Thursday, December 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes...a little early


Here's a little update on life:

1. Work is C.R.A.Z.Y. We are going through a merger, which means A LOT going on in December and January. After the last few weeks of going in early, staying late, and stress, I have so much admiration for those who work long hours on a regular basis. Can't wait to get back to normal hours in a few months. On the bright side, after the merger I will have an exciting new position.

2. Advent is here. I'm trying to make the most of Advent, but its easier said than done. At church hubby and I are doing an 8-week study on prayer called Oremus. It requires about 20min of prayer time (ie. homework) every day. So far, the homework is helping me get my prayer time in before work. Also I made a simple Advent wreath with some garland and ribbon. It only cost $6. The sad part is that due to differing work schedules hubby and I haven't had dinner at home together since I made it, so it hasn't gotten much use. I have lit it some evenings.



3. My birthday! It was my birthday last Saturday. Since IF has become a part of my life birthdays have been rough, but this one wasn't. Yay! I've been so busy at work that I haven't had much time to think about that fact I'm getting older, but still have no kids. My birthday was a Saturday, which meant NO WORK! ...Hubby and I went downtown Chi.cago to a vintage Christmas market, and to mass at St. John Cantius. St. John Cantius is a b-e-a-u-tiful church!! They offer mass ad orientum, meaning that the priest faces the altar during the consecration prayers. It was my first time, and I loved it.


4. My littlest sister's 13th birthday. It's so fun being the oldest of 7 and having a little sister almost 20 years younger than me. Last time I was visiting my parents (we live 3.5 hours away) we did facial mud masks together. I am going to surprise her this weekend and take her to the Melting Pot for fondue. I made her a Minion hat, which she requested, and got her the another present she wanted: perfume from the band One Direction. Oh my! ...She is sooooo cute!

Two of my sisters and I doing mud masks.
I didn't realize until I started it how many different colors are required.
5. Movies. I don't watch much TV (except NFL football, Go Packers!!!), but lately I've had fun watching movies during Christmas preparations. Plus after working so much, I feel like I deserve some down time. Last week I watched Little Women while wrapping presents. This week I watched While You Were Sleeping while working on Christmas cards. I think I might have to make this an annual tradition.

6. Is.real. Hubby and I went on pilgrimage to the Holy Land in November. It. Was. Amazing. The trip was a whirlwind. I still can't believe all that we saw. During the trip it was sometimes tough to pray, because we kept moving from one place to another. Still it was incredible to see where Jesus walked and talked, and get a feel for the geography of the Bible. My favorites were praying the Stations of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa, renewing our baptismal vows in the Jordan River, floating in the Dead Sea, and praying at rock of Golgotha in the church of the Holy Sepulcher.
Along the Via Dolorosa
On the Mount of Olives, overlooking Jerusalem
7. Milk Grotto. One other highlight of the Holy Land was praying at the Milk Grotto in Beth.lehem. Tradition is that Jesus, Mary, and Joseph took refuge here during Herod's slaughter of the innocents. While Mary was nursing, a drop of milk fell to the ground, turning the grotto white. Mike and I prayed for the miracle of children, and also for all couples going through IF.

Milk Grotto
That's what I've been up to lately.

Everything is still on hold with adoption, and that remains tough, but I'm feeling grateful for God's other blessings. This summer we are going to try with a new agency, so hopefully something will work out.

Peace this Christmas!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Advent Prayer

It's Advent! A beautiful season, but also a tough time of year. I really do love all the preparations for Christmas! ...the hope and joy in the air, the beautiful Masses, times for prayer, tree decorating, baking, Christmas cards, and time with family and friends. 

Ever since infertility became a part of our life, Advent and Christmas are also bittersweet. So many of the Christmas preparations and activities are focused on children...which we yearn for, but do not have. Four years in, it hurts to realize that this is yet another Advent/Christmas (and birthday for me) where we still have no children.

Last Advent my dear friend Jen shared this beautiful prayer with me from Seeking the Lamp blog. Please read the short post here. Seeking the Lamp experienced infertility for quite a while, adopted four children, and gave birth to twins this year. 

The prayer is this: 

"Jesus, if your nativity is the only one I ever have, it is enough for me. Thank you for my poverty, because without it I wouldn't know that you are all I want."

As Seeking the Lamp explains: "I admit I hesitated before I willfully prayed the prayer. I knew it meant that I accepted never having babies on our own, that it meant I accepted our third child's death [through miscarriage]. But I think the Holy Spirit gave me another nudge and gave me the strength to pray it. It was a Christmas prayer full of pain, but so much joy, too. It remains so."

Wow. At first I did NOT want to pray that prayer. But the more I read it, and reflected on it, the more I realized I needed to pray it. I need to surrender, I need to realize that Jesus really is all I want, or at least all I "want to want." 

This past year my heart softened. I found myself praying that little prayer throughout the year. It was a concrete way for me to pray for the grace of surrender and abandonment, and to give my little "Yes" to God on tough days.

Now that it's Advent again, I realize still have a loooooonnnng way to go. But, I'm so grateful for this prayer to help put infertility in perspective, and to help me pray that Jesus' nativity really is "enough for me."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Just like Peter

About a month ago I was reading the gospel for the day; it was Jesus washing the disciples' feet at the last supper (John 13:1-20).

One verse really stood out to me. Peter was protesting Jesus' washing his feet, and Jesus responded: "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later" (John 13:7). Jesus continued on to wash the disciples' feet and set an example of humble service.

 "What I am doing, you do not understand now, but you will understand later."

There are so many things in life that I don't understand. Infertility. Major roadblocks in our hopes to adopt. Family and friends dealing with difficult illnesses, lack of employment, or other circumstances that seem hopeless. So many people in the world experiencing poverty or living in the midst of war and turmoil. 

I just don't understand. I don't understand why we have to go through IF, I don't understand why others have their own equally difficult trials.

But maybe thats ok. Maybe its just par for the course on our earthly journey towards holiness. After all, Peter walked the earth with Jesus for three years, and even he didn't understand! Three years, that's 1095 days with Jesus Christ, Son of God! In that time Peter saw Jesus preform miracles, raise the dead, preach, and teach. Yet, Peter did not understand what Jesus was doing. But Jesus promised Peter, "You will understand later."

Jesus' response to Peter encourages me. Even if I don't understand my circumstances, and why God is allowing certain things in my life, or in the lives of those I love, I will understand later. It might not be until heaven, but at some point in the future I will have a supernatural outlook, and I will be able to see things with a "God's eye" view.

Hopefully understanding will come sooner rather than later. Hopefully soon I can see circumstances as God sees them. But, in the midst of the confusion and asking "Why?" I am comforted to know that Peter felt the same way too.







Friday, October 25, 2013

Reading for My Marriage

A few years ago Mike and I went to a marriage seminar. The speaker recommended reading a book about marriage each year.

This is advice I've tried to follow over the last five years of marriage. It's so easy to take your spouse for granted as time goes on, and generally just become more selfish. Often I find myself asking "What's in it for me?", rather than "How can I best love my husband?"

Happy Day - 2008
Below are some books on marriage that I've found helpful, encouraging, and generally a good kick in the you-know-where. The last two (#4 and #5) are my favorites.

1. The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by: Dr. Laura Schlessinger
I read this book last month after hearing about it through Leila's post at Little Catholic Bubble: Women: Save your marriage. In five minutes. Dr. Laura is known for her no-nonsense advice. Her in-your-face style takes a little getting used to. The book explains that husbands yearn for acceptance, appreciation, and approval from their wives. It offers lots of concrete examples of how NOT to treat your husband in various aspects of married life (by women who have learned the hard way). I would have appreciated a few more concrete ideas for how to better love your husband. Still the book was very helpful and convicting. Dr. Laura also includes many letters from husbands across the country. It touched me to read the words of so many sweet, good-hearted men who really love their wives, and are craving the same love in return.

2. The Power of a Praying Wife, by: Stormie Omartian
My mom read this book in her women's small group, and sent it to me. First of all, I love the author's first name! I smile every time I see it. True to its title, the book talks about how be a praying wife. First the book challenges wives to become women of prayer, who seek God first. Isn't that really what it's all about!?! Second the book explains how important it is that wives cover their husbands in prayer in all aspects of life: faith, career, decision-making, fears, friendships, health, and many more areas. The best part is that at the end of each chapter there is a prayer to use in praying for your husband.

3. Three to Get Married, by: Fulton Sheen
Fulton Sheen is the best. His writing style is so clear. Sheen presents the beautiful nature of marriage, explains God's plan for marriage, and offers profound yet simple reflection on how couples can fulfill their vocation to holiness. True to Fulton Sheen's characteristic style, the book is full of many one to two sentence quotes that stop you in your tracks and make you think. He also explains how marital love images the Trinity, and how God must be the foundation of every marriage.

4. Love and Respect: The Love She Most Desires, The Respect He Desperately Needs, by: Dr. Emerson Eggerichs
A church friend, married many more years that I, recommended this book a few years ago. I loved it. The basic premise is that women crave love and men yearn for respect. My favorite part is the practical organization and advice of the book. The first section describes specific ways in which women desire to be loved. These ways are based on the acronym COUPLE (Closeness, Openness, Understanding, Peacemaking, Loyalty, Esteem) and provide practical advice to husbands. Second, using the accronym CHAIRS (Conquest, Hierarchy, Authority, Insight, Relationship, S.exuality), the author provides concrete ways for wives to communicate respect to their husbands. The book has lots of examples from the author's life and ministry. Plus there are helpful appendices with even more practical advice. Yay!

5. By Love Refined, Letters to a Young Bride, by: Alice von Hildebrand
I came across this book while browsing in a Catholic bookstore. A lady came up to me and said it was a MUST READ. I agree. The book is a collection of letters from the author to a new wife. Each letter is short (2-3 pages) and to the point, making it easy to read just a few pages at a time. Some of the letter titles are: "Love is a great thing!", "It really hurt when he said that", "Who should sweep the floor?", "Our marriage just hasn't been the same lately", "I thought I knew how to love", and "I've been trying to pray more". I first read it after being married about a year and was amazed by how it addressed all of the little things we experienced in our first year. Paging through it now, I think it's time to re-read it. Definitely one of my favorite books on marriage!!

What are your favorite books on marriage? I would love suggestions for the future!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Running Therapy

I started training for my first half-marathon once we were done with infertility (IF) treatment.

It's something I've always wanted to do, but never wanted to jeopardize our chances of conception by my running.

After four years of infertility, it felt good to hit the pavement and make running a priority. Mike got me an ipod and showed me how to use it (let's just say spending time figuring out technology is not my favorite). What a difference running to music makes!

Race day was great! Despite forecast of rain, the day was sunny and perfectly cool. Fall colors were beautiful along the trail. It was a good run, despite a slight sore knee halfway through.



I can't believe I did it. So excited!



It was a great day, but the ache of infertility and our paused adoption efforts was still there. Does it every go away??? ...I don't know.

I decided to watch a documentary on marathons to inspire myself. One of the runners profiled had been adopted. She was running to raise money for the agency that facilitated her adoption. Beautiful. In the program she visited the adoption agency and shared about her donation. As inspiring as the story was, I couldn't stop the tears.

Also along the half-marathon course there were tons of cute kiddos cheering on their mom or dad. I couldn't help but remember two years ago (two years into our IF journey at the time) when I ran a race in downtown Chicago. After seeing so many adorable little ones with their signs, I promptly asked Mike if he would bring our kids to cheer me on someday. Of course he agreed.

Yet, here we are, two years later, still with no children. Not sure when we ever will.

I hate it when reminders of IF, or sadness over adoption, creep in unexpectedly...trying to cloud a happy day. Even though they tried to rain on my parade, and succeeded for a short while, I didn't let them stay. The race was mostly a lot of fun, and I enjoyed the beautiful day. Mike was also a great cheerleader!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Worn

This has been a rough month so far. Mostly because we found out that adoption is on hold. We hope to try again in a year or two. Right now feeling heartbroken and devastated.

The song "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North keeps coming to me. It is one of my favorites, probably because the lyrics so often echo the cry of my heart in this journey of infertility and adoption. Whatever the cross, I'm sure most everyone has had a time when they've felt "worn."


I’m tired, I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left


Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

I know I need to lift my eyes up
But I'm too weak
Life just won’t let up

And I know that you can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

My prayers are wearing thin
Yeah, I’m worn
Even before the day begins
Yeah, I’m worn
I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn

So, heaven come and flood my eyes

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn

I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause all that’s dead inside will be reborn

Though I’m worn
Yeah I’m worn

Give it a listen on YouTube. And, since Tenth Avenue North is one of my favorite bands, take the time to listen By Your Side. In this song, God is speaking to us, his children. It has comforted me in some very difficult times.


"Jesus, let us see redemption win! Help us cling to you, and our hope for Heaven."

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Our Story

http://www.thiscrossiembrace.blogspot.com/2013/01/adopt-blogger.html

Thank you in advance for your prayers and for reading our story! We are very humbled by the love and support, and blessed to be “Blogger of the Month” for October, as we celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary (October 3).

We have been experiencing infertility for four years. It has been heartbreaking and devastating to say the least. While dating we often discussed our dreams for a large Catholic family. When we started trying to conceive we eagerly anticipated welcoming our first son or daughter. After a year of trying with no luck, we sought the help of doctors. What followed was three years of doctor visits (some out-of-state), numerous tests, monthly bloodwoork, medications, vitamin supplements, hormone injections, and surgery (for Mary Beth).

We also stormed heaven praying for a miracle. We were especially blessed to take a pilgrimage to Italy in 2011 for Blessed John Paul II’s beatification. 
Every cycle we hoped against hope for a pregnancy. Month after month, our hearts were left empty.

By God’s grace, we have experienced blessings and spiritual growth on this journey. Mary Beth started an infertility support group at church. Mike wrote an article explaining how infertile couples can still image the Trinity through their marriage. Even more importantly God has drawn us close to himself through prayer, the Liturgy, the support of so many. We are learning to trust God more fully, unite our sufferings to Christ’s, and abandon our lives and desires to his providence.

Another unexpected blessing is our embarking towards adoption.


While engaged, we agreed that if not able to have children physically, we would to adopt. We applied in November 2011 and August 2012 to be on waiting lists to begin the process with two different agencies. In the meantime we began spreading the word, hoping to connect directly with an expectant mother considering adoption. This summer we learned of a third agency that did not have a waiting list to start the process. We decided to begin our home-study in July 2013. Once our home-study is approved we will create a profile to be shown to expectant mothers.


It definitely has been a journey to adoption. Romans 8:14-17 has been especially meaningful: 


“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:14-17

We are God’s children by adoption. We can call him “Daddy/Abba, Father”! He has accepted us, welcomed us, and first loved us even in the midst of our brokenness, inadequacy, and sin. He was not afraid to be the first to love. Families built through adoption image God’s love in a unique way. We are excited and hopeful that our future family can be a sign to the world of God’s love for humanity, his adopted children.
We are excited about adoption, but the pain of infertility still echoes in our hearts. Also, there are many unknowns to be resolved and more waiting in our future. So far, our home-study has dragged on longer than we expected. 

Please pray for healing of our hearts from infertility, successful completion of our home-study, and for the expectant mother that will choose us to be parents for her child.  

Mike and Mary Beth

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Support Adoption, Eat a Frosty

I now notice the word adoption showing up everywhere: In Mass, at work (one of the forms we use is called an "IRA Adoption Agreement"), and today at Wendy's.

Tonight I decided to treat myself to a Frosty and saw this sign while in the drive-thru:

Notice at the bottom:
Donations Benefit the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption
I was intrigued, and also excited at the prospect of 5 Jr. Frosty coupons for $1. So, in addition to enjoying my chocolatey dessert, I bought a coupon book.

Then I went home and checked out the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Turns out that Wendy's is a big champion of helping children in foster care find forever families. The foundation provides resources to adoption agencies and social workers to help the highest-need children get adopted. Dave Thomas (Wendy's founder) also championed the adoption tax credit before Congress and supported the creation of an adoption stamp.

It is so refreshing to see an organization that supports adoption. What a beautiful mission, and one worth supporting. I have a feeling I'm going to be eating a lot more Frosty's in the coming months!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Trying to be patient

Fall is my favorite season. I luv luv luv all of it: yummy fresh-off-the-tree apples, pumpkin carving, fall festivals, crispness in the air, Oktoberfest in my hometown, changing in the leaves, mums, hay bales, caramel apples.

My heart aches for child(ren) to make fall memories with. Sometimes it is just sooooooooo hard to wait.

Jesus help me be patient and trust in you.

Us in 2010, can't wait to carve pumpkins with our kiddos some day.

Friday, September 13, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (9-13-13)


A few things we are up to this fall, as we continue working on our home-study:

#1 - Mike is applying to begin his doctorate in Sacred Theology at University of St. Mary of the Lake, Mundelein Seminary. Funny, the acronym for his degree is going to be S.T.D. (Doctor of Sacred Theology, but in Latin). He is done with classes, so he is starting work on his dissertation. So proud.


#2 - Related to #1, we got an awesome desk from IKEA for Mike to use as his dissertation workspace. We also rearranged our second bedroom (thanks to help from Fr. Matt in moving furniture). I think it looks nice.



#3 - I’ve decided to train for a half-marathon. Yikes. I love autumn weather (the pretty leaves, the smell in the air), so I thought this would be a perfect time to get outdoors and run. I haven’t officially registered for a race yet. I’m too chicken, and want to make sure I get a few long runs in. Good thing, because last night I took a major fall and now have two skinned knees and two skinned palms...not sure how my "long run" will go tomorrow! Hope to schedule it in October. 

#4 - Lately I’ve realized that I spend WAY too much time online, so I’m trying to find other productive ways to use time. I’ve decided to learn rosary making. Got a kit with instructions and started watching lots of how-to videos on YouTube. So far so good.



#5 - Pumpkin is back! This is my favorite time of year. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE all the pumpkin possibilities out there. Pumpkin iced coffee, pumpkin chai, stocked up on Pumpkin coffee creamer. I also bought canned pumpkin to stir into my oatmeal…not sure how it will taste, but I saw a magazine pic with it, and couldn’t resist trying it. What’s your favorite pumpkin item?

#6 - Did I mention yet that autumn is my favorite time of year??? Yet another reason to love autumn is NFL Football…regular season is finally here…GO PACK GO!


#7 - We had our first home-study interview this week with our social worker. Home-study interview #1 = More paperwork to do + a chance to explain our infertility journey and desire to adopt. It was a good meeting. One meeting down, four to go. Thanks for all the prayers!




Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pictures, Pictures

As part of the adoption process we will be creating a profile book. It will include photos and descriptions of our life, hobbies, and hopes for our child. This weekend we had fun getting photos taken to be included in our profile book. If you know anyone who is considering adoption for their child, please share our contact information with them.









Sunday, August 25, 2013

CPR Training

Mary Beth and I will have been married five years in October.  We've gone out to dinner together many times.  We've been to lots of movies together. After a while, you have to get creative about what to do for a date.  Well, this weekend we spent a few quality hours together learning CPR.

While it actually turned out to be a fun date, we signed up for the CPR class as part of the home study process for our adoption.  Besides a couple of on-line classes and some interviews, this CPR class is the end of most of the paperwork-gathering for the home study.  We've both gotten physicals, collected vital documents, sought half a dozen recommendations, and even got the cat's shots up to date.  And now with the CPR class done, we're yet another step closer to finishing the home study so we can get "out there" with our adoption agency.  September will be a month of meetings and interviews, and that should do it!

Thanks for following our journey.  Part of that journey is the financial demands of the adoption process.  If you'd like to become a part of our story by helping us fund raise for the adoption, please visit the link HERE for more info and ways to give.

Thanks for reading, and please keep praying for us and our future family!
Mike

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Prayer of Jabez, Revisited

Remember several years ago when the Prayer of Jabez was really popular? 

It's found in 1 Chronicles 4:10: "Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, 'Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain.'"

There was a little book that reflected on each of the supplications of the prayer. 

I thought about this prayer today while at Mass. The line that always struck me was when Jabez asks God to "enlarge my territory." In the little book the author made a case that Jabez wasn't praying for more "things," or more stuff, but praying for a greater influence. Jabez was asking God to bring him in contact with more people, so that he could be a blessing to them, so that he could share God's love with them. (I don't have the book anymore so I can't remember exactly what the foundation for this argument was. While that may not be the explicit meaning, or correct interpretation, of the passage I'm grateful for the insight. It helped me see a new aspect of prayer.)

"Enlarge my territory" - That is such a profound prayer, and beautiful request: Asking God to bring more people into my life to share his love with, and help me come in contact with more souls to impact them positively for eternity. I want that to be my prayer every day.

Back to today at Mass. 

I realized that because of infertility the last four years, and now through pursuing adoption, God has indeed enlarged my territory...but in reverse!!! He has brought so many people into MY life to share God's love with ME, and bless ME! I have met other dear women (in-person and online), who are carrying the cross of infertility. Family and friends have been prayer warriors, offered encouragement, and a shoulder to cry on. I have connected with amazing women in the infertility support group I lead. Also at church we have met a number of families who have adopted, and I have heard beautiful adoption stories. These encounters are a tremendous blessing, and have given me hope. I wouldn't have experienced these blessings were it not for infertility or pursuing adoption. 

Thank you Lord for enlarging my territory, in reverse!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Home Study Here We Come

Hi all, this is Mike. As of last week, we have officially begun the home study process for adoption. We're working with Lutheran Child and Family Services. The home study is the process whereby a licensed social worker gives us the stamp of approval to adopt. We met with a wonderful woman named Cherie for our first (three and a half hour) meeting to go over details and next steps. So the next couple of months will involve: collecting, copying, and sending mounds of documents I haven't looked for in half a decade; individual interviews; couple interviews; a visit to our apartment; a stack of letters of recommendation; CPR class; child-proofing our home; cat vaccinations; on-line classes; several packets of dozens of articles to read; medical records and physicals. And we found out that the adoption process costs even more than we thought. It felt overwhelming when we got all the info at the meeting. Sometimes it still feels overwhelming. But as we've begun picking away at the list, even over just the last few days, it's not that bad. This process promises to be emotionally draining. But, I suppose that's what love is. I'm just going to keep reminding myself that we're doing all this as acts of love for the child who will be our son or daughter, who isn't even born yet! It's a bit demoralizing to think we're doing this all for the state, for the sake of bureaucracy and lawyers. But, if I'm dong it for my son or daughter, well, it isn't that bad.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reflecting on Hope

From Mary Beth:

I recently met someone at church who, with his wife, went through infertility during the first few years of their marriage. They are now blessed with four children. He shared this regarding infertility in an email:  

"Infertility is a challenging cross for a couple to carry, and presses hard against the virtue of Hope. But hope in the Risen Christ is fundamentally different than all other human hopes that we have, and carries a power that transforms the desert into a place of renewal and dark tombs into resurrections. God just can't help Himself now after Easter Sunday, and He faithfully brings new life out of each and every cross in our lives."

How beautiful this is!

So many things came to mind. First of all, what is the virtue of hope? So often when I think of hope I think of my hope for children, my hope to be a mother, my hope for a family. But at the end of the day, hope is more than that. Our hope is Jesus Christ, and the salvation he has won for us. Because of his death and resurrection we have hope of eternal life. I need to remember the real object of hope.

I believe it really is true that hope in Christ “carries a power that transforms the desert into a place of renewal and dark tombs into resurrections.”  If we let them, the crosses of our lives (ie. infertility, sickness, unemployment, strained relationships, death of a loved one) can be transformed into something beautiful, something that makes us more like Christ, and something that gets us closer to heaven, the goal of our hope.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

We have a new Niece/Goddaughter!

On June 23, 2013 our newest niece Charlotte Anika was born. She is beautiful. We were in Wisconsin visiting family the weekend Charlotte arrived. We got to visit her when she was only a few hours old!
Charlotte wearing the giraffe hat I made her
 Then, we found out that we get to be Charlotte's godparents. What an honor!

Isn't our new goddaughter cute?
We can't wait to adopt and introduce our children to their cousins, especially their new cousin Charlotte!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Prayer and Our Next Steps

Hi all, this is Mike.

At Mass this morning the priest used the Collect (opening prayer) that we'll all hear this coming Sunday:

O God, who through the grace of adoption
chose us to be children of the light,
grant, we pray,
that we may not be wrapped in the darkness of error
but always be seen to stand in the bright light of truth.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

In this journey of infertility and endless waiting, it's easy to fall into the lie.  It's tempting to enter into the darkness of error and think God has somehow forgotten us, or forsaken us.  At a certain point, the absurdity of what seems so arbitrary can really blind us of God's love.

This prayer reminds me that, as one adopted myself in God's grace, I'm called to reject that darkness and error, and embrace the bright light of truth, that God is intimately involved in every aspect of this process.  There is nothing arbitrary or uncaring that is happening.  It is all part of God's plan, even when I cannot see it becasue I'm standing in the darkness.

And when we finally adopt, and bring home the child God has destined for us from all eternity, I'm pretty sure the darkness will show itself to be the shadow of his hand guiding us.

So, here's the news.

We're getting ready to start the home study process.  We haven't moved off of any of the waiting lists we are on, but we figures that since we sent out flyers and business cards with our info to about 50+ folks, we should be ready if anything comes of it.  We'll probably be going through that process in July and August.  So, lots of paperwork, lots of meetings, and a bit of money.  So please say some prayers for us!  We'll keep you posted.

Mike 


Friday, June 14, 2013

An Unexpected Blessing

I had an unexpected blessing this week. I'm part of a Catholic infertility group on Facebook. Though the group, I have "met" so many wonderful women who are also going through the struggle of infertility. I am so grateful for the support, prayers, and encouragement of the gals in the group, especially on my worst days. Mike and I even got together with one beautiful couple in our area, it is nice to make friends and know we are not alone.

This week a group member shared that she and her husband had adopted from Uganda. Fr. Celestine, the priest who married Mike and I, is from Uganda. Since getting to know Fr. Celestine, and some of his fellow Ugandan priests, we have developed a love for the country. The people from Uganda are some of the most joy-filled people I have met!

When I heard about this gal's adoption, I was intrigued and emailed her. She offered to share her story with me.

What a treat!

She spent over an hour sharing with me the beautiful story of how she and her husband adopted twins from an orphanage in Uganda.

Learn about the orphanage: http://bridgetouganda.org/join/ibandababieshome/

She shared the ups and downs, frustrations and excitement, and most importantly how God guided them through it all. I know God guides us and has a plan, but sometimes it really helps to hear concrete examples from someone's life. It certainly builds my faith.

It was encouraging to talk with someone who is still going through infertility, knows the deep sorrow and pain, but has also experienced the great joy of becoming parents through adoption.

God is so good. My new-found friend seems like such a kindred spirit. I wish we didn't live miles apart and could get together for coffee, I could meet her beautiful children, and ask her many more questions (Thank goodness she was sweet and made herself available as a resource on adoption in the future)!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Dr. Ray Explains it All

One thing that has helped me on this journey is reading books about adoption. Last summer I read, "Adoption: Choosing, Living It, Loving It" by Dr. Ray Guarendi. It was super helpful.

Dr. Ray is known for his no-nonsense advice about parenting. He and his wife have adopted ten children!! If anyone knows about adoption, Dr. Ray and his wife do. It was reassuring and encouraging to learn from him.. I trust his perspective not only because he speaks from personal experience, but also because he is a clinical psychologist, and speaks from professional experience as well.

The book was Q&A format (which is not my favorite) but the topics and questions were relevant, such as different ways to adopt, home studies (the process whereby a couple is approved), how to talk about adoption with your child(ren), answering questions from family, friends and people at the grocery store, open adoption, transracial adoption, special needs adoption, birth order, discipline, and costs.

Dr. Ray addresses a number of common questions related to adoption, in a practical, entertaining, and often humorous way. This is perfect for me, because I have so many questions about the process, and am sometimes fearful that I will lack what it takes to parent our adopted children.

For example, regarding the potentially unknown, or even known, background of the child, Dr. Ray says: "Genetics maybe the foundation of the road, but Mom and Dad are driving the bus. The kids sit in separate seats, but the bus is going in the same direction. Once more, 'You can't know what your getting.' Absolutely true, no one can, be it with a birth or an adopted child. Much of the genetic world lies beyond our control, even understanding. Yes, there may be more unknowns in the histories of adoptive children, but how and where those unknowns become known is the big unknown. If one wants certainty in life, having a child is not the place to start" pg. 45.

How many parents, adoptive and non-adoptive, have experienced this first-hand?

After highlighting the growth of his family, Dr. Ray closes the introduction by sharing, "Ten kids in a little over twelve years involves a lot of factors coming together - prayer, timing, perseverance, searching, openness, blind luck and a willingness to adopt more than one child at a time. In the end everything funnels down to a simple fact: Many babies and children need a mommy and daddy, and if they are less than "perfect," they are really only like their parents-to-be" pg 9.

Thankfully we have a merciful and gracious God pouring down graces on us, and our children, to grow more perfect, like him, every day.

I am excited for us to become adoptive parents, and share God's love with our children. Thanks to this book, I am also more equipped for the journey.

- Mary Beth

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Lots of Letters

This week has been a busy week! Mike and I made a list of all the priests we know...thankfully Mike knows many priests from his time in seminary, and because he works at our church.

We spent the week gathering contact information and addresses. Tonight we put together our mailing, including a flyer and info cards to spread the word about our desire to adopt.


We are hopeful that this mailing will help in connecting us with a birthmother. Please pray for all mothers, especially those who are unexpectedly pregnant, that they choose life for their baby.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Celebrating Mary's month

Going back many centuries May has been the month that Catholics honor Mary, Jesus' mother. As new life springs forth around us, we also honor Mary who gave life to Jesus, the source of our new life.

A few years ago my friend Beth got me hooked on going on a pilgrimage each May to honor Our Lady, and to pray for special intentions. A pilgrimage is a journey to a holy place, and usually involves prayer and/or sacrifice in the travel or along the way. The journey is our offering to God, and purifies our heart and intentions. The history of pilgrimages goes back to the Jewish tradition of journeying to Jerusalem. Early Christians traveled to the Holy Land to visit and pray where Christ lived.

This May has been especially blessed for me.  I have had the opportunity to go on three pilgrimages, step away from the craziness of daily life, and spend some much needed time in prayer. Last weekend Mike and I went on pilgrimage to La Crosse, WI to the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It is so beautiful there! This week my ladies' group did a pilgrimage right where we live, walking from our parish, Sts. Peter and Paul, to the Lourdes grotto at our cemetery. We prayed three rosaries as we walked, offering our intentions and meditating on Jesus' life (We did get a few quizzical looks from passerby's on our walk!) Next week, my friend Beth and I are going on another pilgrimage to the Lourdes grotto. I can't wait!

There are so many intentions on my heart: Grace to surrender as we come to the end of our fertility treatments, our hopes to adopt, strength and courage for those unexpectedly pregnant to choose life, the needs and intentions of family and friends, for our nation, for the Holy Father, etc, etc, etc. I tend to be a worrier, so it has been especially comforting to place these concerns in Our Lady's arms and know that she is bringing them to Jesus.

May isn't over yet! A May pilgrimage doesn't have to be to a far away and exotic place. It can be to a local church, cemetery with a statue of Our Lady, or a nearby shrine. If you haven't yet, I highly recommend making this a yearly tradition. I'm sure glad I did.

Mary Beth

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Journey toward Adoption

Written by Mary Beth:

I have always thought adoption was a wonderful thing. I just never pictured myself adopting. It has been a slow process and long journey for me to become more open (and even excited) about adoption. Thankfully and mercifully God has softened my heart and nurtured in me a desire to adopt! I am also coming to see how adoption allows a family to image God the Father’s love for us.

Before we got married Mike and I talked about hopes and dreams for our family. If not able to have children physically, we both agreed that we wanted to adopt. Little did we know that God would lead us down this path.

We started trying to conceive with excitement and anticipation. As the months and years passed, with no conception, our hope turned to heartbreak. We experienced sadness, anger,and brokenness. Infertility and subsequent treatment wore us out spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. But we knew we wanted a family, so we started to consider adoption.

Mike, with his big, beautiful heart, was open and excited to all the possibilities of a family through adoption. 

For me it was much longer road. By adopting I felt that I would be giving up my hope of ever bearing children physically. I realize now that’s not true. Who knows what the future holds? 

Also I have a lot of fears. Mostly fears about the unknown: How long will the wait be? Will we be able to afford it? Will we be good parents to an adopted child? Will we be able to address the unique challenges of adopting a transracial child, if God calls us to that? Is God leading us to special needs or older child adoption? How will we share about their adoption with our child? Will an open adoption lessen the bond between us and our adopted child? …and many, many more. 

We applied in November 2011 to an adoption agency. We are on a waiting list to start the adoption process. It is a small agency and they only have room for a certain number of couples on their profile, partly the number of birthmothers choosing adoption is declining. We applied to another agency in August 2012, to be on another waiting list. In the meantime we began spreading the word, hoping to connect directly with a birthmother considering adoption (Both agencies are ready to do a home-study and get us approved/licensed to adopt within 2 months, if we make a connection with a birthmother on our own). 

During this year and a half of waiting, the Lord has softened my heart. I am excited about bringing home our adopted son or daughter! I am looking forward to meeting him or her, seeing their sweet face, and holding them close. This is the grace of God! How did God work in my heart? Through His word and the liturgy. It is amazing how many scripture references and prayers at Mass refer to each person’s identity as a child of God through adoption. Once we started preparing for adoption, I started noticing these references…kind of like when you get a new car, and you start to notice other cars just like it on the road. 

One example is the Collect from the Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: 

“Almighty ever-living God, whom, taught by the Holy Spirit, we dare to call our Father, bring, we pray, to perfection in our hearts the spirit of adoption as your sons and daughter, that we may merit to enter into the inheritance which you have promised.” 

And the Preface from Pentecost: “For bringing your Paschal Mystery to completion, you bestowed the Holy Spirit today on those you made your adopted children by uniting them to your Only Begotten Son.” 

Romans 8:14-17 has also resonated with me. In fact today, as I was thinking of writing this post, it was a reading at Mass for Pentecost. 

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” – Romans 8:14-17

We are God’s children by adoption. We can call him “Daddy/Abba, Father”! He has accepted us, welcomed us, and first loved us even in the midst of our brokenness, inadequacy, and sin. He was not afraid to be the first to love. Because we are children of God through adoption we are heirs with Christ and we have the hope of salvation. This is good news! 

I realized that adoption is a special and beautiful way in which we can share in God’s love. A family created through adoption images God’s love in a unique way. The parents and children not only share love with one another, but are also a sign to the world of God’s very love for us, his adopted children. That’s big! That’s an honor! I feel blessed that the Lord is leading us in this direction, and changing my heart. 

I am humbled and excited for what’s to come. While I still feel nervous and fearful at times, I am confident that the God who first adopted me will love me unconditionally, and use me to do the same for another.