Saturday, January 7, 2012

Digging Deeper - Home Study #2

We completed home study visit #2 Thursday night, and just have one more visit with Amy, our social worker!  

This visit consisted of one-on-one interviews of both Jenny and I.  I won't speak for Jenny, but my interview focused primarily on my childhood. Not that childhood was all that long ago, but I don't regularly just sit and reflect on my childhood. But, last night forced the issue, and I'm thankful for that. Jenny and I debriefed afterwards and she echoed many of the same sentiments - we are so thankful for the job our parents did in raising us and helping shape the people (and couple) we are today, and the parents we will soon be.

Talking about my childhood - and reflecting on it after the interview - reminded me just how incredible a job my parents did in raising me and my brothers.  I guess you never see it that way when you're in the middle of it, but now that parenthood is swiftly approaching, my childhood looks very different.

My parents did an incredible job, and I am eternally grateful for the way they raised me and for the foundation they gave me as I soon become a parent myself.  

As I discussed my childhood, I was trying to think of just one thing I'd change about the way my parents raised me, and I couldn't come up with a single thing.  Sure, I could say they made me buy my own pager (remember when those were cool??), or I could only get the VERY baggy pants instead of the RIDICULOUSLY baggy ones, but in the things that mattered, my parents got it right.  Here are some of the things I've learned as I reflect on how I was raised:
  • We went to church for as long as I can remember. As children, we were required to go, but our faith was between us and God.  They gave us the choice as to what that would look like in our lives, but they laid the foundation.  All three of us brothers accepted Christ as our personal Savior and Lord of our lives at young ages.  My faith has only grown stronger through the years, and it is that hope and faith in Christ that directs my life.  They laid the foundation for me to understand my purpose in life and devoting my life to serve my God and hopefully glorify Him with my life.  In these last twelve months, as it become a reality that our dream of adding children to our family began to look very different than we had imagined, it was our faith and trust that God has a plan for us that brought us through the time of grieving and struggling to understand why we had to go through that trial. This is a foundation we plan to provide for our children, and we pray that they will open their hearts and lives to Jesus and devote their lives to Him.
  • They were intentional about spending time with me, talking with me, learning about the things I was passionate about, making me feel important, special, etc.  My mom made sure she was home before we got home from school every day growing up so she could be there to chat and hear about the day.
  • They were very involved in our education and encouraged us to do our best but they weren't crazy about it as long as we were trying as much as we could.  They knew we wouldn't excel at everything but wanted us to give it our all.
  • They were proud of us, and told us so. OFTEN.
  • They encouraged us to do the activities we were passionate about, which mainly translated into sports in our family.  Again, encouragement to try our best, but never put unnecessary pressure on us, and never pushed us to keep at an activity if we were losing interest.  It was clear I was a terrible baseball player by the end of elementary school, and there was no pressure to continue playing.  Instead, focus shifted elsewhere to other interests and activities.
  • They intentionally allowed for "free time" - time to do nothing, play in the neighborhood, game nights, family time, etc.  To us kids, it just looked like play time, but I think my parents were intentional about having some flex in our lives to relax, refresh, etc. and not constantly be on the go.  This down time is something I value today.  
  • They made a big deal about birthdays, holidays, etc.  Any opportunity to celebrate life, family, friends, etc. That made us feel so loved and so important to them, and it developed family memories we'll never forget - holidays at the lagoon, fireworks in Woodbridge, Easter egg hunts in the backyard, birthday parties, and so on...
  • They opened our home to us and our friends any time, any number of friends, etc.  I just thought they were being nice but there were some serious ulterior motives - why not have us there - safe environment, scope out the quality of kids we were surrounding ourselves with, etc.  And, they ended up investing in the lives of many of my friends, many of whom still have close relationships with me AND with my parents.  My parents opened their homes and their hearts to many of my friends that desperately needed love from parental figures. Such incredible hearts of service.
  • They were always/still are very generous and ready to help out. If it was providing a meal to a family going through some challenges, or helping out at church, my parents stepped up to do what they could.
  • They taught us to be responsible - pretty sure that from the minute I was 16, I was employed and have been ever since.  Working was a requirement and this began teaching me the value of the dollar, how to manage money, etc.  If I wanted to go out with friends, that was on my dime so I had to keep that job going.  Not sure I'd work at a candy store again - too much of that paycheck stayed there every two weeks...darn sweet tooth.
Ma, Pops - I'm sure you're reading this - I know this doesn't get said nearly enough, but I just want to say thanks for your intentionality, your sacrifice, and your unconditional love that you showed us every single day, even when we made it next to impossible.  I can only hope and pray that Jenny and I raise our children the way you did. Thank you for helping me not screw myself up too much, for keeping us grounded and rooted in faith and family. I love you both so much.

Another question that really challenged me was: "What lessons have I learned through our experience with infertility?"

I won't go into details, but 2011 was a roller coaster of emotions for us - hopeful expectation followed by disappointment, month after long month.  Until October, when it was confirmed that conception wasn't likely in the plans for us, at least not right now. We had said before we were married that Lord willing, we'd adopt "someday".  Well, that day came a lot sooner than we expected.

Thanks to a number of resources including books, music, family, friends, and our pastor, we were able to work through this process and begin healing.  Not only did we heal, God put an even greater passion for adoption in our hearts and turned our heads and hearts to international adoption, and then to DR Congo. 

So, what lessons did I learn through this process? I'll share a few - some of these I think I'm still learning and understanding more fully.  It's all part of the journey...
  • Faith - not something I necessarily learned, but remembered, is that God asks us to have faith in Him and trust Him, whether life makes sense or not.  Faith in trusting that He is in control, that He has plans for us, and that He wants us to release our burdens and worries and plans to Him.  This obviously wasn't the way Jenny and I had it mapped out, but you know what, that's OK.  God is God.  His plans are so much better than ours, and this just means that He sees us fit to be parents of a beautiful little baby boy or girl from one of the poorest countries in the world.  We are called to care for the widows, the orphans, the poorest of the poor. God has called us to care for an orphan by adopting them as our own - what a privilege!
  • Jenny & I grieve very differently, and that's OK. We each grieved and we each needed time and space to grieve in our own way.  I learned to give her the freedom to grieve how she needed to, in the time she needed to.  As guys, we usually try to move on and fix everything as quickly as possible.  I learned to put that response in my back pocket and be a support for Jenny as she grieved in her way.  
  • It reminded me that it's OK to cry - it had been a while since I've had something to grieve, something that really brought those emotions to the surface.  It was healthy and helpful.
  • Allow the grieving process to work itself out.  We didn't want to jump into the next roller coaster (i.e. the adoption process) until we had worked through the emotion and realities of infertility.  I can't say this won't be something that will never again cause some pain for us, but we needed to work through this reality.  We didn't rush anything, but prayed that God would heal us and focus us on the next chapter.  October and November were healing months - we received encouragement from our pastor, our parents, siblings, family, friends, etc.  Around the same time, Jenny joined a small group of women going through similar situations, which has been incredibly valuable for her, and through which we've developed a small network of families that have or are working through the adoption process. At the same time, I believe God was planting seeds in us both that led us to decide to adopt internationally and to specifically focus on DR Congo.  We then identified an agency in Denver, met them, and it was a great fit.  It was all part of the healing process.
I could ramble on and on, but those were the key things that stuck out to me from the interview.  I'm not the most reflective person in the world...if I lay in bed and "reflect", I'm usually snoring in about 30 seconds.  I guess this process and what the future holds has provided the opportunity to reflect on some of these things as I prepare to be a dad.  Awesome.

Our last home study is tomorrow (today, I guess!)...then the home study is out of our hands!

1 comment:

  1. Dear Travis and Jenny~ We are so thrilled for you! We, with you, excitedly await the day that you will meet your precious little one! What a beautiful tribute of honor you have written about your dear parents, Travis...we sure miss them!
    Love and prayers,
    Cynda and Frank