By: Jason and Allison
Our journey to parenthood was long—filled with starts and stops, hope and sorrow, struggling to yield to God’s sovereignty, and finally finding a good deal of contentment, trusting in God’s perfect plan for us. In many ways, the fact that this road did finally bring us to parenthood was a surprise—an unexpected gift, but one that brought us tremendous joy. In the last year, God doubled that joy—again surprising us.
We had been married for 18 years when God gave us our son Joshua in December 2015 through adoption, and we thought he would likely be our only child. The cost of adoption is significant, and we were not sure that it would be possible again. In addition, we were both 41 when he came home, and we knew that agencies have age restrictions for those seeking to adopt a child. Although the thought made us a little sad, we genuinely believed that our family of three was complete, and we sought to savor every moment—every first, every milestone, and every new experience.
But God…In the summer of 2017, God moved us to North Dakota, and the desire to give our son a sibling stirred in us. That desire grew and grew, and we believed God was leading us to explore the possibility of adopting again. On the recommendation of friends who had been among Christian Adoption Services’ first families placed with a child, we contacted CAS to see if indeed it might be possible to add to our family. In February 2018, we began the home study process. By July, our home study was completed. We so appreciated how [CAS] worked quickly for us, knowing how important it was to move on this desire and direction from God. Because our son is African American and we were seeking to give him a brother or sister who looked like him, we applied to an out-of-state agency for placement of a child.
The Lord moved—and He moved quickly. While we had some money saved, it was through foundation grants and gifts from generous family and friends that our adoption was fully funded by early October. Our out-of-state agency began showing us to expectant mothers in early November. In mid-January, we were notified that an expectant mom had chosen us to parent her baby. Just a few days later, our daughter was born (a month early!), and by the end of the month, our Mercy was placed in our arms. God is so good!
We are in awe of how God worked on our behalf. We did not know if we’d ever have children at all, and God has given us two precious ones. Sometimes that thought still overwhelms us! We are grateful for CAS and for how they worked with us—first to complete our home study, then to recommend an out-of-state agency, and then in our post-placement time. Our journey to Mercy was filled with God’s clear leading and provision, and she is a gift to all three of us. There will never be adequate words to express the gratitude in us for God’s good plan for our family and His sweet and gracious gifts.
Invest in families like Jason and Allison on Giving Hearts Day, February 13th. Your gift of $10 or more is matched by generous donors to further the mission of displaying God's love to babies, birth parents and families in North Dakota and Minnesota.
As we wrap up National Adoption Month, we reflect on the tough stuff of adoption. Yes, this is a month to celebrate the beauty that is a family coming together, but we don't forget that it is often forged out of a heartache. This is absolutely a month for sharing positive adoption language, because without it we perpetuate the negative stigma for birth parents and adoptees. However, we acknowledge some adoptees are processing how they feel about their own story. Their love for their parents may be strong, but it may still come with doubts and frustration about the choices other people made for their life. We'll close this month with a reflection on bonding from one of our adoptive moms. We hope that no matter where you are in the adoption circle, you can come to appreciate the love shared in this difficult journey...
Dare I say it out loud? Am I willing to speak my reality when it seems as though no one else is talking about it? For me, bonding didn't happen immediately. In a lot of ways, it has come more intentionally than naturally. Sometimes it was downright hard and I found myself grieving the loss of the fairytale idea that love flows easily.
But there is so much beauty in our story. There is comfort in knowing that love doesn't just happen or not... and if not, then what? There is hope in knowing that love is a million tiny choices all strung together. Many of my choices were not made out of innate and immediate boundedness, but rather, out of the vision I have for the relationship I desire with my son in the future - and making choices now that actively lead us there.
Thankfully, in other ways it has felt so beautifully natural to love him. In fact, as he has grown, there has been an obvious shift. The momentum of bondedness has taken off and the moments of natural closeness have started to outweigh the need for intentionality and suddenly all those moments of actively making the choice to love all seem more than worth it!
It's okay, healthy even, to acknowledge when love doesn't flow easily. I can tell you that there is rich reward in the choice to let it grow intentionally. My heart beams when I can honestly say my love for him is deep and rich, and it's much more real than a fairytale.
"Things not helpful to ask an adoptee"
1 Peter 4:10 “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”
I wanted to start out with this verse as a beautiful reminder to be faithful stewards of God’s grace to everyone in any situation. There have been times in my life that things have been asked or said about adoption to me that have caused some pain or hurt feelings. But I constantly remind myself that almost always, people are not intentionally causing hurt with the questions they ask, but genuinely want to know about the life of an adoptee. This is where grace comes in. I find it beautiful when people ask me about being adopted because it shows that they really truly want to know my story and reminds me of how God handcrafted my unique life.
For those of you who are not adopted—keep asking questions about adoption stories. You will see the power of love, courage, strength, hope, and many other qualities in adoption journeys—you may even shed a few tears. Included below I have a few helpful tips on how to ask questions with adoption friendly language and a few examples of questions that have not been the most helpful.
Have you ever met your “real” mom?
This question is completely valid and one that I get asked quite often. To reword this question, I would say, Have you ever met your birth mom? Both my birth mother and my mother play a role in my life in helping me shape the woman that I am today. Using the word “real” takes away this importance role that my mother plays. Both these women play real roles in my life and both deserve the respect of the part that they have played in my life. I always distinguish the woman that gave birth to me as my birth mom, and the woman who adopted me as mom. One word of encouragement is to always ask the adoptee how they would like you to refer to the individuals in their adoption story—this always means the world to me when people ask this simple question!
Is that your “adoptive” family?
This question once again is a valid but adding the word “adoptive” makes it seem as though my family is different than others. I don’t view my family as my “adoptive” family—they are my family despite that our DNA and genetics are different. Love is what creates our family and I have never felt different or out of place in my family. I have the same relationships with my parents and sisters like any other typical family that had their kids biologically. To distinct the two, I call the family that adopted me simply as my family or the family that adopted me and my biological family as my birth family. The simple switch of words from “adoptive” family to family that adopted me really makes a difference.
Why did your birthparents “give” you up?
I believe that my birthparents didn’t “give” me up. I believe my birthparents instead gave me the gift of love and life. They put my needs above their own wants and desires, which gives me the upmost respect for them. After meeting with my birthfather for the first time, he made certain that I knew how hard of a decision it was for them to place me up for adoption. By saying that they simply “gave” me up, makes it seem as if they didn’t want to keep me as their own—which was one of the hardest choices in their life. They wanted me to have the best future possible; which they knew wouldn’t happen at this time in their life. I have nothing but love and respect for the birth family that loved me. Removing the words that my birthparents “gave” me up, validates the tough choice that they had to make. Instead this question could be asked, Why were you placed for adoption?
I know that every adoptee may feel different emotions when questions are asked about their adoption story. In the moments when questions are asked that may cause pain or hurt; I encourage the adoptee to respond first with grace and help explain to the one asking questions what examples of positive adoption language. By implementing adoption friendly language, all people involved in the adoption journey will feel valued, important, and loved for their role in the journey. The adoptee, birth family, and adoptive family equally play an important part in the adoption story—the story simply wouldn’t exist without each of them.
Your story matters,
1 John 3: 1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us that we should be called children of God…”
I recently listened to this episode from a few months back. I love when I get to hear how the adoption journey has been from those who are many years into it. In this instance, the host April Fallon got to speak with both the birth mom in this first episode and then the daughter as well in the second episode.
As CAS launches the fall Birth Mom small group, the quote above is what really stood out to me in this episode. Even in a healthy, open adoption, it is so important for birth moms to have others to relate to and share with. Facing our feelings, especially grief or sadness, isn't necessarily something many of us are eager to do. However, when we share, it is a blessing to have others help carry the burden and lighten our load.
We recommend the Adoption Now podcast to everyone! These two episodes are a great place to start.
S3E16 "A Birth Mother's Journey Through Open Adoption"
S3E17 "Open Adoption from the Adoptees Perspective"
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, we are sharing a few resources for adoptive families interested in pursuing this. This is not for everyone and definitely a conversation would need to occur with your doctor, but it is amazing what our bodies can do. We have seen birth moms freeze and send milk to the adoptive family, and other nursing mamas donate their breastmilk. There are many resources and avenues to explore when preparing to welcome your child home, and we are happy to connect clients to any information that we know about.
When Ryan and I first started in the adoption process, we heard it could be a difficult journey. I thought, "What could be so hard? I know there's a lot of paperwork, but adoption ends in a baby! What better motivation is there to keep going?" It was only after we had begun receiving "Not yet" responses again and again that I wondered, "What if we never end up with a baby after all?" I even started asking God, "I know you called us to this, but why aren't you using us? Is this still your call for us?"
Just when I wasn’t sure if I could continue to say yes and receive a no, we got a call from Susan. We had matched! We were ecstatic! Over the next two months, we announced, we prepared, we traveled. We wanted to be at the hospital when baby was born even if we never got to meet baby’s birth mother since it was a closed adoption, so we went to Arizona and we waited. Several days went by, and on baby’s due date, we got a devastating call. Baby had been born, and his mother decided to parent. We were in shock. We cried, we packed, and we traveled home with an empty car seat. The day after we got home, I prayed. I asked God, “What do we do now?” I wrote down two things I felt God telling me: 1) Don’t get rid of those clothes, and 2) Don’t worry so much about the money.
Throughout the week following our disruption, Ryan and I prayed about how to move forward. We considered accepting another match opportunity with the same agency, but after visiting with Susan, I simply told them the same words that Susan emailed to us: "What we are really praying for is a really quick match or a stork drop.” After such a recent disruption, we were still grieving, and we honestly did not have high hopes. Unbeknownst to us, at the same time I was sending that email, an expectant mother came for an intake at the same agency. Because she was at the very end of her pregnancy, she asked to see family profile books right away which was different than the agency's usual protocol. I will never forget the call I got that same morning. “Kacie, there is a situation I want to tell you about. I don’t have a lot of information, but we still have one of your profile books, and I need to know within the hour if you want it shown.” We said yes. So did she. We got the call we had matched again. We were hopeful, but so nervous because of having our recent heartache.
This time, the adoption was to be open. We were fortunate enough to FaceTime the expectant mother shortly after matching, and 12 days from when we got the call, we were on a flight to meet her prior to her induction. When we met her, one of the things she said was, “I asked my mom to research adoption agencies my whole pregnancy. She never did until two weeks ago. I am so glad she waited, or I might never have gotten to choose you.” The match with this amazing woman led us to our son, and we are fortunate enough to now be parents to a beautiful baby boy! We praise God for giving her the strength to grow our family with part of hers, and for letting us be there when he took his first breath. God truly writes THE BEST AND MOST AMAZING of stories.
As I reflect on our adoption journey, I know that God gave us the pain of a disrupted adoption to build our faith in Him. That shock and heartache reminded us to better cherish the blessings we already had, and most of all, to remind us how it feels to TRULY let go of our plan and submit to His. My hopes for a baby had turned in to expectations, and my expectations needed to be shattered to see His perfect plan.
The practical advice I have for anyone struggling with the matching process or with a failed match are these:
1. Take special care to nourish and enjoy relationships with your current family members, whether it is your spouse, child, or pet. When God does give you your baby, you'll be grateful for the memories you made during the wait.
2. Try not to worry so much about the money. I know it's hard, because adoption is expensive, but if you are $800 more in debt, for example, when your adoption is done because you had weekly date nights, went to that concert together, or took a weekend getaway during the most difficult part of the journey, wasn't it a good investment?
3. Continue to make commitments unrelated to adoption. During part of our wait, I mistakenly said to myself, "I can't commit to that. We might have a baby." It is hard not to get depressed if you clear your calendar and have nothing else to do than think about adoption 24/7. This goes back to giving it up to God. God doesn't make mistakes. Sometimes His plan takes longer than we want or looks different than we thought it would, but in the end we understand why.
Previously published on Christian Adoption Consultants. Used with family's permission.
Some couples are working with not just a local agency for their home assessment, but a national adoption consultant. We see pros and cons to this option, and this article shares some of the things we see in those cases. Each couple's journey is different, but if you are considering adopting out of state, you will still need a local agency to conduct the home study and post-placement services for you.
Two years ago, the *Olsons were preparing to grow their family through infant adoption at Christian Adoption Services. They kept a video journal of appointments, excitedly walked through each step of the process, and had a great community support from friends and employers as they raised funds to cover the costs of their adoption. Little did they know that the following spring, they would learn of 4 kids in foster care that needed a permanent home, and God would redirect them.
The bumps in the road made this month's finalization hearing an even sweeter celebration. A year of meetings with social workers, biological extended family, the previous foster family, and therapists displayed the Olson's investment of love & care. After about a year of the joys and trials inherent in parenting 4 children, the Olson's adoption was finalized with 27 people in attendance.
We have been honored to be part of their journey. During May, we are celebrating Foster Care awareness month. We are grateful to serve families whose path takes them towards foster-adoption.
*Name changed for confidentiality.
Today's surprise office visit was one of our clients who brought gifts for the next several adoptive families in honor of the child whose placement in their home fell through. My eyes welled with tears when she explained they wanted to do something in honor of the child they expected to have in their home this Christmas. This act of generosity is exactly what God calls us to. His unmerited gift of the Christ child was different than expected, and full of grace for people who were planning for their Savior King to show up under very different circumstances.
In this season of giving, I'm reminded of the many biblical examples of giving - gifts from the lavish treasures presented by the Magi to the sacrifice of the woman who gave all she had. Each sacrificial gift has value to Christ. When we think about 0ur motivation in gift giving this Christmas, let our focus be generous giving as God gave to us and think less of what we might receive.
...Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.
You can pin the list below as a helpful *hint, hint* or just a reminder for future birthdays, placement gifts, etc. Here is our article from last year with all the helpful links to each of these gifts. Happy shopping and MERRY CHRISTMAS!
son’s birth mom who was going into labor and considering placing the baby with their family so the siblings would be together. Everything happened quickly and communication was flying back and forth between the Rinns, our agency, and the birth family as mom was making last minute decisions rather than connecting earlier with our agency. As the hours and days went by and the fog of unanswered questions thinned in the light of day, light of day, mom solidified her decision to parent and the Rinns were left with a sense of loss over a child that was never theirs. They were understandably frustrated as emotions had gone from high to low and our agency was in a bind when the birth mom did not connect with us regarding her wishes. What felt like an unnecessary trial turned into a refining fire clarifying their desire to grow their family through adoption yet again. These few days were a catalyst bringing the idea of infant adoption back into focus.
When Josh & Amy stepped through the doors of Christian Adoption Services in late winter, they had hope for the spring and the new life that would come into their family. They were joyful about their future family of four and knew it was time to pursue that dream. The loss during the previous summer shifted the Rinn’s vision of their family composition and their son was eager to become a big brother. The conversation with our staff was highly anticipated as they had only spoken with these workers during their frustrating possible match with their son’s birth mom. With a huge life decision involving the deepest emotions of parents and significant financial investment, trust had to be built for social workers who would lead them in navigating the blurry yet exhilarating path toward their unborn child. Leaving the CAS office, Josh & Amy were taking their first step into home study approval and the waiting period until expectant parents would choose them to raise their child.
The Rinn’s journey started to weave together with the birth parents six months later. Their lives would become intertwined in a beautiful image of love for the son they all cared for deeply even before his life began. It was autumn when CAS received a text from an expectant woman, *Julia, who was 20 weeks pregnant. She and her long-term boyfriend, *Tony, were in their 30s and 40s, lived in separate towns, and already had children from previous relationships. The thought of starting over with a new baby was not something either felt prepared for – emotionally or financially.
After much counseling and tears, Julia & Tony concluded choosing an adoptive family was what their child needed the most. This decision never comes easy to birth parents. Adopted children are wanted and loved by their birth parents, and allowing someone else to be mom and dad is a sacrificial decision!
While looking through profiles books, Julia & Tony felt a sense of peace and connection when picturing the Rinns as parents to this baby. The next months were an emotional flurry as Julia & Tony and Josh & Amy planned to meet each other and carefully consider the future of the precious unborn baby boy. In December, CAS held a “Match” meeting for the families. During this meeting, Josh & Amy saw the vision of becoming a family of four a little clearer.
A short month and a half later, Josh & Amy brought their beautiful baby boy home! Today the Rinns remain in contact with Julia & Tony. They share emails, pictures, and visits. Even though individuals walking through the adoption process experience loss and grief, all parties can celebrate the new life that comes forth by providing a child with a forever family.
*Names changed for confidentiality
Brave Love is an organization we have been blessed by through their video content and beautiful stories shedding light on a birth parents' loving decision. We use their videos when we speak about current adoption practices and positive language. Some of our adoptive families have purchased gifts from their shop and we are grateful for this pro-adoption movement. We spoke with Laura, their executive director, about being an agency partner. If you look at their map, North Dakota is not represented and we would love to be that beacon of hope for pregnant women who stumble across Brave Love looking for another option for their child. This partnership includes an annual fee of $600 and we would love to make that commitment, but we need your help. Would you consider coming alongside us in this partnership with Brave Love? Co-sponsors investing up to half the cost would really help make this commitment possible for our ministry. Donate now or contact us at 701-237-4473 if you have questions.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.