Looking back over our adoption journey, one tangible item characterizes most of it: paper.
Pages upon pages of applications.
Personal references from friends and pastors.
Printouts of PowerPoint presentations during orientation and training.
Notes about the process of adoption and financing adoption and caring for children post-adoption.
Flyers for our huge yard sale.
Books about adoption and orphan care.
Check after check that we deposited because of the generosity of others and the perfect provision of the Father.
Cards from friends encouraging us along the way.
So many thank you notes (I’m still working on those!) for so many different reasons.
Our profile book introducing us to expectant mothers.
Noting promises and the character of God in the margins of my Bible.
Setting up baby registries when we were matched!
Coloring pages in the hospital room with Asher’s birth mama.
Discharge papers before we could take Asher home from the hospital.
Reheating instructions on meals provided by sweet friends and family after Asher was born.
Finalization paperwork at the courthouse on Asher’s Gotcha Day.
Photos for Asher’s birth family.
A Mother’s Day card for the woman who loved him first.
After finalizing, I was anticipating one more piece of paper that I thought would change how I felt somehow. I thought I would feel more complete as a family. I thought it would give me closure.
Asher’s birth certificate.
When an adoption is finalized, the child is given a new birth certificate. His/her new name is typed neatly, with the date of birth, location of birth, and names of the adoptive parents* below. If you were to simply look at the birth certificate without knowing the whole story, you would never know an adoption had taken place. When you look at Asher’s birth certificate, it looks as though I gave birth to him.
The long anticipated day arrived, and Asher’s new birth certificate was delivered in the mail. Joseph handed it to me, I looked it over, paused briefly for a moment of reflection, heard Asher cry, and set his birth certificate aside to comfort him. The moment was over, and it wasn’t anything like I anticipated.
I think part of me assumed seeing my name on his birth certificate would give me this swelling feeling of being his mother, like really, for reals his mom. The thing is, I already was. I didn’t need a piece of paper to confirm that.
The moment we received the news that we were matched, I loved him as my son. The second the doctor held Asher in the air in the delivery room and I laid eyes on him, I was wrecked, completely smitten with him. When he stopped crying as I placed my hand on his chest, I was bonded to him. There was no turning back. He was and is my son. I was and am his mama.
I’m his mama when he smiles like me or when he sighs like me or when he raises his eyebrows like me. I’m his mama when I’m feeding him or changing dirty diapers. I’m his mama when he snuggles in close and when he would rather make us laugh than go to sleep. When he stares intently at my face trying to learn how to whistle or sound out a word. When he coughs in a restaurant and everyone turns and stares at me, wondering why I’m not helping him (it’s because he isn’t actually choking). When he learns something new, like how to move his bouncy seat across the room by jumping fast enough. When I soothe him and dry his tears at the doctor’s office. When I wash a hundred tiny pieces of clothing and put them on tiny hangers. When I cheer him on one more time as he pulls the chain to turn the light on in the living room. When I sing lullabies and he laughs or sings along or conducts the music. When I drop him off at the church nursery and tell them there’s a bottle in his diaper bag, just in case. And there’s a change of clothes, just in case. And my phone number is on his sticker, just in case.
When my eyes get all puddly because he is so beautiful. When I’m so tired and I desperately want him to sleep without me, but I also want to cuddle him for just five more minutes. When I run my fingers through his soft curls and imagine what he’ll look like as a teenager. When his chubby hand wraps around my finger.
When I’m “that mom” who wants to enroll her infant in voice lessons because he has perfect pitch. When I’m “that mom” who can’t stop talking about her baby and bragging about every little milestone. When I’m “that mom” who posts a million pictures, knowing people probably find it annoying on social media.
When I pray for him. When I hope for him. When I dream for him.
I’m his mama in a handful of big ways and a million different little ways. He is one of God’s greatest gifts to me, and he will forever be a part of me.
I didn’t need a piece of paper to tell me that.
*I’m using “adoptive parents” for the sake of clarity. Adoptive parents are simply parents, real ones. :O)
As I burrowed into Squishy Pillow Thursday night, I grew teary-eyed thinking of the day. Asher wasn’t any more my son than he was when we woke up, but there was a new layer of peace and joy after we made it official in court.
It was a lot like when I married Joseph. The morning of our wedding, I was crazy in love with him. My eyes danced when I looked at him, and my stomach was still filled with butterflies. After our wedding? I felt the same way! Only, we had entered into a covenant relationship with one another. Somehow, that made our love deeper, filled with confidence and peace. And so much joy!
Just like I entered into a covenant relationship with Joseph on our wedding day, we entered into a covenant relationship with our son on Thursday. Before a judge and over a dozen of our friends and family, we promised to love, care, and provide for our boy just as though I had given birth to him. We promised to kiss boo-boos, give giant bear hugs, accept weeds as flowers, stay up all night, chase away closet monsters, plan birthday parties, play Hide-and-Seek, sing silly songs, help with science fair projects, rent a tuxedo for the school prom, and cheer him on as he accepts his diploma, all as though he had our DNA. We promised to be his parents, his mama and daddy. Forever. An unconditional covenant.
And it was beautiful!
Sure, it was a little stuffy and formal, and the hearing only lasted a few minutes, but those were some of the most beautiful minutes of my life.
And I could hear God whispering, “I made those promises to you.”
God sent His Boy, His cried-when-He-was-hungry, crawled-before-He-walked, skinned-His-knees, loved-His-mama, Son of God Boy, to take my place so I could be adopted by my Father. So I could be a joint heir with Christ. So I could be a daughter loved unconditionally by her Daddy.
And when we receive Asher’s new birth certificate, the one with our names on it, the one that will declare on a piece of paper that he is our son, just as though I had literally given birth to him in a hospital in Charleston, I’ll hear His voice whisper again, “You’re My child, and you bear My name.”
No one has helped me see the Gospel with as much clarity as my own son. No one has taught me more about the love of my Father than my son. No one has made me want to be more like Christ than my son.
Adoption has changed my life twice – once by my Savior and once by my son. I’m eternally grateful for both.
His pediatrician came in, and we collectively gushed over his sweetness and the milestones he’s reaching. She assured us we’re doing a great job, and she even said it’s both perfectly NORMAL and even EXPECTED that Asher isn’t sleeping through the night. Mentally, I scratched that off my list of things I fear I’m doing wrong as a parent. (All mamas have that list, right?)
Then, something unexpected happened. I hugged Asher close to me and started crying in the exam room, and I revealed my biggest fear to our pediatrician: “Asher is doing great now, but I feel like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. I’m watching him, looking for signs that something’s wrong. Waiting for him to break.”
Our pediatrician sat on the exam table, looked into my eyes, and spoke truth to my soul. While we must be practical and responsible, looking into the future and watching for certain things, we cannot live in fear. We must rest in the comfort that God is in control, and we must live in and enjoy the present. I nodded that she was right, and I inhaled the sweet smell of my baby as I felt the quiet rhythm of his breathing.
A verse drifted into my mind, one that a sweet friend shared with me recently: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18a, ESV).
If I’m loving my son well today, I won’t fear for his future. I will rest in the comfort that God is sovereign and has a better future for Asher than I could ever imagine.
How do I love my son well? I look to the One who loves the best.
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13, ESV).
Jesus is the only one who has ever loved me perfectly, and he didn’t fear laying down his life in order to perfect that love.
If I look to the example of Christ and lay down my life daily for my son, I won’t have to fear. I’ll lay my life down for him when he’s healthy, and I’ll lay my life down for him if we face challenges down the road.
Where are you today? Are you fearful in a certain situation or even in a relationship? Look to the One who made you, the One who laid down his life for you. Rest in his perfect love as it casts out fear.
This weekend, I attended the Created for Care conference, a weekend for adoptive and foster mamas. Going in, I anticipated being encouraged and leaving with practical knowledge on bringing up our sweet boy. I left with something a little different, something I wasn’t expecting.
The first breakout session was on Friday afternoon. I attended a Creative Quiet Time class, a little unsure of what to expect. I sat down at a table with shiny gold and silver paper, a couple of tablets, and sample stars. Hmmm. I suppose I could get behind connecting with God while making a shiny star. I chit chatted with the ladies at the table regarding the genius idea to use cute Kraft style wrapping paper as a table cloth, and we waited for the session to begin.
The session leader, Virginia, asked us all to come to the front for a few minutes before we began our time with the Lord. I tried not to sigh as I gave into her request, remembering days gone by when I LOVED sitting in the front of the room as I soaked up information. Now, I would much prefer to hide in the back of the room.
Virginia shared that the theme of the weekend was Shine, and she asked us to think of people who shine. What made them so shiny? No, it wasn’t oily skin or sequin-covered dresses. Joy, contentment, positive attitudes, and time with the Lord were all shouted out, even the fact that most shiny people are thinkers and dreamers who are moving forward in life.
After we reflected on things that make people shine, Virginia shared with us reasons that people lose their shine. Discontentment, unconfessed sin, disobedience, not spending time in the Word or prayer, etc.
That one caught my attention. She said most of us, as we grow older, stop dreaming. That’s me. I’ve had dreams of writing, teaching, and speaking for years, but I stopped doing much about those dreams.
Virginia guided us through a time of prayer. She asked that we would each hear from the Lord. I felt a bit skeptical, but I asked God to help me be open to hearing from him.
And I did.
I sensed God reminding me that I am his, and because I am his, I can dream. I sensed him encouraging me to be confident in who I am in Christ, to trust that he will enable me to pursue the dreams he has placed within me.
After we prayed together, I decided to spend my time with the Lord doodling in my journal rather than going to one of the stations. As I doodled, I reflected on the dreams he’s given me, and I asked him to show me the hindrances within me to achieving those dreams.
Many of those hindrances were because I was focusing on my “don’ts” rather than my “dos”, a trap Virginia said leads to discontentment and not pursuing our dreams.
I don’t have a mentor pouring into my life and teaching me how to achieve my dreams.
I don’t have lots of connections.
I don’t have a large reading audience for my blog.
I don’t have teaching or speaking opportunities.
I don’t have enough material.
On and on.
It’s time to focus on the dos!
I do have a Savior who empowers and equips me to do all that he has called me to do.
I do have a loving and supportive husband who wants me to pursue the dreams God has given me.
I do have a great community of faith who can pray for and encourage me along the way.
I do have a blog, and it doesn’t matter how many people do or don’t read it at this point.
I do have the entire Bible and 34 years on this planet, which sounds like plenty of material to me!
So, this year, I’m going to take steps to making progress toward those dreams. I don’t know what that’s going to look like at this point, but I’m going to start by writing with more intentionality on my blog (this sounds familiar, doesn’t it?). Sometimes, that will be about adoption related topics, like many of my posts in 2015. Other times, I’ll be writing about passages in Scripture, with possible teaching recordings to accompany those posts. Even if I don’t have opportunities to speak in front of other women, I can create opportunities to teach. Will you pray with me as I pursue these dreams?
What about you? What dreams have you had? Have you pursued those dreams? If not, what’s stopping you? I’m praying God will give you the courage to pursue the dreams he’s given you. After all, you’re his, and because you’re his, you can dream with him.
One of the most frequently asked questions since Asher was born has been, “Where did you get his name?”
Asher is a twofold answer: First, there is a connection to his birth mother. His name was a small way we could honor her. Second, Asher means “happy.” If you follow me on Instagram (@shutterchelle) or we’re friends on Facebook, I’m sure you’ve seen our hashtag, #ashermeanshappy. In Genesis, during The Great Baby Race, after the birth of one of her sons, Leah says, “‘How happy I am! The women will call me happy.’ So she named him Asher” (30:13). I knew that would be true once God placed a baby with us. I knew I would be happy and the women in my life would know it! Also, when we met Asher’s birth parents, we all said over and over how happy we were. Asher seemed like a fitting name.
Marcus, his middle name, is after my Pop Pop. I’ve always been close with Pop Pop, and I love that we were able to honor him this way. When I first researched the meaning of Marcus, all I found was something along the lines of “the god Marcus.” Eh. That wasn’t a deal breaker for us, but it also wasn’t a “woo hoo!” for us as far as a strong meaning for our child’s name.
One day, I had a little down time while I was waiting on Joseph to install a cable box for someone, and I felt prompted to research the meaning of Marcus one more time. I found an article that said Marcus can mean “to harvest.” At that time, we were still debating if the baby’s name would be Asher Marcus or Marcus Asher (methods of determining the order including yelling the names across the house and using the names while shopping for baby items). Finding the “to harvest” meaning settled it for me. I knew our baby’s name was Asher Marcus, and I knew the Scripture we would pray over our son.
“And he said to them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest'” (Luke 10:2).
We are praying that our sweet Asher wouldn’t just be a happy child (which he is!). We’re praying he would live up to his full name and be “happy to harvest.” We’re praying he would not only pray to the Lord of the harvest and ask for laborers, but that he would be an answer to that prayer.
I know Asher is only six weeks old (almost seven, eek!), but I see it in him already. His birth mother told us she felt certain Asher was created for a purpose, and she wanted him to be parented by believers who loved God’s Word and who loved serving the Lord and would pour those things into her son. In general, Asher is a happy, content, smiley baby. He lights up my life! But you should see him when we read stories of Jesus to him or when we’re just talking about Jesus. He’s different. He focuses in, looks us right in the eyes, and seems as though he’s already soaking it in.
We’re praying big things for Asher Marcus, and we KNOW we serve a big, good, faithful God who IS going to do big things through Asher. We’re humbled and honored to have a small part in God’s story, and we can’t wait to watch it unfold.