Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Now, We Are a Family

November 5, 2014 was a day like no other. We waited in the hallway for the bailiff to call us in before the judge. I could practically hear my own heart pounding with excitement - so loudly that it would resonate off those cold, brick, courthouse walls. This was it. After these few moments before a judge, the little girl that I held in my arms would be forever ours. There would be no more visits from a social worker or unexpected legal fees to pay. There would be no more paperwork or reason to worry that something could happen. She would take our name. Papers would be signed. The case would be closed.

The three months since Madison joined our family flew by. It felt like just a few days ago she was placed in my arms for the first time. I cried tears of joy at that moment - I had dreamed about it for so long. But now, the tears came again. This moment - this private moment between our family, an attorney and a judge in a Florida courtroom - was the beginning of our official lives as a family. The judge would legally declare, for the rest of time, what we all already knew to be true in our hearts: This little one was meant to be our daughter. God ordained the three of us a family long before we even knew she existed. And now, we are a family.

The bailiff swore us in and our attorney began to ask us a series of short yes or no questions regarding our adoption, the fees, our adoption license. They were short and simple. But then, in the form of one final question, the attorney asked a question embedded so deeply into my heart that I'll never forget the words. In the hustle of these moments, this significant question, would have been easy to miss. But, in that moment, it felt as if no one else existed in the room but Jarrod, Madison, and myself.

"Do you understand that when the judge signs the order of adoption here today that Madison will now legally be yours as if she was born to you?"

The beauty of those words still make my heart skip a beat. We nodded our heads in response. The tears began to well up inside me while the judge placed his stamp of approval on the paperwork and handed it back to attorney. It was done. This adoption case was closed. In less than five minutes, we had gone from a couple caring for a precious little one, to a legally, binded-together family. I'll say it again: What we knew in our hearts to be true for so long, was now official. This little one was meant to be our daughter. God ordained the three of us a family long before we even knew she existed. And now, we are a family

Every step of the journey that led us to that moment has been an adventure. There were a lot of tears, a lot of questions, a lot of unknowns and difficult moments. But there was also celebrating, and trust, and hope. Hope that in the end this plan that was not our own, but divinely predetermined for us by a good and incredibly gracious God, would be worth it all. And indeed, every moment was. This little girl is worth every ounce of this journey and I'd do it all over again for her. 

When we began our adoption journey, I ended my first ever blog post with the below song. It was an anthem that got me through some of the deepest and toughest moments of this journey. So it's only fitting to end reflecting on this song once more.

A special thank you to Heather at Studio 25 Photography for giving of your time to come capture these precious images for us! We'd also like to thank my sweet Aunt Deb for accompanying us to the courthouse and rejoicing (& crying) with us during this time of celebration! Your support and love meant so very much!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

4 Months Old

Madison turns 4 months old today. That means that one third of Madi's first year of life has already passed. I feel like every month I blink and she's another month bigger.

This month especially I feel like she's grown leaps and bounds developmentally. Every day it's as if she's learned or discovered something new to amuse her.

This past Month Madi has...

  • Found her voice. This little girl loves to chatter and coo away the day with us. She's also discovered her voice while she's trying to fall asleep. Those little screams are cute ... but also very loud. 
  • Started to giggle uncontrollably back at us when we laugh at her. It's literally the most adorable thing ever!
  • Decided that she doesn't really like to lay down anymore. She always wants to be sitting or standing looking around at the world around her.
  • Learned to play with toys. She loves to hold toys, put them in her mouth, and laugh at books. She's very inquisitive now. (See example picture below)
Mom, what is this thing?
  • Become a drool fountain as her first two teeth come in. Madi started teething about three weeks ago. Her bottom two teeth have cut through and have caused a decent amount of fussiness in the past weeks.
  • Started to grow a lot more hair. Oddly enough, her hair is coming in very light (although it could get darker) and her eyes keep getting more and more blue. This girl is rocking her biological family's recessive genes!
  • Started following us with her eyes across the room. She always wants to know where we are at. It's (selfishly) really the best feeling when someone else is holding her and she hears my voice, finds me in the room and just stares and smiles at me. She knows who her mommy and daddy are - that's for sure!
  • Become a little more high maintenance. I realize this is totally expected in babies, don't worry. Just this morning, she would cry (tears and all) any time she dropped her toy out of her hands. Oh man...I couldn't stop laughing.
  • Gained new nicknames. We now lovingly call our daughter munchkin, Madi girl, fidget midget, munch, and Mads.
  • Officially become a part of the Stichter family when we closed her adoption case forever in court. This was probably the most beautiful milestone that happened this past month. (A post on this will be coming very, very soon.)

This little girl amazes me more and more every day. Although there are tough days, especially with teething, this munchkin has captured my heart in a way that I never thought was possible. More than anything, I'm amazed at God's grace in choosing us to be her parents.

Happy 4 Months Madi girl! You are the biggest blessing to my heart!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014


Being married to a youth pastor lends itself to unique life experiences. You experience teens in a unique way. You experience church community in a unique way. You experience schedules in a unique way. Just about everything about being married to someone whose career is to love on adolescents is unique. It's a beautiful kind of unique... but unique nonetheless. 

The thing about this kind of lifestyle though is that, sometimes, it can tend to be lonely. Very few other people understand the demands on your life, family, and emotions. But there's a crowd of people that understand the tolls of ministry: other youth pastors and their wives! Once a year, Jarrod and I are blessed to be able to spend a weekend with this special community of people and share in this understanding of life in ministry. If you remember, I wrote a post about our trip to Rebound last year. We spent this past week back down in Florida (yes, again) for our yearly retreat with these other couples.

Let me first, once again, thank our church for their sacrifice and recognition of the toll that ministry takes on marriages and seeing the need for retreats like this one. Jarrod and I were able to reconnect with friends that we met last year and build some new, valuable relationships with other couples in our area. We were able to step back as a couple and examine our lives in ministry - how we can better support each other, what things we need to discuss, and reflect on the encouragement that scripture offers young pastors. We networked and Jarrod was able to discuss ministry strategies with others that are 'in the trenches.' Most importantly, Jarrod and I were able to leave our schedules and task lists behind and refocus on hearts on the Lord's leading in our lives and commit the coming year to Him. 

And here's the cool thing... Last year, when we attended Rebound we were just a couple months into our adoption. Our hearts were heavy because of the strenuous process. I remember getting away and feeling defeated, yet hopeful for what the next year would hold. I remember praying last year with the friends that I made that God would bring Jarrod and I a child in His time. I remember leaving feeling deeply refreshed and ready to continue on this journey that God had for us. 

And what a difference a year makes...

Left: 2013 Rebound Retreat
Right: 2014 Rebound Retreat

This year I walked in carrying a little girl that has touched my life in more ways than I can even name. A little girl who, one day earlier, just three hours away from this annual retreat location, had been legally declared a part of our family by a state judge. A little girl whose adoption case is now legally closed for good. Hallelujah! (More on this in a few days.)

We spent five days as a family of three in the warmth, basking in the goodness of God's plan for our lives. Although there were times when we wanted to go sit in the sun or go out to a movie with friends at night instead of rocking a baby to sleep in our hotel room, I was reminded that, one year ago, I would have given anything to be the couple with the baby at this couples retreat. Perspective is an amazing thing!

I'm awestruck at the ways that God works in our prayers when we allow Him to ability to move in our lives. We didn't even think we'd be able to attend this retreat this year due to all our travels and financials of our adoption. Yet, God was (yet again) in those details...our court date lined up to be just two days before the retreat began. A detail so simple and so small, yet so perfect. That's our God, isn't it?

Although it's wonderful to be home...and to know that I don't have to go back to Florida for another year (until next year's retreat)...these pictures and that time with my family bring so much joy to my heart. What an amazing end to this journey!

Oh and in case these pictures aren't enough, here's a cute video of Madison's first ocean experience!

Check the blog in a few days for some new pictures on updates on my (almost) four month old (what?!) and a post on the finalization of Madi's adoption in court!