Monday, February 10, 2014

Adoption Update: Profile and Home Study are Finished!

It has been a few months since I have updated here about our adoption process (or anything else for that matter! Ha!)  But I wanted to document all that has been happening, so we always have a record of this part of our journey toward our newest little love.  These past few months have been challenging, I'm not going to lie.  Not in the sense of actual difficulty, but at times, keeping up the mental and emotional energy to keep plugging toward the goal of being "officially ready" has been difficult.  It felt like just when one aspect was completed, another big thing was in line, or things had to be edited, proofed, re-submitted etc.  There were many elements in motion all at the same time which felt a little exhausting too because I never felt that anything was ever finished....

We have been beyond blessed to have worked with some amazing and I mean AMAZING people along the way and I'm excited to tell you about them.  When you are fortunate to work with people who know what they are doing and who do it really takes a lot of pressure off to feel like you have to have things all figured out because you can actually trust someone who knows the way to help guide you through your own unknown.  What a gift this discovery has been along this path.

Back in October, in addition to working on completing our home study paperwork, I began researching what are called family profiles.  As we have learned, a prospective adoptive family puts together what is called a profile about themselves which includes dozens of photos and what is known in adoption circles as a "Dear Birth Mother" letter.  This profile "booklet" is what is presented to potential birth mothers when they are making a decision for their child's adoption plan.  It is basically our most important, life-altering first impression that we will ever make!  No pressure.

The photos you include in this book tell the story of your family, your history, your interests, your home, your hobbies, your friends and family...and included along with these photos is your 'Dear Birth Mother' letter which is a letter you write telling the prospective birth mother about your family and how you will raise her child and why she should pick you as her child's forever family.  It is an incredibly difficult letter to write and it took me WEEKS to write ours.  As I worked on our letter, I researched and learned that some adoptive families make their own profile books while others hire a professional to put theirs together.  I spent a lot of time looking online at people's profiles as well as researching companies who help adoptive families with this online.  We finally landed on hiring a professional to make our profile.  It just made sense to us to have someone else help us with this as the more I pondered this, the more 'in the weeds' I felt.  I was getting overwhelmed by the enormity of its potential impact on our lives and knew if I was in charge of making it, I would never finish....the tweaking could/would potentially go on forever! When we spoke with Sharon from Forever Family Designs, it made our choice to hire her a cinch.  We loved her work and she, herself was fantastic. (You can click on the link above and find out more about her, see some of her samples and learn a little bit about her passion for what she does.)

Sharon was AWESOME to work with.  She gave us some tips, some feedback, she edited some of our photos, she has an incredible eye for design and was so patient and professional throughout the process.  We basically submitted hundreds of photos to her (so she could choose the ones she thought were best), as well as our completed 'Dear Birth Mother' letter and she went to work.  She sent us a variety of proofs and mock ups and we gave her feed back on what we liked, did not like, fonts, photos etc, and she would tweak it based on our feedback and then would send us another proof and on and on and back and forth it went for the creative process for each of the 12 pages.  She was 100% focused on making sure we loved our profile, and in the end, we absolutely do love it.  She  helped us learn about how to print them and even hooked us up with one of her favorite professional printers to use which was a relief for us to not have to research that as well.  All in all, the process took almost two months, but that included several out of town trips for us, sick kiddos on both sides, the Thanksgiving holiday, she moved in the middle of it (and never missed a beat!) and just a general busy time of year for everyone.  She was absolutely wonderful to work with, we were THRILLED with the finished product.  It goes without saying that we would recommend her to anyone looking for help in this area in a heart beat! 

On November 18, 2013, we had our home visit portion of our home study.  This entailed a friendly social worker, Miss Rachel, from our chosen local agency, Adoption and Beyond, Inc.  coming to our home, interviewing us (individually and together), meeting Lily, watching us interact with her, touring our home, and just spending time getting to know us.  I was not really nervous about this meeting because in my mind, we are a normal family with nothing to hide, Lily is a great little girl and our home is safe, spacious and warm, so I was not too concerned about "passing" more just about getting it behind us so we could continue down the path.  Overall, it was an actually pleasant morning.  The appointment lasted almost three hours.  At the end, she told us what to expect next as far as the preparing of our official home study documentation and time lines etc.  We were super excited to be over this next hurdle in the process and that much closer to having this all-important piece of paperwork/documentation ready for our adoption.

It was Christmas time when our home study was officially-official and done and it was just before Christmas when our profile was officially completed, so we had the two most important portions of our paperwork completed.  Now all that remained was the giant stack of paperwork for our adoption consultants we hired.  I will fill you in more about them in my next update...  the important thing, was that we were finally getting SUPER close to being "active" where we could be presented to potential birth mothers and potentially finally meet our little sweet pea.... 

Friday, February 7, 2014

We Are Five!

It was five years ago today that we said "I do" in front of friends and family.  It was February outside but June in our hearts.  Worried about winter storms, we had plans A, B and C in our pockets for how we were going to get married in case of a blizzard, but thanks to God's gift of 70 degree weather outside (Hello, unheard of in the Midwest in February!) we grabbed plan A, promised our hearts biggest promises to each other in a beautiful church, even took some outdoor photos and danced into the night as man and wife.  

We had no idea what was ahead as no one does when they say "I do..."  We just knew we were going to be together and that was all that mattered.  Five job changes, one big move, the loss of our precious son, the birth of our beautiful daughter, the loss of five beloved elder members as well as the addition of twelve young cousins to our family, our years long struggle with infertility and now the upcoming adoption of our next child...  It is hard to see the curveballs that life will bring, but it is comforting to know whose hand I have held and will continue to hold around all of the corners in my future.

I love you, Joe.  Thank you for loving me so well. We made it to five!  xxoo

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

August and Everything After.... Part 7 - The Summit and Lessons Learned

Hi Friends. It is me, the worst blogger in the world.  I hope you are well and I cannot thank you enough for stopping by here again after all this time!  Seriously.  You have no idea what it means to me that you are even checking this blog after all that has not happened here this past year! You may (or may not for that matter) be glad to know, I am working to remedy that in 2014.

You may have also thought that I forgot I was in the middle of telling you a story that I started MONTHS ago...but I did not!  Here is the next installment and if you need a refresher on what was happening when we left off (and I would not blame you!) you can get caught up here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, and Part 6 here we go...on up the mountain...

A glimpse of the beauty through the incoming clouds letting us know the weather was about to change...
By this point in our hike, we could now see the top and although it looked close, it was actually still quite a ways away.  But we were re-energized by seeing our summit- our goal was in sight and we were close.  We knew we were going to make it.  As we got closer, our friends who had been celebrating on the summit for almost an hour now, began shouting genuine encouragements and applauding us as we approached.  It was humbling but also one of the most beautiful, embracing feelings I have ever felt.  Their offering of encouragement equipped our empty tanks with the extra emotional fuel we needed to make it....this was not an individual accomplishment. Just as in life, we need others beside us on the path to hold our hands or our hearts, to wipe our tears and celebrate our joys and our triumphs with us.    

Almost there!
There was no judgement, no laughing, everyone genuinely just wanted us to get there so we could celebrate together...we were a family of friends that God had brought together and it was never more clear to me than as I tripped, struggled and dragged my way to the top to join them in our collective achievement celebration.  

Taking in the stopped your heart it was so incredible!
My memories of this hike on this day are exceptionally vivid.  Tears were rolling down my cheeks long before we got to the top and I could not stop them even if I had tried. I had conquered every fiber in my body and mind that was telling me to quit, the voices of doubt that whispered I did not have what it took to accomplish this goal.  I had defeated the lies screaming in my head every step of the way that I was humiliating myself and that I should just give up.  The lies that whispered unworthiness, the ones that touched every deep wound of my heart past and present.  In reaching the top, I had pushed through absolute physical weakness to a place where I felt physically victorious and mentally unbeatable.  It was AMAZING.

Hooray for Group #3!
There was victory in my spirit for not having given up and for struggling through every bump, scrape, disgrace and embarrassment along the way.  I knew it was the absolute most difficult experience I had ever physically and mentally faced and I had battled through to victory.  So there I stood (I did not dare sit down for fear of never getting back up!)  celebrating with my dear friends and most of all with God on the highest point in Colorado.  I had never felt closer to Him or more victorious in my life.  I felt a realization and truth growing in my heart that I was stronger than even I understood there in that moment.  Looking back over my journey these past seven years, I KNOW God used that mountain experience to teach me deep powerful lessons about myself that I have called upon time and again as I have faced some of my darkest and most challenging moments I never imagined possible.

We took our photos, cried some big tears, hugged some big hugs and called our families (you actually get cell service up there!) I could barely speak I was crying so hard when I spoke to my parents that day.  It was impossible to communicate the depth of experience I had just been through- I had done something that felt impossible for me and I no longer cared about how I looked struggling up the side of the mountain, or what others might think of me and my now VERY visible and obvious weaknesses...but you know what? They did not care about that- these were rock star friends who cared only about encouraging and supporting. I knew that beyond a doubt after reaching the top.

As I fought my way out of the cocoon of doubt, fear, worry, weakness, anxiety and more fear while climbing, I discovered with God's gentle hand that day that I was free and I was brave and probably most important that I was also strong....and that He had already known those things about me all along....I just could not accept or believe them about myself until I battled those enemies with my own sweat, struggle and tears.  I stood on top of Mt. Elbert that afternoon and finally believed these truths about myself and that experience has changed my life forever. I can do this.  It may not be pretty, but I can do it

my lovely friend, Jen...
I also learned that when standing on a mountain top, you see MORE far as the eye can see.  That seems like a no-brainer statement, but when you apply that truth to life, you realize how true it is.  Very rarely is a giant mountain standing alone surrounded by lush and lovely meadows.  No, they are surrounded by other mountains, separated by steep ravines and deep, shadowed valleys.  Life is a series of mountains we climb, struggles we overcome, battles we fight, victories we celebrate and beautiful views along the way. I  did not know it that day, but God showed me that I had what it took to face down challenges I never thought I could survive....a truth I would cling to as I began to battle my way climbing mountains in my life called 'singleness', 'Joe', 'marriage,' 'job loss,' 'pregnancy', 'Luke,' 'pregnancy after loss,' 'motherhood,' 'infertility,' 'adoption,'...and on and on it will go.  

Starting back down in the sleet and rain...
After about fifteen minutes, we had to start heading back down because weather was heading in and we needed to descend as quickly as we could in order to be out of danger.  It was not a fast descent by any stretch, but we stayed in motion pretty much the whole way down.  Physically going down was much more painful and difficult, but the endorphins I had surging within went a long way to offer me energy and endurance.  I remember marveling at the view as we walked down in a single file line.  Even when it started sleeting for a little bit, it was breathtaking.  

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The way down was challenging, but also fun...I felt light and smiley both inside and out....even as I watched Joe and his girlfriend hike down together. I cared, but I didn't really in that moment.  It was about me in that moment- my personal victory, not them anymore- if that makes any sense.  I was living my mountaintop high.   My poor friend, Ginger struggled with altitude sickness, which made her hike down treacherous and awful, but overall, spirits were high as we returned to our cars, our condos and eventually our normal lives after the trip.

taking a break...
The next day, we all caravanned back home, back to our real lives, back to reality.  Joe and I did not speak the rest of the trip and actually did not speak to one another for months afterwards.  We still moved in the same circles of friends, but we kept a distance from one another.

Roses waiting for me from my parents when I got home...
My heart still missed him and what in my mind "could have been" but I had a newfound inner resolve - one only strengthened by my lessons learned on the mountain- to wait for the man God had chosen for me...whoever and where ever he might be, and to do that well meant staying far away from that is what I did...until one day after eight months of not speaking to one another he called me out of the blue.... be continued.... 

(and I promise it will not take me 3 months before another post goes up!)