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.

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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!***

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!***

Learning To Be Present In Motherhood

Being Roman and Ruby’s mama is one of my greatest joys on this earth. They are the sweetest, silliest, and cutest almost-two-year-olds. Even though they bring so much joy to our heart and home, that doesn’t mean we’re immune to having challenging days as parents.

A few days ago disparaging thoughts clouded my mind telling me that I wasn’t quite measuring up as a mother and pastor’s wife. I was struggling with guilt surrounding what I wasn’t doing right and how what I was doing wasn’t quite good enough. The house was a mess. There were piles and piles of dirty laundry scattered in different corners of what seemed like every room in our home. The kids had made a game out of smashing banana in their hands and smearing it in their hair, which was actually really funny. But, do you know how hard it is to get a banana out of hair? I kept stubbing my big toe on random toys that were scattered throughout the living room. And at one point gave attention to the thought of throwing everything away. But, let’s be honest, the trash cans were overflowing at that point so that option wasn’t really viable!

There I found myself in a sea of antagonizing and self-demeaning thoughts swimming around in my head. I fooled myself into believing I was holding it together pretty well, as I wasn’t voicing my complaints or feelings of failure to my husband. However, it didn’t take long for those emotions to seep through and create a foul attitude recognizable by even the most unobservant person. These thoughts were not only crowding my headspace, but they were preventing me from existing in the now with the sweet little blessings running around and giggling in front of me.

It’s easy to allow the day’s stresses, worries and concerns to pile on top of each other and suck all of the gratefulness and happy right out of our heart. It’s easy to be blinded by our self proposed failures and ruthless evaluations of ourselves. It’s exhausting. These unhealthy mindsets steal our time and expend our energy, as they divert our attention and hinder us from being fully present with our kids. But, I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) that it doesn’t’ have to be this way.

Typically the stress we feel comes with the unrealistic expectations we’ve set for ourselves. When I’m consumed by the ways I didn’t quite “measure up” for the day it usually can be linked to one factor: I’m functioning in a performance mentality mode. I’m living by the law. I’m expecting perfection from myself. This is an impossible task and one we aren’t expected to fulfill.

Although motherhood has forced me to come face-to-face with my shortcomings, God’s grace covers all of these things. The Perfect One was nailed to a cross along with all of my sin, failures, feelings of guilt, comparison, and all of those “I’m not good enoughs.” Christ death on the cross freed us from having to live by the law and welcomed us into the richness of His grace and mercy. I’ve found that as I slow my thoughts down with daily reminders of the Gospel and His truth, my days follow suit. As I sit and think about the grace that has been poured out for me, my load begins to feel a little lighter. And soon the antagonizing and self-demeaning thoughts in my head dissipate and my mind is free to swim in the sea of grace poured out for me by the blood of Jesus Christ. I’m kinder to my husband and myself. And I’m more patient with my kids. All the energy that I was expending towards those critical evaluations of myself has freed up more space in my heart and mind to be connected and present with my family.

A few nights ago I walked in on Ruby and Roman reading together. They had propped the book up on the recliner and were standing side-by-side flipping through the pages. My sweeties were chatting to each other in a language I didn’t understand, but I presumed was “twin talk.” Ruby had her little arm wrapped around his shoulders and would occasionally lean her head into towards his chest. I tried to be as quiet as possible because I didn’t want to interrupt this moment. I just wanted to be an observer, soaking up every inch of the sweetness found in my two beautiful children.

These moments are God’s little grace-givings, reminding me to slow down, reminding me that my children are only little for a short time and that our time here on this earth is numbered. I don’t want to spend my days here in a constant state of evaluating how my works are measuring up on the, “Is Kelly a good mom?” meter. After all, because I’m in Christ He says I’m enough. He defines my worth.

Friends, I’m praying that God would give you the strength to throw away whatever scale you use to measure your worth because it’s not found there. Your worth is found in Christ. Being present is about “rejecting the myth that every day is a new opportunity to prove our worth, and about the truth that our worth is inherent, given by God, not earned by our hustling” (Shauna Niequist).

Let His truth and the blood Christ shed destroy all of those unrealistic and self-imposed expectations you have made for yourself. Then, may you be free to walk in the grace that has been freely poured out for you.