Thursday, July 30, 2015

DRC happenings

Our Child Finder interview, originally scheduled for June 14, was rescheduled for today at 2 PM DRC-time. That means it should have taken place at 8 AM Missouri-time, but we probably won't hear anything for a few weeks.

The Embassy wrote to me last week saying that our child finder did not show up for the interview on the original date. This was extremely disheartening to hear, and I requested an explanation from our agency's contacts, along with a promise to try again and hold his hand to make sure he went to the interview. (I am OVER all of the delays...) However, our agency checked with in-country staff and discovered that he had actually gone to the interview and was not allowed in because the guard couldn't find his name on the list.

Anyway, I wrote back to the Embassy immediately to request another interview appointment for this week, and expressed to the Embassy representative my grief over another delay and my concern that DRC adoptions are in such a fragile state that I want to make sure we have done everything possible to make sure Clementine is visa-ready when children are finally given the green light to leave the country and join their families.

The representative was exceptionally kind and gave me two options for appointments this week. Her name is Suzanne and I pray that God blesses her for her quick response and apparent compassion for our situation.  Sometimes an adoptive mom in crisis just wants to know someone is listening. Bless you, Suzanne. (I have thanked her profusely in every email I've written.)

Now we wait to hear something. I prayed that all went well, that the child finder was allowed into the Embassy for his appointment, that he was able to clearly convey necessary information to the Embassy officials, that the information he provided would create a complete picture that would prompt officials to clear our case without any questions whatsoever. I have hope that's what happened.

As for the adoption crisis, we continue to pray that children are allowed to join their families soon. Several members of  Congress have written and signed a letter to DRC's Parliament, urging a rapid resolution to the crisis (I mean, we are SO much closer to a resolution than ever before...we just can', and it has been reported that Acting Assistant Secretary of Consular Affairs Michelle Bond will hand-deliver the letter when she visits DRC about this issue next week.

In other news, a great man and his family in DRC lost nearly all of his belongings in a house fire, and an adoptive mom has set up a fund to help him get through this tough time (although he doesn't know about it and would not like it if he did know).

His name is Papa John--AKA "Cowboy John"--and although I have never met him, I have read so many great things about him that I desperately want to help him.  He helps adoptive parents in a range of ways, from driving them all over DRC to visit their kids to checking on kids in orphanages when parents are unable to do so. Recently, he went to an orphanage to check on a sick child, and after gathering information he even snapped a few pictures of the little girl so her parents could see her. This might not sound like much, but to an adoptive parent who cannot be near her child when she is sick, this is EVERYTHING.

Papa John needs to make several repairs to his house, but because of the adoption crisis he hasn't had as much work to complete for adoptive parents and, therefore, isn't making a steady income. (But don't think he's just in it for the money. He is known for refusing money people offer as a tip because, as he has sweetly stated, he "didn't earn it.") He will not like accepting money offered to him now, but hopefully he will see it as a blessing from people he has blessed. Although I have never met him or requested his services, just learning about him and his kind heart has blessed me. If you have extra money lying around, please consider helping a very kind man who has helped so many others without requesting a thing in return.

If you feel inclined to give to Papa John, you can do so by visiting this link:

Keep praying.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

where is my award?

Brody and Brecken completed four weeks of swimming lessons last night.

Technically, "completed" is a bit of an overstatement in Brecken's case. He was present for the classes. That's a more accurate statement.

They both got bright certificates to commemorate their accomplishments.

Considering the circumstances, I think I should have gotten an award, too. Maybe a cookie or something.

I mentioned tears during our first lesson in this post. Yes, there were tears. Brecken cried. I cried.

Let me explain. Brecken is a hilarious, silly, loud, normally-obedient kid, and we have seen these traits increase and flourish in the last six months. But that's just at home. In public spaces, where he can be seen by others, he is quiet, anxious, clingy, and tearful.

This is a constant battle in parenting. In his three years of existence, he has cried all but five times when I drop him off in his Sunday School class. That's not really an exaggeration.

We did gymnastics lessons earlier this year. He cried when he was asked to join the class in activities.

And these swimming lessons...they have taken a lot out of us.

Before the first lesson, his teacher very kindly asked him not to hit the water with a noodle. He turned away and cried, feelings hurt. He then refused to get within 10 feet of her. He didn't want any part of those lessons. I was patient and compassionate. It didn't work. I was hard and demanding. It didn't work. In all, we completed about 25% of the activities of that day, with him crying for either myself or "Daddy" the whole time. (Keep in mind that these lessons involved parents, so I was RIGHT THERE the whole time.)

When I couldn't fight it anymore, we went to the side of the pool and sat while Brody finished his lesson. I was defeated. I think Brecken was relieved to be away from his class. However, because he chose to be such a punk--as I saw it--I didn't allow him to play in the water afterward. (And he would have enjoyed it, because this kid LOVES to swim.)

The teacher came over to me after class, trying to console me and telling me to come back the next week and try again.

I tried to hold back, but I cried. (I guess this is where Brecken gets it, but the thought of the teacher internally rolling her eyes at me for being so weak and passing that along to my son made me feel like an absolute idiot.) As she continued talking and feeling bad for me, the poor mother who couldn't control her kid or her emotions, I cried more. I pretty much ugly cried right there in the middle of the whole community center. It was quite a sight to behold, I'm sure.

In all honesty, the swimming lesson fiasco was only a small part of my reason for crying. Could have been hormones. Could have been discouragement over parenting this child. (WHY can I not figure him out? And what if this Baby Girl is just as hard to figure out?) Probably, it was because of this stinking adoption. I had read more discouraging news about DRC adoptions earlier that day, and I had let it fester, marinating in every part of my body until--with the added frustration of Round One of swimming lessons--I couldn't carry the load anymore.

Round Two went a little bit better, with Brecken completing about 45% of the lesson (yet still staying 10 feet front his teacher). His teacher let him push the special button to turn off the running water before class, and that got him involved in the beginning of class while earning some points for the teacher. He never quite joined his class completely, but we were able to pick some things that he felt comfortable with and do those after his classmates finished them.

Round Three was a complete failure. He did a few activities in the beginning of class, then melted into a puddle of tears. This was probably my fault, because I had to wake him up from a nap to take him to lessons and couldn't mentally prepare him. The water was colder than normal, and as he shivered with his blue lips and anxiety, I couldn't help but feel bad for him. We sat out and waited for Brody's lessons to be over.

Then, magic. Brody wanted to swim around some more after lessons, so we stuck around a while. Brecken joined in, following and mimicking Brody every step of the way. They jumped around in the water and swam (really swam at short distances without floaties) for 45 minutes after the lessons ended.

So, Brecken had NO problem with being in the water. He had no problem with the temperature of the water. He had no problem socializing (with people he knows).

But he did have a problem in groups. He did have a problem performing. He did appear to be very anxious with others watching.

And last night, at Round Four of swimming lessons, I think my friend (whose son is in Brecken's class) nailed it: Perfectionistic tendencies.

OH NO! He IS just like me! The realization smacked me in the face.

That explains why he was so hurt when the teacher corrected him. It explains why he didn't want to do the activities with his classmates. It explains why newness threatens him, and why he doesn't like a class setting. (Good luck, Kindergarten Teacher of the future.)

With that nugget of info in mind, we took on Round Four with a new game plan. I let him do everything the class was doing in his own time, without anyone watching. I even showed him places in the pool where people wouldn't see him trying the new activities. SUCCESS!

I noticed his anxiety with new performance events, with new activities that might be hard for him. He had trouble balancing on the boogie board while kicking, and when I saw that he was frustrated--embarrassed even--we moved to more shallow waters where he could be successful. I poured encouragement on thick. I minimized perceived failures so he would know it's ok to mess up, particularly on the first few tries.

He was a new man. He even joined his class in several activities (but still refused to play Ring Around the Rosie, which would have meant he'd have to hold hands with strangers, so I really don't blame him much). He jumped into the pool, he held the ledge and scooted around the edge in deep water, he hopped on the noodle. He would not let his teacher touch him, which meant I had to help him with some swimming parts, BUT he did nearly everything his classmates did.

And armed with this new knowledge of my son, I feel like a new mom. In fact, I'm a new mom who is very knowledgeable about his condition: perfectionistic tendencies. I have lived with this condition my whole life, and it has ruined me--even paralyzed me--at times.

So although I don't know exactly what I'm doing or exactly what to do to help him, I do know how it feels and I can ask God for wisdom in dealing with it.

But in the meantime, where is my award for making it through four rounds of intense swim lesson battles? I'd take a cookie. Or something resembling chocolate. Anything will do, really. We made it through!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

happy birthday, Sweet Clementine

Sweet Clementine,

Oh, how we hoped and prayed you'd be here to celebrate your second birthday with us, your family.

I fall asleep thanking God for your little life. For the smiles and giggles you shared with Daddy on his trip, for the laughs and smiles you share with others, for your sassy little stares and the way you blow bubbles and back away so they don't land on your face. For the way you lit up with Daddy around and loved his big black beard in a way that even I don't. :o)

I wake up in the middle of the night. Whether it's from longing to hold you or yearning to hold your baby sister, I spend many nights wide awake in the dark. I pray for you every time I awaken like that. I pray you are safe and healthy. I pray you know you are SO LOVED from across the ocean. I pray you know that God loves you and wants what is best for you. I pray that God is preparing you to join our family (and I'd say He is, with all of those older boys and now a younger girl in your foster'll feel right at home here).

And I pray that He will say the Word that will end this mess and bring you home to us sooner than we can imagine.

I am thankful you have a great foster home in DRC. Your caretakers love you and care for you in the very best way possible, and I pray for them, too. They are saintly. However, they are not your forever family and I hope that wen it's time for you to join our family you will understand that a foster home isn't what's best for you in the long run. You need a forever family, and we need you.

You are stuck in DRC for now, and I am not sure when you'll join us here. I had hoped you'd already be here. Although it would have made life crazy, I even prayed God would bring you to us at the same time He brings Baby Sister, but that looks very unlikely. As much as I get onto Brody about whining, I have sure whined to God about this often. I have had temper tantrums and meltdowns and every other childish reaction to this mess, but I think God understands, just as a parent understands that sometimes life is overwhelming for a toddler (particularly when one is tired). Right now, I am just an exhausted child longing for my child. This situation is full of hurt.

We faced another setback in our process and more unpleasant rumors about the situation this week. In addition, another child died this week, while waiting on one measly little Exit Letter. You'd better believe I cried to God and complained to Him once again. I reminded Him how much we love you, how much the other families love their children, how senseless all of this is. Yet again, He reminded me, in different ways, that He is in control and undaunted, and He knows our pain. (I even got a letter in the mail from a COMPLETE stranger, telling me how God provided for her as a widow and explaining that she was praying for our family. Did she even know that we are in the midst of a difficult adoption, how hard this week has been for us, how we have craved a morsel of good news?)

Sweet Clementine, we adore you. We are waiting for you. We are fighting for you and pleading for you to join us here. Your brothers ask DAILY when you will be here. So do I. I pray you are having a great birthday in DRC, even if you don't know this day is special. We hope to make it up to you when you join us here.

With All Our Love and a Million Tears Across a Million Miles,

Mommy, Daddy, Brody, Brecken (and Baby O in Mommy's belly)

(READERS: We are making another push with Congress to get our girl, along with 400-ish others, home soon. I have a script that you can copy and paste to send to your Congresspeople if you care to give Clementine your advocacy as a birthday gift. Please contact me ( if you'd like the script. At this point, we just need as many people in Congress as possible to pay attention and do all they can to bring kids home. They are now seeing this as a true crisis, as they should, and they need some simple direction, which you can help provide.)

Monday, July 20, 2015

bunches of lotz

You may have noticed a change or two around the blog. Most significantly, the picture at the top of the page has been changed to reflect the upcoming changes in our family.

When I named my blog many years ago, I wasn't aware that I was creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, here we are, expecting to fill those two empty seats in our picture with two little girls soon.

Bunches of Lotz it is.

I expect to have the littlest of those baby girls in my arms any day now. I got the last of my weekly progesterone shots last Wednesday, so I halfway expect to go into labor in the few days following my first missed shot this Wednesday. (Brad gave me my shots the last several weeks, people. Talk about trust! He didn't even practice on an orange, as suggested by the nurse, but he still left me less sore than most of the shots given by the pros.)

I'm going to throw out a date here: July 25. I half-heartedly predict I'll go into labor on that date. Really, I only say that because Brad is doing the teaching at church on Sunday (the 26th) and, considering all of the other exotic entrances of our children into our family, they don't just saunter into our family nonchalantly. They come with a bang. Or at least an ordeal of some sort.

July 25th is also Clementine's 2nd birthday, and for the second time we will be celebrating her from across the ocean. I have no guesses about when she will be in my arms. I HOPE and PRAY it will be in 2015, but as of today children still haven't received Exit Letters, despite DRC's promises. (We are calling the White House and our Reps and Senators about this DAILY, in case you are interested in some advocacy for us. President Obama will be in Africa soon, and we are asking him to discuss this adoption crisis with President Kabila personally.)

I'll be back soon with further updates, thoughts on failing at parenting, and some of my favorite pics from our session with Ziegler Photography.

Friday, July 17, 2015

My best family picture advice: Talking poopy

Last night we dressed ourselves up and submitted ourselves to the authority of a blazing hot, humid evening in the grass fields by our home. This means only one thing: family picture time. 

Or, as I like to refer to it: family/fatty picture time. Because my belly is definitely not getting any smaller. 

Our pics were taken by Ziegler Photography. If you are in the Southwest MO area, you should DEFINITELY check them out. Esther is the sweetest thing ever, and Nathan did most of or grunt work for us by carrying chairs outside into the blazing sun and even entering our scary bathroom remodeling zone to search for my husband's wedding ring. He even played with our boys to keep them occupied while we took some fatty-daddy pics. 

Here's something you should know about us as a family. Of the four of us, two of us of are insanely picture-awkward. We can't smile in front of a camera like normal civilians, nor do we have an inkling of an idea what it means to "act natural" in front of a lens. One of us is insanely cute (my personal opinion, of course) and ornery but hates smiling for a camera. One of us is a cocktail of cute, photogenic smiles with twinkling blue eyes and beautifully bronzed skin that would make a model of any age drool with jealousy. He's got it (and our genes can't take any credit for it; he was adopted).

That said, on the rare occasion when we try to get a "cute brothers picture" we end up with something like this: 

Rather than pressing the issue and forcing smiles just because the boys were both dressed up and in front of a cameras a Christmas tree, I gave up on any notion that we would get a cute picture out if them for at least the next 15 years. Fortunately, we don't take ourselves very seriously around here, so we rocked that picture on our Christmas cards with a message like, "With more joy than enthusiasm, the Lotz family." (I'm pretty sure that Christmas card got more play and ended up on more refrigerators than all of our previous cards, so I think we might just be onto something with the awkward pic motif.)

With that info and past picture experiences in mind, I had an inkling we'd have an especially tricky time getting smiles out of our tiniest (but not for long) household member. Not because he doesn't like to smile or laugh--he is an absolute goofball in his own element--but mostly because he likes to do things in HIS own way and in HIS own timing. 

Consider: Last summer when we took pictures with my whole family, the ONLY smile we got out of Brecken came when Paw Paw (my dad) held him. Otherwise, he looked like a stone-cold killer who'd rather be eating ice cream. 

He looked bit like this, actually: 

(So thrilled. Little do you know that he BEGGED to put those goggles on.)

Or, in a cuter variety of the stone-cold face, this: 

(Although I must admit that these are two of my absolute favorite pictures of Brecken.)

Therefore, knowing the challenge that loomed ahead with family pictures last night, we set to work on a plan. 

(My parents were out of town for the week, this making Paw Paw's presence and positive picture influence impossible.)

First of all, we threw out a nice incentive for completing pictures happily: "We will smile nice and big for pictures, then we will spend the night at MeMaw and Paw Paw's house (even though they weren't's still special) and go swimming tomorrow, then we will go pick out Brecken's birthday cake!" That got some grins, and we hoped we were on the right track. (Yes, this could be referred to as bribery, but bribery works and can be considered somewhat appropriate if used sparingly.)

Second, we took the kids to the pool before pics to wear them out (and conveniently, we all got some slightly sun-kissed cheeks while we were there). Then we came home to take long late naps right before pics. Having tired kids during pics is NEVER a good idea.

Third, upon awakening from naps, I slipped Brecken some ice cream with chocolate syrup. Ice cream, to Brecken, is the preschool equivalent to a couple of sips of Bacardi for an average adult. (Ice cream has the same effect on me, by the way, which is why my brothers BEGGED my parents to steer clear of it throughout my childhood and why I haven't had much use for alcohol in adulthood.)

After the ice cream hit the bottom of  Brecken's belly, I assumed we were as happy and ready for pictures as we'd ever be. Brecken appeared to be feeling the ice cream buzz as soon as Nathan and Esther Ziegler showed up at our house; he gave Nathan a high-five upon entrance. This is unheard of, and it slightly contradicts my proclamations of his aversion to new social situations (mentioned in this post...more on this predicament to come next week). 

Ok, ice cream was doing its thing, we had the prospect of a night at MeMaw and Paw Paw's on the table, and a day of swimming and cake-choosing loomed on the horizon. I thought we would do ok. 

But then we began posing, and that camera lens took over the focus of Brecken's mind. Things started going downhill. First, it was the unaffected stare. He stared at that camera with zero emotions, like it was a blank white wall. We tried talking about his favorite things: ice cream, chocolate, monkeys, swimming, jumping, MeMaw and Paw Paw. But all to no avail. (If anything, this kid's game face will come in handy when he's older, making his opponents sure he's serious about competition.)

Next, we tickled. I tickled his belly, whispered funny things into his ear, made silly faces. Still nothing. Brad took over, siting Brecken on his lap and reminding him of the fun things that we got to do after pictures. When Brecken started realizing all of the focus was on him, I saw a glimpse of chin-quiver. 

Uh-oh. We are done. 

We switched positions and placed Brecken on Brad's neck while continuing to talk about good smiles and a future of staying at MeMaw and Paw Paw's and swimming and Batman cake. 

Still stone-cold.

Then I remembered it. That word that worked for the smiling-boy pictures I took on Easter when I was getting nothing but blank stares and wrinkled noses before. The word that, at all other times, we say is inappropriate. 


He broke. He tried holding back a smile, but apparently poopy is not a word that he can ignore. There is just something way too awesome about bathroom humor for him to handle. 

This is the first picture I've received as a sneak peak from the session. I believe it was taken at the very moment after Brecken's game face began to break. Not too shabby! 

We all joined in. "Poopy! Poopy! Poopy!" (Did Esther know what she was getting herself into with us?) He was smiling his biggest, brightest smile now, and the light in his eyes intensified with every exclamation of the word. 

Once his game face broke, we were home free. He relaxed and smiled for the camera. He kissed my forehead. He and Brody laughed and hugged. 

And then the ice cream buzz kicked in. His joy was in full effect. Angels sang. The heavens rejoiced. 

Pics were actually really fun after the initial stress of the question, "How will he react?" was factored out. Although we were all sweating ("glowing") from our heads to our toes, we enjoyed some good fun as a family, and I am quite sure that Esther captured great pics, despite our still-awkward selves. 

My advice to you, if you have a tricky picture-kid/socially anxious kiddo/stone-cold killer-face: Feed him ice cream and then talk poopy. Extend the conversation to tooting, if needed.**

As Esther said last night, we will never be in this stage of life again; everything is about to change. Our kids will not be this little long, and we will have others joining us soon. We want to remember life as it is now, even if it isn't always pretty. If nothing else, a good old ol' crying pic will serve as a good (sometimes even cute) reminder of life as we sometimes knew it. 

**This poop-related advice may or may not work for girls. I will try it out in a year or two and get back to you. 

Monday, July 13, 2015


Tomorrow is a semi-big day.

Our Child Finder Interview takes place at the Embassy tomorrow. This is when the person who found our girl will go to the Embassy officials and provide details about how, when, and where she was found. We are praying the interview goes well and provides great answers to the officials who are reviewing our case. I'm not sure that I'll hear anything from them after the interview, but I will probably check in with them afterward just in case they want to share any info with me.

Also tomorrow, I will officially hit my GOAL in this pregnancy: 34 weeks! Anything past tomorrow is bonus, according to my doctor. That means that, theoretically, I can have this baby any day. I will wait until my doctor's appointment Wednesday to determine whether or not I need to get one more progesterone shot, but the mere thought of being done with shots AND having a newborn baby girl in our home soon is thrilling! Also, the thought of lying on my stomach or even flat on my back is exciting. I know I shouldn't complain about sleep because it's about to get a WHOLE LOT WORSE, but at this point I am getting my best (only?) sleep from 6 to 7:30 AM. It's the little things, people.

Also tomorrow, Round Two of swimming lessons. I lost Round One in an epic battle of sheer emotion and will power. One of my children, who shall remain nameless at this point, is quite a challenge in new social situations. He may or may not have cried throughout ALL of his last lesson until I finally sat him down on the sideline. (He loves to swim, so I'm sure it wasn't from water anxiety.) And I may or may not have cried in frustration over how hard it is to parent him sometimes (and I suppose hormones and the continual letdown over the adoption situation in DRC might be partially to blame, too).

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn't mention my hope that tomorrow is the day we finally hear that Exit Letters are being issued for waiting children in DRC. It has been too long since we've heard good news regarding Exit Letters...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

in this valley

Kids were supposed to be home from DRC with their adoptive families by now.

Since April, we have been hearing that kids would be home "soon." For the last month, we have been hearing that things would move "next week." Two weeks ago, we heard that Vice Prime Minister Boshab in DRC would be signing off on paperwork for around 120 children to come home (although there was never a set plan in place regarding the actual issuance of Exit Letters). We were told he would sign them late last week and provide info to Embassies regarding which families were approved. We were told that the commission had a goal of approving 50 files each week until all kids in the pipeline were home. This plan would have gotten all kids home by the very end of 2015, at the very earliest. 

We waited like ravenous dogs to get even a nugget's-worth of information from VPM Boshab through our Embassy in DRC. 

Our Embassy was closed for the holiday Friday, so we *hoped* to hear something Monday. Nothing. 

We hoped to hear something yesterday. Nothing.

We hoped to hear something today, and we did, but it was not what we hoped to hear. 

We heard that at least 13 U.S. cases were approved by the DRC Adoption Commission. Now those cases will have to have final authorization from President Kabila, which "could happen as early as next week." Then, supposedly, they can get an Exit Letter and go home to their parents.

But, then again, that may change. There might have to be another hoop to jump through, approval to receive, or fee to pay. There might be something else that needs to happen "next week."

Because it's always something else. And things are always going to happen "next week."

What we have here is a moving target. A new goal for us to hit with each week that passes. A new something extra that should get done "next week."

New paperwork submissions. New Bordeaux Letters. New signatures and approvals. Some parents even have to get new visas for their children (some for the FOURTH time in this wait). 

Meanwhile, our adopted children grow older in these days, weeks, and months without families, all while we are trying to hit several moving targets to get them home where they are safe and settled and cherished. 

My heart is sick. My body is weak. My vision is cloudy. My mind is struggling to battle through this with Truth. 

I ask Him if He sees all of this. Does He hear me and the hundreds of other parents who are crying out for help here? Does He know that we are starving for a simple morsel of good news? Does He have the power to fix this, to change hearts in DRC, to send a rescuer? Does He care? Does He understand?

Of course He does. He, as a Father, knows what it's like to be separated from the children He loves.

And I KNOW, although feelings betray me today, that God is Sovereign. He reigns. He reigns here and in DRC and everywhere in between. God is all-powerful and all-knowing. God loves C and has great plans for her. He loves us and has great plans for us, too. He is merciful. That is Truth. 

Jars of Clay sums it up pretty well here, in a song that helped carry me through the hardest days of Brody's adoption. It is now helping me remember God's faithfulness back then, and it's helping me see His continued faithfulness now: 

"The Valley Song (Sing Of Your Mercy)" --Jars of Clay

You have led me, to the sadness, I have carried this pain. 
On a back bruised, nearly broken, I'm crying out to You...

I will sing of Your Mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.

When death, like a gypsy, comes to steal what I love, I will still look to the Heavens, I will still seek Your face. 
But I fear You aren't listening, because there are no words. 
Just the stillness, and the hunger, for a faith that assures. 

I will sing of Your Mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy. 
I will sing of Your Mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy. 

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia...

While we wait, for a rescue, with our eyes tightly shut, face to the ground, using our hands, to cover the fatal cut.
And though the pain is an ocean, tossing us, around, around, around,
You have calmed greater waters, and higher mountains have come down.

I will sing of Your Mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy...

Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia, Alleluia...

I will sing of Your Mercy, that leads me through valleys of sorrow, to rivers of joy.

I am wrecked here in this valley, but I'm hopeful to be led to the rivers of joy soon.

-- "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy." Psalm 126:5 --

Monday, July 6, 2015

seven-year adventure

On July 5th, seven years ago, Brad and I said "I do" in one of the quickest wedding ceremonies ever. I am pretty sure it lasted 11 minutes.

I continue to be thrilled that we conned some of the best musicians we know into singing and playing in our ceremony. (I share the following videos purely to prove that the musicians were awesomely gifted. Those voices...seriously! I get a little jealous every time I hear them sing.)

It could have been a HOT wedding. Early July in Missouri is not always kind, and the humidity could have done a real number on us. However, thanks to a quick showery mist (1.5 minutes in length) right before the ceremony, the air cooled off and the faint hint of a rainbow could even be seen in the distance. I think this day, with its potential for disaster through circumstances that God turned to beauty, foreshadowed the coming years of our marriage.

It was a great 11 minutes, but those 11 minutes don't hold a candle to the 7 years of marriage that followed. 

When you enter a marriage, you never know exactly what you're going to get. Of course, you don't fully know the person you marry, no matter how long you have known that person, nor do you fully know yourself, no matter how old you are. 

I married an intense, winning baseball coach. He married a quiet English teacher (which I am pretty sure he swore he would never do). 

I am now married to a Discipleship Minister. He is now married to a "Pastor's Wife" (who has struggled with that role), stay-at-home(-for-now) mom who blogs and is somewhat undecided about "what I want to be when I grow up." These are surface-level changes that reflect subtle shifts in priorities. For him, a shift away from a busy life in the educational system as a coach or administrator, which would have left him with less time for his passion, discipleship. For me, a craving for more time to be with and train my kids while they're little and a readiness to bring our Sweet Clementine home to a Mom who can help her attach in a healthful and uncomplicated way. (We had hoped she'd be home in the 2014-2015 school year, which is one huge reason I stopped teaching last year.) 

I am so proud of the man I married and the man he continues to become. 

And these 7 years...They have been full. Full of emotions and experiences on both ends of the spectrum. We have lost so much. But we have gained so much more. 

To my knowledge, Brad dreamed of elk hunts up North, state championships, and campfires. My dream was to travel, to live a life of adventure. We even visited Mexico and Costa Rica and San Diego and New York and places in between. We planned to do more, but our plans often changed into adventures we never even saw coming. 

One time we signed up for a mission trip to Africa (my dream come true). I found out I was pregnant after putting our money down and attending the training sessions. Based on the recommendation of my doctor, we made the decision not to go. A few short weeks later, I miscarried. Not only had we missed a trip to Africa, but we had also missed out on our dream for a child. Our loss was doubled. 

After a year of healing and waiting for our next child, we decided to adopt. One week after receiving approval to adopt, two weeks after moving into my parents' basement after the surprisingly quick sale of our home, and two days before the 2011 baseball season started, we got THE call. There was a baby boy; we had been chosen. 

That became an adventure all its own. (Kentucky was not really on our list of "must-see" places, but we saw plenty of it in our court-mandated five-week stay there.) Brad missed the first days of baseball season--I'm sure it was something else he said he'd never do. We almost lost this precious boy named Brody. Brad comforted me and spoke Truth to me and held Brody and I close as we waited for courts to decide if Brody would stay with us or go back to Kentucky. I poured my soul out to the One in whose hands the heart of the king--in our case, the judge--rested. Over and over, I asked him to turn that heart toward us (Proverbs 21:1). He did. 

We finalized Brody's adoption and found out we were expecting a baby boy in the same week of April 2012. Surely, we thought, this pregnancy would be easy (as if we deserved it or something). We planned a beach vacation with my whole family in July 2012. We were going to take amazing maternity/family pictures on the sandy white beaches of Florida and return to prepare for another baby boy. At 29 weeks pregnant and a few days before our vacation, my water began leaking, and after 10 days of hospital bed rest, Brecken was born at 31 weeks. Another five weeks of our lives were spent somewhere that wasn't on our adventurous bucket list (yet it became very adventurous): the NICU.

One year later, we were in the midst of another adoption, this time from DRC. While we knew it was crazy, we accepted a referral for male and female twins, Omba and Shako. After one month of moving forward, loving, and praying for those sweet babies, they died due to dysentery. This was a new sort of loss, but it was not unlike miscarriage. It, too, was a loss of hopes for the future. We had pictured our lives with those kids. We saw the craziness that would ensue and we were (mostly) ready to bring them home. Unlike miscarriage, though, we pictured them suffering in death with no mom or dad around to comfort them. 

Our plans changed again, and as we were still aching from the inside out we accepted another referral, this time for our Sweet Clementine. We hoped she would come home to us more safely and easily. I planned another trip to Africa--got my shots and hoped it would be in Spring 2014--to meet C and file paperwork. We waited and waited and waited for the green light. 

We got pregnant, and we lost that precious life, too. 

And, alas, in the midst of waiting, our plans shifted once again. We are waiting for another sweet Baby Girl (although, since this one is biological, there's a good chance she will be at least 7 parts saucy). She needs to stay in my womb as long as possible, and we hope the Baby Girl across the ocean comes home to us as soon as possible. 

We finally got the court papers needed to travel to DRC and file paperwork, but with my history of premature birth and the risks associated with DRC travel, I couldn't go. For me, it was another African adventure lost, not to mention the loss of my dream of meeting her in her foster home before bringing her home. (And maybe it was for the best...As I mentioned in this post, I would have been a blubbering mess of emotions that last day with her.) 

And there was also that trip to Italy that Brad took for work and could have taken me on a few months later. Pregnancy took me out of that adventure, as well. 

All of this said, this crazy seven-year adventure has been the best kind of adventure with the best kind of man. We have made mistakes. We have done some good. We have traveled some. We have surfed off the shore of Costa Rica and held our noses in the subways of an New York. Brad has been on a bear hunt, and even though he was "just" a camera man and a few hours removed from a nasty stomach bug, it's at least close to the elk hunt about which he's always dreamed.

We have seen four children in our future and then watched as they were devastatingly pulled from our grasp. We have welcomed two children into our home, but not without two drawn-out, heart-pounding waiting periods. We continue to wait for two children to enter our home. We have missed trips of a lifetime. We have let go--at least for now--of dreams we once had. No, we have not been through the worst experiences imaginable, but they haven't always been the best, either. 

Could I have made it through without him by my side? Possibly, but not in the same way. He and the Truth he has spoken (or sometimes just let settle within me) throughout our wide range of crazy experiences has altered my eyesight. This Truth he has helped me understand joy as a product of sadness. (Absolute side note: I think the movie, Inside Out, captures this beautifully.) It turns hurts into strengths and ashes to pure beauty. I don't think any other man besides my Bradlee could have helped me see all of that.

Where would I be without him? Possibly (by myself?) on a beach in Fiji or a mountain in the Swiss Alps or a tundra in Australia or on an African Safari. Possibly not. But it would never be as beautiful as this seven-year adventure with him (and now these children) by my side.  


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What's Happening THIS Wednesday

It's raining here. Again.

Happily, we were able to go to White Water and enjoy the mild, sunny weather with friends and family yesterday. (Thank you, Jill, for the free tickets!!). Picture this: Three pregnant ladies, five kids ages five-and-under, one husband, and a grandmother. We looked a bit like Sister Wives. But it was fun, and the boys were tired when we left. Win-win.

And Monday...Monday was the most glorious day of June weather in Missouri I've ever experienced. We spent all day outside, relishing in the low-80s temps and cool breeze.

Today I am sitting with my feet up, figuring out what else I might need for the Baby in my Belly while also somewhat freaking out about the large upcoming expenses (childbirth; adoption/travel; finishing a bathroom remodel; possible minivan purchase--SIGH; not to mention the simple act of feeding and insuring four kids). But mostly, I am getting excited.

First, let's talk about this master bathroom remodel. We began this on a snowy day (yes, 19 weeks ago, in February).

It sat around and we demolished minor aspects of the bathroom while we figured out exactly what we needed/wanted to do. We knew we needed to get rid of the bathtub, as we had NEVER used it and the water was often turned on by curious toddlers. Any amount of water in the tub pooled in the center, forcing us to clean it up every time a child turned the water on (daily). Or, if we didn't clean it, the pool of water left multiple disgusting yellow rings in the middle of the tub while it dried up on its own. After a Saturday full of water fiascos--one of which caused a hole in the ceiling of the room below our bathroom--we finally came to some decisions and called a plumber to do the expert-work. Then we waited approximately three weeks for him to call us back with his quote. He never called. Finally, we got a good plumber who finished the work in about a week,

(Just trying the tile color...not placing them like this.)
and "we" (Brad, while I said "yay") built a wall on Monday, leaving us here:

Now we can put drywall up and wait for some pros to come measure and create our inside shower walls. I hope we can get this done by the time this Baby pops out. (If not, it will be the second time we have a baby right in the middle of a bathroom remodel.)

Speaking of Baby...Brad just gave me another progesterone shot to keep Baby Girl in the oven a bit longer. I now only have to receive TWO MORE SHOTS. When I told Brad that this morning I think he may have stopped breathing for a second. We are just SO CLOSE to having a newborn in our midst. (I mean that quite literally...She will be living much of her little life in the nook of our bedroom, where we have a bassinet all ready to go.)

As I mentioned before, the doctor "basically" gave me the go-ahead to pop this baby out at the 34-week mark. I mean, she didn't really tell me to give birth at 34 weeks, but she did say anything past that mark is a bonus. That means that my last progesterone shot will be on July 14, and I can technically give birth any time after that. That's TWO WEEKS, people. (Of course, it might also be closer to eight weeks. That's ok. If anything, we are learning to be patient in waiting for our kids.)

July 14 is a big day for another reason, as our Child Finder interview will take place in DRC with the individual who found our Sweet Clementine and brought her to a foster home in DRC almost two years ago. (I wrote more about this here.) This is a big step in the I-600 investigation, which began (but nearly didn't begin!) on June 17. We are already praying about this interview process...that the individual would get to the appointment on time with all necessary paperwork and information, and that it would present a clear picture of the events of that night when C was found. We are hopeful that the investigators will find no red flags in the paperwork, which will enable them to complete the investigation by July 29.

And that's what happening this Wednesday. I'm off to pack some hospital bags, just in case.