dog

2449.  gear strewn all over the house – evidence of memories made

2450.  lots of laughter with friends

2451.  a three mile run – getting back into the groove

2452.  news of one Lifeline kid about to go home

2453.  more snow

2454.  coffee – without creamer (thanks 7)

2455.  my beloved

2456.  coming before the throne in corporate prayer

2457.  girls quiet while we prayed

2458.  little answers to unsure prayers

2459.  quiet Fridays

2460.  four miles run – farthest in some time

2461.  husband slightly better

2462.  a night out – a date with the iPad in lieu of a sick husband

2463.  adoption class at church – so many families on this journey

2464.  I600 approval – only two more steps!

2465.  pot hole – first signs of spring (this one is just for Nikki D.  🙂 )

2466.  God’s timing

2467.  a Visa appointment scheduled!

2468.  wild joy, Ellie screaming with excitement

2469.  family road trip, long-awaited vacation

2470.  a day in Denver – downtown, the science museum, spectacular weather

2471.  Casa Bonita – horrible food; fun family memories

2472.  visiting adoption friends

2473.  meeting Patrick – our caseworker and friend

2474.  Lost Valley Ranch – oooo aaaaah!

2475.  hiking to Helen’s Rock

2476.  riding horses in falling snow

2477.  accepting God’s plans for our vacation and being flexible

2478.  girls sledding behind four wheelers and on inner tubes

2479.  plane tickets booked – Gotcha Day scheduled!

2480.  sun rising over Rocky Mountains, snow a million diamonds sparkling

2481.  one more ride

2482.  ending vacation well, with joy

2483.  the everlasting drive home – arriving safely at 1 am

2484.  girls sleeping in on a Monday off from school

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For His Glory ~

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