Thursday, December 31, 2015

It is Well

As I sit here on this last night of 2015, there are many thoughts, words and emotions running through my mind to describe this year. If I'm honest, this year hasn't gone anything like I planned or hoped. To be completely honest, it is far from what I hoped.

Recently, our missions pastor preached a short series on the book of Habakkuk. This was such a timely sermon series for me personally as it came during an extra hard month of waiting in the adoption process. If you've ever talked to anyone who has adopted, I know you have probably tired of hearing how the "waiting is so hard." But it is. Hard. Just really really hard. 

Going through the short book of Habakkuk was refreshing to hear Habakkuk's real and honest dialog with the Lord as well as his questioning to the Lord. If I would have gotten nothing more from the sermon series, I was reminded of the ending of the book which we had read at our wedding nearly 10 years ago.

Habakkuk 3:17-19 "Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places."

Yet... Yet... such a powerful conjunction! Sometimes as Christians, we let ourselves get consumed in all those phrases before the Yet. We wallow in the trials. We whine about our circumstances. We throw ourselves a pity party.

Yet we forget all God has done. Yet we forget how he has ALWAYS been faithful to us in the past. Yet we not worship him for his work of salvation through Christ on the cross!

I have not always rejoiced in 2015. I have not always been thankful. But the Lord is good and does not leave us or forsake us. He even sovereignly put me in a Bible study this fall on the book of James. Yes, that's right, James. The book of the Bible on Faith. The book that starts off with "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." That verse inspired the title of this blog. God was in every detail, big and small, of 2015.

Ok... back to Habakkuk, in the last sermon of the series, the pastor shared a story of a man from our church who went through a battle with cancer and at the start of it in 2009 was given one year to live. He told our pastor "I'd go through it again because God taught me so much through it." Our pastor described it as a bold and quiet trust in God in the midst of calamity. Philip turned to me and said, "Would you do the three plus year adoption journey again for God to teach and grow you so much?" My response that Sunday was to ask me after the twins were home. :)

I've recently thought a lot about how God called Abraham to go "to a land I will show you." Abraham packed up his family and left all that he knew, all that was comfortable, to follow the Lord into the unknown. I've pondered the thought of if I had known in September of 2012 that we would be entering 2016 and still not be done with this process, would we still have gone forward? In April, when we accepted the referral on the twins, what would I have said if I had known we wouldn't have even traveled for our first trip by the end of 2015??

So often we long to see into the future, but God knows we aren't prepared to handle that knowledge. Thankfully we have the gift of hindsight and looking back. He shows me daily as I look back at this much longer than expected journey how every detail has been by his plan and in his time. He reminds me that none of it has surprised him or been outside of his control or will. I pray for eyes of faith to continue to see his hand guide us to the end of the adoption process and throughout the rest of our lives. He gets the glory of this adoption process. He is to be glorified through our lives. He guides us day by day, step by step, moment by moment. He calls us. He gives us grace upon grace. He bears our sorrows and feels our pain. He sees us crumpled to tears by yet another dose of bad news. He knows our fears of inadequacies to parent these two boys who he has given into our care. He knows!

As we look forward to 2016, some of our toughest days may still be ahead. We know this journey God has called us to in which these twin boys will join our family will be difficult and rewarding, trying and awe-inspiring, full of tears and triumphs, but one thing is certain, the Lord will bring us through and refine us to be more like Him. 

We have much to be thankful for from the year 2015. As for our adoption process, there really is finally light at the end of the tunnel as the Lord saw it fit to move our case forward in December by issuing the unpredictable approval letter and a week later have our court date for January announced. We are finally on the last leg (well last two legs since we travel twice).

This past week a sweet refrain has been coming to mind as I've thought through the ending of a this year and the start of a new year. 

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, 
when sorrows like sea billows roll; 
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say, 
It is well, it is well with my soul. 
It is well with my soul, 
it is well, it is well with my soul

There have been days in recent months where the sorrow of this long journey has billowed over me; the sorrow of my heart to not have these boys home in my arms has overwhelmed me. There have been days where peace has washed over me that is unexplainable and surpasses all my earthly understanding. The quiet peace the Lord has given me within my soul has astounded me as I wouldn't describe myself as a peaceful and quiet person typically. I pray he continues to give us peace as we walk the road ahead.

To my fellow adoptive moms and families still waiting for a referral or have lost a referral, still waiting for an approval letter, for a court date, for the light at the end of your tunnel, you have my daily prayers for God's comfort and peace to wash over you each day. As a dear adoptive mom put it, it will be a glorious unfolding as we see all that the Lord will do in our lives and in our children's lives. 

For those still reading, thanks for journeying with us. Thanks for celebrating the good news and encouraging us through the tough days. Thanks for asking about the details. Thanks for not giving up and forgetting about us. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Making Room for Two (Part 2)

I've often sat down to compose this blog post over the past few months, but the words just did not come. The timing didn't feel right. I mean if you write a part one blog post; there has to be a part two, right?

Making room for two.... little did we know when we started this journey that it would be two years, almost to the day that we would be on the wait list waiting to be matched with one child or two. We did not know we were "making room for two" years in our lives. We are making room in our home, in our lives and in our hearts for two little boys, but that isn't what this blog post is going to be about exactly.

There is a back story to these two years that we have sought to be careful in how we share because it is not entirely our story to share. I have struggled to know if we should share this openly on this blog. We do not share this to pat ourselves on the back or to try to draw attention to ourselves. We share this because of the lessons we have learned and seeing a small glimpse of God's purpose in our lives in a season of waiting.

It is hard to pinpoint exactly where this piece of our journey started, but I think that is how God works. He starts a new chapter in the story of our lives when we don't even realize it is happening. As a teacher in a large urban district, there are countless students who've sat in the desks of my classroom that impacted me more than my teaching impacted them. This is one of those cases.

A young man walked into my classroom for the first time in January of 2011. His class schedule had switched around due to seniors being able to take a reduced class load in their second semester so he was placed in my Algebra 2 class to accommodate other course changes. I knew of this young man previously because he was on the basketball team. I had kept the scorebook for the basketball team and my husband announced during the games. I did not know much of his story prior to this semester; only that he was a fairly quiet kid who loved to play basketball. Being a tom boy growing up, I enjoyed talking sports with the student athletes in my class so though I did not get much conversation out of him, the little we did talk was about the basketball team or how a particular game had gone, etc. 

A few other situations came up through his last semester of high school in which I learned a bit more of his story and was able to help him out in a few very small ways. He was a kid who did not ask for help very often because he had pretty much relied on only himself for much of his life. Thanks to his HS assistant basketball coach, he was offered a scholarship to play basketball at a community college in western Kansas. 

We kept up with how he was doing and how his basketball team was doing through his freshman year of college. We were able to go see several games that year and even watched his team play in the national junior college tournament. He was having great success on the team and was getting honors for his success even just as a freshman. We continued to follow him through his sophomore year as well. Due to a job relocation, his uncle who he had lived with growing up, moved out of state during his sophomore year of college. 

As I mentioned previously, he is a very quiet kid. We kept in touch with him but usually didn't get a lot of response back. We had offered that if he ever needed help with anything that he just needed to let us know. He always said thanks, but we really never expected him to take us up on the offer until he called me in December of his sophomore year. His ride home for Christmas break had fallen through so he was asking if we could come pick him up which we did and later took him back after Christmas as college basketball players get very little time off around the holidays.  After his teams' season ended earlier than they hoped, he and a teammate stayed with us for their spring break. Both had hopes and plans to play at a Division I school after they graduated from the junior college later that spring.

On April 19, 2013, he and the same teammate signed to play basketball at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, TX. 

Side note about the timing God planned in all of this: our dossier got to Ethiopia on April 22, 2013 which was the start of our official wait on "the list" to receive an adoption referral.

The two years that followed while we waited on the adoption wait list involved us making many trips to TX. We were able to see him play in quite a few games in his two years on the team. He stayed with us for the summers in between and at Christmas time as well. We made the trip down for his last game on their home court for his senior night and got to walk with him and some of his family when he was honored. 

Our favorite memories were going to their conference tournament both years in Katy, TX in which they played in the championship game both years; falling short of making it to the NCAA tournament both years unfortunately. Through his two years on the team, we got to know the coaching staff very well and are so grateful for their investment in him and including us in their program as well even though we are not technically his family. (Seriously, they truly went above and beyond the call of duty. I could go on and on about this, but that isn't the point of this post.) He received honors for his success on the team as well and finished his time there with hopes of playing professionally.

He came back to stay with us for the summer while he finished up one online class this summer. We made the trip back to Huntsville for one last time for his graduation on August 8. His journey was unsure for a bit as to if an opportunity to play basketball would actually work out, but just a little over a week ago, I took him to the airport and he is now in the country of Georgia where he signed to play basketball in a professional league there.

I often have said had the adoption process moved quicker, we would have not been able to be as involved in his life as we were able to. Is this why our adoption process went slowly? We will never know for sure, but we do know that for this season of waiting, God had a purpose we would have never planned for or seen on our own. 

The lessons we learned in these few years of walking beside him in his collegiate basketball journey and pursuing professional basketball are hard to fully verbalize. One thing I know for certain is that when we get out of the way and allow God to use us as he would choose, the journey he will take us on is far greater than what we could imagine. He is now half a world away pursuing his dreams of playing basketball professionally and we are slowly, but surely, getting closer to bringing the twins home. Though he will never officially or legally be related to us, we consider him as close as family and know in some way, shape or form, we will stay connected with him. 

My sister's mantra is "it is a privilege to be involved in the lives of people." It truly has been a privilege for us to be involved in this young man's life. I think it is in our human nature to hold back and to not get involved because people's lives our messy and it might require too much of our hearts and lives to get involved. In this case, it wasn't always easy nor was it convenient, but the benefits far outweigh the inconvenience. We did not always know where the path was going to lead and looking back there are possibly some things we would have done differently. The selfish instincts in us said to hold back and to not be involved, but thankfully, God nudged us just enough to walk this path. It would have been easy to say we couldn't get involved because our season of life would be changing.

Yes, the seasons do change, but one of the biggest lessons I have learned in this entire adoption process is that we miss out on the beauty and the opportunity of the season we are in now if we are always looking forward to the next season. The Bible is filled with stories of waiting, but it is filled with stories of the way God worked mightily in these people's lives who were waiting for the next season. He uses waiting, even though our impatient hearts long for the waiting to end. There is purpose in the waiting. In our case, God gave us a glimpse of one small purpose of our waiting in this adoption process. Sometimes we don't get that glimpse until well after the fact. 

Right now, we find ourselves in yet another season of waiting that is lasting much longer than we anticipated. Do we trust God in this time of waiting? Do we trust that his timing and his plan are perfect? We have seen time and time again in this entire journey that his plan is good and perfect, but it is so easily to forget and to want things NOW. Would you continue to pray for us that we would seek God's wisdom in this time?

We are so grateful for such a large support system. We would not have been able to walk this journey without your love, support, encouragement and prayers!

Grateful for you all!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Making Room for Two (Part 1)

This blog post is long overdue and may get kind of long so be warned. It may actually come in multiple parts also. I'm attempting to fill in the details that many people have asked about so if you aren't a detail person, you might get overwhelmed!

The Phone Call

On Friday April 17, I was out of school for our conference release day. Philip had gone to Hiawatha to visit his family so I went to see a movie with my sister and another friend. As I was almost to my car after the movie was over, I realized that I had something in my purse to give my sister so I turned to head back to find them. As I was heading back, my phone rang.

It was not a number saved in my phone but showed up as an Alabama number. My heart leapt because any call from an Alabama number usually is from our adoption agency. (I had just emailed some with our caseworker a week earlier and all my previous questions had been answered so I knew she wasn't calling to follow up on anything else.) I answered and it was our caseworker. She first asked if I was with Philip and after telling her I wasn't, she proceeded to say the words we had waited two years to hear. She asked if we wanted more information about twin boys.

She continued talking which was good since I don't think I could have responded immediately. By this point I had wandered back to the theater and found my sister. She immediately knew I was acting weird. I called Philip and told him about the call. My sister and friend began freaking out at the news they were hearing as I explained it to Philip. Philip and I agreed to view the file. Later, I called back our caseworker to tell her we wanted to view the file so she conferenced Philip in on the call as well. (Isn't technology grand?)

The timing has been pretty amazing in this entire journey (more on that later), but we laugh about the fact that we got the long awaited phone call on the one weekend of the whole year that Philip and I weren't together. This, of course, was all in God's good and perfect timing. Yes, this was a decision we needed to make together, but the time apart was actually really beneficial for us to individually process and digest the information about the boys and the impact saying "yes" would have on our lives. Philip called Saturday as he was driving back to Wichita and as he began sharing his thoughts, tears began to stream down my face because he was saying and expressing everything I was thinking and feeling as well. We serve an amazing God who planned this all down to the exact timing of the phone call. Each and every intricate detail in this journey has been according to his plan. Throughout this process, one of my prayers was that we would know confidently know when to say yes when we finally got the phone call. He more than answered this for both Philip and I and we emailed our agency on Sunday that we would wanted to move forward to adopt the boys.

Now to back up a few weeks... As many of you know, each month our agency emailed out our wait list number.  We got our first numbers May 1, 2013 and our last wait list email came on April 1st though at the time we didn't know it would be the last one. Being a numbers nerd, it was kind of cool to me that we got the call 24 months after we were on the wait list. Our dossier arrived in Ethiopia on April 22, 2013 and we got the call April 17, 2015; just five days short of exactly two years! Again, God's timing and purpose in this process has humbled and amazed us. 

Ok, sorry for the numbers rabbit trail... We knew from talking via Facebook with other families from our agency that we could potentially be close to getting a call as many families on the list ahead of us were gender specific for girls only or were on pause for other major family changes (birth of a child, move, etc). Even though our number was still a ways from the top, we felt confident that the adoption would finalize sometime next school year, so the week after Spring break, I met with my principal and submitted my letter of resignation to not return to teaching after the current school year was over and stay home next school year. 

Looking back, some people probably thought I was off my rocker to resign to stay home with kids that we didn't have yet and haven't even been matched with. God gave us a peace that surpassed even our own understanding! And 24 days later, when the call came, we again saw God's purpose and plan come together. 

The verse that God kept bringing to mind throughout this time was Proverbs 19:21 "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." I will blog more about this verse in a later post. Thanks for reading this (if you made it to the end) and being such an encouragement to us in this journey. We count it a joy to share with you all!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Jumping Off the Ladder

I guess you could say I started climbing the ladder about nine years ago as I interviewed and accepted my first teaching job in the spring of 2006 while in my last semester at K-State while student teaching.

To be honest, nine years ago I didn't expect to climb as high or as long as I did on the ladder. I fully expected I would work two to four years before we started a family. 

But let's be brutally honest, there is quite a list of things I did not plan for or expect in the last nine years. That is a whole other post all together. :)

This is about jumping off the ladder. I planned to climb it slow and steady. At times I did and at other times I raced. But now I'm getting off this ladder, the career ladder. 

Last Tuesday I met with my principal to submit my letter of resignation to not continue teaching at the conclusion of this school year. Thankfully, this news was well received by her and those we have shared the news with.

If you know me well, you know this is not a decision we have made lightly, but we have peace that this is what God wants for us, for me, at this point. 

As most of you know, our adoption journey has been long and bumpy at times but based on recent movement,  we feel confident to take this step as with teaching, you don't just turn in a 2 weeks notice. :)

I am not sure that it has fully sunk in that I'm off the ladder; that the next 8 weeks are the end of this part of my career. Maybe it will fully hit in May. Maybe not until August. But I confidentially know that the season of these nine years of teaching have shaped and formed me for the seasons ahead.