Sunday, November 29, 2015

adoption q+a with Jessica

I couldn't let November get away without a little tribute to the miracle and blessing that is adoption. 

November is National Adoption Month and November 9th was World Adoption Day. The significance of this recognition of adoption has grown in my heart over time, especially since my dear friend Jessica adopted her sweet little boy a year ago. 

I think we have a special opportunity to come alongside those who are called to adopt and to do the work with them. They need support and love, and that starts with a better understanding of adoption, from their point of view. So here is a little Q+A we put together, and we hope you will take a moment to hear the heart of an adoptive mom, through the struggles to the other side.

(P.S., how stinking cute is this duo??)

What do you wish people knew about the adoption process that they may not know?
It is hard. We aren't just sitting around waiting for a baby or going somewhere to pick one out (yes, people think that). There are HOURS of paperwork. Several home visits and interviews where a caseworker picks your life apart to be sure that you are fit to parent. There are state-mandated trainings, classes, and certifications before we can even have the chance to be selected by a birth mom. We spend HOURS making a perfect profile book to let birth moms know how much we would love the little person they are bringing into the world.  

I kind of feel like everyone should have to do this even to have a biological child, I mean it really makes you think. By the end of the process you are confident you can parent (or not). Many conversations that I have with people (friends and strangers) the underlying tone from them is that our adoption process was easier that their labor. Adoption is labor - hard work - just not a physical labor. It is a labor of the heart, emotions, and mind. 

What do you feel is the most common misconception about adoption? 
Not everyone who adopts is doing so because of fertility problems. To be honest, there is a high chance that Luke and I could have had a biological child with the help of science. We felt called to parent. We felt called to adoption. Some people are called, not "forced." I think some people assume "adoption was your second choice" or "you would have had biological children if you could." That is surely true for some, but not for all. 

How can we best support mamas (and families) going through the process?
Pray for them and let them know that you are doing so. Be upfront that you don't understand the process or are not educated on adoption. Don't pretend to know and understand if you don't actually know and understand. Be a listening ear, maybe even a shoulder to cry on, but you don't need to pretend to understand. 

Treat them as you would any other family that is expecting. Throw the baby showers, take meals after baby comes home, check on them to see how they are doing. For me, I had a hard time when I was setting up a nursery. MANY people treated it as if we didn't need new things or like it was silly to put energy into getting the perfect crib or artwork for the wall. They may not have meant it this way, but the way it came off was "you are getting someone else baby, the baby can use someone else's stuff." Don't get me wrong, I was open to borrowing and using hand-me-downs, I'm talking about the "nesting" that happens for pregnant women. It happens for us adoptive moms too!

As you walked through the waiting period of the adoption, what was the most comforting thing to hear? least comforting? 
Most comforting: success stories of other adoptive families. 
Least comforting: horror stories of legal messes with birth parents, birth parents changing their minds, birth families being "crazy." (Unfortunately we heard the horror stories more than the success stories) 

If you want to know more about someone's adoption story, what's the best way to initiate that dialogue?
I would say to be open and honest about where you are coming from personally like, "I don't know much about adoption, but I am interested to know more," or "How can I pray for you?"  It always made me feel better when people lead with where they were personally on the topic. For example, several times I had people say "did you know I was adopted?" When I answered "no" they would tell me their story. Then I felt comfortable sharing mine. 

What were your biggest obstacles and fears as you waited on David to come home? 
That he would be taken away. That his birth mom would change her mind, that his birth father would appear and take him, or that the legal system would fail us (our state laws protect birth parents well, but don't protect adoptive families until finalization). 

How did you pray through the waiting period? How can people best pray for adoptive families?
We prayed for the child that God would have us to parent, not just a child. We prayed that our hearts would release fears and worries into the hands of the One who is ultimately in control. 

Tell us about the day you got the call (or email) that you were chosen by his birth mom. 
First we got an email and all it stated was his race and gender. These emails were common when there was a new birth mom making an adoption plan, and we could respond yes or no. This particular email normal would have gotten a big fat "no" from us because of the lack of information. However, I had the flu and literally could not move off of the couch so we said yes to our profile being shown and I remember laying on the couch foggily praying "Jesus, if this is not our baby please don't let her (birth mom) pick us."

Next, we got a call that she had chosen us and wanted to meet us. We were thrilled and nervous. What if she didn't like us? What if she decided not to pick us after meeting us? What if we said the wrong thing? Funny thing is, when we met her she had the same fears. 

What's the one thing you wish you had known from the first day you began pursuing adoption? 
I wish I had known how intense and unfair the legal system can be for adoptive families. I wish I had believed how quickly a baby can come home (I just assumed it would be years, but it took months). I wish I had believed that it was all in God's timing. Like I said, I knew those things but I don't think that I believed them. 

Tell us a little about David and how he has changed your life.
Oh. My. Goodness. He is seriously the best. A part of me believes that God gives a little extra grace to babies born into the chaotic scene that is adoption. He transitioned into our family seamlessly. He is sweet, funny, spirited, and wild!  My eyes have been opened to the understanding that genetics don't make a family. 

Finally, what encouragement would you give to someone who is reading this and is considering adoption? 
1) Try not to let the money scare you. That seems to be the biggest barrier for people. God has a way of getting that part done. There are a ton of resources to be used to raise money! 
2) It is worth it. The pain, the stress, the money, the time - it's worth it. You won't regret it.

When I was struggling with the thought of never being able to be a mom, a friend told me "Jessica, remember you WILL be a parent someday." There were times I would literally say that to myself. Adoption was the way we felt God wanted to build our family. I look back now and can't imagine what our life would be like if we had not chosen to respond to the gentle nudge from the Holy Spirit into the journey of adoption. 

She's right - genetics don't build families, love does. Jessica, I am so grateful for your willingness and openness in letting us walk through your journey with you, even in this small way. I thank God for your friendship and for the gift of motherhood that has come into your life!

One of the best opportunities we have in aiding adoptive families is through funding. If you would like to learn more, visit

**Are you an adoptive mom or on your way to becoming one? I would love to hear your heart on these questions and gain even more insight into the world of adoption. Leave a comment below!

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

seeing myself with His kind eyes

On the evening Sara Hagerty addressed the 400 bloggers and writers at Allume Conference in Greenville, SC, I found myself on the hotel bathroom floor. 

Tears stung my eyes as weakness took over my body. I prayed over and over again because there was nothing else I could do. I was getting increasingly sicker and was caught in a cycle my body couldn't overcome on its own. Alone in a new city, away from all things familiar. And while I couldn't see it until later, God had something for me there on that floor. 

I missed Sara's message that night, but a week later I curled up on my couch at home to watch the recorded video of her talk. I wasn't in a conference room, but I found myself in a different kind of meeting. An intimate gathering, just Sara, the Lord, and myself. This time, truth stung my eyes, and I let the tears flow. 

I am fairly certain that God's message would have fallen on unprepared soil had I attended Sara's talk in Greenville feeling like my typical self with my normal complexion and regular appetite. I would have listened earnestly to her talk, nodded in agreement, scribbled down quotes in my notebook, and applauded as she exited the stage. Maybe I would have gotten her signature in my copy of Every Bitter Thing is Sweet. But I'm not sure her words would have found their way in the maze from my head to my heart. 

My heart wasn't ready. 

The Lord was busy cultivating in me a new reliance on Him, as Father. 

The Allume Conference was such a unique experience for me. Prior to that first day, I knew no one there. I hesitantly roomed with two strangers who turned out to be completely delightful and sweet friends. I met and heard from handfuls of women who share my very heartbeat - a love for the Lord and a calling to use our words to further His Word. It was life-giving for me to be in that kind of sacred atmosphere for three days. 

I drove the three hours home from Greenville reflecting on why God would allow a debilitating illness in the midst of such a monumental weekend. I held on to the fact that I there was a reason, even if I couldn't see it yet. It took some time for me to feel like I had an answer to my question, but one thing I knew for sure all along: as depleted as my body felt, my soul was full


As a little girl, there was one person I always ran to with cuts, bruises, splinters, and skinned knees. When I fell chin-first (that's a special kind of skill) on the curb outside the gym at my elementary school, my mom didn't rush me to the nearest ER to assess the gash on my chin. Nope, we drove straight to Fire Station #3 where my dad was waiting to fix me up. As a firefighter and EMT, he always knew how to take whatever was broken and make it better. 

Now, twenty-something years later, I can't help but think: when was the last time I ran to my heavenly Father over my most recent fall? when did I last let Him assess the bruised and broken parts of me? when have I simply rested in his ability to make me whole? 


So that afternoon at home while my daughter napped and I listened to the recording of Sara's talk, her powerful words found ready ground. They burrowed deep deep deep into my heart, into places only recently revealed and softened by my reliance on God as my Father.  

Her message was simple but as personal as it gets: Who does God say I am? What does My Father whisper about me when it's just us together? I've never been bold enough to ask, but with Sara's urging I find myself inquiring with the trust of a child. Lord, who am I to You?

The answer? He's proud of me. He says I'm special. He says I'm His. He says I'm a good mama.  Even when I feel none of those things. He knows me best and yet He loves me best. 

He says He sees me

His sweet affirmation is the only one I need. I can rest there.

He knows me best and yet He loves me best. 


Unlike the first time Sara's words hung in the air, I wasn't sick on a floor crying over my ailment. This time I was on my couch, face full of tears, in awe of his overwhelming love for me despite my brokenness. 

He looks on us with a Father's eyes. Kind eyes. Forgiving eyes. The same adoration and immeasurable love I feel toward my own daughter, God feels for me, except His love is perfect in every way. His Father-love is fierce. Unending. God-sized. His adoration never lets up.

My motherhood -- my daily mothering -- is a mirror that reflects small fragments of His Fatherhood back to me so I can know Him better as Father. Whenever I steal a glance at that mirror, I'm reminded -- He's a good Father. 

One of my favorite verses comes to mind every night as I sing my daughter to sleep in the quiet of her room. "The Lord your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." Zephaniah 3:17. That is a picture of a Daddy's love. 

He knows YOU best and yet He loves YOU best. 

Lord, tell us again who we are to you. When we're feeling unloved, not enough, unseen, doubtful, broken, or unwanted -- tell us again how we're seen by you. Give us your kind Father eyes to see ourselves, and others, through. Remind us of our place in your heart as beloved daughters. 

You're a good, good Father. 

Oh, I've heard a thousand stories
Of what they think You're like.
But I've heard the tender whisper
Of love in the dead of night.
And You tell me that You're pleased
And that I'm never alone.

You're a good, good Father.
It's who You are, it's who You are, it's who You are.
And I'm loved by You.
It's who I am, it's who I am, it's who I am.     

 Oh, and I've seen many searching 
For answers far and wide.
But I know we're all searching
For answers only You provide.
Because You know just what we need
Before we even say a word.

Because You are perfect in all of Your ways!
You are perfect in all of Your ways!
You are perfect in all of Your ways to us!

Oh, it's love so undeniable,
I can hardly speak.
Peace so unexplainable,
I can hardly think.
As You call me deeper still,
As You call me deeper still,
As You call me deeper still,

into love, love, love ...    

*Affiliate link used in this post. 

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

2 1 m o n t h s { update }

Remember that time I wrote every day for 31 days straight and then took a two and a half week hiatus? Well, I'm back! Just needed some time to recoup. 

It has been a minute since I did an update on Aven. Well, it's been three months and in the life of a toddler, that's a chunk, so here we are talking about all things Aven. 

First, can I just say how much I love this age? She is totally my little sidekick. We go everywhere together and she's becoming such a helper with whatever I'm up to. 

She's also a talker, so we always have some kind of conversation going. When she talks she nods her head around like a teenager and it's hysterical. I am also loving the fact that I can actually reason with her and talk through things, and she understands me. It helps us avoid at least some meltdowns and tantrums. 

She's just becoming such a little person, and it's so fun to watch. 

C l o t h i n g
Aven wears 24 month/2T clothing for the most part. We do have some 3T stuff that she can already fit into (WHAT IN THE WORLD). Shoes - size 7. Diapers - size 5.

Nope, she's never been a small one, and that's fine by me. :)

R o u t i n e 
Not much has changed in this arena since I last updated at 18 months. She's up around 7a, eats breakfast pretty much right away, and the first thing out of her mouth every morning is "Mickey??" so we often start the day with an episode of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. 

Lunch around 12 and not long after is heading for a nap. Naptime is usually 1.5-2 hours. I always lay down with her initially, and sometimes I linger and nap with her because I know these days will be ending soon. 

After waking up, she eats an afternoon snack and watches tv for a bit. Dinner is between 6-6:30p and then she heads into what we lovingly call "crack mode." Basically she runs all over the house, using every last bit of energy stored up, and dances, sings, yells, throws her arms in the air and generally acts like a fool. It's hilarious. 

7:30p is bathtime (her favorite) and she's laying down by 8p. We just sing a few lullabies and then lay her down awake. She falls asleep almost immediately most nights. If she does cry, it's short-lived, because girlfriend is tired.

F a v o r i t e s 
As mentioned, Mickey and Minnie Mouse are the center of her universe right now. She is truly obsessed. She sometimes yells out "Oh tooooodlessss!" in the middle of playing with toys, and has the funniest granny-style dance moves to the opening song. So of course, we had to represent when Halloween rolled around. She was the cutest Mickey you have ever seen, minus the ears because this kid tolerates nothing on her head. Instead she got little mouse/pigtails. 

Her other favorite tv show is Sesame Street because of "Eh-mo."

Stuffed animals: Ella the Elephant, Blue the Doggie (she calls him "Bew"), Monk Monk, and Goat. Needs them all in her crib with her night. Not into baby dolls at all, but animals are apparently her jam.

Airplanes / Helicopters / Trains

Mickey Mouse.

Outdoors. If she's outside, she's happy. 

Pretend cell phones.

Yogurt dips. Puffs.

Bubbles / Balls / Books / Shoes / Coloring  

Did I mention Mickey Mouse? 

W o r d s  /  L e a r n i n g 
We are teaching her numbers, letters, colors, animal sounds, and shapes during playtime/bathtime/car rides.

Her vocabulary is really growing, and she'll put together two- or three- word sentences now, like "Aven eat" or "Mommy go upstairs."

She cannot say her L's. Instead she replaces it with a "y" sound. Which makes so many words just so stinking adorable, like "yeh-yow (yellow) or "yight" (light). This is my favorite thing, maybe ever??

She can count to 10 with help. She can recognize her name when spelled out, and can recognize almost all letters. We are starting to teach her the alphabet using foam letters during bathtime.

New animal sounds, of the nontraditional variety, because those are more fun: Deer: "grunt grunt" / Turtle: "wah wah wah wah" / Crab: clicking sound while making "pincher" fingers / Hippo: "chomp chomp". I have a video of some of these I'll post on Instagram later :)

P e r s o n a l i t y 
Friendly. Social. Talkative. Demanding. Opinionated. Joyful. Girly. Sensitive. Dramatic. Sweet.

Q u i r k s 
Hates to have her feet touched  //  Every time she sneezes she yells "tissuuuue!"  // Waves at literally everything  //  "Sniffs" every flower she sees, even pictures of flowers.  //  "Fake" sleeps, complete with little snores and whistling sounds that I can only assume were learned from cartoons // Is OBSESSED with order and organization (she will put things back, shut drawers, and close doors behind me  // Boo-boos require ice, but not for the boo-boo, just for her to munch on.

Crazy kid. 

F i r s t s 
Library trip
Day trip to the mountains
Kiddie train ride
Encounter with chickens, goats, pigs, and horses
Learned to give "thumbs up!"
Potty *attempts*

Oh, Aven Harper. You make my heart sing and my face smile. I'm so proud to be your mom.