Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Adoption Story: Adam and Dani

Although this is Adam and Dani's adoption story, and their daughter's story, it won't take you long to learn that it's really God's story.

This is what happens when God honors a "yes." And not just one "yes," but dozens, even hundreds of them.

The first yes is always a big one. Adam and Dani decided to start their family expedition to adoption last summer and began with Christian Adoption Consultants. And then comes dozens of what seemed like mundane yeses: yes to filling out paperwork and getting physicals and fingerprints. Yes to small home improvements and meeting with social workers and prepping a nursery. Then there were bigger ones like writing words expectant mothers will read about who they are and how they want to raise a child.

By late fall their home study and profile were complete. They were ready to pore over possible situations and say yes to being presented. Each yes was telling an expectant family they were willing to parent their little one; saying yes to life and affirming their brave choice for adoption.

Admittedly this was a hard an painful process as these "yeses" were often met with "nos."

I want our story to encourage anyone who feels like they aren't good enough to be a parent, or that there must be something "wrong" with them or their story. We presented somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 times (to be honest we lost count after about 15), and I started to wonder if we were just not likable. "Maybe there's something about us that makes us 'not parent material'"... I thought in the dead of night, when you think those things. 

Dani called this process their continuous yes; "yes to hope, to faithfulness, to obedience." 

In the midst of all of this mundane, and sometimes arduous task of keeping their yes on the table, Adam and Dani looked forward to a weekend filled with friends visiting for the 4th of July. A chance to take a break from the strain of the wait, relax, and enjoy a few days of celebration.

But one phone call would forever change the 4th of July holiday for this couple.

An expectant mother. A little girl due any day. Could they say yes?

God honored our yes. We said yes so many times in this journey and were met with no - but God was softening our hearts and preparing us for the hardest yes of all. We said yes to Adelay because we agreed that we didn't have a reason to say no - and so even in our fear and uncertainty and discomfort (and did I say fear!?), God worked. 

Those friends that were visiting got to see some of Adam and Dani's miracles happen first-hand. Dani would say God didn't even give her the option of explaining Him away because they had witnesses there to remind them of His goodness and watch His plan unfold. 

We got encouragement at every step of the way, right when we thought we couldn't do any more last-minute changes or uncertainty...he made his will known from the moment she appeared in our hearts, on fourth of July morning. 

Their daughter was born just three days after they learned of her. And in that moment God took all of their "yeses:" the hard ones, the mundane ones, the little ones, the scary ones, and honored every single one. In that moment, Adelay was born and it was God's abundant "YES!" to their family.

God walked with us through every step of Adelay's story - of our story. Through a miraculous last-minute (first-class!) flight given to us by a generous friend, to the birth father showing up of his own accord to sign paperwork, to the birthparents deciding at the last minute to meet us and give us a beautiful story to tell our daughter someday. The birthparents thanked US for parenting Adelay, told us that they knew we were the perfect parents for her right when we felt like our legs might give way and our hearts might fail. At the hotel we stayed in we had the front desk clerk and executive housekeeper checking on us, encouraging us and loving us so well that even though we were lonely in a strange town we felt loved. Our ICPC paperwork moved with record time, right at the moment we prayed for it. That's the other miracle - we hadn't finished fundraising but we were able to pay all the necessary fees IN FULL at the hospital. God provided TO THE PENNY what we needed for this adoption, right at the moment we needed it. He gave Manna for today and asks us to trust him for tomorrow. After all he's done and given to us, how can we not trust him? 

[It] makes me cry to...remember saying yes... saying yes... saying yes... God honored it and will continue to do so. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Adoption Story: Kevin and Stephanie

Kevin and Stephanie have a beautiful story to tell their daughter of how she came to be theirs. But this is one that I'll let her share from her mother's heart...

We cannot thank Susan enough for all she has done for us. Her never ending support and prayers have meant so much. Our journey has had many ups and downs.

After several IVF attempts which ended up in miscarriages we felt God was leading us in another direction. Last January (2014) we began our journey to adopt.  After two failed private adoptions, one of which the supposed birth mother was really not even pregnant, Kevin surprised me with an anniversary gift of services with Christian Adoption Consultants in September. 

Exactly a month later we were matched, but in February, 2015 the birth mother decided to parent her baby. We were devastated, but knew it must be God's plan.  In March we were matched again with a birth mother due July 2. Surely this was the baby God had planned for us, we thought. We had been through so much heartache I couldn't imagine God would let this fall through. Communication with our new birth mother became less and less, and eventually none at all. We were crushed. We could not believe this was happening again. 

We spoke with the agency and they agreed that she had more than likely changed her mind. We also agreed to let go of the situation and possibly try again. We weren't sure what to do. Could we continue on our adoption journey? Could our hearts take any more hurt? Maybe God had other plans for us? We decided to call Susan to add us back to the list and pray that there would be a baby born situation where our hearts were less likely to get broken again. We knew that those situations didn't happen often, but we prayed for it anyway... 

Kevin had decided we needed to get away and that evening after work was going to purchase tickets to Mexico. God did have other plans for us! Early that same afternoon is when we received a call from Susan regarding a baby girl that had been born on Sunday, June 14. She was a preemie born at approximately 33 weeks to a young birth mother that did not have any prenatal care. She was signing consent within the hour and wanted to choose the family that would be the parents to her baby girl. We emailed our profile book and prayed!  We had to have faith that God was in charge. 

The birth mother wanted to look over the profile books and have a decision the next morning. Thursday, June 18, I received the call from Susan that we had been chosen; were parents to a beautiful baby girl! We drove to Florida and met our daughter Monday, June 22.  She had already been in the NICU for a week. The next day we met the birth mother and her mother.  It was a wonderful meeting. We were so glad that we were able to meet her and tell her how blessed & thankful we are...We are still amazed by God's love and perfect plan for us. God is so good!

I hope and pray that our very bumpy journey may bring hope and encouragement to those that are in waiting.

It's been amazing for me to look back on the journey Kevin and Stephanie were on to see how God knew exactly how their daughter would come to be a part of their family. On the day they received the devastating news that another had adoption failed, I called them just hours later about the little girl in the hospital who needed adoptive parents.

The whole time God had perfect plans. Better plans that Kevin and Stephanie could have even dreamed up on their own...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Adoption Story: Brad and Rebecca

This little girl is nothing short of a miracle. She was prayed for and longed for long before she was born. 

Brad and Rebecca started out on a journey to add to their family. When then began with Christian Adoption Consultants, they weren't sure what the future held but they were sure God was calling them to grow their family through adoption.

While the road was not easy, or smooth, Brad and Rebecca were always constant. Even more than that, God was faithful. The wait was longer than expected. The journey took several unexpected turns. But His grace and mercy was enough to provide just what they needed. 

Their sweet daughter was born on June 5th. And then, in an event that is incredibly rare in adoption, her adoption was finalized just 25 days later.

In a matter of 25 days they went from not knowing what would happen or how their adoption story would end to having a judge bang a gavel and declare her forever theirs. 25 days from meeting their daughter to her taking their last name.

Congratulations to Brad and Rebecca and proud big brother. I'm celebrating your daughter with you who was absolutely worth the wait.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Our Summer Manifesto

I know I'm late to the party since summer is already halfway through. I just looked at a calendar and the kids return to school in less than six weeks. Since we're still at the height of summer, I have a mix of sadness wanting to hold on to the long days of summer and rejoicing that it's almost done and school and schedules will return soon.

But until then, this is a peek into what summers around here look like; our summer manifesto of sorts.

These kids are not the boss of me.
As a WAHM, the summers are particularly tricky. The dental assistant cleaning my teeth yesterday asked me if I work full time. This is always such a weird question for me. How do I answer how many hours a week I work when it's in the midst of parenting and laundry and conference calls and babies being born over the weekend? My guess: about 30-35ish. Swinging this over the summer is important because I want to be available to my kids and to my adoptive families I work with. For our family, the best fit is that Isabelle and Jackson go to a summer camp three days a week and the other two days are "mommy days." We feel like we get the best of both worlds: kids with a summer full of field trips and friends at summer camp and slow and lazy days spent with mom at home. Most importantly, I feel like this arrangement allows me to truly be available to my kids those two days at home and we're not interrupted by my work. This frees me from my job and my kids creating my schedule and still means that Jamy and I get to decide what works best for our home.

Our summer activities will never be Pinterest worthy.
I will not be Googling "200 free summer activities," or "29 Dollar Store Finds That Will Keep Your Kids Busy All Summer." I'm now a more seasoned mom and know this is complete craziness. Unless the Dollar Store now carries a Nintendo DS (which Jackson would be more than happy to play all summer) and the free activities last more than approximately 5 minutes each, these are all lies. The lists include things like "create a chore chart," "make cereal jewelry," and "watch birds." Now if you have children who would enjoy these activities (or have the stamina to create no less than 863 five minute activities throughout the day), bless you. But if you're like me, our summer looks more like heading to the pool (thank you city of Overland Park for your pool pass), reading in the hammock, and even (gasp!) cartoons in the morning.

Declarations of "I'm Bored!" are not allowed.
I refuse to be a cruise ship activities director. I know plenty of mamas who take on this summer title with great honor, but I just can't do it. I can even go old school on my kids and declare right back that if they're bored I can give them chores to do around the house. The wonderful part of summer is allowing my kids space to actually just be. The slower pace allows them to take time to dive into their favorite book series, create stories of their own, pretend with friends, and play for hours in the cul-de-sac. We can stay at the pool all afternoon, read through The Chronicles of Narnia in the backyard, and sleep in. The rest of the year is packed with school and sports and after school activities. I love this season to find a more restful rhythm for our family.

Grace will be given and memories will be made.
All of this extra time also gives us extra "togetherness." Can we all just acknowledge that sometimes togetherness can be a bit much? I can't tell you how many times I've needed to act as a referee and separate siblings, and try to figure out "who started it." There has been much talk about attitudes, making healthy choices, and having a happy heart. But extra togetherness is also a gift We've had friends over every weekend for long dinners and conversations under the patio lights. Last night we all headed to the pool with friends and I loved reading poolside and watching Jamy throw kids into the water. Last weekend we spontaneously bought a trampoline for the kids and Jamy and I ended up putting it together in the middle of the night to beat a storm that was brewing.  We laughed as we put the crazy thing together in the dark, got to jump on it before the kids did, and laid down to look at the stars. The next morning our bodies were achy and tired but it was worth the surprise for the kids and the memories we made together. 

So here's to long days that smell like sunshine and chlorine and nights lit by patio lights, slowing down, and creating memories. Here's to making the most of what's left of summer.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Adoption Story: Ryan and Melissa

Ryan and Melissa have a beautiful story of how their daughter came to their family. Below you'll find Melissa recounting the first time they heard of their daughter, how they met her for the first time, and what it looks like for two families to come together to love a beautiful girl who shares their love.

As we have brought you all along on this journey with us, it is only fair to allow you to read the ending of this chapter in our life.

We received an email from our agency on June 5th. The email stated that there was a birth mom and dad due via C-Section on June 16th...We told the agency that we wanted to present our profile to the couple on Saturday (June 6th). By Tuesday afternoon (June 9th), we still hadn’t heard anything. At this point we figured we hadn’t been chosen. As the last day of school was winding down and we entered into the last hour of school that day, I received a text from our adoption coordinator (Chelsea) that read, “I hope you’re free for lunch in Washington on Friday with the birth parents, they picked you!” Time literally stood still for what seemed like an hour (I’m pretty sure it was about 10 seconds). That text, those words, took my breath away, as these are the words and this is the situation we have been waiting and praying for for years. Thank the Lord my desk chair was behind me because I fell into it. The next hour (the last hour of school) was a complete blur. Thank you to a few special coworkers/friends that witnessed this all happen and kept this secret. Ryan and I didn’t want anyone to know because the “match” with the birth parents was contingent upon them meeting us and still wanting to move forward. Friday was June 12th and the baby was being born on the 16th. We didn’t want to buy anything because if they didn’t like us, it would all have to go back. We arrived for lunch on Friday and anxiously awaited the arrival of T & D (we’ll use their initials). Long story short, they are incredible people. So genuine, kind, and both have a wonderful head on their shoulders. We shared a lot and talked a lot about their desires for their baby and just got to know each other. It was an instant match and we all left feeling very at peace.

We loaded up the car Tuesday morning and began the drive to Washington to meet the little girl who “might” become our daughter. I’m not sure Ryan and I said much to each other on that drive. We were both so nervous we just physically couldn’t talk. Phones were blowing up from family and I just couldn’t talk to anyone. I was in the zone! We arrived on base and checked into the visitor’s center where we had to go through background checks in order to obtain a visitors pass. Think of the DMV and the waiting that takes place there, and you have the visitors center at Ft. Lewis. Chelsea, from our adoption agency, met us there and helped navigate the remainder of our day at that point. Meanwhile, birth mom’s surgery kept getting pushed back…and pushed back…and pushed back. Our nerves were through the roof. I felt like I was going to puke, for real. We waited in the Birth Center waiting room for a LONG time. We all made small talk, but really I couldn’t think about anything else besides the reason we were there. Ryan would rub my back and remind me to breathe. Thank God I married this man. Finally, a nurse came out and asked if we were ready to meet our girl.

I think I was walking about 100 miles per hour down the hallway whispering (yelling) to Ryan to hurry up!!!! Who leisurely walks the halls in this moment? Ryan does, that’s who. Anyway, we walked in the room and the birth mom (T) was holding her daughter and birth father (D) was standing beside them. We approached the bedside and I just froze. Ryan held me close and we held her baby’s hand and shared a moment with this couple. I didn’t know if I should take the baby from her or what I should be doing, but I just couldn’t take my eyes off the most beautiful little girl I have ever seen. T leaned over and physically placed her baby in my arms. I just could not bring myself to physically take her away from her and I am eternally grateful to T for continuing to show me how strong she is in heartbreaking situations. I just melted in that moment.  We each took turns holding the baby and we all snapped about a million photos of each other, together, and individually. It was a moment that is forever imprinted in my memory. We are so thankful for that uninterrupted time with T & D.

The remainder of the night consisted of talking, switching rooms, eating food (Ryan was on meal duty and he did not disappoint any of us), while all along feeling the intense fear that they might choose to parent her.

We even discussed names together. We liked the name Brynn Lee. Brynn is just a name we have loved for a long time and Lee is my mom’s middle name. We were pretty set on this name. We asked them if they had a name in mind. They both became very shy. One of them worked up the courage to say, Alaura. Okay, then her name is Brynn Alaura…period. While we want to honor my mom, we also feel a significant need to honor the two people making this possible. Plus, how cool is it for Brynn to know that her birth parents took part in naming her? The birth parents love her name and they call her “Brynnie-Bear.” I’m pretty sure that adorable name is going to stick.

That night, T asked if I would be her support person in her hospital room (stay the night with her and Brynn). She really wanted her, Brynn, and I to have time together, just us. Now I’m going to admit, this request was scary for me. What if she doesn’t like how I handle Brynn at night, what if it doesn’t go well, seriously just scared. On the other hand, I was incredibly honored. I will say, the past few nights us 3 girls have spent together are irreplaceable. We talked about the adoption, about our lives and families, shared funny pictures, and best of all we got to work together as a team to take care of Brynn. Her 2 mommies had the opportunity to care for her together on her first two nights in this crazy world. Such a special time. As time went on, I noticed T begin to hand more responsibility and trust over to me when it came to Brynn. She got to see me love her and care for her and she would openly tell me how lucky she feels that she found us for Brynn. I don’t think she will ever know how much those words mean to me.  She tells Brynn that her mommy loves her so much (referring to me). I have never had anyone call me mom and it was seriously a dream come true. Again, in the back of my mind, I continued to wonder if we would leave the hospital as a family of 4, or a family of 3…even with all of those reassuring words. I think we reassured each other’s fears over and over again that night.

Today, June 16, we woke up and T said she was ready to sign papers for her and D to relinquish their parental rights to Brynn. It took until about lunchtime for notaries, social workers, and agency reps to arrive. Ryan and I spent most of the morning out of the hospital room in order to give T & D time with Brynn alone. When signing time came, Ryan and I went and sat on a bench outside. I was a disaster. In that very moment, the only thing I was thinking about was how while my dreams are coming true, a woman who I respect and love is about to grieve the loss of her child. I couldn’t do anything but cry. My happiest moment was filled with so much heartache as well and I couldn’t get my emotions under control. I must have said a million prayers for her on that bench to find peace through her grief and to know in her heart that Ryan and I will love her baby and care for her with all of our heart and everything we have. About a half hour later we got a call that it was our turn. The rest as they say is history. Today is the day that marks when Ryan became Brynn’s dad and I became her mom. Jacob is already the best big brother ever. He just loves her.

As I type this blog, I am looking at T sleeping. I hope she knows how much I respect her and D. They gave Ryan and I a gift that nobody else in this world could ever give us (including ourselves). In this moment we each have something the other wants. They desire the stability required to raise a child, while we can offer stability but can’t have a child of our own. Together we make the perfect team for Brynn. She will always know this family. She (and they) will never feel loss because they will always be in each other’s lives.

As we all leave the hospital tomorrow, it will be tough. I can’t imagine what T & D are feeling and my heart is breaking for them. What I can do is be the best mom I can possibly be to their Brynnie-Bear. They are entrusting their most precious gift to us and we promise to take good care of her.

All great stories always have to have a moral. Here’s what I have learned. I learned that my original adoption plan sucks. God had his hand in every second of this adoption. I learned patience. I learned to trust. I learned to let go of what is out of my control, and I learned to be in tune with the small signs from God I was given along the way. It wasn’t until I did those things that my plan was completely transformed…and a little girl, who was never part of “my” plan, is the one who is about to change my life. In fact, she already has. From the second I held her after she officially became my daughter, every ounce of hurt, pain, frustration, and hopelessness along this challenging journey to parenthood completely vanished. It all literally vanished when I held her.

For more of Ryan and Melissa's story, find it here on their blog, Our Adoption Journey.

 Photo credit Erin Tole Photography

Friday, July 3, 2015

Adoption Story: Steve and Kate

Steve and Kate have always longed for a large family. After the birth of their biological daughter, they went on to adopt a second daughter. And when the timing was right, they started with Christian Adoption Consultants to bring home another child through adoption. 

Steve and Kate had a crazy June. Here's a timeline recounting the days and God's faithfulness to them and their family during this time:

Thursday, June 4th
Steve and Kate got the call they had been waiting for since they were matched with their expectant mom in March: she was being induced the next morning unexpectedly due to preeclampsia. They frantically started packing and attempted to rebook their flight they had scheduled for several weeks later. They were unable to book a flight but saw there was a flight for the next morning at 5:30am. Steve and Kate went to bed praying they could get there in time.

Friday, June 5th
Steve and Kate woke their girls up with a surprise at 2am that morning, announcing they were getting on a plane for their brother's birth that day. They arrived to the airport, without tickets, for that 5:30am flight. In God's provision, there were exactly five seats remaining on that flight (Grammy came along for the adventure as well). They all arrived safely and later that night, their son was born.

Saturday, June 6th
Their son was admitted to the NICU. He was born with a bilateral cleft palate and lip (which Steve and Kate knew at match and happily stepped into knowing he was "fearfully and wonderfully made"). He would need oxygen and help with feeding for a little while.

Tuesday, June 9th
His birth parents made the brave decision to surrender their parental rights and sign the adoption paperwork. Steve and Kate were awarded full custody of their son that day.

Sunday, June 21st
Their son is discharged from the NICU and the big sisters finally got to meet their little brother for the first time. It was also Father's Day; a sweet one for Steve with his three children together for the first time.

Saturday, June 27th
The family boards the original flight they had scheduled over a month before and Steve and Kate return home as a family of FIVE. 

Of course there's dozens of details of this story of God's grace and timing that weren't told. But this gives you a glimpse into God's faithfulness to Steve and Kate, two very proud big sisters, and a little guy who was loved from the moment they heard of him.

Before their son was born, Steve and Kate wrote these words to their birth family.
We marvel at how God is at work in each of our lives, knitting families together. We look forward to telling our child about their adoption story.  Their story is unique, something to be proud of, and worth telling over and over again... Please know that if you decide to place your baby with us that they will be surrounded with love.

Even just weeks into his story, this couldn't be more true. This little guy is clearly surrounded with love and already has people retelling God's work in his life.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Adoption Story: Nick and Michelle

When it comes to becoming parents overnight so to speak, Nick and Michelle are now considered experts. Two years ago they decided to work with Christian Adoption Consultants and I met with them in a coffee shop the morning their home study had been finalized. I told them about an expectant mother who needed an adoptive family and just days later they were matched. A few months later they met their son.

Almost exactly two years later, Nick and Michelle decided they were ready to adopt again. I had been waiting for that call and was thrilled to work with them to help them bring another little one home.

And again, even before their home study was complete, they heard of expectant parents who were looking for the perfect adoptive family for their son. Several weeks later, Nick and Michelle were matched and making preparations to welcome another little one.

And again, there was a flurry of activity to prepare.  Their sweet son was born and made them a family of four. 

Another son.

Another miracle.

Another answer to prayer.

When Nick and Michelle think back to several years ago, this was definitely not how they envisioned their journey to parenthood or their family portrait. But God knew exactly what would lead to these perfect moments when he knit these two boys into their family.

Michelle shared with me just yesterday, "We are in awe of how blessed we are. God definitely knew what he was doing with our lives and we just had to listen..."

Beautiful family photos by Fantasma Imagery.  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Adoption Story: Andrew and Lauren

Andrew and Lauren decided to embark on a new adventure at the start of 2015. Just two weeks into the new year, they started with Christian Adoption Consultants. A friend who had recently adopted referred them knowing God had put adoption on their hearts. 

After struggling with infertility and after many prayers and support from family and friends, they felt God led them to adopt. Knowing everything happens for a reason, they dove into the home study process, eager to see what 2015 held for their family. By March they were home study ready. Immediately, I began sending them possible situations. Just weeks later, one stuck out to them and seemed like the perfect fit; they presented their profile for the first time.

And just like that, 2015 became a life-changing year. They were chosen by an expectant mama and anticipating the birth of a daughter. And on May 26th, their whole world changed when this beautiful girl was born.

And 2015 isn't over. They have holidays and family vacations. They have baby smiles and coos. They have milestones and family memories to create.

And they have years of memories to make on this adventure as a family of three. Andrew and Lauren were right. God's perfect plan was to grow their family through adoption.

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