Her Little Sister

This morning Thatcher dumped his bowl of cereal on the kitchen floor.  This wasn’t exactly a rare occasion.  The typical protocol is for Thatcher to pick up the food he dumps/throws and then wipe the floor (and then a grown up actually wipes the floor).  But the scope of the spill today called for a mop to get involved.

So, Thatcher picked up the cheerios, and I got out the mop.  Aubrey was really excited to help mop too, so there she was pushing the mop back in forth (excessively spraying one particular spot on the floor with water), when she said:

“Mommy I am a big helper now!  I know how to mop, so I can teach my little sister when she comes home!”

It would astound you how many times a day Aubrey thinks of and talks about “her little sister.”  We are not matched yet, so we do not know specifically who Aubrey’s “little sister” will be, but that doesn’t stop Aubrey from talking about her!  Here are the topics we discussed just yesterday (with no prompting from Mommy or Daddy):

“Can Daddy check to see if there are movies in Amanda’s car?” Mom: “What?”

“Can Daddy check on the movies in Amanda’s car so she can take care of us when you go to meet my little sister.” Mom: “Oh… Well, we’ll talk about that when it’s time to meet her.”

“I hope it’s soon!” Mom: “Me too!”

—–

“Mom, what kind of bed does my little sister sleep in?  A toddler bed?” Mom: “Maybe, or maybe a crib.”

“Who is taking care of her?” Mom: “Her teacher at her school.” [We have explained to Aubrey that orphanages are kind of like schools where kids live all the time and have teachers to take care of them.]

“Why does she only have one teacher?” Mom: “Well, maybe she has two.  There are kids in each class, and a few teachers to take care of all the kids in a class.”

“Are there big kids in her class?” Mom: “Hmmm… I don’t think so. But there are big kids at her school.”

“Does she eat lunch at her school?” Mom: “Yes, she eats all her meals at her school.  Would you like to live at school?”

“No…” Mom: “It would be kind of like going to MOPS or church school, but then you would stay there instead of going home.” [I got choked up at this point but didn’t want to overdo it with a 4 year old!  Also, I hope and suspect that the nannies at the orphanage would build truly significant bonds with the children since they are together so much.]

“Mommy, why is your face red?” Mom: “I’m sad about the kids who don’t go home to families.”

“That makes me sad too, Mommy.”

“Mommy, did you adopt me?” Mom: “No, you came from my belly.”

“Will my little sister come from an egg?” Mom: “No, she will come from a Mommy’s belly!”

“Will that be her Mommy?” Mom: “That will be her First Mommy.  I will be her Forever Mommy.” [We have explained that some families can’t take care of their children, so other families adopt those children.  Our conversations on this topic have varied in detail/depth over time.  At first, Aubrey was afraid that she would be changing families.  We explained that we are not the kind of family that children can leave, but we are the kind of family that children can come to when they need a family.]

“Mommy, my little sister will be so happy that you will be her Mommy!”

—–

“When I first meet my little sister I will run to her and give her a big hug!”

—–

“Dear God, please help my little sister not be lonely, and have enough water.” [Each night we ask Aubrey who she would like to pray for, and then she prays.  Last night she chose her little sister.]

I am so thankful that Aubrey is excited about her sister, and comfortable asking us questions.  I don’t want to pretend our child doesn’t exist until they come home, but I want Aubrey and Thatcher to know we are happy with them, and with our family.  It feels perfect the way Aubrey’s curiosity brings her little sister into our daily lives, and her child-faith gives us confidence to believe that someday she really will come home and join the fun.

The Forest, the Trees, and a Dirty Barn

This Christmas a startling thought crossed my mind: “I wonder if Mary ever felt like a failure as a mother?”  I mean, just think about it.  An angel comes to tell her that she has found favor with the Lord, and that she is going to carry and birth and raise the Son of God, who is destined to save all mankind.  No pressure, right?

Mary must have believed that God is sovereign.  That He is bigger than us, bigger than our mistakes, bigger than our choices.  But when Mary first felt those pains of labor, did she feel panic?  Was she afraid that she was “ruining” her King’s birth by welcoming Him into the world in a dirty barn?  Did she worry about having enough milk, enough patience, enough time for little Jesus after his siblings were born?  Did she worry that when she left Him behind at that Passover Festival that she had failed God?  Did she ever lose her temper?  Did she ever lose sight of God’s promise through Jesus?

I wonder how Mary felt when she saw her son crucified.

This Lent and Easter season, I have felt a little bit like a failure.  I don’t know if you guys remember how crafty and thoughtful I was about Advent last year, but let’s just say I pinned a few things I made.  I have always loved Christmas, but oh, Easter!  Easter is even more magical to me in so many ways.  I love the season of Lent: it usually narrows and clarifies my focus.  Maundy Thursday is always incredibly moving.  And the new life that bursts through on Easter morning!  To me, Easter is the reason we even celebrate Christmas.

Warren W Willis Camp Cross

 

Well… we have been busy.  It sounds like the most lame thing I could possibly say.  Even though we have been busy with important things—like our adoption paperwork, and fund-raising, and family dates…  I kept pushing off planning for what was really important.  I lost the forest in the trees.  I think of how a certain little child stood before the lion Aslan and couldn’t even articulate his excuses.  What seems so important and immediate in our daily lives just pales when we come into the strength and eternal presence of our Heavenly Father.

And that is who He is.

Today I was feeling regretful about not doing more Easter devotionals myself, and with our kids.  It really hit home when Dan suggested we take our kids to an Easter egg hunt so they would “start getting excited about Easter.”  That should have been my job these last few weeks, right?  Making activities, doing crafts and devotions, probably a countdown (on the kids calendar that still says “March”)?  I want my kids to anticipate Easter with the same tingles that come with Christmas!  To know and love our traditions, to understand the meaning of the day, to take time to stand in awe at the foot of the cross.  This year I feel like I am racing to catch up to the cross before Jesus moves on.

But that thought makes me stop in my tracks.  Jesus didn’t “move on” from the cross to chat with the folks who weren’t “too busy.”  On Easter morning, Jesus sought out His friends.  The ones who fell asleep when He asked them to pray for Him, the ones who denied Him, the ones who were too afraid to be known as his followers, the ones who failed Him.  He pursued them and surprised them.  He ate with them.  He stuck with them.  He reassured them and prepared them, and even left His spirit with them to guide the way.

Warren W Willis Camp Dock

Today I felt God interrupt my thoughts and nudge me, saying “It is about Easter Day, but it is also about Easter every day.”  I will truly never be enough.  I will never be a perfect Christ-follower, or wife, or friend or Mom.  I may have failed with Easter crafts this year.  And it’s a guarantee that I will fail in some way again.  Soon.  One of my best friends and I keep saying the same thing lately- how every decision we make now feels like it will affect our kids eternally.  How do we choose the right orphanage to work with?  Or which kind of school our children should attend?  How can we make sure that they make the right friends?  Will they know they are really loved?  Will they understand God’s love?  Sometimes it’s terrifying to be a parent.  But that’s okay.  God doesn’t need me to be enough.  He is enough.  He has a plan for my children that I cannot even imagine.  And it’s not up to me to fulfill it.

It’s up to me to live every day in the light of Easter.  To be ready for Jesus to surprise me wherever I am, to make time and gather up my children and my courage to come to Him—and tonight, that’s at the foot of the cross.  If I see Mary there, I’ll give her a hug.

love, Natalie

(photos were taken by Graham Foster at Warren W Willis Camp– where I first fell in love with Jesus)

paper cuts and meanwhile

By the way, I love when people ask how our adoption process is going!  It reminds me that we are not alone in this.  That our friends are waiting with us.  That even though I don’t have a growing belly, you haven’t forgotten that we’re “expecting.”  That I’m not going through morning sickness, but I may have a few paper cuts.  I can hardly believe it has been almost a year since we started the process!  We are THIS close to sending in our paperwork and officially becoming a “waiting” family.  Just saying that makes my palms start sweating.  I wish I could describe all the feelings I have about sending in our dossier, so I will try:

Excited about being matched any day!

Deflated that we may not be matched for a year or two or more……

Curious about a new person joining our family!  I cannot wait to know her!  What is her favorite food?  Will she love to cuddle?  Or play with Aubrey & Thatcher?  Or read books on my lap?

Joyous about a little one coming home.  Forever home.  Not lonely anymore.  Loved and safe.  Amen.

Heartbroken over her loss: her first family, her familiar caregivers, food, bed, friends.  Heartbroken for the family who loses their child.

Prayerful about how our child is doing.

Hopeful.

I am daydreaming about how we will announce that we are “matched” (I won’t tell you my ideas because I want it to be a surprise!)  I am thinking about the time we will spend with our child on our “bonding trip.” (After we are matched, we will visit our child in Haiti to spend some time bonding, and make our legal commitments as adoptive parents.  Then, we must return to the US and wait for the adoption process to be completed.  After all the paperwork is in order—we have been told it may take 9-12 months after the bonding trip—we will return to bring him/her home!)  I am also thinking about the time our family will spend at home, getting to know each other while our new little one is settling in.  I hope it is sunny then like it was today.

In the meanwhile, we are doing some fund-raising and working to put the finishing touches on the front end of the adoption paperwork.  If you’d like to see a timeline of our process so far, click here.  While I wouldn’t say it has been all fun and games, there have been some wonderful experiences that I am so grateful for.  For example, when else would your friends have the opportunity to write heartfelt essays on the topic of your family?  Reading our recommendation letters for our dossier brought me to tears.  What an encouragement it was to read what our friends admire and value about our family!  I also have to say that I am grateful that the process/paperwork is what it is: it helps protect children.  If we were choosing adoptive parents for our children, the “red tape” we have trudged through so far would only scratch the surface.  The paperwork is 100% worth it because our child deserves every effort we make to show we are a safe and loving family.  And what a wonderful and supportive community we have too!  I have read on blogs and forums about adoptive parents whose friends and extended family criticized their decision to adopt.  We have not heard one negative comment from friends or loved ones.  On the contrary, my friends often ask how the process is going, pray on our behalf, and join us in anticipation!

But to be honest, not every day is easy.  Sometimes this process feels frustrating and discouraging.  There are some days (even this week) when I confide in Dan my fears that “this will never really happen.”  It just feels like there is always one more step to do, or re-do.  That we will never cross the finish line on our paperwork, let alone cross the threshold of our home holding a little one from Haiti in our arms.  But we are putting our trust in God.  Remembering that His strength is made perfect in our weakness.  That His will is good and perfect.  That all things work for the good of those who love Him.  That He is the Father of the fatherless, and that He has a future and hope for all His people.

Dan and I went on a date to the local copy center this weekend, and got ice cream on our way home to celebrate the progress. (Yep, those are dinosaurs on my shirt.)

While we work and eagerly wait for that day we are together with our little one, we pray that God continues to guide us, and we treasure each day that is gifted to us.  Every Day Your Birthday has been such a joy to me!  I have found that Dan and I pray much more intentionally for all of our children because we chose a specific and different topic to pray about each night.  It is easy to get into the rut of only praying for safety, health, etc.  Every Day Your Birthday has helped us become disciplined about praying for so much more: from the first adjustment when our child comes home to the teenage years, from healthy eating and sleeping to our children’s future spouses, from sibling relationships to sports, from financial peace to mental health, from special occasions to every-day life.  We ask God to pour His blessings over it all, over us, and especially over our waiting little one.

Here is a glimpse of our every-day, our meanwhile, these treasured sunny days…

Family Pictures

My amazingly talented and sweet friend Amanda met us at the park in early February to take a few family pictures.  I am so happy we got to capture this special stage of family life.  Aubrey and Thatcher are so full of personality and excitement, and we have so much fun together.  I am also treasuring the pictures of just me and Dan.  In most photos these days, one of us is usually behind the camera, so it was really special to have a few shots of us– not as parents, but as husband and wife.  One of the main reasons we wanted to take family photos was to commemorate our journey (of adoption) toward our little one.  We have cherished ultrasound images, pictures of my belly expanding with love and life, and the hopeful smiles of waiting parents from my pregnancies with Aubrey and Thatcher.  We wanted to celebrate the growing love that is happening in our lives now, and have some special images to tuck into our little one’s baby book too.  I am tearing up just thinking of the moment we can show our child how we were waiting, and anticipating, and already loving him/her.  I know that moment won’t be just once, but time and time again: “See?  This is us before you came home.  We couldn’t wait to meet you!  We were so excited.  See that sign?  See that extra chair?  See those boots?  Those are for you!  Little one, you were wanted, you were cherished, you were loved.  And you always will be.  Forever and ever.”

(click any photo to see it bigger, comment, or view as a slideshow)

You can find out more about our adoption here.