Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Our Adoption Story - Part One

I've had several people tell me they want to hear the details of what brought us to adopting. So in order to save myself writing more than a few emails, I thought I'd share an attempted version of how God brought our family to pursue adoption and promise to try and abbreviate it some. : )

Ryan and I have always had a heart for anything orphan care related. I can remember first falling in love with adoption in early high school. For the first time, I had the privilege to see adoption first hand through family friends (it's also where I first fell in love with the name Ava) and I can still remember the moment I saw that baby girl for the first time and knew God was whispering something to my heart. Her story was miraculous and beautiful.

In college, both Ryan and I got to know and appreciate a family that had answered the call to foster care. We both got to know the children, see them grow, see their lives be changed by a family who knew Jesus, and again, both our hearts were touched.

From the time Ryan and I were an "us," we talked about orphan care being a part of our family. I was fairly open to where ever God would take us while Ryan felt strongly that Christian families were needed domestically (and they are!). I was totally content with the thought of that and foster care became our family's "plan."

Then we were blessed with our girls. Ava came along and foster care was still in the plans. We actively prayed about how God wanted to use us and felt we would have 3 kids and start our foster care journey. Ahh, don't you love clear cut plans?! : )

We became pregnant again and we still had these dreams. And then we found out it was twins. :

While this isn't something I've shared to many, one of the hardest aspects of learning we were having twins for me was that it meant one less pregnancy. I have loved babies as long as I can remember. I'm someone who loves being pregnant - discomforts and all (although having twins diminshed that a little ; )). I actually struggled with the idea of feeling like I'd "lost" one of those experiences. Especially if I considered the fact that if we stuck with our "plan" of 3 kids, I wouldn't have that chance to carry and have a newborn again.

Over the course of several years, we had the blessing of walking alongside several friends adopting. The more I read, the more I saw, and the more exposed I was to the need for orphan care around us (everywhere), the more certain both Ryan and I were that God were calling us to be used. And we kept thinking foster care was our call.

When the twins were about 6 months old, I started really struggling with contentment just day to day. Granted my life was all about little girls, but I felt God whispering something more to my heart. I longed to doing something "big" for Him. I wanted to change the world for Him. I wanted to do. Please notice the "I."

For several months, God and I really struggled. I kept telling Him my plans. I kept telling Him my wants. I kept telling Him my timeline.

I struggled seeing others move forward with their plans in life and was trying to control and figure out our own family's future. Ryan and I had talked about our plans (often at my pressing) and when the twins were almost 1, we decided we'd go ahead and pursue moving forward with foster care. After all, the need was huge, we were able and what could be wrong with that?

But God.

That winter, we started telling a few friends of our plans to move forward. There wasn't any big reason not to. Yet I can still distinctly remember the moment it first came out of my lips and feeling puzzled why I didn't feel excited. In fact, I felt heavy. It didn't make sense. We'd talked about and planned to foster care for as long as I could remember.

I can remember a night with several women from church where some really good conversations were had. I was still struggling with contentment overall and I can remember one of the mentoring moms sharing an opportunity God had brought to her recently and how thankful she was for the timing of it. She mentioned, "If God would have given this to me when I was younger, I would have made it all about me. But today, I'm so humbled, it can only be because of Him and about Him."

I went home so convicted that night and talked to Ryan about it. But again, the pulling I felt, had to be for us to pursue this. I could concede I was pushing some, but the need was huge. God was moving others to foster. There was more support and more information than ever. God "needed us" and we needed to respond.

In my total pride, we moved forward. I called a local agency and requested paperwork to begin the process.

The paperwork arrived and after a brief look through it all, it sat on our counter and mocked me for weeks. For with every new day, I was convicted more and more that I was taking us somewhere very dangerous: ahead of God.

The opportunity in front of us was becoming a huge burden on my heart. I was miserable. With my whole heart I wanted to be the one God had called to this, but every time we tried to pursue it, I felt the weight of God's hand on my shoulder saying, "Wait for me. Pursue me like this."

Then, I started having some migraine headaches occasionally. They came largely out of nowhere (I had experienced a few in high school/college) and began increasing. It got to a point I would have 1 - 3 a week. Suddenly, no matter how much I wanted to, our family wasn't moving forward with anything.

God had my full attention. As we tried to figure out the cause of my migraines, I had to stop and sit. God whittled away at my totally sinful and prideful heart. It was painful and emotional, but I finally began to see the joy of pursuing my God more than that "something." While "wait" still seemed hard, I wanted His "wait," more than my way.

I realized the beauty of embracing my girls in the present instead of chasing what was next. I began to learn the fullness that comes from really breathly my Savior in deeply. And I started to learn I wanted God's dreams even if it meant giving up every one of mine. But oh that was scary for me to fathom.

After seeing some doctors, we figured out the main cause of my migraines. We ran tests and were thankful to have anything overly concerning eliminated. I was able to find solutions to my migraines and they began to lessen and spread out. Yet God's "no and wait" didn't change.

God had most definitely used this time to change me. But that doesn't mean it was easy. I still wrestled to learn what simply resting in Him looked like. I struggled letting Him be enough. Some days were easier. But other days I felt like Jacob: wrestling an angel for God's blessing. I was willing to accept "wait," but I wanted God's promise of "someday."

Late spring of 2010, I happened to see a small conference being put on at a church an hour away that intrigued me. It was advertised as being a foster care and adoption conference but emphasized the foster care process (in fact, almost entirely). I thought, "Perfect! Here's something we can do while we wait" and Ryan and I planned to attend.

At this point in our journey, I had largely been leading the way. It wasn't ever that Ryan wasn't willing. He totally was. But the more I sought God, instead of just wanting "my way," I became convicted that I needed to step aside and let my husband take the reigns for the remainder of our journey where he belonged. I had long told Ryan I didn't mind gently pushing him to the cliff, but I refused to ever make him jump. I had toed that line more than once and it was time for me to step back.

Now anyone who knows Ryan and I, knows Ryan would never be described as the "emotional" of us two. I carry that pretty well on my own. : ) But as I began praying that God would move Ryan to start directing our family's steps, I also began praying that God would give Ryan a passion and excitement for our next step; not just a willingness. After having pushed for so long, I didn't want that for any part of our future.

And so I prayed and prayed. . . . and wrestled.

As we drove to the conference that night, out of nowhere, Ryan glanced over at me and said, "I need to tell you that I really have lost all desire to foster care." I can still remember the look on his face as he looked over at me and braced for my disappointment.

Yet disappointment never came.

Instead, I answered immediately, "I feel like I should feel disappointment, but all I feel is relief." We had a great conversation the rest of the way as we realized we didn't have a single idea where God was going to take us but we were finally willing to let go of all our preconceived plans and just listen. We decided we had nothing to lose by staying at the conference and went on in.

Well, God had different ideas that night. Would you believe that the entire evening was spent on adoption? And largely international adoption?

I was so disappointed at first. While Ryan and I had talked on the way there that we'd consider adoption, we still felt strongly it should be domestic adoption.

Add to that? It was all fairly elementary information that I thought I pretty well knew. But after a while, I stopped talked to God (detect a theme in my life yet?!) and just absorbed it all.

Towards of the end of the night, a couple stood up who had done it all. They had adopted domestically. They had adopted internationally. They had fostered. They had adopted from foster care. They had seen adoptions fall through. As the husband shared a little, he finally ended with these words,

"If there is one thing I have learned through all our experiences, it is that this is a journey you do not push. Be willing to sit back and trust God."

I knew if for no other reason than hearing those words, God had put me in that room at that time. But He had other purposes that night too.

God lit a spark that night.

I realized how much my heart was in adoption. Period. I didn't know what that looked like for us but for the first time in over a year, I felt an excitement for what God could have in store. I didn't feel a need to push or rush. I felt like we were sitting exactly where God wanted us to be and felt the total weight of trying to make foster care work, gently lifted off my shoulders.

That night on the way home, God continue to move. I sat back in awe as I watch an answered prayer in Ryan. He had a heart for adoption. Granted, he'd always had an heart for adoption. But this time, it was for us. He had dreams about it, plans and ideas for us. And remember how elementary I thought the information on adoption was?

Well, sometimes we forget guys don't talk like girls do. Sometimes we forget that they don't get the chance to read adoption stories and learn about the process on blogs during nap time. : ) For the first time, Ryan was able to really understand the in's and out's of the process and feel God pull his heart to adopt.

We didn't know the how and we didn't know the where but we knew God was in it and were willing to wait for Him to show us.

to be continued . . .


Betsy said...

I loved reading about your journey so far and can't wait to hear the rest! We are so excited for you guys and can't wait to see how God continues to work in your family!

mom Bahr said...

We are with you Amber & Ryan, praying and trusting that God will take care of ALL the details in His perfect time. Thank you for sharing these past couple of days - I am never ready to leave, and my heart feels heavy just saying good by. You are 'gifts from God' and we look forward to this new little 'gift from God' in your family circle. Our love & prayers are with you all. love forever, mom

Dad Bahr said...

Ryan and Amber,
Mom also speaks my heart.
With mountainsful of love, trust and support for you; and a prayer that you can always know the gentle strength and peace of Jesus. Psalm 32:8; John 14:27
Forever, Dad

Carissa J. said...

Thanks so much for sharing Part 1 of your story! I loved reading it and look forward to hearing how God continues to move!
Love ya!

Jami said...

oh amber - this is just beautiful! thank you for sharing. God has such amazing plans! i love Him and I love you!! can't wait to read the rest!!

Sarah said...

This was great, Amber. I appreciated your openness & honesty.

Thank you...

Mindy said...

Thanks for sharing Amber - I am loving reading your story. You are such a blessing to me and it's been a blessing to watch God work in your heart through the years. You are a great example to me and I love you. :)

I think I needed to hear a lot of what you wrote in here even though we are at different stages in our adoptions. I need to stop wrestling with God over getting my baby here as fast as possible but enjoying the time I have. I know God keeps telling me that over and over and friends keep telling me that but it is so hard to actually do. So thanks for that'll probably have to remind me over and over through the next few months.

We are so supportive of you and are thankful we can walk beside you in the journey!

Alisa said...

Amber leigh,
... isn't God so gracious to take our desires and mold them into His! We love you guys so much and can't wait to love another one as much as we do Ava, Kata and Olivia!! Thanks for sharing your heart along the way, we won't stop praying!!

Haley said...

Very cool Amber! It is so great to hear what you've been through... how God has moved and how your patience and listening heart will bless you - in His perfect plan for your lives! I am so excited to see how God continues to use you and what your future holds! :)

Love you,

Janel said...

I read your blog through Sarah...and love seeing how God is working in your family.

erica said...

Hi Amber! I stumbled across your blog this morning, and am thrilled for you and your family. I don't know if you remember me or not, but our families used to go back and forth when we were little. I think I'm your sister Amy's age. Anyway, my husband and I started the process to adopt a boy, girl, or siblings from Ethiopia about a year ago with All God's Children, International. Just wondered if by chance you're using the same agency? I would love to hear from you - my email address is I plan to follow your journey, and can't wait to see what God has in store for you!! Blessings to your family as you begin this amazing adventure of adoption!

Ashley Baner said...

I didn't have time to delve into this the day you posted it so I waited til part two came out today. Now I CAN'T WAIT to get to part two!! What an exciting adventure!! PS...Super thankful the migranes were solved. I am sure that was weighing heavily on you in light of your current situation with Brad.

Jenny Marrs said...

I'm just seeing this. Wow. What an incredible story! Excited to read the rest...

It's funny how you said that about mourning another pregnancy with the twins. I felt the same way and never really talk about it. I loved bei g pregnant and was so sad to not experience it again.

Anyway... I love how God carefully orchestrated your story... So beautiful!!