Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Village


They say it takes a village to raise a child. It is most definitely true! We could most definitely do parenthood no justice without our village. Eliana desperately needs the influence of others in her life, and we desperately need the support of others as we figure out this walk called "Parenthood."

When we adopted Eliana, we did it in large part on our own. We were the lone rangers and front runners in our church and community of friends. We had no idea what we were doing. We had no idea how much it would actually cost, and we entered into it all pretty naively but with a simple trust that "he will provide." And that he did.

We finished Eliana's independent adoption all on our own. We hired all the lawyers needed, hired the adoption service provider to serve papers and get them signed, contacted the state to have them do our home study.... and so much more. We did all of the leg work, and at the end of the day our adoption cost about $25,000. Adoption is not cheap. Lawyers are not cheap, home studies are not cheap...there is a lot that goes into finalizing an adoption.

Here's the miraculous part... When all was said and done, we finalized Eliana's adoption with zero debt. NONE. This may not sound like much of a miracle to you, but let me give you just a glimpse in to the miraculous nature of this provision!
1) We didn't ask for help. A few of our family members gave us some money instead of presents that year for Christmas, which gave us the boost we needed to get started (about $1500 total). Bit by bit as bills came along, we always had the money to pay them.
2) We are not rich! ha! With Eliana's adoption, we were just 5 years into marriage and at the beginning of our careers. I was a private Christian School teacher, which if you don't know...they make basically nothing, and Brian was making the starting salary for an engineer in our small town. We live in a small town with a high desire for jobs and small amount of jobs, so the starting pay tends to be lower than the average. We began saving, budgeting, and putting away money bit by bit.
3) We had some serious financial opposition right before we found out about Eliana. The little nest egg that we had built literally dwindled before our eyes in one week's time.  In February 2011, in one week all of this went down.
  • Brian had appendicitis and had to have an emergency appendectomy. 
  • The transmission went out on our car.
  • I was told I was losing my job because the school I was working at was closing. 
Yet, God provided, and we finalized with zero debt. Brian and I have a very high value for living within our means. We find great pleasure in honoring God with the money he has entrusted us with. In our eyes, none of it really belongs to all is on loan from Him. We have found great financial peace and freedom from living debt free... Now, before I get to debt free is not easy!!! We don't have the newest cars, I shop at thrift stores (btw...I get complimented on Eliana's clothing more than any other mama I've met haahaha), we live on a cash budget, and we don't spend more than we have. Why? We find the peace far out weighs the stuff. There is so much financial peace in having cars paid off, minimal bills, and a more simple way of living. All that goes to say that we are NOT normal!!! This is most definitely not the American way to live, and that is quite alright:) Our favorite part about living debt free is having the opportunity to give!! Giving is such a blessing, and it is such a beautiful act of thankfulness towards God. God has given us the gift of giving freely when the Holy Spirit has laid something on our heart. 

Fast forward to Adoption of Dean Baby #2: As we approached this adoption, we openly talked about what our goals were this time around.... Since this was not our first time at this rodeo, we had clearer picture of what was to come, and we started to dream accordingly. 

Goal #1: TO LIVE OUT LOUD: This time around we are both passionate about seeing God glorified. We have opened ourselves us to sharing our story on a much larger platform than before. I have very intentionally placed myself in the adoption community, and I have very purposefully and openly shared our story. The miracles, the mundane, and the rubber meets the road. Why? So God might receive the glory! He's the one at work behind the scenes in all of this. He deserves all of the Glory, Honor, and Praise that is due to him. We as a family have a huge value for authenticity and transparency. If we don't share our lives, how will God ever receive the glory? 

Goal #2: TO SHOW THAT ADOPTION CAN BE DONE DEBT FREE: I have found so often that many of us feel called by God to do something... What that something looks like is different for each one of us, but ultimately, that something always glorifies the Lord and grows the kingdom of God. BUT, what I have also have found is a general fear associated with this calling. If God has called me to start this small business, how do I do it... If God has called me to love the elderly, how do I get started....If God has called us to share the gospel with our coworker, do I have the right words? Few of us have the raw faith to believe that what God calls us to, He will equip us for... So if God calls you to start an infertility group in your community, Why not do it? God will equip you for your calling! If God has called you to love on struggling single moms in your community, why not go... God will equip you! He will give you a vision and provide you with a way! SO the challenge turned upside down on us... If God has called us to show that adoption can be done debt free, why not call of the village, the body of Christ. Eeeek! Ahhhhh! Screeech! HOLD UP?!?! So I'm preaching to myself....yup. 

Goal #3: TO SEE OTHER FAMILIES WALKING IN THEIR CALLING TO ADOPT: this is where my goals go all crazy! We have a crazy dream!!!! We are dreaming that our story might actually give others the courage to walk out their own calling to adopt!!! We must be all kinds of crazy! 

Goal #4:  INVITE THE VILLAGE:  ok. SO. We could totally do this adoption 100% on our own... We are confident that God will provide, with the village or without the village. We could save up a few more years and be fully funded all by ourselves, BUT every time we've prayed about it, we've felt God nudging us to include the village. Allow the body of Christ to do what it does best! Soooo... "YOOHOOO!!! Village... Let's Do this!" Let's see what God does!!! Honestly, it's a risk putting ourselves out there and asking for help from our village, but you know what?! why not?! Why not see God's glory radiating from every aspect of our story!!!

Goal #5: OK... Here's where I get a little crazy in my eyes! Maybe a lot CRAZY?! I have a crazy dream! I have have a crazy dream that God will not only fund our adoption, but he will use the body of Christ to fund another adoption! Eeeeep! I know crazy right?! We have some friends that we love and adore who are knee deep in the adoption process. They are a dynamo couple that has decided to step out in faith and plant a church in St. George, UT. This month they were matched with a birth family, and they potentially have a baby boy due April 28!!!! They have beautiful hearts. After hearing our story, God confirmed in them that adoption was their Plan A for growing their family...they endured some painful losses and decided to forgo infertility treatments in order to pursue adoption. Read their story here:

OK. Who wants to do Crazy with us?! Who wants to jump on this band wagon and see God do something big! Ready or not here's the plan!

Our next adoption costs: $24,000. We are adopting through Nightlight Christian Adoptions. So far Brian and I have saved $14,000!!! That is a miracle in and of itself!!! That leaves us with $10,000 to raise! This $10,000 will directly pay the fees associated with the placement of a child in our home.

Our Dream is to raise twice as much, $20,000!!! Why not see two little ones placed in homes that love Jesus and love birth families and are committed to walking out God's heart here on earth? Why NOT?!

To me it's simple... 2,000 people who give $10; or 200 people who give $100; or 500 people who give $40; 40 people who give $500; or one person who feels God tugging on their heart to give it all. God can use whomever he so desires to see this lived out, and he can place any amount on the hearts of whomever he desires! Our Goal...GOD might be glorified as the GOD WHO PROVIDES!

We do ask that you only give if you feel led to give! Please do not feel any guilt or obligation towards giving; not everyone who reads this post or my blog will feel prompted to give! God loves cheerful givers, and we believe that in the end God will provide!

Practically here are our two platforms for giving at this time:

1) T shirt Fundraiser: We are doing a t-shirt fundraiser. We love the word God has spoken to us, and we pray that anyone who gets to wear it will be given an extra measure of courage to live out love... to be faithful in loving the people God places in front of you because LOVE ALWAYS WINS!

We will receive $15 from each t shirt purchased!

*Please send me a picture of you wearing your shirt once you receive it! I plan on making a wall collage for baby dean #2 to have on his/her wall.

2) Adopttogether: This time around we found an incredible adoption crowd funding platform. Basically, what they have done is to create a platform for people to give towards adoptions. The donations are TAX DEDUCTIBLE!!! Isn't that incredible! Adopttogether has agreed to shift whatever funds raised above our $10,000 directly into the Nadalsky's adopttogether fund! To Give this way click on link below: 

Ready or not?! Let's see what God does!!! 

The Deans

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Veil Was Torn.

As we drove to our first meeting with K (Eliana's Birth Mom), 
I picked my fingernails, and my knee seemed to have a mind of its own. 
I couldn't stop it from bouncing. 
All I had the courage to pray was "Oh Jesus. Help us."

We waited outside of her house after our long drive...
Waited to meet the woman who might be growing the baby we might raise in her belly. 
It felt like a reality t.v. show;
Who does this?
Who shows up at a person's house, knowing that your lives might be forever changed by that meeting. 
It felt so surreal, yet so right. 

Eventually, K comes walking up, and we get out of the car to meet her. 
At this point, I am just in survival mode.
I had to tell my brain...Brain walk to her...Brain hug her. 
All of us were stumbling over our words. 
None of us had done this before, and we were all just trying to figure it out. 

I am pretty sure she felt equally as nervous. 
We all felt like our worlds were colliding and would never be the same. 
We spent the next day getting to know each other. 
I found it difficult to not stare at her...
She was so beautiful; her son was strikingly handsome
and her perfect belly on her petite stature. 
Dare I dream that the baby hiding in there would call me mommy one day. 

This was just the beginning of what we were to call an open adoption. 
From everything that I have seen, we have one of the more ideal and open adoptions. 

Open adoption wasn't always our heart....
We didn't know better.
We had no idea the implications of an open/closed adoption. 
The more we educated ourselves, however,
the more convinced we were that we wanted to be as open as possible. 

There was a period of time in U.S. history where open adoptions were unheard of...
closed adoption was the way to go.
In fact, you probably have heard many of your adoption experiences birthed out of this closed adoption movement during the 1950s-1970s.
There was a big push for secrecy. 
Birth mothers were sent away to home to have their babies and return back to normal life after baby was born, left to wonder if they ever really made the right decision.
They felt it was ideal for birth parent and adoptive family. 
Birth parent could move on from the adoption, pretending nothing ever happened, 
and adoptive parent could move on with their lives with baby in tow pretending as if their baby was their own biological child. 

The reality is that this movement left a mess in its wake. 
It is impossible for a birth parent to forget the baby that grew in them for nine months and they birthed, 
and it is impossible for adoptive parents to ever feel 100% secure in their role as parent with the secrecy of the adoption looming in the air. 
The whole scenario is clouded in secrecy. 

The more I've walked this journey out, the more I've come to understand the value of truthfulness.
In the same sense, I would be lying to say that openness and truthfulness is easy. 
It's NOT! 
Sometimes I would like to pretend that Eliana grew in my belly and that our family grew the same way most other "normal" families do. 
Because it would be easier in the short term, 
but we are investing in an open adoption for the long term. 
We have found great value in the truth and having a safe environment to say what we are feeling. 
In our home, there is nothing hidden. 
Eliana will always know she is adopted. 
Eliana will always know she is loved by two mommies,
and all of this will be talked about in an open manner. 
No secrets. 
"Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free" (John 8:32).

Sometimes open adoption is awkward. 
It's awkward to visit K's home town. 
It's awkward to talk about the tears that show up unannounced at different times. 
It's awkward to have to tell K that Eliana has asked about her birth dad. 
A lot of it is uncomfortable, 
and it demands security. 
As Eliana's mother, I must be 100% secure in my role of mother. 
K does not threaten that role at all. 
Do I have moments where I feel threatened or tempted to compare? 

I remember this last trip we had a moment where Eliana was acting like her normal two year old self 
and hauled out and smacked Brian. 
I looked over at K, unsure of how she'd receive this behavior?!
Would she think I'm a horrible mom that Eliana would smack her dad and throw and epic fit?
Ha. No! 
She breathed a huge sigh of relief. 
"Oh Phew. I'm not the only one" was her response.
I stopped holding my breath and breathed a huge sigh of relief. 
Oh good, she still thinks I'm a good mom. 

We hit a crux, and we chose not to ignore the awkward moment. 
Instead we said something.
We have a safe place to talk openly. 

I have found that the greatest challenges in having an open adoption stem from my own insecurities.
My insecurities are all fear based and not rooted in God's truth.
Am I inadequate?
Am I good enough?
Is she still happy she decided for us to parent?!
Am I botching up her hair? ha.
As I look at these insecurities, a response is demanded, 
and I simply must bring them to the cross. 
A place where "his grace is enough for me. His power is made complete in my weakness." 
(2 Corinthians 12:9). 
Lord knows that we all struggle with insecurity at different measures...
some more than others. 
I know that if I live my life always insecure of my unique role as a mom; 
I will never be able to lead my kids in their uniqueness as they learn and grow. 
Comparison and insecurity rob us of our peace and joy to live out who we are as an individual. 

I'm so thankful that there is nothing hidden in our adoption...
On that note, I understand that not all adoptions are open, 
and I totally respect and honor each birth parent's decision to keep it open to whatever degree they feel comfortable.
Open adoption can have many levels of openness: sharing the adoption story with our children, pictures or letters to birth parents, phone calls, or even visits. 
Again, it's uncomfortable and awkward to watch someone else raise the baby that grew inside of you for 9 months! 
The value comes back either way to truthfulness. 
I have no idea how our next adoption will unfold. 
I have no idea what level of openness our next birth family will be open to. 
No matter what... 
Truthfulness will be our highest value. 
Questions will be met with answers, 
and my children will know always how loved they are by two mommas. 

I am reminded of the symbolic act of tearing the temple curtain.

You see the moment Jesus poured out his life and died on my behalf.
It was...
"At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom" (Matthew 27:51).
The temple curtain (the veil) was symbolic of the spiritual and relational barrier between us and our Heavenly Father.
The tearing of the curtain was symbolic of a new and restored relationship with our Father.  
It was on the cross of Calvary that adoption and truth and openness were purchased for us. 
Because of the cross of Jesus Christ,
all of us have inherited the right to become sons and daughters of the living God. 
All of us have access to have a living and active and open relationship with our creator. 

So when people ask: 
"What's it like to have an open adoption?"
My response will always be; it's hard, but it's so so good. 
It's such a blessing to have the opportunity to be a living representation of the gospel.
One life poured on behalf of another.
All so relationship might happen. 

It's worth it to be completely open and honest 
because it is
Truth that brings freedom. 

 These photos are from our first visit back to K's hometown after Eliana was born.
I love that the first picture has a rainbow across it.
God's promises fulfilled.
We are so blessed.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

It's a Process (the home study)

Have you ever been in an investigator's office?
You know like CSI Miami....
Cue the gigantic spot light lamp;
Sweat dripping from your brow, 
as you are asked the nitty gritty details about what you saw, who you saw, why.

Home studies kind of feel like this.

There are few areas that I have found that people ask the most about...
Our Home study and
Our Open Adoption, 
so I am going to spend the next couple of posts trying to unpack them.

Our home study for Eliana was completely different than our home study for this little one.
We still had to check off many of the same to do lists, 
but we did most of this after Eliana was born. 
Eliana was adopted through an independent domestic adoption, 
so agency adoption has been a different experience already....

Basically in an agency adoption, 
the birth rights are signed over to the agency after the child is born.
With Eliana, the birth rights were signed off to us the weeks following her birth.
With the rights being in the agencies court, 
agencies tend to do the extra mile of investigation
 in order to assure that they are placing children into legit homes. 

When we started our home study, we got a long list of items that needed to be completed
in order to set up our official home visit with the agency social worker. 
To be quite honest when I got the list, 
I read through it...
started to hyperventilate (slight exaggeration...just slight. I kid you not), 
and I put the packet up on a shelf. 
I shelved it for two months before looking at it again.

Two months passed, 
and I knew I couldn't avoid the checklist forever. 
I'm kind of an all or nothing gal, 
so the idea of this checklist was daunting. 
When in the world was I going to find time to do all this?!
I can barely keep my laundry folded
with a squirmy, screaming, lovely toddler at my feet!

I finally began to understand that all of this would be a process. 
It would not happen overnight. 
Day by day items would be checked off and eventually we'd get through the list. 
I named my laundry pile, "Georgia," 
and I marched on...
laundry took a backseat to a sweet girl and a long to do list. 

Many have asked what are some of the items on the "to do list". 

Here's my nutshell list: 
Live Scans (with FBI clearance)
more paperwork
Credit check
Employment references
Autobiographies (6 pages): Harder than you'd think to sum up your life in 6 pages.
Birth Certificates
Marriage Certificates
Financial Statement 
Tax Returns
Driving Records
A disaster Plan
CPR and First Aid Certification
5 book reports (each)
and some more paperwork...

Guess what?! We actually made it through all of it...
Please don't get me wrong; 
I am so glad that they do all this to ensure safe homes for these children!
I may or may not have sprouted some white hairs getting all of it done.

Next, we set up the actual home study...

We actually considered not completing our home study 
after everything that happened two weeks earlier.
I am pretty sure I looked at Brian several times during those 72 hours and said, 
"I'm never doing this just hurts too bad,"

BUT God.
God had called us, and who are we to bail when God has called us. 
We arrived home to Eliana, and over the following days, 
it was confirmed over and over...
this is why we do this.
Eliana Faith. 
God has answered Faith. 

So... two weeks later we welcomed our social worker into our home for 6 hours. 
She was amazing!
Super down to earth and lovely, but
I'm not going to lie; it was hard. 
We were emotionally raw, 
and the questioning...
So many questions...
All deep, emotional, real questions. 
I found it difficult to divulge my entire life story to someone I had just met a couple hours prior.
I'm pretty sure I barely slept the week leading up to it, 
and I had to excuse myself several times during the questioning to just breathe. 

This introvert walked away from the interviews exhausted. 
My husband, the more extroverted one, left the interviews pumped.
His exact words as the door closed and we were finished: 
"Wasn't that fun?!"

The truth is that adoptive parents don't have to be perfect. 
We were open books with our social worker!
We talked about the things we bicker about...
the things we get heated over,
parenting style, 
parenting successes, 
epic parent failures, 
and we laughed...
we laughed at ourselves. 
We just had to be ourselves, authentic, real, broken...
The Deans.

So what's next?
We just finished our expectant parent letter and profile, 
and now we spend the next month fundraising. 
(More on that soon!)
The plan is to be active, 
able to be shown to expectant parents,
 come April 8th. 

Could there be a better day to have finished the entire home study process than on our 8th anniversary?! 
God is so faithful. 
Sometimes life is a journey...
a process.
Things don't happen overnight, 
but they get done.
Through it all God shapes up, forms up, and equips us for what he's called us to do.