Monday, April 6, 2015

Resurrection Celebrations - Holy Week for Preschoolers

I hope you all had a wonderful Holy Week. I really enjoyed exploring it with Matthew this year because I feel like some things are starting to click.

We went over to his best friend's house last week to do some Easter learning together.

We started with the book "Hoppy Easter." In it, the characters have an Easter Egg hunt but for every egg they find, they name a way God demonstrates His love. So the kids found eggs (12), and then named 12 ways God shows love. The kids, on their own, named Jesus coming to earth, love, and Christ breaking His body and spilling His blood for us as some of the reasons.

Then we used the number 12 to segue into 12 Disciples and that one way that Christ showed love to them was to wash their feet. We read about the foot washing at the Last Supper. The kids then took turns washing each other's feet.

Then we went from the feet washing to the Last Supper. We used this book for the foot washing and the Last Supper. We read about the Last Supper and then we had our own supper, and broke bread and drank "wine" (sparkling cider).

Then we read about the Crucifixion from this book and we prayed together.

We ended the afternoon by making Resurrection Rolls. The marshmallow represented Christ's body. We "anointed" it with oil (butter), perfumed it with spices (cinnamon and sugar) and put it in the tomb (oven) to come back and check on later, just as Jesus friend's came to check on Him later. When the rolls came out of the oven, "Jesus" was gone and all that was left was the "cloth," just like the tomb was empty!

Then I read the whole Easter story from Supper to Resurrection from the Bible. I used some scripture from the "real" Bible, and then I read the whole story from a children's Bible. We go back and forth on our favorite. For Easter, we liked the Jesus Calling Storybook Bible and the Jesus Storybook Bible the best.

It was a fun, fun day, and I pray that at least some of it penetrated their little hearts.

The next day was Good Friday service at church.

On Saturday, we repeated the egg hunt and Resurrection Rolls so DH could participate, we dyed Easter eggs and talked about new creations, and we had a family viewing of "What's In the Bible: Jesus is the Good News." If you go here, you can order the DVD for $1, and they'll also send you a link to stream it online while you wait for the DVD to arrive. We were very impressed with this video. There was enough that Matthew could understand now, but still tons of content that he can continue to digest for the next few years. When budget allows, I'd be interested in the series.

Yesterday was Resurrection Celebration at church. We have been visiting a new church recently because my DH thinks that another church would be a better fit for our family. This has been a rough transition for me and I missed "my" church family for Easter, but the service at the new church was beautiful and our close friends have been attending this church with us and another friend joined us so that was nice. The Pastor gave one of the best Easter messages I've heard. They were doing Baptisms and we wanted Matthew to witness them so we kept him in service with us. All through the service, he kept (loudly) answering the Pastor's rhetorical questions. I was amazed that his attention was so captivated.

We ended last night with dinner with Todd's grandparents. We're going to do some more reading today and coloring of Easter coloring pages. I don't want to just stop everything Easter now that the day is technically over. Our whole lives should be a celebration of Easter!

How did you celebrate Holy Week?

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Adoption Fundraising

Hi All!

I feel like I fell off the face of the blogging planet. But, I have a good reason

Right after we made the decision to pursue an adoption, we decided to hold a fundraiser Garage Sale. I dove head first into it and am just coming out the other end.

For about 6 weeks, I purged and organized our belongings here, solicited donations from friends and family, picked up "curb alerts" and free things on Craigslist, networked on Swip Swap Groups on Facebook, and then sorted, washed, cleaned, repaired, organized and priced everything that we took in. I ordered Square Credit Card readers, we got change, we bought bottled water to sell...every detail you can think of, we tried to cover.

I enlisted volunteers.

One friend made a digital art file for us to use for signs.

A printer I have worked with for many years printed them for us for free on large poster board.

Our neighbors on either side gave us the use of their yards. Friends and our church donated the use of tables. Other friends loaned us their shade tents. Another baked cupcakes to sell.  Others volunteered to watch Matthew. Still close to a dozen more came and helped us in the days leading up to and including the days of the sale.

It. Was. Exhausting. Stuff filled my garage, my guest room, our family room, our entry way, and our kitchen table. The last donations were left in our driveway because there was no more room inside. Our sale was scheduled for Friday and Saturday. On Wednesday, it rained! We'd had record heat and then 2 days before the sale, it rained! It was just a reminder that every single step of this process is in God's hands, not our own plans. We covered what we could and lost very little to water damage, but we were a day behind on sorting.

Thursday, we worked all day. Friends of friends, who I'd never even met, came to help sort and price things. We worked until midnight when I thought I couldn't move any more. We started again at 6:00 and not long after, the people started rolling in.  I wish I had taken more photos to document this amazing event.

All throughout both days, we got to talk about adoption, spread awareness about the need, explain why things cost so much, and share in Whose name we are adopting and Who provided this great abundance for us. Throughout both days, people would show up with things to donate. Some were shoppers who went back home and got stuff. A few people were on their way to the Goodwill that is just around the corner and saw our signs and brought us their stuff instead. A few were neighbors we hadn't met. A few were called by friends who had shopped the sale and encouraged to come over.

I even sold my lunch. I had made a big crock pot of barbequed chicken for our volunteers to have sandwiches for lunch. Several of our Friday customers were repair men and jobsite workers on their lunch breaks. They noticed our sandwiches. So for $1, I gave them a big sandwich and a handful of chips. My brother had brought donuts for our volunteers. People bought those too. If it wasn't nailed down, I considered selling it!

The sale was supposed to end at 2:00pm. It was record heat. It was a Friday. And still people came until it got dark, after 6:00pm. Then we went 7:00am til 2:00pm the next day.

In the end, we raised.....


We were exhausted and overwhelmed.

Meanwhile, when a friend of my mom heard what we were doing, she decided to host a Garage Sale for us too in their town, which is about 2 hours from here. So she and my mom did the same thing--running around town collecting donations, organizing things, borrowing tents and tables, pricing things, etc. She gave up her garage for weeks and her driveway for two even hotter days. These pictures were taken at the beginning of the second day.

We got to tell more stories, talk more about our great God, and we raised another


That was last weekend. We came home Sunday night. I've been trying to recover the mess ever since. We're slowly but surely returning the tables, tents, and clothing racks we were loaned. We've been sending loads of cardboard with the recycle truck. I'm working my way through a long list of thank you cards. We were blessed mightily. (If you want to have a Garage Sale Fundraiser and are interested in my tips, let me know!)

In the meantime, I've also started a business. I've become an Independent Consultant for Mary & Martha, the Direct Sales arm of Dayspring. There are less than 10 consultants in all of Metro Phoenix. Dayspring stuff already decorated half of my house before I knew Mary & Martha existed. Mary & Martha exists to encourage people to practice hospitality and service in their homes and in their relationships. Our products are designed to make it easy for you to feel comfortable inviting people over, and to also serve as visible reminders to focus our thoughts on things of eternity. It's really important to Todd and I that I stay home with Matthew. I also try to work on our business at least 10-20 hours or so every week. So there weren't a lot of hours left in the day for me to take on another job. But this allowed me to be flexible with my schedule and meeting Todd and Matthew's needs, while still hopefully being able to spend 3-4 evenings or weekends a month to bring in some extra money for the adoption. Plus, it's a company I am enthusiastic about working for and because there are so few consultants in Arizona, I feel like there is some growth potential here. We felt like this was one of God's answers to how to bring in more income. I've had two gatherings so far, and have 3 more scheduled this week.

I can do online and/or catalog Gatherings by the way, if you'd like to host one. Just email me!  And if you're fundraising for your own adoption, please let me know and I'd love to do a fundraiser for you! That's one thing I love about Mary & Martha--if I want to do that, I can!

The Garage Sales, some consigning I've done with kid stuff, money we've saved out of our own budget, extra income we've been able to make, and gifts we've received including our Adopt Together donations put us at about $10,000. A couple of months ago, $25,000 felt insurmountable. It still feels big, but not impossible. I'm not sure yet what else we can do to bring in more money, but we're trying!

Anyway, all of that has taken up any time I would have had to blog. We are excited, humbled, blessed, overwhelmed, and exhausted.

We haven't submitted our paperwork for the homestudy yet because with our agency you can't go into the matchbook until you have the $25000. Since homestudies expire, we don't want to lose any time on the front end while we're still saving up money. So there's no movement on that end yet. We're praying that it's soon. We know God will provide in His timing and in His way.

Easter is such a powerful time for me. It's my favorite time of the church calendar. I've been thinking about adoption and Easter together. One of the things that bothers me a lot about the adoption conversation is that adoption is treated as an "alternative" for people who have fertility problems and can't have their "own" kids. Adoption is not a fertility treatment. Adoption is a charge and a privilege on the church and it allows us to carry out in flesh and blood the example God practiced first.
We are NOT God's "Plan B" because what He really wanted didn't work out. We were His first choice because He loves us! And He demonstrated that love to us by sending His son, (His "real" son if you want to use bad adoption language) to purchase us with His blood! What a precious, precious gift!!

Happy Easter, everyone! He is Risen!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The family of God

11 years ago, we joined a little church. We've made most of our closest friends through that little church.

A couple of years after we joined, a woman started a small group for the young married ladies.  She and I formed a one-on-one relationship. Through some intentional ministry and prayer on her husband's part, he and Todd formed a one on one relationship, too.

Her husband died about a year later. A couple of years after his death, his widow mentored me through my first miscarriage with the wisdom she learned in her own grief. We bonded in our grief and became close friends.  Out of this friendship came the opportunity to help her with details for the wedding of her son and his high school sweetheart, who had just graduated college. I didn't really know bride and groom, because they were much younger than I was and had lived away at school for most of the time we'd been at the church, but was happy to help my friend.

Around the same time, we became close with Mike and his family. Mike became Todd's best friend, and to me, the older brother I never had.   Mike died several years later.

Mike's wife remarried. She married the dad of the highschool sweetheart my mentor's son had married.

Those highschool sweethearts are now among our closest friends, and they are the parents of Matthew's best friend in the entire world. He says he will marry her one day, and that would be a-ok with me.
I love this intricately woven family of believers and how these relationships encourage us in Christ while also offering sweet memories of our past, and the hope we all have of reunion in Christ. I love that because of all the different inter-weavings of relationships, our kids get to be a part of each other's bigger story, bigger family, and we get to enjoy that too. The family of God is amazing.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Glorious Unfolding

Hi friends,

Thanks so much for continuing to read with me. It's currently February 4, and I am going to try to write down the events of the last few months. I don't know how long this will take because at this moment I don't know how long this post will be. Bear with me, it might be lengthy. Edited to add: Epic is a better description of the length of this. It took me a week to be able to write it.

As you all know, our last Frozen Embryo Transfer was scheduled for the end of November. My beta draw was supposed to be on December 1. Because I'm terrible at waiting, I had stocked up on Dollar Tree Pregnancy Tests and started testing about 4 days after my 5 day transfer. I tested morning and evening every day thereafter until November 30. All of the tests said negative. My friends at church asked me if I knew anything and I told them that I was sure it was negative.

On December 1, I was out of tests and I knew that finality was coming. I went and had my blood drawn and cried through the entire test. I remember crying, thinking, "my family's entire future is now in that stupid little vial of blood." I knew once the number came back, there was no room for hope anymore.  I remember crying and praying in the car that I was still going to trust and believe, even when He said no. And as much as I could, I meant it and believed it. I had been through loss so very many times before that I knew that I could say that earnestly.

That day, not knowing it was the day of my test, a friend called and told me she was treating me to a special event I had wanted to attend so that we could enjoy a girl's day together. Later that day, another friend spontaneously dropped off  a tub of my favorite cookies and a gift card to buy dinner since I had just broken my hand. My best friend texted me sweet encouragement.  I remember thinking that God was just buffering me and helping me feel good and loved before He broke my heart.

I waited the rest of the day but the doctor didn't call. We were out that night for a family date night so I picked up another pregnancy test, made by a different brand. We got home and I took it, and the test looked positive. I remember looking at it and telling myself that I must be seeing things or reading the test wrong. I made an excuse to go back to the store, and I bought the idiot-proof kind with the words. When it came up with "PREGNANT," I was speechless. I wish I could describe the feeling I had when I saw that test. I think it is probably the closest I'll ever come to the feeling "normal" women get in surprise spontaneous pregnancies. It was a wonderful gift.

I told Todd and he too was speechless. I've always been a little disappointed that building a family this way means that I don't get to make "surprise" announcements and do cute little things. Because this news was so unexpected, I actually did get to do that with Todd and it was really precious. His reaction is one I will cherish forever. We called our parents and I called my best friend. I told her the story of the gifts I'd received that day and I said, "I just have never felt love like this--all these nice things, AND a baby?' My best friend, in her wisdom, said, "Jen, even if you hadn't gotten pregnant or if something happens to this baby, you know God still loves you, right?" I said that of course I did, and I believed it. We wrapped up our call and I invited my other best girlfriend to come over and I got to do a "surprise" with her too, and again, it was a special sweet moment.

The next day, I called my Pastor at church. Aside from Todd, our parents, and my best friends, his reaction was the biggest and most enthusiastic. The memory of that phone call and the love I could feel for our baby in that moment is something I will remember forever. We called other friends and relatives we wanted to tell directly and enjoyed the day celebrating.

The doctor called later that day and confirmed that the beta did say I was pregnant. He said he number was low, but that all numbers had to start somewhere. He wanted me to repeat the test the next day.

I repeated the test on Wednesday. On Thursday he called, and he said that my beta was relatively unchanged, and had actually gone down 2, from 29 to 27. He said that I would miscarry that weekend. He told me to stop taking my medicine. I asked if I could repeat the test one more time and keep taking my meds until then and he agreed. Nothing happened Thursday, Friday, or Saturday. My symptoms were increasing and like my other two pregnancies, NVP started early.

On Sunday, I started spotting and cramping a bit and then bleeding more heavily and I thought this was the end. We cried and grieved. We told our families that we were in the process of miscarriage. I arranged for Matthew to go to my in-law's house the next day so I could finish the miscarriage in peace. But the next day, it had all stopped.

On Monday, I felt more nauseated and more pregnant, so I called my OB here in town. My OB is profoundly pro-life, while my RE is not. I knew that my OB wouldn't throw in the towel one second earlier than he should. They were able to fit me in but said it was too early for an ultrasound. They drew more blood.

On Tuesday, they called and said my number was exactly the correct number of times multiplied as it should be from the previous Wednesday. She said my progesterone was a little low, but that there was still reason to hope. Tuesday night, we celebrated all over again. We went to dinner, we had "un-miscarriage cake" and we marveled that God was not bound by numbers.

On Wednesday, I was at a doctor's office with my son and started spotting. I proceeded to spot the rest of the week. I called my OB who said there was nothing we could adjust or change, we just had to wait.

Saturday morning, very early in the morning, I woke up with contractions. My miscarriage before Matthew was bloody and emotionally traumatic, but I don't remember it being painful. This miscarriage was a completely different story. It was painful and difficult and a lot like labor, except for the pushing.

Thankfully, everything physical ended within a few days and I did not need medication or surgery. I did take comfort in that.

That's when his most recent crazy train started. Suddenly, I found myself questioning a lot. God had taught me to hope again when I had lost all of that. He had given me a pregnancy, and then I was told the baby was dying, and then it wasn't dying, and then it died again. I felt like I had been jerked around by a capricious master who was testing me. Dear readers, I wasn't. Even now I have to remind MYSELF that I wasn't and that these feelings lied to me.

I don't have any more answers than I did on December 14 about why all of this happened or what God is going to do with it, or why He allowed more pain.

I became numb. I wasn't angry or bitter.  I was confused and and reclusive. I didn't talk about it. I was fine as long as I left the lid on that box. I felt like my soul was disconnected from the rest of me. I could repeat a creed of belief, but I could not access a part of me that felt belief. I couldn't make it through a church service without crying because I felt like a hypocrite, listening to words and singing songs that I didn't comprehend.

I was at church on December 24 because I set up our Christmas Eve service every year. My Pastor came and found me and asked if we could talk. He just listened as I poured out my broken heart. He encouraged me with the truth of God's character, but didn't chastise my feelings or attempt to correct me.

I sort of fumbled through the end of the year. As I mentioned, I was fine as long as I wasn't thinking about it.

My grief took me through a lot of questions, doubt, and anger. I would silently lecture myself about my feelings and stuff them back in.  My best friend continued to gently reach out to me. My pastor reached out to me some more.

And then one night, it just all came out. I said everything I had been thinking and feeling out loud. I confessed my fear and my pain, and my mistrust, and my doubt. I think I cried until 3:00 in the morning.

And then the healing began. People had encouraged me that God was "big enough" to handle my feelings but I didn't really behave that way. Because I was ashamed of what I was feeling, I didn't want to confess my feelings. It's not in my personality to rail at God--not because I'm so spiritual, but because it's just not something I've felt right in doing. But in sharing, I became unburdened. He means what He says when He tells us to cast all our cares upon Him, and that His burden is easy.

There were some hard, tangible steps He took me through. I got rid of all of my maternity clothing. That was hard. But he allowed me to have a sweet friend who is newly pregnant that I could share them with so I got to be a blessing, instead of just a Goodwill donor. I got rid of all of my clothes I had stored in a hope chest in case I ever had a daughter. That was hard too, but I know that my good friend's daughter will one day wear some of those things. I have all of my snowflake clothes divided up and waiting to go out in the mail to other snowflake mommies. As difficult as it was to do those things, they facilitated an uprooting in my heart of some past pains and old dreams and helped me let go of some of *my* plans for our life.

My birthday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, my mom and brother's birthday. New Year's Day, and Matthew's birthday all also came and went in this time, and the time of fellowship and celebration with friends and family facilitated much healing, too.

I won't sugar coat anything. This still hurts like hell. I miss my babies. And I always will. But I choose to believe that God's will is best, even though I don't understand it. I choose to believe that because I trust the God whose Hand created me and all of my children, and which guides me still, and holds me in my pain. But life lost is not something to be gotten over, it is something that becomes a piece in the puzzle of our lives. As life goes on, God's picture gets larger, and more pieces are added. We learn to appreciate the beauty of the new picture. While I will always miss my children, I hold sacred the opportunity we had to deliver each and every one of them out of frozen limbo and into the arms of Jesus.

In the meantime, God has been reminding us of the dreams He gave us a long time ago of pursuing traditional adoption. We had always thought our family would be built through both. We went through Embryo Adoption first because biology has a shelf-life, but we always thought that when that season of our lives was over, we would move to traditional adoption. We've planned to adopt since we were in college. As our story has been filled with pain, we shied away from daring to take that next step, for fear of more pain. But God kept it at the forefront of our minds.

We believe that He is calling us to traditional adoption now.  So, earlier this month, we officially submitted the paperwork to begin that process. We have to have our homestudy updated, and then we can begin the match process. In the meantime, we're fundraising. Traditional adoption, as many of you know, is around $25,000. We are busy working for the big local consignment sale, and 2 big giant garage sales. People have been donating things we can sell. I am also starting a small business (more later!) to help earn some extra money.

Lastly, we set up a fundraising profile page. We're using a site called, which came highly recommended from several people have used them. It's like kickstarter, but for adoptions only. If you're interested in looking, our profile is here.  We chose them because they don't have an "all or nothing" aspect like the other crowdfunding sites do. Donations to it are tax deductible. We thought the added accountability might be of comfort to some people who considered donating, and we like that people can donate anonymously if they want to.

We've started to talk to Matthew about it and he is excited. It's giving us things to talk about in his adoption, too, because there are distinct differences, like the fact that new baby won't grow in my tummy but he did but they both had first mommies and daddies who loved them. So it's creating some good opportunities to get him to ask questions about his story.

We're pursuing a Domestic Infant Adoption. We sort of see a boy, but who knows what God will bring our way. We'd appreciate your prayers for the birth mom who will find herself in a position where she feels the best decision for her child would be to place it with another family. My heart is so tender for any woman who finds herself in that position. We'd appreciate your prayers for us, too!

So phew! A lot has happened, but God has been constant through it. I feel like "Glorious Unfolding" is our theme song.

In the meantime, Matthew has turned 4. I can't believe I have a 4 year old! He had a wonderful birthday. We're still dealing with some side effects of Kawasaki Disease and have to watch one issue with his heart, but it's all still in the realm of normal and the doctor said it's not time to be concerned yet.

Well, when it was essay-writing time in school, I always struggled with the conclusion. I'd say everything I had to say, and then I didn't know what else to say. It's no different now, so I guess I'll just say, thanks for reading all of this! Have a great week!

And, here's a bit of cuteness:

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Giveaway-Clothes for Parents of Snowflake Girls

Many years ago when our EA journey was just beginning, a lovely woman sent me a package full of clothes covered in snowflakes. To this day, it was one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.

Those clothes have sat in a hope chest all these years, waiting for a little girl to wear them.  I guess it just won't be my snowflake who wears them.

I have a whole box of things she sent and things I later added myself.

If you have a snowflake girl age 2 or under, please post the size she is in or will be in for winter clothes. If she'll still be under age 2 next winter, feel free to post that size.  If I have anything that matches up, I'll be glad to send things. I will email you for your address.

Let me know! I really want these things to go to another snowflake so please only post if your daughter is a snowflake :

ETA: I should have said if your daughter wears a size 24 months or smaller. It's fine if she's older than 2, but the largest size clothing I have is 24 months.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Hi Friends

Hi Friends,
I'm still here. My blog says that 75 people checked this blog today...why, I don't know. But it touches me to know you are all still out there and still care.

To be honest, I am struggling. A lot. I want to be authentic here, but I also want to be responsible with my story, my testimony, and my grief, and right now my heart is so dark, that I don't think it would be wise to put that all out there. I'm trying to take a more "Mary pondered these things in her heart" approach to this. Some of it is self-preservation, some of it is not wanting to be a bad example to others in grief, and some of it is sheer lack of ability to put everything into words.

So, I appreciate that you all have continued to check on me. The miscarriage was pretty physically traumatic. I don't know why it was 10 times worse than the one I had before I had Matthew and I was pretty unprepared.  But, it seems to have resolved itself and physically I am all back to normal. I'm grateful that it all occurred on its own and I didn't need drugs or surgery.

Husband is in about the same place I am. Matthew is pretty unaware of what happened. He did ask me recently if he is still a big brother and that broke my heart. He's also asked twice in the last week why we don't have any kids in our house for him. That's been hard to manage. I don't want to explain too much to him and break his heart more than it needs to be broken.

So, here we are. Thank you for your prayers...

Monday, December 15, 2014


I miscarried over the weekend. We've determined that I can't ever go through this again so this is the end of our Embryo Adoption journey. That's all we know now. Thanks for your prayers.