Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Beauty from Ashes

      Most days, Faith is my daughter. I see her as this beautiful child that has the silly personality of her Daddy and big, blue eyes that came from her Pop. Sometimes, I forget I didn't birth her and when people complement how perfect she is, I take pride in thinking I had something to do with that other than prayer (even though I didn't). Her DNA isn't what makes us family, love is.
      Other days, God chooses little things to remind me she IS adopted and she is a perfect gift given to me that I couldn't have dreamed up. It humbles me to know that our daily activities are opportunities God gave to her just by being in our family. Going to a beach resort, swimming in a neighborhood pool, attending an amazing church, playing with a Daddy who will get in the floor and make her laugh, having extended family members/strangers love on her daily, etc. These are just some of the things that I often wonder if she would have had the opportunity to do if her last name weren't "Childers". I don't think God wants me to live in a state of question or "what could have been" for her, but I think He uses these everyday things to remind me what a blessing she is to our family.
      I've been told "The old Whitney is back", because seeing Faith's excitement has given me a brand new outlook on life. The Bible states that God can "bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair." (Isaiah 61:3) This verse hung on my mirror and I always looked forward to the day he would give me the former instead of the latter in each phrase. He has finally done all of these things for me and more.
        Recently, I had some issues with my eyes and my Mom told me sometimes tears will flush it out and my response to her was "I don't cry anymore." It was so humbling to hear myself say that out loud. Prior to August, I cried daily. Sometimes it was tiny tears from a trigger of my miscarriages, sometimes sobs from thinking of how old our failed adopted baby would be, and sometimes torrential downpours from pure sadness of waiting to be a mother. I can honestly say I don't cry anything but happy tears now because God has allowed my dreams to come true. This time last year, I was leading an infertility small group and today I got to attend a Mommy and me small group with my miracle.
      Every single morning when I wake up to her sweet babbles, huge smile, and bright blue eyes I'm reminded of how much God loves me. He loved me at my weakest when I couldn't see His plan and He loves me now as I stare at what He saw the whole time. It was as if for 6 years He would drop little puzzle pieces for me to see He was at work, but without seeing the big picture on the cover of the box I wasn't sure what the end would look like. Would it be the picture I wanted? Would there be any pieces still missing when I finished? How long would it take to finish the puzzle?
      All of those things were details God knew, but needed me to trust Him. "Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do NOT see." (Hebrews 11:1) Some days were better than others because I was sure of what I hoped for, but I wasn't always certain of what I couldn't see. I knew God knew, but my human nature would still question this from time to time. How could I be SURE of something I couldn't even see? That's where faith comes in.
       If God had given me a puzzle piece with Faith's two little teeth or maybe a piece with her beautiful long eyelashes or a piece with her wrinkled nose when she smiles, it would have made all those years of waiting so much easier. However, blindly trusting Him is what got me this far and my faith in God is what eventually brought me Faith.
     If you are collecting His puzzle pieces in your situation, hold on to them. I know you are dying to see your picture on the outside of your box, but cling to the hope that God sees the big picture and He knows you are going to love His end results even more than what you are dreaming they will be. He WILL give you "a crown of beauty instead of ashes" and it WILL be worth your wait. "When the time is right, I, the Lord, will make it happen." (Isaiah 60:22)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

To the mother who's not a mother yet

      I grew up in a southern Baptist church where Mother's Day was always a big deal. The oldest mother always got a special rose and the youngest mother did too. My goal was to get that youngest mother rose one day after I got married. My plans were to have my babies at a young age and have a completed family by the age of 30. (Only by God's amazing grace do I even have 1 baby at 30.)
      One of my favorite verses in the Bible is "Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4. Is your desire to be a mom? Don't lose hope. If He's given you that desire, it's there for a reason and He will answer. There were MANY days when I thought those desires I felt were my desires but then I had to remind myself that if I had them, God put them there. Each time I lost hope He would use someone, some verse, or some thing to remind me that He would answer.
     It is so hard to see others' dreams come true without a hitch while you've waited months, years, or what seems like a century for yours. Some women have no idea how long you have dreamed about that poopy diaper they are gagging over or how tight their clothes are getting as their womb expands or how you have waited for the day you could wear spit up on your shirt to work.
       I can remember an incident a while back where I was holding a baby and it spit up all over me. The circle of women (mothers) all laughed when I quickly gave him back to his mom. They thought I was about to throw up because I wasn't a "mother" so I couldn't stomach it. What they didn't know was I went to the bathroom and cried because I longed for the day when I would have my baby spit up on me. What appears on the outside isn't always the same as what's on the inside.
      A few months ago there was a perfect reminder of all of those things for me, because motherhood is something I will never take for granted. We went to a birthday party and I felt like it was my first "earned" motherly outing. I used to not get invited to my friends' things because I didn't have a baby, but now that I have one it seems I've earned my place in the "mom club".            
        Flash back to exactly one year ago. This was the same house that I left crying from a baby shower because I felt like I was invisible. Everyone was talking about what brand of diapers they love and how their baby wasn't sleeping well, while I stood there and grinned through tears longing for the day that I could relate. I used to refer to it as my "gracious loser face" because that's all I could seem to muster up. (I don't do awkward well.) We were married long before all these couples started dating, and now they all sneezed and had children.
      This time, I participated in conversation and felt like I truly earned this experience I was talking about. Our child giggled on the same changing pad that I had secretly gone into the nursery and prayed over last year. My lap was full this year with our sweet angel while last year all I held was my purse and my broken heart. People looked at me in awe this year while last year was a look of "Why are you here without a baby?"
      This precious couple also had infertility trouble and while their experience was short lived, I still grew close to this sweet soul on her journey. Oh how I longed for the day that our miracles could be friends. While most of my friends moved on with their perfect lives, this friend never failed to check on me and send encouragement along the way. When I didn't feel like I would ever be a mother, she always reminded me that one day I would be a great one. She's also the only person I have ever known that cried when she delivered her baby at the hospital and apologized that it hadn't happened to me yet. Who does that? Someone who truly gets it. I didn't want her to cry because it was the best day of her life, but at the same time she was validating how much she wanted to see God bless our family the way He had blessed hers.
      Last year, I drove away from this same house in tears of sadness and told God I couldn't do it anymore. I could not live with a desire that He wouldn't answer for the rest of my life and I begged Him to take it away if it wasn't of Him. However, as the months toward getting Faith grew closer, that desire got even stronger.
      This year I drove away with tear-filled eyes again, but not from sadness, from pure JOY. Each step I took carrying my sweet blessing toward the car was a reminder of God's faithfulness to show how far He carried me the past year. All I could do was thank Him for this precious and perfect gift that was grinning at me while tears fell out of my sunglasses. She was the desire of my heart and He had answered.
      I know some days are worse than others for you. I know people don't understand and those that do know your struggle don't know what to say to make life better. Just know that your Heavenly Father does. Each Facebook post with a pregnancy announcement, each baby shower invite you get in the mail, and each baby aisle you pass brings you one day closer to your baby. Every sunrise you see is one closer to God answering your prayer. I am praying for you daily and I am believing with you that if your desire is to be a mother, God can and will answer.      
      Happy Mother's Day to all of those who are waiting with pills, shots and treatments. Happy Mother's Day to those who have lost their baby to Heaven. Happy Mother's Day to those who are waiting on that phone call to pick your miracle up at a hospital. This is a day that the Lord has made and one day soon you will be holding the desire of your heart. I can promise you it will make that Mother's Day even sweeter when it does come. Until then, I am praying for you. "Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and will not delay." ~Habakkuk 2:3

Monday, January 23, 2017

"When Your Faith is Tested"

        Last week, I took Faith for a routine checkup to be sure her ear infection was gone. I saw several friends in the office with their babies and I still have to pinch myself that I finally have mine. She spit up all over me and all over herself so I had to change her clothes. The nurse and I laughed as she walked me back telling me it would be a good idea to leave an extra change of clothes for me in my car now that I'm a "mommy".
        The Dr. cleared us of the ear infection and continued her routine physical. She started pushing on Faith's stomach and I immediately knew something was different. Faith is usually giggling and smiling every time she wraps her little feet around this sweet doctor's wrist, but now the laughing had stopped and her eyes looked concerned. The doctor kept pushing and pushing and I finally broke the silence with "Is something wrong or is it too scary to tell me?" She said she wanted to continue with the rest of the exam and come back to it before she said anything. Before I could blink back the tears, she was back to her stomach. With a deep sigh, she finally said she did feel something. It wasn't something that she said wouldn't be okay, but she couldn't promise me that it would be okay.
       The tears began to flow. The warm kind of tears that come from a deep place in your heart where it really hurts. She wanted to see us again in a week to see if it grew. I finally got enough courage to ask her what she thought it was so I could pray more specifically over Faith's body. She said possibly the "t" word (tumor) and I didn't hear anything after that. I quickly put Faith's clothes back on and hurried to the car before all of my makeup melted onto my shirt. It was like living in a nightmare and you can't wake yourself up.
       Faith began to cry as she saw me cry. She knew something was wrong, because this was the first time since the day we met she had seen tears of sadness instead of tears of joy fall from my face. I began to immediately pray over her delicate body, begging God to heal what the Dr. had felt. Whatever was physically questionable I prayed for God to remove it. He had done it in so many stories in the Bible and I knew He could do it now. After all, He did give me this precious gift.
        I called Joe on the way home and in between sobs he pieced together sentences out of the few words I was able to muster up. (He perfected this art on the infertility/failed adoption roller coaster our marriage has endured over the years.) He reminded me that God didn't give us the keys to drive the car once He gave us Faith. He would always be the driver and He would always be in control all the days of our lives. He took me back to last January when God wanted me to name her Faith and how much FAITH it took to get her. In 1 Samuel, Hannah gave her baby to God all the days of his life and we had done the same thing with Faith since the first day we met her.
        "You of little faith" I began to think. My God is bigger and He is better than anything Satan could throw at me today, tomorrow, or 10 years from now. When our faith is tested, we either run from God or run to God. I'm so glad He was waiting for me with open arms as I ran to Him on the chilly drive home that day.
       It's an honor to be a child of the King who isn't offended when our faith is shaken. He gives us time to cry and let human nature run it's course. Then, He straightens our crown on our heads and dusts us off even when we fail Him. This lyric spoke to my heart as the CD played on the drive home that day:
"Throwing Your arms around me
You held me like I was Yours
Like You'd been there the whole time waiting, I was found in You."
Street called Mercy- Hillsong United
I didn't know what that next week would hold when I walked into that office with my miracle and her diaper bag, but I did know "And if not, He is STILL good."
         An excruciating week later, the Dr. pushed around on her stomach again at the checkup. This time her demeanor was different and her load was light. After several minutes that felt like hours she said, "Well, whatever I felt last week God has removed. I could feel it easily at her last exam and I can't even find it today. This is what I prayed for. It's gone." Tears of joy fell from both of our cheeks. We were so relieved to get a good report and to know our baby was healthy again.
       Each day, God reminds me how incredibly blessed we are that this little miracle came into our lives on that perfect August afternoon. She is and always will be THE greatest gift I've ever been given. Thank you, Lord, for another miracle and for the health of this precious child You chose to name Faith. With "faith as small a mustard seed", let her move mountains and be a world changer in the days to come.

Monday, October 10, 2016

"Our Rainbow Baby"

       For those who don't know, a “rainbow baby” is a baby that is born following a miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant loss.  In everyday life, a beautiful and bright rainbow follows a storm giving hope that better things are still to come. The rainbow is more appreciated after just experiencing a storm.  This was never more true until Joe and I made it out of the storm.    
     After a LONG 5 years of waiting and praying, I never thought God could make every tear worth it. People told me that it would all go away once I became a mother, but in my heart I thought there was no way. Many days I cried so hard, I didn't have any tears left. "You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle." (Psalm 56:8) The only hope I had was in God's word, knowing my tears weren't falling in vain. However, Faith HAS erased every single tear I ever cried. She took the broken pieces of my heart and put them all back together. She has "turned my mourning into gladness" and given me "comfort and joy instead of sorrow". (Jeremiah 31:13)
     Several people have made the comment that "Faith is so lucky to have us" and how we "saved her from a different life", but the truth is she saved me. I was at a place where not being a mother had become my identity. I knew who I was in Christ, but I allowed my pain to define who I was. It became difficult to enjoy holidays, birthdays, and other special events because that meant one more Christmas without a baby. Each birthday, I was another year older than I thought I would be to become a mother. By 30, I planned on having all of my kids and I was approaching that age without any.
      For many years, I was only a mother to my heavenly babies. While I was so grateful for those two angels, I still prayed and prayed for my "rainbow baby" to come along that I could hold in my arms. The day we got the phone call that Faith was a possibility, there was a beautiful rainbow painted across the sky. Somehow God was speaking to me then that Faith would be my rainbow baby.  
    I had tears in my eyes as I drove home staring at God's promise that day. For so many years, a rainbow was a reminder to me that God would never flood the earth again and this time it was different. This rainbow was the promise that I would finally be a mother and that God would be faithful to give me my "rainbow baby." That's why Faith's onesie says, "After every storm there is a rainbow of hope...here I am!" 
     God, thank you for this perfect and precious gift from above. I can't wait to wrap my arms around my little ones when I get to heaven, but until then words cannot express how grateful I am for the little one I'm holding now. Please comfort all of the women out there that are still praying for their rainbow baby. Let each beautiful rainbow you paint in the sky be a reminder of your promise to them. "You've never failed and you won't start now." (Oceans by Hillsong)

Sunday, August 21, 2016

"And You Will Call Her Faith"

        On Monday August 15th, we got a call from a precious nurse at the hospital that a baby had been born over the weekend and the birth mother did not want to keep her.  She wanted to find an adoptive family and by God’s grace, our names were thrown into the mix.  The doctor showed her our picture and adoption book, along with other families, and told her to sleep on it.  Joe and I didn’t get too excited because we have learned to be guarded and the walls around our hearts are about as high as the Eiffel Tower.  Once you’ve been through such a low valley for so long, it’s hard to dig yourself out and jump up onto the mountain top until there’s a real reason to do so.  We always thank God for possibilities in our adoption journey, but we also knew we had a long road ahead. 
         We both went to work on Tuesday like a normal day when we got the phone call that she chose US.  Her last words to the doctor were, “I want Whitney to be the mother of my baby.”  We rushed home and packed our suitcases.  The baby’s bag had been packed up since November when our other adoption fell through.  For the last 9 months, I prayed it would be a girl and God answered my deepest desire.  Our nursery walls were pink, our car seat and stroller were pink, and all of our clothes were pink.  We raced to the hospital squeezing each other’s hands so tight that they turned blue.  We listened to worship music and praised God the whole way there.  I couldn’t listen without crying because God had given me the hope I had prayed for in the shower that very morning.  A week ago we were crying over another failed IVF cycle and this week we were heading to the hospital to see the face of our miracle.  It’s amazing how quickly God can redeem your story. 
         When we pulled up to the hospital, both of our parents were standing out front and we were both shaking like leaves.  On the ride up the elevator I felt like I was going to have a heart attack.  It was like waking up on Christmas morning to see what all Santa left as a child.  The nurse invited us in the nursery while our families stood outside the window with video cameras and other cameras.  I can remember walking up to her bed with so many fears running through my mind.  Would we connect?  How long would it take for her to know me as her Mommy?  How will I know she is my daughter?  I thought it was impossible for God to meet my expectations after all this time of waiting.  There is no way what I pictured in my head, dreamed about every night, and prayed for for 5 years could be everything I wanted it to be.  But…when I saw her face, it was even better.
         She was everything I had dreamed of and more.  I had never seen a more beautiful face in my life and when she looked into my eyes I could truly see the face of an angel.  Her face took every piece of my broken heart and put it all back together.  Her eyes erased all the pain I felt from miscarriages, failed adoptions, and all other disappointments over the past 5 years.  This was my baby that God had created just for me, my hope I had been praying for.  Laying there in that baby bed with no name, a standard blanket, and a plain white shirt reminded me of the love of our Father.  She was an orphan until the second they put her in my arms.  She found love and a last name just like Christ adopted us as orphans.  He loved us at our worst, He died on the cross and gave us a new last name.  As a Christian I was chosen and now this baby was also chosen.  “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” –John 14:18
         I was so scared I was going to drop her because I was crying so hard – shaky shoulders and all.  Joe and I gave a new meaning to “ugly cry” that day and I’m not sure we will ever be the same.  They called us “Mommy” and “Daddy” as they put on our hospital bracelet and it was the sweetest thing we have experienced in our marriage.  They walked us to our hospital room, a private suite away from the other families and they treated us like royalty.  Everyone fell in love with this sweet baby and they were so excited to see her find a good home.
         They walked us in and asked what we wanted them to write on her name card and I quickly answered “Faith”.  Last January was a low point for me.  Getting over our failed adoption at Christmastime was really tough and I can remember driving down the road with tears pouring down my face as I cried out to God.  I finally got to a point where I was really open with God and He knew my inmost being so He wanted me to tell Him my real thoughts and feelings.  I remember praying and saying I couldn’t do this anymore.  I thought my heart could not possibly break any more and all the pieces were already gone.  Never in my life have I heard God in an audible voice until that day.  His response to my prayer was “And you will call her Faith.”  I had to pull my car over because it startled me.  “God, does this mean I’m going to have a girl?  I already have a name chosen that Joe and I picked on our first date” and His response again was “And you will call her Faith.”  I lost it and I just kept thinking this isn’t the Old Testament where God spoke audibly.  I’m not special enough for God to speak to me like this.  “And you will call her Faith” He kept speaking to me over and over again. 
Over the next 7 months, this was the only hope I had to cling to was knowing one way or another I would have a daughter and her name would be Faith.  I prayed over this for a while before I told Joe because we both had our hearts set on our other name and everything was already monogrammed and ready to go.  We were driving home from church one day and I told him, “You may think this is weird and I know it is, but God wants us to name our daughter Faith.”  I prepared myself to defend my reasoning and how I knew this was God’s desire, but he said “It’s perfect.  I love it.” 
Faith became a common theme as it surrounded me.  My kindergarten students would get me things with the word faith on it, my friend got me a bracelet that had the word Faith pressed in it, Joe got me a “Faith as a mustard seed” necklace that I wore every single day.  God always gave me a daily reminder somehow to remind me of His promise.  Even in TJ Maxx shopping with my mom and sister I would have to walk away when I would see it on something because I would tear up so badly when I saw it on anything.  God would be faithful and I knew it, but it just wasn’t time yet.
Everyone always has a neat story about how their parents came up with their name, and I pray that Faith will always be able to share her story with anyone she comes in contact with.  She’s the most prayed over baby I have ever known.  5 years of prayers from family, friends, coworkers, church family, neighbors, students, strangers…everyone has prayed for this miracle and she is here now.
We enjoyed our stay at the hospital so much.  The doctors, nurses, and custodians loved on us like we were part of their family.  They even gave us the steak dinner that they give “new parents” and said we were no different than anyone else.  When they came to wheel me out and take her home, I was a WRECK!  I had only been wheeled out for surgeries after miscarriages and this time I was getting wheeled out as a mommy carrying my sweet baby girl.  I could not get over God’s goodness and provision in our lives.  We loaded her up carefully in her car seat for her first car ride and both of us sobbed uncontrollably.  She slept the whole way home as we sang her praise songs with tears flowing down our cheeks.  “Faithful to the End” by Bethel has been our song that kept us going on our hardest days.  When it began, we couldn’t even sing a note.  All we could do was raise our hands in honor of our God of miracles who had brought us out of the valley and placed us on the mountaintop. 
We got home and introduced Faith to her new home and her big sister, Ally (our dog).  For 5 years we would put Ally’s “Big Sister” shirt on when we found out we were pregnant or we were chosen by a birth mom only to take it off a few weeks later, but this time she was wearing her shirt and she would never have to take it off again.  It was a beautiful reunion that I couldn’t have dreamed up in my head.  She climbed right up and smelled Faith and laid down beside her. 
We had to wait 5 days according to Alabama law for her to be ours and those were the longest 5 days of our lives.  We enjoyed every second of feeding her, bathing her, changing her, even getting up in the middle of the night felt like a perfect dream.  We kept waiting for someone to pinch us, but we are awake and this IS our child.  If you don’t believe in miracles, please look at the face of our baby because she is a living miracle.  She is my favorite answered prayer besides God healing my grandmother from breast cancer.  Please continue to pray for us in the days ahead as there are still hurdles for us to jump over and hoops to jump through.  Also, please pray for our birth mom.  She is the most selfless person in the world and she gave us a precious gift we couldn’t give ourselves.  Please pray she will have peace in knowing she picked a family who couldn’t possibly love her baby any more.  Also pray for the families who were not chosen to be her parents.  We have been there many times and nothing crushes your spirit like putting yourself out there only to be rejected.
There is no doubt this baby was meant to be ours.  She was conceived right around the time our other adoption fell through and as hard as that was we know God was using it to prepare us for Faith.  In November, we bought everything we needed for a baby girl and we were able to enjoy this adoption so much because we were already prepared.  Faith was born 5 days after our heavenly baby’s birthday and born a week after our failed IVF cycle.  I could go on for days about how God orchestrated every tiny detail.  He is the “God who performs miracles” and there is NO doubt about that.  We will never stop praising Him for as long as we have breath in our lungs.  If you are reading this, you probably prayed for our baby many times and we thank you from the very bottom of our hearts.  Because of you and your faithfulness, we now have everything we ever wanted on this earth.  Adoption is truly a miracle.
“FAITH is having confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” -Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

When God Writes Your Story...

        When I was a little girl, I always dreamed of being a mom. On career day, people laughed when I said my lifelong goal was to be a mom. While my friends' desires to be firefighters, policemen, doctors, dentists, and lawyers changed over time, mine never did-it always stayed the same. I grew up in a house filled with Disney movies, princess-themed birthday parties, and Halloween costumes right out of the picture books. The funny thing is I was actually living in my own fairy tale with a stay-at-home mom and a hard working dad, who both loved The Lord with all their hearts and taught my sister, my brother, and me the same values...all that was missing was my prince charming.
        As a kindergarten teacher, I thought how will I ever find Mr. Right? One day, God introduced my "dream" husband to me as our new P.E. coach and prepared me for my very own fairy tale. My students were in love with him and it wasn't long until cupid struck their teacher. I made a list when I was 16 years old of twenty things I wanted in my future husband.  Aside from being a little tone deaf, he met all twenty requirements. On our first date, we discussed names for our children and I instantly knew he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. My students were our biggest fans and they cheered us on all the way down the altar. We were engaged 6 months into our relationship and married 3 months later. You are probably thinking that is CRAZY, but when God places the one in your life you've prayed for and saved yourself for for 23 years, why wait?
        On our one year wedding anniversary, we decided we loved our lives with our 3 pound Yorkie-Poo, Ally, but our undying love for children gave us the desire that we were more than ready to be parents. I couldn't wait to be a mom and I remember waking up one morning so excited thinking "I bet I'm pregnant and don't even know it yet". We were both giddy about how we would tell our families and how thrilled they would be. Little did we know that God had another plan for our lives. 
        Those exciting days grew into painful months and those painful months turned into a stressful year. My OBGYN ran several tests on me, prescribed several different medications, and tried a few procedures, but eventually looked at me and said, "This is where we part ways. There is nothing more I can do for you. I'm going to have to refer you to an infertility specialist." A WHAT?! I wanted to scream and cry all at the same time. No one on either side of our families had ANY problems getting pregnant and my lifelong dream of being a "mommy" couldn't be shattered at the age of 24! Reality hit both of us pretty hard and after many tears, we moved on to the specialist filling out 3 hours of detailed paperwork. 
       God was literally with me at all times, even though there were a lot of ups and downs. When I would receive a baby shower invite in the mail, when I would cry in the middle of TJ Maxx's baby isle buying a gift for someone, when I suffered another childless Mother's Day, or when I would see another baby announcement on Facebook, He was always there to wipe my tears away. Our plan was to be the first of all of our friends to start the "baby boom" and now those friends were already having their second and third child, which proves how powerful God's plan is for our lives vs. our own. Some nights I would turn off the lights and shut the closet door belting out to Kari Jobe with both hands lifted high, crying so hard I couldn't even sing a note. He always knew my need as I prayed with the heart of Hannah in 1 Samuel that if He would grant me a child one day, I promised to always give Him the glory.
      During our first visit, I was a total wreck. I cried the whole way to Birmingham, even riding up the elevator and walking into the office, but a small voice in the back of my mind kept saying, "Be still and know that I am God." I was saved when I was 7 years old and I knew there was nothing my God couldn't handle. I had recently seen God heal my grandmother and my boss from cancer before my very eyes and I knew He was still in the "miracle business". We spent a miserable year with an infertility specialist who referred to me as "the mystery girl" trying more medications, 3 expensive rounds of fertility shots mixed with IUI's, and eventually surgery to see what was going on. He removed my inflamed appendix and determined that I had "mild" endometriosis. However, once again we'd maxed out our doctor's knowledge, along with our insurance. From then on, everything would be out of pocket, including over $18,000 (not including medication) worth of IVF treatments we were about to face. 
      To squeeze 2 years into a few sentences, we eventually moved on to another specialist.  We tried 6 rounds of IVF, which gave us two precious angel babies that we will get to see again one day in heaven.  We had done a shared risk IVF package and we said if we got to the end without a live birth, we would answer God's call for us to adopt.  
       We found out on Halloween that adoption would be our next adventure, although it took several months for me to cope with 2 years wasted and most of that IVF money gone.  On New Year's Eve, we decided to go all in with a local adoption agency.  Again, we found ourselves giddy thinking that infertility was so hard that nothing could be worse.  We filled out all the paperwork, wrote a large check, and sat through several interviews where we felt like our faith was being questioned and open adoption was being forced on us.  We found ourselves doubting our faith, our marriage, and each other's ability to parent so we felt like God was telling us to move on.  
       We took a break from that agency and within a month we got a phone call about a birth mom who did not want to parent her baby.  She didn't know the gender yet, because it was still early and we were so excited to think that God could have made this perfect match in less than a month of answering His call to adopt.  I can remember driving down the road on a snowy day when I received the phone call that the birth mom had a late term abortion and this baby would never wear our name.  I had to pull over because my heart looked like shattered glass and my shirt was drenched with tears.  "And if not, You are still good Lord."
       3 months later, we received another phone call that there was a young girl who was looking for an adoptive family and she was really excited about us.  She was local so meeting her would be very easy and immediate.  She was due in one month with a precious baby girl. The morning of our interview we got in the car and the song lyrics playing were "Who makes the orphan a son and daughter? The King of glory, the King of glory."  Joe and I looked at each other and started crying our eyes out.  We knew only God could orchestrate something like this.  The ride there was very nauseating, but we listened to our recent church sermon on "Miracles" to calm us down and to remind us who was in control.  When we saw her walk in, I thought she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen and I could literally see my baby's face just looking at her. My baby could have dimples like Joe's just like I had always prayed for.  I hugged her and Joe said the most beautiful prayer to begin our meeting.  This is exactly why I married him because he was my best friend, my prayer warrior, my knight in shining armor.  He was strong when I was weak and he loved me at my worst.  The interview was perfect and she was 100% sure that she did not want this baby.  She was young and wanted to begin college, so she did not have time to take care of her and said she never wanted kids anyway.
        One week later, our lawyer was coming into town for the birth mom to sign the adoption paperwork and the birth mom went into labor the same day.  Joe and I had our hospital bags packed and we waited on standby to go pick up our long awaited miracle.  She said she needed time and we respected her wishes.  We kept not hearing from her and my discernment kicked in telling me this would not be our child.  However, my human self wanted to make it happen.  I had already planned my first Mother's Day with her, which was a few short weeks away.  I thought I would finally be rewarded for the painful years of waiting.  We had already told our families and they were living out of a suitcase in hopes that we could all stay at the hospital while our dreams came true.  Our parents would be grandparents.  My grandparents would be great-grandparents.  Our sisters and brothers would be uncles and aunts.  We went out to eat near the hospital in hopes that we might hear something, but we didn't until the dreaded text a few days later. "I changed my mind.  After I saw her face, there is no way I could give her up.  I'm sorry to drag y'all along and if there was anyway I knew I would keep her I wouldn't have gotten y'all involved."  I felt like I had miscarried again, but this time in my heart instead of in my tummy.  It took me a LONG time to get over this baby.  She was mine and I was hers in my heart, mind, and soul, but it wasn't God's plan. "And if not, You are still good God."  
        Someone told us about an adoption agency in Florida, and around the 4th of July we got a phone call from them saying they had several situations that we would be interested in if we could hurry and submit our paperwork.  We had a home study done the day we got home, we paid all the registration fees, and we were set to go.  Weeks went by, months went by, and finally on Thanksgiving break we got a phone call about a birth mom who would give birth in three weeks to a precious baby girl.  They said, "She didn't like you, she loved you and there is a 100% chance she will not keep this baby.  This will be your last Thanksgiving as a family of 2. Congratulations!"  We were ecstatic!  We spent the whole break buying clothes, a diaper bag, bibs, a stroller, a car seat, and we even painted our nursery pink.  I had never bought anything before for our baby, but this time I would show God my faith to know that this would happen. This baby was going to be ours and we were all in!  We packed the baby's suitcase and both of our suitcases just in case she might go into labor early.  We lived out of those suitcases for the next two weeks and I did sub plan after sub plan for the girl who would do my maternity leave for the next few months.  Everything was ready to go and we stared at our phones 24/7, barely sleeping.
         Weeks went by, days went by, and we found ourselves past her due date when we finally got the phone call from the CEO of the agency.  "Hi, bad news.  She went into labor early, had a secret birth at the hospital, and she is home now with the baby.  I'm sorry it didn't work out.  We will use your $18,000 toward your next adoption.  We will put you guys on the top of the list and I am betting by Christmas Eve you have your baby.  We always have a stork baby this time of year and you guys will be our Christmas miracle."  We are still waiting for that phone call as we find ourselves 6 months later.  "And if not, You are still good Father."
       My whole life I thought a testimony was someone who had been through something difficult and had a happy ending.  I grew up in church my whole life and I have heard numerous testimonies where God prevailed over their terrible circumstances.  However, God has shown me over the course of the last 5 years that a real testimony is one where someone has been through something difficult and they don't have their happily ever after yet.  They still know and still believe God will answer one day.  
       15 IUI's, 6 rounds of IVF, 2 miscarriages, 3 failed adoptions, and we are still anxiously waiting for our miracle.  My motto and my favorite verse is "And if not, He is still good." -Daniel 3:18.  I haven't perfected this, but every day I pray and praise God that He is still good even when He doesn't answer my prayers.  I know He catches every tear and not one goes unnoticed.  His ways are higher than our ways and His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  He knows every hair on my head so He also picks up the pieces of my broken heart and He puts it back together when this life doesn't work out the way I thought it would.  He knows our inmost being and He created us in our mother's womb.  Sometimes instead of answering our prayers, He simply asks us to cling to hope and to have the "faith as small as a mustard seed" to know one day He WILL answer.  Until then, He is good.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thy Will Be Done...

       My husband and I left church today and went to eat lunch with my brother.  It was a normal day and we were running errands when all of a sudden, we saw her.
       Last week, my former boss told me about a homeless girl that was begging for money near our local mall.  He gave her some money and when she stood up, he could tell she was pretty far along in her pregnancy.  He immediately called his wife to meet him so that they could both speak to her about her plan for the baby.  When they got back, she was gone.  He felt terrible that he didn't get to her soon enough, but he didn't want to intimidate her or speak to her without his wife around to help him.
       A few days later, someone was telling me about a post they saw on Facebook.  They had seen someone who was helping a pregnant homeless girl, but in the meantime she had gone into early labor and delivered a baby who was placed in the NICU.  They didn't know many details, so a friend of mine called the girl to find out the real story.
      This homeless girl was married to a man who was abusive and she had no plans of giving this baby up for adoption.  I sent the friend of mine one of our adoption cards in hopes that the girl might consider us if she could see our desperate faces and happy smiles as we blinked back tears.  I never heard from the girl, so I assumed the girl kept the baby.  The baby was always mentioned in my morning prayer to the Father.  I would ask Him to keep the baby safe and to give this baby a good life, regardless of these terrible circumstances she was born into.  If it was meant to be, God would work it out and bring her into my life.
      Joe and I were driving past the mall when I screamed, "There she is! It's her! It's her! Pull over NOW!"  We drove around and looked at her face and it was definitely her.  We also read her sign and it said, "Please help! Baby is in the NICU and we need your help!"  I called the girl who had been helping her to see if she had any advice.  She told us to park far away so that her abusive husband couldn't see our car.
      Joe and I parked a mile away and with each step we took our hearts beat faster.  What would we say to this girl?  How do you beg someone for something you have prayed for your whole life?  I tried to swallow my tears, but when we turned the corner we could see her sitting there with a big, beautiful smile.  "Hi!  How are you?" she said.  I couldn't get any words out, but thankfully Joe could.  He said the perfect words like he had practiced talking to a homeless pregnant girl his whole life.  I couldn't fathom giving birth a few days before and sitting on the side of the road now.  If that were my baby, I would be sitting outside the NICU watching her breathe.  We gave her some money and Joe hid my number inside the bills so that her husband couldn't see the exchange.
       Before we walked off, Joe asked her if we could pray for her.  She said that was fine and seemed to be a believer herself.  Joe's prayer was perfect and it reminded me of the night we got engaged.  It was so perfect then, but I couldn't remember a word when it was over.  Same thing now, I was just like Dory from Finding Nemo as it went in one ear and out the other.  All I could do was sob uncontrollably.  What a humbling experience this was to get to pray with a homeless girl on the side of the road.  I remember telling her she was beautiful and that we were praying for her and her baby.
       I wanted to stand there forever and get down on my hands and knees until she agreed to give that baby a better life.  A homeless mother and an abusive father was more than I could stand for that precious newborn lying safely in a hospital bed.  This time in the NICU would be the safest she would ever be in her life and it was really weighing down on me.  I wanted better for her.  I wanted her to be safe even more than my strong desire to be a mother.
      With each step we took as we walked away, the tears fell harder.  This is something Joe had gotten really good at- holding me while I cried.  For 5 years, there have been more tears over our children and lost children than I care to count.  However, I am thankful our God says, "You keep track of all my sorrows.  You have collected all my tears in your bottle.  You have recorded each one in your book." (Psalm 56:8) I knew God was listening and He catches all my tears, but I truly wanted Him to intercede on this one.
       As we drove home, I prayed silently as Joe listened intently to worship music.  I praised God for this amazing opportunity to minister to this mother.  I praised God for that precious little life laying in the hospital.  I praised God for the man He created just for me.  When I am weak, Joe is strong and I could not be more grateful for the wonderful man that He is.  Each day, God reminds me how Joe is "fearfully and wonderfully made."  Even on our worst days, we are still blessed.  Today was the perfect reminder of that.