The Home Study :: Our Adoption

We have just completed the first interview for our home study. Now, friends and family are asking “how did it go?, “did you hear back already?” and we don’t really have a response. So let me shed a bit more light into the adoption process and explain the purpose of the home study or family assessment.

Meet-the-Parents-lie-detector

This is not what our interviews look like.

Actually, there are three purposes:

  1. Educate and prepare the adoptive family for adoption.
  2. Evaluate the fitness of the adoptive family (and by fitness they are not looking at my love handles and Mr. Thrasher’s abs).
  3. Gather information about the prospective parents that will help a social worker connect the family with a birthmother/birthparents whose needs/requirements they can meet.

To kick off our home study, we had to plow through a massive pile of paper work. In my post “What’s Next :: Our Adoption” I’ve roughly explained the complete adoption process.

From A for Affidavit of Health Insurance to C for Criminal Records to L for Live Scan Prints (fingerprints) to P for Physicals for Mr., Mrs. and Baby Thrasher to Z for ‘Z’ertified copies of marriage license and birth certificates for every member of the Thrasher Clan (they didn’t ask about our dog though) – we had to provide information we didn’t even know existed. Gasp!

We received the package with all the forms on May 11, 2013. It took as more than a month and $1,000 in fees until we finally sealed and shipped a big, padded envelope including every little detail about our lives and a check for $2,500. No matter how quickly I gathered documents and information, there were a lot of things that were completely out of my control. (Oh, how I hate that!) Such as getting an appointment for physicals, finding a day for Paul to take off work so we could get our fingerprints, obtaining the results from our blood work (for said physicals), finding a date where we could get a babysitter so we could attend a First Aid/CPR course and so on. You can imagine why we celebrated when we dropped off the package at the UPS store.

During our interviews our social worker is asking more in-depth (read: very personal) questions about our marriage, our childhoods, our health, and our struggles. Did you have any marital problems? If yes, how did you overcome them? How were you disciplined as a child? Did you experience physical or verbal abuse in your home as a child? Explain your finances. Do you have cancer in your family, a history of depressions or mental illnesses? What did you parents say when you told them you are seeking to adopt? Was everyone supportive?

The level of intimacy in these questions appears almost intrusive. Thankfully, our social worker is sweet and fun so these meetings feel a lot more like we’re getting to know a new friend.

messy-house-620x349

Might have to clean up the house a bit before the home visit.

We have two more meetings in the calendar: Individual interviews where Paul and I won’t be together and a home visit where our social worker will take a look around Thrasher Home to ensure that our home offers a safe and child-friendly environment. She will also check in with us about our plans to accommodate our newest addition to the Thrasher family.

Once our home study is completed, our social worker will write a report and hopefully approve our family for adoption which is the requirement to legally adopt a child.

On to my last update: our finances. The bad news: We still need $11,000 to reach our adoption fund goal of $29,000. The good news: We only need $11,000 to reach our adoption fund goal. It really depends on how you look at it. I choose faith and gratitude. A few more weddings, a few more months of saving and hopefully a few more donations and we will have made it.

Please join us in prayers for our baby, its birthparents, our family and God’s favor over our finances and one birthmother’s decision to choose us. Thanks for being on this journey with us, friends!

signature_Wiebke_New

Never A Bridesmaid… :: A Life Lesson In Friendship

friendship_quote1A few years ago, a friend told me about a Thank You card she had received from a girl saying that she was “grateful for their friendship in this season of her life”. My friend said she appreciated this card because it took the pressure off their friendship. To her, it meant that for that very moment, they were close friends, encouraging and inspiring one another but that it would be ok if their friendship would become less intimate when they moved into the next season.

IMG_9364

Little girlfriends

Seasons are marked by changes. They are subdivisions of a year. Like chapters in a book. I never thought of friendship that way. I thought all friendships were supposed to last a lifetime, get stronger as the years go by. What my friend told me back then, changed me, changed my expectations in friends and our relationships, and thus changed the quality of my friendships. And, it helped me deal with the loss of a dear friend. She didn’t die. But our friendship did.

Grab a coffee or Cosmo (depending on the time of day) and get comfy…

A few years ago, a very good friend of mine broke up with me. It hurt. It hurt badly. Even today, that wound is still healing. But the scar on my heart is hardly visible and I have nothing but gratitude for the times we’ve had. No grudges. No regrets. But more importantly, I am forever grateful for the lesson I was taught. Besides lacking severe control of my tongue when I get angry, my expectations in our friendship were nearly impossible to live up to.

Back then, I often measured a friend’s love for me by the frequency of her calls or texts, how many pictures of us she would post on Facebook (sad, ey?), and if I was included in her leisurely activities. I got jealous when Mr. Thrasher and I were excluded from fun gatherings, road trips or Holiday celebrations. I was upset when things that were important to me didn’t (seem to) matter as much to my friends. thought I’d never be asked to be someone’s bridesmaid or the godmother of their child. And why would I always have to throw my own birthday party while other friends had parties hosted for them? It certainly didn’t help that I was miles away from my old friends in Germany. Naturally, those friendships faded away and important, life-changing events weren’t shared instantly anymore. In a nutshell, I pretty much doubted every friendship – old and new, near and far.

tumblr_mblc6sgN6x1ratlsoo1_500

Fictional friendships in TV shows like Friends and Grey’s Anatomy, movies like Beaches and novels like Firefly Lane, created in me an unquenchable thirst to experience the same, intense, romantic kind of closeness my favorite characters displayed on a flat screen. And it certainly didn’t help that Germans form friendships differently. Germans generally draw a strong distinction between their few friends and their many associates, co-workers, neighbors, and others. We have relationships that take time to transition from ‘acquaintances’ to ‘friends’. If they transition at all.

For Americans, friends tend to be people whom they encounter fairly frequently, and that are similar to themselves in demographics, attitude, and activities. While many other cultures value deep trust and meaning in their friendships, Americans will use the word “friend” to describe most people who have such qualities (Stout 2010). ~Wikipedia

After losing my friend, I had arrived at a crossroad. I could go one of two ways: Guard my heart by shutting people out and don’t let anyone get too close ever again (read: Become bitter and angry. And let it all out on my poor husband.). Or I could turn to God to manage my expectations, be vulnerable and humble myself about my shortcomings (read: Learn to be gracious and forgiving. And start therapy.).
friendship_quote3 A few, very good friends put on gloves and hard hats, and plowed through the dirt with me. They remained loyal through that ‘breakup’, never took sides and helped me weed out bitter roots of disappointment and rejection. They fed me with love, patience, prayer and truth.

bob-marley-quote-on-friendship

Today, I cherish those rare, high quality friendships that have solid ways of resolving conflict, ultimately leading to stronger and healthier relationships. I need friends whose wisdom, whose willingness to say difficult things, or whose different perspectives will sharpen me.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” ~ Proverbs 27:17

Friends, who cheer you on from the sidelines, who lovingly discipline you, who forgive, over and over again. They hold your hair back when you lean over the toilet, they make you chicken soup and leave it on your porch along with flowers, they come by to help you with your toddler when you’re too sick to get out of bed, they hold you accountable when you claim you are working on your marriage, they take you to the airport in the middle of the night, they support your cause no matter what, they remember the sad and the good stuff you told them, they speak your Love Language, they hold you accountable for being a good wife, they pray – for and with you.

Lifetime friends teach you life lessons you can learn from and use as foundation for all other relationships. 

A soul mate reflects back to us that which is unhealed while testifying to what is already perfect. Soul mates provide different things at different times: sometimes a safe haven from which we can branch out and explore, and sometimes challenges that bring us to our knees. ~ from The One: Discovering the Secrets of Soul Mate Love by Kathy Freston

I may not have found another cast of Friends to live life with but as long as I have a hand full of girlfriends I could call in the middle of the night with any emotional emergency, I know I am blessed.

Oh, and by the way, Mr. Thrasher and I now have a sweet, little goddaughter. God is good.

signature_Wiebke_New

Living A Life That Matters :: But Where Do I Begin?

Do-something-amazing

Image Source: Motivationblog.org

What am I doing with my life? Where are my passions? How can I make a difference?

One day, I want to look back at my life and know that it counted. That I did something that mattered. Something besides loving my husband, raising my child(ren), respecting my parents, caring about my friends and volunteering for a few good causes.

But what is that “something that matters”? And how and where do I start?

Ha, there it was! The first obstacle. I am contemplating and pondering way too much. My friend Lindsey once said:

Analysis leads to paralysis.

We often tend to worry about the if’s and but’s so much that we are already scared before we even got off our couch.

First, it obviously helps to have a dream or a crazy-heaps-of-faith-required desire to change the world. Grab a piece of paper and start right there:

  • What would you want to do with your life if you didn’t have to worry about resources, time and energy? Write down whatever comes to mind.

Here are the first thoughts that came to my mind:

  • A family for every child: no more orphans or children without families
  • Education for all: excellent, affordable education for everyone
  • No more heartbreak: Reconcile every broken relationship

I barely have the capacity to make dinner for my family of three at the end of a day, we have to ask others for help as we are raising funds for our adoption, and I can’t even reconcile my own relationships.

Today, during our moms small group meeting, I was reminded that it’s better to do something than to do nothing at all. Every person of influence had to start small. We read about those role models today or wear t-shirts with their inspiring quotes because they once took the first step.

517HQhnr9lL

Today, I was also told about a book called “Refuse To Do Nothing“. It’s about the brutal worlds of human trafficking and modern-day slavery. But even more so, it is a call-to-action and answers the question: But what can I do?

The authors? Two women. With kids. Full-time moms who juggle busy schedules and manage their homes. Moms who kept wondering how they could make a difference for those who are suffering while folding laundry, cheering on their kids from the sidelines of a soccer field and being stuck in line picking up their kids from school.

I guess my first step should be to read said book.

The-13-Project-Pretty-Fluffy

A topic I care deeply about. Image Source: StyleTails

As my friends and I continue to talk about how we as stay-at-home moms can lead a life with purpose, I kept asking myself how and where will I actually be able to make a difference. Then, we followed this simple exercise:

  • Think about your dreams. What desires did God put on your heart? If you don’t believe in God: Ask yourself which topics stir you up, get your blood boiling, make you angry/sad/contemplative? What do you fight for, believe in?
  • Think about what you can do in the next…
    • 10 minutes
    • 10 days
    • 10 months
  • Find your partners in crime. Some of my best friends are those who hold me accountable without judgement. Best friends don’t laugh about your dreams or think you’ve lost your mind. They pray with you, encourage and motivate, share their own dreams and hopefully even walk with you. Stick to those people in your life and ask them to help you stay on task.

Now, off to…doing something.

What is your crazy dream? How did you get started? Is there something that is holding you back?

signature_Wiebke_Love

The Agency :: Step Two :: Our Adoption

Mr. Thrasher and I took the first step towards adoption when we made our decision to adopt. Which, we strongly believe, originated as a God-given dream in both of our hearts. (Read all about our adoption decision here.) 

Step Two was to choose our adoption agency. Our main criteria was that our agency should be a Christian agency. God had to be in and all over this process and we needed our agency workers to speak the “same language”, understand the power of prayer and share the love and compassion of Jesus Christ. We also knew that we wanted to adopt domestically, ideally from California. After hearing only great things from our friends, we decided to contact Bethany Christian Services.

logo

We strive toward a world where every child has a loving family. ~Bethany Christian Services

After a few calls, asking lots of important questions, and discussing our fears and concerns, we submitted our pre-application and attended an information meeting where we learned more about adoption in general. Bethany cares first and foremost for the birthmothers. They love and care for them before, during and after the adoption. Bethany encourages long-lasting, open relationships between birth and adoptive parents. Paul and I now understand that we will not just be welcoming a baby into our family but that we will forever be bound to a loving, courageous mother who selflessly decided that her baby should be raised by us. My heart breaks for her, I’m overwhelmed by empathy for her and astonished by her sacrifice. Our prayers are no longer just about our baby. We pray for the well-being of our baby’s mother. We pray for her emotional stability. For her safety.
adoption-logoToday, we received Bethany’s “Next Step” package. A plain brown envelope on our door step filled with forms, questionnaires, fee schedule (yikes!) and a list of education requirements. Besides a bunch of paperwork, this envelope also contains hope, excitement and joy.

signature_Wiebke_New

Being Still Vs. Being Still :: Another Adoption Update

I read this somewhere: “Remember if God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!” Isn’t this encouraging?

Shortly after posting my recent adoption update, friends started asking me why we decided to start fundraising for our adoption? They were confused because I had just told everyone that we would “be still and wait” (for God). So all this activity around our garage sale, the “Make A Change By Giving Change” baby bottles and our fancy, new PayPal donation button, came as a surprise to some.

adoption-logo

I designed this logo for our adoption.

For us “being still” doesn’t mean sitting on our couch, twiddling our thumbs and waiting for God to bring us a miracle. It simply means to be faithful, to not panic and to trust Him. It means “having peace, being calm”. While we feel peace about our situation and know that God has us covered, we also believe that faith without action is dead. I don’t think God can move if we don’t move.

In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. ~James 2:17

That said, we are kicking off our adoption fundraising campaign but won’t be stressing out about it. As someone who struggles with high expectations, I might need you to remind me to be ok with whatever the outcome will be. I do believe that part of God’s provision are the many friends who are, have been and will be supporting us on our way to making a home for a baby.

What do you think about fundraising? How would you find ways to raise money?
signature_Wiebke_Love

Be Still, And Know That I Am God :: A Long Overdue Adoption Update

“Be still, and know that I am God.” ~Psalm 46:10

Serenity found in Maui, HI.

Psalm 46:10 encourages us to reflect on what God can do in the face of what we are unable to do. Sounds pretty much like the headline of our adoption story which, at this time, is not necessarily a story yet. It’s more like a draft or outline.

Most of the times, our desire to adopt seems so unrealistic, so unreachable, so impossible. Last year, we thought, we’d be in a great position to get started with the adoption process: Attend the workshops and online classes, read the obligatory materials, submit our application and maybe even complete our homestudy. You might have followed my Adoption Awareness Blog Project or joined our excitement when we announced that We Are Expecting Again. Then, Thrasher Home went awfully quiet all of last year, very few posts, no word about our adoption. Dear friends, I owe you an update:

A call to the adoption agency of our choice in January of last year made us slow down, rethink our approach and finally turn to God for advice. We were told by a very sweet agency worker that it may not be a wise decision to start the process considering the little funds we had available to us. It may not work in our favor if we had to interrupt the process while trying to save or raise more money to move on to the next step. With only one income and a tight monthly expense budget, we were only making small progress towards our adoption savings goal of $29,000. When we called the agency, we had merely $4,000 in our savings account. (Just reading these numbers again makes me nauseous.)

While I was disappointed and sad, Paul received a word from God that Sunday in church. God told him that we need to be still and trust His timing. Certainly not a mind-blowing revelation but as usual God’s timing was perfect: Paul’s regained confidence, helped me understand that we were trying too hard to force our own agenda. We were desperately trying to control the situation.

Surrender yourself to the Lord, and wait patiently for him. ~Psalm 37:7 (GWT)

There it was.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [...] ~ 2 Corinthians 2:9

Yes, more of that, please.

Family peace.

The most important thing Paul reminded me off is that this adoption will happen. We will add to our family through adoption. Only God knows when. In the meantime, we must not be discouraged but be faithful. And surrender.

The American evangelist D.L. Moody once said that “If you partner with God, make your plans big!”. Our plans are big indeed…

Do you have any big plans that require someone like the Almighty as a partner? How did you surrender? Did you already reach the end? Do share. We appreciate any words of encouragement, prayers and stories.
signature_Wiebke_Love

Teaching A Toddler To Be Thankful :: A Family Christmas Tradition

With Christmas being only weeks away, I wanted to share how we are hoping to teach our almost two-year old Emma about being thankful and giving back. My prayer is that you are inspired to join us and millions of others who are participating in Operation Christmas Child. (National Collection Week is only until Nov 19, 2012. So hurry up!)

For Emma, Christmas could possibly be even more about receiving since her birthday is around the same time and she is an only grandchild. She doesn’t lack anything: cute, warm clothes in her closet, delicious organic food on her plate, the latest educational, wooden toys in her toy box, a cozy bed, meds when she needs them and two parents who love, adore and protect her. We know that Emma is still very young and she likely won’t understand the concept of giving but Paul and I believe it’s never to early to begin.
operation-christmas-child

A few years ago, we have participated in the Fill A Shoe box project through our old church. Thanks to Life As A Mom, I was reminded how beautiful, simple, and fun this concept is and together with Mr. Thrasher decided that from this year on, the Thrashers will participate every year. Go ahead and read the stories on the Samaritan’s Purse website, take a look at the photos of children receiving and opening their shoe boxes. It warms your heart! Such a simple gift. Such a huge impact on a child’s life.

IMG_8084_small

As we were gearing up to pack our boxes, Emma was getting very excited about all the ‘new toys’ piled up in her room. Now, how do you explain to your toddler that she won’t be able to play with them? I picked two small gifts for Emma, showed them to her and told her that first, we’d have to pack the toys into the shoe boxes for other children but that afterwards she can play with hers. Seemed to work.
I continued to explain that some kids don’t even have socks and that’s why we will be giving them socks. So Emma took off her socks and put them in a box.

IMG_8087

Until it was time to put that plush reindeer with sound into the box. She had to rock and sing to Rudolph before she could put him away. As soon as I turned my back to hand Emma the next item, she had pulled Rudolph out again.

IMG_8101

Eventually, the boxes were filled and I asked Emma to hold my hand so we could pray over the boxes and for the kids who would receive them.

IMG_8104

Last action item before we drop off our boxes: We’ll include a personal note and a photo of our family for each box.
What would you put into your shoe box? Do you have any family traditions to give back or volunteer together? Do share.

signature_Wiebke_New

Why Moms Need Other Moms

The subtitle to this blog post should probably be: “Or did you really think you could do this mommy thing on your own?”

Pajama + Pancake Party. Photo: Shauna Pilgreen

Our church offers small groups who meet weekly at someone’s house. We share food, talk about our lives, discuss the message from the previous Sunday, pray for one another and borrow someone else’s faith if our own is a bit drained. Last Sunday in church, I was interviewed about our moms small group. The reason why I joined a moms group was easily explained. I saw the two magic words on the flyer: childcare provided. A church group just for moms? Where a trustworthy volunteer would watch my baby while I could connect with sisters who shared the same pain and fears blessings and dreams as I did? Sign me up!

One of the question was why it was so valuable to be a part of a group just for moms – or to be more general, why moms need other moms. Now let me count the ways:

  • Moms understand what it means to be a mother. (Genius thought, huh?) Just like we are drawn towards married couples when we first get married. We want to soak up their wisdom, and laugh and learn from their mistakes. We like to surround ourselves with likeminded people because they can relate.
  • At our moms group, we could come as we are. With our screaming infant on our arm, in our yoga pants, no makeup or masquerade necessary.
  • Conversations were focused. When someone opened up about their troubles, you could either share advice because you have been there or listen carefully because you would soon be there.
  • Moms know how hard it is to try to become that Proverbs 31 woman.
  • Unlike a book club or even a Moms Night Out, our moms group has been a source of constant comfort, support and prayers for every one of us.
  • While the moms connect and pray together, our children witness strong community and what it means to be in fellowship. God wants us to walk in His light and be in fellowship (1 John 1:7). How are we supposed to teach our children if we don’t lead by example?
  • The friendships made carry beyond our weekly meeting place. We meet up for zoo visits, trips to the pumpkin patch, birthday parties, dinners (without kids), bring meals if one of us is sick and much more.
  • I doubt any other small group would have appreciated the diaper changes happening in the middle of the living room, the mass nursing on the couches or the collective crying when ten hormonal and exhausted women shared their deepest secrets. (Well, it was never that dramatic but it could have been and that would have been ok.)

A cow and a chili go to a pumpkin patch... Photo: MJphoto

And then there’s the practical side of surrounding yourself with mommy friends:
  • Swapping outgrown clothes, toys and gear
  • Sharing insider knowledge of best pediatricians, OBs and preschools
  • Inspiration for child-friendly activities in the city
  • Recommendations for child-friendly restaurants and cafes
  • Referrals for trustworthy and affordable babysitters (priceless!)
  • Obtaining tips and tricks on managing toddler tantrums, potty training, diaper rashes and pretty much every other challenge we’re facing in the motherhood

Let me finish this ode to mommy friends with an invitation. After attending the first ever moms small group of our church this past fall, my friend Anna and I will be leading a moms small group this Spring. You should check it out if you live in the Bay Area.

P.S.: Childcare provided.

Question for you: What do you value most about your mommy friends?

Project 365 :: No. 14

I love Mr. Thrasher because he prays with me.

Very Happy Merry Christmas Birthday

Photo: Paco and Betty

This Christmas is filled with memories. Memories of last year’s Christmas. We were nervously anticipating the arrival of our little Christkind. Instead of shopping for gifts, we shopped for onesies and diapers. Instead of baking Zimtsterne and Stollen, I pre-cooked casseroles to stock our freezer. Instead of sitting in front of our fire place with a hot cocoa spiked with Bailey’s, I was lying in bed with a heating pad on my back and tea to ease my nausea (yes, I still got sick occasionally).

This morning I read a post about Mary’s first Christmas (you know, the one who gave birth to our King) on one of my favorite mommy/adoption blogs. Missy from It’s Almost Naptime writes:

The Gospels do not tell us what her [Mary's] pregnancy was like, which I think is a sure sign that they were written by men. Imagine if God had chosen a woman to write a Gospel – how many chapters would have outlined her morning sickness and back labor? But I assume Mary threw up like the rest of us and woke up every hour to go to the bathroom and had sciatica and embarrassing gas moments. Which only makes me love her more. [...]

Whether you are a mom or not, grab a cup of coffee, click here and read the whole thing. I promise you a few chuckles and lots of inspiration.

It also reminded me to just be thankful that I didn’t have to give birth to Emma in a stable. I had a warm bed, said heating pad and special-overpriced-maternity pillows surrounding me. My husband took me to the hospital in a car with heated seats instead of telling me to ride on a donkey. There was a huge labor room waiting for us where even Mr. Thrasher had a cot waiting for him (ask him if he would have preferred hay over the cot). Nurses checked in on me every hour. I had an Epidural to ease my discomfort during contractions. As Missy reminds us, poor Mary didn’t even have clean sheets and I seriously doubt she got ice chips when pressing a button near her bed (what bed?)!

Emma didn’t have to take her first few breaths while lying next to a cow in a manger. She was wrapped in a warm towel and both of us were safe and taken care of as we met for the first time.

At Thrasher Home, the meaning of Christmas is amplified as we celebrate Jesus’ arrival and the birthday of our little Emma. It’s a Very Happy Merry Christmas Birthday!