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Thankful We Chose More Than Perfect

A front porch on a farm will do many things to you—one is lead to more conversations and recollecting memories. The beau and I sat rocking—talking about where we started. Almost 15 years ago…with small dreams that we thought were big.

He was raised in Atlanta. Near Chastain Park. Some how this Alabama country girl and this city boy found each other. Hearing his stories of growing up near Buckhead–Saturdays spent at the golf club…and Sundays at a church just up the street–made me want to recreate those same memories for our children.

And I tried.

We were living in an apartment near the city when we found out we’d be parents. Thirteen years ago and so much has changed. We thought we needed this and that to bring home a baby–and before we knew it we were moving in our first home. Parker came in August–and just 14 months later our daughter Laney came. Growing up with a sister just 14 months older than me–I thought this was even more perfect. A boy. A girl. Life near the city…a church up the street–and we just needed to add the white picket fence to complete it.

It makes me laugh now. Wishing I could get inside that mind of mine in my first days of motherhood. Pouring over books trying to figure out how to do it all right. Scheduling naps like my life–and their futures–depended on it. Sitting at the poolside at the club making more friends with nannies than young moms. Playdates and music class–and standing in line for registration at the best preschool–and we’d move at the perfect time for the perfect school just a year before kindergarden. I thought…I really though–that was the stuff that mattered. Oh we had plans alright. Perfect ones.

For us–Africa…changed everything. Parker was 2 years old and Laney was just 1 when we took our first trip. I stood before those precious children and my life–flashes of my perfect world…intermingled with the reality of theirs. Now that we knew we couldn’t unforget–and now that we knew…we were responsible. I came home that summer in 2007 a different person…and I different mom. Sure I had traveled overseas before and even lived in a 3rd world country in my 20’s doing mission work. But going as a mom…a young mom…trying so hard to have everything in my own world “just right”–going this time…changed everything.

I was divinely ruined.

I thanked Him for nap time…when and however it happened. My children had a safe place to lay their heads. I cracked my organize homemade food from their ice cubes–overwhelmed how blessed we really were…thankful we even had snacks in between meals. I stood in preschool pick up line with blurred thoughts…that quickly helped me see that for too long…even as a believer–I had been living for myself rather than seeking, asking and following what Jesus REALLY wanted for my days as a mom and as His daughter who would do anything for Him.

Almost 15 years later–we rock on this front porch and watch them play and think about…how we got HERE.

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I think if you would have asked me what my “real dreams” were back in those first years of mothering–I might have actually said THIS.

But. But I think I was scared. I think I was scared that I’d have to give up too much to have it. I believe the Lord has given us all desires that actually line up with His will for our lives–but some times we get so confused by the world around us and so afraid that if we take risks and choose to follow Him and what’s in our hearts…that we stand to lose more than what we could gain by living by the world’s standards or playing it safe.

As we began to take leaps of faith and make Wiphan Zambia a big part of our lives–we saw more and more things differently. Not only were our hearts changed…but so was our thinking. I’d call it the transforming of our minds. I think about the changes we made then…bit by bit—they felt SO big then. Instead of private school…we’d do this. We’d let those club costs go…and we’d do that. It didn’t all happen at once…but like the Velveteen Rabbit–bit by bit…our pretty fur fell off and we learned what it meant for US to really live.

As we rocked on this front porch watching them play…we shook our heads remembering how we talked of being done after 2 children. I have Africa to thank for growing our hearts to be open to whatever the LORD chooses for our family…far better than what we could plan for ourselves…

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How will we send them all to college they ask? Wow–you have your hands full they say. But fuller our heart hearts. No–maybe not in the same preschool or schools we once started in…but they are growing up learning about what it means to really love and live for His dreams for us rather than ours…and the crazy thing is–watching their small dreams become big ones as they serve along side us…and even prepare to see their daddy off this Friday morning–not sad that he’s going but rather cheering him on and asking when it will be their turn to go with him…

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These kids..have shaped these kids…

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In ways I never knew possible. For us–they really changed everything. They don’t life without one another across the world–and to me…it’s so much better than the days I once dreamed for them to have. We started out with these perfect plans to find His instead…and what truth there is that His plans for us are GOOD, PLEASING and PERFECT.

Be encouraged that no matter how impossible following Him to the ends of the Earth in your current situation might seem–it’s not impossible…and if you follow–your life will change…maybe radically…but it will be so beautiful and even more than perfect if you follow His plans instead of your own.

And believe it or not–He will still give you sprinkles on your cake…more than you can imagine. Never in a million years did I think we’d be adding to our family the same year Richard and I turn 40…almost 15 years after starting to walk forever together. Now I rock in this nursery (once a living room beside our room…we are packing out this farmhouse!)…just amazed at how He has written our story. So many beautiful parts…3 children biologically…an adoption…hosting a most precious girl from Ukraine whose family would become our family…a miscarriage…another adoption…a farm and now a princess. Truly all more than I could have ever imagined or hoped for. And so we wait…again—for His most perfect plans in our lives to be filled…

After a sweet season of two Created for Care retreats…oh yes–the Lord asked us to more crazy in the middle of it all…and these two mommas to walk that road of loving and encouraging other mommas with I couldn’t be more thankful for…

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And now we wait…for more…

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So thankful how He leads and provides. And so thankful we didn’t settle for our own plans or add that white picket fence to our once perfect. Because this crazy–is so much better.

Truly. He writes the best stories. And this Sunday–I just had to remember…and relish…in His goodness in how He leads us…and what sweetness He gives and wants for us as we follow Him.

Celebrating all the Yes’s…no matter how crazy each one felt…and cheering you on as you say YES in this season to whatever He is calling you to.

Much love from the farm,

Andrea

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Created for Care 2016 {Our February Retreat!}

I can’t believe it is our 6th year of retreats!!! And this year…was another sweet one!

Only the Lord could keep this going as we are all busy mom (youngish…ha!) mommas (okay…with youngish children!) mommas who often–like you–feel like we are with you in the trenches. We started Created for Care 6 years ago feeling like we were home with little ones from hard places–not sure always…or most of the time…how to help their hearts heal. From the beginning I have been amazed how the Lord has provided through every detail…from volunteers to breakout speakers to main speakers…to our incredible band. For all those who pour in to run with us and love the 450 moms who come to each retreat–THANK YOU.

If you have never been to one of our retreats–we are just foster and adoptive mommas pouring into other foster and adoptive moms. We are so blessed to have found AMAZING speakers to partner with us through the years as we are right there with you too! Our TEAM is made up of all kinds of moms–and this is what I love…we are also made up of moms who are not called to foster or adopt–moms who feel called to support moms who are called to grow in this way! THIS my friends is a BEAUTIFUL thing and such a picture of the body of Christ! We believe that foster care and adoption are such beautiful pictures of the redemptive acts of the gospel–but not everyone is not called to foster or adopt…we all play a different part each so beautiful as we follow His calling for us individually. And oh my GRACIOUS…we couldn’t run this retreat like we do without these moms who feel called simply serve in this way. (Every one of the dear moms behind the counter in our store may not be foster or adoptive moms–but they come to SERVE us…and I hold my tears away as I watch each of them encourage moms to keep going and each year they come back to serve again! SO THANKFUL!)

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We have had the same worship team for several years–and I can’t say enough about this sweet team. If you have been to a retreat then you know how gifted they are in their ministry–how beautifully they pave the way for tired mommas to get to be still and worship. And they are loud;). So that’s helpful when you can’t sing like me;)! You can sing as loud as you want–because I think that’s beautiful to the Lord–but if you are standing beside me and if you could hear me you may not think so! Thank you Amber and Jared Humphries, Candi and Jonathon Shelton and this year Brendan Trinkle for leading us so well to thrones of worship. Oh my. It was sweet! AND…they were BRAVE ENOUGH to take on our ridiculous challenge to ALSO be our country band for Western night! THEY. ROCKED. IT.

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Moms need to kick back and have a little fun too…I was so proud of these mommas for attempting country line dance lessons! By the end of the night the ballroom floor was FULL and it was a JOY to see and hear them laughing together!

We always have main speaker sessions each night and in the morning. This year our main speaker is Pam Parrish. Get ready March mommas…you will LOVE Pam! Pam shares this year through her own personal experience in foster and adoption addressing so many things we struggle with as mommas! From anxiety to being surrounded by negativity…and she encourages us how to combat those joy stealers with the Lord’s help and His Word. It’s good stuff…so GET READY!

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On Friday we have 1 breakout and on Saturday 2 breakout sessions. Attendees choose which session to go to, but if they have a hard time choosing we record the sessions so they can buy the one they missed! Recording sessions has also been really good for moms who are unable to come OR for moms to take home to encourage their own community with–OR to donate or have available to your church library for foster and adoption mom resources!

In between all the serious–we also like to make sure we bring in silly and fun for our mommas. Life ya’ll–can just be tough. We compare…some times we feel beat up by just the day to day of being a mom…and goodness knows…we need to remember to LAUGH too. I’m so thankful for our team who are willing to do anything to make these moms smile…and convincing them all to sport their PJs during skits or whatever–they are always game if it means letting moms exhale and have fun. Thankful for this team…ALL VOLUNTEERS…who give up so much of their time to serve and love big on many…

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Okay–okay. So they are ALSO gifted and incredible prayer warriors who can be serious too! One of the sweetest times at C4C is the Creative Quiet Time. Moms sign up for a 1 hour time to be still and just rest before the Lord. There are different stations for them to go to…where they can leave prayer requests, pray over other requests, pray over the nations, think about scripture and just spend time with the Lord. So thankful for our volunteers who run this sweet, sacred space!

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We ended our year this year after Pam’s Sunday message on “Apprehending Discontent” as we dug through Philippians 4. More good stuff March mommas!! After her talk, we had the SWEETEST commissioning time at the end of our retreat…where they all sent these mommas off to love big no matter what!!

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It was truly a SWEET, SWEET retreat!! So thankful for every person that poured in to volunteering to decorate tables to gifts for the birth mom ministry we wanted to support this year…to every single volunteer and detail! Every year would also NOT be complete without our awesome exhibitors!! Each year we have 3 sponsors and a room full of exhibitors that ALL support foster, adoption or orphan care in some capacity!

Please feel free to check out the websites of our amazing sponsors and exhibitors below!! I will link each of their websites so you can learn more about the incredible things they are doing to shine HIS light to the world!

Our Sponsors…

ALL EMBRACE, BRING LOVE IN, ORDINARY HERO

Our Exhibitors…

Wiphan Care, 3 Seams, Three Strands, MKI Travel, Solo Hope, DunlapLove, Scarlet Threads, 107 Market, Project 143, Grace Klein Community, Proclaim Promo, All God’s Children International, Ellilta Women at Risk/Parker Clay, Just One Africa, Project Tesfa

WOW to a wonderful February!! We are so excited for what MARCH holds!! Thank you to all our volunteers, sponsors, exhibitors, speakers and…THANK YOU to our mommas who came and encouraged in the hallways…spoke words of LIFE and TRUTH and JOY into the hearts of moms sitting beside you, at your dinner tables and in the halls. YOU ARE LOVED!!!

Registration for both the February or March Foster/Adoption Mom retreat is always on August 15th at midnight EST. We would LOVE to have you join us…that is–if we are brave enough to go for another year!! SHINE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!!

Love,

The Created for Care Team

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Preparing for Lent {Inviting More of Christ in your home…}

Lent.

The sweetest of all seasons around the corner. Where we remember the journey to the cross and the risen Savior as it ends. This is how we walk through Lent with our children…and I just couldn’t help but share again.

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It is one of the most JOYOUS and SACRED times for our family–and we use the Lent tree to make it come to life.

For those of you wanting to join me in creating a Lent tradition, I have created 5 word documents for you to download and print so that you can walk your children through Lent growing in the knowledge and understanding of God and the Passion of Christ. This activity requires you to find 41 treasures for the 40 days of Lent (a few after to celebrate the resurrections!). EACH day you will have a scripture reading and an ornament that accompanies it. PRIOR to beginning this journey–you will need to go on a mommy scavenger hunt all over town (dollar stores, craft stores, etc) to locate an item for each day. This will be not only an amazing journey for your children BUT ALSO FOR YOU!

OR you can just draw them or let your children draw them! Keep it simple! You can make the ornament together after the reading too! I just gather old sticks to use for our tree–some years we spray paint them some year’s we just use plain old sticks…bringing new life to what is no longer.

When your children are little–I encourage you to read the scripture before hand and then retell it so they can grasp it according to their age level. As they grow older, they will be able to sit through the entire chapter (or chapters) of reading, and each year you will be amazed at the nuggets the Holy Spirit gives them through each day’s reading.

The list that I used is in each document download. I found these 41 treasures (one day is a “nothing day” as you wait on the resurrection) at Dollar Trees, Hobby Lobby, ebay and some I made myself out of felt when I couldn’t find the ornament recommended. These word documents were created to be printed on shipping labels—so you can easily print them on 2″x4″ labels and stick each label on a ziplock bag to store your ornaments in to remind you the story and verse—as well as to store safely from year to year.

All the work has been done FOR YOU as far as the labels go! Now…you just need to run to the store and buy white shipping labels – 10 per sheet 2 in x 4 in. (I bought Office Max’s offbrand and it matches the download template of Avery 8163). But as long as you purchase the 2″x4″ with 10 on a sheet—this should work!

My friend Laura Kirkland made these ornaments to go along with the scripture I pulled out for each day…
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POST UPDATE!!! I’m SO EXCITED that my friend Laura who also volunteers at our retreats just gave us this download link to share on my blog so any momma can download it for FREE! DOWNLOAD HER ORNAMENT LINK HERE. You can print off on card stock, hole punch and tie ribbon and bring in sticks to put in a vase for a quick tree!! OR you can get really crafty and buy special fabric printer transfer paper at Michael’s or Hobby Lobby print and iron on white fabric…and then hot glue or sew on felt!

DOWNLOAD EACH SET HERE BY CLICKING ON AND OPENING THE FILE. Then…just print!

Lent Days 1-10
Lent Days 11-20
Lent Days 21-30
Lent Days 31-40
He Is Risen Days 41-42

I followed the instructions found in Carol Brazo’s book “No Ordinary Home: The Uncommon Art of Christ-Centered Homemaking” which by the way is a must have in any mommy’s library! Carol Brazo walks you through how to beautifully celebrate the final week of Lent, Holy Week, with your children—and this is SURE to be a memory they will forever hold dear in their hearts as they encounter the Savior this powerful week in an amazing way. My favorite is one of her explanations of how she celebrates Sunday…

“Every Easter Sunday I am the first one up. Mark, like the disciples before him, hears those magical words, “He is risen” from the mouth of a woman. The little girls are awakened by their mama’s cries of joy, “He is risen!” and they in turn wake up their brother. Those first words belong to women. They are our gift and our heritage. And every year, as I hear women cry out their joy, a place deep inside me, inside the female part of me, is resurrected and brought to nerve-tingling life. He is risen! He is risen! Wake up and rejoice!”
On the FIRST day of Lent–you will read the Bible story to your children and your littles will take turns putting the ornaments up on the tree each night. The first ornament: a teeny, tiny mustard seed. Your first scripture reading is short–Matthew 17:20. Short, but not simple. It is about faith. And faith we will need on this journey to the cross.

Matthew 17:20 says, “And He said to them, “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” Oh Lord, will you give my little preschoolers faith for this journey with us. Oh that Your Holy Spirit would teach them and do a miracle in their great big hearts the Lent as we travel the Lent Tree journey together…

Now it sits empty…but in a few hours it will have a mustard seed. If we have faith the size of an itty, bitty mustard seed…then nothing will be impossible for us.

OUR LENT TREE
Simple twigs.

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Mine are artificial twigs from Hobby Lobby because I use this year round for different things. Some times we add twigs or just use a twig tree…and as we find twigs for our tree–we talk about how these twigs no longer have life–essentially they are dead. But throughout the season, we will add ornaments to them bringing life to our tree just as Jesus Christ offers life to us through the cross.

For those of you without little ones at home or with wee ones too young to understand, consider doing this with your spouse! This is a worshipful way to walk through Lent together, and what fun it could be to treasure hunt each day for that day’s ornament. At the end, you’ll have a precious set to keep in a Hope Chest for that baby you have hoped for or even as a gift to a grandchild. Either way, the Lent Tree isn’t just for families with children. I think adults enjoy it just as much…if not more!

IMPORTANT to read if you are doing the Lent Tree with us! DO NOT do an ornament on Sundays during Lent! There are 40 ornaments—and there are 40 days of fasting between Ash Wednesday and Lent *IF* you don’t count Sundays! SOOO—you will do ornaments Monday through Saturday only following Biblical Lent tradition. “When observing fasting or abstinence during Lent, regard must be paid to the fact that Sundays are Feast Days, so there is no fast or abstinence. The days from Ash Wednesday to the day before Easter Sunday, excluding the Sundays, are forty, corresponding to the number of days Christ spent in the wilderness.” So…technically you fast for 6 days and then Sunday is a Feast day where you get to have what you fasted. Did ya know that??? Lent is a custom not a Biblical requirement–and traditionally you fast for 6 days and on the 7th day you celebrate the resurrection with a Feast day.

Here are some examples of some of the ornaments we found and use year and after year:

The story of Adam and Eve…how sin was brought into the world and how Jesus would cover our sin

The story of Abraham and Sarah…Abraham having to work the land

The story of Isaac…God providing a new sacrifice

It will take some time to find all your ornaments but it will be a fun, interactive way for you to study God’s Word together! It is SO worth the mommy scavenger hunt! I am about to teach 17 sweet ladies in my Sunday school class how to do this–so we’re making it a PJ Party night and I’m dividing up the ornaments so each mom will only need to find 3 each. They will just buy 17 of 3 each and then we’ll come together and share the wealth…and have a really fun girls night that will bless our families for years to come!

Hope this inspires some of you in ways you can invest Eternity into the hearts of your children!!!

Blessings to you!

Andrea

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May Our 2016 Make a Mark on Eternity {Not Living for the Dot}

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to hard you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

As I reflect on 2015–I’m overwhelmed again. With thanksgiving. Because–again it was hard. A GOOD HARD. It was hard because once again–as believers–as we do every year–Richard and I as a couple and as a family we wrestled with our flesh. Yet we listened and followed Jesus.

I’m not going to lie…I struggled wanting some “good” but selfish things. I can argue like no man’s business how we deserve them, need them…how having them would strengthen our bond as a family–how God wants us to have good things and we should live richly in His bountiful blessing. But again this year…He led us away from some things that (you my sweet friend) might laugh at me for struggling with wanting or wanting to justify. Only–having some of these things or choosing them instead…would have been saying no to some pretty crazy things Jesus WAS calling us to.

In 2015–I wanted to go to Disney with the kids. We went once 2 years ago. But this year…again…we didn’t. I wanted to go on a family vacation. Even just a quick weekend to the beach. But it wasn’t in the cards–because saying yes to that would have meant saying no to some other things. I wanted to get away with Richard–to just breath. Some times at night I would get on Groupon just to see if that was a steal of a deal getaway that we could go on the fly on. But none of these wants were in the cards for us this year. And–I am thankful. (Please hear me there is absolutely no judgement at all for anyone doing any of these things…because golly–I was DYING to say yes to these…and there have been times in the past where Jesus made a way and DID lead us to do these things to connect us as a couple or as a family! They are GOOD things!! But in the light of eternity–what God was calling us to really look at this year–we had to say no…and silly ole me–struggled with not having these 1st World luxuries that we have often had in the past.)

Then. I watch Francis Chan talk about living for eternity. And I realize that we did live big in 2015. We lived beyond our means in following God in some pretty crazy ways and HE provided ways for us to say no to those other okay, cool experiences because He had much bigger plans for us. And as hard as it is I want 2016 to be the same. This is a must watch as you start 2016…

I’m so thankful that 2015 brought 2 foster and adoptive mom’s retreats with Created for Care in February and March…and a Fabulous Forty Retreat in April. Saying no to the things my flesh struggled with meant Richard could go to Africa in May–and we spent June watching our 9 year old daughter paint and fundraise to go with me to Africa in July. I returned with an awful parasite and mono…and a month later in September we found out after 7 years of not being able to have a baby–we were expecting. There were things we said yes to this year that I can’t share here–but they were not easy to say yes to…and they left us on our knees, in tears and starting over in some pretty hard ways for our kids and family…YET–we are certain we said yes to Jesus. Saying no to all of these would have made for a pretty comfortable year…and some days–I just want that. This is not for YOU…but for ME–to remember that next year…I will struggled again. I will struggled with wanting to step back, to have/want/pursue “normal” things, and to some times not serve when serving means being uncomfortable…like some times sacrificing in ways that leave my heart torn in two. I will (and you will probably too) struggle with saying yes to Jesus–or comfortable in 2016.

COMFORT. Easy. To go with the flow instead of against the grain. Saying yes to Jesus often has led us to walking through some pretty difficult waters–yet He has been with us and we have sensed His presence and guidance every step of the way. 2016 will be no different if we ask Him to use our hands and feet. Yet–I want to start 2016 and say that I am ready.

I have already told my husband that I *do* really want to go to Disney with the kids in 2016 after the baby comes. (Just being honest–and I also think it’s okay to want these things.) I also want to open my hands and say that if He says no again to these little wants of this momma’s heart–to follow Him in different places–for the sake of eternity…that I DO want that MORE.

In 2016, I want to put EVERY SINGLE THING before Him and ask Him if it IS His will–and only follow again what He is telling me to walk forward and do for His glory and not my own. I confess–that I don’t want to be uncomfortable…but I want to tell Jesus that more than comfort in 2016–I want His will to be done in my life and in the life of my family. I want to be intentional with relationships…less friendships online–and more across the table. I want to put down the squares (anything technology) in my life more often and pour out in “real” life more and more. I want to focus more on what HE THINKS rather than what people of this world think–and live for the audience of One. I want to breath life into others–encouragement, peace and truth–after I first let HIM be the one that fills my cup.

What if…what if we had said YES to the things we wanted? All good things–but we could have missed AMAZING. Because His stories–what He has for us…really–is SO MUCH BETTER than what we could have wanted for ourselves!

May 2016 be a year that leaves me typing the same reflection…where I didn’t get everything *I* wanted but received everything I needed–and saw Him do miracles as leaps of faith were taken over and over again. I think our flesh deep down always begins wanting the year ahead to bring us good things…dreaming of the things we may not have received in the last year that our flesh still wants…yet also deep down–we want nothing more as believers to have the decrement, self control, desire and passion to want even MORE whatever He wants for us–believing that He truly is for us…and has great big plans for us in 2016…to prosper us in ways we can’t imagine and to bring us much hope and an unimaginable, beautifully written future.

Standing with you–excited for what is to come–and trusting BIG for great things in the year ahead! A look at 2015 here…so thankful for these memories and the story each picture holds!

 

 

May He be with you this year ahead every step of the way!

Blessings,

Andrea

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The sweetest gift… {pregnancy after loss}

This morning I turned 39. Never ever did I expect to be expecting at 39. Never ever did I ever think we would have six children. Yet–this…THIS is the sweet gift of all.

We always dreamed of a big family. But to me, a big family in our culture meant 3 MAYBE 4 kids. But there are some things you just don’t plan when you put them in God’s hands. Even growing by adoption, as planned as that may seem–when you know in your heart and you are walking with Jesus–you just know the next steps for your family no matter how crazy or big or uncertain it may feel.

In August of 2009 we shared here–my first post ever–about the Lord calling us to grow to 4 through adoption. At the time, we thought, “Wow. We are completing our family in such a sweet, unexpected way.” What a journey it was bringing home our Isaac. At 8 months, he weighed less than all my newborns and when we picked him up at 1 year he was just 10 pounds. We were told he may never sit, walk and would certainly have many delays–yet therapy after therapy we saw God’s healing, miraculous hand and this past Fall I stood on the sidelines watching this child jump airborne over and over to stop goals for his soccer team and cheer his teammates on. We were prepared for anything, and received over and over the unexpected—such a sweet gift each milestone and achievement.

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I had no idea what I was missing as I had raised typical kids with the biggest challenge being something like dyslexia and had no idea how sweet the physical milestones would be after years of physical therapy…to find us where we are now.

Then we received an unexpected surprise a few years later that we were expecting. I’ll never forget the day I found out. We were hosting a precious teenager, and I raced to a baby store to buy Richard a gift to surprise him. I found it–a sweet simple frame with a bow with the words “Love at first sight”. I put a little note in it and took it to his office. Our hosted teenager was with me–but not able to speak or read English she just thought that delivery was a simple errand in our day. We set that frame on Richard’s dresser and for weeks I prayed about our sweet baby while focusing on the daily of caring for our 4 children and a precious teenager we were also praying for.

Then in September–I shared our news. Our loss. It was also unexpected…as losses always are–especially for our hearts. Traumatic is the only word that I can describe it best as we chose to try and let nature take it’s course after the heartbeat stopped. But unfortunately I still needed surgery, so it felt so drawn out…both the loss and the grief. I look back and read through some of those posts that follow, and oh my GRACIOUS…to see now what God was doing.

Then I never thought I’d say it–but our loss was a baby…a sweet angel…who led us to our next baby. Just one month after that September 2012 post on our loss–on October 18th we shared we had been matched with a baby boy. We didn’t have a completed home study. We had no plans to adopt again. But as I sat rocking in my chair one night I told Richard I was going to spend the time thinking of my loss praying for children who also had loss. I prayed for children who had lost their parents and I stumbled across a picture of my son–who was waiting on a “Special Focus” list–which meant he had been on a wait-list for so long and also had a special need that was considered immediate–and we didn’t even need a home study to be matched. We only had to complete one and our dossier within 6 months–which we did in just a few;) Seven months later we found ourselves HERE–in the airport returning home…just a couple months after our due date for our little one that I’m quite sure was on the cheering committee helping the process speed up a bit;)

Our loss helped me see loss differently for my boys. I knew how much they had lost…their birth families, their cultures, their birth countries, familiar language, caregivers who had watched over them like mothers in their orphanages…just so much. But I didn’t grasp their loss until I experienced loss too. Their tears at night took on deeper meaning. Instead of wanting to be immediately accepted as mommy and hugged back, I understood they needed time and I’d wait by their bedsides until they were ready to let another mommy love them. When they finally folded into me as mom, I knew healing was happening–and after our loss…it took my breath away in ways I hadn’t experienced in our adoptive parenting before until this personal journey of loss ourselves. I felt we had a different, deeper bond–and this loss…this precious angel that awaits us in heaven…had given us the sweetest gift–to both us and our boys…connecting deeper that I knew possible as I understood their hearts in a way there are no words for.

While I’d give anything in the world to have gotten to hold our baby girl–if asked to rewrite the script–I know that part where she goes to be with Jesus is one of the most beautiful, sacred, ordained parts. If asked to type it out–I’d do it with tears. And it’d be very, very slow and probably erased a few times and then rewritten. Because I know that’s part of His story for us. A part that I see NOW needed to be written. But she will always be longed for and I can’t wait to see Jesus and then race to twirl that little bug around!

God uses loss to write a more beautiful story, but it doesn’t mean He replaces or fills that loss. Some losses can never and will never and should never be filled or replaced. Yet that picture frame…remained. Empty–on Richard’s dresser. There were times I wanted to give it away. But I couldn’t. I felt the Lord had a newborn for us still…maybe adoption–certainly I was getting too old to have another. Good grief…how would one chase 5 kids and have another as she approached 40? More power to the Duggars–but that ain’t happening over here y’all.

I held onto that frame–and decided to keep it and pray that while God doesn’t replace loss–I prayed He would one day bring us a baby’s picture to put in it. That felt like a crazy prayer. Very few knew I was praying for that…and I didn’t expect the feelings and emotions when we found out we were expecting last Fall.

This has truly been one of the most holy, sacred pregnancies. In my 20’s and early 30’s I was very naive. I thought a pregnancy meant you had a baby. Since then, I’ve seen so much. I’ve sat beside more friends who had the holy privilege of holding their babies for a few hours before they sent them to be with Jesus and countless friends like me who had miscarriages.

Pregnancy after loss–and even after adoption–has take on holy ground. For the first trimester, each day was a praise. Each day I expected or thought, “What if today is the day?” This is something every mom goes through in her pregnancy after a loss. Each night when everything still seemed okay, I dropped to my knees and just thanked Him for another day. With every moment of sickness their was rejoicing. And now with flutters–and feeling baby kicks–even more rejoicing. Each day is such a gift–and I’m trying my best to just enjoy each day without worry–knowing that He is the author of our story…of our baby’s story…and He can be trusted no matter what.

I moved that frame on Richard’s bed beside mine…right after I filled it. Nothing had ever been there. Looking back I know He knew. He knew I did buy it for my baby girl…that one…and this one too. I had no idea. I’m thankful I didn’t at the time. And I’m so thankful for the story He has written between then and now. I’m thankful I clung close to Jesus during our loss…and followed His prompting to pray for children who had also experienced loss. I’m thankful how He used that to lead us to our son in China. I’m so thankful how He used our loss to lead us deeper to connecting to the hearts of our boys…and that He gave us several years to do that before writing more to our beautiful story. I’m thankful for the picture that sits in this frame and for that baby girl whose heart is still beating and little feet are kicking on this mom’s 39th birthday today. Truly–this is the sweetest gift.

So while I woke this morning to super heroes shouting…and I made my own birthday breakfast to have those super heroes ask for it. I scooted over in my robe and shared with my boys whose hearts are so tender and dear to me. I got to sit and write and remember His faithfulness and how beautifully He writes our stories today…and reflect on the sweetest gift of how He uses our loss to write beauty from ashes. Our baby in heaven is such a sweet part of our story–just as pivotal and important as the others…and that once grief as turned to the sweetest aroma of joy and future hope–something to really look forward to one day in heaven. I can’t believe the Lord gave me another baby—a picture to put in this frame…and the gift to know each day really is a miracle. Never will I take these gifts for granted…and I sit here today with a full, happy heart…thankful I asked Him to be the author of my story.

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May your days be sweet as you follow Him.

Love,

Andrea

 

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