Wednesday, February 21, 2018

To the Dads on the Fence

Today you have the pleasure to hear from Tim. Husband. Father. Adoptive dad. And admittedly my favorite guest blogger since he's my brother. When I asked him if he could write something just for men considering adoption, he didn't hesitate for a second. I remember late night talks with Tim and Meg talking about the possibilities of growing their family through adoption. And I remember exactly where I was when my brother called me, in tears, saying God was calling them to foster care and he was "all in." Today Tim talks candidly with other men who might be on the fence and deciding if foster care or adoption is the right path for their family.

Let's be honest. Your wife is making you read this right now.

She's been reading all kinds of adoption books and blogs and has been meticulously preparing her case for the last few months. She just hit you with her opening statement and gave you this very blog to read as homework before you feebly fumble through your attempt at a response.

I've been there. Caught off guard. Deer in the headlights. Mortified to have to be the one to pump the brakes pull the emergency brake on what my wife so earnestly felt God calling us to do.

Some of you may already be fathers. You may already have a whole crew, but adding one more through adoption scares the daylights out of you. You've mastered the fathering process. You can make dinner with one kid on your leg, the other helping stir, and a third one wrapped in the kangaroo pouch thing only your wife can remember the actual name of. But this is different, there's a lack of control. And as crazy as your life is already, the last thing you're willing to give up is any semblance of control you might possibly have left. I mean, you and your wife always talked about adoption. But not now. You just got your last kid out of diapers.

Others of you have been trying.

And trying.

And trying.

And trying to have biological children.

The tests. The appointments. The procedures. The bills. The glimmers of hope only to be heartbroken and grief-stricken time and time again. Now you try your hardest to re-route your shopping cart around the baby section, hoping to postpone your wife's tears until at least a private moment. Not here.

You would feel guilty for “resorting” to adoption. That's not how you wanted to end up at this inevitable decision you’ve been dreading for the last several years.

A few of you might even be in the same camp I was six years ago. Newly married. No plans for kids anytime soon. My wife Meg had one of those moments in church. You know the kind. When the Holy Spirit puts a megaphone up to your heart and whispers loud and clear. She sat me down afterward and we had the talk. God was calling her (meaning us) to adoption, specifically adoption through foster care.

*Cue the emergency brake*

In my mind, I immediately became an expert on why this was a terrible decision for our family. Did my wife forget that we were 22 and 23 years old? Or that I had zero dadding experience? The size of our duplex shrunk to the size of a college dorm room. Could we legally fit a kid in there? At the time, I worked for a residential treatment facility for foster kids. I witnessed firsthand the effects of the trauma they had endured. There’s no way we were equipped to handle that, especially as first-time parents. And can we talk about adoptive parents for a second? These saints have it together. I don’t. They’re super-parents. I can’t fake my way through that. Everyone will see right through me.

Here’s the second-best thing I’ve ever done: instead of verbalizing that entire paragraph above that ran through my mind in three seconds flat, I said I’d pray about it.

And I did. I specifically prayed a line from a song that was on the radio at the time.

“Break my heart for what breaks yours.”

And He did.

A missed training at work from years before led me to a more in-depth training on foster kids. Actual kids in the system talking about the heartaches they had endured and their need for unconditional love. My heart broke. The megaphone whispered loud and clear.

If I was reading one of those “choose your own adventure” books I would have had two options. Number one: do nothing and it’s the end of the book. Number two: do something and you’re on page one of the greatest trilogy of all-time. (Foreshadowing here, I have three kiddos.) Something I've learned the hard way in my walk with Christ is that there is a time for prayer and there is a time for action. Keeping things on our prayer list which God has already convicted us of can dangerously become a religious excuse for inaction.

Here’s the best thing I’ve ever done: I said yes to my wife. I know, sounds like the advice your grandpa gave you on your wedding day with a wink and a handshake. But more importantly, I said yes to God’s plan for our lives without knowing exactly what that plan looked like. Here’s the thing about us husbands, if you’re anything like me and my wife. Our wives are the optimists, we’re the pessimists. Our wives are the dreamers, we’re the doubters. We read all 142 reviews before we buy the TV. We measure twice, cut once. We want to see the money in the bank account before we commit to anything. But too often as Christian men we let our pursuit of order overrule our pursuit of submission to God’s will.

Fast forward with me to December 15, 2012. The day I became a daddy. Jacob was our first (and only) foster placement and was three months old at the time. I held him for the first time under our Christmas tree and wept bittersweet tears. In order for him to end up in my arms, some heartbreaking events had taken place. One of my favorite quotes from Jody Landers sums it up, “A child born to another woman calls me mommy. The magnitude of that tragedy and the depth of that privilege are not lost on me.”

By God's grace we were able to adopt him on December 18, 2014 with the support of his birth mother. We told our families that we were pregnant with our biological son, Griffin, the next day. He was born on July 29, 2015. One pretty scary birth experience was enough for my wife, so I took the medical precaution in early 2016 to avoid those complications in the future. We were incredibly blessed with a healthy baby boy and playmate for Jacob. Later that year, Meg and I felt the nudge of God again calling us to adopt. A week later, I got a call at work from my wife, sobbing uncontrollably. When I finally got her to speak she told me that Jacob’s birth mom was pregnant. And she wanted us to adopt.

Our fundraising efforts started. Bills came in. Donations came in. Wash, rinse, repeat. With some creative ideas (all Meg’s), a generous community, and open hands, the Lord provided.

We had been planning on another boy for months. It turned out it was a goofed gender reveal when Elodie was born on June 21, 2017; the little girl this daddy always prayed for. After our crazy journey through foster care, foster adoption, having a biological son, and a private adoption of a sibling, I can tell you one thing. I can’t imagine my life if I would have said no those six years ago. God wired my wife to push me toward His plan and His blessings. It’s what I love most about her. All I had to do was say yes.

Some of you are on the fence. Some of you are off the fence, but on a different side than your wife. Some of you didn't even know there was a fence until today. There will be struggles. There will be frustration. There will be paperwork, so much paperwork. But you'll look back on your family's journey, maybe six years later, and it will all make sense. You’ll look into the eyes of your son or daughter and know that God’s plan was infinitely greater than anything you could have ever hoped or dreamed for on your own.

So here’s the plan:

  1. Promise your wife you’ll pray about what God has placed on her heart.
  2. Pray. Listen. Act accordingly.
  3. Tell your wife you finished reading the blog. She’s anxiously waiting to hear your thoughts.

For more of Tim and Meg's story:
Their journey to foster care: My Brother Is Doing It
Meg's thoughts on foster care: A Foster Mama Shares Why Excuses Don't Matter
Jacob's Adoption: Meet Jacob
Elodie's adoption: Countdown to Forever

Thinking about adoption and want to know the next steps? Here's More on Adoption

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Adoption Story: Jerry and Gayla (again!)

You've met Jerry and Gayla before when they adopted their first son. When they reached out to me again last summer I was thrilled that they were thinking about adding to their family again through adoption. It was amazing (again) to see Jerry and Gayla's faith in a God that writes the best stories. In the midst of the wait, the uncertainty, and a roller coaster the week their son was born, I watched as they patiently waited for God to move, trusting Him to care personally for their family and the birth family...

As I sit down to document our second adoption story I feel so grateful yet humbled once again at how big our God is! He truly has been so good to us over the last few weeks and it’s obvious He holds us in the hollow of His hand. We are so so thankful to Him as well as Susan who was such a support for us as we walked this journey.

After updating our home study and signing on with Christian Adoption Consultants and Susan we started receiving situations of expectant mamas. For four months we read over many different situations of expectant mamas, praying over them and for wisdom. We presented our profile different times only to hear, “it’s not your time yet.” In November, another email, another mama making an adoption plan. My heart skipped a beat as I glanced over it and I thought, could this be the one?! We presented our profile once again. A couple of weeks later we received word that "Mama R" was drawn to our profile and wanted to talk with us. From the very beginning of that first phone call we fell in love with her and felt like we had found a long-lost friend. Conversation came easy and we found different things we had in common with her. Before we ended that first call she told us, “You’re it!” Our feelings were of so much excitement and gratefulness but at the same time disbelief that someone would trust us with such a precious gift. We had approximately five weeks to build a relationship with her and to prepare for another little boy to join our family.

Adoption is beautiful, messy, exciting, and scary all at once. Our faith was stretched the week our son was born and all we could do was trust the One who writes these stories and pray His will would be done for everyone involved. A phrase of the song that was so impressive to us at the time of our first son’s adoption became very meaningful once again: “God is bigger than any mountain that I can or cannot see!” Truly we witnessed mountains moved and miracles performed allowing this sweet little boy to be placed in our arms. We will be forever grateful to his brave birth family and we’re thankful to have an open adoption with them. Having open communication with our sons’ birth mamas was the very thing that worried us the most before we adopted but has turned into one of the biggest unexpected blessings!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

If I Could Say One Thing...About Expectant and Birth Families

There is so much for a hopeful adoptive family to consider during the adoption process. Where do we start? Can we afford it? What can we expect? Inevitably, one of the most common questions (along with fears and concerns) come about the expectant and birth families. (An important note: Expectant parents are people considering an adoption plan for the child, birth parents have made an adoption child and placed the child for adoption.)

So, I asked adoptive families their thoughts on expectant and birth families. I love their insightful, honest, and surprising answers.

They’ve become a treasured extension of our family.  - Meg

It won't always be perfect. There will be ups and downs.  - Jennifer

Try to remember that as much as this is a joyous occasion for your family, for them it's a day of loss.  - Melissa

Let them in. They are entrusting you with their flesh and blood. Developing a relationship based on trust is key. Remember that after placement there may be ebbs and flows in the relationship. Continue to reach out but be mindful of their need for space and grieving.  - Lisa

At first we weren’t sure about having a relationship with our daughters birth mom but now we treasure her and more than anything to have contact. We have a semi open adoption by birth mom’s choice and have little contact. We treasure each time we hear from her, even if it’s only a one word response.  - Kendra

Our love runs deeper than we had imagined. Sometimes peoples' comments and questions about our son's birth mom feel rude and ignorant. It's tempting to become angry and defensive. We try so hard, albeit imperfectly, to use those opportunities to teach people about how brave and loving a birth parent is, hopefully slowly breaking the stereotypes that exist.  - Sarah

They are to be respected and honored, no. matter. what. They are their child's parent too, it just looks and plays out differently.  - Natalie

If I could say one thing it would be the absolute shock at how deeply and absolutely we love our birth mom. No strings attached- just crazy love. I expected to have some feelings of respect and maybe thankfulness but the love I have for her is infinite. I would protect her with my life. For reference we have a semi open relationship.  - Christy

The relationship may change throughout the years. Contact and openness may not always be consistent, or what you planned or hoped for. They deserve respect, privacy, and more than anything love. Their story is not yours to tell to the public, and their life may not be what others would assume. Protect them just as you would your own family, for truly they are just an extension of it.  - Amy

God works in their hearts to bring them to adoption just like He does for adopting families. For an expectant parent to entrust a stranger with part of themselves is nothing short of a miracle. God has His hands all over every adoption situation on both sides. Our son’s birth mother prayed for signs that she should place him and told us how those prayers were answered. We will never forget the conversations we had with her before he was born. We are fortunate enough to have continued an open relationship, but there is something special about the time we shared together before he had arrived.  - Kacie

They [adoptive families and birth families] have a lot in common - and they are both worried that the other party won’t like them.  - Mimi

From a couple who initially was uncomfortable with the idea of an open situation and now would only consider open adoption: God can explode your family circle overnight to include your child’s extended birth family in an amazing and powerful way. They can be your and your child’s biggest advocates and cheerleaders; they will laugh, cry, and love your little one fiercely with you. To quote one of our attorneys: you can never have too many grandparents - it’s so true! The more members of your child’s birth family you can get to know and welcome into his/her life the better. And keep welcoming them in over time with pictures, texts, notes, updates, requests for advice. Many birth family members will feel a little insecure at some point about reaching out to you or have the sense that you want to ‘move on’ without them. But you will all be exponentially blessed by true, lasting relationship formed around a common love for that child.  - Laura

For more in this series:

If I Could Say One Thing...About Beginning the Adoption Process

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Cost of Adoption

If I Could Say One Thing...About the Adoption Home Study

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