Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Our Little Star

November is National Adoption Awareness Month. Unfortunately, it's been months since we've heard any updates on our adoption. After almost 45 months total (close to 4 years) of waiting, and hoping, and dreaming, and still not even being matched with a child, sometimes it doesn't feel real.

On those days, when it doesn't feel real... when nothing is tangible... when I wonder if this dream will every become a reality, I look at these photos.

There's just something about seeing your daughter's name in stone that makes it feel definite, you know?

. . . . . . . . . . .

I guess I should back up and tell you where, and how, and when we found this little star. It was January 17th - 2 days after my 31st birthday. Rusty had taken me out to the ballet (Swan Lake) at The Alabama Theatre to celebrate.

It had been a difficult week for me. You see, I announced to my closest friends that we were adopting a little girl on my 28th birthday. I always thought I would be a mom before I turned 30 (and even hoped that timeline would hold true when we began our adoption). But here I was... turning 31... and our baby still wasn't home.

The ballet was a disaster. The sound crew talked and laughed - LOUDLY - during the first two acts and ruined the show for everyone. It was supposed to be a beautiful night out, but the very thing that was meant to distract and entertain me just put me in a worse mood.

We left the theatre together feeling frustrated and sad. It was a cold night, and I was anxious to get home. We were headed in the direction of the lot where Rusty parked the car, when he gasped and pointed to the ground. I had no idea what he was pointing to, until I looked down and saw this!

Of course, I promptly burst into tears. It was like a message, just for us. Etched into stone was our baby girl's name. Not Cate Jackson... not Katie Jackson... not Catherine... KATE JACKSON. It felt so good to run my fingers across the letters. It was as if God was saying, "Don't give up! I haven't forgotten!"

It turns out, Kate Jackson was a beautiful, brunette actress in the 70's (you might know her as one of Charlie's Angels). I found out this little fact after we chose our daughter's name - thanks to my Aunt Tammy (who said she was her favorite "Angel"). What I didn't know, was that Kate Jackson was also from Birmingham, Alabama... and years after she was one of Charlie's Angels, she also became an adoptive mother. (What are the odds, right?) This star was part of the "Walk of Fame" for the Alabama Theatre. We'd just never noticed it before this night.

The timing couldn't have been more perfect. Of course I took a dozen pictures, and told Rusty we'd have to bring our daughter back to take photos with "her star" once she's home. We're just still not sure of when that day may be. And so, when it feels far away and hard to reach... I look back at these photos and pray for our little star.

We know you're out there somewhere baby girl, and we can't wait to meet you. 
We're sure you're going to bring a lot of *sparkle* into our life, little star! 

Saturday, October 17, 2015

4 years ago tonight...

Four years ago tonight, our journey to Kate began. When people ask, I usually say we started the process in February 2012 (and we did actively begin pursuing our adoption that month)... but the truth is, God began moving our hearts toward our daughter long before.

We knew before we got married that we wanted to adopt internationally; we discussed it the night we got engaged. We talked about adoption throughout our marriage, always thinking that we'd probably have a biological child (or children) 3-5 years into marriage, and then adopt. But on this night in 2011 - God turned our plans upside down.

Thank you to our friend Meredith who made this sweet print for Kate's room! 
If you're interested in ordering a custom print, check out her Facebook page.

We had gone to the Church of Brookhills to hear Katie Davis speak. I'd been reading her blog for years, but I wanted Rusty to hear her stories (and I wanted to hear her in person too). My parents, brother, and sister-in-law (then just my brother's girlfriend) came too. The night was wonderful. I'd read all the stories she shared on her blog, but I enjoyed hearing them again. I was so excited about her upcoming book and I was planning to pick up a copy. As the night came to a close, one of the church leaders came up to talk about adoption and foster care, and my ears perked up. "Someday that will be us!" I thought. Then he began to pray over the adoptive and foster parents, and he asked them all to stand... and I felt an overwhelming desire to stand up too.

I remember feeling panicked right after I felt the [very strong] desire to stand. "Why on earth would I stand up?" I thought. "We're not adopting YET! I can't stand up! My family will freak out. My husband will freak out! Why do I feel this pressure to stand?!" I fought it through the whole prayer. I cried as I fought it. As the church leader prayed, I felt God begin to speak to my heart:

"What if you ARE supposed to be adopting now? Why aren't you? What are you waiting for?" I could hear the questions as clear as if someone was asking them aloud. I thought through all our "whys"... we planned to have biological kids first... we want to be married for at least 3 years (it had only been 2 and 1/2)... our lives are crazy right now with the work we do....we travel all the time... it's scary to think about taking care of a child!... we're still newlyweds... I don't think I'm ready to be a mom! --- these are the thoughts that ran through my mind.

And then God asked, "But what if there's a child out there waiting, right now, for you to be their mommy. Is "I'm not ready yet" a good enough reason to wait? Or are you just being fearful and selfish? Do you think anyone is ever ready to be a mom? Can you trust My timing instead of yours?" I was sobbing by the end of the prayer.

I knew that I had to talk to Rusty about what God spoke to my heart during that prayer... but it couldn't be in front of my family. So I dried my tears (my family is used to me getting emotional about orphan care stories) and pretended everything was fine until we were alone. As soon as we got home and my parents went to bed (they were staying the night), I pulled Rusty into our bedroom, shut the door, and sat him down. I blurted out everything all at once as he sat silently across from me on our bed - so anxious about what he would think or feel or say. I knew my heart was ready (even though I was afraid), but I had no idea how he would respond. When I was done talking I took him by the hands and said, "Please say something! Are you freaking out? You're freaking out aren't you? I know this wasn't the plan..."

To which he replied... "I'm not freaking out. I felt like I was supposed to be standing too."

I thought my heart would burst! I began crying again, but happy tears this time!

It wasn't our plan, and it wasn't our timing - but that night, God spoke to our hearts about our daughter. It took a few more weeks of praying [and God showing us some undeniable, extraordinary signs to confirm what we'd heard] before we announced our new plans to the world. But four years ago tonight - October 17th, 2011 - God showed us that His plans are better than ours could ever be, and our journey to our little girl began.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


I've been trying to put into words how I feel lately, and the one word I keep coming back to is STUCK.

I know you've all read as I shared about the heartache, the disappointment, the sadness, the frustration, and all the other feelings that come in the waiting. But I haven't quite been able to put this feeling into words just yet.

I feel stuck. I feel like I am stuck in a season that I outgrew long ago. And it's an extremely uncomfortable feeling.

I'm writing because I know it can't just be me. If this adoption has given me anything, it is a deep sense of empathy for those going through infertility. I have cried with more friends, prayed for more friends, and had my heart broken again and again for women who are also waiting to be mothers. Some still waiting and hoping to get pregnant and birth a biological child. Some who have suffered through infertility for years and are now on the adoption journey, waiting to bring home an adopted child. And then there are those of us who don't have children, and feel called to adoption as the way to build our family, who are waiting too. Here we all are - waiting with empty arms and an empty home for a child to call our own.

However it is that you've come to this place of waiting, it is the same ache for a child. I know there are so many who have suffered and are suffering through infertility who hear again and again, "but why don't you just adopt?" They think it's an easy fix. But even if you always wanted to adopt... even if you believe adoption is beautiful... you may still long to birth a child. Similarly, since beginning our journey to our daughter through adoption we have heard again and again, "but why don't you just stop this and try to get pregnant?" It is so hard for people to understand that THIS is the desire of our hearts. We know there might be an easier way (or honestly, there might not... because we have no idea if we are even able to get pregnant!) but it doesn't mean it's the way for us. Everyone has an opinion, and many voice them, but only God knows the desires of our heart.

So here we all are. Childless mothers. I hated that label when I heard it first, but I can't think of anything else that describes us quite that well. We are mothers in our heart - in our soul - but we do not have children.

And so we wait in a season we have outgrown. I feel that "stuck", out of place feeling more often these days than I would like to admit. I'm 31 and my husband is 40. Most friends who are our age have at least one child - some have a house-full. It is hard to find ways to relate to them. As I look around at what is "normal" and "expected" for people our age, it's obvious that being childless puts us in the minority, and I feel it.

When everyone else on our street is chasing their (multiple children) and I'm standing in the front yard with nothing to do, I feel it. When all of my mom friends are discussing birth stories, or sleep issues, or potty training - and all I can do is sit silently at the table, I feel it. When my newsfeed is taken over by birth announcements... and... as the years pass, children starting their first day of school... it makes us feel so behind.

I feel it when I pass by what should be a nursery in our house, but instead, it's still a guest room. I feel it when I walk by the kids' section of every store and fight down the desire to buy a child cute clothes.

I feel it at Christmas. Oh... do I feel it then. As we decorate the house - just the two of us - for the 6th year and hang up an extra stocking for the child we keep hoping for. When there are only a few gifts under the tree - because we don't have a child to buy for and our siblings have decided we're all too old for a gift exchange. When Christmas Day feels empty, because there are no children (not even nieces or nephews) on either side of our family because we are the oldest siblings and we have no kids. And all the days leading up to Christmas that should be filled with making cookies for Santa and watching cartoon Christmas specials and tucking a little one into bed in her Christmas jammies... that are instead spent in a quiet house. Christmas is the hardest. (... and I would be lying if I said I'm not already dreading the holidays this year.)

I'm writing all this with the hope that someone, somewhere is reading it and saying "me too". Not because I wish this painful wait on anyone ever - but because if you're in it, I want you to know that you're not alone.

I wish I could give you some magic formula that would make this season pass faster, or hurt less. There are times that I have handled it with grace, and times I have not. I think that's okay. There is an ebb and flow to the waiting... some days, and some seasons, are just harder than others. I have learned to let myself feel the hard days - to cry when I need to, to be mad when I need to be. (Sometimes chocolate and wine are the best medicine. I understand!) But I let myself enjoy the good days too... the times when I can bless other people because of the season we're in. It helps to do something positive on those days! We keep nursery a lot at church, and sometimes we babysit for free for friends who need the help. It blesses them, and honestly, it blesses us too (because we do love kids and enjoy our time with them!) We feel like we have so much love to give, and while we wish we could lavish it on our daughter, we try to love other children who are in our lives well instead while we wait.

I can tell you that the waiting got a little easier when the adoption paperwork was over - and I've been able to keep myself busy with other things. Projects and "to do" lists help occupy my mind and heart - because when I slow down and get quiet, the sadness comes. But I have also seen that I can't go 100 miles an hour all the time, because that's not healthy either. So I'm trying to learn balance (and failing often).

I don't know if any of these words resonate with any of you, or any of these thoughts make sense. I just feel like this has been on my heart for a long time, and I needed to get it all out. If you're in this season with me, know that I would give anything to be able to reach out and hug you... to pull up a chair and cry over a cup of tea as you share your struggles. I know you feel lonely, forgotten, and out of place... but sweet sister you are not. If you are feeling "stuck" today, please know you're not alone.

Monday, August 10, 2015

More paperwork, updates, and difficult news...

It's been a while since I updated our blog - so sorry friends! We have had a crazy busy summer - between a huge event for our non-profit, a freak accident that injured my wrist (and left me unable to type for a while), lots of trips out of town (fundraising for The Sound of Hope and other family things), working on our office, and also working on adoption paperwork, there hasn't been much time for the blog.

Yes - we are STILL working on adoption paperwork. We have actually been in process so long that we are now having to update "expired" approvals. (Did you know that - according to the US government, your fingerprints expire? Yes - the prints that are only yours, completely unique to you, and never actually change? The ones they use to catch criminals? THOSE fingerprints? Apparently they "expire" after 18 months and you have to redo them. Interesting, huh? *sigh)

Anyway... I thought I'd do a quick update for all of you with the latest on our adoption. So here goes...

In March, we made the difficult decision to change home study agencies. I won't go into details here, but after our experience with our first home study it was the right decision for us. Unfortunately, that meant an extra $700 we weren't planning to spend, and copying and completing a bunch of paperwork we'd already done. *sigh (again)

In June we had to get new physicals, new references, new financial info, and a new home visit to update our home study. In July, we had to send that updated home study, along with some immigration paperwork to the US Immigration Office to renew our I-800A approval before our fingerprints "expire" (which is still so crazy to me... but you've got to do what you've got to do!) The short version of all that is this: Last year we were approved by the US Immigration office to adopt a child. The next step is sending them the file of the specific child we are going to adopt with another round of forms and fees, so that they can approve that specific adoption. But while we wait, we have to keep our initial approval from expiring. So that's what we've been doing this summer.

Once all of that was completed, we looked into applying for a grant (since our timeline continues to stretch and expenses continue to mount.) While reviewing a fee list on our main agency's website last week, I noticed that a Psychological Evaluation was listed as a requirement. Confused - I sent our agency an email. We've been pursuing this adoption for 42 months, and been in process with them for 30 months, and yet we'd never been told about a Psych Evaluation. Surely this was a new requirement for new families, right?


We were told we would have to do a detailed, expensive Psych Evaluation as part of our process - that essentially forces us to revisit every area of our lives - past, present, hopes, dreams, struggles, plans - that we've already been through TWICE with TWO different home study agencies. Frustrated doesn't even begin to explain our feelings.

Then, while we were on the phone trying to get clarification from our main agency about our process, they delivered two more pieces of upsetting news: #1) The social worker informed us that she didn't think we would have a referral by October. As we've been waiting and hoping for a referral to come "any day now", this was very disappointing. And #2) She told us that things are moving slowly, and it could very well take 12 months to get our daughter home AFTER we receive a referral and are matched.

I felt like my heart had been ripped out of my chest. When we've talked about wait times for travel, we've always estimated around 6 months. We only know one other family who adopted from this agency and this children's home, and their daughter was home in 6 months. To hear that we might have another 16 to 18 months before Kate is home was devastating. To be told that we might have to watch her grow up in pictures for a YEAR after we are matched was unbearable. I will never forget the look on my husband's face when we heard that news.

I spent the next hour sitting in the bathroom floor crying while Rusty held my hand. It was hard to breathe. It was hard to think. I actually thought I might be sick. This news was just such a shock to my system after hearing such good news back in April! We had been so hopeful, and we'd been waiting patiently. And yet, once more, we were met with the news of additional requirements and more delays.

I was reading a blog today about a domestic adoption that took a long time and the mother said this:
"... as a prospective adoptive parent you prepare yourself for bumps. You know the range of where the bumps might come up. And you know there are risks. But what you don’t expect….at least what I didn’t expect…was to hit every bump in the road head on."

That resonated with me so much. This has been our story. This has been our struggle. It hasn't been just one bump... or a handful of delays. I feel like every single step in this journey has been uphill, and we've been struggling to get our footing the entire way.

These days I struggle with not knowing what to feel. We have been through every emotion - and we've experienced each of them over and over again. Our life has felt like a roller coaster that we can't get off of. We have felt all the highs... all the joy and hope that comes when you are "expecting". But "hope deferred makes the heart sick" (Proverbs 13:12) and we just can't keep feeling that "high" every day. We have felt the lows... the anger, the frustration, the sadness, and yes, even the bitterness. We've dealt with more than our fair share of heartache, fear, and confusion. But underneath it all, like a constant current, is this longing... this ache for our child.

We know this is still what we are called to do. God confirmed it to us in extraordinary ways, and our desire for our daughter has never changed.  We have discussed it over and over again, and we are committed to this process. We are resolute. But that doesn't make the waiting any easier.

This has been the most emotional exhausting, heart-wrenching thing I have ever endured. And yet, we still wait... we still work... we still hope. And we crave your prayers in the waiting... until the day our Kate is home in our arms.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Another Mother's Day (while we're waiting)

Mother's Day is difficult when no one calls you Mommy.

It can be a painful holiday for women who have lost a child... women who are struggling through infertility, and also for all of us (waiting) adoptive mommas. It is hard because our arms our empty - and our hearts are aching. This is the 4th Mother's Day I've experienced since we announced we were adopting. And each one is hard (because I miss my little girl and I long to be a momma) and each one is awkward (because I'm not a momma yet. Or am I?)

I don't quite know what to do on Mother's Day. There is inevitably a sad moment - when I wish I had sweet Kate bringing me a handful of flowers and a handmade Mother's Day card home from Sunday School. But in all the other moments - I don't quite know what to do. My mom has been so thoughtful and gotten me Mother's Day cards "from Kate" several times. And each year, at least one sweet friend writes a heartfelt Mother's Day wish on my facebook page - and that blesses me so much. Because the truth is - I AM a mother in my heart. But it's hard to see that. I don't have a child at home. I don't tuck anyone in bed at night. I don't rock a baby to sleep, sing along to Sesame Street, or kiss scraped knees. My house isn't littered with toys and cheerios. I don't deal with tantrums or timeouts - runny noses or fevers. So I worry that other people just don't view me as a mom - not in any of the ways that count.

And yet - I have longed to hear someone call me Mommy for the longest time. I love a little girl that I have never met. I worry about her, and pray for her... even though I've never seen her face. I talk about her, and dream about her. And I have worked countless hours... days... months... and years to try to bring her home.

But what do I do on this day? I don't have anything or anyone to celebrate. And without a baby bump, I don't even appear to be an expectant mother (even though I am.) I don't look like a mom. And I don't really feel like a mom. So when (inevitably) the mothers in the room are asked to stand at church on Mother's Day - I have always stayed seated.

Until today.

Today, I was back at the church I grew up in (Lakeview Baptist Church) with my mom. Rusty and I were given an opportunity to speak about our orphan care ministry... and I was glad to be busy. Glad for the distraction. But today - when the mothers were asked to stand - the pastor (God bless him) made SURE to mention that meant EVERY woman who had EVER been a mother - including foster mothers and adoptive mothers. "But my child isn't home yet", I thought to myself. Still intending to stay seated. And then I got the eyes from my brother and sister-in-law. The eyes that said "he means you! You'd better stand up!" So I did. And I felt awkward. And illegitimate. And I wondered if I'd made a mistake. But I took my rose and sat back down teary eyed.

And then, the precious pastor, Darrell (who happens to have adopted nieces) brought another rose over to me personally. "I just wanted to make SURE you got one of these today" he said. He wanted me to know - without a doubt - that he meant me too. He'd prayed the sweetest prayer for us that morning before we spoke, and he'd asked God to bless our adoption. And now he'd made sure that I was recognized and honored. I was so, so touched.

It was already a special Mother's Day - but that wasn't all God had in store for me. After lunch with our family, my baby brother and new sister-in-law showed up with a gift. I, of course, assumed it was for my mom. But then they handed it to me! I didn't know what to do!

Inside - was the sweetest card for a "Momma to be"...

... and our little girl's 1st Bible! (and it's a princess Bible! They know me well! ;) 

Thank you Aunt Michelle and Uncle Jaron! What a precious gift!

Needless to say - there were lots of tears this year... but not tears of sadness. On a day when I have always felt so sad, and awkward - our adoption was celebrated. And as I carried home my roses, and put baby Kate's Bible on the shelf - I was reminded to have HOPE and FAITH.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, 
the evidence of things not seen.     ~ Hebrews 11:1

To all of you who have been so thoughtful and kind to me this Mother's Day (and for the last 3 years as well), thank you. God bless you for your compassion and tenderness on a difficult day.

To all my other waiting adoptive mommas on Mother's Day - as you work and pray to get your little darlings home - keep HOPE and FAITH in your heart! Our stories are not yet finished!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Good news!

Good news! Oh it feels incredible to type that in an adoption update. Since we began our process - we've had a lot of delays, setbacks, and roadblocks. Each time we talked to our agency - we were given longer, and longer timelines. It has been heartbreaking, and it has been discouraging.

Until today!

Today we got the first encouraging phone call we've had in a long, long time. The director of our agency called to let us know that BOTH families ahead of us waiting for a referral from the Pattaya Orphanage have been MATCHED!!! Praise Jesus!!!!

Now these are just the two families that were waiting from our agency (and that orphanage matches children with agencies in countries other than just the US) - but this is a sign of MOVEMENT and we are rejoicing. We were told that while they cannot guarantee anything, they feel confident that we will be matched with a child by the end of the year if not before. (Thank you Jesus!!!)

We are praising God for good news on our adoption front - and the first real movement we've seen in this 38 month process. We have renewed hope, and we are so excited for the day we will see our baby girl's face for the very first time!

Please continue to pray for God's hand on this process - and for sweet little Kate (wherever she is tonight.) We love you baby girl, and we can't wait to meet you!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Kate's corner

This is a little glimpse of the little shelf in my daughter's room. As I've said before, most of Kate's things are put away until she comes home (the few things we've bought or had gifted to us). Her room is still just an extra "guestroom" (because I cannot bear to look at an empty nursery while our adoption process drags on).... 

...but this little shelf in the corner reminds me of what will be. 

The bookcase was my grandmother's. It is full of my favorite children's books and and a few toys. When I get upset that I can't buy Kate things yet (because we have no idea how old or how big she'll be when she comes home... so shoes and clothes aren't really an option) I buy books. I cried the first time I read Nancy Tillman's "On The Night You Were Born" and "The Crown On Your Head". We had just started our adoption paperwork, but I couldn't leave the store without them! And so, we have those, and "Wherever You Are, My Love Will Find You". Someday, I hope to have them all. And someday, I will read them to my little brown eyed beauty before I tuck her in bed.

The two top shelves hold special keepsakes. The little handmade bunny from Thailand is the first thing we ever bought our little girl. The journals are for me to fill with letters to Kate and parts of her story I'm recording along the way. The box is teak wood - also handmade in Thailand. The little jar of sand and shells is from Pattaya Beach - a mile from the orphanage we're adopting from. The painted word is from a dear friend. "Eucharisteo" reminds us to choose grace and joy and thankfulness along this difficult path. And the latest addition is the beautiful glitter letter sign - handmade by a fellow Thailand adoptive momma! It will someday remind our little girl that she is LOVED - but these days, it reminds me that we are loved, and our little girl is loved - by a loving and powerful and purposeful God - who is in control of this adoption, and who will bring her HOME!