Thursday, February 19, 2015

Adoption Story: Tim and Mary

Tim and Mary have had an incredible journey to meeting their son. They share: before we were married, we both realized that we shared the belief that God builds families in very creative, unique ways and that we wanted to experience the beauty of God building our family in ways we never could imagine. We always knew that adopting a child into our home was something that we wanted to do, but just recently felt like now was the time. We have discussed adoption with our three children a lot and they are all excited to welcome a new sister or brother into our family.

So they started with Christian Adoption Consultants in April last year and completed their home study by the end of July. Two months later they heard about an expectant mother, Rachel, a brave mama who had made some brave choices to protect and care for a baby she needed a family for. Ten days later, they were matched.  

I would love for Tim and Mary to share the rest of their story through the updates their friends and family received throughout the pregnancy. You'll see an amazing story unfold of a beautiful relationship, miracles only God could work, and a redemption that was about way more than a little boy finding a family...

October Update

Our adoption journey continues! We wanted to update you on some really cool developments. 

First, the birth mom we were matched with in Florida, Rachel, had an ultrasound today. Attached are pics of our little boy! 

We will be visiting Rachel in early November. We're really excited to meet her in person. 

Last week, we had the opportunity to talk with Rachel over the phone. Although it was a bit like an awkward first date when the call started, Rachel was super outgoing and made the conversation really easy. We really connected. She is such a sweet woman....Here's the (not so) short version of what we consider to be a miracle. 

But first, some background. It wasn't until after Jeremiah was a few months old that we realized, "Not only are our kids' names from the Bible, but they all end in AH. Funny." So we've felt like we wanted to name our adopted child similarly: a biblical name ending in AH to make sure he feels part of the AH club. Well, there are lots of options for boy names, right? Micah, Jonah, Isaiah, Josiah, etc. But our first choice has been Noah. We all really liked it and had talked about it as a family, but hadn't shared it with Rachel or many other people.

Back to Rachel... she has 14 & 10 year old sons... During our phone conversation, Rachel said, "You know how I'm supposed to come up with a name to put on the birth certificate before custody is officially transferred to you? I've spoken with my boys and we all agreed on a name. I know you will change it to the name you've chosen, but it's important to my boys and me to give him this name at his birth." 

Mary and I sat on speaker phone nervously. 

Rachel then said, "Do you want to know the name?"

I silently thought to myself, "Honestly, not really because then I'll feel guilty when we change the name!"

But Mary blurted out, "Sure, let's here it!" 

Rachel then said, "We think his name should be...NOAH."

Are you serious?!?!

Mary and I burst into tears. Rachel was a bit perplexed on the other line, not knowing what was happening. Once we regained our composure, we then explained that Noah was the name we'd also chosen. She was also blown away. 

She explained further. "My boys and I saw the names of your kids and noticed that they're all names from the Bible that end in AH. We wanted to make sure this boy felt included and received in your family."

<insert more tears>

So, we all know, both us and Rachel - beyond a shadow of a doubt - that God wants this baby to be in our family, and that he LITERALLY knows his name: Noah. So that's what we're calling him, starting now. 

And, thanks for your prayers. Rachel could use some. Specifically, she is 24 weeks along and on bed rest. This has been very difficult and challenging for her. We have peace and are confident that God is in control and that he will keep Noah in there until the time he chooses. We just want this to be an opportunity for God's glory to be revealed to Rachel and the doctors. We are praying for her to not go into labor until late into the third trimester. Please keep both of them in your prayers: that they would both be held securely in God's love and that there would be overwhelming peace that covers them. Rachel is living out an awesome story of redemption and is really growing in her faith, so we are also praying past lies don't get her down and she continues her spiritual momentum toward God. We'll continue to update you on further developments. 

January Update

We wanted to send out another update on our adoption journey of little Noah. We’ve been able to see some of you and email with others of you over the past few months. Your encouragement and prayers have meant a ton to us and have affirmed the fact that this is what God has called us to as a family. We can’t wait for the arrival of our little man!
Our big news is that we just got home from a quick trip to Port Orange, Florida (near Daytona Beach) to meet Noah’s birth mom, Rachel. It was a true honor to spend the day with her and to build a friendship with her. We got to talk a lot, visit her apartment, meet the staff at the adoption agency who are taking care of her and visit the hospital where she’ll deliver Noah. Though Rachel didn’t have a scheduled appointment, a nurse very kindly snuck her into the clinic and let us hear Noah’s heartbeat. That was so amazing and overwhelming.
But the definite highlight of the day was talking to Rachel about her newfound faith. She told us last week and reaffirmed that day, “I know God has used Noah to draw me to Him. I’ve never felt God like this before in my life. I want a relationship with Jesus and to live for Him. I feel like I want to wash myself and Noah and be baptized. Is that something you’d do? Would you baptize me?” As you can imagine, we were blown away. So, we changed our clothes, headed to the Atlantic Ocean and Tim dunked her! It was one of the great honors of our lives to be present with her and pray with her during that time. God loves us all so much and it’s fun to be reminded of how he chases after each of us.

So, we’re full of joy beyond words. We’re still overwhelmingly grateful that Rachel has made a courageous choice to place Noah for adoption and that she’s chosen us to be his family. God is writing a tremendous story and we’re humbled that we get to be a part of it.

Throughout Rachel's pregnancy, Mary continued to talk or text with Rachel most every day and developed a close, meaningful friendship. Then, it was time for Noah to make his appearance. Both Tim and Mary were there in the delivery room when he was born.

His birth mother, Rachel, was super brave. We broke down when she handed him to us and said, "Noah, meet your mom & dad."

We couldn't be more grateful to God. 

The texts and pictures I received over the next few days looked like a party was happening at that hospital in Florida. Rachel, Noah, Tim, Mary, and tons of extended birth family all celebrating Noah's birth together. Celebrating Rachel's incredible bravery. And celebrating the new family that had been created between all of them.

I smiled to myself this morning reading their words again that they wrote at the very beginning of their adoption: [we believe] that God builds families in very creative, unique ways and that we wanted to experience the beauty of God building our family in ways we never could imagine.  

Tim and Mary got way more than they ever bargained for with their adoption. In fact, they got way more than they could have even dreamed. 

Their son had a name before he was even born.

Their birth mother came to know Jesus through the journey and they were in the ocean with her when she was baptized, carrying their son.

This, my friends, is what adoption looks like; redemption in it's truest sense. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Family Love Day

This year, we celebrated Valentine's Day as an entire family. I took the lead from my sweet friend, Tracie Loux. Their family loves big and celebrates big and they created Family Love Day a few years ago.

Overall, Jamy and I have never really been big fans of Valentine's Day, the annual Hallmark Holiday filled with roses and baby's breath, cheap chocolates, and your favorite restaurant filled to the brim with reservations. I used to think all of that was romantic. But now romance looks a lot like watching him do the dishes, helping me fold the laundry, and tucking kids into bed for the 5th time at night. It looks like walking through hard stuff and staying committed. It looks like yoga pants rather than heels and joy in the mundane everyday. Daily faithfulness rather than once a year teddy bears and carnations. 

So I started thinking, what if we can use this holiday to communicate our deep love and affection for each other as a family? What if we use it to celebrate what real love really looks like?

Starting February 1st each year, I post a heart to everyone's bedroom door each day, noting something I love, admire, or cherish about them. And this weekend, we celebrated big. We got the kids simple gifts and spent special time together as a family. 

On Valentine's night, Jamy cooked a gourmet meal with everyone's favorite requests (Isabelle asked for pork steak, I asked for apple chutney, and Jackson asked for Daddy's famous homemade mac & cheese). We all got dressed up (I even broke out the heels) and had an amazing dinner, sharing around the table the things we love about each other. It was perfect.

I want to teach my kids young what real love and romance look like. Around our house, we don't hide our affection. The kids walk in on a kiss in the hallway or a slow dance in the kitchen. And they get lots of snuggles, hugs, and kisses from us. I don't want my daughter longing for a cheap carnation on Valentine's Day or my son to think a heart-shaped box of chocolates communicates true love. I want them to feel secure in the love they have at home and grow to learn that real love is about sacrifice and commitment.

Family Love Day was a good reminder to cherish these faces every day and find little celebrations all around me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Adoption Story: Jerry and Tiffany

Jerry and Tiffany's family grew by two children in just eight months...but it wasn't at all how they expected it to happen. I'll let Tiffany share her story (as adapted from her blog Stuff and Things). It's a long one but too good not to share with all of the amazing details of God's work...

God likes to show off.

About this time last year my husband and I decided to pursue domestic infant adoption after several closed doors in the international adoption world. We had also completed all the requirements to adopt out of foster care through DHS, but we weren’t hearing anything from them either.

For our domestic adoption we chose to work with Christian Adoption Consultants. They helped us prepare our family profile book and also got us connected with adoption agencies and adoption lawyers all over the country. This was over a year after we first started on our second adoption process, but it felt good to be moving forward again in yet another new direction.

The way it works is this:
  1. Our consultant gets emails from agencies and lawyers whenever they have an expectant mom who wants to make an adoption plan. Generally these are situations for which the agency or lawyer does not already have waiting families.
  2. The consultant emails her waiting families and we decide if we want to have our profile presented to that particular mom.
  3. If we decide to present, we wait to hear whether or not the mom chooses us.

It’s an emotional process, but it’s exciting to know that you could be chosen at any time.

Unfortunately, after hearing no from several expectant moms, we were emotionally spent. It felt like another dead end.

The lifestyle of adoption is an unsettling one. You always wonder if there is another child out there that is meant to have your last name. We wondered if we had misheard God. We already had five children, so maybe we were done. Maybe we were supposed to be content with the kids we have and move on to the next chapter of our lives.

And then we got a phone call.

It was our DHS worker.

We have a 3-year-old boy who needs a home immediately. Are you interested?

Two days later, on a sunny day in May, she brought Sam to our house and he’s been our son ever since. It was a rough transition and sometimes I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into, but the rewards were great. Adoption is hard, but even in the low times it feels good to know that you are being the hands and feet of Jesus to a child who means so very much to our heavenly Father. Sammy needed us and we needed him.

At first we were still getting emails from our adoption consultant, but I emailed her to put our file on hold. We have a new child, I explained. I fully thought that Sam was our final kid. We had an even number again. Our brown son had a brown brother to match.

It was perfect.

And then we got another phone call.

It was a worker from one of the adoption agencies we were working with before we put our stuff on hold. They had an expectant mom due around Thanksgiving, and they wanted to show her our profile.

We’re on hold, remember.

Yes I know, but I thought you might be open to us showing your profile.

How many profiles are you showing her?

You’re it right now.

After much prayer we agreed to let them show our profile. If they truly didn’t have any other families for a healthy baby, this must be God’s plan for us. It just didn’t make sense otherwise. And if this was an elaborate way for God to test our obedience, we wanted to pass. Maybe she wouldn’t even choose us. She had time to wait for better options.

By the end of the day we heard that she did choose us to parent her baby. We started tentatively planning for another baby, knowing full well she could change her mind at any time. I talked to her on the phone a few times over the next few months, and she was a very sweet, smart woman. We had a good rapport, but I couldn’t shake the feeling that this adoption was not going to happen. Now I know this was God’s sweet way of warning me not to get too attached.

I thought it was my imagination, but on the day she went into labor we got the call that she had, in fact, changed her mind.

We were sad, of course, but not surprised. And certainly not angry. I knew from our chats that if she had any chance to raise her son herself, she’d take it. When a formerly-estranged family member moved back to town and offered to help her, she finally had her chance.

The hardest part for me was that I was afraid this would be the last straw for my husband. We’d given adoption our best effort and it just wasn’t happening. I realized through this whole failed adoption that I really, truly wanted a newborn. Would he be willing to go through all this again?

We pressed forward with Sammy’s adoption. As soon as he had been in our home for six months, we filed the paperwork to finalize his adoption. On Saturday, November 22nd, one of our local churches arranged for a judge to come and finalize adoptions one after another as part of a National Adoption Day celebration. It was a wonderful experience. He was legally ours!

The next week was Thanksgiving. Although we had a joyful day with family, I couldn’t forget the fact that we should have had a new baby this Thanksgiving. It was hard. I still felt like I wanted more children, but that seemed like a long shot at this point.

While I prayed—working through my grief—I felt God say one thing very clearly. “This is not over.”

What’s not over? Our failed adoption? Adoption in general? I had no idea but I had hope that there would, indeed, be another stocking on our mantle soon.

Two weeks went by and my husband started to talk about adoption again. I emailed our consultant to say we would like to start getting emails again, and I called the adoption agency that we had been working with to let them know of our intentions. If we could work with the same agency, that would be ideal. We had already paid them some money that would roll over to a new adoption, and our lawyer had already started on our paperwork from that state.

I got an email back from the agency right away.

We have a new mom that just came in. If you are interested I’ll send you her information.

The paperwork looked good. No red flags. No notable issues. We decided to go for it, knowing there was a good chance she’d pick another family. On Monday morning I emailed to let the agency know we would like to be presented.

Great! We are showing her your profile this afternoon.

Already? Wow! That was quick.

Our profile book was ten months old, and in that time we had added a new son and moved to a new house. I emailed a few updated pictures, and at 2:00 our time they showed the expectant mom our profile.

At 3:00 we were on a FaceTime call with her.

At 3:30 the agency called to say she picked us.

She told me later that we were the first profile she looked at, but she didn’t feel the need to see any more. That’s how it works sometimes. Something will just click.

This process was vastly different than the one before. Although I was still cautious, I had peace that for whatever reason, this adoption was going to work out. I talked to her on the phone almost every week and we learned quite a bit about each other. I started trying to finish all the house projects on my to-do list, and as the due date of January 23rd grew closer, I went into a serious nesting phase. That didn’t happen before our failed adoption. Everything felt different this time.

I talked to our expectant mom on Wednesday, January 14th, after her weekly doctor’s appointment. Everything was fine. She was progressing slightly, but she didn’t feel like she was close to delivering. She was due a week and a half later and she planned to wait until then to ask her doctor about a possible induction. I was disappointed. I was hoping for a concrete date so we could make plans, but instead we had to be content to go with the flow. I told my friends and family that we were looking at late January for the baby to be born, and I settled in to wait.

I told my friends and family that we were looking at late January for the baby to be born.

Then we got a phone call.

How about today?

Our adoption worker was as surprised as we were to find out that our expectant mom went into labor on Thursday, January 15th, one day after she told me she felt like she still had a while to go. As they drove to the hospital, we rushed around making travel plans. There were no flights out that night, so the earliest we could leave was the next morning at 6 am. In the middle of laundry, packing, cleaning, calling in the grandparents for help, and figuring out the food situation for our kids while we were gone, we received periodic updates on the labor progress.

Our baby boy, Joshua Ronald, was born about 9:45 that evening (10:45 our time). The agency worker asked if we wanted her to text us a picture, or if we wanted to wait until the next day to see him. Of course I wanted to see a picture! It was your typical newborn, screaming, goopy-eyed, puffy picture, but he was healthy and strong. 6 pounds, 5 ounces, 19 inches long.

The next day we flew to Phoenix and drove straight to the hospital where our agency worker took us to meet our son’s birth mom, “Y.” It was wonderful to finally meet her in person! She was sitting with her adoption counselor, and I was grateful that we had all talked on the phone so many times. We already had a rapport and settled easily into conversation.

After we made sure she was doing well, it was time to meet our son!

We spent most of the day in the nursery holding our boy, but around dinner time our son’s birth father, “M,” came up to the hospital to be with Y. We brought the baby in to them so they could have some time alone and Jerry and I went to eat dinner.

After dinner we went back to spend time with M and Y and wound up hanging out with them for several hours. They were sweet, funny, and a joy to be around. Our adoption workers joined us and we had a delightful evening until it was time for Y to be released. We took plenty of pictures but I won’t share without their permission.

Joshua was set to be released the next day, so the hospital found us an empty room to stay in with him. We passed the time staring at our baby, watching tons of TV, and taking pictures.

Jerry went to the store the next morning to buy a car seat, and soon we were leaving the hospital with our teeny tiny son on our way to our hotel.

Arizona law states that parents cannot sign the paperwork to terminate their parental rights until 72 hours after the baby is born. Our precious birth parents and our precious agency workers stayed up late Sunday night so they could sign right after the 9:45 deadline. Joshua was officially ours!

Jerry flew back the day after consents were signed to be home with our other kids, and I hung out in Phoenix waiting for the okay to fly home myself. It’s kind of like an immigration thing. The sending state has to agree to let the baby leave the state, and the receiving state has to agree to let the baby in. This process could take weeks, but in our case both states completed their paperwork within a few hours of getting it. Monday was a holiday, but Arizona cleared us on Tuesday and Oklahoma cleared us on Wednesday.

Our oldest two were waiting up for us when Jerry brought me home and they were immediately smitten with their new baby brother. The other kids met him in the morning, and they were equally in love. Even little Sam, who hadn’t been in our family for very long, was thrilled to have a new baby. As I’m writing this it’s been 2 1/2 weeks since we came home and Sammy still lights up whenever he sees the baby. It’s an answer to prayer.

And that, my friends, is how we added two children to our family in only 8 months in the most round-about way I could imagine.

Looking back on this process, I’m struck by the way our unanswered prayers led to these two babies. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: Every “no” leads to God’s perfect plan for our lives. We don’t deserve God’s blessings, but He chooses to pour them out on us anyway. Someone left a comment on my last post about how our lives are like a puzzle but only God can see the box top. He knows how all the pieces are going to fit together even when all we see is a disjointed mess. Isn’t it amazing when we start to see some of those pieces come together in our lives? I still don’t know the full picture. I’m sure we have plenty of adventures left in our lives as we continue to follow God wherever he leads us.

You know what? I’m pretty excited about that.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Adoption Story: Kevin and Hailey

Kevin and Hailey were excited to start their journey to parenthood. They started with Christian Adoption Consultants in June. For five months, they had prayed and pursued other potential situations that didn't worked out. Looking back now, it seems so clear as to why.  

"The Phone Call" came late one evening, the week before Thanksgiving, from a family friend that knew an expectant mother looking for an adoptive family. Hailey was instantly excited after the phone call and had a peace that this would be their baby. 

The birthmother was anxious to meet Kevin and Hailey so they all met for dinner the very next evening. The birth family lived in the same city and their baby boy was due right around Christmas. It was evident to see God orchestrating this adoption plan as Hailey met with the birth mother for weekly dinners, drove her to doctors appointments, brought her to the hospital on the day of delivery, and held her hand through contractions. A beautiful relationship developed.

Kevin and Hailey's little Christmas Miracle was born just in time for an exciting family Christmas as the first grandchild on Hailey's side of the family.

From Hailey: The birthmother and I talked about our separate paths and struggles that led to this adoption. It became so clear that adoption is truly beauty from ashes. Having so much interaction was not always my adoption plan, but it was God's plan. He put me in a place of weakness where I was totally dependent on Him. I would pray continually as I would drive to pick up the birth mother. I found this quote "Be Brave. Do not pray for the hard thing to go away but pray for a bravery to come that's bigger than the hard thing." I decided to be brave and trust God's plan.

Throughout their adoption process, Kevin and Hailey clung to these verses from Romans: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Only God could write a story so beautiful!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Adoption Story: Scott and Karen

From the beginning, Scott and Karen were excited to see how God was going to use their story for His glory. Amidst having three beautiful girls, they had also had incredible losses through infertility and miscarriage. Their three daughters were as much a part of their decision as they were and were as thrilled as their parents to bring home a baby through adoption. I love how Karen shares her story of their family and their adoption...  

Scott and I have been married for 16 years. We always wanted a big family and sure enough, not long after we got married we found out we were pregnant. During our first doctor's appointment everything was going just as it should until the routine ultrasound scan showed the baby had no heartbeat. I was completely broken as being a mother was all I ever wanted. In all God's grace and to our surprise, two months later I found out I was pregnant again. Before we knew it we had our first baby, Emma LeighAnn. A short 14 months later Danielle Elise arrived. Our girls were close in age and we loved it! When we decided to have another child, we knew we wanted to do the same and have two close in age. In 2003 Faith Elisabeth was born. We had three beautiful daughters...what more could we ask for?  

It was about a year after Faith was born that we decided to try again; and we spent the following 9 years trying to grow our family. After experiencing heartbreaking losses, struggling just to have a successful pregnancy, and too many miscarriages to mention, our desire to one day complete our family with another baby was as strong as it was shortly after Faith was born. Beyond all of this, the miracle is that God has NEVER left our sides. If anything, He has literally carried us these past nine years. Little did we know God's plan for our lives. On Christmas Eve 2013, while sitting on the front porch, we decided to pursue something near and dear to God's heart - adoption.

We began our official adoption Journey with Christian Adoption Consultants in mid January last year. We were quickly home study approved in March and that same month were matched with an expectant mom due in July. Unfortunately that ended in a failed adoption. Still believing Gods plan was so much bigger than ours, we decided to quickly start the matching process again. And just after two short weeks we were matched again with a beautiful couple expecting a boy in December. Davis Dawson was born in early December. The most amazing part was after many years of heartache, all it took was seconds of holding this little boy for it all to melt away. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Adoption Story: David and Christa

David and Christa began their adoption journey over the summer. Exactly two months after starting with Christian Adoption Consultants they were matched with an expectant family. All was going well until all of the sudden the expectant family disappeared, with no explanation. David and Christa were understandably hurt and confused. What seemed to be the perfect match had dissolved and they couldn't see what God had for them. Little did they know that just 21 days later they would be rematched with an expectant mother who needed them just as much as they needed her. And two and a half weeks later, just before Christmas, their son was born. I'll let Christa fill in the details of their beautiful story...

I hardly even know where to begin or what to say. God has been the very foundation to our whole adoption journey. Our failed match was devastating. We really dove all in and deeply loved that little girl. We still have no idea what happened to the birth family or the sweet baby. I'm not sure why god has chosen to keep this hidden from us, but I have FULL trust that it's for our good. We really love and trust God. Our life story has shown time and time again how His hand has directed us, protected us, and held us. I thought I loved God no matter what...until he didn't give us a baby. It took us going through the failed match to really dig into our foundation of faith and trust in God. I now know that I love God with or without a baby. Within days of this submission we were matched with Ashley, and within 2.5 weeks Sawyer David was born. 3 days later, he was ours.

The very moment I held Sawyer I knew he was my boy. I smelled him, felt his sweet skin, and held him; I never wanted to let him go. 4 days later I could remember his face while I was laying in bed. I could see him moving around and making faces all in my mind. My heart first attached to this little boy, and soon my mind did. Totally amazing. The emotion I feel for Sawyer is far deeper than I knew could be felt. I knew I would love him, but I don't have adequate words to describe how much.

God blessed us with a birth mom that was perfect for where we were at and we were perfect to love her right where she was at. She never once wavered. She had a family that she had already matched with back out on her when her water broke at 25 weeks... Just like we had a family back out on us. God brought us together. There have been so many moments that I can only describe as proof that God had us on the direct path to Sawyer. 

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