Friday, December 21, 2018

Adoption Story: Kyle and Liz

It still amazes me how every family that comes together through adoption has such an incredibly different story. A unique reason they chose adoption to grow their family, different twists and turns on the journey to their baby, and distinct details that make up their adoption.

When Liz first shared their adoption story, my first instinct was to shorten it a bit for this space for ease of reading. But I quickly checked my initial response: each detail is so significant to their story. Each step was one closer to their daughter. And each decision, heartbreak, and event, no matter how small, God sovereignly used as a part of the grand way he would make this family of three a family of four.

So today I have the joy of sharing, in all of the beautiful details, Liz's story of how their daughter came into this world and into their family.

Technically, I'm not sure when our adoption journey began.  Kyle and I had a brief conversation at some point about considering adopting when we were dating or engaged and we both agreed to consider it when we were ready to start a family. We had our first child biologically, but with some complications. I was admitted to the hospital for a few weeks when I was 28 weeks pregnant and ended up having surgery. Our baby boy was born perfectly healthy in October of 2015. After some follow up visits to multiple doctors, we found out we could attempt to have more children biologically, but no one would guarantee that complications wouldn't occur. We both agreed that when we were ready to grow our family again, we wanted to explore adoption.

We started with initial calls with a few agencies and found a local Christian agency that seemed to be a good fit.  The PILES of paperwork were daunting but we got to work right away and spent our evenings filling out all the forms. We were officially home study approved in September of 2017. One Sunday evening in January, we received an email about a baby boy who was born in downtown Kansas City. He seemed healthy but there had been heavy drug use during the pregnancy. We did some research that evening, but told our social worker that we weren't comfortable presenting to this situation. However, God really worked on our hearts that week and on Wednesday we called her back and said we'd like to present if it wasn't too late. We started preparing physically and emotionally to possibly bring home a baby Friday, but found out that we weren't chosen since we already had a son. We were heartbroken and didn't understand why God has us pursue this opportunity if it wasn't meant to be. However, it made us realized that although we were nervous to grow to be a family of four, we were ready to take on the challenge.  

Since our local agency was so small, we did some research on what other options we had to be able to adopt more quickly. That's when we found Susan and Christian Adoption Consultants. She was so quick to respond, answer ALL of our questions, and get us started. By the end of February, we were live with about twelve agencies nationwide. We finally saw a situation we were comfortable presenting to from Phoenix and found out a week later that the expectant mother picked us! We called the agency and accepted the match. The first week or so went by with lots of details to discuss, but we had plenty of time to work everything out since the baby wasn't due until August. Susan helped us with questions during the process, what to expect as we waited, and communication with the expectant mother and the agency. We hired an attorney and waited each week for our update call. However, after six weeks we were learning that the expectant mother wasn't following the agency's processes - she wasn't checking in when she was supposed to and was skipping doctor's appointments. We had about a month of waiting - calls and emails back and forth daily with updates on if she showed up for appointments. The agency was very patient with us and seemed to be taking good care of the expectant mother, which was the most important thing to us. Finally though, we got the call that our expectant mom wasn't happy with the agency and was walking away. They suspected she may have had a miscarriage and didn't want anyone to know. Regardless of the real story, we were heartbroken again. We took our toddler to dinner the night we found out, distracted him with French fries and discussed the possibility of not going forward with an adoption. We decided we had come too far and knew we still wanted to grow our family. Honestly, not only were we disappointed about the baby, but the financial burden of the failed adoption made the heartache worse. We had lost our match fee and didn't see how we were going to come up with that amount again.

I feel like our story defines the saying "don't put God in a box." When we had called our adoption attorney to tell him about the adoption plan failing and figuring out final fees, he told us that he does lots of private adoptions if we knew of anyone who wanted to make an adoption plan. We said, ok great, we'd be fine with that, but didn't really plan on advertising or actively looking for a baby in this way.

It was the beginning of April now and not a lot of new situations came up. When one finally did we realized we were pretty terrified of being matched and it failing again. We decided not to present for a while and prayed God would give us peace about the right expectant mother for us.  

One evening in the middle of April, my dad called. He had had a man from his prayer group visit him at work and ask how our adoption process was going since they had been praying at their church. He told my dad about his granddaughter who was 17 and pregnant here in Missouri. She and her family were considering creating an adoption plan. He encouraged my dad to have me call his daughter so we could potentially meet and discuss adopting their baby if we were interested. I then made one of the most difficult and awkward calls of my life. I called this woman and explained to her that my father knew her father, that my husband and I were wanting to grow our family through adoption, and that we would be willing to adopt their daughter's baby if they were willing to consider it. I emailed her our adoption attorney's information as well as our profile book. She said they were still very unsure as to what they were going to do, but said she would look at the information I sent. We didn't hear anything from them after that, but one Friday evening about 3 weeks later, our adoption attorney called and said the woman had called him and wanted to discuss next steps in creating an adoption plan with us! We set up a meeting with them for the next Sunday.

On Wednesday morning, I got a call that an expectant mom in Florida had picked us for her baby boy that was due in the middle of August. I immediately started crying out of frustration and confusion. The social worker on the phone assumed I was elated and continued telling me about how this birth mom loved our profile, our family life, and that we were the only family she had picked with no secondary choice like they usually do. They needed us to accept the match in 24 hours.  I hung up the phone bewildered on what was happening. We now seem to have 2 babies to pick from?  What was happening? Again, Susan was there for us, talking us through options on what to do since we were in the middle of the private adoption situation potentially taking place. We called the Florida agency back and explained everything. The agency was very gracious and agreed to give us through Monday to accept or decline the match.

Sunday morning, Kyle and I met the expectant mother, her mom, step-dad, and grandmother. It was nerve-wrecking, but oddly not that uncomfortable. We found out she was having a baby girl in August and left that day with an understanding that everyone wanted to move forward with this private adoption plan. As excited as Kyle and I were about this local opportunity, we were heartbroken AGAIN to say no to the expectant mother in Florida. We deliberated different options and outcomes, even trying to think of ways to potentially adopt two babies (in different states) in one month - probably not our best idea. However, we knew we needed to say no, and give everything we had to the expectant mother here in Missouri. We grieved the Florida baby for a day or two before we were ready to have an evening to celebrate our match with the local expectant mom.  

From there on out, we were able to be included in so much of our daughter's first-families' story. I was able to attend doctor's appointments, hear her heartbeat, see ultrasounds, and go out for ice cream with her birth mom and great-grandma to get to know each other better. They were the kindest people. When the birth mom was around 38 weeks, we found out that our daughter's birth father's family, didn't know if they were totally on board with the adoption plan. They decided it would make them feel better to meet us before they committed to sign anything. On a Tuesday afternoon, we set up to meet at a Dairy Queen close to the hospital so I could go to the birth mom's doctor's appointment after. To say I was nervous was an understatement - it felt like if I said the wrong thing, they could put a stop to the whole plan. However, almost as soon as I met our daughter's paternal first grandparents, I was put at ease. They were the nicest people and understandably wanted to discuss everything first hand.  It was - again - a strangely easy conversation. We're so thankful that we had time with our daughter's birth families.

Fortunately, we had met when we did. That Friday evening, we got that call that our birth mom was going into labor and she wanted us at the hospital. We had friends and family drop what they were doing to stay with our son as we packed our bags and drove to the hospital. We arrived around 10 pm and texted back and forth with our birth mom's grandmother. After about 30 minutes in the waiting room, our daughter's birth father and his parents arrived to wait as well. We all drank coffee and got to know each other better for a few hours. At 2:04 am, our daughter - Claire Elizabeth - was born.  We received the OK to come and meet her about 15 minutes later. We got to hold her and check on her first mom.  Everything had gone smoothly and everyone was great. The nurses ushered us quickly out so she could recover and took us to our very own hospital room. Since the maternity unit wasn't full, we were able to stay with our daughter in a room as if we had delivered her. Claire's birth father and his parents came back to meet her and take some pictures for about 30 minutes, and then went home to get some rest. While we were in the hospital, some of our birth mom's family came to check on her and meet Claire. They congratulated us, brought gifts, and were so kind. Our daughter's birth mother signed papers and was discharged early so we were able to leave the hospital on Monday with Claire with no issues.

This Christmas it's so surreal that she's here. We spent so many holidays, birthdays, and just normal weekdays, wondering when she would be with us. We're so thankful for God's faithfulness, sovereign plan, and perfect timing. God answered so many prayers with Claire and her first family: we prayed about our relationship with our baby's birth family before we knew them and it all went so smoothly. They are very special to us and it seems strange not to see them any more like we did before her birth. Also, He provided a baby close to us in the same state so we didn't have to leave our son for weeks to stay in another state. Finally, with the private adoption, because the fees looked much different, God provided all of the money we needed so we didn't have to take out loans.  

We learned lots of things through our adoption process. We found that working with adoptions professionals, like Susan, and the excellent attorney she recommended was invaluable. I also personally found it helpful to read and listen to as many adoption stories as possible. I could not get enough of all of the different ways people had grown their family. I felt like by doing this, nothing would surprise me or catch me off guard (ha!). Finally, we were surrounded by the very best family, friends, and church family anyone could ask for. They covered us in prayer, encouraged us, listened to us cry, brought us cinnamon rolls and dinner, and watched our son when we needed to go to appointments, finish paperwork, or just needed a break to process what was happening. 

In the end, we learned for certain, that even with all the hardships, God writes the best stories.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Adoption Story: Jonathan and Kelsey

And then...those two words can change everything. 

"The process was overwhelming and stressful." "We were devastated and couldn't see God's glory at all in the situation."  And then...

We all need reminders that an "and then" could be coming. That there are times our stories aren't done being written, that God isn't finished, and that our prayers are still in the process of being answered.

Today Kelsey shares their adoption story. And the "and then" that unexpectedly led them to their daughter and more blessings than they anticipated.

Years before we started the process, God had put adoption on my heart and we knew we would grow our family through adoption. Starting the process was overwhelming and stressful and I’m so thankful we stumbled upon Susan’s blog. She made the process so much easier and without her and Christian Adoption Consultants I’m sure we’d still be in the waiting period. It was reassuring to have somebody that understood the process completely and using a consultant was the best decision we made when starting our adoption journey. 

God taught us a lot about trust during this season. We matched quickly after we began presenting and we immediately found the relationship to be difficult. There were times where we couldn’t see how God was using this situation but we felt Him urging us to invest in this woman and her unborn child. We put our hearts into a match for four months before it failed. We were devastated and couldn’t see God’s glory at all in the situation. Susan reminded us that God wouldn’t let us miss our baby and we found comfort in knowing our child was still waiting for us. Through the failed adoption God also showed us that our pain and trials are not be only about us. We found comfort that we were able to be a resource and support for this child and his family. We know God doesn’t waste anything.

Less than a month after this failed match we found out what God had been waiting to show us. We saw a situation and instantly connected to this woman. We felt so much peace presenting to her and found out later that she knew immediately we were the family for her daughter. One week after she chose us our daughter was born! It happened so quickly and we can’t imagine any other outcome now that our daughter is home with us. We want other families to know the while walking through a failed adoption is painful, He WILL redeem your story and finish what He started. 

The best part of this process has been the relationship we’ve developed with our daughter’s birth family. They are amazing and so full of love for our daughter. The thought of an open adoption can be scary but we’ve had the best experience. Knowing our daughter has another family loving her and wanting the best for her is so beautiful. We’d encourage hopeful adoptive families to embrace the blessings of an open adoption and appreciate these special relationships. 

Friday, October 5, 2018

Fundraising and Adoption: Inviting Others Into Your Story

It's no secret that adoption is expensive. The costs of a home study, agency and attorney fees, and birth parent expenses can be significant. Although adoption costs can vary from $25,000-$50,000, the average domestic agency adoption costs $43,239 (Source: Adoption: By The Numbers)It's rare families have the finances needed to fund an adoption in their bank account when they begin the adoption journey. So how do families afford their adoptions? How to they bridge the gap between where they feel God calling them and what they need to get there financially? Many couples decide to fundraise.

But most people have mixed emotions about fundraising for their adoption. While they know they need help and can't accomplish such a huge task alone, many families I talk to feel a certain shame and stigma when it comes to raising funds for their adoption.

How do families reconcile their conflicting feelings about fundraising? How do they share their desire to adopt knowing they'll have to ask for help from others? Does our faith come into play when we think about fundraising and stewarding our finances for the Kingdom? 

Below are some practical tips for families fundraising for an adoption.

Understanding and explaining the costs
One of the biggest hurdles families have when fundraising is answering questions about the costs of adoption. Most people don't understand the valid fees that go into adoption for the agency, attorneys, and birth parent expenses. They might even think the costs are unnecessary or unjustified. And for those suggesting a couple adopt from foster care because it's "free," it's important to note that these adoptions costs the state (and ultimately the tax payers) billions of dollars a year. Private domestic adoption is actually much less costly, but can seem more expensive because of the up front costs.

When it comes to fundraising in adoption, it's important educate friends and family about the typical fees associated with adoption and give them a general breakdown of adoption expenses can be helpful. When people understand the importance of counseling expectant parents, making certain their needs are met, and that the right adoption professionals are ensuring an adoption is done ethically and legally, they are much more apt to see the value and necessity behind the money spent. Ultimately we spend money on what we prioritize. Ensuring an adoption cares for everyone involved is money well spent.

Partnering with others to extend God's Kingdom
God's mandate is clear in the Bible. As believers, we are called to care for the least of these: those in need and the orphan (Matthew 25:40-45 and James 1:27). The incredible thing about infant adoption is the ability an adoptive family has to partner with a birth family and ensure a child is never an orphan. Although not everyone is called to become an adoptive family, everyone is called to adoption. Through your adoption, you can partner with others and invite them to be an active part of a movement to care for babies and their birth families.

There is a significant need for families to take on the financial and emotional burden and step into adoption. If believers are truly pro-life, this extends far past fighting for the rights of the unborn. In addition to caring for babies yet to be born, we must also care holistically for that baby long after birth AND their parents. This includes (but of course is not limited to), being willing to make adoption an important part of our faith culture. The church can step up and step in, taking back this responsibility from the government and care for others through adoption. Fundraising is one practical way we can make it possible for families to honor a birth mother's choice for life; stating that both she and her baby are valuable and important. Hopeful adoptive parents can get over the pride and stigma of asking for financial help when they see the bigger, eternal picture of partnering with others to extend God's kingdom to care for children and birth families through the option of adoption.

Invite others to be a part of your story
One of the hardest parts of fundraising can be the vulnerability that comes with sharing your story and asking for help. Why you're choosing adoption to grow your family and how your journey is going will be vital to inviting others into what God is doing and even educating them about adoption.

It's also important to note that when families fundraise they are not just asking for finances; they can also ask for prayer and practical help. There's no doubt adoption is expensive: but an adoptive family needs a community around them to also offer things like childcare, meals, encouragement, mentors, friendship...the list goes on. And although often overlooked, asking for prayer is one of the most important ways you can ask friends and family to be a part of your adoption journey.

Adoptive families are uniquely positioned. They have an opportunity to educate those around them about adoption and the need for the church to step into caring for children and birth families. This takes immense courage, but sharing your story and inviting others to be a part of it can be an incredible opportunity to share God's work in building your family and giving others a front row seat to the story he's writing.

Need creative financing and fundraising ideas? This is a huge part of Christian Adoption Consultant's services: helping you find the best platform to tell your story, grants and loans that are available to hopeful adoptive families, and fundraisers that will be a good fit. Contact me for more information!

Friday, September 28, 2018

Adoption Story: Tim and Andrea

Three post-it notes, a confident expectant mom, and a whirlwind birth brought together this family of three. Today Andrea shares the story of how her son joined their family...

Our adoption story is nothing short of a miracle. It was a fast sprint when viewed by others but from our perspective it was closer to a marathon. It began officially less than a year ago on October 23 when we sent in our first paperwork to Christian Adoption Consultants, but we would argue that it actually began in the summer of 2014 when we first started trying to start our family. After nearly three years of trying things ourselves; doing rounds of fertility treatments, and two surgeries, we learned that the likelihood of us having a biological child was very, very slim. The days following that news were difficult when we realized what we had been pursuing for years was would be unable to happen in the way we had originally intended. 

After the devastating news, we sat back down to reevaluate how we saw our family. We spent time in prayer to think about our future family. We separately decided to write our ‘order of preference’ on Post-It notes for ways to build our family. Surprisingly, despite not saying anything to each other in advance, we both listed adopting as our #1. Leaving Post-It notes for each other had often been our way to share little love notes to each other and one day Tim left a heart for Andrea on a note in our bathroom. That same day, Andrea added another heart to represent our two hearts & our love for each other and that note stayed hanging up for a while. Once our adoption journey began, we added a red heart to the center of the Post-It note hanging in the bathroom for the love for the child we hoped to have soon. To us, it was a continual reminder of the baby we were waiting for. 

After some research we decided to use Christian Adoption Consultants based on the experience of friends of ours who have adopted four children. We sent in paperwork on October 23 and began working with Susan. We started the home study process and by January 31 we were officially "active." During this time Susan was very helpful with completing our paperwork and profile book. 

Choosing adoption was a big leap of faith for us because while we had friends and church family that had adopted, we did not have any immediate or extended family members that had adopted. We were going to be the ‘pioneers’ of adoption for both of our families which was a daunting task. We received many invasive questions about adoption and fundraising, but we learned that we had to take them with a grain of salt because many people truly did not know what to expect. 

Once we were active, we received our first situation (an expectant mom making an adoption plan and searching for an adoptive family) on February 2 and another just a few days later, neither of which seemed to be a good fit for us. We received our third situation on February 9 and decided to present. After 11 long days of waiting, on February 20 we received a phone call from the agency that the expectant mom wanted to talk with us. We had a wonderful conversation with her the following day where we were able to introduce ourselves to each other and chat about our common interests.  It was two days later that we were told the expectant mom had chosen us! What a whirlwind: from our initial paperwork being sent in to our confirmed match it was four months exactly!

Lucky for us, we had from February until July to prepare ourselves for baby’s arrival and do some fundraising for our adoption. We did four fundraisers  with the goal of raising $30,000. By the time July came around, our prayers had been answered and we had raised just over $39,000 from the tremendous generosity of our family and friends! We were also blessed to have a community bathing us in prayer throughout our journey and supporting us wholeheartedly. 

Throughout her entire pregnancy we had excellent open communication with the expectant mom and she was always confident in her decision. This confidence from her seeped into us and despite having to wait for five months for the birth, we were nearly certain we would be welcoming home our baby in July. From February to July as we waited for baby, we had numerous conversations with her and we were even able to visit her at the end of March. We also learned she was expecting a baby boy! Over that time, the expectant mom had continuously been telling us that she did not think she would go until her due date on July 28 and to be prepared for an early arrival. 

On Monday, July 9 we knew that the expectant mom had a doctor’s appointment for a routine check-up. Both of us went to work like normal that morning, but after being at work for just 90 minutes, Andrea received a phone call from the expectant mom. The amniotic fluid was low around the baby so she was being sent to the hospital for a C-section. Andrea left work immediately and we began making plans to travel down to Florida. Andrea found a flight down to Florida and Tim was going to drive down with his brother. We only told our immediate family that we were traveling down to Florida for the birth. While it was the birth plan to have Andrea in the delivery room; unfortunately, Andrea arrived in the hospital in Florida 60 minutes after the birth. She was able to go directly into the recovery room to see the birth mom. Andrea got to sit with the birth mom and have a chat about the delivery. She learned that the delivery went smoothly and the beautiful baby was 6 pounds, 5 ounces and 19 inches at birth. After a few minutes, baby boy was wheeled into the recovery room from his check-up. The nurse looked at the birth mom and said “He needs to eat now, would you like to feed him?” The birth mom turned her head, looked at Andrea, and said the most gracious words ever: “He is your son, it is your job to care for and feed him.” Her response was similar when the nurse asked what his name was, and Andrea was able to respond to the nurse to say he would be named “Keaton.” Andrea was blessed to be able to spend the first night with Keaton and Tim arrived to the hospital the next morning about fifteen hours after the birth and was just as excited to meet Keaton. 

This brave birth mom continued to be generous throughout our stay in the hospital. She would always ask our opinion on his care or direct the nurses to ask us the questions even though legally she had not relinquished her rights yet. She continuously repeated a version of the phrase “He is their son” to every question she was asked. We were so blessed to be able to be ‘hands on’ for the entire stay at the hospital. We cannot even begin to express just how wonderful Keaton's birth mom was throughout her pregnancy and stay in the hospital.

Once the paperwork was signed we let all of our extended family and friends know the good news- our son had arrived and he was ours! We had to wait until Keaton was 48 hours old before we could be discharged and so we were able to leave the hospital on Wednesday night. We stayed in a hotel for two nights and then we were in an Air BnB condo for the next ten nights down in Florida before we were able to come home to Illinois. We have been home now for three months and along with our family and friends are so glad to have Keaton in our family.  

It's amazing looking back and seeing how God provided so much for Tim and Andrea in their adoption. From the faith to begin the process, the generosity of friends and family, to the beautiful relationship they were able to develop with Keaton's birth mother, it's evident God was walking with them every step of the way. Who knew a few simple post it notes could lead to such incredible answers to prayer...

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Why Your Adoption Hasn't Happened Yet

Most adoptive families agree: the wait can be one of the hardest parts of the adoption process. It can be agonizing to not have a "due date" and often wonder if you'll still be waiting days, weeks, or even years from now. If you've found yourself in the wait and it's stretching for much longer than you anticipated, here's a few practical steps you can take:

Position yourself to be ready 
Did you know in the United States, it's estimated that 1 in 3 couples talk about adoption, but only 2% of those actually adopt? So many families are open to adopting, but so few take the necessary steps. I've talked to a lot of families who say they want to adopt, but aren't actually moving forward with the adoption process. Some of the first steps to welcoming a child into your home through adoption is obtaining a home study and having the finances available. Finding a quality home study provider in your area, filling out the paperwork, and going through the medical and background screening is necessary to adopt. After completing the home study, take the time during the wait to continue to finance your adoption. Apply for grants available, fundraise, and save any extra dollars you can. That way, your home and your finances will be ready when you match.

Work with the right adoption professionals
Traditionally, when a family decided to adopt they would find a local agency, complete a home study, and wait to be matched an expectant mother working with the same agency. Today, the possibilities to connect with other agencies, attorneys, and ultimately expectant families are available across the country. Now you care hire an Adoption Consultant that will not only help "connect the dots" between hopeful adoptive families and reputable agencies and attorneys working with expectant families, but is also someone who can offer education, support, resources, and guidance. Having a personal guide through your adoption journey to steer you away from pitfalls, connect you to reputable agencies and attorneys, and help with practical steps can be an indispensable resource.
One warning: it's important in the adoption process not to sacrifice ethics for speed. Some adoption professionals promise a quick match but it could be at the cost of ensuring everyone in the adoption triad, particularly the expectant/birth family has the support needed both during the pregnancy and long after they have placed their child. Make sure you ask the right questions to find the right fit for you.

Create a quality profile
Most often in domestic adoption, an expectant or birth family chooses an adoptive family after reviewing profiles: a book that gives them insight into who you are, what your family is like, what you enjoy, and your hopes and dreams for your family and children. The measure of a good profile is not the design and layout or the quality pictures used (although those are important features). A great profile will be one that authentically tells your story: who you are and what you value. It allows the expectant/birth family to clearly envision what it would look like if you raised their child and welcomed them into your home. Having an adoption professional help to put your story on paper can be invaluable since it's such a critical element to the adoption process.

Say "yes"
I work with a lot of families who have gone through the steps of hiring a consultant, completing the home study, and created a great home study, but then feel "stuck" actually agreeing to present to situations. With so many unknowns in the adoption process, it's complex reviewing details about an expectant mother and deciding to move forward or not. But I've found that families who are most at peace in the adoption process decide to walk through every door God opens for them and pray he slams it shut if it's not his will. They keep saying "yes" and wait on God. And most of them say "yes" over and over and over before they are chosen by an expectant family. As scary as it can be to put yourself out on the line, you'll only be chosen if you take a leap of faith, risk your heart, and choose to be vulnerable.

Rest in God's timing for your family
Maybe you've read through this list and you've already checked all the boxes. Home study and bank account ready, beautiful profile that depicts your story, and working with adoption professionals you trust, but you're still waiting. We know that ultimately, it's not a home study, the right agency, or the perfect profile that determines your adoption: God does. This is probably the most important step, but often overlooked and definitely the hardest to do. Because this step isn't about doing: checking a box or making the calls. Resting in God, finding peace in the wait, and trusting His timing is by far the hardest step, but can be one of the most rewarding and fruitful parts of your adoption journey.

If you're in the wait, you can rest in this truth: you can't mess up or miss out on God's plan for your growing family. In the end, He is sovereign over the adoption process, and you can trust His perfect timing for your family.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Repost: Losing Their Childhood

Last week I was at a party and a friend introduced me. "This is Susan. She's married to Jamy and they have the most perfect family." I smiled and shook hands, but inwardly I had a million thoughts swirling in my head. It would have been awkward, but had I been honest in those moments, I would have corrected her. "Hi, I'm Susan. Actually our family has been through a lot - hell actually. Lovely to meet you!" The crazy thing is I think most of us have assumptions about others: the pristine lives we see on social media or sitting in a pew at church. And the reality is we could all probably introduce ourselves in a similar way: Hello, I'm Susan. I'm a hot mess most days. You?

I wrote this blog two years ago and thought I would share again. Sometimes you need to dispel the myth of perfection. Other times you need to let others know they're not alone. And as a parent, we all need encouragement that we're not ruining our kids; more importantly, that our job isn't to save them. Our family, specifically our marriage, has been through a hot mess. And it's had tremendous impact on our children; they've lost a lot. But today, even years after beginning to process this, I can honestly say that God has been faithful. Not just to Jamy and I, but to Isabelle and Jackson.

It's been awhile since I've shared a more personal post here. Much of it has to do with so many beautiful adoption stories to share of my adoptive families. And if I'm honest, some of it is because it's hard to put into words what's been happening in our family. And hard to put in such a public space. But I've learned these last few years that transparency has been freeing and healing for our family and for my heart. And if I boil it down, the real goal of this blog is to tell stories of God's goodness, for adoptive families and my own.

It's no secret our family has been through a lot. Just click on the marriage tab on the blog and you'll get a glimpse into our story. One of the hardest things about going through a crisis as a family is watching our kids lose some of their childhood. They've had to deal with hard things, lost some innocence, had to deal with loss, and experienced things no one would choose for their children. 

The conversations we've had to have with them are hard enough to have with adult or even teenage children. But having them in grade school has been challenging. We've begged God for wisdom, and received godly counsel. We've fumbled through hundreds of questions that make you catch your breath and say a quick prayer asking for divine insight and direction before answering. And shepherding little hearts when you have a broken heart yourself is hard and exhausting.

As a mother, if I'm honest, it's been heartbreaking. Jamy and I have recently been grieving the loss of some of our kid's childhood in the midst of all of this. It's easy to think we've failed as parents. That our sin and brokenness has ruined them for life.

But this is not the whole story. This hasn't been all that's included in loss.

My kids are learning and experiencing the gospel in real and personal ways. When we talk about God's redemptive power, we note ways he has redeemed our family. When we talk about how God is our refuge, we can list ways we've run to him and ways he's cared for us. When we talk about miracles, we can point to amazing events in our family.

Gathered around the dinner table, we can talk and laugh and remember all of the ways God has cared for us. Huddled over them tucked in their beds we can whisper the promises again that He's given us. Crying on the couch we can cry out to God together asking Him to continue to be near.

Just last weekend for Father's Day, Jamy sat the family down and acknowledged the reality that this side of Heaven, all celebrations are tinged with some sort of grief. We talked about our past year and he gave us all gifts; leather cords to remind us how strong our family can be together with God's help (A cord of three stands is not easily broken. Ecclesiastes 4:12). We've learned that a good father points to an even better one. That our parenting isn't amazing because of what we do, but directs them to their desperate need for a Savior.

We've been knit together as a family. Going though hard things together has bonded us in incredible ways. Our kids come to us with questions, knowing they can ask anything and we'll always have an honest (and age-appropriate) answer. We often talk about fears and faith. We talk through hard things. And they are learning that we are a team; always working together for the good of our family.

My prayer is that when they look back at this season in their young lives, they can pinpoint the space when their faith became their own, they experienced Jesus in a real and personal way, and they grew to understand the gospel more fully. And looking back over these last several years and thinking about what I really want for my children, I realize my deepest desires are actually being met. Both Isabelle and Jackson came to trust Jesus during this time. 

Would I have ever chosen this for my kids? Never. Was it God's plan for sin and brokenness to rock our family? I don't think so. But in his sovereignty, he has worked it all for our good and His glory, even for Isabelle and Jackson.

Maybe your story is a bit like ours. Your family has experienced some kind of loss and walked through things you would have never chosen if you could have written it yourself. When I think of the times of the deepest change in my life, when I learned to trust Jesus even more, it's aways during seasons of suffering and hardship. At the end of the day, I can rest in the truth that God has been sovereign over our suffering; even our kid's.

So my kids have lost some of their childhood. But they've gained a personal and deep knowledge of a God who loves them. A Rescuer who saves them. A Redeemer who restores them. A Heavenly Father who never leaves them. 

Thursday, August 9, 2018

In Their Own Words: For This Child I Prayed

I heard this song for the first time over the weekend and knew I wanted to share it. Then I heard the story behind it and knew I wanted to share. Kelly beautifully captures the heart of hopeful parents and wrote a song based on Hannah's prayer in 1 Samuel. I love how it speaks to God's faithfulness for families in the wait.


Multiple miscarriages.

Failed adoption plans. 

We grow up thinking that those words will never be part of our narrative or our friends’ narratives, that we’ll never suffer the agony of longing for a child that still hasn’t come, but all too many sit in the harrowing, ugly, silent pain of that desolate darkness.

Maybe you're one of those precious souls sitting in that darkness.

No tiny onesies to buy, no bonding during late-night feedings, no abundance of baby snuggles — none of the joys of parenting are currently part of your story. Instead, there’s soul-crushing silence.

And while that deafening silence swirls around you like a constant storm that won’t let up, you may be feeling like there’s an even greater silence from God.

No sounds of baby coos or the pitter-patter of little feet running down the hallway; no heartwarming calls for “mama” or “dada”; no “I love you’s” as you breathe in the scent of freshly shampooed hair from the little one who is curled up in your lap before bedtime.

Just. Silence. 

The kind of sorrow that sneaks up on you in the dark as you try to fall asleep. The kind of sorrow that makes its way inside of your chest and quickly builds until it rises to take residence as a lump in your throat… Which eventually gives way to your devastating grief manifesting itself through heavy tears, guttural cries, and convulsive gasps that leave you breathless.

You’ve prayed, begged, and pleaded with God, and yet there’s waiting, waiting, and more waiting. Three months, six months, a year, two years, five years… The longer you wait, the more hopeless you feel, and the wait has induced a type of gut-wrenching sorrow that you never knew existed until now.

As you bring your knees to your chest and hug them tightly, you wonder how this will ever change.

It’s scary to hope. It requires trust. It requires faith – faith that things will get better, even though we don’t know when or how.

As the tears soak your neckline and the grief mercilessly sucks the air out of your lungs, you wonder how much more of this you can endure. “Where is God in all of this? If He’s the Giver of good gifts, why am I drowning in a sea of sorrow? Am I doing something wrong?...”

As you question your circumstances, your life, and maybe even your faith, you wonder if it’s worth it to keep persevering in prayer. You hear people telling you that you need to hold onto hope, but you know all too well now that ‘hope’ is often a four-letter word.

While I’ve never experienced this particular sorrow myself, I’ve witnessed it closely firsthand, and have had the honor of walking beside two of my dearest friends through each step of this arduous journey. After years of waiting, they finally have their beautiful bundle of joy, but the hardship that they endured to get there was heart-rending.

It forces us to break down the walls around our hearts – the ones that we’ve carefully and strategically built in order to protect ourselves from the pain. You know that if you choose hope as you continue to fight this draining infertility battle, you’ll have to continue to face the harsh reality of grief head-on, and that feels like too much to bear.

It’s overwhelming, exhausting, and terrifying, and my heart breaks for you.

After witnessing the immense pain that came from loss after loss; the deep sorrow, anguish, and unimaginable grief; the difficult conversations they had with God and with each other; the words from their hand-written letters to their future little one whom they hoped they would meet someday; the days filled with hope and the days filled with mind-numbing devastation…

The song is called “For This Child I Prayed,” and was also inspired by Hannah’s prayer of gratitude after struggling through years of infertility. After years of waiting, she finally received her precious baby boy, Samuel, and dedicated him to the Lord.

And then finally being able to celebrate the impending arrival of their sweet baby girl, a song was placed on my heart.

It’s a song that chronicles their suffering and loss, their longing and angst, their confusion and hope, their sorrow and faith, their prayers and pleas, and ultimately, their indescribable joy. It’s meant to capture the heartache of the valley, as well as a type of mountaintop joy that can only be born out of the depths of great sorrow.

While a six-minute song could never fully capture the highs and lows of walking through infertility, I hope that this song still resonates in your heart if you’ve been on (or are currently on) that same journey.

After holding her beloved son for the first time, she went to the tabernacle, offered a sacrifice of gratitude to the Lord, and proclaimed, “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me what I have asked of Him.” (1 Samuel 1:27)

I know so many couples and families who have been affected by infertility, and if you’re one of them, my prayer is that this song will bring much-needed hope. If you’re courageously fighting this battle, I pray that you feel acknowledged, heard, and understood after listening to it.

If you've been trying to start a family, and are still waiting, this song is for you. 
If you’ve been trying to expand your family, and are still waiting, this song is for you. 
If you have gone through this journey, and are now on the other side of it, this song is for you.
If you’ve been trying for a long time, and are in the deepest part of the valley and wonder if your prayers will ever be answered, this song is for you.
If you’ve never gone through this journey, but are hurting for someone you love who IS going through it, this song is for you.
If you’re just starting out on this journey, and are at the beginning stages of fertility treatments or adoption plans, this song is for you.
If you’re nearing the end of this journey, and your answered prayer is going to arrive any day now, this song is for you.
If you’ve suffered a miscarriage or multiple miscarriages, and are grieving the loss of those angels as you bravely keep fighting this battle, this song is for you.
If you feel like no one understands what you’re going through, and it’s hard to describe the depths of your pain, this song is for you.
If you haven’t told anyone about this harrowing journey, and you and your spouse are living with this secret pain, this song is for you.
If your heart is grieving due to adoption plans that suddenly fell apart, this song is for you.
If it’s too hard to go to the baby shower, the birthday party, or the church service, and you can’t bring yourself to even get out of bed on those days, this song is for you.
If you’ve suffered heartache due to unsuccessful IVF treatments, and are grieving the loss of those angels as you bravely keep soldiering on, this song is for you.
If you go to a baby shower, a 1-year-old’s birthday party, or a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day church service with a smile on your face, but sob alone in your car on the way home, this song is for you.

The Lord is on your side, sweet friend. Even if you’re at the point where you can’t stomach the word “hope,” the Lord is still fighting for you.

If you have a mama heart or a daddy heart, and are struggling to cling to hope when it seems as though everyone around you has had their desires fulfilled, and you haven’t… This song is for you.

Hold on, dear one. Miracles are possible. When you allow yourself to grieve while simultaneously clinging to hope, even if your grip is slipping and you’re barely hanging on, the fear will eventually start to crumble and light will break through the cracks.

When you feel alone in your mourning or you feel like giving up, remember that there is One who hears, who understands, who comforts. My dear friend, when you weep, Jesus weeps with you. You can lay your broken dreams, your grief, your pain at His feet.

Keep persevering. Keep praying. Keep trying. You won’t be in this place forever. I don’t know how or when your precious one will arrive, but I do know this – GOD WILL NOT LEAVE YOU HERE.

He can do more than you could ever think to ask or imagine. You are loved. You are treasured. You are held by the Father. While I can’t claim to understand God’s timing and why some couples have to wait longer than others, I do know that there’s purpose in the pain, and that you are not alone.

Give Him your sadness, your anger, your confusion, your tears. He is waiting to embrace you, to mourn with you, to comfort you.

And while I’ve witnessed the depths of despair that infertility brings, I’ve also witnessed the height of the mountaintop joy that can come from that sorrow, and I am praying that soon you will experience that glorious mountaintop.

Even when your grief smothers the words that you desperately want to pray, and you bring nothing but tears before Him, know that those tears are not in vain. Those cries are ushered into heaven as precious prayers and broken hallelujahs, and the Holy Spirit is interceding on your behalf when all you can offer is a collection of teardrops in the palms of your hands.

Not only does Jesus grieve with you, but I do too. While I can’t say that I know the exact pain of infertility, I’ve witnessed it so closely in the lives of many who are precious to me, that I’ve almost felt as though I was going through it too.

Whether you’re praying for finalized adoption plans or a long-awaited pregnancy, there is hope, dear friend. There is always hope. I am hoping with you and for you, along with so many others. May we cling to this hope together, as we anticipate the joy that is to come.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes in the morning… And let us hold unswervingly to the hope that we profess, for He who promised is faithful.” – Psalm 30:5b, Hebrews 10:23

Kelly O’Roark is freelance marketer, song writer, and musician from Louisville, Kentucky, and is a graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo. She’s been playing the piano since the age of 10, and started writing lyrics and composing music at the age of 17. While she creates music as a hobby, she uses it as a ministry to bring hope, love, and encouragement to others in various seasons of life. 

She also has a passion for creative writing, and hopes to start a blog someday where she can share her faith and life experiences through both music and writing. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, and is excited about her new, upcoming role as a first-time aunt!
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