Called To Care :: Our Adoption

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We are adoptive parents. We are not just talking, blogging, praying or thinking about it. After completing yet another application and attending an all-day seminar at our adoption agency (read here about our choice of agency), we made our first payment to the agency. Not that we are excited about spending money but this step marks another milestone in our adoption process. We are officially in their system as adoptive parents.

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But first things first: Thanks to another wedding planning job and an anniversary gift from Grandma we were able to reach half of our adoption fundraising goal. Hallelujah. (On that note: Please do recommend my affordable yet excellent wedding planning services to that friend of yours who just got engaged!)

By now, Paul and I have read several books on domestic infant adoption, completed online classes, attended informative conference calls, and last Friday we drove out to the Central Valley of Northern California to join other adoptive couples for a seminar at our adoption agency. We would also meet our social worker for the first time. I was excited and a bit nervous.

We had planned to leave early but still just made it on time. (A classic disagreement between husband and wife: For Him, being on time means arriving when the event begins. For Me, it means arriving at least 15 minutes early.) Entering the conference room, I quickly noticed the melting pot of ethnicities and socio-demographics our intimate group of “parents to be” formed. A seminar-typical icebreaker exercise got us all quickly to chat and bond over our joint adventure. By lunch time, we were all friends.

Often couples turn to adoption after suffering through infertility. We (thankfully) can’t relate to the grief and feelings of loss that surface as couples struggle with infertility. Mr. Thrasher and I simply have a strong desire to grow our family through adoption. One may say God planted that dream in each of our hearts and our marriage was created to lead us to adopt. Too spiritual? Stay with me.

A calling is God’s personal, individual invitation to carry out the unique task He has for you.

As agency workers, a birth mom and a panel of adoptive parents shared information and stories, I had a revelation of the ministry adoption really is. Yes, we will have to pay a scary amount of money for the adoption but I can now see even clearer how this money is used to do God’s work. Along with the heartache, grief and darkness of adoption, comes healing, new life, a clean slate, an abundance of love and (sometimes) salvation. Not just for the children. But also for the birth mothers. And even for the adoptive parents.

That day, God’s voice spoke to us louder than ever. We know His calling for us to adopt will bring great challenges, doubt and frustration. We know not all of our friends are committed to supporting our adoption. (And that’s ok.) We know some family members still have lots of questions. (And so do we.) We know we are required to trim our spendings even more. (Can we ask friends and family to donate money while we still occasionally pay $4 for a latte or buy new shoes?) We won’t succeed at this task on our own. Only through the constant guidance and reassurance of the Holy Spirit will we be able to carry out this mission.

We left the meeting with more conviction, more faith, more courage, and more love for our new baby, its birth mother and her family.

And for one another.

On our drive home we made plans for teaching Emma about adoption, prayed over our next steps and were giddy like teenagers in love. We still don’t have a timeline and we never will but we know we are expecting, our family is growing and God is with us.

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P.S.: If you are a follower of Jesus, will you join me in praying this prayer?

I pray that the church will be called to care for orphans in a way that leads more Christian families to adopt, to support other families who adopt, and to fight for legislation that makes adoption more accessible. By God’s grace, may every child who needs a permanent home become part of a loving family. In Jesus’ mighty name, we pray. Amen.

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

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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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A Letter To My Daughter

This morning, my DH (Dear Husband) encouraged me to write a post about Emma – not about a baby-related topic or any other topic but share my feelings about Emma and being her Mama.

Emma is back down for her late morning nap and instead of doing laundry, vacuuming or trimming the Hydrangea on our porch, I am taking a moment to write this post in honor of Emma’s upcoming half birthday.

Dearest Emma,

When I first touched you, and you crawled up to my breast, we both knew we’d be bound together forever. Something intensely awesome had just happened. A miracle. You were born. My little girl. My daughter.

It’s been almost six months since you’ve joined our little family. Which means, it’s been 174 days since we’ve brought you home from the hospital. In other words, I’ve been without proper sleep for 173 nights. No offense but it’s been torture tough.

The first few weeks of our life together, I was so worried about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g: Whether you got enough sleep, enough milk, enough love. Whether you would get sick, gain enough weight. Whether you were too cold, not comfortable enough. Whether we changed your diaper often enough making sure you wouldn’t get a diaper rash. Whether I would be a good mom, Paul a good dad and Griffin a fun companion.

Yes, your Mama is a worry wart. No matter how much I pray and try to rely on God to lift those burdens off my shoulders, I just can’t help it.

But you know the reason for my worries? I love you so very much that I can’t stand the thought of anything bad happen to you. Truth is, bad things will happen to you. You will get a flu eventually, you will fall and scrape your knees, friends will hurt you, your parents will disappoint you. That’s life.

But, the truth is that there’s a Father looking out for you. By that I don’t mean your dad. He will, of course, protect you as much as he can. No, I’m talking about your Heavenly Father. The one who is watching over you, me, Papa, Omi, your aunt Meike, your cousin Lasse, even our dog. God says, ” I have come into the world as light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” ~ John 12:46. I guess, we should be faithful and let Him deal with our dark fears.

Yet, this lack of sleep is really getting to me. I know you’re not doing this on purpose. I know you love me. I can feel it. When you wake up in the morning and you look at me – that big smile on your face is priceless. You’re such a happy and positive baby. Seeing your personality develop is one of your parents’ greatest blessings. We can already tell that you’re so bold and strong-willed, your persistence and ambition amaze us every day.

With only 12 weeks of age, you learned how to grab and hold on to things. Quickly, you’ve figured out how to rake things towards you, pick them up and play with them.

When you learned how to roll over, it seemed like a whole new world has opened up to you. Wait until you’ll work out this crawling thing. Sometimes you already push yourself up and lift your buttocks into the air and I think to myself ‘oh my, she’s gonna crawl soon’.

You’ve gotten pretty good at this sitting up stuff. Funny enough, you seem to be sitting better by yourself than with support. (I’m still gonna put those pillows around you. You can complain all you want.)

"Excuse me! I can feed myself!"

During the day, I find myself watching you play on your blanket, happily cooing and finding simple joy in all of your toys. Recently, you discovered Griffin. I swear, you are talking to Griffin. When you see him near you, your tiny hands try to pet him, you’re flashing your brightest smile (which I so frickin’ love!) and when you manage to touch him you make this squeaky noise that you always make when you’re excited.

I have been walking with you strapped to my body in the Ergo, my neck, shoulders and back aching yet not minding the discomfort at all if only it brought you comfort.

I love rubbing my nose on your cheeks and covering your soft skin with kisses. You scream joyfully every time I do the raspberry on your belly during diaper changes. On that note, could you stop kicking so much while I try to clean your butt?

You’re kicking a lot in general. Especially during bath time. It’s hard to believe that your first few baths were torture according to your feedback, ie. crying from the top of your lungs. You hated it. These days, you can’t seem to get enough splash time, you little dolphin. What fun it will be to teach you how to swim!

When we go grocery shopping together, you always talk up a storm. Apparently, other people also find you quite entertaining. You’re a social butterfly. Whether you show complete strangers in the elevator your brightest smile or you hang out with your girlfriends Scarlett and Eva and your big buddy Jonah, you love other people.

Emma and one of her BFFs.

Oh, you just woke up. I can hear you talk to your dolphin. You sound so happy and content. I bet you’re trying to eat your feet again.

I am very blessed. And so are you, my dear daughter. Papa is working really hard to allow me to stay home with you so I can raise you, teach you, love on you. Paul and me both were raised by nannies (me) and in daycare (daddy). We always missed our parents and we wanted something better for you while you were so little.

Speaking of something better, I need to apologize to you. The other day, after another sleepless night, I lost my patience and yelled at you. I had been trying to put you down for your nap over and over again. You were so tired, showing all signs of sleepiness but you just wouldn’t want to fall asleep. Dang it, girl. Why do you always fight me on this?

Emma, you are such an adorable, smart, funny and cuddly little baby. Within seconds you took over my life and despite all the fear of failure, I love every second of being your mom. (Ok, maybe not those when you and I fight over sleepy time.)

Ich liebe dich!

A Clean Heart

Today, I deleted my Facebook account.

No more status updates, 'Like' buttons, tags and comments.

Today, I also had a revelation about who I am. Or better: Who I am not. Which is part of my decision to remove ‘Wiebke (Struck) Thrasher’ from Facebook.

I am not always as happy as my photos on Facebook made me look. My marriage is not perfect. There are days where I wish I wasn’t a mother. My dog doesn’t always listen. I am not a compassionate person. God has been taken a backseat in my life (because I put Him there). I use cake mix for my banana bread. Sometimes I go to bed without brushing my teeth. I am jealous. A lot. Instead of being grateful for the things I have, I create wish lists online with more things I want. I tithe. But I have been holding back on my offerings. I always drive faster than the speed limit. Most nights, I am too exhausted and just nurse Emma to sleep instead of teaching her to fall asleep on her own. Prayer hasn’t been part of my daily routine. I am easily offended. My expectations in friends are too high. For the past year, I haven’t shown my husband enough respect. Sometimes I wear a pair of jeans for an entire week. As of late, I am struggling to honor my stepfather. I don’t like some of our neighbors. Often, I find myself being envious of other people’s lives. I want to lose weight but can’t stop eating ice cream. I keep starting projects but never see them through. I still feel like I failed with my business. I get angry. Things I say inside our home should never be heard outside.

And what has all of this to do with Facebook, you wonder?

First, I felt that I was representing a person that wasn’t me. Second, I also felt utterly distracted from dealing with myself. I realized I need to get rid of ‘stuff’ and shift my focus on important things like God, my husband, my baby, my dog. I desperately need a clean slate and a renewed spirit.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. ~ Psalm 51:10

Today was the beginning of my personal clean-up. Facebook was the first step, I no longer have wish lists on Amazon, Crate and Barrel or Etsy (Favorites). I even went as far as unsubscribing from all those blogs that make me want more stuff.

Tomorrow, I’ll drop off all of Emma’s outgrown baby clothes at the Homeless Prenatal Program.

Next step, selling my business inventory. And starting therapy.

Wow, even this blog post was like striptease for my soul. I promise the next post will be cheery and chirpy again. So, don’t leave me.

 

Our Testimony :: Fears During Pregnancy

“I sought the Lord and He answered me. And He delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:3

Baby Thrasher at 4 months.

During my pregnancy I was told that it is common to test your baby for Down syndrome or other chromosomal abnormality. Screening tests (a combination of blood draws and ultrasounds) apparently help you assess your baby’s chances of having this kind of problem. The tests wouldn’t exactly tell us if baby had Down syndrome but results would tell us a ratio that informs us about baby’s chances of having a problem, based on our test results and how old I was.

What’s a chromosomal abnormality?

Chromosomes are threadlike structures in our cells that carry our genes. Most people have 46 chromosomes in each cell, with one set of 23 coming from the mother’s egg and the other set from the father’s sperm.

Biological errors can happen during the early stages of cell division, causing abnormalities in the chromosomes. For example, some babies develop with 47 chromosomes: Instead of 23 matched pairs, they have 22 pairs plus one set of three, a chromosomal abnormality called trisomy.

Often, a woman who conceives a baby with an abnormal number of chromosomes will miscarry, usually early in pregnancy. But with certain chromosomal abnormalities, the baby may survive and be born with developmental problems and birth defects that can range from mild to severe.

Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, occurs when a baby has an extra copy of chromosome 21 in some or all of his cells. Down syndrome is the most common chromosomal abnormality babies can be born with.

Other chromosomal problems that babies can be born with include trisomy 18 and trisomy 13. These abnormalities are almost always associated with profound mental retardation and other congenital malformations. If they survive to birth, these babies rarely live more than a few months.

Anyone can have a baby with a chromosomal abnormality, but the risk rises with the mother’s age. For example, your likelihood of carrying a baby with Down syndrome ranges from about 1 in 1295 at age 20 to about 1 in 82 at age 40.

Source: babycenter.com

The advantage of screening is that it gives you information about your baby’s risk of having certain problems without subjecting you to the slight risk of miscarriage associated with CVS and amniocentesis.

Definitely no amniocentesis for us. Image source: health-pictures.com

BUT, and here’s where my very personal opinion comes in, the disadvantage is that the results can screw with you and get you worrying for the rest of your pregnancy as you keep thinking about the possibility that your baby will be born with a genetic disorder. Or those results get you contemplating further tests like CVS and amniocentesis. And what happens then? What if you actually find out that the percentage of giving birth to a ‘sick’ child are so high that the thought of, well, you know what, pops into your mind?

For Paul and me it was never a question whether we would terminate the pregnancy. God gave us a baby and we believe abortion is murder and therefore a deadly sin. So there was no room to go any further with that thought or discussion. Period.

Back to the tests. Frankly, I didn’t think much about the disadvantages of the screening tests. Looking back, I think I would have preferred not to be tested. And here’s why.

I was identified as being at medium risk for Down syndrom and my ratio was very close to the cutoff. I was horrified.

On a side note: I have to admit that I am a bit of a worrywart. I’m not gonna lie. I tend to blow up issues and keep contemplating the negative side of things. But I’m learning to rely on God and my Faith. God is a good god and He provides and protects. I have many testimonies to prove his goodness.

After Paul and I got the results we met with a genetic counselor to discuss what we could do next. It was clear to us that we didn’t want to do any of the invasive tests that showed a high risk for miscarriage – despite the counselor’s recommendation. So what was left?

We turned to God.

Instead of reading about the disease, I searched for relevant scriptures and Paul and I started praying and meditating on them.
We agreed to not even talk about the “threat” anymore as we didn’t want to speak the possibility of birthing a sick child over our baby. We only shared our fear with our parents and two close friends. We also didn’t ask our team of prayer warriors at C3 San Francisco for support. This was between God and us, our little family.

“…and great will be your children’s peace (shalom).” Isaiah 54:13

The devil comes to kill and destroy. Of course, he wanted to rob us of our joy about expecting a baby. I knew that it was plain evil to make me think my baby wasn’t alright while all the way she was absolutely perfect. And that is what I was teaching myself to think: My baby was God’s masterpiece and therefore healthy and whole.

Our plan of attack worked. A couple of weeks after we received the results, we had successfully pushed all of our doubts and worries away and were back to enjoying our pregnancy (well, putting my aches and pains aside). We trusted God with our baby and for the remaining months of my pregnancy, we actually didn’t think much about the test results.

On December 30, 2010 we welcomed a beautiful baby girl into this world. Emma Louise was perfectly healthy. Praise God for creating another masterpiece.

I Am A Mother

I have a daughter.

I am a mother.

We're home.

These words still sound so surreal to me. Even though our baby girl has now been with us for several days and I’m slowly recovering from the aftermaths of giving birth, I still don’t grasp the magnitude that motherhood means.

Paul and I can barely find words to describe how we feel, how grateful we are for her health, and what we experience with our little Emma. We mostly just want to hold and stare at her. Like right now, as she is sleeping in her bassinet next to my bed. (Yeah, after another sleepless night she decided that the morning would be a better time to go to sleep! Wonder where she has that stubbornness from…)

Emma, Paul and I are enjoying getting to know each other and finding our rhythm. Needless to say, our lives are turned upside down, nights have turned into wake time, day time has become a small window to catch a break, we forget when it’s time to eat, drink or take a shower, and nothing is like it was before. And we’re loving every bit of it!

We are no longer just a couple…

Adjusting to parenthood surely is quite a challenge – but an absolutely amazing one! There is so much for Paul and me to learn (read about my first key learnings about being a new mom here), try and, more importantly, let go off. That letting go part (what do you mean, they don’t sleep on YOUR schedule?) is my biggest challenge. As you know, I am a planner and love being in control. Well, none of that anymore. Dear God, please take over from here. Thank you very much!

It certainly is a blessing to have Paul’s mom Sharon stay with us. She has been incredibly helpful taking care of Paul and me while we’re taking care of Emma. And when my hormones are going crazy again and I can’t stop crying because I wonder if I’m ever gonna get this mother thing down, she is right there to tell me I’m doing just fine. She reminds me to take my meds, cooks dinner, fills the fridge, cleans, takes Emma every now and then so Paul and I can shower and makes sure life is a little less insane.

A huge thanks also to Griffin’s best friend Yuko who is currently looking after our furry baby to give us a bit more time before we introduce Emma to him.

But now, please admire my baby girl and tell me what a beauty she is!

Where did she get those pouty lips from?

Two became Three.

Proud Papa Paul.

Love,
-Wiebke, Paul & Emma

Devine Design :: Home Decor

If you are thinking about decorating your home with meaningful art and were wondering how you could be displaying bold but beautiful statements of faith, you may struggle to find modern design that reflects your style AND your beliefs.

Search no more, sister. Here is God’s gift for us: faith inspired art by Red Letter Words.

This one is definitely on my wish list for Christmas this year.

And if scripture is a bit too much for you, Dee (artist and designer at Red Letter Words) has created some lovely pieces inspired by her travel adventures.

Fasting Facebook

For the past ten days, I have been fasting social media. Yes, I have reached a point where refraining from checking in on FourSquare, tweeting my latest blog post, chatting with friends all over the world via Skype and, of course, knowing exactly what my friends are up to on Facebook, has become a major sacrifice. Pathetic, you say? Oh, come on, don’t judge.

Inspired by C3 San Francisco’s recent call to fast for ten days for spiritual growth, I decided to fast Facebook and other addictive social media sites. (Ironically, our pastor was sharing encouraging prayers and scriptures via Twitter and Facebook. Ha!) As you may know, pregnant women must not fast so I had to find a substitute that would equally ‘hurt’.

Well, let’s clarify: The intention of a spiritual fast done right is not to suffer or torture yourself. Spiritual fasting is not an obligation or religious ritual, to me it is like taking a break from the mundane and or from things we indulge in or take for granted too easily – whether that’s food, coffee, TV or candy. Spiritual fasting only makes sense if you fill that void (of whatever you’re fasting) with something meaningful. Like prayer. Or reading the word.

Instead of reading Facebook updates in the morning, I opened up my bible and read updates from God instead. (His wall posts are definitely more relevant and inspiring than anything you can find on Facebook.) Instead of chatting with family, I chatted with God. Instead of checking into venues on FourSquare, I checked into His presence.

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” John 14:27