Courtney S. Barr

Welcome to My Kingdom!
Join me, the Princess, on my Royal Adventures in the Land of Writing!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I Lean Not on My Own understanding...

“I lean not on my understanding…

my life is in the hands of the maker of heaven….”

Proverbs 3:5 

Lyric: Will Reagan & the United Pursuit “Nothing I Hold Onto”

This is a lyric…a bible verse…and my current mantra.

We have accepted that our timing is useless. We are open vessels asking to be filled with the light and love of our savior. He asks us very little, but that we give Him our worries, our burdens, our desires and most importantly our heart.

These past few weeks have been supernaturally touched. 

We cannot explain it nor will we truly try. We only hope that we continue to do what is asked with open eyes and hearts, relying on the knowledge that He will never let us fall completely to the ground, nor will He abandon us, He is always right there – waiting for us to seek Him.

I never expected to find such solace in the crazy moments of life. He never gives us more than we can handle. We often overcomplicate situations and search for the drama because we feel that is what we are supposed to do. His graciousness has been overwhelming of late. In the best way possible, I have cried, and cried and cried and cried. He has brought me to my knees and you all were there…our village is more than I imagined when we started this journey. It was a phrase I clung to because I knew that there would be days where I needed to escape in the knowledge that there were others out there, praying for us, thinking of us and acknowledging our new path – it was a sort of safety net at first. Now it is evolving, you are all actual members of our village. I see it through “likes” on facebook, through emails of encouragement, through networking of my art, through happy thoughts shared on Instagram, through our small group, through the doors that are swinging open for us to move in so many directions and by the way my heart is soaring with every morning.

I would shout to rooftops if we were in a large city – standing atop a skyscraper, arms open wide, praising His goodness. I’ve always had faith, I’ve always known He is my rock, but now He is even more…more than light, more than life, more than happiness, more than joy, more than sorrow, more than understanding – He is good. I now tell my story, my earthly story, with pride. No longer do I think about the scars on my body as ugly or a reminder of how I lack some integral part of being the girl I once was – yes I am different, but I am a masterpiece. I am not perfect to the standards that surround me daily, but for Him I am perfect, unique and so precious.  I was called out this week by a friend “How do you trust Jesus after all that you’ve been through?” In hindsight I was so surprised that I wasn’t caught off guard – I knew my answer “Because, He knows better than I do.” It rolled off so quickly and with a sense of freedom that I never knew I could feel. He loves me. He knew that we would be here, searching, seeking, discovering and relishing His gifts. He knew better.

We met with Social Worker “R” for the last interview that meets State & Federal requirements. We now have only to get our physicals and submit our dogs’ rabies history to be truly complete with the first HUGE step in all this: the Home Study. It is something that blows my mind. We are now in the step of creating our Profile. A book/summary/glimpse into who we are as a family wanting to grow. In it we will place photos, tell about ourselves and basically “sell” how awesome we are. For my dear sweet “M”, this is simple – he is ALWAYS awesome. For me, it is stumbling, I want to be as truthful as possible, that they see us for exactly who we are & in that, you catch yourself overthinking a great deal of the time. God will give me the words and they will be what we need to say – this I know. 

Learning to lean on understanding while not always understanding isn’t as simple as it probably should be. I let the world in and it confuses so much – I must guard my heart. The road ahead is crazy cool and fun and terrifying and so much more than I ever thought possible. We don’t even have this child yet and he/she is already teaching us so much. We pray for the birthmother daily, whispering to an unknown woman/girl who needs to know that she is loved, that she is a gift and that she is so much stronger than she thinks. When you think of us and you pray for us, pray for her & our child as well…they need the love that lifts and moves mountains. Please do this, my sweet and wonderful village. You lift my heart daily…please do hers as well.

Don’t be anxious about anything, but pray in everything with thanksgiving. Then the incomprehensible peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7

For current Art for Adoption items please go to our Adopting in Alabama Facebook page; for custom orders please don't hesitate to contact me directly clsbarr(at)yahoo(dot)com - already you all have done so much and we can barely begin to express our gratitude...this simple thank you feels so small in comparison but know it is from the deepest part of us....

 

 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Adopting In Alabama: Autobiographies, Training, and New Perceptions...


Love them as they are, and forgive them everything.
- Jonathan Lockwood Huie

The past 7 days have been a whirlwind.
Last weekend we were blessed to have help from our lovely families. They gave us one of the best gifts ever…their time & their support. We had our first Home Visit this week. For those who are curious, you are required to complete a Home Study prior to adopting. This consists of either 4, 5, or 6 meetings. The reason it could be one of the three is because you might choose to combine one or two of the sessions. The sessions/meetings cover a ton of information from visiting the home, individual interviews and planning out your desired child; there is even autobiographies on each prospective parent.

For some time we have had some questions from people who hear bits & pieces about the process. My darling M addressed one question in particular in a manner that is in my opinion – perfect. We have been asked “why are you having to get the house in order and clean and rearrange for Social Worker R to visit? Its like she’s judging how you live?” So in the theme of keeping these posts utterly real, I must admit the questions are not foreign to us. We have internally thought or spoken them aloud between the two of us. But my lovely M in his wonderful perception responded Thursday to a friend “Well, I thought the same. I do still feel like we are being judged but I am beginning to understand it differently. This woman, Social Worker R, is our warrior in the trenches; she is the one sitting in the meetings, talking to birthmothers, speaking up when children will become available and gosh darn it we want her to think of us first. So if remodeling the deck, cleaning baseboards, purging clutter and finally hanging pictures on the wall that we have wanted to for months will trigger some small part of her thought process to suggest us…then we will do it and we will do it well.”

He’s right. She is our warrior.

On Thursday she inspected our little castle and we believe she fell in love with it.  She was supportive in our idiosyncrasies, those lovely personal surprises that we chose not to hide and she asked questions that made me comfortable to have her there. We talked about our story, we talked as a couple who has discovered the meaning of trial, survival, support and love. She spoke to Duchess’; learning about her hopes, dreams, and goals and also marveling at how we three look so much alike. When she left I didn’t want to vomit anymore – it was touch and go for a few days leading up to it, my nerves almost had the best of me. She spent a good 4 hours with us and it was good….we pray that she felt the same.

On Saturday we attended our first day of “training”. Going into this day we felt a little silly and thought it a bit odd to be doing a training day. We were wrong in our assumptions and we found ourselves in the midst of one of the most amazing days so far. In a quite chilly student center room we were honored to openly discuss our perception of the birthmother, the adoption and the process. About 14 couples talked among ourselves, filled out a short questionnaire and listened to social worker “R” for around 40 minutes. Then we were blessed to have in our midst a birthmother. One whose story will touch any soul and reminded us of the faces behind the varying circumstances that bring them to the decisions they make. She spoke of us praying for our birthmother. She reminded us that no matter how the birthmother came into her situation, that she is making the decision of life for her child. For that we are forever grateful. God’s presence in that room of hopeful parents was so strong. He stood there with us as we listened to her story and I know that her testimony of His love and His faith in her was a moment He always knew would happen and how wonderful it was for us to be a part of something so powerful.

We broke for lunch then continued, only now we saw 4 new couples up on the small stage. Each one has been where we are, each one has their own story of how they came to answer God’s call to be parents. Their stories have comical moments, have heart wrenching moments of loss, have terrifying moments of waiting but none of it outshines the love they share for their children and the honor they feel to experience such a blessing. We listened to their stories of open and closed adoptions. We were able to ask hard questions, to tear up when the words were too much and to smile when the feeling of love enveloped the room. We both thought we knew how we would handle the open part of our adoption – God quickly showed us yesterday that yet again, we were making assumptions and decisions without thinking of Him first.  
We now know that we want to know the birthmother if she will let us; no matter what we want her to know that we love her, that we are praying for her, that we want her to know that her child is loved even before we know him/her, that the love we have expands to her and that God loves her so very much. We don’t know what she will look like, now even more, we understand that trying to hypothesize that is useless; but we do know that she is sharing God’s greatest gift with us. We also understand that God has chosen us. That we have been entrusted to do what He loves most, that we are being moved to love a child just as Joseph was moved to love God’s only son – adoption is dear to His heart and it is His heart that we want to live within and share with those around us.

So now, we have answered a couple hundred questions on each of us – our autobiographies. On September 11 we will see Social Worker “R” again and she will take time with us individually – we will talk about those questions; because she wants to be able to share our story with the woman who is entrusting us with the child that we will all love and cherish. Once that meeting is done we will again have pages upon pages of questions to answer – these questions will pertain to the child God has for us, leading our hearts to the first of our growing family. Then we meet again in October…yes again. This next meeting will actually conclude our Home Study process. After it we will be compiling our Profile – this Profile is very important. It is literally what she will see, what our birthmother will see that will give her the smallest amount of peace that we will be who God has led to love her child. I cannot imagine that moment for her – I pray she sees us as who we are and that she loves us in all the ways she is lead to.
I’m honored to be entrusted with this task. I’m blessed to have the best partner ever in this life. I’m humbled by the grace of God and His plan for us. We are excited for the plans He has. We are terrified of the years to come but we push it away, we pull Him forward and must remember that He has shown us that trials and tribulations are gifts – are moments of education and growth that we will soon share with the most amazing child(ren) ever. Our ‘Village’ (all of you) is such a blessing – we pray for you just as we know you pray for us. Thank you; for reading a writer’s blog, a wife’s hope and a soon to be mother’s dreams…you show me hope & for that my Kingdom is brighter every day.

When you are grateful, when you can see what you have – you unlock blessings to flow in your life.

-Suze Orman

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Simple Name and I'm in Tears....

“It is always the simple things that change our lives. And these things never happen when you are looking for them to happen. Life will reveal answers at the pace life wishes to do so. You feel like running, but life is on a stroll. This is how God does things.”

-Donald Miller

***

We saw so many wonderful people this past week who are excited for us, anxious for us and supporting us. To each of them we want to thank you. For asking, for caring and for listening when we simply stated “We are now waiting to be assigned a social worker…” You each smiled and said you would keep us in your prayers, for that we are forever grateful and now…

A name.

This past week all we have been doing was waiting for a name.

I have not spoken to her yet, I have no idea if she is from the area, if she is southern, if she is older, younger, blonde, brunette, African American, Caucasian, Irish, chatty, quiet…but she is one of the most important keys to the journey in front of us.

Today in my inbox was the name of our Social Worker. This woman will work closely with us throughout the adoption journey. She will be the ‘mediator’ between the birthmothers and us. For lack of a better term, she will sell us to the mother of our child just as she will sell the options of birthmothers to us. She will guide us through more paperwork, through more red tape and will be there when we get tired, when we begin to doubt or worry or fall to anxious thoughts.

This woman has a task before her. If you know me, then you understand; I want to know her. I want to be able to email, text, chat, ask, listen, learn and to make her an extended arm of our new family.

Today I cried. Sitting at my desk, glancing at the small 4 inch screen of my phone I read the words “_R_ is your Social Worker.  She will call you at the beginning of next week.” (She’s out of town this whole week so another 6 days will pass, but the lump that had grown in my stomach as we waited for the announcement of our Social Worker is now gone, replaced by another new acknowledgement.)

Life just got very real.

I thought the last adoption entry was where it all began, but I believe I need to just resign myself to accepting that things will begin and begin and begin and begin, over and over and over. Each day of this journey is new for us. Each layer of the process is something that we have never encountered – we are constantly learning, listening, wondering and praying.

So today, on our sweet dog Snickers’ first birthday we will celebrate the rescue puppy that expanded our hearts and as we love on him tonight our minds will wander to the sweet face that will one day celebrate alongside of us, laughing as we play outside, tossing toys and treats and enjoying the memories, because today we just got another step closer to our child.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

What a blessing my Heavenly Father has given me in my earthly father....

  • "My father didn't tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it."
    -- Clarence Budington Kelland, U.S. Writer

He continues to do so and I'm blessed to see so much of Heavenly Father in him.


Now more than ever before I look back on parenting, my own parents, my friends parents and my how my siblings parent. In each group I treasure the moments I've been allowed to share with them. As we continue this process to expand our family, to become parents of our children I find that every day brings emotion to my life...worries, excitement, anticipation and delight because of the examples I was given. I pray that God continues to bless our family, that we continue to seek His guidance and that we will always walk in the footsteps he has laid out for us as we begin this new journey. It is days like today that bring me even closer to God...


Today is a day that reminds me of so many moments in my life...days where I curled up next to his side, pressed against him letting my eyes close and my heart rest as he protected me from whatever nightmare slipped in; Christmas mornings curled up on his lap as he helped me break through every plastic barrier, crazy twist tie and annoying cardboard box that was in place around She-RA, Barbie, My Little Pony or the newest Cabbage Patch doll - he would pull out a tool, one filled with mechanisms and simplify the process- amazing me with this single ability to always have the right thing to help me. As I got older the lap seemed to grow smaller so I resigned myself to laying against his side, head on his chest and arm over his belly. His beard has always been scratchy on my cheek and his laughter has always made me grin. 


I always felt he was mine and mine alone, even with 3 siblings, I am the baby so of course he's mine...but then we would travel...to Omaha to see family, stopping in Kansas or Oklahoma - a random convenience store for a "mom break" (bathroom of course) and almost every time, all around the country from Any town in Bama to Orlando to Omaha to St. Louis to Okoboji to Denver we would run into someone who knew him...yes knew my father. It would baffle all of us and in time be a trait that taught me so much. These people were glad to see him, they would run over, slap him on the back and reminisce about whatever "last time" together they shared. He always met them with a smile, a handshake and a simple how is your family? He always remembered their name, their loved ones and some detail about their life that automatically took a chance meeting of a acquaintance into the realm of finding an old friend. To this day I'll never forget the kindness he's taught me, the ability to smile even when aggravated about something else, the hospitality he always shows...thanksgivings at our house were full: hunters, state troopers, local cops, game wardens, random travelers...I learned about welcoming your home to those less fortunate, those who may have more than you and to open your heart to all walks of life from puppies, to kittens and beyond. His heart always has room to give and love. He taught me to love how things work, to be curious about mechanical issues, to never let my mind quit wondering "how", "why" and "what can I do to help". He made my sweet Marcus always feel like family, from the first non date dinner to the first real date dinner at home, where a boy sat across from a man and grinned as he was invited to "chew on the bone of a T-bone steak" forever cementing a bond that still brings a smile to my husbands face. I am never afraid when I'm with him, I know he is strong in body, mind and heart. God have me earthly parents who are beyond words, beyond description and beyond measure. I am my best because of them and the love I hold in my heart is strongest because they love me. 


I am grateful for my family, I'm humbled by their love and today I cherish moments beside a mountaintop, hours walking through the woods, weekends along creek beds, rambling on four wheelers, a bearded man sitting cross legged having a tea party with a girl and her dolls, afternoons talking sports, days on end of squishy belly pillows and scratchy chin kisses. He is where my broad shoulders come from - strong enough to carry my future children, where my stubbornness joins the same gift from mom making me ambitious and annoying at times, He is where I get my love of animals, my desire to help and my compassionate heart. He is my first hero, the one who taught me to hug with all my might and the man I looked for in the man I married - I treasure the phrase "sometimes you marry someone just like your father" and the man my own husband continues to treasure as another father in this great life. I thank you Heavenly Father for supplying me with an example of your love in all the earthly ways possible, He is exactly who I need and who I know my own children will love for all the same reasons and then some...I love you daddy...

Happy Fathers Day! 


Monday, June 2, 2014

Our Adoption Journey Stage 2: Value

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in.” - Morrie Schwartz
You all learned from my TMI post the other week what path led us to this decision, but I am learning that this decision & process has many stages each more important than the last…
Ever been asked the uncomfortable questions? You know the ones:
“How long have y’all been dating? And you still aren’t engaged?” (yeah…I can thank a certain Teacher/coach from high school for my husband’s 10 year courtship…still cracks me up)
“oh, you just got married! Have you talked about having kids?”
“I heard that you two are having some issues conceiving…was it drugs? I hear those can truly hinder fertility.” (still a favorite of mine by the way – that question actually had me laughing out loud)
“So. Was it him? Slow swimmers? You? Hostile environment...down there? – I hear both can be contributing factors.” (the laughter continued)
It really is amazing the questions casually asked in simple conversation. As a teen I thought it was the gossip patrol, the nosy, the only way to hear the good rumors – some true, some not. Then into my early twenties it was ‘background information’. It was helping that girlfriend or guyfriend discover the pertinent information about the person they were dating.  Yeah, lists were made, items were checked off and break ups occurred. Now in this immediate age of split second technology information is gathered, sifted and re-transmitted before I can finish typing this sentence. It’s not all bad. It’s not all gathered intel to embarrass, exploit or scandalize the lives we are all leading. My heart of hearts reminds me that getting to know one another, seeing that we are not alone, that others experience the drama, turmoil, joy, happiness…these things help us. They move us forward towards the next stages we must face. If ever you inquired about us and we weren't quick to give a lot of details, or my face took on the defensive reaction, or I let a snarky remark escape my lips - I apologize. It may happen again, for that I am almost positive, but again I will ask for your patience and forgiveness. I know you care and now more than ever we are looking for support, for guidance and for the sweet friend who is asking & walks away, mentally adding our tiny family to their prayer list - what a blessing to have people who genuinely wish us well. You took an interest, showed us love and often continued to do so even when we did not know it. You see, I never thought the invasive questions I’ve asked others, questions I’ve been asked and situations where I’m at a loss for words would be stepping stones, preparation for Stage 2 in our adoption process…yet they are.
We sat at a computer last week, scrolling through page after page of questions; each one growing with intimacy and invasion. M was overwhelmed by some of the Prospective Father inquiries. We made lists of the ones we needed to return to and I typed carefully the answers we had at the ready. Each question builds a more personal, intimate scrutiny; the internal reaction of being judged is there – how we answer these questions, how we reply to their interest in us makes us cautious – no one likes to be judged. We aren’t even supposed to judge, but the natural reaction is more often...judgment.  We feel defensive, we feel a little violated and more than often we scrunch up our faces and wonder “why do they need to know that?”
Some of them were easy, just vital information, but others…the financials, the personal story questions, the questions on your faith…these tested us…then you get to your desired child section – the list is beyond long, the situations they place: alcohol during 1st trimester, 2nd trimester, cocaine, heroin, LSD usage, rape victim…then the medical options…then the family histories…it can break you in two just to realize that all of these are necessary sections to review and consider. My heart ached for these young women, they made choices – I know that – but I wonder sometimes if love had been handed to them in the simplest form of ‘interest’ in their life would they be where they are??? Was interest given without love? Were the nosiest, the ones who miserably seek to ruin your day because they are lost too, the only ones who spoke to these women?
The birth mother ministry of our adoption process has been the hardest to wrap our heads around…until this part of the questions. These women have made the most questionable decisions…until now. Because now I see it differently: They are choosing life. To give life to what they may deem a mistake, a bad night, a drunken stupor, a tragic act of rape or any other of the many situations listed...they are choosing to let these children live a life with love. In that second, in that moment, my heart swelled for the woman who is carrying/will be carrying our child. She is strong. She may have had a moment of weakness, she may have been a victim, she may have chosen to turn down a dark path once, but the light that has led her to this act…it shines so bright that the shadows fall away completely. I also realized I love her. I don’t love her just because she is giving me a gift I cannot fulfill alone but because she deserves my love and to not give it would be a travesty to my faith and terrible example for our child. It’s the heart that matters in the end and she will open hers to us.
So Stage 2 has been checked off our list, it has been sent to be reviewed and looked over – not to be judged but to be accepted. We have value, she has value and the sweet, innocent heart of our child is valued as well. So all these questions, these invasive lists are the pieces that begin to build the house that we are preparing for this beautiful child of ours and the stability that she will see when she releases her ‘mistake, her drunken stupor, tragic act of rape…” and she receives the love that we will shower upon her. We must accept her, bringing praise to God all the while knowing that God values her. He sees beyond the moments that found her broken, to Him she is perfect and He sees her beautifully fulfilling His plan. He loves her, so do we…“No matter what you’ve been through, your value has not changed since the day you were born.  You’re valuable to God!”  - Pastor Layne Schranz, Church of the Highlands; Message Series: The Book of James

Monday, May 26, 2014

It's an Honor to be Free....

"They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation."
-Henry Ward Beecher

Men and women for over 238 years have lived and died to give me the ability to have a public blog where I can share my life, my dreams, my aggravations, my political viewpoint and my opinion about which salad dressing I love the most. As silly as that may seem, that right, that ability is something someone died for.

I am grateful for that sacrifice. I am humbled by its necessity. I am saddened by its sheer number of lives lost.

This weekend I will have sunned at the pool, eaten whatever I wanted, listened to my favorite music, read magazines with public opinion, watched television that showcases more than one political view, laughed with my family, enjoyed my dogs and lived in a house of my choosing. All because of sacrifice - not mine, but sacrifice of people unknown to me. They gave their life so that I could have mine.

I have had military scattered throughout my family. My oldest brother was Air Force and still serves with the Guard. He often has to leave for sporadic periods of time and most recently did a year in Cuba. He is a man of simple pleasures - he loves to fish, to hunt, to eat, to come home to his two newest granddaughters and to relax with family. He has traveled the world, seeing other countries, seeing people who do not have the luxuries we have, knowing that his life - this dedication he chose - continues to allow his family to enjoy the meaning of freedom. He does not agree with everything our government decides to do, but it is because of the sacrifices before him, the sacrifices he has witnessed and those yet to come that he is able to disagree as openly as he chooses, why he continues to do his duty and how I will never fully grasp the things he has seen or endured. He has lost friends - no he has lost family - to the cause to keep us free and he still goes when asked, still performs when needed, still rallies for a country that often forgets who to thank and who to recognize for providing the liberty we all enjoy.

I cannot thank him enough. He is my brother, he is my hero and he is a soldier who sleeps on a hard ground, who endued sand covered months in the Middle East, sat on the shores of our enemy in Cuba, has trained in Germany, worked on our borders with Mexico, and watched as those he loves paid the ultimate price for him, for me, for those yet to be born.

"For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue."
-James A Garfield

My life is better because someone else decided to risk their own.
My dreams can be reached because someone decided that their dream is to allow me to discover mine.
My ideas can be voiced because someone else fought and their voice was silenced.
My courage to write these words pales in comparison to the courage they showed on the battlefield.
My sacrifices seem great to me but only because the ultimate price has been paid by those with the foresight to believe that there is something greater, something unique, something worth dying for that may not yet have reached the surface, but their belief, their honor, their love for the 'could be' allows us to be unconditionally grateful to their cause.

I am honored to be an American.
I am blessed to be free.
I am grateful to those who died for me.
I am humbled by their unselfishness.
I am moved by their determination.
I am stunned by their dedication.
I am sorry for their family's loss.

To the many veterans who walk this world: Thank you. Thank you for doing a job that is often thankless, for continuing to believe in a country that often doesn't get it "right" but continues to search for the best possible path. This day we celebrate the lives of the brothers and sisters you lost, we lost, this country lost in order to freely continue to be the greatest country on earth. Even with our problems, people still flock to be here, the American dream may shift but we still get to achieve it and as I watch certain political decisions be made I don't lose faith...because as long as there are people who believe in what we stand for; "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness"; then sacrifices will be made and sacrifices will be honored.

Thank you: to the families of those lost, your courage is not unnoticed and the sacrifices of the loved ones you have lost is appreciated by many. It is our duty to continue to work towards the freedom they died for and to honor them daily.

God Bless America and may He continue to do so....

"Who kept the faith and fought the fight; the glory theirs, the duty ours."
-Wallace Bruce

Monday, May 19, 2014

How We Got Here - The TMI Version

“All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller
For some of you this will be a story you already know, for others this is pretty intimate & in depth look into the path that led us to this point in our lives….
I never expected this to be the first part of our story…My path has been a tricky one up to this point. Everyone has their trials, God’s plan is full of them, He sees our strengths grow, our characters evolve and our love for the journey expand with every endeavor we face.
I was 14 when I had a vision with God. He sat across from me on the daybed in my parents’ house. He held my hand and spoke with conviction. He told me that I would not bear my own children, that there would be a time where I would have to accept this fully. He also told me I would hate Him. I remember vividly saying “never.”; and Him softly telling me that I would find my way again, not to give up hope when the time came and that He had plans for my future family. I was confused; He had just told me I wouldn’t have a family. But in the hazy dreamlike state I just took it in…He smiled, I smiled and then He was gone. I woke up and told my mom about the dream. Both of us thinking I must have been watching something interesting the day before but neither of us completely discounting the vision; my mother has always been intuitive spiritually so for either of us to have gut feelings, déjà vu or in some ways premonitions was basically normal. However, teenage years and time forced the entire sequence to slip back into the recess of my mind.
I met my lovely Stable Boy “M” when I was 15. We dated through high school, surprising everyone when we continued the relationship through college – never once breaking up, but definitely having our trials laid before us. We persevered and found ourselves marrying at 25 and 26 years old. Enjoying life, loving our blessings and for the first time discussing our future. We both agreed we were way too selfish to have a child at the time and in deciding that we put off for 3 years trying to conceive.
We had been actively trying for 3 months. I was 28. It was July and we were supposed to be heading to his father’s wedding in Texas. I had a yard sale – it was grueling in the heat and thought I had just overdone it when I started cramping. By 2 a.m. that Monday I was in the ER screaming my head off at the pain. Tests, scans, needles, everything was a blur until they told me there was nothing they could do. They called a specialist. She came in and spoke sternly but with reverence – asking me about past menstrual issues, any cramps before, did I know what a cyst was. M sat wide eyed, learning way too much about the female makeup in those 5 minutes than he EVER wanted to. She told me a cyst the size of a football had decided to wrap itself around my left ovary and that she could not see any of my organs due to its mass. She had no idea what she would find, if it was cancerous, if it had damaged organs, if it could be removed without damaging the other ovary; but extensive surgery was the only option…the tears came. By the Friday that we were supposed to fly out I was lying on a bed, waiting for the OR to open up and my anesthesiologist was asking me if I minded if he prayed for me. Crying, I told him, “please do.” He held my hand, he prayed for me and I felt Him again – just as I had 14 years before – that peace, that understanding that He was there and I was no longer afraid. 5 hours later I woke up with 39 staples, a 16 inch incision from my breast bone to my pelvic, the knowledge that my specialist had to remove ALL of my organs that were masked out of my body for a few minutes – creepy - no left ovary and had “birthed” a 4 lb cyst that got me in an article in the Medical Journal – Whoopee! But I was alive. But I was also angry. The memory of that vision/visit from my youth was fresh on my mind and I remember that first week, looking down at the Frankenstein-esque metal and thinking “yep, I hate You right now.” The first weeks of recovery were not at all fun – my sweet sister had to endure my anger, my tears and my frustration. It was a hard recovery, a difficult transition and the best definition of a true trial that I had ever encountered up to that point.
I had hope that the single ovary on my right side could be fine for conception. Checkups were many, follow-ups and blood work became words I truly despised, but the overall goal was to have a baby in the end. We had to wait around 6 months before truly trying to conceive again. The right ovary took its time getting back to rights. We tried, and tried and tried. Then we took a break – we decided to not drive ourselves nuts so we gave it all to God. 2009 passed, then 2010, and then in 2011 I realized that there seemed to still be some issues. After speaking with my OB/GYN (the specialist God sent me when I lost the first ovary had graciously become my doctor and I had become her most interesting patient) we decided to do a D&C. So there I went, into another operating room for a standard procedure that women have every day. It was at the middle of November, my doctor sent off her sample and Thanksgiving was upon us. When you go to Camden, more specifically to my parents, it means you are agreeing to no cell service for the holiday. I was okay with that. J
However, my doctor was trying to find me. Desperately. She left me no less than 8 messages. When we returned the Sunday after the holiday I was beyond curious as to what was going on. Stupidly, I did not call her back until Wednesday. She told me to come in immediately, she would work me in. I was nervous, but not scared…not yet.
She sat me down and when she teared up fear crept in. I hadn’t told M to come with me. It was just me and her. She told me that her findings had given her something she suspected – a thickly lined uterus – but there was something else. She found Endometrial Hyperplasia Complex with Atypia Stage 3. That afternoon I not only had an OBGYN but I was scheduled to meet an Oncologist at the Bruno Cancer Center in Birmingham, the following week – the 7th – the day before M’s birthday. The oncologist would be my second opinion and if the cancerous cells were verified – he would be my cancer doctor.
I remember calling mom – she was calm, but I know she was immediately googling, asking her resident doctor and nurses the minute we hung up. It’s okay, I did the same when I got back home. I cried too. I cried a lot in that small drive home. I cried when I saw M. He held me and said everything was going be okay.
The next month is still at times a blur. The first meeting and pathology confirmed our doctors’ fears. Our Oncologist, Dr. B, wanted to do surgery the following week – I was set up for a hysterectomy with a full lymph node scope (upper thighs and below the breasts) – we asked if we could wait at least until after Christmas. He agreed, he was so torn about removing my remaining ovary – at 30 I would have little to no hormone production and the long term effects made him wary. He said if everything looked good, he would do a partial hysterectomy leaving the ovary…December 28th – everything wasn’t good. The ovary was enlarged and I woke up in recovery at St. Vincent’s with a Total Hysterectomy. The idea of conception had already left me 21 days earlier, but now Menopause loomed at 30 and reality swept in.  It was 7 days post surgery when I got the good news – they had removed all the cancer and I would not need radiation therapy. Life was blissful in those seconds. The recovery was another hit to my system and the following year brought all kinds of new bodily changes.
M was beyond amazing through everything. We had a discussion that day after confirming the cancer cells in Birmingham and that first initial meeting at the cancer center. I told him I understood if he wanted out – if he wanted the opportunity to have children with someone I would never hold it against him. I cried, begged him to think it through and my loving husband sat in front of me at The Tavern, held my hand and shook his head. He was in this from the beginning because he loves me, he had no intention of leaving me and that no matter what we would make it through this and God would be there for us every step of the way. I’ve loved him since I was 16 but in that moment I saw love for the first time; it was all over his face, in the way he held my hand and in the look he continued to give me as we ate. Then the surgery came, recovery came, crazy swings of menopause, insomnia, neuropathy and the idiosyncrasies of Courtney engulfed our life.  He still smiled, still held my hand and I still saw that look of utter love – he amazes me every day and I am so thankful for his strength. We are a team. Marriage is not something that just easily happens, you build it, you work on it daily and you make it the most important portion of who you are. I am grateful every day that God saw us way before we saw each other and that He continues to guide us daily.
During all of this, during all the years since 2008 life was still circling all around us, we welcomed Kristin “The Duchess” (M’s niece) into our home and got a good taste of parenting a teenager. She has been a blessing in our life and we love her so much. She came to us in 2010 and we have enjoyed watching her go from 16 year old young girl to the 20 year old woman she is today. Her journey is just beginning and she is holding her own. We know that had we been able to conceive in 2008 that we would not have been able to take The Duchess into our home in 2010.
It all circles back to that first vision, first discussion with God. He knew the path in front of us, he knew that the Duchess was in our future, that we would need to have open hearts for different paths and Heknew that we would face our trials head on, accepting life with each passing day. He had more faith in me than I had in Him at the time. Now when I look back at the moments His presence filled me: 4 surgeries (laparotomy, D&C, hysterectomy & a random appendectomy), each recovery, sitting in the Bruno cancer center waiting for my oncologist to tell me “I rarely ever get to tell my patients this news: you are now cancer free.” and the moment I woke up in January of this year, on a Sunday, lying in bed, overcome with the deepest, strongest yearning to see M as a dad, to hear the word ‘mom’ and know it was meant for me, and to see the laughter in our child’s eyes as they run in the yard with the dogs...and on that morning 19 years ago after spending all night talking…He fills me. He surrounds me daily, blesses me always, loves me unconditionally and reminds me often that this life is not an easy one but it is worth every moment…thankfully I don’t think He will make me wait seventy years….
"For thus says the LORD, 'When seventy years have been completed for Babylon, I will visit you and fulfill My good word to you, to bring you back to this place. 11'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. 12'Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.…” Jeremiah 29:11


Friday, May 16, 2014

Updates + a Big Family Announcement

Hey Everybody! *waves frantically*

It is definitely been too long, too much time, too much happening around here for me to have slipped away since…well…since a little while ago.

SOOOO many things going on around here.

We’ll start right about:

The Duchess is home for the summer – searching desperately for a summer job. She is definitely excited that classes are over, I just hope she realizes that this next year will be even more important than the last. The pressure will continue and intensify as her college career grows.

The King (aka Stable Boy) has been working his tail off (literally). He’s gotten dedicated to daily gym trips, cleaning up our garage (which honestly is like some crazy Hydra – clean one area and another messy one appears times two…) and staying busy with his dayjob. He works in construction so warmer weather means more jobs – always a good thing.

The furbaby Prince’s are precious as ever. Snickers is creeping up on his 1st birthday and Peanut Butter is still crossing his fingers that his little brother is temporary…sorry Nutter.

I’m working on more art and more writing. I entered an art show in my home town and pleasantly surprised myself by placing – it truly is an honor. It was quite nerve wracking. It’s been since High School that my hometown has seen any of my art…these people have known me since I first grabbed a sketchpad and they are always there for me, they are important to me. I never want to let them down or fail them – they are family. The judge however is from another state – no connection whatsoever and is a highly accomplished artist – the fact that he loved it enough to award me second place…makes him a new favorite of mine ;o)

Oh and one more thing…..

WE ARE ADOPTING!!!!!!!!

Yep. We are. We are in the VERY beginning stage of applications, scheduling home studies and getting sooo excited about this step in our lives. It is only through the blessings of God that we are able to begin this process and it will only be through Him that we will see this process through. I cannot begin to express our excitement….There is so much to share and I plan on doing that ASAP! Look for my next entry to share our story of the whys? The with who? The process.

Please keep us in your thoughts, your prayers and send the best possible love to the universe…