Tuesday, December 26, 2017

How It All Measures Up

Six years ago, I had no idea how to adopt a child. Not only was I clueless, I had zero interest. The thought of adoption wasn’t even an option that entered my mind, ever. Not as a child, not as a teen and certainly not as an adult. It wasn’t even on my map.

I did, however, have every desire in the world to become pregnant. I was married at 30, which, to me, was the perfect age to be done with your wild and irresponsible 20’s, settle down, and begin building a family. I patted myself on the back thinking “well done, Tara.” I was married in April, so that following Christmas I secretly celebrated my last Christmas without the chore of buying little toys to wrap and place under the tree. I also secretly celebrated my last New Year’s Eve as a woman who was able to dress up her still fit, pre-pregnant body and go out with her husband without the burden of finding a babysitter. I say secretly because I did not dare share these thoughts with my husband. He was not completely ready to begin a family just yet, so I kept these little celebrations to myself. I knew I would convince him otherwise in the new year.  I was so ready.

I dreamt about different ways I would tell my husband and my parents the good news. I fantasized about all the creative ways to announce our pregnancy on social media to our friends and family. I even created a secret Pinterest Board filled with creative baby announcements and cute maternity clothes. I WAS SO READY.

And before I knew it, hooray! My husband was ready, too! You guys, I cannot tell you how excited I was. I was so into this getting pregnant thing, I did everything I could to speed up the process. 

At first, I measured it with a calendar, ovulation calendar app, and ovulation tests. Then, I measured it in the amount of coffee I drank (or didn’t drink), in my wine intake, in folic acid pills, prenatal pills, and Luna bars. I switched from Coffee Mate to half and half (maybe I needed more calcium?), and tried to put on a few pounds (maybe I was too small?).

Nothing was happening. No baby.

So then, I measured it with doctor visits and blood tests which lead to countless pills, shots administered by my husband and girlfriends at home, and eventually eight separate fertility procedures. Eight separate failed fertility procedures.

Finally, and desperately, I measured it in how I prayed. I measured it on my knees and in my anger. I measured it with envy and tears and bitterness.

I blamed God. It had been almost four years since I secretly celebrated my “last” childless Christmas and New Years, and each time those holidays came around again, all I wanted to do was crawl under the covers and stay there until it was over. I was mad and I was done.  

This was not God's plan, this couldn’t be. This could not be the life my God wanted for me. A God who promises to give me all my heart’s desires. A God who promises to fight for me if I only stay still. A God who promises that if He is within me, I will not fall. A God who promises to be my strength and my shield.  

Where was I going wrong? Why didn’t I deserve this?

Then, after giving it all up, I slowly began to get a different message. A message that didn’t have anything to do with being pregnant. At first, the message came from my cousin who had an adoptive son. “Adopt your first baby and then go back to the fertility treatments if you want.”  Hmmm. That was an idea. Then my grandma got on board the adoption train and said “Let’s just get you your first born. I’ll help with the expenses” OK, grandma. OK, that’s a thought. Then I began to watch YouTube videos of adoption days and read blog after blog written by adoptive mamas and…

I can’t tell you when it happened. There wasn’t a day I woke up and it was changed. There wasn’t a moment where all-of-a-sudden I wanted to adopt. It happened slow, but God worked and worked until I went from having zero desire to adopt, to wanting nothing more in the world than to become a mom through adoption. God grew my desire to become a parent, and with that growth, the desire to become pregnant diminished. My heart had been changed. It wasn’t a quick change, but it was a drastic one. I looked at parenthood as a high honor and realized for the first time that however our children come to us, whatever their skin color, their age, their background, their genes… however they come to us, it’s a miracle.

One more thing I learned, when it’s God’s plan, I don’t have to measure that much, and He always sticks to His promises.

Adoption costs were close to $50,000. We didn’t have $50K, but friends came forward to donate their talents and time to make us a video that would go viral just enough to raise half of the adoption costs. We sold t-shirts and took to social media for a good portion of the funds and in the end, family came forward with the rest. God knew we didn’t emotionally have years and years to wait, we had already been through so much, so in His Great Glory, He blessed us with a little boy in just 5 short months. We didn’t have baby boy clothes with our son was born, but they showed up on my doorstep before we left for the flight to get him. We didn’t have the money for flights to Oregon, or to rent a car once we were there, or pay for a hotel room for two weeks, so God sent His people (one we had never even met) to take care of those needs. All was taken care of before our plane hit the ground.

And about those promises- It turns out all my heart desired was this little boy. It also turned out that God was my strength and shield through one of the worst and saddest battles of my life. He never left me, I just couldn't see the big picture the way He could.

Our little boy will turn two in just two months, and I cannot imagine raising another soul. This Christmas we got to watch him tear open truck after truck with excitement and as I’m typing this, I’m wishing I booked a babysitter for New Year’s Eve. We are HERE. Parenthood. Not pregnancy-hood, but parenthood. For better or for worse. He is ours, and we are his, and that is just how it was always meant to be.

Ephesians 3:20

Sunday, August 6, 2017

I'm A Mess

             Tomorrow morning at 8:00am I drop my one and half year-old son off at daycare and we begin another ten months of only seeing one another for a couple, precious hours a day. After a full two months together of wild adventures exploring the backyard, pointing out planes, helicopters and birds flying overhead, vrooming trucks in the sand on the beach, and dancing in the living room together to our favorite songs on YouTube, I am without a doubt crushed and dreading 8:00am tomorrow morning in a way I’ve never experienced before.

            When I mention this sadness that has come over me, people, with the best intentions in mind, seem to say the same thing: “Oh, I'm sorry. Just remember, he won’t remember this anyway.” OK, so I know at my core this is meant to be kind, helpful advice, but to me it feels like a punch in the gut. These past two months have been the best, most fun days I’ve had in my entire life, and to be told that they are essentially just for my sake feels off. It feels false.

Here’s what I know:

             I have a mother and father who instilled a sense of adventure in my brother and I from the very beginning. I know this not because I remember all of my early childhood years, but because of who I became as an adult. My parents cultivated imagination in us and gave us the freedom to be children. I was free enough to sing loudly while I walked down the street to my friend Leigh Anne's house and not once worry about what a neighbors thought. I was free enough to play with my Mom’s makeup and do things like cover my eyelids with her teal eyeshadow just before I met my Dad at the Dunnellon Country Club for lunch (side note, I must have been around seven or eight and I still remember how sweet the waitress was. She told me I looked pretty. What you say to people, even small people, always matters.), I was free enough to not remember a time when I wasn’t writing poetry for fun and reading it aloud for my family. Free enough to publically exclaim my love and devotion for Jesus Christ at nine years old with a fierce certainty. Free enough to swing from ropes into (let’s be honest) the alligator and water moccasin infested Rainbow River over and over again with no fear. I was free enough to climb broken down wooden forts in the woods and sit alone in silence just staring at trees. And around 14 years of age, I was free enough to claim theatre as a career path and ask my parents to drive me 45 minutes to a high school with a better theatre program. NEVER ONCE did they ask me if I should look into something else, something more steady, or more financially lucrative. Never once did they think twice about that drive. I was free to be me.
          I get it, my son is one, and the memories of the summer of 2017 are not going to stick in his head the same way they will in mine. But I HAVE TO BELIEVE that every single puddle he played in, every giggle-fest we had in the car, all the times he ran and jumped in my lap with a new book to read, and each time he hugged me long and hard after an especially long nap, I HAVE TO BELIEVE, even if it's not going to stick in his brain, it is sticking to his soul. I hope and pray that soul will sing loud, dance with no shame, build forts, write stories, lay in the grass, study the clouds, love people and most importantly get to know and love our graceful God. What I hope for my boy is to become a man who will not be afraid to look the giants of his life straight in the eye and say “Let's do this, Goliath.” 

            Listen, I’m not going to lie, I’m a mess. I’m crying in the shower and in my car. My heart is breaking with every second we get closer to the start of this school year and the weight feels too big for me to conquer alone, but I know I’m not alone. I know Who goes ahead of me. So I cry but I also hold on to Big Faith.
            So here’s to all the parents who are fighting this fight. Here’s to doing the best we can while we can, and here’s to a God that promises we never have to do anything alone. Here’s to courage. Here’s to faith.
Let's make it a great school year! 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Dear Infertility

Before you, I was weak. My muscles were small. My stamina was short. Before you, I was near sighted. Unaware and adrift, I couldn’t see the majestic forest, just my few routine trees. Before you, I was na├»ve, ignorant and happy. Before you I was simple.

You rode in with a crippling howl and collapsed my ideal world. You wrecked me, ripped me in two, and then in four. I began to see red and blue and grey. I understood evil and pain. I breathed hard, screamed loud, and banged my fists. I begged you to let me go, but you held on with a suffocating grip. I became different. I began to dwell in the dark. I believed it was over.

Lifeless and lonely I called upon The Shepherd. He lifted me, but I was limp. He whispered hope, but I cried doubt. Scared of the journey ahead, I tried to separate myself from The Shepherd, but he would not move. He adamantly refused to let you win. In Him I grew stronger each day. With His living words, I called you on your lies. With His enduring promises, I stopped hiding. Armed with The Shepherd’s Staff in my in small hands, I allowed the world to know my secrets, faults and fears. I exposed myself.  I exposed you. Something new grew in me. Again, I was different, but this time I became free. Free to see yellow and magenta and green. Free to see this big, complicated, beautiful, sad, surprising, wonderful world. Free to experience miracles that cannot be counted.

And although you tried to crack and break my soul, you were no match for The Shepherd. He fulfilled his promise and shattered your wall of lies with the awesome first cry of one baby boy.

After you, I am strong.

After you, I am can see.

After you, I am found.

After you, I am free.

The Shepherd's Daughter 

Monday, June 26, 2017

Emotional, Exhausted, Embarrassed and Honored

Sitting and sweating 36,000 feet in the air on a four hour flight from Denver to Florida yesterday, my 16 month old son was inconsolable. He simply could not understand why he had to sit on our laps for that long, after all, just a day ago, he was running up mountain trails and chasing tiny chipmunks. He wasn't hungry. He wasn't thirsty. He was super bored, and to top things off, this was his normal nap time, so he was also slap-happy tired. That's when a very sweet flight attendant came to our sides to ask if she can do anything. Does he want some cookies? Do his ears hurt? Sure, and maybe were my answers, but honestly I knew nothing short of a large grassy area to run around in was going to help. Then she said something that surprised me with tears of joy (which I'm sure she mistook for tears of frustration), she said "Well, you're not alone. Many have been in this situation before you, and many will after you."

In my emotional, exhausted, and embarrassed state I all-of-a-sudden felt HONORED.

Two years ago this month my husband and I announced we wanted to adopt a baby but we couldn't do it alone. What YOU did next was nothing short of a miracle. You did things like hold yoga classes and donate all the money to our fund, you used your time, talents and very expensive camera and computer equipment to shoot and edit a video we could share with the world, you bought t-shirts, you took selfies with he hashtag #TeamBabyQ to push traffic to our Go Fund Me page, you asked your church groups to gather around a couple they never met and shower them with baby gifts, cards and checks, you even used your inheritance to honor your mother by giving a substantial amount of money to our fund. You prayed. You cried when we cried. You rejoiced in every step we took that landed us closer to becoming parents. You asked the right questions. You listened. You hugged us. You were the hope we hung onto to. You reminded us often that this was real, and going to happen. You were such a beautiful picture of love, support and acceptance- you were Jesus.

So, it would happen that on a frustrating flight in the middle of the day at the end of a long week away that I would be overcome with gratitude when a sweet flight attendant said "Many have been in this situation before you, and many will after you."

Here's the thing- she had NO IDEA how long I had waited to be emotional, exhausted and embarrassed, and she had no idea how lucky I felt.

We were never meant to do life alone. We were always meant to be there for each other.

I just wanted to take a moment two years later to say THANK YOU. 

Thank you for helping make me a mommy, Jeremy a daddy and Zeke an adored and cherished son. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. May God bless you as He has blessed us. In love. In support. In acceptance. May you see His grace and beautiful plan in the most ordinary of moments and may you feel honored that He calls you His.

Quellhorst Family 
Sapphire Point, Colorado 2017 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Our Shero

A woman I have never met, and possibly will never meet carried my son in her body for 37 weeks. I remembered the nurses saying the words “37 weeks” because he was just a little bit small at birth. In the couple months that followed, lots of friends and family would ask if he was carried to term, and I would repeat the words “37 weeks” over and over. It stayed with me, those weeks I didn’t know him, wasn’t protecting him. In truth, I didn’t even know he was alive yet in those weeks. In those weeks, he was only hers.

When you’re a new a brand new adoptive mom, you think about your child’s birthmom every day, or at least I did. I would wonder if she was back to work, what she was telling her friends, how she was healing, what she was really feeling. I wondered if she doubted her choice. I wondered if she missed him. I thought about her body and the changes it must be going through. I prayed about her heart. I wished I could cover her face in kisses for choosing life, and hug her hard for also choosing me.

I know a little about her story, and although it’s not my story to tell, I will tell you she was brave in the way she went about protecting our son. So brave I often daydream about her dressed in full armor, weapon drawn, ready to fight the big fight. The big, hard, emotional, impossible fight of true love. The one where you only win by dying. The kind of fight you fight with the ultimate sacrifice in mind. I have no idea what she looks like, never saw a picture, my social worker told me what I already knew: she was so beautiful. I knew this because beauty radiates from people who are in love, and there’s only one way you can do the impossible- love.  37 weeks of true, deep, unconditional love.

You see, a woman I’ve never met carried my son for 37 weeks. And when he’s curious or confused about why she let him go, I will tell him it was out of bravery and love. I will tell him she is our hero. Better yet, our SHERO. I will paint the best possible picture of her I can and I will pray his heart will be OK, but if it isn’t, I will carry him through it. I will carry him on my hip, while he’s sleeping, on the good days, in the difficult times, when we celebrate, when he’s two, and three, and thirty-three. I will carry him for the rest of his life,  no matter how big he gets, this is not just a promise I have made to him, this is a promise I have made to her, and I am determined to make her proud.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Great, Big, Supernatural Love

Recently I've caught myself doing something I never thought I'd do. I did it in the checkout lane today at Homegoods and then later in the park near our house- I stare at people. Well, I stare at families with young children to be more clear. I stare at the way they interact with one another. I study their faces for clues on whether they're pleased or frustrated or tired. I watch them go about mundane tasks like grocery shopping or watch as they laugh and play together at the park. I'm fascinated with it all- the good, the bad, and the exhausted.

OK I admit, this might be a little weird, but here's the thing- since I became a mom it's like I have this  insatiable knowledge for all things parenthood. It turns out it's true what they say, I've never known love like the love I have for my son and because of that, I will never look at love the same way again, or my parents for that matter. I've realized the kind of selfless marathon commitment it takes to raise a human is nothing short of a phenomenon, and I'm fascinated in what keeps moms and dads rolling along this crazy ride and the only thing I've come up with is LOVE. Great, big, supernatural LOVE.

When I was in my early twenties I was dating a guy my parents did not approve of...to say the least. I mean this guy broke my heart again and again and again. Even so, as you do when you're in your twenties, I continued to let him break my heart until one late night a couple of years later it was enough, and with a very harsh (and a little scary) slam of a door in my face, that relationship was over. I did not go home to my lonely, little apartment. I did not go to a girlfriend's house to eat ice cream and vent. I drove straight to my mom and dad's house at 2:00am and knocked on their door. I had no idea what they would say, I just knew I needed them. I can vividly remember them both opening the door, both taking me into the living room, and both sitting down on the couch so I could lay in their laps and cry and cry. I also remember them both crying with me, the pain of their daughter in pain was too much for them not to. Never once did they say "I told you so." Never once did they pry. They just loved me and loved me until I was better. I'll never forget that. I'll never forget my father standing in the doorway of the room I was staying in and telling me "I've gone through what you're feeling and it's unlike any other pain, however, I wouldn't change a thing from my own horrible heartbreak in my youth because it means I can stand here and tell you YOU ARE GOING TO BE OK. If I made it through, you will make it through, too." To me, that was so profound- he wouldn't change a thing about his own painful heartbreak in his past, because he now knew it would benefit me. Big love.

I've been a Christ follower for 27 years and I've always loved the holiday season, but, because I now know what this bond, this attachment, this THING called parenthood feels like, I will never look at Christmas or Easter the same way again, either. It's now even harder to wrap my brain and heart around a God who loves us so much He sent His only son to be brutally beaten and killed so that we may have eternal life IF we want it. I don't know how God did it, I don't know how he let his baby boy go, but I do know if there was another way to save us, He would've taken it. It's with that knowledge I believe with every ounce of me He did it out of that unfailing parental love, and these days I have a newfound awe of His great sacrifice.

And yes, parenthood is HARD. I think that's another reason I stare at you young moms and dads in my town, I'm wondering if you're doing OK today. There are sleepless nights, not a lot of personal time or space, plans that don't go as planned, and lots of mess. The good news is- great, big, supernatural love doesn't feel like obligation, as least not to me. What it feels like to me is AN HONOR. I'm honored to share in all things parenthood: the good, the bad and the exhausted. And I'm honored to share it with all the parents out there, young and old. But most of all, I'm honored to be a "Whosoever," and I thank God every day not only for the gift of His son, but also for the gift of mine.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

All Along He Had Me

Today is special in a way. Today is a day that I get to sit back and see how God was always in control, how He always had my best interest at heart, and how He always had me firmly placed in His hands.

One year ago today I was almost certain God had finally answered our prayers and was blessing us with a baby- a baby girl. This "opportunity" wasn't though my agency, it was through an old high school friend. A young woman she knew in her home town (not far from where I live) was about to deliver any day. This young woman was not in a place where you can raise a child. She would be forced by the law to give the child up upon delivery, and, from what I understood, was happy to do so. In just days after the first contact with a family member, we received another call- the baby girl had been born. My husband and I were nervous but very excited. While we began talking about baby girl names and joking about all the pink that was coming our way, our adoption agency was busy trying to make contact with the family and processes the legal transactions quickly and painless...

and then...


Not a single word from the family for days, maybe a week, its hard now to remember how long, I just remember it felt like an eternity. I held onto hope praying in the meantime that God would keep that baby girl safe, wherever she was.

That brings me to today. Tonight the school I work for will have a celebration called Lessons and Carols. Its an annual Christmas concert for the students, their families, and the faculty. It was on this night one year ago, right after I came home from the concert, that I would received the news- the young woman's mother, the baby girl's grandmother, had decided to raise the child. My husband was out of town for work, so I sank, alone into a very sad place. I cried hard for hours until I finally feel asleep. I called into work the next day. I did not want to get out of bed. I did not understand. I DID NOT UNDERSTAND. I was so lost. I felt so forgotten by God.

Little did I know. Little did I see. He had me. All along He had me. At this time our baby boy, OUR BEAUTIFUL BABY BOY was just two months away from coming into this world. At this time his birthmother began the process of looking for a family for her unborn child. At this time she was caring for him in a way I would never be able, so that I could return the grace and with so much gratitude care for him in a way she couldn't. At this time LOVE was making us all a family.

At this time I was already a mother. 

So today I celebrate God's faithfulness. He promises to never leave us, He promises to give us the desires of our hearts, and He promises if His answer is no, that HE IS ENOUGH until we understand why. I know this to be true. It's true for me, and it's true for you. Praise Jesus.

How It All Measures Up

Six years ago, I had no idea how to adopt a child. Not only was I clueless, I had zero interest. The thought of adoption wasn’t even an...