14 Life-Changing Lessons from 2014

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As a year-end practice, I was reflecting on all I’ve learned from the year.  I downright failed on my goals I set out for the year, but instead learned many emotional and spiritual lessons. Many platitudes I knew, but this year I learned.  It’s the difference between knowing the stove burner is hot and learning how hot by touching it.

Although lessons are best learned by experience, value is added by learning from example too. So, in honor of 2014, I’m sharing the top 14 lessons I learned.

Waiting is a chance to show the most faith

Clearly, this is the year that the wait of our adoption ended. Huge. I knew while waiting that faith was important–to cling to His promises before they  happened. But, seeing it all come to fruition this year was just amazing. I saw God really come through on what He said He would.  And it made me want to wait well in all things, small or big.  How much more faith does it take to say I believe God WILL come through for me than to see God DID come through for me? I want to live that kind of faith the rest of my life–knowing God will come through before he does and waiting well.

God is working all things together even when it doesn’t seem like it

Just to further the last lesson, I’ve learned just how much God is working even when it doesn’t seem like it.  If I trace back what it took for us to adopt Jac0b and all the dates and all the desires, this was years and years in the making. Maybe generations, who knows.  I’ve also seen it in my sister’s life with her marriage this year. God is working all things–ALL THINGS–together even when it doesn’t feel like it during the wait. I’ve learned to see even the bad things as opportunities for God to weave it into my story. What joy we can have in adversity when we learn this.

God is our comfort

I have learned this year more than any other what it feels like to need comfort and then to receive it. Truth be told, I haven’t gone through a lot of high-stress times in my life. 2014 was my year of stress and I figured out that God really did comfort me and in amazing ways. Going forward, I hope to attack stressful times with more courage knowing I have God to comfort me.

God still shows up in miraculous ways

Finding feathers this year was nothing short of miraculous to me.  If I ever doubted it before, I will not again that God can show up in unique, miraculous ways.

Boundaries are essential to a healthy emotional life

I learned about emotional boundaries this year. I learned how to say no, carry my own weight and stand up for myself when needed. Maybe I’m still learning how to do, but I did learn they’re essential and this will downright revolutionize all your relationships–even if it’s just the mental gymnastics you go through.

Negative feelings should not be feared

For as long as I can remember, I’ve stuffed negative emotions, not willing to feel pain or cause someone else pain. It led to terrible perfectionistic qualities and a lack of joy. This year I learned negative feelings are not something to fear.

Counseling is hard, but revolutionary

I only ended up at one counseling session this year, but even that one changed so many things for me. I have plans to go to more in 2015, but it only took one this year to truly see how revolutionary it can be.

Logic and reason can be bondage

I’ve always taken my logic and reasoning skills as a positive, but I also learned it can lead to worry and indecision, stealing your joy and trapping you in cyclical thought-bondage. God gave us logic and reasoning skills as a gift, but as with anything, relying too much on it is not good.

We have control over negative thinking

First and foremost, I learned that God can free us from a negative mindset.  But I also learned I can stop negative thinking by bossing my brain around. I do not have to meditate on negative thoughts.

Love is a choice, not a feeling

This year more than ever I learned that love is an action and a choice and not a feeling. We love our way into feelings, not the other way around.

Trust is earned, and not quickly

Our adoption has taught me so much about trust. I’ve been so lucky to have so many wonderful relationships in my life and have had very few relationships where trust was missing and then built again. I’ve learned this year trust is built in a bunch of small moments, perhaps a few big ones and it is not to be rushed. Going forward, I want to be trustworthy in the small and large things and know it will pay dividends, even if it’s in the long-run.

Stress can either do you in or lift you up

I saw first-hand the bad effects of stress this year. My hair fell out, my gums were inflamed, I had skin rashes, heartburn and weight gain. A lifetime of stress can kill you. I didn’t handle all the stress this year well all the time, but I did learn how to go to God with my issues daily. His comfort is downright necessary. In the stress, I found God and He carried me through.

Grief is a friend, and ignored, becomes an enemy

I had to grieve so many things this year–our old family, Jac0b’s old family, loss, Emma leaving elementary school, our kids changing schools, personal losses. But what I learned is grief is a gift if we let it be. It’s necessary to our emotional health and we have to let ourselves walk through the grief so we don’t get stuck.

Life moves fast and you can’t prepare

At the beginning of 2014 I made all sorts of goals with the knowledge that this year could be life-changing. It was in so many ways I expected, but then in others I did not at all.  A wreck, a phone call, a meeting–life changes quickly and there’s rarely any way to prepare.  And yet, here I am at the end so much for better for both the good and the bad. We may not be able to prepare but we can prosper.

I’m going into 2015 hopeful and encouraged that God is at work, He is with us through it all and no matter what surprises 2015 brings, He has used 2014 to equip me and will continue to do the same.

 

Christmas Recap 2014

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I woke up the day after Christmas and said, “It’s over.” All the decorating, partying, traveling, shopping, eating, visiting is over for the year. And as much as I love the Christmas season, I’m always happy for it to go too.

Our first Christmas as a family of 5 really could not have gone better. We traveled to see my extended family in and around Maryland the weekend before Christmas. It was a very, very long ride that I was tense about. Three kids for 9 hours, two of which like to argue? Yeah, I was a little nervous. But they totally blew me away. Jac0b traveled really, really well and was always up for whatever we were doing or whomever’s house we were going to next. He amazes me how resilient he is. So many changes and new people and he just goes along with us. It doesn’t pass my attention that transition and new environments and people could be a huge issue for some. So thankful we don’t have that in the mix. The kids had their moments, you know, but our trip went really well.

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Back at home, we had a wonderful Christmas morning together. He went straight for the biggest presents and was truly ecstatic by a few. His reactions were so much fun. I especially think he loved his new soccer goal for the backyard. The girls, too. Emma’s favorite was her karaoke machine and Lexi loves her new tablet. Their faces and reactions are my favorite part of Christmas.

I wasn’t sure how to handle his birth family for the holiday but I decided to let him lead. If he had questions or brought them up, we’d talk about it or pray for them or whatever seemed right but it never came up.

In fact, the last few weeks since our finalization have truly seemed to settle everyone out. It helps that we’ve been together full-time since then. The stability has been good.

I’m very happy to welcome the new year this week. As much as 2014 has blessed us, it also has been very hard. I feel like right now is such a good time to make a clean cut and start 2015 strong and stable as a new family.

I’m enjoying another few days off from work before I really get into this swing of things again. I’ll be back here this week with some lessons I’m carrying over from the year, perhaps my favorite books and perhaps my goals for the year.

I hope your Christmas was fantastic. Would love to hear your favorite present or moment! My favorite is Lexi opening a horn for her bike and yelling, “I got a honker!!”

Merry Christmas 2014

A very Merry Christmas from the Bennetts. We are so thankful for our “Christmas gift” this year, but ultimately, thankful for our Lord Jesus Christ and celebrate his birth.  How blessed we are.

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The Court Date

We are headed off to Chuck E. Cheese in just a minute but I wanted to share the good news with those without Facebook that everything is done–he’s officially a Bennett!

I have more to share later (update below) and I’ll update this post, but celebration first!

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Some reflection 12 hours later:

Amy J. Bennett

I was a wreck this morning before court. Mostly, I was nervous about speaking on the stand. I understood that it was in a small room, it was very casual and the only people in there would be my family, DSS case workers and the necessary court people, but still, something about speaking publicly and on record about a topic so close to my heart made me nauseous.

And certainly, I was nervous the necessary paperwork wouldn’t come together.  We had pushed for a date before Christmas so I knew everyone was scrambling. I got phone calls throughout the week that things were behind or dates were on record in error.

Also, in the far-reaching corners of my mind, I had visions of his extended birth family showing up to protest. It’s nearly impossible as it’s a closed adoption, but still. You know how your brain can do that to you sometimes.

And then, in the first 10 minutes of court, my nervousness seemed justified.  The judge had 3 items that weren’t right.  First, a document was missing.  My heart sank. Immediately, I was making plans in my mind on how to deal with having to extend the hearing. Our case worker jumped in and the piece of paper came through.

Then another document was missing. The judge said it wasn’t with his papers. The attorney, baffled, searched through his paperwork to no avail.  He turned to the DSS workers who had nothing.  The attorney finally had to ask for the case to be kept open until the piece of paperwork could be supplied. The attorney explained he’d never not had a document before.

Then, some dates had been messed up. Thankfully, the judge accepted the documentation with the explanations provided

I was sweating through the whole thing. I knew the paperwork didn’t feel right this week. I’m so thankful for an attorney that thought quick on his feet and a merciful judge.

Finally, he said everything was together, even though it took a few painful minutes to get there. I think we were all holding our breath.

And then, seconds later he called me to the stand.  Let me tell you, that was not a good moment to call me to the stand.

He asked for pertinent information first, which I was expecting, except suddenly I felt like my brain had been wiped clean.  I had to search it really hard to be able to state my full name, birthday and location. I’ve never experienced something so nerve-wracking that such basic information was difficult to recall.

And then, he asked me to introduce my entire family to everyone—something they had not prepped me for!  I was crying by the time I got around to everyone, so overwhelmed at all the support, which made everyone else cry. I hadn’t planned on crying, but there the bailiff was handing me tissues!

Next he asked me to describe my relationship with Jac0b for the last few months. What? Another question I had not been prepped for! I really don’t remember if I made any sense. I think I said something about praying for him for several years, being excited for him to be placed and seeing him as a son from the get-go and looking forward to the future.

I had to then answer a bunch of yes/no questions about whether I truly understand what adoption meant—yes, sir I did.

And finally, when the attorney was done, I sighed some relief and then the judge said he had a question. What?! I was not prepared for that either!

He said, “If I grant this adoption decree today, would this be the best Christmas present ever?”

YES, SIR.

I was able to get off the stand and Scott got on.  The attorney basically just asked him if he’d heard and agreed with everything I’d just said! Lucky dog got off easy!  Scott is in court all the time for his job though, so he wasn’t nervous even a little bit anyway.

The guardian ad litem from DSS also testified and it was so sweet what she said.  She said something like  I’ve done a lot of cases over the years, but there’s something special about this one. I talked with Scott and Amy and then with Jac0b. He understands what a mom and dad means and he sees Scott and Amy as his mom and dad and it is my heartfelt recommendation that you grant this adoption.

What wonderful words to hear!

The judge said he agreed and had in fact already signed the decree during my testimony.

How much I loved hearing him say that no one or nothing could undo what was being done today and that from here on out, he was J@cob Bennett.

We were all smiles and maybe a few more tears as we took pictures and awaited the final paperwork.  And, as it turned out, that one piece of missing paperwork was at the clerk of court so everything was there after all and done, done today.

Jac0b didn’t show too much emotion except when Scott called him Mr. Bennett as we walked out of court and I saw a little smile escape.

I think we’ve all been feeling the relief though as we’ve all had a really good day all day.  We enjoyed (as much as a parent can) lunch and a few hours at Chuck E. Cheese.

I took the dog for a walk when we got home. The day was beautiful and I wondered if I might see any feathers. I didn’t and as I walked, I just had this sense that I didn’t need to see one.  I felt like I had walked through a fire, if you will, and now a different person had emerged. I had received the comfort that I needed and learned what it really meant to need that and receive it. I imagined it much like the end of the movie with the shot after the storm. The sun has come out and everyone is hugging each other tight and seeing hope for tomorrow. The credits rolls and everyone moves on.

Even though it has been only hours, it does feel different.  There’s a peace in my mind that wasn’t there before. When I begin to worry, I can now think no one can do anything now! It’s a very reassuring thought when familiar doubts try to come my way.

I know this feels much like the end of a journey as things are finalized, but the reality is this is just the beginning. I can’t wait to see what God has in store.

 

Three Days and Counting

I know many of us are counting down to Christmas. Ten days to go! But in our household, another countdown has been ticking. Three days left now until our court date.

I think a lot of people celebrate “gotcha day”–the day the child comes to live with them and the court date is just a footnote. And hear me, August 7th will be well-celebrated and cherished for the rest of our lives. But, for some reason we’ve all been holding our breath for our court date when the adoption is final and he gets our last name. Maybe because Jac0b put so much stock in it. Or maybe because we were still having visits from DSS and it all felt a little like a trial period–is this all going to work or fall apart?

Four months in now, as we stare down this day, it’s starting to become real. I liken it to getting engaged. You know it’s all going to happen, you love that person and every plan that can be made for forever is being made, but until you say “I do” and that pesky question about whether someone wants to stop the whole thing is met with silence, it doesn’t feel done.

And that’s what I hope this Thursday brings–the security of knowing DSS is out of the picture (sorry, DSS, we do appreciate you), documents are filed away, new documents are created, last names are changed, and the sense that finally everyone is in 110%–legally–just like we have been this whole time.

I’m praying for Jac0b–and I hope you do too–that God gives him just what he needs this week. It’s hard to say what that might be. Maybe an acceptance of leaving his old name, maybe just an extra dose of security and peace, maybe some love for us and hopefully a lot of joy–a whole lot of joy. I know he has some angst about leaving his old name as excited as he is about his new one. I can’t imagine what’s going through his head. Even as an adult, it’s so much to comprehend. I guess most of all I just want him to feel that he’s loved and accepted and that his future is full of hope and redemption.

Would you also pray for my girls? They have been such troopers these last months. Change is hard for any kid, but this is at the top of the “Hard Things Kids Might Go Through” list. They’ve experienced all sorts of emotions and continue to and my prayer for them is simply that love, compassion and acceptance overwhelm them. And yes, some joy too, please.

Some prayers for me and Scott as we continue to navigate this new family of ours wouldn’t hurt either.

Thank you, friends, for being on this journey with us. I feel so much like you are an extension of our family and your support means the world.