Monday, December 29, 2008

Life in Minne-soooo-ta

Seems like just yesterday that we arrived here in the great white north. Time just flies by. Cecelia made me a proud papa on the flight. She ate right before takeoff, slept the whole way, and ate after we landed. She also took her pacifier on the takeoff and landing without a problem. We felt like a real family on that trip - having to navigate the world of the airports with a newborn will unite anyone...

Then Cece got to meet her family up north for the first time. It was a true honor to stand back and watch her be loved by so many. It is almost impossible to take your eyes of this little beauty.

We spent a quiet Christmas Eve with Grandma and Grandpa. It was a wonderful opportunity to rewind time one year. It was Christmas Eve last year that the four of us got on our knees in prayer to ask God to fulfill our passion for a baby. How amazing that he would surpass our all expectations and desires by blessing us with the honor of being parents to this gorgeous child of His. I was reminded of the importance to remember how God fulfills his promises. This child is an answer to the prayers of many, and for that our praises and worship rise to our very kind Father.

It has been great to be with family up here and to see Grandma and Grandpa's new family room and kitchen. Cece has a shower tonight and Aleisha cannot wait to see more friends and family. It has been a whirlwind time and it is crazy to think we have already been here this long. Aleisha will post more pictures when she gets a chance...

Love to you all and Merry Christmas (belated of course)...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Big day tomorrow

Tomorrow Cece takes her first trip of her life. We are so excited to be able to introduce Cecelia to her family in Minnesota and for Grandma and Grandpa to meet their first granddaughter - I cannot wait for this meeting. Of course, this requires us to get on an airplane with Cece. We have put in place all the necessary precautions - Cece will be in a sling at all times, no one will touch her, I will wave my hands at all times to keep any and all germs away from Cece and Aleisha, and we will pray hard...

That last part is the biggest piece. Please pray with us that Cecelia will make this trip safely and with no sickness. And calm my nerves because I am going to be an annoying daddy tomorrow.

Things with our beautiful girl have been so great this week. Grandma (my mom) has been a blessing to have here with us. On Sunday she bought Cece her first stuffed animal Gator - it will be in proud display on January 8th. Last night Grandma called her own cellphone so she could record Cecelia's "heavy breathing" - it was a great recording.

By the way, have I mentioned how much I love my daughter...

Friday, December 19, 2008

Guys aren't used to this

Wow, Monday was the last time we posted. We need to keep up on this thing!

There have been times this week when I have felt absolute exhaustion both physically and mentally. And it isn't from lack of sleep (Cece has slept great and Aleisha has been amazing). It is just that this whole thing has required a faith and trust in God that I have never needed to tap into before. I have run through emotions, feelings, highs, lows, love, and worry that my body isn't used to.

Last night (after a few hours of installing shelving in the nursery), I just laid on my back next to my dog and let my body and mind stop for a few minutes. Cece was sleeping a few feet away and I could hear her heavy breathing (some call this snoring, but that word doesn't fit my beauty). And I just let it sink in that she deserves every ounce of me and has shifted and opened spots in my heart that I didn't know before.

These past few months have been... really, is there a word to describe it. But as I stand here right now, I am in awe at how close I am to my wife. Aleisha and I have not always been at our best in these weeks, but our marriage is stronger today for having walked this road. I have learned what it means to protect my wife and I have watched her love me in exactly the ways I need. We have held each other through this process and have learned a reliance that could not have been taught any other way. We will be better parents because of this journey.

My favorite image is thinking of Cece snuggling her cheek close to Aleisha. We are starting to bond and that feels so very good...

Monday, December 15, 2008

I could take pictures of this precious girl all day. I just keep saying, "she is sooo cute." What joy she brings to our life! We are just in love with this girl. What a gift from God she is!

Last night, we gave Cecelia her first bath at home. Our dear friends Jason and Gail were here, which was so nice. Gail is a nurse and a mom, herself, so she gave us the inside scoop and showed us all the tricks. What fun we had. After we washed our hair, this is what it did. I so wish we would have had a video camera. Both Brian and are were just in awe. We just love this little girl and her hair:)!

That song...

OK, so everyone has been singing the song "Cecilia" by Paul Simon. So last Thursday I had Aleisha play this song for me. Needless to say, I was not amused and determined that Cece WILL NOT listen to this song.

Last night, my friend Jason was over and let me know that the song is actually about St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music (and my sister Susan's confirmation name). The song is apparently about writer's block and Paul Simon struggling to get words on paper.

I am still not sure, and Wikipedia (the absolute authority) only mentions this as a possibility. I have a call in to Paul Simon, but until I hear back from him Cece is banned from this song!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

This will not be the last time I say this...

Thank you to each of you who have supported us through this process. I thank you for the examples of parenthood that surround us; the outpouring of love and excitement that have made me so proud of my little daughter; the encouragement you have given Aleisha as she takes her place as Cece's mommy; your testimonies of salvation that will be shared and seen by my daughter; your open arms of joy toward Cece; your fervent and heartfelt prayers; your reminders of truth; your tears of joy and your cries with us through pain; your resounding roar of praise as we welcome Cecelia into our home.

To our many friends who have walked before us down this wonderful journey of adoption... Thank you for answering our countless questions. Thank you for being a sounding board and an understanding ear to our confusion, fear, and anxiety. I can't wait for Aleisha and I to share our story with families considering adoption, as you have with us.

And to our families, I am especially thankful for you. You have already opened your hearts to Cecelia and I cannot tell you the comfort that brings to every part of me. We could not traverse this path without knowing you would be standing there next to us. Most importantly, you will be that "great cloud of witnesses" that Cecelia will lean on for the rest of her life.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us." Heb 12:1

OK, so I have some serious issues...

I have already thought about Cece getting married and walking her down the aisle. I know, this is a tad premature, but it went through my head and I smiled.

I also thought about the great honor Aleisha and I have to raise Cece and train, guide, and teach her. I am ready for that challenge, but also know the great responsibility that comes with it. I have already spent my alone time with Cecelia reminding her that she is loved by so many. There are a multitude praying over this girl and there are countless friends and family who cannot wait to get their eyes and arms around this baby.

And I believe my greatest joy will come when I get to share about Jesus Christ with this little girl. When I get to explain to her that we are all adopted into His family and are given an unbreakable love by our savior. Those will be my most cherished conversations.

Cecelia Hanging Out at Home

Cecelia Comes Home

Zory Meets Cecelia

Friday, December 12, 2008

Funny story from yesterday

We were laughing the whole day because when Cece opened her eyes she would only open her right eye - like she was winking. I told Lauryn and Beverly that Aleisha can't wink with both eyes, and had Aleisha demonstrate. It is very cute to watch.

Lauryn turns to Aleisha, winks with both eyes, and says, "Well, she must have gotten that from you!"

How do I know I am a Daddy

Because I am already wondering how this beautiful Cece will ever do anything wrong. Aleisha is getting scared because she thinks it will be 2 against 1 (I told her not to worry, we would probably use more of a zone defense to disguise our attack). Truthfully, in just two days (and only mere hours at that) I already know this baby is my little girl because God has ordained it as such. He has taken us on a journey that no one could write and he has asked me to raise Cece. I love her, I truly love her. I already want the best for this girl, the absolute best...

By the way, I cannot wait to watch my wife be a mom - it will be the single truest thing I will ever know on this earth. I am so grateful that I get to watch this with a front row seat.

Oh, how else do I know I am a daddy... I barely blinked when Aleisha wanted to spend $60 on a pair of pants that Cece will wear for 2 weeks. I mean, my daughter needs to be stylin', right?

Cecelia Day Two

An Unlikely Story

Today was an unlikely story. For four hours, Brian, Cecelia, Lauryn, Lauryn's mom, and I sat in a hospital room crying, laughing, sharing stories, and discussing how I should style Cecelia's hair when she's older! From the outside looking in, I can imagine that it may seem awkward, but it was beautiful.

At one point, a nurse walked into the room. The nurse asked Lauryn how she was doing, and Lauryn introduced us as Cecelia's parents. The nurse looked at Lauryn, glanced at us, and tried not to show surprise. We proceeded right back into our story and laughter. As the nurse was leaving, she glanced over her shoulder, smiling.

Our time with Cecelia's birthfamily today was time that we will cherish forever. For Cecelia to look at this picture and hear of the time we shared with her birthfamily today--oh, it brings such joy to my heart.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

From Brian:

What a day we had today. This morning we were able to go to the hospital to visit our beautiful daughter for the first time. We had about two hours with Cecelia, Lauryn, and Lauryn's mother, Beverly. They could not have made us feel more welcome and constantly confirmed that we were the parents. Everytime a nurse would come in they would introduce us as Cecelia's parents. It was such a blessing.

Holding Cecelia in my arms was something that I will never forget. She is so beautiful - oh my, the hair is like nothing I have ever seen. Her face is etched in my memory and I will sleep tonight thinking of her and counting the minutes until we get to go back to see her - which is tomorrow morning at 11am!!! She is my daughter and there is no denying that. It looks like Friday morning we get to bring Cece home and begin some serious bonding time.
I want to share an amazing part of the day. While we were visiting with Lauryn and Beverly, they handed us a present. Beverly told us that they are so grateful to welcome us into their family. To show us their love they presented us with a blanket. This special blanket was knitted by a close family friend 20 years ago and was used to bring Lauryn home from the hospital. They have bestowed this blanket to us so we can bring Cecelia home in it and keep it in our family as a reminder of their love.

More to come!!!

When do we take Cecelia home?

Tomorrow, Dec. 11th, we head back to the hospital to spend more time with Cecelia. Lauryn, the birthmother, will sign the paperwork tomorrow. Please pray for Lauryn--she has made a very courageous decision. Then, on Friday, we take Cecelia Carole Stephens home from the hospital.

A Story to Tell Cecelia

For two hours today, Brian and I joined Lauryn, Cecelia's birthmother, and Beverly, Lauryn's mom, in their hospital room. We will cherish the precious time that we had with Cecelia's birthfamily. Adoption is a beautiful, yet beyond what I ever thought I could handle, process. We are only one day into the journey, and we would have it no other way!

Meeting Cecelia

Cecelia Carole was born today December 10, 2008. (Brian is excited about the birthday: 12-10-08.) She was born at 4:24am weighing 8lbs 8ozs, and she is 20 1/2 inches long. As my brother Rollie pointed out, she's almost two feet tall!

Adoption: Letter to Charlotte Christian Community

This is our first entry to The Stephens' Blog. So many of you have requested updates, so we just decided to join the world of blogging. Just to get everyone caught up, I'll (Aleisha) share the letter that I sent to the Charlotte Christian School community:

I am writing to share the testimony of God’s genius in “working all things together for the good”. More than a year ago, I attended the Willow Creek Leadership Summit with other Charlotte Christian faculty and staff. It was at this conference that God started stirring my heart toward adoption. In January of last year, my husband, Brian, and I started filling out adoption paperwork. As is the story for so many in the adoption process, in February, we found out we were pregnant. But as many of you know in April, I had a miscarriage. Brian often comments on how he was personally touched by how much love and support we felt from the Charlotte Christian family during that difficult time.

In July, after allowing time for our hearts to heal, we began the adoption process again. Since then, we have been in the process of filling out paperwork for an Ethiopian adoption. A few weeks ago, our adoption agency presented us with a need right here in North Carolina. In a frenzy, we got a profile (a scrapbook of our lives) together, which is part of the domestic adoption process. Then on Monday, Nov. 10, a birthmother chose us to be parents. The baby is due Dec. 3! I think it goes without saying that we are a little overwhelmed, but we are so overjoyed at this incredible outpouring of God’s grace.

As of now, I plan to take off 12 weeks for maternity leave. I will continue to work until the baby arrives and then Mrs. Dawn Craddock will pick up the remainder of my freshman writing class. My lower and middle school duties will be distributed among co-workers.

Brian and I ask that you would pray for us during this exciting, but overwhelming time—specifically for the health of this little one. In addition please pray for the final stage of the adoption process. In the state of North Carolina there is a seven day revocation period, meaning a birthmother has seven days after the baby is born to change her mind. With that said, Brian and I are walking in faith, holding on for dear life to our gracious Lord, trusting that He is with us no matter what. We are honored to walk this walk with brothers and sisters like you by our side.