Sunday, December 21, 2014

Missionaries in the Family

Luke, Amy, and their kiddos
About ten years ago while in college I heard of an organization called Family Missions Company (FMC). Family Missions Company is a Catholic ministry that sends lay missionaries around the world. A few friends of mine did spring break mission trips with them. I love that there is a Catholic group equipping and sending out missionaries. 

Fast forward to 2014. 

In August my little brother Luke and his wife Amy felt God calling their family to serve as missionaries through Family Missions Company. Their family includes their five kiddos (Isabelle-7, Elijah-6, Gabriel-5, Maggie-3, Vivian-6mos). Yikes. That is a radical decision.

Luke and Amy had recently sold their home, Luke then quit his job and they got rid of their material possessions. During the past three months they completed three months of intense training. In January their family will be heading to Comiguin Island, Philippines to serve as missionaries. 

Bolle family at missionary training in Mexico
When I first learned that my little brother was taking his family and my five nieces and nephews half way across the world I was surprised, and to be honest, kind of anxious. I discovered that it's one thing to be supportive of missionaries, it's another thing when those missionaries are my brother, sister-in-law, and nieces and nephews! I admit it. I am selfish. Also, I had all the normal fears that come with moving to a third-world country.

Despite my fears, watching Luke and Amy live their faith in this radical way is inspiring and convicting. I am actually quite proud of them. While we are not all called to sell our homes, quit our jobs, and move half-way across the world, we are all called to abandon our lives to Christ and be missionaries to those we encounter in our daily life. As I observe my brother and his wife I've been reflecting on that quite a bit lately.

Could you pray for Luke and Amy these next two years? They will be going through lots of transitions and changes as a family. Also, they are raising financial support for their time in the Philippines. Please consider donating! You can learn more about their family here and also follow their blog at: Bolle Family Missionaries.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Christmas Novena Starts Today


Saint Andrew Christmas Novena Prayer
Hail and blessed be the hour and moment 
in which the Son of God was born 
of the most pure Virgin Mary, 
at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold. 
In that hour, vouchsafe, O my God! 
to hear my prayers and grant my desires, 
through the merits of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, 
and of His Blessed Mother. 
Amen.

First, I have to thank my dear friend K for introducing me to this beautiful Christmas prayer and novena a few years ago.

Love. the. prayer.

The novena starts November 30th on the feast of St. Andrew and continues until Christmas Eve. It traditionally involves praying the prayer fifteen times each day, and offering the novena for a special intention.

Saint Andrew was the first disciple called by Jesus. The origin of the prayer is unknown, but it may have started 100 years ago in Ireland. More info here.

Here is a printable pdf. Hope you consider joining in! Blessed Advent!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

"Only This I Want"


It was 2005. I was in grad school and visiting an out of town friend for the weekend. The communion song at her parish that Sunday was "Only This I Want" by Dan Schutte.

Only This I Want
by: Dan Schutte

Refrain:
Only this I want:
but to know the Lord,
and to bear His cross,
so to wear the crown He wore.

Verse One
All but this is loss,
worthless refuse to me,
for to gain the Lord
is to gain all I need.

At the time I was single, praying about my vocation, and eager to get married. 

As I listened to the simple lyrics, I was convicted. My primary goal this side of heaven should be "to know the Lord." It also hit home that truly knowing the Lord involved sharing in his cross by carrying my own cross.

Tears streamed down my face. I realized that I was letting other desires come before my desire to know Jesus. 

I decided right then and there that if and when I got married, I would have that song at my wedding. 

We had it as our communion song (followed by Mike's favorite "Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silent"!). 

Now, almost ten years later, I need this song more than ever. As we continue to cope with infertility and prepare for adoption, it's so easy to let the journey's ups and downs cloud my thinking. The desire to be a mom is stronger than ever. While that's a good desire in and of itself, I've let it distract me from my relationship with God.

Come what may, in the next few months and years, I don't want to forget that "to gain the Lord is to gain all I need."

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Profile Book Done!

Hey everyone, Mike here.  Just a quick update.

As we play the waiting game on some paperwork (i.e "the adoption process"), we finished our profile book.  Mary Beth is a pro at these layouts, and I added the text.  After a trip to Staples, here's the finished product.





What's a profile book?  When our agency thinks we are a good match with a birth mother, she'll be shown our profile.  She'll actually probably be shown a handful of these books.  It has pictures of us, our families, our home, and our life together, along with some text describing us.  It's from these books that a birth mother will hopefully choose us to meet and make an adoption plan for their baby.

We'll let you know when our profile is eventually shown through our agency, but for now, it's more waiting to connect with a birthmom.

Please be sure to share our blog and our Facebook page, and help us get ourselves out there to hopefully connect with a birth mother.

Thanks!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

A New Friend in Heaven - Blessed Chiara Badano

I am so excited to share one of my new favorite saints, Blessed Chiara Luce Badano.


After recently learning of Bl. Chiara, Mike and I have begun asking for her intercession. Mike is the one who first found out about her and ordered a documentary on her life.

Bl. Chiara's parents prayed for children for eleven years, until she was born in 1971. She grew up in a small Italian town, where her parents taught her the faith.


As a typical girl Bl. Chiara had many friends, enjoyed listening to music, and liked playing tennis. As When she was a child Bl. Chiara's mother encouraged her to go through her toys and select some to give to those less fortunate. Bl. Chiara choose her newest and nicest toys to give away. She also collected money for children in Africa.

In her late teens, Bl. Chiara developed osteosarcoma, a painful tumor. At first Bl. Chiara was saddened by her illness, but after a short time she said "Yes" to Jesus and accepted her sufferings. She refused pain medication so that she could offer her sufferings to Jesus.

Bl. Chiara died in 1990. More on her life here and here.

Here are a few quotes from Bl. Chiara:
  • “I have rediscovered the Gospel under a new light: as it is easy for me to learn the alphabet, so it must be to live the Gospel.
  • “If you want it, Jesus, so do I."
  • “I can only offer my pain to Jesus. It’s all I have left.”
  • “For you, Jesus . . . if you want it, I want it too!"

Because Bl. Chiara's parents struggled with infertility for so long, it's comforting to ask for her prayers.  Also her simple faith and "Yes" to accepting her cross is amazing. I want to love Jesus like she did.

Bl. Chiara's feastday is October 29. I am planning to start this novena on October 21st, asking Bl. Chiara to pray for us to grow closer to God and be blessed with children. Please let me know your intentions too!

Thanks for stopping by. God bless your weekend!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Home Study? Yeah Buddy!

Hi everyone, this is Mike, Mary Beth’s husband.  While Mary Beth does most of the writing here, we thought it’s about time I take another spin the on the merry-go-round of blogging.

So, what’s new?  Well, we’re one step closer to finishing our home study for adoption.  In fact, the end is very much in sight.  This past Tuesday our social worker came to our apartment for our last of four meetings.  Just for review, we’ve done one meeting as a couple, and one each individual meeting.  This final meeting was to see our place.

As a side note, we spent a few hours on Sunday and Monday cleaning the place, so this is the nicest it’s looked in a long time.  Now, our apartment is never really messy.  We’re pretty tidy people.  But lately Mary Beth has been getting some new decorations, and we did what I would deem a “deep clean.”  What, you ask, constitutes a deep clean?  Well, I know it was a deep clean because a) I found myself wearing rubber gloves on my hands and knees in the bathroom, and b) I used more than one vacuum attachment in a single day.  It was the kind of clean you can smell when you walk in.

Our newly decorated living room!
We got mums this year!
The meeting went well.  Our social worker wanted to begin with a “walk around” our place to get the “lay of the land.”  Since we live in a modest two bedroom apartment, that took about 45 seconds.  Yes, all our cleaning supplies and prescription medications are stored up high.  We have a working fire alarm.  There are no screamingly apparent hazards looming menacingly within our apartment.

As a bonus, we found out we have more paperwork to fill out.  This isn’t a shock, since one of the main activities in the adoption process is filling out paperwork.  My suggestion to these adoption agencies: do like iTunes or Facebook, and just give me a little box to check that I agree to all the terms and conditions, and let me click “continue.”

Bottom line: we should have our home study completed and approved within 30 days.  This is pretty exciting since we first began this trek over a year ago. 

So, what’s next?  Well, we’ve hit some snags in choosing what agency to do the actual adoption with (more on that another time).  But we’ll soon be signing with an agency that will work with us to pair us with a birth-mother.  So, it’s kind of like we’re at the doctor’s office moving from the big waiting room where you do your paperwork, to the smaller waiting room.  But in this case, there’s more paperwork in the second waiting room.

What can you do to help?  Help us network!  We’re waiting to be connected to a birth-mother that is opening to making an adoption plan for her baby.  But if we can connect with a birth-mom on our own, that moves things ahead.  So, if you know of someone who may be considering adoption as an option, please pass on our contact info.  Please also SHARE our blog site and our Facebook page with friends and family.  We’ve heard so many stories of couples connecting with a birth-mom through a “friend of a friend.”  Please keep your ears open, share our info, help us connect, and please, keep us in your prayers.

Friday, October 3, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Prayer Struggles, Packers, and Fall Colors

Bond falls, Upper Peninsula, Michigan
Lots on mind lately, here's a little peak. Also, more Quick Takes at Conversion Diary.

1. Coming Clean about My Prayer Life - I'm struggling with my prayer life over here. I try to get have a prayer time before work each day, but I cut my time short by sleeping too late or checking email on my phone. Ugh. When I do sit down to pray my mind wanders. I read some scripture and a psalm but have no idea what I've even read. It's like in one ear, and out the other. I use Magnificat and In Conversation with God reflections, but feel like I never get deeper than reading the Gospel, a meditation, and offering up a few intentions to God. I want to go deeper with God. At other times in life I have had a more fruitful prayer life, but right now I feel stuck. I recently decided to get to daily mass a few more times a week, so hopefully that will help.

2. A Rule of Thumb for Prayer - A priest shared a simple suggestion for making time for God. He suggested starting with 15 minutes of prayer each day. After two weeks increase that by 5 minutes for two more weeks. Then, slowly add a few minutes each week until I get to one minute of prayer, for how many years old I am. For me that is 32. While 32 minutes is not much time when it comes to spending time in prayer, for me this seems like a long time. I know it is something I can do, but I'm going to need lots of grace.

3. Prayer for Vocations - We visited a parish out of town. In the pews was a beautiful holy card with a prayer for vocations. The prayer is below. I love how it asks God for an increase in religious vocations and also mentions married and single vocations. I was reminded that marriage is an important vocation, with or without children.

A Prayer for Vocations
Heavenly Father, bless Your Church
with an abundance of holy and zealous 
priests, deacons, brothers and sisters.
Give those You have called to the married state
 and those You have chosen to live as single persons in the world
 the special graces that their lives require.
Form us all in the likeness of Your Son
 so that in Him, with Him and through Him
 we may love You more deeply
 and serve You more faithfully, always and everywhere. 
With Mary we ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

4. Packer Game - I am a MAJOR Packer fan.  When I was twelve I wrote in to have my name added to the season ticket waiting list. My name should come up in my mid-fifties, which is awesome (At this point, those whose names are added now will pass away before becoming season ticket holders). A few weeks ago, Mike and I got a last minute chance to buy Packers tickets from a friend. We went to our first game together at Lambeau Field. It was a great day and a great game!


5. Fall is Here! - It's my favorite season! We spent a few days in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan celebrating our sixth anniversary. The fall colors were amazing. My husband is even more amazing. So grateful for six years with such a good man.



6. Milestones - As we celebrate our sixth anniversary, we are also marking five years trying to conceive. This is a weird milestone. It feels surreal. Five years ago I never ever thought, in a million years, that we would reach this point and still be childless. Thankfully we are making some progress on adoption, but there is still an ache deep within (sometimes it feels physical) to bear children.

7. Wisdom from the Ages - Mike and I visit our hospital once a month and bring communion to Catholic patients. Last month as we were visiting with a dear lady and I complimented her on how young she looked (She was in her early 70s). She responded that her secret was to stay positive. She said that life was too short to get depressed about things that go wrong. Staying positive kept her young. What a dear lady! So thankful for her words of wisdom!

Bonus: Our home-study home visit is this upcoming week. It's our last social worker meeting! Also, we encountered another potential adoption delay, and are deciding how to proceed in response to it. We need prayers for direction. Hope to have an update and more news soon.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Adoption at Mass

My heart always skips a happy beat when I hear the word "adoption" at Mass. Especially lately as I'm having trouble being patient. I'm SO excited and happy for friends getting matched with little ones, and for those finally getting pregnant after going through infertility...Praise God! 

But it seems like our wait is dragging on f.o.r.e.v.e.r.  Trying to remember that God does have a plan for us in the midst of the waiting and unknowns, considering that October marks five years since we've been trying to start a family.

Lately, we've been hearing "adoption" as Mass more often. 


Here are two beautiful prayers I've heard recently:

"O Lord, who gained for yourself a people by adoption
through the one sacrifice offered once for all,
bestow graciously on us, we pray,
the gifts of unity and peace in your Church.
Through Christ our Lord."
- Pray over the Offerings, Twenty-First Week in Ordinary Time

"O God, by whom we are redeemed and receive adoption,
look graciously upon your beloved sons and daughters,
that those who believe in Christ may receive true freedom
and an everlasting inheritance.
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."
- Collect, Twenty-Third Week of Ordinary Time

Love the Collect! Through adoption we become God's beloved sons and daughters, rather than slaves to sin. Alleluia! And, we pray for continued freedom and the hope of heaven. Amen!!!!!!!

It turns out that Fr. Z, a popular Catholic blogger, offers a beautiful reflection on the history and meaning behind this prayer. It was an 8th century prayer used during the Easter Season. Love how our liturgical prayers have such rich history.

As we wait to complete our home-study and hopefully adopt, it helps to remember that adoption is more than just a human construct...it is an integral part of God's plan for salvation.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Straw



These past few months we have been faithfully plugging away on our home-study and working on our profile book. I am getting more and more excited about adopting.

Us. Actually. Adopting.

I was sharing my growing excitement yesterday with a friend. It feels good to have flutters of hope throughout the day. It also feels scary. Scary because I'm fearful that there will be another roadblock around the corner. 

Today we hit the roadblock. Our home visit (the last thing needed in our home-study) was supposed to be two weeks from today. It now has to be rescheduled for two weeks later because of a scheduling conflict. 

In my head I totally understand. Two more weeks. Not a big deal, right? Especially when we've already been waiting five years to become parents. This is just part of life.

Today those extra two weeks are like the straw that broke the camel's back.

I have been counting down the days to completing our home-study since we first met with our agency last April. We hoped to start the home-study in May and finish it in June. Now it is September. There are so many things we still need to do that are contingent on our home-study being complete. Paperwork we need to get done and a fee that will increase as of October 1st. Now we will be paying the higher fee and be limited in the extra paperwork we can work on.

I know God will bring good out of this, but I'm sick of roadblocks. I'm tired of waiting. I'm worn out from having to fight so hard to become parents.


Thank goodness for the closing prayer from the Magnificat this morning:

"O God of justice and of love, You care for Your people in every time and place, despite our tendency to stray from you in our foolishness. Keep us in your care from morning until evening, that we may come to rest safely in the shadow of Your all-powerful wings."

Friday, August 29, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Adoption Still on the Brain


When I first started this post I thought my "Quick Takes" would be all over the place. As I finished it's pretty evident adoption is on the brain. Also, thanks to Jen for hosting, more "Quick Takes" on her blog.

1. The homestudy continues...
We are half-way through our homestudy meetings. Two down. Two to go. The home visit from our social worker is late September. It is scary being this vulnerable. Hopefully all will go well and we will be approved to adopt. The next step then will be preparing a profile book to be shown to birthparents. I am counting down the days until our homestudy is done, and we can move forward.

2. Open adoption
We have also been attending various adoption training classes as part of the homestudy. This past Monday was a class on open adoption. The more I learn about open adoption the more excited about it I become. Especially when considering the best interests of our adopted child, and the gratitude we owe his or her birthparents for choosing life and choosing us. Lord-willing we will have a healthy open adoption that will be healing and enriching for all involved.

3. Preparing to raise money
I recently added a few fundraising links to this blog. As we continue in the adoption process I will be sharing the blog with our extended family, friends, and acquaintances. Hopefully it will be a way for more people to learn about us and follow our journey, and also help with financial support if desired.

4. Talking to my boss
Yesterday I told my boss about our plans to adopt. I needed to tell her because she has to complete a reference form for the homestudy. I was so n.e.r.v.o.u.s!!!! Mostly because there are so many unknowns regarding when adoption will actually happen. When you are pregnant you know your due date. Not so with adoption. Thankfully my boss was wonderful. Phew.

5. Flowers from hubby
I got flowers from my hubby at work this week! Lately it's been kind of crazy with adoption classes, CFP night classes three nights a week, lots to do at work, nerves about talking with my boss, and miscellaneous homestudy stuff to do. My sweet hubby could sense my stress and surprised me with these beauties. Definitely bringing them home for the weekend.


6. Manicure with my sista
A few weeks ago we were visiting family in Wisconsin. I took my little sister for a manicure at a local beauty school. Yay for fun sister time!


7. It's a loooooooong weekend!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
That pretty much sums it up. Can't wait.

God bless your weekend, thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reading about Adoption #2

I'm excited to share my second set of adoption-related book reviews. My first set of reviews is here.

Called to Adoption: A Christian's Guide to Answering the Call, by Mardie Caldwell


I wish I would have read this book when Mike and I first began thinking of adoption. One of the agencies we were considering sent it to me last summer. It was written by the agency founder and is an excellent resource book and introduction to adoption. Also, it's written from a Christian perspective.

When we first started considering adoption I was completely and utterly overwhelmed. After our first orientation meeting three years ago I was in tears on the way home. There seemed to be endless ways to pursue adoption, and way too much information available on the internet. Plus everyone I knew had different tidbits of advice from their personal experiences, or from "friends of friends'" experiences. I loved all the info, but it felt like a tsunami was coming my way and I had no way of absorbing anything valuable. I felt lost in a foreign country without a map.

The book provides an excellent overview of the different types of adoption (domestic, international, foster care, special needs, agency, private, etc). It gives guidance on home-study paperwork, how to wait patiently, determining the level of openness you are comfortable with, what to do with things go wrong, coming to terms with infertility, and funding adoption. There are stories from the author's personal experience as an adoptive mother and agency director. Each chapter ends with a nugget of "adoption wisdom", a relevant scripture verse, and spiritual encouragement.

It was so helpful to have a book providing the "big picture" of the world of adoption, while also offering practical advice and encouragement.


Breastfeeding Without Birthing, by Alyssa Schnell


Did you know that it's possible for a woman to induce lactation, even if she's never been pregnant? Our bodies are amazing!

One of the most difficult aspects of infertility is the loss of not being able to nurse our baby. Since we started trying to conceive five years ago I've had dreams of giving birth and nursing. It's always hard to wake up from the nursing part of the dream and be plopped right back into my infertile reality.

Naturally when I first heard of induced lactation I was ecstatic! By taking certain steps such as hormone supplements, prescription medication, herbal supplements, dietary changes, and/or regular stimulation and pumping women can induce lactation and produce brea.st.milk. While most women who have never breastfed can't satisfy all of their baby's dietary needs, they can produce a substantial amount with dedicated effort.

Of course I needed details.This recently published book is the perfect resource. The author is a lactation consultant and has lots of experience. The book discusses creating a support network, successful latching and attachment, basic steps for inducting lactation, and tips for difficult situations. I was so excited while reading this book. While it will take lots of patience and perseverance, I really really really hope I can put the instructions into practice, and hopefully nurse our baby.


The Call to Adoption: Becoming Your Child's Family, by Jaymie Stuart Wolfe


As we've pursued adoption I've heard it said that adoption is a "calling." It makes sense that God may call some couples to adopt, but that it may not be everyone's vocation. Since our pursuing of adoption is almost entirely prompted by infertility, I wanted guidance in discerning if God was indeed calling us to adopt, or if we were plowing forward just because we wanted a family. I think it's actually a little bit of both. Thankfully God uses our desires to lead us where he wants us to be.

I ordered this book to help me reflect on adoption as a "call". The author and her husband had seven bio children and felt God calling them to adopt from Russia. They traveled to Russia and adopted a little girl. Throughout the book the author shared her own story. It was filled with personal examples of the ups and downs of the adoption process, waiting, paperwork, the adjustment period to bringing her daughter home, attachment, and helping her family become a unified body.

Each chapter starts with an inspiring scripture and closes with a meditation/prayer.

I really loved the spiritual aspect of the book, and it would make a great devotional. Personally I think it would be more helpful for someone adopting internationally, or in the midst of post-placement. The issues and experiences of the author were more related to adopting an older child, or helping her child adjust to life within her existing family. Those are circumstances that I am not preparing for just yet. I think this book will be more helpful in future years.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Secret Thoughts of a "Pre-Adoptive" Mother

I am currently reading, "Secret Thoughts of an Adoptive Mother", by Jana Wolff. Can you tell where I got this post's title from? ;)

We are preparing to re-start our home-study. As the reality of a future adoption sinks in, I've been feeling apprehensive. I couldn't quite put my finger on the cause of this anxiety until a recent infertility support group meeting.

As I was sharing about our hopes to adopt, I realized that I'm afraid I won't be a good mom, especially to a newborn. Yet, I really want the experience of mothering our children as newborns.

With my nephew and newest niece.
Let me explain.

I've wanted to be a mom since I was a little girl. Growing up I dreamed of a big family and dreamed of how to incorporate faith and traditions into our family life. I've always wanted to be a mom, but I've never been a "newborn" or "baby" person.

Weird, I know.

I remember coffee and donuts after Mass when I was in middle school. My friends would take turns holding the newest babies of our moms' friends as we munched on donuts. I was never interested in the baby holding. I'm the oldest of seven, and never minded holding or caring for my little siblings, but I viewed coffee and donuts as social time, and a break from being a helpful big sister.

As a teenager I started babysitting. When babysitting a baby, it seemed like the minutes would i-n-c-h by. I felt trapped and anxious. Eventually I just stopped babysitting, unless it was for older kids.

During our infertility group a few weeks ago, one gal shared that she really enjoys holding newborns. Since infertility I've become even less interested in holding babies (am I a horrible person?).

Let me say that I do LOVE toddlers and older kiddos! For example, when my nieces and nephews start talking I really bond with them. We have lots of fun playing dolls, blowing bubbles, or gathering pine cones.

Gathering pine cones with my niece and nephew...a very important job!

Mike blowing bubbles with our super cute goddaughter.
I've had these fears on my mind for awhile. In my 20s, before we even started trying to conceive, I voiced these concerns to friends and family. They always assured me that it would be different "When I have my 'own'". I don't doubt them.

But....when we adopt, the little one won't be our "own" in the sense that he or she will have grown in my belly for nine months. I know for sure that I will love them, and that they will be our son or daughter, but I think it may take awhile for our adopted child to feel like our "own". Being a mom is one of the most important vocations I will have in life and I know it is not easy. There are lots of mundane days, sleepless nights, and challenging moments. I'm fearful that when we bring our baby home I won't be a good mom, or won't be able to bond with our newborn.

Thankfully my hubby is A-Mazing with babies. Much more of a pro than me. It makes me wonder, maybe he should be a stay-at-home dad for the first few years? Yet, I know mothers play a very important role in nurturing and loving their children, and I've always wanted to be home to care for them. I just wish I didn't feel so inadequate and overwhelmed when it comes to parenting a newborn.

I haven't quite resolved all of this. It might have to work itself out when our little one comes home. In the meantime I'm praying for grace, peace, and guidance as adoption gets closer.

God bless your week! Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, August 1, 2014

7 Quick Takes - MN Edition


Last weekend took a roadtrip to the St. Paul/Minneapolis area. I wanted to share a few "Quick Takes" from our trip. Visit Jen's blog for more "Quick Takes".

1. Star Trek Exhibition
The initial purpose of the trip was to visit the Star Trek exhibit at the Mall of America. My hubby is a major "Trekkie" (as in 300 unopened Star Trek action figures in my MIL's basement). So cute! When he heard about the exhibit, we couldn't plan a trip soon enough.

Unfortunately the exhibit left a lot to be desired, but we had fun exploring anyway. We even got a picture on the "bridge" with hubby in the commander's chair (I need to digitize it somehow).


2. Seeing my sisters
Two of my sisters live in the Twin Cities area, so of course I was super excited to see them. It always seems like time with sisters is too short.



3. My first blogger meet up IRL
I've been actively blogging for about a year and been blessed to connect with truly wonderful women. We got to meet the lovely DM + AM before I started actively blogging. In MN I met two other bloggers IRL!!! What a treat to get together with Joy Beyond the Cross for coffee and Infertile Minnesota for brunch! Two delightful, amazing, and inspiring gals! Thank you ladies for making time.

4. Albino squirrels
Have you heard the song Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota (by Weird Al)? A few years ago hubby was giving the song a listen and heard mention of the mecca of albino squirrels in Olney, IL. Immediately he wanted to drive to Olney to see an albino squirrel. Never a dull moment in our home!!! We haven't made it there yet (it's four hours away), but while standing outside my sister's house in St. Paul, guess what we saw?!?!

 

5. Minnehaha Falls
I've been to the Twin Cities several times, but never heard of Minnehaha Falls. It is a beautiful waterfall, literally right in the middle of the city. Sooooooooooo pretty. Also, listening to the GPS try to say "Minnehaha" gave us a good laugh.


6. Coffee
We got coffee and croissants at a pretty little bakery down the road from my sister's. The chocolate croissant was A-Mazing, and one of the best I've had. Also my sister made us french press coffee in the mornings and it was soooooooo smooth. Inspired by her I bought my own french press. Looking forward to using it.

.

7. Basilica of Saint Mary
Minneapolis is home to America's first basilica. We stopped for a few minutes. It was the feastday of St. Anne so I lit a in the candle shrine dedicated to her.





It was such a nice weekend away, thanks for letting me share it with you.

God bless your weekend! Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fearful about Fundraising

We are continuing to make progress on our homestudy. Lots of steps to go, but things are moving along. Our family and friends are super supportive regarding our adoption efforts, so we are feeling very blessed.

Once we complete the homestudy and our profile is ready to show to birthparents (yay!), we are planning to do some fundraising. Our idea is to do a dessert social and invite friends from church for fellowship and yummy treats. We will have a box for a freewill offering or do a "puzzle fundraiser" (pieces of a puzzle for our child's room can be "purchased" for a small donation, and names can be signed on the back of the piece). We are then thinking of doing another similar event in Wisconsin to invite our families and friends there. Perhaps we could also do a silent auction, but it seems overwhelming to solicit donations and organize the logistics. We also set up an AdoptTogether account to accept tax-deductible donations, so hopefully that will be a good tool.


The more I think about fundraising and asking for help from friends and family, the more nervous I get. It will mean being really vulnerable. Eeeeeeeek!

The thing is, we could really use help from those who are willing. We have been saving, saving, saving, but adoption is not cheap (we are thinking it will be about $35,000....yikes!). We would really like to buy a house in the next year or two. It's scary to think about paying for adoption AND being able to buy a house with affordable payments. I know we need to trust God with all of this, but is it ok to fundraising?

I think supporting adoption is a great way to put pro-life values in action. But it's still scary to be the couple asking for that support.

What are your thoughts on adoption fundraising (ideas, how to ask for help, what's appropriate or not, etc)?

God bless your week! Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Being vulnerable (and a rocking chair)

My new rocking chair looks like this,
I'll post pics soon!
We spent four days in Wisconsin visiting our families over July 4th weekend. We did all the cliche' Independence Day things: BBQ, fireworks, hanging out at the cottage. It. was. fun.

Despite all the family time I was feeling really really sad about infertility. :( I think it was mostly due to the five year anniversary of TTC looming, a poor prognosis of conceiving, fears about adoption, and the "baby hormones" of peak day happening.

I ended up posting this on Facebook:

I want to be a momma so badly, and Mike to be a daddy. Infertility is tough. “The English language lacks the words to mourn an absence. For the loss of a parent, grandparent, spouse, child or friend, we have all manner of words and phrases, some helpful some not. Still we are conditioned to say something, even if it is only “I’m sorry for your loss.” But for an absence, for someone who was never there at all, we are wordless to capture that particular emptiness. For those who deeply want children and are denied them, those missing babies hover like silent ephemeral shadows over their lives. Who can describe the feel of a tiny hand that is never held?” ― Laura Bush, Spoken from the Heart

I guess I was searching for some empathy and sympathy. Also, I just needed to "get it out" that the pain of infertility is still there and real, even after five years.

After posting, so many people responded with sweet thoughts and prayers for us! I was blown away and super blessed. My uncle, who I rarely see or talk to, sent me a private message:

"Maybe there is some special little baby out there that needs to be adopted by you and God has already planned. Maybe you will be blessed with adoptive children and biological children. It is timing. Always so very sad when good people have delays and people who don't deserve to have the gift of a child keep having children. You are both great people and God has a plan for both of you."

It's tough to be vulnerable, but in sharing our struggles we open ourselves to receive support from others. That's what the body of Christ is for.

Thank you everyone for your prayers!

Rocking Chair

In other news we are decorating our second bedroom as a study. One corner was missing something. I decided a rocking chair would be perfect, especially in preparation for adoption.

I am pretty picky about rocking chairs (not a fan of gliders). My little brother inherited my favorite rocking chair of all time. The one my parents received as a wedding present. I guess they needed it more than us, since they have five kiddos!

I started looking online for a rocking chair, but didn't really find one a liked (like I said, I'm picky).

This weekend we were visiting my brother (with the five kiddos) and he gave me Mom and Dad's rocking chair. He knew I liked it, but had no idea I was looking for one!

WOW.

I seriously almost broke into tears right then and there.

We couldn't fit the rocking chair in the car on the way home, but hopefully next trip. I promise I'll post pictures. :)

God bless your week! Thanks for stopping by!

MB

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Adoption on our mind


We are back on the road to adoption!

We met with a new agency and explained our background and situation (Last summer we had started a home-study, but had to pause our efforts unexpectedly in fall). The new agency agreed to work with us and everything seems very positive, despite some extra steps. We are filling out paperwork (again) and our sweet references are completing reference forms again (thank you so much!).

It feels crazy and nerve-wracking to attempt adoption again. Envisioning Mike as a daddy makes me so excited. It keeps me motivated to plow through all this paperwork.


Love our new agency! The first agency took a "bare bones" approach and didn't really get to know us. Their forms looked like they had been photocopied from the 1980s. The paperwork from the new agency is more involved and in-depth. I appreciate their attention and thoroughness.

We went to an "Adoption 101" class a few weeks ago. It was so helpful to learn more about the process, and hear anecdotes from those who have adopted.

One thing we learned is that adoption involves loss experienced by three parties: 1. The birthparents, 2. The adopted child, and 3. The adoptive parents.

Why?

In choosing to place their child for adoption, birthparents lose the opportunity to raise their child. This is a HUGE sacrifice for a parent to make, and one that often leaves a permanent hole in their hearts.

Adopted children typically experience a sense of loss knowing that their birthparents weren't able to parent them. They need to come to terms with this in their own way, and often go through a period of grieving the loss of their birthparents.

Adoptive parents often come to adoption from the loss and pain they experienced during infertility (like us). As excited as we are to adopt, we have experienced a real loss in not being able to conceive.

While it breaks my heart to think of the loss and pain experienced by those involved in adoption, I am glad to at least be aware of it. I'm also glad that open adoption is more common. I never want to minimize the feelings of loss that our adopted son or daughter may experience, and I always want to honor the sacrifice that their birthparents made. I think it's important to acknowledge these losses in order to embrace the real beauty (and sorrow) that surrounds adoption.


In class we were also reminded of how God has used "adoptive families" in history to carry out His plan. Examples given were Moses (being "adopted" by Pharoah's daugher), the prophet Samuel (his mother Hannah conceived him after infertility and allowed the priest Eli to raise him), and Jesus, whose adopted father was St. Joseph. How beautiful that God has used adoptive parents in history to carry out His plan of salvation!

While I'm not looking forward to more paperwork, I am grateful for our agency and what I'm learning in our classes.

If you know us IRL, please don't share our adoption efforts with others quite yet. We plan to be more public once our home-study is approved. Please stay on the lookout for any birthmother's considering adoption...our home-study process can speed up if needed. :)

Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

7 Quick Takes - Summer is Here!



Thanks to Kathryn for hosting. Here's a little update on what's going on in my neck of the woods.

1. Summer Concert
Our city has orchestra concerts in the park on Thursday nights. We went with some friends and their kiddos last night and it was lovely. Sitting on a blanket, playing with the kids, chatting, and listening to great music. So glad summer is finally here!

2. Sound of Music
One of the songs at the concert last night was a Sound of Music medley. It made my heart soooooo happy. I need to watch that movie again. It's been too long.

3. Camping
We try to go camping once or twice a summer. This weekend we are going to my favorite childhood campground. It is on the grounds of a Christian conference center/retreat house. You can hike to several "prayer towers" and climb the stairs to see a great view.


4. Lots and lots of books
Mike is changing jobs and moving to a much smaller and shared office. When leaving his old job he had to find a place for an entire wall of books. We turned one wall of the second bedroom into a "book wall." Our first attempt was to buy 26 rustic crates (a Craigslist find) and stack them against the wall. I thought it looked pretty nice, but Mike was nervous about his books being damaged from the un-sanded crates. Also it wasn't exactly a polished look. 

Our second attempt was a wide bookshelf we bought at Ik.ea. It cost only a bit more than the crates, and looks A LOT nicer. ...If only we would have thought of this the first time around. 

Below are before and after pictures. ...and it only took 4 days to sell the crates on Craigslist!! :)

Before - Our stacked crates (26 in all)
After - Our Ikea bookshelf
5. Orthodoxy
Speaking of books, my book group is reading Orthodoxy (by G.K. Chesterton) this summer. I have been wanting to read it for awhile, and reading it with a group will hold me accountable.

6. Phone detachment
I'm realizing more and more that checking my phone is a bad habit. When my phone is nearby I find myself checking email and Face.book compulsively and frequently. Too frequently. I think I need to detach. I love having a smartphone for so many reasons (keeping in touch, calendar, gps, shopping lists, budgeting, reading blogs, etc), but my constant screen swiping has to go! A friend of mine instituted "No technology Tuesdays." She and her husband put away their electronics on Tuesday evenings. I was thinking of some sort of "turn-off" time in the evening, after which I won't check email or Face.book.

7. Back to school
Another reason to detach from my phone, is that I am going back to school. I'm starting coursework to become a Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and this requires 7 classes. It normally takes two years to complete the coursework, but I found an accelerated program that takes one year. I'm going to try it. I figure I might as well be studying it while Mike is writing his dissertation. Coffee shop study dates here we come!

Thanks for stopping by, I hope you enjoy this summer weekend!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Reading about Adoption #1

It all started a few years ago. We were having difficulty conceiving and starting to think more seriously about adoption.

I had so many fears and concerns about many aspects of adoption, and knew I needed to learn more. So, started reading books about adoption. These books have been so helpful in answering questions, calming  fears, equipping me for the future, and giving me a real life perspective on adoption.

This is the first in a series of book reviews on adoption. Hope you find something that might be interesting to you!

I'm starting off with three of my favorites:



1. Hypothetical Future Baby by Claudia Chapman.
This is the most recent book I've read. It is an adoption memoir written by an Australian woman, living in England, who is adopting twins from Ethiopia. It was endearing, gut-wrenching, and funny all at the same time. The author shares her difficult experience of infertility and the roller coaster of foreign adoption. She and her husband traveled a tough road to bring home their children. She is so open and candid about her experiences, that I felt like I was having a cup of coffee with a dear friend.

The author's writing style is tongue-in-cheek hilarious. No joke! I think one of the best ways to cope with infertility treatments, and the mountains of adoption paperwork, is to have a sense of humor and laugh at yourself. The author does just that, while also incorporating her faith in a non-preachy way.

For example, the back of the book lists questions the author wrestles with: "Were my friends this obnoxious before they had kids? Will the social worker notice if I only vacuum in the middle of the rooms? Does God really hate me, or does it only feel that way? And, most importantly, will anybody find out that sometimes, I pretend my cat is a baby?"

I also learned that adoption in the U.K. involves even more red-tape and bureaucracy than in the U.S. Ugh. The author and her husband were required to have a certain number of childcare hours caring for pre-school aged children, and be interviewed by an adoption panel (yikes), as part of the approval process. As the author put it, "For the first time in my life, I wish I lived in America, where home studies take a few weeks and adoption panels do not exist" (pg. 41).

This book was helpful and entertaining (and not just for those considering adoption). I hope you'll read it and let me know what you think!



2. Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent's Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children, by Rachel Garlinghouse
Mike and I are considering openness to transracial adoption. We both grew up, and currently live, in a mostly White area, so transracial adoption is one area in which I feel particularly ill-equipped. Family and friends tell me that they think black babies are so cute (and I agree), but those babies grow up to be black men and women. If we are a black child's parents, I want to make sure that we provide the support, mentors, and resources they need to become confident adults. If we adopt transracially I know our adoptive family will stand out. That means questions. I want to be prepared to speak in confidence and in a way that honors my son or daughter.

This book was an amazing resource in my humble opinion! It was written by an adoptive mom with two black daughters. The chapters discuss preparing for transracial adoption, hair and skin care, answering others questions, creating a support network, and discussing adoption and race with your children. I really appreciated the author's caution about sharing two much information with others about your child's adoption story or history. That story is your child's to tell.  Just because someone asks doesn't mean I am obligated to tell (for a "chronic over-sharer," this is something I will need to be really deliberate about!).

My favorite part of the book is end of each chapter. Each chapter closes with questions for discussion ( maybe for you and your spouse?), practical application tips to illustrate the topic, and resources for BOTH parents and kids (books, magazines, movies, etc). I know I will use the resource lists in this book over and over (and over) again.



3. Adoption: Choosing It, Living It, Loving It. by Dr. Ray Guarendi
Growing up my mom used to listen to Dr. Ray Guarendi give parenting advice on Catholic radio. My hubby loves listening to Dr. Ray now. Dr. Ray is a Catholic psychologist who is known for his practical, no-nonsense advice to raising healthy, well-adjusted children. I knew he had a lot of kids, but it wasn't until I started reading this book that I found out that all of his 10 children were adopted. Wow! I guess that gives him some credibility, when it comes to talking about adoption.  

I wrote more about this book in a prior post, but wanted to include it this series of reviews, because it's just that good!  The book covers several helpful topics, 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. He addresses issues in a practical, entertaining, and often humorous way. 

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.

***
I've come to realize that I will probably be reading about adoption for the rest of my life. Thankfully I don't think there will be any shortage of books on the topic. I hope to post my second set of reviews soon.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

10 Day Devotion to the Holy Spirit


A few years ago I discovered a "10-Day Devotion to the Holy Spirit" in my favorite little prayer book. This devotion is a series of prayers starting on Friday after the feast of the Ascension (Friday, May 30th) and ending on Pentecost (Sunday, June 8th). I love that we can follow in the footsteps of the apostles, who were waiting in Jerusalem for the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. I tend to direct most of my prayers to Jesus, but I know it's also important to pray to the Holy Spirit.

Each day of the devotion starts with a opening prayer, includes a reflection, and ends with a closing prayer. I will be starting the devotion on May 29th and have included the prayers and reflection topics (from my little prayer book and also online at Catholic News Agency) below. I will be praying for our future adoption and for my readers. Please feel free to leave a comment or message me with specific intentions.

Introductory Prayer:
Come, O Holy Spirit! Enlighten my understanding in order that I may know your commands; strengthen my heart against the snares of the enemy; enkindle my will. I have heard your voice, and I do not want to harden my heart and resist, saying "Later... tomorrow." Nunc coepi! Right now! Lest there be no tomorrow for me!

O, Spirit of truth and wisdom, Spirit of understanding and counsel, Spirit of joy and peace! I want what you want, because you want it, as you want it, when you want it.

Considerations
Day One - Pentecost: The day when the Holy Spirit came down upon the Lord's disciples.
Day Two - The Holy Spirit: Present in the Church for all time.
Day Three - The Church: The Body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit.
Day Four - Our faith in the Holy Spirit: Necessarily complete.
Day Five - The Holy Spirit: Present among us.
Day Six - The action of the Holy Spirit: Teaching how to correspond to it.
Day Seven - The gift of wisdom: Making us know God and rejoice in His presence.
Day Eight - The Holy Spirit: Living according to Him.
Day Nine - Docility, life of prayer, and union with the cross: Fundamental points.
Day Ten - Beginning: And beginning again.

Concluding Prayer:
Holy and Divine Spirit! Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Your Spouse, bring the fullness of Your gifts into our hearts. Comforted and strengthened by You, may we live according to Your Will and die praising Your infinite mercy. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.