Adoption, God, My Story

Emotions… Good/Bad?

Emotions…Feelings…These have been flooding my psyche for the past few months. Sometimes I barely notice them. Then there are other times when they feel like they are overwhelming me. They cascade over my head like waves on an ocean beach. I have a love-hate relationship with my feelings. When they’re positive, I love them. When they’re negative, I don’t. I seem to believe that positive emotions are good and negative emotions are bad. But are they really? Do emotions really need a good/bad assignment to them?

The Never-Ending Change…

Very recently, the constant changes and uncertainty in the atmosphere of our world has gotten to me, and not in a good way. The simmering emotions of the ever-changing fabric of my life (I know, a bit melodramatic maybe), have been on the ‘back-burner’ but they still boil over every once in a while. Although these feelings are not forefront in my mind, they are still in the background, waiting for the heat to get turned up and a simmer to turn to a boil. On and on it goes. A good day, a good week, a bad day, a hard week, then back to center again for a while. Can anyone relate? As I scan the news articles and social media, it seems like it’s not just me, but the whole country and world who’s caught up in the chaos of the unknown future.

Along with the unknown in the world, each of us has our own unknowns in life too. I don’t know about you, but my life is still going. It didn’t stop when the stay-at-home orders started. Sure, it slowed down for a short time, but now it’s speeding up again. Specifically, I’m feeling the pressure in regards to adoption and schooling. 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

…or to quote from the movie Girls Just Want to Have Fun, “Decisions are the worst!” I am at a decision point. What do I do with my kids during this next school year? Do I send them back to school with all the unknowns, the constant changes, new guidelines and all the underlying stress of worry that being in proximity to potentially COVID-contagious people is causing? Or do I put them on a sabbatical from their school for this year in an effort to create at least some consistency? (It is not lost on me that I actually have the ability to entertain this choice since I am at home for both work and homelife. For this, I am thankful.) 

Well, we decided to homeschool. It was a very BIG decision for us. We hadn’t ever really planned to homeschool the kids. We were glad to send them to school and have them learn in that way, but this past year has made us rethink things. At the same time, I guess tt wasn’t totally out of the question for us to consider homeschool either. I mean, so many of my friends and family homeschool that if I just started to lean a little towards it, I knew I’d be well supported and have a community of people for the kids and I to be around. So… we’re homeschooling, but then there’s the curriculum. Choosing what to use, how intense to be, trying to keep up with the school system, etc. There’s no one right answer! Each child’s schooling can be as unique as each child! This is both great and also overwhelming. 

It reminds me of a previous blog post I wrote about making our adoption decision. I said, “the child(ren) out there for us will be as unique as our present circumstances that have led us to this decision at this time.” There’s this idea of the uniqueness of time. Never did I think that a global pandemic would force my hand to consider changing up my schooling options for my kids. Yet, it did. And yet, this same pandemic is not causing considerable changes to the other large decision in my life at this time – adopting a child.

We are still waiting and hoping to adopt. During this pandemic we have been contacted about two potential birth families to be matched with. One in the past and one in the present. With each new expectant mother/parent story, we have decisions to make. We have to weigh what we feel God is calling us to do with our family for the future as well as listen in case He’s asking us to make a change. Currently, we’re working through an adoption decision. I can’t go into all the details at this time, but suffice it to say that it’s a big decision! What we say, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to impacts our entire future! They aren’t quite life or death decisions, but they are decisions with weight on them – they are weighty decisions. Please, tell me that some of you have ALSO had your own share of these weighty decisions moments. Sigh…

So, I’m in the middle of some weighty and stressful decisions. They will all work out just fine in the end, but the in-between details can feel overwhelming at time. They can feel almost crushing, like I don’t have what I need to adequately make these decisions! Then the anxiety and worry sets in and you can imagine how the day goes – not so great.

Negative Emotions…

But back to my earlier question, do the negative emotions need to be labeled as bad? In my mind, I know the counselor-correct answer is, ‘No, emotions and feelings are neither good nor bad. They are just what they are. They are almost akin to fact. They are feelings, nothing more, nothing less.’ But that’s hard to keep in mind in the moment of negative feelings. So, I began to journal. I journaled how I was feeling, why I was feeling what I was feeling and realizing that I just plain don’t like the way the negative emotions make me feel. 

My negative emotions make me feel weak – like a weak person, both mentally and physically. I know this is Satan lying to me, but the first step is recognizing that lie. Then in the swirl of the negative, comes a gentle stillness. I remember the Scripture, ‘For when I am weak, then He is strong.’ I think about how that can be applied to me at this very moment. How is God strong when I’m weak in this way? How is He showing up and lifting me up when I can’t do it on my own? And that’s it. It’s that simple. God is strong because he’s lifting me up, above the crashing waves. Or at other times, He comes in and stills the waves that crash until my inner world looks more like a serene, still lake. God’s strength helps me see another side to negative emotions. He encourages me that I don’t have to believe the same old lie that there’s nothing good to negative emotions.

Do you know what He told me recently? What He helped me to see about my emotions? Even in the midst of the snotty crying, or the heaviness in the pit of my stomach… God created feelings. He’s not afraid of my feelings. He’s not out of control. He loves my feelings. He loves my vulnerability. He loves my emotions. 

A Catalyst…

You see, I am learning that my emotions can act as a catalyst in my life.  They are a catalyst to enter into a bit more self-care when I haven’t been doing that lately. They are a catalyst to help me order my priorities and focus on what really matters for that day. They are a catalyst to keep me in the present, but still dreaming of my future. They are a catalyst to spend more time with Jesus so He can speak to me and show me new things, and old things. They are a catalyst to send me into the arms of my Father-God so He can lavish His love and comfort on me. They are a catalyst for me to listen to Holy Spirit for how God is showing His strength in the midst of my weakness. 

When Joy discovers that Sadness is good. (Pixar’s “Inside Out“)

Without this catalyst to move me towards the next thing, I can get stuck in the muck. I can start to live in the depression of weakness and the lies that come with it. I can start to build-up around me the things that seem like comfort, but really just act like a fence to hem me in. The catalyst of emotions on the other hand, moves me. It moves me out of the muck and onto dry ground. It builds up the strength in me and the truth that comes with it. It tears down my self-made walls of protection and instead shows me the steady and safe path of freedom in Christ! If I allow it. If I allow myself to go a bit deeper into the shadows of negative emotions or even a bit higher into the clouds of the positive feelings, I will learn new things with God. I will be moved and I will carry on yet again. I will have direction and peace.

So, even though I still don’t think that I’ll like the feelings of the negative emotions and I will much prefer the positive ones, I won’t shy away. I’ll press in just a little more so that I can learn more of what God has for me. And when the skies clear, I can work on my weighty decisions again and instead of experiencing great stress, I hope and expect that I will experience anticipation and clarity.

Adoption, God, My Story

Adoption Update: Early July 2020 – Almost Ours…

“Would you be ready to accept an adoption placement tomorrow?” I couldn’t believe my ears. A baby was already born who would be ready to go home with us the next day if the birth mother chose us as her child’s adoptive family! It seemed way too good to be true, but here we were, being faced with the dream I had been hoping for! A healthy baby that lined up with our desires in many ways and without anymore waiting! We happily said, ‘YES!’ to meeting with the birth mother the next day.

The Excitement Begins…

As many expecting parents do … we video called/texted our family! It was so fun to see the happy faces and hear the squeals of excitement as we told people one by one about this possible new addition to our family. My hope was buoyed. I immediately started thinking about all the things I’d need to do to prepare for a baby if we were selected as the adoptive parents. This was all so surreal!

Later that evening, my husband, Putty, and I talked more about how crazy-ridiculous (in a good way) this was feeling! We were excited and filled with anticipation. The last step for our evening was to review the birth family information. Our agency rep was getting that typed up so she could send it to us. I checked my inbox repeatedly for that email, but as evening rolled around, we got another text from the agency. My heart sunk a little as I read it, but I still held onto hope.

You see, the birth mother was having second thoughts about making an adoption plan for her baby and it was looking like the process would probably take longer than originally expected. In fact, it was proposed that the baby would go to a non-adoptive family while the birth mother made her decision to parent or not. I felt so strongly that if this was going to be our baby, I’d REALLY like to take care of this child from the beginning. I was ready! I didn’t want to wait, but I didn’t really have a say in these things. It’s all part of the process. The birth mother still planned to meet birth families the next day so she could have them in mind while making her ultimate decision.

Add in a Little Uncertainty..

And so… I went to bed that night not really sure what to expect. Would this chance at adoption really be ended as quickly as it began? Should I retain hope? What are my thoughts and feelings about a birth mother making a choice to parent instead of making an adoption plan? Is one better than the other? Well, I hadn’t met the mother and I didn’t know her situation, so I didn’t really have an answer. I had to leave it in God’s hands. He knew what would be best for this little baby. He knew and I trusted Him. I prayed that God would allow us to take the baby home the next day if it was to be our little one. Then I went to bed.

The next morning came. Our adoption meeting was scheduled for the afternoon, so I had all morning to prepare. Putty was out of the house when I got another call from our agency. It looked like we might actually have a chance at having the baby in our home that night after all! Although the birth mother still wasn’t sure if she would parent or not, she wanted the baby to go home to the prospective adoptive parents just in case she chose that option. Putty and I talked about it when he returned home and we agreed that we felt okay with this plan. We were now in a situation where we might take care of this sweet baby with the possibility of keeping or returning this child home to the birth mother. 

This was not exactly what I pictured when we originally decided to do private domestic adoption, but we felt completely at peace with this decision, and so we continued onward. We only had a few more hours before our meeting with the birth mom. It was my first time ever meeting a birth mom. It was a bit surreal. I mean, how do you prepare to meet a woman who is trying to decide if you should parent her child or not? It’s a bit of a weighty meeting and there’s not really a way to prepare for it. In fact, we realized that the best thing to do was to be ourselves. That’s what this birth mom was really looking for anyway. She wanted to know authentically who these would-be parents are.

That afternoon, we entered the agency door and there she was, the birth mom! I’m going to go ahead and put out a side note that it’s very weird to be meeting people for the first time during COVID. I mean, do we shake hands or just wave? How do I express warmth towards this woman if I cannot touch her? It was okay to shake hands (PSA: hand sanitizer was available). We walked to the conference room together and sat across the table from each other. Our agency representative took the lead to start the conversation and from there we talked about the birth mom’s experience thus far and what she was looking for in adoptive parents. We talked about the birth mom’s desires for the level of openness in the relationship and even whether or not she wanted the baby to keep the name on the birth certificate. 

As we went through all this, I felt very disengaged. I knew that I had to engage, but I didn’t quite understand why I was having trouble. Then I realized it. I got the feeling that the birth mom would eventually choose to parent. Her requests and even her low levels of engagement were indicators to me. Even so, I found a question to ask her and we had some better back and forth conversation for the last half of the meeting. As we said goodbye, we wished her luck and expressed to her again that we really didn’t want to pressure her on her decision, but rather support her in whatever she chose.

Renewed Hope…

Not long after returning home, I got a call. Our agency rep told us the good news. We had been chosen to care for the baby! We had about 2 hours before the baby would be at our door! My sister and brother-in-law brought over their crib. My daughter and I pulled out the baby clothes and started to get them washed. Putty set up the Pack ‘n’ Play on the main level and we waited. Finally, the baby was here! We talked with the agency rep, signed some papers and then we were on our own with this sweet baby.

Oh the joy! But also mixed in was the feeling and sense that this baby was not going to be ours. I sensed that partly from our birth mom meeting, but also when the agency rep dropped off the baby, more texts had been received from the birth mother indicating that she was gathering things together so she would be ready to parent very soon. We still welcomed this child into our home knowing that it was unlikely we would be the parents. Sure enough, after 36 hours this baby went home to the birth mother. This was a good thing and that baby is doing very well now. I’m so happy that this mother can be with her child. But, it makes me yearn even more for our next child.

A Different Kind of Hope…

This experience was not what I hoped, but also not out of the question for the adoption process. Yes, I am ready for our next child and the idea of a baby coming to us ‘the next day’ is very exciting! My hopes soared high and then little by little glided downwards to the reality that this wasn’t going to be our ‘happy ending.’ It hurts. My heart hurts not because we didn’t get to adopt this specific child, but rather that our journey has to continue. I wanted to settle down with this story as our ending place, but God has something else in mind. If anything, this experience fanned the flame of anticipation for when it’s our turn to welcome our ‘forever child’. Oh, I can’t wait! Even though it’s hard, I am really looking forward to the future.