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

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Stepping Into the Hard: An Adoptive Mom Shares Candidly About Open Adoption

You've met Breanna here before and heard the beautiful story of how their son, Judah, came into their family. Today I'm honored to share more of that story, specifically about their open adoption. Breanna shares honestly about the openness in their adoption. But even more than that, she shares candidly about the openness in her own heart: how God used open adoption to invite her to step into the hard things, knowing the beauty that was on the other side. We hear often about the logistics of open adoption: how to maintain the relationship and what it can look like. But what about the feelings and fears deep down in an adoptive mama's heart? What does it look like to honestly face not just the myths, but the realities of open adoption? I'm so thankful for Breanna's raw, real, and vulnerable words as she shares some of these often unspoken pieces of adoption.

Open Adoption.
If there are two scarier words to a woman entering the adoption process, I don’t know them. I also didn’t know that stepping into an open adoption would mean stepping into so many areas where God wanted to change me.
One of the first things you decide at the beginning of the adoption journey is if you are willing to enter an open adoption, a semi-open adoption or a closed adoption.
Let me just tell you what my first thought was when I heard the term open adoption. It was a big NO…absolutely not. Followed by a trail of thoughts of what I thought open adoption would look like. How THAT LADY would have no say so in raising MY child. How I didn’t want to turn into some Hallmark show where a family shows up on my doorstep wanting THEIR child back. And everywhere I turned, there was someone else feeding into my fears of the unknown. And if it’s unknown, then it must be the worst possible scenario ever!
Have you noticed that in life when you are in a situation where fear is living inside you, that there is ALWAYS someone who wants to share the scary story of their friend’s aunt’s kid’s neighbor? And that story, however crazy and half true it might be, just solidifies your own fears. Seriously people, I am way worst-case scenario all on my own. I can’t even watch Criminal Minds anymore because my mind just shouldn’t go there. My poor sheltered kids.
So, I just wanted to share MY story over the next few blog posts. Straight from the horse’s mouth to show that maybe it is hard, but maybe it’s also worth it. And maybe, just maybe, God wanted our family to extend love beyond just a precious baby.

Open to God’s plan.
If you’ve read our story, you know we were matched locally. When we first decided open adoption was something we were willing to consider, we were thinking of an open adoption with a family likely living in a different state. We were thinking of a visit once a year or so and some shared pictures in between. We were thinking of control, safety and privacy. So, when we said yes to an open adoption to someone living in the same area, we really had to re-evaluate what we had just said “yes” to. And frankly, Judah joined our family so quickly and open adoption became real so fast, that I just wasn’t prepared for what was next.
Inner Battle.
The Bible talks about a battle between our flesh and our spirit. And I can’t think of a better way to describe the battle that took place inside of me over the next year. Most of it I didn’t share with anyone but a few close friends at the time. Because I still didn’t know on where I landed with the whole idea of open adoption. Because I wasn’t confident enough in my decision to hear the opinion of what others thought. And, because it brought out all the ugly inside of me that I didn’t want others to see.
I tried to cover up my self-righteous thoughts and call it wisdom.

I tried to cover up my pride and call it protection.
I tried to cover up my lack of love for someone different than me and call it best for my child. But, again and again God, through scripture, would remind me that my ugly was in fact my sinful human nature. And that I could either continue to find excuses to cover it up.  Or I could let God use this new relationship to mold me.

For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. Galatians 5:17

So, I said yes to changing. And just like changing my over tired child at the end of a long day, I went through it kicking and screaming. But just like many things in life, I can look back and see God’s beauty in spite of my ugly.
This is the benefit of stepping into hard things. God may highlight the mess in your life that you didn’t even know was there. He may call you out from your comfortable, deeply ingrained thoughts and turn your world upside down. He may expose your pride, your worry, your jealousy and your apathy. He may point out your ugly. And gently whisper, “I can make this beautiful.”
I will be sharing three lessons I’ve learned through our open adoption over the next few blog posts. My hope is that it may help another adoptive family considering open adoption, or any family who is hesitant to say yes to something hard.

You can find part two of this post here (it gets even better!) and follow along for more of Breanna's journey to openness. For more of Breanna's story and writing, head to her blog at Easy Like Sunday Morning.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Wait in Adoption

For awhile now we've been in the series, "If I could say one thing..." where adoptive families are sharing their real and raw insights about the adoption process. Today we're talking about the wait in adoption. Once the paperwork is filled out, the home study is complete, the profile designed, a hopeful adoptive family will wait for a match with an expectant mother. While this is a part of the process almost every family walks through, it can be one of the hardest. Not being able to see how God is working, what He's preparing, and how the story will end (or begin!) can be agonizing. Here's some thoughts and encouragement from mamas who have been there...

Don’t let it postpone anything you want to plan. I caught myself in the beginning saying I can’t do this or that because we might have a baby. Now planning things help me make it through the wait.  - Elizabeth

Have fun! Enjoy your time with your spouse/family and friends- do things you won’t be able to once you have a baby! I was so nervous to plan a trip when we were waiting, we finally went away for the weekend and our son was born 3 hours from where we were staying! Just believe in Gods plan!  - Mary

Trust God and His timing, because I can PROMISE you He is faithful! And if the wait is during your match and waiting for baby to be born (we had a 3 month wait)- focus on expectant mama as much as possible! I sent weekly encouragement cards to our birth mama, and she told us “I’ve never been loved by anyone the way you love me. You have no idea how much that means to me. Your cards and encouragement and love and focus on ME and what -I- needed is what solidified things in my heart and mind. I knew if you could love me so well, you would love baby girl the way I want her to be loved, too.” Focus on expectant mama as much as possible/as much as you think they would be comfortable with.  - Andrea

Don’t compare your journey to others. The timing of each specific adoption and length of wait is so different. Everything will play out exactly how it is meant to.  - Kaylin

For us the wait was on the side of “should we adopt, can we adopt, how will we adopt, is it the right time to adopt????” We spent years talking, dreaming, and justifying if we were meant to adopt. Once we quitted our hearts and the mad rush of the world around us. The only answer was a resounding “YES” adopt! Once we were in alignment with the word and the Fathers voice the wait turned into action. Waiting once we started the process never looked like sitting and doing nothing. The days we filled with anticipation, faith, prayers, love and building relationships we never would have had without adoption. No two stories will be the same and that is the beauty of it all! When you embark on a journey of “yes’s” assurance can only be found in the ONE who first called you to it! Without Him would we even have the heart to love? The word tells use that He first loved us! That four letter word LOVE is what brought us to this very place.  - Kendra

Pray and take this time to let the Lord prepare you for the next journey. Find redemption in the wait. Don’t forget to enjoy each day and each moment. It’s so easy to get swept up in it all, you forget to think about anything else. Try not to compare your story to others. For the Lord knows the plans He has for you. Trust in Him!  - Kacie

Pray pray pray! For the EM you will be matched with and your future baby. Spend time with your spouse and do fun things that you won’t get to do when baby comes. Don’t compare your journey/wait time to others, instead believe in God’s plan for your family and his perfect timing. Listen to His voice as He speaks to your heart.  - Amanda

The wait is what you make of it. I learned this the hard way. I started off our wait dwelling and be discouraged. Towards the end, I focused on our nursery, spending time with my spouse and family, and taking "me" time...basically doing things that I took for granted at the time, but I knew would be more of a challenge once we had a little one.  - Leah

Trust in God with all of your heart. It is difficult to not feel discouraged from time to time, but never let it be your focal point. Keep positive and know that God's timing is perfect. Pray. Trust. Believe. When He doesn't move the mountains you want him to, when he doesn't part the waters so you can walk through, always always always...TRUST! God doesn't promise life will be easy, but having a good positive attitude and trust makes the journey that much easier, even in the toughest times. Surround yourself with positive encouragement.  - Angela

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Adoption Story: John and Kayla

John and Kayla had a clear call to adopt at the beginning of 2017 and began asking God to bring them to a child by Christmas. It was a bold, audacious prayer. They trusted God to write their story, but wondered often throughout the year as they walked through hiring Christian Adoption Consultants, got their home study done, and began waiting for a match if their prayer would be in God's timing. Kayla shares how God showed up and answered their prayers in the most unexpected and amazing ways...

The sermon that day had nothing to do with adoption. But on January 1st, 2017 John and I walked out of church both feeling led to start the process. Even while we were dating we had talked about adopting, but it wasn’t until that day that we decided to take the first steps. 

Our first step was to pray and gather information. For two months, we spent time talking with friends who had adopted, researching our options and learning as much as we could. During that time we questioned if this was what we were supposed to be doing and if the timing was right. We had not tried to get pregnant yet and we experienced some doubt about where God was leading.

After more prayer and some encouragement from our pastor, in March we hired Susan to be our adoption consultant. We loved the idea of having her walk through the process with us and give us wisdom and insight. During this time we started asking God for a child by Christmas and decided to also boldly ask him for twins. We loved the idea of our adopted children being able to share the same story.

By the beginning of August we were home study approved and started to review expectant parent situations. We received many “not yets” but had to continually remind ourselves that God knew best and would lead us to our child. After several months we started to think that this was not going to happen before Christmas and that we would have to be ok with God not answering our prayers the way we wanted him to.

A few days before Thanksgiving we received information about an expectant mom who was pregnant with twins. Again we surrendered to the Lord knowing that if these were our children he would lead us to them. We were hoping to hear an answer before the long Thanksgiving weekend but we did not. More waiting. 

On Monday we received the most life changing phone call! Not only did the expectant mom choose us to be the adoptive parents, but the twins were born on that Saturday, seven weeks early! I was shaking for the rest of the day and barely slept that night. We couldn’t wait to meet them! 

But more waiting came. We did not receive photos of them for almost a week after they were born. We were waiting to get the call that we could go to Florida to meet the precious babies. One day turned into another day, which turned into weeks. That waiting was absolutely the hardest part in the process. We knew these babies were alive and we had been chosen to be their parents, but we did not know if the adoption would go through and we had to wait to meet them because of legal complications that needed to be sorted out. 

We prayed that God would help the babies grow from their small 3.5 pounds and that they would thrive in the NICU. They were each in the NICU for less than two weeks and a wonderful woman cared for them while we waited to be able to go. What an incredible gift from God she was. 

After a lot of prayer, and begging God to be able to meet these children, we were finally able to go to Florida and met the little ones a few days before Christmas. It was incredible to meet them and hold them, but was also challenging as we tried to guard our hearts, still not knowing if the adoption would actually pan out. The first two weeks we had to pick them up and drop them off each day because we were not the legal guardians. We expected to have to wait at least a few weeks.

But after more praying and asking God this time if things would go faster than anticipated, we finally became the legal guardians on January 3rd! I spent the next couple weeks in Florida with them overnight and waited for ICPC to go through. John was able to fly down three times to visit. On their due date, we headed home! 

It didn’t happen how we pictured it happening. We did not get to be there when they were born and we did not get to spend any time in the NICU with them. But what an incredible, humbling experience to watch God answer one prayer after another (way more than we even had time to explain here), proving himself faithful and trustworthy; a good Father.

We did not always know what was going to happen next or what we would be called to do, but God was always faithful to show us what the next step was. We are so thankful for these little ones, Ariya Grace and Adrian Alexander.

Photo credit to Megan Sawall Photography

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Adoption Story: Justin and Samantha

I first met Justin and Samantha over a busy lunch hour in a bakery. They had driven several hours so we could meet face to face and I spent time listening their story. Their faces lit up talking about adoption: how it had already impacted their family and how excited they were to see how God would continue to use adoption to hopefully expand their own. If I'm honest, I knew in my bones I was watching the beginning of God do something amazing...

When Justin and I look back at our lives, there is no doubt that God had been placing adoption on our hearts long before we started the process. I feel so thankful for this now, because as hard things and difficult decisions came up during our journey, it didn't take long for my heart to be reminded that our story with adoption is actually not about us at all, but about God's story for our little girl, and ultimately, one that points to Him. 

When they say that adoption is hard, they mean it. For me, a lot of the difficulty had to do with letting go of control and trusting every step of the way. A few years ago, I would have never dreamt that I would have desired an open adoption relationship with my child's birth family, but today, I couldn't imagine it any other way. Although openness in adoption can be confusing or hard for others to understand, it has created the most incredible sense of peace for Justin and I to know that Emerson Scout can know and love her birth mom. Even better, that I can know and love her as well. Each step of the way, I saw God making this journey less about me, and more about Him, and sometimes that means taking the first step into the uncomfortable to let Him work. Now, staring at my little girl, it makes me sad to think about what would have been the outcome of our story if I kept trying to have it go exactly as I had planned. 

During the wait, 2017 seemed like the longest year of our lives, but looking back, it feels like it was just yesterday that we were contacting Susan. In less than one year, our lives have changed completely. We are so thankful that Susan was with us every step of the way not just to guide us practically, but to point us to truth constantly. 

We began our paperwork for our home study in March of 2017 with the intention of rushing like crazy to get everything going. However, life was still going and things didn't move as quickly as we would have liked. Although we felt frustrated by that at times, we just felt a peace that we didn't need to rush. In September, just two weeks after we were officially home study approved, we presented our profile for the first time. Three days later, we got the call that expectant mama E had chosen us. We were shocked! The next four months were spent getting to know her and preparing for the arrival for our sweet girl! Those months were also full of anxiety and fear, no matter how hard we fought it. Then, when E was going in for her 37 week appointment, I got a text saying that she was going to be induced that evening! With no flights that would get us there in time, we ran home, packed in a hour, and started our 16 hour drive. After driving all night and barely stopping, we pulled into the hospital and ran up to labor and delivery, where we had missed the birth by exactly five minutes! At that point, we didn't even care. We were just so excited to see check on E and meet Emerson Scout! The next few days were the greatest blessing to us. We spent time with E and her family and friends and all agreed on one major thing; we all loved this baby more than anything, and that was what was important. 

We were told adoption would be hard, but at times, it felt impossible. We were also told that holding her would make it all worth it, and that was a huge understatement. God's faithfulness has shown over and over in our lives, and now, we will get to teach Emerson of that faithfulness as she goes through life. 

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