Tuesday, September 23, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
…or hot chocolate if you prefer. I want to tell you a story about our recent trip to Guatemala.
Andy was asked to do the Sunday morning devotional for our team. He chose to speak about adoption since our trip to Guatemala last year was the motivating factor for us seriously pursuing adoption. It was appropriate, too, because this July marked our sixth year of waiting for a baby. So, he shared a little of our story simply to help illustrate the message. He talked about the fact that all believers are adopted into God’s family (Ephesians 1:5). And, our adoption makes us children of God and co-heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). Now, that’s good stuff!
Afterwards, one of the missionaries currently living in Guatemala, Luis, told us that he felt that he and Ron, the director of the mission organization, should pray for us. He said they’ve prayed for many women who weren’t able to conceive who later conceived. He said that in Hebrews 11:11 it says that God gave Sarah the “strength” to conceive (NKJ), he then cross referenced that with Philippians 4:13, “I can do everything through him who gives me strength.”
Andy said later that when Luis proposed this, his first thought was, “Were you not listening to what I just said? I said we’re adopting.” But, he knew this guy hadn’t walked through the whole process with us over the past six years, and we knew God would get His way no matter what.
About two minutes later, Ron, who had not heard our conversation with Luis, said that the Lord showed him he needed to pray for us. Last year he said that to our pastor’s wife who had been suffering from debilitating migraines for 15 years and she was healed! So, we said, “OK.”
A couple of days passed and they hadn’t prayed for us yet, so as they were leaving one night a lady from our team said, “Ron, are you going to pray for Andy and Michelle?” He said, “Oh, I’ve already pronounced her pregnant, but I’ll pray if you want me to.”
WHAT? What in the world? How can that be? I started my period the day before we left for Guatemala and we’d been in separate rooms ever since! (TMI—I know.)
So, the group laid hands on us and Ron hovered his hand over my womb and began to pray. It wasn’t a weird emotional thing, just a simple prayer that went something like this: “Lord, we come to you asking that you bless this couple with a child. We ask you to open Michelle’s womb and allow her to conceive. I come against the spirit of infidelity…wait, that’s not right…what’s the word?” The group said collectively, “INFERTILITY!” Ron said, “Oh yeah. I come against the spirit of infertility in the name of Jesus. So many people see children as a burden, but Michelle and Andy have been waiting for a child for a long time, Lord. They want to be parents. I pray that you would not allow them to be negative about this, but that you would bless them by allowing her to conceive. I pray believing that you have done it already. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.”
After our group concluded, I went up to get a shower and cried, a lot. I was scared to open my heart to the possibility again. I had prayed and believed before and it didn’t happen, so I had closed that part of my heart off in defense. I asked God if I should believe, if I should open my heart to hope for pregnancy again. I knew that if it was of Him that it would happen, but if it was just people who wanted good things for us, my heart would be broken again.
Then I started to think about all the people who were in the room during the prayer and how the result of this prayer would affect their faith too. I knew at the end of the month if I wasn’t pregnant that it wouldn’t rock my world so much that I would lose faith in God. He’s taught me that my faith can’t be dependent on whether He gives me what I want or not. But, what about them? How would this affect their faith? That thought was too much for me. I knew it was out of my control. So, finally I said, “God, all I can do is trust you. I trust you with our hearts and with the faith of all of those who were there. This is your deal. I trust you.”
For the remainder of the trip, Ron made comments to me as if I had already gotten a positive pregnancy test. One time he said, “the next time I hug you I won’t be able to get this close to you because you’ll have a big belly!” I didn’t really know how to respond to those kinds of comments. He said, “You’ve got to start talking like that now.”
At the Guatemala City airport, a second team of missionaries from Eternal flew in on the same plane we were to fly home on. So, we got to hang out with them in the airport for a few minutes as our week of service was ending and theirs was beginning. The pastor and his wife were on team 2, so I went to her right away and told her that Ron had prayed for me. She immediately started crying. She knew that when Ron prayed, he wasn’t messin’ around! After all, God healed her last year and she had complete faith that God could heal me too. So, she looked me in the eyes and said, “Live in it.” (Mark 11:24)
We were home for a week before we went down to FL for two weeks to visit Andy’s family. As we were packing, I calculated the days and figured out that I should expect my next period while we were gone. But, all I could think was “live in it,” so I didn’t pack any tampons. Instead, I packed two pregnancy tests and the Willow Tree statue, “New Dad”, that I had bought years before and planned to give Andy to let him know our first child was on the way! At this point I had decided to live in full faith that God was going to answer the prayers for me to conceive and trusted that He would be there for me if it wasn’t His will. I had more than the faith of a mustard seed that God could do this (Matthew 17:20).
While in FL, I took care of my body as if I were pregnant. I didn’t get in the hot tub at Andy’s parents house, which was very strange to everyone else who knows how much I love the hot tub. I wouldn’t eat certain foods like soft cheeses, and I just kind of took it easy. I even said to myself secretly in my head sometimes, “I’m pregnant!” Andy on the other hand struggled to believe it. He felt so strongly that God had clearly shown us the path to adoption that it just wasn’t His plan for me to be pregnant.
Three days before my expected period, I woke up before Andy with the intention of taking a pregnancy test. I went into the bathroom and peed on the stick. It was the calmest I’ve ever been taking a pregnancy test. As I waited for the results, I prayed that God would guard my heart. I had such a peace that He would be there to comfort me if I looked over and saw a negative.
Now, put down your hot beverage.
I’m pregnant! Yep, you heard me right, I’M PREGNANT!!!! Now, stop reading for a moment and let this miracle of God sink in. Praise the Lord!!!!
It was the most surreal moment. It was like a movie scene where I was flying through a tunnel of pictures from the last six years of infertility at lightening speed and it all stopped on that positive sign. My plan was to go back in the room and give Andy the statue of the man holding the baby and let him figure it out, but...that’s not what happened. J
I SO needed another human being to confirm that what I was seeing was real, I mean, I’ve never seen a positive pregnancy test before. So, I ran in the room (I had to wake Andy up) and grabbed the paper in the test box that tells you what to look for. I held it in front of his face with a shaking hand. Once I felt sure his eyes had focused enough to know what he was looking at, I held the stick up next to the paper. I watched his eyes move from the stick to the paper, from the stick to the paper, from the stick to the paper…and then he gasped. We looked at each other with eyes and mouths wide open like, “Are you serious?!!” And, I just smiled and nodded. We hugged and cried and I shook like Chihuahua. It was a magical moment!
If you’ve been reading my blog from the beginning, you know how important it was for me to tell everyone on person. Well, listen to how much God cares about the details. We were in Orlando visiting Andy’s sister when I took the test, so we got to tell her family. Then, we stopped off and told my brother in Palm Coast on our way to tell Andy’s parents in Orange Park. We stayed a couple more days with his parents and got to tell his grandparents and cousins. One the way home, we stopped off at my parent’s house in GA. When we got home we got to tell almost everyone in person. The reactions were SIX times greater because of how long we’ve waited. I will treasure their faces, hugs, and words of praise to God for the rest of my life.
Sometimes when I tell people, they say things like “See, all you needed to do was relax and not be under so much stress.” Or “That’s how it happens, you start the adoption process and BOOM!” All I can say to that is, no. Don’t give credit to anything other than who it was, a blatant MIRACLE from God. And I ask that you don’t leave that part of the story out when you tell it to others.
I am eight weeks along, due April 9th. The doctor said everything looks good!
Thank you all for your faithful prayers over the past six years. We know that God heard your prayers too. He is faithful and good, even when we don’t understand his timing.
These verses have comforted and encouraged me over the past six years.
1 Praise the LORD. Praise, O servants of the LORD, praise the name of the LORD
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised, both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised.
4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations, his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God, the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth?
7 He raises the poor from the dust and lifts the needy from the ash heap;
8 he seats them with princes, with the princes of their people.9 He settles the barren woman in her home as the happy mother of children. Praise the LORD.
Saturday, May 03, 2008
…no we haven’t heard anything from the agency. No, we don’t have a match yet. There. I said it. Now I can move on.
I have avoided blogging for the past couple of months because I SO wanted my next post to be news about our baby. But, now too much time has passed, and people are going to stop checking if I don’t write something.
I’ve heard so many adoptive moms talk about what they call “emotional labor”. Adoptive moms don’t have the physical pain of carrying and delivering a child, but our hearts ache deeply as we wait for the child we have prayed for for so long. I’ve definitely been experiencing that. Even though we KNOW that God is going to give us the child He has chosen for us at the perfect time, we still long for our child in such a real way that we can almost feel him/her in our arms at times. We stand and look at our nursery stocked with all the things we need to care for a baby and imagine what life will be like when he/she is here. It’s both exciting and excruciating.
For some women, infertility is the hardest experience of their lives. For me, waiting for our adopted child is much harder than all of my years of infertility combined. I think it’s because having a child biologically is not ULTIMATE for me. What IS ultimate for me is being a mom. Honestly, at this point I don’t think I would feel a tremendous loss if I never birthed a child. As my friend (who is also an adoptive mom with no biological children) says, “God just had a different plan for how I would get my children. They are no less mine than if I gave birth to them. And, if I had given birth to children, I think it would have been these exact two children.”
For many women, giving birth is ultimate. I can usually tell who they are because when I talk to them about our adoption the conversations inevitably end with their encouraging me to keep the faith that I’ll have a baby “of my own” one day. I can’t explain why God has made me OK with infertility, but I’m thankful He has.
The pain of waiting for our child is magnified with Mother’s Day approaching. If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you have heard me say how hard Mother’s Day is for “infertile” women. It is especially hard for women who go to church on Mother’s Day. Typically churches have a ceremony or some kind of treat for mothers—and they should! Mothers need to be recognized for what they do. It is a rewarding and beautiful thing to sacrifice and serve others on a daily basis. I can’t wait to be included in that!
This year, Andy offered to take me away somewhere for Mother’s Day. But, I thank God that I don’t feel that is necessary this year. Three or four of our close friends are having their new babies baptized on Mother’s Day, and I want to be there for that. I dream of the day we have our little one baptized as a symbol of our recognition that this child belongs to God, not us, and we are committed to raising him/her with that in mind. Part of infant baptism is a charge to the congregation to support the parents and help raise the child(ren) in a covenant community of believers. I want to be there to make that promise to my friends.
One of the most beautiful things about our church family is that they long for this child to join the family almost as intensely as we do! I could mention our pending adoption to almost any woman at church at any given moment and the water works begin. They hurt for us and are excited for us. It is such a beautiful picture of 1 Corinthians 12:26. I know that if I’m having a hard time on Mother’s Day, church is where I want to be! If I cry, it’s OK because I know they are going to love on me so hard that I will be comforted and reminded of God’s love and promises. And I know Andy will love on me too. I told him that it would help me this year (as we’re closer to getting our baby than we’ve been in the past six years) that it would help if he treated me like a mother and reminded me throughout the day that I AM going to be a mother soon. Thinking of it that way makes me a little excited about Mother’s Day. Who knows…I may be eight months “pregnant” right now and just don’t know it yet!
Translation: I’m going to Guatemala!! I am so excited I can hardly stand it! I’ve wanted to go again all along, but my number one priority this year is getting my baby. So, I put myself on the alternate list so that I could avoid having to contact my supporters (in the case that we got our baby and I couldn’t go) and say, “Oh, well…I’m not going now. I’m going to give your money to the other missionaries. I hope you don’t mind.” Well, two weeks ago a team member had to drop out, so I got moved from the alternate list to the official list of team members! Of course, we could still get our baby before July 5th, in which case I wouldn’t be going to Guatemala, but at this point I’m planning on going.
Guatemala is significant to me for many reasons. Most notably, it is where we were last year when we decided we were going to step out on faith and pursue this dream of adoption. You can read about my life changing experiences there last year in my August 2007 post titled, “Get In My Belly!”
There’s a new Cuban restaurant in Rock Hill called Carlos Café. Andy and I went there a couple of months before I knew I’d be going to Guatemala this year. Plantains and rice with black beans, two very common sides in Guatemala, were served with the entrees. As I was eating, I got so emotional I almost lost my appetite (but it was too good to stop eating!). I wanted to go to Guatemala so badly! I avoided Carlos for a while because I didn’t want to think about it. Now I can go enjoy it again!
This year, our team will be staying in an orphanage that Pray America (aka Manos de Jesus) recently purchased. Our church has been asked to build the chapel that will overlook the orphanage, which is nestled in a mountainside in Chichicastenango, Guatemala. (See details of the plan on their website, http://www.prayamerica.org.) Are you kidding me? I get to stay in an orphanage where God will work to bring families together?! What an incredible blessing! I know it’s going to make my heart overflow and tear it out all at the same time. I pray that one day soon Guatemalan adoptions stabilize so that, if it’s God’s plan, we can adopt from Guatemala too.
Andy and I, along with thirteen other team members, will be leaving July 5th and returning July 12th. A second team of 16 will be going the following week. We will be building one-room houses for widows (most are single moms), building the chapel, and participating in feeding programs. The cost of the houses has gone up (as you might expect with the economy) to $1250 each. (Yeah…I know…think of what we pay for houses in America! It’s incredibly humbling.) Each team member is responsible for raising the funds to pay for the plane ticket, food, lodging, and transportation while in Chichi (about $1300 each). On top of that, we raise as much as we can to pay for the houses we will build. Last year our teams built 10 houses in one week!
If you would like to participate by making a tax-deductible donation to support the mission, please send checks made out to:
Eternal Presbyterian Church
P.O. Box 1509
Fort Mill, SC 29716
Please write “Guatemala Mission Trip: Crissinger” in the memo line.
I’ll definitely post pictures! Here is one from last year.
I have been dancing since I was three years old. I have had around a hundred curtain calls in my life. But, this one will be the hardest.
I broke the news to my faculty last week that I will not be returning next year. After eight years of teaching dance in public elementary schools, it is time for a change. Next year, I plan to spend every possible moment with our baby. I want to cherish every second with this precious child God will entrust to us. And, everybody says it goes SO fast!
Andy and I have talked about this for years. When he was struggling through teaching high school, we used to joke that he would be a stay at home dad. At that time, I couldn’t imagine leaving my job. I loved it! Over the past several years, God has changed our situation and our hearts. Andy now loves his job. And, while I still love mine too, I love the idea of being with my baby more.
I have been in an ideal teaching situation for the past five years. Many dance teachers have to travel between multiple schools or teach in less than satisfactory facilities. I have my own dance studio at one school with a sprung floor. I work with an AMAZING staff who will do whatever it takes to help children learn. On top of that, I absolutely LOVE and adore my students. All of them. Every last one of them. Thinking of leaving them hurts me. Over the years, I have proven to them that I love them no matter what, so they love me too. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing a troubled and distant kid start to respond to you and even go out of his/her way to please you. It’s even better when that positive attitude starts to spread to other areas and relationships in his/her life. We all respond to love. 1 John 4:19. I want to love my child like that.
Since the beginning of this school year, we’ve been talking about whether or not I should sign another contract for next year. The only thing that ever gave us a moment’s hesitation was fear; fear of change. While I wrestled with certain aspects of not teaching next year, there was never really a doubt in my mind what I would do.
When I told my principal that I wouldn’t be back next year, she said the most wonderful thing. “If all parents invested in their children as much and you and Andy will invest in yours, our job would be easy. You are going to be wonderful parents.” Her words, and the encouraging words of so many others who stayed home with their young children, confirmed that our decision was right for us. They said things like, “This is the best decision you will ever make. You will never regret it.” Besides that, it’s a good year for me to leave and a new dance teacher to come in because half of our students are being rezoned to a new elementary school next year and our school is getting a new principal. This will make it much easier for a new teacher. Hopefully she won’t hear things like “The other dance teacher did it like this…” and she will be free to create her own program.
Will it be hard? Yes, of course. I will miss seeing the kids and staff everyday, and I will need to find some way to supplement our income. But, it would also be hard to keep doing what I’m doing and try to be a mom. The thought of that kills me! I already get up at 5 am and don’t go to bed until at least 11 pm. Trying to get ready for school, take care of a baby, drop him/her off at daycare, exhausting myself physically and emotionally through teaching, getting home at 5ish with nothing left to give, dealing with dinner and dishes, putting the baby down, doing whatever work I need to for school or life and then dying at the end of the night does not sound appealing or healthy to me AT ALL! At the end of the day, I would feel like someone else is raising my kid and I only got to spend a couple of hours with him/her, all while trying to tend to other family business, exhausted! I know that the benefits of being with my child will far outweigh the challenges.
Something about a simpler life appeals to us so much. For those of you who don’t know, Andy is the cook at our house. He is forever cleaning or fixing something (reminds me of my dad). He does so much around here. I have certain things that I take care of at home, but I always feel like he does more than me. I am definitely spoiled! I look forward to being able to help Andy more around the house. If he didn’t have to do so much after he gets off work each day, he would have much less stress and be able to spend more time with me and our kids. I know it’s not as easy as it sounds, but we’re willing to work at it.
Andy and I are no strangers to cutting corners. Granted, it’s been a while and God has blessed us, our first year of marriage I was a first year teacher and Andy was in graduate school. In case you’re into math, you’ll find there was not a lot left at the end of the month. I didn’t buy myself a single article of clothing for the first two years of our marriage. We wouldn’t even buy gum because that was something we didn’t NEED. But, God provided in amazing ways, and we grew as a result of that time. We may be going back to our days of Ramen and peanut butter sandwiches, but we feel it will be worth it, and we know that God is our ultimate provider.
We’ve looked at the numbers, and if I worked, the majority of my paycheck would go to daycare. In that case, I’m not only missing time with my child(ren) while someone else is influencing them, I’m also not saving enough money to make a difference in our quality of life. I don’t want to work just to pay the daycare bills! It might be different if we had family close by, but his family lives in FL and mine is in GA. We can’t really just take the kids to grandmas whenever we want. So, if other family can’t be with them, we would like one of us to be with them.
I feel like God has been preparing me for this for the past couple of years. In this area of the country, there aren’t many outlets for “older” dancers. To take classes, I have to drive to Charlotte and pay $10 per class as well as gas, not exactly feasible or worth it for only one class a week. Whatever your talent or trade, when you don’t have regular opportunities to practice it, you start to lose it. And, when you don’t take in, you have nothing to give out. It’s hard to stay current and relevant and insecurity builds.
While I have loved my job, the farther I get away from college, where I was able to take several classes a day from people in “the know”, the more I see dance evolve and leave me behind. Strangely, I feel OK about it. Even though I’ve been doing it since I was three, I don’t feel a great loss. Dance has served me well throughout my life. It has given me confidence and a very satisfying career. But, change is inevitable, and I’m not fighting it. In fact, I’m excited about it and look forward to my next career as mommy. :)
I’m not ready to say this is my final curtain call. But, on June 6th, I will be bowing out, at least for a while.
Monday, February 11, 2008
By now, you’ve probably had a chance to see the movie “Juno”, or at least heard about it. I just thought I’d give you an amateur review from a future adoptive mom. J
“Juno” was the best movie I’ve seen in a long time. It was pure, honest, heart wrenching, and fun all at the same time. The movie had a very youthful feel with such great musical selections—the album was number one on iTunes the first week the movie came out!
I do think the producers pushed the PG13 rating a bit, however. There were several children in the theatre under age 13, which surprised us and made me uncomfortable during a couple of scenes. So, I recommend that if you go see it, make sure you go with someone you’re very comfortable with, or rent it and watch it at home.
The writers did a great job of bringing us both sides of an adoption story. With a rapid fire of youth slang, “Juno” starts out by shedding light on the thought processes that lead a 15-year-old girl into having sex. As the story progresses, we see how a crisis situation matures her quickly as she begins to realize the depravity of the human race. By the end, we learn that no matter the age or circumstance, making an adoption plan is a painful sacrifice for both the mother and her family.
I must say, they also nailed the adoptive couple in many ways. If I hadn’t been sitting in a theatre full of teenagers who laughed at all the wrong times, I probably would have cried…a lot. Instead, I was annoyed at their disrespect and tried to remind myself that they hadn’t yet experienced anything close to this in their lives and therefore don’t have the capacity to understand. Despite that, I understood as the adoptive couple straightened the towels in an attempt to present a perfect house to the birthmother. I grinned when they were standing in the future nursery and she was quoting “What to Expect the First Year.” As she and her husband debated over whether to paint the nursery green or yellow, Andy and I laughed because we had that conversation just that week! My heart leapt as the adoptive mom felt the baby kick from inside the birthmother’s stomach. I could easily imagine how she must have been feeling at that very moment.
The independent/private adoption process modeled in “Juno” seemed to follow current practices for the most part. It did bother me that the first meeting between the birthmother and the adoptive couple was at the home of the adoptive couple with the lawyer present. That would never happen, at least not in our state. Typically it would be done at the lawyer’s office or some other public place. But, the writers qualified this meeting by throwing in a one liner about how the adoptive couple is interested in an open adoption. It still didn’t satisfy me, but it wasn’t enough to turn me off either.
I would highly recommend this movie. Just remember that I warned you about the five or six quick moments that will make you blush and look around to see if everyone else is blushing too.
Sunday, February 3rd was an incredible day, not because the Giants upset the Patriots in the Super Bowl, but because it was our first baby shower! Our church family threw us a co-ed baby shower! I was so happy to have Andy there to share the experience with, and we had a great turn out.
Before the shower I wondered how the tradition of wedding and baby showers came to be. When you stop to think about it, it just makes sense. Purchasing all the supplies necessary for a baby would create an overwhelming financial burden for most people. But, when a community of people pitch in, what is impossible for one person becomes possible through the community. The idea is that each member of the community will pitch in for the others at the appropriate time. What a beautiful picture of an Acts 2 (verses 44-46) community. This is one thing our society does right.
Then there are those who go above and beyond to send the invitations, make the cake, arrange the food, or decorate. How can you really thank them? I could never accurately express my feelings towards those who planned and attended our shower. And the gifts—each had it’s own personal touch. It was one of the greatest displays of love and care I can remember.
In the movie “Juno”, the adoptive mom comes home after work one day with some baby supplies she had just purchased. Juno happened to be there when she came home and saw the pile of things the couple had bought in preparation for the baby. When she asked why they didn’t have a baby shower, the adoptive mom told her that people don’t really know how to react to an adoptive couple. She said that people probably wouldn’t give her a baby shower since she’s not pregnant. Unfortunately, this is reality for a lot of adoptive couples. The community wants a definite due date before they’ll plan or participate in a baby shower. They want to be sure the money they spend won’t go to waste.
Andy and I have found the opposite to be true of our community of friends and family. We thank God that everyone has been so incredibly supportive and excited for us. Before we opened our gifts, Andy thanked everyone for not hesitating to give us the baby shower and talked about how other adoptive couples are not supported like we have been. Many of the people in our community were stunned to know that there are people out there who wouldn’t participate in a baby shower unless they knew when the baby was coming. That’s the kind of community we’re blessed to be a part of.