Saturday, December 19, 2009

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas!

We are in the midst of a huge snow storm. Thankfully most of our Christmas shopping is done, just need to get some stuff for Christmas stockings and dinner. It will just have to wait till next week. We are definitely going to stay in today, maybe read a book and sit by a fire. John is outside right now shoveling the sidewalk and driveway along with our neighbors. It's interesting, people are not usually very neighborly in DC. One of the only times is when it snows. It is one of the things I have always liked about the snow in this area. Neither of us has read a book for fun in a while so we are looking forward to a relaxing day inside.

Pictures of our house were requested along time ago which I never got around to until now. Better late than never! It is not super clear because the snow is still coming down pretty hard, but here is our house.

Trying to keep ahead of the storm (unfortunately during the time since taking this picture another inch or two has already fallen)

In other news, we finished our self studies! Both of ours ended up being 12 typed pages. I actually enjoyed the process for the opportunity for introspection it provided. I have really turned around my thinking where this is concerned. Initially, I was feeling a bit resentful about having to go through all of this to have a child when it is so easy for most people. I have begun to think of this process as a "get to" rather than a "have to." Most people don't get this type of preparation for parenting. We are getting to think about and ask ourselves questions that will help us and our child so much. Last Friday we attended the pre-adoption class and Monday evening we went to hear a panel of adult adoptees share their experiences 0f being part of a transracial family. We learned so much and I look forward to sharing the info in a future post.

I believe our last reference letter has been sent. We are only waiting for our Maryland child abuse clearance; apparently it is taking them about 6 weeks to get these back. Florida took 1 week :) enough said. As soon as this clearance arrives, we should be assigned a social worker and then have our interviews and home visit. Making progress!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Fantastic News for Military Spouses!

I know this news only applies to a few of my readers, but I figured I would pass the information along anyways because I was so excited to hear this news today. President Obama recently signed into law S. 475, the "Military Spouses Residency Relief Act." This law will allow military spouses to retain residency in their home state along with the military servicemember. Up until now military spouses essentially became a resident of the state where they were stationed, resulting in a husband and wife having different states of residence. And often resulting in the need to get a new driver's license, car registration, and pay the state taxes of the new state. Now we can keep the same residence. As a resident of a state with no state income tax (Florida) this law makes me very happy :) I have to find out if it applies to this tax year, especially since I have been having Maryland state and local taxes taken out of my paycheck. Here is the White House statement. There is also a Facebook page with information.

Adoption Application Packet Submitted!

We got our adoption application packet submitted last Friday minus both our self-studies and driving records from Florida. The driving records arrived yesterday in the mail and got sent off today. We also got our copy of the sanitation inspection so hopefully CHSFS got their copy as well. I had planned to submit my self-study with the packet, but last week ended up being pretty busy and then my monthly friend arrived so I was feeling pretty tired. I figured since John's couldn't get to his until after his final exams, I would just wait and do mine when he does his. I like to be able to bounce things off of him as I write so waiting will work out well. They have no problem with us attending the pre-adoption class on Friday since we are only missing these two things. I can't believe we are almost done with the application! They are still waiting for the results of our state and FBI background checks, child abuse clearance, and 1 reference letter (1 has been received already and 1 is on the way). After they get all these documents we will have our interviews and home visit.

I had planned for us to go the CHSFS office and drop off the application packet together and get a picture. However, one thing you learn pretty quickly as a military wife is flexibility. John ended up having a review session for one of his final exams so that plan went out the window. We did manage to get a couple pictures of us with our completed application packet so I guess that it all that matters (I asked my co-worker to take a picture of us at work).

Fluorescent light is not my friend. Oh well, the important thing is to document the journey so we can share it with our child.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Adoption Application Progress (and a few prayer requests)

We are almost finished with our adoption application!


Main application
Pre-adoption class registration
Previous residence history since age 18
With Eyes Wide Open, 3 chapters of homework
Copies of Marriage and birth certificates
Adoption Expense Reimbursement Contract
Monthly Budget Form
Savings and Assets, with copies of all account statements
Application payment Form
Employment letters
Tax return and W-2
Proof of health insurance
Proof of mortgage or rent
Procedure for Adoption (just a signature needed)
Corporal punishment statement (just a signature needed)
Signed Medical releases
Adoption program disclosure statement (just a signature needed)
Affidavit regarding Adoption Program (just a signature needed)
Child Abuse Release Form (Florida and Maryland), mailed
Child Support Release Form, mailed
Driving Records, from Maryland, still waiting to receive the ones from Florida
Rabies certificate for Annie
State and FBI Fingerprint clearances, mailed
Fire Safety Inspection
Sanitation Inspection (hopefully the inspector will send in the form, she wouldn't give us a copy!)
Reference letters requested
Family picture (taken by my stepmom)

Still in the works:

Doctor's appointments on Wednesday for John and I, please pray these go well.

Self study (approximately 14 essay questions) - I am going to be working on mine Tuesday and Wednesday evening - please pray for me to have the right words and not stress over having the perfect answers. We are hoping that they will allow us to submit the application and still attend the pre-adoption class on Dec 11 without John's self study. He is in the midst of studying for finals so he will have to complete his after he takes his last final on the 11th. Please also pray for John's success on his finals.

I have been a terrible blogging friend, but as you can probably tell I have been keeping pretty busy. I am so looking forward to catching up with all of you very soon. Please forgive my lack of comments. I think of you all and pray for you often.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!!!

I have much to be thankful for despite the difficulties and loss of this past year.

Last year at this time I was in the midst of my 2ww following my first IVF cycle. That cycle came to a devastating end, but it was followed by a time of healing that brought peace and closure to many old wounds and for that I am very thankful.

This past year we said a difficult good-bye to amazing friends in Florida, and were reunited with old friends here in Maryland. I am so thankful for our friends, our small group, and our church family in Florida. Not sure I would have made it through this past year if not for them. I miss you all so much! I am thankful for the friends I already had in Maryland, a support network waiting for me as soon as I got here.

This past year we let go of the dream of a child half me and half John, but then we began the exciting journey of international adoption.

This past year I had to put my dream of being a stay at home mom on hold. But the Lord provided me with a job before I even started searching, even in this economy. For that I am grateful. My salary is how we are funding our adoption and paying John's parents back for the money we spent on infertility treatment.

This past year I began to work with an organization that supports North Korean refugees. I have experienced unimaginable joy in this work and I am so grateful the Lord has allowed me to be a part of His work. I have begun to see how God is redeeming the greatest hurts of my life and using them for good.

This past year we returned to the church where we were married. I am looking forward to reconnecting with old friends and making new ones as we become part of this local body of Christ.

This past year John and I have grown even closer together and have learned to find the humor in every circumstance. I am so thankful for my best friend.

This past year I learned what it meant to be "joyful in God my Savior" Habakkuk 3:18. This verse is one of my friend Wendi's favorite verses and one she relied on during her battle with infertility.

"Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior."

To be honest when I first heard this verse it didn't resonate with me. But after we lost Johannah, when I was in my darkest hour, broken, and unable to imagine how God would allow us to lose a baby we had tried to conceive for four years, I came to understand this verse. Because no matter what has happened or will will happen in the future, there is one truth to take hold of - God is my Savior. I need never again to doubt His love for me no matter what happens because the Cross fully demonstrated His love. "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" Romans 5:8. He died that I might have life, and have it abundantly. He died that I may enter into a relationship with my Father in heaven. He died so that an exchange may take place, my sin for His righteous, so that I could stand before the Lord God cleansed of all my sin. How amazing is this! I would listen to "There is a Fountain" over and over again and be filled with unspeakable joy as I reflected on this truth, "There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel's veins; and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains." I will simply never get over God's amazing grace; what He has done for us is astounding and I am forever grateful.

I hope you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving!!!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

"Don't Give Up"

I have heard these words from a number of people after telling them John and I were pursuing adoption. On the surface, they sound very positive and encouraging and I fully recognize how well intentioned they are. I should preface this by saying there is no anger at all behind my words. After I wrote a post on what not to say following my miscarriage, I had a number of people tell me they were worried they had said something wrong. So I want to reassure my readers not to worry. Most likely you haven't said anything wrong, and if you have I understand you meant no harm. I guess I am just a little perplexed by these words and I want to write about it in the hopes that it might educate. The thing is when someone says "don't give up," they are not referring to not giving up my hope of having a child, they are saying don't give up on pregnancy. They are usually followed by a story about a miraculous pregnancy or someone who tried for many years who finally got pregnant, all meant to let me know that it might still happen for me. Even worse are the stories about someone who started to pursue adoption and then got pregnant. While these stories are encouraging and it is true that God could perform a miracle if He wills it, I don't think these words quite convey what the speaker is trying to say.

The problem with these words is they imply adoption is "giving up" to pursue a lesser option, that somehow an adopted child is inferior to a biological child. They imply that pregnancy is the ultimate goal and anything else doesn't quite measure up.

My response is that I had not realized I was "giving up." We are not giving up and pursuing a lesser option. We are pursuing a different a option, but one we believe is God's best for us. A child no matter how he or she becomes part of a family is a gift from the Lord. We have committed to allowing God build our family however He chooses because we believe His plans for us are far better than anything we could plan for ourselves.

So I say I am not giving up, I am adopting!!!!!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Our Journey towards Adoption

I realized I had never written about how we came to decide to pursue adoption. I have always viewed adoption positively, meaning I liked the idea of it. But I was certainly not aware of all it entailed and probably had a bit of an idealist viewpoint of it. When we first got our diagnosis, I initially wanted to pursue adoption immediately. You can read about our infertility journey here. John felt we needed to give treatment a try before moving forward and he was absolutely right. At that time, I wanted to pursue adoption from a place of fear. Going through infertility treatment was so scary to me. Adoption seemed to me at the time like a guaranteed path to parenthood. We decided at the outset we would do no more than two cycles. By limiting the number of eggs, we allowed them to attempt to fertilize (contrary to popular opinion doctors can't fertilize an egg even with ICSI), we hoped to avoid having any that had to be frozen for future transfer. We were committed to transferring any we had, but we did not end up with any, so 2 cycles was all we did. In a way, it was the equivalent of doing 2 fresh and 2 frozen cycles which we felt was more than enough.

Part of me always expected to pursue adoption, so when I got pregnant after my first IVF it was quite a surprise. You all know how that ended. For whatever reason, I did not have high hopes for my second cycle. I am sure the news we received in the midst of it didn't help matters. I remember sitting at my friend Wendi's house in the midst of IVF #2 and spending almost the whole time talking about adoption. Even at that point I was mentally preparing myself for the next step. There was a part of me that just wanted to get through that second cycle so that we could move forward. I was actually afraid of getting a BFP because I felt like I couldn't handle another miscarriage. Of course it was difficult when the BFN officially came and the realization hit that it was the end of the road for us as far as biological children. Nothing about that cycle went well. God had given us a clear no. We took some time to mourn this loss and let go of this dream as God prepared us for the next step. What many people don't realize is that there are losses associated with infertility that adoption doesn't solve: creating a child together; announcing your pregnancy to your husband, friends, and family; the experience of pregnancy and childbirth; breastfeeding (I know adoptive breastfeeding is possible with hormones); and parenting a child from birth (possible only with domestic infant adoption). These are very real losses that must be dealt with and accepted before you can move forward with adoption with an open heart. What I realized is that for me the pain of seeing a pregnant women was less about the experience of pregnancy and more about the child that would come. I want to be a parent more than I want to be pregnant. I know also that the pregnancy I would want to experience is one I can now never experience - one not colored by infertility and the loss of Johannah. The pregnancy I would want is the one I could have experienced before infertility and pregnancy loss was something I knew way too much about. Even if it hasn't happened to me, it has probably happened to someone I know through blogging. For this reason it was easier for me to let pregnancy go. I still believe it is possible for God to do a miracle in my womb, but if He never does, I am at peace with that. What I want is to be a mom. I see adoption as an alternate path to parenthood, but one that is equally as good as parenting a biological child. It is not second best or Plan B. It is God's best for us. Going through treatment prepared us for God's perfect plan to unfold in our lives. I have been told and I believe it to be true that once we are holding our child in our arms, the time it took to get to that point will not seem as long and all we have been through will seem totally worth it. I am excited about watching God's plan unfold!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pulling out of Bethany

In my last post, I said I had called both Bethany and CHSFS. When I spoke with the person who answered the phone at Bethany and explained our situation to her, she thought it would be an independent adoption from Korea (there is no such thing). She went on to say that they would not be able to do our home study if Korea was one of the countries they worked with (she told me to check their website to see if it was one of the countries - it was). I said I would still like to speak with the social worker who deals with international adoption to verify the information she had given me. I didn't get a call back from her until the end of the week. Meanwhile, I had already gotten accurate information from CHSFS. I missed the call when Bethany called me back and since we were already in contact with CHSFS I didn't want to waste their time by calling them again. To be honest, this was just one more thing I found myself disappointed in with Bethany.

It led me to the question of why we went with them in the first place. As I wrote before, I did have a peace about Bethany and did sense God pointing us in that direction. Prior to making that choice, I had a conversation with a very good friend who pointed out to me that sometimes we just have to make a choice. We can be so afraid to take a step forward, afraid that somehow it is going to wrong and we will have irreparably messed things up. When we think this way, we miss the grace of God. "See to it that no ones misses the grace of God" Hebrews 12:15. She reminded me that His grace is sufficient and if I don't get things quite right He still works it for good. What I realized is that I had to stop being fearful and take a step forward. That was the peace I had about taking the step of filling out the application with Bethany. I also realized that God would continue to guide me if I continued to listen. So often I hear from God and then set my course and go. I don't continue to listen for the course correction that may need to be made along the way. This time He has given us not just a course correction, but a change in course. So was I wrong about Bethany? I don't believe so, at least not at that time. It was all part of God teaching me and preparing me to pursue international adoption from Korea. Before, I was far too overwhelmed and fearful of the adoption process. The formal application with Bethany served as a nice practice run. I wrote before that every time I thought of going in a different direction besides Bethany (usually a quicker one) I had no peace. The thing is, had we gone with another agency with a faster timeline, we would have been so far along in the process that I would not have been open to this situation. Because all we have lost is $100 and an afternoon filling out an application (which as I said will only help us this time around), we are not upset or concerned about this change in course at all. In fact, we are very excited, something that was missing before.

Our formal application to Bethany was submitted September 26th. The next step was an informal interview with our social worker. I knew she would be calling at some point to set up the interview. I hoped to have an answer as far as the Korea adoption situation before she called. We had our first meeting with CHSFS on Wednesday, Oct 28th and she still had not called. I planned to call her Monday to pull out, but she called me late Friday afternoon so I had to tell her then. I was wondering if I was going to feel scared about officially pulling out and the thing is I wasn't. I felt relief and excitement. I have already seen the Lord work in a mighty way in this situation. I am looking forward to how He will continue to show Himself as He fulfills His purposes.

Monday, November 2, 2009

6 Year Anniversary!

I will write more about pulling out of Bethany tomorrow, but I want to take a break to celebrate our anniversary. Yesterday we celebrated 6 years of marriage. We went to church in the morning - the church where we got married with the same pastor who married us. Afterward we went to brunch at Mrs K's (my favorite restaurant). John had to get back to studying after that, but later in the day, he surprised me with a dozen white roses.

Together we have been through several difficult times - living on an enlisted members' salary while John got his nursing degree, 14 months of separation due to military service, almost 5 years of infertility, a miscarriage, and now a very stressful graduate program for John. But through it all, our marriage has only gotten stronger and my love deeper. I am blessed to be married to my best friend. He knows me like nobody else does.

This is us on the day John asked me to marry him almost 7 years ago.

And our wedding day, November 1, 2003.

I am so looking forward to the next stage of our life together as we hopefully become parents. There is no one I would rather have by my side. John will make such a good dad. I can't wait to see him holding our little girl in his arms.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

A Change in Course

Back in August, right around the time of Johannah's unfulfilled due date, the Lord spoke to me through Isaiah 42:8-9, "I am the LORD; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you." I had a strong sense that the Lord was telling me to be prepared, that He was going to be bring about something. I actually thought I might be pregnant, something I no longer think each month like I use to. I even took a pregnancy test, but like so many before it, it was negative.

Fast forward to September 9th, when I decided to believe God is who He says He is. I wrote about it here. What I didn't say was that later that night my friend Stephanie told me about a possible adoption situation. She knew about it through the work we both do with the organization that assists North Korean refugees (I talked about it in my last post). The following day I was able to hear a bit more about the situation from the program coordinator (I'll call her K) of this organization. It turns out she had been asked to find a family for a one and a half year old little girl that is the daughter of a North Korean refugee. She said she thought of John and I immediately. She asked me what I thought about everything, and what came to mind was that it would be "immeasurably more" than I could "ask or imagine" Eph 3:20. I remember saying that if it was going to happen the Lord was going to have to bring it about because I had no idea how to go about it.

About a month went by without anything happening and in fact I was starting to think nothing would come of the situation. We proceeded ahead with filling out our application for Bethany. On October 3rd, this all changed. That night we held an event at my house to raise awareness of the situation in North Korea and some of the work that is being done to help. K also came to this event and after everyone else left, she stayed to pray with John and I about the situation. About 11:30pm I get a call from Stephanie to call K immediately. I call her and she tells me that she just got a call from South Korea. She tells me that while we were praying, the pastor in charge of this organization was meeting with the child's mom and that she had decided to place her with us (goosebumps). The one question K asked is if we would be willing to still have contact with the birthmom. From the beginning, we have felt strongly about having an open adoption so of course we agreed. A designated, open international adoption - I am still amazed.

On Monday, I put in a call to Bethany and Children's Home Society & Family Services (CHSFS) to try to get more information. I really didn't know if it was even legally possible or how we would go about it. CHSFS was recommended by A (Thank you!) back when I had asked for recommendations as we were beginning the adoption process. When I first started volunteering with the refugee assistance organization, I had been interested in hearing about unaccompanied refugee minors who needed homes. I found out these children are not available for adoption and for that reason we decided it was not for us at this time. It was during this research that I saw that CHSFS was 1 of 3 agencies that is able to place children from Korea in the state of Maryland. Even after we decided not to pursue this, I kept their website in my favorites and sometimes I would go visit to read about their Korea program. On Tuesday, I got a call back from CHSFS who put me in touch with their Korea Program Coordinator. I felt like this women was sent from God. She was so helpful and told me exactly what would need to happen. She was even familiar with North Korea issues and the refugee situation. We had planned to meet with the birthmom via Skype the following Friday, but were advised that this would be illegal and would have jeopardized the entire adoption. She also advised us not to give any financial support to the organization because it could be perceived as us trying to buy a child. We had planned to begin donating money, but just had not gotten around to it. I felt God's hand of protection on us in both these instances. I found out that Korea does not allow independent adoptions of any sort. The birthmom must work with 1 of 4 agencies in South Korea, each of whom has a partner agency in the U.S.. Eastern is the partner agency of CHSFS. The mom will have to relinquish to Eastern (or one of the other agencies) for designated placement with us. On our end, we proceed with all the normal steps of a Korean adoption through CHSFS. The only difference is the final matching step. I passed all this info along to K who passed it on to the pastor. He met with Eastern who gave him the name of a man in the Maryland office of CHSFS. He had K call last Thursday and K and the gentleman ended up getting in an argument. I thought we were done at that point, but I asked God to bring about a change of heart in this man. Later that evening K called and said he had called her back and was willing to help. The Lord has shown Himself at every turn in this situation. I spoke with the man that same night and set up an appointment with him for Oct 28th. He was a very curt and so I was very nervous about the meeting. When we got there he snapped at the social worker right in front of us when she stated she would also be meeting with us. He ended up not being a part of the meeting! The meeting ended up going very well. We discussed the situation with the social worker and talked to see if there was anything that would disqualify us immediately from the Korea program. She didn't think we had anything to worry about as far as history of counseling, etc. We also discussed the riskiness of this situation. They wanted to know if we were willing and interested in rolling over to the regular Korea program should this situation not work out. Our answer was absolutely. It was very scary to think about all the time, money, and effort we will be putting in to this situation. It will be heartbreaking if it does not work out, but at least everything else will not be for naught. They sent the formal application packet that day! They offer classes the second Friday of every month so there will be no delay as there was with Bethany. The social worker had even mentioned us possibly attending the Nov 13th class if we got everything done in time. After seeing the application packet, I don't see that happening. We are aiming for Dec 11th.

So one way or another we are adopting from Korea!!!!!

I am so excited! I had a peace and some excitement about taking a step forward when we filled out our formal domestic adoption application, but not an excitement about the adoption itself. Something about it never felt quite right (for us specifically not domestic adoption in general). The joy and excitement that were eluding me have been found. This feels right.

P.S. I will write another post about Bethany and the withdrawal of our application with them, but this post is already long enough :)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Waiting, Serving, Remembering

I must start by wishing my sister Joanne a very happy birthday! Thank you for all the love and support you have given me this past year. Your kindness and generosity are amazing.

My lack of blogging is due to busyness with a passion I have not yet written about. When I was still in the army I worked in a lab that was mostly Chinese Americans. I think this was the beginning of my love for Asian people and culture. While in Florida I became interested in praying for both China and North Korea, however I found it difficult to be consistent in praying by myself. At the same time as my interest was developing, one of my very good friends here in Maryland had also been given a heart for North Korea. The Lord had laid it on my heart to ask her when we arrived here in Maryland about holding a prayer meeting for North Korea at my house. When I did, it turned out to be the answer to her prayers. We decided to start holding prayer meetings and other events to raise awareness about what is going on in North Korea. Our first event was a screening of the movie Crossing in August. I also began attending prayer meetings with an organization that helps North Korean refugees in South Korea and in the U.S. This month has been packed with different events to raise awareness, prayer meetings, and preparations for a retreat this weekend. I feel so blessed to be a part of this work. I have seen how the Lord has begun to redeem the most painful experiences of my life and use them for good as preparation for this work. North Korea is listed as the #1 nation for persecution of Christians. They are also considered the worst human rights violating nation in the world. For those who are interested in learning more about the human rights situation in North Korea, here are a few great sites:

North Korea Freedom Coalition

Liberty in North Korea (LiNK)

Global Justice Prayer Network

Please say a prayer for our retreat this weekend.

In other news my stepmom has been in town for work and so I have been enjoying time with her. She and my dad will be returning for a wedding the weekend of the 24th. October is turning out to be a very busy month. I actually had to write this at work (something I never do) just to be able to post something.

The leaves are changing here and I am loving the fall weather. This is my favorite time of year. However, it is a hard time of year to be without children. The pumpkin patches, corn mazes, hay rides, and kids dressed up in costumes are things I dream about experiencing. I continue to bring this desire before the Lord asking Him to intervene. But at the same time I pray for His will to be done. Waiting is so hard. Know that I am praying for all of you who are waiting with me.

I am also remembering all of you who have lost little ones today. For those who may not know today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day.

I'll be back in touch next week.

Monday, September 28, 2009

What I Have Learned From Infertility

Last week, Lisa had a great post on why she is thankful for infertility. After my previous post on Psalm 127, I had been thinking that the few things I had mentioned learning from infertility really didn't even begin to do justice to all the Lord has taught me through this trial. Also, I didn't want to give the wrong impression that because that post was about trusting and believing that God will "build our house"that I am only focused on the child which hopefully awaits. So I had been thinking about writing a post about all I had learned from infertility and then I see Lisa's post and felt like it was the Lord prompting me to write this. The thing is it is so easy to forget and I don't want to forget all the Lord has taught me. I didn't start blogging until I was in the midst of an IVF cycle, then I was pregnant, and then I miscarried. After which we did a second cycle and then moved. In the midst of all this there was much I didn't write about. Many posts have been written in my head, but never written here and so right now there is too much left unsaid. Even if no one else reads it, I want to have these things recorded for me to look back on. Of course, I hope it will encourage others. Some of what I have learned is a direct result of infertility/pregnancy loss and some was learned through experiences I would likely not have been able to have had I been a busy mother. I think many of these deserve their own separate post and so I am hoping to list them all here and then do separate posts for the ones I want to write more about. So here is my list:

1) When John and I had to be separated due to military service for a little over a year, I had one of the most difficult times in my life, but it was also a life changing experience (perhaps this wouldn't have even happened if we had conceived right away prior to John joining the Air Force). I ended up living with my cousin and becoming part of the small group she led at her house. This was my first experience with Christian fellowship and it changed my life forever. I learned so much about the Lord and it was at this time that I became "sold out" for the Lord. However, John did not have the same experience during this time and so when we reunited we were on different pages spiritually. If we had conceived at this time, we may have remained so because we may not have been able to take part in the Alpha course where John grew immensely. He even ended up facilitating a discussion group and then leading an Alpha course follow up group. I got to see my husband grow into an amazing man of God and I got the opportunity to serve along side of him - an answer to my prayers.
2) I got to study Romans when I first got to Florida at a ladies Bible study that didn't offer child care - another life changing experience. Romans is one of my favorite books of the Bible - it presents the gospel so clearly. There is no one righteous, not even one, it is all about His grace. We can only respond in humility.
3) God's plans are better than my own - I learned this as God brought us from the Alpha course and into the small group He had planned for us. I had another plan in mind, but God showed me His ways are higher than mine. I don't know what I would have done if we hadn't had our small group when we lost Johannah. Because of this small group, I met Monica, my crisis care counselor who saw me through an amazing time of healing, not just from losing Johannah, but also from past hurts.
4) Learning about God's perfect plan through the Alpha course and through a study of Matthew (same Bible study where they didn't offer child care) taught me about surrendering to God's will for my life. I began to learn to give up trying to control and began to trust.
5) As we began to pursue infertility treatment, the Lord taught me the truth of Proverbs 19:21, "Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the Lord's purpose that prevails." It was not in my control. I had to trust Him with the outcome.
6) During my first IVF cycle, I learned what it meant to take one day at a time and fix my eyes on Jesus. I learned God gives "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow."
7) I learned to praise God no matter what because He is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory.
8) I found hope.
9) I came to know of God's goodness and His love for me.
10) If you don't know He is good and that He loves you, you can't trust Him. You have to know Him to trust Him. I have come to trust Him.
11) I learned what the joy of our salvation is in my darkest hour.
12) God's ways are not my ways, neither are His thoughts my thoughts. We don't always understand why things happen.
13) I came to understand God remembers my sin no more and became truly free of my past.
14) Recently, I have been learning what it means to depend upon the Lord each day, asking Him for the grace and strength for the day.
15) I have learned so much about prayer, about having a genuine prayer life where I "pour out my heart to God." My prayer life is much deeper as a result.
16) I have become a more loving, compassionate person.
17) I have learned to wait upon the Lord, surrendering to His perfect way and timing.
18) Brokenness - I can now say not my will, but thy will be done and really mean it and desire it.
19) I appreciate the blessings in my life, like my husband, so much more. And we have grown closer together through all we have been through.
20) I believe in miracles and I have come to have faith that the Lord is able to do immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine.

Despite the pain and hurt of infertility and pregnancy loss, I have much to be thankful for - the Lord has truly worked infertility for my good. Thanks Lisa for encouraging others to do this - I am so glad I did.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Formal Application Submitted!!!

Not the best picture of me, but it captures the moment right before we submitted the formal application to Bethany. Amazingly, I was able to get it done from start to finish yesterday and submit it well before the October 10th deadline. Despite having to study, John was able to come down and help me with the more challenging parts. Have you ever been to a counselor? Uh, yes..... Anyway, I was very grateful for his guidance and input. We were able to answer together as to why we want to adopt which I think was very important to be able to do. I am so excited to be finally taking a step forward. I was also able to order extra copies of our birth certificates and marriage license so we have them ready when we need them. Our next step is an informal interview and then I believe we start assembling our packet - physicals, child protective services clearance, motor vehicle records, etc. I continue to feel less anxious and overwhelmed by the adoption process. I have not yet reached the point where I can picture it happening, being a mom that is, but I continue to hope and trust in the Lord.

"We wait in hope for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name. May your unfailing love rest upon us, O LORD, even as we put our hope in you" Psalm 33: 20-22.

Back Online!

We ended up losing our old computer, but thankfully the computer store was able to retrieve everything from our hard drive. I was so upset thinking we may have lost all our pictures. The last 3 years of our life in pictures could have been gone. Lesson learned - don't be complacent about backing up! We ordered a new computer which arrived on Friday so I am back online catching up on all I have missed.

Speaking of all I have missed, several of you have had some very exciting changes recently and I am rejoicing with all of you. Because of the changes in so many of your lives, I am planning on reorganizing my blog list into several categories - infertility, parenting after infertility, etc and I am going to add the adoption blogs I have been lurking around on. In doing this, I am probably going to remove my decorating blog list which is why I am mentioning this. I am finding I really don't have the time to keep up with these blogs now that I am working. I think I tend to read these blogs more when I know we have to move. It helps me get excited about moving as I think of how I will decorate our next house. So if anyone is clicking over to these blogs from my blog, I thought I would give you a heads up so that you can save the links before I delete them.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Computer problems

Our home computer is having major problems - it is currently at Geek Squad for diagnostics. Please pray for it to be fixed and for us to recover our pictures, music, and John's school stuff. John needs to use the laptop for school so I may not be blogging until we get our computer back. I am hoping it will be this week. So please forgive me, I will be catching up and commenting on all of your blogs as soon as I can. I will answer emails as soon as I can as well.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Psalm 127 - Part 2

If you are familiar with Psalm 127, you may know what comes after the verse I quoted in my previous post.

"Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from Him. Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one's youth. Blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them." Psalm 127: 3-5

These verses have troubled me throughout my struggle with infertility. I could never wrap my head around them. I have thought about them a great deal, especially recently. I asked the Lord to please give me insight into them and help me to understand.

"...children a reward from Him" I have struggled most with this part. Children are a reward it says. So am I being punished? If I had led a better life, been more righteous, more deserving would I have children? I have been taught that you must interpret scripture with scripture. Do any of us "deserve" children? No. God's word is clear: "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23 and the "wages of sin is death" Romans 6:23. Elsewhere it says, "all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags" Isaiah 64:6 and "God looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. Everyone has turned away, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one." Psalm 53:3. There is no one worthy, no one who is righteous on their own, no one who "deserves" anything other than death from God. If it was up to us to be worthy of having children, no one would have any. Our righteousness is from Christ. In Him, I am found "not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ - the righteousness that comes through God and is by faith" Phil 3:9 So I can't earn God's reward, favor, or blessing. It is God's grace. "Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights" James 1:17. The Lord causes "his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and unrighteous" Matthew 5:45. We don't do anything to deserve it or not deserve it. The account of Zechariah and Elizabeth even more clearly speaks to this. It says, "Both of them were upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord's commandments and regulations blamelessly. But they had no children, because Elizabeth was barren; and they were both well along in years" Luke 1:6-7. They were "blameless" and yet they were not rewarded, experiencing years of barrenness. But as many of you know that is not the end of their story. In time, Elizabeth did become pregnant and gave birth to the forerunner of our Messiah. They were direct participants in a miracle, in their own personal lives and in God's plan for the world. As I thought about this, it finally hit me. It is about timing. God's perfect timing. Right now I wonder why I am not receiving this "reward," gift, blessing, whatever you want to call it. I wonder if I am being punished, and believe me, I have done much to warrant that punishment. But when I look at the whole story, I don't question why Elizabeth was barren or think she was less rewarded or blessed. In fact, I think she was incredibly blessed by her years of waiting. God knit together a miracle in her womb - John the Baptist - who prepared the way for Jesus as he went throughout the land preaching repentance. As I look at other accounts of infertility in the Bible, do I think Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, or Hannah were less blessed, less rewarded. No I do not. Each of them experienced years of barrenness and each of them saw God perform a miracle in their lives. They knew it was God, everyone else knew it was God, and He received all the glory. But it happened in God's way and timing. Perhaps they too questioned why God was withholding this blessing from their lives. But in time, God's perfect plan was revealed and they witnessed God doing a mighty work in their lives. They received their heritage from the Lord.

We can only do as Hannah did, "I was pouring out my soul to the LORD" 1 Sam 1:15 and continue to pour our hearts out to God, depending on Him to build our houses and give us the gift of children.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Psalm 127 - Part 1

You may have noticed the new verse at the top right of my blog. "Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain." I have always loved this verse and have wanted to get it on a plaque to place in our home. It represents my belief that the Lord is the only One who can build our house. I believe He placed John and I together in marriage and I believe it is up to Him to add to our family. It is very easy for me to fall into sin and try to depend upon myself rather than the Lord. Infertility has shown me my need to depend on the Lord, for strength to face the trial of infertility and to bring a child into our family. Time has not made this trial any easier. But it has grown me in compassion, love, humility, and trust in the Lord. Daily, I find myself taking my desire to the LORD, surrendering it to Him anew, and asking Him to fulfill it. Every pregnancy announcement, every pregnant belly, every child I see that brings this pain back to my heart and mind is an opportunity to once again take it to the Lord. He is the only one who can do anything about it. He is the creator of all life. He alone knows the child(ren) He has chosen for John and I to parent. Of course, the question most of us can barely stand to even think comes up - what if God doesn't plan for us to have a child and intends for us to live child-free? This has been a great fear of mine since the beginning of this journey. I can't pretend to know God's plans and thoughts on this, but I personally believe child-free living is not God's will for most of us. I believe if God calls us to such a life it is for a specific purpose and He will give us the peace and even joy to live it. Why don't I think it is God's will for most of us? Because of His Word. This is all I have to go on. There are many instances of infertility in the Bible and in every one of them in His perfect timing and way, God brought a child. In each of these cases it was through pregnancy, but I believe God also answers our prayers through adoption. Throughout the Bible, God's heart for the fatherless is clear (Deut 10:18, Psalm 68:5, and Psalm 82:3 just to name a few places). In verse 6 of Psalm 68, it says the Lord sets the lonely in families. Psalm 113:9 says the Lord "settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children." I have always been hesitant to believe and trust that the Lord will bless us with children, but the other day (September 9 I think) I made a conscious decision. I was walking through the parking garage on my way into work crying out to God, asking for His grace for the day, and once again bringing my desire for children to Him, and I decided then and there that I was going to believe God is who He says He is. His word says He has a heart for the fatherless and commands us to have one as well, it says He settles the lonely in families, and it says He settles the barren woman in her home as a happy mother of children. This is who God says He is and I choose to believe Him.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Going with Bethany

Just a quick update on our adoption process - it looks like we are going to go with Bethany Christian Services. In many ways it doesn't make sense for us to go with Bethany given the time line and wait time, but we sense God leading us in this direction despite these things. Every time I start thinking about going in another direction, I have no peace about it and I find the Lord points me back to Bethany. Initially, as I prayed about what we should do the only answer I got was "wait." At that point I was wondering if we were even supposed to be moving forward with adoption. But I think this was the Lord preparing me for how He was going to lead. At that point I was not yet ready to surrender to a longer time period. But as I continued to hear "wait," I began to surrender to God's timing and became willing to wait upon Him. I believe His ways and timing are perfect. He is our all-knowing, loving, faithful Father and we can trust in the plans He has for us. As I continued to pray about it, I sensed a pull toward Bethany and a peace about it. I then talked it over with John who told me that he had also been praying about it and felt led toward Bethany. I believe this time can be a time of preparation. I have really enjoyed learning about adoption over this last month or so, but I still have much more to learn. Based on what I have learned so far, I am confident I want an open adoption. I am actually surprised at how passionate I am about this.

In other news, I am a little behind on my blog reading and commenting. I am hoping I can catch up soon so my apologies for my lack of support recently. Between work, being out of town, my new exercise classes, and it being the week before my period I have just been exhausted. Even after all this time, it is still such a hard time of the month. I still find myself hoping.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pictures from Philly and Camping

This past weekend John and I went camping in Shenandoah National Park - one of my favorite places. This was our last weekend of John's break from school so we wanted to take advantage of it. We went with one of John's classmates and his family. Friday and Saturday we got rained on, but we still had a good time. Sunday was beautiful and we were able to go on a 4 mile hike before heading back to DC. Here are some pictures of our weekend as well as some from our trip to Philly. Philly is first.

Pod Asian where we ate on Sunday night - John and I did not feel "cool" enough to eat here!

The Liberty Bell - much smaller than I thought it was

Inside of Congress Hall

In front of Independence Hall

A side view of Independence Hall - I really liked these clocks

More Independence Hall - we toured it on Sunday afternoon

The dining room of our Bed and Breakfast - so beautiful!

Dinner at the White Dog Cafe on Saturday night - so good!

As we walked to dinner on Saturday night, we came across a Pi Kappa Phi fraternity house - John's fraternity at Texas Tech - so I got John to pose for a pic.

Our room the first night at our B & B - our room the second night was even nicer, but I didn't get a good picture of it. I love how Annie is looking up at John adoringly in this picture.

Me by the fireplace in the dining room

I loved this stained glass window which was in the entry way of the B & B

In front of the B & B

The Bed and Breakfast where we stayed in Philly

On our hike to the Rose River Falls in Shenandoah National Park

My favorite picture from this past weekend - John zipped Annie up in his coat because it was so cold and rainy. Annie hates the rain.

Hanging by the fire on Saturday

One of the few pictures we managed to get of the views along Skyline Drive

These deer were just hanging out only a few feet from our tent

One of my favorite things about camping - John cooks!

Maybe I will be able to post more pictures when I see my husband again at Christmas :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Acceptance, Laughter, and Infertility Drawers

First I wanted to thank every one for their support last week. The comments and emails were such an encouragement to me. On Tuesday morning, one of my friends came by with flowers and cards from my friends here in DC which was such a wonderful surprise. It meant so much to both John and I to know that people were thinking of us and praying for us. I believe the Lord truly answered those prayers. In many ways the days leading up to last week were more difficult than the day itself. Once the day was upon me, I had a greater sense of peace and acceptance. Don't get me wrong, there were still tears shed and I know I will always grieve over Johannah, but there was a sense of closure about the day. Going to Philadelphia with John the weekend prior really helped as well. It enabled us to re-connect after his incredibly difficult summer semester at school. We didn't try to pack too much into the weekend. We saw Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, ate some great dinners, and relaxed on the porch at our B & B. Through all we have been through, we have only grown closer together. I find us laughing together now more than we ever did. I love that. I love to laugh. I think laughing together is one of the most important things a husband and wife can do together through infertility. Find the humor in your circumstances where ever you can.

Overall, I am doing okay, though I am still feeling a little overwhelmed as far as adoption decisions. John has actually been having a very tough time these past couple of weeks. Now that he has finally had a break, infertility and his desire to be a dad has really hit him. This is the longest I have ever seen him stay upset. In "The Infertility Companion - Hope and Help for Couples Facing Infertility,"* the authors talk about the differences between the way men and women handle infertility. They talked about how women think more globally about infertility, meaning it is connected to all parts of our lives. Men, however, are generally more compartmental. They described men as having an "infertility drawer." When a man opens the drawer, he feels sad, but he can close the drawer and not feel sad and many would like to keep it closed. John and I have always found this to be a useful metaphor for us to understand how we each process and deal with infertility. When John brings up something infertility related, I will often say,"drawer's open?" Of course when it is, I will want to settle in for a heart-to-heart about how we are each feeling and........... drawer's closed :) Anyway, this is the longest the drawer has been opened. I know this is a good thing in some ways because I know John needs to fully grieve the loss of biological children and be fully prepared in his heart to move forward with adoption. But I hate seeing my hubby sad. Please say a prayer for him if you would.

I know I have said it before, but I will say it again - I love you all and feel so blessed to be a part of this community. Thank you again.

*The Infertility Companion - Hope and Help for Couples Facing Infertility is by Sandra L. Glahn and William R. Cutrer. It is published by Zondervan and endorsed by the Christian Medical Association. I found it to be a great resource especially at the onset of treatment.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Remembering Johannah

Tomorrow, August 11th, was Johannah's due date. I am not falling apart, just very sad - sad I never got to meet her, sad I never got to hold her, and most of all sad we are not parents. I have been listening to Steven Curtis Chapman's song "Remembering You" since losing Johannah in January. It helps me to celebrate the short time I had with her and remember that I will see her again because "as the cold winter melts into spring" we are reminded of the hope we have in Christ.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you." 1 Peter 1:3-4

These lyrics have always been especially meaningful to me:

"From the first moment when I heard Your name
Something in my heart came alive
You showed me love and no words could explain
A love with the power to
Open the door
To a world I was made for"

Something in my heart came alive after getting pregnant and losing Johannah. My heart was opened up in way it never was before, forever changing me. All the defenses I had built up to protect myself from the pain of infertility came tumbling down. I could no longer block out the pain or pretend it didn't exist. I was completely humbled and broken. I began to cry out to God in prayer over my own infertility rather than only praying for others. I was able to let some things from my past go and experience complete healing. I became more open to love - both receiving it and giving it - and the suffering and pain of others. Now when I hear or read about the suffering of others it affects me in a very real and profound way. I often cry over others' losses and suffering in a way I was never capable of before. And for these things I am grateful. Jesus said the 2 greatest commandments were to love God and love people. Because of Johannah, I have gotten better at both.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Heading to Philly

I spent almost every night this week researching adoption. I am learning so much about the different options out there. I found a couple of agencies here in Silver Spring that look promising as far as our home study goes, but I am not sure of anything else yet. I have always been a person that likes to do a lot of research before making a decision. I am not a jump right in kind of person.

In other news, John took his last final yesterday and is now on a 2 week break from school. We are heading to Philadelphia this weekend for some time together. With it being the weekend before Johannah's due date, I wanted to do something fun with just the two of us. I know there are a lot of people thinking of us and praying for us right now which we really appreciate.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Many Thanks!

Thanks so much for all the recommendations, advice, encouragement, and prayers. Whether you sent me an email or left a comment, I truly appreciated it.

I think one of the main things I learned is there are even more options than I had originally thought. I have not had a chance to do much more than a initial read through of the recommended agencies' websites because of a very busy week at work last week so no decisions yet. I am hoping this week will be a little less crazy. John has finals this upcoming week, but then he has 2 weeks off until the fall semester starts. John is planning to use some of this time to do some research as well.

Some thoughts, , clarifications, and responses:

I not sure why I thought this, but I had not considered the possibility of adopting from another state until I made the request for info. Somehow it seemed like it would complicate an already complicated process. I am thankful for the suggestions of national agencies and those located in other states. With the law in Maryland giving 30 days before parental rights are revoked, I think it may make a lot of sense to adopt from another state.

I am less overwhelmed by the application/home study process. It is starting to seem more manageable to me.

I realize that $18,000 is on the low end for a domestic adoption. I really didn't have an objection to the price Bethany was charging, I was just mentioning the price had increased. I knew it was well within the price range for a domestic infant adoption. For those who may not know, the cost of domestic adoption ranges from $8,000 - $40,000. The low end is usually for stepparent adoptions. We have decided we can spend up to $25,000 if we save a portion of my salary. The main portion of my salary has to go to paying John's parents back for the $24,000 loan they gave us to pay for fertility treatments. We spent a total of $30,000 for 2 IVF/ICSI cycles including the cost of all our meds. Because we participated in the shared risk program, we got $16,000 of our money back which we will put towards adoption.

The reviews of Bethany are so mixed - some people love them, some people don't. Unless Bethany calls us and says they can fit us into the fall training session, I don't think we will go through them. I think there are large variations in Bethany's timing and quality of services from state to state. I have no problem with Bethany's 2 year wait for placement (of course I hope it would be much, much less). What I have a problem with is the 1 year to complete the homestudy and get approval. I think that may answer A's question (see comment section on previous post) about the time frame between the initial application and the approval and waiting as far as the requirement for it to take no longer than 6-7 months. It will take them 1 year to complete the homestudy so we won't have a home study that can expire. They will not come out for the home visit and interviews until you have completed the training, but since we can't get this training from them until March/April it will take a year before we have a completed homestudy and final approval. Other agencies seem to be able to complete a homestudy in a few months time. Sorry if I wasn't clear about the timeline. As far as the screening interview prior to the formal application packet, I think they do this so you don't waste your time and theirs if there is something in your background which will disqualify you from adopting.

Jess, thank you for the suggestion of an adoption consultant. I had not heard of such a thing, so I will definitely be looking into it. Your comment really hit me when you talked about setting up a nursery. I am just not there yet. After 4 1/2 years of infertility and a miscarriage, I am not yet at a point where I can believe I will actually have a child in my arms some day. I know many view adoption as a when and not an if, but I am not able to do so yet. I have always struggled with feeling not good enough and so I worry about getting approved. At a minimum I can not imagine setting up a nursery until we got approved, but even after that I know it would be a struggle for me. The fear of a failed adoption looms large for me. But I know I have to open my heart again. I have more to say about this, but it is a post for another day.

Niki, I think I have msn messenger through my hotmail, I will be in touch.

Alicia, as far as a specific prayer request, I would ask everyone to please pray for God to open our hearts to whatever way He wants to build our family. We are considering other options besides domestic infant adoption. Pray for God's leading and will for us, that our ears hear a voice behind us saying, "this is the way, walk in it." Isaiah 30:21

Again, I can't thank everyone enough for praying for us.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Adoption Information Meeting

I have been meaning to update about last week's information meeting. The meeting provided an overview of the domestic infant adoption process through Bethany Christian Services. This agency was recommended to us by someone John use to work with who is hoping to adopt through them. I must say I was so nervous about the meeting. How crazy is it that I was worried about my outfit? As if the social worker would take one look at me, decide she didn't like what I was wearing, and reject us outright.

When we got to the church where the meeting was held, we received a handout outlining the steps in the process and the fees. I actually started tearing up as I read over it. The whole thing just seemed so overwhelming. So here is a run down of what we learned:

Total cost: $18,000 - up from $15,000

Step 1: Submit formal application, statement of belief, and $100 application fee.

Step 2: Screening interview - need to bring list of addresses for last 7 years, driver's license, and $900 administrative fee. Sign contract.

Receive packet (90 day time frame from screening interview - I am slightly confused about exactly when we receive this, but I think it is at some point after the screening interview). This packet includes all the paperwork we have to put together. Here is a list:

Certified documents (birth certificates, marriage license)
Criminal clearances
Child protective services clearances (residential history last 7 years)
CSE (child support) clearances
Motor vehicle records
Fire department (has to come to your house)
Health department (also has to come to your house)
Medical clearances (physicals, drug screen, HIV test, tuberculosis test)
References (1 pastoral, 1 work, 3 personal - one of whom must be available to be interviewed in person at our house)
Questionnaires detailing familial/social history
Open adoption checklist
Special needs checklist

Step 3: Complete and turn in all paperwork and go to 21 hours of training. Unfortunately, this training is already full for the fall and so we would have to wait until next March/April to attend.

Step 4: Interviews (1 with me, 1 with John, 1 with both of us, and 1 with our personal reference) and home visit. They will not do this until after you complete the training and submit all paperwork and clearances. Pay $600 home visit fee.

Step 5: Wait (on average 2 years from approval date).

Step 6: Placement, pay $16,400 placement fee.

Step 7: Supervisory visits, 3 over 6 month period.

Step 8: Finalize adoption. Pay $600 finalization fee. We would also need to hire our own lawyer at this point to represent us.

We also learned a little more about the laws in Maryland as far as the process for legally terminating the birth parents' rights. The birth mother and father have 30 days from signing to change their minds for any reason. If the birth father does not sign at the same time as the birth mother, it could take even longer because the court will not terminate their rights until both have signed. Bethany will provide interim care for the child during this time period if you are not comfortable taking the child and risking having to bring them back.

Overall, I was disappointed by the information I learned at Bethany's meeting. The 30 days to revoke consent kind of freaks me out, but of course this is not within Bethany's control. However, the time frame, which bothers me even more, is within Bethany's control. Essentially, we would be looking at a year before we even got approval and then approximately 2 years from there for placement. This seems like a ridiculously long time to me. I had anticipated getting approval by December. So where does this leave us now? Though the meeting wasn't everything I had hoped it would be, meaning we came away knowing this was how we should precede, it provided a first step in learning about the domestic adoption process in Maryland. I have to confess that prior to this meeting, I had done little research. I spent the night after the meeting glued to my computer researching adoption. Prior to doing this, I didn't even know the difference between agency versus independent adoption. As far as the independent route, I also learned that Maryland does not allow a lawyer to act as a facilitator between the birth parents and adoptive parents. They must connect with each first and then go to the lawyer. The lawyer can not put them together as they can in some other states. Wouldn't it be nice if the adoption laws in our country were uniform from state to state? I also looked up some other agencies, but I haven't contacted any of them yet. I guess this is where we are at right now. I need to learn about some of these other agencies as well as the independent adoption process. If you have adopted or are in the process of adopting, I would love to hear from you. If you would be willing to leave me a comment or send me an email, I would love to learn as much as you are willing to share about your adoption process - agency versus independent, domestic versus international, cost, time frame, etc. I would also love to hear any advice you would have for someone just starting this process. We have not ruled out international adoption, which is why I would also be interested in hearing from those who have gone this route. The higher cost and longer time frame are the main reasons we are hesitant to pursue this option. If you have adopted in the DC metropolitan area, and especially if you have adopted in MD, I would love to hear specific recommendations for agencies/lawyers.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Quick Update and a Prayer Request

I want to thank everyone for their comments, emails, and prayers recently. I am feeling much better than I was when I posted Tough Times. I have had several people tell me the Lord has brought me to their minds over this last week to pray for me. This is just one way I have seen God show His love for me. I have not always believed God loved me - I knew the Bible said so, but I didn't believe it in my heart. It may seem hard to believe, but it has been in the midst of infertility that I have come to know of God's unfailing love for me.

Last night we had dinner with our friends Philip and Joia, who we met when we were stationed at Eglin. Philip is here in DC for military training. We had a wonderful time with them and their children. Visit Joia's blog for some great pictures of our evening. I really need times like this with friends who allow me to have fun holding and playing with their kids. I have this fear that because it has been so long for us (over 4 and a half years of trying) that we will become so accustomed to our life without kids that we won't adjust when/if we finally have them. Times like last night reassure me that this fear is baseless. I still love being around children. Sometimes it hurts, but I still cherish these times.

Right now I am sitting in Panera in Bowie, MD using the free WiFi. John and I are getting ready to go to a domestic adoption information meeting at a church here in Bowie. The meeting is put on by Bethany Christian Adoption Services, the adoption agency we think we will use. Please pray for God's clear direction for John and I. We sense Him leading us to pursue domestic infant adoption, but we want to be sure. Thank you all for your prayers.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sarah's Laughter

I know that many of my readers already know about Sarah’s Laughter, but I wanted to post about it for those who don't. Sarah's Laughter is an organization based in Louisiana whose mission is to "provide support for those struggling with infertility or the death of a baby." One of the ways in which they do this is through devotionals emailed Monday through Friday. I have been so blessed by these devotionals. I wanted to share a portion of the one I received today entitled "Worshiping God through Struggles - Three Hebrew Boys" referring to Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego:

Do you realize that you have the same choice to make? Worship God in the midst of infertility or bow your knee to despair? “I still love God, but it’s just so hard to worship right now! If I knew He was using this hardship to bring a baby to me, it would be easier to worship Him through the tears. But I don’t know what He’s doing through this situation in my life!” Sound familiar? Most of us get frustrated because we can’t see what God is doing in our problem, and the natural tendency is to withhold praise. Remember that these young men didn’t see the end of the story either. "Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire..." but even if He does not... They didn’t know if God would save them or let them burn, yet they worshiped Him anyway. How did they do this? God walked with them through the fires.

Scripture tells us that God inhabits the praises of His people. When you worship God in the fire of infertility, you may just notice Someone else walking with you through the flames.

May I take just another moment of your time to point out one more miracle that is often overlooked? It’s found in Daniel 3:21 and 3:25

"Then these men were tied up in their trousers, their coats, their caps and their other clothes, and were cast into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire." (3:21)

"He said, “Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm...” "(3:25)

Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire tied up. They stood through the trial of their lives, worshiping God, God joined them in the fire, and the hindrances that had them bound up fell away. Choosing to praise and worship God, even in the midst of the greatest battle you will ever face, will cause the shackles of despair, disappointment and doubt to fall away.

I put the last part in bold because it really struck me. Praising God causes the "shackles of despair, disappointment, and doubt to fall away." I find daily encouragement just like this through these devotions and so I wanted to share them with my readers who may not know about this resource. This particular one really hit home with me today - talk about meeting you right where you are.

Click here to visit the Sarah's Laughter website and here to sign up for their daily double portions (email devotional).

Friday, July 10, 2009

Lord Reign in Me

When I go for jogs, I like to listen to praise and worship songs on my iPod. Often it is a time for me to spend with the Lord in praise and prayer. I think this is one of the reasons the disruption of my exercise routine was so bad for me. Anyways, the other day I was listening to "Lord Reign in Me" while out for a jog. Even though I had heard the song many times before, on that day I was really struck by the words in the chorus:

Lord reign in me
Reign in Your power
Over all my dreams
In my darkest hour
You are the Lord of all I am
So won't you reign in me again

And so this became my prayer. I want the Lord to rule and reign in me. I want Him to reign over all my dreams, even my dream of being a mom. He is my King - the Lord of all I am (and of all I am not). Now let's see if I manage to successfully including a YouTube video - this is the first time I have tried it.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tough Times

I have definitely been a really bad blogger lately. I am finding it hard to get into a new routine. Going back to work has really messed with my schedule and I am finding it hard to adjust. I feel like I give the majority of my energy to my job. I use to have so much time for Bible study, prayer, fellowship, blogging, and exercise. But I did almost all of them during the day. I have recently managed to start exercising again after a long absence - basically since the beginning of IVF #2. It was just too painful for me to exercise during stims (last cycle my ovaries were touching - did you even know that was possible). After the cycle ended I never got back into my normal routine because of the move. I also know I need to reestablish a time for daily Bible study and prayer. And I want to get back to blogging regularly. I have really missed it and have felt a major void by not doing it. Having a place to give and receive support has been so healing. It helps me to know I am not alone. Right now I need to know that more than ever.

Now that we are settled in, things have really hit me. I really didn't have time to process last cycle's negative due to the move and starting a new job. Starting shortly after my last post, everything hit me - the negative, the end of fertility treatment, the likelihood that we will never have a biological child, and my upcoming unfulfilled due date. It is the last one that is especially hard. I can't get August 11th out of my head. I am haunted by the memories of my m/c. When John and I were at the ER for his esophageal spasms, I couldn't stop remembering the last time I was in the ER. During my time of the month, I am reminded of how it felt to pass our baby. I remember the pain. I remember Dr. S's crushing words. I miss our baby so much. My approaching due date is weighing heavily upon me.

At the same time, infertility is harder for me than it ever has been. My longing for children has not diminished in the slightest. If anything it has gotten stronger. I use to find it hard to pray about my own infertility. I wondered if it was really okay for me to ask God for children. Did doing so mean I was not accepting of His will for my life? I came to understand that it did not mean that at all. Now I find myself praying about children more than ever. I have heard others say that they have begged God for children. Until last night I never had. I have been crying so much lately, I have begun to wonder if I will ever stop feeling this sadness. One of the lines in one of my favorite songs is, "Joy comes in the morning, troubles they don't last always..." (song #6 on my playlist at the bottom of the page). When will my morning come? Will it come? I am struggling to hold on to hope and faith (not saving faith, but faith that God has a plan and a purpose). I want infertility to end. I am tired of running this race.

Over these last couple of days, I have come to realize how much I need to take time to grieve and heal. I jumped back into things too quickly. Once again, I sense the need to step back from some social activities and take time to process everything that has happened. I need to refocus my attention on the Lord, the author and perfecter of my faith. I need the healing only He can provide.

"Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God." Hebrews 12:2

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Catching Up

It has been a while since I have been able to post regularly so I definitely have some catching up to do. I am also behind on emails so if you haven't heard back from me, I am so sorry. I am hopefully going to get caught up today on emails and all the blogs I read.

John and I are pretty much settled into our new house. I have had several requests for pictures and so I will post some as soon as I can. I wish I had taken some pictures of the house when it was empty. Now that our furniture is here, I, in my perfectionism, want to wait until everything is fully ready and decorated before I post pictures. And now for a recap. We signed our lease on the 16th of May and moved in on the 18th. We only had to wait a few days for our furniture to arrive. Overall, the move went very well. Nothing was lost by the moving company and there was only minor damage to few pieces of furniture. John was able to fix all of it without too much trouble. My crock pot was broken, but that is the only thing that didn't make it through the move. For a military move, I would say we made out very well (I have heard horror stories of couches broken in half - who knew that was even possible). The next week and a half was spent unpacking, setting up, and getting the house decorated. I am pretty much finished except for hanging curtains and a few pieces of artwork that I haven't decided where to put. I also have some shopping to do for new lampshades, a shower curtain, bathroom rugs, curtains, and that sort of thing. I also had some very successful yard sale trips with my cousin. I got 2 matching wooden nightstands for $10 each and a small wooden bookcase for $15. My cousin found a wooden coffee table for our living room for $25 at a thrift store. this enabled me to move our other coffee table to the family room where it looks much better. These finds really filled in the gaps. We did end up buying a cheap TV stand, a bookcase, and a table set for the sun room at Ikea. Our next purchase is a new mattress for our bedroom and then we will move the one we are using now to the guest bedroom. Decorating and setting up a new house is my favorite part of moving so I have been having fun getting set up and seeing things come together. For the most part our house is made up of hand me down furniture, thrift store finds, and stuff from Ikea (their more traditional stuff). I like the challenge of putting it all together so that it hopefully doesn't look like a thrift store.

John started school the day the furniture arrived. Thankfully, it was just an in-processing day that didn't last long so he was able to be here with me when the furniture arrived. The next weekend was a 4-day weekend for the Memorial Day holiday so he had some time off for which I was very thankful. The last week in May they had orientation and classes started the first week in June. John describes it as a fire hose. He and his classmates are incredibly stressed out. They say that the first year is incredibly difficult, with this initial summer term being the most difficult of all. He basically has to learn the entire human anatomy in 10 weeks, plus classes where they discuss the role of the Family Nurse Practitioner, cell biology, and health assessment (giving a physical). When he is not in class, he spends almost all of his time in the lab learning anatomy or studying. I think he is feeling pretty overwhelmed. We actually went to the ER on Thursday night because John woke up in incredible pain from esophageal spasms. He has been having some problems with GERD for a while now. Under stress, the symptoms have really intensified. He was put on some medication so hopefully he will start feeling better very soon. They pretty much tell the spouses not to expect much from their spouse during this time. Thankfully, we have managed to carve out a little time together each week for dinner out, a bike ride, and church. His first test is on Tuesday so say a prayer for John if you would.

As I mentioned previously, we had decided that the best thing for me to do right now was go back to work. I had been working on my Master of Public Health, a program I began in Jan 2007, shortly after getting out of the army. We decided to put my degree on hold while we went through IVF because it was just too much to handle together. If I had gotten pregnant, I would have put my degree on hold even longer to allow me to be a stay-at-home mom. Obviously, that is not happening so I was left with the choice of going back to work or finishing my degree. I absolutely adore the field of public health and I know it is ultimately the area I want to work in. However, I was not thrilled with the program at the school I was attending. It is a new program and I think they are still working out some of the kinks. Also, they are still in the accrediting process. Transferring to a school here in MD is really not an option because the cost of graduate school here is horrendous. Also, we have not giving up our hope of becoming parents and so I didn't want to start something I couldn't finish if we were to become parents. This left me with going back to work. But truly I was dreading the job hunt and my heart really wasn't in it. I asked God for His mercy and He truly provided more than I could have asked or imagined. You can read more about it here. I can't believe the Lord provided a job before I even started looking. I feel truly blessed to have a job in this economy and especially one that matches up so perfectly with my skills and interests. Also, it is only a 15 minute commute! In DC, that is an absolute dream. Many people spend an hour, or even more, each way commuting here in the DC area. For both John and I to have such short commutes is such a blessing. My job is in the Graduate School of Nursing working for one of John's professors. She is doing research on stress, coping, and health promoting behaviors in military spouses. She initially focused on looking at these issues during deployment, but she is interested in looking at how military life in general affects spouses. So I will actually be using much of the skills and knowledge I gained in graduate school. After the interview, which was more like an informational interview than a typical job interview, it was decided that I would start this past Monday. My first week of work went very well and it seems like a pretty good work environment. It was tough getting use to working again and I was pretty tired each day after work (and very sore feet).

In other news, we are still church hunting. We visited the church we use to attend when we lived here before, but we are just not sure that it is where the Lord is leading us. We decided to try the church where my cousin goes because they launched a new campus here in Silver Spring. It is geared towards people in their 20s and 30s, a lot of whom are single. They have a Sunday evening service so we are going there for the second time tonight. Please pray that the Lord leads us to the place He has for us.

I was asked by Alicia if I liked the east coast. I really like the DC area a lot. I was stationed here when I was in the army. This is where John and I met and got married. Also, I was born in West Virginia, and as a child lived in both Maryland and Virginia. I still have several very close friends in the area that were part of my small group (Bible study/fellowship group for those who might not be familiar with the term). I was part of this group when John and I were apart for his first year plus a few months of his time in the Air Force. I was still in the army so I had to finish my time here before I could join him in Florida. These ladies became a very special part of my life. It was my first experience with Christian fellowship and I will never forget it. That being said, I still miss our friends and church in Florida a great deal.

The move and the new job has definitely been a distraction from the news of receiving a BFN from our last IVF cycle. It basically delayed the grieving process. The last week in May, when John was at orientation, I was able to have some time of grieving. In many ways, I am still grieving. I am not grieving the negative so much as the the end of IF treatment and the likelihood that we will never have a biological child. With the news we received last cycle and the fact that it didn't go so well, the negative was expected. We both feel that we have given things our best shot and that we are done with treatment. Even though it was only 2 cycles, I feel like it was the equivalent of 4. Basically, 2 of our cycles ended before they could even start because of the inability of our embryos to make it to be frozen. I see people all over the blogosphere that have 5 day transfers and 5 day freezes with beautiful blasts. The fact that ours can't make it to blast is indicative of a problem that IVF simply cannot overcome. The next step is to cancel out of the shared risk program and give away my leftover drugs. This is a hard step for me because it signifies an acknowledgment that we are at the end of the road. I will post an offer for the drugs very soon. I know that I need to fully grieve the loss of pregnancy and biological parenthood before moving on. However, we feel clear about the direction we are going to be heading in. John and I sense that God is leading us to pursue adoption. In no way do I consider adoption to be second best or plan B. So please don't mistake my grief as saying I have such feelings. I believe adoption is always plan A for those whom God leads to pursue it. I believe that it's just that sometimes you have to go down different paths in order for God to prepare your heart for what He has for you. I believe this is what God has done in our hearts. I will post more about this very soon, but I didn't want to delay posting about being led towards adoption any longer because I know I hinted in an early post about being led in a different direction.

Sorry for such a long post. I will try to be much better about blogging from now on. I need to figure out a new routine now that I am working.