Courtney S. Barr

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Thursday, March 16, 2017

Faith Moved Mountains Pt. 5 Grateful

"I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Ps. 9:1

I landed in a heap that Monday. 
I tell you Village, that Monday my heart changed immensely. God had already begun a process in me, one that dove deep into recesses of my heart that I had never even fathomed. I had discovered a place carved for the birth-mother, a place carved for every rejection along the way, a place carved for dealing with pain that seemed endless, a place carved to explore loving M more than I thought I could, a place carved for you - dear Village; places hidden so deep that only God could lead me there. On that Monday, as we sat in a hospital room watching as two people signed papers that made the natural world see Everleigh as ours my heart became more. More invested in someone other than myself, more able to shift/change to see the value of others, more filled with light than I thought possible and more grateful than I've ever been...

M held Everleigh from the moment we left the family lounge, as they signed papers, as the two families breathed when the clock ticked away to that fateful hour of closure; he held her. Not me. I had held her for pretty much 42 of the 48 hours there. He was the one laying claim that morning. I will never forget a few minutes we had with our Nebraska lawyer alone. We spoke of how she had been doing this for quite some time, how when she got started she had not expected her work to be so monumental - but she gave glory - she spoke of how she was just honored to be a vessel that God could use to aid families during some of the hardest and most beautiful decisions they encounter. She spoke of her faith and how God has blessed her in this area of her life and beyond. We were blown away by her honesty and her heart. We mentioned the sweet Paralegal who had spoken for so long with me and who had expressed such kindness. We learned that the Paralegal had been adopted and also had adopted - God is great Village - He placed us along a journey filled with symbols and people who gave us great peace, comfort, hope and especially love.

After the papers were signed, that same lawyer stood among us, as we all were gathering diapers and wipes and clothes and things we had lived in for the past 48 hours she patiently waited before asking if we could all pause for a moment. I remember that intake of breath that passed through M and myself. We waited, hesitantly worried - we knew the paperwork was done - irreversible, yet the enemy will try to pick at those worries, those fears. God had been in that room for 48 hours, He wasn't relinquishing us anymore than M was letting Everleigh out of his sight. 

Lawyer: "Would you all mind if we had a word of prayer before I left?"

The room froze. 

M: "I think that would be great. Yes, yes. Thank you."

We all stood. I stood in front of M, beside the recliner that had been my bed for the weekend; the birth parents stood beside the hospital bed that they had made their camp in, my cousin stood beside me. We stood together - a unified group - as words tumbled from our lawyer's lips praying for peace, for comfort, for joy, for growth, for protection, for love and for honor of the God who had orchestrated this from the beginning. My gratefulness to God in His timing grew tenfold in those moments. I had endured years of screaming while driving home from work, hours of tears that coursed down red cheeks and hiccup sobs as the emails that softly said no while I loudly screamed why, I had faced changes in my own body - changes that I thought defined who I could be, I had accepted fears as truth only to finally face them with hope and promise, I had watched M battle with aggravation and frustration over timing, over selection and watched as he hurt with me every time the days had been dark and seemingly desolate - in that moment it all fell softly into place for this first journey into adoption. He seemed to be standing beside me rubbing my shoulders, squeezing me tightly and whispering words of peace into my heart. 

It hearkened back to the first time I remember being truly grateful - the first surgery - the first true time in my short life that I had faced fear of death, fear of loss, fear of not being enough. I remember the moment I found gratefulness during that journey - it was in a hospital room as well, only I was staring into the eyes of a woman who would soon know me and be a part of my story unlike any others, she was explaining what was going on, why I was in such pain and I felt that same whispering, that same comfort, through the spasms I felt good about her, about God placing her in that moment. I was still terrified but I didn't feel alone and I was grateful to Him for that promise. 

That Monday, standing there listening to this sweet woman speak words of light over us, I felt that same gratefulness. I was again terrified - not of danger or any issues with the paperwork - terrified because -Holy cow, they are going to let us leave with her? We are really parents! This is terrifying - we don't know anything about babies or have anything but a diaper bag and car seat! - that kind of terrified, but He knew that, He had already set that aside and was reminding me that this woman before me was here because she was the perfect one to be used to orchestrate the union of these families, to be standing here reminding ALL of us that none of this was by chance, that none of this was mere coincidence - no, He had done as He does - He had given us more and I couldn't have been more grateful. 

She finished and the birth family left before us as we got Everleigh into her car seat. She was so small, so tiny in that big seat and we climbed into our cousin's car for the hour drive. I let the world know on that drive. We called the first connects of family to let them know it was done - she was ours, then I created a slideshow, created a storybook of sorts for social media...that was the big one. We had asked for prayers, but because our Village is so huge, because it spans so far and wide the public post was the best and simplest way to say "SURPRISE, WELCOME TO THE WORLD, OUR BABY GIRL!!" It was the cork popping the champagne bottle of announcements and the messages rolled in, the phone calls came and tears of joy were shed.

We had one of those parent moments on the way to my aunt and uncle's house. We stopped at Target, red eyed, no shower, sleep deprived and dressed as though we had been on a 3 day bender. My cousin sat with Everleigh in the car as we scoured aisles, looking at the list our sweet nurse had made for us, and grabbing cute outfits along the way. We laughed as we walked to check out, pushing that buggy full of formula, baby items was surreal and was one of the highlights. We were parents in the most honest and real way in those moments.

Because of ICPC you must stay in the adoptive state for up to 10 business days while the receiving state and adoptive state get all their paperwork together. We were beyond blessed to have family so close by and to have them open up their home to us. In fact they had a bassinet (one that all my cousins on that side had slept in, that my own mother had once slept in), a rocker (that had also rocked my mother to sleep - God is amazing y'all, simply amazing), a fully furnished apartment/basement for us and more love than sweet Everleigh could ever imagine in her first week of life on Earth. 

That week we laughed, we ordered more Amazon baby items, ate tons of food, had her first baby shower and were blessed to be able to have my mother and sister fly up to see Everleigh and our extended family. The nights were not nearly as bad as so many spoke of with a newborn and honestly I'm not sure they ever will be - so long as that gratefulness remains in my heart. By the time it was the day to travel back home to Alabama it was bittersweet. We truly enjoyed the special time the three of us had to just settle into being family and the time we had with family that was so important, so special to our story. But there was more to the story to come and we were ready to see what was next.

She was only 8 days old when we took her on the plane. "Eight Days!!" -that was the chant of the day as strangers met her and saw her on the flights. We are forever thankful to Delta airlines and their attendants that weekend - they treated us as royalty.  

Coming home Seeing Duchess with her for those first seconds in the airport and then the days following. Listening to her hum the Harry Potter theme song as Everleigh slept and watching her step so easily into the big sister role made my heart so very happy.

Then, of course, my dear sweet Village you all came tenfold for us, you brought us meals, you sent cards, you brought us gifts, you gave your time, you showered us with laughter and you gave love in every way that you could come up with. I still am behind on thank you cards and this is not replacing them at all - they will come! I'm too southern for them not to, but I will be honest there are many and that example of such great love overwhelms me in the most beautiful way. 

Everleigh is 5 months old now, just turned yesterday. She has 2 teeth with 3 breaking the skin as I type, she sits up beautifully and really is trying to walk instead of crawl (lol), she has been eating 'solid' foods for a month now and absolutely loves to bounce in her bouncer, she talks animatedly anytime you will listen. She has so much personality and we love every inch of her. She is a healthy 17 lbs and 26 inches long. My favorite new thing is how she likes to touch my face as she falls asleep, her tiny hand massages my cheek and rubs my nose as she closes her eyes against my shoulder. Sometimes her blue eyes open and she stares up at me as she moves, smiling wider the longer she stares. It melts me every time. That heart of mine, the one with all the hidden spots I didn't know about? It has more, I know that now. I know that when the opportunity to find a sibling for this beautiful princess occurs it will grow again - those pains of rejection might resurface but this time, this time I am going in with even more glory for God, even more gratefulness for His mercies, His gifts, His timing, His infinite knowledge of what is the BEST not just better humbles me every time I hear her "talk" to her toys or when she coos in her walker as she scoots backwards rather than forwards. Our story doesn't end here, it doesn't just stop and we are now just parents - no if anything our story is just beginning. We have new chapters now, new arcs and climaxes yet to come. We have new family - we keep in close contact with her birthmother and are so honored to get to do so. We have new goals, responsibilities and new ideals of what life can be.  We have so many reasons to do as He asks - to tell of His greatness, that His trials and tribulations are parts of your story - He is never not with you so don't ever think those trials are done without His support, they are often His desire to bring you closer to Him and to learn how to give it all to Him. 

Thank you dear Village for following this short series on how we saw Mountains move by Faith, how we were privileged to walk through storms, to feel the batter of mighty winds but to see the Prince of Peace through it all. We never expected this, we never even dreamed that this really would be where we would be standing - none of it is due to anything we've done/not done - it is all His grace, His mercy, His truth, His promises. We give this beautiful daughter of the King of Kings to Him, we dedicate our lives to making sure she is aware of Him, that she sees Him when she sees us and that she knows we are not perfect but in Him we can find the type of perfect love that transcends all things and that He loves her so very much.

Life is unpredictable. We are ill equipped if we try to travel this life without God, we can get by, we can live what seems to be an okay life - but true fulfillment can only be found if you have asked God into your heart and you've decided to let go - to give Him every single thing that comes across your path - there will be things you want to cling to, things that you think you can handle...don't box Him in. He is a big God. He wants your anger, your sadness, your disappointment, your sorrow, your happiness, your joy, your love, the big things, the small stuff...He wants all of you, because He loves all of you - the misgivings, the flaws, the fears, the worries, the beauty, the broken...He LOVES IT ALL. He is the only one who sincerely sees every bit of you, knows every bit of you and is in LOVE with every bit of you - no wavering, no conditions, no issues, no maybes - He. Loves. It. All!! What a beautiful truth! 

Village, if you haven't gotten to know Him, if you haven't given Him all of you, take heart - there is no time limit, there are no requirements to be better before you go to Him, there is nothing you've done - wanted to do - not done that will keep Him from loving you. Truth is...He already does. He is just waiting for you to lean in. So do. Ask Him into your heart - those recesses that you think are full or dark, nope, He can get there. Give Him your heart, your life, your cares and let a peace beyond all that you will ever understand fill you. 

One warning, it isn't just one and done. You will probably have to make this choice and do this every day, sometimes more than once a day - no worry, He forgives all you've done, gives second chances more than there are drops in the ocean if you just go to Him, give Him your mistakes, ask Him to forgive and open yourself to all He has for you. I have to do it daily, I have to choose Him daily. I want Him to hear from me every day, to know I love Him every day and to know that those days before I gave Him everything do not define me nor do they change how He sees me. I am a daughter of the King of Kings, my hope lies in Him who created the sun and moon and earth, I come from a place of Victory, this world is not my home, I am raising a daughter of the King of Kings - a Princess, and it is with Him I will run to when the days are long, Him I will teach her of when she seeks refuge and it is Him who I pray that you dear Village come to know, come to seek and discover love like no other. For He is the giver of great and beautiful things...don't you want that in your life?

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” James 1:17

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Faith MOVED Mountains, Pt. 4 – Trust and Leaps

Trust in Him at all times, O’ people; pour out your hearts to Him, for God is our refuge. Psalms 62:8

It was super early at the airport.

Duchess dropped us off with hugs, heavy heart (she had class Monday and couldn’t go with us, plus the puppy brothers needed supervision) and prayers. I remember walking into the security and thinking that this may be one of the few remaining times we travel so light. We get to our gate, both tired but so buoyed by excitement for this next step that we can’t stop fidgeting.

We watch other people around us, wondering what their destination is, wondering if their journey is as HUGE as ours…we hold hands, we lean on each other and we pray. The boarding begins and flight number 1 is ready for take-off. We began counting the hours down until we would meet the baby who would hopefully be ours.

I remember that we didn’t talk a lot on the flights. Both of us put headphones on and dove into worship and praise music. We just listened, watched the window and prayed. Prayer was constant. It filled us more than the air it seemed for those hours…

But God spoke. He sent us some messages in those smooth flights, the rainbow He sent that seemed to wrap around us and in the peace we felt with every passing cloud.

We snacked on Bananas, popcorn and Biscoff cookies – thank Delta for those delicious cinnamon biscuits.

When we touched down in Omaha I remember us looking at each other and trying to just take that second, that moment before we ran full steam into the unknown, and into the exciting hope that lay before us. We both took our phones off airplane mode to see the following information: our birth-mother was dilated to 4 cm. She was coming soon.

While we were touching down, our birth-mother was in labor. Technically she had started the 6 hours she was in labor right when we got to the airport back home. Our sweet baby was ready to meet us, God's timing is precious and perfect in all things.

The hospital is one town over and so we knew that there was drive time ahead.
When we saw my cousin in the airport, waiting to pick us up, her face lit up and the three of us hugged while we walked. We were chittering like children it seemed as we headed towards her parked car. M was blown away at my family resemblance (he had never met the majority of my cousins from up North) and so we chatted about that before we focused on the drive.

It was while we were leaving the airport that the first picture of our sweet baby girl surfaced on my cousins’ phone. 

I remember the tears silently slipping down my cheeks and the elation on M’s face as he stared at the picture. I remember the worry TRY to slip in, the fear TRY to slip in but I kept clinging to the words on the radio, to the songs in my head….the flight had been full of promise and hope, I wasn’t going to just let that worship slip away.

Silent moments filled the drive, then we all would chatter then the silence would return. Tears never stopped. We pulled into the hospital. I remember not knowing what to take in, what bags to grab, what items we needed, if any…I just was helpless in a moment. Needing to grab something. So I did. I grabbed M’s hand and we walked into the double doors to meet our daughter.

I won't deny that I was terrified that we wouldn't get through the doors, that some Ogre or something was going to tell us "Turn around, you have no business here." But with every step no Ogre appeared.

Do know that the hospital was very aware that this was an adoptive parent/birth parent situation. They wanted to make sure we were conscientious of certain things…one thing in particular – for the next 48 hours, birth-mom is still in control. Until she signs, until Monday at 12:23 p.m. she still holds all the cards. Remember last post about guarding hearts? This is why. 

We knew this going in, most adoptive parents know, its your job to understand the state you are adopting from and its laws on children, birth-mothers and proceedings. You NEED to know, you NEED to understand – whether you agree with them or not – they are important. 

We knew the 48 hours wouldn’t be easy, but they were there, they were a part of our process and they were important to us and to the woman who we would be meeting very soon.

I remember nurse D when she came first to the window to see us, to tell us where we could go; she was stern, you could tell she was the birth-mother’s assigned nurse but more than that…she was a barrier, a buffer, a protector of sorts for the young woman who had just given birth. At first, I thought she disapproved, I thought the emotion she was projecting was because maybe she didn’t want the baby to be given for adoption…

God, my dear Village, He is by far so much smarter than we are.

We followed her, down a hall, up an elevator and to a floor where you must press a buzzer and state the name of your family member to be let in. I remember saying her name. I remember the small hospital bracelet being placed on my wrist that carried her name, the woman I wanted to shower with love, to let her know her worth and somehow let her know that even if she changes her mind in the next 48 hours, she is still everything and MORE than what I can shower her with. I had expected it to be heavy, to speak her name, but it wasn’t. Again, that special part of my heart had already given her a home. 

We stepped through and were led to a family lounge, a waiting area, while the baby was being cleaned up. We weren't sure when, where we would meet anyone. Then our sweet baby's maternal grandmother and birthfather came in. I will never, ever forget the first time I laid eyes on her birthfather. He was holding back tears and as if we had all known each other for centuries, he hugged Marcus and I both. I cried, telling him we loved him, he cried telling us how beautiful she is and how amazing everything had gone.

Then we talked, cried and talked some more. Then the nurse came to lead us to the nursery. The birthfather and maternal grandmother went back to the labor room.

We had no idea what to expect. We were trying not to cry, not to ask too many questions, just to follow, step by step as we leaned into wherever God was leading us.

Then we stepped into the nursery. A nurse stood to the side, our nurse D told them who we were and then we stepped into an adjoining room. A young doctor was lifting a baby, turning her side to side, checking her out, looking at the remaining gunk all over her and motioned us over. Nurse D introduced us. The doctor paused, I will never forget that pause, he looked at us, just stared for a heartbeat and then smiled. He introduced himself and we shakily said hello. The precious squirming gift he held so easily was our daughter. He introduced her to us, then handed her to me and a bottle. My baby’s first meal and my first real tangible moment with what hope and faith creates. 

I cried. 

Sobbed a little as she took those first sips and M, he stood beside me, tears rolling saying how beautiful she was. We melted then, just melted. The doctor, nurses they watched as I sat in a rocker and spoke to her. They watched as M held my shoulder and spoke to her. My dear cousin stood beside us and cried, telling us how beautiful she is.We had a few more moments before nurse D (who had slipped out) returned to tell us we all were wanted in the labor room - this was it, we were meeting the woman I had pictured and prayed for, the woman who had made a decision that my heart ached for and the woman who was showing me a visual example of selfless love...

I remember seeing her face, beautiful yet tired, the length of her hair - so long and the weariness in her smile. I cannot imagine her thoughts. I hugged her, tight, whispered to her the gift she is and cried again. In all honesty in that singular moment I wanted the world to fall away and the two of us to just be for a bit - to talk about what she had given us, what she had given our beautiful daughter. This life, this beautiful soul sitting beside me in a hospital was more family to me in that moment than my blood relatives. We share something very special now, something that bonds me to her in thought and prayer in a way that I cherish so much. 

We all talked a bit and then they brought E back into the room. From that moment forward the 5 of us (birth mom, birth dad, M, Everleigh and myself) began what we lovingly refer to as camping out in a hospital. 

We all "lived" in that small room and in the family room down the hall from that moment forward. We ate together for most meals and when birth parents caught up on much needed rest, we spent hours with the nurses and staff asking questions on newborns, listening to their advice and learning so much about what we had in store. We were honored to share in the knowledge that some of the staff had experienced adoptions themselves - some had been a birth mother, some had family members who were adopted and a few were the adopted members of their families. God, He is a wise one. lol. We were loved on in a way that just any one wouldn't have known to love on us. Our birth family was loved on in a way that a typical scenario might not have been able to be such an impact on it all. 

Monday came quickly. I woke up first, well Everleigh woke up first and I took her down the hall to the family lounge. I remember staring at her, just staring at the faces she made as she slept in my arms. It was then, alone, in that room that the sobs came. I had not cried since those first hours in the hospital, I'd been the one saying "God has this, no more worries, everything will be fine." I was guarding my heart with fortress strength walls and there in that little room, alone singing to her sweet face my walls crumbled, fear crept in and I began the REAL countdown. The 4 hours until the papers would be signed, the 4 hours until we truly knew whether or not she was ours. 

The Holy Spirit comes in so many forms and manners. A photographer came to take newborn pictures of Everleigh just as I was shaking with sobs. 

She was so kind, smiling and handing me a tissue. Then she stooped in front of us and said "These can wait if you'd like, I understand you are adopting her and today you discharge, right?" 

I gave her a snotty, sniffling yes.

She paused. Standing up straight for a moment to look at us then the room.

She looked at Everleigh and at me. "You know, she is sleeping so sound in your arms. I just don't think she is going anywhere else today. Why don't we set up some shots?"

That sentence from a stranger who had no control, who couldn't have told you our birth family's last name, yet stood before me and told me she was mine in the most subtle and sweet matter of fact manner. I laughed. 

She handed me another tissue and began moving chairs around. I blew my nose, apologized and stood up with Everleigh. She walked over to me.

"Let's try the window area and get some good light. Why don't you place her and I will arrange her as needed. You stay close to her though in case she gets restless."

That was that. I began to dry up my tears and we laughed as she arranged Everleigh in various positions, as we moved her around the small space and as she took some of the most amazing photos in the family lounge of the hospital. She left to get everything uploaded and I sat down. Completely at peace. When M woke and came down, I had already bought in, everything was on the table, God had all my chips and the leap I had already began running for so many years before was coming in for a landing. 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27