We took a break after a failed adoption. This is how we didn’t give up on building a family. We adopted a mindset of hope even before we got the kids--recognizing God has good in store.
There’s a little line in Genesis 21:2 that caught my attention the other day. It says, “Sarah became pregnant and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the very time God had promised him.” (italics mine, but should be everybody’s) For the longest time, I would have read this verse about us like this, “God gave Sean and Susie children and it’s about time.” I also know if I were Sarah and Abraham, I would have been tempted to add an asterisk that noted at the very time God promised him **20 years after he started the process**. Abraham does neither. He focuses on God’s perfect timing and fulfilled promise. Again, years ago, I could not have said this. I would have added the asterisks **12 years after He started the process.** God used the years between kids to draw me closer to Him and to Sean. We started out building a family and God built a home first. Driving down memory lane, I can see how His loving hand guided and protected; where God revealed His character just like I revealed mine. (His was better. Mine needed work.) Thankfully, God never gave up even when I did. He wasted nothing. He used it all—every experience, every hurt, every pain and made something good—hearts and a home of strength, peace and happiness that would otherwise be lacking if we hadn’t gone through all we’ve gone through.
Let me give you some examples of a couple ways God built us a home. Sean and I were not a united front when the foster kids lived with us—less allies and often enemies. Because I was home more with the kids, I experienced most of the crazy events and bad behavior. The last month they were there together was like living in a war zone. Hearing about battle is not the same as being in one and I don’t think I conveyed the issues well to Sean when he’d get home at night. Sean would walk in the door and I’d immediately pull him into our bedroom to have these pow-wows where I’d basically tell him what to do. I’d tell him the things that happened that day and then tell him how I thought we (he, really) needed to fix the problem.
I was not open to suggestions. Unsurprisingly, this did not go over well. Because he wasn’t home as much, Sean was able to pick up on more of subtle things going on. He saw the big picture. I guess the best way to put it was he could see the forest for the trees.
I just saw the individual trees because I was dodging them as the fell. I was in the thick of it every day. We both had important perspectives and could have worked together but we were missing respectful and loving communication. Thankfully, God used marriage counseling and a book called “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerichs to teach us. This was not an overnight change. In fact, at first, each of us thought the other could really use the advice in the book and didn’t see how it applied to ourselves. But our eyes were opened, and we learned. We learned to communicate love and give respect to each other. We learned how to see the forest and the trees and work together to conquer that sucker.
The other big change that made things better in my attitude. It affected us both. During my days as a mental mess-right after the opportunity at the fertility clinic fell through and our first chance at adoption did as well-Wise man that he is, Sean knew I was a mental mess and one of the things he did to help me out was the sweetest thing. He bought me a puppy. We already had a chocolate lab, Bo (whom we called the “Dogfather”), we brought down with us from Alaska. However, Sean felt I needed my own special friend. We named her Boomer and she was adorable. The cuddly factor of a puppy cannot be overstated. Boomer went a long way to helping restore my spirits. She was the runt of the litter of Doberman puppies ironically being sold out of St. Louis and was so small Sean could hold her in the palm of one hand. She was an equal opportunity cuddler and looked to both Sean and me for comfort and love. She was my girl, though. We nicknamed her Shadow for how she used to follow me around the house. I got Sean a puppy a year later. (This was the Ares that I was worried was going to eat my face off while I was three sheets to the wind back in 2011.) Ares was also a Doberman Pinscher but not the runt. He was big and boisterous; the counterbalance to Boomer’s timid, gentle spirit. Together, they had their own litter of puppies and we kept the runt then too. We named her Juno and she was the perfect blend of sweet and boisterous.
Between our four dogs, two kids and one mom with breast cancer we had a full house for much of 2014. When the kids left, Sean and I looked at each other and said what now? We decided to focus on restoring our relationship, helping my mom and loving our dogs. They were our kids now. Right before the end of 2014—a few days before Christmas, my sweet shadow, Boomer, got sick. Suddenly. Painfully. Terminally. She died five days after she woke up and couldn’t eat. The autopsy determined she was poisoned. It ruined her liver and she bled internally. We still don’t know who did this to my Shadow, but I have my suspicions. On Christmas Eve, two days before she died–we already knew she was not going to make it–I found myself awake in bed in the darkest part of night. Sleep eluded me and I started ugly crying–crocodile tears with lots of snot and deep, shaky breaths but silently so I didn’t wake up Sean. This was the start of my pity-party for one.
Wave after wave of misery crashed over me as I struggled to understand why God was kicking us while we were down. We had already been through so much and now this. The majority of my thoughts focused on adding up all we had lost in the last few years. Instead of counting blessings I counted pain. With each memory I drew closer to taking up permanent residence in the pit of despair. It was all just too much for me to handle. To prevent another attempt at ending my life, I turned to the You Version Bible app on my phone. I started reading Psalms 1 and continued until I could sleep.
I do this now most nights I can’t sleep. Better than counting sheep. Better than counting blessings. Because it’s not about you. It’s stories about other people who have struggled just as much if not more than I have. It’s reading about their honestly, pain and struggles that help keep my mind off of mine. It’s sort of like when you’ve turned the heat on high in the car and you get too hot, so you turn on the air condition instead. The cool air revives and refreshes. That’s what God does for me through His word in the middle of the night. My thoughts start turning to what I’d been reading instead of my current situation. Verses stick in my brain and I find myself meditating on these instead of all the bad we’d experienced.
Boomer died a shadow of herself. Quiet, with her head in my lap and Sean holding us both. It still makes me cry when I think about her. She was a special friend. There when we needed her most. I handled her death better than I did my dad’s. Mostly because I was determined to not give up. I’m glad I didn’t. God was preparing us for when we would finally be parents to our children. Each and every experience has given us a way to connect or comfort them in their own struggles and pain. Before we adopted them, we determined to adopt a mindset of hope. We’ve learned that hope is possible in the worst of circumstance. Like choosing children to be a part of our lives, really-a part of ourselves- we adopt the belief and expectation that God will help us through whatever comes next–that He is with us and will help us stay strong and united. Adopting, or claiming for our own, the mindset of hope tethers us to each other and to God.