Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An End to a Beautiful Year

As we sit on our couch, on the last day of 2013, pondering the year with awe, we are so grateful.

The therapist in me loves reflection.  Loves looking back on the year and remembering.  The good.  The bad.  The sad.

And the downright awesome.

2013 was the Year of the House.  It is so crazy to think that, this time last year, we didn't even know we were buying a house.  We hadn't even looked at houses yet. 

I know that it might seem, at times, like we are a bit obsessed with our house and that we talk about it A LOT.  But I think those that know us know that our house was the second big obstacle in our adoption journey, with debt being the 2012's obstacle to overcome.  A Facebook group that I belong to asked what you thought was your biggest accomplishment of 2013.  I said that we "found, fought for, and purchased" our first home. 

Fought for.  It might seem like an exaggeration to some.  But those who walked that journey with us know that it was a fight.  Every single step of the way.  There were so many intricate parts that had to line up for this to happen, some of which still don't make logical sense.

I remember, as a kid in the country, that I hated to do yard work.  I hated the raking and mowing.  Last weekend, on an unseasonably warm December Saturday, I found myself doing yard work with such a joy and gratefulness in my heart that people would think I'm crazy. 

And there may come a day when I'm not so thankful to do yard work.  But, for right now, in preparation of Part Three of the Adoption Journey (the really good part!), I'm content to rake leaves and burn tree limbs and clean out window wells.

2013 also brought about loss. 

My dear sweet grandma Ruth died in February.  Adam's Pap died in December.  Two bookends of grief that sandwiched the year.  Even the loss of my favorite person in the world, a person who loved me more than anyone ever has and maybe ever will, has been eased the acquisition of our home.  It is not just the ownership of a home, but rather the ownership of THIS home, that has been a balm to my spirit.  A house that reminds me of her at least once a day.  A home that still, six months later, smells of her when I walk in the door. 

The year saw the loss of a close friendship.  It is hard to ask people to join us on this adoption journey, knowing that not everyone gets it (or is interested in getting it).  It's hard to explain that the financial priority is to save for the adoption, which limits the things that we can and want to do.  While it is hard to be on this journey, we are also understanding that it is hard to join us on this journey.  We are so grateful for those who can and continue to do so, even if only for a season. 

This year brought about new furry family members, Shelby and Beatrix.  It took Shelby probably four months to really settle in and hit her groove, which mostly includes chasing the cats and snuggling with Adam, but she finally got comfortable with being a part of our family.  Obviously, we don't have kids yet, but I can imagine that the way I feel about Shelby is probably 5% of how parents feel when they add another child to the family.  Man, our lives were FULL before Shelby.  But, really, how did we ever live without her?  How did we not know she was missing from our lives?

Probably the biggest thing that's happened in the last month is that ADAM FINISHED NURSING SCHOOL!  This has been a long time coming, as his school schedule has been erratic due to military service obligations and (cancelled) deployments.  He should be able to take his nursing boards in January or February.  So PROUD of his accomplishment and excited to see what the new year holds for him!

As I look back, I'm a little disappointed that our adoption didn't move further along in 2013.  This time last year, I was SO SURE that 2013 was going to be the year that we really gained momentum and started moving in a direction or, better yet, the year we brought home a baby.

This was a year of big doors opening and, just as suddenly, shutting with no explanation or reason.  It was (another) year of waiting.  It was a year of managing expectations of life, God, ourselves, and each other. 

But, fortunately, dreams don't expire.  So I'll just carry this wish and hope for our family into the new year.

2014, the Millers are ready for you! 

(All of us.  Wherever we are.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2,000 Prayers

As many of you know, I started praying for our "future family, whatever that looks like" on the day before Thanksgiving, back in 2010.  I have consistently prayed this same prayer, every day, for the last three years.  Which means that I have prayed the. same. prayer. (at least) 2,000 times. 

And I will continue to pray this prayer every day until all of our babies are home and tucked safely in their beds.  Where they belong.

But I cannot even begin to articulate how dark this feels. 

We attended our adoption meeting back in September.  And I was so excited, because I was SURE that this was going to be the springboard to starting our family.  And it's taken me almost three months to be able to process and wrap my brain around what changed for us after that meeting. 

It was just an information session.  It wasn't anything personal.  I was pretty sure that they weren't sending us home with a baby (but always open to the idea!).  Sitting in a room with thirty other couples, most of whom weren't even sure that they wanted to adopt.  Adam and I have been reading and researching and praying about our intent to adopt for THREE YEARS.  We could have led the information session with our eyes closed. 

And then, in the conversation about approval, the record scratched.  I think I stopped breathing.  As part of your home study, you have to make sure that you have a plan for any unsafe situations around your house (firearms, ponds, major roadways), but you also have to be able to prove that you can pay the placement fee at the hospital.  Which is roughly $17,000.  That we don't  have. 


People asked questions about how to loophole around that; because, frankly, I don't know a ton of people who just have that kind of disposable income laying around.  Some employers offer rockin' adoption benefits and you can even get a letter from family members saying that they will spot you the money.  There are even low-interest adoption loans that are available for just this occasion. 

I love being self-employed, but sometimes I get a little annoyed that my employer doesn't offer rockin' (or really any) adoption benefits. 

We talked about the adoption loans for weeks.  We kept talking about how we should look into it, but we never did.  And, finally, we had a pretty tough conversation over breakfast at a pancake house.  We talked about how, for us, it felt irresponsible to go into debt for adoption.  I kept hearing Dave Ramsey's voice in my head saying, "God will never call you to do something that will cause you to go into debt."  And, as you probably expected, I cried at the pancake house. 

When I first talked to Adam about adoption, his first concern was everyone's first concern.  Money.  How are we possibly going to afford it?  And I was so confident.  I said, "I have no idea.  But the money will come."  The last thing on my mind was where the money was going to come from.  And I have to say that my heart aches to be sitting here, THREE YEARS LATER, and to still have NO IDEA where this money is going to come from. 

And, yet, I see God moving in other people's adoptions and in their families.  Reminders of what He can do.  Reminders that He loves adoption.

One of my favorite blogs features a family with six kids, two of whom are adopted.  And I have to say that I just love this momma's heart.  After bringing home their sixth child, they almost immediately begin the adoption of their SEVENTH child, who has special needs.  They have NO IDEA how they are going to cover the cost of the adoption, but they are stepping out in faith, and God is delivering! 

Another blog I follow is written by a woman who has been married to her husband for twelve years.  After years of infertility, they have adopted four children.  Two from Uganda and two from Ethiopia.  And then, after the first of the year, she found out she was pregnant.  For the first time ever.  And their darling son was born last month. 

I've seen adoptive families be able to raise $40,000 overnight.  True story.

Amazing stuff.

So, when people ask about the adoption, it's hard for me not to get caught up in the fact that things aren't moving and we have no idea how long this is going to take or what this is going to look like.  It is so strange to have a momma's heart, but no babies to love on. 

But I believe that God is going to do some RADICAL things to create our family.  And, just like with our house, I believe it will happen quickly and it will be so perfect for us (beyond our wildest imagination) that we will not be able to believe that we doubted for a second that it would work out.


Make it 2,0001. 

Friday, August 30, 2013

Four Months

We've owned our own home for almost four months.

Can you believe it??!

People are always asking, "How's the house?  Do you still love it?"

I almost get the impression that people are expecting me to reveal to them that it was all a big mistake.  That, somehow, we were wrong.  That we never should have bought a house this old...this big...this soon. 

But, I will be honest.  Yes, I still love it. 

There are days when I start to cry as soon as I pull onto our road because, wow, THIS is our house.

And I will admit...there is so much that I could have never imagined...never anticipated about this house.

I thought we would already have the electrical stuff fixed.  I thought we would already have a dining room table.  I thought we would have already ripped off the wallpaper in the kitchen.

I thought we would have semi-tamed the yard.  I thought I would have planted a garden.

And, this summer, we did none of it.

But, oh, the other things that I could have never imagined!

I could never have expected to be surrounded by neighbors who truly watch out for us.  Who bring us tomatoes and peppers from their garden.  Who help us look for our dog and pull our mower out of holes.  Who secretly mow our yard when we break our mower for the second time in as many weeks.

I was totally caught off guard by all the critters and the noises and how, after the first month, I stopped being so scared of every single tiny bug...and frog...and bat...and bird...and chipmunk. 

I grew up in the country, but after living in the suburbs for 12 years, I forgot how absolutely stunningly gorgeous the country is.  I forgot what it's like to be able to be in your yard in the early light of the morning and see deer eating apples from the tree.

I forgot how quiet it is in the middle of the night, when everyone is asleep, even all the critters and bugs.

I certainly didn't expect to have the neighbors' cats just prowl around our property...to say hello to them and pet them and to feel like, somehow, they are a part of our little community.

I love being out in the yard with the dog in the middle of the night and looking at our house...how everything is completely dark, except for the golden hubs of life in our home...the kitchen...our bedroom. 

I love having room in the kitchen for Adam and I to cook side-by-side.  I love being able to have room for our friends to gather and drink wine in our kitchen.

I so loved our first attempt at a cookout, where we learned all the things that we didn't know about hosting a cookout at your house...having friends clustered in the barn, on the porch, in the dining room, in the family room...playing cards, eating, exploring our yard. 

I didn't expect it when our friends came over and their kids found a turtle in our yard. 

Which makes me sigh and think that our kids are going to be so lucky to grow up here. 

And THAT is why we bought this house.  This too big...too much...too soon house.

Which leads us to probably the most exciting news yet...

In one week, on September 7, we have our very first adoption meeting!!!

It's really just a general information meeting, BUT we have to attend it to be able to fill out our application to start the adoption process.  Even though it feels like we have been waiting forever (almost 3 years!!) to start this process, I like that our agency only holds these meetings twice a year, in the attempt to create a supportive group for families who are all going through this journey together.

And our hearts and minds have changed some on our adoption route...

Back in May, I was looking at some adoption-related things...photolistings of waiting children, watching YouTube videos, reading articles written by adoptive parents...the usual stuff you do when you're waiting for this process to start...especially when your husband is out of town.

And, for some reason, I was watching all of these videos about domestic adoption.  Which is really kind of strange since, historically, we had both been pretty sold on international adoption.  And I was trying to weigh in my heart if this was something significant (like, life-changing) OR if I was just being overly emotional because we're ready to start a family. 

And I can't really explain it.  I think sometimes people describe a peace in their sprit when they make a certain decision or are faced with a particular situation.  And the only words that I can use to describe how I felt are....blind panic. 

I sent Adam this e-mail that I'm sure didn't make any sense and came totally out of left field.  But the gist of it was...I feel like this day is significant...I feel like we should consider domestic adoption...I'm not sure what all this means...just be open to the idea...and pray about it.

And the best response that a husband could ever give a wife..."I trust your gut on this." 

So, I wanna put it out there...somehow....May 19 is a significant date for our child's life. 

In the meantime, since things aren't already crazy enough, back in July we added a fourth furry member of our family...Shelby. 

Shelby...the dog that stayed with a friend of Adam's for 3 months until we could be ready for her.

Shelby...the dog that tries my patience every. single. day.

Shelby...the dog who bruised the backs of my legs when she ran into them with her cone.

Shelby...the dog who doesn't always under the "potty outside thing."

Shelby...the sweetest dog I've ever had.

Shelby...I don't know how we ever lived without her.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Dreams Come True

A week ago, we were pretty sure that it wasn't going to happen.

We'd spent the whole weekend having the "What do we do if we don't get this house because we're pretty sure that we're not going to get it and we need to be emotionally prepared when everything falls through" conversation.  We were having a pretty nice pity party, with the table set for two.

When the call came Monday morning that we passed our final loan approval with the USDA without a glitch (the first step of our process to NOT have a major glitch), we were kind of dumbfounded.  We set the closing for Wednesday morning; but, even then, I don't think either of us really expected that it would happen...

That we would get this house.  That it would be ours.  Forever. 

Even during the closing, when there was a slight snag about the use of Adam's full middle name or initial, we were pretty aloof.  (We were just shocked that it wasn't MY name that caused any problems in this process!)

"Oh, you mean it might take a few days more?  No biggie.  We're used to that.  You know, we don't have to be out of our apartment until Halloween, so we've got time." 

But there was an immediate fix to the snag.  Thank goodness for technology and quick secretaries who can amend things and e-mail them over immediately!

And then...it was done.  And no one was more surprised than us to have the key in hand!

(No, really, there was just one key...for the entire house.)

It's been over a week since we got possession of the house.  And, honestly, it still doesn't feel real.  I keep telling Adam that I feel like we're squatters in this house and, at any moment, someone is going to come and say, "I'm sorry, you have to move out so that the real owners can have their house back."  I cry every single time I drive to the house.  Every.  Single.  Time.

We are in awe.  This is truly our dream house in every possible way.  I remember, last fall, when we first started thinking about houses and we kept saying, "There is a house that is perfect for us, and we will KNOW which house is supposed to be ours."  We had people who suggested that we find a house that we "liked" but not to hold out for a house that we "love" because it simply doesn't exist.  We had some who kind of scoffed and snickered at our desire for land.  I remember Adam saying, at Christmas, that he wanted about 4 acres.  We ended up with 3.93...it's close enough for us!

So, what do you do when you get a ginormous house that is all yours and you've lived in a tiny apartment for the last 10 years?

*  Lay in the middle of the living room floor and drink champagne
*  Buy a grill and make hamburgers on the deck
*  Yardwork!
*  Vacillate between being so overwhelmingly grateful that everything lined up perfectly for us to get this house and laughing hysterically that we somehow pulled this off!
*  Spend all of your time and money at the hardware store
*  Make lists of things that you still need to buy that you never even thought you might need
*  Explore the house
*  Clean up dead mice in the basement...puke!
*  Get a dog
*  Periodically say, "Can you believe that this is our house?", "This is the life," and "We are so lucky."
*  Strategically plan for how to transition the kittens to the house
*  Try to figure out what certain parts of the house are called
*  Have friends over and show them around the place

The couple selling the house are a brother and sister who were selling their childhood home that their parents moved into in 1957.  They were gracious enough to give us a summary of our neighbors, tell us some stories from growing up in the house, and to give us the abstract of the house, which tracks the deed of the house all the way back to 1835!  There is a sense of peace that comes from knowing that there were happy memories attached to this house.

The brother said, "I've thought about moving back in here myself, but this house just really needs a family."

(Sob.)  We're working on it.