Friday, November 20, 2015

It Takes a Village

Wow! A lot has happened for the Woodmansees since I last updated. First of all I want to thank all of you who posted or messaged encouraging words to me after the last post in May. I can't even begin to tell you how much that meant to me. So now for the updates!

Let's start with the fact that we're no longer in Kentucky. Lee got a job as the Campus Minister at the BCM (Baptist Collegiate Ministry) at the University of Arkansas - Fort Smith. He had interviews in May and June and we moved to Fort Smith at the beginning of July. We knew this was a possibility, but everything still happened pretty quickly. After much stressing (on my part) and prayer (much more effective) we found a place to live (without me seeing it first), got packed up, moved, and settled in. We're closer to family and of course our beloved Fayetteville. It's definitely different from Louisville, but we're finding our way here. We miss our church and college group in Louisville terribly, but we've found a great church here and we're looking forward to see how we can get plugged in. Lee still has a few more classes before he graduates, but he can do them from here. I'll have to do a separate post on this new ministry because this one is already going to be crazy long.

Next I needed to find a job. With the late notice of the move some issues came up with getting a teaching license in Arkansas and finding a job (there's a lot fewer high schools in the area than there were in Louisville). I looked into substitute teaching (a last resort) and teaching as an adjunct at UAFS. I also contacted my research professor from grad school to see if he knew of any engineering positions in the area. God provided once again when a position opened to work in the lab where I did my graduate research. It is similar to what I did before we moved to Louisville. I get to work with college students and help manage a lab (without much of the stress of actual circuit design). I'm still re-learning a lot about IC design and learning about the new advances in the field over the last few years, but I'll get there. I have to drive to Fayetteville to get to work (about 50 minutes) but I only work three days a week (which is beyond fantastic). I do miss teaching, and I may go back to it at some point, possibly on a collegiate level, but I'm really enjoying where I'm at right now.

The next part is not so good. If you're dealing with a recent loss feel free to skip this part, since it may bring up some painful emotions for you.

A few months after the miscarriage I had in April we starting trying again. I found out I was pregnant in September, but this one was not to be either. I was incredibly fearful when we first found out. I couldn't sleep. I felt sick to my stomach all the time (and it wasn't morning sickness). It was terrible. I just knew I was going to miscarry again. After several days I knew I couldn't carry on that way. I broke down crying and begged God to take away my fear and anxiety. I knew I wasn't trusting the Lord. He reminded me that He was in control, and as Lee told me over and over last time, He loved me no matter what. He also reminded me that He brought me through the pain last time, and if it happened again He would still be there. I did much better after that day. I was still a little worried, but I was able to live my life. We started getting cautiously excited, and started planning things out. When I was at what was supposed to about 5-1/2 weeks I started bleeding. I went to the doctor and they did an ultrasound but didn't see anything. They drew blood, but I wasn't expecting much. I met the doctor for the first time that day (since I had to find a new one when we moved) and her compassion has helped me through this turmoil. After drawing blood a few more times we saw my hormone levels were really low and increasing but not doubling like they should have been. I went in for another ultrasound about 3 weeks after the first one and when the tech went to get the doctor I knew something was wrong. The doctor came in and looked and a while later I met with her in her office. She was pretty sure I had a tubal (ectopic) pregnancy. There was nothing in the uterus but she could see something in my right Fallopian tube. She gave me my options and after another blood draw (which almost all but confirmed her suspicions). I was given an injection of methotrexate to medically treat the ectopic pregnancy. I pretty much knew before that day that things weren't right, but all of this was unexpected.

We were devastated...again. Honestly there was a point where I was convinced I never wanted to try to conceive again. It hurt too much. I've since then healed from some of the pain, but I pray constantly that if I do get pregnant that I don't experience the same crippling fear as before. I am very thankful that we caught this tubal pregnancy before my tube ruptured or I needed surgery. I had to get another injection a week later and I'm still going in to get blood work every week until my hormones go back to zero, but as my body heals so does my heart. We get closer to my original due date from earlier this year, and sometimes I can hardly stand to sit in the doctor's office every week with some obviously very pregnant women. However I'm continuously reminded about God's grace and mercy by Lee and the friends and family I have surrounding me. The sadness (and sometimes anger) is still there, but I am healing. We don't know why this happened, and we know that my chances of having another ectopic pregnancy have increased, but God is helping me see I don't necessarily need to know why, and no matter what happens He is in control. We look to the future and look for His strength no matter what happens.

And now back to some good news.

Before this last pregnancy, God had placed something on both mine and Lee's hearts: fostering. We have talked about adoption since we got married. It was something we always wanted to do eventually. We have had some amazing examples in our lives of people who have fostered and/or adopted (congrats to Chris and Kristin who finalized the adoption of their son Roman recently!). Lee and I both see adoption as a representation of our adoption by God as Christians. The New Testament is filled with scripture that talks about how God adopted us through the blood of His son, Jesus (Ephesians 1:5; Galatians 4:5-7; Romans 8, etc). While this is not talking about earthly adoption God's heart for children is also made clear in scripture and James 1:27 says "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world." We are called to help the helpless and for Lee and I we believe we are called to do this through adoption. Fostering, however, didn't really come into consideration for me until we were in Fort Smith. I had seen someone post something on Facebook about fostering and didn't think much of it. But God wouldn't let the thought leave my mind. I asked Lee if he had thought of it, and he said he had a bit, but it wasn't something we had seriously considered. We decided to start praying about it and left it at that. 

Lee was able to go to Collegiate Week in Glorieta, NM before school started. He called me one night that week and told me to start looking into it more seriously because he felt convicted after one of the speakers talked about his own adoption experience with his children. I researched it and saw that there is a huge need in Fort Smith (and all of Sebastian County). Our area has a hugely disproportionate number of children in foster care and not enough open foster homes to care for them. Feeling this call in our lives we jumped in the process quickly and are very close to being done. We are so thankful for the folks at The Call, a Christian organization that helps train and support foster families and those wanting to adopt from the foster system. We've learned a lot and made some wonderful relationships through this process. We just got notification that our full packet has been turned in and we should hear about setting up a final walk-through in the next three weeks (about 6 weeks at the most). After that we'll be open for accepting children. Which is crazy! We are so excited, and nervous! Yet excited! We know we have no idea what we're doing (as is the case with all 1st time parents). We also recognize that there are special circumstances with fostering. But we know (and have experienced abundantly over the last year) that God is in control and we can trust Him. We are very much looking forward to this new adventure He has planned for us. We still hope to adopt in the future (and will be open to adopt children we have fostered if that becomes an option), but we know this is the season God has us in right now.

(Lee here) I think that through the last five or six months the theme for me and Kacie has been provision. We have been asked to step out of what was comfortable for us and alter our plans that have stood for the last 4 years in order to be obedient to God’s calling. Through it all, God has amply provided for us in several ways. From the beginning of the crazy week of our moving from Louisville to the Fort, to the way that I came across our home out of the blue, God has been very gracious towards us. Physical provision is not the only element at play here though.

Especially during this second miscarriage, Kacie and I have been confronted with situations that we are not naturally adept at. We have been provided an opportunity to love each other during a time that is stressful to say the least. But what stands above this situation is our firm resolution that we know that God has not just left us to our own devices (Kacie’s anxiety and my pragmatism). This situation is like the saying “when you pray for patience, God doesn’t give you patience, he gives you opportunities to be patient.” God has given us a situation entirely out of our control, and has put us in a place where we could either trust in him, or we could be eroded by doubt, anger, and sadness.

What has become clear then is that Kacie and I are not left on our own. Through the provision of a church family here, new friends, and the reuniting of old mentors, God has amply provided for not only our physical needs, but also our emotional necessities. We have been confronted with the reality that we too often trust in our own planning or abilities. Miscarriages have a way of stripping any sense of control away from you. And once more, God’s provision has led us to a place of deeper trust in what he has for our lives. We both can confidently say that we have no idea exactly where that will take us, but that we have trust that God loves us more than anyone on the face of the earth does. This was so abundantly demonstrated on the cross… and that is why we trust God supremely. If we can trust God with our salvation, then moving, ministry struggles, employment changes, finances, relational strains, and all of these other earthly things are easily entrusted to our loving God. 

(Back to Kacie) Finally, many of you have asked how you can help. First and foremost you can pray. Pray for continued healing physically and emotionally for us. We still plan on trying again for biological children and we pray God will bless us with that in the future, but if He doesn't, pray we're okay no matter the outcome. Pray for us as we prepare our hearts for future children in our home through the foster system. Pray for those children that they see God's love through us and pray for their biological families as they do what needs to be done to be with their children again (and pray for us if/when that happens). It's going to be one crazy journey. If you are interested in helping us prepare physically for fostering we'd love that as well. Not having any other children we don't really have much to take care of those children yet. And we've learned small children "need" a crazy amount of stuff. We're looking at accepting children age two and under (possibly a bit older if they're part of a sibling pair). Not knowing anything about the child/children makes it difficult to prepare much, but there are some things we could use now (convertible crib, car seat, et). We will obviously also need specific items once we get a placement. We've done some shopping already, but if you'd like to help us (used or new items) feel free to let me know. I'll tell you what we need, and we'd be appreciative of anything you have. If you'd rather wait until we get a placement to help with more specific needs that's great as well. We can't post many details, but we can get you the basics. As the post of this title says, it takes a village to raise children. We are blessed with friends, family and a church who support us in this. We know we'd never be able to do it without you.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day is Sometimes Hard

Just as warning, this is going to be a very personal post. I haven't posted in well over a year, but I really wanted to write this down. If you aren't interested then just ignore this.

Today is Mother's Day so Happy Mother's Day to my wonderful mom! Also, happy Mother's Day to my mother-in-law, grandma, aunts, mentors, etc. who have mothered me in some way over the last nearly 29 years. While Lee and I know that we're doing what we've been called to do, it is sometimes very hard to be over 500 miles away from loved ones.

As much as I love the recognition of the hard work and sacrifice on Mother's Day I also recognize that it can be very hard for many people. I think of my mom, who lost her mother 20 years ago. I was blessed to know Nana for 9 years, and I miss her deeply, but I can't even begin to imagine how my mom feels. My mother-in-law has experienced the same loss so I pray a special blessing on all those who have lost their moms, at any point in their life.

Mother's Day can also be hard on those who have lost a child or experienced the inability/difficulty of having a child. This is where my story begins. I was supposed to have my first ultrasound this past Friday. Instead, early this past week I took another home pregnancy test somewhat hoping, for yet dreading, the negative sign. Two weeks ago I was pregnant. Now I'm not. Some might say I was "barely" pregnant, whatever that means. Something they call chemical pregnancy. It was also described to me as the pregnancy not being "viable." They wouldn't say the word, but it was an early miscarriage (about 5-6 weeks). I never got to see the baby on an ultrasound. I never got to hear the heartbeat. What I did get to experience was the joy in having the pregnancy test be positive and in telling my husband. I also experienced the heartbreak when everything started going wrong, and then almost two weeks later when I got the phone-call telling me it was over. I experienced days and days of heavy bleeding. I experienced pain from intense cramps and being stuck with a needle 5 times as they drew blood for tests. I experienced sadness when my hCG levels barely increased, then timid excitement when they doubled, then doubled again, and finally devastation when they dropped dramatically. Life has been a roller coaster for the last 4 weeks for sure.

I've learned more over the last few weeks about miscarriages. I learned things like chemical pregnancies are actually pretty common (most happen before a missed period so without an early pregnancy test you might never know). I learned that miscarriages themselves are more common than most people think. Most of all I learned that it hurts so very deeply. There is a hole in your heart. And because it hurts and because it is so very personal people don't want to talk about it. A friend linked this article on Facebook. She just went through a miscarriage and was much further along than me and has had more complications (she's back in the hospital after emergency surgery). I don't agree with everything the article says but it does present some common misconceptions about miscarriage and the struggle of going through it while trying to suffer silently. Well I don't suffer silently very well so I'm super thankful for those who have encouraged and prayed for Lee and I over the last month.

I knew today would be hard. We had hoped to celebrate impending parenthood, but instead I'm left crying in church as mothers are recognized and I'm left sitting. I don't say all of this to make anyone feel bad. I don't think we shouldn't recognize mothers because I'm not one yet. I think it's just as important to rejoice as friends and family rejoice in the exciting role of motherhood in the same way that they feel sorrow as I do for my dream to be delayed. Lee has been amazing through this difficult journey. The first day I started bleeding I came home in tears. Lee prayed for me (because the only thing I had been able to pray for myself was "please no" over and over again). The thing he consistently told me, and which I desperately needed to hear was that he loved me, and that God loved me even more. When I couldn't understand why this was happening he told me he didn't either but God loved us. When I asked him some very tough questions he told me God loved us and He loved our baby. And I know it to be true. Not because I always feel it, but because He says He does and because He has shown it over and over again. He has shown me through the love of friends and family. He has shown me through His provision in so many areas of my life. He has shown me through His discipline. And most of all He has shown me by sending His son to die a horrific death on the cross to save me from my sin.

So if possible, call your mom and tell her how much you love her. If your mom is gone, thank God for the time you had with her. If you're estranged from your mom, ask God to fix your relationship, and thank Him for the mother-figures He's blessed you with. If you have children, tell them what a blessing they are. If you've lost children (from conception to adulthood) accept God's healing and thank Him for those you can mentor. If you've struggled with the inability to have children understand that God sees your pain. If you know anyone with any of these struggles, give them a big hug! Above all, know that God loves you and desires a relationship with you.

Thank you for letting me get this out there. With God's grace and the love of friends and family Lee and I are healing. We look forward to trying again soon, and we trust in God the whole way. We sang the following song in church this morning and it was just what I needed to hear/sing. Happy Mother's Day!