Monday, December 8, 2014

4 years. 4 weeks : An adoption story

4 years ago I fell in love.
I fell in love with a boy with big brown eyes that stopped my heart and breath both at once. He called to me without words and I felt everything I thought I knew come crashing down around me. My eyes were shocked into focus and locked on his face before I even knew what he meant to me. I fell in love with a boy who was across oceans and time zones. A boy whom I'd never met and had only 1 photo of. A boy who had no family to speak of, no one to claim him, no one to brush his blonde hair across his forehead or lightly kiss his nose just to see if the corners of his mouth would smile. Just a boy. An orphan among millions but my heart found him. And under his photo was written the name that changed my life…Shea. 

If you were around 4 years ago you know the story of Shea and the journey I was led on by the adorable face you see above. If you don't, I feel excited and blessed to tell you to sit here and tell you, it is a beautiful story - not without it's heartaches and tears - but with the happiest of "endings." That is, if you can really call being adopted into a loving family an ending…seems like "new beginning" is a better description. And in truth, finding Shea was the first big step in our family's journey to adoption. It was Shea who God used to grab my heart and hold it tight. To mold it into a new shape and create a new heart within. That sounds painful. To have your heart grabbed within your chest and molded - pushed and twisted in ways it's never been moved. Let me tell you - it was. It was crazy-awful-painful. When I say He grabbed my heart it quite literally felt like my heart was being squeezed - and not in a comforting way. (Is there even a "comforting" way to squeeze a heart??) It felt as if my life-vessel was struggling to pump outside of my body - compressed in a vice. I felt physical pain along with emotional turmoil as my God showed me not just the plight of the orphan, or the way we should love, or the way we should act, or the way we should feel -
He showed me how HE loves.
How His plan is not always (in fact quite rarely) my plan, how His love is not always (in fact is quite rarely) easy and how His timing is often (in fact is quite rarely) the way I wish it to be. He showed me what it was to be broken for His sake - and that it wasn't about me. That if I truly wanted to follow Him, I had to let Him break me in order to build me.

 **Synopsis + SPOILER ALERT(s)**
1) I wanted to adopt Shea (shocker huh?)
2) We did not adopt Shea (no this is not my creepy way of announcing we've have a secret child these past 4 years.)
3) I was disappointed and confused by God's plan (times a bajillion) but Shea's family found him. They reached out to me after finding him and allowed me to be a part of their adoption. His mother embraced me like no other and to this day calls me "Auntie Jo" though we've never met in person. And they are living fantastic lives for God in NY. (true story).

You can read more from Me-four-years-ago here :  Saving Shea : The Rainbow
Find out more about the Kulp family and where Shea is now :) : Controlled Chaos

This was the 3rd time God had broken my heart in my entire life and I felt it severely. Little did I know, He would go on to break it again (ouch God) but each time I have come out of my shock a little sooner than the last. I shouldn't be surprised that my heart is continually broken for His sake. I am His. I can't not smile and type that. I want to be His! I am grateful to be His! He bought me at a price - the death of His son ; the perfect sacrifice- and I owe my life, heart and soul to Him forever. My broken heart is the best thing He could ever do for me because only when it is broken, can He come in and do His work. His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

(*Ok I'm sorry to interrupt myself but "And Now my Lifesong Sings" by Casting Crowns just came on pandora - the soft slow one - and I'm crying. Ugly fat tears. Ok. I just had to share that. Wait! Go listen to it and cry ugly tears. It's worth it. Really. It's beautiful and gets me every.single.time. Just grab tissues! PHEW! Ok deep breath. Back to blogging.)

4 weeks ago.
Four weeks ago our family made a decision. It was a choice 4 years in the making - covered by prayer and pleading for guidance from God. A decision that can only be made in faith as with trembling hearts and hands my husband and I prayed in earnest our Lord's will to be revealed in our lives in regards to adoption. We decided to take a month (hey that's 4 weeks too!) and pray specifically on this subject. Fears were high for both of us. Fears of finances and increased responsibilities. Fears of heartbreak and rejection. Fear of the unknown, the unplanned and the uncontrollable. But in the end, faith overcame fear. It outweighed, outtalked, outshone and outright kicked fear to the curb, giving us the courage to say yes. We said "yes" to adoption and announced just 1 day later - November 9th 2014 (the 1st ever World Adoption Day) - that we would be embarking on the amazing, mysterious, love-journey known as adoption.

(That's right. We announced it on the first ever World Adoption Day…ever… I could say I had no idea things would work out that way…but…I was definitely hoping it would. ;) No chance of forgetting that day. Ever. )

So here I am. My blog. Wow it's been a long time.

Again if you knew me 4 years ago you probably remember I used to write on this thing allllll the time. Oh my goodness.
When I was pregnant with Jet it was a way to keep family and friends updated.
When Jet was born it was my almost-daily mommy-brag book (look at my adorable baby! He's 4 weeks old and looks just like he did yesterday! He's freaking awesome and you'll never find one better! Whoo-hoo! Fist pump!)
Later it became a way of reflecting on motherhood, special needs parenting, and the joys and struggles that came with it all (and every comment felt like a hug. I'm not even exaggerating.
 I loved this little blog.)
As time when on life got busier and I couldn't visit as often so it was a way of overwhelming the world with a barrage of photos of our family from the past 3, 6 or 9 months since I'd last blogged.
And lastly, it served as a tiny sounding board where I could share a little of my feelings, thoughts, fears, hopes, prayers and pleadings as I battled anxiety and depression.

And over a year since my last post - it's still here.

Holding onto photos.

Protecting memories.

 Keeping my words for me should I wish read them again.

Waiting for me when I come back.

(Because of course it's an incredibly loyal and insightful little blog who anticipates these sorts of things.)

And I'm happy it is so.

Because I do believe…

I have some writing left to do.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

I can spell red.

The other day, I hear the familiar sing-songy voice of my little guy playing and singing in the living room. It's a new song. One he clearly learned at school. So I listened with a smile (and a burst of pride) as he sang:

"I can spell red! 
I can spell red! 
That spells red. 
That spells red."

 My smile widened to a grin followed by an eye-roll when the next verse began,

 "I can spell dinosaur! 
I can spell dinosaur! 
That spells dinosaur. 
That spells dinosaur." 

Clearly, while memorizing the tune and mastering the pattern of the song...he had missed the meaning entirely. He was singing words he didn't really understand. Words that sounded good and seemed correct at first- but were quickly disproven by the words that followed them just moments later.
He, in his innocence, was none the wiser. 
 And though I found pleasure in listening to him sing, and while I think his misapplication was quite cute -  I'd be lying if I said I didn't feel a twinge of disappointment. For while he was spelling "red" he didn't know he was "spelling red" he wasn't really spelling red...(whoa...that was confusing).
But I wasn't upset.
Not only because he's 4 years old and has done much worse things to upset me. (lol)
But because I have faith. 
Because I know that one day he will learn to spell red and understand it.
I have the hope that one day he will spell "dinosaur" and "serendipity" and "Mississippi" (because I'll teach him that cool chant of course) and what he doesn't know how to spell he'll fix through spell check just like his momma.
I wasn't upset because I believe that as he grows, he will learn, and as he learns, he will gain knowledge, and with that knowledge, he can obtain wisdom.
I wasn't upset because he isn't the first person to say something in confidence and be wrong.
He isn't the first one to repeat a truth he doesn't understand at all.
He isn't the the first child to confuse, misinterpret or misuse a tool that was meant to foster learning.
And he won't be the last.
In fact, isn't that what we all do? 

Later that day, I couldn't help but smile again as I thought of myself. 
My own words.
My own sing-songy musings in my head of how things are, how life should happen, and how my life was going to be.
I can hear my teenage self planning my adulthood. 
Who I would marry and what my wedding would be like and how many children I would have.
I can hear my college self preparing for my classroom and all the adorable, obedient students I would teach. Oh they would just love school with me as their teacher!
(and yes...I realize my teenage self was jumping the gun quite a bit. 
But I'm not exaggerating. I had all my kids names picked out. 
And hair and eye color. My poor mother...)
 I can hear my newlywed self daydreaming about the day we would have a baby. What month we should get pregnant so as to coincide with spring break and summer vacation to ensure the most maternity leave. How I would decorate the nursery.
How she would look just like me but with dark curls instead of blonde.
I had it all figured out.
Every step of my life was in my control because it was my life.
And let me tell you, this philosophy was spot on.

I got everything I'd wanted!

I graduated with my teaching certificate and fully prepared to teach in any situation! I knew all the ins-and-outs of the education system because after all - it was all about teaching the kids right? I got a job at the first school I came to, was given a classroom full of geniuses who didn't even need me, and I just sat there and smiled at how perfect my classroom looked! It was a Mary Poppins-Frauline Maria experience. Not a shred of paper on the floor. Not a drop of water around the sink. And all new materials for my students. I never ran late, never had to yell, and had my own bathroom right across the hallway. I had a perfect outdoor wedding with not a drop of rain and married that super cute Senior boy who's name I won't mention because my husband would see it. We had 2 girls and a boy who all looked like me except for their beautiful dark hair, and my house was furnished like it was out of a magazine. A pottery barn magazine...but with an "anthropologie" twist. 
Poof. Planned. Perfect.

So maybe that's not all true.
In fact, starting halfway through the first sentence it was all pretty much fabricated.

I did become a teacher. 
Was it what I planned? Not really. Not at all actually. Instead, I was challenged and stretched everyday by students, parents, peers and the "*the powers that be." I ran late because I stopped all to often for my life-blood (Starbucks) and yelled in frustration on numerous occasions. I turned the lights off so often I probably saved the county thousands of dollars. There was always paper on the floor and the counter around the sink was never dry. 
And the bathroom...let's just say I got so used to holding it I sometimes forget how to pee.
But I loved it.
 I loved it with so much of my heart that I still get teary when I think about those kids I taught and the teachers I taught with.
I still miss them.
I still miss those days.
I thank God that I had them...and everything that came with them.
(*the powers that be : people in high places who make decisions about our schools and education and tell teachers who/what/when/why/how we should teach but have never actually been in the classroom)

I did get married.
Not to the Senior I spotted across the lunch room that freshman year and stalked for a good 6 months.
But to the boy in my homeroom who's mom taught "Family and Consumer Science" down the hallway. The boy who made everyone laugh. Who cared more about having fun than what he was wearing. (which btw was usually a polo shirt tucked into his khaki shorts paired with white socks and Birkenstocks.) The boy who wore a rain poncho and prescription goggles to his soccer practices and had only been to 2 stores at the mall when we started dating : JCPenney's and LensCrafters. I married the first "guy friend" I ever had. The first boy I ever kissed. My best friend. And on our wedding day it poured rain and thundered like Thor himself was going to spilt the sky.
Man he's hot. That Thor guy.
Have you seen the movie?
There's a new one coming out!!
Thank goodness he didn't show up at my wedding and cause me to have a "runaway bride moment!"
That could have been awkward...
oh. wait. I digress...and my husband is still reading this...
I love you honey... :)

We do have a house.
And it's just that - a house.
A house that is nothing without the people who live in it.
With furnishing that include my parents' couch, David's grandmother's kitchen table and a bedroom set from Big Lots.
Ah. Big Lots. You sweetly surprised me there.
You went above and beyond. Many thanks.
Do we have a lot of stuff?
Yes. Too much.
Was it all from a magazine?
No. I got real.
Do I love everything about it?
No. Thank heaven!
Because what a nightmare I would be setting myself up for if I did?! If you really love your "things"'re in for a rude awakening someday. Things can be stolen. Things can break and fade and fall apart. Things can take over your house until you're so covered in things you're on a TLC show.
You can't take your things with you.
And some day...all those things is gonna burn! 
(cue haunting cackle)

I'm thankful for the things we have and the provisions we need.
But I could sell it all tomorrow. And someday I just might.
Then I could by a really nice camera...

Last but not least...we did have a baby.

A boy.

A boy who looked nothing like me at birth. Who in fact looked like a tiny cloning of my father-in-law. A boy whose future was threatened before he was even born and who exemplifies what the word miracle means to me.

A boy who melts my heart with his smile and can see my soul with his eyes.
A boy whose eyelashes are the envy of every girl and rivals that of the charmingly-moody guy that works at Starbucks  (you know who you are).

 A little boy whose spirit is incomparable and whose curls are just dark enough to make my dreams come true.

A little boy who is everything I didn't plan...and more perfect than I ever imagined.

So what do I mean by all this?

Just that in my son's little misunderstanding - I realized how mislead I myself at times have been. How often I am still mistaken as to what God has planned for me. In my 4 year old's "untruth" I saw the truth about my humanity. How I view things as "unfair" and interpret events to be "because of this" or feel confused at how my best laid plans have been crumpled up like a rough draft of a novel. Because that's the point. It's a novel I was never in charge of writing in the first place.
That job belongs to the Author and Perfecter.

And it's okay if I get it wrong. Mix things up. Speak in ignorance from time to time.

He will edit me.
He will teach me.
He will mold me into what He wants me to be.
It may not always be fun.
But it will be worth it.

And just like my son. I will learn.
With each new day,  Lord-willing,  I will learn a little bit more about the things I don't understand.
I will gain clarity in areas that used to be blurry and I will find enlightenment in areas I didn't even know were shadowed.

I don't know it all. And I never will. 

But I can spell red.

And I'm thinking... that's not a bad place to start.

Friday, August 16, 2013

1,000 Words

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.

That beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

And that seeing is believing.

They say the best things come in small packages.

That you can't judge a book by it's cover.

And that two heads are better than one.

They say time flies when you're having fun.

That good things come to those who wait.

And to look before you leap...

...but what about a leap of faith?

A leap of faith is not based on foresight and there is little control over the outcome. A leap of faith is not just talking about what you'd like to do or halfway committing to an idea. A leap of faith is the moment when the sum of all you believe and all you desire and all you are made of come together to take a risk. To make a choice.
To take a chance.
To say yes.
To let go.
To wait and watch what will happen next.
And to maintain the faith that no matter what will stand by your decision to leap.

To say this picture is worth 1,000 words would be the understatement of the year, for thousands upon thousands of words have been written about this child. By the mother and father who long to bring her home. By the friends and family who have been advocating for her adoption. By myself over the past 10 months. So many hearts -writing and talking and working to raise the funds necessary to bring this precious girl home.

And I'm writing to tell you...our work is not done friends.

From what I've observed/researched/witnessed, adoption is as much a financial journey as it is a emotional one.
It is easily some of the most overwhelming statistics I've heard.

But we're not talking about financing a house.
Or buying a car.
Or saving up for retirement.

We're talking about saving a life.

We're talking about Sofi Rose.
Born with spina bifida,  an orphan in Eastern Europe, and living with myriad of un-met medical needs that only add to her basic physical, emotional and mental needs of a child living without.
Whose big brown eyes reached into the very souls Tracy and Stu Jensen - and in that moment their hearts claimed her as their own.

Some time has passed.
A whole year in fact.
Many wait for their babies for 9 months and often feel the wait is torturous.
Imagine waiting over a year for a child you love, but have never met....a child without family. Imagine not being able to control or even KNOW where she is...what she's she's treated...or when you can see her. Wondering if you will ever get there. Praying she will be okay until then.

Countless days this family has waited.
All of them spent working, praying, pleading, organizing, delegating, researching, perservering in every way possible to raise funds to adopt this little girl into their family.
And not just any family...but a family of 5 boys. 
That's right.
Sofi is not only waiting for her mommy and daddy...but 5 big brothers to love and protect her.

I could write chapters about this family, these boys - what makes them special and how much my own son would love nothing more than for me to fly him out to Cali and left him with the Jensen boys! lol.
 I could tell you of their strength of character and how much they make their mother laugh.
I could tell you about how different they all are - and yet how their personalities weave and twist together create the most incredible combination of young men.
I could tell you I want 5 just like them.
And honestly...I wouldn't be lying.
So when I see sweet Sofi's face...I not only imagine who she could be with them...
...but who they could be with her.

(yep. That's my little guy in the orange tank top with Tracy. An "honorary" Jensen boy.)

But changing a life.
Rewriting a future.
Redefining a family.

 That isn't something one person, or one family or one community can do on their own.
This kind of love is beyond big.
And it takes a beyond big effort to keep it going.
It is outgrowing those who have already worked to cultivate it and now it is spreading.
To you...and your heart.
Will you help keep it going?

Share the link. Spread the word.
This world is so big. And there are so many people with big hearts.
Let's get Sofi's story to them.

How many words is her picture worth to you?

For me...there will never be enough.

They say mother's love is not divided among her children...but multiplied.

That to really understand someone, you must walk a mile in their shoes.

And that home is where the heart is.

So. I ask you.

If to give is really more blessed than to receive...

...and true love really does conquer all...

...and every girl is indeed a princess...

Then what are you waiting for?

Believe in something bigger than yourself.

Help create a world you want to live in.

Take risks that are worth just the hope of success.

Fight without reservation for something worth fighting for.

And live your life like the gift it is. 

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.
You know what else they say...

Actions speak louder than words.

So go.
Do something.
Something that gives life meaning and purpose and joy.

And never...ever...stop.

To give to the Jensen family and help them bring Sofi Rose home.

And to learn more about this incredible family and their journey, please read Tracy's blog:

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