How Decluttering Can Increase Inner Peace

Our house is tidy, clean, organized and cozy – for the most part. Yet I often find myself feeling edgy, unhappy, unproductive and, yes, almost, stressed in my home. Now, why is that? Why do I constantly feel the urge to take a big box and throw more things out?

Free your mind.

According to experts, clutter consumes us mentally, adds stress and often wastes precious time, mostly because you have to spend time searching for something. When we keep thinking about the things that bother us – like that unfinished DIY project, drawers full of kitchen gadgets that we use once a year or storage boxes filled with sentimental value like Christmas ornaments or toys from our childhood – the annoyance can quickly spill over into other areas of our lives. God forbid, we may even snap at our husbands. (Great, now I can blame my bookshelf for that!)

At the beginning of this year, I signed up for the January Cure. And so it began, our entire family embarked on a mission to clear our home of unnecessary stuff. We called it #projectletitgo. (Because when you give something a title, its significance automatically triples.)

Our linen/medicine closet.

Our linen/medicine closet.

Whilst our home got cleaner, our garage emptier and our cabinets more organized, it still didn’t deliver the relief my husband and I were hoping for. It seemed like our approach to tackle clutter as a space problem could not be solved by acquiring more bins and organizers. Or following an abundance of Pinterest boards. Putting the label maker down, we realized we needed to go deeper.

How do you want to live your life?

Enter Marie Kondo, a Japanese organizing guru. Her method: Keep only those things that speak to your heart. Then take the plunge and discard all the rest.

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What is one to do with all these pens and pencils?

Marie Kondo challenges you to ask yourself whether each object you have is propelling you forward or holding you in the past? (Like those photos from your ex. Oi!) Of course, a toothbrush or Ziplock bags won’t ever get me overly excited. But that’s not the point.

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Marie Kondo

According to Kondo, the question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life. Attachment to the past and fears concerning the future not only influence the way you choose the things you own but also represent the criteria by which you make choices in every aspect of your life, including your relationships with people and your job.

Kondo recognizes profoundly: That overload of things in our homes is often about unhappiness, and that the right kind of tidying can be a kind of psychotherapy for the home as well as for the people in it.

With this newfound approach, we basically overhauled our decluttering project and took another look at the things we previously wanted to hold on to. Here’s an example: A side table next to our couch, shabby chic style. Purpose: Holding a lamp, housing a box of tissues and coasters, and offering space to put a drink. Clearly needed, right? Do we like it? Yes. Do we absolutely love it? No. The table can now be found on Craigslist offering joy to someone who really wants it.

Did you see how we decided about an item’s fate more aggressively? Mr. Thrasher even went as far as claiming that we don’t need a couch because we usually host our guests at the dining table. Insert wife’s vehement veto.

Get children involved.

I’m proud to say that even our 4-year old daughter embraced my newly discovered obsession with a minimalistic approach to decluttering and generously sorted out a lot of toys. From an early age, we taught her how to store AND organize her toys. In her playroom (also our home office), she has five individual toy bins:

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Emma’s stuffed animals.

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Emma’s cars, figurines and construction toys.

  1. for her stuffed animals (she owns 7) and doll’s clothing,
  2. for her construction toys (Lego’s, Magnatiles, GoldieBlox),
  3. for games and puzzles,
  4. for science stuff (magnets, her science kit)
  5. for her dress-up clothes and accessories.

Every bin is only half-full. Art supplies are within reach but behind doors in my bookshelf. Her books are neatly stored in her bedroom – German books on one shelf, English on the other.

This system also helps to establish boundaries: Her bedroom is for sleeping and quiet time, the playroom is for playing and learning. She has one treasure box where she keeps cards, letters and drawings from her friends, and two smaller boxes for little odds and ends.

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The bookshelf in Emma’s room. (She still wasn’t ready to let go of her Frozen book…)

To get you started, check out these 21 Tips on Keeping a Simple Home with Kids which are precisely on par with our family system. Admittedly, this strategy may not work for every child (or its parents). As a always, a healthy rule of thumb is: the purpose of the task is to strengthen the relationship. If what you’re doing is driving a rift between you and your child, it’s not worth it. Take a step back and reassess.

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Don’t donate junk. Only give away what’s in good condition.

Finally, peace.

Imagining myself living in a home that contains only things that spark joy, I am slowly but surely resetting my life. One donation drop-off at a time.

Now, if only I had the guts to follow this process with my wardrobe…

What is your organizing secret? What was your “toughest” purge? Tell your story and leave a comment.

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Some Superheroes Don’t Wear Capes

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Big shoes to fill.

I used to share Pinterest-pinned blog posts New York Times articles like “1001 Father/Daughter Dates”, “88 Things A Father Should Teach His Daughter”, or “How To Become Super Dad” with Mr. Thrasher. My intentions are noble. This is not about pushing or nagging or controlling (no, seriously). This is way more complicated and yet so simple: I want my husband to be equipped to be the father I never had.

Then, one day, he was in the middle of a coming-home-from-work-cuddle with Emma (yes, that’s a thing at Thrasher Home), I suddenly realized, he doesn’t need those articles. He knows when and what to say to Emma to make her feel better or praise her. He understands the importance of discipline and setting boundaries for her. He sees her need for physical touch, quality time and words of affirmation. He notices when she just pretends to be fearless but really could use some encouragement. He teaches her how to play baseball, ride her bike, make French Toast, take care of our dog, do yoga, catch bugs and build Lego.

But how does he do it?

It’s not like he has done this fatherhood thing before. Neither does he have mentoring role models in his life. At least, no one he is actually doing life with, no one who is genuinely invested. So where are his mad daddy skills coming from? It’s not rocket science, there is no shortcut or magic trick. It’s surprisingly simple.

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Like father like daughter.

His inspiration?
His daughter.

His ideas?
“The creative adult is the child who survived.”
Making ice cream, visiting a museum for airplanes, rough-housing, playing baseball, putting on adventure hats and exploring – those are things he just wants to do for himself her. 

His experience with girls?
Intuition and listening to his nagging helpful wife.

His secret?
Observe, listen and engage.

His motivation?
Winning his daughter’s heart, protecting her from harm and preparing her for life.

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Little girls love to get flowers, too.

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Always lifting her up. Sometimes literally.

When Mr. Thrasher comes home, Emma will run to the door, give Papa a big hug and tell him how much she missed him. That moment, Paul says, everything that’s happened that day just melts away. No matter how exhausted he is, if Emma has to show him something, he will take her tiny hand and follow her. No complaints. Just pride and gratitude to be her Papa.

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Slow down, little one.

It’s not always Rainbow Dash and butterflies.

Of course, there are days when the skies are cloudy, the voices a little louder and the only game played is “who has more will power”. In those moments, it is hard to show love and give her grace. Impatience trumps affection. Encouragement is conquered by exhaustion. Passion and purpose are defeated by provocation. Yet, Mr. Thrasher knows that those moments offer opportunities to shape her, teach her. He is aware that his loving discipline is needed to show her right from wrong.

Now, do yourself a favor and watch him the next time he’s around your kid. Take notes. I bet he already won his/her heart.

No cape needed.

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He had no idea how she would turn his life upside down…

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First Day of (Pre)School | A Letter To My Daughter

Credits: Surprise Lily Designs on Etsy.

Credits: Surprise Lily Designs on Etsy.

My sweet Emma,

Tomorrow is your first day of school. It’s only preschool but for me (and Papa) it means a pretty big deal. It means another level of letting go. When I went back to work after staying home with you for the past three years, you had to go to daycare every day. Compared to preschool, it was rather easy to leave you with this incredibly loving, caring woman who adored you as if you were her own. I felt at ease dropping you off at Mrs. Eva, knowing you’d be in great hands, having lots of fun and learning quite a bit. (This fairy daycare mom also potty-trained you and cut your hair.)

With your BFF Scarlett at Mrs. Eva's daycare.

With your BFF Scarlett at Mrs. Eva’s daycare.

This time, however, it’s different. Preschool is not an intimate in-home daycare offering lots of cuddles and intimate one-on-one care. This time, I’ll be leaving you with two teachers I don’t know that well, a lot more kids and what it seems, a less affectionate environment.

Here’s what I know: You will turn this experience into something magical. Because that’s what you do. Just like you use your imagination and toys to throw a party for your stuffed animals. When you twirl through the living room, belting out your favorite songs, you make my heart dance. When you reason with your Papa about why you need more grapes to heal your tummy ache (wait, that’s not how YOU cure tummy aches?), you make me proud. You are incredibly smart and inquisitive. As a matter of fact, your Papa and I will be in big trouble when you’re older and start to negotiate curfews and allowances with us.

Rockstar-Ballerina-Surfer-Girl Fashion.

Just like I know to bring a sweater everywhere in the Bay Area – especially in the Summer, I know that you will love school. Because you love to learn. Making new friends fuels you. Exploring excites you. At your young age, you already display wisdom and wit beyond expectations. Your gift to make connections, draw conclusions and question things, amaze me and those around you.

I never bothered to teach you how to write your name. You are 3.5 years old, for Heaven’s sake. Rather than sweating over your academical skills, I ache for you to understand the importance of friendship, patience, sacrifice, compassion and respect. (Besides, you have already known your letters since you were 15 months old.)

Every child knows that hearts mean love. You, however, asked Papa to spell “L-O-V-E” for you so you would know how to write it. With pride I say that you always take things further. Just when you understood that one clears their table after dinner, you asked for help to put your dirty dishes into the dishwasher. When told to clean up your room, you don’t just store your toys away, you organize them (sometimes it takes you hours to carefully wrap every.single.animal. in a blanket). God forbid someone in our house gets sick. Equipped with your toy dishes, doll blanket and band aids you come to our rescue trying to make us feel better. You serve us grapes because you know grapes cure everything. You are a caretaker, a servant.

Dr. Emma at work.

Dr. Emma at work.

That, dear daughter, makes you beautiful. People will try to tell you that your contagious smile, sunkissed hair, pouty lips and lean figure are features that make you pretty. Papa and I will always emphasize that real beauty comes from the inside. Your kindness, compassion and desire to care for others are your true beauty.

You are courageous and have a surprising sense of fairness. Don’t worry about the cool kids who think you’re not cool enough for them. Truth is: Their own insecurities keep them from being vulnerable. There will always be kids who think being friendly, helpful and honest are signs of weakness. Shy away from them, remain kind and know the truth is not what they say.

And then, there is this other side of you: You are fiery and feisty, a firecracker. We already saw (and I felt) it while you were in my womb. You were boxing and kicking non-stop. Papa and my challenge is to teach you to use your passion and conviction for good. (Good luck to us. I still struggle with that balance nowadays.) Those are your God-given gifts that make me want to pull my hair out when you use them against us.

You are a force to be reckoned with. Nonetheless, you will face trials and disappointments. People will hurt you, trying to steal your joy. Don’t let them. Happiness is from the world, joy is from God. It comes from deep within. It’s not easy to find when the going gets tough but it is there. Just like your dreams. No matter how big or small, chase them. You may catch them one day.

Baking cupcakes for your own birthday party.

Baking cupcakes for your own birthday party.

Vice versa, as you look at the desires of your own heart, I encourage you to open your eyes to the needs of people in your life. Usually, people don’t ask for help. Walk in their shoes for a day – you will know what they might be lacking and how you can meet their needs. Acts of Services is a love language. At only 3.5 years old, you already speak it fluently. Hold on to it.

I marvel at how quickly you grow up. In time, as you get older, it will be tougher for Papa and I to hold your hand, stay connected, hug and cuddle. I pray that you will always want to spend time with me.

Speaking of which, you are now gently but determined reminding me that I promised you to draw with you. So before it’s too late, I will kneel on the floor with you, coloring Hello Kitty pages and listen to Leo Lausemaus CDs.

You make me proud, sweet Emma!

In Liebe,

-Mama.

 

Runaway Mom | Our Adoption

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There comes a time when you have to choose between turning a page and closing a book.

This is the last chapter of a book we have decided to close.

Sitting in front of this empty page, not knowing where to start. The white computer screen blinding me. I previously had so much to say. I was so convinced of God’s plan for our life that I had to share it with everyone who patiently offered to listen or curiously followed my blog. That’s right, I had dedicated an entire blog to this topic I couldn’t stop talking about. For the past two years, Paul and I had diligently been saving and sowing into what we faithfully believed was our calling. We had rallied friends and family to support our cause.

Full of excitement and anticipation, Paul and I were preparing to take our family to the next level.

But then everything changed.

Excitement was replaced with doubt. Anticipation was pushed aside by fear. The peace and certainty I once felt, suddenly began to fade.

From knowing that we were destined to grow our family through adoption, I went to wondering if I was going to be strong enough to raise another child. While I (most of the time) don’t doubt that I am a good mother to Emma, I am also fully aware of how weak and fragile I am. Would another child really be a blessing to our family? Was the dream of a family of four truly ours? Or were Paul and I dreaming someone else’s dream?

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One day, I was on the phone with my best friend, I was surprised to hear myself say it out loud: “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think we should go through with our adoption.” My friend just waited for me to continue. There it was, I had put my fears into words. The more I opened up, the clearer I saw it. Yet, I didn’t want to admit it. I had publicly declared that we were on God’s mission to care for a fatherless child. What was I suddenly thinking?

I finally let Paul in and told him how I felt. His response? Relief. He also had begun to grow doubts about the dream to have another child. We started talking about our life as it is now, what our values are as a family, we questioned our purpose, our goals. No matter how much we argued that we had heard God clearly lead us towards adoption, we couldn’t help but feel relief about the idea of being “just” a family of three.

So where does that leave us with God? Non-believers and believers alike probably wonder how we could have claimed that the plan to adopt was our God-given purpose and then suddenly turn the other way and walk away from our Father’s directive for us. Does this mean we no longer believed? Or that we never heard God in the first place?

The answer: We have no idea. All we know is that God has opened our heart for adoption. That won’t change. We will always advocate for adoption. The issue was never adoption versus pregnancy. The question we were asking ourselves was about bringing another child into our family.

Another wise friend of mine said to me – after sharing with her about our decision to stop the adoption – our desire to adopt may be fulfilled in a different way. It doesn’t have to be in the traditional sense of adopting a child into our family. There are different ways of adopting, or caring for the fatherless. We can still live a life that matters and make a difference.

Since we began the adoption process a lot has changed for us: Our family needed us. Our existing family – stateside and across the Atlantic – needs Paul and I to be available, to support and care for them. Emotionally, physically and financially.

All of this had been considered before. We didn’t enter this adoption process lightly. Besides, our social worker grilled us on all these topics. Yet, it never occurred to us that maybe we had already run out of capacity. That another child would push us over the edge. We are seeing our friends growing their families, raising multiple children. We see their struggles, their exhaustion. Of course, we also see the fun, the blessing, the love between siblings, and the feeling of completion as a family. But what if we wouldn’t make it to that point where life with two kids got easier? What if Paul and I would be crushed in the process?

Maybe God’s plan for us wasn’t the adoption itself, maybe He wanted to reveal something else to us?

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Our marriage always needed a bit more care, a bit more attention, a bit more work. With Emma I already had to split my attention, my time, my love. I felt like I couldn’t take more of that away from my husband and give it to a new baby. Paul and I have had some rough times together. I owe him more of me. Not less. I owe myself more of me.

In all of my married life I have barely sacrificed anything truly valuable to me for my husband. Sure, I left my family and home country behind to stay with him to build a life with him in the USA. But that wasn’t just for him. I wanted that for myself.

The decision to not have another child is my sacrifice. For the first time, I put my wish to be a mother again aside and put my marriage first. Yet, as much as I try to see the good in our decision, I feel like a runaway mom. I got cold feet. I got scared. I feel shame and guilt.

Once we had decided to stop our adoption, count the money spent on education, homestudy and agency fees as loss and pick up the pieces, I shifted straight into task mode. So much to do, so many friends and family to inform. More importantly, we had to refund all of the donations we’ve had received and reconcile our tithes. There was no more need to keep Emma’s baby clothes and gear. I wanted to close the chapter completely. And I wanted to do it quickly so I could move on.

Paul, on the other hand, needed time. He put the brakes on. Asked to mourn. Mourn the loss of a dream, the loss of the baby that we thought was supposed to be ours. Looking back, I am glad Paul forced me to hold still for a while.

When I see new babies, I can’t help but feel sadness. Did I bail? Did we make a decision out of fear instead of faith? Am I really that weak?

But once I managed to tell my emotions to stop trying to guide my decisions, I feel peace. I know we’ve made the right decision.That doesn’t mean I don’t get sad or tear up when I sort through Emma’s baby clothes. Sometimes making the tough choice and the right choice are the same.

Do we still believe that God called us to pursue adoption? Honestly, I don’t know. All I know is that He made me aware of my limits. I know that He gave me a heart for adoption. I know that He led Paul and I to take a close look at ourselves and our marriage. We have learned a lot in the process.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. ~Isaiah 55:8-9

During our journey, we have seen friends disengage, and we have seen friends opening their hearts, pouring their time, love, prayer and finances over us. A few very close friends had respectfully raised concerns in the beginning when we shared about our adoption decision. They cautioned us to put our marriage first, they carefully pointed out that we may need to focus more on each other than another baby. The risked our friendship by telling us something we certainly didn’t want to hear.

Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kiss from an enemy. ~Proverbs 27:6

Nonetheless, those friends were always in our corner as we embarked on the adoption journey. They are the same friends who encourage us today.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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What’s Next? | Our Adoption

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Sometimes, I think it’s hard for friends and family to relate to our adoption because we don’t have a due date. We don’t even have a timeframe to share. And besides me getting bigger from eating a lot, it’s not visible that we will have another baby. The adoption process involves many steps, requires lots of paperwork and is not necessarily easy to follow. Someone once said: It’s like going through a divorce, moving countries all by yourself, battling a rare disease or running your own business – if you haven’t had to deal with it, you simply can’t know what it feels like. So I want to shed a bit of light and give you a better understanding of how we are preparing for adoption, where we stand, how much every step costs and what’s supposed to happen next. (Take a look at my posts about Adoption Myth Busters Part One and Two to gain further understanding of the complex process of adoption.)
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We submitted a pre-application to our agency (read more about our choice of adoption agency here) and attended an orientation meeting (via conference call). Currently, Paul and I are completing a list of education requirements: Read books, take online courses and watch videos while completing exercises. Once all books are read, courses completed and questionnaires filled out, we will submit an official application to our agency along with $500. Considering that we will get approved, we then move on to the family assessment or home study.
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Home studies differ by agency, state and country. For us, the home study consists of home visits by a social worker, interviews (joint and separate), training, health statements, income statements, lots of document gathering action, background checks, a day-long Education Seminar and references. The above steps then conclude with a home study report written by the social worker. On average, the home study takes between 3 and 6 months to complete and will cost us about $3,000 (including document processing and such). In addition, the administrative agency fee of $10,500 is due. At this time, we will be able to apply for adoption grants.
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All throughout our adoption (and likely even after a baby is placed with us), we will be raising funds to cover all of our adoption fees and expenses. Adopting – whether domestically or internationally – is incredibly expensive. We are looking at roughly $29,000. Only by faith and with the generous help of others, we will be able to afford our adoption. We have saved up a decent amount of money but are far from having all the funds we will need available to us. Our fundraising efforts are proving to be a great bonding experience for Mr. Thrasher and I. Even Emma has been excited about helping out. (Emma’s Lemonade Stand is now famous in our neighborhood.) And we believe that it opens up the opportunity for friends and family to get involved and become a vital part of our adoption journey. Even if you can’t donate, you can share our story, educate others about adoption or simply pray for us, our baby and the expectant mother who will be choosing us to raise her child. Find out what else you could do to help us make a home for a baby and visit our Fundraising page.
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Soon enough it will be time to prepare our adoptive family profile. This will be one of the most important first impressions we will ever make on any expectant mother/parent who is considering to make an adoption plan. It will address expectant mothers/parents talk about our likes, our goals and dreams, how we met, how we raise Little Thrasher, why we want to adopt, how we celebrate holidays, who our friends are, what our home, our church, our city looks like and much more. It will be an introduction to the expectant mother/parents and allows them to get to know us as a potential forever family for their child. It basically has to accomplish two things:
  1. Share relevant information about our family and
  2. Paint a picture of what a life with the Thrashers would be like for a child.
Once we have written, designed, printed, shared, uploaded and sent out our family profile, we will be officially ‘a waiting family’. Waiting to be chosen to give a baby a loving home and family.
(to be continued)

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The Agency | 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.

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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.

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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.

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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?
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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.
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