Monday, August 29, 2011

Mama Grief

God has blessed me with the opportunity to be a part of the GriefShare ministry at Fellowship. We start our next cycle on September 6. This group focuses solely on the grief over the loss of a loved one. Over the past few weeks I've found myself wondering if God is working His ways again... not just allowing me to use my own grief journey that He guided me through when my Nana died OR if He has placed me in this group at this exact time so I can relearn the grief process and remind me to lean on HIM during these intense times of Mama Grief.

That is what I've decided to name these new emotions that I know God is using to condition my heart because these are a drop in the bucket of what I'll experience, and what I'll watch others experience, as we move through our adoption.

It is a selfish grief. It is grief for the children my body can no longer carry itself. Grief over knowing I'll never again feel a baby grow and move about in their tiny world within my body. Grief for the children that my body will never feed from itself.

It is a longing grief. God has placed it on my heart that in all likelihood, if things go as He seems to be revealing His plan to be, one of our children is likely already born or very soon to be born. And a day doesn't pass by that I do not physically long to hold that child in my arms. To kiss their sweet head. To know their smell. To rub their soft hands and kiss their tiny toes. To wrap them up and have skin to skin contact so we can bond and feel safe with each other. To pour Christ's love into every pore of their being. To jump at the chance to meet every single one of their needs and never let them doubt or wonder for a second if it is going to be met. (I'm not saying I'm the only one that can meet those needs-trust me, been there and learned that one the hard way with Bean. But I have learned that is the foundation of many adoptees' attachment challenges. But we also do not know our children's stories yet. They may be in foster care with an incredible family that loves them, cares for them, meets every single need and adore every moment they have with them. And there will be grief with that.) It is a grief of knowing that a child designed uniquely by God to be part of our family (us for them and them for us) is out there but not physically part of our family. I equate it to what it must feel like if one of your children is kidnapped and missing. You KNOW with that crazy, God-instilled Mama Bear Instinct that they are out there and you NEED with every fiber of your being to find them and hold them-for both of you. Selfish? Smoothering love? Maybe. But for some reason, it is how God made me. And so far (*knock on wood*) it hasn't damaged my kiddos too much.

It is an overwhelming grief for the grief that I know our children and their natural families will endure-not just at the moment of birth or the moment of loss of one another, but for the rest of their lives. Whether it is open or closed, there will be grief. Grief over lost dreams. Grief over not only their child and living life with their child, but a loss of who they were before their child's existence and before adoption. Grief over the way God created things to be and how that doesn't always line up with our expectations, no matter the reasons or situation. Grief over how society will forever view the natural family and how that will clog their healing.

Society consistently denies the natural family their right to grieve. Studies have shown that a natural mother's grief actually does the exact opposite of what is expected with grief involved with death: death grief generally decreases as time goes by, while natural mothers report that their anger and sense of loss actually increase over time (Dr. Condon's study of mothers in South Australia and Winkler and van Keppel's study of mothers). The loss of a child through adoption is one which usually is not openly acknowledged, and the mothers suffer alone in silence and are not "given permission" to grieve.

In many cases, the family that brought this child into the world is not recognized by the community. They will experience an emotional roller coaster that will span their entire lifetime. A roller coaster that I have never ridden and likely will never ride. A roller coaster that I can only read about in adoption books or nautral mother blogs. A roller coaster I can only imagine if I think of losing my own children, and even then, it doesn't touch it. And grief is only a chunk of that roller coaster.

It is an agonizing grief over the small glimpses of what I fathom grief will look like for the 2Bs. Grief over losses that include natural parents, extended family, foster family, home, pets, neighborhoods, schools, friends, treasured belongings, and in some cases culture. This article opened my eyes BIG time. And that is only a tiny speck of the tip of the iceberg of the 2Bs' grief.

That is as much as God will let me process at this point. I know adoption is not beautiful. It is not natural. It is messy and at times horrific torture for the triad, and the triad's traids, and their triads. I know the grief is only part of the process, and that the healing is lifelong. I know it will become a LARGE LARGE LARGE ginormous part of our every living breath. But I also know my God. And I know He heals and He loves, and He calls us to love all of our children. So for now I am trying to let it all soak in-the many griefs for the many people involved, and I try to somehow hand it over to Him and ask Him for the strength to begin to process it all so that when it is our every living breath, maybe just maybe, it will be a tiny nano-grain bit easier to hand it over every.single.second.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tucking Them In

I went to my first ever "Becoming a Woman of the Word" conference at Fellowship on Saturday. It.Was.AWESOME!!!! AND yes, I took some of the prayer chain home. And yes, it IS hanging on the mirror in our bedroom. I love it. It keeps me grounded.

While I was at the conference, I got this overwhelming desire to pray for the "to-be's" (or also "2Bs" since God has simultaneously laid it upon our hearts that He doesn't want us to stop at just one). This whole adoption journey has been a very selfish one on my part. Until now. Before I wanted to save the world through adoption. I wanted to bring babies into my home and love them and teach them about Jesus. I wanted them to know the love of a family. I selfishly wanted to hold another baby in my arms. I even went as far as yearning for midnight feedings, 3am rocking chair parties, and baby food graffiti. Then I learned that saving the baby isn't saving the world-it is just enabling it (while saving the baby and bringing them into our crazy home, and then the reality of the emotional turmoil that comes in the beautiful little package of an adopted baby hits).

God hit my heart hard on Saturday. He shook me until I awoke to the realization that if the path He seems to be laying out for us is to adopt a toddler sometime after Hunter is in kindergarten, that child is likely being conceived or born. NOW. Which means a birth mother is living in fear, anxiety, desperation, confusion, despair, and possibly not too in love with God at the moment. It means a birth family is on the brink of extinction. It means one of the 2Bs is not being nurtured in my womb but in my heart. It means right at this moment one of my 2Bs might be experiencing abuse, neglect, abandonment, or just in a horrible situation where they are not receiving unconditional love and not knowing what it feels like to be safe and know their needs are going to be met.

I'm not saying I'm a savior or that I'm a perfect mom or that I will do everything perfect for my 2Bs. It is a little more like this:

During the first week of October, I suffered inexplicable sadness for our Ethiopian kids, yet unknown to us. I couldn’t quit crying. I couldn’t stop worrying. I felt heavy and dark without knowing why. With tears burning at the slightest provocation, I threw my emotions into the Facebook ring for some backup. From adopting friends, a common thread rose up:

“God is prompting you to pray for your children for some reason. You don’t know them yet, but he knows they are yours. Intercede for them this week, then write these dates down. Once you receive your referral, check their paperwork and you might discover divine timing.”
So Brandon and I prayed desperately for our kids. Were they losing a parent? Were they suffering? Were they tender and lonely? Were they especially hopeless? Their need was unknown, but the ache was acute. So I cried the tears I just knew they were crying, and I begged Jesus to be so near, so gentle in their young, tragic lives while they waited for us, wishing a family wanted them but too afraid to hope.
God is leading me to pray for the 2Bs and I can't question that. I can't look at myself as the crazy lady praying and bawling her eyes out over kids who might possibly exist or may not have even been conceived yet, kids that I have no idea who they are, what their story is, or how they will become mine. But God tells me they will. And I trust that. And I trust his urging to pray for them, their families, and their birth mothers. And so, in a few years, when they are in my arms, I might look back and realize that Aug. 20th was a big day in their story. Maybe it is the day they were born. The day they were first abandoned. The last time their birth mother held them in her arms. I don't know. But I know God is telling me to pray, and while it breaks my heart and causes me all kinds of irrational anxiety and Mama Bear worry, my 2Bs are already my babies-in my heart and in my prayers, and I'm tucking them in tight and never letting go.

Monday, August 15, 2011

First Day of Kindergarten

Today was Bella's first day of kindergarten!!! Hard to believe that my baby girl that could barely fit into premie clothes is starting "big girl school." 

She was SUPER excited this morning and very proud of her Hello Kitty outfit that she picked out:)

Being my Silly Bean:) She didn't show any nerves until we got to the school and they opened the doors. Then she clutched my hand super duper tight with both of her hands. Then switched back to excited once we got to her room and she saw her teacher. Then a little timid once more kiddos started to arrive. Praying she has an AWESOME first day!!

The Little Brother was pretty excited for Sissy:)

Making cookies earlier this summer. He LOVES to have us turn on the oven light and "watch" things cook.

I was taking pics of him coloring and he made me re-take them so he could pose:)

Proud of his new Spidey sneakers, Spidey umbrella, Silly Bands, and his big boy hat that he wore on Hat Day at daycare:)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pic Updates

A little behind?!?!?

We decided to take the kiddos to volunteer in Joplin after the tornado. They knew that Mama had been off work (our office was closed the week immediately following the tornado. We didn't sustain any damage but we had no power.) and knew I had been up there helping, and they kept hearing about it on the radio. I decided not to take them through the worst damaged areas-though it is impossible to completely avoid seeing at least some and they both commented on the "broken houses." We were blessed to find a volunteer opportunity that was kiddo friendly. We served with the Boomtown Run Days of Service (typically it is a half-marathon but the race route was in the line of destruction so they turned it into a Day of Service-awesome idea!!!!) at the Salvation Army on 7th Street. The kids had a BLAST!!!! They got to help empty huge boxes of donated Kleenex and then use big fat magic markers to mark through the UPC codes (had no clue but apparently people try to return donated items to get money... praying!!!).

Yep, she looks just a little bit like her mama LOL:)

Watch out-muscle boy coming through!!!
Being a stinker even while serving as His hands and feet:)

This has been our absolute favorite place this summer-the Splash Park in Downtown Bentonville. Seriously THE greatest invention E-V-E-R!!!!

Waiting for the water to erupt

The 2nd best part (best part is the total fun and hearing their happy squeals)... super duper awesome naps!!!

ahhh the anticipation

Bean being Bean:)

We love the Splash Park so much that we decided to have Bella's 5th birthday party there:) She went with a mermaid (non-Disney) theme, and it was super easy!!! Anyone that has kiddos with summer bdays, I highly recommend the Splash Park. It is free to reserve the 3 tables and you don't have to come up with any cheesy games to entertain the kids-they just run and play in the water and have a blast just being kids:)

Part of the mermaid/under the sea theme... I wanted to do something super cute with the cupcake toppers (thinking this... Mermaid Party Pack) but without spending a fortune. I found these awesome foam sea characters at Target, stuck them back to back and shoved a toothpick in them:)  I had to design the mermaid myself... totally traced it:)

Definitely the hit present- a big wheels from Uncle Aaron and Aunt Ronda. She drove that thing ALLLLLL over the Splash Park LOL

Hunter had to have his turn too, of course:)

Goofy best buddies playing with Daddy's Halloween redneck wig:)

New Home

Not literally:) At least not for us yet... just our blogs. I've FINALLY dumped all our blogs into one big fat one. So now everything is in ONE place-what an idea, huh? LOL 

So if you are really super duper bored, you can scroll through the past 4+ years of posts and see Bella's birth and first years, Hunter's pregnancy, birth and first years, my cancer, and our LIFE:)

I'm going to *attempt* to be better and more consistent with posting. We'll see how that works!


Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Yep, I still stink at posting consistent updates... at least I'm predictable:) And you're getting jipped because this is going to be a speedy one.

I cannot believe Bella turns FIVE next week!! How insane is that?!?! I will be a good mom and post TONS of pictures:) She is so excited about starting kindergarten in the fall. She is definitely my girl-LOVES to read, has a wild imagination, and is such a little sponge. I'm amazed every day at her HUGE, beautiful heart that is on fire for the Lord and how amazingly gorgeous she is inside and out. She is constantly full of energy and keeping me on my toes trying to find fun, creative ways for her to channel it (instead of going into spastic, wild Indian mode LOL). She loves to explore and tell stories (somehow they always end up incorporating baby Jesus, Jesus dying on the cross, and Queen Esther). And my girl LOVES to sing!!! She is a talented little songwriter without even knowing it-always coming up with her own special little melodies that Hunter loves to hum along with.

Hunter is ALLLLLLL boy and I love every moment of it!!! I call him my rough and tumbly rollie pollie:) He loves to cuddle with his Mama and play with my hair (and, of course, as a good mama I never deny him LOL). He has really become a chatter box the past few months. It is so fun to see what he will say next. He LOVES dogs (just to look, isn't too fond of being up close and personal with them yet), balls, cars, and all things boy-except getting his hands dirty. The kiddo cannot stand to have messy fingers. The rest of him can be caked in mud, crusty pizza sauce, and grass stains, but will high tail it to the box of wipes the minute his hands get dirty. He has a gentle soul that loves giving his sister an apology hug and kiss when he gets too rough, and adores the ground she walks on. He loves to sit and have her tell him stories (which she just eats up).

Future kiddos are still very much a part of our hearts and our plans. God has been providing in awesome ways so we can eliminate our debt and start building up our savings (and sloooooowly revamping the house to either accomodate a bigger family or sell in the far off future). I'm amazed at how God has worked on our hearts to open the door for the child(ren) he has created us for. It is so incredibly refreshing to all be on the same page and be fired up!!! Bella is insistent that she have a baby sister... or a big brother and a big sister... or a baby sister and a baby brother. Glad she can be flexible:) God is definitely molding us all for what He has in store-we've become totally open to older, younger, infant, toddler, preschooler, boy, girl, siblings... it is going to be beautiful to sit back and see what he does with our family:)

The 'Rents
We are doing AWESOME!!! I never knew a couple could go from where we were at when we first met to where we were 5 years ago, 5 months ago, 5 weeks ago, to today. WOW!!! God is truly amazing! We are still definitely striving for "progress not perfection" but it is verrrrrry nice to not only now be in the same book but most of the time on the same paragraph and sometimes even the same sentence:) God has healed so much and has remotivated us to stay focused on being a team and staying strong against the enemy.

Ben got a promotion!!! He is with the same company but doing regulatory compliance. It is a more in-depth version of the research that he was doing before in his previous job so he is totally rocking!! He seems to really like the team he is with and his new boss. And he is working at the Bentonville lab so he is closer to both the kiddos during the day and doesn't have to drive as far. Super duper proud of my awesome guy!!

I'm still at Freeman in Joplin. We are the hospital that didn't get hit by the tornado but our office is a tiny block away from some of the hardest hit areas. It has been a life changing month and something that I am thankful to God that I have been able to be a part of. Our office was closed the week after the tornado because we had no power so I was able to come up a few days through the week and volunteer with recovery efforts. I met some of the most amazing, humble people and am still praising God for letting me be His hands and feet. I have never seen such devastation in my life. Pictures from Baghdad bombings pale in comparison. There is still tons of work to be done but it is encouraging to see progress being made little by little. The people of Joplin are amazingly strong and they love their city. It has been beautiful to watch them come together and to be supported all around the world. Hearing the stories of those first days in the ER have made me incredibly proud to be a part of the Freeman team.

Obviously we are not currently pursuing mission opportunities at FamilyLife as we had discussed in a previous post. We did go ahead with the interview but early on felt convicted that while God definitely had put a fire in our hearts to serve others, especially those going through marital crises, right now was not His timing. We were a little disappointed at first and almost decided to not even go through with the interview but I think God was preparing us for the feedback we received from FamilyLife which was "wait." So we weren't disappointed when they said that but almost kind of relieved because if they had said, "Yes. Now." we probably would have felt a bit leary because we knew it was not God's time. In that moment we did not WANT to wait but we also knew that God thoughtfully created us with a specific purpose in mind. And, His timing is perfect. And He is moving everything into its proper place so we can live out that purpose. We both definitely still feel a daily yearning to be in THAT place where God designed us to be. We want to be serving NOW. He is showing us that we can bloom where we are planted-right here, right now, even in the mundane daily "stuff" of living life and loving Him. We can bring him glory and serve by simply being and showing God's love in our family. I love learning life's lessons on God's terms-always soooo much more beautiful and forever when it comes from Him.

So that is where we are at. I have a million other things I want to update on and to share what God has been showing us but I've gotta run! More later:) I promise!

Oh, and PS-in case you didn't notice, I DID combine every single blog into one big fat one. At least the blogs I could remember and locate LOL

Friday, May 6, 2011

Big Fat Status Update

I'm guessing Facebook's character limit on status updates just won't cut it for this one. So yes, I've started yet another blog. And I have a grand idea of combining/condensing all the various blogs we've had over the years into one. Big. Fat. Blog. (Hey, a girl can dream!) I'll probably eventually move over to tumblr to host it but as it stands tumblr is blocked from my work computer... so blogger it is.

So the "short" version in an email I sent out to my closest prayer warriors:

Ben and I attended our first "Weekend to Remember" marriage conference last weekend. It was honestly a total "God thing" that we were there. Less than 2 months before we were at a point in our marriage where we saw absolutely no chance for a future. We were broken and hopeless. We felt like there was nothing left worth fighting for. Someone prayed for a miracle and I laughed in their face.

Thankfully God answers prayers, especially ones for miracles, because that is EXACTLY what we needed and EXACTLY what we got. Through God's sweet grace and beautiful plans, we turned our hearts back towards one another and put Him on the throne in the center of our marriage. Through TONS of prayers, tears, God's healing power, Celebrate Recovery, and counseling, we are in an amazingly beautiful place. A place where miracles happen. A place where we eagerly count down the days until "Weekend to Remember". A place where we have truly felt a calling to not only place God in the center of our marriage, but in every single aspect of our lives. This includes our work. We have both felt an overwhelming push from the Holy Spirit to have some part in a ministry-based job setting. We had absolutely no clue what that looked like. We wrestled with various daydreaming-marriage counselors, youth pastor, chaplaincy, international missionaries... and then we surrendered it to God and trusted that He would open the doors and gently guide us.

At the same time, we prayed unceasingly for God to provide a way for me to leave my former workplace (a very volatile environment that was extremely unhealthy for me and for our marriage) and still be able to help provide for our family. God provided. I am now in my 2nd week as the grant writer for Freeman Health Systems in Joplin, MO. I actually spend less time in the car every morning driving to work because there is VERY little traffic heading the opposite direction LOL:) We are now seeing that Joplin may only be a temporary detour on God's awesome path for our lives.

If you've ever been to a Weekend to Remember event, you know that on Sunday morning they make a presentation regarding opportunities to work with FamilyLife. Attendance is optional for conferees but as soon as we both read the description of the session, we circled it in on our weekend schedules. We walked away from that session ready to pack our family up and move to Little Rock faster than pronto. FamilyLife is headquartered in Little Rock and has many exciting ministry opportunities that center around the main goal of strengthening our marriages and families.

We filled out the "We are interested" card and any moment we weren't spending daydreaming of what this may look like for our family, we've been praying. A LOT. And surrendering our own wants, desires, and daydreams. A LOT. We both started getting a little discouraged around Wednesday/Thursday, especially about the whole "FamilyLife missionary staff raise their own salaries" tid bit. Then Billy called. Billy is one of the New Staff Representatives. We are scheduled for our phone interview on Monday evening at 7:30pm. As in 80 hours away. (nope, not counting!!!) We are just a little excited. ok. A LOT.

If you've read this far-THANK YOU!!!! Now we need you to pray. Pray that we would continue to put our daydreams aside and not try to orchestrate God's plans for our family. Pray that we can put aside our need to convince Billy that we are PERFECT for FamilyLife. Pray for clarity, wisdom, discernment, and the ability to just be still and listen (to Billy and God). Pray for continued encouragement for us as we still face a great amount of debt from when I was sick and we know that will play a huge role in this process. We are prepared for FamilyLife to say "wait" and ask us to revisit the opportunity once we have reduced the amount of debt. In that regard, please pray for continued resolve to squash all of our debt, to not look for quick fixes, and to know if this is God's plan for our family, it will all happen in His time and according to His will.

We have not announced ANY of this to our families yet. We are praying God will use the Holy Spirit to prod us when the time is right to broach the subject, likely after we have our first interview on Monday. If the interview goes well, they will send us a 20+ page application to each complete individually. Once our application has been reviewed and our references don't say "RUN!!!!!", the next step is the Ministry Preview weekend in Little Rock where we would meet some of the FamilyLife staff, learn more about the ministry, more of what is required of us, and more interviews. If they haven't begged us to hit the road by that point, we would go to a 10 day fundraising training in Orlando and then start raising our initial funds. It is typically an 18-24 month process. Ours will likely be longer because of the debt factor. Again, we have not discussed any of this with our families so those of you that know any of our family members, we kindly request that you hold off on mentioning it to them... run it by God all you want:)

We are incredibly appreciative of your prayers and any words of wisdom!! We are so excited to see where God is leading our family!!

God Bless and Love
The Mays