It started on a blanket at the pond of Cherokee Park in Louisville. The two of us best friends, but newly in love. We shared our hopes and dreams for the future. He wanted to preach once he completed his degree. I was focused on working for a couple of years to save up to go to Law School. We both had a desire to adopt one day. That was the first discussion we ever had about adoption. It was the only one in the six years to follow.
Engaged a couple of months after we started dating and married the following summer, we focused our attention on building a strong marriage before the wedding. We went through pre-marital counseling and took marriage classes all while trying to plan our big day, go to school and work full time. While I was working in a career position, Nathan was working toward his degree. We had decided it was our plan to wait five years before thinking about children. I was adjusting my career path, as I had taken a job which would require me to travel constantly and we knew starting our marriage off apart was not what we wanted. It all seemed to line up just as we hoped, I had secured a great job with the same company I was already working for, Nathan had been offered a preaching position, we found a great apartment into which I moved to start making it into our home, and we counted down the days until August.
In January of 1999, I began the last year of the millennium guarding a secret. I was pregnant. That little blue line changed everything. Nathan was to graduate in the summer. We were going to travel, buy a house, work, go back to school, build a life. We had a plan. Now we would be having a baby. I did not tell Nathan right away. I wanted to tell him excited about the gift we were going to be given. It was taking me a minute to feel that excitement. I mostly felt overwhelmed and scared. On February 1, I shared the news. Nathan, not one to be over emotional or excitable, looked at me for the longest time, dead pan. Then a smile started in his eyes and landed across his mouth. He scooped me up and held me close. Together we celebrated the idea of being parents. Nine months after the birth of our son, Noah, I had the same conversation with Nathan.
“Guess what?” I said and handed over the pregnancy test boasting another blue line.
And then, again, a year after our daughter was born, the same conversation. I became convicted that there indeed was a reason there were so many Joneses in the world. These Jones kids just kept coming. Having had c-sections with all three children and recognizing our success with birth control was laughable. I made the quick, reactionary decision to have a tubal ligation while on the table for the c-section. I regretted that decision immediately.
At the risk of sounding freakishly fertile, our tubal ligation was not a success. Over the next few years, I became pregnant and miscarried multiple times. While my tubes seemed to be operating fine, my uterus was not. We weathered the storms of heartache, mourning the losses of babies unheld.
When Molly was five, changed by my grief, as well as the beauty of mothering these beautiful children, I revisited the conversation on the blanket in Cherokee Park. My heart was pulled toward adoption. We had these three amazing kids, 8,7, and 5. Nathan was providing for our family in a career, having left ministry, which moved us to Bowling Green. Our life was imperfectly beautiful. Why would we want to rock the boat?
That was what I heard when I broached the subject with Nathan. I am sure he was very careful in his word choices, but all I heard was, “No.” I think I could have been satisfied with that no, but I was feeling pulled toward adoption. It seemed everywhere I went there were posters saying, “Foster parents needed!” “Homes neededI!” I could not avoid it. It was consuming my thoughts. So, I broached the subject once again with Nathan. I explained I felt called to adopt. I understood his hesitation, but I could not shake this overwhelming pulling toward adoption. Nathan is a careful decision maker. I would call it slow, but I think he prefers careful. Nathan is the logic and reason of our marriage. I am the emotion and action. This makes for a great match. It also makes for some serious arguments. Nathan requested I be silent on the matter for one year. I know. How could I be silent? But he wanted a year to pray over the decision and he wanted to be sure he was hearing God’s voice and not my pleading. He marked the calendar for the following year in good faith and I waited.
I am open to receive your compliments and admiration for abiding by the year. In all fairness, I was pretty busy homeschooling three children, buying and selling a house and becoming familiar with the magic of social media. So, when he came to me on the anniversary of that discussion, I was not waiting. True to his word, he had made a decision. “Find out what we need to do to foster to adopt,” he once again scooped me up and held me close. We were going to add to our family!
With three children all less than two years apart in age, and feeling convicted that babies would find homes, we decided we would work toward adopting a toddler. We preferred a boy, to balance out the family. Our MAPP classes would take eleven weeks to complete. Over the three months, we would be in class one night a week, while preparing our home and our children for the home study we would have to have completed. We began to fill out the mountain of paperwork; acquire all the forms, signatures and recommendations; and set up a room for an unknown child of unknown age. We worked through the parts of the paperwork where we limited children based on circumstances we felt were in the best interest of the children already in our home.
Our constant prayer was a desire for God to use us as a tool for his purposes. We wanted to provide a home to a child who needed one. Our prayer was purposeful and specific. It would prove to be a large piece of our adoption story.
Within weeks of completing the list of all the things required, as well as graduating from the MAPP classes we were presented with a few files of children awaiting adoption. I find it hard to explain the emotions of looking at paper children, realizing the very real need they have to be loved and placed in a loving home. I wept over every file. How could you say no to any of them? It was heartbreaking and hard. We prayed and we meditated. One file stood out. Jeremy and Joshua, brothers aged three and one. Not exactly what we had in mind, but we were pulled to them. These were our boys. We shared with our Case Worker our desire to move forward with the boys and within a week we had a meeting scheduled with the foster parents who were currently loving the boys as family. In this meeting, Nathan and I, who had fallen in love with the grainy Xerox copy of a picture of these boys, became concerned. This foster family really loved these boys. It was apparent. As they spoke of the boys, they cried and laughed as parents do. Older than the average parents of one and three-year-old children, they had assured the Case Workers they had no intention of adopting. They had adult children. They were too old to start all over. In a break during the meeting we asked he workers, “Are they going to be able to let the boys go?” We were reassured. We left that day with an appointment to meet the boys for the first time and a schedule of graduated visits which would help the boys transition from their foster home into ours. We left giddy. We would be meeting our sons within the week. We picked up the children and purchased small gifts to share with them.
On the morning of our first visit, the phone rang. Before I picked up the phone to see who was calling I felt concerned. I sat in my closet, away from the children, and listened as our Case Worker canceled our meeting. The foster family had a change of heart and had made the decision to adopt the boys. They just couldn’t let them go. The boys had been with them since birth, it was the only home they had ever known. The State of Kentucky felt it in the best interest of the children for them to stay with the family they knew.
This all made rational sense, but you will recall I am the emotional-doer, not the rational make- senser. My heart was broken. I called Nathan who rushed home and we mourned the loss of two more children unheld. I went through the same stages of grief I experienced with the miscarriages. I guess that was that. I was not sure my heart could go through this process over and over. I was wavering in my faith and consumed by the grief of lost children both past and present. We asked not to be called until after the holidays. Our caseworker honored our wishes.
Through the holidays, we prayed and talked through our grief. I remembered our prayer. I remembered the constant request that God use us as a tool for His purposes. I guess in my mind I always thought we would be the hammer, not the nail. Yet here we were, the nail pounded over and over to secure Jeremy and Joshua into a family. God answered that prayer. We also remembered the part of the prayer where we specifically asked that God allow us to be a home for a child who did not have one. The boys had a home. They had a loving, good home. Again, God answered our prayer. These were not our boys. But we would be a part of their story of having a home. While that was hard to reconcile in our grief, we ultimately came to a place where that was a comfort. His Will be done—easy to say; a bit more difficult to accept, especially when His Will and ours were not aligned.
As we concluded our school year with the children, our hearts in better condition, we approached our caseworker with a change in our file. We would be open to foster. Previously we would only look at children who were ready for adoption. We kept going to our prayer—let us be a home for a child who needed one. There were over 600 children in our region who needed homes as foster children. If we were going to make this a journey of faith, we would be open to trusting God. Within a week, we had a placement. Two little boys, 6 and 4 and their baby sister, aged 1. They were precious and broken and scared. They were to be with us only one week. The court granted custody to their biological father and they returned home. There is more to this story, which I will share one day. It is heartbreaking and difficult, but for the purposes of this telling, it is important to know they left, leaving our home available for placement.
On July 14, 2010, I received a call from our caseworker. She had a three-year-old little girl and a one-year-old boy who had just been received into their custody. Could I open our home to them? I called Nathan and immediately we made plans to meet at the offices. The children and I arrived first. We were escorted down to the room where the children were waiting. A single lamp lit the room as the little girl with jet black hair pulled into a ponytail sat at a computer typing on a keyboard. She was wearing a lime green tshirt and plaid shorts. Over her shoulders was a satin pink jacket featuring Dora the Explorer. She had a look of resolve on her face. She did not look up at me and the children, but instead faced forward at the computer screen, typing with and intensity of a job which should have been completed yesterday. Crouched in the corner was a little boy crying with such intensity his face was scrunched into an unrecognizable contortion. The fear in his eyes was all I could see. I have no recollection of what he wore. I could not stop looking at his eyes.
With permission, I scooped up the little boy and tried to comfort him, while introducing myself and the children to the little girl. She looked up only long enough to appear annoyed we were interrupting her work. Nathan arrived with two car seats, we signed the paperwork, received their file and loaded them into the van. They had nothing, so our mission was to get them the things we would need to make it through the night and the next couple of days. We stopped for gas at the nearest station and I got out of the van to check on the little strangers in the back. It was when I opened the door that she finally looked at me. Huge tears hung on the corners of her eyes. It was as if she was willing those tears not to fall. I unbuckled her from her seat, sat in the floor of the minivan and rocked her. She finally allowed herself to cry the most pitiful cry I had ever heard. We stayed in that parking lot until she stopped. I have no understanding of the time, but I knew I would sit there for a forever to hold her as she cried.
On July 14th, that raven-haired beauty, Emma and the emotional little boy dressed in fear, Jordon, entered our lives.
On August 24th, two years, one month and ten days later, Emma and Jordon became Joneses.
The story of what occurred in the 770 days between those two days is one that to share, would require me to share a story that is not mine to tell. It is my desire to honor the privacy and dignity of not only Emma and Jordon, but also their biological parents. Within that time frame there were unimaginably hard days interspersed into the best and most beautiful days of our lives thus far. Through out those days we grew to love Emma and Jordon profoundly and we felt compelled to advocate them with great fervor. We strove to use those days to learn as much as we could about their family of origin, to share in knowing their biological family and procuring the resources the children would need to be healthy in their mind, body and spirit. We stood outside the courtroom doors as their biological parents terminated their rights. We held their mother as she wept. Without a doubt, two sets of parents have loved these children. I am so grateful that this is the legacy I will be able to share with them their entire life.
On August 24th, we reloaded the car seats, just as we did July 14th two years prior. This time the only tears were mine, and they were tears of joy. On that day, children we loved from the moment we met them would be a part of our family officially. It was a day where absolutely nothing was different, but everything was forever changed. We stood before a judge and made a vow to love and provide for these children as if they were our own. What an easy promise to make when you believe they have already been your own for two years.
We refer to this four-year process as the Jones Journey of Faith. Seven years later, I recognize that it was the Jones Journey within God’s Faithfulness. I do not believe it was God’s Will for us to adopt Emma and Jordon. I do, however, believe it was His redemption. Throughout our experience, I wrote letters, unsent, to the different people within our story. Those letters helped me to move through the overwhelming emotions that I experienced living in the limbo. In one such letter addressed to Birthmother, I wrote :
You should know I don’t believe it to be God’s plan for me to raise your children. He entrusted them to you. He made them to look like you and their Daddy, to share special natural likenesses in tastes and mannerisms. He gave these children to you as a precious gift to love and cherish so you could feel in a very minute way the love He feels for you. It is not His plan for you to live your life in such a way your own children cannot be with you. He wants you to love them. But I believe, it is His plan for me to raise them if you refuse to take care of His gift. Please know I have no doubts in my mind I could love these children as if they were my own flesh and blood if you refuse to do whatever it takes to be what they need.
And I do. I am grateful beyond words for the opportunity to be the Mother of these five amazing children. Each of them a gift. I am more grateful that through each I have learned the amazing presence of God. The path to all five was unexpected and winding. In each of their entrances into our family, we learned to rely on God’s faithfulness. When I look at them, I see Him.