Monday, December 16, 2013

a lot of little things

i'm walkin through an advent series right now... read some Scripture, read the author's poetic take on said Scripture, reflect on both through a couple of questions at the end. i love questions - i love asking them, and i love answerin them, so this is good for me. one of the questions this week was, "when have you seen God take what was torn and turn it into a gift?" (voskamp, 2013, p. 83...probably not the correct form of citation, but apa has served me well the last four years).

i read the question and immediately thought of a few friends.... those whose lives have been struck by ridiculous illness...but rather than gettin stuck with their families lives bein defined by those illnesses, the illnesses seem to be serving some sort of more beautiful turn strong men tender, to turn sure people gentle, to turn stories of grief and labor into stories of profound faithfulness. i'm 32 years old now, and when i have these moments of recognizing the stories around me, i'm often struck...i find it hard to believe that i'm old enough to know people who struggle and fight and grieve and suffer like this....through illness and divorce and abuse and death and loss.

it's easy for me to get stuck here, in the suffering and in the struggle. it's where i lived for years in the realm of infertility. and it made me angry. really angry. i felt bombarded by the injustice of of it all... how could i, of all people, not be able to have a baby? i actually had someone tell me once that i was "the all-american girl," so what was there about me (or my handsome, smart, tender, big and strong husband, for that matter) that deemed us unfit to conceive? and this self-righteousness was inflammed every time someone else became pregnant or delivered a baby or nursed an infant...

the adoption process inflammed the anger, too. although my logical mind understood the reasoned purpose which drove so many facets of the adoption process (i.e. homestudy, cost, legal aspects, strangers delving into our most personal matters), logic didn't make it any easier. of all people - rich and poor, active and sedentary, urban and rural, broken and whole, educated and illiterate - only people who choose to adopt are required to take such profound inventory of their lives and relationships, turn back pretty and ugly corners alike, and bear all to a group of strangers (a.k.a. the adoption agency) in order to be measured and found fit-to-be-parents...and that's before the tumult that can follow bein matched with a birthmother!

even the word "choose" there inflammed the anger and the hurt. we weren't choosing to adopt out of the benevolence of our hearts or the abundance of our lives or b/c we felt divinely called. we were "choosing" to adopt b/c we longed for children we couldn't naturally create, and we flat out didn't have the money to pursue fertility treatments and then have enough reserve to adopt if the medical world didn't fix us. we didn't feel like we were choosing as much as we felt backed into a corner with only one realistic way out - adoption.

 i was sad and heart-broken, but those two emotions make me really uncomfortable. they have a connotation related to weakness. anger made me feel better. it made me feel less weak and less out of control. it gave me somethin to clench in my fists when all else felt like sand runnin through my fingers. it gave me a way to emotionally bull-doze my way through a situation i wasn't at all happy about. anger gave me a way to avoid the sadness.

i've grown up in the church and done all-things-God for as long as i can remember, and yet during this time of loss, all the things that were supposed to help and comfort weren't doin the trick. it didn't soothe any place to "trust that everything happens for a reason" or to hold to the belief that "God has a plan." even those exhortations felt like invitations to avoid the sadness. tossin romans 8 and jeremiah 29 into a chasm of confusion and hurt didn't seemed more like tryin to swing on Scriptural ropes across the chasm rather than walking through it one small, treacherous step at a time.

i can't really say for sure what happened, what changed between then and now. i didn't have one singular moment in time when the momentum slowed and then shifted away from anger. i didn't wake up one day and see the world from a different perspective. it was more like a series of moments, a string of countless decisions and subtle realizations that i didn't want to live angry. i didn't want to be an angry mother (or wife or friend or daughter or neighbor or....). the only way out of anger seemed to be a journey through the depths of sadness.

so i started learnin how to be sad... how to be sad about living my life with an empty womb...

avoiding the uncomfortable has never proven helpful for me... it's led to anger, depression, and life hurled toward blame. for me, the uncomfortable here is inextricably related to sorrow. so it came as a surprise to me a few weeks ago during our homestudy when the social worker asked us somethin to the effect of, "tell me about your journey through infertility and healing from that." healing? i don't feel healed. i'm certainly not physically "healed" of whatever keeps me from carrying a little life inside. i don't feel emotionally "healed" either...

but maybe that's b/c my definition of "healed" isn't a whole one. because the thing that surprised me when the social worker asked that question was the answer that came out of my mouth. "i think i'm learning to accept that i may never have a baby that we create. i may be sad about that for the rest of my life. but i'm learnin to be okay w/that. and i'm not angry about it anymore."

i'm not angry about it anymore. do you know how big of a deal that is?

that doesn't mean that i'm blindly trusting that "everything happens for a reason" or that "God is in control" in the ways i've always understood those things...b/c even now, even though i'm not seething anger, those claims don't quite settle the dust.

what i am beginnin to believe wholeheartedly is that The Lord is Good, through and through. that He may not move the mountains of circumstance around me, but He continually offers to move mountains of anger, hurt, and unbelief in me. that in the really crappy context of infertility, He gives the most beautiful gifts. w/o infertility, we wouldn't know our riley bear. and i cannot imagine my life without her.

Friday, December 6, 2013

our christmas girl

as it began to grow colder, and the days grew shorter, i found myself wonderin how we'd pass the cooler, darker hours of the evening. during the warmer months, we stay outside as long as possible, which is a great way for a toddler to spend her last couple hours of each day. i was a little afraid she'd grow restless w/all the time spent inside - i knew i would! fortunately, her imagination has taken off the last few weeks, so now she spends the better part of her evenings lost in a world of stuffed animals and song. 

of the many wonder-full delights that her imaginary world brings into our lives, one of the sweeter ones has begun this week. sunday school this last week was spent decorating one of the church's christmas trees. though reluctant at first, riley eventually joined in the fun and had a ball. the next mornin, we loaded up into the pickup and went into town to buy a real christmas tree. a while later, the tree assumed its rightful place in the livin room. from that moment on, there's a phrase that's been repeated countless times... "mama, it's christmas! it's christmas, mama!" it's as if she forgets over and over that there's a christmas tree in the house....and so over and over again, as she emerges from her imaginary world, she realizes that it's there, and she exclaims suddenly each time, "mama, it's christmas! it's christmas, mama!"

i love it. i love her surprise and sudden recognition over and over again. i love that she delves so deeply into her world of song and play that becomes unaware of the obvious. 

she loves christmas music and christmas cartoons. in the middle of summer, she sometimes asks to watch this old mickey mouse christmas carol movie. 

while watching 'the sound of music' last night, she sang and danced around the living room.

she likes crawling up into our bed, squirming under the covers, pulling the comforter up to her neck, and sayin, "it's chrismas every day."

there's a dusting of snow on the ground right now. she was pining to go outside yesterday evening: "mama, we'll get our socks and our shoes and our jacket and our hat on and bundle up and go outside, and it'll be okay." how could i resist? so bundle up we did...and we stayed outside for a few minutes, just long enough for our hands to hurt. when it was time to come in, she cried. at first, i thought the tears were due to the pain of having such cold little hands, but when i asked her if she was crying b/c of her hands or b/c she wanted to stay outside, she blubbered, "b/c i didn't want to come inside."

and i know - all of these things are probably universal findings in all toddlers.... but as a mother of a baby born on christmas day, i've slowly begun to melt into the beautiful delight of this season...and i can't help but watch her, listen to her, laugh w/her, sing with her, and think.... our christmas girl, through and through.

as advent lingers and draws us to linger as well, i do so w/the smell of a fir tree and the sound of a fire and the beautiful presence of our christmas girl lightin up every corner of every room....

and still we wait and we long.... our christmas girl will be a big sister at some time in the (hopefully near) future. the agency called and told us we've been approved. there are a couple of logistical things josh and i have to take care of before we're "official." but hopefully we'll get those things wrapped up next week. 

in the meantime, we savor every "mama, it's christmas. it's christmas, mama." yes, darlin, it is....

Friday, November 8, 2013

we survived

monday mornin came and went and left us tired :)

as best we can tell, the home study went well. no red flags during the home/environmental inspection. it helps, i think, that we have an almost-3-year-old runnin around who has yet to seriously harm herself. as for the interview-y part (which comprised about 85% of the 3 hour visit), it was very similar to the home study we had to have done before riley came home. lots of questions about our pasts and present, both individually and as a couple. lots of questions that were the same or closely related to the application questions we had to answer on paper a few weeks ago. no big surprises, though it always seems different to talk through things like that rather than write a few words. 

for what it's worth, this application and home study process this time around has given me a little different perspective on the purpose of the process. on the surface, and for good reason, it seems to be a system established to ensure that the adults wanting to adopt a baby/child are reasonable, well-adjusted, responsible folks who have the potential to be really good parents. i'm also beginning to wonder if there isn't somethin really good, albeit difficult, about goin through the process... b/c it's like taking an inventory of our life/lives. whether that's taking a little bit to think and reflect on who we are in our different roles (mama, daddy, sister, brother, daughter, son)...or havin to sit down and hammer out some money stuff that we've been puttin off. it just seems like a good idea. 

and for me, it's been a process that has caused gratitude to stir from somewhere deep within. gratitude for the growth and the gifts of the last 32 years and the last 3 years. gratitude for people....and, dare i say, gratitude for circumstances, however unforseen and unwelcomed, that have worn me to patience and kindness and love. 

the road from here.... the social worker will take a couple weeks to work through and write up our home study. then our completed application will go before an approval committee. in the meantime, we will write a profile letter and create a scrapbook of our family. once we're approved and have submitted our little projects, we'll be "officially waiting." 

thanks for hangin on for the ride w/us :)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

home study to come

i can't really remember the contents of the last post, but given that it was written in july, i know a lot has happened since then. several trips to see friends and family, the arrival of huntin' season, the start of my last semester of school, and the completion of our adoption application. not many days after the application was turned in, the social worker called to arrange a date for the homestudy. that date is november 4. yep - just a few days away. 

in case you're not familiar w/adoption lingo, the homestudy is the first in-home visit completed by the agency's social worker. she comes and spends at least 3 hours (our first one before riley was about 5 hours) in your home....she'll talk to josh and me together and then to each of us individually. a great deal of the discussions will be related to the answers we provided on the application - our backgrounds, our relationships, our expectations for our children, etc. then she'll eventually walk through the inside and around the outside of our home, inspecting the safety level of our home environment. 

this last thing is generally the part that leads those in the world of adoption to term the homestudy "the white glove test." the agency says, "we just have to make sure your home is safe for a child. that you're fit to be parents." what the adoptive couple hears is, "we have to be on our bestest best behavior. our house has to look its bestest best ever."

so last time, we cleaned and sorted and bought all the necessary baby-proofing instruments. we worried and sifted and paced. i tried to ward off the nervousness by justifying the deep cleaning that was goin on as a necessary mid-summer cleaning spell. hours and hours were spent tryin to make our little rent house and our lives seem a little more put together than they actually were.

i vacuumed under the couch cushions. 

that's a serious extension of normal cleaning around here. 

this time around, i can almost guarantee the vacuum cleaner will make one sweep over the carpets and go back to the closet.

b/c this thing happens when you have a kid....and then want another one. at least it did for me. lots of things shifted and turned upside down and inside out when riley came home almost three years ago. i don't quite have the energy to prop up the veneer of all-is-well-all-the-time. there's no pause button on life right now. josh is working off-duty night shifts, and i'm workin when i we can afford this next adoption. huntin season is in full-swing, and i spend my early mornings and nap times workin on school. in the meantime, riley sings at the top of her lungs hours each day...when she isn't singing, she's normally playing w/her cats (either real or imaginary) and often eager for mama to engage in her world of play. it doesn't doesn't stop. don't get me wrong - i'm not complaining or wishin for a different pace. i'm sayin that life is better now. 

life as a mother is good.

it's fuller and messier. it forces patience and an ongoing realignment of heart and mind. 

we're having to sacrifice and work toward this adoption in ways we didn't have to the first time around. it's hard, but it's a bearable kinda hard. it's a worth-it-kinda-hard.

so our homestudy is monday morning, and b/c life is fuller and messier, harder in some ways, and better in lots of ways....i'll clean as i can this weekend and hope this social worker is okay w/couch cushions that have been flipped over to hide the toddler-wear. in the meantime, we'll work and play and dress our girl up as minnie mouse this evenin and let her eat more candy than she needs.

p.s. due to josh comin home from a night shift and riley waking up right at the same time, it's taken me 2 hours to write this. i don't have time to proof it for confusion. sorry!

Friday, July 19, 2013

the rest of the story...

a few days ago, i took to facebook and urged my panhandle friends to attend a fundraiser in amarillo featuring willie from 'duck dynasty.' my guess is that the connection b/w this event and my facebook status is not all that mysterious....

the fundraiser is a joint effort by and for the benefit of san jacinto christian academy and special delivery infant adoption agency

clearer now? 

i suppose in the world of adoption, this is similar to sending out a cute picture of riley in a t-shirt that says, "big sister." only here, the timeline is completely uncertain :)

so there's the news, the rest of the story....

we'll be working with special delivery this go-around. we've already attended their orientation and training. we're currently, albeit slowly, working on the application. we hope to get it turn in my the start of huntin' season (september 1). in the meantime, i'm workin more this summer in an effort to save money for the expenses soon to come. 

one of the things that sets special delivery apart from most other adoption agencies is their concerted effort to minister to birth mothers over an extended period of time (beyond the few months of pregnancy and immediate post-partum weeks) AND to minimize adoptive parent expenses as much as possible. one of the ways that they do this is by holding fundraisers every year. the contributions and donations gained through these events help sustain both their ministry to birth mothers and their desire to keep adoption costs as low as possible. 

so....if you're a 'duck dynasty' fan or an adoption fan or anyone who might in any way be affected by either, consider an evening out listenin to willie talk about his own experience with adoption :)