Tuesday, January 10, 2017

dear mamas in waiting

I've talked to a handful of hopeful adoptive mamas this week already about the wait. It's hard and easily tests patience and faith. But I love the gift that the wait can be. 

There's no doubt that most hopeful adoptive mama's hardest space is the wait to be matched. Once the home study paperwork is complete, the applications filled out, and the nursery decorated, there's the inevitable wait to be matched with an expectant family.

But there's a dramatic difference between pregnancy and waiting to be matched as an adoptive mama. With no belly gradually growing and not even a due date in sight, the wait can be long and hard. With no end in sight and nothing to do but wait, how do you bide your time? How do you hold your heart? How do you stay hopeful?

I've shared before about truth to cling to in the wait and what to do while you wait. But today I want to share the incredibly unique position you hold in this space.


Right now, chances are you are waiting in anticipation for an email or phone call with a new situation. A description of an expectant mama and the little one she is carrying. It includes sacred details of her personal life: a bit of her story, her interests and background, the details of the birth father, even her hopes and dreams for her child.

Although these include basic facts and statistics, what's contained in this information goes far beyond information. It also gives a glimpse into actual lives. A mother and father in a hard place. A baby with a future that is uncertain. Three lives that will be forever changed in the coming days. And others that will be changed as well; there are grandparents, aunts, uncles, friends, and possibly a future adoptive family involved.

When these phone calls or emails come, you are given insights into personal stories. There are details shared in each situation that this expectant mama might not have shared with anyone else.

What if God has called you not just to adopt a baby, but to pray for each of these women (and men and babies)?

What if your ministry isn't just as a mother someday, but as a prayer warrior today?

What if God has blessed you with an incredibly unique position to pray for this mama, and father, and baby in a way no one else on earth can in these moments?

It would be easy to waste the wait on impatience, grumbling, and angst, spending your time focusing on the baby that is not yet in your arms. But your fervent prayers can have a reach beyond this moment. I love that God doesn't waste these spaces when it seems like nothing important is happening. That in the wait, your time, your energy, and your prayers can have eternal impact. 

Here's some ways you can pray:
  • Pray for peace for the expectant mama. Pray that God would meet her where she is and provide comfort and protection.
  • Pray for wisdom for the expectant mom she makes a decision about what is best for her and her baby and considers parenting and adoption. 
  • Pray for the father: that he would be an honored as a part of the decision-making process and offer support where he can. 
  • Pray for the pregnancy and the baby: that the baby would be healthy and the expectant mom would get quality medical care.
  • Pray for others to surround the expectant parents with encouragement and love; friends, family, and professionals who would honor their decisions and offer tangible means of support and care.
  • Pray that through all of this, God would work all things for their good and His glory.

Someday, when the wait is over and you're snuggling a sweet baby, what a gift to be able to look back and think of all the ways you came alongside other women (and men) to pray for them and their babies. And to know that maybe, another hopeful adoptive mama was doing the same for the little one who would someday be in your arms as well.



Friday, January 6, 2017

in their own words: the truth about our hurt

Joslyn is a sweet friend. We were roommates for several years in college, traveled together in a band (not as glamorous as you might be imagining), and grew into adulthood side by side. If you know Joslyn, you know her huge heart for others, her contagious belly laugh, and her passion for life. She has a way of making just about anything fun and has a constant twinkle in her eyes. But more than anything, Jos has always had a heart for being a mama. All three of her children have come to her through adoption and she is an adoptee herself.Today Joslyn honestly and transparently shares some insights on the hurt and pain adoptees can go through.


I have a unique perspective. As an adoptee who has adopted, I get both sides. The only leg of the adoption triangle I'm missing is the birth momma.

Adoption is this amazing experience I have had the pleasure of knowing so intimately. It's who I am. It's my past and present and future. God gave me this amazing family who nurtured me and led me up in Christ. I was loved. I am loved. My family is such a gift. And now I get to love and nurture three souls that I have been hand-picked to parent through foster/adoption.

To say that this road is all roses and butterflies would be...untrue. And to be honest, no parenting road is smooth sailing. If someone claims that it is, perhaps they haven't hit certain stages yet. Or maybe they're lying.

The truth is, parenting kids from hard places is both incredibly challenging and terribly sad. It's hard.

So, in the essence of true transparency, I thought I'd write a little about the hurt and pain we adoptees go through. Please read this with no judgement and no "psychological answers," because the truth is...it's there. The older I get, the more I feel like one day (or year) it will go away, but it doesn't. 

And remember: this doesn't mean we don't love the life we've been given and blessed with. I'm just hoping to let light in to your adoptee's mind...even if they can't put words to it.

There are days when we're sad and we don't know why. Only to realize later that it's because we didn't sleep last night as we thought/dreamt/imagined our birth family and how life maybe would have been. Does it mean we want a different life? No. (For me, never.) But does it mean we wonder? Yes. We do. And then our feelings drift to why? That "why" will hang over our heads until we get the chance to ask the ones who can answer it, which some of us never will.

Birthdays are much harder than one would think. Not because we're growing older. No. It's because we can't stop wondering if the proverbial "they" are thinking about us. Do they remember this day? What are their memories/feelings/regrets about this day? Or is it just another day for them? Do they remember? Do they miss me? Do they wish they knew me?

There's a lot more guilt than we talk about. We wrestle with our desire to want to know more (everything) about our heritage/birth family/genes. We worry that will make our adoptive family think we love them less. We don't. But we need to know basic things that most people automatically have given to them upon birth into a family. Let us explore. Let us search. Let us meet. Let us love and be loved by both of the families who made us who we are. Without abandon. And maybe help us along the way.

Don't assume gratitude. This is a hard one for me to type. I am impacted greatly by gratitude; I believe we all are. But don't assume that we should be grateful for the life we've been given. Especially in those teenage years, when all we search for is autonomy, sometimes all we can think about is how life would/could be better/different. Don't say to me, "You should be grateful for the family you have." I am grateful. We are. We adoptees are. But why should we assume that our life is greater without our "roots?" That's a hard pill to swallow for us.

I look into my 3 kid's eyes and I sometimes even admittedly think that. That I wish they'd be grateful for the sacrifice and love and hard issues we sludge through with them. But the truth is, I know they are silently fighting a battle that they don't even want to be in.

And so in our home, we provide safety and (hopefully) transparency. We talk about birth family and birth parents as fluidly as we talk about our own. We talk about what could have been, what might have been. We talk about how all of our family has shaped who we are. We talk about how we have to choose which way to lean....how to pick the good parts of all of it and learn to be comfortable with who we are. We talk about how hard birthdays are. And sometimes, when relaying our conversations to my husband, tears are shed. Because I don't want my children to know how I understand both sides now. I get them wanting their roots. And I also get me wanting to protect them from whatever possible harm there could be in their roots.

We celebrate big days (birthdays, adoption, etc.) with the realization that the only way our family can celebrate these days is because our child has experienced such a great and devastating loss. That can not be forgotten or left out.

Similar to life itself, great beauty rises from the ashes of hurt. And though no family is perfect, mine was perfect for me. I pray when my three are grown, they will say the same of us.

And most importantly, the beauty outweighs the hurt. Always.



You can find Joslyn, her family, and more of her story at her blog, Keathley Chronicles.


Thursday, December 29, 2016

adoption story: mike and helen

I knew the moment I first talked to Helen she had a sweet spirit. Her family has an amazing story and they had a beautiful daughter who was adopted from Ethiopia. I knew even then the story of how their second baby would come to them would be just as amazing and beautiful. Walking with Helen and Mike, I was often in awe of their strength and their faith. And no less astonished at their perseverance and commitment to the process of continuing to grow their family through adoption... 

When we adopted our daughter 3 years ago from Ethiopia, we were positive that we will adopt from Africa again. We felt that this is a way to maintain a connection to where we come from. We are both originally from Africa and came to the US for education and career advancement (yeah, long story). Adopting domestically was not in our radar. That changed when I met my dear friend JJ. We started to meet for coffee often. We discussed all things adoption and I shared with her our desire to adopt. She shared her adoption story with me and her positive experience with Susan. I was very ambivalent with going domestic. However, international adoption from most African countries was not going well. The agency we almost signed on with was closing its doors. When I heard this, I called JJ again and we sat for a long time for coffee. This time, I was all ears. By the time our coffee date was done, I was all in. 


After we signed on with Susan, she started emailing situations to us. One evening, Susan called us about a birth mom who was a week from delivery and was specifically interested in a black family. We asked to be presented. 2 days later, Susan called us to let us know she had chosen us and that meant we had to be in Las Vegas as soon as possible. We did exactly that and we were on cloud nine when we met the birth family. We could tell they liked us and the feeling was mutual. 

We were there when the baby was born. He was beautiful baby boy. We were crying tears of joy. The next day, it seemed the birth family were ambivalent regarding the adoption plan. However, the birth mom told us there was no way she was going to change her mind. She was just having difficulty processing her feelings but was set on the plan. That changed on the next day when they decided to parent. Though we knew it was a bittersweet moment, we were devastated. Our 3-year-old was crying. We felt defeated. We felt hopeless. However, many people sent us messages of support as soon as they learned of what happened. Many prayed for us. Susan called and supported us along the way. We started reflecting more on the pain of birth parents. In some ways, I could see the pain of what it feels like. Adoption is indeed bittersweet. 

Slowly, our hearts were getting better. This is the season when we learned to truly trust in God. Even though we had so much support, we felt somehow alienated. I remember one evening telling my husband that I was so happy the mom had decided to parent, yet I had tears in my eyes on my own sadness. My husband reminded me that is the reality of adoption. We started wondering if we will adopt again. If it falls through again, will we survive? Will our daughter survive? 

The next day we got a call from the same agency of a little boy who was already born; would we consider parenting him? We told the agency we would get back with them at the end of the day. We wrestled with the decision. We felt like it was too soon to take a leap of faith. But somehow, I felt something inside my heart. I talked to my husband. That evening we said yes. The next day we were in Las Vegas, the same city we had vowed never to return to. By the time Thanksgiving came, we had been with our baby for 2 days and we were bonding and falling in love with him. When we met his birth mom, we were extremely nervous. In my heart, I had a mix of many emotions. I felt her pain and the scene of what had happened two weeks prior came replaying in my head. Secretly, I started questioning if we were deserving of this perfect child. 


As we sat across from each other in a Mexican restaurant and over fajitas, I decided to tell her how I felt. She smiled at my eyes and assured me she was sure this is the plan she wants and she is happy that we are the people to raise her son. Somehow, it was as if the weight in my heart had been lifted. She was at peace. We were at peace. Yet a little lingering sadness was in the air.

As I look at my son now at a month old, I am amazed with the journey that took us to him. I feel an incredible connection to him, so strong that I can't explain. I don't feel lucky. I feel blessed. I think of his birth mom almost every day. I am sure she thinks of him too. We are incredibly blessed to be his parents. Our almost four year old is so in love with him. Just yesterday, as I watched her giving him a bottle (with their father closely supervising!) I was overwhelmed with all the feelings. The story of God's redemptive love. My daughter looked my way and said, "Daddy, Mommy is happy crying again!"


Tuesday, December 27, 2016

adoption story: jeff and heather

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11


So many times during our journey I read this verse. Sometimes it was with deep hurt wanting to know why this was happening to us, why didn’t we deserve to be parents. I would pray that if we weren’t meant to be a parents then to take the desire away from my heart.  The desire never left and adoption gave us new hope for our future. We are finally a family of three.



We wanted to have a child, but after six fruitless years of trying and several gristmill years of infertility treatments (drugs, inseminations, in vitro). We buried the monthly hope that our bodies would bring forth children and we accepted the fact that we are infertile. Biology had been quietly put to rest, but the desire to become parents did not. We always saw having a family as the next great adventure. So, we turned toward adoption, and as our hearts and spirits began to thaw, adoption filled us with new hope, a sense of possibility we thought still frozen and extinct. We were looked forward to being Mommy and Daddy soon.

We started researching adoption two years ago. This was very overwhelming, there are so many options and we had no idea where to begin. From domestic, international, private, all the different agencies large/small, and the cost of it all was significantly more that we had anticipated. We prayed about it and something just didn’t feel like it was time for us, and my heart really wanted to give my husband a child. We choose to try to fertility treatments one more time which lead to a long a grueling year. We were not only emotionally and financially drained, my body was tired. I struggled with this decision of moving on to adoption much more than Jeff did. I thought I was letting him down not being able to give my husband what a wife was supposed to unable to bare his children. After lots of prayer and Jeff reassuring me that God had a plan, we knew we were done and God was telling us it was time to look back into adoption. We continued to pray about our journey and possibilities of adoption. 

During this time I came across this blog of Susan’s with Christian Adoption Consultants which I followed and fell in love. This gave us new hope an encouragement. I found myself looking at it all the time and reading every post with how she helped everyone through God and adoption. I knew we had to set up a meeting with her.   

We signed with CAC right after Thanksgiving, with the holidays we were home study approved end of February, and start applying to agencies, becoming agency approved in March, and then the situations started coming our way. As we would read the situation and pray over each one deciding if it was the one for us. We were presented 10+ times (I tried not to keep track). It was more of an emotional roller coaster than we had anticipated. With the several “no’s” we heard, we couldn't help by wonder what was wrong with us, why we were not being chosen. Finally were matched July 6. The road to our baby was bumpy and mess with lots of unknowns, but the moment we saw him we melted and finally had a sense of peace and reassurance of God's plan for us.


As we are in the Holiday season, I know several people around us still waiting; struggling with infertility, and loss.  I ask everyone to do something for that person around them (no matter how small).  It will mean so much to them just knowing you are praying and thinking of them during their wait or time of feeling loss. Those of you still waiting: never give up hope, the reward will be so worth the wait! 

"Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12   


Professional pictures by Kenny Felt Photography
Personalized hat by Knots LLC
Personalized blanket by Highway 3


Friday, December 23, 2016

#200


This text came last night. A text like so many others of a family rushing to the hospital to make it for the birth of their child.


And then, in the wee hours of the morning, the follow up that he had arrived. "He's perfect. Born at 11:46. 7lbs, 13oz" and beautiful pictures of the new family of three.

This text marks number 200. 200 babies welcomed to families through adoption. 200 adoptions I've been honored to be a part of as I walk beside families as an Adoption Consultant with Christian Adoption Consultants.

It seems silly that I know that number. But I know it because it's so much more than a number. Each of these 200 babies represents a story. Each one a way God moved in miraculous and redemptive ways. Each with their own bittersweet details of two families coming together to choose what they believe is the best for their baby.

200 babies
200 birth families who have made brave and selfless decisions
200 times a couple has said “yes” to the scary unknowns of adoption
200 extended families with grandmas and grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins, and siblings have welcomed a little one
200 ways a family has opened their hearts and homes
200 families changed forever


I've shared before why I have the best job in the world. But truly, I can't imagine anything more rewarding for me than watching daily as families, both birth and adoptive, say "yes" to all of this. To the hard, good, redemptive, bittersweet, amazing stuff that adoption is made of. 

So this morning, when I got this text, you can understand how overwhelmed I was. It was another chance to be in awe of a God who writes the best stories. And I've had a front row seat to at least 200 beautiful ones...


Thursday, December 22, 2016

repost: the ache of the wait in the holidays

You've met Amy before. A sweet adoptive mama and client turned dear friend. We met over coffee to talk about adoption and the last time I saw her, her family of three was gathered in my living room with our crew. I love her thoughts on adoption, the hard wait, and the holiday season...

For our family this Christmas season will be our most memorable. It is our first Christmas as a family of three. Our home is overflowing with love, magic and new beginnings. This year we get to celebrate Christmas with our son. We spent hours Christmas shopping (and lets be honest, baby B is not even gonna know what's goin' on this year!), we have dreamt of the traditions we hope to start to make the season full of magic. We had no idea just how emotional this Christmas would be for our family. This is a dream I wasn't sure would ever come true. But, one thing I can say for sure?

I would go through all of the heartache and sadness again to get to my son. 


To all of you who have babies growing in your hearts right now, I promise you, this holiday season will soon be filled with love, joy and overwhelming thankfulness. Right now, I know your hearts are dreading spending another holiday without your child. I know your hearts ache watching families celebrate the magic of Christmas with little ones. I know you dream of the day when you get hang up that stocking that says "Baby's First Christmas." I know you can't wait for the day when you get to wrap gifts to put under the treat for your most treasured gift.

Please don't lose hope.

Last year, I was walking with you. I remember being curled up by our fireplace holding tightly to the book I had bought for a baby I had hoped to be holding in my arms.

I remember each tear that fell down my face. 

I remember each silent prayer I whispered to God, begging Him to give me strength. 

You're. Not. Alone. 

Please don't give up hope. Please don't lose your faith.

This season, I'm praying for you hearts to be full of hope for what is to come.

It is worth the wait. 


It's worth every single tear. It's worth every silent prayer. 

Please know you are in my heart this season.

Amy



For more on Amy, her beautiful family, and their adoption journey, you can head to her blog, Glimpses of Hope.



Monday, December 19, 2016

adoption story: joe and jessica (baby #2!)

The holidays are especially sweet for Joe and Jessica. Just two years ago in November, they welcomed their first son, Micah through adoption. You can read that amazing story here. But they knew their family was not yet complete and started with Christian Adoption Consultants again this September. (As a side, some of my favorite calls to get are families I get to work with a second or third time!)


It was just a month later they were matched with an expectant mama. And a month after that, Emmitt was born. This Thanksgiving the family spent it as a brand new family of four.



Below are some of Jessica's thoughts on going through adoption a second time...

Going through the adoption process the second time was so different than the first. We were much more at peace with knowing and trusting in God’s plan for our family. It made the "no’s" much easier to take and the waiting was easier.  But it was also harder this time because we knew that our happiest moment was going to come at the price of another woman’s worst moment. We love Micah’s birth mom so much, and have such a great relationship with her. I worried that we wouldn’t have that same connection with our second child’s birth family. Those worries melted away quickly though when we met Emmitt’s birth family. I feel so lucky to have two sons, but I also feel incredibly blessed to have added these two birth mothers in our lives. It’s a bond that you just can’t understand unless you’ve experienced it.  I’m so glad that God chose this for our family. 





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