Thursday, December 26, 2013

When going through a time of suffering, it is easy to think and feel as though your suffering is ultimate. Surely, no one understands what you are going through and their suffering can't possibly compare the pain and grief that you feel. While it feels this way, deep down we all know and realize that, even though this may be the most painful thing that we have ever experienced and far more painful than we could have ever imagined, there are those whose suffering far outweighs that of which we are experiencing.

To me, infertility has many times felt like a death that I have experienced over and over again. You may think that that sounds dramatic, but it is the only thing I can compare it to. It feels as though the one thing that I want most in this world has been stolen from me, my husband and my marriage in the most selfish of ways. We never had a choice, it was simply because of the way Elias was born. Somehow, that just doesn't seem fair or right.

I was blessed and humbled this weekend to be reminded that maybe we are being spared something horrible. I have never written about this, because I didn't know if it was my place. However, I asked Elias and he didn't seem to think that there was any reason for me not to. Elias had a brother that he unfortunately never had the chance to know. His name was Eric, he was my mother-in-law's first born baby and he had Cystic Fibrosis. This is no secret. Many people remember Eric, but since Elias never knew him, we don't talk about him often. Beginning last Christmas, Malinda (my mother-in-law), began a book of some of her writings for all of us kids. Last year, I was humbled as I read her account of having Elias and finding out that he had Cystic Fibrosis after losing Eric four years earlier. This was something I had wondered about in the past, but it seemed too personal to ask about. This year, I was even more humbled as I read her story of Eric; his birth, struggling to learn why he wasn't growing, his diagnosis, his life and his death at the age of 7 1/2. Eric was born 11 years before Elias with a more severe case of CF when there were less treatments. I don't write this to tell Malinda's story for her or to tell Eric's story for him. I write this because as I read her account and the pain that she, my father-in-law and Elias' oldest sister went through, I am challenged to look at my own story of suffering and think of how much worse it could be. I have to wonder, is there something when my egg and Elias' sperm come to together that would not result in a health baby? Even though the embryos look fine, is this actually God's grace on our lives, keeping us from an even greater pain?

There is no way for me to know, and it's probably better that way. It's so easy to take suffering at face value and wonder "why me?" while forgetting that sometimes, there is a reason. I don't think all suffering has a reason or a purpose, what would that say about a mother losing a child? But I do think that we can all grow because of suffering even, or maybe especially, if it breaks us in the process.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Most of you know that for awhile I was dead set against doing foster care. When we first announced that we were pursuing adoption and needed to fundraise to make that happen, many well intentioned people suggested foster care because it's "free" (I'll explain why I put that in quotes later). I have to admit, I felt like so many people were suggesting or in some cases even pushing foster care that I got annoyed (if you are one that suggested this, please bear with me). I felt like they just didn't "get it". I felt like some, not all, people were suggesting that it would be "easy" to adopt from foster care, which, in most cases, it's not. I felt like they truly didn't understand the emotional loss that we felt from failed transfers of our precious live embryos.

Now, almost two years since our first failed transfer, we are in the process of becoming foster parents AND I'm at peace with this path. Back when we were first beginning the fundraising process, we were in no place to become foster parents, I can see that now. I was experiencing the worst grief of my life and I was in a dark and depressed place. To try and parent a child that has experienced trauma, while working with their birth parents in effort to reunite them, and have them leave our home, love and care, was not an option. I would not have been able to view their birth parents with grace and I would not have been able to work toward reunification in the way that is needed. I could not accept this as an option for our family in that space and the very suggestion of it made me bitter. Even a year ago when we took classes, we weren't ready as a couple to pursue this path. Now, we see that it is what God has called us to do.

I've always said that I wish God would just spell out his plans for us because I'm a horrible listener. Well, he has closed every other door and has left us with foster care. I don't think it could be any clearer. I confided to a friend yesterday, who is also a foster mother, that this is definitely not the path I would have chosen for us. Adoption was never a plan "B" for us (it was always part of the plan), but fostering with the goal of adoption was not even in my plans! I have seen families foster and let me tell you, it's tough! It may be "free" financially, but it is definitely not "free" emotionally.  But, when God calls you to a tough path, knowing that you have been called makes the process a little easier and there is peace in the chaos.

Opening our home has been a long process thus far. We were supposed to have our homevisit yesterday, but due to weather, it has been postponed until next week. We also need to get new physicals and they need to write up our homestudy before we can be open. Once we are open, we wait. (sound familiar?) We may be waiting awhile since we are only open to younger children who have a high chance of being freed for adoption, but in the foster care/adoption world, you never know. In the meantime, we are working on training our furbaby to be better around new people. It's a work in progress, but we thank everyone who has been understanding and has followed the "rules" when entering our home. Elias will continue on with school and I will continue with work. We will also continue enjoying our time as a family of 3, which gets shorter every day. If you have donated to our adoption, your donations are safe in separate account that is set aside for any adoption related costs that could come up with foster care, or for a future adoption and we are thankful for every penny! Please keep praying for us as we explore a new, and hopefully final, path to adding to our family.

Monday, November 25, 2013

"Sometimes trials of this life, are your mercies in disguise"

I'm trying harder this year to be thankful throughout this season. The holidays are always hard for me and to top it all off, my birthday, Christmas and New Years all fall within about 2 1/2 weeks of each other.  Each represent the passing of another year and another holiday season with no children to buy gifts for. But this year, while I may feel sad at times, I don't want to dwell on that. Instead I am choosing to be thankful for another year of life, health, marriage and time with family.

For those of you who don't know, I offer massage therapy at Brookside Senior Living Community and I love it! The conversations I am able to have with the residents there can be truly amazing. I was talking one day to a sweet woman who lost her husband a few years ago. She was telling me about how she and her husband started a family immediately after getting married and always planned to do their traveling, and just enjoy their time together, after they retired. Unfortunately, he got sick and they never had those years.

I can't help but think of my own marriage when I think of this conversation. This may sound depressing, but Elias and I have always know that I will most likely outlive him. It's not something I have thought a lot about until recently after reading a book written by a woman who lost her husband to cancer. She goes into detail about his disease, all he went through, and ultimately his death which was caused by tumors in his lungs. I couldn't help but think about how long Elias and I have together in this world. The average life span for a person with CF is mid-30's (he's 28). Thankfully, since Elias has a mild case, he has been told that he should easily live twice that long. However, as with any chronic illness, things can change quickly and really, none us know how long we have to live.

I say all of this to come back to my original point. This woman never had those years with just her husband. I however, already have. We have had 5 years of dating and 5 additional years of marriage to be just us. 10 total years of experiences, long car rides where we can just talk about anything and everything, movies and cuddling on the couch. 5 years of waking up next to each other and being able to just enjoy each other's company without having to make breakfast for hungry bellies. 10 years to grow stronger as a couple and learn how to have fun as a couple. We've experienced different towns, cities and countries and have had experiences that some can only dream of.

We don't know how long we have. We could easily be robbed of our retirement years as a couple, but we have had these amazing years to be thankful for. I have spent so much of our marriage pining for a child instead of being grateful for what we have and embracing every year of new experiences and stronger love. This year, I am choosing to be thankful for the time we have had and the time that is to come. I am choosing to be thankful for the times when we can sit on couch and just enjoy each other's company. These years are a gift not to be taken for granted.

There is a song by Laura Story called "Blessings", and the title of this post is a line from that song. I have had a really hard time understand the "mercies in disguise" during this "trial", but last night it came to me when I was thinking about the time that this woman didn't have with her husband and how we will always have had "our" time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Fear and faith

I have read a quote that says that "fear and faith cannot live in the same house." I have to be honest, this is a huge struggle for me and there have been many times that I want to disagree with this quote entirely. In all actually, I'm still working on how I feel about this topic and learning what God is teaching me in this time. I have 100% faith that God is good and that He will use this journey for something greater than we could ever do on our own. However, that doesn't mean that some of the things that He asks us to do aren't scary. I believe that you can be obedient and have faith that He wiIl be faithful, walk with you, and when needed, carry you, but I also think that you can still feel fear in the midst of that. Not really fear that He will fail you, but fear of the pain that you may face and how you may be tested. It's kind of like a trust fall. You clearly trust the people that are going to catch you, or else you wouldn't fall, but that doesn't mean that you are afraid to do so.

I feel like this journey is a constant battle of fear and faith. I have faith that if God placed the desire in our hearts to be parents, and that He called us to adopt, that He will bless us with that gift. This journey began with nearly no doubt that we would become parents to both biological and adopted children.

When we first got married, we avoided getting Elias tested to see if he would be one of 98% of men with CF that cannot have bio children without IVF. We prayed for a miracle and hoped that our faith, by not getting him tested, would be enough. After 2 1/2 years, we came to the realization that maybe our  limited idea of a miracle was not what God was planning for us.

At that time, as a couple we felt as though we needed to try IVF and that adoption would be in our future when we could afford to do so. We entered IVF having faith that since there was no reason for it to fail, that we would most certainly get pregnant. However after the first failed transfer, fear began to set in. I began to question whether or not we were right in trying IVF at that time and my faith began to waiver. I knew we didn't have the money to adopt and as a couple we weren't ready to walk that road. I battled with believing that if I had faith the size of a mustard seed, our dreams would come true. We tried again and I dreaded the result of the pregnancy test. I knew it would be negative and we cried before even getting the results. I entered into the darkest place I had ever been in and struggled to maintain any faith at all. I was consumed by fear. I wanted to have biological children, but I didn't want to try again. Faith vs. fear.

That's when we began fundraising for adoption. I had faith that if we were finally walking in God's will, that the money would come flooding in like so many stories I had read before. When that didn't happen, I began to battle the fear that a situation would come along and we wouldn't have the money to afford it. Prior to officially beginning the adoption process, when I realized that fundraising was going to be slower than anticipated, we tried to get pregnant one more time. Once again, I wanted to have faith that this would happen, but I was so scared that it would fail again...which it did. At that point, I put the brakes on trying to get pregnant. Faith vs. fear.

That was a year and a half ago, we have three embryos left and I let fear control my decision whether to use them or not because I feel like it may be our last shot to get pregnant, and I'm not ready to let go of that dream if it fails. I feel as though God has told us we will have a biological child, but I also felt for a long time that we were supposed to adopt first. If we tried to get pregnant and we are supposed to adopt first, does that mean that mean it is destined to fail? Or is God more merciful than that? Faith vs. fear.

We have fought the idea of foster care for this very same reason. I have felt as though God may be speaking to me that the very thing we fear the most is exactly what we are supposed to do. Foster care can be a huge blessing for all involved, but you never know if that child will stay with you or how long they will be in your life, which is so scary for those who have faced so much loss. We are stepping out in faith and are in the process of opening ourselves up to this option. That doesn't mean that we aren't scared for our hearts. I believe that there is a need for foster parents and that God wants to use us in this capacity, so I have faith that good will come from this, but I fear the day when the child that we have grown to love goes back to his/her birthparents. Faith vs. fear.

Please pray for us as we begin this portion of the journey. It could be many months before we welcome a child into our home (we aren't even done with the paperwork), but in the adoption and foster care world, things can happen very fast. Pray for our hearts and that God will prepare us to love and to surrender. Children are never our own, they are only lent to us for a period of time to help prepare them to become the adults that they are meant to be.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

How far we've come

This past weekend, we were incredibly blessed to travel to PA to watch one of my dear friends get married to a wonderful man. The wedding was beautiful and God was so present in their day and their love. They are beginning their marriage full of hope and excitement for everything the future has to hold. As I watched them though, I unexpectedly felt a little sad. I was so happy for them, but I think I was mourning the loss of that young love, that is full of that hope and excitement that I felt on our wedding day.  

We are fortunate in the sense that we knew prior to getting married that starting a family would most likely be difficult, but there was still so much hope and excitement and the naivety that it would be "easy" or at least easier than what it has been. It was also laced with hope that we either wouldn't fall into the 98% of men with CF that are infertile or that God would provide us with a miracle in the way that I envisioned a miracle at that time. There was a part of me that wanted to go back to that place of not knowing the struggles that would face us. To go back to the time when our marriage hadn't been touched by the grief, anger and frustration that accompanied this struggle and tested in ways that we couldn't even begin to imagine. But, if I'm truly honest with myself, I don't want to go back there. It was a beautiful time, but our marriage is actually better and stronger than it was then because of this journey. We now know that we can go through difficult times and not let those times destroy us. I also would NOT want to walk this road all over again. I've been to the pit where I was thankful that God was there, but I didn't want to talk to Him. Since then, I have also come to a place where more recently I have felt closer to God than I have in a long time and I once again feel hope! I feel like this goes along with my last post where, yes, our marriage has been impacted by this journey in some difficult ways, but also some beautiful ways. To go back, would be to say that no good has come from this process and that we are not a better couple than we were on that day.

I would never want to see anyone have to walk this road, but I'm thankful that God is present and there to pick us up and bring us through to the other side, strengthening our marriage and transforming us as individuals and a couple.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The infertility beast

I recently read a blog post that referred to infertility as a beast that eats away at you, changing you and affecting your marriage and relationships. At first I wanted to disagree with this analogy because I felt like it gave infertility too much power and made it sound like I would always be left at the same place that I was when I was in my darkest time. But, the more I thought about it, I had to agree. Infertility does nibble and eat away at the person that you once were. It steals joy and hope and replaces them with bitterness, grief and the deepest aching you've ever felt. It affects your relationships and has, many times, destroyed marriages in it's wake. If it doesn't destroy your marriage, it certainly impacts it.

What I now realize though, is that saying that it's a beast that nibbles away at me is not saying that I will always be in the darkest place that I once found myself. That is what the enemy wants me to think, and where he wants me to be. Infertility has shaped me and our marriage, but it does NOT define who we are. I have been in that dark place where all I felt were bitterness and anguish, but God has restored my hope and I am still working on finding my joy again. He is using this experience to mold me into a stronger person and he is preparing me to be a better mother than I would have been 5 years ago. It has transformed our marriage, in some ways making us stronger and more thankful that we at least have each other to walk this road with, while in other ways breaking us down resulting in us taking out our pain on the one person who fully understands how we feel. We will not emerge from this journey unscathed, but we will emerge stronger and with a better understanding of what it means to choose to love each other "in good times and bad". Infertility is a beast that satan uses to destroy us, but thankfully we have a God who uses it to strengthen us if we left him. A God who will pick us up and carry us through our darkest times he feels most distant. Infertility may have changed me, but there will also be hope in Jesus.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hi everyone, I couldn't figure out how to type in the post with the video, but in the previous post you will find the video from our Both Hands Project! This past Saturday we prayed that the rain would hold off and that we would be able to help our widow Mary clean up her yard and spread stone in her driveway. We began at 9 am and the day was warm, windy and the sun will still shining! Everyone worked really hard to rake her leaves, clean up her flower beds and the biggest project of all, spreading all of that stone! As the morning progressed, the wind picked up, the temperature got a little bit cooler and as we were finishing up the sky began to get dark. The last of our volunteers left just as it began to pour! We were so blessed by this day, everyone who came out to help us and Mary and the beautiful weather! I hope you enjoy the video as much as we enjoyed the work!

Both Hands Project-Zehr Family

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Serving the widow and the orphan

This Saturday, Elias and I, along with a number of volunteers, are going to be heading to Martinsburg (for those of you not from NY that is about 5-10 minutes outside of Lowville) to work on a widow's house for a day. We are going to be completing what is called a Both Hands Project and I am so excited about it! Our volunteers have sent out letters asking people to sponsor them for the day much like one would for a golf tournament or a 5K. The money that is donated to sponsor them to work on the widow's house then goes to our adoption. When all is said and done, both the widow and the orphan have been served.

Our project will consist mostly of yard work for a local widow who lost her husband back in 1995 and then had her leg amputated last year. This wonderful, 73 year old woman always kept her home in immaculate condition and took pride in her yard work and landscaping. While she is making every effort to become more and more independent since her surgery, she hasn't been able to maintain her yard and flower beds this year. Our team will be going up to her home to rake, clean up the flower beds, mow for the last time this year, move some crushed stone, and surprise her with a couple of beautiful mums donated by O'neils Garden Plants in Croghan. We will be taking pictures and making a video to show everyone what we did that day. We feel so blessed to have this opportunity to serve a local widow in this way. If you would like to sponsor us or one of our volunteers you can donate here:

All donations are tax deductible and 100% of the funds will go to supporting our adoption and providing a child with his/her forever family! If you can't donate please pray that we will have good weather and be a blessing to this amazing woman!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hi everyone, I have been wanting to write for a little while, but with the craziness of moving, there are very few things that I have actually accomplished that I have been wanting to do. However, we are moved into our new home in Croghan, and while we are still unpacking it is so nice to be able to drive 5 minutes to work, or even have the option of walking if I don't have too much to carry. Elias is still attending school in Herkimer to become a computer network technician, so that's a 90 min drive 3 times per week, but it's so much closer to be able to work with his dad and just drop in and see our amazing parents! We were incredibly blessed to have the help of all of our parents for the moving out portion and to have amazing friends on the Lewis county side waiting to help us carry everything into the new house. We are incredibly blessed!

No onto the actual post. There is a topic I have been wanting to write about for a long time, but I have wanted to do it with gentleness and love. However, in the meantime, there was a an article that came out that covered one of the sub-topics, I guess you might say, that I would be covering in this post and I decided to dedicate a post all of it's own to talk about this article.

Basically this was an article by two parents who are pregnant with twins as a result of IVF and the title was "I'm Expecting Twins- and I Feel Like I Ruined my Family. As you can imagine, this title did not sit well with me at all, maybe I shouldn't have even read the article. But I did. Frankly I was angered by this article and this couple, I was also saddened for the babies who may someday read this article and feel as though they "ruined" their family's lives. I need to back-track to explain a bit. This couple has a 3 year old and wanted one more. So they turned to IVF. Due to the low success rates of IVF, they  decided to transfer two embryos. I need to stop right there. They made the CHOICE to transfer two embryos, no one told them they had to, they could have transferred one and froze any remaining embryos for a later transfer. But no, they transferred two, which means that they knew that they could get pregnant with twins. Now I can empathize with the fact that they are scared and unsure if they can financially provide for two extra children and that they were not expecting both embryos to take. But the mother goes on and on about how horrible the pregnancy is and how awful she feels and how she can't play with her son the way she used to.

Here is my issue, I'm not going to pretend like I know what it's like to be pregnant, but I would love to know. I know that some people love it and others hate it. Some have it easy, some have really difficult pregnancies. However, one of my biggest pet peeves is people complaining publicly about their pregnancy. I can guarantee you that no matter how much you hate being pregnant and how horrible you feel, there are thousands of women, just like me, who would take your place in an instant. I can empathize with someone who says, this is hard, harder than I ever I thought. I can even empathize with women who don't enjoy being pregnant. I have a hard time empathizing with women who publicly complain about their pregnancies whether it be verbally in groups, on Facebook, or in this case, a very public article.

Please understand that every time you complain publicly, there may be people around you that are hurting in a way that you can't understand. There is even a chance that you could lose a friend over this, I have heard of it happening. You don't need to walk on eggshells around women struggling with infertility, but please be mindful of what you say when around them or on Facebook, which is the most painful place to be exposed to pregnancy whether it be announcements, pictures or complaints. Also, keep in mind that you may not know that a woman around you is struggling. No, we can't understand the discomfort and emotions that you are feeling, but you also can't understand the gut wrenching sobs that we have cried over the fact that we cannot become the one thing that we want more than anything in the world. The thing that many of us feel we were created to be.....a mother. Also, please understand that your children may some day see or hear what you said, and they may not be able to understand your emotions in that moment. The last thing anyone should want, is for their child to feel as though he/she were unwanted.

Please know that I am not condemning anyone, and if you have been on of those that complained publicly, that's okay. My goal is to raise awareness and help everyone be more mindful of the pain that other's may be suffering around them, not just in regards to infertility, but in life in general.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Honest thoughts and feelings

This past week I have been quite discouraged with the whole adoption process. After our yard sale, where we raised a good amount of money, I found myself feeling hopeless at how little that money amounted to in the vast amount that we need to adopt. I have always said that each little bit helps, and I truly believe that, but it is hard not to get discouraged when we have $3,000 raised for a $15,000-$20,000. I'm sorry if that sounds unappreciative, that is not my intent, we honestly appreciate every donation! It is just where I have been, what I have been dealing with and I want to be honest with all of you about the emotions we feel on this journey. This was magnified by the fact that we had to say no to being presented to two situations in that past week due to not having enough finances. I know I focus a lot on the cost of adoption, but it really is the one thing that is holding us back.

I was however encouraged a bit on Thursday morning when we met with our adoption agency and they informed us that they do have harder to place situations that come up occasionally that we may be open to that would have less fees. We also spoke with them about steps we are taking to try and locate an expectant mother/couple privately in hopes to keep costs lower, as well as once again considering foster care in which case we will pay emotionally and are trying to prepare ourselves for that. They were incredibly supportive of us exploring three different options and keeping all of these doors open. It was just a nice reminder that they are not in this field for the money, but rather for expectant parents, adoptive parents and children. Please keep praying for us as we explore our options and seek what God has called us to do.

I am going to switch gears briefly as I came across an article that I think some of you may find helpful or interesting. The article discusses the cost difference of surrogacy, international adoption, domestic adoption and foster care adoption. I have said pretty strongly before that we would never consider surrogacy since we struggle with male factor infertility, but also because we feel as though we are called to adopt and would be better off investing our money in a child who needs a family at this point. This article helps back up my argument as you will see that we could adopt 4-5x's for the cost of surrogacy and there is not even a guarantee that a surrogate will get pregnant! I do want to point out that the fees associated with domestic adoption are more what you are likely to find with an agency versus private adoption. Private adoption can be done for less that $10,000 if the expectant mother does not need much financial assistance. If you want to read more, you can follow this link here:

Lastly, I just want to encourage you all again to check out our newest fundraiser. I am incredibly passionate about this fundraiser, the story behind how these fundraisers began and how it helps both the widow and the orphan. You can check out our webpage here:
And if you want to be involved you can become part of our volunteer team by joining our even on Facebook at "Zehr Family Both Hands Project".

Thank you all again for your prayers, love and support! Many blessings to all of you!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Yard Sale Results!

Hi everyone, in case you didn't see on Facebook, I wanted to catch you all up with the results from our yard sale. We had a ton of generous donations of items, which helped make our sale a success. Like all yard sales, there were people that tried to get us to lower prices beyond what we thought were reasonable, but we had even more people give extra because of our cause. We had a few people come simply because they had been blessed by adoption in some way and wanted to help us out, and we even had people come after things had been picked over and leave a donation without buying anything. Overall, it was a lot of work, but we were so blessed by the experience and unexpected generosity of people, who for the most part, we didn't know.

I had originally announced on Facebook that we made around $1200. Well apparently I was tired after the sale and miscounted. As I went to recount the money to deposit it into our adoption account, I was taken aback when I was suddenly around $1400 not including coins, a couple of last minute donations that my mom had taken and money from a snowblower that my dad had sold earlier in the year. So, after all was said and done, we came out with about $1600! For a yard sale, I would say that's pretty good. We still have a few items left that we are hoping to sell at a later date as well as an electric oven that we received an offer on, but we felt as though they were not offering a fair price. We now have about $3000 to put toward our adoption with more fundraisers in the works! We just want to say thank you for all of you that have contributed so far, we would not be where we are without you!

If you have not had a chance to be involved and you would like to be, you can check out the link below to the page of our next fundraiser that helps the widow and the orphan. If you decide that you want to help out with this one, please let us know as soon as possible as we will be having a meeting soon.

Also, thank you for all of you that have been praying for us, especially as we approached our 5 year anniversary today. Anniversaries are always bittersweet and 5 years hit me kind of hard this week. We are so thankful for each other, Scrumpy and all of the many blessings God has given us, but we felt the hole of not being parents more this week than we have in awhile. Thank you and blessings to all of you!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Something I have been struggling with recently is that adoption has this way of making you feel completely unworthy of being parents. First, you fill out all of this paperwork that makes you list all of your financial information from what you make each year, to how much debt you have to all of your assests (which we don't have much of). In our case we even had to list out where all of our money goes each month and how much is left over. For a couple that doesn't make very much money, but still enough to live off of, this alone left me feeling like no one would even accept us. Thankfully, our wonderful social worker assured us that it's less about the money and more about the parents you will be and the environment you will provide for a child.

After we got though all of that, we had to create an adoption profile. For the most part I feel really good about our profile, the only thing that we left out that many put in is a picture of us in front of our home. The thing is, we are currently renting which means that we have no control over what the outside of our home looks like. In addition, while the inside of our house is fairly cute, the outside is nothing to brag about and is not something I wanted to put in our profile book. I didn't want to be chosen based on how our home looked from the outside, I want to be chosen because of who we are and how we want to raise our children. Also, we will most likely be moving before we are matched which would mean that the house we are pictured in front of is not even where we live anymore! So, we did not put this picture in our profile book. However, when you know that your profile is being shown alongside other profiles and others are being chosen over you, you begin to question what is wrong with you as a couple. Are we too young, not wealthy enough, is it because we don't own our own home, is it because of our jobs, what is it that makes them "better" than us? I know that we would make amazing parents and that you don't have to have a fancy house to do that. But the reality is that we can't tell these expectant parents how amazing we are and how much we would love their child. They only way they can get to know us is through out little profile book and they usually have in their heads what they are looking for in parents for their child.  No, we can't provide the material things at this point that some couples can, but in my mind that doesn't replace the fact that I chose to become a massage therapist so that I can make my own hours and be at home with our children as often as possible until they are in school. It also doesn't mean that we won't be able to provide more at some point, but we may also choose not to give our children certain things because of how we want to raise them. So we wait and wonder if we will ever be chosen.

Now, I am on to filling out more grant applications and once again, I feel like I have to compete to receive a grant. Are they looking for the best sob story or are they looking at genuine need? Sometimes I even have to go back to our finances and list those to provide that we have financial need and I'm still left wondering if they will view us as worthy. I never wanted to have to feel like becoming a parent was a competition, but this process makes me feel that way more and more even though I know we are in this for the right reasons. Please just pray for us as we press on, wait, pray and try not to let ourselves get too discouraged. Thank you all again for your love, support and prayers!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

I've been having trouble keeping this blog updated recently for some reason and I'm not exactly sure why. I used to be full of ideas to write about regarding adoption, even if our personal situation hadn't changed. Now, many time I find myself at a loss of what to write. Part of it may be that I'm simply tired of the process. I'm tired of waiting, having our profile shown but not being chosen and then questioning whether we will be able to accept a placement if we are chosen because we don't have the finances in place yet (we've only raised about $2500 and had to use $1,000 to get to where we are). It tends to all just take a toll after awhile. I am at a much better place than I was at this time last year, I am not nearly as bitter about our situation and toward other women who get pregnant or adopt easily. I am not as sad and full of grief over our failed attempts at getting pregnant. I think now I'm just tired of waiting. So this is my attempt to be honest as to why posts have been less frequent.

However, as I'm sitting here writing I remember that I wanted to say "thank you" to all of you. I have read so many sad stories of couples that are criticized for trying to adopt. The friends and families in their lives don't support them or their decision, which would make this an incredibly lonely journey. Sadly there are those out there that don't understand how adoption works, but rather than ask questions and try to understand, they condemn and criticize. Many of them believe that all children should stay with their birth families and that all couples should adopt from foster care. This would be amazing if it were that simple, but they don't understand that it is the birth parents who are placing their babies for adoption because they know that they can't care for that child in a way that they want them to be cared for, or maybe they simply can't care for them at all due to a variety of reasons. No one should ever be forcing an expectant parent to place his/her child (I use place rather than "give up" because they choosing a placement for their child rather than "giving them up"). If this is happening, then there are serious issues. Also, adopting from foster care is not an easy process. Yes, there are thousands of older children in our foster care system that would love to be adopted, but as adoptive parents, one needs to be ready to bring an older child into the home. In fact, I have looked at a few older children that we would inquire on if we both were one board, but many of them cannot have younger siblings due to their past which prevents us from pursuing that child.

I say all of this because thankfully, unlike many of these other stories that I've heard from others, we have never received mean messages or had people tell us that what we are doing is wrong. Yes, we've had people suggest adopting from foster care, but it came from a genuine place of trying to help and knowing that there is a need there, not because they think that infant adoption is wrong. All of you, whom are our friends and family, have been nothing but supportive and I know that you will celebrate with us when the child we are meant to parent comes home with us. For that, I say thank you!

Also, I just wanted to remind everyone that we are open to private situations. This means that if you know a couple or a woman that is looking to place her baby for adoption and is looking for parents for that baby, we may be open to that situation and please feel free to pass our information on to her. Thank you all and have an amazing week!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Hi everyone! Once again, it has been too long, but so much has changed since the last time I wrote! First off, we just got back on Saturday from an amazing vacation out to Arizona to see the Grand Canyon and a number of other amazing sites of God's creation. We were so blessed to be able to enjoy this with my (Jess') parents, sister and brother-in-law while knowing that our fur-baby, Scrumpy, was safe in Lowville with his grandma and grandpa Zehr. It was a wonderful and refreshing week that was much needed by all.

Second, last time I wrote I was really struggling with the fact that we felt as though it was time for us to begin transitioning but that doors hadn't opened yet for us to do so. Elias and I have felt for awhile that we are supposed to move back to Lewis County in the semi-near future. He has been working up in Lowville with his dad since January, so it was me who needed to find work up there. I had one potential opportunity open up for massage, but I never heard back as the woman wasn't quite ready for me so I began looking at other options. In a short period of time I had an amazing opportunity come up to rent space in Croghan, which is a location that I have wanted to practice massage since I was in school. So, beginning tomorrow, I will be officially opening my own practice out of a room at the Hair Cut Co. in Croghan and I couldn't be more excited! We will still be living in Poland for a time, but we are hoping to move to Lowville by this fall. So, if you know any places that are inexpensive, at least 2 bedroom and pet friendly, feel free to let us know ;).

Now onto adoption related stuff, which is why most of you are here! Nothing real new on the adoption front. I have been told summer is slow for adoptions, so we will keep waiting. However, we are going to be doing a few fundraisers while in the waiting. We are having a yard sale with items from us and a number of other people who have generously donated items to help us out. This will be in two weeks on the 18, 19, and 20 of July at my parents house on East State St in Lowville if you are interested in checking it out! Also, we are going to be doing a Both Hands fundraiser on August 3rd. This fundraiser consists of us donating a day of our time to work on a widow's house. The widow we will be helping is in Martinsburg and the work we will be doing will mostly consist of yard work and possibly painting. We are still looking for a few volunteers so if this is something you think you may be interested in, please contact us as soon as you can! We still have a long ways to go with our fundraising so any help is appreciated so that we can provide a home for a child in need when the time comes! Thank again for all of you prayers, love and support and please keep them coming! Also, I am attaching a video to help explain our Both Hands project a bit more. Have a great day!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Asking for prayer

Hey everyone, we just want to take the time to ask you all to be praying for us. The weight of waiting for adoption has felt very heavy lately. I have talked about how the emotions of infertility ebb and flow and how I may be fine for awhile, but then it hits me and it feels like I need to have a child in our home immediately. Right now is one of those times and there is nothing we can do about it. Also we could use prayers regarding work situations as well as feeling as though we are ready for a transition, but the timing just isn't quite right, which leaves us feeling as though we are in a constant state of limbo. Please just prayer for clarity, wisdom, guidance and that God will just provide for us. Right now, we (me especially), are just tired and in need of some lifting up. Thank you for you support.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Praying for a miracle

Today, we are feeling the need to pray for a miracle. Please join us in praying for a miracle, however God desires to provide it. Also, please pray that we will have open hearts and minds to recognize this miracle if it's not how we envisioned it, but what God wishes to bestow upon us. Thank you and blessings to all of you!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Catching up

Hey everyone! I know that I've been MIA for awhile and for that I apologize. A couple of weeks ago I was just feeling really overwhelmed by life and it was just one of those times where it felt like everything was going wrong all at the same time. Thankfully we have a great God who takes care of us and our needs. In addition to that, I just don't have much of an update. We are still just waiting. So in the meantime we are planning fundraisers, such as our yard sale that we are accepting donations for, and we recently got accepted by an amazing organization called "Lifesong for Orphans" for a fundraising project. The project is called a Both Hands project where in effort raise funds for our adoption, we and 10 volunteers work on a widow's house for a day. It is an amazing way to care for the widow and the orphan and give back to someone in our community. It looks like we will be doing this project on August 3rd, so if you or anyone you know would like to be a volunteer please let us know!

Other than that, I have been checking photolistings of children in the foster care system to see if I feel like God has chosen one of them for our family and looking up both domestic and international adoption situations. At this point we are trying to remain as open as possible to whatever God has in store and what we feel like He is calling us to. I actually read a quote today that really touched my heart. It was from a 15 year old that said "Even at 15, my dream is to have a mom". Sometimes I get so caught up in how difficult it is to have to wait to be parents, yet I know that it will happen someday, that I forget about how hard it must to be a child that may never have parents. The foster care photolistings are full of children with specials needs or over the age of 7, many of them teenagers, who will likely never be adopted. They will age out of the system and never have parents to call their own. This makes me so sad and is a burden that God has been placing on my heart more and more recently. Please keep these kids in your prayers, that they will be adopted or find loving people that will treat them as their own children.  Please keep praying for us as we wait for the child that God has planned for us and please pray about whether or not God is calling you to volunteer for our Both Hands project. I promise that I will post sooner next time. Blessings!

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mother's Day

This morning I read a beautiful post by a woman who has struggled for years with infertility and she wrote about how she chooses to love Mother's Day. Mother's day is probably the most difficult day of the year for women struggling with infertility and I love that she chose to come to God, pray for a miracle and choose to love this holiday.

I have the utmost respect for this woman, she has learned so much on her journey and has been a huge blessing to so many other women in our position, while also educating so many on the pain and struggles of infertility. I however, am taking a slightly different approach this Sunday. Not because I don't agree with her post, but because I have not yet experienced the healing that she has and I want to allow God to heal me while giving myself the space to do so. So, I am going to celebrate my mother and mother-in-law for the women that they are and all that they have done for Elias and I. I have invited them to our house for a BBQ and maybe some fishing if the weather holds out. I want to love on them and honor them for who they are while just having a fun time where I am not focused on what I don't have. Instead we are choosing to focus on what we do have. On the other side of things however, for the first time on this journey, I am choosing not to go to church on Mother's Day (stick with me now). I am making this choice to allow myself to have the space that I need to grieve on this day if I need to grieve. Church services on Mother's Day are beautiful in they way that they honor mother's, but in every church there are women who for a number of reasons, are struggling on this day. There are women who have chosen to not have children, some that have not yet had the opportunity to have children, some that cannot have children, some that have lost children, some that have placed children for adoption and know that they made the best choice for their child, but still mourn that loss, or women who have had abortions and are struggling with the emotional and maybe even physical scars of that decision. On this day, these women tend to be forgotten and many of them suffer silently while women smile and receive flowers all around them.

This year I ask that you recognize all women on this day. We don't know everyone's story, but I can guarantee that all women should be celebrated and you could completely transform the pain of Mother's Day for a woman by telling her how much you love, respect and honor her for who she is and what she has done. If you know a woman who may be struggling this Sunday, be intentional about reaching out her in some way. Most of us who are not mother's in the literal sense, have found other ways to mother. So shower all the women you meet this weekend with love, it could deeply touch a life.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

God's blessings in the form of an iPad mini raffle

So today I am really excited to tell you all about our results from our iPad mini fundraiser. Once all was said and done, we ended up raising over $500! I want to thank everyone who entered and contributed to helping us get one step closer to being able to provide a child with a family of his/her own. I also wanted to share how this raffle was not only a huge blessing for us, but also a blessing for the winner! We obviously would have been happy for anyone who won, but it was so rewarding to hear how God used this raffle to bless the woman who did win.

The winner was our friend Jess Mengel from Pennsylvania. Jess recently return from serving a short term assignment in India and plans on returning this winter to serve as a long term worker. She has been contemplating purchasing something like an iPad mini to take back to India with her to assist her in her work there and to help her stay connected to friends and family back home. From personal experience in both Bolivia and Gambia, I know how important it is to stay connected to home and to have technology to conduct research on the field that may enhance the work that one has been called to do. I also know how financially difficult it can be to return from an assignment where you weren't actually making a regular income and feel as though you need to spend several hundred dollars on something to enhance your work while also keeping you connected to your loved one at home. Congratulations again Jess and many blessings to you!

Thank you again for blessing us with your entries, I wish everyone could have won, but you are all winners in our book for helping us provide a child with a home and family :). Blessings to all of you and we will continue to keep you all up to date on our journey!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Understanding our role as adoptive parents

I have been trying to write this post for awhile, but I have been busy and then sick and I am just getting around to it! For a good part of this adoption process I have struggled with really feeling like we, as a couple, were needed for domestic newborn adoption. There are actually more couples waiting to adopt a newborn than there are babies being born. On the flip side however, as a couple we also felt for a long time that we weren't ready to adopt a child between the ages of 2-5 which is most common in international adoption and resulted in us choosing domestic newborn adoption. The past few weeks however, I feel like God has been hammering me over the head with the importance of domestic newborn adoption and where we as a couple are needed. Now, before you think I'm just flip-flopping back and forth between domestic newborn and international, I should state again that at this point, our paperwork is not finished for international and we are remaining open to both for the time being.

The past few weeks God has been stressing to me how important it is for couples to step up and support women who choose adoption rather than abortion for their babies. We need to be willing to step up at any time and say that we are willing to adopt these babies. Just like in international adoption, this could be the difference between life and death for a child. I truly believe that most women do not want to choose abortion, but they are scared and unfamiliar with the adoption process. They think that it will cost them too much, but they don't realize that it won't cost them anything, the adoptive parents cover all of the legal fees! They also don't realize that they are not "giving their baby up", they are placing their baby with a family that can care for that baby in a way that they can't at that point. They are in control of deciding what type of adoption they want, whether that be closed with no contact, some contact with pictures and letters or open to the point where they can visit their baby and be part of their child's life.

I know that abortion is a touchy topic, and I would never judge anyone who has had an abortion, but I think that everyone reading this blog probably knows where I stand. I also believe that there is a lack of education surrounding abortion and the emotional effects that it ultimately has not only on the mother, but the father as well.

Parents who choose to place their children for adoption are incredibly brave and deserve the utmost respect. They also deserve a community of people that will support them throughout their pregnancy and their decision to give their child life. I now understand that that is our role in domestic newborn adoption.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

iPad Mini raffle!

Many of you may have seen this on Facebook, but for those of you who don't have Facebook or are not "friends" with Elias or myself, I wanted to post our latest fundraiser here. We are raffling off a brand new iPad Mini! Entries are $10 apiece or 3 for $25. All you have to do to enter is click here:

Then you click "contribute" and choose our first account labeled "Adoption Account" (we have two because it makes withdrawing money as needed easier with this type of account). You can then enter the amount for the number of entries you are making. Under "optional message", leave your phone number so that we can contact you if you win! We will also announce the winner on Facebook at "Elias and Jessica are hoping to adopt". This is a community page, so anyone can view it. The drawing will be held May 6 and the winner will be notified and announced on May 7. Anyone can enter and the iPad will be shipped directly to you. It's super easy and only only $10 to enter! We can't wait to see who wins!

Please note, that if you do not feel comfortable entering online, please contact us and we will send you our address so that you can send us a check.

Saturday, April 13, 2013


There is a documentary that has been going around the international adoption community. This documentary is called "STUCK". "STUCK" was produced by the organization, Both Ends Burning, and is currently on tour around the country. Thankfully, it is also on sale online line for $12.99, which is how we chose to purchase it. The purpose of this documentary is to bring national attention to the challenges of international adoption with hopes that the US government will make some necessary changes to help bring children, living in institutions around the world, home to their forever families. I strongly promotes that children's homes and orphanages aren't bad, but they also shouldn't be a permanent solution. These children should not be living in in these homes that that don't have enough staff to care for them, when there are families that would be willing to adopt them if the process wasn't so challenging.

It also acknowledges that, yes, children would be better off in their country of origin, if they were able to receive adequate care and have a family there. Unfortunately, many of these countries do not currently have a foster care or adoption system established to provide this type of care for these children. I cannot say enough about this film. It educates regarding the complexity of the process while also addressing the impact that the flaws in our current system are having on children that are waiting to be adopted as well as adoptive families. If you have any interest in international adoption or orphans throughout the world, I would highly recommend that you watch this documentary. If you are interested in viewing trailer or watching this film, here is the link:
If you are interested in the organization Both Ends Burning, you can check out their site here:

You all know by know that Elias and I have a huge heart for adoption and a special place in our hearts for international adoption. This information is vital to the future of international adoption. One fact that stuck out in my mind from this film was that Guatemala, who has been closed off to adoptions to the US for the past few years now, now has government run orphanages that are housing 750 children! Guatemala has been in the process of revamping their adoption system to become a Hague Convention country, meaning that simply put, they would comply with an international treaty that was established to protect intercountry adoption. A country doesn't have to come a Hague country, but many times they are told that they need to correct issues and they choose to become Hague compliant, which has actually turned into a negative thing and has resulted in countries closing off international adoption for up to 10 years at this point. Sadly, in an institution where there are 750 children to care for, there is likely is not enough staff to care for all of them and they certainly are not getting the love and attention that they need to be getting. Please join us in praying for international adoption and the changes that need to happen to bring more children home to their mommys and daddys.

Also, on a side note, we are planning on having a fundraising garage sale this summer and we are taking donations! If you or someone you know has items that you would like to donate please contact us and we will let you know how you can do so! Thank you!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

A few bumps in the road

Some of you may have been waiting for an update and I have intentionally been waiting to provide you with one. If you have been following us thus far, you are probably learning that this journey is full of challenges, ups and downs and sometimes just plain chaos. So once, again we are facing some bumps in the road. We submitted all of our paperwork to the agency that we had chosen for adoption from The Congo. They accepted our pre-application packet and sent us the next set of paperwork that we needed! This was all very exciting until we started talking about our homestudy. Our current homestudy is written for domestic adoption, international homestudies require quite a bit more and have to be country specific. I was under the impression that converting a homestudy from domestic to international would not be that big of a deal. Even our social worker that wrote our homestudy didn't imply that it would be that much work. The agency however, thinks that we should get a whole new homestudy done since this one would need "significant changes". Our social worker is willing to convert our homestudy either for free or a very small fee where as a whole study would cost a lot more. So this could simply be a bump in the road that the enemy is using to discourage us, or it could be a stopping point for now.

In addition to all of this, I spoke with our attorney yesterday just to let her know where we are at and what our plans are. She understood and was very helpful, but she herself does not do international adoptions due to their complexity. She did however recommend that we stay signed on with her and the other agency that we are working even while we work towards this transition. Many people have asked me why we can't be open to both domestic and international at the same time. I have also wondered this, but at one point I was told it wasn't wise so we didn't pursue it. Our attorney however, is saying different and that she has had friends who have done this very successfully. So for now, we are remaining open to both. We will prayerfully consider any situation that comes up on either side and follow the road that God has set before us. If there is one thing I have learned, it's that just when I think I have God's plan figured out, I discover that I don't. So for now we are open, and the only thing that we know for sure is that we will adopt a child eventually.

Lastly I just want to thank everyone who has supported us throughout this process. I have read so many sad stories of families that are adopting and, for a variety of reasons, people do not support their decision. Thank you for never saying anything negative to us about this process, but rather walking alongside of us, supporting us. Many blessings to all of you! We will continue to keep you updated!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Peace In The Waiting

There is this song called "I Will Never Let You Go" by the artist Manafest. It talks about how even throughout struggles, God will never let us go. I love this song, however the is one line that I have struggled with on this journey. It says "I'll be your peace in the waiting", pertaining to God telling us that He will be our peace in the waiting. My struggle with this is that I haven't really understood where that peace has been for me throughout this journey. I knew that I should feel God's peace amidst the waiting, but I've had a hard time finding it. I've struggled to be content and just trust that He has this incredible plan for us and that this will come to an end eventually.

Today however, I was walking Scrumpy when God spoke to me. I find he does this often when I am walking with Scrumpy since it is one of the few times that I have nothing that I have to focus on other than just walking and being. Today, He revealed where the peace in waiting is for me. No matter what, the wait is hard, but for me, the peace in the waiting is knowing that my four and half year wait will result in a lifetime of change for a child. That doesn't mean that it won't ever be hard, but it gives me peace to know that 4+ years is nothing compared to the rest of a child's life, and that my life will in turn be changed by him/her joining our family. That is the peace in the waiting and that is why we will keep persevering, keep trusting, and keep being obedient in the call that God has placed on our lives.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clearing a few things up

Recently I've had some conversations with some dear friends and family and I realize that I may not have been as clear as I have intended in explaining our story and journey. So today I hope to clear some of that confusion up.

I've recently had a few people suggest surrogacy to me and I was surprised. I was surprised because, while it came from a very well intentioned place, I thought that a few (not all) of these individuals understood why this wouldn't be an option at this time or probably ever. This just taught me that maybe I haven't been as clear as I thought I have.

Surrogacy is typically used when a woman cannot get pregnant or carry a baby to full term. This is not our struggle. Unfortunately our struggle is because Elias' CF affects his reproductive system, leaving IVF as our only option to conceive. IVF unfortunately, has low success rates and this would not vary between myself and a surrogate unless I have a reproductive issue that we are not aware of. The reality is, most couples take, on average, 6 months to get pregnant. You are not considered "infertile" until you have tried for 12 consecutive months with no success. That means that they have 6 attempts before they are typically successful and 12 attempts before there would be reason to worry. We have only had 3 attempts, but due to the financial and emotional strain, we only have 1-2 more attempts before having to start all over again.

So to recap, a surrogate would also have to use IVF just like me, would have no greater chance of conceiving than I would and we would not only have to pay for the IVF, but also for her to carry the baby for 9 months. This would cost just as much, if not more than adoption and would not be helping a child in need.

Yes, we are taking a break from fertility treatments because of emotional reasons, but we also have a huge heart for orphans and caring for the fatherless. If we were dead set on having a biological child right now, we would not be pursuing adoption. We are pursuing adoption because we are called to adopt and we are called to provide a child with a family of his/her own. To be honest, our reasons for pursuing IVF first were selfish. While it cost much less than adoption, we also wanted to try for a bio child and I wanted to experience pregnancy. We then thought we could save money in the mean time for adoption and not have to raise funds. This has not been God's plan for us though. If we had gotten pregnant, we would not be pursuing adoption at this point and the child that is meant for us would not be coming home to us. Once again, this is not just about us becoming parents, in fact that's just an awesome bonus to this process. This is about providing a child with a home and a family to call their own.

I hope that some day I will be able to experience pregnancy and everything that comes with it, good or bad. But if I don't, I will have the honor of being entrusted to parent a child in need and that child will be just as much our "own" as any biological child would be. Please feel free to contact me with any further questions, I won't take offense and I love to educate!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Baby J

I just wanted to write quickly and let everyone know that baby J has found his forever family. I'm actually surprised by how quickly he was matched, but very happy that he will get the care he needs more quickly than what we could have provided. Our hearts are a little broken, but like I said, I can't be sad that he is now matched with a family that can provide him with proper medical care.

At this point we will stay where we are in terms of domestic vs international. We will wait to see how much our fundraisers bring in and decide from there. If God presents us with a domestic situation during that time, we will prayerfully consider it and if He doesn't, we will then have to make a decision to either continue to wait on domestic or choose an international program. Either way, our goal is to allow God to use us to care for one of His children while also filling a hole in our hearts and home. Neither decision is better than the other and they both have their positives and negatives.  Please continue to pray for us as we are just feeling drained right now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Two weeks ago I was thinking about what I could do to get our names out there to more people that might have connections to women and/or couples that were looking to place their baby for adoption. I was thinking about writing local pastors, as many of them do counseling, as well as just brainstorming in general. Today however, we are planning on finishing up our application and sending it in to the agency that baby J is through. At this point, God has not provided any additional money, but I still feel in my heart that switching to international is the way He wants us to go and that He will provide the money some way, some how. It seems crazy considering at this point we can't even afford to contract  with this agency, which basically means we can submit our application, but then we will be at a standstill. We do however have some fundraisers in the works for this spring/summer that will hopefully help us achieve this goal. Also, if any of you know of someone that we can contact in the Lowville area that would have chicken BBQ pits, that would be awesome!

On a side note, since I don't have too much to write on adoption, I wanted to share with you this thing that I'm doing. During the Lenten season, I am participating in the "40 days of water" challenge through Blood Water Mission. This is an amazing organization that was started by the band "Jars of Clay". The idea behind this challenge is that throughout lent you only drink water (except on Sundays when you are allowed to enjoy whatever you want) and then donate the money that you would have spent on that beverage to the Blood Water Mission. The money then helps them build wells for communities in Africa that would otherwise have to have residents walk up to 20 miles a day for water that wasn't even necessarily clean. They also work with HIV/AIDS in Africa, which is a passion of mine, and one reason why we are so drawn to baby J.

 When I started this challenge I didn't think it would really be much of a challenge at all. I drink mostly water anyway so I figured that giving up my morning coffee and evening tea wouldn't be that big of a deal. For the most part, I was right. It wasn't until I was about two weeks in that I was so tired and just wanted a cup of coffee. I hadn't been sleeping well with trying to figure out how we could make international adoption work and I was just exhausted. I hate to admit that I even considered cheating, but I knew that this was the day that for me it really counted. I needed to do this especially when it was tough, otherwise what was the point of choosing this challenge over just donating money? I had to remind myself that even in my struggle, that I could walk to my tap, turn it on and have clean water. I didn't have to worry about getting sick, which I experienced first hand in Bolivia. I didn't have to walk 20 miles. I didn't even have to carry a bucket of water, which after being in Gambia, I learned is not easy, even for a short distance. So I made it through the day and told myself that I could have coffee on Sunday. The next day was tough too, but I persevered.

This challenge has not only reminded me of how much we take clean water for granted, but it has also reminded me of why I am passionate about international adoption. Please don't get me wrong, I don't view the United States as the "promised land" and I think that there are amazing things that we miss out  on here that developing countries embrace. That being said, they have a set of struggles that are unlike anything that we have to experience here. I wish that there were no orphans to need to be adopted, but that is not a reality. We now have the opportunity to provide one of the "least of these" with a family to call his own. We can provide him with proper medical care, clean water and way more food than he would even need. Most of all, we can provide him with love which is invaluable.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

There is this baby...

There is this baby, for now we will call him baby J. I didn't want to write this post before talking to Elias since sometimes I think with my heart instead of my head. But Elias agreed, so I am going ahead. Baby J is a beautiful baby boy in The Congo waiting for his forever family. I came across baby J while I was researching adoption from the Congo and viewing the waiting children through this particular agency. According to his picture, baby J is less than 3 months old and happens to be HIV+. I don't want to share too many more details out of respect for baby J and the agency that he is available through. You'll just have to take my word that he is super sweet :).

 When Elias and I started getting more serious about adopting, God had laid a passion on my heart to adopt a child with HIV. According to the information that I have found regarding adopting a child with HIV, this condition, in the U.S. is very manageable. It is now considered a chronic condition and even more manageable than diabetes. Check out this link about adopting children who are HIV+:

We woud love to adopt baby J. It would mean that we need to switch our homestudy to international adoption, which shouldn't be too hard, but it also means that we would have to apply to a different agency. Then we would have to complete a dossier and a number of other forms. There is a part of me that wants to abandon our pursuit of domestic adoption and dive head first into pursuing adopting baby J. I keep thinking that if we do, God will just provide the money, even though I have no idea how. This baby needs a home. He needs the medical care that he won't have access to in The Congo. We already deal with a chronic condition on a regular basis, we are already used to quarterly doctors appointments and researching assistance programs for people with chronic conditions. I think we could be great parents for baby J. If God provides the money, we will make the switch, if He doesn't, we won't be able to and we will take that as an indication that baby J is meant for someone else. If you feel as though God is calling you to help us make the switch to bring baby J home, you can donate to our Smarty Pig account through the link on the right, mail us a check to Elias or Jessica Zehr 710 Old State Rd. Poland, NY 13431 or make a tax deductible donation to our Adopt Together account at If you can't donate, please continue to pray for us as we discern whether or not to switch to international adoption. Thank you again for your love and support.

Friday, February 15, 2013


Some days this journey isn't so bad. I would be hard pressed to say that a day doesn't go by that I don't think about becoming a mother, but I can go about my day to day tasks, functioning normally and most of the times, even be content.

Then something will bring me down. It might be a new pregnancy announcement on Facebook, a pregnancy massage at work, or a family event where I feel like we are the only ones unable to move forward with this part of our lives. Sometimes it just comes out of nowhere and I find myself knocked back down, aching and desperate to become a mother. These periods usually last a few days, sometimes longer, where it seems as though the desire to adopt consumes me and I begin raking my mind to figure out how I can expedite this process or even how I can make it work out at all. I'm not sure what to compare this ache to, but it is a deep gut wrenching ache that at times takes everything in me just to keep breathing. I pray, but it still hurts, and while I know that God understands and that He is holding me close, the ache remains.

I was feeling this way a week or two ago and a song came on the radio that deeply resonated with my soul. The song is called "Worn" by Tenth Avenue North. Ironically it came out of a time when the lead singer and his wife where struggling with their daughters not sleeping through the night and just feeling worn out all the time. For me though, it described perfectly how I felt about our journey at that time. I just felt emotionally worn out and exhausted. These feelings have lead me to question the plans that God has for us. Are we on the wrong path or have we just not waited long enough? Are we supposed to be pursuing domestic adoption or should we be pursuing international, which seems that much more impossible? I know that adoption is where we are supposed to be, but have we been pursuing it incorrectly? Or is all of this Satan trying to cloud my mind? Is God speaking to my heart, or is my heart preventing me from hearing God's voice?

God has broken my heart for the orphans of this world. I can look at waiting children photolistings and sit there in tears desperately wanting to provide these children homes and families to call their own. Please continue to pray for us as we seek clarity and that I will not drive my husband crazy in attempt to sort this out. We can't thank you enough for your love and support. Have a blessed day. Below is the link to the song Worn if you want to check it out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Tax Deductions!

Hi everyone! We just wanted to let you all know that we have started a new way of inviting you to join us on our adoption journey! We have joined a non-profit organization called Adopt Together that allows you to donate online, keep track of how much we have raised, how much more we need to raise and your donations are tax deductible! I know this comes a little late for those of you who have already donated, but any donations from here forward that go through Adopt Together are tax deductible. All of the money goes straight there and then we request those funds to be sent to our agency or attorney. Also, if you give $10 or more, you and your family will get a puzzle piece with your name on the back so that our child will be able to read names of everyone that helped bring him/her home! We would love to have every piece filled with names of everyone who has supported us on our journey! Thank you so much for your love and support! Here is the link to our page, please feel free to share it with anyone who you might think is interested in following our story.
(The amount does not reflect funds already raised, but is a rough estimate of how much we still need to raise)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Keeping adoption ethical

I am part of a group on Facebook that shares information and acts as an adoption support group. Recently it seems as though there has been a lot regarding making sure that adoption stays ethical. As much as I hate to say it, adoption has a business side to it. I wish it didn't have to, I wish that expectant parents could simply say that they would like to place their baby for adoption, adoptive parents would be notified, some papers would be signed and that would be it (I'm sure this would lead to other unethical practices as well, but just bear with me). However, there is way more to it than that. Adoptive parents have to be evaluated to make sure that they are fit to adopt, they have to be cleared through the state, and then there is a whole slew of legalities that must take place for the adoption to be legal. For all of this to happen there needs to be people who are willing to work in this field and know adoption law inside and out for each state and each country. There need to be people that will help expectant parents locate adoptive parents and vice versa both here in the US and in various countries. With this, like any business, comes wonderful, ethical organizations and lawyers, but that also means that there are just as many not so wonderful unethical organizations and lawyers.

How these ethics manifest from international adoption to domestic adoption are different. With international, one has to be very careful in researching how the children became available for adoption. Has every effort been made to make sure that they are truly classified as orphans or abandoned? Has every effort been made to find them a home in that country? Were they actually abandoned or orphaned, or where their parents lied to and offered money? These are difficult questions, but they have to be asked especially with human trafficking in today's world. If all of these things check out, then you have to look at the finances and ask yourself whether you think that their fees are reasonable and realistic.

With domestic adoption, the ethics tend to come with the finances. Yes, there could be other issues like what we find in international, but these would be less common. Adoption is expensive as there is a lot of paperwork that needs to be taken care of and the workers put a lot of time and energy into the process. I was once told by someone that he and his wife would love to adopt, but they don't agree with paying ransom for a child. I thought that this was sad that a child may never have a forever home because they didn't fully understand why adoption has to cost at least a certain amount and that, while our government may charge more than we agree with, the process (for the most part) is in the best interest of the child. I have to admit though that I probably would pay ransom if it meant saving a child's life or at least providing a life that he/she wouldn't have otherwise. However, how expensive adoption is where the issue lies. One can adopt for less than $10,000 if the adoption is private and the expectant parent approaches them. This does happen, but it's not as common. Once you decide to use an agency or attorney to help you in the process the cost will go up because they have to put more time and energy into the process. I'm sure there are those out there that would love to work for free, but if we are realistic, there are not many that can. We have made it our goal to only sign on with an attorney or agency that will keep fees at $20,000 or less (hopefully less). Our agency's baseline is $15,000, but there are other expenses that can come up and we need to budget for them. Our attorney is also very reasonable, but after all is said and done we need to prepare for around $20,000, which is why she recommended us to this agency. This may seem like a big jump, but in the world of adoption agencies it's actually very reasonable. These fees tell us that this agency is not in the business to make huge profits off of adoptive parents, but they are in it because they are passionate about adoption. This is not always the case however. There are large agencies and facilitators (which are illegal in NY), that I have seen charge over $50,000! This to me is outrageous. They are not in this business for the right reasons and they are making huge profits off of the desires of adoptive parents.

The sad thing is, there are people that can and will pay these fees. As adoptive parents, we need to make it known that this is wrong and not sign on with organizations like these. It is our job to make sure that adoption practices stay ethical and that it doesn't become "paying ransom". It makes me so sad that organizations would take advantage of the emotions that adoptive parents feel throughout this process and it makes me angry that they can take advantage and that there are people supporting them, possibly because they don't know that there are other options. Please understand, that adoptive parents are in this because we truly want to do something good. Some have children already, some don't, but all want to offer a child a life that his/her expectant parents don't feel that they can offer. Please join us in supporting ethical agencies and attorney's whether it be through education, supporting adopting couples through love and prayer or choosing to adopt through an ethical agency or attorney yourself.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

I have been struggling with how to write this post. I want to make sure that it honors my husband, who has been living with Cystic Fibrosis (CF) his whole life. I want to honor his family who have been affected by CF for longer than I've been alive. They have their own stories and they are not mine to tell.   I am also aware that expectant parents could come across our blog, read my posts and be scared off by this one, but I still feel it's a story that needs to be told. If you are an expectant parent, please don't be scared, just keep reading. My story is a different one, I have only been affected by CF for a short period of time. Elias and I have been together for over 9 years now, but only married for 4 and the real impact of him having CF didn't really happen until we were married. In this post I want to portray how our life together is with Elias having CF. It is different from others that have CF, but it is ours and I think that it's important to share and help make others aware of how CF affects lives.

So, I guess the best place to start is with the basics. CF is a chronic genetic condition that affects only about 30,000 in the US and 70,000 worldwide. It causes the body to produce unusually thick and sticky mucus that builds up in the lungs and prevents the pancreatic enzymes from properly digesting food and absorbing nutrients. It ranges from extremely mild where the lungs aren't even affected (so I've read) to extremely severe resulting in either a double lung transplant or death at a young age. In Elias' case CF affects his respiratory system, digestive system (making it difficult for him to gain weight), his liver and his reproductive system. Elias was diagnosed as an infant and all newborns today are screened at birth. For one to be born with CF, both parents have to be carriers of the gene, if both parents are carriers then there is a 50% chance that their child will be born with CF. We often get the question of whether our children would be born with CF and the answer to that is no. Elias is a carrier because he has CF, I am not a carrier which means that all of our biological children would be carriers, but none could be born with CF. If you have ever pursued fertility treatments, you have been tested for the gene, and if you were both carriers your doctor would make sure you knew.

The average lifespan today is 35 years which is a huge increase from a few years ago. Please remember that this is the average, there are children that are born with this disease that die very young and others who are still living in their 70's and beyond.

Throughout the adoption process and before when we were getting ready to serve in Africa for a year, we often got the question, "how does CF affect your daily life?". We have both often times replied that it really doesn't, other than Elias having to take medications and do nebulizers daily. I think that we have answered this way because this is our normal, but when I really think about it CF really does affect our lives. I have to say that I was not at all prepared for the medical bills that came with CF and for insurance to not cover his meds. For those of you that have gotten married young (like we did) imagine paying around $1000 in prescription medications every couple of months. Thankfully NYS has a reimbursement plan that reimburses up to 7% of our income. They are not always prompt, but they have improved greatly in the past couple of years and that check always seems to come when we need it most. However, they have requirements regarding what kind of insurance coverage Elias has to have. It cannot have caps or annual maximums. Now I know that many of you do not like Obamacare, but it has removed these caps and for the first time we have prescription drugs, that have no generic brand, covered and it has been a huge blessing. More and more drug companies are also offering assistance which is awesome and incredibly helpful.

So, I guess what I am trying to say is that CF affects our finances, it affects Elias' life when he has to take 2 hours out of his day to do his nebulizers and therapies, which then affects our life together because it is 2 hours that we can't do something else together. We have to travel to Albany every 3 months for clinic check-ups that last 2-3 hours; we have to always be looking for ways to make sure that Elias gets enough calories (he should be consuming over 3,000 a day) to at least maintain his weight. It affects our travel as we have to be someplace with electricity and refrigeration or at least access to a cooler and ice for Elias' medications. And obviously is has affected our ability to become parents. Please don't get me wrong, we don't NOT play the blame game in our house when it comes to infertility, but there is the reality that 98% of men with CF infertile without the help of advanced reproductive technologies. Before, they were just considered sterile and that was that. There was also a long period of time where it wasn't a concern since most never lived long enough to marry and have children, but thankfully due to modern medicine, that is not the case anymore and more and more men with CF are having children. We have no way of knowing if we would be able to have children easily if Elias didn't have CF and honestly, it's not important because this is where we are and God will use this situation.

So, yes, CF does affect our lives and I don't know what the future holds. Could Elias die young? Yes, but so could I. Most of you interacting with us on a daily basis would not think that our lives are any different because we do live a fairly normal life. Elias will be an amazing father that will be active with our children coaching them and teaching them sports. Our normal will be their normal and they won't know any different until they are older. And who knows, by then there just may be a cure. If you are still reading, then congratulations! I know this was a long post and thank you for bearing with me. I hope you found it educational. I did not write this to make anyone think, "oh poor them", I wrote it because I want to spread awareness of how CF affects lives. Thankfully Elias has a mild-moderate case, has never had to have been hospitalized and can live a fairly normal life. I actually can't imagine him without CF and I know that God has used it for good.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Goodbye 2012

We have now entered into a new year and it couldn't be more welcome. Usually I get a little sentimental about leaving one year behind and transitioning into a new year, but this year I really don't feel much of that. 2012 was hard. In fact, it has been the hardest year of my life and the hardest year of our marriage, which is saying a lot as our year in The Gambia wasn't always easy. Everyone says that the first year is the hardest, I completely disagree. The first year was full of bliss and newness, by now (we have been married 4 years) we have faced some of the tough issues. I know that's nothing in comparison to many of you, but we have also had to face issues that many couples don't have in their first 4 years. Our marriage has had to withstand, frustration, anger, grief and disappointment to name a few. It hasn't always been easy, but we are still strong and in love, it's just a different love than our first year. It's been tested and our vows have held true.  At this time last year we were still dealing with the disappointment of our failed IVF, but I was convinced that by this time this year we would parents. I had no idea of the pain and darkness that was ahead. The first half of this past year was a really dark time for me. The second half was better, but there were still days of sadness as there will continue to be.   For those of you who have only known me since this journey began, I'm sorry. Hopefully some day you will know the old, happier me.

But we have begun a different journey, an exciting journey. A journey we are still trying to figure out and unsure of where it will lead, but it is a journey of hope, of good things that God has in store for us. We are still healing and returning to the relationships we once had with God after our times of anger, hurt and darkness, but the fact is we are returning.

We don't know what this next year will bring or what it will look like, but it has to be easier than this past year. Now don't get me wrong, 2012 wasn't all bad, and God blessed us more than we can imagine when it came to meeting our basic needs and more. We never went hungry, we always had shelter, clothing, heat, and work. We have wonderful families that we were able to to have beautiful time with. But 2013 is full of new possibilities. Elias is returning to school this month to get his computer network technician degree. We are so excited about the doors that this path will open. We are beginning this year in the waiting stage of adoption, which means we could meet our child this year. We have already raised some funds, which means we have a head start on that process, which we will continue throughout this year. Undoubtedly we will face challenges this year, but this year is starting in a much more positive place than last year and we enter it with hope. Thank you for your continued love and prayers and please keep praying as we face a new year and new unknowns, but also new hope.