Katy Alter

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When Ryan asked me if I wanted to share my story, I struggled at the thought of trying to piece together the different parts of my life. I struggled because there were so many ways I could have written my story. So many ways to describe how I have seen God’s faithfulness woven throughout my life. But, as I sat down to write these words, things became so clear—this isn’t just my story. It’s the story of many people, of their prayers, and of God’s goodness. I hope that, at the end of this, you’ll see how great is the One who began a good work in me all those years ago.

Many people ask me when I first learned that I was adopted. I typically ask a question back to them, “When did you learn about how you were born?” They normally answer with, “Well I’ve always known,” to which I typically smile and respond, “Me, too.”

My mom advises other adopting parents of infants to start telling their stories at a young age. She believes that when you do this, and talk freely about it, your child realizes that the way they came to be part of their family was natural. So, by the time I was old enough to talk, I could tell you that my name is Katy Alter and that I was adopted at two days old through Bethany Christian Services. My birth mom was an eighteen-year-old who had been adopted herself from Korea. She went through a rebellious stage that resulted in her getting pregnant with me by my Israeli exchange student birth father. He couldn’t handle the pressure of fatherhood and walked out. I could tell you how she was the one who picked out my dad, mom and sister. That my dad almost passed out when they called him at work on the Tuesday after Easter in 1993 to tell him that he needed to drive to Greenville, SC from Clemson, SC to pick up his new baby daughter. I could even tell you how God, in his grace, made sure there were no cops on the highways that day as they sped down the road to pick me up.  

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However, as I have gotten older, these details of my story have become more than just the facts about how I was conceived and placed with my family. They have become an echo of God’s resounding love.

My last name is Alter. It means to change in a significant way. My parents wanted to name their adopted child Katy, if it was a girl, after my dad’s aunt, in a prayer that I may have her boldness to share God’s love. My Aunt Katy was half Japanese and half Korean. My parents had no idea they would be getting me, a half Korean girl, when they put that name down on their adoption packet. They couldn’t have known that my birth mom herself was adopted and that she would use that experience in choosing my family, and in choosing to even have me at all. My sister's name is Bethany, the same as the agency I was adopted through. 

These are not just coincidences—I believe they are resounding pieces of evidence from God that I am His and have forever been altered because I have been adopted, both physically and spiritually.

My heavenly Father gave me an earthly mother with so much wisdom, who taught me from a young age that God had blessed me with the ability to be an ambassador for adoption. So, instilled with courage from my mom, I’ve never been shy about sharing the details of my story.

This has led me to being involved with all sides of the adoption spectrum. I’ve been a friend to a birth mom and walked her through the adoption process that she went through for her son. I’ve been a prayerful sister-in-Christ as I got to witness two of my closest friends adopt through the same Bethany office I was adopted through, and meet their son. It has also led me to being a speaker, along with my parents, to a group of waiting parents, who I hope one day will be able to tell their children how much they loved them as their own right from the start. There have been countless stories and moments with fellow adoptees. And even now, meeting Ryan and hearing his beautiful story. His story is so different from mine, but at the end of the day, I think we would both agree – God is the best author.

I typically like to focus on my birth mom when I talk about my story. I mean, who wouldn't? A brave seventeen-year-old thinking outside of herself to make decisions for me that have completely changed who I’ve become.

She loves me, I know that. My birth dad, on the other hand? He's just some guy. Some guy who never had interest in me, so why would I have any interest in him? 

See, I should be a girl with daddy issues. My birth dad didn't even sign the papers to deny his rights. He didn't just leave my mom, he left the country and never looked back. I should be a girl who doesn't understand love. I should be a girl with identity issues and one who wallows in her father's abandonment. I should be the girl whose only image of her dad is his back as he walked out of her life. However, because of the loving decision my birth mom made, I know my dad. I know his cheesy dad jokes and his witty comebacks. I know his hand of discipline and his steady, tender voice of encouragement. I know what it's like to run toward him and dance on top of his feet. I know his face, his likes and dislikes, I know that he's proud of me. Most of all I know that he loves me. Right or wrong, at the end of the day, I know he will still be Team Katy and I will still be an Alter.

It's this image that has painted Christ's love for me since I was a little girl. Adoption redeemed my view of a father. Adoption took away the early abandonment to the extent that I don't even know what it means. Instead, I know true love, the kind that wraps you up in a bear hug and doesn't let you go. A love that gives you an identity. 

I love being adopted. I love all that it means in my story and who that makes me to be. I love that it echoes my spiritual adoption and that they intertwine together to make me God's child. I love talking to fellow adoptees and dancing the big old celebration dance, because that is what adoption is. It's not a pity take-in, a story of abandonment, or bad decisions made. Adoption is a redemptive celebration dance—it points upwards at what God has done for each of us in that gave his own son to be adopted by a man named Joseph. If God didn't believe in adoption, he wouldn't have let his own son be a part of it.

John Piper once said that “adoption is the visible Gospel.” I couldn’t agree more.

The reason I know Jesus and understand my adoption into his family is because of all these pieces of my life – the good, the bad, and even the unwanted details. But more than any of that, I know Jesus because God was so gracious in giving me this story that is so full of His goodness. It's painful at times, often confusing, but always ends with the understanding that God has written me a story so full of His glory and goodness that I know I couldn’t deserve it. That is love.

So you can see…this isn’t just my story. It’s our story. And it’s about love that is complicated, yet simple. And I’m so glad God chose me to experience it.

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Lee & Whitney Fritz - "We The Lees"

Lee was born in Busan, South Korea and was adopted to a family in America when he was 4 months old.  He went to school and lived in Harrisburg, PA all his life.  He graduated college in 2007 and started a career working for the government.  He never really had much of a desire to learn anything about his home country of Korea or the culture.  His family attempted throughout his life to expose him to Korean culture but he never showed much of an interest until a conference in 2010.

In 2010, he attended a Korean adoptee conference in Harrisburg, PA, which really opened his eyes to adoption and a desire to learn more about his history.  The following spring 2011, he returned to Korea for the first time since being adopted.  Getting a chance to tour Busan (his birth city) along with the entire country was something that he will never forget.  For the first time in a long time, he was able to fit in as he walked down the street.  

When he returned home, he had a desire to learn as much as he could about Korea and wanted to expose himself to as much Korean culture as he could get his hands on around Central Pennsylvania.  He joined local adoptee groups and even served on the board of a local Korean organization.  This new found interest in Korean culture would eventually lead to meeting his wife, also a Korean adoptee, at a conference in New York.

Lee's adoption story is not a unique one, in that so many other Korean adoptee stories fall along the same lines.  He has never met his birth family or even initiated a search yet. He feels extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to watch how Whitney interacts with her birth family.  Seeing this firsthand really does give him a desire to search out his own birth family.  He struggles with the fact that doing a search could lead to rejection and never having what Whitney and her birth family have.  For Lee, sometimes just having the opportunity to control if and when he wants to search is enough, versus searching and being rejected if his birth family does not want to meet.  

*Lee on adoptee relationship*

One of the best things that has happened was being able to start We the Lees with my spouse.  Writing has always been a therapeutic way for me to express how I feel.  It was actually Whitney’s idea to launch the blog and I am so happy that we did.  It has grown more than we ever could have expected and allowed us to connect with readers around the world.  I am able to share my everyday struggles and know that other adoptees have felt the same way.  Knowing that you are not the only one out there and that there is a community of Korean adoptees really does help you cope with tough situations.

*Whitney info*

Whitney was adopted from Korea to a family in America when she was 6 months old. Her parents have always been really encouraging about Korean food, culture, etc. They would often ask if she had any desire to go back to Korea to visit or try to find her birth family. She was always very firm in saying, “No,” because she was very content and quite uninterested in anything remotely related to Korea.

After graduating college in 2009, the US job market was horrendous and Whitney was unable to find any sort of decent employment. On a whim, she replied to an ad and applied to be an English teacher. It just so happened the position was in Korea, of all places. She was hired and flew to the Motherland about six months later to start work.

While she was living and working in Cheonan, South Korea, Whitney’s parents in Ohio started harping on the adoption thing again, like “You’re just a couple of hours from Seoul. Why not go up to the agency and just look at your file?” By that time, she was just sort of sick of hearing about it so she initially contacted Holt just to placate her parents.

In Fall 2010, Whitney’s parents decided to fly to Korea for a visit, so she determined that would be as good a time as any to get her Holt visit over with. She scheduled an appointment with the case worker in Seoul and on September 20th, 2010, she and her parents visited Holt Korea PAS together. She learned about her birth family’s history…how mom and dad met, how she had an older brother, how she came to be given up for adoption, etc. On the last page of the file came the shock that started it all. Many adoptee’s family records have little to no family information given. Whitney’s was basically a genealogy. Full names & government ID numbers for parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Her social worker at the agency explained that this was a rare thing and how it would make a search really easy. The word “search” had never come into her consciousness before that second. She pow-wowed with her parents, who agreed that a search just seemed like the right thing given all of the information that had been handed to them. The door seemed TOO wide open. Before leaving the office that day, Whitney gave consent to initiate search for her birth family.

One week after that initial visit (and immediately following the Chuseok holiday), on September 27th, Whitney emailed a recent picture to Ms. Lee at Holt, along with a letter to give to her birth family. The case worker responded that evening to say that she had translated it and would begin the actual search soon. She said normally it would take about 2-3 weeks for her to locate the family. Whitney’s jaw dropped when she considered that she could potentially be meeting them in only one month. Little did she know…

About 48 hours later, on September 30th, Whitney went to her office at work to check messages after lunch. She was surprised when she checked her phone and saw 6 missed calls and a few text messages from the same unknown number. She called the number and found it was Holt. Ms. Lee asked, “Do you have a minute to talk?,” followed immediately by, “I found them.” Whitney stopped breathing. Ms. Lee explained that she had spoken to both Whitney’s birth father and birth mother that morning. They were, not surprisingly, shocked out of their minds. Ms. Lee also told Whitney that she had a 2nd brother…a younger one. She said both brothers were in university – the older in Korea, the younger in China. Neither brother had a clue about Whitney’s existence. Her birth mother said that she wanted to meet immediately, but she needed time to explain it to the boys. Ms. Lee asked, “So when can you come?”

After an afternoon of back-and-forth and many, many phone calls, it was decided. We would meet on October 1st…the very next day!

Whitney met Omma, Appa, and Seong-bae oppa for the first time in 23 years on Friday, October 1st, 2010.

A lot has happened since that first weekend, which is how We the Lees came to be. Whitney returned to the States, met another Holt KAD, and they got married. They keep in regular contact with her birth family and go to visit them in Korea about once every 2 years or so. It’s been quite the ride.

We share our stories in hopes that other KADs will find our journey encouraging and feel a kinship. Most importantly, we want to remind other adoptees that they are never alone in the complex struggles that we each face.

*Whitney on adoptee relationship - best worded by an archived blog*

Last month, I was texting with Appa in Korea and he sent me a picture of he and Omma from a recent weekend hike. Appa was smiling proudly and Omma was making a goofy face. I started laughing and passed the phone to my husband, Lee, so that he could see the picture. Instead of laughing, he thoughtfully stared at the phone for a while. This may be a good place to mention that my husband is also a Korean adoptee. I was reunited with my birth family in Korea nearly three years ago. He has little interest in conducting a birth family search.

Lee turned to me and said, “I’m your husband so you can answer this honestly. Do you ever feel as if one set of parents is more like your ‘real’ ones? Which do you feel closer to? I am an adoptee too so I am really curious to know.” The question took me aback and framed the fascinating dynamic of a dual-adoptee marriage in a new light. (My answer to that question, by the way, was “Definitely not. Both are 100% my parents, but in totally different ways.” But that is an entirely separate topic for an entirely separate article.)

The adoptions Lee and I experienced at infancy affect our marriage relationship now in ways that we are not even conscious of, and these “adoptee conversations” are just normal banter in our house. It is not something we dwell on per se, but more like a comfortable topic that we can discuss as flippantly as the weather or weekend plans. It is our reality and one that we have become so comfortable with, both in our individual situations, and together as a married couple. For me, this is a fairly recent development; a radical transformation from a childhood and adolescence spent in denial, choosing to live in a delusion where I had blond hair and blue eyes like my friends and classmates. I like to think I am a bit more self-aware now, and infinitely more comfortable in my own skin.

When we were dating long-distance, goodbyes were hard. We flew back and forth between Pennsylvania and Tennessee as often as schedules allowed and bank accounts afforded. I think goodbyes are difficult for any couple in that situation, but for us it felt…different. Harder. One day, during the long drive to the airport, Lee put it into words in a way I never could have. “I think my relinquishment as a baby makes goodbyes so much harder for me now.” I was floored. I had not been aware of it until then, but of course! How could relinquishment not affect us in that way? Compounded by a dual-adoptee relationship, it was no wonder those Sunday farewells felt, at times, so completely devastating.

I never would have dreamed (and Lee would say the same) of marrying a fellow adoptee, but now, I could imagine no better situation. There are a lot of unspokens between us that are just understood. No explanations are needed because we both get it. We have both lived it. There is much to be said for such a comfortable emotional connection and intimacy between a husband and wife team. I love my husband for countless reasons but none quite so poignant as this:
He just gets me.

Find out more about this couples story at https://wethelees.wordpress.com/

Maria Lovin

Foster Care and the Backward Kingdom

Jesus used paradoxes to help us see the kingdom of God. His paradoxical statements turned the secular world upside down. As we have already noted, He said that 'whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave.' He said that 'the last shall be first, and the first shall be last.' He said: 'I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.' He said that 'Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” -Kent M. Keith

In my kindergarten classroom the students love to sing a song called “The Backwards Kingdom”, where fish fly and birds swim, where the police is a thief, 2+2=3, and where cats bark and dogs meow. It’s a funny song, and I never really understand why the students love to sing it so much. But the last time I sang along with them, the words sunk a little deeper, reminding me of another “Backward Kingdom”, a place where very little makes sense to the human brain, but yet brings a peace that passes all understanding to the human heart.

The world of foster care and adoption has been for me much of a backward way of living. I didn’t start out as a typical person registering for the foster care class in my small town in Iowa. I wasn’t married, I lived in a one-bedroom apartment, lived off of my teacher’s salary (or what was left of it after my student loans from college), and was used to a very independent lifestyle full of adventure, spontaneity, travel and sleep. But for years, my hearts deepest longing was to provide a safe home for little ones in need. I became licensed in August almost three years ago, and since then have had my world turned upside down--or backward--by the joys and pains it has brought.

In the past three years I have housed six foster children. The purpose and need of the foster care system means that for someone’s family, things are already backward. Moms and dads might not be parenting the way they should be. Parents might be risking their children’s physical, emotional and mental wellbeing by the decisions they make. Babies are born into grief, pain, addiction and illness. Children are used as bribes, threats and money making. Children are being abused in horrific ways that most of us would never think of. The stress of living in poverty is making it impossible for people to both parent and earn a living. Things get broken. People get broken. Children, get broken.

The beauty and the irony of the foster care system is that we, as foster and adoptive parents, get to join the backward chaos that comes with taking on a child from a broken place, which in turn ends up breaking us, and can sometimes lead us to a place of eternal backwards living. Which is where I am, and where I hope to stay.

The journey of foster care has led me to invite in people addicted to drugs, employees of drug dealers, prostitutes, single parents who do not know the father of their child, married parents who decided parenthood wasn’t for them. People who I might not have sought out to befriend, but who ended up being a source of humility and compassion as we bonded over our commonality--a child in need. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.” John 3

I’ve picked up babies from the hospital and held them through the first hours of drug withdraws because of their birth mom’s choices. I’ve helped a baby affected by meth learn to suck milk from a bottle when her body would rather sleep off the symptoms of withdraws. I’ve taken babies to endless doctor’s appointments, therapy sessions, medical evaluations, speech therapy, physical therapy, supervised visits with parents, and visits from attorneys and DHS workers. I’ve picked up young children from visits with their parents in tears and fits of rage that it isn’t time to live with Mom again yet. I’ve tucked them in at night, hearing them call me “Mama” for the first time as they ask for one more story and a kiss goodnight. I’ve found myself at Wal-Mart all hours of the night for emergency formula and diapers, gone to work with formula spit up and poop stains on my shirt and bags under my eyes from long nights of no sleep. I’ve packed up babies on an hours notice so they can be reunited with their family. I’ve picked up babies on an hours notice because they were removed from a home full of drugs and bugs and had been neglected since their birth. I’ve heard judgmental comments about their color, their appearance, their ability or disability, how they don’t look like me or don’t look like each other. I’ve had to give up most of the things I was used to before I became a parent and sacrificed the freedom for the sake of a child who might live with me for a month, or forever. It’s not easy work, but it’s Backward Kingdom work with eternal rewards and endless lessons in selflessness.


“Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.” He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9

I have seen the court system make what seems to be backward decisions. It sometimes feels backwards when the judge, after reviewing every detail of a child’s case and life, decides it is best for them to return to their biological home, seemingly regardless of the pain and danger from their past. It sometimes feels backward when the judge makes the decision to permanently and legally remove the rights of the biological parents, forever erasing the bond that was once formed. It feels backward to hear a judge grant six more months to a parent who has yet to make an effort to visit their newborn child. It feels backward to be “just” the foster parent, who has no legal rights and cannot make any decision for the child without pages of permissions signed and judge approval, but know that at any time the birth parent can make the calls they want for their child and family. It even feels backward to experience emotions like joy and relief at court dates where the judge decides to grant ME the forever gift of a child through adoption. Because their loss is my gain. The nightmare of losing their child is now my dream of becoming their mother. From places of great pain and hurt comes new life and new family. But all at a cost. “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” Matthew 16:25

I hope and pray that new words to the “Backwards Kingdom” song can be written for the lives of the children in foster care today. In the Beatitudes Jesus reminds us that BLESSED are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. He says the big are little, the last are first, the weak are made strong. No matter what kind of chaos and pain brings a child to my door, I know that He has equipped me for the hard work of letting the children come to His healing, everlasting arms of love.

 

The road that led me to foster care & adoption was not the road I had planned for my life--in fact, it couldn’t have been planned or orchestrated by anyone but God. As an adolescent and young adult I was sure that my future held nothing but mommy-ing. I was voted “First to have ten kids” by my high school class, and was beyond devastated when my high school flings didn’t result in marriage at age eighteen. My parents convinced me to give college a try, and although I was hesitant to commit, I took the plunge. College ended up being an incredible chapter; full of learning, new friendships, traveling and deepening my faith in God as an individual apart from my family. Also in college, I developed a more serious passion for the Spanish language and the Mexican culture. I spent about a year living in different parts of Mexico as a student, volunteer, interpreter and missionary. During my time there it was confirmed that my hearts’ biggest yearning to become a mom was also a way to minister and care for the orphaned, abandoned, neglected and abused children. I grew to love my afternoons at the orphanage and became involved in orphan care groups, read a lot of books and studied as much as I could about the “least of these”. But my focus was mainly in overseas orphan care. When I became a teacher I was exposed to the world of foster care through some of my students. After praying about it for a couple years I took the class to become certified. My plan was to start out doing respite care for friends who did foster care, but within a month of being licensed I got a phone call for my first placement, a newborn boy. Although some people shared their discouraging opinions about my choice to become a single mom, most of my friends and family were very supportive and helpful along the journey. When I’ve heard comments like “You shouldn’t be doing that alone” and “Shouldn’t you be looking for a dad for these poor kids?” I usually bite my tongue, breathe a prayer, and respond that in a perfect and sinless world every child would have two loving and committed parents. But this is a broken world, and if a single mom can rally up a village of people to love on and support a child going through trauma, than I am happy to be the one to do it. 

How it all happened…

My second placement was considered “abandoned” after 3 months of very little parent involvement. Her parents struggle with many mental health issues, drug addictions, homelessness and frequent incarceration. When the court and social worker agreed that there was not a safe place within her family or extended family, they asked if I would be willing to adopt her. It was my first experience with the bittersweet emotions of knowing a child is being taken away from their family, but able to be part of my forever family. I was able to adopt Mercy on her first birthday, 360 days after she came into my home as a newborn struggling to eat and stay alive. She’s now a very busy and active toddler who keeps me on my toes. While Mercy was in foster care I had three other placements come and go. Last summer I had been sensing God preparing our family for another addition, whether short term or long term. I had heard that a baby was born over the holiday weekend at the local prison and was going to need a home. I prayed that morning that God would give me a clear sign if I was to say yes to a phone call, if I should receive one. Later that morning a song came on the radio while Mercy and I ate breakfast. The lyrics were “We are all God’s children, we are all loved by God...” and I said, “Mercy, do you know how much God loves you? And loves all the children in the world?” and little Mercy, only eighteen months old, said to me, “Yeah mom, and the baby too. My baby sister.” 

I knew it was God showing me that I would take in this little nameless, homeless baby as our own, whether it be for a few months or the rest of our lives. Several times the court has told me she would be leaving with relatives, but she has never left our home. 

Now eleven months later, I am happy to say that this precious child will be adopted soon this summer and we will become a family of 3. Having two under age two is busy, but the rewards are far greater than the stresses and challenges. Even though my marital status is “single”, I am never alone and my friends and family have shown me the real meaning of “it takes a village to raise a child.” I am daily humbled and grateful at the provisions and support I receive.  

Nina Tilka

I always loved being able to make my dad laugh. I loved making him happy and I wanted him to be proud of me. Is that so different from what any of us want? As human beings, we look to parents or caregivers for love, support, and encouragement. Unfortunately, that is not possible for some people. I realize that I was very fortunate growing up. I feel ridiculous trying to even compare my story with others’ stories on this site. I’ve worked with people who never had anyone in their life freely meet these needs, and worse had the person or people that were to provide for them abuse them or cause them harm. This was not my experience. My dad was not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. He was human. He had a difficult, horrific childhood. He could be passive-aggressive, lacked empathy sometimes, and bullied my mom in front of us kids. Overall though, my parents were great parents. They did the best they could with what they had. And if I’m going to be honest, I’ll admit that it wasn’t until recently that I realized the ways in which my dad was a good dad.

As cheesy as it is to say, his love language was quality time. I know that because my mom would complain about how he would want her to be with him when he watched TV and movies in the evening. He didn’t want to necessarily talk with her, but just wanted her company. He was the same with my three older sisters and me. He planned exhaustively long family road trips in an oversized, non-air-conditioned van. He would not have done that if he hated spending time with us. As I went into high school, he came to my cross-country meets (for the one season I ran), every basketball game that he could get to (which was almost all of them), and invited me to the movies and lunch with my mom every chance he had. When I got to college and moved out, every time he saw me he would ask, “When are you going to stop throwing away your money and move back home?”

My favorite thing about my dad was the way in which he cared for me. He did things to show he was thinking of me. He kept newspaper clipping of my basketball stats, even when I scored just one point. I used to spend hours shooting hoops in our driveway. I would get home from practice and shoot some more in the dark for as long as my mom would let me. He used to nag me about how bad that was for my eyes to strain in the dark so he bought me a light to put outside.

I have specific memories of him being really uncomfortable in order to show care, like shielding my eyes to take me to the men’s restroom when he took me to Disneyland or going with me into a doctor’s appointment when I was a teenager. This may have also been related to his paranoia that my sisters or I were going to be kidnapped at some point in our childhood. He would nag my sisters and I about locking the front door when no one else was home. He would never let us walk anywhere even in high school without an adult. I used to think he was overprotective, but I think about him wanting to keep me safe and I get it now.  I’m thankful for that now.

My dad also taught me about Jesus. With great angst and passion he expressed how important it was to read God’s word and to pursue every opportunity to share my faith with others, to not waste time. “Life is too short,” he would say. My dad would cry, just cry when reading almost anything, but most consistently he would cry when he read the Bible. The way he spoke of heaven… there was nothing else he looked forward to with such joy. I will never forget the look on his face when I went down to Mexico with him once. We handed out Bibles to kids in a little neighborhood, and he looked at me and said, “You’re doing it! This is it. Isn’t this easy?!”

It was my graduation day: May of 2011. I was getting my masters degree and walking in the ceremony: cap and gown, the whole getup. My boyfriend at the time was also receiving his degree in the same ceremony, which was meaningful to us both. My dad had been talking about not coming because of some health concerns, but I assumed it was because he has never liked big crowds. He never liked these types of things. He would come to my basketball games, but he would get there an hour early and sit in the back away from everyone else. Although I was somewhat annoyed that he did not want to be at my graduation, I was understanding and also acknowledged that he had watched me do all of this many times before. I also knew that it likely was not the last graduation either. “He would have other opportunities to be with me at meaningful moments in my life,” I told myself.

I was wrong. I had no idea that my dad wouldn’t live to see another Christmas.

He ended up calling an ambulance that day right before my graduation because of a severe headache that would not go away. They discovered a tumor a little smaller than the size of a baseball in his skull. He went through surgery just a short week or so later and almost immediately started chemo and radiation. It is still surreal to think that this actually happened to our family.

My boyfriend of 8 years proposed to me in August, and we started planning a wedding to take place within four months with the hopes that my dad could walk me down the aisle. In September, less than four months after his diagnosis, my dad decided that he was not going to go back to see another doctor. The days to come were full of frustration for his doctors, my family, and I who couldn't understand what was happening. Why was he just giving up? To this day, I don’t understand it. I have no real answer, except to say that he wanted to be in heaven. He was just so done with this world and this life, feeling depressed and never feeling like he could rely on anyone may do that to a person. I don’t know. He did not make it to my wedding in person, but I know he didn’t miss a minute of it.

When Ryan asked me to write this, I dragged my feet for quite some time because I couldn’t figure out what the purpose would be for me to write it. When I finally sat down to do it, I realized what I’d been avoiding. It isn’t easy to relive painful moments in life. At the end of his life, I felt like that my dad didn’t care about his family or me, he didn’t care that he wouldn’t dance with me at my wedding the way he did with my three older sisters, and all he wanted was to end his pain. I thought that was selfish at the time. 

However, there is more to the story and the reason I am writing about this experience is to share how I have healed, how I’m still healing and where God has intervened. How I made it through was fairly easy at first because I was planning a wedding, working a part-time job, and had just started my first semester in doctoral program in clinical psychology. I was busy and it was easy to avoid feelings.

The month after my wedding, I was taking a class with a professor who had been fighting cancer for 10+ years. I instantly clung to her. If anyone was going to understand what I had been through, it was her and she did or at least she tried to, which is what I needed. At a retreat I went on with her and other students the following January, she told me, “Nina, I didn’t get why your dad just gave up and why it seemed he wouldn’t want to live to make it to your wedding. But this past fall, I understood. He needed to prepare himself to die. It isn’t a process that can involve anyone but self and God.” That was a huge part of my healing process. Quite honestly, I’m still healing. I’m in therapy, which is helpful for me. I try to talk about my dad as often as I think of him and miss him because I don’t ever want to forget who he was as my dad and what he taught me.  

I know that I am not fatherless now because of what my father taught me while he walked this earth. Of course the Bible tells us that we are God’s children, adopted in Christ. In Romans 8:14-17, Paul writes,

“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.”

But what my dad gave me was a gift of insight and experience into who God is and how he loves his children. It is no coincidence that my view of God is one of a loving father who just wants to spend time with His daughter. I have never questioned whether God was listening to me or present when I pray. There is research that supports this idea that our experiences of our parents shape our view of God. It is easy for me now to look at things that have happened in my life and see God’s love and care. I don’t think it would be if my dad had not provided that for me.

Tasha Mini

Ryan’s story, amazing. He’s an amazing person, and has a fantastic story about adoption and abandonment. I know something about the latter. I was raised by a single parent. But, keep in mind, I don’t think my story is finished nor does it have a bow tie ending, at the moment. So, if you’re expecting that— don’t read anymore. If you were also wanting to read about a perfect Christian girl, yea, I am not that either. I curse way too much, I don’t always go to church, and I sin a lot. I don’t want to, but I just do. I am also difficult, constantly working, thinking about myself, my career. I am selfish. I don’t let anyone in, let alone, someone to love me.

Alright, from the beginning, my story. I was born to two drug addicts. Heard this one before? Yeah, I feel like it’s more common than not. I was that mistaken-pregnancy child that happened to an alcohol and heroin-addicted, father, and a crystal-meth addicted, mother. My mother calling her crystal-meth endearingly, “Ice, Ice, Baby”. The last thing my parents were paying attention to was birth control. Seriously, they needed to get their next fix on! Interestingly enough, my parents were married once, and then divorced, then conceived me. My mom loathed my dad, and my dad said he only married my mom because she wouldn’t leave him alone. And all he wanted to do was be left alone once his mother died. But that’s my father’s story, not mine. Contrasting my father, my mom had two incredibly loving parents. Both upper-middle class, giving her everything, she ever wanted. From when I knew her, she never had a job. But again, that’s someone else’s story, and not mine.

Back to me, my mom smoked, drank, and did a lot of stuff when she was pregnant with me. Somehow, I came out okay. As an infant, I was sick at first, but made it through! I turned out an okay baby. Then my dad went to jail shortly after my first birthday. He got out when I was four. He was sober. He was clean. He met Jesus, and loved him so much. He didn’t have a license, or a car. He didn’t even live in the same town as my mom and me. However, he was there. When he could, when he had money to give my mom, she would let him see me. He took me to double features at the movies, and bubble blowing in the park. I was four, that’s really all I could remember, but it was good times! It was different than with my mom. It’s funny how the good times tend to be so transparent in your memory, but the bad is colored in so richly... My mom chain-smoked, a lot. I remember because I have asthma and whenever she smoked— I got so much worst. I went to the hospital for pneumonia a lot as a kid. My dad always took me. My mom didn’t have food, often. I don’t know where it went. I remember eating toilet paper and seeing my tiny belly bulge. I remember my mom not coming out of her room for days, and I would somehow know to still take my asthma medicine. It was liquid, one was red, and another was pink. The pink tasted good, like simply syrup. The red, tasted metallic and bitter. But I took both, always.

I remember finding needles in pink-colored bath water. I remember my mom’s boyfriend lighting our yellow VW Bug on fire. The flames consumed the night sky. I remember my mom’s boyfriend hitting me in the face with a gun, giving me a bloody mouth and a blue- and-purple eye. Then firing his gun, grazing my ear, bullets lodging into my bedroom ceiling. My dad picked me up the next day because we were going to get our pictures taken at the mall. Yes, one of those cheesy mall-time photos! I wore a shirt that said, “I look like my Dad.” I still have that photo with my bruised and beaten face. My dad never took me back to my mom’s. I never saw her again. I was six.

My dad went to court, and he got full-custody of me. The only way my mom could see me, was to have court supervised visits, only if she passed a drug test beforehand. She never took one. Years later, I heard she moved to Portland. Had a few other kids with a few other men. She doesn’t have those kids though. She gave some away, others got taken away. Again, not my story. When I was growing up, I never missed her. It’s so hard to explain, I guess, telling people who grew up with two parents. Or, having a parent die at sixteen— like my dad. People ask a lot about it. And, hey, I don’t mind telling, if they ask. I don’t ever say, why I don’t have a mom, but people tend to pick up on it when I talk about my dad so much. They instinctively think, where’s her mom? But just like my tattoos, if you ask me about one, I’ll tell you the story behind it. Losing my mom at six was like losing a limb at six. I was so young, so nimble. I just learned so quickly and painlessly how to live without. It’s like my three-legged kitty, Roary. She had her leg amputated at eight-weeks. She runs, leaps, and jumps— she’s ferocious. She doesn’t care nor does she ever think about having only three legs.

It was only when, I turned twenty-two, I think, I really let it sink in: I never saw my mother again. It was because she wanted drugs. She wanted drugs, more than she wanted me. She loved drugs, more than she loved me. That really hurt. I studied film and art studio in college. That year, when I was twenty-two, my film project was about a mother who abandoned her child, willingly. I read the script to my classmates, and a lot of my female peers, found it incredibly unbelievable. As if I wrote magical realism or something. I remember, one very outspoken woman, saying to me, “Not even a dog would do that to her pups.” I never told her that my mom did that to me. I didn’t want her to feel bad. I graduated college that year. Did I mention that I got a full-ride scholarship? I graduated summa cum laude? I worked my butt off too. I had an internship, tons of classes for a double major, and a job. I barely slept for four years straight. Did I mention that my relationship with my dad got strained? It really did.

I’ll back up a bit. Okay, here’s the thing. My dad’s superman, he’s women woman too. He was mom, and dad growing up. My dad would have a hella nice job, working in the tech industry for a few years, and then he lost that job, and got a job as a taxicab driver. We moved from a house into a one-bedroom apartment—where he slept on the coach. Then, he got a cool job working IT for a bank, and then he lost that, and went back to being a driver. He was constantly yo-yoing. We went for doing alright, to eating “McDonald’s Dollar Menu” five nights a week. It was frustrating. I just wanted him to get it together. Stop losing jobs. Take care of himself! When I left for college, he moved into his sister’s house, where he was collecting unemployment. It was fine. If that’s the path he wanted to take. I was good to take care of myself. And I did, for awhile, until I got calls from my dad asking if he could borrow money, for this and that. I was eighteen, what was I going to do? Say no, to the man who wanted me when no one else did? Of course not.

Like every college student, I partied, I drank, I did crazy shit I am not proud of today. But I wouldn’t take it back. It’s those stupid mistakes that make me the person I am today. Well, towards the end of college, my dad got it together, had this amazing job at a printing press. He was making chill money. Then, he wasn’t. I was twenty-two, graduating, not knowing what I was going to do next in life. It’s crazy when you’re first graduating college; it feels like you’re jumping off of a mountain into foggy air. You can’t see anything, let alone your feet, how far away the ground is from you, or if you’re going to land safely.

My dad didn’t like the way I was living my life, forgetting about Jesus, drinking too much. He was also bragging how he did it; he got his daughter through college. I was like, excuse me? Did you pay for it? Did you take those crazy killer classes that had me doing all-nighters? Did you have a job at the news station that you woke up at two am, then went to classes at eight am ’til noon, then internship until five, then worked on directing projects within your department for your thesis until all hours of the night? Just to repeat the next day? I don’t think so! I also didn’t like how he was always leaning on me. I knew he gave up everything for me, when I was little, but I felt like, “Why am I obligated to start re-paying you back dad, since I turned eighteen? Was that seriously part of the deal when you have a kid?” I was so angry at Jesus for making me feel like I had no one, making me feel like I had to carry bricks stacked upon bricks, to get my stuff done.

I moved New York for grad school. I stopped talking to my dad, and everyone in my family, because I was just so done. I wanted to get as far away, as possible. Then, things were okay. Grad school was cool. I was killing it. I was so lonely. I started going to church again for companionship. Honestly, it was so selfish why I went. I had so much pressure and tension in my chest, but once I was there, it went away. I kept on going back for that relief. What my dad doesn’t know, (and that’s crazy because I tell him everything, he’s my best friend) is that I had been talking to my mom’s sister for a bit, around that time. Just over the phone, she lived in California. She talked to my mom, and to my amazement, my mom was still alive. She was living in middle of somewhere, U.S. So, for a while there, I was really angry with my mom. When people asked about her, I just said she was dead. I didn’t want to deal with her anymore either. My aunt called me on Christmas day; I was spending it alone in my apartment, completely snowed in. She said that my mom wanted to talk to me, and asked if she could call me. I thought, “It’s been eighteen years, what’s the point? There’s no point. Let it go.” I think, I knew, at that moment, I hadn’t forgiven her. I was really missing my limb.

Well, a few months after that, my dad showed up on my doorstep. He had no job, no money. He had been working in Chicago and shit went bad. You would think, knowing me, I would be pissed, tell him to go live in a homeless shelter or something. Well, I didn’t. I cried. I missed him, so much. I asked him to forgive me, and I forgave him. It was so simple, pressure melting off of me. I was free. Jesus showed me that. He taught me how to forgive. He taught me to love unconditionally, because he has always loved me. He loves me even though I am imperfect. He is with me always. I can see that now—he’s with me in the good times and the bad. I know he was with me when I almost had my head shot off as a kid. He was the one who told me to take my medicine, even the nasty red one. He was with me that night when I drank so much—had to get my stomach pumped. He was with me, helping me get into second graduate school, and an amazing job opportunity in LA. He’s always looking out for me. Gosh, who does that? Protecting me, loving me, always, never wanting anything in return...

So, I didn’t think ahead of time how I was going to end this story. Maybe, because, I am still living this story. It’s still going and going. I am finishing up my second MFA. I have this killer job in L.A. I am starting to let people in. I never really did that before. Yes, my mom abandoned me when I was six. Yes, I still haven’t forgiven her or taken that phone call, I talked about earlier. I am still working on that. I am still talking to Jesus about that. Yes, I do have a dad who is probably the opposite of abandonment. I couldn’t get rid of him, even if I really tried. He’s my best friend. I can tell him everything. He loves Jesus. He told me about Jesus when I was four-years- old. My dad prays for me everyday. He’s also always there for me. When I had to get surgery earlier this year, he was there. When I got into a car accident just a few days ago, he was there. He will always be there for me. He will always be on my side. So, that’s pretty cool. Do I hate that I grew up without a mom? Hell yea, I do. I wish I had a mom. Would I change it? Hell no. I wouldn’t be the person I am today. Jesus made my life so imperfectly, perfect. He showed me that. Yea, I had to work, still work, really, really hard to live. But gosh, you know that saying, the sweet just isn’t as sweet, without the bitter? Yea, I’m living that. And, you know what, I really thank Jesus for that. I guess that’s the end...

Katie Arant

My life, to say the least could be one of the most epic roller coasters you could imagine at a theme park. If you combined the emotions of everything I have been through into one ride, I’d advise you to prepare yourselves. I could go on about my life story of growing up in a broken home with parents who were always fighting, being told by my alcoholic mother at the age of six that I was ugly and being beaten for no reason. And then there was the day my neighbors called the cops on my parents for yelling so loud and I ended up in a foster home in Anaheim, California. The name of that place still haunts me, Orangewood. Thankfully, that was the only time I’d ever ridden in the back of a police vehicle. Long story short, my dad rescued us from that place. From then on I lived an amazing life with a single father. While my dad felt defeated that I didn’t have a mother, he thrived and was an amazing father to me. In 2006 my life took a turn for the worst. While I grew up living with my dad full time, being separated from my mother haunted me. I still wanted her. Because she had an alcohol problem, there were many moments of no shows and letdowns. She wasn’t coming for me those days. My dad was always right there to catch my feelings.

In 2006 on June 12th, my dad gave me the worst news of my life. I was 18 years old and told that my mother had committed suicide. Suddenly I felt more lost than I could ever know. The world was empty. How could she leave me? I was her daughter. I loved her. Was I a bad daughter? What did I do? Can I please get her back? Dear God, please bring her back! Those emotions raced through my mind as I bawled my eyes out. From that point forward, I promised myself that I would never leave my children like that.

From then on, I lived my life, trying to find my lifelong partner and rebuild the family that I had once remembered as happy. I was anxious and impatient to start my story with someone else. About a year later, at the age of 19, I moved to Palm Springs, California to chase a boy. We bought our first house together and not long after my 20th birthday did I realize that I was only settling for someone I wasn’t truly in love with. I just wanted to feel comfortable. I decided that it was best to end things, as I did not want to lead him on. I didn’t want to move on. I did not want to end up married and having to divorce someone I was never happy with. I also wanted a family. I cannot build a family on a broken foundation.

Near the end of 2008 I met a wonderful man. He gave me all the joy I was searching for. We were the best of buds. We had a quirky relationship of total similarities and sometimes complete opposite feelings. Yet, somehow we matched. He managed to fill every void inside of me. I never wanted him to leave. A couple years after we began dating, I felt our love fading away. I was young, 23, and didn’t know what I could do to save it. He went out with his friends and made some, not so wise, choices. I ended that relationship. I felt it was too painful for me to continue living with someone I felt I couldn’t trust. I had no idea how to save the relationship, so my first instinct was to run away. I began dating other people. That is when I met the person who would change my life. I continued with this relationship, still thinking of my previous relationship with the person I loved. I dabbled in some “not so wise” choices of my own. After a short 6-month relationship, I ended up pregnant with my first child. The man I fell pregnant with was still seeing his ex and wanted nothing to do with the pregnancy and me. I carried out my pregnancy alone. When I first was pregnant, the first person I called at the 3-month mark was the one person I was truly in love with. Somehow, I don’t know why, but he calmed me down. He, without saying it, showed me that everything was going to be okay. He was pained inside. The damage I did to him by leaving our relationship after only a few short months later being pregnant by another man, created a range of emotions that flooded through him. It was not fair. I wanted my baby. I knew it was going to be really difficult, but I couldn’t imagine giving him up. Adoption at that point was not an option. I was narrow-minded. I had friends and family members offer to adopt him. I thought they were crazy. At that point in my life, I couldn’t understand people who gave up their children. In 2012, I made another promise to myself. If I am going to keep my child, I am going to not be selfish. I am going to give up whatever is needed and do what is best to raise my child. And I will carry that forward.

When my first-born was 14 months old, I made the attempt to date again. Here I found myself desperate for love but I had a lack of self-confidence. My body was not the same as it was prior to a baby. Neither was my mentality.

I met a man, who claimed to be Native American. I was taken back in an amused way. As I kindly cringe while writing this, I was somehow attracted to the idea of the Native American culture. Also, as I was dating this man he appeared to be a successful person who carried a Bachelor degree in forensic psychology. In this moment, I would’ve explained myself as wide-eyed and in awe. I was attracted to the idea of success. I felt like we could work together and build a relationship. A strong one. Nothing ever fully pulled me in with this guy though. After a couple of months his lies began seeping through and I began to learn that his talk of being successful was all an act. This man had two children of his own. I learned about a month into our relationship that he had no job. He eventually obtained one making 12 dollars an hour, but how was this not adding up? My relationship with him was always a turning page in a short chaptered book. He went from a successful educated man, to a 32 year old with 2 children making 12 dollars an hour. I began to question why he wasn’t having any success in finding a more suitable position considering he had a pretty decent degree. He could start entry level somewhere making more than a mere 12 dollars an hour. Well, that is when I learned he had 2 felonies on him and spent a year in a penitentiary in the isolation ward. He was high risk due to his attitude and anger. I was so disgusted and feared I didn’t bother to ask any more questions. Shortly after finding all of this out, I found I was pregnant again with my second child. Suddenly I felt trapped and feared for not only myself, but my first-born. I was in a dangerous situation and was scared to get out of it. I felt obligated to follow through with his wishes and demands. Arguments with him were awful. I don’t know how many times he told me that I was a stupid “female dog”.  While he never hit me, he was very verbally abusive.

One night when I was at home, safe in my own home, he called me. I told him I could not see him anymore. Surprisingly he took it well and got off the phone quietly. I wasn’t sure if I should be scared or if I should be excited. Most of me felt that a house load of bricks was just lifted off of me. But after all of that, I was still pregnant. I was pregnant with my second child and no one knew. My family knew that my relationship with that guy was bad news, how would they react if they knew I was pregnant? The fear started setting in.

From that point on. I was scared. I felt lonely. I could not talk to anyone. I started counting every penny I had. Seeing where I could cut corners with raising one baby and making room for another. This is still the narrow-minded me refusing to place my child for adoption. No! He was mine! I created him!

I soon realized that I did not create him, God did.

My pregnancy with my second son was rough. I worked a full-time job that required long distance travel, and then had to come home and be a full-time mother to an active toddler who loved to run and climb. Some days I’d be in the car on a 2 hour drive puking into paper bags that would suddenly fall into my lap while driving on the busiest freeways in Orange County. That was definitely not fun. I soon realized, there was no way I could do this alone. I finally considered the adoption route.

The strangest thing was, once I considered adoption, there was no turning back. I already knew deep down inside that it was the best choice. I knew where my baby belonged. It wasn’t because I wasn’t worthy and it was in not because I didn’t love him. It was because I loved him TOO much to infinity that I couldn’t be selfish. I had to own up to my very first promise from 2006. I was never going to leave my baby, and I was never going to put him through a rough life he didn’t get to pick. It wasn’t his fault I got pregnant. He deserved the best.

I searched out adoption agencies and chose one that stood out to me the most. After many traumatic stories I heard about adoption, I still had the power to continue going. I made the call. My trembling fingers dialing the number, my rattling voice as I was transferred to the person who would direct me. I was so scared. And I was so alone. I was so depressed at that point; I didn’t know what was carrying me. I know now that it was an act of God. He drove me to that appointment, He guided me. I remember the day I sat on that couch speaking to the adoption counselor. She must have thought I was a nutcase. I could not stop crying. Regardless, I still knew as bad as it hurt, I was making the right choice.

We set up multiple meetings and I cried multiple times. I had a picture in my mind of who I wanted. It was the only way that I could move forward with the adoption.

There are many in this world, such as myself, that cannot bare their own child. The family I wanted, I wanted them to be a first time family that wasn’t blessed with the human pipes we all have, as shallow as that sounds. It is hard for me to explain my reasoning for this but I am going to attempt it.

The love that I have for my first-born son is utterly out of this world. I could not imagine my life a single day without him. I would travel to the moon and back a thousand times to get him and do for him whatever he needed to stay healthy. I wanted a family for my second born to have this same feeling for their child. This was the only way I could have peace in knowing that my son would have all the love I could never physically give to him.

After selecting one couple, we never had the opportunity to physically meet. I wasn’t sure if they were the match. Then, I met the parents I knew were “the ones”. The adoption counselor shared with me that it was going to be the most “awkward” first date feeling and boy it sure was. How do you explain to someone “no I am not a drug addict, but yes I am normal but no I don’t want my kid.”  A raw description I gave, but I feel like many people think adoption is only a substance abuse solution. I’ll raise my hand to say that, no it is not. And I would not call it an “out” either. It is a solution, but it will never be an out. Those feelings will live beyond you.

I was choosing the life of my son, over my heart and my life. I wanted him to live on a happy life, no matter how badly I hurt. My only fear was that he was going to hate me. He would wonder all the feelings I felt when my mom passed away. I was so scared.

Well the day came and went. I met and matched my biological son with his parents. And I have never had any doubts. They are amazing, genuine and strong. They have stuck together through infertility and continued to move through a rocky adoption process and I commenced them for that.

The day I went into labor, June 10th, was an amazing and smooth day. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy on June 11th, 2015 at 3:07am. I never cried. I was so strong through it all. I couldn’t cry. God was holding this baby boy and me and blessing us. I never kept him in my room. Not because I didn’t love him, but because I wanted his parents to have the bonding experience. Since I already had a son waiting for me at home, I knew what a special moment this was and I wanted them to have it all. My mental strength was maxing out though. I adored all the time I did have with this beautiful boy while I was in the hospital. Visiting every few hours. The hours were just that. And they were winding down. On June 11th, it was after visiting hours.

I chose to go visit my baby boy in the nursery. I wanted to whisper in his ear and tell him how much I loved him. I was expecting to go to the nursery and he would be there, waiting for just me. But when I got there, I saw his parents. I don’t know what it was about that moment that hit me, but that was the first time I was truly hurt. It hit me. While I wanted them to have all the time with him, a surge of jealousy came over me at that moment. Once they left the room it was the first time I cried. I started to lose my breath. I couldn’t even do what I wanted. I couldn’t talk to my baby boy. I felt like I wasn’t allowed to say my words. I walked back to my room holding my breath, trying not to shed my tears. But I couldn’t hold back. I was gasping for air. It was hitting me like a ton of bricks.

As I laid in bed that night I would sleep off and on. I cried when I would wake up and then I would pass out from crying too much. The next day when the doctor came in to check on me, I couldn’t even speak. I told them as much as I could which took a few minutes from my gasping pain to get out the words “I need to leave”. There it was again. My first instinct was to run, and I did. I signed all the paperwork, took my last dose of medicine, and got the heck out of that hospital….without saying goodbye to my baby boy. It hurt too much to give a formal goodbye. I think I would have died right there if I had even tried. I am almost positive my heart would have outright stopped. The day I checked out of the hospital was June 12, 2015. Nine years to the day that I was given the news that my mother had committed suicide. Boy, you can imagine what a wreck I was.

To change this from a tear-jerking story, my adoptive family changed all of my emotions from that day right around. I was walking out of that hospital thinking I was never going to see this little boy again. They have been nothing but open with me. We have a respect for each other that no one could imagine. After I recovered from my loss, which will never be entirely gone, I could not imagine anyone better to raise this boy. They ARE without a doubt his parents. God used my body as a vessel to deliver their baby. I feel it, and I know it. I will always love him and I will always love them. We are a family created through god. The family I was seeking all along and never knew it, but I never once felt angry or felt like God was against me. Somehow I always knew He was working with me, but now I have a clear comprehension for my struggles. I am a happier person today than I could say 10 years ago.

“A man’s heart plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps” Proverbs 16:9

David & Megan Bowers

My husband and I met during college through mutual friends and our love story is riddled with quirky moments made entirely possible by our rather awkward and ridiculous personalities.  I like to tell the stories of how we met, how we got engaged, etc to the high school students I teach as an example of real life, completely unscripted, and oh so wonderfully strange love.  While it may not have played out as flawlessly as a romantic-comedy, our love has been familiar and easy: having established such a deep friendship before dating.  We are so well suited for each other: my husband, David’s easy-going personality makes everything a bit smoother. Even throughout life’s bumps, we’ve supported each other.

We are both planners and so we did the “responsible thing” and planned for our family.  We both knew we would go back to school to pursue our Master’s degrees, and then the plan was that I would be pregnant while writing my thesis.  That date came and went.

Making the appointment with a Fertility Specialist was weird and hard enough.  I didn’t want to admit that anything was wrong or even face that possibility but it was better than waiting and crying with the arrival of my period each month, so we did it.  I vividly remember hearing the doctor explain our exact “Infertility Diagnosis.”  Many of you know what that’s like, but for others who will never know, it is virtually indescribable to have someone explain that your plan, well, it’s not even possible.

Enter Plan B: IVF.  My brain needed to embrace this new plan as THE plan and so I got really attached to the idea of a special story that we would one day share with our children.  Something about being grown in a petri-dish and how we saw them being implanted, etc. Multiple failed cycles later, we were left with a very difficult decision: exhaust our financial resources and try one more time with a vague hope that it might just work, or switch to Plan C.

We felt as though we were in a desert; we reflected on Old Testament stories of wandering Israelite's and long-suffering trials.  We hoped that as was the case with the great heroes of scripture, a Promised Land waited for us at the end of the road, something that would at last make it all worth it.  The problem wasn’t the appeal of the promise though; it was the wandering.  We each copped differently with the waiting.  I waffled between extremes of shattered wailing dependence and bitter frustration.  More often than not I found myself in the numbing apathy of doubt.  Was it that God just didn’t care?  Was it that he was ignoring my prayers?  Was I just not doing the right thing?  It just felt so mean: that God would give us such a deep desire and then deny it time and time againWe were lost in a vast desert and growing ever more weary.

As difficult as the journey was for both of us, looking back, we have been able to recognize the intentionality of God in even the most difficult of circumstances. What was our Plan C, we soon realized was God’s Plan (period). It was not by accident that I became close with a former student’s mother who had gone through the IVF process to conceive her youngest two children; it was not a coincidence when her daughter Cassie jokingly called me “Mom” one day during basketball practice because as her coach, I ended up being the one that cleaned them up, did their hair, picked up their forgotten things, etc.  Even something as ridiculous as the fact that our wedding song was “God Bless the Broken Road” because we realized that finding each other as spouses meant that we had to go through some not-so-hot dating relationshipsWell our journey to our son involved some not-so-hot moments too, but God Blessed our Road, broken or not.

Early in the process of infertility, my husband mentioned adoption to me, and it was probably the most upset I’ve been with him.  It was not allowed to even be considered in my opinion.  I had some very strong attachments to pregnancy, what it meant for me in my identity as a woman, my original plan, etc.  Add all of that to the fact that the adoptions I know of within my family have almost all had some sort of terrible twist to themI was biased and narrow-minded to say the least.

However, through the process, through relationships, through the suffering, through the waiting, through my husband’s patient support and divine guidance, I began to realize that the idea of not being able to love someone that wasn’t biologically connected to me was not up for debate.  I loved Cassie and she loved me and there was no shared blood or even a connection deeper than a few years.  We both have come to understand and value the idea of a grafted family, one formed through loving relationships and support in addition to bloodlines.

We raced through our home study paperwork because it felt like we had already waited for so long.  Plus, it was the only thing that we could control at this point.  After we turned in that last piece of paperwork and had our inspection, we knew that the dreaded waiting would begin.  Yet another challenge completely unique to adoption.  We had no idea how long we would wait, we knew that there was an average range and that ultimately we were going to stick it out.  We had heard from another adoptive parent to get on with our lives in the meantime and so we made the “Baby Bucket List.”  It wasn’t a long list and it was one with financial economy in mind seeing as we were dropping quite a bit of money for this process, but it gave us another little piece of control and a nice distraction.

We are incredibly blessed to have had a relatively short wait.  We were at a friend’s house for our church small group meeting when our social worker left the message to “give her a call back.”  I went outside to return her call, and I quickly realized that this was not just a “checking in with a quick update” kind of phone call so I ran back into the house, signaled my husband (not discreetly) and we talked with the social worker outside on the curb.  “There was a birth mom and she wanted to meet us!There were no words …

The social worker prepared us that this would be the most awkward first date we would ever go on.  We were terrifiedWhat if she didn’t like us?  What if we said or did something offensive? What were we even supposed to do? What would we do if we had nothing to say?

We had lunch and I walked out I was overwhelmed. It was awkward don’t get me wrong.  What do you say to a woman who you just met but might be the woman who decides to place her child with you? I was taken aback and almost wordless because I had this feeling that “this was it” but all of our family-planning up until this point had prepared me to keep expectations low and my heart guarded and so I was terrified to actually admit that I felt like we had just met the birth-mother of our child, so … we waited for the agency to call.

That phone call was one of the most surreal moments of my lifeWe fell to our knees and cried.  Next to hearing our son’s first cry through the wall of the hospital waiting room, there is no other sound that has had as much impact as the social worker’s declaration that we were “matched.”

We have since learned that our birth-mother left our first meeting with similar feelings.  Yes, it was awkward and unbelievably hard to think about the actual adoption moment, but there was something about that lunch that gave her a feeling of affirmation.  That something was God working his plan.

The phrase “Adoption is Love” is thrown around a lot.  It’s even a hashtag, but I think it’s actually so much richer than that.  Adoption is the love process that restores lives.

A truth I’ve grappled with accepting throughout this process is that in every story of adoption, there is some brokenness on every side.  It’s true, but it hurts to admit that.  I want to go back and wave my magic wand and make it all easy from the start, but as my husband reminds me, if I did that, I would get rid of our son, and that is simply impossible.

After our son was born and placed with us, our first Father’s Day in fact, we found out that the birth-father was most likely going to contest the adoption.  I remember speaking with the social worker and attorney on the phone and she, as she was obligated to do, asked us if we wanted to proceed with the process of a contested adoption. Without thinking or consulting, my husband and I knew that we would do anything for our sonWe loved him before he was born and the moment we first held him cemented that relationship.  Thankfully the adoption was not actually contested.  After a long wait, the paperwork was never filed and so we were able to petition the court to terminate based on inaction.  For us, this was yet another emotional moment when we realized the depth of our love for our son.  Technically we were (and I guess still are, pending finalization) his foster parents, but that title was so far from accurately describing the bond and love we have for and with him.  He is our son - that’s it. And as any parent would do, we would do and give anything for him.


The contested adoption process was yet another emotional journey, but also another piece of testimony to the fact that Adoption IS Love.  We were, of course, concerned about the possibility of losing our son, but we were also absolutely heart-broken over the possibility of dragging our beloved birth-mother through a terrible process.  From the moment we met her, she impressed and inspired us.  She is not a woman who made a bad choice and was looking for an out.  She is brave, loving, and sacrificial.  Her love for our son is the greatest gift she can ever give him and ever give usWe are all better people because of her love and sacrifice.  I regularly pray that our son will grow up to be like her.  I am so glad that she is and will be in his life to teach him and model her courage, her kindness, and her uncompromising compassion

When our first plan didn’t work, I decided I needed that “special story” to make the pain worth it.  Well, it turns out IVF and that whole mess is just part of the rather dramatic, but completely awesome story that ends with our very special and completely irreplaceable son.  It’s not a story I would have ever imagined or even chosen for myself, but it’s our story and we would never change itWhile our road has been broken and marked with suffering, and there remain triggers even today that almost without notice send me right back to the vulnerable pain of infertility, the ache of my empty arms is filled with a beautiful, happy boy whose laugh can resurrect my soul from the darkest of places.

Since becoming a parent, my love has only increased.  I love my husband in a new additional way, as the father to my son.  I love my son more than I could have ever imagined.  He is worth every sleepless night, frustrating no-nap kind of day, and even every poopy diaper change.  I love our birth mother.  Adoption isn’t a band-aid for infertility, a Plan B or a Plan CIt’s the grafting of many branches together to create an even more elaborate and unique network of love and family

Yes, there is loss in infertility and adoption, but there is also gain. Adoption is about the “AND.”   We are incandescently happy and blessed AND we are still working through the grief and bad habits developed during our infertility.  We are not biological parents AND we are adoptive parents.  Our son has us as adoptive parents AND he has a birth mother to shower him with love.  We have cried AND we have experienced true joy!

Adoption is the story of love AND restoration.

 Isaiah 51:12 (MSG) “You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past. You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.”

Oscar & Lizette Valles

What I've Learned As a New Foster Mom

My husband Oscar and I always assumed that children would be a part of our story someday. Our immediate answer to those wondering about us having little ones was that we planned on waiting two years. We did wait a couple of years, then four, six, and so on until a decade passed us by. Having a thyroid issue that ultimately affected my entire health put a hold on our ability to grow our family.

The journey has been more difficult and beautiful than we could have ever imagined. However, one of my favorite authors, Alicia Britt Chole, writes in her book 40 Days of Decrease, about being invited into a holy weakness. I would never have chosen this path yet am glad that I was drafted into a deeper mission of love for Him and for others. We are currently fostering an adorable two-year old boy who we're praying to adopt. We call him X and are not allowed to disclose his full name nor post any identifying pictures (which is a shame because he's so darn cute!). There is so much that God wants to teach me, but this is a bit of what I've learned from being a mommy so far:

1. I throw tantrums and cry in front of Jesus just like X. As his mom, I know what's best. I can see the way, and God is saying, "Follow me. I know the way."

2. I advocate for my son and Jesus has already divinely advocated to the Father on my behalf. He has terminated Satan's authority over my life, and I have taken His last name.

3. Adoption day must be the absolute best day both here on earth and in heaven definitely. Although there may be mourning in the former, the angels rejoice in the latter when God calls us sons and daughters. I so look forward to celebrating "Gotcha Day"!

4. We do not fight against birth parents nor an incompetent system but the prince of the power of the air. We battle, are beaten, and bruised so that these precious kids have a chance. This is spiritual warfare at its finest. "Take heart for I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). "Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).

5. Jesus needs to be at the center of our marriage not foster care. We mission together but are not to be consumed by it. Don't forget about your spouse who has been there before your child and will be there even if that child is reunified. Your beloved still exists.

6. My only hope is in Him. If I believe He is a good Father, then I must believe that His intentions are good towards us and our son. The final outcome is for the best. He loves X infinitely more than we ever could with our finite, human love. "Hope" will remain my favorite word.

7. When I am tortured by the process (and this happens frequently), I must remember that God is seeking to "perfect” me.  Perfection in the sense that I do what I was intended to do. My mission is to love God and love others. Will I be hurt along the way? Yes. Will it be worth it? Yes. "There is no greater love than this but to lay down one's life for a friend" (John 15:13).

8. The process is necessary just as much as breathing is. God is doing a soul-deep work in me. I must lean into Him and "rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, and constant in prayer" (Rom.12:12). The unknowns in foster care with birth parent visits, case reviews, and the overall realization that we cannot make anything happen, has brought me to my knees. There's no holier ground than when you have come to the end of yourself and sit at His feet. I can't, but He can.

9. It's ok to be righteously indignant. Jesus was angered and did not sin. We are called to hate what is evil and cling to what is good (Romans 12:9). He also had a troubled soul that he spoke of in his final days (John 12:27). To be angry at what angers God and troubled is ok. He has experienced both and understands. He moves us to a place of deeper understanding in His time. We need to trust Him as He does this.

10. People around you may not understand the nuances of foster care, but they don't need to all the time. If you have the energy to explain and would like to, then do so. If not, it's not necessary.

11. You will feel like you're living in crazy town at some point or throughout most of the journey. There's others that have traversed this path and made it to the other side or are in the trenches this very moment. Connect with them. They will more than likely rejuvenate you, or at the very least, remind you that you are not alone in feeling crazy. ;)

12. Take care of yourself. Do your part in taking a break, connecting with your spouse, loving and spending time with those outside of foster care. It will prevent you from becoming bitter or burning out.

13. Guard your heart by not guarding your heart. Will you love your child only 96% because it's not permanent? Love fiercely and recklessly. God will do the rest because your only calling is to love. I can love. I just can't do the rest. God will battle and intervene on behalf of his beloved children.

14. My normalcy vs. Christ's normalcy--there is no comparison. If I think that my life is turned upside down, then let me be reminded of "The Great Reduction" that is Jesus. He became man and left his heavenly dwelling so that we could become a part of His family. In following His example, we love sacrificially because then we love as were were intended to love.

15. "They were to carry on their shoulders the holy things, for which they were responsible" (Numbers 7:9). I was recently made aware of the Kohathite priests and their lack of ox-carts as they carried their parts of the tabernacle through the desert. They could have compared their calling to their fellow priests and perhaps they did. We don't know. What we do know is that they continued walking without allowing the absence of ox-carts to hinder their purpose. Procreation seems like a given for so many just as much as the ox-carts must have seemed to the sons of Kohath. The entitled mindset is that we deserve to be healthy, have children, and live a comfortable life. In reality, we deserve none of these things, yet our gracious Father has entrusted us to "carry the holy things, for which we are responsible." We have been given this little human being to love, take care of, and nurture either for a brief time or a lifetime. May we not look with comparison at others' journeys. They may walk with ox-carts in seeming ease, but we delight at the precious calling God has invited us into. What an honor and privilege to hold what is holy so close to our beings.

This process has completely challenged me in loving the unlovable (not their son). I knew going into this that I would want to reach out to the birth parents and minister to them as much as possible. Thirty days in and my reaction is much different than I would have expected. This journey is exposing the contents of my heart and what I'm finding is that honoring Christ is nearly impossible at times. We are called to do hard and holy things. I'm asking God to give me love and vision to see the situation and everyone involved as He does.

I've experienced God's grace in a whole new way. Before having X placed with us, we didn't have any answers. We had the freedom to choose the gender of our foster child, age, ethnicity, any special needs, etc., but we left all the details to God. We chose nothing. This was perhaps the most liberating act we could have taken. We would take in the child God had for us. I experienced such a deep level of peace in not having any answers. Fast-forward to today, and that peace is elusive most days. Again, I find myself needing to wholeheartedly rely on the One who goes before me. So here I am. Trusting. Hoping. Praying.

Kristen Durman & Family

“She was found abandoned in the neighborhood of Dong District Office.” That’s how the paperwork begins.

It was 39 Septembers ago, on a street in Kwangjoo City, Seoul Korea. The official report continues… “She carried a piece of paper which showed her name and date of birth. Further information on her background is unknown because she is an abandoned child.”

I was eleven days old.

And that’s it. It’s all I know.

I’ve often wondered, “Why wait eleven days?” “Why the note?” I’ll never know, but my heart tells me my birth mother didn’t want to give me up, and when she was forced to, she wanted me to know my real name and birthday, a rare privilege for an abandoned child. It tells me I was loved. Another rarity in the world of the abandoned.

And yet, what a strange reality. It stands in contrast to the stories of my friends, sister, husband, children, and everyone in my life. They all know their backstory. All I know for sure is there isn’t much to know. I’m reminded of this every time I have to fill out my medical history. I check “unknown” on my mother’s side, as well as my father’s.

If there were a different box titled, “unknowable,” I’d check that one too.

“That must be her!” I’m told those were my grandmother’s words as each new baby was de-boarded from the flight that brought me, and dozens of other Korean infants, to their adopted families in the United States.

It was a Thursday, and I was the last baby off the plane, and placed into the arms of my new mother, who would love me everyday for the rest of her life. I was wrapped in an adoption agency blanket, when my new Mom introduced me to my sister Shannon, my dad and some others from of our small extended family in Southern California, on February 16, 1978.

I had been abandoned, but now I was blessed, and have never doubted that I am loved.

My parent’s decision to adopt had come in the wake of great loss. After my sister’s birth, my mother had suffered the horror of losing two babies, both born prematurely, followed by a third pregnancy that ended in a miscarriage.  Each one bringing a pain I could never begin to imagine until I had children of my own.

And so my story, my second chance, came at a cost – as is almost always the case with love.

My adoption was never a secret, mentioned only in whispers around our house as I grew up, but was made into a comfortable thing we could and did talk about. There was no association with shame, only with acceptance. Just a part of my story. I would never feel out of place. My Mom used to joke God had placed me in the wrong body since it always felt like we belonged together.

I remember clearly being eighteen and my Mom handing me my adoption papers, and watching as I read them. She was nervous about my reaction at seeing the word abandoned in those paragraphs. But it didn’t evoke anything negative. A tribute to the love of my family The Lord had placed me in. God did math different in my life because even though my past had missing pieces, I miraculously felt whole and complete.

His Grace marks my life, but like yours, mine has had both pain and joy.

I told you my Mom loved me every day for the rest of her life, which ended when I was twenty-six and she was just Fifty-seven. The ravages of breast cancer took her, even though she fought the disease well for years, with courage and a heart still capable of love. She loved my sister and me so well until that very last moment when it was my turn to hold her hand and lean in to whisper “It’s okay to go home Mom.” And she did. I was still leaning and watching when I heard the release of her last breath on earth.

Her body was there before me, but she was gone. And I’ve missed her literally every day since. As cliché as I’m sure it sounds, she was my best friend. A miracle of Grace for a little abandoned girl

I wish she were here to read these words. You would have loved her laugh!

One blessing in the midst of all the loss is she got to meet both of my birth children, Caleb who is 15, and Brooke who’s almost 13. What a gift! I remember being in the hospital with Caleb, and my Mom leaning in to ask, “What’s it like to know someone you are biologically related to?”

Her words and that question were profound for me. I looked down at him there in my arms and realized for the first time in my life, there was someone who would be near me who I am genetically and biologically related to.  Another amazing gift!

My Mom never got to meet our third child Jake, who we adopted. There was a string of miracles, too long to list here, that led us to adopt him, and for me to be there in the room when he was born. His Mom chose us, and we chose him, and now he lives in a family saturated with love for him like mine was for me. He will never be alone.

So the redemption of my life, ultimately led to the redemption of Jake’s, who is now eight. That’s how The Lord tends to do things. The ripples of His love floating outward to eventually roll over the lives of those he allows us to love.

And so my story is one of redemption. Abandoned, and yet chosen. Let go of – yet embraced. Seemingly hopeless – yet now giving hope to others. God has been so gracious to me since that note was left on me, and the footsteps of whomever placed me there receded down that street on the other side of the world.

Often the richness of His Mercy and Love for me simply, or not so simply, overwhelm me.

I may never know exactly why my mother had to give me up, but there will always be one thing I know for certain… I came from Love.

Sharon Family

Keith Sharon & Families story on Adoption -

For a second, I'm frozen. I finish the cell phone call with the attorney's office, and my first thought is How am I going to tell Nancy? What are the words you use to convey something like this to your wife? The sentences won't form in my head.

Then, suddenly, I'm crying. I can't catch my breath. It's Monday, Oct. 31, 2011. Halloween afternoon. I'm a 49-year-old Dad/sports editor sitting in my Ford Expedition in the Orange County Register parking structure with tears pouring down my face. Wet spots on my shirt. Chest heaving.

It goes on for minutes, but it seems longer. I can't do anything. I can't drive. I can't dial the phone to tell Nancy.

I just sit there, shuddering. My thoughts shift to my son, Trey. What beautiful words: My son, Trey. My mind races through almost two years of dread and joy, fear and laughter, frustration and hope. We got custody of Trey in a little town in the South in 2010. We have been his unofficial parents for every breath of his life.

And we have been waiting on this phone call to tell us that he is officially, 100 percent ours, or, he is not.

Finally, my shaky finger touches Nancy's name on my phone. “It’s over," is, at first, all I can say to her.

Trey was born in the mind of my teenage daughter, Alison, whose genuine sweetness turned a tragedy from the other side of the world into a baby brother.

On Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2010, an earthquake hit Haiti leaving more than 300,000 people dead, 300,000 injured and one million homeless. For days, our television was fixed on CNN as the network chronicled the devastating stories of families torn apart. Parents dead or missing. Children left alone.

At some point, in those first few days after the quake, Alison suggested to Nancy (Dad wasn't involved at this point) that she knew how we could help.

Adopt one of those Haitian children.

Nancy said, I was told later, she would love to adopt, but we couldn't. The reason: Dad would never do it.

Here's why Nancy said that. Our lives were comfortable. We have a nice house, nice old golden retriever, nice routine. He have teenage twins, Alison and Dylan, in high school. We travel. We eat at restaurants. We work out. We go to places where a baby doesn't fit. Our kids will be in college in a couple of years. Our child-raising years are almost behind us.

It was reasonable to assume that I would choose not to adopt. But Alison didn't let Nancy's answer stop her. I will always be proud of her for that.

On Friday, Jan. 22, 2010, our family sat down to watch a televised concert "Hope for Haiti Now." Bruce Springsteen was the attraction for me. If the Boss is in, I'm in.

He gave a goose-bumpy, lump-in-my-throat performance of "We Shall Overcome." I was moved. I remember getting up to go get something to drink just after Springsteen performed. When I closed the refrigerator, Alison was standing there.

"We should adopt," she said simply.

"We should," I agreed.

"Wait, you would do it? Mom said you wouldn't," she said.

"I would do it in a second," I said.

That little spark is all it took.

On the night of the concert, I went on the Internet and searched "Haitian adoption." I found a pastor who had helped some parents adopt. However, he didn't have good news. He said as a result of the quake and the massive numbers of people who wanted to adopt, the Haitian government was being more strict with its adoption laws.

Were we, he asked, ready to wait two years to start the process?

So we had a family meeting. I thanked my kids for being who they are. Without our great experience raising them, adopting wouldn't be an option. I told them about how they would become less a focus in our lives, about how difficult it is to raise a baby, about crying nights and spreading illness and poop.

I gave the options: Wait two years for a Haitian baby, or try to help a baby in the United States now. We chose now.

Through a relative, we got the number of an adoption attorney. Let me stress: We had no idea what we were doing. Who knows how to adopt?

We explained to the attorney how little we knew about the process. He emailed us a questionnaire.

One of the first questions turned out to be the most important. What kind of child did we want?

There were several options. White, African-American, Asian etc. We didn't care about race or ethnicity.

We chose "Any."

We didn't know it at the time, but our answer was unusual. Most adoptive parents, we're told, want their child to match them. White people want white babies. African-American people want African-American babies.

In early February of 2010, the attorney called back to clarify. By "any" did we mean we would take a mixed-race baby? Specifically, would we take a baby who was half African-American and half white?

No problem, I said.

Then he dropped a bombshell. There was a pregnant, single woman who had agreed to give up her child for adoption. But the adoptive parents had backed out of the deal when she was in her second trimester. The birth mother did not have the means to take care of her baby.

Would we be able to take this baby, who was due in May?

May, as in three months away. I called Nancy, who said May was no problem. Of course, she thought I was talking about May of 2011.

No, I explained, May of 2010. 90 days away.

We said yes.

The process of adoption isn't uplifting. There is no swell of background music. There is no joy, even when you're the parents doing the adopting.

It is a cold slog through mountains of paperwork, background checks and worry that you're going to mess up somehow and become unqualified to adopt. That fear is real. If you miss deadlines or don't comply precisely with the process, your chances of getting a child shrink.

The process of adoption is a months-long ordeal of preparing for the worst case scenario, which is such a downer at a time when it feels like your enthusiasm should be so high.

In my first phone call (I was so green), I asked a social worker if we could have a protective fence built around our pool during the month after we brought home our newborn (because he wouldn't be able to crawl and didn't seem to be in danger of getting into the backyard). Or would we need to build it before the child was born?

She said, "Only a person who's never had a child drown would ask a question like that."

Welcome to the adoption process.

We were required to read several books about raising a bi-racial child. Those books prepared us to be rejected by the child, rejected by our extended family, rejected by society at large. The books let us know how lacking we are in cultural awareness.

The classes taught us to be ready when the birth mother changes her mind about adoption, and to be prepared to be crushed. Another class taught us to be ready when the hospital staff (where the baby is born) treats us with disdain because, technically, we aren't yet the parents. In yet another class, we were told to prepare for people connected with the birth mother to resent us, to contest the adoption, to take us to court to try to take the baby away.

The only pleasant part of the process was the discussions we had with our home study coordinator, Anita, who smiled, laughed and made us feel good about what we were doing when no one else did.

We traveled to a tiny Southern town of brick and wrought iron. Quaint, antebellum homes line the streets. A narrow river trickles through the center of town.

We arrived on May 2, 2010, two days before Trey's birth would be induced. Alison and Dylan stayed in Orange County with their Aunt Susan and my mother.

Trey's birth mother did not live in the picturesque part of town.

She lived on the outskirts, behind a trailer park, off an unmarked dirt road. Her rusted trailer looked as if you could topple it with one push.

There was a moment, when our car was bumping along that dirt road, that Nancy and I knew we were doing the right thing. The joyless preparations were worth it. We would be giving this baby a chance.

Trey was born on May 4, 2010. He's a Star Wars baby. "May the fourth" be with you.

Trey's birth mother told us that she was scared we were going to back out of the adoption. She told us there was no way for her to raise this boy. She told the hospital staff we were the parents, and they treated us that way. Nancy cut the umbilical cord. Trey was 7 pounds, 10 ounces.

Nancy and I hugged so many times that day. Trey felt like ours.

We hoped that feeling would continue.

We couldn't come home with Trey until a court approved the adoption.

So we hunkered down with Trey in a hotel, waiting for a phone call to tell us we could go home. We were there one week. Two weeks.

We traded feeding shifts. We changed diapers. We washed bottles. We went to Walmart for more supplies. We watched endless hours of Law & Order.

There was a point where we were so tired, we didn't know what day it was, or what time of day it was.

WE HAD A NEW BABY! We were walking around the hotel lobby showing him off. The hospitality staff left chocolate in our room. Everyone was so nice ... unlike what we had prepared for.

When the phone call came saying we could leave, we whisked Trey to the airport and flew him home to meet his brother and sister and his grandparents. It's hard to describe the elation that showed in my older kids' faces when they saw their new brother. They were quickly rolling with him on the floor.

Then, the phone call that brought us down to earth. There was always something.

Our paperwork hadn't been delivered to the right person. I saw Nancy on the phone, terror in her eyes. We weren't supposed to take Trey out of the state.

With a few frantic phone calls, the paperwork problem was figured out. It was sitting on the desk of the proper person. Trey was fine in California.

But that's how we began to live, with the constant fear that something would go wrong and Trey would be taken away from us.

Trey is a great kid. He's walking now (running, I should say). He's talking non-stop. His first word was "ball," which is good. We have an athletic family. He's been to enough baseball, softball and basketball games to watch his older siblings for a lifetime.

We are "Mommy" and "Daddy" again.

We've had some awkward situations: Once, an old friend saw us walking with Trey and asked if Alison, our 15-year-old was a new mother. Another time, someone asked me how old my beautiful grandson was.

His different skin color has never been an issue.

Trey loves cars and pumpkins and books and Christmas lights. We took him to New York City in August, and I'll never forget him drumming like a maniac on the table at the Hard Rock Café.

And we worried about him every day. I wonder how much other adoptive parents feel this. Something was going to happen. There would be some glitch in the paperwork. Some person would come forward to challenge us. Alison said she had a nightmare that someone stole Trey from us.

I had the same nightmare.

All we needed to stop the worry was a decree from a judge that Trey's adoption was final. But first, there was another round of background checks, a re-evaluating of paperwork.

Then, on the afternoon of Oct. 31, I got the phone call as I sat in my Ford in the Register parking structure. The decree was signed by a judge. It was over.

When I was able to call Nancy, we talked about all we had been through and the incredible sense of relief. Halloween will always have a special meaning to us.

Trey Day.

People ask us sometimes what we're going to get Trey for Christmas. He's almost 2 now, and he's beginning to appreciate things.

I prefer to think about what Trey will give us.

We're a couple who has been married 23 years, and our beautiful boy has given us Santa Claus again. He will give us parent-teacher conferences and arts and crafts projects and math homework. He will give us T-ball and the pleasure of making him pancakes on Saturday mornings.

He will give us joy.

See more on their story and photo's at: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/trey-332630-baby-nancy.html

Isaiah

From Rejection to Reclaimed

(A story of fatherlessness by Isaiah Crockran)

My story of abandonment is not unique. It is not unique to the Black community, although fatherlessness parades around the neighborhoods of Black families every day that a beautiful baby boy or girl is birthed. It is not unique to minority groups or families below the poverty line, though poverty nearly destroyed my family and the families around me. In some ways my story is not just my story. It belongs to the millions of people in America who fell by the blows of fatherlessness and never got up. It belongs to too many others for me to keep it to myself. I hope as you read my story, it can become your story too.

I remember my biological father. When I was very young, I loved him without a filter, and I knew that I loved him. He was my favorite person to be with, to see, to listen to. I don’t remember talking much to him. However, I remember listening to my father’s voice when he spoke to me. I have a faint memory of when he sang “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley around the house. I remember his eyes were some myriad of green and brown, and his skin was light and complex, like my eyes and skin were. I remember his laugh when he would beat my brothers and I in arm wrestling. I remember thinking he was the strongest man in the world, and that he could protect my family from anything.

I also remember that my father drank. I cannot remember seeing the problems his drinking produced between he and my mother, but I knew there were problems. Things weren’t the same. Less laughter. Less singing. Less of my father. My father moved out, and then eventually moved on. I learned as an adult that he felt it was the best decision. In some ways he was right. The dysfunctional and abusive nature of my mother and father’s relationship needed a change, or it needed to end. But when their relationship died off, a part of me did too.

Growing up, I had a few male figures in my life. Some of them I didn’t care for; my uncle was very close to my dad and I resented him for it. Others like my grandfather had been a source of guidance for my brothers and I. I found that a few men saw the need in the lives of my brothers and I for a mentor, and attempted to fill that void. Today I am grateful for their investments into me, but back then I could not see it. I was lost in an array of emotions that, at the time, I could not name: bitterness, rejection, resentment, denial, unworthiness, and most of all loneliness.

I spent much of my late teenage years attempting to disengage from the people around me. I let hurt creep in for so long that any injustice done to me by others became personal. I was glad when my family moved from Georgia to California. Although I miss them dearly now, I wanted to escape rocky relationships where boulders could come falling down cliffs at any moment. That was my perception of family, dangerous and unstable. I was smart enough to know that my over-generalization of my relationships was unfair, but I saw no other way of protecting myself from being hurt by others.

I cut ties with so many people that I loved, and I tried to build new and better relationships. I let myself become a happier person, and I explored new friendships with people who looked different than me, who were older than me, and eventually who had a different sexual orientation than me. At some point my understanding of healthy relationships blurred, and I became sexually active with guys my age and older. Initially, I could not ignore the shame that overcame me due to my spiritual convictions. Eventually, I was able to compartmentalize those convictions and live a double life. I did so for years before I was able to become honest with someone about my sexuality. I look back at how many bonds I created, and how emotionally vulnerable I let myself be, and I realize how none of those interactions or relationships with other men were built on anything to help them last.

I saw my history repeating itself as I allowed certain people to enter my life and see me vulnerable. I felt and still feel as vulnerable as the kid who stopped hearing his dad’s laugh all of a sudden. There are days that I listen to Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” to help me feel the pain that I suppress, just so I’m not carrying around loaded baggage. But I know that, as I come to understand my life experiences, and myself I am not defined by my father’s actions, nor by bisexuality or fear of being hurt. I am defined by Christ alone.

Through my vulnerability, I have been able to gain a healthier sense of being in relationship with men. I’ve come under spiritual mentors who help me to cultivate who I am in Christ. I’ve interacted with my father several times in recent years, including a trip to visit him for a week in Florida. I understand a little more why things happened the way they did in my life. I’m not perfect at forgiveness, and I’ve got a ways to go before being in a close relationship with my father is comfortable for me. But above these things, my experience with abandonment has brought me to a place where I’m no longer afraid to be hurt by others. There is still work to be done in me for certain, but the realization that I am no longer lead by fear or emotions has been life giving. I have come to understand The Lord as a type of Father who would never abandon me as His son. It wasn’t until I confronted my biological father’s lack of commitment to me again in 2014 did I truly perceive The Lord’s consistency as a Father. He does not make a habit of forsaking His children, which makes Him a safe person for me to practice being vulnerable with. My hope is that others will come to know The Lord as a safe and loving father who has no other agenda but us, and will therefore never abandon us as His children.

 

Joel & Samantha Brandt

Our Journey to Adopt - Joel & Samantha Brandt

Where to even start?!? The past few years, as we have been trying to start a family, we have been faced with many twists and turns we never saw coming, not to mention the emotions that came with it. In 2013, we decided we wanted to start a family and be parents. We were blessed to get pregnant the first month we tried. We were excited, and somewhat scared, but were ready to be on this path. A couple months later when we went for our anatomy ultrasound, at 20 weeks, we found out that we would be facing some challenges with our pregnancy. We were told that we needed further testing, and an amniocentesis to know an exact diagnosis, but that our baby’s heart was not forming properly.  After the amniocentesis we learned that our baby had Trisomy 18, which is a fatal chromosomal defect. We were heart broken, to say the least. We were told that we would lose our baby, likely before our due date.

We prayerfully continued through the pregnancy trying to find joy, even though we knew we would not end up with the baby we were dreaming of. In February of 2014, just two weeks before our due date, we found out our little girls heart had stopped. We were devastated, but were told that this was a fluke thing that would not happen again, so we should start trying for another baby.

We began trying again, hopeful we would get pregnant easily once again. However, time passed and we were still not getting pregnant. After a year of trying, many tears, and disappointments we sought infertility treatment. We tried a few rounds of infertility treatments, which consumed our every thought, before we decided that was not the path for us. After a lot of praying, trying to decide where to go from here, and a STRONG desire to be parents we felt God placed adoption on our hearts. Our ideas of adoption went from wanting to adopt because we wanted to be parents more than we were afraid to adopt, to being very excited to adopt and knowing it was what we should do. We knew it was the way for us to grow our family. We researched various adoption agencies and jumped right into the process, somewhat oblivious of what it entailed.

We were faced with all sorts of emotions going into this process. We were excited and scared. We had uncertainties about communication with birth parents (and still do sometimes), fears of getting a baby taken away, wondering how a child who was adopted would feel as they grow up, and a wonder of how we would cover all the adoption expenses. We have been so blessed to meet families, who have adopted, and are able to ease some of our fears as well as share their experiences. We also have friends who have been adopted, that we have been able to talk to, hearing their perspectives of adoption. We have also been working with amazing caseworkers who have helped diminish the adoption stereotypes we have heard and feared. In addition to that we have also been blessed by friends supporting us financially as well as emotionally. Although all of our uncertainties have not been addressed, and we are still faced with expenses, we have been blessed to be supported and encouraged throughout the very beginning of our adoption journey. We have been continually reassured we are doing what we should be doing and that God will provide all we need as we continue through this process. 

The first thing we were asked to do, when we officially started the adoption process, was to create a family profile (basically an advertisement of us). This was fun, challenging, and bazaar all at once. How do you create an advertisement of yourself with the hopes a birth parent will feel drawn to it, and choose you to raise their child? How do you know what pictures to include, let alone what to say? We started by writing the text and explaining who we are. We gathered pictures that would show our personalities and the fun things we do. Finally, worked with a graphic designer, for about a month, to come up with something we love to use as our family profile.

Another thing we have been working to complete is our home study (background check). This aspect has been really overwhelming. It is full of tons of paperwork and things to prepare. As we have gone through it in a quarter of the average time, it has been very time consuming. There have been many forms to fill out, appointments, essays, and interviews to complete. We have also had to make many preparations to our house to pass the home inspection. Thankfully we are almost finished with this portion, then we will just be waiting for our baby.

Even though we are walking through the process right now we are still filled with many unknowns. We do not know when we will be placed with a baby, but we are beyond ready to accept and love the baby we will soon be calling our own. Our overall emotion is excitement. We are so excited to be parents and welcome a baby. The hard part now is going to be having patience. 

We are so excited to be adopting and cannot wait to be matched with a baby!

If you would like to know more about our past experiences or follow our adoption journey you can follow our blog:

http://lifewiththebrandts.weebly.com/about.html

If you would like to find out more about how you can help fund and support the Brandt's financially in this adoption process please visit:

https://www.gofundme.com/63kmq92c

Tatiana

 Where Feet May Fail - Tatiana

"Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior"

April 11, 2014 was the last day at a company I was with for almost 8 years. I started when I was 21, it was my first “real” job, whatever that means. This place was more than a job, it was family. To tell you it was hard saying goodbye to that part of my life would be an understatement.

My unemployment started, I was excited at what was next: Clean Slate! Fresh New Start! ENDLESS Possibilities! And, to top it off that Summer was one of the best I’ve ever had! I went to the beach more than I have my entire life, I saw my friends almost every weekend, spent my days doing whatever I wanted, It was bliss! I hadn’t had proper time off in years, so it felt like maybe God was giving me these couple months as a prize for all those years of working and going to school full time.  

After Summer comes Fall, though…And Fall, well it wasn’t as fun.

I had been sending my resume everywhere for 5 months, and nothing. My unemployment was about to run out, which meant the little bit of severance pay I had saved up would soon follow. 

“Well, did you pray?” You might ask yourself, and yes I did. Every hour of every day, it felt like. Yet, this was the first time in my life that I felt truly abandoned by God. Surely there is something I am doing that is making it so He can’t hear me. It was a one-way street, complete silence coming from His end. 

Of course I had it all wrong, He had not forgotten about me. It was in my weakness that He was made strong.

 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12: 9-10

The turning point came when my phone was stolen on a Saturday, and the battery in my car died two days later. That was it, I was done. I fell into a deep depression. That kind darkness is oppressive, you feel it everywhere. You isolate yourself from other people because you don’t want to spread your disease.  They shouldn’t have to be subjected to your junk.

On a particularly awful day, I was curled up in my bed, while listening to music and finally did what I should have done all those months ago; I fell on the floor, and wept to my Abba. I let go of all the frustration, anger, and the mess I had been carrying for 6 months. I didn’t filter my prayer; I told Him how abandoned and lost I felt, how unfair this all was, and that I was tired of feeling so empty.

It was as if this was the exact moment He was waiting for. The moment when I stopped trying to figure things out for myself, and laid it all down before Him. As I composed myself, I heard I still soft voice say: “Get Up.” And, as I did Oceans by Hillsong started to play.

I lifted my hands, and prayed those lyrics out loud.

"And I will call upon Your name

And keep my eyes above the waves

When oceans rise

My soul will rest in Your embrace

For I am Yours and You are mine"

When the song ended, my situation was the same… But, I was different. The dark cloud was gone. He had opened my eyes, and filled me with Hope I thought I had lost completely.  And, reminded me of the simple, yet mind bending truth that I am His, and He is mine.