Friday, February 28, 2020

Adoption Story: John and Lindsey

Sometimes adoption is a long road. And sometimes adoption can be more of a whirlwind. That was the case with John and Lindsey who started the adoption process in July and by Christmas had their daughter in their arms. Although it was quick, it wasn't easy. I'm thankful that Lindsey so openly shares the story of their daughter's beginnings and their commitment to God's plan, no matter how it was going to turn out...

As soon and John and I were engaged, we sat down and talked about children and what we wanted our family to look like. From the beginning, God placed adoption heavy in our hearts. Two years into our marriage, we decided we wanted to start our family. After a year of trying we decided proceed with infertility treatments to hopefully start growing our family. Sadly we lost a baby through miscarriage in May of 2019.

A month later John brought up the topic of growing our family through adoption. I was still mourning the loss of our baby, but I spent the next month praying. By July, my prayer became, "God, whatever your plan is for our family, I'm ready." 

That same month, I got in touch with Susan from Christian Adoption Consultants. We started the process mid-July, completed our home study, and our profile was active at the beginning of October; it was a whirlwind. We presented to three situations but none of them panned out. Then, the week of Thanksgiving, we got the call we had been waiting for. We had been matched with an expectant mother who was due in just six weeks! We began preparing a nursery in a hurry.

The end of the expectant moms' pregnancy was going as expected and just a few weeks later, on December 17th, we received an email update about her prenatal appointment. All was well and she was scheduled for another routine appointment the next week. But it was just two hours later that we received the phone call that mama was in labor! The rest of that day was spent packing, traveling, and praying for mama and baby.

When we arrived the next morning, we heard the update that the sweet baby had been born, but the birth mother was unsure of her adoption plans and was rethinking what was best for both of them. Our hearts sunk, but when we heard she still wanted to meet us we were eager to connect with her. We didn't get a chance to meet the baby at that time, but we spent time with her amazing mama who was so sweet and kind. She was apologetic about the adoption plan and we said goodbye, not knowing how the story would end. 

We checked into a hotel and wrestled with the possibility of returning home without a baby. I can remember taking a shower and crying. During my cries to God, I remember praying, "I know we are going to be okay and no matter what happens, this isn’t going to define us as people." We clung to Psalm 3:3, "But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head." 

Our day was filled with fitful sleep and lots of tears and prayers. I finally decided to take a walk on the beach. I can remember walking and hearing the ocean waves and how soothing it was. I sat down overlooking the ocean and prayed again, asking God to be near to us, and the birth mother, and direct the outcome according to what was best. After that prayer, my heart was finally at ease, knowing God would take care of all of us, not matter what.

When I retuned to the room, we received a phone call that the birth mother had decided that adoption was the best decision for her and the baby. We returned to the hospital and had the opportunity to meet our daughter for the first time. Over the next 24 hours, we had the chance to visit more with her birth mother who kept the baby in her room until she was discharged. We're so thankful she was able to take all the time she wanted and made a decision she can be confident in. The moment she placed her daughter into our arms, we were filled with such joy and heartbreak all at once, knowing she was saying goodbye. 

Later that day we introduced our daughter, Cora Lynn, to our family and friends with overwhelming gratitude to God. I'm writing this story as I'm holding our little girl now, with that same gratitude for the journey God brought us on. God has been so good.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Adoption Story: Jon and Kathy

I remember when I first talked to Kathy. It was evident within minutes the huge heart she and Jon have for their family and for children. They were in the midst of finalizing their adoption of three children: making them a family of ten! But Kathy had a sense that their family was not complete. And more than that: she had a deep sense that they needed to prepare their home quickly. It was just weeks after they officially became a family of ten that they became a family of eleven. And I learned Jon and Kathy don't just have huge hearts for children, they are also committed to love and embrace a birth family. Today Kathy shares their whirlwind adoption and God's sovereignty over it all.

It’s been a whirlwind of an adoption year for our family! Our first adoption was thirteen years ago when a sweet little newborn landed in our laps in the process of working with the homeless outreach program in our church. Though Matthew’s adoption journey has been very different from our other four adoptions, it was his adoption that God used to spur us on to welcoming more children into our hearts and home in this last year! Our next three adoptions came after our sweet little sibling group of three spent almost 800 days in the foster care system. But they became our forever children in August of 2019. 

And then, in September, 2019, a month later, we became home study approved and began presenting to expectant mothers. We knew this adoption would be different from the start. Our family was not only going to be on the receiving end of a miracle bundle of joy, we also were waiting with bated breath for an expectant mother to choose us to love and adore her child for a life time. What we learned in this process was that the hand of God was so strong and sovereign. He lined up every single detail and didn’t leave one thing undone. He caused our hearts to begin praying for our baby’s mommy long before we even knew her name. We covered her in prayer as we sensed her intense emotions over her decision to make an adoption plan. And we covered her in prayer the day we knew she was choosing a forever family for her baby. 

When the email came through on a Saturday, the subject line of the mail said “URGENT.” Immediately my heart stirred, "Spirit-bumps" covered both arms, and I felt an overwhelming desire to know more. In this process, we sensed God was going to move fast and ask us to step up to love a child that “urgently” needed a forever home. So with this sense of urgency, I called the caseworker. She gave me some more details and I remember sitting at my computer to write her a letter and pouring my heart out to her. I know I prayed. I know I cried. I know I wondered if this baby could be our son? And on Sunday, the birth mother began the arduous task of going through family profiles. She began this journey at noon, with her baby only 48 hours old, knowing she would be walking out of the hospital that day, empty handed, but a heart filled with love and sacrifice. At 1:30, my cell phone rang with a Florida number. It was the caseworker asking us if we were ready to be parents to child number 9! Shocked, excited, overwhelmed and overcome with emotion, I asked, as humbly as I could, with tears in my eyes, “she picked us!?”  And yes, she picked us! Our crazy big family drew her in! We packed up the family and headed to Florida. 

We joyfully, gratefully, and amazingly held our sweet five pound baby boy the very next day. Max was born 7 weeks premature. We spent the next 6 weeks with him in the NICU; bonding and growing together as a family. One of the most amazing experiences was meeting his birth mother two weeks after he was born. She came back to the hospital and sat with me and Max for almost 5 hours. We talked and shared life stories as if we had known each other for years. God knew. He connected our heart strings together and caused us to love each other even when we first met because He knew we would love a baby boy together for the rest of our lives. 

In this adoption journey, I have come to realize the sacrifice a birth mother makes. I have such a beautiful respect for her and for her choice to put him first and herself second. During my stay in the NICU with Max, a nurse told me she didn’t think his birth mom would follow through with the adoption plan. I asked her why. and she simply said, “because she came to visit him all the time and hold him all the time in the 48 hours she was here.” I smiled at that nurse and I simply said, “How great for him to be loved so deeply by two mommies.” 

To anyone beginning this adoption journey, or anyone still on it, I would encourage you to keep the faith, to pray, trust, and wait…and remember the words Susan told me, “God won’t let you miss your baby.” You will be holding your son or daughter soon; God already has the plan in place. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Adoption Story: Matthew and Heidi

How do you sum up how you became a family? How do you share the amazing ways God moved Heaven and Earth to accomplish His purposes? How do you begin to put words to the years of prayers and paperwork and plans to add a child to your home? 

When Heidi called me around this time last year, she was right in the middle of their story. Wondering what the end would look like and who God would add to their family. Matthew and Heidi were in the midst of rerouting their plans for international adoption and wondering what God had in store. Today Heidi tries to put all of it into words: the twists and turns, heartbreak and tears, prayers and praise. I'm so thankful Heidi shares so candidly about their journey to their daughter and the hope they were able to cling to in the midst of it all.

When I sit down to write about this testimony, my mind wanders to all the “beginnings” of our adoption journey. Do I begin when I was in college and first felt a stirring to adopt? Do I begin 10 years ago when God spoke into my heart again to adopt? How about when we began and privately met a woman looking to adopt and she chose us but changed her mind three weeks before her due date? Perhaps it’s the Ethiopia program we began but then started seeing corruption and chose to bow out? Maybe I should talk about the secondary infertility and my miscarriage? I could share about my many travels to Malawi, Africa and spending months with a little boy I was sure God was going to bring home to us at that time. Or how about the other little boy in Malawi that I went to the orphanage to pick up and social affairs kept saying, “Just take him” while the orphanage director was yelling at me that I was corrupt so I walked out, hoping to return, but was never allowed? Or the situation where a friend of a friend asked for me to discuss adoption with a birth mom who wanted to adopt privately and one block from her house called me and said, “Never mind.” 

I could talk about the beauty of sacrifice and how God told me not to cut my hair until my adoption was complete so I didn’t for seven years. As my hair grew longer and longer, it was a daily reminder of holding onto the Lord and sacrifice in the face of the unknown. And then how He told me the sacrifice was in my heart and the hair was only there if I needed a physical reminder so I cut it off.  

I could talk about how I danced through the darkest times and chose to worship God with every fiber of my being until sweat poured out, and I would lay prostrate before Him, giving of myself and my life.  

I could tell you how important my friends and family have been. How thousands of prayers have been sent to heaven to get us to where we are now.  

I could talk to you about death and letting my owns hopes, dreams, and desires die so my flesh would die and God’s perfect plan could spring forth. I could talk about the beauty of holding so tightly to the Lord that His perfect plan for my life is the only thing I desire, even if it only looks like sacrifice and I never get to cross into the Promised Land.  

I could tell you how my other children were on this journey with us. How difficult it was to hold onto hope. How many times my son would say growing up that he just wished he had a brother and that Chisomo could come home. And I would cry. I would cry out to the Lord, asking Him to hear the cry of my son’s heart.  

I could tell you how difficult it was to see my little son sitting in the back of our minivan in the review mirror. The minivan we bought when he was born because our hearts were so ready to fill it with all the children we wanted. And how I had to get something smaller so it didn’t feel so sad.  

I could share the humor I see in my own unexpected pregnancy at age 17 and how I chose to parent, ten years later had my son, and now ten years later another newborn. And how my body held onto the trauma of the last tens years with 50 pounds of weight and last week the Lord told me, “It’s time to lose the baby weight,” so now I’m on a journey to do just that.  

And I could tell you how God told us to adopt domestically and how all I could see was the older children that needed homes and again I had to lay my plan down and follow the Lord. And how through it all I knew it could end up like it had so many times before. Sacrifice alone. But how we stepped toward it anyway.  

And I could tell you that God showed us Christian Adoption Consultants five years ago, but we never felt the release to move toward domestic adoption until last year.  

I could share how fear and control would try to creep in, but we continually laid down the outcome before the Lord and let Him be in control.  

And I could share how I spent the last seven years doing ministry with people healing their hearts and how the best way to heal your own heart is to pour out to others.  

I could talk to you about each and every situation that came through our email and how we would pray for them. We would pray that if there was any way this pregnant woman could encounter the Lord, find healing and support and parent her child, to bring that into order, Lord.  We would pray for the adoptive families God was aligning. We would continually sacrifice our own hearts for God’s will. Our desire was for His perfect plan to come forward, and we were blessed we got to be a tiny part of it.  

Or I could tell you how the very day an agency received our paperwork they called with a situation that ended up becoming Our Situation; our daughter. And how we were home study approved (this time) in June and our daughter was born October 29th, 2019. I could tell you the joy in having our family together, our daughter from college flying to Florida and our 11-year-old son coming too.  How we marveled at God’s goodness in the face of our sweet Eleanor.  

I could share how my best friends put her nursery together while we were away and how loved I feel every day as I sit and rock her in there.  

And I could tell you how I had to pause in writing this because my sweet Eleanor woke up. And how she smiled and giggled when I looked down at her. I could tell you how I think of her first mom in these moments and I pray for her and hope she’s doing okay.  

But what I really want to tell you is there is HOPE. And not just hope to see your happy ending. But hope that God has the BEST plans for you and your family. He sees you. He knows you. His desire is that you get to be exactly who He created you to be. And the journey is how we get there. And there is a web of connectedness with those around us through this journey. We cannot see how everything is intertwined, but we can trust. So trust in the One Who sees it all. His plans are good. And He knows what’s best for you. 

So lay down your plans and find joy in the sacrifice. 

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