This Was His Plan – Jon and Amanda’s Adoption Story

A little blessing, just in time for Christmas, in Jon and Amanda’s own words …

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Our adoption story started before we even knew it was going to happen, but God knew all along. This was his plan.

In 2013 Amanda turned 30, at which age she had always determined, she would start her family. 30 came and went but she and Jon weren’t discouraged, they continued to try to get pregnant. In January 2014 Amanda miscarried at only about 4 weeks.   Once again, she and Jon weren’t discouraged, and were assured that the miscarriage was typical. October rolled around and they still weren’t pregnant. Amanda had seen an ad for a free info session for a fertility clinic and she and Jon decided it might be a good idea to check it out. After some tests and some fertility treatments, still nothing. The next round of more aggressive treatments was getting ready to start, but in January 2015 Amanda went to the hospital with what she thought was pneumonia. It was actually a virus that had attacked her heart. Her heart had been weakened by the virus and was functioning little to none. Jon and her family never gave up hope and stayed by her side in the hospital the whole time. At one point the doctors gave Jon paperwork to place her on the heart transplant list. It’s a God thing — that she is alive and has fully recovered, after spending almost a month in the hospital, and 18 days in a medical coma. Becoming pregnant at this time, with the compromised condition of her heart and having to be on several medications, was discouraged by all doctors.

Amanda and Jon felt sorry for themselves for a little while, but were always trying to figure out the next steps to grow their family, as they had so much love to give a child. After researching some other options, they talked with some friends and asked them to keep their ears open for some adoption options through churches and other Christian organizations. This led them to the recommendation to talk to John & Cindy King, of Victorious Hope Adoption Consultants, in April 2016.

Jon and Amanda wanted to complete each step of the paperwork process as quickly as possible, and were soon home study approved in June. They applied to 2 agencies in FL at the end of August. The waiting was the worst part. They kept the adoption process a secret from friends and family, even from their parents and siblings, as they didn’t want the added pressure of everyone asking them for updates and questions. They went through emotional peaks and valleys during this waiting period. Seeing all of their friends with their cute kids and their fun family activities made their heartache even worse. In November 2016 they had decided maybe they would apply to a 3rd agency in FL to increase the odds of being matched. This 3rd option required a sizable upfront fee that they really didn’t want to spend, but they were willing to take the risk for the hope of a match.

Turns out, Sunday Nov. 27th , 2016, the day before they were going to send in the 3rd application and sizable fee, they found out they were matched. The baby boy was due January 10th 2017.

Elated, a whole new set of emotions set in for Jon & Amanda. They couldn’t believe they were going to have a baby in less than 2 months. They were scared and excited at the same time. They decided to not buy anything for the baby, since they knew that anything can happen when you adopt. They were nervous to meet the birth parents, which was arranged for December 17th 2016. Their flights were booked and they were getting anxious.

December 14th , 2016, their case worker texted them that they might need to change their flights, as the birth mom was having contractions. This brought a whole new level of nervousness to Jon & Amanda as now they had NO time to prepare mentally or prepare the physical things they needed for a baby. Once again a God thing happened. A few phone calls later their friends and neighbors had provided everything they needed for traveling with a baby and the essentials they needed for the first few weeks after they got home. Their special blessing was born 12/14/16 @ 10:32pm.

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Jon and Amanda were able to meet the birth parents the following day and thank them for this wonderful gift they gave to them. The birth parents thanked Jon & Amanda for being able to give their birth child a better life. It was a short but sweet meeting. They finally got to meet their son around 1pm on 12/15/16. He was, and is, absolutely perfect! You can see the hand of God when you look at a newborn and Jon and Amanda’s lives were instantly changed forever.

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He Is In The Details – Kyle and Becky’s Adoption Story

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We first met with Kyle and Becky in March of 2015. Like many of the families who contact us, their journey to adoption includes infertility, heartache, and questions about the adoption process. We sat with them a few times, together and separately, and in May of last year they decided to take the next steps – signing on with Victorious Hope Adoption Consulting and starting their home study process.

By mid-October 2015 they were home study ready and connecting with agencies and adoption attorneys. In less than a week their profile was being shown to a young couple who chose Kyle and Becky just a few days later. Their baby was due May of 2016.

Those are the facts of their journey but the story God is writing for them is so much more than the facts. As Becky says, “If there is one thing we have come to appreciate from this, it is that God is in the details. He deserves all the glory for this- and I want others to be encouraged/reminded how the Lord does see the aches and hurts of our hearts and of the birth families. Beauty from ashes- so awesome how God writes a story so much better than we can!”

Just a month after being matched, Becky found out that she was pregnant! There were some anxious moments and questions about continuing with the adoption. In their minds, both children were theirs but they didn’t know how their expectant parents would respond. They were thrilled to find that once again God was in the details and their expectant mother was thrilled that her child, which they now knew was a boy, would have a sibling close in age.

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Kyle and Becky planned a vacation over Presidents’ Day weekend to meet their expectant mother in person. While very apprehensive about this meeting and the awkwardness they first felt, Kyle and Becky came away with a peace from God and supernatural love for this precious teenager, her boyfriend, and some of their extended family as well. Kyle and Becky found their hearts broken for this resilient young couple who come from such heartache. They realized, as many of us do, that this is so much bigger than adopting a baby, but in a sense, adopting the birth family as well. They were thankful that they agreed to be uncomfortable so that their expectant parents could be more comfortable in their situation. They were better able to pray for these teen-agers they had really come to love. Soon after this visit, they were pleased to announce that they were expecting a son as well – two little boys for their team!

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As a friend of ours says, “You can’t make this stuff up!” It’s a story that only God could write; details that only He could orchestrate. Trusting Him for those details hasn’t always been easy and Kyle and Becky have relied on the prayers of many as they’ve walked this adoption journey.

And on May 21st, the first of their two baby boys was born! God was evident in each and every detail from the beginning to today. And their story is far from over!

To God be the glory!

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He Knows – Nick and Carissa’s Adoption Story

If you ask anyone for one word to describe the adoption journey, many would answer, “Rollercoaster” because of the extreme ups and downs, highs and lows of the adoption process. For Nick and Carissa, it was also because it was fast and furious.

Nick and Carissa first met with us this past April. They came to us with a story of both pain and hope as they shared photo albums of their precious daughters who each lived only a few days. After learning that their daughters’ condition was genetic and there was a 25% chance that any future biological children would have the same fatal condition, they decided to pursue adoption.

They were already homestudy ready and had tried to find a child through websites and word of mouth but were finding it confusing, slow, and frustrating. After being scammed by one woman claiming to be a birthmother in search of a family, they were understandably concerned that it could happen again. They were eager to work with us and to allow us to guide them through the adoption journey.

I started working on their profile on Mother’s Day which I thought was both appropriate and symbolic. It was a joy to put their story into a profile, made easy by two very photogenic people. Their profile was complete a little over a week later and in the mail to them, ready to be sent to agencies.

On May 29th, they were matched with a baby due to be born by c-section at the end of June. A roller coaster, indeed!

They were able to meet face-to-face with their beautiful birth mother the night before the scheduled c-section and Carissa was thrilled to be in the room when their baby boy entered this world.

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And on July 6, Carissa wrote these words on their Facebook page: “As I often reflect on the past couple of years, I always get stuck on the day Sage’s Doctor told us we could never bring our baby girl home with us. I have placed so much importance on that one thing … Bringing a baby, our baby, home. To me it symbolized a future for my children, a new adventure for our family, and life itself. Now that 3 years and two more losses have gone by, I have grown through heartache and pursuing who God is and I feel just as much importance in bringing [our son] home. This time though, I feel seasoned, weathered, older, and I feel a gratefulness and deep wonder of life that no words can do justice. We aren’t in control, we don’t know the future. We can just smile and try our best to live this beautiful life that God has given us. We are so excited to follow God with every resource he’s given us and beyond humbled to have [our son] join our family. It’s with these thoughts and emotions that I’ll go to sleep in my own bed tonight. It’s with a new understanding of our journey that I will thank God for our son and ability to come home. And tomorrow we will wake up and journey on.”

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For those who are still waiting, these are the words Carissa wrote just days after being matched and three weeks before the birth of their beautiful baby boy, “As Cindy and John have reminded us time and time again, He Knows. As I have to continually remind myself and my husband of this, I would love to encourage everyone whose prayers are heard, hopes are high, hopes are low, Who. Just. Can’t. Take. The lack of control … Be faithful as He is faithful, as He is teaching and transforming you … He knows.”

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Open Vs. Closed Adoption: Four Reasons We Prefer Open

One of the questions that most adoptive families face is whether they will have an open or closed adoption.  In generations past, when a child was placed for adoption, all of the records were sealed, prohibiting an adoptive adult from ever having many questions answered about her identity.  In other cases, the records were sealed until an adopted child reached adulthood.  Today, there are many, many options of openness that adoptive parents could face.  As an adoptive father of 3 children, my wife and I have encountered three very different situations that all had some form of openness, and in this blog, I’d like to share about open adoption and how it is very beneficial to adoptive children and their families.

Open Adoption means that birth mother (and sometimes birth father and/or extended birth family) and adoptive parents enter into an agreement, either legally or privately, where information about an adoptive child is shared back and forth.  There are many degrees of openness, ranging from regular face-to-face visits in the adoptive family’s home, all the way to a letter sent perhaps once a year to an adoption agency who then forwards it along to a birth parent.  The agreement that birth mother and adoptive family enters into can be legally binding, depending on the state in which the adoption is finalized.  In the state of Pennsylvania where we live and work, no such laws exist, but an overwhelming majority of adoptions in our state have some degree of openness where the adoptive parents agree to give ongoing information to the birth mother.  In many situations, an open adoption agreement or legal contract could simply mean sending letters and pictures on a regular basis.  We know of adoption situations  where the birth mother asked to have a face-to-face visit once a year for her biological child, but those kinds of situations tend to be rare.  When adopting through a law office or through an adoption agency, the professionals involved often help to facilitate an open adoption agreement that consists of letters and pictures sent through the agency.  In one of our adoptions, we actually set up a private blog for our birth mother and anyone of her choosing who can see how our child is doing.  

While many adoptive parents have some degree of fear initially about openness in adoption, and while there are a few sensational cases where a birth family caused issues for an adoptive family, we at Victorious Hope Adoption Consulting feel that open adoption is the most ideal situation for an adopted child when requested by the birth family, for several reasons.

1.  Open adoption facilitates medical and mental health information.  No one knows the future in raising any child, let alone a child that does not share one’s biological heritage.  The blessing of having ongoing contact with a birth family is that adoptive parents have the ongoing understanding of knowing about any medical and psychiatric history in the biological family.  From a counseling perspective, if an adopted child has any future emotional issues with mood disorders, it can be very helpful to know if there is a family history of mental illness so that proper treatment can be given sooner rather than later.

2. Open adoption helps the adopted child develop their identity as they grow older. I had a good friend whose father died, only to find out that his father was really his biological grandfather, and his sister was really his biological mother.  It was such a tragedy for him, to find that his family had these hidden secrets!  In a sense, closed adoption also hides a child’s story from them as they grow older.  But when there is openness in adoption, it facilitates some degree of communication between biological and adoptive parents and their child.  It also enables that child, as he or she grows older, to know more about their identity.  Major life questions, such as “Where did I come from?” can have more honest and forthright answers, which in my view significantly helps adolescent adopted kids, although not all adopted children will desire a relationship with their birth family once they reach adulthood.

3. Open adoption agreements often help to facilitate the legal adoption agreement itself.  We believe that when a birth mother is seriously contemplating choosing an adoptive family for her child, knowing that an adoptive family is agreeable to an open adoption can often facilitate a birth mother’s choice to place her baby with an adoptive family.  It is often is a huge relief for a birth mother making a courageous decision to place her child in an adoptive home if she knows that she will receive letters and pictures for the rest of that child’s life as they grow into adulthood.  It helps her know that she made the right decision by placing a child with your family.

4. Open adoption can give an adoptive family an opportunity to bless and encourage their child’s birth mother.  In our experience, birth mothers are often “orphaned” themselves.  Many of their decisions are acted upon because they were abandoned emotionally, relationally, physically, and spiritually as children themselves.  We see heartbreaking tragedies that birth mothers walk through, living out of their pain and hardship.  God often knows that birth mothers need the right people to care for them, and Cindy and I have seen instances where the adoptive family represented the love of Jesus to a birth mother in powerful ways.  And as we talk to adoptive parents of these kinds of situations, we see the handiwork of God in not only helping an orphaned child find a forever family, but also in helping a birth mother find advocates for her.  

So if you are praying about adoption, and wondering what an open adoption might look like for you, would you consider that God might bring you into a situation where you could have an ongoing relationship of blessing for an orphaned child AND his or her birth mother?  Our encouragement to you is to pray that God will open up the door for the right situation for your family, your spouse, and your extended family.  God may have a plan in place for you to be a blessing to both a child and a birth mother.  Are you open to seeing how God might orchestrate this for your life?

Life is What Happens When you Least Expect It

I remember it well.  June 6, 2006 was just like any other Tuesday, but there were some events that would unfold before our eyes that would change the trajectory of my/our future forever.  On June 1, we were approved as foster parents for a local agency.  The morning of June 6, Cindy got a phone call about a little preemie girl (4 pounds, 5 ounces) that was in need of a home.  At the time, we were told that this child would be available for adoption and they were only going to place a child in a home that was interested in adopting her.  Were we interested?  Cindy said “Yes” right away, and then she called me. 🙂 That was about 11:00 in the morning.  Later in the afternoon, Cindy and I showed up at a local hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and told the nurses we were there to pick up a little baby.  Without checking our ID or anything, they placed a beautiful little bundle of joy into our arms.  Almost 9 years later, she is winning races.  Lots of them.

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12 hours before then, it was just another day.  And all it took was one phone call to change our lives forever.  Adoptions are often like that in one way or another.  For couples open to adoption, they get the phone call, they have a conversation with someone, or they receive the e-mail like we got on April 20, 2013 that started off: “I know this is a long shot, but…”  For many couples, they do the preparation, the home study, the paperwork, the fund raising, etc.  But eventually they receive news about a situation, and in that moment they need to make a decision that could be life-altering.  

This past weekend, we received a phone call from an attorney who was in desperate need of a family that would take a risk and put their lives on the line for a one-day-old newborn little boy who would be placed in the care of the county children and youth agency if a proper adoptive home could not be found… in less than 30 minutes.  Within that period of time, a home was found, and from that day forward, a family, an extended family, and possibly all of eternity was changed because a couple had the courage to step in and provide protection and covering and blessing for a little child that would otherwise have potentially fallen through the cracks.

(This situation is known as a “stork drop,” by the way.  They don’t all happen this way, but they certainly do happen from time to time.)

This moment of decision is often something that adoptive parents can fear.  But for followers of Jesus, we can be confident that GOD has chosen the right child for us, the right situation, the right family.  He is not surprised at what happens.  He knew all along that there would be that vulnerable child needing a home, and he also knew all along that there would be that couple whom God wanted to grow their faith and trust in Him.  

That’s just like it has always been throughout Scripture.  God used tragedy, difficulty, hardship, struggle, and fearful situations to test someone’s resolve, to grow him or her to become more like Jesus.  That is God’s economy; that’s how He works.  And twenty years down the road, when we look back on our lives, we recognize the hand of God in all of it.  

Are you open to the phone call, the e-mail, or the conversation, whatever the situation?

“God, we recognize that left to ourselves we tend to go for the easy, the comfortable, and the predictable.  But we know that in order for our faith in Jesus to grow, we must be open to You ordering our lives, Lord God.  So we submit to You, Jesus.  We trust you, and we have faith in knowing that You are the one who knows our family, and You are the one who knows exactly what we need.  So today we wait on Your perfect timing for each couple who is engaged in this adoption process.  Bless and keep us, we pray in Jesus’ name, AMEN.”

Happy Birthmother’s Day!

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day. The day comes with many different emotions for all of us. It can bring memories of our own mothers, good or bad. It can invoke feelings of inadequacy for those of us who are mothers. And for those who wish to be mothers but for some reason or other do not have a child in their arms, the day can be painful.

I (Cindy) was there at one time. Believe it or not, before there were five biological children, there was a diagnosis and a surgery and a doctor saying words we never thought we’d hear. And for a period of time I didn’t go to baby showers and I wanted to avoid Mother’s Day and all of its celebrations.

We know that many of our families are in that same place. We want you to know that we are praying for you in earnest this week, that you will find comfort in God’s love. We pray for the family that we know He has for you. We pray that you would know beyond a shadow of a doubt that He has a plan for you, a plan that is good and perfect.

We also acknowledge that this can be a painful day for the birthmothers of our children. For those of us who have already adopted, let’s promise to remember these precious women this weekend. In fact, the day before Mother’s Day is known as Birthmother’s Day. If you have a more open relationship with your child’s birthmother, find a way to honor her on Saturday. If you have no relationship with your child’s birthmother, you can still remember her in prayer. When we follow the call to love orphans, we also accept the call to love and honor their families. I have come to realize that many of these women are orphans themselves. If they had people around them to support, care for, and encourage them, they wouldn’t be in a place to make such a difficult decision. Jessie Lundell, open adoption advocate and chair of United for Adoption, says, “For me, adoption is always about love, and that includes loving birth parents.” We couldn’t agree more!

 Happy Birthmother’s Day, May 9, 2015!

How could I ever love a child that’s not mine? – for men

I’ve wrestled with many of the reasons people shy away from adopting…

  • “I’m not sure if I want to take on someone else’s problems.”
  • “But what if they end up with issues?”
  • “How could I ever love a child that’s not mine?”

For men who are adopting or considering adoption with their wife, I understand.  I was there.  I wrestled with these issues and more when I prayed and processed through what it would mean for me to be an adoptive father.  I distinctly remember a family member who shared that they didn’t want to consider adopting because they didn’t want to take on someone else’s problems.  That thought stuck with me in a bad way.

But as followers of Jesus Christ, as people who are called to reach out to the poor, the marginalized, the people without Christ, I am understanding on a fundamental level that following Christ into the world means being willing to stand up and protect orphans and widows and other vulnerable people in society.  Scripture speaks to this throughout both the Old and New Testaments.  I could give many, many specific examples about how God commanded the people of Israel to welcome the foreigner and alien among them, or how many passages speak to the issue of caring for orphans directly, or how Moses was adopted, and even how Jesus was adopted by Joseph and raised as his own son.  Clearly, God cares about orphans, and he commands us to care for them.

So like I said, I was one of those people who harbored feelings about orphaned children being “problems” that I didn’t want in my home.  But I realize now how that mindset is something that the enemy uses to attack and kill off weak little lambs/children.  One of the enemy’s most effective tactics he uses is to get Christians to start seeing adoption as an “issue” rather than as a real person with a real story.  That’s the way it was for me.  I saw adoption as an issue rather than a person… until I met an adorable little five-day-old preemie girl who was released from the hospital into my arms.  She just happened to be one of those “foster children” or one of those “issues.”  But as I held this little “issue” in my arms and prayed for her almost every night, I found that my heart changed:

Jesus I pray that you will protect Aundrea and keep her safe.  I pray that you will enable her to be in a safe place where she can receive You as a child, and where her life will be a blessing to thousands and millions of people over her lifetime.

So how did God answer those many prayers I prayed over her?  He helped me to see that the “issue” of adoption was really about this little girl in my arms.  Was I willing to stand in the gap for this little child without any hope or any future?  As a husband and father, was I willing to allow my faith in Christ to mean something for a vulnerable child?  My decision to fight for her protection and safety was something that profoundly changed me forever.  That little five-day-old preemie is now my eight-year-old daughter named HopeAnne Aundrea.  We named her Hope because we were praying that we wouldn’t lose hope in the days and weeks when we could see that the county children and youth agency worker was making some poor decisions.  We stood in the gap for her, and today that little girl is now in second grade, she plays the viola in our family band, she love gymnastics, she loves Jesus, and she loves to run.  She runs like the wind, and she wins many of her races.  And every time I see her run a race, I am the loudest parent there.  “GO HOPIE GO!!!”  I could care less about what people around me may say about how loud I am, because I am privileged to see God redeeming a child whose life was hanging in the balance back in 2006.  And God enabled me to be part of the answer to my prayers over that little girl named Aundrea.  I only wonder what our decision to adopt little HopeAnne will mean 100 years from now.

I don’t know what it will mean for you to take the plunge into adoption.  It may go wonderfully.  It could be difficult.  But God has promised that He will walk with you as you journey with Him.  It is my prayer that God will raise up men who decide that they will be protectors, shepherds, and fathers of vulnerable children.