I needed this one thing to happen before I could find love

As I looked around at the thousands of students who filled the huge astro-dome during chapel at Liberty University (a Christian college) where I attended, I sighed loudly as Dr. Jerry Falwell (the Chancellor) exclaimed, once again:

“All you students, look around!  Find your husband or wife here at Liberty!  There are many opportunities to get to know other young people here!  Look around and start dating!  Young men, find your wives here! Young women, find your husbands here!  Take advantage of this time!”

I scowled and looked around.  I was half way through my senior year, and I could feel the pressure mounting to “find my husband.”  Seated next to me were my college besties: all beautiful young women, happily dating, all well on their way to marrying their boyfriends soon after college.  I kept looking around and noticed several good-looking young men that were certainly date-able material, some of whom I knew personally. The only problem was that they were not asking me out.

I looked around some more, and spotted the guy I had my heart set on.  When our eyes met he averted my gaze, which painfully reminded me that he was still not moving past the “let’s hang out all the time and I will take all the same classes as you and be study partners and great friends with you, and come over to your house all the time and study until midnight with our knees touching under the table” phase of our relationship.

“But what if I am not meant to find my husband at college?” I whispered, probably too loudly, to one of my friends. “What if I am supposed to meet him later?”

“I don’t know Heather,” my friend said kindly. “But I know God has someone for you.”

I had asked one version or another of this question since I became teenager, and had been subconsciously asking it for several years now. The question that constantly churned deep down in the pit of my soul, was this:

Will there ever be someone for me?

Before I tell you how my time at college ended and whether or not I “found my husband at Liberty,”  (spoiler alert: I did not), I need to briefly tell you my back story as it relates to dating and men.

And trust me, it will be brief.

Did you know that the way a girl dates a boy ties directly back to the relationship she has with her father?  Yep, it does.  Unfortunately for me, I did not have a very close relationship with my dad and had also been sexually abused by two other men (one a member of my own family) which left me with the following reality:

I struggled with low-level feelings of rejection as it related to men and also distrusted them on many levels (and also had a low-level anger thing going on as well), thus creating “walls” and a “guardedness” with most men I encountered (except for older, fatherly men with kind eyes).  I was also very insecure inside (but hid it skillfully) and was hyper-vigilant about finding a boyfriend. And to top it off, I depended heavily on the approval of others to make me feel good about myself.  

Another negative contributing factor in all of this was that I was (and still am) a natural born tom-boy with a low voice (think Lauren Becall) and I have a very blunt, direct personality (that has tamed a bit since I’ve matured).  I am also very tall.

So between my internal issues of rejection/walls combined with my lovely external masculine vibe, I didn’t get asked out very much, either in high school or all through college.

Many of my girlfriends would encourage me with the following: “Heather, you’re very pretty and you have a really cool personality, but all the guys are intimidated by you! And they’re shorter than you, too.”

So that’s what I told myself through high school when I never had a flower delivered to my desk when they were passing out carnations for various holidays (like Valentine’s Day) or school fundraisers. That’s what I told myself when my date for the prom rejected me two days before the actual prom and lied and said he couldn’t attend, but then I saw him later that night with a group of friends, driving around.  That’s what I told myself and all the way up through my senior year in college as one by one, my friends all met their husbands and began planning out the rest of their lives. That’s the reason, I reassured myself, that the guy I was majorly crushing my senior year was keeping me squarely in the friend zone.

“He’s intimidated by me.  I’m too much of a woman for him,” I justified to myself many times.

But underneath the whole “will there ever be anyone for me” question was a much deeper query the sat like a hot potato on top of that one.  The question was this:

What’s wrong with me, that nobody ever chooses me?

That question stayed with me as I moved to the DC area to “start my whole career thing” after college (you can read about it here).  I was waitressing at the time, and for reasons I cannot explain, things started to shift in the atmosphere for me with the opposite sex, in a good way.

Suddenly, it was like a light turned on and all the guys began to notice me.

Many of the men I worked with (fellow waiters) started to crush me, ask me out, or just make innocent comments. One day I noticed two of them chatting and staring at me.  One them said dreamily “everyday!” while looking directly at me.  I asked him what “everyday” meant.  The other one chimed in with a goofy smile and said: “we both agreed that you get more beautiful everyday, Heather.”

Yeeks.  Male customers would even make comments and told me many times that I looked like Madonna or Sharon Stone (or a combination thereof). I found it funny when men would look at me quizzically and say “you look like someone, a movie star, but I can’t place it.”  I would say bluntly (because, remember, I’m blunt):

“I look like a younger combination of Madonna and Sharon Stone.” And they would say excitedly: “Yes!  That’s it!”

Even the men I worked with at GOPAC (as an intern) in DC started to notice me and ask me out. So while something changed and all of the sudden I began to be noticed and yes, even asked out on dates, I was not super excited about the guys who were asking me out. I would often remark to my friends: “Why can’t I meet a good, cute, nice, smart Christian guy who will ask me out?”  They didn’t understand it and neither did I.  The other challenge was that although I must have been changing on the outside because I could see the evidence of it, I was the same insecure girl on the inside who feared rejection and put up walls of distrust around men.

I was in a bind.  What to do?

How do you change a girl from deep within? How do you take a deeply insecure girl who fears rejection and turn her into a confident woman who doesn’t need the approval of anyone to feel good about herself? How do you change a girl who thinks she needs a boyfriend to complete herself or to prove that she is worthy to be loved?

And how does this same girl ever find a good guy?  Someone maybe she can marry?

These were the questions that I took into my mid twenties.  So, I took these questions to the only Person I knew who could actually answer them.  I took them to God.

God began to answer them with His gift of deep inner healing, but like all good things, it was was a process that took some time.

First, God started a healing work in my mind. I listened to a bunch of cassette tapes by Dr. Charles Stanley about rejection.  The basic gist is that many people are rejected as children (think funky family or absent/abusive father/parent) or adults (think divorce, affairs) and it changes them in bad ways. He explained that rejected people have a whole slew of issues that they need to be healed and set free from. Not only that, they have a “rejection vibe” that can negatively impact other people.

I listened with rapt attention to all of his cassette tapes.  It was like he was describing me to a freaking TEE while he lobbed one truth-bomb after another into my brain. The bottom line, he said, is that we need to get our identity (the core of who we are, the core of how we feel about ourselves) NOT from anyone else in this world, but from GOD.  And that we need to truly believe what HE says about us in this written word, the Scriptures.

So what does God have to say about me?  God says I am chosen, dearly loved, bought with a price, his beloved daughter, his creation, I have a purpose, he is with me, he loves me, and my eternity is secure in him.  He will never leave me, never forsake me, and will always love me. He loves me so much he sent his Son to die on the cross to effectively pay for my sin.  And he is in control of all aspects of my life, including whether I meet a man to marry (or not).  Once those truths started to sink in, I began to be more set free in my mind and in my way of thinking.

After my mind began to transform, God promptly set out to heal my heart.

Ironically, it started with a phone conversation with my mother.  I was telling her about an upcoming Christian weekend retreat I was about to go on.  Sadly, because of all of my issues, I often combined my spiritual growth and development with the hope of finding a boyfriend at these events.  As I was musing about the retreat, I wondered aloud to her: “I wonder if I will meet a good guy on this retreat?”

She said the following to me: “Heather, I believe you are too dependent on finding a boyfriend.  You are looking to a boyfriend to make you feel complete, and worthy to be loved.  I think you need deep inner healing.  I will pray that God heals you this weekend.”

Drop the mic.

I was stunned for a moment as her words landed like a missile in my soul.  I said goodbye to her and sat quietly on my bed.

“Fine,” I said with a bit of an attitude (I forgot to mention that I also had a snarky attitude back in those days).  “Fine.  Ok Lord.  If my mom is right, and I need to be healed, then fine, heal me.  Amen.”

I went on the retreat, and to make a long story short, there was a time when the Pastor prayed for healing and for the Lord to do a work among us.  As I sat there singing “Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on me,” the weirdest thing happened.  It was like there was a HUGE tear drop hovering above my head, filled with gallons and gallons of water (from years of supressed hurt and pain) and all the sudden, it was like God took a little pin to it, POPPED it, and it completely burst all over me and spilled into the room.

I started crying, and I couldn’t stop.

I was so embarrassed. 

Now if you know me, you know that I am one strong girl.

I am like Margaret Thatcher strong.  I do not cry and I barely get misty-eyed, especially back in those days.

Well, all of my “I am so strong” b.s. was flushed down the toilet in that moment as I sat slobbering all over the ground. I hastily left the room found an empty stairwell outside and cried my guts out for about 40 minutes.  I cried for my lost relationship with my father.  That experience alone I can only describe as supernatural.  It was like my life was flashing before me as it pertained to my dad, and all of the hurt and disappointment I had suppressed over the years came out in a flood.

I cried for the abuse I’d received at the hands of two men. I cried for all the rejection I had ever felt from men (and women). I cried for never being chosen.

I cried a very, very ugly cry.  It was not attractive.

I was a hot mess.

After I settled down, I got up and went to bed.

The next day, I felt FREE.

All I can say to you, My Dear Reader, is that for whatever reason I was completely healed from all the hurt and pain I had experienced up until that point.

I felt happy, confident, set free, sure of myself, deeply loved by God, and fulfilled.

It was amazing!!  God had answered my prayer (and my mom’s prayer).  I was healed!

Well, pretty much at least.  I have come to learn that if you are born and raised in an environment where you experience ongoing feelings of rejection, it’s pretty hard to get 100% healed.  I still walk with a limp.  But I’m about 95% there.

Back to the story.

I headed into my 25th birthday still very much a single young lady. Sadly, back in those days I thought 25 was old (it’s not) and I began to feel that pressure mounting once again.

So on the night of my birthday I prayed a simple prayer, and here it is, word for word:

“Dear Lord.  Today is my birthday.  I am now 25 years old.  Honestly, Lord…from 0 to 25 has been pretty shitty.  Can you please make it better from here on out. Please, Lord? In Jesus’ name, Amen.”

(Yes, I used a bad word in my prayer. What can I say?  And hindsight is 20/20 and I had a lot of great things happen to me from 0-25, and it wasn’t all that bad, and some parts were very good.  But I was having a hard time turning 25, so that was the prayer I prayed that night.)

Well, for whatever reason unknown to mankind, God decided to say a resounding YES to that simple, eloquent prayer. Because not three weeks later I was talking to a girlfriend who told me that she had a GREAT guy she thought I should meet.

I asked her to describe him to me and everything she said clicked with the “list” I had developed in my head (and on paper too. Yes, I made a very long list of things I wanted in a husband, which I will briefly talk about later.)  She told me he already had a great job as a statistician, he was super nice, a God-fearing man, deep, and kind.

“What is a statician?” I asked her with confusion, not even knowing how to properly pronounce the title of his job.

“You know…statistics.  He is super smart and has his PhD in statistics.  And He’s cute too!  He has the most beautiful green eyes!”

She asked if I wanted to meet up with him on blind date and I found myself saying yes!

So a few days later this same guy named Erik called me up one night and we talked easily for about an hour.  I noticed right away he was a great conversationalist, was funny, and had a sexy phone voice.  But what I loved most about him was that he seemed to be a completely normal guy.  He asked me out on a date and…drum roll please…we went!

So here we are on our first official (blind) date and I found myself doing the “check list” thing.  You know the check list thing.  Is he polite to the waitress and not oogling her and does he leave her a good tip or is he a cheap bastard (cuz there ain’t no way I’m marrying a guy who isn’t a good tipper as a waitress myself)?

Thank God, Erik passed all of those “checks.”

Here’s another one: does he look directly into my eyes and do the ping pong thing with conversation or does he only talk about himself?  Thank goodness he was a great conversationalist and kept the conversation mostly on me.

And the list went on. And honestly, he was passing “my list test” with flying colors.

About mid way through the meal I began to think that, although he seemed like a great guy, and a solid Christian, and had his stuff together, that he wasn’t my “type.”  And that maybe we could be great friends.  Maybe a best friend, big-brother type of thing.

But then something weird happened.  I asked him an innocent question.  I asked:  “So, do you think you will get married one day?”

And he looked straight at me, straight into my soul actually, with his kind and beautiful green eyes, and said with such conviction and confidence:

“Absolutely.  I’m built for marriage.”

We just stared into each other’s eyes for a moment.  That’s when it happened: a tiny little spark of attraction tingled in my heart and formed a brand new synapse in my brain.

We had a great first date and went out on our second date.  But then while we were driving he said the following to me:

“Heather.  I want to tell you something.  If I ever, ever say anything that hurts your feelings or is rude or unkind, I want you to tell me,  because I want to apologize to you, and I want to make it right with you.  So please always be honest with me.”

I immediately looked out the window and mouthed “Oh My God” silently out the window.

I turned to him accusingly and said: “how did you know to say that?  Have you been listening to Focus on the Family?  Did you read a book about what to say?’

He looked at me strangely.  “Ummmmmm, no.  I don’t listen to James Dobson but I hear he’s great.  And no, I didn’t read a book.  It’s just the way I am.  Because it’s normal and the right way to be.”

So that’s how our relationship started. As I began to get to know Erik, I began to see what an overall great guy he really was.  And he kept saying and doing all the right things.  Things that were very kind, generous, and good.  Things that healed my heart some more and started to renew my confidence in the male species.

IMG_6324
One of our very first dates, and the first photo we ever took together.  Erik took me hiking, of course!

Case in point: I took Erik home to meet my parents for Christmas. He hit it off with everyone and was great with my entire family.  My little brother Joe (who was nine or ten at the time) asked him to please come into the basement with him to play laser tag, and sure enough, 40 minutes later, Erik was still in our unfinished musty basement playing with my little brother.  Finally they came up all sweaty and tired and plopped on the couch.  My little brother sat on his lap and hugged him with his legs opened up in a long bear hug.  Erik hugged him right back.

Joe then said something so sweet:  “Erik —  I love you!!”

My little sister was within earshot and hotly retorted: “Josiah, you have only known him for three days.”

“I know.”  Joe said simply.  “Even though it’s only been three days, it feels like love.”

And… that pretty much sums up my dating relationship with Erik.

It felt like love. 

He showed me love when he paid off the rest of my school loan after we had only been dating a short time. (I had worked my butt off through school and paid for the whole thing all by myself, but he paid off the last chunk.)

He showed me love when he bought me a car because he was sick of me driving around old “crap cars” that weren’t safe.

He showed me love by supporting my career on Capitol Hill and telling me things like: “Heather whatever you want to be later, if you ever want to run for Congress, I will support you!”

He showed me love by paying for all of the dates we ever went on and taking me fun places that I never could afford or would even consider had I not known him.

He showed me love by hearing my rejection stories and accepting me and healing all of the wounds that weren’t quite healed.  Although God laid the foundation and put up the beams of healing in the home of my heart, I felt like Erik was the drywall and paint and decor.  God used an imperfect tool, Erik, to continue the healing work that God wanted to complete through a human agent.

And then one hot and sunny Saturday in May, with all of our friends and family surrounding us, he showed me love by making a commitment to spend the rest of his life with me.

We were married on May 6, 2000 and we will celebrate 18 years together this coming year!

And Erik still continues to show me love.

First, he is an amazing dad. This was something I deeply wanted in a husband and had to have.  I told the Lord many times to “not bother” sending me a husband unless he was also going to be a fantastic father.  And Erik is a fantastic father!  Sometimes I actually have a feeling of relief wash over me I see him interact with our kids.

As he loves our kids, he is also loving me.

IMG_0960
Erik is a great dad. He spends a lot of time planning great hiking trips for our family! And…he does all the cooking on the trips, which mom loves!

IMG_3301

He continues to show me love by being ridiculously generous with me. Once a year he sends me away on a “mommy vacation.”  And he doesn’t send me to a Motel 6 in a random place.  He sends me to the Caribbean.  He sends me to Colorado to go skiing. He sends me to Vegas to see all of the sights.  He goes a little cray cray in the area of generosity.  Sometimes I feel like it’s God’s lavish, Kingly, outlandish love that he shows me through Erik.  It doesn’t seem fair.  I feel bad and never put that stuff on Facebook because I don’t want to seem like a braggart or make others feel bad.  But he is very generous with me and always has been.

And finally, he continues to show me love by being the same man I married years ago.  He never changed into what I feared the guy I married would change into: a psycho.  He is the same good, laid-back, kind, steady, loving, smart, God-fearing man I married 18 years ago.  He only gets better.  A bit more soft around the middle perhaps, 🙂 but he is the same great guy I met over 20 years ago.

Do you remember how I told you I had made a long list of things I wanted in a spouse? Years after marrying Erik, I was digging through old papers and came across the list.  As I read through the list my first thought was how anal and weird I was back then to have to write such an exhaustive list of “what I had to have in a husband.”

I also laughed at some of the things that were on the list.  Things such as “He can’t be cheap, or be a cheap tipper.”  And “he can’t be a perv.”

But then, as I read through the list in its entirety, I sat there in stunned silence.  Literally 95% of that list described Erik.  Erik made all of the “Top 10 Most Important Things” portion of the list, and had none of the “25 things he can’t be” portion of the list.  And he made 50 out of 55 of the other things on the list too!  (I told you I had issues back in the day.)

As I looked at the list, and then looked at Erik as he played with my daughter Claire on the floor one day, I started to cry.  I thanked the Good Lord in Heaven for providing me with a wonderful husband and father in Erik.  And yes, Erik is like a father to me too. In fact, he is a father to almost everyone he meets.  He is just built like that.

So the one thing that needed to happen before I could find love is that I had to be healed of my fear of rejection. That fear consciously and subconsciously blocked me from finding love.  The most awesome part about this story, though, is that through my journey of deep inner healing I was able to receive not one, but two kinds of love: the genuine, kind, steady, generous love of a good man.  And the rock-solid, never changing, unconditional, sacrificial, all-encompassing love of God.

I am thankful beyond words to have received both kinds of love.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

IMG_4544
A bit more wrinkly around the eyes, but happily married after 20 years of hanging out!

Closing note: one of the reasons I write, and am so open about all of my issues, is to help other people.  If you think you might struggle with feelings of rejection, here is a Youtube video which is a summary of Dr. Stanley’s series on overcoming feelings of rejection: here. Also, here is the Father’s Love Letter.  It really helped me to process through some of my feelings of rejection and to believe the truth about myself.  Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

The Choice That Saved My Life — (my birthday story)

fullsizeoutput_22f0
My mom — pregnant with me. She wasn’t allowed/invited to graduate with the rest of her Senior class because of her ‘situation.’

It was the winter of 1972, and my mother Linda, a beautiful girl with long black hair and green eyes, was set to graduate Salutatorian of her senior class in just a few short months. Because she had already completed her credits necessary to graduate, she was able to finish her senior year in January, but was still planning to officially graduate with her fellow classmates and even give her Salutatory speech in the spring.

Linda had the whole world at her feet: a great family, a handsome and great boyfriend (Mark) whom she’d been with for nearly three years, college in the fall, and great friends.

IMG_4761
My young parents.  My mom had everything going for her.

It’s funny how things can change almost overnight.

That day came when her period, which she was expecting for some time, never came.  She had heard that  Planned Parenthood, located downtown, offered free pregnancy tests, so she nervously drove to their facility.   Once there, she took the pregnancy test, which confirmed her fears:

She was pregnant.

Not only did Planned Parenthood offer free pregnancy tests, they also offered counseling.  She met with the counselor who told my mom that, due to her young age (17, almost 18), and because she was still in high school, that she should get an abortion.  The counselor also explained that although abortion was illegal in most of the U.S., it was legal in New York state, and that my mom should consider this option.  My mom left the clinic that day with her head buzzing with questions and her heart pounding with anxiety.

What to do?

Back in early 1972, getting pregnant in high school was very rare.  And there was certainly an element of shame and embarrassment that went with it. After telling her boyfriend Mark about her pregnancy, they both decided that they would like to keep the baby and possibly get married.  But first, they had to work out an opportunity to confess to her parents that she was pregnant. She knew that her parents would be distressed by the news, as their family was a moral, church-going family.  Although they were clearly taken aback by this disclosure, the only comment was made by Linda’s father was this:

“Nothing like this has ever happened in my family!”

After Linda revealed the news, her parents decided to go to their Presbyterian Minister for counsel and support.  Linda’s mother, Inge, was also this Pastor’s secretary, so it was easy to set up an appointment with him.  A few days later they met with their pastor and told him of their daughter’s pregnancy.  They asked him what they thought her daughter should do, and what advice they (as her parents) should give to their daughter.

After hearing their story, their pastor told them: “Linda is young, and she is very smart.  She should go to college.”

He paused for effect:

“In my opinion, she should get an abortion.”

My grandparents were shocked at his advice, coming from someone they considered a religious leader. Abortion was something that was only heard about in whispers, and no one they knew had ever had one.  My grandparents strongly disagreed with his advice, and went home confused and frustrated.  After my mom talked further with her parents, they all decided that it would be best that she should not seek an abortion, but rather that she would get married to Mark, set her college education on hold, and have that baby, even though her whole future lay ahead of her.

The spring rolled around and my mom was not even invited to her own high school graduation, or to give her speech.

Then one hot summer day my 18 year old mom, her new husband, and her parents, all checked into the local hospital in Syracuse, New York, and eventually delivered a healthy, blond-haired baby girl weighing 9 pounds and 4 ounces.   They named her Heather Lee.

That baby girl was me.

IMG_4718
Me, as a baby.  There is a rumor that this photo was displayed on the wall of Olan Mills (a photography company, back in the day) for a period of time.  But I can neither confirm or deny this rumor.  🙂

I can’t say it was easy for my mom to have a baby at 18. She proceeded to have another baby (my sister) two years later, but it was a difficult marriage, and my parents divorced a few years later.  She was able to squeeze in a one year degree to be a Medical Secretary, and she indeed pursued that career for many years as a single working mom.  It was very hard during some portions of my childhood for each of us.  Years later, my mom remarried and had two more kids, and now she is working as a nurse.  Things all eventually turned out really well, and through it all she never regretted her choice to have me, and neither have I.  🙂 To read more about some of the struggles my mom (and I) went through, click here.

As for me, I grew up, got my undergraduate degree, then my Masters, had a wonderful career, met an awesome man, got married, and become the mom of three great kids, with one adoption on the way.  In a strange twist of fate I ended up working for a leading pro-life Senator, working on pro-life policy.  (You can read about it here).

In another interesting twist, I actually had a chance to talk to that same pastor (who recommended my abortion) several years ago. I basically told him that my grandmother (his former secretary) had recently passed away, and then transitioned to tell him that I disagreed very strongly with his very shi*&%$#@ty advice he gave to my mom and grandparents many years ago.  (Actually, I was very kind and just told him respectfully that I disagreed with him, and that I was very happy to be alive.) We got into a weird debate/argument on the phone and he told me that “abortion is God’s will because it can naturally happen anyway,” (in other words, a miscarriage) and other things I won’t go into here. I honestly wasn’t looking for an argument, I just wanted to state my case.  I guess somewhere deep inside of me I wanted him to apologize to me.  To say something like “wow, I”m so sorry for the advice I gave to your mom’s parents, because, duh, if they had listened to me, we wouldn’t even be having this conversation right now.  I am so freaking sorry about what I said and did.  Can you ever possibly forgive me?”  But he didn’t.  I think he felt defensive, so he was somewhat curt with me.  The call didn’t give me the closure I was looking for, but I felt he needed to hear from me, as one of his Pastoral Advice Survivors.

I wonder how many kiddos are not here because lots of good Presbyterians listened to their Pastor during his 30 year tenure.

Every year around the time of my birthday, in addition to studying how much my face is changing and looking older and how hair keeps magically growing on my chin (shallow, but true), I sometimes grow introspective and wonder what this world would be like without me in it (kinda deep, but true…and I don’t mean that to sound arrogant or prideful. It’s just my own, personal introspection).  I instantly think of my immediate family.  Would Erik have even become married?  He is a super picky guy.  One of his friends said he was like an oil-change service, with an 18 point check- list of what he needed/wanted in a future girlfriend or wife.  What about Claire?  Who would’ve adopted her?  And Logan, we almost didn’t even get him in the first place.  What if he was being raised by his birth father right now? His birth-father who has a criminal record, by the way.  How would he turn out?  And what about Khloe?  I’m pretty sure she would still be stuck in a Ukrainian orphanage, just waiting to age out.  I don’t believe she would do well out on her own.  And those are just four people in my immediate circle.  (And since we are on topic, I just have to say how thankful I am for all three of my kids’ birthmothers.  It would have been so easy for them to choose a different outcome for their pregnancies.  I am so glad they chose life, because I can’t imagine not having the privilege of being their mom.)

I believe God has a purpose for each of us on the face of the earth. We are here not just for ourselves, but to help and serve and to love other people.  Every human life matters and every human life is meant to interconnect with other human lives!  We all need each other. Maybe your story is supposed to intersect with mine, and vice versa.  And what we do makes a difference, even if we can’t see it.  Please read this post for more encouragement: Small Things with Great Love.

I will close with one final story.  Many years ago, Erik and I hiked up to the top of Mount Washington in New Hampshire.  I was about to turn 30 years young and was feeling “depressed” about “getting older.”  (HA.  Foolish person.)  Anyway, I was up on top of Mount Washington in the restaurant/building on top of the mountain, and my eyes wandered over to a list of people, mounted on the wall.  This is not an ordinary list: it’s a list of all the many people who have died up on Mount Washington.  This mountain is surprisingly very dangerous and is said to be the home to the “world’s worst weather” and has winds that have been recorded up to 231 miles per hour!  As I read through the list, I noticed something specific:

I noticed the ages of all the people who died. Their ages were varied: fifteen, eighteen, ten, twenty, twenty-five.

So many young people had lost their livesSo many young people who died on the mountain who never reached their 30th birthday.

That was a reality check for me.  Ever since seeing that list, I am grateful, rather than depressed, whenever I hit another birthday milestone.

fullsizeoutput_1ae4
Just a small portion of all the people who have died on top of Mount Washington.  Many had never reached their 30th birthday.

To read more about this list of folks who have died on top of Mount Washington, which is quite extensive, click here here.

In closing, I am so very glad my mom chose to have me despite the sacrifice and difficulty that choice brought into her life.  And I’m glad this story had a happy ending (as I know that not all stories like this do).  And I just have to add, as I get older and older myself, I absolutely LOVE having such a young and healthy mom.  She is a volunteer firefighter, full time nurse, and she and my step dad run a homestead.  She is a super busy and active grandma. As for my dad — he is still going strong and healthy.  He retired from full-time work but still works part-time.  It’s great to have such young parents.

So mom, if you are reading this post, thanks for bringing me into this world and giving me a chance at this thing called life. I am super happy to be here!  I love you!

Happy Birthday to me!

_________________________________________________

P.S. from Heather : I know abortion is the most controversial issue of our day, and lots of people have strong opinions on either side, and lots of women have experienced abortion.  My intention is not to judge, cause hurt or pain in someone else, to make someone angry, for you to unfriend me on Facebook, or for you to send me a scathing text.  My intention is to share my own story as it pertains to this difficult topic.  Perhaps it can help someone out there, or plant a seed.  It is not my intention to cause division. And remember, this is only a story…my own story.  Finally, I welcome all comments!!  Even comments that have a different perspective.  But I just ask that we all respect each other as we comment.  Thank you for reading.

P.S. from my mom: Even though I was so young at the time, and I did not come to have a personal relationship with Jesus until several years later, I was still able to recognize the unfairness of depriving my baby a chance at life so that I could go on with my own life undisturbed. The choice I made did lead to hardships and difficulties that I would not have experienced otherwise, but I feel that these problems were used by God to develop my character and also to make me see my need of Him.  So I am grateful that I gave the gift of life to Heather!  As are Erik, Claire, Logan, Khloe as well as her many friends and extended family members.  It is heartbreaking to me to think of how many relationships have been lost to abortion, and that is part of the reason why I have been involved in pro-life work ever since I became a Christian.  Thank you for reading our story.

IMG_4763
So thankful my grandparents did not accept the advice of their Minister.
IMG_4492
Me, today.

 

IMG_4762
Happy birthday to me!


 

Blue Collar Girl Trapped in a White Collar Marriage

I want to take you back to the 1970s and 80s and reminisce about what it was like to grow up somewhere on the spectrum between poor and blue-collar in Upstate, New York, where I grew up.  Back to the days when it was common to see a 1971 Plymouth Baracuda cruising down the streets of Syracuse, windows open, driven around by a guy in a dark blue uniform with a name-tag, blasting “Free Bird” or “Stairway to Heaven.” Maybe there’s a cigarette dangling from his dirty/greasy hands, hands that are hard to get completely clean.

Maybe there’s a little blonde-haired girl in the back seat with him, looking out the window, hoping the smoke will stop blowing into her face.

IMG_4629
Me, as a young girl.

That little girl was me, and I want to share with you my perspective of what it was like to grow up in a blue collar single-parent family — both the good and the bad— and what I have learned since then.  I will also share how I have changed (or not) since transitioning to a white collar marriage several years ago.

Here is my super quick back-story:

I grew up the child of a single working mom after my parents’ divorce at the age of four.  My dad worked at a local car manufacturing company and we didn’t see him very much because he was always working (overtime, double-time, and other terms his union negotiated for him), and did not consistently seek out a relationship with my sister and me. There were also some dysfunctional elements of my childhood in the mix as well.  My single mom was poor, and we (my sister, mom, and me) survived on her small secretary’s salary.  Child support was very low back then so I always noticed how hard she struggled.  Our small family of three drove around in a brown pinto and didn’t go out to eat much because we couldn’t “afford it.” On hot summer days, we would beg my mom to stop at Arctic Isle (the local ice cream stand) for a $1.00 soft serve ice cream cone and the answer was always “no, it’s too expensive, we have ice cream in the freezer at home.” My mom was very cheap and often said no to buying almost anything that wasn’t a necessary item.

Not having a lot of money growing up made me take a good, hard look around me and make some serious inner vows. Vows such as:

“I will work really hard, go to school, and make good money so I won’t have to struggle.”

“I will marry an awesome guy and we will NOT get a divorce.”

“And if don’t get married, fine.  I will do really well in my career.”

“I will show everyone that I am not a loser and will make something of myself.”  (Not sure exactly where that one came from, but I think it stemmed from some deep-seeded self-confidence issues.)

With those inner vows in the back of my mind, I started babysitting at 11, worked my way through high school and college (clocking in between 20 and 30 hours per week as a waitress during college), and then landed a professional job in my early 20’s.  I eventually got married and ended up in what I call a white-collar marriage. On a side note, I was also very picky about the guys I dated, making sure I wouldn’t end up with a “creep,” a “perv,” or a “loser.”  Bottom line?  I didn’t go on many dates.

Below is just a portion of the more difficult aspects of growing up in the poor/blue collar income bracket. Perhaps you can relate to some of these?

  • …First, I remember all the CIGARETTE SMOKE.  Smoke in the house.  Smoke in the car.  Smoke in a tree.  (How can that be?) I have so many memories of just sitting in front of a various TVs that sat perched on the green living room carpet, watching maybe Star Trek, Evel Knievel, or Scooby Doo while someone smoked behind me in an easy chair, reading a newspaper. Growing up in a smoke cloud gave me (subconscious) permission to begin smoking myself very part-time through high school and college.  I finally quit in my early 20s.
fullsizeoutput_1ae3
I am a proud survivor of years of second hand smoke.  I began smoking part-time in high school but quit in my early 20s.
  • …We MOVED a lot.  I have many fond/not so fond memories of various apartment buildings, houses we shared with other friends, and yes….I even spent some time in the coveted trailer park.  I will never, ever forget how tiny those little trailer bedrooms were, and the trailer closets were ridiculous.  On an up note, I was able to share a house (different units) with my best friend Hillary, who was also in a single-parent home, which was awesome. We also lived in the same apartment building a couple of times.
  • …We had NO MONEY.  I heard “we can’t afford that” about 1000 times.  Want to stop at McDonalds?  Nope, not gonna happen.  If you want money, you had to get your butt off the couch and go earn it, all by yourself.  So that’s exactly what I did. I have never stopped working and to be honest, it’s so strange for me to not work in a way that earns an income to this day (more on that later). I am still so grateful that my grandparents were so generous with my sister and me — they provided everything from new Trapper Keepers for back to school (remember those?), to new clothes and shoes, to very generous Christmas gifts.
  • …As mentioned above, I didn’t see much of my DAD. Early in life, I developed some father-figure issues and ended up crushing a lot of older men, and men in positions of authority over me. However, I did appreciate his hard work ethic.  He even built our house from scratch and much later, my mom moved back into it and still lives there to this day. We now have a great relationship (as adults), but again, he wasn’t around much growing up and that was hard for me.
  • ….Finally, I struggled with some TOUGH EMOTIONS.  I often felt ashamed of my clothes, house, and cars.  I felt insecure and unworthy of love.  I feared rejection.  There were some things that happened that caused some deep wounds, that I have (thankfully) since healed from.  But they were very hard to go through at the time.
fullsizeoutput_21fb
Yes, friends, that is a beer in my hand 🙂

But growing up blue-collar was also a blessing in many ways.  Here are just a few of the positive elements of growing up in a blue-collar family:

  • First and foremost, I developed an amazing WORK ETHIC.  I have no problem with doing “real work,” “physical work,” and “working with my hands.”  Because my grandfather was in the farming business (he built silos) and also we lived near a farm, I actually have helped neighborhood kids with their farm chores.  I have also actually picked the following: rocks in a huge farm pasture/field, tomato horn worms off of tomato plants,  and weeds from my mom’s garden.  I mowed the lawn consistently (when not living in apartment complexes). In fact, I still happily mow my own yard here in Suburbia while my neighbors watch me curiously from their windows.  Bottom line?  I am not lazy and I’m not afraid of real work.
  • Secondly, I KEEP IT REAL with no BS.  You will always get the real deal from me. I will always shoot 100 percent straight with you.  I don’t like to lie; it makes me uncomfortable.  The only lie I will tell you is if you ask me directly if you look fat in that dress, and if you do, I will feel bad, and I will lie and say no.  You have been warned.  But that’s about the only lie I feel okay about.  Sorry not sorry.
  • Thirdly, I will never be pretentious. I will never think I’m better than you.  I will always treat everyone THE SAME.  And I will always be generous.  I will always over-tip waiters and waitresses, and I will always say “hi” and “thank you” to all the people who make my life easier.  Why would I be snooty with waitresses and maids?  I actually did both of those jobs for many years to earn a living.  Those are my peeps.
IMG_4628
Having fun at one of the restaurants (the Ground Round) I worked at during college.  I sometimes clocked up to 30 hours per week waitressing during school.  Growing up blue collar gave me a kick-butt work ethic.
  • Lastly, I developed an appreciation for the CLASSICS, and no I’m not talking about classical music or classical home-schooling eduction.  I’m talking about Classic cars and classic rock, baby.  Whenever I go back to Syracuse I still see folks driving around in a classic car blasting classic rock.  I just went to one the Eagles’ final concerts last summer before their lead singer passed away.  It was a blast!  (see photo below.)

    IMG_1089
    My dad owns five classic (muscle) cars purchased in the last ten years.  These were the cars I grew up around.  I want one.
IMG_1090
His Plymouth Baracuda.  My appreciation for classic cars came from my dad.

So what have I learned since “moving on up” to a different income level?

First, I actually really appreciate money and where it came from.  It is a blessing to actually have some of it.  But here’s the deal: I never want to rely too heavily on money or grow accustomed to being upper middle class.  Why?  Because I developed a deep financial insecurity early on. I know deep in my heart that you can have money one moment, but then the next moment…POOF! It’s gone.  And then you are back to square one. So I decided to not even leave square one in the first place.

Secondly, I am still cheap (especially with myself) and don’t like to spend money.  I still clip coupons (if I feel like it, because coupons are really a pain), and try to limit my children’s material possessions so they don’t become “spoiled.”

Thirdly, I still feel weird about not working outside the home in a way that generates an income. I still feel a little bit like a “moocher” even though my husband assures me he is fine with me being a stay at home parent.  I do plan to work again when my kids are older and after our next adoption, but I would prefer to work part time.

And on that note, I think that’s one of the best things money will buy you: options.  I have the option of working part-time rather than full-time down the road. Our family has the option of spending our money on nice vacations (we have created memories for our kids and have taken them to some nice places). We have the option of buying my kids sneakers exactly when they need them, rather than waiting until the next paycheck comes in.

fullsizeoutput_2ca
There is one thing money can buy: precious time with your family!  We do spend money on making memories with our kids, for sure.  Above, Claire and Erik enjoy fishing in a back-country lake in Utah.

Fourthly, I have learned that money doesn’t buy happiness or inner peace.  However, it does buy time and convenience.  It’s either time or money.  Either you spend the time on something and save the money, or spend the money on something and get back some of your time.  So in that way, it’s a lot easier to exist in a white-collar world.

Finally, the number one reason I believe God has blessed us with a little bit of extra income is a. because God is good and He just chooses to bless us in this particular way, b. we both worked very hard to get here, c. to afford to adopt our children, because adoption is expensive, and d. so we can be generous with other people, and also with ministries and other worthy causes that need financial assistance.

Bottom line?  I believe money is a gift to help support and enhance human relationships and to support worthy causes.  If you have money, chances are, God wants you to help others in need.

So why did I choose the title of this blog?  Honestly, I’m not really “trapped”in a white-collar marriage per se, but I feel as though I really don’t belong some elements of this world, deep down.  One night we spent time with another couple who are also in our income bracket.  Both the husband and wife were very cultured and came from solid families, and they had lived all over the world.  Both of them had PhDs from prestigious universities.  As they shared about their childhoods and current successful careers, I felt like I just couldn’t relate to them.  I felt like I had to impress them with something about my life, but I just couldn’t think of anything to say.  I also didn’t feel like I could be completely myself around them.  (Qualifier: most white-collar folks are super, duper nice and not pretentious at all. Maybe they’re a lot like me and didn’t grow up that way. But if they did grow up with wealth, they seem to have a certain self-confidence about them that poor kids lack.  I think I sense this subconsciously and feel I cannot relate.)

In closing, Oprah Winfrey once said that obtaining money just makes you MORE of something.  So if you are kind, you become more kind.  If you are generous, you become more generous.  If you are an arse, you become more of an arse.  I agree with her assessment.

Since transitioning income brackets I have become the following:

More cheap (with myself)

More generous with others

More unpretentious

More hard working 

More efficient with my time 

More grateful for money, but knowing it’s limitations

I am grateful to be where I am today, but I will never forget where I came from.  My childhood made me into the person I am today, and I am grateful for all the lessons it taught me.  Blue-collar workers truly do make the world go round, and I am proud to be counted among them.

So if you see a suburban woman driving around a really nice convertible, blasting the Eagles, drinking coffee from a coffee mug from home because she didn’t want to stop at Starbucks because it’s too expensive, all the while thinking about how she needs to mow her lawn when she gets home, well…that would be me.

I’m teetering between the two worlds, not really fitting into either one at this point.

But that’s ok, because that old saying is true:

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

So while I may be in a white-collar marriage, I’ll always be the same blue-collar girl, deep inside.

Peace out.

img_7603.jpg
Off to the Eagles concert with my dear friend Ragan!

_________________________________

PS: Stay tuned for a future post: Raising Blue Collar Kids in a White Collar family.

Thanks for reading!!

steps of faith -a 9/11 story

IMG_9880

Written by guest blogger, Felita

It was May 2001, and I was attending Glory Tabernacle, a non-denominational church in Washington, D.C. A young friend of mine, Henry, came to me one day and said he felt the Lord was calling him to do a prayer walk around the Washington, D.C. mall, every weekday morning at 6:00am, beginning June 1st.  He asked me to join him in this venture.   As a woman who always struggled to get up early and pray, my initial thought was, “there’s no way!” To my surprise, however, I answered him with a resounding “yes!” In my heart, I knew something was happening. I felt compelled with an urgency and even an excitement that was not from me.  Despite my fear of not being able to wake up early, I had to answer the call.

When June 1, 2001 arrived and my alarm went off at 5:15am, I laced up my sneakers and groggily headed out to the Washington Mall.  Henry asked several others from our church to join us, and we had an excellent turnout that first day.  Henry explained that we would meet at 6 am between the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. We would seek God for His direction and guidance and pray from our hearts. Other than the start date, Henry did not have a timeframe in mind. We would continue to pray until we felt the Lord release us. As I recall, there was no real agenda or direct plan. We would gather and pray as we were led by the Holy Spirit.

So what did we feel led to pray?  We prayed for the protection of our nation, our nation’s capital and it’s leaders, and the protection of our city. Although we didn’t understand it at the time, we really had a burden for the District of Columbia and we were obedient to the prompting of the Lord.  As we walked through the center of the city praying, we could clearly see the White House, the U.S. Capitol, and the Washington Monument, among many others landmarks.

For over three months,  I never missed a day of prayer.  Some days as many as twelve people showed up, and some days it was just Henry and me.  Rain or shine, many or few, we showed up and walked around the Mall every day for over the entire summer of 2001.

On September 11 we met at six am like normal, walked and prayed, and then departed for our regular work days.  Just two hours later the unthinkable occurred — the largest terrorist attack in our nation’s history.  That one event would change everything.

The next day, September 12, we met again as usual, however, D.C.  was on lockdown and we could no longer meet in our usual location.  As we looked around at the small group of folks that had gathered, it dawned on us that God had used our small group in a mighty and powerful way. The Lord revealed to us that through our prayers and the doubtless prayers of many others, that the terrorists were not able to enter our nation’s capital on September 11th. They got as close as the Pentagon, which is just a stone’s throw away, but we firmly believe they could not enter the city of Washington, D.C. Why?  Because D.C. had been bathed in prayer for several months prior to that most unpredictable and undesirable event.   Satan and his weapons of war were not allowed to enter.

Reports later indicated that one of the airplanes that crashed in rural Pennsylvania was headed for the U.S. Capitol and the one that hit the Pentagon had targeted the White House. It’s hard to imagine the devastation and turmoil that would have happened had they succeeded in hitting their actual targets. Indeed our nation’s Capital was spared. It was all so surreal.

IMG_9884

IMG_9881

Not long afterwards, Henry shared that he felt we were released from our prayer initiative.  We felt like we had done the job that God had given us to do.

And ever since those early mornings during the summer of 2001, I have always been able to wake up early and start my day with the Lord.  It is no longer a struggle.  How could it be?  I saw the power of God so very clearly in my own life!

Even now, almost 15 years have past, and it still amazes me how the Lord works in such awesome and miraculous ways. In closing, I am reminded of a Bible verse which I think sums up our experience during the summer of 2001:

“Every place where you set your foot will be yours.” Deuteronomy 11:24

(side note: All photos were taken by Heather at the Newseum, Washington, D.C. May 2016.)

A long awaited mother’s day

At 30 years of age, I was happily married to my wonderful husband Erik yet also working crazy hours on Capitol Hill. After my boss lost his Senate seat and I lost my job, Erik and I decided it was time to start a family.  But you need to know something right out of the gate:  Erik and I cannot have biological children.  I will document our journey with infertility in a future post.  This post is about how we became parents for the first time through the miracle of adoption!

We chose a Christian adoption agency that specialized in domestic infant adoption. This agency also ran a home for young women who had become pregnant. The birthmothers are allowed to live free of charge, receive training on parenting and adoption, and they receive a free college education. At the end of the program, they decide whether to parent their child or place them for adoption, which about 50% do.  We filled out a ton of paperwork and started a home study (which is a huge paperwork to-do list to prove that you are good people and not crazies). We also had to select parameters for the birthmom. More on that later. I also started an adoption scrapbooking album, which I hated, since I’m anything but The Crafty Lady.  “The Album” is what the social workers show to birthmothers so they can choose adoptive parents. You place tiny little pictures of your life into an album hoping to make a good impression on a young scared teenage girl you have never met.    Over time, we completed all of the paperwork except for The Album and sent it over to our agency.  We were excited and couldn’t wait to become parents!

That’s when all the setbacks happened. In addition to financial set-backs, we experienced a series of mini-health crises that Erik and I had to work through, including a cancer scare. I was trying to go as fast as I could but something kept slowing down the process for us.  It was infuriating and humbling. I remember praying “Lord, your will be done, not mine” many times during those months of delays and set-backs.  I think waiting is one of the hardest trials anyone can face.

Erik and I were required to attend a Weekend Adoptive Parent Training Program put on by our agency.

One session was very helpful to us in a spiritual context. The speaker basically said that God uses two unfavorable situations (infertility and an unexpected pregnancy) to bring unspeakable good – a baby placed in a loving home.

Another session dealt with the question of “Which Boxes Should You Check on the Birthmother Form?” That session was a kick in the gut. Would we accept a child from a mom who smoked pot or did other drugs, or drank alcohol during her pregnancy for example? Would we accept disease x, y, and z for example. Excruciating choices. With every box you fail to check the potential adoption pool grows smaller. What we really wanted was a child conceived in the back of a car from two young people who were maybe away for the weekend due to their sports championships and wanted to get back to taking their entrance exams for MIT as soon as possible (while not disrupting their volunteer activities of course). I did not see a box for that one however.

I remember sitting in that meeting and thinking “this is completely unfair, God! Not only can we not have our own biological children, but now we have to take a huge risk with respect to our future baby?”

“Trust God, He is with you and will guide you. He loves you and your future baby.  And check boxes!!  The more boxes you check, the more birthmothers we can present your album to,” was one take-away of the training weekend.

After much prayer, Erik and I decided to check more boxes than we would prefer. Here are the ones we checked:

Birthmother experienced —

  • No prenatal care
  • Drank socially
  • Drank heavily
  • Light Drug use
  • No birth father information
  • Pregnant as a result of a rape or incest
  • Smoked regularly

A couple more boxes I can’t remember. I think the ones about poor mental and physical health.

There were also boxes about the mental and physical health of the baby. I can’t remember the boxes we checked, but I remember that we were trying to be as open and full of faith as we could be.

With every box we checked a little piece of me died. I dreaded the thought of something going wrong, all because I was trying to exercise some level of faith in God. “God, please don’t let me down!” I remember crying out to Him.

Selfishly, we also hoped that the other couples in the group (there were about 18 couples hoping to become parents) would be too scared to check some of those boxes. You get to know the other couples, and grow to like them, but it is also sort of a weird competition.

Then you wait.

Unlike pregnancy where a baby shows about 9 months later, we could wait a week or we could wait a year. We had to be ready to become parents at a moment’s notice.

Our waiting came to an end soon with one very brief phone call.

I had completed and mailed The Album. I’ll never forget the call that came in.  “Hey Heather, this is (insert social worker’s name), how are you?  Well, I literally just received your album – it was just delivered to my desk a few minutes ago.  It looks good.  Hey, I’m heading over to the hospital right now.  A young woman who was referred to us just delivered a baby girl.  I’m going to show her your album. And because of the boxes you checked, you’re one of only a few albums that she will be reviewing.  Have a great day!”

After I hung up the phone I just sat there in awe. “No…there is no way this is going to be our new baby.  This is just a fluke, it’s too sudden.”  I thought.  But a little tiny feeling of hope was born in the pit of my stomach.

The next day we received a call from our social worker. Apparently, the birthmother didn’t like “any of the families.”  Hmmmm.  Later, when presented with the albums again, she decided that Erik and I seemed “okay.”  But she wanted to have a phone call with us before she went further. We also drove down for an interview. Imagine this, the most important job interview ever. Being interviewed by a young girl explaining to her why we should raise her child. The interview went well however and we hit it off immediately.  So far, so good!  The one thing that concerned her was that we seemed ‘too Christian’.  She was concerned that we would shove Christianity down her baby’s throat.  Erik and I wrote her a letter and assured her that we would raise her in the Christian faith, but the choice of embracing that faith would ultimately be her decision alone, just like it is for every person.  It was a tense few days while we waited for her to respond.  But one day a random package arrived on my front door step.  Curiously, I opened it up.  Inside was a sweet photo of a baby girl with a note beside it, from the birthmother, asking us if we would consider being the parents of her baby girl.

I was home alone at the time and remember screaming, jumping up and down and yelling: “We’ve been chosen!! We’ve been chosen!! We’ve been chosen!!”  I immediately phoned Erik at work and told him the good news.

Although Erik and I were overjoyed at being selected, we were concerned as well. The birthmother did not know she was even pregnant with her (our) baby until she was more than 8 months pregnant.  And she only had about one week of prenatal vitamins!  I couldn’t understand how a person could not know they were pregnant until I watched several episodes of, you guessed it, “I didn’t know I was pregnant.”  🙂  Our other concern was her alcohol consumption. We found out that, due to the fact the she didn’t know she was pregnant, she partied every weekend and consumed large amounts of alcohol.

But we trusted God with the outcome as we believed this little girl was supposed to be our kiddo.

We heard from our agency that the baby was indeed very healthy and alert and bright. I spoke with her foster mom (who later became our very good friend) and she assured me that this baby girl was doing well and right on target! This is a story for another day, but these wonderful couples take care of these babies until they are placed for adoption. They love them and raise them and then they say goodbye. Our 3-month old was already sleeping through the night! Cha-ching! We are still in touch with Claire’s foster parents and have even vacationed with them. They are our extended family now. Claire spent a weekend with them just 2 weeks ago.

Finally, after years of marriage, many baby showers attended with forced smiles, patiently waiting, going through a bunch of hoops that other people don’t have to go through to become parents….the day came when we drove down to our placement ceremony.

A Placement Ceremony is when the Foster or birthmom “places” your baby in your arms for the very first time. In that moment, you officially become parents! It is a significant moment filled with great joy for us, as well as great pain for the birthmom.

I will never forget the first moment Claire, as we later named her, was placed in my arms. When I first looked at her she was sleeping peacefully, and my first thought was “what a beautiful baby girl.”  A few moments later she opened up her eyes and just looked around.  She had this “knowing” look in her eyes, like something in her world had completely changed.  My second thought was “wow, what a smart little baby!”

IMG_1177

IMG_1176

Erik and I just looked at each other in amazement. At long last, we had become parents! With only a few weeks of notice we had much to learn.

A couple of closing notes. First, I’ve often wondered why Claire’s birthmother didn’t even know she was pregnant until she was almost full-term.  It turns out that our birthmother chose not to tell a single soul about her pregnancy or adoption plan.  Due to our birthmother’s shame/embarrassment at being pregnant, I have often wondered if our birthmother may have chosen to abort Claire had she known earlier.  Whatever the reason, I am so glad that she didn’t know she was pregnant and that she chose adoption because we are incredibly blessed to be Claire’s parents.

With respect to the alcohol consumed during pregnancy and lack of prenatal care — by the grace of God, Claire was protected from any fetal alcohol effect. She’s as bright as a star and as cute as a button.  Everybody loves her and she is truly a gem of a kid!  I know this sounds crazy, but I am actually glad that we couldn’t conceive our “own” children, because we would never have received Claire, and Claire was meant for us and we were meant for her.

Claire just celebrated her 12th birthday.  She’s athletic, super smart, and social. She even started babysitting and wearing a little sports bra (she will kill me later if she reads this blog).  How time flies!

I am eternally grateful for her birthmom choosing life for Claire and making that brave choice to make an adoption plan.

And I thank God for his perfect timing and perfect selection. We couldn’t be more happy with the outcome!

Claire bear we love you forever!

Love, mom

PS: Note from Claire: She says hi to all of you.

IMG_1178