Monday, January 30, 2017

The Gift (Our NFP story) Part 2

(You can read  Part 1 here

     So, by the time Andrew was 18 months old, we knew God was saying no to having more children at the time.  And, as mentioned before, He provided so much peace about it, that we knew we had discerned correctly.  Yet, even with that peace, I had to mourn the fact the we might not ever have any more children.  Yes, we were still open to life, of course, but from the time after Andrew’s birth, until today, we practiced NFP faithfully to avoid pregnancy.  And it took time to accept that we might not have any more children.  There were times when I would hold a friend’s new born baby and then go home and cry because I knew I might not ever know the joy of holding my own baby again.  We live in a community where life is celebrated and families are large.  Usually more than one friend is pregnant at a time.  In those early days, each pregnancy announcement was met with great joy for the friend, but often left me with an empty feeling.  I understood, in many ways, why God was calling us to not have any more children at the time; my body clearly needed to heal and then there was the pull to adoption,  but it often did not make it any easier to accept. 

      But as with many challenges, time did heal the wounds.  And after a while, I began to relish our time as a family of 5.  We enjoyed special time as a family of five that I will always cherish.  Joshua, Caleb and Andrew are still affectionately referred to as “the boys” even though they are no longer the only boys in our family.  Personally, I found healing in running.  Miles of pounding pavement turned into some of my best prayer times.  Alone, I could speak to God during those miles and I felt His comfort and His guidance.  I tackled the marathon, not just once, but twice.  The call to adoption seemed to becoming stronger.  I will not go into depth about our journey to saying yes to adoption here, but you can read the two posts I wrote about that a few years ago here and here.



     During this time, we did not “reevaluate each month.”  We felt God was saying no and did not question that discernment, knowing He would make it clear if that answer had changed.  And the beauty of NFP is that really, we aren’t in control, God is and we knew that and honored it.  And, honestly, it was easy most of the time.  We followed the strictest guidelines for NFP with little trouble, even as the years passed and I aged and the signs changed a bit.  I truly believe that it all was a gift from God. 

     In 2013, we began the process of adoption, and were blessed with the gift of Felicity in October, 2014. 




Six months later, we began the process to bring Thomas home. I often called Thomas our “surprise adoption" because we did not plan to adopt  so soon after Felicity had come home, but God made it clear that Thomas was our son. Once again, we opened our home and our hearts to new life.

     Our paperwork was moving along. Our dossier was being authenticated and we were just a few short weeks away from our dossier being sent to China.  We were so excited to get him home as soon as possible.  It was the end of the summer and I just felt different.  One of the side effects of NFP is that you learn to listen to your body closely and you get to know it so well. And in those last days of summer vacation, before school started, I began to suspect I was pregnant.  I was a good week away from being able to read a positive pregnancy test and it had been 7 years since I had been pregnant, so my memory was not the best at what those early days feel like, but I suspected just the same.  I looked at my NFP chart, recounted days just to make sure I had not miscounted.  I told Pete my suspicion.  He laughed.  For years we were following “the rules” and this month was no different.  He was pretty sure that this month would be no different than the last oh, a hundred, or so.  But Pete was wrong.  A week later, two pink lines showed that even though we followed the rules of NFP, that God’s will was stronger than the rules and we were blessed with a precious life.

     But, here is where it gets hard.  In those early days and months, I didn’t feel so blessed.  The overwhelming emotion was fear.  Fear that our adoption would be stopped and that, due to this unexpected blessing, Thomas would remain an orphan.  Fear that due to scar tissue, there would be complications during the pregnancy and delivery.  And both of those fears were almost a reality (you can read about that story here). Fear in wondering how in the world we would be able to handle having two toddlers, from trauma, one newly home, and then a newborn to care for too.  It was the first time that “being open to life” began to be really hard. 

     Thankfully, we serve a God that loves us and meets us in our human frailty.  During the Advent before Thomas came home and Hope was born, we were at mass and a reading from Isaiah rung through the church and through my heart.

Lift up your eyes and look around;
They all gather together, they come to you;
Your son(s) shall come from far away,
         And your daughter(s) shall be carried on her (their) nurses’ arms.
Then you shall see and be radiant;
           Your heart shall thrill and rejoice,
Because the abundance of the sea shall be brought to you,
The wealth of the nations shall come to you.
   Isaiah 60:4-5

God was speaking directly to me though this scripture (I changed it slightly . . . original text is in parenthesis).  Our son Thomas was coming home from afar and Hope would be placed in my arms by her nurse and while I did not understand what the rejoicing would look like, I kept coming back to this scripture at those times when the waves a fear would roll over me and I felt like I was drowning and it brought me some peace.

     2016 began, Thomas, Pete and Joshua landed back in the United States on March 6th and my heart overflowed with joy.   




Hope was born on May 3rd and a new hope was born in me.  And during those months, all those fears were washed away. 







“Then you shall see and be radiant;
Your heart shall thrill and rejoice.”


  

   There are mornings I wake up, sleep deprived and groggy from lack of sleep and I am surrounded by my three youngest, two of which like to make their way to our bed after Pete wakes for work;  Hope to my left and Felicity and Thomas to my right and my heart does thrill and rejoice.  These precious little lives have opened me up to a glory of God that I can’t quite describe.  It is hard and oh-so-messy and more exhausting than you can imagine, but there is beauty in it that I have not experienced before.  I call Thomas and Hope our surprise presents because neither was planned for or expected.  They have taught me that sometimes surprise presents make the best gifts.  Thomas and Felicity bring an immense joy that I had not known before we entered into the journey of adoption.  And Hope, oh, Hope reminds me that babies make everything seem so much better.  Her smile and sparkling eyes bring a new light to our home.  I hold her and am reminded just how good it feels to hold a baby again. In these moments, I know that our family is just as God planned.




     Those years of practicing NFP when we felt God was saying no, allowed us the time necessary to say yes to life through adoption.

     And it turns out those years, and all those miles run, allowed my body to heal to be ready for Hope . . . .  at my post-partum follow up with my OB, I asked how much scar tissue I had and she responded that I looked great.  She ended it with, “All that running you did must have helped!”


     I do not know what the future holds.  Will we adopt again?  Will we have another baby?  I don’t know.  I do know that ultimately it is in the Lord’s hands and just as I relished the time I had with “the boys” I now relish this time now with my crazy crew.  I know, too, that God calls all families to be open to life in different ways.  For some it may be welcoming their 10th child by birth, for others it may be hoping to welcome their first through adoption, for others it may be somewhere in between, and still others it may be giving of themselves generously in other ways.  That is the beauty of being open to life and allowing God to guide our family’s growth as He wills.  Families are not meant to all follow the same pattern, or look the same.  Each couple, each family, mirrors God’s love in its own unique and beautiful way. And I am grateful for our journey and the beauty that is a part of our family because we were open to life.



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Gift (Our NFP story) Part I

(I started writing this post months ago, but have not had time to refine it and finish it.  I have felt the need to hit "publish" lately though.  Maybe it is because Hope is too quickly approaching 12 months old and my desire to share it's sentiments would be lost soon. Or maybe it is because this week is the March for Life and the sacredness of life is before me in a precious little girl and I want to remember that, in words, here.  But whatever the reason, here is our story of seeking God's will and and being open to life.)

Shortly after we announced that we were expecting baby Hope, I felt that I needed to share our NFP story.  Partially, it was because we had so many people say things like, "What a miracle!" or share stories of how people they knew were infertile, adopted and then had a baby of their own, that I felt that many people probably got the wrong idea about why we had three boys, waited a while and adopted and then found out we were expecting a baby while adopting.  We got a lot of "That always happens!  People always seem to get pregnant while adopting." I would typically just smile and nod my head, yet inside I was thinking, "They really have no idea!" So, I felt compelled to share our story.  I told my husband and his immediate response was, "Are you sure you want to do that?  You could open yourself up to a lot of criticism."  He, wisely, suggested that I table the topic.  And I did.  But, after Thomas came home and baby Hope arrived, the perfect-ness of God's plan before my eyes, I knew I wanted to share our story. So, let me begin at the beginning . . .

About 17 years ago, Pete and I got engaged.  And, as all good Catholic engaged couples do, we attended an NFP class.  We fully embraced the Church's teachings on being open to life and embraced learning the ins and outs of Natural Family Planning as well.  And it was easy to learn as I was the pattern of the typical text book woman.

We were married 6 months later.  Pete was living in Michigan and I had just left my job and apartment in Steubenville to move up to Michigan and start our married life.  I am not exactly good with change and most change causes lots of anxiety and sleepless nights, so after much prayer, we knew introducing a baby to the mix right away probably wasn't the best way to help me transition, so we used our knowledge of NFP to ensure we would wait to have a baby.

A year later, we knew it was time and the planner in me had figured out the perfect month to try to conceive.  That first month of hoping brought forth a positive pregnancy test, and 9 months later, our son Joshua.

Joshua - Born before we aquired a digital camera


Over the next several years, we used NFP to both achieve pregnancy and to avoid pregnancy.  During part of that time, Pete was a full time PhD student for a while and we had the WORST insurance ever and such little income, that we knew that adding to our family during that time would not be a good decision.  Two years later, Pete was in a full time job again, we were no longer living is a tiny apartment in a college dorm, and so we excitedly looked forward to having another baby.  Four months, a positive pregnancy test, and a few ultrasounds later showed we would have another son, Caleb.  Joshua and Caleb are three years apart.

Caleb


Right around the time Caleb turned a year old, we felt that we had no grave reason to not have another child.  It was the first time we weren’t using NFP to avoid pregnancy or to actively achieve a pregnancy.  We decided that we were open to having another baby whenever God wanted to bless us.  Caleb was just 15 months old when we found out we were expecting baby #3; Andrew.

Andrew

All three of the boys were born via c-section.  Two of out three of them were horrible experiences, and the third left me in a lot of pain.  My recovery took forever and Andrew was 6 months old and I would still sit up in bed in the morning, and it was hard to breathe.  It felt like I had to work to take a deep breath.  I would have pain in my lower abdomen and although my OB said that I was fine, after talking with a family member that is a doctor, I was sure that damage had been done to my pelvic floor and I was having problems with scar tissue.  I headed to a PT who specialized in the breakdown of scar tissue. I also began exercising. A lot.  Running became my therapy to the craziness of three boys and my PT encouraged it, mentioning that the motion of running would help to keep scar tissue from building up again.  But, the pain from the c-section lasted until Andrew was around 18 months old.  Several times a day, I would be reminded that something was still not quite right.

And so, when we began to talk and pray about having another baby, I was a bit apprehensive.  My OB was concerned and said that she recommended me sitting down with many of the OBs in the practice and have a "panel discussion" about my situation before we tried to have another baby. I took that as a clear directive to not have any more babies.  After all, I did have a heart for adoption, but I was still conflicted.  The Catholic in me was really trying to figure out "is this a grave reason?"

Pete and I talked and prayed about it a lot.  I was unsure what God was calling us to do. 

One day I was at a friend's house for a party.  As I was leaving, I began talking to a friend who had had a c-section that left her unable to have more children.  As we stood in front of our cars, she said something to me that struck my heart.

"You have no peace, Katie.  Ask God to give you peace about whatever direction you are to go."

I drove away and immediately went to adoration.

And the answer came.  It was one of the few times in my life that I felt God speak audibly to me.

No. Do not try to have any more children.

And with that no, an amazing peace came.  I knew that we had our answer and God supplied an abundant amount of peace with it.

I went home and told Pete.  We prayed together and knew, for that moment, what God was saying about our family size.  

At that moment, our three precious sons were enough.





To be continued . . . 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Monday Daybook

A photo I took at Antietam Battlefield

Outside my window . . . .

It is a beautiful sunny day! It is windy and cold too, but the colors outside my window just cannot be beat.

I plan to . . . 


Well, I HAD planned to go to mass today.  But after dropping the boys off at their tutorial and then coming home to get Thomas dressed for mass (he is the only one that I cannot seem to get out of his pajamas in time), I could not find a pair of shoes for him!  I found three of his shoes. Three different shoes and I was fully prepared to take him to mass with two different shoes on (all pride is gone), but there was only one problem. Every single shoe I found was for the right foot!! So, somewhere in our house, or in one of the vans, are three left shoes.  Pray I find them otherwise he will have to start wearing his sister's shoes!


I am thinking . . . .

Too much really.  I am thinking about one of my sons who struggles with school.  He is the sweetest boy ever and it breaks my heart that, when it comes to school, not much of it comes easy to him.  Over the next few months, we will have to make some decisions about whether it is best for him to stay at the tutorial he attends or whether we should bring him back home for straight homeschooling next year.  It would break his heart to come back home, as he is my social bug and he would miss the interaction with the other kids at the tutorial.

Facebook . . .  I gave it up as a fast right before the election. I got back on after the election and I have realized something.  I think it is toxic in so many ways. The political posts that are flying back and forth on both sides is stressful in many ways and is chatter that I do not need to see.  I miss the days when most of what you saw on Facebook was simple pictures of friends' kids.  Instead, it seems to have become a place where people sound off and are angry.  The only thing that has brought some levity to FB seems to be the Biden Memes.  I do not care who you voted for in the election . . . . those memes are funny! But, when all is said and done, I think it is time for me to step away from the crazy that is FB. 


About Balance . .. . A friend once wrote on Facebook that balance is like a unicorn . . . you always search for it, but never quite find it.  I think she is right.  A few years ago, I would have laughed at that statement and said that balance was pretty simple . . . it just takes a lot of discipline.  But, that was long before I had three kids under 3; all three still fairly new to this "living in a family with boundaries" thing.  Now, no matter how hard I try, prayer times are squeezed in, runs are often left unrun, and dinner, well let's just say that I am so grateful for my Instapot, because we would be eating out more than our budget would allow! 

                 All of that is to say that I am working on learning to extend myself and our whole family a lot of grace.   I truly believed that I should have had it all together already; Hope should be sleeping through the night; I should be back to my pre-pregnancy weight and in good shape; I should be able to be on top of all the boys' school work and everything else, and, of course, our house should be clean . . . but none of those are a reality right now.  And I think that was all a part of God's plan in this.  I am over 40 years old and I am finally learning to extend myself some grace . . ..

 I am listening to . . . 

Thomas playing on his LeapFrog alphabet computer.


I was hoping to be listening to Michael Corsini's debut CD "All Things Hoped For."  It is an CD for Advent and the song that I heard as a preview was BEAUTIFUL.  The CD comes out digitally today!  I am hoping to have a full review and giveaway of a CD when the CDs are available for sale in two weeks.  

I am making . . . 




I am planning on making more bracelets that will be in the "Let Us Begin" fundraiser shop.  I have some St. Andrew Novena bracelets that will be added.  I am in love with Swarovski Crystal Pearl Beads right now and cannot wait to get a spare moment to make some more bracelets with those too. Making bracelets is very therapeutic and a great stress reliever for me.  15% of the sale of the bracelets will be donated Little Flower Projects.

Speaking of . ..

I have a shirt sale going on as a fundraiser for Little Flower Projects.  It features one of my favorite quotes from Mother Teresa.  If I get some time, I plan to write a post about my thoughts on Moher Teresa and this quote.  But, for this moment, the shirts will be on sale (pre-order) until November 30 here.  100% of the proceeds of the shirts go to Little Flower Projects.


From the school room . . .

The boys are at their tutorial today.  I am thankful that we only have one more day of school before Thanksgiving.  I am looking forward to the break!

I am praying. . . .

For my sister in love who is battling cancer and will start chemo soon.

For a friend's son who just graduated from Coast Guard boot camp and will be headed to his first assignment after Thanksgiving.

For our nation.

For all orphans.



Have a great week all!




Thursday, October 27, 2016

Two Years Ago . . .

Two years ago today, I was on the other side of the world.  I woke up too early.  Too excited and anxious to sleep.  My husband and I lay in bed, chatting about the day ahead of us.  After years of hoping and praying, the day that felt like it would only ever be in my dreams, was finally here.  It was really real.  And when a dream comes true, and you are in awe of God changing hearts and moving mountains to bring you to a moment, there is little more to do than to pray and praise.  And so, we moved our conversation from our hotel room to the Catholic Church across the street.  Yes, in a land where so few have ANY belief system, God saw it fitting to place us in a hotel that just happened to be across from a Catholic Church.  And so we knelt in the back, as the faithful in the front, finished what must have been the rosary, and prayed.  We prayed our own silent prayers as our ears were filled with the melodious sound of a rhythmic prayer in Mandarin.

As we crossed the street to head back to our hotel to eat breakfast, the reality truly hit.  We were hours from holding her.  Our daughter.  I had envisioned this day for a long time.  I knew how I wanted it to go, but also knew how it could go.  We ate in silence.  What do you say, when you are filled with all sorts of emotions, that you can barely comprehend it all yourself?  And so we ate, then headed to our room to grab the diaper bag and the gifts for the staff and made our way to the lobby to meet our guide.  When we got to the lobby, we met up with the other couple who was there to meet their son.  Their faces felt like mirrors to me; like I was looking at myself.  We were all feeling the same things . . . . even if we couldn't verbalize it.  We waited for, what felt like an hour, for our guide.  She entered the front door of the hotel, smiled warmly at us and ushered us out to the van to take us to the orphanage.

We were told that we were about 15 minutes away from the orphanage, so I remember being glued to the window at about 10 minutes into the drive.  Maybe, just maybe, after the next turn, I would see the orphanage.  When we finally pulled through the gate of the orphanage, my stomach was in knots.  We were only many minutes away from our daughter now.

We were taken to a room upstairs and as we were ushered there, I  tried to peer through the many doorways we passed . . . . was she in there?  Was my daughter in THAT room?  I remember sitting in that nice room, signing paper after paper.  It was all in Mandarin and I had no idea what I was signing.  I just remember I wanted to sign it all as fast as I could so we could get to HER!




The paperwork done, our guide left the room.  I am not really sure where I thought she went, I really was only thinking, "Why won't someone tell us when we will get our daughter!"

And then footsteps in the hall . . .  and our guide was back.  Holding the sweetest little girl. Our little Felicity!



And the tears that I thought would fill my eyes, never came.  I held her and laughed!



I am in a bible study and we just studied Sarah and how she laughed when she heard a stranger tell Abraham that she would have a son.  I have thought a lot about her laughter and mine too.  There is a part of me that thinks some of Sarah's laughter was a burst of joy.  The impossible being breathed.  When she was faced with the possibility of a long held dream happening, maybe it was just a gut reaction. A laugh of awe at the goodness of God.

That is what I felt in the moment.  I held Felicity and I laughed that this moment, that I so desperately wanted for YEARS, was here.  God had made it all happen.

I didn't cry as I expected.  And neither did she.  She fell asleep within 10 minutes of being in my arms.   She snuggled into me, hid her head and slept.



Looking back now, I recognize that this was partly because it may have been her nap time, but mostly because it was her way of dealing with the overwhelming and little-to-be-understood circumstances she was going through.  A stranger (our guide) picked her up from her only home, and walked her away from it all to more strangers and handed her over. Felicity spent most of that day distant, quiet and sleeping.
 
It would take days before we would get glimmers of her silliness and sassiness that we now love and adore so much.




We walked out of the orphanage that day with arms and hearts full . . .

Three days later we walked back through the doors of the orphanage.  Felicity would say good bye to all that she knew and we would get to see the place that she called home for 19 months of her life.


On that day, we were taken into the play room.  I took my shoes off and walked up to only one child. A little boy in blue.  I talked to him and he smiled at me.  And now his story is ours too . . .



What is remarkable, is that he smiled at me.  This little boy, Thomas, who I later came to learn, did not like strangers too much and usually shied away from them all, hiding in the protection of his nannies.  But, he smiled at me that day;  a stranger that was to become his mom.   Only God.




And now, two years later, I write this post and the emotions come flooding back as if it were just days ago.  The awe and wonder have not gone away; thanking God today on this Gotcha Day Anniversary!  Happy family day my sweet daughter Felicity!  And happy "first day I met you" Thomas!  Love you both and praising the One who brought you to us!









Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Got Hope?


She was born on a Tuesday during Primary season of the presidential election.  Once settled into my room, I remember the TV being on and the news was all about secured presidential nominations.  The following morning, I scrolled through my Facebook feed and there was a great deal of incredulity.  Despair and hopelessness even.  I quickly turned away from it and struggled to get out of the bed, to begin my c-section recovery.  I had a precious little baby, Hope, to take care of after all.  I couldn't get swept up in the emotions of the what is going on in our nation, in the upcoming election.



And since Hope's birth, there have been many crazy, hard to believe, tragic events.  And during that time, my main focus has been on this precious life, on Hope.  It has been amazing how focused I have been on Hope and my job as her mother.

I need to nurse Hope.

Help Hope grow. 

Love Hope.

Nurture Hope.

Cuddle Hope.

I need to hold on to Hope.


As I heard the news about the tragedy in Orlando, I was nursing Hope. 

When I prayed for all those affected by the tragedy in Dallas, I rocked Hope to sleep.

And as I watched the reports of the tragedy in Nice, France, I was holding on to Hope, cradling her in my arms.  She began to coo.  Hope was seeking my attention. I looked at her, she smiled at me. 



Hope smiled as she so often does.  She is such a sweet, happy baby.  And in that moment, I knew what God was teaching me, having a child named Hope.  

Hope.

Hope is a world changer. 
(Hope (upper-case H, Hope) has already changed ours and I frequently call her a world changer)

My focus needs to be hope.  There is much evil, but my focus as a Christian HAS to be hope.  

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." John 16:33

It is my responsibility to hold on to hope, to nurture it, to make it grow in this world.  It is so, so easy to fall into despair, hopelessness.  This world is full of hate and evil.  Incomprehensible hate, brokenness and hurt.  Yet, there is Hope.  Hope is embodied in our home and the only way it will be embodied in our world, is if we nurture it, allow it to grow and hold tightly to it.  


Over the last 11 weeks, Pete and I have often talked about how amazing it is to have a baby named Hope.  How it changes us, in a way we never thought it would.  Each day, Hope cries, pleads for our attention.  There are times, when I am knee deep in parenting toddlers who have come from great loss and brokenness, weariness starts to creep in;  and then Hope cries out.  And I am snapped out of it.  Hope needs me and in that moment I am reminded that there is always hope. Hope that needs to be nurtured and grow.



I am so thankful for Hope and hope that Christ gave so freely.  I pray that I can help hope to grow in this world.


I need to be the instrument of hope in this world.  Because if I do not let it grow, who will?