Do It Heartily | More Heart

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily…” -Colossians 3:23

 Our family theme for 2014 is MORE HEART. We’re trying to love more and seek more of the good in life …even if when life gets tough.

That said, in January of 2012 a film crew for Time Out For Women came to my home to ask me how we worked to seek the good during a time that was difficult for us. We had just experienced a failed adoption plan and returned from an almost month-long vacation to Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, Zion National Park, the beach and Disneyland (some pretty powerful healing when on there–I hope you click that link).

Recently, the video was featured on the Mormon Channel which was really cool. (In case you didn’t know, I am a Mormon!)

 

A lot has happened since that time–we had a reversed adoption and shortly after our crazy-cute Jack Jack joined the family. Lots of heartache and lots of love.

So glad we chose to love those moms who didn’t place with us. It’s been wonderful to keep in touch with them and see their adorable babies.

I’m even more glad that we didn’t let heartache rob us of all the joy that there is in life.

Choose joy …and do it heartily.

 

Our Saipan Miracle | A Guest Post

This is a story that I’ve been wanting to share for over a year.

Let me introduce you to the Hokie Family! Their story is told by Heather, the mom of this wonderful family. Not only are her experiences totally unique but her writing is absolutely beautiful. You, my friends, are in for a treat today. This is a powerful reminder that God is in the details of our lives.

 

Years of pain seemed to wash away into my memories as we held our first baby boy in 2004. It was a private adoption. Friends and family had connected us together. I was so blessed to be in the labor room as he was born.

Hokie Family of 3

A river of tears and a gasping cry overtook me as I saw him for the first time and had the overwhelming feeling that this was my son. We held him shortly and then tore ourselves from the hospital so that the birth family could have their time with him. Parenthood began and so did the development of our relationship with a birth family. I snicker as I think back to my immaturity in the first year of communication. We had the sweetest, most patient birth mom. I was so uptight about communication though. Taking and printing pictures like crazy and writing updates often. I imagined our birth mom at her mailbox crying and waiting for our pictures and updates. Of course she wasn’t. That is when I learned I could not save our birth mom from the pains of placement. I had to let the Savior take care of my birth mom.

Through LDS services we were blessed with baby boys number 2 and 3.

Hokie Family - 2 Boys

Hokie Family, Family of 5

By Number 3 I felt like I’d overcome any insecurities I had about my children having 2 moms and dads. I felt very settled in my role as the adoptive mother, and felt very comfortable with the communication we had with 3 birthmothers and 3 birthfathers. I do have to say I had a postpartum breakdown one day about how I was going to keep up with 6 birth parents. The family blog idea was a lifesaver for me. Our birth families love it.

So open adoption in our home means that our birth family is part of our extended family, like a cousin. We mail, email, phone, Facebook, and visit about every year or two. We are very unique in that we have 3 birth dads that we communicate with. Their signatures were crucial in our cases and we are very thankful for our birth dads’ support. They didn’t all begin wanting communication, but over time decided they did. Pictures and visits seem to be enough communication for them. It has been so rewarding to see these men grow in their lives too. Each of them has bettered themselves and taken on the challenge of being a good example for their birth child. They are not scary. Birth dads have been tender, considerate, and caring. Ben has particularly enjoyed getting to know these guys; a unique type of camaraderie.

As you can imagine with 3 little boys ages 6, 3, and 18 months, it was a tornado of activity in our home. I logically thought we should be done adopting, but I wasn’t sure about it. I started hearing rumors that LDS Family Services was considering limiting service to families that had less then 3 kids. I knew I could start my profile again and be “grandfathered in”. How could we afford to go through any other agency? But I didn’t feel that distinct drive and impression that I had every other time we adopted. So with faith that God must have another plan for us, I passed on the chance to start the adoption process again.

Six months later, we were watching a movie and heard about the Health Corp. My husband felt impressed to research about it. He works as a physician assistant (PA). The purpose of the Corp is the provide health care for underserved areas. We looked at the map of open positions. American Samoa caught Ben’s eye and I suggested checking out another island, Saipan. They are both American Territories. The islands were desperate for help and wanted us to come within 5 months. It seemed impossible and crazy! How could we get everything organized to move across the ocean that soon. We felt numb with a feeling of peace about moving to Saipan. So we committed to go for two years.

Hokie Family 3 Boys in Saipan

Then everything seemed to fall into place and we found ourselves on a beautiful tropical island. The children were excited, although leaving family and friends is never easy. The adventure of a lifetime, right? So far…yes.

Right away I started meeting a few families that had adopted on the island. There is no agency here, no homestudies, no caseworkers, so all adoptions are connected through word of mouth and finalized by an attorney. The families were saying that it’s really easy to adopt here. PSHHH! Adoption is never easy. After 4 months of settling into our new home, I started getting the adoption “ants in my pants”. I didn’t want to overwhelm my husband, so I joked about it a little, but didn’t push the issue. My husband came home from work a few weeks later talking about how cute these little island baby girls were. He admitted that he was feeling open to the idea of adoption again, with one big condition: it had to be a GIRL! We soon found out that we couldn’t finalize an adoption until we lived in Saipan for 1 year. So we made adoption cards and started spreading the word after being here about 6 months. Previously, we had never requested the gender of our baby, but this time we knew that another boy would sink the ship!

A few months later I was vacuuming when I had the feeling that I should try to call Children’s Services, which I hadn’t been successful reaching yet. This time I got through, the director wrote down my name and number in case they had any adoption opportunities come up. He warned me that it was rare due to strong family ties and the ‘village mentality’ among the locals.

The next day I got a call that a young lady had come into the office the day before, asking for an adoptive family. We met 2 days later. She started the meeting with her story and reasons for choosing adoption. The decision to place her baby was very logical. She didn’t even have enough money for a pack of diapers. We gave her the adoption card we had made and told about our adoptive family. You could see her relief as she looked at the card and realized that all her hopes for her baby could come true. She had wanted a Christian family that had strong desires to adopt. She also was hoping that her baby would have siblings. Our only requirement (having a girl) was being met!! She had just had the ultrasound that showed the absence of “boy parts”. Our baby girl is Pacific Islander/Japanese. Our relationship developed as we texted and went to appointments together. We were able to support her through the delivery and hospital stay. It was another amazing miracle. It has been so sweet to see our boys be more gentle and sweet with a baby girl around. She is the ultimate blessing to complete our family.

Hokie Family - Whitney with her birth mom

It was amazing to step back and realize that the Lord had guided us to this tiny little island in the Asian Pacific. Now we know why we were sent across the world to Saipan. God has a plan for everyone. He knows our needs more than we do. I am just so thankful that we were open to the promptings to take on this adventure. It has been greater than expected!!

Hokie Family The Girls

We Blessed Whitney and these are some family pictures we just had done. Some have some extra faces. Two older girls.

Hokie Family of 6 Kids

When Whitney was a few months old I logically felt like our family had to be complete. I was so busy with the four kids. I started having teenage sisters from church come over to help me during the summer. Their names Amber (15) Ashlynn (17). They are Palauan but were born in Saipan. They happen to be very distant cousins of Whitney. We met them at church, and they started babysitting for us. They were so helpful and sweet to the kids, we fell in love with them. They were so amazing to have in our home, and they were so loving to our kids. It all began with a joking compliment, “You girls are so wonderful! Can we take you back to the States with us.” They became very serious and replied, “That would be our dream.” Their mom, wanting the best opportunity for them and their futures consented to them coming with us.

We are not officially adopting them, but we consider them part of our family now. We are excited to host them in the states. They are excited for the educational opportunities in the states and to meet more kids their ages. Ashlynn plans to go to college and work. She loves online shopping and is so excited to shop in real stores. Amber will finish her last three years of High School. She is excited to play sports and be social. We love these girls.

As we have prepared to move back to the States, we have become really close. They are like daughters to us. Went to Saipan with 3 boys and we are coming back with 3 girls. Now I feel complete. Overly blessed! It was very scary and out of our comfort zone to go to Saipan, but I’m so grateful that we followed God’s will so he could bless us with our beautiful family!

During a general conference one of the apostles talked about the Lord’s time and be patient with it. I look back and remember so many days of tears because of the biggest trial of my life-infertility. Now to realize it has been my greatest blessing. I love adoption. I love each one of my children and their birthfamilies. I have grown closer to God as I’ve seen His hand and miracles in each one of our adoptions. He knows us and is so aware of us. I’m so Thankful!

Hokie Family Sealing Day

Our sealing was wonderful! We had been waiting to travel to the States where we could be sealed in the Temple. It was like Heaven to see our four beautiful children enter the sealing room dressed in white. Whitney was smiling and attentive to the sealer. She was beautiful. Then outside the temple we were joined by our Saipan daughters. Even though their ages and situation doesn’t allow us to officially adopt them, we feel a completeness with them as part of our family.

We feel we have been so greatly blessed. We continue to be thankful for God’s awareness of family and guidance in parenting them now. I never could have predict my story from the beginning, everyone’s is so different. I don’t believe in coincidences though. Adoption is the work of God and Angels. It been a pleasure to be a part of that.

 

 

Queen Esther | It Is What It Is

I have a painting of Esther next to my bed.

Untitled
 

I love her so.

Recently a friend and I got into a discussion about why Esther is the “It is what it is” Queen.

I won’t retell Esther’s full story as outlined in the Bible, but when Esther risked her life to stick up for her people, her family and her faith she declared, “If I perish, I perish.” She couldn’t change the hardships she was facing, but she did her best to make her way through them with grace and to help as many people as she could along the way. She was bold, devoted, trusting and did not let the fear of failure (in her case that meant genocide) dictate her actions.

Just like the prophets have been telling you and me since our childhood, Mordecai taught Esther that she was “come to the kingdom for such a time as this”. It was her time to shine. Her time to testify.

If I perish, I perish. It is what it is. God has a plan. We have a purpose. I have a mission.

She is a hero. I have the Minerva Teichert print of Esther framed next to my bed to remind me to be bold, devoted, trusting and not to let fear of failure have control in my life. To admonish me to testify and to cause me to remember that I was reserved for this time to express my voice. That I have an important work to do. Right now. (Incidentally, Sister Teichert’s painting of Esther hangs in the stairwell at the entrance to the mission offices on Temple Square–a mission only for sisters–where I served for 18 months as a representative of my church. So appropriate.)

Because sometimes things feel too hard, life seems too unorganized, tasks are never quite completed the way I’d like and occasionally I feel like I am drowning in all that is required of me. Esther reminds me that you can be afraid and courageous at the same time and that I am here at this specific time in the history of the world for a purpose.

Although there is always room to simplify our lives, many circumstances can’t be totally changed no matter how hard we try. But we can handle it. We can do it. We can’t change it, but we can make it through it. It is what it is.

It Is What It Is Necklace

That is all. Amen.