If I Told You My Story

If I Told You My Story

IMG_0719Last night, Stephen and I attended the Special Kids* benefit concert to see Big Daddy Weave perform. I don’t listen to a ton of contemporary Christian music, but I do love Big Daddy Weave.

During the concert, my eyes filled up with tears, and I realized that I haven’t truly stopped in the last six weeks to worship. Our last six weeks have been a whirlwind of emotions—going to doctor appointments, getting to know Griffin’s sweet birth mother, getting our house and nursery ready to go, working extra hours at work to get ready to take time off, and just simply processing the fact that our lives are about to change in a matter of days. Toss in the holidays and Christmas shopping, and it has been a truly hectic time.

It was refreshing to take a couple of hours to praise God through song. I spent most of that concert just thanking God for the work that He’s doing in our lives, for loving His children with a fierce love, and for redeeming our story.

That’s why, when Big Daddy Weave started singing “My Story,” I really began crying. “My Story” is a song about our testimonies and how they point to the kindness, grace and mercy of Jesus.

If I told you my story
You would hear hope that wouldn’t let go
If I told you my story
You would hear love that never gave up
If I told you my story
You would hear life but it wasn’t mine

If I should speak then let it be

Of the grace that is greater than all my sin
Of when justice was served and where mercy wins
Of the kindness of Jesus that draws me in
To tell you my story is to tell of Him

Our stories are all different. I hope that when I share my testimony, about my life before my relationship with Jesus, that people see a clear picture of Him. But I also hope that when I share my current story—infertility; days, months and years of praying for a child; starting the adoption process; learning we had been matched; preparing to meet our son—I hope you see God in that, too.

I hope you see a God who restores what is seemingly broken.

I hope you see a God who draws us up from the pit.

I hope you see a God who loves His children.

I hope you see a God who is faithful even when His people are struggling to have faith.

I hope you see a God who is close to the brokenhearted and heals those hurt hearts.

I hope you see a God who rejoices over His people like a father rejoices over His children.

I hope that when I tell you our story, you see Him.


 

Special Kids is a Christian nonprofit in Murfreesboro, Tennessee that provides therapy and nursing services to children with special needs. They were founded on the principle that no child would ever be turned away because their family could not afford services. 

3 Things We’ve Learned in the Adoption Process

3 Things We’ve Learned in the Adoption Process

Stephen rarely shares his personal thoughts on Facebook—most of his posts are sports-related, updating a profile picture, or sharing one of my own blog posts. However, today he shared some of his thoughts and observations from the last seven months of the adoption process. As most of you know, we have recently been matched with an expectant mother, and we are overjoyed and thrilled at the thought of welcoming a baby boy later this year. I don’t plan to share many details about the adoption on this blog (or really anywhere else for that matter), because Stephen and I desire to keep the mother’s life private—her story is not ours to share with everyone. However, I wanted to share Stephen’s words, which are below.


I haven’t posted on here much for good reason: The share button is a great thing when your wife is so great with words, but I figured I would just share some of my observations and the things I have learned throughout this whole adoption process. We are nowhere near the end, but God is writing a story that is far greater than anything I could dream or imagine.

1. Adoption is not for wimps.

This process has been hard! On night one, when we went to the information meeting, we were told that adoption is not for wimps and if you can’t handle it then you don’t need to do it. And wow, were they right. I’m sure if you have read any of Megan’s blog posts then you know and understand this has been a hard process. There have been many nights of tears, asking God why, and just straight-up frustration that we weren’t able to have kids.

2. God is great.

We know that we are far from the finish line. Being matched is just one turn on this journey of adoption, but it is so beautiful to see how God is working through every part of it. We believe that God picked this expectant mother for us on day one. We were sitting in the doctor’s waiting room talking with her, and it felt like we had all been friends for years. When we first met her, God answered so many questions as to why we have been waiting for the perfect match. I have been so awestruck by God’s faithfulness through this journey. I am thankful that even when I question Him, He is still there and faithful.

3. People are always willing to help.

We have been so blessed by all the ways people have helped us, from buying baby 22815542_10209741504803577_9120292006710924971_nclothes, formula, and diapers, to just encouraging us with kind words. It has been overwhelming at times. I went into the nursery last night and just stared at everything we had and began to thank God for bringing people into our lives to be a blessing. So, thank you. For all the people who have bought shirts or BBQ, shopped at the yard sale, bought baby clothes for us, or even just said an encouraging word … we could not have done this without you!

This journey is far from over, but we are thankful to God that He has led us in this way. No matter what happens, we know that God is good and working all things for His glory and His fame. We covet your prayers through this crazy and constantly changing time. We truly do feel your prayers and we’re so grateful for them! Continue to pray for this sweet mother who is doing one of the most selfless things you can do.


November is National Adoption Awareness Month. This month, I’ll be sharing a few ways that you can support families who are fostering and/or pursuing adoption. To start, check out my latest post on small businesses that have ties to adoption and foster care

 

Shop Small & Support Adoption

Shop Small & Support Adoption

It’s hard to believe that November is almost here—I feel like I completely missed October. November and December are two of my favorite months—I can finally wear sweaters, scarves and boots; it’s almost time for the holidays; and I get some time off work. Nothing better, right?

You may not realize it, but November is also National Adoption Awareness Month. This is a great month to encourage a family who is praying about adoption, in the middle of the process, or a family who is fostering. (I hope you know a family other than us!) The adoption process is hard, y’all. It’s an emotional roller coaster and there are days where you just want to stay in bed and cry. This month, send a card to a family, bless them with a meal, or just shoot them a text saying you’re praying for them. It’s so easy to feel forgotten and alone during this process, and receiving some encouragement, even if just a text, can lift your spirits.

With that being said, I wanted to highlight a few businesses that have ties to adoption and foster care. Christmas is less than two months away, and if you’re like me, you’re ready to finish (or start!) your shopping. Why not shop small and support families who are growing or have grown their families through adoption? Here are some of my favorites.

Swallows Grace

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“Joanna Gaines Is My Spirit Animal.” Isn’t she, though? Buy it here.

Kenzi and Austin Reddick opened their Etsy shop in August 2015 to help cover the costs of their private domestic adoption. Their shop featured coffee mugs with witty sayings, one of which read “Joanna Gaines Is My Spirit Animal.” Chip Gaines even posted a photo of himself on Instagram holding the coffee mug, which helped the Reddicks gain even more business. (Side note: Stephen bought me that mug for my birthday, and I proudly use it because Joanna Gaines is my spirit animal.) Today, the Reddicks are parents to Lane and continue selling coffee mugs and other goods on their shop. I have this mug on my Christmas list.

Follow on Instagram here.


In Our Little Red House

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Isn’t this so perfect? I want one to hang over my bed.

I wish I could do hand lettering. It’s just not one of my talents. But it is one of Sarah Thatcher’s talents. I started following Caleb and Sarah Thatcher on Instagram a few months ago. The Thatchers are parents to two cute little boys, both of whom where adopted. Now, they’re adopting again. How exciting is that?! Right now, 100 percent of the profits from their sign-making business go to support their third adoption. I’m a huge fan of the sign above. I want to hang it in the bedroom over our bed!

Follow on Instagram here.


Stamps of Grace

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I own this bracelet and love the daily reminder that the Lord is good no matter what.

I started reading Jessica’s blog a couple of years ago, before adoption was ever part of our own story. Her words encouraged me month after month when I would realize, once again, that I wasn’t pregnant. This past year, I ordered a bracelet from her Etsy shop, Stamps of Grace, and connected with Jessica on Instagram. I still read her blog and love following her family’s journey on Instagram. She and her husband are parents to the most adorable kids and they are currently fostering, as well. We’ve never met in person, but her words have been such an encouragement to me.

Follow on Instagram here.


Dear Mushka

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The “Together” necklace. I wear it every day.

I met Katie almost nine years ago when I was a freshman in college. I joined a small group at the church I was attending at the time, and Katie was one of the leaders. I grew so much in my spiritual life that year, and that small group was one of the reasons why. Dear Mushka began as a blog in 2010, and in 2013, it became a jewelry brand as Katie and her husband Robert began raising and saving money to adopt their first child. Guys, the jewelry she creates is beautiful. I own several pieces, and I’ve bought several pieces for friends. Each piece comes with a corresponding scripture card. Now, Katie is branching out into apparel and artwork. I’m so amazed at her creativity.

Follow on Instagram here.


Do you know of any other shops that support adoption? What are your favorites?

Jamie Ivey’s “If You Only Knew”

Jamie Ivey’s “If You Only Knew”

book-3dI discovered Jamie Ivey about a year ago through Instagram. Someone I follow liked one of Jamie’s posts, and it popped up in my feed. Being the Instalurker I am, I scrolled through her photos and quickly discovered that she is a podcaster.

“A podcast. Huh, that’s interesting,” I thought. “Who even listens to those anymore?”

As it turns out, a lot of people listen to podcasts. In fact, millions of women (and men!) tune in to Jamie’s podcast, “The Happy Hour With Jamie Ivey” every week. I decided to download an episode and I was immediately hooked.

I’ve listened to nearly every episode of Jamie’s podcast now, and sometimes I feel like we’re real-life friends. (We’re not, and I’m sane enough to realize that. However, we’re sisters in Christ, so that’s better, right?) She and her guests have been a weekly encouragement to me. When Stephen and I started the adoption process, I went back and listened to every episode that covered adoption or foster care. (I tried convincing our adoption counselor to let me count those episodes toward my required education hours, but I was unsuccessful!) I’ve listened to Jamie speak truth and gospel week after week, and I’m constantly encouraged. I’m so thankful for Jamie and her podcast.

So, imagine my excitement when I learned that she was writing a book. I could not wait to get my hands on this book, so when I heard she was starting a launch team, I knew I had to be on it. I preordered the book, submitted the request for the launch team, and waited—impatiently—for confirmation that I was in.

One of the perks of being on the launch team is the opportunity to read the book early. Y’all, you will not want to miss this book when it’s released in January 2018. I highly recommend preordering the book so that it arrives on your doorstep (or electronically on your Kindle) on release day.

In If You Only Knew: My Unlikely, Unavoidable Story of Becoming Free, Jamie practically shouts this message from the rooftop: Jesus is better.

That’s the theme of her book. In this memoir, Jamie recounts her struggles with sin and shame and invites her readers in to her life’s story. She writes with the same authenticity that you hear in her podcast. She’s real and honest. She urges her readers to strip away the labels they place on their own journeys (failure, cheater, addict, depressed, you fill in the blank) and reminds readers that our stories are not as unique as we think. And those labels we place on our stories? They aren’t labels from God.

When you look at your own story, maybe all you can see are the goof-ups, the mess-ups, the things you’re afraid of ever bringing up, even the parts that happened this week or this morning or five minutes before you started reading this chapter today. But if you’d turn your head to look at your story just a little bit differently, you’d see it’s actually the record of a faithful God, willing His unwilling child to return to him, loving you through all your unloveliness. — Jamie Ivey

Jamie weaves her own personal story together with truths from God’s Word. She vulnerably and beautifully shares her struggles, and by reading it, we see a clear picture of Jesus and the grace of God.

Being vulnerable—sharing our need for a Savior—points people to Jesus and not ourselves. — Jamie Ivey

Jamie reminds her readers that no one is too far gone to be rescued by God’s love and grace. She urges her readers to find their identity in Christ, not their sin or the false labels they wear.

As believers and followers of God, here’s our identity: We are women who are being cleansed, changed, and “conformed to the image of his Son” so that we look more like Him every day. We are daughters of the living God, covered in Christ’s righteousness, set apart for His own wise and merciful purposes. — Jamie Ivey

Um, can I get an Amen? Though written for women, I would encourage both women and men to read this book. Through sharing her story, Jamie gives a beautiful picture of the gospel and how God’s love, mercy and grace is better than anything else.


To pre-order If You Only Knew by Jamie Ivey, visit http://ifyouonlyknewbook.net. Pre-order now and receive 20 percent off from Waterloo Style and five entries to win a 2-day getaway for two to Green Acres with travel included, a dinner with the Iveys, and a basket of Jamie’s favorite things.


Want to listen to the HAPPY HOUR but don’t know where to start? I recommend these:

Episode #66 with Amanda Jones

Episode #82 with Shay Shull

Episode #88 with Amy from the Bobby Bones Show

Episode #108 with Beth Moore (yes, *the* Beth Moore)

Episode #132 with Heather Avis

Episode #155 with Sara Hagerty

Episode #157 with Catherine Lowe

Episode #162 with Ellie Holcomb

The Lack of Christian Adoption Resources

The Lack of Christian Adoption Resources

Earlier this week I went to the Christian bookstore armed with birthday money and a desire to find some Christian books about adoption. Just a warning, this is going to be a rant.

I quickly learned that there are not many books out there. I, of course, found Dr. Moore’s books (Adopted for Life and The Gospel and Adoption); Tony Merida’s Orphanology; Steven Curtis Chapman’s Between Heaven and the Real World; and You Can Adopt Without Debt. Those are all wonderful, incredible resources. I recommend them. Other than that? I really couldn’t find anything.

So I headed to the devotionals, thinking I could find something there. I found several for mothers, which I don’t want because I am not one. I then found one for expectant mothers, so I picked it up with a glimmer of hope thinking, “Maybe this will work.” I flipped it open to a random page and read something about the amazing feeling a positive pregnancy test brings after months and months of negative tests. Considering I had just looked at yet another negative test this month, I flipped that book shut and walked away.

I know, I know: It seems like I’m whining. And yes, I am. I’m frustrated. If we, as Christians, say that we support adoption, care for adoptive and fostering families, and want to encourage adoption, then why are we not offering more resources that are written from a Christian perspective? Why can’t I find theologically sound adoption-related books at my Christian bookstore? Why do Bible studies about parenting not routinely address the fact that families are formed by more than blood? And good golly, let’s turn it from the other perspective—I also can’t find solid, theologically sound Christian resources for birth mothers.

It just seems like we’re missing something here. It seems like the Christian publishing industry, at large, is really missing an opportunity to minister to a whole stinkin’ lot of families.

Maybe I’m wrong, and maybe there are oodles and oodles of Christian resources out there for adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents. If you know of any, send them my way.

Tossing My Plans Out the Window

Tossing My Plans Out the Window

If you know me well, then you know I like to be in control. I’m a planner and a list maker, and I like checking things off that list fairly quickly. When life doesn’t go according to my plan, I can often feel like things are spinning out of control.

For example, my birthday is this Wednesday. I typically love my birthday, but this year, I’ve honestly been kind of down about it. Deep down I’ve been thinking, “I was supposed to be a mom by now.” When Stephen and I got married at the ripe age of 21, I assumed we would have our first child by 25, the second by age 27–28, and the third in our early thirties. I knew adoption would be included in there somewhere, I just didn’t know when.

Obviously we don’t have kids yet, and my plans of three by our early thirties may be a little too ambitious now. (But who knows? I’m learning God chuckles when I start making plans.)

So now I’m (very, very, very slowly) learning to relinquish control and say, “God, your plans are so much better than anything I can imagine. I don’t see the full picture yet, but I know you are good and you love me.” This journey we’ve been on the last two-plus years—fertility problems, praying for a family, starting the adoption process, waiting—has drawn me closer to God. The Lord and I talk a whole lot—sometimes I’m angry and cry, sometimes I ask questions, sometimes I plead, and sometimes I just sit and be still. But each time I thank Him for being a good father who listens to me and loves me. And it leads me to wonder: Would I have drawn closer to the Lord if my life had gone according to my detailed, meticulous plan? Would I have a desire to talk to my Heavenly Father on a regular, day-to-day basis? I really don’t know. Maybe this relationship is a part of His plan.


If you’re reading this, will you pray in these four ways? I love when people give me specific things to pray for, and I wanted to do the same.

  1. Pray for us to trust in the Lord’s timing. We know that one day we’ll look back at and thank God for His goodness and provision. We’re confident that one day we’ll hold our child and say, “This is who we were waiting on.” But actually waiting is easier said than done. Pray for us to continue trusting in the Lord’s perfect timing.
  2. Pray for us to find joy in the wait. We may be waiting two more years or two more weeks. Who knows? I sometimes find myself feeling sad and anxious as the days go on and on and on. Please pray that we enjoy this time we have to spend as just the two of us. Pray for our marriage to be strengthened, for our friendships with others to be rejuvenated and our lives to be filled with joy.
  3. Pray for the woman who is either currently expecting or who will become pregnant. I pray for our future child’s birth mother every day. It’s hard to do that, because I don’t have a name or a face to attach to those prayers. Please join us in praying for her. I ask God to keep her healthy and safe. I pray she realizes how brave and courageous she is. I ask God to show her how loved she is and how strong she is, and I ask Him to comfort her and give her strength.
  4. Pray for the child who will one day be part of our family. We’re so excited to become parents. But we know and understand that our child, even if adopted at birth, will experience loss. Please pray for the physical and mental development of our future child—that he or she is healthy and strong. Pray that we are parents who love deeply, practice wise discipline and model Christ’s love.

 

 

Stay Steadfast, My Soul

Stay Steadfast, My Soul

Y’all, Kristene DiMarco is one of my favorite songwriters and worship leaders. If you’re familiar with Bethel Music, you have heard her lead others in worship through song. I recently heard this song, “Take Courage,” and I fell in love with it. It has been such an encouragement for me during the hard, seemingly never-ending adoption process. Watch the video below to listen to the song, and read over the lyrics.

Verse 1
Slow down take time
Breathe in He said
He’d reveal what’s to come
The thoughts in His mind
Always higher than mine
And He’ll reveal all to come

Chorus 1
Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope, as your triumph unfolds
He’s never failing, He’s never failing

Verse 2
Sing praise my soul
Find strength in joy
Let His words lead You on
Do not forget
His great faithfulness
He’ll finish all He’s begun

Bridge
You who hold the stars
Who call them each by name
Will surely keep Your promise to me
That I will rise in Your victory

Chorus 2
Take courage my heart, stay steadfast my soul
He’s in the waiting, He’s in the waiting
Hold onto your hope, watch your triumph unfold
He’s never failing, He’s never failing