Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Adjusting

With Mak making three now,  our last few weekends have been spent getting her acclimated to our parents (Granny & Grandpaw and Nana & Pop), her aunt Jess, our home, our church, and our overall way of life. In addition. we’ve been working on her room, which she chose to paint bubblegum pink. Like a girl after her Mama’s heart.

We’ve worked hard on the weekends to move her from our guest bedroom (still girly from leftover dorm days) to her new room, complete with canopy, pink walls, green glitter furniture, and butterflies on the walls. We are learning her little nuances, quirks, and experiences. She likes olives but hates melted cheese, specially shredded cheese. She loves to dig up worms in the dirt. She’s fearless on a horse, At first, she didn’t like to be held when she got hurt. Case in point, she was riding her bike (which Santa will be replacing… her bike is a worn-out looking trike for a kid much younger than she is now) and she fell off, skinning her knee and elbow. As Jake scooped her into his arms to console her, she screamed, put me down. Once he explained that she wasn’t in trouble, she let sought our comfort. Things like this… figuring her out. It’s like a mystery. I guess I should have prefaced all this with a little info on her background. Mak’s biological mom loves her, and I’m sure always will, but has made some bad decisions and got involved in some sorred behaviors that imped her ability to be the mother that Mak needs. Her father has only seen her a handful of times and has made similar choices as her mother. Since she was an infant, she has been under the guardianship of her great-grandparents, mainly her great-grandfather. And I want it to be clear how much we admire and appreciate her grandfather. He has done is best with limited abilities. Despite his own setbacks, he has kept her busy and socialized in community programs, churches, and other activities. His health is what prevents him from caring for her. He isn’t able to provide the structure and stability, procedures and discipline she needs. He loves her dearly and understood that to remain in her life and keep her from becoming another child in the system, he needed to  seek a family for her, and we fully plan on letting him be what he was intended to be… a grandparent. As a result of her parents’ inconsistency in her life and her grandfather’s inabilities to parent, her adjustment to rules has been a struggle. She has learned to “be nice” in the company of strangers, but now that the novelty of “us” has worn off, she’s testing limits. A time out brings tears and crying for her grandfather, and it’s hard for us to distinguish what is I’m-struggling-to-deal-with-all-this crying and what is I-don’t-like-being-in-time out-and-want-attention crying. Balancing effective discipline while still nurturing her emotionally is just mentally exhausting.

I’ve recently read Kelly & John Rosetti’s book Wait No More (from Focus on the Family) and Kelly’s words have reverberated in my head. Loving our daughter will not change, no matter how difficult the whole scenario is. It’s opened my eyes to how deep our mission is, and as I see parallels in our lives with theirs, I find myself pulled (like Kelly) in the path of advocacy. One thing is sure, the rest of my life will be spent advocating for her.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Letting go of control.

I am a control freak.
Like, I’m one of those agenda-making, list-creating, color-coding, life-planning freakazoids. If I didn’t work, I’d be one of those crazy coupon ladies with floral printed organizers labeled by store and date.

I have always lived my life by my plans. Graduate with a full ride? Check. Fall in love with a manly man of God? Check. Move off to college? Check. Make awesome friends? Check. Have a fairytale wedding? Check. Live a few years in wedded bliss, purchase a home, travel, and get settled in teaching careers? Check, check, and more checks. Start a family? Hm. Here’s were my plans and God’s did not align so perfectly.

I always knew we’d adopt. It’s been a burden on my heart for as long as I could remember. But in my mind, it would have been something like this: married a few years, have a baby or two, then once potty training and other toddler obstacles/milestones were cleared, make way to adopt an infant, probably from another county.  Nice and clean and organized plan, right? Ha.
Then came infertility and miscarriage and learning to trust like I’ve never done before. Somewhere in that, I realized I had to let control of my plans in becoming a parent. Never once, not one little iota, did I question that it was God’s will for us to become parents. But trusting Him in the how and when was hard, because the type of surrender it took/takes is tumultuous and precarious. It means completely taking yourself out of the equation. How, you ask? A mental conversation with God moment-by-moment, second-by-second. It’s growing so near to Him that you don’t know when your conversation with Him ends. It’s just like your life IS Him. Prayer isn’t mumbled daily in your head, it’s chanted in your very being. And the second you start seeking this closeness, Satan is going to want to jump right on your back. Set backs, trials, all have to be viewed as little blemishes in the big, beautiful picture. And you have to keep remembering that He will take care of it.

In the last few weeks, life has changed so much. Back in the early fall, my heart’s desire was peace. Closeness. A feeling of “I got this.” So sought to trust Him. It was then that Jake and I decided God might be leading us into adoption from the foster care system rather than internationally. It was then when Jake shared that information with a friend, and it was then that we learned about sweet, seven year old Mak, who’s loving grandfather, her guardian since infancy, would loose her to the system if he did not find someone else to raise her. DSS was all set to take her. With incarcerated parents with a host of other struggles, he was her only “parent” and now his failing health made caring for her impossible, and her only future lay waiting in the U.S. Foster Care program. Heart-breaking. And I’ll never forget her story being shared with us. “Are you interested?” we were asked. My heart thumped. Pounded, really. I know it was like it was jumping into my throat. A seven year old? US? Okay, God, really? Yet the more we prayed, discussed, made pros and cons lists, and rationalized, the stronger the YES! came from our hearts. And within a week of that conversation, we had met this sweetheart, her grandfather, and the family from church she was currently staying with. We spent Halloween together. She came to Wednesday night supper with us. She began seeing us  regularly, and latched on almost instantly. Then her questions came. The Christian family she stayed with was so loving and understanding and when she flat-out asked, they answered her with loving honesty. Her grandfather, after meeting us and talking several times, felt connected to us. He said he knew it was us who needed to be her parents. And with that, they told her that we were going to be a her new family. Yes, we would adopt her. The whole time, I am almost screaming in my head, asking God if He was plum crazy. How could I become a mom overnight? And then I did. The next night, she knew she’d be coming to live with us, with her moving over the coming weekend. We took her to church with us and as we sat on the pew together, she tugged on my sleeve. “Can I call you Mommy from now on?” And, of course, I said she could call me Mommy or Briana, either one. I wanted her to know that I wasn’t rushing it- I knew she still had a person in her life she had called Mommy. But since then, I’ve been Mommy, Jake has been Daddy, and her biological mother has been called her first name. Thanksgiving will be two weeks since she moved in, and two weeks and one day since I became a mother. I realize that mothering is a self-less compulsory choice (compulsory choice sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s not… mothers will know what I mean. You can’t not love your child. It’s what you were created to do. Yet, it is a choice because we see moms regularly leaving their child in the hands of strangers, or in no hands at all) to love a child, teacher her right from wrong, encourage, provide, and support. A mother is a safe place for her child, a source of renewal and peace, and a light or beacon that points her children towards Christ. And somewhere in the last two weeks, God’s been morphing me into that person. I know I seem like I’m not myself to many. I have had so many people, especially those who are “in tune” to my inward moods, ask if I was okay. I am so mentally and emotionally and physically exhausted, it doesn’t seem like it even to me. But if I were to cut myself and bleed, I think my blood would glow like some mutation in a comic strip… His love and energy is cursing through my veins. I feel like the Energizer bunny and HE is my battery. Without Him, I’m nothing. No forward steps, no beats on the drum.

The emotional side is taxing enough, but physically, it’s been “like whoa.” Bed time routines, meal time procedures, school work, parent-teacher info, car seats, time outs, and getting her bathed and dressed each day. Getting her room ready. I keep telling everyone I really have no clue what I’m doing, ‘cause I honestly don’t. And then some lovely soul reminds me that even infants don’t come with instruction manuals and I laugh and feel better about our blunders like forgetting she had gum in her mouth when she went to bed, or the fact that she has already skinned her knee. Oh, and let’s not forget the legalities are still in the process. We are working with our lawyers for full custody, and then for full adoption. And what a daunting process that is.

So… here I am. In the midst of learning how to be a mom. Teaching middle school full time. Focusing on Christ by the second. Becoming a family. Welcome to our this new awesome adventure. :)
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Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Never tell God “don’t”

It seems when I tell God I can’t do something or that I won’t do something, He laughs… and it’s as if He says you can and you will, and then He guides me right into it.
I’ve had some pretty dark days in the last few months, but some really bright ones, too. I’ve had to swallow that lump of jealousy, sorrow, frustration, and doubt each time I’ve heard close friends and even close family announce their pregnancies. I thought that the anger and jealousy I heard described would miss me, that my prayers and faith would be strong enough to make me immune to it, but it hit me nonetheless. So, I started to just taking it day by day. And so, I was just blank for a while. Sad. Empty. Not really bitter, but sore (and I guess I still am) in my heart. And then, the news of other’s being pregnant just sat like a load of bricks on my chest- I want(ed) to be happy for them, but such a raw, human (read: sinful) part of me is bitter and angry and jealous. God and I were taking things on a daily basis. I prayed for peace, and felt nothing but sadness. I have come to realize the beauty in the fact that I was able to recognize these feelings and know that they were toxic. So daily, I’ve sought Him, even when I was angry at Him. And I can tell healing is happening. It’s slow and painful, but progress is happening.
Before we were pregnant, Jake and I were preapproved for adoption through a Christian adoption agency. In fact, we got the pre-approval the day of my positive home test. During the overwhelming weeks of learning we were expecting to finding out we were going to miscarry, and then the miscarriage itself, we kind of hit the pause button.  The agency wanted us to pick a program, basically a country or region in which to adopt from, before proceeding to the next stage of paperwork, since different countries sometimes have different requirements. We prayed for direction; most couples we’d talked to or who’s experience we had read about noted a specific burden or calling towards a country or people of group- and we just kept hearing crickets. As we waited for guidance, something to pull us in a direction, we had the miscarriage, so life just kind of stopped. Then, Jake and I both had a few tough days at school, witnessing cases of abuse in our classrooms and seeing little/nothing done. It was if we simultaneously got this wave of peace and direction over us. We started talking about pursuing domestic adoption rather than international. And that silence we felt from God was gone. So we signed up for classes to be come Foster parents in hopes to adopt a local waiting child who would be placed in our care through the foster system. We told just a few since the classes are until after the new year. Long story short, we told a friend about God’s urging us towards domestic adoption rather than international (he has a son through international adoption and has been a great confidant and friend, especially in this area of our lives), and within that week, he happened to had a friend who was caring for a little girl who’s guardian wanted to terminate rights so she could be adopted. The grandparent, who’s age and health had prevented him from caring for her any longer, knew DSS was going to take her and put her into the system, and wanted to find a family for her- something permanent- a family she would have for the rest of her life, something she could not have staying with him. Our friend’s friend was this grandparent’s pastor, and he asked him and his wife to help him search for a family. In short, our names were mentioned, and now we have met her twice, and we are smitten. Everything is pointing at us as her future home, so right now, we are prayerfully (very, very, very prayerfully) seeking guidance to see if we are 1. able to take this child and 2. called to a take this child. I guess number 2 would take care of number one, but still, it’s a heart wrenching, soul-searching question for which we are searching for answers.
I guess the best way to sum up my life right now is by these bare facts:
- School is tough to say the least. My kids aren’t as mean this year, but much, much more obstinate. On top of it, a co-worker’s sudden passing has broken our hearts. This is the third person who has died suddenly at our school in the last three years. It’s tragic. She was only 49.
- We are still trying to get pregnant. I went to the OBGYN on Friday and he said we’d try Letrazole (what got us preggo with Baby Zion- the name means Heaven, btw- since it obviously worked) starting again in December. We’d try it for three months, and if still nothing, we’d add a “booster” drug to add to its effectiveness, and if still no BFP, we’d try an IUI next summer. He seems confidant and I trust his expertise. I’m not stressing over the whole infertility mess. It won’t help, plus I have a lot of other things going on to distract me.
- We still want to move, but that will just have to wait until the right home comes available and the timing is right, so maybe in a few years. We have three bedrooms, so we are okay for now… just going to have to patient in that department.
- On top of it all, we might be adopting (and soon) a sweet seven year old. Yes, I may be a mom before I know it.
-Yes, you read that right. We are going to keep trying to get pregnant in the middle of adopting a child. Adoption for us has *Never* be a back~up plan for children- but something we would do additionally to having children the “natural” way… And this sweetheart would be an amazing big sister.
Yes, I know how crazy this all sounds. Her adoption (if we do end up doing this) would be open, which is something I never, ever would have dreamed I’ could do, much less adopt a child her age. It’s all so scary and overwhelming.  Sometimes I want to rewind back to summer time and just relish in the simplicity I didn’t realize I had. But that whisper I’ve heard in my soul for so long saying “Briana, I’ve got big plans for you” leads me to this… Sometimes He calls us to be radical. And no matter how crazy it seems to my rational, human mind, I’m going to listen to him… And right now, we are listening for wisdom, guidance, and direction. We are taking it one day at a time, getting to know this little girl and trying to adjust into the role of parents, hoping and praying for clarity that we are doing the right thing. Pray for us. Regardless of the outcome, I have a feeling my life is about to get even more crazy, and even more beautiful!