Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Adoption Story: Adam and Dani (again!)

No two adoption stories are alike. We see that all the time around here. But it's true even within the same family. When Adam and Dani adopted their daughter, it ended up being a whirlwind of getting a call and hopping one of the first flights available to meet her. This time, instead of a whirlwind, Adam and Dani had the gift of time to prepare and build relationships with their son's birth family. Both stories perfectly ordained by God. And two beautiful adoptions that made Adam and Dani a family of FOUR!

Two years ago on the Fourth of July we got a phone call that changed our family forever - our beautiful daughter was on her way, born July 6th. This year, on July 5th, we got a similar call - a biracial couple, due in October, wanted to place their child with our family. This time, because we had a few months instead of two days to prepare, we got to meet and build a relationship with the expectant mama ahead of the birth. That relationship was beautiful and gave us a ton of insight and compassion into the origin story of this baby boy, but it also came with some challenges - the interpersonal delicacies and dramas of an adoptive/birth family relationship were challenging in our situation! But through it all, God called us to be faithful and kind, never taking our eyes off of the calling He has on our family and the way he was at work in all of us through this process. That's not to say that we handled all of the twists and turns perfectly but we knew that we had a Savior and Sustainer in our corner, a God who already loved this little boy (and his birth family) more than we ever could.

We planned to be in Florida a couple of weeks before the due date. Adam works in tech and has flexibility to work from anywhere, and I wanted to honor our expectant mom's wishes by being available for doctor's appointments and other needs. But the very day we were flying across the country, Baby Boy was born! Talk about a wild, God-ordained story! We were traveling more than a thousand miles, with tickets that had been purchased weeks before, but landed in Florida within two hours of his birth. From there it became so apparent that God was at work in our story. Through every uncertainty or challenge he was walking right beside us, "securing our passage." 

We love these verses:

“This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
    to break the chains of injustice,
    get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
    free the oppressed,
    cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
    sharing your food with the hungry,
    inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
    putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
    being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
    and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
    The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
    You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’"
Isaiah 58:6-9 (The Message)

We named our son Isaiah, in part because of these verses. Through every uncertainty God has been so faithful. The lights have indeed come on and we are grateful. We are now a family of FOUR and we feel unbelievably honored to carry two beautiful origin stories of rescue, redemption and hope throughout our family life.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Countdown to Forever

This week is a big one for our family. Yesterday, in a little courtroom in Illinois, a judge declared to my brother and his wife that they are officially the parents to their daughter, Elodie. A truth they've known in their hearts for over a year from the very moment they heard about her life.

In the days leading up to that moment in the courthouse when Elodie was officially named a Weston, Meg made a series of posts about the days surrounding Elodie's birth, her beautifully brave birth mama, and how adoption has impacted their family. Meg has been gracious enough to let me share her thoughts here as we celebrate Elodie's life, adoption, and the beautiful story God is writing...

November 30th 

Let the countdown commence! We are 8 days from Elodie becoming officially adopted. 

This is Tim waiting probably around 3am on June 21st. He couldn’t sleep or relax. He was the most anxious I’ve ever seen him. Little did he know, he’d be meeting that precious baby we had been praying for all night in roughly 3 more hours.

It was nearing 6am and the nurses told us to go get something to eat. The doctor wanted mama E to rest for an hour as she’d been working so hard all night. We found some vending machines and sat down for a quick bite. We were gone no more then twenty minutes and when we returned mama E exclaimed with excitement, “Did you see HER yet!?”

Right then and there, Tim and I were in tears. God had blessed us with a girl! A nurse escorted us to the nursery and we got to meet Elodie for the first time.

7 days to go!

December 1st 

Later that morning, mama E was transferred to a recovery room. Once she was settled in, the nurse brought Elodie in from the nursery. I remember mama E being so excited to hold her and to study her tiny fingers and toes.

It felt like such an intimate space and mama E was incredibly gracious to allow us in her room. Once she soaked Elodie in, she looked at me and said, “Okay, it’s your turn to hold your daughter!”

It was a feeling I’ll never forget. This woman who just gave birth placed that beautiful baby girl in my arms and made me a mama once again. It’s so profound - the selfless love that mama E has for her children.

6 days to go!

December 2nd

Tim had this deep desire for a daughter. He even had me keep a small bin of girl clothes just in case we ever needed it. I remember having a serious conversation with him about how it’s very possible we would have a family of all sons. However that didn’t mean he’d never have a girl to spoil one day, because maybe he’d get a granddaughter down the line. He’d nod in agreement but I could still see that glimmer of hope in his eyes.

I had held her for quite awhile when I realized he was patiently and eagerly waiting for his turn. He snuggled her in with such a proud smile on his face!

Elodie, you are the daughter your daddy longed for.

5 days to go!

December 1st

To paint a picture of adoption as a fairytale would be a mistake. There is brokenness, too.

June 22nd was a broken day. Mama E was being discharged and signing temporary custody to us beforehand.

As she was being wheeled out, Tim and I walked alongside her. She was in tears. I had no words. What do you say in such a hard, emotional moment? I literally cannot imagine how that feels and will never pretend to.

All I could do was give her a hug. As the elevator door closed, my heart broke for her and for Elodie. The bond that had been made for the last 9 months while Elodie was knit in her womb was at least partially broken.

So when I say it’s an honor to be Elodie’s mama, I mean that I desire to mother her in a way that honors the selflessness and bravery of mama E.

4 days to go!

December 2nd

This is Elodie's Grandma. We first met back in 2012 in the waiting room of a court house. She was there worried about who her grandson, Jacob, was with and how he was doing. We quickly learned that she is fiercely protective of her grand babies and would go to the ends of the earth for them.

Our relationship has developed over time, just as any other relationship does. It started out in the middle of McDonalds over cheeseburgers and Christmas presents. We continued to meet every couple of months until eventually she was in our living room for Christmas celebrations and enjoying birthday parties along with our entire family.

We’ve adopted each other. Yes, we adopted her grand babies but likewise she’s adopted us too. She’s fully accepted our family, as she even claims Griffien as her grandson. We are family.

3 days to go!

December 6th

Since mama E was discharged, Elodie was put in the nursery. At first, we were told we’d have to be in the waiting room and come in whenever she needed fed. I was heartbroken. We wanted to bond with our baby girl. That’s when Tim put on his tough daddy look and demanded to speak with a nurse supervisor.

He explained our situation and sure enough a sweet nurse came up with the idea for us to have the private feeding room for mother’s who had babies staying long term but still wanted to breastfeed. (Side note: Those are some serious superhero mamas!)

We knew that if a mom came in needing to breastfeed then we’d be asked to step out. However, it didn’t happen while we were there on the 23rd so we were able to snuggle and bond with Elodie all. morning. long. 

2 days to go!

December 7th

On the afternoon of the 23rd, we got word that Elodie was good to be discharged. We could finally bring her home to meet her eager big brothers!

With adoption comes a lot of paperwork and so it came without surprise that before we could leave we’d have to sign our names everywhere. To be honest, I don’t even remember what we were signing. We were just excited to be heading HOME!

After signing who-knows-what, we gathered our things to leave. The nurse, who took care of Elodie while she was in the nursery (she’s also the one who got us the private room), and the caseworker walked out with us. I’m so glad we got a picture! These are people who often don’t get recognized but who are definitely apart of her story. Thank you for all you do, nurses and caseworkers!

1 day to go!

And then, yesterday, there was a simple court hearing. In a small little room, the same one we all packed into for Jacob's adoption almost exactly three years before, Elodie officially became a Weston. The judge and court aids and attorneys in the room were all grins, proud big brothers sat at the plaintiff's table with suckers they had been given, and the bailiff kindly gave me freedom to take all the pictures I wanted.

The standard questions were asked, "Where do you work, Mr. Weston? What is your address Mrs. Weston?" I heard by brother choke up when he was asked if he was "prepared to take on the responsibility and liability of being Elodie's father forever." And then, the judge with kind eyes banged the gavel and declared "Tim and Meg Weston, from this moment on, Elodie is your daughter until the end of time."

I sat there and wondered if he knew he was just making an earthly declaration of what God had already ordained in the Heavens for this girl, and her family, long before...

Friday, December 1, 2017

Repost: Family Advent Traditions

To celebrate the first of December, I thought I would repost some of our family's favorite advent traditions through the years. As our kids get older, some of the ways we've paused as a family to celebrate Christ's coming and anticipate His return have changed a bit. Those spaces look different with toddlers than they do with pre-teens. So here's a little VanSyckle compilation of our advent family traditions over the years in hopes that you'll join us celebrating, waiting, and anticipating the One who holds our true hope.

Each year as advent approaches, we try to be purposeful as a family to make space to celebrate God breaking into our world and anticipating him coming again to make all things right. It's so easy to fill up our calendars and our hearts this season with busyness and unrealistic expectations. With hope misplaced in perfect decorations, ideal gifts, and trying to create flawless memories, we lose what really matters. 

Although I love all the season brings with cozy fires, hot chocolate, lights twinkling, and time with family, I want our family to remember why we exchange gifts. Why we celebrate. And why our hope isn't in a beautifully decorated home or the gifts on our wish lists.

Advent didn't start in a stable. It started in a garden thousands of years before. And rehearsing the truth of God's grand redemption plan is a good (and needed) way to center our hearts this season. Here's a compilation of what our family has done through the years (since the kids were toddlers) up until now. Each one has a link with more details and resources.

This year we're doing Ann Voskamp's Unwrapping the Greatest Gift again. Not only is the book incredibly beautiful, but it's rich with gospel truths. Since the kids are older now (eight and ten) they're a good age to focus more on the story and have significant discussions about what advent and anticipation means to our family daily. Starting tomorrow, we'll be taking more time around the dinner table each night to go through the book.

We've also loved celebrating advent with our much beloved The Jesus Storybook Bible. This is a favorite book in our home and I love how every single story points to Jesus. Reading through it snuggled up together each night is a sweet way to tie God's plan to send Jesus to a hurting and broken world and come back to make all things new together for little (and not so little) hearts.

And when the kids were little, we celebrated with a Jesse Tree for several years. Each night they unwrapped an ornament to hang (or found it hidden in the house) that represented a different part of God's redemption story. It was fun to watch them make the connections to the prophecies in the Old Testament and a little baby born in Bethlehem as they hung each wooden ornament on our little Jesse Tree. 

Here's a few other ways we've tried to be intentional (and fun) at Christmas...

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Adoption Story: Corbin and Alyssa

Corbin and Alyssa's story starts with great loss. Today I'm incredibly thankful for Alyssa's voice to share her raw, painful, and beautiful story of how they grew their family. The story of their two daughter's: one in Heaven and one in their arms...

We have always had a heart for adoption. When Corbin and I were dating, we would often discuss how many children we would have, and adoption would always come up. When we got married in October 2012, we decided that we would wait a few years to start a family. Our “plan” was to have two biological children, and then we would pursue adoption for our 3rd child if God led us to do so.

In September of 2014 I started to have minor health complications. I didn’t think much of it, but made a doctors appointment with my OB/GYN just to be safe. A couple of weeks later, I was diagnosed with PCOS. My doctor informed Corbin and I that it was wise to go ahead and start trying for a family, as it may be difficult for us to conceive.

In December of 2014, I had my first miscarriage at 6 weeks. We were devastated, but also very excited that we were able to get pregnant quickly. Since the miscarriage was so early and in the first trimester, our doctor told us that it is very common and not to worry – “The chances of it happening again is rare” she said. 

In April of 2016, we found out we were pregnant again, and that we were due on New Years Day! We were over the moon excited and had very high hopes. As I reached week 12 (the “safe” zone), we decided we would announce our pregnancy to our friends and family! While watching fireworks with my family on the 4th of July, at almost 15 weeks, I knew something didn’t feel right. I couldn’t describe it – but explained to Corbin how I wanted to get checked out just to be safe. The next day at a doctor’s appointment, as I was lying on the sonogram table, I saw our sweet baby girl without a heartbeat. On July 8th, I delivered our beautiful breathless daughter, Lael Noelle. After we said our goodbyes, she was immediately sent to pathology. After waiting months to receive the results, my worst fear came true. “Everything came back normal – your daughter was normal and growing as she should have been. You had a 3% chance of having a fetal demise” said my doctor. It felt like my heart dropped to the floor as I realized my body was responsible for her death. As my doctor went over my blood work results, she told us that we possibly could have biological children, but pregnancy would be a high risk.

As days, weeks, and months went on, Corbin and I kept praying for answers. I went through stages of feeling very angry, guilty, and hopeless. Not sure of where to turn or what to do, the same bible verse kept coming to my mind day after day. “I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord” Isaiah 66:9. I knew God had a plan. I knew God wanted Corbin and I to use Lael’s short life for His glory.

As Corbin and I started discussing the possibility of pursing adoption, we both decided to take our time and lean on prayer. We didn’t want to rush such a big decision and wanted God to lead our way. After praying God would give us peace of mind on one Saturday in February, we decided that we wanted to go to The Village Church in Flower Mound that next morning. We had heard wonderful things about the lead pastor Matt Chandler, and wanted to see how we liked it. As the sermon started, we realized that this Sunday was going to be different than most. It was dedication Sunday, where the newborn babies and baptisms were being recognized. As we watched each baby picture come up on the large screen, Corbin and I looked at each other with grief in our eyes. Then something began to happen. Adoption story after adoption story after adoption story was shown on the large screen! As tears began to fill my eyes, I knew being at The Village Church that day wasn’t an accident. We asked God to speak to us, and He did!

After a lot of research, we decided to sign on with Christian Adoption Consultants! After we were Home Study approved in July, we applied to six different agencies in multiple states. Shortly after we applied, we received an email one afternoon regarding a birth mother from our agency. Corbin and I immediately loved her profile, and decided we wanted to present our family book to her. A few days later we received the phone call that she had chosen us to raise her baby girl! We were so excited and couldn’t wait to meet her, as her due date was a short five weeks away!

When the time came to head to Florida, we were able to meet and have lunch with our sweet birth mom before our beautiful baby girl arrived. As we greeted one another, there was an instant and immediate connection that we couldn’t deny – we had been praying for her specifically since that day in February at church, and we knew, undoubtedly, that God’s hand was at work. 

The very next day, our baby girl was born - Audyn Jade - 6 pounds, 13 ounces, and 18 ½ inches long! We are eternally grateful that we were able to share those special moments with Audyn’s birth mother, and we will cherish the memories for a lifetime. And in details that only God could have orchestrated, we later found out that Audyn's conception date was Lael's (our biological daughter's) due date.

When we lost Lael we couldn’t understand why, but God has shown us that His plan for our family was much bigger than our own. Even on the hardest days when we couldn’t understand our path, or how God was working, He was faithful, and we couldn’t be more in love with our Audyn Jade! 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Adoption Story: Jeremy and Katie

One day, one phone call, can change everything...

Jeremy and Katie got a call on a chilly day last November and their world stopped. And then, unexpectedly, God showed up and changed EVERYTHING with another call...

For Jeremy and Katie, that second call happened just seven months later. Read the crazy and beautiful ways God turned their darkest nights into dancing as Katie shares their adoption story...

Our adoption story. It feels so surreal to say those words.

When we got married, we lived in this fairy tale, blissful, naive bubble where we believed we were actually in control. In control of our own lives, and especially in control of when/how/where we would have children. We even planned out that we would have a couple biologically and then go on adopt. And that's how it would happen - because we had planned it that way.

One November day, after a year of trying to conceive, our fairy tale bubble was burst. One phone call from the doctor assured us that our plans were not going to happen. We sank into a darkness and sadness that we didn't even know existed.

Why us?

What had we done wrong?

How can our hearts be hurting this deep?

But in that darkness we heard the Lord's beautiful whisper "now it's time for MY plan."

In one fell swoop our God took back everything the enemy had taken from us. Our hope. Our joy. Our future.

Little did we know that walking alongside friends who had adopted through Christian Adoption Consultants year prior would be preparing us for our own adoption journey. We were immediately in contact with Susan and were soon running full speed ahead.

Throughout the entire adoption process we had to make the conscious decision to trust in the Lord and speak out against the darkness and it's lies.

You'll never get matched.

You'll never be able to afford this.

You aren't good enough to be parents.

June 22. We will never forget this day as long as we live.

"Birth mother says you are PERFECT."

And with those six words, our lives were forever changed.

Our son, Jackson, was born four weeks later. He arrived seven weeks early and we spent the next 29 days in the NICU out of state.

Once again, our plans were thrown to the side to allow the Lord's story to unfold. You see, adoption isn't just about waiting parents getting a child. It is a physical representation of the Gospel that changes the course of all future generations.

We are still processing every detail of Jackson coming into our lives and I'm sure we will for years to come. But we know this for sure: even in our darkest moments the Lord is making beauty from ashes. And His plans will always exceed anything we could ever possibly imagine.

"Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think." - Ephesians 3:20

Because the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy our hope and joy; but our God comes, not just to give life, but give it to the full.

Jackson is the full we didn't even imagine to pray for. 

And for that, we are thankful the Lord doesn't follow our plans.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Adoption Story: Will and Megan (again!)

Will and Megan adopted their sweet daughter three years ago (it's a beautiful story!) and knew they weren't done growing their family. When things didn't go as smoothly as the first time around, it would have been easy to quit. Easy to give up. Easy to assume it "just wasn't God's plan."

But sometimes, just when things are the hardest, it means you have to show up and keep pushing through with all of the faith you have. And in adoption, remembering there's another family on the other side of everything, struggling with the hard pieces of adoption as well...

When you've gone through it once, you feel like an old pro, right? Wrong! No two adoption stories are alike and our family quickly found that out when we decided to adopt once again. When our first daughter (also adopted) turned 2, we decided to get our home study updated and start this whole adoption journey once again. The paperwork and home study went swimmingly. Doing that once, you DO become an old pro! But from there, our journey decided to take it's own path, rather than follow the lines of our previous adoption.  

Two failed matches later, we sure felt defeated. Never once did God fail us however. With lots of hesitation but lots of prayer, we pushed on. We were matched for a third time and though it felt right, there were so many signs that could have pushed us away. Luckily, we trusted in God's plan for us. On October 7th, our sweet Miles Steven was born. We weren't given the chance to meet our birth family prior to the birth and our nerves were on edge with two failed matches freshly under our belt that once they met us, they may change their minds. (The most awful things rush through your head during these times. It's up to you whether you listen to them or trust your heart to God.) With God's help, we walked into that meeting room confidently and confirmed to those parents that we would be the family they wanted for their child.  

The thing is, I felt God telling us that though this is hard for us to let our guard down, to give ourselves completely to this family after what we've been through, we have an obligation to them, to us, to our son, to give them all of us. It's hard remembering that there are scared and timid individuals on the other side of the table with the same hesitation and the same uncertainty, when you're lost in your selfish misfortune. I knew as we walked in that room to meet them that no matter the outcome, we needed to show them our true selves and offer our whole heart to them and their child. Without God's steadfast love, I'm not sure I could have done that.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Adoption Story: Cris and Claudia

Cris and Claudia thought maybe it was too late. With two older boys, I remember the first time they asked me if they had waited too long to add to their family through adoption. They wondered if an expectant mom would choose them. Ultimately, they wondered if they had missed the opportunity for God to make their family of four a family of five. I'm thrilled today as Claudia shares how instead of being too late, God worked things out in his perfect timing for their family...

I guess we are not your typical adoptive parents; our biological kids are older, and consequently, we are older too. We have dreamed of adopting for over 20 years. And I confess, some times during those years, I thought it was never going to happen. I thought I missed my timing. During that time, God was working something beautiful in our family. The desire to adopt started in my heart; since I was a child I always knew it. Over the years, I can see how that desire in my husband’s heart grew bigger and bigger. Until he got to a point where he could not even start talking about adopting our little girl without getting all teary eyed. When we first shared our dream with our families – 20 years ago – the reaction wasn’t positive. Most of it wasn’t negative either. Adoption was such a foreign concept to our families, that I think they didn’t really know how to react. We have watched them over the past year, as they became totally on board. Totally supportive. God had been doing something in their hearts as well. We realized, our adoption journey was not only our own. Our relatives, and our close friends were also on this journey with us. 

We kept waiting for the right time to officially begin pursuing our adoption. But it was never the right time. There was always something that prevented us from getting started; the kids, a job, an illness, the house, a move, lack of finances – all good valid reasons to postpone an adoption. Then one day in 2016, my husband said to me, “you know, I’m not getting any younger. We either try to adopt now, or we don’t do it at all.” Wow! Those were the words I had been waiting to hear for decades!  It required a leap of faith. It required the understanding that the right time, in our eyes, the convenient time, was never going to happen. We had to have faith and know that God was on our side.

A friend had recommended a homestudy agency in our town as the first step. They recommended that we start with an adoption consultant – they gave us CAC’s contact information. And that is how we became connected with Susan VanSyckle and Christian Adoption Consultants. I can not begin to express how grateful we are for Susan! She always had such a positive attitude, it was uplifting!  Every time we met with her, or spoke over the phone, we came away from those experiences feeling secure in our decision, and feeling like we were being guided by someone who genuinely cared and prayed about our situation. 

We began our home study process. Here is my journal entry for that day:

August 7, 2016
PILES. I see over there – a pile. It’s a pile of paper. This is not just another pile in the house. Right now, I have piles everywhere. In the kitchen, there is a pile of dirty dishes in the sink. I have a growing pile of clothes in the laundry. The office desk is filling with piles of bills and other to-do’s. All of my piles are crying out for my attention. They all need me. They all belong to a cycle of repetition. The house work never ends. Therefore, sometimes the piles just get ignored for a little while. It’s a Sunday afternoon. I am resting in bed, and once again I see the pile of paper on top of my credenza. This pile is different. It’s not just another pile – this one will change everything. This one will bring an addition to our family. I like this pile. The thought of going through this pile is both exciting and scary at the same time. But God is God. And I know adoption is part of what He planned for our family. So courageous faith is required at this moment. It seems like this first step is the hardest, but I pray for courage to arise within us. We can do this. God has “got our back.” So let the home study begin!

Our adoption journey, home study to placement, took 11 months. I have never felt God closer to us than in those 11 months. It was the scariest thing we have ever done as a family, but we could feel God so close to us every step of the way.

The pain of not being selected after presenting a profile was one of the things I was not emotionally prepared for. But God spoke to us even in those times.  Here is my journal entry after one of times that felt like a rejection.

June 6, 2017
I hear Him say, “Trust me.” And I wonder if He sees me here, knee deep in sinking sand. Slowly being pulled down. I remind Him, “This is too overwhelming for me, my heart can not take it. The rejection is too painful. I don’t want to read another adoption success story. I don’t want to fill out another form. I don’t want to overnight another profile package. This is too painful and too hard.” And He replies, “Trust me.” (A little over one month later, we met our little angel).

Today, we hold our precious little girl in our arms. We are so grateful for everything that God has done. We are humbled by God’s goodness to our family. It was fun to watch our family as they met our little girl for the first time. My mother held her in her arms and cried, realizing how miraculously God has brought her to us. My mother in law recently visited from Brazil to meet her new grand daughter. I watched her hold our little girl and whisper in her ear, “You are the best thing that has ever happened to our family, little girl.”

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