Sunday, January 18, 2015

Here's to the past 52 weeks.

2014 was a year unlike anything that I could have possibly imagined for my family. Up and downs, numerous curve balls thrown at us, and so many painful moments turned into more joy and beauty than I could ever have thought.

I ended 2013 by reflecting on the year through pictures, so it's really only fitting to do that again for 2014. I have to admit that I giggled a little when I looked at the post from 2013 because I made a comment on how little pictures I had taken. I can assure you that I've made up for that last year! Having a little one most definitely does that to you.

So here's a little recap of 2014, month-by-month:

JANUARY
The year began with the need to 'normalize' our adoption process - that someday I would look back on this process and being a mom and dad would just be 'normal' to us. Although I'm not totally there yet, our lives are different and it's semi-normal for me to now to wake up and take care of someone else all day. We started prep on the nursery and on our parental technique...by reading to our dogs.

Harley is not amused by this story.


FEBRUARY
We started February off by winning first place at our church's chili cook-off. We had the best all around chili - Yippee! February was also the month where we were officially licensed through the state of Illinois to adopt a baby! And the same day that we were licensed we presented to our first birth family... Immediately, our emotions were on a roller coaster of waiting and hoping. We hosted our second fundraiser in February to help us get closer to being fully-funded so that, by the time we were selected by a birth family, finances would be ready to go to bring a baby home. We ended the month by having a quiet night at home celebrating our 3rd wedding anniversary.

FIRST PLACE in the chili cook off!

At our lasagna lunch fundraiser.

MARCH
On our wedding anniversary in February, an incredibly generous individual treated us to lunch and informed us that they were sending Jarrod and I on an all expenses paid trip to Mexico for a week to get our minds off of everything that had been going on. A few days later, we packed our bags and flew to our "babymoon." But that trip became so much more than a getaway for us: While there, on March 11, 2014, we received news that we had been chosen by a birth mother and officially matched to a baby girl due in August 2014. When we got home, we immediately started prepping our nursery for the arrival of our little one in a few months.

Matched with a baby girl!

Our sweet little one. The first picture we ever saw.

Getting the nursery ready.

APRIL
April was a month of pure madness for me. I planned my job's largest event of the year and tried to prepare to bring a baby home, while simultaneously launching my brand new design business, Manda Julaine Designs.


MAY
Jarrod and I traveled down to Florida, over Mothers' Day weekend, to meet the birth family of our sweet little girl. Although I was terrified about the trip, God continually reminds me that He makes me brave in this adoption journey. And then later in the month, we welcomed my second little nephew, Hudson, into the world!

Flying to Florida for the first time to attend an ultrasound of our baby girl and
meet our birth family for the first time.

Welcoming nephew, Hudson, into the world!

JUNE
The summer of craziness began in June. Jarrod almost immediately started going on youth group trips while I kept finishing up the nursery and getting extremely anxious for the remaining weeks before our daughter was born to end. At the end of the month, my family and sweet women from church through me two baby showers. They were beautiful! Sadly, I took very few pictures this month... But don't worry, that soon changed... The night of our second baby shower, June 30, 2014, we received a phone call that our birth momma was in labor. Although she was over 6 weeks early, we hopped on a flight just a few hours after getting that call and started our many weeks of back and forth travel to Florida...
Opening gifts at a baby shower.

Packed up (within four hours) to travel to Florida (for the false alarm).

On the airplane...one of many.

JULY
We traveled back and forth to Florida three times for false alarms before our little one, Madison Jo, finally made her appearance on July 15, 2014. Although the doctors thought she may have some serious battles to fight upon being born, miraculously, Madison was as perfect and as healthy as can be. She was gorgeous!
Finally seeing that beautiful face.

My favorite moment, ever.

On July 17, 2014, the papers were signed that made us Madison's guardians. We were granted physical custody that day. We were officially a family!

Our first time in the hospital room, just the three of us, as a family.

We spent 7 days in the hospital with our little miracle girl while the doctors continued to monitor her. 

On July 22, 2014, Madi was released from the hospital and we headed to a condo to wait out our paperwork clearance to travel home with the little one. Jarrod eventually had to leave and get back to work in Illinois, so I stayed down in Florida, with the help of my mom, until I got clearance.

Leaving the hospital.


AUGUST
Finally, after spending over a month in Florida, on August 6, 2014, Madison and I were given clearance to travel home. We began to settle into life in our home as a family of three. Life was different. We were tired all the time but it was a change that was so incredibly welcome in our lives! And just a few days after arriving home, Madison turned one month old!

First wedding as a family of three.

Madison turns one month old!

Cheering on the Badgers!
SEPTEMBER
September ended up being one of the craziest months for us. Within a period of 7 days, we packed up our entire house and moved to a new one...all while taking care of our little two month old! I spent a lot of days taking walks to the local park with Madison.

Waiting on the front porch for daddy to get home from work.

Best buds.

Madison turns two months old.

First day out, just mommy and daddy.
OCTOBER
October welcomed Madison's first Halloween, the month that we received our adoption finalization date, our last adoption post placement visit, and a family trip to the apple orchard. I celebrated my first birthday as a momma and Madison turned three months old on October 15

Hunters with our little deer.

Mommy's birthday.

Last post placement meeting with our dear friends!

Punkin with some pumpkins.

Madison turns three months old.

Ok..I couldn't help myself. This was adorable.

NOVEMBER
Besides July, November was by far my favorite month of this year. Just a few days into the month we hopped on one last flight down to Florida to officially close our adoption case and become a 'legal' family! Our adoption case was closed and Madison was ours! Then we traveled across the state and spent a few days at a retreat for youth pastors and wives in the warm Florida sun. Then my little girl (that I swear we just brought home) turned four months old and celebrated her first Thanksgiving!

Officially a family!

Madison experiencing the ocean for the first time.

Hanging out on the beach as a family!

Madison turns four month old!

Celebrating Madison's first Thanksgiving.
DECEMBER
As the cold weather crept in, we cozied into our new home and got ready to celebrate Madison's first Christmas. Madi tried her first food (sweet peas), turned five months old, and she celebrated her first Christmas.  Oh yeah...and I never actually got to mail out our Christmas cards in the hustle of the season.... (oops. I apologize ahead of time if these arrive in your mailbox at Valentine's Day!).

All bundled up for the cold.

Madison turns five months old.

Trying those sweet peas.

Family Christmas Photo

Opening gifts on Christmas morning with daddy.

So cute in my Christmas dress.

This year has been a year unlike anything I could have imagined. Even tonight, I reflected back on some of the things that God miraculously did in our lives and in Madison's life over this year. So many of these details, we can't even share in public out of respect for Madison's adoption story. However just because those details are only privately known between our little family, it doesn't change who our God is and how faithful he has been in guiding our path. 

As I sit back and look at the two weeks that have already happened in 2015, I can't help but wonder what God might have in store for us during these 52 weeks.  

Our God is good. 

Our God is faithful. 

Our God is ever turning what feels like the ashes of our lives in the most beautiful stories of his amazing power.

Here's to committing to letting Him guide us in 2015.