Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Reflections

Being immigrants to Missouri, indigenous to Indiana, we have travelled for almost every Christmas of our wedded bliss, with the exceptions of the year when all (5) of the children had chicken pox, and a year or two where we stayed for Christmas itself but drove home immediately after (which does not count). Some time in the last two years it has begun to dawn on me that we are too many to visit cold places with small houses for longer than a few hours. We've stayed at a hotel the last couple times,which is a stretch with 10 kids, and does not feel like Christmas.

So this year, we stayed home.

Really, really staying home. Not going this afternoon, or tonight, or early tomorrow morning. Not going for New Year's. Staying. Put.

But packing for a road trip has been part of Christmas for so long, I have had a hard time shirking that perceived responsibility. I feel like I need to pack, to have everything ready to leave behind for days on end, like I have an unanswered stress that I am ignoring but is sure to bite me in the butt any moment.

On the other hand, we have really just focused on our own 'little' family this year, and I must say, it is delightful. We were deliberate about what we bought, what we ate, and how we spent our time. Sigh.

For example, we had a (for us) Grand Christmas Eve Banquet. We used our Christmas dishes, for the first time. There are only eight, so not everyone got one, but it was still festive. We used our silver table service that we received as a wedding gift and almost never get out. It was the last time we will have enough, unless we supplement, as we have 12 place settings, and next Christmas there will be 14 of us. We put the entire setting by each plate also, which was a new experience for all my people, who I mostly require a choice of 'fork or spoon' for each meal. The Dave Show, who is three, ate only mashed potatoes, but used every single utensil to do it.

No hurry to unwrap, no hurry to clean up, no place to go, no one to see or please. Get out each game, each toy, each new project. Each person's special gift a success: Anne's electric experiment set, Claire's djembe, Ben's Ticket To Ride game, Joel's pipe cleaners and needle nose pliers.

Mary learned in one present the joy of opening one and grieved the rest of the morning that they were not all for her. Each gift was exciting for exactly 2.6 seconds. We WILL, next year, elaborately wrap stuff we already have for whoever is 1.

Each year we (mostly I) write a letter from Santa to each or all of our children. This started as a thank you note for the cookies when I grew up. My Dad always wrote the letters. I still have them. They were a once a year praise report, Angela, I'm so proud of you, you're doing a great job with school, swimming, music, whatever, your mom and dad love you very much, keep Jesus as the center of your life, I see you have a new driver's license or keyboard or engagement ring . . . That sort of thing.

So we have done a similar thing. I don't know if it has meant much to any of our kids yet. But this year as Dad read it, each child lit up when he said their name. It was pretty cool.

My gifts were both replacements for something I already had and broke, practical kitchen things, but my real present is Leah, our newly adopted daughter. I held her most of the morning, tearing up at times, still in so much disbelief that my Father has allowed me to be her mama. She is the sweet spot in my family, the treasure I barely dared believe I could have.

Even today, I am aware of the marvelous young woman who not only gave birth to her in incredibly difficult circumstances, but then chose to selflessly give her what she believed was the very best life for her. Such an honor for us. Such a burden, but I will not carry it alone. Each day, I will offer my amazing daughter to the One who formed her in her mama's womb. Each day I will lift both mama and daughter to Him for His care and protection.

At this time of year, I am always aware of what Mary may have gone through, carrying a Baby that was unplanned, by the world certainly deemed unwanted. But she said YES to God, in a way that I hope is similar to the way I have said YES. I know the world, family, friends, do not always see my YES as wise or responsible. Especially now, having brought a baby into our family in a nontraditional way, at great cost, with another baby on the way, and then to learn that he/she might be an especially undesirable to the world kind of baby, the kind that so many would find appropriate to choose not to have, especially now, I think about Mary, and Joseph, and Jesus, and the shame and foolishness they might have felt.

But I am nestled here. I don't know what God will do with me. I hope that even if no one is drawn nearer or changed, if my children don't choose to serve Him the same way, if I am only ever a fool in the eyes of all man, that I may at least give honor to His Name.

I love Christmas because at the moment of the fullness of the wretchedness of man's decision to be his own god, when the world was completely desperate for an Answer, that God sent It in the most unlikely Form to the most unlikely host in the most unlikely place and told the most unlikely people about it. The Christ left all power, all glory, all authority, all knowledge, all wisdom, all honor and became a Baby, born to a young, unmarried but betrothed woman in a shameful way, in a podunk town in an animal shelter, laid in a cow's cereal bowl. The angel and then angels gave a great symphonic heaven-sized proclamation to the stinky dirty reputation-less shepherds (who would listen to them?). Really, this is the Desire of Nations? Really, this is the Peace we've been waiting for? Really, This is the One creation has been groaning for? That's all You've got? No wonder the pharisees were thrown off.

I'm an underdog like that. I am not polished, my hair is gray, I don't wear make up, I hate shopping so most of my clothes are hand me downs. My children also are not stellar performers. We are not impressive, as a lot. We are not winning spelling bees or other academic contests. We are not setting athletic records.

I'm trying to teach my children to be kind, to obey, to know God, to hear His voice, to work hard when they don't feel like it, to value people more than things, to be good stewards of themselves and their stuff, to care for the weaker and smaller. Trying. I'm not even doing a great job of it.

My daily list of good intentions is mighty, my corresponding list of things accomplished is feeble at best. How does the King of the universe find my offering pleasing, how does He call me lovely and faithful? I HAVE NO IDEA.

But I am confident of this one thing: that He Who began a good work in me will be faithful to complete it. And since He has walked here, and been there and done that (He had a set of 12 to disciple, just like me), I feel safe in trusting Him with me, with them.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


It's funny that someone said that beauty is only skin deep. What a bunch of malarky. Beauty exists on so many levels. I have a book that I'm not smart enough to read called 'The Evidential Power of Beauty' that basically makes the case that the beauty that exists everywhere in the universe is evidence of a Creator.

Not my point.

I'm typing this while holding my newborn daughter. Her lineage is a combination of African American, Portuguese and something else. She is beautiful. Her every feature is perfect. Her long fingers, her eyelashes, her amazing eyes, her silky black hair - absolutely breathtaking.

We said yes to her without having any idea how stunning she would be. But her beauty was a given because she was designed and crafted by the same Guy who made masterpieces such as Niagara Falls, the Redwood Forest, Lake Michigan and the Rocky Mountains. He made the stars also. Flowers, some too small to readily see. If God makes a teeny tiny flower so small that no one ever notices it, is it still beautiful? Oh yeah.

Last night (10/20/2010) I had the honor and privilege of holding the tiny fingers of a newborn baby who happens to have been given 47 chromosomes in each of his cells, a condition we call Down's Syndrome. He was beautiful. He was very obviously crafted by God Himself, knit together perfectly from the moment he was conceived.

And his beauty is not only as deep as his skin. It goes all the way to his heart, to his spirit. It is hard for us to comprehend why God does what He does the way He does it. This boy was not a planned intended desired pregnancy. God invaded the space of a couple not wanting children anyway, and made a child that something like 92% of couples who find out they're carrying one will choose to end his life.

What is beautiful? We live in such a skewed world when it comes to beauty. We paint our faces and color our hair and cloth ourselves in such a way as to feel beautiful. But beauty is active. Beauty is living. Beauty is way more than skin deep. It goes all the way down to, well, to the uterus.

Come uh come uh down dooby doo down down . . .

Breaking up is hard to do. For 39 year old chromosomes, that is. Specifically the 21st chromosome.

This post (originally written in late October, 2010) is part of my private Down's Syndrome pregnancy blog. Private until we're ready to tell the world that we are preparing for the possibility of our baby, due in February, arriving with a spare chromosome.

Prior to a few weeks ago, to be really honest, I've mostly ignored this pregnancy. For one thing, I've been very focused on the baby at hand, the one we adopted on September 30th of this year. Also, for the 8th or 9th time out of eleven pregnancies, my placenta is right out in front, so I don't feel the baby move until he/she is bigger than that placenta, which happens around 22 weeks. So he/she hasn't really been on my mind as much as would normally be.

Until recently. A few weeks ago, on Monday, October 18th, we had our "big", routine ultrasound at my ob's office. It was fairly quiet, but nothing alarming. The ultrasonagrapher couldn't get a good view of the face, heart, and, when we asked if everything she could see was looking ok, said the kidneys were enlarged.

Normally, my husband leaves at that point. I go to the waiting room and get called back when the doc is ready to see me. This time (for some unknown reason that I call 'God') the nurse said, "Oh, you can come on back, we have a room open," and even though it meant being late for a meeting at work, he stayed.

Our doctor, with whom we go back 13 years and 9 kids, explained that our baby not only had enlarged kidneys, but also had a femur and humerus that were on the short side, which he said meant we had 1 hard (the femur) and 2 soft markers for Down's syndrome. We could wait a month and have another look, maybe the bones would grow, kidneys shrink, or we could do some more testing, Level 2 u/s, amnio, it was up to us.

Initially, we said we'd wait. It didn't seem to matter. But then the research set in, I made some phone calls, and there were questions, and, well, suspense. We decided there was nothing to lose by going ahead with the Level 2 ultrasound.

Last Thursday, 10/28, going into the level 2 appointment we understood our odds to be 1:11, but that was us working it out over the internet. During the appointment we learned that our femur and humerus were within the range of normal, and our baby's kidneys were still enlarged. She talked to us about needing to have monthly ultrasounds, talking to our pediatrician and letting him know we had a strong possibility of Down's, and said that the baby looked very healthy, with no big organ problems.

Then Brian asked his big question, "Knowing what we know now, what are our odds?" She said, "You're not going to like this, 50/50." She went on to tell us that the nasal bone was not convincingly present, and that she felt they had had a pretty good look.

Later our pediatrician told me that 99% of Caucasian babies without a nasal bone have Downs syndrome.

I have moments of being teary eyed, but the truth of the matter is that God has been making a baby in my tummy for 5 months, and He is either using 46 chromosome cells or 47's. Whichever He is using, I'm going to call what it "good".

Initially, I was overwhelmed at another battle. At dealing with what people will think. We are already on the lunatic fringe. We have given birth to 10 kids, just adopted another of a different race, while pregnant, and now this. Are You joking God? The name we have chosen for a boy: Isaac, meaning laughter.

I also feel a David-like strength rising up in me, "is there not a cause?" my spirit seems to say. The percentage of babies prenatally diagnosed with Down's syndrome that are aborted in our nation is in the 90s. In Australia I read that it is 98%.

I'm nervous about my own inadequacy. Even though I call myself the amazing supermom, the reality is that I fall way, way short of even my own expectations, let alone other people's. I'm just barely getting by, hoping that if we focus on the majors, the other things will fall in place. (Kind of a 'seek first the Kingdom' sort of thing).

I feel defensive when people want to pray this away. One of the first songs I had in my heart after we got this news was "Don't wish it away." (Elton John - I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues) (The second was probably, "This thing is eating me alive," from Toby Mac's song Start Somewhere). I believe if God is making us a 47, we would be ridiculous to ask Him to change mid-stream. As ridiculous as to ask Him to change the gender or turn a singleton into twins. Sure He could. But who knows better? Me? no. I have nothing in my heart that wants to pray for God to change what He's doing. If the Creator has spent the last several weeks creating a masterpiece with 3 copies of the 21st chromosome in each and every cell, then that's exactly who I want to give birth to.

My children and I all went to a 40 days for life prayer stand in front of our local neighborhood Planned Parenthood abortion clinic last week. We had our little adopted sweetie with us. I thought about how, years ago, I took my oldest young'ns to do the same thing, and at the time, it felt like a powerful testimony, to stand there with my little ones and pray for women to choose life. Several months ago, we did the same thing with our gang of ten. This time was way more significant, holding a little one whose mama chose life for, and sacrificed so much to give it to her. But the thought of standing in that same place next year with my dozen blessings, and call each one 'beautiful', especially one who most of the world and some of the church would feel ok about terminating, well, I long to do that.

I long to show the world the beauty of the Lord in each of His gifts. Babies with 47 chromosomes are a beautiful gift. I hope people will see our little one and choose life.

But more than that, because that isn't really the focus of our life from day to day, I am excited about me, and my husband, and our other children, learning more about who God is and what He does through this exciting new leg of our journey. I'm saying yes. Yes to whatever You're making. Am I ignorant of what it means to have a child with Down's syndrome? Absolutely. Am I foolish to trust a God I can't see? No chance. He's faithful as the sun. More faithful. He MADE the sun. And He is making a perfect miracle in my uterus.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

I have often described my life as being like one of those Chinese acrobats that spin the plates on the sticks and are constantly on the move trying to keep each one going. At least, at my best, my life is like that. I'm not at my best right now. I'm trying to get some plates spinning and hearing others crash to the floor. It's winter, I'm matching socks, because children need to wear socks, and they are downstairs making clay figures instead of doing math, and the kitchen table is about a foot deep in empty cereal boxes and half full cereal bowls each containing about a cup of milk. I'm trying to get my act together (not altogether together, just more together) regarding meal planning, just to the point of not wanting to punch anyone who asks me after 4:30 p.m. what is for supper. Trying to plan meals. Make a big grocery trip, and break the grocery budget (and my husband's spirit) in a single shopping trip. Meanwhile the laundry is growing a smell, no wait, my husband who has worked so hard all week providing for his family, is attempting to organize our small tattered army into a movie watching, laundry sorting machine (which, incidently, only works when they've already seen the movie). I respond, as I'm sure any grateful wife would, by melting into a pool of insecurity and self pity.

Certainly there are hormones at play here. Sleep deprivation. Genuine overwhelmedness. And there is the customary attack by the enemy that comes each time we are about to welcome a new treasure into the storehouse, that goes something like this: you can't handle the children you've got - what are you thinking, having another.

I reach out through God's gift to humanity, the World Wide Web, to my sisters in faith, those other godly women who have many children like I do, and find that, either they have achieved a level of relative perfection that makes me crumble further or their "big" families consist of 4 or 5 or 6 kids. All the advice out there is either too high for me and I cannot attain to it, or it would have been very helpful about 6 kids ago.

Like Bilbo, feeling like way too little butter scraped over way too much bread, how can I do it all, meet the needs of the teenager doing geometry (I liked geometry very much, 27 years ago, but it is going to take all the conscious thought power I have, pulled away from everything else for me to enter your world and really understand what you're doing, let alone help you - is it worth that?), and the kids learning to read, and the one trying not to poop in his pants, and the ones who just did; to keep up on the laundry, the dishes, the food prep, and the character training that so desperately needs to happen (The phrase in Prov. 31, "the teaching of kindness is on her tongue" is a constant state of being!), not to mention all the plates that I've long since ignored and allowed to come crashing to the ground (weight loss comes to mind, song writing, anything that falls under the category of taking care of myself)?

So what is the answer? How do I pay Peter and Paul and all the other apostles? How do I meet the needs of husband and children and be the woman of God I desire to be?

The answer may disappoint you. I don't. My best friend told me something I sometimes forget but always come back to. He said, "come to Me, all you who are weak and heavy laden and I will give you rest for your souls. My yoke is easy, my burden is light." I put laundry and dishes in the same category as the poor - you will always have them with you. I have One I have to please. One I live for. He pays Peter, He pays Paul. He takes care of my children, my husband, and me. He will show me what to focus on today, right now. He will give me, and all those other people, everything we need.

His strength is PERFECTED in my weakness! He is greatly exalted when I lean on Him completely. He is not impressed when I perform well, but He is pleased when I hide in Him. I am poor in spirit. I'm rejoicing.

I'm sure I've written this here before, but I scoff at the phrase "God won't give you more than you can handle". No, no, no. God will absolutely give you more than you can handle. But He won't give you more than HE can handle. He is more than enough.


Friday, November 26, 2010

Lotion and hairspray and formula, oh my!

Here are the things that are different with my adopted baby from my collection of biologicals:

Her amazingly beautiful brown skin needs lotion every day or it gets dry and loses pigment when her jammies get crunchy around her face from formula dribbles or when her sheet is not soft from having been spit up on.

Her lovely black curls look better if they are sprayed regularly, and her head gets dry and flakey if we don't do that also.

She would probably have breastfed nicely if I were able to make enough milk for her, she latched on well, but being pregnant, I couldn't pull it off. Thus begins the formula adventure. We have tried a few different varieties, Parent's Choice (Walmart generic) Enfamil, Similac, Enfamil Gentlease, Sam's Club, and have landed on Parent's choice version of Gentlease. All of that to manage constipation. But we also have an aspirating problem (undiagnosed . . . I talk to my doctor about medical questions, I talk to other moms about mom questions - so when I noticed her coughing and spurting and gagging and needing a ridiculous amount of burp breaks when feeding, especially at night, I asked other moms who I knew had dealt with that and followed their advice. Had she been wheezing, or if it didn't work, I would have brought the pediatrician in on the deal) so she gets 1 teaspoon of rice cereal per ounce of formula mixed in the bottles, and instead of the slow flow nipples we were using (that helped some but eventually not enough) are feeding it to her in Avent with the size 4 nipples. We still have to shake it up a little, but her poops are good and soft and her feeding is soooo much better (night vs day).

I also feel a greater desire to make sure she knows I love her, make sure she feels loved. I am more conscious of milestones. I am waaaay more aware of things like smiles and recognizing faces, etc, especially since I'm still filling out monthly forms on how we're bonding and attaching, and still having home visits.

I am normally pretty committed to my rebellion against the whole "back to sleep" movement. Here's why: most babies that die of SIDS (which isn't something you die of, it is a statement of not knowing why a baby died - they died suddenly as an infant, but SIDS isn't a disease or even a collection of symptoms - it is a mystery) die between 2 and 4 months of age, last I read. Now, back in the day when my older kids were younger, it was a normal developmental milestone to roll over during that time period. However, since the advent of the "back to sleep" model, the milestones have changed. Babies are deliberately being trained NOT to develop normally, out of fear. The idea of tummy time is supposed to compensate, but we don't really want them to develop the normal amount of upper body strength, because then they will roll over in their sleep and not be on their "backs to sleep". I also don't like the flat-head syndrome that happens when they are on their backs all the time. Sorry, I am flabbergasted that we have to make our babies weaker, on purpose, because we are afraid they might lay on their bellies and die of an unknown cause. SIDS is not caused by tummy sleeping. It is unknown. That's what makes it SIDS!

(tangent - sorry)

Anyway, because I have an adopted baby who is not yet officially mine and who I am more afraid of screwing up, she has slept mostly on her back and sides. Babies spit, I prefer to have them at least on their sides. The whole point of this discussion is to say that because she is being adopted, I am a little less confident, a little more chicken, a little more likely to play by the rules. Instead of just answering to my husband and God Almighty, I am also answerable to the home study agency, the adoption agency, and the states of Missouri and Florida, at least until finalization.

I am a little more worried about the long run. Will she like us? Will she feel uncomfortable as one brown face among so many cream colored faces? Will she struggle with her birth mother and/or birth father not being in her life, and their reasons for that? Will she struggle to find a like-minded spouse more than my other children? And my only answer to questions like that is Jesus. She, just like my other children, will need Jesus.

Anyway, those are some of the differences I am experiencing, along with things I've talked about in other blogs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Great Rabbit Poop Mystery - status: unresolved

It began with a simple statement: there is poop on the bathroom floor.

In context, it should have been a simple mystery to solve, The Dave Show, age 3, has been potty training, is a master of pee, is a failure in the poop department. His pattern has become a regular bowel movement in his pants every couple days.

It had been, on the morning of the mystery, about 3 days since he last pooped his pants, so Mom sat him on the pot with a little prune juice cocktail (the magic feather), but alas - after reading all about Bob the fireman, no farts, poops or even a smudge to let you know something's coming. So we put the pants back on and forgot about it.

Now, four hours later, there is poop on the bathroom floor. In the time that has elapsed, the following facts add to the mystery:
1. David was originally wearing jeans and white Thomas undies with red trim
2. After playing in the snow, David changed out of his wet jeans into clean undies and shorts (I know, there's snow on the ground and he put on shorts - sorry)
3. Further examination of said wet jeans reveal that the Dave apparently was playing in the snow commando! Brrrr.
4. The white Thomas the Tank Engine undies found in his undies cubbie, upon his testimony, had neither smudge nor smell (producing doubt that those were, in fact, the same Thomas undies).
5. His cute bottom, also, upon examination, revealed neither smudge nor smell.
6. The aforementioned poop was of the compact nature reputed to be like that produced by rabbits.
7. We have no rabbits in our house.
8. Poop like that is also to be expected of a boy who had not pooped in a couple days.
9. There are no other people in the house who we suspect.
10. Mom smells (or imagines she smells) poop everywhere now.

Anyone with evidence to aid in the solving of this mystery will be rewarded with 25 chocolate chips.

giving thanks

i am thankful today.

i am thankful for my husband, who loves Jesus, who is a worshipper of God, who hears His voice and obeys, who says 'yes'.

i am thankful for my children, who love God, who love each other, and who bless me every single day.

i am thankful for a wealth of friends, who pray for us, who desire our greatest good, who encourage us in Jesus Name.

i am thankful for a home that suits us, for vehicles that get us where we're going, for a job that God uses to provide for our needs (and a husband who works it diligently, skillfully, faithfully), for a magnificent church full of the saints of God, in whom are all my delight.

i am especially thankful for the double blessing of a beautiful adopted baby girl in my arms and a growing mystery baby in my belly.

i'm thankful for my extended family and my husband's family who are such great blessings in our lives, felt if not seen.

more than anything, i am thankful for my Savior, my Redeemer, my Friend, the Lover of my soul. i am thankful for the promise that He hears and answers prayer, and for the promise that my forever Home is with Him.

and right now, i am thankful for the snow that makes today feel special, my children running frantically about the house, squealing and yelling for shoes and equipment to go outside, it's snowing, it's snowing!!! perhaps today is a holiday after all.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

It has happened!

It's a little thing, not logical, may not mean anything to anyone else, but something I was worried (worried is a huge over statement - I just wondered and hoped and didn't know) about. A thing has happened with my adopted daughter that is true of my biologicals. I shall attempt to describe.

When I look at my eldest and my seventh, I can get lost in their freckles. I simply love the varying sizes and shapes of golden brown flecks on their noses, faces, and on my daughter's lovely lips. I love my little one's curls on the back of her neck, love to play with them and touch them. I derive great pleasure from kissing my oldest son's cheek and having his moon-worthy dimple cave in under my lips. My 3rd daughter doesn't have one dimple, she has six or seven! I love my children's smiles, the way they dance, the sound of their laughter, the different colors of their eyes, grayish blueish green (like the sea after a storm, said Buttercup), or chocolatey brown, or hazel like mine, or blue in a way that makes me want to go swimming. I love to look at them and explore their features, awake or asleep, at work or play. I love my children.

Today, sitting in my room, near the cradle made for my husband by his grandfather before he was born, I sat and watched my newest daughter, the one born from someone else's womb. And this is what I was thinking. My baby girl has THE MOST BEAUTIFUL SKIN - I could just sit and enjoy the color of it for hours and days. Beautiful beyond words that I know. I'm trying to quantify the tone, what does it remind me of? There is no food that comes close. Probably there is a specific rich wood that might somehow begin to portray, I don't know. The beauty of it is a wonder and a joy to me. I LOVE to look at her.

I didn't know if the kooky way I feel about all the biologicals comes from finding myself or my husband in them, if it is some narcissistic instinct, or if it is just the familiarity, they are mine. It isn't. It is just the joy of a mother, marveling at the beauty of God's creation. Certainly I marvel also that He made That in Me. But I am also in awe that He made this lovely, lovely darling baby with the most beautiful skin, deep unfathomable eyes, ringlets of soft black hair, tiny long fingers and an exceptionally cute brown bottom, He made her and somehow out of the riches of His grace and mercy, saw fit to place her in my care, in my arms, at my breast, in my heart.

And that is delightful too.

Oh please, God, bless her birthmom today. Give her strength, heal her heart and body, open doors, give her favor and wisdom, give her big dreams, a hope and a future. Mostly, Lord, I pray that she would know You, Your comfort, Your strength, Your friendship, Your presence, Your forgiveness and salvation. Amen.

Are you my mother?

It was one of my favorite books to have read to me as a child, and is a favorite to read to my children. And it is how I wonder if my recently adopted daughter feels when she looks at me. I know it isn't. She isn't thinking, "who are you?" She is still limited to thinking, "this feels good," or "this feels bad". She doesn't even know the name of what feels good or bad. If she could speak, she isn't self aware enough to say whether it is a messy diaper, empty belly, gas bubble or exhaustion that is causing the "bad" feeling.
I guess it is possible that she connects my voice, smell, feel to "feels good" or to "the end of feels bad". I think she is comforted by me the way newborns are comforted by their mamas.
She doesn't know she's in the wrong (right) family. She has no idea that she is the lone black child being raised by a pack of wild caucasians. She doesn't know she's beautiful, doesn't know that she has an umbilical hernia, doesn't know she's constipated, doesn't know she has a dry scalp. She doesn't know that I don't know what I'm doing, even though she's the 11th child we've brought home.
But I know. And I feel a little inadequate.
Some adoption situations seem easier for the mind to fully embrace that this child belongs to the new parents. A child from an orphanage, for example, or a child who was likely to be aborted. But my little one was loved, and desired, if not to raise, at least to live. And there were people in her world who wanted her. Perhaps her birth-father, if encouraged, would have wanted to keep her with him. My situation is not as easy as a baby who has no one.
What I have is that her birth mom believed that our home was the very best place for her to be, superceding culture, race, geography, faith, socioeconomic status, and, ok - I'll say it, common sense. She believed that no matter how it felt or affected her, that putting this baby girl with us was the very best thing for baby girl.
She had a miserable nasty crappy time. Magnesium sulfate for 5 or so days, no food, transfusions, no epidural, emergency D & C afterward, ICU, headaches, nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, not to mention frustration, anger and lack of understanding from her "support" network as they processed her decision with difficulty. And after all the horrible week she spent in the hospital, her reward was to go home with empty arms and a necklace she said was too special to wear.
And now I'm here with her incredibly beautiful darling baby girl, feeling inadequate, trying to figure out which formula to give her, and how to deal with the rash she has on her face and if it is normal baby stuff or if I'm showing my 'caucasian' ignorance of the needs of the skin of persons with African ancestry.

I love this baby. I love her mother. I love that Jesus gave her to me. After all she went through, our birth mom still chose us, chose adoption. But I'm horribly aware that all of who I am and can be as a mom, all of who we are and can be as a family, even all of who my wonderful husband is and can be, it's not enough. We can't bridge the gap between what is and what ought to have been. Her birth father and birth mother, loving her, loving each other, caring for her, bringing her up in her own family and world. We cannot heal, cannot forgive on her behalf, cannot fill the hole left.
We can overwhelm her with love and kisses and with the glory of us, but that cannot be enough. We cannot fill in the cultural blanks (that is a whole. nother. blog.), cannot heal the racial tension in our land that she will face someday.

What we can do, is show her at every opportunity, good and bad, that she has the option of giving it all, pain, confusion, whatever, to a perfect Savior-Redeemer-Healer. We can lead her to the cross. Over and over and over.

And I suppose that is where my adequacy, legitimacy, peace lies. I want to somehow reach across the nation and heal her mom, her dad, her mom's friends and family. I want to make it all better for them, but how can I, when I have the sweet spot, and they have a hole where she should have been?

This yoke is not mine. Even my daughter's happiness is not my responsibility. It is between her and the Lord. What is my job? Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with my God. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

It's not that I'm not writing . . .

I'm just not publishing anything. Partly because I am not certain enough of my decision-making skills to know if anything I'm writing would make sense to anyone living outside my brain ('cause, you know it doesn't always, right?) and partly because some things on the heart need to simmer before being laid out there for the world.

But there are other things to think about, write about, so I will write.

Did you ever have someone, maybe you knew them up close, maybe from a distance, that was the embodiment of faith or whatever, and later they fell long and hard, and you couldn't believe that they could really go from A to B? Like that day that started off at 70 degrees and somehow wound up in the 30's. It is hard to remember when it is warm what cold feels like, and vice versa. It is hard when it is cold out to pack for a warm destination.

It was hard, when I was eating healthy, living healthy, exercising, and maintaining healthy habits, to imagine ever being and living in such a fat, unhealthy way as I have done in the past and am doing again now. And today, it is a stretch to remember that I have been a healthier person.

I suppose I am a woman of extremes. The idea that I could get up tomorrow and adjust one thing and be a somewhat healthier me is just that, an idea. It never makes it more than half way down stairs. But to change completely would require considerably more resolve than I can muster at the best hour of my best day.

I started going down hill when trying to nurse pregnant, having read that I needed a large number of calories. I think it was mostly an excuse. And then going to Ronald McDonald nicu sleep deprivation land was even more of an excuse. Heck, I even allowed myself to eat more fried chicken because I am now the mother of a black child, and her birth family said it was important to make sure she got plenty of good fried chicken. (I do not mention that to say that all black people like fried chicken, just that I used a conversation I had with birthmom's friend as an excuse to further kill myself).

Now I've sunk horribly low, I hate to say, adding butter to my pbj's, just really self destructive.

I had one day, not long ago, when I felt the Lord saying, "Are you ready to admit that you can't do this without Me?" And my thought was yes, and my acknowledged dependence and renewed connection lasted a day and a half.

I had an idea for a song recently. I haven't written it yet, but the gist of it has to do with Lembas bread, from the Lord of the Rings, the waybread of the elves that Frodo and Sam eat on their journey. It had the strange effect, when eaten exclusively, to increase in it's ability to nourish and sustain, so that the longer you had eaten only Lembas, the more content and satisfied and strengthened you where when you ate it.

The whole thing in the book of Hosea where it talks about taking the reckless destructive wayward wife out into the wilderness and stripping her, not of her dignity (she already did that) but of her creature comforts and her other gods, and teaching her, reminding her of the love of her husband ties in to the image in the Song of Solomon of the bride coming up out of the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved, like an army with banners, victorious but weary, weak, limping, and utterly dependent (and thoroughly convinced of her dependence) on her majestic, heroic, steady, faithful and true, Bridegroom-Redeemer.

I am in a distant place from that dependence, that place of leaning, of taking in what sustains my body and drinking my fill of what sustains my soul.

I know that He gently leads the nursing ewes. I know He is still especially fond of me and not angry with me. I know that He is for me and not against me.

But I have ADD of the spirit right now, my courage, my stamina, my pluck, all pretty well shot.

Probably would have been better if I hadn't written, eh?

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Mary pondered these things

Been doing a lot of pondering lately, a lot of thinking, a lot of nodding off.

I am enjoying my lovely girl, well, all my lovely girls and all my boys. My oldest son's voice is changing. We watched Toy Story 3 last night and I cried at the thought of him growing up. On the other end of things, #5 son, whom we call The Show, put some poop in the potty today, finally. I gave him prune juice, which today was a magic feather, and tomorrow will probably mean a mess to clean up. But maybe not. He went for it today.

My youngest sister had a baby this week. Looking forward to introducing his brown skinned cousin to him.

I am finally feeling the baby in my tummy move. My placenta is typically out front, so I don't feel the child until he/she is bigger than that placenta. But I'm there finally. I'm tired. Reflux has struck - I won't be going to bed without my zantac again, let me tell you.

With our little bottle fed girl, Daddy is playing a much bigger role, which works with my pregnancy, if you know what I mean. He has become the expert. If she is fussing or sputtering, he says, "here, give her to me". It is sweet.

And all the while, I am thinking about the new one and who he or she is going to be. The end of February is a very long way away.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Giving up . . .

on the supplementary nursing system. It has been a great thing. I nursed my adopted daughter. I bonded with her. And if I were not 4 whole months away from being physically able to really produce milk, and if my pregnancy were not in conflict with my ability to make milk, or if she was consistently taking in all she needs in a relatively appropriate amount of time, I would keep it up.

But the situation is that I am only 5 months pregnant, she doesn't eat well or fast with it, and I need to sleep. Getting up 2 or 3 times at night is one thing. Getting up for an hour each time is something else, and it doesn't have to be that way. She can drink a bottle in 10-15 minutes.

My pregnant belly is getting bigger in front of me, and wondering about the person growing in it is growing in my mind. I've begun that pregnancy obsessiveness. It is so fun, to hold my sweet girl and just enjoy her and at the same time wonder who her brother/sister will be.

I know for certain that God has a very specific plan in the timing and details of this whole adventure. I don't have the full picture of His reasons or His ways, but I am trusting His goodness.

Monday, October 11, 2010

delusions of grandeur

It's not that I thought it would be easy. But I am not sure I did the math exactly. I have great pregnancies, and this has been the best. But my primary pregnancy symptom is 'tired'. I nod off during afternoon school on many a day. Indeed, it is how I know I'm pregnant before taking a test.

So then you add the newborn thing. I'm up about every three hours during the night for about an hour (she sleeps for 4 during the day, not sure how to adjust that).

Then you add in the sns feeding system, which just takes longer than simply breastfeeding (oh how simply) or even straight bottle feeding. I'm washing out the bottle and tubing, making a bottle, feeding with the sns, trying for burps all the while, finishing the feed with a bottle, because she only takes about a ounce through the sns and is small enough to need more, plus I'm trying to fill her tank so I can sleep a little longer.

So late night feed at 10:30, bed at 11:30, up at 1:30, sleep at 2:30, up at 4:30, bed at 5:30, up at 7:30, up, up and breakfast, up and school, up and tired, up and falling asleep during Rocket Phonics, during spelling tests, during Geometry, frustrated children. Do I drink the coffee, which will make me more alert but slightly nauseaus?

I know, I'll eat. Eating and eating and eating. Not the lo-carb diet - no I'm going for straight, protein free, devoid of nutritional value carbs. I got in the habit at the Ronald McDonald houses we stayed in of having dessert at least 4 times a day. So I'm eating a whole lot of junk.

At any rate, it is dawning on me today that if I'm going to try to be the amazing supermom and nurse two babies (yes, my toddler still nurses a couple times a day) and grow a third, I need to eat like the amazing supermom.

This is my goal: drink lots of water, take my vitamins, and eat a lot of protein and veggies and healthy carbs. It will take a couple days of re-working my system, breaking some habits, and I will likely be incredibly crabby.

But wait, I already am.

Monday, October 04, 2010


One of the reasons my life suits me (the life where I live in a house with a dozen other people) is that I don't love to be alone. In fact, I do not function well.

I know people who are "introverts". My husband is one. An introvert, by definition, is someone who turns in to regroup, to renew their strength. I do not understand this.

When I know I am going to be alone, I have good intentions of using the time well. I pack things I wish I had time to do, drawing supplies, books, my Bible. But the reality is that after a pretty brief moment of strength, I descend into the least impressive version of me, watching movies and eating for comfort.

Thankfully, I have a little tiny human keeping me sort of on track, and of course I am comforted by my Savior. But I find I am much more likely to draw near even to Him when in the middle of a tornado than while in a place of complete rest and peace.

Well, okay, there is a limit to the rest. It goes for about 2 hr stretches, and then is interrupted by said tiny human. We are trying a supplemental nursing system, which means we're getting much of the benefit of breastfeeding with all the inconvenience of bottles (and then some).

Again, I am very grateful. Very.

But I miss home. My 6 year old lost one of his front teeth. I saw it on facebook.

God's timing is perfect. I trust Him. I will press in.

Learning to lean . . .

Monday, September 27, 2010

true confessions of a crazed hormonal maniac

The Amazing Super Mom is chilling out.

Here's why:

From what I understand, baby girl eating her quota is something she will just do, when she is ready. It will happen. Like so many other things, potty training, labor, reading, riding a bicycle, it will happen. I can work with her, but I also need to trust what the docs and nurses are saying and not blow a small gasket every time she doesn't finish a bottle.

I have no real idea what a gasket is or what it takes to blow one or what the consequences would be if you did in fact blow yours. Do we all have gaskets? Are they easily replaced?

My other children are fine. Even the littles will be okay. I am only one part, albeit a significant part, of my children's safety zone. They are not missing me all the time. The youngest misses me when she wakes up. (My friend said she's in her own personal groundhog day.). The Show misses me when he's sleepy. But most of their world is in tact.

Time and everything related to it is within the realm of the King's authority. I can trust Him. He got us down here at the right time, He will get us home when we need to be there.

I think the scariest part of adopting is the question, 'will she change her mind?'. She didn't. She is hurting now, but was resolute throughout the process. Heck, if she wasn't grieving, we'd worry about her a whole lot more. There's a word for that kind of strength: denial. Doesn't make it easier. Does make it less scarier.

I made me a whole milliliter of breast milk. Yippee!

It is starting to feel like that little baby girl in the NICU is mine. One nurse, who I'll call Tammy, cuz that's her name, treats me like the mom (as opposed to the illegitimate sneak), and I practiced introducing her to a couple of the nurses as "my daughter".

And I think, but could be wrong, but I think the baby in my belly kicked me, and that is a miracle that always reinforces my conviction that God can do anything. He can make something from nothing. He hung the stars and spread out the heavens like a curtain. He is weaving a human in my unseen places. He is worthy of my trust.

Therefore I will not fear.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

stream of consciousness

No particular subject here. There are things about adoption I was prepared for, I think. I was ready to be uncomfortably examined in the home study. We were. I figured to pay through the nose. We have. I assumed there would be a lot of waiting and praying and a great deal of ups and downs. All true.

I didn't expect other things. I didn't know I would love the baby's mama the way I do. I didn't realize that our adopting would draw such a wide range of emotions from people, loved ones and complete strangers, both positive and negative, as it has. And I didn't know how I would feel right now, in the hours after the papers were signed that say that the child I prayed for has been released by her mother, because she thinks this is the best thing to do for her child, that it would hurt. I hurt for my baby girl's mama, for her aunties and cousins and friends.

It doesn't feel like a good thing. It feels selfish and wicked, that these people are hurting and that, in a way, I'm part of that pain. True that she made her choice before we were in the picture. I (and the attorney and adoption agency and the social workers) told her several times that she didn't have to do it, that she could change her mind. Her friends and family (and a couple nurses, I think) encouraged her to consider other options. It was her choice.

That doesn't help her heart right now. Or theirs. Or mine. I feel like I took something precious from someone I love and do not want to hurt. When she was hurting in labor, I wished I could have taken it from her. Now, again, I wish I could hurt for her.

Is this how Jesus feels? For us all?

How marvelous, how wonderful
And my song shall ever be
How marvelous, how wonderful
Is my Savior's love for me

Saturday, September 25, 2010

from the field

This reminds me of a reporter sending back news from the field of battle or what have u, befor the internet, I mean.

(Side note: I know there is potential for negative stuff on facebook. But I am so thankful for it - best way I know to mobilize prayer at all hrs across the nation)

All r doing better, out of icu, moved to less intense part of nicu, eating real food/formula, may go home in next few days.

God is great and greatly to be praised.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

news from the aforementioned abyss

First off, sorry about my last post, was falling asleep @ end so didn't finish the point. Second, I'm blogging with my phone from a hospital room in florida, hence the lazy texting style typing.

The abyss refers to the big unknown, not any part of it. I am with our birthmom, who is resting. She is dealing with some pre-eclampsia things so the docs are gently and carefully (read slowly and tediously) inducing her labor.

She is lovely and sweet and gracious even tho she feels lousy. We had time alone to talk about some of the things that we needed to - good for me, good for her.

We came w/o knowing when baby would b born, not b'cuz we thought it was necessarily time for baby, but out of a desire to be with her mama. And I am so very glad we did. It has been precious.

She is going to give me a bracelet so I can c baby when I want to; she wants me in the room when she's born; and I'm going to cut the cord.

My husband is here with #1 and #3 sons, they saw the sunrise on the beach, took naps in the hotel room, and went shopping for a gift for our birthmom. They have been up here some, but are trying to give her some privacy. She has two close friends here also.

I am in awe at God's grace and her strength. There is much grace and peace in this room. I am blessed.

More later.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Standing at the edge of the abyss

Well that's what it feels like. I remember in the movie StarGate (which I doubt anyone reading this watched) the main character standing at the star gate, wanting to go through, more than anything, putting his hand through and withdrawing it, hesitating.

I'm there. I'm standing at the edge of something I have greatly desired, and I am very nervous.

I am not nervous about becoming a parent. Though each child is unique and wonderful, and becoming a mother is new each time, I am not afraid of that.

My nervousness exists on several levels, and these are in no particular order:

I am nervous about being the mom of someone who doesn't look like the flock of 10 I've accumulated. I don't even know what her birthparents look like. I have no idea what her features will be like, her coloring, let alone her personality or likes and dislikes. She is completely unknown to me. (Ironically, she is the only child I have known the gender of before meeting her.)

I am nervous about the journey, the hospital, the staff. I'm nervous about going to a strange city with two boys and husband, leaving the majority of our offspring at home and figuring that out from the road. I'm nervous about if I have what I need, if I have packed well (I know they have kitchen sinks there, but will it be the right kind??).

I'm nervous about meeting our birthmom. I've talked with her, prayed for and with her, and loved her from a distance. But there is still a great deal of insecurity about this relationship. I do not fully know why she is placing her child for adoption. I want more information, but do not want to risk making her feel uncomfortable or used.

I'm nervous about breastfeeding a tiny person while I am pregnant, not knowing if I will have enough milk for her (assuming her language skills won't be quite up to, "Mom, may I have a bottle of formula, you're not making enough here." Planning on picking up some helpful equipment, but will I have time before we go.

But really, what I'm really nervous about, is that tomorrow, or the next day, or the next, I'm going to be joining another culture, perhaps one that doesn't particularly want me in it. Oh, obviously there are many, many black people who are perfectly fine, even pleased about transracial adoption. I have had several discussions early in our journey with black friends and neighbors who were very encouraging.

But I went to the grocery store tonight, which is one of the places I go when I want to be the only white person. For one thing, I was racially profiled, I think. Two guys, one younger, one older, independently hit me up for money. They didn't approach anyone else. Of course, I may have been pregnant profiled. Or I may have been the most approachable candidate.

At any rate, being at my grocery store in my part of town just makes me wonder how people there will respond to me when, instead of bring my apricot skinned daughter in, I bring my chocolately skinned daughter in. Will it reject me, accuse me of stealing its children? Will I be able to train my girl to be comfortable in different cultures, even different expressions of different cultures.

So I'm nervous, but I think exhaustion is going to beat out nerves this time.

Thursday, September 09, 2010


When I had my first baby, I was completely unprepared for the way that I loved her. Immediately, irrevocably, unconditionally, love. Here was this teeny tiny person whom I'd never met, the nurses kept calling her by the name I gave her, and calling me "Mom". She was a complete stranger. She did very little, nursed, cried, pooped, peed, spit, slept. That's pretty much it. But I was immediately smitten with the deepest, strongest, most pure love I had ever experienced.

As I prepared for the birth of my second born, I was concerned (I'm not kidding), knowing how much I loved my first, how could I love the second less. But I didn't think it was possible to love that way again, and at the same time.

Then my son was born and I was reminded of the story How the Grinch Stole Christmas, when "the Grinch's heart grew 3 sizes that day" - my heart grew and I found I was capable of loving 2 humans in that amazing way.

Of course now, having grown so many times, my heart fills my entire rib cage. And I have anticipated that when I meet my baby girl, currently residing in her birthmom's tummy in Florida, I will also fall completely in love with her. We have prayed for her, longed for her, prepared for her, gone through all kinds of weird adoptive self-examining form-filling out for her - I will love her.

The surprise for me is how I feel about her mother. I have talked to this woman twice now, for a total of maybe 20 minutes. I've been praying for her and others for months, and praying just for her for a couple weeks. I've been nervous about talking to her, I've thought about what it would be like, I've tried to imagine how she feels.

But I didn't know I would love her. I just want to hug her. I can't wait to meet her. She is a treasure too. I knew this, that the mother is as precious as the baby, that Jesus died for her, that He loves her, that she is important to Him. But I have, in the last couple days, experienced how much He must love her, and I'm overwhelmed with love also. I had no idea.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

This post is not an adoption update.

The reason it is not an update is that there is not any more information. I do not know if the birthmom we have been praying about will choose us. Sometimes I think that it is good for her to take her time, she will make a better decision, and will be less likely to regret it. We were blessed with a visit from my husband's family this weekend, and I am glad to focus on them, and not either be sad because she didn't choose us, or distracted because she did choose us.

I am aware that everything is in God's hands, and that He alone is our Rock. No matter what we see or hear or don't see or don't hear, we are safe in trusting in the Lord. He Himself brought us to this place. We are trusting Him for whatever the result will be and however it will come to pass.

In the meantime, the mode is *thankful*. I give thanks for what He has done and what I believe He is going to do. I thank Him for the big and small ways He has spoken to us, provided for us, and led us. And I am thankful that, because He is and will always be faithful, that what He does with us and with the baby He made somewhere for our family will be perfect and acceptable and good.


Mawwiage is what bwings us togevah today. Vat bwessed awwangement, vat dweam wivin a dweam.

Here is what I have learned about marriage, especially in the context of having a whole lot of kids.

I am my husband's helpmeet, not the other way around. God did not put him here or put us together so that he can give me a break when he comes home or so he can serve my needs and take care of me. I know that's not a very liberated point of view, but I think it is biblical. At the same time, the same Bible says he is to lay his life down for me the way Christ laid His life down for the church. But it is not my responsibility to get him to lay it down. Which brings me to the next thing.

My husband answers to God, not to me. I love the verse in Proverbs that says the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and He turns it whichever way He wants it to go. The reality is, I am not the best judge of which way his heart should go. I am not his judge.

When we have an issue, which is often enough, here is how I handle it. I shut my mouth until I'm done being hot about it. It won't do any good to fire off at him in the midst of my anger anyway, he doesn't respond well to my emotional outbursts. So then, sometimes not till after he falls asleep, I pray about it. But my prayer is not, "Please God change that man."

My prayer is more like this: God, I give him to you. Do whatever You want with him. Make him the way you want him to be. Draw him near. Show him Your love for him. Help him know You as his Friend. Teach him everything he needs to know about being the kind of husband You want him to be. He belongs to You. I give you all his time, all his energy, all his resources. I trust You with our marriage, with our children, with my heart.

And no matter how worked up I am, during the course of praying for my husband with words of honor, respect, and love, God always heals my heart and brings me to a point of trusting in Him to take care of me, my husband, and my marriage.

Another thing I have learned is not to diss my man in public. (Diss is short for disrespect.) I heard someone say a fight is over when you can both laugh about it, so we try not to talk about a fight until we can both laugh about it. But I do not (I used to) bring out the dirty laundry in front of people while we are still working through it in an attempt to get other people to agree with me and help my husband see the error of his ways.

A wise woman builds her house, but a contentious one tears it down with her own hands. (Proverbs something) I learned this from The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, believe it or not. One of the habits is about production/production capacity. Basically, if you want your marriage/factory/goose that lays golden eggs to be productive, you have to take care of it and invest in it and not abuse it in your attempt to increase productivity. If I say unkind words to or about my husband in an attempt to get him to be the husband I want him to be or have the marriage I want to have, I have actually depleted the strength of the relationship instead of increased it. I have weakened my house with my own hands.

Here's what I haven't learned yet, or at least put into practice: I haven't learned how to keep my house in such a way that he delights in coming home. I haven't learned how to receive any negative feedback from him without either becoming depressed or angry or immediately breaking down in tears. During those times, I struggle with honoring him in front of our children, and sometimes I turn some of my frustration toward them and become a less pleasant mother.

I'm a more consistent cook than I used to be, but so often I operate in either survival or comfort food mode, so I struggle to feed my family in as healthy a way as my husband desires. He is a much healthier eater than I am, and is in much better physical shape than me. You can blame hormones/pregnancy/nursing if you like, but the reality is, he is much more disciplined than I am, and it shows.

By the way, lest anyone be intimidated by what I have learned, please know that I learned it because I used to be LOUSY at it. I disrespected him in front of people, I literally kicked him out of bed, with my foot, in an attempt to "not let the sun set on our anger". I would badger and bully and yell in an attempt to get him to respond, all in the name of "working it out", not understanding that the reason he didn't say anything was because what he had to say would hurt me, and he didn't want to hurt me. Rather than hurt me, he kept his silence until he could speak in love. I just blasted him.

The thing is, since learning to trust God with our marriage, to save working through issues until an appropriate time when I had control of my tongue, to pray when I'm frustrated and angry and to honor my husband publicly and privately - I'm a way happier chick. I would have thought I would just be frustrated. But God really is faithful. He really does hold my husband's heart in His hands. Even for someone whose husband is unsaved, God is still God over his heart.

I figured, if God is enough for the single woman, for the widow, for the orphan - He is enough for me. I put all my eggs in one basket. He is all my joy, all my strength, all my hope. Sometimes He meets my needs through my husband, and I'm thankful. But He also fills my heart lots of ways. The important thing is that my gaze is fixed on Him, not my husband, not my children, not my sisters or parents or friends or projects, just Him.

Nuf said.

So tweasuwe your wuv . . .

Thursday, September 02, 2010


I'm not going to lie to you. It's been a long day of not knowing anything, and here I'm writing at 9:32 p.m. and I still don't know anything. But I have peace.

I remember an old Larry Norman song, "we need Your strong love and strange peace." (Love Larry Norman, by the way. Love.) And I do, I have a strange peace. "My peace I give to you, not as the world gives, do I give to you." The peace that passes understanding.

But one of the strange ways I've come by my strange peace is through the voice of my children. Now the Bible says, "Out of the mouth of babes You have established praise for Yourself," and "Your young men shall prophesy," and we have the example of the boy Samuel hearing God's voice, so we ought not be surprised when God speaks through them.

Over the last year or so, we have begun to pursue something we call family worship, or a family altar. It started out with just a story from Egermeier's Bible Story Book, and a prayer. We have all our children involved, so we use the story book, not the actual Bible, although I do read that with the school aged children. Anyway, later we added worship, where one of the older kids plays a song and we sing, and we added listening time, when the older child plays a song without singing, and we ask God to speak to us. We close our eyes and wait, not very long. Afterward, I write in a journal anything anyone has heard from God.

And I'm convinced that my children mostly hear from God in what they say. The four-yr-old usually says something like: God wants me to be kind or obey or share my toys "with one another" - which sounds right to me. Sometimes they have pictures that I have no clue whatsoever what they mean. Once Claire saw a flower every day for a week. We stopped having listening time for a while after that, because I didn't know what to do with that flower.

But many times they have words that seem good at the time, and later turn out to be sort of profound. Example: Nick said two different days recently that the birthmom would be "wise". He explained that maybe she would think since we had a bunch of kids that maybe we would know what to do with 1 or 2 more. But he used the word wise, not a word he uses in his day to day. Then last night I was looking at names, for the sake of naming the child, and read the listing for birthmom's name - in the book I was using, it meant wise discerner. The point is not the exact meaning - those vary somewhat with what book you look at. The point was confirmation. He had said the birthmom would be wise, and the name book said she is wise. I thought that was pretty cool.

Today, several of my children just said, this is our baby. But in the middle of that context, with the tide going happily that way, one said, "she might not pick us, but even if she doesn't we'll be blessed," and another said, "I think God is saying 'tomorrow,'" when we had been told we would find out today.

Now that wasn't something I wanted to hear, but I wrote it down and tucked it away. And as the day wore on, with nary a phone call or e-mail, except from people who love me, saying, "do you know anything yet?" And as I was desperately trying to be patient and trust in the Lord, I found I was okay, and had peace. Because this morning, my son said, tomorrow, and my other son said, she might not pick us, but we'll be blessed anyway.

I will sleep in peace. I hope I know something tomorrow. I hope I know a yes. But if it is no, we will still be blessed. I know, because God told Nick, and Nick hears from God.


Today is an exciting day.

(Disclaimer: I know that there are lots of ups and downs on the road to adoption and that this up might be followed by a huge down and that lots of people have lots of obstacles . . . but I'm sharing the up here, and you can enjoy this part of the journey with me if you want to.)

Today another birthmom will receive our profile in the mail and will decide whether to allow our large and growing family to be her daughter's forever family. So what? Families are shown to birthmoms all the time, right? We have some friends who were shown to something like 15 birthmoms over a period of 2 months. We've been shown to 2, maybe 3. So why do I think this day is such a big deal?

Well, part of it is the situation. We are the only family being shown to a woman who is not raising her other children. She has already been told about our family and still wanted to see our profile.

The other reason I think this might be it is because of God things. Little things, but significant to me, things that are God's fingerprints, I think. Things God has spoken to me, to my children. Ways He has changed my heart and prepared me.

I don't know if it will happen for sure, but at this point, I'm praying that God would close the door if this baby isn't for us. We are also praying for spiritual, mental, and physical health for our baby and birthmom, and for God to take care of details like dates, dollars, accommodations, and care for our other children while we go.

God is so good, God is so good
God is so good, He's so good to me

God answers prayer, God answers prayer
God answers prayer, He's so good to me

I love Him so . . .

Friday, August 27, 2010

Counting blessings

Right now, at this very moment, due to the gracious help of my eldest daughter, my friend Gabrielle, the Lord, and Ronald McDonald's sugar-free iced coffee, you can walk all the way to my laundry room on carpet. Carpet, I say! Not on top of or wading through 6 inches of laundry. Just walking. That's a beautiful thing. And there are probably only 6 or 7 or 8 loads waiting to be done - with only 1 pee soaked comforter. One! Not only that, but all of the clean laundry is (drum-roll) sorted, folded, hung up, what-have-you, processed. That's right. Finally, all the laundry is out of my bathroom, has been collected from the first floor (including stinky diapers) and is sorted and ready to wash and (grand finale) the floor of the family closet is CLEAN. Is it Christmas already??

That's one big blessing.

Here's another. We celebrated our 17th wedding anniversary recently. At home group we jokingly talked about what you are "supposed" to get for the seventeenth, you know, wood, paper, china, silver . . . My husband looked it up and said that, traditionally, there wasn't a 17th gift, but that in modern etiquette, it's furniture. I gave a big cheer because of all the things I would ask for (cept maybe a frontload washing machine), that would be what I'd want. A week later, a family in our home group says they have some furniture that is too big for their house, do we want it. Huge blessing. Even looks good with what we have, sort of.

That's two.

Tuesday night, we are out of food, need to hit the grocery store, too tired. I got a text from a friend, asking if they can bring over pizzas! They treated us to dinner and wonderful conversation. What a blessing! And they shared some things that were really significant for my heart to hear. At the end of our delightful evening, we prayed together and God spoke to them on our behalf, and that was powerful too. I've had more grace since then to lean on the Lord and walk in obedience than I've had in years. And did I mention the pizza?

That's 3 or maybe 4.

We started school this week. My older children have hit the ground running, my middle folks are enthusiastic about their new math program, my littles are excited about their work, and my babies are, well, they're cute. The three year old even pooped in the pot today on his own (compensating for the last dozen or so poops in his pants).

That's 5, 6, 7, or so.

My husband is a Godly man who loves us, stands firm on his convictions, hears God and obeys, works hard and does everything he can to take care of and serve his family. I am so very blessed to be married to him.

Pretty sure I could go on and on, as each of my children are a huge blessing, and there are a lot of them. I've got a house big enough for them, food enough to feed them, and I'm driving my dream car. The Lord has been good to me.

To borrow from Veggie Tales:
I thank God for this day, for the sun in the sky
For my mom and my dad, for my piece of apple pie
For our home on the ground, for His love that's all around
That's why I say thanks every day
Because a thankful heart is a happy heart
I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy way to start
For the love that He shares, 'cause He listens to our prayers
That's why I say thanks every day.


I have been pregnant 11 times, counting this one. I think I get humbler with each. For my first, I was on the go up until the very end. I could have been pregnant forever. It really didn't slow me down. Even at the end, I felt good and wasn't in a big hurry to be un-pregnant. And I was very public with my pregnancy. I recorded a CD and led worship at a Kent Henry conference and danced in front of everybody days after my due date.

With my next few, I remember getting closer to the end and wanting to settle in a little bit more. Near the end of my pregnancies I was more likely to cancel a worship practice or to turn down a chance to do something.

Over the years, I have become progressively more reclusive progressively earlier in my pregnancies. Sometimes I can't get out of obligations and just force myself to do what needs done. But my heart wants to be home sooner and sooner.

I remember with my 9th or 10th that I was done almost as soon as I started. Not that I wanted to have the baby that soon, and not even that I didn't enjoy being pregnant. But the nesting thing. I don't mean that fabled burst of energy you hear about where the previously lethargic 9 months pregnant mom-to-be is going around furiously cleaning her house, supposedly indicating labor will begin soon. I just mean that thing barn cats do.

Okay, to be honest, I'm not an actually animal person. Everything I know about animals is either from reading or hearsay. But I've read and heard lots of stories about favorite cats or other pets that go missing, are assumed lost, dead, or stolen, and weeks later come out of the barn with 4 or 5 little cute babies following behind.

That's what I feel like doing. I'm sure part of it is because over the years, the world has gradually become less and less enthusiastic about me being pregnant. It's one thing to go out in public with 4 or 7 or 10 ducklings, it's something entirely differently doing the same thing with a big round announcement on the front of you proclaiming to onlookers that you obviously haven't learned your lesson yet.

I'm sort of over that. I don't care too much anymore. Sometimes the negative feeling gets to me, especially after going out in public several times in a row (last week I took all 10 to the dentist office and then immediately went to the allergy doctor, 'cuz I'm the amazing supermom . . . at the end I wanted to crawl under a rock!), but generally that's not my issue, I don't think. I just want to hide.

Hiddenness is probably a better term than nesting. It means I don't want to lead, don't want to teach, don't want to be on the spot in any way in front of people. I just want to be with my family, with my husband and children and friends who love me and feel very, very safe. Even facebook (especially facebook) feels exposed and unsafe sometimes.

I am hiding. I've quit everything that I do. I am only wife and mom. When someone asks me to do something, my head shakes no automatically. It's an instinct that kicks in as soon as I know I'm pregnant now and this time I'm not resisting.

But I was nesting even before I got pregnant. Because I'm nesting doubly right now. I'm nesting for two. I am growing somebody in my uterus AND in my heart. My van pulls to the right when I drive by St. John's, because that's where my first 10 miracles were born. But I'm also dreaming about getting on a plane and becoming a mom in a different way than I ever have before. I have ultrasound pictures on my counter and I have imaginings in my heart.

It's not one or the other. It's not that I don't care about being pregnant because I am hoping to adopt. It's BOTH/AND. God conceived two babies in our lives. One doesn't replace or invalidate the other. I'm not neglecting my "born baby" (as the kids call it) by dreaming about my adopted baby. I don't desire my adopted baby any less because God also chose to give us a "born" baby partway through the adoption process, not any more than a mother of twins prefers one child over another.

I'm waiting patiently for a day in February that I know from experience will come, give or take a couple weeks. I am trying to eat what my body needs and praying that God will give me a healthy pregnancy. I'm taking vitamins and going to checkups and asking questions and switching my wardrobe to accommodate my expanding middle.

AND I'm checking adoption agency websites and reading adoption books and praying for birthmoms and trying to be patient even though I have no idea within even years when it will happen. I'm pumping and planning and praying and picking out names. But mostly I'm waiting and leaning and longing, longing for an e-mail, a phone call, anything that takes it out of the vague maybe someday realm and moves it into reality. I'm longing to meet and hold someone I'm growing and carrying inside me, and longing to meet and hold someone who could be anywhere, arriving anytime.

And all of this longing together makes me one distracted chick. So if you miss seeing me in the usual places, or miss having me play a more active role, or miss my playing a more lively part in conversations or engaging more in what's happening around me, don't worry, I'm okay, and I'll be back later.

I'm just nesting.

Sunday, August 22, 2010


Really?! Is there really a birthmom out there somewhere who would pick a family with going on eleven children? Will this really actually happen someday? Is there a need? Is there a genuine need for families to love little babies whose mothers somehow brought them to delivery? It all seems very unlikely.

Save the babies Lord! Help the mamas know their person is worth the sacrifice, that it is a short moment in their lives compared to a lifetime of suffering and guilt. Give them grace to resist the pressure, grace to hang on, grace to endure, grace to let go, if that really is the best thing.

We're saying yes Lord. People already think we're crazy. Who has a dozen kids? That's what we want. The blessing and heritage of the Lord. Not taking away from other waiting families, but saying yes to babies You've made that maybe no one else wants. We do. We'll stand at the back of the line. We don't have to be at the front.

But the longing, Jesus, I'm longing. I desire this dream You've put in my heart. I'm lovesick with a love You gave me. I want the babies You have for me, the ones You've created for me, for our family.

Could it really be? Could it be soon? Could it be later or ever? Would You who are infinitely kind be so kind to fill my arms with the desire of my heart?

I believe You will. Lord I believe. Help my unbelief. Help me believe You really, really will. Help me be ready.


Dear Lord Jesus,

Tomorrow we will attempt to begin another year of homeschooling. I will try to teach 8 children to read, write, think, add, subtract, multiply, divide, communicate, process, problem solve, and all the while to be diligent, to manage time, to be kind to each other, to know God, to clean up after themselves, to protect, to forgive, and to repent with humility.

At the same time, there are two little people who need to learn to solve problems without hitting or biting, to poop in the potty, to stay off the table (or at least not throw everything that's on the table onto the floor) (or at least to not throw food, liquid or glass), and to not take off a diaper or pair of pants that have already been pooped in without assistance.

Additionally, Lord, my house is a disaster area. It looks as though I've been out of town four consecutive weekends without ever catching up on the laundry cycle (which is, in fact, true). The kids' closet is about 4 inches deep in clothing that may or may not have been worn, much of it girls size 4T. There is a noticeable smell beginning about 15 feet from the laundry room door. Most of our bedding needs washed, and You know how I feel about washing sleeping bags and pillows and comforters - for a full 1.5 hrs washing and drying, I've only cleaned 1 or 2 items.

There is no clean room, no clean floor, and our new hand-me-down furniture arrives tomorrow. Please help me arrange it with the old in such a way that we can all sit in the same room at the same time without making the living room look like a Weekends Only furniture outlet.

We've become one of those families who have more vehicles worth less, just hoping they will take turns crapping out and not all cost money at the same time. And speaking of money, there is this almost imaginary but hopefully very real possibility of increasing our numbers by 1 and decreasing our net worth by tens of thousands that shadows every large and small decision we make with our stretchy dollars.

So starting school seems daunting. I don't know where two of my new books are, I don't think the kids hid them, but . . .

I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford. I need Thee, oh I need Thee. Every hour I need Thee. Oh bless me now my Savior, I come to Thee.

Help me be faithful to You in the morning when I wake up. Help me to iron with joy the shirt I'll be too tired to get to tonight. Help me get up in time to get a shower before the littles wake up and start demanding their pound of flesh. God please help me eat what my body needs and not confuse a happy mouth and full tummy with the grace that only comes from You.

Most of all, help me show my children Your beauty, Your mercy, Your faithfulness, Your character. Help me be faithful to do what is really important tomorrow, to use my energy and seconds (both of which are extremely limited) for Your eternal Kingdom. Make my house a place where Your glory dwells, where my children feel safe, where my husband finds peace when he comes home. Help me run to You when my raging hormones give me super-angry-power to knock down defenses with my sarcastic ray gun and break people's hearts. Help me be the amazing supermom and not a cross between Shrek and the incredible hulk.

I am not my own, I belong to You. Help me be faithful to my vow to give myself to You, to be set apart for You.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010


This is my eleventh pregnancy. Pregnancy for me at this point is primarily characterized by indescribably and insurmountable exhaustion, difficulty making decisions or focusing, and being the emotional equivalent of a Hawaiian island (or wherever), where the earth's crust is so thin that lava may pour out of the ground at any place at any time.

I'm not throwing up, no food aversions or cravings, just dang tired, pathetic and an emotional train wreck that keeps happening over and over like a bad dream.

Coffee helps, except that then I don't sleep as well when I do sleep. Naps just make me angry (maybe because they are constantly interrupted?). And being hot makes me angry. And mosquitoes make me angry. Grrr.

I had a prophetic word back in May, Mother's Day weekend, in the prophetic rooms in Kansas City. Be expectant. Oh, I'm expectant. I'm expecting all over the place. My brain is spinning with the possibilities.

But my husband has this strange peace. "We can't mess this up," he says. God is going to open and close doors. God is going to take care of everything. God is going to give us everything we need for both babies, for our other children, for finances, for college, for parenting. "We could say no, and if it was God, they'd call us back and ask us to reconsider."

One of the things the Lord told us early on is that we will learn to lean on Him. It reminds me of the movie "While You Were Sleeping" when Sandra Bullock is asked why Joe Junior is 'leaning', then later asked if Bill Pullman is 'leaning'. It implied intimacy (and as everyone knows, "while you were sleeping" is the video equivalent of strong's concordance as far as the implication of words goes).

It also reminds me of John the Beloved, leaning against Jesus during that tumultuous last supper with accusations flying. But mostly it makes me think of Song of Solomon, who is this coming up out of the wilderness leaning on her Beloved? The bride, with banners, triumphant in her battle, but wearing, maybe limping, needing the strength of another to make it home.

Derek Loux - "I've been wounded by love, that's why I'm leaning, it's why I'm trusting". Jacob, touched by the angel, never the same, given a new name, marked by God, walked with a limp for the rest of his life. Leaning.

So in my unknown state, which isn't doubled, it's multiplied, will I have my "born" baby early, will my blood pressure be okay, will my placenta stay attached till it's job is over, will my "adopted" baby come sooner, later, will I have milk for him/her even while pregnant, will I have two babies 6 months apart, or 5 or less, will our "born" baby come first, with more money to update the home study and profile, and time running out on some of the documents . . . . I'm leaning. He knows. I don't. I'm trusting. I'm leaning.

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Thee. Leaning.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Our Sabbath Experiment

We are trying something new. We have been exploring the never ending question: How to fit 12 lbs of crap into a 10 lb bag. And this is a solution that we think just. might. work.

See, here's the problem. We have a whole lot of kids, see? And we believe that their walk with God will be powerfully impacted as we disciple them. But one of us is an overwhelmed introvert who works a lot and comes home to an overwhelmed extroverted wife who wants him to talk to her, to a yard that needs mowed (and a son who needs to be taught to mow it), to bills that need paid, to e-mails that need answered, that followed him home for a job he has to do. We are sucking the life out of this man. There is no time or energy to disciple anyone, to read the Bible and worship as a family, to have those meaningful conversations with older sons that are so very critical.

But recently there has been a changeover in the childrens' ministry at our church, which released all of us from our committments to serve, leaving us free to sign up again, or not. At least for the moment, we are not. We have laid down our ministry responsibilities. We will go to church on Saturday night, and keep our family together, because we don't have to put them in a class while we lead worship or whatever. We will worship as a family, listen to a sermon as a family, take notes, talk about it together.

And on Sunday, we will have a family sabbath. A big breakfast, worship and Bible time with Dad, and plenty of time left over for relaxing, talking, praying, reading, napping, whatever. A day set aside for the Lord. A delight, a day not to go our own way, not doing as we please or speaking idle words. (Isaiah 58:13)

Our children are, of course, grieved. When will we see our friends? You're supposed to go to church on Sunday! Why can't we do that stuff on Saturday? Because we don't do it. It's an experiment. So we'll see what it is like. If we find out that Dad is paying bills all Sunday morning, and that we are watching movies all day, we'll probably switch back. But that's the game plan.

The now and the not yet

It's an old Amy Grant song.

(bunny trail: I know a lot of people have been pretty hard on Amy Grant over the last several years, and I've made my share of snide remarks, but here is my stance, since I'm sure you are wondering: I think there is a lot we don't know that she could have told us in her defense that she chose not to say, and I think by saying less she has honored the Lord and Gary in a way many of us might not have.)

The song is, I think, the first one I ever played and sang at the same time. Here are the words:
No longer what we were before, but not all that we will be
Tomorrow when we lock the door on all our compromising.
When He appears He'll draw us near
And we'll be changed by His glory
Wrapped up in His glory.
We will be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
But I'm caught in between the now and the not yet.
Sometimes it seems like forever and ever
That I've been reaching to be all that I am
But I'm only a few steps nearer
Yet I'm nearer

I am aware, more recently than ever, that I am not the woman of God I long to be, especially as I walk before my children. My older children are old enough to see the chasm of hypocrisy between my walk and my talk. My eldest has so much more integrity than I do. And I groan beneath the weight of desire to show them an example they can look up to.

But as I was driving the other day, and praying, I was aware of a legacy I can leave them. I can give them the legacy of longing. I am longing for more of Jesus here in my every day. I am longing for more healing and deliverance and salvation in my world. I am longing to be disciplined and healthy and full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. But in the face of the chasm between the now and the not yet, I long most of all to see Him face to face. I long to hear His voice, to see His face, and to be completely new, having left all my old debts behind.

I know that the undulation (thank you C.S. Lewis) of this life is part of the journey, and that I will draw nearer only to find how much more desperately I need to draw near. But there is a day coming when I will no longer lack any thing because I will be truly and completely in Him. I long for that day.

And in that longing, my children, you may imitate me. Don't imitate my weaknesses, my shortcomings and failures. Don't imitate my gluttony, my temper, my laziness, my insecurity. But this desire, this longing, be like me in this - in the knowledge that that place is better than the best moment of the best day we've ever known. Enjoy what is good in this place, but in good and bad times, remember, this isn't home. And home is a very, very good place.

Things I forgot about camping

We went camping recently. All 12 of us, sleeping in a tent. Here is what I had forgotten about camping but have since remembered:

There is no 3 second rule with camping. You cannot quickly pick up a dropped s'more and eat it because it is covered with dirt and pine needles.

The migration patterns of small children sleeping on a flat surface (i.e. the ground in a tent) means that even if there is room for everyone when you go to sleep, someone will wake up with a foot or elbow in the gut, or mouth, or um, wherever, before the night is out.

Camping when pregnant works better when you are in a camper with a toilet. Taking a 10 minute round trip walk several times in the middle of the night does not make for a well rested mommy, even if the view of the stars through a pine tree canopy is great compensation.

The toilets at the john at the campground we go to flush automatically whenever you move enough to scratch a mosquito bite.

Cooking by committee for 27 or so campers while keeping food on three different locations and without running water except for what you have to walk to get is, well, a challenge.

Rain is like steroids for laundry - it radically speeds up the process so you can go through three days of laundry in a matter of hours.

The dirt. The baby looks so dirty, she might be mistaken for a chimney sweep (good luck will rub off . . . ).

Toddlers want to play in the street. Maybe it's the big kids zipping by on their bicycles, maybe it's the water spigot within visibility with the delightful puddle around it, maybe it's that pine needles don't feel as good to bare feet as pavement - they are drawn to the road like mosquitoes are drawn to my ankles and babies' foreheads (one child looked like his head was square from 20 bites, the other resembled a Clingon, with a row of bites right down the middle of her forehead).

The 3 year old doesn't actually need to pedal, he can go almost as fast as big kids with training wheels, per the Fred Flintstone method.

Things we forgot: all our lists, forks, and to put a pullup on the 3 year old before driving through the night.

Things we remembered: the joy children experience digging a hole in the ground, how good everything tastes when you're really hungry, how tired everyone gets playing at the beach, how sand gets EVERYWHERE, how much fun it is to play in the same waves on the same beach with your children that delighted you when you were their age.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


This is what submission looks like.

Right now there is a young woman somewhere who has a baby in her tummy she did not want. She drank, she smokes, she is planning on placing him for adoption. Birth dad doesn't care.

On the one hand, this is exactly what we signed up for. God made a baby where nobody wanted a baby. But we do. We want a baby. We want to say yes to what God made. We want to say yes to life.

This is a baby who has been abused before he was even born. And we have no idea what condition he will be in. The list of things that could be wrong with this little one is long and intimidating. Congenital heart defects, low birth weight, facial defects, ADHD, premature lungs, stillbirth. I don't know if my home school classroom can survive even the least tragic options on the list.

So here I am, my heart praying for birth mom, dad, and this little one. I'm in. But the questions are large: What if we get matched and she doesn't show? What if we say yes and he is still born or lands in the NICU in a state far from home? What if I am given the opportunity to parent a child that can't hold still long enough to hear 2 adjacent sentences?

But can we say no to a baby God made? So that's me.

But I can trust God to speak, to move, to give and take away, to do whatever is best for all involved. And one grand (or sometimes not so grand) way God takes care of me when I don't know what to do is to speak to/through my husband. His jury is still out.

We've had some conversations, he and I, some warm on the edge of heated, but they end like this: I say, "I trust you, I trust God to speak to you and through you, I will support whatever you decide".

I am praying for my husband, for birth mom, for birth dad, for baby. Lord, please help my husband know what to do. Help this birth mom know Your love, Your forgiveness, Your peace, and know what to do with this little one. Help the dad to know how much his heavenly Father loves him. And God, please heal and protect this little boy, and guide him into Your perfect plan. Amen.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Adoption Preferences

I have filled out what feels like a hundred pages of paperwork about adoption: why I want to adopt, what I have done to get ready to adopt, first name, middle name, maiden name, social security number, annual income, favorite color, favorite food, band instrument I wish I played in 6th grade and name of my least favorite substitute teacher (yellow, fresh peaches, saxophone, Mrs. Westfield - the worst subs were the ones who wanted to be teachers).

But the sheet we keep filling out for every single agency we apply to is the one about "preferences". And there is this whole list, 3 pages sometimes, of horrible questions that you would never have to answer for a child you were giving birth to (okay, I take that back, people do sometimes know if their child has an issue and are given a 'chance' to decide whether or not to 'parent' that child - my sister had that 'opportunity' with my niece's cleft lip and palette; my friend had that 'choice' for her daughter with spina bifida), but many of the questions are not normally encountered for biological children. It feels like you're trying to mail-order God.

There are all different types of questions. Diabetes? HIV? One of the birth parents had leukemia? One of the extended family had leukemia? Bipolar? Mental retardation, mild alcohol consumption, moderate alcohol consumption, severe alcohol consumption? Alcoholic? All manor of drug use questions, all different drugs, how much, in what month. 3 pages.

And every time we fill out the applications, which all word things differently, we re-evaluate, re-assess, re-answer the questions. It is an agonizing and unnatural process.

Idealistically, we just want to say yes. Yes, God. Yes, whatever You want to give us is fine. If we were to give birth to, say, a child with hydrocephaly, we wouldn't decline our parental rights, so why would we say no to adopting a child with the same need? If we gave birth to a baby at 33 weeks gestation, we would do whatever that baby needed us to do, period. So why wouldn't we adopt a baby that has to be in the NICU for 4 weeks?

And yet, we are saying no to some situations. We are saying no to diseases our other children could get. We are saying no to situations we don't think we could parent adequately without severely shortchanging either our adopted child or our other children.

Recently we got a phone call, our first and only, to date, about a baby needing a family. It was a boy, due in 6 weeks or so, pretty significant drug exposure, and they were having trouble finding adoptive families to present to the mom. Were we open, they wanted to know.

We were open. We were open to a baby who might be drug affected. We were open to a baby with legal risk. We were open even though the baby would probably have to be in foster care for a few days before we could get him. Our 'preferences' included all of the things he was, except one.

He was white. And in the racial portion of the preferences questionnaire, we had not stated we are open to white babies. We did not enter the adoption process with any thought of adopting a white baby. It never even entered our minds.

Now, there are several reasons for this.

Demand. White newborns are in higher demand for a few reasons that are not as unkind as you might assume. Most people adopting in America want a white baby because most people adopting in America are white because most people in America (at the current time) are white. (Why are there more black babies? Could it be that young pregnant black women, in spite of being racially targeted by organizations like Planned Parenthood for the destruction of their race, choose to give life while young white women choose abortion more often? I don't know, but I'm so glad the ones who choose life do so, aren't you?!) People generally prefer to adopt a baby that looks like them. Why?

Conspicuousness. A transracial adoption is very noticeable. The family enters a room, a store, a reunion and the very first thing complete strangers know about them is that they are an adoptive family. This can be difficult for the child or the parent or both. The parents have to talk about adoption with their child according to other people's reactions, not on the child's own developmental time table and according to his needs and understanding.

Identification. To adopt a child of a different race is to identify with that race, whether you choose to pursue and embrace that culture, or pretend the difference doesn't exist, it is there. To adopt a child that looks different than you means acknowledging and dealing with all the prejudice and stereotypes that child will face, and to realize the privilege that comes with being white that you were heretofore unaware of. It means helping a child find ways of learning his/her culture [not learning about, actually learning it], so that he/she feels comfortable with people of similar background as him/herself.

Adoption is hard all by itself, and adopting transracially is an entirely different (and potentially much harder) thing. So in the world of adoption preferences, you get to write down if you are open to Caucasian, Asian, Latino, Indian, native American, African-American, and different mixes. Here are my preferences: I want a baby of African-American heritage.

I can come most close to identifying with an African American baby. I live in a neighborhood with black people. I have a niece and nephew from Africa. I have close friends who are black. I do not currently have any relationships with Asian or Latino or Indian people. This is not deliberate, and has not always been the case. But I currently have meaningful relationships with black people. We deliberately chose, long before the subject of adoption was on the table, to live in a neighborhood where we would interact with and connect with and identify with African-American people all the time.

Does having a black niece and nephew and living in a neighborhood with black people and having friends who are black qualify me to raise a black child? No. But it does mean I'm better equipped than I am to raise, say, a Korean child.

I don't mind being conspicuous. We're incredibly conspicuous. I think leaving the house with a child who is obviously adopted will make us look LESS conspicuous. People will look and go, "oh, they're an adoptive family" and then they'll try to figure out which other kids are adopted instead of trying to imagine how one woman could possibly give birth to 10 children in 13 years.

And as far as demand/availability, we're a long shot. Maybe no birth mother will pick us at all. We just want to say 'yes' to young women who are choosing life instead of abortion - and it happens that many of those are African American.

We said yes to that drug affected white baby, but didn't get him. And for the 3 or 4 days we were waiting to be presented, I thought about adoption and about transracial adoption. I thought it might be easier, less complicated, and that maybe God didn't think I had what it took to be the mom of a child with brown skin. And I walked around my world with my eyes wide open, wondering if my community would accept us with an adopted black baby.

At my grocery store (as often happens, I was the only white person there), there was a young woman with a teeny tiny baby with brown skin and dark eyes and black curly hair, and I was smitten and adoring and I wondered if she'd be as happy for me if I walked in holding a baby like that - or if she'd resent it. It is possible that some people in my community, especially those who don't really know us, will feel we've stolen from them, or that it is yet another form of white arrogance.

I'm aware of the many opportunities I have for screwing up - it would reflect poorly if I allow my adopted black child to run outside in just a diaper or underwear - in my neighborhood people don't do that. It might be easier in suburbia than in the city. I'm nervous, afraid. Can I raise a child to be culturally comfortable with other black people, but raise him/her first in the Kingdom of God, and therefore in the world but not of it, and therefore somewhat uncomfortable with anyone who doesn't know Jesus?

Part of me thinks this won't really happen. We went up on the mountain, we tied up "Issac" and got ready to light the fire, and that's all that will really come of it. It was just a test. We passed. $4,000 in the offering plate. I'm not afraid to offer that to God, I trust Him. And I'm not afraid of looking like a fool for Him - I do that all the time.

I'm probably more afraid that it will happen. I don't know what it will look like, or be like. I do not enjoy experiencing rejection, nor do I appreciate when my children encounter it. I am uncertain that I have what it takes. But I am completely certain God does have what it takes. I have seen that His timing is always perfect. His ways are always perfect. I know that whatever He does with us in this area in this season will be exactly right and He will give us whatever we need to be the parents of all the children He gives us - emotionally, financially, in every way.

And I guess that's where my preferences really come down. I don't want a child of African American descent for reasons of availability or conspicuousness or racial identification. I don't want to be the mom of a black boy or girl because I live in a neighborhood with wonderful black people and have wonderful black friends and have a marvelous black nephew and a gorgeous black niece. It isn't my preference because I think I could do better at raising a black child than I could if I was mom to a child of another culture or ethnicity.

I want a son or daughter with lovely brown skin and beautiful dark eyes and curly black hair because that is what God put in my heart when He planted the seeds for adoption. That's what I want because that's what I think God wants to give me. I will follow Him anywhere and do whatever He tells me to do, and if it doesn't look like I thought it would, I will still say 'yes' to Him. It wouldn't be the first time He took me to St. Louis by way of St. Petersberg or to Muncie, Indiana by way of Tulsa, Oklahoma.