How long?

We're not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; 
we are wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 
- C.S. Lewis 

I came across this quote in a rather timely read of Mary Beth Chapman's book Choosing to See.  The book is about Mary Beth's life- her marriage to musician Steven Curtis Chapman, the birth of her children, the adoptions of her three youngest daughters, and the tragic death of her 5-year-old in 2008.  Reading through this painful story has helped me work through a lot of the pain and sadness I've run into this past week as John and I wait endlessly for our adoption to move forward.  Sort of an "if-she-can-make-it-through-that-then-I-can-make-it-through-this" kind of a read. 

While our adoption process had been moving along fairly well- albeit slower than we had hoped for- we've come to a standstill.  The home study is long done.  Fundraising complete. Agency fees paid and sent. Our preliminary dossier carried to Russia; it should even be translated by now.  All our immigration paperwork has been sent in to the US government.  And now? We wait, endlessly- waiting for Moscow to lift the adoption suspension and start registering dossiers again.  

I wake up every morning, hit the snooze button, and begin to pray for our little guy.  I walk around our neighborhood, whispering prayers to God- asking him to AWAKE and act on our behalf.  Pointing out that if he can make spring happen, raise every blade of grass to life, and command the trees to burst with blossoms- if he can create new life where only weeks ago it looked like there was none- then surely he can move a government to lift this adoption suspension.  I lie down at night wondering what our little guy is doing, if he's just getting up for the day, and hoping he's well cared for.  I imagine what it's going to be like to finally hold him in my arms and then I force myself to think about something else, otherwise I'd never sleep.

I cry a lot because even though I know God's putting all things back together in Christ, the effects of the fall are still too powerful.  I cry out because I hate that the world is still so broken and I lament that God seems so slow to move sometimes.  I cry because I don't know whether my faith is weak or whether I'm right to be so upset in the face of brokenness.  

I'm not necessarily doubting that God will do the best for us; 
I'm wondering how painful the best will turn out to be. 

I've received a lot of assurances through our adoption journey.  "It will all work out." "All in God's timing." "He has a plan!" 

Yes.  True.  

But "a plan" that "works out" in "God's timing" still leaves room for lament.  Think of the martyrs whose testimony far surpasses my own; their deaths were part of a plan that worked out in God's timing... but still, they died.  

The only thing I know is that somehow it all works out for God's glory.  In that, my faith is unwavering. 

But in the rest of it, I cry out with the Psalmist:

How long O Lord? 

Will you forget me forever?

How long must I wrestle with my thoughts? 

And day after day have sorrow in my heart? 

I trust that this endless waiting and wondering and worrying is God's best.  I trust it works out for his glory.  I'm just wondering how much more painful it's going to be.  


[In]fertility faux pas

It's day number two of national infertility awareness week today.  I've mentioned in the past that part of our journey to adoption came out of a struggle with infertility.  Adoption has always been a part of our life plan, so I want to be careful to emphasize that we wanted to adopt regardless of the state of our biological family, but our adoption time line has definitely changed because of our struggle.

Still, infertility is a topic close to my heart.  Over the past few months I have been privileged to have many women open up to me and share their infertility stories; most much longer and more painful than my own.  There is nothing quite like the silent empty ache of infertility.  Most women will describe it like a "rollercoaster" of emotions; every month brings with a cycle of hope, then anxiety, fear, anger, and sorrow.  These women know the dread of a basal body temperature dip, the sting of a negative pregnancy test, and the wind-knocked-out-of-you feeling of seeing another cycle start again.  

The road to conception is a very private journey between a couple which often plays out as a beautiful secret between the two.  But when the conception journey turns into an infertility struggle that privacy quickly turns into a devastating loneliness.  The decision to share an infertility struggle is a personal and difficult one.  For years before we tried to conceive, I dreamed of how we would share the "we're pregnant!" announcement with our families.  I had lists and lists of fun ideas.  I envisioned the surprise, the delighted screams and happy hugs from our parents and siblings, over and over again.  I was especially excited because I knew our announcement would be the "first grandchild" announcement as well.  When we shared our struggle, I was keenly aware that I had lost that dream.  Instead of crying with joy, I shared our struggle with a broken voice and hot painful tears on my cheeks.  

One in eight couples has struggled through infertility.  Even if you haven't heard the stories, someone you know has dealt or is dealing with this pain.  Trying to "be there" for a friend who is going through infertility is very similar to being there for a friend who is grieving.  Just like we never know what to say when a friend looses a loved one, it is hard to know what to say to someone who is struggling through infertility.  As someone who has been there and who will be there again someday, here's my best advice:

Just say, "I'm so sorry.  I'm here for whatever you need."  

Most of us want to offer solutions when we face a problem.  In the face of infertility those "solutions" often come in the form of well-meaning but insensitive comments like, "Just relax- it will happen!" or "Have you thought about adoption?" or "My cousin did xyz treatment and BAM got pregnant right away."  Let me just tell you- hearing these things in the midst of infertility sucks.  Saying "just relax" doesn't make me relax.  Adoption is not a replacement for fertility.  And every couple's journey through infertility is different; just because your cousin got pregnant doesn't mean we will.  

Also, be sensitive about pregnancy and kid-talk.  Personally I still love hearing my friends talk about the joys of their pregnancies and the blessing of their children.  But some women won't.   For me, it really hurts to hear women complain about pregnancy or kids.  I don't mean things like a close friend honestly sharing her trials, but things like a facebook broadcast saying, "PREGNANCY SUCKS!  I can't WAIT for this to be OVER!!!" That may be good and true, but to an infertile like me, it's salt in a wound.  So is saying something like, "Be glad you don't have kids because mind are driving me crazy!" or "You're sooooo lucky you still get to sleep in!!!"  

Trust me, I'd rather be throwing up or awake at 5am with a screaming baby than nursing my broken heart.  Please hear me: I'm not saying pregnancy and motherhood aren't difficult. I'm saying be sensitive about how you share those trials with someone who would give anything to have them herself. 

"I'm sorry."  

That's the best response. 

I'll end with my favorite infertility related quote- one by Laura Bush who herself endured this trial: 

The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held? 

If you are reading this and you are struggling through an infertility journey, I am folding my hands and closing my eyes and whispering many ferverent prayers for you this week.  God hold you and keep you and give you peace.  I'm so sorry for your pain.  

With tenderness- xo. 


Progress update

April 19 2012: we've been on our adoption journey for 6 months, 3 weeks, and 2 days. I was thinking today about how I'm going to feel when we finally get on a plane to go meet our son....

I think I'm going to feel surprised that it's really happening. A sort of shock like oh yea we'll be a family at the end of this! Because right now the idea of that day feels more like a wispy elusive dream than something that will actually happen. It's going to be the best reality check I could ask for.

To make that reality seem more real, John and I are slowly putting together our little man's room. Last week we cleared out his room and set up his new bed frame. (Remember, the one that made me cry?)

Putting together IKEA furniture is always fun, isn't it? Like a marriage building exercise:

I struggle to make sense of the instructions...


... and John busts out the flesh hammer. Because going all the way down to the basement to get the real hammer is way too much work.


Look they even featured us in the instructions!


(You'll have to wait until we finish to see the rest!)

In any case, one of my sweet daycare girls noticed the change, so I explained to her that we're adopting a little boy and that's where he's going to sleep. She wondered about "adoption," so I explained about going on a plane, and getting our little boy, about how Mr. John and I are going to be his mom and dad. After nap that afternoon as we walked by his room again she said to me, "Miss Jill- your 'dopted boy's gonna sleep in there."

Bless her heart. Yes he will.

Someday, right?

Despite the fact that I feel like we'll be waiting forever to bring him home, we're actually making progress in our adoption. Our dossier was sent to Russia on April 7 for translation! The next big step is getting officially matched with our little guy. I can't WAIT until that happens so we can share his name and picture! I am hoping and praying and praying and praying that will happen before Mother's Day. I have no idea if this is a realistic goal, but I would love it if you'd join with me in this prayer.

We also managed to get our fingerprints done early for our USCIS immigration paperwork! Our appointment was in May but we had heard from friends that sometimes you can go early and ask nicely if they can squeeze you in. There wasn't another soul waiting for an appointment when we went in, so although the officer wasn't super happy about our early arrival, they took our prints and sent us on our way. Another step closer to our baby boy.

And finally, we've read that the US/Russia adoption agreement has been brought before the Russian legislature for ratification. That happened May 30 and we're still waiting to hear if any progress has been made. We're optimistic.

As always we ask that you would continue to pray for our little guy, especially that he would bond securely with one or two of his nannies. This is so crucial for healthy development, especially at his tender age, and will make his ability to bond to us much easier once he comes home.

All for now! xo


Financing adoption: frugal living

A long time ago in a far away post, I mentioned that I'd post about frugal living sometime "soon." "Soon" got away from me, but I've had a number of request for that post, so here it is at last!

When John and I decided we wanted to adopt, we were faced with the problem of the cost. As you well know, that "problem" turned out to be a blessing in disguise because all our needs have been met by our generous community. However, when we were just starting out, we had no idea how God would provide for us, so we prayed for wisdom about our finances and took a late summer afternoon to sit down at a coffee shop and explore all our options for financing this adoption.

We came up with a list of 4 major "funding areas"- 1) our income 2) adoption grants 3) fundraising/donations and 4) the adoption tax credit.

As it has turned out, we've only had to use number 1 and 3 to meet our goal. I've done most posting about our fundraising so here's my advice for #1. My goal in this post isn't to give the most sage financial advice, but just to share our story in order to encourage others who trying to figure out how to save for an adoption as well.

In order to put as much of our income toward our adoption as possible, we decided that we would live on John's income only for however long it took to reach our goal and put my income toward adoption expenses. We live in a lower cost of living area so while we weren't living in the lap of luxury, living on John's income alone was do-able. Actually, when we were both in seminary we lived on John's income alone and that was income from a part time serving job. So even though we cut back these past few months, things weren't as tight as they were then! From these two frugal living seasons, here's what I think made the biggest difference for us:

1) Only having one car. This requires juggling our schedules and walking or biking when necessary, but we have been able to make it work well so far. Our car isn't fancy, but it gets good gas mileage which makes a huge difference when you drive as much as we do, since our families live out of town. If you're trying to cut back, see if you can make this work. Growing up my parents also shared a car and if my mom needed it during the day she would drive my dad to work and pick him up again. This is an especially viable option if one spouse works at home, like I do.

2) No TV and no cell phones. Neither of us used a cell phone during seminary because a land line was much cheaper. Now we both have cell phones- John's through work and mine via our budget- and no land line. Really, you only need one or the other. Cancel whichever one you use less. We still don't have a TV which means no cable bill. We watch current TV shows on (free) hulu or netflix and just live without the shows that aren't available. When netflix changed their billing schedule we dropped the mail package and just kept streaming. I'll admit I was tempted to keep the mail DVD option, but I told myself I would just try to go without it and see. I haven't missed it one bit. If it eases the sting for you a bit- just cancel your subscriptions for a couple months and see how it goes. You can always re-sign up, right?

3) Home-cooking. It's cheaper and healthier. Yes, it takes time to cook and I know it can be tiring to break out the pots and pans at the end of the day, but you can do it! Get your fingers typing over to pinterest for quick meals, freezer meals, crock pot meals, or whatever you need. Vegetarian meals are especially affordable and good for you and the environment. We do our groceries together on Monday nights and split the cooking. Plus whoever cooks doesn't have to clean up! Save restaurant meals for date nights and special occasions; you'll probably appreciate them more too.

4) Affordable vacations. After a lot of thought, we decided to skip the cruise and European vacation. Yea right. ;-) That was never an option for us. Our honeymoon was 3 nights in Niagara Falls and summer vacation is camping in a trailer with my family. You know what? We love it. I hope someday we can take a trip overseas (no including adoption travel), but I know it isn't something we need or even deserve- at least as not as much as our son needs and deserves a family. Perspective.

We also do a lot of little things like using homemade cleaning supplies and microfiber cloths instead of paper towels. In seminary we lived without a dryer and just hung all our clothes to dry, which cut back on our utility bill. We watch our grocery budget by meal planning in advance and avoiding impulse buys. I've started gardening which hasn't really saved us too much yet, but I hope in a few years when my garden is more fruitful and I've learned how to can it will save money on our grocery budget! We're also planning to cloth diaper for health and environmental reasons, which will help us save on disposable diaper costs.

And of course, when it comes to bigger purchases like furniture always look to see if you can get it used or wait for a sale. If you are saving for a shorter season of life like we were, see if you can put off some bigger purchases. Our couch is made of bonded leather and about 3 years after we bought it, the top layer of leather started peeling off (thank you IKEA). I tried to fix it to no avail. It's about 5 years old right now and one of my daycare kids asks me if our cat "ate it" (obviously she has a dog at home!). No, he didn't, but it sure looks like he did! Anyway, we just keep sitting on the peeling leather seat and remember that our little guy is more important than a couch. It'll get replaced someday- just not today.

Some things we tried didn't work for us. I clipped coupons for about 4 months in seminary and ended up buying a lot of junk that we really didn't need. If you eat a lot of fresh produce, coupons aren't usually going to help you out very much. They also take a lot of time to clip and sort which wasn't worth it to me. We also went through a season of not going out to eat, ever. Now that we're both working I find we need a weekly date night to connect and keep our marriage healthy and strong. So even if we can only get a meal to split or just go out for coffee, it is worth the money to us because the relational payoff is so big. You'll figure out what works and what doesn't work for your family too. Don't beat yourself up if you don't follow every money saving tip out there!

A lot of this advice and much, much more is in a great book called "Adopt without Debt" by Julie Gumm.

If you are trying to figure out how to finance your adoption, I highly recommend her book! Here's the amazon link.

I hope some of this is helpful to other hopeful adoptive parents out there- or even just families hoping to cut back on their budget! Thanks for reading. :-)


Prisons in surprising places

Day of death, today. Good Friday. Day of grief. Day of loss. Day of remembering. Day of reflecting. Day of sin.

Good Friday takes on new meaning for me each year. Today, it is a day of prisons and repentance.

Each year as I grow I faith, my sin grieves me more and more. I am young, but the weight of my forgiveness is not lost of me. The torn skin and sweaty brow of my Lord makes me want to look away and not because I'm grossed out. Because I know I did that. I know he died for me.

Hilltop cross, San Xavier Mission, Tuscon AZ.

The empty cross moves my soul to soar. But the cross, filled- that is sobering and sorrowing.

This year, sobered once again by the significance of the cross, Christ has revealed to me my prisons.

When I first became alive to the reality of Christ has done for me, you know what life I wanted most to avoid?

A life with a white picket fence.

A life in which I sought fiercely after normalcy and the ordinary. The American dream. I just finished reading Donald Miller's latest book, and in those terms- I wanted most to avoid a life with a flat story line, without inciting incidents, without obstacles, and without a vivid journey toward character formation.

That American dream was a prison I feared. A prison that would make me give up convictions and action and hunger for justice in the name of safe and normal and not rocking the boat. My idea of prison was a normal life, lived in the boundaries of a white picket fence.

Until about a year ago I thought I'd been somewhat successful at avoiding that prison. But then we couldn't get pregnant. I spent a lot of time grieving and working through the anger of the unfairness of it all. All I wanted was a normal pregnancy and a healthy child.

Now we're adopting and I've had to (and in some sense still am) work through the anger and the grief of having to miss my baby's early years. I'm having to work through the loss of all those normal things I wanted like the excitement of the pregnancy announcement, setting up the nursery, bringing home the baby for the first time, watching my parents rock their first grandchild in arms.

Don't get me wrong- I think the sadness is expected and healthy. But I don't want to get stuck there.

Because today I realize that if I don't move forward, these desires and this sadness will become my prison.

The longing for the ordinary, the dreaming about normal, and the desire to have the regular things everyone else has- they are their own prisons.

"prisons I have counted each / walls so high I cannot each /
Jesus Christ who died for me / gave his life so that I could be free"

What I will celebrate this Easter is that Jesus Christ gave his life so that I could be free from every prison, in life and in death.

And if the son shall set you free, you shall be free indeed! ` John 8:36

I will celebrate victory over sin and freedom from the prison of my own desires.

I will celebrate the story the he is writing with my life. I will rejoice in our adoption and in the face of our infertility because I have been given freedom from a boring storyline. I have a plot, an obstacle, an inciting incident. I have been given a story that will form my character. I have a story that will reveal- and is already revealing- God's glory.

Today I repent from the prison of my desires and I look forward to Sunday when I will rejoice in Christ's victory and the freedom it gives to me. I will count as loss every part of my life that is confined by a picket fence and pray for the grace to count as gain only the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

I pray the same for you in your journey. May Christ reveal to you as he has to me those prisons found in surprising places and bless you with the freedom to count only HIM as gain.


Perfect provision

November 13, 2011: I wrote my first post on this blog. We were starting our adoption journey with only a couple thousand dollars and a whole lot of hope and prayer.

March 31, 2012: We reached (and passed!) our $35,000 goal.

$35,046 in 4 1/2 months. What a testimony to God's faithfulness!

At the risk of being a bit of a broken record, I have to share how truly unreal it feels to know we have met our goal. The financial piece of this adoption was a great source of anxiety for us. We had no idea how we were going to cover the cost. No idea. We went to a seminar called "financing adoption" last summer and I remember so clearly an adoptive mother sharing her story and saying, "We couldn't afford to adopt, but we couldn't afford not to either." That's how we felt.

Still I had this fear- the fear that for some reason God wouldn't provide. That we'd start this adoption journey and get stuck halfway through, unable to move forward because of finances. Pridefully, I was afraid to look like a fool. Mostly I was afraid we didn't discern God's call correctly so he wouldn't be faithful to what we thought was "obedience" to his call on our lives.

With little faith we began this journey, a journey that calls us to greater faith each day.

have faith. have faith.

I remember hearing once that when asked about predestination and his salvation, C.S. Lewis said he believed he freely chose to become a Christian, but that it also seemed as though he could not have chosen otherwise. I feel that way about our adoption fundraising. We took a risk- a leap of faith- and the possibility of failure was very real. But now looking a our thermometer it seems as though it would always reach the top and there was never a chance of it it going otherwise.

My fears have been put to rest and I am rejoicing this Palm Sunday for God's provision. He made a way for our salvation in Christ and he is making away for our adoption through his body of believers. Praise God for making a way when we thought there was none!

May our rejoicing today bring glory to his name. He has taken hold of our hands and led us down this path not just to reach a fundraising goal, not just to make us parents, not just to give our son a family, but ultimately: for his glory.

In the words of Eric Ludy, whose video "Depraved Indifference" I shared in my very first blog post, "For our King and his glory, we will rescue these little ones."


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