Tuesday, July 25, 2017

adoption story: kristie

It's an honor to share this story on the blog today. Kristie and her sweet daughter hold a special place in my heart. I can still remember the first time I finally met Kristie and Bria for the first time face to face. When they walked into my living room for one of my family reunions, it took one look at each other to both break down in tears remembering God's goodness to bring Bria into her life...

My adoption journey began in June of 2015. That’s around the time I sent Susan an email. I was ready to start the journey. Adoption was a big step for me. I had always believed I would be a mama and for a long time I knew adoption was the plan. When I started the adoption journey, it was a new experience. I didn’t know what to expect and the situations were hard to navigate. I wasn’t sure what factors I could handle. I kept passing up situations because they just didn’t feel right or there were things about the situations I just didn’t know if I could handle. 

So… I waited… 

The school year came and went. I presented to a couple of situations that I was comfortable with. However, they just didn’t feel certain. In July, Susan sent a situation via email. I prayed. It was a situation I probably wouldn’t have presented to in the past. I knew God was telling me I needed to step out if faith. I emailed the agency and asked a few questions. There wasn’t a response for several days. I knew they were presenting profiles to this expectant Mama on Friday. I got an answer to those questions on Friday. I felt I was being called  to have trust Him and start considering factors I wouldn’t have been open to before. I emailed the agency back and said I definitely wanted to present. They needed all my information. I scrambled around all morning emailing my profile and my home study. I was confident this might be my daughter. No less than two hours after getting all of that done, the phone rang. It was a different agency in a different state. I answered the phone and the woman on the other end said, “Kristie, this is Katherine. I wanted to let you know you’ve been matched.” I shook… I cried… I didn’t even really hear the rest of what she said!

You see, I didn’t even know my profile was being presented that day. I remembered the situation. Susan had sent me an email and I had asked to present, but was not able to as the expectant mama would deliver in her home state. For legal reasons I was not able to present to her. Somewhere in between, things changed.  I remember Katherine saying, “Your profile just kept coming across my desk. Before I took the profiles over to the expectant mama’s apartment on a last minute feeling, I put yours in the stack. There were fifteen couples along with yours in the stack. She was very adamant: she wants you!” 

That was July 8, 2016. The day I found out I was going to be Bria’s mama. What a journey! It was a journey that strengthened my faith. All through the wait, I had a sense of calm. Everything was going to be okay. I knew when I was matched, it would be perfect. I have not been disappointed. It was such a privilege to meet Bria’s incredible, spunky, and courageous birth mama. To hug her around the neck and tell her how grateful I am for her (I hope I get that opportunity again sometime really soon). 

And… Bria is the most incredible blessing and so loved. She was meant to be my daughter. 

I don’t think the Lord puts something like adoption in your heart if you aren’t supposed to pursue it. When people ask me things like, “Don’t you wish you would have pursued adoption sooner?” (I’m single and will be 43 in September.) My answer is an emphatic no. Everything happens in God’s perfect timing. If I would have started the adoption journey at any other time, Bria wouldn’t be my daughter. I can’t imagine that!

For other women thinking if adoption is possible, being a single adoptive parent is totally doable! You are and will be enough! I don't believe the Lord puts adoption in your heart unless he wants you to pursue it. Don't worry so much about the detail of you being single: a birth mama is going to see your profile and fall in love with you. 

For everyone in the wait or considering adoption, God is for you. No matter your situation, He is faithful. Your sweet little baby is out there. It just might take some time and patience. 

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

repost: extending grace in adoption

Today I thought I would repost a popular topic among adoptive families: how to navigate people's comments and sometimes insensitive questions about adoption. Every adoptive family I know could tell at least a dozen stories of moments someone made a comment that made them cringe. Knowing how to respond with grace and confidence can help you not only help others see the beauty of adoption, but also protect and honor your child and their story...

Adoptive families have a lot to navigate. On top of the complex adoption process, they find themselves involved in intimate and awkward conversations everywhere:
Grocery store clerk: I just love her hair - is she from Africa? 
Woman in elevator: Oh, he's adopted? Are you infertile? 
Child at a park: Is she your real mom? 
Co-worker: Was the mom a drug addict or something? 
Friend at a party: So, how much did they cost?
You get the drift.

So how do you maneuver these comments and conversations without losing your mind, extending grace, and still protecting your child? Here's a few tips...

Assume the best
Most people making comments are simply making conversation. Their comment is usually meant to be as benign as talking about the weather. Although sometimes incredibly hurtful or insensitive, assuming someone isn't trying to be hurtful or insensitive is half the battle. Offering the benefit of the doubt can go a long way.

Offer explanations and education
It's my experience that almost all insensitive comments are made from simple ignorance and not from a place of wanting to create hurt or offense. I love when I see adoptive families take the opportunity to educate rather than take offense. Using positive adoption language and gently reframing their question does much more to offer education than a harsh reprimand ever could. 

Set boundaries
In all of this (offering grace as well as explanations and education), remember that it's also ok, even crucial, to create boundaries. Ultimately, you are the keeper of your child's story. The story of their beginnings and adoption is not one you want to share in detail with the grocer or maybe even a friend. It's ok to keep information confidential within your family and protect it from others.

Invite others into your story
In adoption, sometimes it's easy to get caught up in the "us versus them" mentality when people are categorized into those that "get it" and those that don't. Instead, wouldn't it be wonderful to invite others into the beauty of adoption? Having a posture of invitation rather than defensiveness releases your child from being the poster child for some kind of adoption cause and instead works as an example of how God continues the redemptive work of adoption.

In light of these thoughts, what if the conversations looked like this?

Grocery store clerk: I just love her hair - is she from Africa?
Adoptive parent: We love her hair too! She was actually adopted domestically. 

Woman in elevator: Oh, he's adopted? Are you infertile? 
Adoptive parent: Yes - he is adopted. And we decided that adoption was a great way to grow our family! 

Child at a park: Are you his real mom? 
Adoptive Parent: I sure am!  (Depending on the setting or person, this might be a great time to talk about the different ways God grows families and the differences and similarities of biological and adoptive parents. Usually though, such a small response is sufficient.)

Co-worker: Was the mom a drug addict or something? 
Adoptive parent: We consider information about her birth mother private but we can tell you we think she's an incredibly brave and selfless woman. 

Friend at a party: So, how much did they cost? 
Adoptive parent: Each adoption has costs to ensure the birth family gets the best support and counseling and a legal and ethical process is followed. I'd be happy to point you to some resources for more information.

Admittedly, there will be many comments that will make you bite your tongue and want to cover your child's ears. But assuming the best of others, offering education, and inviting others into your story is an amazing opportunity to extend grace in adoption.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

bundle and co + a giveaway

I'm excited to share a new company I've recently discovered with you. My favorite shops have both quality products and a good cause: Bundle and Company has both! Bundle and Company sells adorable snuggle blankets and teething necklaces. AND a portion each purchase goes to help a family adopt! 'Loveable products that share the love' - yes please.

Bundle and Company partners with Christian adoptive families through their Adoption Aid Program. They are committed to helping families regardless of where they are in the process, even for post-adoption needs like counseling. (You can check out this program here email Lisa for an application if you're interested!) I love their heart for all types of adoption (domestic, international, and foster-to-adopt) and their desire to see as many children find their forever families as possible.

Lisa, founder of Bundle and Company, shared a little of her story with me:

Adoption has not always been a passion of mine. I’m not even sure I was aware of it as a young person, but as I grew up and traveled overseas, God used some beautiful people and children to help cultivate a passion for orphan care and adoption in my heart. In 2005, I went to Latvia for a month with a group of girls. To have a group of college girls come and do mission work there was a big deal to them. They even wrote a story about us that was on the front page of the newspaper the next morning!

While I was there, we lived and worked in different orphanages around the country. In one of the orphanages, the older girls gave up their beds so that we would have a place to sleep. Talk about humbling. We were in awe.

One of the things that stands out the most in my mind is when we visited the ‘baby home.’ This was a place with about 150 children, ages 0-4, with only a handful of caregivers. I’ll never forget one little boy named Andrew. He was about 18 months, red rosy cheeks, big blue eyes…he was so precious. For some reason he was upset and just couldn’t stop crying. The caregivers don’t normally tend to the children when they’re crying because they teach the kids early on to take care of themselves. I was determined to help little Andrew feel better. What helps soothe kids? Singing! I knelt down in front of him, grabbed his little hands, and started singing Jesus Loves Me. I sang it over and over again, and his eyes were locked on mine. As I continued to sing, he calmed down. His tears stopped, but mine were flowing. I wept as I sang Jesus Loves Me and watched this little boy be overcome with peace. I knew in that moment that the love of Christ crosses language barriers. Andrew was experiencing the love of Jesus through a song, through human touch, through love and compassion. When I was finally done singing, I looked up at Andrew and saw the faintest hint of a smile. It makes me smile just thinking about it! When I returned to the States and had time to reflect on my time in Latvia, I realized that I left America excited to help orphans, but returned with a passion for orphan care and adoption. These experiences played a huge part in my husband and I launching Bundle. God works in really cool ways.

I love the way Lisa and her company are pouring into the lives of children and adoptive families! If you want to buy one of their snuggle blankets but doesn’t have a friend or relative to buy for, their Double Your Impact program is a perfect choice. You can purchase a blanket that will be donated to a child in need, and at the same time you will be helping a family with their adoption-related expenses. It’s a win-win!

And guess what?! One lucky reader will win a sweet blanket of their choice. All you have to do is share this blog post...easy as pie to get your hands on one of these cozy snuggle blankets.

For extra entries, you can:
Be sure to comment here to let me know you're entered and how many entries you have (and what you plan to do with this sweet little blanket!

I'll announce the winner on my Facebook and Instagram this Friday, July 14th. They'll be able to choose a blanket of their choice! In the meantime, head over to Bundle and Co, check out their adorable stuff, and go shopping for some of the sweet littles in your life.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

adoption story: brad and sonya

I remember my first call with Brad and Sonya. They felt called to grow their family through adoption, but were hesitant, wondering if an expectant mom would ever choose a family who already had two biological children. Thankfully, they took the leap of faith in spite of of their doubts. Now their sweet son has an amazing older brother and sister to dote and love on him. Today Sonya shares more of the details of their adoption and what they've learned along the way.

We have been processing all that the Lord has done since we got home with Griffin and it blows our mind every time. Here's just a few things we would love to share:

Our experience with Christian Adoption Consultants and Susan...

When we first felt that tug of the heart to want to extend our family through adoption, we had many myths about adoption that we believed. One was that adoption is for couples that are not able to have children biologically. We felt somewhat selfish in wanting to adopt since we had two biological children. This thought kept us from pursing adoption for sometime until we made that first call to Susan with Christian Adoption Consultants. She educated us on adoption, what types of families adopt, and the greatest need in adoption. She quickly dispelled many myths and stereotypes we had early on in the adoption process. This new information from Susan and CAC freed us to follow our dream to extend our family through adoption.  

Susan continued to lead and guide us in our adoption journey. She provided a wealth of information about adoption, our home study and getting our profile together in a way that best captured our family. These things were very overwhelming in the first part of the adoption process and Susan made them easier by helping us navigate through the paperwork. Susan also became a prayer partner for our family and was a huge support to us when we experienced a failed adoption. She provided love and encouragement during this time and was a great confidant and neutral party to share true feelings of despair. She was also right there with us in the joys of receiving our son that God had intended for us all along. Every adoption challenged we faced would have been magnified without having Susan for support and guidance.  

Susan blew us away with how responsive she was to our texts, emails, and phone calls. We were spoiled very quickly in the adoption journey and found out quickly that her quick response is something that sticks out about her and makes her special. Believe me, you want this girl in your court when going through adoption! Susan truly has a heart for adoption all the way around. She cares deeply for adoptive parents and birth parents. This brought much comfort to us, knowing that the love we were getting from Susan was also being given to birth parents as well. We were glad to know that Christian Adoption Consultants take great measures to make sure that all involved with adoption are treated and respected in the utmost way. This ranges from the high expectations of adoption agencies on the CAC list, to providing connections and special events for birthparents, to support to adoptive families for life of the adopted child.

What we want others to know about adoption...

It is so hard BUT so worth it! Adoption challenged our family is so many ways. It stretched us in our relationship with God, in our marriage, with family members, and financially. It exposed our selfish desires and frequently reminded us that we have no control over anything in this life.  It caused us great pain emotionally. We experienced despair like we have never felt before. Waiting seemed like forever when really it had not been that long. BUT we grew in our relationship with God, in our marriage, and in our family in ways we would have never experienced had we not stepped out of the boat on this adoption journey. We've seen God's character and who HE is in a light that we had never experienced before. It brought us closer to God and closer to each other. Adoption is an adventure that will turn your world upside down for the better!  

What God taught us along the way....

You are not in control and at some point you have to let go. The sooner you do so the better. God kept reminding us along the roller coaster ride of adoption that He had brought us this far, He was not going to leave us. And He didn't. God taught us how to come before him as a couple and surrender moment by moment in prayer. After long hours and nights of discussing situations and praying.  God always brought us together on the same page as a couple. It didn't always end in our favor but that was also a surrendering moment.  We quickly seen that this adoption process was not just about us, it was bigger than us. We needed a Big God along the way to help us. He never failed us. When things don't turn out the way you had hoped, whether a no to a shown profile, or a failed adoption like we experienced, it is at that moment that you have to choose to trust. To trust God and His ways and not your own desires. We will never know why we had to experience pain and despair along our adoption journey, but we know it was about loving the birthmother and her family God had brought into our lives at that time. It was bigger than us. Waiting and despair may be part of your story but God will never leave you in the wilderness no matter what He has planned for you. It was the wilderness time that was leading us to the son God had planned for us all along.

Our feelings towards the birthparents...

We have a love that can't be explained for our birthparents. We got to meet them and spent almost two hours listening to them talk in our son's NICU room. It was at that moment that We thought, "This is the beauty of Adoption." It can not be put into words how we clicked so quickly and how we felt as if we had known them for so long. We were able to get pictures with them and wrote down their stories they shared with us to share with our son one day. It is our hope and desire that they will remain apart of his life and reach out to him often. They will always have a special place in our hearts and we think of often and see them in our son's face.

How has adoption changed us...

It has given us more empathy for birthparents and the hard decisions they have to make. It has made us look at life differently. It has made us set aside our own comfort and "normal" way of doing things, to accepting change and flexibility on a whole new level. It has made us be less self focused and more other focused. It has created a love in our hearts for people we never would have met and it has given us a son, whom we loved before meeting. 

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

adoption story: jeremy and kacie

Jeremy and Kacie knew having biological children wouldn't come easy for them so they began thinking about adoption early on in their marriage. Today, Kacie shares how they knew it was time to start the process, some of her fears surrounding adoption, and the amazing way God brought their daughter into their family.

The pieces of our adoption story started falling into place long before we officially made the decision to pursue adoption. We moved, changed jobs, received promotions, and met new people. All of these things happened because God knew where we needed to be in order to adopt. He knew the path our lives needed to take for our hearts, finances and lives to be ready. When we look back, we clearly see all of the moments God was working in our lives in order to bring our daughter home. The Lord was preparing our way.

When we first knew having biological children wouldn’t come easy for us, adopting was in our conversations from the very beginning. Adoption was quickly put into our hearts whether or not we had biological children. After a couple surgeries, medications, and two miscarriages, we could feel God tugging at our hearts. It was time to start the adoption process. We weren’t sure where to begin or who to call. A friend of ours was beginning the adoption process as well. She had looked into many different options and had mentioned Christian Adoption Consultants. We immediately looked at their website and contacted their office. After speaking with Susan, we knew this was where God was leading us. We filled out the paperwork, started on our profile book and were home study ready by August 12, 2016.

It was on January 13th when I saw a situation that I was feeling completely drawn towards. I quickly called my husband and we decided to present. I felt so content and comfortable with this situation; it was a different type of peace than I had felt with any other situation. It was three days later when we got the call that we were matched with our daughter’s birth mother. I will never forget how we felt that day. We had been praying for this moment for many years and we knew this is what the Lord had us waiting for.

Anytime someone ventures down a road that is unfamiliar, one is bound to be scared and have fears. Two of my biggest fears were not bonding with the baby right away and not having a connection with the birth mother. However, once we were matched, our love immediately started growing for our daughter and her birth mother. It was amazing to me how our love started to grow for this little girl that we had never seen in an ultrasound, heard her heartbeat, or felt her move. We also instantly started praying for this beautiful woman that was giving life to our precious baby and we started to feel this connection with her just through our prayers.  

We met our daughter’s birth mother (S) for the first time at dinner a few hours before she had to head to the hospital to be induced. My fear of having a connection with her was immediately put to rest. The conversation flowed so easily and we felt like old friends that just hadn’t seen each other in a long time. We were able to spend a lot of time in the hospital with S and we were able to get to know her even more. We are so in awe of her. She is the most courageous, loving, self-less and strongest person we have ever met. We have a semi-open adoption plan so we send S pictures and letters on a consistent basis. Someday, when the time is right, we hope we are able to take our daughter to meet her birth mother.

It was about 15 minutes after our little girl was born that we were able to be with her in the nursery. From the very first look at her, we fell completely in love. Just as any parent, we immediately loved her and had this instant need to make sure she was safe and secure. Then we were able to hold her, watch her sleep, open her eyes, watch her facial expressions and see her smile. The love and bond with her just continued to grow to a love that we couldn’t have imagined. I truly believe that the bonding happened the same exact way it would have with a biological child.

Adoption has been such a beautiful journey that will continue for the rest of our lives. As our daughter grows, we will tell her the story of how she came to be ours. We are so blessed that the Lord called us down this path and we are so thankful that we listened. This quote comes from author Ann Voskamp and it is so fitting,
“He holds every minute and His grace and timing are perfect. So we’re just going to go all out and trust and be brave: it takes courage to listen with our whole heart to the tick of God’s timing, rather than march to the loud beat of our fears.”

The Lord truly gave us the desires of our hearts. The journey wasn’t easy. It was filled with loss, heartache and many tears. However, now that we have our daughter, we couldn’t imagine it any other way. God truly had our daughter picked out for us all along.

Photo Credit: Cocobee Photography

Friday, June 23, 2017

the truth about birth parents

But truly, some of the biggest myths about adoption is the birth family. There are a lot of assumptions made about who they are, why they decide to make an adoption plan, and how they feel about their child. I've never made an adoption plan, but I've worked with many amazing women and men who have. Here's a few things I've learned about these courageous parents...

There is no 'typical' birth parent.
I've worked with birth parents ranging in age from 15 to 45 years old. For some birth mothers, it's their first baby. For some it's their seventh. For some it's the first baby they've chosen life for after having an abortion. Couples who are married. High school students and graduate students.  Artists, musicians, administrative assistants and managers. Every birth parent has a unique story and a unique reason for making an adoption plan.

Birth parents don't 'give up' their children.
I've never met a birth parent who wants to 'give up' their baby.  The act of making an adoption plan is selfless, courageous, and agonizing. Adoption is less about giving up and more about giving: giving life, giving a future, and giving tremendous love. Instead of being unwanted, birth parents want to give their child a life, even if there's unanswered questions and unknowns ahead. It's been said that adoption is not the abandonment of a baby, but the abandonment of self for a baby's sake.

Birth parents love their children.
Adoption is made up of the kind of sacrificial love when a parent puts their child's needs above their own. Their child is desperately wanted and deeply and fully loved. It's this kind of love that drives their decision to choose adoption; believing it truly is what's best for their child. 

Birth fathers can be involved.
There's an assumption that birth father's are out of the picture and not a part of adoptions. Although this can be the case (and even some of the reason a mother chooses an adoption plan), there are actually many times birth fathers are involved. Of course every birth father has rights as a parent and many choose to actively engage in the process; supporting the birth mother during the pregnancy and birth, helping to choose an adoptive family, and sharing an ongoing relationship with their child.

Openness feels scary to them, too.
More often than not, birth parents shy away from openness not because they don't want an ongoing relationship with their child, but because they don't want to infringe on the new family that has formed. They have planned and sacrificed for their child to be placed in an adoptive family and don't want anything interfering, including themselves.

Birth parents don't move on and forget.
Every birth mother I know has told me they think about their child daily, even years after the adoption. The same fierce love that drove them to choose adoption continues throughout their lives. It's a common refrain to constantly wonder how their child is doing, how they are growing, and if their child knows how deeply wanted and important they were from the beginning.

There are a lot of myths out there about "the kind of people" who make adoption plans. As I've walked with them, held their hands during labor and delivery, and watched them place their babies in another's arms, I know the truth about these "kind of people." They are some of the bravest, strongest, and selfless men and women I know. They are incredible mothers and courageous fathers. They know the kind of love that places anothers' needs before their own. 

So instead of a birth parent having some sort of stigma, or narrowly putting them into a box, these are the men and women that need to be celebrated, held in high esteem, and cherished. Let's start a movement acknowledging and honoring the tremendous worth and value of birth mothers and birth fathers.

For more on birth parents:

Thursday, June 15, 2017

adoption story: lance and marie

Lance and Marie had welcomed their first daughter through adoption. When they started with Christian Adoption Consultants last May, they were hoping to adopt again. Less than one year later, their family grew again when they brought home their son. I love Marie's insights into their adoption, their journey, and what they've learned along the way...

Adoption has definitely been a journey for us. It can be an emotionally trying time - but that time spent longing and preparing for a child allowed for lots of devoted time pouring out our hearts to God and learning from Him in the wait. We learned patience, trust, hope and ultimately - joy, that only He can provide. We want others to know that God has a plan and to remember to keep on keeping on - fill out all that detailed paperwork, then put your energy into doing things that will be more work or impossible with a new child. Everyone's story unfolds in a unique way, but trust that God has a perfect answer to your desire. Having a consultant was so helpful - from the quick responses when a burning question came to mind to guidance when considering a situation - we would have been lost without her (thank you Susan!). We have two adopted children now and our relationship with each of their birth parents is different. For each family, we maintain a private Facebook group which they love - each has a different mix of group members. We have even met with each of the children's birth grandmother's and we'll see what they would like to do in the years to come. We are open to relationships with the birth family and feel it is important to give them that respect yet in the end we will try to make the best decision for our child. Adoption has made us more open to accept people different than us, to stretch our patience and mostly, to rely on God more.

Congrats to this sweet family of four. It's been a joy watching you rely on God as He writes your story!

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