Adoption Story: Heath + Shannon

I remember speaking with Heath and Shannon for the very first time in the winter of last year. I have always been so encouraged by their unshakeable faith and the way they have trusted God with their story. They signed on with Christian Adoption Consultants in February and finished up their home study and profile in March. In June they were chosen to be the parents of a little girl by her brave birth mama. Shannon shares more of their story below!

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Waiting has always been a common theme of my life.  Waiting for a job, waiting for a husband, and waiting for a baby.  Each season of wait was harder than the wait before.  This could be why my favorite verse is Isaiah 40:31 “They that wait upon the Lord will renew our strength, they will mount up on wings as eagles, they will run and not grow weary, walk and not be faint.”

My husband and I took a while to find each other.  I thought I would never get married and Heath was content being a bachelor.  Then one day on a hike, we discovered each other.  Growing up, we had attended the same church and were well acquainted with each other’s family.  It was God who finally brought us together.  That season of waiting and feeling lonely was over.

After we were married, we decided to enjoy our first year together, growing as a couple.  When we decided to begin our family, we were disappointed to discover that we were struggling to have a baby.  We began to seek out medical consults and learned through surgery, that I had endometriosis.  The surgery to explore became the surgery to repair, but still, we struggled to grow our family.

In the meantime, we began the process of being approved for foster care.  But the timing never seemed to work out.   On the same day that we went to get a third medical opinion about our infertility, we also made an appointment to meet with adoption caseworker in our foster care organization. We felt a little hopeless after leaving the fertility doctor, but the adoption meeting was very encouraging.

After many conversations and prayers, we made the decision to begin the adoption process.  We quickly discovered that adoption is filled with so much uncertainty and we had no clue what we were doing.  But, when we met Kelly Todd, an Adoption Consultant with Christian Adoption Consultants (CAC), we knew immediately that she and CAC were both a gift from God.  The process became clearer and less daunting.  But more than that, we felt like we had a friend to guide us through this journey… to help us through the fears and rejoice with us in our joys.  Talking with Kelly was like talking with a long lost friend.

After our home study was ready to go and our profile book was complete in March, we began receiving situations. We were told “no” many times by expectant mothers. It was discouraging and somedays it felt like we would never be chosen. But, we didn’t lose hope. In April we received a situation for a baby girl due in the summer. For some reason, this young woman caught our hearts.  When we found out that she chose to move forward with another family, it was so difficult.   I remember a co-worker praying me through the tears.  Heath also felt this disappointment.   Through God’s strength, we moved forward and continued waiting.  We were secure in the knowledge that God had it all figured out and that every no would lead to a greater yes.  It’s incredible to know that we couldn’t mess up or miss out on God’s plan for our story.

Since I was a young girl, I believed that God would use myself, our farm, and our horses for a greater purpose.  It was my dream to open a children’s camp for children to ride.  I kept putting this vision off, thinking that it will happen the next year, and then the next.  But I never got around to putting it into effect. God used the wait and the unknowns in the adoption process to encourage me to take the steps necessary to organize bringing children in foster care to our farm for a week long day camp.  It was after I was obedient to his calling, we got a call that changed our lives so much.

shannon and horse

To our surprise, one of the agencies we were working with was contacting us about a situation we presented to a few months prior-it was the expectant mother who caught our hearts.  For some reason she was asking about us again, as she chose not to move forward with the other family. We were able to speak with her on the phone two days later and instantly clicked. She felt like a dear friend from the very beginning. We were so grateful to know that she chose us to be the parents of her little girl. Her due date was in few short weeks so we rushed to make travel arrangements to meet her and her son. We were so thrilled to have the opportunity to get to know them. Later that day, we worked together to name this precious child, Raegan Grace.  Looking back, it’s amazing to see how God worked out all of the details and met our every need.

At her request, I was able to hold her hand through delivery, while encouraging and supporting her every step of the way.  When our beautiful girl made her appearance, her brave and amazing birth mother wanted me to be the first one to hold her. As I burst into tears, Raegan’s birth mother grabbed me in a hug that I can still feel. We spent the next few days in the hospital bonding with our daughter and spending time with her birth mother. She said that it was so difficult to say goodbye, but when she saw Raegan with Heath and I, she knew she made the right decision. We are still amazed by her strength, courage and the decision she made for her baby girl. Raegan’s birth mother is a part of our family forever and we are so grateful to know her and for the selfless decision she made in choosing adoption for her daughter.

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Through the entire experience, we were blessed beyond what we could imagine.  Every day we look at our little girl, we are more and more amazed at God’s goodness.  As we prepare for her dedication, we are committed to proclaim that this precious child is God’s child and we are but caretakers of a beautiful gift.  We have been entrusted with something so precious. And we know through everything, God put it all together.

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***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Anxiety: How God Used It For My Good

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just snap our fingers and by doing so all of our present concerns and worries would just be eliminated into thin air? As a self-professed “professional” worrier, I’ve often thought about how great it would be if someone had a “worry wand” where they could just zap away all of my anxieties with the flip of the wrist. Am I the only one who has thought this? I mean, wouldn’t that be awesome?

As a childhood cancer survivor, I dealt with medical complications on a daily basis related to the treatments and surgeries I received. I still deal with some of those issues today, but they’ve become as normal to me as breathing air into my lungs. As a little girl, however, they were a great source of embarrassment, anxiety, and sickness. Throughout elementary school I had to be excused from class by my nurse multiple times a day to take care of these issues. Kids were curious and I would get nervous about how to answer their questions about where I was going or what I was doing. I was sick often all throughout school, constantly concerned about making up tests, missed assignments and how I would ever graduate. Although I participated in many extracurricular activities, there were times I was nervous and constantly on edge about whether or not these medical issues would flare up during an event or a performance-and a few times they did.

 After an emergency appendectomy in high school, my surgeon walked in the hospital room to inform me that the likelihood of being able to have children would be slim due to the scarring and treatments I received from my previous cancer surgeries. Instead of worrying about what dress I was going to wear to homecoming that year or my grade on a math test, I was, at age 15, filled with worry and fear over the likelihood of my inability to bear children.

When I was younger I tried to convince myself through “pep talks” not to worry over these things. The more I told myself not to worry, the more I became consumed by anxiety-ridden thoughts. I had stored up Bible verses in my heart such as “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink…” (Matthew 6) but I was conflicted because I was worried and I really didn’t know where to go from there. Even though I was a believer and clung tightly to promises that God was in control, He was keeping me, He hadn’t forsaken me, He had a plan for all things-I wasn’t immune to fear.

Six months after my husband and I started dating I was diagnosed again with cancer. While waiting for further tests to be concluded, we took a family vacation to Florida to get away and enjoy the sunshine. I was so fearful about what my future would hold-would I even have one? I had read Matthew 6 about a thousand times at that point, about how I shouldn’t worry, but my faulty understanding of those verses left me struggling with guilt and condemnation over the anxiety I had. Can anyone relate to that?

One morning I woke up early before my family and stepped out onto the balcony of our condo. The morning sun greeted me and I just took in one big deep breath and exhaled, “I’m scared God. I’m so scared. Help me.” As I turned around to go back inside, a little yellow bird caught my eye. It was sunbathing on a white chair on our balcony. I knelt down to get a closer look and held out my hands. Assuming the little guy would fly away, I was surprised when he jumped right into my hands as if he belonged there. I thought back to Matthew 6 and realized my faulty understanding of those passages had been influencing the way I dealt with fear and anxiety. 

Jesus wasn’t telling the people not to worry in the absence of worry. That would be absurd! He wasn’t telling them to pick themselves up by their bootstraps, get rid of all of their anxiety and then come to Him. Jesus was telling them not to worry because He knew them well. He knew they were prone to struggle with anxiety and fear. He knew they were prone to forget God’s promises. But, you see, He didn’t just stop with a an empty suggestion. He pointed them towards their heavenly Father. “Don’t worry about your life…Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them (Matthew 6:25-26) Then, He reminded them that they are more valuable then these things. If God provided for these things, would He not also provide for them? Through studying the scriptures I learned I wasn’t alone in my anxiety and contrary to my initial interpretation, I wasn’t any “less of a Christian” because I struggled with it.

Just as I had learned to recognize that God has used my physical weaknesses to remind me of my need for a Savior, he has used (and continues to use) the anxiety in my life to draw me closer to Him. My worry throughout the years has led me into a dialogue of prayer with God. My struggles with anxiety have actually pushed me closer to the Lord because I am constantly aware of my great need for Him. Instead of trying to “self-help” my way out of anxiety, instead of trying to ignore it and act like it isn’t there (come on, we’ve all done that), I’ve learned to do what the author says in Psalm 55, “Cast all your cares on the Lord.” And God has met me there. God has met me in my honesty, and in my vulnerability and in my tears, and in my mess. He has met in my fear and in those dark places where I felt outnumbered by my thoughts. He picked me up and breathed life, His Word, into my lungs and He sustained me. And He continues to do so everyday.

If God hadn’t renewed my perspective through His word when He did, and if I hadn’t been able to see, through His grace, how He was using all of these difficult trials for my good and His glory, I know for certain I wouldn’t be equipped to handle the journey before me. It’s not that worry, doubt and sadness don’t exist anymore. They do. How could they not? I’m human. It’s just I’ve learned where to take with these feelings when they come pouring in-to the foot of the cross. And I’ve never been turned away. Christ always meets me where I am and greets me with His grace, truth and unconditional love. And He offers the same to you, my friend.

 

 

 

 

 

The Flood Will Not Consume You

Two years ago today I wrote a post on the The Great Flood of 2016 that hit our home and community in Denham Springs, Louisiana (see below). Last week I wrote a post on the importance of looking back on what God has done in our life to give us strength and confidence to trust Him with our present circumstances and future. This is me practicing what I preach…

Six weeks after we adopted our twins, the Great Flood of 2016 hit our community and our home in Denham Springs, Louisiana.  The Washington Post stated that this flood dumped three times as much rain on Louisiana as Hurricane Katrina. According to the Red Cross, this was the “worst US disaster since Hurricane Sandy,” and FEMA reported that over 150,000 homeowners/renters applied for assistance.

Moments leading up to the evacuation I was cooking chicken fajitas for Obbie and I. While I was feeding our boy I looked out the front door and noticed the water line had risen quite considerably. At the time I wasn’t nervous because we weren’t in a flood zone. I showed Obbie and he went out to talk with all of the neighbors who had gathered at the edge of their driveways. When I stuck my head out the door, I saw Obbie’s face from a distance. I will never forget the concerned look on his face. I knew it wasn’t good. He came back inside and said, “Kelly, we need to pack everything up. The water will probably be entering our house soon.” I started crying. I didn’t want to leave. This was our home.

I couldn’t find a suitcase so I brought a large empty black trunk and dragged it into the twins room. As I walked in, I began to tear up. I had spent so much time preparing, decorating, dreaming and hoping in this room. As I began stuffing all of their clothes and diapers into the trunk I looked to the right and saw the huge frame that read, “I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of Him…” I turned it around and saw all of the names I had hand written with a sharpie marker-probably 500 or more. Every single person who helped us bring our babies home has a place in our hearts and on the back of the frame. I hoped that it would serve as a future reminder to our children of just how loved they are-not just by us but by an entire community! Little did I know that on Saturday, August 13, 2016 the Lord would use something I had intended for my children to minister to me. In those scary moments I felt like He was saying, “trust me with this Kelly…remember how I brought you through the other storms and valleys…remember…even when you can’t make sense of what is going on…trust me…”

We threw as much as as we could into the back of our neighbor’s big white truck. Although I don’t remember a lot from that day, I will never forget the drive. At that point the water was so high I could feel it splash my face. And as I looked down at the twins I began to cry as we slowly waded through the water.  There were moments when I felt like I was in a nightmare and I just wanted to wake up. I prayed, “Dear Lord, protect our babies. Please keep our babies safe…”

A few hours after we arrived at our neighbor’s house the waters began rising there too. We made the decision to evacuate their house because if we waited too long we wouldn’t be able to get out. We took the twins and two back packs full of diapers and formula and headed to the one of the only dry streets left in our neighborhood. Preparing to sleep in our mini van, we parked behind our friends on the side of the road. A few minutes after we arrived there a young woman approached us with a concerned look on her face.  “Please come stay with us.” We spent that night and the next day camped out in her living room. Her entire family welcomed us and fed us.

After a few days the water subsided. When we realized our house was going to be unlivable for a few months due to the flood damage, we thought it would be best if I took the twins up north to stay with family. (We ended up staying there for a few months while my husband continued gutting and rebuilding our home with the help of friends and strangers.) Many families lost absolutely everything.  Later we learned that many families had to be evacuated by boat because the water was so high. They had to leave everything behind. Can you imagine that kind of loss?

To the flood victims: I know so many of you are exhausted and you just wonder when things will go back to normal. You walk into rooms that you barely recognize. You try to salvage a decades worth of memories in print. You wonder how you will provide for your family because you didn’t have flood insurance and government assistance hasn’t covered a fraction of what it will cost to rebuild your home. I am hurting with you. But, one thing I do know for sure is that we will rise from this and we will grow and become stronger through it. I don’t say that to diminish the loss or pain you/we are going through. I say to encourage you and remind you that there is hope. And that Hope is Jesus Christ and that is what I am clinging to.

It can be overwhelming when you look around at what is left of your house. Memories may flood your mind of what used to be there; the room that you rocked your baby in for the very first time; that special corner in your living room where you put up your Christmas tree every year; the kitchen table where you shared meals together. Although the flood may have destroyed the physical things-those waters will never be able to take your memories. But more importantly than those precious memories is the overwhelming reminder that this place is not our eternal home. The Lord has always used trials in my life to remind me of this. I am not going to sit here and try to make sense of the flood. I can’t wrap my mind around it. However, I am quite certain through my own trials, that God does not waste anything. He is sovereign and in control of ALL things. God didn’t waste my cancer. God didn’t waste my miscarriage. And we can be confident that God is still at work right now. God creates beauty out of the mess and muddy waters.

Perhaps you’ve never been through a natural disaster. But I know through personal experience that it doesn’t take an actual flood to bring on a storm. In the pain and chaos it is difficult to see God’s plan. When you are knee deep in the waters  it is easy to think that God has forgotten you and sometimes that makes it difficult to trust. But, believe this my friend: the flood will not consume you and He has NOT forgotten you. He is worthy of our trust even when we can’t comprehend or understand the chaos that surrounds us. Whatever flood or mess currently has your attention, my prayer for you is that you would cling to your Savior. When you look around at all of the unrecognizable mess, my prayer is that you would fix our eyes on Christ. Ask Him for strength. Ask Him for patience. Cry out to Him. He is listening and He is near. He will bring you out of this storm. Why? Because He is a faithful God who promises to never leave His children.

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” -Isaiah 43:2

Remembering God’s Fingerprints In Your Life

The other night, after I sang my sweet 2 year old baby girl to sleep, I walked into her twin brother’s room to tuck him in. I laid on the floor with my arm around him on his new, big boy, toddler bed. I was exhausted from the day and thought perhaps I could get away with just singing one verse of his favorite song. After I finished and I tried to get up, he wouldn’t let me go. He wrapped his little arm around my neck, pulled me in close, and said, “No mama, song! Stay. Snuggle.” He was so confident that mommy would stay with him and sing a few more songs because He knows me and that’s what I do every other night. My heart melted into a puddle right there on the floor as I continued singing to him and watched him slowly drift off to sleep.

I don’t have to look too far back in my life to see God’s fingerprints and be reminded of His provision and faithfulness. But unlike my son, who can remember how many songs I sing to him every night, sometimes I forget. Can you relate? After 430 years in slavery (Exodus 12:40), God delivered the Israelites out of Egypt and out from under Pharaoh’s rule in a mighty display of His power, dominion and glory. He sent 10 horrendous plagues, parted the Red Sea allowing the Israelites to escape from slavery into freedom, and when they were hungry God made bread fall from the sky (literally) (Exodus 16:4). But, they quickly forgot, complained and traded in the promises of God for broken cisterns that could not satisfy. And 2,000 years later, not really all that much has changed. We still behave like the Israelites who completely forgot and dismissed what the Lord did and said because our present circumstances aren’t quite unfolding the way we expect them too. 

Francis Chan refers to the forgetfulness of God’s promises and provisions as spiritual amnesia, an epidemic that none of us are immune to. You may be thinking, “If spiritual amnesia is inevitable than what can I do?” The author of Hebrews continually reminded them, “We must pay the most careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away (Hebrews 2:1). And again in Hebrews 3:6 and 3:14 he encourages them to “hold onto their original confidence.” Why would the author continually remind the Israelites to hold onto what they already know to be true?  He knew they needed to be continually reminded to REMEMBER what God has done and REMEMBER what God has said. The author of Hebrews knew the antidote for spiritual amnesia: remembering.

1. Remembering what God has said.
As a Christian, spending time with God in His word and through prayer are vital to your spiritual health. But, how can you remember what you do not know? As a busy wife, twin mom and adoption consultant, I’m constantly struggling to prioritize my schedule in such a way that allows for time in the Word and prayer. It’s tough and I’m sure it’s an art I will always be growing in. But, what a difference spending time in the Word does for my soul! During times of sickness, uncertainty, tragedy, doubt, loss, worry, fear, sadness, broken relationships, etc., God’s promises come to mind because I’ve buried them in my heart through continual reading and remembering.  Promises such as:

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
-Isaiah 43:2

“And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.”
-Philippians 4:19

“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…”
-Ephesians 3:20

2. Remembering what God has done. 
In Joshua 3 we see how God, once again, parted the waters which provided access for the Israelites to walk through the Jordan River onto dry land.  They placed 12 stones from the riverbed and stacked them on the other side (Joshua 4), which served as a reminder to them and others of God’s faithfulness and provision.  I believe God places “Stones of Remembrance” in our life because He knows we are prone to forget. Remembering what God has done in our past, give us hope and confidence to trust Him with our future. Can you think of any “stones of remembrance” in your life or perhaps a time you remember where God was with you in a very tangible way?

  • Remember how God sustained you through a very difficult time.
  • Remember how God healed you or a loved one from physical illness.
  • Remember how God saved you from your sin and brought you into new life.
  • Remember how God provided for you in a very specific way.
  • Remember how God comforted you through a time of loss.

Roman and Ruby cry in the middle of the night because they know mommy and daddy are coming to rock them back to sleep. Roman runs towards me with arms wide open from across the room because he is confident that I will catch him! Ruby points out her “boo boo” to us because she knows we will make it better.  How can they be so sure that we will follow through? Our children know us and their confidence in our response comes through remembering.

Whether you’re sitting in the unknown and waiting, struggling with physical illness, trying to mend a broken relationship, experiencing financial issues, struggling with infertility or loss, dealing with the death of a loved one or in the process of adopting a child, whatever your circumstance may be; my prayer for you is that you would remember to remember. Remember what God has said. Remember what God has done. As stories of God’s faithfulness come to mind and you look back on His fingerprints in your life, I hope it will provide you with strength and confidence to trust Him with your present circumstances and your future.

Insecurities & Open Adoption

In the initial stages of the adoption process the thought of having an open adoption with a birth mother evoked some concerns and fear in our mind. At the time, our perception was heavily influenced by the media, our lack of education and a few Lifetime movies. But now having some personal experience in this relationship and as an adoption consultant who walks with families through the process, I understand the benefits of an open adoption to all three parties of the adoption triad.  Recently, I wrote a post debunking 5 myths commonly associated with an open adoption. Myths such as “open adoption is co-parenting” or  “open adoption is only beneficial to the birth family.” Today I will be discussing how our insecurities can play a role in negatively shaping the way we view an open adoption.

Early on in the process, I realized these misconceptions surrounding an open adoption not only stemmed from lack of education, but also my own deep rooted insecurities that had been brewing for many years as we struggled with infertility. I thought that if we had an open line of communication with a birth mother it would make me feel like less of a mother and be a blatant reminder of my infertility and empty womb. Perhaps I also believed the lie that an open adoption would somehow undermine my role as a mother. I quickly discovered a connection between my insecurities and the initial fear I had regarding an open adoption.

Throughout our struggle with infertility, I allowed my barrenness to define me. Many days I felt broken and the odd one out among my friends. There was a time when I equated “being a woman” with a growing bump and a positive pregnancy test. But when the growing bump never came and hundred of negative pregnancy tests later, my definition of “womanhood” didn’t fit. It was a lie. “There has to be more than this,” I said to God one night through tears after throwing another negative pregnancy test straight into the trashcan along with what seemed at the time, my hopes and dreams.

Over the next year the Lord carefully and lovingly removed the false identity I had unknowingly placed on myself. I was reminded through reading the Word, my personal suffering and talking with other friends that my identity is solely and explicitly found in Christ. For those who are a child of God, nothing from this world can take away the fullness that is found in Jesus Christ-not even an empty womb.

I’m grateful I had this “break through” before we started the adoption process, as I continued to carry this truth with me. Even so, reminders of my “old way of thinking” sometimes crept back in. When our home study provider began describing examples of what an open adoption looked like practically bitterness, insecurity and jealously stirred back up again. “I could never do that,” I secretly thought to myself. But, as we received education from our adoption consultant, read blog posts, listened to podcasts and heard stories from birth mothers, adoptees and other adoptive families we came to realize the benefits of an open adoption far outweighed any fears we had. We knew an open adoption wouldn’t be easy, but it would be worth it.

Where and who we find our identity in has a profound effect on the way we interact with others and respond to circumstances. When our identity is found in Christ-we are free to love others and embrace the uncharted waters  we may encounter without fear. Because my identity is rooted in Christ, and not on my role as a parent, I can embrace the beautiful reality that the twins have two mothers, with distinct roles, who love them immensely. Their first mama lovingly carried them for 9 months, brought them into this life and chose adoption for them. Their birth mother made me a mother. She gave them life and I have the privilege of raising them.  She chose us to be their parents because she felt it was in the best interest of her children. Can you imagine that kind of love? A kind of love and strength that it takes to place the baby who you carried in your tummy for 9 months, the baby who you felt kick, the baby you heard cry for the very first time, the baby who has your nose and your eyes, into the arms of another woman who her child will one day call “mama?” That is a self-sacrificing kind of love; a love I want my children to know.

Research indicates that on going communication with birth parents allows adoptees to have a deeper understanding of identity and where they came from, access to important genetic and medical information and a distinct understanding of why adoption was chosen, which can decrease feelings of abandonment and increase feelings of belonging. And so I propose this question: How could we as adoptive parents, knowing this truth, not take the opportunity to have an open adoption with our child’s/children’s birth mother if that option is laid before us? I’ve spoken with adoptive families who wish they had the opportunity to have an open adoption with their child’s birth family. They would give any thing to be able to answer some of their child’s lingering questions about where they came from.

If you were like us, and struggled with the thought of having an open adoption with your child’s birth family, I encourage you to take a few moments and examine yours fears, insecurities and concerns. Birth mothers have given adoptive families a piece of their heart, one that they are entrusting them with forever. There is so much love in that decision. Not only do I want my children to hear about her unconditional love from us , I want them to know her personally. In our mind, the more love the better.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Open Adoption Isn’t A Lifetime Movie

When my husband and I first entered the adoption process we were holding pretty tight to a few misconceptions about open adoption. Our perception was highly influenced by lack of education in the area, the media and a few Lifetime movies if I’m being honest here. Initially, the thought of having an open adoption with a birth mother evoked some fear in us. As an adoption consultant and having walked through the adoption process before, I’m embarrassed over a few of the thoughts and concerns I had about an open adoption. I know many others have struggled at times with these thoughts and concerns. And so, I want to spend the next few minutes addressing, explaining and debunking some of the most common myths of an open adoption.

 Myth #1 : If the birth mother has our information she could change her mind, show up at our door step and try to parent. 
Out of all of the misconceptions I hear, this one comes to the surface most frequently. Initially, this was one of our biggest fears. But, as we learned more about the intricacies of adoption we discovered this couldn’t be further from the truth. After the baby is born consents are signed. Then, finalization occurs after a certain length of time (varies state by state) and a judge declares the child a part of the family forever. The child takes the adoptive family’s last name and a new birth certificate is provided. An adoption is final and the decision is irrevocable.

Myth #2:  An open adoption could potentially confuse the child and cause identity issues.
Research indicates that children understand the distinction between their adoptive parents and their birth parents and the specific roles they carry in their life.  Adoptees have an understanding of who gave them life and who takes care for them on a daily basis. Decades ago closed adoptions were very common. In many cases (not all) because the adoptee didn’t have access to their birth family they began trying to fill in the missing pieces and created fantasies (positive and/or negative) about them. Having an open adoption with the birth family eliminates the mystery and gives the adoptee a clear and realistic picture of who their birth family is and the reasons that lead to them choosing adoption. In the long run having access to their birth family has shown to strengthen the adoptee’s sense of identity.

Myth #3: Open adoption is too similar to co-parenting.
Generally birth parents and adoptive parents understand their rights and responsibilities in the relationship. In co-parenting both parties have some form of custody. In adoption custody isn’t shared. Many adoptive families describe their relationship with the adoptee’s birth family similar to an extended family-like relationship or an extension of their immediate family.

Myth # 4: If the child has on going communication with their birth parents they will eventually end up leaving the adoptive parents when they are old enough.
For adoptees, home is with their adoptive family. As previously mentioned, adoptees have a clear and distinct understanding of what role their birth family plays in their life.  They were raised and daily cared for by their adoptive family and that’s where they usually live until they’re ready to move out. Many adoptees (not all) are often curious in discovering more about their birth family and where they came from, but this does not change or lessen the love they have for their adoptive family. If you are interested in learning more about this topic I encourage you to watch an informative documentary called, “Closure.”

 Myth #5: Open adoption is only beneficial to the birth family.
Research indicates that an open adoption is beneficial to all three parties of the adoption triad (adoptee, birth family and adoptive family).  Another study that was published in 2009 by the Journal of Psychology discovered that an “open adoption significantly improved satisfaction in adoptive parents and birth families.”

For the birth family, feelings of loss and grief may continue throughout their life. However, an open adoption can help them navigate through the grieving process in a healthier way as it provides the birth family with peace of mind in knowing they made the right decision.

On going communication with birth parents allows adoptees to have a deeper understanding of identity and where they came from, access to important genetic and medical information and a distinct understanding of why adoption was chosen, which can decrease feelings of abandonment and increase feelings of belonging. To learn more about an open adoption from the adoptee’s perspective click here.

An open adoption allows adoptive parents to establish a healthy relationship with their child’s birth family, gain a better understanding of their child’s history and have access to the birth family who can answer questions that may arise throughout their child’s life.

 As an adoption consultant, I get asked frequently to define what an open adoption looks like. However, that can be difficult to do because there really isn’t a black and white, one-size-fits-all scenario. I’ve seen open adoptions where the adoptive family exchange pictures and updates through email and talk on the phone every few months or so. I’ve also seen open adoptions where the adoptive family keep in touch through talking on the phone and/or video chats and will visit their child’s birth family once or twice a year. We wouldn’t expectant all mother-daughter or sister-aunt relationships to look identical across the board and the same goes for the relationships that exist between the adoption triad.

 Although there are many benefits to an open adoption, just like any other relationship it won’t always be easy and it will take work and time to grow. Clear boundaries, communication and honesty are extremely important, as well as extending patience, understanding and grace!  But, my husband and I have found, along with many others, that the benefits of an open adoption far outweigh any concerns or fears we initially had. I’ve spoken with adoptive families who wish they had the opportunity to have an open adoption with their child’s birth family. They would give any thing to be able to answer some of their child’s lingering questions about where they came from. I pray that if you have the opportunity to have an open adoption with your child’s birth family that you don’t take this privilege lightly. It’s a gift.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

So You Can’t Afford to Adopt?

“How do people afford adoption?” As an adoption consultant, this is one of the most frequently asked questions I receive. The financial aspects of adoption are, for many families, their number one concern when they begin inquiring about the process.

When my husband and I started researching adoption it was one of our biggest concerns. “How will we afford it?” At the time my husband was a youth pastor working on his PhD and I was working full-time and attending graduate school. Quite a bit of our income was going towards tuition. As you can imagine, we didn’t have a huge chunk of money sitting in a savings account. But, we were confident that God wanted us to begin growing our family through adoption and we knew that He would provide everything we needed.

We began applying for adoption grants, no-interest adoption loans and fundraising. As we started sharing our story people began praying for us and supporting financially. I will never forget the day a kind woman approached me at church and put a check in my hand. As I opened it tears of gratitude filled my eyes and I looked back up at her, “Are you serious? But, are you sure? I don’t know if I can accept this. It’s so much.” I will never forget her response, “Kelly, it is a blessing to me to be able to be a part of your adoption journey in this way. Don’t rob me of this blessing.”

I have numerous moments like this in our own adoption journey that I could share with you. Thankfully, our story isn’t unique. I could spend all day sharing stories about God’s faithfulness from others who have been blessed by the generosity of family, friends and even complete strangers in the adoption process. Just the other week a family was in need of a certain amount to finance the rest of their adoption. They received a little over the amount they needed in the mail from a family friend!

Trusting God with the finances of our adoption was one of the most difficult things for my husband and I. It was also very humbling. Can you relate? I know most of you can. But God gave us exactly what we needed in His perfect timing. Did the money just fall from the sky? No, we worked hard, saved, applied for adoption grants and loans. We even did a few fundraisers! We saw God’s faithfulness and provision through the hands and feet of family, friends and even complete strangers.

“Adoption is so expensive to begin with! Is it really worth hiring an adoption consultant?” This was one of our concerns, as well. Take it from someone who has walked through the adoption process before: I don’t know how we would have journeyed through this adventure without our consultant. One of the reasons (among many) that families choose to work with Christian Adoption Consultants is because of our creative financing ideas. We equip our families with the following information:

  • Average Adoption Costs-a break-down of typical agency/attorney fees
  • Adoption Tax Credit and Dependency Exemptions-direct our families towards exploring tax benefits
  • Adoption loans-no-interest and low-interest options and providers
  • Adoption Grants-detailed list of grant providers
  • Creative Fundraising Ideas-including testimonials from our staff and families of creative ideas that have assisted in raising thousands of dollars for their adoptions

In addition to creative financing ideas, we help our families navigate the risks associated with the process. The nation wide failure rate for an adoption is 50-60%. Can you imagine how many families have lost thousands of dollars in regards to a failed adoption? Although no one can eliminate all of the risk in adoption, families working with Christian Adoption Consultants experience a drastically lower failure rate (<20%). I believe this is because we direct our families to ethical and adoption-friendly agencies and attorneys that have endured our vetting process. Additionally, we assist them in navigating the warnings signs to reduce the levels of risks associated with the adoption process. We also provide adoption resources and education so our families are equipped with knowledge to make informed decisions in their journey.

The financial cost of adoption prevents many families from beginning the adoption process, but it doesn’t have to. When I was functioning in a “what I can accomplish” mentality I was buried in fear about how we would come up with the funds for our adoption. It genuinely felt like an impossible task. I will never forget the day my husband said, “Kelly, God isn’t going to call us to this journey and leave us to ourselves. He will provide everything we need to accomplish everything He has called us to.” This wasn’t new information to me. But I think that somewhere in the mix of filling out paperwork, setting up our home study interviews, applying for grants and loans that I had lost sight of who was in control. It wasn’t me. It wasn’t Christian Adoption Consultants. It wasn’t an adoption agency. It was God. And it was in that moment that I was reminded that nothing could prevent us from accomplishing what God had planned for us-not even my doubt or fear.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

The Mother’s Day I Didn’t Want To Remember

It was a Sunday morning in the middle of May. Mother’s Day. My body felt lifeless as I lay there in bed. My eyes were still sore and head was still throbbing from crying the night before. I knew that today was going to be a difficult one to face. After I finally convinced myself to get out of bed, I walked into the bathroom, looked in the mirror, turned to the side, and put my hand over my empty belly. A few weeks prior I was so excited about getting to celebrate my first Mother’s Day with our little growing miracle.

We knew my ability to get pregnant was nearly impossible due to the cancer treatments I received early on in life. And so, after years of trying this was an answer to many prayers. This baby was in every definition of the word a miracle. We naively began plotting how we would tell our family and friends our exciting news. We even started thinking of names. Our hearts and home were filled with so much joy and expectancy. But as I was standing in front of the mirror on Mother’s Day, the excitement and joy that once filled my heart were quickly replaced with feelings of anger, bitterness and hopelessness. I felt broken. Incomplete. And in some ways less than what I was created to be and what I was created to do.

I went to church dressed in a fake smile. I sang songs. I greeted the people around me. I held back all of my tears until I couldn’t any more. I ended up leaving early just before the pastor (my husband) would ask all of the “mothers” to stand for recognition. I rushed out the back door of the church and headed straight towards our porch. We lived in the parsonage less than 10 feet away (literally), so thankfully I didn’t have that far to go before I made it to my bed (again). I can vividly remember my cheeks hitting the pillows that were still wet from crying the night before as I yelled into the sheets that I had pulled over my face, “Why God? Why?”

Anger, sad, hurt, confused, bitter- just a few of the many emotions I experienced over the next year. I had many questions for God and very few answers. But He met me in my pain. He met me in my tears. He was faithful despite my faithlessness. He was with me even when I doubted Him. I continually poured out all of those big emotions, questions and doubts at the foot of the cross because I knew Jesus could handle it. I stopped trying to dress myself with a fake smile and allowed myself to be honest with others about my pain. I learned through my vulnerability that others shared similar stories of loss and grief. And although it broke my heart to know they had walked a similar road, the reminder that I wasn’t alone brought a sense of connection, peace and healing that I truly believe is a gift from God. I now had friends who could empathize and encourage me to live a life beyond my own pain.

Strictly speaking, I’m still barren. In the eyes of my doctor, I’m still “infertile.” However, unlike before, feelings of brokenness and emptiness no longer haunt me. I’m not consumed by those thoughts anymore. God healed my heart to be at peace with my circumstances. Through infertility, I’ve learned that a diagnosis doesn’t have the power to define who I am as a woman. Christ does. Colossians 2:9 tells us that if we are in Christ, we have also been made complete in Him. I don’t walk around feeling like a broken woman because my heart has found fulfillment in Jesus. No negative pregnancy test or pregnancy announcement on Facebook can change that truth. The same goes for you too, my friend.

We went to the beach last week. As I sat back watching our beautiful twins running around squealing and giggling in the waves, feelings of profound gratefulness poured over me. I couldn’t stop myself from grinning ear to ear as they ran towards me from the ocean. With daddy close behind, they screamed, “Mama, mama, mama!” For a season of my life, I never thought I’d hear those words. And now look how far the Father has brought me. I’m wrapped up in the most beautiful voices I’ve ever heard from my son and daughter. Perhaps if I could have seen God’s beautiful plan to grow our family through adoption, it would have been easier to trust in Him. However, we would have forfeited a season of growth, wisdom and perspective if we were able to see how this part of our story unfolded.

There were many Mother’s Days that, at the time, I didn’t want to remember because the sting from the pain was too great. Maybe you can relate to my story or perhaps you are still sitting in this season of waiting.  I don’t know when or if motherhood will come for you through a positive pregnancy test, adoption, or some other means. But I do know the One who knows and sees all wombs and all lives. I know the One who bore the wrenching pain of suffering and loss. And He calls us to raise our eyes from our empty wombs to the empty tomb. In my deepest pain and through all of my doubting, God was with me and Jesus is alive in me. He never left. My big emotions couldn’t scare Him off and yours can’t either. Don’t feel like you have to dress up with a fake smile on Mother’s Day. Jesus understands your loss. Your pain. You don’t have to carry this burden on your own. He promises to shoulder your worst losses if you receive Him as gain.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

5 Ways You Can Be More Connected During the Adoption Process

My husband and I had recently started our home study and I was feeling a bit disconnected from the adoption process. I was very excited about the journey we were on, but there were times when it felt more like an idea than a reality to me. When you’re pregnant there are constant reminders that your baby is on the way: positive pregnancy test, morning sickness, weird cravings, belly bump, movement from the little one growing inside your belly, sonogram, etc. I was sharing this struggle with my friend and I will never forget the advice she gave me. “Kelly, I think there are many ways you can be more connected during the adoption process. Have you ever thought about starting a prayer journal where you pray specifically for the expectant mother and her baby?”

 1. Journaling. We had been praying about our journey and for our child’s expectant mother for quite awhile, but there is something special about putting pen to paper. And so, I started journaling about our process. I started writing down my specific prayers for the expectant mother and her little one. Even though we hadn’t been matched at the time, God knew who she was. I prayed that God would give her strength and that she would feel His peace. There were days I remembering praying specifically that if she was having a difficult day that God would remind her of His love in a tangible way-a way she could actually see and recognize.

I wrote specifically to our baby (little did we know we were praying for twins)! I wrote about how much we loved them and how we couldn’t wait to meet them. I prayed they would always be confident of their birth mama’s love for them. I prayed they would never question it. I prayed for their salvation, that they would come to know Christ as their Lord and Savior. It was such a special way for us to feel more connected to them even before we ever laid eyes on them. They were growing in their birth mama’s belly for 9 months, but love had been growing in our heart just the same.

Other helpful things we did to be more connected during the adoption process:

2. Read books and blogs about adoption and parenting. Reading about the adoption process and hearing other families stories ignited hope in us and we were reminded of the faithfulness of our heavenly Father. We also checked in often with our adoption consultant at Christian Adoption Consultant for educational adoption resources.

-Adopted For Life by Russell Moore 
-Christian Adoption Consultants Blog
-Loving the Little Years-Rachel Jankovic 

3. Prepared the nursery. 
Preparing the nursery may not be beneficial for everyone, but my husband and I found it very helpful in our journey. It was good to have something tangible to be working on while we were waiting.  It also provided us with a sense of hope when we walked into their room. I can’t tell you how many hours I spent in the twin’s nursery before we even knew about them. I would sit in the recliner and journal or turn praise worship music on, as I prayed for them and their birth mama.

4. Friends & family threw us a baby shower. I will never forget the feeling I had walking into our baby shower. As I looked around at the beautiful room filled with all of the women at our church who had been praying for us, I saw my friend standing right in front of me. I  fell into her arms with tears streaming down my face, as I was overcome with their thoughtfulness and the hope that this day brought. We spent time in prayer for my husband and I, the twins and their brave birth mama. At the shower we were given the “The Jesus Storybook Bible” with all of the names of the ladies who were at the shower. They also wrote specific prayers for our children on note cards that I saved and placed in a memory box that I will give to our twins one day.

5. Talked with friends and family about our adoption process. Support and prayers from our family and friends as we were walking through the adoption process was invaluable. There were certain aspects of the process that we weren’t able to share due to confidentiality, but we always kept our friends and family updated on where we were at in the process so they could be praying for us. Prayers from our family and friends carried us through the home study, waiting for an expectant mother to choose us, more waiting, meeting our babies and their birth mom for the first time, and all of the emotions and thoughts that come with the adoption process and being new parents. 

I will never forget the thoughts and emotions that swept over me as I laid eyes on our sweeties for the very first time. All the love that had been growing in our hearts for years overtook me as streams of joy-filled tears ran down my face onto the cheeks of the most beautiful brown eyes staring back at me. They had our hearts wrapped around their little fingers from the moment we held them in our arms.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***

Walking Through The Adoption Process With Joy

Are you discouraged because the adoption process isn’t what you thought it would be? Are you exhausted hearing “no” from expectant mothers/parents? Have you let the disappointments in the adoption process consume your mind? Are you bitter from comparing your adoption journey with another family’s recent match? Did you recently walk through a failed adoption?

Difficulties are certain in this life. In fact, if you are a child of God, hardships are a guarantee. Similarly, the adoption process isn’t immune to challenges. I will never forget the day I got a call from one of my close friends telling me that an expectant mama had chosen them to be the parents of their baby! We had been walking through the adoption process together, and this is the call I had been anticipating from them for a while. However, a few months later their situation seemed to be taking an unexpected turn – the kind that so many adoptive parents fear. The mother had decided to parent. Initially, they were angry, hurt, sad and confused. After the failed adoption, they wondered if God even desired for them to be parents. They felt hopeless and many tears were shed. But as they mourned the loss, they remembered God’s promises to them.

Even though the situation had taken them by surprise, it wasn’t a surprise to our heavenly Father. Even though their circumstances seemed to be changing in a scary direction, God’s promises were no less true. And because their ultimate joy was rooted in Christ and not a specific outcome, they were able to keep moving forward. They were able to keep pressing on with joy because they trusted in God’s sovereign hand. They trusted that His promises were true for them despite the twists and turns of the adoption process.

The day-to-day stress of life can be exhausting. But when you add the unknowns and emotions involved with the adoption process, it can become even more difficult to manage. Having joy in the adoption process can be challenging, but it’s a critical part of the journey that is sometimes overlooked.

Defining joy is important. Today, when we think of joy, we often think of surface-level happy, rainbows and butterflies-type of attitude or perspective. But the joy I’m referring to is a Christ-centered, all- sustaining, all-consuming joy. It’s the kind of joy that will hold you up through the deepest trenches and darkest nights. This is indestructible joy.

Psalm 16:11 tells us that, in Christ’s presence, there is a fullness of joy and in His hand there are pleasures forever more. Scripture makes it very clear that, for Christians, our ultimate joy isn’t found in this world but rather in Christ. However, as someone who has struggled with infertility and walked through several bouts of cancer, this is something I’ve really struggled with through the years. How am I to have joy while I’m walking through the really really messy and difficult stuff? I know the Bible says my joy is found in Christ, but how to do I get there? How do I walk this life with joy when I’ve waited years and years for a child with what seems like no answer from God? Perhaps some of you have asked similar questions. How do I have joy when I’ve been told “no” for the 15th time from an expectant mother? I know the Bible says a lot about rejoicing through my sufferings, but how? How do I do that?

Romans 5:3-5 provides a good explanation. “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” There is a distinct connection between joy and hope here. Do you see it? Hope is the anchor to our joy-the expectation, the longing, the knowing. “For our light and temporary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that far outweighs our troubles (1 Corinthians 4:17).

As Christians we can rejoice through our hardships because we hold tightly to the hope and promises we have in Christ. As believers, we can rejoice in our difficulties because our hearts have been sealed with the Holy Spirit. His promises are true for us regardless of what we encounter in this life. Lately, I’ve been learning that it’s quite difficult not to rejoice as I reflect on the promises of God to me poured out all over scripture. These promises may not align with our timetable or be granted in the way we expect them to, but God ALWAYS has our best interest in mind.

  1. Thinking about His unconditional love for me that sent His son to a cross for my sins so that I could come to know Him. John 3:16
  2. God is committed to making me more like Christ. Philippians 1:6
  3. My inheritance is in Christ. Ephesians 1:11-14
  4. God has promised to never leave me. Hebrews 13:5
  5. God has promised to be close to me when I’m hurting. Psalm 34:18
  6. God will withhold no good thing from me. Psalm 84:11
  7. God will renew my strength. Isaiah 40:31
  8. God will meet my needs. Philippians 4:19
  9. He will give me the desires of my heart as I delight in Him. Psalm 37:4
  10. God’s peace will guard my heart and mind. Philippians 4:6-7

Although my husband and I didn’t walk through a failed adoption and we had a fairly quickly match, our journey was not without its delays, hardships and unexpected twists and turns. Having joy in the adoption process (and in life) doesn’t mean that you only see the world through an inauthentic, rose-colored lens. Instead we can have joy as we are walking through the hard stuff because our hope is found ultimately in the promises of Christ.

***If you are interested in learning more about adoption and the services we provide at Christian Adoption Consultants, I would love to chat! Feel free to email me at kelly@christianadoptionconsultants.com and check out Christian Adoption Consultants for more information!***