Chevron Background

Monday, September 17, 2012

First Trip to Waynesboro!

    Last Monday we went to see our new home! It was also our last family ride in the truck because John sold it today, since we will have no use for it as House Parents, and we'd like to start an official "Adoption Account" savings. :)  We rented a U-Haul trailer and loaded it the night before with our bedroom furniture and books and a few other items we thought we could use there.  We left from Huntsville around 11:30am, with a happy baby.  Jonah sat rear-facing in his car-seat in the middle of the backseat, and I sat next to him, squished between the car-seat base and the door.  I was okay with this at first because we got in some great play time with his assortment of little colorful rattles, and soft animal toys which allow you to pull a leg and then it vibrates as the leg wiggles it's way back up. He wasn't too unhappy about the car-seat in the beginning. Then he fell asleep and took a great two-hour nap.  It was during his nap I began to feel a little silly for wanting to ride next to him because now I was uncomfortable, and found it difficult to talk to John without speaking too loudly and waking the baby, but I wasn't tired enough to sleep.  We had to stop in Tuscaloosa to return a redbox we had rented the night before, and the baby woke up soon afterward.  We stopped at a gas station to fill up and I fed him while John went and got us a late lunch from Milo's (this may have been outside of Birmingham or Tuscaloosa, I don't remember, either way the gas price in the background is a little sad).  I've enjoyed their tea before, but had no idea they had actual restaurants.  If you like hamburgers and fried chicken fingers, I recommend you try it sometime!  As I ate, John burped the baby and then had fun pretending Jonah could drive:

  When we put him back in the car-seat he was not very happy about it, and our playtime consisted more of me trying to make silly faces and noises to entertain and distract him from his car-seat straps.  His little face and whimpers seemed to say, "I hate this thing! Why are you always tying me down in here! I can't move! I can't look around! Get me out! Set me free! Please people!" I feel simultaneously sorry for him and annoyed at his whining.  This parental sympathy/annoyance/I'm-sorry-but-I-can't-help-it-and-you-should-just-get-over-it feeling just makes me want to go cross eyed and say Lalalalalalalalalalalalala!  It seems to be happening more often as Jonah develops his own little irrational opinion about things including the car-seat, he won't eat when I am talking, he won't eat when someone else is talking, he now fight the cover I use so I don't have to hide, and then his occasional afternoon/evening general fussiness.  Oh well. I'll get over it.  I am still so thankful for him, and love him to pieces! When he's not whining and fussy, he is the cutest thing and biggest blessing in my life, and I struggle to stop kissing him. Sometimes kisses annoy him too.  So, we drove for several more hours and finally arrived our new home around 4:30 or 5 pm.

     First impressions/thoughts/prayers: Whoa! It's HUGE! I get to live here!? I don't have to pay for this!? They're going to pay ME to live HERE and be a parent!? Sweet Deal! Thank you God for leading us when we had no idea what to do!  You're plans are ALWAYS better than our own!  I am so blessed! We must do the very best job we can to keep this place beautiful and homey for the kids who live here.  I can't wait to decorate! Thank you Lord for providing time and time again.  Thank you for providing more than we could dream, and leading us to your plan, your purpose instead of our own.  Proverbs 19:21:
Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
Thank you for giving me a husband who wants to help kids as much as I do.  Please continue to strengthen our marriage so we can be a strong family.  Please continue to lead us. Please teach us how to be the parents these girls will need us to be.  Please don't let us forget what a privilege and blessing it is to be here, no matter what situations come when the girls arrive.  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you God! We don't deserve this. We doubted, we had no idea your great plans, your faithfulness! Psalm 86:15 -   
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.
    Now, even if we didn't have a job right now, God would still be faithful.  We are just being reminded of it through this job at this time.

     We spent that evening unloading most of the U-Haul - when I say 'we' I mean John and our director because it was (surprise here's something unexpected) time to feed Jonah again.  Most of the wall space is empty, so I get to decorate it! It is also completely furnished though, so only our bedroom furniture really fits. There was a small debate over whether to unload everything into the first bedroom choice we had or the second choice.  The first choice was a room with a cubby type opening that was the space between two closets.  John thought this room had more space and we could put Jonah's crib in that cubby.  I disagreed but tried to be the sweet, submissive, Proverbs 31 type honorable wife and just went with it. However, after he fell asleep on the couch and I stayed awake unpacking a few boxes, I just kept going back down the hall to the second choice bedroom and moved furniture enough to realize we would definitely have more room in that one. In the morning John finally agreed, and this time he and I moved everything down the hall to the other bedroom.  A few days later on one of my facebook friends' wall I saw this sign:
1343317924934_3120298.png (420×294)

and I literally laughed out loud and told John about it.  In the end, all of our furniture (our bed and dresser, Jonah's crib and dresser, the glider rocker and ottoman, and John's TV stand) fit much more neatly into the second room, which also gave us 2 more feet of cabinet/counter space in the bathroom and DOUBLE the closet space! SCORE! I have to give John credit for driving all the way down there though, with no map or directions other than looking at it the night before, and not getting lost at all.  I have no sense of direction, and would have ended up in Oklahoma maybe.  We also got a little tour of Waynesboro, which at least has a Walmart! (I find it amusing how town-size in the south is measured by whether or not a place has a super-center). We left the next morning to return the U-Haul in Hattiesburg and have lunch with our dear friend and mentor who officiated at our wedding.  It was such a blessing to get to catch up and spend time with him. It is good to know older, wiser people who have wisdom and encouragement and a great example for us to follow!   Proverbs 27:9 - Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart,
    and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.

     Then it was a long, long ride home.

     John and I took turns driving.  While driving I daydreamed about different ways to put up Bible verses around the house, and thought and prayed about which ones to use.  I thought and prayed about the girls, the ones we will have, and the ones we just lost.  We got to speak with our social worker last week, who is the girls' new foster mom's social worker as well. She told us that the lady has adopted 2 older girls from a private agency before, and just recently began fostering for DCS.  She said she is a good Christian woman and the girls are doing well. That was good news.  People don't adopt if they're in it for the money.  We feel a little more at peace about their new home now.  As much as we are moving on, there are many little reminders of them still in our lives.  Mary's sippy cup I found under the seat in the truck, the pink bib I found in the bottom of the stroller, the butterfly pull toy from Madi's car-seat, the pictures on our phones, the way I see a kid's menu at restaurants and absent mindedly think about what I'd order for Mary and wonder if Madi has any teeth yet, when people ask where they are, all remind me that they're still alive, they're okay, but they're not ours.  I don't know who or when we'll finally get to adopt, or when we will get girls in the new home, but I can tell you that we will love them so much, because ALL children are a gift from God...

     My "Owl Love You Forever" shirt came in today, and I was reminded again that many parents never get to meet their children.  ( Owl Love You Forever Site  and Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Site really broke my heart last week.) We've had the priveledge of meeting and parenting 7 other children this last year.  We do get to keep Jonah.  Life is precious.  We have a huge responsibility waiting for us down there in Mississippi with the lives we are going to be in charge of daily, and we are eagerly anticipating being a part of this ministry.  You can learn more about it if you'd like here: Mississippi Baptist Children's Village and keep reading this blog. :)

     We get to start our new job officially October 1st! Thank you for your prayers and encouragement on here and facebook.  We are thankful for our friends and family being so supportive!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Best Birthday Yet!

     I just turned 27! Yay! I am so thankful and happy to have been given this crazy, hectic, unpredictable, wonderful life! My favorite thing about my birthday each year is that I feel like God always gives me a special  present.  This began in 10th grade, when we had just moved to Alabama from Idaho, and I was still very upset and angry about moving and having leaving the few friends I had.  I was also missing the wide open expansive brilliant blue sky from the lower desert region of Mountain Home where we had been living for 3 years.  Alabama had greeted us with a horrifically muggy, humid heat wave, which made the sky that I expected to be blue, look more pale grayish yellow, and I was miserably missing my blue skies and friends.  The morning of my birthday was actually comfortable, and when I looked up, the sky had returned! The beautiful blue sky was back! I knew it was my birthday present from God.  Last year, we had been trying to get pregnant for a few months, and I had let myself worry a little.  On my birthday I started feeling total peace about it.  I think I knew then that I was pregnant and felt God say, "Don't worry." I stopped worrying.  Three weeks later my peaceful feelings turned into nausea, fatigue, and other tell-tale first trimester signs, and it was confirmed.  My gift of peace was actually a baby! My gift from God this year was a little different, and I'll get to that if you read to the end. 

     My handsome husband John has also gotten quite good at being a sweetheart and spoiling me with kindness on my birthday.  One of his favorite things to do is to be the first person to post "Happy Birthday" on my facebook wall with a sweet personal message.  He stays up until midnight on purpose so that he can do this. I also really appreciate all of my facebook friends saying "Happy Birthday" and other kind little posts!  It was quite nice to look over at my phone and see 4 or 5 new birthday wishes every time I picked it up.  I haven't seen some of these facebook friends in years, and I see others all the time.  I am always torn on whether to "Like" each post, or to go to each person's wall and write a specific "Thank you," or to just post my status saying "Thank you to everyone..." So, this year, I decided to include all of you in this blog and say it this way: Thank you so much for taking the time to say 'Happy Birthday' to me yesterday! I really appreciate it!  As I am going to go back and post this blog link with a thank you on your wall, I am going to pray for you.  I am praying for your faith and your family. I will be praying that your faith be in Jesus Christ, and that you will remember to follow Him daily, even when it is difficult.  I will be praying that your family have peaceful relationships, whether you are a husband, wife, parent, a sister, brother, son, or daughter, I pray you stay committed to loving your family and showing it with your actions, even when they don't deserve it and you don't feel like it.  I hope you have a blessed day! If I forget to say 'Happy Birthday' to you on facebook, please forgive me, I don't always check it every day.  If you are here from facebook, and we haven't talked in a long time, I would love to catch up with you! Feel free to read through the blog posts and you'll be plenty caught up on my life.  If you have a blog, I'd love to read yours too, or feel free to send me a message!   

     Well, I had a wonderful birthday this year! The following account is one of my favorite (albeit selfish) ways to spend 24 hours. The night before, John and I got to go out on a date for the first time in over a month. We are so blessed to have good in-laws!  John and I both get along very well with each others' families, and so this time Nana (John's mom) watched the baby. We had sushi and went to a movie, and it was good to be alone with no kids.  That night Jonah slept his regular lovely little 7 hour stretch, woke up to eat, then went back to sleep for 2 more hours, which gave me enough sleep as well.  The next time we got up, baby ate and then I enjoyed some exercise.  I am trying to shed my last 5 pounds of baby weight, and get back to being able to easily run a 10-minute mile.  I ran two miles in 25 minutes, then used dumbbells to get in some solid upper body strength time followed by plenty of yoga stretches.  During the run, Jonah sat in his little bouncy play seat next to the treadmill and watched me while pulling on the hanging monkey and toucan.  He got fussy toward the end, and so went down for his nap while I finished working out.  I made one of my favorite breakfasts consisting of a peanut butter and jelly waffle sandwich with a sliced apple and more peanut butter to dip the apple in, and a full mug of cold organic vanilla soy milk.  I finished this nutritious and delicious meal and fed the baby again. (He eats every 3 hours during the day, so he kind of punctuates the time).  Then I got to go and be totally lazy, floating around Nana's pool for just over an hour.  I love pool floating because it's so good to feel softly baked by the sun while praying to the God who put it there.  I came in and John said, "Whoa, you've got some freckles there!" When I was in first grade in South Dakota, a little boy told me that freckles were actually angel kisses.  From then on I have cherished my freckles in the summer when they emerge. I smiled, took a shower, and got ready.  I fed the baby and we left to go to town for my birthday dinner. 

     We met my parents, brothers, John's parents, his sister and nephews to eat.  We started at Red Lobster.  However, the wait was going to be an hour and a half for a party of 12, so we went to Shogun instead, one of the cool Asian restaurants where they cook the meal right in front of you on a huge griddle-type thing.  I enjoy spending time with both of our families together.  They all pass Jonah around for his big smiles and baby talk and sweetness.  I love the way he makes everyone happy, so I try to be good about sharing him as much as possible.  When the chef man made concentric circles in oil on the hot griddle and then used a lighter to set it on fire, Jonah freaked out, poor baby!  I watched his little face go from shock, eyes wide, a little jump and his arms shake, to horror, his eyes squint and his bottom lip pokes way out, to a very loud, frightened wailing with his little hands in tight fists and his eyes squeezed shut almost as if he was scared to see it again.  He doesn't cry very often anymore, so it is very pitiful and he gets lots of cuddles when he does.  He calmed down though, and went to sleep after much vigorous car-seat rocking by his Nana and Daddy, and then I kept rocking him to keep him asleep on the floor beside us.  We left at sunset, and stopped to pick up a few redbox DVDs on the way home.  Jonah was awake soon after we got to my parents' house, and I let my mom, 'Katy Nana' feed him a bottle so he won't forget how to take one.  John watched an action filled man-movie with my dad and brother in the living room while mom and I watched The Lorax in my room.  I fell asleep and woke up later to feed Jonah.  It was a wonderful birthday.  The whole lovely day, in the back of my mind, was my present from God I had received earlier than usual, at 1 a.m. that morning, while I was playing around on facebook after feeding Jonah.

     I have a friend who was very influential in my life in High School.  She is such a strong, influential woman whom I admire for her faith and testimony of grace overcoming tragedy, her strong work ethic, and dedication to working with and helping people.  She has had three pregnancies, and three beautiful sons.  The first two, however, had unrelated genetic diseases, and were stillborn before they reached full-term.  She was given the only gift that helped at the time, remembrance photography of one of her angel sons.  As I learned more about this ministry of free professional remembrance photography, called "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep," I also came across another ministry which gives the parents a box of items that may help during the situation.  As I read about these two valuable and needed ministries, I was struck with a whole new appreciation for the breath in Jonah's lungs, and his little beating heart.  Throughout the first two trimesters of my pregnancy, I was afraid to love him, to let myself get attached to this tiny precious person I couldn't see.  I was scared he may not live, because it is more common than we think.  However, the moment he was born and I held him, and then later got to look into his eyes, bluer than mine, I loved him so much more than I even thought possible.  Every day I am amazed at how much I love him. I can look back at everything that happened on my birthday, and all throughout, my favorite parts are doing things with Jonah and my family. I did not know I could love someone on earth this much.  I love him, and I pray for him and his health and future, but sometimes I forget to thank God that my fears did not come true.  I forget to just say, "Thank you God for this baby right now, for every part of who he is right now, for his life." I was reminded that Jonah does not belong to me.  Our children are not possessions. They are little gifts from God.  Yes, they are gifts that come with a big responsibility, and sometimes we either beg for them or get surprised by them, but once they arrive, once they take that first breath, they still do not belong to us.  Jonah is in my care while he is on earth.  I suddenly became aware of the bigness, the amazing miracle, the neatness of this. I couldn't stop crying and thanking God.

     At 1 a.m. I was sobbing and blowing my nose as I read through the heartbreaking stories of these moms who had to leave the hospital empty handed.  I learned during our premarital counseling that true love is always sacrificial, and Jesus is the best example.  Being a parent is definitely exhibiting true love because it means constantly making sacrifices, especially for mothers.  Pregnancy itself means sacrificing a lot of the physical body- the way your body looks, feels, and functions for not just the nine months of pregnancy, but several months afterward as well.  I cannot imagine the deep pain that sacrifice would bring if there was not life on the other side of giving birth.  I read about a mother being asked, "What do you want the bury the baby in?" and her pain and indecision because she wanted to keep the only blanket in which she'd tenderly wrapped and held the baby, but she also wanted that blanket to go with baby.  Can you imagine having to answer that question? My mind flipped across all of Jonah's blankets, the blue polka dots, the yellow with animals, the gray with sports monkeys, the striped green, the creamy Pooh bear, the list goes on and on, but I do not have two of any one blanket.  I remember so carefully strapping Jonah into his carseat and then being pushed in a wheelchair, with him on my lap down the hall, holding my precious cargo.  If your baby doesn't live, you don't take them home, and you leave the hospital with a huge burden of physical and emotional pain and empty arms.  This one mother described being given a big stuffed bear to hold in that wheelchair ride down the hall, and how important and helpful it was to have something in her arms.  These experiences caused her to create a ministry which gives parents of "Angels" a box including 2 identical blankets, so they don't have to choose to give away the only blanket that ever held their baby, and a big stuffed owl because their ministry is called "Owl Love You Forever."   Then I found her blog and I was overjoyed to learn that she and her husband have recently been able to adopt a precious baby girl. 

     You can easily support these ministries right now. We spend so much money on things that don't matter in life, from cars, clothes, fancy coffee, make-up, movies, and all sorts of things that won't matter one bit to another soul.  These ministries matter and they help.  If you feel led to give to either or both of these ministries, PLEASE DO!  Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep Remembrance Photography has applied for a Chase Grant, and you can vote for this ministry in about 3 seconds flat for FREE on facebook by following this link:

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

You can donate a box, or one blanket, or buy a shirt at:

Owl Love You Forever

You can definitely pray for both of them, "Like" them on facebook, read more about them, and pray for parents of Angels.  My birthday gift from God this year was a true appreciation for the life of our little Jonah. I have not stopped glorifying God for him yet.  After learning more about what these parents go through, I will never look at my child the same way again.  I can't wait to adopt his future siblings as well. Twenty-seven feels soooooooooo good!

 On the way to Birthday dinner, all dressed up and smiling

 He only cuddles when he's asleep, but it still feels good

Bedtime self-take fun, he was amazed at seeing us on the phone

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Wonderings of This Future House Parent

     It has been 8 days since we said "Good-bye" to the girls, and I can praise God in saying that we are healing. Today I began to imagine what our new life in full-time ministry will be like.  John and I are going to be House Parents (HP).  We will live in a long ranch-style house with a dividing wall down the middle.  On one side of the house lives a set of HPs and up to 6 boys, and on the other side lives a set of HPs and up to 6 girls.  We asked for the girl side just because I am a little nervous about parenting teenage boys.  The children they accept are ages 2-18.  There is one large kitchen in the middle that we will share and alternate meal preparation daily.  Both sets of HPs will work 10 days on and 5 days off, and another set of "Relief Parents" will come and live on the side of the house where the HPs are "off."  We are praying for the other two sets of parents, that they would also feel joyfully called to this ministry, and we can develop a good friendship and working relationship since we all basically have to live and work together closely.  The house is mostly furnished and ready for everyone to move in as soon as our background checks come back clear.  

     Today I have been daydreaming about the girls we will soon meet.  I find myself wondering if we will get a little kindergartener with long hair I can brush and put in two french braids with big ribbons and find her cute sandals and sundresses. I wonder if we will get a first or second grader who I can help learn to read and love learning.  I wonder if we will get a middle schooler who likes to read and cook with me. I wonder if we will get a teenager or two who will welcome help with make-up and nail polish and shopping.  I wonder if they will be young enough to enjoy us coming to eat lunch with them at school or if they will be too old and not want to even been seen with us.  I wonder if they will resent us for temporarily replacing their parents and how we can overcome that.  I wonder how much pain these girls will have in their suitcases along with their toothbrushes and clothes.  I wonder if they will be open to affection and love or closed off at first, needing to learn to trust again.  I wonder if they will be sad and depressed and try to uphold walls to keep us out when we all we want to do is help.   I wonder if they will like us.  I am praying for them and their current situations.  For some reason, they will soon end up in our care.  I am praying we will have the words to say and the wisdom to do what will be best for them.  I am hoping we can do this the way God wants us to and parent with patience, kindness, gentleness, and love with boundaries.  I am so excited to be a partner with my husband in this ministry and I am thankful for the road that God has led us on to this point.

     John and I had been dating maybe a month when he was moving out of his apartment and into his mom's old house. I was helping him pack when I came across a photo album on a bookshelf. "Can I look in this?"  He glanced over, "Sure. It's mostly pictures from my mission trip to the Philippines."  I looked through pictures of John when he still had a little hair on top of his head along with children who had beautiful chocolate eyes and silky black hair around honey colored skin.  My heart started to love this guy.  Then he came over and found one picture and pointed to it, "Those little girls are orphans, and I wanted so bad to bring them home with me.  They throw away little girls like trash over there." He got up and packed another box as I continued to flip the pages of the photo album.  He was walking out of the room when he stopped and looked over at me and said in a sort of an I-Dare-You-To-Question-This type of voice: "You know I'm going to adopt a little girl some day right? Are you okay with that?" My heart and face smiled. "Yeah, I want to adopt too.  I've always felt really strongly about the AIDs orphans in Africa, but I think I could adopt from anywhere." John nodded. "Okay." We kept packing, moving, and falling in love.

     After being foster parents and loving the kids we were blessed to work with, we decided we'd be happy to do a domestic or foreign adoption.  We thought we were going to get the last girls, but God has other plans for them. This leaves us back to wondering where we will get our adopted kids from, but trusting we will know when the time is right.  For now we know we can keep Jonah, and we know we will have up to six girls at a time when we move to Mississippi.  We have to remember why we are doing this.

     My favorite Bible passage has been Romans 12:1-2 since I was in High School:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

     This passage makes me constantly stop and evaluate if I am appreciating God's mercy and grace and responding by living for Him.

John and I together like James 1:27 as sort of our mission verse right now:

27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

     We don't claim to be perfect by any means, but we strive to not be hypocrites. We tell others how important orphan ministry is, and how little time is devoted to it in many modern churches, and so we actively try to do something about it. We are aware that not everyone is called to adopt or be foster parents or be house parents.  However, everyone is called to help orphans in some way.  We were so blessed by people at our church and in our seminary apartment complex in a variety of ways.  When we first got our sibling group of 4 in July, the vehicle we had to transport them was a 2002 Dodge Durango with a broken air conditioner.  I think we drove it like that for about a month, miserably with the windows down and everyone sweating, before people in our church anonymously paid to have the air conditioner fixed.  What a blessing! One of the first things we needed - I needed - was to learn how to correctly do their hair.  One lady from our church invited us over to her house, fed us a proper 4th of July picnic and proceeded to help me do all 3 of the little girls' hair in braids.  When I was still struggling a week later with it, one of the teachers at my school came over to our house and showed me another way to section and plait their hair, also providing all the supplies needed.  Some people helped us by offering to babysit, some gave us baby and kid clothes and supplies,  some came over and just befriended us when we really need adult companionship.  I wonder now if our experience as foster parents had not had so many people helping us along the way if we would have quit, and not at all listened to God's voice in leading us to be House Parents. I hope not, but I truly appreciate all of the people who helped us along the way.  I know they helped keep us sane when some days we felt like we were going crazy.  

     Please continue to help by praying now for the kids we will soon have.  Selfishly we are hoping they will be school-age because we are a little worn out from having babies, and we also want to be very involved in the girls' schools and classrooms, and if we get a toddler it will make it much harder to volunteer and help in older children's schools.  Also pray for the other two sets of parents who are being hired to work with us, that we may be a team that works peacefully toward building a loving home for all the kids who enter.  Pray about how God may be calling you to work with orphans in some way in your community.  

   I found this quote on a friend's facebook note and felt like it fit this post: 

“God is on mission, and we, in that wonderful phrase of Paul, are ‘co-workers with God.’ This God-centered refocusing of mission turns inside-out our obsession with mission plans, agendas, goals, strategies, and grand schemes. We ask, ‘Where does God fit into the story of my life?’ when the real question is, ‘Where does my little life fit into the great story of God's mission?’…I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should ask what kind of me God wants for his mission.”  (Christopher J. H. Wright)