It’s been six months since Jayden came to live with us and two months since he legally became part of our family. I have been asked to share this story, but I’ve been hesitant because:
- Much of what I could share is actually Jayden’s story, or his birth parents’ or foster parents’ stories, and these aren’t mine to share;
- I am scared that I will say the wrong thing — that I’ll overshare or offend or say something that I will have to apologize to Jayden for one day; and
- It would be easy (and is tempting) to share this story in a way that puts Ryan and I at the center and/or portrays us as the heroes, which we are definitely not.
I’m still nervous about all of these things, and I know that I will mess up on all of them in some way. Despite that, I feel like it’s time to write about how Jayden came to be our son. I hope that this story makes much of God’s power and love, and that I am able to play a small part in normalizing foster care adoption.
On May 29, we had been on our adoption journey for 18 months and had been “active” (able to be matched any day!) for 9 months. Ryan was out of town on a work trip when I refreshed my email inbox before heading to bed. My heart skipped a beat, as it always did, when I saw a message from our adoption caseworker. The email began:
“We have an unusual opportunity that has come up and we are seeing if you may be interested in getting some additional information on this child and pursuing adoption. I recognize this may be far outside of your comfort zone; however, I wanted to ask just in case you may be interested.”
I immediately called Ryan, who was in an airport waiting to board his flight home and hadn’t seen the email, and I read him the rest of the message. It told of a 13-month old boy who was in foster care and whose biological parents’ rights had recently been terminated. Our casework was correct when she stated that it was far outside of our comfort zone. We were in the domestic infant adoption program at our agency, meaning that we were only supposed to be matched with newborns or expectant mothers. Jayden also had significant permanent health issues that caused his doctors to be unsure of his future. I can’t help but smile as I remember saying to Ryan, “I assume we’re going to say ‘no,’ I just wanted to make sure we touched base before I responded.”
“Yeah — wait, shoot, the plane is taking off.”
“Do you want me to let them know that we aren’t the right family for this child?”
“I can barely hear you… Just hold off, pray about this for the next couple of hours, and we’ll talk when I land. Gotta go. I love you.” And his phone cut off.
So we did. Though not together or even able to communicate with one another, Ryan and I individually hit our knees (me literally, him metaphorically), and asked God the same question that I had asked Ryan: “We’re not the right family for this child…. right?” Who knows what would have happened if Ryan hadn’t been on a plane and we had been able to respond to our caseworker with our immediate reactions. Instead, God gave us the grace of a few uninterrupted hours in which He was the only place we could turn. As I knelt there, repeatedly informing the Creator of the universe that this had not been my plan, I remembered words written by Heather Aves in her book The Lucky Few:
“Today I’m aware of all the times I have said no to opportunities God has placed before me because I think I’m not rich enough, equipped enough, talented enough, strong enough, or crazy enough to say yes. All the times I have mistaken good things for bad. All the times I have allowed the opinions of an ignorant majority to guide my thinking instead of looking to Jesus and his heart in the matter. I wonder how many times we, his children, choose a comfortable no over a terrifying yes – the kind of yes that will lead us to the only place we should ever long to be: in the arms of Jesus.”
When Ryan walked through the door late that evening, I was still awake and waiting for him. I’ll never forget the way we looked at each other and knew that we had both experienced the same comforting presence of Jesus since we had last spoken.
I was primarily conflicted because Ryan and I had made the decision almost a year beforehand that our “hard no” would be any situation that required one of us to not work full-time. This child’s health — a physical disability affecting all four limbs, severely premature birth, brain damage with unknown future cognitive effects — seemed like something that would require full-time parental care. Surely it could not be in his best interest to be in our family. Finally we made the decision to stop assuming and get professional input.
Over the next week, we went back and forth with our caseworker, Jayden’s foster care worker, and our pediatrician asking more specific questions about his diagnoses and their implications, his biological parents and the termination of their parental rights, and logistics about his needed level of care. With each email sent or phone number dialed, I assumed that this correspondence would be the one that closed the door. In reality, each conversation made two things more and more clear. First, God has a plan for this child. The phrase we heard over and over again from all the medical and foster professionals we spoke with was “miracle baby.” During his three-month stay in the NICU following his traumatic birth, the doctors had given up hope and made plans to change the trajectory of their care to one that ended in the NICU. That morning, Jayden reached a goal that caused them to hesitate and give him a bit more time. And then a bit more. And then a bit more. Secondly, there wasn’t a reason to say ‘no’ that sat right with us. The doctors had informed us that they predicted that we would both be able to work. Each time we started to talk ourselves into the ‘no,’ it didn’t feel right.
After days of information gathering, we finally asked our agency for a picture. I received the following photo in a text, and we knew there was no turning back. (Look at that face!!!)
On June 6, we met Jayden at our adoption agency, along with two agency caseworkers, Jayden’s foster mom, his CPS case worker, and his court-appointed advocate. I was so nervous as the whole room of people watched me interact with him for the first time. I felt like after this one hour of time, we would be deemed “an appropriate fit” for this child or not. As it turns out, that wasn’t too far from the truth. Ryan and I left slightly nauseous, emotionally exhausted (I remember going to sleep at 7:30 that night), and unsure what would happen next. The following day, our caseworker came to our house and told us that his foster parents, whom he had lived with for the previous nine months and knew him better than anyone in the world, had reported that they had no doubts that we were his parents.
On June 21, less than one month after we received that first email telling us about Jayden, he came to live with us. On November 1, we legally adopted him and changed his last name. There’s so much more I want to say about the last eight months. I could write a whole blog post about the couple whom Jayden lived with from the day he was released from the hospital until the day we picked him up. I firmly believe that the love and care of Jayden’s foster parents dramatically changed the whole trajectory of his life. Nothing can change the deep appreciation we have for them.
There’s also so much I could say about the woman who gave life to our son. Although we have a closed adoption (meaning we have no contact with her), we are so grateful for the information and pictures we have. We will one day share all of those with Jayden, should he desire that.
This journey hasn’t been easy. Logistically, the scramble to become foster certified so that we could take placement of Jayden was stressful, and we had to push against the established system in order to expedite his adoption. Not surprisingly, he was confused and scared at first (as were we!). Ryan and I have bickered more than at any previous time in our marriage as we’ve adjusted to diminished sleep, leisure, and flexibility. His therapies and doctors appointments are often inconvenient and discouraging. We have attempted to maneuver attaching to a toddler whom we just met while showing each other as much grace and forgiveness as we can.
On December 8 at our church, we dedicated Jayden to the Lord. We don’t believe this has any bearing on his salvation; it was a recognition by Ryan and I that Jayden is a gift from God. We committed to teach him the Word of God and pray that he would one day have a personal relationship with his Savior. It was also a reminder to me as to why we started this whole process in the first place. In the perfect world we long for, there would be no need for adoption. There would be no death or addiction or poverty. That’s why adoption is so complicated. While we celebrate Jayden’s addition to our family, we also grieve for his lost relationships with his birth parents. We do not pretend that he was always ours or that he won’t have scars, regardless of how “well” we parent. We pray that he won’t feel any shame or hesitation in coming to us one day with questions about his adoption. By God’s grace we will be able to walk with him through any insecurities or pains, admitting that we are imperfect people doing the best we can to guide and care for him through a broken and complicated situation.
I cringe when I think about how radically Ryan and I will inevitably fail in that endeavor. But I am so thankful that it’s not about us or up to us. We serve a God who loves Jayden more than we ever will, and because of that we can relinquish the pressure of perfect parenting. With each new day, we are learning to better care for one another and our son, to humbly lean on our community in times of need, and to recognize the good, good gifts of a God who loves His children.
Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches
by Russell D. Moore
This is the very first adoption book I read, and I have since recommended it to dozens of other people seeking to learn about orphan care from a Christian perspective. When we told my family that we were going to adopt, I gave this book to my mom in hopes that it would help her understand our decision. She dutifully read the whole thing, and then I received the following text: “I finished Adopted for Life! I learned a lot and cried a little along the way. Thank you for asking me to read this. I am one of the millions of Christians he talked about in the book who have not thought much about adoption (at least before this year!).” She’s right — most Christians ignore Scripture such as James 1:27, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Russell Moore does a great job exploring what it means to be a Christ-follower in a world full of children without parents.
Favorite quote: “Without the theological aspect, the emphasis on adoption too easily is seen as mere charity. Without the missional aspect, the doctrine of adoption too easily is seen as mere metaphor.”
The Lucky Few
by Heather Avis
10/5 stars. I actually listened to the audiobook of The Lucky Few, which would typically mean that I wasn’t as emotionally connected to the story as I would have been if I read it. However, this book was read aloud by the author, and I felt like she was talking straight to me. I cried multiple times as she recalled her journey through infertility, deciding to adopt a child, God’s clear insistence that they adopt a child with Down syndrome, adopting a black child through the foster system, and then adopting their third child, a little boy who also has Down syndrome. I especially appreciated learning about her journey with two of her children’s birth parents because that is something I am so nervous and unsure about. The whole book points back to Jesus and reminded me that I cannot fathom what He will do in my heart through our adoption.
Favorite quote: “Today I’m aware of all the times I have said no to opportunities God has placed before me because I think I’m not rich enough, equipped enough, talented enough, strong enough, or crazy enough to say yes. All the times I have mistaken good things for bad. All the times I have allowed the opinions of an ignorant majority to guide my thinking instead of looking to Jesus and his heart in the matter. I wonder how many times we, his children, choose a comfortable no over a terrifying yes – the kind of yes that will lead us to the only place we should ever long to be: in the arms of Jesus.”
Tandem: A Devotional for Adopting with God in the Lead
by Alison England
It is a stretch to call this book a devotional, in my opinion. Each chapter is a different part of her family’s adoption story in chronological order, and each includes a verse or two. It is more of a memoir of her own journey, and I sometimes felt that she was stretching to apply Scripture to the chapter. One cool thing about the book is that it is attempting to create community within the adoption world – in the last chapter there are instructions on how to join the Facebook group for everyone who has gone through the book. Once I joined, I was surprised at how active the group is!
Favorite quote: “Without question, your adoption ride will be worth every bit of energy. Your ability to withstand the duration and difficulties that may arise hinges upon your understanding that you are on a tandem bike ride – with Jesus in the lead. His greatest desire is for you to truth Him and follow Him.”
Reclaiming Adoption: Missional Living Through the Rediscovery of Abba Father
by Dan Cruver
This short collection of essays is GOLD. It concerns the theology of adoption rather than practical application, so don’t read it if you are looking for a how-to. Each chapter is written by a different author (including some famous names in the evangelical Christian world), and each is thought-provoking, dense, and beautiful. I think I highlighted more than I didn’t, which is rare for me. In addition to helping me think about my own adoption as a child of God and the future adoption of a child into my family, there were sections that were very relevant to church orphan care ministry. Because each chapter is a stand-alone, this book is a great one to read a little bit at a time!
Favorite quote: “Adoption and our care for the fatherless provide a visible demonstration of the gospel. Our adoption of children serves as a window into Christ’s rescue of us. Adoption displays gospel-justice. Adoption displays the patient, persistent, pursuit and sovereign choice of God for us. Adoption displays the heart of God for rescuing a people from every nation, tribe, and tongue. Because of what God has done for us in Christ, adoption and orphan care are signs that God’s kingdom and rule are present in our world and will one day come in all their fullness.”
by Christina Baker Kline
I was especially interested in this book due to Gladney’s history with the real-life orphan train (the first orphan train’s last stop was in Ft. Worth, and a Methodist minister began finding homes for the children who were not selected along the way – the first mission of what would later become the adoption agency that will place our child). The book jumps back and forth between an orphan train rider in the 20’s/30’s and a girl in foster care in the 21st century. The orphan train story itself was fascinating, and I know the author did a lot of research before putting pen to paper. Unfortunately, the last third of this book produced more eye rolls than insights for me. The end was cliche and predictable, and the writing throughout the novel often seemed juvenile. This book was short and would be a good weekend read if you’re looking for an easy, yet emotionally-heavy, novel.
Favorite quote: “Time constricts and flattens, you know. It’s not evenly weighted. Certain moments linger in the mind and others disappear. The first twenty-three years of my life are the ones that shaped me, and the fact that I’ve live almost seven decades since then is irrelevant. Those years have nothing to do with the questions you ask.”
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
It’s hard for me to enjoy a book when I don’t like the protagonist – or more accurately in this case, when the protagonist doesn’t like me. The reason I know that Eleanor Oliphant doesn’t like me is because she doesn’t like anyone. Unsurprisingly, she does redeem herself in the eye of the reader at the conclusion of the book with both a change in heart and a confession of why she is the way she is. However, for the vast majority of the novel, the insight into how she is feeling and what she is thinking caused me to like her less than if I had just been hearing about her actions in the third-person, which is very rarely the case. To the book’s credit, it offers a fictional case study of the monumental impact of parent-child relationships and early childhood trauma, as well as the powerful, redeeming effect of both counseling and true friendship.
Favorite quote: “These days, loneliness is the new cancer – a shameful, embarrassing thing, brought upon yourself in some obscure way. A fearful, incurable thing, so horrifying that you dare not mention it; other people don’t want to hear the word spoken aloud for fear that they might too be afflicted, or that it might tempt fate into visiting a similar horror upon them.”
The Orphan’s Tale
by Pam Jenoff
Set in Europe during WWII, this book does not lack in the tragedy, morbidity, and suffering that was indeed characteristic of that time and place. Throughout the novel, I was a little confused to whom “orphan” in the the title refers because most all of the main characters had lost their parents. I typically don’t like loose ends at the completion of fictional stories, but I actually appreciated the ones that were left at the end of “The Orphan’s Tale”; at least, I preferred that over trying to tie everything together in a really cheesy, eye-rolly kind of way (see “Orphan Train” above).
Favorite quote: “Why are we so hard on one another? I wonder. Hadn’t the world already given us challenges enough?”
The Girl They Left Behind
by Roxanne Veletzos
My favorite aspect of this book was the setting. I had never read a novel set behind the Iron Curtain during the aftermath of WWII, and I am glad to have gained some empathy for people who lived in that time and place. I love reading books based on true stories, which is what drew me to this novel. However, it became obvious due to the dramatic climax and ending, as well as the subsequent author’s note about the true story, that this novel strayed far from real events. Overall, I thought this book was “just okay.”
Favorite quote: “God had turned his back on her, it seemed, for despite her pleas, her silent bargaining, she was still without a child of her own. And yet fragments of hope still existed in her heart, even though she’d have given anything to dispel them. Then all would be quiet. Quiet and still, a land at peace after a long war. Stop wanting, she chided herself over and over, but her heart would not listen.”
In my head, this post is actually called “What the hell is waiting well?”, but I thought that might be a little too abrasive for a title. It would, however, accurately depict where my heart and head have been at during these last several months. I’ve procrastinated blogging about the recent events in our adoption journey because writing is intimate and emotional and exhausting for me. I haven’t had it in me. To tell you the truth, I still don’t think that I do. However, this morning as I sat with my Bible to catch up on the reading with which I’m way behind (S/O to PRDX365), and I felt the nudging to share with you all the ups and downs.
At the end of December, during that typically-uneventful week between Christmas and New Years, we were notified of a little boy who had been born several weeks prior. He was in Oklahoma awaiting heart surgery, and his adoptive parents would need to be there in three days. Just as I had the first time we learned the story of a baby, my heart begun to dream. Our wedding anniversary was coming up that week — could I possibly be holding our baby in my arms on that day?
There were also fears. This boy would have long-term heart problems. He had already been in the hospital for three weeks without his parents, and I knew that time is vital for brain development and attachment. For the first time in years, I actually knelt beside my bed to pray. With my palms open and head bent, I asked the Lord for a verse. What do you want for this baby? Give me words to pray when I am so desperate that words don’t come.
And my faithful God answered. I opened my Bible to Psalm 51, and my eyes turned to verse 6.
Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom.
God didn’t lead me to pray for this child’s health, although I know He cares for that. He didn’t lead me to pray for the selection of his parents, although I know this prayer would have been heard. He called me to pray for his wisdom. This baby (whom we called by the name we gave him), was only three weeks old, and I began to fervently ask the Lord for him to desire to be truthful with God and for God to make him wise.
We were told that we would know the result of his mother’s decision in a day or two. However, with each day that passed, we received a similar message that no decision had been made. The “waiting” that I had been going through over the previous four months since we became active was a low-key, simmering, ever-present but easily-ignored type of waiting. This was different. We knew his story and we were acutely aware that every day that passed was another day that he did not have parents in the hospital with him.
When we were told a week later that a different family would be adopting this boy, we grieved. It was my turn to be the calming force in our family as Ryan was especially shaken. I then realized how hard it had been for him to deal with his own grief and also be a steady force for me after we were not chosen to parent the baby girl we prayed for a couple months previously. I finally began to verbalize the questions that had been swarming in my head for the past month: “Is this worth it?” “Are we strong enough to keep doing this?”
These were the questions I was silently screaming to God the next Sunday morning at church. And once again, God met me. There, in the dark sanctuary with members of my small group sitting all around me singing the hymn that was on the screen, a vision flashed before my eyes of a child in my arms and me slowly rocking in our nursery chair, and the Lord whispered to my heart, “I will be with you.” I had never heard words from God before. I’ve had feelings, was directed towards certain Scripture just weeks previously, and have even had friends (and strangers) pray a message over me that God gave them, but I had never heard Him.
Everyone said the sermon that Sunday was really impactful so I’m a little disappointed that I missed the last quarter of it, but as the pastor continued on, I looked toward Heaven and let the tears roll down my face as I repeated, “Thank you, God, thank you.”
I opened my Bible to the Great Commission recorded in Matthew 28. “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” God is with the missionaries searching out unreached people groups across the globe, He is with pastors laboring over how to lead their churches well, and He will be with me as I wait and then as I parent.
Two months passed, and life continued its routine. Ryan and I made a decision after that first week in January to not quit living life as we waited. So we scheduled trips with friends and took on work projects under the assumption that we would not be caring for a newborn, while attempting to schedule things with an open hand and the understanding that we may have to cancel. We had two baby showers (see left for a picture of me and my sister-in-law), but otherwise we weren’t thinking about the baby a whole lot.
On the morning of March 4th, I answered a call from our social worker, who told me about an expectant mother living right here in DFW. As I learned more and more details, my reaction surprised me. I wasn’t filled with excitement and expectancy as I had been after the first two calls; I was filled with dread. This baby had an uphill battle to fight, and it was steeper than any situation our agency had prepared us for. This isn’t possibly what God has planned for our life.
We’re so young that we both still get IDed ordering a drink. We’re so inexperienced that I had put a diaper on backwards the previous weekend when we babysat an infant for the first time. This situation didn’t make sense for us, but our caseworker needed an answer that day as to whether we’d like to be considered.
And then I remembered when I didn’t have words to pray and God gave me a verse. I remembered when I was at my most hopeless and He spoke words to me. I remembered His promise to be with me. I closed my eyes as we called our caseworker back and told her yes.
The next morning, a good friend texted and asked me how I was doing. I responded, “Digging this whole ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’ gig.” And it was true — it was incomprehensible how unanxious I felt. Not only was it completely opposite of how I handled myself when we were waiting to hear back about the first two matches, but this situation was objectively “scarier” with more unknowns. I was SURE this was God getting my heart ready to parent this baby. And therefore, I was pretty sure that we would be matched.
It only took the mother one day to decide that another family was best for her child. I was confused. My logical, black-and-white, cause-and-effect mind couldn’t understand why God would take away all my fears that week if it wasn’t so that I would be able to step confidently into the decisions that would need to be made for that baby. And then it hit me: God didn’t show His grace to me that week because He needed something from me in return. He showed me His grace because He loves me. I realized all the ways in which I was viewing myself as a warrior through this journey. Even if I was dependently praying for God to give me strength that can only come from Him, it was so that I could be strong enough to fight the battle. The truth is that the battle is already over. He has fought and He has won. He knows the future of that baby, and He knows the future of the baby that will one day be ours to raise. He knows them, He loves them, and He died for them. And He died for me, too, so that I can accept His gracious love and peace without any expectation of an adequate performance.
Over the past several months, one question has consistently been on my mind: “What does ‘waiting well’ actually mean?” It’s an often-used phrase, both in the adoption world and in Christianity generally. There were some options that could obviously be eliminated: being immobilized with fear and/or anxiety, completely ignoring the reality of waiting, busily filling up every second of the day so as to not leave time to face it (all of which I have experienced to some degree over the last 15 months). At some point along the way, I subconsciously decided that “waiting well” meant preparing myself as well as I could. That played out in me reading an insane amount of books on adoption and child trauma, desperately praying for God to weed out sin in my life before the baby came and pestering those around me to point out things I needed to work on, and petitioning the Lord for strength, faith, trust, confidence, and stamina. All these things are good, but they were not what God most desired. He is calling me to rest in him and let him fight the battle (Ex. 14:14). After all, he is a much better warrior than me.
On Wednesday, November 7, I reached for my ringing phone and immediately recognized the number of our adoption agency. Our case worker checks in about once a month, but it had been less than two weeks since her last call. There could be only one reason that she was calling.
But there’s no way, I told myself. We’ve been active for two months, and the average wait time is 15 months.
When I answered the phone, our case worker Ashley began to tell me about an “opportunity.” This is Gladney’s label for a birth mother to whom they’d like to show our profile book. We had previously told Ashley that she didn’t need to ask permission to show our book (she could simply show us to whomever she thought was a good fit), except in situations where there was potential for severe special needs. As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, Ryan and I both plan to continue working full-time and therefore might not be the best parents for a child who needs full-time, specialized care.
I took notes as Ashley began to tell me about a birth mother, Sarah*, and her baby girl. It was amazing how much information Ashley knew about Sarah and was willing to tell me. I felt like I began to know this momma as I learned about her family, her job, her childhood, and her struggles. In addition to drug use during pregnancy and a lack of information about the biological father (situations for which we didn’t require Ashley to call us about), there is a history of nonverbal autism in Sarah’s family. After telling me everything she knew about Sarah, Ashley informed me that we had less than 24 hours to decide if we wanted Sarah to look at our profile.
I got in my car to drive to Ryan’s office so we could talk in person, but in my heart I knew what he would say. I picked Ryan up, drove to a coffee shop, and told him what I had learned. I wanted Ryan to have ALL the information, so I was honest with him about the things that had caused a lot of other adoptive parents to say “no” to Sarah. I was also honest with him about the deep respect and gratitude that was growing in my heart for her — she had made mistakes before and during the pregnancy, but the efforts to which she was going to provide the best possible life for the baby girl growing inside her brought tears to my eyes. She was making sacrifices, working hard, and most importantly, she had chosen LIFE for her child. What a deep, deep love.
I called Ashley back a few hours later and told her to send Sarah our book. She would be choosing between a handful of families, and Ashley said she would let us know in about a week.
We didn’t have to wait a week. We had to wait three. Some people recommend not telling others when your profile book is being shown (for similar reasons to why most people don’t announce a pregnancy until after the first trimester), but I couldn’t help it. I wanted everyone we knew to be praying for Sarah and her family. I wanted to share the excitement we were feeling and allow our friends and family to be a part of every step of our adoption story.
The three weeks had big highs and big lows. My birthday fell during the middle of the first week, and I spent the day in a state of crippling anxiety. I tried to respond cheerily to birthday calls and texts, but I couldn’t focus on anything except the fact that Sarah could possibly be looking at our book at that exact moment. Finally after a week of casual, cursory “God, help my anxiety” prayers, I was honest with myself about the difference between saying I was laying it at the Lord’s feet and actually doing it. I had given the Devil a foothold by thinking I was going to be immune to the emotional roller coaster of adoption. Other people were the silly ones who lost sleep during the waiting process. Other people were the desperate ones who wanted a baby SO BADLY that each additional, childless day was torture. Other people were the ones who couldn’t do it alone.
But I, of course, cannot do a single thing alone. I need God’s grace and strength every moment of every day. I was suddenly, profoundly reminded of how easy it is to believe those words with my head and not live it in my heart. I begged the Lord to help me give the weight I was carrying to Him – truly give it to Him, not just say the words. The next day my soul was one thousand pounds lighter. There are certain moments in the Christian faith when God works so obviously, so miraculously, in your life, and those moments become the ones you look back on in times of doubt. I know I will remember this day for the rest of my life because the radical difference in my spirit could have only been possible with divine intervention.
They always told me that the adoption process would be sanctifying.
Today, three weeks after I received that first call, our case worker told us that Sarah decided to move forward with a different family. It hasn’t been easy, but nothing about adoption is supposed to be easy. This afternoon, I reread the prayers I wrote down over the past several weeks, and I was reminded that God does not waste pain. It’s funny how sometimes the words He uses to minister to you are your own. I am thankful for the time I spent praying for and dreaming of this baby girl. I am thankful for the revelation of my sinful pride, and for the grace that met me the moment I asked for it.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. -Hebrews 4:16
I am thankful for all the text messages I received from friends saying that they had been praying for Sarah. Sarah and her family will never know how many people approached the Throne of Grace on their behalf over the last couple of weeks, but I know that it wasn’t a waste. Lord willing, I will one day meet baby girl in Eternity and learn all about the life she lived and the parents who raised her. Until then, I can keep praying.
I wrote the following prayer the morning after we learned about baby girl, as our profile book was being shipped to Sarah’s house.
Is this our daughter?
Lord, you know. You know who Sarah will choose to parent her child even before she receives families’ profile books. You know the life story of this baby girl even though she is not yet born. You know the people who will shape her into the woman that she will become. Even if we are not her parents, thank you for the opportunity to pray for her. Thank you for the army of people that are now praying for Sarah because our profile book is being shown to her.
Adoption is the result of a fallen world. In this case, it is the result of a broken relationship, a lack of sufficient resources, and the reliance on idols to bring peace to a situation that only you could heal.
But it is also the result of a decision to give this baby girl life. It is the result of you placing a calling in the hearts of Gladney workers, and the brave, selfless choices that Sarah is making.
This adoption will bring pain. It will be hard as baby girl learns about her past and realizes how much she will never know. It will be scary for her parents to not know her full medical history and to care for a baby who did not get everything she needed at the very beginning of life.
But this adoption will bring beauty. It will reflect to the world the Lord’s redemption of us. It will provide baby girl with parents who have prepared a place for her, both in their homes and their hearts. And, by God’s grace, I pray that it will help her to grasp a little bit about who You are and how much You love her.
I don’t know if we will be her parents. But I know that at this moment you are knitting her together, that she is beautiful, and that You love her more than her parents ever will, no matter who they are.
Prepare her parents for her specific needs, God. Help Ryan and I to trust You, even if we are not chosen. Help us to always want the best for her, not to seek after what we THINK is best for us. Amen.
We are officially home study approved! Guys… this adoption thing is really going to happen! It’s been a week since our home study (yes, the approval happened that soon after the home study!), so I thought I’d take some time to reflect on the process.
My home study take-aways:
- It was nothing like my Google searches said it would be. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that every agency/home study provider is different. That being said, my experience may be nothing like the next anxiously-awaiting-parent-to-be’s (so take my comments with a grain of salt).
- No one counted the particles of dust on my blinds. When I scheduled our home study with the social worker, she told me not to spend 4 hours cleaning the house. Obviously, I ignored this. When they arrived at our home, we did a quick tour (< 3 minutes) of our house and then sat at our kitchen table for the remainder of the home study. At least my house got a good cleaning?
- Similarly to my last point, I was surprised that they didn’t care about baby-proofing our house. I had actually purchased several fire extinguishers in preparation for the home study, but they never even asked about them (below is a picture of me looking very proud in the Lowe’s parking lot with my new purchase). I had heard stories about social workers examining electrical outlets to make sure they are covered, the distance cleaning supplies are off the ground, and the sharpness of furniture corners. None of that happened. The one thing they did ask about is guns/a gun safe, but we don’t own any.
- The nursery didn’t have to be complete. PTL because ours isn’t close. We showed them which room will eventually be a nursery and chatted for about 30 seconds regarding our plans to make the room baby-friendly (we are planning on installing carpet instead of hard wood, moving all the junk out of the closet, etc.).
- What we DID talk about was our lives, pasts, and views. We talked about each of our own parents and how we were raised. We talked about past relationships and any premarital sexual experiences and/or abuse. We talked about our own marriage and what our pressure points are with each other. (This part basically felt like super-expensive marriage counseling.)
- The most interesting part to us was our discussions on parenting. Since neither of us have ever done it before, Ryan and I aren’t committed to any particular parenting style or technique, and we welcome any advice we can get with open arms. The social workers wanted to hear our thoughts on discipline and child care. They wanted to know what kind of support system we have and if there are people who will step in and give us some respite when needed. When we told our friends some of the specific questions they asked us, every single person responded, “I wish EVERY parent (of adopted OR bio kids) thought about these things before having kids!” A couple of examples (including adoption-specific questions):
- How would we react if our child decided to believe in a religion different from ours (and would our reactions change depending on the age of our child at the time)?
- Same question for if our child told us he/she was gay.
- Who would we ask to parent our child if we both died unexpectedly?
- How would we feel if we tried to have bio kids later in life and were told that we waited too long?
- How will we respond to insensitive comments if we have a child who looks very different from us (and how those responses will be different depending on the situation and our relationship with that person)?
- How will we talk to our child about their adoption story (once again, age appropriate steps)?
- How will we create appropriate boundaries with the birth mother in order to make her feel loved and included but to prohibit co-parenting?
Overall, our home study was no biggie. Exhausting? Yes. Intense? Yes. Had a glass of wine the minute the social workers left? Yes. But we actually almost enjoyed it. Keep in mind that Ryan and I are both talkers and analyzers and are VERY open with our lives in general (hence this blog), so the home study wasn’t completely out of our range of normal. It was basically seven hours of talking about how much we love Jesus and each other, how freaking awesome our family and friends are, and how excited we are to adopt a baby. Who could complain about that?!
TWO MORE STEPS before we can be matched. First, we have to make a profile book and video. Know any good photographers, videographers, or graphic designers who’d be willing to help us out? Hit me up. Second, we owe our agency a $20,750 payment. As always, you can donate to our adoption.
“For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues... And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.” (1 Cor. 12:8-10, 28)
I used to be insecure about my spiritual gift of administration. For one, it didn’t seem very powerful. What about healing, miracles, and prophecy? Is my spiritual gift lame because God did not deem my capacity for power sufficient? Secondly, it didn’t seem very feminine. All the women around me were skilled in helping, hospitality, or encouragement. These gifts all seemed so maternal, so fitting to the [incorrect] image of a “Proverbs 31 woman” that had been created in the culture.
Administration. I wasn’t mighty enough for the super-spiritual gifts nor womanly enough for the feminine gifts. [note: I DO NOT currently think hospitality or encouragement are feminine gifts…or that ANY gift is gender-specific]
When you’re pregnant, you hear alllllll the horror labor stories. Most of those are the anomalies – the rare fluke situation where someone had an allergic reaction to the epidural or labor lasted 45 hours. When you’re considering adoption, you hear about all the paperwork. Unfortunately, I don’t think these stories are anomalies. Adoptive parents are weighed down by the masses of forms, suffocated by documentation requests, and discouraged by information they are required to disclose yet don’t know where to find. Due to the overwhelming pervasiveness of adoption paperwork woes, I expected the worst. And I was, therefore, surprised when it was no big deal.
As you’ve seen glimpses of in my previous blog posts, A LOT of things about this adoption process have been paralyzing. The marital issues it has brought to the surface, the financial insecurity and sacrifice, the spotlight it has shown on my desire to control and lack of trust in God’s provision. For me, I could not understate the impact of those things on our life. Perhaps someone with the spiritual gift of faith would not struggle so much with trusting in God’s plan for their family, and someone with the spiritual gift of giving would not be so insecure in the finances of adoption. Those gifts would serve them well during the adoption process, just like my gift of administration has been a blessing to our family as I whipped through the paperwork and even earned a monetary voucher from our agency for finishing so quickly.
Through this new perspective, I began to see the power in administration. The power of taking some of the paperwork burden off my husband’s back as he works extra hours to save money. The power of getting to offer organization advice to other adoptive parents to whom I have also had the opportunity to share the Gospel. The power of relieving my soul of one huge area of stress so I can concentrate on other areas of preparing for parenthood.
And I also began to see the intimate connection between my spiritual gift of administration and motherhood. This seemingly “unfeminine,” “unmaternal” gift of mine is what is bringing our child home. Oh, the irony.
Thank you, Lord, for showing me mercy when I scoffed unappreciatively at the good things you have given me. I minimized the power of the Holy Spirit inside me – the same Holy Spirit that gives others the ability to prophesy or to have unwavering faith. Thank you for dealing gently with me as you slowly opened my eyes to the truth that you had a plan for my family before the creation of the world, and you gifted both me and Ryan in ways most aligned with your perfect plan.
To others with the spiritual gift of administration who don’t yet fully appreciate it – I hope this was an encouragement to you, from one admin to another!
To those who ARE overwhelmed with adoption paperwork and would like some tips on persevering through it – don’t hesitate to contact me!
Let’s talk about spiritual warfare.
I have always believed in the reality of it, in the ever-present, constant struggle of it (anyone else ever read This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, gotten overly paranoid for a time, and then slowly slid back to a place of peace yet with a better understanding of the world?).
I have always believed that the Enemy attacks what is good and righteous and advancing the Kingdom of God. This is a burden church leadership has to bear if they want to do the true, hard work of Christ.
I have become close with a woman in our church who became a mother through domestic infant adoption. When I happily informed her of Ryan and I’s decision to adopt, she immediately began imploring me to be diligent about praying against spiritual attacks and to enlist as many prayer warriors as I knew to do the same. What a downer, I thought. I know the adoption process won’t be easy, but why the haste to focus on the bad?
Because the Enemy does not doddle.
I was not unaware of the pride I felt in thinking Ryan and I were “mature enough” to adopt (I know – I can hear the collective laughter from here). A couple we are close with recently announced their intention to adopt and I looked at Ryan like, “Maybe they should fix themselves before they try to raise a human being…”
(I can still hear the chuckles, especially from those of you who are parents.)
Yes, of course, Ryan and I have issues. We are all sinners and will continue to be sanctified until we meet our Lord face-to-face. But we are both relatively mature in our faith, we seek to practice true repentance both to others and to God, we lead a small group, we get asked to counsel friends and church members. We may be screwed up, but we aren’t as screwed up as them.
The Enemy does not doddle.
We hadn’t even gone to our agency orientation yet, and a heavy weight started sinking down on top of us. I could feel myself being tempted by things that I hadn’t been in years and thought I was free from. My anxiety showed its face most vividly in the night and I had nightmares so terrible the sheets would be soaked through and I would wake with an aching jaw from grinding all night. I had trouble eating and began to lose weight in an unhealthy way. I sensed myself being hypercritical of others around me, especially our church leadership, and I became bitter and judgmental. A lack of motivation to work immobilized me and I slept 10-12 hours a night. We hadn’t even gone to our agency orientation yet.
A few weeks ago, I invited myself over to a friend’s house to talk to her about it all (S/O to all those with open-door policies with their people). She immediately asked if I was taking my struggles and sin to the Lord. I knew the question was coming because that’s typical Kelly, and I proudly, honestly answered in the affirmative. I pray for protection against spiritual warfare and confess that my heart has turned into a bitter, self-righteous blood-pumper. Kelly encouraged/convicted me to repent of each of my sins individually and spend time seeking relief for each area of suffering one-by-one. Lumping them all together was kind of cheating.
A few days later, I spouted off so rudely to Ryan that he asked if we could sit down and address it. There is so much grace in our marriage that I was honestly confused by why he was making such a big deal out of my behavior that day. Why can’t he just forgive me unconditionally like normal and let’s move on. Are you getting a picture of where my heart was at?
He wanted to talk about it. About it all. I told him about Kelly’s recommendation to address each sin and struggle separately, and then I immediately wished I could take those words back because Ryan’s response was, “Okay, let’s do it.” “Huh? No, she meant like I should pray about them individually.” “Have you?” “Well, I will.” “You can’t know what to pray for unless you identify them.” Ryan took out a pen and paper and forced me to start talking. In case you were wondering, having someone write down a list of your sin is NOT a fun way to spend an evening.
After several minutes, he had to cut me off. Once I had begun examining the state of my heart, apparently there was a lot of crap to find. He looked at the list and commented that many of the items could be boiled down to stress. Since I am usually one to handle stress management well, it surprised him that my stress was clearly calling the shots in our lives at the moment. After some digging, I was able to admit that somewhere in my mind I am constantly doubting whether adoption is the right decision, and that is boiling over into all areas of life. We could be ruining our lives.
My sweet husband was perplexed. After all the conversations we’ve had about the strong conviction we both feel to adopt, why am I doubting? And then, out of nowhere (or seemingly out of nowhere), the tears started.
Now, I am not “a crier.” But that night I was a crier. I didn’t have to work my way up to a level of high-intensity sobbing; I went from 0 to 60 in 2.5 seconds. Tears poured down my face, and through sobs and before I knew what I was saying, I got out the words, “I’m not going to be a good mother.”
I’m not going to be a good mother.
There it was. The lie that had crept into me and taken a hold of every ounce of my being and bittered my heart and caused me to lash out at others in an attempt to make myself feel worthy. The fear and self-doubt had moved in and made their bed without me even recognizing they were there. The pride that I could do it and we were ready had blinded me to the battle that was raging inside of me and that I was epically losing at the expense of all those around me.
And then in came Jesus. Compassion and love and grace entered in through the tender words of my husband as he knelt in front of me and told me that watching me become a mother would be one of the greatest joys of his life. I could feel the pressure that had built up inside my body slowly relaxing as he reminded me it wasn’t through our own skills or power or know-how that we would raise a child; it was solely by the grace of God. We may not know what the heck we’re doing, but if we began each day on bended knee crying out to the Lord for help, He would meet us there. Ryan reminded me of the stellar community we have that will rally around us and selflessly serve our family through the hard times. He held my hand and prayed out loud for over half an hour. He prayed for the woman who will carry our baby inside of her, that the Lord would be with her and comfort her. He prayed for the salvation of our child. He prayed for the man or woman who will one day partner with our child in marriage. He prayed for me, that I would be so captured by the love and grace and power of Jesus Christ that fear and hopelessness would have no hold.
I continued to cry the whole time Ryan spoke. But now they weren’t tears of desperation; they were tears of love for the man who dealt with me so gently when I was so harsh, who was my rock and support when I was so weak. Tears flowed for the grace of a God who promises to never leave or forsake me, who nailed my burdens to a cross and drowns out my fear with His hope.
Jesus entered in that moment and reminded me that I am not mature enough or ready enough to adopt an orphan. And the wreckage I leave in my wake when I think I am is destructive. I am not able, but He is.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Yep, you read that title right. In fact, I looked for a picture of myself with anyone under the age of 18 to go with this post and I couldn’t find one, so instead here’s a picture of my dogs (they’re the best).
It’s not that I necessarily dislike children. I’ve just never been that girl (most girls) to goo-goo ga-ga at infants, to stare and make faces at toddlers in a crowd, or to yearn for the day I have some of my own. My husband, on the other hand, is a natural. Every girl under the age of 10 that he has ever met has blushed and giggled his way, and he never fails to get the shy kid at church to give him a high-five. It just seems to come so naturally to him.
In fact, I wasn’t even sure I ever wanted to have children until I met Ryan. I pursued a career in education (though not as a teacher because that would have been way too much interaction with kids) because I saw it as my way to contribute to the next generation and relieve my guilt of not raising children of my own. And then I fell in love. Somehow my love for Ryan stirred up a desire to make little humans who would hopefully be just like him in every way. But it was still such a far-off concept. We’ll have kids one day, I thought, just not any day soon.
I was confused when I began feeling the Lord place on my heart a specific burden for orphans. It didn’t fit with my spiritual gift of administration and my affinity for social situations that did not involve anyone who wasn’t eligible for a driver’s license. But it was precisely the fact that it DIDN’T fit that I knew for sure that it was the Holy Spirit. Unlike other times in my life where it has been hard to discern whether a desire is Spirit-led or self-led, this call did not make me comfortable and did not fit with the life that I had planned for myself. I definitely didn’t conjure this one up on my own.
Some of you may be concerned that we are planning to adopt a child when I don’t relish the thought spending time with children. Here’s my response: me too. Most all women my age have some fear about becoming a parent, but my worries are a little more uncommon. I worry that I won’t like being a mom. I worry that I won’t be naturally good at it. I worry that those “maternal” feelings and instincts that everyone says are so natural will never be produced in me.
A couple weeks ago, Ryan and I were driving to dinner to celebrate our two-year anniversary, and I was quieter and more solemn than I should have been for the occasion. When Ryan inquired, I word-vomited all of the above thoughts to him. He considered for a moment and then asked me, “If those things became true – if you don’t especially enjoy motherhood the way some women do and if you never get the mushy feelings, would that invalidate our decision to adopt? Would that mean that we misheard our calling from God?”
The answer is no. God doesn’t call us to the easy, comfortable, or glamorous. He instructs us to sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel and for the good of others, to trust Him, and to obey Him. Although He gives us all natural abilities, He does not promise to avoid calling us to tasks that are hard for us (for instance, Moses speaking to Pharaoh; see Exodus 4:10-12).
So, I accepted the conclusion that parenting may be, and probably will be, harder in some areas for me than it is for other women. But in one way I think it will be easier: I will have peace and confidence that I am walking in the path God set out for me. On the especially hard days, the days with no sleep and an abundance of dirty diapers, mood swings, and runny noses, I will never have to wonder whether we did the right thing. God is never wrong.
In my first post, I mentioned that I have been working on being still. While this doesn’t specifically have to do with adoption, it has everything to do with me learning to hear from the Lord, which enabled me to obey His calling to begin the adoption process. About a month ago, I wrote a psalm on this topic. It’s real and it’s raw, but that’s what I want this blog to be.
I kneel before You, LORD
and profess my sin.
You are mighty to save,
and You do not withhold grace.
I do not hide my doubts from You;
You are stronger than my fears
and more constant than my wanderings.
This I know to be true.
I love the LORD
because I know what He did.
The more I know about Him,
the more my affections stir
because knowledge brings worship.
Let me list my plans, LORD,
but “Your will be done.”
I know that you preserve me, O God,
“But even if you do not…”
because that is what Your scripture says.
I meditate on my adoption as Your child
and Your love for the orphan.
Oh how beautiful that You call Your people sons and daughters.
This I know to be true.
I know Your ways;
I rejoice in Your faithfulness.
I revere Your power,
yet cling to Your commitment to me.
So why then, O LORD, can I not sit in silence?
Why then, do I acknowledge my sin,
yet rob myself of the joy of true repentance?
Why then, do I lay my plans before Your throne,
yet do not pick up Yours?
Why am I scared to feel, to listen, to be?
“Be still and know that I am LORD”
But I already know.
I trust You because I know who You are,
what You have done, and what You will do.
So why be still?
There is joy in the works You have done,
but not in Your presence.
I seek wisdom from the Scriptures,
yet do not listen to Your gentle taps at my heart.
Teach me to love.
I am obedient
I am disciplined
Teach me to yearn for You.
You are my Father,
and You care if it’s hard,
if it hurts, if I’m scared.
I am Your daughter,
and this I know to be true.
I know it not because the Bible tells me so,
though it does.
I know it not because You hung on a cross for me,
though You did.
I know it because you whisper my name in the morning.
You call me to Yourself,
over and over again.
In Your presence there is fullness of joy,
And though I will continue to run,
You will always call me,
over and over again.
This I know.