Saturday, February 12, 2011

Only God. . .

We found out this week due to our tax return, our adoption was completely FREE. Only God could give us the most precious, amazing little girls for FREE! We are not only thankful to our amazing God, but also to our government who gives a tax credit for adoption! The adoption credit per child is around $13000. This credit is given dollar for dollar back on EVERYTHING you spend for adoption: court fees, agency fees, social workers, etc. They even give tax credits for failed adoptions! I wanted to share this for any of you who are considering adoption, and are concerned with the cost. You do have to spend the money, but the next year you will receive dollar for dollar back up to $13000 per child! I was brought to tears when I realized after spending $25000 on infertility treatments, surgeries, and testing, our precious adoption was FREE. Wow. Only God . . .

Monday, December 13, 2010

One year ago . . .

It was December 14, 2009 when we got the call that would change our lives forever. I will never forget the moment. . . Addie and I were playing Wii in the bonus room. I had just put color on my hair, because I decided I wanted my hair to be a little darker. The phone rang and the caller ID said “Mercy Ministries.” I believed they were calling to ask for a year-end donation and almost didn’t answer the phone. I’m so glad I did. It was Joy Graham, and she asked me how our international adoption plan was going. After waiting more than a year to be chosen by a birth mom, we decided to try an international plan. I explained to Joy we were waiting on one final paper and then we would be locked in to Bulgarian adoption. She proceeded to tell me, a birth mom had chosen us! I was in complete shock. She explained about the baby having a kidney issue, and about the birth mom’s story. After a 20 minute conversation, she dropped the bigger news, it was TWINS! I had to sit down for that one. We then made a plan to talk with the birth mom later that week in a conference call.

There I was, color dripping from my hair with Addie’s big brown eyes staring up at me and asking, “Mommy, what was that?” I explained to her about the call, and a birth mom choosing us. Her response was, “You mean she chose ME to be the big sister.” It was precious. The first phone call was to Justin, who was on call at the hospital. He was in surgery and could not answer, so I called one of my best friends from college who had adopted twice from Mercy Ministries. We talked for a little while, and then Justin called. He was nervous, but excited. It was then; I realized my hair had turned black from leaving the color on for too long.

The next few weeks are a blur. We met the birth mom for lunch, had phone calls, and spent some time with her. We loved her instantly. God connected so many of our stories, and we knew His hand was all over our times. After Olivia and Emily were born, she struggled again with her decision to place. The pain and agony of seeing your two beautiful babies raised, loved, and adored by someone else was just too much. We prayed diligently for her and asked God for His will to be done in all of our lives. After a week, she made her decision. She walked into the office at Mercy and said, “I know that I know that I know the girls are supposed to be theirs.” Our birth mom is an amazing woman, who has given us something more wonderful than I could ever imagine giving anyone. It is just indescribable how much love, appreciation, gratefulness, and respect we have for her. She is our hero.

After 4 ½ LONG years of failed IVFs, miscarriages, ectopic pregnancies, corrective surgery, and loss, THIS was our answer. The answer God had all along. If we had only known that all the tears and pain and loss was not for nothing. He was just waiting to give us HIS answer. The road of waiting is so painful. It was the hardest time in our lives. We spent so much time wondering if Addie would ever have a sibling, if God would ever answer our prayers. When we held our precious girls for the first time, all the PAIN was washed away in one moment. God is good. For any of you walking through dark and painful valleys, please remember, it is not the end of the story. It is just the road leading to His perfect plan.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

DisneyWorld and SeaWorld 2010

Last Christmas our gift to Addie was a trip to Disney World which we were supposed to take January 6-10, 2010. As I picked Addie up from school the day before our flight left for Orlando, Addie complained of a headache. This is Addie language for FEVER. We got home, and I took her temp and it was 103. Ugh. Strep throat again. Thankfully, I had paid for trip insurance and we got ALL of our money back except the insurance money ($150). The problem was we were hoping the twins would be born soon and with my elective surgery there was no time to go before I was healed and they were born. I didn't know if either of our families would be able to care for twin infants! It's not easy. I called my best friend, Courtney, who's been my bestie since we were 8 years old. In tears, I spoke of how we needed one more trip just the 3 of us, before our lives changed forever! I shared my hesitations about leaving twin infants for anyone to care for. She spoke up and said, "I'll keep them for you guys!" Really? Who is that selfless? Courtney. It didn't even occur to me she would offer us such a gift, but I'm so thankful she did. Justin's parents bravely kept the girls for 2 nights and 2 days, and then Courtney drove 4 hours from Missouri to take care of the girls for 3 days. She is an amazing friend, and I am so blessed to have had her in my life all these years! The best part is God knew we needed the trip more NOW than we did in January. Addie needed time with just us, and it was a wonderful trip. I know we appreciated it more now, than we would have in January.

Now, to Disney World. We flew into Orlando last Tuesday evening and got to our resort at 10:15 pm central time. They informed us our luggage would arrive 2 hours later!!! That's the Disney not so "Magical" express. We got up fairly early the next day, excited to see the parks! We headed to Hollywood Studios (formerly MGM), and rode everything and saw all the shows with no more than a 15 minute wait!!! It was crazy fun. We also got to hang out with Lisa (Shoaf) Essmyer, a friend from high school and her friend Ted. We had a BLAST! Addie loved the new Toy Story ride and meeting Woody. She was 1 centimeter too short for the Rockin' Aerosmith roller coaster. She was so sad. Addie would NOT ride Tower of Terror. I think the title got to her. We stayed at that park until 4 pm and then headed back to our resort for a rest of 2 hours. Then, it was on to Epicot (that's what Addie calls Epcot). We got to spend more time with Lisa and Ted, which was so fun! We also rode Addie's favorite ride, Soarin'. It's really great! We stayed out until 12 am!

On Thursday, my birthday, we went to Animal Kingdom park. We all really enjoy this park, and it's a close second to Magic Kingdom. The Safari is so great, and we got Addie on her first BIG roller coaster which was Expedition Everest! We gave Addie 2 vetoes for rides and after she used them she had to try anything she was tall enough for. I still had to bribe her with $10, but after she rode it she was not afraid to ride all the others! Money well spent. Justin and I like our roller coasters! After a long day of Animal Kingdom, we headed back to the resort to get into costume for the Mickey's Halloween Party at Magic Kingdom! For those of you who don't know about the parties at Magic Kingdom, they are totally worth the extra money! They have a cap on how many people can purchase tickets to these parties, so you can ride everything with NO line! It's fabulous and the parades are better too. I really think when we go back to Disney World it will be either for the Christmas party or the Halloween party. (Just before Christmas is still my favorite time there!) We stayed out again until 12 am! (For those of you keeping track that's 3 nights out until after 12 am. Does that mean I'm a cool mom or the worst mom ever? I'm not sure.)

On Friday, we spent most of the day again at Magic Kingdom, and then we hung out at the resort pool and I read a book. Aaaahhhh. Saturday was Sea World and we were pretty disappointed overall. The Shamu show was really short and not nearly as great as it was 4 years ago. I know the trainer's death really affected this park. There were two really great roller coasters! There was one called the "Manta" and it was by far the scariest one I've ever been on! You should check it out. On Sunday we flew home. I was so glad to be home. I really missed my babies.

All in all, the trip was amazing. The only downside was our resort. We will likely NOT stay on property again, unless we choose a deluxe resort. When we stayed at Wilderness Lodge, we loved it. But, the lines were WAAAAAY to long at the parks just to get back to the Carribean Beach Resort, and then we had 6 bus stops to our building. Ugh. There are many things I have issues with at Disney World. I don't like lines, crowds, people stopping directly in front of you for no reason, waiting, strollers hitting my heels, and paying $14 to PARK after paying $80+ per person just to get in! Justin and I talked about the expenses several times while we were there. We both agreed to staff all the characters, street cleaners, ride operators, vendors, waiters, etc, it must cost a fortune to pay employees! Then there's the fireworks, electricity, ride upkeep, etc. I guess you get what you pay for (minus our resort), and we are so grateful we got to go. The most priceless time for me was while Addie and I walked one night, she expressed how thankful she was to spend the time with us. In all the 6 months we've had the twins, she's never complained, cried, begged for attention, or been angry with her sisters. She has been amazing, and so much more wonderful than we hoped she'd be. Our little girl prayed for a brother or sister for 3 years, and God answered. Addie's heart is huge, and I am so thankful to be her Mommy.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Relieved, but a little sad . . .

On Friday August 20 as I was driving the carpools girls home, I got a call. I didn't recognize the number, but I knew it was a Missouri number after living there 1/2 my life. It was an attorney in Washington, MO, to whom we had sent our adoption profile. After we adopted the twins, we pulled our profiles from 3 attorneys who had our profile, but I just couldn't remember the attorney's name in Missouri. First, she asked me how our adoption plan was going. I replied, "Great! We adopted twin baby girls in March!" She was happy for us, but she called because a birth mom in Chattanooga wanted to look at our profile. Not only this, but she wanted to overnight our profile within the hour! Wow. Really? It was one of those moments where your heart stops. Deep breath. I knew Justin was doing surgery and couldn't be reached, so I had to decide right then. My questions were:

1. Can we handle another baby when the twins would only be 12 months old? TRIPLE stroller? Oh my.
2. How would we even get a pumpkin seat in the back seat of the van? They're heavy enough now!
3. Can we afford another baby? (Babies aren't cheap, and neither is adoption!)
4. What if this is God's child for our family? Oh.

The last question hit me hard. You see, I almost said "no" to my beautiful, wonderful, God-given twin baby girls. I thought we were headed to Bulgaria! But, where would our family be without those little ladies? My answer was simple. Trust God. My perfect little family's picture in my head had already been changed. In my dreams we would be a family of 4, with two biological children who were two years apart, and live happily ever after. God said "NO" in a big way as we suffered through years of expensive infertility, finally choosing adoption. Then God chose for us twins, which I never thought I could handle! I am beyond thankful for my baby girls, and I know it was God's plan all along. So now, who was I to tell God what my family should be? He knows WHO is supposed to be in our family so much more than me.

A couple of days ago, we received word from the attorney in Missouri. She said the birth mom had chosen another family. I have to say a BIG part of me was relieved. Not because I don't ever want to adopt again, but because our hands are so full right now. Another part of me was sad. Crazy you say? After wanting babies for 4 1/2 years, the desperation I had felt turned into the joy we experienced with adopting the twins. It's hard to explain how much we felt the presence of the Lord during and after the adoption process. It's His heart, and now it's mine too. The question now is will we adopt again? Maybe.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Back To School

I can't believe Addie is starting her first full week of 1st Grade today. Wow. Where does the time go? I don't know who was more disappointed about school starting, Addie or me. There's something wonderful about summertime. A schedule is not something I require for daily life. The ease of summer days, waking up late and having leisure time is something we all enjoy. Our summer was terrific. There's also a realization when school starts for me about how much older Addie is getting. I know I should not be sad to send a healthy, bright girl to school each year. The years are just flying by, and there's no way to slow them down. I remember when people would tell me as I cried dropping Addie off on her first day of preschool, how fast the time would go. It has. Painfully so. I checked a book out of the library this past Sunday called, "Let me hold you a little longer" by Karen Kingsbury. It included a CD of the author reading the book. It's a good thing, because I couldn't read it myself without crying. The book says in the first pages . . .
Long ago you came to me, a miracle of firsts:
First smiles and teeth and baby steps, a sunbeam on the burst.
But one day you will move away and leave me to your past,
And I will be left thinking of a lifetime of your lasts . . .
The last time that I held a bottle to your baby lips. . . (insert weeping here)
The last time that I lifted you and held you on my hip. . .
Let's just say it was ugly here, with Justin and I both getting emotional. Addie said, "Mommy, don't be sad, I won't go to college for a VERY long time." I know it's true we have 12 more years before we make that drive to college to LEAVE her there. Ugh. But, I also know how fast these first 6 years have flown. The book has made me appreciate all these last with the twins, and also hug my little girl tighter each day.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

3 Days of Solitude

When I was a kid, my worst fear was to be alone. I guess in some ways it still is. However, these last 3 days in our home by myself have been wonderful. I've only teared up a couple of times missing Justin and the girls. The plan was for me to travel with Justin to Knoxville this weekend to visit his family. On Tuesday, I started feeling rough. I finally went to the Dr. on Friday after a severe night of pain on Thursday. Turns out I have a bacterial GI infection or a flare up of diverticulitis. Not fun. We decided with my constant trips to the bathroom, a trip with twins would be a bad idea. So, Justin offered to take Addie and the twins to Knoxville BY HIMSELF! I have to give him a lot of credit, this was not a trip even I wanted to try by myself. I have gone 2 times to my parents by myself but that's only 1 1/2 hours away. After convincing me he would be fine, I gave in and they have had a great trip. Addie was worried about leaving me at home alone while I was sick. Before I woke up on Friday morning, she called my Mom and asked her to come take care of me over the weekend. It was the kindest gesture to have your child try to take care of you. I'm so thankful for her thoughtfulness.

During my 3 days of solitude, I read 3 fiction books, watched a movie, watched Food network, walked the dogs, went to church, talked to Justin and Addie on the phone MANY times, and didn't take a shower for 24 hours. Here are the things I did NOT miss during my 3 days: cooking, making bottles, keeping a schedule, timing feedings, having to make decisions for everyone else, listening to a baby monitor, washing bottles, changing diapers, being BUSY, and crying girls. Things I DID miss: kisses, hugs, coos, laughs, smiles, love, talks, snuggles, conversation, watching all my babies sleep, and companionship. Justin and my girls will be heading home tomorrow, and I can't wait to get my arms around each of them! The worst part besides being away from them is knowing my whole world is in that car. As I pray for their safety, I will say a prayer of thanks for the 3 days I desperately needed.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Adoption Option

Adoption has changed our lives and the lives of so many around us. We have friends who have adopted from Taiwan, Uganda, Ethiopia, Russia, South Korea, Vietnam, Guatemala, and the USA. Growing up in a small town, I had not heard too much about adoption. I knew two people at my school who were adopted, one domestic and one Korean. After seeing how both adopted children treated their parents, I decided adoption would not be an option for me. (insert chuckles here) Of course, like so many other things, God would change my heart.

Addie and I were talking the other day about Bulgaria, and she said she wanted to go there for another sibling. My Grandma heard her and said, "You don't NEED any more kids." As she said it, I realized she does not get it like so many. I politely explained, it's not about what I need, it's about what a child on the other side of the world growing up without a family needs. You see it's not about me. It never was. It's the Lord's story, and we can choose to tell it through our lives or live for ourselves. We have fooled ourselves into a comfortable life, and decided what we can afford and what we can handle. I am more guilty than most. I had hardened my heart for adoption until one of my dearest friends from college adopted two beautiful boys from Mercy Ministries. Now, I have felt God's hand and His leading so strongly through this process, that I want everyone to experience it!

There is a song called "Albertine" by Brook Fraser. The song has a line which has haunted me for a long time. It says, "Now that I have seen, I am responsible." Once God removes the scales from your eyes and shows you something, it's impossible to not be changed. God has shown us orphanages, faces of beautiful children who may never call anyone "Mom" or "Dad." We have seen the poverty, the despair, and the sadness and hopelessness in their eyes. It breaks my heart to know some children will never find a family. It reminds me of the story of the Good Samaritan. "Godly" and "Righteous" people saw the man beaten and battered and passed by on the other side. It was only the Samaritan who saw and DID something! I've talked to many of our friends who have adopted, and the hardships in adoption we have all faced. The one common thread is the hand of God, and feeling His presence. We would all do it all over again.

We went to an adoption conference while we were looking at different agencies and we heard a woman speak. Her words were burned into my heart. She had four biological children, and had adopted 3 more from China. Her biological children were in their late 20s and her adopted children were in their teens. The Mom and the oldest daughter went on a mission trip to China to work in an orphanage. They met a special needs 5 year old girl, and they fell in love with her. They knew she would have a very difficult time being chosen. On the plane ride home, the older daughter said to the Mom, "you know we have to go get her right?" The Mom said, " I already have 7 children! Besides, I'm TOO OLD!" The daughter looked at her mom and said, "What do you think she'd rather have, old Mom or NO Mom?" Wow. They went back and adopted her.

I don't know if the Lord will lead us to adopt again and go to Bulgaria. I only know I am changed and so thankful for the journey.

"And whoever welcomes a little child like this in My name welcomes Me." Matthew 18:5