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marriage

Marriage

A Letter to Moms Before I Become One Too

September 19, 2014

Hello!

I wanted to write this blog post to all you bio mommas out there who follow along here at True Good and Beautiful.

Why?

First, to apologize.

Secondly, to beg you to welcome me (and all other adoptive moms) into the “inner circle.”

You might be scratching your heads…why do I need to apologize? Why do you even need to be asked to welcome me?

Let’s start with the apology part.

I’ve more or less spent the last 3 years avoiding you. Or being jealous of you. Or judging you. Or asking God to send me blessings instead of to you. Or intentionally not asking you about your pregnancy or kiddos.

Basically I’ve been a jerk.

Sure there are a few moms I was fine being around and they know who they are. But those of you who haven’t seen or talked to me in years? That was on purpose. It was my doing.

I was afraid of you since I felt like I didn’t belong to be around you. I felt lesser. Like a loser of a wife…and being around you as your children ran laps around you and your belly grew with your newest pregnancy was an unintentional slap in my face. On some level I even thought you didn’t like me or want me around since I was a broken infertile lady.

Silly, I know.

That’s why I want to say sorry. Infertility took a toll on me and many friendships. I had a few dark years where I honestly wasn’t myself (I blame the medicine clomid). I did need to grieve and to a certain extent I needed space to not be around “triggers” like pregnant bellies, little babies, and cute kiddos. I am not apologizing for that but more for the anger, jealousy, bitterness, fear, and judgement that kept me from being your friend. I definitely could have grieved and protected my fragile soul but still  been your friend at the same time.

I chose not to and that is why I am apologizing.

Secondly, why am I begging you to welcome me and other adoptive mommas?

Because even though I will absolutely, positively, definitely be a mother through adoption…I still feel like I won’t be truly accepted or something. I have nightmares about going to my first mom hangout and ONLY hearing women talking about pregnancy, labor and delivery, and how fertile they are…all the while I twiddle my thumbs on the side since I can’t contribute to the conversation.

Again. Just like the old infertile days.

I am just going to be vulnerable right here, right now.

I need you non-adoptive moms to be intentional about welcoming myself and any other adoptive mommas in your community. And to be charitable when we are around with what the topic of conversation is turning to. Some of us (me) need our confidence built up after years of infertility and being isolated from conversation is a sure way to kill confidence.

Do you need to walk on eggshells? No. Just be considerate and emotionally intelligent. Haven’t we all been part of a group of people talking only to be the odd man out? The one clueless about the topic at hand as the group dynamically engages in conversation about it? Yea. Multiply that by a thousand and you can get a glimpse at how awkward social settings can be if you’ve dealt with infertility or adoption.

What I am trying to say is engage me in conversation about mom stuff I can relate with you on…which will be MOST stuff. A neat fact for you is that I am currently undergoing lactation induction! So we can talk breastfeeding, lactation cookies, and all the things that come along with it.

I know not all adoptive moms will feel shy or nervous around seasoned bio moms but I will. I know myself. I will stupidly put myself at a disadvantage to you and so I need you to remind me just how much we share being moms….no matter how our babes came into our families. Help me get over my insecurities. Help me realize I am “one of you” too.

I do wonder if any first-time bio moms might have these same fears or feelings of inadequecy? If this isn’t simply an adoption thing, tell me!

If it is a common adoptive momma struggle…well then I need to hear from you ladies who have been there and done this! How did your bio mom friends help you the most in your time as you transitioned to being a mom? How did you get over fear?

Let me know in the comments! 🙂

 

Money, Our Debt-Free Story

Our Debt-Free Story: Part 3 – WE’RE DEBT FREE!!!

September 2, 2014

This is Part 3 of a 3-part series. Be sure to read about Our “We’ve Had It!” Moment and Our Secret Weapon.

We left off in part two when we were knee-deep in debt but with gazelle intensity and a laser focus to pay it all off ASAP. We even shocked ourselves and beat our “debt-free date” by nearly five months!!

How did we do that?

Let me tell you…

So there we were, Spring 2012, with between $15,000-$18,000 of student loan debt left to go when we got the tax return funds and threw it towards the loan. The numbers fell significantly that month and momentum started rolling like crazy.

At this point, we sort of snapped and went scorched earth. We also found out we would likely be moving in two months time, so we started thinking about all the things we could purge from our household and turn into quick cash to pay towards our loans.

Sometime in April, I gathered up items from our house in the living room and began listing them on Craigslist left and right.

Bicycles. Nintendo. Lamps. Throw pillows. An HDTV Television. A desk we dug out of a dumpster. A chair we got for free.

If it wasn’t nailed down, it was on the “discuss to sell” list. In a two week window, we had people at our town house nightly, one after another, purchasing items from our living room garage sale. 🙂

We ended up with a couple thousand dollars from our sales…but still had to live in the place for a few weeks before moving. Yup, it was rather uncomfortable sleeping on a blow up mattress, having no lamps, furniture, or Nintendo to play with. But we were brimming with happiness and joy at seeing more progress on the student loans. It became like a game to sacrifice more and more so we could see the debt fall quicker…so we happily played board games under a light bulb on a string in the closet.

With this continued surge of momentum, we saw the debt fall below the $10,000 mark in early May 2012!!

To keep the gazelle-like intensity up, we decided to sell my car and drop down to a one car family. It sounds harder than it was, since we actually work together. The times we actually needed two cars was far and few between. This got us some extra cash to throw at the debt and lowered our car insurance bills and gas costs.

To top it all off, we had unusual circumstances that summer. We moved out of our apartment in May but didn’t find a place in Denver to live straight away so we put all our belongings in a storage unit. We traveled that summer working on our fundraising and staying with family. Upon moving to Colorado, a family invited us to stay with them while we searched for housing. With those circumstances, we didn’t have any rent and minimal food expenses from June through August, which was a MASSIVE help in our debt snowball.

In late July, we saw the numbers really plummeting and we were just ITCHING to get it all paid off the next month. We received a few special donations in larger lump sums which gave us the extra cash flow to pay the loans off earlier than we ever anticipated. We kept living on a bare bones budget and scraping money our of thin air, hoping we could have an August debt-free date.

On August 15, 2012 we had finally scrounged up enough to sink our last loan and become 100% debt-free!!!!

Wahoooo!! 🙂

To celebrate, we made doughnuts and started forming a plan for the next baby step, the fully-funded emergency fund! A few months later, we traveled to Nashville and did our Debt-Free Scream on the Dave Ramsey Show. Someday we will tell our “post-debt-free story” and the unique challanges and freedoms that come with each baby step.

Until then, here’s wishing financial peace for everyone reading this! You can enter our Financial Peace University Giveaway to jump start your journey!

Marriage

Happy 1,000 Days of Marriage!

July 19, 2014

I thought Friday was just a regular ole day.

We had a friend in town who I saw off in the morning. Then I got cleaning and puppy-proofing the house.

Midday I realized I needed some music in my life to spice up the monotony of cleaning, so I called Jonathan to inquire about where our wireless bluetooth speaker was located. This was the conversation that ensued:

Jonathan: “It’s upstairs on my nightstand.”

Amanda: “OK, great. On my way there now.”

Jonathan: stammering sounds…silence…mumblings…”Wait! It’s actually down stairs in the storage closet…inside that white bookshelf…in the bottom cabinet.”

Amanda: “Oh. Alright. I’ll go there instead.” (Not even thinking that it would actually be WEIRD to place a frequently used speaker in a storage closet cabinet)

I got down to the storage room and pulled the light string. I opened the bottom cabinet and found this:

photo (5)It was a very heavy container filled with….you guessed it, $10.00 worth of pennies. All I could do was laugh at how easily duped I had been. What a sneaky, creative, and thoughtful guy!

Some of you may remember Jonathan pulled something just as creative on our 500th Day of Marriage. So this trick was right up his alley and I am so grateful for him.

It’s these little things that make marriage a true, undeserved gift and joy. The intentionality of another person expressing they choose Y.O.U. to love with everything they’ve got.  It’s a reflection of how God does this to each of us every. single. day. in the little things.

Pretty cool to ponder.

To celebrate, we grabbed a bite to eat at Piggin’ Out Bar-B-Que and it was A-MA-ZING!!

photo 1

Then it was off to the Pet Supply store to grab some essentials for our pup’s arrival TOMORROW!!!! 🙂 Stay tuned for some really cute pics of our little dude.

Last but certainly not least, we watched The Lego Movie to end the evening.

photo 2

Uncategorized

Little Happies: Our Pup and Some Gambling

June 16, 2014

We’ve been in Omaha, NE for the better part of the week and it’s been non-stop since we arrived.

Many things that make us happy have happened over the week but I forgot to take many photos of most of it…and part of my thinks that is how life should be. Lived. Not constantly photographed and “shared.” That is an different blog post though. Of the moments I did manage to capture, they are below:

–one–

paperworkfinal.jpg

It’s The Final Paperwork….duhn duhn duhn duhn…duhn duhn duhn duhn duhn. (The tune of The Final Countdown anybody?)

This leg of the adoption process is DONE!!!

Everything was gathered, triple checked, packaged, and finally mailed off to our agency and the States we’ve lived in. Next on the list, we need to schedule our home visits with a social worker in the upcoming weeks. After that? Hopefully approved to adopt! 🙂 🙂 🙂

Please keep your eyes and ears peeled for ANYONE who may be considering adoption for their child and let us know! Thanks!

–two–

mug caminoThis mug.

I leave it at my parent’s house so I can come back and find this gem in the cupboard when I pour my morning cup of joe.

If you haven’t heard about El Camino de Santiago, you need to. During the summer of 2009, I walked The Camino with other FOCUS staff and students and it has and will continue to change my life until the day I die. I am still drawing lessons from that trip. Especially on the road of infertility. I should write a blog post comparing the two journeys and how similar they can be.

Despite the real sufferings experienced on the trip – I overwhelmingly remember all the good things and want to go back and walk The Camino again someday.

–three–

AmeristarAtNight

Wild Pixies at Ameristar Casino.

Friday night we went to the Casinos with my Mother and Grandmother, primarily to watch the fireworks at the College World Series Opening Ceremony….OK and to gamble responsibly.

My mom won some cash off the bat so she gave us a lucky $20 so we didn’t have to cough up our own dough. Thanks mom! From that we ended up nearly tripling her winnings playing Wild Pixies. It was a lot of fun!

By the time we met up with Grandma and Mom later on, everyone had won! A great night overall!

–four–

jonathan bloggingThe World Cup!!!

We’ve been watching the games and will DEFINITELY be watching the USA play Ghana tonight!!

What’s making me happy is seeing Jonathan’s awesome graphics going up on the FOCUS blog breaking down each country complete with stats on what the Church looks like there.

–five–

pupThat guy.

Another FOCUS missionary’s family breeds Labrador Retrievers and we’ve been wanting one FOR-EV-ER but had to wait till we were no longer renters. The pups were born a few weeks ago and our little guy will be set to come home with us later this summer! Can’t wait!!!

–six–

facebook_logoI’m leaving Facebook for a while and feeling HAPPY about it.

Call it cruel fate but Facebook pretty much only shows me pregnancy photos, babies being born, or family photos these days. Seeing these posts one after another sends me into a depressing place I refuse to keep going to. I’m sure one day I will be stronger and better able to handle the bombardment…but that isn’t today and I am happy to finally admit that.

Catch me here on the blog or by phone/email if you want to get a hold of me!

Infertility, Marriage

How We Plan to Fund our Adoption

May 10, 2014

Some of you may or may not know that adoption can come with a hefty price tag – average being about $35,000. Yowzers.

Most couples don’t just have that kind of cash just laying-around without a purpose.

If you know us well, you know we are incredibly diligent and intentional with our finances. We’ve been thinking about how to fund adoption without debt for a while now. We don’t believe God wants us to pursue debt to grow our family, since He has a lot of negative things to say about debt in scripture. 

Listening to The Dave Ramsey Show one afternoon, I heard an interview with Julie Gumm, author of “Adopt Without Debt” and it confirmed our conviction in this area. Knowing we will not go into debt, we are still left with a few options to grow our family. On this blog, I want to document how we plan to pursue funding for our adoption – for others in the future who pursue a similar journey AND to provide a glimpse for those who don’t know all the ins and outs of adoption.

The agency we are working with carries a price tag of $25,000 for domestic infant adoption with the possibility of a few thousand extra depending on the situation. Now, there is a possibility of pursuing designated adoption (getting matched together with a birth mother ourselves) which would be approximately one-third to half the cost. We will do all we can to pursue designated adoption and we will talk about that below and how you can help us with this!

Without further ado, here is our plan:

1. Budgeting and Savings

Understanding how to be a good steward of your finances is vital and key. I don’t think this step can be stressed enough. Jonathan and I have been on a journey the past couple of years toward financial peace. We read Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover and facilitated Financial Peace University. We recommend them for everyone who handles money, adopting or not.

Specifically applying this to adoption – Jonathan and I plan to more or less go back to “beans and rice” while we are scrimping and saving for adoption. We’ve already cash-flowed nearly $3,000 from our budget through intentional budgeting and saving. With each step in the adoption process, we will continue to say “no” to wants so we can say “yes” financially to adoption.

2. Adoption Grants

In “Adopt Without Debt” she lists off many adoption grant available out there. She also makes them available on her website.

This summer, we plan to take a couple weeks of accumulated time off so we can dedicate 60-70 hours/week filling out grant applications. We’ll probably camp out at a local coffee shop so we can stay stimulated at all hours of the day through the process. There will not be a grant we qualify for that we will not apply for. We will turn over every stone in due diligence with grants.

3. Adoption Tax Credits

Adoption tax credit laws are changing all the time. This website helped provide me with information on just how important the adoption tax credit can be. For 2014, the maximum adoption credit and exclusion $13,190 per child.

I am not sure how big of a difference this will make on our bottom line…since it’s non-refundable like it was in 2010 or 2011 (jealous of those of you who got back big checks post adoptions back then). Basically we will be able to claim that amount as a tax credit, making our taxable income lower but not really significantly since we aren’t high income earners to begin with. It will be something but really won’t change our situation much, like a refundable credit would.

4. Fundraising

This can be the scary part for some adoptive couples out there. Since Jonathan and I already fundraise our of income this portion isn’t that frightening. We know too many generous and kind people to be afraid of fundraising. We also have watched God provide for our needs time and time again in the most random ways. If adopting is God’s will for our family – the money will come some way or another.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction…” James 1:27

Sure, we could simply rely on grants, tax credits, and personal budget/savings to do this adoption. But we feel an actual calling to involve others. In our self-sufficient society, we feel God asking us specifically to make ourselves vulnerable in this way. To expose our needs to others – for judgement, generosity, kindness, cruel comments, etc. I have no idea as to what people will think but we are being obedient to God in this, so I can’t care what people think.

This adoption isn’t just a means of growing our family. It can be a way to bring The Body of Christ together in a powerful way to answer God’s call to care for orphans. Who are we to prevent others from being able to answer this call in a concrete way by supporting our adoption efforts financially? For most, this will be the only way they ever have to care for an orphaned child in an up close and personal way. Through financially supporting us, they are giving a child a family.

We aren’t sure exactly how we will pursue fundraising. There are TONS of ideas out there in books, blogs, and on Pintrest. Once we become home study approved, we will take more concrete steps to put together a fundraising initiative.

5. Designated Adoption

I mentioned up above that pursuing designated adoption versus agency domestic adoption is significantly more affordable. As in one-third to half of the cost. It involves locating a birth mother on our own or via family/friends connections and then going to our agency to set up the legal paperwork and proper counseling to facilitate the adoption.

The hardest part of this type of adoption is locating a birth mother. We plan to make an adoption video/profile and set up some sort of social media campaign to let others know we desire to adopt and are looking for any connection to a birth mother out there. If you have any connection at any time to a birth mother discerning adoption, LET US KNOW!

Again, a very vulnerable thing to do but we are convinced that if God wants us to do a designated adoption – a connection will be there. If we are supposed to pursue domestic agency adoption – the connection won’t be there. Time will reveal His will for growing our family.

There you have it my friends. Our basic game-plan on how we plan to financially pursue adoption.

I have experienced many emotions in the past couple of weeks. In any given day I can range from excited and happy all the way down to bitter and resentful. Thankfully the happy times are winning out far more often than the negative. What works me up so much is the seeming unfairness of it all. We’ve spent thousands of dollars trying to have biological children over the past couple years and no baby. Now we are spending tens of thousands of dollars trying to adopt a child but we have no garauntee it will work out. While this is happening – women are aborting their babies, parents are neglecting or abusing their children, drug-addicts are using throughout their pregnancies, and couples everywhere simply try for a baby and end up pregnant seamlessly. All those situations humiliate our infertility and it’s hard to process them in the midst of so much struggle.

By God’s grace we will teeter onward towards His will for our family. Jesus, have mercy on us! All you holy men and women, angels and saints, pray for us!

Infertility, Marriage

The Cross of Infertility: An Interview Part 3

December 29, 2013

I didn’t think I would have time to post this today but low and behold, I found a spare 10 minutes 🙂

This week I am over at my dear friend Catherine Boucher’s blog, Hallelujiah is My Song, discussing the cross of infertility. We will have a 4-part series on the following topics:

  1. Introducing the series and Amanda (& Jonathan!)
  2. Understanding how infertility feels
  3. What NOT to do when your loved one is facing infertility
  4. How to encourage and lift up a couple facing infertility.  Encouragement and resources from Amanda.

Today is the third post and it’s all about what NOT to say to a couple experiencing infertility. Of course, it’s not the most extensive list out there but I hope it’s a start for those wanting to learn about how avoid hurtful comments/questions with your family and friends experiencing infertility.

See you over at Hallelujiah is My Song for Part 3 of The Cross of Infertility.