Monday, September 15, 2014

This Girl

Once upon a time I met another pre-adoptive momma.  She told me a familiar story of pain and infertility.  Of waiting on God's time whilst shielding her heart in a time of pregnancy announcements a-plenty.  She shared with me her faith in what lies ahead and told me about her nursery in the making.  We connected over loss and hope soon-to-be-fulfilled.

She told me she's seen God all over everything though - from her contented heart to her beautiful niece, who, by the way, was a spitting image of her aunt.  "This was God's special little treat for me," she shared, "since I'll never have a biological child, at least I can still have a little person who looks like me!"

"How special!"  I said.  I had never really been sad about not having a spitting image of Herb or myself, ESPECIALLY since more often than not people just can't believe Levi's adopted because he "just looks so much like us."

And then I thought of my own little blessing of a niece, sweet Joelle.  Cue the warm fuzzies.

Yes, she looks like an exact combination of her mom and dad, but boy, do we share some similar characteristics, too.  Well, the three year old version of her and the three year old version of me, anyway.

This girl has my heart.  She is outgoing, she is funny, she is friendly, she is fierce.  I'm so happy that she made my little brother Dad, and love the ways she has changed him.  I love what her friendship means to Levi and I love the energy and excitement she has when our car pulls in the driveway.

Yeah, Levi, we all kind of feel that way.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Don't Look

My son, Levi, is a novice bike rider. In fact, the reason I haven't blogged all summer is because we were on a really long bike ride...just kidding.  But really this was the after lunch and dinner summer tradition. It's great exercise for him and gives me the chance to stroll hand in hand with his daddy.  It's a great season of life and I love this view.

Along the way of learning this new skill, we have had to remind him, almost daily, to keep his eyes facing forward.  As you know, if you are looking to the house with a cute kitty on your right, very soon your bike will impact with said house's lawn.  The little guy is getting great at steering and not crashing, and being the overly cautious kid he is, obeying stop signs is going fantastically, too.

So it was no surprise when he started commenting on my driving from the back seat, as if I was riding bike and our roles were, for once, reversed.  Stopped at the end of our road, I looked left, right, and left again, and began to turn right while I was still looking left (ever so slightly).

"Mom! Don't do that!" He exclaimed.

"Do what, honey?"

"Don't look where you're not going!"

Sage advice from a four year old. It has been lingering in my mind for days now.

Don't look where you're not going.... Focus on what's at hand, what's in front of you.  Do the next thing, take the next step. Stop worrying about what everyone else is doing, thinking, saying , planning.  Live a life worthy if the calling which you have received.  Finish the race you have started.

Don't look where you're not going. 

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Profile Book

One step closer.

We have finished our homestudy, paperwork, doctor visits, clearances, etc, etc, etc.  Currently, we are awaiting on our "official homestudy approval," which is basically a document that outlines the results of our homestudy (for the courts) and at that point we will be considered "paper pregnant."  We're hoping to be able to announce our paper pregnancy in the next week or two.

While our social worker is busy typing up our homestudy, I have been busy making our profile book.  I already placed the shutterfly order, so if you find an error in it, don't even tell me. ;)

This book will be what an expectant mother will be handed if she goes to Bethany Christian Services and asks to make an adoption plan.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

When The Forecast is Bleak

"Drenching showers expected," they said.
"You know it's going to rain tomorrow," they said.

Yet, we decided to go (I'll admit, we knew we could get a rain check in a torrential downpour).  We risked a day of being wet and wasting one of Herb's precious vacation days and tried our luck at a trip to Hershey Park a few days ago.

The rain was sprinkling when we loaded up in the car, but we chanced it anyway.  Every hour in the park we checked the weather report, "Rain coming in 62 minutes," Herb read more than once.

But still, no more than a light spritz. Light enough that your shirt would be more wet from sweat than rain.  The day marched on, we ate our picnic lunch, and changed in to bathing suits for an afternoon at the water park.  As we watched Levi gleefully go down the kiddie water slide for the fortieth time, I laughed to Herb and said, "How about those drenching showers?"

The beauty of it all was that a lot of people DID take the advice of the weather man.  The lines were nonexistent and we rode 90% of the non-water rides before lunch time.

I couldn't help but think, "What if we missed this perfect day?"  What if we decided to wait for another day, a sunnier day, a busier day, a much less leisurely amusement park day.

Fittingly enough, being in the town of Hershey always makes Herb talk about his second childhood home - Hershey Medical Center.  Soon, I started thinking about all the other bleak forecasts we've thumbed our noses at....

"Are you sure you want to major in music?"

"Aren't you guys a little young to be getting married?"

"Are you sure you want to marry someone so sick who may never father children?"

"Are you sure you want to adopt?  Those kids always have issues."

"You want to be a music pastor?!"

"Are you sure you want to quit teaching?  You may never be able to get a job again."

Again I say, what if I missed these perfect days?  Not to say I've never had a regret in my life, but it's God's sovereignty guiding my path, not the voices of well-meaning nay-sayers and realists.

Some trust in chariots, some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  
Psalm 20:7

Monday, June 16, 2014

When Oceans Rise

We got to a fairly small church.  The red brick building is small and size, and in it's former life was, fittingly enough, a fairly conservative Mennonite church.  Reemerging in the 80s as a non-denominational church filled will people from all walks of life, the hearts of the congregants are anything but small.

Our church is probably not everyone's cup of tea.  It is laid back in its liturgy but hard lines its theology.  There is a bare bones service order, and usually, there is no communication between worship leader (usually Herb) and pastor about topic/theme/message for the following Sunday.  When things line up just write - like Herb picked a song like "Healer," and Dennis planned to pray for some people who were struggling with sickness, you know, "Wow, that was the Holy Spirit."

Yesterday, one such event happened.  Because of Levi's comments on music shutting him out, I have been taking a big step back from tickling the ivories on worship team, and have only been playing 1-2 times a month.  Herb decided to take a week off to be with Levi, and I would take the reigns as piano player and lead worshiper.  As I prayerfully considered what songs to do (and analyzed which songs we haven't done for a while - thank you Planning Center), I knew I wanted to introduce a new song - Oceans by Hillsong.

From the downbeat of the song during rehearsal, it was evident this was a God-ordained good pick.  It resonated with members of the worship team, and we all felt like we wanted to keep singing all night.   So, on Sunday morning when I heard the congreation singing loudly (not at all like it was a new song), I wasn't completely surprised.  This is a good song.  It's about a GOOD God.

What I didn't know, because we have a laid back service, was that Tal Zentmeyer was there to perform a piece of spoken word after worship.  Tal is from Tampa, but his parents ended up in Manheim at our church.  Whenever he's in town, we have the pleasure of having something truly unique for our little red brick church during worship.  Have you heard of spoken word? Think of poetry mixed with hip hop, but not quite like rap.  Actually, you should just pop on over to Tal's website, Be Louder, and listen to a few pieces.  They are moving to say the least.

So Tal takes the stage, and says he had picked out a piece to perform that had some singing in it.  He's really excited because he had not told the Pastor what the song was, and he had certainly not communicated to me.  His piece, "This Is Good," has spoken word for the verses, and then a few times a singing chorus pops in that he invited us to sing along with.

The chorus?

"I will call upon your name.
Keep my eyes above the waves. 
When oceans rise, my soul will rest in your embrace.  
I am yours, and you are mine."

Yep - as you probably guessed by now, it was the chorus of Oceans, the NEW song we had just sung in worship, two minutes prior.  It was a pretty major Holy Spirit moment.  God was guiding song selections - how could this be only a coincidence?

Ah.  Such a good moment.  Such an amazing God.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Brotherly (and Sisterly) Love

The last couple weeks have been pretty amazing and equally intense.  We've been busy doing fun stuff and mentally I'm always thinking about the adoption, house projects, yard sales, and planning our summer. I've been marveling at how much difference the entire adoption process has been this time.  So much faster, so much more contentment on my part.

We are waiting on our official home study approval, which is exciting in itself, knowing that the future of our family is evolving and being molded and trusting that God has the perfect lite one picked out to be a little Suereth.  I have nervous anticipation, but still overall feeling so content with where we are.  God has clearly directed our path up until this point and I'm happy to keep following.  I will say, though, making a "profile book," is much more annoying this time.  Not sure why - the first time it was my favorite thing to do!

My in-laws were in town at the beginning of June to celebrate a myriad if extended family events.  They bunked up at our house - and can I just say, nothing swells my housewife heart like having my mother in law compliment my organization and cleanliness. She's pretty awesome.

So, in addition to a gradation party, adoption agency picnic, and baby shower, everyone came to cheer me on at the Manheim Rock N Glow 5k.  Running at night?  Awesome.  A personal record? Sweet.  A race and memory shared with my brother and sister? Priceless.

Our parents and my friend Sammy came to cheer us on and help watch kids.  I'm feeling a little bad because the race didn't start till 9, so by the time we walked home (oh small town of a Manheim, I love you),  Levi actually asked to go to bed.... And did.

Who would have ever imagined the three Stoltzfus kids running? Not me!!! My mom denied it, but she was getting emotional about all of it.  She reminded is how we all used to hate each other and back then she said ,"someday you'll travel hundreds if miles to see each other."  How neat it is to be at that spot.  But the most credit for traveling goes to my little sister, Wendi, who came from Astoria, NY to run with us.  She also came home for 12 hours to be with me on my birthday just 12 days later.

Doing the 5K with my brother and sister reaffirmed what I already know to be true....  Giving Levi a sibiling is the best thing I can gift him.  That's certainly not the only reason for adopting again, but I'm sure excited about it.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

6 Week Blog Fast

Grrrrrr.........I so did not mean to quit blogging.  The good thing is that I realized how much I miss it and that I do indeed love blogging.  I'm hoping to jump back on the wagon.  Those were a GOOD six weeks though.

In the midst of the blogging break I have been pretty regular posting on instagram.  Feel free to follow me @ myhopefulfilled

Adoption wise, we finished up our home study (and are just waiting for the official approval).  I am working on our profile book.  I'm finding it much more annoying to accomplish this time around, but grateful for a few friends who are super with grammar and proof reading.  For the most part, I reused our profile book from Levi's adoption, but added an extra chapter at the end about Levi (of course).  I'll be sharing those details soon.

We've traveled a little bit this spring.  We've been to the Poconos, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia.  The three Ps of PA.  Haha!  Much of the traveling was for Girlfriend Getaway, and Philly was to celebrate an old college friend's recent graduation.  We also celebrated Charlotte's first birthday (geez!!!), a wedding, WJTL's 30th Anniversary, and I'm gearing up to begin winding down as I'm beginning the journey over the hill next week.  Let's just say WJTL wasn't the only thing established in 1984.

Last weekend I ran another 5k (details next post) and it was way better than the one last year.

Right now I'm listening to the sound of silence when I expected chaos as two cute three year old cousins are having a sleepover upstairs.  They rallied right until their heads hit the pillow and then crashed in a matter of minutes.  It was beautiful.

So here's to random updates, the most beautiful time of year, and my last few days in my 20s.  Eeek.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Positive, Negative Language and a Boob Job Analogy

There are a lot of similarities to preparing for adoption this time as there were last time - lots of paper work, a little bit of stress, nervous anticipation.  But this round is covered in much more contentment.  The dire baby ache is not there (which is refreshing), but instead I feel perfectly fine waiting on God's timing - whatever that may be.

I have been surprised, however, how many interactions I've had with people who don't know good adoption etiquette or positive language.  I LOVE talking adoption, and if you are genuinely interested, I'll glady discuss about every aspect of it very openly.  But some times people are just awkwardly nosy.  Here's a little helpful chart from Adoptive Families:

HOWEVER, this video hits the nail on the head.  It's from Rain City Church, filmed and edited by Spencer Findlay, and they say:

"Sometimes very well meaning people will say some pretty insensitive things to adoptive families. We can only assume that they're not trying to be mean, but instead lack the vocabulary to say what they're really asking. So that's why we came up with this rule of thumb: "If you wouldn't say it about a boob job, don't say it about an adoptive family."

It's pretty fabulous.

If the embedded video doesn't work, click this link to watch it over on Vimeo.

(Also, don't worry, friends and family, you aren't the culprits I am speaking of.  It's more of the general public, and in all fairness, I don't think anyone is trying to be hurtful.  I just thought this video was a fun way to look at it!)

Monday, April 21, 2014

He Hates Music

We were driving from church to my grandma's house for Easter dinner yesterday when we realized we had let a major ball drop.

"So Levi," I asked, "when you were sitting with Arlene in church this morning, did you sing along?"

"No, I didn't."  He replied.  Voice normal, but spoken matter of factly.

"Oh, why not?  You knew some of the songs.  We practiced them on Friday!"  I said, thinking about the million times I had sung the chorus of "Jesus Paid It All" with him on Friday morning, which led to some intense conversations, which is another story for another day...

"Well, I just feel like I hate music," Levi told us without skipping a beat.

Herb and I looked at each other.  Okay, he's just a three year old and he recently learned the word hate as being the opposite of love....I hate the Steelers, I love everyone, but I hate bad guys.  Not my favorite word to say, and not one that we encourage the use of, but it's a reality and he's just figuring out when that word is appropriate, right?

"Buddy," we asked, "Why do you feel like you hate music?"

I played through a few scenarios about where this conversation could turn, and with each following word he spoke, I realized my worst scenarios were in fact the ones he was referring to.

"Ummmm, I just feel like music shuts me....I just feel like music shuts me out."

Ball dropped.

Well, to be honest, jaws and hearts dropped. too.

We have been worried lately that Levi is not loving the fact that Herb and I play on worship team together and during that time (rehearsal), Levi plays cars or colors or plays with the iPad for an hour at the foot of the piano.  He's a pretty great solo player, but it's hard to find a grown up to take you potty when they're singing and playing instruments.

So, quick!  Before my child begins to hate the one THING I love in this world more than any other THING (not people, thing)... we have to intervene.  After some conversation, we've decided to STOP taking Levi to rehearsals and make sure we have a (fun) babysitter for him on those evenings.  Additionally, I'm going to scale back my worship team participation from every week to every other week so that I can hang out with Levi and hopefully shop him how fun it can be to worship in the congregation.

I'm a little panicked because I can see how the "PK" thing happens...this is how it starts.  I don't want to push my son away from church and faith and worship because I'm too busy with one ministry that I neglect my most important ministry (motherhood).  I realized this morning that I didn't give up a career to be with Levi just so I could fill up my time and distract my focus from him with a million other little obligations.

Have you and your spouse every served in ministry together?  How do you balance that with a family?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Where's God?

Originally published August 2010, just before Levi was born.

This is the day I decided I wanted to be a mom.  It was July 2008, I was visiting Lauren in California, and in my most recent call with Herb, he said he thought we should think about starting a family.  It was so random, and so exciting.  Overwhelmed, I walked around in the water, praying over and over again, "God, I don't want anything to do with parenthood unless this is YOUR plan.  Please make it obvious what you want us to do."

As we struggled with fertility and discussed adoption options (which was only 6 months later, we kind of expected to go down this road), I had to constantly remind myself of that first prayer of giving God the power in our family planning.  I have often felt helpless, and actually still do, but there is comfort knowing I can trust HIS plan, HIS timing.

So, here we are, 2 years after deciding to start a family, 1 year after beginning the adoption process, and 8 months after receiving our homestudy approval.  When the baby is born, we will be so close to having had waited for 9 months, that it is eerie!

Like I said in my last post, in May, when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with the thought of beginning another school year without being placed with a baby, our small group committed to pray every day, for 30 days, that we would receive a baby before school started in the fall.  The fact that the baby is due on the second day of school tells me that God has a sense of humor!

Last week at the beach, I had another big moment at the ocean.  As my sister-in-law Sarah and I talked about the ache in my arms that could only be filled by a bundle of joy, I jokingly threw my hands up in the air, and shouted toward the ocean and at God, "I'm ready!!" 

And here we are, one week later. So many people have told me that last week they felt the need to pray for me/us more than normal, and they didn't know how low I was!  They didn't know what God was orchestrating.

J had us in mind to be the parents of her child months ago.  While I was shedding tears and feeling hopeless, she was thinking of us.