Sunday, July 16, 2017

Post Tenebras Lux

Three months ago I had one of those perfectly joyful moments.  Easter had just passed, which we enjoyed hosting in our brand new house.  Herb was settling in to the demands of a  new position at work while finishing up some difficult but enjoyable schoolwork.  Levi was in a happy routine at school, and was still on a high from being in Disney a month prior. 

I was driving home from worship team on this night, April 19, listening to my favorite song by my favorite band, and the thought crossed my mind, “I’m going to be all right.”  

You probably know bits and pieces of the long and tumultuous journey through adoption we’ve experienced.  There have been numerous uphill battles, and moments of such extreme heartbreak that I stood with the shattered pieces in my hands, bewildered.  

36 weeks prior to that April 19th moment, a spark flew in my heart.  “What if I surrender my desire for a baby?”  And in that moment, ironically again in my car, on a hot August day, I prayed, “God, I give this to you.  I want another baby so badly, and I know that you will either fulfill that desire, remove that desire, or change me through the process of having that desire unfulfilled.”  

After that prayer, the very clear next step was for Herb and I to become certified to be foster parents.  Of course, this process turned out to be much more arduous than we expected - but that’s kind of been par for this course.

So, back to April 19, in my car, joyfully reflecting on God’s faithfulness, and looking forward to our home study the following day, which would have us OFFICIALLY on the waiting list for foster care, ready to go at anytime.  Bunk beds assembled,  new tooth brushes and toiletries purchased.

Knowing how God works all things together for His glory and for the good of those who love Him, it should be of no surprise to me that that very night, April 19, a little tiny baby was born at 36 weeks gestation, suffering from some scary  (though temporary) conditions, fighting for life in the NICU.

The next day, 15 minutes prior to our foster care home study, we were notified of and asked to be the foster parents of this precious child.  The caveat was that of the Unknown - the baby may shortly be returning to birth parents, or  they may be making an adoption plan, in which case we would become the adoptive parents.

Within 24 hours, the baby was in my arms and, more importantly, in my heart.   

But really, it feels like he's always been there.  

The moment I saw his face I had an overwhelming sense of “Oh, there you are.  I’ve been looking for you.” 

{Unfortunately, I can’t show you a picture of this perfect little face just yet.}

This child, our first foster care placement became a "adoptive placement" 31 days ago.  In Pennsylvania, 30 days is the time period that a birth family has to revoke their decision, though the adoption won't be official for another 6-9 months. 

He arrived after a time of great pain in our lives,  a heartbreaking time in the life of his first family, and was born in a stressful scary medical situation, but has been nothing but a beacon of light to all he has touched.  

There’s a latin phrase for this - post tenebras, lux - after darkness, light.

Our hope is fulfilled.  As Levi, the-most-happy-big-brother-EVER, says, “I just can’t believe all my prayers are being answered.”

So, I would like to officially announce our most glorious news - we’re adopting, it’s a boy, he’s already here, and when his adoption is final, I will post a million and one pictures of this sweet baby.

Say hello to Baby J.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Break the Madness; Find the Shore

I'm not what I seem, only in this moment
Only in this moment, I'm holding on
Pray I find my peace, pray I slay the dragon
Pray I break this madness, and find the shore
{Gone - Kings Kaleidoscope}

Yesterday was my birthday.  It was a landmark day - time to pause and look around and take in the views.  Time to take stock of what life looks like now, at 33.

Levi and I at my birthday dinner

I kept thinking about my last birthday.  We had just experienced not one, but two sudden and shocking losses through adoption.  On the evening of my birthday, Levi took a picture of me and Herb mini golfing and I remember thinking I actually looked happy in that picture... much different than the deep pit of depression I was trying to claw myself out of.

My early thirties held some wonderful moments, but they also held my darkest times and deepest griefs.

I had all this brokenness and loss in my life over the past several years - and not just the adoption stuff - and while I knew I was moving on and healing, often I just visualized myself at the foot of God, hands full of shattered pieces of hopes and pain, asking Him,

"What do you want me to do with this?  It's too much to carry."  

My only viable option?  To continue to move forward, giving God the brokenness.  Trusting Him to work all things together for His glory and my good, even when the forecast looked bleak or the requirements seemed challenging.

As the months passed, changes started happening.  Slowly and steadily, one after another, hard situations and scenarios were restored and redeemed.  

Strangely enough, I have felt so battle weary and been overwhelmed at the casualties along the way that I have not been ready for the ticker-tape victory parade.  That day will come, I know, but for now, I want to take time to appreciate what has happened in my 33rd year.

- I decided to lay aside my desire for a baby and pursue foster care, saying, "God will either fulfill this desire, take it away, or sanctify me through the process of unfulfillment." We bought bunk beds.

- I had the chance to step back in the classroom, if only temporarily, and be reminded how much I love teaching.  I needed to know this.

- Forgiveness and restored acquaintanceship.

- The amazing opportunity to take some "me" time and cruise with my sister and her boyfriend to New England and Canada.

- We casually looked at homes, and surprisingly, pulled the trigger.  And then moved.  We left behind a special community that I thought we would be in forever, but started a new adventure 12 miles away in a new part of the county, and felt like we got a complete fresh start.

- We said "yes" to our first foster care placement.


Looking back at the past year, I don't know why I got to be so blessed; this is much more than I deserve.  In fact, this list is almost embarrassing to post, because I don't want anyone to think I am bragging.  If I boast, it is to the glory of God, who has journeyed with me, who has carried me, who has brought me from the desert into the time of harvest.

I'm reminded of the last verse of Desert Song, "I know I'm filled to be emptied again; this seed I've received I will sow."

Thank you for all the birthday wishes yesterday, but also the well wishes and prayers and check-ins during this journey.

To refer back to the original song I quoted, they end with some powerful words from the Psalms (which I know I've referred to before...but I'm doing it again)

therefore my heart is glad, 
and my whole being rejoices...
in You, there is fulness of JOY

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Open Hands

About a month ago I experienced brokenness and conviction over my eating habits unlike anything I've felt before.  My thought process was completely unhealthy and alarming, and the the food I was consuming was pure junk.  When I consider the gravity of my mistakes and the work that it will take to correct what I've done, I am overwhelmed.

But, for the last 35 days, I wake up thinking, "Can I make healthy choices today?  Yes."  One day at a time has built upon each other, and has brought me here, a month later, without so much as a cheat.  I pray that this is the beginning of a new journey, but can't wrap my mind around more than the next 24 hours.

This constant "one day at a time," mentality is benefitting me in more way than one...Last week, we committed to our first foster care situation.

This is big.  This is really big.

And when I consider the gravity of what it means to put my heart on the line I can only handle one day at a time.

I am praying for God's perfect will to unfold for this precious child.  I am praying for God's perfect will for our family.  I am praying for God to restore and redeem this hard situation for the child's birth family.

I am losing sleep over the potential of more disappointment for Levi.  Gratefully, he and I started seeing a child therapist a few months ago, giving him the ability to name his feelings and justification to feel all of them.

I am surviving on knowing the Lord walks with us in this journey.  I am assured that our role to care for the fatherless, even if only for a brief period, is work which is commanded by God.

I am reminded that no love given is ever wasted.

My friend Kami to me this: "The whole foster care process is such a good reminder that we hold everything God gives us with open hands.  This child has to be that way - but the rest of our lives are really no different - we have just fooled ourselves into thinking we control it."

Monday, October 3, 2016


In the process of grieving and moving on, one of my triggers has been spaces.  They might be metaphorical, emotional, or actually physical - but they have tormented me.

These spaces take all forms.

There's the obvious space in our house.  The room that got cleared to make a nursery, not once, but twice.

There's space in our family of perfectly evenly aged cousins, each 19 or 20 months apart.  Number six is coming this month, and when they are all lined up, you will notice a big gap from cousin 5 to cousin 6 - the gap that our baby would have filled.

This is a stretch, maybe, but there's the empty space in the size 5 t-shirt that reads "big brother."  The space from the hem of the shirt to the top of Levi's waist band, signifying the years lost.  He was three when I got that shirt, expecting him to grow in to it by the time he became a big brother.  I never dreamed he would have out-grown it.

There's space in the cabinet that I cleared for formula and bottles.  The formula that I slowly stockpiled seemly quickly began to expire, so I gifted it to another family.

There's the space in my daily schedule where free time screams, "You should be caring for an infant."

There's space in my career that I didn't expect.  This morning I sat in a coffee shop while Levi was at school, and beside me was a group of moms and their very rowdy toddlers.  I never thought I would be past the little years already and find myself with so much free time.

It's odd to be a SAHM to one child, who is now in school.  I found myself trying to fill these days with a job, feeling selfish for the privilege of time.   Herb, so supportively, encouraged me to pursue things that have been on hold for the duration of the little years - reading, exercising, visiting with friends and family, investing in me.

And it's not just the school time space, but even the night time space after Levi is in bed and Herb is doing homework.  Times when I expected to be washing diapers, doing late feedings, and rocking in to the late night hours.

I can tell you about these spaces now, because they are less severe - their edges have softened.

My counselor suggested a dedicated space for grief.  I don't know if she actually meant to make a physical space or not, but for me, this is a basket tucked deep in to my closet.  The basket holds the big brother shirt, Addison's quilt, and gifts I had purchased to give both of the expectant moms at birth.  I struggled with holding on to these things - would I be wasting precious closet space?

The lie I have fought in the last year is that my grief is not deserved.

And when I step back from our situation and remove the element of adoption and just embrace the fact that I have lost two babies in the last year, the wasted closet space is at the bottom of my list of cares.  If there had been an actual death of an actual human, of course I would grieve these spaces and allow myself the time and space to do so.

So I have.  I am.

And slowly, some of the spaces are filled.

In the nursery, the crib has been returned to the attic, the newborn clothes carefully packed away or given away.  In it's place, a set of bunk beds.

The bunk beds represent our future.  Space to entertain (my sister!  my in-laws!  my nieces and nephews!).  Space to plan for the future of our family - in fact, we have begun training to be foster care certified!  That's going to be another story for another day, because, like most of my hopes fulfilled, that too is a story of God's redemptive goodness.

The cabinet spaces were not filled, but efficiently rearranged,  completely able to be cleared for formula again if needed.

My schedule is filled with good things - but all flexible things, so that when the call of motherhood rings again, I can readily answer it.

And some spaces will never be filled.  The cousin gap, the age gap between Levi and his future siblings, the spot in my heart - those will always remain empty and dedicated to the loss of Addison and Micah, but co-existing with the loss is hope, and by God's grace, peace.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Therefore, My Heart Is Glad

One year ago today I sat in the den of my in-laws.

I had just returned from a tumultuous evening of walking around with our "expectant" birth-mom, trying to get labor started, and subsequently sleeping on her couch, just in case her water broke over night.  Her "contractions" were five minutes apart, the car seat was in my car ready to bring a baby home, and everything in our life was ready to embrace Addison Renee, our soon-to-be-daughter.

Of course now I can point to the red flags we saw along the way, but until then, I was in denial until it all came crashing down.  The preparations and the dreams died that morning when we realized we had been betrayed and fooled.  Addison Renee would not become our daughter through the miracle of adoption because Addison Renee did not exist.

So, there I was in the den.  Completely in survival mode, trying to figure out how to pack up my belongings (Levi and I had been staying in Western PA with my in-laws), avoiding Levi's questions, and just trying to remain positive. Burned in my memory is the moment that my mother-in-law walked through the door, stood in the door way and looked at me.  I couldn't believe she had come home from work for me - the gravity of loss had not yet set in. She stood there, for just a second, as if to ask a question she couldn't form, and I simply shook my head.

In an instant, she had crossed the room, wrapped her arms around me, and as my face buried itself in her hug, I let out the sobs of a mother who had just lost a child.

And now, here we are, a year later.  The weather is the same, I am not.

Last week, I had an incredible opportunity to visit my sister, Wendi, who worked on a cruise ship for the last year.  This trip so perfectly bookended my year of grief and loss.  I loved exploring cities of New England and Canada, and due to traveling alone and my sister's work schedule, lots of time by myself, my thoughts being my only companion.

Walking along the harbor in Saint John, New Brunswick, I realized this fitting analogy of the past year:

When we lost the dream and child of Addison,  we experienced a trauma.  In a physical trauma, you treat it immediately with triage or surgery or whatever is required.  In this case, our triage treatment was a trip to Myrtle Beach where we licked our wounds, fittingly enough, during an actual hurricane (read about that here).  God blessed me with the song "It Is Well," and I got a tattoo to commemorate the loss and the hope.

After you suffer a physical trauma and it is treated, you must follow up with doctors appointments and physical therapy.  For me, this was following the advice of Melody and Sarah and admitting that I was not "okay," and seeing a grief counselor.  This therapy was life giving.  It was sad and there were moments I didn't want to be real with the loss - shaming it away.  After all, Addison wasn't even "real," right?  But I had to grieve, and I had to grieve hard.  Of course, this helped the healing process (thoughts on grief here).

Then, as sometimes happens after a little bit of healing, my wound got infected.  This was the spot in the story where the baby who would have been Micah almost entered our lives.  His mama chose to parent him (as is completely her right to do).  This time, though painful and a road block in recovery, the wound was not as harsh, quickly treated, and therapy continued.

In the last months there has been evidence of actual healing, though I take things slow, as you would with a physical ailment.

My cruise marked the end of the year of grief, and represented what a one year check up would be.  Walking along the harbor in Saint John, it hit me - I have a scar, but it's not going to cause me any more pain.

Ironically, in contradiction to the hurricane we experienced in Myrtle Beach last year, this year when I cruised, the weather was completely perfect.  The temps were 65-75 degrees, and the sky was clear. We drove south to go to Myrtle Beach during "triage,"  I drove north to cruise.

Acadia National Park, Bar Harbor, Maine
Jess reminded me of the story of the Israelites who wandered in the wilderness after their delivery from slavery.  Deuteronomy 2 says, "You have been wandering around this hill country long enough; turn to the north."

Oh, you can bet I identified with that!

And then a few verses later, it continues, "...the Lord has blessed you in everything you have done.  He has watched your every step through this wilderness...the Lord your God has been with you."

In the last year, there were lots of moments where I felt like I was barely holding on, where I was walking in the wilderness, where the emotional pain was so strong it felt like a physical ailment.  Yet, laced in to the gut wrenching, heart breaking pain, there has been so much self reflection, so much growth, so much change in me.

But only by the grace of and to the glory of God - soli deo gloria.

My faith has been through the fire, and it has been refined.  In the face of deep pain, clinging to the Lord was my only consolation.

For now, I end with some verses from Psalm 16 -  I feel like I could have penned this myself.

Preserve me, oh God, for in You I take refuge. You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You. The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.  I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore, my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  You make known to me the path of life, in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at your righthand are pleasures forevermore. 

Psalm 16: 1, 2, 5, 8, 9, 11