Thursday, September 22, 2016

Adoption Story: Mike and Gayla

Today you have the gift of getting a glimpse into an entire adoption story. From the very beginning of wrestling with fear and doubt, the process of presenting to expectant mamas, getting "the call" you've been waiting for (and almost missing it!) to meeting their baby for the very first time. Today Gayla shares their story and even includes details of their NICU stay, their 4 year old, and wrestling with openness with the birth family. Mike and Gayla started with Christian Adoption Consultants in April, were home study ready in May, and met their son in July, just 24 hours after hearing about him!

Mike and I have have known that we wanted to adopt for a second time since we adopted our oldest son four years ago. We wanted at least two children and when our son came into our lives we thought in a year or two we would start the process again. Two years passed and then two more came and went. There was always a reason not to start the process.

My husband was certain that he wanted to grow our family. I always thought I was certain as well, but there was a point just last year when I was not sure that I was ready or would ever be ready to adopt again. Our journey four years ago was the biggest blessing and I would never change what or how it happened, but it was far from perfect or easy. For our first adoption we were matched right away with a birthmother who was pregnant with twins only to have that adoption fall through. Of course God had a plan because our son was born just two short weeks later. He was what they call a “stork drop” in the adoption world. He had been born, his birth mom made an adoption plan and chose us to be his parents.

We went to the hospital when he was three days old and nine days later took him home. It was the best blessing in the world! It is amazing how your child makes their way into your arms. We wanted more than one child, but as time went on the timing never seemed right. Doubt and uncertainty set in about how to fund the adoption, what it would be like raising two children, and finding the right time in our lives. As Mike and I seriously started discussing adoption again last summer, we decided we would start the process in the fall.

However, when the fall came I was not ready. The doubt was still there. We continued to discuss it because Mike knew that he was ready and he felt that now was the right time. After the holidays I began to pray about adopting again. I was really uneasy and worried a lot about it. Finally, I prayed one night that God would let me know in some way that the time was right, and the next morning I was completely at peace with adopting. That is when I knew our baby was out there and waiting for us. 

Mike and I reached out to the local agency we had used with our first adoption and started the home study process. Mike had a friend at work who had recently adopted with the help of CAC. His friend highly recommended Susan and CAC  and also the agency they had gone through to adopt. We talked with the agency and then set up a meeting with Susan. After meeting with her at a local restaurant over Mike’s lunch break, we knew we wanted to go through this journey with Susan on our side. She was very easy to talk with and she answered all of our questions. 

Fast forward through two months of finishing the paperwork needed to became an active family. At the end of May we were in Florida on vacation when we received an email stating that our home study was complete. Yay! We were excited to start this journey. As I was tucking our four year old in he said to me that maybe our baby would be born in Florida. He continued to say that for the next month and a half. Maybe, just maybe he would be right...

After our home study was complete and we chose agencies with Susan's help, we began seeing birth parent situations. The process was overwhelming at first. Previously when we adopted we simply filled out a sheet on what we were willing to accept and then our profile was just shown. We didn’t see the situations beforehand and didn’t necessarily know when our profile was being shown. This time we were being shown situations in advance and given the choice of if we wanted to present. The summaries were pretty detailed and provided a complete picture of what was going on in the birthparents lives. We saw situation after situation and nothing seemed like a good fit. We did not present our profile to a single situation during that first month.

We began to question if this was the right way for us to proceed but the next situation Susan sent up we decided to go ahead and show our profile. Later we discovered the expectant mother had chosen another family. I was not surprised, but I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed. The feeling of being rejected is a hard pill to swallow. Even though I know that is not the case and that baby was not our baby, I had to remind myself God had a plan and I just had to keep my faith.

Well God did have a plan! Later that morning after we had received the email saying that we had not been chosen, another situation came from Susan. As I read through the information, I knew that we had to present. My husband just happened to be home that morning so we were able to decide together after talking through it that we wanted to present. He went off to work, I got our four year old settled, contacted Susan and the agency letting them know we wanted to present our profile and set off to type a letter to an expectant mother who could possibly be in labor and delivering a baby very soon. As I sat down to write the letter, I was nervous and felt that I needed these words on this piece of paper to convey to her how much we wanted this. In addition to wanting to parent this little baby boy I also wanted to know her and have a relationship with her. I had to step away from the letter more than once and I even sent Susan an email asking for her to pray that I find the right words. I wrote the letter from my heart, sent it to my husband and Susan to review, and then sent it to the agency. I was anxious to hear something because they were going to present profiles to her either that afternoon or in the morning. Luckily, we had a busy evening planned with my husband’s family to celebrate mine and my niece’s birthdays. We had a great evening and I went to bed not even thinking about the situation we had presented to. Actually, I fell asleep rather quickly and slept soundly which is not ordinary for me.

At 6am my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID and it said it was a call from Florida. We live in Missouri so actual calls from Florida are not normal for us. At first I thought about not answering thinking it was one of the many “you have won a free vacation” calls I have received from a Florida number. Then something finally clicked (or I actually woke up!) and it registered it was a call from Florida where the agency that presented our profile was located. I answered the phone nervously and was greeted by an amazingly pleasant voice telling us that the birth mom had chosen us and we have a baby boy! He was born last night. What??? Did all of this just happen within a span of less than 24 hours!? The next several hours are a little bit of a blur. We rushed to start packing, gathering documents, booking travel arrangements, finding someone to watch our four year old, and calling our family and close friends. We were on a plane by 2:45pm and landed in Florida at 6 pm. We had an hour drive from the airport to get to the hospital and were greeted with a warm smile and hug from a lovely social worker from the agency. She took us back to where our son was. It was love at first sight when we saw him; he was perfect. We named him Mason.

The next three weeks were hectic with a NICU stay. Mason was moved to another hospital an hour away and there was a lot of uncertainty about how long we would be staying. We were unsure how long the NICU stay would be and then how long ICPC would take after Mason was discharged. Our older son, Blake, was at home with his grandparents and after a few days Mike flew back home to bring him to Florida for a long weekend visit. He was so excited to meet his baby brother. The NICU was great about letting him visit Mason. My sister was able to join us in Florida and keep Blake occupied while Mike and I were with Mason. After the long weekend Mike and Blake flew back home for the week and my sister left. It was a long week of being by myself in an unfamiliar area. Although the nurses and staff at the hospital were amazing, it was difficult being there without my family and friends for support. I made it through the week and Mike finished up the things he needed to do at work. Mike and Blake flew back to Florida and stayed the remainder of the time. We had a small set back that kept Mason in the hospital a few days longer than expected, however, while we were there we got word from the agency that we were free to go home after Mason’s discharge. Both states had expedited and cleared our paperwork. Such great news!

A few days later Mason was discharged. Even though we could leave that day we had agreed to meet Mason’s birth mom for dinner sometime after his discharge. We did not get to meet her at the hospital after Mason’s birth since she had been discharged before we got there. We knew that would be a possibility and that she didn’t seem to want much contact. After Mason was born the social worker from the agency called me to say that she wanted  to have a more open adoption and wanted quite a bit of contact. With everything going on at the time Mike and I were a bit overwhelmed by the amount of contact she was requesting, especially since we don't share this relationship with our older son’s birth mom. We of course wanted a relationship with her and wanted that for Mason as well. We knew we wanted her in our lives, but going from very little contact to the amount she was wanting was extremely overwhelming. However, after talking with Susan and looking at it from Mason’s birth mom’s perspective, we were able to find a plan we were both comfortable with. We decided that we would meet for dinner on Friday evening. Unfortunately, there was no word from her and we did not get to meet. We were so disappointed. Here we were worried a few days ago that we would have too much contact and now we were worried we would have little to none. We hope that will change and that as time passes and she begins to heal we will hear from her. In the meantime we will continue to reach out as we had planned and hope and pray that she will reach out on her end as well.

It's now been several months since we received our call that we were parents to a precious baby boy. It has been an adjustment for our sweet family of four, especially our four year old. But it has been an amazing journey. I still cannot believe how this all happened. How one day I was disappointed we had not been chosen to the next where we were hopping on a plane to be with our son.

Adoption is a hard and stressful process. Many people do not realize or understand how hard it is emotionally and financially. However, when your baby is out there, everything will fall into place like it is supposed to. God has a plan and he will help you along the way.

With both of my boys God did not always lead us down the easiest path, but he led us down the right one. Never give up hope and keep your faith in God. He has a plan even if you don’t understand it right now. He works in amazing ways!

Welcome to the world, Mason Harris.

Photo credit Lesley Platz Photography.

Monday, September 19, 2016

When Church is Hard

Church can be a hard space. I don't know anyone who's been in the church for more than six weeks who hasn't felt the tension of real people gathering together with all their junk.

I went to our family (member's) meeting this weekend and was struck with such a sense of home. But think less comfortable and cozy and more where you feel a shared vision and heart. Which I'm learning is more important than people you can feel warm fuzzies with. I'm learning I'd much rather feel safe than good if that makes sense.

If I'm honest this building has been a tremendous space of hurt for me in the last year. Not because I haven't had a seat at the family table. But more because I've had a harder time figuring out where to sit. When you're the family that needs the church to be the hospital for sinners rather than a museum for saints, it's easy to feel more brokenness than belonging. Coming to church feeling like you have a sort of a scarlet letter on your chest feels much different than coming to church with your stuff together. (Although coming to church feeling like you have your stuff together probably means you have some other issues to deal with...I've been in that space too.)

But that's exactly why this room felt like home this weekend. I was with people who have walked with our family through all of our junk. Sometimes beautifully. Sometimes failing. But always loving us; trying their best to extend God's grace. 

It's been messy. And hurtful. And hard. And that feels like family too. 

I'm figuring out it's safer to be in a space where you're known (scars and all) than somewhere you feel good and happy and put together. Because feeling uncomfortable and vulnerable is always better than fake: hiding who you really are. This is the space where true change can happen. Where people who know you can call out your blind spots and point you to Jesus. Where people who have a history with you can help you remember God's faithfulness to your family, because they've seen it themselves. Where people can hurt you (and you can hurt them) because our ultimate hope isn't in our relationships with each other, but in Jesus. And because of that there's forgiveness and reconciliation and repentance and true heart change.

It's freeing, really. To lock arms with your tribe and acknowledge that you're family and you're all in it for the long haul together.

So I'll keep finding my space at the family table. And help others find their space too. And as we learn to bring all of our junk and heap it together right there, maybe we can keep reminding ourselves that church is the perfect place to feel at home in the midst of brokenness.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

In Her Own Words: An Adoptee Shares Her Story

So often we hear stories of adoptive families; the amazing way God brought their family together, their journey of adoption, and what a blessing their child is in their home. Sometimes we're blessed to hear from brave birth families; how and why they chose adoption for their child and the powerful story of incredible love.

But we don't hear enough from adoptees themselves. In addition to the important stories from the viewpoint of adoptive families and birth families, I believe the adoptees' voice is especially important. To hear their personal experience of adoption, how their families helped them navigate their childhood and identity, and how their relationship (or lack of) with their birth family impacts them - these are the stories we are in desperate need for in the adoption community.

Today I'm thrilled to introduce Taylor, an adoptee AND a hopeful adoptive mom through Christian Adoption Consultants. Taylor was kind enough to share her story here including the details of her adoption, the open relationship she shares with her birth family, and how her experience is impacting her plans for adoption. You can read our interview below and hear her passion for adoption...

Let's start with sharing a bit about yourself!  

I was adopted at birth, and now we are adopting a child of our own! There isn’t a single aspect of the story of my adoption that doesn’t ring Jesus, and I am forever blessed by the process itself. My biological mother was very young and had already had a daughter two years before with a different man. My biological father was enlisted in the military and was being deployed before I was due to be born and they were both very much on the same page about wanting to make an adoption plan. My mom and dad had been struggling with fertility for seven years and after several miscarriages and being told that they would have to selectively abort if IVF resulted in multiples (due to a health concern) she had told her doctor that she was going to start looking into adoption. Less than a week later a nurse from her doctors office called saying that they had a young woman in the clinic who was interested in making an adoption plan for her child and that is how my biological and adoptive parents met! My biological and adoptive mother grew very close, and they even housed her towards the end of her pregnancy. My mother was able to be there for my birth. Two days later and I was theirs to take home and within six months the adoption was finalized. The adoption was very open and my biological mother visited a handful of times before my parents had to move away, which we know took a toll on my biological mothers heart. However, through the years I have remained very close with both of my biological parents as they attended all of my life’s big milestones together and now I have the joy of having them as a part of my own children lives!

How did your family share your adoption story with you growing up?  Did you always know you had been adopted?

I don’t ever remember “finding out” that I was adopted as it was simply just something that I have known for as long as I can remember. My parents had age appropriate books explaining adoption and being in an open adoption helped me to understand the nature of adoption from a very young age. Being adopted, I never felt different than anyone else, although my peers asked plenty of questions out of curiosity and a bit of confusion. I truly believe that by tackling the concept of adoption from the very beginning alongside having the openness we had within our adoption I was able to grasp my past much easier. It simply was just a part of my story like anyone else’s. 

What did your family do growing up that helped you create a solid sense of identity; both within your family and as a young woman?

Something that I can’t ever really thank my biological and adoptive parents enough for was the appropriateness of our relationships within the course of my life. My biological parents knew that they were not raising me and did an amazing job respecting boundaries. If I were to ever share a story with my biological parents about a frustrating situation with my parents themselves, my biological parents never crossed my parents and would remind me that “they loved me so much and they were doing the right thing as my parents.” Likewise, my adoptive parents never “kept me” from my biological family. This was appreciated because growing up adopted, you inevitably feel a little “lost” (for lack of better word). I know that I share traits that remind everyone of my biological mother. I also know that many of my personality traits I get from my adoptive mother as well. Being that I am not biologically my parents child, some things that I did or said they didn’t quite understand. It was so important to me to have that open level of communication to better understand my actions or emotions when my adoptive family couldn’t. I know that I had an attitude and a sass that rang true to my biological mother. In certain situations, she was the best to help me understand how to better myself through that moment which was something that I know my biological parents greatly appreciated. Being adopted, you are blended: you are a beautiful mix of where you came from and where you now call home. Helping your little one to better identify his or herself though communication with their birth family is invaluable. 

Did you ever struggle with things like identity, feeling rejected, or wishing your birth family had decided to parent rather than make an adoption plan for you?

I can’t lie here, yes, I absolutely had my moments. There were tough moments growing up (especially as a teenage girl) where I questioned gods plan for myself and wondered what life would be like if I wasn’t adopted. Now any teenage girl will go through her own struggles with her family, but being adopted added a new thought process to my struggle. Thankfully any time I envisioned having not been adopted, those thoughts ended very quickly. I knew without a doubt that I was where I belonged and that had I not been adopted I would not have been in the amazing situation I was currently in, no matter how difficult the situation I knew that I would rather be here than anywhere else. 

Surprisingly, these struggles within my family about adoption were few and far between. The thing that I would have to say that I struggled with most was my peers. I was in a situation where unless someone had told you that I was adopted, you would have never known. I looked eerily similar to my parents and so did my brother who was also adopted but not from my biological parents. Once my peers found out, they were curious, and a good majority of the time I was happy to answer their questions because I recognized that the idea was foreign to them. However, other times the questions were intrusive or worded in ways that made me uncomfortable or upset, and this was he hardest. I vividly remember my third grade teacher hearing a friend of mine ask me a few questions about adoption and stopping the class and having me stand in front of everyone explaining my adoption and airing it to the world. While she may have meant well, as she had put it she was “only trying to avoid any further questions”, I have never felt so different in my life. Questions like “Do you know your real parents?” “Is he your real brother?” “Did your family pay for you?” “Did your adoptive parents not want you?” hit me like a ton of bricks. When I would say that my adoptive parents were very much my real parents and my brother was in fact my real brother, I would again be asked “No, you don’t understand what I am saying, they aren't rreeeaalllyyy your parents.” And in turn, I struggled for a long time feeling like a real daughter. My family was always there to help me understand that these kids just didn’t know how to ask those questions, that they meant well and I was kind for helping them to understand; I quickly realized that the more uncomfortable questions I answered, the less likely it was for them to make another adopted child feel uncomfortable again, because they would better understand. 

What kind of relationship did you share with your birth family growing up?  How has that changed or grown now as an adult?

As I shared before, I was in an open adoption from the very beginning! My biological mother started by visiting every once in a while, she always called on birthdays and christmas and my parents sent her many photos. This continued until I was a few years old and then communication started to slowly dissipate and became much more sparse. Thankfully we were able to go and visit her when I was about 7 years old and she had started creating her own family and we were able to meet my biological half sisters and her new husband and I truly felt like communication would get better from then on, and it get even more sparse. I was a little hurt by the lack of response on her end and was too young to understand that she was busy creating a life for herself that she had always dreamed of, in my mind of course I felt that she loved this life of hers more than me. However time went on, and those thought faded and communication started back up when I was about 13 years old. At this point in time I had never met my biological father he had been deployed before I was born and he had not told his family about my existence and I had never so much as seen a photo of him. I approached my parents letting them know my desires to meet him, and as always they graciously understood. There was never any angst or frustration, never any jealously and they always respected my curiosity knowing that I would never dream of “replacing them”. Sure enough we were set to travel to visit grandparents in Arizona in a few weeks and my biological mother told us that the last she knew, my biological father was a police officer in Arizona and we called him up. He was so incredibly excited to hear from us and we met him the night we flew in and it was as if I had known him my entire life, we were all shocked at how much him and I resembled each others personalities. 

My biological parents attended my big days, my 16th birthday, my graduation, my wedding, and now I send them photos of my children and they get the opportunity to love on them as well. It comes full circle at this stage in life, as I look into the eyes of my own children and recognize that they wouldn’t be here had it not been for both my biological and adoptive parents. Now as we are starting our journey to adopting a child of our own, the process is so different looking at it from another perspective, but without this beautiful gift I wouldn’t have the pleasure of pursuing this process at all.

Is there anything you wish had been different in terms of your adoption?

Truly, I had it very easy. I have amazing parents who helped to foster the relationship that I had with my biological family, they never once held me back or pursued feelings of jealousy. They knew how much I loved them and that they could never be replaced. And on the flip side, I have amazing biological parents who always respected the boundaries of the adoption and stood behind any decisions that my parents made for me. They were my parents biggest advocates and all around the relationship was so healthy. Watching my brothers' adoption story unfold has been interesting and rewarding in itself, as it is much different than my own. It's interesting to note he feels his situation is equally as beautiful for him - even with much less biological family involvement.

What has been the hardest part of your experience as an adoptee?

The most difficult part of my life as an adoptee is helping those around me see past the concept. Sometimes people just can’t quite wrap their minds around the idea and inevitably your adopted child will meet people who won’t understand, and often times won’t let it go. The questions keep coming, the insults may arise, and the hurt sets in. Thankfully these people were few and far between, whereas most people are shocked to find out and then quickly move on to other more important things about your life that deserve more attention. 

What has been the best part of your experience as an adoptee?

The best part? My 6th grade graduation, the first time I rode a horse, my first official boyfriend and then my first official heart break, dancing my way through high school and being a part of a team, planning prom and even being stood up, leaving everything I knew and attending college in a foreign state, losing friends and gaining new ones, meeting my husband, marrying him, gaining another family and then giving birth to my two beautiful children. The very best part is all of that; it’s that I had the chance to live any of that at all. Being adopted gives you a whole new sense of beauty to life, because any of us who are adopted know that there was a likelihood that we wouldn’t have gotten to experience life as you know it at all. Your adopted child will see a beauty to the world that is not immediately visible to the unaided eye; there is a sense of gratitude to even the harshest of life’s many moments. Your adopted child will never truly be able to express to you just how much they love you because their love for you is deeper than any words will ever be able to describe. The best part about being adopted is life, and the opportunity to live it.

What would you want a woman contemplating making an adoption plan for her child to know?

Before anything else, I want to thank her. I want to tell her that she is strong, she is courageous, and she is loved. Because of a gracious woman, I am able to sit here as I type this, stare into my daughters' eyes, and experience a love much deeper than anything I could’ve ever imagined. Because of love I have life. What she is doing is far more than a gift; it is directly the work of the Lord and he is watching over her. Adoption is not a “scapegoat,” it is not a way out, and it is also not easy. It is okay to be scared, it is okay to be sad, and it is okay to hurt. Why does a birthmother hurt? Because the love she has for this unborn child exceeds anything she has ever known, and the ability to set aside all else and come to the realization that she is not what is best for this baby takes an unprecedented about of bravery. Birthmother, you are a gift. This child, this child’s parents, and anyone who is blessed by this child’s life will never find words angelic enough to express their love and admiration for you. Thank you birthmother, for giving the gift of the first day of kindergarten, the first t-ball game, the first (intimidating) day of high school, the first time being able to drive with a license, the throwing of the caps on graduation day, the first kiss, the look she gets from her husband on her wedding day, and for the first time she hears her own child cry. You are cherished.

What would you want a couple contemplating adoption to know?

The process is long and comes with stress and complication. But let me promise you this: God’s timing is always right. What you are doing is wroth all of what you are going through. Something that I always struggle with is to take a firm grasp of the costs of adoption, then I realize that I know we will be taken care of, we have a Lord who works miracles, and this baby is nothing short of a miracle. This child will teach you things that you never knew about yourself; whether this child is your very first after years of struggling with fertility or your fourth or fifth whom you yearn to come and complete your family. This process is worth it; worth waiting for, praying for, crying for, saving for, working for, and rejoicing over. And in case no one else says it, coming from an adopted child herself, thank you. 

Now you're on the journey to adopt yourself. Why are you choosing to build your family through adoption?

Adoption wasn’t ever something that I had debated about in my head. I guess having grown up in a family entirely created by adoption I saw what a beautiful family adoption could create and I longed for a family much the same. When I met my husband, I shared my story of adoption on our third date and he shared that his father was also adopted; we both possessed the same desire in the adoption process! The idea of adoption was always somewhere on the forefront of our minds, whether or not fertility/money/timing was an issue. We have been blessed with two biological children and more recently we both felt the pull of the Lord on our hearts in this direction, despite many other things we have going on in our lives. One evening while sipping on coffee, we both shared that we had felt God telling us that it was time, but we were nervous as our youngest is still so young. Since taking a leap of faith and following the Lord's leading, everything has found a way to work itself out perfectly. We know that we are being led on the right path for our family. I have spent my entire life praying and dreaming about this process; that I would someday be blessed with a child of my own from a woman beautiful enough to bless this child with the gift of life. The full circle process of adoption is something that is simply much more than just a dream for our family, and we are so excited to watch this dream become a reality!

How will your adoption impact how you parent the child you plan to adopt?

We wanted to be sure to be open to whatever adoption plans that our prospective biological mother has in store for her child; be it closed or open. However, I truly believe in the beauty and success of an open adoption and would love to experience the same combined effort in our own adoption. I hope that having been adopted, facing the uncomfortable questions, feeling the sometimes loneliness and confusion that coincides with adoption, I will be able to address these issues in our child. But I also know that every child is entirely different. Adoption affected me in a different way that it affected my brother, as I'm sure it will our child as well. Some will wish to know much more about their biological family whereas some won’t desire to know a whole lot. I think the most important thing on both the biological and adoptive family's ends is to allow the child the freedom to facilitate what they are comfortable with. I hope that I am able to set aside my own personal preferences that I had in my adoption to help cater to the individual needs of my child during the course of their life. I imagine my parenting journey won’t truly look much different than any other adoptive parents, while some may consider this a leg up every child is different and we all take things one day at a time.

I pray that we can parent our children in the way that God see’s fit, as we are blessed to be living out the gospel in our very own living room.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Adoption Story: Jeff and Christy

I remember the day Christy called me. They had been on a long and hard journey to adopt internationally. And like so many other families, were heartbroken when adopting from Ethiopia became an impossibility. She struggled, holding back tears, to tell me that they still felt strongly that God had called them to adoption and had heard about Christian Adoption Consultants and asked if we could help. I smiled on the other end, took a deep breath, and told her we would be honored to walk with them. And that's where their story took a new turn.

Today Christy wrote out their story while holding her daughter in one arm (because new mamas are multitaskers). It started almost a decade ago in hopes that the missing piece to their family was on another continent waiting for them. It turns out, she was much closer than they had dreamed...

Jeff and I have always wanted a large family, but like many of you reading this, wanted to build our family through adoption. We have three biological children, who we love and adore; and after our third, we began actively searching out pathways to adoption. We felt like building our family through adoption was the final piece to our family puzzle.

In 2007 we decided to pursue adopting from Ethiopia. I was an active stay at home mama at the time and quit just about every activity I could to focus on the extensive paperwork. There is this old Chinese tale about a red thread that connects you to your children; it is especially meaningful when thinking about our adoption and what kept us going each day. That and Jesus. During our wait we fell in love with Ethiopia. We learned all we could about the country; we became experts on Ethiopian folktales and read up on history and current events, bought travel books, and read works by Ethiopians. We learned to cook and enjoy Ethiopian injera and wat and visited Ethiopian restaurants in every town we came to during our family travels. Our youngest even carried around a puzzle piece of Ethiopia out of a continent map of Africa for three years. 

Once our dossier was submitted, everything in our adoption world slowed down. At first it slowed down, then stopped, then started again. Our kids were growing up and our place on the wait list for Ethiopia had gone from number 90 to number 4. What began as a possible year wait had stretched into five long years.  In the process we switched agencies three times, updated our home study a half a dozen times, and had fingerprints done over 20 times! This was probably one of our most clear moments as Christ-followers to start to understand what it means to NOT be in charge but to still be faithful in our endeavors. But in the end we watched helplessly as unrest in the system caused Ethiopia to stop signing all adoption paperwork despite the country's desperate need for families

Our agency moved out and closed their international Ethiopian adoption program. We were totally devastated. It's easy to think you have to have a physical child to mourn the loss of a child. But we discovered otherwise. We had already formed a bond, already loved our future child, already committed to their birth story and celebration of culture. We knew the devastating facts about children that grow up in orphanages and knowing we weren’t part of the solution was heart wrenching. It was so hard moving on and so we took a break.  

After a few months we decided that we were still committed to adoption.  It had never really mattered where, so we changed course to a domestic adoption. We updated our home study (again!) and waited. We were hopeful but discovered after a year and a half, our profile had only been shown one time to an expectant mother. In my frustration, I was given the information for Christian Adoption Consultants by our agency. I called Susan and poured out our story. Looking back, I’m pretty sure I sounded like a lunatic since I told a disjointed story about all we had been through up to that point.  I’m not sure in my desperate attempt to tell her what we had been through that I was even speaking in complete sentences.   

But Susan was great. In just a few phone calls and emails, we received more information and advice about adoption than we had in the previous six and a half years. We felt really great; and for the first time in a long time, we felt that small mustard seed of faith begin to grow. There were a few complications along the way, but we were matched after just six months with CAC. Our family was thrilled. We had decided not to tell anyone outside of our children and parents, but then I forgot and told everyone. I just couldn’t help it; so many people knew about our adoption journey and I had to share our happiness with them all! A few weeks later, we were told that our expectant mama had decided to parent. As hard as that was to go through, we didn’t lose faith. We had been through so much and we knew everything was out of our hands and in the hands of our faithful God. 

I realize this story is sort of depressing and maybe you're thinking we should just have given up at this point. But our story changed just THREE HOURS LATER when we got another call. A baby had been born in the same city that we were planning on traveling to and birth mom was not in a position to parent. Were we interested? You bet. It was a complete whirlwind, but just three days later we were on a plane to meet our new daughter. 

There were again, several obstacles that we had to overcome and they tested our resolve and spirit. But there was NO WAY we were going to let anything stand in our way and we kept marching forward.  By the time our sweet daughter was five days old, we had her in our arms, kissed her sweet cheeks, and became parents for the fourth time. We loved her immediately and without reservation the moment we saw her. We are totally smitten and our older three children adore her.

Our puzzle is finally complete.  

And the best part? Our story would not have been nearly so meaningful if we hadn’t had to endure this long wait.  Our story is brighter because of the dark and sweeter because of the bitter. We have experienced a complete miracle, but would we have recognized it without the pain? We hope our story gives you strength if you are on this journey and we know that you too, will be able to find the joy at the end of your red thread. 

And just about this time next year, I think we will celebrate our sweet baby’s birthday at our favorite Ethiopian restaurant...

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Adoption Story: Derek and Stephenie

The typical time frame for an adoption is anywhere from 1-3 years on average. With Christian Adoption Consultants, it's 6-10 months after a family is home study ready. But I love how God throws out "typical" and "average" and does things in his perfect timing, even when it doesn't make sense. God takes the unknown and questions and provides answers that finally make sense. God can even exchange years of hurt and brokenness and turns it into celebration and healing. And sometimes, He does it in what seems to be record time. For Derek and Stephenie, this has been their story. Their sons' story. And ultimately, God's story. Read on as Stephenie shares how their son came to be theirs in a matter of days...

As the heavens are higher than the earth, 
so are my ways higher than your ways 
and my thoughts than your thoughts.  
Isaiah 55:9

The beginning of our story...
When we married, we became a blended family raising two biological children and a stepson from my husband’s previous marriage. However, we also wanted to have a child, born of the two of us, to raise and love and grow our existing family. We had discussed adoption and foster care, even from day one, as something that we wanted to pursue in the future. With the challenges and time commitment that often come with solidifying a blended family, these plans got put on the back burner. In addition, two years into our marriage, I was diagnosed with infertility. Over the next three and a half years, growing our family was not something we discussed. While the hope was still there, there was almost a surrender of the dream at the same time.  

Winter 2015
But last year, we both felt the Lord very strongly leading us towards growing our family and doing so through adoption. Several times we talked about it seriously, but didn’t act. Last winder, it became something that we could no longer NOT think about. The promptings of the Holy Spirit were too strong and frequent to neglect. I began doing research on adoption agencies, adoption costs, and the entire process. Our youth pastors had recently adopted and presented their story to the congregation as part of a sermon.  My husband and I left church that Sunday knowing without a doubt, this was the final confirmation we needed and that we had to finally act and get started on our adoption journey! 

April 15th, 2016
We signed with Christian Adoption Consultants and found a local agency to begin our home study process. The next three months were consumed with prayer, educating ourselves, gathering paperwork and clearances, meeting with social workers and preparing adoption agency applications and paperwork. I began gathering items to prepare a nursery and cleaned out and painted the room we were using as an “office” at the time. 

I had no idea what God had in store for us in terms of a wait, but kept hearing him say “BE READY.” Therefore, I did my best to be obedient to that word, despite others telling me to “slow down,” “don’t you think you’re doing too much” and “maybe you should wait until you’re at least matched.” I didn’t listen and pressed on!

July 28, 2016
We received our home study, physically in hand. We made a social media announcement that we were now in the matching phase and our consultant Susan began sending us situations of which we thoughtfully, prayerfully, and seriously contemplated. The social media announcement prompted the mother of a student I had taught in first grade three years ago to privately contact me that as a labor and delivery nurse at a local hospital, she would keep me in mind in case a situation came into the hospital. I politely thanked her but didn’t give it much thought. I had made all of these plans and had researched the possibility of travel plans and interstate compacts and everything potentially ahead. But God had other plans that were definitely not ours!  

August 3, 2016
ONE WEEK LATER I woke up to a message from this dear, sweet labor and delivery nurse that overnight she had met a couple and felt she had something for us. I sat in shock looking at my phone, wondering what in the world this meant and what to do! I got some basic information and immediately contacted Susan to get counsel.  She gave valuable advice and we moved forward. That same day I called the expectant mother. We had a brief conversation to make dinner plans for the following Friday night. Her supposed due date was August 14th, and since it was August 3rd, no one wanted to waste any time! 

August 5, 2016
On Friday the expectant mother contacted me mid-morning stating that she was not feeling well, having some back pain and wanted to change our meeting to Saturday for lunch. We now had a new plan!  

August 6, 2016
On Saturday I woke up to several missed calls, two voice mails and multiple texts from the birth family. The back pain turned out to be contractions and the birth mother had been in labor all night and was about to give birth. The messages were asking us to come up to the hospital.  Some of my thoughts: we haven’t even met yet…how do you know that you want us to parent your child…how do we know that we are a match…I just found out about this family and child two days ago…I have no idea what to do…  ADRENALINE!!!! I woke my husband and was ready to travel to the hospital. He brought some sanity, steadiness (as he always does) and a “snap out of it” sort of wake up call that we needed to pray, seek wise counsel, and take our time. So we did. We got ready and on the way to breakfast we got a text from the birth family stating, “It’s a BOY!” I inquired as to everyone’s health and well-being and left it open for them to let us know if and when they wanted us to come up to the hospital.  

This was a long few hours. At 12:00 noon that day, my husband and I looked at each other and said “it is only noon?!?” We felt like we had lived several days in one! We kept ourselves busy and low and behold, the birth mother text saying “It’s all over, we spent time with him and he is in the nursery. You can come up here.” We jumped in the car and took one of the longest car rides of my life on the way to the hospital to meet a birth family we had only spoken with and possibly our son that was supposed to be born two weeks later! We walked into the hospital room and shared our story with them and likewise, they shared theirswith us. The connections and similarities were nothing short of miraculous! This was our son's birth family and they assured us that we were everything they had hoped for to raise the child they gave life and birth to (which we still had not met or seen).

August 7, 2016
The following Sunday morning, the birth mother texted asking that we come up to the hospital. They were going to have the baby brought into her room and that way would be able to see him and meet, what just a few hours later, would be our son!  We spent quite some time that morning with our son's birth family and with this precious baby boy. What a surreal and emotional experience this was. When asked by the birth mother if we had considered names, we had decided on a middle name, which was my husband’s middle name, but not a first name. We asked, if it was OK with them, could we name him “Barrett” which had deep meaning to his birth mother. She was thrilled and stated that her father would be happy with that as well.  

On Sunday evening around 5:30pm Barrett Creighton became our child! He was discharged to us on the next day. We share an open adoption with his birth family and we text almost daily with pictures and updates.

So to recap…God and God alone orchestrated the path, steps, divine appointments and timing that brought us to our son. Nothing that we had done up until that point got us to where we were to receive this miraculous blessing (other than initiating a home study and the invaluable advice and education gained through CAC and Susan). Our adoption agency applications were in the mail while all of this was taking place!  

Remember when I told you that I heard the Lord say “BE READY”?
  • Home study in hand July 28th 
  • Found out about our birth mother August 3rd
  • Planned to meet her August 5th
  • Our son was born August 6th 
  • He was discharged from the hospital to us on August 8th, becoming a part of our lives and our family forever!

Never underestimate the connections and relationships you have in life. The mother of a former student found our birth family, the parents of two other students were able to advise us on what to do with an identified adoption, and the mother of another former student is the nurse at our pediatrician’s office! Always be willing and open to what the Lord would want to do in your life and the path He wants you to take to get there. If I had been set on sticking with the plans that I had made, we would have missed out on our son! Who would have ever thought or been able to plan this miraculous, divinely orchestrated story? We are so in awe of God and His ways and thoughts that are so much higher than ours. We are so thankful and grateful for His love, grace and faithfulness towards us. Barrett is perfect for our family and we believe that we are prefect for him, upon the Lord’s placement of him in our lives. We daily seek to be the best possible stewards of this incredible GIFT we have received!  

Photo Credit Brat's Photography.

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