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Adoption Made Us Family: Adoption Day

I tried to write a piece reflecting how amazing adoption is, but I've yet to find the words. All I can say is adoption made us a family. Happy Adoption Day!

Today is our sweet girl’s seventh Adoption Day. I keep hoping to write a piece that reflects how amazing adoption has been in my life, but I have yet to find words that do this journey justice.

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While this was originally written on National Adoption Day, it rings true for today and every day since the day we first saw her in the NICU in Texas.

All I can say is adoption made us a family.

Last fall, I was watching the new Michael Weatherly drama Bull. The episode featured a woman who went into surgery expecting to come out with her ability to carry a child restored, but had to have an emergency hysterectomy instead.

I almost couldn’t watch the episode.

My first reproductive surgery was supposed to make it possible for me to carry a child, but instead I learned that I would most likely never get pregnant and should have had a hysterectomy during that initial procedure. Less than a year later, I ended up having a total hysterectomy when I no longer could ignore how drastically it was affecting my health.

While the health benefits of the hysterectomy finally allowed me to lead a more normal life, losing my ability to ever experience pregnancy and have children was devastating. Sometimes, those emotions are still very raw.

The vision of the family I dreamed of as a young woman would never come to be.

I will never know how it feels to look at a miniature version of my husband and myself, created in our love.

Adoption doesn't erase the hurts of infertility. But is its own rainbow miracle too. Click To Tweet

Adopting doesn’t heal that specific grief.

Adopting after infertility might be similar to the experience of having a rainbow baby (a child born after a miscarriage or still birth). This new life is precious and celebrated, but doesn’t replace what was lost.

I never lost a specific child, but had my heart broken over all the images of my children I had carried in my head and heart.

But the Bull episode ended with one of the main characters walking up to the woman saying, “There is more than one way to make a family. I’m adopted and I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me a family and this life. Adoption is just another way.”

And I was crying ugly tears for no reason at all.

I tried to write a piece reflecting how amazing adoption is, but I've yet to find the words. All I can say is adoption made us a family. Happy Adoption Day!

Because adoption did make us a family.

I’ve written about how God has used adoption in my life several times.

But this year, I’m really struck by how God used adoption to make us a family. He took two people who had both had their hopes and ideas of family shattered by divorce and health issues, and God created a new family through this adoption.

It is a beautiful picture of second chances and redemption for all of us.

 

Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

Despite all we did to make a mess of our lives, God’s mercies are new EVERY morning. He brought us through the adoption process so perfectly, moment by moment was orchestrated by Him.

Each of our lives were changed through adding this little girl to our family.

My husband’s boys from his first marriage have their only little sister. My husband got to have another chance to be present for the very young years that he mostly missed with his boys due to military deployments.

Adoption made us a family. It gave our dreams a second chance. #NationalAdoptionDay Click To Tweet

And I get to be a mom.

Being a mom is like the old Peace Corps slogan: The toughest job you’ll ever love.

I couldn't meet all the world's demands. I had to parent for Heaven not Harvard

There are moments I feel completely wrung out, ready to dissolve into a puddle of frustrated tears, but I can’t imagine my life without her in it. Becoming a mother fundamentally changed my perception of my place in this world, my relationship with God, and the concept of what my legacy might be.

Mom: Toughest job you'll ever LOVE! Are you up for it? #NationalAdoptionDay Click To Tweet
Last Year’s National Adoption Day wasn’t picture perfect.

We scrambled to fit in an extra school day in preparation for a trip next week. We struggled through how many dimes can you trade for 18 nickels until we were both ready to quit, cry, and just carry credit cards.

Then we raced out the door to see the Budweiser Clydesdale team. Because HORSES and 6 year old girls. Running to buy a toy for the Salvation Army toy drive, I accidentally stole a soda and had to go back to pay for it on the way home after driving 30 minutes in the dark on a low tire. My husband shot one deer in the woods today but executed another via his truck on the way home, damaging his truck and doubling the butchering this evening.

Such is life.

But this is family, doing ups and downs, working hard to challenge the chaos in this world.

It’s learning how to best love this family we chose to commit to.

And there is a reason God says we’re adopted into His kingdom as co-heirs with Jesus Christ. He sets the precedent for chosen, adopted, brotherhood.

There is something special about being chosen, being loved by daily decision, being adopted . . . because it makes us family.

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Valentine’s Day Tradition

Free Valentine's Day John 3:16 Printable with love tank filling traditions to celebrate Valentine's Day with your littles.

Our Valentine’s Day tradition started a few years ago. She was just old enough to start understanding that there was a holiday, and it involved presents and chocolate. I mean, what else does a girl need to know? She was all in.

But I wanted to find just the right way to celebrate Valentine’s Day as a family. When I saw John 3:16 written so the word VALENTINE was created, I knew that was the message I wanted for her, because it was the message I know I still need written on my heart.

It helps remind us to celebrate Christ’s coming everyday and focuses on Godly love, not just romantic love.

But I have all these cute ideas and by the time one holiday is put away, the next one is looming. I had always wanted to be the fun pinteresty mom that makes every holiday special, but frankly, those suckers sneak up on me like ninjas.

Free Valentine's Day printable for your children. Fill their love tank with God's love. Click To Tweet

One trick I’ve learned is to keep everything grouped together and labeled. For Valentine’s Day, I keep everything in a clear project folder I can just pull out and put up.

Our Valentine’s Day tradition is that we post a handwritten copy of the John 3:16 Valentine’s Day printable (link at the end of post) on her door. Then everyday we add a heart with a character trait we love about her. This is day 1.

Character hearts for a Valentine's Day tradition that will build self-esteem.

I used colored construction paper and just cut out several different sizes and colors of hearts, but you could buy heart shaped wall decor or doilies from Walmart or Dollar General if you wanted.

We start on the first and go through the 14th, but you can do however many days you want. You could start on the 14th and go through the end of the month as well.

Free Valentine's Day John 3:16 Printable with love tank filling traditions to celebrate Valentine's Day with your littles.

What I really love about this tradition is that my daughter spends the month of February being told she is loved and special because she was fearfully and wonderfully made by her creator and was so deeply loved by Him that he sent his Son to die for her.

Psalm 139:14 ESV  I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

My daughter has many wonderful traits, but I made a point to choose traits that I really want to encourage in her: her faith, her kindness, her curiosity, her joy.

We read each trait together everyday as we add the new traits to the door, so she gets to be reminded of each one. Then we continue to read them everyday until the end of February.

This tradition will build on the love we show her daily to create a memory of being valued for who she is. We can fill her love tank with pride and self-esteem based on the qualities and gifts God has given her.

Valentine’s Day Printable

And establish a good foundation for what true love looks like for the Valentine’s Days her future holds.

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World Adoption Day – My Starfish

I didn't rescue her, she helped rescue me. She is my starfish & I am hers. This World Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it's just a season.

I always hope that I’m going to have something inspirational ready to post on World or National Adoption Day, but here it is, and I don’t know what to say this year except being an adoptive mom makes me .  .  .

a mom, maybe not the same kind of mom as someone else, but the one I was meant to be.

Having a biological child was never possible for me, and I’ve grieved that loss. Yet, I realize now, that if I had given birth, I wouldn’t have the daughter I do today. I might not have pursued adoption the way I did.

And my daughter is perfect, sometimes perfectly rotten, perfectly loud, a perfect disaster, but my perfect starfish child. The best of my husband and myself are mixed in her through God’s incredible plan.

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Sometimes, raising just this one child feels like a drop in the bucket compared to the millions hurting in this world.

But God didn’t ask me to save the world, He asked me to raise this child, and I’m reminded of the starfish story, the one about the little girl throwing stranded starfish back into the ocean. She couldn’t save them all, but she didn’t stop trying because her efforts mattered to ‘this one’.

Sometimes, I hear my daughter say “Mommy” and it sounds false, too good to be true, too fragile with all the extra dynamics of adoption and biology and legality.

But it is true. For today, I am her mom, her only mom. I guess that is what I wanted to say. She is mine. We are really family. Sometimes though, I think we forget our real place in the equation, when we talk about our kids being ours.

I didn't rescue her, she helped rescue me. She is my starfish & I am hers. This World Adoption Day we soak up our time together, knowing it's just a season.

We don’t own our children. We share them.

I have had to share all my children. My three children from my previous marriage called me mom, but we shared custody. We share my two current stepsons with their mother and stepdad. Now, we share this child with a biological family that may someday be in her life, and with God who adopted her before we did.

Sharing children is difficult and challenging for all sorts of reasons, but entirely beautiful because I’ve learned that these children are mine only in the sense that I’ve been put into their lives for a time, and what I do with that time is mine to claim responsibility over.

For me, the fact that she is only mine through God’s plan has made a huge difference in my parenting.

I’m only borrowing her.

God plucked her off the beach into my hand for a season. I’ve been given this window to reach into her life and be her mom. That’s it. Temporary.

When people tell me how lucky she is to have me as her mom I feel like a fraud. Don’t they know how selfishly I wanted to be a mom? She didn’t just fall into my lap.

It was hours of copying paperwork, weeks of gathering documents, months of preparing our home for a study and a baby we might never get, years of saving money, and decades waiting to be a mom.

Even the starfish allusion, implies that I’m somehow saving her, but I like to think we’re part of saving each other. I like it because it reminds me how powerfully one life can matter to another and how much responsibility I’ve been graciously given. She changed me. Watching her relate to me made me see myself in relation to God so clearly.

And just like that, I’m like every other mother, nothing about being a mother was what I expected.

I didn’t expect to love this much. But, I also didn’t expect it would change me this much.

I didn’t expect being a mom would break my heart into a million pieces daily and yet be what my heart beats for. I really didn’t expect how mothering would bring me to the feet of the Father.

This World Adoption Day, I’m so thankful I’m His adopted starfish, as she is mine.

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Day of the Deployed – Saying Goodbye

I don't know what it is like to be deployed. I just know what it is like to say good-bye and be left behind. Day of the Deployed - Heaven Not Harvard

Today is Oct. 26 – the 11th annual Day of the Deployed, a day to remember the sacrifices of all the service members deployed around the world. Perhaps, also a day to remember the families left behind as well.

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I don’t know what it is like to be deployed. I only know what it is like to say goodbye and be left behind: the heaviness in my chest, the knot in my stomach, the steely resolve, and the tears hiding behind every smile.

I don't know what it is like to be deployed. I just know what it is like to say good-bye and be left behind. Day of the Deployed - Heaven Not Harvard

Below is my post from the day my husband last deployed, his fourth deployment, my third. Hopefully, our last, but we never know.

Day 365 – August 26, 2010

A very brief hour and a half after our middle of the night good-bye,  I drag myself out of bed, too focused on getting myself ready for the second day of school and getting my Lil Bit ready for daycare to allow myself any more tears. Somehow, I manage to get out the door only ten minutes behind my projection, but I am running on autopilot.

I have rediscovered an appendage, my cell phone. I have an iPhone, so I am extremely attached to it anyways; it practically does the laundry! But now I have to reprogram myself to carry it everywhere. I never know when my husband will call.

He is still on post, most likely drawing weapons and waiting for the bus to load and take them to their flight, but for all intents and purposes, he is gone. However, I do relish the fact that I can still text message him.

I send him a quick picture of the baby in her red, white and blue outfit for the day and hope it doesn’t break his heart. I could barely drag myself back to work after the summer.

How in the world can he just pick up and leave his children for a year at a time year after year after year?

He has two sons, eleven and twelve from his first marriage (now 18 and 19 in 2017). They have been through all three deployments. Last deployment his younger son really struggled with missing his father and feeling angry about it. I am already planning some new things to help Chad feel more present for them throughout the year.

They have daddy dolls, which seemed too childish, but I got one for each of them, and when they saw them and understood that daddy’s picture would go in them, they both grabbed them and carried the dolls around for the rest of the afternoon.

Last night, his older son called crying.

Chad tried to explain where he was going and that he would be back soon. Due to some developmental delays and autism, we don’t always know what he understands or feels. This was the first time we experienced him breaking down.

His sobs echoed out of the phone and broke like soap bubbles across my heart.

His mother, father and I were all surprised to hear him expressing such strong emotions. I wanted to hug him through the phone. Out of everything, I think this was the moment Chad understood he was really leaving again and had to fight back the tears himself.

So . . . I am thinking about all three of Chad’s children as I drop off Lil Bit at daycare and head to work. I am smiling, saying “hello” and “good morning” until my friend Liz asks me how I am.

There are moments that we can only manage in silence. Speaking the words is too much.

For a second, the dam cracks and tears rush in. I just shake my head. I am glad she is such a good friend that she immediately knew I couldn’t talk or even manage a hug without losing my carefully placed facade.

Around ten a text message says they are boarding, and I don’t know when I will hear from him again. They fly a few different patterns to Kuwait. He could stop in Newfoundland or Ireland or Maine before the final leg to Kuwait. But I don’t know, I might hear from him again in a few hours or not at all for many days.

As I text back one more I love you and be safe, I realize that my cell phone has to go everywhere with me again. It took me almost the whole year to get used to being able to leave it in one room and walk into another, and now I am tied to it again.

Later, I realized I had missed a call while making copies after school, driving home this lesson. I frantically call back and call back. Even though I kissed him goodbye twelve hours ago, now every phone call, email, text message feels like the last one. The last call on American soil and I missed it . . .

.  .  . then he picks up. We have only a minute before I hear the boarding call in the background. I am just glad I got to say, “I love you” one more time. Now, it really begins, the wondering if and how we will both survive – on opposite sides of this deployment and the world.


Today, seven years later. I am watching him play with our daughter across the room. His uniform is different, but still says Army. By next year it won’t.

Physically, he’s been home for six years. Emotionally, he has only partially returned. But daily, we work hard to break through and reach across the walls each deployment built between us.

And our marriage is stronger than Army strong.

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Celebrating the Days of Summer

On a budget? But want to make the most of your summer? Summers days fly by too quickly. An easy way to make each one special. Heaven Not Harvard

Looking for ways to make summer fun without breaking the bank? Us too, all the time! Even an outing to the movies can cost upwards of $100 with a family of five for all the bells and whistles, never mind the cost of an amusement park or out-of-town vacation.

Our income dropped in half when we moved here and decided I would stay home. We had to find different ways to make the summer days fun for our family without spending a small fortune.

Food seems to be the center of many family celebrations, so when I came across this idea, I knew I’d found a winner. We are celebrating the days of summer! Summers days fly by too quickly. An easy way to make each one special. Heaven Not Harvard

Everyday is a food holiday (see the Nibble’s list here). Yep, everyday. In fact some days are more than one. July 20 is hot dog day, lollipop day, fortune cookie day and ice cream soda day.

While we simply can’t do them all, we certainly are giving it our best shot. So far, we’ve celebrated holidays for strawberry shortcake, fudge, black cows (coke floats), cherry tarts, picnic day, vanilla milkshakes, peaches & cream, onion rings, pecan sandies, strawberry parfait, chocolate pudding, ice cream sodas (which gets celebrated several days a summer in various forms), creative ice cream flavor day (we made banana peanut butter chocolate ice cream from scratch), ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, BBQ ribs, apple turnovers, fried chicken day, strawberry sundaes, chocolate with almonds, pick blueberry day, blueberry muffin day, french fries, and beans&franks day, and tapioca pudding day last night for dessert.

We start the day the boys arrive for the summer and try to celebrate as many as we can. If there is a day that we can’t celebrate like alcoholic beverages or lobster which was not in our budget, we either finish off the leftovers of previous days or pick a day’s celebration that we will miss after they leave.

I usually grocery shop with the week’s holidays in mind, but don’t tell the kids the coming holidays so that they can be surprised each day as we prepare the treat for dessert or dinner.

Looking for ways to make every summer day fun? Try celebrating the "Days" of summer.Blueberry picking day came with an outing to a local orchard. It was hot and sweaty work, but that blueberry pie was so much sweeter when we picked those berries ourselves.

I have found different sites have slightly different lists. Foodimentary’s list is a little different than the Nibble’s, which might vary from another site.

Who cares if these are really real or really official? The fun is in making each treat. We can prep and cook as a family. This sneaky momma teaches cooking, measuring, and kitchen skills while they’re busy having fun.

I try to use a different list every summer for some variety. We have other traditions and summer activities, but celebrating all the days of summer is one way we make summer feel like one long holiday.