our story: foster to adopt, part 4

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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. 

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