Anxiety: How God Used It For My Good

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and by doing so all of our present concerns and worries would just be eliminated into thin air? As a self-professed “professional” worrier, I’ve often thought about how great it would be if someone had a “worry wand” where they could just zap away all of my anxieties with the flip of the wrist. Am I the only one who has thought this? I mean, wouldn’t that be awesome?

As a childhood cancer survivor, I dealt with medical complications on a daily basis related to the treatments and surgeries I received. I still deal with some of those issues today, but they’ve become as normal to me as breathing air into my lungs. As a little girl, however, they were a great source of embarrassment, anxiety, and sickness. Throughout elementary school I had to be excused from class by my nurse multiple times a day to take care of these issues. Kids were curious and I would get nervous about how to answer their questions about where I was going or what I was doing. I was sick often all throughout school, constantly concerned about making up tests, missed assignments and how I would ever graduate. Although I participated in many extracurricular activities, there were times I was nervous and constantly on edge about whether or not these medical issues would flare up during an event or a performance-and a few times they did.

 After an emergency appendectomy in high school, my surgeon walked in the hospital room to inform me that the likelihood of being able to have children would be slim due to the scarring and treatments I received from my previous cancer surgeries. Instead of worrying about what dress I was going to wear to homecoming that year or my grade on a math test, I was, at age 15, filled with worry and fear over the likelihood of my inability to bear children.

When I was younger I tried to convince myself through “pep talks” not to worry over these things. The more I told myself not to worry, the more I became consumed by anxiety-ridden thoughts. I had stored up Bible verses in my heart such as “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…” (Matthew 6) but I was conflicted because I was worried and I really didn’t know where to go from there. Even though I was a believer and clung tightly to promises that God was in control, He was keeping me, He hadn’t forsaken me, He had a plan for all things-I wasn’t immune to fear.

Six months after my husband and I started dating I was diagnosed again with cancer. While waiting for further tests to be concluded, we took a family vacation to Florida to get away and enjoy the sunshine. I was so fearful about what my future would hold-would I even have one? I had read Matthew 6 about a thousand times at that point, about how I shouldn’t worry, but my faulty understanding of those verses left me struggling with guilt and condemnation over the anxiety I had. Can anyone relate to that?

One morning I woke up early before my family and stepped out onto the balcony of our condo. The morning sun greeted me and I just took in one big deep breath and exhaled, “I’m scared God. I’m so scared. Help me.” As I turned around to go back inside, a little yellow bird caught my eye. It was sunbathing on a white chair on our balcony. I knelt down to get a closer look and held out my hands. Assuming the little guy would fly away, I was surprised when he jumped right into my hands as if he belonged there. I thought back to Matthew 6 and realized my faulty understanding of those passages had been influencing the way I dealt with fear and anxiety. 

Jesus wasn’t telling the people not to worry in the absence of worry. That would be absurd! He wasn’t telling them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, get rid of all of their anxiety and then come to Him. Jesus was telling them not to worry because He knew them well. He knew they were prone to struggle with anxiety and fear. He knew they were prone to forget God’s promises. But, you see, He didn’t just stop with a an empty suggestion. He pointed them towards their heavenly Father. “Don’t worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6:25-26) Then, He reminded them that they are more valuable then these things. If God provided for these things, would He not also provide for them? Through studying the scriptures I learned I wasn’t alone in my anxiety and contrary to my initial interpretation, I wasn’t any “less of a Christian” because I struggled with it.

Just as I had learned to recognize that God has used my physical weaknesses to remind me of my need for a Savior, he has used (and continues to use) the anxiety in my life to draw me closer to Him. My worry throughout the years has led me into a dialogue of prayer with God. My struggles with anxiety have actually pushed me closer to the Lord because I am constantly aware of my great need for Him. Instead of trying to “self-help” my way out of anxiety, instead of trying to ignore it and act like it isn’t there (come on, we’ve all done that), I’ve learned to do what the author says in Psalm 55, “Cast all your cares on the Lord.” And God has met me there. God has met me in my honesty, and in my vulnerability and in my tears, and in my mess. He has met in my fear and in those dark places where I felt outnumbered by my thoughts. He picked me up and breathed life, His Word, into my lungs and He sustained me. And He continues to do so everyday.

If God hadn’t renewed my perspective through His word when He did, and if I hadn’t been able to see, through His grace, how He was using all of these difficult trials for my good and His glory, I know for certain I wouldn’t be equipped to handle the journey before me. It’s not that worry, doubt and sadness don’t exist anymore. They do. How could they not? I’m human. It’s just I’ve learned where to take with these feelings when they come pouring in-to the foot of the cross. And I’ve never been turned away. Christ always meets me where I am and greets me with His grace, truth and unconditional love. And He offers the same to you, my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

So You Can’t Afford to Adopt?

“How do people afford adoption?” As an adoption consultant, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. The financial aspects of adoption are, for many families, their number one concern when they begin inquiring about the process.

When my husband and I started researching adoption it was one of our biggest concerns. “How will we afford it?” At the time my husband was a youth pastor working on his PhD and I was working full-time and attending graduate school. Quite a bit of our income was going towards tuition. As you can imagine, we didn’t have a huge chunk of money sitting in a savings account. But, we were confident that God wanted us to begin growing our family through adoption and we knew that He would provide everything we needed.

We began applying for adoption grants, no-interest adoption loans and fundraising. As we started sharing our story people began praying for us and supporting financially. I will never forget the day a kind woman approached me at church and put a check in my hand. As I opened it tears of gratitude filled my eyes and I looked back up at her, “Are you serious? But, are you sure? I don’t know if I can accept this. It’s so much.” I will never forget her response, “Kelly, it is a blessing to me to be able to be a part of your adoption journey in this way. Don’t rob me of this blessing.”

I have numerous moments like this in our own adoption journey that I could share with you. Thankfully, our story isn’t unique. I could spend all day sharing stories about God’s faithfulness from others who have been blessed by the generosity of family, friends and even complete strangers in the adoption process. Just the other week a family was in need of a certain amount to finance the rest of their adoption. They received a little over the amount they needed in the mail from a family friend!

Trusting God with the finances of our adoption was one of the most difficult things for my husband and I. It was also very humbling. Can you relate? I know most of you can. But God gave us exactly what we needed in His perfect timing. Did the money just fall from the sky? No, we worked hard, saved, applied for adoption grants and loans. We even did a few fundraisers! We saw God’s faithfulness and provision through the hands and feet of family, friends and even complete strangers.

“Adoption is so expensive to begin with! Is it really worth hiring an adoption consultant?” This was one of our concerns, as well. Take it from someone who has walked through the adoption process before: I don’t know how we would have journeyed through this adventure without our consultant. One of the reasons (among many) that families choose to work with Christian Adoption Consultants is because of our creative financing ideas. We equip our families with the following information:

  • Average Adoption Costs-a break-down of typical agency/attorney fees
  • Adoption Tax Credit and Dependency Exemptions-direct our families towards exploring tax benefits
  • Adoption loans-no-interest and low-interest options and providers
  • Adoption Grants-detailed list of grant providers
  • Creative Fundraising Ideas-including testimonials from our staff and families of creative ideas that have assisted in raising thousands of dollars for their adoptions

In addition to creative financing ideas, we help our families navigate the risks associated with the process. The nation wide failure rate for an adoption is 50-60%. Can you imagine how many families have lost thousands of dollars in regards to a failed adoption? Although no one can eliminate all of the risk in adoption, families working with Christian Adoption Consultants experience a drastically lower failure rate (<20%). I believe this is because we direct our families to ethical and adoption-friendly agencies and attorneys that have endured our vetting process. Additionally, we assist them in navigating the warnings signs to reduce the levels of risks associated with the adoption process. We also provide adoption resources and education so our families are equipped with knowledge to make informed decisions in their journey.

The financial cost of adoption prevents many families from beginning the adoption process, but it doesn’t have to. When I was functioning in a “what I can accomplish” mentality I was buried in fear about how we would come up with the funds for our adoption. It genuinely felt like an impossible task. I will never forget the day my husband said, “Kelly, God isn’t going to call us to this journey and leave us to ourselves. He will provide everything we need to accomplish everything He has called us to.” This wasn’t new information to me. But I think that somewhere in the mix of filling out paperwork, setting up our home study interviews, applying for grants and loans that I had lost sight of who was in control. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t Christian Adoption Consultants. It wasn’t an adoption agency. It was God. And it was in that moment that I was reminded that nothing could prevent us from accomplishing what God had planned for us-not even my doubt or fear.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Fear In The Adoption Process

How will we afford the cost associated with adoption? What if the expectant mother changes her mind? What if there is a history of mental health issues? What if the expectant mother used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy? Are we too old to be considered? Do we have too many children to be desirable to an expectant mother?

As an adoption consultant these questions, concerns and fears enter the conversation quite frequently. But, I can relate. When my husband and I started our adoption journey we had similar concerns. Below, I will examine a few of the most common questions I receive as a consultant.

1. How will we afford the cost associated with adoption?  Adoption can be expensive. The cost associated with adoption was one our biggest concerns before walking into the process. If this is one of your fears you are not alone. I would say it’s one of the most common questions I get asked about when a family is inquiring about adoption, “How will we afford it?” And yet, time and time again I see families blown away by the faithfulness of God through the generosity of friends, family and even complete strangers. At Christian Adoption Consultants, we also provide our families with resources and tools on how to fund their adoption through grants, loans, and fundraising.

2. What if the expectant mother changes her mind? Although Christian Adoption Consultants has a lower adoption failure rate (< 20%) than the nation wide failure rate (50-60%), there will always be some level of risk in the adoption process. When a woman is considering an adoption plan for her child, she is making one of the most difficult decisions of her life. Placing a child for adoption is a sacrificial and selfless act of unconditional love. Unless you’ve walked through this yourself, than you can’t possibly understand the thoughts and feelings that surround this decision. No one can predict whether or not an expectant mother will change her mind. However, if you are living and breathing on this earth, then risk is inevitable. You can’t be immune to it; it’s a part of life. A gynecologist can’t guarantee a full-term pregnancy, as there is 1 in 4 chances that a woman will miscarry. But that risk doesn’t prevent couples from trying. There are many potential side effects of prescription drugs and medicine, and yet the majority rarely think twice about taking a pill. At CAC we walk with our families and assist them in navigating the warnings signs to reduce the levels of risks associated with the adoption process.

3. What if there is a history of mental health issues or the expectant mother used drugs or alcohol during pregnancy? I often hear couples say, “We just want a healthy baby.” Drug and alcohol exposure during pregnancy and a history of mental health issues are not uncommon in adoption. The desire for a healthy child isn’t abnormal, but in reality this is something that can’t be guaranteed, even in what some would consider the “best case scenario.” My mother took care of herself, ate healthy and exercised, but in between my older sister and I had 3 miscarriages. When she finally gave birth to me I was diagnosed with cancer and given less than 10% chance of living. I know women who had healthy babies at birth that later developed physical, mental health and/or learning issues. If you are considering adoption, please know that I don’t share this information with you to evoke fear. Rather, I share this to remind you that risk is a part of life and adoption is no exception. I’m confident that God equips families with His grace and strength to handle whatever circumstances may come their way, as I have seen this to be true in my own life.

4. Will we ever get chosen? Many couples express concerns about whether or not their family will be desirable to an expectant mother. “Are we too old? Are we too young? Do we have too many children?” Every expectant mother has their own set of preferences for an adoptive family. Perhaps one expectant mother may desire a family with many children for her little one to play with. Another expectant mother may prefer a family who has a history of infertility because she feels as though she is giving them something they cannot give themselves. Regardless of your situation, God is using everything about your family to connect with an expectant mother, even when you can’t quite see what He is up to. 

When my husband and I were functioning and making decisions through a “what I can handle” lens, fear quickly became a familiar visitor. However, our worry began dissipating when we stopped thinking with an autonomous mentality and started reminding ourselves that our source of strength does not begin or end with ourselves. It is God who equips us with all that we need to journey through this life (and the adoption process)! It also brought us great comfort to know that we couldn’t mess up or miss out on the story God was writing for our family.

If we had let fear govern our decision-making, we probably never would have started the adoption process. And then we would have missed out on the two biggest blessings of our life: Roman and Ruby. Fears and concerns may arise and when they do my prayer is that you would remember the Author who is writing your story-the One who will equip with you everything you need to accomplish everything He will bring along your path.

 

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Through The Storm {Trusting God With Our Kids}

Do you ever lay in bed worried about the future of your children? Do thoughts plague your mind about them getting sick? Is your child suffering from an illness or mental health disorder and you wonder how you will make it through the day? Are you worried that your child isn’t hitting all of the developmental milestones like the other kids? As parents, there are a hundred fears we could let our thoughts be consumed by. I know this to be true from personal experience.

Eight weeks after we adopted Roman and Ruby, our home, city and the surrounding area were unexpectedly hit with the Great Flood of 2016. The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking dinner for Obbie and I. While feeding Roman, I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. I frantically pointed this out to Obbie, who quickly ran out the front door to talk with all of the neighbors that had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie from a distance. He had a very concerned look on his face. I felt my heart sink into the pit of my stomach. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we have to pack everything up. The water is rising and we have to evacuate immediately.”

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I dragged a large empty trunk into the twin’s nursery. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, dreaming and hoping in this room. I had flashbacks to all of the countless hours I spent on the floor praying for our baby that the Lord would bring into our home. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers mindlessly into the trunk, I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:27). I stopped. I took a deep breath. And I was reminded that it was God who brought these precious children into our life. They were in His hands and there was no safer place to be. 

We threw as much as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck.  As we slowly waded through the flood, I looked down at my children and began to cry. The water was continually rising, our neighborhood was completely surrounded and there were only a few dry streets left. Those moments didn’t feel as if they belonged to me. It was like we were the characters in the movie, “The Day After Tomorrow,” where they rushed to the top of the building to prevent from being consumed by the water. I felt completely helpless. I closed my eyes tightly and prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies.” It was a prayer of surrender, as I knew there was absolutely nothing I could do to stop the flood. We were in God’s hands.

We were prepared to sleep in our mini van on the side of the road with our friends who evacuated their home too. It was dark, hot and humid. Many people in the area had been rescued by boat and that knowledge was looming over us as we waited. Not long after we arrived, a young woman ran out of her house with a concerned look on her face. “Are y’all the ones with the newborn twins? My husband is working a late shift so the house is empty and our street is still dry. Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room waiting for the streets to clear. These kind people welcomed us and fed us. God took care of us through the kindness of strangers. As soon as the waters subsided, the twins and I headed 12 hours north to stay with family, while Obbie began gutting our home with the assistance of friends.

We anticipated a lot as parents of newborn twins: sleepless nights, excessive crying, dirty diapers, a messy house, but we couldn’t have prepared ourselves for this disaster. Once the twins and I made it to my parent’s house, I fell on the couch in complete exhaustion. This was not how I imagined the first few months of parenthood. If I’d had known the flood was coming for us I would have said, “I can’t do that. I’m not strong enough.” And I was right. I wasn’t strong enough. There is no way I could have walked down that road without God breathing grace into my lungs.

When we first brought the twins home I was afraid that something terrible was going to happen to them. I would stare at them throughout the night and rarely slept. Sometimes when they’d cough or make what I interpreted to be a weird sound, Google and I would spend some time together. However, through the storm I was reminded that God is not only the Creator of all things, but He is the Keeper of all things. Our heavenly Father has entrusted us with the most precious gifts, and as parents we have the privilege of loving and shepherding our children. On the other side of the flood, I came to understand that one of the most important things I can do as a mother is to remember to whom my children belong. Surrendering my children everyday to God is the best way I can love them. Surrender releases you from fear and worry. It doesn’t eliminate every fearful or worrisome thought, but surrender reminds you where to take them- at the feet of your Savior.

Parents, when you remember that your heavenly Father is the ultimate Keeper of your child’s soul, an overwhelming peace consumes you, a kind of peace that will get you through life’s biggest storms. When worry comes for you as a parent (because it will), I pray God will illuminate your mind with His truth and bring your heart to a place of surrender. My prayer is that you can see what I did as I was holding my children,  with floodwater so high I could feel it splash on my cheeks. God is not only with them through the storm, He is keeping them safe, and upholding them in the very palm His hands.