Rejoice and exult in hope; be steadfast and patient in suffering and tribulation; be constant in prayer.
Romans 12:12

Friday, December 27, 2013

Lessons We're Learning in the Battle

I just posted this on our Facebook prayer page, but wanted to post it here, too, so I have a reminder to go back to over and over again. God is teaching me lots these days in terms of waiting on Him and resting in Him alone.  :)

There is a scripture passage by Paul that has been really sticking out to me lately. I have many friends that have had a much smoother road to parenthood, whether through adoption, fostering-to-adoption, or even births of several biological children (or even on a less-than-smooth road, their panic moments may have been shorter, and closure has come more quickly) and I admit to being tempted to question God's love for me in the process. Silly, I know, but we've heard many success stories and while we rejoice with each one, we're at the point that those just aren't helpful when trying to compare with our own journey because it's just a further reminder that God hasn't taken away our "thorn" yet, and Satan can so easily invade my mind with thoughts of "see, God obviously loves them, but not you"...they are blatant lies, but when we see our circumstances above the Truth of God's word, we can be tempted to believe them. Comparison is such a dangerous thing. Anyone else struggle with this? I'm sure each of you have your own personal struggles as well that Satan can use (he is so good at helping us compare our unique story to others' stories, isn't he? Sneaky and wrong). But if we keep our focus on the attributes of God, and who He is -- not just "what can He do for me?" even though we certainly are blessed by God in immeasurable ways, too! Anyone see that gorgeous sunset last night? But that's not the only time we should praise Him. We need praise Him simply because He is worthy of our praise. Not always easy to put in practice, but so worth it. I guess that's why they call it a "sacrifice of praise" sometimes. Anyhow, so in this looooooong trial of Samuel's adoption journey, I admit I've questioned why God hasn't ended it for us yet. I see the hundreds of lives touched by his story, and I know that we should be honored to be used in that way (and we are), but the human side of me can be ugly and selfish and just "want our turn for a happy ending." I was thinking about this past year and every single terrifying obstacle we've had, and even though God hasn't delivered us completely with a finalized adoption (yet), He has been more than faithful in bringing us through every single scary moment, and even giving us many unexpected blessings along the way. Remember a year ago when Jessica first set up this prayer page? We were having a routine visit with Samuel's birthmom and family in Tulsa, and it turned into a possibility of losing Samuel that week because of some court filings that happened to go through at the same time (filings which turned out to be incorrect, of course, but still scary!). But God! He allowed Samuel to come home with us that week, and we've had an entire year of similar miracles! As we near the (hopeful) end of this journey, we are getting so antsy and our minds are constantly thinking "enough already!!" but God is not through with Samuel's miraculous story quite yet. Even still, there is absolutely no question that He's walking every step of the way with us, giving us victories along the way. If you are struggling with something and wondering why others seem to have an easier time with something that is your biggest thorn (everyone's "thorn" is different)...don't let Satan lie to you and tell you God just must not love you as much then. God is working in our biggest weaknesses to show His grace and power. Does it make it fun? Absolutely not. But today I pray I can begin to have Paul's attitude more and more as we walk through this (I've attended more pity parties this past 5 years than I care to admit). He says in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10: "Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong." This is good stuff, folks! I hope you all had a blessed Christmas, and as always, thank you for being warriors for Samuel (and us!). You are the best!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Remembering "The Call"...

One year ago today, I was on my way to a facial appointment (hmmm...I should have done that again to commemorate, hehe) and got a phone call from Crisis Pregnancy Outreach that changed our lives. We'd been chosen as an adoptive family by a birthmom who happened to be due on our wedding anniversary! Later that afternoon, we got to meet the most incredible woman over Skype, and hit it off immediately. 

Many of you know we've had a couple failed adoptions before this, but this call was different. When we "met" H over skype, I felt like we'd already been friends and known each other. From that first call, we've formed an incredible bond that is hard to describe. God has made beauty from ashes in a tough, unfair situation, and H made an incredibly selfless choice for her son. We love sweet H more than words can say, and are just so thankful God brought our paths together through a precious, ornery, amazing, thriving little boy.  

I will never forget the day we got "the call"...we continue to pray that God is working in the hearts of Samuel's birthfather and family, and that we will get to finalize this adoption soon, this time of uncertainty can end, and we can (officially) be a family. Keep those prayers coming, friends. Love you all!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

So How Are You, Really???

I've had people ask me this question, and I'm sure many others who are wondering. It's not a secret that the journey we've been on has been a difficult one. We've gone from "surprise, we're pregnant" back in 2008 to "just kidding, we lost our baby" to "hmmmm...weird, we're not getting pregnant again and don't know why" to "we've always wanted to adopt...let's start the process now!" Then came two failed adoptions, falling in love with precious foster kids and grieving the loss of them when they leave our home, to our current journey of an incredible open adoption of a precious baby boy that we love so much it literally hurts. And the reason it hurts is because we are still surrounded by the black cloud of uncertainty regarding our future with him, which completely contradicts how perfect the situation seems apart from that black cloud. Samuel is absolutely thriving here, we have an open adoption with his birthmom and her family that I honestly believe sets the bar for what I'd call an ideal open adoption situation. Yet, each day that passes...Steve and I still can't bring ourselves to even call Samuel our son (like we'd jinx it or something?) and my heart aches at the possibility that he may not remain in our home for the long haul. Don't get me wrong, I know that every single day is a blessing with him and we are soaking up every second.  But we want so badly to plan for the future as a family, and yet my heart is so afraid to do that, because we've seen only disappointment so far.  My heart is so full of happiness for friends who have been blessed with kids, whether biological, through adoption, or fostering which has resulted in adoption...yet, I long so much for our turn.  If I'm completely honest, it makes me question a lot of things...does God really love me? Am I really meant to be a mommy?  Anyone that sees Steve and me with these kids that have been in our home would see just how much we love being parents...it feels so right, Steve is seriously the BEST daddy ever, and being a mother is a desire I've had in my heart since I was a little girl. Yet, with the fact that none of them have "stuck" so far...it's so difficult not to question it.  Just like if enough people tell you you're ugly, you can't help but start to believe it, ya know?  My heart goes from excitement over the impact our story has on people, to anticipation of an amazing miracle God can do through Samuel's case (and celebration over miracles He's already done!), to despair when I think about how much I love this little boy and how much it hurts to think that there's a possibility we'll lose him if God doesn't choose to answer our prayers the way we're hoping, to stupid jealousy of others' happy endings (ick), then guilt because of the jealousy, loneliness because this is not something others can or should be expected to understand, and so many more emotions. It's such a roller coaster. And I know I need to be so grateful for every moment...but I am also so afraid because every moment that passes could be a moment closer to my heart being ripped out. It's so awful to say, but my prayers are mixed with "God, I know you can do this miracle...please show yourself mighty!" and "God, if you are going to take him away from us, please stop dragging this out because every day we love him even more and I can't imagine losing him...just get it over with so we can grieve and move on."  I really don't mean that in a "giving up" sort of way (we have made it pretty clear that as long as God blesses us with Samuel in our home, we're going to fight for him...and have been blessed with many supporters--both prayerfully and financially--so that we can continue to do so), but as a "please, Lord, spare my heart from having to go through this hurt again."  I feel like I'm begging God to move quickly because I just don't know how much more I can take of the uncertainty. My heart may literally explode, or shut down, or something. Seriously. So there you have it. Raw, unedited (not necessarily pretty, I realize) truth to how I am coping (or, at times, not coping...haha!). We so appreciate your continued prayers, encouragement, and just the fact that you're willing to walk this crazy journey with us. I am pretty sure I'd be a puddle on the floor if we didn't have such great support. Next attempt at a court hearing...June 19th. Praying for miracles and God's protection over this amazing little boy. The roller coaster continues...


Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's About That Time...Adoption Fundraiser Time!!!

When we began this adoption process, we set aside funds for the adoption fee as well as home study fees, attorney fees, etc. Unfortunately, this has turned into a larger legal battle than we’d planned for, so we are in need of some additional funds.  We truly believe God is fighting this battle for us, and as long as He continues to provide the resources (which He certainly has to this point), we will fight for this precious boy.  We certainly don’t view these ongoing legal fees as a problem, but they are now definitely a matter that needs to be addressed. The amount of funds needed might be a BIG amount, but so is our God. And He is also the protector of the weak, which we’re believing for in Samuel’s case. And when He calls you to adopt, He also provides you with the resources to do so. We don’t believe He’s called us this far just to give up.

So here we are, needing to raise some money.
And we’re super excited about how we’re going to do it!
Here’s how it works:

§  We have four puzzles, 285 pieces each (for a total of 1,140 pieces), custom made with the designs from the t-shirt contest and/or pictures of this precious baby boy.

§  For $10, a person/family purchases 1 piece of the jigsaw puzzle.
§  You can purchase as many puzzle pieces as you wish!
$10 = 1 piece
$50 = 5 pieces
$100 = 10 pieces
§  We will write the name of the person/family on the back of the piece(s) purchased.
§  As the puzzle pieces are purchased, we will take pictures to show the progress (how’s that for alliteration? Haha!).
§  When all the pieces have been purchased we will frame the puzzles to display in our home as a reminder of the support and love shown to us during the adoption process.
§  We’ll frame each completed puzzle in a two-sided frame to show not only the beautiful designs and pictures, but also the names of each and every person who played a role in this journey.
§  100% of the funds donated will go directly to adoption fees.

We are crazy about the idea and meaning behind this fundraiser, though we can’t take credit for the idea, as we found it on Pinterest (from this blog). We absolutely LOVE the idea of Samuel growing up looking at the puzzle-art on his wall that was designed with love by people wanting to support his cause...and then flipping it over to show him a tangible reminder of just how many people were helping to fight this battle to keep him home and safe with us. Oh man, it’s just so cool to think about, isn't it?

Soooooooo...If you and/or anyone you know would be interested in taking part in this adventure, we’ve set up a P.O. Box so that checks can be sent directly and there will be no privacy issues (just because of a safety-issue involved in our particular case). And, that way, we can all share this fundraiser with anyone willing to listen!

Checks can be sent directly to:
Steve and Liesl Irwin
P.O. Box 861211
Shawnee, KS 66286-1211 
** Update: We have moved as of January 2014, so this address is no longer valid; however, our legal battle continues. If you feel led to participate in this fundraiser, please comment with your email address and I'll be happy to send you our address! Or, you can also use paypal (info is below). Thanks so much!

**Update: If you prefer to use PayPal, our email address for that is liesllynn (at) yahoo (dot) com.

Please know that all money raised will go directly into our adoption fund to be used for our ongoing legal expenses involved in Samuel’s case. Also, I have to mention as I have before that we don’t know how this case will turn out. We do pray for complete victory and that we’ll have the privilege of raising Samuel as our son, as his brave and amazing birthmom chose us to do. But without this fundraising, we wouldn’t even be able to continue to fight this legal battle for that chance, so we are beyond grateful for you all. And we sure appreciate your continued prayers...more than you even know.
“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:19

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Been Awhile...ok, a Looooong while...

Boy, has our life been a roller coaster. Not that that's anything new...life's been an adventure since we've been married (maybe I should have been more careful when I told Steve after our first date "I can't wait 'til our next adventure"). Haha.  This roller coaster has been an emotional one, but not one that I'd take with anyone else but my love, Steve. He is truly my God-given gift, and my rock here on earth.

Back when we had our last failed adoption, I dragged my feet in getting our Home Study update done (call it my 31-year-old version of a toddler tantrum). I was frustrated with God, and afraid to hope again. But as much as I begged God to give us peace about closing the door to adoption (crazy how closing the door to a dream of parenthood sounded much easier than hoping and being disappointed again, huh? But it did)...God never gave us the peace to give up. So we contacted our social worker to come and do our "update" interview. That day, our life changed as well. We were called with a foster care placement of a 10-day-old baby boy. One that would change our world for the better, and one that would stay with us for almost 10 glorious months. Dillon changed our lives, and we've been so blessed to be welcomed as family by his birth family...we still are close to them and look forward to maintaining that wonderful relationship and watching precious Dillon grow up!  The day he went home to his birthdad was a bittersweet day for us, but literally as we were walking out the door of their house (praising God that it was not a "forever" goodbye!), we got a call for another foster placement. This time, a one-week-old baby girl, baby "E." Oh, how we loved her as well, and we were blessed to have her in our home for almost 2 months before she was moved to another foster home in Missouri where her siblings were staying. I won't lie and say I don't want to keep every single kiddo that comes into our home, but we praise God for the opportunity to love these kids while we have the chance and pray for our family to be expanded with "forever kiddos" one day soon.  Which leads to the next adventure.

The week after Dillon went home to his Daddy and Grandparents, we got a call from Crisis Pregnancy Outreach. We'd been chosen again by a birthmom, and she wanted to "interview" us via Skype that day.  August 29, 2012, will be a day that I will remember forever. I'd scheduled a facial that morning, and got the call when I was on my way out there. I called Steve to give him a brief rundown before my appointment, and then thought about this incredible news throughout my entire one-hour facial. It was surreal.  I got home and the rest of the day was a blur. We had another phone conference (for something else) immediately before our Skype call with this birthmother, and the events of that day just FLEW by.  When we began our Skype call with "H," it was as if I was talking to a dear friend...I felt like we hit it off that quickly (at least that's how it was on our side...I can't speak for "H," haha!).  She is one of the most fabulous women I have known, and what I'd always hoped for in a birthmother for an open adoption. We pursued open adoption for a reason, to build a relationship with the birth families of our precious babies, and the fact that "H" feels like my sister could not be any more special and perfect.

A couple weeks later, September 11, I went down to Tulsa (with 3 1/2 week old baby "E" in tow) to meet "H" in person for the first time. Again, it was like I was meeting a dear friend. I got to go to a Dr. Appt. with her and then we had a coffee date...I seriously did not want our time to end. She gave me ultrasound pictures to take home with me, pictures of the most handsome baby boy I'd ever seen in utero. Can't even describe what a blessing she's been to us since the first time we talked.  We headed to Tulsa on October 7th, in preparation for the arrival of this precious baby boy.  Our day on Monday, October 8th, was one I'll never forget. We spent the entire day at the hospital with "H's" family, who are now our family. Her sister and her two adorable kiddos, her Mom and Stepdad, her Dad, and her best friend. They welcomed us with open arms and our relationship with them has been a dream come true ever since that day. At 5:25pm, Samuel Steven entered the world and was welcomed into a wonderful, huge, blended, loving family. He was 6 lbs, 19.5 inches long, and pure perfection. Even more awesome, he was born on our 7th wedding anniversary! I love how God puts His stamp on things.

Unfortunately, as has been the case with our entire journey to parenthood, the road became bumpy. Samuel's birthfather has contested the adoption and we are currently in a legal battle to keep this precious baby.  I cannot post details about the case (including why we are so adamant about keeping Samuel safe and in our home and out of a violent situation which brought about the adoption plan to begin with), but we are currently praying for God to work in a mighty way and that we'll have the privilege of raising this precious boy! Every day with him so far has been a blessing, and we fall more in love with him each day!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

You're Already Amazing - {Book Review}

It’s been quite awhile since our failed adoption in October, and I’ve been at such a crossroads regarding things to say here in the blog world.  Several months of discouragement, and wonderfulness, and frustration, and encouragement, and above all else, being drawn closer to God and continually refined in the process, have left my mind swirling, but not quite organized enough to relay things on the blog…yet.  However, in the meantime, I’ve been given the opportunity by the fabulous folks at Revell Publishing and (in)courage, to review Holley Gerth’s new book, 
You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be.  

Image courtesy of dayspring.com

Pretty timely, huh?

This book is exactly what the author envisions it to be:  a heart-to-heart message from a trusted friend.  Her writing is God-inspired, truthful, and best of all, so encouraging!  Holley not only offers great truths from the Bible about who God has created us to be, but also (my favorite) gives practical ways to seek Him in discovering who exactly that is.  It’s an interactive book that you can write all over as you discover these truths.  It’s no “self-help” book--which is awesome...it’s a “dig deep and really discover who God created, loves, and wants to use for His kingdom” book.  Helping us to discover what our God-given strengths are, and what skills can be utilized with those strengths.  God wants to use us, and He's the One who gave us these strengths and skills!  I love Holley's example on page 32:

“While strengths stay consistent throughout our lives, the skills that display them vary depending on the season we’re in and the specific assignment God has given us…while what we do may change, the reason we do it stays the same. ‘Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God’ (1 Corinthians 10:31).” 

What an awesome challenge and encouraging motivation at the same time!  We can use things for which God has given us desires and ability (in other words, things we actually enjoy and are good at!), in order to further His kingdom and bring Him glory.

If you’re wanting to discover your God-given purposes in this life, you definitely want to check out Holley’s book. She gets right into the meat of things, making the bold claim that “you’re already amazing” (on the back cover, she hits it straight on, saying we don’t have to do more, be more, have more). But she’s also realistic in understanding that we’re probably not going to just take that bold statement and run with it. We’re women. We don’t always feel amazing, so we’ll question it. And through Holley’s book, God speaks to all of those questions, insecurities, and doubts.  Then takes it further by pushing the reader to discover where we go from here, walking in God’s truth the whole way.  Not intended to be a fluffy “feel-good” narcissistic idea, but truly grasping what it means to be created and loved by our incredible God. Love it.

This will definitely be a book that I recommend and pass on to friends…it’s a great read and will both challenge and encourage you.  And even better, DaySpring offers a line of fun goodies that match in their Heart-to-Heart-with-Holley collection


You can also get in on the newest Bloom book club discussion beginning next week on March 26th, as they are reading this very book!  I’ll definitely be participating in that. You should join me!

Pssssst . . . . I was given this product free to review, and all opinions stated in this here blog are my own J


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Blessed and Loved...

 

Blessed and Loved.  Who doesn't like those feelings?  I think we're happiest when we remember and acknowledge just how blessed we are, and also when we feel loved by those around us.  I was honored to receive this Blessed and Loved collection from the fabulous folks at DaySpring to review here on my blog (and I figured it's about time I hop back on this blog-wagon).

This set is absolutely gorgeous and would make such a great gift!  It even comes with a gift wrap bag that includes tissue!  Could it be easier than that?!  I am "gift-wrapping-challenged" so this is perfect.

Image courtesy of dayspring.com

Image courtesy of dayspring.com

For your friends that might enjoy a little daily pick-me-up, there is a wonderful perpetual calendar. I've always been a fan of calendars (I get it from my sweet Grandma Marilyn), and the simple, modern colors and pattern on this one make it quite lovely.  Each day holds an inspirational quote or scripture, and it is now a part of my morning routine to flip the page and read the day's nugget of encouragement.










Image courtesy of dayspring.com
Of course, while enjoying that encouragement, I am sipping coffee or tea from this adorable 8 oz. mug!  It's so petite and cute, and even comes with its own cover which can be used as a coaster.  I feel so dainty when using this beautiful mug.














Image courtesy of dayspring.com


As much as I love the other pieces of this collection, my favorite piece has to be the journal.  Each lined page contains a scripture verse (LOVE this!). This would make such a great prayer journal.  Don't you love going back through prayer journals and seeing how God has answered prayers (sometimes even after we've long forgotten about them?).












Quick, go check out some of the other reviews on the inspired deals page.  This is such a fun way to learn about new dayspring products while seeing them in action!  This month featured four different collections, all of which would make great gifts for your loved ones!  And when they each include matching gift wrap...the work is all done for us!


Pssssst . . . . DaySpring gave me this product free to review, and all opinions stated in this here blog are my own J