Monday, May 11, 2015

Introducing Leah Grace!

My sweet Leah Grace was born April 28th at 4:01am. I had been in early labor for almost 4 days and sent home from the hospital twice, so when she finally arrived, I was beyond relieved and exhausted! It was my first birth that required no sort of intervention to speed up labor, and it was really interesting - my contractions never got closer than 10 minutes apart until transitional labor. When she came out they put her right on my chest for two hours of skin-to-skin. Her birth was the first that made me so emotional. I felt like I had waited for her. My miscarriage changed the way I see pregnancy and birth, I no longer take these things for granted. My pregnancy came with lots of fears, because once you experience first-hand that things don't always end well, it's always in the back of your mind. But she arrived, healthy, safe, and beautiful.

Daddy and his newest princess

Cora holding the sister she's waited for

Mommy and baby

Sleeping beauty

The boys love her!

 Mommy and baby. Leah is almost 2 weeks old in this photo!

This photo we took on Mother's Day. It's the first photo of me with all 4 kids. It's crazy to think that we have 4 kids now! They are my life, my joy, I love them so much. 

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Reflections on 2014

The beginning of a new year is always so exciting. I love thinking about what God has in store for us in the next 12 months, and reflecting over the previous year. In the years passed, my resolutions would go something like this: lose weight, get out of debt, read the Bible more. Which are all good things, but if I don't stick to them, I get into a negative mindset and feel like I've failed. This year, I've been feeling compelled to drop it all. My resolution is to simply enjoy. Enjoy time spent with my kids and my husband. Enjoy the mundane and the seemingly ordinary. Appreciate the things I normally would take for granted. Slow down and spend time on what really matters.

I feel like I am finally comfortable with who I am and have learned to let go of who I am not. I'm learning to stop allowing other people's opinions to affect my own convictions or to make me insecure. I've let go of friendships that needed to be let go of. I've realized I'm much more introverted than I used to be, and have embraced that. It has given me a lot of time to be able to recharge and focus on the important things.

My due date is in the same month that I miscarried last spring. This is so symbolic to me. God has turned my sorrow into joy, and literally not one day goes by that I don't thank Him for this gift. When I found out I was pregnant with that baby, I remember fearing what other people would think about us having another. That miscarriage changed me, for the better, if you can believe good can come from something so tragic. This pregnancy, I haven't worried at all of what anyone thinks. I am so happy and so, ridiculously grateful. It's unfortunate that it took something so sad to make me truly appreciate the things I took for granted.

We also had quite a lesson in finances. Justin had unexpected surgery in July, which consequently kept him out of work for 9 weeks. Thank God we did receive benefits through his work during that time, but it was still less than half of what he normally makes. It was a hard, but much needed lesson in how we have been handling our finances. We had the head knowledge (we took Dave Ramsey's financial peace university) but needed a wakeup call. Since then, we have been humbled and have really changed course for the better.

We celebrated 10 years of marriage shortly after his surgery. We had already booked a short getaway and decided not to cancel. I'm glad we didn't. It wasn't quite what we had imagined (a beach vacation with a water-loving husband who can't go swimming because of his stitches!) but it reminded me of our vows. In sickness and in health. I wasn't going to let surgery get in the way of us celebrating a milestone I think sometimes even we doubted we would reach.

Our wedding day August 7th, 2004 as an 18 and 21 year old

Justin & I on the beach celebrating our 10th anniversary. Like a fine wine, I think we get better with age! ;)

All in all, 2014 has made me more grateful for what I've been blessed with. Even though it may not be where I thought we would be right now, I feel a deep peace that we are exactly where God wants us.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Lord our Healer

Recently, I was experiencing some pain from an issue I have dealt with for all my pregnancies. Nothing serious, but the pain had been bothering me for at least a week or so, and I knew it would just get worse as my pregnancy progressed. I had an appointment with my midwife and talked to her about it, and also did some looking around on the internet. A few nights later, I was driving by myself to do errands. The pain was still bothering me, so I was thinking about what do about it when a sudden thought came into my head - pray for healing. It was a lightbulb moment. I've talked to my midwife, and searched the Internet, but I never even thought of taking this request to my God (who, by the way, also goes by the name Jehovah Rapha, or "the Lord our Healer".)

Do I believe God can heal? Of course I do. So why isn't it my first instinct to ask Him for healing? I've been challenged by this question for the last week.

A large part of it is lack of faith. I believe God can heal, but I don't necessarily believe He will heal me. Or I believe my problem is far too small for Him to even care about. An even bigger answer to this question, though, is that I am afraid of being disappointed by God. And isn't that an issue for many believers? We don't want to ask for anything from Him because we are afraid He will say no. Because we are fearful that His "no" will affect our faith.

But believing in God doesn't mean we will get what we want, or what we think we need, or even what we deserve. It means we trust that He is sovereign over all, and that He has a plan that we may not fully understand yet. We have faith that His ways are above our own. His answers to our prayers (whether 'yes', 'no', or 'wait') do not determine whether He is good or not. Our faith should never hinge on whether His answers match up with what we want.

Back to my car ride in the dark....

I prayed that if it be His will, that the Lord would heal this issue, or at least take away the pain so I can enjoy my pregnancy more fully. Hours later, the pain was gone, and it's now a week later and it has not returned. Praise God! I'm honestly in awe over it. I wonder now, how many blessings do we miss out on because we simply don't have the faith to ask? Don't be afraid to boldly approach God for all matters of your life. He has a plan, and always trust that His answer to your prayer is a part of that plan, no matter what that answer is.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

"You'll be done after this, right?"

Four kids. 

My fourth isn't even born yet, and I'm already getting looks, questions, and comments. 

"So, you're obviously not adopting then."
"You'll be done after this one, right?"
"Hopefully it's a girl, so you can have your two boys and two girls and be done."

Let me clarify that these comments do not make me upset or even offended. I know most are born out of honest curiosity, without the intention of being rude. So I give a lot of grace. 
Here is my own detailed response on the subject. 

At this point, I know better than to say we are definitely done having kids. After having our third, I swore I was done. But God really impressed adoption on our hearts. We went forward with plans, waiting for God to direct us, and yet we were met with God's silence. My pregnancy, and subsequent miscarriage, left me desiring to have another baby. After finding out we were again expecting, (we hadn't even told our social worker yet) the state adoption licensing fell through. 

So as you can see, so much happened this year, and it has changed my perspective greatly on our plans vs. God's plans. All of our lives, we are urged to consult God on all decisions, even the most mundane. Because He cares. I believe that. But how can we ask Him what His plan is regarding how to spend our money, but not on our family life? Should believers ask God to guide all areas of their life except for how many children we should have? This question has challenged me greatly. I am not necessarily saying we should all get off birth control and have tons of babies. But I believe before assuming control of that area of our lives, we should spend time praying and asking God what He has in store for us. If we choose to go our own way, I don't believe God will punish us, but I believe we will miss out on blessings He has planned for us. In my life, even though it's a constant struggle, in my heart I truly want what God wants for me, because I believe that will be the most fulfilling path I could take.

On adoption...I still with 100% certainly believe it was God who laid it on our hearts. I struggled with wondering why He would do that, and then not allow us to pursue it. It didn't make sense. But a friend shared a video with me that really helped me understand more about how God works. Christine Cain shared about the story of David's anointing. God passed over the other sons for the shepherd David, then just a boy. The Lord anointed him as king, and it seemed like everything was about to roll into motion. Yet he waited 20 years for the anointing to be completed. 
(Here is the link to that video, if you are interested. 

Waiting is a pretty common theme in the Bible. For example, Noah received the prophecy of the flood 120 years before it actually happened. In this world of instant gratification, we assume if God seems to be putting something on our hearts, we need to get right into action. Sometimes that is the case, but not always. In our case, I believe God will use our heart for adoption sometime in the future. I honestly don't know if we will adopt or not, but we will remain open to God's direction in that regard.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Expecting #4!

What craziness! We're expecting baby #4 April 30th, in case you haven't heard. Which would explain the serious lack of updates on our blog. I've felt so awful for the last 7 weeks, some nights I went to bed at 7:00. Of course it all started right around when we started school, and let me tell you, homeschooling while feeling like you could either throw up or fall asleep = no fun. But we've gotten through it. Barely.

This pregnancy has been wrought with emotion and anxiety. When I went to my first appointment at 7 weeks, I showed up there fully expecting to not see a heartbeat. I was terrified. Every other pregnancy, I had very little anxiety. But once you experience firsthand the fact that not every pregnancy results in a baby, it ushers in a whole new height of anxieties. Obviously, things turned out well, and I left feeling extreme relief.

Today I went in for my second appointment. Right away, we could see the baby, kicking and squirming like crazy. I don't remember being able to see so much so clearly at 12 weeks. We even got an ultrasound pic of the baby waving.

I cried almost the entire drive home. I cried out of sheer gratefulness to God. In April, it was as if I had been given a gift, only to have it taken away. I am so thankful for another chance.

"You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing." Psalm 30:11

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Closing A Door

It's been 3 months since I last posted, and felt I should give an update.

We have been working on getting all the required paperwork done for licensing, and were maybe 2 or 3 items short. Last time she visited, we chatted for a long time. I mentioned to her that we don't have a van yet, so we cannot take a child until we buy one. With Justin having been out of work for almost 9 weeks, we were getting less than half his salary from railroad disability, so obviously we weren't in a place to even think about purchasing another vehicle.

I received a call a few minutes ago from the social worker. She and her supervisor were talking about our case, and feel that if we were to go to a teaming meeting, a different family would be chosen, one with less children and a vehicle to accommodate. She suggested that we would be better off waiting a while to adopt, especially seeing as we would like to have another biological child at some point. I told her, our plan was to be licensed (since we didn't want to have to re-take the classes) and then be put on hold if we didn't have a van yet. She said our class is "good" for a year, which means it is good until March 2015. Which isn't long from now. I highly doubt we'll be ready by then, and it's extremely difficult for us to re-do the classes, as it's all day Saturday for 8 weeks...child care isn't easy to come by. So I'm feeling like this is a door God is closing. I feel very peaceful about it. And although I have so many unanswered questions, I know God will reveal things in time. It's been almost 7 months of wondering if this was what God wanted for us right now, and having an answer makes me feel at least somewhat relieved.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Show me the way I should go

"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in You.
Show me the way I should go,
for to You I entrust my life."
- Psalm 143:8

As I have written before, adoption blindsided us in a way that we knew had to be God. The timing was wrong, the call too strong to ignore. It was something I had never even actually considered doing, so it shocked me when I started feeling this pull towards it. Praying, we weren't receiving any definite direction, so we felt we needed to make some sort of step in faith. Which is why we signed up for the DCF classes. We figured even if He leads us toward adoption in a way other than the state, the information would be valuable. And we were right, the classes taught us so many things that we would have never found out on our own. But during those 6 weeks of classes, despite prayers, neither of us felt a leading as to what to do next. We agreed to become licensed, because we can always say no, and if we felt called to come back to it later and hadn't been licensed, we would have to start all over again.

It was the day of our last DCF class that I found out I was pregnant. I thought, okay, God has revealed the direction He wants us to go in. Another beautiful baby for us, adoption will come in time. Yet just weeks later, I lost the baby. I was left with confusion. I wanted to adopt, and still do. But now I want a baby. I want to be pregnant again. Why would God give me that, just to take it away? In a way, it feels like it was stolen from me and sometimes doesn't feel fair.

I was talking with a close friend a few weeks ago about this confusion. She brought up a good point. Maybe, God doesn't want us to adopt right now. Maybe, He gave us the strong desire because He wants that to be fulfilled in the future. Much like how many people in the Bible received a prophecy that wasn't fulfilled until many years later. Yes, that makes sense. But why? Why would God give us a burden on our hearts for something that won't be fulfilled until later? It hurts my heart every single day when I think about all the orphans suffering. It literally aches. Aren't we called to look after the fatherless? It's hard not to feel a strong sense of urgency when it comes to this. Which is why I have a hard time even considering letting it go.

It is my daily prayer that God will use me for His glory. I will go where He wants me to. Every day I do my best to offer Him all that I am. I believe my family is my first ministry; taking care of my husband and children come before any other commitments and ministries. But I can't help but feel that there is more. That, even though my life is crazy sometimes, in a way it's just too...comfortable. I don't believe God calls us to a comfortable life.

Without a doubt, I know that He is faithful and will direct our path. I know He has great plans, and I continue to pray that He will reveal what is next for our family.