Revamped blog + back to writing

Come visit our newly updated blog at samandrachelgeorge.com.

Over time, CliveWins.com didn’t fit our blog name any more.  Clive did win by going to heaven.  But what about Winnie’s story?  And what about adoption, and parenting, and everything else as we continue on in this journey of life.  We have more to share.

We never expected to be sharing our story in this way, but as our path became more difficult and our journey more complicated, we knew that there was purpose in our story.  If nothing else, our story could make others feel they are not alone—which is precisely what other’s stories have done for us.

We’re not writing from the other side of some bridge, having “made it through”.  We’re still walking (stumbling really) and God is teaching us as we go.  I think some of the most helpful people I have encountered in my life have been sharing from “the middle” in an honest, vulnerable, and refreshing way.

Life is busy.  I’m writing this early on a Saturday morning, in between feeding spoonfuls of baby food, while texting with Sam about the coffee shop.  But just as we make time to connect in our marriage, spend time as a family, and privately grieve, we’re convinced that making time to write will be helpful, both to us and hopefully to others.   Hopefully you’ll hear more from both of us on here.

Thanks for reading, for caring and for loving us so well.

(P.S. Lucky for us, technology rocks and we were able to transfer all our old posts! Plus, CliveWins.com will still redirect people to the new site.  #winning)

motherhood and mother’s day

It’s Mother’s Day 2018, and I’m thinking of the past few mother’s days:

One waiting for pregnancy.

One grieving a baby lost in miscarriage.

One in the NICU with Clive.

One grieving Clive and growing Winnie.

One grieving Clive and Winnie and awaiting adoption.

And this one, missing Clive and Winnie deeply, holding Coralie, and thinking of my unique version of motherhood.

I have children in heaven and one in my home.  I have a baby that I just rocked to sleep that has another mama out there missing her and full of love for her. A mama who bravely chose me to be her daughter’s mom.  I do not forget this.  I have a desire for more kids, and an uncertainty of what the future will look like.  I have birthed, pumped, buried, held hands, changed diapers, rocked, brought home, visited at the cemetery.  I have written cards and made gifts my mom, my mother in law, and Corrie’s birthmama.  I am grateful, and sorrowful.  The bitter parts have given me more gratitude for the sweet parts. 

I have eyes wide open to the unique motherhood around me, giving me gratitude for the blessings I have in my motherhood– however hard.  I see the overwhelmed moms, the working moms, the single moms, the grieving moms, the empty-armed moms, the foster moms, the moms without moms of their own.  I see the women who are not-yet mamas (or maybe will never be moms by our definition), but have a caring mom-heart for so many others in their lives while they wait for their story to unfold.  So many different paths and journeys and forms.  So many hardships, and still so much beauty to behold. 

meet Coralie!

 Hello, I’m back after quite a long hiatus!   We have exciting news to share that we have a sweet baby girl named Coralie in our home. 
Coralie Marie George joined us on July 20, 2017.  We’re in love.  She’s so sweet, and huggable, and kissable.  And we got to take her HOME! 

She’s now four months old, and we were able to meet her the day she was born.  We’ve loved getting to know her in the past four months.  She’s a joy.  So social, so sweet, so bright-eyed and so active.  She’s been a huge blessing. 
Coralie means coral in French.  Cora means “maiden” and lee means “meadow.”  Marie means “sea of sorrow” and “wished for child” and is also Rachel’s mom’s name. 
We will call her Corrie after Corrie ten Boom, an amazing Dutch woman who helped hide Jews in her home, survived in a concentration camp, and went on to be a phenomenal author and speaker.   Her faith, her endurance, and her example of extreme forgiveness have been a huge teacher to me (Rachel) as I’ve read her books in the last couple years.  The horrors of the holocaust are unimaginable, and I’ve found a strange comfort in knowing that my pain does not go unmatched in this world and in human history.  She’s given encouragement in her story and in her writing, and I’m so proud to name my daughter after this strong woman. 
I’ve struggled to find just one quotation to share—there are so many good ones.  I’ll share more of them later!
“Do you know what hurts so very much? It’s love. Love is the strongest force in the world, and when it is blocked that means pain. There are two things we can do when this happens. We can kill that love so that it stops hurting. But then of course part of us dies, too. Or we can ask God to open up another route for that love to travel.”
            -Corrie ten Boom

And please read this excerpt of her writing about forgiveness.  So, so good. 
I’m sure you’d love to hear more adoption details!  Here’s a quick run-down. 
We ended up unexpectedly connecting with a mom and did an adoption through our local agency.  She was due in just 6 weeks, so it was nice to have just a short wait time.  
We are so grateful for Corrie’s birth mother.  She is such a brave and strong woman.  We’ll continue to have a relationship with her, and we will always be amazed by her selflessness in giving this little girl life and giving us such a blessing by entrusting her to us.

(my sister had a baby the SAME day.  cousin twins!)

It was a huge blessing to have a little summer girl to bring home.  Packing up (again) all of the baby clothes and not knowing if we’d use them again would have been so hard.  We have lots of stuff for a summer boy and girl, and we are so glad to have been able to bring a child home sooner than we expected—we were thinking it would be fall or winter.  She got to wear the clothes we bought and were given for Winnie, and it’s so sweet we were able to do that. 
   
Her adoption is scheduled to be finalized next month!   As with any adoption, there have been some complications along the way, but we feel positive about everything.  You can continue to pray for Coralie to grow and feel loved and secure with us.  You can pray for her biological mother and her deep grief in choosing adoption.  Adoption comes from a place of brokenness, but you can pray for there to be beauty and hope amid the brokenness.  You can pray for us as we parent Corrie and continue to grieve Clive and Winnie. 

The past four months have changed us a lot.  We’re learning a new way, a life of being limited with the best limitation—a baby—and a life that is a bit more free from some of the layers of bereavement.  We’ve slowly stepped back into some relationships and been able to begin to gather again with our friends.  For so long, it was too painful and too awkward to be around people.  It still is hard—don’t get me wrong—there is still so much brokenness.  But, this sweet joy of a daughter makes it easier because there is something positive to talk about, there is someone in our arms, and we’re not feeling quite so much as social outcasts and lepers.  No one’s intention, but it’s what happens when you lose your children. 

While we have the new joy of parenting a child in our home, we still wrestle a lot with our deep grief.  Less sleep doesn’t help when you are continuing to process trauma and pain, it we find it hard to even have time to think and process privately.  We shared our hearts very openly after Clive passed, but it was too much to openly bare after Winnie died.  It is still too much, even too hard to talk about her or share our story with others.  It still feels too raw, or even like it’s not possibly real.  There is a lot of trauma to process and heal from, and it will take years, or even a lifetime, to be in the stage of healing.  Sam’s making some changes with work to allow himself more time with our family and more time for processing.  I’m figuring out how to do that, too. 
Much of my heart, my pain, my deep questioning, and my thoughts have been kept guarded and private since Winnie died.  Our lives have felt extremely exposed with the nature of our community, our losses, and our adoption, and we’ve had to pull back for a season of privacy.  It is often too overwhelming to try to explain things clearly, share things openly, be faced with misunderstandings and advice, lack of sensitivity at times, or even just an overwhelming volume of positive support (which is amazing, but overwhelming at times.  am I sounding crazy?).  Maybe the privacy will continue indefinitely, maybe not.  Our days are filled with caring for Corrie, work, some close friends and family, and our marriage, and grief.  We’ve had to remind ourselves frequently that we did not owe it to anyone to have to continue to share so vulnerably this past year, or even in the years to come. 
Thank you for caring for us, for loving us, and being with us.  We are very blessed with sweet Corrie, as well as Clive and Winnie in heaven.  We’re learning how to parent all of them in their unique ways, and continue the love they have grown in our hearts. 
We’ve longed to have a house full of little laughter, and kisses, and diaper changes, and night-time feedings and we get all of those things now.  They make us so happy and Corrie fills us with SO much joy.
We were praying for a match and placement by Christmas this year, and we will have a sweet 5 month old at Christmas!  Such a wonderful and perfect blessing. We are soaking up every minute with this little one.  

Here is a little mouth to kiss; here are two more feet to make music with their pattering about my nursery. Here is a soul to train for God, and the body in which it dwells is worth all it will cost, since it is abode of a kingly tenant. I may see less of friends, but I have gained one dearer than them all. Yes, my precious baby, you are welcome to your mother’s heart, welcome to her time, her strength, her health, to her most tender cares, to her life-long prayers! Oh how rich I am, how truly, how wondrously blest!
-Elizabeth Prentiss

happy birthday, winnie.

Sweet Winnie.
It’s your first birthday.  I can’t even believe it.
This year has been different than last year in many, many ways.  I’ve had to remind myself that it is okay that I’ve had trouble remembering you without the pain associated in losing you.  I’ve had to remind myself that I don’t owe it to anyone to share my heart, and it’s okay to keep a lot of it private.  It’s okay to feel the need to protect you by keeping you to ourselves a bit more than Clive.  Our grief is different because you aren’t him—you’re you—and that’s perfectly okay. 
I’ve had to remind myself that I’ll have my whole life to remember and celebrate you, and grieve you, and that it’s okay that I could hardly do that this year. 
This year we survived, and that was enough. 

Today we’ll make a little pink cake, go for a hike, pick some wildflowers,  and buy a 1st birthday balloon.  We’ll look at pictures and watch some videos and remember.  

I love you and miss you, sweet wildflower. 
You are precious to me, forever and ever. 
I’m grateful that I’m your mom. 
Happy Birthday, Winona Joy. 

Adoption Update + Fundraising

It’s been a few months since we last updated about our adoption.  We’ve had a lot of time waiting, and unfortunately our homestudy (approval to adopt) is not yet complete.  We’ve gotten caught in the midst of some staffing changes at the agency we are using for a homestudy, and it’s taken quite a lot longer than we expected.  We’re getting close!  Meanwhile we’re finishing up our adoption profile and video.  
In this time, we’ve had a lot of time to think through what we want to do next.  There are endless choices in agencies to use for the matching and placement with a baby.  We’ve narrowed it down to a couple excellent choices.  We’ve decided our priorities are to use an agency that does a high number of adoptions a year, is very well staffed, and has a short potential wait time.  We’ve decided against trying to find our own birth mother (which can be a much more affordable option) because it would be too taxing emotionally.  We have already experienced a lot of ups and downs in this adoption and feel that we need to have an agency or attorney that will buffer all inquiries and potential matches.   In the search for agencies and/or attorneys that meet our needs, we have found that they are very expensive.   Being well-staffed, available to answer questions, transparent about things, and having a lot of resources comes with a higher price tag.  After several days of anxiety and near panic attacks about the cost, I (Rachel) have just had to come to the acceptance that this is the best road for us.  It doesn’t eliminate the risks, but it does help us have a better chance of a short wait and excellent guidance/care/protection for the process.  

Our adoption costs are estimated to be about $45,000-$50,000 in total.

This includes:
· Expectant Mother’s Living Expenses (limited to a specific amount), Support/Counseling & Medical Expenses
· The Baby’s Medical Expenses
· Legal Fees
· Administration and Advertising Fees (to find a match)
· Profile Fees
· ICPC (Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children) Fees
· Home Study & Post Placement Fees
· Finalization

This amount is so huge and so overwhelming.  But, we continue to feel assured that this is what we need to do.  We’re continuing to save our own money, but we know that we can’t do this alone.   We’ve been blessed to raise over $7,000 so far in t-shirts (through Etsy and Mad Goat) and a Noonday Jewelry sale.  Rather than wearing ourselves out (and all our family and friends) from doing a lot of smaller fundraisers, we’re going to try to concentrate our efforts on a one or two larger fundraisers.  We decided to create a YouCaring page because many people expressed interest in donating money.  (Read on to see what we’ll be giving away when we draw a name at the end of the fundraiser!)
Donation Info:

-YouCaring Page for donation: https://www.youcaring.com/samandracheladopt
-You can also donate though PayPal:  www.paypal.me/samrachelgeorge  We will manually add this amount to the total on YouCaring.
-You can email (rachelgeorge3@gmail.com) to request our mailing address if you want to send a check.  

-You can still purchase shirts at www.treesandflowersco.etsy.com.  All shirt proceeds go to our adoption.  

-We have stickers for change jars if your kiddos want to collect change for us!  Several kids have been so sweet (they love Clive and Winnie so much!) and donated over $50 to us!  We can mail you a sticker, and just ask that you write a check for the total at the end (rather than giving us all the change)
-As a small gesture from us, when our adoption is complete we’ll draw a name (from those who donate anything more than $100) to win a year subscription of monthly bean delivery from Mad Goat Coffee (or equivalent in gift card).   You can donate through PayPal, YouCaring, or mail to do this.  In addition, your name or donation amount can still remain anonymous to other viewers on the YouCaring page if you wish to keep it private. 

Thank you so much for your generosity, kindness, love, care, and compassion. Thank you for being our village.  Thank you for sharing this post or our YouCaring page link.  Thank you for your continued prayers.  

Much love,
Sam and Rachel

the in-between, the saturday, the long wait

We were at our finally-met-in-person (!) friends’ church this weekend in NYC.  David and his band, The Brilliance wrote a beautiful song for Clive 2 years ago while we were in the hospital.  

It was so good to finally connect with them.  Their music has been such a gift to us.  From the crying out of “Have You Forsaken Me?” (which we blasted and cried out on our drive home from the hospital after Winnie died, and had some friends play for her funeral) to the hope of “The Sun Will Rise” to the beauty of “Gravity of Love.”  (They have an amazing new CD out, please check it out!  Or really any of their music.  I’ll share more about their upcoming projects when I hear more, too.)

The service at their small church was exactly what we needed.  Something about the anonymity so much more freedom for me to openly cry.  It’s harder to do that in a room where everyone knows me, even though I know no one would be surprised or bothered by it.
We got prayer.  David’s dad and friend prayed over us, their faces wet with tears.  His dad said the apostles’ creed:  “We believe in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit…” 

And went on to pray “I say WE, because we know that sometimes you can’t believe alone.  We carry you.  Even when you can’t believe, we believe for you.”

So beautiful. 
Isn’t it true, though: I believe.  Also, Lord, help my unbelief.
The sermon was about expectation and disappointment.  Jonathan Merritt shared about the entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem the week of his death.  He came riding a donkey, and people thought: “Can this be the king? Righteous and victorious, He’s coming to do something Big here.  He has done so many miracles, now He will do more.”  But he came to die.  They did not expect that.  (Please listen here: http://www.tgctribeca.com/teaching-archive/2017/3/15/lent.  So worth listening to, especially if you’ve felt in a season of disappointment!)
We sang Hosanna, after talking about Syria and Egypt’s tragic weeks.  It was the saddest Hosanna I have ever heard.  The instruments cried and wept with us. 
Hosanna.  Hosanna in the highest. 
So somber, so sad.  My face was streaked with tears. 
On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into the city.  Welcomed and praised and surrounded by hosannas.  Killed only days later.  The hosanna would be oh so sad if they knew what was coming.  Somber.  Grief. Death.
And then, days later:  New life.  Restoration.  Resurrection.
I feel like I’m living in the middle days, on the Saturday.  Yes, I can rejoice in what is ahead.  But I am still somber, stricken.  I am still naming what is wrong and waiting for someday-restoration.  My hosanna song is somber, tear-filled, because I know of these broken days, and this broken world that surrounds. 
Yes, I rejoice for the work that is done.  For the presence, peace, life, joy that I (sometimes) feel in Christ.  But, I will not pass over these days lightly.  I will not, cannot, say “But look what comes ahead! Life!”  Because the middle can be ever-long-suffering.  Not that we lose hope, but that we don’t just reject the teaching that suffering offers us when we meet it with somber reflection. 
My hosanna is sad, because I know what lies ahead in these middle-days and I don’t know when the end will come.   Just as they didn’t know Jesus would rise, I don’t know when joy will return in this life, or when full restoration will happen in the next. 
As I sang the hosanna-song, I thought of my joyful babes in heaven. Singing a happy hosanna-song.  Oh, how I miss them!  I wept.  Not for them, but for me and the others waiting in these middle-days.  We don’t know, we don’t understand.  We wait.  We sing “holy, holy, holy,” and we wait.    He will return, making all things right, and new, and true. 
I wrote this post a few days ago, and received this in an email this afternoon: http://www.faithgateway.com/in-between-despair-and-joy?utm_source=fgtoday&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=fgtoday20170415B#.WPJ_54jytPY  SUCH a good article about the Saturday wait.  Please read!

“It’s a strange day, this in-between day. In between despair and joy. In between confusion and clarity. In between bad news and good news. In between darkness and light.”

struggling to pray | by Sam

This may come as a surprise, or this might be the most obvious thing in the world, but Rachel and I have both struggled with anger at God, and are in the midst of struggling with anger at God. Except, (and I’m speaking for myself here) I’m not even sure anger is the right word, something more like disappointment and frustration may fit better. Anger, I think, requires too much energy for someone as tired as I am.
For me, one of the biggest consequences of this is that it is very difficult to pray. Prayer requires submission to God, it requires some level of seeking and accepting (and trusting) His will. I do want to point out that I haven’t completely given up on prayer, just as I haven’t completely given up on God, but it has been very difficult. Praying with sincerity was difficult after Clive died, but it has become nearly impossible since Winnie has died. I pray, but I can barely bring myself to ask anything of God, or when I do, I struggle to believe it can happen.
I have a few different thoughts about this and maybe they will take up multiple blog entries, but I am going to try and put them coherently into this one, because my lack of energy usually means months go by between posts.
My first thought is this, the three questions that every person has to answer in their own hearts are:
  1.   Is God real?
  2.   Is God good?
  3.  Can I trust Him?

When a crisis strikes we are brought back to these 3 questions. For many people, their answer to the first question is “no” and they move on with their lives. For a lot of other people, they begin by accepting God as real, but as life progresses they have a hard time imagining Him as good, so they decide that He is neither good, nor real. Because, honestly, if you decide that God is not good, you pretty much also have to also decide that He is not real. It is my belief that our inner selves cannot accept a reality where God is real and not good.  There are people who probably claim to believe that God is real and that He just started creation down its path and is indifferent, or not powerful enough, to intervene.  But I think that once someone has gone down this road of logic, practically speaking, they don’t really believe in a God, because that sort of god means nothing to everyday life.  In actuality, that sort of god is an insult to existence, it would be better if everything were meaningless.
Surprisingly (given the circumstances) I still believe God is real and God is good. I struggle sometimes to believe that I can truly trust Him to work good in my own life, but that is something I am grappling with. However, it would be impossible and meaningless for me to grapple with it if I didn’t first believe that God was real or that he was good.
I think this is a very important starting place for those who are struggling through difficult circumstances, or struggling through their faith. I can’t guarantee that this line of thinking will be helpful for everyone, but I have been helped a lot by Christian apologetics (“apologetics” means giving a rational defense of the faith). A couple of books that have been hugely influential to me are “The Everlasting Man” by G.K. Chesterton and “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering” by Timothy Keller. In addition to almost everything written by C.S. Lewis, though perhaps especially, “The Weight of Glory”.
My heart is a pit of despair. To approach it, and to wrestle with what is inside of it, is oftentimes beyond what I am prepared to handle. I think it is even dangerous for my mind to try and deal with my heart until my mind has solid foundation to stand on. Otherwise, my mind is not prepared to deal with the sorts of questions my heart is going to inevitably ask. So, before I can help my heart, I have to first address my mind, and for me that has meant comforting my mind with the assurance that 1) God is real, and 2) God is good. The 3rd question is really a heart issue, but like I said I can’t wrestle with that until I’ve wrestled with the others. If I attempt to, I am likely going to suppress my nagging doubts until they fester and pop up again at the next crisis, which I think is what a lot of people do.
The books I mentioned above have comforted my mind with what I believe to be Truth. How they have done that is to assure me that the existence of God, and specifically the story of Jesus, make sense and explain the world we live in better than the alternatives. Chesterton (as well as Lewis) tackles this issue by appealing to the arts and literature and our own imaginations. If we can create such beauty in our arts, and if the stories we love to tell speak again and again of heroes saving the day, then it is very likely that those longings are trying to approach that which is ultimately true. Otherwise, what are they trying to approach? It would be a sad world if our imagination was better than reality, and if it were, what is it were are imagining anyway? But what if our imagination is trying to tell a story of how things should be? Our longings for peace and justice are not mere chance, but have truth inside of them. Which is why these same longing have appeared throughout human history, going back to the earliest writings. The hero we have been longing for is the One that actually came, Jesus. This line of thinking rings true to me, although I cannot guarantee the same will happen for you. This isn’t a step-by-step guidebook that works for everyone, life is far too complex for that.
So, I have gotten this far, but I still struggle with the 3rd question: can I trust God?
You might think that this is closely related to the 2nd question, Is God good? If He is good, than surely you can trust him.
There is sense to that thinking, but the reality is that trusting is much more difficult than merely believing. Saying that God is good and letting it sink into your heart that you can trust Him with your entire being are two very different things. They are definitely related, but you have to take some serious steps of faith in order to answer “yes” to that final question and seriously mean it no matter what. If everything falls apart, will you still trust him? Will I still trust Him?

This leads me back to prayer. I’m not saying I don’t trust God. I’m not saying I answer “no” to that 3rdquestion. But I am struggling with it. It’s not a simple “yes”, and at times it definitely feels like my answer is “I’m not sure”. This makes prayer difficult. At least sincere prayer, I guess surface level prayers and saying a quick grace before eating a meal aren’t as difficult. But the real prayers. The kind that take trust and faith and a real relationship with God. Those are difficult. Yet, I still find myself trying, making attempts to say the words I struggle to say. Or just sitting quietly before Him and hoping (perhaps even daring to trust) that He will do the healing work in me that so desperately needs to be done. 
He is good after all, right?  I still think so.