Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Can We Be Thankful In All Circumstances?

All Americans are thinking about Thanksgiving in some way, shape or form right now. As I type many are already traveling or preparing to travel. Turkeys are defrosting in fridges about to hit the oven, and people have already been going to purposely buy jelly beans this week ready to much them with popcorn during their annual tradition of watching "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" with the fam.

We're all "Thanksgiving saturated right now", but how many of us truly, myself included were actually going to spend some honest time being thankful, and on top of that taking time to thank God himself for all His blessings? If it's "just about the turkey" we're surely missing it.

Maybe we can be thankful this week, after all we're having some yummy dishes and hanging with family, but what about the other times in our lives when the Bible says, "Give thanks in all circumstances..."

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
-1 Thessalonians 5:18

I've honestly struggled with that, because there's been too many times to count that I have not felt very thrilled about life and my circumstances. I haven't honestly felt very thankful. If I'm honest I've lived plenty like I'm cursed, not blessed!

I think of these verses too:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
-Philippians 4: 6-7

So, that is easier said than done! We were introduced through our church to the little book, "Joyful Journey". This book said, "When we give thanks, gratitude becomes the vehicle through which we become aware of the presence of Immanuel, the God who is always with us. Gratitude  in the middle of difficulties allows us to have [the recognition that God is present, is truly good and perseveres in doing good for us].

I pretty much understand it like this: when I come to God with thankfulness I take the focal point off me for a change, and regardless of what is going on around me I see and hear Him. I am reminded that He is with me in every second of my life. God's character can only be good. His love is pure and unfailing. Immanuel is with me in all circumstances. I can be thankful for His presence. Therefore, I can be thankful in all circumstances because He is with me, and the God who is with me is persevering in doing good for me.

When pain or struggles occur, the enemy speaks lies to us, wanting us to take our eyes off of Jesus towards our situation, and we lose sight of "God with us" [Immanuel]. Even in those tough moments we have the ability through Holy Spirit to turn our eyes back towards Jesus, and thank him in it because he has never, and never will leave us or forsake us.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."
-Deuteronomy 31:6

Happy Thanks Giving!


Monday, March 18, 2019

Lemons From Lemonade - Brandon & Kathryn's Adoption Story

It has been an honor of ours to be adoption consultants for Brandon and Kathryn, and to see their family grow by the blessing of adoption. I (Dawn) had the privilege of also being able to present for the adoption finalization hearing here in Florida! What a blessing and honor to be invited - this is the 'icing on the cake' in my job. Kathryn shares their adoption story so beautifully, along with equally beautiful photographs that capture such beauty and love.

Emma, two weeks old. Photo by Marci Worlton Photography

"Someone once explained to me that when life gives you lemonade you should make lemons. How odd I thought. How backwards. How impossible. But you see...making lemons from lemonade means taking all the broken pieces and making them whole again. Something only God himself can do. We believe that God has brought lemons from lemonade in our adoption story – he has taken broken hearts and made them whole.

The “before” in our story is hard to write about...six miscarriages, fourteen foster placements that ended too soon in heartbreaking good-byes, failed adoptions through a broken foster system...we kept trusting God to grow our family but it was so hard to see hope dashed over and over.

Photo by Deanndra Xaynhachack of DMX Photography.

Last April (it sounds so funny to say that because it hasn’t even been a year yet!) we decided to step away from foster care and the devastation it brought our family, which was especially hard for our young son who was suffering deeply from the constant good-byes of foster siblings, and start on the path for private adoption.

By May we had our home study completed. And three short weeks later we received the life-changing call that a birthmother in Florida had chosen our family. Even more amazing, our baby girl was due in just three months’ time!

During our short wait to be matched we applied for more than a dozen situations. Each time, instead of praying “God let this expectant mother pick us!” my prayer was “God please don’t let us get picked if this match could fail. Please spare our family from more heartache and only let us be picked if it’s really going to happen!”

Adoption announcement. Photo by Kelly Petersen Photography.

In July I flew down to Florida to meet “N” – the birth mother carrying our daughter Emma. We enjoyed a girls’ spa day to relax and get to know one another. It was amazing how at ease we were and how quickly we connected. The spa staff didn’t believe us when we told them we had met that day; they assumed we were best friends with years of history given how freely we talked and laughed throughout our time with them. I had read that open adoption was ideal, but I think it took actually meeting Emma’s birth mother, and realizing what an incredible woman she is, to understand that she was truly going to be a part of our family as well. To this day we still message constantly. She’s a dear friend now and our daughter’s number one fan!

The highlight of that trip was getting to see my daughter on an ultrasound and hear her heartbeat for the first time. Her birth mother was so generous to allow me that. It felt so perfect. So real.

Summer flew by and at last it was time to head to Florida for the birth. I flew down the week before Emma was due. It was a good thing I got there a little early because less than 48 hours after my plane landed I was at the hospital with “N” preparing to welcome our daughter into the world!

While Emma’s birth story belongs more to her and “N” then it does to me, my little piece of it was waiting in a room all alone in the middle of the night after complications arose and an emergency C-section became necessary. I was so scared. Worried for Emma and her birthmother’s safety. Worried that going through such trauma would change “N”’s mind about being able to place her baby with us. Worried I wouldn’t get to see her right away because to the medical staff I wasn’t a relative so I had no rights....

But everything changed when a nurse came to get me. “Your daughter is here. Would you like to give her a bath and a bottle?” Her kindness was a gift from Heaven. She shared that she had a personal connection to adoption and promised me I could have these first moments with my little girl.

I know I am biased, but Emma was the most perfect baby I had ever seen. She was only a few hours old when I took this picture, so very in love with her already and excitedly texting my husband and son who flew in when labor started and arrived just a few hours after birth.

Emma at just a few hours old. Cell phone picture taken by Kathryn (mother).

We were smitten! We spent two days at the hospital, sharing a room with “N” and bonding as a new family. The boys visited during the day, and in the evenings “N” and I enjoyed the quiet to marvel over the perfect daughter we both get to love.

 Fresh 48 Hospital Session. Photo by Kelly Haymes of Momma Got Soul Photography.

Fresh 48 Hospital Session. Photo by Kelly Haymes of Momma Got Soul Photography.

Thankfully our time in Florida moved so quickly. Within two days our healthy little girl was discharged from the hospital and we were able to stay with my husband’s grandmother until we got our ICPC paperwork back – which only took one week! Over and over God provided for us and paved the way.

Emma came home to Iowa right before my birthday. It was the most precious, amazing birthday gift possible. Our family felt complete at last!

Emma, two weeks old. Photo by Marci Worlton Photography.

The last hurdle was waiting for finalization. There were some big hiccups along the way – including a man who registered himself as Emma’s birth father, even though he lived on the other side of the country and had never met Emma’s birth mother! - but over and over God provided and cleared the path for us to be her forever family.

At last the day came. We flew back to Florida with our four-month-old daughter so that we could go to court in person and share the big day with her birth mother. Our lawyer told us that in thirty years he had never seen a birthmother invited to a finalization hearing. But she is so much a part of our family now, I couldn’t imagine her not sharing the moment with us.

We all wore matching shirts. I made cheesy signs. We were joined by family members and Dawn, our amazing Christian Adoption Consultant who had guided us each step of our adoption journey.

Our Gotcha Day! Photo by Kelly Haymes of Momma Got Soul Photography.
Our Gotcha Day! Photo by Kelly Haymes of Momma Got Soul Photography.

It was a perfect day. The most special part, for me, was presenting our birth mother with a painting of a pregnant woman clutching a heart. To me, it symbolized how when she carried our daughter she carried our hearts, our love, our hopes...and when she gave us her baby girl she gave us a piece of her own heart as well. There was not a dry eye in the courtroom!

Painting by Katie M. Berggren. Photo by Kelly Haymes of Momma Got Soul Photography.

A second highlight was getting to meet Dawn, our CAC consultant! She drove out to be a part of our ceremony. After months of near daily correspondence, countless hours of prayer and encouragement, seeing her bright smile as she walked into the courthouse was like meeting a long-lost friend.

Dawn heading towards the courtroom. Photo by Kelly Haymes of Momma Got Soul Photography.

I’ll close with going back to the lemons. Emma’s birth mother craved lemonade throughout her pregnancy. We’ve made it a point to cherish that connection and send her lemon themed pictures of Emma frequently.

I’m thankful that Emma won’t grow up with her biological past a mystery. I’m thankful for the connection we have with her birth mother. I’m thankful my daughter is doubly blessed with two families that will love her and cherish her as she grows.

Most of all, I’m thankful God made lemons from our lemonade..."

Emma, three months old. Photo by Marci Worlton Photography.
Emma napping. Cell phone picture taken by Kathryn (mother).

I know that Kathryn's story has touched your heart, and I would love the privilege of talking with you about adoption and how I may also walk with you in your own adoption journey! Please feel free to reach out to me anytime.