Posts filed under Faith

When Hope is Too Heavy a Burden

Only a few people knew. 

Last year, it was all about asking. Every where I turned, my spirit kept whispering Just ask. Just ask. How will you know unless you ask? 

And at first, I took to my art journal. I wanted to believe — wanted to hope that 2013 would end with that expectant hope being realized in our own life, but it felt like a precarious balance. 

A balance I was willing to endure in silence. 

My art journal has always been the place where my thoughts first see the light of day. And last December? It was full of hope. Expectancy. Shaky-yet-blissful belief.

After a few weeks, the burning inside grew wings and I couldn't not talk about it. 

I posted on a Facebook page.

"I can't really explain it, y'all. It's just a feeling. I think — I think we're close. I think we're going to be placed by Christmas."

There were mentions of prayers and solidarity. A friend had a dream of Russ and I sitting in front of a Christmas tree holding a baby boy. The dates December 17 and December 20 settled in my bones. 

And then there was the Sunday where I couldn't stop myself from asking for prayer at church. "Pray our baby home?" I said in between tears. "It's just been so long..." my voice cracked and I backed away from the mic, rushing back to my seat and gripping my husband's arm with one hand and my best friend with the other. 

I felt maternal. It's the only description I can think to use. With a ferocity I never knew, I was so certain I could pray our baby home into my arms. 

Every morning, I woke up expectant. I'd watch the time flicker and move to past-the-point-of-updates from our agency and attempted to resist the doubt. 

I knew what I felt, right? 
2013 wouldn't end with us still waiting, would it?

December 17 came, and it turns out my intuition was keyed in on something. I got an email. 

"Hey. I saw this and wasn't going to send it to you because reasons, but now I can't stop thinking about it so maybe?" 

There was a little boy waiting for a family in a hospital in a different state. He'd been born earlier that day. I called the agency, told them our story, and managed to get the cell phone number of the social worker. 

It only took five minutes to know something wasn't adding up. We'd have to pay another 20k to adopt this baby. The money would be due at the time of placement, which would be December 20. 

I blinked against the synchronicity and fought the tears as I hung up the phone. 

"You weren't wrong," my spiritual director would tell me later. "There was a baby boy." 

"...just not ours." I would reply.

Eventually, my hope faded and with it, my belief. 

I stopped waiting.

No one knows about the texts we got about various maybes. The little girl who's mom didn't want her anymore. The family who chose us but then decided to stay within their ethnicity. The almosts that filled our experience these past four years grew increasingly more difficult. 

When we moved into our new apartment, I wouldn't let Russ bring the crib up from the garage. The changing table rests in our closet, unused and stuffed to the brim with baby clothes. We've given away almost every package of diapers we had stashed. Our friends are using the baby swing that collected dust for over a year. Part of me just wants to give it all away. 

.::.

A few weeks ago, right before a Story 101 call, I got a notification on Facebook. A friend, the kind who storms the gates on my behalf, posted a request. 

I want heaven and earth moved for them. I want a baby in their arms by Christmas. 

My breath caught and the tears came immediately. The parallels between the last year and this year were not lost on me. But yet, so much was different. Namely, my belief. I'd grown comfortable not thinking about our continued wait. I set my roots down in the land of We Don't Have Kids and without even knowing, left my bags behind in the land of Motherhood. Leaving those bags behind meant not having to deal with the ticking clock. It meant not facing this growing grief inside.

I didn't want to hope. 

I heard someone say the other day that cynicism is just a lazy form of grief. And isn't this true? Don't we all run from the heartache and into the waiting arms of Disbelief? We're safer that way. 

These past few days, grief has chased me. My word for 2014 was soft. In so many ways, I thought this word endearing. What an incredible word to hold while I walk my first year of motherhood. 

Now, 11 months behind me and still empty armed, I know this is the last area waiting to be softened. The year has bludgeoned me in all sorts of ways, demanding my rootedness and ownership of who I am in the deepest places. Yet, this place — motherhood — remains hard. Bedrock. I'm not sure when the concrete poured into the crevices of hope. Whenever it happened, it was slow and methodical, reaching some of my deepest beliefs.

But it can't stay that way. I know it can't. I've come too far and gained too much freedom in order to remain hardened in one of my most vulnerable places. So I welcome the Softening, shaky limbed and weepy eyed. 

This morning, I started art journaling again. I woke with a brick in my gut, a sign that my intuition is pointing to something in the distance, and I'm wanting to run away. 

Acknowledging the grief of our wait is excruciating, but holding the expectant hope that lands in your bones without warning is downright torture. 

Last season, I asked others to believe with us.
This season, I'm asking for you to believe FOR us. 

I don't know if we'll be placed by Christmas. There are a lot of things that would need to happen. I don't know when the day will come when we finally get the call we've been waiting to hear for over four years. 

But what I do know is that we can't hold this hope anymore. 

Our shaky limbs can't carry any more weight.

Posted on December 3, 2014 and filed under Mom-Heart, Faith.

some honesty.

I'm not sure when the shift occurred. 

Maybe it was when night crested on Christmas day and we marked another year-we-never-thought-would-pass-without-a-child.

Or maybe it was when a side comment occurred reminding me of how many people started after we did and now have tiny feet and tiny fingers filling their view.

Or maybe it was when my year of risk folded into a year of soft and I realized—I'm just too tired. 

.::.

I've mentioned it before, how easy it is to simply forget you're in the middle of an adoption process. You go day-by-day and you're in this limbo of invisible pregnancy and no one knows. There's no internal shifting, no slight butterfly whispers of baby kicks. It's just you, just your spouse, just the empty closet-turned-nursery-turned closet again.

Over the past year and a half, I've avoided planning things. I've kept my calendar wide open—as much as possible—because of the what if of how our world can change. There was a slight reprieve in the spring, when we had a definitive date pointing us toward something. I'd even say this summer was included, because no way in hell did we expect anything to happen after having the unthinkable happen twice.

But slowly the thoughts came back—first in brief momentary glimpses and then full-on waves of emotion. It could be today. It could be today. What if it's today. 

And well, after a few months of that, you get exhausted. 

.::.

"Thank God we can't tell the future. We'd never get out of bed." - Tracy Letts, August: Osage County

If I knew what I know now—if I could see how long this would last or how much heartbreak it would cause, I'm not sure if I would do it all again. I say that knowing after it's all said and done, when the wait is over and the pain dulls, my thoughts will change.

But now? I just don't know.

And so I'm scheduling into June. I have a significant trip planned in April. I'm daydreaming about vacations Russ and I can take in the summer. I'm hiring an intern and working on expanding Story Sessions. I'm tossing out my yoga mat every morning and making routines and creating rituals.

I can't live in the world of maybe today anymore. 

The definite one day has turned to maybe in my heart. And I don't know what to think about that, but for now, I'm just holding the empty space. 

It's not my job to fill it with hope and expectation anymore.

Posted on January 11, 2014 and filed under Faith, The Process.

prayers of the people.

On Sunday, I stood up in front of a room full of people I didn't know and through tears, muttered our truth—"my husband and I have been in the domestic adoption process for almost four years, and this season God is teaching me that part of receiving is asking. So here I am, asking..." 

I stumbled through more words and prayers and please come home soons and then sat down next to Russ, his hand already reaching to wrap around my own. Every part of me was shaking. I didn't plan to stand up and speak. We've done well to remain somewhat in the background since June. But sometimes, you can't win against the overwhelming urgency of the Spirit within and when my limbs turn heavy and my gut shifts into falling feathers, I know. It's time to speak.

But I hesitated standing up for so long. Every time someone else stepped up to the mic, I would feel the nudge. Every time, I would push it away thinking it's just me or what if they get the wrong idea or  don't want anyone to think I'm trying to get attention. And every. single. time. I fought against those words, I would hear how will they know what I've done if you don't speak? 

So I spoke, believing something would shift on our behalf. 

.::.

We said no to a baby boy today. 

The same friend who sat next to me on Sunday and grabbed my other hand when I sat down after speaking emailed me a forwarded message from an out-of-state agency. 

Urgent Adoption Need it said and my heart fluttered in my chest a little when I read the subject. 

This friend didn't know I've thought about today all month. She didn't know that for whatever reason, the 17th stood out as a date I needed to pay attention. 17th and 20th. 17th and 20th. These days have circulated through my heart and soul for weeks.  So when I got the email on the 17th of December (after our own agency shut down for the day) and when I saw the due date set for the 20th, I paused. 

Immediately, I emailed the agency. 
I called my friend. 
I got the phone number and made a call. 
I spoke with nearly everyone who was still in the office. 
I'm pretty sure I was given the personal cell phone number of one of the case workers. 

And when I got a hold of her, my breath caught because could this be it? Could everything be pointing to tonight? 

We spoke for about ten minutes, long enough for me to know the baby still needed a family and this case worker believed us to be a good fit, when the bomb was dropped. 

"What's your budget for the adoption?" 

"I-I'm sorry? We-we don't have a budget." (small chuckle) "We paid off our adoption this time last year....we don't owe anything with the agency we're with right now...." 

"Well, you could probably just get a loan. You'd need to come up with 28,500 dollars before picking up the baby here in a few days." 

I could feel the room closing in around me and I recognized the feeling. I'd felt it before—many times—and I just closed my eyes against it because it wasn't it. It still wasn't right. After four years and countless leads and too many hopeful emails and phone calls to name, we were the ones walking away. 

We got off the phone a few minutes after that, but I already knew the answer. I already knew this baby was not meant for our arms. And it sucked. 

.::.

Sunday, when I stood in front of strangers, it was part of Prayers of the People—one of my favorite parts of liturgy. During these few moments, you gather around each other and help carry the load. Lord, have mercy echoes up and around you when you state a request. Thanks be to God cracks the silence after a praise. And even when you stand up shaking, like I was, the strength you receive from the whispers rising up with you emboldens you.

And after tonight, I'm even more certain of what He's teaching us.

This season, I'm learning that part of receiving is asking. And so here I am...asking. Would you join us in praying our child home? 

It's been long enough. It's time for jubilee.

Lord, have mercy. 

Posted on December 17, 2013 and filed under Faith, Jubilee.

in which i get a little vulnerable about faith and support.

I've avoided writing this post for about six months. (There's a lot of these in my draft folder, so - bare with me these next few weeks as I work out the tension of my words.)

A year ago, Russ and I completed a budget sheet for our adoption home study. Since then, we've been approved, I quit my job, we were matched with a birth mom, my novel released and the birth mom chose to keep her baby.

Today, I sent off the last bit of retirement I accumulated since we've been married to the adoption agency. With it, we completed a new budget sheet - one with just Russ' income.

On paper, it looks bleak. On paper, it kind of makes me wonder what the hell we're doing anyway - adopting a child. But then I'm reminded of when we first began when His provision left me breathless or a few months ago when He reminded me He finishes what He starts and I know we'll be okay.

It's been like this from the beginning - this thought of who are we fooling. Us? Handle an infant? Us? Figure out what it means to live by faith?

A few months ago, a sweet friend sent me a message with a check.

Let the church be the church she said. Ask for help - people will respond.

And I laughed because this whole self-reliance thing? I've got it on lock. So when God told me to quit my job, and when He asked me to pursue writing, and when my novel released, and when Russ' raise was about a percentage of what his boss asked for on his behalf....

it all leaves me a little anxious and at the same time, expectant.

Here's the thing: we know God has called us to adopt. We know I needed to quit my job - that sacrificing a few extra hundred dollars a month was worth me staying home when our baby got here.

We don't know how we'll get the rest of the payments.

You see, with a typical birth, most families fall under the protection of insurance. Even if you don't, the monthly payments usually won't send you in the red.

Adoption isn't covered. 

And for us, a couple who can't pay off huge chunks of cash at a time, the monthly payments are the only option - even if this means our process will be prolonged once we're placed.

Every month, we send in 955 dollars.

Every month, we've been able to meet this. Lately, it's been in large part to my retirement + some incredible friends who consistently give.

It's hard for me to say this because I know there will be people who won't understand. I know there are family members who won't understand. You don't see pregnant women posting on facebook or twitter or their blogs, asking for money before the birth.

But this is more than a pregnancy, and this is more than us asking for money. This is us begging for support.

From the beginning, we knew this would need to be a community effort. Countless people told us: don't let money stand in the way of you adopting! And we believed them. We fundraised, we sold coffee, we tried to piece together a puzzle...

...and people responded. They donated. They provided online showers. They bought coffee. Combine this support with our extra income and the payments weren't that big a deal.

So where are we now?

Right now, we owe 8500 dollars. Right now, there's no way we can make the 955 a month payment.

Will you pray for us? I know some may wonder why we don't see this as God closing a door. We think God is bigger than this. We know His heart for the orphan - how it echoes His heart for us - and we believe in His calling on our lives.

If you want to donate, there's a badge on the right sidebar that says "JOIN US || donate".

If you want to purchase my novel, which would help as well, you can find it on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Rhizome.

We are also still selling coffee and still piecing together our adoption puzzle.

And of course, above all, your prayers will move mountains. 

We love you guys.

Posted on October 8, 2012 and filed under Faith.

a little honesty.

God only allows pain if He's allowing something new to be born - Ann Voskamp

I haven't written here lately because honestly, things are difficult.

When I first saw the picture of our birth mom, something settled deep within my chest. It was a feeling of rightness - a feeling that yes - this moment, this second - was all predetermined.

And then we met her, and my heart leaned toward hers and I grew quiet because goodness. She's Devonte's age. She could have been any one of my students these past few years. Yet her story is her story and I didn't know how to act, didn't know how to love, didn't know how to properly thank her for this gift.

We exchanged phone numbers and both spoke to our social worker after lunch. The confidence was good. Everyone was happy. With ten weeks to go, Russ and I started planning and soon ten turned to nine and then eight...

...and now we're at five and a half weeks.

Five and a half weeks - at least according to the due date. It could be sooner or later or...never.

I can't imagine what it's like to be pregnant and know that the baby you feel kicking your ribs will grow up in someone else's home. I can't. But I'd be lying if I said I didn't understand why our birth mom wavers. And while the reasons are few - they each hold their own insurmountable weight and I feel this inherent need to protect her. To pull her close and whisper I understand.

How do you give the Answer to one who doesn't know the question?

The other day, our social worker called and asked for some information to update our home study just in case. She mentioned the possibility of a conference call between our birth mom and a supervisor because there were some questions she had - questions we've already answered but she's still unsure about because she's reaching - for anything, really. I remained calm throughout the phone call, but once we hung up and I glanced toward the empty closet which will soon be a mini-nursery, I broke.

I emailed friends, asking them to pray because God-Almighty I was feeling vulnerable and scared and a little like this baby was slipping through my fingers. And within seconds one responded with He is faithful to finish and another texted this will be about faith, Braveheart. 

And I know they're right. All of them.

But it's hard. I never knew this whole control thing was an issue to me and it is - it so is. I'm sensing His presence - feeling the need to let go and fall into a deeper place of trust. And of course, I wonder if He'll catch me in the way I think is best.

I've mentioned before that my biggest prayer throughout this entire process has been that God would be known and people would look at our situation and see Him. Not by our strength but His - right? And now, in the middle of a countdown where I feel the earth shake beneath me because this may definitely not work out in the end, I wonder if that prayer was too dangerous. Too risky. I kind of want to pull it back, say just kidding and move along with another more comfortable route.

But I know that's just my fear talking.

If you pray, would you pray for our birth mom? Not that she would be convinced or manipulated, but that she would feel love and acceptance and a peace that makes no sense in the middle of this situation. Pray we would know how to hold her heart and love her the way she needs to be loved. Pray for the baby, that God would protect her and whisper Truth even now - even in the womb.

And pray for us - pray for His glory, pray for finances, pray for peace even now.

Posted on September 26, 2012 and filed under Faith.

in which i stumble through my words.

I keep the receipts in my center drawer. Right next to my old journals and a wooden box my sister brought back from Haiti, they pile on top of each other. I don't open the drawer often - only when I have another slip of paper to add to the collection. They mock me in a way. With the drawer closed, I forget they're waiting. I can wash the onesies, organize the swaddling blankets and form a plan for what our room will look like in eight and a half weeks without the whispers of those papers hitting my heart.

What if? they ask.

I don't have an answer outside of a shrug and welly eyes.

So when our social worker called yesterday to check on us (we're fine) and see if we've spoken to the birth mom (we have), I wasn't expecting the phrase she's mentioned every single time we've spoken before. 

"You know, Elora - just keep in the back of your mind that this may not work out, there's always that small chance she decides to keep this baby."

And then glory how my heart twists. It's all a mess in there :: my fears having a parade complete with the rhythm of my heart's pounding. This is something we don't talk about often, you know. It's something we don't like to entertain. Because it's true :: what if? 

There's so many layers to this question - so many emotions between strangers. To some, it seems foreign. "Wait. Wait. A mother keeping her baby will cause you devastation? This seems backwards."

Trust me. I know. I know. 

Do you know how many twisted prayers I've thrown up heaven's way these past few years? Do you understand what this does to someone's heart? The please let her choose us....does mean someone will lose. 

Someone - maybe us, maybe her - will be without.

Those receipts were the first thing I thought of when my social worker began reminding me of the risks. Tucked away safely, they symbolize so much fear. Trepidation. Expectation.

And I've realized lately the theology I thought was becoming more centered still leans a little off-kilter. Here's my secret :: sometimes, I fear God will take this all away simply because I want it. 

So those receipts - the small reminder spoken by someone in the middle - the hesitation to pick colors and nest and prepare and do everything a mother does when she finds out she's expecting - it's all an acceptance of something that hasn't even happened yet. Vindication. Manipulation.

Hear me. I'm not saying if this doesn't work out and if our birth mom decides to keep the baby I will immediately jump to this conclusion and belief that God did it out of some misaligned punishment. I know He is good and faithful and loves His children. I know this. I know He can give good gifts and believe this well for friends going through similar situations.

But when it comes to me - I struggle with the belief hitting me square in the chest.

When I began this blog, I set out to write about the process as honestly as possible. In so many ways - so many ways - the beauty of adoption captures me and my soul and brings me to the Throne every time. And in so many ways, I cringe at my views of God being laid bare for me to see. But I want to put these thoughts together - an altar of sorts. I want to look back and shake my head and wonder, really? I was there? And now I'm here? 

Because if there's one thing that's followed us these past two years it's this :: we cannot do this alone. Alone, we're lost. Alone, it just won't happen. Not with our fears and doubt and lack of faith and resources.

From the very beginning, I've prayed that this would happen and people would know it was God who did it. And can I say something? Can I whisper a truth in your ear?

The fact that I'm here - writing these words and not curled up in bed with fear is God. There is no emotional protection here. None. Those receipts may be a safety blanket, but it doesn't keep out the cold truth that in eight weeks we may have a baby.

And in eight weeks we may be back to square one.

Either way, I cling to the truth that God knows how it will all turn out - He knows our baby. He sees her. Loves her. Protects her. He's sinking deep in her chest the truth that her birth mom is one of the bravest women we know and that there are two people who will love her unconditionally - no pretense. No manipulation.

And when she comes, I'll throw those receipts away with joy.

Posted on September 5, 2012 and filed under Faith.

some news.

IMG_4136.1

i've thought about writing this post for awhile. i guess it's fitting that now when it's time, i find no words.

the short of it :: a little over a week ago, we found out that if everything goes as planned, in ten weeks we'll be parents to a beautiful baby girl. 

there's so much to this story. so much my heart wishes to share - so much God has taught me in such a few days. but know this :: He's at work and it's breathtaking to see.

i'll share everything soon - i promise. there's just some things i need to work out in my heart before laying it bare for the world to see, you know? and this - this right here - is sacred.

Posted on August 26, 2012 and filed under Adoption, Faith, The Process.

a small reminder, so my heart will never forget.

last week, i sat in the living room with our community and begged for prayer. "i just have no words. no words at all for this article and i don't understand and i can't figure out these damn emotions clawing to the surface and it's due on friday...."

i was a little beside myself, clearly.

but it didn't take long for them to look at me and find the Truth. it didn't take many questions for me to remember that i haven't properly dealt with a few realizations at what our child will face. it's a type of mourning, really.

more and more, i'm understanding just how much brokenness there is in adoption.

more and more, i'm understanding just how much brokenness there is when we come to Christ. when He adopts us. 

i've said it here before, and i'm sure i'll say it numerous times until we're placed and i'm holding a baby and probably even then i'll whisper this so my heart remembers :: there is nothing that paints a clearer picture of what Christ did for me than earthly adoption.

our baby will move mountains. i know this. our baby will possess a faith that will constantly challenge my own. i'm realizing more and more the purpose behind us saying yes so many months ago is not just so an orphan finds a home. it's for refinement. it's for His glory. it's so Hope gets the last word.

and it's for Jubilee. this is the season of the Eternal One's grace.

Posted on August 16, 2012 and filed under Faith, Mom-Heart.

in an instant

it's hard to know what to write here. for the past few weeks we've felt some movement but haven't necessarily felt obligated to share everything. there is one thing i've realized though :: suddenly, our life has found a precarious balance. in an instant, a millisecond, our life will change.

one minute, it will be business as usual.

the next minute, we'll find ourselves parents.

it's so difficult to guard your heart through this whole shift. phone calls come, possibilities emerge, and then just as quickly they disappear. we know the drill - we've had friends go through this before and we value their wisdom and stories. it's because of them we have even a remote idea of what to expect.

but even then we can't rely on other people's stories.

THIS is what i'm struggling through right now. i know the importance of story :: i know the value of listening to a friend tell me of how God spoke to her through her own adoption experience. but, her experience is all together different than mine -

...where God is showing me what the love of a Father looks like.

...and He's mending this mother heart.

...and He's showing me how to trust.

...and the Gospel rings True even now - even in the hard spaces - even in moments i want to throw my hands up and say really? there's nothing more to share? 

i think this is what propels me forward, the knowledge and understanding that God is working and creating a story all our own.

and this, to me, is beautiful.

Posted on May 9, 2012 and filed under Faith.

faith confessions

one of the biggest surprises in pursuing our child through adoption: the Gospel reaching through and grabbing my heart. i never expected this.

i'm learning {slowly} that there's a lot of bad theology in my heart. like owning the fear of God making our wait longer simply because my desire to be placed is growing by the day. almost as if He's punishing me for being selfish - for embracing this mama heart. or, because i know there's no physical way russ & i can pay the remainder of the money by ourselves, and because i know He will have to intervene somehow, i wonder if He'll make us "pay" for those years we opted for credit to survive while russ didn't have a job. again, our wait will be longer because we mucked it up a few years ago and now have a hill of debt we're slowly crawling out of - month by month.

i'm not sure where these thoughts come from - and i promise i'm not joking when i admit to them.

it's all a bit ridiculous, really. i know this.

there's a huge light pinpointing these untruths in my heart, and i can only imagine it's His goodness and mercy drawing me closer to Him. adoption is a powerful force - an intimate reminder of who we are and how we fit into His kingdom. and the beauty? the mystery of it all?

He loves us now. in the dirt. in the grime. in the frozen-fear of untruth and twisted logic. i am His daughter and He loves me as i am and nothing will change this.

i don't pretend to know the inner-workings of His plan. i'm not sure if we'll get the phone call today or six months from now. i'm learning though, His love is enough. in the wait and in the wondering, He is enough.

and just as He's called me to be His daughter with no strings attached, i'll get to experience the joy of doing the same with our child.

Posted on April 24, 2012 and filed under Faith.

in which i am reminded :: He finishes what He starts

we really need you to get your paperwork in...i have pregnant moms waiting. this was said to me a few weeks ago by my caseworker. i don't think i'll ever forget that moment, because i was taking a sip of water at my desk and i nearly spewed liquid all over my computer screen.

they have waiting pregnant moms. 

these past few months have been a little surreal. for one reason or another, we've felt this divine push to get things done. it's all happening soon, isn't it Father? i'd ask and the tug on my Spirit was like Him squeezing my hand.

so really, this comment by our caseworker wasn't surprising - but it still made me catch my breath.

we ended up sending in the rest of the paperwork by the end of the week, and they received it this past wednesday. knowing homestudies can take a few weeks to process and approve, i called tuesday to see if maybe - possibly - we could have things wrapped up by friday for a grant we were pursuing.

"but i mean...if not, no worries - we can apply for the december deadline."

there was silence on the other end of the line and then a slight clearing of her throat. "no - no, we can definitely try for friday."

we got the phone call friday afternoon that we're officially approved.

i can't help but think the emotions i felt were similar to when a woman's water breaks. excitement, fear, overwhelming wonder...

it just so happens our caseworker will be in town tomorrow for a meeting. because of this, she's taking the opportunity to stop by the house for us to sign the agreement and to give us some last minute training papers. we never knew it would happen so quickly so we're not prepared for the full payment due on signing, but we're not worried. 

yesterday, a friend sent me a message asking me how much we had left. i replied, "4800" - knowing this seems impossible for only a few days.

she ended up donating more than i ever thought possible, saying "listen: God is faithful to finish. He always finishes what He starts."

and i think back on this past year and a half. i think of the quickening i felt to begin the process, the choosing of ethiopia and the immediate halting of that decision. i remember the breaking i felt for domestic adoption, and the way our agency fully embraced us. i remember the timing, the frustration at not being able to find moments to fill out paperwork but knowing the pruning taking shape in both our hearts.

but most of all, i remember the steady upswing of this mama's heart, knowing my baby is coming soon, and praying daily for the strength to make it through this season of jubilee.

because of this, i know :: He is faithful to complete what He started. perhaps this is why i'm not freaking out about tomorrow's meeting. whether we receive the funds or not, i know He's placed us in this time and space for a reason. and for this, i'm at a loss for words.

Posted on April 15, 2012 and filed under Faith, Thoughts.

the hurry up of wait

A few months ago, I whispered a prayer: God, do something in this adoption that makes it apparent You were behind it. Make it blatantly obvious we had nothing to do with it...

Last time I wrote, we were a few hours short of meeting our caseworker and I was struck with the flu.

As most things in adoption, we ended up not having our home-study that day.

Some friends came over and helped us clean and brought us breakfast. The night before, we'd been ordered to rest and that the cleaning {what was left of it} would happen in the morning. When Saturday came, I couldn't have been more thankful for friends who refuse to hear no.

Both Russ and I wheezed and vacuumed and {begrudgingly} passed over the mop so we could rest. As soon as we were finished, Russ received a phone call from our case worker letting us know she was stuck in Houston. It was stormy in Austin but down right scary where she was and some of the roads were already closing.

Russ looked at me when he got off the phone and I fought back the tears. I felt so sick, so exhausted and so defeated. 

"Looks like you guys get a built-in day of rest." I glanced at our friend, leaning against our counter, and managed a small smile. He was right - I knew it. But it still didn't answer the question of why. 

And then, somewhere between my frustration of getting ready and having the study being pushed back a day and my collapse into bed, I just stopped worrying.

and uh...this is a huge deal for me. 

Perhaps God allowed for me to come down with a sickness that rendered me immobile for the sole purpose that I'd understand this isn't about me. Just like I posted before, everything is in God's hands.

So the home study came on Sunday, and God worked miracles so I wasn't coughing up a lung and my fever waited until she shut the door and left. I can't emphasize enough the feeling of relief and gratitude of being done with everything - and having felt sustained through the whole process. When everything was said and done, I fell against Russ' chest and let it all soak in - the movement of the process, the apprehension, the nervousness.

But most of all, I let myself relish the fact that a known stranger recognized the mother's heart within me. And even more, she let us know our wait - albeit never guaranteed - may not be much of a wait for very long.

So now we're experiencing the hurry up of hurry up and wait. There's still a few stray papers we're collecting to finish the home study. Once we're approved, we'll owe our next installment and will officially be on the wait list.

And this wait is what makes me the most nervous of all.

We'd appreciate your prayers over the next few weeks and months. We'll {hopefully} have everything in by the beginning of March and then everything starts moving quickly it seems. There's no set timeline, no definitive. We covet prayers for protection, wisdom and peace. Most of all, we ask for prayer over our future child and the birthmother.

I've learned again and again there's really not much Russ and I can do to speed the process up in any way. Even our home study - although almost complete - was on a different day than originally scheduled. So I'm clinging to my one word for this year, resting in His promise, and praying for the day I'm holding our baby for good.

Posted on February 28, 2012 and filed under Faith, The Process.

pathetic fallacy.

there's this literary term i learned in college - pathetic fallacy. basically, it means when the physical atmosphere in a piece of writing mirrors the emotional atmosphere of certain characters or a scene. {think wuthering heights or that scene in psycho where she's climbing the hill to norman bates' house...} right now, it's storming outside. it seems the wind is playing some sort of mother may i? game with the thunder and lightning. mother may i rattle the screens? the thunder crashes and responds yes...you may. 

and like true literary parallelism, our life has been a storm of emotions this week.

last weekend, we turned in more paperwork and a check - completing the prep process for our home study. i thought about writing a post about how handing over that envelope made me feel overwhelmed and relieved all at the same time, but then tuesday came and our case worker called to let us know our home study would be on saturday.

so tuesday night we celebrated valentines' day by standing in the baby aisle, completely overwhelmed by choices.

i could tell you about the exhaustion i battled or that weird mother-instinct of knowing my baby is coming soon. i could tell you about russ texting me wednesday, letting me know he felt sick.

i could tell you about waking up at 4:00 in the morning on friday to him shivering into chef pants and a hoodie, his body radiating fever.

or, i could tell you of this morning - how i woke up just as early with a heavy chest and a raging cough. i can feel my body winding down, aching for rest, and i'm needing to vacuum and clean bathrooms and make sure there's no weird smells anywhere...

but i won't bore you with those details. that's all they are, really. what i will let you know is even though there's a storm raging outside and within, if i let myself sit quiet and still, a peace centers.

this morning i've been thinking a lot about romans 8 -  specifically verses 38 & 39 :: I'm absolutely convinced that nothing-nothing living or dead, angelic or demonic, today or tomorrow, high or low, thinkable or unthinkable-absolutely nothing can get between us and God's love because of the way that Jesus our Master has embraced us.

nothing can separate us from the love of God. it says so in the Bible. and just like with our relationship with our heavenly Father, earthly adoption parallels that unwavering love.

this is where my mind and heart rest this morning. regardless of my exhaustion or physical sickness or sudden home studies or feeling ill-prepared, nothing separates us from our child. 

and nothing will.

it's stopped storming outside. if you look close enough there's a crack in the clouds where you can see blue sky.

pathetic fallacy is alive and well in the ramirez house this morning.

Posted on February 18, 2012 and filed under Faith.

a different kind of redeeming.

a week before my birthday, russ and i contacted our agency and let them know we were planning on switching to domestic. they were understanding and let us know they would pass on our information to the domestic adoption board who met and went over family profiles before placing them in the program. but. i was told "not to be surprised if we weren't accepted - especially if there was an overwhelming number of caucasian couples already enlisted in the program."

huh.

i didn't really think anything of it, but a few days later we received notice that we were not accepted. back to square one. we started researching agencies in the area and found dead-ends in almost every case. fighting faith, i let go and began praying for God to lead us.

the day before my birthday, russ & i were in the car and i felt an overwhelming pull to pray for some friends going through the domestic adoption process. they'd gone through some rough spots and i just really, really wanted them to find placement. so i prayed. and more than anything, i knew that's what i wanted for my birthday: for them to be placed.

my birthday came and went, and i fought a lot of self-worth issues. birthdays haven't always been the highlight of my year, and secretly i thought the redeeming of my birthday would come in some magical party with lots of friends and me being the center of attention. {which, let's be honest...i really hate being the center of attention} so i think in a small way {and fighting complete selfishness}, i was disappointed in the way my birthday looked - i mean, i even had to work. {i know, sob story.}

needless to say, i woke up the next morning a little more logical and thankful for how my friends celebrated me. {i really do have the best friends in the world} AND...in the middle of my work day, i got an e-mail from the friend i prayed for earlier in the week. there's a possibility of a baby...the e-mail said...and my heart seriously jumped out of my chest. i texted her immediately and asked when she found out, and she told me the week prior - they had just decided to pursue this match.

i texted her and told her i was moved and thankful and full of praise because this was the only thing i wanted for my birthday.

and i was giddy and incredulous and just flat-stupified that my prayer had not only been answered, but that it was answered before i even uttered a word.

that week was rough. as it usually is with domestic infant adoptions, there were a few moments where we were unsure whether or not our dear friends would come home with a child. we prayed, we fasted, we cried and prayed some more. before we knew it, the tide shifted and pictures were posted on facebook of a beautiful baby girl - she was coming home.

never before had i seen such intricate parallels between our own adoption in Christ and an adoption of a sweet, precious child.

to think before the beginning of time her placement was chosen and hand-crafted by One who set the earth in motion is humbling and beautiful. just like it is with you and me - just like our hearts are woven into His before we even know of His love.

and this isn't even the end of the story.

the day before my friends came home, the mom called me. we talked of the past few days and how God moved on their behalf. we talked of new baby smell, the heartache and joy of adoption, and how i couldn't wait to see the fro this girl was already rockin'.

then my friend's voice got quiet and she said, "elora - i really wanted to call you to let you know how much it meant to me that you prayed for us to get placed. when i got that text from you i let my sister know because...well...our daughter was born on your birthday."

my birthday.

there are still no words to accurately describe my feeling in that moment.

suddenly, i remembered sitting in the hot car with the afternoon sun beating down on my arm. i remembered praying God...please...i just want them to have a baby...

and then i remembered turning and telling russ and us laughing and secretly wishing it would really happen. i had no idea. i had no idea they'd already been contacted about a possible match. i had no idea the very next day...on my birthday...a beautiful baby girl would be born and placed with her forever family who waited and prayed for her.

once again, the theme of redemption echoes itself across our life - nothing is left untouched by His hand.

even my birthday.

Posted on October 11, 2011 and filed under Faith, Jubilee.

realizing it's not about us.

within a few days of 2011 starting, i couldn't get away from God's radical grace. at the precise moment we were about to go under, God placed us within a community of friends who are more than just a "small group" - we're family. three of the families are going through adoption and half of us left for two weeks to serve in kibera this summer, one of the largest slums in africa. january is also when russ & i began the recovery program at our local church. more than just a place for those with addictions, it's a breathtaking view of God's love for us even in our mess. i started meeting with a sponsor the first week and almost instantaneously i was faced with some things from my past i needed to work through in therapy. i realized then God's mercy - the delay in our adoption program allowed for us to truly dive in deep with the recovery process.

this was hard.

God gave us the word jubilee to cling to - and for awhile i thought "how beautiful - it's our year of jubilee because we're adopting and oh how pretty a picture..."

i kind of forgot the grittiness that happens in the process of redemption.

and so one night, i sat and cried with my community group about the overwhelming sense of sovereignty i felt in God's hand being there exactly when i needed it. a year ago, my situation would be crippling - i wouldn't find the strength i need to get through the fear and the questions and the doubt...but now? now He placed us within this...family of believers who love us diligently and fight for us through prayer. and part of me resisted the process. part of me {still} struggles with the issues of therapy.

but i'm beginning to understand anything is worth holding my baby in the end - any sort of pruning. any sort of sanctification.

because as i'm figuring out, this process is so not about russ and i rescuing a baby from doom. it's never been that way and i cringe whenever i see this picture within the church of us rising up and saving kids from obvious destruction. this process - this calling of adoption - has more to do with the jubilee of our own hearts and the understanding of how He fought for us.

it took less than a month for me to realize this, but another three to fully understand.

in february, russ & i had the opportunity to attend ic:orphan - a conference where ideators met in order to discuss the implications of the orphan crisis. raw with my own insecurities {i was one of the "bloggers" attending} i shrank away from truly ingesting some of the information. like the foster care system in america funneling trafficked teens and children. or the rate of trafficked children in international adoption. or the church's inclination to see orphan care as "adoption" and only adoption.

because what about those children who aren't adoptable?

this conference came within weeks of russ & i leaving for the horn of africa in order to work with orphans there. these orphans are usually of somalian decent and because of their culture, are not adoptable.

i started struggling then. because are they not worth loving? are they not worth some type of ministry?

and why do we feel we need to open up yet another orphanage when in the Bible, there's nothing about take care of the orphans among you and place them in an institution. 

for the first time, i became passionate about the local church doing something about the orphan crisis. i began to understand the importance of ministering to local pastors - empowering them to do good and incorporate theology that embraces the Truth that we are adopted in Christ - and what better way to see this in action than to start adopting locally? i heard about seed adoption and their ministry in ethiopia and finally felt like i had an answer to what i had been struggling with for some time. i wrote my notes, processed, visited with my therapist and started packing for the horn.

a week before we were to leave, my gallbladder malfunctioned and i went to the ER only to find myself incredibly sick. there was no going home - i was put on severe antibiotics and monitored throughout the night before having surgery the next morning.

africa was out of the question.

i would stay home, by myself, while russ traveled with the team - the day he left we got an e-mail from our agency letting us know the government in Ethiopia had severely slowed the process down {accepted 5 cases per day as opposed to 50}. my mom heart flinched but i had no room to react.

at that moment, adoption was the furthest thing from my mind.

Posted on August 3, 2011 and filed under Faith, Jubilee.

the beginning.

it was about a year ago that i started having thoughts about where God wanted us. in september, i read the gospel according to Jesus Christ and felt an urgent need to really start praying for our future family. i started having mom-dreams. one of my closest friends called me and said even she had a dream of us bringing home baby - and promptly asked when we were going to start the adoption process. around november, i couldn't take it anymore and finally opened my mouth - letting russ know what had been weighing on my heart for some time. it was the moment i needed to lay down my fear and embrace this mom-heart.

ethiopia seemed like the natural answer. we were drawn there for reasons we couldn't explain outside of africa dirt still finding it's way into our blood. we always imagined adopting from africa, and since the ethiopia program was so solid and others were shaky at best, we started the process.

i always had a question in the back of my mind though: what about the babies here? and i'm not "that" type of person - my heart for africa goes deep and wide and give me an opportunity to step foot on her soil again and i'll fight my way on to the plane. i couldn't shake the feeling though that international adoption was on its last leg and that the purpose of the local church would drastically change. i started thinking thoughts like "how can i know for sure if my baby is truly adoptable" and "why does it cost so much money? really? why thousands of dollars and where does it go?"

it didn't help that as soon as we signed up for the program, ethiopia's adoption policies changed drastically.

like....adding months and then years to the process drastically.

i kept quiet for awhile. a long while. i prayed and felt the ache and knew we were getting closer to our baby. my arms just wanted to hold him or her. i wanted to skip this whole process - forget the paperwork and the misgivings - and just jump to the day where we looked our baby in the eyes and knew we made it. 

i also was scared. i didn't want to admit it, but i was almost struck numb with the hoops we had to jump through in order to complete the process. i felt overwhelmed, depressed, and confused. i didn't understand how i could resist the process so much but ache for my baby. i didn't understand the discrepancy between my fear of being a mom and the urge to mother.

but then january came, and God gave us a word to cling to: jubilee.

i had no idea the road He was about to lead us through - no idea the obstacles. staring back at these six months, it's only by His grace we've made it this far.

and it's only by His grace we're still clinging to jubilee & still fighting for our baby.

Posted on August 2, 2011 and filed under Faith, Paperwork.