Sunday, September 30, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday, Nora!

September is our sweet little girl's 1st birthday!
Can you even believe it--1 year old already?!?!

One year ago today, we were enjoying a fun time at a Nebraska Volleyball match with our friends Ryan and Janel...completely oblivious to what was happening in a tiny Haitian hut.

One year ago today, a young mom was birthing her second-born baby girl...completely oblivious of the family who would graciously take her as one of their own.

One of our first photos of Nora-the day her parents brought her to the orphanage at 1 month old

One year ago today, Josephine (Nora) entered the world completely oblivious to the fact she already had two moms loving her in the very same moment.

Nora with her Mamas-2 months old

Although we were all oblivious of each other on the day she was born, God was anything but oblivious.  He was probably delighting in the moment where one special little child of His Creation was about to make the paths of very different people cross like they never dreamed of.  I have no doubt in that moment, we--our family, Nora's birth parents, as well as Nora herself--were all changed and blessed forever.  It was a day the angels rejoiced.

This Mama's heart aches that she is not in Haiti today celebrating the first year of life the Lord has given Nora, but I have faith we will be in Indiana celebrating it next year together for sure.  To make sure she knew we were certainly still celebrating her birthday, we sent down this video to Nora this week and even have ice cream on the menu for today in honor of her birthday.  We heard from our orphanage director's assistant that she smiled and giggled when she watched the video.  Oh how my heart delights in that thought and longs to hear those giggles with my own ears.  I have heard they come frequently from her but have yet to ever hear them for myself...giggles, unfortunately, don't magically come through photos : )

We were also blessed to hear Nora will not go unnoticed on her birthday in Haiti.  She will be celebrating with her orphanage brothers and sisters today complete with birthday cake!  We have been promised photos of the event soon--I can't wait to see them.  I'm so blessed to know she is being cared for at an orphanage willing to throw a party in celebration of her big day and that we will have pictures for her to treasure for the rest of her life.

Happy 1st Birthday, Nora Josephine!  You are such a gift to us and we can't wait to be a gift to you in a much more tangible way!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Gifts of Appreciation

With each trip to Haiti we get the chance to thank the nannies, workers, and director of our orphanage for the countless hours of love, care, and protection they give Nora.  To say thank you on this next trip, I decided to paint something that would be a personalized gift for each of them.  There isn't much more personal than a name, so I decided to paint their names with either a Haitian flower or the Haitian flag and country.  I asked all the other adoptive families in our orphanage for photos of each of the workers--either photos of them working with our children or simply a snapshot of them from past trips to add to the paintings.  I also asked for as many photos of Rachel, the director, with the children she has cared for over the years to make a collage of photos for her.  There were so many photos given it was hard to decide what all to do with them--I hated not putting them all in there, so I included all I could and then printed the rest for them to have when I go.

My ideas of what all I could end up doing with these photos kept changing and changing--who knew it would be a bigger project than I thought it would be.  Anyway, I finally got the last ones done today and thought I would share them with you before packing them up very carefully for the journey to Haiti.  They aren't perfect in my eyes, but I hope they will #1 get to Haiti without breaking-ha! and #2 encourage these workers and let them know we truly appreciate all they do.

I included a verse on each of their gifts written in Creole, but since majority of you will not be able to read it in Creole (myself included), here's what the verse says in English...
"For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."
~ Ephesians 2:10
My hope is they will know or be reminded that as they care for our children, they are doing a good work that God personally had prepared for them to do and that they themselves are also a beautiful handiwork of God Himself.

Now all I need is the news we can set our travel dates and hand-deliver these gifts to their owners.  Her name was printed in the September 7th edition of Le Moniteur but no word yet on it being released from IBESR, so we will continue to wait and hope and pray that email will come soon.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Moments of Whiplash

A few weeks back my man asked me if I thought I needed to schedule a specific time each week to blog instead of doing it whenever I felt I needed to.  He admitted I would have to perhaps hold off my thoughts a few days, but then I would have a more focused, set time designated for gushing out my thoughts onto this space.  I barely let him end his question before I blurted my straight-forward answer..."No."

My man's question did not come out of the came as his natural "fix it" response to my discussion with him about how I had spent a good chunk of the afternoon writing my last blog post while leaving the dishes undone, the piles around the house still on the floor, and the supper made a little late.  I had told him I felt a bit guilty for somewhat shirking my "stay-at-home-mom responsibilities" for a day to write something near and dear to my heart, but I also felt a huge sense of energy and joy when I clicked that "publish" button at the top of my screen.  With another post written, came the feeling of accomplishment and peace no clean house would have given me.  Bless his efforts to try to help me figure out a way to do it all in one day (or week).  Bless his willingness to try to help me figure out how to be both a mom of young kiddos as well as a woman who wants to share her heart with a broader audience than stuffed animals and baby dolls.  I appreciated his question/suggestion, but the answer just had to be "no."  I am a blogger--a writer--a verbal processor...and I just can't seem to "schedule" those moments into a time frame that fits my weekly life better.  Just as when the air around me starts to feel stale and I need more fresh oxygen to breathe right then--when I feel like my world around me is screaming with insight that I just need to write in order to bring sense back to it all, I need to write right then.  Blogging, for me, has to happen in the moment or as close to the moment time will let me write it.  (And, by the way, he's still cool with that).

So, today, I find myself in the blogging mood.  The air is crisp cool today and I find myself wanting to snuggle into my warm couch cushions and spend time here with you.  My 4 year old asked if we could have hot chocolate for lunch...despite my first thoughts of hot chocolate being the perfect match to snow and winter rather than the onset of fall, we drank it up and felt warm and cozy together.  I needed that rich warm drink today.  I needed a cozy warm feeling inside me as I reflect back over the last several days and spill it all here because the last few days have been rough ones for my Mama heart.

Adoption is hard.  I know I''ve said that on this blog before, but I feel the need to say it again today...adoption is hard.  It is beautiful and awe-inspiring and miraculous and life-changing and filled with immense joy, but it is also hard.  There are twists and turns to every adoption story and no two are the same.  Right when you think you have it figured out another turn comes and it throws you for a loop.  Without going through all the details, one of those loops happened this weekend for me and I just broke down.  Most days I can hack this adoption thing.  Most days I can long for Nora to be in my arms while simultaneously still finding so much to be thankful for and so much to do that it just "works".  Most days I can answer the "Why on earth does it take THIS long" questions with a smile and grace while putting aside my hurting heart that it actually does take THIS long.  Most days I can be thrown for a loop and still enjoy the ride, but over the weekend that loop simply caused a little bit of whiplash instead and it hurt.

Did you know it's okay to grieve when those unexpected twists or turns happen?  It's okay to grieve when whiplash from a turn on an adoption journey or just generally in the journey of life causes your head to need a Tyelnol?  Did you know it's okay to be so incredibly sad and heartbroken?  Did you know it's okay to cry weep and simply show others you DON"T have it all together like you want them to think?  It is so beyond okay to do this, friends.  It is showing God and others that your compassionate, mold-able heart has just grown a little bit wider or a little bit deeper because it wants to be filled with MORE....more of whatever God has to fill it with that day.  Saturday and Sunday were days where I found myself grieving so much of the loss that comes with adoption.  I wept off and on throughout those two days because I could--because I needed to.  Some of those tears were for self-pity, some were for genuine loss, others were for emotional release.  No matter the reason, the tears were good and healthy and a needed release of heartache.

Beyond the tears, there were conversations of the latest twist with my man, my friends, and my God, but I still felt the need to have a conversation about what all I was feeling with the one I knew I desperately wanted to know this more than any of those other people.  I needed to have this conversation with Nora.  So, I wrote her a another letter to share my depths with her once again.  My tears flowing out on paper instead of just down my cheeks.  I've been writing several letters to her throughout our last year + of process as a way to record the journey from a waiting Mama's perspective.  I've written things I wish she knew, things I wish she could have been here for, things I'm hearing she has done so she has her own "baby book" of sorts since a traditional one just won't cut it for this story, things I am looking forward to.  With each letter I find healing.  When I'm done writing I feel as though I've shared some moments of my day with her despite our separation.  My heart is warm again when my signature is completed on the page--like a warm cup of hot chocolate on a crisp cool day.  The release of all these things--tears, heartache, words, and hopes--during the moments of grief are what help me move on, get up, keep going.  If I would not allow myself to "go there" I would remain stuck there, but by allowing myself to properly grieve, I find the strength and desire to open my eyes and heart again for the next big hill or the next huge twist on the roller coaster ride.

I've debated sharing my letter to Nora with you mainly because it is a personal letter to her from her Mom, but also because some of its contents have already been touched on in this post already.  However, I also am desperately trying to be an "open book" and have been told by many that my honesty allows themselves to open up as well.  I continue to hope that someone reading this blog will be the person contemplating adoption and seeking an honest look at what all that journey entails.  My story will not be your story, but the twists and turns will come for you too and I pray that through my willingness to share my depths of the journey, it will help you in yours.  Perhaps by sharing a letter I wrote to Nora you will be inspired to write one of your own to your own child or to whoever it is you feel there is a spot of grief in your heart about.  I decided this one time I would share my letter publicly.  Like I said, I've written many of these letters to Nora (and actually to all of my children as I was pregnant with them and now once a year around their birthday) and the rest will be private treasures for each of them to have from their Mama.  May God use this for whoever it is who needed it today...this story is not about me or Nora, but about the God who is loving us all along the journey.  To Him be the glory.

September 16, 2012

Nora Baby Girl,

     Oh my Mama heart is breaking today.  I want to be on a plane and have you in my arms so desperately.  This journey is so incredibly hard.  It is beautiful too, but oh so hard.  I can't begin to describe the amount of pain I feel knowing it has been 10 months since Ive seen you with my own eyes, held you with my arms.  I am at a loss today on how to keep a smile on my face when it just feels so wrong to be apart from you.
     You turn 1 in two weeks.  1.  I can't believe it.  Seems like yesterday we found out about you and in the same breath it feels like so many, many moons ago.  To watch you grow from a 2 month old who depended on the care of the nannies for everything to a little girl who is crawling, "singing", and lighting up the room with your smile has been amazing (just like it was for me to watch your siblings do the same).  Knowing that all those things and so much more has happened while we were 1800 miles apart has been everything but amazing.  It has made my Mama heart ache and long for the day we will be together.  It has made my praying heart fight with all I have against anything evil that would be getting in the way of God's desire to have you in my arms.  It has made my grieving heart ignite over and over as I mourn the loss of time, firsts, and young memories we have been robbed of.  The first year of your life was a wonderful one in the grand picture, but oh how I feel so completely left out of it...and I'm your Mom.  What Mom should feel like they are watching you grow from the sidelines?  It's just hard and lonely.
     Most days I can take the bad with the good.  I can allow myself to be sad, but bounce back from that quickly and accept that, unfortunately. this is just how it will be--this is what we signed up for--suck it up.  Most days I can look at a photo someone captured of your adorable smile and it will fuel me to keep praising God for how "quickly" He truly has allowed things to progress so far.  Most days I can swallow my need to fully understand the details of this adoption process and my desire to know the next timeline, the next step in the process, the next hurdle we have to jump over.  Today is not one of those days.  Today is a day my pain and frustration and confusion have taken the front seat.  I just want to know how long it will be--even an estimate--of long it will be before I will get to hold you, touch your hands, feel your smooth baby skin, look into your eyes, and be a Mama in the flesh for you...or maybe for me.
     There is a tremendous amount of guilt I feel as a Mama who quite literally is not taking care of you.  That's my job, my "calling"--to care for your needs.  To teach you, love you, protect you, encourage you, and be there for you.  How can I do those things for you in a way you recognize if I am not there every day--or every week--or every month--or even more than one 4 day trip in one year?  I know you are young and you will not even remember the women who have devoted their every day to care for you.  I know this time at the orphanage is not time you will dwell on at all later in life--you will only know that life from pictures and stories.  I know if I would have been the one caring for you this entire year, you wouldn't remember any of it either.  But I would and that would have made my heart feel full instead of the emptiness it feels today.  In my head I know I am doing everything I can to be the best Mama I can be for you right now.  In my heart, I just long for something oh so much more.  I long to mother you in my arms, in my home, in my everyday life and I wish I could somehow tell you that today.
     We are 1 year and 2 months into this process.  We are almost through the first part of this adoption process on the Haiti side, Nora, and I thought I would be traveling soon to hold you.  There is nothing I want more.  I have been planning this trip as best as I can without knowing when it will be, who all will be on it with me, or what all we''ll be doing while we are there.  I've had dreams of that sacred moment when I have you in my loving embrace once again.  I have been so excited to watch you meet your sister for the first time.  To hear giggles exchanged between the two of you.  According to so many other time frames that trip should have been so soon--within the month.  I had high hopes it would not be too far off from your 1st birthday so we could at least celebrate it together.  When emailing back and forth with the orphanage director yesterday there was a lot of issues with communication and now I feel like I am once again left in the dark as to when on earth this trip will take place.  Sounded like it could be another 2 1/2 months.  When I heard that news it simply sucked the air right out of me.  I am just not sure how to keep on breathing today without hurting with every in and out.  I am hoping and praying God would make a way for you and I to be together far sooner than that, but if it doesn't happen, Baby Girl, please know I wanted nothing but to have you in my arms.  I love you so much, Nora Josephine, so incredibly much.
                                Love, the Mama you don't even really know exists yet

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Spirit" Senses

I'm betting most people have heard the phrase "Spidey Senses".  This notion that Spiderman has the extra ability to sense things beyond the normal five senses of touch, sight, hearing, taste, or smell.  That this extra sense seems to be magnified to the 1000th.  Well, I certainly do not have Spidey Senses, but there are moments as a mom I know I have "Mommy Senses" that seem to be somehow magnified beyond what is normal.  Some call that a "Mother's Intuition", but I think the phrase "Mommy Senses" seems cooler somehow...makes me feel like a superhero, I think! : )  Well, anyway, yesterday was a day where I didn't feel like I had Spidey Senses or even Mommy Senses, but instead "Spirit Senses".  At church, in a phone conversation, later at our friends' home...all day long, it felt like I had a sense of something "extra" going on--something magnified.  My attention was especially in tune with what my spirit was sensing...the work of the Lord all around me.  Each time that "Spirit Senses" feeling went off inside me, it left me with an adrenaline rush as big as what I'm sure Spiderman felt as he swung from building to building on his mission to rescue someone in need.

First of all, church.  It wasn't an abnormal church service really...just a regular Sunday gathering.  Nothing too "special" really...or was it?  For whatever reason my Spirit Senses were going haywire throughout the morning and because of that, what I saw, what I heard, what I observed really did make that time of worship special!  For starters, the message was about the roots of our church...not my local church, but the church as a whole...and not the beginning of the meeting of believers, but instead the true roots of church...Jesus.  It was more of a history lesson on why Jesus was such a radical person saying and doing radical things in his era.  A history lesson on what his homeland's trends were at that time, if you will.  I loved every minute of it.  I have heard that Jesus was a radical, but until you hear some of the common, every-day practices that were taking place, you can't totally understand why his message was so counter-cultural.

My Spirit Senses were going off left and right during the of how newborns were killed if they were feeble males, girls, handicapped in some way, etc. How the early Christians were the ones going to the "kill pile" of children and rescuing their lives because that was how Jesus Christ had said to show love to all people.  To hear our pastor make the connection of this act being technically the beginning of adoption and orphanages was inspiring.  These loving, Jesus-followers were simply saving these lives and giving these children hope and a future out of their obedience to Jesus' example. It was enlightening and awesome.  My Spirit Senses immediately connected my adoptive Mama heart to these early practices and I found myself thanking these long, long ago ancestors for their obedience.

Just then my eyes met with a little boy sitting in front of us.  His mom's nursery pager went off half way through the service and she had brought him to her lap.  He was so stinkin' adorable.  I sat there watching him play and again, my Spirit Senses were so alive, saying "Watch him!  Watch him!  Watch him!"  So, I found myself doing just that.  He was only smiling and playing with his Mama's earring, but to me, he was radiating the childlike love and joy Jesus desires us to have.  I kept thinking he couldn't be much older than Nora and wondered if she was playing with a Nannie's necklace or earring like this little boy was to his Mama.  I asked her after the service how old he was--13 months.  13 months of pure love wrapped in skin.  I thanked God for allowing me to watch a precious child and his Mama interact.  I thanked God for letting me see a baby do things that Nora would be similarly doing in Haiti while I am so far away.  I thanked God for speaking through those Spirit Senses to draw me into that normal as it show me something special.

Then during worship, low and behold, a beautiful young woman with down syndrome came forth for prayer and ended up worshiping at the front by herself for a bit and then made her way up on stage to simply sing beside one of the women on the worship team.  Oh my heart just about exploded.  My Spirit Senses were so high--what joy!  To see a young woman who, according to the sermon just preached moments before, would have been killed as a baby in the days of Jesus, standing up and worshiping Him with abandon because HIS WAYS radically changed the course of history was so, so, so, so, SO inspiring.  Praise God for the witness she was today by simply being alive and full of love for her (quite literal) Savior!  I found myself reflecting back on my mom's cousin, Carol, who also had down syndrome.  She was a joy to be around as a child.  Although she was more my mom's age than my own, I loved it when Carol would be at my Grandma and Grandpa's house because she would get down on the floor with me and play.  She would chase our dogs with me.  She would smile so big and giggle and giggle.  I really loved being around a young girl, she was not "different"...she was super fun and totally loving.  My Spirit Senses began to thank God for Carol as well and for the role she played in my young life.  The role of making me see that just because the world might say you are handicapped, you can simply be "you" and that is enough--more than enough actually--to bring delight to God and delight to another human being.

On my way out of the church I got to talk a little more with one of my friends who just brought their two children home from Ethiopia on Friday.  The twins were there--one sleeping in the loving embrace of a big white brother while the other one was teasingly running away from another one of the big white brothers with a look of delight in her eyes.  As my friend and I talked about the precious and humbling moments of meeting their birth-mom with the view of these beautiful children being loved on by some of their new family members, I once again, found my Spirit Senses ignite inside me.  God, You are so amazing!  To think that a family of 8 has just had 2 more precious children from clear across the world added to it all because You instilled love and obedience in the hearts of those who followed Jesus' teachings WAY BACK's breathtaking.  I thanked God for writing their story, for writing our story, for writing all of our stories.  I thanked God for moments when one Mama can hold the hands of another Mama while mutually thanking each other for the chance to impact the life of the same child.  I thanked God for Adrienne, Nora's birth-mom, and for her willingness to love her children in such a way that followed Jesus--giving them a chance at life instead of death.  I thanked God for calling Micah and I to the amazing and humbling road of adoption.

Spirit Senses.  They followed me through the day as I talked on the phone with my dear college friend who is also adopting a beautiful little gem in Haiti.  Talking with her of timelines and the goodness of God in each step of the journey.  Talking of unknowns and HUGE praises and our prayers for others on the same journey as us in completely different stages.  Talking of how each adoption timeline is like that of each woman's labor story--no two are the same although we keep telling them to others as if it will help them know what to expect.  Talking of how no matter what the news from Haiti is--silence or movement forward, a photo or a delay--it all draws us to the Father in ways we never dreamed of and are so incredibly thankful for.  My Spirit Senses were delighting in the fact that God connects friends throughout life in ways we would never have thought possible.

My day ended with an evening of good food and good discussion while in the presence of two of our friends we care deeply for.  As Micah and I shared our hearts with them and they with us, as we watched our children run through the house and play with each other, as we reflected on our own journeys through life and how much we were grateful for a God who has brought us all through rough times and into a greater dependence on Him because of it all, my Spirit Senses were overloaded with joy for such a wonderful day.  So thankful to have been awakened to the undercurrent of God's Presence in the midst of the ordinary, every-day life.  So thankful to be alive...truly alive...because of the life of the man named Jesus who came to give it to me.

Unfortunately, not every day is one where I allow my Spirit Senses to be acknowledged.  Some days I touch things, hear things, smell things, taste things, and see things, but I forget to also include the more important sense to the mix.  The Spirit Sense.  The sensing of the Divine amongst the ordinary.  The God-prints placed all over the happenings of the morning, the afternoon, or the evening.  Yesterday was thankfully a day where I got to touch, hear, smell, taste, and see in such a more vivid and deeper way because of that Spirit Sense God places into our hearts.  Today is a new day, a new choice, a new chance to live with an extra sense...a Spirit Sense...and thank God for so much more than I ever could have without it.

"No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.  And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world."
~1 John 4:12-14

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Who ever thought our little girl would get a photo shoot while living in an orphanage in a third world country?  The two young women, Ashley and Audra, who came to live at the orphanage for the month of August were so remarkable to our journey in many ways.  This is one of them...a Nora photo shoot!

When you are a Mama living through the photos taken from others you CRAVE anything you can get your hands on.  Smiling pictures are about to die for.  A stream of photo shoot smiling photos has just about made me go buy my plane tickets today.  But alas, my trip will come soon so for now these photos will just have to tide me over.  Enjoy!

One of the Nannies loving on her

Sunday, September 2, 2012

How Do I Love Her When We're 1800 Miles Apart?

"Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—
when they see the love you have for each other."
~John 13:34-35 (The Message)

God has called me to love others.  God has called all of us to love others.  I am blessed to say Nora is one of my "others".  In my obedience of that command, I have loved another human being I never would have imagined crossing paths with in this life.  I'm so thankful for this opportunity.  I'm so thankful for this calling.  I'm so thankful for this gift.  A blessing I have received by loving her is that I have been loved back in the process...more so by God Himself than Nora so far...but that has been amazing!  It is the blessing that comes from giving your love towards another get so much in return.  Despite the agony of the process, it is a tremendous journey of love I am blessed to be on.

So how does a person love another human being who is separated by approximately 1800 miles of land and water?  How do I love Nora when I have only spent 4 days with her in my arms?  It is a great question.  It is not an easy answer.  Love is complicated no matter if that love relationship is with a spouse, a child, a stranger, a parent, God...they all have challenges and joys in the mix.  With Nora, I'm noticing a few different ways in which I have seen my love for her take form.  I have truly loved this little girl for longer than she has even been on this earth.  I have seen that love change, grow, get deeper, pull back, and fight with everything I have.  Recently, I found myself praying in my journal about all of my children and how I am so thankful to be able to love each of them.  I thought I'd share a bit of that prayer dealing with Nora.  I hope my honesty will help others who are contemplating adoption see the different forms love can come in during the wait (by all means, these are not exclusive!).   For those not really considering adoption, I hope there is someone around you who IS in the adoption process!  Maybe this can inspire you to talk to them about what their love looks like for their child/children, ask them where loving their child has been easy or how it has been hard, and simply listen to their hearts as they wait...I'm betting it is always on their mind anyway so having a friend care enough to ask would be so uplifting.

My prayer...
     "God, then there is Nora.  This child You have called us to parent, to love, to raise, to love, to nurture, to love, to take burdens from, to love.  God, it's hard to love her for over a year now and only be physically with her for 4 days. I do love her, God, but I feel as if I have only been able to love things about her--her eyes, her tiny curls of soft hair, the smile she gives to strangers in photos, the reports of her being happy, content, adorable.  They are all things I love, but others could love those things about her just as easily.  I want to love more than just "things about her".
      What makes my love for her more of an intimate "Mama's love" instead of just the general love You ask us to all have for others?  What makes my love for Nora more personal?  Well, I love the idea of her being added to our family.  Finally...a sister for Lily (and another one for the boys)--how my heart dances when I think of Lily having a sister relationship.  Just seeing Lily play with that little 11 month old girl at the pre-school open house did wonders for my heart, Lord.  She was so happy--so caring--so in her element.  I am beyond excited to see her love on Nora in the same way!  I love the chance for our family to show others how to love beyond race or country ethnicity.  God, use us to break down stereotypes and preconceived notions that are built on ignorance or pride.  I love the thought of helping a baby girl from extreme poverty have a chance to impact the world in ways she may not have had if left to starvation, a restavek life, or even death.  Thank You, God, for giving us a chance to love her through our actions and not just our words.  Those reasons for love are certainly more personal, God, but those are currently just future ideas...things I love we will get to do, but we aren't necessarily doing much of right now.  What is it about loving her RIGHT NOW that makes my love for her personal and intimate?
     I think I know what it is!  I love Nora for what she has brought out of me--not selfishly, but graciously.  I love her for what she has inspired in my relationship with You. Lord.  Because of Nora and the process to get her into our family, I have been blessed with a clearer awareness that I am nothing and You are everything, God.  A deeper faith that I can trust You.  A stronger belief that You are good no matter what the circumstances are and that You are always fighting for us--with us!  That my prayers matter to You.  That my actions speak more than my words.  That You desire me to bring my weary, broken, selfish, impatient self to You daily in order to receive the blessing of holy victory only given through You.  The victory of life instead of death, joy instead of sadness, hope instead of fear, faith instead of doubt, excitement instead of dread, peace instead of wondering, and refreshment instead of stagnant living.  I love Nora SO much for being a driving force behind me acknowledging and believing all the amazing Truths this past year.  She has already done in her 11 months of life what You desire from all of us--to reflect You in such a way that we end up being drawn more to You and less towards people.  Thank You, God, for the light Nora is to me and for increasing our family with her.  Thank You for giving us the gift of loving her.  May we bless You and give You glory as we do that.  Forgive us when we fail and guide us with each new step.
     God, as I reflect on the different forms of my love for Nora, I have to admit, I am ready for another one.  I'm ready to learn how to love her better--not the things about her, but HER.  Her as an individual, as a child You created, as a miraculous being You have given as a gift to us.  I'm ready to spend more time with her and learn how she ticks--what she loves, what she hates, how she processes, what skills she needs help with, what gifts and talents You have given her, what brings out her smile, what food she finds irresistible, what size her hands are inside of my grasp, what products will make her hair healthy and shiny, what songs make her dance.  I'm ready to love more than her looks, the idea of having her in our family, or even the fact she has blessed my faith and love of You so much already...I am ready to love the Nora Josephine You have created.  The Nora Josephine You are intimately blossoming and protecting in a country too far away from me to watch it all unfold.  I am ready to love all of her--the good, the bad, the miraculous, the fallen, the selfless and the selfish.  Please, God, move this adoption process forward so that I can experience yet this other form of love for her.
     God, I thank You for creating this beautiful child.  I thank You for weaving her into my life story.  I thank You for the opportunity to love her from a far and I ask, boldly, believing with all my heart it's what You desire for me to be praying, for the chance to love her now in my own arms.  Will You please move on our behalf and get Nora's name printed so I can love on her face to face, hand in hand, smile to smile, hearts beating beside one another?  Thank You, Lord, for orchestrating such a wonderful, awe-inspiring and beautiful story for my life as well as Nora's.  I give you all the glory."