Monthly Archives: December 2015

What is your YES?

Almost exactly a year ago, in the very first days of 2015, Russ and I had some of the hardest conversations we have ever had.

Adoption had been something we talked about sort of flippantly through our marriage.  I have always felt this pull to adopt internationally.  But let’s be real.  It’s expensive.  It’s hard.  It’s scary.  There is a lot of uncertainty and unknown.

We asked ourselves and each other all the difficult questions.  Some of them more than once.

Could we ever afford this?
How would this effect Campbell and Bennett?
What if we adopted a child and it ruined our family?
What will people say?
Is this crazy?
Will our marriage be able to survive this?
Are we really willing to bring home a child we don’t know?  Forever?
What if this child came with really scary, life-altering medical issues?
Really, could we afford this?

I have reflected a lot the past few days over those conversations.  They were so…human.  We were both very scared.  We had this lovely little life.  These beautiful children who, although not perfect, felt safe.  Definitely not well off, but financially stable.  It felt like we were weighing our life as we knew it against all the potential bad things that might happen.

As a counselor, I see people make decisions (or choose not to make decisions) because of fear all the time.  Much of the time, I think we trick ourselves into thinking we know what we are missing out on when we choose to say “no” because we are afraid.  I think the reality is – we have no idea how much good is out there for us when we say yes.  I think sometimes we never know what we have lost when we let fear win.

Lately I have been looking at Elliott and wondering, “what if we hadn’t said yes?”.

I would never know how her face scrunches up when she is going to take a bite of something.  I would never have lived the moment when she gave me a kiss for the first time.  I would never hear her signature little grunt as she tries to tell me something.  I would never see her awesome dance moves EVERY SINGLE TIME she hears music playing.  I would never see her little face in the mornings, so excited to see me every time.  I would never see her delight in her play kitchen, look out the back window at the big kids, and follow Russ around the kitchen doing the sign for “eat” as he makes her dinner.

I would never know the remarkable transformations love can make.  The Elliott we met 6 weeks ago was flat.  She was cute, but there was little expression, little exploring, little emotion, and little movement.  Yesterday morning I watched her, so animated, run around the house as fast as her little legs would take her.  She carried the dog’s toy, running away so he would chase her.  She’s learned to climb.  Today she fell off the coffee table and screamed for a long time; confident that her mom and dad would comfort her, wanting to be passed between us while she cried and blabbered about how awful it all was.  A girl who less than two months ago didn’t respond much to pain, now confident that her hurting matters to someone.

This was the yes.  When we questioned, almost exactly a year ago, if we could say yes to this, we had no way of knowing all that would come after we plunged forward.

It was scary.  It was scary that we didn’t have enough money in the bank to complete the process.  It was scary that we didn’t know how people would react.  It was scary that we didn’t know what kind of medical needs we might be saying yes to.  It was scary to leave our kids for two weeks.  It was scary to open our hearts.  It was scary to say yes to loving a child forever that was not biologically connected to us.  It was scary to choose to change the dynamic of our family.

And knowing that the Lord was in it didn’t make it stop being scary.  It was scary the whole time.  We simply made it through by acknowledging over and over again that there was something bigger than our fears.

I wonder what in my life I have missed out on because I was too scared to say yes?  Or too selfish.  Or too preoccupied.  Or too aware of my own shortcomings.  Or too worried about what other people thought.  Or too doubtful that God could pull it off.

And I wonder what the next yes will be for me?

What is the next thing that will terrify me?  What thing will cause me to sit on my couch and ask myself and my husband the hardest questions I can think of and cry tears of emotions so complicated I can’t quite name them?

And what is out there for you?  What might you need to say yes to?  What beautiful and terrifying adventure have you considered and dreamed and envisioned, but said no to because it seems like too much risk? What might you be missing because fear is bigger for you than God is?  A career change, a trip to counseling, real community, giving up something that has held you back, joining a church family, stepping out and loving people in an active way? Or maybe even your own journey of adoption?

Elliott will always be a testament to me of what God can do with our most scared yes.  Not that it has been easy.  Not even necessarily that none of my fears were validated.  But that on the other side of our “yes”, there has been great things that far outweighed the fears and risks we imagined in our minds.

bob goff

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One month home

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One month (and one day!) ago, we walked off our last of three flights that brought us back from across the globe and were greeted by our two big kids, our families, and many of our beloved friends.

I physically felt the relief in my body.  We were home.  And after all the months of waiting and praying, we would start our life as a family of five.

I’ll be honest, it’s not been exactly what I anticipated.  I’m not sure what I thought it would be, but coming home and integrating Elliott into our life was much more difficult than I imagined for so many reasons.

The first weeks at home were so hard.  We battled jet lag, sibling issues, sleep problems, clinginess, fears, exhaustion, a lack of time, and uncertainty about how to meet her needs.

Over the past two weeks, slowly, step by step, it has started to feel less like the four of us are living this awkward life with an adorable outsider and began to feel like we are legitimately a family.  It’s starting to feel like it is hard because we have three kids, one of which is a busy two year old, not because we have an orphan living in our house.  It’s feeling more and more like she is ours, like we know her and can anticipate her needs and reactions.  It’s feeling like we are stretched – because she is busy and makes lots of messes, not because she requires every bit of our mental and emotional energy.

Over the past week, I have felt like the cloud has been lifting from me personally as well.  This transition has been particularly hard on me, as I have been the one to intentionally “cocoon” more.  It’s been hard to feel like I have dropped out of life to stay home so much for this intentional time of bonding.  I think I’m finally figuring out how to care for myself during this time, as well as being able to communicate to the people around me how I need them in this process.

As the fog has lifted, we have also found ourselves able to recognize and celebrate the daily accomplishments and changes in her.  6 weeks ago we met an adorable baby girl, but now we get to witness that baby girl come alive and learn about all the little beautiful parts of her personality.

-She loves to dance.  Anytime music plays, she dances.  And girl can move!
-She is using sign language to communicate.  She tells us “eat”, “more”, and “all done”.
-She has started to repeat some words and sounds (“hi”, “boo”, “meow”, “ruff ruff”).
-She’s gained 3 lbs since we met her and sprouted quite a bit of crazy hair.
-She mimics EVERYTHING.  She’s a total copy-cat.  I bent down to touch my toes the other day and she keeps walking to the same spot in the living room and touching her toes 🙂
-She seems to understand a lot of what we say.  If I tell her to go find daddy, she’ll go find Russ, etc.
-She’s fascinated by people’s hair.  She plays with my hair all day.  She LOVES to touch anyone’s long hair.
-She gives lots of kisses.
-She is a goober.  She likes to make people laugh.  If she figures out something is funny, she’ll do it over and over again.
-She seems to be grasping basic level attachment stuff – we are her parents, this is home.  Even if we leave, we come back here.

We continue to work out some kinks in things like sleep and eating (always hungry, but fairly picky – rough combination!).  I think it has been a relief also to see that, while there are still hard moments, overall this is working.  She is figuring out that she fits in this family.  We are seeing her become more and more comfortable.  And while stepping back from the outside world for the past month hasn’t been easy, it has been a beautiful thing to see her begin to thrive.  I can’t wait to see how much more of her we know and adore after another month.

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One month

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Today it has been one month since we met Elliott.

In some ways it feels like it has flown by.

In some other ways, it feels like it has been forever that we have known and loved her.

In some ways it has been one of the most beautiful, blessed months of my life.

In some other ways, it has been among the hardest seasons I have walked through.

Last week, Monday and Tuesday were particularly hard.

For some reason, she seems to struggle a lot at the beginning of the week when everyone else goes back to work and school.  Maybe she is feeling abandoned by the rest of the family.  Or maybe the weekend throws off her routine and then Monday she is reeling from all the new stuff she experiences through the weekends.  We really have no clue.

We do know that for two weeks, on Monday and Tuesday she has had hard days.  With everyone else returning to work and school, it’s just me here to struggle through with her.

On Tuesday afternoon last week I was rocking her, trying her to get her to go down for a nap.  She just clung to me.  It had been a long two days of mostly this.  Mostly when we were alone.  I was exhausted, frustrated, brokenhearted, and felt so clueless and helpless about what she needed or what was behind this for her.

I struggled through that day.  Would I be able to endure this?  Is this what the rest of my life would look like?  Would I constantly feel like she needed more than I had to give?

Around 5:00 on Tuesday, after I had held her for many hours straight and cried a lot of tears, she pointed to the floor and I put her down.  She began to walk around her safe little area rug.  For all the time we had known her, she had avoided any hard surface.  Although we don’t know why, we could tell there was a real fear of stepping off the carpet.

So she pointed to the floor and I set her down gladly, in her safe little space.

And our little firecracker stepped right off the rug and started walking around the living room on the wood floors.

She paced around the living and dining room.  Peering into the office.

Stopping at the Christmas tree.

She came back by me and checked in once or twice.

She stopped off on her rug.

She ventured into the kitchen (the tile!)

She began to move farther and farther away from her little safe zone.

By Tuesday evening, she was roaming the house.  We delightfully followed her as she walked down the hallway to Campbell and Bennie’s rooms, then back to the living room.  Then into the kitchen and back to the living room.  After three weeks of watching her avoid stepping foot off of the area rug or the carpet in our bedroom, we were so excited to see her roam about freely.  What a beautiful moment of bravery for her.  Russ called her a little pioneer.

As I watched her, I thought about the fire I felt like I had walked through with her over the previous two days.  She had clung and needed me in ways that felt beyond what I had to give.  I literally felt like I had poured myself out.  And it felt like, from moment to moment, it wasn’t really doing any good.

And then to see her take off, to see her overcome such a big roadblock for her – all of the sudden, all the frustration and weariness was gone.

It made me wonder, did she spend the past two days feeling just safe enough, just secure enough, to do this big scary thing?

That night, God reminded me that I don’t know.  I don’t know what she needs.  I don’t know what the next big hurdle is.  I don’t know what the next fear to overcome is.  He’s asked me to be her safe place.  And while that doesn’t necessarily feel easy or comfortable for me, I don’t know if holding her for two days straight gives her the security and comfort she needs to make another big, brave step.

This is what life looks like for us right now.

It feels like daily we take big steps forward, then some steps backwards.  She ventured outside onto the back patio this weekend.  Victory!  Then she cried for two hours yesterday morning because she wanted me to hold her, facing me, sitting on the couch.

There are moments where all I can see are the struggles we still have to overcome.  The neediness and hours of holding.  All the endless things I have not gotten done because I am juggling her needs with Campbell and Bennett’s.  And still not meeting anyone’s needs well.

There are moments I wonder if change will happen.  In the desperately hard moments, like yesterday, I wonder if we are doing anything right, if we have what it takes to walk with her in the road towards healing and peace and overcoming the hard start to her life.  I wonder if I will ever see my friends again, return text messages, cook a meal, go to the bathroom without holding a toddler, or have a life outside of these walls.  I wonder if I could actually go a little insane, living this reality over and over again.

But then there are moments, like the day she ventured off the carpet, that God gives me a bigger perspective.  He allows me to see the sacredness of meeting her needs.  That this may not be glamorous (it’s not), but by my consistent presence in her life, I get to be a piece of restoring something that Elliott has lost.  I get to pour out, so that she can rebuild something that has been stolen from her.

It’s in those moments, with that perspective, that I keep going right now.  I don’t always know what moment to moment amounts to, but I know Who does.  I look forward to our girl experiencing the joy and freedom of knowing she is loved and secure.  Getting there is the most humbling thing I’ve ever had the honor be part of.  And while I can truthfully say these are hard and exhausting days; she is so worth it.

Before we left for China, two people pointed me towards different songs on Amanda Cook’s new album.  While we were traveling, I feel in love with her song “Mercy”.

The bridge has become a sort of mantra for me through these days.  I will wake up every day, love Him, and keep believing He is making beautiful things.  Out of me and my selfishness (who needs to go to the bathroom alone?), out of Elliott’s life, out of our family.

So I will awake
And spend my days
Loving the One who has raised me up
From death to life
From wrong to right
You’re making all things beautiful