Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Forgetting God

The last few weeks have been a bit of a lull... a blessed lull. Well, relatively speaking. In our house nothing is ever really a lull, but they're as lull-ish as can be expected and my tired body has been drinking it up. It has been like surfacing for air after being underwater for too long. Afternoon cuddle time with Calista has once again resumed its rightful place in the universe and life again feels like it's closer to coming into balance.

Taking a break from fundraising so we could focus on our children wasn't an easy decision to make, especially knowing that we hadn't met our fundraising goal, but it was what we knew we needed to do. The cost of an adoption is much steeper than any dollar amount, and unfortunately no one knows this better than my children who have paid the highest price.

I've discovered that preparing for an adoption is in many ways like preparing for a marathon. Spending money on the right running equipment is only the beginning of what will get you to the finish line. The rest comes in countless hours and miles of preparation and we have so much preparation to do, mostly in the way of preparing those within the walls of our home.

I gave myself permission to shut out the vastness of the unknown, and just focus on what I do know- that God has blessed me with a more beautiful life than I could have ever hoped for. That regardless of the hardships that might come, I have known more clearly than I've ever known anything else that this is part of God's plan for me and my family. I gave myself permission to submit to the blind type of faith that the world rages against, and what sweet relief that has brought.

The past year has brought more challenges than we've ever had in our married life. Since we began the process, it seems like every area of our lives has been challenged. Satan has been on overdrive, pummeling our family from every possible angle- health problems, unexpected expenses, job challenges, fading friendships, strained family relationships. Dennis has said several times that the only other time in his life that he can remember being challenged this much was before he left to serve a mission. But as difficult as it has been, I've seen my children blossom into beautiful human beings- thoughtful and caring, hard-working and self-sacrificing. In the areas of our life that really matter, we have been blessed more abundantly than we've been challenged. It has been wonderful to be able to once again focus my days on the five beautiful little people that I get to raise and the wonderful man by my side, and shut out everything else.

A few nights ago I was going over our finances and was reminded how far we are from meeting our financial goals for this adoption. I don't regret for a minute taking the fundraising break that we did since our family needed it so desperately, but seeing the numbers made the all-too-familiar grip of discouragement begin taking its icy hold again. As I felt my mind darkening, I knelt in prayer and asked for the faith that has so often carried me through the past year.

But how distant God felt as I started to pray. It was like having an awkward conversation with someone I hadn't really talked to in a while. And here I came knocking, asking again for more. The lull that I had been enjoying for the past couple of months had made me more lax in my relationship with God. When I shut everything else out, I had also shut Him out without even realizing it. How grateful I am to those looming finances for bringing me to God again. I thanked Him for the hardships that had brought me so often to my knees over the past year and wondered why it's so hard for me to stay humble. Why do things in life have to be so hard for me to remember God? How quickly I forget Him when life becomes easy- but it's been struggling through the muck and the discouragment and despair that I have felt closer to God than I ever have before . I think of something James E. Faust quoted before he died, "The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay." And it's a privelege I would pay again and again.

Here are a few of our latest lovely lullish moments.
Without photo sessions to work on during the afternoons, this little lady and I get to spend a lot more time together.




Luke spent an hour assembling his Mila's shopping cart


A morning trip to Krispy Kreme

Calista falling asleep during our nightly reading of the BFG
Our little Cave Woman has decided that she is quite the comedian and keeps us laughing

Camden practicing the piano with Mila

Sunday, December 6, 2015

When we became hers

Within days after submitting the list, our agency began sending us profiles of children who met our criteria. They sent three or four profiles per day to review, but still the process of elimination was painful. So many beautiful faces and so many stories of children who were desperately pleading for a family.

After a day or two, I emailed our case worker and told her how hard this was for me. How would I know when we came across the child who was meant to be ours? It felt like such blind selection. She encouraged me to be patient and reassured me that this part of the process often took many months. Along with her email, she had attached three more profiles.

I've come to believe that what draws a parent to an adoptive child during the selection process is a recognition of something- either within themselves or in someone they love. As I scanned the pictures, one little girl immediately caught my eye. It seemed like I was looking at my little Lauren: energetic and happy, but sweet and trusting... and absolutely beautiful. She was described as helpful, gentle, friendly, and thoughtful of those around her.

I sent her file on to Dennis, wondering if perhaps he would recognize it too. Immediately he responded and said he wanted to know more. I asked him if he had read in the profile about her special medical need. He had... it was the very special need that just days ago he had been so firm about not considering.

I was surprised but cautious of committing my hopes to another child. We had already looked at so many children and my hopes had been dashed so many times. There are so many children who will never know that they will always hold pieces of my heart.

We reviewed her file for a few days, but by this point I was mistrusting of my instincts. I told Dennis that because I felt so strongly that we were supposed to adopt, I didn't entirely trust my emotional compass. I needed his objectivity and emotional distance to help with this decision. This child would not be mine to raise- but ours- and without an unwavering committment from him, we would be setting ourselves up for well-intended, but certain disaster.

As I researched her condition, I presented Dennis with each unknown that we would potentially face. There was much, much more to consider than a three-word diagnosis; most of which we had never considered as being part of our life plan. I asked him to really put ourselves a year... five years... and ten years down the road. Were we really ready to do this?

And then one day after work, Dennis tearfully told me he had had a sacred experience, confirming to him that she was the one we were being led to. And just like that- as beautifully simple as that- he knew, and that was that. Once he knows something, he never looks back. How I wish I had his simple faith. We went to the temple to pray about it, but he had already received his answer. She was the one we were being led to and he was completely committed, and I had known for a long time that all I needed was his committment because my heart was already there.

Several weeks went by. Before we made public our plans to adopt, a few more things still needed to fall into place. A small part of me was still holding back. It felt surreal that after so many months of searching and praying, that we had finally decided to move forward. Like a bad dream, I was afraid Dennis would wake up one day and realize we had made a terrible mistake.

We had requested an update on our little girl, knowing that the file was several years old. The little girl in the referral picture looked to be about 7 or 8 years old, and by now she was almost 11.

The moment in time when we received the email with the update will always be frozen in time for me. We were standing in line to go into Disneyland when I heard the email notification on my phone and I read the subject line. This was it... with trembling hands, I clicked on the pictures.

I had to do a double-take. This wasn't the same little girl we had seen in the referral picture. She was more grown up. She had changed a lot in the years between the referral picture and the update. Her smile seemed more reserved, having lost much of the youthfulness from the first picture we had seen, though she was still beautiful.

In my mind, this was the moment. Up until now, I hadn't realized that part of my emotional reservation came from wondering if what had drawn Dennis to her was the recognition of Lauren. And she was her own person now- independent of any resemblance of Lauren. It became a stark reality that we would not be adopting the little girl, but a young woman quickly approaching notoriously difficult years... and completely unnavigated years at that. Would this change his mind? Would this be the moment when he would say it had all been a terrible mistake?

I leaned over and asked him if he would like to see an updated picture of our little girl. I watched him intently as he quietly studied the picture for a moment. And then with the tenderness of a father seeing his newborn baby for the first time, a smile came over his face.

"She's beautiful, isn't she?"

And that's when I finally let it sink in that this was really happening. With thousands of miles between us and with her having no awareness that we even existed, at that moment, for me she became ours and we became hers.