Making Plans

In his heart a man plans his course,
but the LORD determines his steps.
Proverbs 16:9

I think anyone who's lived past the teen years (and maybe some younger souls) can attest to the truth of this Proverb. I don't think I know one person whose life has gone exactly how they planned it.

Most of us live somewhere in between the place where all our dreams came true, and the spot where nothing turned our like we hoped. I know I do.

As a little girl I dreamed about getting married and having kids. I wanted to "stay at home" with my kids just like my mom did with me. In high school I decided I wanted nothing less than to marry a pastor. Maybe a missionary.... but I really preferred a pastor. I also wanted to go into some kind of ministry myself, though I went back and forth on exactly what that looked like.

I wanted to be a young mom and have lots of kids, close together in age. I wanted to live in England. Or Ireland. I wanted to do something awesome with my life.

As it has turned out so far, I haven't moved to England or Ireland. I just turned 26 so I'm teetering off the brink of young-mom-dom (which, in my head happens between the ages of 22 and 25). I did get to marry a pastor, though I certainly didn't know how hard the resulting immigration process would be (due to our citizenships, not his pastorship). I went to seminary like I dreamed. I get to nurture the lives of little kids everyday, which is the best ministry I could dream for myself right now. And this adoption process actually does make me feel like I'm doing something awesome with my life.

I've learned to hold my dreams with open hands. Making plans and dreaming about the future, but not clinging to them too tightly.

When you're in the new-and-expectant-parent-world, you hear a lot of, "I always thought I would.... but now I ....." As in, "I always thought I'd love being pregnant but now I actually feel so uncomfortable that hate it." Or, "I always thought those parents who put their kids on a leash were CRAZY. But now I think it's the only way I can keep my sanity at the grocery store!"

What I'm curious/nervous/excited to see is which of my plans, hopes, and expectations for parenting are going to be fulfilled and which ones are going to sink and die.

Here's part of my list:

- I am super dreading not being able to get a full night's sleep. I'm an 8+ hour/night-or-I'm-seriously-dragging-the-next-day kind of person. Many moms have told me "you get used to it." I'm skeptical.
- I want to make weekends special by making a big breakfast on Saturday mornings. Maybe not (well, for sure not) right away, but once we get into the swing of things. Will this happen or will I just keep eating cereal on Saturdays like I do now?
- I really do not want my kids eating junk food very often. I wonder if I will be able to enforce healthy eating habits when they go to school? Especially b/c I know I basically lived on "traded" snacks like fruit-by-the-foot and uncooked Mr.Noodles (Ramen for my American friends). Blech.
- I super hope our kids are into drama, music, dance, or art and not soccer, hockey, or football. Love the idea of a kid in the arts; not big on the idea of a kid in sports. Biologically our kids won't be destined for athletic greatness, but with this adoption... who knows where our son's interests will be. All I know is I cannot picture myself going to games and cheering for scores or points or whatever. I really wonder if that's what I'll end up doing...

That's just a smattering of all the hopes and expectations I have about parenting. I know that ultimately my hope is for my kids to know Christ as their savior. Everything else is peanuts compared to that. Though some peanuts (kindness, loyalty, good manners, etc) are admittedly bigger than others.

So parents: what were or are some of your dreams/expectations about parenthood? How have they changed? Or been fulfilled? What have you been surprised by? Delighted by? Discouraged by? I would love to hear your stories!


Sunday Supplication and... two new jewelry designs!

John and I had our third home study meeting yesterday and once again it went well! In fact, we drove through a bit of a snow storm to get there and when we arrived our caseworker exclaimed, "Alright- you're approved! Anyone who would drive through that weather is dedicated."

Yes we are and we'll take her humorous exclamation as a good sign.

Only one more meeting to go!

A few people have continued to ask me how they can best be praying for us (thank you!); here are our prayer requests:

For us: ~Give thanks to God that our homestudy has gone so well thus far! Pray that our final meeting (in two weeks) will not be delayed due to weather or illness. And pray that our caseworker will have adequate time to complete our paperwork to we can quickly move on to the next phase of our adoption.~

For our son: ~Pray for his health and well-being in Russia. Pray that he will bond with his nannies, hopefully becoming especially close to one or two. Bonding at his age is so very important for healthy development. Pray that his nannies will be able to devote time just to loving on him and cuddling him and giving him lots of affection. Pray that God will give peace to his little heart as he waits to join our family. ~

Thank you for your prayers!


I also have two new jewelry designs to share! In honor of Valentine's Day, I created two new love-based designs for our jewelry fundraiser. (I know this holiday has some fervent haters and lovers... I'm a lover. Yes, Hallmark over consumerizes it, but I still enjoy celebrating love!).

"faith, hope, love" $25

"beloved" $20

Substitute the white pearl bead on either necklace for a red bead if you desire:


And if you like these, or any, of our fundraising necklaces (Valentine's fan or not!) use the coupon code FORLOVE in my etsy shop (or when you message me on FB to order) and receive 14% off your order until February 14. Use the widget on my sidebar or click here to visit my etsy shop.

Happy Sunday everyone. :-)


Fundraising Friday: Pasta for love

Usually you eat spaghetti to fill up your belly.

Yesterday a whole lot of other people ate spaghetti to fill up my heart.

The 7th and 8th grade students from my home church threw us a spaghetti fundraiser and they raised $720!!

That's just plain awesome.

John and I were able to connect briefly with the pasta eaters via Skype (thanks Dad and Ronald for hooking that up!) and it just thrilled us to hear the excited chatter and enthusiastic cheers for our adoption. I skyped with just my dad before connecting with the whole group and overheard the voices of all those 12 and 13 year-old spaghetti servers saying things like, "Sir are you done with your plate?" and, "How was your meal?" as they hurried around, serving and cleaning away.

I saw maturity and grace and, most of all, abundant generosity on display in the lives of those students last night. J-walkers I hope you know that last night you were the church. The Spirit was heavy among you.

You know that verse in 1 Timothy that says, "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity."

You set your example last night. Mature speech. Passionate life. Loving generosity. Faithful obedience. Pure kindness.

You have blessed and inspired us to a richer faith by your example. Thank you J-walker students and leaders!


And thank you so much to the community of believers who rallied around this fundraiser. You demonstrate the power of community and the intimacy of love that stretches over the years and distance. You should be so proud of the way you raised me up and so filled with hope as you look at the students you are raising now. Thank you for giving John and I the gift of being able to raise a child ourselves. We love you deeply.

Bless my happy, thankful, filled up little heart.


Homestudy #2 and using positive adoption language

As of Saturday afternoon we are halfway through our homestudy meetings!

I've received a number of questions about what a homestudy is like, so I thought I'd describe our experience a little bit. I'm sure the process varies a bit, depending on your agency or caseworker, but they are probably fairly similar.

From what I've gathered, the purpose of the homestudy is twofold: 1) to equip the parents for the challenges of the adoption process and parenting and 2) to enable to caseworker to assess whether the person/couple is equipped (emotionally, financially, with a support system) to pursue the adoption.

Our first meeting was mostly about our caseworker getting to know us and our story. She asked a lot of question about why we wanted to adopt and what financial resources we had to pursue the adoption as well as what support systems we had in place. We have been blessed with an incredibly generous community, both financially and emotionally, and she seemed pleased to hear us talk about that.

Between the first and second meetings John and I had to complete a lot of "homework." Our agency uses a training manual which consists mostly of short articles and then 3 or 4 questions to answer. The topics in the training manual deal with issues from handling the long wait and uncertainties of adoption, to embracing your child's culture of origin as a family, to coping with attachment issues. During the second meeting we talked about what we learned from doing our homework.

There's too much content to fully share in a blog post, but if there's one thing I think is worth passing on it's what's referred to as "positive adoption language." So here are some helpful hints for how to talk about adoption with us/our future son/anyone who has adopted or was adopted:

* This is one I didn't know until last week: instead of referring to a child saying "he is adopted" say, "he was adopted." The past tense "was" rather than "is" identifies the adoption as a past event rather than an on-going event. It is true that having been adopted is always a part of a person's identity, but it does not define them nor their status in a forever family. The child was adopted into the family and is now a permanent member, just like a biological child.

* Use the term "biological child" rather than "natural child." I get this one a lot particularly from people in the baby boomer generation or older. I bet it used to be the correct term to use, but just think about it: the opposite of natural is "unnatural," a word which has synonyms like "strange," "odd," or "peculiar." Those aren't labels any child should bear.

* Along the same lines, use "biological child" rather than "one of your own." Our adopted child will absolutely be all our own.

* "Birth parents" is preferred over "real parents." Personally I think both we and his birth parents are "real parents." They (or at least his birth mom) choose life for him even though they were not able to parent. We did not bring him into the world, but he will be our son and we will love and raise him. Both are decisions that "real parents" make.

* Instead of saying the child was "abandoned" or "given up" or "put up for adoption" say, "his parents made an adoption plan" or "placed him for adoption." We don't know our future son's story, nor do we know if we ever will, but we want our son to know that he was not rejected. We will tell him that his birth mom was not able to take care or him or any baby, though she surely wished she was able. Instead she made sure he would be cared for and have a chance to grow up in a family.

Words have a lot of power, especially in the ears of a little one.

If adoption is a part of your life in some way, what are some other positive adoption phrases or language you like to encourage?

I'll end with a quote that is popular in the adoption world and quickly summarizes the beauty of positive adoption language:

"Natural Child: Any child who is not artificial.
Real Parent: Any parent who is not imaginary.
Your Own Child: Any child who is not someone else's child.
Adopted Child: A natural child, with a real parent, who is all my own." - Rita Laws


Fundraising Friday: HALFWAY there!!!

Take a little peak over at our thermometer.

Did you see it?

We've made it over the halfway point.

Um- wow. This is only our 7th Fundraising Friday. That means it only took seven weeks to go from zero dollars and zero cents to over $17,500!
God provides. We are so grateful.
To celebrate this victorious milestone, we want to say THANK YOU to everyone who's helped us reach this point. Whether you've bought a bag of coffee, ordered a necklace, donated something for our silent auction, or given a donation: you will be remembered! You are making a difference in the Kingdom. You are making a difference for us and our family.
Cheers to you:

(Name size is randomly generated. I think I got everyone but I'm sorry if I missed your name!)
Here's the breakdown of the fundraising and financial journey of our adoption so far
Donations: $13,212Out of Pocket: $3,400Coffee Fundraiser: $47Card Fundraiser: $12Jewelry Fundraiser: $895
For a TOTAL of: $17,566
That's just awesome. It's like a big sign from heaven saying, "You heard your calling correctly! You're headed in the right direction! Keep going!!" What a confirmation. What an encouragement.
We have a few things planned to get the rest of the way there.
First up our sleeve (pun intended) is a T-shirt fundraiser! My fantastic siblings are working on two designs for the shirts which you can purchase to support our adoption and to show your friends and community that you care about adoption. That you think it is unacceptable for children to grow up without families. And that you're doing something about it. Plus, my brother works in web design, my sister-in-law works in shoe fashion, and my sister is an artist, so you can be sure their designs will be, well, awesome. I can't wait to see them. Look for a post about those in February!
Also in February: we're gearing up to host an online silent auction! We've already had a few fabulous goods and services donated and are looking for some more! If you are a crafty person, a handy person, a talented person or if you have something you'd like to donate, we'd love to hear from you! Our tentative date for the start of the auction is February 15. And we'll be asking you to share the link and promote around facebook/twitter/your blog if you're willing! It makes a huge difference to have your help. We know we can't do it alone!
And sometime in the February/March-ish time frame we'll be hosting a fundraising breakfast at our church. We hope it will be a cozy Saturday morning activity on a cold winter day- a way to get the family out of the house and spend some time together or a way to get a hearty breakfast in before tackling your Saturday to-do list.
Two less exciting but still beneficial ways to reach our goal are: 1) we're living on John's income for the next 6 months we can put all my income toward the adoption. I'll do a post about frugal living sometime; I'd love to share what I've learned and get advice from you! And 2) we're still hoping to use the adoption tax credit. Unfortunately the tax credit will no longer be refundable (after 2011), but we're hoping it will still be a big help. If you're thinking about adoption here's a link to the tax credit summary (halfway down the page).
Once again- THANK YOU for all your encouragement and generosity. It feels great to be halfway to our goal and I cannot wait to celebrate at the finish line!


Guarding my heart

There's this verse that's been on my mind a lot lately. I've been sitting with it, wondering about it, and trying to figure out how it applies to my life right now. Proverbs 4:23:

Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

It's the "guard your heart" part that's been weighing on me.

When I first discovered this verse, it was in a book about dating and I was a teenage girl. The book's author interpreted the verse to mean that, in the context of dating, we shouldn't give away our hearts to just any boy- but instead, wait for one who was worthy. In other words, guarding your heart means not getting your hopes up too high about a boy too early- to avoid a broken heart.

Good advice.

And that's the thing I've been wondering about: how do you exactly guard your heart in an adoption journey?

At first I considered that maybe it meant the same thing as it did in the dating world- not getting my hopes up prematurely, being cautious until there was a degree of certainty. And then I wondered what exactly that degree of certainty would be: when the homestudy was done? When we're officially matched? When we take our first trip to Russia? When we take our final trip? When our adoption is finalized in court?

There is definitely a sense in which our excitement will grow as we get closer to bringing our child home. But at the same time, I am excited now. I want to enjoy this "expectant" phase like I would in a pregnancy.

I struggle with giving myself the freedom to get excited and then telling myself things like, "Don't get too ahead of yourself. Don't get your hopes up too high because... what if? What if something goes wrong?.... What if he doesn't come home? Guard your heart."

But then I thought: is this what "guard your heart" really means?

And, you know, I don't think it is.

I think guarding your heart has more to do with ultimates.

Ultimate excitement.

Ultimate expectations.

Ultimate hope.

Those ultimates? Those are in Christ. And since those are in Christ, they can never be too high. Nor can they ever be broken.

My ultimate excitement comes from being in the center of God's will.

My ultimate expectation is that one day, every tongue will confess him as LORD.

My ultimate hope is in eternity, secured in my Savior.

Guarding my heart means making sure my ultimates are always in the Ultimate One. And when those ultimates are where they should be, I think I can give myself the freedom to be excited, to enjoy this season of expectation, and to get my hopes up.

And if the what ifs happen?

Well, then "the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phil 4:7).

I'm certain we will experience many ups and downs in this journey. I hope at the end I'll experience a love and a joy like I haven't yet known. Or maybe my heart will break. But that's the risk of living on earth. And even if that happens, I rest in the promise that one day my tears will be wiped away forever. And so will our son's. I pray that my faith in that day is what will guard my heart during this adoption journey. That's my ultimate prayer.


To be a parent... and sick at the same time. Plus: Fundraising Friday!

You know that stomach bug that's going around?

It's terrible.

I came down with it on Wednesday evening and I'm still in bed (Friday morning). The worst part is that I'm practically an obsessive hand-washer and disinfectant-gel-user, and I STILL got it. How did that happen?

Well, today I'm thankful for understanding daycare parents, for saltines and ginger-ale, and for a nice comfortable bed from which I can catch up on emails and blog posts!

And I'm really thankful that I'll likely be well enough to go to our second homestudy meeting tomorrow. When I was leaning with my head over the toilet all night on Wednesday all I could think was, "I HAVE to get better by Saturday." Ugh. I hate being sick. Thankfully my wish (prayer?) looks like it's coming true.

To all you parents out there: how do you do it when you're sick? I can't imagine feeling like that and having to also care for a little one. John and I don't have family near by (my parents are 6 hours away and his live about 1.5 hours away half the year and a plane trip away the other half)- that worries me. We also don't have a TV, which would be a lifesaver for sick days. Maybe we'll just set up our computers with kids shows on netflix. And somehow prevent the little one from hitting the keyboard... hmm... Or maybe we just won't get sick at the same time! Wouldn't that be nice? But seriously- what are your "I'm sick but I'm still a parent" coping skills? Give 'em to me!

In any case, John and I got an exciting fund-raising related email that really brightened our bed-ridden day yesterday (he was sick too)!

The church in which I grew up is "sharing the burden" (great title, you guys!) and throwing us a fundraiser!

This is the church that fulfilled the promises of my baptism, raised me up in the way of the Lord, supported my "church drama" ideas in many an evening service, helped me build my college fund by providing my with limitless babysitting jobs, and sent me to a summer program that helped me discern my calling in life. I was loved on by all my parents' friends here, mentored by a crazy passionate woman of faith, held up in prayer by many a faithful youth group leader, and even provided with an internship a few summers ago... what else can I say about this place? They know how to love on their people!

And now they're sharing our financial burden by putting on a spaghetti dinner (specifically the "J-Walkers"- part of the church's youth group are putting the dinner on- THANK YOU J-Walkers!!) Here's the promotion that will be printed in the bulletin and monthly newsletter:


(Name blurred for anonymity but if you're in the GTA-ish area and interested leave a comment or shoot me an email for more info!)

A friend of ours also asked me to make her a few necklaces to sell at her boutique! She's in Michigan and if you are too I suggested checking her place out. Besides our fundraising necklaces, she also has lots of handmade items which support incredible causes.

I think that's all for now. I'm off to see if I can muster the strength to start disinfecting our germ ridden house. ;-)


Sunday Supplication: first meeting with CW and we saw another picture!

Wow. Since my last post John and I have continued to feel the power of your prayers. This is truly amazing!

First, we met with our caseworker and our first meeting went great! One very direct answer to prayer was this: I have been worried about timing our homestudy meetings because I really prefer not to take time off of work. I'm a daycare provider so if I take time off, so must all my parents. Not the most convenient. So I have been praying to God that our caseworker would be open to meeting in the evenings when all the kids have gone home. She is based about an hour away from our house so I was feeling like this might not be possible....

.... well I guess with God all things are possible because as it turns out our CW prefers to meet on the weekends! This might seem like a small thing, but I can't tell you how relieved I was to hear this. Thank you Lord!

So we had our first meeting on Saturday (yesterday) morning and, again, it went great. We were both very impressed with our CW and she seemed impressed with us. She also was able to share with us that she is a Christian too! Bonus. We were able to brag on you guys a lot and share how much you have supported us financially. Initially our CW was worried about the finances of this adoption since on paper we can't afford it. After hearing about the success of our fundraising and our plans for earning and raising the rest of the money, she said she felt very confidant. That's because of you guys, so THANK YOU!

Second, our placing agency emailed us an updated picture of the little guy we're pursuing.

You could say my heart moved to Russia this weekend.

It was a "world-stands-still" kind of a moment with all kinds of emotion. He's beautiful. He has more hair! He's loosing the baby look and becoming a true toddler. He's bigger. He's growing without us. But he's GROWING! And that's a good thing. And he's beautiful. Just beautiful.

We have our next (of four) homestudy meeting this weekend, so please pray for that and ask the Lord to bless this process so that everything will go smoothly. We are expecting bumps, but also praying against them because we want to get to Russia SOON.

You can also pray for the little guy we're pursuing; pray for his nannies, for his growth and health, for his peace as he waits for a family.

And pray for us. These next few weeks are going to hold a lot of late nights as we complete our parental training and gather a long list of documents for our dossier, some of which are not the easiest to get our hands on. Pray that we would not feel overwhelmed and that the Lord will give us wisdom about how to obtain all the information we need.

Your prayers hold us up and hold us together. Be blessed as you have blessed us.



Who's been praying this week? And Fundraising Friday!

Alright- confess: who's been praying for us this week? I know a lot of you have because we have seen some progress! Earlier in the week (Tuesday) I was feeling very anxious because we were waiting to hear from our caseworker and schedule our first homestudy session. Then Wednesday came and I left her a message, but no call back.

Deep breathing.

Heartfelt praying.

Lots of "I believe- help my unbelief!" type praying.

Thursday- caseworker calls!! We schedule our first meeting. Feeling pretty pleased.

Then I get an email from one of our references saying that our agency contacted her and she is filling out our reference form. Awesome sign of progress!

And finally I get another email from our placing agency wondering when our homestudy will be complete so we can get our dossier in to Russia (still unknown- hopefully 8 weeks or so). This thrills me because it means the agency is waiting for us and not the other way around, which is a great place to be.

I've felt pretty peaceful about all the paperwork/timelines/etc so far, and just when I was starting to feel anxious, three signs of progress find their way to me. What a blessing. So to all you pray-ers out there: thank you!


Over the Christmas holidays we received a few very generous donations which quite frankly overwhelmed us. These donations show us how the Spirit moves through the lives of believers to accomplish his purposes. We feel very humbled and blessed by the generosity that has been shown to us. My mom said to me a few days ago, "Every time you get a donation I feel so thankful all over again. The emotion doesn't change. It feels new every time." The parallel between her words and Jeremiah's is not lost on me:

Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
Lam 3:22-23

We say again: thank you!!

Necklace Fundraiser: I've sold 43 necklaces and have two more to make tonight. 45 down and 55 more to go to reach my goal of 100 sales!

Coffee Fundraiser: Well, this fundraiser is going mediocre so far. My mother-in-law bought coffee from our fundraiser and made it on Christmas day with dessert- it was delicious! So if your supply is getting a little low consider buying through us! Our goal is to raise $300 through the coffee fundraiser and we're at $37 so far: $263 to go.

Card Fundraiser: We've sold 11 of the 100. 89 to go!

Breakfast Fundraiser: Still in the works! Our current plan is to host a pancake breakfast at our church once we've been officially matched with our little guy.

I think those are all the updates for now. Which brings me to the finances total so far of:

$16,392!! We are approaching the half-way mark!! There will be some celebrating at the Burden house when that happens.

Thank you again for all your prayers and support! Much love.


The sorrow side

Well, I cried in IKEA today.

Sometimes when I can't sleep, I think about redecorating... my house, an imaginary apartment, someone else's living room.... for some reason it calms me down and lulls me to sleep. My special version of counting sheep, you could say.

A few nights ago I was lying awake in a buzz of Christmas excitement and I started thinking about how we're going to set up our little guy's room once he comes home. Until now I haven't spent very much time thinking about this kind of thing at all. I think it was a "I don't want to get my hopes up" coping mechanism, developed after so much disappointment over the past year and a half. But this night something was different. I felt a quiet sense of peace... a whisper giving me permission to dream. To plan. To hope.

So, lying there in bed, I dreamed up a bedroom for a little boy. For our little boy, in our house. And then I was so excited that I went online and started looking for a bed frame. Obviously my "think about redecorating to fall asleep plan" did not succeed.

I did, however, find the perfect, affordable, bed frame at IKEA!

So this afternoon John and I went to IKEA. We were standing around in the bed section, looking at the bed, measuring it and trying to picture it in the space when John asked me why we even needed this bed frame, since our twin mattress currently sits just fine on one of those metal frame like this:

It was a fair enough question, but still my voice broke and tears came to my eyes with the answer:

"Because I don't get to buy a crib."

I don't get to buy a crib. Yes maybe someday I'll buy a crib for a baby, but I don't get to buy a crib for this baby. I'm missing the crib days. I'm missing the swaddling days. I'm missing the "bum-in-the-air-sleep-position" days. I'm missing the baby days and that's.... well, hard. Hard enough to make me cry over a bed frame in IKEA.

This weekend a friend and her family received a long-awaited referral for their adoption. She told me that even after getting the referral she didn't immediately feel joy- first, she just had to weep. And she told me the most beautiful thing- that there is both grief and joy in the road to adoption and that she has come to accept both.

Her words ring true for me. This is a journey with both grief and joy. Both need to be felt, fully. This is life: the depths of sorrow and the heights of joy. To get to the joy you need to feel the sorrow. Hold it close for a while. Work through it. And let it come and go in its own time. Our journey to adoption, even in it's short span thus far, has been incredibly joyful. But it is also punctuated by the pain of loss, for everyone involved. I am learning to accept this and embrace it for what it is.

After a mid-IKEA embrace and tear wipe, John and I bought the bed frame and it's sitting in his future room for when we're ready to put it together. Maybe this weekend or maybe not for a little while. I have a feeling that when I'm ready, I'll hear that quiet little voice giving me permission to dream, to plan, to hope... and I'll know.
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