Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Most Thoughtful Christmas Gift

Since our families live far away, every year we spend Thanksgiving with one family and Christmas with the other. The next year we alternate the holidays. Every other year, when we're with Andy's family we draw names. This year my brother-in-law, David, drew my name. I wanted to share with you the gift that he created, which I consider to be one of the most thoughtful gifts I've ever received.

He wrote the poem, chose the pictures, and put them in a beautiful photo collage which will hang in the nursery. I haven't read it yet without crying. I hope you enjoy it too.

On a side note, with the help of Andy's sister who just had her third baby, I registered at Target & Babies R Us today!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all!

On the stage comes a dancer
With her own unique style
Forceful and Confident
Unbridled and Free
She moves in a manner
That seems truly Heaven sent
As the first act concludes
The dance is far from complete
So she’ll dance
She’ll dance
She’ll dance
Her luminous dance

But soon there’s a partner
And the dance becomes different
Colored by passion
And Heartache and Heat
So the dancer exists
In an alternate fashion
Two twirling bodies
With one heart and four feet
And they dance
They dance
They dance
Their glorious dance

Blessed with a child
The roles will be shifted
Performers to Teachers
Their new student they lead
To their Heavenly Father
The young dancer is lifted
And the couple soon learns
They must dance on their knees
So they dance
They dance
They dance
Their rapturous dance

Friday, November 30, 2007

Long Overdue Update

For those of you who are checking the blog faithfully, so sorry I’ve been MIA. There has been SO much going on and I’m really excited to catch you up!

So, what has been keeping us so busy? We sold our house! We are moving to Ft. Mill! We’ve been talking about this for a long time (since we do so much in Ft. Mill already)
and finally decided to put the house on the market to see what happened. After a couple of months with minimal action, we wondered if we should take the house off the market and stay. So, we decided to give it till November 10th, and if nothing happened we’d take the house off the market and stay in Rock Hill. Wouldn’t ya know, on November 6th we got a great offer and had a contract the next day. I guess God wants us to move. ☺

We’ve now put a contract on our new house, which we are SO excited about! The crazy thing is, we close on both houses on December 21st! Yeah, it’s going to be a busy month!

As for adoption, we’ve turned in ALL the paperwork except one last questionnaire on transracial adoption and our portfolio. I’ve been working furiously on the portfolio, which I’m actually very happy with. Once we turn the questionnaire and portfolio in and have our office visit at the agency, we’ll be eligible! Let’s just say I’ve been singing in my car a lot more lately and dancing on my tippy toes a lot. ☺ We are very excited about all the upcoming changes.

Our new house has a study connected to the master bedroom, which we plan to use as our nursery. Did you hear that? Our nursery!! It’s been really fun to picture what the nursery will look like, and I’ve been looking at cribs online. That is WAY fun! I can hardly wait to get the nursery done!

I can’t even tell you how happy I am. I thank God for the blessings he’s given us even just this past month. He’s gone WAY beyond our expectations with the new house and has really helped me with some great ideas for the portfolio and…wow, I don’t even think I can name all the blessings. Thank you, God.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Home Study

The process has begun! Shortly after my conversation with T from CFS, we received a stack of paperwork in the mail. The first thing we had to send in was our permission for the release of our criminal records, including child and sexual abuse records. Along with that, we sent our marriage license, birth certificates, verification of income, payment agreement, autobiographies and directions to our home. Whew! That’s a lot of information, but that’s not even close to the end of it!

Currently we’re working on our financial statement (basically a copy of our budget), insurance information, medical reports on each of us, transracial/transcultural forms, adoptive parent profile, degree of openness, references, and our portfolio. We are also taking an online course on transracial adoption. I think now you can see why a home study takes two months or more to complete!

We are scheduled to have our first home visit from our social worker, H, on Tuesday. I am excited to meet her as we’ve had many pleasant conversations with her over the past couple of months. The home visit makes this all seem so much more real! Woo Hoo! It’s happening!

Boys, you can check out here. ☺ Girls, I have a question for all you scrapbookers out there. Our portfolio is basically a picture story of our lives. I am not into cutsie things like hearts. But, I do want to have some kind of consistency throughout the album to tie it together rather than having just a bunch of random pictures and stories. I know most of you don’t have experience with adoption portfolios, but I thought I’d put a call out for suggestions in case you have any. The agency workers will take a stack of portfolios of waiting families to the birthmother and she will look through them to decide who she wants to parent her child. So, ours needs to stand out in some way if possible.

A Child of Our Own

I’m sure you’ve heard stories or know someone who adopted and then got pregnant right away. Since we’ve started the adoption process, the most common response we get from others is, “I bet you’re going to get pregnant now!” People have been genuinely excited for us to add to our family through adoption, but often the conversation turns to the baby we could possibly have after we adopt.

Since the doctors have found nothing medically wrong with Andy or me, it is easy for me to believe this could happen. All along I’ve thought of infertility as God’s way of getting couples to consider opening their homes and hearts to children who need a mommy and daddy. The incredibly large number of women who have gotten pregnant shortly after adopting supports this idea. But, I can’t allow myself to think that way for several reasons.

1. It might not happen. Maybe that sounds hopeless to you, but it’s a reality that I have faced and must continue to remember throughout this process. There are no guarantees.
2. I don’t want to take the focus or attention off of the baby that God will bring into our family through adoption.
3. I don’t want our adopted child to ever think that he/she is less “ours” than a biological child would be.

I’ve read about families who have both biological and adopted children being approached by acquaintances or strangers who ask, “Now, which ones are yours and which ones are adopted?” Since we are pursuing adoption of an African American or bi-racial child, that question will likely not be necessary for Andy and I. ☺ But, I don’t ever want anyone to think an adopted child would be less “ours” than a biological child would be. And, if God decides to bless us with a biological child, he/she will be considered our second born, loved equally with the first.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Conversations with CFS

So, you wait for 2-3 weeks for a post and then you get 4! Be sure to read the other posts below. All of these things float around in my head everyday, but I don’t always have time to get them down. This post is an update.

In “What’s Happening Now,” I told you that we sent in an application to Christian Family Services in Fort Mill. That was a Monday. On Tuesday I got a call from CFS letting us know that they got our application and were “thrilled” to be working with us! I talked to the administrator of the agency for 40 minutes. We had the most pleasant conversation and hashed through some details so that we can get our homestudy started. It turns out that the director of the agency goes to the parent church that planted our church!

Basically, we’ve expressed an interest in adopting an infant of any race or gender. Because we are willing to adopt an African American or Bi-racial child, we are considered to be pursuing a “special needs” adoption. This lowers our cost and requirements significantly. This also means that we will VERY likely have a baby within one year from the date the homestudy is complete!

The homestudy takes about two months, so it should be completed by the end of November or early December. During that time we will be putting together a portfolio (or scrapbook) about our family. Once we have been proven competent enough to be parents, the agency will begin showing our portfolio to birth moms. The agency will show the portfolios of all adoptive couples who are willing to take the kind of child being born. The birth mom then selects the parents of her child based on what she sees in the portfolios. At that point, the agency calls the adoptive couple selected and describes the expected child. They will explain any medical problems the child may be predisposed to according to family history, the race and gender of the child. The adoptive couple then has 24 hours to pray and make a decision about whether or not this is the child for them.

We requested the social worker that each of us has spoken to on previous occasions to work our case. Last week we were notified that she has accepted our case! She is very kind and helpful, so we are happy that we will get to work with her.

So, this is pretty exciting! I’ve been saying, “Andy, we’re going to be parents!” and “I’m gonna be a mama!” I can’t believe it!!

Allowed to Dream Again

I went to a baby shower the other day for another teacher in my school. I’ve been to many baby showers in my five plus years of infertility, but something was different about this one. I felt different. I sat at a table with some teacher friends of mine. While we snacked on the cake with the little pink baby booties on top I told them that we had begun the adoption process. Some of them had struggled through fertility treatments themselves before getting pregnant, and they were genuinely excited for me. One of them said, “This means we’ll be giving you a baby shower before too long!” What? Me? YES! ME!!

I hadn’t realized how much I had suppressed the pain of infertility until now. Now that there is a pinhole of light coming through the dark cloud of infertility, I can see that I wasn’t as OK with being around pregnant women, babies and children as I thought I was. I fooled even myself into thinking I was OK. Hearing the news of another friend’s pregnancy, going to a baby shower, holding a new baby, watching families together…over the past five years I can hear the voice in my head saying, “I’m OK with this. See. Look at me. I’m not upset in the least! I can handle this!” I had convinced myself. After going to that baby shower last week, I knew I had been lying to myself all this time.

So what was different? Lately, since the adoption process has begun, I’ve caught myself daydreaming again. I can see Andy holding our new baby. I can see myself cuddling and nuzzling a little one, even changing dirty diapers. I think about getting up in the middle of the night and looking like a zombie everyday. As I drive, I imagine a car seat with a crying baby in the back seat. When we go shopping, I try to imagine what it will be like trying to get through the store with a baby. I crave the moments when the baby lights up at the sight of me or the sound of my voice. I dreamed these kinds of dreams when we first started trying, but had to stop after a while. These kinds of thoughts are torturous when you’re not sure if you’ll ever hold your own baby in your arms. Now that we’re involved with an agency, I can allow myself to dream again. And, being around pregnant women, going to baby showers, holding babies, and seeing families together brings me excitement. Because, now I know my day will come too. I’m gonna be a mama!!!

"What do you mean, "She's expecting?'"

At church last Sunday, a precious friend of mine walked up to me and said, “So, I hear you’re expecting.” Then she gave me this sweet smile and hugged me. Two nights before, she had attended a cookout where Andy had shared the news that we have begun the adoption process. She has no idea how much her words meant to me.

I’ve discovered that people don’t really know how to treat someone who is “unable” to have children of their own, someone who is in the process of adopting. How do you talk to someone who is going to raise a baby that didn’t come from her body?

After reading my post “Get In My Belly!” a dear childhood friend of mine (whose mother was adopted) wrote me an e-mail. She prefaced her thoughts by saying that she realized what she was about to say would probably sound crazy, but it didn’t sound crazy to me at all.

When Emilee read where Andy said, “I don’t care about the money anymore. It’s time to move forward [with adoption],” she felt like that was the moment our baby was conceived. She went on to compare our journey of waiting for a child to that of a pregnant woman in waiting for her little one to arrive. Neither an adoptive mom nor a birth mom can see the baby before it’s born. Both wonder what he/she will look like. Both worry about the development of the baby. Both worry about the safety of the baby during delivery. Both prepare for the baby’s arrival. Both worry that they won’t know what to do when they bring baby home. Both experience pain (physical and/or emotional) but when the baby arrives, the pain is forgotten. “The end result is the same—you have a precious baby or child!”

Emilee went on to say, “You many never have a huge belly, but your heart will keep getting bigger and bigger and pretty soon you’ll feel/see things start to move and change—maybe not a significant change, but a little something to let you know it’s on the way. You love that child right now, even though you have no idea who this person is…then you’ll have that first time you ever saw him or her moment.”

It is such a blessing to have friends that think of adoption that way. I’ve read advice from other adoptive parents that say family and friends should treat an adoptive couple as if they are pregnant. We want people to be as excited for us to adopt as they would be if we were pregnant. As the time gets closer and a birth mom selects us to be the parents of her child, and we have a due date, we will be excited to talk about baby showers, strollers, cribs, etc. We’re thankful to have so many supportive people to share the excitement with.

Moses Had Identity Issues

Through my adoption research, one topic that comes up repeatedly is identity. Adoptees (people who have been adopted) struggle for a large part of their lives with knowing who they are. Many adoptees seek out their birth parents at some point to find out what characteristics they got from their birth parents. Some need to find their birthparents to learn about the medical history of those in their bloodline. This is one reason families have turned to open adoption (more on that in a future post).

I have been reading through Exodus in my morning quiet time, and this week it hit me, even Moses had identity issues. Moses is the first known adoptee in the Bible. The people of Israel were slaves in Egypt when Pharaoh demanded that all male babies be put to death as a way of controlling the Israelite population. In order to save her son, Moses’ birth mom put him in a basket and watched her baby float away down the Nile. She sent his older sister to watch after him and see what came of him.

Pharaoh’s daughter who was bathing in the Nile found the baby. Eventually she adopted him as her son. But, after he grew up and saw the oppression of his birth family, Israel, he took pity on them to the point of killing an Egyptian to avenge them. When Pharaoh learned of the murder he sought to kill Moses, so Moses ran from Egypt.

Moses settled in a foreign land and married a girl who was neither Israelite nor Egyptian. He stayed there until God came to him in the burning bush and told him to return to Egypt to free the children of Israel. Moses’ reaction to God’s calling was, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (Exodus 3:11) Never mind that he is the grandson of Pharaoh born of an Israelite. But what struck me even more was Moses’ question to God in Exodus 6:12 & 30. “How then shall Pharaoh listen to me, for I am of uncircumcised lips?” Moses was insecure about his identity even after God had proven His power through him.

Moses showed signs of having identity issues in many ways: by not knowing which nation of people he should be loyal to, by leaving Egypt (where both his birth and adoptive families were) and marrying a foreigner, by expressing his concern that no one would listen to him because he didn’t belong to either nation of people. But, the beauty in the story is the redemption of Moses.

God chose to use Moses to bring affliction on the nation of Egypt to redeem his people, Israel. (Exodus 7:1) Did God need Moses to do that? No. He had already proven that in Genesis 12:10-20 when He brought affliction and plagues on Egypt (without the use of a man) after an earlier Pharaoh took Sarai as a wife. But, in his mercy and grace, He redeemed Moses and set him above both the Egyptians and the children of Israel. And, his redemption did not end with the Exodus from Egypt. Later, God allowed his commandments to come to His chosen people through Moses. God fully redeemed Moses and made him a respected and revered leader of his people, Israel.

Moses is a biblical example of God’s grace and mercy on adoptees who struggle through identity issues. God’s redemption is greater than we could hope or imagine.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

What's Happening Now

So, it’s been over a month since I’ve posted. Thank you all for asking about us and for praying for us. I am always humbled to know that people pray for us; many of you do everyday. You people are amazing!

Honestly, the reason I haven’t posted is because I’ve dreaded saying that nothing has changed. It’s one thing to know that myself, but to say it out loud to everyone else is another thing. BUT, tonight I can say we have made a move!

Things have been incredibly busy, as we knew they would. But, last week I called the Department of Social Services (DSS) and left a message asking about getting a homestudy started. I also called the same social worker (H.B.) that Andy talked to back in August, just to ask her some questions. She was incredibly nice and helpful.

I told her my concerns about independent/private adoption (where you find your own birthmother and go to the lawyer with her to draw up the papers). In many private arrangements, the adoptive couple pays whatever living expenses the birthmother needs: rent, utilities, gas, groceries, medical, etc. Knowing that many of these types of adoptions fall through and that there is a possibility for adoption fraud (the birthmother needs someone to pay her bills and makes an adoption plan knowing all along that she doesn’t plan to finalize), we have not progressed for fear that we would not be able to move ahead after an “interrupted” adoption. H.B. asked if we had thought about an agency adoption. I told her we’d thought about Christian Family Services (CFS) in Ft. Mill. She said they had a great reputation. She said that part of their ministry was to pay the living expenses for the birthmothers and only expect reimbursement from the adoptive couple upon finalization of the adoption. So, we would not be expected to pay living expenses up front, nor would be have to pay in the case of an interrupted adoption. That’s very helpful information!

After four days of no response from DSS, I called again. The number at which I left a message earlier in the week had been disconnected. I found it odd that the phone number of a government agency would be disconnected.

We’ve talked a lot about whether we need to do a State adoption of a special needs child. Neither of us has felt a “calling” in that direction. We’re open to it. We’ve prayed about it. But, we’ve had no inclination that we definitely need to pursue it. Christian Family Services places mostly infants, but on occasion they place older children and children with special needs as well. So, we figured if we go through them, we would still have all of our options open should God speak to us about that in the process.

Then there’s Guatemala. About a month ago a lady who went on the mission trip with us called to tell me that the director of the ministry in Guatemala bought an orphanage. My heart fluttered. It took me back to the Marriott where all the gringos were with their Guatemalan babies. As it turns out, there are 27 infants under the age of one at the orphanage.

So, Friday night Andy and I filled out an application for CFS. We expressed interest in doing a domestic and international homestudy. We said we were willing to adopt a “special needs” child (which could be a child of a minority race, an older child, or a child with other special needs) from our own country or another country. We’ve left all of our options open. We put the stamp on it tonight!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

And They're Stepping Out Onto The Tightrope...

Teachers in Rock Hill went back to school on Wednesday. Summer’s over! The kids are coming back, ready or not! People always ask, “are you ready?” My answer is always the same, “I will be when the kids get here next week.” That’s my favorite part. They’re excited, refreshed and ready to learn at the beginning of the year. I’m always happy to see how much they’ve grown over the summer and hear their fun summer stories.

For the past several years, during the work week, I have worked from 7:30 AM to about 5:30 PM, then I would go home and help with dinner, then clean up, then get ready for the next day, and by then it would be time for bed. So, this summer I decided not to work so that I could accomplish several things before the next busy school year started up. Item number one on my to do list this summer? Adoption. At least to get the process started, at least to have called a social worker.

But, the research alone took all summer. Then, at the end of summer things just got too busy. We went to Guatemala and the day after we got back, Andy started seminary (yeah!). So, the closer the end of summer got, the less hope I had that anything would ever happen. I knew that once school started back I wouldn’t have time for anything else.

During his seminary class, Andy didn’t have a lot of time to talk because he was studying for hours every night. He didn’t have time to help with things around the house either, so by the weekend after his first week of class I hadn’t done the dishes all week. I had been sleeping on and off throughout the day. There were clothes in the washing machine from Tuesday to Saturday that had actually started to stink. There were two days I didn’t even shower. I had started slipping into depression.

By talking to Andy about my week, I started to realize my lack of hope. Everything I said was negative. I couldn’t even make myself imagine that adoption would ever happen for us. As I talked through it, I began to realize it was because I had imposed a deadline on myself. I had told myself that it would never work if I had to balance work, church, friends and family, and adoption.

Andy was great. He promised that when his three-week intensive Greek class was over he would be fully available to help. He also prayed for me. In his prayer he asked that God would help me to be satisfied in Him, that I would seek Him first. That made me think. Hum, I hadn’t been doing that, at least not for a while.

The next day, Sunday, all the music at church was about loving God just for who He is. “Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.” Then, at a training class I went to that afternoon, the message I got was, "pursue Him with the intensity that you pursue the things you really want." I realized that besides imposing an unreasonable deadline on myself, I have also been ignoring my relationship with God. In fact, I had replaced my time hanging out with Him with adoption research. I feel so confident that adoption is what He wants us to do that I began to pursue that and figured it was OK since He was calling us to do it. In a sense, adoption had become my God. But, I realized quickly that pursuing God is totally different than pursuing His calling on your life.

I revived my prayer time and time in the word that night, and God has been faithful. Starting my days that way has helped me focus on Him instead of adoption and the fact that it hasn’t happened yet. I’ve also been able to let go of the deadline and realize that adoption doesn’t have to be so urgent. It’s going to happen. I’ve just got to take it day by day. I’ll do what I can in one day and do some more the next day. Eventually it will happen.

So, we’re asking that you pray that we’ll be able to walk the tightrope of our lives, to find balance. Between full time jobs, Andy’s seminary, church, family and friends, after school clubs, etc. it’s going to be a challenge. But, I have renewed hope and faith that it will happen. We’ve waited five years; we can wait a few more months. ☺ And, Andy has also held true to his promise. He talked to a social worker this week!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

"Get In My Belly!"





Guatemala...ahhh. Our time in Guatemala was...I don't even have the vocabulary to explain my feelings. It was more than we could have ever hoped for or expected. We stayed in Chichicastenango, but we worked in the rural areas outside the city. According to Ron, the founder and director of Manos de Jesus (Hands of Jesus), it is the second poorest area in the Western Hemisphere. But, you would never know it by the kids’ smiles. These kids played and laughed in a language that we could all understand. Some of them struck me in such a way that all I could think was “get in my belly.” (That’s a line from Austin Powers, for those of you who are like, “What?” For those of you who’ve seen it, say it with a strong Scottish accent for better effect.) ☺

I’ve wrestled with a lot of things as a result of this trip, but I’ll only talk about the ones that have affected us regarding adoption. One night during our stay in the House of Prayer, the compound for Manos de Jesus, Ron gave his testimony. Throughout his life he’s been in positions where he didn’t have money for something he felt called to do. But without fail, just when he needed it, God provided. I’ve heard so many stories about people who “stepped out on faith” to do something God had “called” them to do, and in a miraculous way, He provided.

For the past several weeks I’ve been weary, feeling like we’re ready to adopt but can’t because we don’t have all the money it’s going to take saved yet; so close yet so far away. It’s been depressing, actually. But, Sunday was the hardest day I’ve had in…years, maybe.

A new team was coming to stay at the House of Prayer Saturday, but we weren’t flying out until Sunday. So, we HAD to stay at the Marriott in Guatemala City. Stinks to be us, right? ☺ It was extravagant. But, that’s not what struck me most. It appears that the Marriott is the hub for “gringos” (white people) adopting Guatemalan babies. They even have a Baby Lounge. Everywhere you turned there were gringos smiling dreamily as they fed their Guatemalan babies that had just joined their family that day or the day before. Some of them were even video taping their new baby/child eating. It was beautiful, and yet my stomach churned at the sight of it. I have been waiting five years to feel like that.

Sunday morning I was particularly emotional. Not only were we leaving Guatemala where so many great things happened, but also the feeling that adoption is so far away was right there in my face. I was so emotional I couldn’t even finish my breakfast! If you know me, you know that’s VERY unusual considering how much I LOVE to eat! Then…oh boy, here it comes…then we had a worship service. We met by the pool (where all the gringos were playing with the new babies). The message was about Zachariah and Elizabeth (Luke 1) who were barren. Need I say more? Just go read it. You’ll see. Immediately, Andy put his bible down and hugged me. I put my bible in front of my face and the tears started rolling. My insides were shaking. Out of the sides of my eyes I could see others who knew of our situation who were crying too. They lined up for hugs afterwards.

I went to our room and sobbed for a while. It felt better to get it out. At that moment Andy said, “I don’t care about the money anymore. It’s time to move forward.”

Since we’ve been home I’ve been looking into grants. All of them say you can’t apply until you have completed your home study. Andy called a social worker before we left to get one started, but we haven’t heard back from her, so we’re going to call another one soon. I guess we’re just realizing that we’re not going to have all the money saved before we begin this process and that’s OK. We don’t know how God’s going to provide, but we feel we’re called to this, so we’re going to step out on faith and trust that He will. It should be fun to watch and see how God provides. This way He can have all the glory since everyone will know that we’re not the ones who made this happen! That’s good stuff!


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

"Racism is a Reality"

…I guess I’ve just been blind to it all these years. Within my circle of family, friends and acquaintances no one has ever given me the impression that he/she believes that his/her race is superior over any other. As far as I could tell, racism was a thing of the past. God created all men in his image and offers forgiveness of sins to each one without regard to skin color. But, somehow I’ve been blind to the fact that as a society, we still segregate ourselves.

During my research on transracial adoption these words stopped me in my tracks, “racism is a reality.” I had to stop and think back over past experiences to see if there had been any proof in my life that this statement is true. I mean, I’ve always noticed that most friend groups are people of the same color. I remember wanting to leave high school early one day because there was a threat of a racial fight, but none of my friends were involved. I’ve seen racism on TV and heard stories, but they were all at a comfortable distance from me. I mean, my first roommate was black and we were alike in so many ways. We used to joke that we were the same person living in different bodies. But, apparently everyone doesn’t feel the way we do, especially in the south.

In my research I’ve heard and read stories about white adoptive couples out in public with their adopted children of another race when some opinionated bystander boldly spoke out against the union of a transracial family. On some occasions these families had to move north to protect their children from an emotional ambush.

When I teach, I notice that kids usually aren’t aware of their differences until around second grade. I always wonder what makes them aware. Is it their parents? Is it simply their own observations of how people tend to group themselves in society or is it color itself? Either way, I wish we could always have a kindergarten or first grade mentality when it comes to skin color.

As I mentioned in a previous post, when I teach I have to be careful not to favor my little black boys. I love them. They know that, so they love me. I am intrigued by their culture and energy. When we do hip-hop, they can’t believe a white girl can move like that. They say, “Yo, Ms. C, that was tight! Teach me, teach me!”

Long before I was married I used to joke that one day I would have a black son. I would let him have a fro or cornrows or dreads if he wanted. He and I would do hip-hop together. My friends and family have always known this about me, and no one has ever made me feel that it would be inappropriate. But, as I’m researching a world outside of my comfort zone, I’m finding out that there’s still a lot of animosity over the color of skin.

In the 70s, the National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) started a movement against placing black children in white homes. Still today, they consider it “black cultural genocide.” The problem with this is, while there are fewer African-American newborns available for adoption than Caucasian newborns, there are also fewer couples seeking to adopt African-American children. When they put a freeze on transracial adoptions, these children got stuck in the foster care system. Fortunately, in the 90s, laws were passed stating that race could no longer be a roadblock if it delayed placement. (“The Complete Adoption Book” pg 299-301) Interestingly enough, however, I’ve learned that in 2005 The South Carolina Department of Social Services was found guilty of denying white families the option of adopting black children. Hopefully this has changed since the investigation was made public.

Besides the fact that our children will grow up in a racist society, there are other things to think about when considering transracial adoption which I will talk more about in two weeks. Next week we will be in Guatemala for our first mission trip! Too bad international adoptions to Guatemala have been shaky lately or we could have brought a baby back! ☺

Next Post: 8/2/2007

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Quest for Happiness

At different times in my life it has been obvious to me that God was trying to pound a message into my head and heart. I’ve noticed a recurring theme this summer that makes me believe I have a new lesson to learn. The message has come to me through books, sermons, conversations with others and revelation. The message is two-fold: it is unreasonable to think that perfection will be achieved before heaven, and God is not a genie.

I’m reading a book called “Shattered Dreams” by Larry Crabb. In it, he suggests that our life goal is to be happy. He then goes on to discuss the types of things many of us might expect to make us happy: personal health and health for our family, enough money to be comfortable, obedient children, etc. All are good things. We’re not asking for frivolous, material possessions. We pray for these things. We feel that having these things is what God meant when he promised us abundant life (John 10:10). If God grants them to us, we are happy. If He doesn’t, we are confused, troubled, and even angry. Crabb points out that perfection is not guaranteed until heaven. He argues that “abundant life” is a deep and meaningful relationship with God that can only be realized through suffering and the denial of earthly perfection.

Later in the book, Crabb talks about Christians who pray for these blessings and when their prayers aren’t answered they determine that God is teaching them patience (or some other lesson). They believe that God will grant them their wish in His time. It is never an option in their minds that He wouldn’t give them what they want. Isn’t that what He meant when He said He would give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4)? If He doesn’t give it right away, they believe that God will eventually give them what they’ve asked, and not only that, but it will be even better because they had to wait for it. They hold on to hope and faith as long as God grants them what they ask in the time frame they deem appropriate. Crabb believes this way of praying equates God with a genie. He says that at some point in our lives God denies us something we want which brings us to a place of suffering and weakness so that we realize our helplessness and need for Him. The premise of the book is that God wants to give us a gift greater than any earthly gift we could imagine: Himself.

When I read that, I had to put the book down. I was immediately convicted. That was me exactly! All this time I’ve thought that since God hadn’t given me a child, that when He finally did, everything would be perfect! The child will love and serve the Lord all the days of his life and we will live happily ever after. I guess I thought that He owed me that since He made me wait. I had suffered! I repented immediately for thinking that God owes me anything.

I realized that I’ve had unreasonable expectations for a perfect life and family all this time. Again, I was romanticizing things and setting myself up for disappointment down the road, because nothing can be perfect in a fallen world. But, by realizing that the ultimate goal is a deeper, more meaningful relationship with God, it may be easier to accept when things are challenging.

Learning this lesson has had a profound effect on our prayers for a child. We are no longer praying for a perfect child—there isn’t one out there. But, there is one perfect for us, one that God will equip us to care for. As we’re seeking the route we need to go to get to this child, we’ve been researching all types of adoption, including special needs adoption. We’d stayed away from thinking about this because we know of many families who have struggled in profound ways with children who have special needs. Frankly, it’s scary to step into something knowing there’s no chance for perfection. But, there are no guarantees that a biological child wouldn’t also have special needs.

God did not adopt perfect children. He saved us in spite of our imperfection (Romans 5:8). We wonder, if everybody seeks to adopt the “perfect” child, what happens to the thousands in state agencies? We’re asking God to guide us if our child is in the care of the State. Maybe he/she will have a broken body, maybe a broken mind or heart. We don’t know if this is the route God would have us take, but at least He's opened our hearts to it in case He chooses to lead us there.

Next Post: 7/19/2007

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Baby Market

Last year when we were first getting excited about the thought of adopting, Andy called a local adoption attorney in hopes of getting some advice. Our call may have been a little premature. The attorney asked, “How much research have you done?” When he found out we hadn’t really done any, he took our number and told us he’d call back. He never did. Andy called the office again and talked to an office assistant who asked questions about our intentions and plans, but we didn’t have the answers. She kindly gave him some advice on what our next steps should be. As it turns out, attorneys and agencies won’t invest time in you unless you’ve invested enough time to prove that you are serious about adoption. It was obvious that we had some research to do.

A friend recommended that we read, “The Complete Adoption Book” by Laura Beauvais-Godwin & Raymond Godwin (which I highly recommend). Ray is an adoption attorney in Greenville, SC. He and his wife have adopted two children. The book has 387 pages that pertain to almost everybody interested in adoption and the remaining 303 pages are indexes with State Laws and such. I bought the book during the school year but only had time to read about one page per night. I was getting nowhere. That’s why I decided not to work this summer. After spending several half days reading at Panera and Sweetreats coffee shops, I have now read every section of the book that pertains to us! And I’m happy to say that with a generous financial gift from some friends who have heard us talk about adoption for so long without having made any strides, we are excited to say that we plan to start the home study process by the end of the summer! So, why not today? Why put it off till then? We need your prayers in regard to some decisions that we need to make.

As I have been going through the book, doing research online, and bouncing thoughts off Andy, we have come to realize there is no way we can get to the child that God has planned for us without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We’ve never really questioned whether we would adopt domestic or international. International adoptions are incredibly expensive and we’ve had such a heart for kids in our own area, so we’ve planned a domestic adoption all along. Besides that, there are so many avenues we could go: agency adoption, independent adoption, or State adoption. Then there’s open or closed adoption. Not only that, but once we’ve decided the type of adoption we also have to decide the “type” of child.

Some of the first questions we’ll have to answer for whatever attorney or agency we pursue is: What race of child do we want? Do we want a child with special needs? What age child are we willing to adopt? None of our research gave us the answers to these questions. In reality, we know it’s not about what WE want, what worked or didn’t work for someone else, or what is most logical. God doesn’t always work on our logic.

Picking out the “type” of child feels a lot like shopping, but not the fun kind of shopping. Believe it or not, there are different prices for children of different races, genders, and special needs. Some children are more expensive than a car. On the other hand, the government will actually pay you to take some children. I have to admit, I got nauseous when I read this section of the book.

I know that some people want to adopt a child that looks like them so that it won’t be so obvious he/she was adopted. We don’t feel that way. We’re open to children of all races. Pretty much anybody who’s ever talked to me knows that I have always had a heart for little black boys. In fact, I have to be careful not to favor them when I teach. But, we want to be sensitive to the needs of the child and the only way we can know what’s right is for God to guide us. We’re also praying through whether or not special needs adoption is right for us (more on that next week). We’ve always thought we’d adopt an infant, but if God wanted us to adopt an older child, we are open to that too.

You can see we need some answers before we take our next steps. Please pray that God will give us guidance as we continue in this process. Many of you have been praying for this for a while. Thank you. We are grateful for your love for us and are happy to share this with you.

Psalm 25:4-5
4 Show me your ways, O LORD, teach me your paths; 5 guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Next Post: 7/5/2007

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Adoption is Sacrifice

On a road trip last year, while I slept, Andy listened to a sermon by Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle (www.marshillchurch.org). In the sermon, Driscoll talked about how the early Christians would go to the trash piles and fish out the live babies that people had thrown out, take them home and raise them as their own.

After I woke up, Andy said, “I think we should adopt.”

I said, “I’ve been thinking the same thing.”

After more than four years of trying to conceive unsuccessfully, I had gotten comfortable with our lifestyle. I enjoyed the fact that I could take a nap on Sunday afternoon if I wanted. We could be spontaneous. We could hang out with our friends anytime we wanted without interruption. We could travel easily. Basically we had developed a pattern of doing what we wanted when we wanted, and it was comfortable.

What struck me about the Christians mentioned in the sermon was that they assumed the responsibility of parenthood without hesitation. They didn’t give any thought to whether or not they had the space, the money, or the time. They just did it because…how could they not?

Admittedly, over the next year as we further discussed adoption, I wavered back and forth between wanting to hold on to my freedom and wanting a baby. Knowing the sacrifice it would take to be a parent made it easy to sit back, motionless. When you get pregnant, you don’t have that option. The baby is coming in nine months, ready or not! The sacrifice is the same; the urgency is different. When parenting is a choice, it’s easy for selfishness to creep in and slow the process.

After listening to the sermon, Andy began to see adoption as central to Christianity throughout history. As the article I mentioned in the previous post said, adoption is a “metaphor for God adopting each of us into his own family…and ‘it’s a sweeter way to understand His kingdom.’” Adoption is love. Adoption is sacrifice. Adoption is laying down your life for another. God gladly adopted us as his children to be co-heirs with Christ. (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 8:16-17) I pray that we will take on the sacrificial attitude of the early Christians and pursue adoption selflessly as we feel God has called us to.

Next Post: 6/28/2007

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Adoption Is Not Plan B

Andy and I began to see infertility as God’s way of finding good homes for children who need a mommy & daddy. But, we wondered, why does it have to be that way? Why did it take infertility to push us towards adoption? James 1:27 says “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.” Shouldn’t we want to adopt even if we were able to have children?

Society has raised us to believe that there is a certain way of doing things in life and an ideal order to those things. We go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, get a dog and have some kids. Before we’ve achieved each step we tend to believe that the next step will make everything else better. People living outside of that order or way of doing things find themselves in a place of tension. They begin to get discouraged, even depressed, not realizing it’s because they are living as a slave to societal “rules”.

It doesn’t have to be that way. I read an article a few months back that challenged this way of thinking in regard to having children.* The article begins by describing a family who decided to adopt BEFORE they considered having biological children. Now there’s a foreign concept! When they began planning to grow their family, they didn’t ask, “What do we want?” They asked, “What does God want?”

The article goes on to talk about churches that have created this “Culture of Adoption”. At Seven Rivers Presbyterian Church in Lecanto, FL, there are have been over forty adoptions in a congregation of around 1000 members! I’ve also heard of a church in NC where a group of Liberian orphans came to sing. A short while after their performance, members of that congregation adopted all the members of the choir! Can you imagine? What if the church really did care for orphans like the Bible says we should?

I’m thankful that God has allowed us to experience infertility, because we would have never considered the beautiful plan of adoption otherwise. Adoption is not plan B. Maybe it was for us, but if you’re planning to grow your family I’d encourage you to first ask God, “What do you want, LORD?”

* “Cultivating a Culture of Adoption” by Carolyn Curtis
April/May 2007 issue of By Faith Magazine
http://www.byfaithonline.com/

Next Post: 6/21/2007

Thursday, June 07, 2007

All God's Children

At some point during my teen years I remember my mom asking the church to pray for her that she would have the strength to turn her kids over to God’s care. She felt up to that point that she had been fully taking on the burden of raising us. This was a new concept to me. As I grew up, I began to understand the significance of it and appreciated her desire to lean on God in this way.

When you’re thinking about growing your family, typically you and your spouse will talk about what kind of parents you want to be. We decided that we wanted to approach parenthood as if God had entrusted us with something precious that belonged to Him. We were to care for it, not possess it. Just like we view our money, our home, our gifts and talents, we want to be a steward of our children and not feel that we own them. We hope to raise them to do God’s work, with His guidance along the way of course. The idea is, when they have been aptly trained, we’ll release them back to Him to do whatever He wills. Thinking of parenting in this way brought new meaning and importance to raising children. We’re doing it for God, not for ourselves.

Sounds simple enough, right? Wrong. I’ve seen the depth of love parents have for their children. I know that living this out will be a daily struggle. But, as we talked about it, we wondered if it wouldn’t be easier to see parenting this way if we adopted. Not that we wouldn’t love the child the same, but when a child grows out of your own body, I imagine it’s harder to think that it doesn’t belong to you. Through adoption we see God taking a child, whom He has chosen, from a situation where he/she might not otherwise know Him and giving him/her a chance to know Him through our guidance.

It’s encouraging to look around and see examples of people who were adopted, raised in Christian homes and have been used by God throughout their lives. We began praying that God would prepare for us the one he has chosen for us to care for and that He would prepare us to offer the kind of care for our children that would be pleasing to Him.

Next Post: 6/14/2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Adoption is Love

In March 2005 Andy and I began attending a church called Eternal. The name of the church itself forces you to think about things that have eternal value. The church literature and messages stress the importance of the three things that are eternal: God, people, and scripture (www.eternal.gs). Since attending Eternal, it seemed like everywhere we turned the message was clear: it’s time that you start helping those in need around you. Jesus said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and love people (Matthew 22:36-40, Mark 12:28-34, Luke 10:25-28). I began feeling a deep need to branch out of my comfort zone and care for those in need in my own community.

This desire was reinforced in the summer of 2005 when the faculty at my school was asked to read a book by Ruby Payne called A Framework for Understanding Poverty. As a teacher in a school with approximately 65% of the students on free and reduced lunch, my heart was broken. You hear about kids in third world countries all the time that need food and clothing, but I knew of many within a five-mile radius of my own home that needed the same care. What was I doing to help?

I began talking to Andy about finding ways to work some charity into our budget and we began sponsoring a child through World Vision (www.worldvision.org). But I still felt that wasn’t all God meant when he told me to serve others. What about the kids right here around me?

I searched for organizations where I could volunteer and directly impact the lives of my students outside the classroom, but it seemed like everywhere I turned I ran into red tape. Many of the organizations that helped my kids wanted administrative help or physical labor, but not many of them would actually let me interact with them unless I was trained or on staff with them. I wanted to serve them food, to clothe them, to directly impact the quality of their lives. I wasn’t successful in finding opportunities to do that.

Meanwhile, once school began, it seemed that God had given me a unique kind of love and compassion for my students that I hadn’t known before. It didn’t matter the race, gender or social class, they were all becoming precious to me. Minorities in particular found a tender place in my heart. I didn’t know that I could love kids that weren’t my own like I loved these kids. I wanted nothing but the best for them and had a desire to teach them not just dance, but to love and care for each other. But I still felt a need to help outside of the classroom.

When we first contacted World Vision about sponsoring a child they sent a video about all the ways one could help through their organization. The video stated World Vision’s beliefs about the most effective ways to help. From that I learned that taking someone one meal might satisfy my need to help and their hunger for that day, but without sustained help they will still die of starvation. World Vision’s idea of helping is to train a whole village of people to be self-sustaining and provide them with the supplies to do so. I immediately identified with this truth.

While driving one day I passed a car with a bumper sticker that said, “Adoption is Love.” Could this be the way our family should answer the call of the second greatest commandment, to show love to those around us? I began to get excited as I realized that we could rescue someone in need from a desperate situation and feed him/her not just one meal, but three meals a day for at least eighteen years! Just the thought of it ended what seemed like months of searching to find the outlet God wanted for us to serve others. I smiled all the way home and couldn’t wait to share my thoughts with Andy.

Next Post: 6/7/2007

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Adoption

If you didn’t grow up around people who have adopted or people who were adopted, it’s not something you really think about. I didn’t know one person from my elementary, middle or high school that was adopted. To my knowledge, none of my parents’ friends or family had adopted. Until my senior year of college, I had only known of one adoption.

After two years of trying to have a baby with no results, we were faced with the question, what if we never get pregnant? We felt strongly that God wanted us to be parents. So, we began discussing adoption. It was a foreign concept to my family and me, so when I mentioned it to them their response was usually something like, “Oh, you won’t have to do that.” Nobody else we knew had problems getting pregnant. Shouldn’t everybody be able to have a biological child? It’s just natural, right?

As we began to mention adoption to others, they would say things like, “Do you plan to adopt an infant or an older child?” At that point we hadn’t thought or prayed a lot about it, so typically I’d say we were hoping to adopt an infant. The most common response was, “well, you know there’s a lot of older kids out there that need a home.” While this was a legitimate point, admittedly it annoyed me. I wanted to ask, “Do you plan to adopt one of them?” I’m not saying that was a good attitude to have, I’m just being honest.

If we had learned anything from being infertile, we learned that we’re not in control and that God already has a plan. We wanted to know what our next step should be. We had a lot of praying to do.

Next Post: 5/31/2007

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Day by Day

In case you were thinking that I’ve got it all figured out and don’t deal with sadness anymore, I thought I’d let you know that it’s not true. While I have an understanding that gives me peace in the midst of all this, I can’t say there aren’t hard days. This month, for example, my period came between two significant weekends, mother’s day and my birthday, a time when both our families will be together to celebrate. It’s always been my dream to reveal pregnancy to our families on one of the rare occasions when they’re together. But, there is one verse that encompasses my feelings and hope. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Despite the brief moments over the past two weeks where I let my mind wander down that pregnancy road, at the same time I have experienced what feels like the beginning of a new chapter of my life. Last Thursday morning after posting “The Gospel Revealed through Suffering,” I felt a very unique lightness, an excitement. It was as if the infertility season of my life is over, not because I’m pregnant, but because we’re looking ahead to the second part of the title of this blog, adoption.

Because you’ve nearly been caught up to what is currently happening in our lives and because my summer is beginning after this week, posts will be on Thursdays only beginning next week. I hope you will keep reading because I feel God has shown us some pretty special things regarding adoption and I’m excited to share that with you as well. We thank you for your encouragement during our struggles through infertility and look forward to experiencing the adoption process with you too.

Next Post: 5/24/2007

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Gospel Revealed Through Suffering

A couple of months ago I read an article that confirmed my decision not to pursue fertility treatment. The authors, a couple who had struggled through infertility themselves, spoke about infertility as a mystery. Just as when disease strikes a child, we can’t understand why some people can’t conceive. The article describes the human fear of mystery and pain. It goes on to say that we have come to fear pain so much that we attempt to master it at all costs. “We have little patience for the process, even less tolerance for the unknown, and certainly no love for mystery, particularly the dark mysteries of suffering.” *

Modern medicine is a good example of our quest to master our pain. Fertility treatment falls into that category as well. “Infertility is a stark, monthly reminder of mortality and weakness. Infertile couples come to live with an issue that is beyond their control, and their situation is a vivid reminder to us all of the stubborn truth our culture would rather conveniently forget: that we do not control our lives or the world.” I wasn’t really sure why I felt so strongly that I didn’t want to have treatment at the time, but when I read this my feelings all made sense. “When we do this we live out a theology of suffering which does not deny the pain, but puts it in the broader story of redemption.”

We’ve got to change our attitude towards pain and suffering. I’m not saying we shouldn’t go to the doctor or take Advil for a headache. But, in general, pain is not something to be afraid of. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” (James 1:2)

Over the last twenty posts, we’ve attempted to share with you the pain of infertility. If we stopped there though, you wouldn’t get to see the beauty in the pain that we’ve experienced. The gospel has been revealed through our suffering. We were broken humans, separated from God, thinking selfishly about what we wanted. Jesus has redeemed us and given us peace and joy at a time when there would otherwise be despair.

When we have children, I’m sure I’ll want to protect them from pain in any way possible. But, I pray that I won’t get in the way of God trying to grow them in Him. People who experience pain know God in a way that others don’t. Through our suffering, He reveals His character. He uses every ounce of our pain to grow and mature us. Then, we can go out and comfort others who are struggling in the same way that He comforted us. (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

If I had a quote that represented my life it would be, “pain only lasts a little while and it is never in vain.” Every ounce of pain I have experienced in my life has been used to grow and bless me. The blessings that have come out of my pain exceed anything I could have dreamed up for myself. God is sovereign! When I experience pain I can rest assured that he has my best interest at heart (Jeremiah 29:11).

* “Infertility: Mastery or Mystery” by Michael and Shareen Kelly
December 2006 issue of By Faith Magazine
http://www.byfaithonline.com/

Next Post: 5/22/2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Wasteland and Children of Men

By Andy.

In my last post I discussed how easy it was for me to be emotionally disengaged from the process of trying to conceive. For a good while, I was simply cruising along with life while Michelle was, largely unbeknownst to me, experiencing some pretty intense pain. To some degree, this has been an ongoing issue for me. Even after my initial realization that I had been living with my head in the sand for quite some time, it was still a challenge to identify with the pain my wife was feeling on a daily basis. As Michelle has already pointed out, it wasn’t my body telling me each month that I wasn’t pregnant, and for that reason (at least in part) it was nearly impossible for me to feel—I mean really feel—sadness on the scale that my wife did.

For some reason, things began to change for me when I started to view the problem of infertility on a universal scale. It started when I was reading T.S. Eliot’s famous poem, The Wasteland. Any English major who’s completed at least a few semesters can tell you that this poem is one of the most important pieces of American literature. What they could also tell you (could, but probably wouldn’t, since it would betray some lack of genius on their part) is that it is a brutally difficult poem to decipher. I usually get the itch once a year or so to pull out my volume of Eliot and give the poem a reading just to see if there’s some new part of its mystery I can uncover. It was about two years into our struggle with infertility and I was studying Eliot and suddenly things started to connect. It was really so simple. Here the poet was attempting to communicate the torment and spiritual bankruptcy of an era, and he’s turning to imagery from ancient fertility and vegetation myth and ritual. This is one of the first things you learn about The Wasteland when you study it in school, but I was just now really getting it. Suddenly I sensed on a deeper level not only the spirit of the poem but also the weight of what my wife was going through. In my mind, not being able to have a baby was now linked in some way to other forms of barrenness we experience in this life—things like a famine that destroys the food supply or the decay of a civilization ravaged by a war that claims the lives of most of a generation.

Maybe this sounds a bit over the top—I’m willing to admit that I have a personality inclined to make these sorts of far reaching connections. It likely comes from spending large quantities of time trying to make art. But still, I don’t think this line of thinking is completely off the mark. When we experience infertility, famine, or war, we are experiencing the results of the Fall—things as they were not originally intended to be. We sense this on a very fundamental level. Seeds are supposed to produce fruit. Eighteen-year-old boys aren’t supposed to die by the sword. And when a husband and wife make love, it should be a life-bringing act.

I know. It shouldn’t have taken some pretentious piece of poetry to show me all this, but it did. I’m thankful that God used it in that way.

Here’s an indication of how things have changed over the past few years: A few months ago I went with my brother to see a movie called Children of Men. It’s set at some point in the future, in a time where no woman has been able to have a baby in about 20 years due to some unexplained reason. Most of civilization has collapsed into chaos, and the only country with a government still intact is essentially a police state. It’s a pretty sick situation, and then, miraculously, this young girl turns up pregnant. The effects that her pregnancy and the birth of her baby have on this ruinous scene are pretty astounding (I’ll keep it vague in case you haven’t seen the film yet). Anyway, the movie killed me to watch. I felt like I was seeing on a macro level what we had been experiencing on a smaller scale for the past five years. It didn’t seem too far-fetched to think that if the whole world was infertile and barren that the result would be close to what the film portrayed.

In subsequent years, I have taken an interest in the various ways barrenness and infertility shows up literally and figuratively in scripture. It’s pretty amazing. But I’ve gone on pretty long, so I’ll save that for another post.

Next Post: 5/17/07

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Alpha & Omega

Our finite minds cannot comprehend an infinite God. What does it mean to know everything from the beginning of time to the end…everything, including the number of hairs on our heads at any given moment? Matthew 10:30 & Luke 12:7

In our own world (and mind), we are big and important. We think about ourselves more than we think about anybody or anything else. Now, think about the whole earth (and the billions of other people that live here). Consider that it is a part of a larger solar system with other planets. If you draw back and see yourself in comparison to not just an entire planet but also an entire solar system and galaxy, it’s hard to think of yourself so big anymore.

What makes me think my desires are paramount compared to everyone else’s?

Now consider eternity. Several times in Revelation it says that God is the "Alpha & Omega". I picture black space with a timeline drawn that stretches so far that I can't see either end. The timeline contains all eternity. I would assume that at the far left of the timeline is written the creation of the world. At the far right would be...well, I guess the events written in Revelation. Then I zoom into the timeline a little more and see all of the events written on the timeline happening at the same time. I can actually visualize tiny little scenes with people carrying out the events of the times. Moses is leading the children of Israel from Egypt while our soldiers are fighting the war in Iraq, and at the same time, on the right end of the timeline Jesus is coming back! Then I look behind me and imagine God is there. He's so enormous that he can see the whole timeline without even turning his head to the left or right. I look back to the timeline and zoom in further to the dot of time where my life is. Wow! That gives me a pretty realistic picture of how tiny I am!

Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying I'm not important to God or can't do BIG things for God in the short time I'm here, but when you consider eternity this way, how significant is it to God’s kingdom whether we have a baby or not? Of course, if he wants us to have a baby, he'll have a purpose for that child greater than we can even imagine. But, if he doesn't, why should it destroy me? What's our purpose in being here in this dot in time anyway? We are commanded to love God and love people. What else matters?

Some people are put on earth to birth a child that will change the world. Take Mary for example. If God gives me that job, I'll take it. If not, I'll accept whatever other job he has for me that will make a difference. Meanwhile, I'll pray that he'll continue to give me an eternal perspective on life. In that way, not having a child doesn't seem as big of a deal. Besides, life on earth will be over before I know it and then REAL life with Christ begins! At that point “He will wipe every tear from [our] eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.” Revelation 21:4

Sitting around thinking about ourselves and what we want is a waste of time in eternity. I need to stop thinking about what could be and focus on what IS. We owe our lives to Christ in whatever way he asks. After all, He gave His life for us!

Next Post, by Andy: 5/15/2007

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Attack!!

I was so thankful for this new perspective on things, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t struggled since. Last year I was expecting my period around Mother’s day. It was a day or two late, but that had happened enough times in the past that I knew it would be a waste to take a pregnancy test. But, of course that didn’t stop me from getting my hopes up. I thought, how great would it be of God to give me a child—not on someone else’s birthday or a holiday, but on a day just for me! I thought I had figured Him out again!

When I woke up on Mother’s day, I had started my period. I felt that was a cruel joke. My heart was heavy.

I went to church and served donuts and orange juice to all the mothers of the church. I was doing a glorious job of hiding my sorrow. But, during worship I decided not to hide it from God, so I cried, I prayed and I sang. My spirits were lifted and my hope restored.

That night as we were getting ready for our week, we put the TV show “Scrubs” on in the background. I guess because it was Mother’s day, the whole episode was about one of the lead characters finding out she was pregnant after having tried for a long time. I stopped what I was doing, sat down and watched. It was like I was watching to see how things would turn out for me! It’s crazy how our minds work, isn’t it? At the end of the episode there was a party. Everyone she loved was there. She walked in and revealed to everyone the good news, and NO kidding, the show went to slow motion for the last five minutes as people cheered and cried, and she hugged every single person in the room. They doted over her and everyone was so happy for her and her husband.

I went to Andy and just cried. I might have even screamed and punched some things too. Then, when I realized what was happening, I got angry. I screamed at Satan, “Oh NO! You can’t do this to me anymore! God has freed me from this and you will not keep me down!”

I felt better.

“When the devil had finished all his tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” Luke 4:13

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” John 10:10

“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” 1 Peter 5:8

The Bible tells us it’s going to happen. Just wait for it, and don’t let it destroy you.

Next Post: 5/10/2007

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Romanticized

As we grow, we look towards to the next stage in life with excitement. When you’re a teenager you can’t wait to get your driver's license, then later find that perfect person to marry, the perfect job, buy a home, have a family…things will be perfect when...

Back when we first decided to have a baby, I wasn’t thinking about how difficult it would be. Sickness during pregnancy, unwanted weight gain, complications during pregnancy and delivery, budgeting to fit in a little one, trying to satisfy a crying baby in the middle of the night...these were not part of my visions of being a mom. I wasn’t thinking about the intense responsibility of caring for another human being and the possibility that our child might not be healthy. I was thinking about how cute I hoped to look when pregnant, what a great dad Andy would be, how I could cherish the excitement everyone felt when they found out I was pregnant, and snuggling with my cute little baby. Life is always perfect in my visions of the future.

As time passed and I watched my friends and family with their new babies, I saw just how hard pregnancy and parenthood is. I saw their insecurities grow with their bellies, the medical complications that come with pregnancy and delivery, exhaustion from lack of sleep, tension placed on marriages as the family grows, and the stress of a young couple trying to make ends meet. I realized I had romanticized the whole thing. I realized I had romanticized a lot of things in my life. I began to sympathize when young friends and family expressed frustration about an unplanned pregnancy or the difficulties of parenthood. Before that, hearing these “negative” comments upset me. in my mind I thought, "What? I'd give anything to be sick if I knew it meant I was pregnant!" Now I could see they were very REAL and valid feelings. I have the utmost respect for parents. It must be the most courageous job on the earth, to raise another human being! (Thank you mom & dad!)

I’m just thankful that God was beginning to break down my romantic view of pregnancy and parenthood and replace it with reality. In this way, I could be grateful to God for our “misfortune.” I've learned that no one ever really feels equipped to be a parent. That's good to know.

Next Post: 5/8/2007

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Back on Birthcontrol?

In my first year of teaching in the public schools I remember hearing some terrible stories about what the students in my schools had to deal with at home. Some of those kids lived in horrific situations, worse than I could ever imagine. I remember coming to the realization that in our lives we get to choose who we spend our time with. We are used to the quirks of our families because we grew up with them. We pick our friends based on how they act, look, smell, how much money they make, or whatever other quality may be important to us. But, when you work with the public, you interact with all kinds of people. You don’t get to pick and choose who you teach. You are taken out of your safe comfort zone and reminded that there is a whole world of different people out there that you might never choose to hang out with.

One day, in my sixth year of teaching, I was watching the Kindergartners playing at recess right outside my classroom window. I was smiling as they were chasing each other around the playground, thinking about having one of my own one day. Then, one boy went over and shoved another boy down on the ground and started pounding him with his fist. A little while later two other little boys were gesturing guns with their fingers and pretending to shoot each other. Around the corner a boy pushed a little girl up against a brick wall and made a very sexual gesture to her with his pelvis. I sank.

What was I thinking? Could I bring a child into a world like this? This was a five year-old’s concept of playing! Would it be possible to raise a child that would reject these ways of thinking? How could we be responsible for the spiritual well being of a child in this cruel, fallen world? Should I go back on birth control and just forget the whole thing?

It was like my eyes had been opened to a whole new way of thinking. I thought; we’re so young! Thank God He didn’t give us a child back when we first started trying! We could have never handled it way back then, heck we can’t handle it now! How do teenagers manage when they get pregnant?!

I began to understand the couple that waits to have children because they’re not ready and they have so many other things they want to do first. I started thinking about graduate school, mission trips, moving somewhere exotic, vacations, etc. I started working out again. I looked back on the past three years and realized I had been living bound to this dream of having a child, and every plan I had made was in consideration of this child we didn’t even have yet! Wow, I had missed out on a lot of living!

I was confused. Was it good for me to think I didn’t want a child, or was it selfish?

I’ve since wondered if my reaction was a defense mechanism. No one can go on for years on end enduring the emotional torture I had put myself through, and I know that children are a tremendous blessing from the Lord. But, thinking of having children in this light made me feel better about not having any. I found myself paying close attention to how difficult it was to be a parent and taking comfort in that. I began at that point to feel thankful that God had not given us children.

Next Post: 5/3/07

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sovereignty of God

The greatest lesson I’ve learned from being “infertile” is that God is a whole lot smarter than us. Praise God that I’m not in control of what happens in my life. If I were, I would have screwed things up a LONG time ago! What if I had gotten pregnant when we first started trying? What would things be like now? Would we have been good parents?

I began to trust that God had good reasons for not giving us a child when we wanted it. If He was trying to protect me from permanent back pain then Praise Him! If He wanted to provide Andy with a different job so that we could be ready financially then Praise Him! If He wanted to give us a chance to grow and mature spiritually and in our marriage so that we could be better parents, Praise Him!

We began to embrace Him as our Sovereign Lord. His word gives us ample proof of His sovereignty. Whatever His reasons may be, we trust that they are good ones. “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

“’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are you ways my ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’” Isaiah 55:8-9

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Abraham & Sarah

Abraham and Sarah must have felt out of control too. God had promised Abraham many sons, but he and Sarah were getting past the age of fertility and hadn’t had a child yet (Genesis 15). So, Abraham lost patience and took control of the situation himself. He slept with his maidservant, Hagar, who bore him a son, Ishmael (Genesis 16). This act of impatience led to jealousy, heartache, and tragedy. We can certainly learn from that!
One benefit of having the Bible is that we know the whole story from beginning to end, and we can learn about God’s character through the example of others. We know that God gave Abraham and Sarah a baby in his perfect timing. But, in their human-ness, they got confused and impatient and tried to take matters in their own hands.

We decided to go to a fertility doctor to make sure our reproductive organs were healthy. We went in hoping that this doctor would take the time to investigate us and figure out what was keeping us from getting pregnant. I went in with tons of questions about hormones, stress, hypoglycemia, and anything else I could think of. But, doctors are busy people. They don’t have time to investigate why this is happening. They want to get to the quickest, simplest solution. We had hoped this doctor would be different, that she would take time to ask questions and do tests, but after a couple of tests she said we were both healthy and she wanted us to begin fertility treatment right away.

This was not the first doctor who had recommended treatment. In fact, after one year of having unprotected sex with no pregnancy one is considered infertile. Pretty much every doctor you see after that point recommends treatment. This day our file bore the label “Unexplained Infertility.”

It seemed that most doctors assumed we wanted to get pregnant right away. But we learned from Abraham and Sarah that impatience breeds tragedy and since we knew we were healthy we knew that God would give us a child in His perfect timing and He didn’t need any help. We also had heard of a pastor and his wife who waited nine years for a child, and just when they buried their hopes and dreams, got pregnant. They ended up having three children! I couldn’t imagine having to wait NINE years, but we felt that going through fertility treatment would have been a display of our impatience. It wasn’t that we felt fertility treatment was wrong, but for us it was not right at that time.

People thought we were crazy for not accepting treatment. They said things like, “well, you’re not getting any younger. You better do it now before your biological clock stops tickin’.” I’ve heard that after 30 years of age your pregnancy is considered “high risk.” I didn’t want that. But, in the back of my mind I felt I had been forewarned. We decided not to listen to everyone else’s logic.

We say our infertility is NOT “unexplainable.” It would have made sense for us to accept treatment if we found out we weren’t healthy, but we are. You don’t go to a doctor because you’re well, you go because you’re sick—and we aren’t. There can be only one reason that two completely healthy adults haven’t had a child yet when so many others are getting pregnant so easily—God just isn’t ready for us to have a child. We felt excited about the decision to reject treatment, because we knew if we were obedient that God would bless us in a great way. We wanted nothing more than to please God, even if that meant not getting what we wanted when we wanted it.

Next Post: 4/26/07

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Out of Control!

If you think about all the people you know who have gotten pregnant or had babies, I bet there are only a handful that went just the way they planned it. Some get pregnant as teenagers, some while on birth control. Some get pregnant just before they get married, some on their honeymoon. Some have major complications during pregnancy or delivery, some miscarry. Some get surprised, some wait until just the right moment to start trying and the moment passes them by, like us.

I began to realize that pregnancy and child bearing is one area where God reminds us that we are not in control. We think we can control it through fertility treatment and careful planning, but ultimately the miracle of life can only be initiated by God. There is nothing we can do to change our situation. It is out of our hands. Only God can give life. “[God] himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.” Acts 17:25

Next Post: 4/24/07

Monday, April 16, 2007

Prayer & Sin

“Isaac prayed to the Lord on behalf of his wife, because she was barren. The Lord answered his prayer, and his wife Rebekah became pregnant.” Genesis 25:21

Hannah prayed, “’O Lord Almighty, if you will only look upon your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life’…and the Lord remembered her. So in the course of time Hannah conceived and gave birth to a son.” 1 Samuel 1:11-20

“He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord.” Psalm 113:9

Andy and I thought that we must begin to use these verses as an example of how we should pray. We began praying for God to give us a child. We prayed faithfully, daily.

After some time passed and we still weren’t pregnant, we began to try to figure out why. We wondered if God planned to give us a child with special needs or twins and He knew we weren’t quite ready. Maybe we needed some more time to mature. Maybe through our suffering we would learn more about His character. Maybe we needed to be more financially secure and God was protecting us from ruin. Could it be that He wanted to spare me from tremendous and permanent back pain that had threatened me in the past? Was it because one of us was going to die early and God was trying to spare us from excess pain by not giving us a child? Or maybe it’s because the time had come that Jesus spoke of in Luke 23:29, “For the time will come when you will say, ‘Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!’” Could God be protecting us?

Finally, this was the question that caused us the greatest agony; was it because of sin in our life currently or in the past? We asked God and waited days, even weeks for the answer, but He didn’t convict us of anything. Instead, He directed us to this verse many times through different sources, “’Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:2-3

This insight brought us an excitement to be used by God! For the first time we had peace about not getting pregnant and about the future. Praise the Lord for choosing us to bring glory to his name!

Next Post: 4/19/07

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Expectations

I’ve learned that it’s dangerous to have expectations about something that is going to happen in the future. I am a visual person and tend to picture future events in my mind; I’m sure I’m not the only one. Typically my expectations are romanticized; the most perfect scenario for the event that I can imagine. If I expect things to play out the way I pictured it and it doesn’t, I’ve left myself open for disappointment and in some cases devastation.

It's like a girl planning her wedding. She visualizes the whole affair, detail for detail. She expects this special day to go perfectly according to their plan, but when it doesn’t… someone forgot the guest book; it rained on the outdoor wedding; no one brought the knife and cake server...these mishaps can ruin a girl’s wedding day in her mind. She has such high expectations, and in her attention to detail she forgets that the goal of the day is to get married. What else really matters?

One of my favorite questions to ask people after they’ve had their first baby is, what happened that you didn’t expect? One desired with all her heart to have her baby naturally. She wasn’t able to. It devastated to her. One didn’t expect it to happen so quickly; another didn’t expect it to take so long. One didn’t expect all the nurses and doctors to be so laid back while she was in labor.

I’ve had my own expectations too. I could dream up the perfect scenario for breaking the news that I’m pregnant to friends and family and I would think, oh, that would be perfect! Of course! This is what God has been waiting on! I thought I had him figured out.

Things didn’t go the way I expected. I had a choice to make: let it devastate me, or seek answers from the only one who knew why, God.

Next Post: 4/17/07

Monday, April 09, 2007

Surprise! She's Pregnant-You're Not!

Infertility can be a blessing or a curse to friendships. You’ve been trying to get pregnant and instead your friend who wasn’t trying to get pregnant—did. How do you respond? How does she respond?

I’ve heard so many times of a woman struggling with infertility so rattled by the news that a friend got pregnant that she couldn’t bring herself to be around her friend(s) anymore. This of course is the saddest of all scenarios. I imagine the difficulty of seeing her progress in her pregnancy and the realization that your children won’t be close in age. You’ll watch her belly grow and try to muster up the words to say when she calls excited after just having heard the baby’s heartbeat for the first time or finding out the baby’s gender. I could see how it would be difficult to hang around through all that.

From the friend’s perspective, you are pregnant, possibly unexpectedly, and your friend has been trying for a long time to get pregnant. You don’t want to rub it in her face. You want to protect her, so you distance yourself so that you don’t have to show excitement as you grow to love this new human growing inside of you.

After we started trying, I remember hearing that one of my close friends was pregnant unexpectedly. I remember the blood rushing through my body and I went numb for at least a second. Immediately it caused this dilemma inside of me. At first I was jealous and couldn’t see how I would be able to show excitement for her. But, then I asked myself, what has her pregnancy got to do with me? Just because she got pregnant before me didn’t mean I would never get pregnant. And, how selfish of me to be jealous that she was going to get to wear the cute maternity clothes first and she was going to be getting all of the attention. What a slug I am! By the grace of God, He redeemed me from my pride and selfishness and gave me a genuine excitement for my friends and family when they got pregnant. In fact, I loved (and still do) hearing about their experiences. I wanted to learn all I could so that I could be prepared when my time came!

My friends and family have been amazing through all of this. I saw incredible compassion from a friend who was so worried about how her unexpected pregnancy would affect me that she cried when she had to tell me. She cared so much about my feelings that she didn’t even allow herself to feel excitement right away. One friend dreamed she was pregnant and that God told her to give us the baby. She was actually open to that if God wanted her to! I attended a Lamaze class with one friend. I was invited to be in the delivery room twice! I mean, how could I not be happy for amazing women like that? No one has ever hesitated to share her excitement with me, and for that I am so grateful. I love my friends and have had so much fun watching their children grow. I know they’ll be incredibly happy for me when God blesses us with a child someday. Thank you God for these friends.

Next Post: 4/12/07

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

My Fault? It's YOUR Fault!

It started in the Garden. Andy mentioned it in his last post. Men and women have been blaming each other since the first day of the fall of man. It’s a natural human response to a traumatic experience or fear. During the anger stage of grief we have a need to blame someone. I have heard of couples whose marriages were destroyed because they played the blame game.

By the Grace of God it never crossed our minds to blame each other. We KNEW that God had created us to be together and that God had chosen not to give US a baby. We are one. If one of us couldn’t reproduce, WE couldn’t have a biological child. We made the decision early on that it didn’t matter which one of us had the “faulty parts;” we are one body.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

Claiming the truth that you two are one can save your marriage (for many reasons). If you think about it, what good does it do to blame each other anyway? It’s not like one CHOSE to be infertile to spite the other. It’s not your spouse’s fault. God chose this path for you. We may not understand God’s ways in the moment, but we can trust that He has a reason. This trust will bond you together as a team instead of drawing a dividing line between you and your spouse.

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

Next Post: 4/10/07

Monday, April 02, 2007

F-U-N and Wisdom from Robert Frost

Today's Post by Andy

So the silent male finally speaks. Hasn’t it been this way since the garden?

I guess it would be pretty easy for me to ride the wave of Michelle’s last post and lay it on thick with some self-promotion. My goodness—her words combined with that picture make me seem like prince charming. I could boast that I’ve always been that attentive and tuned in to my wife’s needs. I could explain that sensitivity just comes easy to me. But that wouldn’t be the truth.

In her last post, Michelle referenced Genesis 3 concerning God’s punishment of Eve. There is something else about that story that’s always intrigued me though: Adam’s silence. There’s no protesting as the serpent hoodwinks his wife. No indication that he even participates in the conversation. It’s bizarre—we don’t even hear Adam speak until God comes looking for the couple in the garden and addresses the man specifically. And even then, when he finally opens his mouth, Adam’s answer is embarrassingly deflective:

“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Translation: “It’s her fault. It’s your fault. I was just an innocent bystander!” Lame.

Unfortunately, I must admit that, like my father Adam, I’m a little slow on the uptake.

During the first year or so of our struggle with infertility, I was in la-la land. Obviously, I knew the facts of what was happening, but I wasn’t really invested in them. Here’s the thing: when you first start trying to have a baby, it’s a pretty fun process. Lots of fun, lots of the time. Then, when you don’t get pregnant in that first month, it actually gets even more fun for a little while. Then the fun suddenly gets very regimented and becomes a little less fun. Then all of a sudden there’s one perfect day to have fun amidst a bunch of other days when it’s not as opportune to have fun. At this point, the twenty something male (who’s overwhelmed with career stress and so has very little patience for un-fun things) checks out.

Maybe I wasn’t fully ready to have a baby when we started trying. It’s very likely Michelle’s enthusiasm was the only thing driving that train for the first year. I kind of wanted kids, but she really, really wanted a baby. Really. And so, passively and without protest, I complied. After all, it was fun.

The problem with all this was that a chasm was developing between the two of us that could have ended up disastrous: she wanting a baby with every fiber of her being, and I kind of wanting a baby but really just along for the ride. I was not exactly "with" her in the struggle, and it was only by the grace of God that I snapped out of my emotional coma before things got really ugly.

There is a Robert Frost poem called “Home Burial” that is basically a dialogue between a husband and wife whose relationship is disintegrating. The details are a bit fragmented, but it’s clear that the wife’s frustration with her husband is linked to his response to the death of their child. Throughout the poem, he is emotionless and matter-of-fact. He speaks of the child’s grave as if it’s just another mound of dirt. The poem ends with the wife on her way out the front door while the husband threatens to follow and bring her back by force. I was in college the first time I read this poem, and it has haunted me ever since. I think it’s because, deep down, I know I have the potential to be that kind of husband—I carry the curse of my gender.

Thankfully, much as He clothed Adam and Eve in the garden after their sin, God had mercy on me. The story of that process will come later.

So we didn’t end up like that couple from “Home Burial.” It’s funny though—I told Michelle recently that I’m probably somewhere around two years behind her in the grieving process of all this. She agreed, quickly. She didn’t even have to think about it. Ouch.

Next Post: 4/5/07 by Michelle

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Woman's Curse

At the fall of man, God said to the woman, “I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children.” Genesis 3:16

Each month I got a negative test result and my period came, there were several days of sadness surrounding it. One month Andy was holding me as I cried and admitted that he couldn’t understand this sadness. He wanted children just like me, but there was a definite difference in the way it affected us. I explained to him that pregnancy was something I thought about every hour of every day. I couldn’t help it. I was even charting my fertility online daily.

We realized that because pregnancy happens within the woman’s body, she is forced to take notice of every sensation felt, and when she’s trying to get pregnant every twinge of sickness brings hope. The man doesn’t have to think of it unless the wife brings it up or he sees a father with his child.

Although I have never experienced the pain of childbearing, I have experienced the curse of being a woman waiting for God to implant a child into her womb. Fortunately I have a husband who is sensitive to that. He recognized that he couldn’t begin to understand the emotional pain I experienced each month when my period came. But when he held me it felt like the arms of God wrapping around me, comforting me.



Next Post, by Andy: 4/3/07