Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Adoption Story: Andy and Mimi

Andy and Mimi talked about the possibility of adoption even before they were married. They knew before they began trying to have a family that there would be obstacles. Cystic Fibrosis, along with infertility made the prospect of having a baby biologically a long shot. Although adoption was not their original idea, it was never second best. And when you hear their story as told by Mimi, you'll realize this was absolutely true.

Andy and I met Abel's birth mom through our neighbor. Seriously. It was a gloomy weekend back in November, and Andy was outside cleaning the gutters when our next door neighbor leaned over the fence and asked how our adoption stuff was going. She then proceeded to tell Andy that she knew someone who was considering placing her baby and wanted to know if she could let this woman know about us. Of course we said "yes!" but honestly didn't think much about it. It seemed like a long shot, but was still encouraging to hear that someone would think we would make good parents for this baby. Well, come Tuesday my neighbor is knocking down our door, she boldly (and almost a little insanely) tracked this woman down at her workplace, and told her she knew the perfect parents for her baby. Our neighbor asked her if she would be okay with us calling her. So here stands my neighbor with a name and phone number in hand; "The ball is in your court," she says. 

Andy and I sat there for a little while.  We looked at that number, we prayed, we laughed with how uncomfortable this conversation was going to be, and then we picked up the phone, at this point with nothing to lose.

Fast forward a few months: We've become super acquainted with the neighborhood Panera as that is where we meet with birth mom every couple of weeks. We've traded family stories, heard hopes for the future, talked about what adoption means and looks like, laughed and cried a little too. It was clear that God arranged us meeting, and we knew instantly that we were supposed to be part of her life and this story. Whether that was to be her baby's parents, or simply support along the way.  God didn't actually reveal this to us right away. 

Our birth mom told us she wanted to wait until the end of January to decide whether or not she would place the baby with us. So we prayed; we learned about patience and were continually reminded that we are not in control. Still, we were abundantly blessed with peace and joy through our time getting to know this incredible woman. Late in January, we met up with our birth mom and across the table at Panera, she looked down at her tummy and then directly into our eyes and said, "I've made my decision, when I have this baby I want to give him to you guys, and I want you to be his parents." 

March 10, 2015, 7:46 am: "Hey guys I'm 8 cm. dilated!  Get your butts up to the hospital, and let's have this baby."  That's how Abel's birth mom sounded the morning he was born. It's tough to describe someone's spirit, attitude and demeanor in a blog post, but our birth mom is 100 percent authentic. She's real. God allowed for a true relationship to be built between the three of us over the period of a few months. 

Anyways, we jumped in the car and arrived in her hospital room in a flash. When she was ready to push, she allowed me to stay to see the birth of our son. He arrived quickly, so quick in fact Andy was in line in the cafeteria. He thought this whole delivery thing would take more than 10 minutes. We spent the next 36 hours bonding with him and his birth family in the hospital. We heard so much about how we might feel, or how she would feel, but I never expected to have my heart explode every time she held him and loved on him. The trials that surfaced during this journey of adoption weren't necessarily relevant in these moments as God responded by breathing beauty and redemption through the entire situation. It was, and is, incredible.

I've never felt God quite so present as when we said our goodbyes. Abel in her arms, my arms wrapped around Abel and her, and Andy's arms hugging us all; we wept. I cried for her and what she was losing for our gain, I cried for our son and hoped he would always love and respect her and her decision, and I cried for Jesus because what was done on the cross. For our sake God looked away, and Jesus gave all so that we could know Him. Oh how real and true that was in this embrace; and this is just the beginning... 

For more on Andy and Mimi's journey to parenthood (and updates!), you can follow their blog, Our Temporary Setbacks.

Photo credit: Captivated Photography

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Adoption Story: Brian and Amy

Brian and Amy have been on a wild ride.  They started their adoption journey almost four years ago and had planned to adopt internationally from Ethiopia. When adoptions slowed to a near standstill in Ethiopia, Brian and Amy decided to open their hearts to domestic adoption as well.

I met Amy and her beautiful daughter over coffee one morning last April. While Dakota colored, we chatted about her family's heart for adoption, their desire to step into spaces where parents were needed, and talked about if Christian Adoption Consultants might be a good fit for their family.

Several weeks later, they officially began with CAC and we began working together on creating their profile.

And three months later, in July, the unexpected happened. They received a phone call that a little girl needed a family.

Brian and I walked in to the hospital, with a thought that I might actually be able to guard my heart from potential heartache should anything go wrong or the adoption not get finalized.  I was wrong…I turned the corner to room where our baby was sleeping in the NICU, and I saw a little girl with wild crazy black hair just like mine when I was born, and she was mine.  My heart melted, and I now know that love has no boundaries, and whether from the womb, or 3 days old from another womb….it is pure unguarded love that I felt for our new daughter.  She was born on Friday night at home (don’t know the exact time), at the hospital she weighed 7 lbs 9 ozs, and is 20 inches long.  I will admit I feared it would feel different than when I gave birth to my first child…it might be, we are a little more vulnerable right now, because laws and lawyers or the system could come and decide she isn’t ours to keep. Until we are finalized there is that risk…but I realized something last night. No rain no rainbows…she is my child, and I love her with no reservation no matter what happens.

Amy wrote those words not knowing that that is exactly what would happen. In the weeks and months to come, incredible barriers to Zoey's adoption arose...

August Update:
A lot has changed in our world in the past few weeks. To put our world in to perspective think of 0.1%, or flip it to 99.9%. We have been told that our adoption situation falls in to the 0.1% of adoptions with unusual circumstances…those circumstances have turned many worlds upside down, and have left us in need of positivity, prayers, and emotional support. Since our last update, we found Zoey’s birth dad, and with that, a chain of events has occurred that has changed our world forever. See, in our hearts, Zoey is our daughter, but her birth dad did not find out about her until after she was placed with us. He is young, and currently not quite capable of taking care of himself, but loves her, and states he wants to have her and parent her.  

We have always felt that adoption should occur if no one in a biological family will, or can provide a loving, nurturing, environment where a child will thrive. So the circumstances of this situation have brought two worlds colliding into one another…and a lot of emotions, and love for this little girl are running high. I don’t want to share all of the details, other than adoption is broken, and messy, AND full of love. Our hope is that if everyone involved has the best interests of the child in mind, that although decisions will be difficult, Zoey will end up happy and healthy with the best chance at a well adjusted and positive life. A lot still has to happen before we will know the outcome, and everyday is a challenge. For now, we are Zoey’s parents, guardians, and care takers…and Brian, Dakota and I are making the most of our time with her, trying to focus on the blessings she has brought to our life, not the uncertainty of the future.  

Regardless of the outcome Zoey will always be our daughter in our hearts, and I am sure you can imagine, this is an emotional roller coaster ride like none we have been on.  

October Update:
I am typically an over-communicator, and a planner…but in this situation there is no way to plan, and no way to communicate without making assumptions that could turn out completely inaccurate...Here is what we know…Zoey is very healthy, and is now 3 months old….Dakota is an awesome big sister, and this incredibly complex an heart breaking situation has made us slow down, and truly live in the present…enjoying each and every moment as a family.

We had our first court date yesterday morning.  The intent was really to find out who would show up, and what next steps were. We knew going into court that dad had still not signed his consent to relinquish rights, and mom was still in a difficult position with her decision to relinquish. Please understand that we want to protect Zoey’s story, and so we will not share the intimate details of what is going on, or our opinions for why we intend to continue to parent Zoey other than to say that she is our daughter, and we love her so much. As her current legal guardians it is our responsibility to ensure that she is safe, loved, and in an environment in which she will thrive. We are taking that to heart in all of our decisions in court. There are no words to adequately describe the heartache involved for everyone in this situation. Court went as well as it could. Both of Zoey’s birth parents showed up, and we are waiting on more information from attorney’s, but our next court date is February 26th.  Zoey will be 7 months old.  At that time, if all is the same, we will be addressing birth mom’s concerns, and take it from there. We will likely have more court dates after that as well.  What we really need from our support system is ongoing love and support. We may not want to talk about the specifics, but we are in the thick of this, and incredibly vulnerable. If you are uncertain as to what to say or do, reaching out with an e-mail, text, VM, whatever, is so helpful in showing your support.  We know there is no advice or words that provide an immediate solution, our best support is in knowing that we are loved, prayed for, and thought of regardless.

On a lighter note, we truly are enjoying every moment. She is getting so big an has an equally big personality. She is sweet, smiles a lot (especially at her sister), has started giggling, and rolling over. She truly melts our hearts with her sweet disposition. Our family is in limbo, which is incredibly difficult, and the situation involves a lot of people who love our little girl a lot…intensifying the emotions on any given day.  Thanks again for your love and support, and we will send more updates soon.

The next few months I sat with Brian and Amy and drank coffee, prayed with them over the phone, and we spent hours working towards doing what was best for little Zoey. Through it all, I was amazed at their patience with the process, their wisdom handling tough issues, and grace for Zoey's birth parents. But even more than all of these things, I was in awe of their incredible faith in God; his sovereignty over the entire situation and their trust in God to do the best for their daughter.

February Update
We appreciate that it has been a very long time since our last update. Thank you for your patience, and understanding that sometimes it just easier to say nothing at all. We are so blessed to have so many people loving and supporting us, some of you with a lot of experience with adoption, and for some of you...we are your experience. We have been a bit quiet for two reasons. 1) keeping our support system off our emotional roller coaster keeps the support stronger when we need it. 2) Our primary focus is in the wellbeing of our daughter, and with that comes limiting information that concerns her story. She needs to have her own story as she grows up, and giving detailed updates of the up’s and down’s of our journey would open her story to the world before she is ready to embrace it. With all of that we want to say thank you. Thank you for your prayers, your love, support, and friendship. The past 6 months have been more than a journey, for us, they have been the most difficult, yet most totally awesome months of our lives, and despite a lot of doubts…we have AWESOME news…GOD is good and he answered our prayers…we received a FINALIZATION DATE for Zoey. Next Tuesday we will start a new journey as a family with no appointments with attorneys or court dates...on February 17th, Zoey officially becomes ours.

We are relieved, excited, over the top happy, and also sensitive and compassionate to the two people that brought us our little girl. We will never fully share those details, but are so happy that Zoey’s story will include a start in the world that was a bit bumpy, but full of love by so many people.  

From the first few days of Zoey's life, Brian and Amy knew they would always love her like their daughter but didn't know how the story would end. To say that Brian and Amy have been on a roller coaster would be an understatement. But to say that it hasn't been worth it would be way off. During the last few months they have prayed for their daughter's best, loved when it was incredibly risky, and trusted in a faithful God.

When Zoey is old enough to hear the beginnings of her story, I know it will include four incredible parents (her birth parents and adoptive parents) who made hard decisions for her good, a doting older sister who prayed that she would always stay, a community who loved her from the beginning, and a gracious God who worked those hard months for all of their good and his glory.

And that it was all worth it.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Adoption Story: Chad and Kristin

After adopting their daughter several years earlier, Chad and Kristin had decided to hope for a miracle again and trusted God to guide their path to build their family even further. But after a failed match they were left wondering what their future held. When they started with Christian Adoption Consultants in November they had been through a lot.

But Chad and Kristin knew that adoption can be a roller coaster and decided to hold on for the hard ride. They knew God had called them to continue growing their family through adoption and that he would be faithful. They knew in the end the roller coaster would be worth the ride.

Just three months later, at the end of January, an expectant mother chose them. She was having a girl and wanted her daughter to have a big sister. She also knew Chad and Kristen shared a special relationship with their daughter's birth family and desired the same thing.

And then, four weeks later, Chad and Kristin welcomed their second daughter into the world. These sweet sisters get to grow up together, both with adoptive and birth families who love them like crazy.

Looking back at the ride they've taken as a family, Chad and Kristin are thankful they held on and didn't get off too soon. In the end, God had a perfect plan for all four of them. 

And really, the glorious ride is just beginning.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

When Open Adoption Surprises You

To say openness in adoption is a hot topic is an understatement. There are many opinions about the topic: adoption professionals, researchers, and social workers. But the perspectives I esteem the most are adoptive families who are walking the journey of open adoption themselves. Chris and Shelley adopted through Christian Adoption Consultants an have since adopted again. They have an open relationship with both of their daughter's birth mamas.

Chris is a social worker. We know firsthand the benefits of children knowing and understanding their first families. We wanted an open adoption. So selfishly, I almost begged God for an open adoption. 

When Susan sent us information about Olivia's birth mom (due to give birth the next day), we made a decision quickly. The only reservation in my heart was that we didn't know what type of an adoption we'd have -- open, closed, semi-open... 

We prayed about it and my heart accepted the belief that this woman was deserving of whatever contact she desires. 

The next day when we heard she chose our family for her daughter, it was a whirlwind. 

And in that whirlwind I thought my heart was going to physically explode the moment we met Olivia's birth mom. It was the most beautiful, touching moment in my life. 

She wrapped one arm around me and one arm around my husband. Tears streaming down her face, she said, "I'm not crying because I'm sad. I'm crying because she gets to have the perfect family." 

In that moment, God erased YEARS of brokenness we felt from infertility. 

During our time together, I tried to memorize every feature about her. Everything she said. What she loved to do.  And as we parted ways with this beautiful woman, I hugged her. I said, "I hope Olivia turns out just like you," and I meant it. Every single word.

Then, as if God knew my heart's deepest desire, Olivia's birth mom told me this while we hugged goodbye: "I'd really like to stay in touch."

My. Heart. Melted.

Over the past 19-months, we have rejoiced in having an open adoption. Though we live hundreds of miles away, we have formed an amazing, loving relationship with this woman, and I am so grateful. Not just for my sake, but for my daughter's sake. She will know she's extra-loved. So deeply. By so many.

I love open adoption. It's not always easy, but man, I wouldn't trade it for the world.

You can follow more of Chris and Shelley's story on Shelley's blog, This Family's Journey.

For further reading on the topic of birth families and open adoption, check out these helpful posts:

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Adoption Story: Eric and Stacia

Eric and Stacia hoped it was in God's plan for them to become parents. But the road hasn't been easy. They had talked about adoption since before they were married and planned to adopt after having biological children. Last year it became clear that God was calling them the let go of the dream of how they had always imagined they would become parents and embrace his.

So, they took the first step. They started with Christian Adoption Consultants last August and got their home study done in record time by September. Over the next several months they prayed over multiple expectant mothers, wondering if each one was meant to be a fit for their family.

Then in January they heard about a little guy who had just been born and needed a family. Within minutes they were all in. In those moments they didn't know if he was meant to be theirs, or if he was the dream God was going to fulfill, but their "yes" was on the table and they were ready.

I called them Friday with the news that they had ben chosen to be his forever family. Sunday night they flew across the county and Monday they met their son: Eric and Stacia became parents over the weekend.

This was their welcome home crew as they landed back home as a family of three.

It turns out when Eric and Stacia let go of their own dreams God had even bigger ones for them.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Ashes of Adoption

Last week I received this beautiful and heartbreaking email from one of my adoptive families. Alisha and her husband adopted their daughter (whom we'll refer to as "E") nine months ago. From the beginning, their hearts not only for adoption and their daughter, but also for their birth mother have been evident. Below Alisha shares a little about the grief involved in adoption and the longing she has for her birth mama (whom we'll call "N") to know true healing after her courageous decision for adoption...

I want to share this journal entry with you because you mean a lot to us and because we love you and are grateful you have been on this journey with us. We ask you to continue to pray for N and for E as she grows. And for us...things will only get harder with her as she gets older and we want to gracefully pour truth over her as the questions begin. 

This is a very normal part of the grieving process for birth moms and we were told and trained on the reality of this happening, so although it is not shocking, it still makes my heart ache.

Tonight as I climbed into bed early and so excited about the potential to get a little extra sleep, I opened my instagram to find the most heart breaking post I had seen. N, E’s birth mom had posted “Sitting here thinking on the choices I made in life and the bs people trying to pull. Missing my E wishing you was here. Don’t nobody know the pain Im going threw but hey I guess they don’t care…..But we suppose to be family”

The pit in my stomach. The flood of guilt. The flood of grace. He is good and has made evident through E’s story that she belongs with us. But oh the pain that comes with that. Did I take something that wasn’t mine and call it mine. Should I return this gift? What can I do to make this right? The enemy wants to destroy this picture of Christ’s love for His children. My mind spins. I pray, cry out to the Lord – please Lord let her (N) know the love you have for her. Will people hurt you? Absolutely. Does she come from a place that only knows hurt, betrayal, deceitfulness, and more hurt? Absolutely. Can I make that right for her? No, only God can heal. Only God loves her perfectly. But how can she know him and experience His love? I would do anything, really I would. But He who has begun a work in her, HE will be faithful to complete it. I know He will. If I get to be a part of that, praise Him. If I don’t, praise Him. But I beg that she will know His love! I fully believe that He is working in her and this is not the end. I beg the Lord for her soul. 

As I talked with Nicole (the girl who introduced us to N) tonight she so beautifully made the comparison of the most devastating experience and the most beautiful picture of redemption. The cross. The most devastating picture/reality/experience to ever take place. And the redemption that comes with the cross and the grace and love that pours over us because of the cross. More importantly because of the sacrifice made on the cross. Our need for Jesus is deep but his love for us is deeper. 

The love I have for N runs so deep that it hurts. I want her to know, experience and rejoice in His love for her. How do I show her that?

It is hard for me to not see myself as her enemy at times. I took her child. She now experiences depths of loss that I cannot fathom. But GOD lovingly placed her into our family and in that we rejoice. E is part of our family forever, but that does not mean that she is not forever part of her birth family’s family as well! N is not the only one to experience loss. E was rejected before she was even born. How do you reconcile this to your daughter. Do I even deserve to get to call her daughter? Why me? How can I receive such a beautiful gift? Only by His grace. I know I don’t deserve to be called His daughter but by His love and grace He does, and without shame. 

Adoption is dirty. It is in the trenches dirty. There is nothing easy about it. Yet we get to love and disciple and train and mess up with this beautiful girl. 

She hears “I made a mistake.” I hear “am I that mistake” and God says I AM. He is the way the truth and the life. He is God. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He is good.

God made no mistake by giving E our last name. I want to honor that and cherish that and always know  that she was chosen to be in our family before the beginning of time.

There will always be hurt, heartache, pain, ugliness on this side of heaven. Even in something that is often looked on as beautiful. It is beautiful to have been adopted by Christ into His family. We cannot perfectly experience any reflection of that this side of heaven. 

Am I thankful to be a part of adoption? Absolutely. We are called to. Is it easy? Absolutely not. It is hard, it is devastating to see the effects of sin, but the other option is to turn our cheek and act as if we are not affected by sin. I am grateful to be in the trenches and experiencing this. It makes me love God more, and it makes me see my need for Him all the more. And I praise Him, even through aches and pains my heart cannot begin to describe. And I wait. Come Jesus Come!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Making KC Our Home

I realized this morning that we've been in Kansas City now for six years. (Admittedly south of KC in Belton for much of that and now in the Overland Park/Leawood area but we claim Kansas City as our own.) With both of us growing up in Michigan, you would think we would consider that home. We lived our childhoods there, spent summers on the lakes, met and fell in love, made ourselves a home and had babies there. Three decades of memories were made in that mitten shaped state.

But without question Kansas City feels like home.

Maybe it's because we love the city. We love all it has to offer our family: the surprisingly rich culture smack in the middle of the US, the good BBQ, and the kindness of midwesterners. We love our jobs. We love our church. And we love the people we do life with.

But really it's because God has done miracles in our family in this city.

When we moved here six years ago, we thought we were moving for a job opportunity for Jamy. We left the first home we had made our own, packed up everything, and left all we knew to embark on an adventure. But those first 18 months here were far from what we expected. Our home took almost 2 years to sell which meant that much time paying for two homes and coming out upside down when it was all said and done. And the job opportunity we thought was a perfect fit and worth moving across country for turned out to be a tremendous disappointment.

We were heartbroken. After 18 months of being in Kansas City in just one hour we had lost a job, our church, our income, and the only community we knew. 

But that was only the beginning of the loss. In the next several months our marriage also unraveled.

It looked like our adventure had failed and we needed to head back to Michigan. Little did we know our adventure was just beginning. Because our journey didn't start when we packed up the moving van and drove from Michigan to Missouri. We thought God was calling us to a new state. But he was really calling us into a complete transformation that had more to do with our hearts than our address.

And the journey we were really taking was much more than a thirteen hour drive southwest. Over the next few years, God did miracles in our marriage. We discovered a school for our kids that not only provides an amazing education but also an extended family. We found a community through our church that lives out the gospel in real and tangible ways. We developed friendships that are rich and push us to trust Jesus. I've been blessed with incredible jobs in adoption that have left me doing something I love and honored to be a part of something so meaningful.

For our family, I believe God needed us to leave everything familiar and comfortable in order to do what he needed to in our hearts. To learn about the truth of the gospel and what it really means to trust him. To learn about grace and forgiveness. To learn the freedom of transparency and honesty. To see God's redemption and restoration of our family.

So for us, our move to Kansas City has meant more than a new space to raise our family. 

Our move to Kansas City has meant changed hearts, redemption, and miracles. 

I'm sure our adventures aren't over. But for now KC will always be the place where Jesus changed everything for our family.

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