a little and a lot

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Way Way Back

Bear with me, friends, as I attempt to tell the story God has been writing.  To begin, we must start with some setup.  These are the things that can only be traced in hindsight...

In February 2014, I attended a favorite retreat for adoptive mom's called Created for Care.  One of my "take-aways" from the retreat that weekend (through several different sessions and conversations) was that I needed to listen to God in a more focused way.  In the minivan on the drive back, a group of dear friends challenged me in this.  And so I began to make an effort to listen.

I didn't grow up with an emphasis around me on listening to God or hearing God speak.  That was a little too "out there"...a little too charismatic-sounding for the denomination in which was raised.  I prayed.  I've been counseled by the Holy Spirit through people and Scripture.  But feeling prompted by God or hearing God was a little beyond my comfort zone.  Even typing it now, that I felt prompted by God or told by God to do something...it feels weird to me.  So I just need to tell you that that was my starting point.

My first time of focused, intentional, quiet listening to the Lord after I returned from the retreat, I wrote down two things:
1. We should ask our landlord if we can buy the house we've been leasing from him.
2. I needed to ask my friend Amy if she had any positions available for teaching at her preschool (to kick paying off our debt into a higher gear).

We've been leasing this little 900-square-foot house since I moved in after grad school in 2005.  That's right...this April, I will have lived in this house for 10 years!  I never imagined Nick and I would live here together for 9 years, start our family here, continue our family here...!  We seriously could have paid off the house by now.  While that could make me a little sick with regret, I'm also so thankful for the many years of NON-homeownership that we've lived through--being able to make changes in this house without paying for them, repairs and replacements that were required without our financial responsibility.  The 6-month lease I signed in 2005 has led to a decade of good memories and lessons in contentment.

We started to take a closer look at our house.  What would we change?  What were its flaws and strengths?  We have definitely redefined our definition of "cramped" for the last 5 years as we added another dog (totaling 2), then added a kid, then lost a dog...(and of course now added another kid!)  We desire more space for the future, but we also love the idea of being able to pay off a house quickly.  In examining our house with a more critical eye (the kind you have to a blinder on most of the time to enjoy contentment with you have), we realized there are some things we didn't think we could change about the house that we also didn't want for our family long term.

Simultaneously, I contacted my friend Amy, who is the director at a local preschool.  She didn't have any available positions at the school, but she told me she could definitely use me as a substitute teacher if I was able to fill in that way.  Something was better than nothing, although I wasn't quite sure what I would do with Rhet on the days I was substituting.  I filled out the application and visited Amy at her office.  In the meantime, a good friend who taught at the school was getting ready to take a maternity leave.  It started lining up in just the right way at just the right time that perhaps I could fill in as a teacher's aid in the class my friend was about to be leaving....  With a regular position, they were able to make a spot for Rhet in the 3-year-old class.

And so began last spring, pondering what we wanted in a future house (whether in the one in which we were living or elsewhere) and starting a part-time gig with small people.

In the busy-ness, I started developing this pain in my right molars.  I visited the dentist, convinced it was cavity-related, but they couldn't find anything wrong.  The pain spread up my jaw, and it would come and go intermittently.  After a few weeks, it consumed the entire right side of my face and it would bring me to tears it was so intense.  It happened on the way to school, at school, after school, and it even woke me in the middle of the night.  I visited my general practitioner who referred me to an ENT.  I went back to the general practitioner and then back to the ENT.  I finally went back to the general practitioner who referred me to a neurologist, and the neurologist sent me in for an MRI and diagnosed me with trigeminal neuralgia.  I was so desperate for relief from the pain, and I was so thankful to finally find a source.  At the same time, this whole "no cure" except for a really invasive surgery thing had me entirely freaked out.  I was put on anti-seizure medication, which left me feeling really tired and out of it, it affected my bladder in my weird way, and it even changed the way I smelled tasted things.  (I could not stand the smell of tap water!)  BUT, it IMMEDIATELY stopped the terrible pain, and that was enough for me.  I resigned myself to being on the medication for the rest of my life or until surgery was needed.

School ended, the summer began, and our May and June months were pretty busy.  I finally became irked enough with the side effects of my medication that I called my neurologist's office during a trip to Nashville.  She told me they'd switch medications to see if my side effects were alleviated, but she recommended I try not taking any medication at all for a couple of days.  If I experienced the face pain, I could immediately start the new meds.  This was a weird idea for me, but in the midst of all-day meetings for a training we were at, I went ahead and gave it a whirl.

The pain never came back.  I barely believed it, and completely credited it to a miracle healing.  For real.

That summer, we contacted a realtor and began casually looking at homes and figuring out what we wanted/liked, with the goal of maybe finding something by the spring of the next year.

We also took a trip to Chicago over the summer, as I tagged along with Nick for work.  We fell in LOVE with the city--we had great weather and a great time.  I ventured out everyday on my own, learning how to navigate the trains and buses.  The conference Nick attended is held annually, and we looked forward to returning again to Chicago for the next one.

And then, strangely, we started receiving medical bill after medical bill.  They were charging us full cost for the myriad of dr's appointments and tests I had received in the spring.  It was such a mystery, and as soon as I called and resolved one bill, another would show up for the same appointment or test.  After a bit, we figured out that Nick's employer had forgotten to sign us up for health insurance that year--somehow, we had just slipped through the cracks.  The retroactively added us, it didn't "take," they retroactively added us again, it didn't "take" again, and then finally they resolved the problem once and for all.

That fall, I continued working at the preschool as a permanent teacher's aid in a different class.  I received a discount on tuition and after-care, which allowed Rhet to start Jr Kindergarten there with my good friend (who was back from maternity leave).

I started reading through a great book entitled "The Best Yes" and meeting with friends every other week to discuss it.  It was all about how to make decisions that honored the Lord and discerning where He was leading.

And that brings us up to October, the month we saw B's face for the first time. (The two weeks leading up to seeing her picture get a post of their own!)

Hindsight has shown me God's hand in many ways:
  • I needed to be able to listen to God before I could have heard Him telling us we needed to pursue Brooklyn.  The challenging conversation with my friends last February and the paradigm shift it caused as well as reading through "The Best Yes" with friends in the fall were so instrumental in this.
  • Thinking about houses and whether we could/should stay in this one and eventually the decision to look for a house to buy influenced Brooklyn's adoption by getting us ready for change.  We were looking to the future and evaluating what our growing family would need in the future.  We were discussing debt and budgets and timelines.
  • The job!  It helped us continue paying off debt, it gave Rhet a great school opportunity for this year, and (this was SO HUGE) it gave me so much flexibility to complete paperwork as fast as I could this fall.  There were several days I took off while Rhet went to school, and Rhet was able to stay in aftercare many afternoons when I was rushing around town.  The teachers even gave up Secret Santa during the holidays to take up a donation for our adoption expenses instead.  We were so so so blessed by the school and my job this past year.  Even now, Rhet has a stable school schedule with people we love and trust during this time of transition.  We could NOT have sped through the adoption as quickly as we did (which means maybe we could not have even adopted B at all) if it had not been for the preschool!  
  • I still can not believe that I have not had one reoccurrence of trigeminal neuralgia symptoms.  I firmly believe God healed me from it so that I would be free to pursue this adoption.  I also think it was used to show us the problem with our health insurance so that we could get ready to bring B home.  We learned much more about our deductible and benefits through my whole ordeal, and we got all of the mess straightened out.  And if I had still been suffering from the condition during the adoption process, I would have had to get special permission and fill out extra paperwork to make an allowance for my health status.  With the whole thing in the past, we were able to bypass all of that.
  • The trip to Chicago, y'all.  I still can't believe everything has led us back to Chicago.  When we were looking at programs on our approved "centers of excellence" list with short, direct flights, Chicago practically stood out in lights.  Not only did we have HUGE emotional support from dear friends-like-family there, but I felt so comfortable with the idea of going there alone and getting around the city and being in that big urban jungle because of my time there last summer.  Also, I had tasted and seen the awesomeness that is Garrett Popcorn.  ;) 
I can't wait to tell you what happened in October leading up to Brooklyn's "Face Day."  It is wild and only of God, as is every single step along this journey.  To be continued...!


Adopting Rhet: Click on the timeline above to read more