Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Joy in the Journey Retreat Registration

Can you believe it?!  The Joy in the Journey Retreat Registration is happening THIS WEEK!  It seems like yesterday that we were walking away from the first retreat in a glassy-eyed stupor that resulted either from emotions or sheer,exhilarating exhaustion or complete awe at what God had orchestrated that weekend.

It didn't take our team too many days before we began to ask questions...When will we do next year's retreat?  What will that look like?  What will we keep the same?  What will we add or change?

Over the next several months, we prayed and met and chatted and tuned in and planned and connected and e-mailed and texted and messaged and ULTIMATELY came up with what we hope will be the absolute best weekend that we could put together for you as adoptive mamas...

This year's retreat will be centered around the principle of being "Intentional" and will focus on Hebrews 12: 1-2: let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

Our team prays that this retreat will refresh, renew, and revive you as well as equip you to go back to your most precious ministry...your family.

Registration will be THIS FRIDAY, October 24th, and will begin at 6:00 p.m. Central Standard Time.  At that time, there will be a blog post right here that will contain a PayPal button with a direct link for you to purchase your ticket.  Set your alarm!  You won't want to miss your opportunity to get your ticket!

Your Joy in the Journey Retreat Ticket is your fast pass to all things at the retreat.  This year's retreat will feature phenomenal main session and breakout session speakers, an invaluable adult adoptee panel, a genuine worship experience, two mom's support groups, five meals, the BEST vendor shopping (with all sales benefiting adoption in some form), all the coffee you've ever dreamed of, recreation and relaxation times, and friendships that cross all borders.

The retreat will start at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, March 27th, 2015 for check-in and vendor shopping and will conclude at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, March 29th, 2015.

For registration we will simply need you to purchase a ticket.  We'll send you information (including the retreat schedule) and ask for additional information after the first of the year.  Some of the information we will need from you will include your break-out session preferences, roommate preferences (if you don't know anyone, we'll find awesome roommates for you!), and a picture of your family for our family slideshow (optional).

Thank you so much for allowing us to minister to you in this way.  We are forever grateful to God for this ministry and to you for joining with us in this mission.

See you in March!

Monday, October 20, 2014

2014 Retreat Recap

Last year’s Joy in the Journey Retreat proved to be life changing for me.  And I don’t say life changing flippantly.  It was wonderful to get away and spend time with some wonderful adoptive mommas, many of which I’ve grown close with over the past few years.  But what was most impressive to me was what surfaced in my heart during my time at the retreat.  There were some amazing breakout sessions where I learned a ton.  But the most memorable and heart changing part for me was hearing Sharon Lyon speak at the closing session.  This is where I fell apart….

Sharon shared her heart breaking background, her road to bringing home her two beautiful daughters, and her struggle thru post-placement depression.  As I listened to her struggle, particularly after bringing her first child home, I saw so much of who I was in her story.  I saw my same struggle.  And I realized I carried some big wounds into our adoption story, especially with our second child.  It was like a light bulb for me.   Let me back up a bit.

I have a lot of sin in my life, some big, some small.  I imagine most of us all have our vices.  Mine has been depression and anger.  Both have wrecked havoc in my friendships, my marriage, and yes, in my children.  It is only by God’s grace we have made it through!  While my upbringing was not near as challenging as Sharon’s, we did have one big thing in common.  Both of us suffered some abuse in childhood (pardon me for not sharing more specifically on that subject).  It wasn’t until she shared her story that I realized that my secret, literally shared with no one at this point, was the root of all this depression and particularly anger.  About a year after my husband and I were married I spent a year in counseling and started medications.  I improved significantly--I was even able to come off my medication a couple years later. However, I never shared this particular secret with even my counselor.  I always knew something still needed healing though because my anger was still often out of control.   And then, my depression chased me down again after the adoption of our son.

When my son came home, the transition was extremely difficult.  He screamed for hours, often didn’t sleep, never smiled, and pushed all my buttons.  I often thought and asked myself what we had done.  We were happy before he came home.  I was at my limit.  I found myself crumpled on my bathroom floor sobbing uncontrollably.  I had to call my husband home from work.  This happened on more than one occasion.  Then I realized I had to get help.  I knew that this was post-placement depression.  I was in the thick of it for sure.  I just didn’t understand why.  I had done so well for so long.  So I called and made an appointment, got back on medication, reached out to some close trusted friends, and started slowly improving.  Just a little over a month and half later was the retreat.

Sharon spoke volumes to my soul.  Through her story I had a kindred spirit, I wasn’t alone.  More importantly she spoke to the how/why of how she got where she was.  I had never made the connection.  It seems like it should have been so obvious to me, but it wasn’t.  I briefly spoke with Sharon at the end of her time, and thanked her for being so open and honest. 
Then I got in my car to go home, and completely broke down.  I cried all the way home.  I knew I had to get vulnerable and tell my secret.  And I was scared to death.  I didn’t want to do it.  But I prayed, I asked for strength.  I felt God nudging me.  He said  “you need to tell this story to someone right now”.  I knew if I didn’t listen, I wouldn’t do it.  So I called my best friend, someone who knew me before my husband, and someone removed from the situation.  My husband would be harder to tell because of how it would directly impact him. So this was a good practice run.  I could hardly get the words out through tears, but I made it.  It took me two hours on the drive home, but I got it out.   Instantly it felt like a big, heavy weight was gone—literally, physically a heavy weight.

Next was my husband.  When I got home, it was late.  But I knew if I didn’t share then, I wouldn’t.  He asked how the retreat went.  I told him it was truly life changing.  I prepped him a little, and then I repeated my secret.  I couldn’t even look at him.  It was easier this time.  I asked forgiveness for all the ways this had hurt our marriage and him.  He was so gracious, loving, and forgiving.  He understood now, things made sense to him finally.  I was so afraid he would be mad, that he wouldn’t be able to handle it, so afraid of how it would affect us and our family.  It was exactly the opposite.  He just wanted to love me and support me.  We cried together and prayed together.  Afterwards, he told me that yes, in fact, this retreat WAS life changing! 

That was just the beginning of the journey though.  I have a long road ahead of me with healing those wounds, learning new behaviors to replace my destructive ones, and getting healthy so that I can better love my kids!  Sharon reached out to me even after the retreat to check on me and make some book suggestions.  I’m so grateful for her willingness to be open, vulnerable, and real at the retreat!  God moved in big ways for me and I’m so thankful for the team with Joy in the Journey for being faithful and hearing God’s call.  You truly have changed my life and the lives of my kids!  May the Lord bless you and keep you!

[Just as a side note, our son is doing tremendous now!  He is happy and bonded well to us.  He is no longer screaming through the night.  I love him dearly and can confidently say that I’m so thankful God blessed us with Him!]

Friday, October 17, 2014

Resource Review: The Pumpkin Patch Parable

Fall.....the smell of leaves, decorating the home in Fall decor, visiting the pumpkin patch, and pulling out Autumn books to read to the children. These are all familiar acts in our home, especially when it involves books.  A favorite fall book that's read often is The Pumpkin Patch Parable , written by Liz Curtis Higgs. 

Let me just start by saying that the author did NOT write this book to celebrate Halloween. There are not any ghost, goblins, witches, or scary costumes illustrated or spoken of in this book.  Instead, children are offered a charming story of how a loving farmer can turn a simple pumpkin into something beautiful. 
Every page is delightfully illustrated, and has a scripture verse that goes along with each story line.  
This parable shows us how God's transforming love can create a clean heart in each of us - filling our hearts with joy and light. 

I recommend this book as another way to share God's truth; not to replace what you already do, but rather as an alternative message. The Pumpkin Patch Parable is a great way to share the Good News and the light of God's love with your children each harvest season.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

2014 Retreat Recap

In February of 2014, we got news (through a random adoption facebook group) that the current directors of our agency as well as two past employees were arrested on charges of adoption fraud.

Our world began spinning. Quickly.

An ethical adoption was something we were always concerned of. I had nightmares about it-we asked all the questions we could think of, contacted others in the adoption world to think of harder questions to ask, researched like crazy. All of it. But there I was, living something far worse than anything I could have dreamed.

We spent a lot of time in tears and in a strange emotional fog. We had no idea what was happening, no idea where the boy we saw on our referral pictures was, no idea if he was going to become our son-actually quite sure he wasn’t going to.

Just weeks after that news and the swirling days that followed was an adoption retreat I truly felt led to be at. I had been excited about it for months. But to be brutally honest, that awful news just changed me. All of a sudden, I didn't want to go. I was terrified. "I'm scared I'm going to just be that sad person crying in the corner all weekend" I told people.

But I just felt like I was supposed to go. It's unlike me to sign up for a retreat where I know no one, 3 hours away, for over 24 hours. I'm an introvert that really prefers to be home with her babies. I like the occasional mom time away, but overall, I really like just being with the kids and the husband. Being away typically isn't incredibly relaxing for me.
But I made sure I was signed up as soon as sign ups opened in the winter.

I had been excited about it for months. I was going. The day I was supposed to leave, I was shaking. I was in tears telling my husband "I don't want to go". He told me I needed to and sent me on my way.

The next three hours were amazing. Just driving. In the quiet and with worship music. No one to explain anything to. No one to talk to. I really started to be able to process all that had happened in a way I hadn't been able to before with constant needs of small children in front of me.

I got there in what I thought was right on time. Because oh goodness, I didn't want to be early. I didn't want to have to talk to people. I knew I was at a very emotionally fragile state. Turns out, I was there with over an hour to spare. I tried mingling. I walked around the vendor area and bought a few necklaces for my sister and mother in law from The Adopt Shoppe. I teared up by the 1500 trees table-because I had a tree I wanted to buy for 'the boys' room but now didn't know that there was going to be a boys’ room.

After a few people introducing themselves, and asked "where are you in the adoption process?" I took my Bible into the woods and hid. ‘Just get me to the main stuff’ I kept thinking. I can hide it there.

Then it started. Finally. We started with lots of goofy ice-breakers and then there was an ice breaker that got a little deeper. Sit at a table with 8 strangers and tell them where you are in your adoption process, your biggest fear, and something else I can't remember. Oh and go in alphabetical order. (My first and last name starts with A. Lucky me!) So, I got to go first.

It came out.  I didn't know where I was in the adoption process because my biggest fear of working with unethical people and a possible unethical adoption has come true. I just kept breathing, trying not to cry, and trying hard to listen to everyone else.

Finally the main session started. I was sure it would get easier.
They showed this sweet slide show of all the families represented and this adorable picture of Addilyn and Josiah holding Gideon's picture came up and you hear "aww".

And my tears can not be contained any longer. They just can't be stopped. I left to hide in the bathroom. Because I was NOT going to be a sad person crying in the corner. Was NOT.

Then Jen, one of the Joy in the Journey gals, came out to talk with me. She knew I had been considering not coming. She knew what was going on. And she let me vent. She let me tell her all the stuff going through my head and that I was walking away. I couldn't do it. I didn't know that I could trust anyone in Ethiopia anymore and didn't know if I could try. But I loved that baby. I wanted to know he was safe. And she was kind and loving and encouraging through all the word vomit coming out of my mouth that made absolutely no sense, I'm sure.

Then we had the first session. I skipped whatever I had signed up for because it sounded serious and I couldn't handle it. I didn't want to talk about adoptive kids coming home right now. So I stayed right where I was. I listened to this woman talking about staying connected to your spouse in the crazy. And I laughed and smiled and truly enjoyed every second. I learned about just staying connected to Derrick-how little tiny things were important. How it was ok to be in crazy-mode sometimes. And how making it fun or laughing about the crazy was equally important. After that session, this woman came up to me (at the time, I didn't even know her name). I recognized her as someone who I 'met' during one of the ice breakers but didn't remember anything else about her. She handed me a necklace and said "I almost didn't buy this but I did and I think it's yours."

I felt like that was just God shining. Ready to give me a hug. Just there. No need to be afraid. I talked with a few more people that night, some knew bits of my story, some did after we talked. And I learned some of their stories.

I loved hearing the adoptive moms panel and things they struggled with or needed to do. These women loved each other and each others stories. They loved just being and learning and loving their families.

The next day, I was handed a paper from a friend I talked to the night before who knew what this middle ground and losing a referral felt like.  She gave me scripture and told me she was praying. My roommates prayed for me out loud, together. Just because.

I talked to another mom who had gone through our agency and could be sarcastic and snarky with me. Cause I needed that time to be angry too. A group of Ethiopian adoptive Moms took a picture together (I couldn't believe they let me be a part-I was SURE I wasn't going to be a part of that group) then prayed together, for me, for our family, and for our boy. That is a moment I will never ever forget.

I left knowing adoption was in our story, even if I wasn't sure how anymore. When I came home and my husband asked about the sessions, I talked about the correcting while connecting class and a few other things about attachment and connecting to your children and he said "Oh, so these were like your people. They talk and think like you?" Yep. Exactly. That retreat was filled with my people. And I was so very blessed to get to be a part.

So, if you’re adoption story doesn’t look pretty right now and it’s making you second guess if you should sign up for this retreat:
Just sign up. I promise God will use every moment to encourage you. Even the hard ones and the times you hide in the woods. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

When God Doesn't Give You What You Want

Infertility sucks.
I could end this blog post there. But for the sake of the “deeper” message, I will keep going.

A couple years ago, my husband and I entered into the world of trying to start our family. But, it wasn’t the way I ever planned and it wasn’t anywhere near what I wanted for “my” timeline of how our life together was going to go. To make matters even tougher, we found out very quickly that it wasn’t meant to happen the natural way, and it very well may NEVER happen.

It was almost as if we didn’t even have a fighting chance from the start. Doctors had told us that we were highly unlikely to conceive, and that my window for carrying a pregnancy safely was “closing quickly.” As a then 24 year-old newlywed, my husband and I were naturally shocked. However, the shock was quickly replaced by something so much worse… ultimate heartache.

Never in our wildest dreams could we ever have imagined the roller coaster ride that is infertility. The unknown possibilities, with very harsh timelines, and crazy fertility hormones are enough to send even the strongest of minds into a whirlwind of utter mush. You are thrown into every emotion, and you are constantly hoping and praying that maybe this time would be THAT time, only to be soon hit with failure and devastation once again. On top of that, everywhere you turn there is a reminder of what everyone else can have, what you want so desperately, and what you more than likely can never have.

Our time of infertility was a really dark time for me. I found myself questioning God and all the pain he was putting me through. I cried, I screamed, and I begged for him to hear my prayers. After all, God was the one who had the power to provide miracles. Yet, for some reason, I didn’t seem to be worthy of getting mine.  As time went on, my anger changed into total depression. I had always seen myself as a mom, and for some reason, I was losing my chance before it even had the opportunity to start. My time was out, and I was devastated. I was empty. I was lost.

Slowly but surely, my husband and I mourned our lost battle with infertility. We tried to move on with our lives, and we tried to see what our future together could look like without children. But something in both of us just couldn’t ever find peace with the idea of never having a family. Living a life just as a couple wasn’t something either of us saw for ourselves. God put the desires for our own family in our hearts. They were real, and they were so very strong. Deep down both of us knew that God specifically placed those desires within each of us. We knew that he had purposely formed us to be parents, and we knew that somewhere there was a baby out there that was meant to be our child. God was still working in our lives.

Shortly after this point, adoption came into the picture. From the beginning, we were both at peace, and things just fell into place. Neither of us could imagine how we were going to financially handle adoption, but the money was always strangely there when it needed to be. Neither of could of imagined how we would have the strength to keep fighting, but a helpful smile or an encouraging word was also there when we needed it to be. God was pointing us to our child. He was leading us down the path to our family. It just wasn’t the way that either of us ever saw happening.

Today, I can stand and say that I understand why God brought infertility into my life. I am still working hard to make peace with it, but I understand why. It was the path I was meant to take in order to bring my daughter into my life, find my strength, and learn what faith really means. However, I am so very human, and I still struggle often. Infertility will be a life-long battle for me. There will always be good days, but there will also always be bad days. Those bad days are real, and they are painful. Yet I find my peace in remembering that God places desires in your heart knowing the exact purpose as to why they are there.

As I think about those other couples that have been, or may be currently in the harsh world of infertility, my heart aches in understanding. From the bottom of my heart, I want them to hear the realization that took me so long to understand, “Just because you are not meant to be pregnant, doesn’t mean that you aren’t meant to have a family.” God placed those desires in your heart. He sees you, he knows your pain, and he hears your prayers. And somehow, someway, he will fulfill them. It just may not be in the exact way that you want, but he will work in your lives the way that he worked in mine.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

2014 Retreat Recap

My GPS reset four times and, after dumping me in the middle of a cow pasture, informed me that I’d arrived at my destination. Not unlike the preceding six hours, I couldn’t help but ask myself again, “WHAT are you doing?!”

An adoptive mama of nearly 14 years, I’d run the gamut of emotions, but I was two years into our most recent adoption and the words of the weekend were disillusion, despair, and depression. (Did ya see what I did there with the alliteration? Totally unplanned.) I was OVER adoption conferences, starry-eyed families in process and paper bead necklaces. I’d just found out my agency director was in jail for fraud and my possibly fraudulently adopted child still treated me like the scum on the bottom of her shoe. I did not want to talk nice about adoption issues. I wanted an empty hotel room and strong drink. 

But. God. He has a way of delivering us out of the pit, doesn’t He?

When, to my knowledge, there were no more spots available, my friend was asked to speak, given a room to divide as she saw fit, and somehow decided that I needed to be in it. She told me, “You’re going,” paid, and signed me up (then sent me a text that said, “By the way, you owe me money.” Love you, friend.).

As I write this, I find myself asking why the Joy in the Journey retreat was so important to me. What it is that I learned from the conference. Does anything stand out besides the fact that I find myself telling people, “You’re going,” and the fact that it isn’t even a question whether I’ll go back? 
Well, I have highlights:

* The ice breakers: Introverts’ nightmare. I survived, but barely. Might I suggest offering an introverts corner where we huddle and whisper how these things are soul killers?

* Staying connected with your spouse: Hilarious. I’m not sure I learned anything, but the belly laughter did my soul good. And now my husband and I take frequent, guilt free, thirty-minute Sonic dates.

* Worship: Oh my goodness. “Oceans” still brings me to tears.

* Cupcakes: Bring ‘em back!

* Vendors: Went hoping to snag some Adopt Shoppe goodies. Found myself considering, and then following through upon, becoming a Compassionate Entrepreneur with Trades of Hope. Keeping first families together when the only thing stopping it is poverty? Sign me up. PURPOSE.

* Length: too short

* Food: excellent

* Coffee: kept her coming!

* Friends: potential life-long

* After hours: the best

But my true take-away?  That 24 hours restored my faith in humanity. And it made me head home rejuvenated and ready to tackle whatever came my way. Which is a good thing because the circumstances at home hadn’t changed.  Only my outlook.
I can’t wait to go back.

Friday, October 3, 2014

October Giveaway

It is giveaway time! 
We are SO excited about this month's giveaway and just in time for the retreat!  This giveaway is extra sweet because it will allow one of our blessed followers to attend the retreat for FREE!!  Yep, you read that right.  We are giving away a FREE registration to our Joy in the Journey retreat 2015.  But there is a catch....this is not a giveaway that you get to enter for youself....this is a giveaway that you get to enter for a friend. 
Here is how you enter:

1.  Go to our Facebook page or our IG (@joyinthejourney2014)
2.  Tag a person (or if they arent on FB or IG then just type their name and we will trust that if they win you can give us their contact info) that you feel deserves a FREE retreat registration.  We all have a woman in our life who has touched us as we have embarked on our adoption, foster, and life journey so here is your chance to say THANK YOU!  (You may only nominate one person!)
3.  Nominating will end on Monday, October 6 at 9pm and the winner will be announced shortly after. 

We are so excited to see who you nominate!!