From the “Mother Side”

Mother’s day is different this year. It’s the first time I’m on the “mother side,” and that’s exciting. I’m so happy to be Caitlin’s mama! What a sweet privilege it is. She is just the best little blessing Colin and I could have ever imagined; she is all we ever hoped and prayed for. She has made our hearts burst with love and we are so proud of her.

It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that I’m a mom. I’ve desired for so long to be in this place, that while it feels so natural, it’s also so very foreign. Thankfully, I’ve got some wonderful examples in my life through my own mom, mother-in-law, grandmothers, and special friends. While I’ve only been a mom for a short amount of time, I understand the weight of this day and the emotions it brings. I would like to wish a Happy Mother’s Day to some very special people:

Happy Mother’s Day to Caitlin’s birth mother. I would not be Caitlin’s mama, if it weren’t for the selfless love of her first mama. This precious woman loves our sweet baby so much, that she sacrificed her own role as her mother, and trusted me to take on that role instead. Wow. What gift. What a beautiful responsibility. It’s not lost on me that I became a mom, while another woman felt the pain of losing that title. This Mother’s Day, I’m excited to be on the “mother side,” but I’m also thinking of the brave heart of Caitlin’s birth mother.

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This is (part of) one of my favorite pictures from the hospital. It’s Caitlin, her birth mother, and me, just hours after Caitlin was born and the first time I saw and held her.

Happy Mother’s Day to my Momma! She is the best (I know everyone says that, but mine really is). She is the example I need, on how to be a good mother. She is selfless and loving. She puts everyone above herself, always making sure that the needs of everyone else around her are met. She loves my dad and her children and her grandchildren – oh she loves her grandchildren something fierce. I love my mom.

Happy Mother’s Day to the other women in my life who mentored me and loved on me, especially during my wait to become a mom. To my sisters, mother-in-law, family, and friends, I would not be where I am today if it weren’t for your guidance, love, and listening ear. Even if you aren’t a mom, you influence others, and that’s a huge role in itself.

And to those who have suffered a loss of a child or mother, to those who are have placed a child for adoption, to those who are in the depths of the wait to fill your mama arms, I see you. I know that this day can be one of mixed emotions, even painful. For the last several years, this day was one of my least favorite of the year. So I understand that while others are celebrating, others are quietly hurting. Happy Mother’s Day to you, too. You are loved.

I’m thankful to be on the “mother side” of Mother’s Day. It’s a joy to be Caitlin’s mom and I’m excited to pour into her, just like so many women have and continue to do in my own life. Happy Mother’s Day to you all!

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Worth the Wait

Four years ago exactly, we sat in a doctor’s office and were told that I would likely never be able to get pregnant. It was news that hit me like a ton of bricks and shook our lives and our marriage to the core. It took a long time for our hearts to heal in a way that would allow us to move forward, to figure out the path God wanted our family to take.

But today, as I write this, a tiny baby is sleeping sweetly next to me. A baby that came into our lives differently than most. A baby with loving birth parents who chose us to raise their daughter.

The doctor told us that day that I would never have a baby grow under my heart, but what we didn’t understand at that time, was that it didn’t matter what any doctor said, we could still have a baby grow IN our hearts.

We are proud to introduce miss Caitlin Rose! She was born on Friday, March 9, weighed 5 lbs. 14.9 oz., and was 18.5 inches long. We are falling more in love with her every day! We are so thankful to be her parents and are beyond grateful to and full of love for her first mama and dad who made us a family.

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Caitlin was born in another state, and because of that, there is some additional approval that has to take place before we can return home to Louisiana. Once finally back home and settled, we will share more of our story and weeks-long adventure, but for now, we are embracing these precious moments as a family of three.

The wait was long and not easy, but this gift was worth the wait!
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Even If

Lately, I’ve been asked multiple times about my favorite verse or passage from the Bible. My immediate response typically stuns the questioner – it is the entire book of Habakkuk. After assuring them that Habakkuk is indeed in the Bible, and not a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings character, I go on to explain that the book of Habakkuk is really an open letter to all who are suffering; to all who question God when life doesn’t seem fair.

By now you are familiar enough with our story to know Kendal and I had the same frustrations – “God, why can’t we get pregnant? Isn’t having a family a good thing?! How can those who seemingly don’t love, care, or want a child be blessed that way and we can’t? Why is the process taking so long?!” Maybe your circumstances haven’t revolved around infertility and adoption. Perhaps your struggle is with your career, finances, or health. If we are honest with ourselves, everyone, at some point in their lives, has felt as though life wasn’t fair and God wasn’t listening.

And that is where the book of Habakkuk comes in. As the story begins, this prophet observes his world and sees, due to the nation’s corrupt leaders, injustice, depravity, and violence. Habakkuk complains to God, “How long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong?” In essence, Habakkuk is criticizing God, wondering why all of these unfair and evil things happen to good people – to God’s own people nonetheless! Sounds familiar, right?

God responds to Habakkuk’s complaints, telling him that He is aware of the injustice and destruction, and that He does, in fact, plan on doing something about it, but it isn’t quite what Habakkuk has in mind. God tells the prophet that He is raising up an enemy nation to come and invade the land. This shocks Habakkuk, as this situation is far worse than corrupt leaders and moral decline. The prophet goes so far as to accuse God of being inconsistent and unfair in raising up this enemy nation – “You who are of purer eyes than to see evil and cannot look to wrong, why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallows up the man more righteous than he?”  Habakkuk was looking for some relief, but God throws Habakkuk a curve ball he never expected. Still sounding familiar?

Habakkuk marvels at God’s plan and eventually consents that he has been duly silenced: “I will quietly wait for the day of trouble to come upon people who invade us.”  Recognizing and trusting in God’s sovereignty, Habakkuk then offers one of the most beautiful statements of faithful submission anywhere in Scripture:

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The book’s final line reads, “To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments.” Amazing! Habakkuk has received a glimpse of the glory of God, and despite the certain suffering that looms on the horizon and not fully understanding why God is doing the things He is, Habakkuk sings praises, knowing God will sustain him. What a progression – from protest to praise – “…yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength!” While we don’t know what Habakkuk’s song sounded like, and though our “stringed instruments” probably sound different today, I think a modern interpretation is “Even If” by MercyMe, which you can listen to here.

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We don’t know the end of Habakkuk’s story. The book doesn’t tell us about the invading army or what happens to the nation. Because that isn’t the point. The point of Habakkuk’s story isn’t on what happens to him, but rather, how he responds to God. Habakkuk teaches us that we have a choice; that the righteous shall live by his faith.”

And so for me, while I wish I knew God’s timing regarding our adoption journey, I don’t. While I wish I knew why He has chosen us to go down this path and not through pregnancy, I don’t. While I wish I could take this burden away from our family, I can’t.  Kendal and I have experienced highs and lows over the past few years, and even more specifically, the past couple of months. Though we recently received news that could prove to be an answer to our prayers, we also realize how quickly we could return to a period of waiting. So rather than complain or question God, I choose to follow the approach laid down by Habakkuk. While we earnestly long for a family and desperately want to have children to raise, even if my life doesn’t turn out as I want, even if our entire adoption journey fails, even if I never receive answers to my questions, “…yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.”

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The Importance of True Friendship

Last week, while on my way to work, I received a text from a good friend – Matt – which said “Praying for y’all today. Peace and patience and favor.” As I considered Matt’s message, I was reminded of how many people just over the last two or three weeks who have mentioned they are praying for us.  People from different cities and walks of life have reached out to us to let us know we are still in their thoughts and prayers. Thinking of those comments in light of Matt’s message, the importance of true friendship was impressed upon me.

But in a day of rampant social media usage, it is easy to forget the true meaning oftrue-friendship friendship. We mistake social media as a safety blanket to hide under – a blanket where we display how many friends we have, our best-looking selfies, our trip to the gym, or the number people who liked a photo of our dinner. Empowered to say whatever we want with little repercussions, social media, text messaging, and email makes our “friends” digital and our egos bigger.

Calvin, you are right, true friends are hard to come by.  Honest people in real life situations don’t seem to hold their value anymore.  Our world makes it easy to slip away into seclusion. We value digital connection over personal investment.  This is not normal; this is not what we were created for.

wallpaper_lFriendship is more than 140 characters, snarky memes, or “Happy Birthday!” Facebook posts. Friendship is more than a forced smile and a 3-minute conversation in a hallway. Rather, true friendship is when people open themselves up to each other, messy homes and all.  It is when people genuinely care for each other, seeking their friends’ good over their own.  True friendship is about investing in each other’s lives, even if there are parts with which you disagree. Most importantly, friendship is when people who seek God’s glory can love each other, despite their sins and flaws and shortcomings. Charles Spurgeon has this to say about friendship, “Friendship is one of the sweetest joys of life. Many might have failed beneath the bitterness of their trial had they not found a friend.” 

Scripture speaks highly on friendship and the need to help each other:

“This is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine.” – Romans 1:12 

“Oil and perfume make the heart glad, and the sweetness of a friend comes from his earnest counsel.” – Proverbs 27:9 

“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encourage one another, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” – Hebrews 10:24-25 

“Do not be deceived: Bad company ruins good morals.” – 1 Corinthians 15:33

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.” – Proverbs 27:17 

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:11 

“A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” – Proverbs 18:24 

Christian friendship is beautiful and vital. It is more than a casual “hello,” but is a brotherhood, a sisterhood, a family, and a body . . . a body of Christ working together glorifying Him. A Christ-centered friendship always loves, forgives, corrects, rebukes, encourages, prays for, and hopes for each other to be more like Christ. A true friend never allows us to wallow in our sin, but wants to see us redeemed and sanctified. A true friend loves and supports and encourages despite the other’s mistakes and failures. Friendship is like love, it is tough and it is war. It is iron sharpening iron. It is holding each other accountable. True friendship isn’t easily discarded when tough situations arise.

Friendship is when people who seek God’s glory can love each other, despite their sins and flaws and shortcomings.

Which brings me back to Matt. Thinking back over our adoption journey, and especially in the last few months, I am constantly reminded of such friends in my life.  Friends who encourage us, who I know love us, and who, in spite of our shortcomings, invest themselves in us. They genuinely ask how we are doing and actually listen to our response. I am very thankful and blessed to have them in my life, and I hope that others can see this type of friendship in me.

Life is hard and we can’t live it alone. But true Christian friendship is more than a casual connection; it is journeying together in life and spurring each other on to be more like Christ and to give Him more glory.

That is infinitely more exciting than being secluded. 

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September

September has been a significant month for us, as one year ago we became “home study ready,” meaning that all our documents were turned in, clearances checked, profile printed, and home study signed. Last September, we were ready, from a paperwork perspective, to be matched with an expectant mother and began to receive possible situations for adoption. We read and prayed over them, presenting to some and not to others. Some situations we felt strong connections and bonds, others not so much, and many more, we just didn’t know what to do.

But we presented, and were told “not yet.” We presented to another and were told, again, “no.” Another situation and another. Each time, in the teens at this point, we’ve been told “the expectant mother chose a different family.” This adoption journey has been one of, if not the most difficult seasons of our lives. We desperately yearn to grow our family, but to constantly be on this roller-coaster of emotions, riding up and down on a near weekly basis, causes emotional, mental, and spiritual discouragement. We desire a family, but with each successive “no,” it feels as though time is slipping away.

And then, over the summer, we realized our home study, background checks, and other clearances, were about to expire. We have since gone through the steps again, much of the same as a year ago. We got our fingerprints taken for background checks, went to the doctor, gathered up paperwork, and met with our social worker. We have received our updated and approved home study, and are now back on track. This was a setback to us in a variety of ways, but mostly it is a reminder of how one year has passed and our nursery is still empty. This realization hit us hard. We lost steam and energy. Of course we want a child, but this anniversary knocked us down.

Yet, we are reminded of God’s statements to the prophet Habakkuk: “For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end – it will not lie; If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.” This has been our prayer for the month of September, that God would hasten the vision. And we ask for your prayer as well. We don’t know the ultimate end of this path we are on, but we trust in the One who put us on it.

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We’re still smiling!

Let’s talk specifics: Profile and Presenting

One of the biggest tasks at the start of our adoption process was to create a family profile book. The purpose of the profile is to share information about ourselves as well as paint a picture of what kind of life we could provide for a child, and connect with someone in a genuine way.

We chose to have our consultant lend her expertise and help us with this project, so she provided us with a list of questions to answer. We took time to answer things such as what we do for a living, what our house and neighborhood are like, our “favorites,” our goals, and even education plans for our future child. Once we had our answers compiled, we sent those to her along with dozens of pictures of the two of us, our families, vacations, and our every-day-life. Susan essentially created a photobook of all of our information and photos, which we had printed and included in our agency application packets. We think it came out nice and hope it presents us well!

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The front cover of our family profile.

So how does our profile get put in front of a birth mother? You may have heard anyone connected with domestic adoption talk about “presenting” or being “matched.” This is the part of the process where we say we want our profile to be shown to a particular birth mother, in the hopes that she will choose us to parent her baby.

We receive emails from both our consultant as well as directly from agencies with which we are active when there is a birth mother ready to choose a family. These are referred to as “situations,” and based on the information we receive, we can choose to have our profile presented to them. The emails typically include some basic information about the birth mother, due date, gender (if known) and health of the pregnancy, but the level of detail ranges concerning medical information (for both mom and baby), substance abuse, family history, likes/dislikes, preferences for the baby’s family, etc.

There is usually a pretty small window of time to make the decision to present, usually just a couple of days, and we even missed out on presenting one time because the agency determined they had received enough profiles after just a couple of hours. Some agencies limit the number of profiles that are presented to a birth mother, while others allow however many respond to present. The birth mother then has the weighty task of reading through the family profiles, and making the difficult decision of choosing a family.

It is also expected that if the expectant mom chooses you, that you should not back out, so we have to be fully ready to move forward if we are matched. The time between match and baby could be anywhere from four months to immediately, it just depends on when the plan was made and the family is chosen. We’ve received situations where the due date is still several months away, but have also seen several situations of mothers in active labor or even with a baby already born! So, while we’re in a wait, there is always an anxiousness of “it could be anytime.”

We probably receive on average a couple of situations a week, though there have been periods of time where we don’t see anything for a few weeks, then a stretch of time where it seems there is at one new situation every day. It is overwhelming to decide to present or not, and we usually end up in a long, discussion trying to determine the best way to move forward. It is such a potentially life changing decision based on a simple email. We have reached the point in our presenting that if there are no obvious reasons not to present, then we usually agree to ask that our profile be presented to a situation, and trust that if it’s not our baby that God will close the door.

Since we became active with agencies (October 2016), we have presented multiple times. Obviously, we have not yet received a “yes,” but we are still waiting. Each time we receive an email letting us know that someone else was chosen, we must not see it as a “no” to us, but rather the birth mother just saying yes to a different family.

God will open the right door at the right time, we just have to be ready and willing to walk through it. We’re hoping it is soon, but we really have no idea, and are waiting as patiently as possible for a birth mother to choose us to love on her and her baby!

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Let’s talk specifics: Agency Applications

2228603119_37792a3952_oIn our first, “Let’s Talk Specifics” entry, we hopefully provided you some additional clarity about a homestudy – what it is and how you get one. For our second post in this series, we want to explain the next major step in an adoption journey – selecting an adoption agency.

Type “domestic adoption agency” into your Google search bar, and over one million results will be presented to you. Agencies in every state, some with multiple offices, others with just a small staff, some with religious affiliations, others without…overwhelming to say the least. It can be hard enough for us to decide where to eat on a Friday night, so imagine our struggle on selecting an adoption agency! Luckily, this is where our adoption consultant comes in to save us.

If you recall, we are working with an adoption consultant, Susan. She doesn’t work for a specific agency, but rather an adoption consulting group and is a professional who walks this journey with us, watching out for red flags, assisting with paperwork, and answering our questions. Also, Susan has professional relationships with numerous adoption agencies, to whom she recommends adoptive parents. This was a huge help to us, shrinking that enormous, frightening number down to 15-20. This list provided a really good “starting point” for selecting an agency. In fact, because we are working with a consultant, we could apply and work with multiple agencies, potentially increasing our chances and speeding up the adoption timeline. Seems simple, right? Just pick a few and go? Well, if there is ever a recurring theme in adoption, it is that the process is slow and never as simple as it may seem.

Once we selected the agencies we felt were a good fit for us, the paperwork trail, similar to the homestudy, began again. Contact forms, applications, and contracts had to be completed, signed, and notarized. Nearly all of our homestudy paperwork and forms needed to be included, in addition to our family profile book (more on that in our next “Specifics” post). Fees had to be paid. Further, with a few of the selected agencies, a phone interview with their staff and attorney was required, where they explained the adoption process and legal implications of working with the agency. Whew!

Of all the paperwork, one of the hardest struggles was determining the “type” of child we are willing to adopt – characteristics and qualities of a child that are beyond our control. Not only are there decisions about gender, race, and age, in each agency application, there are checklists upon checklists of every disease, level of substance abuse by the birth parents, and family medical conditions, through which we had to decide our comfort level. It is very intimidating to make these decisions. Again, as Elisabeth O’Toole’s states in her book, In on it:  What adoptive parents would like you to know about adoption:

Could you parent a child of a different race?  Which races specifically?  Could you parent a child from another country?  Which countries?  Could you parent a child in contact with the birth mother?  Birth father?  Birth grandparents?  Siblings?  Could you parent a child with physical disabilities?  Which ones exactly?  How about mental disabilities?  Could you parent more than one child?  An older child?  How old?  What about a child who has been neglected or abused?

It’s hard to check “no” on some items; feelings of guilt come quickly with thoughts such as “we’d love any child, as long as we can be parents.” But we, like any adoptive parents, had to honestly ask ourselves what was the best fit for us. O’Toole continued:

Until I faced these decisions, I had never thought so specifically about adoption – or parenthood, for that matter.  If anything, I had a vague, untested belief that I could parent any child who was in need of a family.  And I really wanted to be that person, someone who could handle any obstacle with equanimity, one with boundless patience and humor, able to provide with generous hands whatever my child needed from me.  I still want to be that person.  But I’m not.  It was only by considering adoption myself – by facing that checklist in front of me on the dining room table…that I was compelled to acknowledge and accept my own capabilities and limitations as a potential parent.

And we also sat at our dining room table, with these checklists in front of us, trying to determine as best we could what we could handle in our family. Once we figured it out, we sent off our packets of applications, contracts, and other documents so that we could become “active” in each agency’s system, to be available as potential parents for birth mothers who make an adoption plan. Currently, we are active with about five agencies and are relying on God’s help to wade through the cumbersome clunky process that is adoption.

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