Saturday, August 29, 2015

on the 29th of august

one year ago I was sitting in my office wrapping up another long week at work, 
when I opened this:

and my world was forever changed. 

God chose us,
 and we chose him back. 

we chose adoption.
"S" chose adoption for the baby growing inside her. 
and then she chose us. 

Isaiah 41:9-10
"I took you from the ends of the earth,
from the farthest corners I called you. 
I said, 'You are my servant,'
I have chosen you & have not rejected you.
So do not fear, 
for I am with you;
do not dismayed for I am your God:
I will strengthen you, 
I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. 

I read the email. 
over and over and over again. 
I immediately called Rob,
"We've been chosen. We've been chosen. A mom chose us."

he was walking with his football team on the way to practice. 
I immediately heard the emotion in his voice, 
overcome with joy.

it is good to remember days like this, 
to reflect on God's faithfulness throughout our journey to become a family of 3. 

some days fear starts to creep in when thinking about the future.
we sense God preparing us for things and know that our family is not done growing.
we still pray and talk about what that may look like, 
and how God might want to grow our family.

and I start to wonder how I will be able to do it all, 
and then He reminds me:

"I will strengthen you,
I will help you, 
I will uphold you."

the future may seem unsure in my mind, 
but it is certain and settled in His.
He knows what is coming, 
nothing catches Him by surprise. 
He is already at work preparing us for what lies ahead. 
You see, I only need to look back ONE YEAR to be reminded 
of all the ways that God is at work in the details. 

august 2014: 
we were coming out of an intense emotional season,

and I felt hopeful yet the wait was feeling grueling. 
one morning right at the beginning of the month, 
I felt the Lord say to me, 

A baby is coming this month. 

I had no reason to believe that August would be "match month."
in fact, I had been bracing myself for a much longer wait. 
I am a little embarrassed to admit that I thought this word from the Lord must mean a pregnancy. 
pregnancy felt like a "sure thing" so that *must* be how God planned to make this happen. 
so imagine my disappointment when half way through the month it became obvious that this was not the case. 

and then August 29th came. 
I had nearly forgotten about the quiet promise that God has whispered to my heart at the beginning of the month. 
or maybe I just started to question whether I had heard correctly. 

and then, 
there it was. 
once again. 
His faithfulness. 
His goodness. 
His provision. 

so when the world starts to feel a little shaky, 
I am reminded that God knew. 
the building of our sweet family of 3 did not catch him by surprise, 
he was at work all along the way, 
bringing redemption and breathing hope, 
working out the details and knitting our hearts together with a woman who lived halfway across the country, 
who was carrying a baby that she would lovingly and bravely place into our arms, 
entrusting us with the task of parenting him. 

today marks one year that we have prayed specifically for this sweet boy.

yesterday marked 39 weeks since the day we first laid eyes on him and held him in our arms.
which means he has now been with me as long as he was with her.
39 weeks. 

And so today, as I reflect on the past year I am filled with a love and joy that makes my heart feel like it will burst wide open. And, yet, nestled right next to that love and joy is also sadness - for her and for him, for what they both lost on that day 39 weeks ago.

I've become accustomed to this place of deep feeling - both immense joy and immense sorrow.
It is the way of adoption, I've found.
I felt it last august 29th, too.
Joy. Sadness. Hope. Sorrow. Love. and Loss.
all strokes that together paint the most beautiful picture of redemption and faithfulness.

as we face the future, and what often feels so scary and uncertain,
may I continue to choose LOVE over fear.
may His perfect Love cast out all fear, as I walk in the confidence of knowing

that we are chosen 
and deeply loved. 

Monday, December 22, 2014

christmas letter: twenty-fourteen edition

Dear twenty-fourteen:

I have sat down to write this letter multiple times, but I am struggling to find words that appropriate capture how I feel about you. How do you write a letter to a year that has brought some of the most treasured, beautiful moments of your entire life, and also some of the hardest, most painful.

You have taken us on a wild ride. You have been an adventure worth writing home about. (Yet, somehow I didn't really take time to write much on this here blog. oops. My journal is full though! And Rob is still convinced I should actually write a book about you, 2014. Maybe someday when I am back to getting more than 3 hours of consecutive sleep. For now, no promises - about the blogging or the book.)

Your days have imbedded in us a hope that will not quickly diminish and a faith that runs deep. We have learned from you, 2014; lessons that are true and important, ones that we pray will be woven in to the fabric of our family and our community forever.

Oh, your people! Your days have been shared with some of the most incrdible people!  Throughout our time with you, we have forged new friendships, rekindled old friendships, and deepened current friendships. The people that have graced our lives during 2014 will not be soon forgotten. We have cherished each email and Facebook message, each card in the mail and voicemail. And we know without a doubt that there have been dozens - maybe more! - people praying for us who we may never even meet. Wow. What a humbling thought. Thank you, 2014, for creating space for these people in our lives. We are eternally grateful.

You brought our family closer - both physically and emotionally. Bonds really are forged through the fire. Thanks all the times we shared with family during these 12 months. We love having family close and are excited for Deacon to grow up knowing his cousins.

Oh, yes! Did you think I forgot the most important part?! You, 2014, are when we became parents! It was during your time with us that our world was turned upside down by the sweetest, most beautiful little boy. We are so in love and have already forgotten what life was like before him (maybe that's the lack of sleep talking again!). We have a baby in a heaven and one in our arms. The journey to becoming a family of 3 has been unpredictable & beautiful, painful & awestriking. It brought us to our son, and we can honestly say that we wouldn't change a thing. Jesus has been our Lighthouse, guiding us home. With each unexpected storm tha threatned our course, we kept turning our face toward the Light and through his grace and mercy He always righted our course.

We thank Jesus for you, Year 2014. For every tear shed and prayer offerred, we thank Him. For every moment shared with those we love, we thank Him. For every time Jesus showed up and showed out on our behalf, we thank Him.

We entered this year clinging to Hope and more unsure than ever about what these 12 months might entail. As we say our farewell to one of the best years of our lives, we just keep singing praise to Our King. The one who came down to earth all those years ago so that He might dwell with us. I am so thankful that He was willing to dwell in me and with me this year.

Signing off for now, 2014. We send you all our love.

Rob, Erica and Deacon

Monday, August 4, 2014

against all hope, I hope.

today my bible reading landed me in Romans 3 & 4.

"against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became
the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him...
without weakening in his faith, he faced the facts 
that his body was as good as dead-since he was about 100 years old - 
and that Sarah's womb was also dead. 
Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God
but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, 
being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promise.

I read these words several times, 
over and over. 
then I copied them in my journal, 
wanting to press them deeply into the pages of my heart.
asking God to give me faith like Abraham. 

that I would hope against all hope. 

friends, I started my day rooted in this truth, 
with a hopeful spirit.
and tonight I sit here feeling weary and deflated (not defeated. oh no, not defeated. just deflated.)

that's real talk. 

now hear this: I AM hopeful.
even in this moment I have hope. 
but I don't FEEL hopeful. 

tonight when I sat down with my journal, 
the words that poured forth were different than those of this morning,
but none less sincere, honest, or true. 
tonight I pressed words to page in hopes that the writing
would be like a sweet aloe to my sunburned soul. 
and as I was writing to Jesus
I realized that others, too, may be struggling to hope against all hope. 

so I returned back to this space,
this sacred and scary space,
of vulnerability and courage, 
of connection and encouragement. 

tonight, honestly,  I feel sad. 
I find myself asking, "Lord, when will I get to be a mom? Is it coming? Will it ever come?"
Some days the aching is more intense, 
the longing more acute. 
today happens to be one of those days. 

I am hopeful because I believe in God's promises- to me and to you. 
I believe that he has called us to adopt and he has created us to parent, 
so I choose HOPE in these moment,
holding fasts to words that He has spoken over me during this journey.

I wonder if Abraham ever had nights like mine tonight, 
nights when hope didn't come as easily,
when he had to choose to recite the promises over and over again in his head. 

I wonder if his heart ever felt heavy with longing
instead of light with hope. 

I wonder if there were days when Abraham questioned whether he had heard God correctly, 
or if his memory was failing in his old age. 

I find comfort in imagining these human moments of Abraham's,
because it is in those moments that my story intersects his. 

When we honestly ask ourselves which persons in our lives mean the most to us, 
we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures,
have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. 
-Henri Nouwen

when I read about the faith and hope of Abraham I am encouraged, 
both by what is recorded in the actual words about him,
and by what I read in those spaces between. 

as I place myself in the story of Abraham and Sarah,
I feel a warm, tender hand,
and HOPE returns. 

against all hope, I continue to hope. 
unwavering through faith. 
believing in His promises. 

*posted without editing so I won't change it all. but forgive any type-o's! 

Monday, May 19, 2014

Pour some sugar on me! Or not...(Detox Day 1)

Last week as I was pursuing some of my favorite blogs,
I came across a 14Day Sugar Detox.

For some crazy, ridiculous reason I decided to forward the info on to the hubs.
I might as well signed us up right then and there.
He was all, "Yeah! Let's do it! I'm totally in."

Of course.
Of course, he was.
Mr. Up-at-5am-P90x-Crossfit-Triatholon Man.

By the time he had emailed me back with his enthusiastic affirmations,
I had already come up with at least 3 reasons why it was not good timing for us to Detox from sugar.

I mean, our ANNIVERSARY is in 6 days. come ON!

By that evening I had come up with at least 10 more reasons why this was a bad idea.
Rob, on the other hand, was still all in.
The window to sign-up for the Detox group was quickly closing....
....and then, all the sudden, we were signed up. (curse you, Paypal, and your easy money transfers!)

As we were laying in bed discussing what we had just signed up for, I posted this:

Yes, I was in bed at 9:09pm. Don't judge.
People. You guys are so encouraging. and wonderful. You really are.

So, we were in.
If you know me very well, you know that if I'm going to do something,
then I want to do it all the way.
no half-way around here.

which was a little terrifying at first, since women were saying things about how they would rather give birth than go through a sugar detox?! For reals?!?!?! Not. helpful.
Not that I've given birth before, but I've heard that it can be a little brutal.
and I witnessed full body shakes during the one live birth I sat in on.
Let's hope this Sugar Detox thing doesn't come to that. (cue wide-eyed terrified expression)

On Saturday, I was with my BF at a riveting graduation ceremony. (sarcasm font on the riveting part)
and because sometimes we only get to talk during times when we should be listening,
I leaned over and said: "Oh hey. Did I tell you that we signed up for a Sugar Detox."
and, as any bestie would, she responded with, "Yeah. That's annoying. And really great for you. But mostly annoying for me."

I love her.
And then today she sent me this:


we share an Amazon prime account (community!)
and the Amazonians were suggesting she buy a bunch of healthy food stuff due to my most recent order.

you're welcome, SJ. 
much love to ya. 

So, today is DAY 1. 
I've made it through 2 meals and am headed home shortly to make meal #3 of the crazy
no-sugar detox.

so far I don't have a headache.
but I'm tired.
and I love the coconut oil/coffee blended stuff. YUM-O.

and so far I'm still really glad we are doing it.
next post I'll share why I am doing this and why I felt like it was time. 

Several people have asked about it and told me that they wanted to know how it went,
so I decided to blog about it a few times.

plus, it will good for me to remember how well (or terrible) this went for future reference.

So, if you interested in a candid, sarcastic, and honest look at my 14+ days without sugar, carbs, dairy and a bunch of other stuff....then feel free to follow along.
If you aren't...well, I promise I will only be slightly offended :)

If you have specific questions or things you want me to know about
leave a comment below (or on FB) and I'll be happy to share my experience.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

for my mom

it's that time of year again.
when people flock in droves to the card aisle to select something that poignantly captures their true sentiment about the woman they call MOM.
when families gather around to to remember and reflect on our mothers-who they are and the impact they have on our lives.
when we celebrate the tremendous sacrifice and selflessness that is involved in raising children and shaping young lives.

this year I was really hoping to spend Mother's Day with my mom,
but a flight cancellation yesterday prevented that.
even though I won't get to celebrate with her in person again this year,
I want to find a way to let her know just how much I am thinking of her this year,
and how truly thankful I am for her life.

this has been a difficult season over the last few months.
and even though she has not always know what to say,
or how to say it,
my mom has stayed available and present.
she has reminded me through texts and calls that she is always there,
even when separated by hundreds of miles.
Thank you, mom, for your availability and presence in my life. 

my mom and I have walked through uncharted territory these last few months.
this type of emotion and grief is new to me,
which means it is new for those who love me.
in the last weeks and months, I have sensed that those who are closest to me are not sure exactly what to do with me.
I am often the strong one, the sure one.
How do you support the one who is usually the supporter?
I will admit that I am not always the best at receiving these gifts;
so I am thankful for those who have shown me steadfast love and grace.
thank you, mom, for your love. 

thank you, Mom, for
giving me space,
praying without ceasing,
offering me comfort and kind words,
sending small "happy presents," and
reminding me of Truth.

On this day - and every day- may you know how much I love you!
Thank you for loving me, for walking with me, for being a witness to my best & worst moments.
I love you.

forever and always your daughter,
erica lea

Friday, May 9, 2014

my journey to motherhood: an adoption update

maybe it because mother's day is this weekend.
or because we finally hit another milestone this week.
or maybe it is because a sweet friend left flowers & a note this morning to let me know that she (& Jesus) are remembering and celebrating me this weekend.

not sure what brought me to this point today,
but I'm finally writing this long-overdue update.

last time I logged on to this space,
I shared that we had hit some significant road bumps in our adoption
& had suffered a significant loss.

Around that same time I sent an email to our people
and asked them to be praying for us as we discerned our next steps.
in January our agency had presented us with the option of switching to one of their other programs.
At that time we were resolved to remain in ET.
However, by the time March came around, we were sensing a shift happening internally....
we were frustrated.
we had hit so many roadblocks.
we were officially a year into the process and had yet to officially begin the wait for a referral.
we were still at least a year away from a referral.

together we spent a lot of time praying and asking God to help us figure out what was next:

"Lord, do we stay the course in Ethiopia or do we switch programs?"
Yes. Both are good things. I am with you. I will see this through.

 "God, just tell us what to do and we will do it."
What do you want? I am with you. We will complete this. 

coming out of that season of praying and discerning we felt that God was freeing us to choose.
so often in my life I wish and pray that God would just SHOW ME-make it clear, tell me what to do.
and yet, I am learning, that often He wants to do things WITH us.
it feels much easier to simply say: God told me to.
and sometimes-yes, God does tells us to take action (and that is not always easy), but I'm learning that often we have to get moving first.
that clarity comes in the moving,
that discernment comes in the doing.

I am learning that this is what faith looks like:
it is taking His hand and saying YES to a life lived both for Him and with Him.
We are learning that sometimes He makes His steps clear, and that other times He asks us to simply get moving.

all that leads us to this:

at the end of March we made the decision to switch to our agency's Domestic Cross Cultural program.

and while we initially felt peace and excitement over this decision,
we have also walked through intense grief and disappointment. 

now, I recognize that this does not mean that we are walking away from Ethiopia forever and ever, amen.
I do.
trust me, I am holding on to the hope that we might someday have an Ethiopian baby in our arms.
until then we will continue to take what we have learned from the last year+ to advocate and support orphan care and prevention.

on a personal level, however, the change of paths has felt really hard.
for a year I pictured little Ethiopians joining our family.
for twelve months I dreamt of their big brown eyes and mocha colored skin.
I have spend hours upon hours planning, researching and preparing for two little Ethiopians to become my babies.
so walking away from that has been heartbreaking.
it is not a decision we made lightly or easily.

I still can't fully articulate all that went into the decision or how it was reached,
but I sense that we are where we need to be.
I sense that someday I will look back on this journey and see God's hand leading and guiding,
and that I will see more fully the beautiful picture He was painting.

just know that even though I am excited about what is next,
I am still grieving for what we have left behind.

so what's next? 
yesterday I mailed our Family Profile Books to Texas where they will remain until a birthmother enters the Domestic Cross Cultural Program.
at that point, she will be shown our profile (along with the other families' in the program) and will hopefully choose us to parent her child.

how long? 
we've learned to stop asking this question. there is reason to believe within a year, but we have no control over this. and neither does our agency. so we will continue to wait and trust and hope.

so what has changed?
we will be adopting an infant child of another race, not 2 like we had originally planned.
the child will be born somewhere in the US, not overseas.
other than that, not much.

as always, thank you.
thanks for journeying with us.


Monday, March 17, 2014

throwing open some windows

today it is easy to be an "over-sharer."

we've all seen it happen:

maybe you laugh when you see it happen, or roll your eyes?
maybe you are like me and you cringe a little?
(okay, calm down, everyone....not so much about foursquare and updates about where you're at...unless you've given us a play-by-play of your day...)
it could be the therapist in me, or maybe it is my own fear and insecurities (probably both),
but when I see people sharing intimate information out on the internet, I get a little nervous.
I don't want to see people get hurt (read: I am afraid I will be hurt) by this over-sharing phenomenon.

therefore, I tend to navigate myself toward the other end of the spectrum.
my tendency is to hold things close to my heart,
only sharing them with my journal and Jesus until it I have a handle on what is going on,
then I will talk with my husband and those the closest to me.

don't get me wrong, I have moments of brave vulnerability.
and, honestly, those moments most often turned out to be beautiful moments of connection, clarity, and healing.

and yet, here I am, realizing that it is time to stop holding all the cards so close.

here's what I have come to realize:
I need to write, and not just in my journal.
I need to share my story, and not just "some time down the road."

because it is in the writing that I find clarity and healing.
and it is in the sharing that God will get the glory.

my story is an important part of His story.
what's going on in my life matters.
(which means, what's going on in YOUR life matters, too. you're welcome, in case you didn't make that connection on your own)


yesterday morning I was sitting in church and I was S T R U G G L I N G to focus on the words being sung and spoken. I just.could.not.focus on Jesus, no matter how hard I tried.
my thoughts kept wandering back to me.myself.mine.
and when this is occurring and all the sudden you realize: "wow. I am vain," this is not pleasant.

it's time to throw open some windows and let the Light shine in. 

the last few months have been hard. painful.
some of the most raw, fragile moments of my life.

here it goes:

late December we began hearing rumors of things not going well in the Ethiopian International Adoption world. rumors began flying around the internet and no one knew who or what to believe. without going in to details, these were the worst rumors a potential adoptive parent would want to hear. yet into the chaos, God spoke peace. however, it was still really hard...and scary...

around this same time we heard from our agency that our paperwork had yet to go to ET because they were anticipating additional paperwork requirements from the US side of things.  (if you are really interested, you can read about the new USCIS PAIR process here). the point is, our dossier was not considered "complete" and therefore we could not be registered as an official "waiting family." bummer. we went from thinking we were 2 months into the wait to realizing that we were not even ready to begin the official "wait." you can imagine how that felt...
on January 29, we received an update email from our agency that responded to the internet stories. the emails were confusing, hopeful, encouraging, and unsettling (yes. all of the above). on this same day, we also received the new paperwork that we would need to complete (more paperwork?!?)  AND, we were told that due to the new requirements (which, by the way, we believe to be very good for IA in ET in the long run), we would be looking at an 8-12 month wait for referrals once we were officially "paperwork ready" and a "waiting family."

at this point, we felt discouraged. and scared. but we prayed about it, and decided to push forward.
so, we went back to the home study agency (local, Kansas agency...not our main adoption agency)... let's just say, this part just got even more frustrating and discouraging. and last week we found out that we are looking at an addendum to our home study which could take weeks, if not longer....

so, that's where we are currently at with the adoption process. we haven't even begun working with another government yet, and we are already feeling overwhelmed and discouraged.

and in the midst of all of this.....we had a wonderful blessing and painful good-bye.

on January 5, after nearly 3 years of hoping and praying, we had a positive pregnancy test. it was a complete shock and incredible surprise. we were both extremely excited. I would say that I was cautiously excited, but excited nonetheless. we were finally experiencing pregnancy.... thank you, Jesus. we began dreaming and planning for this little life. it felt like perfect timing- this baby would come during our adoption wait; and when they were just a few months old we would bring their siblings home from Ethiopia. yes, it would be crazy! but we were so excited!

on February 14, at week 10 of pregnancy, we went to our first appointment. during the ultrasound the doctor struggled to find the baby. after a few moments, she confirmed that there was no heartbeat and the baby was measuring small. she scheduled us to come back in a week. we had made plans to eat lunch with my aunt & uncle after the appointment, planning to share the news with that I had dreamed of sharing for years. we had made plans for a big family dinner on saturday, hoping to share the news with even more extended relatives. the reveal plans quickly changed. it was a heartbreaking day. in so many ways it was a really hard weekend. but we chose, in those hours and days to hope.  we prayed for a miracle and continued to hope in Jesus, no matter what.

and then on February 21, we returned to doctor for another ultrasound. within moments it was clear, we were experiencing a miscarriage. I had yet to experience any external signs, but internally it was clear.

and on February 24, it was over nearly as quickly as it began.
but it had begun.
the miracle lays in the fact that LIFE HAD BEGUN. 

yes, we are grieving...but we HAD something to grieve, which is a treasured gift that I refuse to take for granted.

yes, we feel terribly sad...but someday we will get to meet our child in heaven, and that is reason to rejoice.

yes, this adoption road is extremely difficult and scary...but someday we will bring our children home and get to share life with them, and there will be so much joy.

the Lord gives and He takes away. 

He planted the seeds of this adoption dream in our hearts a long time ago, and while we are still very unclear about what this will look like moving forward, we will continue to seek His face and say YES to these dreams. we know that He is a God of completion and that He will see us through.

He gave us the gift of life. and while I do not understand why that life was so short, it is not my job to understand. it is my job to give Him glory.

He has comforted me and brought me joy in the midst of sorrow. In the last weeks, I have laughed just as often as I have cried. I have felt tremendous gratitude, even in my moments of sadness. these days have held great celebration and great sorrow. yes, both, and.

we grieve. but we do not grieve as those without hope.
we have HOPE in Jesus.
and that hope is the anchor to my soul.

Last night I read the final chapter of Shauna Niequist's book Bittersweet. (highly recommend)
In that chapter she writes these words:

"The most bittersweet season of my life so far is still life
still beautiful
still sparkling with celebration
There is no one or the other, as desperately as I want that to be true. This season was bittersweet. Life itself is bittersweet. There's always life or death, always beauty of blood."

we are unsure of many things right now.
life continues to feel bittersweet.
and in the moments of uncertainty, we anchor ourselves in this truth:  
we know the One who loves us, 
who comforts us, 
who rejoices with us and grieves with us. 
Our life is His.

we would love to have you praying with us and for us.

as always, thanks for journeying with us, dear friends.

with all our love,
R & E