Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Grace Theadora Rose: our second adoption! (the details)

So BIG NEWS - we adopted again!!! Our little girl turned one month old yesterday and we adults are sleep-deprived so this will be a bit of a brain dump to record on our blog how Gracie came into our lives!

Fri-Sat Sept 27-29
Dan and I had planned a long weekend away for a while. His mom was visiting so we took the opportunity to head down to Virginia (by the bay) for a getaway. We stayed in a house that belongs to one of Dan's former coworkers. It was gorgeous - dated back to the 1800's, super classy, felt like getting to sleep in a historic home, steps away from a peaceful inlet of water. So perfect. We had such a nice relaxing weekend the two of us, enjoying some leisurely meals, walks by the bay, antique shopping (only I cared!), etc. Just what we needed. (Even more than we realized at the time!)

Ironically, we spent some time talking/complaining about how long it was taking to adopt again. Little did we know that on....

Mon Sept 30
We would get an email in the afternoon from our home study agency saying that there was a baby girl in the hospital who they thought we'd be a great fit for. (!!!) We got some basic info and had a three-way call with the social worker handling the case, to ask more questions and such. It was definitely head-spinning, processing all this info on the fly, and apart until Dan got home from work. By that point we had already decided to say yes, and then around 6 the social worker called to say she had spoken with the baby's mom who agreed to move forward with us. (!!!)

So we went downstairs, sat down to dinner, and calmly informed Dan's mom and Zelie that we are adopting again! Cue tears! Amazing, Dan's mom had been set to leave the very next day but was able to extend her visit, which was so helpful because on...

Tues Oct 1
We drove an hour to the hospital (in Virginia) in the afternoon to meet with the social worker and then with the baby. FYI: Grace's birthmother has opted for a closed adoption after counseling, meaning that we don't know who she is, we didn't meet her, and we're not in contact. That may change over time - we are hoping it will, because we know how valuable it is for children to have information about their family of origin and for both birthparents and children to have some kind of ongoing contact. But who knows what will happen.

Anyway - we got debriefed by Sami the social worker, then went in the NICU, scrubbed our hands for three minutes (a ritual we got used to soon), and met Grace!

Sidenote: we chose her name between Monday afternoon and Tuesday afternoon! We had some names in general we liked, but nothing "picked out" in the absence of a specific child. We basically typed up a two-page list of name possibilities and combinations, then went through circling or striking out ones we liked or didn't. Literally on the way to the hospital we settled on her full name.

Grace Theadora Rose

Grace: we loved how that sounding, and the meaning of grace, gift and favor
Theadora: she was born on the feast of St. Matthew (Sept 21), whose name in Hebrew means "gift of God" - Theadora also means "gift of God" in Greek; it's also a connection with Sr. Thea Bowman, an African-American Catholic leader who is in the canonization process
Rose: we met Grace on the feast of St. Therese (Oct 1), and her "sign" is roses; this is also a connection with Zelie, who has Rose in her middle name too

Back to the hospital...Grace was resting in her clear plastic baby bed in a private room, dim behind a curtain. "Surreal" doesn't begin to describe the moment - yesterday we hadn't even known about her existence, and here we were with this new little baby. And she was SO cute and tiny and cuddly!! We stayed for the rest of that evening before driving home.

FYI: At 5 p.m. that evening Grace's birthmother's consent became irrevocable. It had been signed right after Grace was born (before we even knew about her).

Weds Oct 2
Zelie got to meet her baby sister today! As soon as she walked in the room, she asked to hold the baby. #heartmelt So we got her positioned with the boppy on her lap and she held Grace for a while, trying really hard to get the pacifier in her mouth. It was so precious, seeing our TWO girls together and interacting for the first time. Then Zelie got bored of holding the baby and wanted to put her in the bouncer (mamaroo) that was in the room. Then she wanted to touch all the wires and push the rolling bassinet and rock on the rocking chair really hard annnnnnd it was time to go ;)

We also signed all of the placement paperwork with Sami, there at the hospital, so we'd be able to leave with Grace when she got discharged. And Sami started the ICPC paperwork that would allow us to take Grace home to Maryland.

Dan's mom stayed with Grace so Dan and I could take Zelie out to eat (a yummy burger place) and to play. There was this pretty swanky shopping center a few minutes away from the hospital that had one of those water fountain play areas for kids. It was HOT today - 90's - so Zelie had a blast running around in the water and getting totally soaked.

Thurs Oct 3 - Weds Oct 9
Grace's time in the NICU. Honestly, it wasn't all that bad!

Pros: very little to do other than rock Grace, so lots and lots of time for bonding and holding and being together. The nurses were AMAZING and helped so much with Grace, and helped us get comfortable caring for a much tinier baby than we had before with Zelie (5 lbs vs. 7 lbs), navigating all the wires and beeps, etc. The drive to the NICU wasn't awful, about an hour one way. And hospital itself was pretty quiet and calm.

Cons: The worst part was not being together as a whole family. We decided not to get a hotel room because a) cost, and b) we thought Zelie would be more comfortable staying at home. Thanks to LOTS of grandparent support, Dan and I were able to take turns being with Grace. But that meant we only saw each other for the "hand off" so to speak, as most nights one of us stayed at the hospital. We could tell Zelie was getting tired of not seeing mommy or daddy all day, as she needed more cuddles and attention, understandably. Plus we were eager to get Grace out into the fresh air and away from the small little space she was literally connected to!

But overall, the NICU time went smoothly. We tried to focus on a day at a time, making a plan for that day, getting as much rest as possible, meeting Zelie's needs too. We also benefited a lot from the advice of friends who had had NICU stays with their kids.

So finally, after about a week and a half, on...

Weds Oct 9
Gracie was ready to get discharged!! Hooray! At this point we didn't know whether our ICPC paperwork would be cleared and we could drive Gracie into Maryland. If not, we'd have to stay (she'd have to stay - obviously with at least one of us) in Virginia until we could leave. Dan had scoped out a hotel option and I had packed enough stuff for all four of us for a few nights, just in case. Not ideal, to stay at a hotel with a newborn, but we had done it with Zelie for 3 weeks (1 week at a friend's parents' house) so at least this wasn't brand new.

BUT right before Grace was officially discharged, Sami texted to say ICPC cleared! So we could leave the hospital and drive straight home! That was definitely a relief and cut down on the complexity of the next few days.

We did a required mini-CPR class for infants (complete with an inflatable mini baby that we got to take home) and took the required discharge training from the nurse with some basic care info. Then Grace was ready to become wireless and go home! Oh, and the night before she had passed the "carseat challenge" - buckled into her carseat for an hour and a half without exhibiting distress. Awesome job, Grace.

Procedure was that we put her in the carseat, which was then placed on a rolling crib, sides raised, and a NICU nurse wheeled her to the hospital entrance for us. Kinda funny! A dramatic exit. We said goodbye and thank you to the nurses there, who again were SO amazing the whole time. We promised to send them our Christmas card! And we wheeled through the postpartum unit, where the nurses all clapped. #moretears

Then Dan got our car, we put Gracie in, and homeward bound! She had her first trip of many on 1-95 and the Beltway, plus a lovely view of downtown DC from the bridge over the Potomac (not that she noticed) and finally into Maryland! And finally home! Whew!

Not ten minutes after we arrived, a friend stopped by to give us several loaves of bread! Which was awesome because we had managed to place an order for pizza at the wrong pizza location so my mom was engaged in going to the other location for our dinner...oops.

It was so wonderful to finally be together all four of us, in our own home.

What's Next
Life! Hopefully some more sleeping from our hungry girl! But glad that she's eating so well!

Grace had a pediatrician appointment two days after discharge, and she was over 6 lbs, awesome!! And overall is doing really, really well. Poor Zelie got a flu shot at the same appointment. Of course we needed some Chickfila after that morning.

In terms of postplacement stuff, it's the same as with Zelie. We'll meet with our social worker three times in our home. One of those meetings already happened, the Monday after discharge. Each meeting is an hour long and we just talk about how things are going, how are we adjusting, attachment, questions, concerns. We've worked with our social worker Sandy now since before adopting Zelie, so she feels like an old friend at this point!

Grace's adoption will be finalized in Virginia, so it's likely that we'll actually go to the courtroom this time (instead of calling in like we did for Zelie's) - that should be pretty cool! It will happen a little more than six months from now because of the required postplacement visits and other paperwork (naturally).

So that's the story! We are a family of four now, thank you God! We don't take that for granted for a single second after years of praying to become parents, and now having the amazing blessing of each of our children having a sibling. So, so happy.

Thanks for reading this novel!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: Summer 2019

It's been a while since we posted, so an end-of-summer "catch up" post seemed in order!

In adoption news - really nothing to report. We wrote back in June about a roller-coaster situation that ended up not going anywhere. Nothing like that has happened since then, for better (those scenarios are pretty nerve-wracking and all-consuming!) or worse (at least there's something *happening* and not just radio silence).

We are coming up to some of the annual things we have to do to keep our home study current, in this case for Dan and me to get our annual physicals. It's kind of a nice reminder for something we ought to do anyway - but generally these "landmarks" make us realize how much time has passed since we started the process (home study was started last summer for baby #2), which can feel discouraging.

Our home study agency recently partnered with an organization called Parentfinder, which assists hopeful adoptive parents in creating high-quality online profiles ("flip books" you read online, plus hard copies), videos, and other materials that are then shared broadly both through their own platform and a few other sites that target folks considering adoption. We attended a webinar on what Parentfinder has to offer and decided to sign up. It costs more money (naturally) and will take some time, but we think that it could make us more "visible" to expectant parents considering adoption, and help us present ourselves in a more three-dimensional way - as realistic as you can get in a digital format, anyway! So that's something we're going to be working on in the Fall.

Other than that, one neat thing that has happened recently is that we've been able to share our knowledge of adoption with some folks as part of a ministry starting at a local parish. This included talking for over an hour one night with a couple just starting their adoption journey, and also sharing resources that have helped us along the way (books, information, etc.). It always feels great to give back, on a topic we care about so much!

In regular life news - here are some snapshots of the fun we've been having this summer! Dan has had some time off here and there so we've been able to travel a bit and explore. And now Zelie is old enough to do a few more things and also really enjoy summer play, especially involving water.

Celebrating Father's Day with homemade cinnamon buns and bacon YUM

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Day trip to the countryside/water in MD, after a yummy seafood dinner, on the Susquehanna river
throwing rocks in water - a fav pastime this summer; here in Charlottesville VA
Two day trip to NYC; with Lady Liberty
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Our garden! We're growing tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, squash and more
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Zelie went to a three-day nature camp, where among other things she made a cotton ball polar bear
Zelie's first trip to an amusement park - Dutch Wonderland - looks like she likes it ;) 

Thanks for reading, and please keep praying for us!

Friday, June 14, 2019

Saying Yes, Hearing No

A week ago today, an email came through on Friday afternoon from our home study agency with the word URGENT in the subject line. Nothing like that to make your heart skip a beat and your knees go weak!

Skimming it, then reading it several times more slowly, it became clear that there was a fast-moving adoption situation they were seeking families for. More specifically, our home study agency had been contacted by another agency (in Florida) that was looking for possible adoptive families for a child who had already been born. And our agency had in turn contacted the home study-approved families who may be interested and were open to the unusual circumstances surrounding this case.

There were therefore some unique aspects to the situation that merited further discussion, including some medical diagnoses and tragic, family dynamics stuff. Dan and I spoke on the phone soon and emailed back and forth with our agency's director to gather more information. We had until Sunday at 5 p.m. to decide whether we wanted our profile book to be considered. And the working plan was that the baby's mom would look at books on Monday, sign papers on Tuesday, and place the baby on Wednesday. (Whew!)

It's hard to think about anything else when something like this comes up. It's hard not to constantly wonder "is this it? is this our child?" It's hard not to obsess over every detail that we were given, hash out and rehash every last "what if?" It's hard just to take a deep breath and act normally.

In short, it made for a really intense weekend. Thankfully we had few plans on Saturday so we both had plenty of time to discuss and pray together and also had nothing that would be short-changed by our extremely short attention span.

Long story short, after we were finally able to get through to the placing adoption agency to answer a few questions, we decided Sunday afternoon that we would show our book, so we began that time we know well by now of waiting for that phone call or email that could change our family's trajectory forever.

Ultimately it came on Tuesday afternoon, in the form of an email saying that the mom had chosen a different family. While we weren't shocked, we were definitely disappointed. It's pretty impossible not to get your hopes up. And that takes a while to get out of your system, to let go of the multiple thought experiments you didn't even realize you've done - imagining flying to Florida, meeting the baby, coming home as a family of four, starting this new adventure with the baby, etc. What events over the next three weeks would need to be canceled or rearranged? But nope, not happening. You get to Wednesday and instead of welcoming another child into your family and home, you're doing whatever usual thing you do on Wednesdays.

This is definitely one of the harder aspects of adoption, enduring this kind of emotional roller-coaster that can come out of nowhere. And just to clarify: our matching agency in Georgia doesn't tell us when our book is being shown, so long as at least on paper we seem to be a good match for the situation. So at least things there happen in the background, so to speak. But sometimes a situation will be more "gray" in the sense of right up against the edges of our comfort zone or some unpredictable situation that isn't definable in advance to say 'yes' to, which is when we're told in advance, by either our GA or MD agencies and situations like this one from the last weekend occurs. With those cases, it's good to have that time to discern - given that adoption is a lifelong decision for everyone and you want to discern whether you are the best for this particular child - but it's just so intense.

Also, no matter the outcome, you really do open a welcoming space in your heart, home, and prayer life for this precious child. Our hearts were certainly expanded and then broke when weren't chosen. Despite the sadness, we marvel at our how amazing it is that a child just by existing can open the hearts of complete strangers thousands of miles away? He will never meet us, but he expanded our hearts just by existing. What a gift all life is no matter the tragic circumstances and believe us when we tell you that this was a very tragic circumstance to the point that many people would consider it a life not worth living - so sad, they know not what they say!

And going through these experiences makes us feel our infertility more keenly, how difficult it's been (comparatively speaking) to grow our family. Thank you God for the gift of our precious Zelie to lift our spirits (and keep us busy) but the questions of "Why us? Why do we have to go through this?" inevitably surfaces. We're asked again to accept this cross we didn't choose, and to try to do so joyfully, knowing that these are opportunities to become the saints we're meant to be (as much as we stumble on that path) and to offer up this suffering for the sake of others, especially other infertile couples or couples who have had a recent miscarriage (like some of our friends).

One last thing that struck us about this experience was that despite this little one having several pretty serious "issues" in terms of health and background, multiple families said "yes" to adopting him. Hence us not getting chosen. The Florida agency said they received an "overwhelming response" - all over the span of a few days. Even in difficult circumstances, this child was loved and wanted. Pretty amazing and encouraging.

So we carry on, a bit sad and slightly bruised at not being chosen, but contemplative about the hidden graces and mystery within this situation. Please pray for us, and kudos to you if you read this far!

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: May 2019 (Month #4)

Adoption news: Nothing this month either. It can be disappointing, not hearing about any situations and not being matched yet. We have to remind ourselves, it's still quite early in the process (statistically speaking)! But every day we pray for God to bless us with another child. And at the same time we are thankful every single day for Zelie - in a profound sense, she is and always will be *enough* for us as her beautiful unrepeatable self - and at the same time we pray for our family's love to keep overflowing to more children! God's will be done!

In Other News: May was a big month for us! Probably the biggest thing that happened was Dan graduating with his PhD - amazing! We had a cookout celebration the Saturday before, attended the school's graduation ball the night before, and went out to eat after the ceremony. So a lot of celebrating was done, and he deserved every minute of it! For those not aware, Dan worked for this PhD for 10 years - the entirety of our marriage and then some. He sacrificed so much free time, endured setbacks and numerous "hurdles" (exams, languages, etc.) and worked SO hard to accomplish this.

All dressed up at the graduation ball. The highlight for Zelie was the chocolate fountain.

Silly faces with Dr. Daddy!

May was also Mother's Day. Since it was the Sunday immediately before Dan's graduation, we had both of our Moms in town, so it was lovely to celebrate with them. On Mother's Day, I felt (as I do pretty much every day) what an amazing thing it is to be Zelie's mommy - and I said some extra prayers for her birthmother and all birthmothers.

On May 28 we celebrated our 8th anniversary. Thanks to Grandma (Dan's mom), we were able to spend the long Memorial Day weekend away in Williamsburg. It was HOT but super fun. We went to Busch Gardens, Yorktown, and Jamestowne, and had a nice colonial-style dinner in the historic part of Williamsburg. 

In "Germany" at Busch Gardens.

While we were away, Grandma helped our little artist create some really lovely paintings as an anniversary gift - swoon!

In May, Zelie started swimming lessons. She's been having a blast! Due to Dan's work schedule, he was able to go to the first three with her, which was really special. She's not too keen on putting her face in the water but loves kicking and jumping in from the side. She's getting ready to enjoy the pool at Grandma and Grandpa's house (my parents) this summer!

To close: one quintessential SUMMER pictures: icy pop....flip flops....green backyard....SUMMER.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: April 2019 (Month #3)

Adoption News: *crickets, crickets*

Has it only been three months?!? Oh boy. Sometimes it already feels like this is taking forever... ;) We are so eager to welcome another little one into our home, and for Zelie to be a big sister. And she is so ready! She points out babies to us all the time, especially if they are crying. And she's developing such a sweet, caring heart. There's one book we read where a baby has dropped his pacifier and is crying, and usually we get "stuck" on that page as we talk about baby's feelings and how probably his mommy will get his pacifier for him. She is going to make such a great big sister!

But all in God's timing! Just as when we waited for Zelie, we have to trust that God knows our hearts and if there is another child out there meant for our family, he/she will find us - hopefully soon!

In Other News:

April is now a super-special month for our family because of our sweet girl's birthday! We had a blast celebrating her SECOND birthday. We had a small baby-shark themed party, which she seemed to really enjoy. We watched "the" video all together, and the kids went for a "shark hunt" in the backyard, finding little sea creatures that Dan had meticulously hidden. The big treat was cupcakes - and Zelie also loved the gummy sharks! Amazing that our baby is now TWO!

April was also Easter this year, and we had a wonderful time visiting Bethany's parents in Pennsylvania. Dan's mom was with us too, which was great. On Holy Saturday we all went to Longwood Gardens, which is gorgeous this time of year. They had this magical children's garden section with lots of water features, which Zelie obviously loved:

She is a fan of flowers in general!

And Easter Sunday itself was beautiful. He is risen, Alleluia!

Anything else....our garden is coming up nicely (peas, beets, lettuce, etc.), and the weather in general was just beautiful. Zelie has been enjoying the new swingset that Dan (and friends) built for her! 

That's about it - until next month! Pray for us!

- Dan, Bethany, and Zelie

Sunday, March 31, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: March 2019 (Month #2)

Adoption News: Nothing to report this month either. But it's still early, only month 2! Lent has given us lots of opportunities to draw close to God and ask for His will in sending another child to our family.

In Other News:

Zelie started gymnastics! She loves to jump, climb, and spin, so we thought we'd try out a gymnastics class for toddlers (18 mo-3 years). It's a weekly class for six weeks, forty-five minutes long. And it's quite a workout! Zelie's coach leads the class through basically an obstacle course: climbing over things, jumping down a trampoline, walking a balance beam (!), etc. Zelie is tired out after the class, so that's saying something!

National pancake day! Three free pancakes at IHOP - can't go wrong with that!

Yard improvement: with the Spring warmer weather, we got our garden ready for the Spring, made a Mary grotto, AND Dan and some friends built Zelie a new swingset! (The old one was here when we moved in, and was falling down.)

Finally - we enjoyed the most beautiful time of the year in DC, cherry blossom season. Two of the best places in Spring: the National Arboretum and downtown on the National Mall. 

Until next month!

- Dan, Bethany and Zelie

Thursday, February 28, 2019

While We Wait, Round 2: February 2019 (Month #1)

As we waited to adopt Zelie, we enjoyed writing up little monthly "happenings". It helped to pass the time and keep us focused on the good things in our lives without getting too anxious about when we would be matched with a child.

So we're going to do the same thing as we are now officially waiting for baby #2! We were approved very late in January, so February was our first full month as a waiting family.

Adoption news: Really nothing to report. No calls or situations. Just waiting! And also being happy to be DONE with paperwork for the foreseeable future. One neat thing is that we've been able to connect with a few people in our lives who are interested in adoption or have started the process, to give them some of our insight and experience. We are far from knowing everything about adoption, but we do know a little! And we are always happy to share.

Other stuff we did:

Dan kept busy! He ran two weekend-long retreats for adult children of divorce, one in Florida and one here in DC, and one day-long family retreat day here in DC. He loves being able to minister to people in this way, but it is tiring, too.

During one of the weekends when Dan was working, I (Bethany) met up with my parents in Baltimore to attend a children's concert at the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, called Music Box. It was really fun! Zelie may have paid attention at a smattering of moments....but hopefully the lovely music (wind quintet) still touched her soul in some way. Then we had a delicious lunch of crepes and a fun walk through the city where Zelie wanted to touch everything, wave to every bus, and climb up and down every possible set of stairs. #toddlerlife

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I started a quilt for baby #2! (Finally - I got the fabric a few months ago, but toddler + sharp cutting tool + lots of tiny pieces of fabric is not a great combination.) I'm really excited about this quilt. It has the same color scheme as Zelie's quilt (royal blue, gold, and white - a.k.a. our wedding colors) but is a different design. I'm using the old pattern of "Log Cabin," arranged in a way that the finished quilt will look like a series of crosses. (Non-quilters will just have to trust that this will actually happen.)

***We got matched with Zelie DAYS after I finished her quilt, so I better get a move on with this one! (haha)

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For Valentine's Day, we had a low-key evening at home with a yummy meal, movie and drinks. Earlier in the day Zelie and I attended our parish's kids Valentine's party, which was a riot (figuratively and at times literally). Each kid brought valentines to pass out, and they made bags to collect them in. Zelie was pretty tickled at the valentines she got, especially the ones with dogs on them. Oh, and she loved the candy too. It was fun, and an example of our wonderful community here!

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She is squirming and wants to go back to the playground :)
For a date, Dan and I went to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, which is on the National Mall. It was an amazing, moving, and very sobering experience. Lots of things to pray about (and weep about) but also to celebrate from this rich culture that brings so much to America. We definitely recommend it for locals and tourists!

That's about it - thanks for reading! And please keep praying for us and for expectant moms and dads considering making an adoption plan.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

In the Waiting Pool & "Live"!

We last checked in in mid-October, when we were making good progress on our home study. Since that time, we're happy to say that we completed the home study and are now officially in the waiting pool once more!

After we turned in all our paperwork in October, we met with our social worker two times in November and once in December, all at our house. As happened before, one of the meetings was us split up talking with her, and the other two were us together (and Zelie, too). As expected, all the meetings went really well. We really like our social worker and it was exciting to update her on the changes in our family since adopting Zelie, and to look ahead at our hopeful second adoption.

After those meetings were done, we had to wait for our social worker to write up her official report. We received a copy shortly after Christmas, had just one minor factual edit, and then it was approved by Barker on January 4, 2019 (Bethany's confirmation saint day - Elizabeth Ann Seton). At that point we were officially approved to adopt, whenever a situation comes together and a match happens!

But we had a few more things to do to officially get into the waiting pool with Open Door down in Georgia. They had already contacted all six of their required references. Our home study and supporting documentation had to be sent from Barker to Open Door, we had to sign some commitment forms with them, and we had to fill out a form about what parameters (age, race, medical background and so on) we were open to - similar to what we did as part of our home study. We mailed all of our forms off in mid-January, and received word on January 23rd that Open Door had everything they needed from us, so we were officially in the waiting pool.

We will be setting up an online profile on Open Door's websites, and whenever they are working with an expectant mom who is looking for a family like ours, our book will be shown. We won't be notified about that unless there are some "gray area" situations that we wanted to have more information about prior to showing our book.

We are so excited to be at this stage!! We pray every day for our future son or daughter, and for the men and women who are in difficult situations and figuring out what to do. We trust that this is all in God's hands! Please pray for us!