New Year’s Eve, 5:40 am

Waking up at 5:10 on New Year’s Eve is the new staying up til midnight! You know it’s a wild party when one of the partygoers passes out 30 minutes into drinking!

96

But really.

I get excited when Zoe wakes me up this early because after I feed her, she usually falls asleep…but I’m already awake enough that I can’t go back to sleep.  It’s like Zoe wants me to make myself a cup of coffee and settle in for some sweet writing and reflection time! Twist my arm.

Every year around the 31st I spend some time reflecting on the past year—what went well, what didn’t, what God did in my life, what He taught me—and then I spend some time determining where I feel God directing me for the next year. This year, I probably won’t have a ton of time to sit down and write it all out and make visual representations of my year (my usual process—yes, I’m a nerd,) but I’ve found that the first few weeks of motherhood have already provided a lot of opportunity for reflection.  I’ve thought about the kind of mama I want to be, the kind of family life we want to provide for Zoe, the type of relationship I want to have with her and with David, and the sacrifices and behaviors that go along with that.  And every day I feel those yearnings strengthen and it becomes more and more clear to me HOW to live out those intentions.

So today as I was rocking Zoe, I wasn’t thinking about what I should do this year—I was just reflecting on the past year and what God has done.  Almost every year, I find that there is a central theme to the things God has taught me that year, and that theme can almost always be summed up in one word.

For example, in 2004, the word that came up over and over again was “faithfulness.”  This word (and this characteristic!) were so present in my year.  I reminded myself of God’s enduring faithfulness as I nervously trucked off to college, only to find that the college had selected “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as the opening hymn for the year.

2005 was an awful and painful year in many ways, but I still couldn’t deny God’s “grace” throughout the year.  I even wound up being assigned to a dorm named “Charis” (the Greek word for grace.)

In 2009, the word was “worth.”  God spent that year teaching me where my worth and value comes from—from being His child, not from anything else—and showed me some of the talents and gifts He had given me that I could enjoy and use for Him.

This year, the word is “blessing.” Clearly, our adoption story has played out as a total, 100% blessing from God (and it’s the biggest blessing of our year, and possibly my life!) but there are a few stories that I’ve kept a little quieter.  I’ll spend my next post touching on them as a special way to start the New Year.  I’m so excited to share them with you!

Advertisements

Where the Magic Happens

I promise that someday I’ll write a post about something besides motherhood…but it’s the newest and coolest thing in my life right now, and there’s a lot to process!

So confession time: although I’ve WANTED to be a mom for years, I have also been fearful about becoming a mom.  I worried that I would be this nervous and anxious wreck, that I wouldn’t be able to please my child even though I tried really hard, that I’d struggle to cope with all the changes in my life and find myself acting cranky and resentful towards the people that I love.  I was worried I would miss my old life and feel “trapped” into this irreversible decision.  I was worried that I would try my hardest and do my best, but still find myself in a therapy room years from now hearing from my precious child how I had failed to give him what he needed.

As I sat with these fears, I realized that they were probably very normal and healthy.  Being a parent is a HUGE responsibility–quite possibly the largest responsibility you can take on in life!  If you don’t have fears about parenting, you probably don’t fully understand the weight and magnitude of the job description.

I really wanted to experience parenting and have the opportunity to mold and shape someone’s life in an intense way.  I had hopes and goals for myself as a parent.  I had a great partner.  I felt called to parenting.

I decided to push past the fears and go for it.

Um, so…I love being a mom.

I haven’t been a nervous wreck at all.

I actually know what I’m doing, like, 98% of the time.  And if I don’t know what to do, I just call my mom and ask her.

My child loves me.  I can tell.  There are times when she clearly wants me! It’s so exciting.

I am relaxed.  I haven’t yelled at anyone yet.  I have cried a few times (the first week, I cried almost every day) but not out of deep regret and anguish–out of fatigue.  My cry sessions lasted all of 4 minutes and then they were over, replaced by a smile.

Typically, if I’m not anxious about something important, I get anxious and nervous about my lack of anguish (yes, I’m apparently a glutton for psychological punishment.)  But I’m just enjoying parenthood, guilt- and anxiety-free.

I mean, people! I’ve been waking up 4 and 5 times a night.  One week into motherhood, I broke my toe with the stroller, eliminating my ability to go to the gym (which is usually the best way for me to calm down and process any new things in my life.)  In just one week, I went from running around town dressed up and feeling important to limping through my neighborhood in borrowed size 7 shoes (my normal size 5 is way too painful on my swollen toe,) bleary-eyed, pushing a stroller, and saying things like “hand me the cabbage” when I mean “the phone is ringing.”

I’m barely on a schedule.  I have bottles to wash ALL. DAY. LONG.  Someone wants me every 4 minutes, whether it’s my baby, dog, husband, the mailman, or the phone. We’ve had nonstop visitors.  I don’t know what we’re having for dinner most nights.

AND I LIKE IT ALL.

Photo on 12-24-12 at 1.02 PM #2

That smile right there? One of my happiest and most genuine, like, EVER.  This was on Christmas Eve.  Zo and I were just bumming around the house alone, listening to Nat King Cole, waiting for our Christmas guests to arrive.  Nothing “special,” but I was having the time of my life.

Bottom line?

Yeah!

If there’s something you feel called to, intrigued by, excited by, passionately curious about—TRY IT!  Humbly ask a community of people to pray for you as you embark upon it, and see how God blesses you.

And thank you to all those in our community whose prayers are making this such a peaceful and happy time for us.  XOXO

5:15 am

My sweet little girl has her first cold.  She woke up at 5:15, just wanting her mama to hold her.  I held her to my chest and sang to her and she immediately relaxed into a deep sleep.

I rocked her on that glider a few minutes longer, looking at her sleeping face and thinking, you are my daughter.

And then I couldn’t go back to sleep.  My little girl might need me again.

It’s amazing how fast that instinct hits you—that I would do anything for you, give up anything for you, jump in front of a moving truck to push you out of the way, sacrifice my sleep in case you wake up sniffling and want some comfort, give you my energy and body and love and time and EVERYTHING instinct.

For women who physically deliver, that connection with your baby and that mothering instinct is aided (some would say “directed”) by hormones.  I won’t downplay the real and loving choices there—hormones only lead you so far.  But I will admit that I was a little concerned that I wouldn’t feel that overpowering love and connection with Zoe right away.  I thought that I might need to work at it a little.

God is good.  My instinct began here: the moment she was placed into my arms.

IMG_0035

I couldn’t stop looking at her beautiful dark eyes, which were staring up at me, wondering who I was and what this bright place was.  I couldn’t stop kissing her sweet little face.  I couldn’t stop smiling and cooing and talking to her saying, “your mama is here” and “I love you.”

I understood Mary’s joyful song, “My soul glorifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.  His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.  He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.  He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.  He has filled the hungry with good things…”  (Luke 1:47-53a)

This Christmas I celebrate Mary’s story in a different way, understanding her emotions of joy and awe and amazement a little more fully than I have before.  God chose US for this amazing job.  It’s surprising and wonderful and all I can do is say “thank you”…and stay up to comfort her when she needs it.

Why Adoption?

Since we adopted Zoe, I’ve had many people ask us “why did you adopt?” or some variation of that question. I thought I would expand on it here for those of you who are curious.

Why did we adopt? The short answer: Olivia.

Image

Olivia is my sister, who was adopted from China when I was 15 years old (my family had started the adoption process when I was 13.)

Liv was 11 months old when we adopted her.  My little brother observed at the time, “she came from China wild and hungry.”  She displayed TONS of personality right away, and immediately began frantically eating American food (despite our best efforts to feed her baby food, then Chinese food.)

We don’t know why Olivia’s parent(s) chose to place her for adoption (though there are obvious guesses, like China’s one-child policy) but we do know that someone wanted her to be found as she was left in a prominent location with a note attached wishing her good fortune.  She was taken to an orphanage.  On Halloween of that year, we got a tiny picture of a solemn-looking baby in China—our new family member.  My parents traveled to China about six weeks later to bring her home.

Olivia is as much a part of my family as ANY of my sisters or brothers.  Yes, it felt strange at first for someone to show up and say, “this child will change your family’s life and dynamics.  She is your sister. Love her.”  But that’s really not too different from how ANY sibling joins your family.

And she is so easy to love!

Image

Six months after my family adopted Olivia, I went on a mission trip to Ecuador. For part of the trip, I worked at an orphanage with children who the center director told me “would not be adopted.”  I had seen firsthand how easy and joyful it was to integrate a new family member into your life; I felt awful returning to my family who loved me when these children deserved homes and families too.

My experience in the orphanage combined with everything I had seen happen in my own family wove together into something stronger than a “desire” to adopt—it felt like a “calling.”

The calling burned inside of me as I ventured off to college, had more international experiences, and learned more about social justice.  In adoption, I felt I could reconcile my faith, my deep desire to have children, my love of intercultural experiences, and my strong feeling that I should use the privileges I have (and don’t deserve) to create social justice in some small way.

(I also have a long rant about Christians who are “against abortion” but do nothing to provide alternatives or mediate the circumstances that lead women to have abortions, but I’ll spare you that one for now.  Merry Christmas!)

I explained my feelings about adoption to David on one of our first dates.  He thought it was cool, but we obviously weren’t serious at that point so he didn’t consider it for himself.  As we became more serious, I told him it was a dealbreaker if he didn’t want to adopt kids.  He began to pray about it, and felt his own desires change from “tolerating” adoption to craving adoption in the same way I did (again, I think Olivia had a lot to do with this!)

IMG_5757

My desire to adopt has not wavered since I was 15.  I always thought I’d adopt internationally, but when David and I started researching the current adoption climate (which has probably already changed since I started writing this blog post!) we decided that a domestic adoption met our family’s needs the best at this time.  My experiences teaching in inner-city schools over the last 3 years certainly confirmed for me how many children here in the United States are in need of loving, nurturing families and physically safe homes.  That being said, we are definitely interested in “going international” in the future.  Laissez les bons temps rouler! 

Do I want to have biological children, too? At this point, I don’t.  I don’t have the “urge” like some women do to be pregnant or to produce a child who looks like my husband and me.  I certainly don’t judge those who want to have biological children, but if I don’t have that strong urge, why should I bear a child when I would be just as happy taking a child who needs a home? (If I begin to feel “the urge,” I’ll try pregnancy–but with great joy that I first obeyed the calling that led us to Zoe!)

So, in conclusion, Zoe (whose name means “life,”) really begins with Olivia, and with my parents’ obedience to the calling placed on their hearts.

421098_631752226905_78656938_n

My family, July 2012

I realize that not everyone is called to adopt, but I strongly believe that every Christian is called to care about children in need…not just cognitively or emotionally, but with action.  In his book Adopted For Life, Russell Moore says “adoption is central to the Gospel of Christ…[it is so important that] the New Testament starts with an orphan-protecting act of adoption, as Joseph takes into his family a woman and a child, and becomes a father.”  This sets the stage for our own adoption as sons and daughters into God’s family.

And in response to God’s expansive love, James advises: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress.”  

In a future post, if you’re interested, I can offer my take on how to support these precious children and families going through the adoptive process if you want to help but don’t feel called to physically adopt a child.  

In the meantime, feel free to ask any questions that you may have about adoption. I have SO appreciated the openness of other adoptive moms and dads as we’ve gone through this journey, and I am happy to pass that on.  

Gettin’ My Blog On

I have always been a writer.  I have often been a blogger.

Blogging helps me process my thoughts and feelings and understand myself and my relationships better.  Blogging is all about community–it starts a conversation and gives perspective that my journal can’t, and in the process, I have built some fabulous relationships.

Friendships that started through blog comments and emails have turned into talk-on-the-phone, visit-one-another and take-vacations-together friendships.  In one highlight of my blogging career, I was recognized at Disney World by a blog reader.  Hilariously, very few of my actual, “in real life” friends knew about my blog or had the address–it was something that I did for myself and kept private (although my mom and brother-in-law were frequent commenters—holla, “J” and “momwiththe411!”)

About six months ago, I stopped blogging.  I had gotten busy at work, was feeling a little exposed when I posted, was running around town trying to finalize adoption paperwork, and wasn’t feeling inspired anymore.

My blogging urge is back.

One could argue that the week that you have a child is a bad week to start a new blog.  I’m busier than ever.  I’m riding a wave of sleep deprivation that makes me dumber than rocks (and makes me use uncreative metaphors like “dumber than rocks.”  Looks like my usual witty writing voice may be on hiatus, folks.)  The crowning achievements of my day yesterday were getting my child to burp and getting through my loads of laundry–not exactly scintillating writing material.

But when I blog, I’m more intentional about how I live.  And in this new stage of my life as a mom–which still feels weird to type and weirder to claim!–I want to be intentional.

I want my little Z to have a mom who is fully plugged in to life and to the One who has given her life.  And so I think…I think…I may blog again.  And this time, I may even share my thoughts with people I ACTUALLY know.