Spring Reed is our friend, as well as the editor of ByFaithShe. She pushes us to be better writers, but most importantly to be more like Jesus. Every fifth Friday, you'll hear her voice. But in all honesty, you hear her voice each day on the blog as she cheers us on and sharpens our skills to be writers for the glory of the Lord. Enjoy!
For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, "Abba! Father!" The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.” Romans 8:15-17
Even though we were 9 months in, it all became very real as my husband and I sat in the courtroom that day.
Just a little over a year before, after several years of infertility and what seemed like endless fertility treatments, my body was tired. I was tired, and I am sure my husband was tired of all the hormone swings. ;) For both of us though, it seemed as though God was stirring within us a different desire.
He was stirring a different desire for the time, not a plan B.
I used to lay awake at night as my husband slept and read all the biographies of the children needing a forever home and cry. I always wanted to be a part of providing a home for children who didn’t have one because I could not imagine growing up without one. My heart was heavy for those who never had a safe place to come home to, people to love them no matter what and teach them all the many big and little things we need to know growing up.
But how in our situation would this ever happen? My husband was chronically ill, and it seemed we had a million things stacked against us.
One day out of my faith that may have truly been as small as a mustard seed, I prayed that if this was God’s will for our lives to adopt, He would just lay it in our lap. I was too tired to convince someone that we would be good parents despite our situation.
All we wanted was to love on kids who needed love.
Our first step was to take a short adoption class offered at our church. This class prepared us in so many ways (thanks again Fonsie and Leslie), but it mostly prepared us spiritually in ways we didn’t anticipate.
Even though my faith may have only been the size of a mustard seed, it was just a few months later when the answer to that prayer was laid in our lap.
After getting a text message from someone we knew, we found ourselves, driving down the road on a Thursday to see our children who had just been born at the local hospital. In just five weeks, we met a birth mom, prayed about what God’s will was for us, found a lawyer, completed all the training, paperwork and home studies. Everything went so smooth as we took our children (did I mention they were twins?) home to figure out this thing called parenting.
As the adoption process was coming to an end, we headed to the courthouse 9 months after bringing them home.
The biblical promises of how God has adopted us into His family, I am not sure I had ever fully understood until that moment. As we pledged to take care of our children, for them to be ours, for our inheritance to be their inheritance it all seemed to make sense at once.
Before that day, they were our children. We clothed them, took care of them, and called them ours but in that courthouse it was forever binding. It was an incredibly beautiful moment. A moment that was one of the sweetest of my life and greatest days of our marriage. I will never forget the details of that moment.
My children are more than a delight. They are smart and funny and can make any gloomy day bright. Yes, as we are entering the 3’s there are definitely challenging days and moments but they are what has continued to propel me forward.
They are what keeps me on my knees, praying that I am who I need to be for them as only God can do.
Their story of how God redeemed us (yes, them and my husband and me) here on this earth through their adoption, is a beautiful picture to a lost world of God’s eternal redemption for those that choose Him and are adopted into His family.
It is with this very beautiful and amazing story that God gives me countless opportunities on an almost daily basis to share. These opportunities are often with those who do not know God’s love.
As we end this national adoption month this November, I pray that each of you understand that if we are God’s children, He has forever adopted us to be His. He is our Father, and because we are His we have a safe place we can go. He loves us no matter what, and He teaches us all the things we need to know if we seek Him.
This is just a few of hundreds of details of how God worked so many miracles throughout this time and since. I wish I had the time to tell you everything, but if you want to know more, please ask! I love to share all that God has done and continues to do and will do for you if we trust Him. The road may not be easy, it may be uncomfortable, full of bumps and holes, and the route and destination may be unclear, but it is beyond worth it.
It is worth it because of where the road leads.
Have you been adopted into the family of God? Do you know this love and this redemptive story for yourself? Is God calling you also to adopt here on this earth and provide a home for a child who needs one? My encouragement to you is to pray. What is God’s desire for you? And then take the leap and do it. The road may be bumpy and the destination unclear but following the Lord where He leads is always worth it.
Read Spring's love story here.
Spring is a native Texan who is the momma to 3 year old twins, Charlie and Londie and widow of her late husband, Charles. She is currently a rehab nurse in Houston, TX but has been a part of many different aspects of women’s ministry through the years. She loves meeting new people, sharing a good laugh, deep conversations and sharing stories of God’s faithfulness. She has a Master of Arts degree in Women’s Ministry from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. You can follow more of her story at charlesandspring.com
We ByFaithShe Girls love cheering on other Jesus Girls who are living fearlessly for the Lord. Therefore, we are delighted to give you a taste of a year long devotional about to be released. Below are a few days of water for the parched soul from one of the thirteen mommas who collaborated on this project. Purchase info included. Enjoy.
Devotional excerpt #1
She was deeply distressed
and prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly.
1 Samuel 1:10 ESV
“I feel like Hannah, weeping from bitterness of soul. I’m so sad and so frustrated.”
I wrote those words in my prayer journal on January 14, 2004.
We had been trying to get pregnant for about three and a half years, and we were facing our second artificial insemination. The roller coaster of infertility was wearing on me. Why did other people seem to be able to get pregnant when they weren’t even trying? (And who even says that to someone walking through infertility?) Why was God not answering our prayers for a baby? I became bitter.
Hannah wasn’t the only woman in Scripture who struggled with bitterness. In the book of Ruth, Naomi struggled so much that she changed her name to Mara, which means bitter (Ruth 1:20). At this point in our journey, I was dangerously close to needing a name change too. Hannah wept bitterly. Mara became bitter. This was not what I wanted.
I searched Scripture more diligently. I prayed more fervently. I asked others to pray with us. We sought medical help. Yet nothing seemed to change.
Thirteen years later, I can see that God’s plan is so much better. I can also see that He can handle our bitterness – even when it might be enough to change our very name for a time. He is not surprised by our reactions. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He continues to reveal Himself – through His Word, through the kind words of friends, through praise songs – slowly changing our hearts.
He grows us through those trying times, refining us even in our bitterness.
Please don’t hear me saying that God is always going to give you what you ask. He might, but He might not. What He will give is grace. Our bitterness can become sweet if we will only trust Him.
Father, thank You for giving us grace and for loving us patiently when we become bitter to our very core. Help us to trust Your plan and Your ways. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Devotional Excerpt #2
We do not know what to do,
but our eyes are on you.
2 Chronicles 20:12b ESV
You’ve been there, right? That point where you throw up your hands and exclaim, “I don’t know what to do!” There are many situations that can bring about this type of response, and adoption is one of them.
During our international adoption, we learned that our home study file was inactive. This realization was a painful reminder of how long we’d been in the process – and that we still didn’t have a child. What we’d thought would take eighteen months had stretched to four and a half years, with no immediate end in sight.
To keep our file active, we would have to update everything and come up with more fees. I hung up the phone, had a good cry, and then called my husband, exclaiming, “I don’t know what we’re supposed to do!”
In 2 Chronicles 20, Jehoshaphat faced a vast army that was seeking to dethrone him. With his kingdom in jeopardy and his heart fearful, “Jehoshaphat ... set his face to seek the LORD” (v. 3, ESV). He declared a fast, gathering the people to pray. He acknowledged that God “will hear and save” (v. 9, ESV), that they were powerless to face the enemy (v. 12a, ESV), and then voiced their complete reliance upon God.
They fixed their eyes on the only One who could give victory.
Throughout the adoption process, there will be enemies to face: discouragement, financial stress, closed programs, and naysayers, to name a few. You’ll face fear and uncertainty. Your plans will be in jeopardy. Especially in those times, set your face to seek the Lord. Acknowledge that you don’t know what to do but that your eyes are fixed firmly on Him. Sometimes God is waiting for us to express our total dependence on Him before He acts.
Our situation didn’t change immediately after reaching this point of desperation. However, a few months later we did receive a call about a little boy in a program we had not even considered. We basically started over. But in the end God prevailed, giving us victory and bringing our son home sixteen months later.
Father, when the enemy threatens with his fiery darts of discouragement and frustration, when we reach the end of our rope, help us to acknowledge our helplessness and fix our eyes on You.
Devotional Excerpt #3
Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.
Matthew 6:34a ESV
Before becoming a mama, I was an English teacher. When I taught writing, I taught my students about the four types of sentences. One of those was the imperative, a sentence that gives a command. Matthew 6:34 is an imperative sentence, a command given by Jesus to His followers. The Apostle Paul gives the same command to the church at Philippi in Philippians 4:6. Do not be anxious.
I am a rule follower. When a command is given, I try to follow it to the best of my ability. This command though? It’s a little harder. Don’t be anxious? When the pregnancy test is negative again, when you learn that you’re too young to pursue the adoption program you just knew God was calling you to, when invoices come from the adoption agency, when a country closes its doors, when it seems like nothing is happening ... how do we avoid being anxious?
In the earlier verses of Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that our Heavenly Father knows everything we need. I believe this knowledge even extends to knowing our heart’s desire for children, which we would classify as a need. But perhaps He must have us in a place where we are seeking Him first before these blessings can be added (Matthew 6:33).
Besides being a command, an imperative is also something of great importance. This command not to be anxious is necessary as we seek to live a life of obedience to our Father. We could be a great witness to others as we are walking this journey. While they may not be adopting, they may be facing other trials. If we constantly fret and stew over each hurdle, we fail to follow this important command from our Heavenly Father. And we fail to show that He is trustworthy and provides in His perfect time.
Don’t be anxious. While not easy to follow, it’s clear that these words are more than merely a suggestion. They are an imperative from the One who feeds the sparrows, clothes the lilies, and gave His Son as our ransom.
Heavenly Father, thank You that You know our every need. Help us to have hearts that seek to obey even this command not to be anxious. Amen.
Gina Bowling is a pastor’s wife and a homeschooling mama to two swim-loving girls and a superhero-loving boy. She is passionate about women’s ministry and seeking to point women to a greater desire for Truth and a better understanding of biblical womanhood. She loves listening to podcasts and audio books, reading, and chocolate.
For more information about the devotional, click here.
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part Two
Our pile of ashes nearly smothered us in the months after losing our four month old adopted daughter, Quinn. The month of July seems like a hazy memory as we muddled through our new normal. In early August, we were presented with another adoption opportunity that met all of our criteria so we walked through the open door still bruised. Unbelievably, this door, like so many others, slammed shut. We are so accustomed to loss and pain, that our reaction was one of acute numbness. After dinner that night, I told my husband, Josiah, “I quit. I do not want to continue this journey. It’s over for us so please can we just stop this madness.” Josiah, though with sympathy, lovingly said, “No.”
Frustrated with his answer, I pressed him and told him that I was fresh out of perseverance. He then reminded me of how far, and how invested we’ve become. He challenged me to think about what quitting would look like and feel like. I knew he was right despite my weariness. I didn’t love the idea of pressing on, and all of the scriptures instructing me to press on with joy, seemed unattainable. In early August, we pursued another adoption with an older child and thought we had finally arrived. We heard from God so clearly, and again, everything aligned with what we were praying in light of scripture. Again, God closed the door through an unexpected series of events. We were left wondering, “God, where in the world are you?” We had just chosen to press on in faith; yet, you allowed more difficulty. We were left puzzled, but burdened to keep going despite all human logic.
As my birthday approached in mid-August, we decided to go to the mountains for a long weekend. While we went to celebrate and take time for ourselves, we also went to specifically pray Psalm 4:1, which says, “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!” As we prayed and focused on having fun and relaxing, I kept repeating this verse over and over in my mind. In the mountains, I told God how weak, how tired and how desperate I felt. I remember having an odd peace while we were there. It was as if my mind, body and heart took a big breath of fresh air. I felt light and easy. Just 24 hours into our adoption reprieve, my sister-in-law called with a different sound in her voice. Then, we heard an unbelievable story that involved many people being in the right place at the right time.
Let me preface the story by saying that when you’ve endured the amount of trauma we’ve endured, you’re skeptical about everything. In this case, however, when Josiah and I hung up the phone while sitting in a parking lot, we said, “Well, this is random, and I wonder what God is telling us.” In true Josiah form, he went over the pros and cons, while I marveled at how God had seemingly responded to our mountain prayers. We tried to discern the Holy Spirit, and we were both concerned that our bleeding hearts couldn’t endure another path of brokenness. Time was not on our side, and decisions had to be made quickly.
Unbeknownst to us, God had been working behind the scenes as we cried out to Him in the mountains. God used several people to weave a story so completely from His hand that we’re all left saying, “Surely this is our God Isaiah 25:9.” In this story, there are hospital workers, an artist, unknowingly mutual friends, an attorney, and the Holy Spirit who wove Himself into the fabric of all of these lives on our behalf and in response to our cries. For us to reach our son, countless things had to fall perfectly into place. Only God could orchestrate and align events and people in such a way to bring beauty from ashes and joy from mourning. The Church, as you will later read, have navigated our sails in recent days. If I told you every single detail, every twist and turn of this story, you would get lost in its coincidental complexity, but ultimately, it comes down to this: “Every good and perfect gift comes from above James 1:17.” As a proud West Tennessean who has traveled across the county countless times pursuing adoption, God floored me when a healthy baby boy was born on August 23 in West Tennessee. I remember walking in the parking lot of this West Tennessee hospital laughing to myself at the sheer irony of being home in West Tennessee instead of far away. God was present in the details.
God had us right where He wanted us. He wanted us broken, bleeding, weak, and depleted. We began our journey on September 15, 2015, and have since endured six failed adoptions, including the devastating and legally unprecedented loss of Quinn, countless times of being not chosen, enormous adoption financial losses, emotional distress, physical exhaustion, and spiritual warfare. We had a choice to make. We had to decide whether to walk through this door that had opened so randomly or to let fear and the pain of the past dictate our future. Needless to say, we walked through the open door wondering what in world God was doing.
At first, it was easy to bask in the mindset of, “Wow, God answered our prayer!” But, as our entire journey has shown, God wanted more from us. How could God possibly want more from us? We had nothing left. Had we not endured enough? Why couldn’t He just allow us to enjoy the answered prayer with finality? Due to circumstances beyond our control, this placement involved multiple delays so we had to agree to take home our potential son in the interim. The thought of this made us both uneasy. While we had so much love and attention to give, we were nervous about letting him into our heart without having security. We lived this for over two months when Quinn’s uncertainty began so a few days didn’t seem too much to ask. But, it was too much to ask. We very quickly realized that within our own strength, we couldn’t travel this familiar road again. Luckily, when we are weak, His strength is made perfect 2 Corinthians 12:9. When we came home, it became clear just how raw we still were from Quinn’s loss because we had such little time to grieve. Attachment began quickly with our son, so with each delay, Satan had his way with fear. We learned that just because Satan had a doorway to our vulnerability, didn’t mean God’s people couldn’t push their fellow brother and sister in Christ through the fearful fight.
Josiah and I have been surrounded by about fifteen Kingdom Warriors, both friends and family alike, who have pushed us through the days of doubt. Only these faithful few knew about our son because we were trying to maintain privacy to ensure we would have a successful placement. We have been covered in prayer since August 23 when our son was played in our arms the morning he was born. There have been Kingdom Warriors who have prayed and fasted faithfully on our behalf. We have literally seen the Church function as a moving Body. We made it to this point because these Warriors prayed us through it, loved us through it, and encouraged us that victory was near. When our prayers were but a whisper, theirs were shouts.
Though it has been a whirlwind since August 23, I am so glad God wanted more from us even when we didn’t think we had more to give. We questioned why He wasn’t allowing it to be easy after having endured so much, but we can both say we’re thankful that God wanted more. I was reminded of a quote by Corrie Ten Boom I have in one of my journals that says, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.” Though we’ve spent two years in a pit, His love has been deeper still. We’re grateful that God is a jealous God that wants no one and nothing, including a tumultuous journey, to pull us away from His arms. He loves us just that much. He wants all of you. He wants all of me. He doesn’t want one inch of us to not be wholly His. When you allow yourself to be wholly His, He will transform your life allowing you to have joy unspeakable in the midst of inevitable suffering. When you are wholly His, you realize that He wants to be wholly yours.
At this point, we feel like the survivors from the front line of war duty. We have opened wounds, bandages, scars, holes and bruises. This journey has been frustrating, maddening, ridiculous, unfair, grief-filled, devastating, and emotional…but God. But God promises to restore us. He promises to bring beauty from our ashes. His Word says that “weeping may endure for the night, but joy comes in the morning Psalms 30:5.” Our weeping has lasted two long years, and I am sure there will be more weeping ahead since all Christ followers will walk through suffering, but we’re glad that we are made like Him in our suffering. Though weeping lies ahead, we need not be afraid. He’s already there. I remember thinking awhile back that if this road ever ended that there would be no way I could still love and trust God like I have tried to in the past. I felt that there had been too much hurt for me to still have Him as the love of my life. I had seen so many unanswered prayers and moments when His protection seemed nonexistent that loving Him like I always had seemed unlikely. I proved to be right, but not in the way I expected. I love Him more now than I ever have. He has broken my heart, but His heart has broken too as He has watched our suffering. “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him Job 13:15.”
We would like to introduce you to our forever son, Paladin Shepherd Britton. Paladin is a name from the fifteenth century meaning, “someone who fights for a cause.” We feel like our journey to Paladin has been nothing but a fight. As his parents, we vow to turn that fight into a fight of ensuring He knows and understands the transformative power of the Gospel. The kind of Gospel that brought us hope and healing when all seemed lost. We have committed ourselves to being Godly parents to Paladin, while still believing that God will use Quinn’s life for His glory and His good. We believe that Paladin will learn a lot about prayer through learning to pray for his heart sister. We look forward to what God will do by joining our family to Paladin’s birth family. Praying with his birth family at the hospital will forever be one of my most cherished moments in this life. You can never convince me that the Holy Spirit doesn’t dwell among us. He not only dwells, He engulfs and consumes. When that hospital prayer was uttered, every bone in my body felt His presence. We know that God never breaks our heart to bring us back the same.
Part 1 - "A Broken Hallelujah"
Love and Loss Through Adoption - Part One
If you aren’t prepared for a raw and vulnerable look at brokenness, do not proceed. If you aren’t ready to navigate your faith within the mess of life, do not proceed. Leaving church on a warm September Sunday morning in 2015, my husband, Josiah, and I knew the message of having radical faith was just for us. After many years of battling infertility, we were eager to begin the adoption process. As many of you know, from 2015 to 2017, brought immense difficulty. During those years, we experienced three failed adoptions. Two of those adoptions were after time was spent in the hospital holding our miracle. The third, though no less important, ended before we boarded a plane. These three adoptions were costly to us emotionally, financially, mentally, and spiritually. Then, in February of 2017, on one last leap of faith, we flew across the country to get our fourth miracle. Surely, this one would be forever. Now, four months later, our arms are empty, our hearts are bleeding, and our home is stricken with the pain of silence.
Here is where you need to stop reading if you cannot refrain from shaking your fist at God. I already know what you are thinking. Stop, take a moment, and choose to find Him in this story. We met our beloved Quinn in the wee morning hours of February 18, 2017 when she was just two days old. On February 20, she was signed into our custody and three days later we returned home to the warmest and most loving welcome that any child could possibly have.
Because of our past experiences, we, of course, had fears that would persist. When fears arose, Josiah and I would remind each other of God’s promises. Even to the unbeliever, Quinn’s story seemed to make perfect sense. On April 12, we were notified that Quinn’s birth father had decided to parent. He began doing all of the necessary legal steps in spite of his previous poor choices. Our agency and the agency’s attorney had proof that her birth father knew of Quinn’s birth and chose to do nothing.
For the remainder of April until June 20, we had to continue to parent Quinn with a heavy cloud looming above. When we think of those months of parenting with the looming cloud overhead, we can take no credit. We’d always known that God gives grace, but only until recently have we really understood just how extensive His grace is. By His grace, we were able to parent her while knowing she could easily be taken. In those months, we never thought she’d be taken so we loved harder, prayed harder, and held her a little longer. After all, she was God’s fulfilled promise to us. We felt confident so we only shared the legal battle with my brother and sister-in-law who have always been mentors to Josiah and I.
When things became more legally unsettling, we took the advice of our attorney and agency and flew across the country for the fifth time, which includes previous adoptions, to stand before a judge and plead our case. On June 20, we walked into a crowded waiting room at a courthouse far from home. In a last attempt to reach an agreement before standing in front of a judge, we sat down and talked with the birth father and his family along with our attorney and agency. Pleasantries were exchanged, and then the tough talk began. We saw a young man with three of his relatives, including his own mother. As much as we communicated, shared, poured our hearts out, the birth father wanted more. As I looked up and saw Quinn’s birth grandmother cry into tissues, I knew this was something bigger than Josiah and I. When it became clear the birth family was firm, the court session began.
As we waited in a small, stuffy room for what seemed like eternity, Josiah and I said nothing to each other. I closed my eyes and prayed claiming every promise in God’s Word that was applicable to the situation we were in. Later, our agency worker and attorney returned to the room looking ashen pale. The judge had ruled that Quinn be returned to her birth family immediately. It seemed like you could knock our attorney over with a feather. In his twenty-some years of practice, he had never witnessed a judge make such a hasty decision especially given all the evidence that was reviewed. Through tears, our agency worker, whom we’ve grown to love, explained to us again what this verdict meant. In denial, I asked, “Ok, so how long will Quinn be gone?” Both she and the attorney replied, “indefinitely.” At this moment, I was confident that death would surely be soon for me. It was too much to endure.
As the agency worker began making preparations for someone to fly Quinn back to her birth state, the heat outside weighed heavy just like our grief. Once confirmation was given that an agency worker would fly to Nashville to pick up Quinn the next day, we asked the agency to contact the birth mother to have a meeting. Legally, the birth mother had to be notified of what had occurred. Josiah and I drove away from the courthouse feeling like death. Driving down a busy freeway, I buried my face in my hands, while screaming that I didn’t know how to give my baby back. Josiah, my rock of wisdom and strength, said through his own tears, “Sarah Beth, at least we can know that we’ve tried everything, at least we can know that we’ve been faithful, that we’ve glorified God in the process. I want to lay my head down at night knowing we did everything.”
Calling my brother and sister-in-law who had been keeping Quinn during our trip was nearly impossible. They were given the impossible task of explaining to their own two children that Quinn would be going away. They were also given the impossible task of bringing Quinn to the airport. My brother, mustering all the strength he had, told his two children, who adored Quinn, and prepared for the airport the next day. After that phone call, Josiah and I met Quinn’s birth mother for the first time and met her birth grandmother for the second time. Upon seeing Quinn’s birth mom, I opened my arms and we embraced. I saw a confused and torn young person. This meeting included the agency workers and the attorney. Much was discussed, questions were asked, and information was dissected. It was quickly apparent that although the birth mother and grandmother loved us, they were sympathetic of the birth father.
The attorney discussed heavy issues concerning how things would proceed with the birth father. At the heaviest moment, I asked everyone to stop talking and give me the floor. With Josiah beside me, I explained the prayers Josiah and I had prayed all these months, I explained just how certain he and I were that all this, no matter the mess of it, was supposed to happen. Ultimately, I explained that our hope is in something greater and that the pain this situation was going to cause would be impossible to endure without our faith. After some silence, the meeting essentially ended with our attorney speaking to us privately about the little chance of fighting this successfully we had. This was especially true after hearing both sides of the birth family.
Little sleep came to Josiah and I that night as we prepared to say goodbye to Quinn the next day at the Nashville airport. What are you supposed to say to each other on a long flight home knowing your life is about to be turned upside down…again. We really said nothing other than an occasional, “Are you ok?” With the answer already known, we just stared straight ahead preparing to say goodbye to that sweet face we’d loved from the day she was born. Upon landing, we notified the agency worker where to meet us at the airport for the hand-off. When we approached my brother and sister-in-law sitting with Quinn in the waiting area, we could barely breathe. As tears hit like bullets, Josiah took Quinn from my sister-in-law’s arms and we took her into a private family bathroom and locked the door. We kissed Quinn, told her how much we loved her, and how much we would pray for her. Josiah lifted her up to play “airplane” one more time. Laughing and grinning, Quinn looked at us both. In that bathroom, agony, grief and pain were palpable. Josiah handed her to me, and I embraced her and placed her close to my chest where she laid for so many months. I wanted her to feel my heartbeat one more time.
Walking back to where we would hand her off to the agency worker was torture. I was unable to speak so my sister-in-law explained Quinn’s schedule to her, gave her enough supplies to make the trip, and packed her up. After one last kiss, we walked away. As my sister-in-law pushed an empty stroller beside me, we walked away in silence in the midst of sickening grief.
What now? Yes, we can fight this legal issue. However, we are not fighting it for two primary reasons. First, the judge reviewed most of our evidence in court on June 20. The judge was certainly unmoved by any of it. Secondly and most importantly, when Quinn grew older and began asking questions like any healthy adopted child would, we would have to explain to her that her birth father wanted her and came for her, but we wanted her too so we fought and took her away from him. As parents, Josiah and I could not do that and did not think it would be healthy for Quinn. This reason is similar to the story of King Solomon in the book of 1 Kings chapter 3 where he threatens to cut the baby in half to settle a dispute between two women arguing who the real mother was. The real mother wanted no harm to the baby. We want Quinn’s best interest to prevail.
At this point, you may have burning questions as to why the legal system did this or that, or why we did not do this or that, or why the agency did or did not do something. But, the more important burning questions to ask are those of what God is doing. All of us will experience suffering in our life. For us, it feels like suffering is unbalanced. We see others become parents so easily. We see adoptions unfold perfectly. We see others advance, gain, or receive, while we’re left picking up our shattered pieces. It is so easy to want to look up, shake your fist at heaven and question the goodness of God. We must guard our grief. We’re able to guard our grief when we remember that we have a High Priest who makes intercession for us, who sympathizes with our weaknesses, who has been through more than we’ve been through, and who can format mercy to fit our needs. Hebrews 4: 14-16 The day after losing Quinn my devotional said, “It is impossible to thank Him and curse Him at the same time.” Although difficult, we choose to thank Him.
Why this? Every night before putting Quinn to sleep, Josiah and I would lay her down on our bed as we kneeled with our hands on her and asked God to intervene on our behalf. We claimed His promises, we quoted scripture, and we refused to doubt or to fear. In fact, before walking into court on June 20, Josiah and I prayed asking the Holy Spirit to dwell among us and to intervene. Each time I kissed Quinn goodnight in her sweet slumber and uttered, “In Jesus name, allow us to parent this child,” God heard me. But, he didn’t allow us to parent her forever. We prayed all things in Jesus’ name knowing His Word tells us that if we do so, He’ll grant our request. But, He didn’t grant our request. He didn’t give us the outcome we wanted. The notebook of scriptures I read that morning out loud to the both of us in the hotel room didn’t work the way we thought they would or should. Why? Why has God removed Quinn from a home whose primary goal was to raise her to know the transformative power of the Gospel? She will have her needs met in her new home, and she will be loved. However, we don’t know if she will be exposed to the Gospel. Why has God allowed us to go through the absolutely painful period of suffering that we’ve endured since 2015 on our journey to adopt? Why did he allow years of infertility prior to 2015? Why has He allowed our financial resources for adoption to be totally depleted?
Where from? All believers know their help comes from the Lord. It is basic doctrinal knowledge. Until you are in the midst of pain and suffering, it doesn’t register completely. There is absolutely no way we could have journeyed this far without a supernatural strength from above. Although we do have a High Priest who knows our plight, we are still faced with the task to endure. All believers know God gives grace. Again, it is basic doctrinal knowledge. It is only by God’s magnificent grace that we were able to parent in such uncertainty. It was grace that allowed us to handle a courtroom. It was grace that allowed us to scoop up our child and tell her goodbye in a bathroom just to walk away and see strangers scolding or carrying a child they have no idea how fortunate they are to have. We loved Quinn with all we had. She was the joy, light and love of our lives. Walking that airport hallway to give her away was just an ounce of the pain that God experienced when His son, innocent and holy, walked up the hill of Golgotha to be crucified for you and me. Jesus lived 33 years, and Quinn lived with us for exactly four months.
Though my pain is incredibly incomparable to His, we have a new appreciation of what God did for us by giving us His son. When we arrived home, we felt a pain that I wish on no one. I went straight to her nursery and grabbed her favorite pacifier. Then, I grabbed the pajamas she had just been wearing and inhaled her sweet smell. She is gone. We are broken and shattered, but not without hope and grace. It’s grace that helped us walk into our home full of Quinn’s things. Her nursery, her clothes in the laundry room, her pictures on the wall. Though our home is empty, our hearts are not.
I know you’re thinking why would a good, loving God do this to people? God didn’t want this to happen, but we live in a fallen, broken world. He didn’t take joy in watching us walk away from our baby in an airport. He doesn’t take joy in the tears flowing as I type this. He did allow it, but we can rest assured that what He does is always for our good and for His glory. Quinn’s story is horribly painful, but her story will reach many lives. As my brother told me, “Quinn’s story will point others to the Gospel.” My human side is tired of losing so others can learn. However, it is not my place to know why or to understand. It’s just our job to trust. God doesn’t break our hearts to bring them back the same. Josiah and I are far from perfect. We’re a mess each day, but I can tell you this experience has changed our hearts, and we hope our hearts look more like His.
What we need?
First, use our story to evaluate your own life. Do you have enough grasp on God and His Word to weather the storm you will inevitably face? Let our story motivate you to be ever ready to praise Him, thank Him, and worship Him when you really want to shake your fist at heaven.
Secondly, don’t interact with us as if Quinn never existed. She isn’t a taboo topic. She has part of our heart forever and ever.
Third, share our story to whomever, whenever, or however. This is your permission to do so. We’ve vowed to speak out on all God has and will continue to do through this journey.
Fourth, please filter your questions and assumptions. Please try not to assume that a person or an agency dropped the ball. Though we’ll always speak of Quinn with love and fondness, please don’t ask questions that you really do not have to know the answer to. Some of you might think that this is the exact reason we shouldn’t have posted pictures of Quinn on social media. We disagree. We felt that by not doing so we were limiting God. We embraced her as ours for forever from moment one. We trusted Him to bring her to us, and we trusted Him to keep her with us.
Fifth, use our story to encourage you to take risks. Be willing to take risks and to be hurt. If you want great things in your life, you have to be willing to get hurt.
Lastly, pray for us as we try to determine what is next for us. We know that God has called us to be parents, but at this point, we are depleted of all resources to make adoption possible. It is uncomfortable to discuss how much we’ve lost since 2015, but just know it is enormous. Pray that God will make a way. He is good and faithful.
Thank you all in advance for your thoughts and prayers. The prayers of those who have known this story before now have given us so much strength. God’s presence has been so evident and the prayers of His people have been so palpable in our lives. They have carried us, and will continue to carry us. Though Quinn isn’t near, she is part of us. Because we are children of the most high King, He is near to us in this hour of darkness and for all eternity.
TO BE CONTINUED...
Part 2 - Beauty From Ashes
Welcome to Friend Friday! Where do I begin with today's guest? She is one of a handful of women who loved me well when I moved to TN. Words can never express the gratitude and love and admiration I have for this precious sister in the Lord. I'm eternally grateful she knocked on my door 14 years ago. It is with great pleasure I introduce you to one of my modern day heroines, Boo Sellers.
So honored and blessed to share a glimpse of my story during this month when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. How humbling it is to be writing this on the 3rd day of November, which is “National Adoption Month”. God always uses these moments to remind me of His faithfulness & that He has a plan and a purpose for everything we go through. That nothing is wasted. Before I begin I want to thank my awesome God for allowing me to share with you what He has done in my life by trading my ashes for His beauty. He makes everything beautiful in His perfect way and timing even when we can’t see the whole scope of His work from beginning to end.
My story begins on the day that my birth mom, by faith, made the most courageous, selfless act of love and chose to give me life and place me for adoption. That has been 48 years ago. I do no know anything about my birth mom other than she was young and moved from Michigan to California to live with her aunt until I was born.
When I was six weeks old I became part of the family that God had handpicked for me because my parents, by faith, chose to follow the path laid out for them. My parents told me from the very beginning, even before I could fully comprehend, that I was adopted and how special I was because I had been chosen. I had a good life growing up with parents who loved me and three older brothers who loved me and spoiled me just a little bit. I grew up attending church and started attending a private Christian school when I was in 8th grade until I graduated. I was taught right from wrong. However, I began to make choices that went against everything that I had been taught.
One night when I was 15 I gave myself away sexually to a guy I had just met. Believe me, it was not the romantic first time that girls envision. After that night, I never talked to the guy again because he moved away to live with his dad in another state. Almost immediately the weight of guilt and the torment of shame started ridiculing me because in my heart I knew that it wasn’t right.
However, a few months later I found myself in another relationship. Honestly, I thought, “I am already ruined goods so what does it really matter?”. So again, I gave myself away sexually. However, the guilt and shame didn’t go away. It kept gnawing at me to the point that I felt that I was never going to be good enough. My mind was tormented with lies. I thought I didn’t have anyone I could talk to. Let’s face it, my parents thought I was a good girl and there was no way I could let them down.
At my lowest point when I was just so overwhelmed with shame and regret, I thought the only way out was to take my life. Surely that would put an end to this torment. I found a bottle of pain pills in the medicine cabinet and did not hesitate to take every.last.one.of.them. But, God had a different plan.
The guy I was seeing had called and I told him what I had done. He knew how to get in touch with my parents. The next thing I knew, my dad was there. He swept me up in his arms and rushed me to the hospital. They did several things while I was there. One thing they did was run a test…a pregnancy test. Well, it came back POSITIVE. I was pregnant. What a way to tell your mom and dad.
That night my parents and I met with my pastor. We all agreed that an abortion would be the solution to the “problem”. This was back in the day when these things just were not talked about as openly as they are now. The next day my parents made the necessary appointment and we were on our way to Memphis. I remember arriving to the house and going through the back doors. But, God had a different plan.
While I was having the initial exam before the “procedure to solve my problem”, the doctor discovered that I was 7 months pregnant. I was too far along to the have the abortion. I was confused. I was at a loss for words. I realized that I had gotten pregnant the very first time I had sex. Wait. What? We used protection. How could this happen?
On the ride home from Memphis, by faith, I told my mom and dad that I wanted to place this baby for adoption. Because, in my life I knew what it was like to be chosen, to be wanted, to be adopted, and to be loved unconditionally by my family. I wanted that for my child.
Even though all of this was progressing during the school year, no one ever knew that I was pregnant. I only gained 12 pounds and then we were out of school for the Summer.
On July 16, 1986 I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. I was allowed to hold him, rock him, change his diapers, and tell him that I loved him. I prayed that he would understand that I made the best decision for him. My mom was also able to be a part of this moment. We took pictures which I still carry with me. I am forever grateful that my adoption counselor suggested for me to do this. I cannot believe 31 years have passed.
After the birth I never talked about it, not even with my family. We all kept it a secret. So, once again I was being riddled with guilt, shame, and regret. I tried covering it up with alcohol, other relationships, work, and anything that would keep my mind occupied. I got married but it ended in divorce. Nothing was working for me to get rid of the pain and emptiness.
On of my friends suggested I go out on a blind date. So, she set it all up and we met in a nightclub. Let’s just say that is not the best place to meet your future spouse. In 1994, after about a year of dating, we got married. Oh, we thought we were living life to the fullest, however, we fought endlessly. Here I was, heading for divorce number two. But, God had a different plan.
We started working on our marriage. We knew something was missing. We thought that a baby would fill the void, so we began the journey of trying to get pregnant. Nothing. Nothing was happening. After two years of trying I thought God was punishing me for all the things that I had done. I didn’t want anything to do with God at all. But, God had a different plan.
Something began to happen, and it was prompting me (& Mike) to make some changes. On September 1, 2002, the Holy Spirit pricked my heart and He helped me realize that I needed a Savior. That Jesus died for my sins. As I surrendered my life to Jesus I felt the weight lift off my shoulders because I had been forgiven, redeemed, and ADOPTED by a Holy God. God never gave up on me.
Mike and I still had a longing in our hearts to start a family. My doctor suggested that I have exploratory surgery to see what could be hindering us. After much prayer and counsel, we went through with the surgery only to discover that my ovaries and fallopian tubes were covered in scar tissue. Even though I had never been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease, my doctor explained that this kind of scarring is typical with the contraction of an STD called chlamydia. You can have it and never know it until later in life when it causes infertility in women. So, the choice I made to have sex outside of God’s boundaries of marriage literally scarred me for life.
I had extensive surgery to clean up the scar tissue in hopes that it would allow Mike & me to have a little “mini me” running through the house. But, God had a different plan. I did get pregnant twice. Both times they were ectopic pregnancies. The second one landed me in the hospital having emergency surgery to remove my fallopian tube and also to be told that the scarring was back and that medically speaking I would not be able to conceive.
Mike and I felt the tugging in our hearts to open up our home and lives to fostering. God allowed us to foster two sweet boys. They were brothers. The youngest we brought home from the hospital with the intention of adopting. But that fell through. Little did we know that this was all in preparation for what God had in store for us.
One Sunday morning at church (September 9, 2007, to be exact, LOL), a young lady wanted to talk to me. It was during a revival so I thought that she wanted to talk about salvation. We met after the services. What I was expecting and what actually occurred was, to say the least, unimaginable.
April was pregnant. Someone had told her that I had placed a baby for adoption and she wanted to talk about that. I also shared with her that I am adopted. April shared that God had spared her from going through an abortion. She knew in her heart that God had revealed to her that she was carrying someone else’s blessing but did not know where or how to begin with the whole adoption process. She had been praying for God to show her.
Our conversation led from one thing to another. April wanted to know about mine & Mike’s story. She knew that we had two boys we were fostering. So, I was very open about our walk down the road of infertility, about the 2 precious babies we had lost, and about how God knew our heart’s desire to be parents. I shared that Mike & I knew that God wanted us to be still, keep praying, and to expect Him to answer in His way and in His time. Then time stood still for a moment. April looked at me and said, “You and Mike are the answer to my prayer”.
That was totally unexpected. How in the world would this work with us going to church together? April’s mom & brother were going to church with us as well. So many questions! At first, Mike was a little reserved about moving forward. However, we all met with our pastor and talked about everything. There were a couple of mountains along the path, but God leveled them as if they were just a grain of sand.
By faith, we walked through the days, weeks, and months ahead with a peace that passes all human understanding. Even though our humanness told us it wasn’t possible, we knew that our God is big and that He is the master of making the impossible possible. He invites all of us on a “faith by ___________” journey. Having faith doesn’t mean we have all the answers. It simply means trusting God even if He doesn’t move that mountain or part that sea. He is the same God from the beginning of time throughout eternity. His ways, His thoughts, and His plans are far loftier than ours. He is the only One who knows what tomorrow will bring & there is not a place you will go that He hasn’t already been preparing the path for you to travel.
After 11 years of praying…after 11 years of questioning…after 11 years of waiting (I wouldn’t say that I was exactly patient all the time)…after 11 years of God’s perfect timing and preparing our hearts, I held the most precious redhead for the first time. I remember getting the call from April at 2:00 in the morning that the moment had arrived and that she would meet us at the hospital. There were so many things that transpired as I stayed by April’s side in the delivery room awaiting his arrival. It was such a special time between the two of us. Then, just like that at 3:32pm on March 29, 2008 we welcomed Brady Obadiah Samuel Sellers into our family.
Every day I get to enjoy life because my birth mom chose to give me life and place me for adoption. Every day I get to enjoy knowing that in God’s mercy, kindness, and grace He allowed me to give life to my son and place him for adoption. Every day Mike & I get to spend time with the cutest redhead who totally, completely, without a doubt loves life (well, except when he as to vacuum the house, lol) because April chose life for him and allowed us to adopt him.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through His mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” ~ Ephesians 3:20