Three steps toward post-adoption support

I'm guest blogging about post-adoption support over at Give 1 Save 1 today! 

The best advice I can give someone about post-adoption support is to try find it before you adopt! Everyone’s post adoption journey is different, but readying yourself with post-adoption support is sort of like preparing to go on a trip: you’ll be far less stressed if you go prepared, you’ll have way more fun if you go with friends, and in case of emergency you’ll want to know who to call!


One million. Cheers to you!

If I had a dollar for every time someone viewed my blog I'd be rich!!!

No, seriously. I'd have a million dollars. The week, after 2 1/2 years of blogging, I hit the 1,000,000 all time page view mark! Crazy. 

People sometimes ask me if I make money blogging. The answer is: yes, but I would probably make more money each day if I went and collected pennies from the fountain at our park. It's cents per day. I'm not getting rich in dollars as I write but you, my incredible readers, have made me rich in far more important ways. 

You have been my encouragers and support. You have cried with me, rejoiced with me, and wrapped your metaphorical arms around me with your many comments and messages. I am not deserving of the love you have shown me and I consider you true gifts. 

Every week I come here to write with honesty in hopes that by sharing my experience one of you will feel less alone. Yet every week after I hit that "publish" button, I realize once again that I am the one made to feel less alone. I write to give and yet I receive far more than I ever offer. 

By sharing my story I have been made more aware of God and his redeeming power. My eyes have been opened to his movements in my life, in my story. I have also become aware of how true is it that he lives and breathes through his people. I ask God who is he and he shows me: 

He is in the woman whose been through my struggle before, cheering me on. 
He is in the commenter who is right there with me both in joy and in sorrow. 
He is in the tears in your eyes as you watched him put a family together, across oceans. 
He is in the friend I know only through words on a screen, but whose words comfort and encourage me. 
He is in the prayers, the thousand prayers, offered for me by friends, by family, by readers who give them so generously to a woman they have never met. 

I will be drinking champagne with my love tonight and cheersing with unspeakable gratitude for you, my friends. Thank you for allowing me to write, to share, and to journey with you. 




There is power in the name of Jesus

...but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
  they will walk and not be faint. 

Isaiah 40:31

About a month ago, on an unseasonable warm evening in May, John and I found ourselves inside a large church, worshiping God among a sea of thousands. John loves listening to worship music and when he learned that one of his favorite worship bands- Jesus Culture- was coming to our area he bought us tickets and called it an "early birthday present." Early indeed! His birthday is in July.

I accompanied John to the concert willingly but somewhat mechanically. We had recently come away from our final failed IUI and I was tired. I was tired not only in body, but in spirit and in soul. I knew I did not have the spiritual or physical reserves to worship with much enthusiasm, but I also hoped that if I went and offered whatever meager worship I had in me, God would meet me there.

As I anticipated, thousands of worshippers at this concert belted out the lyrics to each song and raised their hands to the heavens a physical exclamation of faith. Two rows ahead of us, an elderly couple stood slightly stopped and raised both hands and faces as far upward as their bodies would allow. Immediately before me stood a woman whose shirt bore a silhouetted battlefield cross and a few phrases testifying to the life of her son: loved and lost less then two years ago. She turned her hands up and open in surrender. By the smiles on their faces and earnest tears in their eyes, I knew my fellow believers felt their hearts leap and their souls soar as they worshipped the God we together love and serve.

I did not feel my heart leap or soul rise. Though I sought to put off my weariness and worship as impassioned as those around me, I could not summon the energy. Too strong was the heaviness of my injured heart. Though I wanted to, I could not raise my arms in earnest.

Quietly, I offered some feeble prayers to the God. I want to… but I can't. Show me how to worship. And he answered me.

You are standing on holy ground. 

It was a still small voice inside: God meeting me right where I stood. I could not go to the heavenly heights in that moment, but even in my weary state I know I could quietly acknowledge the holy ground on which I stood.

I took off my shoes.

I stood in bare feet on the cool tile floor and worshipped my savior. I felt that God was inviting me to worship even meekly, on holy ground.

As I stood there broken in the a sea of hands raised high, I joined with a thousand voices singing, "There is power in the name of Jesus / to break every chain / to break every chain / to break every chain." As we sang I started thinking about the chain of my infertility. I have been trying so hard to accept my infertility and find peace with it, yet none has come. Maybe I've been thinking about this the wrong way, I thought. Maybe I shouldn't be spending so much time trying to accept it. Maybe I should be invoking the power of Jesus' name to break it. 

An old memory came to mind: one from the earliest days when John and I became public with our infertility journey. A pastor friend had asked if I would like to come and be prayed over at his church. On the evening which he invited me, John and I another event to attend so I declined. As I sang and reflected on that memory I began to wonder: Had I made a mistake? Had I missed out on an opportunity to break the chains of infertility that had held me captive for so long? I began to envision a group of believers surrounding me and placing their hands over me in prayer. At first I felt sad, feeling as though I had ruined my chance when I declined that pastor's offer. Then I started wondering how I could make up for my mistake…. should I ask my friends to lay hands on me and pray over me? Should I initiate the prayer myself?

No. That would be weird. Like asking someone for a gift. I felt in my heart that kind of healing prayer had to be offered rather than requested. Especially since it was not something I had ever seen my friends do before or even heard them talk about. I come from a more "reserved" faith tradition… certainly I could- and had- ask them to pray for me, but laying on of hands and praying over was a  little more bold of a spiritual move than any of us were used to. More than I felt I could ask.

I stored up that desire in my heart and asked God to make it happen if that was will for me.

It gives me chills to tell you this:

One week later John came home and said, "So I called woman named Abby from church today to ask her about serving in a leadership position. She said she would think about... and then she asked me if anyone had ever prayed over you for healing."

"What did you say?"

"I said I didn't think so. She wanted me to ask you if you would be willing but I didn't think you'd be into that kind of thing. It's totally fine if you say no."

"Tell her yes."


"Tell her yes!"

The very next evening I was lying on the floor of Abby's living room with 9 sets of hands on my body: my head, my arms, my belly, legs and my hands. Some of the hands were from women I knew. Some I had met once or twice before. Some hands belonged to women I had never met, including Abby's. All belonged to women who simply believed in the power of Jesus' name to break every chain.

The words from scripture and the prayers they prayed over me were some of the boldest prayers I have ever heard. None of the prayers were that I would accept the bondage of my infertility. All were about breaking the chains in Jesus' name. All were for healing.

As I told the women after with emotion: I have been in that position- lying on my back- searching for healing so many times before. During tests, exams, X-rays, ultrasounds, surgery, and IUIs… and I have grieved because none has come. That night, however, I knew I was lying on holy ground. I truly believe the healing I've been searching for has begun. My tired spirit is being renewed.

….more to come.



Arrrrrrr Matey! Arie turns four!

Months ago, after we attended a friend's birthday party, Arie started asking how long it would be until he turned four. We talked about how first the snow had to melt away, then the tulips would come up, then the sun would warm the earth until we didn't have to wear coats outside anymore… and then- in June- his birthday would come! When strangers asked him how old he was at the grocery store he replied, "I be four in June!" His birthday was long anticipated.

Just as soon as he started asking about his birthday, he began requesting a pirate party. Le sigh. I love all things sweet and whimsical and classic and tender. Basically everything pirates are not. But my boy wanted a pirate party so I grimaced and tried to hide my reluctance as I agreed.

Luckily for me, Arie has a tender spirit and doesn't actually like any of the fighting or plundering or plank-walking that pirates are really about. Once we tried introducing him to the Disney show Jake and the Neverland Pirates and he only watched for 45 seconds before exclaiming, "Too scary!! I don't like it!!" If you ask him what pirates actually do he replies simply, "They say ARRRRRR!" Fair enough.

Our take on a pirate party was pretty tame. We kept skulls and cross bones to a minimum and focused on treasure hunting and those fantastic boats that pirates sail.

Arie loved it.

I found this free printable pirate themed nature scavenger hunt from theflourishingabode.com and I knew it was the perfect pirate-but-not-scary-pirate activity for my little man!

After I got all excited about this find I immediately started thinking about where we should host the party. Last year we hosted in our backyard, but there aren't exactly an abundance of acorn caps and berries back there! We decided to host at our favorite forested beach front park instead. 

As soon as June 7 popped up on the 10 day forecast, I checked it compulsively. It started off a cool 69 degrees which I knew would be even cooler at the beach front but, much to my relief, warmed up to a blissful 80 degrees by the party date! Sunny and no chance of rain. I could not have asked for better weather! 

John and I packed up the food and party supplies and headed to the park an hour before the 4:30 start time to get set up.  This park is fairly large with a few picnic tables close to the play equipment; I was trying hard not to get my hopes up for a pair of tables near the play equipment (it would be perfect!) but as we drove into the parking lot both John and I spotted two tables exactly where we wanted them! Near the play equipment, in the shade, and even perfectly positioned under two trees so we could hang our banner. 

John and I looked at the tables and then at each other with wide eyes. "I'm going to park the car and RUN!" he said. 


John fell out of the car as fast as he could and sprinted through a field of picnickers. Jumping onto the table he laid his body across them both yelling breathlessly, "MINE!! THESE ARE MINE!!! WE GOT HERE FIRST!!! I CALL THEM!!!" 

Okay he didn't really lay on the tables but our enthusiasm at the ideal location grossly outweighed what the situation called for. This was a four year old's birthday party! We were dorks. But happy dorks! 

Soon our guests began to arrive. Much to Arie's delight his friend Ben arrived dressed as pirate! Ben's mom- my friend Sara- remarked that she will mourn a little when our kids are too big and too cool to do such things as arrive at a party in a fully themed ensemble. I agree!

Arie's best friend in the whole wide word arrived soon after. Danae was the first friend Arie ever made after he came home, since I took care of Danae and he baby sister when I was still doing daycare in our home. To this day no one can delight him like she can! He still squeals in delight at just the mention of her name! 

When Danae spotted Arie across the park she took off on a full on sprint toward him. We all watched with grins on our faces, expecting to watch them fall over in a giant embrace when at last they met, but when they reached one another they stopped short and just stood there, awkwardly.We all laughed as they smiled nervously and soon enough they were off to play. 

Once everyone arrived I handed out pails and the "treasure maps" to the kids and our scavenger hunt began! It was so much fun to watch parents and kids work together, hunting through the woods to find their treasures. I was a little nervous about our guests being bit by ticks or contracting poison ivy, but thanks to bug spray and clear trails I think we all came away clear! 

Dinner was pulled pork, coleslaw, pasta salad, and watermelon which turned out delicious if I do say so myself! The food is always my favorite part of any party! 
Danae and Arie making eyes at each other during dinner. ;-)

I tried my hand at cake balls for dessert and made an effort to style them like sailboats. I won't quit my day job! They looked somewhat like the perfect pinterest picture I modeled them after. Somewhat. But they tasted good and Arie loved them so I'll call it a success. 

Arie was both delighted and overwhelmed by all the gifts. As parents John and I reveled in this showering of attention for our little man. It was a true joy to look into the faces of our dear friends as he unwrapped each gift and thanked their giver. The looks of affection on their faces and excitement on their children's was blissful. I feel immensely grateful and blessed to belong to such a precious community! 

After present were opened and cake pops eaten, we lingered a while, said goodbye to our guests, and took a final walk on the beach before heading home to bed. 

As I tucked him under the covers my big boy asked me to please hold him "like a baby" for a while. 

"Even though you're a big boy, you're my baby forever." I whispered. 

He looked up at me with sleepy eyes and whispered back, "Yea." 

Happy, happy four-year-old year, my boy. 



On Adopting and Being Afraid (guest post for MercyFound Ministries)

My almost four-year-old son is going through a “fear stage” right now. Among the list of things he’s afraid of are fireworks, ants, thunderstorms, the dark, house flies, and frogs. I get the fireworks and thunderstorm fear (loud noises) but the fear of bugs is… shall we say, somewhat extreme. If there is even the tiniest of ants crawling on our front porch, he doesn’t dare leave the house. Sometimes even ant-like specks of dirt will send him running. It makes playing outside rather challenging!
This week he and I were working in my garden when I saw a potato bug (otherwise called a “pill bug” or “rolly polly) crawling in the dirt. Grabbing a potential “teachable moment,” I picked it up and held it out for my son to see. “Look at this cute little bug,” I said. Seeing his little body pull back with nervousness I encouraged him, “It’s okay. Don’t be afraid!”
As I said the words, “Don’t be afraid!” to my son, I remembered reading that same phrase to him at dinner earlier in the year when our garden was covered in snow. From Christmas to Easter as we read through the birth of Jesus to his death and resurrection “Don’t be afraid” had been a Biblical refrain… 


Approaching Four!

In 5 days- on June 7- Arie will turn four years old! Age three was the first full "year in a life" we were privileged to witness in Arie's life.

Most of our family life these days looks like any other family, but I still have intense moments every few days where I reflect on the profundity of his adoption. I will hear him playing make-believe in the playroom and remember how I longed to hear his voice when that room sat silent in our home. I will help him climb out of the bath and remember how once- in the early days after he came home- he caught sight of the two of us in the mirror after his bath and exclaimed, "Baby! Mama!" Oh how my heart glowed with joy to hear that blessed title on his baby lips. Mama. Yesterday he and I were in John's office at church where John has an old globe on display; Arie called me over and asked me to show him "Where Russia is?" Together we searched for his birth country and then again for his home in Michigan. I told him with emotion how we flew on an airplane all the way across the world to bring him home and in response he exclaimed, "AND I THEW UP ON THE AIRPLANE!"

Yes you did my boy. Yes you did.

Like most mothers, my heart is both happy and sad as I approach my baby's birthday. We have enjoyed  countless moments of laughter, joy, and pleasure over the past year. Yet is has also been so fleeting. Too fleeting. There is a thin little boy running around my house, talking ceaselessly, asking a million questions, and growing smarter by the day. Where did my baby go??? The chubby legs, the baby babble, the diapered bottom. The time has slipped away like sand through my fingers.

As I grapple with both the blessings that overflow my cup and the reality that yesterday is now gone forever, I find myself reflecting on this passage from Ecclesiastes 3:11-13:

[God] has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 

He has also set eternity on the human heart.  I think that's why we parents feel those wistful pangs as we watch our babies grow. We have eternity in our hearts. We were not made for temporal life. We were not created to live life with an end. We were created for life without end. How that works itself out in terms of humans "growing up" in eternity, I don't know. I just know that we were not created to watch good things come to end. 

Thank God he has not left us without hope! Hope for eternity found in Christ and also, incredibly, hope for today! An ability to be happy, to do good, and to find satisfaction in our lives. From June to June with our jubilant little three-year-old, we did just that! Here's Arie- age three: a year in review: 

We kicked off Arie's three-year-old year with what else- a birthday party! Since we missed out on his first and second birthdays, we enjoyed a birthday celebrations worthy of three-in-one! Teddy Bear Picnic was the theme and we spent both the weeks leading up to the party and the weeks following trying to get that catchy song out of our heads!

Later that same month my heart absolutely sang with pleasure as we went strawberry picking with a group of friends! Crouching in those fragrant fields with the sun on our backs watching my little boy sink his teeth in the sweet warm flesh of a berry, I could not have been happier. It was a literal dream come true to pick berries with my family!

In July John and I drove up to Ontario for Arie's first camping trip with my family! We went to the same campground my family has been going to since I was a little girl. Playing with my boy on the same lakeshore beach, biking the same paths, and making s'mores around the same fires was a  "full circle" kind of experience. Arie loved being spoiled by his grandparents and ate more chocolate candy that week than I bet in his entire previously life combined!

Later in July and back in Michigan we enjoyed a few days at our friends' cottage with their two daughters. Arie's little friend Josephine was very generous with affection toward Arie but Arie wasn't quite sure what to do with that much love! We still laugh with memories of her chasing Arie down the sidewalk and Arie yelling, "NO MORE HUGS!!" (He's since recovered and gets along famously with his little buddy!)

In August we went to heaven. Actually we went to Mackinac Island for the first time, but WOW that is the closest thing to paradise I've ever experienced! It was beautiful beyond description and the peace I felt as we biked around the island has remained unmatched. We don't have plans to return this summer, but I know someday we will!

The three of us joined family friends to go apple picking in the September. We picked many apples and- much to my surprise- ate almost the whole lot as-is. I tried to make applesauce with the leftovers with little success. Fingers crossed for a better second-try this fall!  

In early October we celebrated the one year anniversary from our court date in Moscow! Standing before a Russian judge in Moscow who had the authority to make me Mama to my little boy was petrifying! I've never been more nervous in all my life! Praise God she says YES and one year later our family of three clinked our glasses on a Michigan terrace, enjoying a fancy pants meal in celebration. After dinner we celebrated by doing something traditionally Russian- going to a ballet!

Also in October we raked a lot of leaves, celebrated Thanksgiving in Ontario with my family, and introduced Arie to the great holiday of Halloween! Still his favorite, I think, because of the candy. 

with my siblings/in-laws over Thanksgiving weekend

In November we went to a Russian Festival in a neighboring city and also celebrated Thanksgiving here in the US (no pictures of that! Whoops!). 

December was our first "second" month as a family and brought Christmas! 

In January we played with all our new Christmas toys and tried hard to enjoy the cold weather. 

Not super thrilled. 
In February we tried again to enjoy the snow and actually had some success! We tried and loved snow-shoeing! John and I loved spoiled Arie for Valentine's Day too. 

March kept on being cold. And snowy. And cold. Arie started many mornings by looking out his window and sighing, "Oh. It's still snowing." As soon as the temperatures peaked above 45 degrees, Arie and I celebrated the first whispers of spring with a trip to a local educational farm! We met friends there and enjoyed dreaming about a time when we would not have to wear hats and mittens and boots and coats ANYMORE! 

After our long, long, long winter we were so excited in April to visit John's mom in Arizona! Sunshine, sunshine, sunshine! 

Later in April we welcomed my parents, brother Wes, and sister-in-law Kaitlin to our home for Easter! The weather warmed up briefly but beautifully for their visit. Arie was spoiled once again with too much chocolate! I guess that is what grandparents are for??? 

"I make a cross with my ham!" 

Our big event in May was enjoying a local spring festival where Arie was thrilled to climb abroad multiple sketchy carnival rides with his papa. I stood by with a full heart, listening to his gleeful yells and laughed to hear him exclaim, "SUPER READERS TO THE RESCUE!" as he zipped by. Super Why for the win! 

And now here we are in June again! John and I are throwing a smaller party for Arie this year with Arie's chosen theme "Pirates!" He's been talking about it for months and last week I had the immense pleasure of reminding him that he is going to get PRESENTS on his birthday. I think he forgot about that part! You should have heard him squeal! He's so excited. We're hoping to host his party outdoors at a park so *fingers crossed* for good weather. Cant' wait to share the party with you all next week! 

Happy June everyone! 

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