My Grown-Up Christmas List

It used to be that I REFUSED to put up my tree or ANY kind of Christmas decoration until the day after Thanksgiving.  Actually, it was ON Thanksgiving.

After I’d eaten (and then napped), on went the Christmas music, out came the decorations, and down went the Frothy Eggnog.  (Yes, I said Frothy.  It’s eggnog, rum and ice all mixed in a blender.)

I’d start with the Christmas village, and then moved forward with the rest of the decorations.  I’ve ALWAYS had an obsession with Christmas villages.  I LOVE them!

I love to sit and look down at them and imagine all the goings-on that are happening in the tiny little town.

Children giggling in bed until all hours.  Peeking down the stairs when they hear the floors creak.  Waking up before the sun to beg mom and dad to let them check out their stockings and open presents.

About 10 years ago or so, I found little ceramic houses.  I bought one thinking it would be good to help pass the time and little did I know that 10 years later I would still be collecting them and painting them one-by-one.

One painstaking, detail-oriented, OCD-in-full-effect house at a time.  Here’s a sneak-peek at a few of them!

They all start out like this!

They all start out like this!

IMG_4052 IMG_4051 IMG_4050

And then I add the details!

And then I add the details!

And then I add glitter for snooooow!

And then I add glitter for snooooow!

I think of those little houses like us.  Blank as can be, and then God fills in all the tiny little details – right down to the number of hairs on our head.

I found that when I got out on my own, my traditions changed.

My husband and I started our own traditions 7 years ago – it all started with a tree.  And it hasn’t changed since.  (It almost ended with a tree too, but that’s a WHOLE other story!)

The holidays have been kind of rough the last couple years.  I’ve always looked forward to the holidays with children.  While it’s not at all impossible for adults to enjoy Christmas without kids (side note: people who think it is are on my list of people I don’t want to hear comments from.  ever.)  I had just always dreamed about wrapping presents and filling stockings for our kids.  I had even hoped I would be able to do a creative, fun pregnancy announcement for the holidays!  But the last couple years, I haven’t much wanted to participate.

This year…  this year is different.  There’s a new sense of cautious optimism.  A tentative joy.  A watchful hope.

J and I have been ensconced in the process of adoption…  mountains of paperwork and doctor’s appointments and reference letters and background checks.  It’s seriously a LOT of work!

Part of all the paperwork are a LARGE list of questions that J and I have to answer separately.  Questions about the other.  Questions about ourselves.

Me being COMPLETELY OCD couldn’t just leave the answers in our own handwriting – noooooooo.  I had to type them up and then highlight my name in pink and his in blue for our respective answers.  (DON’T JUDGE.)

I answered my questions on my own and had J do the same.  As I was reading through his answers and typing them out – through tears – I realized something.

INFERTILITY SUCKS.  But if it weren’t for this trial, and for the amazing blessing we are preparing to receive, we would probably have never asked each other a lot of the questions.

  • Describe your personality
  • Describe your spouse’s personality
  • What’s your biggest strength/weakness?
  • What’s your spouse’s biggest strength/weakness?
  • What makes your marriage strong?
  • Describe your happiest/worst childhood memory

How many of you can tell me what your spouse’s favorite childhood memory is?

It sure does wake something up inside of you when you hear your biggest strength and weakness in someone else’s voice.  And it certainly does something to your self-esteem when you see yourself through someone else’s eyes.

I try SO HARD to be grateful for every situation we face.  Some days I fail.  Other days I fail MISERABLY.  Other days, I can almost feel the silver lining.  But I am SO GRATEFUL that I was able to learn those things!!

This year, as I was decorating our tree, the song “My Grown-Up Christmas List” sang by Michael Bublé came on.  And as he sang about wishing for no more lives torn apart, no war, time healing all hearts, everyone having a friend and love never ending, I wanted to write my own lyrics to the song, but my rhyming skills are SERIOUSLY lacking.

As I’ve grown older, my list has gotten smaller.  I’d like to say that the things I want can’t be bought, but as we all in the infertility world know, unfortunately they really CAN put a price on a child.

But they can’t put a price on happiness.

And after I finish my Grown-Up Christmas List, I won’t be sitting on any laps to tell what it is…  No, I’ll be reading it on my knees. 

The Priceless Cost

Have you ever thought about the word ‘just’?  I think people use it too flippantly these days.  It’s used as an answer to almost every solution.  Here is a list of my favorite ‘just’ solutions for infertility:

  • ‘Just relax’ (been there)
  • ‘Just let go/don’t stress/don’t think about it’ (done that)
  • ‘Just drink a bottle of wine’ (drank LOTS of that)
  • ‘Just try artificial insemination/IVF’ (yup, done some of that, too)
  • ‘Just adopt’

Here’s my little nugget of wisdom.  Get a pen and a piece of paper and take notes…  Go ahead, I’ll wait.   Ready?

There is no ‘just’ about anything that has to do with any painful situation.

Any situation where a decision needs to be made that could significantly alter the outcome of an original perception requires intense discussion, pondering and most importantly, prayer.

As most of the people in our lives know (and heck, any stranger who will listen), J and I are in the process of adoption.  After our unsuccessful battle with infertility, we did some soul-searching and praying and decided that it wasn’t as important for us to be pregnant as it was for us to be parents.

November is National Adoption Awareness Month.  In 1976 in Massachusetts, Governor Mike Dukakis proclaimed National Adoption Week.  President Gerald Ford made the first National Adoption Week proclamation and in 1990, the week was extended to a month due to the excitement and participation by so many people and states.  There’s even one day of the month that is proclaimed as National Adoption Day and many adoptions are finalized all at the same time!  I just think that’s neat!

I have been criticized VERY harshly in the last couple days about the way I see adoption (as an amazing blessing), even to the point where I was told that I don’t deserve to have children and that me not being able to get pregnant must have been God’s way of telling us that we shouldn’t be parents and that there is no way that I could ever love an adopted child unconditionally because we HAVE to adopt and not WANT to adopt due to infertility.

The “conversation” – a term I use VERY loosely as it was more just overly assertive, opinionated people trying to get everyone else to believe exactly the way that they do rather than hear what anyone else has to say – escalated very quickly and left me feeling ashamed, embarrassed, scared, naïve and unprepared, to say the very least.

But as I remove myself from the “support group” – HA – that I got the criticism from, I realize that my opinion is just that.  MINE.

Every parent is frightened before they have their first child.  Ever parent wonders if they’ve screwed up monumentally along the way.  But every parent loves their child in an unconditional way that can’t be judged, deemed unworthy, viewed incorrectly or questioned by anyone else.

I say again:  Biology is the LEAST of what makes someone a parent!

I am beyond excited to meet the child that we will give a forever home to and love with every single nook and cranny of our hearts.  My heart pines and my arms ache for our child to come home.

To be woken repeatedly through the night to take care of someone who needs me.  To hear the pitter-patter of little feet.  To see daddy holding on to the bicycle seat while running alongside.  To wipe away tears after a broken heart.  To celebrate Mother’s and Father’s Day from the inside.

And to the parents who love their child enough to make the painful, selfless decision to entrust them to us to love them enough for all of us, my heart will be eternally grateful.

We all have learning to do, growth to be made, challenges to be met, disappointments to face, joy to share…  And in this month of awareness, I know that I am learning and growing.  I’m facing challenges and disappointment.  But the joy that I will be able to share will be so worth it.

Home Study:  $1,500
Background Checks:  $250
Legal Fees:  Cost undetermined
Having a child to call our own:  Priceless

Possibilities and Prayers

The last blog I wrote was before we had our first meeting with an adoption agent…  And then I left you all hanging.  I’m SORRY!!

I was VERY emotional for about a week afterwards.  It’s a whole new set of emotions that accompany this journey…

There is SO much involved in the process of adoption.  Paperwork, background checks, home study.

But it will all be so worth it in the end.

born not of our flesh

Adoption is one of those things a lot of people talk about, but I don’t think everyone actually understands.

Some people adopt because they can never have children.  Some people adopt because they feel like God is putting it on their hearts to do so.

And then there’s the birth mother.

What a painful, heartbreaking, emotional decision.

Yet one that is so completely selfless that it just astounds me.

It takes a strong woman to realize that they may not be capable of giving their child the life that they deserve and then trusting – often total strangers – to raise that child.

For us to be chosen by one of those women would be simply amazing.

Our faith is completely in God through all of this.

He knows the ending.  And He knows everything in between.

Awhile ago I wrote about how God Never Wastes a Hurt and it still holds so true.

There are some VERY exciting possibilities happening in the next few months and we are fully aware that this process can be frustrating and often heartbreaking.  But just like every thing else that we’ve done on this journey, we are trusting it to God.

We are praying for our child, wherever they are and whatever stage in life they may be.  We are praying for their biological parents that will entrust them to our care – for comfort and peace.  We will be forever thankful to them whenever they choose us.

thank-you

And we will take any and all prayers and good thoughts that you want to send our way!!

God Knows

Last week, I wrote a blog about how J & I feel like God is leading us down the path of adoption. The amount of support, encouragement and love I got from that post was overwhelming! As tough of a decision as it was, we feel peaceful about it.  Which is a sure sign that we are doing what God wants us to do… Lately, I’ve felt the need to clarify that through this entire journey, J & I have trusted God to work things out to His will.  We know that God’s ways are not our ways and that sometimes, He doesn’t answer our prayers the way that we ask Him to, but that doesn’t mean our prayers have gone unanswered. God's Plans A couple of years ago we went to a church when we lived in Louisville that we always felt so comfortable at.  We’ve been searching for a church home for a while and now that we are back in Louisville, decided to go back. The preacher that was there before is no longer there, but we still very much enjoyed it.  A very friendly man came and introduced himself to us.  He’d only been with the church for about 3 weeks but was a new ministry partner and was trying to meet as many new people as possible. The gentleman that usually does the music ministry for the church was the guest preacher on Sunday.  He spoke of avoiding distractions and using interruptions as opportunities to grow closer to God. And then…  he began to speak about how him and his wife are in the process of adopting a child.  They have grown children of their own, but they feel that God is leading them to be a miracle to a child that needs it. **Cue the waterworks** I feel that God knew we needed to be there and hear what this man had to say as a way of encouraging us. I filled out a “Visitor Card” and dropped it in the offering plate, and received the pleasant surprise of an email today from the man who introduced himself to us on Sunday.  He spoke of finding time to get together to speak of connection opportunities, learning more about the church and possibly finding a church home.  He even mentioned coming and having dinner with his family!  It was really nice to have someone reach out to us so warmly and quickly! On the adoption front…  I was disappointed to learn that the agency we’d chosen to pursue adoption with wasn’t accepting adoptive families at the time. It was hard to not be discouraged and feel completely deflated.  But I’m no quitter! I asked the woman at that agency if she had any suggestions of other agencies in the area and she gave me about 6 or 7 names.  I went online and perused through a few of them and one kind of stood out. I sent an email and received a VERY prompt reply!  I was able to talk to a woman from the agency today and we have a consultation on Thursday night!!! She works in a city that is about an hour away and is even driving here to Louisville to meet us and talk with us!  I was very impressed with her as she was so patient and personable with me as I was asking questions.  She made me feel very comfortable and I am VERY excited to meet with her and learn more! I asked her if she was ok with J’s mom joining us, because I know that we all have questions and I want to make sure that our bases are covered…  She seemed so truly excited that I had asked her that.  She said that she LOVES when whole families are involved in this process and feels like it’s so important. Today, I feel more at peace about all of this than I think I really have since we made the decision. I’m not going to get too excited, just because …  well, because I’m probably more of a realist than I should be and always feel the need to keep the “what-if’s” in mind so that my heart is protected. But at the same time, my heart is absolutely flip-flopping with joy, excitement and anticipation!! We are truly on our way to building our family!!! And it is so comforting to know that, above all else, GOD KNOWS. Blessed-By-Adoption

That Magical Day

From the time some little girls realize that boys don’t actually have cooties, they start dreaming of their wedding day.

It’s a magical day where they get to be the princess and everyone waits hand and foot on them.  Beautiful dress.  Gorgeous shoes.  Amazing Flowers.  And of course, Prince Charming.

They get to pick their favorite colors and flowers and people to create a fantasy moment.  I know, for some, simple is perfect.  And for others, extravagant isn’t enough.

But for me – I was somewhere right in between.

I still remember as a young girl (in fact, I’m certain I have pictures SOMEWHERE but I’ll probably never see them again) being decked out in a wedding gown that was far too big for me and having a mock wedding, with a little boy whose mother was my mother’s best friend.  I’m certain I was just as bossy possessed just as many leadership skills then as I do now.

Somewhere along the way, that dream day became just that – a dream.  I started focusing more on a career and less on finding Mr. Right.  Boy, am I glad that God had other plans for me.

J&D kissing

Our wedding wasn’t quite as big as I thought it was going to be.  If I’m being honest, there’s a few things I’d change about it.  But there is ONE THING I am absolutely, positively sure of.  And that’s my husband.

It hasn’t always felt that way.  We have our moments where I’d really just rather he leave me alone – forever.  He knows EXACTLY what buttons to push and I’d love nothing less than to physically harm him in some way.  (Relax.  I never would.  I don’t think.)  And I’m sure he’s thought the EXACT same about me!

The one thing about my dream day that had always remained the same was that I knew how I wanted it to look.  I had ALWAYS wanted everything to be black and white – with only red roses.  And I wanted an evening wedding with twinkle lights and candles.  It really did turn out BEAUTIFUL!

Wedding Program Wedding Eiffel Tower Wedding Tables Wedding Cake Wedding Rings

 

 

 

 

 

We picked out ALL of our own music.  J even remixed a song for our walk down the aisle as a married couple.  It started as the Wedding March, and then faded into ….. Ready for this?  “Another One Bites The Dust”.  Yup.  We were that couple.  I loved hearing the shocked gasps turn into laughter as people realized that it wasn’t just the music messing up, but rather us expressing our personalities the best way we knew how.

One of my very good friends from high school was the photographer.  We have some AMAZING pictures from the wedding.

You May Kiss The Bride

I had so many people tell me “Make SURE you video record the ceremony!!  Everything will go so fast that you won’t remember it and you will want to see it someday!!”  So, I checked many different places out.  In the end, I was convinced to let some very long-time family friends record it for us.  We’ve known them forever, what could go wrong?

Imagine my disappointment as we fast-forward (see what I did there?) two and a half years later and not only am I still without a wedding video but FINALLY received a response to my multiple requests stating that they don’t even own the camera anymore and that the video was on the internal memory and never saved to a disc……….  That’s earth-shattering stuff to me.  I’ve been sick to my stomach all day.

You know how when someone loses one of their senses, all of their other senses are heightened?  I kind of feel like that’s what infertility has been for me.

It’s a loss.  A devastating, emotional, heartbreaking, everyday loss.  That reminds me that life is precious.

While longing for what I don’t have and mourning it, it reminds me to look at what I DO have and be grateful for it.

While our friends and families attended the wedding (of which I have no recording),  we are attending the marriage.

He still dances with me in the kitchen while I’m cooking dinner.

He still looks at me sometimes like I’m the prettiest girl he’s ever seen.

He still tells me he loves me at the most random moments of the day.

He still makes me laugh at some of the most inappropriate moments.

So while we may have empty arms, we have full hearts.  And it all started on that magical day.

J&D hugging

Good Friday. Great Sunday.

Today is Good Friday.

The day that made Easter Sunday possible.

Without the pain and heartbreak, we wouldn’t have hope and expectation and excitement.

Christ knew what He was headed towards.  He knew that He would suffer unbearable pain and a brutal death.  He even pled for it not to happen.

But He knew.  He knew it was His Father’s Will.  He knew our eternal lives depended on it.  So He bore it.

He took the whips.  He took the crowns.  He took the nails.  He thirst.  He breathed his last painful breath, and then turned his Spirit over and died.

three crosses

His mother wept.  The soldiers mocked.  The criminals argued.  The earth shook.

And then they wrapped Him in clothes and placed Him in a guarded tomb.

For days, His followers and family mourned and grieved.  And then…

The tomb was empty.  He’d risen just like He said He would.

empty tomb

What a beautiful display of love.  That He thought of me as He hung on that cross and bore a pain that is unimaginable.

Unspeakable love.  Unthinkable mercy.  Unfathomable grace.

GRACEGod’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.

We can’t earn it, it’s already ours.  Paid for by the sacrifice of a Son for the world.  Paid for by the blood of Someone that loved us so much that He suffered torture and death.

And then He rose again on that beautiful Sunday.

It’s the hope of Sunday that gives us strength to carry on.  To fight battles that we feel we are losing.  To trust our Father who loves us to bless us as He sees fit.  To give us a peace that passes understanding and a joy that comes in the morning.

It was Good Friday that gave us a Great Sunday.

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A Million Doors

A couple of weeks ago, a friend of mine wrote a blog that was simply amazing.  I know I’ve said it so many times, but I’m constantly surprised at how identifiable and interchangeable every single emotion that women battling infertility feel are.  I read/hear/watch stories and I think “That’s ME!”

Another thing that we all have in common is that person (or those people) that says things with the best of intentions, but end up hurting us anyway.

hurting woman

“That wasn’t my intention”.  “I say it with the best of intentions”.  We’ve ALL heard it before – and not just those dealing with infertility.  But that’s the thing about intentions – even when you have the most sincere heart, when there’s an open wound it’s going to hurt.  It may not make the statement any less true, but it certainly doesn’t make it any less painful.

There’s a certain stigma when it comes to infertility that is hard to get past.  “Why don’t you just adopt?”  “If you just relax, you’ll get pregnant.”  “It’ll happen when you’re not thinking about it.”  Usually followed by – “My best friend’s aunt’s cousin’s neighbor’s daughter dealt with infertility and as soon as she gave up, she got pregnant!!”

While I’m so happy for the couples that beat infertility, I can GUARANTEE you that no amount of relaxing is what caused them to get pregnant.

A woman can be as relaxed as can be, but every time her and her husband share an intimate moment, it’s followed by the thought “Was that it?!”

And often, those that struggle with infertility for many years have a LOT of medical issues to overcome, and just like relaxing won’t make cancer go away, it won’t treat infertility.  But I’ll blog more about that next week for National Infertility Awareness Week!!  (I know, two blogs in as many weeks!!)

People think that, when they hear stories of infertility that they have to say something. It’s human nature to want to fix something when it doesn’t work the way it should and I certainly don’t fault anyone for it.

hammer-and-nails

But sometimes…  I just want to vent or rant or cry or scream – and I just want someone to listen.  To remind me that it’s okay to not be okay.  That it’s okay to be frustrated.  That it’s okay to cry when I read a story about a woman who killed all of her babies.  That it’s ok to feel a twinge of jealousy when I see that telling bump.  That it’s ok to feel like life just isn’t fair sometimes.  But to know that just because I’m feeling that way, doesn’t mean I’m going to live there.

This journey can feel so lonely.  So, what can you do – as a friend, sister, mother, aunt – for someone who you know that is dealing with something that you just aren’t sure how to handle?

BE THERE.

A text, card, Facebook message that simply says “I’m thinking of you and praying for you.”  If you want to be particularly brilliant, try saying  What can I do?  How can I help?  Do you want to talk?  (And that doesn’t just apply to infertility!)

There are some days that there is nothing to be done.  And other days you may get the answer “I don’t want to talk about it.”  Please don’t take it personally.  It’s not that we don’t want to talk to YOU, it may just be that we are balancing precariously on that ledge and talking about anything may send us spiraling into the dark hole that we just clawed our way out of.  When we are ready, we will remember that you asked and we WILL come find you!

It has meant so much to me when someone I haven’t heard from in a very long time – or even someone I talk to daily – reaches out to just say “I see you struggling, and I’m praying for you.”  Nothing grandiose there, but so very meaningful.

A while ago, I found myself saying  “I’ll pray for you”  when I saw a status update or got a text from a friend requesting it.  But then after some time passed, I’d see their name again and think  “Crap.  You blew it on that one, D.”  After reading a devotion from Proverbs 31 Ministries, I was convicted about saying those words and not following through.  So I promised myself – if I was going to say those words, I was going to stop right then and there and say a prayer for that person, so that I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to bless them!

Every day we are given the opportunity to brighten someone’s day.  A smile.  A note.  A kind gesture.  Jason Gray says in his song, With Every Act Of Love, “God put a million, millions doors in the world for His love to walk through.  One of those doors is you.  With every act of love, we bring the Kingdom come.”

Will you commit with me to speak no more empty phrases?  To say what you mean, and mean what you say?  Will you open one of those million, million doors and let His love walk through?

doors