Depth of experience

Photo via flickr cc James Fischer Photography

There's something about a poem, isn't there, that calls out of the author (and hopefully the reader, in turn), a new depth of experience.  There's something about a poem that makes us feel a greater joy, a darker sadness, a more intense sense of meaning.  Of poignancy. 

I first encountered this strange ability of words in a particular form when I was fifteen.  The poetry set before me in high school English class had a way of catching my breath.  Do not go gentle.  The road not taken.  No man is an island. They expressed reality as it was, I thought.  My only response: "yes."

I wrote a lot.  I searched out places in me previously undiscovered.  I felt, deeply.  

College left less space for free writing.  Still, I wrote a bit.  I discovered Billy Collins and could not get enough. 

Then came my mom's illness, the fear, anxiety, worry, determination.  Then my marriage began with immigration, waiting, paperwork, anxiety, weekend visits with John.  Then seminary.  Then jobs.  Then moving.  No writing. 

I've discovered that to write a poem requires both a willingness and an ability.  A willingness to delve into the depths of your experience.  And an ability to handle the emotions that come with it.  

When my mom was sick I did not have the ability.  When John and I were married but living apart I did not have the willingness.  I was in survival mode and then only a few inches above survival mode.  

Today, God has brought me to a place of ability.  Actually, I've been here for a few months, resisting the willingness.   Write a poem, he calls.  Stubborn?  Lazy?  I'm not sure- but I resist.  And then- well, if you have a friend to whom you'd give the title, "spirit-filled," picture that person now.  I have a friend like that too.  She's the kind of woman who raises her hand in the middle of a Theology class discussion about interpreting God's will and exclaims, "If the Holy Spirit LIVES IN YOU, of COURSE he'll speak to you!" 

From this, spirit-filled friend, I- yesterday- find a short note in my inbox: 

"Jill, I was thinking of you today
and I was hoping that you were writing poetry in this season 
and that you would at least self publish it in an electronic format.
Just so you know.."

With that preface, a new commitment to poetry and to depth of experience, and to ability, and to willingness: 

A word on the backwards and beautiful journey to adopt my son

It is I who dwell in the womb this time
rather than he 

Formed, already, in the depths
he has passed into light

So instead, I go there 
to be formed, molded, and shaped 
into the thing I am becoming: 

I hear the pulsing 
of time
I know I am moving forward
closer to the day of my birth

 I feel pressure
The world constricts around me 
my own heart slows
I fear that I can hardly breathe

the pressure ceases
I dwell in hope 
and comfort for a while

The rhythm cotinues, 

I am angry
I am hopeful
I am worried
I am relieved

I pray for delivery
from this vague and murky waiting place
I pray for delivery into clarity, into light 
into his arms
into his heart
to see his face

This is a backwards, beautiful journey:

My son,
is birthing


A treasure to carry

On Saturday we received our 1-600A approval!  A little more than a month after completing our fingerprints.  Way to go USCIS!  I'm very impressed.  This is the preliminary application for our little man's immigration visa (from the USA).  This is a major step forward in our adoption process!  So happy. 

Now from Canada (my country) we're waiting on my passport renewal, which should be completed in the next two weeks. 

And then of course the rest is in Russia's hands.  Still praying for that June registration!  


The Lord continues to bless me with encouragement when he knows I need it the most.  A few months ago I went searching online to see if I could find our little man's orphanage.  I want to know where it is, to look it up on google maps, to see pictures, to imagine him there.   But between having little idea about where to start and having to translate all those sites from Russian to English on google translate, I didn't get very far.  I looked through hundreds of orphanage pictures, hoping I recognize something in the background from the photos we have of out little guy... hoping I'd maybe even have some sort of motherly sense to just know which "baby house," as they say in Russia, was his.  But I did not. 

Until today.

 Through the miracle of the internet and what I'd say is God's gracious guiding, I found it.  A woman I connected with on a private adoption-related forum (hi M!) found my etsy shop.  She bought a t-shirt and sent me a link to the website of her son's orphanage, asking if perhaps our son was there too.  I clicked on to the site and saw that it was one I had visited before.  I wasn't sure it would lead to anything, but still- I cut and paste every piece of wording into google translate and kept clicking around, hoping and hoping until...

Until I suddenly saw his sweet face and soft smile looking back at me.  I inhaled sharply and tears prickled at my eyes.  It was one of the pictures we already have of him, but just to know.... to know where he is... to see the faces of his peers, his playmates, his friends... this is a gift I treasure deeply tonight.  

There is only one picture of his orphanage on the website and I've memorized it already.  The white walls, the gray floor, the pine table and chairs, the colorful toys, the old fashioned play-pen like my parents would have played in.  The room it sterile, but bright- filled with sunlight from large windows- and clean.  It gives my mother's heart some peace.  A treasure, that picture.  A gift for my soul. 

On the site, the children in the baby house are "listed" with a picture and short description.  The words used to describe our sweet son echo the descriptions his nannies have given us through our agency: quiet, gentle, tender, sweet.  Our precious, precious, baby boy.  Oh God how I long to cup his face in my hands, to stroke his head and push back his hair, to whisper, "My love.  My baby.  My son."  Do that for him today, I pray.  Warm his heart until it glows with my love, from miles and miles away.  

Today, for this gift, I am thankful.  For a peek into his world.  For a gaze into the eyes of the children with whom he spends every day.  For a connection with another mama whose son waits with mine.  

Until I carry him in my arms, I treasure these gifts in my heart.  I carry him in my heart, today.  


Yesterday - mother's day while waiting to adopt

Yesterday I experienced my first Mother's day, expecting.

That is, my first Mother's Day as an expectant mama.

It was so much better than I expected:

I wake up to breakfast in bed with french toast, eggs, and bacon cooked until it's a little burned- just the way I like it- all set on on a tray and placed on my lap by my amazing husband who makes me believe that I'm already a mom even though my belly's not big and I can't feel our son's kicks from the inside.  He hands me a gift wrapped in newspaper because he swore we had a role of wrapping paper at home (but we didn't).  There's a pink card on the top labeled "mama bear" because he knows I'd already fight to the end for out little one.


The card says that he sometimes wonders how we make it until he realizes that I'm the one holding our family together.  I wonder if he knows I think the same thing about him. 

Inside the box is the pair of TOMS shoes I've had my eye on for a while.  They say "TOMS loves Moms" on them in white, but the "love" is a heart instead of a word.  I love them.  I wonder if the kid whose getting the other pair of the "one to one" has a mom.  If she doesn't, I hope her new shoes give her a little bit of mothering care.

I open up youtube and search for song about God's mercy by Tim Be Told and instead I stumbled upon another song by the same band, but this one's a lament.  God knows what I need this morning, I think.  I cry listening to it.  I sing along the second time. "The wicked and wayward continue to thrive / the martyrs continue giving their lives..." I think about how I just wrote something like that in a recent blog post.  I don't believe in coincidences. Then I put the song on repeat while I get ready.

I marvel at the grace of our God who in his infinite wisdom opens himself up to have small, nearsighted humans shake their fists at his plan and be angry with him.  I find myself experiencing joy in the midst of my lament.  I am thankful for his loving kindness. 

When I'm ready, I sit on our front steps and John takes a picture of me in my new mom shoes to show our son someday.  I hope this is the last mother's day without him.


I get a text from Emily- who you might remember as Gus' mom from this post.  She wishes me a happy Mother's Day and tells me that I'm already a mom and asks me to enjoy the day.  I think I already am.

At church a lot of women look at me with kind eyes and wish me a happy Mother's Day.   John isn't preaching so he sits beside me with his arm around me for the whole service.  The pastor prayers the perfect Mother's Day prayer and remembers to pray for those who want so badly to be mothers but haven't been given that gift quite yet.  After the service my friend Julie's five-year-old daughter Kya runs through the hallway from her Sunday School class right into my arms.  She gives me the Mother's Day hug only a kid can give.  She holds onto my hand until we have to leave.

I check our church mailbox before we head out and find a note; it says there's a gift for me in the conference room.  John grabs it. I open it in the car.  It's a ceramic sparrow with a note around it's neck, "His eye is on the sparrow... and he watches over you (and your little one)!"  On the back our friend Sara says she's praying for me today.  I think I will keep this sparrow forever.  

John and I drive out to his parents' place for the afternoon.  They just got back from a winter in Arizona so we bring lunch with us.  Ciabatta bread, capicola ham, black bean soup, olives, pasta salad, and some amazing flourless cake found on pinterest which I made dairy free for my enjoyment.  (Thank you Sherwyn for your inspiration!)

Recommended in small doses so as to avoid sugar coma.   Yum.

My mother-in-law tells me she has a feeling that our first trip to Russia is right around the corner.  She's one of those pray-ers who seems to have a special connection to God so I'm feeling hopeful that she's right.  

We drive straight from my in-laws to our dear friends Kristin and Dominic's place, where we spend every Sunday night.  Dominic's been working all afternoon in the kitchen making vegan crack cheese dip and chocolate cake.  I start to cry when he tells me it's because they want to make my first Mother's Day special.  I fan myself with my hand and say, "Pull it together Jill!"  Kristin tells me I can pull it together or fall apart- whatever I prefer.  You can see why these are the kind of people we'd want to spend every Sunday night with.

We drink wine and beer and eat the cheese dip.  They live 3/4 of a mile from Lake Michigan so we go to watch the sun set.  Kristin lends me her coat.  I secretly want to keep it.

Their dog Bruce poops on the beach but we forgot a bag.  He's never done that before. Whoops.  Dominic tries to hold Bruce back from the water so he won't get wet and sandy.  Kristin says relax it's way too cold for him to swim.  It's not; Bruce goes swimming and gets all wet and sandy.   John and I laugh through this whole ordeal.



The sunset is beautiful. 

Once the sun's down it's too cold to stand on the beach so we go back.  More beer.  More wine.  Chocolate cake.  Love and laughter.  Little bit of wet dog smell in the background.

When we leave they wish me a happy Mother's Day one more time.  I'm in bed at 11:50pm and I thank God for the day.  I think I am blessed.  And I think that our little guy is probably up for the day in Russia.  I hope he is blessed today, too.


As mentioned in a previous post, I'm participating in a fundraiser for the Sparrow Fund via my etsy shop.  Check out this blog post over at My Overthinking to see my shop being featured (and lots of other cute birdy things!). 


Waiting mama's prayer

No news or progress heard from Russia yet.  I've been waking up everyday with the prayer, "It's a new day Lord, with the same prayer.  Please match us with our son before Mother's Day."  

With Russia enjoying a month filled with holidays, our agency told us not to expect any adoption progress in May.  With only 3 working days until Mother's Day, I'm feeling like the divine intervention I'm praying for is going to take the form of a change in my heart more than a change in our adoption status.  I'm hanging on to that Philippians 4 promise that the peace of God is going to guard my heart as I present my requests to him. 

I'm also dwelling on the words of a precious sister who has been down this Russian adoption road before and commented on my "How Long?" post, saying that this long and terrible wait might have more to do with our son's story than our own.  

Taking my mother's heart and laying it at the cross.  God's story before our story.  

So, in the shadow of a Sunday for mothers which will be filled with both the best and the worst emotions for me, a waiting mother's prayer: 

To God who is our mother hen, gathering us like baby chicks under soft wing, warm and dry, 

May your Spirit who sustains my heart and is the breath of my very life
nourish and sustain my little one when I cannot feed him or give him drink.

May your Spirit who calls my troubled heart to trust
be the peace and security of my little one when I cannot yet give him a family and a home.

May your Spirit who knit me together and knew me before I came to be
continue to guide my little one's health and development when I cannot teach or play with him or give him what he needs.

And may your Spirit in whom all the world is held together
call out a song for You from my little one's heart when I cannot yet tell him your Name 

Bless him. 
Keep him. 
Make your face shine upon him. 
Be gracious to him. 
Give him peace. 

For your glory forever and ever. 



Sparrow Fund

Just a quick post today to let you know that I am excited to be participating in a fundraiser for The Sparrow Fund, a fantastic organization that provides adoptive parents with grants for medical reviews.  In the world of international adoption, it can be difficult to decipher the accuracy medical information about a child.  Different countries have different criteria for making a diagnosis; some have no criteria at all.  In order to best prepare, adoptive families often have their prospective child's medical information reviewed by a skilled doctor in the US who can hopefully give a better picture of the child's health.  

For the month of May, 10% of the sales from my Etsy shop Embody Jewelry Designs will be donated to the Sparrow Fund!

To read more about the fundraiser or about the Sparrow Fund visit leadership team member Kelly's blog My Overthinking and check out The Sparrow Fund website.

And don't forget to use my Mother's Day coupon Code until May 13 to save 13%! Code: MAMADAY13. 


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