Thursday, May 17, 2018

Repost: Adoption Resources

In an effort create an easy "go-to" list of adoption resources, I've compiled this list of some of my most popular blogs on the topic and thought I would repost it today. Find a topic you're interested or use it as a guidebook or roadmap to help you navigate your adoption journey!

Getting Started
The Steps to Adoption 
Keys to a Successful Adoption
Who Is Called to Adoption?  
The Cost of Adoption

Hiring an Adoption Consultant
Why Hire An Adoption Consultant
A New Approach to Adoption
Is Hiring a Consultant Worth It? 
Why I Recommend Hiring a Consultant 
So You Want to Hire An Adoption Consultant 

The Home Study Process 
Your Home Study Survival Guide
Preparing Your Home for an Adoption Home Study

Infertility and Adoption
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 1} 
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 2}  
What I Wish You Knew About Adoption and Infertility {Part 3} 
In Their Own Words: Mother's Day
What to Expect When She's Not Expecting

Waiting in Adoption
What To Do While You Wait
What I Wish We Knew While We Were Waiting
Truth To Cling To in the Wait 
Dear Mamas in Waiting 
What if We Never Get Chosen (Every Adoptive Parents' Fear)

Openness in Adoption
Open Adoption 1.0
5 Myths of Open Adoption
Navigating Openness
Making Promises in Adoption
Silence on the Other Side 

Expectant and Birth Families
For Birth Parents: A Guide for Your Adoption
The Truth About Birth Parents
Dear Adoptive Mom: What Birth Parents Wish You Knew 
The Perfect Adoptive Family {What Birth Parents Are Really Looking For}
Adoptive Mamas Talk Candidly About Birth Parents 

Raising a Child Who Was Adopted
Extending Grace in Adoption 
A Letter to My Real Son 

Other Adoption Resources 
Positive Adoption Language
Creating An Adoption Hospital Plan
Creating Your Family Profile
Your ICPC Survival Guide

Read hundreds of family's adoption stories here

Monday, May 7, 2018

An Interview on Beauty in Brokenness

Recently I had the chance to be interviewed by Breanna, a client turned dear friend, for a new blog series, "Redefining Beauty." Here's the beginning of our chat and the link for the full interview...

BB: Tell me a little bit of your story.

SV: I had always envisioned our 10 year wedding anniversary as one big romantic celebration. When you’re a newlywed at 21, 10 years married sounds like such a huge accomplishment and so incredibly far away. I pictured us on some extravagant trip somewhere, all smiles and reminiscing about our last 10 years and dreaming of the years to come. But our ten year anniversary turned out incredibly different than I imagined. Instead of celebrating somewhere on a beach, I was alone, with two young children, and wondering if our marriage would make it to year eleven. I had been blindsided with the sin that had crept into my husband’s heart, our marriage, and our family.

Instead of the blissful ten year anniversary I had planned on, we started year 10 of our marriage separated.  I was a single mom, wondering if my husband would ever come home.  We were far from celebrating our marriage: we were fighting for it...


Wednesday, May 2, 2018

If I Could Say One Thing...About Being Matched with An Expectant Family

Being matched with an expectant family can be a mix of excitement and anxiety. It's thrilling to be to that stage in the adoption journey, but soon the reality of entering into a relationship with another person or people sets in. How do we engage with them? How do we love them well during this time? How do we begin building a lifelong relationship with strangers for the sake of the child? Today adoptive parents and hopeful adoptive parents share their experiences and what they've learned along the way.

It's like climbing the next step on a very long ladder. You’re another step closer to your dream, but you are still climbing to the unknown of the outcome. I clung to the quote: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” (Martin Luther king Jr.) It kept my perspective off of the journey itself, but on the purpose behind it: my faith and walk with God.  - Andrea

Keep the focus on the expectant mama/parents. I sent weekly encouragement cards to our birth mama (expectant mama at the time) and she told us she had never been loved like that, and that that kind of love was so foreign to her, but fulfilled her in a way that nothing else ever had. Focus on THEM. It keeps your mind off yourself and the unknowns, and can create a beautiful experience between yourself and the expectant parents. Also, lean in to God. Only He knows the end result, and though that’s hard to accept sometimes, it helps strengthen your walk and trust in Him. Trusting that if this is the right situation, God will guide the steps perfectly, but if it’s not the right situation, He’ll guide those steps perfectly, too. You want to have the baby God intends for your family, and if it doesn’t work out, though incredibly hard, it means He has something even bigger and better in store for you. Wait with trusting hearts in His ultimate plan. He’s not just a good Father. He’s a good GOOD Father, and will only give us the best.  - Andrea R.

Learning the heart of an expectant family is a tragic, beautiful, and prayerful path. Be patient, loving, and kind, and trust in the knowledge that God is over you all through the process. Pray for them daily, and, if given the opportunity, take advantage of the time you have to speak with them. Listen more than you talk. Offer comfort and compassion. Most importantly, love them.  - Katie W.

Hmmm....hard to live, but try not to sweat it. I was going to say don’t sweat the small stuff...but in the moment it’s not small! Go with the flow. Be kind. Ask questions. LISTEN! Everyone wants to be listened to...understood...HEARD. I feel like that is amplified in this situation. Be yourself...but less of yourself as you concentrate on someone else’s story. This part of the journey is not so much about you. It’s about someone else and they NEED to know and understand that. The other thing is love. Love them. They are not necessarily used to being loved. Let alone loved unconditionally. I think I tried to show them how I was going to love their daughter by loving on them...with my words, my comments, my expressions, my actions (not by things and stuff!).  - Katie S.

One thing that was suggested to us in the hospital was to buy a journal for our daughter’s birth mom and just present it to her in case she wanted to write anything down for us to share with our daughter in the future. Her birth mom was very shy (especially around my husband) so we took her lead on how much she wanted to have my husband around. And then we just let her know there no was pressure whatsoever with the journal but if she thought of anything over the couple days we were in the hospital all together she could write it down. Nothing was too small. Since we were matched just two weeks out from the delivery and had only met her the night before we didn’t know much about her, but didn’t want to overwhelm her with questions either. It’s just a sweet little journal and I am so happy to have it to go over with it when our daughter is older and ready. It includes simple things like her birth mom's birthday, activities and sports she liked as a child, and things she craved while she was pregnant. She even included info like when her birth mom’s mother went through menopause so tiny bits of family history. It meant a lot to me and I’m so thankful we have it.  - Ashley

It’s such a BIG moment for everyone involved. It helped us to remember that as excited and as scared and as hopeful as my husband and I were, there was an expectant mom who was having all the same feelings and then some. It helped us to connect with her when we understood it was a huge leap of faith for her too. We also had to resign ourselves to accepting that we had not walked in her shoes or her life experience that brought her to making her adoption plan. We could not always understand her choices or thoughts, so that’s when we had to surrender to grace and love and to a God that was bigger than all of it. It was not always easy, but our faith in Jesus grew as did our love for our daughter’s birth mother during that time.  - Tracy

Prior to being matched, the thought of developing a personal relationship with a total stranger seemed very daunting. But being on the other side now (twice!), I'd say just pour out love and respect them. I see the love they have for their children and the gut-wrenching decisions they made and I stand in awe of them. The love I have for both my sons' first mamas was truly my biggest surprise with adoption! Developing a relationship is not always easy, but oh so worth it!! And remember, they're just as nervous about it all as you are.  - Gayla

It's a very surreal, unfamiliar yet beautiful experience. You are being matched, through a third party, to someone who is going to have a huge part in the rest of your life.  - Nathan

They remain the parents of this child, through and through! We get to love and support them, and then if they decide to parent their child...we can grieve for us but not blame them.  - Natalie

Being matched is an opportunity to pray over and love on someone in a very difficult time, no matter the outcome. We have been matched with both open and closed situations. In closed situations, I’ll send a gift and encouragement through letters if they are receptive to that. In open situations, I make sure to always ask our expectant mom about herself and her life before I talk about baby. I think it’s important that she know we genuinely care for her and her well being, not just the baby growing inside her.  - Michelle

For more in this series:

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fighting for Redemption

Sometimes I write blogs in my head or draft them out completely and never get around to posting them. I recently found this unpublished post and decided this one was worth it to come back to, even though it's dated. I wrote it over two years ago, right in the midst of our mess. I should say one of our messes. One of the spaces where I was desperately praying for my husband to believe the Gospel and wondering if our marriage would survive his unbelief. A season where I literally felt like I was fighting for our lives. 

I'm not sure why I never got around to hitting "publish" on this one. Maybe because it felt too vulnerable. Maybe because we were in the thick of it and it's hard to be that honest on top of all the other feelings when you feel so raw and tired. 

And I'm not sure why I'm hitting "publish" now on some of these brief thoughts I had awhile ago. Other than as a reminder to myself and those who might read it that fighting for redemption is always worth it, even if you don't know how it will work out in the end...

Disclaimer: I'm using these words to preach the gospel to myself today.

Our family is in a tough season. A hard space where all of the stuff you always talk about happening and preparing for "just in case" we're actually living. I’ve hesitated to share much of our family’s last year on the blog. But we're right in the thick of it: in the midst of heartache and healing.

There are unknowns and we're unsure of a lot of what the future holds for our family and our lives. In this constant state of uncertainty, it can lend to feelings of fear, loneliness, and even despair. But there are truths that are just as true today as they were last week, and last year, and hundreds of years ago. God's promises of faithfulness and loving kindness are some of the only things I cling to and that make sense in the midst of this kind of chaos.

Redemption is beautiful but long. We've been in this season for years. A dear friend recently described it as long-suffering and I feel every ounce of those words. Merriam-Webster defines long-suffering as "patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship." Admittedly the patient part of that doesn't resonate with me as much as the enduring hardship does. But knowing that God promises that our suffering is not meaningless changes everything. God's promises that "suffering produces endurance produces character, and character produces hope" (Romans 5:3-4). In this space I am banking that this kind of suffering is valuable and meaningful.

Redemption can also be lonely. I've found our family's healing has come in ripples. It starts with Jamy's heart, moves into our marriage, then our kids, and eventually out into our extended family, friendships, and church community. It's easy to get overwhelmed at all we have ahead of us. There are relationships to heal, forgiveness to ask for and to extend, and hard conversations to have. If I'm honest, I'm not sure some of those relationships are still there or will be fully restored. In the midst of waiting for the ripples, sometimes I feel stuck in the middle of where the pebble (or bomb) originally dropped feeling very alone. It's during these times I rest in the Psalms, especially where I read that God is close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18) and a constant refuge and help (Psalm 46:1).

My prayer is that someday in the future,  I can look back and see redemption in this long and lonely space in our life.

But if not, he is still good.

In this time, he has been good and faithful, generous and gracious, kind and so, so near.  He has been enough for our family.

He has been enough for my husband.

He has been enough for my kids.

And he has been enough for me.

I'm learning redemption can look different than the way I would like it, or picture it. As agonizing as it can be, I want to trust Jesus for redemption and restoration, even if I won't see it fully this side of Heaven...

Two years after this original post, I can tell you that the Gospel transformed (and is transforming) our marriage. But reading my own words, I know that the real miracle isn't a transformed marriage. If you're reading this today and your future is unclear, know that your fight to hold on to Hope, to trust God's promises to you, and to believe the Gospel is always worth it. You might not know how this season will end, but we already know the end of the story.

God always wins.

He always gets glory.

And He never leaves or forsakes us in the midst of it.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Adoption Story: Blake and Dena

This little family of three is prepping to celebrate a first birthday next week! When Blake and Dena started with Christian Adoption Consultants early last year, I'm sure it was hard to imagine that their son would be born just a few short months later. You can read more of the story and journey to their son below as Dena shares the details...

As we are busy planning a 1st birthday party, we can’t help but to reflect on our son’s adoption story and the pure joy he has brought to our lives this past year.

When we began working with Susan we were in the healing process after a failed adoption. We knew we wanted to move forward with the adoption process but were also very cautious and full of questions for Susan. We would highly recommend Christian Adoption Consultants and Susan, specifically. She was so genuine and helpful and her words of encouragement made our adoption experience very positive.

We signed up with Christian adoption Consultants in February 2017 and started working with Susan right away. With our help, she created our profile book (which was beautiful) and we began applying to adoption agencies.

We started receiving potential situations in March. Each situation we viewed, we would discuss things that worried us, scared us and the things that we liked about the given situation. I feel like we were pretty cautious with things after having experienced a failed adoption just a couple of months prior. We presented our profile four times before presenting to our son’s birth mother. Each time we presented, we prayed for all involved and knew that even if we weren’t chosen, that just meant that another family was a better fit, but mostly, we kept our faith and knew that God had a plan for us.

In late April, we received the adoption situation for our son. It was similar to some of the situations we had chosen not to present to in the past, but for some reason we were drawn to presenting and it just felt “right” to us. We presented our profile and before the expectant mother had a chance to view all of the profiles and choose a family our soon to be little one entered the world the very next day!

We were notified of his birth and patiently (or rather impatiently!) awaited to see if we were the family to be chosen. The following Monday, we received the news that this sweet baby boy would be our son! We were overwhelmed by emotion and were so excited to meet our bundle of joy!

We traveled to Arizona right away and were able to spend the month of May snuggling with our sweet baby boy in the NICU. He was born weighing just 2 pounds 10 ounces, so he had a long NICU journey to grow and get strong enough for us to take him home. We were so blessed to be able to stay with him and spend each day snuggling and bonding with him. Although having a child in the NICU can be a little scary, we continued to pray for health and growth and we were soon able to go home. 

To this day, almost one year later, we still feel that same excitement and joy as the day we met our little bundle. Our son is certain to put smiles on our face every day. We are forever thankful for his birth mama’s strength, for the adoption process, and for many answered prayers.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Knowing When To Say Yes in Adoption

One of the hardest issues many couples come face to face with in the adoption process is knowing when to say yes in adoption. This often comes up after the home study is complete, the profile is created, and the fundraising is happening.

In the beginning of the adoption process, the pathway is pretty clear. Hire a home study worker. Fill out these forms. Check those boxes. Get the fingerprints and the physicals and the baby items. Check, check, check.

But then a couple comes to a stage in the adoption process when they begin to review situations: an expectant mother who would like to make an adoption plan for their child. It often includes information like the gender of the baby, due date, and social and medical history of the birth family.

And it's at this point that a hopeful adoptive parent decides if they want to present their profile. And when and if they do, that's their 100% commitment to raise this child as their own if chosen.

This is also the point when it's easy for hopeful adoptive parents to become incredibly anxious (read: freak out) about saying yes to the right situation.

How do you know when to present to a situation? How do you know if this is the baby God has for you? How do you know you're not missing your baby?

Value of Wisdom

When deciding if you're going to present to a certain situation, one of the first things you want to do is gather all of the information available. Ensure you have all of the significant information involved (social and medical history, birth father information, a break down of fees, etc.). Educate yourself on any medical or legal issues that might impact this match. During this step, it's critical that you are working with trusted, ethical agencies/attorneys that not only are serving you well, but also provide expectant and birth parent care and counseling (both pre and post birth). An adoption consultant can help you weigh any possible risks involved and walk through each of these steps to help you decide if it's a good fit for your family. It can be invaluable to have someone who is neutral help with this part in the process.

Myth of Control

It's easy to think you have a tremendous amount of control in adoption. And in some ways that's true. You decide when to begin the adoption process. You complete the paperwork and even check dozens of boxes pertaining to openness and medical history and preferences. You analyze a situation and educate yourself as much as possible. You decide to present. But you inevitably come to the point where you are left waiting on a situation to come through and ultimately, to be chosen.

I've called control the lie of adoption. Because the truth is there's very little control you can have in the process (like so much of life). Ultimately an expectant or birth mother chooses an adoptive family. You realize you simply can't check all of the boxes for your preferences in life. After you've done your part, weighed all of this important information, and decided if you want to present, you realize that there's only so much you can do. 

Truth of God's Sovereignty

Once you come to terms with the lack of control you feel in the process, your frustration can also swing the other way. You can think the control is all in someone else's hands: the birth families choosing adoptive families, the adoption agencies serving you, or even the idea of waiting for fate or good karma. But God is ultimately in charge. He is writing a grand, redemptive story in history that he's invited us to be a part of. To reflect his glory right here on Earth.

God has woven the story of adoption throughout the Gospel and invites us to be a part of it as well. He's known the details of your days (and your child's) from the beginning of time. No one can thwart His plans or stand in their way. There's tremendous freedom found in not just believing in God's complete control, but truly resting there.

So practically, where does that leave you? When you are wrestling with the tension of balancing earthly wisdom and common sense with godly faith (which I believe are both gifts from God)? What does this actually look like?

Honestly, I don't have the answer. And I think it looks different for each couple and individual desperate for God's will in their lives. Some families have a "gut" about presenting to one situation or another. Some, after reading through the details, know pretty quickly that a certain situation just isn't a good fit for them. Others describe a very clear direction one way or another from God. My experience is that most families generally don't feel a tremendous amount of clarity or feel 100% in on most situations they see. But, in my work for a decade with hopeful adoptive parents, I have seen some families have incredible peace during the process of deciding when to present.

Wanna know their secret? They decide to walk through every open door that God opens for them and pray that he slams it shut if it's not His will.

It's that simple. Ultimate trust in the One who has all the control. Faith in the Author of good stories. Hope in the God who promises to do "immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine" (Ephesians 3:20). A wholehearted "yes" on the table before God, with the courage to put it into action.

And can I be honest about something else? I don't think there's a perfect situation out there for you. Adoption is always born from brokenness and the perfect scenario is that a child is always meant to be with their birth family. But of course we live in a broken world where sometimes that's not possible or best. We live in a world touched by infertility and substance use and unhealthy relationships and hundreds of other broken things. So the idea of "ideal" quickly goes out the window.

BUT. I do believe there's a perfect situation for you. What I mean is that I believe God is sovereign over everything, and that includes putting families together. So while there's no "ideal" or "perfect" scenario or situation, I strongly believe God has the perfect match for an adoptive family. That there is baby that fits perfectly and is divinely ordained to be placed with a specific family.

How do you find joy in the midst of waiting? How do you know when to say yes? How do you make sure it all works out in the end?

God will not let you miss your baby. You can rest in His perfect plan. Your job is simply to say yes to Him.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

If I Could Say One Thing...About Caring for Your Marriage During an Adoption

So often in the adoption process there's a focus on learning about the process and preparing for adding a child into a family. We talk about the home study, creating your family profile, getting through the wait, and building a relationship with the birth family. But what about caring for your marriage during the adoption process? It's no secret that adoption can be an incredibly draining journey, and ensuring you take the time to build into each other as a couple will be priceless. I asked families who have been through the adoption process to share their insight on taking the time to care for their marriage. I love their practical and helpful thoughts!

See the wait as God’s encouragement to grow closer together and closer to Him.  - Caroline

Sometimes it's okay just to sit together in the hard and not talk through every possible scenario that could play out. Sometimes just sit in the quiet and let the Spirit speak to your hearts. Find out each other's love languages if you haven't already and act on them! Get it established before the baby comes home. You will fall more deeply in love with your spouse through this journey but you have to be purposeful to turn towards each other in the hurt rather than away from each other.  - Casey

Don't let every conversation be about babies or the adoption process. Talk about other things; keep doing other fun things.  - Ashley

Don’t put your life on hold waiting for your baby. Go on dates. Plan fun little over night trips. Embrace the time you have before you add another little person to the mix. Don’t forget to keep enjoying each other.  - Leigh

Give each other time and space to walk through the different stages (agreeing to pursue adoption, the home study, the family profile, etc.). You might find that some of the steps require a little more discernment for one of you. Be patient with each other - make adoption a portion of the big picture of your marriage, not your whole world.  - Tracy

Sometimes you need to forget about the paperwork or personal deadlines you have made and have a normal weekend! Get out in nature. Go to brunch. Invite friends over. We often felt like we had too much to do to enjoy life and felt guilty doing anything else other than adoption stuff. Getting your home study or profile done quicker doesn't necessarily speed up your adoption wait time, so find a balance that works for you. Something that has worked for us is to reserve at least one full weekend a month to keeping your computer closed and just enjoy each other without having any other distractions or lists of things you need to get done! It has been our time to reconnect and just have fun together.  - Kayla

Trust each other. It was hard when I wanted to say yes. And he wanted to say no. And we had to be able to be free to say the yes and the no's with no judgement from each other. And sometimes there was no real explanation. The leaning into and trusting each other was hard. Hard! But we grew so much closer through it! We ended up at an 80% truce. We both had to feel 80% certain before we presented.  - Joy

Lean on each other through the bad news and celebrate together through the good news. You are going through this together, so you should experience it together. Support each other (be present in the moments) so the stress of unexpected news (good or bad) brings you closer together instead of driving you apart.  - Nathan

Take a break every now and then and spend quality time together. Do something out of the ordinary to refresh yourselves as a couple. Reminisce on what brought you together and talk about the early days, dating and falling in love. I’ve found that helps keeps us from talking about adoption during our quality time and brings us back to why we chose to do life together.  - Michelle

Be cognizant of your limitations and those of your spouse so you can hold each other in check. Sometimes he needed to be pushed and sometimes I needed to be pulled back. Walking through this process as a team is essential!  - Kim

For more in this series:

If I Could Say One Thing...About Beginning the Adoption Process

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Cost of Adoption

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Adoption Home Study
If I Could Say One Thing...About Expectant and Birth Families
If I Could Say One Thing...About the Wait in Adoption

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