Monday, October 9, 2017

When an anniversary is something you didn't want to celebrate.....

Today, Nate and I met in a parking lot on the westside of Jacksonville to get re-fingerprinted.  RE-fingerprinted.  Because fingerprints in an adoption are only good for one year - and ours expired.

Last week I was reminded by Facebook that a year ago we "announced" our adoption to our friends....which to me, at the time, felt almost silly since we had already been doing paperwork since the end of July. I felt like we had a good jump on things - like we had safely made it through the first trimester and had been holding on to an announcement for our friends...

To be one-hundred percent transparent - when we started this journey at the end of last summer - I was (in my perfectly-planned-out-plan in my head) bringing home a baby at the beginning of the next school year.  When we first filled our our application I had this - 6 months of paperwork, 6 months to bring her home -maybe a smidge longer - and boom - we would have a new little to love.  Because wouldn't it be super convenient if we were matched in the spring/early summer 2017 - had the summer with the kids at home to prepare and get ready - and then off to school they would go with me at home to adjust with my sweet new one?  Perfect plan, right?  The paperwork went through at some points faster than expected - which made me think "Awesome, God! I can't wait to see how fast you push us through! Thank you! Your timing is awesome!"  This also sounds a lot like "Thanks, God - Your timing is awesome because it is the same my timing!"  [True story.]

Then the summer got here - some of the adoption laws in China changed and our wait has seemed to be getting longer by the day - even though, truth be told, no one is ever given a "specific" wait time.  There is NO TELLING when we will be matched and from there how the rest of the process will go.  But, since planning and attempting to control my circumstances is my specialty - surely these new laws wouldn't derail any of my plans.  Right?

Wrong. Ya'll.  The Lord is doing a big work in my heart.  He is having to rid me of myself, my need for control, a clear plan, and I am having to do a whole lot more trusting and resting (and trusting and resting and trusting and resting and trusting).  So. Very. Hard.

We have seriously been blessed with the best circle of friends and family.  I don't think I have gone more than 48 hours since we started this process without someone asking me about our girl, asking about the process, letting us know they are praying, thinking, wishing, hoping with us.  This is a blessing.  Knowing that we are not the only ones on pins and needles.

I can look back on my life without a shadow of a doubt and know that God's plans are always better than the ones that I have for myself.  He has made that clear, apparently I'm just not the fastest learner.  Or, maybe I know it in my heart but my head just wants to ...I don't know....control. 

The biggest blessing in this whole journey so far has been the constant prayer and closeness with Jesus that I crave - and watching Skylar and Wyatt pray for this baby like they know her.  I guess we all kind of feel like we have another family member that has gone missing - and we are just waiting on God's perfect timing to go find her. 

Two weeks ago on a Thursday - on a day where I was feeling particularly discouraged we were leaving for school, not even out of our neighborhood yet - and Wyatt let out a big sigh followed by "Momma whhhyyyyy is it taking so long to get our China Baby? Why can't we just go get her?"  (This is starting to be a question I can barely answer without tears.)  I simply told him I didn't know why - but the only thing I know to do is just keep praying for her.  Then he asked me to pray - so we did.  In the car, driving to kindergarten on a regular old Thursday - we prayed.  I thanked God for all the things He is teaching our family, patience, perseverance, love and compassion, I prayed for our baby and our home and what it might look like when we come home.  I said several specific prayers over Skylar and Wyatt and then said amen.  As soon as I finished, Wyatt started praying.  With tears overflowing I listened to him pray thanks for his China Baby, that she would come home soon - he listed his own specific prayers for her - and then he prayed that the next time Papa David goes to China he could find her, give her a hug and keep her warm for us. 

This wait is hard, but this wait is good.  I am watching my children grow in faith that God will answer their prayers.  I am realizing how much growth I have to do in my own life in trusting that my prayers will be answered - all in His perfect timing.

Sunday as we were getting ready to go to church, I heard this song Take Courage - and it spoke to my heart. Take courage my heart.  Stay steadfast my soul.  He is in the waiting.  I went to look up the lyrics to be sure I had them correct to include at the end of this blog -- and this is what the website opened....

Isn't God so good to speak to me through the smallest thing?

He is in the waiting.  We are learning in the waiting.  This big sister and big brother are learning so much - in the waiting.  So, here we are - we wait patiently for you, Sweet Baby Girl.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Pray Pray Pray Repeat....

Mongie sent a map to our house and the kids have enjoyed it so much. Today I was in the other room and heard Wyatt say "Thkylar, can you thow (show) me where my other thithter (sister) is?" A quick peek around the corner found this - and I stood and listened to a conversation that included "when mom and dad fly to go get her - it's going to take a long time to get from here to here.....we should keep praying for her and the people who are taking care of her everyday....are you excited to see her?...and hopefully she comes home really soon..."

I have to admit - this part isn't easy...and maybe I was naive to think the waiting part would go by faster than it is. I also some days feel guilty for including Sky and Wyatt in the beginning stages of the process - I know the wait seems even longer for them. Should we have just waited until we knew her and were traveling and then told them? Some days I avoid all adoption conversations because the question that is on repeat is "when" and "how much longer" and saying "I really don't know..." only feels productive so many times... Today I struggled a little with the sadness in the waiting process. As I prayed for our baby - and for Skylar and Wyatt - for protection over their hearts and minds in this whole process - I felt God gently speak to me that he can use this to teach them to pray earnestly and wait patiently if I will just be faithful to do the same and walk through this with them - so for day at a time...

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Thank You

I know I said I would be posting more - but I am doing my best to enjoy the summer with Skylar and Wyatt - and to pass each day during The Big Wait with some sort of fun memory.  Maybe I will share more soon - but I wanted to post this update so that one day, when we are going back over this blog for memory sake - it is here.

Tonight I was able to send this Thank You -- and it can serve as an update for now:

Dear Show Hope Donors,

Tonight, I (we) want to take a minute to thank you from the bottom of our hearts - for helping us bring our girl home.  The process so far has been a roller coaster of emotions.  In all fairness - we were warned!  During the first paperwork/homestudy portion we would get so excited for mail from various agencies we had requested information from - and our "progress" was measured by just how many boxes we could check off each week of things we had completed.  Eventually that part of the paperwork ended and we began The Big Wait.  And while, all things considered, we haven't been waiting all that terribly long - each week that goes by is too long for a momma and daddy that feel so "ready" to meet this little person we have been praying for for so long. Every night our kids pray for their sister, and her caretakers - and our oldest, Skylar (5) always adds "please bring our China Baby home really soon."  Even they feel The Big Wait. 
On Monday night we found out that Tuesday would be a match day for our agency, but we were also warned that with all of the new laws in China that the chances of a match are low.  Still, Tuesday morning came, and despite having complete peace about this probably not being our month for a match - I turned my phone up loud and a tiny bit of my heart thought "maybe it will be today - God is bigger than the laws - and maybe today we 'meet' our baby."  The morning came and went, and by mid-afternoon I was certain another month had gone by – and I still didn't have a face to put with my prayers.  By late afternoon I could feel the disappointment and Skylar (who knew it was a match day) asked "did we find out today, Mom!?"  You can imagine how explaining that feels. 
Then we checked the mail and an envelope with Show Hope as the return address came out of the box.  As I read your letter stating that our family has been graciously given a grant to help fund a portion of our adoption - it was almost an audible whisper in my ear "I haven't forgotten you.  I haven't forgotten your family.  I haven't forgotten your girl.  I am simply working out all the details.  Wait for me.  It will be worth it."  So, to you, sweet donors, THANK YOU.  Thank you for being a whisper of reassurance that we are supported.  Thank you for being generous and having a heart for the orphan.  Thank you for making it easier for families like ours, who have a heart for adoption and are trusting God to work out all the details.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for being the hands and feet of Jesus.  We cannot wait to update you once our girl is home. 

With Love and Thankful Hearts,  

The Cass Family

Monday, April 17, 2017

On Our Way!

On Thursday (April 13) - a few weeks ahead of schedule - our paperwork headed to China!

Our next step is to get our Log In Date - LID.  And from there guess what we do? Yes! WAIT! 

We are super excited - it seems like this part of the paperwork would never end - and I have it on good authority that the next time we have paperwork to do it will be much easier to get through because we will have a sweet face on our minds to get us through the next part of the paperwork.

In the meantime - will you pray for us? Our biggest request is that God would continue to provide. He has been so gracious so far - and we know that he will continue to be.  

Pray for our grant applications - that we are able to finish them before deadlines, that they will be accepted and that we will qualify for at least 1?  Will you pray for our fundraiser?

We have asked friends and family to sponsor/commit to pray for a date on our calendar. Over the next year we are trusting there will be major changes and adjustments to be made - and having people committed to every day to encourage and pray for us - will make this transition feel so much less daunting.

I am going to write a blog post this week on the cost of adoption.  We have had SOO many people ask us point blank what we are spending to bring her home - and seem shocked when we answer. And yes, it is so very overwhelming to think about.  It's also super duper awkward to talk about.  I want to clarify as we have had several families ask us how we got started - thinking about it themselves - and this ALWAYS seems to be the one big drawback for why they have started or feel they can't,  I need to gather my thoughts before I post about this one as it is definitely something I struggled with when we said yes.  

We celebrated Easter knowing we were one step closer to our sweet baby!  So thankful we serve a Risen Savior - that he loves us so much more than we can fathom. Thankful he freely gave his life for us.  Thankful for our church and these kids right here.  They are the biggest blessings we have been given this side of heaven.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

The Waiting Game

Most days it doesn't seem like almost 3 months have gone by since I have written - and some days it seems like a year ago.  I really should write more, it somehow calms my crazy - and I'm sure if I could often put my thoughts down on "paper" and just forward Nate a link to my brainwaves he would have a little less difficult time figuring me out.  Actually, probably not.

Life has felt a little lot crazy around here lately.  Between work, another wedding (did I mention there have been 4 since September?), attempting to figure out kindergarten for Sky (this was way more stressful than I ever imagined it would be), Wyatt and his daily battle-of-the-wills literally making me consider admitting myself (I initially thought " consider taking hard core drugs" - but this seems a little extreme - checking myself in at least means hopefully a good night or two of sleep?) - and oh yeah - our adoption .... basically, I'm tired.  In all the ways one can feel tired - I feel t-i-r-e-d.  But I'm totally thankful for all of the above and in the middle of the crazy-bout-to-have-a-breakdown-feelings I know beyond a doubt I am blessed beyond measure!

The last portion of paperwork for our adoption (before matching) is currently in D.C. being translated - and from there will go to China - where it is "logged in" - which basically means - we wait.  We could wait a month.  We could wait a year.  There is nothing more at this point - besides pray, save, fundraise and apply for grants - that we can do.

From here - each month there will be a "match day" where we may or may not receive a phone call saying we have been matched.  There is also a list of children who are waiting for families that is updated through our agency that we could be matched from.

It's crazy to think that we have been doing paperwork for the past 3 months. For the dossier (the easiest way I can explain this is - basically its another section of homestudy - but it's the stuff you send to China) --  we were fingerprinted (again), collected documentation - original birth certificates, marriage licenses, financial statements, letters of recommendation from friends, mentors, doctors, - we were medically screened (again), bloodwork and all, and then once we finally had clearance from immigration we took all the paperwork and forwarded to Tallahassee to be state-sealed.  From there it went to our agency's global office in Michigan - to D.C. where it is now - and it's next stop will be China.

I wish I could say that I just plugged along requesting papers, asking for letters, visiting doctor's offices etc. and all along thought "This is the best! It's so worth it! This is exactly what I knew I was signing up for when we said 'yes' to the Lord's [very clear] call to adopt!"  But I didn't.  There were days where I totally wanted to throw in the towel.  Days I thought - "someone else - with less on their plate than I feel like I have - can take my place.  I can't do this.  I can't keep it all organized.  I can't wait one more day for the mailman to not bring what I'm waiting for.  I don't want to spend one more dime of money on something with no guaranteed outcome.  IS all this sacrifice worth it?"  The paperwork felt heavy, I felt discouraged, and I felt like it would never end.  But without fail, on one of those days - someone would text, call or ask - out of the clear blue sky - "how is the adoption?  Praying for you! So excited for you! Can't wait to meet her!"  Or one of the mommas who have already walked this road and are re-walking it with us - would send a text "Are you done with this yet?  Hooray! You're so close! It's worth it! You're almost there!" And immediately my spirit would feel renewed.  Or the mailman would finally drop the right envelope in the mailbox.  I would remember the faces of all the sweet babies that we have met through this process and think - oh my stars - they are sooo worth it.  This is worth it!  I feel like on a daily basis I owe God a big fat apology for constantly questioning his plan. I'm so thankful for his patience with me.  I am so thankful for the friends and family who didn't even realize that when they sent a "just checking in" text - they actually sent a lifeline straight through the mess of paperwork to the overwhelmed part of my heart.  We know we are prayed for and that has made all the difference through these last 9 months.

Through these last few months - my specific prayers have been:  Thank you, Lord, for whoever is taking care of our daughter.  Thank you that they are loving her when we can't. Thank you that YOU  are her Good Father, and that you are the same Good Father to all the other little faces waiting patiently for their earthy parents to get to them.  Thank you for our agency - who has answered our questions - multiple times - and helped us understand the process.  Thank you for the friends and family who have literally dropped things they had planned to coordinate paperwork, notarizing (thank you, Jo!!!), write letters for us.  Thank you that You have brought us a new understanding of the gospel through this.  Thank you that our kids are excited (and help them to stay that way!)  Thank you for providing for every need we have had.  Thank you for holding us up when we feel discouraged.  Thank you for Skylar's sweet spirit and tender heart toward her sister.  I pray they bond quickly.  Thank you for Wyatt's curious nature - and his random "when are we getting my sister?" questions.  Thank you that I feel prepared for no sleep because of Wyatt (but also, if we could get him figured out before we add another - that would be great too!)  Help us to attach quickly.  Help her to feel safe.  Help her to want to be held and cuddled. Help her to accept her possibly-over-excited siblings.  Help her to grieve as little as possible.  Help her to trust us.  Thank you for bringing us together. Thank you for the people you have given us along this journey who encourage us. Thank you for writing our family's story.  I pray that no matter how this plays out - no matter what tomorrow or the rest of this adoption story looks like - that God get's ALL the glory.  If this encourages one more person to say "yes" to their calling (not just adoption - but praying, helping, giving, encouraging, walking with someone through this process) - it would all be worth it.  Give us a heart for the orphan.  Give us a heart for You, Jesus.

For all that you've done
We will pour out our love
This will be our anthem song

Jesus we love you
Oh how we love you
You are the one our hearts adore

The hopeless have found their hope
The orphans now have a home
All that was lost has found its place in you
You life our weary head
You make us strong instead
You took these rags and made us beautiful

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

What is Marriage?

When I look at this picture - part of me feels all mushy gushy, part of me laughs thinking that I thought I knew what I was doing, and part of me wants to go back and shake those little kids and say - It's true! It's all true! All that stuff about marriage being hard work is true!

The past 8 years have been nothing short of a miracle of grace in my life.  As I look back on our adventure so far - I want to remember that at this moment - 8 years in - this is what marriage is to me...

Marriage is, a few weeks after your beautiful wedding celebration, realizing that the counseling you got was going to be used more than expected.

Marriage is learning that apparently hampers are not universally used objects.

Marriage is learning that your wife doesn't always put the lids on things well.

Marriage is your husband talking you in to bringing home two puppies and looking at him and still saying "Mom is going to kill me."

Marriage is buying the house with the awful blue tile and the falling apart fence because there are so many other things you like about it, and together working to make it into a home.

Marriage is holding your spouse when the desire to have a baby is overwhelming and everyone else gets pregnant by looking at each other the right way.

Marriage is learning to [attempt] to speak each other's love language - even when you are opposites and it's not easy.

Marriage is cheering your spouse on and believing in their dreams - and celebrating when the promotion that took too long to get here is finally here.

Marriage is taking awesome trips and making memories together, and sometimes its going nowhere, making dinner at home and sitting on the couch watching reruns.

Marriage is going to the store at midnight for pregnancy tests because when the miracle baby you prayed and prayed for might be on the way, but your wife needs confirmation NOW.

Marriage is sometimes being so mad you could literally spit nails, but instead say "I love you, right now I don't like you or this, but I love you and I'm not going anywhere."

Marriage is driving your wife to 3 ... 5 ... 6 ... 8 different restaurants and then going home and ordering pizza because she never knows what she wants.

Marriage is a smirk and an eye-roll when your husband retells the story for the seven-thousandth time and the number gets bigger each time.

Marriage is watching your husband fall in love with another person - even more than he loves you it feels - and being totally okay with it.

Marriage is coming home and quietly backing away with your hands up in surrender after asking if you can help - when you find your postpartum wife crying in the kitchen with no good explanation other than she is exhausted, she is hungry and she doesn't know whose or what bodily fluid is covering her two day old clothes.

Marriage is re-learning everything you thought you knew about each other when a baby flips your world upside down.

Marriage is sacrifice - because now it's not just about us.

Marriage is throwing ice water over the shower curtain - at least once.

Marriage is watching each other figure out this whole parenting thing.

Marriage is being misunderstood, feeling misunderstood and misunderstanding.

Marriage is watching the rug get ripped out from underneath your spouse - and being there to sometimes just say nothing.

Marriage is sometimes being P.O.ed at someone, just because your spouse is.

Marriage is saying hard things - and hearing hard things.

Marriage is encouraging forgiveness, even when it's tough - and then waiting patiently.

Marriage is encouraging your spouse to exceed their goals - and being proud of them no matter the outcome.

Marriage is calling "not-it!" at the dinner table when your toddler screams from the bathroom "Can somebody wipe me!?" and then arguing for 5 minutes about who said it first while the begging continues.

Marriage is sometimes holding hair and rubbing backs when sickness strikes, and sometimes marriage is tossing a Gatorade and saltines in the general direction and running away with your nose plugged. 

Marriage is bold-face lying to your wife when you come home from work to her in sweats and say "you look so beautiful" - because to you it is true.

Marriage is getting out of bed for the 5th time to check the back door lock.

Marriage is re-routing when the plan turns out a little differently.

Marriage is being there for each other - when you feel like you are each going to break.

Marriage is saying "I appreciate you trying to help" when your wife calls you from work wondering why the lawnmower won't work after using the small gas can (oil) and not the large gas can.

Marriage is recognizing the look of "I'm losing my mind" in your spouse's eyes and taking over the kids.

Marriage is learning to say (and teaching the kids to say) "It's just not my favorite" when a new recipe is tried.

Marriage is tag-teaming the night shift.

Marriage is a pool noodle taped to the pole in the garage.

Marriage is high-fiving when you get a family picture and no one looks totally terrible.

Marriage is making hard decisions together - and committing to sacrifice whatever it takes to make it work.

Marriage is not saying "I told you so" even when it requires chewing holes in your cheeks to keep your mouth shut.

Marriage is rejoicing together.

Marriage is realizing that "heck no, you're out of your mind" sometimes just means "ask me after you do the dishes."

Marriage is sometimes saying "You were right."  And meaning it.

Marriage is figuring it out together and never having it all figured out.

Marriage is encouraging each other when you feel called, but not equipped.

Marriage is asking for grace, and giving grace - even when its undeserved on either end.

Marriage is the hardest work - but marriage is fun.  

Marriage is choosing to do the hard work together, because the hard work can lead to the sweetest of rewards.

Marriage is an adventure.

Marriage is you and me, Nate.  And, Boy, do I love you so.