Second Annual Adoption Update

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Thank you to everyone supporting our adoption journey. Your continued prayers and shares are appreciated. I’m going to collect our past updates in this post.

20 months ago
We had our next visit with the home study social worker today, it went well! Praise God, I’ve been praying the Lord would give us grace/undeserved favor with the agency, and God did! The home inspection is Thursday, nervous and excited! Thank you to all of our supporters!

17 months ago
For those of you who pray, please keep Adam and I in your prayers, on any regular list you have, we need prayer cover nigh continually during this season of adoption. The enemy is fighting us hard. God is bigger and he’s got our back; he has, is, and will move on our behalf in awesome ways, but he often moves through his people. I can feel the difference when God’s people are praying. Thank you so much!

12 months ago
Christmas Adoption Update (Discusses the failed home inspections, the battle to get caught up and to master homemaking with ADHD, and spiritual/emotional battles I faced)

We passed our home inspection! Only two more to go! Oh, we need to get a couple smoke detectors mounted if anyone knows anyone who can help.

(Note over the next several months we passed two more home inspections and jumped through more hoops involving
psych-evals and mandated counseling as we had to overcome the agency’s fears to prove I am capable of being a fit parent despite my social background and ADHD.)

5 months ago
After much intense spiritual warfare, God did a miracle and we are looking at an approved home study finally and got to begin making our adoption family book while the paperwork is wrapped up and we transition to the matching with prospective birth moms and the next big payment (the $4000 goal we set) most of our existing funds ended up spent on an emergency paint job the home study required (Murphy’s law nearly kicked our butts–but our God is bigger and stronger!) If I forgot, Adam got a big promotion and a significant pay raise, thank you to the Lord for his donation. Adam deserved it, he’s a tireless hard worker with such a big, giving heart. He gives to charity and to friends in need, donates blood, and even is practicing to run 4 half marathons to raise money for AIDS orphans in India.  (Note he completed all four races last fall.)

3 months ago
Our family books got approved! We get to print them and move forward to matching!

1 month ago
We are still in the matching process. Please pray for us, the other waiting parents, and for the prospective birth moms at the agency, that God will lead us all to good matches and show the prospective birth moms the right families for them to give to their precious babies. Thank you for all of your support.

If you’re either curious, your family is considering making an adoption plan for your child, or you’d like to share it with a friend, you can check out Andrea and Adam’s public family profile. 

UPDATED A New Easter Tradition–Pineapple Upside Down Cake

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Pineapple Upside-Down Cake

Someone else’s attempt at this classic, which is usually round.

 

In 2016, when I originally posted this, I was recovering from second degree burns and had been rather ill from them all week. Pretty much everything suffered, with my poor, sweet husband having to pick up some of the slack for me. God used a friend I hadn’t seen in forever to get me the meds I needed, and I finally had enough energy to clean my house.

I finished the Easter centerpiece I’d been working on in bits and pieces (flowers made from green straws and #2 cone coffee filters soaked in leftover Easter egg dye and left to dry. Carefully tear it open, fold accordion style 1/2 way, then wrap the other half around, tucking in the short corner. Twist bottom into a point, stick on straw, arrange in a vase or suitable substitute) I stuck saved cracked egg shells in the dye, too, and arranged them in the vase and on a plate (paper) around the vase, crumpled up a few extra dyed coffee filters to go with them. Cute and inexpensive. Not bad at all for a first try, while I’d been ill, really.

You know, this reads exactly like every recipe online where I get annoyed by the blather and skim to the actual recipe, lol.

A few years back, I decided to start a new family tradition of serving pineapple upside down cake on Easter. This new tradition is based upon my short story “Pineapple Upside Down Cake,” loosely based on actual events from my childhood. Namely, shortly before she died of Parkinson’s disease, my paternal grandmother promised to bake my dad said concoction when she got better. In the story, the local church sends a care package full of food to the family (as mine did) and among the items is a pineapple upside down cake. Not sure how much of this is fiction, but to the children in the story, the cake is a reminder of, and assurance of, the funeral preacher’s assurances Grandma was now in Heaven and was well again there. Thus the spiritual meaning it has for me makes it perfect for Easter.

That treat isn’t exactly kosher on my current diet (for health reasons). So I made a few modifications that seem to have worked.

Healthier (Gluten-Free, Dairy Free) Pineapple Upside Down Cake

1 hour and 10 minutes to make 9 servings

Ingredients:

Topping:
¼ cup Smart Balance® Omega-3 margarine (or butter substitute of your choice. Use Butter if not avoiding dairy)
2/3 c a natural brown sugar (Or make brown sugar by adding 1 tbs molasses to 1 c sweetener of choice)
9 pineapple rings, drained (reserve juice)
9 maraschino cherries, destemmed. (I add extra)
Cake:
11/3c Gluten-Free flour mix (I use Pamela’s Products Gluten Free All Purpose Flour Blend)
1/2 cup Swerve or Pyure sweeteners (OR 1 c of your preferred sugar or 1:1 ratio sugar alternative.)
1 1/2 tsps aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 c almond or cashew milk (increase pineapple juice if omitting)
1/2 c reserved pineapple juice (increase non-dairy milk if omitting)
2 eggs
2-3 tbs olive oil or avocado oil

Directions:
1) Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a 9 in round pan, melt the butter substitute in the oven. (Trust me, do this FIRST). After it is melted, remove pan from oven. Ensure all surfaces are greased well to avoid the cake sticking. Sprinkle in the brown sugar then arrange the pineapple over the coconut sugar. Place cherries in the center of each pineapple ring. Note you can use a square brownie dish for this recipe but you’ll have to do some squeezing to get them to fit. Otherwise, the 9 in round pan is best.
2) In a bowl, stir together the flour mix, sweetener, the baking powder, and salt. Add in the oil, the nondairy milk and/or pineapple juice, and 2-3 eggs. Beat lumps out of the batter with an electric mixer on high, about 3 minutes, scraping bowl 2-3 times. Pour batter over the topping mix that’s on the bottom of the pan.
3) Bake 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Immediately place a heatproof serving plate upside down over the cake’s pan. Quickly flip over the plate and the pan. You may need to gently bang on the pan to get the cake to fall off it onto the plate upside down. Leave the pan on over the plate to let the caramelized sugar-oil mix drizzle down; you may need to scrape some off. Note I used a pizza pan as the serving plate before I bought a cake box that includes a serving plate. Cake tastes best warm but it is delicious cold, too.

Adapted from the classic Betty Crocker recipe.

[bctt tweet=”Discover why @andreajgraham makes a Pineapple Upside Down Cake each Easter. Includes #recipe #glutenfree #dairyfree” username=””]

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Grief’s Wise Lesson

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“So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” — Psalm 90:12

Grief often causes a “circling the wagons” reaction, automatically drawing together what is left. Sometimes we’d been letting the busyness of this age rob us of time with a loved one we’d always had a good relationship with. When that loved one dies, and we realize our mistake, such regret wells up, we feel compelled to warn everyone around us to stop letting busyness rob us of relationships that are far more important than the trivial things we’d pursued instead–or at least they seem so in the hour of grief.

Let’s take a step back and realize a few things. Firstly, sometimes, we were doing important work and just got out of balance. If we listen to grief, we risk ending up out of balance in the exact opposite direction and suffering for that.

Secondly, not everyone who hears the message, “spend more time with your loved ones. You never know when they’ll be gone” are in your situation. Some of them may have good reason to have separated from an abuser and cut off all contact. Indeed, God may have even told some to stay away from loved ones whose abuse tears down the work God is doing in them.

That may shock some of us. God values his masterpieces far more than we realize when we’ve been abused. I am sure it is never with joy that God tells someone to limit contact with someone else he loves, yet Christ meant it when he said “If your right hand offend you, cut it off. It is better to go Heaven maimed than to Hell whole.” When we are stronger, God may send us back, but it must come from God.

When we urge people to reconcile out of fear their loved one will die like ours did, we mean to protect them from the pain we endured. Instead, this can potentially end up being received as a guilt trip that would send an abuse victim back into a relationship that is spiritually harmful to them at this time. Let’s not do that.

Beyond that, I am concerned the classic appeal of grief may put on our friends a burden beyond their control: keeping their loved ones close to them. Not everyone has loved ones willing to do what it takes to have a real, honest, healthy relationship that is mutual, fair, and balanced. There are several different ways things could be dysfunctional, and we can’t do anything about anyone but us.

So I propose we look to God’s word for a healthier appeal in the face of grief: Praying Psalm 90:12. “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

It is healthier to respond to death by remembering our own time on this Earth may be over in an instant. We may not know what words we speak will be the last words we ever get to speak to someone we care about. We should prayerfully consider what actions we can take to leave good memories behind with those willing to take accountability for their own actions and be in a relationship where both forgive. It is better to count our own days than the days of those around us.

Each of us is accountable for only one life: our own. Let’s seek to live to leave the legacy of a child of God who counted our days and sought to give them all to the Lord. Let’s seek to leave the legacy of seeking to live to please God alone, to trust God in all things.

Christmas Isn’t Over

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Yesterday marked the first day of the Christmas season. If you’re confused by this, the Christmas season that ended yesterday is technically known as Advent. The traditional Christmas season only begins on December 25 and runs until January 6. Most protestants have gotten away from this due to anti-catholic sentiment.

My point, though, is to deliver good news to anyone upset they didn’t get their gifts in the mail soon enough (or by the right delivery method) for their gifts to get there by December 25. Your presents can arrive at the recipients’ mailing addresses as late as January 6 and still get there in time for Christmas.

Thus you also still have time to finish making or buying presents for people you realized you forgot when they remembered you. Though really we should learn to worry about that less as Christians. After all, God gives generously to people who have nothing to offer the Lord in return but grateful hearts.

Let’s also realize, according to the Five Love Languages, gifts are only one of five ways of communicating love to one another. Not every method speaks to every person. For instance, gifts and acts of service are not my native love languages. I struggle with being a bit wary of those gestures’ motives, being more likely to fear you’re trying to manipulate me than to automatically feel loved. Context makes a huge difference. When someone makes the effort to affirm me, touch me in good ways, and/or spend time interacting with me positively, then it’s much easier for me to recognize when they’re giving me either things or services as simply an expression of love.

Don’t get me wrong, I seek to know and follow the social rules of how to respond to gifts of stuff and/or services. So long as there aren’t strings attached, I do appreciate them. I just won’t feel someone’s love for me unless the person says it in my native “love” tongues.

If you’re a gift-giver frustrated that you give, and give, and give, but still get told you haven’t show enough love, I have a few tips. For starters, stop trying to say “I love you” with stuff to someone who sees it as just stuff and give them what they need to feel loved.

Second, on gift-giving occasions, look for presents that will involve you spending quality time with them, such as season tickets, passes, or gift certificates to activities/places you can do/visit together. Or look for gifts that affirm their positive character traits or which say, “I am rooting for you to succeed at what’s important to you!” If you can, make something personal. Or look for gifts that will create a sensory experience that reminds them of your hugs or other touching that is appropriate to your relationship.

It may take some experimenting this way to find the right kind of gift. If that would be too frustrating for you, try asking them if they’ve read the Five Love Languages and asking them what theirs is. If the answers are, “No, and I don’t know” offer to buy it and work through it with them. If they say they don’t have time, perhaps they will have time for this free quiz.

Or make them a book of “coupons” they can redeem for services, quality time with you, honest compliments, and good touching. The ones they redeem will give you a good indicator of what speaks to them. Since these can get lost and never redeemed, also give them a nice new pen and ask them to check off the coupons they liked best.

However you go about it, just about everyone appreciates efforts to learn how to express love to them in a way where they’ll feel loved.

If you are like me, please don’t use “gifts and/or acts of service aren’t my love language” as an excuse to not respond to them with respectful appreciation. Do consider finding another occasion to tell your loved ones about what you need to feel loved, but try to note what efforts they do make and show gratitude for them. It can be hard when we’re hungry for the expressions of love we need, I know, but as Christians we can trust God to feed us. Let’s ask God to take care of us and help us to recognize human attempts to show us love even if they don’t speak to us. Let’s ask God to help us be truly grateful.

One last thought on gratitude, the lack of it goes hand in hand with selfishness. If we think we are surrounded by selfish people, we are to some extent. If we think we are immune, though, we likely suffer an ungrateful, entitlement mentality as well as selfishness. We all must fight a natural, universal feature of the human sin nature, self-idolatry. So let’s be gracious about the “selfishness” of those around us. We may well be seeing a reflection of our own.

Note to adult survivors of child abuse: I am so sorry for saying that you, since it likely feels like you’ve been called selfish since the day you were born. Child abusers act like their children were put on Earth to meet the parents’ needs and live for the parents. In truth, the call to parenthood is a call to selflessly meet children’s needs, and the goal of parenting is to release adult children to go forth to pay it forward however God calls us to as we live for God.

To bring us back to my initial thought, Merry Christmas!

When Grief and Thanksgiving Collide

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November 27, 2014 is Thanksgiving in the US. It is a day when Americans gather around a big turkey feast, thus it is also known as Turkey Day to those who forget this day is about more than food and football. It is about remembering the first settlers’ difficult fight to survive a harsh winter, one many of them lost. The first settlers managed to bring in a successful harvest the following autumn and celebrated this by holding a traditional English harvest festival. It is that event which the Thanksgiving feast commemorates.

The original community who gave thanks to God for their life-saving harvest had buried over half of their loved ones the previous winter, including most of the mothers, who probably died due to giving their shares of the insufficient food supply to their children. This year, it strikes me hard that people who ought to have been still grieving such bitter losses found the strength to rejoice and be grateful for what they didn’t lose. After all, November 27, 2014 is also the one-month anniversary of my mother’s death.

For my extended family, the pain remains quite fresh. We still don’t know why my mother so suddenly lost her life, since her known injuries shouldn’t have been fatal. Gratitude doesn’t come easy. In fact, it’s quite hard.

For me, the first step was definitely acknowledging to myself, God, and others I felt comfortable telling that I feel inclined to react to Thanksgiving daring to come this year with sarcastic anger. How can we be grateful in the midst of loss? It’d be difficult to suffer someone daring to lecture me to be thankful and grateful at such a time. Mind you, something about losing my mother makes me also feel more painfully my loss of being a mother to infertility. Adoption can’t cure it. Any child I do bear later also can’t replace the ones I’ve failed to have, so, yeah, my mind wants to fixate on my losses.

My second step was freely deciding I don’t want to stay in such a bitter frame of mind. This was followed with me freely deciding to trust God enough to feel God is still worthy of praise and asking him to give me a grateful heart.

“Seek and you will find, knock and the door will be opened to you,” Mathew 7:7 says, and God’s promise is faithful and true. I have felt peace in my heart, I am grateful for the comfort of the Holy Spirit, my husband’s support, the prayers of many. I am grateful Mom did live long enough to see her prayers answered and my most estranged relationship with my sister healed. It would’ve been most sad if someone besides Jesus had to die to accomplish that miracle. I am thankful for the two local friends who brought us meals, for the local friend and my in-laws, whose financial gifts helped us pay for our emergency trip back east for Mom’s funeral, which otherwise would’ve been a huge financial strain on my husband and I.

If Thanksgiving and mourning collide for you, let them. Feel the hurt. Grieve the loss. Be honest before God and trusted friends and family. If you want to heal, though, one path is to make the choice to not allow grief to keep you from being there for the living during the holidays, to make the choice to honor the true meaning of Thanksgiving by asking God to help you look up from your losses, to help you see the harvest God has blessed you with, and give you the strength to appreciate it. Know how much it means to God when we offer up a sacrifice of praise. Giving thanks to the Lord for what we have when we’re mourning deeply touches the Lord’s heart.