Thursday, January 31, 2013

It's Been One Year

It's been one year since this happened.

There's so much in my heart today that I'm finding way too difficult to express. It's hard to put into words all that's happened in the past year. There was a long season in my life where friends would ask how we're doing and I would give a half-smile and admit that things were still really rough. It's only been in the last few months that I can respond to a "how are you?" with a genuine "great." I can honestly tell you that we're doing  really well. We're still fighting for our family, but it's less of a struggle and more of a conscious effort to cling to God and each other. Our marriage is stronger. Our family is happier. Our faith is deeper. Our hope did not disappoint.

The week when everything began, I was sitting in a restaurant across the table from a friend who had a similar story. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and said she was honestly thankful for the struggle in her marriage and her husband's issues. I looked at her like she was crazy and thought I would never share her affection for the hell I was walking through.

It's been amazing how God has worked in just one short year. And I am thankful for what we went though. I'm not thankful for sin that ruins hearts and lives. But I'm so grateful that God can use all of the ugliness and mess that was us just 15 months ago and use it for our good and His glory. He's rebuilding the ruins.

Today, we're celebrating hearts changed, our family saved, and God's amazing grace. It's a good day for the VanSyckles. 

                                                 Photography by Jeremy and Ashley Parsons

For more of our story, head here.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

I Went to Church Last Week

Many of you know Richy and Jess and their story. If you don't, you need to. Jess is a mama who guest blogged for me a few months ago.  

Here's their story in a really small nutshell:
Richy and Jess got married YOUNG
Richy and Jess went into ministry 
Richy and Jess started having a family
Jess started blogging all their adventures

Their family is incredible. I had a chance to meet them while doing their adoption for Tristan. I was wrote their home study and walked closely with them through the process since I also worked with their birth mom.  If you know anything about home studies, you know how much I know about the Clarks. After all of that, I can tell you that they are probably some of the most genuine and sincere people I know with a passion for God and their family.

Recently, the Clarks got some tough news. Their oldest son is having severe medical issues. Like any parent, they are doing all they can for him. And last week, friends sent them to California for special prayer. While they were gone, a team of people decided to bless them by redoing their son's room. They created a Facebook page, got a link together for donations, and got the word out.  

And then things exploded. What was going to be a redecorated boys room turned into a massive overhaul of their entire home. The Facebook page had over 1,000 members from across the country giving their time, talents, and resources. People from all over Kansas City came to help out donating thousands of man hours to the project, many who had never even met the family. Within hours of them leaving their kitchen was torn out. Think nothing less than Extreme Home Makeover. New kitchen, new appliances, new furniture, new linens, new floors, new e-ver-ee-thing.

So last week I went to church. I went over to help on the project. I didn't do anything huge. I organized a closet. I hauled over new furniture (during my stint there I was known as the girl with the van). I cleaned.  I don't think I've ever cleaned or organized with such joy or purpose before.  And while I was there, that same joy was on everyone else's faces as well. It was chaos. People painting and installing flooring and organizing the kitchen. Everyone using their own gifts to serve this family and God.  It was beautiful chaos.

Friends, this is what church is all about.  Church goes far beyond the walls of buildings we gather at once a week. It goes beyond brief "how are yous" between pews.  It goes farther than throwing a few bills in the plate. The church meets needs. And in this case, because of hundreds of people's generosity, the church was extravagant. Last week was a vivid picture of how God uses believers to be his hands and feet. How the body of believers can give out of the abundance of what's been given to us.

I want to go to church like this more often.

To see Jess' take on her home makeover and a video of their home, visit this post on her blog. Also, if you want to be a part of blessing this family, there's still time! Visit here for more info.

*I took these pictures from the Facebook page set up for the huge project.  Thanks to the photographers!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

40 Years

My heart has been heavy today. Today marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision where the US Supreme court decided that women have the legal right to obtain abortion. 40 years later our nation has killed more than 50 million babies.

Many people still don't know the shocking beginning of abortion, prompted by injustice, inequality, racism, and eugenics. For one of the most comprehensive historical accounts of abortion, head to this post on Bound 4 Life. Popular leaders of the movement (such as Sir Francis Galton, Margret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood, and Adolf Hitler) all targeted "undesirables" and used birth control and abortion to promote their agenda of hatred for anyone not of white race.

Think that was just the past and today abortion provides freedom to women?

Here's just some of the current issues with abortion:
  • 79% of Planned Parenthoods are strategically placed in minority neighborhoods (Protecting Black Life)
  • 2 out of every 3 black children are killed by abortion and abortion accounts for more deaths than AIDS, violent crimes, accidents, cancer and heart disease COMBINED for African Americans (National Right to Life)
  • Many women suffer from insomnia, nightmares, suicidal feelings, and eating disorders and develop Post Abortive Stress Syndrome
  • Abortions are a money-making industry (rather than life-saving health care for women) with over 91% of it's pregnancy related services going towards abortion from Planned Parenthood latest annual report (rather than prenatal or adoption services) and collected over $6 billion dollars of tax payer money (Life News)
1 in 3 women have had an abortion in the U.S. These women are our mothers, our sisters, our daughter, our friends. And this doesn't account for all of the fathers involved.

I have never met a woman who does not regret her abortion and speak of it with great shame. I've never met a woman who really thought that the baby they aborted was "just a fetus" or a "blob of cells." But the lies they are told is that abortion is a quick fix, a health issue, necessary birth control, and has no consequences. Forty years later we know better.

The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy. (John 10:10) Never has this verse been more true when it comes to abortion. Abortion steals women's motherhood. Abortion kills babies. Abortion destroys women, men, families, and communities.

But Jesus came that they might have life and have it to the full. This is a promise for mothers, fathers, and their children. I'm thankful that there is forgiveness, there is wholeness, and there is healing after abortion.  

Last year I attended The Esther Call and prayed with 4,000 other women on the steps of the courthouse in Dallas where Roe v. Wade began. I heard Kelly's story for the first time there. Since then I've had a chance to meet her and hear her story firsthand. Here's just a part of my sweet friend's story:

Jesus, I plead your blood over my sins and the sins of my nation. God, end abortion and send revival to America.

Monday, January 21, 2013

In Her Own Words: An Adoptive Mama Shares Her Journey

Joshua and Shayla consulted with me last year and have an incredible story to share. They began in October of 2011 and their sweet baby was born last March just a few months later.  Many of the families I work with are referred by a previous client. This was the case with Joshua and Shayla who are dear friends of Scott and Elizabeth. I was honored to walk a part of their journey with them and am privileged to share their story here today. Here's Shayla's story in her own words...

It took years of loss to get us to the place we are today. Our journey to take this family picture has been one of great heartache and great joy. This picture was never one I could have dreamed of...

Joshua and Shayla with their kids: JT, Emmersan, Zola, and Piper
(Devine, currently in Nigera not pictured)

Our journey to grow our family took a sudden and unexpected turn in July of 2009 when I was four months pregnant. At a routine OB appointment we found our our baby had no heartbeat. Three months later we were pregnant again and the same four month appointment we again found there was no heartbeat.  As you can imagine, we were devastated.

At that point, I was done trying to have biological children. I had gone through every test possible and everything seemed to be fine, but I wasn't going to take the pain of losing another baby. It was such a lonely pain. While most of my friends were complaining of their babies getting colds or not sleeping through the night, I was just begging God to bring me a LIVING child. I was taunted by words of well-meaning friends saying it “just wasn't God’s timing,” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” (Those words were completely uncomforting so please don’t say them to anyone…ever.) 

We started looking into adoption and soon felt God's clear leading to grow our family this way. After many phone calls to large agencies, I was discouraged. I was told it could take at least 2 years to adopt, yet I kept hearing there we so many babies that needed homes. Where were all of these babies? I couldn't wrap my head around waiting in line with dozens of well-meaning, good Christian families basically “fighting” for the same babies. 

We felt a calling to look into adopting an orphan internationally. We became aware of a 4 year old girl named Devine in an orphanage in Nigeria and began to pursue a private adoption with her.  We knew it would be a long and uphill battle, but we knew in our hearts she was our daughter.  

We still felt called to adopt domestically so we continued that process as well. One day I heard about the great need for families to adopt minority children and it broke my heart. At that moment I knew we were going to adopt an African-American baby.  

At the same time, my wonderful sister-in-law offered to be a surrogate and carry a baby for us. But we had no idea if this would be successful. By this time we were tempering our hopes of having a larger family with the realities of loss and the faith that God would write our story the way He wanted.

It was very difficult trying to call and find agencies all on my own. I would spend hours on the internet and blindly calling agencies. Oftentimes I would hang up in tears because I just felt like a number when I would call. Since we didn't know how to choose a quality agency and had no professional giving us wise counsel, during this time were matched three times and had three adoptions fall through.

In the waiting period, we unexpectedly got pregnant again and lost another baby at that fateful four month mark. I didn't know if the surrogacy would work, our business was hurting, our adoptions had failed, some of my family didn't support us adopting an older child from Africa, and I had lost three babies. I had hit a low point and didn't feel we had a clear direction for our domestic adoption.

In the midst of all of this, I met a friend that was adopting and was working with Susan. I decided to enlist Susan’s help as well.  She taught me about the multi-agency approach and I began filling my days applying to numerous agencies instead of just waiting on one. She would also send me situations of babies needing  a family and educated us on the process of adoption. Most of all, she was a friend. I called her one night bawling; struggling with the emotions of all we had been through. I was just having a meltdown and I don’t even remember what all I said. It was THAT bad. Susan comforted me and listened. She was there for me and encouraged me. She never judged me for that night and she never brought it up again.  

About a month later, I got a phone call that would change my life. We were told of a little girl born in Florida: 4 pounds, 13 oz. and beautiful. She was our daughter. She didn't look like me, or my husband, or my two older biological children; however the experience of adding her to our lives was just as exciting as it was delivering my birth children. My heart melted the second I met her. Today, Zola is a perfectly happy, healthy, and a crazy-energetic 10 month old!  

Just six months after that, I was blessed with another daughter, Piper, via my sister-in-law through surrogacy. And as I write, my husband is in Nigeria trying to bring Devine home. It’s been a rough road but we anticipate her finally being able to come home to join the rest of the family soon.  

We lost three sweet babies to Heaven in the last three years. And God, in His goodness, has blessed us with three sweet children in less that a year. Our story isn't over yet. I will never be the same person I was before I endured all of my losses. I have been sweetly broken. There are two things I've learned through this heartbreaking and incredible journey. God is still good even in the midst of crisis, when I felt my world was falling apart.  And I'm so glad our heartache led us to adoption.  

I encourage you to open your heart to a child that maybe you never thought would fit into your family, because every child deserves a mommy and a daddy.  


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Back In It

The other day I was telling Jamy that I ran into one of my birth parents and described her as "my favorite." He just chuckled and pointed out that they're all my favorite. He's right of course. I have a huge passion for birth mamas. 

Since Hannah's Dream closed the end of August, I hadn't been doing much birth parent work. Apart from continuing to care for the sweet birth mamas I was still working with, I haven't had a chance to connect with birth parents for four months. I absolutely love working at Christian Adoption Consultants, but admittedly a huge piece has been missing.  

Just a month out of working at Hannah's Dream a place I love called me. I've had a long partnership with The Women's Clinic of Kansas City, a local pregnancy resource center that provides help to women facing unplanned pregnancies. Over the past few years, I've worked alongside their staff with women contemplating abortions, training them on adoption, and learning how to best serve birth parents. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with their vision for serving families.  

So when they called to see if I could help manage their Alternatives to Abortion program it was one of the easiest answers I've given. My role is to counsel women who are abortion vulnerable and help them with whatever pressures are in their life that will improve their circumstances and their babies lives; everything from healthy relationships and prenatal care to adoption plans and substance use issues. It's a federally funded program that seeks to reduce the number of abortions and improve pregnancy outcomes (this irony isn't lost on me but I'm all in if it means speaking life over these women).  

I began the first of the year and I'm loving it.  Connecting with birth mamas in a hard season with an unplanned pregnancy. Talking, laughing, and crying with them. Offering hope and praying with them. Working with unbelievable staff who don't take it for granted that we are positioned right next to a Planned Parenthood and have an incredible opportunity of offer life to women. I am blessed.

I've got a great gig: I work at The Women's Clinic just a few hours each week. This allows me to still serve my clients as an adoption consultant, help where there's a need at the clinic, and continue to do two things that make my heart come alive. I'm certain working in both arenas helps me serve both birth parents and adoptive families better. I can come to the table having walked through the journey with both of them.  

And I'm assuming in the coming days I'll have a few new favorites...

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

When Adoption is Messy and Beautiful All at Once

I met Steve and Maria in a tornado. They had come to my office to hear about consulting when tornadoes hit the KC metro area and we headed to the basement for cover; to wait it out and pray for the storm to pass and the blue skies to return. The chaos passed and we even glimpsed a rainbow when we returned back to up my office to talk more about their adoption. This couldn't have been more prophetic for their journey.

Just a few months later they were matched with a birth mama. We journeyed closely together as I was her birth parent counselor: meeting their birth mom for coffee and attending prenatal appointments. I watched their faces as they fell in love watching their son enter the world with Frank Sinatra playing in the background.

That was February 9, 2012. Just a few days later, what had been calm and peaceful and perfect turned upside down in moments in a way no one could have predicted. The tornado had hit.

The best way to share their story is through Maria's words. She shared this just a few weeks later on her blog:

Wednesday, March 7, 2012 Broken-Hearted

I've started to write this post about 20 times. And erased it. And started again.  There is no pretty way to say that we lost our son...

Emerson was born on February 9th, 2012.

Photography by  Erica Short
Because his incredible birth mom allowed us to be present for the birth; I watched him enter the world and take his first breath and cry his first beautiful cry.  When they finally laid him on my bare chest, I wept with joy I had not known. Steve and I spent the next few days in the hospital falling in love with our beautiful son.  

After a few days, we found out that Emerson's birth father was interested in raising him. After 2.5 weeks of life with him, we found out that Emerson would not be coming home with us after all.

It's good right, a biological dad wanting to raise his child? Of course it is. I don't want to speak poorly of Emerson's birth dad. He was fighting for his son, just like we were fighting for ours. What's hard is falling in love with your son, believing with everything within you that he is your son, and then having to say goodbye to him...

It's INCREDIBLE how much Steve and I loved that boy (still love him) after only 2 weeks with him.  In fact, after only 2 hours with him, we would have both jumped in front of a bus to save him.

And so, our first adoption...failed. that's what they call it. Steve and I have come to hate the words "failed adoption." They sound like we did something wrong. I hope we didn't.

The loss of a child is just...nearly unbearable. All the things I thought I had made and prepared for Emerson...that he will never see.  It's hard to know what to even do with myself. Because so much of my life was preparing for this little bean. The days are long without Emerson on my chest, every moment I wish he was near.

Steve and I are still as close, no closer than ever. We LOVED being parents together. Steve realized how much he loved being dad to a newborn. We will start again, soon. Well, maybe not soon, but someday...

The Bible says that God is near to the broken-hearted. That he works for the good in our lives. And loves us more than we know or could even imagine.  As I cry, and life seems unbearable, I hold on to those things, because I have known them to be true...even when they don't feel true.

Well, that's my heart out there for all to see; broken and confused as it is, but trying to hope.  

Thanks for reading,


I walked through this with Steve and Maria and their courage and faith through all of it was mind-blowing. I watched them love Emerson and his birth family even when they were risking everything. We cried together and prayed together and held each other's hands waiting in a small court room, awaiting the eventual news that Emerson would not be their son.  To say it was heart-wrenching would be an understatement. 

But then, the blue skies began to appear after the storm. In a story only God could have written and orchestrated  we heard of a little boy in Florida...

Just weeks later, Maria then blogged this:

Wednesday, April 25, 2012  The story of Asher 

Oh my, its been a whirlwind since I last wrote. I can hardly believe what I am about to tell you. I am still processing it. 

Saying goodbye to Emerson left us unimaginably broken-hearted, but day by day small healing began with God's help. Steve and I reacted so differently to losing Emerson. Steve was immediately ready to be a parent again, because he realized how much he loved being a dad. At first, I felt as though I would never love again. But slowly I began to realize that I did really want to be a mom again, and soon. 

On Thursday March 8th, after many good but difficult talks, Steve and I felt peace about the decision to put our names back in the pool at the adoption agency that we are working with. Though we were still in pain, we felt we were also the same people who wanted to adopt, and are so ready to love a child. 

Exactly two weeks after we joined the pool, on Thursday March 22nd, I received a phone call. "Maria, there is a little baby boy in Florida who is 2 weeks old, BOTH his parents have signed consent and we wanted to know if you are interested." My mind blew up a little bit. 

It is extremely rare that both parents consent prior to an adoptive placement, and this is exactly what we had been praying for. I called Steve, who immediately said, "I'm in!" I couldn't believe how soon after Emerson this opportunity came and I wasn't quite sure I was ready, but I felt we could at least be ONE of the many profiles that the birth mom looked at and if God felt we weren't ready for the little guy then he would help the birth mom decide "no."

The next Monday we learned that the birthmom wanted to speak with us on the phone. We had an incredible talk with her that night and she told us she wanted us to adopt her boy. 

The next day, Tuesday, we hurriedly packed, did a bunch of paperwork, and drove the 19 hours to Florida (straight through, with the special adrenaline only felt by parents trying to get to meet their child for the first time :)

On Wednesday at about 3pm, we signed some paperwork with a lawyer and were granted custody. Then, we got to meet our son. He is beautiful (as you can see).  His birthmom wanted to be there to give him to us, so we got to meet her and get to know her a little bit.  

His birth mom had named him Michael which we changed to the middle name. His full name is Asher Michael Huxley Casteel. Asher means "happiness, blessed and fortunate" which could not more perfectly describe  how we feel to get to be parents to this little boy. 

We will never forget little Emerson and his place in our heart cannot be taken, but he was not able to be ours. And thankfully God made our hearts to hold love for so many people at a time :) We are so happy to be bonding with Asher and knowing that he will be in our family forever. he is beyond precious.

Life with Asher is wonderful. We are thankful every single second for this little miracle. He is SUCH a happy boy. Full of smiles at such a young age. 

 Images by Jeremy Parsons of we are the parsons.

*Don't judge my ugly outfit and hair, these were taken right when we brought Asher home and I had been riding in the car for a VERY long time :)
A few incredible facts: 
  • At first we toyed with the idea of waiting one month before getting back on the list at the agency, it seemed like a logical amount of time. But had we done that, we would not have gotten Asher. 
  • We had Emerson with us at the Ash Wednesday service at our church. I sat there feeling as if I was giving up my SON for lent. Asher was there with us on Easter. What redemption! (I don't mean that to sound as if Asher is a replacement [for you cannot replace one human with another,] but rather a great gift, after great loss.)
  • We had to stay in Florida for awhile for interstate paperwork to clear. This caused us to arrive home on my birthday. I finally brought my son home, for good. The best birthday present ever.
  • Asher's birth mom chose a family in Kansas City because she had already placed a son into an adoptive family in Kansas City. We already know the mom of Asher's biological half brother. They will grow up being friends and knowing they are brothers. 

Admittedly, this is one of my favorite parts of their story. Asher's biological brother, Christian, was adopted by an amazing family here in Kansas City. Christian's adoptive mother, Angela, walked closely with Steve and Maria as she worked at the agency for their first adoption with Emerson.  I can't tell you the celebration that happened at Christian's finalization party later that spring when the brothers met for the first time. Two families were brought together in the same city by the same birth mother and will grow to know and love each other. Two families originally brought together by a "failed adoption." 

I hesitated sharing Steve and Maria's story. Although their story is incredibly rare, failed adoptions do happen. Some people might walk away from reading their incredible journey only hearing the heartache and loss. Some people might say, "See, there's no way I could adopt. I could never walk through something like that..."  

And they might be right. But had Steve and Maria not said "yes" to loving with risk, they would not have their beautiful son Asher. They would not have had the opportunity to offer such selfless love to Emerson and his birth family. They would not have met Asher's biological brother. I can honestly say that I have never heard a story of a failed adoption without an incredible "after story" of how God used it in some kind of amazing way similar to this one.

Adoption is fraught with loss. The fact that birth parents are not in a season to parent their child. The fact that an adoptive couple has fought with infertility. The fact that our world is full of brokenness. The list goes on. But adoption is also filled with redemption. Restoration. Beauty. Selflessness.  

I'm glad I met Steve and Maria in the tornado that day. They have since become dear friends and I love watching Asher grow, knowing the amazing story of God's goodness. It turns out we really did get to see the skies part and see the rainbow at the end of it all.

To read more of Steve and Maria's life and visit Maria's amazing vintage etsy shop, visit her blog, Adelaide's Homesewn.  

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My Son, His Legs, and My Heart

Jackson has been dealing with chronic leg pain for over a year now.

It began in the fall of 2011 when he began limping during a soccer practice. What started as a slight limp turned into trouble walking by the end of the evening. In the game that weekend he collapsed and couldn't take any more steps. My son couldn't walk. We headed to the ER immediately and within several weeks were dealing with a diagnosis of Leggs Calves Perthes Disease. The specialists at our amazing local children's hospital let us know that Jack's hip joints had minimal blood flow and would slowly deteriorate and die.  

I was totally unprepared for the diagnosis and felt like I had the wind knocked out of me. All at once we were looking at a virtually incurable disease that would limit our sons mobility immensely. Worst case scenario: several hip replacements throughout his lifetime.  

So we dove in. We did the research. We talked with pediatric orthopedic professionals. We did the routine visits. I even looked into carriers made for four year olds.  And we prayed like crazy. We even had our elders over who laid their hands on Jackson and prayed for healing.  

I'm schooled on needing the give the reigns over to Jesus. My world crashing to pieces and needing to hand him my brokenness. In those times I learn what it looks like when he puts the pieces back together (usually not in the way I would like) but in a kind of beautiful chaos.

But this time it was my son who was in pain. It's a totally different ball game when you learn what it means to give your child to God. I recognize that in a broader perspective, this disease is "small." But it still shook my world.

In January last year, just a few months after the diagnosis, routine x-rays puzzled Jackson's doctor. She was supposed to be observing his rapidly deteriorating hip joints. But what she saw was a perfectly healthy x-ray. Perplexed, she sent Jackson for more testing. Again, what the disease was "supposed" to be doing, it was not. Jackson's diagnosis was taken off the table.

This was amazing news. But confusing since Jack was still dealing with chronic pain. We headed to a pediatric rheumatologist. We awaited tests for Leukemia and Multiple Sclerosis (talk about a rough week awaiting those blood test results). Eventually, Jackson was diagnosed with hyper-flexibility. Essentially, since his joints are super flexible, his muscles are in a constant state of contraction (rather than contracting and relaxing), causing pain. We've been told to limit his activity. Some sports might not ever be an option for him.

So we're learning how to deal with Jackson's pain. It's fairly constant (usually some sort of sad face on this little chart that hangs in our bathroom and kitchen cupboards). We're learning to treat his pain with a mix of ibuprofen  essential oils, and as much rest as he can take (which is not much, let me tell you). And he's a warrior. He rarely let's on that he's in pain and you would never know it watching him. Anyone who knows Jackson describes him as "all boy" as he's in constant motion running (or jumping, or karate chopping, or somersaulting...) Most days are good. He bears with his pain. Other days he cries out, limps, or struggles with walking at all. I love watching his fiery determination through it all - he's amazing.

And in the midst of it I'm learning how to trust Jesus as a mama. As a mama who wants her little boy to be able to run and jump and climb trees without pain. To be able to kick the soccer ball around at recess without having to pay for it later. As a mama who loves to be in control, especially in safeguarding her son against hurts. As a mama who takes pride in her son running down the field and scoring a goal in the game.

A friend of mine was praying for Jackson with me the other day and said this: Jesus, may you use this in Jackson's little life so that he would trust you more fully and know that his only hope is in you. And I began weeping. This whole time I had mostly been praying that God would heal him. I've been missing it.  

I've been missing the big picture. This past year has been more than about the health of my son. It's been more than his pain. It's been more than my anguish I've been watching Jackson begin to live out how God wants to work all things for his good and God's glory even at five years old.  

And I get to watch the story unfold.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A New Approach to Adoption: A [Mini] Tutorial

A lot of people assume the hardest decision in adoption is whether or not to take the plunge. It often takes an act of God (and it should) to get a husband and wife on the same page at the same time and ready to dive in to the journey of adoption.

But one of the next biggest questions is how? What agency will we use? How can we trust the agency to serve us and the birth family well? What are the adoption laws? How do we find trustworthy professionals to guide us through the process? And the list goes on.

Traditionally, if a family is interested in adoption, they find a local agency, hope that they provide good service, and stay with them from start to finish. The same agency completes a family's home study, matches them with a birth family, and completes the required post-placement supervision.  

Here's the hang up: most of these agencies only serve a limited amount of birth families.  Many of them serve significantly more adoptive families than they know they can match. AND many require a significant non-refundable fee up front for their adoption costs.

The end result with this traditional approach is that many adoptive families end up waiting for long periods of time to be matched with birth parents and a baby. This seems crazy when there are many babies available in the United States for adoption. So many that some even end up in the foster care system since an adoptive family isn't identified at birth.

Picture this: you're an adoptive family in Michigan. You're with a fantastic agency but they're on the small side and you've been home study approved now for 18 months. A baby is born in Arizona that needs a family. Or a baby in Kansas. Or a baby in Florida. But you're unable to adopt simply because there's no connect point.

A new approach to adoption is by using multiple agencies. This multi-agency approach simply increasing the connect points for an adoptive family. By applying to many agencies across the US, their profile has the ability to be viewed in other states (like Kansas or Florida) while still being active at their beginning agency in Michigan.  

Here's the break-down:
  1. An adoptive family completes their home study through a local agency
  2. They apply to multiple different agenices that don't require significant fees up front
  3. They are matched to a situation and only then are adoption expenses paid
  4. Their post-placement visits are completed by the same agency that completed their home study

This multi-agency approach has several benefits:
More exposure - adoptive families who are active with multiple agencies have the chance for their profile to be viewed and chosen by many more birth families
Ability to adopt from adoptive friendly states - applying to agencies in states where adoption law is clear is crucial to a successful adoption 
Cuts down on wait time - connecting with more agencies significantly reduces the wait time for an adoptive family 
Cuts down on costs - some agencies require a minimal application/administrative fee to be shown to prospective birth parents (or none at all) and no adoption fees are due until a family is matched with their baby
Here's one huge caution to the multi-agency approach. Simply applying to multiple agencies isn't the key. The key to a successful adoption is finding quality, ethical, and solid adoption agencies that will provide excellent service to both an adoptive family and birth family. Aside from the recommendation of trusted friends and family, it's beyond difficult to ensure. I just Googled "adoption agencies" and came up with 8,970,000 results. It's overwhelming to try to choose a good agency from those numbers.

This is where help from an Adoption Consultant can come in. At Christian Adoption Consultants, we've narrowed that mind-boggling number down. Down to a handful of agencies that we work closely with, trust, and have had multiple clients adopt from successfully. Our clients apply to these agencies in adoption-friendly states where the consent for adoption is generally signed within 12-72 hours after the baby's birth and is irrevocable. The agencies we work with either have low application fees or have waived them for our clients. CAC is becoming known across the nation by agencies, social workers, and attorneys as having excellent and educated adoptive parents who are ready to step into an adoption at a moments notice. Because of this, we not only network with those agencies but other adoption professionals who contact us frequently about potential situations and requesting adoptive families.  

Adoption requires a lot of work. And it usually requires much more homework. What agencies to apply to, what attorney to hire, deciding on levels of openness, financing an adoption, transracial adoption issues... the list goes on. Why not connect with someone who's already done the homework and can help you navigate the questions?

For more information, search the "adoption" tab on this blog, check out Christian Adoption Consultants, or email me.

Want more adoption [mini] tutorials? Click here for more resources!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Gospel is All I Have

Kicking off 2013 has brought mixed emotions for me.  Yesterday I tweeted this:

The world is sometimes too horrible to make sense of and too wonderful to imagine. Both make me long for heaven.

Living in this broken world can be overwhelming. The agony of Newtown today sending their babies back to school. Insurance that covers abortions. Fragmented relationships and sickness.  And then we get little glimpses of what Heaven must be like. Watching our children's excitement at learning something for the first time. Standing for the "Hallelujah Chorus" at Christmas. Feeling loved and wanted.

Have I been blessed? Beyond measure.

But I also feel like last year I was stripped bare of almost everything and lived in much of that brokenness. In the midst of that, God revealed himself to me in a way that I never would have known had I felt like I had it all together. The lie in all of our hearts is that if we just do more, accomplish more, have more, and be more, we'll be ok. But the reality is we have Christ or nothing.  

The truth I have been resting on is that the work is finished. No matter my performance, I'm in right standing with God. On my worst days of sin and selfishness I can rest in Christ's work on the cross. On my best days of "kingdom work" I'm reminded that I can't add anything to what Christ has already accomplished.  

In the midst of the heartache of this life, I have the hope of the Gospel. I have to remind myself that that is joyously enough.  

The Gospel Is All I Have
Words and Music by Nathan Partain

The gospel is all I have. The gospel is all I have.
No well-kept, presentable life to display;
The gospel is all I have.

The gospel is all I have.
No courage, no virtuous, bold use of faith;
The gospel is all I have.
Well, the Lord God Almighty leapt down from the sky,And he made himself nothing and served will he died,So that I, just a beggar, at the Judgement might cry,"The gospel is all I have!"
The gospel is all I have. The gospel is all I have.
No merit to offer. No excuses to make.
The gospel is all I have.

The gospel is all I have. The gospel is all I have.
No clever, persuasive words I could say
No debt I could work off. No bribe I could pay,
No goodness. No promise of love that won't fade.
The gospel is all I have. The gospel is all I have.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Rhythms

2012 was a big year for our crew. A hard and glorious one. Here's some of the highlights and links in case you want to catch up:
God stepped into our marriage and family in a big way and redeemed it.
Hannah's Dream reached its end and I began with Christian Adoption Consultants.
I started blogging (and people actually started reading).
The kids started kindergarten and first grade and each broke an arm.
And God taught me a ton about grace, love, freedom, and hope.

Celebrating New Year's Eve changes when you become a parent. Last night we had pizza, watched Tinkerbell: Secret of the Wings, and were in our PJ's by 6pm. Par-tay. After the kids were in bed we web streamed the OneThing conference and finally watched Elf for this season (sacrilege I know). And we were asleep by 10 - the excitement I tell you. At 11:55pm Jamy woke me up with a wine glass of Ginger Ale to watch the ball drop and pray in the New Year together. Perfect evening if you ask me.

So now it's New Year's day morning. The kids are watching cartoons in our bed, Jamy's making pancakes and I'm at the dining room table. I feel like I should be contemplative and visionary over my mug of coffee this morning. So far my favorite blogs to ring in the New Year and resolutions are my sweet friends Jess and Jami.

I'm not much for resolutions. Mostly because I've discovered they're generally not good for me. I'll be honest: for this Type A, perfectionist, list-making girl, resolutions don't work. What happens in my heart is I lose perspective on the "why" and get caught up in the "how." So in the past I resolve to do blank in my devotions (or exercise regime, or parenting, or healthy eating, or organization, etc, etc), miss it a day or two and throw the whole thing out. My all or nothing bent doesn't help much when life happens and things don't get done perfectly the way my resolutions had planned out. I've learned that good things can still happen in my "trys." God is way more concerned about my heart than my to-do list and marked check boxes. So instead of creating an all-or-nothing, list-generating goals and resolutions, I'm aiming to create new rhythms in my life for 2013.

Dwelling on the gospel
If there's anything in life that we should be passionate about, it's the gospel. And I don't mean passionate about sharing it with others. I mean passionate about thinking about it, dwelling on it rejoicing in it, allowing it to color the way we look at the world. Only one thing can be of first importance to each of us. And only the gospel ought to be. C.J. Mahaney, The Cross Centered Life

If you read any book in 2013, read this one:

Milton's book discusses reasons to rehearse the gospel daily and then the gospel narrative to read through. I plan to make this part of my rhythm this year: to preach the gospel to myself. I need to be reminded daily that the gospel is sufficient, God can be trusted, to rest in Christ's righteousness alone, and God's perspective when I face trials.

I'll also be reading this one:

This book reads like a modern day Psalm. Here's a snippet from today's reading: In the gospel you lavish us with your love, liberate us by your grace, and launch us into your transforming story of redemption. What more could we possibly want or hope for, in life or in death?  

Good stuff I want to be mediating on daily.

Cultivating gratefulness
We only enter into the full life if our faith gives thanks. Because how else do we accept His free gift of salvation if not with thanksgiving? Thanksgiving is the evidence of our acceptance of whatever He gives. Thanksgiving is the manifestation of our Yes! to His grace.  Ann Voskamp

Admittedly gratefulness is not my first reaction when the hard things hit. But I want to purposefully build it into my life so being thankful is my natural, knee jerk reaction to my circumstances.  

Dedication to life
I'm privileged that my job is directly connected to the value of life and celebrating families who choose life above selfishness, comfort, and sensibility. For both birth and adoptive families, choosing life (when the world chooses easier paths and smaller families) is a sacrifice. Through my work as a birth parent counselor, social worker, and adoption consultant I'm honored to get to enter into their stories and join their fight for life.  I want to keep fighting with them even when it can feel like a losing battle at times.

Being purposeful with my time and attention
I wonder how much time I wasted in 2012. How many times did I look at my computer screen rather than my kids faces? How much time did I spend worrying rather than praying? How often did I complain rather than praise? I want to be more mindful of my time and attention, placing it on things of eternal weight.  

I'm praying for good things, for big things in 2013. I'm already catching glimpses of them.

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. Ephesians 3:30-21
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