So Loved

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I humbly accepted an invitation to write a guest post for the blog on So Loved this week! It’s an awesome site that features stories from mothers of various walks of life, with the sole purpose of encouraging others! It is a safe space for honesty, growth, and love. I was so honored to have been asked (thanks Rachael!) and hopefully God will use my words to bless you!

If you wish to view it and get a little update on life as a Murray, please click here!

Cheers!

Finalization Day

It’s Finalization Day!!! (think…Anna singing “Coronation Day” from Frozen) Yes, we are finallllly and officially Judson’s parents. It’s on the birth certificate, it’s on record at the social security office, and yes, why YES he will be another one of our beautiful exemptions on our tax return for next year. When the judge asked us to hold up our right hands and swear that the information provided in our adoption paperwork was true, an unexpected wave of emotion came over me. Tears couldn’t help but well up, and when he asked me to tell him why we wanted to adopt Judson, I couldn’t even speak. I motioned to Hayes for him to take the question and realized that he was having a hard time getting the words out too. The finality of that appointment hit us like a mack truck. A beautiful and glorifying mack truck. Together we got the words out and received a round of applause and lots of hugs from strangers in the office when it was over. It really IS over. And we had to share the news!

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It’s hard to believe Judd has been a part of our family for only four months, as we can barely remember life before he came along. It has been incredible to watch our new family dynamic unfold. He is so very sweet and happy, and has captured all of our hearts! Even Wes, who had a hard time at first sharing the attention, is ALWAYS looking for him when he’s not around (usually napping) it suddenly occurs to him that Judd is missing and walks around calling, Juuuuuuu-uuuuuuuud…(an octave higher) JUUUUUU-UUUUUUUUD…(a level louder) JUUUUUU-UUUUUDDDD…and hopefully one of us puts a stop to it before he really DOES find him and wakes him up!

Eden has taken the “big sister” role up to another level with her concern and affection for her little brothers. She is often on what she calls “Judd Duty” when he’s in his carseat, usually in that timespan when we’re on our way out the door but not actually out the door yet. Completely unprompted, she tucks in his blanket, rocks him, and sings “Jesus Loves Me”. My heart burst with pride when I saw her do it the for first time, God has really gifted her with a loving and caring spirit. Wes has actually started trying the same technique “I do Judd Duty too” and for some reason Judd just doesn’t seem to find his version as soothing as when Big Sister does it – it’s probably due to the force in which he thrusts the unwanted pacifier into his mouth and the violent, although well-intended, rocking followed by wet kisses and squeezes to his cheeks. Eden usually, and sometimes all TOO quickly intervenes and takes over. “Ugh. Noooo Westy. He likes it like THIS.” Annddddd let the squabbling begin. It’s moments like that when I want to squeeze my eyes shut, wishing I could control the way that they love him – she’s too bossy, he’s too harsh, they’re too germy – but I’ve been stopping myself lately and have been keeping my eyes wide open, taking it all in, because this time is precious. And I can’t even get mad at them, because well, Eden’s right, and Wes is learning, and Judd is fiiiiiiine (and it gives me an extra 30 seconds to slap on some mascara and pour the rest of my old, yet effective coffee in my to-go mug). When I think back on our adoption journey and the doubts and the anxiety about how we were going to ruin our family and take time away from Eden and Wes, and run our too-small house into disarray, all I have to do is open my eyes. Let go of the control, and let God bless me. Judson has been SUCH a gift to our family, and has enriched my children’s lives forever. And now that I think of it, I kind of heart Judd Duty.

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He has dimples. He has green eyes. He has little rolls of chub on his arms and legs, and the most delicious smell. And it’s getting better. He’s making eye contact, followed by an explosion of laughter and the most joyful expression like “Oh heyyyyy! I haven’t seen you in awhile!” when it’s actually only been five seconds. He laughs – and not just baby giggles and occasionally – he laughs from deep within his belly. He has been blessed with better social skills than most adults you know.

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Along with his happy spirit, and contagious smile, usually comes a suspicious look from a stranger. God has been using this little bundle of good looks and humor to share the love of God with more people than I ever have in my life. You can just imagine the people that approach me, in all sorts of places,  from all walks of life who want to meet Judd and understand how he came to be surrounded by these loving, and energizing pale-faced, over-bearing children. “He’s their brother.” WHAT? HOW? “We adopted him.” WHY? (I mean…) “Because God has blessed us, and with that blessing comes a responsibility, and God called us to adopt him because afterall, He first loved us. Oh and isn’t he CUTE?!?

I find it hard not to ask people that constantly when they meet him for the first time. “Is he NOT the cutest baby you have ever seen?!?” I feel like I can get away with it in a way that I could NEVER with my other children because biologically, I was somewhat responsible for their appearance. But with Judd, I have NO bragging rights, only the right to admire, and to find other admirers  (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it)! I tell people how amazing and beautiful his birth mother is, and what a privilege it has been to raise him.

I know that many of you are wondering how my NBFF is doing. Please continue pray for her, because honestly I don’t really know how she’s doing. I’m thrilled that she continues to contact me monthly to check in and asks to “give Judd a kiss for me” I respond in obedience “I just did!” or “of course I will!” followed by pictures, an update, and some questions about her life and if we can pray for her about anything. I haven’t received any responses, and that is just fine. I’m not pushing it, and I know that God is using our prayers and the few words we do get to communicate with her. I’m so glad we could be there for her in her tough time of need, and am still so over-whelmed with gratitude that we have the privilege of raising Judson. She takes top prize in my book of people in this world.

Judson has changed our lives forever and not just in the obvious ways that most children change their parent’s lives, but our faith has grown in a way that would have never been possible without this journey to adopt him. God has been showing off His power, His sovereignty, and His love in ways that never could have been comprehended had we not been brave enough to answer this call for our lives. I’m so thankful that Hayes and I took this step. It was scary, it was heart-wrenching, but it was also God’s way of showing His mercy on us. In our weakness, He is stronger. Our lives are different because of Judd, but they should be ALL that MORE different because of the work that Jesus is doing in our lives and hearts each and every day. I want to always remember that, and never get familiar with the love that God has bestowed upon us.

I challenge you to do the same. Pray. Ask God to reveal to you His call for your life, and pray that He gives you the strength to answer it. I remember giving my life to Jesus so long ago, and throughout our relationship, I have told Him that if He wanted me to go to a third world country on the mission field (please God no) that I would, and if He wanted me to never get married (please God no) I wouldn’t, and if He wanted me to adopt (please God no) that I would. He never revealed that last request to me…until He did, two years ago, and the good that is coming from that will no doubt, linger on for generations to come. What kind of things are you keeping from God? Don’t limit His potential for your life and miss out on the blessings!

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Judson Antonio Le-Sean Murray. He’s a stunner. I pray that he uses his incredible charm and good looks for more than his own selfish desires and that someday he gives his life to the One that spared it. That someday he will have that conversation with God and give Him his life, and that when God reveals His call for him, he answers it without the hesitation that his mother did at first, but with the confidence and boldness of a man determined to please a living and loving God.

Again, thank you for your support and reading on about our journey. I wasn’t sure when the next post would be, or even if we would have another one, but God has continued to show off His faithfulness and has a way of inspiring His words on a page.

“Be strong and courageous. Don’t be fearful or discouraged, because the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. ” Joshua 1:9

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In His Unfailing Love,

The (very official) Murray Family,

Hayes, Kara, Eden, Weston and Judson

Worth It

It is our last night in this magical place. Big kids asleep, sun setting, wine in hand, perfect tiny baby snuggled in my lap while watching Hayes cast the last of his fishing line into the warm Atlantic. God saw this moment two years ago when I was awakened with that burden to adopt on my heart. He saw it when He nudged us along in our journey of faith, reminding us that it is always worth it when we trust in Him. Tears can’t help but flow. Oh, how He loves us so.

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Tomorrow we fly back to reality. New baby. New challenges. This has been quite the adventure. I am thankful for the miracle of life, and for God’s perfect provision. Dear God, help us never to forget this feeling of being in Your will. Help us to continue to put Your desires for us ahead of our own, and to remember that we will never be forsaken when we trust in Your promises. This. THIS. This was so worth it.

Perfectly God’s Child

Well Folks, we made it.

The countdown to adoption ended last night at 4:22 pm. It was awful and intense, grueling and painful. We will never be the same.  Baby Judson, what Eden and Wes call him (they met him today!) has changed the way we think about this world and the small and privileged bubble that we live in.

We know now that Judd was meant to be a part of our family always. God, in all of His omnipotence and sovereignty made perfectly constructed plans. We are so thankful that we listened to His still small voice to begin this terribly painful, emotionally paralyzing, and yet unbelievably rewarding process. Baby Judd is perfectly Eden and Westy’s little brother. He is perfectly Auston, Bella, Tessa, and Ava’s littlest cousin. He is perfectly Tony and Linda, John and Barb’s newest grandchild. He is perfectly GG’s fourteenth great-grandchild. He is perfectly Mike, Erica, Pete, Alli, Doug, Davis and Ariel’s most promising NBA-bound nephew (sorry Ston). And he is perfectly (insert your child’s name)’s sweet little buddy. But most importantly, Baby Judd is perfectly God’s child and we can’t WAIT to see what He has in store for him, because we know how much He wanted this for his life.

I told my NBFF about God and the plans I know He has for Judd. She is already moving on with her 18-year-old life, with her school work (she had a final today – I’m telling you she is incredible) her weekend plans to Busch Gardens, and giving her long-distance boyfriend the silent treatment. Think about all of the ways God constructed this adoption, matched us together, provided His supernatural peace, and provided thousands of dollars. All for one little baby Judd. And now think about all the ways God constructed YOU and YOUR life, and how He matched you with your situation/job/relationship, and provided for your needs. It’s an incredibly powerful and humbling thing to think about.  If God cares so much about Judd and constructed a plan to place him so perfectly into our family, doesn’t that make you wonder how much God must care about you too? It’s mind-blowing the love that He has for this world. He loves us so much.

My NBFF called last night an hour after we left the hospital: “Yup, he’s still eating, sleeping, and pooping.” She laughed at my technical and obvious report, but I didn’t want her to feel that way – it was important for her to feel the freedom to ask. No biology final or boyfriend drama is going to keep her from healing. And then today:  “Yup, he survived his first road trip, and met his sister and brother” and I sent her pictures of their first interactions that made us both cry (we are getting good at that – mutual crying).

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The First Meeting of the Siblings: Wes is pointing to Judd’s pacifier shouting “Oh noooo! He’s cryin’!”

I’m not sure how much longer she will call every day, or maybe she will take it down a notch to a text message, or an email. But if it helps her heal and if it helps her move on and feel better, I will be waiting and willing to report. She loves that boy, there is NO doubt about it. And someday, I hope when she asks, I will be able to tell her: “Yup, today Judd invited Jesus into his heart and decided to follow in His ways of love, peace, and kindness.” And maybe, JUST MAYBE that would be enough to change her heart too.

And 24-hours later, Judson Antonio La-Sean already fits – he’s got loads of friends, and a loving family, and to be honest, we already forgot what life was like without him, and we will be forever thankful.

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Thank you for following along on this journey. I am sure we will continue to update you as things come up. My hope is that God was glorified through it all, and that maybe through our openness and candor more people will understand the process of an open adoption and feel the confidence to  support others going through it like many of you did for us, or even answer that call to adopt for their own family. There is such a need, and it’s expensive and hard, oh MAN is it hard, but the good FAR outweighs the bad and that’s coming from me – fresh off the worst day of my life and on the brink of another year of no sleep. The redeeming power of Christ’s love is incredible.

“Now to him who is able to do far abundantly more than all that we can ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21

We will be hiding out in the beautiful state of Florida while we wait for our state approvals to go through (it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it). We can’t wait for you guys to meet our beautiful boy, and will be sure to invite you over or stop by to introduce you when we get back at the end of next week.

With Much Love,

The Murray Five

Hayes, Kara, Eden, Westy, and Baby Judd

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Counting the Hours

We woke up this morning feeling so tired. Not tired in the usual way parents of a newborn feel. Baby Judd did not stay with us in our room last night. He probably won’t stay with us tonight either. We are emotionally tired because this beautiful and precious birth is so very complicated and bittersweet. Last night was a night we will never forget. Our NBFF is one of the most brave people we will ever know.

Her labor was progressing so slowly throughout the day, that around 7:00 we thought we should run out to regroup and grab some dinner because we thought it was going to be another long night of waiting. While ordering food for her mom, she called, “How close are you? It’s happening.” We got back just in time, Judd was born at 7:44. When we ran in, she was hoping we were the doctor, disappointed and almost naked she yelled “WHERE IS HE?!?” and she raised up her right hand like a high-five and said “You! (to me) Momma, you hold this hand, and You! (to Hayes) Dad, you hold this hand.” (gesturing to her other hand). Once we were in our places, obedient to her every wish and desire she looked up at Hayes and said, “WHERE is the doctor? I’m tellin’ you…when he gets here I’m gonna KILL him.” Hayes and I glanced back and forth at each other, my eyes laughing and apologizing to him for the graphic scene before him (the poor guy was staring at the back wall for most of the time) and his eyes back at me in awe of this woman – her boldness and tenacity, and clear head (and humor!) in the midst of the chaos and pain.

The doctor arrived, she yelled at him, he yelled back in good fun…something about traffic, she pushed three times, and Judd was out. It was the most glorious and amazing moment. He was a bit bruised because the cord was wrapped around his neck. His apgar was a 7 when he was first born, an hour later he was a 9. Praise be to God for this unfailing gift.

Since then we have spent our time loving on them. I didn’t leave my NBFF’s side for a long time after the delivery. Hayes followed Judd wherever he went, but something kept me glued to her side, squeezing each other’s  hands as she delivered the placenta, and got clean and warm, shaking under her new blankets. I told her that she was amazing. I told her that she was brave. I told her that he was perfect.

She held him first, he was able to nurse for a little while. It didn’t bother me one bit. He was beautiful and was doing the thing that was best for him. She was loving him and doing what she could in the time that she could do it. Then her mom held him, we took pictures and laughed at his little nose and dimples. Her mom handed him over to me and took the same pictures and then I passed him on to Hayes, who hogged him for a little while. There was so much love in the room. I looked around feeling so privileged to be in their company. This little boy is so loved.

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Hayes the very proud father and baby hog

His grandmother looked at me and asked us what we thought about middle names. I told her about my father and the amazing man that he is, and our plan to name Judson after him, but took the cue to ask her why. She was wondering if we could add the name La-Sean, as it is a family name of theirs. Our NBFF’s middle name is actually La-Shea. “Of course.” I said. OF COURSE.

We fed him a bottle, he took it like a champ, and we said goodnight. I know he wasn’t put down for one single moment that night. They are cherishing these hours. They are counting them down until they are discharged. They don’t want to leave him. They don’t want to say goodbye. We are also counting down the hours. We can’t WAIT to be discharged. We can’t WAIT to have him all to ourselves. It’s bittersweet. It’s painful. It’s impossibly hard.

Yes, we are tired. Mostly because we are fighting our natural instincts to scoop him up, unwrap him, take off his clothes, and breathe in his little smells. But that time will come. We have a lifetime of breathing in his smells, and for now we need to respect their time. They will remember it always, it will help with their healing and grief, and hopefully bring to mind God’s loving hand in their lives.

The clock is ticking and we are thankful.

“Adopted” the Baby Brother

No baby yet! She is dilating, having contractions 1-2 minutes apart – she is one brave girl, my NBFF. Things are going slowly but smoothly. The doctor is coming to break her water soon, and hopefully after that the baby will come quickly! We will keep you posted. Thank you for the prayers and texts and emails. One funny story happened while we were face-timing with the kids, we asked Wes what we should name his new baby brother, and he answered (arms out matter-of-factly) “Adopted”. Duh, Mom.

Sharing His Life

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Obligatory airplane selfie

We arrived in Tallahassee this afternoon and met our NBFF and her mom. They are both beautiful clones of one another with big bright smiles. We weren’t sure what to expect, as we arrived after our social worker’s scheduled hours so we didn’t have her there as a buffer BUT I had a gift with me (because that is what all good gift-givers do!) so we felt a liiiiiitle bit more confident walking in holding something. She was induced five hours before we got there, but we weren’t sure how far along she had progressed, sometimes these things can go quickly, or it may take some time. Of course we didn’t want to announce our arrival while she was in active labor: “Hi, it’s nice to finally meet you, thanks for pushing out our baby.”  We also wanted to be sensitive to her as I’m sure she wasn’t feeling well, and probably wanted to give us a good first impression (as we did for her!) and so…we knocked quietly, walked in carefully and announced ourselves humbly. Once her mom realized it was us, she jumped out of her chair and hugged us both: “We are SOOOO excited to see you!”

Phew. Our NBFF was still in the beginning stages of her induction and we were fortunate enough to not only meet them under normal, although carefully monitored circumstances,  but we were also able to spend time with them and got to know more about our baby boy’s birth family and history.

I have to admit, it has been difficult listening to all of the details and complexities of their lives and the road that has led them to this decision to give up this child for adoption. Of course it’s a tragedy, when would it ever not be? They spoke very openly and honestly about their hopes and dreams for him, mostly things that they could not give him, and we told them about our mutual plans to follow through. After we left to grab some dinner, our birth mom’s mother pulled me aside and whispered how much more comfortable she felt with the process, especially now after meeting us face-to-face, and how she thinks they will decide to continue on with our relationship after the birth with an open adoption.

YES. That has been our prayer all along, that we would be able to share our lives with another family through an open adoption. But they were always very skeptical and I can’t blame them. We were relatively strangers before today. She explained that she doesn’t want to say “goodbye” to the baby once he is discharged, she wants to say “see you later” knowing that we are committed to sending them pictures, and updating them throughout his life.  I thanked her and explained what an honor and privilege it would be to share his life with them. There have been many tears shed already, and the baby isn’t even born yet!

Right now we are resting in our room right next to theirs in the hospital. The day did not end the way I thought it would, with our baby in our arms, but I am thankful. Thankful to have been able to spend that time with them, and help them begin the healing process. I think this time will also help me be a better mom to our adopted boy. Tomorrow is another day, and is probably THE day. It’s bittersweet. Of course we are elated and over-joyed at the prospect of adding to our family, but it comes at such a price, and is such a loss for them.

Thank you for praying for us, for our NBFF, for our baby. Please continue to pray for every detail, that the Holy Spirit would continue to give us the right words at the right time, and to show them the love and kindness that Jesus would.

Goodnight!

Stopping to Smell the Daffodils

Hi Sweets Friends!

Our baby’s birthday is not today. Our birth mom’s doctor decided to reschedule her induction for either Thursday night or Friday morning. Either way, Hayes and I will most likely be flying out on Friday morning.

Thanks for the texts and emails, prayers and thoughts today. Keep them coming a little while longer!

Meanwhile, we are stopping to smell the daffodils (or for our yard, just one daffodil) and enjoying the next two days of gorgeous weather with our little family of four.

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With Love,

The Murrays

The Length and Width, Height and Depth

The end is in sight! I talked to my NBFF’s mom last night, and she told me if the baby doesn’t come on his own by the 15th (this Wednesday! THIS Wednesday!) they will induce her. I mean, by this time next week we could be fully submerged in the sweet and sleepless newborn stupor – you moms know the one – when you never know what day it is, when 5 am feels like 11am, and when you watch an entire season of Friends on Netflix in one day. The anticipation is mounting and it’s almost too much to take. Almost.

Meanwhile, I want to share a few of my favorite moments that have happened this week:

imageWe received some fun gifts  to help us prepare for and celebrate our growing family. These are a few of my favs (some of which made me cry! Do you see the onsie that says “LOVED” across the chest? I. CAN’T. EVEN.) Thank you, sweet friends! Our little guy is going to be stylin’ in the cutest (and most meaningful) wear!

imageAnd then this letter came in the mail. I don’t have to say much about it because the note alone speaks volumes. It makes me think about the length and width, height and depth of God’s love for us (and you!) and our little boy. And because I can’t mail a handwritten  personal response, Oh Anonymous and Lovely Sibling in Christ, here it is: THANK YOU for your generous gift and for taking the time to encourage us.  It worked. You blessed our socks off. Completely off. I mean, I can see my newly painted toes. THAT’S how sock-less my feet are because of your thoughtfulness. Thank you for listening to The Lord’s leading and for being faithful to put a stamp on that envelope. I know that kind of thing can take courage because of the vulnerability you may feel. You are a part of our story now. We will use your donation for diapers (oh yes!) and formula.

And finally, THIS scene. Warms my heart.

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Teacher Eden reading her favorite book to her students, Weston and (creepy) Spider-man. “A Mother for Choco” is a book about Mrs. Bear who adopts Choco, a bird who doesn’t have a mommy, and even though they don’t look alike, she takes care of him along with his other siblings. They hug and kiss him and eat pie together – such a sweet story with a relatable message. It has been perfect for my sweet kiddos as they embark on this journey that can be hard for their little minds to understand. If you are adopting, or just want to introduce your kids to the concept of taking care of others who may look different or act differently from you, this is an amazing read. We highly recommend it, although Wes has asked several times if his “adopted baby bruffer” would have “feet and wings like Choco”. Nottttt exactly.

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As always thank you for caring enough to read our updates. We will continue to post as we know more and as Wednesday draws closer. We covet your prayers now more than ever as my NBFF is nearing the end of her pregnancy and I’m sure is feeling all kinds of emotions that most of us will never be able to grasp or relate to. Pray for the Holy Spirit’s super-natural peace for her decision – whatever it may be – and that He would continue to use us for His glory and greater kingdom. He is good, this we know. We are blessed immeasurably by our incredible and vast support system – I pray for that for her too. That she would come to know the length and width, height and depth of God’s love for her and that she would find a christian friend and maybe even a church or bible study to encourage her. I know it’s a lot to ask, but God is able to do “far more abundantly than we can ask or think according to the power at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Ephesians 3:20-21.