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.  


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