Raising Children is Exhausting, but…

Raising children is mostly exhausting.

It is a seemly impossible task at times, just to stay sane.

But then, there are moments… when they lay still, and breath slowly.

Moments that make all the crazy go quiet… when you pause and say “thank you Lord” for this impossibly exhausting, wonderful responsibility.

Simple Moments — Powerful Memories

There was a lot to do at home tonight. Work left over from the day, chores to take care of, and the list goes on. Hayden (my oldest), ask if he could go watch the movie Courageous. I told him “sure” and he went off to watch it. I put the other three kids to bed and started on the list of things I needed to get done.

Just after I had gotten the other kids to bed, Hayden came in looking a little sad and asked if I’d come watch the movie with him. There is a part in the movie were a young girl dies in a car accident and she has an older brother. Hayden said it made it sad because he just couldn’t stop thinking of Eva (his 6 month old sister) — and “what if that was her.”

I had a lot to do, but I couldn’t say no to him. For the last hour and a half, I sat next to him on the playroom floor and we watched together. A movie about men who no longer accept being a “good enough father” — men who desired something greater for their families.

I’ve seen Courageous several times, but it gets me every time. Part way through the movie, one of the fathers was talking about things he could do to improve as a man. I asked Hayden if he thought I was a good father. He said, “of course you are Daddy.” And then I asked him what I could do to be a better father and he said, “nothing — you’re already the best you could be.”

I don’t believe that for a second, but the fact that he believes it, at least for now, was pretty special. My guess is that he won’t feel the same way when he’s 16 years old and not getting his way, but by the grace of God I will lay the best foundation for him and his brothers and sister that I can.

There is so much I could have done tonight and it all still needs to be done. But there is nothing greater I could have done. It’s easy to be too busy, I could have sat with him for a moment or fired up my iPhone on the side. Instead, I popped some pop corn and was really WITH him.

I’m guilty a million times over of not making the right decision with my time, but tonight I made the right one and was blessed for it.

Children can be INCREDIBLY stressful… but in the quiet moments, they bring joy like nothing else.

Thank you God for these moments.

Success

There are so many ways to define success and I think it can be different for everyone.

For me, success would be that one day someone would ask our children what the best thing their Father ever did for them was and I hope they would say something like this: “He led me to Jesus and he loved my mother relentlessly, passionately, and unconditionally.”

If I do anything in life, I hope that is the legacy I leave. And further, that they would lead their children to Jesus and love their wives in the same way they hopefully see me love their mother.

For me, that would be success.

What’s your definition of success?

Our Adoption Journey & The Hand of God

I didn’t want to adopt.

This is a story about how God changed my heart, about the miracle of adoption, and how it changed our world.

Our adoption journey has been an emotional roller coaster with many twists and turns. We’ve had days and nights of many tears and others with incredible joy. I’ve heard from so many people that I never knew were adopted and from many others who want to adopt — it’s for those people that I share this story. My hope is that it will encourage those interested in adopting or already on the journey.

It’s a long story, so get a cup of coffee and get comfortable.

Claire and I are the kind of people that like to see the future. We are planners. We set goals and we accomplish them. This didn’t work that way. I didn’t get to see the end of the tunnel most of the time, I just got to see one step ahead. I have learned to trust God through this.

About 2 years ago, Claire (my wife) mentioned the idea of adopting. Honestly, I wasn’t too sure about the idea. I mean, we have three healthy, happy boys that sleep through the night, can feed themselves, and wipe their own butts (well, almost). Not to mention that they all still fit in the back of my car without having to take the mini-van everywhere. Why would I want to mess up that balance? (Selfish attitude, I know, but that’s how I felt.)

Claire was persistent however and I agreed to at least explore the idea with her. There are so many options that once you start looking into it, it can quickly become overwhelming. International? Domestic? Private? Public? Newborn or not? Special needs or not? These, and many other questions started off our conversation.

Initially, we thought that international adoption would be the best option. We would be bringing in a child that would likely be an orphan and had little to no concern about that child’s family getting involved. We looked all over the internet, read many stories like this one and looked at a lot of countries. Each country has its own advantages and disadvantages, each countries costs vary, and each have their own requirements. We felt drawn to China but to adopt from China you have to be 30, which we were not at the time. We looked at a lot of agencies but never really felt comfortable with one.

In the meantime, we had been involved with a local organization in St. Augustine called Alpha Omega Miracle Home. They provide care for single mothers and single pregnant women in need and their children. We had been involved in some ways, but decided to become extended families. An extended family with them is kind of like a private foster program but for shorter periods of time. We would take in babies for as little as a night or as long as a month when needed. Claire and I both felt this would be a good way to help and also see if adopting was something we really wanted.

As a part of becoming an extended family, we went through a “Home Study” which is basically a full review of your family situation and lots of paperwork and background checks. This is done prior to any adoption and it was good to go ahead and get it done.

After being involved with this program, we both felt more comfortable about the idea of a domestic adoption but felt like we wanted to have a closed adoption. A closed adoption is one where our family and the adopted child would have no contact with the birth family. (An open adoption being the opposite.) We felt like this would be the “safest” route for our family. This was something we changed our minds on later.

We got a call about a baby that may need extended family care and her mother may want to give up for adoption. This was serious now.

I started to second guess it all and was a little scared about the idea of adopting.

I remember clearly sitting in my office at a men’s prayer group about 9 months ago. I told the guys that I just wasn’t feeling it. I was really happy with our current family and scared to rock the boat — but Claire felt really passionate about it and I didn’t want to snuff her fire. The guys prayed that God’s will would be revealed and that if he wanted us to adopted, he would open my heart. What happened next completely blew my mind. 

That Friday afternoon (just 5 days after the prayer group), we got a call from AOMH that a mother had made some mistakes and the baby needed a home immediatly. (This was a DIFFERENT baby from the one that might be up for adoption.) We went to AOMH to pick up the baby that afternoon.

We had watched many babies before, but for some reason, this little girl just captured my heart from the moment I saw her. It was literally like the hand of God on my shoulder saying “your heart is now open”. That may sound a little crazy, but that’s exactly what it was like. We fell in love with that little girl and have watched her many times over the last 8 months but we were just providing extended family care as she was not up for adoption (even though we wished she was). God used this little girl to change my heart. He also used stories from her mother to change our hearts about an open vs. closed adoption.

While we were providing care for this baby, the other baby who’s mom was considering adoption for her made some poor choices and harmed her older son. We were called in to provide care for this little girl and I drove down to St. Augustine that night to pick her up. Because of the abuse involved, DCF got involved and because we were not a licensed foster care home, they wanted to take the baby out of our home. They showed up at 2 in the morning with 3 police cars at my house — it was insane. They took the sleeping baby out of our bedroom even though they had no where for the baby to go that night — crazy. As a result, we decided to take the parenting classes required by the state to become official foster/adoption family with the state of Florida. This involved ten 3 hours classes which we completed along with a ton of paperwork.

(I warned you this was a long story…)

It was never our plan to foster originally, but we felt like maybe that was the path we were suppose to walk down for the adoption process. We took the classes and completed LOTS of paperwork. The state is still working on our foster/adoption license.

In the meantime, about 4 weeks ago, AOMH got a call from an organization in Fort Myers called Life Line Family Center. They had a mother who was only 3 weeks from her due date and was looking at families to have her baby placed with. They requested adoption profile books from AOMH (a book you put together to tell about your family to the birth mother). The birth mother selected our family and one other to interview. Claire and I drove down to Fort Myers to meet with her and felt very good about it. We prayed that God would ease our hearts with whatever the decision was.

A week later we got a call that she had selected our family. We could not have been more excited. All of my previous fears, concerns, and selfishness had been completely lifted from me.

Because we had already done everything with the state and AOMH and because there is a new adoption agency (2Hearts) started by a lady that works at AOMH and her, we were able to expedite the process quite a bit as far as the paperwork goes. We could have never put all of these pieces together ourselves, it was not by design, it was God’s plan.

There were MANY nights that we didn’t think we would ever adopt, many nights that our boys prayed for a baby sister, and many, many tears shed over situations we thought would become adoptions but did not. But God is faithful and “works ALL THINGS together for good for those who love him and are called according to his purpose.”

Just two weeks ago, we got a call that our little girl was on the way and on October 14, 2012, our precious Eva Pearl was born.

Many of you reading this may not believe in God and may not believe that he is at work in our world, but our previous Eva is living testimony that he is. I’ve seen him work in our lives, I’ve seen answers to prayers and I’ve seen the miracle of life through adoption.

I remember a phrase my high school coaches used often: “No one said it would be easy, they just said it would be worth it.” (thanks Jill & Robby) I couldn’t describe this process better. It is not for the easily discouraged or the faint of heart.

We give all the glory to God and are so incredibly thankful for our baby Eva.

Here’s the thing, kids are going to call you a “big meanie head” for making them go to bed even if you let them stay up late, so you might as well put them to bed early.