Wonderfully Made is dedicated to encouraging women and their families along their journeys of faith, motherhood, marriage, and special needs. We believe wholeheartedly that you, your precious children, and your own unique journeys are wonderfully made by God and look forward to walking the journey with you. "You formed my inmost being; You knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise You, because I am wonderfully made." {Psalm 139}

Women of Courage: Cari’s Adoption Story

Brave. It lives inside you, dear one. Will you share it? Read Cari's Brave Adoption Story for inspiration today!

I’m honored to have my dear friend Cari of Dugans In Cahoots here today sharing the first story for the Women of Courage series. Her adoption story is unfolding, and it is just beautiful to witness. Please join me in welcoming sweet Cari to this space. And thank you, Cari, for sharing your brave.

Whenever we step out to do something that seems impossible, daring, or risky…onlookers label you as being brave. They assume that you must have mustered an incredible amount of courage, and that you are always strong, and fearless.

My definition of bravery is quite the opposite:

Being brave, is stepping out despite our weaknesses, despite our fears, and despite the obstacles that hover over you. You can be brave, and be weak all at the same time. You can crumble and cry, and still be brave.

Just recently our family made the decision to add another little one through adoption. More specifically, domestic adoption. It is a messy process, filled with loss and gain. Joy, and indescribable pain.

For me, one of the scariest part about this process is being so vulnerable about my feelings surrounding our decision with friends, family, and the rest of the world.

Because for me, to share my heart on the matter, is a little like ripping my heart out of my chest and serving it on a platter for others to view, to critique, to comment on, and to judge. It’s not easy for me to completely convey the massive amount of emotions that are constantly swirling around within me.

Because as soon as I looked at my husband and whispered, “Yes, I’m in. Let’s do this.” I gave my heart away. Not just to the process of adoption, but to our future little one, and her ( or his ) birth parents.

My heart is wide open, broken, and too far gone to ever go back.

I’m in love. I am in waiting. And that can be a bit scary. Especially when there is no due date. There is no end to our story, and that I am not the author, just a humble character in a much bigger picture.

I feel weak when I compare the bottom line of our bank account to the estimated $30-40k we will owe in legal fees the second we finally hold our little one in our arms.

I feel weak when I think of another beautiful mother, and courageous father placing that precious bundle in our arms, along with a piece of themselves. Their loss is unthinkable.

I feel weak when I think of our future son or daughter’s heartache in losing a piece of them. Their loss in unbearable.

I feel weak when I begin to count all of my parenting inadequacies and shortcomings.

I feel weak when I think of all of the unknowns. All of the logistics. All of the red tape. All of the emotions that are stronger than I am.

Friends, I feel weak because I AM weak.

But I feel brave because there is one who goes before me. Just recently a friend texted me this verse from Isaiah 45:2-3 NLT:

“ I will go before you and level the mountains. I will smash down the gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. And I will give you treasures hidden in the darkness- secret riches. I will do this so you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, the one who calls you by name.”

This verse brings me to my knees, and has been what I have been clinging to as we sort out finances, as we lay awake at night wondering and dreaming of our little one, as we feel heartbroken for two precious parents who ARE the definition of brave.

I have already cried an ocean of tears for them and for our little lamb. There are so many circumstances out of our control. Out of our ability to plan and to prepare. Out of our scope of understanding, and beyond our ability to dictate. Out of our ability to heal.

Isn’t it true that when God calls us to something, it is tempting to list all of the reasons why we can’t , why we shouldn’t, why we aren’t enough, and why He should just ask someone else? (And believe me, I have 40 thousand reasons why to say no.)

But He didn’t ask anyone else. He asked us.

Us, who feel inadequate.

Us, who feel unprepared.

Us, who feel weak.

All He wants is our yes, and our heart.

We gave Him both. And are just waiting to for Him to do the rest…

To follow our story as it is being written, please visit: www.dugansincahoots.com

If you feel led to contribute to our adoption fund, you can do so here: http://www.gofundme.com/sqygxs

But above all, if you would, please pray that in our adoption, His name will be known and written all over our story. That everyone will know that even though we are weak. He is strong. And because of that we all can be Brave.

Thank you . Thank you . Thank you.

cari dugan bioCari Dugan is a lifestyle photographer and writer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She writes candidly about everyday life and experiences on being a wife and a mother on her blog Dugans in Cahoots (www.dugansincahoots.com ) You can also keep up with her on Instagram ( @cariduganphotography ) Her husband, and three children make life what it is – A Beautiful Mess.

To submit your own story of what brave means to you, please email me at wmpsalm139 {at} gmail {dot} com.

Women of Courage: Will you share your brave? {New Series}

Brave. I was sitting in a large auditorium listening to a speaker at the Allume conference this past fall when the Lord laid the word on my heart.

Brave? I asked.

Brave was the answer.

I came home from the conference filled in so many ways. Full of friendship from time spent with my dearest friend, Aprille, amazing roommates Jennifer and Wynter, and precious women like Shelly who walked and stumbled and prayed along rocky paths that all led to the same God.

I also came home with questions. Namely, what does brave mean for me?

Because, truthfully, brave wasn’t what I wanted to hear. Calmloved, whole, healthy, well, yes. But brave?

I didn’t want to be brave. I wanted to be comforted. I wanted to know I would be ok. That my pregnancy and baby would be ok. That my family would be ok.

And I felt like we had been brave enough. We moved 1,000 miles away from home, God! We’ve borne the challenges of autism and severe allergies and chronic illness. We’ve forged through hospitalizations, soaring medical bills, and more therapy sessions than I can count.

Was that not brave enough? I asked.

Am I not enough? I cried.

Time went by and brave sat quietly in a corner of my heart. I worried it was getting dusty, but I also just didn’t know what to do with it. So there it sat.

Then one day, my friend Cari shared her family’s calling to adopt. How excited and scared and filled to the brim she felt all at once. How she heard a call to be brave. To listen and honor the call of the Father to step into uncertain waters, trusting that the One who could calm raging seas would carry her and her precious family to a union with a little lamb in need of a family. To fill a calling to extend love beyond borders.

And in that moment I realized being brave isn’t about being a hero, it’s about listening to the whispers God places in our hearts. It’s about trusting Him when all feels lost or impossible. It’s about living each day as who we are, who He designed us to be.

When I think back on that moment at Allume, surrounded by women who had all answered a call to be present, the word’s meaning is so very clear.

We are all brave when we rest in Him. When we say yes to His call. When we stumble and fall and cry out for help and still plant our feet firmly on the ground each morning to begin anew each day.

That’s what brave is, friends. And you know what? I think brave is in you. I think it rises each time you wash the dishes or fold the laundry or love your babies through tantrums. I think it lives and breathes and weaves from your heart to mine and back again to the Father and binds us all together as one messy, lovely bundle of smiles and tears and prayers.

I think brave is what we are all meant to be and because it is stitched within the very fabric of our beings, I know it lives in you. Whether you are a mama of little ones, a sister of an ailed one, a mother to a baby taken from this world too soon, a friend to those lost in the dark – you’re brave.

Over the coming weeks and months, I am asking you to share your brave. To bring it here to this space to write and share what it means to you. Will you answer the call?

Brave. It lives within you, dear one. Will you share it?

Tomorrow, my dear friend Cari will share her brave, and I think it will speak right to your hearts, friends.

To submit your own story of what brave means to you, please email me at wmpsalm139 {at} gmail {dot} com.

A love note to the mom who struggles with chronic illness

To the mom who struggles with chronic illness, I know you are tired, not only of the pain and the sickness but also of the unknown. You carry worry deep within you that others may not see or understand and you wonder if there will ever be a time when you will be free of it. You worry about your energy, your ability to care for your children, and your mortality. You worry about your illness worsening and how it will affect your family.

“Those who suffer He delivers in their suffering; He speaks to them in their affliction.” (Job 36:15)

I stare up at the ceiling and focus on the florescent light above my gurney.

“Do you have any questions about the procedures you’re having today, Katherine?” the nurse asks me.

“No,” I laugh. “I’ve had them several times.”

She looks surprised and I know the question is coming. The “why?” that leads to my story, so before she can ask, I smile and say,” I have a lot of health complications. I have Crohn’s Disease, Oral Allergy Syndrome, a pain disorder, and have had flares of pancreatitis, an appendectomy, a cholecystectomy, preeclampsia…”

“Wow,” she says. Her brow furrows. “How old are you?”

I laugh because I know the list of maladies and my age do not seem to match. “28,” I say.

“Oh, honey,” she frowns. “Ok, let’s get you all prepped and ready to go so we can find out what’s going on today.”

I give her a thumbs up and say cheerfully, “sounds good!”

The truth is, though, I don’t feel cheerful. I feel scared.

God, what is it this time? 

I want answers. More than that, I want to have all the pain and sickness go away. To be washed clean of it all. To be a normal twenty-something-year-old worrying about normal problems, not thinking about disease and illness and…death. Because the truth is every time I lay on a gurney, I wonder how much time I have left. How many more flare ups, diseases, and illnesses my body can handle. Each one takes a toll. Each one renders me exhausted. Each one makes me feel small and frail and alone.

I need to stay positive. I know I do. So, I focus again on the light.

love notes heart

To the mom who struggles with chronic illness, I am carrying you in my heart today. I know you are tired, not only of the pain and the sickness but also of the unknown. You carry worry deep within you that others may not see or understand and you wonder if there will ever be a time when you will be free of it.

You worry about your energy, your ability to care for your children, and your mortality. You worry about your illness worsening and how it will affect your family.You go back and forth from feeling exhausted and defeated to thankful and hope-filled. You are a bundle of contradictions.

I know that in between the doctors visits, trips to the ER, and hospitalizations you still have to do the laundry, wash the dishes, and care for your little ones. I know that life does not stop nor do the demands from others around you. The bills must be paid, including the mounting medical ones, and the budget must be balanced. I know that you often feel alone, isolated by the condition that makes it difficult to lead a normal life, to maintain friendships, and to kick off your shoes and just have a little fun.

I am praying for you today. Praying God would fill you up with strength and energy. Laughter and precious friendships to lift you up on the tough days. He hears your cries. So don’t despair. Don’t give up. And today, dear one, choose to laugh. I will laugh right alongside you, with you, in honor of the life you live because even on the days that are gloomy there is always a ray of hope in the darkness.

I believe He is close even when He feels a million miles away. I believe He stands strong by my bedside when the hurts are great and it feels like the night is closing in. I believe there is grace in suffering and redemption in the cross. For He says, “be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” (Deuteronomy 31:6)

love notes heart

To read more love notes like this one, please click here. If you felt encouraged by today’s post, share it with a friend! You are also invited to write your own love note to submit for publication on the blog!

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