Honesty – Reposted with Permission from Dalas at Crunchy Lutheran Mommy

So many people have told me that what they love most about my blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy, is my honesty.  That’s why I haven’t been posting much lately… I haven’t wanted to be honest, not on the blog, not anywhere.  And now I feel like I’m in a Dr. Suess rhyme all of a sudden… sigh.  I still have lots of drafts backlogged in my files.  For nearly a month I neglected my weekly pregnancy posts.  I haven’t wanted to take a belly picture because that would mean I’d need to smile for it, and I don’t feel like I can give you an honest smile today.  Or any of the days I might have had time to put up a quick post.

Every time I see someone outside of my own home (which isn’t very often as you might imagine) I get the same reaction “You look so exhausted!”  Here I am trying so hard to put on a joyful, Christ-filled, my-cup-overfloweth countenance and every single person can see right through it.  So much for being a model pastor’s wife, right?  But that’s the truth.  Exhaustion is my truth right now.  Every tiny little activity is exhausting.  Serving my children is exhausting.  Enjoying my children is exhausting.

Every once in a while my Dad asks me “Do you feel like you’ve bitten off more than you can chew yet?”  That’s been his concern this whole adoption, and sometimes it still comes up.  For months I have been saying no, but the question is starting to haunt me like a bad jingle I can’t get out of my head.  And I don’t even have any cutesy music to go with it.  I’m struggling right now.  That’s the only honest thing I have to say, and I hate to say it.  I hate to say it because the last thing I want is a slew of comments or messages or phone calls from people asking me if I’m ok or asking how they can help.  Just my pride talking?  Probably.

Prayer is good, but I know we’re covered in that already, without even having to ask.  So why even post?  Why not just say, we’re going through a tough transition time and I need to take a blogging break?  Why not run away?  I certainly feel like running, but running isn’t going to help me or anyone.  What might help though, is being honest, putting my weaknesses out there for the world and letting ya’ll know I am far from perfect.

It might help other adoptive families have realistic expectations for when they get home.  Did you know that the norm is actually to experience some level of post-adoption depression?  It’s very much like post-partum blues and depression, but even more common for both adoptive moms and dads, and even more complicated because of the deep sadness that naturally accompanies the reality of adopting a hurting child.  Adoption is all about loss.  We don’t like to talk about it much, just like we don’t want to talk about how redemption is all about the cross.  But the one is a living icon of the other, and the picture is poignant.

When we baptize our babies we dress them up in these beautiful white gowns and take family pictures and have a big reception and celebrate it.  Some families remember their baptisms every year (I know we do!) and we linger on the promises and the miracles that have been given to us in our gift of baptism.  But what we don’t see with our eyes as the pastor pours clear, sparkling water over that sweet child’s head is…  the blood, the death.  Because as much as baptism is about new life it is first about death, the death of the person being baptized, the gruesome death of Jesus on the cross.  There is a saying that as Christians we do not need to fear death because we have already died.  We died the death of Christ during our baptism, which means death has no hold over us – just as it had no hold over the God of the Universe.  And there, in the loss and only through that loss comes the beauty and the promise of true, abundant life.

Adoption is also about loss.  Life for these children only comes by means of very deep loss.  Everything that was their life has to die, everything that was meant to have been theirs, that should have been theirs was taken from them.  Only through that reality, can they begin a new life.  But the child isn’t the only one who loses something, the family also experiences loss.  In the end, it will be a blessing to us all.  But right now?  Wow is it hard.  We had a lovely little family.  Two perfectly healthy, bright, beautiful children – a boy and a girl.  Sweet, sheltered, secure little ones… not a real care in the world.  And then we took a hammer to all of that.  We shattered our perfect little family and we changed it forever.

Now we’re a family of broken pieces and broken hearts.  A family where half of our children still don’t understand what it means to have a Mommy and a Daddy.  I overheard my four year old daughter telling a lady the other day that the nannies dropped Hope in her crib when she was in the orphanage.  We try to not talk about things like that in front of her, but she hears and remembers everything.  There is so much her little mind is trying to process: abuse, abandonment, neglect, pain… crushing pain.  Things I never intentionally would have introduced to my four and two year olds, but now they are living those realities second hand by watching us as we try to help their brother and sister heal.

They were away from their home for two months; that was hard for them.  Neither of them have been as secure since that trip.  We spend hours a week in therapy, hospitals, referrals and appointments.  Time I could have been reading stories or making fun crafts or teaching them how to bake.  And us?  We’re exhausted emotionally, physically and spiritually from all of it.  Suddenly we are a family with trauma, a family in need of an incredible amount of healing.  Overnight we went from having it all together to picking up the pieces.  Did we choose this?  Sort of, but not really.  Were we expecting it to be hard, even this hard?  Of course.  But just because trauma doesn’t always come without announcing itself doesn’t mean it isn’t just as traumatic when it finally walks through your front door and decides to live with you for a while.

Adoption is hard.  It is inherently loss, not just for the adoptive children, but for everyone in the child’s life.  Beautiful, lovely, miraculous things come from adoption.  But we do a disservice to adoptive families and their children when we overlook where that beauty came from. It came from ashes, ashes that are blown into a home, leaving the family to clean up the great mess that follows.  It’s not pity that I, or any adoptive parent, needs.  It’s prayer.  Understanding.  Support.  We need to know that if we don’t make that phone call or we don’t send that thank you note or if we never reach out for help it’s not because we don’t care about you.  It’s because our families have just been broken, and it’s taking all of our energy and strength to pick up all the pieces.

Sometimes we need you to reach out to us because we can’t reach out ourselves, but other times we just need space.  Sometimes we need respite, other times we just need a meal we didn’t have to cook ourselves.  Sometimes we need to sit and talk with someone who understands, and other times we just need people to stop asking how it’s going.  But most of all we need huge heaping doses of grace and mercy and love.  We need to know that the people in our lives are going to see our crazy, depressed, angry emotional roller coasters and they’re going to love us anyway.

(Just as a side note, if you are a family member or friend of an adoptive parent and you’re wondering why we aren’t asking for help, it’s probably because, especially when our children came from hard places, the kind of help we need is so specific that it would be difficult or impossible to just ask for a simple hand on something.  And if we tried to ask we would either come off as ungrateful or unreasonable or both.  Unfortunately, there are just situations where there is no real help that can be given without a logistical brainstorm involved.  Our children’s needs and our new family dynamics make simple things, like bringing in outside help, much more complicated.)

So here’s to honesty.  Here’s to dispelling the myth that adoptive families are superheroes that don’t need anyone’s help.  Here’s to coming out and saying that just because we signed up for this doesn’t mean we will always have our act together, and just because we “chose” these children doesn’t mean we can’t have a bad day, or week or month… or even year. We are just like you, and just like any family, when trauma kicks off its old, muddy shoes and decides to stay a while… we’re going to struggle.  And we are.

May the Lord, in His mercy, turn our sorrow to joy and our tears to laughter.  May He bring the dawn quickly and banish the darkness from our midst.  May He orchestrate the beauty from the ashes, and give us inclination to focus on neither, but rather to seek His face in this and in every season. Amen.

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Dalas is a mother to four with another on the way. She is seriously passionate about motherhood, adoption, being “crunchy” (a fancy way of describing how she keeps her family healthy) and her Lutheran faith. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and on her blog, Crunchy Lutheran Mommy. You can read her original Honesty post here.

Dalas

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National Adoption Month Series: StandUpGirl and Love’s Choice

http://www.standupgirl.com

StandUpGirl is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to providing pregnant or at risk adolescent and young adult women with insight into alternatives to abortion. The mission is to change hearts and save lives by educating young women on the development of the unborn child and alternatives to abortion. Standupgirl.com is a rapidly growing website whose scope is world-wide. We have volunteer “StandUpGirls” who moderate the site’s chat rooms, blogs, forums and respond to emails – from across the United States as well as in Canada, Africa and Japan.

Young women from all over the world are coming to StandUpGirl looking for information about pregnancy. They find educational material, real answers to their questions, and a community of women they can talk to about their unplanned pregnancies. StandUpGirl.com currently has over three million visitors each year, and while it is a great encouragement to see this many young people coming to the site, we are barely scratching the surface of the potential number of visitors on the internet.

Perhaps the most important component of the website is the real-life stories of girls facing their own crisis pregnancies and how our StandUpGirl team provides personal and individual guidance and encouragement to help these women make a choice that they and their baby can live with. The team provides visitors with contact information of local pro-life pregnancy centers where they can get the support and resources they need to journey through their pregnancy. Most guests remain on the site an average of 23 minutes, looking at phenomenal fetal development photography, life-like illustrations and remarkable videos. StandUpGirl.com is one of the most visited abortion-related website in the world! This energetic and beautifully designed website can now be viewed in several foreign languages and the StandUpGirl App can be downloaded from the Android and Apple markets.

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http://www.loveschoice.com

Love’s Choice was created to take an honest look at the painful beauty of adoption, and to provide tools to help each woman honestly assess the choices before her.

For girls out there that might feel overwhelmed as they try to make the best plan for their child, Love’s Choice is here to help and encourage, providing facts about adoption and tools to help them plan for birth, and either adoption or parenting. And, most importantly, Love’s Choice shares personal stories from real people who have experienced adoption –  adopted children, adoptive parents, and other birthmothers.

We want the girls that visit Love’s Choice to make an informed, confident decision about adoption or parenting. If they choose parenting, we hope the process of answering hard questions will make them a better, more intentional mother.

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StandUpGirl and Love’s Choice are not adoption agencies, nor are they in any way affiliated with any adoption placement programs. For more information about them, please visit them at www.standupgirl.com and www.loveschoice.com and on Facebook and https://www.facebook.com/standupgirl.

An Unexpected, Full Quiver – Katie’s Story

I’ve always wanted a big family. Okay, well, originally I thought that meant four kids. When I was in high school I felt God distinctly tell me that He would call me to adopt someday. Those feelings were solidified when I met my husband, Tim, and he felt the same way too. After we married, we said that we would have four or five kids, but joked that we would have ten or twelve. Our first, a daughter, was born in 2007 and I just loved being pregnant. I knew then that I could happily carry and birth four or five more, if God allowed. We named her Selah, which means to “pause” or “meditate,” and I adored being able to do just that as a mother to my little girl.

What I never anticipated was having trouble conceiving or sustaining pregnancies after Selah. We began trying for our second little angel the year after she was born, but instead, had three back-to-back miscarriages over the next year. By the time Selah was three years-old and all the rest of my mommy friends were pregnant with or already having their second and third babies, I began to despair, thinking that our hopes and dreams of having a large family were quickly dwindling.

We tried fertility treatments next and it was at this time that Tim and I also began to seriously consider adoption. We researched the costs, different agencies and countries to adopt from. I became so certain that adoption would probably be where the rest of our children would come from that I was surprised when we found out at the end of 2009 that the fertility treatments had worked and we were expecting a healthy baby boy. Elijah, meaning “The Lord is the one, true God,” joined our family in May of 2010 and I was overjoyed to have another sweet little one in my arms.

After Elijah was born, we looked into adoption again, but decided that we needed to wait for more consistent finances. I took the next year to enjoy motherhood and it wasn’t until the middle of 2011 that we felt confident in beginning the process of adoption when Tim’s job was more secure. We had just signed the official adoption paperwork, requesting to adopt a sibling group from Ethiopia, when we were surprised to find out we were expecting, AGAIN, this time without the help of fertility treatments! In April of 2012, we welcomed Isaac, which means “laughter” because of the huge surprise he gave us.

We knew we still wanted those two African children, though, whoever they would be, and we eagerly looked forward to word from our agency and dreamed of whom they would match us with. Selah hoped for a younger sister to play with and Tim and I tossed around what Old Testament names we would use once we got the news. But time seemed to drag on and with each passing week without word from our agency, we grew anxious. Finally, in January of 2013, just nine months after our surprise Isaac was born, we were matched with twin boys only five months younger than him. They were born in Harar, Ethiopia the previous September and then moved to an orphanage in Addis, Ethiopia.

In April, we flew to Addis and spent ten days meeting and holding our sweet, new additions to the family, touring the country and even taking a bus to visit Harar, 500 kilometers away from the boys’ new orphanage. By July, at ten months old, they were legally ours and we flew back to Addis and brought home Moses and Zechariah, which mean “drawn out” and “God has remembered.”

For years, we had prepared ourselves from agency classes, social worker visits and numerous books and resources that the biggest struggle of international adoption would be teaching these children how to bond with us as parents and siblings. However, their connection with all of us was as instant as if I had carried and born them myself.  Instead, it seemed to us that the biggest adjustment to adopting twins less than one years-old was that because Isaac was only five months older, we essentially have triplets. And since the twins were adjusting to a new home, new parents and a new routine than they were used to in their orphanage, it was much like having newborns again. They were up every three hours at night, often on opposite schedules. And once they started crawling and walking, along with Isaac, life only got crazier! Thankfully, our older two, Selah and Elijah, now 7 and 4 have been wonderful, big helpers and we have had many, many dear friends and family step in to help as well.

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But, God wasn’t done with our family yet, nor His miraculous, surprising ways. Just when I was beginning to adjust to having four rambunctious and destructive boys, 3 of them under two years-old, we had another surprise pregnancy in January of 2014. We found out that we were expecting TWINS a month later and a few weeks after that, the ultrasound showed that they were BOTH boys. I grieved this news for a short time, but God continued to bring me new mercies each morning.

Our precious new set of twins arrived via caesarian section on September 14, 2014. Noah Robert and Josiah Paul, our smallest babies yet, weighed in at 7 and 5 pounds, respectively. Their arrival meant that as an entire family we could no longer fit in our eight passenger minivan and we are bursting at the seams in our 3 bedroom, 1 bath 1200 square foot home. However, this past summer, God provided Tim with a significant and long prayed-for promotion at work, which allowed us to get approved for a loan on a new, 2015 Ford Transit nine-passenger van. He has also blessed us with a large community of family, friends and even strangers who want to help us with meals, housecleaning, childcare as well as the remodeling to expand our small house to accommodate our large family!

Katie Twins

We are amazed at God’s gift of seven children in seven years, and it has opened our eyes to become aware of our need for Jesus, family, friends and our church to help us. He has blessed us with the chance to experience and embrace the most beautiful picture of community and the powerful testimony of His provision as we open the doors of our lives, hearts and home to experience His grace, “do life” together, and raise this pack of children with the help and love of a multitude of others. And while I cannot even remember what life was like just seven years ago with only one baby girl, God’s grace and goodness has been abundant, and we continue to trust that He will provide for all our needs.

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Made to Mother is partnering with the Evans Project to fundraise and build enough support to be able to help expand Tim and Katie Evans’s home and assist in funding the purchase of their new family car. For years Tim and Katie have played a huge part in and blessed the lives of so many people. They have opened their home and lives to everyone who has needed or asked for help. We now see this as an opportunity to give back to them that blessing, as we donate our own time and resources and ask others for help in supporting this family.

If you would like to learn more about the Evans Project, please visit the Evans Project Page for more information and to donate. 100% of your donations will go directly to the Evans family. Thank you so much for supporting this loving, godly family and being a part of the amazing work that God continues to do through them!

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National Adoption Month Series: Lauren’s Adoptee Story

I was born on August 11, 1985 and adopted by my parents at five days old in Phoenix, Arizona. My birthmom was 19, not ready for a baby and even though my birthdad wasn’t in the picture, she didn’t want him to have any part in raising me, so she chose adoption.

I grew up knowing I was adopted. While it was legally a closed adoption, my parents made the selfless choice to stay in contact with Ginger, my birthmother. They sent pictures and letters back and forth throughout my life. And although they didn’t know it at the time, she lived only a couple miles from them, even shopping at the same grocery store when we lived in Phoenix. Naturally, this probably freaked my mom out when she found out later.

When I was seven, my mom and dad moved my siblings (biological to my parents) and me to Holland, Michigan to be closer to my mom’s family. The letters with Ginger continued but began to wane as time went on. I grew up knowing I had a biological sister named Tayler, seven years younger than me who my birth mom decided to keep and raise on her own. I was always excited to know I had another sister.

At 14, when email started getting popular, I asked my parents if they would be okay with me emailing Ginger sometime. My mom, although a little nervous and insecure about it, agreed, and contacted the adoption agency in hopes of getting any up-to-date info on her since we didn’t have her email address. When we got it and I wrote my first email to her, I was so nervous. What should I write about? Teenager things, I guess. Honestly, I don’t even remember what I wrote, but it started my first line of communication between my birthmother and me. We didn’t email every day, just once in a while to say hello. Ginger had mentioned we should keep it to a minimum to respect my parents and not make them feel like they’d been replaced or that I wanted to go back to her. I agreed.

Two years later, in my junior year of high school, we began to email regularly, learning more and more about each other. We talked about our personal lives and I learned that in addition to Taylor, I also had a little brother who was two at the time, from her new marriage to her husband. Inevitably, the conversation about meeting in person happened. I was so excited, but so nervous, when I got that email. How would my mom feel? Would she be mad that even came up? Would she be angry that we had been communicating as much as we had?  Maybe she’d be okay with it if she came along to meet her? And so I had that conversation with her. To my surprise, she was thrilled, cautiously thrilled. Of course I’d expect her to be insecure about it. After all, I’m HER daughter. She’s the woman who raised me, fed me, took care of me when I was sick, disciplined me, taught me everything about life, hugged me and told me she loved me. But she was so excited I asked her to go with me to meet her. And so we booked our tickets to Phoenix.

We flew out there the week before I turned 18. I had just graduated from high school and was ready to find out where and whom I came from. My mom was a wreck on the plane; she hates to fly. I waited anxiously while my mom squeezed my hand the entire four hour flight. We landed in Phoenix and my heart began to race. Walking through the terminal into the lobby was surreal. I wanted to vomit, smile, scream, dance around, but instead, I just walked.

And then, there she was. Blonde hair, green eyes and short. It was like looking into a mirror. We hugged for what seemed like hours; I couldn’t let go. This was my mother, the woman who birthed me. The woman who chose life. This was the woman who selflessly gave up her firstborn daughter to a family who desperately wanted a baby after trying for seven years to have one of their own. The woman who gave birth to me on my daddy’s birthday, August 11th. I suddenly made sense. The first thing my mom said to Ginger and me was, ‘Wow, you both are shrimps! Now we know where Lauren gets her height!’ We all laughed and the ice was broken. I met her husband, Dane, my little sister Tayler, my little brother Mason and we all headed out of the airport a little less nervous.

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I spent the entire week with them, while my mom stayed with relatives in Phoenix. I asked Ginger every question I ever had. Why didn’t you keep me, but you kept Tayler? Why did you choose adoption? Why didn’t you fight for me? Why, why, why? She answered everything without sugar coating or dodging, just straight forward, which is exactly how I answer questions. I realized the concept of nature vs. nurture. I wasn’t raised by this woman but our mannerisms are the same, we sleep the same, laugh the same, smile the same, speak the same. Our personalities are so similar, it’s insane. I am bold, stubborn, kind-hearted, forgiving, strong-willed, direct, and I don’t take crap from people. Now I get why I had such an identity crisis as a kid; I am so different from my family in terms of personality, even down to my delivery of words and my thought process. I am all Ginger. Looks, personality, everything.

I also met my grandparents for the first time. I am the eldest of the grand kids, so it was very special to meet them. They cried and called me their granddaughter. I met my cousins and aunt and uncle for the first time and still have a great relationship with them. We celebrated my 18th birthday together with my mom and relatives before heading home, both of us feeling great about everything that happened that week. But also relieved it was over and excited to see my new family again in the future.

That was twelve years ago and there hasn’t been a year since where we haven’t seen each other. I visit Arizona every year and they have also visited Michigan a few times. I have taken vacations with them, been there for birthdays and holidays, surgeries, and various other events. Ginger has been by my side, watched me grow into an adult, heard listened to me talk about my silly relationships, met my husband and embraced him like a son. She attended our wedding on June 30, 2012 and my little sister Tayler was a bridesmaid. She and Dale look forward to being grandparents someday.

I’ve been able to watch my little sister grow into the woman she has become and watch my little brother grow into the feisty teenager that he is. We are family. I can’t say she is my mom, or an aunt, or friend, or whatever label you want to put on her. She is my family; her whole family is my family. There isn’t any other way to describe them. All I can say is that I am blessed. I am blessed to have parents who were so accepting of Ginger, allowed me to grow up knowing about her, let her be a part of my life, embraced her when she was a physical part of my life, and consider her family. I am so blessed to have a birthmother who is so strong and selfless, and respectful of my parents. She never stepped on their toes as parents, she is grateful to them for raising me how they did and proud to be a part of our family. She will always be there for us.

I am so blessed to have more family that loves me and who I can love. I am so blessed to have a husband who has only been supportive of the relationship I have with my birth family and eagerly waits for our next trip to visit them. I am so blessed to have a ‘dad’ in Ginger’s husband, Dane. He accepted me as part of his family, considers me his daughter, even though he came into the picture years after my adoption and encouraged Ginger to connect with me.

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Lauren Haveman is a real estate agent for City2Shore Real Estate, She and her husband, Todd, reside in Hudsonville, Michigan with their two dogs, Dweezel and Lola and enjoy cooking, camping, and living the Michigan seasons to their fullest. Ginger and her husband continue to live in Phoenix AZ and Lauren and Todd still visit them every summer; it feels like their second home.

lauren

National Adoption Month Series – Christina’s Story

My husband and I tried unsuccessfully to get pregnant for 16 months before we pursued fertility options. At our first clinic visit they ran some tests and called me a week later with the results. They discovered that I have what’s called “diminished ovarian reserve” and told us it was unlikely that we would be able to successfully conceive on our own.

I was extremely saddened by this news, but I refused to stay depressed over it. I gave myself 24 hours to cry over it and then my husband and I discussed our options. Despite my disappointment, I felt relief amidst the pain. Neither of us can actually remember who thought of adoption, but we both always knew we were open to it and immediately decided to pursue that route instead of additional fertility treatments at the clinic.

My mother suggested meeting with her and my dad’s trust attorney, who was very passionate about adoption and could possibly represent us as we moved forward. When we met with him for a consultation we overwhelmed with the many different types of adoption to choose from. He encouraged us to sleep on it and see how we felt the next day. When we did, our hearts leaned toward private domestic adoption, so on Easter Sunday we announced to our family that we were pursuing adopting a U.S. baby through our new attorney.

I got straight to work on our paperwork and home study and I couldn’t help but also start to create a nursery for our hoped-for little one. The crib came first, and one of my best mom friends took me to Babies R Us to register for gifts. I was definitely excited! Since I hadn’t yet experienced any heartbreak on our journey to having a baby, I viewed an empty nursery with hope and it wasn’t painful for me. If anything it made me more joyful.

I must have emailed our attorney three different times, asking if there was anything I should change in our profile. I was politely reassured that we should be as authentic as possible and that someone would love us and pick us for who we are. Nine weeks later, we got a call with a match and were informed that we were their second choice. I have adoptive couple friends that had experienced failed matches and placements that fell through, so I tried not to get my hopes up, but I was still ecstatic.

We met with the expectant mother and father a week later, along with our attorney. We immediately hit it off, exchanged numbers and began texting. Over the next few weeks we took them to lunches, shopped for maternity clothes and even got to go with them to a doctor’s appointment and see the baby girl on 3D ultrasound! It was really important to me that they agreed with the name we had chosen for our daughter. I wanted them to see her in their minds and call her by the same name that we would raise her with, even though I knew we had the final, legal say in the matter after the adoption was finalized.

Not long after, our birth mom showed early signs of labor and was admitted to the hospital. Finley was born nine weeks early with minimal complications. In a normal birth situation in our state of California the birthmother will sign relinquishment papers upon being discharged from hospital. She then will have only 24 hours to change her mind. But due to legalities and because our baby came so early we had to wait about three weeks before she was able to sign. I was nervous, only because I was growing so emotionally-invested in this little baby that I could now hold and help care for. And I could tell that our birthmom was in love with Finley, too.

Our baby was in the NICU for a total of five weeks, and I was there around the clock the entire time. The birth parents also visited frequently and I realized that we were about as open as it gets. It was odd to most of the nursing staff and one social worker kept encouraging our birthmom to call and get updates on her baby. She made me feel like a bad person, questioning my reasoning for requesting that I be the only one to hold Finley skin-to-skin. I had asked our birthmom not to hold her this way because I wanted Finley to bond solely with me and to get used to my scent since we would be taking her home. But, for some reason the social worker continued to call our birthmom with updates, even after the medical rights were released to us.

Needless to say, I learned very quickly that some people just do not support adoption. I was filled with what-if’s and life-changing emotions that I had never experienced before. It was truly one of the most difficult times in my life. I also struggled with guilt as I watched our birthmom grieve her loss, and I literally cried myself to sleep one night over it. Who wouldn’t? Someone had placed their firstborn child in our arms. My husband and I believe it is the most generous thing one can do for someone else. It’s just indescribably amazing.

After the birthparents terminated their rights, they still visited each day and it was as though nothing had changed. The hospital staff was very confused, wondering why I would let the birthmother still see and hold the baby. I knew that some adoptive moms are very sweet and open with the birthparents but as soon as those papers are signed, they change their tune. I didn’t want to be one of them. I wanted to build trust. I knew we were going to be forever attached with this couple.

This relationship we share is unique; bonded by a baby. And on top of that bond, we also have a friendship. We discuss life, interests and experiences; probably more so than we discuss Finley. The first year after she was born we had visits about every six to eight weeks because we live fairly close and my work schedule was nonexistent. We have open communication and I text photos every Friday. Our open adoption works best this way. Of course, I understand that life can and will change things as time goes on, but as long as my daughter knows she was carried and placed in love then I am happy.

We finalized our adoption this past summer. Finley is now 14 months old. I’ve thought of her as our daughter from the beginning so I didn’t think that officially finalizing it would be that big of a deal. I literally thought it’s just signing another paper, but as soon as we sat down in court and the judge began to speak, it hit me like a ton of bricks! I cried the ugly cry and could barely get out my words. We were able to profess our love for our daughter in a courtroom. The official terminology they used alone is enough to make you cry and it was by far one of the best days of my life. I got to sign my first birth certificate. You can watch the court finalization video here.

Two days later we had Finley dedicated in our Christian church, and her birth family came to witness it. It was so beautiful to me because the first open adoption picture I saw on Pinterest was of birth parents and adoptive parents together at their child’s baptism. I still get emotional thinking about how I accomplished the exact moment that I longed for!

To say we are blessed is an understatement. Our placement happened very quickly and our daughter came so early. She’s a happy and healthy baby with many people that love her. I want to continue to create awareness about adoption and educate everyone I can on the importance and origin of open adoption. And we look forward to adding to our family through adoption again in the coming years.

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Christina Smallwood is a 29 year-old business owner from Southern California. She loves God, her family and taking photos of everything. Her greatest joy is living a simple life as mom and wife!

Christina

National Adoption Month Series: Elysa’s Adoptee Story

The drive felt like it took hours even though it had only been minutes. My dad stopped the car in front of a white house, and I felt my heart stop beating for just a moment. Pink balloons decorated the inside of the garage where unfamiliar faces gathered. I took a deep breath and somehow got the feeling back in my hands so I could open the door. I was only 16 and I was about to walk into something most 16 year-olds don’t ever do.

I had wondered and questioned for so many years, and the time when I would see her face to face was here. I got out of the car, wearing one of my favorite outfits and my hair done up in curls. I started walking up the driveway which felt like miles and miles. Then I saw her: someone I had never seen before but felt a connection the moment our eyes met. With tears filling her eyes, she ran to me and hugged me as tight as she could. I mutually embraced her. She couldn’t let go of me as she cried.

The last time we saw each other was in a hospital room 16 years ago. She was my birth mother. She made a courageous choice 16 years ago. She chose life for me and for a family she knew could give me a better life than she could offer. She blessed a young couple who couldn’t have children of their own with me, and in return, she blessed me with a wonderful family to spend my life with.

I was adopted when I was 3 days old. My adoptive parents already had a daughter they had adopted a few years earlier. Adopting another child was not necessarily in their plans at the time, but it was certainly in God’s plans. My birth mother sought counsel from the Crisis Pregnancy Center knowing she did not want to go through an agency for my adoption. With this being an unfamiliar situation for the counselor, the founder of the center became involved. God’s hand was at work in incredible ways, for the founder was a dear friend of my adoptive parents. She immediately contacted them and told them about a 19-year-old girl who was pregnant and needing a home for her baby. They felt this was clearly God’s plan for them to adopt me, and I became part of their family.

Growing up, I always knew I was adopted. In fact, just the other day, I was discussing this with my parents, and I thanked them. I thanked them for raising me with the knowledge of my adoption. It showed that they saw my adoption as a beautiful thing and were proud of it. For anyone who has adopted or is considering adoption, no matter the situation, telling your child about their adoption is the best gift you can ever give them. Not only is it the honest thing to do, but being adopted is so beautiful and special: in fact, it was God’s idea.

Knowing that I was adopted growing up was wonderful, but I always had many questions. My parents were always very good about answering them the best way they could. But as the years went on I wanted to know about my birth family: Where is my birth mom now? Where is my birth dad? Is there anyone that I look like…share the same personality with? Does my birth family ever think about me? Do I have any siblings? The curiosity was something I could never help. I had the security of knowing that I was truly blessed to be adopted into a family that took me in as their own, loved me unconditionally, and always respected the fact that I was going to have questions. Still, there were a lot of unknowns,

My curiosity increased as I got older. When I was 15, I talked to my parents about taking steps to contacting my birth mother. My parents, understandably, were hesitant because of how much was unknown. There is a risk in taking these steps. After 15 years, we didn’t have any idea where my birth mother was in life. Would she want to hear from me? Would her reaction to my contact be healing, or would it affect me negatively?

After much prayer, my parents agreed that it was the right time, and I began to work on my letter to her. At first, it was hard to think of where to start. What do you say to someone you have no relationship with, don’t know at all, but still have a deep connection with? Eventually, I found the words I wanted to say, wrote the letter, and included a few pictures in the envelope. Once again, God’s hand was working.

Overjoyed upon receiving my letter, my birth mother wrote back to me. Words cannot describe the feeling I had when I opened that letter. Pictures of her, my half-brother and some of her friends were included in the envelope. My heart was beating so fast as I looked through the pictures and read her words. I could feel the emotion in her letter, and I felt so much joy in knowing that she wanted nothing more than to know me.

After many letters back and forth between the two of us, my parents agreed to take a trip to North Carolina to meet my birth mother. That is when my relationship with her began. In all honesty, building a relationship with a birth mother is not easy at all. It takes a lot of learning along the way and a lot of understanding. You see, I wasn’t in need of a mother at all. In fact, God blessed me with an incredible mom who adopted me and called me her own. To learn how to have a relationship with someone who can feel the need to mother is hard at times. It has taken several years for me to learn how to separate things and make the relationship a friendship in respect for my adopted mom who has dedicated many years to being my mom.

The last several years, I have continued to build relationships with my extended birth family. My uncle has become an incredible part of my life and has been a great support and encouragement and I have loved getting to know my birth grandma who has always shown such love to me and has taken the time to get to know me. But what I have appreciated the most in my process of getting to know my birth family is seeing how truly blessed I am to be raised by the parents God gave me.

There is a lot of divorce in my birth family and, unfortunately, a lot of relationships there are broken and estranged. That was all very new to me. Growing up, I never experienced divorce in my family or my extended family. Everyone loves each other, everyone forgives and respects one another. Being part of my birth family’s life is truly a gift, and I wouldn’t change it for the world, but I am beyond grateful that I didn’t have to grow up in divorce and broken families. God had a plan for my life, and His sovereignty in my life is overwhelming to think about.

Now, at 24 years-old, I continue to be in relationship with my birth family. Just this year I met my birth dad for the first time. It took many years for him to agree to meet me and it was many years of me having to remind myself that it’s not my fault that he didn’t want to take that step. It took a lot in me not to feel abandoned by him or hurt from him. I knew that if God intended for my birth dad to be a part of my life, then it would happen someday. What helped through that process was the fact that I was adopted by the best daddy a girl could ask for. I didn’t need a dad, but there was still an empty space I had before meeting my birth dad. It was a space I could have lived the rest of my life having, but I am thankful I didn’t have to. After meeting my birth dad, I learned a lot about him and have gained understanding about why he wasn’t ready to meet me right away. I felt the same feelings when meeting him as I did meeting my birth mother eight years ago. I’m not sure why I lose the feeling in my hands every time I step into these situations, but it has happened twice now! But meeting my birth dad was so special for me! I am truly grateful for the relationship I am building with him today and for his interest in my life. I love having him a part of it.

Today I have an even stronger appreciation for adoption. God’s sovereignty is what comes to mind when I think about the story God has written for my life. Being adopted is a huge part of who I am, and I intend to raise my own children with an appreciation for it as well. 24 years ago, a 19-year-old girl faced an extremely difficult choice: a choice that affected not only one person, but many. She chose life.

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Elysa is a mommy to three and a wife to one incredible man. She is a business owner, photographer and has a heart for ministry. Following Christ and striving to live a life Glorifying HIM in all that she does. You can catch some of her writing at the collaborative blog, www.artichokeheartsblog.blogspot.com.

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National Adoption Month Series – A Gift of Hope Adoptions

Happy Adoption Month! My name is Elizabeth and I’m so honored to be sharing about adoption on M2M; it has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. I had always planned to work in adoption in some capacity, but when I was doing my internships at adoption agencies in graduate school, I got very disenchanted with the process. The agencies were so careful to remain neutral about adoption that they ended up promoting parenting over adoption most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, I know adoption is not the right choice for every person experiencing a crisis pregnancy or even a crisis in their lives that requires them to evaluate options for their children, but I firmly believe that it is the right choice for some. In any case, people deserve to know that it is an option, and what adoption is really like in the 21st century.

After grad school my job options were limited given the economy, so I got together with my dad, Dewey Crepeau, and Tina Tyra, an adoption facilitator in California. We decided that an agency could provide more services than our separate areas of expertise and combined forces. Out of that meeting A Gift of Hope Adoptions was born, and we have been going strong for nearly ten years! We have been able to provide the social services necessary to a good adoption experience for both birth parents and adoptive parents. With Dewey’s invaluable legal expertise ensuring that adoptions are always done the right way and Tina’s experience in matching and making sure prospective birth parents have choices in the adoptive family they select, I believe our agency has the keys to healthy adoptions.

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I think as parents, particularly as mothers, we know that our primary focus has to be on our children. We are constantly evaluating their personality, interests, and learning styles in decisions about school, diet, social activities, and extra-curricular activities. Sometimes we grieve that we can’t give them more, and sometimes make hard sacrifices to do so. We celebrate with our child as they succeed and we help them learn from their failures. Often, we are blamed for everything but still bring out the lioness inside when our children need protection. We are mothers, it’s what we do.

I take that approach with adoption, as well. Even though we work with all members of the adoption triad (birth parents, adoptive parents, and children) our focus has to be on the child’s best interests. The child is not paying for the services, and the child is not making the decisions, but the child is still our primary client. When you are considering adoption – whether as a birth parent or an adoptive parent – I encourage you to attempt to put yourself in your child’s position, and evaluate best interests from there. That may lead to some tough introspection, and even tougher choices. You may find that your child’s best interests make your choices clearer or cloudier. Every child needs a mother, though, and they deserve our best. In adoption a child has more than one mother, and that is actually a very good thing. As I often say to our clients, particularly those who are afraid of contact between birth and adoptive families (which is actually now very common and very healthy in adoption), you can never have too many people who love your child.

If you would like more information on adoption services through A Gift of Hope Adoptions feel free to contact us through our website or call 573-356-0025 or toll-free 1-888-564-HOPE. We work nationwide! You can also follow us on social media: Facebook Twitter Google + Pinterest

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Elizabeth Ehlen graduated from Hillsdale College in 2002 with a dual degree in History and Sociology & Social Thought, with special departmental honors in Sociology. She attended Washington University in St. Louis to pursue her Master’s in Social Work and graduated from the George Warren Brown School of Social Work in 2004 with a MSW, concentrating in Children, Youth and Family. In 2005, Elizabeth cofounded A Gift of Hope Adoptions in Missouri with the help of Dewey Crepeau, and Tina Tyra.

In addition to her adoption work, she has also written an ebook designed as an introduction to adoption for adoptive parents, Adoption Options: For Prospective Adoptive Parents. She is married to her college sweetheart, Matt Ehlen and they have two sons, David and Daniel, and one daughter, Rachelle. Elizabeth loves being a mommy, and works primarily from her home office in order to take care of her babies as well as her children through A Gift of Hope Adoptions.

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National Adoption Month Series – Aubrey’s Story

Since the time I can remember, I have always wanted to be a mother. The day I married Craig was a joyous occasion and day of celebration for it marked the day I began my own, forever family. As time moved forward, the yearning to have a child more than consumed me. But one year went by, two years, three, and then four. My whole heart and soul longed for a precious baby, and instead I was left with the emptiness that seemed to fill my entire being. During our struggle with infertility, my husband supported me every step of the way, whether it meant having invasive surgery, another procedure done, more tests, or just holding me as I cried myself to sleep at night.

We had always talked of adopting one day, so in the summer of 2008 we finally decided to take the step and had adoption papers in hand. But for some reason unknown to me at the time, I felt that we should hold off on turning them in. I couldn’t understand such an answer as I had already waited long enough for a child, and we had been told that sometimes it could take years before a baby would be placed in your home. I knew there was a baby girl who was supposed to be in our family, and I tried to wait patiently for that time to come.

After much prayer and consideration, along with the power of priesthood blessings, we finally received the answer I had been waiting for. In May of 2009 Craig and I applied for adoption through LDS Family Services and were approved two months later. Soon after that we received an email from a birth mother who was due in December with a baby girl. Her name was Jennifer, and little did we know how much she was going to change our lives. Exactly one month later she announced that she was going to place her baby with us. During the next months ahead, I watched as Jen’s belly grew bigger, along with the love I had for her. She was going to give me something that no one else could give. She was giving me the gift of being a mother.

Before we knew it, December arrived and we were at the hospital awaiting the arrival of our little girl. On December 11, 2009 our precious baby was born. What joy and gratitude filled my heart when I held Elizabeth for the first time, knowing this special spirit was the answer to our prayers. I knew without a doubt that she was meant to be in our family.

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When we returned to the hospital the following morning, and opened the door to Jennifer’s room, we found her sitting in a chair rocking Elizabeth with tears flowing down her cheeks. My heart began to break for the words I knew were coming but did not want to hear. With her head bowed, Jen said that she didn’t think she could sign the adoption papers. Since Craig’s parents had just arrived at the hospital, he left to go find them and explain what had happened. Feeling as if I could not breathe, I turned and left the room as well. Outside the room, I could not hold it in any longer and broke down in tears. Jennifer’s mother soon found me in the hall and wrapped her arms around me as we both cried together. She whispered words of encouragement, but all I could feel was despair.

A kind nurse found Craig and me a quiet room and offered me a box of tissues. The tears continued to fall as I stared out the window while Craig paced the floor, both of us feeling helpless and not knowing what to do. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with the spirit telling me to ask for a priesthood blessing. I immediately told Craig to find his father, and upon his arrival, the blessing was given. I cannot recall the words of this blessing, but never in my entire life have I felt such an instant feeling of comfort and peace as I had when they placed their hands upon my head that day. I knew then that everything was going to be okay, and that it was important to have faith in the Lord’s will.

A short while later Jennifer left her room to go for a walk with a case worker from LDS Family Services so they could talk things through. While she was gone, we stayed with Elizabeth and I watched as Craig held her tiny hand and touched her tiny toes, trying his best to hold back the tears. When Jen finally walked back into the room, she stood before us with tears in her eyes and said, “I can’t take her away from you…” The tears flowed down my husband’s face and we all embraced.

On a rainy Sunday morning two days later, Craig and I returned to the hospital to pick up our baby girl and bring her home. We both knew that the day ahead would bring tears of pain, tears of sorrow, but also tears of joy. Upon arrival we met with our caseworker while Jen spent time with Elizabeth, holding her, rocking her, and saying her goodbyes. After all necessary papers had been signed, we entered Jen’s room. Watching her hold Elizabeth with tears in her eyes, my heart swelled with the love for the mother who stood before me. Jen’s act of love, just like every birth mother, was putting the needs of her child above the wants of her heart. And when anyone asked her why she gave up her child, she simply replied, “I’m not giving up my child; I’m giving her something better.”

When the time came for Jen to place Elizabeth in my arms, I was softly reminded of the words she had once spoken to me, “from God’s arms, to my arms, to yours.” Many tears were shed and warm embraces shared when we said goodbye that day. After Jen had gathered her belongings, I watched as she walked down the hall with her parents by her side, never looking back. The sacrifice she had made that day was greater than any I have ever known in my earthly life. I looked down at the miracle I held, and felt my husband’s love surround me. I cried and thought to myself, “My arms are empty no more.”

Motherhood has been everything I have ever hoped for and more. It is not easy, but I would not have it any other way. As I look upon my daughter each day, I am reminded of Jen and the sacrifice she made. An adoptive couple we knew once said, “We believe birth mothers have a right to choose. If she has the courage to place, she has the wisdom and right to choose her child’s parents. Our daughter’s birth mother is her first mother.” And so we feel the same for our daughter, Elizabeth, Jen will always be her first mother. And as my daughter grows, I will always help her remember that Jen will always love her.

There is a special poem that was given to us on the day our birth mother announced to our families that she would be placing her baby girl with us. It is befitting of the two women who bonded over the love of the child they both share.

Once there were two women
Who never knew each other.
One you do not remember,
The other you call mother.

One gave you a nationality,
The other gave you a name.
One gave you the seed of talent,
The other gave you an aim.

Two different lives shaped
To make your one;
One became your guiding star,
The other became your sun.
One gave you emotions,
The other calmed your fears.
One saw your first sweet smile,
The other dried your tears.

The first gave you life,
The second taught you to live it.
The first gave you a need for love,
And the second was there to give it.
One gave you up,
It was all that she could do.
The other prayed for a child,
And God led her straight to you.

And now you ask me through your tears,
The age old question through the years;
Heredity or Environment,
Which are you a product of?
Neither my darling, neither;
Just two different kinds of love.

~~~~~

Aubrey, Craig and Elizabeth live in Highland, Utah. For the past three years, they have been hoping to adopt again and look forward to the day when Elizabeth gets to become a big sister!  Aubrey loves every minute of being a full-time mommy, and both Elizabeth and her daddy are working on their education.  Elizabeth attends preschool three days a week, while Craig will be finishing Nursing School this upcoming spring.

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When Life Won’t Slow Down

So, in the summer, life is crazy. Plans are spontaneous and vacations abound. Then the fall comes and I’m like, “Thank GOD! We can finally slow down, get back to a routine and enjoy autumn.” Yeah right. School starts and the season changes and, yes, we do have a routine, but is it really less chaotic than the summer? I don’t think so. I still have an older child to get to school on time, homeschool lesson plans to create, finalize, print off and teach, 4 different lunches to make, dinner to plan and prep, babies to change and get down for naps, and oh yes, A BLOG to write, promote and answer emails for!

And then, because it is fall, I’m crazily sorting, cleaning, tagging and boxing up outgrown clothes, shoes and toys to sell at my favorite children’s and maternity consignment sale, for which I also do the marketing and PR. AND, lucky me, hunting season is about to begin, which means I will not see my husband, and my children will not see their father every weekend for nearly the entire months of October and November. Which also equates to having fewer mommy-sanity breaks during these two months, either. (sigh)

So, suffice to to say that I am run very ragged right now and I apologize if I am not answering emails or posting amazing motherhood stories as frequently as I had hoped. I’m certain it will get better soon. Of course then the HOLIDAYS will be here. Who am I kidding? I seriously think I have this misconceived notion in my head that life will slow down, but honestly it never does! Oh well, it certainly keeps me on my toes and prevents boredom, though, doesn’t it?

All that being said, while I try to keep my head above the water at home and prepare for the AMAZING upcoming “adoption month” stories I have planned for you in November, I’d like to repost some of my favorite oldie, but goody mama stories. I hope you enjoy!

A Mentor, Teacher-Mother: Lana’s Story
You don’t have to have biological or legal children to be a mother. Sometimes, a woman can take on a mothering role in the lives of others as a mentor and teacher. Lana’s story is a beautiful example of this precious and important job.

A Life of Adventure:  Beth’s Story
Life can throw us all sorts of curve balls; teen pregnancy, single motherhood, blended families. Motherhood is an adventure and Beth’s story paints an exciting picture of how life can be full of adventure as well if we choose to never let circumstances get us down.

Grown to Mother: Kara’s Story
There are working mothers, stay-at-home mothers, part-time mothers and to each her own. But sometimes we get to the middle of our lives and wonder if what we did was right. If the sacrifices were worth it. And then we reach a crossroads; where will we go from there? Kara shares her own personal struggles with this in her powerful, ‘coming into her own’ story.

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The Love Rock Story – Reposted with Permission from Susan of Love Drenched Life

I have had a beautiful life filled with lots of laughter, smiles, and lots of love, beautiful children, a wonderful, dedicated and loving husband, solid friendships and a community that loves and supports their neighbors unconditionally. But sometimes life brings circumstances that are completely out of your control. In those times, it’s important to remember the beauty in life, love​,​ and knowing​ that God can​ — and will​ — bring a peace that surpasses all understanding​. Love Rocks was inspired by two girls who lived with immense love and joy. In their honor, we have chosen to s​hare that love and joy with anyone willing to receive it. Thank you for​celebrating with us!

On Oct. 20, 2013, the unthinkable happened to my family. My daughters, Anna (6) and Abigail (11) were hit by a car in front of our house. Both girls went to Heaven that night without warning. Since then, my husband Tom and I have had to navigate grief that we wouldn’t wish upon anyone. Our house is now empty – no laughter, no dance parties, no morning cuddles, no fighting about homework or bonding over our favorite meal. Empty.

We decided shortly after the girls went to Heaven that we were not going to allow the tragedy of one night to define our girls’ lives here on earth and the life they were now living in Heaven. Their legacy would not be this tragedy but rather the love and joy that they poured out to everyone who knew them and hopefully everyone who would hear their story.

We did not have choice on whether they went to Heaven on October 20th. We do, however, have a choice on how we live our lives honoring our Creator and honoring the lives of our sweet girls. And so, we choose love and joy!

Anna’s and Abigail’s lives were full of so much love and so much joy. They had a way of lighting up a room with their presence and putting smiles on the faces of those they came in contact with. They loved each other dearly and they were definitely sisters – maybe not by blood, but by the way they knew exactly how to push each other’s buttons. Anna adored her sister and wanted to be around her all the time. Abigail loved her little sister and was annoyed by the fact that Anna wanted to be around her all the time. True sisters!

Anna loved horses, Abigail loved theater. Both girls loved to dance, climb, be with their friends and loved family time. They would prefer a game as a family over a movie any night – LIFE, UNO and Jungle Speed being their all-time favorites. They were beautiful beyond words, both on the outside and more importantly on the inside. They had giving hearts and loved to find ways in which they could help those in need. They were insightful, kind, nurturing and loving to all who had the honor of being in their presence, especially their friends.

In April of 2014, 6 months after the girls went to Heaven, Tom and I felt nudged to share a project that we as a family did for our wedding in June of 2011. The girls, Tom’s mom and I spent time cutting out fabric hearts from our favorite fabrics and then Mod Podging them to river rocks. We made one for each of our guests to take home and another one that would be written on by our guests for us to keep. These little rocks have held a lot of meaning in our house since our wedding day and are placed in various rooms so that we can enjoy them no matter where we are.

That little nudge to share took on a life of its own. On April 20th, I launched the Facebook Page, Love Rocks. I shared a bit of our story and our hope for spreading love and joy through these simple rocks and included a tutorial for how to make them. Before pushing the publish button, I had to come to terms with the fact that nothing may happen with this little idea of ours. I took a deep breath, said a prayer, and sent our idea out into the world.

What has happened over the past 5 months has been miraculous. Love Rocks have been shared in our little town, our state of Oregon and in every other state in the U.S. Love Rocks have been shared in Africa, Asia, South America, Europe and Australia. I’m still waiting for a picture to be posted in Antarctica.

There are photos of Love Rocks in parks, on beaches, on The Great Wall of China, in front of the Eiffel Tower, on doorsteps, in hospitals, at weddings and at funerals, in a secured NASA facility and at Anna’s and Abigail’s tree.

There have been so many stories of how these little rocks with fabric hearts have found their rightful owner just when they needed it most. They have warmed hearts and brought so much Love and Joy to this world — so much more than we could have ever imagined when we felt nudged to share.

The inspiration for Love Rocks comes from Anna, Abigail, and our loving community that supported us and continues to care for us. The outpouring of love and the immense joy that is felt throughout the world is their legacy – one filled with hope, light and laughter.

My girls’ lives were and are beautiful. They have taught so many how to live a love story and I am very proud to be their mom.

~~~~~

Susan lives in Forest Grove, Oregon. She is a mom, a wife, a daughter, a sister and friend. She loves God with all of her heart. You can read more about Susan and the Love Rocks movement she founded at www.love-drenched-life.com or on www.facebook.com/lovedrenched.

 

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