Sunday, November 27, 2011

Starting Our Family

We have been talking about adoption since our dating days. Andy recalls an evening sitting on my porch, playing Scrabble when I asked him, "So, how do you feel about adoption?" Having been friends with me for more almost three years, Andy knew that saying no to adoption meant saying no to me. So, that night Andy said, "I have never really thought about it, but I am open to the idea." And that began our journey.

The weekend after we got engaged, we attended Together for Adoption and Andy fell in love with the idea of foster care. We have planned to begin our family through adoption from that day. We may or may not try to have birth children, but wanted to begin our family through adoption because currently being childless we have more freedom on how many children and the ages of children that we can welcome into our home. We recently completed our home study with OmniVisions and are awaiting approval. It is likely that our home will be opened in December and we hope to have a placement of children in January. To begin, we have decided to open up for up to two children ages 10 years and younger who are available for adoption.

This is our plan. We believe that we are following where God is leading, but we also know that He is in control and our plan could definitely be different. In some ways I am so thrilled to be opening the doors to the next chapter of our lives and in some ways I am absolutely terrified. We are walking into foster care and adoption with our eyes open. Through or training and through friends who foster and adopt we know some of the hard things that we will likely face. Most likely our children will have been abused and neglected in their homes of origin. Very possibly our children will have memories of those homes and will, therefore, have diffuculties adjusting to new homes because of those experiences. Our children may exhibit behaviors that are a result of past abuse. I have started looking through Web sites of adoptable children and wondering if any of those children are the ones we will adopt. Then, fear will grip my heart. "How can we possibly do this? We are not prepared to take care of these sweet kids who have endured so much!" Yet then I remember the reason we have chosen this path to begin with because if we do not open our home, then who will? So, instead of letting the fear take hold I pray that God will give me a spirit of power and love and a heart that is ready to embrace this adventure.

So, our next chapter should start soon. We are buying some bunk beds from a friend. I have put in my notice at work and will have the good fortune to be a stay at home mom. Now, we just need som kids!

Friday, November 25, 2011

A New Kind of Christmas

Last year, I really wanted to begin to celebrate Advent as a family. We decided to do reading each night at dinner to prepare our hearts and to anticipate Christ's coming. Christmas is such a miraculous time. God came as a man to be our friend, brother and Savior. Thinking of Christ has a baby makes him so very human to me and makes the story of his life, death and resurrection so profound. We watched the Nativity Story movie a few nights before Christmas and will do that again this year. It will move you to see these people you have read about since your childhood actually depicted as real people with real emotions and stories.

Andy and I spent our first Christmas together while we were engaged. Since we were spending so much money on our wedding, honeymoon and getting our house set up we chose to do one small gift each for Christmas. That worked well, so we did the same thing last year. One gift with a very reasonable price limit. Between the two of us we have a decent number of people to buy gifts for. I was hustling and bustling to get it done last year when I read Ann VosKamp's "Thinking About Whose Birthday It Is." I was ruined. I knew that this was how our little family was supposed to celebrate the birth of our blessed Jesus. We were suppose to forgo luxuries for ourselves to give to people who do not even have necessities.

We are very fortunate to have everything that we need. As are our families. Both of our families enjoy buying gifts for each other and are very generous at Christmas. For Christmas this year, and hopefully for years to come, all of the gifts we are giving and receiving a for Jesus. He has told us that when we give to the least of these that we give to him, so that is the way we want to celebrate His birthday. We have made a list of charities that we will be donating to and asked our families that if they would like to give us a gift to donate to one of these or a charity of their choice. A few of our favorites are: Show Hope, Covenant Mercies, Blood Water Mission, Hope Resource Center, International Justice Mission and Bethany Christian Services.

Let me just say, this is a really hard mental and emotional shift. For months, I have seen things that I want in stores or on-line and thought,"I will ask for that for Christmas." OR "I want to get that for Andy for Christmas." It will take some time to undo my 31 prior Christmases, but I know that this is the right thing for our family and I am excited to be taking the big step to making it a reality for us. Sacrificing for others is always worth it in the end. Truly I do not need a pair of Uggs or a new Chi when there are children who do not have water they can drink because it is infected with feces. I do not need more place settings of my china when there are children enslaved as prostitutes. We are blessed with great abundance and we need to share it more.

Our Advent season will be filled with Sunday night movies (come on by our house every Sunday in Advent to eat soup or chili and watch a Christmas movie!) with friends, a few treats on St. Nicholas Day, driving around to see Christmas lights, sipping hot chocolate, a Neighborhood Open House and hopefully plenty of down time to enjoy the company of those we love, exchanging stockings with Andy, Sam and Sarah, and pondering the wonder of Emmanuel, God with us.

P.S. I also saw this cool idea on Pinterest: “Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read.”

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Building Our Traditions

This is our third holiday season together. In 2009, we were engaged and last year we spent our first Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year married. I love traditions! In fact, I was stressed out last year to find perfect holiday traditions that we could celebrate every year and be able to say, "We have done this every Thanksgiving since we were married." Silly, I know. One tradition that we started last year and did this year was a month of thankfulness. Since November 1, we have been writing every night at dinner thankfulness leaves and posting them on a board. This has been a really good way for the three of us to think about Thanksgiving as more than just a feast with a big turkey.

We have decided, at least for now, that we will stay at home on Thanksgiving and travel to St. Louis to see both of our families at Christmas. We will miss seeing our families today, but are so thrilled to have a relaxing weekend at home together. This morning we are just lounging around and will watch the Macy's Parade. Well, I will watch it. Andy and Sam are still snoozing! This afternoon we are volunteering for clean up at KARM's Thanksgiving lunch (Knoxville's homeless mission) and this evening the Blantons are joining us for dinner. I have been cooking little by little each day this week and I am looking forward to a great holiday!

This weekend we will decorate for Christmas. I am definitely a no Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but I am ready for some Christmas cheer. Andy and I will deck out the house and then decorate our family tree when Sam gets home from work on Saturday. We will visit the Fantasy of Trees which is one of my favorite Knoxville events!We have had such an incredible year and I am so blessed to share my life and my home with Andy and with Sam. Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Honeymoon Baby

I did not want a honeymoon baby. In fact, I was so adamant that I did not want a honeymoon baby that I broke down into sobbing hysterics on our honeymoon when I thought that our contraception of choice wasn't working properly. Poor Andy had to comfort an irrationally hysterical wife just three days into marriage.

It did not surprise any of our friends and family when Andy and I welcomed Sam into our family last year. Our sweet friend Sarah had taken custody of her younger brother, Sam, in 2008. He had the awesome opportunity to live at Bethel Bible Village in Chattanooga for more than two years, but last year he finished high school and his time at Bethel was coming to an end. Sarah shared at our small group that if Sam couldn't find a job in Chattanooga that he would be moving onto her sofa. For a few days I mulled over Sarah's predicament. Then it hit me: he could live with us. Sarah lived in a house with two other single girls and little space to spare. I lived in a house with three extra bedrooms and an incredible male role model. Andy was away that weekend and I kept rehearsing how I would ask him if Sam could come to live with us. After he arrived home, I dropped the bomb on him, "I think that Sam should move in with us." Andy said that he would think about it and we snuggled onto the couch to watch a movie. About an hour later, he paused the movie and said, "I think that Sam should move in, too." That was that.
 God put a desire to do foster care into our hearts during our engagement and while this wasn't actually foster care, Sam was a young person who needed a home and we had a home to provide. Sarah reminded me recently that I said to her, "Sarah, we are Christians, this is the type of thing that we do for each other." It really is that simple, God tells us to open our hearts and our homes to our brothers and sisters, to the foreigner, the widow and the orphan.

We have been taking our lumps lately in regards to being mentors to Sam. We are rookies fighting battles that seasoned parents find exhausting. Sam is the sweetest young man you will ever know, but he is a typical 20 year old that is very tough to motivate and inspire when most of the time he wants to sit around playing video games and reading comic books. Crafting a responsible adult is a long, slow, arduous process. Last night, as I bandaged his hand from a small wound he got at work, Sam told me that he was preparing me to be a mom. I am not Sam's mom, he has a mom and house mom that fill that role, but I realized for the first time that Sam is my honeymoon baby. Sam moved into our home on October 25, 2010. A honeymoon baby, had he come the traditional way, would have been due in the last week of October. So here's to my 6 foot 2 inch, 250 pound honeymoon baby who is teaching me each day how to be a mom.