Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ready or Not, Here I Come

It’s a daunting number. Really, it’s huge. Incomprehensible to me. But, when Noah was born, Father Time started his slow countdown at 169,327,600ish seconds, eyes covered, hiding in the corner. Steadily counting down from there, playing a slow game of hide-and-go-seek. At the time zero seemed so far away, I didn’t really hear him. In these last five years, there have been times when he’s seemed to not be counting those seconds as quickly as I would have liked, when I thought I surely wasn’t going to make it another 360 seconds until Dad got home, or another 60 seconds of Noah screaming and me not knowing how to console him, when I've consulted him and thought, "Surely, that's not right. Not enough of those little suckers have passed." 

There were also times, happy times, when it seemed I blinked and an entire 86,400 seconds slipped out of his lips. Yes, there have been times when I’ve barely noticed him, for time has surely flown as we’ve had our fun. Father Time isn’t creepily counting down in the corner. He’s just faithfully ticking off the seconds, consistently letting me know zero is gradually drawing nearer.

Right now, I’m at 518,400 seconds. That means that in approximately 6 days, Noah will start Kindergarten. Father Time will come out of the corner, sweetly chant his, “Ready or not, here I come,” and escort Noah out the door to a new phase of life. School life. Where time is marked by grades. 

Let me assure you, Father Time, I really dislike you’re little sing-song phrase right now, because I am most certainly ready not.

You see, up to now, Noah’s life has been marked by small chunks of time and milestones. At 6 months, he sat up by himself. At about 9 months, he started crawling. At about a year, he started walking. About two months after that, he was running. At about eighteen months, he crawled into his toddler bed for the very first time. At two years old, he started speaking in two word phrases that were understandable, and I quit telling people his age by months, instead opting for letting Noah tell people he was “two years owd”.  At three he potty trained (somewhat late, for this mom’s preference). At four he moved up to a twin bed and lost the security railing. At five, he got his first big boy bike and we’re almost ready to remove the training wheels.

While these milestones are all meaningful, they’re different than the years ahead. To me, starting school has always been so…big. So scary, like the funeral of the firsts. It seems like it's our very last 'first' anything, in a world where all we've known thus far are firsts, even as I really thought I was ready for some lasts!!! I won’t be there to protect him from the harsh world we live in. To hold his hand when he crosses every street. To brush back his hair when it’s in his face, to watch his mind click off understanding faster than I can speak. To hear him giggle as he reads during rest time, or to see him round a corner, chasing his brother during the middle of the day. He’ll have friends I don’t know, events I don’t see, triumphs all his own, disappointments I can’t comprehend. Up to now, I’ve experienced most of those by his side. This last year, especially as we did school at home, he’s been mine, all day and all night. I think that the growing independence is a natural part of growing up, but it’s still so hard.

So, on Monday, when Father Time has clicked off the last seconds of Noah being at home with us, I’ll be so sad. I’m not going to pretend it’s not a big deal, but I’ll be brave for him. He needs to see me be proud of him, for he’ll never know how truly proud I am, for how hard we fought to get him to this point. After Monday, people will ask what grade he's in. Right now, those chunks of time seem so huge. We’ve only got until 12th grade until he’s out the door, truly on his own, but that’s just thirteen milestones from now. Thirteen. I could name thirteen milestones he met in his first few months of life, so it seems to me that the distance till high school graduation is smaller, somehow, than the distance from when he was born. I know that’s not the case, but it just seems so much like time is marching on at a steadier more globalized pace, outside my realm of control. And in a little over half a million seconds, he’ll still be mine, but he’ll be more his own, too.

I’m so so so proud of who our Noah has become, and I really am excited for his next phase, more than most of you know. But for now, I’ll cry a little when I stop long enough to listen to the countdown.

I’ve got to continually loosen my grip of Noah's hand until I let it go completely on Monday. Wasn't it just yesterday that his hand was only able to wrap around my finger, and my hand was holding his whole head? That my arms weren't even free to hold his hand, because his entire body rested in them?

So on Monday I’ll wave and tell him to have a great day, and I’ll hold my tears until at least the car (Right, moms? I’ll be able to do that, right?!?!) and I’ll pray like I’ve never prayed before. And, when I get home I’ll stare in the corner formerly occupied by Father Time, surrounded not by the countdown, but swaddled in silence, and I’ll thank God for these 169,327,600ish seconds in which I got to be with my Noah in a way I’ll never get to again.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

An Unconditional 'Yes' to the Lord

It's been a while! I love it when people start off new posts that way. Yep, you can see from the time stamp that I've forgotten I had a blog...but here I am! Ha!

Anyway, it's been almost a year since we moved and I feel the need to mark the occasion with a blog post. I'm not sure why, but since this has already been on my heart, I'll share it.

Moving here was not an easy decision for us. Moving meant leaving a successful practice for Justin, family, friends and a really great part-time job for me. It meant trusting that we were hearing the Lord correctly, even when there were times neither of us really felt that confident. I'm sure that you've been in a similar situation. Maybe it wasn't a physical move, but in some way or another, we've all experienced a shift or move from one thing to another, and trusting that you're hearing the Lord right instead of just looking at circumstances can get tricky in times like those; times when you're desperate to get a sign from God that you're actually following Him rather than your selfish desires.

In that vein, about two years ago we went through a very difficult and painful failed adoption. God began to work in me that day (you can read about it here if you didn't know), and honestly it was through the voice of my husband. "Rach, we can't say no just because it's too hard. We know where we draw our strength from, and at times, God will lead us into hard things. We have to know that God called us here, knows where we are, and that He's still with us. So, if we say yes, we need to be able to say yes knowing it's what God wants us to do and He's going to provide the strength we need. We can't say yes because we feel like we already have the strength; He'll provide it as we walk in His yes." Let me tell you, it was hard. It's been hard, and not just about adoption. I believe that those words apply to every yes I've laid at the feet of my Savior since then, and that it will continue to be so.

You see, saying yes to the Lord isn't always easy. But, there's a certainty in knowing that His yes always leads to His best. And, that there will be blessing in it. (And for those of you who are reading this with critical eyes, I'm calling a blessing what many would not. I'm not talking prosperity gospel here; I'm talking about His presence being the blessing, just as the disciples' did after they were beaten for speaking of Jesus. You can have all this world, but give me Jesus.) Saying Yes to the Lord means that I'm saying no to the things that I used to be (and still struggle with), knowing that He's providing sanctification for me in my 'yes' journey and that those things will be uprooted, shovel full by shovel full, every time I say yes. The 'yes'es I've laid before the Lord have always led to His glory, therefore turning the light away from who I used to be. He's uprooting it, you guys! And that's exciting! It might be that He's merely picking weeds in some seasons, but in some seasons, y'all, it feels like He's uprooting those big redwoods in California. Yes, there's a huge, gaping hole there, but He faithfully fills it with Himself! What a great trade!

I know that a 'yes' to Him means a 'no' to me, and that's where I find my hope. I can't hope in myself; I already know how broken I am! I need to find somewhere else to place my hope, my yes, and I'm so SO glad it's on the strong capable shoulders of the One that bore the cross for me.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

It's her birthday!

Happy birthday, sweet girl.
 Our Hannah Brielle Smith turns one year old today. This day will always be a day I celebrate because it's Hannah's birthday (obviously), but it's also one that is marked by a reminder of my humility. A year ago today, I looked at a young girl and prayed with her, prayed that God would be able to give her the courage she needed to follow through with decision to place her baby girl with us, to be raised by us, as our daughter.
I'll never understand fully the miracle that the Lord did in our birthmother that day, but I'll never forget the feelings that overwhelmed me that day. I was humbled. Courage had never had so much of a face as it did that day, and it took on the eyes and face and shape of our birthmother. I remember well, after being at the hospital for about five hours, being overcome by the reality of it all. This young lady, after growing a baby for nine months, knowing when that baby moved, how she kicked and carrying that life inside of her, was going to hold her for a few days, then place her in our arms and let us raise her as we saw fit. She gave up all rights to the days and weeks and years of the baby she gave life to. It was so huge to me, and it humbled me. I knew in that moment that I never would have been able to do the same thing. I never would have been able to move so beyond myself, to set aside my desires for my baby, to give her a life that I couldn't. I would have been stubborn, selfish and self-centered. Our birthmother was none of those; she was gracious, she was inclusive, she was gentle, she was (and is) proud of Hannah.
So, today, as I celebrate the fact that our Hannah girl reached a very important milestone, I'll also tearfully celebrate holding her for the first time, watching Justin give Hannah her very first bottle. I'll celebrate the courage of our birthmother, and remember how sweet of a time we had with them in the hospital for those first few days. I'll remember all the love that was in the room as Hannah was brought into this world, how full of joy that room was that she was (and is) perfect, that her birthmother loves her, her biological grandparents love her, that we love her, that her big brothers love her, that our parents and families love her. It was truly a magnificent day, and I'm humbled to know that God entrusted us with this precious baby girl.

Now, to the fun stuff. Here's what you need to know about Hannah.
'Hannah' is a name we chose that means favor and grace. We love the name, the promise of it for her whole life. 'Brielle' is a name that her birthmother chose, and the meaning she cited was 'God is our might'. We love the significance of this for our Hannah, for the day almost a year ago when God had to be mighty for our birthmother, as she officially gave her daughter to us.
Hannah Brielle is a fun-loving and active little girl! She rolled over just in time, she crawled just in time, and recently started "big girl crawling" exclusively. Hannah is fun-loving, like I've never known a baby to be! Her first word was "momma" (After two "dadda"s, I was praising Jesus for this!), and she waves and claps very enthusiastically! Well, the wave comes after she's examined a new person for a good long while, but once you get it, you get lots of them! When someone new comes in the room, they are greeted by a "hi" from Hannah! Doesn't matter if you just came in to the room again after a ten second absence, you get a new hi for being present!
Hannah Brielle is a busy, busy baby! Whoever told me girls weren't as busy as boys didn't know my Hannah girl! She has eight teeth, all that came in without a peep from her. We had to daily examine her mouth to see if there were any new teeth because teething really didn't affect her like it did with the boys. She loves to explore, loves to do things herself and is a silly, sweet, beautiful baby girl. She loves music and to dance, and she has eyelashes that go on for miles! She's a wonderful eater, and didn't have any trouble transitioning from bottle to sippy cup! She's...quite possibly...the best. baby. ever.
Hannah started sleeping through the night the day she turned two months old and has never looked back. She's the one who wakes up the latest in our family (a girl after my own heart) and doesn't use a pacifier. She's wonderful, and we are in love with her.
The thing I love the most about our family with Hannah is seeing everyone interact with a girl; all the boys (Daddy included) are so tender with her. It's heart-melting on an almost daily basis.
The second thing I love most about our family with a girl is the way that the boys just accept Hannah as sister. They don't qualify her as "adopted" sister; she's just our Hannah girl. The adults we meet for the first time, when Justin's not with us, are so curious about her, why they don't remember me being pregnant or why her hair is darker. When Justin is with us, they never ask because she favors his color so much.
When we move, we'll go to a foster and adoption play date at the church across the street from our new house so the boys will always know other kids who have adopted siblings, and so Hannah will always know other adopted kids. But, for right now, there's a bliss about it, a protection of naiveté, where the boys don't know the difference and it's just our three kids, siblings, just as if she were born into our family. And, right now, before the world interferes, I love it. I'll always treasure this time; our kids are too young to understand and so many people here know our story, that we're living as if she was born into our family. I know that there are trials ahead, but I trust in the God who humbled me, who gave us Hannah, who prepared Justin's heart before he met me, and my heart before I met him, for our family. It's really a miraculously humbling thing, adoption, and we are so in awe of the work of the Lord in our family.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Magnificent in the Mundane

Four years ago, my husband, our four-month-old Noah and I moved from Houston to Abilene. I knew when we moved that doing so would be a sanctifying act in my life. I went to college in Abilene with many people who still live in Abilene, and it was during a very dry period in my spiritual walk. God challenged me during college in ways that I didn't know He ever would. Every time I look back on it, I'm beyond grateful for the hard work He did in me during those days, but I realize that I wasn't the most easy to be around person (this is really severely understated) for those three years. So, coming back to a place where I was going to have to be faced with people and places was going to be difficult. I had no idea what I would find here, but I knew that it was something God called us to. Little did I know, these four years would be some of the most fruitful growth I have ever known. The people I was so afraid of were forgiving, and Jesus was so sweet to bring me back here to see His hand in my life.
During my college days, I went to speak with a man who was very influential in my church during at the time. He also happened to be a counselor. I remember asking him why it felt like God was so far away; why the longing for something more in my life, only to find nothing there? This period in my life was marked by trying to find God, but not being able to find Him where I was used to looking. Turns out, I didn't really know God. I knew a lot about Him. I knew the facts, the stories, the truth of the Word. But they didn't lead me into a relationship with Him. Only He can do that. And, I wasn't seeking Him; I was seeking the things of Him. I wanted the wonderful things He offered, but didn't Him. I wanted the benefits of Him, but didn't want to submit to Him. In His kindness, He didn't let me find Him in the stuff of Him...He wanted me to know more, and only He could have designed me with the curiosity that I have; it's really insatiable at times. 
In the time that's passed, I have come to know a relationship with the Lord. During the last four years, the Lord has faithfully shown me time and again how He protected me, my heart and my mind in the decade since my battle to find Him began. I've met some incredible people who have pointed my mind, and my heart, in the right direction along the way. I know that God, though, is the author and perfecter of my faith, and I can see now how He's directed every step that's led me to the sweet relationship that we have now. It's a real relationship; I talk to Him and He talks to me. It's been a sweet time of mutual courtship, and I can honestly say that standing as the bride of Christ in a real relationship with Jesus is the most magnificently miraculous honor in my life. It's magnificent because He is; it's miraculous because I'm broken. Yet, He chose me. Incredible, truly.
One of the things that I've been honored to do for about three years now is sing at my church as a minor part of the worship team. It's allowed me to pray and intercede for people and our church in ways that I never would have known otherwise. There have been some days where miracles have happened, and other days when I'm sure they've happened but haven't seen them with my eyes. 
This past Sunday, I woke up with Isaiah 55 on my mind. It's got a verse about the word of the Lord not returning void, but that His word goes forth to successfully accomplish His purposes. While we were practicing for the service, one word kept coming to mind: victory. I was convinced that the Lord would break through for people who otherwise couldn't find the victory they'd been longing for. Depression, addictions and strongholds were going to be broken because of the victory of Jesus. I just knew it. And I prayed. I prayed with a woman in the choir. I prayed during the services. I prayed in the sanctuary before church started, boldly declaring that His words, through song, sermon or scripture, would not return void. I prayed that the people sitting in church would be open to hear what God had to say to them; that He would give them ears to hear. I prayed that people would be able to focus like they never have before, like little laser beams ready to soak up all that God had for them. I mean, I prayed. And I was so excited; it was like I was getting ready to compete as an all-star athlete in the play offs; I was pumped.
And then He did. The service was incredible. God showed up in ways I never could have imagined, and the presence of the Lord was thick. I just can't begin to describe to you how palpable He was. I was sure, at one point during the second service, that if I opened my eyes, I would have seen Jesus, walking around, touching people and healing them in ways that only He can. And, I don't usually consider myself a radical; it was just that amazing. 
After the service, people were on Facebook and Twitter, talking about how anointed the service was. And, for good reason; we overcome by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus' sacrifice) and the word of our testimony. I started hearing about gold dust, which has been explained as a physical manifestation of the presence of the Lord. And not just hearing about it remotely, but hearing about it from people like me, who err on the side of skepticism. And, I praised God for showing up. What a mighty God we serve, who is capable of making everything we see, giving people brains to figure out how things work, yet wants to walk into a church service on a regular Sunday morning in Abilene, Texas, and be with His people. Truly, it's humbling, overwhelming, amazing.
In the days that have passed, I've been convicted about how to proceed. I'm a math person, so part of me wants to find the formula that unlocked the doors of heaven and replicate it every Sunday, or every day, for that matter. 


Then, I remembered Him. I remembered the dark days of seeking Him, or thinking I was seeking Him, yet being satisfied with the stuff of Him rather than Him. So, my challenge to myself is this: Rachel, don't be consumed with the stuff of Him. Bless Him for coming in tangible ways, bless Him for coming to sit with us while we praise Him. Thank you, Lord, for loving us in spite of our filthy rags that we think are sooooo cool. But, Lord, if we stop there, we've missed the prize. Because, the prize, Lord Jesus, will always be You! Give us the grace and mercy to always seek only You. If miracles and signs and wonders happen, we'll thank You, but let us never forget that You are the creator of all things, we are but dust, and yet You love us enough to come be with us!! Not just at church when we see things that make us marvel, but in the mundane. In the time outs for our kids, in the offices we work in, in the floors we mop. You are still just as much with us there as you were on Sunday. Let us find You, Lord. Let us seek You. Let us see gold dust on snotty noses and dirty dishes, on books we read and on people we interact with during the days. Let us find You in the mundane. Our desire is for You, Lord. Not just the benefits of You. You are the prize, and when we are able to see You face-to-face, we'll wonder at the streets of gold and Your glory that lights our days, for all eternity. But in the dim world we live in now, show us where You are. Give us the grace to see You, the mercy to find You. Lord, You are our desire. We love You. Please, Jesus, don't let us be satisfied with less than You. 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A year ago today...

This time last year, I was in a hospital room with a woman I barely knew, about to welcome a baby into the world that we thought was going to be our daughter. Sweet Adeline was born after a labor filled with weeping. Not happy weeping, but the weeping of a woman torn with anguish. You can imagine that welcoming a baby into the world after you've carried her for nine months, only to place her into the arms of another woman to raise her, would be horribly painful. I understood the weeping. But, as I sat in the room that day, I couldn't help but think that this wasn't how having a baby was supposed to be; it's supposed to be joyous, one of the best moments of your life. Instead, Adeline was welcomed to...weeping. I was overjoyed, but my joy was overshadowed by her mother. Adeline's first sounds outside of the womb were the sounds of her weeping mother.

As it turns out, when sweet Adeline was born, she tore a hole in her lungs and had to spend a while in the NICU. It was there that I finally got to tell her how excited we were about her, how much in live with her we were, but that Jesus loved her first and best. I was able to hold her as they were getting her ready, and I was able to love her. Really, fall in love with her. Which made the next 42 hours some of the hardest I'll ever walk through, I'm convinced.

After that time, and begging and pleading with the Lord, we were told that our Adeline would actually not be ours. Her birth mother had decided to parent. The birth mother's reason was simple: it was simply too hard to sign the papers to give Adeline to us. No, she didn't know what she was going to do, where they would live or how she would support her. No, she didn't have a car seat or nursery, even a bed for her. Really, she didn't even have a home to take her to. But it was just too hard.

As we said our last goodbye to Adeline, I looked at Justin and asked him how we were supposed to just leave, empty handed. This time, it was our turn to weep. It was hard, for sure. So we went home and played with our boys; we played for hours. I needed to hug my babies, knowing that they couldn't be taken from me. They were mine.

The boys had been to the hospital to meet her, and her birth mother. Miraculously, they've never asked about her. If you know Noah, you know that truly is a miracle.

Later that day, as we were discussing if we'd ever adopt or if it was just time to leave our family as it was, I'll never forget what Justin said. It was such a good perspective. He said if would be fine if we didn't adopt as long as the reason was something other than how hard this experience was. He reminded me that, to our knowledge, the only reason we left Adeline at the hospital was because it was going to be too difficult for the birth mom. So, if we prayed about it and had other reasons for not adopting, fine. But, if it was simply because facing the potential of doing this very thing again was too much for me, then we were no better than Adeline's mom. And we had a well of strength to draw from when things got hard: Jesus. She didn't. You can understand how things were too hard for her. Without Jesus, I'm not sure how anyone does anything difficult, how they face trials and persevere in the midst of difficulty. But, the truth is that I draw strength from a well that never runs dry, and that I have the Holy Spirit, who is my comforter. He literally comes to me and fortifies me.

Thankfully for us, that's not the end of our adoption story. This experience made us so much more thankful for our birth mother. Her strength and courage astound me. And now we appreciate her with such greater depths than we would have been able to. She is truly one of my heroes, and forever will be.

Thankfully for Adeline, that wasn't the end of her story, either. We learned that the birth mother was baptized three weeks later. We learned that the birth father, who we thought to be abusive, still didn't know where Adeline was, months later. For that, we're also grateful.

In all of this, I learned to trust Jesus in a way I know I never would have otherwise. So, I'm thankful, thankful to have had the chance to live Adeline for her first 45 hours, thankful to have had the chance to pray for her fervently then, and every day since then. I'm thankful. I get to pray specifically for a little girl for the rest of my life, knowing that God had me in her life for a reason. Maybe I can call her my spiritual daughter. Maybe I'll meet her some day. Probably not, but I pray that I'll get to meet her in heaven.

Our Hannah girl is one of my five greatest gifts in my life: Jesus, Justin, Noah, Caden and Hannah. Without any of them, I wouldn't be who I am. I can love all of these five with a reckless abandon that I didn't know about before, all because of 45 hours, one year ago. For that, I'll never be angry.

Thank you, Jesus, for Adeline. Thank you that she was not the end, just as your death was not the end. We are forever grateful for both.

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Story of Hannah Brielle

Thank all of you for all of your sweet words, prayers and encouragement over the last four months. To everyone who has called, texted, and sent messages: thank you! You have shown us the kind of love and support that we needed! So, let me tell you a sweet story of our Hannah Brielle...

After we left the hospital without Adeline, we came home and talked quite a bit about whether or not to come off the waiting parent list at our adoption agency. Justin and I both agreed that we didn't want to come off the list; we still wanted to be considered immediately for a baby to add to our family. We had scheduled a mini-vacation to a resort outside of Las Vegas for the middle of May. If you'll remember, we left the hospital with an empty car seat on April 6, so we had a few weeks to pray and recover. I remember, very clearly, thinking that we probably wouldn't match, so we'd start trying to get pregnant on our little getaway and that we'd adopt our fourth child after biologically having our third. I was discouraged, and just didn't think that God could do it. Not that He really couldn't give us a baby that quickly, but just doubted that I'd heard Him correctly, doubted that I was understanding what He was trying to do. I think I was sort of in a state of emotional shock. Little did I know...

A few weeks after my birthday, we got a phone call from our adoption agency that we had been picked by another birth mom. This young lady's due date was July 26, which left us with nine weeks of waiting. I was sure I couldn't do it. After our previous experience, I didn't know if I had the emotional energy to go through it all again, but this time with nine weeks to attach to a baby that I may or may not be able to call my own. Skeptical was a good word to describe my mood when I got the call. Would this one go through? How would I do it? Was the baby healthy? Was it another precious girl that I'd have to leave at the hospital, once again? With all that weighing on my heart, Justin and I agreed to meet the birth mother and see if we were her baby's parents.

As we approached the agency that day, we were nervous. We prayed outside in Justin's truck for God's peace and purposes to reign rather than our nerves and fears. We prayed for the baby, for the birth mother, and that God would somehow rescue and protect our somewhat tattered hearts. I remember being so nervous, until I met our birth mother. She was absolutely delightful, from a wonderful family, had faithfully taken her prenatal vitamins and gone to her doctor's appointments. Her mom was with her, and by the end of the meeting we were not-so-discreetly exchanging phone numbers with promises to call and text. We signed our paperwork to "match" with her the next day, two weeks before we left for Vegas. I can only imagine the look on God's face as I looked at that date, just three weeks after Adeline was born.

The next eight weeks were full of fun times with our birth mom and her family, getting to know her and letting her get to know us. We went to dinner with them, they came over for play dates with the boys, I got to go have some girl hang out time with them, and got to go to every doctor's appointment. Our birthmother and her family started referring to her baby as our baby, we named her together (Hannah was the top of our list, and our birthmother chose Brielle, which means "God is our might".) and told the boys about their baby sister. I got bedding together and bought some clothes and diapers, made some fun things for the car seat and ordered more hair bows than I could ever give away if it fell through. I was nervous, yes, but trusted our birth mother and our Heavenly Father. I still am amazed at what an exceptional young woman our birth mother is; to think that she carried a baby she knew she was going to place, endured scoffing of cruel people and handed over her baby to us...it's just mind-blowing. When people ask me who the strongest woman I know is, she will forever be the first name on my lips.

In the 36th week appointment, the doctor mentioned that she was a candidate for induction. We agreed that would be best, as our birth mother was starting school mid-August and needed as much recovery time as she could get before then. After about two minutes, the doctor walked back inside and said that our baby was going to be here on July 16! We were thrilled but also sat in the moment and thought about all that it meant. I was nervous that hearing a final date would be hard on our birth mother. Instead, she looked at me and was excited for me that I'd get to finally meet my daughter, after all this time! See?!?!? Only God could have put this young woman in our lives, and only God could have designed her in such a selfless way.

I'm not sure I got any sleep the night of July 15. I sang at church that day and wanted to both fall to my knees and beg God for Hannah Brielle, but also wanted to shout from the roof tops that we were going to have a baby the NEXT DAY! When my alarm went off at 3:30 am on Monday morning (Yes, I showered and got myself all pretty, because I was going to meet my daughter that day! You can call it shallow...I wanted to look my best for my baby girl!!!), I don't remember being very well-rested! It was the same hospital, the same nurse and the room next door to the one Adeline had been delivered in. I was nervous, and as the minutes turned to hours and the hours turned to half a day and the half a day almost turned to a full day, we waited. I met so many wonderful people that day: friends of our birth mom, Acteens leaders, church pastors, family friends. It was exciting, to say the least. Then, at 10:48 pm, Hannah was born! It was wonderful. I was in the room, and Justin came in right after. Justin got to give Hannah her first bottle. We got to escort her to the nursery and have her stay in a room with us each night. On Wednesday, we got to bring her home after getting some much needed time alone with her birth mom. It was surreal, and still is. I have a daughter. She's beautiful. She's laid-back. She's alert and smiles. Her brothers LOVE her. It's been amazing.

So, here are some of the really cool things about this adoption:
1) Had we not walked through our previous adoption process, we totally would have taken this experience for granted. Thank you, Lord, for knowing us better than we know ourselves.
2) Seeing Justin as a daddy to a girl. Can't write much about that because I just get so teary-eyed and my heart turns to mush.
3) Seeing the boys as big brothers together. Caden is the super affectionate one, kissing her every time he sees her and trying to pick her up when she does tummy time. Oh, the evil eye I get when I tell him no!! Noah is sort of her protector from afar. He takes in what we're doing and then, when Caden gets too close or when she's crying, steps in and makes sure she's being tended to. Noah talks so sweetly to her, reads to her when Caden is sleeping and has talked about protecting her so valiantly. (If you want to read more about this, scroll down to see the bath tub story...)
4) Seeing the boys become big brothers to an adopted baby. It's the coolest thing; adults want it qualified. They want to hear that she's adopted to confirm their suspicions. When I take her out, they eye me suspiciously and say something like, "You look really good for only having had a baby four weeks ago!" Most of the time I just say thanks and shrug, but every once in a while someone pushes and I tell them that she's adopted. To the boys, though, she's just their sister. Doesn't matter how she got here. She's here now, and she's here to stay.
5) Our birth family. They are phenomenal people who continue to amaze us.
6) Having three kids, and being able to share the responsibility of night time feedings with Daddy. ;)
7) Seeing how amazing our family is about having an adopted baby in the family. There is literally no difference between our kids in their eyes, which is how we hoped it would be. Maybe the coolest thing about this is that it never occurred to us to be nervous about this part; we knew they'd all be great, but it's exceeded even our expectations.
8) That everyone knows now, so we can just call her our daughter, from now until forever.

Thanks again for all your prayers! We covet and appreciate each one!

The Smiths

Here is the bathtub story of Noah protecting Hannah!

-This week, our babysitter was here and playing with the boys. Hannah was awake and happy so I decided to give her a bath. She generally loves baths, so it was fun. I got the bath tub ready over the sink and started the water. We have this tub, which allows me to monitor the bath water temperature without water that's too hot or too cold getting in the part she's in. Anyway, I started the water to allow it to get to the right temp, and Noah came over. He asked about the bath tub and why Hannah needs to take a bath in the sink. After we covered that issue, he asked about the screen and why it was blue. I told him that the screen on the thermometer being blue meant that the water was too cold. The screen then quickly went from green to red, as the hot water came through. It started beeping, alerting me that the water was too hot. Noah, of course, asked about that, too. I explained that this was a special thermometer that allowed me to see when the water was just the right mix of hot and cold, which would show as green on the screen. He asked about the alarm and the red screen, which I told him meant that the water was too hot. He looked at me with wide eyes and said, "Mom, I think I'll stay right here and watch the screen the whole time. I want to make sure it stays green, and I'll tell you if it changes to red or blue. Because, Mom, if it switches to red, we have to get our Hannah girl OUT!!!" He was so adamant about it and, indeed, stayed by my side the entire ten minutes it took me to bathe her, occasionally letting me know that the screen was still green. It was the most adorable thing ever. The Lord has blessed Hannah with amazing big brothers, and this is a story I look forward to sharing with our kids for a long time!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

We had her...

Hello all. So many of you have been asking so we thought we'd post an update. About a month ago we got word that we had been chosen by a birth mother. She was having a little girl, due April 11 (Noah's 3rd birthday). We met the birth mother, her daughter and I got to go to two sonograms and see our sweet Adeline Eve.
On April 4, 2012 Adeline was born at 11:32 am. She weighed in at 5 pounds, 5.5 ounces and is beautiful. I had the honor of being in the room and escorting her to the nursery, and helping with her first bath. She pretty quickly had to be transferred to the NICU here because she had a collapsed lung. The hospital staff arranged for me to spend two nights up at the hospital, so I could be just like her mom and able to see her and help her get better.
Throughout this time we were warned that maybe the birth mother wasn't as sure as she had originally thought about placing the baby for adoption. So, at about 9 am on Good Friday, which also happened to be my 30th birthday, the birth mother said she wanted to keep our sweet Adeline, three hours before she was to sign the papers so we could officially claim Adeline as our own.
We got to see and hold her one more time. We prayed over her, wept and a sweet nurse at the NICU prayed over us. One of the most difficult things I've ever done is leaving the hospital that day, knowing that the life she is bound to lead is going to before difficult than the one we would have loved to raise her in.
We have had a hard time since then letting go. But, God is faithful. He is in control, and even when we don't understand, He does. He loves Adeline more than we do, and we trust that He will be her Heavenly and Earthly Daddy. Please pray for us, for Adeline and for the birth mother.
Thank you all for caring for us so, and for joining us in prayer.

Justin and Rachel