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We are excited to announce our adoption of Ryland James, as of February 19th, he is officially a member of the family. In honor of our celebration, I will be sharing our journey in to fostering and adopting in a few short posts. Fostering is near to our hearts and our prayer is that God would open yours, too, to see what he has in store for your family and maybe our journey would be some encouragement to get you started. (If you missed them, here are parts one and two and three.)

It has been a beautiful, crazy time going from two to three. Days filled with holding one child and carrying another and prepping snacks and washing bottles and making sure dance parties are still part of the everyday. Accompanied by lots of firsts. First time with two in diapers. First time having regular visits with numerous social workers. First time having bottles of formula piling up by the sink. First time forgetting to pack a bottle. The months and adjustments danced by.

In October, all parental rights were terminated and we waited out the appeal period over the holidays. Everything was going as had been assumed. It felt a little eerie but exciting, none the less. He already fit right in the family. We signed our adoption placement paperwork on January 19th and awaited our finalization date.

The night before the final court signing it really hit me. This was the end. No family was coming forward. Social workers would no longer be involved. No more meetings or water temping or extra paper work for the doctors. No strings attached. He was to be ours. Officially.

We made it to the court house with no time to spare. Ricardo paid for parking and I left our diaper bag at security. We met with our social workers, one of whom was unable to be there for signing. We declared we were ten years older than Ryland to the judge and signed our son in to our family, officially.

The receiving of a gift like this is hard to put in words. There are so many dynamics and people involved in fostering. My heart broke for his mama, whom we have yet to meet. And for her family and their history, which we know merely a drop of. It broke for the loss the connection and love but rejoiced in God's blessing of choosing him for us. He is chosen, as are the babies I birthed. God chose and consecrated them for us.

There is a tendency towards some sort of ownership that takes place between conception and birth. The uncomfortable sleepless nights and heart burn and extra weight on the scale all takes you one step closer to becoming the owner. You work so hard giving up your favorite foods and cutting back on others and endure constant back pain and swelling feet knowing it will all be worth it in the end when you hold your little one for the first time.

 Being given a baby without strings attached, so to speak, without putting in the physical work and enduring labor pains is a different sort of gift in its entirety.

 The miracle presents itself as that, and rightly so. The gift is just that. A gift. A gift from God revealing his nature of redemption and restoration.

To be given the gift of a baby is nothing short of a miracle but receiving the gift of someone else's is like getting a double helping of the miraculous in a beautiful, broken kind of way.

When you get pregnant, you expect to give birth and have a child but when you sign up for foster to adopt, you are opening up the unexpected. Learning about giving and taking away.

It brings thoughts of baby feet or tiny toddler hands and endless possibility. Where they will go. Who they will follow. Who they will lead. And whether it be for a time or a life time we get to experience the journey and see the paths marked out for them.

Whether or not they will be with us forever is not if importance but whether we will love them like they will be, is. Ownership is not part of the equation. They are God's children. As are those we birthed.  And we get to demonstrate love to them like he loved us.

If there is one thing about our family and fostering, reunification is always on our hearts. As we hear stories of the broken families and traumatic pasts, we also know the power and redemptive work of God. We are not better than the parents who are struggling with addictions or priorities and we are not here to swoop in and save their children. We are here to come along side a hurting and broken family and love them where they are at. To love their children the best we know how, while they get help. To pray for a miracle for them and their family to be fully restored. But if that is not possible, we are here to care for them as our own, though our prayers of redemption never stop.

We are ready to put our hearts in a blender. To love children who may not know love and love their parents who may not know it, either.

When God does something, he does not merely do the minimum, he goes beyond our wildest dreams and makes something amazing to share with others. To share of his grace and peace in the process and surrounding us with a group of friends to pray for us and everyone involved the entire time. And family and friends to carry us as we adjusted and went to appointments and entered in to a fuller and richer life. And for that, we are ever thankful. 

We sit here nine months after being certified, having grown our family from four to five, thankful for his gift. And pretty sure that God is not leading us to stop here, whatever that means - whatever adventures await us. 

We are excited to announce our adoption of Ryland James, as of February 19th, he is officially a member of the family. In honor of our celebration, I will be sharing our journey in to fostering and adopting in a few short posts. Fostering is near to our hearts and our prayer is that God would open yours, too, to see what he has in store for your family and maybe our journey would be some encouragement to get you started. (In case you missed them, here are parts one and two.)

When we filled out our paper work determining the criteria of the children we would be willing to take, it felt a little inhumane. Which race? Which gender? How old? Which of these special needs are you comfortable with? With every question, the thought of saying no to someone became real. My child could have special needs. I could birth a child with special needs. I have not raised a child that old yet. The thoughts went on.

We ended up being pretty open, according to our social worker, and namely set the age - a child from birth to five years. We were expecting an older child because that is typically how it goes. But to our surprise, our adoption adventure was not to be a typical story.

Three days after our first baby left, a Friday morning, my cell phone rang again, as I stood in our backyard pushing Penny on the swing. This time just a few details of two day old baby boy who would be coming home from the hospital the following day came across the line. His tests were negative. He was healthy. Would we take him? Oh, and by the way, he was up for adoption.

We had an entire day to prep all the newborn gadgets. To wash the car seat and assemble the swing and buy diapers and bottles and purchase another crib, as Jude was still in one and not ready to give it up. Typically, there is merely a few hours at most before the arrival, we were blessed with a day.

Driving to the hospital to pick him up was surreal. Ricardo was working and Penny and Jude were with my aunt. I met with our social workers in front of the hospital to fill out paper work, empty car seat in hand, ready to be filled with new beginnings - the first possibly long term child to be placed in our home.

We were blessed with the sweetest social worker through out the process, who asked if I would like to take a picture there. I was hesitant at first but even if he would not stay in our care long term, I reasoned, at least he would know someone loved him from the beginning and could be put in his baby book. Enter semi-awkward first picture.

Signing the hospital discharge papers in the mom spot and taking his little bag of belongings to my car and placing him in the car seat for his first ride home, to our home, is hard to put in to words. I had not birthed himI was not his mom, nor did I know I would be, yet I was allowed this sacred space, pen in hand.  

Who gets to enjoy a newborn without any of the physical work involved? Without months of food aversions and growing waste line and the pain of delivery. It was like Christmas caring for a newborn without the recovery. 

This was the child we had been praying for the past few years. 

Saturday morning, our agency called us informing us that despite his adoption status from the previous day, we were being considered the emergency placement home by the county. They reassured us that they would talk with the county workers but nothing was certain.

It was a reminder of the complexity of the system and a reminder that we had opened up our home for this, for this baby, however long he would stay. However long God had him in our care. And it was another opportunity to fully trust God.

We spent the next few weeks getting use to our new normal, with an out pouring of love from our friends and family via dinners and babysitting.

We met with social workers and talked with attorneys and loved our tiny baby as if he were our own. Penny and Jude took to him without hesitation. Hugs and kisses, though sometimes a little over zealous, were constantly being had. 

We met with Ryland's adoption social worker when he was a  mere two weeks old. Nothing was certain but it had been decided we were to be his adoptive parents, if relatives did not come forward.